Monday, March 26, 2012

Russian Riot Grrlls in The Cathedral

Russian punk group Pussy Riot recently invaded Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow to take on both the church and state. The Russian Orthodox church has resumed its traditional role as a reinforcement of the the status quo much as in Tsarist times. Russians are regularly subjected on holidays to the sight of politicians attempting to appear as pious as possible which no doubt is a major effort. Eurasia Review provides more details:
March 7, 2012 President-elect Vladimir Putin described on Wednesday a protest at Moscow’s largest cathedral by all-female punk group Pussy Riot as “unpleasant for all believers,” but made no mention of possible lengthy jail sentences faced by two alleged band members. “If the girls disturbed the peace of the cathedral, then this is unpleasant for all believers,” he said. “I hope it will not be repeated.” Putin demonstrated a very “negative” reaction when told about Pussy Riot’s performance of what they called a “punk prayer” on the altar of the downtown Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, his spokesman said earlier in the day. “We don’t know anything about the content of the song,” Dmitry Peskov told the independent Dozhd (Rain) TV channel. “We do know, however, of course about this disgusting incident.” Despite his past as a KGB officer in the officially atheist Soviet Union, Putin presents himself as pious believer and is often shown in state media at church services. Four members of the group, clad in bright balaclavas, bowed and crossed themselves as they sang an acapella version of a song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the cathedral. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!” The group said the act was a protest against public support for Putin by the powerful Orthodox Church’s head, Patriarch Kirill, who took up residence in the Kremlin last year. Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police. Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained on March 4 as Russians voted in presidential polls that handed Putin a third term after a four-year hiatus. The cathedral performance came amid ongoing anti-Putin protests in Moscow and other cities. The two women were remanded in custody on Monday until April 24 and could face up to seven years behind bars on hooliganism charges. Both deny their involvement and are on hunger strike to protest the decision to refuse them bail. Alekhina has a five-year-old son and Tolokonnikova a four-year-old daughter. Guelman went on to accuse the patriarch of “provoking” the performance in the cathedral with his “very active participation in the recent polls.” He also suggested that Putin had been helped greatly by the Church during his election campaign and had “decided to answer in kind.” Patriarch Kirill praised Putin as Russia’s “savior” during a televised meeting during the election campaign, and also advised believers to stay at home and “pray” instead of going on anti-government rallies. “We don’t have any direct evidence that Putin or Patriarch Kirill ordered the opening of the case,” Alekhina and Tolokonnikova’s lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, told RIA Novosti. “But it’s obvious some levers were pulled.” Polozov added that the case against his clients was opened with unusual haste after the initial complaint. “It took a few hours, when the process usually takes a couple of weeks – or even a month.” He also said he could not rule out that his clients could be jailed for seven years, citing the case of opposition activist Taisiya Osipova, the diabetic mother of a five-year-old girl, who was handed a ten-year sentence on drug charges late last year. Osipova’s sentence was annulled in mid-February after President Dmitry Medvedev intervened. She remains behind bars while a new investigation is carried out. “But even a couple of months would be absolutely too much for what they did,” said Polozov. A number of religious figures have urged leniency for Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, including senior Church official Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. “It’s wonderful that the police have been serious about their investigation into this crime,” he said on Wednesday. “But leniency should be shown…there is no need to jail them.” He called however for a “serious” punishment for the accused for “insulting the feelings of believers.” Russian blogger and opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny also called for Alekhina and Tolokonnikova to be freed. “Their actions in the Christ the Savior Cathedral were idiotic and there is nothing to argue about here,” he wrote in his Live Journal blog. “But are their crimes so dangerous for society that the woman should be kept behind bars? The answer is obvious – no.” Russia’s increasingly politicized Internet community has come out against the jailing of the women, with over 3,000 people having singed an online petition urging the patriarch to “petition the court to close the case.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Occupy Wall Street- M17- Zuccotti Park - NYPD Arrests

Little is said of the increasing police violence against #ows and people of color in the U.S.....until now

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patricks Day On Old Arbat Moscow, День Святого Патрика на Старом Арбате (2012)

Russblogger sends this video of the St. Patrick's Day parade on Starry Arbat, Moscow attended by 7,000 people.

Wisconsin and The Struggle Against Zombification

As Wisconsin prepares for the recall struggle with Walker and now three State senators it is sobering to understand what stands in the way. While to most progressives it's obvious that Walker and his fellow corporate supported colleagues are proxies for the oligarchic kleptocracy, it's necessary to understand that the corporate media fog machine has succeeded in converting a considerable portion of the population into fact impervious zombies.Corporate money pours in to keep the low information, social conservative part of the populace in a permanent state of delirium with issues such as Obama's citizenship and religion, gay marriage, abortion, and of course, guns. With this in mind here is a cheery article on the subject of The(Psycho)Pathology of The American Voter from Dissident Voice:
What is going on in this country? Have the citizens of the U.S. gone totally mad? The U.S. Congress has an approval rating of less than 10%. Greedy, unprincipled billionaires own virtually all of the wealth of the nation, and pay a lower percentage for taxes than the poorest worker. We imprison a greater percent of our population than any nation on earth. We spend more on vicious, unwarranted wars than the 15 top military spending countries combined. We are the greatest purveyor of murder and destruction internationally than anyone else. Our public school system is under attack, and becoming obsolete. A college degree has become so expensive as to be unavailable to middle class families. The safety net for the old and infirm is being torn asunder. Our immigration policies are so degrading and inhumane that there is a mass exodus from the U.S. by peoples who used to flock here. Health care is a national disgrace, and is fast becoming unaffordable to any person in need of hospitalization. Homeland Security looks more like the German Gestapo every day. The list of failures and problems facing the country is unparalleled, and the public knows it. Everything from cartoons to serious news shows bemoan the catastrophic decline in this country’s standard of living, and recognize the incompetence and inhumanity of those in power. This is so, even though the public media is little more than a propaganda tool for the oligarchy. What is the most astonishing fact, though, is that there are no candidates or possibilities for new leadership on the horizon anywhere! Obama is the best of the pack of wolves and thieves who are actively destroying this nation. 95% of those in Congress who are running for re-election are are certain to retain their status. How in the world is that possible? Any rational person would expect the electorate to throw these pandering, posturing politicians out on their keesters, and elect a set of representatives who would radically change the picture. But instead, we are about to re-affirm the failed, dying programs that have transformed this country into a violent, disrespected second-rate nation. What a contradiction in logic and reality! What kind of national pathology is causing the electorate to allow the oligarchy to engage in this unadulterated rush to destroy everything of value in this country? Like lemmings, rushing into the sea to commit suicide, the voters will once again endorse the same fools who have immobilized Congress for decades, will do nothing to control a run-away Pentagon, and its maniacal weapons manufacturers, and will accept Wall Street’s unregulated destruction of our wealth and resources. There is simply no rational explanation for the inability of the American people to find alternatives to the elected gangsters who bow to every billionaire that comes before them. It is apparent that the voting public in the U.S. feels so disenfranchised from the process that it has for all intents left the spoils to the thieves. By abandoning any process by which there can be meaningful change in the policies of this government, the people have accepted the fact that there are no meaningful differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. The wars will continue, the repression will expand, the rich will get richer, and the rest of us are on our own.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keystone Pipeline The Other End

While Americans hear much about the Keystone pipeline little is seen in the American media regarding the ongoing controversy in Canada regarding the many concerns about the tar sands. The British Columbian paper The Tyee had an interesting series, the salient points bear repeating:
"Canada has joined the ranks of exporting oil nations and now supplies more petroleum to the United States than Mexico or Saudi Arabia. The unconventional character of mined bitumen as well as the startling revenue it generates for government coffers has irrevocably changed the country. Five per cent of the nation's GDP comes from oil while bitumen makes up 25 per cent of the nation's exports.... "Since 1996 the global oil industry has invested nearly $200 billion in bitumen mines, upgraders, pipelines and steam plants. Seven of the world's largest companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Sinopec, Petro China, Total and Chevron) now propose to invest another $180-billion on the resource over the next two decades to boost production from 1.6 million barrels a day to more than 3 million barrels. By 2030 industry will have dug a 40-metre hole in the boreal forest the size of Rhode Island. It has already created lakes of mining waste (170 square kilometres) great enough to flood Washington, D.C. or downtown Vancouver. Moreover, the world's longest and therefore least secure pipelines are all connected to the project. Everything about the project gives a new meaning to the word big. "In 2011 the government of Alberta released a startling infrastructure plan for the world's largest energy project. It forecasts that oil sands production will grow from 1.6 million barrels a day to 6 million by 2035. At the same time the population of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo could more than double and grow to 240,000 people. "Yet this rapid expansion poses more risks than benefits for Canada. For starters, the U.S. demand for oil is in steep decline due to the global recession and rising domestic production from North Dakota's unconventional oil fields. That leaves Communist China as a core market for expanding bitumen supplies. Yet renewable energy reforms combined with slowing growth in its industrial megacities could also lesson demand for imported oil. Moreover oil remains the world's most volatile commodity. The Deutsche Bank has predicted that oil price volatility alone could diminish demand for petroleum as a transportation fuel and cripple high cost projects such as the oil sands as early as 2015. "A damning 2011 report by a Montreal investment group, MRB, concluded that the nation has crossed a critical threshold: "A severe case of Dutch Disease has dramatically reduced the breadth of the Canadian business sector over the past decade, hollowing out manufactured goods exporters and making the nation increasingly reliant on commodity demand. Canada has often been referred to in jest as the 51st state, due to its historical reliance on the U.S. as a key export market. However, it is becoming more accurate to regard Canada as another Province of China." "Just about every oil sands developer claims that they can clean up messy bitumen production and its large carbon and water footprint with better technology. "Technology is the key to further progress," says the American Petroleum Institute in its oil sands propaganda. But this technology doesn't exist yet. Although the energy industry may be dependent on technology for making fossil fuels, it doesn't invest much in innovation. According to Forbes, big energy companies are fat and lazy creatures that devote barely 0.3 per cent of their sales to research and development (R&D). Many have even axed their R&D departments. In contrast, the pharmaceutical industry spends 19 per cent of its sales on research. The auto industry follows closely behind. But not the oil patch. In fact, Canadian energy firms devote no more than 0.2 to 0.7 per cent of sales to research.
Americans in the meantime are told these tar sands in Canada will free the country from "foreign oil dependency" which should give even Canadian conservatives pause.
From TPM: Rick Perry in Iowa: “Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source.”
They already own the place in their own minds.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Madison Labor Rally March 10 2012, Taking It to a New Level

A crowd estimated at 60,000 plus assembled at the state capitol in Madison Wisconsin to commemorate Governor's attack on the working class one year ago and also flex some political muscle. Speakers included the president of the state AFL-CIO as well as other union officials and political luminaries including Lori Compas, whose campaign to unseat Scott Fitzgerald has taken on additional importance in the effort to realign and reform the state's political landscape. A rousing speech was given by John Nichols who never fails to impress with his historical perspective and oratorical skills. As the union president noted, "We're back!" Hopefully we never leave.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Wisconsin Crisis: Why it matters to Alberta

This is a great piece about the Wisconsin Uprising from a Canadian perspective. While by and large Canada has a rather robust labor movement compared to the U.S. they are rightly concerned that events in Wisconsin will be used as a laboratory for union busting world wide. It would be a huge leap forward if people not only in North America could break through their self imposed nationalist bubbles to cooperate for the betterment of all. One unintended side effect of globalization is the realization that boundaries between workers in the so-called developed world and non developed world are artificial constructs.

Lori Compas, Helping Take the Fitz out of Fitzwalkerstan

While I subscribe to the notion that the American political system on the national level has irretrievably devolved into the hands of the Oligarchic Kleptocracy, local and state politics may still offer some, if the only, hope for recovery of a democratic process. Every branch of government in the state of Wisconsin, executive, legislative, and judicial is effectively in the hands of corporate monied interests. Their representatives, of which Scott Fitzgerald is a prime example, function to further the interests of those who believe the entire state including its citizenry are commodities to be exploited. Their record thus far includes trampling the rights of workers both in the public and private sectors, destroying public education, diminishing legal redress for nursing home residents, and promoting voter suppression and gerrymandering. Their idea of improving the quality of life in the state includes allowing tens of thousands of people to carry concealed firearms and permitting the sale of alcohol starting at at 6:00AM. A review of Scott Fitzgerald's financial support between 2007 and 2009 available at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows that 81% of Big Money donations came from outside the district. With the advent of Citizens United and the recall movement this is likely even worse now. If you live in Senate District 13 now is the time to support Lori Compas.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Rosatom-owned company accused of selling shoddy equipment to reactors at home and abroad, pocketing profits

The issues of nuclear power, the nuclear fuel cycle, weapons proliferation, and safety are virtually inseparable. These latest developments at Rosatom owned ZiO-Podolsk, highlights safety and nuclear power. Bellona elaborates:
"Russian Federal Prosecutors have accused a company owned by the country’s nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, with massive corruption and manufacturing substandard equipment for nuclear reactors under construction both at home and abroad. Charles Digges, 28/02-2012 The ZiO-Podolsk machine building plant’s procurement director, Sergei Shutov, has been arrested for buying low quality raw materials on the cheap and pocketing the difference as the result of an investigation by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB. It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by the alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran, China as well as several reactor construction and repair projects in Russia itself may have been affected by cheap equipment, given the time frame of works completed at the stations and the scope of the investigation as it has been revealed by authorities. “The scope of this scandal could reach every reactor in Russian and every reactor built by Russia over the past several years and demands immediate investigation,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “Were is the political leadership in the Russian government to deal with such a crime?" Hauge expressed outrage that an alleged crime of such a massive scale was not leading to immediate action to check each reactor that may have been affected by the profit pocketing scheme, and he was frustrated that the FSB and prosecutors were not naming specific reactors that may be involved. “As long as the Russian government is not investigating this case correctly, we will have to ask international society to do it,” he said. “Bellona will be taking further action in this case.” Vladimir Slivyak, co chair of Russia’s Ecodefense agreed. “Stopping and conducting full-scale checks of reactors where equipment from ZiO-Podolsk has been installed is absolutely necessary,” said Slivyak. “Otherwise [there is] the risk of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant with cleanup bills stretching into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars [that] will have to be footed by taxpayers.” The criminal case was opened against ZiO-Poldolsk in December, but information about the investigation was released in the Russia media via the official Rosbalt agency only last week – a common circumstance in FSB-associated investigations. The charges leveled against ZiO-Podolsk, which is Russia’s only manufacturer of steam generators for nuclear plants built by Rosatom domestically and by its international reactor construction subsidiary Atomstroiproyekt are a staggering blow to Rosatom’s credibility. ZiO-Podolsk is a subsidiary organization of Atomenergomash, founded in 2006. Atomenergomash was acquired by Atomenergoprom, which is 100-percent state-owned, in 2007. Atomenergoprom is a part of Rosatom. But the paperwork is rather a technicality for a machine works that has been involved with the nuclear industry since its inception. Founded in 1919, ZiO-Podolsk produced the boiler for the first electricity-producing nuclear reactor at Obninsk in 1952, and has produced the boilers for every Russian reactor built ever since. A shudder in the environmental community According to prosecutors, ZiO-Podolsk began shipping shoddy equipment in 2007 or perhaps even earlier. This has implications for the safety of nuclear power plants built by, or that bought equipment from, Rosatom in Bulgaria, China, India and Iran – as well as Russia – striking a chord of outrage and distress among environmental groups. ZiO-Podolsk is also making critical parts for the reactor pressure vessel and other main equipment for the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, a source told Bellona on the condition of anonymity. The machine works giant is also making steam generators for Russia’s Novovoronezh, Kalinin, and Leningrad Nuclear Power Plants, and Belene in Bulgaria, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association. The case assembled against ZiO-Podolsk involves embezzlement of state funding intended for purchases of raw material that are compatible with contemporary safety standards for nuclear reactors, Rosbalt reported. The FSB investigation According to the FSB investigation – which was described in unusual detail by the news wire – procurement director Shutov allegedly purchased low-grade steel for equipment in collusion with ZiO-Podolsk’s supplier AТОМ-Industriya. That company’s general director, Dmitry Golubev, is currently at large after embezzlement charges were filed against him by the same Moscow court that ordered Shutov’s arrest, Rosbalt quoted FSB sources as saying. The scheme between Shutov and Golubev allegedly involved Shutov turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel in return for a large portion of the profits reaped by ATOM-Industriya, the FSB told Rosbalt, citing transactions that were accounted for in bookkeeping documents the security service said it confiscated from the financial director of ATOM-Industriya. “This company purchased cheap steel in Ukraine and then passed it off as [a] more expensive [grade]; the revenues were shared by the scam’s organizers,” an FSB source was quoted by Rosbalt as saying. FSB agents said that ATOM-Industriya produced some 100 million roubles’ (€2.5 million) worth of pipe sheets, reactor pit bottoms, and reservoirs for ZiO-Podolsk – equipment that was delivered to Russian and foreign reactors – including an order of so-called tube plates for high-pressure heaters at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP. High-pressure heaters, while having no relation to the safe operation of reactors, are used to improve efficiency of power output."