Archive | June, 2011

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Update

27 Jun

Common Dreams is reporting that the berm around Fort Calhoun nuclear plant has breached.

The story continues to be spun, suppressed, and misreported. I agree with many of the commenters who think this particular event may not be particularly dangerous. The coverage of the story is a bigger story. The dangers of building nuclear plants in floodplains along rivers (essential cooling water source) and the accumulation of residential growth and population in close proximity to nuclear plants is a big story. The essential unsafe nature of nuclear engineering, the problem with “mothballing” plants, disposing (where you gonna dispose of stuff that will be dangerous for thousands of years?) of waste, the collateral damage to public health by the occasional radioactive emission when an “event” occurs; these things are or should be a big story.

Dahr Jamail has an update story on Fukushima at Aljazeera. Thanks to my friend Pat Rasmussen at Temperate Rainforests for passing that one on.

There is an essay out about a spike in infant mortality that suggests Fukushima may have had some public health impact here on the Left Coast.

This is complicated stuff, but the handwriting is on the wall for those who want to read it: nuclear power is not safe or clean.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Accident – Should We Worry?

23 Jun

Courtesy Wiki CommonsIt’s hard to sort the information on the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Story, but for context, here are a couple of items to consider:

  • KETV 7 in Omaha ran a story on March 31, 2011 that stated that Fort Calhoun is “one of three reactors across the country that federal regulators said they are most concerned about.”
  • On June 6, 2011, the FAA issued a notice banning air flight in a 2 mile radius around Fort Calhoun.
  • On June 7, 2011, there was an accident/fire of some sort at the plant. It may have been a small matter, but like turning off the valves at Chernobyl, sometimes small matters at nuclear plants become big matters when the engineering systems develop issues.
  • Here’s an interesting story from AP that the local Olympia newspaper that covers the weakening of regulation to accommodate an aging and possibly unsafe nuclear energy industry. (privatized profit, socialized risk model in action)

The timelines and stories, particularly the foreign coverage, do not fit together well, but the March story suggests context that Fort Calhoun is a worrisome plant. The pictures of the plant surrounded by the Missouri River reinforce that context. If you are interested in responsible, accurate coverage of the story, I would go with Pro Publica’s coverage. It does not have the political edge and mission of the foreign coverage and it is likely to be more forthright that the corporate media coverage of nuclear accident stories.Another wrinkle in this story is the report that dry storage is outside the containment area and half-submerged. True? Maybe. A well-informed citizenry needs to study important issues with a keen eye. Or you can watch Fox News if you want Corporate Infotainment.

The real story, and it is being severely under-reported is that the flooding, like the tornadoes this year, is that these events are driven by global warming and climate change. Another aspect of this story is that the nuclear industry is trying to increase its US energy future by noting the low level of greenhouse gas emissions. But as Chernobyl made so clear, nuclear emissions are also a problem.

Lights, Music, Action! Portland Boycott, Divest, Sanctions

6 Jun

and B Media Collective descend and dance for justice. B Media does some great work. Peace, justice, economic pressure. Boycotts work.

Organizing Part II

5 Jun

I posted the first 4 points about organizing here. This is my condensed presentation of the 14 pages, the full presentation that is available here. This website title – The End of Capitalism – suggests that the folks behind this project are thinking like I am. I think that unfettered capitalism, free market globalism, is an abject failure. Read and think carefully. I think that free market energy, style, human waves of fashion and style, free enterprise are forces like weather. They do good things if they are harnessed and fettered. Free market globalism, the elevation of the free market as an end in itself, the commodification of the natural world, the exploitation of people and nature that is a natural byproduct of unfettered, unregulated free market economy is a bad thing. Environmental degradation, exploitation of individuals are economic activities that can be very profitable. Regulation of free markets, of globalism, runaway capitalism must happen or we face a bleak future. There are powerful, minority forces working against regulation and for profit as the primary goal. I hope the end of that form of capitalism is coming.

Ok, back to the Organizing Points. I did the first four points in Part I. I expect this will take 3 parts, so here we go: Part II.

5. What Does Solidarity Mean, Especially with the Immigrant Justice Movement?

A. Solidarity is not just financial or administrative support of other people’s struggles but fundamentally recognizing the ways in which we all would benefit by the successes of movements of oppressed people

B. Demonstrating an active notion of solidarity where people with privilege don’t sideline themselves but instead endeavor the difficult task of both providing and respecting other’s leadership in the movement

C. Managing the conflict between political analysis and understanding of successful movement building strategies and letting local immigrant communities set the terms of their movement

6. What Is the State of the Struggle Today, Particularly Internationally

A. National liberation struggles are not the primary mode of struggle today because capitalist globalization has weakened the state as a means of achieving self- determination

B. “Three-way fight” politics argue that the struggle today consists of the global capitalist/imperialist ruling class (of liberal, moderate, and conservative persuasions), the revolutionary left, and the revolutionary right (al-Qaeda, neo-Nazis, etc.) See for background
C. Recognizing ideas about direct and participatory forms of democracy that arise from local and indigenous traditions of self-governance and self-management and the under- theorized state of the the struggle

7. How Do We Organize Simultaneously on Local, Regional, National, and International Levels?

A. Many activists express the desire to organize as a national or international movement, but are not certain how to make the connections.

B. We need to continue to make connections between groups that are arising and working toward closely aligned goals.

C. We can look at various organizations that have made headway with local, regional and inter/national organizing. These include Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that is largely active on college campuses, Northeast Federation of Anarcho-communists (NEFAC) that is active in union organization in Boston and Montreal, and Project South, a Black training and leadership development group based in Atlanta, that was key to the 2007 US Social Forum.

The underlying piece at the End of Capitalism is from November 2009 so it is a little dated. The Social Forums and events like the April 2011 Power Shift conference may reflect the current best practice for organizing simultaneously at local, regional, national and international levels.

The solutions and changes that we desire require that we work in cooperative manner. With an open attitude toward groups whose ideas and tactics may make us uncomfortable, but whose visions and goals are closely aligned with our own. Liberals, progressives, radicals, whatever we choose to call ourselves are not a group that likes to walk in lockstep. We must demonstrate solidarity and resist a puritanical call for any distinct set of ideas or tactics that are mandatory or absolutely prohibited. I would suggest in this regard that points 3. C. and 3. E. are very important to keep in mind.

We must

3. C. Maintain relationships with other activists and groups who may not have engaged in the same tactics but who remained committed and sympathetic

3. E. Build mass movements where militant tactics can be present without dividing the movement

I don’t need to stress 3. D. about helping increase militancy because I am pretty mainstream in my radicalism. I am in touch with enough folks who share my visions and goals and are more militant in their tactics, so 3. D. is not critical to me.

I do not feel that I can tell the more militant that their tactics are wrong. We face police in riot gear at peaceful demonstrations as a regular event. We can get roughed up and arrested for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. We face an electoral system that is wildly degraded now by unlimited corporate money and that continues to resist the accountability of paper ballots that can be used to make sure that votes are counted accurately. In this environment, I am not certain about how we should proceed, but I think we liberals, progressives, and radicals need to proceed together, in solidarity.


I Want Vermont’s Health Care System and Scotland’s Power Grid

2 Jun

It can be done. The world we want is available. Vermont has enacted a single payer medical care system. Right here in the US, a state has established the medical system that would fix so much that is wrong with our health care system. I think we can count on the free market medical care and corporate insurance interests to do everything in their power to make this system fail. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Is this the time? I hope so.

Some links to read more about this experiment:

This experiment and push toward socialized medicine is a david and goliath battle. Enacting legislation like this is radical. What does it mean to be radical? A couple of bits to consider:

  • (esp. of change or action) Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough
  • A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims
  • Of or relating to the root of something, in particular

Maintaining the roots of health care in the free market capitalism of health insurance profits, flattened tax rates, and annual CEO bonuses is not a reasonable formula for improving the health care system of the United States. The change that is needed is radical.

Talking about commitment to a robust public option and failing to actually enact any public option is a capitulation to a health care system rooted in free market capitalism, a system that arguably profits from misery. I want radical change. I want a health care system rooted in an idea like Medicare for All. Pose it as a pro-life scheme if you like. I want fetuses to have Medicare coverage.

Is that radical? I am feeling a little radical these days.

On to power generation:

Earth Times reports that Scotland has committed to 100% renewable energy grid by 2020. That’s daring, courageous, and radical. I am down with that.

The Beeb is covering the story that Angela Merkel has decided that nuclear power is not the future for Germany. There is a strong environmental movement in Germany that has opposed nuclear energy. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster gave that movement a lot of energy. The recent failure of planning and engineering at Fukushima has turned up the heat. Merkel’s party lost recent elections and I think Merkel is making a politically wise and calculated decision. The position that Merkel has staked out is radical.

What are the chances that the US could make these kind of radical decisions regarding power generation? I make them slim to none. American radicals live in the heart of the beast.

Che said he envied our position: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.” – Che Guevara

The fight does not have to be violent, unlawful, but it will be radical if it has any chance of producing meaningful change. Thank you, Che, for reminding us why the struggle for radical politics is important.

One more quote from one of my heroes:

I. F. Stone– “The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing—for the sheer fun and joy of it—to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.”