The Russia Narrative Is Nonsense: Anti-Social Media Censorship & McCarthyist Democrats

Mainstream media Russia Madness narrative, online censorship

The article you are about to read is 100% pure Russian propaganda, written by some shill to deliberately mislead you with false information on what is obviously a fake news site. That, at least, is the story being used to foment mistrust of divergent views and discredit independent news-media, educators, and journalists. Thanks to the normalization of xenophobic slurs by the mainstream outlets, terms like ‘Russian troll’ and ‘Russian bot’ have been weaponized to dismiss non-corporate news and perspectives. Whether democrats’ repressive McCarthyism or the right-wing’s equally absurd censure of ‘fake news’ with ‘alternative facts,’ the result is an identical silence of dissent. Meanwhile, big social media now openly curates billions of newsfeeds at the request of governments in the US, Israel, and who knows where else and — as of April 23rd, Monday this week — the FCC’s unilateral decision to trash net-neutrality was set in motion.

Before this constellation of repression and censorship revises history beyond repair, it is important to remember how all of this happened.

Russian Bots, Anti Social Media,
& the Bleak Rise of Internet Censorship

“the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique”
— James Clapper, former director of national intelligence

In January of 2017 (as this site reported), US intelligence’s assessment of foreign meddling in the 2016 election seemed to define Russian propaganda as anything critical of US policy. Content that “described the current US political system as corrupt,” characterized the US as “a surveillance state,” or voiced “criticism of the US economic system” is presented as proof of a Russian influence-campaign. The report came a month after congress had passed the NDAA for 2017 that appropriated funds for a “Global Engagement Center,” which sounds far nicer than “US Department of Propaganda.” Section 1259C authorized the center to covertly fund journalists, NGOs, scientific research, academic institutions, and “private companies” to counteract foreign influence on “the policies and social and political stability of the United States.”

Good thing that never resulted in state-censorship or the widespread persecution of dissenting views.

The Hunt for Russian Influence Continues in 2018

Anoa Changa — a Black activist, attorney, and podcast-host — was recently smeared by Atlanta NPR affiliate WABE after discussing issues like police violence on a radio station owned by Russian outlet Sputnik. This attack came un-ironically from an affiliate of NPR, founded and funded by the US government. As the actual journalists at explain:

“…instead of using this opportunity to highlight the causes they’re fighting for, or the injustices that brought them to become activists, WABE used its considerable resources and influence to talk about, you guessed, Russian influence”

In response to the hit-piece, Changa writes:

​”There’s nothing new about American institutions attacking and delegitimizing the work of Black activists and organizers. What’s new is that in the age of Russian election interference, journalists at establishment media companies are now using the Russia investigation as an excuse to mainstream these smear tactics. And it’s an affront to the activism of people of color that must be identified for what it is.”

Why Are So Many Russian Bots Also Journalists?

“[‘Russians’] try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly. Individuals going on a treasonous path often do not realize it until it is too late” — John Brennan, former director of the CIA

Satire, Lee Camp, an obvious Putin-puppet, Russian bot
Lee Camp, an obvious Russian bot

Anoa Changa is not the only one who has been targeted by the neo-McCarthyists. YouTube now imposes a big warning beneath the videos of comedian and host of Redacted Tonight, Lee Camp. This is not because he was exposed as a Kremlin operative poisoning the country with nefarious Russian propaganda — no, the reason we must be warned about Camp is that his insightful comedy and commentary airs on RT — a Russian outlet! Eugene PuryearAbby MartinJulian AssangeJohn PilgerChris Hedges — the list goes on.

From Social Media to State Media

“You created these platforms… and now they’re being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it — or we will”
— Sen. Diane Feinstein, to Facebook, Google, & Twitter Executives

In October ’17, Twitter’s spokesperson told congress they had hidden 1/2 of all tweets about the leaks that revealed collusion by the media with DNC officials during the primaries. But it was no confession — Twitter was bragging about censoring the voices of tens of thousands to repress a news story. To congress. This is what “normal” is now. Part of the statement reads:

“With respect to #DNCLeak, approximately 23,000 users posted around 140,000 unique Tweets with that hashtag in the relevant period. Of those Tweets, roughly 2% were from Russian-linked accounts. As noted above, our automated systems at the time detected, labeled, and hid just under half (48%) of all the original Tweets with #DNCLeak.”

Facebook also accommodates the US government by removing profiles, ostensibly to fight fake news or Russian trolls. The social-media giant not only overhauled its newsfeed to favor content from large news-corporations over independent media but it has also granted 95% of requests by Israeli authorities to censor content in Palestinian territories. Considering that Facebook alone is the gatekeeper to 45% of news traffic (and social media altogether for 67%), the idea that US and Israeli politicians are able to act as its chief editors should be terrifying.

The collaboration of big social with governments, the fake news invective, the McCarthyist witch-hunts, the FCC’s unilateral demolition of net neutrality — is altogether a threat to any meaningfully free press and to online political organization. As grave as this assault may be, it is not unprecedented and — by adding a bit of historical context — it may be less hopeless than it first seems.

From the Printing Press to the Internet
(& From the Inquisition to Online Censorship)

“Printing […] is the art of arts, the science of sciences. Thanks to its rapid diffusion the world is endowed with a treasure house of wisdom and knowledge, till now hidden from view. An infinite number of works […] are now translated into all languages and scattered abroad among all the nations of the world”
— Werner Rolewinck 1474

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - The Russia Narrative Is Nonsense: Anti-Social Media Censorship & McCarthyist DemocratsThe invention of movable-type made it possible to cheaply imprint information onto paper, resulting in a mass-production of written material and expanded access to knowledge for unprecedented numbers of people. Before the printing press,† hand-copied manuscripts were so costly that access to education and specialized knowledge was mostly limited to the wealthy. The spread of printed media not only changed how people shared information but who and how many shared it. Because of this democratization of knowledge, printing technology’s impact on human civilization has often been compared to that of writing itself and, more recently, to the internet.

​For the most part, comparisons of the rise of online media to printing have emphasized the internet’s potential to change things for the better. But this ignores the fact that the democratic tendencies of printed media met heavy repression. The worst inquisitions and witch-hunts arose alongside the printing press during the period of Europe’s Renaissance that culminated in the Protestant Reformation and ended the political reign of the medieval Church.

The Historical Democratization of Knowledge

Technology has a strong tendency to tip the scales against power. The printing press ultimately led to a profound redistribution of access to knowledge — but not without upheaval. Before the victory, there were the accusations, the book burnings, and the witch-trials. ​Prior to printed media, the Church had been the major producer of manuscripts in Europe and that gave them a lot of power over what kinds of knowledge were copied and circulated. Naturally, they wanted to keep that power and — facing the spread of printed media that criticized the Church doctrines — power fought tooth and nail against the heretics to the bitter end.

How Many Companies Own the Media? 2018
Stolen without shame or regret from the Wall Street Journal

Online News-Media & Today’s Inquisition

“The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next”
— Helen Keller

The Internet — like the printing press — increased the velocity of information to such a degree that there was a qualitative change in how knowledge was created and distributed in societies. Just as small printing presses disrupted the Church’s centralized production of manuscripts in Europe, the Internet has eroded the centralized information-regime of the TV news networks, Hollywood, and the print industry. Instead of popes or archbishops, there are the Murdochs, Turners, and celebrity show-hosts from Rachel Maddow to Sean Hannity who — much like the medieval dogmatists Church before them — propagate the doctrines of wealth and power.

Old English Fake News

As Dan Bricklin has already noted, there seem to be many parallels between today’s popular news-bloggers and pamphleteers who agitated for revolution during the early modern era. The first pamphleteers — like Martin Luther who challenged the establishment’s narrative in his day — were smeared as “heretics,” a word‡ that described people who believed the wrong ideas. Pamphlets were so effective at undermining religious and political authorities that they were banned in many times and places throughout the 1500s. In 1590’s A Treatise Against WitchcraftHenry Holland writes, “many fabulous pamphletes are published, which give little light and lesse proofe,” which is basically translates to “fake news” in ye Olde English.

Considering the historical repression that followed the rise of the printing press, the attack on the informational democracy of the Internet can be viewed in a totally different light.

Toward a New Narrative & a New Media

During the 2016 election cycle, polls showed that US media’s credibility had hit rock-bottom. The popular need for a relevant and informed social discourse led to the formation of decentralized, independent media, journalists, news-hubs, and grassroots distribution through social-media. In contrast to the packaged politics of the name brands, the improvised press was able to deliver a range of differing or even contradictory views by embracing the web’s participatory framework.

By the time the media realized how many had quit listening, a critical mass had rejected the narrative that the democratic candidate would unite the nation for an inspiring landslide against a clown supported by deplorable racist trash. ​That is the story that was being presented by the mainstream, celebrity-obsessed US media and it was rejected — not because people had been confused by Kremlin propagandists or duped by Macedonan teenagers’ fake news — but because it was horse-shit. Better, more compelling, more plausible, nuanced stories were being told in the new press and that successful act of heresy is what became the basis for the inquisitions today.

The ‘Russian Meddling’ Narrative Is Absurd

Each time pundits repeat this narrative that today’s problems are a result of Russian meddling, remember how US intelligence’s assessment defined “Russian propaganda.” By saying that Kremlin propagandists influenced the results, they are really saying that online media’s “criticism of US policy” is the problem and that reporting on US “infringements of civil liberties and police brutality” harms democracy. How dare they? By claiming Trump’s election was due to Russian propaganda, the anchors are saying that those who didn’t support the bipartisan consensus for endless war, mass-incarceration, and environmental destruction must have been fooled by the Kremlin. To accept this is to think that choosing between the status quo and a literal dumpster-fire was meaningful and that feeling uninspired by this choice is Russian propaganda.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

“The Movement Action Plan: A Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements”

By Bill Moyer, Spring 1987 (

In this first stage—normal times—there are many conditions that grossly violate widely held, cherished human values such as freedom, democracy, security, and justice, and the best interests of society as a whole. Moreover, these conditions are maintained by the policies of public and private powerholders, and a majority of public opinion. Yet, these violations of values, sensibilities, and self-interest of the general society are relatively unnoticed; they are neither in the public spotlight nor on society’s agenda of hotly contested issues. Normal times are politically quiet times. Some past normal times were the violations of Blacks’ civil rights before 1960; the Vietnam War before 1967; and U.S. intervention in Central America and support for Marcos, Duvalier, and apartheid before 1985.

The opposition of these conditions and policies is small and receives more public ridicule than support. Consequently, its efforts are relatively ineffective. There are three major kinds of opposition:professional opposition organizations (POOs), ideological or principled dissent groups, and grassroots groups that represent the victims.

The professional opposition organizations are centralized formal organizations, often with national offices in Washington, D.C., which try to win achievable reforms through mainstream political channels such as the electoral process, Congress, and the courts.They are hierarchical, with a board of directors, strong staff, and a mass membership that carries out nationally decided programs. These efforts have little success because they do not have sufficient public support to provide the political clout required to create change.

The principled dissent groups hold nonviolent demonstrations, rallies, pickets, and occasional civil disobedience actions.These groups are usually small, little noticed, and ineffective at achieving their demands. Through their symbolic actions, however, the principled dissent groups are a shining moral light in the darkness.

The grassroots groups are composed of local citizens who oppose present conditions and policies but do not yet have the support of the majority local population. They represent the victims’ perspective, provide direct services to victims, and also carry out programs similar to those of the other opposition groups.

The powerholders often promote policies that support the interests of society’s privileged and powerful, and which violate the interests and values of the society as a whole. The powerholders maintain these policies primarily by keeping them out of the public spotlight and off the society’s agenda of contested issues. They have to keep these policies hidden from the general public because they know that the populace would be upset and demand changes if they knew the truth. The powerholders are able to maintain these policies and keep them hidden from the public by successfully carrying out their two-tact strategy of highly proclaiming their official doctrine and policies, stated in terms of the society’s values and interests, while hiding from the public their actual or operative doctrines and policies.

A political and social consensus supports the powerholders’ official policies and status quo because the public does not know that the government is actually functioning according to the opposite operative doctrine policies. Consequently, the general populace is unaware that the social conditions and public policies violate their values and self interests; or, when they do know, they believe the justifications as to why they can’t be changed or are needed to protect a higher cause or value. As a result, the public is not aware that there is a serious problem. Possibly only 10 to 15 percent of the population disagrees with the powerholders’ policies.

The goals at this stage are:

  • to document that a serious problem exists,
  • to maintain an active opposition no matter how small, and
  • to move to the next stages.

The main danger is to be stuck in normal times indefinitely because of political naivete, not knowing the realities of political and social life, and feeling powerless to create change.

Normal times are politically quiet times because the powerholders successfully promote their official doctrine and policies while hiding their actual operative doctrine and policies, thereby keeping the violations of conditions and their policies out of the public consciousness and off society’s agenda. The opposition feels hopeless because it seems that the situation will continue indefinitely, and they feel powerless to change it. Beneath the calm surface, however, the contradictions between society’s values and the powerholders’ actual, operative policies hold the seeds for popular discontent that can create dramatic changes.

Stage One – 1940s to 1960s

The American government launched the nuclear weapons era in the 1940s to fulfill its new role as the dominant world power. This was followed within a few years by the nuclear energy era.Although it was given lots of media hype as the “peaceful atom”, there was virtually no public discussion and debate regarding the merits of the new energy policy. The public heard only the official policy that nuclear energy was a modern miracle which would provide clean, safe, and unlimited electricity that was too cheap to meter.

The operative policy was that the full government apparatus had to provide massive financial, legal, and developmental support to make nuclear energy possible. At the same time, all the information that nuclear energy was actually dangerous, dirty, unbelievably expensive, unnecessary, and finite, was suppressed. The public was not told about the nuclear accident at Detroit’s Fermi reactor in 1966, which was similar to the later accident at Three Mile Island.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was the official governmental watchdog agency assigned to look after the public’s welfare. Instead, it promoted nuclear energy at all costs, overriding laws, rules, costs, and safety while suppressing all opposition.Nevertheless, public opposition managed to stop some of the more outrageous plans, such as nuclear dumping in Cape Cod and a nuclear reactor in Queens. Moreover, a ballot referendum stopped a nuclear plant in Eugene, Oregon.

A national consensus supported the powerholders’ dreams of a glowing nuclear energy future. Nuclear energy was not a public issue on society’s agenda, for information supporting the official policies dominated information received by the public.

The intensity of public feeling, opinion, and upset required for social movements to occur can happen only when the public realizes that the governmental policies violate widely held beliefs and values. The public’s upset becomes especially intensified when official authorities violate the public trust by using the power of office to deceive the public and govern unfairly and unlawfully. Hannah Arendt wrote that “people are more likely driven to action by the unveiling of hypocrisy than the prevailing conditions.”This was clearly shown by the dramatic turnaround of the American public’s opinion of President Reagan after Irangate exposed that instead of acting on his official policy of leading the world’s defiant fight against terrorists, his operative policy was actually cooperating, supporting, and making deals with terrorists.

The opposition must prove both that the problem exists and that the official powerholders and institutions perpetuate the problem. Therefore, the opposition must:

  • Undertake research to prove that a problem exists which violates social values and sensibilities.
  • Prove that the official doctrine and policies of governmental powerholders and institutions violate society’s values and the public trust. This must be not only from researching the facts but also from actually trying every avenue for official citizen participation in the democratic process for deciding on social policies and programs, and proving that they do not work.
  • Testify, undertake challenges, and file complaints in every branch of the bureaucratic machinery at the local, state, and federal level of both public and private bodies that are supposed to be open for citizen participation and redress.
  • Prove that they are “kangaroo courts”. Go to every decision-making body whether welcome or not.
  • File suit in the courts.
  • Take their concerns to city council, state assembly, and national Congress. These programs are usually primarily carried out through the auspices of professional opposition organizations.

Positive results are not expected now. The point is not to win the cases, but to prove that the powerholders are preventing the democratic system from working. Eventually, however, some of these cases might actually be won and have the powerful impact of creating a movement and social change. After twenty years in the courts, for example, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s case of Brown vs. U.S. was won in the Supreme Court in 1954. It established the principle that “separate but equal” was no longer the law of the land, which became a legal basis for the civil rights movement.

The powerholders fight the opposition through the normal channels, usually winning easily while continuing their operative policies and programs. The powerholders do not feel much threatened or concerned, and they handle the situation as a problem of bureaucratic management rather than a crisis of public confidence and power. Through the mass media, they easily promote their official policies while hiding their operative policies thus successfully keeping the whole potential problem out of peoples’ consciousness and the public spotlight, and off of society’s agenda.

Public opinion and social consensus continues to support the government’s official policies and status quo, as the consciousness of the general population remains unchanged. Yet, even the low level of evolving conditions and opposition causes public opinion against these policies to rise from about 10 to 20 percent. Except for the rare media coverage of opponents’ activities, the problem is still neither in the public spotlight nor on society’s agenda of contested issues.


  • Document the problem, including the involvement of the powerholders.
  • Document the citizens’ attempt to use the normal channels of citizen participation and prove that they did not work.
  • Become experts.
  • Build small opposition organizations.


  • Holding the belief that social problems can be corrected by POOs using mainstream institutions and methods without building a new social consensus, mobilizing widespread grassroots opposition, and engaging in a long struggle, which uses extra-parliamentary nonviolent action that changes the present imbalance of power.
  • Continuing to feel powerless and hopeless.

This stage can be particularly disheartening. The problem and the policies of powerholders continue unabated, there is little dissent or publicity, and the situation seems like it might continue indefinitely—as indeed it might. Yet the efforts of this stage can eventually be used to prove that the emperor has no clothes and is a prerequisite for any future social movement. Nevertheless, this stage is for the stout-hearted, determined, and persistent.

Stage Two – 1970 to 1974

The nuclear energy era moved rapidly in the early 1970s. There were more than 25 new reactor orders each year. By the end of 1974, the number of operating reactors grew to 52, and the total number of reactors operating, ordered, and under construction leapt to 260.

It seemed that the nuclear era was well on its way to achieving the government’s goal of 1,000 operating plants by the year 2000. A total social and political consensus supported the nuclear era’s official policies and objectives, new reactor orders werepouring in, and the problems regarding nuclear energy were kept out of the public spotlight and society’s agenda hotly contested issues.

There was, however, a tremendous growth of citizen opposition, though still relatively small and unnoticed. Independent grassroots groups of local citizens sprang up around many of the new reactor sites. They challenged the building of the reactors in long and laborious AEC licensing hearings, which were held both locally and on Capitol Hill. While these efforts were essentially futile, they proved that the AEC hearings were a “kangaroo court”, they documented the overwhelming negative aspects of nuclear energy, and they made experts out of local citizens. The hearings began being held at local reactor sites; and statewide citizen initiatives were held. Although most of these initiatives lost by a two-to-one margin, they served to educate the public and build opposition.

The public still mainly supported nuclear power and was little aware of its problems. Yet, public opinion against nuclear energy grew 20 to 30 percent, as measured by the results of the referenda.

The “take-off” of a new social movement requires preconditions that build up over many years. These conditions include broad historic developments, a growing discontented population of victims and allies, and a budding autonomous grassroots opposition, all of which encourage discontent with the present conditions, raise expectations that they can change, and provide the means to do it.

The historical forces are usually long-term, broad trends and events that worsen the problem, upset subpopulations, raise expectations, promote the means for new activism, and personify the problem. They are mostly outside the control of the opposition. For example, some of the historical forces that made the 1960s ripe for the Black civil rights movement included the emergence of independent Black African countries, the large Northern migration of Blacks who maintained their ties to the segregated South, the rising black college student population, and the 1954 Supreme Court’s Brown vs. U.S. decision that provided a legal basis for full civil rights.

A tremendous unheralded ripening process happens within the opposition:

  • There needs to be a growing consciousness and discontent among subpopulations of victims and their allies, providing them with a new level of understanding about the seriousness of the problem, the values violations, how they are affected, and the illicit involvement of the powerholders and their institutions. The discontent can be caused by (1) either perceived or real worsening conditions, which creates many new victims, such as in the 1970s when hundreds of new atomic plant sites upset millions of Americans who lived nearby; (2) rising expectations, as when the new wave of Black college students felt themselves to be full citizens but were refused the simple civil rights of service at local lunch counters; or (3) personalization of the problem, in which the problem is revealed through the experience of real victims, as when four church women were killed in El Salvador in 1980.
  • The growing numbers of discontented local people across the country quietly start new autonomous local groups, which as a whole form a “new wave” of grassroots opposition, which is independent from the established POOs. These groups soon become frustrated with the official institutions, channels, and powerholders, which they realize are totally biased in support of the status quo; and they become The Movement Action Plan 15 increasingly upset with some of the established POOs, whom they see as working in a dead-end process with the powerholders.
  • Small local prototype demonstrations and nonviolent action campaigns begin to dramatize the problem, put a dim public spotlight on it, and set a precedent for future actions.
  • A few key facilitator-visionaries provide the new-wave local opposition with information, ideology, training, networking, hope, and a vision of a rising opposition.
  • Pre-existing networks and groups, which can provide support, solidarity, and participants for a new movement, need to become available to be used in the new movement. The nonintervention movement, for example, had available for its take-off church networks, which had lots of experience in Central America, and activists who had been in the nuclear weapons and energy movements, both of which had just got out of their own take-off stages.

Though irritated, the powerholders remain relatively unconcerned, believing that they can continue to contain the opposition through management of mainstream social, political, and communications institutions. The official policies remain publicly believed and unchallenged, and the operative policies continue to be hidden from the general populace.

A public consensus to support the powerholders’ policies, and the problem remains off society’s agenda. Yet, the growing public awareness of the problem, discontent, and new wave opposition, primarily at the local level, quietly raises the public opinion opposing current powerholder policies to 30 percent, even though the issue remains off society’s agenda.

The purpose of this stage is to help create the conditions for the take-off of a social movement. The goals are:

  • Recognize historical conditions that help make a new movement possible.
  • Create, inspire, and prepare the new wave groups, including the formation of new networks, leadership, and expertise that will spearhead the new movement.
  • Prepare pre-existing networks to be concerned about the issue and involved in the upcoming movement.
  • Personalize the problem.
  • Begin a small prototype nonviolent action project.

Some of the key hazards of this stage include:

  • Not recognizing the ripening conditions for a new social movements.
  • Having the bureaucracy, legalism, and centralized power of the POOs squash the creativity, independence, nonviolent methods, and spontaneity of the new grassroots groups.

The stage is set for new social movement. There is a critical problem that appears to be worsening, proven violations by the powerholders, many victims, spreading discontent, historical conditions, available pre-existing networks, and an emerging new wave of grassroots opposition. Yet, no one—the public, powerholders, or even the new wave activists—is expecting the emergence of a new movement.

Stage Three – 1975 to 1976 

Conditions were ripening for the take-off of a new social movement. Tens of millions of citizens learned that they had become personally susceptible to the costs and dangers of nuclear energy because they lived within 50 miles of a new reactor. The grassroots local opposition groups quietly grew in size and number and became increasingly frustrated as the official government institution, the AEC, repeatedly violated its own rules and ignored reasonable citizen concerns in its support of nuclear energy. The increasing number of local groups grew into a substantial new wave of opposition.

The opposition organized statewide referenda in 1976, and although they lost in seven out of eight states, the process served to educate the public and to raise public debate. Moreover, the Missouri referenda won by a two-to-one margin. This was a severe blow to the nuclear industry because it ended the state CWIP law, which allowed utilities to collect the costs for building reactors from ratepayers in their monthly electric bills. The movement then began getting these laws changed in most states, thereby undercutting the major means by which utilities were going to pay to build the hundreds of new reactors.

Other ripening signs included:

  • The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 made anti-war activists and networks available for a new movement.
  • The temporary success of the occupation of the Whyl, Germany, nuclear plant site by 25,000 citizens provided an inspiring method of nonviolent resistance.
  • In the Spring of 1976, the AEC local hearing decided to license the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear plant construction plans, ignoring the overwhelming legal arguments against it. A few weeks later, the Clamshell Alliance held the first civil disobedience occupation of a nuclear plant site. Inspired by the Whyl mass blockade, Clamshell announced it would organize a mass blockade the next Spring.

Little noticed by either the movement or the public; however, there were only six new orders and over 20 cancellations of reactors already on order, dropping the total number of plants operating and under construction from 260 to 237. The government reduced its planned number of operating reactors for the year 2000 to 500. Still, the nuclear opponents held little hope for stopping nuclear energy. The ripening conditions seemed far short of what would be necessary to stop the apparent expansion of the nuclear industry. The government and electric utility industry continued their operative policies of publicizing the glories of reactors, and in these two years 10 new operating reactors brought the total number of “deployed” reactors to 62. Although public opposition rose to about 30 percent, nuclear energy still was not on society’s agenda and was supported by the public consensus.

New social movements surprise and shock everyone when they burst into the public spotlight on the evening TV news and in newspaper headlines. Overnight, a previously unrecognized social problem becomes a social issue that everyone is talking about. It starts with a highly publicized, shocking incident, a “trigger event”, followed by a nonviolent action campaign that includes large rallies and dramatic civil disobedience. Soon these are repeated in local communities around the country.

The trigger event is a shocking incident that dramatically reveals a critical social problem to the general public in a new and vivid way, such as the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery bus in 1955, NATO’s 1979 announcement to deploy American Cruise and Pershing 2 nuclear weapons in Europe, or the Marcos government’s shooting of Ninoy Aquino as he arrived at the Manila airport in 1983. Trigger events can be deliberate acts by individuals, governments, or the opponents, or they can be accidents.

By starkly revealing to the public that a social condition and powerholder policies blatantly violate widely held cherished social values, citizen self-interest, and the public trust, the trigger event instills a profound sense of moral outrage in the general populace. Consequently, the general population responds with great passion, demanding an explanation from the powerholders and ready to hear more information from the opposition. The trigger event is also a trumpet’s call to action for the new wave opposition groups around the country.

A new social movement is created only when the opposition organizes a dramatic nonviolent action campaign immediately following the trigger event and when the nonviolent action campaign is repeated in local areas across the country. The nonviolent action campaign keeps the public spotlight on the problem and builds social tension over time. This “politics as theater” process becomes a social crisis, which turns the problem into a public issue. The shooting of Aquino, for example, was followed the next week by a million people in a Marcos-banned funeral march down the streets of Manila, and the NATO Cruise and Pershing 2 decision was followed by gigantic protest demonstrations in the capitols of Europe.

The success of nonviolent action campaigns is based on sociodrama demonstrations. Sociodrama demonstrations are simple demonstrations that:

  • are dramatic and exciting;
  • enable demonstrators to put themselves into the key points where the powerholders carry out their policies;
  • clearly reveal the values violations by the powerholders;
  • show the movement supporting and representing the values, symbols, myths, and traditions of the society; and
  • are repeatable in local communities across the country.

These are dilemma demonstrations in which the powerholders lose regardless of their reaction. If they ignore the demonstrators, the policies are prevented from being carried out. If, on the other hand, the demonstrators are harassed or arrested, it puts public sympathy on the side of the demonstrators and against the powerholders. For example, during the sit-ins when Blacks sat at the lunch counters to eat, if angry white crowds attacked them or the police arrested them, the public got upset and sided with the demonstrators; if the police did nothing, the Blacks would either have to be served or, just by sitting there, prevent business as usual.

The new movement takes off as the nonviolent action campaigns are their sociodrama actions are repeated in local communities throughout the country. The demonstrations in Manila, for example, were followed by demonstration throughout the Philippines. The 1977 Seabrook reactor occupation created immediate spontaneous support demonstrations across the country, and, within months, hundreds of new grassroots antinuclear energy groups started up, who soon began occupying their own local nuclear power plants.

Scores of new independent local action groups spring into being, forming a new wave decentralized grassroots autonomous opposition that is based on non violent resistance. Movement take-off is the result of thousands of people across the country taking spontaneous actions and forming new protest groups (or revitalizing old ones). These new groups usually adopt loose organizational structures that are based on direct participatory democracy, little formal structure, and loosely defined membership. Together these groups form a new wave of movement because they are a new force and are not connected to either the established POOs or principled dissent organizations. Why do social movements take off? Some of the reasons why movements take off are:

  • The right conditions were created by the earlier stages. The Movement Action Plan 19
  • The public, altered by the mass media because of the trigger event and nonviolent action campaigns, is outraged by the contradiction between its values and the social conditions and powerholders’ operative policies.
  • The new movement groups join the powerholders as the keepers of society’s values and symbols.
  • The new climate of social crisis gives hope and inspires action by many citizens.
  • The repeatability of the nonviolent action campaign is local areas provides grassroots activists with an effective means for involvement, which they believe can be effective.
  • Participation in the new movement gives meaning to many peoples’ lives because it gives them an opportunity to act out their beliefs, feelings, and spirituality.

The powerholders are shocked, upset, and angry. They realize that the genie is out of the bottle. They have lost on the first law of political control: keep issues out of people’s consciousness and the public spotlight, and off society’s agendas. They take a hard line in defending their policies and criticizing the new movement, calling it radical, irresponsible, and even communist-inspired. While some liberal politicians support the movement’s position, mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike continue to support existing government policies.

Within a year or two, public opinion opposing government operative policies rapidly grows from 30 percent of 50 percent, as for the first time the general populace sees the operative policies and hears views countering those of the powerholders. The public is upset and concerned by the stark contrast between what they see and hear in the news and what the government tells them. That is, they begin to see for the first time the difference between the official and operative policies revealed to them by the trigger event and the movement.

The overall goal of this stage is to get the whole society to begin seeing, thinking, and acting on the social problem. A movement take-off gets the whole society moving on the issue. The specific goals are:

  • Create a new grassroots-based social movement.
  • Put the powerholders’ policies in the public consciousness and spotlight and on society’s agenda of contentious public issues.
  • Create a public platform for the movement to educate the populace.
  • Create public dissonance on the issue. That is, force the general population to have to think about the issue by having two contradictory views of reality presented to them constantly.
  • Win the sympathies and the opinions of the public.
  • Become recognized as the legitimate opposition. Getting the powerholders to change their minds and policies is not a goal of this stage!

The main pitfalls of this stage are:

  • political naivete;
  • burnout from overwork, not seeing progress as success, and unrealistic expectations of immediate victory; and
  • arrogant self-righteousness and radicalism.

The take-off stage is an exciting time of trigger event, dramatic actions, passion, a new social movement, public spotlight, crisis, high hopes and output of energy. Both a previously unrecognized social problem and official policies become a public issue, and within two years a majority public opinion is won.But take-off is the shortest stage. After relatively rapidly achieving the goals of this stage, the movement progresses to Stage Six. However, many activists don’t recognize this success. Instead, they believe that the movement has failed and their own efforts have been futile; consequently, they move to Stage Five.

Stage Four:1977 – 1978

The nuclear power opposition turned into a social movement in the Spring of 1977. the arrest and jailing for two weeks of 1,414 Clamshell Alliance protesters who were blockading the Seabrook nuclear power construction site served as the trigger event, putting this issue in the worldwide media spotlight for weeks.Support demonstrations sprung up across the country while the protesters were still in jail. National media interviewed the jailed protesters daily, providing them with a platform for educating the public and becoming recognized as a legitimate opposition. Moreover, by the end of the year, the Seabrook action inspired the formation of a new local anti-nuclear groups and similar blockade actions across the country, launching a new anti-nuclear energy social movement led by the new wave of local independent groups.

By 1978, local and state referenda went against nuclear energy in a number of places. Kern County, California, reversed the two-to-one vote of 1976, rejecting the planned Wasco nuclear plant. New Hampshire voted against CWIP and voted out pro-nuclear, anti-Clamshell incumbent Governor Thompson. Public opinion rose to about 50 percent against nuclear energy.

The nuclear industry again appeared to be advancing nicely, as the number of operating plants rose to 71. But there were no new nuclear reactor orders, and 21 reactors already under construction were cancelled, drastically reducing the total number of reactors opeating under construction to 195. The powerholders took a hard line in support of nuclear, warned of future blackouts and a weakened America, and attacked the new movement as violent, naive, and anti-American.

The opposition successfully created a new social movement through nonviolent actions, became recognized as legitimate, educated the general public, and put nuclear energy in the public spotlight and on society’s agenda.

After a year or two, the high hopes of movement take-off seems inevitably to turn into despair. Most activists lose their faith that success is just around the corner and come to believe that it is never going to happen. They perceive that the powerholders are too strong, their movement has failed, and their own efforts have been futile. Most surprising is the fact that this identity crisis of powerlessness and failure happens when the movement is outrageously successful—when the movement has just achieved all of the goals of the take-off stage within two years. This stage of feelings of self-identity crisis and powerlessness occurs simultaneously with Stage Six because the movement as a whole has progressed to the majority stage.

Belief that the movement is failing

Many activists conclude that their movement is failing because they believe that:

  • The movement has not achieved its goals. After two years of hard effort, which included big demonstrations, dramatic civil disobedience, arrests, court scenes and even time in jail, media attention, and even winning a majority of public opinion against the powerholders’ policies, the movement has not achieved any of its goals. The government is still waging the war in Vietnam, building five nuclear weapons a day, or sending aid to the contras. The problem, however, is not that the movement has failed to achieve its goals, but that expectations that its goal could possibly be achieved in such a short time were unrealistic. Achieving changes in public policies in the face of determined opposition of the powerholders takes time, often decades.
  • Judging that the movement has failed because it has not achieved its goals after two years is analogous to parents criticizing their daughter for not graduating after completing two years in college with straight “A” grades.Parents don’t do this because they know that achieving a B.S. degree is a four-year process. The movement, therefore should be judged not by whether it has won yet, but by how well it is progressing along the road of success.
  • The movement has not had any “real” victories. This view is unable to accept the progress that the movement has made along the road of success, such as creating a massive grassroots-based social movement, putting the issue on society’s agenda, or winning a majority of public opinion. Ironically, involvement in the movement tends to reduce activists’ ability to identify short-term successes. Through the movement, activists learn about the enormity of the problem, the agonizing suffering of the victims, and the complicity of powerholders. The intensity of this experience tends to increase despair and the unwillingness to accept any short-term success short of achieving ultimate goals. “What difference does it make that a majority of the American people and Congress oppose contra aid, when people are still being killed in Central America?” This is another version of judging the movement for not having achieved its ultimate goals rather than by whether it is making reasonable progress along the road.
  • The power holders seem too powerful—they have not changed either their minds or their policies, but defiantly proclaim them louder than ever, totally ignoring the protests of the movement and the objections of half of the populace. The failure of the central powerholders to change either their minds or policies is a poor indicator of the movement’s progress. The central powerholders will be the last segment of society to change their minds and policies. The longer that the public sees that the powerholders are violating social values and ignoring the democratic majority opinion, the higher the political costs to the powerholders for continuing those policies. Continued used public exposure of the powerholders upholding these policies in the face of public opinion, therefore, can be an indicator that the powerholders’ original goal of keeping the issue out of public consciousness and off the society’s agenda is failing. For example, with increasing worldwide media coverage of President Botha’s proclamations of apartheid and the effects of this policy, the world’s resistance to apartheid increases.
  • The movement is dead because it no longer looks like the take-off stage. The image that most people have of successful social movement is that of the take-off stage—giant demonstrations, civil disobedience, media hype, crisis, and constant political theater—but this is always short-lived. Movements that are successful in take-off soon progress to the much more powerful but more sedate-appearing majority stage, as described in the next section. Although movements in the majority stage appear to be smaller and less effective as they move from a national to local focus, and from mass actions to less visible grassroots organizing, they actually undergo enormous growth in size and power. The power of the invisible grassroots provide the power of national social movements.
  • The powerholders and mass media report that the movement is dead, irrelevant, or non-existent. The powerholders and mass media not only report that the movement is failing, but they also refuse to acknowledge that a massive popular movement exists. Large demonstrations and majority public opposition are dismissed as “vaguely reminiscent of the Sixties”, rather than recognized as social movements at least as big and relevant as those 20 years ago. And when movements do succeed, they are not given credit. The demise of nuclear energy is said to be caused by cost overruns, high lending rates, lack of safety, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, rather than from the political and public opposition created by the people power.

Battle Fatigue
By the end of take-off, many activists suffer from “battle fatigue”. After two years of virtual ’round-the-clock activity in a crisis atmosphere, at great personal sacrifice, many activists find themselves mentally and physically exhausted and don’t see anything to show for it. Out of quilt or an extreme sense of urgency, many are unable to pace themselves with adequate rest, fun, leisure, and attendance to personal business. Eventually, large numbers of activists who were part of movement take-off lose hope and a sense of purpose; they become depressed, burn out, and drop out.

Stuck in Protest
Another reason why many activists become depressed at this time is that they are unable to switch from protesting against authority in a crisis atmosphere to waging long-term struggle to achieve positive changes. Many activists are unable to switch their view of the process of success from one of mass demonstrations to that of winning the majority of public through long-term grassroots organizing. Consequently, being active in Stage Six feels like they are abandoning the movement. In addition, many principled dissenters believe that the majority stage movement is not pure enough. The new movement organizations are seen as a new oppressive authority. Many other activists originally joined the movement assuming it was a short-term time of crisis and are not prepared for long-term involvement. Finally, another reason why many activists are unable to switch to Stage Six is that they do not have the knowledge or skills required to understand or participate in the majority stage. For example, nonviolence trainers play a critical leadership and teaching role during the take-off stage, but virtually disappear in the majority stage because they lack the understanding and skills to train activists to participate in this stage.

Rebelliousness, machismo, and more “militant” action and violence are some of the negative effects of feelings of despair and powerlessness.

Some activists at this time adopt more militant, even violent, actions. They believe the nonviolent methods used to date have failed because they were too weak. New splinter groups are started to carry out the militant strategy, such as the Committee for Direct Action at Seabrook in 1979. These efforts are often rrckless and defiant acts of despair, frustration and rage, which stem from the collapse of unrealistic expectations that the movement should have achieved its goals within the first two years. Because they turn off both other activists and the general public, militant actions invariably do more harm than good. These methods are also advocated by outside groups who want to use the movements to pursue their own ends, or by agent provocateurs.

The movement needs to make deliberate effort to undercut this problem. First, it needs to reduce the feelings of despair and disempowerment by providing activists with a long term strategic framework, such as MAP, which helps them realize that they are powerful and winning, not losing. Also, it is important that the movement adopt clear guidelines of total nonviolence, which are widely publicized and agreed to by all groups and activists which officially participate in the movement. The nonviolent policy must be enforced by having nonviolent guidelines and training for all demonstration participants, and by having adequate “peacekeeping” at all demonstrations.

Widespread Burnout
The feelings of failure and exhaustion, the organizational crisis, the calls for militant actions, confusion, hopelessness, and powerlessness all contribute to widespread burnout among activists.

Organizational Crisis
The loose organizational model of the new wave local organizations begins to become a liability after six months. The loose structure promoted the flexibility, creativity, participatory democracy, independence, and solidarity needed for quick decisions and nonviolent actions during take-off. But after six months, the loose organizational structures tend to cause excessive inefficiency, participant burnout, and an informal hierarchy.

Toward Empowerment
Movement activists need to realize what the powerholders already know—that power ultimately lies with the people, not the powerholders. They need to recognize the power and success of social movements—including their own. Some ways in which activists can overcome their identity crisis of disempowerment are the following:

  • Use an analytic framework of successful social movements, such as MAP, to evaluate their movement, identify successes, and set strategy and tactics.
  • Form personal/political support groups that enable activists to participate in movements as holistic human beings, take care of their personal needs, reduce guilt, have fun, and provide support (and challenge) in doing political analysis and work.
  • Adopt a strict policy of nonviolence.
  • Adopt “empowerment” models of organization and leadership at both the national and local levels. The empowerment model is a third way that tries to maximize the positive and minimize the negatives of both the hierarchical and the loose models, trying to blend participatory democracy, efficiency, personal support, and effectiveness. This model of leadership more resembles the nurturing mother than the strong patriarchal father. While the national organization leadership need to coordinate and represent the whole movement, their primary goal should be to nurture the empowerment of the grassroots and foster democracy and non-elitism within the whole movement.
  • Help activists evolve from protestors to long-term social change agents. Provide social change agent training, which includes not only nonviolence but all the skills for understanding and organizing successful social change movements. Powerholders
  • Continue a hardlinestrategy, including escalatingtheir policies to prove that they are in charge and that both the movement and public have no effect.
  • Infiltrate the movement to get intelligence and to confuse, disrupt, and discredit the new activism. Agent provocateurs promote wild schemes, violence, structurelessness, disorganization, rebelliousness, machismo, and schemes to dominate organizations.

The general populace experiences dissonance, not knowing who or what to believe. While many agree with the movement’s challenges, they also fear siding with dissidents and losing the security of the powerholders and status quo. The alternatives are unclear to them. The general citizenry is about evenly divided, 50 percent to 50 percent, between the powerholders and the movement. Movement violence, rebelliousness, and seeming anti-Americanism turn people off and tend to frighten them into supporting the powerholders’ policies, police actions, and status quo.

The overall goal is to help activists become empowered and move on to Stage Six, to catch up with their movement. They need to learn what the long road of success looks like, and how far they have come along that road. Some specific goals are to help activists:

  • become strategists by using a framework such as MAP,
  • form political and personal support groups,
  • adopt nonviolence,
  • adopt empowerment models of organization and leadership, and
  • move from protesters and long-life social change agents.

The chief pitfalls of this stage that must be overcome are:

  • Disempowerment—feeling the movement is losing when it is succeeding
  • The “tyranny of structurelessness” and anti-leadership
  • Rebellion, machismo, and violence
  • Despair, burnout, and dropout

The crisis of identity and powerless is a personal crisis for activists. After the experience of a movement in take-off stage, their view of the world and themselves is transformed. They come to realize that the problem is more serious than they had thought, the governmental institutions, powerbrokers, and democratic processes which they thought would help solve social problems were actually part of the problem, and that the problem can only be resolved if they are part of the solution. Rather than feeling depressed and powerless, activists now need to recognize the power and success of themselves and their movement. The need to realize that their movement has successfully progressed to Stage Six, to the majority opinion stage, and they need to catch up to it by finding a role for themselves and the group in waging Stage Six.

Stage Five:1978 Plus 

While anti-nuclear movement progressed to Stage Six in 1979, many of the new wave activists got stuck in Stage Five, beginning in 1978. They believed that their movement was ineffective and dying. Not one reactor was permanently stopped by nonviolent blockades, and attendance at demonstrations dropped rather than increasing exponentially as was believed to be necessary. They did not count as important their successes—that in two years they created a new nationwide grassroots-based social movement, a majority of the public questioned nuclear energy, the public was being educated, and nuclear energy was put in the public spotlight and on society’s agenda.

These activists chiefly saw that reactors continued to be built and started up. They discounted that there were no new reactor orders, dozens of plant cancellations, and rapidly dropping number of nuclear reactors being built and on order. They judged that their movement was losing because it had not yet won, not by how well it was progressing along the long road of success.Consequently, many activists, feeling powerless and despondent, burned out and dropped out. Others, still believing in the romantic myth that the nuclear energy era was to be stopped by forceful resistance, started “militant” groups such as the Coalition for Direct Actions. This strategy died, though, after several years.

Many of these activists joined demonstrations during re-trigger events, such as the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, and most soon joined the Nuclear Freeze or non-intervention movements when they achieved take-off stage in the early 1980s.

The movement must consciouslyundergo a transformation from spontaneous protest, operating in a short-term crisis, to a long-term popular struggle to achieve positive social change. It needs to win over the neutrality, sympathies, opinions, and even support of an increasingly larger majority of the populace and involve many of them in the process of opposition and change. The central agency of opposition must slowly change from the new wave activists and groups to the great majority of nonpolitical populace, the PPOs, and the mainstream political forces as they are convinced to agree with the movement’s position. The majority stage is a long process of eroding the social, political, and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies. It is a slow process of social transformation that create a new social and political consensus, reversing those of normal times.

Although movements need to organize both nationally and locally, they are only as powerful as the power of their grassroots. All the national offices in Washington, D.C., The Movement Action Plan 27 can do is “cash in” on the social and political gains created at the community level all over the country. The movement’s chief goal, therefore, is to nurture, support, and empower grassroots activists and groups.Finally, activists also need to have a grand strategy for waging Stage Six majority movements to win positive social changes against the strong opposition of the powerholders.

The opposition needs to wage a Stage Six strategy. Too often strategy has meant a calendar of events, an assorted number of unconnected campaigns, and reactions to new governmental policies. A Stage Six strategy includes a set of strategic programs, new organizational and leadership models, and an overall grand strategy.

Strategic Programs

  • Ongoing low-intensity local organizing. The key to Stage Six success ultimately is the ongoing, day-in and day-out basic efforts of grassroots local activists—public speaking, information tables at supermarkets, leafletting, yard sales, and so on—all involving face-to-face education of citizens by their peers and keeping the issue before the public.
  • Massive public education and conversion. The basic purpose of the movement in this stage is to educate, convert, and involve all segments of the population. This is accomplished through a broad variety of means, including the mass media. Most important, however, are direct contacts through the low-intensity activities at the local level, through sidewalk tables, demonstrations, leaflets, petitions, housemeetings, literature, and bumper stickers. The issue needs to be re-defined to show how it directly affects everyone’s values and self-interests and what they can do about it.
  • Build a broad-based pluralized movement. The movement needs to include all segments of the population through coalitions, networks, co-sponsorship of events and petitions, and directly involving all constituency groups, example, unemployed, Blacks, workers, teachers, Hispanics, religious, women, students, etc. This includes movement organizations within each constituency such as Women for Peace and Teachers for Social Responsibility. In addition, the movement needs groups in all three categories—professional opposition organizations, new wave grassroots, and principled dissent. The different movement organizations must be allies with each other, overcoming the tendency towards self-righteousness, anti-mosity, and divisiveness.
  • Renewed use of mainstream political and social institutions. As the movement wins larger majorities of public opinion, mainstream channels (e.g., Congress, city councils, officials, election campaigns, candidates, courts, official commissions and hearings, and ballot referenda) are used with increasing effectiveness. While they serve to build the movement—keeping the issue in the public spotlight, educating the public, and so on—they also win actual victories on demands where there is big public support in places where the movement is strongest and the central powerholders weakest, often at the local and state levels. These successes serve to build the movement’s success from the ground up over the coming years. For example, the opposition to U.S. direct military invasion of Nicaragua has been (at least temporarily) successful at the Congressional level, but not at the central powerholder level of the Reagan administration. And nuclear energy plans have been halted at the local and state levels, while the central government and nuclear industry maintain their policies favoring increased use of nuclear power. Also, the opposition to nuclear weapons has been built into a national consensus, which is putting enormous pressure on the national government.Even President Reagan has tried to appear to be ending nuclear weapons, especially U.S. missiles in Europe, where there is overwhelming public opposition.
  • Nonviolent rallies, demonstrations, and campaigns, especially at critical times and places. Although the movement now includes a wide range of programs, it must continue to have nonviolent actions, rallies, and campaigns, with occasional civil disobedience. While nonviolent actions should be held at traditional times and places, such as on Hiroshima and Nagasaki days, they should also occur at critical times and places, such as when Congress votes on aid to the contras, when dictators visit, and during re-trigger events, such as the Chernobyl accident. Because people are involved in so many different programs in this stage, and many no longer see the purpose of some nonviolent actions, the numbers participating in any specific national or local demonstration usually drop below those of the take-off stage (with the exception of some new crises). However, because there are nonviolent actions happening in hundreds of local communities around the country when movements are in the majority stage, the nationwide total number participating in demonstrations actually increases enormously in this stage.

    Although nonviolent actions sometimes do help win immediate successes, such as change a city council member’s or Congressperson’s vote, their chief purpose is to help achieve many of the goals of Stages Four to Six, such as keeping the issue in the public spotlight and providing a platform for the movement to educate the public.

  • Citizen involvement programs. The movement needs to develop programs in which large numbers of common citizens can become actively involved in programs that challenge current traditions, policies, and laws, while simultaneously carrying out the society’s values and the movement’s alternatives. This empowers the movement and citizens because they can carry out their values and goals without waiting for the powerholders to make the decision for them. This is quite different form isolated alternative “demonstration” projects. Citizen involvement programs put large numbers of people directly in contradiction with official policies. Some excellent massive citizen involvement programs of today’s movements include the sanctuary movement, in which local churches and towns throughout the country provide official sanctuary for Central American political refugees; the thousands of “citizen diplomats” traveling to Russia and Nicaragua; sending tools and aid to Nicaragua in violation of U.S. sanctions; and nuclear free towns, counties, and even countries, such as New Zealand and Palau. These programs educate and convert the public, demonstrate the alternative values and policies sought, demonstrate the extent of popular opposition, undercut the authority of the powerholders to carry out their policy goals, and build change from the bottom up.
  • Respond to new trigger events, such as the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, to again put the issue in the public spotlight, educate the public to new levels of awareness, build the movement organizations, and increase the pressure for change.

New empowerment organization and leadership model
Movement organizations must switch from the “loose” to the “empowerment” model. The loose organization model was highly appropriate at the beginning of the new movement. It allowed for creative, spontaneous activities, which included civil disobedience and quick, flexible, and direct decision-making by all involved. But after six months the loose structure rapidly becomes a liability. It becomes too inefficient, people burn out from long meetings, the most experienced and strongest activists become dominant leaders, new people have difficulty becoming full participants, and the whole organization evolves into a informal hierarchy. The empowerment organization model is the name given to a new structure that activists must construct themselves, in which they try to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of the hierarchical and loose models. Its goal is to be participatory democratic, efficient, flexible, and capable of lasting over the long haul. This requires more structures, but structures that assure these principles.

This is a critical time for the offices and staff of national movement organizations. While they need to advocate practical policies of “real politics”, maintain the organization, and operate in bureaucracies (no matter how “collective”), they must prevent the organization from becoming a new POO, and the staff from becoming new movement elites. The primary goal is to serve, nurture, and empower the grassroots and to ensure that internal participatory democracy is carried out. The staff model must continue to be that of nurturing mothers, not dominant patriarchs. When the national staff behaves as if they are the movement, the grassroots dries up and the movement loses its power.

Grand Strategy
Activists need to develop a “grand strategy” for waging social movements in Stage Six. Lacking a viable strategy, most activists are unable to see a relationship between their day-to-day activities and the accomplishment of the movement’s goals. Some of the key elements are the following:

  • Keep the issue in the public spotlight and on society’s agenda over time. Keep the policies and conditions which violate the values, interests, and beliefs of the majority of the populace in the public spotlight. Over time, this helps build the social and political conditions for change because it helps fulfill Robert Jay Lifton’s view that the way to get rid of a social delusion is to keep telling the truth. The present social movements against nuclear weapons and in opposition to U.S. intervention in Central America should recognize as tremendous success the fact that these issues have been kept in the public spotlight and on society’s social and political agendas for a number of years.
  • Identify all of the movement’s key goals and identify which stage each is in and develop strategies to achieve them. Identify the movement’s full range of demands, from the very specific to the general, such as end all nuclear weapons, stop nuclear testing, stop Star Wars, and stop U.S. Euromissiles. Strategies, submovements, and campaigns need to be developed for each of these major demands. Activists should identify which MAP stage the movement is in for each of these demands and develop strategies, submovements, and campaigns to achieve each major demand. For example, stop U.S. direct invasion of Nicaragua might be in Stage Seven, official support for the contras in Stage Six, and a positive Contadora peace resolution for all of Central America is possibly just in Stage Three.
  • Counter the powerholders’ strategy. The movement needs to identify the powerholders’ long-term goals, strategies, and programs and develop counterstrategies against each one. For example, the U.S. is considering invading Nicaragua, supporting the contra’s war against Nicaragua, preventing a meaningful peaceful Contadora resolution, etc. The movement needs to develop campaigns to prevent the government’s achieving each of these objectives.
  • Beyond reforms:propose alternatives, larger demands, and a new paradigm. The movement now needs not only to protest present policies but also to propose specific alternatives.In the process of struggle, people act their way into thinking, and they learn that the problem is much bigger than they had thought. They come to realize that their original concerns were merely symptoms of much bigger and deeper problems; consequently, the movement needs to make larger demands. This ultimately includes the necessity for a whole new worldview or paradigm. The movement against Cruise and Pershing 2 missiles in Europe, for example, realized that they needed to remove all nuclear weapons from East and West Europe. This has led a new worldview of a nuclear free East and West Europe that will become increasingly neutral and independent of the Soviet-United States superpower bloc system.
  • Guide the movement through the dynamics of conflict with the powerholders. Waging a social movement is similar to playing chess. The movement and powerholders constantly engage in moves and countermoves to win the public and build conditions to support their own position. The movement tries to build moral, political, and economic conditions that will erode the support that enables the powerholders to continue their policies. The powerholders keep changing their policies to keep their capacity to maintain the status quo. The movement’s goal is to keep weakening the powerholders’ position and raising the price that they must pay to continue their policies. The Reagan administration, for example, seemed about to invade Nicaragua in 1984, but the anti-intervention movement raised public opposition to a new level. The government then switched its chief focus to supporting the contras, but the movement made this illegal by helping pass the Boland amendment, thereby forcing the government to undertake the high-risk policies of illegal and unconstitutional covert aid through Ollie North. This has weakened President Reagan’s capacity to wage his policies in Central America as well as elsewhere.

The powerholders launch a hardline conflict management strategy to defend their policies, which included the following:

  • Promote new rhetoric and myths and re-emphasize the threat of outside demons, such as terrorism and Communism, to try to rally an increasingly skeptical public.
  • Increase their counter-movement strategy to gather intelligence; discredit the movement; cause internal disruption, control, and steer the movement; preempt it by claiming to do the movement’s program (e.g., “Star Wars will end nuclear weapons”); and try to co-opt the movement under mainstream political control (e.g., co-sponsor grossly watered down Congressional bills).
  • Engage in the dynamics of conflict with the movement by switching strategies, stance, and policies as needed, for example, from invading Nicaragua with U.S. troops, to supporting the proxy contras and waging low-intensity warfare against Nicaragua.
  • Publicly appear to be engaged in a meaningful “negotiation process”, while actually carrying out operative policies and doctrines without giving up any important advantages. Powerholders keep pronouncing that their policies are correct and winning. Finally, splits begin happening within the power structure, as over time pressure from the new social and political consensus force increasing portions of the mainstream political, economic and social elites to switch their position, even openly oppose the policies of the central powerholders in order to protect their own self-interests. The issue is now hotly contested within Congress, the Administration, and all other political levels.

Public opinion opposing the powerholders’ policies grows to as much as 65 percent within a few years, and then, over many years, slowly swells to a large majority of up to 85 percent. The populace, however, is evenly splitover wanting a change in the status quo. Half fear the alternatives more than they oppose the present conditions and policies. By the early 1970s, for example, 83 percent of Americans called for an end to the Vietnam war, and currently 65 percent oppose aid to the contras and U.S. military intervention in Central America.


  • Keep the issue and the powerholders’ values violations in the public spotlight and on society’s agenda.
  • Switch from only crisis protest to waging protracted social struggle to achieve positive social change.
  • Gear efforts to the public to keep winning a bigger majority opinion.
  • Involve large numbers of the populace in programs at the grassroots level.
  • Propose alternatives, more demands, and a new paradigm.
  • Have activists able to use a strategic framework such as MAP. 32 Bill Moyer
  • Adopt empowerment organizational and leadership models.


  • Activists become stuck in the protest stage.
  • Movement violence, rebelliousness, and macho radicalism.
  • Believing that the movement is losing and local efforts are futile.
  • National organizations and leadership disenfranchise grassroots activists by dominating the movement.
  • Cooptation by powerholders through collusion and compromise.
  • Political sects dominate the movement organizations.

Over many years, perhaps decades, public opinion against the powerholders’ policies swells to an overwhelming majority of up to 85 percent, as was opposition to the Vietnam War. Almost every sector of society eventually wants to end the problem and current policies—most politicians, the Democratic Party, celebrities, professionals, students, Middle America, youth, the unemployed, local governments, and the general population. But strangely, nothing seems to change. The problem continues, Congress seems unable to make decisive votes, and the central powerholders continue their policies, although with cosmetic changes. Moreover the movement appears to be in a lull. There are demonstrations, meetings, and activists, but they seem small, routine, and mechanical, as the movement’s position has been adopted by the mainstream of society. Over the years, however, the weight of the massive public opposition, along with the defection of many elites, eventually takes its toll. The political price that the powerholders have to pay to maintain their policies grows to become an untenable liability.

Stage Six:1979 to 1992

From 1979 to 1987, the anti-nuclear energy movement has been progressing in the majority opposition stage. Public opinion against nuclear energy keeps growing bigger. Seventy-eight percent of Americans now oppose building more reactors, and many local and state officials fight against starting up even completed local reactors and proposed waste sites. Similar majorities exist in Europe, where 50 percent of citizens favor shutting down operating plants.

The nuclear industry continued in sharp decline. Although the number of licensed reactors has increased to 98, the total number of reactors operating and under construction has dropped from 195 to 123. There have been no effective new orders for 14 years, and over 100 reactors orders have been cancelled—even ones that are 50 percent complete. The secrets of the powerholders’ operative nuclear energy policies are now known by many citizens. Nuclear energy is outrageously expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary;and it is tied to nuclear weapons, which manypeople oppose. Trigger events such as the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents have also spurred public opposition. If the present trend of no new orders and reactor cancellations continues, nuclear energy will die out early in the next century as existing reactors come to the end of their 25-year life expectancy.

The federal government, both political parties, and the nuclear industry still promote nuclear energy and want hundreds of operating reactors by the year 2000. The federal bureaucracy, for example, subsidized nuclear energy through tax breaks and outlays amounting to $56 billion in 1984 alone. Also, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is now trying to drop its rule requiring local government involvement in establishing emergency evacuation plans as a prerequisite for reactor licensing. The NRC is attempting this because the local and state governments are preventing the licensing of the completed Shoreham and Seabrook reactors by refusing to be part of the evacuation plans. The pro-nuclear strategy now is to streamline licensing nuclear into one easy step, develop new light-water reactors, respond positively to new accidents, develop a social and political consensus through propaganda, bail out threatened reactors, open waste sites, deregulate the utilities, develop space weapons that use lots of nuclear reactors, and regionalize electrical production to get around state controls. The anti-nuclear strategy is to educate the public, respond to new trigger events with demonstrations and education, and counter the pro-nuclear strategies of saving the nuclear industry by opposing rate hikes, bailouts, rule changes, and so on. For example, the movement is presently challenging the NRC’s proposed changes in its evacuation plan rules which would permit the Seabrook and Shoreham reactors to become fully licensed. In addition, the movement is advocating the new soft-energy path of conservation, cogeneration, and solar power to replace the hard-energy path. Much of the movement’s efforts are now being waged by POOs and local groups using the mainstream institutions and channels, such as the courts, state utilities, legislation, referenda, and electoral politics.

Stage Seven begins when the long process of building opposition reaches a new plateau in which the new social consensus turns the tide of power against the powerholders and begins an endgame process leading to the movement’s success. The Stage Seven process can take three forms: dramatic showdown, quiet showdown, or attrition.

  • Dramatic showdown resembles the take off stage. A sudden trigger event sparks a mobilization of broad popular opposition and a social crisis, but this time the overwhelming coercive force, in a relatively short time, changes policies or leadership. This was achieved in each issue of the early 1960s civil rights movement, such as when the Selma march started President Johnson and the Congress into motion that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 within a few months. Activists usually feel that they won and had played an important role in achieving success.
  • Quiet showdown. Realizing that they can no longer continue their present policies, the powerholders launch a face-saving endgame process of “victorious retreat”. Rather than admit defeat, they proclaim victory and start a publicly recognized process of changing their policies and conditions to those demanded by the movement and social consensus. The powerholders try to take credit for this “victory”, even though they were forced to reverse their previously hardline policies, while activists often have difficulty seeing their role in this success. A current example is President Reagan’s efforts to reach an agreement with Gorbachev to end Euromissiles.
  • Attrition is when success is quietly and seemingly invisibly achieved in a long process which could take decades, in which social and political machinery slowly evolves new policies and conditions, such as the present winding down of nuclear energy in the United States. During the attrition process, activists usually have even more difficulty recognizing the successful endgame process and the fact that they had a crucial role in causing it. In all three forms, once the endgame process starts, final success is not guaranteed. Until the change is finally actually accomplished, the situation can be reversed. Stage Seven involves a continual struggle, but one in which the opposition is on the offensive until the specific goal is won.

The chief engine for change switches from the “movement” to traditional progressives; the “nonpolitical” majority of the population; and mainstream political, social, and economic groups and institutions. The public becomes involved in a broad range of social actions which keep the spotlight on the issues, reveals the evils of the present policies , and creates real political and economic penalties. Most of the business and political powerholders are forced to defect from their ties to the status quo, because it is in their self-interest. The penalty for defending the status quo has become bigger than for accepting the alternative. The politicians will face hostile voters at their next election, and the business community can suffer loss of profits or business community can suffer loss of profits or business through boycotts, sanctions, and disruption of the marketplace. There sometimes is a general, worldwide insurrection which isolates the central powerholders and their dwindling support.

The opposition’s efforts and feelings vary according to the endgame form:

  • In dramatic showdown, the movement more resembles the take-off stage, in which it plays a massive, publicly obviousrole involving mass-demonstrations in a time of crisis leading to success in a relatively short time, such as the toppling of Marcos, following the election process, or the achievement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, five months after the Selma campaign.
  • In quiet showdown, the movement continues its strategy and of both take-off and Stage Six, and while still publicly active, activistsneed to work hard to recognize the victory and their own role.
  • In attrition, the endgame process is often not recognized as success, the movement’s role is much less visible, and much of the opposition’s efforts are carried out through the work of elites and the POOs.

The viability of the central powerholders’ policies is eroded economically and politically. The majority of powerholders join the opposition view, while the central powerholders are isolated and eventually defeated. The central powerholders are:

  • forced into making fatal mistakes, such as President Nixon’s ordered Watergate break-ins and other “dirty tricks” against the opposition, or when President Reagan felt forced to violate the Boland amendment through illegal covert aid to the contras;
  • increasingly prevented from doing what is fully required to successfully carry out their policies, such as when the Pentagon was prevented from carrying out programs it felt were necessary to win the Vietnam War; and
  • resort to extreme emergency acts of political and economic decrees and repression, which serve only to spur the opposition. The economic, social, and political penalties erode the base for support of the powerholders to either continue their policies or remain in office. The central powerholders have three different endgame strategies, according to the type of ending:
  • Custer’s last stand (in dramatic showdown), in which they hold out until either their policies are defeated in the mainstream political process, such as in the courts, Congress, or referenda, or they lose their office or position through elections or mass social actions and pressures;
  • Victorious retreat (in quiet showdown), in which the powerholders lose on the issue, but in reversing their policies declare victory for themselves; or of
  • Persistent stubbornness (in attrition), in which they hold out in an increasingly losing cause over many years, until one of the above two endings occur.

The public demands change. The opposition to the powerholders is now so overwhelming that the whole issue is publicly recognized as the “good guys vs. bad guys”. One is either for decency or for President Marcos, apartheid, and the Vietnam War. While a majority opposition has existed for some years, up to now the mass population was not willing to act on their beliefs. They had not acted because they:

  • felt powerless,
  • did not know what to do,
  • were not called to action by a trigger event and crisis, and
  • feared the alternative (e.g., Communism, or the unknown) more than they desired change.

Citizens are so repulsed that their desire to end present policies and conditions overtakes their worry about the consequences of the alternative.

They are ready to vote, demonstrate, and even support the central powerholders in changing present policies. For example, people want an end to nuclear weapons more than they fear Soviet attack and takeover.

The movement’s goals for this stage include:

  • Wage a successful “endgame” strategy to achieve one or more demands.
  • Have activists recognize the success and their own role in it.
  • Raise larger issues and propose alternative paradigms.
  • Create new decentralized centers of power based on more participatory structures and an empowered public.
  • Continue the movement.

The movement needs to avoid:

  • compromising too many values and key demands;
  • achieving minor reforms without building toward basic social change;
  • having activists feel dismayed and powerless because they do not recognize success and the movement’s role in a successful endgame; and
  • having apparent final victory end the movement.

The movement finally achieves one or more of its demands. It now needs to address some hard questions: What is success? What needs to be done next? The movement needs to recognize successes achieved, follow up on the demands won, raise larger issues, focus on other demands which are in various stages, and propose larger alternatives and a new paradigm.

Stage Seven:1993 Plus

The anti-nuclear energy movement can win either by attrition or dramatic showdown. If present trends continue, nuclear energy will end slowly by prolonged decline of attrition early in the next century as described in the previous stage. This will require continuous opposition by the movement to the public and private powerholders’ attempts to revive the industry through government institutions. The central powerholders will continue to promote nuclear energy until nuclear energy becomes completely untenable economically or political, or until they lose office.

On the other hand, nuclear energy could come to a dramatic showdown ending as the result of a major nuclear accident as in the following scenario: In the Summer of 1993, an accident (some think it was the first act of terrorism within the United States) at a nuclear plant located in a densely populated metropolitan area in Northeast causes devastation far greater than that of Chernobyl. All nuclear plants in the U.S. are ordered shut down pending an investigation. The fate of nuclear energy is at the top of the nation’s agenda for the next fifteen months. Eighty-five percent of Americans oppose the restart of the reactors. Finally, just before its end-of-the-year break, Congress votes to end nuclear energy.

Both of these success options require that the general populace understands and accepts an alternative means for meeting the nation’s electrical energy needs. By that time, the movement must have educated and convinced the populace that the nation can switch to the soft energy paradigm.

The success achieved in Stage Seven is not the end of the struggle but a basis for continuing that struggle and creating new beginnings.

The movement has to continue the struggle in five different ways:

  • Celebrate success. The successes of Stage Seven and the movement’s role in achieving them should be clearly recognized by activists.
  • Follow-up. There needs to be follow-up, mainly by the POOs, at the local and national level (1) to make sure that the new promises, laws, and policies are actually carried out (e.g., after the 1965 Voting Rights Act a major effort was required to assure that Blacks were actually allowed to vote); (2) to achieve additional successes, which are now possible under the new political conditions and legal mandate; and (3) to resist backlash which might reverse the new gains.
  • Work on achieving other demands. The movement needs to focus on achieving other demands, which are probably in earlier MAP stages. After the civil rights movement desegregated restaurants in 1960, for example, the whole MAP stages process was repeated with successive movements to achieve integrated buses, equal public accommodations, voting rights, and work to end poverty.
  • New social consciousness, issues, and movements. The modern student and women’s movements emerged out of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.
  • Beyond reform to social change. Social movements need to go beyond immediate reforms to build toward fundamental structural changes by (1) creating empowered people who become life-long social change agents, and not just oneissue protesters; (2) creating ongoing grassroots political organizations and networks; (3) broadening the analysis, issues, and goals of movements; (4) propose new alternatives and worldviews or paradigms that put forward new political and social systems, not just oppose symptoms.

Governmental bureaucracies are supposed to carry out new laws and directives but could drag their feet and even fail to follow through. While most powerholders will be part of the new social and political consensus and try to carry out the new laws and policies, some may counterattack to reverse the new successes, as the Reagan administration did in ignoring the Boland amendment and continuing its support of the contras after 1984.

A new social consensus of about 80 percent of the populace supports the favorable resolution of the movement’s demand and the resulting new policies and conditions. The new demands on which the movement now begins focusing are supported by between 10 and 80 percent of the public and are different MAP stages.

The movement’s goals are to assure that the demands achieved are maintained and to circle back to focus the movement on other demands.

The chief hazards of Stage Eight are having the new successes either inadequately implemented or revoked from backlash.

There is no end. There is only the continuing struggle, acted out in cycles of social movements. The process of winning one set of demands creates new levels of citizen consciousness and empowerment, and generates new movements on new demands and issues.

Peoples’ movements move the world further along the path towards more fully meeting the spiritual, physical, social, and political needs of humanity. Moreover, the very process of being fully involved in the struggle of peoples’ movements contributes to peoples’ political and spiritual fulfillment. Activists are part of the emerging people-power movements around the world. People worldwide are struggling to transform themselves and the world from the present era of superpowers, materialism, environmental breakdown, disenfranchisement, abject poverty amidst opulence, and militarism, to a new, more human era of democracy, freedom, justice, self-determination, human rights, peaceful coexistence, preservation of the environment, and the meeting of basic human needs.

Consequently, the long-term impacts are more important than their immediate successes. The civil rights movement, for example, created a new positive image of Blacks among themselves and whites, established nonviolent action as a means to achieve people power, directly spun off the student and anti-Vietnam War movements, and inspired peoples’ movements got the American people, for the first time, to challenge and change American foreign policy and created the “Vietnam syndrome” in which the American people oppose the century old policy of U.S. military intervention in Latin America to achieve the interests of American powerholders. Social movements are also contagious: Philippines people’s movement spurred similar efforts in Haiti, Chile, and now South Korea.

If the nuclear energy endgame is that of attrition, the movement will have to continue its vigilance and opposition indefinitely into the future, opposing the barrage of central powerholder efforts to revive the nuclear energy era, until there is a total social and political consensus for cancelling nuclear energy and switching to a soft energy path. On the other hand, the dramatic showdown scenario could go as follows: The industrialized world is rocked again in 1995 by the report of an international commission that was set up following the 1993 accident to predict the world’s energy future into the next century. Its findings went far beyond the nuclear energy issue. The study included many of the coming crises that had been documented over the past 30 years. It showed that the current rates of fossil fuel (oil, wood, and coal) energy production would cause many catastrophes by the year 2025. The greenhouse effect would raise the Earth’s temperature reducing the agricultural production and creating the loss of many coastlines from the melting of glacial ice; the Earth’s ozone layer would be reduced, causing hundreds of millions of additional skin cancers; forests would be devastated by acid rain; the oceans would be threatened; and the world’s production of oil would peak and drop by 50 percent, as the available oil sources dry up, and oil production over the next five years would drop while prices skyrocketed.

Nations throughout the world hastily turn away from the hard energy policies based on high consumption of nuclear and fossil fuels and begin crash efforts to adopt soft energy strategies.

Toxic soil went from SF’s Hunters Point to state landfills, ex-workers say

April 22, 2018 (


The scandal involving cheating in the $1 billion cleanup at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has until now focused on allegations of what was left behind at the site: radioactive dirt dumped into trenches to save the time and expense of testing and disposing of it properly.

But former shipyard employees and environmentalists say that toxic waste removed from the site is of just as great a concern. Soil with potentially dangerous levels of radioactive waste, they contend, was trucked to conventional landfills across California — the sort of dumps that typically fill up with tree branches, construction debris and old dishwashers, not radiological waste from a former nuclear test lab that handled uranium and plutonium.

The shipyard, home to the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory from 1946 to 1969, is now the site of the San Francisco Shipyard development project, regarded as perhaps the most important development site in the city. It is to contain more than 10,500 housing units, 300 acres of open space, millions of square feet of retail, schools, a hotel and artists studios.

Before developer FivePoint starting building condominiums in 2013, former shipyard employees say that Tetra Tech, the company that was paid between $350 million and $450 million to lead the cleanup of the site, relaxed the standards for what was allowed to leave the property starting in 2011. The portal monitors — radiation detection scanners used to prevent trucks containing dangerous materials from exiting — were reset to be less sensitive. An area with scaffolding that allowed inspectors to get on top of the trucks to inspect shipments was taken down.

And whereas previously trucks that set off an alert from the portal monitor more than twice would be made to dump their soil loads back on a tarp to be retested and cleaned of dangerous materials, the new policy just required an employee to walk around the truck with a handheld monitor. Those monitors rarely detected anything because the truck bed made it tough to get readings, according to workers.

Former shipyard employee Susan Andrews, who operated portal monitors in 2010 and 2011, said Tetra Tech management went to extreme lengths to ensure trucks were allowed to exit, no matter how many times they set off the radiation detector.

“Before 2011 that dirt was never to leave until the radiation detected was found, contained and put in a secure lockup box,” she said. “In 2011, they changed the way they did business.”

Andrews said she saw trucks leaving the yard at night after the portal where they exited was supposed to be closed for the day — something she witnessed in January and February of 2012 from her condominium on Cleo Rand Lane, right above the shipyard entrance. She was one of nine former Tetra Tech employees to raise concerns with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She said she was laid off a short time later.

“I would be out with my dog about an hour after everyone had gone home, and I’d see these trucks full of dirt — 10 or 15 of them — going right by my condo,” she said. “It was crazy. Where on the site the dirt was coming from or where it was going I don’t know. But nothing should have been leaving after the portal monitor was shut down” for the night.

A recent review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies found that as much as 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s cleanup data for two parcels at the shipyard was found to be suspect and should be retested, according to John Chesnutt, manager of the EPA’s local Superfund Division. A spokesman for Tetra Tech did not return a call seeking comment.

While the Navy has acknowledged the problems with the Tetra Tech work, it continues to insist that the materials were removed from the site properly and safely.

Derek Robinson, who is leading the cleanup for the Navy, said soil is stockpiled on-site and sampled to “to select the appropriate landfill for disposal.” Soil that meets both radiological and chemical cleanup requirements is put back into trenches on the site, places where structures may later be built.

Soil that doesn’t meet those standards is separated and either sent to a landfill that accepts specific types of contamination in the soil or to a low-level radioactive waste site.

Some batches of dirt hauled off Hunters Point were tested and deemed too “hot” for conventional dumps, meaning they contained unacceptably high levels of radionuclides like cesium 137 and strontium 90 — both can cause cancer. That dirt, at least 4,300 cubic yards, was transported in watertight steel bins to Clive, Utah, one of four disposal sites in the United States licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste.

The rest of the waste, the vast majority, about 7,800 truckloads carrying 156,000 cubic yards, was marked “nonhazardous” and went to conventional dumps.

It was hauled to Kirby Canyon in Morgan Hill, near San Jose. It was transported to Keller Canyon in Pittsburg. It went to a dump in Buttonwillow, near Bakersfield, and to facilities in Vacaville and Brisbane owned by Recology, which collects San Francisco’s household trash. Most landfills also have portal monitors, although environmental experts say they are used sporadically and do not test for radiation. If soil contaminated with radioactive material left the shipyard site without being properly vetted, it is possible it landed in one of these landfills.

The timing of the changes Andrews observed at the portal is consistent with testimony from other whistle-blowers, who say the entire culture of the cleanup changed in early 2011 when Tetra Tech’s contract was restructured from “time and material” to a “firm fixed-price model.” Suddenly, the contractor had a financial incentive to complete the cleanup as quickly as possible because it was working for a specific dollar amount.

Shortly after that contract change, worker and whistle-blower Bert Bowers, who was in charge of monitoring compliance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards, said he started to see violations of industry standards — equipment left where it shouldn’t be and employees working without proper oversight. He complained and was later fired.

“The incentive was there to cut corners and get bonuses, and I started to see the effect,” he said. “The standards started to become compromised.”

Anthony Smith, who worked as laborer and technician at the shipyard during that time, said he and his colleagues spent months taking soil from areas known to be clean — like the foundation of an old movie theater — and passing it off as coming from sections of the site known to be highly toxic.

“It came down from the higher-ups — ‘We’re gonna make this clean today. Go get a sample from the normal place, go get a clean sample,’” Smith said.

Lindsey Dillon, a professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz who is writing a book about the cleanup and redevelopment of the shipyard, said it’s ironic that the champions of the redevelopment project cast it as “the heroic story of cleaning up a toxic military base” while the waste taken off the property is “creating a new geography of toxic exposure.”

Conventional landfills tend to be located in communities lacking economic or politic clout.

“It’s a systemic issue, because these landfill sites are located in particularly vulnerable areas,” said Dillon.

Don Wadsworth, a health physicist who specializes in radiation safety and radioactive waste management services, said the classified nature of Hunters Point’s history makes it hard to know what is buried on the property. But the federal government allocated plenty of money to do the job correctly.

“The problem you have is that Tetra Tech was on a program of deceiving the client and the regulators about the conditions on the site and the conditions of the materials leaving the site,” said Wadsworth. “In this case, the safety guard rails were not only ignored, they were ripped up and thrown away.”

Daniel Hirsch, retired director of the Environmental and Nuclear Policy Program at UC Santa Cruz, said the “release criteria” governing waste materials the Navy set at the shipyard were far lower than they should have been. And it is problematic that those standards may have been violated.

Hirsch said he has spent two years trying to find out what happened to the materials removed from the shipyard.

“The Navy have resisted and resisted and resisted,” he said. “My impression is that they knew this was a potential problem and didn’t want it exposed.”

Landfills sell material as well as accept it so it’s tough to say where all material from the shipyard wound up. Hunters Point soil could have ended up in rural roads, parks or building sites, Hirsch said. It could have been used as “cover” at landfills and ended up blown into nearby neighborhoods. It could contaminate water tables and irrigation used for crops.

In addition, waste and unwanted furnishings and metals such as pipes salvaged from razed buildings on the site could be recycled. Contaminated office furniture, fencing, metals and concrete from buildings all could have ended up in places where they could do harm to an unsuspecting public.

“I predict those communities will be up in arms, and they should be,” Hirsch said. “They have converted one Superfund site into perhaps many.”

Several of the waste removal and recycling companies that received soil and debris from the shipyard did not return calls.

Recology, which owns facilities in Vacaville and Brisbane, said it would review all shipments from Hunters Point. Spokesman Eric Potashner said his facilities require customers to sign a guarantee that the soil doesn’t contain contaminants that are not accepted, which would include anything radioactive.

“We have a robust sampling and acceptance criteria for all waste that comes into the site,” he said.

Andrews, who is from West Virigina, said Tetra Tech should be responsible for conducting tests at the landfills where the shipyard soil ended up. She said that her co-workers went along with the program because the Hunters Point jobs were the most lucrative in the country for workers in the hazardous waste remediation field. They paid $42 an hour plus $1,500 a week in expenses. Most of the workers were from Southern states where that kind of money goes a long way.

“I was told to shut my mouth, that I didn’t live there, had hit the lottery, that I should shut up and save my money. The more they said that, the madder I got,” she said. “I did care, and I decided that the people of San Francisco were worth more than my salary.”

J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @sfjkdineen

Is Pelosi an albatross or some other aquatic bird?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is technically adept, but her politics are to the right of Democratic voters. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

By  on April 22, 2018 (

My progressive friends are appalled that the Democratic #establishment, through party apparatus like the Democratic National Committee, undermines progressives in favor of centrist candidates.

The so-called “Bernie Sanders wing of the party” is a threat to the power and pocketbooks of the Wall Street-Martha’s Vineyard-Obama-Clinton wing of the party. There’s no reason to expect them to yield the field out of a vague fancy of small-d democratic virtue when it would mean higher taxes to fund puppies and lollipops and single-payer health care. The Democratic Party has spent 30 years under the spell of a corporate imperial wing that will go away when they are out-organized and defeated.

The Democratic #establishment has not endorsed ousting incumbent Democrats, but they should consider it. In California, top-two primaries can mean two Democrats face off in a general election, as happened with Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim, and Davids Chiu and Campos. Kevin DeLeon challenging Dianne Feinstein may open the floodgates to more such challenges of incumbents.

Like those of Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi has held onto leadership after Congressional Democrats lost power through four consecutive elections. Normally, when a faction suffers as humiliating a defeat as House Democrats did in 2010, the leader falls on his or her sword.

Pelosi may be a liability to a 2018 electoral wave. She’s shorthand for Republican attacks on clueless coastal elites. Every Democratic Congressional candidate has to deflect Pelosi-based smear ads. These attacks are undeserved, unfair and sexist. But politics is about winning, and if your enemy hates you more than your own side loves you, then you’re an albatross.

The right hated Barack Obama with a burning, racist passion, but he was a beloved, transcendent politician. Pelosi, despite her many strengths and significant history of service, has not given speeches that brought people to tears or inspired a Black Eyed Peas video. She is technically adept, but her politics are to the right of Democratic voters.

Enter young upstart Ryan Khojasteh, a 26-six year old law student and son of Iranian parents. He’s earned endorsements from the San Francisco Young Democrats, Latino Democratic Club and Richmond District Democrats. It’s highly unusual for officially recognized Democratic Party clubs to endorse a challenger to a powerful incumbent.

Challenger Ryan Khojasteh has earned endorsements from the San Francisco Young Democrats, Latino Democratic Club and Richmond District Democrats. (Courtesy Khojasteh for Congress)

Pelosi is a millionaire. With a contrasting biography, Khojasteh’s parents fled the revolution of Iran.

“My family has been separated for decades because of failed foreign policies and flawed immigration policies. And now, with this travel ban, we’re back at square one,” he said. “When my mother worked in Silicon Valley as a female engineer, whether she had a cubicle, or a small windowless office, it seemed she was expendable as a woman in a field dominated by men. Her experiences motivated me to fight for equal pay and paid family leave.”

Pelosi was protested by undocumented youth. Khosjateh was there.

“My family’s immigrant experience inspired me to fight for a clean DREAM Act, and pathways to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants,” he said.

Pelosi doesn’t support single-payer health care, even though a majority of Democratic voters do — including Khosjasteh.

“I support a single-payer health care system,” he said, “and support for single-payer should be voters’ litmus test for candidates in 2018.”

Pelosi has supported anti-choice Democratic candidates and doesn’t want to exclude anti-choice candidates whose views on abortion are to the right of 70 percent of Americans. And Khojasteh, well, you know the drill …

“When women’s rights to make decisions about their bodies are under unprecedented threat, access to abortion should be a litmus test,” Khosjateh said. “Reproductive justice is economic justice. I will work toward a federal Right to Choose law to preempt state laws that limit women’s autonomy over their bodies. I would prioritize universal birth control for women because many struggle with the co-pays, and repeal the Hyde Amendment.”

However you land on these issues, it’s good to know there is a distinction between candidates.

Nato Green’s second comedy album, “The Whiteness Album,” is available now wherever comedy is streamed or downloaded. He’s a writer and comedian currently in exile in Cuba but thinks he might come home soon.


It starts with winning over the hearts and minds of the American people.

By Kevin ZeeseMargaret Flowers  December 30, 2013  AlterNet

The current social movement that exploded onto the national scene with the 2011 Occupy Movement is following the path of successful movements so far. The social change movement in 2014 is poised to begin an exciting era of broadening and deepening the growing consensus for social and economic justice.

This week, our article for the end of 2013 focuses on where we are, i.e., at what stage of the progression of social movements do we find ourselves; and broadly outlines the next steps. Next week, our article for the new year will look more specifically at the tasks ahead for the movement in 2014 and beyond.

billMoyerMAPSuccessful people-powered movements follow a similar arc of development. The best description comes from Bill Moyer’s The Movement Action Plan: A Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements. We believe this is essential reading for activists and include a link to it on the strategy page on Popular Resistance.   Moyer expanded this 1987 article into, Doing Democracy, a book published in 2001, a year before he died. You can see a video of Bill Moyer’s last public presentation where he summarized the insights of his lifetime about how social movements grow and succeed, and about his vision of a new culture emerging through the cracks of a declining empire.

Moyer’s work is heartening for social justice activists because it shows how movements grow, recede and change their functions at different stages. By understanding the current stage of development we can better define the work that must be done to achieve success and predict how the power structure and public will react to our actions. Moyer worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on poverty campaigns. He also worked on a variety of causes over his nearly 50-year career in social movements.

In a recent conversation, Ken Butigan, a peace and justice activist who worked with Moyer, told us that Moyer wrote the first draft of the “Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements” when he was jailed with more than 1,400 people protesting the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in 1977.  Butigan explained that one reason Moyer wrote the “Eight Stages” was so people involved in movements would not despair when the movement did not immediately succeed and seemed to disappear without success. These are expected stages of development. Just as we would not expect a 4th grader to be doing calculus, we cannot expect a social movement to jump from Stage 2 to the success of Stage 7. Each step in the process serves an important role.

This Historic Moment

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Using the Movement Action Plan as a guide, we see that we are closer to success than one might think. The Occupy Movement was Stage Four of Eight. Moyer describes it:

“New social movements surprise and shock everyone when they burst into the public spotlight on the evening TV news and in newspaper headlines. Overnight, a previously unrecognized social problem becomes a social issue that everyone is talking about. It starts with a highly publicized, shocking incident, a ‘trigger event’, followed by a nonviolent action campaign that includes large rallies and dramatic civil disobedience. Soon these are repeated in local communities around the country.”

Stage 4 is the “Social Movement Take-Off.” During Occupy, it seemed that suddenly the unfair wealth divide, the corruption of Wall Street and the dysfunction of government came into people’s consciousness. These issues were discussed in the media and politicians started using language to show they understood there was a problem. Prior to this, these issues were largely ignored taboo topics that were not on the political radar.

In Stage 4, there are three concepts about which the public must be convinced. The first was accomplished during Occupy, that is: there is a problem that must be confronted. We also began to accomplish the second concept: current conditions and policies must be opposed. During later stages this second goal will be broadened and expanded. The final concept – and this is still ahead of us – is that people no longer fear the alternatives but want the alternatives put in place.

Throughout this process, the movement shows itself to be consistent with the best ideals of the nation, e.g., democracy, equality, justice and fairness; while the movement shows the power structure is out of step with these ideals. The movement exposes the differences between ‘official policies,’ what the government says that it is doing, and ‘actual policies,’ what the policies actually accomplish, which is the opposite of what they claim to accomplish.

Stage 5 is a state of “Identity Crisis and Powerlessness.” Participants feel like they failed and commentators say that the movement is dead and accomplished nothing. Some of the people involved in the Take-Off get burned out and suffer despair and hopelessness.  In fact, this is as natural as the receding of a wave and Moyer points out: “The perception of failure happens just when the movement is outrageously successful” because it raised the consciousness and national awareness of a serious problem that was previously ignored.

Moyer quotes the I Ching, “Book of Changes,” an ancient Chinese text which dates back to the 3rd or 2nd millennium BCE, for guidance. The I Ching describes “Retreat” as  a time of “an inner conflict based upon the misalignment of your ideals and reality,” i.e., the unrealistic expectation that long-term goals can be achieved immediately.  This is a “time to retreat and take a longer look to be able to advance later.” We know many in Occupy who did just that before moving on to Stage 6, where we are now.

During the stage of Identity Crisis or Retreat, activists who step back may realize we actually created a massive grassroots-based social movement, put our issues on the agenda and gained majority support for many of our views.  In addition, people began to learn of the enormity of the problem, agonize over the suffering of the victims of the unfair and corrupt economy and realize the complicity of people in power that they trusted.

The essential lesson of Stage 5 is that resistance from the power structure is a normal stage of the process. When we step back and look at the course of history, within the overall framework of change, the movement is on the path to success.  We need to understand “what the powerholders already know – that political and societal power ultimately lies with the people.”

Often simultaneous with this feeling of powerlessness is Stage 6, “Majority Public Support,” which is where we are right now.  During the current phase, the movement seeks to create broad and deep consensus over the issues that have been raised in the “Take-Off.” Our job is to win over the hearts and minds of the American people.

“The movement must consciously undergo a transformation from spontaneous protest, operating in a short-term crisis, to a long-term popular struggle to achieve positive social change. It needs to win over . . . an increasingly larger majority of the populace and involve many of them in the process of opposition and change. . . The majority stage is a long process of eroding the social, political, and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies. It is a slow process of social transformation that creates a new social and political consensus, reversing those of normal times.”

During this phase, the movement must transform from a “loose” organizational model to an “empowerment” model. This requires more structure but in order to be effective and create lasting change, it must follow the principles of being “participatory democratic, efficient, flexible, and capable of lasting over the long haul.”  The movement must avoid becoming a “professional opposition organization” (i.e., avoid becoming part of the system or a member of the non-profit, professional complex).  The movement must avoid becoming a mainstream group working for “achievable” reforms, focusing on elections and partisanship; instead they must remain “principled dissent groups” advocating for what is right, not what is possible, continuing to protest and resist and be based in the grassroots.  Leaders must be “nurturing mothers, not dominant patriarchs.”

The focus at this stage should be grassroots organizing to build a broad-based pluralistic movement.  The primary goals are educating, converting, and involving all segments of the population through a variety of means but most importantly through direct contacts at the local level to show people how the big social injustices of our era – the unfair and corrupt economy as well as the dysfunctional and corrupt government  – affect them directly. It is important during this phase for the movement to continue to have nonviolent actions, rallies, and campaigns, including civil disobedience at key points of time and key locations – even though the size of protests will be smaller than during the “Take-Off” phase.

In addition to protest, opportunities need to be created for widespread civic involvement in projects that put the people at odds with the current system. These citizen involvement programs need to reflect the movement’s values and goals and the full range of the new world the movement wants to create. The movement should be putting forth a bold vision, a new paradigm, and larger demands beyond mere reforms of the status quo.

Moyer describes a grand strategy that includes 12 phases that lead to Stage 7, “Success.” Throughout this process it is important to remember a movement is only as powerful as its grassroots base and therefore must continue to nourish, support and empower that base. During this phase the movement participants switch roles from being “rebels” to being “change agents.” The 12 phases are to (1) Keep the issues on the political and social agenda; (2) Win majority support against current policies; (3) Cause powerholders to change strategy although they do not solve problems; (4) Counter each change in strategy by showing it is a gimmick, not a solution; (5) Push powerholders to new strategies that take riskier positions and make it harder to hold old positions; (6) Create strategic campaigns that erode support for the powerholders; (7) Expand policy goals as the movement realizes the problems are greater than was evident; (8) Develop stronger and deeper opposition to current policies; (9) Promote solutions and a paradigm shift; (10) Win majority support for the movement’s solutions; (11) Put the issues on the political and legal agendas; (12) Finally, the powerholders change positions to appear to get in line with public opinion while attacking the movement and its solutions (e.g., passing a Wall Street health law that claims to cover everyone while demonizing single payer health care which would be universal as too extreme).

Opposition to current policies will quickly grow to 60%, then rise to 70%  or 75%.  Support for the movement’s alternatives will grow more slowly during this time, with the public split on the alternatives. The movement must build public support for the alternatives to achieve success.

At this point, even though everyone wants the issue resolved, the government is still unable to take action. As a movement reaches the end of Stage 6, many powerholders begin to join the calls for change. As elites defect to support majority opinion, the political price paid by those who want to maintain unpopular policies exceeds their benefits and creates a political crisis that leads to resolution.

This leads to Stage 7: “Success.” The duration of Stage 6 is unpredictable and can take years. Success can come in several ways (1) a “dramatic showdown that resembles the ‘take off stage.’” There could be a trigger and the movement needs to mobilize with broad popular support. (2) A “quiet showdown” where the people in power realize they can no longer continue the status quo and launch a face saving endgame of “victorious retreat,” changing their policies and taking credit. (3) Through “attrition” where the social, economic and political machinery slowly evolve to new polices and conditions.  The result is not guaranteed when this process begins and the movement must continue the struggle until the goals are won.  Stage 8 defends the success and begins the social movement again, focusing on the new injustices of that era.

Applying the Model to the Current Social Movement

In recent years there has been a global awakening of people understanding that big finance capitalism’s neo-liberal model of privatization and corporatization while defunding public programs and cutting necessary services to people is the cause of economic inequality and the failed economy. At the same time, the collapsing ecology of the planet with mass extinctions, destruction of the oceans and environment as well as the impacts of climate change have become evident to super majorities. The inability of governments to respond appropriately to these crises because they are corrupted by mega-banks and transnational corporate interests has led to mass protests.

A September study of protests from 2006 to mid-2013 found a rapid rise: “Our analysis of 843 protest events reflects a steady increase in the overall number of protests every year, from 2006 (59 protests) to mid-2013 (112 protests events in only half a year).” They found that what is driving protests are four inter-related issues: economic justice and opposition to austerity, failure of political systems, the injustice of global trade rigged for big business, and the rights of people, e.g., indigenous, racial and ethnic groups, workers, women, LGBT, immigrants and prisoners and the right to free speech and assembly.

Another study that mapped protests from 1979 to the summer of 2013 graphically shows the intense increase in protests in recent years.  While there were protests against Thatcherism and during the break-up of the Soviet Union as well as against the Iraq War, no period like the last few years has had the intensity and breadth of protests at any time in the last 30 years.  It is visually evident in a dramatic, interactive map of protests based on reports in the media (which we know does not even cover most protests).

This research, and so much more, indicates that the global protests have passed Stage 4, the Take-Off phase.  In our daily reporting of movement news (sign up for a daily digest of news here) we have identified ten “fronts of struggle” in which sub-movements are very active.  These include (1) mobilizing youth and students and making education a human right, (2) confronting environmental issues around climate change, extreme energy extraction, toxicity,food and mass extinction, (3) creating a national healthcare system based on single payer financing and human rights principles, (4) ending homelessness and creating affordablehousing, (5) ending poverty and creating a new democratic economy including confronting thebanking and finance system and unfair wages and inadequate employment, (6) ending massincarceration, police abuse and the drug war, (7) establishing immigrant rights, (8) establishingindigenous sovereignty, and (9) creating a fair global trade system and (10) ending war and militarism. We cover all these fronts on Popular Resistance, and the links above are to weekly newsletters that focused on them or to a series of articles on the issue.

Bill Moyer describes mass movements as being made up of sub-movements.  These fronts of struggle combined together in a movement of movements create the foundation of the mass movement on which we will build to broaden and deepen the movement.  The uniting theme for these ten sub-movements is a united movement to end the rule of money so the necessities of the people and protection of the planet come before further enriching the wealthiest.

The overarching theme of wealth inequality has already deepened. We see it in the rhetoric of poll-sensitive politicians like President Obama and Mayor-elect de Blasio (whether they do enough about the issue will be in large part dependent on our actions); and we can see it in the criticism of trickle-down economics by Pope Francis.  There is no question that the conversation brought to consciousness by Occupy is continuing and deepening.

Economist Dean Baker clarified something that most instinctively understand —  inequality is not happening by accident. It is happening because of policy choices made by those in office.  This includes trade agreements rigged for transnational corporations, policies favoring big business over small businesses and entrepreneurs, a tax system that protects the wealthiest — especially investors, patent protections for pharmaceuticals that prop up inordinate profits and make healthcare expensive for everyone, continued funding of big banks at a cost of $85 billion a month while not funding a full employment economy or necessary programs like food stamps, raising the budgets of the military and weapons makers while at the same time cutting veterans  and government pensions and cutting necessary programs.

Joel Bleifuss of In These Times describes this as a “precarious democracy” where those in office answer to big business, rather than the people. These are policy choices that a well-organized mass movement of people power can change.

Already, the movement is seeing success from its protests, not just in changing the conversation, but in affecting policy.  Medea Benjamin points out ten good things that happened in 2013 including stopping the war in Syria, negotiations with Iran, push back on Obama’s drone murders and opposition to the NSA spying program, among other things. While these victories do not constitute our ultimate goals, they show that organized people power is making a difference. They should encourage each of us to increase our efforts to broaden and deepen the movement and to work in solidarity on multiple fronts of struggle.

The Target of Our Efforts Is Mobilizing the People

In the next article we will focus on objectives for 2014 as well as areas where we need to focus our energy and activism. The challenges and opportunities of the upcoming year are important and we can have some important victories.

Bill Moyer, in his final presentation on his Movement Action Plan, makes a crucial point that is often missed by activists. The critical understanding we must embrace is that organized people have the power to direct the government and the economy. We need to understand that we are not a fringe movement, but a movement in the center of the best ideals of the United States. That is, we believe in a government that is truly run by the people, not by elite corporate and wealthy interests; we believe in equality under the law not special treatment for those who are politically connected and abusive enforcement against certain communities; we believe in a fair economy not one rigged for the wealthiest. This is what the majority of American people believe, but those in power violate these principles.

As we have written in previous articles on strategy to transform the nation, when a movement is able to mobilize a small minority of the population in support of views held by a majority of the people, they win. In fact, a review of the last 100 years of resistance movements found that the people have never lost in a dictatorship or democracy when 3.5% of the people are mobilized.

Bill Moyer sharpens our task, telling us that many activists mistakenly think when they are protesting their target is the government or a corporation when in fact the target is mobilizing the people. We want to show that there is an effective movement speaking to the people’s concerns and putting forth views that they support. This is especially true in the current stage where our task is to broaden and deepen the movement through talking, often one-on one, with people in our communities and creating a national consensus in support of our goals.

Editor’s Note: Bill Moyer (September 17, 1933 – October 21, 2002), was a United States social change activist who was a principal organizer in the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement. He was an author, and a founding member of the Movement for a New Society.  (Wikipedia)

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This article is produced by in conjunction with AlterNet.  It is based on’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement.

Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD are participants in; they co-direct  It’s Our Economy  and co-host  Clearing the FOG . Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.  

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are cohosts of Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC. They also codirect Its Our Economy and are organizers of

House Supports Connecticut Joining National Popular Vote Compact; Bill Moves To Senate

Kirsten Gillibrand Unveils A Public Option For Banking

The idea would provide a low-cost alternative to payday loans — and it might just save the Postal Service, too.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing a postal banking bill, calling it a "solution whose time has come."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing a postal banking bill, calling it a “solution whose time has come.”

April 25, 2018

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing legislation Wednesday that would require every U.S. post office to provide basic banking services, an ambitious step aimed at improving the lives of Americans with limited financial resources.

The bill brings to Congress for the first time a policy idea that has already won the support of liberal economists and anti-poverty activists: Turning the nation’s sprawling network of U.S. Postal Service facilities into places where working-class and low-income Americans who lack adequate access to commercial banking can obtain low-cost, short-term loans. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have both spoken out in favor of postal banking, but Gillibrand is the first to introduce legislation mandating it.

The central goal of the bill is to replace risky financial products like payday loans, which can trap borrowers in prolonged cycles of debt, with regulated alternatives.

“This is a solution to take on payday lenders, to take on the problems that the unbanked have all across the country. It’s a solution whose time has come,” Gillibrand said in an interview with HuffPost.

To hear Gillibrand and other postal banking proponents tell it, the Postal Service and underbanked Americans are the perfect complements.

The postal system’s 30,000 locations touch every community. A majority ― 59 percent ― are in so-called banking deserts, or zip codes that have either no bank branches or just one.

Launching a postal banking system would require startup funding that could either be obtained through a loan from the treasury or a congressional appropriation. Gillibrand’s staff plans to seek an estimate of the cost from the Congressional Budget Office.

A postal banking system could be a major boon to the financially strained Postal Service. If even 10 percent of the money Americans currently spend on interest and fees for risky financial products went toward postal banking loans that cost 90 percent less, the Postal Service would gain almost $9 billion in annual revenue, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Postal Service Inspector General.

“It is really an elegant solution,” said Gillibrand, who emphasized that benefits to the postal system, though significant, were a secondary consideration. “You have a system that already works. And you have the ability to let the unbanked have banking in a way that’s affordable.”

Literally the only person who is going to be against this is somebody who wants to protect payday lender profits.Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

Under Gillibrand’s proposal, Americans could cash paychecks and deposit money in accounts free of charge at each post office location. Deposits would be capped at the larger of two amounts ― $20,000, or the median balance in all American bank accounts.

The postal banks would be able to distribute loans to borrowers of up to $1,000 at an interest rate slightly higher than the yield on one-month Treasury bonds, currently about 2 percent.

A postal banking system would be an alternative to the for-profit payday lending system, in which people routinely pay triple-digit fees to borrow money for bills that come due before their next paycheck. The average payday loan of $375 typically costs a borrower an additional $520 in interest and fees, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

These costs are disproportionately shouldered by the most vulnerable people in the economy: Lower-earning workers who can’t afford fees that commercial banks levy if an account balance falls too low, or simply live in an area that lacks a traditional banking option. The lack of resources typically precludes these Americans from qualifying for a credit card with a reasonable interest rate.

More than one-quarter of Americans households (34 million homes) are either “unbanked” ― meaning they lack someone with a bank account altogether ― or “underbanked” ― relying on payday loans or other so-called alternative lenders to supplement the services of a traditional bank.

Their predicament shows how expensive it is to be poor in America. The average underbanked household has an annual income of $25,500, and spends nearly 10 percent on alternative financial products and associated fees, according to a 2011 KPMG study.

Due in no small part to racial wealth and income gaps, black and Latino households are more likely to be both unbanked and underbanked. The unbanked rate among black households is 18.2 percent, compared with 7 percent for the population as a whole.

“There is a huge racial justice issue,” Gillibrand said. “The average person who gets a payday loan is a 44-year-old African American single mom. It overwhelmingly affects communities of color.”

A women walks into the payday lender Speedy Cash on Feb. 21, 2018, in Lakewood, Colorado.

A women walks into the payday lender Speedy Cash on Feb. 21, 2018, in Lakewood, Colorado.

Postal banking is not a new idea. In fact, United States post offices provided savings and deposit services for Americans from 1911 to 1967, though it did not provide lending. The postal systems of a host of developed nations provide some basic banking services.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a national authority on postal banking and author of How The Other Half Banks, advised Gillibrand on the legislation.

“It’s the most important thing that we can be doing to make people’s lives easier that is basically cost-free to the taxpayer,” said Baradaran, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law.

The U.S. Postal Service, as a self-funded federal agency, already has the legal authority to expand its sources of revenue without additional action from Congress.

Gillibrand legislation would add a congressional mandate to speed the process.

“They could do it themselves, but they haven’t chosen to do that in the last 40 years,” she said.

The timing of Gillibrand’s bill is deliberate. In January, Mick Mulvaney, the anti-regulatory ideologue now at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, shelved a new payday lending rule that had been imposed by his predecessor.

The payday lending industry has showered members of Congress with nearly $14 million in contributions since 2010, including $63,000 to Mulvaney, who left his House seat in 2017 to serve in the Trump White House. (Mulvaney told an audience of bankers on Tuesday that his willingness to speak to industry lobbyists depended on whether, and how much, they had donated to him.)

President Donald Trump this month ordered a review of Postal Service finances that some Democrats, including Gillibrand, fear could lay the groundwork for privatization of the system.

Gillibrand said she anticipates broad support for the legislation in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“Literally the only person who is going to be against this is somebody who wants to protect payday lender profits,” she said.

Payday lenders’ main trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, did not explicitly object to the proposal, however.

“We welcome new entrants into the small dollar credit market provided they will be subject to the same laws and regulations as other lenders in this space,” the group’s CEO, Dennis Shaul, said in a statement. “Greater market competition spurs innovation and drives down costs for consumers, but to date almost all of the attempts to create small-dollar loan alternatives have been charity-based, required government subsidies, or were unprofitable and unsustainable. The private sector remains the best opportunity for serving small dollar, short-term loans.”

Postal banking is the latest progressive policy to find a champion in the U.S. Senate, where rumored 2020 presidential hopefuls are expanding the bounds of the debate.

On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced plans to introduce legislation requiring the federal government to guarantee every American a job. Gillibrand has also voiced support for the idea.

Gillibrand in September was one of 16 Democratic senators to co-sponsor Sanders’ Medicare-for-all legislation creating a single, comprehensive government-run insurance plan for all Americans.

Asked why leading congressional Democrats have embraced sweeping economic reforms once considered marginal in Congress, Gillibrand said, “You need bold ideas to fix some of the structural challenges that we have in our economy today.

“You have so much income inequality,” she continued. “So if you are going to be tinkering around the edges and picking around the margins, you are literally never going to fix the problem.”

This article has been updated to include a statement from the Community Financial Services Association of America CEO.

Public Bank rally held with coalition of 14 organizations calling for San Francisco Public Bank 

San Francisco Public Bank rally Apr 25, 2018

April 26, 2018

On the day of Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, an alliance of 14 organizations including Public Bank SF, Divest SF, Friends of Public Bank of Oakland, Mazaska Talks, California Nurses Association, Code Pink, SEIU and more rallied at a Bank of America financial center in San Francisco and marched to City Hall to call on the SF Municipal Task Force to create a fully functioning Public Bank within the next five years.

From the group’s press release:

“Our organizations represent San Franciscans who want a greener, more LGBTQ friendly, anti-racist, decarcerated, pro-indigenous, and more affordable city. … The organizations cosponsoring today’s protest are concerned that public bank task force members may follow Santa Fe and Los Angeles officials in using exorbitant start-up and operational costs of a public bank as an excuse to continue the city’s relationship with Bank of America and other Big Banks. … [Startup costs] would pay off in the long-run as a public bank can provide lower interest rates than the ones offered by Wall Street banks for public infrastructure projects …”

[see more photos and video]

Cannabis could supply green for San Francisco’s breakup with Wall Street

Wells Fargo, headquartered in San Francisco, was recently fined $1 billion for charging mortage borrowers unfair fees and charging clients for car insurance they didn’t need. As The City explores the idea of establishing a public bank, some are focused on mitigating the harm large corporate banks are causing. (Aleah Fajardo/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)

By  on April 25, 2018 (

Today, San Franciscans will take to the streets.

More than a year ago, a coalition of Native Americans, environmentalists and concerned San Franciscans testified before the Board of Supervisors. Many of them experienced brutalities at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota as they protested the Dakota Access Pipeline’s impact on clean drinking water and Native Americans’ rights. They urged San Francisco to divest taxpayers’ money from banks financing the oil pipeline.

The supervisors listened. They directed Treasurer Jose Cisneros to establish a Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force and to evaluate the creation of a public bank. A public bank could handle taxpayers’ money, provide loans to local businesses, fund affordable housing and ensure San Francisco isn’t complicit in preying upon the vulnerable and destroying the environment.

Last week, task force members began hashing out potential solutions for the bank’s high startup costs. Some believe the budding cannabis industry could give San Francisco the green it needs to break free from Wall Street banks and the harm they’ve caused.

But advocates remain concerned a public bank may still not move forward.

“A public bank in San Francisco is feasible,” Cisneros told me. “The more challenging question: Is it a good policy decision given the complexity, expense and risks?”

Other municipalities haven’t figured out ways to overcome these challenges. Last week, Santa Fe’s task force determined a public bank’s benefits are “at best marginal and at worst would carry risk of non-viability.” The Los Angeles chief legislative analyst called startup costs “exorbitant” in its report last February.

A public bank could require a minimum of $10 million in capital, approximately $1 million in startup costs and about $2 million for staff salaries, as well as additional funds for offices, branches, data processing, IT systems and security.

“I think the box we’ve been given is a public bank that will make, not cost, The City money,” said Steve Zuckerman, a San Francisco task force member and president of the Self-Help Federal Credit Union, during last week’s meeting. “All the problems we’re so passionate about need funding.”

Cannabis advocates rally in support of medical marijuana dispensaries outside City Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 28, 2017. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Cannabis offers a cure. Federal law classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug, like heroin. Most banks are unwilling to face money-laundering charges for accepting drug proceeds. Their squeamishness has created a billion-dollar industry run primarily on cash.

If San Francisco’s public bank accepts deposits from dispensaries and other cannabis businesses, it could alleviate the industry’s cash problems and provide an initial revenue stream.

A few institutions in the United States provide limited deposit services. The Partner Colorado Credit Union, for example, averages $20 million in monthly deposits — about 80 percent of its monthly business — from the cannabis industry. Like other credit unions and community banks, it is willing to take on the risk and burden associated with the service, which includes in-depth investigations and documentation.

If San Francisco is also willing to take on the challenge, it could overcome the exorbitant cost of establishing a public bank and bring The City closer to divesting from institutions that fund fossil fuel corporations and abuse consumers.

Days ago, Wells Fargo was fined $1 billion for attaching unnecessarily high costs to its mortgage and auto loans. People lost their homes and cars as a result. The banking giant was also fined $185 million two years ago for secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.

“We have to get the banks to stop causing harm,” Kat Taylor, a San Francisco task force member and co-founder of Beneficial State Bank, told me. “We will never cleanup for the harm they’re causing. We have to stop it at the source.”

Although a public bank is not a promise San Francisco’s money will never cause harm, Taylor assured me it’s possible to accept money from cannabis businesses without compromising the bank’s values and vision.

But public bank advocates remain concerned. Figuring out how to get around federal requirements could complicate the process, slow it down or even stop it.

“The march is to demand city officials create a public bank now,” Kurtis Wu with the Public Bank San Francisco Coalition told me. “We’re facing urgent crises, and San Francisco has the unique opportunity to show the rest of the country how to break up with Wall Street.”

Members of the coalition and their allies will rally in front of the Bank of America building on Market Street at 4 p.m. today and march to City Hall. San Franciscans supportive of their cause can learn more on Facebook. Members of the public are also encouraged to attend the monthly Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force meetings.


“What’s the solution for things that are kind of paper and kind of foil, such as the inside wrapper of cream cheese?” — Elizabeth Bell

It’s hard when your trash sends you mixed messages. Foil and paper are each, individually, recyclable. But when they join forces, they’re considered foreign waste and should be tossed in the landfill, according to Recology spokesperson Robert Reed.

Terracycle does accept mixed materials, like Clif Bar wrappers. Check out the recycling business’s website for details. Cream cheese also comes in plastic tubs, which are easier to recycle.

Some bagel shops may be willing to sell cream cheese to customers in bulk. Try bringing a reusable container to Wise Sons or Noah’s Bagels and see if they’ll fill it for you.

I love spreading shmear and sorting info. Email questions to

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at

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