Archive for October, 2016

Stand with Standing Rock

October 31, 2016

faith convergence at Standing Rock

Taigen Dan Leighton taigen108@gmail.com

to Rebecca, Joan, Alan, Wendy, Soto-Zen-Membe., Shodo, Linda, Greg, Peter, dragonboard, Dragon, Doanryo

Dear Friends,
Thanks to all for sharing this Faith Convergence call for support of Native American water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, under ongoing attack by heavily armed police and Dakota Access pipeline security workers with tanks, rifles, pepper spray, helicopters:
http://www.clergyclimateaction.org/clergy_standing_with_standing_rock
I am unable to travel to Standing Rock myself in the next two months due to sangha and teaching commitments.
But I will give my weekly Dharma talk tonight about Standing Rock and the courageous stand of the Lakota and other native people on behalf of our water and world (and try to make that available as soon as possible).
My message in our monthly sangha e-mail sent out Friday included the following:
One of the most important and inspiring actions in the world now is the ongoing encampment at Standing Rock in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of other native peoples and their allies are protecting our water and standing firm against dangerous fracking oil pipelines, working to shift our energy use away from fossil fuels and toward a healthier future for our world.
For basic information, see [http://www.honorearth.org/daplsupport]. For how to help, see [http://sacredstonecamp.org/faq/#howtohelp.].
For fine comprehensive resources see the website of Soto Zen teacher Shodo Spring [https://vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/supporting-land-and-water-protectors-everywhere/].

Democracynow.org from this morning, Oct. 31, includes an update on the militarized attacks in the last few days against the Standing Rock encampment.
for peace and a safe world,
Taigen Leighton
Ancient Dragon Zen gate, Chicago

_______________________

Rebecca Solnit :

I know you all are doing heroic work already, but I just wanted to make this call available—to pass along, share, post, etc. I thought there might be a young zen person—maybe one of Roshi’s chaplains—who’d love to go out there.

And hello Wendy! Hope to see you one of these days, and I expect you’re glorying in this glorious rain.

deep bow,

Rebecca

__________________________

Joan Halifax :

dear ones, have cc’d wendy. tho calling her is best. thank you for all you are doing……………. standing with standing rock, r

Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax
Abbot, Upaya Zen Center
Santa Fe, NM
http://www.upaya.org

___________________________

Alan Senauke :

Good morning to all. First off, I am attaching the Sept 1 SZBA letter for your interest. Feel free to distribute.

My plan today is to sort through various messages and posts to see who is doing what. There is this call to faith leaders and I am looking at our Buddhist response. I wish I could go, but Laurie and I are headed to Nevada for four days of election work and BZC is in the middle of a practice committee to which I am committeed.

I spoke to Wendy Johnson a little while earlier—Does one of you have Wendy’s direct email? She and I are looking at responses to Standing Rock here in the Bay Area. Rebecca, have you heard of anyhting.

Seems to me the essential thing is to encourage people to participate and to use our extensive networks to get out informations.
Warmly,
Alan

____________________________

Rebecca Solnit :

I think the idea was sermons, statements, vigils, etc. If you want to say something about it, I will promote it like crazy—and I’ll try to find someone to ask about a faith leaders statement.

Or maybe Alan and I and maybe Dan should try to draft something for the Zen community to sign onto? It’s a climate/water/sovereignty/human rights/antiracism issue all rolled up into one, of course—

Rebecca

___________________________

Rebecca Solnit :

Sending love from Charleville–
__________

Faith leaders from all traditions called to stand with water protectors at Standing Rock
October 28, 2016

Written by Connie Larkman
A coalition of clergy, including United Church of Christ ministers, will be converging on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the banks of the great Missouri River next week, Nov. 2-4, called by an Episcopal priest who serves the community. Fr. Joseph Floberg is reaching out to interfaith friends to come stand with environmental advocates and the people of more than a hundred Tribal nations, in protection of the water and sacred lands, against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

“We will gather to stand witness to water protector’s acts of compassion for God’s creation, and to the transformative power of God’s love to make a way out of no way,” Floberg writes in an internet invitation. “I have been serving 25 years as the supervising priest of the Episcopal churches of Standing Rock in North Dakota. In recent days, the repressive power of the state has increased: armed riot police are guarding ongoing pipeline construction, increased arrests and repression of non-violent prayerful action.”

Hundreds have aligned with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in a several months-long effort to stop construction of the pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites. The reservation straddles North and South Dakota, with the camps housing the water protectors in the territorial lands just north of Cannon Ball, N.D. On Thursday Oct. 27, more than 140 people were arrested after officers in riot gear used pepper spray to drive people back from DAPL construction areas. Law enforcement from outside of the Dakotas is being deployed to keep water protectors in check. Last weekend, there were more than 100 arrests as well.

“I think the call for clergy is important,” said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of Lyndale UCC’s Center for Sustainable Justice in Minneapolis, Minn. She has already spent time at Standing Rock in solidarity with the Native people, is currently contesting the use of Minneapolis area deputies at the Standing Rock sites, and would like to get back there next week. “Water Protectors are under the threat of repression and violence from a highly militarized police presence. Indigenous leaders from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault to American Indian Movement founder Clyde Bellecourt have put out the call for witnesses, support and solidarity, especially from clergy.”

The Rev. Gordon Rankin, conference minister of the South Dakota Conference UCC is changing his schedule next week to make sure he can join his spiritual colleagues at the camp established by the Standing Rock tribe.

“While there have been countless visits to the Oceti Sakowin camp by interfaith allies and denominational contingents, this is the first coordinated gathering of religious leaders,” said Rankin. “Those who gather will be participating in an allied action of prayer with indigenous tribes from all over the world.”

The Rev. Todd Smiedendorf, senior minister of Washington Park United Church of Christ, in Denver, already had plans to go to Standing Rock this weekend with his wife, driving up on Saturday.

“It’s important for me to be there because this protection effort represents a most timely expression of Incarnating the Gospel,” Smiedenorf said. “There’s a lot in this situation that is rich in potential for change and for healing the First Nations, the United States, and the earth. We can make other choices in this moment as a nation than we have made for centuries; to honor the rights and desires of First Nation peoples, to choose the earth over short term financial profits.”

“As a religious leader in the Dakotas I am ever aware of just how shameful the church’s history is in relating to the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people. For decades the church had a direct hand in silencing their voices,” Rankin said. “Now it is time for us to stand on the right side of justice. Now it is time to amplify their voices. And that is what we gather to do.”

The Rev. Lise Sparrow, who serves Guilford Community Church United Church of Christ in Vermont had planned a later trip, but changed her arrangements to be there Nov. 3. “I am going with the blessing of my church. Our youth group travels to South Dakota every summer to work on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation so we feel a deep connection.”

“Certainly our stewarding of the earth and its peoples is a call rooted in the Judeo-Christian story,” Sparrow continued. “The Native peoples gathered are protecting sacred lands and opposing violence with prayer. I believe this is a time parallel to that of the Civil Rights Movement and one which is part of the trajectory we must follow toward justice. If clergy do not uphold a code of moral action for our nation who will?”

“I know this invitation is last-minute. But these are extraordinary circumstances,” Floberg writes. “I hope you will sit in prayer with this request, and I pray this may be the opening door that you have been searching for to engage with all that is happening here.”

“We gather to protect to the sacred,” said Rankin. “We are there to protect sacred burial sites made holy by the tears and prayers of those remembering ancestors interred there. We are also there to protect Mother Earth and remember the sacred call that all of us have received to steward her resources gently.”

“The intersection of creation care and First Nation rights calls my wife and me to witness and support the nonviolent protection of water and the Oyate (the People),” said Smiedenorf. “The abundant life of which Jesus spoke is to be found not in more oil production and more discounting of First Nation people, but in life more in harmony with the Way of Earth and in co-operation and empowerment of indigenous peoples.”

As Floberg writes, “Our duty as people of faith and clergy could not be clearer: to stand on the side of the oppressed and to pray for God’s mercy in these challenging times.”

Compelled to act, but can’t make the trip to North Dakota? – The UCC invites you to join this online statement of solidarity, a call to action already supported by more than 100 clergy in just a few hours.

“We are compelled by our faith to stand with the water protectors of Standing Rock, who have pricked the conscience of a nation and the world. In opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois, they have resolutely declared that they are not protestors but protectors and defenders acting out of a sacred obligation which affirms ‘water is life.'”

___________________________________

Stand with Standing Rock: Request for Your Support

Alan Senauke asenauke@gmail.com [aszb]

to Soto, AZTA

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kristin Barker
Date: Sun, Oct 30, 2016 at 8:50 PM

Dearest Teachers, Friends and Colleagues,

As the violence at the site of the the Dakota Access Pipeline protest grows, One Earth Sangha is inviting our community to lend support to the defenders of indigenous rights and the integrity of the land. In coordination with the Earth Holder’s Sangha (Thich Nhat Hanh tradition) and others in our broader Sangha, we’ve created this statement of solidarity with Standing Rock and call for active support.

Besides the statement itself, we’ve offered a short article providing some important context:
Home page article introducing the statement
Statement and call to action
As a leader in the Dharma, we invite you join this initiative. If you have signed the statement, we might like to feature your endorsement so please reply and just let me know to look for your signature.

Please also feel encouraged to circulate this widely within your community (see social media and sample email below). Furthermore, feel free to forward this email in full to other teachers and leaders who you think might provide their endorsement and enlist support from their Sanghas. Not surprisingly, my own networks are heavy on the Vipassana/Insight community so please feel especially empowered to share with leaders from other traditions.

Finally, we have just learned that an interfaith direct action is being organized for THIS Thursday at Standing Rock (I understand there will be a direct action training on Wednesday night). Let me know if you or others in your community might be interested and I’ll get you the details.

With gratitude to the people of Standing Rock for their awakened actions,
With love for you, the Dharma and our one precious Earth,

Kristin

Kristin Barker
Director and Co-Founder, One Earth Sangha
kristin@1earthsangha.org

Sharing Materials

Your organization’s website can link use these links:
Home page article introducing the statement
Statement and call to action (this contains some great art from the protector community)
If you wish to host the statement on your organization’s website and link to our signature form, just reply and I’ll help you set that up.

Social Media:
Facebook: Share this post or this link: https://oneearthsangha.org/articles/stand-with-standing-rock/
Twitter: Share this Tweet or this link: https://wp.me/P3LjZF-1Am
Sample email (excerpted from this article introducing the statement on our site):

[opening]: Greetings Sangha/community,

As the violence at the site of the the Dakota Access Pipeline protest grows, we have the opportunity, as a mindfulness/Buddhist community to lend support to the defenders of indigenous rights and the integrity of the land. You’re invited to endorse this Statement of Solidarity with Standing Rock and call for active support.
There is a time for silence and a time for speaking. The protectors at Standing Rock are not only challenging the Dakota Access Pipeline project but the fundamental logic of placing private profits over people and planet. The actions by the State of North Dakota, the US Government as well as a myriad of corporations, fossil fuel companies and banks have made clear that colonialism, the unethical and unlawful seizure of lands and waters by use of force, is alive and well, on display for all who have eyes to see.

Will we turn away from this suffering? If we stand by, what meaning does our wish for the welfare of all beings have? Without action, our warm-hearted expressions risk being relegated to mere sentimentality. What beings and views are being defended by the members of Standing Rock and what tactics are deployed in that defense? Likewise, what beings and views are being defended by the government enforcement agencies and what tactics are deployed in that defense?

If the stand taken by the Standing Rock and allied communities resonates, we invite you to get involved. Just as the giving of dana (or generosity) represents a powerful opportunity to enact our understanding of the teachings, so too does a moment of standing against systemic harm and injustice in the defense of people, their descendants and all the other beings and ecosystems impacted.
dapl-protest
I invite you join me in taking a stand for Standing Rock by signing this pledge and following through with the calls to action.
Stand with Standing Rock
[Closing]


Hozan Alan Senauke
1933 Russell Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
http://www.clearviewproject.org
__._,_.___

All Governments Lie, The Movie

October 31, 2016

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/30/2016 at 20:13:09

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Picture, if you will, video footage of vintage (early 2016) Donald Trump buffoonery with the CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves commenting on major media’s choice to give Trump vastly more air time than other candidates: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

That’s the introduction to a powerful critique of the U.S. media. A new film screens in New York and Los Angeles this week called All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone.

The website AllGovernmentsLie.com has screening dates, a list of lies, and a list of good journalists who expose lies. The lists on the website are not identical to the content of the film, but there’s a good deal of overlap — enough to give you a sense of what this project is about.

I’d have made various changes and additions to the film. In particular, I’m tired of all the focus on Iraq 2003. This film touches on war lies since then, but still gives that one particular set of war lies prominence.

Still, this is a film that should be shown in cities, homes, and classrooms across the United States. It includes and is driven by Noam Chomsky’s analysis of how the media system is “rigged” without those doing the rigging believing they’ve done anything at all. It’s a survey of skullduggery by corporate media. It’s an introduction to numerous journalists far superior to the norm. And it’s an introduction to I.F. Stone. It includes footage of a presentation of the annual Izzy Award which goes to journalists acting in Stone’s tradition.

One of the lies listed in the film and on the website is that of the Gulf of Tonkin (non-)Incident. Anyone paying attention knows of it now as a war lie. And it was a transparent war lie at the time in a particular sense. That is: had the North Vietnamese really shot back at a U.S. ship off their coast, that would not have been any sort of legal, much less moral, justification for escalating a war. I’d love it if people could grasp that logic and apply it to the Black Sea, the Red Sea, and every other part of the earth today.

But the Gulf of Tonkin lies about Vietnamese aggression against the U.S. ships innocently patrolling and firing off the coast of Vietnam were not transparent to people with faith in the U.S. role of Global Policeman. Someone had to make the lies transparent. Someone had to document that in fact the Secretary of So-Called Defense and the President were lying. Sadly, nobody did that in the first 24 hours after the Congressional committee hearings, and that was all it took for Congress to hand the president a war.

And it was decades before White House transcripts came out and before the National Security Agency confessed, and additional years before former Secretary Robert McNamara did. Yet, those revelations simply confirmed what people paying attention knew. And they knew it because of I.F. Stone who just weeks after the (non-)incident published a four-page edition of his weekly newsletter exclusively about Tonkin.

Stone’s analysis is useful in looking at the incident or lack thereof this past month in the Red Sea off Yemen. And in fact it is to Yemen that Stone immediately turned on page 1 in 1964. The United Nations, including its U.S. ambassador, had recently condemned British attacks on Yemen that Britain defended as retaliatory. President Dwight Eisenhower had also warned the French against retaliatory attacks on Tunisia. And President Lyndon Johnson, even at the time of Tonkin, Stone notes, was warning Greece and Turkey not to engage in retaliatory attacks on each other.

Stone, who tended to look even at written laws that nobody else paid any heed to, pointed out that three of them banned these sorts of attacks: the League of Nations Covenant, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the U.N. Charter. The latter two are still theoretically in place for the U.S. government.

The United States in Vietnam, Stone goes on to show, could not have been innocently attacked but itself admitted to having already sunk a number of Vietnamese boats. And indeed the U.S. ships, Stone reports, were in North Vietnamese waters and were there to assist South Vietnamese ships that were shelling two North Vietnamese islands. And in fact those ships had been supplied to South Vietnam by the U.S. military and the good old American tax payers.

Stone did not have access to closed committee hearings, but he hardly needed it. He considered the assertions made in speeches by the only two senators who voted against the war. And then he looked for any rejoinders by the chairmen of the committees. He found their denials to be non-denials and nonsensical. It made no sense that the U.S. ships simply happened to be randomly hanging around in the vicinity of the South Vietnamese ships. Stone didn’t believe it.

Stone also filled in the background information. The United States had been supporting guerrilla attacks on North Vietnam for years prior to the non-incident. And Stone raised numerous suspicions, including the question of why the U.S. ships had supposedly made sure they were out in international waters for the (non-)incident to (not) occur, and the question of why in the world Vietnam would take on the United States military (something nobody could explain, though Eugene McCarthy proposed that perhaps they had been bored).

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Missing from the film and website of All Governments Lie is I.F. Stone’s work on lies about the outbreak of the Korean War. We’ve learned more since he wrote it, but seen little more insightful, relevant, or timely for our understanding of Korea and the world today.

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David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)

Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99

October 29, 2016

David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
10:00 AM (6 hours ago)

Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5326

Michael Moore has made some terrific movies in the past, and Where to Invade Next may be the best of them, but I expected Trumpland to be (1) about Trump, (2) funny, (3) honest, (4) at least relatively free of jokes glorifying mass murder. I was wrong on all counts and would like my $4.99 back, Michael.

Moore’s new movie is a film of him doing a stand-up comedy show about how wonderfully awesome Hillary Clinton is — except that he mentions Trump a bit at the beginning and he’s dead serious about Clinton being wonderfully awesome.

This film is a text book illustration of why rational arguments for lesser evilist voting do not work. Lesser evilists become self-delusionists. They identify with their lesser evil candidate and delude themselves into adoring the person. Moore is not pushing the “Elect her and then hold her accountable” stuff. He says we have a responsibility to “support her” and “get behind her,” and that if after two years — yes, TWO YEARS — she hasn’t lived up to a platform he’s fantasized for her, well then, never fear, because he, Michael Moore, will run a joke presidential campaign against her for the next two years (this from a guy who backed restricting the length of election campaigns in one of his better works).

Moore maintains that virtually all criticism of Hillary Clinton is nonsense. What do we think, he asks, that she asks how many millions of dollars you’ve put into the Clinton Foundation and then she agrees to bomb Yemen for you? Bwahahaha! Pretty funny. Except that Saudi Arabia put over $10 million into the Clinton Foundation, and while she was Secretary of State Boeing put in another $900,000, upon which Hillary Clinton reportedly made it her mission to get the planes sold to Saudi Arabia, despite legal restrictions — the planes now dropping U.S.-made bombs on Yemen with U.S. guidance, U.S. refueling mid-air, U.S. protection at the United Nations, and U.S. cover in the form of pop-culture distraction and deception from entertainers like Michael Moore.

Standing before a giant Air Force missile and enormous photos of Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore claims that substantive criticism of Clinton can consist of only two things, which he dismisses in a flash: her vote for a war on Iraq and her coziness with Wall Street. He says nothing more about what that “coziness” consists of, and he claims that she’s more or less apologized and learned her lesson on Iraq.

What? It wasn’t one vote. It was numerous votes to start the war, fund it, and escalate it. It was the lies to get it going and keep it going. It’s all the other wars before and since.

She says President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.
She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.
She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009.
She has backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.
She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.
She does not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.
She has consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.
She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.
She has not hesitated to warn that she could obliterate Iran.
She is eager to antagonize Russia.
She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.
She has the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.
She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.
She supported President Bill Clinton’s wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.
She has advocated for arming fighters in Syria and for a “No Fly” zone.
She supported a surge in Iraq even before President Bush did.
That’s just her war problem. What about her banking problem, prison problem, fracking problem, corporate trade problem, corporate healthcare problem, climate change problem, labor problem, Social Security problem, etc.?

Moore parts company from substantive critique in order to lament unproven rightwing claims that Hillary Clinton has murdered various people. “I hope she did,” screams Moore. “That’s who I want as Commander in Chief!” Hee hee hee.

Then Moore shamelessly pushes the myth that Hillary tried to create single-payer, or at least “universal” healthcare (whatever that is) in the 1990s. In fact, as I heard Paul Wellstone tell it, single-payer easily won the support of Clinton’s focus group, but she buried it for her corporate pals and produced the phonebook-size monstrosity that was dead on arrival but reborn in another form years later as Obamacare. She killed single-payer then, has not supported it since, and does not propose it now. (Well, she does admit in private that it’s the only thing that works, as her husband essentially blurts out in public.) But Moore claims that because we didn’t create “universal” healthcare in the 1990s we all have the blood of millions on our hands, millions whom Hillary would have saved had we let her.

Moore openly fantasizes: what would it be like if Hillary Clinton is secretly progressive? Remember that Moore and many others did the exact same thing with Obama eight years ago. To prove Clinton’s progressiveness Moore plays an audio clip of her giving a speech at age 22 in which she does not hint at any position on any issue whatsoever.

Mostly, however, Moore informs us that Hillary Clinton is female. He anticipates “that glorious moment when the other gender has a chance to run this world and kick some righteous ass.” Now tell me please, dear world, if your ass is kicked by killers working for a female president will you feel better about it? How do you like Moore’s inclusive comments throughout his performance: “We’re all Americans, right?”

Moore’s fantasy is that Clinton will dash off a giant pile of executive orders, just writing Congress out of the government — executive orders doing things like releasing all nonviolent drug offenders from prison immediately (something the real Hillary Clinton would oppose in every way she could).

But when he runs for president, Moore says, he’ll give everybody free drugs.

I’ll tell you the Clinton ad I’d like to see. She’s standing over a stove holding an egg. “This is your brain,” she says solemnly, cracking it into the pan with a sizzle. “This is your brain on partisanship.”

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Public vs. Media on War

October 28, 2016

David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
9:30 AM (5 hours ago)

to me
Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99

Disobey or Die

Public vs. Media on War

The U.S. National Bird Is Now a Drone

Talk Nation Radio: Timeka Drew on Protecting Voter Rights

Slavery Was Abolished

David Swanson: “We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war”

We Can End War – David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016

Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria

Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Rigged

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[ICAN] BREAKING NEWS: UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017

October 27, 2016

Fwd: [ICAN] BREAKING NEWS: UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017
Inbox
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Akira Kawasaki kawasaki@peaceboat.gr.jp via post.freeml.com
5:50 PM (12 minutes ago)

to abolition-japan
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Tim Wright (ICAN)
Date: 2016-10-28 7:14 GMT+09:00
Subject: [ICAN] BREAKING NEWS: UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017
To: ICAN Campaigners

** Please disseminate, translate and adapt for local use.**

http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/un-votes-to-outlaw-nuclear-weapons-in-2017/

UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017
October 27, 2016

NEW YORK – The United Nations today adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions – inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament,” she said.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.

Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.

Today’s resolution, known as L.41, acts upon the key recommendation of a UN working group on nuclear disarmament that met in Geneva this year to assess the merits of various proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

It also follows three major intergovernmental conferences examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013 and 2014. These gatherings helped reframe the nuclear weapons debate to focus on the harm that such weapons inflict on people.

The conferences also enabled non-nuclear-armed nations to play a more assertive role in the disarmament arena. By the third and final conference, which took place in Vienna in December 2014, most governments had signalled their desire to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Following the Vienna conference, ICAN was instrumental in garnering support for a 127-nation diplomatic pledge, known as the humanitarian pledge, committing governments to cooperate in efforts “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.

Throughout this process, victims and survivors of nuclear weapon detonations, including nuclear testing, have contributed actively. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and an ICAN supporter, has been a leading proponent of a ban.

“This is a truly historic moment for the entire world,” she said following today’s vote. “For those of us who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is a very joyous occasion. We have been waiting so long for this day to come.”

“Nuclear weapons are absolutely abhorrent. All nations should participate in the negotiations next year to outlaw them. I hope to be there myself to remind delegates of the unspeakable suffering that nuclear weapons cause. It is all of our responsibility to make sure that such suffering never happens again.”

There are still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the arsenals of just two nations: the United States and Russia. Seven other nations possess nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

All nine nuclear-armed nations either voted against the UN resolution or abstained. Many of their allies, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory as part of a NATO arrangement, also failed to support the resolution.

But the nations of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, and are likely to be key players at the negotiating conference in New York next year.

On Monday, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the negotiations and to bring them “to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also appealed to governments to support this process, stating on 12 October that the international community has a “unique opportunity” to achieve a ban on the “most destructive weapon ever invented”.

“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight,” concluded Fihn. “But it will establish a powerful new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”

In particular, the treaty will place great pressure on nations that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons to end this practice, which in turn will create pressure for disarmament action by the nuclear-armed nations.

[ENDS]

The Doctrine of Armed Exceptionalism (Tomgram: by William Hartung, & Tom Engelhardt )

October 27, 2016

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: We’re proud to note that Nick Turse’s remarkable work for this website (and elsewhere) on the shadowy use of American Special Operations forces globally has been named Project Censored’s number one story of 2015-2016. Click here for Turse’s latest TD piece on the subject and expect more revelations in the months to come. Congratulations, Nick! Tom]

War, what is it good for? In America, the answer is that, much of the time, you’ll probably never know what it’s good for — or, in some cases, even notice that we’re at war. Right now, the U.S. is ever more deeply involved in significant conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and increasingly Yemen — at least five ongoing wars in the Greater Middle East. Yet, in the midst of Election 2016, with the single exception of the long-proclaimed, long-awaited Iraqi-Kurdish offensive against Islamic State militants in the city of Mosul (with U.S. advisers on the frontlines and U.S. Apache helicopter crews in the air), the rest of our spreading military actions might as well be taking place on Mars.

The Taliban has recently attacked two Afghan cities and is gaining ground nationwide; Afghan military casualties have been soaring; and American planes and advisers have been let loose there in a fashion unseen since 2014. Neither presidential candidate has offered a peep on the subject, nor has there been a question about that now-15-year-old war in any of the “debates.” (They must be rigged!) In Syria, the U.S. air campaign continues, largely unnoticed, while Washington tries to broker a deal between the Turks and the Kurds (think Hatfields and McCoys) for an offensive to take ISIS’s “capital” Raqqa. (Good luck on that twosome working together!)

The New York Times recently described the expanding but under-the-radar American war against the al-Shabab terror movement in Somalia this way: “Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the ‘Black Hawk Down’ battle in 1993… It carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.”

As for Libya — oh, yes, Washington is in action there, too, even if you never hear about it — the U.S. Air Force (drones, jets, and helicopters) has doubled its air strikes against ISIS militants in the last month: 163 of them. And, of course, there’s Yemen where the U.S. seems to be stumbling directly into a new war without the slightest notice to Congress or the American people. American destroyers have been responding to “missile attacks” that — shades of the Tonkin Gulf incident of the Vietnam War era — may or may not have happened by firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in territory occupied by the Houthi rebels. This in a country already under siege from a brutal American-backed Saudi air campaign, significantly aimed at its impoverished civilian population, and wracked by an expanding al-Qaeda operation. Even what those destroyers are doing so close to the Yemeni coast is never discussed.

Add it all up and one classic TomDispatch question comes to mind: What could possibly go wrong? Especially since, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung points out today, it’s all sunshine when it comes to one great war-fighting fact: the Pentagon’s budget is already coming up roses and no matter who enters the Oval Office, it’s only going to get bigger. So buckle up that seat belt, it’s war, American-style, and taxpayer dollars to the horizon. Tom

The Urge to Splurge
Why Is It So Hard to Reduce the Pentagon Budget?
By William D. Hartung

Through good times and bad, regardless of what’s actually happening in the world, one thing is certain: in the long run, the Pentagon budget won’t go down.

It’s not that that budget has never been reduced. At pivotal moments, like the end of World War II as well as war’s end in Korea and Vietnam, there were indeed temporary downturns, as there was after the Cold War ended. More recently, the Budget Control Act of 2011 threw a monkey wrench into the Pentagon’s plans for funding that would go ever onward and upward by putting a cap on the money Congress could pony up for it. The remarkable thing, though, is not that such moments have occurred, but how modest and short-lived they’ve proved to be.

Take the current budget. It’s down slightly from its peak in 2011, when it reached the highest level since World War II, but this year’s budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is nothing to sneeze at. It comes in at roughly $600 billion — more than the peak year of the massive arms build-up initiated by President Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. To put this figure in perspective: despite troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping sharply over the past eight years, the Obama administration has still managed to spend more on the Pentagon than the Bush administration did during its two terms in office.

What accounts for the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year?

Pillar one supporting that edifice: ideology. As long as most Americans accept the notion that it is the God-given mission and right of the United States to go anywhere on the planet and do more or less anything it cares to do with its military, you won’t see Pentagon spending brought under real control. Think of this as the military corollary to American exceptionalism — or just call it the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, if you will.

The second pillar supporting lavish military budgets (and this will hardly surprise you): the entrenched power of the arms lobby and its allies in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The strategic placement of arms production facilities and military bases in key states and Congressional districts has created an economic dependency that has saved many a flawed weapons system from being unceremoniously dumped in the trash bin of history.

Lockheed Martin, for instance, has put together a handy map of how its troubled F-35 fighter jet has created 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The actual figures are, in fact, considerably lower, but the principle holds: having subcontractors in dozens of states makes it harder for members of Congress to consider cutting or slowing down even a failed or failing program. Take as an example the M-1 tank, which the Army actually wanted to stop buying. Its plans were thwarted by the Ohio congressional delegation, which led a fight to add more M-1s to the budget in order to keep the General Dynamics production line in Lima, Ohio, up and running. In a similar fashion, prodded by the Missouri delegation, Congress added two different versions of Boeing’s F-18 aircraft to the budget to keep funds flowing to that company’s St. Louis area plant.

The one-two punch of an environment in which the military can do no wrong, while being outfitted for every global task imaginable, and what former Pentagon analyst Franklin “Chuck” Spinney has called “political engineering,” has been a tough combination to beat.

“Scare the Hell Out of the American People”

The overwhelming consensus in favor of a “cover the globe” military strategy has been broken from time to time by popular resistance to the idea of using war as a central tool of foreign policy. In such periods, getting Americans behind a program of feeding the military machine massive sums of money has generally required a heavy dose of fear.

For example, the last thing most Americans wanted after the devastation and hardship unleashed by World War II was to immediately put the country back on a war footing. The demobilization of millions of soldiers and a sharp cutback in weapons spending in the immediate postwar years rocked what President Dwight Eisenhower would later dub the “military-industrial complex.”

As Wayne Biddle has noted in his seminal book Barons of the Sky, the U.S. aerospace industry produced an astonishing 300,000-plus military aircraft during World War II. Not surprisingly, major weapons producers struggled to survive in a peacetime environment in which government demand for their products threatened to be a tiny fraction of wartime levels.

Lockheed President Robert Gross was terrified by the potential impact of war’s end on his company’s business, as were many of his industry cohorts. “As long as I live,” he said, “I will never forget those short, appalling weeks” of the immediate postwar period. To be clear, Gross was appalled not by the war itself, but by the drop off in orders occasioned by its end. He elaborated in a 1947 letter to a friend: “We had one underlying element of comfort and reassurance during the war. We knew we’d get paid for anything we built. Now we are almost entirely on our own.”

The postwar doldrums in military spending that worried him so were reversed only after the American public had been fed a steady, fear-filled diet of anti-communism. NSC-68, a secret memorandum the National Security Council prepared for President Harry Truman in April 1950, created the template for a policy based on the global “containment” of communism and grounded in a plan to encircle the Soviet Union with U.S. military forces, bases, and alliances. This would, of course, prove to be a strikingly expensive proposition. The concluding paragraphs of that memorandum underscored exactly that point, calling for a “sustained buildup of U.S. political, economic, and military strength… [to] frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will.”

Senator Arthur Vandenberg put the thrust of this new Cold War policy in far simpler terms when he bluntly advised President Truman to “scare the hell out of the American people” to win support for a $400 million aid plan for Greece and Turkey. His suggestion would be put into effect not just for those two countries but to generate support for what President Eisenhower would later describe as “a permanent arms establishment of vast proportions.”

Industry leaders like Lockheed’s Gross were poised to take advantage of such planning. In a draft of a 1950 speech, he noted, giddily enough, that “for the first time in recorded history, one country has assumed global responsibility.” Meeting that responsibility would naturally mean using air transport to deliver “huge quantities of men, food, ammunition, tanks, gasoline, oil and thousands of other articles of war to a number of widely separated places on the face of the earth.” Lockheed, of course, stood ready to heed the call.

The next major challenge to armed exceptionalism and to the further militarization of foreign policy came after the disastrous Vietnam War, which drove many Americans to question the wisdom of a policy of permanent global interventionism. That phenomenon would be dubbed the “Vietnam syndrome” by interventionists, as if opposition to such a military policy were a disease, not a position. Still, that “syndrome” carried considerable, if ever-decreasing, weight for a decade and a half, despite the Pentagon’s Reagan-inspired arms build-up of the 1980s.

With the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Washington decisively renewed its practice of responding to perceived foreign threats with large-scale military interventions. That quick victory over Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait was celebrated by many hawks as the end of the Vietnam-induced malaise. Amid victory parades and celebrations, President George H.W. Bush would enthusiastically exclaim: “And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

However, perhaps the biggest threat since World War II to an “arms establishment of vast proportions” came with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, also in 1991. How to mainline fear into the American public and justify Cold War levels of spending when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, the primary threat of the previous nearly half-a-century, had just evaporated and there was next to nothing threatening on the horizon? General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up the fears of that moment within the military and the arms complex when he said, “I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il-sung.”

In reality, he underestimated the Pentagon’s ability to conjure up new threats. Military spending did indeed drop at the end of the Cold War, but the Pentagon helped staunch the bleeding relatively quickly before a “peace dividend” could be delivered to the American people. Instead, it put a firm floor under the fall by announcing what came to be known as the “rogue state” doctrine. Resources formerly aimed at the Soviet Union would now be focused on “regional hegemons” like Iraq and North Korea.

Fear, Greed, and Hubris Win the Day

After the 9/11 attacks, the rogue state doctrine morphed into the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which neoconservative pundits soon labeled “World War IV.” The heightened fear campaign that went with it, in turn, helped sow the seeds for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was promoted by visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities and a drumbeat of Bush administration claims (all false) that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda. Some administration officials including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even suggested that Saddam was like Hitler, as if a modest-sized Middle Eastern state could somehow muster the resources to conquer the globe.

The administration’s propaganda campaign would be supplemented by the work of right-wing corporate-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. And no one should be surprised to learn that the military-industrial complex and its money, its lobbyists, and its interests were in the middle of it all. Take Lockheed Martin Vice President Bruce Jackson, for example. In 1997, he became a director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and so part of a gaggle of hawks including future Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and future Vice President Dick Cheney. In those years, PNAC would advocate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as part of its project to turn the planet into an American military protectorate. Many of its members would, of course, enter the Bush administration in crucial roles and become architects of the GWOT and the invasion of Iraq.

The Afghan and Iraq wars would prove an absolute bonanza for contractors as the Pentagon budget soared. Traditional weapons suppliers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing prospered, as did private contractors like Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, which made billions providing logistical support to U.S. troops in the field. Other major beneficiaries included firms like Blackwater and DynCorp, whose employees guarded U.S. facilities and oil pipelines while training Afghan and Iraqi security forces. As much as $60 billion of the funds funneled to such contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan would be “wasted,” but not from the point of view of companies for which waste could generate as much profit as a job well done. So Halliburton and its cohorts weren’t complaining.

On entering the Oval Office, President Obama would ditch the term GWOT in favor of “countering violent extremism” — and then essentially settle for a no-name global war. He would shift gears from a strategy focused on large numbers of “boots on the ground” to an emphasis on drone strikes, the use of Special Operations forces, and massive transfers of arms to U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia. In the context of an increasingly militarized foreign policy, one might call Obama’s approach “politically sustainable warfare,” since it involved fewer (American) casualties and lower costs than Bush-style warfare, which peaked in Iraq at more than 160,000 troops and a comparable number of private contractors.

Recent terror attacks against Western targets from Brussels, Paris, and Nice to San Bernardino and Orlando have offered the national security state and the Obama administration the necessary fear factor that makes the case for higher Pentagon spending so palatable. This has been true despite the fact that more tanks, bombers, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons will be useless in preventing such attacks.

The majority of what the Pentagon spends, of course, has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. But whatever it has or hasn’t been called, the war against terror has proven to be a cash cow for the Pentagon and contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

The “war budget” — money meant for the Pentagon but not included in its regular budget — has been used to add on tens of billions of dollars more. It has proven to be an effective “slush fund” for weapons and activities that have nothing to do with immediate war fighting and has been the Pentagon’s preferred method for evading the caps on its budget imposed by the Budget Control Act. A Pentagon spokesman admitted as much recently by acknowledging that more than half of the $58.8 billion war budget is being used to pay for non-war costs.

The abuse of the war budget leaves ample room in the Pentagon’s main budget for items like the overpriced, underperforming F-35 combat aircraft, a plane which, at a price tag of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, is on track to be the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken. That slush fund is also enabling the Pentagon to spend billions of dollars in seed money as a down payment on the department’s proposed $1 trillion plan to buy a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines. Shutting it down could force the Pentagon to do what it likes least: live within an actual budget rather continuing to push its top line ever upward.

Although rarely discussed due to the focus on Donald Trump’s abominable behavior and racist rhetoric, both candidates for president are in favor of increasing Pentagon spending. Trump’s “plan” (if one can call it that) hews closely to a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation that, if implemented, could increase Pentagon spending by a cumulative $900 billion over the next decade. The size of a Clinton buildup is less clear, but she has also pledged to work toward lifting the caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget. If that were done and the war fund continued to be stuffed with non-war-related items, one thing is certain: the Pentagon and its contractors will be sitting pretty.

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As long as fear, greed, and hubris are the dominant factors driving Pentagon spending, no matter who is in the White House, substantial and enduring budget reductions are essentially inconceivable. A wasteful practice may be eliminated here or an unnecessary weapons system cut there, but more fundamental change would require taking on the fear factor, the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, and the way the military-industrial complex is embedded in Washington.

Only such a culture shift would allow for a clear-eyed assessment of what constitutes “defense” and how much money would be needed to provide it. Unfortunately, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned Americans about more than 50 years ago is alive and well, and gobbling up your tax dollars at an alarming rate.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 William D. Hartung

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_________________________________

Comment: This is exactly due to the triple poisons of divisiveness, desire, and delusion (sin=separation from holiness=wholly wholesome way world), coming from karma. So, we need the paradigm shift from karma to dharma (truth/law of Interdependent Co-origination) in nirvana (no-wind, of karma: sitting, stilling karma, settling in dharma, like trees in truth and peace, jigsaw puzzle perfected, unlike animals, separated, straying in strife and suffering).

Slavery Was Abolished

October 27, 2016

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I recently debated a pro-war professor on the topic “Is war ever necessary?” (video). I argued for abolishing war. And because people like to see successes before doing something, no matter how indisputably possible that thing is, I gave examples of other institutions that have been abolished in the past. One might include such practices as human sacrifice, polygamy, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, or the death penalty in a list of human institutions that have been largely abolished in some parts of the earth or which people have at least come to understand could be abolished.

Of course, an important example is slavery. But when I claimed that slavery had been abolished, my debate opponent quickly announced that there are more slaves in the world today than there were before foolish activists imagined they were abolishing slavery. This stunning factoid was meant as a lesson to me: Do not try to improve the world. It cannot be done. In fact, it may be counter-productive.

But let’s examine this claim for the 2 minutes necessary to reject it. Let’s look at it globally and then with the inevitable U.S. focus.

Globally, there were about 1 billion people in the world in 1800 as the abolition movement took off. Of them, at least three-quarters or 750 million people were in slavery or serfdom of some kind. I take this figure from Adam Hochschild’s excellent Bury the Chains, but you should feel free to adjust it considerably without altering the point I’m leading up to. Today’s abolitionists claim that, with 7.3 billion people in the world, instead of there being the 5.5 billion people suffering in slavery that one might expect, there are instead 21 million (or I’ve seen claims as high as 27 or 29 million). That’s a horrific fact for each of those 21 or 29 million human beings. But does it really prove the utter futility of activism? Or is a switch from 75% of the world in bondage to 0.3% significant? If moving from 750 million to 21 million people enslaved is unsatisfactory, what are we to make of moving from 250 million to 7.3 billion human beings living in freedom?

In the United States, according to the Census Bureau, there were 5.3 million people in 1800. Of them, 0.89 million were enslaved. By 1850, there were 23.2 million people in the U.S. of whom 3.2 million were enslaved, a much larger number but a noticeably smaller percentage. By 1860, there were 31.4 million people of whom 4 million were enslaved — again a higher number, but a smaller percentage. Now there are 325 million people in the United States, of whom supposedly 60,000 are enslaved (I will add 2.2 million to that figure so as to include those who are imprisoned). With 2.3 million enslaved or incarcerated in the United States out of 325 million, we are looking at a larger number than in 1800 though smaller than in 1850, and a much smaller percentage. In 1800, the United States was 16.8% enslaved. Now it is 0.7% enslaved or imprisoned.

Nameless numbers should not be thought to diminish the horror for those currently suffering slavery or incarceration. But neither should they diminish the joy of those not enslaved who might have been. And those who might have been is much higher than a number calculated for one static moment in time. In 1800, those enslaved did not live long and were rapidly replaced by new victims imported from Africa. So, while we might expect, based on the state of affairs in 1800, to see 54.6 million people in the United States enslaved today, most of them on brutal plantations, we must also give consideration to the additional billions whom we would see flowing in from Africa to replace those people as they perished — had abolitionists not resisted the naysayers of their age.

So, am I wrong to say that slavery has been abolished? It remains in a minimal degree, and we must do everything in our power to eliminate it completely — which is certainly doable. But slavery has largely been abolished and has certainly been abolished as a legal, licit, acceptable state of affairs, apart from mass incarceration.

Is my debate opponent wrong to say that there are more people in slavery now than there used to be? Yes, in fact, he is wrong, and he is even more wrong if we choose to consider the important fact that overall populations have increased dramatically.

A new book called The Slave’s Cause by Manisha Sinha is large enough to abolish various institutions if dropped on them from a significant height, but no page is wasted. This is a chronicle of the abolition movement in the United States (plus some British influences) from its origins up through the U.S. Civil War. The first thing, of many, that strikes me in reading through this valuable saga is that it was not just other nations that managed to abolish slavery without fighting bloody civil wars; it was not just the city of Washington, D.C., that figured out a different path to freedom. The U.S. North began with slavery. The North abolished slavery without a civil war.

The Northern U.S. states during the first 8 decades of this country saw all the tools of nonviolence achieve the gains of abolition and of a civil rights movement that at times eerily foreshadowed the civil rights movement that would be delayed in the South until a century after the disastrous choice to go to war. With slavery ended in 1772 in England and Wales, the independent republic of Vermont partially banned slavery in 1777. Pennsylvania passed a gradual abolition in 1780 (it took until 1847). In 1783 Massachusetts freed all people from slavery and New Hampshire began a gradual abolition, as did Connecticut and Rhode Island the next year. In 1799 New York passed gradual abolition (it took until 1827). Ohio abolished slavery in 1802. New Jersey began abolition in 1804 and was not finished in 1865. In 1843 Rhode Island completed abolition. In 1845 Illinois freed the last people there from slavery, as did Pennsylvania two years later. Connecticut completed abolition in 1848.

What lessons can we take from the history of the ongoing movement to abolish slavery? It was led, inspired, and driven by those suffering under and those who had escaped from slavery. A war abolition movement needs the leadership of those victimized by war. The slavery abolition movement used education, morality, nonviolent resistance, law suits, boycotts, and legislation. It built coalitions. It worked internationally. And its turn to violence (which came with the Fugitive Slave Law and led up to the Civil War) was unnecessary and damaging. The war did not end slavery. The abolitionists’ reluctance to compromise kept them independent of partisan politics, principled, and popular, but may have closed off some possible steps forward (such as through compensated emancipation). They accepted western expansion along with virtually everyone else, north and south. Compromises made in Congress drew lines between north and south that strengthened the divide.

Abolitionists were not popular at first or everywhere, but were willing to risk injury or death for what was right. They challenged an “inevitable” norm with a coherent moral vision that challenged slavery, capitalism, sexism, racism, war, and all variety of injustice. They foresaw a better world, not just the current world with one change. They marked victories and moved on, just as those nations that have abolished their militaries could be used today as models for the rest. They made partial demands but painted them as steps toward full abolition. They used the arts and entertainment. They created their own media. They experimented (such as with emigration to Africa) but when their experiments failed, they never ever gave up.

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Taiwan to end nuclear power generation in 2025

October 26, 2016

The Asahi Shimbun | Asia & Japan Watch

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Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei City in the northern part of the island. Its construction has been suspended due to an anti-nuclear movement that has intensified since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
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TAIPEI–In a rare move for power-hungry Asia, the Taiwanese government has decided to abolish nuclear power generation by 2025 to meet the public’s demand for a nuclear-free society following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, equivalent to the Cabinet in Japan, approved revisions to the electricity business law, which aim to promote the private-sector’s participation in renewable energy projects, on Oct. 20.

“Revising the law shows our determination to promote the move toward the abolition of nuclear power generation and change the ratios of electricity sources,” said President Tsai Ing-wen.

The government plans to start deliberations on the revised bill in the Legislative Yuan, or the parliament, in the near future, with the goal of passing it within this year.

Movements toward a nuclear-free society are active in Europe. For example, Germany has decided to abolish nuclear power generation by 2022.

On the other hand, China and India are increasing nuclear power generation to meet the growing demand for electricity. In Taiwan, nuclear power accounted for 14.1 percent of all the electricity generated in 2015. At present, three nuclear power plants are operating.

However, the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant heightened public opinion against nuclear power generation. In response to the sentiment, Tsai, who assumed the presidency in May with a vow of establishing a nuclear-free society, led the government’s effort to abolish nuclear power.

Like Japan, Taiwan is hit by many earthquakes. The three nuclear power plants currently in operation will reach their service lives of 40 years by 2025. The revised bill will clearly stipulate that operations of all the nuclear plants will be suspended by that year. The stipulation will close the possible extension of their operations.

The government is looking to solar power and wind power as the pillars of renewable energies. It aims to increase their total ratio among all electricity sources from the current 4 percent to 20 percent in 2025.

However, meeting the goal assumes that electricity generated by solar power will increase 24-fold in 10 years. Because of that, some people harbor doubts on the viability of the plan.

“A hurdle to overcome to achieve the goal is very high,” said an electric power industry source.

Japan finds costs ballooning to dismantle Fukushima nuclear plant

October 26, 2016

NATIONAL OCT. 26, 2016 – 06:56AM JST ( 17 )
Japan finds costs ballooning to dismantle Fukushima nuclear plant
Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) employees wearing protective suits and masks walk down the steps of a fuel handling machine on the spent fuel pool inside the No. 4 reactor building at the tsunami-crippled TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
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TOKYO —
Japan’s estimate of dismantling the Fukushima nuclear plant is ballooning far beyond the utility’s estimate of 2 trillion yen ($19 billion).

A government study released Tuesday found decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant already has cost 80 billion yen ($770 million) over the last three years.

The plant suffered multiple reactor meltdowns due to damage from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The ministry overseeing nuclear power said the decommissioning costs will continue at several hundreds of billions of yen a year.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the utility that operated and is now decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, has said decommissioning will take several decades.

Even if it were to take 30 years at an estimated annual cost at 300 billion yen ($3 billion), both conservative projections, the cost would be nearly 1 billion yen or $100 billion.

TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki declined comment on the government projection, but he acknowledged TEPCO was still trying to determine what exactly the decommissioning effort might involve.

“It is difficult to calculate the entire cost for the decommissioning,” he said, adding that the 2 trillion yen figure had so far taken into account the effort to remove the nuclear debris, taking the example of Three Mile Island in the U.S., as well as costs and equipment needed to keep the reactors stable.

The study did not distinguish between costs borne by the government and borne by TEPCO, which received a government bailout.

Japan has been struggling to clean up parts of the no-go zone to put the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl behind it.

The government has estimated that decontaminating the areas around the Fukushima plant, including removing radiated topsoil, buildings and trees, will cost at least 2.5 trillion yen ($24 billion).

But experts have been warning that such estimates may be too optimistic. The nuclear disaster in Fukushima displaced about 150,000 people.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The Urge to Splurge: Why Is It So Hard to Reduce the Pentagon Budget?

October 26, 2016

ublished on
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
by TomDispatch
The Doctrine of Armed Exceptionalism

byWilliam Hartung
13 Comments

What accounts for the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year? (Photo: ARIF POONAWALA/flickr/cc)
Through good times and bad, regardless of what’s actually happening in the world, one thing is certain: in the long run, the Pentagon budget won’t go down.

It’s not that that budget has never been reduced. At pivotal moments, like the end of World War II as well as war’s end in Korea and Vietnam, there were indeed temporary downturns, as there was after the Cold War ended. More recently, the Budget Control Act of 2011 threw a monkey wrench into the Pentagon’s plans for funding that would go ever onward and upward by putting a cap on the money Congress could pony up for it. The remarkable thing, though, is not that such moments have occurred, but how modest and short-lived they’ve proved to be.

Take the current budget. It’s down slightly from its peak in 2011, when it reached the highest level since World War II, but this year’s budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is nothing to sneeze at. It comes in at roughly $600 billion — more than the peak year of the massive arms build-up initiated by President Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. To put this figure in perspective: despite troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping sharply over the past eight years, the Obama administration has still managed to spend more on the Pentagon than the Bush administration did during its two terms in office.

What accounts for the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year?

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Pillar one supporting that edifice: ideology. As long as most Americans accept the notion that it is the God-given mission and right of the United States to go anywhere on the planet and do more or less anything it cares to do with its military, you won’t see Pentagon spending brought under real control. Think of this as the military corollary to American exceptionalism — or just call it the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, if you will.

The second pillar supporting lavish military budgets (and this will hardly surprise you): the entrenched power of the arms lobby and its allies in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The strategic placement of arms production facilities and military bases in key states and Congressional districts has created an economic dependency that has saved many a flawed weapons system from being unceremoniously dumped in the trash bin of history.

Lockheed Martin, for instance, has put together a handy map of how its troubled F-35 fighter jet has created 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The actual figures are, in fact, considerably lower, but the principle holds: having subcontractors in dozens of states makes it harder for members of Congress to consider cutting or slowing down even a failed or failing program. Take as an example the M-1 tank, which the Army actually wanted to stop buying. Its plans were thwarted by the Ohio congressional delegation, which led a fight to add more M-1s to the budget in order to keep the General Dynamics production line in Lima, Ohio, up and running. In a similar fashion, prodded by the Missouri delegation, Congress added two different versions of Boeing’s F-18 aircraft to the budget to keep funds flowing to that company’s St. Louis area plant.

The one-two punch of an environment in which the military can do no wrong, while being outfitted for every global task imaginable, and what former Pentagon analyst Franklin “Chuck” Spinney has called “political engineering,” has been a tough combination to beat.

“Scare the Hell Out of the American People”

The overwhelming consensus in favor of a “cover the globe” military strategy has been broken from time to time by popular resistance to the idea of using war as a central tool of foreign policy. In such periods, getting Americans behind a program of feeding the military machine massive sums of money has generally required a heavy dose of fear.

For example, the last thing most Americans wanted after the devastation and hardship unleashed by World War II was to immediately put the country back on a war footing. The demobilization of millions of soldiers and a sharp cutback in weapons spending in the immediate postwar years rocked what President Dwight Eisenhower would later dubthe “military-industrial complex.”

As Wayne Biddle has noted in his seminal book Barons of the Sky,the U.S. aerospace industry produced an astonishing 300,000-plus military aircraft during World War II. Not surprisingly, major weapons producers struggled to survive in a peacetime environment in which government demand for their products threatened to be a tiny fraction of wartime levels.

Lockheed President Robert Gross was terrified by the potential impact of war’s end on his company’s business, as were many of his industry cohorts. “As long as I live,” he said, “I will never forget those short, appalling weeks” of the immediate postwar period. To be clear, Gross was appalled not by the war itself, but by the drop off in orders occasioned by its end. He elaborated in a 1947 letter to a friend: “We had one underlying element of comfort and reassurance during the war. We knew we’d get paid for anything we built. Now we are almost entirely on our own.”

The postwar doldrums in military spending that worried him so were reversed only after the American public had been fed a steady, fear-filled diet of anti-communism. NSC-68, a secret memorandum the National Security Council prepared for President Harry Truman in April 1950, created the template for a policy based on the global “containment” of communism and grounded in a plan to encircle the Soviet Union with U.S. military forces, bases, and alliances. This would, of course, prove to be a strikingly expensive proposition. The concluding paragraphs of that memorandum underscored exactly that point, calling for a “sustained buildup of U.S. political, economic, and military strength… [to] frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will.”

Senator Arthur Vandenberg put the thrust of this new Cold War policy in far simpler terms when he bluntly advised President Truman to “scare the hell out of the American people” to win support for a $400 million aid plan for Greece and Turkey. His suggestion would be put into effect not just for those two countries but to generate support for what President Eisenhower would later describe as “a permanent arms establishment of vast proportions.”

Industry leaders like Lockheed’s Gross were poised to take advantage of such planning. In a draft of a 1950 speech, he noted, giddily enough, that “for the first time in recorded history, one country has assumed global responsibility.” Meeting that responsibility would naturally mean using air transport to deliver “huge quantities of men, food, ammunition, tanks, gasoline, oil and thousands of other articles of war to a number of widely separated places on the face of the earth.” Lockheed, of course, stood ready to heed the call.

The next major challenge to armed exceptionalism and to the further militarization of foreign policy came after the disastrous Vietnam War, which drove many Americans to question the wisdom of a policy of permanent global interventionism. That phenomenon would be dubbed the “Vietnam syndrome” by interventionists, as if opposition to such a military policy were a disease, not a position. Still, that “syndrome” carried considerable, if ever-decreasing, weight for a decade and a half, despite the Pentagon’s Reagan-inspired arms build-up of the 1980s.

With the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Washington decisively renewed its practice of responding to perceived foreign threats with large-scale military interventions. That quick victory over Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait was celebrated by many hawks as the end of the Vietnam-induced malaise. Amid victory parades and celebrations, President George H.W. Bush would enthusiastically exclaim: “And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

However, perhaps the biggest threat since World War II to an “arms establishment of vast proportions” came with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, also in 1991. How to mainline fear into the American public and justify Cold War levels of spending when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, the primary threat of the previous nearly half-a-century, had just evaporated and there was next to nothing threatening on the horizon? General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up the fears of that moment within the military and the arms complex when he said, “I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il-sung.”

In reality, he underestimated the Pentagon’s ability to conjure up new threats. Military spending did indeed drop at the end of the Cold War, but the Pentagon helped staunch the bleeding relatively quickly before a “peace dividend” could be delivered to the American people. Instead, it put a firm floor under the fall by announcing what came to be known as the “rogue state” doctrine. Resources formerly aimed at the Soviet Union would now be focused on “regional hegemons” like Iraq and North Korea.

Fear, Greed, and Hubris Win the Day

After the 9/11 attacks, the rogue state doctrine morphed into the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which neoconservative pundits soon labeled “World War IV.” The heightened fear campaign that went with it, in turn, helped sow the seeds for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was promoted by visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities and a drumbeat of Bush administration claims (all false) that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda. Some administration officials including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even suggested that Saddam was like Hitler, as if a modest-sized Middle Eastern state could somehow muster the resources to conquer the globe.

The administration’s propaganda campaign would be supplemented by the work of right-wing corporate-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. And no one should be surprised to learn that the military-industrial complex and its money, its lobbyists, and its interests were in the middle of it all. Take Lockheed Martin Vice President Bruce Jackson, for example. In 1997, he became a director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and so part of a gaggle of hawks including future Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and future Vice President Dick Cheney. In those years, PNAC would advocate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as part of its project to turn the planet into an American military protectorate. Many of its members would, of course, enter the Bush administration in crucial roles and become architects of the GWOT and the invasion of Iraq.

The Afghan and Iraq wars would prove an absolute bonanza for contractors as the Pentagon budget soared. Traditional weapons suppliers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing prospered, as did private contractors like Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, which made billions providing logistical support to U.S. troops in the field. Other major beneficiaries included firms like Blackwater and DynCorp, whose employees guarded U.S. facilities and oil pipelines while training Afghan and Iraqi security forces. As much as $60 billion of the funds funneled to such contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan would be “wasted,” but not from the point of view of companies for which waste could generate as much profit as a job well done. So Halliburton and its cohorts weren’t complaining.

On entering the Oval Office, President Obama would ditch the term GWOT in favor of “countering violent extremism” — and then essentially settle for a no-name global war. He would shift gears from a strategy focused on large numbers of “boots on the ground” to an emphasis on drone strikes, the use of Special Operations forces, and massive transfers of arms to U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia. In the context of an increasingly militarized foreign policy, one might call Obama’s approach “politically sustainable warfare,” since it involved fewer (American) casualties and lower costs than Bush-style warfare, which peaked in Iraq at more than 160,000 troops and a comparable number of private contractors.

Recent terror attacks against Western targets from Brussels, Paris, and Nice to San Bernardino and Orlando have offered the national security state and the Obama administration the necessary fear factor that makes the case for higher Pentagon spending so palatable. This has been true despite the fact that more tanks, bombers, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons will be useless in preventing such attacks.

The majority of what the Pentagon spends, of course, has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. But whatever it has or hasn’t been called, the war against terror has proven to be a cash cow for the Pentagon and contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

The “war budget” — money meant for the Pentagon but not included in its regular budget — has been used to add on tens of billions of dollars more. It has proven to be an effective “slush fund” for weapons and activities that have nothing to do with immediate war fighting and has been the Pentagon’s preferred method for evading the caps on its budget imposed by the Budget Control Act. A Pentagon spokesman admitted as much recently by acknowledging that more than half of the $58.8 billion war budget is being used to pay for non-war costs.

The abuse of the war budget leaves ample room in the Pentagon’s main budget for items like the overpriced, underperforming F-35 combat aircraft, a plane which, at a price tag of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, is on track to be the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken. That slush fund is also enabling the Pentagon to spend billions of dollars in seed money as a down payment on the department’s proposed $1 trillion plan to buy a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines. Shutting it down could force the Pentagon to do what it likes least: live within an actual budget rather continuing to push its top line ever upward.

Although rarely discussed due to the focus on Donald Trump’s abominable behavior and racist rhetoric, both candidates for president are in favor of increasing Pentagon spending. Trump’s “plan” (if one can call it that) hews closely to a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation that, if implemented, could increase Pentagon spending by a cumulative $900 billion over the next decade. The size of a Clinton buildup is less clear, but she has also pledged to work toward lifting the caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget. If that were done and the war fund continued to be stuffed with non-war-related items, one thing is certain: the Pentagon and its contractors will be sitting pretty.

As long as fear, greed, and hubris are the dominant factors driving Pentagon spending, no matter who is in the White House, substantial and enduring budget reductions are essentially inconceivable. A wasteful practice may be eliminated here or an unnecessary weapons system cut there, but more fundamental change would require taking on the fear factor, the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, and the way the military-industrial complex is embedded in Washington.

Only such a culture shift would allow for a clear-eyed assessment of what constitutes “defense” and how much money would be needed to provide it. Unfortunately, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned Americans about more than 50 years ago is alive and well, and gobbling up your tax dollars at an alarming rate.

© 2016 TomDispatch.com

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2011). He is the co-editor of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War (Paradigm Press, 2008).