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A Review of the Book Losing Military Supremacy by Andrei Martyanov

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 30, 2018 at 12:35 am
Review by The Sake

The fact that the USA is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the “American dream”, the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as “the finest fighting force in history”. In this new book, Andrei Martianov not only comprehensively debunks this myth, he explains step by step how this myth was created and why it is collapsing now. This is no small feat, especially in a relatively short book (225 pages) which is very well written and accessible to everyone, not just military specialists.

Martyanov takes a systematic and step-by-step approach: first, he defines military power, then he explains where the myth of US military superiority came from and how the US rewriting of the history of WWII resulted in a complete misunderstanding, especially at the top political levels, of the nature of modern warfare. He then discusses the role ideology and the Cold War played in further exacerbating the detachment of US leaders from reality. Finally, he demonstrates how a combination of delusional narcissism and outright corruption resulted in a US military capable of wasting truly phenomenal sums of money on “defense” while at the same time resulting in an actual force unable to win a war against anything but a weak and defenseless enemy.

That is not to say that the US military has not fought in many wars and won. It did, but in the words of Martyanov:

Surely when America fought against a third-rate adversary it was possible to rain death from the skies, and then roll over its forces, if any remained by that time, with very little difficulty and casualties. That will work in the future too against that type of adversary—similar in size and flimsiness of Iraqi Forces circa 2003. But Ledeen’s Doctrine had one major flaw—one adult cannot continue to go around the sandbox constantly fighting children and pretend to be good at fighting adults.

The main problem for the USA today is that there are very few of those third-rate adversaries left out there and that those who the USA is trying to bring to submission now are either near-peer or even peer adversaries. Martyanov specifically lists the factors which make that kind of adversary so different from those the USA fought in the past:

  1. Modern adversaries have command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities equal to or better than the US ones.
  2. Modern adversaries have electronic warfare capabilities equal to or better than the US ones
  3. Modern adversaries have weapon systems equal to or better than the US ones.
  4. Modern adversaries have air defenses which greatly limit the effectiveness of US airpower.
  5. Modern adversaries have long-range subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles which present a huge threat to the USN, bases, staging areas and even the entire US mainland.

In the book, all these points are substantiated with numerous and specific examples which I am not repeating here for the sake of brevity.

One could be forgiven for not being aware of any of these facts, at least if one considers the kind of nonsense written by the US corporate media or, for that matter, by the so-called “experts” (another interesting topic Martyanov discusses in some detail). Still, one can live in an imaginary world only as long as reality does not come crashing in, be it in the form of criminally overpriced and useless weapon systems or in the form of painful military defeats. The current hysteria about Russia as the Evil Mordor which is the culprit for everything and anything bad (real or imaginary) happening to the USA is mostly due to the fact that Russia, in total contradiction to all the “expert” opinions, not only did not crash or turn into a “gas station masquerading as a country” with her economy “in tatters”, but succeeded in developing a military which, for a small fraction of the US military budget, successfully developed armed forces which are in reality far more capable than the US forces. I realize that this last statement is quite literally “unthinkable” for many Americans and I submit that the very fact that this is so literally unthinkable greatly contributed to making this possible in the first place: when you are so damn sure that by some kind of miracle of history, or God’s will, or Manifest Destiny or any other supernatural reason, you are inherently and by definition superior and generally “better” than everybody else you are putting yourself in great danger of being defeated. This is as true for Israel as it is for the USA. I would also add that in the course of the West’s history this “crashing in of reality” in the comfy world of narcissistic delusion often came in the form of a Russian soldier defeating the putatively much superior master race of the day (from the Crusaders to the Nazis). Hence the loathing which western ruling elites always had for everything Russian.

In this book, Martyanov explains why, in spite of the absolutely catastrophic 1990s, the Russians succeeded in developing a modern and highly capable combat force in a record time. There are two main reasons for this: first, unlike their US counterparts, Russian weapons are designed to kill, not to make money and, second, Russians understand warfare because they understand what war really is. This latest argument might look circular, but it is not: Russians are all acutely aware of what war really means and, crucially, they are actually willing to make personal sacrifices to either avoid or, at least, win wars. In contrast, US Americans have no experience of real warfare (that is warfare in defense of their own land, family and friends) at all. For US Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process. For Russians, warfare is simply about surviving at any and all cost. The difference couldn’t be greater.

The difference in weapons systems acquisition is also simple: since US wars never really put the people of the USA at risk, the consequences of developing under-performing weapons systems were never catastrophic. The profits made, however, were immense. Hence the kind of criminally overpriced and useless weapons system like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship or, of course, the fantastically expensive and no less fantastically vulnerable aircraft carriers. The Russian force planners had very different priorities: not only did they fully realize that the failure to produce an excellently performing weapons system could result in their country being devastated and occupied (not to mention their families and themselves either enslaved or killed), they also realized that they could never match the Pentagon in terms of spending. So what they did was to design comparatively much cheaper weapons systems which could destroy or render useless the output of the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex. This is how Russian missiles made the entire US ABM program and the US carrier-centric Navy pretty much obsolete as well as how Russian air defenses turned putatively “invisible” US aircraft into targets or how Russian diesel-electric submarines are threatening US nuclear attack subs. All that at a tiny fraction of what the US taxpayer spends on “defense”. Here again, Martyanov gives plenty of detailed examples.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet. Right now, the US military has turned into a “hollow force” which simply cannot perform its mission, especially since that mission is, as defined by US politicians, the control of the entire planet. There is a huge discrepancy between the perceived and the actual capabilities of the US military and the only way to bridge this gap are, of course, nuclear weapons. This is why the last chapter in the book is entitled “The Threat of a Massive American Military Miscalculation”. In this chapter, Martyanov names the real enemy of both the Russian and the American people – the US political elites and, especially, the Neocons: they are destroying the USA as a country and they are putting all of mankind at risk of nuclear annihilation.

The above summary does not do justice to Martyanov’s truly seminal book. I can only say that I consider this book as an absolutely indispensable “must read” for every person in the USA who loves his/her country and for every person who believes that wars, especially nuclear ones, must be avoided at all costs. Just like many others (I think of Paul Craig Roberts), Martyanov is warning us that “the day of reckoning is upon us” and that the risks of war are very real, even if for most of us such an event is also unthinkable. Those in the USA who consider themselves patriots should read this book with special attention, not only because it correctly identifies the main threat to the USA, but also because it explains in detail what circumstances have resulted in the current crisis. Waving (mostly Chinese made) US flags is simply not an option anymore, neither is looking away and pretending that none of this is real. Martynov’s book will also be especially interesting to those in the US armed forces who are observing the tremendous decline of US military power from inside. Who better than a former Soviet officer could not only explain, but also understand the mechanisms which have made such a decline possible?

You can also get both versions of the book (paper & electronic) here: http://claritypress.com/Martyanov.html

The book is also available on Amazon as a pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Losing-Military-Supremacy-American-Strategic/dp/0998694754/

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

Get at least one copy and give more to your friends!

The Saker

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It’s Time For a Little Perspective On Russia

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on July 25, 2018 at 9:53 am
Current Affairs
Lyle, Jeremy Rubin, ,July 20, 2018

Any Russian interference is only a small part of the “election meddling” we should care about…

I think we are due for a little perspective on Russia.

I was trained at NSA headquarters as a signals intelligence officer in the Marines. This was about a decade ago, and I was by no means an area specialist. That said, I was privy to relevant briefs. At the time I learned that U.S. cyber operations in Russia, across Russia’s periphery, and around the world already dwarfed Russian operations in size, capability, and frequency. It wasn’t even close, and the expectation was that the gap was about to grow a whole lot wider.

This should hardly come as a surprise. Just compare the defense budgets of the United States and Russia. The president recently signed a gargantuan $700 billion gift to the Pentagon, with marginal dissent from either party or their affiliated media outlets. The budget increase alone ($61 billion) exceeds Russia’s entire annual expenditure ($46). The U.S. military budget now equals more than the combined budgets of China, Russia, Britain, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, and France. As Vice concluded, “it’s 14 times larger than the Kremlin’s budget.”

Furthermore, covert American operations are deeply invested in interrupting democratic processes not only in Russia, but everywhere else. This includes the heart of Europe, where corporate media is now pretending the United States has always respected happy norms and decorum. It is as if the Snowden leaks never happened. The Defense Department’s tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone never happened. The Obama administration’s spying on the German press, including Der Spiegel, never happened. The same administration’s outing of German government whistle-blowers never happened.

Electoral meddling in particular happens all the time, both to us and by us. The U.S. government rigged the Russian election for Yeltsin in 1996, and then they bragged about it in a cover story for Time. (You can still find the cover online.) This followed the disastrous capitalist “shock therapy” of the early nineties and preceded the rise of the Russian oligarchs. Putin’s brand of nationalist resentment grew out of this moment of extreme collective humiliation. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is happily on record pushing for the tampering of Palestinian elections in 2006.

As the political scientist Dov H. Levin has shown, between 1946 and 2000, the United States government conducted at least 81 electoral interventions in other countries, while Russia conducted at least 36. This does not include the U.S. government’s violent overthrow of dozens of governments during this same period, including democratic governments in places like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), and Chile (1973). As recent as 2009, Hillary Clinton’s State Department played a complicit role in the brutal deposition of democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya’s government in Honduras. No other country, including Russia, even approaches this level of wanton disregard for the norms of sovereignty. Around the world, organizations that the U.S. “fund[s], support[s] and direct[s] are openly dedicated to manipulating foreign elections, creating U.S.-friendly opposition movements and even overthrowing governments that impede U.S. interests worldwide.” In 1999, President Clinton sent three advisers to Israel to try to swing the country’s elections for Ehud Barak. The New York Times reported that they were “writing advertisements, plotting strategy and taking polls” for the candidate. Imagine what the reaction would be if Putin had literally dispatched three top deputies to join the Trump campaign.

Of course, a few dozen wrongs don’t make a right, and the fact that U.S. outrage over Russian interference is comically hypocritical doesn’t make tampering with our elections unobjectionable. But anyone who sees the Russian activity as an antidemocratic outrage should be condemning the United States just as loudly, and treating the Russia story as some kind of unprecedented act of covert control is laughable.

That said, just because the United States leads the world in meddling of all kinds, that doesn’t mean we are immune to it. In fact, meddling from abroad comes in many forms. Prominent think tanks in Washington are funded by the Gulf states. The United Arab Emirates contributes generously to the coffers of the Middle East Institute (MEI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP). The Brookings Institute graciously accepts millions from Qatar. The Atlantic Council and Center for Strategic and International Studies enjoy similar arrangements with other oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. The same can be said for numerous other repressive governments beyond the Gulf. And then there are the defense contractorsWall Street banks, and Silicon Valley behemoths, all of which have joined such governments in capturing intellectual real estate in academia as well.

Our politicians, of course, are being flooded with cash from foreign-related interests. Pro-Israel billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban have bought themselves outsized influence in both parties, with Adelson successfully financing Trump’s rise to power and Saban effectively blocking Keith Ellison’s bid for Democratic National Committee chair. The Turkish lobby, likewise, continues to prove itself another bipartisan force, with everyone from former House leader Dick Gephardt to disgraced national security advisor Michael Flynn being enlisted to secure Ankara prerogatives while whitewashing various crimes against the Armenians and Kurds. As for explicit electoral interference, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been implicated in foul play in the 2016 election. Same goes for Ukraine. Same goes for Israel in 2012. And these are just the instances so brazen that they have made their way into Wikipedia.

Lastly, our entire corporate media is owned and run by a global capitalist elite who could care less about us and our schoolkid patriotism. There are essentially fivemultinational corporations that now own the news media. This is down from six just a few years ago. In 1983 it was 50. This rapid consolidation is thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, itself a bipartisan bill purchased by the donor class. The few dozen billionaires with the largest shares in these companies are almost all white men. They are also almost all tied up in business investments around the globe. And almost all their investments bear zero regard for the needs or desires of Americans or non-Americans alike.

For Russian interference to be a threat to our democracy, we would have to have a democracy to begin with. But our elections are already so heavily manipulated by corporations and foreign governments that it’s hard to take seriously anyone who sees Russia as a singular threat to our system of government. The issue needs to be kept in perspective, and seen in the context of both our country’s own actions and the other, even greater, barriers that prevent us from having a true democracy that reflects the will of the people rather than corporate and government interests.

Look, by all means, let’s protect the integrity of our voting systems. As Seth Ackerman just counseled in Jacobin, let’s follow Europe’s lead in a practical, guarded response to Putin’s authoritarian machinations, free of hysteria. Let’s keep pushing for independent investigations into Trump, his team, and their possibly criminal involvement with the Russian government and other unsavory entities. Let’s hold them accountable accordingly. But let’s also stop swallowing state and corporate propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Let’s stop being blind to military-industrial stakesin escalating U.S.-Russia tensions in SyriaYemenIranUkraine, and the Russian periphery, never mind the cyber arena altogether. Let’s spend more time exposing the ways the conversation around Russia points to liberal and progressive acquiescence toward (one might say collusion with) imperialist narratives that only guarantee further death and destruction for poor and working people everywhere.

Beyond all that, let’s finally start doing the hard work of fleshing out a left foreign policy. Aziz Rana has an urgent piece in N+1 arguing that the left lacks a coherent approach to international affairs, and needs to spend its time articulating a clear response to the “bipartisan cold war ideology that has shaped American elite thinking since the 1940s, organized around the idea that the US rightly enjoys military and economic primacy because its interests are the world’s interests.” Rana lays out a set of principles that can guide the creation of an alternative approach and answer difficult practical questions like “If the US should not be the enforcer of Saudi and Israeli led dictates in the Middle East, what are alternative regional orderings?” and “What would demobilizing significant elements of the national security state look like?” We should do our best to make sure that everyone reads Rana’s piece, and faces up to the challenge he poses. Doing so will require us to be thoughtful and consistent, and to make sure that instead of following the corporate media’s lead on what to be outraged about, we work it out for ourselves and keep things in perspective.

The Left’s Missing Foreign Policy: On the pressing need, fifteen years after the Iraq invasion, for a non-imperial vision of the US and the world.

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on July 25, 2018 at 9:44 am

Aziz Rana, N+1

At the outset of the 2003 Iraq War, I caught up after some years with a friend and professor of mine, who had close links with the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment. He was dismayed by the turn of events, and not only because of the collective insanity that seemed to grip the Bush White House. Despite the massive global protests, a surprisingly large number of people within Washington and the Democratic Party’s think tanks and policy circles backed the invasion, sometimes tacitly, often explicitly. He described the run-up to the war as being like finding yourself in an Ionesco play, watching your friends turn into rhinoceroses.

Thinking about the fifteenth anniversary of “shock and awe” and reading left-liberal reflections on the war’s beginning, I couldn’t help but recall that old conversation. While retrospectives have pushed back against efforts to resuscitate Bush and sought to remind readers of the war’s human cost, few have paid attention to just why so many Democrats were swept along by the drift to war.

Figuring this out is all the more pressing because the same figures who supported the war continue to direct the foreign policy framework of the Democratic Party. In 2008 Obama distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton as an antiwar candidate, but once in office his administration and foreign policy team were staffed by pro-war faces and their protégés, from Clinton herself to Joe Biden and Samantha Power, along with many of the exact people my professor lamented all the way back in 2003. And, as has been noted, Obama’s staffing decisions led to policies shaped by the same faulty logic that produced Iraq—the most obvious example being the American-led regime change in Libya, on supposedly humanitarian grounds, that left tens of thousands dead, with lingering devastation that continues to drive an enormous exodus of refugees.

Trump’s links to Russia have reenergized such national security voices. James Clapper, who lied to Congress about the warrantless surveillance programs he oversaw under Obama, now rails against Trump, calling him a “Russian asset.” He has gone from Snowden-era villain to liberal darling, enjoying a seemingly nightly perch on cable news as a purveyor of “reasonable” foreign policy and “true” patriotism.

For the first time in decades, recent leftist movements like Black Lives Matter or the  Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have pushed a critique of American imperialism out of the shadows and into the mainstream of political debate. But when it comes to the Beltway and to who, even now, would likely staff any future Democratic administration, there has never been a reckoning with this past.

This is partly due to the easy amnesia of the complicit: if everyone in the same milieu made the same mistake, your own error cannot be that objectionable. And for Biden and the war’s most vigorous Democratic defenders, the blame can always be laid at Bush’s feet—the war failed because of his incompetence rather than its inherent flaws. But the more surprising reason for a lack of reckoning may be that the new social democratic wing of the Democrats has yet to offer a comprehensive alternative on foreign policy. If a centrist candidate now opposes “Medicare for All,” there is clear blowback because of the way social democratic forces within the party have made economic populism a litmus test. But no equivalent exists when it comes to foreign policy—not even the general anti-intervention sentiments that defined the 2008 election. After eight years of Obama’s wars, the only policy positions in the Democratic Party continue to be those presented by the same national security establishment that acquiesced to the Iraq invasion.


Fifteen years later, the lessons of the Iraq War have still not been learned because the war was no accident, no random deviation from principle—it was the fulfillment of the worldview that has undergirded the Democratic Party’s foreign policy for decades. This is the bipartisan cold war ideology that has shaped American elite thinking since the 1940s, organized around the idea that the US rightly enjoys military and economic primacy because its interests are the world’s interests.1 On this view, the US has a right to intervene wherever and whenever anyone threatens to undermine the American-led liberal and capitalist global order. Moreover, precisely because American power is exceptional, the US—unlike other states—can legitimately move in and out of international legal constraints in the name of securing this overarching order.

In 2003, this shared ideology had a profound effect on the terms of internal Democratic Party debate. Even for those opposed to the war, the disagreement was limited to pragmatics. Both the Bush Administration and Democrats in general took as given the inherent goodness of American imperial power. For Biden as much as for Paul Wolfowitz, the security state’s violent means were legitimate ways to pursue universal human rights imperatives. This perspective was evident in Bill Clinton’s unilateral strikes in Sudan and Kosovo, his talk of the need for isolating and issuing sanctions against “rogue states,” his selective enforcement of or withdrawal from international agreements—all defended by the Democratic foreign policy establishment on the grounds that the US had a special role to play in maintaining the global order.

Bush-era neoconservatives simply appropriated the bipartisan playbook of their predecessors: whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein had to be toppled for the preservation of pax Americana. At the time, the Democratic response was a fractured one. Some officials and experts like Wesley Clark (the “doves”) questioned whether the US would indeed be greeted as “liberators” and doubted that the war would spur a liberalizing domino effect in the region. They would eventually repeat Colin Powell’s well-worn phrase “you break it, you own it.” Others, from human rights idealists to grizzled security “hawks,” concluded that though Bush and company might be odious removing a rogue actor was an inherently worthy American enterprise. Along with Clinton, Biden, and Power, this list was long, including everyone from Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman on the op-ed pages (especially in the New York Times, which for all its present-day status as Trump antagonist was practically the official organ of the war effort), to George Packer and Peter Beinart in the liberal magazines (may the records of the New Yorker and the New Republic on Iraq forever live in infamy) to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid in Congress. What no one in the Democratic establishment questioned was the legitimacy of the larger vision that made such a folly seem reasonable—the necessity of American international police power.

Today, on right and left, that past cold war consensus has cracked. While Trump doubts whether there is much of an ethical distinction between the US and Russia, activists on the left have no trouble rejecting both capitalism and empire. What is desperately needed now is a fully developed non-imperial articulation of American foreign policy—one that could challenge the Democratic Party establishment in the same way that Sanders’s call for “Medicare for All” has done.

What would such an approach look like?  It would oppose American international police power—the presumptive right of intervention—and refuse to treat any community as an instrument in the service of state security ends. What follows are a non-exhaustive and initial set of principles.

The first is a global commitment to social democracy rather than free market capitalism (as embodied in austerity, neoliberal privatization, and trade agreements built on entrenching corporate property rights). When Trump attacks Merkel or questions the financial utility of NATO, the response among most democratic elites has been to wax poetic about the wisdom of the postwar order, no matter how much violence maintaining that order actually wrought throughout the world. Essentially, the options available seem to be Trump’s bellicose and dangerous ethno-nationalism or an old and failed cold war imperialism, backed by market dictates. But one might rightly question the austerity German leadership has imposed on Europe, or look to post-Soviet NATO expansion as over time promoting a tense and militarized relationship with Russia, one that has actually strengthened the hand of ethno-nationalist autocrats like Putin.

A necessary corollary of global social democracy is demilitarization. For Havel and Gorbachev after the fall of the Soviet Union, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact were outdated Cold War holdovers. The hope was to create new and inclusive multilateral regional and international institutions, premised on mutual disarmament and shared decision-making. But given their commitment to American hegemony, this was not the path that Republican and Democratic officials pursued. And as the US instead promoted privatization and the starving of state institutions in Europe and elsewhere, policies like NATO expansion funneled money yet again back into defense. Any left foreign policy would have to conceive of how to invert these trends—investing in social welfare and pushing back against military intensification. The ultimate goal should be some version of Havel’s and Gorbachev’s old ambition—a demilitarized and multilateral order—but getting from here to there will be much harder than it would have been in the early 1990s.

“Do no harm” would be another key principle. The impulse of the Democratic establishment is to see force (from boots on the ground to drone strikes to sanctions) as the go-to method of responding to perceived threats or humanitarian instability. Just as with Iraq, doing “something” often means using force, and the only choice is either confrontation or appeasement. Not only does this involve a systematic devaluing of diplomacy—something that despite the success of the Iran nuclear negotiations has been receding in both parties for decades—but it also ignores the extent to which the story of American international police power has been to generate even more violence and disorder. A non-imperial approach would instead begin with caution and skepticism. Its question would not be “What red lines will lead to US military intervention?” but “What are the likely effects of using coercive power—from sanctions to actual troops—and to what extent would such force add to the human cost?” Crucially, this principle would need to be be applied not only to direct US behavior but to those of presumptive allies, like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt.

Such an approach would inevitably buttress a commitment to local self-determination and to legal self-constraint. With respect to the former, it would put into question the existing regional orderings that the US has for so long maintained with treasure and force of arms—including the current terms of the US–Israel relationship, whose rippling effects cannot simply be ignored. And with respect to the latter, it is impossible to take seriously a principle of “do no harm” when government actors enjoy absolute impunity for their own violence and are never held legally responsible—criminally or otherwise. In fact, the condition for the return of individuals like Trump’s new CIA director Gina Haspel, who oversaw torture, to the heights of power, is the longstanding and bipartisan tendency to treat domestic and international legal limits on national security as non-binding—to be avoided when necessary.

Finally, neither global social democracy nor an emphasis on “do no harm” are possible without a systematic transformation of the national security apparatus. The security state has fed American interventionism, criminalized dissent, and placed immigrant and Muslim communities under constant suspicion through institutions ranging from ICE to the FBI to the National Security Agency—a tendency that has grown under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and that Trump’s white nationalism has only further weaponized. The new social-democratic wing of the Democratic Party has been best at challenging this element of American policy, but more needs to be done. What should a left Administration do with the NSA? If the Department of Homeland Security is eliminated, how will immigration and security policy be implemented? And what will the ends of such policy be? These are the questions such principles seek to address—and they are only a start.


So far the first attempts to begin this conversation have been filtered through debates about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election. The Russia investigation is important—Americans should know if and how a foreign country sought to shape public opinion, and Trump and his cronies should be held accountable for whatever crimes (especially financial) they have committed. But the investigation has also amounted to a public rehabilitation tour for the national security establishment, from Clapper to Republican leaders of the FBI like Robert Mueller and James Comey to hawkish defenders of the war on terror in places like Lawfare. (Reading the New Yorker or watching MSNBC, one would be hard pressed to recall that Mueller—presented as the dashing and upright face of law and order—is the same man that ran the FBI after 9/11, the period when the bureau rounded up thousands of Muslims without cause. Mueller was a named defendant when many of those same wrongly detained individuals sued the government over their prison beatings and abuse.)

On television and in the press, these figures have been digging deep into the well of cold war rhetoric and belligerency as a way of reasserting an old and broken status quo, in no small part because it is all they ultimately have to offer. This is not 1948 or 1989, and such nostalgia cannot put the now fractured ideology of the cold war back together. Simply claiming that Russia embodies the external threat and ideological antagonist of the old Soviet Union does not make it so. And the great danger of this tendency is that nostalgia will produce yet more failed foreign policy whenever the Democrats next gain power.

To avoid this outcome, elected Democrats of the emerging social-democratic wing of the party must be forced to work out an authentically new foreign policy. The failure to do so had been one of the profound, systematic weaknesses of social democratic politics in the US since the early days of the cold war—and the next few years may prove to be a rare opportunity to make a different approach a serious contender in American politics.

The root of the problem has been the false belief that a hard separation exists between the foreign and the domestic. In the 1950s, American labor leaders accepted a cold war compromise that preserved their own hard-won victories while leaving to the state the right to direct foreign policy as it saw fit. But that foreign policy, built around pro-business market goals and continuous military intervention, intruded into the domestic sphere, whether through catastrophic events like the Vietnam War or by expanding corporate rights in ways that undermined the global position of labor. Taken together, these polices propelled precisely the cycle of conservative retrenchment and privatization that ate away at labor successes in the US. As everyone from Eugene Debs to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angela Davis have known, you cannot sustain freedom at home in a global context shaped by militarism, racialized conflict, and corporate power. A non-imperial orientation to the world is essential because it is the water within which domestic social democracy swims. One can see Sanders’s failure in 2016 to link his economic agenda together with a complementary foreign policy as part of why it has been so hard for many Trump-hating voters to resist the rehabilitation of Trump’s personal antagonists like Mueller or Bush-era warmongers such as David Frum—men whose primary sins do not concern Wall Street, but instead their complicity in the violence of the security state.

It is essential that the left develop an actual institutional infrastructure, whether in think tanks or universities, unions or churches, to work out a new coherent foreign policy. But, even before that, what is required in the immediate term is for activists to demand answers from social democratic politicians in the party. There are an array of issues that the security establishment has an approach to and the left, therefore, needs its own countervailing response: Can NATO in some revised form be repurposed to serve Havel’s and Gorbachev’s old hope, or does the US need new multilateral and regional arrangements?  How should the US oppose EU austerity and in what ways can the US align with social democratic forces in Europe? If the US should not be the enforcer of Saudi and Israeli led dictates in the Middle East, what are alternative regional orderings? And how should China’s emergence as a dominant economic and political force be conceived? More pointedly, what would demobilizing significant elements of the national security state (alongside the demobilization of the carceral state) look like? If post-9/11 institutions like Homeland Security must go, what about their more established cold war predecessors like the CIA? As new centers of power develop within the party, whether Our Revolution or Reverend Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, the resurgent DSA or the many offshoots of BLM, they must make clear that they cannot back national politicians without non-imperial and genuinely left answers to these kinds of questions. Otherwise, we will inevitably replay one of the critical outcomes of the Iraq War, where the antiwar Democratic candidate simply turned foreign policy over to the very people his victory was meant to repudiate.

After Helsinki, Can Trump and Putin Strike a Grand Bargain on Nukes?

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 24, 2018 at 6:54 am

Tom Z. Collina , The National Interest•July 23, 2018
Presidents Trump and Putin want to get nuclear arms control back on
track. Here’s how they can get it done.

The unforgettable Helsinki summit will be remembered for President
Donald Trump’s refusal to side with his own intelligence community
over Vladimir Putin on the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016
election. So it was easy to miss some of the less prominent but
important details—such as signals that U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear
arms control may resume—which have floundered since 2010. This may be
a significant opening for reducing the global risk of nuclear war that
the two leaders must quickly build on.

Before the summit, things were looking bleak for the future of
U.S.-Russian nuclear relations. Major arms reduction treaties are in
trouble and the United States and Russia are in a new nuclear arms
race, spending trillions on weapons they do not need. This could be
the end of arms control as we know it.

But in Helsinki, Trump said nuclear weapons are “the greatest threat
of our world today,” and that, “we have to do something about nuclear,
and so that was a matter that we discussed actually in great detail,
and President Putin agrees with me.” Putting more meat on the bone,
President Putin said Russia wanted to “work together…on the
disarmament agenda,” including the New START Treaty, U.S. anti-missile
systems, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and
weapons in space.

Time will tell if the two leaders are serious about these intentions.
But if they are, they could break through stale strategic dogma and
take a giant step toward reducing their excessive arsenals of these
dangerous weapons. Like President Ronald Reagan and Premier Mikhail
Gorbachev before them, Trump and Putin could use nuclear arms control
to forge a new, transformative partnership.

If Trump (for whatever reason) wants to build his relationship with
Putin and prove his diplomatic chops back home, there is no better
opportunity than right now on arms control. There is a grand bargain
in the offing, which would make both nations and the world safer and
save hundreds of billions of dollars. As Trump said last year, “Let’s
see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think
nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.”

So let’s go. Here is what Trump and Putin need to do to make nuclear
arms control a centerpiece of an improved U.S.-Russian relationship:

First, the low-hanging fruit is to extend the 2010 New START treaty.
The agreement caps U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals at 1,550
strategic weapons each and allows for on-site inspections to verify
compliance. The treaty expires in 2021, but can be extended for five
years by a simple agreement. This should be ano-brainer.

But, alas, nothing is simple with President Trump, who may oppose
extending New START just because it is President Obama’s treaty. (As
similar illogic was applied to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.) To get
around that, Trump can do what Obama could not: strike a new deal with
Russia to reduce long-range nuclear forces on both sides to 1,000
warheads or less. This is the “big deal” that will get Trump into the
history books. But when Obama made this offer in 2013, Russia was not
interested.

Is Putin interested now? Maybe. In March, Putin gave a major speech
describing how President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This allowed the United States to
deploy missiles meant to intercept Russian missiles, which eventually
put a freeze on Moscow’s willingness to reduce its forces. As Putin
put it, “If we do not do something, eventually this will result in the
complete devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential. Meaning that all
of our missiles could simply be intercepted.”

Putin—showing unwarranted confidence in U.S. missile defense
technology, which has not worked as advertised—announced that Russia
would build a new generation of nuclear weapons to defeat U.S. missile
interceptors, including new land-based missiles, nuclear-powered
cruise missiles and underwater drones. But he also said he was open to
future arms talks.

“There is no need to create more threats to the world,” Putin said.
“Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together
a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable
development for human civilization.”

Of course, Moscow may be willing to discuss new nuclear arms
reductions only if Trump agrees to constrain U.S. missile
interceptors. This condition doomed Obama’s efforts for a New START
follow-on treaty, since Senate Republicans (for whom missile defense
is an article of faith) would never approve a Democratic treaty that
limited U.S. interceptors. But Trump, who apparently has complete
control of his party, could make history by striking a deal with Putin
that even a Republican Senate would approve.

Finally, Trump and Putin must also come to terms on the 1987 INF
Treaty, which banned all mid-range land-based missiles from Europe.
Russia is in violation of the INF, having deployed a prohibited cruise
missile. However, Russia claims that U.S. missile interceptor
deployments in Eastern Europe also violate the INF by providing a base
for U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In exchange for Putin scraping his prohibited cruise missile, Trump
should agree to remove U.S. missile interceptor bases from Romania and
Poland. They are not needed for their declared purpose—defending
against Iranian long-range nuclear-armed missiles, which do not exist.
This would also help meet Trump’s goal of reducing U.S. military
spending on NATO.

At Helsinki, Trump put politics over country and showed that he is
much more concerned about “Trump First” than “America First.” Trump
can now put country over politics by exploring a grand bargain on
nuclear arms control that no other president since Reagan has been
willing to touch. This would fit well with Trump’s desire to shake up
the international system, make transformational deals, and be a
statesman on the world stage. Unconventional as Trump may be, let’s
see if he can get us back on track to reducing these very
unconventional weapons.

Tom Z. Collina is the Policy Director at Ploughshares Fund in Washington DC.

Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Race on July 16, 2018 at 7:17 am
by PAUL STREET
 

The People as a Problem to be Contained

As the United States’ depressed, distracted, disorganized, and demobilized populace watches the vicious white-nationalist and authoritarian Donald Trump and the arch-reactionary Republican Party craft a Supreme Court yet further to the right of majority public opinion, the worst of the nation’s slave-owning Founders might just be heard chuckling in their graves.

Democracy – the rule of the majority – was the last thing the nation’s aristo-republican Founders wanted to see break out in their new republic. Drawn from the elite propertied segments in the new nation, most of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention shared their compatriot John Jay’s view that “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” As the celebrated U.S. historian Richard Hofstader noted in his classic 1948 text, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It:“In their minds, liberty was linked not to democracy but to property.” Democracy was a dangerous concept to them, conferring “unchecked rule by the masses,” which was “sure to bring arbitrary redistribution of property, destroying the very essence of liberty.”

Protection of “property” (meaning the people who owned large amounts of it) was “the main object of government” for all but one of the U.S. Constitution’s framers (James Wilson), as constitutional historian Jennifer Nedelsky has noted. The non-affluent, non-propertied and slightly propertied popular majority was for the framers what Nedelsky calls “a problem to be contained.”

Anyone who doubts the anti-democratic character of the Founders’ world view should read The Federalist Papers, written by the leading advocates of the U.S. Constitution to garner support for their preferred form of national government in 1787 and 1788. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued that democracies were “spectacles of turbulence … incompatible with … the rights of property.” Democratic governments gave rise, Madison felt, to “factious leaders” who could “kindle a flame” among dangerous masses for “wicked projects” like “abolition of debts” and “an equal division of property. … Extend the [geographic] sphere [of the U.S. republic],” Madison wrote, and it becomes “more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and act in union with each other.”

At the Constitutional Convention, Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders meant to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” [emphasis added]. “These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, argued that the common people found their proper political representatives among the small class of wealthy merchant capitalists. “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class,” Hamilton wrote, “is altogether visionary.” The “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than the “other classes,” Hamilton proclaimed.

Somebody tell Lin-Manuel Miranda!

Checkmating Popular Sovereignty

The New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap captured the fundamental idea behind the U.S. Founders’ curious notion of what they liked to call “popular government.” “Let it stand as a principle,” Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, “that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves.”

It wasn’t just about teaching “the people” that they were incapable of self-rule, however. The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could. The rich white fathers crafted a form of “popular government” (their deceptive term) that was a monument to popular incapacitation.

The U.S. Constitution divided the federal government into three parts, with just one-half of one of those three parts (the House of Representatives) elected directly by “the people”—a category that excluded blacks, women, Native Americans and property-less white males (that is, most people in the early republic). It set up elaborate checks and balances to prevent the possibility of the laboring multitude influencing policy. It introduced a system of intermittent, curiously time-staggered elections (two years for the House, six years for the Senate, and four years for the presidency) precisely to discourage sweeping popular electoral rebellions It created a Supreme Court appointed for life (by the president with confirmation power restricted to the Senate) with veto power over legislation or executive actions that might too strongly bear the imprint of the “secretly sigh[ing]” multitude.

It sanctified the epic “un-freedom” and “anti-democracy” of black slavery, permitting slave states to count their disenfranchised chattel toward their congressional apportionment in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. president—even on the limited basis of one vote for each propertied white male. It is still in effect.

U.S. Americans did not directly vote for U.S. senators for the first 125 years of the federal government.  The Constitution said that senators were to be elected by state legislatures, something that was changed only by the Seventeen Amendment in 1913.

It is true that the Constitution’s Article V provided a mechanism technically permitting “We the People” to alter the nation’s charter. But the process for seriously amending the U.S. Constitution was and remains exceedingly difficult, short of revolution and/or  civil war. As the progressive Constitution critic Daniel Lazare observes,

“Moments after establishing the people as the omnipotent makers and breakers of constitutions, [the 1787 U.S. Constitution] announced that … [c]hanging so much as a comma in the Constitution would require the approval of two-thirds of each house of Congress plus three-fourths of the states. … The people did not assert their sovereignty in Philadelphia in 1787. Rather, the founders invoked it. Once they uttered the magic incantation, moreover, they hastened to put the genie back in the bottle by declaring the people all but powerless to alter their own plan of government.”

U.S. progressives have long advocated constitutional amendments meant to more properly align U.S. politics and policy with public opinion and basic democratic values. But Article V is too steep a barrier for that, on purpose. Under its rule today, 13 of the nation’s 50 states can disallow constitutional changes while containing just more than 4 percent of the nation’s population. (It took the secession and military defeat of the slave South between 1861 and 1865 [the Civil War] to pass amendments abolishing slavery and granting citizenship and the suffrage to former slaves (new forms of Black slavery and racist disenfranchisement nonetheless took hold in the South during and after the Reconstruction era).

Don’t like that?  Too bad. Simon – well a bunch of slave-owners and other really rich guys and their holy national charter near the end of the 18th century – says.

 

Indirect Selection

The U.S. Constitution was written and enacted late in the1780s, when the infant republic’s masters wore powdered wigs, slavery was still the law of the land (as it would for nearly eight more decades), and (speaking of powdered wigs) the Bourbons still ruled in France.  Here we are more than two-and-a-quarter centuries later, still dealing on numerous levels with the purposefully authoritarian consequences of the nation’s founding charter.

It’s a little, well, pathetic.

The Constitution is no small part of how a majority-progressive nation that votes primarily (though with little enthusiasm) for a centrist party, the Democrats (viewed unfavorably by 51 percent of U.S.-Americans) is ruled by an ever more right-wing  government led by an arch- reactionary white-nationalist party, the Republicans.  So what if the GOP is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of the U.S. populationand backs a hated president who is disapproved of by a super-majority of the citizenry?

Look at the Electoral College system, designed to curb democracy and expressly crafted to elevate the power of the slave states. By giving each state an extra vote for both senators they send to Washington (no matter how small or large each state’s populations), it triples the clout of the nation’s eight smallest states and doubles that of the next six smallest states relative to their populations.

For the fifth time in history and the second in this century, the Electoral College in 2017 installed a president who failed to win the national popular vote. Donald Trump, the biggest popular vote-loser to ever inhabit the White House, is a racist, sexist, authoritarian, uber-plutocratic, and malignant megalomaniac and narcissist. He’s an ecocidal climate change-denier who should not be allowed anywhere near the nation’s energy policy or its nuclear codes. It’s not for nothing that even the depressing and highly unpopular “lying neoliberal warmonger”Hillary Clinton polled 2.8 million more votesthan he did last November.

The extensively despised orange monstrosity made it into the world’s most powerful and dangerous job thanks in no small part to the Electoral College, which renders presidential campaigning irrelevant (and close to nonexistent) in most of the nation, gives absurdly outsized weight to disproportionately white and right-leaning rural states and openly violates the core democratic principles of majority rule and one-person, one-vote.

Along with some help from the constitutionally super-empowered Supreme Court, the openly ludicrous Electoral College is also part of how popular vote-loser George W. Bush (who criminally invaded Iraq partly out of the belief that doing so was God’s will) ascended to the presidency in 2000-2001.

The Senate is even more skewed to the right. The GOP holds a majority in the upper chamber thanks in no small part to the simple and expressly anti-democratic slant the Constitution gives—in the name of “equal suffrage for the states”—the 2 percent of Americans who live in the nation’s nine smallest states have the same amount of senatorial representation as the 51 percent who live in the nation’s nine largest states.

Wyoming, home to more than 586,000 Americans, holds U.S. senatorial parity with California, where more than 39 million Americans reside. Due to “a growing population shift from the agricultural interior to crowded corridors along the coast,” Lazare explains, “it is possible now to win the majority of the U.S. Senate with just 17.6 percent of the popular vote.”

That is completely insane, from a democratic perspective anyway.

It’s all coming into ugly authoritarian and racist play right now to create a right-wing Supreme Court ready to rule in defiance of majority progressive public opinion for a generation at least. Thanks to Trump’s Electoral College victory, to the Republican-run U.S. Senate’s “check and balance” refusal to let Barack Obama appoint a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia, and to the resignation of two Supreme Court justice since Trump came in, the ultra-right GOP is about to solidify its control the appointed-for-life Supreme Court by getting its second hard-right justice appointed to the high court within one year.

Don’t like it?  Too bad. Simon, I mean the Constitution, says!

 

Gerrymander Rules

And then there’s the House of Representatives, where the widely hated Republican Party enjoys a 47-vote majority even though it outpolled the (admittedly dismal) Democrats by just over 1 percent in House races in 2016.  Even with the Trump-tainted GOP finding approval from just  one in three U.S.-Americans and with Republicans 17 percent less enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in the 2018 mid-term elections, it is not inconceivable that the rightmost of the two parties could retain its hold over the House in 2018 and 2020.

This reflects the widespread geographic manipulation of House district lines in such a fashion as to unduly advantage the Republican Party.  This partisan-geopolitical gerrymandering process is led by the nation’s mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures.  This is in accord with the federalist principle laid out in Article 4, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which proclaims that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…” Effectively, this means that state legislatures are granted primary authority to regulate federal elections, including how their congressional district lines are to be drawn.

It is true that Article 4 goes on to say that “the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.” Technically, then, Congress is the ultimate authority, and may supersede state laws on how districts are drawn.  It has done this in the past, requiring (in 1967) single-member districts (compelling voters to elect only one candidate to represent their district) and forcing states to enhance racial and ethnic minority groups’ representation. The federal courts have interpreted the Constitution to require that House districts hold roughly equal populations.

Still, Congress has never mandated a congressional redistricting process, something that has left states free to draw districts in accord with partisan considerations. And good luck getting “our” right-wing federal judiciary not to back  Republican challenges to any serious efforts at national democratic redistricting reform.

 

“The American People Have Input Every Four Years”

In some rich nations operating with parliamentary systems, terrible presidents or prime ministers can be forced to call or accede to new national elections. Such an action is of course unthinkable in the U.S.  Simon – I mean the slaveholders 18thCentury Constitution- says that qualified voters go to the polls to select presidents once every four years, national senators (apportioned two per state regardless of wildly different population sizes among the nation’s 50 states) once every six years, and (lower) House representatives (apportioned in accord with population but along now strictly gerrymandered geographical lines) once every two years. As George W. Bush’s White House spokesperson Dana Perino explained in March of 2008 when asked if the citizenry should have “input” on U.S. foreign policy: “You had your input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up” [emphasis added].

Perino was on all-too-strong constitutional ground. So was Trump when he tweeted in response to the historic mass demonstrations that followed his inauguration: “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” Never mind that most of the marchers did vote (for the horrific “lying neoliberal warmonger”) or that most U.S. citizens think public opinion should matter to presidents between elections.

Constitutional Simon Says you get to select a U.S. president in a voting booth for two minutes or so once every 1,460 days. Well, except you don’t really vote directly for the president. The U.S. presidential vote is filtered through the explicitly anti-democratic Electoral College, which has (to repeat) delivered the White House to a loser of the popular in 2 of the last presidential elections.

You get to vote for a US House member in a voting both for a few minute once every 730 days. You get to vote for each of your US Senators once every 1095 days.

To make matters worse, the choices on offer to voters in U.S. presidential, Senate, and House elections are almost always (with painfully few exceptions) reflect a narrow selection  between two corporate and imperialist candidates, one a Democrat and the other a Republican – representatives of dollar-drenched political organizations that function as “two wings of the same bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904). That, too, is related to the Constitution, as I will suggest below.

You don’t vote for Supreme Court justices, really. The president, for whom you don’t vote directly, does, subject to approval only from the upper Congressional body, the Senate, which absurdly overrepresents the rural and white populace. And the Supremes are appointed for life, which can be a long time.

 

Hello, Mike Pence?

You can push “your” Congressional “representatives” to advocate Trump’s impeachment (by the House) and removal (by the Senate). Trump has certainly given the House numerous grounds for impeachment, but the barriers to removal are high. The two houses of Congress, the absurdly gerrymandered House and the ridiculously unrepresentative Senate, are both under the control of the president’s broadly hated nominal party, the Republicans, and the Republicans are determined to get everything they can from Trump when it comes to advancing their radically regressive, racist, ecocidal and arch-plutocratic agenda. It takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove a president. It’s never happened (though Richard Nixon would have likely been impeached and removed had he not resigned).

But what would impeachment and removal give the nation under the preposterously revered U.S. Constitution but the presidency of arch-right-wing Republican Mike Pence? You think Trump is scary? Pence is a white nationalist Christian proto-fascist under whose rule the hard-right agenda that most of the populace hates might be advanced more effectively than it is ever under Trump.

Constitution says that impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate makes the monstrous homophobe Pence POTUS.

Don’t like it?  Too bad. Simon, I mean the Constitution, says.

 

Money Is Speech: Simon Says

So “suck it up, buttercup” and get back in shape for the next strictly time-staggered and Constitutionally mandated quadrennial electoral extravaganza to vote a Democrat into the White House, right? Really? Why bother? Notice the quote marks I used three two paragraphs above (“You can push ‘your’ Congressional ‘representatives’”). Everyone who follows US politics and policy with more than three functioning gray cells knows very well that both of the nation’s reigning two “viable” political parties are controlled by the wealthy few in New Gilded Age America, where the top 1 Percent owns more than 90 percent of the nation’s wealth and a nearly equivalent percentage of its “democratically elected” office-holders. As the distinguished political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Martin Gilens (Princeton) show in their important new volume Democracy in America?:

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy. Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups—especially business corporations—have had much more political clout. When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerless . . . The will of majorities is often thwarted by the affluent and the well-organized, who block popular policy proposals and enact special favors for themselves . . . Majorities of Americans favor . . . programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes. Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs] (emphasis added).”

Whichever party or whatever party configuration holds power in Washington and the state capitals, mammon reigns in the United States, where, Page and Gilens note, “government policy . . . reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the pre-approved, money-vetted candidates for federal office” (emphasis added).

Thanks to this “oligarchy,” as Page and Gilens call it, the United States ranks at or near the bottom of the list of rich nations when it comes to key measures of social health: economic disparity, inter-generational social mobility, racial inequality, racial segregation, infant mortality, poverty, child poverty, life expectancy, violence, incarceration, depression, literacy/numeracy, and environmental sustainability and resilience

The Democrats are every bit as corporatized and sold-out to the financial plutocracy and its military empire—to the capitalist class and system that emerged out of national development under the rule of the propertied elite the founders worked so brilliantly to protect—as the Republicans. This is thanks in part to the outrageously outsize role that big-money campaign contributions play in determining the outcomes of the nation’s evermore absurdly expensive elections.

And that role is traceable at least in part to the U.S. Constitution. The ridiculously worshipped Founders created the Supreme Court as a critical appointed-for-life check on the popular will. And in two landmark decisions, Buckley v. Valeo(1976) and Citizens United(2010), the high court has ruled that private campaign contributions are “free speech” and that there are no “constitutional” limits to be set on how much the rich and powerful can invest in the giant organized bribery project that is U.S. campaign finance.

As the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is supposed to have said in 1941, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

Protecting and expanding “wealth concentrated in the hands of the few” was the central purpose of government as conceived by the nation’s idiotically honored Founders.  They brilliantly constructed a charter, a set of rules for national policy and politics, designed to advance that purpose.

 

Left Electoral Dreaming

Let’s imagine that voters were still somehow able to get a domestically progressive and egalitarian, social-democratic Democrat—imagine a younger, more telegenic and gutsier Bernie Sanders (who damn near made it even at his advanced age in 2016)—into the White House. How much difference would it make? Besides the obstructionist hell he or she would catch from the corporate media and the blockage he or she would face from the Supreme Court, he or she would likely face steady, additional, potent “check and balance” impediments from corporate-captive Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Along with corporate media ownership and big-money campaign-finance power – both among the many interrelated oligarchic outcomes of the capitalism brought to us by the propertied elite that the founders/framers carefully and skillfully safeguard from the populace in the name of “popular government” – the over-representation of right-wing rural states in the U.S. Senate militates against a progressive takeover of Congress. So does the widespread systematic gerrymandering of districts in the House of Representatives.

Want to form a politically relevant and more genuinely progressive and egalitarian third party beyond the radically regressive and reactionary Republicans and the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats? The founders’ holy charter is not on your side. It encourages winner-take-all, first-past-the-post elections tied to specific geographical district lines. There’s no provision for proportional representation to accommodate and make legislative room for third or fourth parties not yet miraculously ready to compete and win pluralities in their relevant electoral jurisdictions.

Around the planet, constitutions do not last very long. As Zachary Elkins, Thomas Ginsburg and James Melton noted in their book, The Endurance of National Constitutions (2009), “The mean lifespan [of national constitutions] across the world since 1789 is 17 years. … [Since] World War I, the average lifespan of a constitution … [is] 12 years.”

The U.S. is different. Its absurdly venerated and purposefully democracy-disabling Constitution has remained in place with occasional substantive amendments for 230 years. We’ve bowed down and prayed to the ridiculously fetishized, openly anti-democratic U.S Constitution for as long as I can remember.

 

Simon Says Suicide

It’s pathetic and self-destructive. Trying to advance democracy and protect the common good under the procedures of a slaveowners’ charter designed precisely to cripple and prevent popular self-rule and to protect and advance oligarchy is a fools’ game.  The rules of the game were written to guarantee popular defeat a very long time ago. It’s long past time to stop playing by those rules altogether – and to write a new rule book, a people’s constitution.

Surrender is not an option, however, given capitalism’s Constitutionally-encouraged war on the common good, with its now evidently grave ecological consequences.  In our struggles to save humanity and other sentient beings from the ever more imminent fate of capitalogenic Geocide, we must demand a new national charter, committed to the Holy Founders’ ultimate nightmare: popular sovereignty in defense and advance of the commons, broadly understood.  Playing “Simon Says” with Virginia slaveholders and merchant capitalists and their clever statesmen from the 1780s is mass suicide in 2018.

Socialism is No Longer a Bad Word

In Democracy, Human rights, Peace, Politics, War on July 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm

By Dave Anderson

July 12, 2018, Boulder Weekly

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t expect to become a “Democratic giant
slayer” as the New York Times would call her. The 28-year-old
bartender and waitress from the Bronx was running in a primary against
Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent and one of the most powerful
Democrats in the U.S. House. He was a leading contender to become the
next Speaker of the House.

Crowley outspent Ocasio-Cortez 10-to-1, burning up more than $3
million on the race. His donors included Facebook, Google, JP Morgan,
Citigroup, Viacom, Lockheed Martin and Blackrock. But Crowley would
lose by a 57-42 percent margin.

The main differences between them were on issues of economic and
racial justice. Ocasio-Cortez had been an organizer for the Bernie
Sanders campaign and a member of Democratic Socialists of America
(DSA). Crowley was a liberal, but the more corporate-friendly kind.

Ocasio-Cortez was recruited to run by the Bernie-inspired Brand New
Congress (BNC) after she returned from an encampment at Standing Rock
in late 2016, where she was demonstrating to protect Native rights and
stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. She had an army of door-knocking and
phone calling activists from DSA, Black Lives Matter and Muslims for
Progress as well as BNC and two other Bernie-inspired groups, Justice
Democrats and Our Revolution.

Her platform was refreshingly bold: Medicare for All, a Green New
Deal, a federal jobs guarantee, the human right to housing, free
public college, a Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico, an end to for-profit
private prisons, demilitarizing the police and abolishing Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

All of a sudden, Ocasio-Cortez was on numerous TV shows and profiled
in magazine and newspaper articles. Stephen Colbert on The Late Show
asked her what she meant when she said she was a democratic socialist.
She explained:

“I believe that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person in
America should be too poor to live. What that means to me is health
care as a human right, it means that every child, no matter where you
are born, should have access to a college or trade-school education if
they so choose it. I think that no person should be homeless if we
have public structures or public policy to allow for people to have
homes and food and lead a dignified life in the United States.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was asked if socialism was
“ascendant” in the Democratic Party. She said no. She paused and
added, “it’s ascendant in that district perhaps. But I don’t accept
any characterization of our party presented by the Republicans. So let
me reject that right now.”

Her reaction was understandable. For decades, even quite conservative
Democrats have been called “socialists.” The word has been used as a
swear word. But times are changing. Bernie is the most popular
politician in the country. A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that 35 percent
of Americans had a favorable view of “socialism.”

Interestingly, Democrats in that poll viewed “socialism” just slightly
more favorably than “capitalism.” However, an overwhelmingly majority
of Democrats and Republicans were favorable to “free enterprise” and
“entrepreneurs.”

In a different survey, nearly six in 10 Democratic primary voters in
2016 said socialism had a “positive impact on society,” and four in 10
Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa described themselves as socialists
(that included some Hillary Clinton supporters).

A number of polls show that socialism is increasingly popular among
younger Americans. That’s a big reason why DSA has grown from 6,000
members in 2015 to 43,000 today. There are 220 local chapters and at
least 35 DSA members have been elected to public office around the
country. They ran as Democrats.

Political scientist Corey Robin has noted that in the wake of
Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, “there’s been a dramatic shift in mainstream
liberal opinion — in the media, on social media, among politicians,
activists and citizens — toward Bernie Sanders–style positions. People
who were lambasting that kind of politics in 2016 are now embracing it
— without remarking upon the change, without explaining it, leaving
the impression that this is what they believed all along.”

He says “this causes no end of consternation in certain precincts of
the Left.” But he argues that this change is good news and points out
that you build coalitions and mass movements by welcoming converts.

But the leftward shift in the Democratic Party began before
Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. In September 2017, Bernie Sanders introduced
a Medicare for All bill, and he had 16 Democratic senators standing
with him as co-sponsors. A few months later, they joined Sanders in
calling for a government guarantee of full employment.

What’s going to happen next? Conflicts will continue between
Democratic Party factions over ideas and programs. It might be useful
to look back at another period of hard times. During the Great
Depression, the labor movement pushed the country — and the Democratic
Party — to the left through militant direct action. A fair number of
the activists in that movement called themselves Socialists,
Communists and Trotskyists.

Franklin Roosevelt borrowed many ideas from the Socialist Party to
create his New Deal. In 1954, a New York Times profile of Norman
Thomas, the six-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party,
described him as an influential figure who made “a great contribution
in pioneering ideas that have now won the support of both major
parties,” including “Social Security, public housing, public power
developments, legal protection for collective bargaining and other
attributes of the welfare state.”

Can something like this happen again? As a card-carrying member of
DSA, I sure hope so.

Here’s How the EPA and Pentagon Deliberately Hid a Growing Toxic Threat from Americans It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, these compounds could be dangerous if they got into the water supply.

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health, Workplace exposure on July 11, 2018 at 8:37 am

By Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica
July 9, 2018, 8:47 AM GMT

The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.

By the 1970s, DuPont and 3M had used them to develop Teflon and Scotchgard, and they slipped into an array of everyday products, from gum wrappers to sofas to frying pans to carpets. Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.

It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, the compounds could be dangerous if they got into water or if people breathed dust or ate food that contained them. Tests showed they accumulated in the blood of chemical factory workers and residents living nearby, and studies linked some of the chemicals to cancers and birth defects.
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Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged.

Moreover, ProPublica has found, the government’s understatement of the threat appears to be no accident.

The EPA and the Department of Defense calibrated water tests to exclude some harmful levels of contamination and only register especially high concentrations of chemicals, according to the vice president of one testing company. Several prominent scientists told ProPublica the DOD chose to use tests that would identify only a handful of chemicals rather than more advanced tests that the agencies’ own scientists had helped develop which could potentially identify the presence of hundreds of additional compounds.

The first analysis, contained in an EPA contractor’s PowerPoint presentation, shows that one chemical — the PFAS most understood to cause harm — is 24 times more prevalent in public drinking water than the EPA has reported. Based on this, the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization whose scientists have studied PFAS pollution, has estimated that as many as 110 million Americans are now at risk of being exposed to PFAS chemicals.

In the second analysis, ProPublica compared how the military checks for and measures PFAS-related contamination to what’s identified by more advanced tests. We found that the military relied on tests which are not capable of detecting all the PFAS chemicals it believed to be present. Even then, it underreported its results, sharing only a small part if its data. We also found that the military’s own research programs had retested several of those defense sites using more advanced testing technology and identified significantly more pollution than what the military reported to Congress.
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Even before the troubling new information about PFAS chemicals emerged, the government had acknowledged problems relating to them were spreading. Past EPA water testing, however incomplete, identified drinking water contamination across 33 states that Harvard researchers estimated affected some 6 million people. The military suspected drinking water at more than 660 U.S. defense sites where firefighting foam was used could be contaminated; earlier this year, it announced it had confirmed contamination in 36 drinking water systems and in 90 groundwater sites on or near its facilities.

The new analyses suggest these findings likely represent just a fraction of the true number of people and drinking water systems affected.

In written responses to questions, the EPA did not directly address whether it had understated contamination from PFAS chemicals. The agency said it had confidence in its current testing procedures and had set detection limits at appropriate levels. It also stated that it is taking steps towards regulating some PFAS compounds and registering them as “hazardous substances,” a classification that triggers additional oversight under waste and pollution laws.
The agency will “take concrete actions to ensure PFAS is thoroughly addressed and all Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water,” then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who recently resigned, said in the written statement to ProPublica in May.

The Department of Defense also responded to questions in writing, defending its testing methods as the best available and calling it difficult to fully assess risks from PFAS because the EPA has not regulated these chemicals. A DOD spokeswoman said the Pentagon’s research group has a program underway aimed at enhancing the test methods and detecting more PFAS compounds, but suggested that no alternatives were ready for use. She did not answer questions about why the agency reported contamination levels for only two chemicals to Congress when it would have had data on many more, stating only that the Pentagon “is committed to protecting human health and the environment.”
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Environmental experts aren’t convinced.

“Widespread contamination may be harming the health of millions or even tens of millions of Americans and the government is intentionally covering up some of the evidence,” said Erik Olson, a senior director for health, food and agriculture initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an interview. The EPA and Defense Department “have done all they can to sort of drag their feet and avoid meaningful regulatory action in making significant investment in cleanups.”

In May, a Politico report revealed that the EPA and the White House, along with the Defense Department, had pressured a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to withhold a health study expected to warn that people exposed to PFAS chemicals face greater health risks than were previously understood. That report was quietly released in mid-June and, indeed, estimated safe levels of exposure are seven to 10 times smaller than what the EPA has said.

Such a determination could spur stricter limits on exposure than the EPA appears to have considered. Paired with an emerging realization that testing by the EPA and DOD hasn’t captured the true extent of contamination, the government could be forced to reconceive its approach to these compounds, said David Sedlak, the director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped develop one of the most advanced commercial tests for PFAS substances.

“Not talking about it isn’t going to make the problem go away,” Sedlak said. “And because these compounds are forever — they aren’t going to degrade on their own — eventually there is going to be a day of reckoning.”

The PFAS compounds might not exist if weren’t for a lab accident in 1938, when a frozen block of refrigerant turned into an extraordinarily slippery white, waxy mass. A decade later DuPont was manufacturing it as Teflon. 3M developed its own version, the molecularly similar PFOA in 1954, when a chemist inadvertently spilled a mixture of chemicals on her shoe and found the stain was impervious to soap or water. They called it Scotchgard.

These products work, in part, because the chemicals they contain are made up of some of the strongest and most resilient molecular bonds in existence, thanks to a unique structure that keeps them from breaking down. There are thousands of variations, all characterized by extremely strong daisy chains of carbon and fluorine molecules and differentiated mostly by the length of their “tails” — the string of carbon molecules that can be anywhere from two to 14 units long.

In the mid-1970s, with the use of the chemicals proliferating, Dupont and 3M began privately testing the blood of their plant workers and others. The companies had grown increasingly concerned about the toxicity of PFAS compounds, learning that they “bio-accumulate” in food and people and that they could cause harm. But it wasn’t until 2000, when 3M pulled Scotchgard from the market, that the EPA began to investigate PFAS’s potential damage to human health and the environment, and soon after, that the blood tests became public.

At first, the EPA took steps that suggested it would quickly get to the bottom of the problem. Citing the spread of contaminants in water supplies in Minnesota and Ohio, in 2002 the agency launched a “priority review” of some PFAS compounds. It wrote then that exposure can “result in a variety of effects including developmental/reproductive toxicity, liver toxicity and cancer.”

By 2003, the EPA launched its first draft risk assessment for PFOA, typically a substantial step towards establishing strict regulatory standards that limit a chemical’s use and mandate its cleanup. When the draft was released in early 2005, it said that while the epidemiological evidence remained inconclusive, rats tested with PFOA were more likely to develop liver and pancreatic cancers, and there were worrisome signs that workers in plants that manufactured PFOA had a higher risk of dying of prostate cancer.

The EPA also asked industries to voluntarily phase out PFOA-related products, including the firefighting foam, by 2015.

The question was then — and remains today — how much exposure to PFAS chemicals would make people seriously ill?

In 2009, the agency attempted an answer, issuing “provisional” voluntary guidelines for safe levels of the chemicals in drinking water. This meant that for the first time, the government offered a precise, scientific measure for how much of the compounds was too much. But it didn’t mandate those limits, or create a regulation enforceable by law. And even those limits — it would later become clear — proved too loose.

Meanwhile, other instances of water contamination — in Minnesota and Alabama — heightened concerns. One study of 60,000 residents in West Virginia and Ohio exposed to high levels of PFOS and PFOA from a DuPont manufacturing plant and an Army airfield showed they had high rates of thyroid malfunction, testicular and kidney cancers and preeclampsia. The study was completed as part of a roughly $107 million settlement of a lawsuit against DuPont. Studies on animals also linked the chemicals to structural birth defects and dramatic changes in hormone levels.

In 2013, with concern rising over the ubiquity of PFAS compounds, the EPA decided it would test for some of the chemicals in public drinking water systems. The agency regulates chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act and adds new substances to the list based on tests showing they’re widespread enough to pose a national threat. Listing a chemical for such testing is often a step toward creating enforceable regulations for it.

At the same time, the agency began to reconsider the health advisory limit it had established in 2009. In 2016, the agency announced a dramatically lower limit for how much PFAS exposure was safe for people, suggesting a threshold less than one-eighth the amount it had once assured would cause no harm. Under the new guidelines, no more than 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals, less than the size of a single drop in an Olympic pool, were deemed safe.

Yet even this standard remains voluntary and unenforceable. Until there’s a true limit on the concentration of PFAS compounds allowable in drinking water, soil and groundwater — and the classification of PFAS as a hazardous substance — the EPA can’t hold water utilities, companies or other polluters to account. It also can’t compel the Department of Defense to adhere to the standard or clean up contamination.

There is increasing evidence that PFAS contamination is more widespread on and around military bases than previously thought.

The Department of Defense launched a full-scale review of contamination in drinking water systems at its facilities in 2016, despite the lack of clear regulatory limits from the EPA.

This spring the Pentagon reported to Congress that 564 of the 2,445 off-base public and private drinking water systems that it had tested contained PFOS or PFOA above the EPA’s advisory limits. It also announced that groundwater at 90 out of 410 military bases where it tested contained dangerous levels of these two chemicals. A staggering 61 percent of groundwater wells tested exceeded the EPA’s threshold for safety, according to the presentation Maureen Sullivan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, gave to Congress in March. Attending to the problem, several news outlets have reported, would cost the Pentagon at least $2 billion.

In presenting its liabilities to Congress, the Defense Department took an important step in wrestling with a troublesome issue, much as the EPA had in undertaking national data collection.

But both agencies have quite deliberately chosen not to use the most advanced tools or to collect the most comprehensive data on contamination, researchers say.

To identify PFAS compounds in drinking water, the EPA uses a lab test called “Method 537,” which separates microscopic molecules so they can be more easily seen. It’s not the most sophisticated test available, but scientists have used it enough to give them — and regulators — extraordinary confidence in its results. This is the test the EPA chose in 2013, when it directed its labs across the country to test water samples to evaluate emerging PFAS chemical contaminants to help determine whether they should be regulated.

But even though the Method 537 test can detect 14 PFAS compounds, the EPA only asked for data on six of them. The EPA said this was to allow for testing of non-PFAS pollutants, since the agency is only allowed to target a certain number of emerging contaminants in each round of tests.

The agency also set detection thresholds for the six PFAS compounds included as much as 16 times higher than what the test was sensitive enough to detect — so high that only the most extreme cases of contamination were reflected in the federal drinking water dataset.

Indeed, according to a recent presentation by Andrew Eaton, vice president of Eurofins Eaton Analytical, the largest drinking water test lab in the country, which handled testing of more than 10,000 samples from 1,100 public water systems — about 30 percent of the EPA’s water samples overall — vast amounts of detected contamination was ignored by design.

Through its federal water quality reporting, the EPA has said publicly that PFOA was detected in just 1 percent of water samples across the nation. But when Eaton recently went back and reanalyzed the data the EPA didn’t want, he found PFOA was in nearly 24 percent of the samples his company tested.

Another chemical, PFBS, is considered a sentinel because in situations where it is a component of contamination also containing PFAS and PFOA, it travels further and faster in water and shows up months or years ahead in places where PFOA or PFOS are ultimately detected. The EPA has reported that PFBS was found in less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all its water samples — not even one in 100. Eaton’s re-analysis detected the sentinel chemical in nearly one out of eight of samples.

“It basically says the plume is on its way, that’s the leading indicator… PFOS and PFOA is likely on the way to your house,” said Jennifer Field, a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University. Field is a leading expert on test methods for PFAS compounds. The Department of Defense helps fund her research. “If you are on the hydrological flow path it’s a matter of time and distance.”

The EPA defended its detection limits, saying its testing protocol is designed to yield consistent, reliable results even if labs conducting the tests are less sophisticated.

But the government is far from certain that lower levels of PFAS compounds than those that count as contamination by the EPA’s definition aren’t health threats. The EPA has repeatedly lowered how much exposure to PFAS compounds it considers acceptable. And when the CDC finally released its health analysis for PFAS compounds in June, it called for limits of one compound to be 10 times lower than the EPA’s current threshold, and another to be seven times lower. Such a standard would be more in line with some states, which already have tougher limits in place. New Jersey, for example, has set its exposure limit for PFOA at roughly one-fifth of what the EPA prescribes.

The EPA’s testing protocol — which only certifies the 537 test, with its limitations — also hasn’t kept up with fast-evolving science around PFAS chemicals. Researchers have identified new forms of the chemicals and, potentially, new dangers from these variants.

In 2016, Field and several other researchers — as part of a Defense Department research program examining water samples from 15 defense sites where firefighting foam was used (researchers declined to name them) — identified 40 new families of PFAS chemicals, consisting of some 240 compounds they’d never seen before.

“You’re starting to get this idea that more complex chemistry was used at these sites than was picked up in the tests, and that’s kind of the punchline,” said Field, of the firefighting foam sites in particular. “There is more mass down there, there are more species and in higher concentrations than what you see.”

Method 537, as a rule, is not capable of detecting these additional compounds. Yet when the Pentagon launched its own water testing program at U.S. bases in 2016, it chose to use the EPA’s outdated testing process, even though a test capable of detecting the presence of dozens of additional PFAS compounds was available. That test, called the Top Assay, was even developed with Defense Department support.

Instead, the Defense Department relied exclusively on the 537 test and then, when it reported its findings to Congress this past March, it offered only the results for PFOS and PFOA and not the other 12 compounds the test process identifies, because that’s what Congress had asked for. Indeed, according to one memorandum from the Department of the Navy, the armed services were explicitly instructed to withhold their extra data — at least for the time being — because it was “not being used to make decisions.”

“If you were going to spend $200 million testing DoD sites across the country, wouldn’t you want to test for all of the chemicals you know you used?” asked Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, who has been active on chemical cleanup issues at Defense sites.

“It’s almost like a deliberate thing, where you’re going to tell people their water is safe to drink, and you know that you have a gap in your testing and you know that you haven’t found all of the chemicals in the water.”

Scientists are only now beginning to understand the importance of the information the government is choosing to leave out. Field has found, for example, not only that there are more variations of PFAS compounds, but that some degrade over time into PFOS or PFOA, or, like PFBS, travel faster in the environment, making them predictors for other contaminants soon to come.

Many of the variants with shorter “tails” — or shorter chains of molecules than the test methods can detect — “are likely to break through systems designed to capture” them, Field and others wrote in a 2017 paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. They are also more likely to elude the water treatment methods the EPA and the Department of Defense are using to clean water identified as contaminated.

The consequence of these systemic blind spots is that “by the time you see PFOS and PFOA you may have been drinking other things for a longer period of time,” Field said.

When Field retested water samples at several U.S. defense sites using the most advanced testing available, she found that many of these obscure additional chemicals were nearly uniformly present — and in huge numbers. At one site, for example, where PFOS was detected at 78,000 parts per trillion, another obscure PFAS compound was present at nearly three times that concentration.

Based on Eaton’s higher-resolution detection rates, scientists at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that researches the dangers of PFAS compounds, have generated new estimates of contamination linked to the chemicals.

They now think more than 110 million people have been exposed to the compounds through their drinking water, more than five times as many as the group had previously estimated.

The EPA “has really underplayed the extent of contamination,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “The scope of the problem seems to be expanding.”

Watch Out World: Peace May be Breaking Out!!

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 7:21 am

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

NEW POLL: Europeans reject US nuclear weapons on own soil

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 2:56 am
Q1HOST-nologonosource

July 6, 2018

On the first anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), new YouGov polling commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has found an overwhelming rejection of nuclear weapons.  The poll was conducted in the four EU countries that host US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In each country, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed were in favour of removing the weapons from their soil, and for their countries to sign the Treaty that bans them outright.

Download the full survey here →

What did the survey find?

1. At least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons than keeping them.
2. At least four times as many people are in favour of their country signing the TPNW than not signing the TPNW.
3. At least four times as many people are against companies in their country investing in nuclear weapons activities than in favour of it.
4. A strong majority of people are against NATO buying new fighter jets that are able to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.

One year on, a vast majority supports the Nuclear Ban Treaty

“In their totality, the survey results show a clear rejection of nuclear weapons by those Europeans who are on the frontline of any nuclear attack: those hosting American weapons on their soil. More than simply demonstrating a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favour of a blanket ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than they are against simply removing the weapons from their own soil,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

“The people of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy all know that these weapons are a massive humanitarian disaster in waiting, and they will be on the frontline,” Ms Fihn said. “That’s why on the first anniversary of the Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons we are standing with them to push NATO leaders at next week’s Brussels summit to forge a new NATO security that rejects nuclear weapons, in line with the democratic wishes of their constituents.”

This week marks the first anniversary of 122 nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on July 7th 2017. The landmark global treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.



  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

On the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: An Exercise in Bad Faith

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 1, 2018 at 1:34 am

by Alice Slater

 

On July 1, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will turn 50 years old.   In that agreement, five nuclear weapons states– the US, Russia, UK, France, and China—promised, a half a century ago, to make “good faith efforts” to give up their nuclear weapons, while non-nuclear weapons states promised not to acquire them.   Every country in the world agreed to join the treaty except for India, Pakistan, and Israel which then went on to develop their own nuclear arsenals.   To sweeten the pot, the NPT’s Faustian bargain promised the non-nuclear weapons states an “inalienable right” to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power.   Every nuclear power reactor is a potential bomb factory since its operation produces radioactive waste which can be enriched into bomb-grade fuel for nuclear bombs.  North Korea developed its promised “peaceful” nuclear technology and then walked out of the treaty and made nuclear bombs.  And it was feared that Iran was on its way to enriching their “peaceful” nuclear  waste to make nuclear weapons as well, which is why Obama negotiated the  “Iran deal” which provided more stringent inspections of Iran’s enrichment activity, now under assault by the US with the election of Donald Trump.

 

Despite the passage of 50 years since the NPT states promised “good faith” efforts to disarm, and the required Review and Extension conference 25 years ago, which since then has instituted substantive review conferences every five years as a condition for having extended the NPT indefinitely rather than letting it lapse in 1995, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons on our planet.  All but some 1,000 of them are in the US and Russia which keep nearly 2,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert, poised and ready to fire on each other’s cities in a matter of minutes.   Only this month, the Trump administration upped the ante on a plan developed by Obama’s war machine to spend one trillion dollars over the next ten years on two new nuclear bomb factories, new weapons, and nuclear-firing planes, missiles and submarines.  Trump’s new proposal for a massive Pentagon budget of $716 billion, an increase of $82 billion, was passed in the House and now in the Senate by 85 Republicans and Democrats alike, with only 10 Senators voting against it!  When it comes  to gross and violent military spending, bi-partisanship is the modus operandi!   And the most radical aspect of the budget is a massive expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, ending a 15 year prohibition on developing “more usable” low-yield nuclear warheads that can be delivered by submarine as well as by air-launched cruise missiles.  “More usable” in this case, are bombs that are at least as destructive as the atom bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the subsequently developed hydrogen bombs in the US arsenal are magnitudes more devastating and catastrophic. 

 

Putin, in his March, 2018 State of the Nation Address, also spoke of new nuclear- weapons bearing missiles being developed by Russia in response to the US having pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then planting missiles in eastern Europe.     He noted that:

 

Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system. Under this treaty, the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defence systems only in one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the US around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base.

Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.

We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our securityhttp://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957

Ironically, this week the US Department of State, under the heading “Diplomacy in Action”, issued a joint statement with US Secretary of State Pompeo and the Russian and UK Foreign Ministers , extolling the NPT as the “essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat—then and now—that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe…and has limited the risk that the vast devastation of nuclear war would be unleashed.” https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/283593.htm

All this is occurring against the stunning new development of the negotiation and passage of a new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the culmination of a ten year campaign by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which succeeded in lobbying for  122 nations to sign this new treaty which prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.  Just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapon, as well as landmines and cluster bombs, the new treaty to ban nuclear weapons closes the legal gap created by the NPT which only requires “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament, and doesn’t prohibit them.

At the last NPT review in 2015, South Africa spoke eloquently about the state of nuclear apartheid created by the NPT where the nuclear “haves” hold the rest of the world hostage to their devastating nuclear threats which provided even more impetus for the successful negotiation of the ban treaty.     ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for their winning campaign and is now engaged in lobbying for ratification by the 50 states required by the ban treaty to enter into force.  To date, 58 nations have signed the treaty, with 10 national legislatures having weighed in to ratify it.   See, www.icanw.org    None of the nine nuclear weapons states or the US nuclear alliance nations in NATO, as well as South Korea, Australia, and surprisingly, Japan, have signed the treaty and all of them boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands because a grassroots campaign resulted in their Parliament voting to mandate attendance at the ban negotiations, even though they voted against the treaty.  Grassroots groups are organizing in the five NATO states that host US nuclear weapons—Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey—to remove these weapons from US bases now that they are prohibited.

There is a vibrant new divestment campaign, for use in the nuclear weapons states and their allies sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella, www.dontbankonthebomb.com   There is also a parliamentary pledge for legislators to sign who live in nuclear weapons states or allied states at http://www.icanw.org/projects/pledge/ calling on their governments to join the ban treaty.    In the US, there is a campaign to pass resolutions at city and state levels in favor of the new treaty at www.nuclearban.us  Many of these nuclear divestment campaigns are working in cooperation with the new Code Pink Divest from the War Campaign.    https://www.codepink.org/divest_from_the_war_machine

It remains to be seen whether the NPT will continue to have relevance in light of the evident lack of integrity by the parties who promised “good faith” efforts for nuclear disarmament, and instead are all modernizing and inventing new forms of nuclear terror.   The recent detente between the US and North Korea, with proposals to sign a peace treaty and formally end the Korean War, after a 65 year cease-fire since 1953,  and the proposed meeting between the two nuclear gargantuans, the US and Russia, together with the new nuclear ban treaty, may be an opportunity to shift gears and look forward to a world without nuclear weapons if we can overcome the corrupt forces that keep the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex in business, seemingly forever!     Alice Slater is the New York representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.