Category Archives: News

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART TWO

The first piece of this four-part series offered both a call for collective responsibility and a selective summary of doubts and criticisms of the ‘standard’ responses to 9/11.  Today’s material begins, regarding the horrors of ten years ago, the analysis that is consistently missing from most accounts of the event.

While this humble correspondent is fully capable of accomplishing such a project in an exhaustively thorough fashion, present-day ‘attention-deficit’ readers howl at such a prospect.  “Just stick with the basics, keep it simple, and give us ‘the executive summary.'”  Therefore, what follows remains in every sense a brief, a precis, an overview.

Nevertheless, because the delving here will never fit in a Facebook quip, or prove congruent with Twitter protocols, many readers–the vast majority, in fact–will still cavil that what follows wallows in too much detail and expects folks to partake of too much complexity.  As my mother was fond of saying, “More’s the pity:” such readers deserve the crushing cretins whom their willful ignorance and cavalier inattention bring forth.

Paradoxically, and hilariously really, some of the same critics who moan about the difficulty of engaging this topic in anything other than an utterly superficial way, will look at bits and pieces of what unfolds below and they will shout righteously, “This is way too simplistic!  The reality is a lot more complex.”


To this sort of critique, one can only reply, “Well, duh.”  The present process seeks to walk the line between complete over-simplification and paralyzing analytical detail.  It will thus suffer the conundrums of trying to dig through too much, too quickly.

Other commentators might grumble, “There’s not much about the Palestinians or the Saudis or Afghanistan here; you just can’t leave those things out!”  This humble correspondent begs to differ.  He asks that would-be pupils like him, who insist on a thorough capacity to apprehend our world, read on and see for themselves if the explanatory nexus provided below seems reasonable.

To those happy readers who welcome the challenge that always attends grappling with reality–whether they find my thinking totally off-base, mainly wrong-headed, often insightful, or generally correct–the next step ought to be easy.  Let us continue talking about these matters, with the notion uppermost that citizen participation can only emanate from the learning curve that accompanies dialog.

So saying, the first of three analytical sections appears below. Today’s element deals with the broader historical context and immediate aftermath of what this humble correspondent argues was, sixty-six years ago, the onset of the modern period of time.  It consists of two sub-sections, one looking backward and the other forward, from 1945.

BODY #1–The Genesis and Early Functioning of America’s Plutocratic Predominance

The ides of September, 1945, in some real sense centered on the deck of the Battleship Missouri, marking there both a culmination and an outset.  The Japanese surrender, a version of which the country’s leadership had proffered through the Soviet Union earlier in the Summer, had not precluded the U.S. decision, five weeks earlier, to vaporize plus or minus 200,000 civilians–with many more tens of thousands long-term casualties–at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  However, excluding the Soviets from the peace process, learning operationally how a new weapon performed, and demonstrating far and wide precisely the extent of American potency and ruthlessness were apparently adequate counterweights to the murder of several hundred thousand civilians.

Through a Glass Darkly

This event acts as a window on several previous periods of history.  Through its panes, the observer sees a clear ‘chain-of-title’ that connects this single greatest-act-of-homicide-ever with the origination of one version of the United States.  This is true even though such a development was, at the start, a future, domineering in design and imperious in attitude, about which George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and many others had warned.

“Conquest is not in our principles.  It is inconsistent with government,” Jefferson wrote to a diplomat in Spain in 1790.  Perhaps naive, clearly  not spoken in the context of a modern-day peacenik, this thinking nevertheless repeatedly typified the nation’s second President.  That this vision now appears nonsensical does not negate the actuality that a program based on peace and mutuality was once the stated goal of leading Americans, who in these thoughts reflected common people.

Through the contradictions inherent in these thinkers’ ideation, and to fulfill the needs of a slaveocracy and merchant elite that equated trade with territorial expansion and military capacity, not to mention that the entire national prospectus depended on a continental-sized theft, the USA embarked on a different course from that highlighted in the ideas of high-minded ‘founding fathers.  The War With Mexico and the extermination of indigenous Americans allowed the nascent ‘manifest destiny’ of the U.S. to flex muscles as yet unable to rule the globe.

Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience was merely one piece of a significant anti-war and anti-slavery dissent that confronted the move to dominate North America.  This is a tension from which today’s polarization around issues of war and peace is a lineal descendant.

In turn, the Civil War gave the first opportunity to join total war with industry and finance and government, as the North spilled theretofore unparalleled buckets of blood to quash secession and change the platform upon which White supremacy operated, from slavery to Jim-Crow-apartheid.  This iron-triangle–business, money, and the State–has reemerged again and again following the War Between the States, to become the underlying SOP of the U.S. economy and polity for the past seventy years or so.

This dynamic industrial capacity, seeking outlets around the world, countered a depressed economy in the 1890’s by ‘liberating’ Cuba and the Philippines and more, only to inaugurate tyrannical butchery with an American flavor that rivaled or surpassed Spain’s repression.  All of this transpired in the name of ‘opening doors’ to trade and helping benighted populations develop.


World War One, after the next period of fiscal panic, served as the fulcrum point for the supremacy of American industry and finance, as the European bloodletting, financed and supplied by the USA, left the continent in a shambles of upheaval and revolution.  The invasion of the Soviet Union in its infancy was a part of this process too, a “secret war against Bolshevism” precisely aligned with our present day ‘war on terror.’  Though Wilson booted any potential for U.S. world leadership, as J.M. Keynes documents in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and the League of Nations did not fit with an ever arrogant and exceptionalist ruling-class political culture here, the war and many American leaders then did foresee the coming ‘American Century’ and more.

This is an excellent point in the flow of this series to make an important analytical point.  This essay has not presented much at all about the so-called ‘Mid-East.’  Surely the early U.S. interest in the “shores of Tripoli;” the consistent identification with the way that England’s empire filled the ‘void’ caused by the complete collapse of Ottoman rule, particularly in Iraq, but also in Egypt and elsewhere; the way that the ‘House of Bush’ and the ‘House of Saud’ have relational roots over eighty years old; and multiple other events and developments in and around the Eastern Mediterranean are of crucial consequence in explaining 9/11.

Well, of course that is true.  However, the nearly exclusive emphasis on such aspects of anglo-American and capitalist colonialism, ‘neo-colonialism,’ and so forth is a dangerous mistake, or worse.  The most thorough telling of these tales will never account for the phenomenon of imperialism as a whole; nor or they essential to an accounting of that complex reality of empire.

Instead, they are in the nature of a fetish.  Since those who would look only at these matters–too much ‘favoritism’ for Israel, too much ‘greed’ about oil, not enough ‘balance’ in relation to Palestine and democratic nationalism, and on and on and on–cannot, or do not desire to, explicate a robust account of U.S. imperialism, they substitute what seems a tasty treat in place of the intellectually nutritious diet that is actually essential to conceptual health and fitness about an event like 9/11.

For a robust understanding, one needs a broader view, a more honestly political-economic and world-historical assessment.  A two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who rose to become the general who headed the United States Marine Corps for nearly a decade, offers citizens grist for folks who desire a deeper and broader concept.

Smedley Butler left the Marine Corps as the Great Depression unfolded.  The narrative that defined his life ensued.  And War Is a Racket shows the sort of depth and breadth that analysts desperately need, though Butler’s story remains one of the little-known keys to American history.

In the book, he spoke what had become his watchwords: “I Was a Gangster for Capitalism.”  Not coincidentally, he spent the last years of his life promoting a wide-ranging and thorough comprehension of capitalist empire, as he watched and spoke about the coming conflagration of 1939-1945.

In this vein, World War Two consolidated  the ‘wasted opportunities’ for totalitarian plutocracy that had evaporated at Versailles.  The ‘Science State,’ in which megadeath and technical knowhow wed, came to a triumphant and ecocidal fruition in the Manhattan Project, which has served as a model ever since for what Dwight Eisenhower warned could easily become a dictatorial “military industrial complex.”

Giving Birth to the Current Context

In addition to its function as a way of revealing the past, the end of WWII also operated as a midwife which assisted in the birth of the modern age, which America’s rulers saw as the beginning of their own ‘thousand year Reich.’  Eric Barnouw, whose Tube of Plenty examines the origins of television in part as an exercise in empire, is one of dozens of thinkers who review and explicate the connection between WWII’s completion and the rise of a USA ‘superpower’ bent on world domination.

As in the previous section, this humble correspondent is not focusing on Southwest Asia and Northern Africa.  The formation of the State of Israel, in which the U.S. played critical parts, the Suez-war, the invasion of Lebanon, and the ‘strategic partnership’ with Israel all contain important information about U.S. empire.

But they are no more the a satisfactory causal and investigative background for comprehending 9/11 than seeing a tumorous mass is a usefully comprehensive way to understand cancer.  The remainder of this section and this series seeks to proffer that adequate analytical background for understanding 9/11 as a natural expression of a ‘racket,’ run by the USA, in which occasional ‘gangland wars’ exact tragic tolls on the majority of citizens, whose lives in a sense depend on their manifesting a fuller knowledge of their world and its causes.

To begin, therefore, the centrality of secrecy in an erstwhile ‘open’ society over and over again showed up as a clear component of this hegemonic America.  In the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the execution of the Rosenbergs for the crime of assisting the inevitable rise of the Soviets as a nuclear force, for example, the arrogation of knowledge to those with ‘clearance‘ became de rigeur.

The suppression of protest and any ideological deviation from the falsely-labeled ‘free market,’ especially if such dissent or divergence honestly supported social democracy, appeared repeatedly as well.  From the vicious depredations of the House Un-American Activities Committee to the crimes of impunity committed by the FBI in its Cointelpro operations to the totalitarian machinations of the ‘Patriot’ Act, an overarching, invasive attack against dissent has transpired in which subterfuge, subversion, and sabotage have been hallmarks of ‘the American way’ of government.

The deployment of innumerable agencies of murder in the guise of ‘foreign aid,’ ‘free information,’ and sophisticated ‘dirty tricks,’ hidden behind various covers, also characterized this period of time.  While any honest study must admit to this American inclination, what William Appleman Williams called The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, the overall ignorance about this palpable proclivity continues to astound those with even a sliver of knowledge.

Guatemala was one of the first to fall to American hit-men and thuggery. ‘Sanitized’ versions of original ‘intelligence’ plans are now accessible.  That such blithe employment of homicidal conspiracy to advance the interests of business, for example United Fruit, led to tens or hundreds of thousands of later killings, seldom becomes a part of the ongoing discussion.

Practically simultaneous with the skullduggery on the Central American isthmus, British Petroleum and the CIA joined hands to install a psychotic killer in Tehran, in place of an elected President who believed Iran’s border with Russia made economic ties useful and necessary.  Of course, any critique of contemporary Iran makes zero sense without the contextualization of this point.  Equally obvious should be the connection between condemnations of ‘terrorism’ so steeped in hypocrisy that they would be laughable if attempted by a child.

Among the dozens of additional instances of such murderous, yet hidden, imperial trickery, none caused more carnage or involved greater complications than did the quagmire of death that the United States plowed into in Southeast Asia.  The Pentagon Papers, as voluminous in its day as Wikileaks is now, is merely the tip of a large iceberg that demonstrates the imperial purpose of U.S. mayhem(v) inflicted on the Vietnamese.

In what might well have been the piece de resistance of cloak-and-dagger politics, had Fidel Castro been more like Salvador Allende, whom this series will discuss on the morrow, the U.S.’s ongoing attempts to unseat socialism in Cuba might have been another ‘masterful’ lesson in the art of mass homicide, instead of representing a prime failing of U.S. policy.  In passing, the fanatical obsession with ridding the world of one of its heroes has also suggested the threat-level that American business perceives in any attempt to brook its gaming of the Earth.

The tiny slice presented here of the evil and terror that have typified U.S. foreign policy makes a point about a period of time.  After WWII, the U.S. conducted such operations with an aplomb that befitted a nation with no rival that could even begin to demonstrate the same resources and reach.

A comprehensive examination of like cases would provide a litany of death and destruction that would make the consequences of a pair of jets’ flying into a couple of skyscrapers seem like a drop of blood in a lake of gore.  This is a harsh assessment.  However, it is a conclusion well-supported by a truthful accounting of what began with the end of the last worldwide bloodbath, from which the United States of America emerged as global kingpin.

Thus, MacArthur’s triumph aboard the Missouri offers a way of looking backward to the origins of the military industrial complex, the national security state, and the Uranium economy, among other things.  These roots flourished in the soil of the British empire and matured in the identification of capital with “open-door” trade policies and a complete accession to the development of the maximum industrial-war-making capacity imaginable.

As well, the treaty provides a way of tracing the development of the terroristic subterfuge that came to mark U.S. policy for the next several decades. The formation of the CIA, the overthrow of multiple legitimate governments, the promotion of war and terror as part of the enterprise of freedom, these and other ‘dirty tricks’ flow ineluctably from the ink on the peace treaty with Japan.

For two decades or so, U.S. leaders seemed almost as “untouchable” as the lawmen in the T.V. show, whose ‘whatever-it-takes’ methodology for derailing bad guys also rationalized the anti-communist, pro-imperialist, faux-free-market, profiteering ventures of U.S. rulers.  As the 1960’s yielded the ’70’s, however, and defeats such as in Vietnam, assassinations and upheaval exploded in the streets, troubling signs of economic stagnation affected most economic enterprise, and challenges to U.S. supremacy seemingly emerged from every direction, a transition became irresistible.

Hanging Together Beats Pulling Apart

Tennessee, tornado benefit          When at the end of April disaster struck Camp Creek, in the form of devastating tornados, death and destruction seemed inconsolable and irremediable.  Helping the scores of families who lost homes and property and loved ones fell to FEMA and the State of Tennessee.  Unfortunately, not all of the victims qualified for such disaster assistance as loans.

Thus, Hemlock Hollow Hostel’s Hattie Kinsey, ably assisted by Barbara Ann and Dre and others, including such storytellers as Larry and Gaylene and various local mountain song birds, stepped into the breach to raise money for the tornado victims as this years National Trails Day fundraiser.  The final tally for those who have suffered will exceed $2000.

How did Hattie and her co-venturers accomplish this feat.  A tasty, apple-wood smoke pulled pork and beef BBQ dinner was the feature of the day.  A silent auction raffled off various treasures to the highest bidder.  A rubber duck race on the adjacent rushing waters of Upper Paint Creek also generated significant cash, as well as prizes for the ‘owners’ of the winning toy quackers.  Food, stories, music, and fellowship all blended together in an upsurge of neighbor-to-neighbor generosity.

This willingness to reach out and give, when others in our community are suffering, is a hallmark of uplands’ folk.  We all know that horrific natural calamity can strike at any moment.  This spirit of giving certainly helps to fill gaps that one might hope would not be present in the provision of social disaster assistance, but which, perhaps inevitably, do exist.

Undoubtedly, many more stories lurk behind the surface of a scorching day, when the cooling waters of a mountain stream beckoned in the bright sunshine and the shady porch of Hemlock Hollow also offered shelter from the heat.  Perhaps at some point, more about these matters will be available to consider.  For now, anyone would have to offer kudos to all the helpers at Hemlock Hollow who collaborated to make this event come to pass.

Faux Popular Democracy in Capitalism’s Mediation of Merger Mania

Or, Why AOL Is a Perfect Huff-Po Partner That Is Horrible for Majority Rule

In this first of a five unit series—intro and conclusion plus three body parts–giving credit where credit is due is a good way to start.  Arianna Huffington’s How to Overthrow the Government performs a valuable service for anybody who both believes in popular empowerment and has an inkling that the rule-of-the-rich has gone too far.  The book offers at least a modicum of clear and apt guidance to those who would foment or fuel an uprising from below.

The likes of this humble correspondent would vociferously suggest that ‘the book doesn’t go nearly far enough.’  Less charitable, and equally historically and socio-economically aware, critics have argued that, analytically and conceptually, the volume is at best irritatingly cautious and generally vapid.  Nevertheless, the work offers some useful advice to those who want to return socially democratic political action to the grassroots.  At least it conceives of public engagement as a necessary predecessor of political change.

That said, the just-announced merger of Huffington Post and America Online is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Many honestly and erstwhile ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ commentators are celebrating this joining, or at least, giving it a ‘wait-and-see’ nod.

The only certain thing is that the writers and participants who have built Huffington Post won’t see a slender cent from among the thirty billion pennies, or billion and a half pennies in stock, that change hands in this bargain.  Several already wealthy people, whose political and ‘strategic’ leadership have, for better or worse, guided the site, will, on the other hand make out like proverbial bandits.

The idea that this $315 million conjunction, much to the benefit of Ms. Huffington’s coffers, might also represent ‘progress’ or be in the best interest of the ‘left’ arguably has much more to say about the deficiencies that attend the language of political description in the United States than it does with any rationally defensible consideration about promoting the needs of common people.  The notion that this is in the popular interest also speaks volumes about the lack of class leadership among working people, who prove willing all too often to rely on the likes of a rich globe-trotting fashion moll with the opportunistic instincts of a coyote.

‘Liberals’ also cozy up to hyper-imperialists such as Hilary Clinton, or so some would say; ‘progressives’ commonly make common cause with Barack-the-Magnificent, whose wars will soon eclipse those of his predecessor; the ‘left’ is a hodgepodge collection of folks who a lot of times are trying to avoid the label that is at least honestly descriptive, that of socialist, or social-democrat.

This humble correspondent considers himself ‘progressive,’ and he’ll only squirm and grit his teeth at the nearly meaningless moniker of ‘leftist.’  However, he is avowedly and unabashedly socialistic in his approach and his analytical proclivities.  He has no problem noticing an obvious fact: without some sort of struggle for social and economic democracy, the worlds working people face further devastation and possible annihilation.

And in this vein, the marriage of the modern defense and imperial establishment, in the form of America Online, with a fetishized, paltry, petty-bourgeois liberalism, in the form of Huffington Post, accomplishes a perfect union from the perspective of ‘free-market’, ‘free-enterprise’ fraud-mongers. As such, the following prediction makes sense: it will turn out to be a disaster for working people, for those who care about more than political labels and actually worry about substance.

One way or another, the lack of class leadership, and the explicit embrace of both imperial ideation and bourgeois marketing and markets, will mean at best ‘friendly’ misleadership for the average people of the planet who are suffering one body-blow after another to any hope that a ‘middle-class’ life will be even a credible fantasy.  One would have to acknowledge, at least as a possibility, that the time for a media of the people, by the people, and for the people is long overdue.

Such an admission ought then to portend a serious effort in such a direction.  Whether folks are, even now, ready to admit the obvious–‘But mommy, the king has nothing on!!–and whether, even now, such an acknowledgment will yield the radical, populist upsurge that recognition ought to call forth, remains to be seen.

For this humble correspondent, the remainder of the present introduction merely contextualizes, all too quickly, the historical and conceptual nature of the media marriage that has just transpired.  A four-piece unit on AOL’s background follows over the next few weeks, more or less.  Then, a three-chapter unit appears about Arianna Huffington and her love-child at Huff-Po.  A long single take on the merger itself will appear at that juncture, to complete the third substantive unit of this five-part series.  Finally, a conclusion will show up that, in the light of the insights and ideation of the intervening reporting and analysis, returns to some of the issues raised in today’s introductory paragraphs

A Far-Too-Brief Background Precis of the News Media Context From Which this ‘New Media’ Deal Has Devolved

People who fancy themselves media-literate, or even who believe that following the news is important, have a duty to understand how in the world the media that we take for granted has transmogrified to become the apparent digital phantasmagoria that it is today.  This is neither the time nor the place to go into copious detail.  On the other hand, readers may rest assured that more detail will be forthcoming.

For now, this humble correspondent proposes that people consider one simple fact: media springs from the rich dirt of politics like magic mushrooms pop up from cow dung.  Ever since the creation of the secret, and sacred, codes that underlay the first written forms, publication has been a battlefield; the priestly and royal control–extended imperiously–always met a challenge from below, in the form of vernacular articulations of one sort or another.

Need one consider such arcane interpretations of such facts as Derrida‘s “The Mystical Foundations of Authority?”  Or perhaps a more straightforward recollection, that law–the legitimation of force in favor of some stated ‘State,’ heretofore unheard of without social class divisions–is nothing without the capacity to record and annotate it, would serve as a ‘wake-up call’ about media’s social reality.  No matter what, from the ‘dawn of history,’ or text, as it were, the connection between writing and rule is unbreakable.

In any event, much more recently, since Gutenberg, for instance, every communication medium’s technological development and social deployment has entailed this combative dialectic.  The Bible may have been Johann’s first big project, but not too long afterward, the press itself helped Martin Luther affix his challenge to various posting places.

Thus, a pattern emerged that has, quite plausibly, come to stand for a central trait of capitalist evolution.  Put most simply, defining struggles over meaning, knowledge, and power all intersected with and emanated from the powers of technology and labor that inhered in the conglomeration of recorded speech and the media for presenting it; advantages in this contest, almost universally in the form of successful–or replicable–networks and paradigms that reached expanding ‘publics,’ served to influence, and often to determine, social, political, and economic outcomes.

For all of its frequent flaws of glaring bourgeois bias, Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications offers pupils of these matters a relatively elegant empirical bedrock for supporting the above conclusion.  From the concomitant downfall of strict censorship and the censorious Stuarts, to the simultaneous libertine upsurge of colonial textuality–newsy and both globally and locally aware–and a persistent rebellion, to the dialectically intertwined manifestation of knowledge, distribution, and publication forms that have seesawed their way through American history, this characterization of mediation seems, at least, reasonable.

The nearly universal initiation, co-optation, or capture of news-and-publishing outlets by the rising bourgeoisie took many forms.  However, this humble correspondent would insist that folks apprehend the undeniable veracity of the proposition that we have not come to today’s seemingly unstoppable effusion of hyper-monopoly in any other fashion than step-by-step, following original inclinations to their logical and predictable ends.

This is corroborated whether one adopts a biographical approach–from Horace Greely’s faux-Horatio-Alger-garnering of capitalist backing, to Hearst’s gold-mining, and gold-digging, parentage, and beyond, to the Luces, the Paleys and so forth and so on–to ascertaining information networks, or whether one prefers to examine the way that business and regulatory structures favor particular organization forms over others, or whether one chooses different, more intellectual and ideational formulations.  The history of media in America is, practically speaking–‘Citizen-Kane’ gossipy details notwithstanding, indistinguishable from the history of capitalism in America.

Advertising and marketing and propaganda together confirm this.  Power-politics and the specifics of character assassination and the sway of secrecy demonstrate this.  The opportunistic inclusion or exclusion of access to ‘legitimate’ or ‘unacceptable’ publics combine with criminal and civil media law again and again to prove this.

Forthcoming investigation will delve more deeply into the political economic and historical background that underpins the current media conundrums that afflict citizens.  The point of both this explication and what is to come is simple: in the realm of AOL’s conjunction with Huff-Po, such a conceptual, historical, and political-economic framework is critical to any understanding that is richer and deeper than either a ‘follow-the-yellow-brick-road’ optimism or a ‘lions-and-tigers-and-bears’ sense of panic.

Readers might want to stay tuned and remember the words of Betty Davis.  “Fasten your seat-belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

A Sizeable Dixie Rally for Working Class Solidarity

Georgia’s proportion of unionized workers is four percent, tied for forty-eighth and close to the bottom of the heap in the U.S., which is close to the bottom among nations that consider themselves ‘advanced’ in living standards, technology, and social conditions generally.   As a result, Georgia’s wage earners make less money, have fewer benefits, and generally confront lower living standards.  Few places on the continent would benefit more than the Peach State from a strong drive to increase trade-union representation.

Thus, the rally at Georgia’s state Capitol yesterday, called by the State’s AFL-CIO, the Atlanta Labor Council, and other organizations, was a heartening sign.   On the steps of Georgia’s capitol in Atlanta, in the shadow of Tom Watson’s commanding presence, five hundred or more union members, community activists, students, and various other citizens—a widely representative sample that split fifty-fifty between men and women, was roughly equally White as Black, with a smattering of Hispanic and Native American advocates—stood up and shouted “Stop the War on Workers. “  Peace groups, revolutionary proponents, and folks just generally angry at a system that rewards greed and privilege with money and perquisites while it squeezes everyone else out of any semblance of rights and benefits that groups like unions have fought hard to attain.

Throughout the United States, the courage and strength of thousands of workers in Wisconsin has given inspiration and leadership to wage-earners elsewhere.  At times, the messages of these stalwart souls, braving frigid conditions and, as often as not, a media blackout, or at least a diminution of their struggle and a distortion of their perspective in the press, is exactly what working people need to hear.  “This Land Is Your Land” rings true with class-conscious solidarity and an uncompromising sense of democracy that must guide those who want decent lives.

Those who attended this gathering today articulated these and other points powerfully.   “Don’t let this be a one time rally,” said one preacher near the end.  ”The people inside that building(the capitol) need to know that we’ll be back, we won’t leave, we’re not going away.”

Steve Henson, a progressive-Democratic State Senator, asked, “Why is it that all sorts of associations are OK to come and lobby us in the legislature, but lobbying for working people is not OK?”

Another legislator spoke of her five year old grandson ‘leading the way.’  He wanted to pack up to go and join the fight in Wisconsin.  She continued, factually, “If you can take a vacation; if you can take a sick day with pay; if you have a right to overtime pay; you have the labor movement to thank.”

In addition to the speakers at the front—a mix of union leaders, Democratic politicians, and religious and community activists—lively outbursts from the vociferous and boisterous crowd were constant, as if a massive labor beast, wild and fierce, were roaming the street.  “The people, united, will never be defeated!”  “Hey, hey!  Ho, ho!  Union busters got to go!!”

These and other chants and catcalls were directed across the intersection of Washington Street and Martin Luther King Drive to the at most one hundred Tea Party counter-protesters whose sole coherent message seemed to be ‘Leave Poor Governor Walker alone.’

One of the savviest local politicians in America, Billy Mitchell, capsulized the meaning of the gathering when he said, “You always get exactly the government that you deserve,” a take-off on Frederick Douglass’ famous take on power.  He continued, wry smile breaking out, “I promise you that the people inside this building are paying attention to you out here, and it will make a difference.”

A teacher’s representative, speaking of the 100,000+ American Association of Educators and American Federation of Teachers members in Wisconsin, was fierce in his call for action in Georgia.  “The time has come to take back America and democracy from the billionaire’s boy club.”  He was referring to the now incontrovertible behind-the-scenes manipulation of the Koch brothers, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and a working class boycott of Koch Enterprises that is coming.

A militant Black woman’s voice rang out from the podium.  “A threat to justice in Ohio is a threat to justice in Georgia…and we have to remember that this is not about us, it’s about our children and our grandchildren, and if we want them to live decent lives, we have to stand up now.”

Another speaker vowed to follow through on this call.  “We have to stand up on the capitol steps of every state in the union; we’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna fight, and we’re gonna win.  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can!”  And the crowd roared its approval as it took up the chant in an electrifying shout into the sun-dappled Capitol building.

Karla Drenner, another Democrat who considers herself progressive, spoke of her own family union roots.  She continued, “Instead of sending jobs to China, we need to helping out the working people here.”  Her voice rising in shrill indignation, she vowed that nothing would stop the persistence of a united people.  “You will hear us in the governor’s mansion; you will hear us in the legislature; and you will hear us on the street, because we are not going to go away.”

From the sidewalk, one fired-up protester rallied his misguided cohorts across the street. “Worker power is democratic power!  Worker power is democracy.”

Another young teacher from the Northern Atlanta suburbs where many of the ‘Tea-Partiers’ keep their cupboards stocked with loot, lamented the implications of their message.  “Let’s go back to workin’ 80 hours a week; let’s go back to child labor, your ten year old can get a job.  That’s what they’re saying if they say get rid of unions.  They’re just completely misguided.”

Everywhere, in solidarity with the specifics of the fight in Wisconsin, the message was insistent.  “Kill that bill!  Kill that bill!  Kill that bill!” an unending litany of ‘we’ve had enough, we’re not going to take any more, we’re drawing a line in the sand.’

Across the street, meanwhile, the so-called ‘Tea-Party’ counter-protesters sang Sha-na-na.  Their message continues to back the reactionary idea that, at exactly the same time that working-class tax dollars give trillions to the hyper-rich, working people who are barely making ends meet should have even less of a livelihood available.  They sometimes also support the explicitly fascist notion that unions should not be legal, that labor should have few or no rights compared to money and property.

Matt Stoller wrote in a similar vein in his article, “The Liquidation of Society Versus the Global Labor Revival.”  His insights command attention from anyone who has a sense of self-preservation or hope for the future.

The Southeast Review of Media, Culture, and Politics does not practice a journalism built on the pretense of objectivity.  SERMCAP without qualification supports democratic and social justice as necessary components of a decent world.  This humble correspondent and his partner wore signs that vocalized this point of view at the rally.  One pair, modest sandwich board draped over THC’s shoulders, said, “The Problem Is Not Democrats Versus Republicans—Corporate Masters Own Them Both,” & “The Problem Is Organizing a Working-People’s-Power Party.”  The second duo offered these lines.  “The Current Crisis Affects Not Just Union Workers or Government Workers, but ALL Workers,” & “Big Business Disempowers All the World’s Working People by Dividing Them From Each Other—Solidarity is the Only Answer.”

SERMCAP insists that only through worker empowerment, involvement, and leadership can the faintest prayer of social equality come to pass.  Thus, the events in Wisconsin, and yesterday in Atlanta, like the recent outpouring of activism in the Middle East, are first steps only.  Without a more completely defined agenda, one that is both resolutely local and irrepressibly internationalist, one that puts working peoples’ rights and power at the forefront, one that sets aside all jingoistic nationalism and false patriotism, all of the rallies and songs and hopes of solidarity won’t amount to much that working people can take to the bank or put on the stove.

Given such a paradigm, the time has come for a grassroots sociopolitical movement that honestly contends for power.  The fake ‘two-party system’ doesn’t come close to achieving this possibility.  Working people not only deserve better, but they also will gain little or nothing unless they organize and strive to gain, for themselves, of themselves, and by themselves, a conscious leadership role in the manifestation of a transformed society, a society in which property and wealth cannot overturn the social and economic rights and needs of working people.

Georgia Power’s Appeal for Front-loaded Funding of Its New Nuke Plant

If the people of Georgia are not tired of getting fleeced, then they are not paying attention. Every day, some new excess of the rich and powerful costs the common citizens of the Peach State dearly. A recent example of this is Georgia Power’s apparently successful insistence that it should receive advance financing for its new nuclear dreams at Plant Vogtle, in Eastern Georgia.  Though only through a miraculous meeting of its production schedule would ratepayers see a single watt of electricity before 2017, the corporate fiduciaries at our electricity monopoly want to start charging us for the hypothetical honor of a completed project no later than 2012.

Even if an informed citizenry might accept this political and technical decision to build a new reactor, paying for it up front is suboptimal for at least three reasons.
1) Business basics militate against such moves.
2) Georgia needs a strategic assessment of its energy needs and possibilities, including more alternatives, that is impossible to imagine in the context of both a multi-billion dollar additional utility debt and Georgia’s taxpayers already paying for a future that they neither chose nor participated in planning.
3) Questions of cost, safety and transparency need further discussion.
For these reasons and more, Georgians need to be very suspicious of this most recent instance of official presumption and, apparently, cupidity.

Surely the Southern Company wants to hold itself out as an honest organization.  Surely, then, the company is well aware that under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, 80% new reactor loan guarantees are available from the federal governmet.  Moreover, French nuclear interests are discussing guaranteeing the remaining 20% of all loans.  Southern Company reps want more than 100% financing, apparently–more like 200% financing.  Interest on a guaranteed loan may hurt cash flow, but it does nothing to reduce long-term prospects, particularly if the underlying investment is not only viable but state-of-the-art peachy keen, as Southern Company execs and nuke supporters would have us believe.

Furthermore, the Southern Company and the Georgia legislature are structuring this deal inequitably in relation to different classes of customers.  Large commercial users will pay nothing extrato finance this new scheme–according to Senate Democratic Party leader Robert Brown, “they(big business)got a deal,”  whereas everyone else will get soaked.

Nuclear Bill Gets a Push in Georgia Finally, the whole situation has the whiff of the something fraudulent about it; on the one hand, the Southern Company wants Georgians to believe that this new power source is the best deal possible; on the other hand, 100% financing from the Feds is not enough to proceed with this great deal.  Why, in such a context, should Georgia’s citizens pay a second time for something that won’t be ready for 5 – 10 years?  Though very brief and rudimentary, even these points utterly undermine any sense of commercial trustworthiness in the Georgia Power position: it is either disingenuous falsehood or it is fraud.

As bad, or even criminally liable, as such misrepresentation is, far worse is willful ignorance. Any contemporary community without an energy plan is woefully ignorant.  At best, people who choose ignorance are unwise.

To avoid such a lack of intelligence, Georgia needs a strategic energy policy, not continued handouts to fatten already bloated corporations. Such an energy policy, at a minimum, would include a comprehensive energy audit of Georgia communities and businesses; at a minimum, it would include opportunities for immediate conservation by all state agencies, local government entities, and individuals and businesses; at a minimum, such a plan would include investigating all Georgia’s reasonable energy choices; at a minimum, such a plan would include raising the energy literacy of all Georgians, in elementary schools, in middle schools, in high schools, in colleges, and in communities; at a minimum, such a plan would include an ongoing debate about choices in which citizens played the leading role–this last is what differentiates a participatory democracy from a dollar dictatorship.  I’d personally feel more comfortable dishing out an extra $40 a month of my electric bill to finance those propositions, than to expand the bottom line of the already profitable Southern Company.

Southern Company and renewable energyLacking these and other elements of an energy plan, Georgia consigns itself at best to the good intentions of Georgia Power.  While such a decision is clearly in alignment with the army of Southern Company lobbyists who camp out in the legislature every Winter, for middle class and struggling Georgians, such a deal is a dubious proposition at best, a dubious proposition only attractive to the willfully ignorant.

The final reason for not turning over hundreds of millions of dollars a month to Georgia Power from the wallets and purses and paychecks of working Georgians is that we need to consider several important issues about nuclear power that have not been a part of the debate thus far before the Senate.
The first concerns the lack of information and disclosure that characterizes the nuclear industry.  Nuclear advocates cannot simultaneously insist on secrecy at the same time that they insist on having their way.  When clean-up technicians participated in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident thirty years ago, General Public Utilities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission insisted on signed confidentiality agreements and security clearances for all participants.  Over 20% or the early documentation of the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission–NRC’s predecessor–remain classified as many as sixty-odd years after the fact.  This environment of secrecy is compounded by the general lack of information about matters atomic, except if someone has the time and resources to file Freedom of Information requests and generally has the skill sets and patience of a top-notch bird-dog private investigator.

This lack of transparency affects other issues concerning nuclear power as well, such as questions about public health. Comprehensive tracking of populations adjacent to reactors is not standard operating procedure, for example, as it must be if we’re really concerned about the impacts of nukes.  We know–no reasonable scientist disputes–that low-level radiation causes cancer, birth defects, and heart disease, among many other negative health effects.  Only sporadically do long term studies happen at all; furthermore, when they do, the necessary data to track actual exposures and compare health outcomes is never available, so that population studies, which notoriously almost never yield definitive ‘proof’ of harm, are the only investigations that epidemiologists conduct.  We simply don’t know, though compelling evidence might suggest caution, what the real long-term outcomes are of living with a nuke in the neighborhood.  In such an environment, when clean and lower impact technologies are readily available, committing almost exclusively to atomic energy is paradoxical, except from the stand-point of profitability for corporate utilities.

Multiple other matters about nuclear reactors are troubling, or perhaps worse than troubling.  Reports from Europe suggest that nations that have followed the nuclear path have been surreptitiously dumping various levels of waste in the world’s oceans.  For fifteen years or more, American reactor operators have been availing themselves of opportunities to ‘recycle’ metals and other materials exposed to radiation and classified as ‘low-level’ waste, meaning that forks and spoons and braces might contain fission products that result from, or the unstable metals that make up, nuclear reactions that utilities use to deliver electricity.  To date, we have no proven mechanism for dealing with a growing cesspool of high level nuclear waste that, though theoretically possible to compress into a small volume, also has the theoretical capacity to cause tens of millions of fatalities or more.

A complete list of problematic considerations concerning nukes would be much longer.  Proliferation of nuclear weapons is also plausibly an inevitable accompaniment of nuclear power, as the case of India proves, and as our government’s concern about Iranian reactors strongly implies.  Investments in nukes unavoidably compromise opportunities to research and develop other techniques not so beset with issues of cost, health, and safety.  Investments in nukes preclude a longer-term commitment to sustainable technologies that require no further technical maturation to be applicable today at competitive or even superior prices–technologies such as wind power and solar heating, in particular.  And we haven’t even considered matters such as terorist threats or other catastrophic breakdowns to which radiation-generated power is liable.

True enough, we face stark choices about energy.  And we may have little option, at some juncture, other than to rub the nuclear lamp again and hope that the genie their turns out to be friendlier than we feared.  However, the present return, after a thirty year detour that followed in the aftermath of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to a nuclear powered future is at the very least inappropriate without further democratic review.  And that’s at the very least.  At most, and significantly more likely, given the evidence that is available to anyone who does decide to pay attention, this represents another case of a fraud being foisted on a complacent and ignorant populace.  At the very best, we will be buying the new reactors at Plant Vogtle at a cost that is dear but about which we have little choice.  And that’s at the very best.  At worst, and much more likely, given even more copious data that the discerning can see, we are signing a death warrant for unknown legions of our children and grand children, all to enrich the already fabulously wealthy.

And they want us to pay in advance.  It’s crazy, at the best.