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Is War Ever Justifiable? The Video Debate: Round 1

February 28th, 2018 - by admin

David Swanson / Let’s Try Democracy & Pete Kilner / US Army (Ret) – 2018-02-28 20:49:37

Video of Debate on Is War Ever Justifiable?

Is War Ever Justifiable? The Video Debate: Round 1
David Swanson / Let’s Try Democracy

On February 12, 2018, I debated Pete Kilner on the topic of “Is War Ever Justifiable?” (Location: Radford University; Moderator Glen Martin; videographer Zachary Lyman). Here is video:

Pete Kilner is a writer and military ethicist who served more than 28 years in the Army as an infantryman and professor at the US Military Academy. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan to conduct research on combat leadership. A graduate of West Point, he holds an MA in Philosophy from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Education from Penn State.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and War Is Never Just. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. He holds an MA in philosophy from UVA.

Who Won?
Prior to the debate, people in the room were asked to indicate in an online system that displayed the results on a screen whether they thought the answer to “Is War Ever Justifiable?” was yes, no, or they were not sure. Twenty-five people voted: 68% yes, 20% no, 12% not sure. After the debate, the question was posed again. Twenty people voted: 40% yes, 45% no, 15% not sure. Please use the comments below to indicate whether this debate moved you in one direction or the other.

These were my prepared remarks for the debate:
Thank you for hosting this debate. Everything I say in this quick overview will unavoidably raise more questions than it answers, many of which I’ve tried to answer at length in books and much of which is documented at davidswanson.org.

Let’s begin with the fact that war is optional. It’s not dictated to us by genes or outside forces. Our species has been around at least 200,000 years, and anything that could be called war no more than 12,000.

To the extent that people mostly shouting at each other and waving sticks and swords can be called the same thing as a person at a desk with a joystick sending missiles into villages halfway around the world, this thing we call war has been far more absent than present in human existence. Many societies have done without it.

The notion that war is natural is, frankly, ridiculous. A great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering, including higher suicide rates, is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.

War does not correlate with population density or resource shortages. It is quite simply most used by societies most accepting of it. The United States is high on, and by some measures, dominates the top of that list. Surveys have found the US public, among wealthy nations, the most supportive of — quote — “preemptively” attacking other countries.

Polls have also found that in the US 44% of people claim they would fight in a war for their country, while in many countries with equal or higher quality of life that response is under 20%.

US culture is saturated with militarism, and the US government is uniquely devoted to it, spending almost the same as the rest of the world combined, despite most of the other big spenders being close allies whom the US pushes to spend more. In fact, every other nation on earth spends closer to the $0 per year spent by nations like Costa Rica or Iceland than to the over $1 trillion spent by the US.

The United States maintains some 800 bases in other people’s countries, while all other nations on earth combined maintain a few dozen foreign bases. Since World War II, the United States has killed or helped kill some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 84 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries.

For the past 16 years, the United States has been systematically damaging a region of the globe, bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria. The United States has so-called “special forces” operating in two-thirds of the world’s countries.

When I watch a basketball game on television, two things are ALMOST guaranteed. UVA will win. And the announcers will thank US troops for watching from 175 countries. That’s uniquely American. In 2016 a presidential primary debate question was “Would you be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of innocent children?” That’s uniquely American.

That doesn’t happen in election debates where the other 96% of humanity live. US foreign policy journals discuss whether to attack North Korea or Iran. That, too, is uniquely American. The publics of most countries polled in 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world. Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017.

So, this country has an unusually strong investment in war, though it is far from the only warmaker. But what would it take to have a justifiable war? According to just war theory, a war must meet several criteria, which I find fall into these three categories: the non-empirical, the amoral, and the impossible.

By non-empirical, I mean things like “right intention,” “a just cause,” and “proportionality.” When your government says bombing a building where ISIS stashes money justifies killing up to 50 people, there’s no agreed upon, empirical means to reply No, only 49, or only 6, or up to 4,097 people can be justly killed.

Attaching some just cause to a war, such as ending slavery, never explains all the actual causes of a war, and does nothing to justify the war. During a time when much of the globe ended slavery and serfdom without war, for example, claiming that cause as the justification for a war holds no weight.

By amoral criteria, I mean things like being publicly declared and being waged by legitimate and competent authorities. These are not moral concerns. Even in a world where we actually had legitimate and competent authorities, they wouldn’t make a war any more or less just. Does anyone really picture a family in Yemen hiding from a constantly buzzing drone and expressing gratitude that the drone has been sent to them by a competent authority?

By impossible, I mean things like “be a last resort,” “have a reasonable prospect of success”, “keep noncombatants immune from attack,” “respect enemy soldiers as human beings,” and “treat prisoners of war as noncombatants.” To call something a “last resort” is in reality merely to claim it is the best idea you have, not the only idea you have.

There are always other ideas that anyone can think of, even if you’re in the role of the Afghans or Iraqis actually being attacked. Studies like those of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have found nonviolent resistance to domestic and even foreign tyranny to be twice as likely to succeed, and those successes to be far longer lasting.

We can look to successes, some partial, some complete, against foreign invasions, over the years in Nazi-occupied Denmark and Norway, in India, Palestine, Western Sahara, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, etc., and dozens of successes against regimes that in many cases have had foreign support.

My hope is that the more that people learn the tools of nonviolence and their power, the more they will believe in and choose to make use of that power, which will increase the power of nonviolence in a virtuous cycle.

At some point ,I can imagine people laughing at the idea that some foreign dictatorship is going to invade and occupy a nation ten times its size, full of people dedicated to nonviolent noncooperation with occupiers.

Already, I get a laugh on a frequent basis when people email me with the threat that if I do not support war I had better be prepared to start speaking North Korean or what they call “the ISIS language.”

Apart from the nonexistence of these languages, the idea that anybody is going to get 300 million Americans to learn any foreign language, much less do so at gun point, almost makes me cry. I can’t help imagining how much weaker war propaganda might be if all Americans did know multiple languages.

Continuing with the impossible criteria, what about respecting a person while trying to kill her or him? There are lots of ways to respect a person, but none of them can exist simultaneously with trying to kill that person. In fact, I would rank right at the bottom of people who respect me those who were trying to kill me.

Remember that just war theory began with people who believed killing someone was doing them a favor. And noncombatants are the majority of casualties in modern wars, so they cannot be kept safe. And there’s no reasonable prospect of success available — the US military is on a record losing-streak.

But the biggest reason that no war can ever be justified is not that no war can ever meet all the criteria of just war theory, but rather that war is not an incident, it is an institution.

Many people in the US will concede that many US wars have been unjust, but claim justness for World War II and in some cases one or two since. Others claim no just wars yet, but join the masses in supposing that there might be a justifiable war any day now. It is that supposition that kills far more people than all of the wars.

The US government spends over $1 trillion on war and war preparations each year, while 3% of that could end starvation, and 1% could end the lack of clean drinking water globally. The military budget is the only place with the resources needed to try to save the earth’s climate. Far more lives are lost and damaged through the failure to spend money well than through the violence of war. And more are lost or put at risk through side-effects of that violence than directly.

War and war preparations are the biggest destroyer of the natural environment. Most countries on earth burn less fossil fuel than does the US military. Most superfund disaster sites even within the US are at military bases.

The institution of war is the biggest eroder of our liberties even when the wars are marketed under the word “freedom.” This institution impoverishes us, threatens the rule of law, and degrades our culture by fueling violence, bigotry, the militarization of police, and mass surveillance. This institution puts us all at risk of nuclear disaster. And it endangers, rather than protects, those societies that engage in it.

According to the Washington Post, President Trump asked Secretary of so-called Defense James Mattis why he should send troops to Afghanistan, and Mattis replied that it was to prevent a bombing in Times Square. Yet the man who tried to blow up Times Square in 2010 said he was trying to get US troops out of Afghanistan.

For North Korea to try to occupy the US would require a force many times larger than the North Korean military. For North Korea to attack the US, were it actually capable, would be suicide. Could it happen? Well, look at what the CIA said before the US attacked Iraq: Iraq would be most likely to use its weapons only if attacked. Apart from the weapons not existing, that was accurate.

Terrorism has predictably increased during the war on terrorism (as measured by the Global Terrorism Index). 99.5% of terrorist attacks occur in countries engaged in wars and/or engaged in abuses such as imprisonment without trial, torture, or lawless killing. The highest rates of terrorism are in so-called “liberated” and “democratized” Iraq and Afghanistan.

The terrorist groups responsible for the most terrorism (that is, non-state, politically motivated violence) around the world have grown out of US wars against terrorism. Those wars themselves have caused numerous just-retired top US government officials and a few US government reports to describe military violence as counterproductive, as creating more enemies than are killed.

95% of all suicide terrorist attacks are conducted to encourage foreign occupiers to leave the terrorist’s home country. And an FBI study in 2012 said that anger over US military operations abroad was the most commonly cited motivation for individuals involved in cases of so-called homegrown terrorism in the United States.

The facts lead me to these three conclusions:
1) Foreign terrorism in the United States can be virtually eliminated by keeping the US military out of any country that is not the United States.

2) If Canada wanted anti-Canadian terrorist networks on a US scale or just wanted to be threatened by North Korea, it would need to radically increase its bombing, occupying, and base construction around the world.

3) On the model of the war on terrorism, the war on drugs that produces more drugs, and the war on poverty that seems to increase poverty, we would be wise to consider launching a war on sustainable prosperity and happiness.

Seriously, for a war on North Korea, for example, to be justifiable, the US would have to have not gone to such efforts over the years to avoid peace and provoke conflict, it would have to be innocently attacked, it would have to lose the ability to think so that no alternatives could be considered, it would have to redefine “success” to include a scenario in which a nuclear winter might cause much of the earth to lose the ability to grow crops or eat (by the way, Keith Payne, a drafter of the new Nuclear Posture Review, in 1980, parroting Dr. Strangelove, defined success to allow up to 20 million dead Americans and unlimited non-Americans).

It would have to invent bombs that spare noncombatants. It would have to devise a means of respecting people while killing them, and in addition, this remarkable war would have to do so much good as to outweigh all the damage done by decades of preparing for such a war — all the economic damage, all the political damage, all the damage to the Earth’s land, water, and climate, all the deaths by starvation and disease that could have been so easily spared, plus all the horrors of all the unjust wars facilitated by the preparations for the dreamed-of just war, plus the risk of nuclear apocalypse created by the institution of war. No war can meet such standards.

So called “humanitarian wars,” which is what Hitler called his invasion of Poland and NATO called its invasion of Libya, do not, of course, measure up to just war theory. Nor do they benefit humanity. What the US and Saudi militaries are doing to Yemen is the worst humanitarian disaster in years. The US sells or gives weapons to 73% of the world’s dictators, and gives military training to many of them.

Studies have found that there is no correlation between the severity of human rights abuses in a country and the likelihood of Western invasion of that country. Other studies have found that oil-importing countries are 100 times more likely to intervene in civil wars of oil exporting countries. In fact, the more oil a country produces or owns, the higher the likelihood is of third-party interventions.

The US, like any other war-maker, has to work hard to avoid peace.

The US has spent years rejecting out of hand peace negotiations for Syria.

In 2011, so that NATO could begin bombing Libya, the African Union was prevented by NATO from presenting a peace plan to Libya.

In 2003, Iraq was open to unlimited inspections or even the departure of its president, according to numerous sources, including the president of Spain to whom US President Bush recounted Hussein’s offer to leave.

In 2001, Afghanistan was open to turning Osama bin Laden over to a third country for trial.

In 1999, the US State Department deliberately set the bar too high, insisting on NATO’s right to occupy all of Yugoslavia, so that Serbia would not agree, and would therefore supposedly need to be bombed.

In 1990, the Iraqi government was willing to negotiate withdrawal from Kuwait. It asked that Israel also withdraw from Palestinian territories and that itself and the whole region, including Israel, give up all weapons of mass destruction. Numerous governments urged that negotiations be pursued. The US chose war.

Go back through history. The United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam. The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War. Spain wanted the sinking of the USS. Maine to go to international arbitration before the Spanish American War. Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half. In each case, the US preferred war.

Peace would not seem so difficult if people stopped going to such efforts to avoid it — like Mike Pence in a room with a North Korean trying not to indicate awareness of her presence. And if we stopped letting them scare us. Fear can make lies and simplistic thinking believable. We need courage! We need to lose the fantasy of total safety that drives us to create ever-greater danger!

And if the United States had a democracy, rather than bombing people in the name of democracy, I wouldn’t have to convince anyone of anything. The US public already favors military reductions and greater use of diplomacy. Such moves would stimulate a reverse arms race.

And that reverse arms race would open more eyes to the possibility of advancing further in that direction — the direction of what is required by morality, what is necessary for the habitability of the planet, what we must pursue if we are to survive: the complete abolition of the institution of war.

One more point: When I say that war can never be justified, I’m willing to agree to disagree about wars in the past if we can agree on wars in the future. That is, if you think that before nuclear weapons, before the end of legal conquest, before the general end of colonialism, and before the growth in understanding of the powers of nonviolence, some war like World War II was justified, I disagree, and I can tell you why at length, but let’s agree that we now live in a different world in which Hitler does not live and in which we must abolish war if our species is to continue.

Of course if you want to travel back in time to World War II, why not travel back to WWI, the disastrous conclusion of which had smart observers predicting WWII on the spot? Why not travel back to the West’s support for Nazi Germany in the 1930s?

We can look honestly at a war in which the US was not threatened, and about which the US president had to lie to gain support, a war that killed several times the number of people in the war as were killed in the Nazis’ camps.

A war that followed the West’s refusal to accept the Jews whom Hitler wanted to expel, a war that was entered through provocation of the Japanese, not innocent surprise. Let’s learn history instead of mythology, but let’s recognize that we can choose to do better than our history going forward.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Scientists Raise Alarm: Arctic Melting Is in Overdrive

February 28th, 2018 - by admin

Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch & Justin Mikulka / Desmog Blog – 2018-02-28 20:45:10

https://www.ecowatch.com/arctic-climate-change-2539897203.html

Scientists Stunned by Off-the-charts
Arctic Temperatures, Record-low Sea Ice

Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch

“Human-caused climate change is beginning to radically transform our planet.”

Arctic weather forecast February 24, 2018. Climate Reanalyzer

(February 27, 2018) — Over the past few days, many climate scientists took to social media to express dismay over the Arctic’s unseasonably warm temperatures and its record-low sea ice. At the height of winter, the region is clocking temperatures normally seen in May.

“The northernmost permanent weather station in the world, just 440 miles from the North Pole, has warmed to 43°F today — in the middle of months-long darkness during what is normally the coldest time of the year,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted Saturday.

“This is simply shocking. I don’t have the words,” he added.

“Just how hot is the Arctic now?” Peter Gleick, the president-emeritus of the Pacific Institute and a member of the US National Academy of Science tweeted, “Hotter than ever measured in the winter. Human-caused climate change is beginning to radically transform our planet.”

Climate scientist Zack Labe, a researcher at the University of California at Irvine, shared several striking graphs of the Arctic’s record-breaking heat.

Robert Rohde, a lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, commented that parts of the Arctic are seeing temperatures more than 60°F above normal for February. In translation? “The North Pole is warmer than much of Europe right now.”

“This is associated with a warm air intrusion from the Atlantic and displacement of cold air onto Asia following large scale disturbances to the polar jet stream,” he explained.

“Temperatures are still breaking records at North Greenland. +6°C (43°F) for a daily high is not just a record for February, it beats the highest temperature observed at this site in March or April as well. This is roughly 35°C (63°F) above normal for this time of year,” he tweeted Sunday.

In real-world terms, the warmth has caused crucial sea ice to melt. This frightening footage, first flagged by Mashable, shows how the Bering Sea’s disappearing ice is exposing Alaskan coastal communities to terrifying storm surges. Normally, the sea is solidly frozen.

Labe also illustrated that Arctic sea ice is at record low levels:

Lars Kaleschke, a physicist and professor for sea ice remote sensing at the University of Hamburg, noted “there is open water north of Greenland where the thickest sea ice of the Arctic used to be.”

“This has me more worried than the warm temps in the Arctic right now. That sea ice north of Greenland among the last vestiges of old, thick sea ice existing in the Arctic ocean,” Mike MacFerrin, a researcher of ice sheet meltwater feedbacks at the University of Colorado Boulder, tweeted in response to Kaleschke’s startling point. “Break it apart, it can circulate straight out into the Atlantic come summer. We’ll see what comes.”


A ‘Keep It in the Ground’ Approach to Fossil Fuels
On US Public Lands Would Cut Climate Emissions, Study Confirms

Justin Mikulka / Desmog Blog

(February 27, 2018) — Limiting fossil fuel production on US federal lands would reduce both global oil consumption and overall carbon emissions, according to a new study by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a research organization focused on sustainable development. In the study, SEI researchers specifically examined the policies proposed in the “Keep It in the Ground Act,” which would ban new and renewed leases to extract oil, gas, and coal on all federal lands, and was introduced in Congress in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017.

“Our models show that each barrel of US oil left undeveloped leads to about a half-barrel drop in global oil consumption,” said Pete Erickson, SEI senior scientist and study co-author. “In the long term, the smart choice — for the climate and the economy — is to phase down oil and gas production, not ramp it up.”

Fossil Fuel Supply and Demand
An important part of this finding seems like common sense — limiting fossil fuel production would lead to reduced consumption. However, the study’s authors point out that the current federal administration argues that limiting production does not impact consumption due to a concept known as “perfect substitution” (also referred to as “leakage”):
“This is because US government analyses of the potential GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions effects of policies that affect fossil fuel supply have often assumed that leakage, in the form of increased fossil fuel production from other sources, would cancel most, if not all, of the GHG emissions benefit [of keeping fossil fuels in the ground].”

Perfect substitution contends that limiting production of fossil fuels in one place will never limit consumption because another source somewhere else will always be willing to step in with a substitute for that missing production, i.e., if a certain volume of oil isn’t drilled on US federal lands, then the industry will extract it on private lands in another part of the country or abroad.

Under this logic, efforts to leave any fossil fuel reserves undeveloped seem futile. However, that argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. As noted in the SEI study, a US appeals judge wrote in 2017 that this assumption of perfect substitution is “irrational” and “that it contradicts basic supply and demand principles.”

Jim Stock, economics professor at Harvard University, agrees with SEI’s and the judge’s conclusions that “perfect substitution” in fossil fuel markets is predicated on faulty assumptions.

“This is pretty easy to see with a stark example. Suppose Saudi Arabia were to decide to stop pumping. The price would rise, emissions would fall,” Stock explained via email. “So the point they [SEI] make is pretty straightforward and consistent with basic economics.”

Michael Lazarus, co-author and SEI senior scientist, confirmed the climate advantages of policies limiting fossil fuel production.

“Our findings help cast aside the irrational belief in perfect substitution or, as some have called it, ‘whack-a-mole,'” Lazarus said in a statement. “In most cases, leaving coal or oil resources undeveloped will lead to global CO2 benefits.”

Or to put it another way — a strategy to “keep it in the ground” is a valid path to reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, which climate scientists say is necessary to avoid warming that would lead to catastrophic climate change.

Meanwhile, at the EPA
The same day SEI released its study, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt explained his take on fossil fuel consumption — based on what he says he learned from the Bible.

“The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” Pruitt said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“The ‘environmental left’ tells us that, though we have natural resources like natural gas and oil and coal, and though we can feed the world, we should keep those things in the ground, put up fences and be about prohibition,” he said. “That’s wrongheaded and I think it’s counter to what we should be about.”

In keeping with Pruitt’s views, the Trump administration appears intent on making sure the oil, gas, and coal industries have the opportunity to dig up and burn every last fossil fuel reserve in America.

SEI’s latest research specifically looks at the impact of limiting the new production of fossil fuels on US public lands only — something the Obama administration supported on some levels.

According to the study, even this limited effort would significantly cut emissions. “We estimate that the lease restriction policy would reduce global CO2emissions by 280 [million tons] in 2030, an amount on par with, and in many cases greater than, that of other major policies in President Obama’s climate action plan,” Erickson and Lazarus wrote in the paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.

However, the Trump administration has been systematically rolling back Obama’s programs to mitigate climate change and instead is trying to open up new public lands to coal, oil, and gas exploration. That includes the Department of the Interior’s proposal to open up most waters off US coasts to the oil and gas industry and the measure in the Republican tax overhaul legislation that requires oil and gas drilling rights sales in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Meanwhile, the US already is seeing record levels of both hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as well as oil and gas exports (which are predicted to go even higher).

In the study’s abstract, SEI’s Erickson and Lazarus acknowledge their findings will likely fall on deaf ears at the top of today’s federal government: “Our findings suggest that measures to constrain fossil fuel supply — though not currently viable in a US Trump administration — deserve further consideration.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General and climate scientists have been warning that time is running out for limiting global warming to the goals set out in the United Nations Paris agreement.

Keep It in the Ground or It Is “Game Over”
The science is clear that most of the fossil fuels currently “in the ground” need to stay there for the planet to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

“Avoiding dangerous climate change will require a rapid transition away from fossil fuels,” Erickson and Lazarus write in their paper. “By some estimates, global consumption and production of fossil fuels — particularly coal and oil — will need to end almost entirely within 50 years.”

However, others warn that the timeline to address climate change is much shorter. One reason is that the impacts of climate change are happening faster than expected. One example is record low sea ice cover, which in turn contributes to sea levels rising quicker than predicted and coastal towns like Lafitte, Louisiana, being swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico.

Climate change is happening now, and Pruitt’s preferred approach to fossil fuels directly contradicts recommendations from climate experts and ignores real-life impacts to people and ecosystems.

That said, even the Obama administration refused to commit to a “keep it in the ground” approach. While Pruitt and Trump appear extreme on this issue, the belief (or at least policy) that humans can continue expanding fossil fuel development and address climate change was widely promoted by the Obama administration and Democrats.

As DeSmog reported at the time, Trevor House of the Rhodium Group echoed this sentiment at a 2015 panel discussion on oil exports at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

“I’m of the view that we can have our cake and eat it too,” House said. “It is possible to support domestic oil and gas production and meet our long-term climate objectives at the same time.”

House may hold that position but scientists and other climate experts disagree. Despite that, he co-authored a study supporting more US oil production and exports with Jason Bordoff, the former special assistant to President Obama and senior director for energy and climate change. That vision, of course, is exactly what is taking shape in America right now.

Not limited to the US, this view certainly sounds similar to the current approach of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is pushing new tar sands pipelines — all while talking about climate solutions.

“As I’ve said for a long time,” Trudeau told CBC News. “We need to make sure we’re both protecting the environment and growing the economy at the same time.”

Of course, the Canadian economy is incredibly dependent on fossil fuel production.

Any model that predicts a future in which climate change is under control already is counting on large-scale negative emissions via yet-to-be-invented technology. Or planting a whole lot of new trees and crops and then burning them for energy.

While those are potential technical solutions to catastrophic climate change, implementing techno-fixes at this scale may never happen. The one proven way to immediately address climate change is to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

When the Keep It In the Ground Act was introduced in 2016, climate activist Bill McKibben strongly supported it with a simple explanation: “We have no more margin.”

Of course, that was two years ago … before the beginning of the Trump and Pruitt fossil fuel “harvest.” If there is any margin left in the effort to limit climate change — it is rapidly shrinking.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Is War Ever Justifiable? The Video Debate: Round 2

February 28th, 2018 - by admin

David Swanson / Let’s Try Democracy & Pete Kilner / US Army (Ret) – 2018-02-28 20:28:58

Video of Debate #2: Is War Ever Justifiable?

Is War Ever Justifiable? The Video Debate: Round 2
David Swanson / Let’s Try Democracy

Note: Our first debate was held on February 12th at Radford University. This was our second, held February 13, 2018, at Eastern Mennonite University and moderated by Lisa Schirch.

Pete Kilner is a writer and military ethicist who served more than 28 years in the Army as an infantryman and professor at the US Military Academy. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan to conduct research on combat leadership. A graduate of West Point, he holds an MA in Philosophy from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Education from Penn State.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and War Is Never Just. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. He holds an MA in philosophy from UVA.

No comprehensive effort was made to survey the audience as to the debate’s impact. Indicate your response, please, in the comments section below.

These were my prepared remarks:
Thanks for hosting this and being here. Pete and I debated last night at Radford. A video is at davidswanson.org. And we agreed, as the majority of this country has agreed for years, that military spending should be reduced. I want it gradually reduced to zero. I don’t know where Pete wants it, but he doesn’t want it at zero.

However, I am certain that if military spending were significantly reduced, you would see a reverse arms race, a reduction in threats and hostility abroad, and consequently greater public desire to go on reducing it further.

So, in a sense, we don’t need this debate, we just need democracy rather than wars in the name of democracy and a government that goes on year-after-year moving more money out of almost everything else and into militarism.

But to build a movement powerful enough to influence the US oligarchy, we do need this debate, we do need a clearer understanding that no war can ever be justified, and therefore that dumping over a trillion dollars a year into preparing for a possible just war has to stop.

After all, 3 percent of that money could end starvation on Earth, 1 percent could end the lack of clean water, a bigger chunk could give us a chance against climate change (rather than serving as the leading cause of climate change). So it’s the institution of war that kills far more than the actual wars, and we can’t build the strength to reduce it as long as people imagine there might be a just war some day.

Pete and I also agreed that numerous wars have been unjust. I’ll talk a little about why the wars he claims were just were actually unjust on their own terms and in isolation. But I think the burden for a just war is even higher than that.

I think a war, to do more good than harm, has to do so much more good than harm as to outweigh the damage done by all the admittedly unjust wars as well as by the diversion of funding from where it could save and improve millions of lives rather than wasting them. War is an institution, and for any war to be justified it has to justify all the damage done by the institution.

But Pete only named a couple of wars just and a couple unjust without ever giving us a method that would allow us to determine which are which when we turn to all the wars he didn’t label one way or the other. Those include wars he took part in: Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2006 Pete claimed the war on Iraq was doing Iraq lots of good.

I asked him repeatedly what that good was and never got an answer. He did call the 2003-begun war “imprudent” and a “mistake.” If that’s what you call a war that radically increases the use of the term sociocide (meaning the total destruction of a society), I wonder what level of slaughter is needed before a war gets labeled something harsher like “bad” or “unpleasant” or “mildly regrettable.”

One current war that Pete agreed was unjust was the US-Saudi war on Yemen. But will Pete join me in urging US troops to refuse the immoral and illegal order to participate in that war? Isn’t that a moral duty comparable to that of encouraging participation in supposedly just wars? Doesn’t it expose one of the many problems with calling the US military voluntary? Anything else you’re doing voluntarily you’re permitted to quit doing. What is the point of teaching soldiers morality if they aren’t supposed to act on it?

Pete will say that he has explained what a just war is, it’s a war fought because you’ve been attacked. Except that he’ll then readily admit that the United States has been fighting all these wars without having been attacked.

So what he actually means is that someone else has been attacked, allowing the United States to step in as a gesture of generosity and assistance. But, as a rule, this stepping in is not appreciated, not requested, not actually helpful, on the contrary catastrophically counterproductive, and also, by the way, illegal.

Who died and made the United States the world’s policeman? Nobody. But millions of people have been killed by the policing. The publics of most countries polled in 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world.

Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017. To begin to grasp why, just imagine if some other country began bombing several nations at a time out of the goodness of its heart. The shrieks of “Rogue Nation!” and “War Criminal!” would echo across every corporate news outlet.

Imagine if some country put missiles just inside Canada and Mexico aimed at the United States, the way that the United States does to Russia. Imagine if they justified this as defensive and pointed out that it was being done by their Defense Department, which proved it.

There’s a video of Vladimir Putin asking former US Ambassador Jack Matlock about US missiles near Russia, and Matlock tells Putin not to worry because the missiles are purely a jobs program for “back in the states.”

Would such an answer satisfy us if the case were reversed? Never mind that the studies done by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst show quite clearly that military spending costs us jobs rather than adding to them.

Although the one relatively recent US war that Pete says was just cannot possibly outweigh the damage done by all the US wars we agree were not plus the diversion of funding, the risk of nuclear apocalypse, the war machine’s environmental damage, the political and cultural damage, the counterproductive endangerment rather than protection, etc., let me look at that one war very briefly.

This is the Persian Gulf War. Recall that the United States had worked to bring Saddam Hussein to power and had armed and aided him in an aggressive war against Iran for years. A company called American Type Culture Collection in Manassas, Virginia, supplied the biological materials for anthrax to Saddam Hussein.

Only later, when it was clear Iraq had no significant biological or chemical much less nuclear weapons, the pretense that it had new vast stockpiles of them was somehow a justification to bomb a nation full of human beings, 99.9 percent of whom had never shaken hands with Donald Rumsfeld. But first came the Gulf War.

Like every war, it began with a period of threats, which bore no resemblance to the immediacy and urgency of a mugging in a dark alley or similar analogy that Pete likes to use. In fact, during this particular drawn-out period, a public relations company coached a girl to lie to Congress that Iraq was taking babies out of incubators. And meanwhile, Iraq proposed to withdraw from Kuwait if Israel would withdraw from Palestinian territories illegally occupied, and Iraq proposed a weapons of mass destruction free Middle East.

Numerous governments and even a guy who’s supposedly never wrong called The Pope urged the US to pursue a peaceful settlement. The US preferred war. At further odds with irrelevant analogies to personal self-defense, the US in this war killed tens of thousands of Iraqis while they were retreating.

Do you know why recent presidents other than Trump have not proposed big military parades? It’s because none of the US wars since the Gulf War has been able to even remotely pretend to a “victory.” The point is not that we need a victory after which we should want a parade, but rather that there is no such thing as a victory — the Gulf War wasn’t one either — and we need to recognize that basic truth before we’re all turned into fire and fury.

The endless bombings and sanctions (who remembers Madeleine Albright saying that killing a half million children was justified?), and the new wars, and troops in Saudi Arabia, and terrorism aimed at getting troops out of Saudi Arabia (what do you think 9/11 was, exactly?), and the further militarization of the Middle East, and horrible illnesses among veterans, and all the other horrors that followed from the Gulf War render grotesque the notion that it was a “victory.”

Do you know what Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh said to excuse blowing up a building in Oklahoma City? Like a perfect Just War Theorist, he said that he had a higher purpose, so that the building and the people killed in it were merely collateral damage. And do you know why people didn’t fall for that line? Because McVeigh did not have effective control of any television networks.

By the way, I do believe we should offer Trump a deal: one parade for each war he ends.

Pete’s candidate number 2 for a Just War is Bosnia. As every war has a Hitler, the man Tony Blair labeled Hitler this time was Slobodan Milosevic. While very far from an admirable leader, he was lied about, the war failed to overthrow him, the creative nonviolent Otpur movement later did overthrow him, and the UN’s criminal tribunal later effectively and posthumously exonerated him of his charges in a lengthy ruling on another defendant. The US had worked vigorously for the breakup of Yugoslavia and intentionally prevented negotiated agreements among the parties.

Then-UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said:
“In its first weeks in office, the Clinton administration has administered a death blow to the Vance-Owen plan that would have given the Serbs 43 percent of the territory of a unified state. In 1995 at Dayton, the administration took pride in an agreement that, after nearly three more years of horror and slaughter, gave the Serbs 49 percent in a state partitioned into two entities.”

Three years later came the Kosovo war. The United States believed that, unlike Crimea, Kosovo had the right to secede. But the United States did not want it done, like Crimea, without any people getting killed.

In the June 14, 1999 issue of The Nation, George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslavia desk officer, reported:
“An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told this [writer] that, swearing reporters to deep-background confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had bragged that the United States ‘deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept.’ The Serbs needed, according to the official, a little bombing to see reason.”

Jim Jatras, a foreign policy aide to Senate Republicans, reported in a May 18, 1999, speech at the Cato Institute in Washington that he had it “on good authority” that a “senior Administration official told media at Rambouillet, under embargo” the following:
“We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that’s what they are going to get.”

In interviews with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, both Kenney and Jatras asserted that these were actual quotes transcribed by reporters who spoke with a US official.

The United Nations did not authorize the United States and its NATO allies to bomb Serbia in 1999. Neither did the United States Congress. The US engaged in a massive bombing campaign that killed large numbers of people, injured many more, destroyed civilian infrastructure, hospitals, and media outlets, and created a refugee crisis. This destruction was accomplished through lies, fabrications, and exaggerations about atrocities, and then justified anachronistically as a response to violence that it helped generate.

In the year prior to the bombing some 2,000 people were killed, a majority by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas who, with support from the CIA, were seeking to incite a Serbian response that would appeal to Western humanitarian warriors. At the same time, NATO member Turkey was committing much larger atrocities, with 80% of their weapons coming from the United States.

But Washington didn’t want war with Turkey, so no propaganda campaign was built around its crimes; instead weapons shipments to Turkey were increased. In contrast, a slick propaganda campaign regarding Kosovo established a model that would be followed in future wars, by connecting exaggerated and fictional atrocities to the Nazi holocaust.

A photo of a thin man seen through barbed wire was reproduced endlessly. But investigative journalist Philip Knightly determined that it was probably the reporters and photographers who were behind the barbed wire, and that the place photographed, while ugly, was a refugee camp that people, including the fat man standing next to the thin man, were free to leave. There were indeed atrocities, but most of them occurred after the bombing, not before it. Most of Western reporting inverted that chronology.

Last night Pete also labeled the Israeli Six Days War of 1967 as the quintessentially justifiable war on the part of Israel. Israeli General Matti Peled, popular hero of that war, has a son named Miko Peled who wrote this six years ago:
“In 1967, as today, the two power centers in Israel were the IDF high command and the Cabinet. On June 2, 1967, the two groups met at IDF headquarters. The military hosts greeted the generally cautious and dovish prime minister, Levi Eshkol, with such a level of belligerence that the meeting was later commonly called ‘the Generals’ Coup.’

The transcripts of that meeting, which I found in the Israeli army archives, reveal that the generals made it clear to Eshkol that the Egyptians would need 18 months to two years before they would be ready for a full-scale war, and therefore this was the time for a preemptive strike.

My father told Eshkol: ‘Nasser is advancing an ill-prepared army because he is counting on the Cabinet being hesitant. Your hesitation is working in his advantage.’ . . . Throughout the meeting, there was no mention of a threat but rather of an ‘opportunity’ that was there, to be seized. Within short order, the Cabinet succumbed to the pressure of the army, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

A so-called preemptive mass-slaughter, followed by decades of illegal genocidal occupation, justified by a danger 18-months away, I propose, bears zero similarity to what you should do if you see someone confronted by a mugger in a dark alley in Harrisonburg.

As mugging victims and surgeons and good Samaritans never justify their behavior with war analogies, how about we do them the same courtesy and not justify war with analogies to such unrelated endeavors?

In 2011, so that NATO could begin bombing Libya, the African Union was prevented by NATO from presenting a peace plan to Libya.

In 2003, Iraq was open to unlimited inspections or even the departure of its president, according to numerous sources, including the president of Spain to whom US President Bush recounted Hussein’s offer to leave.

In 2001, Afghanistan was open to turning Osama bin Laden over to a third country for trial.

Go back through history. The United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam. The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War. Spain wanted the sinking of the USS Maine to go to international arbitration before the Spanish American War. Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half. In each case, the US preferred war. Peace has to be carefully avoided.

So when someone asks me what I would do instead of attacking Afghanistan, I have three answers, progressively less flippant.

1. Don’t attack Afghanistan.
2. Prosecute crimes as crimes, don’t commit new crimes. Use diplomacy and the rule of law.
3. Work to create a world with systems of justice and dispute resolution and economies and politics that do without the institution of war altogether.

PS: All the questions will be about World War II regardless, so I’ll just save that one for the Q&A.

Thank you.

Foreign Minister Tells UN the US Is Training Europe to Use Nuclear Weapons against Russia

February 28th, 2018 - by admin

Holly Ellyatt / CNBC & The Moscow Times – 2018-02-28 20:13:53

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/28/russias-lavrov-says-us-breaching-nuclear-arms-agreement-ifax.html

Foreign Minister Says the US Is
Training Europe to Use Nuclear Weapons against Russia

Holly Ellyatt / CNBC

(February 28, 2018) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the US was still deploying “strategic arms” in Europe and was training European countries to use nuclear weapons, violating a major nuclear arms agreement called the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Lavrov said that nuclear disarmament was impossible without taking into account factors which destabilize “strategic stability and international security today,” including, he said, “the deployment of a global anti-missile system” and “the deployment of US strategic arms in Europe and the continuing destabilizing practice of ‘joint nuclear missions,’ as they call them.”

“As we all know, these nuclear missions violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty and non-nuclear states plan and take part in the US exercises and learn how to use the nuclear weapons,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted a video in which Lavrov was speaking to other delegates at the conference. For its part, he said, Russia had reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85 percent compared to the Cold War era.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has complained about what it calls “joint nuclear missions” and says the US has many nuclear weapons located in Europe. It also says the US is training European countries to use these weapons.

Last April, the foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said that “Washington’s approach to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is still of great concern. The US and its non-nuclear NATO allies continue their nuclear skill training as part of the so-called “nuclear sharing”,” it said.

“This is a serious violation of Articles I and II of the NPT,” the ministry said.

Article I of the NPT prohibits nuclear states from transferring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices, to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly. Article II prohibits non-nuclear states from receiving the transfer, directly or indirectly.

But Lavrov repeated Russia’s position on the matter on Wednesday.

“Everyone understands that this way, the US military prepares the military of European countries for the use of nuclear weapons against Russia,” he said.

Russia, he added, had not deployed any nuclear weapons and did not test them. On the contrary, the US had taken an “aggressive position” he said. “These initiatives we see on the part of the US do not promote non-proliferation, they promote the deterioration of the full implementation of it (the treaty).”

Russia has also long-objected to the deployment of a US-commanded NATO missile defense system in eastern Europe, saying it is not designed to prevent a possible ballistic missile attack from Iran but designed to undermine and neutralize Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. NATO and the US deny that accusation.


US Is Preparing Europe to Use
Nuclear Weapons Against Russia — Lavrov

The Moscow Times

(February 28, 2018) — Russia’s foreign minister has warned that the United States is preparing Europe to use tactical nuclear weapons against Russia.

Russia, along with the US and other nuclear powers, has refused to join the world’s first nuclear disarmament deal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last month. Meanwhile, the latest US Nuclear Posture Review has called to develop new types of missiles to counter Russian and Chinese threats.

Speaking at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Wednesday, Lavrov accused Washington of storing nonstrategic nuclear arms in Europe and holding “joint nuclear missions” with non-nuclear countries there.

“Everyone understands that by doing this the US military is preparing the military forces of European countries to use nuclear weapons against Russia,” he said in televised remarks.

Meanwhile, Robert Wood, the head of the US disarmament mission in Geneva, accused Russia at the same conference of failing to ensure the Syrian government’s elimination of its chemical weapons, Reuters reported.


Sergey Lavrov Speaks at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
RT News [Translated]

(February 28, 2018) — For its part, [Lavrov] said Russia had reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85 percent compared to the Cold War era. The Russian Foreign Ministry has complained about what it calls “joint nuclear missions” and says the US has many nuclear weapons located in Europe. It also says the US is training European countries to use these weapons.

Last April, the foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said that “Washington’s approach to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is still of great concern. The US and its non-nuclear NATO allies continue their nuclear-skill-training as part of the so-called “nuclear sharing”, it said. “This is a serious violation of Articles I and II of the NPT,” the ministry said.

Article I of the NPT prohibits nuclear states from transferring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices — or control over such weapons or explosive devices — to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly. Article II prohibits non-nuclear states from receiving the transfer, directly or indirectly.

But Lavrov repeated Russia’s position on the matter on Wednesday: “Everyone understands that this way, the US military prepares the military of European countries for the use of nuclear weapons against Russia,” he said. Russia, he added, had not deployed any nuclear weapons and did not test them.

On the contrary, the US had taken an “aggressive position,” he said. “These initiatives we see on the part of the US do not promote non-proliferation. They promote the deterioration of the full implementation of it (the treaty).”

Russia has also long-objected to the deployment of a US-commanded NATO missile defense system in eastern Europe, saying it is not designed to prevent a possible ballistic missile attack from Iran but designed to undermine and neutralize Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.

NATO and the US deny that accusation.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Gun Violence Has Dropped Dramatically in Three States With Very Different Gun Laws

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

Mike Males / YES! Magazine – 2018-02-27 18:58:11

http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-3-states-with-very-different-gun-laws-20180216

Gun Violence Has Dropped Dramatically in
Three States With Very Different Gun Laws

Mike Males / YES! Magazine

(February 16, 2018) — This week, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where mass shootings have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.

Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America’s gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.

The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the “good guy with a gun” (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a “bad guy” opens fire.

Liberals’ dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings (both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.

On both sides, destructive scapegoating of young people, whether they are suburban school shooters or immigrant gangsters, present blatant falsehoods. FBI tabulations show half of active mass shooters are 35 and older, a large majority are white, and nearly all are men.

One middle-aged white shooter murdered more people in Las Vegas in 10 minutes than the best available count of documented murders over the last 15 years that have been attributed to the Latino MS-13 gang, a favorite target of President Donald Trump.

We can keep on quarreling over myths and prejudices, or we can start looking for new approaches, as many communities are doing in the face of national default. The hopeful thing is there is plenty new to say — if anyone is willing to say it.

Let’s begin with one of the most hopeful and obvious: the massive decline in gun homicides in the nation’s three biggest states, concentrated among young people and urban residents all sides claim to be concerned about — so long as the discussion doesn’t challenge pet positions.

Over the last 25 years — though other time periods show similar results — New York, California, and Texas show massive declines in gun homicides, ones that far exceed those of any other state. These three states also show the country’s largest decreases in gun suicide and gun accident death rates.

States with Largest Drop in Gun Homicide Rates
2014-16 compared to 1990-92
New York: – 80%
California: – 61%
Texas: – 60%
All other states: – 25%
(Sources: CDC, 2018, American Journal of Public Health 2017)

These major states containing seven in 10 of the country’s largest cities once had gun homicide rates far above the national average; now, their rates are well below those elsewhere in the country.

The declines are most pronounced in urban young people. Among ages 15-24, gun homicide rates are down nearly 80 percent in cities of 500,000 or more in the three largest states, led by declines — approaching 90 percent in New York City’s central boroughs, more than 80 percent in Los Angeles, and 74 percent in Dallas.

Isn’t this what all sides have claimed to want: big reductions in gun killings, especially among young people? Why, then, aren’t researchers flocking to our three biggest states and their major cities to analyze what happened there — or, at least, talking about their stunningly hopeful trends?

Anyone familiar with the gun debate will see the political problem right away. California and New York have the nation’s strictest and fifth-strictest gun control laws, respectively, in the country, earning “A-” ratings from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and low rates of gun ownership.

So, gun-rights conservatives don’t like to talk about successes in those states — nor about the fact that those declines in violence correspond with an increasingly racially diverse young urban population, driven by Latino, Asian, and African immigration.

On the other side, Texas has among the weakest gun laws in the country (“open carry” is its most recent gun-rights salvo, earning an “F” grade) and some of the highest rates of gun ownership. Gun-control lobbies are loath to acknowledge any success in Texas. So, we have to look beyond current gun politics and commentary to community-based initiatives.

Most major cities have gun violence prevention programs, but if these deserve some credit, we would need to study why they worked so much better in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, and El Paso than in Chicago, Miami, or Philadelphia. If young Texans can show large declines in killings without tough gun controls, we need to understand what forces are at work in its cities.

Rather than jockeying for political advantage, we need to acknowledge young people of all races, who as a generation have sharply lower levels of gun ownership and numbers of gun killings despite continued high rates of poverty.

White, Black, Latino, and Asian youth (Native American numbers are too small to determine accurate trends) each show much faster declines in gun homicide rates in the three largest states than do their national counterparts.

The pattern suggests a generational trend in the three major states’ cities — and to a lesser extent, nationwide — that urgently needs scrutiny. When youth homicide arrests in the city of Los Angeles fall from 680 in 1990-92 to 104 in 2000-02 to 17 in 2014-16, and the number of teenage girls murdered falls from dozens in the early 1990s to zero in the last 12 months ending February 15, 2018, it’s time to shake up everyone’s frozen thinking.

Gun violence indeed remains an unspeakably tragic, American epidemic, but there is no excuse for recycling old futilities when dramatic and hopeful new information is at hand.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

NRA Fallout: Weapons Lobby Targeted by Growing Commercial Boycott

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

MoveOn.org & USA TODAY & Fox Business – 2018-02-27 18:50:14

https://act.moveon.org/donate/end-gun-violence-parkland

The NRA Just Got Some Really Bad News
MoveOn.org

(February 27, 2018) — The roof is caving in on the NRA.

Last week, in less than three days, 16 major corporations broke their ties to the NRA. United Airlines. Delta. Enterprise Rent-a-Car. MetLife Insurance. North American Van Lines. Simplisafe Home Security. They all said “enough” and canceled their deals with the NRA.

Some Republican governors and members of Congress are finally standing up to the NRA as well, with new supporters coming out in favor of everything from an assault weapons ban to universal background checks and raising the age limit on gun purchases.

The backlash against the NRA is growing, and the next big moment to turn up the pressure is the wave of student-led marches and walkouts scheduled for this March and April. MoveOn is committed to helping make these events as big as possible by mobilizing our millions of members nationwide, promoting the marches to our social media audience, elevating the voices of the student leaders at the marches, and more — while continuing to exert direct pressure on companies and investing in community organizations fighting against gun violence.

The true impact of all the corporations abandoning the NRA isn’t just a public relations embarrassment for the gun lobby. It goes to the heart of their ability to recruit and retain members, and it’s why they lashed out at their former corporate partners this weekend, accusing them of “political and civic cowardice.”4

Right on the organization’s own website, the #2 reason why they say people should join the NRA is for member discounts on everything from hotels to insurance.5 So much for that.

The #BoycottTheNRA movement isn’t finished either. There are another three-dozen companies that still have direct financial relationships with the organization. And because of the sustained pressure, Wall Street firms and pension funds are now looking at divestment from the gun industry. Pressure is rising on online services like Amazon to stop streaming NRATV.

The brave high school students in Parkland — joining a tradition of young people organizing to end gun violence in their communities — sparked the backlash that’s helping catalyze actions for gun control in boardrooms and state capitols all over the country.

Now it’s up to all of us to keep it going. Over the coming weeks, marches and walkouts are being held in Washington, D.C., and at high schools and in communities all over the country.

MoveOn members have a history of confronting the NRA with grassroots activism — and winning. In 2015, after the massacre in Oregon, we organized tens of thousands of “gun owners for gun control” and brought a cohort of this group to DC to meet with the president and lawmakers. Several of these MoveOn members were on stage with President Obama a few months later when he signed his most significant executive action against gun violence.

After the Las Vegas massacre, we helped pressure the Democratic Party to officially reject funds from gun manufacturers and their lobbyists. And after the violence in Virginia, we endorsed a slate of candidates who supported sensible gun laws — and who beat NRA-backed candidates up and down the ballot.

The myth of NRA invincibility is just that — a myth. And if we can prove that members of Congress and other elected officials can stand up to the NRA and gain political support, it will be the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s chokehold on American politics.

MoveOn is committed to doing whatever it takes to take down the NRA and prevent the next tragic mass shooting. Are you with us? Click Here.


NRA Fallout:
See the list of companies that cut discounts
for NRA members after Parkland, Florida school shooting

Nathan Bomey / USA TODAY

(February 26, 2018) — Major companies with ties to the National Rifle Association suddenly shed ties to the pro-gun-rights interest group amid intense scrutiny over the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

The breakups were swift amid a billowing cloud of scrutiny on social media, where countless users threatened to boycott companies that maintained a relationship with the NRA.

Most of the businesses had offered discounted products and services to NRA’s several million members. Critics said the deals served as an attractive element of NRA membership.

The NRA blasted the companies that severed ties for “a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”

“Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world,” the group said in a statement.

Under pressure to end discounts through the NRA Business Alliance, FedEx said Monday that it would not sever the relationship but that it opposed the NRA’s views on assault weapons.

“FedEx is a common carrier under federal law and therefore does not and will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views,” the company said in a statement.

FedEx added that “the NRA is one of hundreds of organizations” that receive discounts and FedEx “has never set or changed rates for any of our millions of customers around the world in response to their politics, beliefs or positions on issues.”

The NRA says on its website that it has “teamed up” with FedEx “to offer BIG savings” on the shipment giant’s services.

The company said Monday that its views on guns “differ from those of the National Rifle Association” and it “opposes assault rifles being in the hands of civilians.”

“While we strongly support the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to own firearms subject to appropriate background checks, FedEx views assault rifles and large capacity magazines as an inherent potential danger to schools, workplaces, and communities when such weapons are misused,” FedEx said. “We therefore support restricting them to the military.”

The company also called on lawmakers to take action “to protect schools and students from incidents such as the horrific tragedy in Florida.”

While FedEx refused to cut off the NRA, other major companies are still under pressure, as well. Amazon, Google and Apple have taken heat from celebrity critics, who called for the company to stop offering an NRA video channel through streaming services.

Here’s the list of companies that have dropped NRA deals:
*Delta Air Lines: The company axed discounted rates for NRA members.

*United Airlines: United ended an offer of discounted flights for NRA members traveling to their annual meeting.

*Enterprise Holdings: The parent company of car rental brands Enterprise, Alamo and National is ending discount deals with the NRA within a few weeks.

*Hertz: Like Enterprise, car rental company Hertz is ending discounts to NRA members.

*Avis and Budget: The company that owns the Avis and Budget rental car firms also plans to end discounts for NRA members.

*Symantec: The cybersecurity company’s LifeLock identity theft protection service for businesses and its Norton anti-virus software had both offered discounts to NRA members. Those deals are off.

*TrueCar: The online car-buying service is ending its deal for NRA members, who previously saved an average of nearly $3,400 off the retail price of new and used vehicles.

*MetLife: The insurer had offered discounts to NRA members on auto and home policies before axing the deal.

*SimpliSafe: The home security company had offered a special promotion to NRA members, but that ended Friday.

*First National Bank of Omaha: The financial institution cut an NRA-branded Visa credit card.

More:
* NRA hits back at United Airlines, Delta, other companies for cutting ties
* MetLife, rental car agencies dump NRA discounts
* NRA-branded Visa card dropped by First National Bank of Omaha
* Amazon, Google and Apple under pressure to remove NRA streaming channel


Ten Things You Can’t (Easily) Buy With Credit Cards
Michelle Crouch / Fox Business

(January 25, 2016) — Thanks to new technology and mobile card readers, you can use your credit card to buy just about everything these days, from candy in a vending machine to goods at a garage sale.

But there are still a few types of transactions you can’t use your credit card for, either because they’re high-risk, they attract a lot of fraud or they simply tend to give customers a bad case of buyer’s remorse, leading to disputes and charge-backs that are expensive for the credit card companies. Here are 10 things you can’t buy (or that are difficult to buy) with plastic:

1. Chips in a casino. Even though casinos are legal, make sure you bring cash if you’re planning to play the roulette table. Most states have gaming regulations that prohibit casinos from accepting a credit card for gambling chips, says Gary Thompson, a spokesman for Caesars Entertainment, which owns 52 casino resorts in seven countries.

Even without those rules, however, the industry’s own Responsible Gaming Program bars the practice. Of course, you can always use your credit card to get a cash advance, for a sizeable fee, at a casino ATM. Still, Thompson believes that extra step creates a psychological barrier. “If you run out of chips when you’re gambling, this forces you to get up, walk away from the table, apply for the cash advance, and then go the casino cage to get your chips,” he says. “What that does is give you time to think about whether you’re going over your cash-imposed limit. We believe it stops some people from doing something impulsive.”

2. Mutual funds and stocks. While there are reports of a few firms offering their best customers the option to buy shares with a credit card, most brokerage firms, even online ones, won’t allow it. “They want people to have skin in the game, to have real money at risk,” says Michael Thomsett, author of “Getting Started in Stock Investing and Trading. “If you really want to borrow money to buy shares, consider a margin account over a cash advance,” Thomsett says. In that type of account, usually available only to established investors, the securities you hold are collateral for a line of credit from the brokerage that you can use to buy more stock. The interest rate on a margin account is likely lower than the one on your credit card, and there are no ongoing payments to make. However, it does expose you to a higher level of risk, Thomsett says, so it’s an option best used only by experienced investors.

3. Money orders. This is another no-no, basically because you’d be borrowing money to buy cash. Most merchants, including the U.S. Postal Service and check-cashing locations, require you to use cash or a debit card to buy a money order. That restriction cuts down on fraud and makes it more likely that issuers will get their money. The occasional supermarket may allow you to buy a money order with a credit card, but be warned: Your bank will likely process the transaction as a cash advance, subject to a fee, higher interest rates than what you pay for purchases and no interest-free grace period.

4. Lap dances. Heading to a gentleman’s club for a bachelor party? Hit the ATM before you go. While your credit card will certainly be accepted for food and beverages, many adult clubs take only cash for lap dances or other services from the dancers, says Angelina Spencer, a former club owner and executive director of the Association of Club Executives, a trade association for the adult club industry. For one thing, Spencer jokes, it’s not easy to tuck a credit card receipt into a dancer’s G-string. But the real reason, she says, are customers with next-day regrets. “Too often we get someone having a really good time, and then later they say, ‘Oops, I didn’t really mean to do that,'” Spencer says. “When that happens, there’s not a lot of recourse.” A few clubs do take cards for services, but they may require a thumbprint as well as a signature to help prove the customer was actually there and authorized the charge.

5. Donation to WikiLeaks. Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and PayPal have said that they will not process donations intended for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, citing violations of their terms of service. (American Express and Discover were never accepted by WikiLeaks.) Beth Robertson, director of payments research at Javelin Strategy & Research, says card companies have long had a black list of groups associated with terrorists or other illegal activity. WikiLeaks was added to Visa and MasterCard’s lists after it released confidential State Department documents late last year; a series of attacks by WikiLeaks supporters that shut down the Visa and MasterCard websites further damaged its credibility. Critics say the card companies’ decision to block payments to a legal entity amounts to censorship. They note that you can still use your card to make donations to other controversial groups, including anti-abortion activists and the Ku Klux Klan.

6. Online pornography. While other card companies allow the purchase of legal adult material on the Internet, American Express has made online pornography off-limits to its customers since 2000. American Express spokeswoman Diana Postemsky says that the company has a policy of not doing business with illegal or high-risk industries. “Digital adult content just has unacceptably high levels of customer disputes,” Postemsky says, “and that raises our administrative costs because we have to bear the expense of handling those disputes.”

7. Medical marijuana. Again, American Express is more conservative than the other card networks on this issue. Although medical marijuana is legal in 16 states, you can’t buy it with an AmEx card. “Our decision was to adhere to federal law,” which prohibits any purchase of marijuana, even for medical reasons, Postemsky says. MasterCard, Visa and Discover do allow the purchase of medical marijuana with their cards, but MasterCard spokesman Jim Issokson said that as of Oct. 3, the company was evaluating its policy. “The issue of purchasing medical marijuana is an emerging issue, and we’re continuing to look into it,” he said. In a statement, he noted that “MasterCard does not permit its brand to be associated with anything illegal.”

8. Mortgage payment. Despite all the credit card rewards you could earn by putting your mortgage on your card every month, lenders simply won’t let you do this. That’s partly because they don’t want to pay credit card company merchant fees and partly because it’s risky. “They don’t want people to keep rolling balances and building up debt and never paying it off,” says Robertson of Javelin. American Express launched a program in 2007 to allow its more affluent customers to pay their mortgages with plastic, but the program died after the two lenders offering the service failed as part of the subprime mortgage crisis. San Francisco-based ChargeSmart will let you pay your mortgage with your card for a fee, typically 2% of the transaction amount.

9. Online gambling. Though there is a federal ban on online wagering, hundreds of overseas-based sites are operating and thousands of Americans play, making it a multi-billion-dollar industry. A 2006 law prohibits banks and credit card companies from transferring payments between gambling companies and individuals, so most of the sites don’t allow you to pay with credit cards. Instead, you can send a check or wire money. Efforts are being made at both the federal and the state level to overturn the law banning online gambling, but even if it changes, players may still be barred from using plastic to make payments, simply because of the high-risk nature of the transactions.

10. Lottery tickets. Many states prohibit the sale of lottery tickets with a credit card, but a few, including New York and Louisiana, allow it. Even in those states, however, many retailers do not offer you the option or if they do, your card company may charge you a hefty cash advance fee. If you do live in a state that allows it and want to pay with credit, you won’t be able to use American Express. The company does not allow its cards to be used to play the lottery, Postemsky says. As with other forms of gambling and online pornography, the company considers the practice too susceptible to disputes and other problems.

Related:

* JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America & Citi bar people from buying bitcoin with a credit card, CNBC, February 2, 2018

* “A List of the Companies Cutting Ties With the NRA,” The New York Times, February 24, 2018
https://act.moveon.org/go/34293?t=4&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

* “NRA battles Florida Republicans over gun crackdown,” <>i>Politico, February 26, 2018
https://act.moveon.org/go/34294?t=6&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

* “I’m Republican. I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban.” The New York Times, February 23, 2018
https://act.moveon.org/go/34295?t=8&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

* “NRA lashes out at boycott movement as United, Delta and other corporations cut ties,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2018
https://act.moveon.org/go/34296?t=10&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

* “Five Reasons You (And Your Friends) Should Join the NRA Today,” NRA Family, May 4, 2016
https://act.moveon.org/go/34297?t=12&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

* “Wall Street May Be Rethinking Their Relationship With Guns,” Bloomberg, February 22, 2018
https://act.moveon.org/go/34298?t=14&akid=200033%2E23936879%2EUFmQ9k

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

AR-15’s Are Not Designed for Self-Defense: They Are Murder Weapons

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

Dr. Ernest E. Moore / NBC News & Sarah Zhang / Wired Magazine & Rebecca Corral / KCBS – 2018-02-27 18:30:18

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/parkland-shooter-s-ar-15-was-designed-kill-efficiently-possible-ncna848346

The Parkland Shooter’s AR-15 Was Designed to Kill
Dr. Ernest E. Moore / NBC News

“I am a trauma surgeon, and I’ve seen what AR-15s can do. There’s no reason for civilians to own them.”

(February15.2018) — An assault rifle is designed to deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period; it has no other purpose. The AR-15, the civilian version of the military assault rifle (M16 or M4), has become the most commonly used rifle in US mass shootings; the recent shootings in Parkland and Las Vegas, for instance, testify to the effectiveness of this weapon’s design.

It was made for the military, to allow members of the armed forces to better dispatch multiple enemies in short order; in the hands of civilians, it not only clearly serves the same purpose for some individuals, but it’s unclear what other purpose it could serve, given how and why it was made.

Given that, there is no reason that these weapons should be broadly available to the civilian population. But, given that they are, let’s all understand how they are designed to kill people, not simply to shoot targets for fun.

The effectiveness of these weapons comes, first and foremost, from their ability to deliver relatively small sized, high velocity bullets in rapid sequence into a body, inflicting lethal damage.

The killing potential of a gun is primarily based on the amount of energy imparted by the bullet when it strikes the body. The bullet’s kinetic energy is equal to half of the bullet weight multiplied by the speed of the bullet when fired, squared — in other words, the velocity that a gun can impart on a bullet is the dominant factor in determining its killing potential.

The 9mm handgun is generally regarded as an effective weapon; its bullet travels at 1,200 feet per second and delivers a kinetic energy of 400 foot pounds. By comparison, the standard AR-15 bullet travels at 3,251 feet per second and delivers 1300 foot pounds.

Tissue destruction of the AR-15 is further enhanced by cavitation, which is the destruction of tissue beyond the direct pathway of the bullet; this occurs with high velocity bullets because their kinetic energies are over 2,500 foot pounds.

To compare again, a typical 9mm handgun wound to the liver will produce a pathway of tissue destruction in the order of 1-2 inches. In comparison, an AR-15 round to the liver will literally pulverize it, much like dropping a watermelon onto concrete results in the destruction of the watermelon. Wounds like this, as one sees in school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland where AR-15s were used, have high fatality rates.

The AR-15 is, by design, easier to shoot accurately and rapidly than a a typical hunting rifle because it mitigates recoil. The standard AR-15 bullet, as previously stated, carries kinetic energy of 1300 foot pounds; a typical hunting rifle bullet has between 2600 and 4000 foot pounds, meaning it has greater recoil.

The excessive recoil of a hunting rifle precludes rapid firing on target, because of the obligatory motion of the gun and its impact on the shooter. But the moderate energy of the AR-15 allows shooting on target literally as rapidly as the trigger can be pulled, while providing ample bullet speed to inflict lethal wounds.

The efficiency of the AR-15 is further compounded by large capacity ammunition magazines that permit feeding 30 or more bullets into the rifle without reloading.

Mass shootings with high fatalities are fundamentally the result of the combination of a deranged individual who wants to end the lives of a large number of random humans and his or her ability to access an assault rifle. And while there is no real debate about the need for improved mental health care in the United States, any discussion of limiting civilians’ access to assault rifles has been a political non-starter for far too long.

We’re not likely to be able to institutionalize every person who might be willing to commit a heinous crime, but we can take away their access to the most lethal weapon for doing so with a stroke of a pen.

As a trauma surgeon for 40 years (and avid hunter for much longer), I am dismayed that we remain paralyzed over preventive measures. There have already been 18 school shootings in 2018, when one would be too many: This cannot remain a political issue when it is clearly an issue of common sense.

Ernest E Moore, MD, is the editor of the Journal of Trauma.


The Damage of Bullets
Rebecca Corral / KCBS

Listen to the audio here.

SAN FRANCISCO (February 26, 2018) — Dr. Andre Campbell, Zuckerman San Francisco General Hospital, interviewed by Rebecca Corral:
“Instead of just entering the body and creating a cone of destruction a couple of inches around it, what it essentially does is it pulverizes and destroys tissue. Some people use the example of dropping a watermelon on the concrete and watching the destruction of the watermelon. That is what happens when an AR-15 assault rifle bullet enters the liver of someone.”

Corral: When than happens, there is no liver to patch up. The organ is destroyed. Multiply that by two, three, five or ten bullets, which a rapid-fire weapon can pump out and it’s a picture of devastation.

“It can destroy the entire blood supply to the arm. It can destroy muscles; it can also destroy bones.”

Corral: It’s like the ripple effect of a speedboat racing through water only this is a speeding bullet slamming through someone’s spleen, bowels, lung, liver – the energy blasting surrounding tissue into pulp.

“All it takes is one bullet to utterly devastate someone. A young 17-, 18-year-old-person, they have their entire life ahead of them. One minute, next minute they’re dead. It’s really a tragedy.”

Corral: So, when you read that 17 lives were lost – a simple phrase – Dr. Campbell wants people to understand what really happens.


What an AR-15 Can Do to the Human Body
Sarah Zhang / Wired Magazine

(June 17, 2016) — ALL GUNS CAN kill, but they do not kill equally.

Compare the damage an AR-15 and a 9mm handgun can do to the human body: “One looks like a grenade went off in there,” says Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona. “The other looks like a bad knife cut.”

The AR-15 is America’s most popular rifle. It has also been the weapon of choice in mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Aurora to San Bernardino. In Orlando this past week, the shooter used a Sig Sauer MCX, an AR-15 style rifle originally developed for special ops, to kill 49 people in the Pulse nightclub. The carnage sparked new calls to reinstate a ban on assault rifles like the AR-15, which were designed as weapons of war.

It’s possible to argue about everything when it comes to the politics of guns — including about the definition of “assault rifle” itself — but it’s harder to argue about physics. So let’s consider the physics of an AR-15.

A bullet with more energy can do more damage. Its total kinetic energy is equal to one-half the mass of the bullet times its velocity squared. The bullet from a handgun is — as absurd as it may sound — slow compared to that from an AR-15. It can be stopped by the thick bone of the upper leg. It might pass through the body, only to become lodged in skin, which is surprisingly elastic.

The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It’s relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone.

“It would just turn it to dust,” says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. If it hits the liver, “the liver looks like a jello mold that’s been dropped on the floor.” And the exit wound can be a nasty, jagged hole the size of an orange.

These high-velocity bullets can damage flesh inches away from their path, either because they fragment or because they cause something called cavitation. When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well — but much more violently.

The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss. A swath of stretched and torn tissue around the wound may die. That’s why, says Rhee, a handgun wound might require only one surgery but an AR-15 bullet wound might require three to ten.

Then, multiply the damage from a single bullet by the ease of shooting an AR-15, which doesn’t kick. “The gun barely moves. You can sit there boom boom boom and reel off shots as fast as you can move your finger,” says Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon at Denver Health and editor of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery, which just published an issue dedicated to gun violence.

Handguns kill plenty of people too, of course, and they’re responsible for the vast majority of America’s gun deaths. But a single bullet from a handgun is not likely to be as deadly as one from an AR-15.


I Made an Untraceable AR-15 ‘Ghost Gun’ In My Office

WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg puts new homemade gunsmithing tools to the test as he tries three ways of building an untraceable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle — a so-called “ghost gun” — while skirting all gun control laws.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The US Military Attempts a Political Coup in Vermont to Win Support for F-35 Jet

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

William Boardman / Reader Supported News & Ashley Curtin / NationofChange & Reuters – 2018-02-27 17:59:08

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/48673-focus-us-military-intervention-in-vermont-town-meeting

US Military Intervention in Vermont Town Meeting
General misleads voters on weapon of mass destruction F-35

William Boardman / Reader Supported News

(February 26, 2018) — There was a time when pretty much every American understood that the US Constitution provides for civilian control of the military. And there was a time when Americans understood that uniformed military were not to engage in civilian politics.

Generals were free to be presidents or other high-ranking officials, but not till they were out of the military. Retired officers remain subject to a less stringent military code regarding political activity. The current president relies on several former generals, despite the five-year ban on such service, because it was waived.

Civilian control of the military is bedrock American constitutionalism. The president is the commander in chief. There is no parity, it is not a negotiated relationship — we have civilian control of the military. And most military officers have understood that the correct response to that assertion was “Yes, Sir!”

That seems to have been some time ago, back before American militarism started to spin way out of control. That was when generals knew that if they dabbled in politics, they were taking a risk. Gen. Douglas MacArthur took the risk; President Truman fired him in April 1951. MacArthur knew he was risking his career in defying his commander in chief publicly, controversially, and dishonestly. Relieved of command, he accepted the legal consequence and faded away.

Although he is a 34-year veteran of military service, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray apparently doesn’t give a fig about civilian control of the military. General Cray is Vermont’s adjutant general, elected by civilians in the Vermont legislature.

General Cray is in charge of the Vermont Air National Guard — VTANG — and he has jumped into the political arena on the issue of the F-35. And if that weren’t reckless enough, he has played politics without integrity, and in violation of Army Regulations.

According to Command Policy, Army Regulation 600-20 (revised November 2014), both Chapter 5 (section 5-3) as well as Appendix B, section B-3 (see also military publications, i.e., Maj. Matt Parsons, Fort McCoy Judge Advocate) the rule is clear: a soldier will not:

Use official authority or position to interfere with an election, affect the course of an election, solicit votes for a candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others. [emphasis added]

In General Cray’s case, the issue is ballot item #6 on the Burlington town meeting warrant, asking city voters whether or not they want the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter based in a neighboring town, at an airport owned by Burlington.

The ballot item is advisory only and will have no force of law regardless of the result. A town meeting ballot item is a quintessentially civilian matter requiring no input from the military beyond an individual’s vote.

General Cray may well know that the military has no proper role in a town vote, but he has not honored it. For whatever reason, he has inserted himself inappropriately and dishonestly into a political process, using his military authority and position to influence voters in a civilian matter.

General Cray’s action is not merely dishonorable, it is an abuse of the power of his office. And General Cray’s action is fundamentally corrupt as a result of his huge, unaddressed, obvious conflict of interest. This is not an expression of traditional American constitutionality, it is behavior deserving of reprimand.

Bad as his behavior is, the substance of General Cray’s intervention is worse. It is fundamentally dishonest. He misrepresents a difference of opinion as if it were misinformation by the other side. This appears to be a form of lying.

The preamble to the ballot item reads: “Shall we, the voters of the City of Burlington, as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National Guard, and especially their mission to ‘protect the citizens of Vermont,’ advise the City Council to . . .” and it goes on to ask voters if they want the F-35 based in South Burlington or if they would prefer a quieter, less militarily aggressive mission for VTANG. [Emphasis added.]

General Cray’s opinion is that the ONLY way to “support” the Air Guard is to support the F-35 basing plan. That is his opinion and many share it. But it is only an opinion, not a fact. And General Cray’s is not the only opinion as to what constitutes “support.” That is an open question to be decided by civilian authorities.

When General Cray says that the ballot item “misleads the voter into thinking they are supporting the Air Guard,” he is not telling the truth. He cannot know what any voter thinks. He is implicitly claiming that his opinion IS the truth. He is flatly misrepresenting the ballot item.

There is a competing opinion as to what constitutes supporting the Air Guard. That different opinion is exactly what the ballot item expresses. That different opinion is that the Air Guard and Vermont are better served by a lower impact, less aggressively military mission than training pilots to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Those two different opinions are based on different values. The choice between them should be a civilian decision. Generals will almost always lean toward the more military choice, that’s their job. Civilians are militaristic all too often, but it is their government and their choice (at least in theory).

The F-35 is a $400-plus billion boondoggle with a projected lifetime cost of more than $1 trillion. Development began in 1992, and it is more than a decade behind schedule.

The F-35 has been plagued by problems: catching fire on the ground, catching fire in mid-air, and cutting off oxygen to pilots, among the most striking. The F-35 is a warplane, a first strike weapon that can deliver nuclear weapons much larger than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

General Cray would mislead people into believing that training F-35 pilots is the only mission available to VTANG, even though the Air Force said in court filings that another mission could and would be provided if necessary. General Cray is dishonest when he says, “There is no alternative mission being planned for the Vermont Air National Guard,” when he knows full well a new mission could be planned at a moment’s notice. He is stonewalling with a negotiating position he must know to be false.

General Cray’s approach to the F-35 is misleading, corrupt, and dishonest, as well as in clear violation of US Army Regulations (Chapter 5, section 3b):

5-3b. Participation in local nonpartisan political activities.

This regulation does not preclude participation in local nonpartisan political campaigns, initiatives, or referendums. A Soldier taking part in local nonpartisan political activity, however, will not —

1) Wear a uniform or use any Government property or facilities while participating.

2) Allow such participation to interfere with, or prejudice, the performance of the Soldier’s military duties.

3) Engage in conduct that in any way may imply that the Army has taken an official position on, or is otherwise involved in, the local political campaign or issue.

General Gray violated these rules when he called a press conference on a military base. General Cray wore his uniform while opposing the F-35 ballot item at a press conference at a military base. General Cray violated these rules by implying that the Army has taken an official position on the F-35 ballot item.

All that is shameful enough, but General Cray offers no honest rebuttal to those with a different opinion: that VTANG would be better supported by a mission other than learning to fly weapons of mass destruction designed to commit war crimes.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


F-35 Jet Program Budget Exceeds $406 Billion, Yet Universal Healthcare Too Costly
Ashley Curtin / NationofChange

(January 5, 2018) — While the F-35 jet program’s cost jumps to $406 billion from the original price tag of $379 billion, members of Congress continue to insist that the US is “too broke” to increase spending on programs that intend to improve education and healthcare within the country.

In an updated draft, which will be submitted to Congress this week, Lockheed Martin is asking for an additional $27 billion for the F-35 jet program budget, which is almost a 7 percent increase, according to BloomsMag.

After Donald Trump raved about his ability to form “better deals” with weapons manufacturers, the F-35 jet program is still the US’ most expensive weapons program to date, according to BloombergPolitics.

“We’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program and perhaps the F-18 program,” Trump said in a press conference last January. “And we’re going to get those costs way down, and we’re going to get the plane to be even better, and we’re going to have some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing. So we’ve been very very much involved.”

But the estimated increase was “largely driven” due to the longer production schedule. According to a statement by the Pentagon’s F-35 program office, the increase in cost was in “then-year” dollars and reflected the cover research, development, procurement and military construction.

“The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress,” Vice Admiral Mat Winter, the program’s manager, said in a statement, according to BloomsbergPolitics. “The F-35 office is committed to the delivery of cost-effective war fighting capability across all areas of the program and is aggressively pursuing affordability opportunities within our three lines of effort — Development, Production, Sustainment.”

Many are concerned that throughout the lifetime of the aircraft, tax payers will spend more than a trillion dollars on the program. As this figure continues to increase, many question why universal healthcare is unattainable in so many lawmakers’ minds.


Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Fighter Jet Program
Grounded by a Shortage of Spare Parts

Reuters

(October 26, 2017) — Spare parts for Lockheed Martin Corp’s stealthy F-35 fighter jets are not keeping up with demand according to a report out on Thursday from the US Government Accountability Office.

The report said “from January through August 7, 2017, F-35 aircraft were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time due to parts shortages.”

A Lockheed representative said the company is working with the F-35’s program office to understand every factor of the cost per flying hour and identify disciplined ways it can reduce the overall operations and sustainment costs of the F-35.

The shortages are expected to plague the fighter jet program for several years the report said. Partly to blame were “incomplete plans and funding that did not account for the long lead time parts.” In other instances, delays in the establishment of repair capabilities were blamed.

The US Department of Defense is maintaining more than 250 of the advanced F-35 jets and plans to triple the fleet by the end of 2021.

In February, the Pentagon made a deal for a batch of 90 of the fighter aircraft agreeing to pay below $95 million per F-35A model jet for the first time, compared with $102 million in the previous purchase.

The F-35 comes in three configurations: the A-model for the US Air Force and US allies; the B-model, which can handle short take-offs and vertical landings for the Marine Corps and British navy; and the carrier-variant F-35C jets.

Ten other nations including Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, South Korea, Britain are also customers.

Lockheed, the prime contractor, and its partners including Northrop Grumman Corp, United Technologies Corp’s Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems Plc have been working on building a more cost-effective supply chain to fuel the production line in Fort Worth, Texas.

In all, the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 jets.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, DC; editing by Diane Craft and Marguerita Choy

Underperforming F-35 Jet Needs a Boost to Take Off


Democrats and Progressives
Push US War Machine in Vermont

William Boardman / Reader Supported News

Donald Trump loves the F-35 and so does Burlington City Council – that is the real state of the union

(February 1, 2018) — This is a story primarily about corrupt practices by the Burlington City Council, in its headlong determination to force a neighboring city to be the base for a weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear capable F-35 fighter-bomber (in development since 1992, first flown in 2000, still not reliably deployable in 2018, at a cost of $400 billion and counting).

Yes, the premise itself is corrupt: Burlington owns the airport in South Burlington, so South Burlington has no effective say in how many housing units Burlington destroys in South Burlington to meet environmental standards for imposing the quiet-shattering F-35 jet on a community that doesn’t want it and won’t benefit from it. The entire “leadership” of the state of Vermont, mostly Democrats, has spent more than a decade making this atrocity happen, with widespread media complicity. And you wonder how we got Trump as President.

Opposition to basing the F-35 in a residential neighborhood is at least as old as the mindless official support, and the opposition has been much more articulate, thoughtful, and detailed. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and Burlington native, has been enthusiastic about militarizing his hometown from the start, treating it as if it should be seen as an honorable piece of pork from the military-industrial complex.

Independent senator Bernie Sanders, like Democratic congressman Peter Welch, has hedged slightly in his support, but neither has come close to a cogently articulated position, much less opposition. Governors of both parties have been cheerleaders, especially Peter Shumlin, who took a junket to Florida to listen to an F-35 and decided it wasn’t all that loud (which was shortly before he decided universal healthcare wasn’t all that necessary).

Democratic mayor Miro Weinberger, a self-described person-who-builds-things, capsulizes the ostrich view of the F-35, saying, “I think this decision was made a long time ago, and I have not heard a compelling reason to reopen it.” He’s like everyone else in Vermont leadership who has chosen to challenge the Pentagon’s Big Muddy argument (“the big fool said to press on”), regardless of how bogus Pentagon claims have become and despite their lack of compelling reasons to base the F-35 in Vermont.

After decades of falling behind schedule, the Air Force still doesn’t have an F-35 ready to deploy in Vermont before September 2019, if then. With this in mind, F-35 opponents at SAVE OUR SKIES FROM THE F-35s decided to try to get the F-35 question on the ballot for the Burlington town meeting on March 6, 2018.

After drafting the petition, the SOS organizers presented it for approval as to form by the Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood. Blackwood approved it. Volunteers gathered almost 3000 signatures in support of the petition, as approved by Blackwood. In the ordinary course of event, an approved petition with sufficient signatures goes on the ballot as presented.

That’s true even for petitions like the one from the Burlington Anti-War Coalition in 2005 calling for Vermont to bring US forces home from Iraq:
Full Resolution: “Shall the voters of the City of Burlington advise the President and Congress that Burlington and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and believe that the best way to support them is to bring them home now?”

The city council supported this resolution, it passed in every ward in the city (as well as in 46 other Vermont towns), and it had 65.2% voter support in Burlington.

That was easy in 2005, but thirteen years later, with a city council dominated by people calling themselves Progressives and Democrats, the idea of resisting the war machine became, somehow, troubling to at least three city councilors: Republican Kurt Wright, up for re-election, Independent David Hartnett, and council president Jane Knodell, a Progressive whose re-election to the council in 2013 was based in part on opposition to the F-35.

She later voted against Progressive proposals to bar the F-35 from Burlington International Airport or to delay any basing decision. A tenured professor of economics at the University of Vermont, Knodell is considered by one fellow councilor “probably the smartest person at the table.” She has acknowledged a desire to be mayor.

Confronted with a resolution that they opposed, Wright, Hartnett, and the “smartest person at the table” decided to abort the democratic process, and to do it dishonestly. They decided, without getting a single citizen’s signature, to put their own petition to the voters, with diametrically opposed effect. They made the city attorney wobbly. The process could hardly have been more corrupt in its intent. None of the three councilors responded to an email inquiry asking, “What are you thinking?”

The SOS petition endorsed by almost 3,000 voters is simple and direct:
“Shall we, the voters of the City of Burlington, as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National guard, and especially their mission to ‘protect the citizens of Vermont,’ advise the City Council to:

1) request the cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, and

2) request instead low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area?”

The SOS website offers 20 support notes and eight citations supporting the rationale of the petition. The Vermont National Guard mission — “protect the citizens of Vermont” — comes from the Guard’s website. SOS argues that “citizens of Vermont” includes the people, mostly poor and/or immigrant, whose houses are being destroyed and lives disrupted for the convenience of a warplane with no relevant mission in the region.

Knodell, Wright, and Hartnett started their hatchet job by chopping out the clause about the Guard’s mission protecting Vermonters. They didn’t say why, just let the collateral damage lie there. They lied by adding a clause at the end, “recognizing there may not be alternate equivalent equipment,” a lie of intent saved from being bold-faced by the inclusion of “may.”

This is the Pentagon’s position, that there is no Plan B, but that’s absolutely dishonest. The only reason there’s no Plan B is because the Pentagon has stalled on the issue for years. They could make a Plan B tomorrow if they so chose. The Knodell amendment looks like a deliberate poison pill added in perfect bad faith. That impression is reinforced when you get to the preambulatory “whereas-es” the Knodell team put before the resolution to weaken it further, but enough already.

The Knodell team didn’t just run afoul of honest behavior and reasonable democratic practice. Their plan to put their own resolution in place of a properly prepared one looked to be illegal as well as unconstitutional.

This set up a confrontation for the city council meeting of January 29, at which F-35 opponents were prepared to object to Knodell chicanery loudly and strongly. The outcome was an anticlimax. The council voted 10-2 (Knodell for it) to accept the SOS resolution as presented. Only Wright and Hartnett dissented.

Media coverage of the triumph of reasonable due process varied from straightforward to vaguely mocking to somewhat peevish to rather trivializing. None of the coverage talked about the attempted corruption procedure leading up to the vote, much less the corrupt cultural morass that the F-35 successfully masks with its stealth capability.

As currently assessed by the Pentagon, the F-35 can’t shoot straight and has more than 200 other deficiencies, but Australia is going ahead buying 100 of them. An Australian military strategic thinker observed dryly: “It’s disappointing that there’s still deficiencies turning up fairly regularly in an aircraft that we’re already going to get about ten years later than we originally thought.”

The March 6 vote on the resolution is only advisory, so even if there is overwhelming support for an alternative to the F-35, what are the odds of such a democratic choice prevailing? This is the Trump era. He’s asking for the next budget to have $716 billion in military spending, and Vermont seems to think getting some of that money is more important than anything else.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Normalizing Nukes in the Age of President Strangelove

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch & Rajan Menon / TomDispatch – 2018-02-27 17:52:42

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176390/tomgram%3A_rajan_menon%2C_normalizing_nukes%2C_pentagon-style/

Normalizing Nukes, Pentagon-Style
Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch

(February 26, 2018) — Despite the dystopian fantasies about nuclear terror and destruction that hit popular culture in the Cold War era and those “duck and cover” drills kids like me experienced in school in the 1950s, the American people were generally sheltered from a full sense of the toll of a nuclear cataclysm.

Consider, for instance, the US military’s secret 1960 Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP, for loosing the American arsenal against Russia and China at the height of the Cold War. Three thousand two hundred nuclear weapons were to be “delivered” to 1,060 targets in the Communist world, including at least 130 cities, most of which would, if all went according to plan, essentially cease to exist.

Estimates of casualties ran to 285 million dead and another 40 million injured (figures that undoubtedly underplayed the effects of both mass fires and radiation). Such a strike would, theoretically at least, only have been launched in retaliation for a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States, yet the figures don’t even include US casualties.

And mind you, those estimates were offered almost a quarter of a century before we learned even worse news. Thanks to the phenomenon of nuclear winter, a “war” of that sort would have been likely to threaten human survival on this planet.

Today, we know that even a far more localized and modest version — say, a South Asian nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan — could throw enough particulates into the stratosphere to block sunlight for significant periods and cause mass global starvation, threatening the deaths, it’s estimated, of perhaps a billion people across the planet.

In his new book, The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg, a man deeply involved in nuclear planning of the Cold War era (before he became the famed leaker of the Pentagon Papers), describes the situation:

“What none of us knew at that time — not the Joint Chiefs, not the president or his science advisors, not anyone else for the next two decades, until 1983 — were the phenomena of nuclear winter and nuclear famine, which meant that a large nuclear war of the kind we prepared for then or later would kill nearly every human on earth (along with most other large species).”

As you read TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon’s analysis of the first Nuclear Posture Review of the Trump era, think about the Pentagon’s urge to create ever more “useable” nuclear weapons and ever more advanced delivery systems for them. Then try to take in just what a path of folly we remain headed down — especially with a president once reportedly eager for “a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal” and proud beyond belief of the size of his “nuclear button.”

This is indeed the road to hell and it’s paved with the worst intentions imaginable.


Dr. Strangelove in the Pentagon:
Lowering the Nuclear Threshold and
Other Follies of the New
Nuclear Posture Review

Rajan Menon / TomDispatch

If you’re having trouble sleeping thanks to, well, you know who . . . you’re not alone. But don’t despair. A breakthrough remedy has just gone on the market. It has no chemically induced side effects and, best of all, will cost you nothing, thanks to the Department of Defense. It’s the new Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, among the most soporific documents of our era.

Just keeping track of the number of times the phrase “flexible and tailored response” appears in the 75-page document is the equivalent of counting (incinerated) sheep. Be warned, however, that if you really start paying attention to its actual subject matter, rising anxiety will block your journey to the slumber sphere.

Threats Galore
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the United States devoted $611 billion to its military machine in 2016. That was more than the defense expenditures of the next nine countries combined, almost three times what runner-up China put out, and 36% of total global military spending. Yet reading the NPR you would think the United States is the most vulnerable country on Earth. Threats lurk everywhere and, worse yet, they’re multiplying, morphing, becoming ever more ominous. The more Washington spends on glitzy weaponry, the less secure it turns out to be, which, for any organization other than the Pentagon, would be considered a terrible return on investment.

The Nuclear Posture Review unwittingly paints Russia, which has an annual military budget of $69.2 billion ($10 billion less than what Congress just added to the already staggering 2018 Pentagon budget in a deal to keep the government open), as the epitome of efficient investment, so numerous, varied, and effective are the “capabilities” it has acquired in the 17 years since Vladimir Putin took the helm. Though similar claims are made about China and North Korea, Putin’s Russia comes across in the NPR as the threat of the century, a country racing ahead of the US in the development of nuclear weaponry.

As the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler has shown, however, that document only gets away with such a claim by making 2010 the baseline year for its conclusions. That couldn’t be more chronologically convenient because the United States had, by then, completed its latest wave of nuclear modernization.

By contrast, during the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s economy contracted by more than 50%, so it couldn’t afford large investments in much of anything back then. Only when oil prices began to skyrocket in this century could it begin to modernize its own nuclear forces.

The Nuclear Posture Review also focuses on Russia’s supposed willingness to launch “limited” nuclear strikes to win conventional wars, which, of course, makes the Russians seem particularly insidious. But consider what the latest (December 2014) iteration of Russia’s military doctrine actually says about when Moscow might contemplate such a step: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, and also in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”

Reduced to its bare bones this means that countries that fire weapons of mass destruction at Russia or its allies or threaten the existence of the Russian state itself in a conventional war could face nuclear retaliation. Of course, the United States has no reason to fear a massive defeat in a conventional war — and which country would attack the American homeland with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and not expect massive nuclear retaliation?

Naturally, the Nuclear Posture Review also says nothing about the anxieties that the steady eastward advance of NATO — that ultimate symbol of the Cold War — in the post-Soviet years sparked in Russia or how that shaped its military thinking. That process began in the 1990s, when Russian power was in free fall. Eventually, the alliance would reach Russia’s border.

The NPR also gives no thought to how Russian nuclear policy might reflect that country’s abiding sense of military inferiority in relation to the United States. Even to raise such a possibility would, of course, diminish the Russian threat at a time when inflating it has become de rigueur for liberals as well as conservatives and certainly for much of the media.

Strangelove Logic
Russian nuclear weapons are not, however, the Nuclear Posture Review‘s main focus. Instead, it makes an elaborate case for a massive expansion and “modernization” of what’s already the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal (6,800 warheads versus 7,000 for Russia) so that an American commander-in-chief has a “diverse set of nuclear capabilities that provide . . . flexibility to tailor the approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances.”

The NPR insists that future presidents must have advanced “low-yield” or “useable” nuclear weapons to wield for limited, selective strikes. The stated goal: to convince adversaries of the foolishness of threatening or, for that matter, launching their own limited strikes against the American nuclear arsenal in hopes of extracting “concessions” from us. This is where Strangelovian logic and nuclear absurdity take over. What state in its right mind would launch such an attack, leaving the bulk of the US strategic nuclear force, some 1,550 deployed warheads, intact? On that, the NPR offers no enlightenment.

You don’t have to be an acolyte of the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz or have heard about his concept of “friction” to know that even the best-laid plans in wartime are regularly shredded. Concepts like limited nuclear war and nuclear blackmail may be fun to kick around in war-college seminars. Trying them out in the real world, though, could produce disaster. This ought to be self-evident, but to the authors of the NPR it’s not. They portray Russia and China as wild-eyed gamblers with an unbounded affinity for risk-taking.

The document gets even loopier. It seeks to provide the commander-in-chief with nuclear options for repelling non-nuclear attacks against the United States, or even its allies. Presidents, insists the document, require “a range of flexible nuclear capabilities,” so that adversaries will never doubt that “we will defeat non-nuclear attacks.”

Here’s the problem, though: were Washington to cross that nuclear Rubicon and launch a “limited” strike during a conventional war, it would enter a true terra incognita. The United States did, of course, drop two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities in August 1945, but that country lacked the means to respond in kind.

However, Russia and China, the principal adversaries the NPR has in mind (though North Korea gets mentioned as well), do have just those means at hand to strike back. So when it comes to using nuclear weapons selectively, its authors quickly find themselves splashing about in a sea of bizarre speculation. They blithely assume that other countries will behave precisely as American military strategists (or an American president) might ideally expect them to and so will interpret the nuclear “message” of a limited strike (and its thousands of casualties) exactly as intended.

Even with the aid of game theory, war games, and scenario building — tools beloved by war planners — there’s no way to know where the road marked “nuclear flexibility” actually leads. We’ve never been on it before. There isn’t a map. All that exists are untested assumptions that already look shaky.

Yet More Nuclear Options
These aren’t the only dangerous ideas that lie beneath the NPR‘s flexibility trope. Presidents must also, it turns out, have the leeway to reach into the nuclear arsenal if terrorists detonate a nuclear device on American soil or if conclusive proof exists that another state provided such weaponry (or materials) to the perpetrator or even “enabled” such a group to “obtain nuclear devices.”

The NPR also envisions the use of selective nuclear strikes to punish massive cyberattacks on the United States or its allies. To maximize the flexibility needed for initiating selective nuclear salvos in such circumstances, the document recommends that the US “maintain a portion of its nuclear forces alert day-to-day, and retain the option of launching those forces promptly.” Put all this together and you’re looking at a future in which nuclear weapons could be used in stress-induced haste and based on erroneous intelligence and misperception.

So while the NPR‘s prose may be sleep inducing, you’re unlikely to nod off once you realize that the Trump-era Pentagon — no matter the NPR‘s protests to the contrary — seeks to lower the nuclear threshold. “Selective,” “limited,” “low yield”: these phrases may sound reassuring, but no one should be misled by the antiseptic terminology and soothing caveats.

Even “tactical” nuclear weapons are anything but tactical in any normal sense. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki might, in terms of explosive power, qualify as “tactical” by today’s standards, but would be similarly devastating if used in an urban area. (We cannot know just how horrific the results would be, but the online tool NUKEMAP calculates that if a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb, comparable to Fat Man, the code name for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, were used on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, more than 80,000 people would be killed in short order.)

Not to worry, the NPR‘s authors say, their proposals are not meant to encourage “nuclear war fighting” and won’t have that effect. On the contrary, increasing presidents’ options for using nuclear weapons will only preserve peace.

The Obama-era predecessor to Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review contained an entire section entitled “Reducing the Role of US Nuclear Weapons.” It outlined “a narrow set of contingencies in which such weaponry might still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW [chemical or biological weapons] attack against the United States or its allies and partners.” So long to that.

The Shopping List — and the Tab
Behind the new policies to make nuclear weapons more “useable” lurks a familiar urge to spend taxpayer dollars profligately. The Nuclear Posture Review‘s version of a spending spree, meant to cover the next three decades and expected, in the end, to cost close to two trillion dollars, covers the works: the full nuclear “triad” — land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ones, and nuclear-armed strategic bombers. Also included are the nuclear command, control, and communication network (NC3) and the plutonium, uranium, and tritium production facilities overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The upgrade will run the gamut. The 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarines, the sea-based segment of the triad, are to be replaced by a minimum of 12 advanced Columbia-class boats. The 400 Minuteman III single-warhead, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, will be retired in favor of the “next-generation” Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, which, its champions insist, will provide improved propulsion and accuracy — and, needless to say, more “flexibility” and “options.”

The current fleet of strategic nuclear bombers, including the workhorse B-52H and the newer B-2A, will be joined and eventually succeeded by the “next-generation” B-21 Raider, a long-range stealth bomber. The B-52’s air-launched cruise missile will be replaced with a new Long Range Stand-Off version of the same. A new B61-12 gravity bomb will take the place of current models by 2020. Nuclear-capable F-35 stealth fighter-bombers will be “forward deployed,” supplanting the F-15E. Two new “low-yield” nuclear weapons, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and a sea-launched cruise missile will also be added to the arsenal.

Think of it, in baseball terms, as an attempted grand slam.

The NPR‘s case for three decades of such expenditures rests on the claim that the “flexible and tailored” choices it deems non-negotiable don’t presently exist, though the document itself concedes that they do. I’ll let its authors speak for themselves: “The triad and non-strategic forces, with supporting NC3, provide diversity and flexibility as needed to tailor US strategies for deterrence, assurance, achieving objectives should deterrence fail, and hedging.”

For good measure, the NPR then touts the lethality, range, and invulnerability of the existing stock of missiles and bombers. Buried in the review, then, appears to be an admission that the colossally expensive nuclear modernization program it deems so urgent isn’t necessary.

The NPR takes great pains to demonstrate that all of the proposed new weaponry, referred to as “the replacement program to rebuild the triad,” will cost relatively little. Let’s consider this claim in wider perspective.

To obtain Senate ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty he signed with Russia in 2010, the Nobel Prize-winning antinuclear advocate Barack Obama agreed to pour $1 trillion over three decades into the “modernization” of the nuclear triad, and that pledge shaped his 2017 defense budget request. In other words, President Obama left President Trump a costly nuclear legacy, which the latest Nuclear Posture Review fleshes out and expands.

There’s no indication that the slightest energy went into figuring out ways to economize on it. A November 2017 Congressional Budget Office report projects that President Trump’s nuclear modernization plan will cost $1.2 trillion over three decades, while other estimates put the full price at $1.7 trillion.

As the government’s annual budget deficit increases — most forecasts expect it to top $1 trillion next year, thanks in part to the Trump tax reform bill and Congress’s gift to the Pentagon budget that, over the next two years, is likely to total $1.4 trillion — key domestic programs will take big hits in the name of belt-tightening. Military spending, of course, will only continue to grow.

If you want to get a sense of where we’re heading, just take a look at Trump’s 2019 budget proposal (which projects a cumulative deficit of $7.1 trillion over the next decade). It urges big cuts in areas ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the Environmental Protection Agency and Amtrak. By contrast, it champions a Pentagon budget increase of $80 billion (13.2% over 2017) to $716 billion, with $24 billion allotted to upgrading the nuclear triad.

And keep in mind that military cost estimates are only likely to rise. There is a persistent pattern of massive cost overruns for weapons systems ordered through the government’s Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP). These ballooned from $295 billion in 2008 to $468 billion in 2015.

Consider just two recent examples: the first of the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, delivered last May after long delays, came in at $13 billion, an overrun of $2.3 billion, while the program to produce the F-35 jet, already the most expensive weapons system of all time, could reach $406.5 billion, a seven percent overrun since the last estimate.

Flexibility Follies
If the Pentagon turns its Nuclear Posture Review into reality, the first president who will have some of those more “flexible” nuclear options at his command will be none other than Donald Trump.

We’re talking, of course, about the man who, in his debut speech to the United Nations last September, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and later, as the crisis on the Korean peninsula heated up, delighted in boasting on Twitter about the size of his “nuclear button.”

He has shown himself to be impulsive, ill informed, impervious to advice, certain about his instincts, and infatuated with demonstrating his toughness, as well as reportedly fascinated by nuclear weapons and keen to see the US build more of them.

Should a leader with such traits be given yet more nuclear “flexibility”? The answer is obvious enough, except evidently to the authors of the NPR, who are determined to provide him with more “options” and “flexibility.”

At least three more years of a Donald Trump presidency are on the horizon. Of this we can be sure: other international crises will erupt, and one of them could pit the United States not just against a nuclear-armed North Korea but also against China or Russia. Making it easier for Trump to use nuclear weapons isn’t, as the Nuclear Posture Review would have you believe, a savvy strategic innovation. It’s insanity.

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2018 Rajan Menon

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

Pat Elder / The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy & World Beyond War – 2018-02-27 01:14:30

JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers

JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers
Pat Elder / The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy & World Beyond War

(February 16, 2018) — Nikolas Cruz, the south Florida shooter, was enrolled in the Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program as a 9th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Army taught Cruz to shoot lethal weapons at a very young and impressionable age.

Few in America have connected the dots between military indoctrination and firearms instruction on the one hand, and the propensity for training mass killers, whether their crimes are committed as enlisted soldiers in atrocities overseas or in American high schools.

Let’s examine the JROTC program and the militarization of Florida’s schools as a contributing factor to the Parkland massacre. When Cruz was apprehended he was wearing his JROTC polo shirt, sending a message to the world of his affiliation with the military program.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School practice in the school’s firing range.

There are 1,600 American high schools that enroll students in military-run marksmanship programs, teaching children as young as 13 to shoot lethal weapons. It’s probably not the wisest public policy.

The kids shoot .177 caliber lead pellets at 600 feet per second using CO2 propelled rifles. The Daisy Avanti 887, a cousin of Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun, is classified as a lethal weapon by the Army. Florida, along with a dozen other states, specifically prohibits carrying pellet guns into high schools, although the prohibition does not extend to the military. Pellet rifles are extremely dangerous and some are powerful enough to kill a boar.

Good Guns and Bad Guns?
It must be confusing to the 13-year-old mind. Broward County Schools has a strict anti-gun policy in place. The school system classifies pellet rifles as a “Class A” weapons, along with a variety of rifles, hand guns, and shotguns.

The use of lead projectiles in the nation’s high schools also threatens public health by spewing minute lead articulate matter into the air and on the floor at the muzzle end of the gun and at the target backstops. Children track the deadly particulates throughout the building. There is a linkage between firing pellet rifles indoors and elevated blood lead levels among participants.

JROTC programs in Florida and elsewhere were once plagued by low enrollment numbers which threatened to shut down the program. The military responded with a robust lobbying effort directed at states, aiming to allow students to satisfy normal, for-credit course requirements by taking the JROTC elective. Florida is most friendly to the military in this regard.

The state allows students enrolled in JROTC to satisfy the curricular requirements of physical education, biology, physical science, art, and life management. JROTC is regarded as an Advanced Placement course. Students earn 6 Quality Points toward their weighted GPA.

Many of these courses are taught by retired enlisted soldiers with no teaching credentials and little or no college education. Meanwhile, Broward schools require teachers to hold teacher certification and most must have a Master’s degree after a certain period of time.

JROTC programs in US schools are run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The school shooting programs are regulated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP). The program was set up by Congress after the Spanish-American War to ensure that large numbers of Americans knew how shoot guns in the event of a war.

The CMP is now a private entity with $160 million in assets. It sells discarded military rifles, pistols, and ammunition to the American public at the behest of Congress. The CMP downplays the health and safety concerns of the robust shooting program.
Each branch has its own curriculum and textbooks that teach a dangerous and reactionary version of American history.

The US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to save a million American lives.

The North Vietnamese fired on an innocent American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin.

History is taught as a kind of American Fait Accompli. American exceptionalism and the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy are enshrined values, next to accepting one’s place in the chain of command. The civics textbook has a unit entitled, “You the People” rather than “We the People.”

Schools exercise no curricular oversight. School districts across the country are allowing this intellectual straightjacket of a program to substitute for the arts. In addition, Broward’s schools host several dozen other military programs that work with the recruiting command to provide leads for recruiters. The military has also infiltrated the social media networks of high school children.

JROTC members frequently wear their uniforms to school and receive praise from their classmates, like the American reflex to support our troops. The Stoneman Douglas High School Marksmanship Program will be advancing to the Florida State championships this spring. Marksman 1st Lieutenant Diaz took first place in the standing rifle event during the last regional competition! It’s a big deal.

Children participate in shooting programs at tournaments hosted by the CMP and supported by the NRA.

The JROTC program is highly respected at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. All proceeds from the sale of the school’s branded products at the school’s “company store” help fund the JROTC battalion. Revenues from pizza sales also finance the JROTC program.

The Stoneman High JROTC Military Ball will be held on April 21st this year at the Marriot Heron Bay. Nikolas Cruz won’t be there.

Accused mass-killer Nikolas Cruz arrested wearing his JROTC T-shirt

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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