Domestic Spending Declines 9/7/16

Don’t elect tax and spend politicians – by Tom H. Hastings

What is the new frame for Republican Senate candidates?

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

In Arizona, John McCain claims that once Clinton is elected only he and the Rs can stop her from reckless spending. This is the general Big Lie used by Republicans over the years and this should be the election when it evaporates into its plainly empty vapor.

In the harsh light of the actual budget day, Republicans are the champions of a war profiteering budget that routinely outspends everybody everywhere. They fund massive weapons programs to bomb across the Middle East and North Africa while potholes pock our roads and bridges collapse into rivers and teachers use their own money to buy pencils in poor schools in the United States of America.

This is not to say that Democrats are much better. They have shown little spine when it comes to resisting hawkish collusion between lucrative war contractors and our elected representatives.

Indeed, Obama has been in eight years and has failed to stop Republican-demanded military spending which is by some measures just as outrageous as the spendthrift Bush-Cheney warmaking disaster. The single biggest difference is that the President no longer came to Congress every few months for another massive “supplement” of hundreds of billions.

The pattern: Republicans shrilly denounce Democrats for being weak on defense. They claim their military adventures will be inexpensive. Democrats cave and vote along with the Republicans. The costs skyrocket. Many even higher costs are hidden in other budgets. Debt and deficits climb; domestic spending declines.

The bottom line is that Republican frugality is just a line. It is demonstrably false by voting records over the decades, certainly including the Republican Senate incumbents who will parrot McCain’s lie about serving as a check on a Clinton big spending president. The big spenders, year after year, have been the Republican elected officials who propose and vote for massive Pentagon budgets that shovel profits to their corporate friends. If voters were going to really seek some prudential fiscal hawks they would probably be forced to look to the Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Russ Feingold, Jeff Merkley or Earl Blumenauer types. But that would require paying attention to actual voting, real budgets, not just rhetoric.

If we want more war, more unemployment, a new recession, and bursting bubbles that drive financial instability, vote for those Republican incumbents, many of whom gave us the radically wrong invasion of Iraq and the daily hemorrhage of Pentagon contracts that produce record deficits and starve domestic budgets.

The choice is ours, state to state, across our nation.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Flip The Senate 8/24/16

Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

Seven Reasons to Flip the Senate – by Tom H. Hastings

The US Senate is up for grabs. Republicans hold 54 seats but 34 senate races could change that. If the Ds pick up five net (they will likely lose at least one, in Nevada), they regain the Senate.

I’d offer seven reasons to make sure Republicans lose the Senate.

1. A Republican Senate blocked a hearing for Merrick Garland, one of the most obstructionist, obdurate acts of political dirty trickery in memory.

2. The Rs have quashed all attempts to stop the mass shootings in the US, even including denying guns to terror suspects (who later went on to indeed commit acts of terror).

3. A Democratic Senate would finally finish the long overdue job of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (assuming a President Clinton would sign), the single easiest and verifiable way to stop nuclear proliferation.

4. A Republican Senate will exacerbate foreign policy blunders that keep America plummeting in world opinion. Even when Obama and Clinton have been irresponsibly hawkish, the Rs bellow their condemnation for not being warlike enough.

5. Russ Feingold was the only US Senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act, one of the most anti-personal liberty measures of the modern era. He is likely to retake his old seat from Tea Party Republican Ron Johnson.

6. Kathleen McGinty, not a lefty firebrand (she’s got a pro-business record, but in particular “green” business, such as wind energy), could squeak past Republican Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, which will be a shift away from Toomey’s endless opposition to clean energy and gun control.

7. In North Carolina, Republican incumbent Richard Burr still holds a slight lead over challenger Deborah Ross. Burr has a dangerous history including a leading role in getting the US Senate to approve export of enriched uranium, an ingredient in nuclear weapons and a substance of great appeal to terrorists. He also voted against any tiny measures of gun control, even those that would deny guns to criminals.

In New Hampshire, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio the races are relatively close (well, not quite so much currently in Wisconsin, where a resurgent Russ Feingold is 11 points up on Trump-loving Ron Johnson) and in every one the Republican incumbent held all the most problematic, retro positions possible.

Really, isn’t it time for the US Senate to stop denying climate chaos, to start getting a clue about keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists, to quit opposing clean and renewable energy, and to play fair with our other branches? Only by replacing Republicans will that happen. 2016 is The Year to do it.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

We Can Do Better 8/17/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Game changer  –  by Tom H. Hastings

When we think about foreign policy, when we consider our course of action in a conflict, how do we make decisions? Are they wise decisions? Can we do better?

We are arguably decades into the war on terror, probably beginning in the modern era back in 1964 with the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s attack on the National Water Carrier in Israel. Everything we’ve done has been destructive. We are great at destroying. Bomb refugee camps. Bomb Iraq, and Afghanistan, also Pakistan, don’t forget Somalia, Libya or Yemen. Bomb bomb bomb.

Fast forward to today and we are, as usual, bombing the bejeezus out of several countries. Just in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State, as of mid- August, the US has conducted 4,433 bombing raids on Syrian territory and 6,693 on targets in Iraq in its 708 days of operations, and the Pentagon says it’s costing about $11.9 million each one of those days. The sorties run far more than 150,000 with enormous fuel use, plus the further giant carbon footprint as they destroyed 1,620 oil depots and other oil facilities. Is it any wonder that the US military is the single largest consumer of petroleum fuel on Earth at more than 100 million barrels annually and we’ve taken over from Saddam as the world’s biggest destroyer of oil wells and tanks and oil production facilities? Good luck meeting any carbon reduction goals as long as our solution to conflict is to drive fuel-hog planes to bomb oil facilities.

But is there any other way to defeat terrorism?

Yes.

Big carrots and big nonviolent sticks have worked well on dictators, military juntas, despots, foreign rulers and fascists from Serbia to Chile to Eastern and Central Europe to the Philippines and elsewhere. Such a program has worked on state terrorists, communist dictators, and brutal monarchs. It takes three primary components.

One, planning. Adaptive planning sets out a hypothetical path to success and adjusts as necessary with changing conditions.

Two, a coalition. A growing number of allies can cause a sense that we are legitimately ethical and reasonable. Allies based on bribery (e.g. military aid, etc.) are unhelpful but allies based on a determined commitment to transformation increase chances for success. Sanctions need to be smart and unbreakable.

Three, discipline. It is a demonstrable trend that when violence is eschewed but all other methods of force are utilized it most often results in sustainable gains.

Apathy and conflict avoidance do not work. Destruction does not work, unless we seek temporary gains at the cost of long term losses.

Simply put, what we are currently doing—daily bombing in up to seven nations–has minimal benefits (except to war profiteers whose blood money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets) and maximal costs. It is long past the time when we should be trying an entirely different way to run our international policies and conflict management methods.

When atrocities have been committed it is harder to avoid reacting with violence to fresh attacks, but that is exactly what would give the US enormous approval and goodwill in the world. We can fix this, but it will take that level of regrouping and reassessment. When one tactic proves unworkable, it’s time to try another. War has had its fair chance and has failed, completely, for 15 years or more.

Hey, ISIS, we need to talk.

Hey, my fellow American voters, we need to elect leaders who can get this done. Innovation has been abandoned to devastation—let’s fix this.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Fair and Reasonable 8/10/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

The numbers don’t lie—but Trump does – by Tom H. Hastings

According to a Fox News poll taken this week, voters believe Donald Trump would do better than Hillary Clinton on the economy. This is a wildly poor assumption.

Look at the fair and reasonable indicators. We can surmise that Trump would continue his fact-free shoot-from-the-hip predatory capitalist approach, and that his policies might look more like George W. Bush’s than anyone else’s. We can also logically guess that Clinton’s policies would resemble those of her husband and President Obama’s.

What do we know?

· Bill Clinton inherited an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent from Bush the Elder in 1993. He handed off the low rate of 4.2 percent to Bush the Younger.

· Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent from George W. Bush, with a loss of 632,000 jobs in Bush’s last full month of his economically disastrous presidency.

· Unemployment is now 4.9 percent, with 255,000 jobs added in July.

· Financial analysts have shown that, had Trump taken his wealth 30 years ago and invested it in a mutual fund, he’d be $10 billion richer today.

· A man far richer than Trump—Warren Buffett—disparaged Trump’s business acumen, saying that “if a monkey had thrown a dart at the stock page” in the 1990s, that monkey would have seriously outperformed Trump.

· Trump is widely regarded as a slow payer, a deadbeat, a bully, and a liar in business deals, with many losses and approximately 3,000 lawsuits against him for his many failures to keep promises made in writing.

Seriously, my fellow voters? Do you believe for one heartbeat that Donald Trump would fix anything? Trump has zero public policy experience, of course, so we can never be sure, but I would suggest that the numbers do not lie. It reminds me of the late Flip Wilson as Miss Geraldine when she tells the man, “You a total stranger, and the total don’t add up!”

Indeed, those who fight for the betterment of the American workers—the labor unions—have analyzed the candidates and have come to the obvious conclusion that the Clinton policies would favor working people far more than would Trump’s.

The Donald has earned the endorsement of just two of them, the National Border Patrol Council (in apparent excitement over The Trump Wall and a huge border budget) and the New England Police Benevolent Association. Trump can console himself with the helpful endorsements of Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan.

Hillary Clinton has received an enormous number of endorsements from those whose “art of the deal” results in better pay for many millions more Americans, these unions so far: AFGE – American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO – American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFSCME – American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFT – American Federation of Teachers, AWIU – International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, BAC – International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, BCTGM – Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, CWA – Communications Workers of America, IAM – International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, IATSE – International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, IBEW – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, IFPTE – International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, ILA – International Longshoremen’s Association, IUOE – International Union of Operating Engineers, IUPAT – International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, IW – International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, LIUNA – Laborers’ International Union of North America, NABTU – North America’s Building Trades, NALC – National Association of Letter Carriers, NEA – National Education Association, NTEU National Treasury Employees Union, OPCMIA – Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, OPEIU – Office and Professional Employees International Union, SEIU – Service Employees International Union, SIU – Seafarers International Union of North America, SMART – International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, TWU – Transport Workers Union of America, UA – United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada, UAW – United Automobile Workers, UBC – The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, UFCW – United Food and Commercial Workers Union, UFW – United Farm Workers, UNITE HERE, USW – United Steelworkers, and UURWAW – United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers.

Fortune magazine produced a slideshow of just some of Trump’s failures, documenting his accompanying falsehoods. Believing Trump is affirmation of P. T. Barnum’s putative aphorism, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Watching the polls is a head-shaking confirmation that, I hope, reverses itself before November. There is far too much at stake.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Profound Tragedy 8/3/16

Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

BLM   –  by Tom H. Hastings

What does BLM stand for?

If you are involved in the land use/land ownership/treaty rights/fed v state Sagebrush Rebellion dust-ups over the years you know that it refers to the Bureau of Land Management, but we are going to leave that hornets’ nest aside for today.

If you are African American or watching the horrific shootings of unarmed black people in US cities, you know that it means the Black Lives Matter movement.

If you are a police officer or otherwise deeply disturbed by the recent spate of cop killings, you argue that it is Blue Lives Matter.

The numbers are terrible. So far, in 2016, a tragic 33 police officers have been shot dead on duty. An ungodly 551 people have been shot dead by cops as of 31 July this year. Last year young black males were nine times more likely to be killed by police than any other sector of the US population—1,134 people killed by police in 2015 and although black males between the ages of 15-34 are two percent of the US, they are 15 percent of those killed by police. While 17 percent of white victims of police killings were unarmed, the rate was 25 percent for young black males.

This is unacceptable to everyone. Dead Americans—cops or citizens—are a profound tragedy.

Most black people who shoot at cops do not live to be tried and when they are they are almost invariably convicted. Most cops who kill black people, armed or unarmed, have utter confidence that they will never be charged or, if they are, they will never be convicted, even when video evidence shows a crystal clear case of an officer shooting a compliant, hands-empty and raised victim or an unarmed fleeing suspect who committed no violent crime and was no threat to anyone.

This should be unacceptable to everyone.

Police boast frequently about their own bravery. Where is that vaunted courage when they witness one of their own obviously murder an unarmed civilian? We see virtually no bold selflessness in those cases. Instead, our “good” cops act more like good Germans, silent in the face of blatant lawbreaking by their brothers in blue.

It is long past time for us to fix all this. At the root are three problems. One, the idea that violence solves conflict, that we must have guns, and that the Second Amendment should continue to allow mass proliferation of these instruments of death. Two, racism. Three, the addition of the return of so many veterans of war only adds to the likelihood that both cops who are war veterans and African Americans who are war veteran–and who are angry about all the black victims of police killings—will ratchet up the violence.

The intersection produces what we see.

When we authentically begin to dismantle all three of these massive problems we will see a reversal of the ghastly trends toward state violence and violent insurrection. In Wichita, both BLM movements veered away from violence and toward reconciliation, starting with a picnic. In Dallas, Black Lives Matter activists vigiled in mourning for slain police. Each of us can do our own small but important best to help with one or more of these problems and collectively, we can begin repair and healing. Our attitudes, our actions, our intelligent voting this fall, will all make a difference.

Let’s fix this.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Slow, Stop and Change 7/20/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Imagine  – by Tom H. Hastings

With our daily news running to atrocity after tragedy, Americans are frightened and angry. Some are resonating with hate talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh or quintessentially enraged TV bloviators like Bill O’Reilly.

This gets them pushed toward candidates who use the same or similar self-righteous militarized rhetoric. It paints Americans as victims, the system as rigged against us, and the world full of ungrateful evil misfits who unjustly hate and attack us.

This strand of candidate sees its exemplar in Donald Trump, of course, but the angry white man rhetoric runs like a bright red thread throughout the entire rightwing side of the American political landscape. The risible reaction from Paul Ryan to overt racism, when he builds at least a good portion of his career and base on covert, dog-whistle structural racism, should tell us something.

But can we imagine a solution that does not involve even more hypermilitarization than we already see, with the US attacking in at least eight countries around the world, against whomever it likes, at will? Can we foresee a day when our paychecks are not shredded by Pentagon expenses that gobble up half our tax dollars every year?

In my field of Conflict Transformation we can envision a conversion to that world, that structure, that social civilization spending its resources on life-affirming goods and services, that has a robust safety net for all, and that draws no hatred from those who live in other places of the world. That vision is only a fantasy unless we offer realistic steps to achieve it, of course, so that is what we study, research, and teach. Frankly, we are barreling down the tracks on a runaway militarized train of hatred and fear right now, so our first baby steps are needed to slow, stop, and ultimately change course onto a much better track, the track of peace and justice.

To begin, we might do best by taking these measures:

-Increasing funding and emphasis on research to determine both anecdotally and empirically the salient characteristics of a society that has strong indictors of social justice, civil discourse, peaceful relations with others, prosperity for most, and citizen satisfaction.

-Begin pilot projects that experiment with incorporating the findings of such research into portions of our American culture.

-Begin decreasing our heavy dependence on global military dominance and start shifting to projects that feature collaboration rather than fierce and forceful competition.

None of these changes are major and all could inform us about the possibilities. The good news is that research already exists that can help us take these steps with confidence and success. Then, as we see the relative benefits and low comparative costs, we can make additional informed decisions.

Right now, sadly, we are racing to the bottom. Before we hit it, and please understand that the bottom is the use of nuclear weapons by a US President acting while full of irrational blind hatred, can we access our big human brains that know how to imagine, to dream, to create workable new paths to peace and prosperity? It is truly up to us.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

After 15 Years 7/6/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

A new declaration of independence –                         by Tom H. Hastings

The US has entered the Orwellian Era of permanent war—until we decide that it’s over.

Why, after nearly 15 years, do we still have 10,000 American troops fighting, killing, and dying in Afghanistan?

Why, after more than 13 years, have we nearly exited and then escalated back into Iraq with 3,500 US troops fighting, killing, and dying?

We are gaining absolutely nothing from this armed occupation of two countries for so long—instead we are losing lives, spending $billions, and creating endless ill will amongst yet another generation in the Middle East and Central Asia. Even the Military Times notes that US troops are “deeply unpopular” in Iraq. It has been a complete waste since the US invaded in March 2003 based on Bush regime lies about WMD and false claims of alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

US combat mortalities since 2001: Afghanistan, 1,742; Iraq, 3,527.

Civilian mortalities in Afghanistan since US invasion: more than 25,000.

Civilian mortalities in Iraq since the US 2003 invasion: more than 160,000.

The dollar costs of war since 2001: nearly $1.7 trillion.

We can argue into the night about fault but can we turn toward solutions even more strenuously? US citizens could help convince our government, our officials, and our candidates to begin advocating for these steps that will de-escalate the conflicts and work toward sustainable peace:

· Stop all arms transfers—both military aid and sales—to the region. That is only pouring gasoline on the flames, demonstrably, repeatedly, with those arms perpetually falling into the wrong hands. The “loss” in revenue to arms manufacturers would be more than covered by the next step.

· Withdraw the US military from the region. All we do there is provoke more hatred. Our violent responses and presence have caused a worsening of terrorism steadily to the point we now see a caliphate, unthinkable until recent years. US taxpayers would either get tax relief or see domestic infrastructural or services improved significantly.

· Declare a hands-off policy on military intervention in the region and get used to the people of the region redrawing their own borders and having the forms of governance they decide to have.

· Increase nonviolent measures of influence, from humanitarian aid to financial sanctions. Withdraw all support for human rights violators in the region, friend or foe.

· Support the nonviolent supranational and US-based organizations that can help enhance the well being of the people of the region.

These measures and more could transform so much—and the US would benefit greatly from taking these steps unilaterally. Time for a Declaration of Independence from foreign military disasters.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Get a Normal Process 6/29/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Get to work or wait for the voters’ verdict  -by Tom H. Hastings

Judge Merrick Garland, chief judge of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is President Obama’s nominee, as we all know, for the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court. The deadbeat Republicans in the US Senate, using their usual underhanded tricks, have refused to even consider this nominee or any other put forth by the president. How many things are wrong with this stonewalling posture?

· We see the results—all truly controversial issues of great import go undecided by the Supremes now because they are at a 4-4 tie.

· Republican leadership is virtually unanimous in being factually woefully in error that there is a rule or a custom not to make such nominations in the final year of a presidency. This is something that might be unusual but hardly rare, and presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson to Dwight Eisenhower and more have all done so, some successfully, some not, all at least were afforded a normal process.

· Republicans need to stop calling President Obama a lame duck. He is not. After the election and before inauguration is the lame duck period. He is just a sitting president currently and he did his job finding a nominee.

· By saying that a president cannot do his job—that we elected him to do twice—that logic should ridiculously extend to all elected officials because they might not get re-elected, so they presumably can’t make any decisions until we “let the American people decide the direction of the court.” Instead of an early July 4 recess to avoid thinking about banning assault weapons, just recess until next January, without your obstructionist pay.

I personally wish President Obama would have nominated someone with a stronger human rights, civil rights, and environmental protection track record. But at the very least, the Senate should do its job and hold the hearings and confirm or reject the Garland nomination. The American Bar Association gave the judge its highest rating and he was confirmed easily by a bipartisan vote to the Circuit Court.

President Obama was just handed a defeat on shielding the parents of Dreamers from deportation, a 4-4 tie by the stymied Supremes that let stand the ruling of a lower court because that’s what a tie vote does. This question—and all others that are close and controversial–cannot be dispositively decided until sometime in the distant future, after the election, after inauguration, after nomination, after hearings, after possible confirmation. Nice job, Republicans, you scofflaw dirty tricksters. I hope the American people do indeed decide the direction of the court by voting you out.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Non-Violent Assault 6/15/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Time for a nonviolent assault on our blood-stained Congress

By Tom H. Hastings

After the horrific shooting in Orlando there are some facts we might want to consider:

· A homegrown (US-born, US citizen) Islamist terrorist committed the worst mass shooting in US history.

· The NRA defends the right of everyone—including terrorists—to obtain, possess, load, and carry assault weapons.

· Many members of Congress take contributions from the National Rifle Association—261 in the 2012 cycle, for example (nearly all Republicans).

· Assault weapons are one of the most common denominators in mass shootings.

· Congress refuses to ban assault weapons or even pass seriously restrictive laws on their possession.

· President Obama has now delivered 15 post-mass shooting addresses to the nation. Almost every time he asks us to make gun control an election issue.

· We don’t.

While almost nothing qualifies as the single issue determining how the wise voter chooses, the priorities of our opinions are critical. If we cannot make the assault weapon ban—the single most common sense step with which we can begin—a top or near-top priority as we question our candidates then we are simply derelict. Automatic handguns, assault rifles—these are used to commit evil acts from coast to coast, from north to south, in our besieged nation. We let them die in Columbine high school. In Springfield, Oregon. At Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. San Bernadino. Umqua Community College in Oregon. In the AME Church in South Carolina and in many more places—175 such mass shootings just in this year so far.

We seem to be a nation quivering in fear and hoping to placate our fear by being prepared to annihilate all comers, but this means instead that we enable more attackers rather than being prepared to handle them. The Orlando shooter killed 50 outright with more in the hospital fighting for their lives. He wasn’t stopped for more than three hours, despite a highly militarized SWAT team, and despite a highly permissive Second Amendment heavily armed populace.

It is time to end this experiment with transmogrifying the entire US into Tombstone Territory with everyone armed to the teeth prepared to either be a bad guy or take out a bad guy. It is not working. It is time to try learning new relational skills, new competencies that can de-escalate conflict, that can help those who are mentally ill, that can disarm those who might come in proximity to our children, to our friends, to our family members. These skills are not rocket science and are studied to make emergency room personnel more effective, to enable mental health workers to be safer without weapons. This is available and is so much more adaptive than our hyperarmed, aggressive culture that breeds more and more of these utterly avoidable tragedies.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Keep Your Guns 6/8/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Eliminate the Second Amendment and Keep Your Guns- by Tom H. Hastings

OK, I confess I fail to see the thrill or need associated with gun ownership and use, but we live in a free country—sort of—and I get why those who hunt need long guns. But I teach, write, and live trying to practice nonviolence between and among humans at least. I’ve had guns pulled on me and fired at me twice and have never ever wanted to shoot anyone. That direct violence is beyond my understanding so I fully acknowledge my bias against guns, especially handguns.

I believe in regulating those things that prove they harm others. No one should be free to harm others—that is not freedom, it is unwarranted arrogated license. The freedom of your hands stops where my nose begins, as they say.

My real point on the Second Amendment is that it effectively blocks sane control of weaponry. Repealing the Second Amendment would not affect anything that most gun owners feel is desirable. But the Second Amendment as interpreted by the Supremes does make it possible for the gun industry, through its most powerful lobbyist–the NRA–to claim that laws restricting anything to do with guns are odious and part of an unconstitutional slippery slope. The track record is so clear. The Second Amendment protects the gun manufacturers and sellers at the expense of a lot of lives every year.

Suicide is possible without guns, clearly. What if greatly limiting handguns, or using available technology so only the registered owner could fire it, could save just 1000 of the estimated 21,175 firearm suicides or just 100,000 of the estimated 836,000 ER visits from self-inflicted gun wounds in the most recent CDC data? Would rational Americans perhaps think about that and fix at least part of the gun problem?

Finally, some serious brave NRA members are challenging the wingnut level of gun lobbying by the NRA, including some who flat out quit the group publicly when NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said the two terrorists who shot up San Bernadino, California, killing 14 and wounding 21, should not have been stopped from purchasing their assault rifles. But the politicians who take on the NRA are open to serious retributive electoral pressure and the ones who toe the line for the NRA are richly rewarded by an annual NRA lobbying expenditure of at least $735,000, possibly as much as $3 million. That is a lot of junkets, TV ads, and fat honoraria.

But more Americans are rejecting the politicians who accept big NRA donations—their success rate is falling, and no wonder. Every new mass shooting brings out the most twisted defense of “gun rights” and the most warped disregard for the right to life imaginable by the NRA leadership.

However we get there, we need to stop the massive flow of weaponry into our streets and we need to do it on a large scale. Strict gun laws in one town are nice but when we have a 50-state open border country, guns flow into places like Chicago despite good local efforts to stop the murders and suicides. There are almost 400 million guns out there so it will take a long time to bring down the numbers but we can do it if we get sane and serious about it.

I know no gun opponent who favors disarming the rural hunter putting provender on his or her family table. I can hope that those, in fact, will be some of the voices calling for far greater sensible gun control so they can take a trip into a city and make it back alive—or so they can send their child to college in some town and not fear so much.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Armed Loonies 6/1/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual – By Tom H. Hastings

I live in a town of suspenders. The police chief is the current best example. He was just suspended for shooting his buddy in the back and then lying about it. They were out hunting—well, sitting drunk in lawn chairs blasting at squirrels.

One wonders if the Harney County sheriff, Dave Ward, should check suspended Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea’s cell phone and email records—perhaps O’Dea had just gotten off a call with Dick “Nothing to Apologize For” Cheney before opening fire on his pal.

“Gun safety” might be in line for the Oxymoron of the Millennium Award when police chiefs can’t handle weapons safely.

Was the victim causing the chief to fear for his life so the chief felt obligated to shoot him in the back? The victim was armed, no doubt, so that could be it.

Was the victim African American? Then no gun would be needed; Portland police join many other urban police bureaus in routinely shooting unarmed black males.

You remember Dave Ward? He was all over the national news last winter as the local sheriff trying to resolve the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by some far right armed wingnuts. He was patient with everyone and, with the exception of one armed occupier who repeatedly proclaimed his right and intention to shoot any and all with his openly carried weapon, Ward got everyone through the situation without bloodshed. He must be truly astonished that people keep coming 300 miles from Portland to commit mayhem in his previously sleepy county. I think we can all see his eyebrows arch as he was initially told that the victim of the April shooting—who was taken by medical helicopter to the hospital in critical condition—shot himself in the back. Riiiiiight. Did the victim sneak up on himself too?

Other sage advice from the likes of Dick Cheney helped O’Dea decide to try to cover it up. Seriously? Chief, did you think that we wouldn’t find out? Yes, it took a month for it all to spill into the news, but a helivac to an ER? Interviews by deputies of all parties? You were the Chief of Police, for goshsakes.

It’s time.

Time to repeal the Stupid Second Amendment so the citizens of the US can slowly lose their lethal firearms and police will not have as much justification for packing guns everywhere they go, shooting everyone who might make them twitch.

Time to retrain police to resolve conflict without violence.

Time to begin to disarm more and more officers.

Time for Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward to catch a break and stop having to deal with armed loonies.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Counting the Costs 5/11/16

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

Yes to assertive, no to aggressive  -by Tom H. Hastings

I teach and write in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, with a special focus on strategic nonviolence. It is a rich field, growing in its scholarship and its widespread usage. I’m so enthused by this—the more we wage our conflicts with nonviolence the lower the costs.

Counting the costs of conflict, we normally think of blood and treasure, of casualties and expense. We are slowly beginning to also count other costs, including our environment, our relationships, our civil rights, our human rights, our metrics of democracy, and more. Nonviolence is superior to violence in every way if we read the research and consider all the costs.

Nonviolence can fail, of course, and in the most robust of struggles—trying to overthrow a dictator, for example—nonviolent struggle only works about 53 percent of the time. Of course violent insurgency only succeeds 26 percent of the time, about half as often as does nonviolence. This is disturbing to those who define revolution as violent. I hope they get over it. Wake up and smell the flowers instead of the cordite…

One secret to nonviolent success is communication. When we are quiet the injustices we see or suffer are allowed to continue. When we are aggressive—either violent or demeaning, threatening, and insulting—that strengthens the resolve of the opponent and progress is unlikely. The best path to victory is assertion—visualize a thin bright line between you and the oppressor. Shrink back from the line and nothing changes. Charge over the line and all defenses spring into counter-aggression, counterattack. But go up to the line with insistent civil assertion, creative and resilient, and your chances for winning your objectives are radically increased.

These principles are basic, but ignored all too often, as we see in many conflicts domestic and transnational, in families and workplaces, in neighborhoods and in towns, in regions and states. The destructive, adversarial conflicts that result are often heartbreaking to observe. From a belligerent North Korean dictator to a misogynist Donald Trump, the results are not impressive. Ruling over others is a poor path to sustainable gains and doing so in an aggressive manner will only generate pushback. If that resistance is civil but insistent, assertive but not aggressive, it can achieve what no one thought possible.

If I had predicted publicly in 1985 that the Philippines would see Marcos deposed without a single fired shot, that the Berlin Wall would fall in a massive nonviolent uprising, that Nelson Mandela would be liberated and apartheid would end without a widely predicted bloodbath, that Pinochet would fall in Chile to mass nonviolent power, and that Slobodan Milosevic would create horrific wars in the Balkans but would be deposed by nonviolence, I might have been diagnosed as delusional.

These cases and 1,000 more are chronicled in a Swarthmore database that is growing constantly. We are humans—we have great big brains that are hard-wired for all possible responses, from violent to nonviolent, which makes us the unique species neurologically capable of infinite, illimitable choice. Let’s be wise about it.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Nature Bats Last 4/20/16

Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

We live or die alone and together   by Tom H. Hastings

Candidates! Can we focus on worthy issues?

We hear about each candidate’s tax return but almost nothing about each US taxpayer contributing half of her or his withholding to the Pentagon.

We hear about the relative attractiveness of candidates’ spouses but silence about the daily existential threat to destroy life on Earth with a grotesque number of nuclear weapons.

Mother Nature gives us all life and if we attack her—even unthinkingly—she will make us eternally sorry. She bats last.

We spend an awful lot of time valorizing, lionizing, and sacralizing warriors, as though they are the defenders of democracy. In truth, our democracy is eroding just about proportionally to that obeisance, that fawning bowing and scraping many now expect as we interact with military men and women. “Thank you for your service.” It is emetic.

Community service comes in constructive ways too, not just destructive. Some farm. Some provide health care. Some educate. Some build. Do we thank the farmer, the nurse, the teacher, the home or bridge builder?

To the logger who brings us pulp for paper and timbers for building—thank you. You have the most dangerous job in America. Fishers, miners, roofers, trash haulers and recyclers, drivers, pilots, repair workers, maintenance workers—all with higher rates of on-the-job fatalities than, for example, police.

More than 4,500 Americans are killed on the job every year. By sharp contrast, fewer than 2,000 American troops have been killed in battle in Afghanistan total in the last 15 years, averaging actually some 114 US troop battlefield mortalities annually. No offense, but a US soldier in Afghanistan is far safer than some lone logger running his saw until a widow maker nearly kills him, hopping on his skidder that might buck him down a nasty hill, and trying to scratch out a living running popple pulp out roads that can pitch him to his demise.

I refused to go to Vietnam as a young man, telling my draft board that I was already doing my national service as a “Psychiatric Technician” (orderly) in a lockdown mental health unit. Lots of young men had uglier draft boards who threw them in prison instead. I decided later that I would extend my tour by offering nonviolent but vigorous resistance to nuclear weapons. I used simple hand tools (twice—once in Michigan and once in Wisconsin) to dismantle portions of a thermonuclear command center, turned myself in, and earned two felony convictions and time in three prisons, all of which I consider national service—well, service to humankind. No one is trained to thank me for my service. Ha. The last one was Earth Day 1996, so this is my sentimental 20-year anniversary of a special Earth Day in my life.

As peace musician Charlie King sang about the US veterans who were ordered to march straight toward the nuclear fireballs in the era of open-air nuclear bomb testing (while the military assured us all that we shouldn’t worry), “We all go out together, but we pay the price alone.”

Like Dr. King writing from Birmingham jail about praying long prayers and thinking long thoughts while paying his price alone after being arrested with 50 others, I think about EMTs, social workers in rough neighborhoods, the nonviolent resisters, the loggers, the cab (or Uber or Lyft) drivers, and I think about how we shower all our gratitude on those who kill, who bomb, who kick in doors, who drone to death and who pollute more than any other sector, and I just shake my head.

Save some gratitude for those who preserve life or provide you with the goods of life and stop the overweening, abject displays of mewling groveling at the altar of militarism. Historian William McNeill called the war industries and the military in general the first example of macroparasites on Earth. They take and destroy. Everyone else has to produce, create, and give.  Happy Earth Day. Peace.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Fewer Admire Us 3/9/16

DOD WOE: Pentagon’s war on the Earth  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

We are waging war. We are the Nation of War. We destroy. We kill. Everyone fears us. Fewer and fewer admire us.

But our fighting forces—and their attendant industries which manufacture the bombs, bullets, and ballistic delivery devices—also wage a war on the clean air, clean water, and clean soil many Americans falsely regard as protected by legislation fought for by those trying to protect our environment.

Recent reports from around the country show the party most likely to toxify our land is our own military. These are just a small fraction of the reports from the past couple of weeks:
· California: New model homes are open for viewing in a beautiful canyon west of Los Angeles despite the land there being “stained with radioactive and toxic chemical waste.”
· New Hampshire: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping in to monitor the health and toxic exposure of those living near or on the Portsmouth, New Hampshire former US Pease Air Force base after tests showed terrible contamination.
· Kentucky: There is an ongoing effort to clean up the site of the uranium enrichment facility in Kentucky, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It is costing hundreds of millions of dollars and the feds are slowly trying to get back a bit of it from responsible parties with settlements, the most recent a $5 million deal with Lockheed Martin for its contamination of the site.
· Maryland: The Army is claiming immunity from its killer pollution from Fort Detrick, with the Army as defendant in a class action law suit claiming numerous wrongful deaths from the site where toxins, biological weapons, radiological materials and hazardous waste contaminated the area for decades. US Attorney U.S. Attorney “Rod Rosenstein, representing the Army’s interests, asked Monday that the case be dismissed. In online court documents, Rosenstein argued that the government has no particular duty to respond to hazardous substances and the Army can use its own judgment to decide whether to clean up.”
· Louisiana: A private contractor will burn 16 million pounds of M-6 propellent, the largest burn of explosives in the history of the world, at Camp Minden in April and May.
· New York: Fort Drum is contaminated. Proposed remedies would inject other chemicals into the groundwater to try to neutralize the “chlorinated volatile organic chemical (CVOC) groundwater plume.”
The Pentagon is relentless in seeking immunity from federal environmental protection laws. One wonders, since the list of environmental disasters created by the military and its contracting producers would extend to multiple current issues in every single US state and dozens of foreign countries with US bases, with friends and protectors like these, who needs enemies?

Tom H. Hastings directs PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute.

Just Trumped 3/2/16

Tom H. Hastings

Tom H. Hastings

by Tom H. Hastings

This has become the New Surrealpolitik, this Trump phenomenon. I understand how monomaniacal Trump can believe he could be president of the United States but I fail to understand how American voters can actually cast a ballot for a racist, xenophobic, ignorant, gauche, arrogant billionaire.

It is clear that Trump has no policy savvy. He can barely identify a current public policy that doesn’t relate to what some obsequious staffer feeds to him.

His misinformation, compounding contradictions, and racial slurs regarding Latina/os are profoundly painful. His dehumanizing mischaracterizations of nonwhite nonChristians, of Muslims in general, and Syrian refugees in particular are simply unAmerican.

Trump’s attitudes toward and relationships with women both individually and collectively are shameful.

Imagining Trump with his thumb on the nuclear button is horrifying and a betrayal of our entire human history and future.

If you believe in workers’ rights you cannot intelligently support Trump with his record of predatory capitalism and ruthless exploitation of the most vulnerable.

For anyone who believes our elected officials should possess integrity, a vote for Trump is impossible.

We are descending in world opinion and global credibility every day we allow Trump to continue to march toward viable candidacy for President of the United States of America. Do we seriously wish to be the embarrassment of the Earth?

The money Trump inherited, if left in an average mutual fund and never touched, would be billions more than what he has in his fortune today. His business acumen is actually lousy. Losing, losing, losing.

Education? Here he is: “I love the poorly educated.” I do not want that man to have a say in the education of my grandchildren or anyone else’s. My stars!

Trump will make negotiating on the global level essentially impossible. He has already insulted the majority of the world powers–leadership that can help or hurt Americans. A vote for Trump is a vote to deepen alienation across the world from America and–since so many vote for him–Americans as people.

Seriously? America has taken hits–Ronald Reagan was a chickenhawk Cold Warrior B-movie actor and a president who–in the words of one commentator–“believed the last glib person who talked to him.” This led the US closer to nuclear annihilation than any time since the Cuban missile crisis. Bush the W–led by the nose by Cheney–lied and stumbled our military into disasters thousands died for and the rest of us still pay for. Trump the Novice–lacking in everything but hubris–would bring us into irreversible catastrophic endgames that would literally threaten the existence of the US and all of us.

I’ve never seen such a display of voter incompetence as the numbers who have gone for Trump. He is the most dangerous version of Bozo the Clown I’ve seen in 55 years of political observation. Just sayin’.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

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