Open Letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos About Ohio’s Dead Nukes

by Harvey Wasserman

(originally published at The Progressive on May 22, 2017)

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The Perry nuclear power plant east of Cleveland is owned by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy that is today worth less than its combined long-term debt. First Energy is searching for new ways to subsidize nuclear plants because atomic energy, once “too cheap to meter,” is often now more expensive than power generated via other means.

Dear Mr. Bezos,

You have recently received some radioactive junk mail promoting the idea that your company, Amazon, should financially support Perry and Davis-Besse, the two financially dead atomic reactors in northern Ohio. It was a letter from “pro-nuke environmentalists,” the ultimate oxymoron in a world moving toward safe renewables, a transition embraced by your company’s wise commitment to go 100 percent renewable.

The nuclear advocates want you and your high-tech cohorts at Google, Apple, and Tesla to buy reactor-generated electricity at above-market prices so uninsured, competitively dead reactors at Perry and Davis-Besse can still dangerously operate.

Asking you to subsidize nukes is like asking you to bet your company on rotary dial telephones and new landline networks; to build more Edsels, Corvairs, and Pintos; to embrace thalidomide for pregnant women; to mass-produce buggy whips; and to convert your Internet business to a stand-alone fleet of small brick-and-mortar five and dimes.

As a long-time Ohioan, I’ve watched our “mistakes-by-the-lake” nuclear power plants spew unmitigated financial, ecological, and safety disaster. They’ve crippled Ohio’s economy and now could totally bury it.

Their owner, FirstEnergy, is on the brink of bankruptcy. In an obscene 1999 campaign, the company’s ancestors hustled Ohio legislators and regulators for a $9 billion bailout so these even-then-obsolete reactors could “compete” in a deregulated market. Now FirstEnergy wants another $300 million per year to subsidize nukes that still can’t compete with wind, solar, or gas.

The nuclear industry whines about renewables subsidies but hides its own, including public liability for reactors that can’t get private coverage. The public—including you and Amazon—will pay for the next reactor disaster.

Meanwhile, Germany (with the world’s fourth-largest economy) enjoys an “energiewende” that’s shutting all its nukes and converting to renewables. By leaping into the Solartopian Revolution, Germany is moving rapidly toward a stabilized energy supply based entirely on sustainable, Earth-based sources. So will Amazon as it converts to 100 percent actual renewables while totally avoiding any involvement with nuke power.

Switzerland has just voted to go a parallel route, with a referendum confirming its transition to a post-nuclear, 100 percent renewable economy.

California (with the world’s sixth-largest economy) is shutting its last two nukes at Diablo Canyon. State, utility, union, and actual environmental negotiators agreed to a “retain and retrain” program for plant workers and support for communities losing tax revenues. Many of us want Diablo to shut NOW, but all green advocates agree 100 percent of its output can be replaced with renewables.

The same is true for the Perry and Davis-Besse reactors. The winds in Lake Erie are uniquely powerful. Northern Ohio’s flat, breezy terrain hosts a fine transmission network, good access to urban markets, and communities that want the jobs and income turbines can provide. In response, FirstEnergy has worked to stop green energy wherever possible.

Perry was damaged by an earthquake in 1986, prior to its opening. A top-level state commission concluded that the region cannot be evacuated in a nuclear disaster, prompting then-Governor Richard Celeste to withdraw state approval of Perry’s evacuation plans.

Davis-Besse is a Three Mile Island clone infamous worldwide for a boric acid leak that nearly caused Chernobyl/Fukushima-scale devastation to our precious Great Lakes.

Now thirty-nine years old, Davis-Besse’s shield building is crumbling and its innards are embrittled.

The idea that these reactors are “zero-carbon” is fiction. All spew radioactive hot water and steam into the ecosphere. Nuke fuel production emits carbon.

The latest Hanford nuke tunnel collapse, and the 2014 explosion at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, confirm the impossibility of radwaste management. The price tag for Nevada’s proposed Yucca Mountain dump was estimated at $96 billion in 2008. Based on decades of industry experience, that number could end up being much larger.

Thus the hugely radioactive fuel rods and other radwaste produced at Perry and Davis-Besse are likely to sit on site forever—-certainly long after FirstEnergy disappears into bankruptcy protection.

But if you continue Amazon’s path to 100 percent real renewables, and don’t buy above-market electricity from competitively dead reactors, you’ll do fine.

But if you continue Amazon’s path to 100 percent real renewables, and don’t buy above-market electricity from competitively dead reactors, you’ll do fine.

Good luck on your Solartopian conversion, and No Nukes in Ohio, or anywhere on this Earth.

“““““““““““`

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green Powered Earth is available at www.solartopia.org.

 

Global Hackers and the Russians Have Made Hand-Counted Paper Ballots an Issue of Urgent National Security

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By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, The Columbus Free Press & Reader Supported News

15 May 17

e have no evidence at this point that the Russians, or global hackers, hacked our electronic voting machines to put Donald Trump in the White House.

But we are 100% certain our electronic voting machines have been hacked by many many others, and could be in the future by virtually anybody with entry-level computing capabilities. As the New York Times and others have reported, cyberattacks have now become an integral part of the modern landscape. A tool stolen from the very National Security Agency meant to protect us has been used to perpetrate more than 75,000 recent hacks—-and those are just the ones being reported.

The evidence that our electronics-based election system is particularly vulnerable to such attacks has long been well-established. It ranges from a wide range of public vote flipping demonstrations to a computing professor using a voting machine to play the University of Michigan fight song.

But, why would you need to hack the machines if you are one of the private, for-profit partisan corporations that secretly program the computerized voting machines and tabulators with secret proprietary software? The lack of transparency with our “black box voting” means that none of our elections are truly verifiable.

In 2016 some 80 percent of America’s ballots were cast and/or counted on such machines and tabulators. Many touchscreen voting machines provide no usable paper trail and render vote counts that cannot be independently verified. Scanners of paper ballots can be rigged to render dishonest counts that go undetected if the ballots are never manually audited.

Though we have no evidence of Russian hacking on our electronic voting machines in 2016, there is no doubt that they or any other hacker with an interest in the outcome could have done so if they wanted to.

Or, the private companies could have simply programmed the results

So that leaves us with one inescapable conclusion: to protect the integrity of our future elections, our entire electoral system must convert to universal hand-counted paper ballots.

It has become an issue of national security.

The entire nation is now in an uproar over Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. We know he was investigating possible Russian involvement in our election. The Russians clearly wanted Trump to win.

During the campaign, Trump very publicly asked the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The Russians did, in fact, hack the Democratic National Committee, releasing documentation showing the DNC hierarchy worked actively against the nomination of Bernie Sanders.

We don’t yet know what else the Russians actually did or did not do, if anything, to help shape our choice of presidents in 2016.

We know further that someone hacked into the recent French elections on behalf of Marine LePen.

In an electronic era, election theft has now become a matter of a few keystrokes.

Indeed, election theft in the United States is very much a home-grown industry. As we explain in our new STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS (www.freepress.org / www.solartopia.org) electronic machines are perfectly designed to steal elections. As Bev Harris has shown, they are black boxes that give local election officials virtually unlimited power to shape the outcome however they like.

Thus we document clear instances of electronic vote theft in the 1988 New Hampshire Republican primaries won by George H.W. Bush, and in the general presidential elections won by George W. Bush in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

Along the way we have encountered likely electronic hacks in numerous other local, state and federal elections. In Ohio 2006 a series of statewide election reform referenda were defeated with swings of more than 30% from pre-election polls to official outcome, a virtual statistical impossibility. In 2014 and 2016, Republicans claimed six US Senate seats in elections where they lost in the exit polls by significant margins. That six such vote counts would all go in the same direction is also a virtual statistical impossibility.

In 2016, the Electoral College was decided by five states—-Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—-where Trump lost the exit polls but won the official vote count. That all five states would go in the same direction is, once again, a virtual statistical impossibility.

In Michigan, more than 75,000 ballots were counted in heavily Democratic Flint and Detroit metropolitan area without presidential preferences being registered. This presumes that some 75,000 citizens took the trouble to vote (often waiting hours in line) but failed to choose a president. In Wisconsin, electronic anomalies also abounded. In Wisconsin, a suspicious anomaly was uncovered across several voting precincts where the last number in Trump and Clinton’s vote totals appeared not to be randomly distributed in regards to zeros and fives. In these precincts, over half of Trump and Clinton’s total numbers ended with a zero or a five.

Meanwhile, countless black, Hispanic, Asia-American, Muslim and other non-millionaire citizens were stripped from registration rolls by some 29 GOP secretaries of state. As shown in Greg Palast’s “Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” the far-right secretary of state from Kansas, Kris Kobach, spread the Crosscheck program around the country with the clear intent to strip as many likely Democrats from the voter rolls as possible. Trump has just appointed Kobach to head his special commission on voter fraud, aimed at “proving” that millions of illegal voters cost Trump a majority in the popular vote.

Additional mass disenfranchisement has been done throughout the US through demands for photo ID, short-changing of precincts and voting machines, deliberate misinformation and much more.

There is little doubt that between stripping the voter rolls and flipping the electronic vote count, our electoral system is in shambles. The Russians are clearly NOT at the root of the problem. Election theft can be and has been repeatedly perpetrated right here, by Americans.

But the Russians could have done so. In coming elections, they, other foreign powers and a veritable army of domestic hackers can deliver pretty much whatever outcome they want.

Our private voting machine companies like ES&S and the now-defunct Diebold have long had this power.

The solution is obvious: we must secure our voting system entirely off-line. with outcomes that can be certified in real time, by real people. We need universal automatic voter registration; a four-day natonal holiday for voting; universal hand-counted paper ballots; an end to gerrymandering and the Electoral College; and a ban on corporate campaign spending.

As we now know from this past presidential election, whether flipped by the Russians or not, it has become an issue of national security…and the future of our democracy.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-written seven books on election integrity, including the new STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS (www.freepress.org / www.solartopia.org).

Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry?

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at The Progressive on May 10, 2017

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The collapse of a tunnel at the massive nuclear waste dump at Hanford,

Washington, 200 miles east of Seattle, has sent shock waves through a nuclear power industry already in the process of a global collapse.

Hundreds of workers were told to “take cover,” and to refrain from eating or drinking anything while in the area. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.” But Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists emphasized that “collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release….this a potentially serious event.”

Robert Alvarez, a former DOE official, told the Post in an email that “the tunnels now store contaminated train cars and a considerable amount of highly radioactive, ignitable wastes including possible organic vapors.” Inspection of the tunnels has not been possible, he said, because radiation levels are too high.

We may never know the full extent of the damage from this latest incident at Hanford, which has been plagued by serious problems for years. Many critical nuclear industry oversight positions remain unfilled by the Trump Administration.

The 580-square-mile Hanford facility dates back to the 1940s production of the first atomic bombs, and is the nation’s major repository for high-level radioactive wastes from seven decades of nuclear weapons production. Since 1989, the Department of Energy has spent billions cleaning up nine reactors and other radioactive facilities there. One commercial reactor, the Columbia Generating Station, still operates at Hanford.

The tunnel collapse happens at a time when the nuclear power industry appears to be in an accelerating death spiral.

Two reactors under construction at Vogtle, Georgia, may be on the brink of cancellation. Some $13 billion in cost overruns sparked a Westinghouse bankruptcy, and primary owner Southern Company is looking for billions more to finish a project already years behind schedule and billions over budget. Huge rate increases within Georgia have seriously poisoned the climate for more state money.

Southern representatives recently asked the White House for help, (and termed the response “A-Plus”). But Vogtle was begun with some $8.35 billion in guaranteed federal loans from Barack Obama. Whether the feds will shell out another $4.3 billion is another story, as is the question of whether that would actually be enough to do the job, and how long it would really take.

In neighboring South Carolina, SCANA Corp. may pull the plug on its massive double-reactor V.C. Summer project, which is also billions over budget and a contributor to the Westinghouse bankruptcy. Should both Summer and Vogtle go down, there will be zero new reactors under construction in the U.S. for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive end of the “Peaceful Atom” as a source of future new large-scale power capacity in the United States.

Some atomic devotees are pushing small-scale “modular” reactors as a possible future energy source. But they’re untested, underfinanced, uncompetitive and unlikely to come to fruition.

Ninety-nine reactors remain licensed to operate in the United States. They average well over thirty years of age. Most cannot compete with fracked gas or renewables, and would close rapidly in a free-market situation. Last year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened to save four upstate reactors with $7.6 billion in subsidized rates. A similar bailout is underway in Illinois.

Throughout the United States, reactor owners are now flooding state legislatures with bailout scams. In Ohio, FirstEnergy’s pleadings for $4.5 billion for Davis-Besse near Toledo and Perry near Cleveland are meeting stiff resistance. How long the nation’s operable reactors stay open will depend entirely on how much money their owners can gouge out of the public.

Meanwhile the Hanford tunnel collapse further challenges the industry’s credibility on dealing with radioactive waste. Three years ago America’s only major operable facility for the permanent disposal of plutonium contaminated nuclear weapons waste, at Carlsbad, New Mexico,  failed because of an underground explosion that forced plutonium into the accessible environment. Some twenty-two workers tested positive for internal radioactive contamination and the facility was shut for three years. Fierce debate has erupted over the disposal of wastes left behind by the shutdown of California’s San Onofre reactors, between Los Angeles and San Diego, with billions of dollars at stake. Other such fights are sure to escalate as more reactors close.

Industry advocates claim much of this could be solved by opening a national waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a project nixed by the Obama Administration. The Trump budget proposes some $120 million to start a Yucca revival process. But $12 billion has already been spent on what amounts to a tunnel through a dormant volcano in the middle of the desert. Estimates to finish Yucca run to $96 billion and beyond. Finish times stretch to a decade or more.

Nuclear energy faces a seriously clouded future.

=======

Written by Harvey Wasserman

Edited by Myla Reson

 

Bill Maher & the Corporate Democrats Need to Stop Scapegoating the Grassroots Resistance

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by Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis

 

Corporate Democrats and liberal commentators love to scapegoat the activist left for their catastrophic failures.  The blame game just fell to a new low with Bill Maher’s latest attack on Jill Stein.

Like Hillary branding Trump supporters as “deplorables,” Bill tells American grassroots activists to “go f*** yourselves with a locally grown organic cucumber.”

Hillary says she was “on her way to victory” when FBI Director James Comey and “the Russians” intervened.  Maher and others say Stein caused her defeat, as they blamed Ralph Nader for George W. Bush in 2000.

Hillary now pledges to “resist” Trump Fascism.  Maher and other liberal pundits have been relentless in their attacks on him.

And the rest of us struggle with the keys to nonviolent resistance in the Dark Age now upon us.

But one thing is clear:  what won’t work is another 16 years of liberals like Maher scapegoating left activists without facing the basic realities of where Trump came from:

  • Like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
  • Counting 2004, which was stolen from John Kerry in Ohio, the Democrats have won every presidential election since 1992
  •  Gore and the Democrats have had 16 years to fight the Electoral College, a racist anachronism designed to enhance the power of slaveowners.
  •  The EC has put six popular vote losers in the White House, nearly 15% of our presidents.
  •  Rather than work to end the EC and win electoral reform, liberal bloviators and corporate Democrats have spent 16 years whining about Nader, one of America’s greatest activists.
  •  Had they instead abolished the EC, Trump would not be president.
  •  With the Electoral College in place, still more candidates who lose the popular vote will win the White House.
  •  Had Nader NOT run in 2000, George W. Bush still would have become president.
  • Had Stein NOT run in 2016, Donald Trump still would have become president.
  •  In Florida 2000, Gov. Jeb Bush used the Jim Crow ChoicePoint program (as reported by Greg Palast) to strip more than 90,000 black and Hispanic voters from registration rolls in a tally allegedly decided by 537 votes.
  • In Ohio 2004, Jim Crow GOP election boards stripped more than 300,000 primarily urban black voters from registration rolls in a tally decided by 118,775.
  •  In 2016 nationwide, 29 GOP Secretaries of State used the Jim Crow CrossCheck program (as reported in Greg’s “Best Democracy Money Can Buy”) to strip countless thousands of black and Hispanic voters from registration rolls in states that decided the Electoral College.
  • In Florida 2000, electronic flipping in Volusia and Brevard Counties (as reported by Bev Harris) allowing Fox “reporter” John Ellis (a Bush cousin) to flip the network narrative from a Gore to a Bush victory.
  • In Ohio 2004, between 12:20 and 2am election night, a “glitch” in the state’s computerized vote count (as run under a no-bid contract by a Bush family operative in a Chattanooga bank basement) was used as cover to flip a 4.2% Kerry victory to a 2.4% Bush victory, giving Bush a second term.
  •  Nationwide in 2016, electronic “irregularities” continually flipped Clinton exit poll victories to Trump official victories, including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which gave Trump the Electoral College and the presidency.
  •  As in New Mexico 2004 and elsewhere in both 2004 and 2016, thousands of ballots in heavily Democratic areas were allegedly missing a presidential preference, including some 75,395 in Michigan, which was decided by less than 11,000

All this and more fits a clear historic pattern which we outline in our new STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS.

Clinton Democrats and liberal pundits like Maher call this “conspiracy theory.”  They refuse to deal with either the stripping of voter rolls or the flipping of electronic vote counts.  Instead they attack grassroots activists who do.

Jill Stein, for example, attempted recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  She fought corrupt officials in all three states (Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor) and hit nothing but brick walls.

Clinton sent “legal observers” but no financial or other meaningful help.  Liberal pundits continually attacked Jill for her efforts.  Despite the horrors of Trump fascism, the Democrats have said and done nothing about the total fraud that put him in the White House.

Al Gore essentially disappeared immediately after losing 5-4 in the US Supreme Court. So did Kerry and Clinton immediately after their own losses.  Not one of them is working to abolish the Electoral College, or for a reliable election system. But the corporate Democrats and liberal pundits have plenty of energy to scream at the grassroots left.

Of course, in 2008 and 2012, that’s precisely who put Barack Obama in the White House.  We have reported widespread electoral fraud in both years.  But a powerful and diligent grassroots upheaval curbed enough abuses to save Obama from what doomed Gore, Kerry and Clinton.

Obama also used that grassroots energy to build a popular vote margin too big to steal.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders again unleashed that grassroots power.  As an avowed socialist, he inspired millions of precisely the activists a legitimate Democratic Party should have welcomed—-young, committed, energetic, idealistic, ready to work for a social democratic future.

We believe Bernie was the rightful Democratic nominee.  We also believe that had she chosen Bernie for VP,  Hillary could have walked into the White House.

Despite her miserable campaign, locking into the Sandernista movement would have allowed us to thoroughly monitor this election, curb some of the worst abuses and build a grassroots constituency that could have overwhelmed Trump’s fascism and put this country on the road to real social change.

In these dark days we must recall that in the spring of 2016 we enjoyed the HUGEST social democratic movement in a century, with tens of millions of optimistic Americans ready to work and win a bright and fair future.

Instead we face the grim realities of tangible fascism.  It doesn’t help when liberal pundits and corporate Democrats attack the grassroots activists who are on the frontline of the resistance.

The Democrats will stay out of power until they can convince the American public (even us “deplorables”) they can deliver on civil liberties, social justice, ecological sanity, and more.  And that they can construct an electoral system that actually reflects the popular will.

Clinton, Kerry, Gore and the liberal punditocracy must finally deal with how they lost these three presidencies.   And then DO something about it, so it doesn’t happen again.

They could start by demanding universal automatic voter registration; transparent registration rolls immune to Jim Crow stripping by programs like ChoicePoint and Crosscheck;  universal hand-counted paper ballots; a four-day national holiday for voting; an end to gerrymandering, the Electoral College and corporate purchase of campaigns.

They might also THANK rather than scapegoat what was once the Democratic Party’s energetic base, including activists like Nader, Stein, Bernie and the rest of the grassroots movements that form our last and strongest barrier against the harsh realities of Trump Fascism.

————
Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis co-wrote THE STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS (www.freepress.org / www.solartopia.,org), where Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES appear with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US and SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH. Harvey’s Green Power & Wellness show is at www.prn.fm.

How Trump’s Genocidal Hero Andrew Jackson Might Have “Avoided the Civil War”

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By Harvey Wasserman,  (Originall published by Reader Supported News on May 5, 2017)

 

onald Trump’s latest insane excursion into US history has been to claim that his great hero, Andrew Jackson, might have prevented the Civil War.

Given his racist, genocidal nature, our seventh president could only have done that by giving up slavery in the South, spreading it into the North or giving the Southwest back to Mexico.

Jackson, of course, would never have given up slavery, which was the cause of the war and the core of his fortune.

As a young man, like a cowboy driving cattle, Jackson personally drove slaves to market. He eventually owned more than a hundred of them, and defended America’s “peculiar institution” at every opportunity.

In addition to their authoritarian temperaments, Jackson and Trump share “accomplishments” such as trashing the Constitution, personally profiting from the presidency, and inciting imperial conquest. Jackson did stand for the Union against South Carolina’s threatened secession, but that was about tariffs, not slavery.

Trump rightly says Jackson was “tough.” In 1806, in one of his fourteen duels, Jackson took a bullet an inch from his heart. He then killed his opponent in a manner considered most unchivalrous, and became a social outcast for many years. The bullet stayed in his chest until his own death four decades later.

Jackson was also a pioneer homophobe. As Sen. James Buchanan of Pennsylvania openly lived with his likely lover, Sen. Rufus King of South Carolina, Jackson loudly referred to him as “Aunt Nancy.” (After King died, Buchanan became our only “bachelor president.”)

But mainstream historians have made a hero of “Old Hickory.” Born to dirt poor Irish immigrants who died early, Jackson’s hardscrabble upbringing was the opposite of Trump’s.

Trump inherited millions from his father, who was a Klan sympathizer (or member), a landlord so cruel that the legendary leftie folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote a song denouncing him.

Andrew Jackson pre-dated the Klan, but would’ve killed for an estate like the one Trump inherited. And he did.

As an orphan, Jackson began his military career at age 13. Rising through the ranks as an Indian killer, he conquered the Chickasaw by recruiting their ancient rivals, the Cherokee. Jackson then turned on the Cherokee as if they had been the enemy. His racism was open, lethal, and proud.

With Trump-style “Common Man” rhetoric, Jackson promised to destroy the National Bank. He then made insider deals with the smaller banks that replaced it, enriching his backers and himself. These and other scams helped buy him his 1000-acre slave plantation in Tennessee.

When he conquered native land for the US, Jackson and his cronies somehow wound up with the best parcels. His 1830 Indian Removal Act ordered all eastern tribes to move west of the Mississippi.

The Appalachian Cherokee had an advanced tribal government, an elected leader (John Ross), a capitol, a written constitution, and much more. Most lived in private homes and ran successful farms. Some (like Ross) owned plantations and slaves. There were seven Cherokee lumber mills.

The Cherokee petitioned for statehood. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Constitution allowed no new state to be created from existing ones (Abraham Lincoln dodged that technicality in 1863 to form West Virginia).

But Marshall also ruled that the Cherokee had sovereignty (a clause later used to site casinos) and a Constitutional right to stay on their ancestral lands.

Jackson replied, Trump-style, that he would ignore the Court. Under Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, federal troops forced some 14,000 Cherokee out of their homes at gunpoint. Through the summer of 1838 they were held in a concentration camp. Then, along the infamous “Trail of Tears,” they were marched hundreds of miles to Oklahoma. About 3,000 died along the way.

Jackson promised the Cherokee and other tribes the right to live in that Oklahoma territory “as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow.” Fifty years later their “excess land” was given to white “Sooners” who raced in on horseback and covered wagons to claim homesteads.

As for the Civil War, its root cause was conflict over Mexican land. Mexico abolished slavery in its 1821 revolution against Spain. But American settlers (many from Tennessee) re-established it in 1836, when (after the Alamo) they made Texas an independent republic.

Jackson died in 1845. The next year his protégé, James K. Polk, provoked a war and took from Mexico what became New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and more. US troops marched all the way into Mexico City, where young soldiers like Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant fought side-by-side. Americans like Abraham Lincoln and Henry Thoreau denounced the conquest as a “poison pill.”

The Civil War broke out when slave owners demanded the right to spread slavery into the West. California’s 1850 statehood gave free states a majority in Congress. War erupted in Kansas, where John Brown and other abolitionists battled slave owners for control.

The only way Jackson’s “art of the deal” might have avoided the Civil War was by persuading northerners to embrace slavery, or southerners to give it up. But both regions were committed to expansion, and neither wanted the other’s economic system. When Lincoln said the nation could not exist “half slave and half free,” he was tragically correct.

Of course, war might have been avoided if Jackson’s progeny had given that land back to Mexico, or restored the Carolinas to the Cherokee, or persuaded the southerners that slavery was never going to work in the West anyway. Cotton does not grow in Kansas or the Southwest, and slavery made no economic sense in the desert, corn or wheat fields.

Without the Jacksonian conquest of Mexico, the “immigrants” Trump now attacks would merely be living on their own land. The wall Trump wants to build tracks a border that did not exist before Polk overran what was once both our southern and our western neighbor.

Sorting through his often insane pronouncements about US history, Trump has seemed surprised to discover that Abraham Lincoln was actually his fellow Republican, while Jackson was a Democrat. Each was the first president from his respective party. Both were “men of the people.” But their views on slavery were, literally, at war with each other.

Trump might also note that when he retired from the presidency in 1837, Jackson found a trusted relative had squandered his wealth. Much of what he’d gouged out of slaughtering Indians and whipping slaves was gone.

Since Trump has joined Jackson in using the presidency to enrich himself, he might want to oversee his sons more carefully.

He might also try doing a better job with the economy. As Trump’s hero left office in 1837, his immediate “legacy” featured a major stock market panic followed by four years of depression.

No doubt the Great Historian would loudly blame that on the Democrats … until he realized his hero actually was one.


Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US is here at www.solartopia.org, along with Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth.

 

 

Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms

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By Harvey Wasserman

(originally published by Truth Dig on April 25, 2017)

 

Marine Le Pen is the latest fascist to be called a “Right Wing Populist” by the corporate media.

There is no such thing.

Let’s be clear: Populists are leftists. We support human rights, social democracy, peace and ecological sanity.

“Populists of the Right” are fascists. Their goal has a clear definition, as put forward by the term’s originator, Benito Mussolini: “Corporate control of the state.”

When they take power, they become National Socialists, using the government to enrich the corporations and the rich, rather than Democratic Socialists, or social democrats, using the state to serve the people.

Fascists support enriching the rich and to hell with the rest of us. They are racist, misogynist, anti-ecological, militaristic and authoritarian. They hate democracy, freedom of speech and an open media. They take power by fomenting hate and division. Le Pen, now in in the runoff for the leadership of France, is a classic fascist, as is her American counterpart, Donald Trump.

The term “populist” has a clear historical origin in the United States. It’s important we claim it.

Populist was the name taken by radical farmers in the late 1800s who fought for social and economic justice against the robber baron elite. The Morgans, Rockefellers and their ilk had captured the industrial revolution that dominated the U.S. after the Civil War.

The farmers of the South and West fought back with a grass-roots social movement. They formed the People’s Party. Its socialistic platforms demanded public ownership of the major financial institutions, including banks, railways, power utilities and other private monopolies that were crushing the public well-being.

At their national conventions in Omaha in 1892, and St. Louis in 1896, and elsewhere, they demanded an end to corporate and foreign ownership of land. They wanted a national currency based on food rather than gold and silver. They endorsed universal affordable medical care, free public education and a general guarantee of the basics of life for all humans. They demanded equal rights for women, including the vote.

They also preached racial unity, especially among black and white farmers in the South, and between native and immigrant workers in the cities.

In the political quagmire of the Gilded Age, the Populists had three huge barriers to overcome.

Their power depended first on uniting white farmers in the South and West. But many had fought each other in the Civil War. So in 1892 the party nominated for president James B. Weaver of Iowa, a former general in the Union Army. His running mate was James G. Field of Virginia, once a Confederate officer and attorney general of Virginia.

The party also had to unite the races in the South. For centuries whites had been at the throats of black slaves, and then of impoverished freedmen and women. But almost miraculously the Populists managed by the 1890s to form significant alliances between the races. A critical pioneer was Tom Watson, a Georgia lawyer the Populists chose for vice president in 1896.

The People’s Party also had to ally its primarily rural constituency with the largely immigrant working class masses of the cities. For that a radical faction wanted to nominate for president in 1896 the great Indiana labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who was imprisoned for leading a national rail strike the previous year.

But tragedy struck in the form of Congressman William Jennings Bryan. A young, 36-year-old Nebraska Democrat, Bryan adopted populist rhetoric and captured the Democratic nomination, pledging to coin silver, an inflationary move that would raise food prices and lower the real cost of mortgages.

Raised an evangelical, Bryan was a spellbinding speaker who convinced the western farmers he would bring real change. With catastrophic consequences, he got a bitterly divided 1896 Populist Convention to endorse him. Debs, who was in jail at the time, also backed Bryan, a move he later deeply regretted.

Bryan then stabbed them all in the back. He took a Maine banker for his vice president. He pointedly ignored the Populist Watson and the party’s humanist platform. And he proceeded to lose the general election to Ohio’s very corporate Senator William McKinley, a robber baron puppet. As president, McKinley promptly birthed the modern American empire with the annexation of Hawaii and a Spanish-American War that conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

In the wake of betrayal and defeat, the Populist Party collapsed. The Westerners and the Southerners parted company. The southern whites, including Watson, turned on the blacks, blaming them for the 1896 defeat.

Historians often cite venal Southerners like “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman as being racist populists. But Tillman and his ilk were always Democrats, and—like Bryan—had never embraced the Populists’ programs for peace and social justice.

Debs went on to lead the Socialist Party, running for president five times. His last campaign came from his federal cell in Atlanta because another Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, had him imprisoned for opposing America’s entry into World War I.

A hero to ensuing generations of social democrats, including Bernie Sanders, Debs knew the difference between populists of the left and fascists of the right.

While devious Democrats like Bryan and Wilson filched populist rhetoric, they fought the core People’s Party beliefs in social justice and economic equality. Wilson was a vicious racist who used imperial war to crush America’s Socialist Party.

And today’s “Populists of the Right,” i.e., fascists, take it even further. They cynically spew snippets of grass-roots rhetoric to attract a working-class constituency. But they violently oppose the rights of the working class, as well as those committed to social justice, economic equality, peace and ecology.

The fascists’ divide-and-conquer scapegoating embodies the precise opposite of real populism. Their small-minded meanness of spirit and blatant greed contradict everything the People’s and Socialist Parties stood for.

Led now by France’s Le Pen, America’s Trump and so many others, the core corporate values of Kleptocracy, war mongering, racism, misogyny, homophobia and ecological contempt can be seen in sibling reactionaries throughout Europe, in Russia’s Putin, in the Philippines’ murderous Duterte and among countless corporate dictators in developing nations.

There is nothing “populist” about these thugs and thieves except the media’s use of the term to describe them.

The “F” word applies. It is FASCIST. It’s time to use it—and to reclaim the true meaning of populism, in all its humanistic glory.

 

RESTORE SANITY: A Mass Nonviolent Satyagraha Campaign to Remove Donald Trump

a purple hat

By Lila Garrett, David Swanson, Suzanne Patzer, Bob Fitrakis, Ruthie Sakheim, Harvey Wasserman and many more …

(originally published on Reader Supported News on April 17, 2017)

he unthinkable is upon us.

A president of the United States poses a clear and present danger to our global survival. It’s become our duty to remove him soon, beyond the electoral system, and strictly without violence.

Syria:

President Trump’s random missile attack is the predictable martial diversion for a failing regime. Had Barack Obama done it the entire right wing would be screaming for impeachment.

To justify an impetuous fling, Trump summoned images of chemical weapons killing helpless children. But had those kids been refugees trying to come here, Trump might well have barred them, and derided their parents.

This chaotic regime’s military adventures have already killed innumerable innocents in Yemen and elsewhere for no apparent reason. Had this attack targeted North Korea, or another nuclear-armed nation, mushroom clouds might now be ending human life on Earth.

Meanwhile:

This regime is cynically assaulting our global ecosystems, the rising green infrastructure on which our ecological and economic future depends, as well as women, people of color, the poor, the elderly, the infirm. Trump has polluted the White House with an outrageous culture of personal gain at public expense.

Donald Trump lost the 2016 election by at least 2.8 million popular votes. He lost the exit polls in the five states that swung the Electoral College. GOP secretaries of state used Crosscheck and other computer programs to disenfranchise countless citizens of color. They may well have flipped the electronic voting machines on which 80% of the nation’s ballots were cast or counted.

Without a legitimate electoral process, and saddled with a timid corporatist Democratic Party, how do we respond?

Two US presidents have been impeached but not removed. Richard Nixon resigned in the face of a massive popular upheaval. By his own admission, that uprising prevented him from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

Donald Trump is the corporatist response to a rising social fervor that speaks for the soul of this nation. Bernie Sanders remains America’s most popular politician. Even in the face of a totally corrupted governmental structure, we must never underestimate our larger power.

As with Nixon, the madness of today’s White House demands a whole new level of organizing, resistance and overthrow, of “satyagraha” – focused peaceful action – pioneered by the American independence, abolitionist, suffragette and labor movements, by Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King’s work for civil rights, the nonviolent resistance that helped bring down the Soviet Union, Nelson Mandala’s victory against South African apartheid, the Otpor campaign against Serbia’s Milosevic dictatorship, the global feminist, No Nukes, LGBTQ+, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Sandernista campaigns, and many more.

Today there are no simple answers, except to be civil in our disobedience. Any violence must be assumed to come from those who want us to fail.

Our way forward might include mass rallies, marches, boycotts, strikes, non-cooperation, tax resistance, guerrilla theater, door-to-door conversation, and much more we may not yet envision.

The great nonviolent strategist Gene Sharp lists some 200 such tactics at his legendary Einstein Institute. Mark and Paul Engler beautifully explore nonviolent activism in their “This Is an Uprising” (www.nationbooks.org). Jim Hightower has gracefully mentioned some longer-term solutions in his latest column.

As with Nixon, we suspect that somewhere in the corrupt chaos of Trump’s towering arrogance, we will find the critical overreach.

And somewhere in the mix of our own relentless activism, there will be the power to make that matter.

Our nation was born of an impossible campaign that overthrew a tyrant.

To RESTORE SANITY in today’s nuclear age we may need even more creativity, imagination and good faith.

But we had damn well better win fast, before this madman kills us all.

____________

To join in, go to www.restoresanity.us or www.Solartopia.org, where hats, bumper stickers, etc. are available.

a purple hat

 

4 Dying Nuke Plants vs. Fleet of Gigafactories: Which Will Gov. Cuomo Choose?

By Harvey Wasserman and Tim Judson

Originally published at EcoWatch

3.30.HW.ecowatch

Elon Musk’s SolarCity is completing the construction of its “Buffalo Billion” Gigafactory for photovoltaic (PV) cells near the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York. It will soon put 500 New Yorkers to work inside the 1.2 million-square-foot facility with another 700 nearby, ramping up to nearly 3,000 over the next few years.

The production of some 10,000 solar panels per day will put thousands of New Yorkers to work doing the installations. The panels will produce electricity cheaper, cleaner, more safely and more reliably than any fossil or nuclear source of power, including fracked gas, thus fueling a bright industrial future for the state.

With a little common sense from the governor, upstate New York could have many more of these massive factories, create many thousands of good, stable, high-paying jobs and solve its energy problems along the way.

All he has to do is shift over the absurd, wrong-headed $7.6 billion hand-out he now wants to give the Illinois-based Exelon Corporation for continuing to run four extremely old and dangerous nuclear reactors.

Those four reactors employ a total of about 2,100 people. They came online in 1969, 1970, 1975 and 1988 respectively. Aside from being dangerously decrepit, they run the risk of early shutdown because of general mechanical deterioration, rising maintenance costs, a shortage of replacement parts and the likelihood of major component failures.

At some point all operating reactors will also face escalated safety standards certain to result from the next Fukushima-like disaster, an ever-more likely reality as the global nuke fleet ages and deteriorates. Because the nuclear industry is failing throughout the U.S. and Europe, there is an ever-narrowing pool of workers qualified to keep the plants going. Because the electricity they produce is so expensive, they will drain a huge pool of resources from a state-wide economy in desperate need of industrial rebirth.

By contrast, SolarCity’s solar panel plant will be productive for decades. It’s called the Gigafactory because it will produce a gigawatt’s (1 million kilowatts) worth of solar panels every year, about the same as a nuclear reactor. (Depending on climate and sunlight, PV capacity produces electricity equivalent from about a half to a third of the capacity from an atomic reactor, assuming the reactor doesn’t blow up, melt down or shut for other reasons).

The cells produced at “Buffalo Billion” will spread throughout New York and the nation, revolutionizing our energy system. The energy those cells will produce will create far more jobs than subsidized nukes and would emit no greenhouse gases. The nukes they’d replace currently emit billions of gallons of hot wastewater annually, a major contributor to climate chaos.

Should the money Gov. Cuomo has earmarked for those old Exelon nukes be shifted to solar, New York’s economy would be revolutionized.

The template for such a plan has already been established by Pacific Gas & Electric at California’s last two reactors. Surrounded by earthquake faults at an oceanfront site nine miles west of San Luis Obispo, the Diablo Canyon nukes are being phased out in an agreement between the state, the utility, environmental, labor and local government groups.

Pacific Gas & Electric has admitted that the power Diablo produces can be replaced with 100 percent renewables. The company has also agreed to retain the plant’s 1,200 workers through the phase-out and retrain them for jobs in the renewables industry at when the plant shuts down. Surrounding communities will also be compensated for lost tax revenues.

Gov. Cuomo should take heed. The $7.6 billion he’s earmarked for these four upstate nukes comes with a price tag of $3.64 million per retained job. But in the solar/efficiency field, the state is producing jobs manufacturing clean energy technology with far better long-term prospects for just $148,000 per job.

Rather than having all the jobs in the nuclear basket, that $7.6 billion could also help fund a diversity of facilities that have an actual future in a global economy experiencing a revolutionary green transformation.

SolarCity’s Gigafactory in Buffalo will cost the state about $750 million to build. SolarCity is investing another $900 million for manufacturing equipment and build-out.

At full capacity, the PV Gigafactory and its local suppliers will employ 2,900 workers, almost 40 percent more than all four old nukes combined. It will support about 2,000 more jobs statewide. Thus the SolarCity facility will account for about 5,000 jobs—close to three times as many as at the four old reactors. Its cheaper, more reliable energy will fuel a far healthier economy, free of the worry of catastrophic melt-downs and explosions.

Right now some 8,000 New Yorkers work in the solar installation business. They are too often installing imported panels because China has made a huge investment in its PV export business. Panels made in Buffalo will keep that money in New York.

Meanwhile a plant making solar panel wafers in Rochester, built for about $700 million, employs about a 1,000 workers. The Soraa LED lightbulb plant in Syracuse has created 420 permanent local jobs.

Tesla is now pouring thousands of high-efficiency batteries out of its $3.5 billion state-of-the-art facility in Nevada. By mid-2017, it will employ 1,700 workers and about 6,500 when the plant is running at full capacity in 2020. Such a factory could easily be built in New York, again at a fraction the cost of Cuomo’s nuke bailouts.

Worldwide, nuke power is in an advanced state of collapse. Westinghouse, the proud purveyor of the first electricity to come from Niagara Falls, has been bankrupted by its failed nuke construction projects and may take Toshiba down with it.

Those uninsurable old upstate nukes, three of them nearly a half-century old, could do the same to New York. The choice being made here is between a failed technology in the process of collapse or a 21st Century industry in the process of remaking the world.

If Gov. Cuomo wants to take New York forward, instead of locking it into a failed radioactive past, he’ll follow California’s lead. A small fraction of that $7.6 billion could retain and retrain the workers at those four upstate nukes and compensate the local communities and help them rebuild their economies and tax bases. As the results from a 2015 report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Alliance for Green Economy show, supporting reactor communities and workers should cost far less than any bailouts.

The rest of those billions can then create tens of thousands of solid, state-of-the-art jobs producing cheap, clean, safe green energy components in factories and installation sites sure to guarantee New York state a modern, competitive industrial future.

It’s an easy choice, Gov. Cuomo. Fund four dying nukes with 1,100 jobs or a prosperous Solartopian future for New York state with tens of thousands of permanent positions in a a booming sustainable economy.

####

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

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by

Originally published at The Progressive on March 17, 2017

Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds—roughly 31 percent—taking the agency’s annual budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the smallest since it was formed in 1970. These cuts will cripple regulation of air and water quality, strip oversight of a wide range of land management programs, and loosen restrictions on chemical emissions from industrial facilities.

Much of this money would be shifted directly over to the military, which the Trump Administration wants to bolster with an additional $54 billion over the final Obama allocations.

As Wenona Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, the cuts would lower staff to about 11,800, in an agency that employed 17,000 in 2010 and, according to the Washington Post, about 15,000 today.“We should be clear that 90 percent of EPA programs are run by state agencies,” Hauter says.“Half that staff is located in regional offices.

The cuts, says Hauter, would cripple the states’ ability to protect clean air and water across the country.

Following through on his campaign promise to reduce the EPA to “little tidbits,” Trump’s budget defunds more than 50 programs. These include infrastructure improvement on Indian reservations, major projects to clean up Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, a wide range of renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, numerous climate change research programs, national heritage sites, environmental justice programs, oceanographic research and preservation, and much more. Gina McCarthy, a former EPA official under Obama,described it as “a scorched earth budget that represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land.”

Some of the immediate opposition has crossed party lines. Ohio’s recently re-elected Republican Senator Rob Portman, a close associate of former President George W. Bush, strongly opposed cuts to the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies warned, “if such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”

Among the programs affected will be popular Energy Star campaigns that set efficiency standards for household and other appliances. The program is well-established and popular among large manufacturers seeking marketing tools in a highly competitive global business. “It’s alarming and bewildering to see the Trump Administration propose cuts to critical government programs that support clean energy innovation, helped create thousands of new jobs, and saved Americans millions on their utility bills,” says Amit Ronen, Director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute.

Scott Sklar, head of the Stella Group, a D.C.-based environmental consulting firm, and chair of the steering committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition adds that the EPA cuts come in tandem with assaults on programs at the Department of Energy critical to advances in LED light bulbs, advanced batteries, electric trucks, biofuels and other cutting-edge green power projects. Overall, says Sklar, the cuts could cripple some seventeen national laboratories whose innovative technical work spans the horizon from windmills and solar panels to advanced batteries and accelerated efficiency.

In addition, says Ronen, “Trump and his cronies can fundamentally change how EPA does its job by rolling back carbon and air regulations and not enforcing current law.”

A deadly dose of that medicine is now being  administered in Detroit, where Trump has moved to slash motor vehicle efficiency requirements and emissions standards.

At the behest of auto company executives, Trump is exploiting a legal loophole in Obama-era requirements to gut fleet fuel-economy capabilities. Complaining about technical challenges, the industry may soon slouch back to lower emissions standards feeding higher short-term profits. Detroit will once again race to the bottom in a global transportation industry increasingly dominated by Germany, China, and Japan.

The trends are being further exploited with shifts at the state as well as federal levels to slash tax breaks and incentives for electric cars and solar panels. Guided by handouts from the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel empire, “free market” legislators in states like Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona have partnered with the American Legislative Exchange Council to impose debilitating taxes and regulatory barriers against electric cars, green power production, advanced efficiency, mass transit and more. The trend has been underscored by Trump’s quick approval of the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, and relaxed rules governing fracking on public lands.

Meanwhile, Illinois and New York are moving toward massive subsidies for uncompetitive, dangerously dilapidated old nuclear reactors in a marketplace where renewables are coming in far cheaper and creating thousands more jobs. In Ohio and other states, owners of money-losing reactors are advocating for massive handouts to block cheaper, job-creating renewables and efficiency from getting into the marketplace.

Adding insult to injury, Trump wants to add $120 million to the long-dead Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. Despite fierce local opposition, the Department of Energy has blown some $13.5 billion since 2002 digging a giant tunnel through the dormant volcano eighty miles outside Las Vegas to store radioactive waste. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, got President Obama to cancel Yucca in 2011. Yucca could ultimately cost more than $90 billion by some estimates, and take decades.  A $2 billion 2014 explosion shut America’s sole state-of-the-art radioactive-waste repository, at Carlsbad, New Mexico, casting a long shadow over underground burial.

Ohio’s Crumbling Nukes Face Judgement Day

by Harvey Wasserman

This article originally appeared at www.freepress.org.

And was subsequently  published on Reader Supported news on March 2, 2017

besse blows

he likely explosion of an American nuclear power plant is the ultimate terror in the age of Trump.

Across the United States, 99 dangerous, decrepit, and disastrous commercial nukes are literally falling to pieces. With no private insurance and no meaningful regulation, the industry is poised to wreak apocalyptic havoc on our planet. While the industry bribes and strong-arms governors and state legislatures into massive bailouts, the next meltdown/blowup could very well cost you both your money and your life.

None of these nukes are nearer to the breaking point than Ohio’s infamous Davis-Besse reactor, near Toledo. It is poised to lose hundreds of millions of dollars for its owners and Ohio ratepayers. So, of course, the “free enterprise” Republican legislature is poised to give those nuke operators a massive bailout. To the tune of more than $4 billion (that’s not a typo).

Natural gas is cheaper. New gas plants are under construction throughout the state. Ohio has tremendous wind resources, far in excess of anything we will ever need and far more than it would take to replace DB. Thanks to spectacular technological advances in recent years, that wind power – along with new solar panels – is cheaper, safer, cleaner and more reliable than the nuke, and would create thousands of jobs beyond the few hundred at Davis-Besse.

But FirstEnergy, which owns both Davis-Besse and the legislature, does not own the gas or the wind. Davis-Besse is also poised to melt down and/or blow up. Six other reactors (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima 1-4) have already done one or both.

One of the world’s oldest reactors, Davis-Besse is literally crumbling. As Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear has shown, DB’s shield building has been pulverized by storms, internalized moisture that alternatively freezes and thaws, faulty maintenance, and corrupt decision making.

DB is infamous worldwide for its “hole-in-the-head” fiasco. That happened when boric acid ate nearly all the way through the reactor pressure vessel. It came within a fraction of an inch of another Chernobyl. Says Kamps: “FirstEnergy has admitted that it has known since 2011 that large chunks of Shield Building exterior face concrete could fall off – as due to an earthquake, or meltdown pressures – and fall down onto safety significant systems, structures, or components below, exacerbating the disaster, perhaps even leading to a meltdown, that the breached containment could no longer contain.”

But if the all-too-likely disaster comes, FirstEnergy will not be liable for the damages. You will pay, with your money, your property, and maybe your life.

The 1957 Price-Anderson Act was passed to encourage utility companies to build atomic reactors, which were essentially a happy face for the atomic bomb. The Atomic Energy Commission that both regulated and promoted nuclear power also produced America’s nuclear weapons. The power companies resisted the reactors because they feared meltdowns, which government reports at the time presciently warned could wipe out an area the size of Pennsylvania. The industry at the time promised electricity “too cheap to meter” and denied a commercial reactor could ever explode. Both statements proved to be epic lies.

Meanwhile a captive Congress let the industry proceed without liability insurance. A tiny ($540 million) fund was set up, essentially for show. That’s now up to about $13 billion. But considering Chernobyl did at least a half-trillion in damage and Fukushima more than anybody can yet calculate, the kitty is essentially an absurdity. A radioactive cloud pouring out of Davis-Besse would do $13 billion in damage to life and property within the first few miles.

The rest would be paid for by the public – you and me. After 60 years, American reactors still have no private liability insurance.

Protected by the government, FirstEnergy has no corporate stake in protecting the people or property downwind. Some workers might care. Some executives might be perpetually poised to flee the inevitable apocalyptic cloud as it hurtles toward their lakefront mansions.

But as an inanimate entity, the company itself is immune to radiation. Should the corporate shield crumble, bankruptcy is the easy and obvious option.

Which is what FirstEnergy may face at Davis-Besse. Among the world’s very oldest reactors, its operating and maintenance costs have soared. Even with the fake regulation provided by the rubber stamp Nuclear Regulatory Commission, DB faces massive repairs just to keep its turbines twirling. The building has already been slashed into four times to replace core components. It’s the equivalent of having four open-heart surgeries (if a reactor can be said to have a heart) through a rib cage that cannot heal, with each invasion accelerating general deterioration.

As Sierra Club energy expert Ned Ford explains, the economic crisis FirstEnergy now faces is of its own making. Many years ago, when it was known as Cleveland Electric Illuminating (and then Centerior, also encompassing Ohio Edison) the utility’s financial geniuses gouged out of the legislature a massive bailout for Davis-Besse and its compadre Perry reactor east of Cleveland. Together they took what energy expert Ned Ford estimates to be up to $20 billion from Ohio ratepayers.

At the time they argued (with straight faces) we’d all save millions in an open “free market” competition. But to get there, they insisted we underwrite the two lakefront nukes, which could not compete without gargantuan handouts that made a mockery of that old “too cheap to meter” pitch.

The legislature, of course, gave them all they wanted. We who testified against this outrageous stick-up warned that the “free market” reactor operators would be begging for re-regulation.

Why?

Because nukes can’t function without huge subsidies. Regulation guarantees a return on investment at ratepayer expense (which has never bothered a “free market” utility).

As Ned Ford has extensively shown, Ohio has huge excess capacity in coal-burners, though many are as decrepit and dysfunctional as Davis-Besse. It’s also over-built in gas burners, many of which sat unused when methane prices were high, but which now churn out juice far cheaper than any nukes anywhere.

Most importantly, northern Ohio has spectacular wind resources. The breezes in the middle of Lake Erie are as strong and steady as anywhere on Earth. The lake is relatively shallow and fresh, meaning there’s no salt to corrode the moving parts. The likely sites are also relatively close to Toronto, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and other major consuming centers.

On-shore is even better. The winds aren’t as strong, but installation is cheaper and there’s plenty of transmission, many willing farm hosts, and good proximity to the cities. Alongside solar cells, wind is humankind’s fastest-growing new energy source, creating millions of jobs worldwide – tens of thousands of which are poised to pour into Ohio whenever the nukes finally shut. Advanced reliability has driven capacity factors constantly higher, with downtime increasingly covered by a revolution in battery technologies.

In 2010 a broad coalition of activists, working with Governor Ted Strickland, put a far-seeing energy plan in place to take Ohio deep into a green energy future. The pioneer package of goals and incentives was set to bring the Buckeye State an energy mix that was clean, cheap, cutting-edge, and poised to create thousands of jobs in an advanced economy that could have pulled Ohio far ahead of the rest of the rust belt and into a truly sustainable post-recessional future. Several billion dollars in investment capital – much of it focused on wind farms in northern Ohio – was ready to go.

But with the coming of John Kasich and a Koch-controlled legislature, all that disappeared. Kasich has since softened his anti-green tone. But the legislature is still run by far-right corporate Republicans who hate anything that’s not fossil/nuke, even if there are jobs and money to be made and a sustainable future to be had. They also hate anything that smacks of government interference or handouts – until a big corporate donor like FirstEnergy demands billions in ratepayer subsidies for uninsurable privately-owned reactors that put the public at risk.

Indeed, FirstEnergy is now unabashedly asking this “anti-government” legislature to guarantee its return on nuclear investments whose real dollar values are a huge negative. Massive quantities of radioactive trash have piled up at the reactor sites with nowhere to go. The pioneer American radioactive waste facility – New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project –blew up three years ago at an estimated cost of $2 billion and counting. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, decades from being completed if at all, will be even more unstable, with an ultimate price tag approaching $100 billion.

Both Ohio reactors are gargantuan liabilities demanding inestimable resources to decommission. Funds have been accumulated to allegedly pay for that, but nobody seriously believes there’s enough to do the job.

The nuclear industry has also adopted the astonishing lie that these reactors are somehow “zero emission” and therefore help fight global warming. It’s an amusing argument, coming from Republicans who adamantly denounce the idea that climate change might be real.

It’s also blatantly false. Davis-Besse, Perry, and all other reactors dump billions of gallons of heated water directly into the air and water. They thus “fight climate change” by directly heating the climate. They also emit Carbon 14 in their fission process, and many tons of carbon dioxide in the process of mining, milling, and enriching their uranium fuel.

Nukes also constantly emit radioactive gases and particulates that kill living things, both in their “normal” operating process and when they explode, as at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Above all, they have been blown away economically by the revolution in solar and wind. More than 260,000 Americans now work in the solar industry and more than 100,000 in wind, far more than in coal, oil, and nukes combined. Every time a reactor shuts, opportunity arises to create thousands of stable, long-term, well-paying jobs in renewables and efficiency. The faster the reactors shut, the more jobs are created and the safer, cleaner, and cooler the planet becomes.

If Ohio’s legislature does re-regulate and hand FirstEnergy its radioactive ransom, lawsuits will erupt (as they already have in Illinois) from independent “market” utilities seeking to compete. The type of monopoly status the “free market” Republicans are poised to give FirstEnergy will be challenged in the courts and regulatory agencies in hugely expensive litigations. The only certain outcome is years of delay and a yet another massive price tag – which FirstEnergy would stick to the rest of us.

Also certain would be the devastating impact on Ohio’s economic future. As shown by the Sierra’s Ford, the billions sucked up by these ancient, obsolete nukes have poisoned the Buckeye economy and helped hollow out what was once an industrial powerhouse. The only jobs created will be among the attorneys adding their exorbitant fees onto the ratepayers’ tab.

The revolution in wind and solar that’s sweeping the planet should long ago have brought Ohio’s economy into the new millennium.

Instead, these massively subsidized, crumbling, obsolete radioactive jalopies keep on rumbling toward the inevitable atomic cliff. What melted TMI, Chernobyl, and the Fukushimas draws closer every day.

Likewise the shameless, self-serving, and unconscionable campaign FirstEnergy has launched to force us all to yet again fund our own economic, employment, ecological and biological demise.

FirstEnergy now says it will sell Davis-Besse and get out of the generating business. But the deal will be meaningless if DB continues to operate.

Somewhere along the line, Ohioans must find those two off-switches at Perry and Davis-Besse while turning on the revolution in wind and solar power that is bringing jobs and prosperity to so much of the rest of the world.


Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, available viawww.solartopia.org. He edits www.nukefree.org. This article originally appeared at www.freepress.org.

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