Capital Punishment: Dying Out but Still Killing #deathpenalty


death1

Posted: 28/06/2013 , huffingtonpost
Maryland Death Penalty

It’s a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month … and they might survived.

I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there’s a strong trend toward abolition. It’s happening year by year. Fifty years ago only nine countries in the world had abolished the death penalty; by 1977 it was 16; now 140 countries have abolished judicial killing in law or stopped it in practice.

Even in “pro-death penalty” countries, the number of sentences and executions is generally falling or the scope for imposing executions being reduced. For example, in China the number of crimes which might lead to a lethal injection or death by firing squad has beenreduced from a reported 68 to 55 (still a staggeringly high number). Meanwhile, in the USA – another major user of capital punishment – individual states are peeling away from the majority on the issue, with six states scrapping the death penalty in the past six years – New Jersey and New York state (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2010), Connecticut (2012) and Maryland just last month.

Anyway, though in the last year or so there have been what Amnesty says is an “alarming” spike in executions in Iraq and a resumptions after considerable gaps in the use of the death penalty in Japan, Gambia, Pakistan and India, the underlying global trend is still clear and apparently fixed: state-sanctioned judicial killing is slowly dying out.

So to me there’s a particular tragedy to the late nature of executions in this context. Last night’s execution of Kimberly McCarthy in Texas was regrettable for many reasons (especially the apparent role of racial prejudice in her trial), but in five – ten, 20? – years’ time there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t have people in Texas being strapped down to a lethal injection gurney and killed by technicians in a disgraceful pseudo-medical “procedure”.

I know of course that of all US states Texas is a “hard case”, one that may not go the way of national and international abolition in the immediate future. It’s just reached the miserable milestone of 500 executions in 31 years, nearly five times higher than any other US state. The Lone Star State indeed. See Amnesty USA’s Brian Evans on Texas’ fatal addiction to the death penalty. However, with support for capital punishment in the USA falling, and controversy over lethal injection drugs and unfair trials growing, I think abolition even in Texas will come ….

But still, the machinery of death clanks on. Just this week, in addition to McCarthy’s execution we’ve had four men hanged in Nigeria (and another facing death by firing squad imminently) and alarming reports that 117 people in Vietnam may face execution soon because of a recent law change (we’re talking – in some cases – about death by lethal injection, using specially-produced drugs to execute prisoners for non-violent drugs offences). There’s an urgent text campaign on Vietnam being run by Amnesty – see here.

So no, if you take an abolitionist view on the death penalty, there’s no cause for complacency. According to Wikipedia, the last person to die (from the British Empire side at least) during World War One was a 25-year-old Canadian man called George Lawrence Price. He was shot by a German sniper in the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine at 10.58 on the morning of 11 November 1918. The Armistice came into force at 11am. A needless death then, just like everyone killed by the state in the cold-blooded and thoroughly repugnant business of administering capital punishment.

 ,Press Officer at Amnesty International UK

 

Yellow Oscar for Indian film at Uranium Film Festival


A documentary on the people displaced by the coming up of Tarapur Atomic Power Station, India‘s first nuclear plant near Mumbai, has bagged the Yellow Oscar at the Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 27-minute documentary, titled “High Power”, was the maiden directorial venture of Pradeep Indulkar, an anti-nuclear activist from Ratnagiri, coastal Maharashtra.

“My documentary received unprecedented response at the festival and was screened several times, besides special screening in Rio de Janeiro colleges. The issue tackled in it is true for almost all the nuclear plants and the truths they leave behind,” Indulkar told IANS from Brazil.

Chandrasen Arekar, a displaced farmer from Tarapur, Thane district, received the award to a thundering ovation, from the chief guest, Junko Watanabe, the last survivor of Hiroshima nuclear holocaust during World War II.

In his acceptance speech, Indulkar said that apart from all the sorrows and distress highlighted by the documentary, the Yellow Oscar was a golden moment in his life as a filmmaker.

“I accept this award on behalf of all nuclear project affected people of Tarapur and I dedicate it to all those farmers and fishermen who lost their land, home and livelihood for the nuclear power plant,” Indulkar said at the awards ceremony Sunday night in the Brazilian capital.

Incidentally, Indulkar is among the leading personalities opposing the proposed 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant coming up with French collaboration in Ratnagiri.

Bouyed by the response to the documentary, Indulkar has submitted it for several international film festivals including India-Japan Film Fest in Japan, a film festival in Stuttgart, Germany and later at the Mumbai International Film Festival.

About the release of the documentary in India, Indulkar said the Indian censors have restricted the movie release only through DVD.

source-  http://www.beyondnuclear.org

Date

 

The draconian LBT: Local Body Tax explained


 

ANANTHRAM RAO | 13/05/2013 , Moneylife.in

LBT is a draconian Act, especially with key words like ‘goods’, ‘dealer’, ‘business’ loosely defined in the legislation, giving enough scope for the administrators to stretch their imagination to fanciful limits to the common man’s harassment and dismay

LBT, local body tax, draconian Act, common man, transport of goods, goods, dealer, business, Octroi, Cess, LPT, Local Panchayat TaxWith the wedding season round the corner, imagine you are going in your car from Navi Mumbai to Mumbai to attend a marriagewith your wife who is wearing gold ornaments and a silk saree; please do not be surprised if a government officer stops you and demands LBT on the car, saree and gold ornaments. Your luck may run out further, if he invokes the provision saying that you have failed to take a registration under LBT (Local Body Tax Act). He may demand, in the name of penalty, a compounding fee, that may exceed the cost of the ornaments or the car or the saree itself. You may, along with your wife, be convicted for the offences you may have deemed to have committed under LBT.
Take another situation. Your dabbawala gets your tiffin box daily to your office in Fort area from your house in Thane. As the financial year comes to an end, one fine day, after December, a LBT officer lands in your office instead of the dabbawala with a warrant to arrest you for having brought into the city limits the goods exceeding the prescribed turnover limits.
These may look too fictitious and simplistic or some may call these situations “beyond the wildest stretch of one’s imagination”. Well, going by the experience of dealing with the department, you might have come across officers trying to levy tax on flats situated in Navi Mumbai, purchased from a builder in Mumbai, arguing that the flat was brought into the city limits from Mumbai where the builder’s office was situated. With this kind of background, the LBT looks like a draconian Act, especially with key words like ‘goods’, ‘dealer’, ‘business’ loosely defined in the legislation, giving enough scope for the administrators to stretch their imagination to fanciful limits to the common man’s harassment and dismay.
LBT stands for Local Body Tax, which has been introduced in most of the municipalities and corporations in Maharashtra,  in lieu of Octroi or Cess. It is a levy under entry 52 in the State list of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India, on the entry of goods into a city limits for the purpose of consumption, use or sale therein. Thus, the recent agitations against LBT, a levy, which is constitutionally valid, have given rise to questions as to the root cause of the agitations.
Octroi is a levy which was prevalent in Roman times. It was extensively used as a tax tool in Europe till World War II. Now, it is almost extinct except in Ethiopia and Maharashstra (a true reflection of comparable development of the economy or the situations of drought). Other states in India have done away with this levy and they share a portion of the Value Added Tax (VAT) or Sales Tax (ST) with the local bodies.
Municipalities, with a share from the state government and other tax collection methods like property tax, entertainment tax, etc, can run the administration with a decent budget.  A power to use (more likely abuse), does not necessarily warrant a situation to use. However, the greed to have extravagant budgets, in the name of development (personal development of bureaucrats and ministers as actual development remains a mirage), is the driver that makes the local bodies and the state government stick to their guns in implementing the LBT despite protests.
Being the representatives of the people, our corporators, MPs and MLAs have forgotten that they have a duty to echo public opinion and ensure that government is run as per the wishes of the public. At the time of introduction of VAT in 2005 the Government of Maharashtra had promised that Octroi would be removed and there will not be any additional tax burden on citizens but now they have introduced  the LBT. Thus, LBT is not a good system of tax collection suited for the 21st century, and when there are many other better options available with the government.
LBT, local body tax, draconian Act, common man, transport of goods, goods, dealer, business, Octroi, Cess, LPT, Local Panchayat TaxAnother reason which goes against LBT is the exorbitant compounding fees. The Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949,  the Act that gives right to levy LBT, as such does not have a penalty-limit prescribed for any violations relating to LBT, though there is an elaborate Annexure prescribing the various penalties. That shows that penalty cannot be levied legally.

However, the Rule 48  framed under this Act, quantifies the penalty that can be levied in different cases. Thus, the said Rule is ultra vires the Act.

Further, the compounding fees, is payable, only if the dealer is convicted. However, the administration is collecting the compounding fee as tax at the time of assessment itself making it a dubious source of revenue for the Government.
Another point against LBT is the cascading effect of teh Tax. Unlike excise or service tax or VAT, there is no concept of set-off or input credit. In other words, every time the goods cross the city limits they will be liable for LBT and levy of LBT may exceed the value of goods itself. A simple reading of the Act would necessarily warrant a LBT when goods are imported from one city to another (as the goods are purchased from another registered dealer under the Act), the corporations interpret that the LBT is leviable in such cases as each city corporation is a different entity despite the fact that the legislation empowering the levy is same. This shows that legislators have not applied their mind while framing the law; else they have done so with full knowledge that it will fill the Governments and their own coffers through corruption.
Another reason that frightens the businessmen is the LPT or Local Panchayat Tax.  Like the areas near Bhiwandi or Khopoli, which adjoin Mumbai, but are outside the city limits and hence octroi-free zones, are now allowed to levy a similar tax on the entry of goods into the village limits. Thus, now this may be looked as a gold mine for extracting LPT by the Panchayats as many businesses have set their shop in view of enjoying the tax-benefits. In absence of such benefit, which may be a reality, if LPT is introduced, these panchayats may not have any attraction to retain the existing business, leave alone attracting the business. Many of the businessmen have started thinking of shifting to neighbouring states, especially Gujarat.
Another reason against LBT is that there is no time-limit that is specified for completing the assessment of the firms. In such situations, the dealers may be kept in suspense as to their liability to maintain books and records. Further, the appeal process is against the principles of natural justice for the simple reason that in case you decide against the order of the LBT officer or commissioner, you are required to deposit the entire tax demanded before filing the appeal. Draconian and unconstitutional, I would think, isn’t it?
LBT, local body tax, draconian Act, common man, transport of goods, goods, dealer, business, Octroi, Cess, LPT, Local Panchayat TaxThe Act is not a comprehensive Act that is well worded or suited for taxation. With lot of alternative avenues open for collecting enough revenues for the corporations, the political class should respect the difficulties of the businessmen and common men, and help them to reach the sane voices (if there are any!) in the government. They should bring in the changes in legislation to repeal LBT and make suitable changes in VAT so that the local bodies do share  revenues the state government derives from VAT. This will ensure that the administration frees itself from the task of collection of addition tax and other related administrative work. This will also help the dealers of additional hassles of payment of tax, filing of return, surveys, raids, check posts, assessments, appeals etc. and also dealing with one more Government body prone to corruption.
(The author is a partner at Borkar & Shenoy, Chartered Accountants)

 

Obama Deports Record Number of Immigrants, Using Scary Private GEO Group to Get the Job Done


The largest deportation prison in the U.S. is a former jail in the hyper-corrupt City of Adelanto, California, where public officials are often criminals.
March 31, 2013  |  alternet

This article was first published by Not Safe for Work Corporation.

Last year, the federal government deported roughly 400,000 people, the highest number of deportations in U.S. history.

A generous portion of these poor saps came through a brand new private processing and detention facility located in the remote and fairly unpopulated High Desert of California. Operated by Geo Group — remember that name — the prison is now the largest immigrant detention center in the Golden State. And it’s located only a few miles my house, on the edge of a miserable little suburb city by the name of Adelanto.

Adelanto means “progress” in Spanish.

According to the town’s official biography, Adelanto was founded by Earl H. Richardson, inventor of the first electric iron, the Hotpoint. His outfit, the Hotpoint Electric Heating Company, later merged with GE and churned out electric irons by the hundred of thousands. The invention made Richardson rich. It also gave the kindly old bespectacled gentleman visions of grandeur. His dream: to buy land way out in the Mojave Desert, lay the foundation for the first master-planned community in Southern California and sell it off piece by piece to veterans returning from trenches of World War I.

For some reason, the vets had no interest in living hundreds of miles from civilization, preferring instead to convalesce in bungalows on the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica. But Adelanto wasn’t a total loss for Richardson. World War II broke out, and the federal government took a bunch of land off his hands to build what would later become the George Air Force Base. Adelanto remained a military support settlement until the base closed in 1992.

The city has grown since then, tripling in size since the late 1980s. Now, Adelanto is a cheap suburb of Victorville. There’s no shape or organization to it, no master planning in sight—just patches of subprime subdivisions, apartment complexes and warehouses scattered in the desert. All that growth didn’t bring prosperity; it only accelerated the city’s slide into corruption, poverty and violence.

In 1997, Adelanto’s police chief was convicted of embezzlement and sent to jail. That same year, one police officer was convicted of child molestation, while two otherswere found guilty of beating and torturing suspects in their custody. In one case, they hauled someone in on a drug offense, attempted to beat a confession out of him and, when the guy started bleeding on the floor, made him lick up his own blood. One of the officers — Thomas Boyd Chandler — then threatened the suspect that he’d be shot and buried in a hole in the desert if he squealed to anyone about the enhanced interrogation techniques used on him in custody. To drive the point home, Chandler took a bullet from his gun. “This bullet has your name on it,” he warned.

Despite a shakeup, in 1998, both Adelanto’s sitting mayor and the city attorney were convicted felons. And a grand jury investigation found evidence of election fraud and rampant corruption.

“This is one of the most crooked places on Earth,” said 20-year resident Roger Ayers told the Associated Press in 1998. The AP article noted that the town had a bingo parlor and a strip club, but no restaurants or supermarkets.

Adelanto was also being infiltrated by the Taiwanese mafia, which was operating an ammunition factory in the area.

Here’s the Associated Press again:

Federal and county law enforcement officials have questioned the opening of J.J. Ammo Inc., a bullet factory with connections to China. A principal in the firm, Wah Nien “Johnny” Chiang, is a Taiwan native who authorities say is tied to Asian organized crime. “We’re well aware of Johnny Chiang and that he’s making ammunition out in Adelanto. We’re not sure why,” said Sgt. Tom Budds, who heads the Asian organized crime unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Chinese-Taiwanese mafia churning out bullets in Adelanto? I guess anything’s possible out here on the frontier of SoCal’s suburban sprawl.

Today, of the 32,000 people who call Adelanto home, nearly 60 percent are Latino and a large number of those are undocumented. Per-capita income is just under $12,000—nearly three times lower than California average. One out of every three people live under the poverty line, and 5.4 percent of the population is what the good folks at the census bureau classify as “institutionalized.” Which is just a bureaucratic way of saying that one out of 20 Adelanto residents is currently rotting in jail—at a rate that’s five times higher than the national average. That’s not surprising: until recently Adelanto had been home to three prisons: one county, one city and one private.

After the real estate bubble popped, Adelanto teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. By 2010, the city was essentially out of money, and had only $100,000 in its reserve fund. On top of everything, California started releasing nonviolent prisoners to relieve the state’s overcrowded penitentiary system. And that meant Adelanto was on the verge of losing a major source of revenue: a city-owned minimum security facility that housed state inmates and brought in nearly $2 million in pure profit. But there was a way out…

As luck would have it, a private prison company called Geo Group happened to be in the market for a detention facility located in Southern California.

California might have been downsizing its prison population, but the federal government was ramping up its deportation operations and needed private contractors to handle the logistics of housing and processing immigrants. Geo Group—the second-largest private prison company in America, with roughly 60 facilities and 40,000 souls under its care—was always eager for more business, and Adelanto’s prison was exactly what it needed to get in on the action.

In 2010, Adelanto sold its prison to Geo Group for lump payment of $28 million. As part of the deal, Adelanto helped the new buyer secure a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for which the city negotiated an additional payout of $50,000 a year from Geo Group.

Geo quickly expanded the facility to hold 1,300 inmates, making it the largest private deportation center in the state California. It projected an annual revenue stream of $42 million (at a rock bottom rate of $99 per detained immigrant per day). And according to its cushy contract with ICE, Geo was guaranteed a 75-percent minimum occupancy rate, meaning that the feds agreed to pay the private prison company $36 million a year to run its Adelanto facility, whether it contained immigrant detainees or not. All this, of course, is being funded by hardworking American taxpayers.

Remember Adelanto’s majority Latino population, a large number of whom are undocumented? Now, they suddenly find themselves living in the shadow of the largest deportation center in the state, dedicated to concentrating and kicking out people just like them. A speeding ticket is enough to initiate deportation these days, and it doesn’t matter if the immigrant has children or family here: recent stats show that a quarter of people deported are parents with children who are U.S. citizens.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Geo Group’s Adelanto project was still in the works when I lived out here in 2009, so last week I decided to take a drive out and see how the finished product looks.

It was right around sunset time, and everything was awash in an orange-red light radiated out from behind the San Bernardino Mountains. Geo’s Adelanto facility is located on Ranchero Rd, on the western edge of Adelanto. Just one block past the prison, the asphalt ends and the street turns into a dirt road that disappears into the desert on horizon.

The road leading to the prison was mostly empty. A big rig or a truck rumbled past once in a while. Warehouses flanked the prison complex. There was some sort of pump substation across the street, and a big cluster of high-voltage transmission cables and transformers a little farther down. A gentleman’s club sat on a lot behind the prison, in sight of its fortified courtyard. Two dancers stood out back by the club’s service entrance, smoking and looking out at the brightly lit detention center in front of them. Other than that, there was nothing but desert scrub and Joshua trees for miles around.

At first I passed the prison completely, mistaking it for a cluster of warehouses. It was only when I saw the high metal fence surrounding an outdoor area lit up with blinding flood lights that I realized what I was looking at.

I doubled back and parked on the side of the road across the sprawling prison complex.

There were a couple of blue “Geo Group” signs. Shuttle busses of various sizes were clustered in a side parking lot. A dozen or so cars were parked in the lot out front, and two or three people were slowly walking toward the main entrance.

If I didn’t know otherwise, I never would have guessed that I was looking at the largest deportation facility in California. It could have been anything: a distribution hub, a warehouse or a large office complex. Hell, it could have even passed for a community college.

Unlike the imposing slab structures of federal prison complex a couple of miles to the east, the bland nondescript facade of Geo’s detention facility masked its brutal function, and gave no indication about the dark and bloody history of the company that ran it.

Y’see, Geo Group isn’t just any private prison operator. It started life as a subsidiary of the Wackenhut Corporation, the shady quasi-government security company founded in the 1950s by former FBI agent and fervent McCarthyite George R. Wackenhut.

Wackenhut packed his company with rightwing generals, John Birch Society leaders and future leaders of the military-security establishment, including William Casey and Frank Carlucci. He fashioned Wackenhut Corp into a modern version of the Pinkerton Agency, providing various security and espionage services to both the government and private clients.

It has defended U.S. Embassies all across the world, protected domestic nuclear facilities and currently guards our nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In the 1960s, Wackenhut spied on antiwar activists, infiltrated protest movements and compiled dossiers on 2.5 million suspected dissidents. Mining companies hired Wackenhut goons to serve as strikebreakers.There’s even a good chance Wackenhut was involved in transferring chemical weapons from the U.S. to Saddam Hussein in 1990, as reported in a 1992 SPY Magazine investigation titled “Inside the Shadow CIA.”

“It is known throughout the industry that if you want a dirty job done, call Wackenhut,” a retired FBI special agent William Hinshaw told SPY. In the 1980s, George Wackenhut opened up a new subsidiary, the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, to take advantage of new and exciting lucrative business opportunity: private prisons.

We can go down a deep rabbit hole chasing Wackenhut’s spook connections. But the main thing to note is that the company feeds on and profits from military conflict, social unrest, economic hardship, paranoia and fear. And its private prison operations are simply the newest outgrowth of that business model.

With Wackenhut’s history as a violent rightwing paramilitary organization, it’s track record in prison management quickly became littered with corpses, broken bodies and rape victims. It racked up such a bad rep that the company was forced to change its name from Wackenhut to Geo Group.

There are too many incidents to list here. But a recent Department of Justice investigation into Geo’s Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility near Jackson, Mississippi, gives a glimpse of the kind of conditions inmates face in Geo’s for-profit prisons.

Here are few tidbits, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Guards frequently doused young men with pepper spray as a first response, rather than a last resort. Youths were routinely sprayed simply for refusing verbal commands, such as failing to remove their arms from food tray slots while locked in their cells – something they sometimes did to get attention for medical emergencies… .

… Fights were common, occurring almost daily. Cell doors could be easily rigged to remain unlocked, allowing youths to leave their cells and enter others at will. Guards were often complicit in attacks. Weapons were readily available. Emergency call buttons in the cells didn’t work… . In addition, guards “frequently and brutally react to low-level aggression” – such as using profanities or reacting too slowly to an order – by “slamming youth head first into the ground, slapping, beating, and kicking youth,” the DOJ found…

… Some guards apparently saw their charges as sexual prey. Sexual misconduct between staffers and youth occurred on a monthly basis – “at a minimum,” the DOJ found. But GEO did little or nothing to prevent it, other than firing those caught in the act – like the female guard who yelled “close the door” at another guard who saw her engaged in intercourse with a youth in a medical department restroom…

… Violence by youths and guards wasn’t the only problem. Neither were the gang affiliations of some guards. Or the grossly inadequate medical and mental health care. Or the proliferation of drugs and other contraband. Or the lack of educational and rehabilitative programs. Or the wild overuse of pepper spray on passive youths.

Indeed, the DOJ found that sexual abuse – including brutal youth-on-youth rapes and “brazen” sexual misconduct by prison staffers who coerced youths – was “among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.”

Geo Group is very aware just how much it depends on a harsh, punitive criminal and immigration laws for survival.

Here’s how Geo described its position to investors in a 2012 10K filing:

In particular, the demand for our correctional and detention facilities and services, electronic monitoring services, community-based re-entry services and monitoring and supervision services could be adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws. For example, any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws which are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state and local level also could materially adversely impact us.

Geo Group is candid about all this. It has to be: In 2011, the company depended on the deportation of immigrants for 14 percent of its business. Something like 88 percent of its $1.6 billion in revenues that year came from federal and state government agencies. And that’s what so troubling about President Barack Obama’s promise to enact “meaningful” immigration reform. After Obama took office, Geo’s stock price rebounded from a low of about $10 a share in 2009 to nearly $33 in January 2013, tripling over the course of Obama’s first term. And here’s the frightening thing: the stock price didn’t even budge last week, after Obama announced his intent to push through immigration reform by the end of spring this year.

This means one of two things: Either the multibillion dollar hedge funds and private equity firms that own 97% of Geo Group’s stock don’t know what they’re doing. Or they know exactly what they’re doing, and are confident that — despite the bipartisan rhetoric around a kinder, gentler, less deporty immigration system — Geo Group’s deportation facility in Adelanto is still looking forward to a long, prosperous future.

Yasha Levine is an editor for eXiledonline.com. He is the author of the book, The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell (2012).

 

Dirty Eleven Companies that Collaborated With the Nazis #mustread


written by Sam Greenspan

I saw this article today; it’s about a controversy over the German insurance company Allianz buying the naming rights to the new New York Giants and Jets football stadium.

That’s controversial because Allianz has very famous Nazi ties — they insured Auschwitz, their CEO was one of Hitler’s advisers, and, during the Holocaust, instead of paying life insurance benefits to Jews, they sent that money straight to the Nazis.

Jewish groups don’t want Allianz getting the naming rights to the new Meadowlands. Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defanation League, says, quote, “It would be an insult. It’s putting their name in lights for generations to come.”

Since World War Two ended, Allianz has officially apologized for its role in the Holocaust and has paid several million dollars in restitution. Which brings me to a larger point here: At what point should we say to Nazi collaborating companies, “OK. You’ve apologized, you’ve paid, none of your current employees worked with the Nazis, it’s time to move on”?

Because there are a TON of companies that worked with the Nazis. Way more than the Allianz and the other 11 I’m about to talk about here. They’ve all apologized. A lot have paid restitution. Two generations have passed.

I won’t comment on whether I think people should forgive them… boycott them… continue to patronize them, but begrudgingly… or continue to patronize them with statements like, “Wow, Allianz, your insurance is SO good, we’re SO impressed with what you’re doing. And if it wasn’t for the 800 other, better insurance companies out there, we’d TOTALLY sign up with you.”

That’s up to you. I’m just puttin’ the information out there. Here are 11 companies that you may not realize collaborated with the Nazis.


  1. The 12 Nazi collaborating companies featured in this article.

    Kodak. During World War Two, Kodak’s German branch used slave laborers from concentration camps. Several of their other European branches did heavy business with the Nazi government.

    And Wilhelm Keppler, one of Hitler’s top economic advisers, had deep ties in Kodak. When Nazism began, Keppler advised Kodak and several other U.S. companies that they’d benefit by firing all of their Jewish employees. (Source: The Nation)

  2. Hugo Boss. In the 1930s, Hugo Boss started making Nazi uniforms. The reason: Hugo Boss himself had joined the Nazi party, and got a contract to make the Hitler Youth, storm trooper and SS uniforms.That was a huge boon for Hugo Boss… he got the contract just eight years after founding his company… and that infusion of business helped take the company to another level.The Nazi uniform manufacturing went so well that Hugo Boss ended up needing to bring in slave laborers in Poland and France to help out at the factory.

    In 1997, Hugo’s son, Siegfried Boss, told an Austrian news magazine, “Of course my father belonged to the Nazi party. But who didn’t belong back then?” (Source:New York Times)

  3. Volkswagen. Ferdinand Porsche, the man behind Volkswagen and Porsche, met with Hitler in 1934, to discuss the creation of a “people’s car.” (That’s the English translation of Volkswagen.)Hitler told Porsche to make the car with a streamlined shape, “like a beetle.” And that’s the genesis of the Volkswagen Beetle… it wasn’t just designed for the Nazis, Hitler NAMED it.During World War Two, it’s believed that as many as four out of every five workers at Volkswagen’s plants were slave laborers. Ferdinand Porsche even had a direct connection to Heinrich Himmler, one of the leaders of the SS, to directly request slaves from Auschwitz. (Source: The Straight Dope)
  4. Bayer. During the Holocaust, a German company called IG Farben manufactured the Zyklon B gas used in the Nazi gas chambers. They also funded and helped with Josef Mengele’s “experiments” on concentration camp prisoners.IG Farben is the company that turned the single largest profit from work with the Nazis. After the War, the company was broken up. Bayer was one of its divisions, and went on to become its own company.Oh… and aspirin was founded by a Bayer employee, Arthur Eichengrun. But Eichengrun was Jewish, and Bayer didn’t want to admit that a Jewish guy created the one product that keeps their company in business. So, to this day, Bayer officially gives credit to Felix Hoffman, a nice Aryan man, for inventing aspirin. (Source: Alliance for Human Research ProtectionPharmaceutical Achievers)
  5. Siemens. Siemens took slave laborers during the Holocaust and had them help construct the gas chambers that would kill them and their families. Good people over there.Siemens also has the single biggest post-Holocaust moment of insensitivity of any of the companies on this list. In 2001, they tried to trademark the word “Zyklon” (which means “cyclone” in German) to become the name a new line of products… including a line of gas ovens.Zyklon, of course, being the name of the poison gas used in their gas chambers during the Holocaust.

    A week later, after several watchdog groups appropriately freaked out, Siemens withdrew the application. They said they never drew the connection between the Zyklon B gas used during the Holocaust and their proposed Zyklon line of products. (Source: BBC)

  6. Coca-Cola, specifically Fanta. Coke played both sides during World War Two… they supported the American troops but also kept making soda for the Nazis. Then, in 1941, the German branch of Coke ran out of syrup, and couldn’t get any from America because of wartime restrictions.So they invented a new drink, specifically for the Nazis: A fruit-flavored soda called Fanta.That’s right: Long before Fanta was associated with a bunch of exotic women singing a god-awful jingle, it was the unofficial drink of Nazi Germany. (Source: New Statesman)
  7. Ford. Henry Ford is a pretty legendary anti-Semite, so this makes sense. He was Hitler’s most famous foreign backer. On his 75th birthday, in 1938, Ford received a Nazi medal, designed for “distinguished foreigners.”He profiteered off both sides of the War — he was producing vehicles for the Nazis AND for the Allies.I’m wondering if, in a completely misguided piece of logic, Allianz points to the Detroit Lions giving Ford the naming rights to their stadium as a reason why they should get the rights to the Meadowlands. (Source: Reformed Theology)
  8. Standard Oil. The Luftwaffe needed tetraethyl lead gas in order to get their planes off the ground. Standard Oil was one of only three companies that could manufacture that type of fuel. So they did.Without them, the German air force never could’ve even gotten their planes off the ground.When Standard Oil was dissolved as a monopoly, it led to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, all of which are still around today. (But fortunately, their parent company’s past decision to make incredible profits off of war have not carried on.) (Source: MIT’s Thistle)
  9. Chase bank. A lot of banks sided with the Nazis during World War Two. Chase is the most prominent.They froze European Jewish customers’ accounts and were extremely cooperative in providing banking service to Germany. (Source: New York Times)
  10. IBM. IBM custom-build machines for the Nazis that they could use to track everything… from oil supplies to train schedules into death camps to Jewish bank accounts to individual Holocaust victims themselves.In September of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, the “New York Times” reported that three million Jews were going to be “immediately removed” from Poland and were likely going to be “exterminat[ed].”IBM’s reaction? An internal memo saying that, due to that “situation”, they really needed to step up production on high-speed alphabetizing equipment. (Source: CNet)
  11. Random House publishing. Random House’s parent company, Bertelsmann A.G., worked for the Nazis… they published Hitler propaganda, and a book called “Sterilization and Euthanasia: A Contribution to Applied Christian Ethics”.Bertelsmann still owns and operates several companies. I picked Random House because they drew controversy in 1997 when they decided to expand the definition of Nazi in Webster’s Dictionary.Eleven years ago, they added the colloquial, softened definition of “a person who is fanatically dedicated to or seeks to control a specified activity, practice, etc.” (Think “Soup Nazi”.)

    The Anti-Defamation League called that expanded definition offensive… especially when added by a company with Nazi ties… they said it, quote, “trivializes and denies the murderous intent and actions of the Nazi regime… it also cheapens the language by allowing people to reach for a quick word fix… [and] lends a helping hand to those whose aim is to prove that the Nazis were really not such terrible people.” (Source: New York ObserverADL)

This list was originally published on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at http://www.11points.com/

 

Death Penalty -Brings out basal instincts of a society


 

Irfan Engineer, Dec 1, 2012:Deccan Herald

 

 

No death penalty

No death penalty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The march of history has been from more brutal and violent societies to more humane, inclusive and less violent societies; and from authoritarian to democratic states.

The objective of punishment awarded by the society to the delinquents and non-conformists too evolved from that of retribution to deterrence and reformation of the delinquent.

 

According to “Rational Choice Theory”, objective of any punishment should be deterrence rather than retribution.

 

Punishments inflicted by the state during ancient times and medieval period included boiling to death, feeding to hungry lions, flaying, slow slicing, truncating (cutting the body below the ribs and leaving the delinquent to bleed to death), disembowelment, crucifixion, inquisitions, crushing by an elephant, stoning, blowing from the gun, burning at stakes, sawing, decapitation, guillotining, public hanging and firing squad. These are by no means an exhaustive list but only indicative.

 

These punishments were administered on those who rebelled against the state, practised a different religion or were dissidents and non-conformists. Galileo, who defended heliocentrism and questioned earth as centre of universe was also tried and inquisitioned for his belief. He, however, retracted from his discovery and submitted himself to the doctrines of the Church.

 

By 1820 in Britain, there were about 160 crimes (down from 220 crimes during its peak) that were punished by death, including the crimes like shoplifting, petty theft, being in the company of gypsies for one month and strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age. Many crimes punishable by death in fact protected the property of wealth. Henry VIII is reputed to have executed as many as 72,000 people.

 

In the 19th century, Roman Republic, Venezuela, San Marino and Portugal abolished capital punishment in the years 1849, 1854, 1865 and 1867 respectively.

 

Attitudes changed by World War II, class barriers came down and people felt sickened by the holocaust of Nazi Germany. In 1948, the United Nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and this was adopted by Britain in 1950. The last execution by UK was in 1964.

 

The Labour Party Government of Harold Wilson suspended death penalty for five years through an enactment in 1965. House of Commons reaffirmed its decision to abolish capital punishment for murder in 1969. On December 10, 1999, International Human Rights Day, UK ratified Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thus, totally abolishing capital punishment in Britain.

 

Sanctity of life

 

With the strengthening of democracies, there was increasing culture of tolerating dissent and differences. Sanctity of life is increasingly accepted and believed that society did not have the right to take away anyone’s life. Eye for an eye will make the whole world blind said Gandhiji. Collective conscience of a society should not be blood thirsty. There is increasing realisation of a possibility that person condemned to gallows could be under some mistake. Once executed the mistake cannot be corrected.

 

In 20th century, Australia abolished capital punishment in 1973, Canada in 1976, France in 1981. In 1977, UN General Assembly affirmed in a formal resolution that it is desirable to “progressively restrict the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed, with a view to the desirability of abolishing this punishment.”

 

On November 20, 2012, UN General Assembly’s Third Committee voted in support of its fourth resolution for a moratorium on the use of death penalty with a view to abolishing it. Nine-one member states sponsored the resolution, and was approved with 110 votes in favour, 39 votes against and 36 abstentions. India voted against the resolution.

 

The world is slowly moving towards abolition of death penalty or moratorium on its use. Two-thirds of the countries have abolished death penalty or have ceased to apply it. In most Latin American countries, in Argentina, Brazil,  Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru  and Uruguay, Venezuela. In Europe – Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, Iceland, and many of the States in the United States of America, have abolished death sentence. Death penalty is considered to violate human dignity.

 

However, 60 per cent of world’s population lives in states where capital punishment is on their statutes, including China, India, US and Indonesia – the four most populous states. Fifty-eight countries actively practise, 97 countries have abolished it and the rest have not used it for 10 years, or used it in exceptional circumstances like wartime. Article 2 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits use of capital punishment.

 

Abolition and after

 

There is no evidence of any increase in crimes after abolition of death penalty. In Greece banditry decreased after it ceased to be punishable by death and in Canada instances of rape decreased after abolition of death penalty for the offence. In England, there was no increase in crimes which ceased to be capital murders under the Homicide Act of 1957.

 

In the year 2011, 21 countries recorded executions, as compared to 31 countries 10 years ago. China executed maximum number of people, though China recently eliminated death penalty for certain economic crimes and reintroduced mandatory review of all death penalty cases by the Supreme People’s Court. Drugs, homosexuality and terrorism are issues on which some countries are expanding the scope of death penalty.

 

Abolitionists and retentionists for capital punishment argue for and against death penalty on many grounds. Generally, the right wing nationalists who are ideologically oriented to building an authoritarian state and retaining hierarchical order tend to be retentionists. Investigators and Prosecutors in criminal justice system too tend to be retentionists hoping that capital punishment would act as a deterrent.

 

Whereas those ideologically oriented towards building a more humanitarian society with emphasis on equality, equity and social justice tend to be abolitionists. They argue that as inequities and injustices increase, so do crime, irrespective of retributive punishment.

 

Cruelty in punishment

 

The person perceived as cruel criminal by a section could be fighting for justice and become a hero for others and any cruelty in punishment makes such a person a bigger martyr to be emulated by others.

 

Therefore, cruelty of punishment alone could not be burdened with deterring crime. It is a just and equitable society where compassion for a wrong doer is a value and reformation is an objective that reforms the criminal. Reformed criminal is a louder and clearer message to deter crime.

 

Disproportionate number of people from marginalised sections of the society – poor, ethnic and religious minorities and lower castes are handed down death penalty. For example, 41 per cent of death row inmates and 34 per cent of those executed in US are African Americans though they constitute 12 per cent of US population.

 

To conclude, death penalty and legal execution of any human being brings out worst retributionist sentiments and violent animal instincts of a society evident from the interviews of ordinary people on TV after execution of Kasab. The sooner the world is free from such basal instincts, the better.

(The writer is Director, Institute for Peace Studies, and member of All India Secular Forum.)

 

 

#America Acts Like It Owns the World- #Noam Chomsky


 

By Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now!

 

28 October 12

 

 

 

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I too...

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I took in Vancouver Canada. Français : Noam Chomsky à Vancouver au Canada en 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

n the week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MIT professor, Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign: China, the Arab Spring, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and the military threat posed by Israel and the U.S. versus Iran. He reflects on the Cuban missile crisis, which took place 50 years ago this week and is still referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” He delivered this talk last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at an event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. Chomsky’s talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” [includes rush transcript]

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon. We are here as part of our 100-city Silenced Majority tour. On this week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Professor Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign, from China to the Arab Spring, to global warming and the nuclear threat posed by Israel versus Iran. He spoke last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at any event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was thinking about these remarks, I had two topics in mind, couldn’t decide between them—actually pretty obvious ones. One topic is, what are the most important issues that we face? The second topic is, what issues are not being treated seriously—or at all—in the quadrennial frenzy now underway called an election? But I realized that there’s no problem; it’s not a hard choice: they’re the same topic. And there are reasons for it, which are very significant in themselves. I’d like to return to that in a moment. But first a few words on the background, beginning with the announced title, “Who Owns the World?”

 

Actually, a good answer to this was given years ago by Adam Smith, someone we’re supposed to worship but not read. He was—a little subversive when you read him sometimes. He was referring to the most powerful country in the world in his day and, of course, the country that interested him, namely, England. And he pointed out that in England the principal architects of policy are those who own the country: the merchants and manufacturers in his day. And he said they make sure to design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to. Their interests are served by policy, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England.

 

But he was an old-fashioned conservative with moral principles, so he added the victims of England, the victims of the—what he called the “savage injustice of the Europeans,” particularly in India. Well, he had no illusions about the owners, so, to quote him again, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” It was true then; it’s true now.

 

Britain kept its position as the dominant world power well into the 20th century despite steady decline. By the end of World War II, dominance had shifted decisively into the hands of the upstart across the sea, the United States, by far the most powerful and wealthy society in world history. Britain could only aspire to be its junior partner as the British foreign office ruefully recognized. At that point, 1945, the United States had literally half the world’s wealth, incredible security, controlled the entire Western Hemisphere, both oceans, the opposite sides of both oceans. There’s nothing—there hasn’t ever been anything like that in history.

 

And planners understood it. Roosevelt’s planners were meeting right through the Second World War, designing the post-war world. They were quite sophisticated about it, and their plans were pretty much implemented. They wanted to make sure that the United States would control what they called a “grand area,” which would include, routinely, the entire Western Hemisphere, the entire Far East, the former British Empire, which the U.S. would be taking over, and as much of Eurasia as possible—crucially, its commercial and industrial centers in Western Europe. And within this region, they said, the United States should hold unquestioned power with military and economic supremacy, while ensuring the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by states that might interfere with these global designs.

 

And those were pretty realistic plans at the time, given the enormous disparity of power. The U.S. had been by far the richest country in the world even before the Second World War, although it wasn’t—was not yet the major global actor. During the Second World War, the United States gained enormously. Industrial production almost quadrupled, got us out of depression. Meanwhile, industrial rivals were devastated or seriously weakened. So that was an unbelievable system of power.

 

Actually, the policies that were outlined then still hold. You can read them in government pronouncements. But the capacity to implement them has significantly declined. Actually there’s a major theme now in foreign policy discussion—you know, journals and so on. The theme is called “American decline.” So, for example, in the most prestigious establishment international relations journal, Foreign Affairs, a couple of months ago, there was an issue which had on the front cover in big bold letters, “Is America Over?” question mark. That’s announcing the theme of the issue. And there is a standard corollary to this: power is shifting to the west, to China and India, the rising world powers, which are going to be the hegemonic states of the future.

 

Actually, I think the decline—the decline is quite real, but some serious qualifications are in order. First of all, the corollary is highly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future. China and India are very poor countries. Just take a look at, say, the human development index of the United Nations: they’re way down there. China is around 90th. I think India is around 120th or so, last time I looked. And they have tremendous internal problems—demographic problems, extreme poverty, hopeless inequality, ecological problems. China is a great manufacturing center, but it’s actually mostly an assembly plant. So it assembles parts and components, high technology that comes from the surrounding industrial—more advanced industrial centers—Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States, Europe—and it basically assembles them. So, if, say, you buy one of these i-things—you know, an iPad from China—that’s called an export from China, but the parts and components and technology come from outside. And the value added in China is minuscule. It’s been calculated. They’ll move up the technology ladder, but it’s a hard climb, India even harder. Well, so I think one should be skeptical about the corollary.

 

But there’s another qualification that’s more serious. The decline is real, but it’s not new. It’s been going on since 1945. In fact, it happened very quickly. In the late 1940s, there’s an event that’s known here as “the loss of China.” China became independent. That’s a loss of a huge piece of the grand area of Asia. And it became a major issue in American domestic policy. Who’s responsible for the loss of China? A lot of recriminations and so on. Actually, the phrase is kind of interesting. Like, I can’t lose your computer, right? Because I don’t own it. I can lose my computer. Well, the phrase “loss of China” kind of presupposes a deeply held principle of kind of American elite consciousness: we own the world, and if some piece of it becomes independent, we’ve lost it. And that’s a terrible loss; we’ve got to do something about it. It’s never questioned, which is interesting in itself.

 

Well, right about the same time, around 1950, concerns developed about the loss of Southeast Asia. That’s what led the United States into the Indochina wars, the worst atrocities of the post-war period—partly lost, partly not. A very significant event in modern history was in 1965, when in Indonesia, which was the main concern—that’s the country of Southeast Asia with most of the wealth and resources—there was a military coup in Indonesia, Suharto coup. It led to an extraordinary massacre, what the New York Times called a “staggering mass slaughter.” It killed hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants; destroyed the only mass political party; and opened the country up to Western exploitation. Euphoria in the West was so enormous that it couldn’t be contained. So, in the New York Times, describing the “staggering mass slaughter,” it called it a “gleam of light in Asia.” That was the column written by James Reston, the leading liberal thinker in the Times. And the same elsewhere—Europe, Australia. It was a fantastic event.

 

Years later, McGeorge Bundy, who was the national security adviser for Kennedy and Johnson, in retrospect, he pointed out that it probably would have been a good idea to end the Vietnam War at that point, to pull out. Contrary to a lot of illusions, the Vietnam War was fought primarily to ensure that an independent Vietnam would not develop successfully and become a model for other countries in the region. It would not—to borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology speaking about Chile, we have to prevent what they called the—what he called the “virus” of independent development from spreading contagion elsewhere. That’s a critical part of American foreign policy since the Second World War—Britain, France, others to a lesser degree. And by 1965, that was over. Vietnam was—South Vietnam was virtually destroyed. Word spread to the rest of Indochina it wasn’t going to be a model for anyone, and the contagion was contained. There were—the Suharto regime made sure that Indonesia wouldn’t be infected. And pretty soon the U.S. had dictatorships in every country of the region—Marcos on the Philippines, a dictatorship in Thailand, Chun in South—Park in South Korea. It was no problem about the infection. So that would have been a good time to end the Vietnam War, he felt. Well, that’s Southeast Asia.

 

But the decline continues. In the last 10 years, there’s been a very important event: the loss of South America. For the first time in 500 years, the South—since the conquistadors, the South American countries have begun to move towards independence and a degree of integration. The typical structure of one of the South American countries was a tiny, very rich, Westernized elite, often white, or mostly white, and a huge mass of horrible poverty, countries separated from one another, oriented to—each oriented towards its—you know, either Europe or, more recently, the United States. Last 10 years, that’s been overcome, significantly—beginning to integrate, the prerequisite for independence, even beginning to face some of their horrendous internal problems. Now that’s the loss of South America. One sign is that the United States has been driven out of every single military base in South America. We’re trying to restore a few, but right now there are none.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. Coming up, he discusses global warming, nuclear war and the Arab Spring, in a minute. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon, part of our 100-city tour. Today, though, we’re spending the hour with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. As Election Day comes closer, Chomsky examines topics largely ignored or glossed over during the presidential campaign, including the threat posed to U.S. power by the Arab Spring.

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, moving on to just last year, the Arab Spring is another such threat. It threatens to take that big region out of the grand area. That’s a lot more significant than Southeast Asia or South America. You go back to the 1940s, the State Department recognized that the energy resources of the Middle East are what they called “one of the greatest material prizes in world history,” a spectacular source of strategic power; if we can control Middle East energy, we can control the world.

 

Take a look at the U.S-British coup in Iran in 1953. Very important event. Its shadows cast over the world until today. Now that was—it was a pretense that it was a part of the Cold War; it had nothing to do with the Cold War. What it had to do with was the usual fear: independent nationalism. And it wasn’t even concerned with access to oil or profits. It was concerned with control, control of the oil resources of Iran and, in fact, of the region. And that’s a theme that runs right through policy decisions. It’s not discussed much, but it’s very important to have control, exactly as State Department pointed out—advisers pointed out in the ’40s. If you can control the oil, you can control most of the world. And that goes on.

 

So far, the threat of the Arab Spring has been pretty well contained. In the oil dictatorships, which are the most important ones for the West, every effort to join the Arab Spring has just been crushed by force. Saudi Arabia was so extreme that when there was an effort to go out into the streets, the security presence was so enormous that people were even afraid to go out. There’s a little discussion of what goes on in Bahrain, where it’s been crushed, but eastern Saudi Arabia was much worse. The emirates totally control. So that’s OK. We managed to ensure that the threat of democracy would be smashed in the most important places.

 

Egypt is an interesting case. It’s an important country, not an oil producer—it is a small one. But in Egypt, the United States followed a standard operating procedure. If any of you are going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it. There’s a standard procedure when one of your favorite dictators gets into trouble. First, you support him as long as possible. But if it becomes really impossible—say, the army turns against him—then you send him out to pasture and get the intellectual class to issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old system as much as possible. There’s case after case of that—Somoza in Nicaragua, Duvalier in Haiti, Marcos in the Philippines, Chun in South Korea, Mobutu in the Congo, over and over. I mean, it takes genius not to see it. And it’s exactly what was done in Egypt and what France tried to do, not quite with as much success, in Tunisia.

 

Well, the future is uncertain, but the threat of democracy so far is contained. And it’s a real threat. I’ll return to that. It’s also to—important to recognize that the decline over the past 50 years is, to a significant extent, self-inflicted, particularly since the ’70s. I’ll go back to that, too. But first let me say a couple of things about the issues that are most important today and that are being ignored or not dealt seriously—dealt with seriously in the electoral campaigns, for good reasons. So let me start with the most important issues. Now there are two of these. They’re of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species depends on them. One is environmental disaster, and the other is nuclear war.

 

I’m not going to take much time reviewing the threats of environmental disaster. Actually, they’re on the front pages almost daily. So, for example, last week the New York Times had a front-page story with the headline, “Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.” The melting this summer was far faster than was predicted by the sophisticated computer models and the most recent United Nations report. It’s now predicted that the summer ice might be gone by 2020. It was assumed before that it may be 2050. They quoted scientists who said this is “a prime example of the built-in conservatism of [our] climate forecasts. As dire [the warnings are] about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions … many of [us] fear [that] they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.” Actually, there’s a climate change study program at MIT, where I am. They’ve been warning about this for years, and repeatedly have been proven right.

 

The Times report discusses, briefly, the severe attack—the severe impact of all of this on the global climate, and it adds, “But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.” That is, to accelerate the catastrophe. It’s quite interesting. It demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain, or perhaps an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see impending peril—these things you sometimes find with young infants: something looks dangerous, close my eyes and won’t look at it.

 

Well, there is another possibility. I mean, maybe humans are somehow trying to fulfill a prediction of great American biologist who died recently, Ernst Mayr. He argued years ago that intelligence seems to be a lethal mutation. He—and he had some pretty good evidence. There’s a notion of biological success, which is how many of you are there around. You know, that’s biological success. And he pointed out that if you look at the tens of billions of species in human—in world history, the ones that are very successful are the ones that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or the ones that have a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They seem to make out fine. But as you move up the scale of what we call intelligence, success declines steadily. When you get up to mammals, it’s very low. There are very few of them around. I mean, there’s a lot of cows; it’s only because we domesticate them. When you get to humans, it’s the same. ‘Til very recently, much too recent a time to show up in any evolutionary accounting, humans were very scattered. There were plenty of other hominids, but they disappeared, probably because humans exterminated them, but nobody knows for sure. Anyhow, maybe we’re trying to show that humans just fit into the general pattern. We can exterminate ourselves, too, the rest of the world with us, and we’re hell bent on it right now.

 

Well, let’s turn to the elections. Both political parties demand that we make the problem worse. In 2008, both party platforms devoted some space to how the government should address climate change. Today, the—in the Republican platform, the issue has essentially disappeared. But the platform does demand that Congress take quick action to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. So let’s make sure to make it worse. And it also demands that we open the Alaska’s Arctic Refuge to drilling—I’m quoting now—in order to take “advantage of all of our American God-given resources.” You can’t disobey God, after all. On environmental policy, the program says, “We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research.” All that’s a code word for climate science: stop funding climate science. Romney himself says there’s no scientific consensus, so we should support more debate and investigation within the scientific community, but no action, except to act to make the problems worse.

 

Well, what about the Democrats? They concede that there’s a problem and advocate that we should work toward an agreement to set emissions limits in unison with other emerging powers. But that’s it. No action. And, in fact, as Obama has emphasized, we have to work hard to gain what he calls a hundred years of energy independence by exploiting domestic or Canadian resources by fracking or other elaborate technologies. Doesn’t ask what the world would look like in a hundred years. So, there are differences. The differences are basically about how enthusiastically the lemmings should march towards the cliff.

 

Let’s turn to the second major issue: nuclear war. That’s also on the front pages daily, but in a way that would seem outlandish to some independent observer viewing what’s going on on earth, and in fact does seem outlandish to a considerable majority of the countries of the world. Now, the current threat, not for the first time, is in the Middle East, focusing on Iran. The general picture in the West is very clear: it’s far too dangerous to allow Iran to reach what’s called “nuclear capability.” That is, the capability enjoyed by many powers, dozens of them, to produce nuclear weapons if they decide to do so. As to whether they’ve decided, U.S. intelligence says it doesn’t know. The International Atomic Energy Agency just produced its most recent report a couple weeks ago, and it concludes—I’ll quote it: it cannot demonstrate “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Now, that is, it can’t demonstrate something which cannot—a condition that can’t be satisfied. There’s no way to demonstrate the absence of the work—that’s convenient—therefore Iran must be denied the right to enrich uranium, that’s guaranteed to every power that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

Well, that’s the picture in the West. That’s not the picture in the rest of the world. As you know, I’m sure, there was just a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement—that’s large majority of the countries in the world and representing most of the world’s population—a meeting in Tehran. And once again, not for the first time, they issued a ringing declaration of support for Iran’s right to enrich uranium, right that every country has that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pretty much the same is true in the Arab world. It’s interesting. I’ll return to that in a moment.

 

There is a basic reason for the concern. It was expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler. He’s the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, which controls nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy. He wrote that “It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East,” one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so. General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran; he was referring to Israel, the country that ranks highest in European polls as the most dangerous country in the world—right above Iran—and, not incidentally, in the Arab world, where the public regard the United States as the second most dangerous country, right after Israel. In the Arab world, Iran, though disliked, ranks far lower as a threat—among the populations, that is, not the dictatorships.

 

With regard to Iranian nuclear weapons, nobody wants them to have them, but in many polls, majorities, sometimes considerable majorities, have said that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons, to balance those of their major threats. Now, there’s a lot of commentary in the Western media, in journals, about Arab attitudes towards Iran. And what you read, commonly, is that the Arabs want decisive action against Iran, which is true of the dictators. It’s not true of the populations. But who cares about the populations, what are called, disparagingly, the Arab street? We don’t care about them. Now that’s a reflection of the extremely deep contempt for democracy among Western elites—I mean, so deep that it can’t be perceived. You know, it’s just kind of like reflexive. The study of popular attitudes in the Arab world—and there is very extensive study by Western polling agencies—it reveals very quickly why the U.S. and its allies are so concerned about the threat of democracy and are doing what they can to prevent it. Just take—they certainly don’t want attitudes like those I just indicated to become policy, while of course issuing rousing statements about our passionate dedication to democracy. Those are relayed obediently by reporters and commentators.

 

Well, unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow inspections at all, refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, has advanced delivery systems. Also, it has a long record of violence and repression. It has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally, in violation of Security Council orders, and many acts of aggression—five times against Lebanon alone, no credible pretext. In the New York Times yesterday, you can read that the Golan Heights are disputed territory, the Syrian Golan Heights. There is a U.N. Security Council resolution, 497, which is unanimous, declaring Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights illegal and demanding that it be rescinded. And in fact, it’s disputed only in Israel and in the New York Times, which in fact is reflecting actual U.S. policy, not formal U.S. policy.

 

Iran has a record of aggression. too. In the last several hundred years, it has invaded and conquered a couple of Arab islands. Now that was under the Shah, U.S.-imposed dictator with U.S. support. That’s actually the only case in several hundred years.

 

Meanwhile, the severe threats of attack continue—you’ve just been hearing them at the U.N.—from the United States, but particularly Israel. Now there is a reaction to this at the highest level in the United States. Leon Panetta, secretary of defense, he said that we don’t want to attack Iran, we hope that Israel won’t attack Iran, but Israel is a sovereign country, and they have to make their own decisions about what they’ll do. You might ask what the reaction would be if you reverse the cast of characters. And those of you who have antiquarian interests might remember that there’s a document called the United Nations Charter, the foundation of modern international law, which bars the threat or use of force in international affairs. Now, there are two rogue states—United States and Israel—for whom—which regard the Charter and international law as just a boring irrelevance, so, do what they like. And that’s accepted.

 

Well, these are not just words; there is an ongoing war, includes terrorism, assassination of nuclear scientists, includes economic war. U.S. threats—not international ones—U.S. threats have cut Iran out of the international financial system. Western military analysts identify what they call “weapons of finance” as acts of war that justify violent response—when they’re directed against us, that is. Cutting Iran out of global financial markets is different.

 

The United States is openly carrying out extensive cyber war against Iran. That’s praised. The Pentagon regards cyber war as an equivalent to an armed attack, which justifies military response, but that’s of course when it’s directed against us. The leading liberal figure in the State Department, Harold Koh—he’s the top State Department legal adviser—he says that cyber war is an act of war if it results in significant destruction—like the attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. And such acts, he says, justify force in self-defense. But, of course, he means only attacks against the United States or its clients.

 

Well, Israel’s lethal armory, which is enormous, includes advanced submarines, recently provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear-tipped missiles, and these are sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf or nearby if Israel proceeds with its plans to bomb Iran or, more likely, I suspect, to try to set up conditions in which the United States will do so. And the United States, of course, has a vast array of nuclear weapons all over the world, but surrounding the region, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, including enough firepower in the Persian Gulf to destroy most of the world.

 

Another story that’s in the news right now is the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor in Osirak, which is suggested as a model for Israeli bombing of Iran. It’s rarely mentioned, however, that the bombing of the Osirak reactor didn’t end Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. It initiated it. There was no program before it. And the Osirak reactor was not capable of producing uranium for nuclear weapons. But, of course, after the bombings, Saddam immediately turned to developing a nuclear weapons program. And if Iran is bombed, it’s almost certain to proceed just as Saddam Hussein did after the Osirak bombing.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor and author, Noam Chomsky, continues in a moment. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Professor Chomsky will next look at nuclear weapons race, as this week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, often referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Back in a moment. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re on a 100-city tour, today in Portland, Oregon. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our hour today with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky. His recent talk entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: In a few weeks, we’ll be commemorating the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Now, those are the words of historian, Kennedy adviser, Arthur Schlesinger. He was referring, of course, to the October 1962 missile crisis, “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Others agree. Now, at that time, Kennedy raised the nuclear alert to the second-highest level, just short of launching weapons. He authorized NATO aircraft, with Turkish or other pilots, to take off, fly to Moscow and drop bombs, setting off a likely nuclear conflagration.

 

At the peak of the missile crisis, Kennedy estimated the probability of nuclear war at perhaps 50 percent. It’s a war that would destroy the Northern Hemisphere, President Eisenhower had warned. And facing that risk, Kennedy refused to agree publicly to an offer by Kruschev to end the crisis by simultaneous withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey. These were obsolete missiles. They were already being replaced by invulnerable Polaris submarines. But it was felt necessary to firmly establish the principle that Russia has no right to have any offensive weapons anywhere beyond the borders of the U.S.S.R., even to defend an ally against U.S. attack. That’s now recognized to be the prime reason for deploying missiles there, and actually a plausible one. Meanwhile, the United States must retain the right to have them all over the world, targeting Russia or China or any other enemy. In fact, in 1962, the United—we just recently learned, the United States had just secretly deployed nuclear missiles to Okinawa aimed at China. That was a moment of elevated regional tensions. All of that is very consistent with grand area conceptions, the ones I mentioned that were developed by Roosevelt’s planners.

 

Well, fortunately, in 1962, Kruschev backed down. But the world can’t be assured of such sanity forever. And particularly threatening, in my view, is that intellectual opinion, and even scholarship, hail Kennedy’s behavior as his finest hour. My own view is it’s one of the worst moments in history. Inability to face the truth about ourselves is all too common a feature of the intellectual culture, also personal life, has ominous implications.

 

Well, 10 years later, in 1973, during the Israel-Arab War, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. The purpose was to warn the Russians to keep hands off while he was—so we’ve recently learned—he was secretly informing Israel that they were authorized to violate the ceasefire that had been imposed jointly by the U.S. and Russia. When Reagan came into office a couple of years later, the United States launched operations probing Russian defenses, flying in to Russia to probe defenses, and simulating air and naval attacks, meanwhile placing Pershing missiles in Germany that had a five-minute flight time to Russian targets. They were providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability. The Russians, not surprisingly, were deeply concerned. Actually, that led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first-strike launch just minutes before launch. Now, that’s after automated systems gave false alarms. We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone. Actually, it’s a near miracle that nuclear war has been avoided so far.

 

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the crises that led to that, especially Kashmir, remain. Both India and Pakistan have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and both of them have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs, actually, until today, in the case of India, which is now a U.S. ally.

 

War threats in the Middle East, which could become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers. Well, fortunately, there’s a way out of this, a simple way. There’s a way to mitigate, maybe end, whatever threat Iran is alleged to pose. Very simple: move towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Now, the opportunity is coming again this December. There’s an international conference scheduled to deal with this proposal. It has overwhelming international support, including, incidentally, a majority of the population in Israel. That’s fortunately. Unfortunately, it’s blocked by the United States and Israel. A couple of days ago, Israel announced that it’s not going to participate, and it won’t consider the matter until there’s a general regional peace. Obama takes the same stand. He also insists that any agreement must exclude Israel and even must exclude calls for other nations—meaning the U.S.—to provide information about Israeli nuclear activities.

 

The United States and Israel can delay regional peace indefinitely. They’ve been doing that for 35 years on Israel-Palestine, virtual international isolation. It’s a long, important story that I don’t have time to go into here. So, therefore, there’s no hope for an easy way to end what the West regards as the most severe current crisis—no way unless there’s large-scale public pressure. But there can’t be large-scale public pressure unless people at least know about it. And the media have done a stellar job in averting that danger: nothing reported about the conference or about any of the background, no discussion, apart from specialist arms control journals where you can read about it. So, that blocks the easy way to end the worst existing crisis, unless people somehow find a way to break through this.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky spoke on September 27th of this year at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” If you’d like to get a copy of today’s broadcast, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And I’ll be speaking along with Professor Chomsky and Juan Cole of the University of Michigan in Princeton, New Jersey, on November 11th at 1:30. You can go to our website at democracynow.org for details.

 

 

When war passes for foreign policy #Psainath


October 25, 2012

P. Sainath

25THWar
25THWar

In the last Obama-Romney debate, there was absolutely no mention of the financial costs, casualties and lessons from America’s military outings

“Take the profit out of war,” said Kevin Zeese, one of the more important activists of the Occupy Movement in the United States, “and you take out war.” His audience was made up mainly of U.S. war veterans gathered in New York to observe — and protest — the 11th anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan. That is the longest war the United States has ever waged. The veterans ranged from those who had seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan to many who had fought in Vietnam. There was also one 88-year-old World War II veteran.

That link between profit and war sticks out in a recent Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation. The U.S. Congress could be spending $3 billion on tanks the army does not want. That includes repairing many M1 Abrams tanks the army won’t use. As Aaron Mehta, one of the authors of the CPI report puts it: the army “has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom.” Congress disagreed.

Of course, the lawmakers batting for the tanks spoke about jobs. Their concern, in theory, is for the workers involved. If their factories shut down, the workers making the tanks could lose their jobs. But it seems the lawmakers’ own jobs were the real cause of their worry. The tank’s manufacturer, say the report’s authors “has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade.” A sound move, it seems. The CPI studied spending and lobbying records that showed donations targeting “the lawmakers who sit on four key committees that will decide the tank’s fate.” It also found that: “Those lawmakers have received $5.3 million since 2001 from employees of the tank’s manufacturer, General Dynamics, and its political action committee.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost anywhere between $2.5-$4 trillion. In a nation with a $16 trillion debt, that should count for something. In the “third and final” Obama-Romney debate (on foreign policy), it didn’t. Those numbers didn’t merit the slightest mention by either man. Obama claimed to be holding the line on military spending. Romney promised to raise it. As early as 2008, economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz co-authored a book with Linda J. Bilmes (an expert on U.S. budgeting, at Harvard) titled The Three Trillion Dollar War. That prophecy is pretty much on track. It could even prove an underestimate. As Bilmes pointed out in The Boston Globe, “Half of all U.S. veterans from this (Afghan) war are claiming disability benefits, racking up trillions of dollars in long-term support costs.”

The link with the economy, apart from with foreign policy, point out Stiglitz and Bilmes, is huge. “Spending on the wars and on added security at home has accounted for more than one-quarter of the total increase in U.S. government debt since 2001.” And this war was pursued without raising taxes. Indeed, with tax cuts for the rich thrown in at the same time, in both wars, during the Bush years.

Human costs

About 6,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s twice the number of victims in the dreadful attacks of 9/11. Besides, suicides among soldiers on active duty now average one every 24 hours. The death count does not include hundreds of others working for private military “contractors.” Elsewhere in the world, they’d be called mercenaries. Many dirty chores were outsourced to such forces as the U.S. tried to wind down its presence.

Obama said in the debate that he had come with a promise to “get us out of Iraq” and “we did that.” He had, therefore kept his promise of 2008. He failed to mention that in that year, he also ran with the line that Afghanistan was a worthy war. As President, his “surge” — adding 30,000 troops there for a while — has failed. The real task is how to get out without disgrace.

The debate had not a word on the numbers of casualties and deaths. Not a word on the financial costs of the wars and their link to the economy. Not a whisper on the lessons to be drawn for U.S. foreign policy. That, in a debate on foreign policy.

The human costs to others have been awful, too. No one knows for sure how many civilians have died as a result of the two wars. The estimates range from one hundred thousand to several times that number. As reported in these columns in 2008, a little over three years after the war in Iraq began in 2003, over 6,50,000 Iraqis were estimated to have lost their lives. A survey by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad had put it bluntly: “As many as 6,54,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions. The deaths from all causes — violent and non-violent — are over and above the estimated 1,43,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.” The survey has been attacked, but few deny the death count has been massive. Iraq’s overall mortality rate more than doubled from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons before the war began to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006. Also, many more civilians have died since the time of that study.

By late 2006, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had come up with other kinds of numbers. Close to 1.8 million Iraqis had fled their country since the war began. Another 1.6 million made up the internally displaced.

“What an incredible waste of human life these wars inflict,” Paul Appel, a Vietnam war veteran, told us at the October 7 meeting in New York. “Looking back, I was having to face that before I even left for Vietnam. I was given the job of letting parents know their sons had died in the war. I had to go along with the army priest. Once, I was left to do it on my own.” Appel is a farmer from Illinois. With him was Dud Hendricks, a former sports coach from Maine. And many others from modest backgrounds. A few hours after we met, they were all arrested and led away in cuffs. The vets wouldn’t leave the Vietnam War Memorial where they had gathered, by 10 p.m. A highly embarrassed police squad took them away.

None of the four candidates for president or vice-president has ever served in the military. At the debate that night, Romney declared his firm support for using Drones in the way they are now employed in Pakistan. Obama smirked. It was a policy he had driven big time. That these have caused very high civilian casualties did not matter. The drones are now over Libya as well. His trump card, of course, was the killing of Osama bin Laden. His huge foreign policy achievement. Yet several groups associated with Bin Laden were not overwrought by his death. Their disconnected leader had become an embarrassment.

The debaters revelled in clichés. Obama: “America is the one indispensable nation in the world.” (So there are many that are dispensable?) “I’ve got a different vision for America.” Romney: “America must be strong.” “I’m optimistic about the future.”

So where does it go from here? It goes to a zillion more television ads adding even more to this insanely expensive contest. The pundits are already working out in which states the campaigns will cut back on spending in order to push more money into some swing states.

It is not easy to beat an incumbent American President. In the last 112 years, only four elected presidents seeking re-election have been defeated. (Gerald Ford who lost in 1976 does not figure in that list. He was not elected but became President when Richard Nixon quit in disgrace. In 80 years since 1932, only Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) have been beaten.

Yet, Obama, while having that great edge, does not have it all sewn up. It’s easy to forget that in 2008, just before Wall Street hit the fan, John McCain was slightly ahead of Obama in the polls. The meltdown that year transformed the scene. The state of the economy hardly gives Obama a great boost this time around.

Meanwhile, the pundits are back to guessing whose body lingo was better in the final debate. Who looked “more presidential.” A more cutting response to that process, though, comes from Andrew Levine in CounterPunch.org. “What does being a better debater have to do with anything? Presidents don’t debate. The candidates might as well compete by jousting or pole-vaulting.”

sainath.p@thehindu.co.in

 

#RIP Eric Hobsbawm: a talented historian who outshone his Marxist ideology


 

 

 

Oliver Kamm

Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian, died this morning, aged 95. I’ve written critically in the past about Hobsbawm’s politics and their influence on his writings about the 20th century. In the last conversation I had with Christopher Hitchens, we touched on the issue. Hitch was scathing that Hobsbawm’s eventual parting from Communism was due to a simple failure, at the end of the catastrophic history of the USSR, to renew his subscription.

It was an extraordinary failure of imagination that caused Hobsbawm to write, with Raymond Williams, a notorious Cambridge pamphlet supporting the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939-40. As Williams later recalled (in Politics and Letters, 1981, p.43), without shame: “We were given the job as people who could write quickly, from historical materials supplied for us. You were often in there writing about topics you did not know very much about, as a professional with words.”

Hobsbawm was a young man at the outbreak of the Second World War, but as far as I know he never expressed contrition for this act of intellectual prostitution in the service of totalitarianism. (In his memoirs, by the way, Hobsbawm claims that the pamphlet has been lost. It hasn’t: I have a copy.)

I mention this, because you can’t understand Hobsbawm without grasping his commitment to what came to be known as Eurocommunism – an adherence to Marxist theory allied with an acceptance of Western parliamentary democracy. And Eurocommunism, despite its ideological compromises, was deeply implicated in associating with Soviet Communism.

Hobsbawm was also an outstanding historian – and you can’t understand him, either, without having read his three-volume account of England in the 19th century. He was a superb economic historian who, in spite of his Marxism, never underestimated the role of the individual in historical change (as assessed in his book Primitive Rebels, among others). On my only meeting with him, I found him a man of deep intellect, humility and charm. It was one of the ironies of his generation that ideology could seize some of its most talented figures. The talent, in Hobsbawm’s case, superseded it, even so.

@oliverkamm

Read The Times obituary for Eric Hobsbawm

 

Sayonara nuclear power


Editorial- The Hindu , sEPT 22, 2012

The much needed big push towards low-cost,, highly-efficient, cutting-edge renewable energy technologies was lacking till recently. Even the compulsion to cut down carbon dioxide emission levels by 2020 failed to overcome the inertia. But the landscape has squarely and dramatically changed following the 9 magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami waves that resulted in the catastrophic accident in the Fukushima nuclear reactor units in Japan. In what may appear as well co-ordinated announcements made very recently, Japan and France, both major nuclear power champions, have announced their departure from nuclear energy dependence. If March 11, 2011 has gone down in history as a dark day for Japan, the government’s September 14 decision to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 by closing down all 50 reactors will forever be remembered as a defining moment. This will, in all probability, mark the beginning of a renewable energy technology revolution. If after World War II, the Japanese people transformed their nation into one of the world’s most industrially developed ones, the possibility of the country producing an encore with alternative energy technology developments cannot be ruled out.

Japan is not alone. The Fukushima shiver has had its reverberations in France as well. By 2025, France will cut its reliance on nuclear energy by 25 per cent from the current level of 75 per cent by shutting down 24 reactors. Six months after the Fukushima catastrophe and following Germany’s decision to get out of nuclear energy by 2022, Siemens had made public its decision to exit nuclear power business. The engineering giant intends to shift its focus to alternative energies. By 2020 Germany intends to derive 35 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. While critics decry Japan’s plan to wait another three decades before switching off its last nuclear plant, the decision is not without basis. Some 30 per cent of the country’s power requirement is met by these plants. Decommissioning operating plants that have not completed their lifetime will mean economical suicide. This period also gives Japan the time to develop and scale up revolutionary technologies that are better adapted to harness power from even very low wind speed, and low-intensity sunlight for the better part of the year in countries situated in higher latitudes. The focus will also be on developing technologies for harnessing wave energy. To begin with, the cost of production using these alternative technologies may be higher than even nuclear. But costs are bound to fall over time and wider acceptance is inevitable.

Keywords: renewable energy technologies, nuclear power, alternative energy, Fukushima catastrophe, Kudankulam

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