Archive for the ‘Attacks on Civil Liberties’ Category

from KASM (Kiwis Against Sand Mining) website

Last Wednesday was a busy day for me with oral submissions to New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) on sand mining and to the Health Select Committee on water fluoridation. The EPA is considering a renewed application by mining company Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) to dig up 50 million tonnes of seabed yearly in a 66 sq. km section of the South Taranaki Bight – for 35 years. The EPA refused the company a consent in 2014. TTR has now re-applied.
 

MY SUBMISSION

I am speaking to oppose this consent because I believe that coastal residents who will be negatively impacted by this project should have the final say whether it goes ahead or not. The likely environmental impacts – based on numerous studies in other regions on the effect of dredging and deep sea mining will cause wide ranging damage to deep sea plants and animals (ranging from microscopic to large marine mammals).

Killing the microscopic animals in the food chain has been shown to significantly reduce fish stocks and bird an mammal populations. In prior studies, the recovery period after sand mining was as long as 3-10 years. And none of these prior projects were anywhere near as extensive as TTR is proposing.

Computer Modeling Isn’t Proof

We also don’t see how some computer modelling done tens of thousands of miles away in London that somehow “proves” TTR’s proposal will cause no environmental damage. Surely if TTR were serious about investigating potential environmental harm, they would making more of an effort to study the marine life that already lives in the area they propose to mine instead of sending sediment samples to London for computer modelling. How can they possible predict the likely response of deep sea organisms when they haven’t made an effort to identify and count what’s already there?

With some of our marine mammals – including the Maui dolphin, the blue whale and the blue penguin – already seriously threatened, this major disruption in their food supply has the potential to wipe them out altogether.

Potential Major Harm to Fishing and Tourism

Taranaki’s fishing industry is already in deep trouble with declining fish stocks and the major environmental impact of sand mining also pose a major threat to tourism, which is now Tarankai’s primary industry. People come to Taranaki for surfing and recreational fishing, which are also threatened by sand mining, and for the pristine environment of our coast and beaches.

The people of Taranaki are fed up with being a sacrifice zone for the oil and gas industry, which in my view explains why the vast majority of submissions oppose this proposal. We’re fed up with having our livelihoods, health and quality of life sacrificed to increase the profits of offshore corporations.

Getting Stuck with the Final Clean-Up Bill

There are also major concerns over who will fix the environmental damage when this project finishes – or fails. With the drop in the price of oil, we see numerous oil companies pulling out of Taranaki – leaving us to clean up the environmental risk. With the current glut in the global price of steel – due to major stockpiles in China – we see ourselves in a similar situation in 35 years time when the mining for iron sands either ends or fails.

Lack of Transparency

We also have a problem with TTR’s overall lack of transparency around this application. It appears the real value of this permit is the fact that it’s locked in for a guaranteed period of time – irrespective of future governments who impose stricter environmental regulation. It’s our firm belief that TTR has no intention of exercising the permit themselves. That their main agenda is to obtain the permit and then to sell it on to the highest bidder – not for the iron sands themselves which can’t be sold profitably in the current market – but for the rare earth minerals (which they mention in their application) which have the potential to be far more lucrative.

Like many other locals, I have major problems with any process that allows multinational corporations, to have precedence over democratic efforts of local people to protect themselves against projects such as this one that allow overseas companies to reap all the profit while forcing local residents to bear all the costs.

 

 

 

 

My Oral Submission to the Health Select Committee on the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill. If passed, this bill would introduce mandatory water fluoridation throughout New Zealand. At present, decisions are on the local level and only 27 out of 67 local councils fluoridate their water. With the current ban in most of western Europe against water fluoridation, the current trend is for local authorities to remove fluoride from their water.

Only 11 countries in the world have more than 50% of their population drinking fluoridated water: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Guyana, Hong Kong, the Irish Republic, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and New Zealand

SUBMISSION

I speak in opposition to this bill.

I am a retired Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. I have 33 years clinical experience post-training – eight of them for the New Zealand Health Service. I have a subspecialty in child development.

Before moving to New Zealand in 2002, I was also on the clinical faculty at the University of Washington Medical School for over 15 years. As part of this role, I was expected to keep abreast of the medical literature and to demonstrate an ability to apprise scientific studies for their reliability and validity. This was not only in the field of psychiatry, but in the field of genetics, metabolism, neurobiolgy and endocrinology – owing to their major impact on psychological functioning.

The Scandal in US Public Health Research

Based on this background, I wish to alert the select committee to the current scandal in the US in the area of public health research. The scandal largely relates to flawed nutrition research resulting in decades of recommendations by the public health community for people to eat low fat, low salt, high carbohydrate diets. The tragic effect of these recommendations – without a shred of valid or reliable research evidence – is a global epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.

Much of the research supporting water fluoridation is of a similar vein. The studies typically have a very small effect size, lack vital design features that eliminate observer bias and confuse statistical association with causality. There isn’t a single double blind randomly controlled trial showing that water fluoridation is either safe or effective in preventing tooth decay. Likewise there are no observational studies – where populations are followed over 20-30 years to ascertain the long term effect of drinking fluoridated water.

Fluoride is a Neurodevelopmental Toxin Like Lead and Mercury

In contrast, there are extensive studies suggesting that fluoride – even in the low doses used in water fluoridation is a neurodevelopmental toxin – ie that it has toxic effects on the fetus and in young children as their brains are developing. A 2014 peer-reviewed article about the pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity in The Lancet, one of the world’s preeminent medical journals specifically lists fluoride as as one of 12 common neurodevelopmental toxins – along with lead, mercury and PCBs. Fluoride has been identified as a potential neurotoxin largely on the basis of over 100 human studies and even more animal studies indicating that it causes cognitive damage and a range of long term behavioral and psychological problems through continuous exposure during pregnancy and early childhood.

One of the points emphasized in The Lancet is that substances that cause neurodevelopmental toxicity do so at very low doses – doses that are much, much smaller than the doses that cause acute poisoning. For many years the public health community reassured us that a low dose of lead and mercury poisoning caused no harm to human health – a position that has been reversed (after causing significant permanent disability for hundreds of thousands of children) after decades of careful research.

Now public health advocates are trying to convince us that low doses of fluoride are perfectly safe and based on past history I think the public has good reason to be skeptical.

No Research Evidence on Maximum Safe Dose

The problem with this approach – and the main argument that has caused all western European countries except Britain and Ireland to ban water fluoridation – is that there has been absolutely no research to determine what the maximum safe fluoride dose is, especially in vulnerable populations, such as those with kidney failure or infants whose ONLY food intake is formula prepared with fluoridated water.

All existing research focuses on the concentration of fluoride in drinking water, with recommendations ranging between 0.7 to 1.0 parts per million. The problem with focusing on concentration is the daily dose individuals receives varies greatly depending on how much tap water they drink, whether they concentrate it via cooking and other sources of fluoride in the diet. Tea is a major source of fluoride and Kiwis are great tea drinkers – which means they consume substantial additional fluoride in this way.

The prevailing sentiment in Europe is that when governments claim low doses of fluoride are safe, they have an absolute obligation to produce research evidence demonstrating the dosage at which daily exposure becomes unsafe before they force an entire population to consume it daily in their tap water.

This is also the main argument that persuaded New Plymouth District Council to remove the fluoride from our water in 2011 – like hundreds of local authorities in other English speaking countries that still fluoridate water. The New Zealand government most definitely has the same obligation to the New Zealand people.

photo credit: tankgirlrs Florine[F]9 via photopin (license)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1990 movie based on feminist Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. Sales of The Handmaid’s Tale have recently skyrocketed, largely owing to the extreme Christian fundamentalists in Trump’s new cabinet, his advocacy for military and police expansion and torture and his attacks on women’s rights.

The plot focuses around a military theocracy during a future period in which most have become infertile through toxic chemical exposure. All women are stripped of their rights and all fertile women are enslaved and forced to produce babies for infertile elite couples of the ruling elite.

In addition to the presence of heavily armed military on every street corner, social control is maintained through a perverted fundamentalist Christian doctrine that sanctions slavery and ceremonial rape. Although the lower classes are forced into strict religious conformity, the elite rulers willfully ignore it as they pursue a life of clandestine debauchery.

Last year the film was remade into a 10-part TV series that premiers in April.

Hulu Handmaids Tale Teaser Trailer

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Email from Trade for People and Planet Team:

Dear Corporate Greed Resisters,

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is currently being negotiated among 50 countries with the objective of expanding on the existing General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

While President Trump has had a lot to say about the TPP and NAFTA, he has not offered public comment on TiSA, which thus far has major provisions to deregulate and privatize the international service economy, including the financial industry and big data.

Deborah James, Director of International Programs for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has clearly outlined Trump’s likely incentives to continue with TiSA negotiations. She reminds us that Trump is not against corporate-driven trade agreements. So you can bet that corporations are actively lobbying in Washington for deregulation and privatization, which Trump and his cabinet are actively seeking to implement domestically. Finally, TiSA is focused on services and not necessarily manufacturing, meaning that opposition from manufacturing workers may be lower as the agreement is focused on the service economy.

Here is where things gets scary. Team TiSA – a consortium of multinational financial, logistics, and big data corporations – are looking to set severe limits on how governments can regulate economies domestically while providing strict investor rights provisions. Deborah James outlined ten aspects of TiSA that have been accepted by all parties or are under negotiations that could have significant consequences:

  1. Companies are expanding the category of “services” in order to make it all-encompassing so that the agreement could apply as broadly within the economy as possible.
  2. Offshoring and outsourcing of jobs and downward pressure on wages could greatly accelerate as TiSA would lock in labor, tax, and regulatory arbitrage.
  3. Not only would TiSA promote offshoring of jobs, but it would also greatly expand domestic “inshoring.” Foreign contractors (say from Japan) would be able to bring in workers (say from Philippines) to conduct work inside a consumer country (say the United States) on terms well below the minimum local pay and standards.
  4. The TiSA does not include a labor chapter, and in fact the draft texts only mention labor rights once.
  5. Preventing governments at the national, state, and even municipal levels from supporting local business and local employment.
  6. The principle of “technological neutrality which TiSA negotiators take as a given would have immeasurable job impacts particularly with regard to the “gig” economy. So if a country opened its market to passenger transport services, it could not apply new and different rules to Uber than to traditional taxicabs.
  7. Job loss as a result of privatization would increase as publicly owned utilities would have to compete under the same rules as private companies, reducing the benefits of public ownership, resulting in the elimination of jobs that inevitably follows privatization.
  8. The financial services text of the TiSA is the closest thing imaginable to a guarantee of another job-killing financial crisis. If the draft texts were accepted, the TiSA would constrain governments from implementing most of the regulations that are recognized, both domestically and internationally, as essential to prevent another global financial crisis.
  9. Workers would have to shoulder even more of the tax burden as corporate tax evasions would accelerate.
  10. The TiSA could potentially be used as the basis of a foreign company’s claim against the United States.

For more details on each point, read Deborah James’s entire article here.

The jury is still out on what the actual contents of the agreement will be under the new administration. However, we do know that the TiSA has been and continues to be a notably secretive agreement with no transparency or public participation. Check out this article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to learn about their proposals to create inclusive and transparent trade negotiations.

We also know that Congress gave the presidency Fast Track authority under Obama, and this authority has been inherited by President Trump. According to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach, this means that “Congress has empowered Trump to unilaterally launch NAFTA renegotiations or create bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada; determine the contents, sign and enter into deals before Congress gets a vote; and then write implementing legislation and force congressional consideration in 90 days with amendments forbidden and Senate supermajority rules suspended.” This applies to TiSA as well and is why we were so adamant about pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track in the first place.

Please take a minute and resend this email to 2-5 people. The people need to know what is behind TiSA!

Join our weekly National People’s Agenda Call next Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 9pm EST/ 6pm PST. We need to work together to stop TiSA from passing and to fight the consolidation of the global deregulatory and privatizing machine.

Click here to register for the call.

More Links

Unite for Global Justice,
Trade for People and Planet Team
Trade for People and Planet on the web
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Twitter, @FlushTheTPP

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mass-psychology-of-fascism

The Mass Psychology of Fascism

By Wilhelm Reich (1933)

Free PDF:  Mass Psychology of Fascism

Book Review

In the the recent US election, Donald Trump successfully used false right wing populism to lure working people to vote against their own economic interests – as did Adolf Hitler during the 1930s. Writing in 1933, Reich foreshadows the present failure of the left to engage the working class. He also predicts the steady creep of western democracy towards greater authoritarianism and the recent rise of the populist New Right (via the Tea Party, Patriot and Alt-Right movement).

Why the Working Class Votes Against Their Own Economic Interest

Reich is the first major sociologist to offer a convincing analysis of the allure of fascism and reactionary politics for low income workers. Ever since the Reagan era, progressives have struggled to understand why blue collar workers are so easily persuaded to vote for politicians who go on to worsen the basic conditions of their lives. Reich pins the blame on authoritarian family structures most working people grow up in.

According to Reich, the strong allure of reactionary politics – and overt fascism – is based in mankind’s 6,000 year history of rigid patriarchal, authoritarian and hierarchical social organization.

He devotes a large portion of his book to the concept of sexual repression and the political, religious and economic institutions that deny women and adolescents full expression of their sexuality. These institutions support authoritarian family structures that enforce sexual repression. For millennia, this authoritarian control was exerted through political and religious mandates under which women literally became the property of men.

He contrasts modern society with early matriarchal societies in which children were free to “play doctor” with each other and both men and women were free to have sex with any other willing adults. These societies dealt with the potential for sexual excess or exploitation via self-regulation and group pressure. As Reich and many anthropologists have noted, murder, war, rape, prostitution and slavery were extremely rare in these societies.

Although women are no longer regarded as property in industrialized society, both women and adolescents continue to be denied full enjoyment of their sexuality under male-controlled political, economic and religious institutions.

Why the Working Class Craves Authority

As Reich convincingly argues, it’s not just women who suffer the adverse psychological effects of these structures. Being raised in excessively authoritarian family, educational and religious structures denies both men and women any experience of the natural capacity of self-regulation. Deeply fearful, anxious, guilty and confused about their perplexing inner drives, they have no confidence in their ability to conduct their lives without an external authority to guide and compel them.

The reactionary right knows exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties. First by creating even more rigid and authoritarian structures (eg outright bans on sex education, premarital sex, abortion, birth control and gay rights). These provide immediate (though temporary) relief by limiting choice. Secondly by promoting racist ideology that projects unhappiness and perceived loss of freedom away from ourselves onto an external “enemy) – Jews, Muslims, socialists, immigrants, terrorists, Hispanics, blacks, feminists, liberals, intellectuals and, increasingly, baby boomers.

Why Americans Don’t Vote

In the US only half of eligible adults register and a little over fifty percent of registered voters actually vote. Reich argues that it’s typical in highly authoritarian “democracies” for the passive, non-voting population to constitute the majority. He’s highly critical of the left for attempting to engage this demographic by addressing their appalling economic conditions – a strategy he insists is doomed to failure.

What the left needs to grasp, in his view, is that this politically inactive majority are too caught up in their own internal struggles to think in terms of their economic needs. To put it crudely, status-related needs, such as getting laid, fast cars and flat screen TVs will always be a much higher priority than wages or working conditions.

Instead of educating low income workers about economic and political injustice, Reich argues that leftists should directly address the emotional baggage the working poor carry from authoritarian family and school experiences. He proposes the best way to do this is through politically enlightened social reform activities, particularly directed towards youth and women.

Immigrants for Sale

Directed by Axel Caballero (2012)

Film Review

Immigrants For Sale is a documentary about the $5 billion a year private detention industry. Corrections Corporation of America, The Geo Group, and the Management and Training Corporation run over 200 facilities across the US, a total of 150,000 bed spaces. Because these facilities are paid by the number of beds they fill, they have absolutely no incentive to speed up the legal process that might lead to detainees’ release. As one facility auctioneer puts it, thanks to harsh immigration laws and skyrocketing refugee numbers, there’s an “endless supply of product.”

The film closely examines the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right wing corporate lobby group founded by the Koch brothers, in writing anti-immigrant legislation adopted by various states and championing the construction of new private detention facilities. In most cases, state legislators with cozy relationships with ALEC and industry lobbyists impose these monstrosities on local communities against their wishes.

The filmmakers interview detainees’ families, immigrant rights groups and even former correctional officers who describe scandalous human rights violations by CCA et al, as well as their failure to provide nutritional food or adequate medical care or toilet facilities.

As a psychiatrist I was most appalled by the negligent and abusive treatment of mentally ill detainees. Because these facilities earn $197 a night to house detainees, they have no motivation to identify detainees with mental illness and transfer them to more appropriate treatment facilities. Detainees have no legal right to legal representation and often their families have no idea where they are. Both make their situation even more precarious. One mentally ill detainee featured in the film was beaten (one beating required hospitalization) and humiliated by corrections officers for three years before his mother secured his release.

Fortunately there is growing grassroots resistance to the private detention industry. One community successfully blocked – through sustained protest activity – the construction of a new detention facility. Another, Littlewood Texas, has been bankrupted by their decision to help bankroll a private detention facility. It remains vacant and unsold to this day.

trump

On Wednesday morning November 9, 2016, the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) published a personal message to president-elect on their website. It urges him “reconsider and change course” on certain campaign promises, going on to list some of the most troubling promises Trump has made:

  • Promising to force 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country.
  • Promising to ban Muslims from entering the country and heavily surveilling the ones who reside here.
  • Promising to punish women who have abortions.
  • Promising to reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture.
  • Promising to revise the nation’s libel laws, restricting freedom of expression.

It goes on to warn Trump he will have to face the ACLU if he presses forward and tries to make good on promises they view as unconstitutional:

If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

Read more: ACLU Announces Massive Legal Action Against Donald Trump

photo credit: AndrewDallos Donald Trump arriving at NBC tonight for Jimmy Fallon via photopin (license)