Author: harvey (page 1 of 8)

Pocahontas Is a Great Hero Elizabeth Warren Should Embrace

ew 4 solartopia

By Harvey Wasserman, origianlly posted on Reader Supported News

22 February 17

enator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would do well to embrace our early American hero Pocahontas. She might even thank Donald Trump for making the link.

With his signature sneering, leering sexism and racism, Trump refers to the Massachusetts senator with the name of this real-life historic figure as if it were a put-down.

But Pocahontas is a true American icon. Unlike Trump, she was greatly loved by her people, and her character was impeccable. She was deeply admired in England, where she travelled with her husband and young son and then tragically passed away, having barely turned twenty.

Throughout her career, Senator Warren has referred to her lineage as including traces of both Cherokee and Delaware tribal heritage. It seems to be family lore for which she has no firm documentation. There’s no indication Senator Warren has benefitted from the possibility she may be part indigenous. Given her legendary serious demeanor, it’s extremely unlikely she made it up. But with characteristic ugliness, the Republicans have turned it into a slur.

In fact, Pocahontas was born with the name Matoaka, probably around 1596. She was the much-loved daughter of the powerful chieftain Powhatan, whose tribe occupied the tidewater region of present-day Virginia.

In 1607, as the first white settlers arrived at Jamestown, Pocahontas may have saved the life of the English adventurer John Smith. Allegedly Pocahontas’s father meant to put him to death. Legend has it Pocahontas saved Smith by stopping the execution. It’s also rumored she may have saved another white man as well.

The stories are shrouded in mystery, and there’s much about them that makes little sense. Smith was a polarizing character. It would have been very much in character for him to have alienated the Virginia chieftain, but the two men needed each other. Smith included the story of Pocahontas’s alleged intervention in memoirs that were relentlessly self-serving and doubted by some historians.

Whatever the case, the story has stuck throughout history and is revered as one of the first instances of a positive human connection between the indigenous Americans and invading Europeans.

There is no indication from Smith or any other contemporary that he and Pocahontas might have been lovers. She would have been about eleven years old when she allegedly saved him. He was probably pushing forty. The anatomically impossible characters in the Disney film are very far from credible.

In 1613, the teenaged Pocahontas was kidnapped by English settlers. While in captivity she converted to Christianity, then married a tobacco farmer named John Rolfe. The circumstances were complex, though most accounts indicate the two were in love. Their marriage prompted a “Peace of Pocahontas” between the colonists and the local tribes that lasted until her father died about a year after she did.

In 1615 Pocahontas and John Rolfe had a son they named Thomas. The following year Rolfe took the family to London, where they met the king and were welcomed at various social gatherings. She also met Smith again in what he described as a complex and not entirely loving encounter.

In March, 1617, the Rolfe family embarked for Virginia. Pocahontas took sick and died at Gravesend, on the Thames. Some of the natives on board the ship believed she was poisoned. There have been attempts to bring her body home, but the exact location of her gravesite at Gravesend has allegedly been lost.

Young Thomas returned to America. His descendants include First Lady Edith Wilson (married to Woodrow, also born in Virginia), the astronomer Percival Lowell and the actor Glenn Strange. It’s widely asserted that Nancy Reagan was also descended from Pocahontas, although the evidence is sketchy.

Pocahontas is the first indigenous female to be honored on a US postage stamp. She was revered on both sides of the Atlantic as a gentle, courageous woman of good character whose marriage helped inaugurate a rare time of peace between whites and natives. The armload of articles, books, and movies about her always exude the welcome image of a great heart.

Next time Donald Trump refers to Senator Warren as “Pocahontas,” she’d do well to proudly embrace the name and honor the real-life woman who made it famous. Perhaps she could propose a special commemoration to the Senate — if they let her speak.


Harvey Wasserman’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of US History can be had via www.solartopia.org. The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, co-written with Bob Fitrakis, is at www.freepress.org.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Trump Is Our Imperial Vulture Come Home to Roost – We Must Repent

d prez 4 solatopia

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Cross-posted from Reader Supported News

13 February 17

 

s the nightmare reality of Donald Trump sinks in, we need to put our resistance in a larger perspective.

There’s no need here to list what he is doing and is prepared to do to what remains of our rights, freedoms, economy, ecology, human dignity, sense of justice, the future of our children and much, much more. Donald Trump appears at this point to be our worst national nightmare.

For many of us, it will be the challenge of a lifetime to solve this problem. Millions of words will be written about it in the months to come.

But we might start by comparing him to the kinds of leaders our nation has forced on other countries, and by making some kind of amends. Trump is, in fact, our own imperial vulture come home to roost.

Indeed, he’s actually (so far) a moderate compared to scores of murderous dictators the US has installed in other countries throughout the world. Especially since World War II, our imperial apparatus has constantly subverted legitimate attempts by good people to elect decent leaders.

In all such cases, people no different from most of us have suffered terrible, tangible consequences. No matter how much pain we may now feel in America, it pales before the horrors we’ve imposed with Trump-style dictators in other nations.

To get them installed, the Central Intelligence Agency and other imperial organs have often merely subverted elections. As was done here in 2016 and for countless elections before (and perhaps to come), substantial portions of the population have been systematically stripped of their right to vote. Where that’s proven insufficient, vote counts have been flipped by electronic and other means to guarantee a secure corporate outcome.

But where even that’s not been enough, our imperial minions have simply exiled, killed outright, invaded, employed mass violence, concocted civil wars and done whatever else necessary to remove those popular leaders that have not suited the American corporate interest.

One recent instance has been in Honduras, where the elected president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup and the military took over from 2009 to 2013. Honduras became the most violent non-war zone on Earth in those years.

Here is a partial list of other duly elected leaders the United States has had removed, disappeared and/or killed to make way for authoritarian pro-corporate regimes. In each case, their demise resulted in death, denial of democratic rights and massive suffering to individuals within those countries who stood in the way of America’s imperial agenda:

Lumumba, Congo; Allende, Chile; Aristide, Haiti; Mossadegh, Iran; Arbenz, Guatemala; President Joao Goulart, Brazil; Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, Greece; Sukarno, Indonesia; Tecumseh, John Ross, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Sealth and countless other indigenous Americans; and too many more.

Taken in sum, the horrors these coups have imposed on innocent people throughout the planet comprise a terrible karmic debt our nation owes the rest of humankind.

The idea that such retribution would come home to roost may have been best stated by our 16th president. It is chiseled on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital, for all to see.

At the end of the Civil War, in his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln mourned that this “terrible war,” which killed more than 620,000 Americans, had come “as the woe due to those by whom the offense came.”

The offense, of course was slavery. To pay for it, Lincoln warned, we would see the war “continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

Are we, as modern Americans, now being called to pay for the blood drawn and the pain imposed by our imperial armies? And for all the wealth and comfort and dignity unjustly stolen from innocent peoples around the world?

As we squirm and mourn and march and organize, we might keep in mind the image of Donald Trump as imperial payback.

We might remember that as we work to overcome this homegrown vulture of our own making we must make right what we’ve imposed on so many others.

And that the restoration of sanity, dignity, and democracy to this nation can only come with a genuine sense of perspective … and with the resolve to never again impose any such suffering anywhere else in this world.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016: FIVE JIM CROWS & ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT at www.freepress.org, where Bob’sFITRAKIS FILES are available. Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

3 Million “Alien Voters”: Figment of DT’s Imagination?

alien votes

Joan Brunwasser interviews  Harvey Wasserman

(originally published on Op-Ed News)

 

My guest today is Harvey Wasserman, author, teacher, environmental and election activist. He just co-authored a piece with Bob Fitrakis: Trump’s Big Lie About 3 Million “Alien Voters” Cuts Far Deeper Than You Think 2.6.2017.

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Harvey. We last spoke several weeks before this election. And, I thought we were initially glad that DT shined a spotlight on the dysfunctional apparatus that powers our elections. Apparently, that’s not the case. Why not?

Harvey Wasserman: He was the wolf crying wolf. He yelled about a rigged election while himself rigging it.

Joan Brunwasser: You’re going to have to flesh out that very provocative statement for us, Harvey. Are you referring to the Russian involvement?

Harvey Wasserman:  By yelling about three million alleged alien voters, which as everyone knows is an utter falsehood, he distracted from the fact that millions of primarily black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Muslim and other non-millionaire citizens were denied the right to vote in this election.

This is the Big Lie at work: as the Nazis knew, if you tell one long enough, people start to believe it.

I’m glad much of the media has persistently referred to it as a false claim. It’s important they do that.

But his people are persistently making the claim and it’s very dangerous.

It masks the fact that millions were in fact DISENFRANCHISED from voting in this election, as shown by Greg Palast’s BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY and others.

It’s also important to remember that Clinton won the five key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the exit polls but not the official vote count, a sure sign of electronic manipulation.

And then, Jill Stein and the Greens were throughout abused during the recounts, with no help from the Democrats.

So, this was a fascist stolen election and Trump’s screams are a brilliant smokescreen.

Joan Brunwasser: Trump being capable of executing such a “brilliant smokescreen” may be a stretch for many voters who view him as irrational and narcissistic, at best. Our readers might not be familiar with the voter suppression that was carried out throughout the country. Ohio, where you and your colleague and co-author, Bob Fitrakis, live, was particularly hard hit. What can you tell us? How does voter suppression happen, especially on such a large scale?

Harvey Wasserman:  Trump’s rantings may or may not have to do with covering up Russian involvement. We don’t know if the Russians hacked the electronic voting machines or the poll books. It’s possible.

But the real hacking is homegrown. There are 30 GOP Secretaries of State who used the CrossCheck program to strip hundreds of thousands of black, hispanic, Asian-American,Muslim and other non-millionaires from the voter rolls.

So when Trump bleats about three million “alien” voters what’s he’s covering up is the millions of AMERICAN voters who were stripped from the rolls.

Joan Brunwasser: Why is no one having a total hissy fit about this? This is pretty darn serious. Where was Clinton? Where’s the press?

Harvey Wasserman:  Clinton and the corporate Dems may be hushed because what Trump did to them, they did to Bernie. Bernie was the rightful winner of the primaries. The Superdelegates played the role of the Electoral College. The [corporate] Dems don’t want to give up the ability to steal elections themselves, especially primaries. They clearly prefer having Trump in the White House to having Bernie there.

Joan Brunwasser: Two questions here: Is this just a case of sour grapes because Bernie didn’t get the nomination? And how can you say that the corporate Dems would prefer Trump to Bernie?

Harvey Wasserman:  Well, however it happened, the grapes are sour indeed.

Our studies show Bernie was the rightful winner. (For a full discussion, see our book THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016 via www.freepress.org; a full summary will appear in our upcoming THE STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS.) There’s no doubt the leadership of the DNC conspired to prevent him from getting the nomination. There was stripping of voters in both CA and NY, and indications of electronic flipping as well. And they used the Super delegates like a form of the Electoral College at its worst.

Did they prefer Trump to Bernie in the White House? There are many ways to speculate on different outcomes in this election. But one fairly obvious conclusion is that if Hillary had taken Bernie as her VP, which seems the obvious and gracious thing to have done, she would have won. The army of grassroots activists would have been there, as with Obama in 2008 and 2012, to make sure this lunatic did not get into the White House. So you tell me”.why didn’t she do it?

And where has she gone now? Hillary has virtually disappeared since the day after the election. Just like Gore and Kerry after they won their elections and then said nothing about election theft or the EC. It’s as if they never existed, and here we are stuck with the catastrophic aftermath. There’s got to be a better way.

Joan Brunwasser: Before we discuss our options, you didn’t answer the age-old question, where is the press?

Harvey Wasserman: The media can’t seem to handle the idea that our elections are a total sham. There was some coverage of disenfranchisement leading up to the 2016 election. But not much. And no follow through. The reality that our voting machines are totally rigged is simply “conspiracy theory” in their eyes. And they are unwilling to make the slightest effort to research the realities.

Joan Brunwasser: Sadly, you appear to be right. Which brings us to possible paths of action. I read something encouraging from the Jill Stein camp regarding their lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Would you care to discuss that for a moment?

Harvey Wasserman: What Jill Stein’s brave campaign made clear is that the electoral system is completely corrupted and impenetrable. Even in a state like Pennsylvania, which has a Democratic governor.

Nationwide, our elections are simply a bad joke. They need to be reformed from top to bottom, with universal automatic voter registration, a four-day holiday for voting, ample places to vote, hand-counted paper ballots, automatic recounts at no charge to candidates and abolition of gerrymandering, the Electoral College and corporate money in campaigns.

It’s a simple, clear agenda but a monumental task to win. On the other hand, without it, we have nothing resembling a democracy.

Joan Brunwasser: Do you want to talk about Jill Stein’s lawsuit?

Harvey Wasserman: Over the coming months and years, you can expect to see numerous lawsuits by many democracy advocates. There will be referenda and other campaigns to fix this problem. The corruption of this system is deeply embedded in our body politic, but so was the British empire, slavery, legal segregation, the war in Vietnam and much more.

I also expect to see the rapid shutdown of all nuclear power plants, hopefully before the next one explodes, and the conversion of our civilization (if it can be called that) to 100% renewable energy.

So let’s just remember our great activist history and honor it and get the job done,. I think everyone who intends to go to a march or rally in the Trump Era should knock on ten doors before they do. Then, we will win!!!

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Trump’s Big Lie About 3 Million “Alien Voters” Cuts Far Deeper Than You Think

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by BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Donald Trump’s relentless insistence that three million “aliens” voted for Hillary Clinton and cost him a popular majority in November’s presidential election cuts far beyond what the corporate media is willing to report. When it comes to undermining democracy in the US, Trump is once again proving that the best defense is a total attack, even if it relies on “alternative facts.”

Trump’s Big Lie on voter fraud has been as widely scorned as his fantasies about the size of the turnout at his inauguration. Even the normally restrained New York Times has editorialized that “what once seemed like another harebrained claim by a president with little regard for the truth must now be recognized as a real threat to American democracy.”

It seems to be dawning on The Times and others that by claiming so many non-citizens voted more than once, Trump re-loads America’s Jim Crow lynch laws against Black people voting. Based on these assertions, we can expect more and more aggressive attacks by the administration against the rights of non-whites and non-millionaires to a fair and honest ballot.

Indeed, the corporate media has not yet faced the devastation of mass disenfranchisement in 2016. As reported by Greg Palast (www.gregpalast.com) and others, some thirty GOP Secretaries of State across the US used a computer program called Crosscheck to strip thousands of mostly black, Hispanic, Asian-American and Muslim voters from the registration rolls. These mass disenfranchisements could well have made the difference in key swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida that allowed Trump to win in the Electoral College while so thoroughly losing the popular vote.

Trump’s carping about voter fraud has first and foremost has helped divert the public’s attention from this defining reality.

But unfortunately, there is far more.

Let’s start with the Electoral College. For the sixth time in US history, the candidate who lost among eligible voters has entered the White House. Last was 2000, when Al Gore beat George W. Bush nationwide by more than a half-million votes. Neither Gore nor the Democratic Party followed this stunning election theft (which had such dire consequences) by launching any kind of movement to abolish the Electoral College. Instead, many Democrats have spent 16 years screaming at Ralph Nader for daring to run for president.  Had they instead recruited him to help organize the abolition of the Electoral College, Trump might not now be in the White House.

In 2016, the attack on Nader has morphed into a fixation on Russian hacking and anger at the FBI. So barring a miracle (or a Constitutional Amendment) in 2020 and the foreseeable future beyond, the curse of the Electoral College will still be there to serve the popular minority.

Trump has also fought hard against any meaningful recounts, And for good reason. As many as 28 states this election showed statistically significant variations between exit polls and official vote counts. In 25 of those states, the “Red Shift” went in Trump’s direction.  Among statisticians this is known as a “virtual statistical impossibility.”

In Michigan, which officially went to Trump by about 10,000 votes, some 75,000 ballots came in without a presidential preference, mostly in heavily Democratic urban areas. The idea that 75,000 citizens would take the trouble to vote but not to make a preference among at least four presidential candidates has yet to be explained by the media or the Democrats.

Major problems with electronic voting machines, precinct access, ballot chain of custody and vote count issues also surfaced throughout the swing states. But when the Green Party’s Jill Stein dared to attempt a recount, Trump launched an all-out attack. High-priced attorneys in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere did all they could to prevent any realistic examination of what actually happened in the states that gave him the presidency.

Meanwhile, rather than doing the work themselves, the corporate media heaped scorn on Stein for daring to examine exactly how Trump became president. The Democrats and the Clinton campaign offered no help beyond sending a few attorneys to “observe” the assault on greens uppity enough to challenge the system that had flipped the presidency, the Congress, the Supreme Court and innumerable state and local governments.

The bottom line here is that our entire electoral process is broken. Donald Trump became president because massive disenfranchisements kept thousands of citizen from voting, because electronic “black box”  voting machines cannot be monitored or accounted for by the general public, and because the Electoral College remains in place, ready to swing the next loser into the White House.

Trump’s screaming assertion of entirely the opposite is a brilliant strategy that can only work in a country where the media refuse to face the realities of a thoroughly broken system, and an “opposition” Democratic Party that won’t fight for elections it actually wins.

Our survival demands an actual democracy. That means universal automatic voter registration, with voter rolls transparent and readily accessible for verification. It means a four-day national holiday for voting, universal hand-counted paper ballots, and automatic recounts at no cost to the candidates. It also demands an end to gerrymandering, a ban on corporate money in our campaigns and, of course, the abolition of the Electoral College.

Trump’s rantings about voter fraud are a brilliant diversion away from all that. So is the media and Democrats’ obsession with the Russians.

Our stripped and flipped elections are home-grown poison. Donald Trump is the ultimate outcome. Until we reject the current electoral system, we will all be living in a world of hurt.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored six books on election protection, including The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016, at www.freepress.org, where Bob’s Fitrakis Files also reside.  Harvey’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is right here at www.solartopia.org.

This article was originally published at Truthout.

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The Death Spiral of Atomic Energy

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Listen to the Green Power and Wellness Hour February 2, 2017 audio archive  for an update on accelerated demise of Atomic Energy with Harvey Wasserman and his guests Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)

Harvey, Kevin and Tim start out with recent big  news about the  Westinghouse decision to go out of the nuclear power consumption business. Learn how this decision impacts the new reactors being built on the public dime in Georgia.  You’ll hear about the planned shutdown of Pilgrim, Indian Point, Diablo Canyon and learn about how we transition to Solartopia.

 

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We Are Mourning …But We Are Marching and Organizing for Democracy & the Earth

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In the midst of a terrible national illness, we organize and march for the known and solid cures.

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

For democracy and our natural planet.

We have clear direction on both issues.

This weekend’s massive, powerful women’s and other marches rocking the nation have dwarfed the turnout for Friday’s illegitimate inauguration.

With them we must demand—-and WIN—-a voting system that actually reflects the will of the people, and an energy supply that comes in harmony with our Mother Earth.

For democracy: we must have universal automatic voter registration, transparent voter registration rolls, a four-day national holiday for voting, elimination of all electronic voting machines, universal hand-counted paper ballots, automatic recounts at no charge to the candidates, an end to the Electoral College, a halt to gerrymandering and a ban on corporate money in our political campaigns.

It’s a towering agenda.  But without it, we have no structural power.  It’s the essential key to the one thing that can ultimately reverse a disease like this Trump presidency—-real electoral democracy.

For our Earth: Energy is the key.  Our survival on this planet demands a ban on all fossil and nuclear fuels, and an organic economy based on 100% renewables.  The Solartopian transition is well underway in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Iceland, at least parts of China and elsewhere.  Far more Americans now work in green energy production and efficiency than for King CONG—-coal, oil, nukes and gas (www.nukefree.org).

The economic and technological momentum is with us.  Despite Koch-funded attempts to stop it, the transition to a green-powered Earth is well under way.  Number one is stopping corrupt subsidies to decrepit, carbon/heat-spewing nukes before the next one explodes, and shutting the fossil fuel industry before it burns the planet to a crisp.

There are many many more things we can and must win.  But through the tears of Friday’s tragedy and the power of this weekend’s marches, we need to cope with the source of this devastating disease.

Trump is payback for our imperial sins.  He’s the vulture come home to roost for so many dictatorial kleptocrats the US has imposed on smaller nations over the years: Pinochet, Mobutu, Suharto, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, Diem, Ky, Saddam, the Shah…the list goes on.

These corrupt, repressive servants of the American corporate empire have inflicted untold suffering on millions of innocent people for far too long.  These dictatorships have formed the unjust source of much of this nation’s material riches.

Trump has brought home the infection:  imperial, greedy, misogynist, incompetent, uncaring, egomaniacal, sociopathic, a destroyer of the Earth.  This is what we’ve been imposing on the rest of the world for so many decades.  He is part of the price we pay for corrupting other countries and wrecking the lives of so many innocents within them.

Our agencies have done this under the illusion of democracy.  The client states “elect” their leaders.  If unsuitable to US corporate interests, that leader disappears, and the client colony gets to try again.

Likewise the Trump regime now takes power amidst a classic imperial “strip and flip” black op coup.

Leading up to the election, millions of black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Muslim and other citizens were stripped from the voter rolls, as they have been for decades.  Where that was not enough, black box electronic voting machines have flipped the final outcome, not only for the presidency, but for the House, Senate and state and local governments throughout the US.

Both tactics were used to eliminate the grassroots leftist Bernie Sanders.  When the corporate Democrats refused him the nomination, and then the Vice President’s slot, they trashed the youthful activist uprising that put Barack Obama in the White House, and that is the key to our progressive future.  The moneyed liberal elite made it clear they preferred having Donald Trump in the White House over a social democrat, even in the second slot.

The election was then flipped to Trump despite his losing the popular vote count by some three million ballots.

The deal was sealed in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where Hillary Clinton won the exit polls but lost the Electoral College.  The corporate Dems then refused to support recounts while the media heaped abuse on the Green Party’s valiant Jill Stein for daring to challenge corrupted outcomes that were obviously illegitimate .

Indeed, Clinton’s corporate Democrats sealed Trump’s coup by refusing to challenge the nationwide stripping of the voter rolls, or the flipping of the vote count in the key swing states.  They haven’t even raised the issue of an Electoral College that has now for the sixth time put the loser of a popular election into the White House.

Instead, as they screamed at Ralph Nader after Florida 2000, they now howl about the Russians.

But the real corruption of our elections is right here at home.  High atop the list of our real problems are our fake democracy, and a fossil/nuke industry that is destroying our planet.

The social movements needed to win these battles are alive and well.  From Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the Green/Bernie campaigns to the Dakota Pipeline to this weekend’s mass marches and beyond, we inhabit a vibrant body politic that is firmly committed to justice, social democracy and a sustainable Earth.

With this terrible coup in Washington we shed some tears and feel some fear.

We are mourning.  But we are marching, and we are organizing.

And the imperatives are clear.  We need to win a true democracy, a Solartopian Earth, equal justice for all, a definitive understanding that we are all created equal, and endowed with an inalienable right to survive on this planet.

Trump reminds us that it will not be easy.  We need to remind him that he’s just a blip, a tiny toxic bend in the arc of history that bends toward justice—-if we make it so.

In that, we have no choice.  See you on the barricades.

___________

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored numerous books on election protection, including THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016 at www.freepress.org, where Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES also appear.  Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org.

 

The “Fan-Owned” Green Bay Packers are America’s Team…and Just Played Like It

greenbay solartopia

by Harvey Wasserman

[This article was originally published by The Progressive on January 17, 2017]

All too rare is the sporting event that qualifies as a great work of art. And even rarer is the professional sports team that belongs to the public. The transcendent Green Bay Packers have now entered the Pantheon for both.

By way of disclosure, I am a part owner (two shares) of the Packers, which is part of the point. The team, from the tiniest media market in American sports, is owned by the public. Back in 1922, the team hit hard times due to some bad rainouts. To save the franchise, local business leaders established a nonprofit to take up the slack. Nearly a century later, the franchise and the stadium are still owned by the community. Praise be!!!!!

The Packers have been extremely successful, compiling one of the very best records in all major league sports. And they just won as great a football game as anyone has ever seen or could even invent. But more on that after this anti-commercial message:

American professional sports is now a sinkhole of cynical corruption. Except for the Packers, our football, baseball, basketball, and hockey teams are owned almost exclusively by a bunch of Trumpish billionaires. There’s Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, whose racist epithets and public jealousies of Magic Johnson were beyond unbearable. And Dan Snyder, current owner of the football team in our nation’s capital with the blatantly racist anti-indigenous nickname he has vowed to keep forever. And, there’s the management of baseball’s Cleveland Indians, who may or may not be phasing out the most vile, racist logo in all of sports.

Worse is the grinding corporate grayness with which these franchises are manipulated as owners manipulate the fans’ love for their teams by blackmailing billions in tax breaks, stadium subsidies, and outrageous ticket prices to gouge every last cent they can get.

The most recent travesty involves the double-move of the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles—which would be far better off without either of them. In both cases, decades of loyal hometown fan devotion has counted for nothing. Nor have the billions the host communities have poured into those teams, only to be left holding very large municipal stadiums and other financial bags now absurdly empty.

If those teams had been owned by those towns, like the Packers, this would not be happening.

Of course the NFL cartel HATES the Packers. The combine now has on its books an actual law banning further community ownership of any NFL franchise. But the Packers themselves will not be moving to a bigger media market. Nor will they be enriching some yacht-riding, cognac-guzzling fat cat, or the bottom line of some faceless mega-corp.

Several years ago, the Packers management decided to offer shares in the team for public sale. I snapped up two. There are zero benefits beyond bragging rights and a certificate. No discounts for seats. No dividends. No accretion in value for re-sale. No free dinners with the players.

When I asked the main office about deeding one of my shares to a nephew who wants to be a sportscaster, I was told I could not sell or pass on the shares beyond immediate family.

A few years ago, there was a women’s basketball team in Columbus called the Quest. It had a great star named Katie Smith and won the first two championships in its nascent league. But then the team ran out of money. At the second championship game, I begged the owner to sell the franchise to the city. He looked at me like I was a cross between a conspiracy theorist and a Commie terrorist. The league went out of business. Columbus no longer has a professional women’s basketball team. Nice work, former Quest owner.

Given the choice, most NFL owners and network moguls would probably love to see the Packers go out of business, out of Green Bay, and into the control of fact cats. But, as a stockholder, I say all major sports teams should be owned by their host communities.

Which gets me to Sunday’s game. The Packers began the season with four wins and six losses, having suffered a series of major injuries. They seemed to be going nowhere. But transcendent quarterback Aaron Rodgers predicted the Pack would “run the table” and win all six upcoming games and make the playoffs. It seemed like a throwaway line.

But Rodgers is arguably the sport’s greatest quarterback, a terrific passer and an amazing scrambler with a brilliant football mind. He owns the on-field presence of a zen master. He has also been scandal free and signed a petition to recall Wisconsin’s right-wing governor Scott Walker.

The Packers did run the table, then won their seventh straight game, beating the New York Giants in the playoff wild card game.

On Sunday, they faced the powerful Dallas Cowboys (13-3 in the regular season), with a brilliant rookie quarterback from Mississippi State and a dominant rookie running back from Ohio State. Dallas has a whole history of its own. That includes the obnoxious marketing assertion that it is “America’s Team” even though it’s owned by a highly reactionary corporate elite.

The Packers took an early lead only to have the Cowboys come from behind to tie the game in the final quarter. With just minutes to go, the Packers retook the lead with an astounding 56-yard field goal. The Cowboys then tied the game again with another brilliant drive and not-quite-as-long field goal.

With less than a minute left, it seemed like we were headed for overtime. And the Pack has a sorry history of losing big games at the last minute. On the other hand, Rodgers has a history of pitching high, long “Hail Mary” passes that somehow get caught.

Bottom line: With time for just one play to get in field-goal range, Rodgers rolled left and pitched a perfect right-armed strike thirty-six yards down the sidelines to Jared Cook, who made a spectacular catch that will be forever embedded in NFL lore.

The Packers’ kicker, Mason Crosby, then converted another fifty-plus-yard field goal to win the game. Except that the Cowboys called time-out just before he got it off. So he did it a third time!

The Pack now travels to Atlanta, hoping to get to the Super Bowl, to face either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots, who are coached by Bill Belichick, the Darth Vader of American football.

Whether or not they win it all this year, the Green Bay Packers are an exemplar for what a professional sports team can be. All these franchises should be publicly owned, so they can stay in places like Green Bay and St. Louis, San Diego and Columbus. Where we home fans have secure community ownership, and can wholeheartedly embrace fantastic triumphs like this amazing run from the fabled Pack.

####

Harvey Wasserman once played many sports, and was captain of his high school tennis team. Like most former athletes, he finds that the older he gets, the better he was.

Crumbling Reactors and Other Nightmares of a Trump-Perry Energy Policy

burns towers 4 solartopia

Mr. Burns, Matt Groening Productions, Inc. Published by HarperPerennial. The Simpsons & 1990 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. 

by Harvey Wasserman

Tthis article was originally published by The Progressive on January 13, 2017]

In the area of energy policy under the presidency of Donald Trump, two concerns loom above all others.

One is Trump’s support for nuclear power and fossil fuel energy, at a time when other powerful countries are going renewable. Trump’s economic commitments to nuclear energy and fossil fuels contrast sharply with China’s massive new commitment to energy sources including solar and wind. If China, the world’s number-two economy, joins Germany (number four) and possibly Japan (number three) in converting to 100 percent renewable sources, the U.S. economy will be left in the dust.

The other concern is geriatric atomic reactors. The nation’s 99 nuclear plants now have an average age of more than thirty-five. Some, like Ohio’s Davis-Besse, are literally crumbling. Others, like New York’s Indian Point, and Diablo Canyon on the California coast, are surrounded by active earthquake faults.

A single Fukushima-scale disaster at an American reactor could poison millions, destroy our continental eco-system, and bankrupt our economy.

Sixty years after America’s first commercial reactor opened, not one can get private liability insurance. When the next one blows, the public will be stuck with the damages, which could easily soar into the trillions.

Nuclear waste management has already failed miserably. In February 2014, a single barrel of radioactive trash exploded at the hugely expensive state-of-the-art disposal facility in Carlsbad, New Mexico. More than a dozen workers were irradiated and the facility was shut for more than two years at a cost of more than $2 billion.

Now the nuclear-utility lobby nationwide is strong-arming state governments for massive bailouts to prop up decrepit reactors. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a $7 billion handout for money-losing upstate reactors that cannot compete with fracked gas or renewables, whose owners wanted them shut, and whose extremely serious safety issues grow more severe every hour.  In Illinois, the nuclear lobby has won more than $2 billion to sustain three ancient reactors that are literally falling apart.

Ohio’s FirstEnergy is now begging the Public Utilities Commission and state legislature for billions to keep running the infamous Davis-Besse reactor, which has suffered numerous accidents and whose shield building is literally crumbling. In Michigan and elsewhere, as utilities move to shut the most dangerous and money-losing reactors in their obsolete fleet, the nuclear lobby is crying for more taxpayer handouts, both state and federal.

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service estimates the public cost of a nationwide wave of such bailouts at about $280 billion. In business terms, that’s like jumping into the mass manufacture of Edsel automobiles, or turning away from cell phones to stake our future on land lines.

In New York, Cuomo did finally move to shut two badly deteriorated reactors at Indian Point, but then diluted the decision by allowing them to operate for several more years. In California, a deal to shut two reactors at Diablo Canyon allows them to operate (also with expired licenses) well into the 2020s even though they are surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults.

Trump is expected to pour federal money into the nuclear kitty. The incoming president says he “loves solar,” but has also said it’s too expensive. It’s likely that Trump will end tax credits for renewable energy, which has been a major support for emerging industries, and decimate Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have pushed states to cut power plant emissions. And Trump’s pick for energy secretary, former Texas Governor Perry, has been deeply supportive of the growth of fossil fuel and nuclear industries in Texas throughout his career.

But things are shifting on the international scene. China’s cities are choking on lethal air pollution from its consumption of coal, and while the Chinese are still debating a potential major commitment to nuclear, they have alsocommitted to a $365 billion investment in renewable energy by 2020.

Similar things are true of Germany and its energiewende commitment. Immediately after the 2011 catastrophe at Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the shutdown of eight reactors, with the rest of Germany’s nuclear power plants planned for closure by 2022. Tens of thousands of Germans put solar panels on their rooftops, rendering many communities energy self-sufficient, and dropping electricity prices throughout the country.

The glut of cheap energy has forced numerous fossil fuel and nuclear energy plants to shut, leading to disruptive crises in supply and pricing. But the transition will sort itself out, establishing Germany as a dominant supplier of clean electricity, giving it the industrial high ground in Europe and on a global scale.

Japan may soon follow suit. Despite the pro-nuclear stance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a massive grassroots movement has prevented the reopening of nearly all Japan’s fifty-four reactors. A number of smaller countries have also made substantial investments in renewables, including Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Scotland. Even oil-rich nations are getting in on the renewables game. The United Arab Emirates just announcedplans to invest $163 billion in renewables to generate half the nation’s power by 2050.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to bleed billions to prop up dying coal and nuclear industries. Nuclear bailouts like those in New York and Illinois are crippling a transition that the U.S. must make if it is to have a competitive future in world industrial markets.

#######

Harvey Wasserman  is co-founder of the global grassroots No Nukes movement and author or co-author of twenty books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth (solartopia.org), and The Last Energy War (Seven Stories Press).

King CONG vs. Solartopia

 

again

by Harvey Wasserman, (cross posted from Reader Supported News)

 

s you ride the Amtrak along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, you pass the San Onofre nuclear power plant, home to three mammoth atomic reactors shut by citizen activism.

Framed by gorgeous sandy beaches and some of the best surf in California, the dead nukes stand in silent tribute to the popular demand for renewable energy. They attest to one of history’s most powerful and persistent nonviolent movements.

But 250 miles up the coast, two reactors still operate at Diablo Canyon, surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults. They’re less than seventy miles from the San Andreas, about half the distance of Fukushima from the quake line that destroyed it. Should any quakes strike while Diablo operates, the reactors could be reduced to rubble and the radioactive fallout would pour into Los Angeles.

Some 10,000 arrests of citizens engaged in civil disobedience have put the Diablo reactors at ground zero in the worldwide No Nukes campaign. But the epic battle goes far beyond atomic power. It is a monumental showdown over who will own our global energy supply, and how this will impact the future of our planet.

On one side is King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas), the corporate megalith that’s unbalancing our weather and dominating our governments in the name of centralized, for-profit control of our economic future. On the other is a nonviolent grassroots campaign determined to reshape our power supply to operate in harmony with nature, to serve the communities and individuals who consume and increasingly produce that energy, and to build the foundation of a sustainable eco-democracy.

The modern war over America’s energy began in the 1880s, when Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed over the nature of America’s new electric utility business. It is now entering a definitive final phase as fossil fuels and nuclear power sink into an epic abyss, while green power launches into a revolutionary, apparently unstoppable, takeoff.

In many ways, the two realities were separated at birth.

Edison pioneered the idea of a central grid, fed by large corporate-owned power generators. Backed by the banker J. Pierpont Morgan, Edison pioneered the electric light bulb and envisioned a money-making grid in which wires would carry centrally generated electricity to homes, offices, and factories. He started with a coal-burning generator at Morgan’s Fifth Avenue mansion, which in 1882 became the world’s first home with electric lights.

Morgan’s father was unimpressed. And his wife wanted that filthy generator off the property. So Edison and Morgan began stringing wires around New York City, initially fed by a single power station. The city was soon criss-crossed with wires strung by competing companies.

But the direct current produced by Edison’s generator couldn’t travel very far. So he offered his Serbian assistant, Nikola Tesla, a $50,000 bonus to solve the problem.

Tesla did the job with alternating current, which Edison claimed was dangerous and impractical. He reneged on Tesla’s bonus, and the two became lifelong rivals.

To demonstrate alternating current’s dangers, Edison launched the “War of the Currents,” using it to kill large animals (including an elephant). He also staged a gruesome human execution with the electric chair he secretly financed.

Edison’s prime vision was of corporate-owned central power stations feeding a for-profit grid run for the benefit of capitalists like Morgan.

Tesla became a millionaire working with industrialist George Westinghouse, who used alternating current to establish the first big generating station at Niagara Falls. But Morgan bullied him out of the business. A visionary rather than a capitalist, Tesla surrendered his royalties to help Westinghouse, then spent the rest of his haunted, complex careerpioneering various inventions meant to produce endless quantities of electricity and distribute it free and without wires.

Meanwhile, the investor-owned utilities bearing Edison’s name and Morgan’s money built the new grid on the back of big coal-burners that poured huge profits into their coffers and lethal pollutants into the air and water.

In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal established the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Project. The New Deal also strung wires to thousands of American farms through the Rural Electrification Administration. Hundreds of rural electrical cooperatives sprang up throughout the land. As nonprofits with community roots and ownership, the co-ops have generally provided far better and more responsive service than the for-profit investor-owned utilities.

But it was another federal agency—the Atomic Energy Commission—that drove the utility industry to the crisis point we know today. Coming out of World War II, the commission’s mandate was to maintain our nascent nuclear weapons capability. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it shifted focus, prodded by Manhattan Project scientists who hoped the “Peaceful Atom” might redeem their guilt for inventing the devices that killed so many.

When AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss promised electricity “too cheap to meter,” he heralded a massive government commitment involving billions in invested capital and thousands of jobs. Then, in 1952, President Harry Truman commissioned a panel on America’s energy future headed by CBS Chairman William Paley. The commission reportembraced atomic power, but bore the seeds of a worldview in which renewable energy would ultimately dominate. Paley predicted the United States would have thirteen million solar-heated homes by 1975.

Of course, this did not happen. Instead, the nuclear power industry grew helter-skelter without rational planning. Reactor designs were not standardized. Each new plant became an engineering adventure, as capability soared from roughly 100 megawatts at Shippingport in 1957 to well over 1,000 in the 1970s. By then, the industry was showing signs of decline. No new plant commissioned since 1974 has been completed.

But with this dangerous and dirty power have come Earth-friendly alternatives, ignited in part by the grassroots movements of the 1960s. E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautifulbecame the bible of a back-to-the-land movement that took a new generation of veteran activists into the countryside.

Dozens of nonviolent confrontations erupted, with thousands of arrests. In June 1978, nine months before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, the grassroots Clamshell Alliance drew 20,000 participants to a rally at New Hampshire’s Seabrook site. And Amory Lovins’s pathbreaking article, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken,” posited a whole new energy future, grounded in photovoltaic and wind technologies, along with breakthroughs in conservation and efficiency, and a paradigm of decentralized, community-owned power.

As rising concerns about global warming forced a hard look at fossil fuels, the fading nuclear power industry suddenly had a new selling point. Climate expert James Hansen, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand began advocating atomic energy as an answer to CO2 emissions. The corporate media began breathlessly reporting a “nuclear renaissance” allegedly led by hordes of environmentalists.

But the launch of Peaceful Atom 2.0 has fallen flat.

As I recently detailed in an online article for The Progressive, atomic energy adds to rather than reduces global warming. All reactors emit Carbon-14. The fuel they burn demands substantial CO2 emissions in the mining, milling, and enrichment processes. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has compiled a wide range of studies concluding new reactor construction would significantly worsen the climate crisis.

Moreover, attempts to recycle spent reactor fuel or weapons material have failed, as have attempts to establish a workable nuclear-waste management protocol. For decades, reactor proponents have argued that the barriers to radioactive waste storage are political rather than technical. But after six decades, no country has unveiled a proven long-term storage strategy for high-level waste.

For all the millions spent on it, the nuclear renaissance has failed to yield a single new reactor order. New projects in France, Finland, South Carolina, and Georgia are costing billions extra, with opening dates years behind schedule. Five projects pushed by the Washington Public Power System caused the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. No major long-standing green groups have joined the tiny crew of self-proclaimed “pro-nuke environmentalists.” Wall Street is backing away.

Even the split atom’s most ardent advocates are hard-pressed to argue any new reactors will be built in the United States, or more than a scattered few anywhere else but China, where the debate still rages and the outcome is uncertain.

Today there are about 100 U.S. reactors still licensed to operate, and about 450 worldwide. About a dozen U.S. plants have shut down in the last several years. A half dozen more are poised to shut for financial reasons. The plummeting price of fracked gas and renewable energy has driven them to the brink. As Gundersen notes, operating and maintenance costs have soared as efficiency and performance have declined. An aging, depleted skilled labor force will make continued operations dicey at best.

And nuclear plants have short lifespans for safe operation.

“When the reactor ruptured on March 11, 2011, spewing radioactivity around the northern hemisphere, Fukushima Daiichi had been operating only one month past its fortieth birthday,” Gundersen says.

But the nuclear power industry is not giving up. It wants some $100 billion in state-based bailouts. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently pushed through a $7.6 billion handout to sustain four decrepit upstate reactors. A similar bailout was approved in Ohio. Where once it demanded deregulation and a competitive market, the nuclear industry now wants re-regulation and guaranteed profits no matter how badly it performs.

The grassroots pushback has been fierce. Proposed bailouts have been defeated in Illinois, but then approved. They are under attack in New York and Ohio, but their future is uncertain. A groundbreaking agreement involving green and union groups has set deadlines for shutting the Diablo reactors, with local activists demanding a quicker timetable. Increasingly worried about meltdowns and explosions, grassroots campaigns to close old reactors are ramping up throughout the United States and Europe. Citizen action in Japan has prevented the reopening of nearly all nuclear plants since Fukushima.

Envisioning the “nuclear interruption” behind us, visionaries like Lovins see a decentralized “Solartopian” system with supply owned and operated at the grassroots.

The primary battleground is now Germany, with the world’s fourth-largest economy. Many years ago, the powerful green movement won a commitment to shut the country’s fossil/nuclear generators and convert entirely to renewables. But the center-right regime of Angela Merkel was dragging its feet.

In early 2011, the greens called for a nationwide demonstration to demand the Energiewende, the total conversion to decentralized green power. But before the rally took place, the four reactors at Fukushima blew up. Facing a massive political upheaval, and apparently personally shaken, Chancellor Merkel (a trained quantum chemist) declared her commitment to go green. Eight of Germany’s nineteen reactors were soon shut, with plans to close the rest by 2022.

That Europe’s biggest economy was now on a soft path originally mapped out by the counterculture prompted a hard response of well-financed corporate resistance. “You can build a wind farm in three to four years,” groused Henrich Quick of 50 Hertz, a German transmission grid operator.

“Getting permission for an overhead line takes ten years.”

Indeed, the transition is succeeding faster and more profitably than its staunchest supporters imagined. Wind and solar have blasted ahead. Green energy prices have dropped and Germans are enthusiastically lining up to put power plants on their rooftops. Sales of solar panels have skyrocketed, with an ever-growing percentage of supply coming from stand-alone buildings and community projects. The grid has been flooded with cheap, green juice, crowding out the existing nukes and fossil burners, cutting the legs out from under the old system.

In many ways it’s the investor-owner utilities’ worst nightmare, dating all the way back to the 1880s, when Edison fought Tesla. Back then, the industry-funded Edison Electric Institute warned that “distributed generation” could spell doom for the grid-based industry. That industry-feared deluge of cheap, locally owned power is now at hand.

In the United States, state legislatures dominated by the fossil fuel-invested billionaire Koch brothers have been slashing away at energy efficiency and conservation programs. Ohio, Arizona, and other states that had enacted progressive green-based transitions are now shredding them. In Florida, a statewide referendum pretending to support solar power was in fact designed to kill it.

In Nevada, homeowners who put solar panels on their rooftops are under attack. The state’s monopoly utility, with support from the governor and legislature, is seeking to make homeowners who put solar panels on their rooftops pay more than others for their electricity.

But it may be too little, too late. In its agreement with the state, unions, and environmental groups, Pacific Gas and Electric has admitted that renewables could, in fact, produce all the power now coming from the two decaying Diablo nukes. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District shut down its one reactor in 1989 and is now flourishing with a wave of renewables.

The revolution has spread to the transportation sector, where electric cars are now plugging into outlets powered by solar panels on homes, offices, commercial buildings, and factories. Like nuclear power, the gas-driven automobile may be on its way to extinction.

Nationwide, more than 200,000 Americans now work in the solar industry, including more than 75,000 in California alone. By contrast, only about 100,000 people work in the U.S. nuclear industry. Some 88,000 Americans now work in the wind industry, compared to about 83,000 in coal mines, with that number also dropping steadily.

Once the shining hope of the corporate power industry, atomic energy’s demise represents more than just the failure of a technology. It’s the prime indicator of an epic shift away from corporate control of a grid-based energy supply, toward a green power web owned and operated by the public.

As homeowners, building managers, factories, and communities develop an ever-firmer grip on a grassroots homegrown power supply, the arc of our 128-year energy war leans toward Solartopia.


Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is at solartopia.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at prn.fm. He edits nukefree.org.

This article was originally published on Reader Supported News.

#####

The End of Indian Point and the Myths of Nuclear Power in America

 

ip-agin-4-solartopia

(cross-posted from Counter Punch)

The good—the very good—energy news is that the Indian Point nuclear power plants 26 miles north of New York City will be closed in the next few years under an agreement reached between New York State and the plants’ owner, Entergy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been calling for the plants to be shut down because, as the New York Timesrelated in its story on the pact, they pose “too great a risk to New York City.” Environmental and safe-energy organizations have been highly active for decades in working for the shutdown of the plants. Under the agreement, one Indian Point plant will shut down by April 2020, the second by April 2021.

They would be among the many nuclear power plants in the U.S. which their owners have in recent years decided to close or have announced will be shut down in a few years.

This comes in the face of nuclear power plant accidents—the most recent the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan—and competitive power being less expensive including renewable and safe solar and wind energy.

Last year the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska closed following the shutdowns of Kewanee in Wisconsin, Vermont Yankee in Vermont, Crystal River 3 in Florida and both San Onofre 2 and 3 in California. Nuclear plant operators say they will close Palisades in Michigan next year and then Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim in Massachusetts in 2019 and California’s Diablo Canyon 1 in 2024 and Diablo Canyon 3 in 2025.

This brings the number of nuclear plants down to a few more than 90—a far cry from President Richard Nixon’s scheme to have 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000.

But the bad—the very bad—energy news is that there are still many promoters of nuclear power in industry and government still pushing and, most importantly, the transition team of incoming President Donald Trump has been “asking for ways to keep nuclear power alive,” as Bloomberg News reported last month.

As I was reading last week the first reports on the Indian Point agreement, I received a phone call from an engineer who has been in the nuclear industry for more than 30 years—with his view of the situation.

The engineer, employed at nuclear plants and for a major nuclear plant manufacturer, wanted to relate that even with the Indian Point news—“and I’d keep my fingers crossed that there is no disaster involving those aged Indian Point plants in those next three or four years”—nuclear power remains a “ticking time bomb.” Concerned about retaliation, he asked his name not be published.

Here is some of the information he passed on—a story of experiences of an engineer in the nuclear power industry for more than three decades and his warnings and expectations.

THE SECRETIVE INPO REPORT SYSTEM

Several months after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in March 1979, the nuclear industry set up the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) based in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea was to have a nuclear industry group that “would share information” on problems and incidents at nuclear power plants, he said.

If there is a problem at one nuclear power plant, through an INPO report it is communicated to other nuclear plant operators. Thus the various plant operators could “cross-reference” happenings at other plants and determine if they might apply to them.

The reports are “coded by color,” explained the engineer. Those which are “green” involve an incident or condition that might or might not indicate a wider problem. A “yellow” report is on an occurrence “that could cause significant problems down the road.” A “red” report is the most serious and represents “a problem that could have led to a core meltdown”—and could be present widely among nuclear plants and for which action needs to be taken immediately.

The engineer said he has read more than 100 “Code Red” reports. What they reflect, he said, is that “we’ve been very, very lucky so far!”

If the general public would see these “red” reports, its view on nuclear power would turn strongly negative, said the engineer.

But this is prevented by INPO, “created and solely funded by the nuclear industry,” thus its reports “are not covered by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and are regarded as highly secretive.” The reports should be required to be made public, said the engineer. “It’s high time the country wakes up to the dangers we undergo with nuclear power plants.”

THE NRC INSPECTION FARCE

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is supposed to be the federal agency that is the watchdog over nuclear power plants and it frequently boasts of how it has “two resident inspectors” at each nuclear power plant in the nation, he noted.

However, explained the engineer, “the NRC inspectors are not allowed to go into the plant on their own. They have to be escorted. There can be no surprise inspections. Indeed, the only inspections that can be made are those that come after the NRC inspectors “get permission from upper management at the plant.”

The inspectors “have to contact upper management and say they want to inspect an area. The word is then passed down from management that inspectors are coming—so ‘clean up’ whatever is the situation is.”

“The inspectors hands are tied,” said the engineer.

THE 60- AND NOW 80-YEAR OPERATING DELUSION

When nuclear power plants were first designed decades ago, explained the engineer, the extent of their mechanical life was established at 40 years. The engineer is highly familiar with these calculations having worked for a leading manufacturer of nuclear plants, General Electric.

The components in nuclear plants, particularly their steel parts, “have an inherent working shelf life,” said the engineer.

In determining the 40-year total operating time, the engineer said that calculated were elements that included the wear and tear of refueling cycles, emergency shutdowns and the “nuclear embrittlement from radioactivity that impacts on the nuclear reactor vessel itself including the head bolts and other related piping, and what the entire system can handle. Further, the reactor vessel is the one component in a nuclear plant that can never be replaced because it becomes so hot with radioactivity. If a reactor vessel cracks, there is no way of repairing it and any certainty of containment of radioactivity is not guaranteed.”

Thus the U.S. government limited the operating licenses it issued for all nuclear power plants to 40 years. However, in recent times the NRC has “rubber-stamped license extensions” of an additional 20 years now to more than 85 of the nuclear plants in the country—permitting them to run for 60 years. Moreover, a push is now on, led by nuclear plant owners Exelon and Dominion, to have the NRC grant license extensions of 20 additional years—to let nuclear plants run for 80 years.

Exelon, the owner of the largest number of nuclear plants in the U.S., last year announced it would ask the NRC to extend the operating licenses of its two Peach Bottom plants in Pennsylvania to 80 years. Dominion declared earlier that it would seek NRC approval to run its two Surry nuclear power plants in Virginia for 80 years.

“That a nuclear plant can run for 60 years or 80 years is wishful thinking,” said the engineer. “The industry has thrown out the window all the data developed about the lifetime of a nuclear plant. It would ignore the standards to benefit their wallets, for greed, with total disregard for the country’s safety.”

The engineer went on that since “Day One” of nuclear power, because of the danger of the technology, “they’ve been playing Russian roulette—putting one bullet in the chamber and hoping that it would not fire. By going to 60 years and now possibly to 80 years, “they’re putting all the bullets in every chamber—and taking out only one and pulling the trigger.”

Further, what the NRC has also been doing is not only letting nuclear plants operate longer but “uprating” them—allowing them to run “hotter and harder” to generate more electricity and ostensibly more profit. “Catastrophe is being invited,” said the engineer.

THE CARBON-FREE MYTH

A big argument of nuclear promoters in a period of global warming and climate change is that “reactors aren’t putting greenhouse gases out into the atmosphere,” noted the engineer.

But this “completely ignores” the “nuclear chain”—the cycle of the nuclear power process that begins with the mining of uranium and continues with milling, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel “and all of this is carbon intensive.” There are the greenhouse gasses discharged during the construction of the steel and formation of the concrete used in nuclear plants, transportation that is required, and in the construction of the plants themselves.

“It comes back to a net gain of zero,” said the engineer.

Meanwhile, “we have so many ways of generating electric power that are far more truly carbon-free.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

“The bottom line,” said the engineer, “is that radioactivity is the deadliest material which exists on the face of this planet—and we have no way of controlling it once it is out. With radioactivity, you can’t see it, smell it, touch it or hear it—and you can’t clean it up. There is nothing with which we can suck up radiation.”

Once in the atmosphere—once having been emitted from a nuclear plant through routine operation or in an accident—“that radiation is out there killing living tissue whether it be plant, animal or human life and causing illness and death.”

What about the claim by the nuclear industry and promoters of nuclear power within the federal government of a “new generation” of nuclear power plants that would be safer? The only difference, said the engineer, is that it might be a “different kind of gun—but it will have the same bullets: radioactivity that kills.”

The engineer said “I’d like to see every nuclear plant shut down—yesterday.”

In announcing the agreement on the closing of Indian Point, Governor Cuomo described it as a “ticking time bomb.” There are more of them. Nuclear power overall remains, as the experienced engineer from the nuclear industry said, a “ticking time bomb.”

And every nuclear power plant needs to be shut down.

#####

This article by Karl Grossman was originally published on Counter Punch

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

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