Archive for the ‘Nonviolence’ Category

UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons start next week

In Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 21, 2017 at 10:03 am

The first negotiating session of the UN Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place at the United Nations in New York on March 27.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly decided – by a vote of 113 in favour, 35 against and 13 abstaining – to commence negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, regardless of whether or not the nuclear-armed and allied states join such a treaty.

Impact of the treaty on nuclear-armed and allied States

Even if no nuclear-armed or allied States join the nuclear prohibition treaty, it could impact on their policies and practices.

The treaty could, for example, affirm that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are already illegal under existing international law, including international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. This would increase the legal and political pressure on nuclear armed and allied States to phase out nuclear deterrence and join subsequent negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The treaty could also prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons, including by banks and public funds, in the States signing the treaty. This follows a similar practice of governments divesting from corporations making landmines and cluster munitions following the adoption of treaties prohibiting these weapons.

Such action could hit at the heart of one of the most powerful drivers of the nuclear arms race – the nuclear weapons corporations which are making billions of dollars from producing the weapons, and have a vested interest in keeping the arms race going.

UNFOLD ZERO has joined with Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, in submitting a working paper to the UN negotiating conference calling for the treaty to include such a prohibition, providing details about how such a prohibition could work, and giving examples of countries that have already divested their public funds from nuclear weapons corporations.

UNFOLD ZERO and PNND hold a consultation in Washington DC with disarmament experts on the nuclear prohibition treaty, nuclear arms control between US and Russia, and the 2018 UN High Level Conference.
UNFOLD ZERO consultations in UN centres and key capitals

From January to March 2017, UNFOLD ZERO and PNND organised a series of consultation meetings with disarmament experts and civil society representatives on the current nuclear disarmament climate, how to build success in the ban treaty negotiations and the 2018 UN High Level Conference, and how to build cooperation between civil society and parliamentarians.

Consultation events were organised in Berlin, Geneva, London, New York, Vienna, and Washington DC.

The outcomes of these events help UNFOLD ZERO and PNND feed into the UN negotiations and build support from parliaments and in inter-parliamentary forums including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

UNFOLD ZERO at the March 6 ban treaty discussion in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, hosted by the government of Austria, Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform. [Photo: GCSP]
Geneva discussions on the ban treaty

A series of informal discussions amongst governments, disarmament experts and civil society organisations is being held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva in March, prior to the start of the UN negotiations in New York.

The discussions, which have been organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform, have focused on a number of critical issues for the negotiations, including provisions on cooperation and relations with nuclear-armed states outside the treaty, withdrawal provisions and provisions for nuclear-armed States to accede to the treaty.

UNFOLD ZERO has been participating in these discussions along with our partners Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.E
Yours sincerely

Surge in young women planning to run for office

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on February 5, 2017 at 2:13 am

If a rookie politician like Donald Trump can get to the White House, why not me? That’s the question that’s prompted a surprising number of liberal young women to consider launching a campaign of their own. – Christa Case Bryant, Politics editor

Story Hinckley, FEBRUARY 2, 2017 WASHINGTON, Christian Science Monitor

Brittany Shearer has always been interested in politics.

She majored in political science in college, and regularly calls her state representatives about issues she cares about, such as education. But something changed when Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination last summer: She decided to run for office herself, and aims to get elected to the state Senate in Virginia within the next five years.

“Running for office is more proactive,” says the 20-something Ms. Shearer, who works for Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., as an academic adviser. “I want to bring my own ideas to the table.”

Shearer is not alone.

Since President Trump’s election, young progressive women are flooding political training programs. They are energized by a fear of what a Trump presidency might bring on issues from reproductive rights and climate change to immigration policy and education funding. Ironically, some are also inspired by Trump, a first-time candidate who won the presidency despite a lack of political experience.

For the Democratic Party, this wave of female enthusiasm for politics couldn’t happen faster. In recent years, Democratic representation at the state and local level has declined dramatically, and the party is eager to build up its bench.

“We have never seen this kind of interest in running for office,” says Andrea Dew Steele, president and founder of Emerge America, an organization that offers six-month training courses in 17 states for Democratic women interested in running for office. “We spend a lot of time begging women to run for office. This is unusual: to get women interested without trying to recruit them with numerous conversations.”

Emerge America, which launched in 2005, has witnessed an average increase in applications of 87 percent over the past year. Enrollment for Emerge Michigan, for example, increased from 28 applications last year to 81 applications this year. Emerge Pennsylvania increased from 27 to 72 applications, and Emerge Massachusetts increased from 44 to 82.

Emily’s List, an organization that helps pro-choice Democratic women win elective office, has heard from more than 4,000 women interested in running for office since Election Day. That represents four times more women than had expressed interest in the previous 22 months combined.

Another group, Run for Something, launched the day after Inauguration Day, and has already recruited more than 3,000 women and men under age 35 to run for state or local office. More than half are women, the group says.

Leaders from all three organizations agree: Trump is to thank for this outpouring of interest in elected office. Young women may have considered themselves unqualified for political office before, but Trump has broken down many of the preconceived barriers to candidacy.

“The model of what a politician looks like has expanded for better and worse, and we should take advantage of that for the better,” says Amanda Litman, former email director for the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign and co-founder of Run for Something.

Since 1970, the ranks of women in elective office have grown markedly, but in recent years the numbers have plateaued. Today, women still make up only 19 percent of members of Congress, 25 percent of state legislators, and 8 percent of governors, according to Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Politics (CAWP).

“There isn’t a bias at the ballot box where women win less,” says Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at CAWP and an assistant political science professor at Rutgers. It’s getting women to run in the first place that’s the hard part, she says. “So if today’s political energy results in more women running for office, that will really address one of the primary problems we have had in increasing the number of women in office.”

Dr. Dittmar says it’s too soon to tell if this year’s burst of interest will compare to 1992, after sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings inspired a surge of female candidates. We won’t know until next year, she says.

But in the meantime, Ms. Steele at Engage America and her colleagues at Run for Something and Emily’s List are actively trying to break down the barriers to entry.

“There is the misconception that you might be too young or too inexperienced to run for offices like city council. And you are not. You bring an important point of view if you are a young woman,” says Steele. “We have to recognize that.”

Bree Baccaglini, a 2015 graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, never considered herself “the activist type” until Trump clinched the GOP presidential nomination last spring. Then she decided to quit her job in Washington and she got hired by the Clinton campaign in Ohio. The day after Trump’s election she surprised herself once again: She wrote to Mrs. Clinton and promised to run for political office one day.

“[Trump’s candidacy] pulled back the curtain a little bit,” says Ms. Baccaglini. “It’s easy to keep the idea of running at arm’s length if you believe there is a ‘secret sauce.’ ”

Rachel Thomas, national press secretary for Emily’s List, says many women incorrectly assume they don’t have the résumé, donors, or background to run for office. But “this election flipped a switch in women to really see themselves as political candidates,” she says.

Starting local

On Jan. 22, a day after the big Women’s March, Emily’s List held a training session in Washington to teach interested women the nuts and bolts of starting their first political campaign. More than 500 women attended the session, 200 of whom were under the age of 35. An additional 500 women were on a waitlist.

This interest “speaks to the fact that this march was not just a day of action, but the start of months or years of action,” says Ms. Thomas.

Baccaglini attended the training session and says she was surprised at how young – and determined – the crowd looked. Everyone she spoke to at the event shared the same political awakening, only seriously considering a candidacy after Nov. 8. She attributes part of her own hesitation to attitudes of self-doubt and insecurity attributed to women for generations.

“I learned that, on average, men need to be tapped once to run, women need to be seven times,” she says. “Many men probably aren’t thinking they are masters of finding solutions, or adept at identifying problems, but they give it a stab.”

Baccaglini says she’ll start with a run for city council in her hometown of San Francisco, and would like to run for attorney general of California one day. The Emily’s List training taught her the importance of starting small: “You need a runway for big roles like that,” says Baccaglini. “You need a track record.”

Only 5 percent of state legislators are under the age of 35, a percentage that should be much higher, says Litman. She wants to convince young progressives that local-level positions are valuable and within reach.

“Our big picture goal is building a bench for the Democratic Party, so we need to get people in the first level of state government,” as well as local offices such as city council and mayor, says Litman. “It is a little less sexy, but it is affordable and achievable.”

And, she points out, local office is where a lot of top politicians got their start – from President Obama and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, both of whom served in their state legislatures, to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who first served as mayor of Burlington, Vt.

The Return of Civil Disobedience

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on January 12, 2017 at 8:05 am

By Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker

01 January 17

The sixties produced a conviction that “democracy is in the streets.” The Trump era may echo that.

n December 6th, less than a month after the election, Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in New York to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award, for his decades of public service, used the occasion to urge Americans not to despair. “I remind people, ’68 was really a bad year,” he said, and “America didn’t break.” He added, “It’s as bad now, but I’m hopeful.” And bad it was. The man for whom Biden’s award was named was assassinated in 1968. So was Martin Luther King, Jr. Riots erupted in more than a hundred cities, and violence broke out at the Democratic National Convention, in Chicago. The year closed with the hairbreadth victory of a law-and-order Presidential nominee whose Southern strategy of racial politicking remade the electoral map. Whatever innocence had survived the tumult of the five years since the murder of John F. Kennedy was gone.

It was telling that Biden had to sift through nearly a half century of history to find a precedent for the current malaise among liberals and progressives, but the comparison was not entirely fitting. Throughout Richard Nixon’s Presidency, Democrats maintained majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The efforts of the antiwar movement to end American involvement in Vietnam had stalled, but Nixon’s first years in office saw the enactment of several progressive measures, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act, as well as the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2016, the Republicans won the White House, maintained control of both chambers of Congress, and secured the ability to create a conservative Supreme Court majority that could last a generation or more. Donald Trump, a man with minimal restraint, has been awarded maximal power.

Last summer, the A.C.L.U. issued a report highlighting the ways in which Trump’s proposals on a number of issues would violate the Bill of Rights. After his victory, the A.C.L.U.’s home page featured an image of him with the caption “See You in Court.” In November, Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote but for millions of illegal ballots cast. This was not just a window into the conspiratorial and fantasist mind-set of the President-elect but a looming threat to voting rights. Ten days after the election, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund released a statement opposing the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, as Attorney General, based on his record of hostility to voting rights and on the fact that he’d once brought unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud against civil-rights activists. But, with a Republican majority that has mostly shown compliance with Trump, despite his contempt for the norms of democracy, the fear is that he will achieve much of what he wants. Even if he accomplishes only half, the landscape of American politics and policy will be radically altered. This prospect has recalled another phenomenon of the nineteen-sixties: the conviction that “democracy is in the streets.”

Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns. MoveOn arose in response to what was perceived as the Republican congressional overreach that resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The Occupy movement was a backlash to the financial crisis. The message of Black Lives Matter was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Occupy’s version of anti-corporate populism helped to create the climate in which Senator Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign could not only exist but essentially shape the Democratic Party platform. Black Lives Matter brought national attention to local instances of police brutality, prompting the Obama Administration to launch the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and helping defeat prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland, who had sought reëlection after initially failing to bring charges against police officers accused of using excessive force.

Last July, when the Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, anxious that the pipeline would threaten their water supply, started an online petition and filed a lawsuit to halt construction. Thousands of activists, including members of Black Lives Matter, and two thousand military veterans went to Standing Rock, to protest on the Sioux’s behalf; last month, they endured rubber bullets and water hoses fired in freezing temperatures. On December 4th, the Army Corps announced that it would look for an alternate route. But, since Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline (and in which Trump, until recently, owned stock), protesters are settling in for a long winter.

In that context, the waves of protests in Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in the days after the election look less like spontaneous outrage and more like a preview of what the next four years may hold. Unlike the specific protests that emerged during the Obama Administration, the post-election demonstrations have been directed at the general state of American democracy. Two hundred thousand women are expected to assemble in front of the Capitol, on January 21st, the day after the Inauguration, for the Women’s March on Washington. Born of one woman’s invitation to forty friends, the event is meant as a rejoinder to the fact that a candidate with a troubling history regarding women’s rights—one who actually bragged about committing sexual assault—has made it to the White House.

The first Inauguration of George W. Bush, in 2001, saw mass protests driven by the sentiment that the election had been stolen. The protests that greet Trump will, in all probability, exceed them: some twenty other groups have also applied for march permits. Given his history with African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, unionized labor, environmentalists, and people with disabilities, it is not hard to imagine that there will be many more to come. The Congress is unlikely to check the new President, but democracy may thrive in the states, the courts, the next elections, and, lest the lessons of the sixties be forgotten, the streets.

A first look at a 21st century disarmament movement

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 19, 2016 at 11:49 pm

John Carl Baker, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, December 16, 3016

John Carl Baker is a Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund, where he works as political engagement strategist. Baker holds a doctorate in cultural studies, and his work focuses on disarmament movements, late Cold War culture, and critical theory. His current book project examines the intersection between the nuclear freeze movement and the transition to neoliberalism in the United States.
With Donald Trump set to ascend to the presidency, many in the disarmament and nonproliferation community are deeply concerned and searching for a path forward. The comparisons to the election of Ronald Reagan are not perfect, but they do contain at least one kernel of truth. Just as in the early 1980s, those who seek to eliminate nuclear risk today feel left out in the cold—and they are understandably frightened. Much like Reagan’s loose talk about nuclear war, the thought of Trump’s finger on the button sends chills down the spines of experts and laypeople alike.

It is not surprising then that some are floating the possibility of a revived disarmament movement as a counterbalance to the incoming Trump administration, which seems primed to continue and perhaps even accelerate the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal. Here in the Bulletin, Frank von Hippel recently wondered whether a millennial-led “general citizen uprising” against Trump’s policies might include a disarmament component. This is certainly a possibility. But if the “new generation of nuclear disarmament activists” he foresees actually emerges, what might it look like when compared to, say, the nuclear freeze movement of the Reagan era?

In my view, a 21st century disarmament movement will be–and should be–distinct from the freeze in three main ways. It will be intersectional, it will be digital, and it will be confrontational.

The nuclear freeze movement accomplished a great deal in its brief existence. It challenged the Reagan administration to temper its rhetoric and engage with the Soviets. Along with other peace movements around the globe, it helped bring the world back from the brink of nuclear war. These achievements made the joint weapons reductions of the late Cold War possible, and for that we owe the freeze movement a debt of gratitude. But the movement was not without its faults. It presented the freeze policy as a common denominator around which everyone from dissident Republicans to radical leftists could rally and consciously cultivated a public image that was politically moderate and middle class. In theory the freeze movement was a big tent that welcomed all comers, but in practice it tended to be white, affluent, and strangely cordoned off from other activist causes.

A contemporary movement will not be nearly as exclusionary and single-issue oriented. While there are clearly targeted forms of activism today—against police violence, economic inequality, and climate change, to name just a few—no sharp line exists between them, and they are constantly making connections with one another. Black Lives Matter activists point out the links between economic inequality and over-policing, while environmental advocates discuss the disproportionate impact of climate upheavals on people of color and the poor.

Social movements today are foundationally intersectional, and a new disarmament movement will be too. It may emphasize the trade-off between social spending and defense spending, or criticize the orientalist quality of much nonproliferation discourse. It may note the racist and environmentally destructive history of nuclear testing, or draw attention to male domination of the national security sphere. A new movement will face the exclusionary qualities of disarmament activism head-on and replace them with a firm emphasis on diversity and cross-issue collaboration. A revived disarmament movement will acknowledge that its goal cannot take primacy over other struggles but can come to fruition in and through them. Much like the other new social movements, it will see itself as one element in an overarching global push for democracy, civil rights, and economic justice.

Media forms have historically played a significant role in promoting the disarmament cause. In the Reagan era, films about nuclear war proliferated, and activists seized upon them as a way of galvanizing the public against the arms race. These texts were “mass media” in the truest sense of the term. They were delivered instantaneously to huge audiences, who experienced them collectively, whether in the movie theater or the family living room. On one evening in 1983, a stunning 100 million people watched the TV movie The Day After, which portrayed the impact of a nuclear war on a Midwestern community in the United States. In the weeks before and after the film was broadcast, it spurred a nationwide discussion on the dangers of nuclear weapons. The film kept the freeze issue in the public eye and presented an enormous organizing opportunity, which activists were more than happy to exploit.

Mass media are still with us, of course, but a 21st century disarmament movement will likely take a more decentralized, digital approach to media engagement and popular mobilization. Social media has already played an enormous role in organizing new social movements (particularly Black Lives Matter), and a new disarmament movement would no doubt follow suit. Indeed, organizations like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are already using digital media forms as a cornerstone of their activism. During the recent UN First Committee session, ICAN and its coalition used Twitter to engage in instantaneous critiques of the nuclear-armed states, calling them out for their hypocrisy and underhandedness in trying to scuttle the ban treaty. They did this not only through expert analysis, but also through appropriately biting humor—sometimes delivered via internet memes. Mainstream US media have been remarkably uninterested in the UN ban treaty discussions, but through digital platforms like Twitter, groups like ICAN are disseminating the latest news, pushing back against the claims of the nuclear-armed states and encouraging newcomers to get involved in the issue. Their success at the international level may provide a model media strategy for a new US movement.

The third and most distinctive quality of a 21st century disarmament movement is that it will be confrontational, a major departure from the freeze in both tactics and strategy. From its inception, the freeze movement defined itself in opposition to radical politics and unilateral disarmament, hence its emphasis on bilateralism, verifiability, and traditional civic participation. It’s true that the freeze engaged in public demonstrations and protest marches (most notably the June 1982 Central Park rally of 750,000 people), but its primary form of political engagement was the ballot box. It eschewed most forms of direct action in favor of state and local ballot initiatives calling for the institution of a bilateral freeze on the testing, deployment, and production for nuclear weapons. These initiatives clearly expressed opposition to the status quo but were non-binding; the hope was that Congress would take up the issue, which it eventually did, with mixed results. The point here is that the freeze movement sought a kind of accommodation with the powers-that-be. This was evident in the policy itself, designed to be non-threatening and bipartisan, and in the freeze’s inoffensive, even patriotic model of political participation: localized voting, public education, grassroots legislative pressure.

Today’s social movements, while not antagonistic to voting and, say, writing your congressperson, do not regard these activities as the end-all-be-all of political participation. They place a much stronger emphasis on protest in its varying forms: rowdy demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, the reclamation of public space.

The 21st century is the time of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Fight for $15, and it seems likely that a renewed disarmament activism will take a cue from these movements’ confrontational tactics. Today, the dominant style of protest does not passively ask to be heard, but demands it, by actively challenging an injustice at its source. There is of course a long history of peaceful direct action in the disarmament movement, and activists may revive this tradition in the coming years. The US nuclear weapons complex, spread out over multiple sites across the country, certainly provides ample opportunity for disruptive—but peaceful—protest. Thinking intersectionally, though, activists may focus their ire on the defense corporations of the “nuclear enterprise,” who receive billions from the federal government at a time when many Americans feel economically left behind. So far, inequality activists have not stressed the trade-off between defense spending and social spending. But with the US set to spend $1 trillion modernizing its nuclear arsenal, and Trump adding numerous critics of social welfare programs to his administration, there is significant potential for cross-issue mobilization.

The freeze movement was reluctant to make broader political connections and engage in direct action for fear of being tarred as unserious and left wing. Whether this choice was correct in the early 1980s is open for debate. But today, a raucous intersectionality–digitally savvy but materially focused–seems absolutely essential for preventing a new arms race. This 21st century movement will look radically different from the freeze. Its form will pose a challenge not only to Donald Trump and nuclear modernization but to those of us in the arms control community who sometimes value subdued professionalism over committed action. Still, we should welcome it. A renewed movement will give a much-needed injection of youthful excitement to the issue of nuclear arms control and will help turn the slow drip of progress over the past 30 years into a flood of momentous change. It happened before, and it can happen again.

Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Race, War on December 19, 2016 at 3:19 am

By STEVEN LEVITSKY and DANIEL ZIBLATT, New York Times., Sunday Review, Dec. 16, 2016

Donald J. Trump’s election has raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: Is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed; indeed, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s ever has. Yet past stability is no guarantee of democracy’s future survival.

We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.

The clearest warning sign is the ascent of anti-democratic politicians into mainstream politics. Drawing on a close study of democracy’s demise in 1930s Europe, the eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a “litmus test” to identify anti-democratic politicians. His indicators include a failure to reject violence unambiguously, a readiness to curtail rivals’ civil liberties, and the denial of the legitimacy of elected governments.

Mr. Trump tests positive. In the campaign, he encouraged violence among supporters; pledged to prosecute Hillary Clinton; threatened legal action against unfriendly media; and suggested that he might not accept the election results.

This anti-democratic behavior has continued since the election. With the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally,” Mr. Trump openly challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process. At the same time, he has been remarkably dismissive of United States intelligence agencies’ reports of Russian hacking to tilt the election in his favor.

Mr. Trump is not the first American politician with authoritarian tendencies. (Other notable authoritarians include Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana and Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.) But he is the first in modern American history to be elected president. This is not necessarily because Americans have grown more authoritarian (the United States electorate has always had an authoritarian streak). Rather it’s because the institutional filters that we assumed would protect us from extremists, like the party nomination system and the news media, failed.

Many Americans are not overly concerned about Mr. Trump’s authoritarian inclinations because they trust our system of constitutional checks and balances to constrain him.

Yet the institutional safeguards protecting our democracy may be less effective than we think. A well-designed constitution is not enough to ensure a stable democracy — a lesson many Latin American independence leaders learned when they borrowed the American constitutional model in the early 19th century, only to see their countries plunge into chaos.

Democratic institutions must be reinforced by strong informal norms. Like a pickup basketball game without a referee, democracies work best when unwritten rules of the game, known and respected by all players, ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation. Norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing political competition from spiraling into a chaotic, no-holds-barred conflict.

Among the unwritten rules that have sustained American democracy are partisan self-restraint and fair play. For much of our history, leaders of both parties resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage, effectively underutilizing the power conferred by those institutions. There existed a shared understanding, for example, that anti-majoritarian practices like the Senate filibuster would be used sparingly, that the Senate would defer (within reason) to the president in nominating Supreme Court justices, and that votes of extraordinary importance — like impeachment — required a bipartisan consensus. Such practices helped to avoid a descent into the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed many European democracies in the 1930s.

Yet norms of partisan restraint have eroded in recent decades. House Republicans’ impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 abandoned the idea of bipartisan consensus on impeachment. The filibuster, once a rarity, has become a routine tool of legislative obstruction. As the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have shown, the decline of partisan restraint has rendered our democratic institutions increasingly dysfunctional. Republicans’ 2011 refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which put America’s credit rating at risk for partisan gain, and the Senate’s refusal this year to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — in essence, allowing the Republicans to steal a Supreme Court seat — offer an alarming glimpse at political life in the absence of partisan restraint.

Norms of presidential restraint are also at risk. The Constitution’s ambiguity regarding the limits of executive authority can tempt presidents to try and push those limits. Although executive power has expanded in recent decades, it has ultimately been reined in by the prudence and self-restraint of our presidents.

Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump is a serial norm-breaker. There are signs that Mr. Trump seeks to diminish the news media’s traditional role by using Twitter, video messages and public rallies to circumvent the White House press corps and communicate directly with voters — taking a page out of the playbook of populist leaders like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.

An even more basic norm under threat today is the idea of legitimate opposition. In a democracy, partisan rivals must fully accept one another’s right to exist, to compete and to govern. Democrats and Republicans may disagree intensely, but they must view one another as loyal Americans and accept that the other side will occasionally win elections and lead the country. Without such mutual acceptance, democracy is imperiled. Governments throughout history have used the claim that their opponents are disloyal or criminal or a threat to the nation’s way of life to justify acts of authoritarianism.

The idea of legitimate opposition has been entrenched in the United States since the early 19th century, disrupted only by the Civil War. That may now be changing, however, as right-wing extremists increasingly question the legitimacy of their liberal rivals. During the last decade, Ann Coulter wrote best-selling books describing liberals as traitors, and the “birther” movement questioned President Obama’s status as an American.

Such extremism, once confined to the political fringes, has now moved into the mainstream. In 2008, the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin linked Barack Obama to terrorism. This year, the Republican Party nominated a birther as its presidential candidate. Mr. Trump’s campaign centered on the claim that Hillary Clinton was a criminal who should be in jail; and “Lock her up!” was chanted at the Republican National Convention. In other words, leading Republicans — including the president-elect — endorsed the view that the Democratic candidate was not a legitimate rival.

The risk we face, then, is not merely a president with illiberal proclivities — it is the election of such a president when the guardrails protecting American democracy are no longer as secure.

American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored could pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant. The warning signs are real.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University.


In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race on December 14, 2016 at 1:56 am


L World Day of Peace 2017: «Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace»
[ Arabic – English – French – German – Italian – Polish – Portuguese – Spanish ]

Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace
1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.
This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world
2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.
In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?
Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News
3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence
4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.
The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.
Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence
5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation
6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]
I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion
7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016


[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.
[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.
[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.
[10] No. 23.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.
[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.
[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.
[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.
[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.
[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.
[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.
[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.
[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.
[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.
[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.
[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.
[25]Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

What the U.S. Government Really Thought of Israel’s Apparent 1979 Nuclear Test

In Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on December 12, 2016 at 12:26 am

By AVNER COHEN and WILLIAM BURR, Politico Magazine, December 08, 2016

On the dawn of September 22, 1979, a U.S. Vela satellite used to detect nuclear explosions spotted a double flash somewhere in the South Atlantic. Normally characteristic of nuclear detonations, the double flash quickly set off a panic within the U.S. national security apparatus: Had a nation really detonated a nuclear weapon, possibly in violation of the Limited Test Ban Treaty? And if so, who had done it? Or was it simply a technical malfunction, or even a reflection of a natural cosmic phenomenon?

Over the months that followed, U.S. scientists and intelligence experts launched a series of investigations to determine what happened, but the results were never conclusive. While White House science advisers officially maintained that the double flash was a result of a technical malfunction, others in the government believed that it was a nuclear test, possibly by South Africa or more likely Israel. Today, U.S. government officials appear more interested in preserving secrecy about the incident than shedding light on what it might have known at the time.
What the Vela 6911 satellite actually detected on September 22 is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the nuclear age, and probably will remain so as long as significant intelligence reports on the Vela flash remain classified. But thanks to a new trove of declassified documents at the National Archives (from the files of Ambassador Gerard C. Smith, President Jimmy Carter’s special representative for non-proliferation matters) and a few items from the Carter Presidential Library—all published today for the first time by the National Security Archive—we are able to discover more about what really happened that morning, how the Carter administration reacted and why many in the intelligence community never accepted the official White House narrative.


The Vela satellite data gathered on September 22 did not provide an indisputable conclusion. Technically, the flash signals contained certain peculiarities and anomalies: Corroborative radioactive fallout could not be detected; the double flash signal had certain atypical characteristics; questions emerged about the reliability of the instruments on the 10-year-old Vela 6911 satellite, more than two years beyond its “design lifetime.”

Even so, in the first few days after the double flash, U.S. scientists and intelligence analysts shared the view that it was the result of a nuclear test. A technical malfunction was highly unlikely, they maintained—and so was a cosmic phenomenon triggering the satellite’s sensors.

More complicated was determining who carried out the nuclear detonation. No smoking gun could attribute it to any particular country, but because the source of the signal was in the far South Atlantic, many assumed that nearby South Africa was responsible. Another possible culprit was Israel. In 1979, Israel was widely known to be a nuclear state, though it had never (and still to this day has never) admitted its nuclear capability. Israel had also not yet conducted a test of its weapon, but was alleged to have a special relationship with South Africa that could have provided access to its territory. What President Jimmy Carter wrote in his diary on September 22, 1979—a record that became public only in his 2010 book—reflected the ambiguity of the situation: “There was indication of a nuclear explosion in the region of South Africa—either South Africa, Israel using a ship at sea, or nothing.”

It’s no wonder the double flash concerned Carter. Had it been confirmed as a nuclear test, the Carter administration would have been facing a touchy political situation—especially if the culprit turned out to be Israel. In Washington, the existence of Israel’s nuclear program has always been a national security taboo, never mentioned so as not to avoid upsetting other Middle East nations as well as the nonproliferation regime. Admitting Israel had been behind the Vela incident would have forced Carter to recognize its nuclear program, and also to levy sanctions against the country for violating U.S. nonproliferation legislation and the Limited Test Ban Treaty—another political nightmare. Not to mention that any such admission could unravel Carter’s most important international legacy—the peace treaty he just had negotiated between Egypt and Israel, signed only six months earlier at the White House. Egypt and the rest of the Middle East would have been in an uproar.


It has always been fairly well known that initial official investigations of the Vela incident came down on the side of a nuclear test, but newly declassified documents in the Gerard C. Smith files shed light on the details of the early inquiry. According to the files, in the days September 22, three well known scientists who had long-standing associations with the U.S. government reviewed the Vela data for the CIA. They were former Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Harold M. Agnew, Richard L. Garwin (H-bomb designer, distinguished scientist at IBM’s Watson Laboratory) and the FCC’s Chief Scientist Stephen Lukasik (also former chief Scientist at RAND Corporation). Their report from October 1979, revealed for the first time in the Smith files, concluded that the “signals were consistent with detection of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere,” while acknowledging that “the Vela sensor outputs were less ‘self-consistent’ than usual.” The latter was a reference to the fact that the two bhangmeters on the Vela satellite did not yield “equivalent or ‘parallel’ readers for the maximum intensity of the second flash.”

In a letter found in the Smith file, dated October 19, one of the scientists, Richard Garwin, noted that he would “bet 2 to 1 in favor” of the nuclear test thesis. Nevertheless, he proposed to revisit the findings of the three-man CIA panel by forming a larger group of scientists and focusing “on the possibility that a combination of real [natural] phenomena could have produced the data presented to us.” This group of “skeptical critical experts,” Garwin suggested, would take another look at “the primary data … to determine the rate of individual events which could mimic the components of the data which we saw”—in other words, to check whether some other phenomenon could have produced the Vela results.

While Garwin and others were reviewing the Vela data, U.S. intelligence was searching on the ground for radioactive substances that would constitute evidence of a nuclear detonation, but had found none. The Smith file includes telegrams about efforts, during November 1979, to confirm reports by scientists at New Zealand’s Institute of Nuclear Science (INS) about the detection of radioactive substances in specially collected rainwater. According to the documents, the highly secret Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) sent one of its experts, Colonel Robert McBryde, to New Zealand to confirm the story. But McBryde confirmed that the reports of radioactive rainwater were a “false alarm.” The “evidence of fresh fission products in INS sample is flimsy.”

With the lack of new technical information about the Vela event, Garwin’s suggestion for a meeting of “skeptical critical experts” may have ultimately led Carter’s science adviser, Frank Press, to commission a panel of eight prominent scientists to review the Vela data and determine what had happened. When he set up a panel in late October, Press limited the mandate of the panel to purely technical aspects, i.e., to investigate whether the signal had “natural” causes and to evaluate the possibility that it was a “false alarm.” Non-scientific intelligence information (e.g., reports by human sources on the ground) was excluded. Jack Ruina, a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a trusted friend of Press, chaired the special panel.

The panel’s provisional analysis, which was circulated within officialdom in classified form but leaked to the press in January 1980, and the final conclusions, released in May (also in classified form), questioned the nuclear test interpretation. The central conclusion was the Vela signal was “more likely … one of those zoo [unusual but natural] events, possibly a consequence of the impact of a small meteoroid on the satellite.”

But ever since, as other writers such as National Security Archive analyst Jeffrey Richelson have noted, the Ruina panel’s conclusion has been a subject of controversy, mostly within the U.S. intelligence community. During 1980 and over the following years, intelligence insiders as well as scientists at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Labs and the Naval Research Laboratory (NLR) rejected the “zoo event” conclusion and argued that the double flash had been a nuclear detonation. In a response to a leak of one of those views, in June 1980, the White House released a mildly redacted copy of the Ruina panel report. Most of the debate, however, took place within the walls of official secrecy, the details of which have trickled out slowly over the years.

The harshest allegations come from those who claim that the Ruina panel was an elegant way for the White House to use science to serve its political needs. In other words, the White House didn’t want the Vela incident to be determined to be a nuclear test, and the Ruina panel—chaired by a White House ally—placed uncomfortable facts and conclusions in doubt, if it didn’t contradict them altogether. Even today, little is known about how the Ruina panel was set up: The role of the National Security Council and the president himself remain obscure, as well as why the panel’s mandate was so narrow. The panel’s internal files are not available, if they still exist at all. Moreover, files in the Carter Library on the September 22 event, which include material by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, remain classified, although declassification requests have been filed. One thing we do know is that in 1990, one well known panel member, Stanford University physicist Wolfgang Panofsky, referred to the Ruina’s conclusions as a “scotch verdict” in an interview. Why he did is unclear.

Another mystery is why Richard Garwin, a key member of the panel, signed off on its conclusions even though, as noted earlier, he had been an early proponent of the nuclear test interpretation. To this day, we do not know exactly why, how and when Garwin changed his judgement about the Vela event.

It even appears that Carter himself didn’t share the panel’s early findings. On February 27, 1980, shortly after the panel’s tentative conclusion were circulated within the administration, the president wrote in his diary, “We have a growing belief among our scientists that the Israelis did indeed conduct a nuclear test explosion in the ocean near the southern end of South Africa.”


Thanks to the new files, we now know more about why many in the intelligence community never accepted the Ruina panel’s findings. According to a June 1980 State Department report in the Smith file, Jack Varona, then the Defense Intelligence Agency’s assistant vice director for scientific and technical intelligence, claimed that the Ruina panel was a “white wash, due to political considerations,” using “flimsy evidence” to arrive at a “non-nuclear” explanation. On the contrary, Varona argued that the “weight of the evidence pointed towards a nuclear event,” in particular the hydroacoustic data, which was analyzed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The data, which had not been fully available to the Ruina panel, involved “signals ‘which were unique to nuclear shots in a maritime environment.’” The source of the signals was the area of “shallow waters between Prince Edward and Marion Islands, south-east of South Africa.”

The DIA’s major report on the September 22 event remains classified almost in its entirety, as does one by the Nuclear Intelligence Panel to Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner. But, there are good reasons to suspect that the two reports also came to the conclusion that a nuclear test had occurred. One of us recalls Admiral Turner told him in the late 1990s that he never took the Ruina panel seriously and has always supported the prevailing view among the Agency’s analysts that the double flash was a nuclear test, most likely conducted by Israel. Turner refused to elaborate on details.

State Department telegrams in the Smith file also shed light on a small episode related to the controversy over the Vela incident. On February 21, 1980, CBS Evening News aired an exclusive report by Tel Aviv based CBS correspondent, Dan Raviv, saying that CBS learned that the Vela event was indeed an Israeli test. The report cited an Israeli book manuscript titled None Will Survive Us: The Story of the Israeli Atom Bomb by journalists Eli Teicher and Ami Dor-On, a book that was never published as it was banned by Israeli censors. According to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Raviv had reported his story to CBS from Rome to evade Israeli press censorship; he subsequently lost his press credentials and was thrown out of the country for his censorship offense, on direct order from Minister of Defense Ezer Weizman.

Many years later correspondent Dan Raviv acknowledged to one of us that in addition to Teicher and Dor-On’s book, he had another source for his story. The late Eliyahu Speiser, a high level and reliable Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset from 1977 to 1988, confirmed to Raviv that an Israeli nuclear test had occurred.

State Department telegrams in Smith’s file also confirm the previously reported detail that in February 1980, MIT Professor Jack Ruina had received unique personal information about the Israeli-South African connection. According to Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option (published in 1991) the source of Ruina’s information was an Israeli missile expert, who at that time was a visiting fellow at MIT (in a program which Ruina directed). That missile engineer was Dr. Anselm Yaron, as MIT records from that period indicate. According to Hersh’s account, Yaron acquired the reputations of someone who enjoyed talking rather openly about his defense experience and told Ruina about his work on Israeli missiles program and also of his knowledge of Israel’s nuclear capability.

Hersh did not say how explicit Yaron was when he told Ruina about the events of September 22, but the implication was that he revealed that a joint Israeli-South African nuclear project had caused the double flash. One of the State Department telegrams supports this implication, suggesting that Ruina’s information was about Israeli involvement. According to the telegrams, Ruina had forwarded Yaron’s statements to Spurgeon Keeny, then deputy director of the Arms Contorl and Disarmament Agency, but, as the new documents reveal, Keeny was dismissive of the story—as was Frank Press’s executive secretary, John Marcum.

A recently unearthed document from the Carter Library also provides interesting details in support of the nuclear test thesis. In December 1980, as the Carter administration was winding up, the DIA reported to the White House that the analysis of thyroid glands from Australian sheep killed in October 1979 indicated that that year showed “abnormally high levels” of Iodine 131, a “short-lived isotope that occurs as the result of a nuclear event.” More analysis had to be done to demonstrate whether the iodine might have had industrial non-weapons origins, but the implication of the report was that the September 22 event produced enough fallout to contaminate meadows in Australia (if not rain water in New Zealand) for a brief period.

At the close of the 1980s, Gerard C. Smith told Time Magazine, “I never been able to get rid of the thought that [the Vela incident] was some sort of joint operation between Israel and South Africa.” No incontrovertible evidence to support Smith’s nagging doubts has surfaced, but Dan Raviv’s reporting, the information from Yaron, the hydroacoustic signals and the contaminated thyroid glands, while not definitive, raise doubts about the Ruina panel’s conclusions and point towards the possibility of a nuclear test, likely linked to Israel.

With so much of the story unknown, nagging questions persist. What did U.S. intelligence truly know about the September 22 event? Do the intelligence reports remain classified for standard “sources and methods” reasons or have diplomatic and political considerations contributed to the secrecy? What is the story of the Ruina panel’s internal workings? How did eight distinguished scientists arrive at a “scotch verdict”? If a nuclear weapons test did occur, why and how many tests were conducted in such a desolate part of the world? Was it one country alone or was it a joint operation? If Israel was responsible, why did a country that used opacity as a strategy to conceal its nuclear activities feel so compelled to risk of a test?

Declassification requests and appeals are under review in the government bureaucracy and may provide some insight. But it will probably be years, even decades, before many of these questions about the Vela incident are answered. Nevertheless, in the meantime, thanks to these new files, we’ve learned a little bit more of one of the Cold War’s enduring mysteries.
Avner Cohen is a professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and the author of Israel and the Bomb.
William Burr is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, George Washington University, where he directs the Archive’s Nuclear Documentation Project and edits its special Web page, The Nuclear Vault.

Emergency at Standing Rock, ND

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race, Uncategorized, War on November 27, 2016 at 12:44 am

This came to me from Ina Russell.

In case you may not have known: people are likely to start dying at Standing Rock– if they aren’t already:
The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement: “The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours
Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.
National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.
ND Office of the Governor: 701-328-2200.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: 701-333-2000
202 224.2043 call the senator of North Dakota
Call often, please.
Please copy and paste; don’t click share. Then pass it on. Thank you.

Vigilante Nation: Why the United States Loves Guns

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on November 22, 2016 at 1:06 am

By Chris Hedges, https://thewalrus.ca/vigilante-nation/


My mother’s family arrived in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1633 in the figure of John Prince, a Puritan fleeing Britain. My father’s family landed with William Hedges, also a Puritan refugee and a tanner, in East Hampton, New York, in 1650. As time passed, the huge tributaries of these two families intersected with every major event in American life. They were present for the massacre of Indians on western Long Island. Because the Indians drew their myths, mores, and values from the wilderness, they held beliefs that were antithetical to the Puritans’ rigid, controlling convictions. They were said to be in league with Satan, so the Europeans tried to annihilate them.

My forebears produced soldiers, sea captains, farmers, a few writers and scholars, and a smattering of political leaders who ascended to governorships. By the time of the Civil War, the family included a Union general on one side and a Confederate spy on the other. A couple of my ancestors took part in the brutal Indian wars. One was an scout for General Philip Sheridan on the western plains; he was murdered by Sioux warriors, a fate he appears to have deserved, given the drunken, murderous rampages against Indian encampments he describes in letters home to Maine. Others were sober, dour-looking Anglican ministers, teachers, and abolitionists. A distant relative of my father’s family became the largest landowner in Cuba after 1898, when it was seized from the Spanish; some of this family’s descendants worked with the CIA in the fight against Fidel Castro, in the waning days of the Cuban dictatorship. My maternal grandfather, who worked most of his life in a small-town post office, served as a master sergeant in the Maine Army National Guard in the 1930s. He and other guardsmen regularly waded into the crowds of striking textile and mill workers to violently break up labour unrest. He kept his army-issued truncheon in his barn; it had twenty-three small nicks he had made with his penknife. “One nick,” he told me, “for every communist I hit.” My father and most of my uncles fought in World War II; and one uncle was severely maimed, physically and psychologically, in the South Pacific. I was in Central America in the 1980s during the proxy wars waged by Washington. I accompanied a Marine Corps battalion as it battled Iraqi troops into Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

Violence, at home and abroad, has been a constant in America. The gun culture Canadians and Europeans find hard to fathom is its natural expression. There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but the working estimate is about 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of ninety per 100 people, according to a 2007 Small Arms Survey. By comparison, Canada has thirty-one per 100 people. An estimated thirty Americans are killed with a gun every day. Canada rarely tops 200 gun-related homicides a year. The lives of my ancestors and the experiences they endured, as well as my own life, chronicle the nation’s persistent and savage addiction to firearms.

The view of ourselves as divine agents of purification, anointed by God and progress to reconfigure the world around us, is a myth that remains firmly embedded in the American psyche. Our historians, with a few exceptions, such as Eric Foner, Howard Zinn, Richard Hofstadter, and Richard Slotkin, fail to address the pattern. They examine a single foreign war. They chronicle an isolated incident, such as the bloody draft riots in New York during the Civil War. They write about the Indian wars. They detail the cruelty of Jim Crow and lynching (one of my country’s contributions to barbaric forms of murder). They do not recognize in the totality of our military adventures—including our bloody occupation of the Philippines, where General Jacob H. Smith ordered his troops to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island into “a howling wilderness”—a universal truth. This creates a dangerous historical amnesia. It hides from us our propensity for murder. And no wonder. As D. H. Lawrence observed, “But you have there the myth of the essential white American. All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Violence in America is primarily vigilante violence, used most often to crush dissent, to keep a repressed minority in a state of fear, or to exact revenge on those the state has branded as traitors. It is a product of hatred, not hope. It is directed against the weak, not the strong. The slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized blacks; the Pinkertons and the gun thugs who shot dead hundreds of workers and wounded thousands more in the bloodiest labour wars in the industrialized world; the anti-communist Cuban exile groups that waged a reign of terror against fellow Cubans in Miami—all of these are expressions of a long history of mob-led violence that is tolerated, and often encouraged, by the ruling elite.

Citizens feel free to settle their disputes with weapons, because violence, as the black activist H. Rap Brown once said, “is as American as cherry pie.” We have always mythologized, even idolized, our killers. The Indian fighters, gunslingers, and outlaws on the frontier, as well as the mobsters and the feuding clans such as the Hatfields and McCoys, colour our popular history. Figures like Davy Crockett, as Richard Slotkin writes, “became national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust.”

So it is that even after twenty first-graders and six adults are gunned down in a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012, the US Senate cannot pass legislation imposing stiffer background checks on gun purchasers, nor a ban on assault weapons. Since the Newtown massacre, over 5,000 people, including more than 100 children, have been shot dead in random acts of violence. But Newtown, like the mass shootings at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado (twelve dead), at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (thirty-three dead), at the immigration centre in Binghamton, New York (fourteen dead), and at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (fifteen dead), has no discernible effect on mitigating our gun culture. The state has never opposed the widespread public ownership of guns, because these weapons have rarely been deployed against it. In this, the United States is an anomaly. It has a heavily armed population and yet maintains remarkable political stability.

We are not a people with a revolutionary tradition. The War of Independence, while it borrowed the rhetoric of revolution, merely replaced a foreign oligarchy with a native, slave-holding oligarchy. The founding fathers were deeply conservative; the primacy of private property, including slaves, was paramount. To thwart popular will, the framers of the Constitution established a series of mechanisms, from the Electoral College to the appointment of senators, buttressed by the disenfranchisement of African Americans, women, American Indians, and the landless. George Washington, probably the wealthiest man in the country when the war was over, shared exclusive economic and political power with his fellow aristocrats. This distrust of popular rule among the elite runs like a straight line from the Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention to the 2000 presidential election, where the Democratic candidate Al Gore received over half a million more popular votes than the Republican George W. Bush. Revolution is not in our blood.

The few armed rebellions—the 1786 and 1787 Shays’ Rebellion, the 1921 armed uprising by 10,000 coal miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia—were swiftly and brutally put down by a combination of armed vigilante groups and government troops. More importantly, these rebellions were always local. They were never about anything more than specific grievances. For example, the miners at Blair Mountain, who held off armed militias for five days, wanted only the right to organize unions. The universal, radical ideologies and utopian visions that sparked revolutions in Russia or Germany after World War I are foreign to our intellectual tradition. The United States has never produced a great revolutionary theorist, no Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, or Antonio Gramsci. Our greatest radicals are either anarchists—Randolph Bourne, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky—or advocates for oppressed minority groups: Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Cornel West.

The closest America came to a genuine revolutionary was Thomas Paine, although he was British by birth. While useful to the aristocrats who wanted to supplant the British during the war, he was ruthlessly persecuted when it was over, especially after he published an open letter in 1796 to George Washington that read, “The world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.” When Paine died, only six people—two of whom were black—attended his funeral.

There will never be serious gun control in the United States, and not only because its violence is usually vigilante violence. White people, who have enslaved, lynched, imprisoned, and impoverished black people for generations, are terrified that those they have subjugated will seek revenge. As the nation circles the drain, as the economy implodes and climate change brings with it apocalyptic weather patterns, white Americans, who are becoming a minority, cling to their assault weapons with even greater ferocity. (Guns are readily available to white people, but for African Americans, especially those in our impoverished inner cities, gun ownership is largely criminalized.) The dark ethic of right-wing militias, the Tea Party, the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association,and the survivalist cults is that the gun will keep the home and family from being overrun by the crazed black hordes who will escape from their colonies in our urban slums. The mother of Adam Lanza, who carried out the Newtown massacre, was a survivalist, stockpiling weapons in her home for impending social and economic collapse. Scratch the surface of the survivalist cult in the United States, and you expose white supremacists.

This dark, inchoate terror of black violence in retribution for white violence percolates within the culture. It is articulated in The Turner Diaries, which inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City. It is the undercurrent in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained. And it is given brilliant expression in Robert Crumb’s savage exploration of white nightmares in his comic “When the Niggers Take Over America!” It goes all the way back to the film The Birth of a Nation, which, as James Baldwin wrote, “is really an elaborate justification of mass murder.”

“Again I say that each and every Negro, during the last 300 years, possesses from that heritage a greater burden of hate for America than they themselves know,” Richard Wright noted in his journal in 1945. “Perhaps it is well that Negroes try to be as unintellectual as possible, for if they ever started really thinking about what happened to them they’d go wild. And perhaps that is the secret of whites who want to believe that Negroes really have no memory; for if they thought that Negroes remembered they would start out to shoot them all in sheer self-defense.”

The pattern of violence, and especially vigilante violence, makes the United States a very different country from Canada and the nations of western Europe. It means that as internal stability unravels, we will respond in a different way. The breakdown of American society will trigger a popular backlash, a glimpse of which we saw in the Occupy movement, but it will also energize the armed vigilantes. The longer we remain in a state of political paralysis, dominated by a corporate elite that refuses to respond to the mounting misery of the bottom third of the population, the more the rage of the underclass will find expression through violence. If it remains true to the American tradition, this violence will not be directed at the power elite but will single out minorities and scapegoats.

Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives, was shot in the head in January 2011, as she held a meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Arizona. Eighteen other people were wounded, and six of them died. Sarah Palin’s political action committee had previously targeted Giffords and other Democrats with crosshairs on an electoral map. Giffords’ opponent in the House election had hosted a campaign event with the call to action “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly.” The use of violent rhetoric, a staple of the right wing, feeds the demented visions of desperate men and women who have easy access to weapons. We have avoided the genocidal rhetoric of those who call for the wholesale extermination of a race or a class, but we are not far from it.

The longer the economy stalls, the more the poor and working classes feel trapped and are unemployed or underemployed, and the longer that political paralysis makes the state unable to respond, the closer the country comes to a full-blown confrontation. Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, and African Americans will all become targets. Disdain for traditional liberal institutions will be replaced by a call for their eradication. As the nation deteriorates economically and morally, the last refuge for self-respect will be found in the hyper-masculine values of military chauvinism, violent retribution, and a mythic past.

As Richard Rorty noted in Achieving Our Country, when our breakdown begins, “the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

There is a disturbing attempt under way in the southern United States to rewrite the history of the South, a desperate retreat by beleaguered whites, battered by a flagging economy and few prospects, into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat into self-delusion during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As the country’s economy deteriorated, Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. The ethnic groups vomited up demagogues and murderers such as Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore a mythological past. The embrace of non-reality-based belief systems made communication among ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth.

This mythology of the past is being replicated in many parts of the United States. Flyers reading “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join!” appeared in residential mailboxes in Memphis in early January. Later that month, the Klan distributed pamphlets in a suburb of Atlanta. Last year, the governor of Tennessee declared July 13 Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, to honour the birthday of the Confederate general and first leader of the KKK. There are thirty-three historical markers commemorating Forrest in Tennessee alone. Montgomery, Alabama, which I visited a few months ago, has a gigantic Confederate flag north of the city, planted there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Confederate monuments dot the city centre. There are three Confederate holidays in the state, including Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Day. Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi also officially acknowledge Lee’s birthday. Jefferson Davis’s birthday is recognized in Alabama and Florida. And re-enactments of Confederate victories in the Civil War crowd Southern calendars.

“People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin wrote of the American South. “The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.” He added that he “was not struck by their wickedness, for that wickedness was but the spirit and the history of America. What struck me was the unbelievable dimension of their sorrow. I felt as though I had wandered into hell.”

The rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. Myth breeds intolerance and eventually violence. Violence becomes a cleansing agent, a way to restore a lost world. Ample historical records disprove the myths espoused by the neo-Confederates, who insist the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights and the protection of traditional Christianity. However, these records are useless in puncturing their fantasies, just as documentary evidence does nothing to blunt the self-delusion of Holocaust deniers. Those who retreat into fantasy cannot engage in rational discussion, for fantasy is all they have left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked, rather than a discussion of facts and evidence, it triggers a ferocious emotional backlash. The challenge of the myth threatens what is left of hope, and as the economy unravels, as the future looks more and more bleak, myth gains in potency.

What Canadians struggle to grasp is that the language of violence is our primary form of communication. We have built within us a belief that we have a right, even a divine right, to kill others to purge the earth of evil. We do this in Iraq. We do this in Afghanistan. We do this in Pakistan. We have always done this. The many millions of corpses the American empire has left behind, from three million Vietnamese to millions of American Indians, loom like Banquo’s ghost over the declining empire. The core faith of the United States is not found in the Gospels—which have been perverted to fuse the iconography of Christianity with that of the state to sanctify the nation—but in the satanic lust of purification through violence. We have carried out bloodbaths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations, in the vain quest for a better world. The worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we question and deeply fear losing our identity as imperial masters, the quicker we will be to reach for the gun.

This appeared in the September 2013 issue.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

We need Active Hope now more than ever!

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, Race, Uncategorized on November 15, 2016 at 11:30 am

Dear LeRoy,

I am still reeling from the realization that Donal Trump will be our next president, a man who is a climate denier, a racist, a bully, a liar, an abuser, and a narcissist. We are stepping into the most challenging of times.

As you wrestle with your responses to the impending changes, I would like to remind you of the power of The Work That Reconnects spiral and encourage you to take yourself through the four stages. This is a such a gift during these trying times. (Thank you, Joanna Macy!)

Gratitude: surround yourself with loved ones. celebrate the beauty around you. remind yourself of those things that fill you with joy.

Honor Your Pain: please, please, please take the time to feel your pain. create a sacred space, a safe container where you can touch your fear, your grief, your anger, your despair, your numbness. Cry, yell, scream, pound pillows, rant, speak softly through your tears, breathe in the silence. dance, sing. It is vital that you give yourself permission to FEEL, let the emotions move through you.

See With New Eyes: we are being called to see our country, our issues, our challenges, ourselves, the root of such discontent in new ways. we are being challenged to show up in new and more powerful ways. Here are some readings that I am finding helpful to me in seeing with new eyes.

(from Charter for Compassion email)
the invitation has arrived
to step into our courage
and our full humanity

from this day forward
the harm can only unfold
and multiply and spread

with our silence
with our consent
with our participation

we will not be silent
we do not consent and
we will not participate
in legitimating violence, lies and division

the love that we are
the love that connects us all
the love that bends history
even in this dark moment
towards liberation

We are one
we are many and
we are one
it is time
dear friends
the revolution of love
must be completed

And it is only possible
if on this day
we commit our lives
to walking the hard road
because there is now only one way forward

adapted from work by Taj James, founder and Executive Director of the Movement Strategy Center

The Warrior of Light Sometimes Behaves Like Water

The Warrior of Light sometimes behaves like water,
flowing around the obstacles he encounters.

Occasionally, resistance might mean destruction,
and so he adapts to the circumstances.
He accepts, without complaint, that the stones in his path
hinder his way though the mountains.
Therein lies the strength of water.
It cannot be touched by a hammer or ripped to shreds by a knife.
The strongest sword in the world cannot scar its surface.
The river adapts itself to whatever route proves possible,
but the river never forgets its one objective; the sea.

So fragile at its source,
it gradually gathers the strength of the other rivers it encounters.
And, after a certain point, its power is absolute.

from The Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho

A Letter to America from Leslie Knope regarding Donald Trump
Meeting The Times by Deena Metzger
Stop Shaming Trump Supporters by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Going Forth: you make a difference every day of your life. find the ways you are being called to bear witness to your truth for our world. find your next best step to show your love for yourself, each other, our brother/sister species, the world. speak up, stand up, show up.

You are not alone. We are not alone. These times are calling out the best in us. Let us also seek the best in others. Be the hope you wish to see in the world!

With deep gratitude and fierce love,
Kathleen Rude