Gas Lightning 1/17/18

Governance by gas lighting –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

My father once told me that a man who worked with him told him that his wife walked in on him in flagrante delicto with another woman and the man denied it. I said, well, what is the guy a pathological liar–you can’t deny the obvious fact. My father said he didn’t know but it somehow seemed to give the man’s wife enough to excuse, forgive, or lose herself in denial. They were still married. It was a new ontological perspective for me–a look at a nature of being that perplexed me.

Years later I learned the metaphorical expression for that sort of blatant horse puckey, gaslighting, or, Are you going to believe me or your stupid lying eyes? It was from a film with a plot that showed how a man made his wife start to believe she was crazy–she stopped trusting the facts.

Gaslighters use blatant lies, they deny they said something even when there is proof (it was another voice on that recording), they call everyone else liars or crazy (He lost his job and he lost his mind), they are narcissistic (“With the F-35 fighter plane – me, myself – I’ve saved hundreds of millions of dollars in negotiating.”) utterly false, they project onto others the worst qualities of themselves, and they thrive on chaos that keeps everyone confused, even tossing in random praise for their victims that will just be more lurching disequilibrium. In the end, they seem to be striving for a world in which they are the only happy ones, happiness dependent on others’ misery.

Welcome to the Donald J. Trump School of Rule. Governing by gaslighting.

When John Kerry made competing claims about his positions on invading Iraq, he was rightly ridiculed for it, and Trump did the very same thing, provably, on the record. The significant difference is that Trump refuses to acknowledge that he was ever in favor of it. Gaslighting.

Is everyone feeling calm and stable? Is anyone? Trump doesn’t seem satisfied unless he’s shot off some vertiginous tweet or statement. Sports? Stay off balance. Allies? Insult them. Dictators? Praise them. Gaslighting.

When real geniuses deny they are in fact that smart, the less bright narcissist calls himself a stable genius. Gaslighting.

Trump tweeted that Rosie O’Donnell was fat, adding to his long list of attacking various women with those sorts of cheap shots, ignoring what he sees in the mirror and demonstrating his predilection for projection. Gaslighting.

Ignoring his own precarious mental conditions, Trump calls Morning Joe crazy and dumb as a rock. Gaslighting.

Multiple lies daily, just a tiny sample of which include his bogus claim that 3-5 million illegal votes cost him the popular vote victory; his fraudulent claim that a Pew report documented illegal votes; his notorious prevarication that his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever in the US despite clear photographic evidence showing the opposite; his hoax that two people were shot dead in Chicago at an Obama speech (no murders in Chicago that day); multiple fake claims that The New York Times apologized for erroneous coverage of Trump, which it never has; his factually backward assertion that the murder rate in 2016 was the highest in 47 years; Trump’s fictional claim that Obama had Trump’s hotel room wiretapped or bugged; his blatant falsehood that he, Trump, finally convinced NATO to “fight terrorism” when NATO has been engaged in counterterrorism for more than 30 years; multiple documentably historical whoppers that he has signed more legislation by certain periods in office than any other president, and the list of these outright phony claims goes on. His list of inflated claims is also overwhelming. How can you tell if Trump is lying? His lips or his thumbs are moving. Gaslighting.

How long will we tolerate the lies, the chaos, the relentless attacks on the most vulnerable, the evisceration of programs we have paid for, the dalliance with death by nuclear war, and the wholesale harvesting of your hard-earned money to the deep pockets of the rich? It is a remorseless assault on epistemology, on how we calculate the very validity of knowledge.

We have a few ways to end this–a hard reign’s a-gonna fall, to tweak the old Bob Dylan line. Trump could stroke out (no, I am not hoping for this), he could resign, he could be impeached, or he could be declared unfit and the 25th Amendment could be deployed. Let’s push for it. Any nonviolent port in a storm. This is the most piercing and urgent item of American business for all of us, not just the gerrymandered corporate-funded office-holders.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

From the Heartland 1/10/18

Appeal to the Heartland – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

I’m from the Heartland, from the lakes and woods of Minnesota. I lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin for almost all of the first half century of my life and I turn to you who make your lives working hard in the woodlands and farmlands and towns big and small and ask you, for goshsakes, can we unite and end this godawful Trump experiment?

There is a chemical, norepinephrine, released into our brains that dials us toward alertness but also potential anxiety. When we sleep and hit the dream state, it is dialed way back in our brain and we can wander mentally in whatever our subconscious ways we do. But if traumatic emotional residuals push it back into our brain we have nightmares. This Trump business is the longest lucid nightmare in our country’s collective mind and it’s time to wake up and smell the 25th Amendment.

Failing is one thing–Trump has done so many times but haven’t we all? This goes way past that into literally mortal danger for millions. This man literally is taunting another fake leader over in North Korea, daring him to kill your children so he can obliterate another country full of humans. My button is bigger than your button? Is this a bad episode of Get Smart? Who writes his material? Oh, that’s right, he does, at least the spontaneous stuff.

Artful Dodger Stephen Miller does his real speeches, you know, where he says things that include multisyllabic Latinate phrases and more literate insults. One wonders, by now, when Miller will join Steve Bannon in the Sad (!) affinity cloister of vindictive tell-all ad hominem Bromance Breakups.

After millions of Americans working so hard to make progress in slowing climate chaos, and to recover from floods and fires intensifying from climate change, Trump is doing everything possible to accelerate toward more and worse hurricanes, bigger and more destructive forest fires, more frequent and massive floods, and the rising seas which will wipe out entire coastal cities. Inundation nation. I mean, when National Geographic, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and so many of the staid button-down institutions we trust are all–all–clamoring for some return to a bit of progress against this backslide, can we please recall what Mo Udall said years ago, “Nature bats last.”

I’m old and have enjoyed my decades. Everything now, however, is at risk for the young ones, and that is the crime against humanity being perpetrated right now, with clear intent, by an outlaw regime that just led us into a new tax-you-for-his-benefit era. I think about my favorite little ones–three-year-old Amolika, four-year-old Oliver, and five-year-old Xyler–plus a lot of other precious children–and I know you worry for your favorite small ones too.

This is bizarre beyond belief as we are treated to one shallow bit of petulant braggadocio after the next. He governs by immature, trash-talking tweets, calling himself “a very stable genius.” Is he 12? Indeed, I know no 12-year-old who is like this. By that age, most have learned humility and empathy. Not our Dear Leader.

Can we fix this? I think it will take the folks from across the US who are represented by rock-ribbed Republicans to handle it. Trump is highly unpopular across the country but this is not reflected in our embarrassing reality. Politics are one thing; playing with fire and fury and the fate of millions is another. It’s like watching a toddler pick up a loaded unlocked handgun, except this is a global gun, literally. This is a moment in the history–and especially in the future–of the country and the people. A moment of unity. If we can’t join to terminate this poor rule and go forward together there may not be much left to worry or disagree about.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

Just a Peace Guy 1/3/18

You want an infowar, fine  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

OK, I’m just a peace guy. I am not an Alex “no-conspiracy-too-nutty-for-me” Jones (like Trump is, for godsakes). In fact, when I edited The PeaceWorker for a few years, there were sincere attempts to have me fired for refusing to print the Dick-Cheney-did-it 9.11.01 conspiracy theories. I wanted some red meat–well, as a vegetarian, I guess I wanted some seared tofu–on my plate. Never got it. (Yes, I see the eager hands go up, I’m just saying there were no real journalists who had significant evidence published and those of us who have been activists for a few decades know from burnt finger regret not to make half-baked claims because they will damage one’s credibility.)

I also never claimed that Paul Wellstone was assassinated by the same CheneyRumsfeldBush cabal, despite enormous circumstantial evidence, including how amazingly handy it was for that flock of vultures right at that time. There were just too few real pieces of evidence.

So I am not much of a conspiracy guy (which, to real hardcore tinfoiler devotees, seals my fate and positively makes me a part of the conspiracy. I am aware.).

Now, however, I do subscribe to the notion that Russia interfered with the US election on Trump’s behalf. It passes all of my sniff tests. It does not move the BS needle on my Truthometer. Putin put Trump in office. All the meetings, the indictments, the lies from Trump and his family and so much more are overwhelming. It’s Mueller Time, as they say.

Yes, Hillary conspired, unwittingly, with her own iniquitous collusion to bump off Bernie and with her bloodstained foreign policy record. Like so many, I voted for her as a purely defensive and highly emetic act.

As expected, Trump is drastically worse in virtually every way, from health care-as-privilege domestic to oinker-in-the-China-shop foreign policy. A rhinoceros has more sensitivity and finesse. A salad roll has thicker skin.

The notion that Vladimir Putin interfered massively in our election is hardly out of character for that autocratic murderous charlatan and anyone who denies this is sadly sliding into his useful idiot bin. God, he has collected many.

Does understanding that Putin has hijacked the White House make us more likely to go to nuclear war?

Oh for Pete’s sake! Wake up, lefties. Smell the sovereignty–Trump gave it away and we need it back. Putin is hardly going to press the End-Life-On-Earth button because he has been busted for effing up our election. Name the meddlesome crime of collaboration with foreign election tampering and impeach this imposter, this embarrassment, this pimple on the hindparts of democracy. Putin will just watch Trump implode, laugh, and say it was a good tryski. We won’t go down in thermonuclear omnicide (well, we might, but not due to this), but failure to see this external interference is a failure to hitch it up to our work to take back our democracy (yes, again, I see the hands shoot up to remind us that the US has done worse than merely interfere with democracy elsewhere–it has overturned it in places like Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Chile and so forth, but that is part of the point, friends).

Do not doubt that our democracy is hovering in the balance. It needs you or it is through. In my nearly 70 years on this amazing Earth I have never witnessed a more dire, urgent, immediate threat to what we are rightly enculturated to love, the freedom of the USA, even with all its warts, its flaws, nefarious chapters, its lack of perfection.

I’m the first to resist our national terrible policy and I have the arrest record to prove it, but this is still my country and yours too, and we have a greedhead fake president who took foreign help to steal the highest office in our land. It is time to act. Impeach. And keep impeaching until we get an executive branch that hasn’t sold out democracy.

To paraphrase and tweak Malcolm X, we need to fix this “by any [nonviolent] means at our command,” and to note the quotable Winston Churchill, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I dare you to try to find another sentence quoting those two together, but this is a real emergency! Saddle up, Americans.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

Filthy Tax 12/27/17

Those Tax-and-spend Republicans – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

OK the Republicans got their tax plunder law. They win, we lose.

Some 83 percent of the $benefits will go to the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans.

A last-minute add-in will mostly benefit Trump and other wealthy real estate developers/investors. Buck-naked corruption.

The health care crumbs promised to Senator Susan Collins were mostly absent, breaking the “ironclad” promise to her from Mitch “Haha-gotcha-you-ignorant woman” McConnell.

If you are a middle class or poor person your taxes will rise either immediately or gradually over the next decade.

If you get some small tax break just know that rich people get a much larger one and the national debt will increase astronomically by $1.4-1.7 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In other words, if you are a rich person, congratulations! You snowed us again. Or, as was noted in The New York Times by Andrew Ross Sorkin, ” If you’re a billionaire with your own company and are happy to use your private jet so you can “commute” from a low-tax state, the plan is a godsend.”

What the uber-rich count on is our apathy. Plus they believe that if you toss a bone to a dog that dog will not try to get inside your mansion where you are feasting on the choice meats. Are they correct? I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know, as noted on CNN: “While Republicans cheer the bill’s passage, however, 55% of Americans oppose the plan, according to a new CNN poll. Just 33% say they favor the GOP’s proposals to reform the nation’s tax code.”

We will see. If we the American people will put up with this we are quite sorry excuses for citizens and are acting more like subservient subjects. I long for the day when we can set aside all other differences and just take back our democracy, which, according to the most robust testing by nonpartisan Freedom House, is not as strong as that of Uruguay, San Marino, Japan, Kiribati, Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Chile, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain, Slovenia, all of Scandinavia, Belgium, Barbados, Bahama, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Iceland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Cape Verde, Canada, Lichtenstein, Australia, Austria, Andorra, St. Lucia, Tuvalu, the UK, Estonia, Dominica, New Zealand, Palau, Micronesia. We only get robust democracy by earning it and maintaining it. This tax robbery by the filthy rich is quite a test.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

Goal Overall is ? 12/20/17

Stop Trump movement – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Since the #GagMeElection of 2016 we have heard a great deal about “resistance.” Nevertheless, we’ve seen relatively little of it actually happening. Who is doing what toward what announced goal?

The War Resisters League (full disclosure: I was on its National Committee years ago and especially love its secular nonviolent philosophy) is claiming to be doing a lot but nothing much to show for it, nothing mentioned since the inauguration really, and no reference to numbers involved. Discouraging.

Moral Monday movement, led by Rev. William Barber II, is possibly the most ambitious, with designs on establishing campaigns in every state. Encouraging.

The movement in and out of Congress to impeach Trump is lurching into view, but is yet to gather enough steam or coordinated constituencies. One is reminded of both JFK and Obama telling activists, essentially, get out in the streets and give me the political cover to do what you are asking me to do. Challenging.

The climate chaos resistance has produced a small beginning in its overdue and underpopulated resistance to Trump’s slashing efforts to stymie the EPA and roll back renewables while boosting dirty tar sands, choking coal, and radioactive nuclear. Some of the resistance—the most serious of which actually happened during the last two years under Obama—has been impressive, but, again, spotty and not yet in meaningful coalition. Motivating.

Yes, the women’s movement has produced by far the most meaningful mass results, first with the astonishing Women’s March and now with the sexual harassment/attack/pedophilia charges mounting against all powerful abusive men, but only very recently has found a bit of a focus on Trump in particular. Mildly hopeful.

Immigrants’ rights groups historically come out in the streets on May Day and 2017 was no exception, with spokespeople from several national groups claiming that strikes and boycotts would ensue. If they have, few have noticed. Yearning.

What is the goal, overall? Bluntly, to end the Trump regime using nonviolent methods. Has such a thing ever happened in a democracy? Or, for that matter, in an autocracy masquerading as a democracy?

Oh yes. Serbia. The Philippines. Hungary. Poland. Ghana. Estonia. Tunisia. Chile. Czechoslovakia. Lebanon. Latvia. Zambia. Lithuania. Tanzania. Liberia. This list goes on and there are online libraries devoted to it. The research shows it succeeds twice as often as does violent insurrection but to succeed it takes numbers—that research reveals that successful civil resistance movements are normally larger than a successful guerrilla army by a factor of about 11:1.

But it’s not just the numbers; it’s the coordination and commitment. Is there the movement power to engage in sustained resistance on a massive enough level and keep its nonviolent discipline? Michael Moore launched a resistance calendar, but it is a catch-all with no idea of priority or coalitional clout. Enticing.

So far, we are not close in the US. Trump may shoot himself in the rhetorical foot daily, sometimes hourly, but until we are coordinated in an unstoppable coalition—broad base but laser-sharp focus—he will enjoy his power, privilege, and position. Many peoples, one goal. Many reasons, many constituencies, one target. Join with others to remove Trump.

Time to reach out to each other. Hello?

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.

Gradations NOT 12/20/17

Are – by Tom H. Hastings

Men are dogs (sorry, dogs!).

Tom Hastings

Trump refers to his ambitions with canine instincts, e.g., he wants to spend $1.5 trillion on new nuclear weapons to make sure the USA is at the “top of the pack.” We only have a few more than 7,000 of them live, locked, and loaded, prepared to overkill humankind by a factor of seven, so it’s important to add more, right? Arf.

Moving to other phallic symbology, our fake president decided to defend his sexual assaults by impugning anyone who would suggest he was ever in the wrong (textbook God complex pathological narcissism, no matter how utterly unjustified). Implying that a US Senator–who took him to task on his ever-increasing stable of women coming forward to accuse him of illegal, immoral, hurtful, or disgusting sexual behavior—is a whore could be a new low for The Donald. Arf.

From the standpoint of my field, Conflict Transformation, Minnie Driver has it right when she describes how inappropriate it is for men to decide what the spectrum of rotten sexually inappropriate behavior is (perhaps with the exception of the law, and perhaps women should not only be the only ones to vote on such laws but should be the ones to serve as judges and juries in such cases). This is a time for men to simply apologize if they are going to say much at all. This is neither a time for men to declare gradations of what is terrible behavior nor a time to justify or even qualify our past acts and words.

In an interview with The Guardian, Driver says, “I honestly think that until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not.”

This quote should go down in the literature of my field as an exemplar of perspective in identity communication. It’s like white male Mississippians telling us that “Calling someone a n__ger isn’t as bad as refusing to hire one.”

No, Mr. White Mississippian (or New Yorker, or wherever), you don’t get to pronounce on that. And similarly, Minnie correctly notes, even men of goodwill should take this opportunity to listen and learn, re-evaluate and rehabilitate, not make determinative rulings on increments of impropriety and certainly not call for tossing a break to powerful men with new image issues.

To model what I think Minnie is after, I’ll acknowledge that, like most men, I have demonstrated plenty of poor behavior in my 67 years on this Earth, no excuses, many apologies, and a promise to listen and learn. You can teach an old dog new ideas. Woof.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of conflict transformation and PeaceVoice Director.

In Our Hands 12/13/17

Tom Hastings

Leave it on the table again? – by Tom H. Hastings

“You can’t fight City Hall.”

Well…turns out City Hall is a minor obstacle these days. Trump and his autocratic buds loom far larger. If you can’t fight City Hall you surely are foolish to try Trump.

Indeed, we routinely tell ourselves some version of the Reinhold Niebuhr axiomatic Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

We cannot possibly affect serenity these days without occupying a state of deep denial. This is an emergency on all fronts:

· Trump groped many women, a dozen of them came forward to describe it, and yet he keeps his job while the other power players topple.

· Trump praises foreign dictators—Putin, Erdogan, Duterte—and insults the leader of Europe’s strongest, prosperous, generous, peaceful democracy—Merkel.

· Trump is doing everything possible to put industry in charge of dismantling environmental regulations.

· Trump is appointing Supreme Court “Justices” who are shifting the decisions toward jingoism, xenophobia, and unconstitutional, anti-democratic nationalistic insularity.

· Trump is targeting Muslims, Mexicans, and others with his racist tweets, presidential orders, and auto-cannibalistic appointments.

· Trump and Kim Jong Un are doing the most demonic death dance ever, like little sociopaths who simply do not care about the annihilation of millions.

· Trump’s encouragement to the most brutal police has created a new level of racial fear felt first and familiarly in the African American communities but now in a toxic spreading reciprocity.

· Trump lies pretty much every time he discusses and denies the Russian roles in getting him elected and is now squirming to avoid the law as embodied in Mueller’s investigation.

And this is only the short list. We are losing public lands, gaining the ridicule and revulsion of citizens from around the world, and watching the shreds and loose threads of a social safety net for our most vulnerable blowing in this gale of bad policy.

What can we do?

Well, what did women do to finally get the vote? What did blacks do to finally end segregation? What did migrant workers do to form a union? What did Native Americans do to finally reaffirm long-abrogated treaty rights? What did British Gold Coast Africans do to end colonial rule? What did Filipinas and Filipinos do to depose Ferdinand Marcos? What did Serbs do to knock Slobodan Milosevic out of office? What did Tunisians do to overthrow dictator Ben Ali?

In all these cases and many more, people finally decided to take that latent power that is always there—nonviolent people power—organize it, recruit mass numbers to their movement, and use it strategically to earn victory. Yes, they worked at it. Yes, they sacrificed. And they won, with far far far fewer costs than if they would have either shrunk from engagement or engaged in violence.

Our power is in our hands if we take it off the table—and if we don’t, the greedy elite will take it all again. Our power, our choice.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.

Blood Runs Cold 11/29/17

Turkeys in the White House  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Satire in the Time of Trump is becoming really tricky. Just when a satirist believes s/he has the kernel of a silly or outrageous extrapolative idea, this administration jumps in front of it and even outdoes it. From Saturday Night Live to stand-up comics to the Onion to Andy Borowitz, it’s getting dicier by the day.

For instance, I was chuckling grimly to myself as Thanksgiving approached, creating an SNL bit in my mind where Trump overturns the pardons of last year’s turkeys by Obama. Hahaha, I thought, that would spoof Trump’s outrageous assaults on all that is decent in health care and environmental protection that Obama did via Presidential Findings.

Then Trump actually said that he tried to overturn Obama’s pardons for last year’s turkeys. Trump thought that was darn funny. My blood ran cold. This man’s sense of humor must have been surgically implanted by a really stupid robot improperly programed in a middle school shop class. This is a fellow who believes his wit is the height of caps when he calls a foreign head of state short and fat or yuks it up with cops about brutality.

I’m American, approximately Trump’s age and I’m a white guy so I’m feeling embarrassed and apologetic when I’m not feeling apoplectic at the snake pit into which we’ve cast ourselves. The Deadbeat Prez. It’s so rampant the makers of Embarrassmints cannot keep them in stock.

Hurry, Mueller, please. Bring charges, snip the Putin Puppet strings, and strip this sorry excuse for a public figure of all title, wealth, power and comfort. Can you manage? Will my $5 donation help? I could do $10 if you could jam on the gas. I know my annual donations to worthy causes aren’t enough but on a percent basis I am confident they overtop Trump’s. You can have some of my zip ties; they make great handcuffs.

We’ve seen this country sink faster than a granite block in water and there is no bottom in sight. I have a friend who is one of the world’s top climate scientists and he is trying to convince us all to get busy. I have another friend—two friends, actually, who are heading to prisons for nonviolent resistance to climate chaos greatly exacerbated by the astonishingly poor decisions and inept presidential orders we have seen launching off the Oval Office desk.

He fails to understand rudimentary science, basic morals, honesty, simple ethics, decent planning for the future of our nation, and all-around civility. Who raised this cringeworthy one? Does he have a daily quota of groups and individuals he intends to offend?

It’s all I want for Christmas. Make us all grateful. Bring down this failed and dangerous administration. Quickly. His fingers may be tiny but they have been in all the wrong places and cannot get near the nuclear football.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.

Kangaroo Court 11/22/17

Reckless – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

I’m heading to court from my home in Portland, Oregon, to Missoula, Montana.

Leonard Higgins is going to go on trial in a Montana courtroom for his role in the October 11, 2016 coordinated shutdown of several of the dirtiest tar sands oil pipelines that increasingly and dangerously traverse North America.

Leonard simply shut off a valve, turning off the Express pipeline in Montana, an act of supreme nonviolent symbolism because he and everyone involved knew that the pipeline company would open the valve quickly and get the filthy tar sands oil sludging along again.

Four other climate chaos resisters also shut down sections of tar sands oil pipelines in Washington, North Dakota, and Minnesota the same day. All either face trial or have gone to trial. For the most part, thus far, the courts have disallowed the necessity defense, that is, effectively eliminating the chance for the jury to hear why these resisters did their actions.

This means that, for the most part, they have been kangaroo courts, a travesty of the judicial system.

Another valve-turner, Michael Foster, a mental health counselor in his 50s from Seattle, went on trial in North Dakota and one of the charges–the only one the jury found him Not Guilty of–was reckless endangerment. The other charges resulted in convictions and he faces possibly 21 years in prison. His sentencing will be January 18.

He is sitting in the packed van across from me as we travel to Leonard’s trial. I ask him about the 210,000 gallon spill that just occurred in South Dakota from a part of the Keystone pipeline.

“Yeah, I don’t think I was the one engaging in reckless endangerment,” says Michael.

And, as in Michael’s case, the Montana judge has refused to allow the jury to hear the necessity defense, so we are going to hold a mock trial (view it here) to at least share with anyone interested what we would have presented, had Leonard been allowed to receive a fair trial.

The necessity defense would allow the jury to hear that the pipeline is carrying highly polluting tar sands oil, that the climate catastrophes we are starting to see–more fires, larger fires, longer fire seasons, more hurricanes, worse hurricanes, longer hurricane seasons, rising seas–will intensify with the ongoing failure to transition now to clean renewable energy. The jury won’t be allowed to hear that the resisters had at least some reasonable expectation of a positive effect as a result of their actions.

Instead, the jury will only learn that the defendants did turn off the pipeline, however briefly. Since the resisters had others call the pipeline company a few minutes ahead of time to warn them, this is hardly in question. The resisters did not admit their actions; they claimed them.

Meanwhile, the tar sands oil are polluting our groundwater and contaminating our soil at every step, even as the Trump representatives in Bonn are the only rogues promoting the use of more fossil fuels. The entire world knows better. Only the US is going out of its way to act with demonstrable reckless endangerment.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

Bring Back Dirty 10/11/17

This land is your land – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.

Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.

That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October–two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.

We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.

The Trump regime is doing worse than nothing; they are exacerbating the problem by rolling back the tepid regulations the Obama administration brought to bear. Trump yanks the US out of a world agreement to fix this, the Paris Accords. He gets Rick “Never-met-an-oil-well-I-didn’t-like” Perry as his Secretary of Energy and Scott “That-pollution-smells-like-money-to-me” Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency–into the ground. Trump promises to bring back dirty coal. It is Satanic, frankly, with zero regard for the children of the world, for the generations. He’s old without any discernible conscience. Who will confront him?

Michael Foster, Leonard Higgins, Ken Ward, Emily Johnston, and Annette Klapstein will. They have.

I attended Michael’s trial as much as possible, although I couldn’t be in the room in the beginning because I was scheduled as an expert witness and we were sequestered until we testified–or until the judge disallowed us…which she did.

Michael was facing 23 years in prison on four charges. Three of us were there to provide expert testimony in three topic areas to help the judge and jury understand why Michael should be acquitted. Two of us were there to speak to different aspects of nonviolence and one was on hand to speak about the urgency of a rapid change in our general habits but a specific exam of the dirty tar sands oil that flows through the Keystone pipeline. Climatologist James Hansen is 76 years old and is the one who announced that “global warming has arrived” in 1988 when he worked as a scientist at the Goddard Space Center. Every single prediction he made then has come to pass. He is arguably the world’s top scientist in that area–certainly the most famous. He’s Trump’s age, only with a long-view conscience and integrity.

The court could not be bothered to listen to this eminent scientist, someone who could have helped the judge and jury become at least familiar with the emergency that we see unfolding all over nowadays, made much worse by the dirtiest sort of fossil fuel–tar sands oil.

The contempt for anyone coming to North Dakota to “tell us how to live” (the prosecutor’s attack on Michael, who is now from Seattle) was palpable. The judge allowed the prosecution’s expert witness, demonstrating some spectacular inconsistency and hypocrisy. As one who woke up a few times this summer to unbreathable air and everything in my town covered in forest fire ash, I say to North Dakotans, you need to fix this. We will do our part but you need to do yours. Most of us know at least one or two people in Houston, or in the Santa Rosa area, or in Miami or Puerto Rico. Are we Americans who value all other Americans or are we not?

But the prosecutors were dismissive. Hell, Foster only faces 23 years, why give him a chance to reason with jury members? Let’s not confuse them with the facts.

The trial in tiny Cavalier, North Dakota, in remote Pembina County, was heartbreaking.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.

Best Time is Now 10/11/17

Now  – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Don’t you just love it when a problem occurs and the one who caused says something like, “Now is not the time to talk about it.”

Huh?

Such as when Harvey hit Houston, a hurricane made into a monster by the extra-warm Gulf of Mexico, and all that additional warmth in the ocean produced by human-caused climate change. Streets became rivers, houses and people were swept away.

Hurricane Irma leveled towns roared through the Caribbean, twisting and killing in September.

Fossil fuel burning–oil, gasoline, natural gas–warmed the air, warmed the ocean, and what did Trump’s EPA head, Scott Pruitt say? Now is not the time to talk about climate change.

Seriously. That is exactly the best time to talk about it. When cities are inundated is when folks need to know why. Floridians want to know if there is any way to prevent unprecedented storm surges and record sustained winds sometimes nearing 200 mph, ripping off roofs and flattening trees and buildings.

When conflagrations are burning down the astonishingly beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest, when iconic parklands and treasured places are in flames and we cannot breathe, when we wake up in my town of Portland and everything is covered with the ash from these firestorms, that is precisely when we need to talk about changing course and fixing this.

Now 59 people shot dead and more than 530 wounded from automatic gunfire and what does Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokesperson say in response to questions about gun control? “Now is not the time to talk about it.”

Hogwash. It is precisely the time to talk about it.

Why, indeed, does Donald Trump immediately tweet about his travel ban and wall after every news item about either a terror attack anywhere on Earth or an undocumented Hispanic person getting a parking ticket (this is almost not exaggerated)?

Time to talk. Time to study. Time to act.

Seriously address anthropogenic climate chaos. Reward clean energy. Rapidly phase out Keystone pipeline dirty tar sands oil. Rapidly phase out coal-burning electric-generating plants. Radically reduce the highly fossil-fuel-consuming US foreign military presence and thus carbon footprint. Now.

Repeal the Stupid Second Amendment. That is how citizens, towns and states can regain their rights. As it is, when a city tries to ban certain weapons the NRA rolls in with their kill squad and finds plaintiffs to sue. The Supreme Court eventually says, hey, no local or state control for you–it’s in the Constitution. Gun rights trump human rights.

Ironically, those who historically clamor for states’ rights are now the ones smashing states’ rights. They wanted states’ rights to discriminate against various races, genders, sexual identities, and unions, most notably in the infamous U.S. Supreme Court in the 1857 Dred Scott decision in favor of slaveowners but many times since. Now, hypocritically, they want to do away with a state’s right to ban as many proven killer weapons as they wish.

Some of us want to live amongst others in civil society in which issues are resolved without guns, where someone with a concealed mental health issue cannot carry a concealed weapon–because no one is carrying weapons in that town.

Some want to live in states with essentially no limits to weapon ownership short of a nuclear bomb. Great. Good luck with that, Texas and Idaho. But when Chicago–formerly the murder capital of the US before it banned certain guns–tries to pass bans on some guns and they are told they cannot, that the ban is lifted, what sort of freedom is that?

Guns do not produce freedom; guns are often the direct enemy of freedom. Each locality needs its freedom back, the freedom as it defines it.

Now is the time to talk about it.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Insulting the Victims 10/4/17

Catalonia to Cascadia  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Since last November many of us in many places in the US have heightened dreams of secession, of new nation-states, new sovereignty. It is true that many of us have had less intense versions of that fantasy for decades, waxing and waning from regime to regime.

Now it’s approaching heart-attack serious.

Trump is a daily embarrassment; worse, he gets to use the fruits of our labor to carry out disgusting policies, drop the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan, likely pay for a cruel and retro-minded border wall with Mexico, and possibly even wage nuclear war with North Korea. He seeks to gain more personal wealth on the backs of poor people daily, he insults the victims of anthropogenically worsened climate disasters in the Caribbean, and is simply insufferable in his tone-deaf narcissism, adolescent braggadocio, and trailer-trash personal insults.

One of my Vermont friends sent me notice that she has joined a group there calling themselves Most Likely to Secede. Some in the Upper Great Lakes region are reviving ideas of Miniwishigan, a nation-state of the US side of the Lake Superior basin. Increasingly, Native Americans are discussing stronger sovereignty, often in broad multi-tribal coalitions.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to it as Cascadia. We even have our own flag, the beautiful Douglas Fir. We envision ourselves as Washington, Oregon, and northern California. We may need to reassess if eastern Washington and eastern Oregon prove to be Trump loyalists, essentially artifacts from the racist white homeland some wished for the Pacific Northwest from time to time. Maybe we are mostly coastal. And of course there are some serious Jeffersonians in a particular part of northern California, but they may or may not be amenable to a racially, religiously, ethnically diverse and eco-friendly vision for Cascadia. Let them secede in their own way or join us with forward thinking, not backward.

So, as you may imagine, we love the serious struggle by Catalonians for their independence. They clearly want it even more than Puerto Ricans or Scots, voting to remain part of the US and the UK respectively in 2017 and 2014. Puerto Rico voted to become a state and against independence; Scotland voted to remain a junior partner in the UK. I wonder if those peoples are regretting their votes?

Gandhi once told the British (paraphrase), We would rather govern ourselves poorly than have you rule us efficiently. This is a sentiment held by many people worldwide, though when the voting chips are down, the blandishments of the hegemon often prevail. I am not suggesting that if we held a vote in Cascadia we would do as well as Catalonia, but as Trump alienates and makes us all roll our eyes and shake our heads, perhaps the potential vote is growing closer.

Of course the other North American secession movements are irredentist First Nation and Native American struggles to regain complete nation-state sovereignty, not the limited “trust relationship” sovereignty of the tribes to the US government nor the more advanced but still unsatisfactory relationship of the Anishinaabeg to the government of Canada or the provincial government of Manitoba.

The UN is a hostile environment for most secession movements since it is a composition of some 194 nation-states in a world that the anthropologists tell us used to be at least 800 distinct nations with sovereignty and their own lands, a natural world turned violently into the colonial system driven by European colonial powers for half a millennium, with new national borders crunching peoples together or splitting them apart in ways they well remember and generally regret. The UN’s members, thus, do not favor setting precedent by approving of secession when they often harbor groups who would love to rule themselves too.

Indeed, even the EU is not friendly to secession movements and said so publicly following the Catalan vote. This was a great blow and disappointment to the Catalonians who voted, some say in excess of 90 percent, for complete autonomy, independence, and separate nation-state status from Spain. Of course this picture is blotched by the Spanish police, who were ordered to prevent the independence vote, who attacked voters and injured nearly 900 of them, and who confiscated ballot boxes. How can accurate results obtain from such brutality, such a quash of indigenous democracy?

Are voters intimidated at times so severely that they simply stay away, thus compromising the results? It is hard to say with Puerto Rico, since the vote was not taken seriously by the US government and a mere 23 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots. But in Catalonia the Spanish government was dead serious and hyper-involved, possibly deterring a hefty percentage of potential voters by beating those who showed up at the polls and by blatantly seizing ballot boxes. Still, some 42 percent of registered voters did so.

So we shall see, here and abroad. Trump’s base includes many from states that attempted to secede and became the Confederacy, and the rest of us know it. More and more, we want less and less to do with him, with them, and possibly declaring our independence, our sovereignty, is the solution.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Kindegarten Immaturity 9/27/17

Tween boys and the fate of the world? – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

First Donald Trump, inexplicably in the ill-fitting role of the President of the United States of America, threatens to go totally criminal, to “totally destroy” North Korea. This violates international laws to which past US presidents have signed and far better US Senates have ratified. Killing civilians. Shooting rockets into cities. Committing genocide. All totally immoral and illegal.

Then the Spoiled Brat Ruler of North Korea responds: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.’

How, how on God’s green Earth could humankind have permitted us to be in this untenable position, with aged boys taunting and reviling each other, manchild specimens whose only actual achievements were being born sons of powerful men? The tween in his dotage in the US is far older, but no wiser, just a sad blustering narcissist seemingly utterly unaware of just what a pathetic cheap fool he is. The twerp in North Korea earned nothing, son of a son of a brutal ruler, as endowed with a human conscience as, say, Uday Hussein or Curtis LeMay.

These are two poor excuses for humans, clearly addled by their upbringings and the forbearance shown them even when their behavior is kindergarten immature, even when testosterone, greed, gluttony and power over others corrupts all their actions.

And, dammit, they both have nuclear arsenals.

Seriously, humankind, what are we going to do? Even Nixon, as maniacal as he was, visited Leonid Brezhnev and gave him a Cadillac. He really thought better about starting an atomic slugfest.

Not Trump, referred to by many nowadays as ONE (Our National Embarrassment). How many North Koreans have participated in terror acts against the US? How many times has North Korea conducted war games just off the coast of the US? How many times has North Korea attacked US soil?

Oh, that’s right. Zero.

How many times has the US conducted intimidating war games all around the northern half of the Korean Peninsula? How many North Korean civilians were slaughtered mercilessly by the US military in the 1950-’53 bloodletting, in attacks on North Korean cities, towns, and villages? Just sayin’.

If we would prefer to avoid a nuclear war, if we would rather not have a few US cities immolated and Far East Asia burned down, the US and North Korean peoples need to swing into action, and, as we live in a putative democracy in the US, our duty is even more clear than that of North Koreans.

Impeach.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Healthy Water & Air 8/9/17

Are we Egypt?  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

When the world watched Egyptians bravely gather en masse in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January 2011 to Arab Spring Hosni Mubarak out of office, we were mightily impressed and most of us cheered the nonviolent resistance.

The western press lionized the Egyptian military as it seemed to support the uprising and the generals kindly offered to run the country on an interim basis. Sure enough, there was an election eventually, Mohammed Morsi won, and the military handed over power.

For a minute.

Then we saw the military not-so-kindly grab power, ousting the elected Morsi and General Sisi ordered mass arrests and torture of dissident pro-democracy Egyptian activists.

Now, a few short years since the US calmly watched democracy betrayed badly by the Egyptian military, the US press is valorizing the military officers who are starting to snap some discipline into the most chaotic, dysfunctional, investigated White House this senior citizen has ever observed, at least since the months leading up to Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon’s resignation.

Be careful.

Falling all over ourselves in gratitude because a Marine general imposes some order in the executive branch may benefit the racially biased, anti-immigrant, pro-military agenda of the range of rightwing members of Congress, but that new efficiency is not going to result in the policy changes most Americans want nor those which protect the healthy water and air we all need.

From H.R. McMaster (National Security Adviser), to John Kelly (Chief of Staff) to James Mattis (Secretary of Defense) to Joseph Dunford—all generals—Trump is ceding power to those who know how to seize it. Generals now head his staff in the White House.

In short, handing over the keys to the democratic system to the military might seem like a safe path toward stability, but it failed miserably for the Egyptians and even in our disrupted state we should not seek to hitch our lines to the ones who do not practice democracy, who have a mission to control by threat of destruction, and who practice a dominating form of rule, not a democratic form of governance.

None of these generals is a Dwight Eisenhower, all are dedicated to the Trump agenda—ramping up global climate chaos, sowing race hate and violence, targeting refugees and immigrants fleeing from wars we supply arms to wage, rolling back civil rights, being cozy with the likes of autocrats Putin, Duterte, and yes, General al-Sisi, while scorning democratic humane clean energy leaders like Merkel. Be ye advised.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

Nine Powers Showdown 8/2/17

Now  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

We have been living with nuclear weapons for 72 years, so that must make them safe and sustainable, right?

Wrong.

Nuclear weapons are the only way we have of killing most humans on Earth in the space of a few hours—far more immediately than global climate chaos, which is itself a dire threat. Indeed, reliable astro-scientists assure us that they predict no giant meteor collisions nor anything else that can wreck life on Earth for at least millennia, except the ultimate self-inflicted nuclear apocalypse.

Most of humankind understands this, most of humankind is not defended in any conceivable fashion by the godawful weapons in the arsenals of just nine of the 200 nations on Earth.

That is why we are witnessing a political showdown between the overwhelming majority of the planet’s countries and the nine nuclear powers.

Oh, you hadn’t heard about this conflict? That is hardly surprising in our strange media and political atmosphere of random bellicose presidential tweets, votes on whether to slash healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens, and narcissistic speeches to the bewildered Boy Scouts. Not to mention the deranged cockfight environment we are witnessing inside the inner circle in the oddest, most dysfunctional White House in US history.

Far more meaningful in the long arc of human history and certainly in our hopes for future generations is the recently passed treaty to ban all nuclear weapons on Earth.

Yes, there have been sidelong, kick-the-warhead-down-the-timeline attempts before, including the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the stalled Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but now comes a full frontal legal and worldwide political assault on the enemy of the generations, nukes.

And we have seen successful treaties to outlaw both biological weapons (1972) and chemical weapons (1992), neither of which have ever been capable of the immediate and long term threat to life locked and loaded in the arsenals of just nine nations.

Naturally, it is The World v Nuclear Weapons Nation-states, plus a few nations who don’t have nukes but whose economic and political arms have been twisted, primarily by the US.

The 72 years since the atomic annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is nothing more than a quick eyeblink in the long span of human history and prehistory. Nukes are a single incident away from wrecking your life, your great-grandchildren’s lives, and those of everyone else. They are now officially criminal and have always been evil.

Now is the most opportune time ever to let your federal elected officials know that we stand with the vast majority of people on planet Earth. It’s time. Sign that treaty and get it ratified. Save the world, literally.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

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