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The US Way of War continues in the same form today on both domestic and foreign land.

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 21, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Popular Resistance Newsletter, 6-21-17

We just returned from the weekend-long United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) conference in Richmond, VA. This is the fourth UNAC conference since its founding in 2010 to create a vibrant and active anti-war movement in the United States that opposes all wars. The theme this year was stopping the wars at home and abroad in recognition that we can’t end one without ending the others, that they have common roots and that it will take a large, broad-based and diverse movement of movements to succeed.
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Speakers at the conference ranged from people who are fighting for domestic issues – such as a $15/hour minimum wage and an end to racist police brutality and ICE raids – to people who traveled from or represented countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Korea, the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, Syria, Colombia and Venezuela, which are some of the many countries under attack by US imperialism. At the end of the conference, participants marched to an area of Richmond called Shockoe Bottom, which is an African cemetery close to a site that was a central hub for the slave trade, to rally with activists with the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality who are fighting to protect the land from gentrification and preserve it as a park.
The War at Home
The “US Way of War” – a brutal form of war that requires the total destruction of populations, targets the most vulnerable and wipes out their access to basic necessities such as food and water – has raged since settlers first stepped foot on the land that is now the United States and brutalized the Indigenous Peoples in order to take their lands and resources to build wealth for the colonizers and their home countries using the slave labor of Africans and indentured servants. The US Way of War continues in the same form today on both domestic and foreign land.
Castille protest of jury verdice 6-17-17There are daily reminders of the war at home, which overwhelmingly targets people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, the poor and workers. Over 1,000 civilians are killed by police, security personnel or vigilantes every year in the US. Black young men are nine times more likely to be victims than any other group, but, as in the case of Philando Castile, few of the killers are held accountable. Despite clear evidence that Castile was murdered by Officer Jeromino Yanez in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter during a traffic stop, Yanez was acquitted this week. Within hours of the verdict, thousands of local residents marched against the injustice and some shut down a major highway.
Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a lawsuit this week asking for federal oversight of their police. They accuse the mayor of trying to cut a backroom deal with the Department of Justice to water down oversight of the police after a DoJ investigation “found widespread constitutional violations by the Chicago Police Department.” And recently, though Take Em Down NoLa was successful, after years of efforts, at removing several confederate statues in New Orleans, structural racism is still rampant in the school and law enforcement systems. Ashana Bigard explains, a DoJ investigation found “98.6 percent of all children arrested by the New Orleans Police Department for ‘serious offenses’ were black.”
Ralph Poynter, the widower of the great attorney-activist Lynne Stewart, spoke at the UNAC conference about the many political prisoners who have been jailed in the US for decades. He described the organizing efforts to release Stewart and the public sympathy that she was given, in part, for being a white woman. There are many people who deserve equal organizing efforts, such as Major Tillery who, after 33 years, is appealing his murder conviction. Indeed, many from the black freedom struggle of decades past remain imprisoned. Let us not forget them.
Ingrid_anibal_KitcehnMVFMAnd the Trump administration is ramping up deportations. This week, ICE Director Thomas Homan asked Congress “for more than a billion dollars to expand ICE’s capacity to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.” Homan also indicated that he would increase deportations, saying “‘no population of persons’ in the country illegally is safe from deportation.” In this interview, Ingrid Latorre describes how the Sanctuary Movement is working to protect immigrants.
Juneteenth is a Time to End the War at Home
Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when black slaves in Texas learned they were freed – two and one-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, is a little known holiday that is being celebrated this year through efforts to end racial disparities on many fronts of struggle. A coalition of organizations is working to raise awareness of the injustice of cash bail in the US. They raised over a million dollars and are using that to bail out black fathers and “black LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people, who are overrepresented in jails and prisons and are likely to experience abuse while incarcerated.”
Other groups are organizing in cities across the country to “Take Back the Land” and call for reparations after centuries of oppression. They write:
“We are a people who have been enslaved and dispossessed as a result of the oppressive, exploitative, extractive system of colonialism and white supremacy. In this system, our labor and its products have been forcefully taken from us for generations, for the accumulation of wealth by others. This extraction of wealth – from our labor, and from the land – formed the financial basis of the modern globalized world economy and has led to compounded exploitation and social alienation of Black people to this day.”
1tbtlJessicah Pierre explains that despite more than 150 years of ‘freedom’, black people still have a long way to go. A report called “The Ever Growing Gap” found that if we continue on the current path, “black families would have to work another 228 years to amass the amount of wealth white families already hold today.”
Wealth inequality is growing globally. Paul Bucheit explains that the five richest men in the world have almost the same wealth as the bottom 50% of the world’s population, which means each one of them has the wealth of 750 million people. Bucheit also explains that they didn’t earn it, they effectively stole it. More and more, we view the US as a kleptocracy. One idea to recapture that lost wealth and share it more equally is a Citizen’s Wealth Fund. Stewart Lansley writes that they “operate like a giant community-owned unit trust, giving all citizens an equal stake in a part of the economy.”
Ending the Wars Abroad
It would be impossible to discuss all of the wars abroad in this one newsletter (our Memorial Day newsletter discusses war further), but it is important that people in the US understand how the US Way of War is being waged around the world and its domestic impacts. Much of that was discussed at the UNAC conference, which you can watch here. Here are a few items that we suggest checking out.
This week on Clearing the FOG, we spoke with FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and journalist Max Blumenthal about “Russiagate” and the way it is being used to trick progressives into supporting conflict with Russia. We also recommend watching Oliver Stone’s series of interviews with Vladimir Putin, even though the government and even Rolling Stone urge you not to watch these excellent interviews. Abby Martin of The Empire Files traveled to Venezuela to witness the protests firsthand and the violence being perpetrated by the right wing opposition that is funded by the US. And as President Trump sheds more of his responsibilities as Commander in Chief and hands them to generals such as Masterson and Mattis, who wants to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, it is important to read this excellent analysis, “Afghanistan: From Soviet Occupation to American ‘Liberation“, by Nauman Sadiq.
1banbombAt present, more than 130 countries are negotiating a treaty at the United Nations that would prohibit all nuclear weapons. The US, which holds the largest nuclear arsenal, is not participating but North Korea is. Diana Johnstone writes that the dangerous belief at the Pentagon is that in a nuclear war, the US “would prevail.”Will the rest of the world be able to prevent a nuclear war? A positive sign was the “Woman Ban the Bomb” marches that took place in more than 170 cities worldwide.
It’s up to us as people to organize a peace movement in our communities. People’s Organization for Progress in Newark, New Jersey and their allies are one example of what we can be doing. They are proposing monthly actions that educate the public about the connection between the wars at home and abroad.
Kevin Zeese spoke at the opening plenary of the UNAC conference about Moral Injury that is done to an individual and to a people who engage in war. He closes with this thought:
“If we do not awaken the US government and change course from a destructive military power to an exceptional humanitarian culture aiding billions who suffer – a heavy price will be paid. We should expect it.
Our job is to turn moral injury into moral outrage and transform the United States into an exceptional humanitarian nation that is a member of the community of nations that lifts people up, rather than creates chaos and insecurity around the world.”
There are opportunities right now to organize for peace in your community no matter what issue you work on. Let’s understand that the wars at home cannot end if we do not also end the wars abroad. As we build this movement of movements, let’s remember this fact and include the abolition of war and the creation of a peace economy in our list of demands.

Gareth Porter: The War System

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 21, 2017 at 11:19 am

President Donald Trump is hesitating to agree to thousands of additional troops for the war in Afghanistan as recommended by his secretary of defense and national security adviser, according to a New York Times report over the weekend.

So, it’s a good time to put aside, for a moment, the troop request itself and focus on why the United States has been fighting the Taliban since 2001 — and losing to them for well over a decade.

Some of the war managers would argue that the United States has never had enough troops or left them in Afghanistan long enough. But those very figures are openly calling for an indefinite neocolonial US military presence. The real reason for the fundamental weakness of the US-NATO war is the fact that the United States has empowered a rogues’ gallery of Afghan warlords whose militias have imposed a regime of chaos, violence and oppression on the Afghan population — stealing, killing and raping with utter impunity. And that strategy has come back to bite the Pentagon’s war managers.

The Taliban hold the same sexist ideas as many members of rural Afghan society about keeping girls out of schools and in the home. But the organization appeared in 1994 in response to the desperate pleas of the population in the south — especially in a Kandahar province divided up by four warlords — to stop the wholesale abduction and rape of women and pre-teen boys, as well as the uncontrolled extortion of tolls by warlord troops. The Taliban portrayed themselves as standing for order and elementary justice against chaos and sexual violence, and they immediately won broad popular support to drive the warlords out of power across the south, finally taking over Kabul without a fight.

Then in 2001 the United States ousted the Taliban regime — implicitly as retribution for 9/11, even though the Taliban leader Mullah Omar had not been informed of Osama bin Laden’s plot and had strongly opposed any such plotting. Instead of forcing the warlords to give up their power or simply letting Afghan society determine the Taliban’s fate, the United States helped its own warlord allies consolidate their power. President Hamid Karzai was encouraged to appoint the most powerful warlords as provincial governors and their private militias were converted into the national police. The CIA even put some of the militias on their payroll along with their warlord bosses to help track down Taliban and al Qaeda remnants.

These early US decisions created the plague of abuses by the “police” and other militias that has remained the underlying socio-political dynamic of the war ever since. Ron Neumann, US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, explained the accepted rules for the warlords and the commanders of their militias toward those who are not part of their tribal in-group. “You take the people’s land, their women — you steal from them — it’s all part of one package,” he told me in a 2009 interview.

It was not long before the Taliban began to reorganize for a second resistance to the warlords. From 2003 to 2006, they were taking the offensive across the Pashtun area of the south, with a rapidly increasing tempo of attacks.

In 2006 the US-NATO command responded to the Taliban offensive by creating the “Afghan National Auxiliary Police” (ANAP). ANAP officers were given new AK-47 assault rifles and uniforms like those of regular police, but the group was in essence another warlord militia, composed of the same individuals as other warlord militias. As a senior official in the Afghan Ministry of Interior told Human Rights Watch, the ANAP “was made for the warlords.” They were “the same people, committing the same crimes, with more power.”

The ANAP program was abandoned in April 2008, an apparent failure, but the US-NATO reliance on the warlords’ militias continued. When US and British troops moved back into Lashkar Gah district of Helmand Province in mid-2009, their plan was to rely on police to reestablish a government presence there. But the police, commanded by mujahideen loyal to province warlord Sher Mohammed Akhunzadeh, had terrorized the population of the district with systematic violent abuses, including the frequent abduction and rape of pre-teen boys. The residents and village elders warned the British and Americans stationed in the district that they would again support the Taliban if necessary to protect themselves against being victimized by the police.

By September 2009 as the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was pressing Obama to add 40,000 more troops, his command was no longer under any illusions about being able to regain the support of the rural Pashtun population as long as it was so closely associated with the warlords. In his initial assessment of August 2009, McChrystal referred to “public anger and alienation” toward the US and NATO troops, because of the general perception that they were “complicit” in “widespread corruption and abuse of power.”

But by then McChrystal and the US-NATO command chose to continue to rely on their warlord clients, because the US military needed their militias to supply all the US and NATO troops in the country. In order to get food, fuel and arms to the foreign troops at over 200 forward-operating military bases and combat outposts, the command had to outsource the trucking of the supplies and the security to private companies. Otherwise the command would have had to use a large percentage of the total foreign troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the convoys, as the Russians had done in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But the only plentiful and instantly available supply of armed forces to provide the security was in the ranks of the warlords’ own militias. So, the Pentagon designed a massive $2.16 billion annual logistics contract in 2008-09 under which about 25,000 militiamen were paid by dozens of private trucking companies and security companies owned by the warlords. The warlords were paid tens of millions of dollars a year, further consolidating their hold on the society.

The abuses by militias continued to be the primary complaint of village residents. The district governor in Khanabad district of Kunduz province told Human Rights Watch, “People come to me and complain about these arbakis [militias], but I can do nothing about this. They collect ushr [informal tax], take the daughters of the people, they do things against the wives of the people, they take their horses, sheep, anything.“

When he assumed command in Afghanistan in mid-2010, Gen. David Petraeus immediately decided to turn yet again to the same warlord source of manpower to create the “Afghan Local Police” or ALP to provide 20,000 men to patrol the villages. Each ALP unit had its own Special Forces team, which gave its officers even greater impunity. The chief of the Baghlan Province council recounted a meeting with the US Special Operations Forces officer in charge of the ALP at which he had warned that the militiamen were “criminals.” But the officer had flatly rejected his charge.

In theory, the ALP was supposed to be accountable to the chief of police in each district where it was operating. But one district chief of police in Baghlan province complained that it was impossible to investigate ALP crimes because the US Special Operations Forces were protecting them.

A Green Beret officer interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor in 2011 explained the US Special Operations Forces’ perspective on the depredations of its Afghan clients: “The ugly reality,” he said, “is that if the US wants to prevail against the Taliban and its allies, it must work with Afghan fighters whose behavior insults Western sensibilities.”

By 2013 the ALP had grown to nearly 30,000, and even the State Department annual report on human rights in Afghanistan acknowledged the serious abuses blamed on the ALP. The 2016 State Department report on human rights in Afghanistan refers to “credible accounts of killing, rape, assault, the forcible levy of informal taxes, and the traditional practice of ‘baad’ — the transfer of a girl or woman to another family to settle a debt or grievance” — all attributed by villagers to the ALP.

The linkage between warlord militia abuses and the cooperation of much of the rural population with the Taliban has long been accepted by the US command in Afghanistan. But the war has continued, because it serves powerful interests that have nothing to do with Afghanistan itself: the careers of the US officers who serve there; the bureaucratic stakes of the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA in their huge programs and facilities in the country; the political cost of admitting that it was a futile effort from the start. Plus, the Pentagon and the CIA are determined to hold on to Afghan airstrips they use to carry out drone war in Pakistan for as long as possible.

Thus Afghanistan, the first of the United States’ permanent wars, is in many ways the model for all the others that have followed — wars that have no other purpose than to serve the US war system itself.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

Popular Resistance Newsletter: The Corbyn Campaign in Britain as a Template for the U.S.

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Politics on June 12, 2017 at 2:01 am

The shocking election result in the United Kingdom – the Conservatives losing their majority and the creation of a hung Parliament; and Jeremy Corbyn being more successful than any recent Labor candidate – cutting a 20 point Theresa May lead down to a near tie – gives hope to many that the global shift to the right, fueled by the failures of governments to meet the basic needs of their population and growing economic insecurity, may be ending.

People demonstrate on Whitehall, central London, after the British general election result. Prime Minister Theresa May’s party fell short of an overall majority following Thursday’s vote, and plans to work with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party AP
Corbyn is a lifelong activist (as you will see in the photos below), whose message and actions have been consistent. He presented a platform directed at ending austerity and the wealth divide and was openly anti-war. There are a lot of lessons for the Labor Party in the UK from this election but there are also lessons for people in the United States. We review what happened and consider the possibilities for creating transformative change in the United States.

The Corbyn Campaign Results

The Corbyn campaign showed that a political leader urging a radical progressive transformative agenda can succeed. Many in his own party, the neo-liberal pro-war Blairites, claimed Corbyn could not win, tried to remove him from leadership, and sabotaged and refused to assist his campaign.

Corbyn showed he could win the leadership of the UK in the future, maybe sooner than later. While Theresa May is in the process of forming a minority government with a small radical conservative party from Northern Ireland, there has already been a backlash, mass petitions and protests against it and UK history has shown in similar circumstances that the second place finisher, may, in the end form the government. Corbyn is taking bold and radical actions. He is preparing to present a Queen’s speech in which he will say that he and his party are “ready to serve” and will continue to push his program through Parliament. He is calling on other parties to defeat the government in Parliament.

Corbyn protesting for peace in IrelandCorbyn did better than any recent Labor leader. Jonathan Cook, a British political commentator, writes in “The Facts Proving Corbyn’s Election Triumph” that Corbyn received 41 percent of the vote against May’s 44 percent. This was a big improvement in Labor’s share of seats, the largest increase since 1945. Cook points out that Corbyn won more votes than “Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party.” Even Tony Blair does not look all that good compared to Corbyn, Cook recounts:

“Here are the figures for Blair’s three wins. He got a 36 per cent share of the vote in 2005 – much less than Corbyn. He received a 41 per cent of the vote – about the same as Corbyn – in 2001. And Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was secured on 43 per cent of the vote, just two percentage points ahead of Corbyn last night.

“In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.”Jeremy Corbyn protesting apartheid

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor of Jacobin, writes that Corbyn was not only campaigning against the Tories and Theresa May, but battling his own party – yet he still “won”:

“This is the first election Labour has won seats in since 1997, and the party got its largest share of the vote since 2005 — all while closing a twenty-four point deficit. Since Corbyn assumed leadership in late 2015, he has survived attack after attack from his own party, culminating in a failed coup attempt against him. As Labour leader he was unable to rely on his parliamentary colleagues or his party staff. The small team around him was bombarded with hostile internal leaks and misinformation, and an unprecedented media smear campaign.

“Every elite interest in the United Kingdom tried to knock down Jeremy Corbyn, but still he stands.”Corbyn protests for National Health Service

The Blairites were taught a lesson by Corbyn. Many of his harshest critics are now changing their tune and embracing Corbyn. Hopefully they will join in creating a party in Corbyn’s image – a party for the many, not the few. Corbyn has rebuilt the mass base of Labor. The party is now the largest in Europe with half a million members. It is time for the “leaders” of Labor to follow the lead of the people and of Jeremy Corbyn.

What can we learn regarding US politics?

Sunkara argues Corbyn demonstrated that a winning campaign strategy is “to offer hopes and dreams to people, not just fear and diminished expectations.” In current US terms that means it is insufficient just to oppose Trump, a positive vision for the future that shows what a candidate and party stand for is needed, e.g. it is not just enough to defend the failing Affordable Care Act and oppose the Republican’s American Health Care Act, you must stand for something positive: National Improved Medicare for All. This is one example of many.

Sunkara provides more detail:Jeremy Corbyn protesing the Iraq War

“Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: people like an honest defense of public goods. Labour’s manifesto was sweeping — its most socialist in decades. It was a straightforward document, calling for nationalization of key utilities, access to education, housing, and health services for all, and measures to redistribute income from corporations and the rich to ordinary people.

“£6.3 billion into primary schools, the protection of pensions, free tuition, public housing construction — it was clear what Labour would do for British workers. The plan was attacked in the press for its old-fashioned simplicity — “for the many, not the few” — but it resonated with popular desires, with a view of fairness that seemed elementary to millions.Corbyn protesting austerity

“The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center — you win by letting people know you feel their anger and giving them a constructive end to channel it towards. ‘We demand the full fruits of our labor,’ the party’s election video said it all.”

Corbyn showed how important it is to have the correct analysis on foreign policy. Twice during the campaign, the UK was hit by a terrorist attack. Corbyn responded by telling the truth: part of the reason for terrorism is the UK foreign policy, especially in Libya. He also opposed the use of nuclear weapons. The Conservatives thought these anti-war positions would hurt Corbyn, instead they helped.

This is even more true in the United States with the never ending wars the country is fighting. But, the unspeakable in the United States, as Paul Street calls it, is acknowledging that terrorism is conducted by the US. This taboo subject makes it hard for people to understand that the US is constantly committing acts of terrorism around the world, which lead to predictable blow back from US militarism, regime change and war. No elected official will tell these obvious truths, which the people of the United States would instinctively understand if they were voiced.

Although the U.S. is often portrayed as a ‘center-right’ nation and progressives are called extremists, the reality is that there is majority support for a progressive agenda. There is a developing national consensus in the United States for transformational change, and Bernie Sanders articulated some of that consensus, at least on domestic issues, in his run for president, but the problem is that U.S. elections are manipulated by the elites in power who make sure that their interests are represented by the winner

Sunkara ends his article on Corbyn saying “Also, Bernie Sanders would have won.” We do not know what would have happened in a Trump-Sanders election. The closest example may be McGovern’s 1972 campaign against Nixon which he lost in a landslide. In that campaign, the Democrats deserted their candidate, even the AFL-CIO and big unions did not support McGovern and Nixon demonized him in the media. Would Clinton-Democrats have stood with Sanders or would they have sabotaged him like the party did to McGovern?

A key to Corbyn’s success was retail politics. The population of the UK is 65 million, compared to the US population of 321 million. Retail politics can work in the UK, while in the US paid media advertising drives the campaign, which means money often determines the outcome. This gives great power to big business interests, and while it can be overcome, it is a steep hill to climb.

Despite their significant losses, the Democrats are still controlled by Clinton-Obama Wall Street and war neo-liberals as we saw in the recent DNC chair election where Clinton protégé, Tom Perez, was elected. We are not optimistic that the US can apply the Corbyn model within the Democratic Party because it has been a party representing the oligarchs from its origins as the party of plantation slave-owners.

The duopoly parties that represent Wall Street, war and empire will not allow voices that represent “the many, not the few” to participate in US elections. They shut them out whether they run as an insurgent inside a party, as people learned from the mistreatment of Bernie Sanders by the DNC, or if they run outside of the two parties. The bi-partisans make independent party runs nearly impossible with unfair ballot access laws, barriers to voter registration, secret vote counting on unverifiable election machines, exclusion from the debates and exclusion by the corporate media, who are in cahoots with the bi-partisans.

It Comes Down To Building An Independent Mass Political Movement

We live in a mirage democracy with managed elections, as we describe in the article “Fighting for A Legitimate Democracy By and For the People,” on the long history of wealth dominating politics in the U.S.

Corbyn campaigning for nuclear disarmamentHistorically, transformations have occurred because of mass social movements demanding change and participating in elections through independent parties that have grown out of a movement with candidates from the movement (Corbyn has been involved in every anti-war movement, anti-apartheid, anti-austerity, pro-peace and human rights movements among others). Showing mass electoral support, even without winning, has resulted in significant changes – union rights, women’s voting rights, the eight-hour workday – indeed the New Deal came out of third party platforms. It is important to resist the duopoly parties in order to get to the root of the problems we face; as Patrick Walker explains, the “grassroots resistance must oppose Democrats as well as Trump.”

A broad and diverse social movement whose demands are articulated by an independent party platform has forced one of the two parties to capitulate to the movement or disappear. That still seems to be the most likely path to real change for the US.

Corbyn teaches that we should embrace the radical transformational change that is needed, whether in elections or as a movement, to inspire people to take action and shift the realm of the possible. The people thirst for change as their economic situation becomes more insecure. There needs to be a movement that addresses that insecurity through a human rights lens, or else the insecurity will be channeled towards hatred and violence.

The key first step is to show the many, we are with them; that we are listening and acting consistent with their beliefs. Taking this correct first step, lights the path ahead of us.

Our mailing address is:
PopularResistance.org
402 East Lake Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21212

 

Militarism versus the environment

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

By Tom Mayer, Boulder Camera, 6-10-17

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a significant jump in the Pentagon’s vast budget, though it falls short of the historic spending bonanza sought by more hawkish Republicans. Pentagon budget documents released on May 23 call for $574 billion in general defense funding, with an additional $65 billion for supplemental wartime spending, for a total of $639 billion. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Many things block significant action about climate change, but the foremost obstacle may be the world’s continuing addiction to militarism. Some 80 percent of countries maintain standing armies, but the United States is by far the world’s deepest militarist addict. U.S. military spending is over a third of the world’s total and exceeds that of the next six largest spenders combined. Whereas no foreign country has a military base in the USA, we have approximately 800 military bases in 70 different foreign countries. Our country is also the worlds leading weapons exporter.

Militarism harms the environment in many different ways. It undermines the trust and cooperative spirit necessary for coordinated action about climate change. At this very moment, militarism is poisoning the relations of the United States with both Russia and China. Yet without environmental collaboration between these three countries no decisive action about climate change is possible. Apparently world political leaders would rather feed their military addictions than rescue the planet from impending disaster.

Militarism is enormously expensive. American military expenditures consume 54 percent of all discretionary federal spending and, in 2015, equaled $1,854 per capita. Such spending expropriates resources desperately needed for building a clean and sustainable economic infrastructure. Moreover, militarism pushes technological innovation in energy-squandering directions rather than along the resource-conserving paths required by a sustainable environment. Military innovations use technologies that make prodigal use of fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy.

Military establishments are dreadful polluters. The Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels as well as the world’s largest source of greenhouse gasses. The U.S. military uses (on average) over one million barrels of oil per day and generates about 5 percent of current global warming emissions. The Pentagon devours about one-quarter of the world’s jet fuel. Ecologists estimate that the world’s combined militaries produce fully two-thirds of the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC-113) in our planets atmosphere. Military devices are notorious gas guzzlers. An F-16 Fighter Jet uses 28 gallons per minute. A U.S. battleship consumes 98 gallons per minute. A B-52 Stratocruiser burns 500 gallons in a single minute.

Militarism perpetuates the threat of nuclear warfare, which — needless to say — would have devastating consequences for our planet. A limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would kill around 50 million people. A massive nuclear war would cure the problem of global warming and impose an omnicidal (life destroying) nuclear winter in its stead. The United States has committed itself to a trillion-dollar modernization of nuclear weapons. This means that the nuclear nightmare threatening the Earth will be extended for several generations at least.

Even without warfare, military pollution is staggering. Almost 900 of the EPA’s 1,300 superfund sites are abandoned military bases, weapons production facilities, or weapons testing sites. Nuclear weapons pollution is particularly problematic. Over 5,000 Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities have required environmental remediation. The former Hanford, Wash., nuclear weapons facility may be the world’s largest environmental cleanup site with a projected budget in excess of $100 billion.

Militarism and the military industrial complex is closely associated with the fossil fuel corporate complex. The U.S. military establishment guarantees energy corporations access to fossil fuel resources. Energy corporations return the favor by endorsing bloated military budgets and supporting the weapons industry. The upshot of this institutional nexus is an environment-corrupting global imperialism. The project of building an American world empire has, since the end of World War II, fomented U.S. aggression in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Chile, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, and Syria (among other places).

And last, but certainly not least, militarism systematically generates warfare, which is catastrophic for both human beings and the environment. Wars have killed about 200 million human beings since 1900 and have wrecked ecological damage that will require centuries to mitigate. The pace of warfare with its concomitant calamities does not appear to be slackening.

In his valuable book “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism” (2009), Barry Sanders writes: “[T]he awful truth” is that “even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headed first and at full speed toward total disaster for one major reason. The military — that voracious vampire — produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction” (p.22).

(http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_31051257/tom-mayer-militarism-versus-environment)

Tom Mayer is a professor emeritus at University of Colorado

 

Viking Economics: Review

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race, War on June 8, 2017 at 9:17 am

Review of George Lakey’s Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too (2016)

By LeRoy Moore, June 2017

In  January 1979 I met George Lakey at a two-week nonviolence workshop of the Movement for a New Society in Philadelphia. Lakey is a Quaker who for many years taught at Swarthmore College. Author of many books, the latest is Viking Economics. He writes on this topic because we in the U.S. can learn much from the Scandinavian countries about revamping our economy, strengthening democracy, abolishing poverty and creating a society which is fair and just for all.

At the turn of the 20th century the Scandinavian countries were marked by economic hardship, lack of jobs, low wages, long working hours, no security, no health care and education only for those who could pay for it. In the 1970s, when Lakey visited Norway, he found full employment, scant poverty, an efficient infrastructure, plus free health care, education and retirement benefits for all its citizens. His book is a history of what happened, with pointers on how the U.S. might follow their example.

The biggest recent change in the economy of the U.S. and Britain was the 1980s move of Reagan and Thatcher to free corporations to make money that purportedly would trickle down to benefit everyone. This “neoliberal gospel” rapidly spread across the world. By the end of the 20th century it was practiced in the U.S. not only by virtually all Republicans but also by many Democrats, like Bill Clinton. “Too often,” Lakey says, “governments have implemented support measures without charging those responsible for the problems properly,” resulting in “privatization of profits and socialization of costs.”

After the global economic collapse of 2008 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged austerity, “bailing out the owning class at the expense of the majority of the people.” Iceland countered this with its own strategy: “Increase taxes on the rich, reduce taxes on the working class, force banks to write off mortgages for households under water.” The IMF, referring to health care as a “luxury good,” urged the Icelandic government to cut its health-care funding. Challenging the IMF, ordinary Icelanders refused “to accept responsibility for the frenzied behavior of their bankers.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, said, “Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net.” Iceland was the hero of the 2008 economic crisis. It survived better than any other nation.

Norway’s story is quite distinct. Late in the 19th century its workers union created the Labor Party that admitted only union members. They rejected the Marxist idea of collectivizing agriculture in favor of protecting family farms. After the Russian revolution of 1917, they joined the Communist International at Lenin’s invitation. By the 1930s the country was highly polarized, as evidenced by Vidkun Quisling’s founding a pro-Nazi political party with a uniformed paramilitary wing that attacked striking workers for their employers. This spurred an increase of conscientious objection which in time led to the Labor Party’s “completely socialist society” that laid the foundation for what Lakey found in Norway in the 1970s. A U.S. economist wrote, “The three things we Americans worry about – education, retirement and medical expenses – are things the Norwegians don’t worry about.”

Researcher Markus Jantti wondered about the chance for upward mobility for young people. How could those from families in the bottom fifth of earners leap to the top fifth. He found that both males and females in Norway, Denmark and Sweden had a much better chance of making this leap than their counterparts in the UK and USA. In Lakey’s words, “It turns out that freedom (shown by mobility and innovation) and equality are not necessarily opposed. In fact, . . .equality supports freedom.” In the Nordic economic design, “the more equality, the more freedom.”

Scandinavian countries had powerful trade unions at just the time unions were being weakened and destroyed in the U.S., England and other countries. They also had far more cooperatives, including banks. “Co-op banks,” says Lakey, “are financially more stable and less likely to fail than shareholder-owned institutions, . . . since they aren’t driven by a need to make profits for investors and huge bonuses for managers.” There are co-ops in all realms: industry, agriculture, dairy, housing, utilities, as well as wholesale and retail operations, and more.

The Nordic countries have virtually wiped out poverty. How did they do this? When it comes to work and poverty, these countries are refreshingly different. In Norway, “jobs, free training and support are available, and working is important for self-respect and the economic productivity of the country. In short, the government’s policy is full employment.” Single parents are encouraged “to hold jobs by having free or affordable childcare available at the work site or near the home.” In addition, “all babies can be born in birth centers and hospitals without regard to income, and all moms and dads can take time off from work with pay to care for the young ones. All parents have access to day care. All parents, whatever their means, get a family allowance for children below the age of 18. . . . Education is free for all. . . . Public transportation is subsidized for all.”

Scandinavians rejected the welfare state and replaced it with “universal services” – “a cooperative system for meeting needs that most people have at various points in their lives.” Instead of regarding the poor as needy, they treat everyone as equal. All work, and all benefit. How they treat crime is important. Rather than punish those who have done wrong, they rehabilitate them, so they can rejoin the community and become taxpayers as soon as possible. The best way to eliminate crime is to give the criminal a job. A study showed “a high association between employment and staying out of trouble.”

Getting everyone to work actually reduces the hours that an individual works. Norwegians work the least number of hours of all the countries of Europe. They are entitled to 25 vacation days every year. There is gender equity. Fathers get a paid leave to care for children. Parents receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave with full pay. A new mother “has the right to two hours of break time each day to permit breast-feeding.” Also, “either parent has the right to stay home with sick children at least twenty days per year.”

Health care is available to everyone, paid for by the community, not the individual. Lakey says the “so-called ‘market efficiency’” of the U.S. “is actually ‘market wastefulness’ So wasteful in fact that despite the Affordable Care Act (so-called ‘Obama Care’) tens of millions of Americans don’t get covered at all, and countless others who are insured still don’t get the treatment they need.”

Of course, quality health care, free education, good housing, convenient transportation, etc. are expensive. Taxes are high in the Nordic countries. But for them “it’s a truism that paying high taxes results in getting high value.” They seek equality by reducing taxes of the working and middle classes and increasing taxes on the rich – the opposite of what the IMF recommends and what often happens in the U.S. British researchers found that “inequality highly correlates with negative statistics in physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, violence, teenage pregnancy, and child well-being.”

To again consider violence, Norway experienced a terrorist attack in 2011, when Anders Breivik massacred 69 young people of the Workers’ Youth League and injured 110 more. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in a speech the next day, said “the proper response to the violence was ‘more democracy, more openness.’” At the memorial service he quoted a girl in the Youth League: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.”

Lakey’s final chapter focuses on the U.S. He thinks the reason we don’t have universal health care is “because special interests prevented the majority from getting what it was ready for.” He says so much of the U.S. government is out of touch with ordinary citizens. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United decision . . . opened the floodgates for billions of dollars to enter the electoral system.” But the problem is deeper. An AARP study found that where there are differences “the economic elite – and not the majority—almost always got their way. . . . (T)he majority does not rule – at least in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“It is obvious,” Lakey says, “that the United States is falling in international ratings of equality and freedom and that the policies of both parties are dominated by the economic elite.” But he sees hope in our history of social change by nonviolent means, our growing experience with worker-owned cooperatives, our increased positive appraisal of socialism, and our increasing awareness of the Nordic alternative (to which his book contributes much).

“Change,” he says, “requires hard work. . . . Movements need organizers, communicators, advocates, funders, nurturers, musicians and artists, nonviolent warriors, and ‘foot soldiers,’ as well as visionary designers. All those were present in the Nordic movements that challenged a thousand years of poverty and oppression, took the offensive, and built democracy.”

I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past. The president’s behavior, explained.

In Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, Politics, War on May 18, 2017 at 8:57 am

By Tony Schwartz, May 16

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive officer of the Energy Project, which helps companies tap more of people’s capacity by better meeting their core needs so they can perform more sustainably. He is the author, most recently, of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.”

President Trump’s behavior hasn’t changed in decades. It probably never will. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Why does President Trump behave in the dangerous and seemingly self-destructive ways he does?

Three decades ago, I spent nearly a year hanging around Trump to write his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” and got to know him very well. I spent hundreds of hours listening to him, watching him in action and interviewing him about his life. To me, none of what he has said or done over the past four months as president comes as a surprise. The way he has behaved over the past week — firing FBI Director James B. Comey, undercutting his own aides as they tried to explain the decision and disclosing sensitive information to Russian officials — is also entirely predictable.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

The Trump I first met in 1985 had lived nearly all his life in survival mode. By his own description, his father, Fred, was relentlessly demanding, difficult and driven. Here’s how I phrased it in “The Art of the Deal”: “My father is a wonderful man, but he is also very much a business guy and strong and tough as hell.” As Trump saw it, his older brother, Fred Jr., who became an alcoholic and died at age 42, was overwhelmed by his father. Or as I euphemized it in the book: “There were inevitably confrontations between the two of them. In most cases, Freddy came out on the short end.”

Trump’s worldview was profoundly and self-protectively shaped by his father. “I was drawn to business very early, and I was never intimidated by my father, the way most people were,” is the way I wrote it in the book. “I stood up to him, and he respected that. We had a relationship that was almost businesslike.”

To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it — as he thought his older brother had. This narrow, defensive outlook took hold at a very early age, and it never evolved. “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now,” he told a recent biographer, “I’m basically the same.” His development essentially ended in early childhood.
Instead, Trump grew up fighting for his life and taking no prisoners. In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration. Many of the deals in “The Art of the Deal” were massive failures — among them the casinos he owned and the launch of a league to rival the National Football League — but Trump had me describe each of them as a huge success.
With evident pride, Trump explained to me that he was “an assertive, aggressive” kid from an early age, and that he had once punched a music teacher in the eye and was nearly expelled from elementary school for his behavior.

Like so much about Trump, who knows whether that story is true? What’s clear is that he has spent his life seeking to dominate others, whatever that requires and whatever collateral damage it creates along the way. In “The Art of the Deal,” he speaks with street-fighting relish about competing in the world of New York real estate: They are “some of the sharpest, toughest, and most vicious people in the world. I happen to love to go up against these guys, and I love to beat them.” I never sensed from Trump any guilt or contrition about anything he’d done, and he certainly never shared any misgivings publicly. From his perspective, he operated in a jungle full of predators who were forever out to get him, and he did what he must to survive.
Trump was equally clear with me that he didn’t value — nor even necessarily recognize — the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong. Trump simply didn’t traffic in emotions or interest in others. The life he lived was all transactional, all the time. Having never expanded his emotional, intellectual or moral universe, he has his story down, and he’s sticking to it.

A key part of that story is that facts are whatever Trump deems them to be on any given day. When he is challenged, he instinctively doubles down — even when what he has just said is demonstrably false. I saw that countless times, whether it was as trivial as exaggerating the number of floors at Trump Tower or as consequential as telling me that his casinos were performing well when they were actually going bankrupt. In the same way, Trump sees no contradiction at all in changing his story about why he fired Comey and thereby undermining the statements of his aides, or in any other lie he tells. His aim is never accuracy; it’s domination.
The Trump I got to know had no deep ideological beliefs, nor any passionate feeling about anything but his immediate self-interest. He derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments. “Can you believe it, Tony?” he would often say at the start of late-night conversations with me, going on to describe some new example of his brilliance. But the reassurance he got from even his biggest achievements was always ephemeral and unreliable — and that appears to include being elected president. Any addiction has a predictable pattern: The addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to re-create the desired state. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any other human being on the planet. But that’s like saying a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.

[I sold Donald Trump $100,000 worth of pianos. Then he stiffed me.]

From the very first time I interviewed him in his office in Trump Tower in 1985, the image I had of Trump was that of a black hole. Whatever goes in quickly disappears without a trace. Nothing sustains. It’s forever uncertain when someone or something will throw Trump off his precarious perch — when his sense of equilibrium will be threatened and he’ll feel an overwhelming compulsion to restore it. Beneath his bluff exterior, I always sensed a hurt, incredibly vulnerable little boy who just wanted to be loved.

What Trump craves most deeply is the adulation he has found so fleeting. This goes a long way toward explaining his need for control and why he simply couldn’t abide Comey, who reportedly refused to accede to Trump’s demand for loyalty and whose continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election campaign last year threatens to bring down his presidency. Trump’s need for unquestioning praise and flattery also helps to explain his hostility to democracy and to a free press — both of which thrive on open dissent.
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As we have seen countless times during the campaign and since the election, Trump can devolve into survival mode on a moment’s notice. Look no further than the thousands of tweets he has written attacking his perceived enemies over the past year. In neurochemical terms, when he feels threatened or thwarted, Trump moves into a fight-or-flight state. His amygdala is triggered, his hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activates, and his prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that makes us capable of rationality and reflection — shuts down. He reacts rather than reflects, and damn the consequences. This is what makes his access to the nuclear codes so dangerous and frightening.

Over the past week, in the face of criticism from nearly every quarter, Trump’s distrust has almost palpably mushroomed. No importuning by his advisers stands a chance of constraining him when he is this deeply triggered. The more he feels at the mercy of forces he cannot control — and he is surely feeling that now — the more resentful, desperate and impulsive he becomes.

Even 30 years later, I vividly remember the ominous feeling when Trump got angry about some perceived slight. Everyone around him knew that you were best off keeping your distance at those times, or, if that wasn’t possible, that you should resist disagreeing with him in any way.

In the hundreds of Trump’s phone calls I listened in on with his consent, and the dozens of meetings I attended with him, I can never remember anyone disagreeing with him about anything. The same climate of fear and paranoia appears to have taken root in his White House.

The most recent time I spoke to Trump — and the first such occasion in nearly three decades — was July 14, 2016, shortly before the New Yorker published an article by Jane Mayer about my experience writing “The Art of the Deal.” Trump was just about to win the Republican nomination for president. I was driving in my car when my cellphone rang. It was Trump. He had just gotten off a call with a fact-checker for the New Yorker, and he didn’t mince words.
“I just want to tell you that I think you’re very disloyal,” he started in. Then he berated and threatened me for a few minutes. I pushed back, gently but firmly. And then suddenly, as abruptly as he began the call, he ended it. “Have a nice life,” he said, and hung up.

Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits?

In Cost, Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on May 15, 2017 at 3:02 am

Introduction: Trump and Nuclear Weapons — Rhetoric Versus Reality
In an interview with Reuters conducted a month after he took office, Donald Trump asserted that the U.S. had “fallen behind on nuclear capability” and that he wanted the United States to be at the “top of the pack” on nuclear weapons once again.
As usual, Trump had not done his homework before speaking out on a crucial, life-and-death question. The United States is already at the “top of the pack” in nuclear capacity, with nearly 6,800 nuclear warheads, including 4,000 in the active stockpile. That’s a huge number when you consider that independent experts have determined that 300 or so nuclear weapons are a sufficient number to deter any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon. We have thirteen times that in our active stockpile, and more than five times that amount deployed and ready to fire at any given moment.
So the United States is already at the “top of the pack” in nuclear weapons — so high, in fact, that our huge arsenal is more likely to spur a nuclear arms race than it is to protect us from a nuclear war.
In the same Reuters interview, Trump described the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty as “just another bad deal the country made,” comparing it to the multilateral agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which Trump has repeatedly disparaged despite the fact that he has shown no indication that he knows what the agreement entails.
This knee-jerk opposition to any agreement that Trump himself has not negotiated is dangerously short-sighted. New START cuts deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads by one-third, and it includes a detailed monitoring and inspections regime to make sure both sides keep their word.
The Iran nuclear deal has already resulted in a 98% reduction in Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium, the disabling of a plutonium factory that could have produced bomb-making materials, and a regime of regular international inspections.
Solid agreements like New START and the Iran nuclear deal take a great deal of time and effort to negotiate. Throwing them away on a whim would be the height of recklessness.
Trump’s Twisted Budget Priorities
The issue of whether to buy a whole new generation of nuclear warheads and nuclear delivery vehicles will be debated against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which calls for a $54 billion increase in Pentagon spending and comparable reductions in spending on diplomacy and domestic needs.
Even before Trump’s proposed increase, Pentagon spending is at historically high levels. At roughly $600 billion per year now, Pentagon and related spending is higher than the peak of the Reagan military buildup, and larger than the combined military budgets of the next eight largest spenders in the world combined, most of them U.S. allies. So the Pentagon may have problems, but a lack of funds isn’t one of them.
Trump’s proposed increase alone is a huge sum by global standards. At $54 billion, the Trump increase is almost as large as the entire military budget of France, and larger than the total military budgets of the United Kingdom, Germany, or Japan. And it’s only $12 billion less than Russia’s whole military budget.
The Trump increase is also a huge sum compared to the domestic programs that are on the chopping block to pay for the $54 billion in increased Pentagon funding. When Trump’s budget blueprint was first taking form, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney announced a “hit list” of eight programs or agencies that would be zeroed out in the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. The list included the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; Legal Services; Americorps; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the U.S. Institute for Peace; and Planned Parenthood. Gutting all of these agencies and programs combined would save $3 billion per year — that’s one-half of one percent of the Pentagon’s annual budget, before the proposed Trump add-ons. The $3 billion for all of those programs is also less than one-eighth of the $25 billion the Pentagon wastes on bureaucratic overhead every year.
And of course the budget director’s hit list is just a small part of the larger assault on spending for diplomacy and domestic needs that is part of the Trump budget blueprint. The Environmental Protection Agency is slated for a 31% cut; the State Department budget is proposed to be cut by 29%; and support for humanitarian aid through the United Nations — mostly refugee and food assistance at a time of massive refugee flows and near famine in parts of Africa and the Middle East — could be cut by up to 50%.
Three block grant programs that provide services like heating aid to low income households, homeless housing and services, ands support for Meals on Wheels programs are scheduled to be eliminated altogether, at a cost of $8 billion. The $8 billion cost of those programs is less than the cost of one new ballistic missile firing submarine — and the Pentagon wants us to pay for twelve of them.
The Pentagon’s $1 Trillion Nuclear Buildup: What Are We Buying?
The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies has done a report on the “trillion dollar triad” — the plan to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and missiles, complete with new warheads to go with them, at a cost of roughly $1 trillion over three decades.
Here are the major components of that proposed $1 trillion nuclear weapons buildup:
— New nuclear warhead facilities, and new nuclear warheads, $350 billion, spent through the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA);
— 12 new ballistic missile submarines at over $8 billion each, or roughly $100 billion in total
— 100 B-21 bombers for up to $1 billion each, or $100 billion total
— Hundreds of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), at a cost of up to $120 billion
— A new nuclear-armed cruise missile, at a cost of up to $20 billion for the whole program
Things could change — fewer systems could be bought, and the $1 trillion price tag could go down. Or, as usually happens, the original estimates could go up as a result of the cost overruns that are almost inevitable in any major weapons program.
Who Profits from Spending on Nuclear Weapons?
A handful of companies will be the main beneficiaries of the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons spending binge.
B-21 Bomber: Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor; the Pratt and Whitney division of United Technologies will build the engines; and BAE Systems, a global defense firm based primarily in the UK and the United States, is a major subcontractor.
Ballistic Missile Submarine: General Dynamics will be the prime contractor, with major assistance from Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding.
ICBM and nuclear-armed cruise missile: Contracts have not been awarded yet for these systems, but bidders will include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Raytheon.
Nuclear warheads: The biggest beneficiaries of spending on nuclear warheads are the contractors that run major facilities for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), including Honeywell, which runs the Sandia nuclear weapons engineering laboratory in New Mexico, and a consortium that includes the University of California and Becthel, which run the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratories.
The best list of major nuclear weapons producers is maintained by Don’t Bank on the Bomb, a campaign that presses banks to withdraw support for companies involved in developing or producing nuclear weapons. Their web site profiles over two dozen major nuclear weapons supplying companies.
Opportunity Costs: What Can We Buy With $1 Trillion?
Not only is it unnecessary to embark on a three decade, $1 trillion effort to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, but it’s dangerous. As noted above, a tiny fraction of the existing U.S. stockpile is enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon. Anything beyond that just encourages other countries to modernize and expand their own arsenals. And the more nuclear weapons there are the more likely one will be used. In fact, the only guaranteed protection against nuclear weapons is to get rid of them all. That’s a daunting challenge, but as a first step we have to stop building new nuclear weapons at a time when the United States and the other nuclear weapons states possess vast nuclear overkill.
The ultimate cost of the trillion dollar buildup is the risk it poses to the future of life on earth.
There are also huge opportunity costs associated with spending vast sums on nuclear weapons we don’t need. The Future of Life Institute has created an online tool that lets you choose alternative ways to spend that trillion dollars. I tried it, and I found out we could buy the following things instead of wasting a trillion dollars on a new generation of nuclear weapons:
— 100 Million School Lunches: $235 million
— 10,000 High School Science Teachers for one year: $553 million
— Salvage and Protect All Superfund Toxic Waste Sites for one year: $681 million
— Provide Federal Funding for Planned Parenthood for one year: $528 million
— Health Insurance for 1 Million Families for one year: $16.8 billion
— End Homelessness for one year: $20 billion
— Fix All Deficient Bridges in the U.S.: $71 billion
All of the above investments represent only about 10 percent of the $1 trillion the Pentagon wants to spend on nuclear weapons over the next three decades.
There is one option offered by the Future of Life Institute tool that would put a serious dent in the $1 trillion spending total:
— Burn a $1 Million Pile of Cash Every Hour for Thirty Years: $262 Billion
Burning piles of cash would be a waste of money, to be sure, but it would be a far better, and far safer, use of the funds than spending them on extending a nuclear arms race that puts us all at risk.
This article is adapted from a presentation made by William D. Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, at a conference on “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” that was held at MIT on May 6th, 2017.

World Beyond War

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Please read the very informative article at http://worldbeyondwar.org/f-35-incinerating-ski-slope/  As my friend Bob Kinsey says, “Not the usual Greenwash stuff but real facts in context.”

Thanks, LeRoy

Why You Should Care About the Formation of the Nuclear Crisis Group

In Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics on May 10, 2017 at 11:02 pm

In this column, Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, explores the formation of the Nuclear Crisis Group. May 9, 2017.

On Friday, an elite group of the world’s nuclear experts and advisers launched a Nuclear Crisis Group, to help manage the growing risk of nuclear conflict. The group includes leading diplomats with decades of experience, and retired military officers who were once responsible for launching nuclear weapons if given the order to do so. China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States, all countries that have nuclear weapons, are represented. The group intends to create a “shadow security council,” or an expert group capable of providing advice to world leaders on nuclear matters.
The group is one of the better things to come out of a terrible spiral in nuclear security that we are currently witnessing. Their goal, to help reduce the “alarming rise of tensions involving nuclear-armed governments,” is worth our attention.
Over the past several years, nuclear security has gone from bad to worse. In 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock from five to three minutes to midnight to acknowledge the deteriorating situation. The Doomsday Clock is a 70-year-old symbol that helps communicate what a group of leading science and security experts think about how close or far away we are from destroying civilization. It has been as close to 2 minutes to midnight, and as far as 17 minutes to midnight. This past January, the Board of the Bulletin moved the clock 30 seconds closer to 2.5 minutes to midnight.
In moving the hands of the clock, the Bulletin noted that world leaders have grown cavalier about nuclear weapons and their language has become reckless. For example, around Christmas the Pakistani defense minister tweeted a nuclear threat at Israel in response to a fake news story. Shortly before taking office, President Trump tweeted that “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” without giving a convincing reason why.
Such loose talk mirrors other serious developments. Every nuclear state is investing significant national resources in upgrading their nuclear programs. The U.S. is on the cusp of investing a trillion dollars in its nuclear weapons over the next 30 years. In March, the Pentagon confirmed that Russia violated an important nuclear arms control agreement. And, as if on cue, the United States and North Korea are engaged today in a kind of nuclear brinkmanship that the world hasn’t seen since some of the worst days of the Cold War. The world seems to be on the cusp of a nuclear arms race that is spiraling downward.
The good news is that citizens are mobilizing to reverse this frightening situation.
Last Wednesday, a petition was delivered to Congress to block President Trump from being able to be the first to use nuclear weapons without congressional approval in a crisis. The petition had nearly a half-million signatures. And this June, a major women’s march to “ban the bomb” is being planned in New York City. In other words, the leaders’ group that met on Friday is backed by a newly engaged and motivated group of ordinary citizens.
Building on grass-roots support, the Nuclear Crisis Group could serve as a brake on nuclear escalation and be an early step in reversing the downward nuclear security spiral. Not only will they be able to offer expertise to inexperienced leaders who are dabbling in nuclear security, but they will be able to develop and endorse proposals that could make the world safer such as expanding the decision time that leaders have to respond to a nuclear threat, further protecting nuclear systems against cyber attacks and unintended escalations, reenergizing the appetite for arms control negotiations, and questioning global nuclear upgrade programs.
But it is important for all of us to keep the pressure on and to ask our local political representatives what they are doing to decrease nuclear tensions. We now have the beginnings of a movement that extends from Main Street straight into the halls of power. Let’s use it to advance peace and security.

Trump’s steep learning curve

In Democracy, Peace, Politics, War on April 28, 2017 at 7:59 am

By Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor

APRIL 27, 2017 WASHINGTON—President Trump has learned plenty in his first 100 days in office. He has told us so.

Mr. Trump has learned that health-care reform and North Korea are complicated, that NATO and the Export-Import Bank are worth preserving after all, and that China, in fact, is not manipulating its currency. He’s also learned the enormous unilateral power American presidents enjoy as commander in chief – though he hasn’t fully tested the limits of that power, or experienced the consequences of doing so.

But the education of Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, is about so much more than learning the vast array of issues that cross his desk in the Oval Office – and rethinking some positions along the way. It’s about discovering that running a business and being president of the United States are dramatically different enterprises. And that campaigning isn’t the same as governing, even as he does both simultaneously.

Still, if there’s one point about Trump that both supporters and critics agree on, it’s that he’s a listener. He’s not a reader or a details guy. “I’m an intuitive person,” he has said. As president, that intuition is informed by exposing himself to differing views, both among his famously clashing advisers, in his cable-news viewing, and in his dealings with Congress.

“I’ve had long discussions with the president in the Oval Office,” says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, who, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is a central player in enacting Trump’s agenda. “He listens.”
Trump is clearly learning something, says Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

“The question is whether he’s learning enough things quickly enough,” says Mr. Schnur, who served as communications director for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Beyond the froth of headlines, deeper truths

The firing of Michael Flynn as national security adviser and his replacement with H.R. McMaster represents progress in the latter’s “more conventional and less disruptive approach to security issues,” Schnur says. “The influence of people like [economic adviser] Gary Cohn demonstrates the same type of realization, that you can change Washington in some ways, but not in every way all at once.”

Indeed, some Trump skeptics on the Republican side have expressed relief that, over time, the president has amassed a team that includes respected figures from the world of national security and finance, and has declined to name some of the campaign gadflies (think Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich) to formal positions in the administration.

For anti-Trump forces, the president’s loose, unorthodox style has made him hard to counter, especially amid the daily barrage of tweets and pivots. One day he’s ready to terminate NAFTA – the agreement that governs the $3.5 billion in daily trade among the US, Mexico, and Canada – and the next, he’s dialing back to a less-disruptive “renegotiation.”

But beneath the froth of daily news coverage, there are deeper truths that have dominated Trump’s first 100 days in office: Foremost is the grand political science experiment of having a political novice in the Oval Office, surrounded by an inner circle of advisers who are also new to governing. It has been a bungee jump for everyone – Congress, the political parties, world leaders, and the American people.

Also central is Trump’s decision to start campaigning for reelection essentially from Day One of his presidency. Trump filed for the 2020 election on Inauguration Day of 2017, a move he says was not a “formal announcement of candidacy,” but he has in fact been holding campaign events. His rally in Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday night – counter-programming to the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner – is being organized by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc, not the White House.

All presidential actions have a political dimension, but Trump’s manifestation of that is unique.

“He is the first president in our history who did not believe that it was necessary to expand his base of support in order to succeed,” says Schnur. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’d rather be more popular than he is, but I suspect Trump believes he probably couldn’t unify the country even if he wanted to.”

Consider the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Trump is the least popular president in modern history at this stage in office, at 42 percent job approval, and yet 96 percent of those who say they voted for him last November say they’d vote for him again today. The poll also indicates the possibility that Trump could win the popular vote – which he did not get last November – if a rerun of the 2016 election were held today. For those tired of the intense polarization gripping Washington, these results do not bode well.

Why it’s hard for CEOs to run democracies

Another unique dimension of the Trump presidency is his background in business. There’s a longstanding trope that a businessman could do better in governing the country than a career politician, and Trump, in theory, provides an opportunity to test that proposition.

The test has only begun, but Gautam Mukunda, a professor at Harvard Business School, offers some early caveats.

“No doubt there is some overlap in the skills required to be president and the skills it takes to be a really good CEO,” Mr. Mukunda says. “Large organizations, even businesses and government ones, do have some commonalities.”

But there’s a fundamental difference between a business and a government. “From the very simplest thing, most corporate CEOs have a power and control over their organization that’s a lot more akin to an absolute dictator than it is to the president of the United States,” he says.

The goal of a business is to make a profit, whereas the goals of government are much more contentious, he adds. “Should the United States government guarantee health insurance to all American citizens or not? That is a matter of great debate. The question of how we should do that is secondary to the question of if we should do that.”

Then there’s Trump himself – and his particular way of doing business. Trump is known for being litigious, and for constantly trying to get a better deal, even after a deal has been signed. When a deal falls apart, he can move on to another deal, with another set of people.

“His entire career he has played in a series of one-shot games,” says Mukunda. As president, “he’s still handling every interaction like they’re one-shot interactions. So he can get into a fight with the prime minister of Australia… but he can’t go elsewhere for a better deal. Australia’s not going away.”

Ever the performer

Author Gwenda Blair has interviewed and interacted with Trump many times in her work on a biography of the businessman and reality TV performer, long before he announced for president.

Today, nothing about Trump’s presidency surprises her.

“It really is the same MO that we saw in his career up until the campaign, then throughout the whole campaign,” says Ms. Blair. “He’s a performer: Always keep people distracted, keep changing the subject. Really, he has spent 40 years honing his ability to keep all the attention on him, and it still works.”

Blair calls him the framer-in-chief. “He keeps framing what success means,” she says. “He ran on the idea that he would have the most successful first 100 days ever.”

Every new president makes mistakes, and goes through a learning curve. Trump’s first 100 days have been tougher than the norm, however. Trump failed on his first pass at health-care reform, and executive orders targeting illegal immigrants are stuck in court. But in his press releases and public statements, he’s projecting an image of success.

“Undergirding everything, really, is the ongoing delegitimization of traditional news, of the primacy of facts, the importance of accuracy in replacing that with a kind of ever-shifting narrative that accepts contradictions, zig-zags, 180-degree pivots,” Blair says. “And on all of those things, there is no fixed point except him.”