Divest from War 3/22/17

Kathy Kelly

Divest from War, Invest in People  – by Kathy Kelly

All Trump, all the time. With a punishing, disorienting barrage of executive orders, President Trump is reversing hard fought gains made in environmental protection, health care, women’s rights, immigration policy, and nuclear weapons reduction–with even more executive orders promised.

In his inaugural speech, Trump proclaimed “America First.” The U.S. does rank first in weapon sales, in mass incarceration and in producing waste material. Pope Francis urged President Trump to be first in protecting the poorest in society. But instead, President Trump has surrounded himself with generals and billionaires in cabinet level positions.

It’s true; some of President Trump’s policies actually extend wrongs enacted by previous administrations. Other presidents and their spokespersons have championed an escalating war on the global poor under the pretenses of humanitarianism and democracy. They wore “masks” that were easier for many in the U.S. to look at and accept, and yet their policies caused terrible bloodshed, starvation and death. A widespread drone war, annihilating civilians from the air, is an example of a brutal rightward turn that some liberals accepted. Was drone proliferation seen as an improvement on previous means of warfare because it was presented in an articulate, professorial tone? During a previous Democrat administration I recall protesting brutal economic sanctions which, halfway through their 11-year reign, had contributed directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children aged four years or younger. The antiwar movement tends to demobilize when a well-spoken Democrat is in office.

Trump’s victory hinged on the Democrats’ refusal to offer more than token resistance to militarism and rising inequality. To successfully organize against Trumpism, we must move toward making actual changes in the lives of those who are most vulnerable and unprotected, especially among the poorest people in our societies.

Dr. Martin Luther King discussed the “giant evil triplets” of racism, militarism and income inequality. He assured us none of these can possibly be conquered alone. As protests erupt against the policies of Donald Trump it is valid to question what is “style” and what is “substance.” How can the energy generated by these actions be channeled into functioning and effective resistance?

Trump’s executive orders have already escalated our government’s commitment to inequality well beyond what Hillary Clinton would ever have likely attempted. His cabinet appointments suggest he will rival or exceed her in militarism.

We must cut through the fog and recognize our collective responsibilities. There are numerous ways to turn the energy of protests into daily action, but they all involve organizing, not against a hated political figure, but against policies that must be successfully reversed. One example is war tax refusal. My own decision, made and held since 1980, is never to pay federal income tax to the U.S. government. Our leaders depend on taxes to continue their destructive campaigns. Monies not forwarded to the government can be redirected to causes in support of peace, victimized communities and the poor.

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) is an organization that encourages interested parties to nonviolently oppose taxation for war. This group links to grassroots communities and may provide the basis for additional refusals of cooperation. Anticipating resurgent interest in refusal to pay for abhorrent, discriminatory policies, a group of war tax refusers approached NWTRCC with the idea of encouraging people to consider war tax resistance by contacting the network. Their “call,” posted on the NWTRCC website, is signed by a growing list now numbering over 120 people.

Essentially, we can’t afford Trumpism and we can’t afford alternatives to Trumpism that were rejected in the last election. We need to reject Trump’s executive orders in substance as well as style, living more simply so that others may simply live. War tax refusal is a small gesture in that direction, quieter than a march but potentially meaningful. It gives us a chance to align our lives with our deepest values and welcome kindred spirits to join us.

Kathy Kelly, syndicated by PeaceVoice, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Care Not a Whit 3/22/17

Trumpcare: An International Embarrassment – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Paul Ryan justifies the current Trumpcare bill as promoting freedom—the right not to have to buy health insurance and thus be “free” to be unhealthy. It’s a revolting position to take, not to mention inhumane and short-sighted, reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s infamous advice to the starving French masses: “let them eat cake.” A large, unhealthy population—52 million by 2026, including millions of children—guarantees a less educated, skilled, and healthy workforce, more desperation and crime, and more impoverished families and communities needing all kinds of social-welfare help.

Of particular urgency is that Trumpcare will tear apart the largely successful health care net for children—Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 94 percent of children have access to health care because of these three programs. The threat now, as two writers (one a physician) in Pennsylvania put it, is that “changes such as federal funding caps or a block grant may pit kids against the disabled, seniors or even their parents. We cannot afford to go backward and the state doesn’t have the resources to fill the gap.”

The Congressional Budget Office report predicts that if, as Trumpcare proposes, federal funding for Planned Parenthood ends for one year, thousands of additional births to parents on Medicaid will result. That will put a huge new strain on Medicaid’s budget, which already is under attack by conservatives. The planned cut will also mean loss of women’s access to critical prenatal and preventive health services that Planned Parenthood provides.

The International Dimension

Less often considered is that Trumpcare tramples on international law. Enacting Trumpcare will put the United States in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Consider Article 25 of the Universal Declaration, which all UN members must accept:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Under Trumpcare, the US would also be in violation of several articles of the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child. True, the US has not ratified the CRC; in fact it is the only country in the world that has not ratified it (thanks to Republicans in the Senate who traditionally reject any notion that US law or practice should be subordinate to what the rest of the world accepts). But the US is a signatory to the CRC, thanks to Bill Clinton in 1995, and thus a globally responsible president would at least heed the convention’s most basic requirements, which are surely in the national interest.

Here are the CRC articles relevant to children’s health:

Article 3: States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

Article 6

States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 24

States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.

States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:

(a) To diminish infant and child mortality;

(b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care.

There is a campaign for US ratification of the CRC.

Of course the president and his minions care not a whit about international law, any more than they show concern about human rights. Our children, and all children, deserve better.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Impeach A Liar 3/22/17

Job-killing Lyin’ King president  – by Tom H. Hastings

Impeach.

Tom Hastings

Trump’s budget is out, his Trumpcare bill is introduced, and between them they are astonishingly stupid and promise-breaking. Featured are just a small sample of these job-killing aspects:

· The American Healthcare Act (Trumpcare), if enacted, will eliminate 23,000 jobs just in my state, Oregon. The national implications are horrific, in job loss and in healthcare loss—as well as sharp increases in premiums for at least the next two years—for example, senior citizens in Alaska may see a rise in annual healthcare insurance premiums of more than $14,000. I wonder if they are still thrilled about giving their electoral college votes to Trump?

· The Trump budget, if passed, would cut enormous numbers of civil service jobs, including scores of thousands by the elimination of 19 federal agencies and slashing the budgets for many others.

· Increasing the Pentagon budget will create fewer jobs per $billion spent than in any other sector of the economy. Each $billion that goes to DoD is job loss for even more Americans.

Between the two Trump proposals, several key promises that he made to help convince gullible Americans to vote for him will be broken:

· The Congressional Budget Office predicts that under Trumpcare 24 million Americans will lose health insurance, contrary to Trump’s unbelievable promise that everyone will be able to get health insurance. He lied.

· “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump said as he campaigned making glib promises to everybody. The Trumpcare proposal cuts Medicaid. He lied.

Trump will completely eliminate these agencies, getting rid of some of the most forward-thinking US federal programs: The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

But Trumpcare4rich will be the actual result of his collection of proposals, featuring:

· $900 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Impeach.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

History Bends Inescapable 3/22/17

James Haught

Nine-tenths of coal miners are gone  – by James A. Haught

America’s coal industry is sinking sadly. Tonnage, usually above 1 billion, dropped to 749 million tons in 2016. Employment, which exceeded 800,000 in the 1920s, has fallen below 66,000. Four large mining corporations went bankrupt in the past couple of years.

The decline is glaringly visible in my West Virginia.

Our state had 125,000 pick-and-shovel miners in 1950 when I was a teen. Most of the diggers lived in company-owned towns. Coal was the state’s throbbing pulse. Explosions killing scores of miners were common. Violent strikes were common.

In the 1950s, coal owners began replacing human miners with digging machines, and misery followed. Around 70,000 West Virginia miners lost their jobs and fled north via the “hillbilly highway” to Akron and Cleveland. But coal production remained high.

In the 1970s, longwall machines could produce 10 times as much coal with half as many workers. And more jobs vanished because mining switched to huge surface pits, where monster machines and explosives do the work. The number of West Virginia miners continued falling — to the 30,000s in the 1990s, then below 20,000 in the new 21st century. Official state figures put today’s total around 12,000. The number of operating mines fell drastically.

Most of the decline happened because rich, thick seams in the Central Appalachian Basin — largely southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky — gradually became exhausted. Only thinner, difficult-to-mine coal remains. The slump worsened when horizontal drilling and hydraulic “fracking” loosed a flood of cheaper natural gas that grabbed coal markets.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Central Appalachian yearly coal production dropped from 235 million tons in 2008 to below 60 million today — and is forecast below 40 million by 2040. That much loss is stunning.

When his coal firms were beset by unpaid fines and taxes, billionaire Jim Justice, now West Virginia’s governor, said: “The coal business is terrible, it’s just terrible…. You may be witnessing the death of the coal industry.”

McDowell County is a sad illustration. In 1950, during coal’s heyday, McDowell had nearly 100,000 population. But mines played out and closed. Thousands of jobs were lost. People moved away. Local businesses folded. Poverty and drug problems soared. Now McDowell has fewer than 20,000 residents. Departing industry leaves misery behind.

The retreat is shattering several southern coal counties. Their governments reel from lost tax revenue. School systems are near bankruptcy.

Rapid advances in solar and wind energy are another menace to coal. If renewable sources eventually generate electricity more cheaply than coal does, they’ll seize more of the power market. America now has more than 200,000 solar workers, far exceeding coal employment.

During coal’s heyday, West Virginia was called the most unionized state — and it voted solidly Democratic. As jobs fizzled, so did organized labor. The state turned “red.” In 2016, Donald Trump vowed: “We’re going to get those miners back to work” — and West Virginia voted for him by one of the largest margins in America.

But even if Trump wipes out federal pollution and safety controls, I doubt that it will “get those miners back to work.” They would stand a better chance if Trump shifted enough federal funds to training for jobs of the future instead of easy but hollow promises that he can’t possibly keep.

Inevitably, all fossil fuels become depleted. Britain’s Wales finally reached the end for its fabled coal mines. Some U.S. regions still have good reserves, but the arc of history bends toward an inescapable outcome.

James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

No Time to Wait 3/15/17

While Our Attention is Elsewhere, Climate Change Worsens – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Donald Trump’s presidency has gotten so much attention that the latest threats to climate stability have received only passing notice. To be sure, Trump’s belief that climate change is a Chinese “hoax,” and his appointment of climate change deniers to head major agencies, have been widely publicized. Even so, the news of actual events—hurricanes, floods, drought, sharp temperature changes, and other distortions in weather patterns in the US and around the world—typically are being crowded out by Trump’s tantrums, fake news, and conflicts of interest.

For the strong of heart, here are some important developments affecting climate change over the past several months that you may have missed:

· Mexico City’s water table is sinking at an alarming rate, while climate change is causing flooding and drought that may cause mass emigration. Just the latest case of environmental refugees—and potential sources of new conflicts.

· The last estimate of sea-level rise before Obama left office, by the NOAA, sees a worst case of an 8-foot rise by the end of the century. The low estimate is still a1-foot rise. Parts of the US will be hit particularly hard. “An analysis of 90 U.S. cities suggested that such an increase in damaging floods could occur by 2030 in most locations under an intermediate-high sea-level rise scenario and by 2080 under a low scenario. In general, the report suggests it would take just shy of 14 inches of sea-level rise for this to happen in any given location.” A collapse of the West Antarctica is also quite possible, the report said.

· Worldwide, the nuclear industry is losing ground thanks to lower costs for wind and solar energy as well as natural gas, and the Fukushima tragedy in 2011. “Globally, wind power grew by 17%, solar by 33%, nuclear by 1.3%.” The World Nuclear Industry: Status Report 2016; It is no longer economical to invest in a nuclear power plant! As a result, the overall picture is one of cost overruns, abandoned projects, a very little new construction. About the only countries where the nuclear industry continues to thrive are France and South Korea. China’s nuclear industry, which has a high priority in the country’s energy future, has been hit by significant safety failures. Eight of China’s 36 currently operating reactors experienced these shutdowns, all caused by human error. The basic problem, openly discussed by Chinese specialists, is that there aren’t enough well-trained, well-rewarded safety inspectors. China thus is spending many times more money on renewable energy than on new nuclear power plants.

· Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in serious danger. In 2016 it experienced its largest-ever die-off of coral.

· Deforestation in the Amazon basin, the world’s largest carbon sink, is once again on the rise. Farmers in Bolivia and Brazil are again clearing land in huge swaths for planting soy under contract to Cargill and Bunge. Those giant agribusinesses were among signers of the New York Declaration of Forests, which promises an end to deforestation in order to grow crops such as soy and palm oil. The common estimate is that one-tenth of global carbon emissions stem from clearing of land and accompanying fires in the Amazon region.

· Disintegration of the West Antarctica ice sheet is taking place right now. The elongating crack is unstoppable, and while it reportedly will not mean rising seas for decades, it is just another sign of warming oceans and future peril. By the end of the century, melting of this ice sheet, combined with ice melting elsewhere, will cause an estimated sea rise of five to six feet. That’s an extraordinary increase compared with predictions just a few years ago.

Every climate-change model I’ve seen suggests that we are way behind the curve for combating global warming and its potentially life-altering changes for human populations and habitat. Plans for a nation-wide solution, such as a carbon tax, seem like whistling in the dark given the sorry state of Washington politics. For instance, some Republican elder statesmen, including former secretaries of state George Shultz and James Baker, III, have come forward with a plan to counter climate change. Though they don’t embrace the obvious—that climate change is due mainly to human factors—they do think “the risks” are too great to be ignored. Hence, they recommend a carbon tax starting at $40 a ton at the well head or mine, the proceeds to be returned to consumers in dividend checks. Of course the producers are expected to pass on their tax to consumers.

Good luck. With Scott Pruitt at the helm, the Environmental Protection Agency is about to become the Environmental Destruction Agency. Trump has already given the order for significant cuts in the EPA’s budget. The oil and gas industry has Pruitt in its hip pocket, as just-released emails from Pruitt’s time in Oklahoma make crystal clear. As Forbes reminds us, “In six years he filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA over expansion of the Clean Water Act and regulations on coal-fired power plants.” When Pruitt addressed EPA employees for the first time, he made clear that its business is business. Forbes, which ordinarily is a pro-business publication, firmly stated that Pruitt will be violating EPA’s statutory mission: “Compromise with industry is not included. The mission of the EPA is actually quite simple: ‘to protect human health and the environment—air, water and land’.”

In the US, our best hope lies at the state and city levels, especially now that cities provide the overwhelming portion of greenhouse gas emissions, and those in proximity to coasts have the greatest urgency to act. Here and there—in San Diego and other California cities, for instance, and in Des Moines and Adelaide, Australia—major reductions in those emissions are taking place or are planned. This article states that “over 10,000 initiatives are underway in cities worldwide,” which is admirable. But can these ideas possibly halt the upward curve toward planetary overheating?

James Hansen, the indefatigable former NASA official (he retired in 2013) who first brought the threat of climate change to our attention, believes that a carbon tax and a new kind of nuclear technology represent the last chance to thwart devastating climate change. The Paris Agreement’s call for limiting warming to 2 degrees C. is inadequate, he says. Without drastic political action, Hansen foresees the planet returning to conditions 120,000 years ago, when warming produced sea levels 20 to 30 feet higher than they are now. But Washington, DC is full of climate deniers, so what’s the answer? “It’s really crucial what happens in the near term. But it will take a strong leader who is willing to take on special interests. Whether that can be done without a new party that’s founded on just that principle, I’m not sure. So we’ll have to see.”

Not very encouraging—and we don’t have time to wait and see.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Opportunity is Now 3/15/17

A Crisis of Relevance  – by Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler

And the word of the moment is . . . opportunity:

“What unites our party is a belief in opportunity, the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, whoever you love, America is the place you can make it if you try.”

Could you be any more tepid? The words were those of the former president the other day, giving his blessing to the naming of Tom Perez as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Perez is the safe, establishment choice to lead the party forward into the maelstrom of Trump, under a banner that seems garishly inoffensive: Tolerate our differences, give everyone a chance.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and the idea of “tolerance” may even have resonated with controversy half a century ago, but today it has the hollow ring of an ad slogan.

But this is leadership for you, trying to quiet everyone down and put forth the smiley face of unity. Behind closed doors, the military-industrialists plan their agenda, but let’s not worry about that. The role of the public, or at least the liberal, Democrat-leaning sector thereof, is to be afraid of Donald Trump and cheer for the good guys. Meanwhile, the actual future will be handled by the experts and their overlords in the corporatocracy.

In point of fact, a serious segment of the Democratic base sees beyond this well-tailored lie. The movement in the streets, the “creative turbulence,” as Charles Pierce put it, the furious cries for change, are aimed as much at the Democrats as they are at the Republicans and the Trumpsters.

Perez himself, after gaining the DNC chairmanship, put the situation as succinctly as anyone I’ve heard. He quickly undid his assessment and lapsed into “positive message” blather about inclusion, opportunity and the big tent. But first he asked: “Where do we go from here? Because right now we have to face the facts. We are suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance.”

A. Crisis. Of. Relevance.

The words cut like a wound across the chest. The last time the Democratic mainstream publicly acknowledged awareness of this crisis — as opposed to simply participating in its ongoing creation — was in 1972, when George McGovern seized the Democratic presidential nomination and ran for the presidency on a blatantly antiwar platform.

“I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan,” he said.

“And as one whose heart has ached for the past ten years over the agony of Vietnam, I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day.”

He delivered these words during the Democratic National Convention that year, then went on to run a wide-open campaign that was no match for Richard Nixon and CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President), despite the Watergate break-in. And in the 45 years since, America’s wars have been off the table in every presidential election, and today — surprise, surprise! — we find ourselves mired in permanent war, with the Middle East and, indeed, the whole planet bleeding from the consequences.

McGovern also said: “The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plane.”

I call this participatory vs. spectator democracy, and I think this is what’s happening today in the nation’s streets and airports and in its town hall meetings: creative turbulence the likes of which we have not seen since the Vietnam War era. But what’s crucial is that this progressive uprising not limit itself to economic and domestic issues, as though U.S. militarism were a separate matter. The Democrats’ crisis of relevance is grounded in the party’s absolute acquiescence during the Obama years to the war on terror, and the only way for the party to reclaim power and credibility is to stand up to its own moral shortcomings, not just those of George Bush and Donald Trump.

Andrew Bacevich, describing the quasi-religious nature of American exceptionalism and the quest for global dominance, wrote last week: “Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.”

He then offers “a brief inventory” of the consequences of our recent wars:

“thousands of Americans needlessly killed; tens of thousands grievously wounded in body or spirit; trillions of dollars wasted; millions of Iraqis dead, injured, or displaced; this nation’s moral standing compromised by its resort to torture, kidnapping, assassination, and other perversions; a region thrown into chaos and threatened by radical terrorist entities like the Islamic State that U.S. military actions helped foster. And now, if only as an oblique second-order bonus, we have Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency to boot.”

Let us lift the silence! If the new DNC chairman is able to concede that his party is in the midst of — and being destroyed by — a crisis of relevance, then perhaps he can defy the establishment that backed him and stand up to the State of War, as McGovern did 45 years ago.

What we need is a public plan for peace. The opportunity is ripe.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

Brimming with Danger 3/15/17

President Donald Trump Should Make a Deal with North Korea -by Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin

President Donald Trump likes to be known for his deal-making, and now he has the opportunity to make deals that can impact world peace and security, not just real estate or other business deals for his profit. North Korea would be a great place to start.

Former President Barack Obama described North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs as the most pressing international security problem when he briefed Trump just before leaving office. President Obama, who scored impressive diplomatic successes with the Iran nuclear agreement and the opening to Cuba, failed in his policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea, refusing to engage in official negotiations for eight years while the nuclear and missile programs progressed and regional security concerns worsened.

Promising unofficial talks, known as “track two diplomacy,” were held as recently as last fall in Malaysia, led by former U.S. officials Robert Gallucci and Leon Sigal, who had succeeded in negotiations with North Korea to freeze their nuclear weapons and missile programs for almost a decade beginning in 1994. These talks have been discontinued, and the Trump Administration recently refused visas to North Koreans who were supposed to travel to the U.S. for further talks, in retaliation for a recent ballistic missile test.

China, which is also very concerned about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, recently proposed a sensible, reciprocal approach North Korea had previously advocated, namely a halt to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises (often called war games) in exchange for a halt to missile tests. The Trump Administration rejected this, but ought to reconsider.

While nobody wants North Korea to have nuclear weapons, its pursuit of them as a potential deterrent to overwhelming U.S., South Korean and Japanese military, economic and political might is unfortunately logical. Adding to the long-standing military imbalance is the recent deployment of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, by the U.S. in South Korea.

THAAD is a missile system which aims to shoot down short-and-medium-range ballistic missiles as they descend to their targets. North Korea, China and Russia see THAAD as a de-stabilizing weapon, fearing it could thwart their ballistic missile-carrying nukes. In North Korea’s view, THAAD could possibly be part of a U.S./South Korea first-strike strategy, in which THAAD defends South Korea from a North Korean attack in retaliation for a U.S. strike, whether conventional or nuclear.

Finally, China, Russia, India and Pakistan have nuclear arsenals. U.S. submarines with nukes also patrol the region, so it’s a scary neighborhood brimming with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Trump seems to have a serious bee in his bonnet about his predecessor. In addition to his original support and funding for the “birther” movement falsely claiming Obama was not a U.S. citizen and his recent charge that Obama bugged Trump Tower, Trump has disparaged Obama’s 2009 New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia, the Iran nuclear agreement, and of course the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”

Regardless of how one feels about any of those issues and Trump’s assertions, he now has a chance to do something Obama didn’t, which is to increase global and regional security by at least halting North Korea’s advances on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology.

The basic contours of what North Korea wants are well known, at least first steps, and it’s not rocket science. Not necessarily in this order, they are: a formal peace treaty to replace the supposedly temporary armistice at the end of the Korean War in 1953, direct talks with the United States, and relief from what it sees as a confrontational military posture by the U.S., South Korea and Japan, cessation of war games being the most obvious step.

On several occasions during the election campaign last year, Trump made positive comments about talking with North Korea. Now he can, and should, put that into practice. As Winston Churchill famously said, “to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war.”

Kevin Martin, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is President of Peace Action, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization with more than 200,000 supporters nationwide.

Dangerous Proposal 3/15/17

Military Support for Diplomacy and Development – by David Cortright

David Cortwright

Amidst the darkness of Washington politics, a recent bright spot was the letter to Congress signed by more than 120 former senior military officers urging support for diplomacy and development. The letter is an encouraging sign of the growing recognition within the military of the need for greater civilian efforts to achieve international security. Hopefully it will help to counter the Trump administration’s dangerous proposal to slash State Department and USAID funding by 37 per cent.

The signers of the letter are three and four star generals and admirals, representing all branches of the military. Their letter expresses “our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.” The United States faces many challenges that “do not have military solutions,” the signers note. Referring to the State Department, USAID, the Millennium Development Corporation and the Peace Corps, the letter states that the military “needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.” The signers urge adequate funding of the government’s International Affairs Budget and conclude, “Now is not the time to retreat.”

This statement from former commanders is an affirmation of what Lisa Schirch and many others in the peacebuilding community have been saying for decades. Genuine human security requires diplomacy and development in addition to defense. Diplomatic dialogue can reduce political tensions and help nations and groups settle their differences without violence. Conflict prevention is primarily a civilian task, built on sound economic and social foundations, rooted in systems of inclusive and accountable governance.

From the military standpoint this is a matter of self-interest. Officers know that military means alone cannot defeat terrorist insurgency. They do not want to risk the lives of their soldiers on impossible missions.

What good will it do, for example, if ISIS is driven out of Mosul, but there are no diplomatic efforts to address the needs of aggrieved Sunni communities and no help is available for the massive reconstruction efforts needed to restore shattered local economies?

Military commanders know that bringing greater stability and security to troubled regions requires greater State Department capabilities and well-funded development programs that are coordinated with private sector engagement to create jobs and economic opportunity.

The military gets the message. Now we need to try to drive home that message to the political establishment of Washington.

David Cortright, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a professor of Peace at the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame.

Find the Adults 3/8/17

Find the adults and get them in the room – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Trump attacks others, from the Pope to Gold Star families, on a routine basis, often based on no evidence, exaggerated claims, and he claims trends based on cherry-picked cases that are in fact anomalous. Some of his attacks flow from his hypocritical assumption that he, a rich boy who inherited a fortune, gets to have pretty much everything. If he can’t earn it honestly, he uses dishonesty because, in his mind, the ends justify the means. Other times he just needs to redirect our attention.

I keep wondering when the adult supervision will appear. Congress is dominated by the lesser versions of the hyper-entitled Trump, with a few fine members like Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Earl Blumenauer, and Cory Booker in the minority. Turns out the only real powerful check on the abuse doled out daily by Trump is you. You and your friends. You, your friends, and me. Civil society.

We are the last hope because we failed to be the first hope. We did not pay close enough attention to the endless obligatory need to self-educate, to help our communities learn what they need to know, to empower each other from the bottom-up, and to keep the “deciders” from making poor decisions. We tend to think in terms of outsourcing—it’s our logical hope, after all, that since we are good people who pay attention to the details that make our businesses and service institutions work well for people, that we should be able to count on those we hire by our votes.

Turns out we cannot count on them. We will either ramp up our civil society ongoing involvement in monitoring our elected officials or we will continue down this descending spiral toward autocracy, hate, violence, and revenge. It will cost us everything, literally.

Congress is a den of thieves. We see rich white men serving each other’s agendas far too often, with only a slight bit of meaningful oversight from civil society.

Now comes a President Spoiled Brat. He is not a self-made person; at least one study showed that if Trump had simply invested his inheritance in a decent mutual fund he would have several $billion more than he currently has in his net worth. Even amongst that class of people born on third base who thinks they hit a triple he is scornworthy. When anyone is outclassed by George W. Bush it says volumes, and Trump is.

How can we fix this? I’m hoping we can start impeaching and not stop until we get to someone worthy of the job. Get Trump testifying to the Senate, to joint committees, to special prosecutors—I guarantee he will lie and can then be impeached. But beyond that, we really need to do much more collaborative thinking, dialog, and action from the grassroots to reconcile, to serve everyone’s need and no one’s greed, and to take far more responsibility than a simple ballot every election cycle. If democracy isn’t participatory it isn’t decent democracy.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Duped by the Russians 3/8/17

Switching Sides: America and Russia in US Public Opinion -by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Once upon a time in the US you could fairly predict what Americans believe about Russia. Their beliefs would parallel their views of the USSR during the Cold War, with Democrats being relatively more optimistic and uncritical of Russia than their Republican counterparts. As one example, take the spring 2015 poll by Pew Research. It shows that the liberal-conservative divide on Russia held firm, with Republicans far more hawkish than Democrats on the Russia threat, arms to Ukraine, support of NATO, and sanctions on Russia.

But switch to the present and all bets are off. The two camps have changed places. Thanks to Trump’s embrace of Putin, grassroots Republicans have about the same regard for Russia as the Russians themselves. Republicans join with Trump in doubting Russian hacking and the Russian threat to the US; on the other hand, they hope for friendly relations with Russia. Now it’s the Democrats who want to go after Russia with sanctions and a stronger NATO—one reason Vladimir Putin was evidently so anxious that a hawkish Hillary Clinton not win the election and continue Barack Obama’s confrontational policies.

If, as one writer suggests, Trump is the “Manchurian candidate” who has been duped by the Russians into serving as their unknowing agent in Washington, the Republican rank-and-file don’t seem to know or care. They have become America’s “whatevers”: whatever Donald says or does is fine with them. Assessing the relevance of the 1962 movie, Neal Gabler writes that “an admittedly paranoid movie may actually be insufficiently paranoid when it comes to our new reality. It isn’t just the possibility that we had a Manchurian candidate for the presidency. It is the possibility that we now have a Manchurian president, a Manchurian Congress and a Manchurian government.”

As in the movie, it’s up to the liberals to save the country—not from the communists but from the Bannons, Millers, and other conspiratorialists under Trump who, like Putin, want to make the world safe for white Christians, for big business (and oligarchs), and of course for Russia’s ambitions.

Liberals will have a tough time undermining a soft line on Russia. Barring some new revelation by the various investigating committees and the FBI of collusion between Trump’s surrogates and Russian officials last year, the administration will be free to pursue a pro-Russia policy.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

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