Friday, August 7, 2015

Radiation Secrecy Exposed  (Nukes Loosed by Swaggering Boys?) Children Running Military Ops (Old Saggy-Skinned/Minded Children? )   But Mafia Family Swears It Didn't Plan 9/11  (Kagans Raise Their Hands High) Apple Cheats Again  (Venezuela's Baby Doc?) Defense Contractors Spend Millions Get Billions  (Assange Assaulted by Swedes?)

Why Are Americans Switching to Renewable Energy? Because It’s Actually Cheaper

Deborah Lawrence had been watching a once-empty parking lot near Midland-Odessa, Texas, fill up with idled drilling rigs usually at work plumbing for oil in the nearby Permian Basin. In January she noticed 10 rigs, then 17 a few weeks later. As winter turned to spring, the number climbed to 35.

That trend has continued across the country. By the end of July, the nationwide rig count had slipped 54 percent since the same time a year ago, indicating distress in the oil and gas industry. The most obvious culprit is the precipitous drop in crude prices. But the trouble goes deeper, as Lawrence knows—and she isn’t just a casual observer. Lawrence is a former Wall Street financial consultant who now runs the Energy Policy Forum, helping to identify and analyze trends in the industry.

Right now, our fossil-fueled energy path has us on a roller-coaster ride and we are plunging, white knuckled. Production in the United States from the exploitation of shale oil (or tight oil), which accounts for 45 percent of the country’s oil production, will take a hit if prices continue to remain well below the $100 mark. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been cut, and some debt-laden companies may go belly up.

Happy Hiroshima Remembrance Day?

The 'Sanitised Narrative' of Hiroshima's Atomic Bombing

The US has always insisted that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end World War Two. But it is a narrative that has little emphasis on the terrible human cost.

"I think we as a society need to revisit this point in history and ask ourselves how America came to a point where it was okay to destroy entire cities, to firebomb entire cities.

"I think that's what's really necessary if we are going to really make sense of what happened on that day."
A conventional view in the US is that while terrible, the use of the bomb brought an end to the war
It isn't the sort of thing you often hear said by Americans about Hiroshima. The first President George Bush famously said that issuing an apology for Hiroshima would be "rank revisionism" and he would never do it.

The conventional wisdom in the United States is that the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, and because of that it was justified - end of story.

Is that really the end of the story?

It's certainly a convenient one. But it is one that was constructed after the war, by America's leaders, to justify what they had done. And what they had done was, by any measure, horrendous.

Tokyo had already been devastated by waves of US firebombing
It didn't start on 6 August. It had started months before with the fire bombing of Tokyo.

On 9 March 1945, 25 sq km (9.7 sq miles) of Tokyo were destroyed in a huge firestorm. The death toll was as large, or even larger, than the first day at Hiroshima. From April to July the relentless bombing continued in other parts of Japan.

Then came Hiroshima.

'There was no sound at all'

Keiko Ogura had just celebrated her eighth birthday. Her home was on the northern edge of Hiroshima behind a low hill. At 08:10 on 6 August, she was out on the street in front of the house.
The bomb was set to explode 500m (0.3 miles) above the ground for maximum destructive effect
"I was surrounded by a tremendous flash and blast at the same time," she says.

"I couldn't breathe. I was knocked to the ground and became unconscious. When I awoke I thought it was already night because I could not see anything, there was no sound at all."

What Keiko witnessed in the following hours is hard to comprehend.

By mid-morning, survivors of the blast began pouring out of the city looking for help. Many were in a terrible state.

"Most of the people who were fleeing tried to go to the hillside. There was a Shinto shrine near our house so many came here," she says.

"Their skin was peeling off and hanging. At first I saw some and I thought they were holding a rag or something, but really it was skin peeling off. I noticed their burned hair. There was a very bad smell."

A deliberate civilian target

Eighteen-year-old Shizuko Abe was staggering out of the city, the whole right side of her body burned, her skin hanging off. Now 88, she still bears the terrible imprint of the bomb on her face and hands.

Many of those who did not die from the initial impact of the bomb were left with horrific injuries
"I was burned badly on my right side and my left hand was also burned from the bomb. Fire was coming closer… We were told to run to rivers when hit by air raids so people jumped into the rivers.

"So many bodies were floating in the river that I could not even see the water," she says.

Somehow, despite the agony, she staggered to a medical station.

"They did not even have any dressing for the wounds. Many injured people lay their bodies down under the roof, so I found a place there as well to lie down. People around me were calling out 'Mother it hurts, Father it hurts'.

"When I stopped hearing that, I realised they had died right next to me."

The crew of the Enola Gay were treated as heroes for dropping an A-bomb on the heavily populated city
Hiroshima was not a military target. The crew of the Enola Gay did not aim at the docks, or large industrial facilities.

Their target was the geographical centre of the city. The bomb was set to explode 500m (0.3 miles) above the ground for maximum destructive effect.

On the ground many survived the initial blast, but were trapped in the wreckage of their homes under wooden beams and heavy tiled roofs. Then the fires began.

Ms Abe remembers hearing the cries for help from beneath the debris as the flames swept forward.

"They were such sad voices calling out for help. Even 70 years later, I can still hear them calling out for help," she says.

Children who survived Hiroshima's bombing wear masks to cope with the smell of tens of thousands of corpses
No-one is sure how many died on that first day. Estimates start at 70,000. More than eight out of 10 were civilians.

If you look up "Hiroshima in colour" online, you will find some remarkable film that is now kept in the US national archives.

A US military team and Japanese camera crew shot more than 20 hours of film in March 1946. It is the most complete and detailed visual record of the after effects of the first atomic attack.

There is high-quality colour footage of the horrific scarring caused by flash burns from the bomb. There are injuries that had never been seen before.

'They should not thank the bomb'

What is all the more remarkable is that the film was not seen in public until the early 1980s. It was marked secret and suppressed by the US government for more than 30 years.

Instead, Americans were told a sanitised narrative of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: that a great scientific endeavour had brought quick victory, and saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides.

Radiation poisoning, a previously unknown condition, would claim thousands more victims in the weeks after the bombing
Decades later when Ms Ogura travelled to the Washington DC to see the unveiling of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Museum, she was astonished to find this version of history still holding sway.

"Many American people said to me, '"Congratulations, you could come here thanks to the bombing! Without the bombing you would have to do hara-kiri, you know, commit suicide'."

"That is a very awful excuse. We do not blame the Americans, but they should not say that thanks to the bomb so many people could survive."

A lifetime of radiation secrecy

The atomic bombing has left one final legacy that sets it apart from all the other horrors of World War II.

In the weeks after the bombing otherwise healthy people began dying of a strange new illness. First they lost their appetite, then they began to run a high fever.

Finally strange red blotches began appearing under their skin. No-one knew it at the time, but these people were dying from radiation poisoning.

To this day many hibakusha keep their pasts a secret, afraid that their families will be discriminated against because of the fear of radiation.

"I had bad burns and looked deformed so I could not keep it secret," says Ms Abe. "My children were discriminated against. They were called 'A-bomb children'."

Tears fill her eyes as she describes what happened to them.
. . . It is also true that terror bombing was not invented by the United States. The Nazis unleashed it at Guernica in 1937 and again on British cities in 1940.

The Japanese bombed Chongqing for six years. The British destroyed Dresden and many other German cities.

But no other bombing campaign in WW2 was as intense in the destruction of civilian lives as the US bombing of Japan in 1945. Between 300,000 and 900,000 people died.

As Jamal Maddox put it to me so well, how was it that the country that entered the war to save civilisation ended it by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians?

"Most of Nagasaki's residents had no warning": The day we dropped the bomb

“Most of Nagasaki’s Residents Had No Warning:”  The Day We Dropped the Bomb

At its burst point, the center of the explosion reached temperatures higher than at the center of the sun, and the velocity of its shock wave exceeded the speed of sound. A tenth of a millisecond later, all of the materials that had made up the bomb converted into an ionized gas, and electromagnetic waves were released into the air. The thermal heat of the bomb ignited a fireball with an internal temperature of over 540,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Within one second, the blazing fireball expanded from 52 feet to its maximum size of 750 feet in diameter. Within three seconds, the ground below reached an estimated 5,400 to 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Directly beneath the bomb, infrared heat rays instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized internal organs.

Below live the ghouls (arising from the spirits above) who brought us the horrific aftereffects of 9/11.

Hard to disagree?

The Day After 9/11, Kagan Father-Son Duo Said ‘Take the War’ to Palestine

on Comments

Here’s some radical news.  A video has emerged with a montage of clips from an interview recorded the day after 9/11 featuring Donald and Frederick Kagan, two members of a leading neoconservative family. This father/son Kagan duo were advocating responding to the 9/11 attacks by invading Palestine and taking out the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking of those who had attacked America, they said with assurance that we should attack Palestine. “We have to take the war to these people,” Frederick Kagan said.

Screenshot: Don and Fred Kagan

Donald Kagan is a Greek scholar at Yale, so he must know. Son Frederick is at the American Enterprise Institute. The year before they’d penned a book called While America Sleeps.

Milt Rosenberg: Are you suggesting that we’ve got to go to war or rather we should..

Frederick Kagan: We are at war. We are at war. We have no option. See, I would like to see military operations commencing immediately.

Donald Kagan: The longer we go chasing around the actual perpetrators our job is going to be next to impossible.

Frederick Kagan: I didn’t say that we know exactly who conducted this attack. What I pointed out is that there are a few groups out there that are dedicated to conducting exactly this sort of attack and I said that we should attack those groups regardless of whether we know exactly which one specifically conducted this. But we hardly need any more evidence to know that it would be a very good idea to take Bin Laden out even if he had nothing to do with this.

Milt Rosenberg: He’s done enough already is your point.

Frederick Kagan: Exactly

Milt Rosenberg: Who else is?

Donald Kagan: And one key place is certainly the Palestinian Authority, these guys are at the center of all sorts of terrorist organizations that we’ve seen operate before.

Screenshot: 1:46

Screenshot: 1:46

Frederick Kagan:  And we also know furthermore where they’re located. We know that they have extensive bases in Palestine and Palestinian area. —- We have to take the war to these people, I think we should hit them immediately.

Milt Rosenberg: How? Airpower?

Frederick Kagan: No,  I would prefer to see ground forces go into Palestine and hunt out Hezbollah. I would like to see Delta Force raids,  I would like to see the panoply of covert operations —- but I would also like to see American ground forces deployed into Palestine to restore peace in that area.

Published on the new blog of Robbie Martin, named after his upcoming documentary film, A Very Heavy Agenda, Martin writes he was “archive digging” for the film when he discovered the clip from an old radio program on WGN AM, a Chicago radio station. (Martin is a radio host himself, co-hosting Media Roots Radio with Abby Martin).

The revelation of this information is astounding.

Martin offers a brief forward on his blog – a run down on “insane warmongering neoconservatives”– mentions Frederick’s bother Robert Kagan is a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, which proselytized the Iraq war by saying Israel’s war is our war, and married to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (of “Fuck the EU” fame).

Speaking of marriages, Frederick is the husband of Kim Kagan, founder of the DC neocon war spinning think tank Institute for the Study of War (most famous for the Elizabeth O’Bagy scandal, and Bill Kristol is on the board of directors – what’s not to like eh?).

Martin picks up a little more transcript, the whole thing is a shocker. His headline, Neocons Fred & Don Kagan wanted a US military invasion of Palestine in response to 9/11, pretty much sums it up. The entire appearance (available here) is about 20 minutes. Martin edited down to 3 minutes using dashes where he edited it. It’s “the worst stuff they say but nothing is taken out of context,” he told me. Check it out.

*The transcript above is transcribed from the video, of clips edited  from the interview. Listen to the entire 20 minute interview on WGN’s "Remembering 9/11," Extension 720 – September 11 and 12, 2001.

(Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for "Mondoweiss," a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani)

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Seems that the folks at Apple are about as truthful about their good deeds as the folks at Microsoft.

Funny how everything comes out eventually, isn't it?

Why Is Apple Lying About Powering Its Data Centers With Renewable Energy?

05 August 2015

By Nicki Lisa Cole, Truthout | Report

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)Why has Apple, which initially told the truth about its energy acquisition, changed its tune to one that is patently false? (Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)
It seems that these days, everywhere you look, journalists and environmental activists are praising Apple for powering its data centers with "100 percent renewable energy," as the company puts it.

Greenpeace named Apple tops in its 2015 "Clicking Clean" report and commended the company for being transparent about its energy use, pledging to power its data centers entirely with renewable energy, seeking to reduce and mitigate its carbon footprint, and advancing the cause of renewable energy by pushing utility companies to make it available to both large and small customers.

Countless headlines praising Apple followed the May 2015 publication of the Greenpeace report, and many others lauded the company's announced plans to pursue renewable energy initiatives for facilities in Arizona, Denmark, Ireland and China.

But dig below the slick PR surface of Apple's claims and the celebratory headlines, and one finds that the jewel of Apple's data centers, its facility in Maiden, North Carolina, is not powered by renewable energy at all, though the company states in its 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report that it has been "100% renewable since opening June 2010."

The company's claims that its data centers are powered by "100% renewable energy" are simply not true.

Since 2013, Apple has gone to great lengths to assert this point. On its environmental website Apple notes that powering the data center with "renewable sources," along with several other corporate facilities, was a highlight of 2012. Remarking on Apple's accomplishments in 2013, the website states that the company "powers all its data centers ... with 100 percent renewable energy."

Getting down to the details, Apple reports in its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report that 76 percent of the data center's energy was generated on-site by two photovoltaic solar arrays and its fleet of biogas-powered fuel cells (about 20 percent each per solar array, and 37 percent from the fuel cells).

Apple states that the remainder of the energy required to power the center was provided by NC GreenPower.

But all of this is a lie. The company actually buys all of the energy it needs for this facility from Duke Energy Carolinas (Duke), which by March 2015 had less than 0.02 percent renewable energy in its grid mix. About 33 percent of the energy Duke sells comes from nuclear, half is from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), and 15 percent comes from hydroelectric sources.

The several-year-old relationship between Apple and Duke was first made public by an April 2012 report by Robert McMillan for "Wired," which referenced an internal Duke document that describes in detail how Duke landed Apple as a customer. (Following McMillan's article, Duke scrubbed the document from their website, but "Wired" archived the PDF.)

To Apple's credit, though the company's executives are lying about using it, Apple is in fact generating 167 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy at the facility via its two solar arrays and fuel cells. In accordance with North Carolina law, Apple must sell this energy to the utility that it buys its energy from:  Duke. Sam Watson, general counsel of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, confirmed this arrangement in June 2015.

Purchasing offsets is not the same as actually powering something with renewable energy.

But what about the energy Apple says that it is buying from NC GreenPower to provide the final 24 percent of the center's needs? That energy does not exist. Instead, Apple buys renewable energy certificates to offset its reliance on Duke's dirty energy. Katie Shepherd Lebrato, the marketing and communications manager of NC GreenPower, confirmed that Apple has had this arrangement in place since 2012.

That Lebrato dates the relationship between NC GreenPower and Apple to 2012 raises questions about whether or not Apple actually offset the energy needs of the center, which came online in 2010, with renewable energy certificates from another source. Apple purchased the land for the center and began construction on it in 2009, but there is no mention of it in the company's discussion of renewable energy initiatives in its 2010 Facilities Report, nor in the 2011 report.

The first official mention of the Maiden data center came in Apple's 2012 Facilities Report, which suggested that it would be powered by renewable energy at some point in the future.

Then, in its 2013 report, Apple provided a lengthy and contradictory description of how it powers the center, stating that the renewable energy it generates on-site "displaces dirtier forms of energy, such as coal," but then states that it purchases renewable energy certificates from NC GreenPower because direct access to renewable sources is not available in the state.

What all of this amounts to is a boldfaced lie on Apple's part. The company's claims that its data centers are powered by "100% renewable energy" are simply not true, given that the Maiden center - one of the company's largest - is powered by a mix of nuclear and fossil fuels. Through generating solar and fuel cell energy on-site, selling it to Duke and by purchasing renewable energy certificates, what Apple is actually doing is offsetting the carbon footprint of this center.

This is a common practice for companies seeking to mitigate their production of greenhouse gases. It's likely also something that many of "Truthout" 's readers have done to offset emissions from air travel.

But the fact of the matter is, purchasing offsets is not the same as actually powering something with renewable energy. The big difference lies in the very real carbon dioxide emissions that are created by the operation of this data center.

Apple's data shows that annual emissions from this facility are on an upward trajectory.

Explaining why this distinction matters, Dr. Christine Shearer, program director at CoalSwarm, said the problem with offsets and renewable energy certificates is that "the reduction in overall emissions is hard to verify. The projects are difficult to separate from reductions that would have occurred regardless, and they can create perverse incentives to keep polluting activities legal."

An Apple spokesperson who the author has previously communicated with did not respond to questions sent by email at the end of July about why Apple is misrepresenting how the Maiden data center is powered, and why it began lying after initially telling the truth about it (albeit in an obscure manner). This email also included a request for emissions data for the center for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

However, chronology suggests that this misrepresentation is a cornerstone of the company's environmentally oriented rebranding effort that launched in 2013 and included the hiring of Lisa Jackson, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the position of vice president for environmental initiatives (now vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives). This branding effort and the energy initiatives tied to it focused on Apple's data centers after the company's reliance on fossil fuel energy was publicly criticized by Greenpeace.

Jackson told this lie in her first formal dispatch for the company - a blog posted in honor of Earth Day on Apple's site in 2014. In it, she wrote, "every one of our data centers is powered entirely by clean sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. So whenever you download a song, update an app, or ask Siri a question, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature." This post was accompanied by a photo of one of the solar arrays in Maiden.

Since then, the lie has been a centerpiece of Apple's environmentally oriented branding, "offsetting" examination of the actual carbon emissions generated by this facility.

In 2014 alone, by sourcing its power from Duke, the Maiden data center generated 92,306 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions - a figure helpfully provided by Apple in its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report, meant to show how much emissions the center did not create.

Why has Apple, which initially told the truth about its energy acquisition, changed its tune to one that is patently false?

All told, the center, which has been operational since 2010, generated an estimated 243,928 metric tons of carbon dioxide through the fall of 2014. That's equivalent to adding more than 51,000 passenger cars to the road, or burning 262 million pounds of coal. (This figure was reached using emissions data provided by Apple's 2013 Facilities Report, and the "default emissions" listed in its 2014 and 2015 Environmental Responsibility Reports.)
Given that Apple still has the same deal in place with Duke for fiscal year 2015, it can be expected that the data center will produce at least another 92,306 metric tons of carbon dioxide - the 2014 figure - by fall of this year, and annually into the future.

In fact, Apple's data shows that annual emissions from this facility are on an upward trajectory, having grown 43 percent from 2012 to 2013, and 22 percent from 2013 to 2014. Further, a 2015 permit granted to Apple by Catawba County shows that the company is in the process of building another data center next to the existing one that will increase energy needs at this location by 22 percent, and perhaps more in the future, given that the permit includes an additional 100,000 square foot parcel that is not yet in development.

What's more, the "biogas" fuel cells Apple claims to draw 37 percent of the Maiden center's power from are not actually powered by biogas, but regular old natural gas, according to an April 2012 legal filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission on behalf of Apple. Here too, as it does with its solar arrays and renewable energy certificates, Apple creates an offset for its energy consumption by purchasing and pumping actual biogas into natural gas pipelines, location unknown.

And when Duke's grid fails, Apple will rely on backup diesel-powered generators to run the facility, which can burn as much as 429,600 gallons of diesel fuel stored in on-site tanks, according to a March 2015 permit filed with the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission. According to the EPA, this equates to another 4,325 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions just waiting to be expelled at this "renewably powered" data center.

So the question remains, why lie? Why has Apple, which initially told the truth about its energy acquisition and usage in North Carolina, changed its tune to one that is patently false? Is claiming that its data centers are "100% powered by renewable energy" really that important to the company's $118 billion brand? Perhaps so, given how many journalists and activists have happily parroted this claim.

Did you know that one of Simón Bolívar's descendants has been adopted by (or joined on his own volition) the rightwingers in Venezuela? Talk about generations improving their economic lot.

No wonder we have no idea of what's happening there from the mainstream media.

The Making of Leopoldo López:  An Investigation Into Venezuela's Most Prominent Opposition Figure

05 August 2015

By Amy Goodman and Juan González
"Democracy Now!"

"The Making of Leopoldo López:  A Closer Look at the Democratic Bona Fides of the Rock Star of Venezuela's Opposition." That's the headline to a new investigation into Venezuela's most prominent opposition leader who has been jailed since February 2014. President Nicolás Maduro dismisses him as a criminal. But López's supporters call him a political prisoner and accuse Maduro of silencing a dissenting voice. We speak with Roberto Lovato about his new piece in "Foreign Policy." Lovato is a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show with a major investigation into the jailed leader of Venezuela’s opposition movement, Leopoldo López. Last February, López turned himself in to authorities after they issued a warrant for his arrest for inciting violent anti-government protests that left more than 40 people dead. President Nicolás Maduro dismisses him as a criminal. But López’s supporters call him a political prisoner and accuse Maduro is silencing a voice of dissent.

AMY GOODMAN: In a new report in "Foreign Policy," journalist Roberto Lovato draws on interviews, U.S. State Department cables released by "WikiLeaks," archived video to profile López. His article is titled "The Making of Leopoldo López: A Closer Look at the Democratic Bona Fides of the Rock Star of Venezuela’s Opposition." Roberto Lovato will join us in a minute, but first to a clip of Leopoldo López speaking in 2004, two years after the 2002 coup, which briefly ousted President Hugo Chávez from power.

LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] We should be proud of April 11th. I don’t know if there’s someone who is not proud about April 11th, when we overthrew Chávez with a march. Now, on April 12th, it happened, and the history is there, and we will criticize, and we will see. But April 11 doesn’t put them in the swamp. We have to claim the 11th, the march of the 11th, the power of the people from the 11th, and that the man resigned on the 11th. He put his tail between his legs and left, and that is the reality.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Leopoldo López speaking in 2004.

For more, we go to San Francisco, California, to be joined by Roberto Lovato, author of this new profile of López. Roberto is a writer and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research. Welcome back to "Democracy Now!," Roberto. Tell us why Leopoldo López is so significant.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Leopoldo López is a unique phenomenon, I think, in Latin American political — recent Latin American political history, in terms of being someone who, on the one hand, "Newsweek" calls a "revolutionary who has it all" and, quote, someone who has, quote, "twinkling chocolate-colored eyes." I’ve never seen in all my time covering social movements and revolutionary movements in Latin America — seen this kind of attention paid to a figure of an opposition movement in Latin America, a Latin America that, remember, has turned away from U.S. policy and from the U.S. And so, you have someone who’s called a revolutionary by "Newsweek," who at the same time is unlike — you know, his movement, unlike most Latin American movements, is opposed to U.S. policy — is supported by U.S. policy, as versus opposed to it. The opposition in Venezuela gets U.S. funding, instead of being opposed by U.S. funding.

So, you know, last year, we saw a lot of violence. We also saw people killed. And one of the reasons that I undertook this story was that I noticed that there was a difference between what we saw last year, in terms of the immense awakening in Hollywood suddenly to Venezuela, from Jared Leto, Madonna, Cher tweeting and talking about the opposition and López, and what was actually on the streets, which was that there were 43 people killed. But you didn’t hear about the people that were Chavistas that were killed, people like a young man named Elvis Duran, 29-year-old cyclist, motorcyclist, who was beheaded by barbed wire put out by the opposition in Venezuela. So, I decided I wanted to look at the opposition. And I thought, "Well, what better way to look at the opposition than to look at one of its rising stars, its leader, Leopoldo López?"

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Roberto, give us a thumbnail sketch. Who is Leopoldo López? Especially what are his family and — who is he descended from?

ROBERTO LOVATOLeopoldo López is descended from Simón Bolívar through his mom, who has a line that runs to Simón Bolívar’s sister. And he’s been compared to Gandhi and Mandela and other prominent figures in global human rights. And he, by his own admission, comes out of the 1 percent. He did an interview with his high school newspaper, at Hun High School, which was a high school where Saudi princes have gone, where the children of CEOs, Fortune 500 CEOs, and the son of a president have gone. So, by his own admission, he comes from the 1 percent and has risen to where he is now because he comes from a prominent family and because he’s a capable organizer, according to U.S. State Department cables. You know, what’s interesting about López, if you look at those cables, is that at the same time that the —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Roberto, just to get back to that for a second, though, his mother, as you say in your article, is from the — is one of the executives of the Cisneros Group, which is probably the largest media company in South America, certainly?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world is the Cisneros Group, with stations and networks all over the world. His mother is a senior executive. It’s interesting. He has a lot of family connections that are in media. His mother is with the Cisneros Group, this large conglomerate. His father is on the editorial board, according to El Espectador in Colombia, of El Nacional newspaper. His wife is a reality show star, TV — former TV host and radio jock. And he’s also very connected to people here in the U.S., like former Republican operatives like Robert Gluck, who runs a PR firm and previously was working on Lamar Alexander and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign, for example, to get Gray Davis out of office. And he also has connections to people like a gentleman named Leonardo Alcivar, who did communications for the Romney administration and — for the Romney — I’m sorry, for the Romney campaign, and worked with the Bush administration.

So, you know, I looked into statements by different figures. I interviewed members of his family. I interviewed his allies. And I had people like Gluck, Robert Gluck, tell me that he was — you know, that they have this volunteer effort called Friends for a Free Venezuela. And when I asked Gluck if he was being paid for his — for what he did, he stalled, and then he said, "Yes," and told me that he was being paid by Leopoldo López’s family. So — and this is the gentleman who said in the news — and I quote — that to call Leopoldo López right-wing is the, quote, "ultimate in Orwellian doublespeak."

So, Leopoldo López comes from a very wealthy, influential, well-connected family that I think serves him in his rise to power through, first, Primero Justicia party, up to now, his party, Voluntad Popular. And throughout, you see a figure that’s also been very divisive. If you look at State Department cables that say that he is, quote, "power-hungry and vindictive," quote-unquote, and at the same time describing him as a good organizer.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about his circumstances today. Why is he in jail?

ROBERTO LOVATO: He’s accused of, you know, arson and incitement in last year’s upheavals that we saw in Venezuela. And he had a lot of other charges against him, but those were dropped. And, you know, his trial has had these fits and starts, and it’s been going on for quite some times. And he is — you know, according to a pollster, being in — according to one of the preeminent pollsters of Venezuela, Vicente León, Luis Vicente León, he’s actually — his time in jail is benefiting his political career, because he’s perceived as a political prisoner. That’s surely the case in the international arena, although in Venezuela the opinion about Leopoldo López is divided, as is public opinion generally. And that’s not really come out in our media, just like those Chavista dead that I mentioned early up front, that you don’t hear about the beheaded — the people that were beheaded by the opposition. You don’t hear about the Chavista dead. You heard about the people that the Chavistas killed.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Top Defense Contractors Spend Millions to Get Billions

The Pentagon’s top contractors sent an army of more than 400 lobbyists to Capitol Hill this spring to press their case for increasing the nation’s spending on military hardware, in a massive effort costing tens of millions of dollars of their own funds from April to June alone, according to an analysis of public lobbying data by the Center for Public Integrity.

The contractors are upset in part because most military spending has been capped for the past few years under budget controls meant to rein in government debt. So far, the caps have forced a decline in main defense budgets from about $528.2 billion in fiscal 2011 to $496.1 billion in fiscal 2015, instead of a previously projected increase to roughly $598 billion. Mounting frustration with the caps was evident in the administration’s submission this year of a military budget that exceeded the limits by about $38 billion, followed by moves by both branches of Congress to add even more billions.

The caps remain the law of the land, however, and they won’t go away until Congress votes to lift them. The issue has so far been tangled up in a dispute between the parties over whether to also increase spending on social welfare programs. But several lobbyists said in interviews that they were optimistic that this could finally be the year that lawmakers agree to let defense contractors return to their historic pattern of ever-higher revenue from the federal treasury.

This could explain in part why total lobbying expenditures by the 53 top defense contractors that reported paying for such work in the second quarter of 2015 were more than 25 percent higher than the amount they spent in the same quarter of 2014 — $58.5 million instead of $45.7 million. But not all of the lobbying was related solely to military spending.

Boeing, a $100 billion corporation that makes military aircraft and other lethal hardware, as well as civilian aerospace goods, reported to the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate that it spent almost $13.2 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year. Its filing said some of this expenditure was related to expanding its “Commercial Aircraft Sales/Services” and supporting the Export-Import Bank, among other issues. The aerospace contractor’s commercial aircraft division receives billions in financing from the bank, and so it has a large stake in this year’s continuing congressional skirmish over renewing the bank’s charter.

Gayla Keller, a Boeing communications director, declined to comment specifically on their lobbying activities in an emailed response to questions.

Parsing the lobbying reports to sort out just the defense-related expenditures for these contractors is not easy, because the lobbying reporting requirements have some ambiguity baked into them. Lobbying expenses are only reported on an overall basis for an organization, and aren’t tied to specific issues or associated with the agencies that lobbyists target. And for some of the top defense contractors, the Pentagon is only one of many customers, albeit an outsized one.

Still, 40 of the 53 top contractors that lobbied during the last quarter reported that one target of their efforts was the National Defense Authorization Act, the main legislation authorizing defense spending each year. Some of these firms — including Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon — said that their efforts were aimed at budget controls.

General Electric — which makes washing machines and light bulbs and has a major healthcare division — lobbied on the Export-Import Bank, Medicare, passenger and freight train safety and natural gas production, according to its latest disclosure. It also lobbied on several defense weapons programs, including the B-1 Bomber, the CH-53K Super Stallion helicopter, the F-18 Fighter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

General Electric responded to the Center’s requests for comment with an emailed statement that its “[e]mployees educate officials on our Company’s operations, emerging technologies and markets, as well as on our views on public policy issues.”

Boeing and General Electric had the largest increases in lobbying spending compared with the same period in 2014, among the 15 defense contractors that spent $1 million or more to lobby in the quarter. General Electric almost tripled its lobbying spending compared with the earlier period, from $2.8 million to almost $8.5 million. Boeing more than doubled its spending for the quarter, from almost $4.2 million in the second quarter of 2014 to $9.3 million in the most recent quarter of this year.

Industry experts the Center spoke with said that while there were probably multiple reasons for the heightened lobbying, lifting the budget caps has been the industry’s central ambition. “People are concerned about the sequester,” said retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association, the country’s main defense industry association. “For the industry as a whole, that may be the top issue,” said a veteran defense lobbyist, who asked not to be named.

Of the total 655 lobbyists employed by the contractors, 423 of them specifically lobbied on defense, in some cases along with other issues, according to the lobbying reports.

General Dynamics paid for 74 lobbyists, more than any other contractor, for example, and 70 of these lobbied on defense, part of its $2.7 million lobbying tab. Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, spent $3.5 million and enlisted 64 lobbyists to press government officials, including 56 who lobbied on defense as well as other issues.

“The defense budget is capped at a level that neither the industry nor the Pentagon wants," said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center and a senior White House budget official for national security during the Clinton administration“The industry has been active on that, company by company, and by the industry as a whole," Adams said. Companies “either want to raise the caps or get rid of them all together.”

Top 10 contractors lobbying on defense by number of lobbyists, April - June 2015

Contractor Number of lobbyists who lobbied on defense issues Total number of lobbyists
General Dynamics Corporation 70 74
Lockheed Martin Corporation 56 64
Boeing Company 49 64
Raytheon Company 37 38
United Technologies Corporation 34 42
Northrop Grumman Corporation 30 32
Huntington Ingalls Industries 28 28
General Electric Company 21 57
BAE Systems 20 20
Honeywell International 20 26
L-3 Communications 17 19

Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of lobbying reports filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Remember how proud we were and we bragged to all in listening distance about being a democratic country that had gotten away from the rich choosing our political candidates for us in dark smoke-filled rooms?


It's an iconic image: A group of tough-talking, cigar-smoking politicians wearing cheap suits and drinking whiskey gather in the backroom of some convention center somewhere in the US.

They trade bribes, offer each other favors and calculate the odds, and then, after hours of debate punctuated by the occasional cigar puff, they pick their candidate.

This is more or less how people were nominated for president for most of the modern era here in the United States.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at "Truthout."

It wasn't the people who picked the candidates; it was the party bosses, who were more concerned with keeping their machines running than representing the will of the people.

This system, while great for the political insiders, was terrible for the country, and it only really began to change in the 1960s, when both the Republican and Democratic parties opened up their primary system so that everyday voters would have a bigger say in choosing who they wanted to run for president.

The new system wasn't perfect - establishment candidates still had the edge - but it was a step forward from the days when corrupt politicians called all the shots behind closed doors.

It at least had the potential to allow an outsider run, and Barack Obama probably never would have been nominated for president in 2008 without it.

But ever since the Supreme Court opened up the floodgates with its 2010 "Citizens United" decision, we've moved back to the old system.

Nobody wants to admit it, but our political process is rapidly going back to the days when cigar-smoking insiders handpicked the nominees, except this time it's not corrupt political bosses choosing who they want to run for president, it's billionaires like the Koch Brothers.

As "The New York Times" pointed out over the weekend, "fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era."

Another report, this one from the Associated Press, found that just "60 donations of a million dollars or more accounted for about a third of the more than $380 million brought in so far for the 2016 presidential election."

There's a word for this kind of political system where wealth, power and influence are concentrated in the hands of such a few number of people:  oligarchy.

Former President Jimmy Carter talked about that on a recent episode of my radio show.

While everyday voters still technically choose the candidates these days, the boatload of money that's flooded into our political system in the wake of "Citizens United" has changed the game.

The only candidates who actually stay in the race are the candidates who have billionaires behind them.

This is why, for example, in 2012 Newt Gingrich was able to campaign well past his past due date. With Sheldon Adelson backing him, he never had to worry about running out of money like a traditional second place candidate would have had to.

It's also why over the weekend, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and a few of the other Republican frontrunners went to the Koch brothers' annual summer seminar at a fancy resort out in California - they know that the single most important factor in determining their success as candidate is whether their Super PAC gets that big fat check from Charles and David Koch.

So voters still have a choice, but those choices are shaped and ultimately determined by who the billionaires want to run for president.

It's a sham democracy, and when it comes down to it, it's really no different than the days when corrupt party bosses sat in backrooms haggling over candidates like they were cattle.

Replace Super PACs with party machines and the system is pretty much the same, the corruption just happens to be out in the open this time.

People, not party insiders or billionaire plutocrats, should pick our presidents.

So go to Move To Amend now to help money out of politics once and for all.

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