Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

Israeli citizens seek oversight of Israel’s nuclear weapons program

In Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Human rights, Nuclear Policy, Justice on May 26, 2016 at 3:06 am

More than 100 citizens who are members of the Israel Disarmament Movement filed an appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to require regulation of all activities of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, which has operated without oversight since the program was created in 1952. For details, see http://disarmament.org.il/english/?page_id=1096

My comments on the $375 million settlement with Dow & Rockwell

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Rocky Flats on May 23, 2016 at 3:49 am

Earlier I posted John Aguilar’s Denver Post May 19, 2016, article about the $375 million settlement of the lawsuit against Rocky Flats operators Dow Chemical and Rockwell International. Here I will add three comments.

  1. This case was filed in 1990 and the verdict by the jury finding Dow and Rockwell guilty was reached in 2005. It’s been more than a quarter-century in the making, a long time to pay the downwind affected people, some of whom have died by now. Even with the settlement made, affected people will not receive compensation for a couple of years.
  2. It’s regretful that the judge in the case restricted it solely to harm to property value. When the case was originally filed, the plaintiffs sought compensation for decline of property value but also for harm to health. The judge unfortunately dropped the latter from the case as it went forward. At DOE’s Fermald, Ohio, plant that processed uranium for bombs, as a result of a citizen’s lawsuit, DOE paid for medical monitoring of affected people for 18 years, saving some because health problems were found early and relieving others who found that their health had not been harmed by any possible exposure. I was told by one of the official managing this medical surveillance that DOE personnel said they would never again pay for medical monitoring for people whose health may be endangered by exposure to toxins released from DOE plants.
  3. I am grateful that those in the designated area downwind of Rocky Flats will finally be compensated for loss to value of their property to the tune of $375 million. But neither Dow nor Rockwell will pay a cent of this. The money will come from the DOE, which means from the taxpayers. You and I will pay people for the carelessness of two companies operating the Rocky Flats plant. They and other companies working for the DOE nuclear weapons program are indemnified for any harm they do.

Satyagraha Institute, August 2016

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship on May 23, 2016 at 1:43 am

For details on the Satyagraha Institute nonviolence training this August in South Dakota, see http://www.satyagrahainstitute.org/usa#2015

I will be one of the resource persons present for this year’s U.S. event.

Obama on nukes: All talk, no action

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on May 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Thursday, May 19, 2016, 5:00 AM
As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my hometown flattened by a hurricane-like blast, burned in 7,000-degree Fahrenheit heat and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a building, a little more than a mile from ground zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned to death. I can still hear their faint voices, calling their mothers for help, and praying to God.

As I escaped with two other girls, we watched a procession of ghostly figures: grotesquely wounded people whose clothes were tattered or gone. Parts of their bodies were missing. Some were carrying their eyeballs in their hands. Some had their stomachs burst open, their intestines hanging out.

Of a population of 360,000 residents of Hiroshima — largely noncombatant women, children and elderly — most became victims of the atomic bombing. Many were killed immediately; some, over time. Nearly 71 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of the bomb, called Little Boy, considered crude by today’s standards for mass destruction.

This same city, rebuilt over the decades with few reminders of its tragic past, will soon play host to President Obama, as he becomes the first sitting U.S. President to journey to the place where nuclear weapons were first used in war. For me, and for many survivors, this historic occasion presents a conflict of emotions. Of course we appreciate the courage it takes to come to Hiroshima, especially given the current political climate in the United States.

But still we are frustrated by Obama’s eloquent propensity to say one thing and do another.

In his famous speech in Prague, in 2009, he said, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Why then has the U.S. government, under the Obama administration, pledged $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its nuclear arsenal? Exactly where is the moral responsibility and leadership in that?

Regarding disarmament, Obama stated, “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global nonproliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.” Why then are the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states actively boycotting the latest international nuclear negotiations?

If the President is serious about disarmament, he should have sent a delegation to the UN in Geneva, where, this month, representatives from nearly 100 countries discussed the prospects for a nuclear ban treaty.

Currently endorsed by 127 nations, the nuclear ban treaty is the most significant advance for nuclear disarmament in a generation. Yet there is little attention in the media, so the public remains unaware.

The President also made the bold and accurate claim that, “If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

It is crucial to understand that this use may result by design or by accident. Indeed, nuclear risk is on the rise as accidents and aging infrastructure have been revealed in recent research, proving that the very existence of nuclear weapons presents an avoidable threat to life on Earth.

Let us not forget that within two flashes of light three days apart, two beloved cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, became places of desolation, with heaps of rubble, horrifically wounded people and blackened corpses everywhere.

He may be courageous to visit Hiroshima, but the President’s symbolic and rhetorical courage must be backed up by action for disarmament.

Thurlow, a former social worker and founder of Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto, is an advocate for nuclear disarmament.

What to do about elections

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Race on May 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

My daughter Jerri, who lives in North Carolina, posted the following analysis and suggestions on her Facebook page. I like her suggestions very much.
JERRI’S SUGGESTIONS FOR REFORMING THE POLITICAL SYSTEM: 1) overturn Citizen’s United – limit ALL campaign contributions to $2K per year for individuals and corporations alike. 2) establish a workable public finance system for elections. 3) eliminate the Electoral College. 4) eliminate delegates and super delegates – all elections are determined on actual votes cast by citizens. 5) implement automatic voter registration at birth and automatic address updates through the Postal Service. 6) establish national election laws – all elections are open to all voters regardless of party affiliation and each voter gets to cast a vote for whomever they feel is the best candidate for the office. Primaries for all parties must be held on the same day and each voter must chose one candidate to vote for. 7) make election day a national holiday and try to align local elections to this date as well. 8) consider offering a small tax incentive for voting and participating in the political process. 9) limit the length of time that campaigns may be conducted (6-8 months for example). 10) establish term limits for all politically elected offices (12 years seems like plenty to me). 11) establish strict laws against moving from elected positions into lobbying jobs. 12) require any publicly funded news outlets to offer equal coverage of all candidates. 13) offer benefits (retirement /health insurance) comparable to what the general public has available to them. Eliminate secret service protection within a year of leaving office. 14) Hopefully these suggestions will result in additional viable political parties so that we can move everything away from this polarized and dysfunctional two party system. I am sure there are other areas that I have failed to address, but I think this would be a start… People feel disenfranchised and until they honestly feel their vote and their participation matters… Well you know what we get…

Major article on Jon Lipsky

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on April 30, 2016 at 8:26 am

5280, the Denver magazine, just published an article on Jon Lipsky, who led the FBI raid on Rocky Flats in 1989. After being away for several years, he now lives in the area and follows the Rocky Flats issue closely. To read the article, go to: http://www.5280.com/news/magazine/2016/04/rogue-agent?page=full

Another kind of Nuclear Security Summit: The Marshall Islands vs. the Nuclear-Armed States

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on April 10, 2016 at 9:44 am

Very insightful article by Jacqueline Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation in Oakland.

See http://www.pressenza.com/2016/04/another-kind-nuclear-security-summit-marshall-islands-vs-nuclear-armed-states/

Alice Slater of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on the Nuclear Problem

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace on April 3, 2016 at 9:26 pm

For video, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C_mKtd5x50&feature=youtu.be

Catastrophic Consequences: Reflecting on the Nuclear Security Summit

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health on April 1, 2016 at 9:24 am

By Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Allowance, March 31, 2016.
The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC has unleashed a spate of editorials, letters, interviews, broadcasts, podcasts, tweets and posts about nuclear weapons. As an activist who has worked for nuclear disarmament for thirty years, it is gratifying to see the issue getting some notice.

Unfortunately, that’s about where the gratification ends. I live twenty-two miles from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the US government is, right now, cranking out thermonuclear highly enriched uranium cores for W76-1 warheads as part of the Stockpile Life Extension program which is almost exactly what it sounds like—except they don’t just extend the life of the warhead for another 40-100 years, they also modify and upgrade it to introduce new military capabilities. They’ve been building these components in Oak Ridge ever since the country went thermonuclear in 1949.

This is the new global arms race. It’s not something that might happen in the future. It is already happening, right now, though you haven’t heard about it because the headlines are about terrorism, global warming and Donald Trump—all legitimate worries, to be sure. But the idea that a new nuclear arms race can take place under the radar is legitimately terrifying.

At the Security Summit, and in his Washington Post editorial piece, President Obama noted the gains made during his administration while recognizing there are still challenges to be met. If you don’t know any more about it than what you are reading in the newspaper, you might think the US is ever-so-slowly, incrementally, moving toward the world free of nuclear weapons Obama embraced in 2009, for which he was prematurely gifted with a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama says we are taking concrete steps. He brazenly claims we are strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.

What is not being mentioned so much is the stark reality of this: over the next thirty years, the United States will spend one trillion dollars to upgrade its nuclear force—new warheads, new bombs, new submarines, new jets, new missiles, new bomb plants—from the ground up we are pursuing an entirely new nuclear capability.

Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime? The US has rebuffed calls by non-nuclear nations to deliver on the promise we made in 1969, when the Treaty was signed, to pursue complete disarmament “at an early date.” A global movement to outlaw nuclear weapons has been building over the last two years—the US is not taking part. The Marshall Islands, victims of nuclear test blasts for decades, brought suit against the nuclear weapons states in the World Court last year—the US has turned its back on the court and refused to participate. Why? Why not go to the World Court, Mr. President, and present your grand work to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime, and let your actions be your defense?

Some of us know why. We’re the ones who have been tracking this issue for decades. We’ve heard all your speeches, but we’ve also seen what’s happened on your watch. And actions, as they say, speak louder than words.

The new global nuclear arms race is not news to some of us in Tennessee because we are at Ground Zero of the whole thing. Here, in Oak Ridge, the government is planning a new bomb plant, called the Uranium Processing Facility, at the same complex we used to enriched the uranium fuel for the Little Boy bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It’s even still called by its Manhattan Project code name, Y-12. You can look it up. This new bomb plant, the UPF, will be the flagship of the new, “modernized” nuclear weapons complex—did you tell everyone at the Nuclear Security Summit you were investing billions in bomb plants to expand our nation’s nuclear weapon production capacity, Mr. President?

I say “planning a new bomb plant” because they have spent almost 3 billion dollars designing the UPF bomb plant and they don’t have a design yet. It will cost many more billions to actually build it, if they do. Citizens here have been working for ten years to stop them, and so far, so good. But the toughest work is still to come.

So the Obama Administration is using the occasion of the Security Summit to tell you all its nuclear feel good stories. What they aren’t telling you is the raw truth that renders all of those accomplishments virtually meaningless. If they make you feel good, great. But don’t be fooled by your feelings, because they aren’t the truth—and we ignore the truth at our failure.

I saw a wee bit of coverage of the Nuclear Summit on CSPAN-2 today, and at the close the moderator used the perfect phrase to describe what we get if we ignore the truth—catastrophic consequences.

The truth is the United States is investing a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons, starting with new bomb production plants and ending with new missiles to carry new warheads to targets halfway around the world. In response—I say that because we are the ones leading this arms race—Russia and China are moving to upgrade their arsenals as well. Every day, the nuclear threat is growing. And every dollar spent on it is, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, the theft of a slice of bread from a child who is hungry and is not fed.

A trillion dollars will buy a lot of bread. Or build a lot of homes. Or create a lot of jobs. Or hire a lot of teachers, repair a lot of bridges, provide a lot of health care. But it won’t if it is used to build bomb plants, then missiles, which will be buried in silos, and loaded on submarines where they will sit, brooding, waiting, tempting the men (and very few women) in power, threatening the lives of our children and their children, holding the earth itself in harm’s way.

When the President described the challenges still facing us he pointed his finger at Russia, then at North Korea. Here’s what he said we need to do: Negotiate to reduce—not eliminate, just reduce—our stockpiles further. We know he thinks something like 1,000 is an appropriate number to scare the rest of the world into thinking twice before attacking us (except for suicide bombers, but who would be crazy enough to blow themselves up just to hurt the US?). And he said the US should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—a piece of paper, just like the Nonproliferation Treaty we’ve been ignoring since 1970. When then-President Clinton signed the CTBT he congratulated himself on his great gesture then noted, just in case anyone wondered, that we fully intended to abide by the treaty unless we decided it was in our supreme national interest not to. In other words, the treaty ultimately meant nothing.

This is the world we live in. To pretend otherwise is to deceive ourselves. If we don’t object, we not only bear a moral responsibility akin to those who were bystanders during the holocaust, we rob ourselves and future generations of trillions of dollars that could be used to purchase true security—jobs, education, housing, health care— and we rob ourselves of our own self-respect because we know ourselves as those who threaten the utter and complete annihilation of others, and we rob ourselves and future generations of the peace and security that can never be ours as long as we maintain the ominous nuclear cloud over our children’s generation, and their children’s and on and on into the future until the day the bombs are used and there is no future anymore.

Obama’s Nuclear Legacy: A Tragic Failure

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 31, 2016 at 11:39 pm

Is That All There Is? Obama’s Disappointing Nuclear Legacy
Defense One, MARCH 29, 2016 BY JOE CIRINCIONE, president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late.
The biggest roadblock to making the world safer from nuclear weapons turned out to be the president’s own team.
American showman P.T. Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more.” If the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit this week is President Barack Obama’s closing nuclear act, he will certainly be following Barnum’s dictum.

Seven years ago this April, in his first foreign policy speech as president, Obama pledged “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He detailed an ambitious program in his Prague address, including an initiative to unite world leaders to secure all nuclear bomb material from terrorists.

Obama achieved only a fraction of what he had hoped.His vision was correct. Every reduction in the global stockpile of 15,000 nuclear weapons makes us safer. Every move away from the immorality of nuclear use makes us more human. There was little debate on this score in the 2008 campaign. “The Cold War ended almost 20 years ago,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the GOP nominee, “and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals.”

McCain and Obama were backed by scores of former military and national security leaders, including 17 former cabinet members, as well as former generals, senior officials, nuclear scholars, and Democrat and Republican politicians. Eighty-eight percent of all the living former secretaries of state supported the project, as did 70 percent of all former national security advisors and 62 percent of all former secretaries of defense.

By April 2010, Obama had hit a nuclear trifecta: a new Nuclear Posture Review promised to reduce the role and number of US nuclear weapons; a treaty with Russia kept critical verification measures intact and trimmed both nations’ long-range nuclear arsenals; and the first Nuclear Security Summit, the largest convening ever of heads of state focused on nuclear policy.

Obama successfully linked idealistic goals to practical, near-term security objectives. He impressed global audiences and domestic skeptics. “President Obama has turned the once utopian-sounding idea of global nuclear disarmament into a useful tool for U.S. foreign policy, “ wrote Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland. “His well-conceived, confidently executed three-part movement in statecraft this month should banish the notion that Obama’s ambitious nuclear goals spring from naiveté or inexperience.”

Since the summits began, 12 countries eliminated weapons-usable nuclear material, including 200 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine — enough for four bombs — just months before that nation convulsed in conflict. Many other nations increased the security around their supplies and joined conventions against nuclear terrorism.

Obama’s most important achievement was the seven-nation accord that rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and put it under lock and camera. He offered Iran a choice at Prague between “increased isolation, international pressure and a potential nuclear arms race in the region” or “engagement…based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” The resulting dialogue produced a diplomatic triumph that prevented a war with Iran many thought inevitable. If it works, “it will be the major foreign policy achievement not only of this presidency but of this generation,” said Rachel Maddow. The New York Times called it “potentially one of the most consequential accords in recent diplomatic history.” Nuclear experts overwhelmingly agree the agreement stops the weapons threat from Iran and makes the world safer.

Impressive, but these accomplishments fall short of the policy transformation Obama sought.

Obama hoped that by now he would have secured Senate approval of the nuclear test ban treaty, which he promised to “immediately and aggressively pursue.” Didn’t happen.

He wanted “a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons.” Not even close.

He pledged to secure all nuclear materials within four years. The final summit will end with tons of material in 25 nations still unsecured, with a patchwork of policies rather than legally binding requirements and universal standards.

He intended to negotiate with Russia truly deep cuts in both arsenals and then “include all nuclear weapon states in this endeavor.” Russia refused.

These setbacks can be blamed on Russian intransigence and Republican politicization of national security, as Brookings Institution scholar Steven Pifer details. But the worst of the failures were self-inflicted. While he turned to other pressing issues, his Prague pledge to maintain a “safe, secure and effective arsenal” morphed into a $1 trillion plan to replace the entire Cold War nuclear arsenal. As his policy faltered, programs proceeded without his guidance. A maintenance program became a replacement program for every weapon, all with new capabilities, even new missions.

“Has the administration conducted a detailed analysis of eliminating one or more legs of the triad,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., asked at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March, “or significantly altering the US nuclear posture?” The witnesses looked at each other and shrugged. “I’m not aware of any detailed look at that,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James agreed. Both asked for more money for new weapons, but not for any new examination of our ability to destroy human civilization.

This is precisely the problem. Yes, the Russians refused and the Republicans blocked, but Obama’s biggest foe was his own bureaucracy, including many of those he appointed to implement his nuclear policies.

He knew the danger. “Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tool of destruction,” he said in Prague, “Such fatalism is a deadly adversary.”

He didn’t expect that this adversary would be the cynicism and careerism of his own appointees. When Obama stopped pushing his nuclear policies in 2011 (save for Iran), the nuclear-industrial complex took over. Those supporting his views, particularly in the State Department, were outnumbered by those, particularly in the Defense Department, who opposed, even mocked, his goals. Policy stalled; contracts raced on.

It may not be too late. Before a new arms race begins in earnest, Obama could move to delay or cancel some of the new weapons, notably the new nuclear cruise missile and the new ICBM, as former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry urges. There is no shortage of other recommendations. But he will have to be bold, as bold has he was at the beginning of his presidency.
If he follows another Barnum adage, the president may yet secure his legacy: Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.


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