OddlyEnough™: Eating Insects Could Help Fight Obesity
The thought of eating beetles, caterpillars and ants may give you the creeps, but the authors of a U.N. report published on Monday said the health benefits of consuming nutritious insects could help fight obesity.
More than 1,900 species of insects are eaten around the world, mainly in Africa and Asia, but people in the West generally turn their noses up at the likes of grasshoppers, termites and other crunchy fare.
The authors of the study by the Forestry Department, part of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said many insects contained the same amount of protein and minerals as meat and more healthy fats doctors recommend in balanced diets.
“In the West we have a cultural bias, and think that because insects come from developing countries, they cannot be good,“ said scientist Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, one of the authors of the report.
Eva Muller of the FAO said restaurants in Europe were starting to offer insect-based dishes, presenting them to diners as exotic delicacies.
Danish restaurant Noma, for example, crowned the world’s best for three years running in one poll, is renowned for ingredients including ants and fermented grasshoppers.
As well as helping in the costly battle against obesity, which the World Health Organization estimates has nearly doubled since 1980 and affects around 500 million people, the report said insect farming was likely to be less land-dependent than traditional livestock and produce fewer greenhouse gases.
It would also provide business and export opportunities for poor people in developing countries, especially women, who are often responsible for collecting insects in rural communities.
Van Huis said barriers to enjoying dishes such as bee larvae yoghurt were psychological - in a blind test carried out by his team, nine out of 10 people preferred meatballs made from roughly half meat and half mealworms to those made from meat.
GFP - 05.18.2013
Politics | Government | Election
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
I can just picture pans of them in the showcase at the local grocery store.
Not sure the effect it would have on this community. Doubt the store would have to reorder often.
By lol on 05.18.2013
Some store already have them on premises. All they have to do it to capitalize.
By LOL LOL on 05.18.2013
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Where are the Nonviolent Alternatives to the Nine Proposed Military Bases in Afghanistan?
Earlier this week, Hamid Karzai confirmed that the United States will build nine new military bases in Afghanistan, including a strategic base at the border with Iran, with Whitehouse spokesman Jay Carney assuring us that these nine new bases will not be permanent. Their role will mainly be to strengthen and train the Afghan military; our only question is whether they even entertained any non-military options? With our media, it’s hard to tell.
One of the disservices done to the American public by the corporate media is the framing of this recent decision. As in numerous other reports, we are fed a series of top-down decisions like this one with language suggesting that they are in the best interest of American families and the strength of the nation, and that they are not open to discussion. As usual, the implicit bias from the top is that we citizens are ignorant and powerless; if they do not provide a violent, armed, militarized solution, the US has nothing else to offer. But it is their ignorance and powerlessness that we are seeing, not our own.
There is a Zen saying about a reed in the wind, how it bends while a ‘strong’ tree can break. This truth is echoed by the prolific folksinger, Ani Difranco when she notes in her inimitable way that “buildings and bridges are made to bend with the wind/ what doesn’t bend breaks.” It’s practical wisdom, and very pertinent. As more everyday citizens become interested in exploring nonviolent solutions worldwide, this short-sighted and deadly dichotomy between violence or passivity of the U.S. government exposes its fatal flaw—an inability or an unwillingness adapt and evolve with the growing consciousness of people around the world. Structures simply have to evolve as people grow in consciousness if they do not want to face obsolescence; we created them to serve us, after all, and we are an adaptive species. In other words, if our systems are rigid and violent, it is our responsibility to see that they adapt, or step aside. There is a growing consciousness of a co-creative, life sustaining spectrum that encourages empathy and solidarity and makes everyone safer. Our growing awareness of our interconnection, if only through technology and climate/ecological understanding, points a way out to us from destruction to restoration, from harming to healing, and from profiteering to peacebuilding. Acting on this consciousness of nonviolence, and creating institutional structures to serve it will be a major step forward for everyone; and it is more than just a reprioritization of our values: it’s a rediscovery of who we are.
Just as the consciousness of separation and force is embodied in military systems, with their ever more fantastic equipment and trained (that is, unfortunately, desensitized) men and women, the consciousness of peace and human solidarity is beginning to be embodied in cross-border ‘peace teams’, truth and reconciliation commissions, international courts, peace communities (like the few who are holding on right now in Colombia), peace research institutions, and more. If you haven’t heard about them, we are not surprised—they are not the stuff of today’s media. Or today’s policy.
But they are working. Behind the scenes, peace teams, for example, are bringing children abducted by paramilitary units back to their families, protecting the lives of threatened individuals or whole villages, monitoring historic peace agreements (as recently in Mindanao), and stanching rumors—those prolific causes of intercommunal violence. What if our government were instead to set up nine peace operation centers in Afghanistan, at a cost of just nine percent of the proposed bases, with training and jobs available for nonviolent conflict intervention? What if it were to create nine centers for women’s empowerment instead of forcing many Afghan women into prostitution, as inevitably happens around military bases? They could happily employ retrained military people who sense this far nobler use of their courage along with the veteran peacekeepers of Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, and the other groups—all still at a small fraction of the cost of the proposed bases. What if, with the rest of those resources, we were to set up nine high-tech, free hospitals, nine Afghan-centered universities and libraries, and throw in nine hundred village schools into the bargain, still totaling less than nine military bases with US arms and trainers?
Economist Kenneth Boulding was one of the great pioneers of peace research, and he often communicated his important findings with a sense of humor. According to Boulding’s First Law, “if something exists, then it is possible.” Our privilege and responsibility as citizens is to uphold the possible and bring these alternatives to the attention of the media, of policymakers, and everyone we can get ahold of. It is our duty to our country—if not to the rest of humanity—to make it perfectly clear that if our key institutions do not bend in this direction they will surely break.
~~ Stephanie Van Hook & Michael N. Nagler ~~
GFP - 05.18.2013
Opinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™
Politics | Government | Election
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
Where are all you War Protesters that were so vocal when Bush was President?
Barry got your tongue? You give your politics away with your silence.
By Obama's War on 05.18.2013
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Plans to Increase Exports of Liquefied Natural Gas Could Accelerate Fracking Boom, Critics Say
A domestic natural gas boom already has lowered U.S. energy prices while stoking fears of environmental disaster.
Now U.S. producers are poised to ship vast quantities of gas overseas as energy companies seek permits for proposed export projects that could set off a renewed frenzy of fracking.
Expanded drilling is unlocking enormous reserves of crude oil and natural gas, offering the potential of moving the country closer to its decades-long quest for energy independence.
Yet as the industry looks to profit from foreign markets, there is the specter of higher prices at home and increased manufacturing costs for products from plastics to fertilizers.
Companies such as Exxon Mobil and Sempra Energy are seeking federal permits for more than 20 export projects.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Bungling Benghazi
Abraham Lincoln, regarded as one of America’s greatest Presidents, said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
We ask much of our Presidents. We want people of character who possess a strong will. They must also be charismatic individuals who challenge and inspire. Above all, they must be leaders.
Even great leaders will fail, but we can forgive them if we know that they did their best, that their sense of duty was greater than personal safety, popularity or political expediency.
What we don’t like is deception.
President Richard Nixon is the poster child for deception at the highest levels. He put himself above the law during the Watergate scandal and obstructed justice. Indeed, the cover-up was worse than the crime and the duplicity and obfuscation forever changed the way we view the presidency.
President George W. Bush did not set out to deceive about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but in hindsight we know there was an unhealthy disregard for legitimate questions about the evidence. The confidence with which the Bush Administration pushed the war, combined with the failure to prepare adequately for post-Saddam Iraq, caused many Americans to question his leadership.
Now we have the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Gregory Hicks, Stevens’ deputy in Libya, testified on Capitol Hill last week that they knew immediately that the attack was a coordinated terrorist assault, not a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a YouTube video.
Yet the Administration adopted and perpetuated the video explanation.
We now know, via reporting by ABC News and The Weekly Standard, that the State Department extensively edited the talking points from the CIA to take out any references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia.
When “the-video-caused-it” explanation crumbled, the Administration blamed the CIA. When questioned during the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden said the Administration attributed Stevens’ death to the video because “that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community.”
As Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, “In some cases, the fog of war is initially thick, then it dissipates… (in the Benghazi attacks) the fog was a later addition.”
Was the Administration worried that a resumption of terrorism would damage President Obama’s chances of being re-elected in two months? Gerson suggests it was “an effort to obscure negligence and incompetence, not criminality.”
One of the great mistakes people in power often make is that they become too clever by half; they allow perceptions of their own importance to beguile them into thinking the truth can be managed.
Now Americans must sort out the controversy, and that task is made even harder by the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington that is fanned by talk shows and cable channels.
Deception, obfuscation and ineptitude undermine the institution of government and breed mistrust. The truth in the beginning would have been simpler for all. Americans can handle it, and they deserve it.
World: Mother’s Day
The United States commercial market for Mother’s Day has skyrocketed in recent years.
According to the Society of American Florists, 25% of all purchases of fresh flowers and plants are for Mother’s Day; and Hallmark says Mother’s Day is the third largest card selling holiday and second most popular gift-giving holiday after Christmas.
So it may surprise you to find that the first efforts to establish Mother’s Day in the US weren’t exactly successful.
After the Civil War and during the start of the Franco-Prussian War, social activist Julia Ward Howe wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation calling for peace. She was inspired by a woman named Ann Jarvis who attempted to unite women and improve sanitation conditions through the Mothers’ Work Days. Howe’s Mother’s Day for Peace did not gain much of a following and her proposal to convert the July 4th festivities into a celebration of peace and mothers fell flat.
In 1908, after Jarvis’ death, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for a Mother’s Day holiday. Her Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia held the first official Mother’s Day celebration and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson eventually declared the second Sunday of May the official national date for the holiday.
By the end of Anna Jarvis’ life, Mother’s Day was celebrated in more than 40 countries. The carnation was Ann Jarvis’ favorite flower and was present at her funeral. The tradition has arisen of wearing a carnation, colored if the mother is living, and white if not, to honor one’s mother on the holiday. It is also common to honor Grandmothers, wives, and other important mother figures in your life.
Here’s a look at Mother’s Day traditions around the world:
In Mexico, Mother’s Day has been celebrated on May 10 since the early 1900s. It is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays in Latin American countries. The celebration is also tied to the Virgin of Guadalupe who is considered a symbol of motherhood. There is a special mass for Dia de las Madres along with traditional breakfast or brunch for mothers and some sort of serenade in the morning as well in Mexico.
El Salvador and Guatemala also observe Mother’s Day on May 10.
In the United Kingdom Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. In the 1600s, children that were working away from home as servants visited their Mother Church on Mothering Day. They also saw their families and their mothers during this time. Eventually the holiday began to take on a secular celebration as well. A tradition of giving your mother a glazed cake was started. The cake comes from a folk tale about a married couple named Simon and Nell. When they couldn’t decide whether to boil or bake a cake, they did both and invented the Simnel cake.
In Spain and Portugal, where the holiday is more religious, people respect and remember the Virgin Mary on December 8. Children also honor their own mothers on this day.
In the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Mother’s Day was tied to a three day series of holidays. The Mother’s Day cycle in Yugoslavia began with Children’s Day or “Dechiyi Dan” three days before Christmas. The following Sunday was Mother’s Day or “Materitse”, and the Sunday after that was Father’s Day or “Ochichi.“ It was a three day event where in the parents and the children alternated in tying each other up. The children had to promise to be good in order to be released and the mother offered the children treats so that she could be freed.
Many countries celebrate Mother’s Day on March 08:
Afghanistan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, to name just a few. However, that date has other importance as well. International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, recognizes the economic, political, and social achievements of women.
The Socialist Party of American began celebrating a National Women’s Day in 1909. The following year the Socialist International met in Copenhagen and established a Women’s Day of an international nature in order to support the women’s rights movement. Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Russia are just a few of the countries that celebrate International Women’s Day rather than Mother’s Day.
France celebrates Mother’s Day the last Sunday in May. After WWI the holiday took shape around the desire to repopulate the country. Medals were awarded depending on the number of children a woman had. This springtime Sunday is referred to as La Fete des Meres, and it provides children and adults throughout France with the opportunity to make their mother the center of attention, and give her gifts and treats. Today a common gift is a cake shaped to resemble a bouquet of flowers, along with candies, flowers, cards and perfumes. In Sweden, the Swedish Red Cross sells little plastic flowers before Mother’s Day. They then use the money that they make from these flowers to help needy children and their mothers.
In Finland Mother’s Day is called aidipayiva. The family picks flower and presents a bouquet to the mother. A small white pungent flower called the valkovuokko is usually preferred.
Some Asian countries, such as Singapore and China, follow suit with the American Mother’s day tradition. In China most names begin with a character signifying mother which honors the maternal heritage. Other Asian countries have their own unique traditions. In Thailand, the celebration of the beloved queen Sirikit Kitayakara’s birthday on August 12 has become a Mother’s Day celebration.
Hong Kong’s holiday, called mu quin jie, usually honors the parents of the mother if she is deceased.
In Japan, the name for Mother’s Day is haha no hi. In the early 1900s the Japanese celebrated Mother’s day according to Western custom, but this was banned during World War II. After the war, the tradition became widespread again and there were drawing contests offered for children to illustrate their mothers. The exhibits celebrating mothers and peace toured throughout the country.
In Iran and Bahrain, Ruz-e Madar or Mothers’ day is observed on the first Day of Spring, March 21. This also happens in Lebanon and United Arab Emirates.
In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Yaum ul-umm, is modeled after Western Mothers’ Day and is marked by celebrations and feasts.
In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends. There is a three day feast called “Antrosht,“ which is part of the celebration.
South Africa celebrates Mother’s Day on the first Sunday in May.
The Egyptian goddess Isis was considered the mother of the gods. She was revered as a loving wife and mother and symbol of fertility and magic. She was revered and a cult even formed to worship her.
In ancient Greece, Rhea, “mother of the gods,“ was honored in the spring with honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn. Her Roman counterpart, Cybele, was celebrated with games and a procession through the streets.
The Celtic goddess Brigid, was celebrated during spring in connection to the first milk of the ewes and calves that flowed, symbolizing purity and nourishment.
For thousands of years, In India, the Hindu people celebrate for nine days in October during a festival called Durga Puja. This puja (or worship) celebrates Hindu goddess Durga, a warrior-like protector and mother. It is currently the largest Hindu festival in Bengal.
G-Fin™: U.S.A.: Economic Brief – 04.19.13
Regional and State Employment and Unemployment (Monthly)
In March, 26 states and the District of Columbia had over-the-month unemployment rate decreases, 7 states had increases, and 17 states had no change. Non-farm payroll employment decreased in 26 states and the district, increased in 23 states, and was unchanged in New Mexico.
Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers
Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 102.6 million full-time wage and salary workers were $773 in the first quarter of 2013 (not seasonally adjusted).
This was 0.5% higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 1.7% in the CPI-U.
Summary Estimates for Multinational Companies, 2011
U.S. multinational companies: U.S. and foreign operations: Worldwide employment by U.S. multinational companies (MNCs) increased 1.5% in 2011 to 34.5 million workers, with the increase primarily reflecting increases abroad.
Employment in the United States by majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign MNCs rose 3.3% in 2011, to 5.6 million workers, a rate of increase higher than the 1.8% increase in total U.S. private-industry employment in 2011.
Consumer Price Index
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers decreased 0.2% in March after increasing 0.7% in February.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.1% in March after rising 0.2% in February.
Real average hourly earnings rose 0.2% in March, seasonally adjusted.
Average hourly earnings remained unchanged and the CPI-U fell 0.2%.
Real average weekly earnings rose 0.5% over the month.
G-Comm™: War, More War, and Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam to Iraq
Review: Nick Turse, “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.” New York: Metropolitan, 2013. 384 pp.
The title of Nick Turse’s brilliant history, Kill Anything That Moves, was a commanding officer’s response to a soldier’s question, “Are we supposed to kill women and children?”
In contrast, an army criminal investigator’s response to a veteran, who revealed that American soldiers were abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians, was: “The United States has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.”
Turse’s readable, indispensable, and, yes, deeply disturbing book may be the most important among thousands of books about the Vietnam war. A major achievement is its explaining how and why “atrocities perpetrated by US soldiers have essentially vanished from public memory.” In authenticity and power, it compares favorably with earlier accounts, such as Tim O’Brien’s novel, “The Things They Carried, ” and Bruce Weigl’s poems, “Song of Napalm.”
Titles of chapters of Turse’s book convey a general sense of the grim and tragic accounts of the war: “A System of Suffering,” “Overkill,” “A Litany of Atrocities,” and “Unbound Misery.” In the process, the author documents a commander’s standard operating procedure, including burying bad news, concealing violations of military law, and papering over miscarriages of justice.
In training before going to Vietnam, soldiers were taught to regard the Vietnamese as inferior, even inhuman, referring to them not as “the enemy,” but as “gooks” or “dinks.” This practice reflected the contempt with which the country was regarded by President Johnson, who called Vietnam “a piddling ####-ant little country,” as well as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who referred to it as a “backward nation.”
In a representative account of civilians victimized by the troops, a mother returning home came upon the bodies of her son and two others riddled with bullets. They had been tending the family ducks, while their mother was away for a brief period. Encouraged to raise the body count in this way, one soldier amassed an estimated 1,500 “enemy killed-in-action”, by planting Chinese communist grenades on bodies so that they would be counted as enemy dead.
A particularly chilling, though not unrepresentative, account of an “industrial-scale slaughter” involved a two-star general. As field commander in the Mekong Delta, he “made the killing of civilians into standard operating procedure.” In an early briefing, he announced his plan “to begin killing 4,000, then 6,000 a month of these little bastards” then went on from there. As an associate said of another officer, for him, “body count was everything.”
Reasonable estimates account for 3.8 million violent war deaths, combatant and civilian, according to reports by Harvard Medical School and an Institute for Health Metrics and Education report. An official 1995 Vietnamese government report estimated more than 3 million deaths, a million of them civilians. Civilian victims of the war included 8,000-16,000 South Vietnamese paraplegics, 30,000-60,000 South Vietnamese left blind, and 83,000 to 166,000 South Vietnamese amputees. These estimates do not include the tens of thousands of Americans and North Vietnamese dead and wounded.
Some information about atrocities, though “prematurely closed and buried,” was assembled by “Conduct of the War in Vietnam”, a task force established by the top commander in Vietnam and later Army Chief of Staff, General Westmoreland. In what Turse describes as a “whitewash of a report,” it concluded that “criminal acts that occurred during General Westmoreland’s tenure in Vietnam…were neither wide-spread nor extensive enough to render him criminally responsible for their commission.”
More recently, other government officials have re-branded or dispatched the Vietnam war to the dustbin of history. Their re-writing of history perpetuates misleading accounts by reporters and irresponsible editors who ignored or withheld essential information from the beginning of American involvement in 1965.
In spite of efforts to silence them and to deprive the public of an accurate account of the war, many veterans, at considerable risk, gave detailed accounts of their own involvement and the policies that led to various war crimes. In twelve years of research—reading files and interviewing witnesses, Turse documented their testimonies. It included Jamie Henry’s testimony, at a press conference in 1970, that the murders at My Lai was only one of similar incidents that occurred “on a daily basis and differ from one another only in terms of numbers killed.”
The perspective that Turse brings to this history is truly a gift to public discourse. “Never having come to grips with what our country did during the Vietnam war,” he says, “we see its ghost arise anew with every successive intervention.” In the conclusion, he asks questions that offer a means to our understanding its full implications, and other wars that followed: “Was Iraq the new Vietnam? Or was that Afghanistan? Do we see ‘light at the end of the tunnel?’ Are we winning ‘hearts and minds’? Is ‘counterinsurgency’ working? Are we applying ‘the lessons of Vietnam’? What are those lessons anyway?”
An obvious answer to these questions might be that those responsible for US foreign policy never met a war they didn’t like. In spite of that fact, as Andrew Bacevich said, the Pentagon hasn’t won a war since 1945.
One wishes that every American citizen might read “Kill Everything That Moves,” and take to heart its account of a brutal, unnecessary war and the evil that we were responsible for. Sadly, we continue to be lied to about the full implications of US foreign policy that undermine democratic governance.
~~ Michael True is emeritus professor, American literature, Peace, Conflict, and Nonviolence Studies, Assumption College ~~
World Autism Awareness Day: Let’s Light it Blue - April 02, 2013 - Tomorrow
April 02 is World Autism Awareness Day, and to celebrate, thousands of people are coming together to Light It Up Blue.
Join Autism Speaks to Light It Up Blue and help shine a light on autism!
Autism awareness is more important than ever – 1 in 88 American children are on the autism spectrum – a 78% increase in only six years.
This increase can only be partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness.
Please join our efforts and support Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue.
G-Comm™: Teach the Children War
The National Museum of American History, and a billionaire who has funded a new exhibit there, would like you to know that we’re going to need more wars if we want to have freedom.
Never mind that we seem to lose so many freedoms whenever we have wars. Never mind that so many nations have created more freedoms than we enjoy and done so without wars. In our case, war is the price of freedom. Hence the new exhibit: “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.”
The exhibit opens with these words: “Americans have gone to war to win their independence, expand their national boundaries, define their freedoms, and defend their interests around the globe.”
Those foolish, foolish Canadians: why, oh, why did they win their independence without a war? Think of all the people they might have killed!
The exhibit admits the motivation of “expanding national boundaries.” The aim of conquering Canada is included, along with some dubious excuses, as one of the motivations for the War of 1812.
But the exhibit provides absolutely no indication of what in the world can be meant by a war being launched in order to “define our freedoms.” And, needless to say, it is the U.S. government, not “Americans,” that imagines it has “interests around the globe” that can and should be “defended” by launching wars.
The exhibit is an extravaganza of misdirection. The U.S. Civil War is presented as “America’s bloodiest conflict.” Really? Because Filipinos don’t bleed? Vietnamese don’t bleed? Iraqis don’t bleed? We should not imagine that our children won’t learn exactly that lesson. The Spanish American War is presented as an effort to “free Cuba,” and so forth.
But overwhelmingly the deception is done in this exhibit by omission. Bad past excuses for wars are ignored, the death and destruction is ignored or minimized.
The exhibit provides a teacher’s manual, and its entire coverage of the past 12 years of warmaking consists of describing the events of September 11, 2001.
What do young people learn from lessons like these? Jessica Klonsky, a high school teacher, in a new book called Teaching about the Wars, wrote that many of her students were surprised to learn that any others than soldiers die in war.
Civilians — children, women, the elderly — have been the vast majority of war deaths in most major wars since World War II, and our young people have no idea. And if students save up for a field trip to Washington, D.C., they’ll return home just as clueless.
People love to complain about the stories the Bush Administration told about WMDs. I think the stories we tell about wars after they are over do more damage. The truth would result in an absolute end to war-making. The truth is not pleasant, but it is the real price of freedom.
~~ David Swanson - His books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War ~~
World Autism Awareness Day: Let’s Light it Blue - April 02, 2013
April 02 is World Autism Awareness Day, and to celebrate, thousands of people are coming together to Light It Up Blue.
Join Autism Speaks to Light It Up Blue and help shine a light on autism!
Autism awareness is more important than ever – 1 in 88 American children are on the autism spectrum – a 78% increase in only six years.
This increase can only be partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness.
Please join our efforts and support Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Iraq: Was It Worth It?
Ten years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the question lingers like a war wound: was it worth it?
An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that almost six in ten Americans believe now that the war was not worth fighting. That’s a dramatic shift from 2003, when nearly 80 percent of Americans supported the war.
The poll found the biggest reason Americans question the wisdom of the fight is that it’s unclear what, if anything, was gained for the substantial cost.
The war claimed the lives of 4,488 U.S. service members and thousands more were wounded. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors were killed. A study by Brown University found that more than 190,000 people died in the Iraq war, the vast majority of them Iraqi civilians.
The Bush Administration initially estimated the cost would be $50 to $60 billion. The Brown study says the actual cost may be as high as $2.2 trillion.
As for the gains, Saddam Hussein is dead, and along with him an existential threat to the region. The seeds of representative government have replaced a brutal totalitarian regime, although Iraq is still rife with sectarian violence and ancient rivalries.
A side-by-side comparison of the cost and the current gains tips heavily toward the conclusion that Iraq was a mistake. However, history requires a long view, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict what the state of affairs of the region would be today had Saddam not been taken out.
I have my own regrets about Iraq.
As a talk show host leading public discussion in the run-up to the war, I failed to have a thorough and cogent debate about the wisdom of going to war. Sure, I had war opponents on the program to counter my view, and we had spirited discussions, but I never gave full weight to the legitimacy of the other side.
I took an overly simplistic view of what a post-Saddam Iraq would look like. I assumed the natural state of people was to desire freedom, and that would trump long-simmering regional and religious feuds.
Big mistake. And with a little more research, it would have been evident that modern Iraq was an artifically created state after WWI and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Finally, I believed that Iraq had WMD, though I give myself somewhat of a pass on that. U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who was certainly no hawk, also believed the intel, as did many other people supposedly in the know.
Middle East expert Ken Pollack says there are three fundamental lessons from Iraq:
• Always be careful about the intelligence. If we got it wrong about Iraq, who says we won’t get it wrong about Iran or some other potential threat?
• How do you get out? We didn’t plan well for a post-Saddam Iraq and it cost lives and treasure. You have to have an exit strategy.
• Make a full commitment. We tried initially to do Iraq on the cheap and that extended the war. 200 years ago German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz warned of half-measures in war.
While a look back on the 10 year anniversary is important, it’s perhaps more critical to look ahead. One day, we’ll face the prospect of war again, and we would be wise to remember Iraq.
G-Comm™: Lessons 10 Years Later: Iraq
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. As one of the longest and one of the most costly wars in U.S. history, the true costs in dollars, lives, environmental contamination and opportunity costs may never be fully appreciated. This “preventive war” waged on our behalf has forever tainted the world view and standing of the U.S. Disregarding international and domestic public opinion and international law before the war, this illegal war was destined to happen regardless of that opinion. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the war is the identification and clarification, a “How To” of what doesn’t work in resolving international conflict. Namely war itself.
Dollar estimates of the combined war costs range from $1.4 trillion to $4 trillion dollars spent and obligated or a bill of between $4,500 and $12,742 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The human costs and death toll are immense. It is estimated that between 225,000 to more than 1,000,000 have been killed when taking into account all the lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To this tragedy are added the tens of thousands injured here at home with similar numbers in war zone countries.
Significant brain and spinal injuries to coalition forces approach 20% and PTSD 30% of soldiers. The costs of treating these problems will continue for decades to come.
In a part of the world where poverty and oppression are the norm, identifying and addressing the root cause of conflict is far better than bombs at preventing terrorism and is far less costly. The respected international mediator John Paul Lederach suggests that going to war to defeat terrorism is like hitting a mature dandelion with a golf club—it only creates another generation of terrorists. That graphic image is very telling in a part of the world where the mean age ranges from17.9 in Afghanistan to 21.1 in Iraq. How will these future generations who lack the meeting of basic human needs respond to our war?
We have fallen victim to the idea that the “ends justify the means” when in reality the means are the ends in the making. Today’s means and realities will determine tomorrow’s reaction and outcome. The continuation of suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan are the desperate response of an occupied people. In his book, Dying to Win, Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago examines in depth the phenomenon of suicide bombing. His research reveals that though religious conviction or revenge may play a role, the vast majority (>95%) of suicide bombings always include the primary motivation of trying to push out foreign occupiers.
In a way to somehow sanitize or numb ourselves to the horrific effects of this war we have seen an entirely new lexicon added to our language. From drones (remote spying / assassination unmanned aerial vehicles) to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury – the signature injury to U.S. forces) to collateral damage (killing innocent civilians) to enhanced interrogation (torture) to rendition (torturing prisoners in outsourced countries like Egypt on behalf of the US) to Suicide Bombers.
We are now even marketing drones as a jobs program at home.
We have written whole gymnastic legal treatises to sooth ourselves, and to justify our use of terrorism and assassination of even our own citizens. In the use of these methods, machines and practices have we not become the embodiment of “the enemy”? What happens when the entire world has the same capabilities and beliefs? What have we created?
These are some of the realities 10 years after launching an entirely preventable war. During this same period we have fallen into financial disarray at home with a significant contribution from these wars. The robbing of our own social fabric to cover these costs will play out for years to come. And yet there are those who would continue to dismantle our social infrastructure to continue this war effort and that of future wars at any cost. These are the facts after 10 years of “preventative war”. How we address the facts at hand will determine our future and that of the world. Indeed conflict is inevitable. War is optional—and a poor one. We have the necessary means to address conflict without war. The means are the ends in the making.
~~ Robert F. Dodge, M.D. ~~
G-Comm™: Betrayal of Trust on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Living with radiation sickness is not on my bucket list and I would hazard that it isn’t on yours either. Nor is it what I have in mind for my children’s future. Yet our government continues to manufacture nuclear materials and unsafely store radioactive waste in clear violation of the public trust. Nowhere is this more visible than at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most radioactively contaminated site in the western hemisphere, where we now know radioactive sludge is leaking badly from at least six underground tanks. While Hanford is technically in Washington State, the management of this catastrophe is vitally important to the rest of the nation—indeed, the biosphere. Unfortunately, environmental disasters do not stop at city, state, or national borders.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is located on the 1,243-mile-long Columbia River and sits upstream from drinking water facilities for the Washington Tri-Cities area, tribal lands, and many other towns and cities before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1943, this facility is home to the first plutonium production reactor. Hanford is responsible for having manufactured the material used in the first atomic bombs, including the bomb that killed and poisoned scores of thousands in Nagasaki, Japan, 09 August 1945.
An environmental remediation legal structure called the Tri-Party Agreement governs the cleanup efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Department of Ecology, and the US Department of Energy. Bechtel, a construction and engineering firm, is currently overseeing the construction of a vitrification plant that will stabilize the worst of the radioactive materials with glass. Added to the Superfund list in 1989, the cleanup of Hanford is woefully behind its original 30-year schedule.
Recent news articles and Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcements have brought Hanford back into the national spotlight as the large tanks containing radioactive waste are leaking into the nearby aquifers at a reported rate of 300 gallons per day. Many of the site’s 177 underground tanks are losing radioactive liquid. In fact, prior to the latest news, the Washington Department of Ecology reported that the contaminated water could reach the Columbia in anywhere from 12-15 years. The US Department of Energy reports on the leaking tanks but never quite fixes them while the DOE Hanford website indicates nothing out of the ordinary. With many of the tanks holding a million gallons each, this is enormous and means the United States is producing a massive radioactive waterway. It is the government’s responsibility to deal with Hanford before its citizens suffer considerable environmental, health, and economic damage. Considering the rate of cleanup and the lack of public awareness, this is an almost certain fate. Furthermore, the threat of sequestration is risking even the slowest paced cleanup operations at Hanford.
When stacked against other environmental issues – timber clear-cutting, setting aside wilderness areas, and even plastic waste floats larger than Texas, the risk of radioactive contamination to our environment is infinitely more catastrophic. I feel that this issue demands our full attention. Unlike the Fukushima disaster only two years ago, the Hanford radioactive leaks are not the result of a massive natural disaster triggering an anthropogenic catastrophe. This is an event brought on entirely by our own human arrogance and mismanagement, demonstrated repeatedly by poor predictions about how safe it all is. If anything, our utter failure to clean up a terrible mess made way back in World War II and the Cold War shows our hubris in continuing to maintain nuclear weapons somehow believing we can control them. All it takes with nuclear weapons is one mistake and we are all only human. Mistakes are inevitable. The biggest mistake of all is to fail to dismantle the nuclear arsenal now and clean up the massive mess as quickly and safely as we can.
Under the Tri-Party Agreement, cleanup was scheduled to be completed by 2018 and has since been revised to 2040. This makes the specter of a radioactive Columbia River an assured nightmare without action from grassroots organizations and community involvement. This current trajectory is an absolutely unacceptable legacy.
It is not too late. We have the ability to alter the impending disaster by placing pressure on responsible government agencies, legislators, community leaders, and contractors to safely increase the pace of the cleanup operations—and to tell Congress to shift all $2.46 billion in nuclear weapons “modernization” funds to cleanup—or at least what’s left after sequestration. Now.
Talks have repeatedly stalled between agencies regarding the timeline of waste containment. We citizens are in a position to leverage public interest as a means to get the negotiating parties back to the table. 2013 has the potential to be the year that Hanford Nuclear Reservation makes a dramatic shift to move off the Superfund list in a quick and responsible manner. Join the affected tribes, local governments, and many others in demanding a fast, safe, and complete clean up. Write, call, or email your representatives. Donate five dollars to an environmental group working on this issue. Talk to people.
As citizens, this demands our attention. As humans, this demands our action.
~~ Gina Mason, MS ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Hugo Chavez’s Useful Idiots
Despots attract useful idiots, and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had his share. He could always count on sycophants from the naive American left to help him foster an image of a man of the people and a socialist reformer.
Consider some of the eulogies out of Hollywood:
Danny Glover called Chavez a “social champion.” Oliver Stone, who made a movie about Chavez, called him a great hero, adding, “My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.”
Michael Moore credited Chavez with using the country’s oil reserves to eliminate 75 percent of the extreme poverty in his country. Sean Penn said, “Poor people around the world have lost a champion.”
And one member of Congress, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) praised Chavez as “a leader who understood the needs of the poor.”
Ah, the romantic notions of “the revolution” are intoxicating, particularly for those willing to suspend disbelief about Chavez’s true record during 14 years of his version of socialism.
Financial Times says during Chavez’s aggressive misrule, Venezuela’s government has become “increasingly cash-strapped and disorganized.”
“He leaves behind a country of state-owned steel mills that do not produce steel, state-owned electric utilities that cannot keep the lights on, and state-owned supermarkets where you may be able to find a chicken, coffee or toilet paper, but rarely at the same time,” said the Financial Times.
Oil production, which financed Chavez’s revolution, is now one third lower than it was ten years ago, with the decline blamed on inefficient state operation. The currency has been devalued and inflation is running five times higher than the average for South American countries.
The New York Times says Chavez’s socialist policies, which grew increasingly random and always left room for profiteering associates, have contributed to a significant brain drain. “Private investors, unhinged over Mr. Chavez’s nationalization and exportation threats, halted projects. Hundreds of thousands of scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs and others in the middle class left Venezuela.”
He manipulated a repressed and restricted media to cultivate his image as a populist, but according to Human Rights Watch, Chavez used the government to “intimidate, censor and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda.”
HRW says Chavez packed the country’s Supreme Court with cronies and, in one infamous incident, had a judge thrown in jail after she released a government critic from prison where he had spent three years awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Venezuela devolved into one of the most dangerous countries in the world as the crime rate rose steadily. The 2011 murder rate was higher than Colombia. The capital of Caracas is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where corrupt police supplement their income through kidnappings.
But the focus on Chavez misses a larger point about the failure of socialism.
As Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, “No nation can create the wealth necessary to truly make a difference in the lives of the poor without property rights, free markets, sound money and the rule of law. These virtues are incompatible with absolute power.”
Economist Milton Friedman liked to remind his audiences that wherever socialism has been tried, it has failed. If Friedman were alive today, he would have one more example to bolster an argument that trumps the drivel of the useful idiots.
West Virginia Sets Record Export Growth for Third Consecutive Year
Exports reached record high of $11.3 billion last year
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today announced for the third consecutive year West Virginia exports reached a record level, in 2012. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show the state’s exports grew from $9 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2012. West Virginia companies exported to 136 countries in 2012.
“Last year, West Virginia’s exports grew by 25%, surpassing the national growth rate of 4.6%,”
said Governor Tomblin. “Exports are a valuable contributor to our state’s economic growth and stability. While coal continues to be our traditional strength, our top exports also included manufactured products such as plastics, chemicals, machinery and components for medical, automotive and aerospace applications.”
Coal exports grew 40%, increasing from $5.3 billion in 2011 to $7.4 billion in 2012. West Virginia coal accounted for 49% of U.S. coal exports in 2012. The top markets for West Virginia coal with the largest growth were Japan (growing from $29 million in 2011 to $395 million in 2012) and China (growing from $93 million in 2011 to $567 million in 2012).
||WV Coal Exports (2012)
Plastics, the state’s second largest product sector, reached the $1 billion level for the second year in a row. Products from manufacturing sectors grew from $3.5 billion to a record $3.67 billion.
||Value of WV exports (2012)
||$ 90 million
||$ 75 million
||$ 64 million
West Virginia’s top 10 markets for non-coal exports are:
||Value of WV non-coal exports (2012)
||$ 86 million
||$ 83 million
The International Division of the West Virginia Development Office (WVDO) offers export promotion services to small and medium-sized businesses. For information on WVDO trade shows, trade missions and other services, visit www.worldtradewv.com.
G-Comm™: Playing into Assad’s Game
The U.S. media has been especially emetic recently in their coverage of the sequester. While cuts to human services, education, health care, and environmental protection are huge, most of the stories are all about how this will hurt the military, will threaten our national security, will ripple out into the civilian world, and woe woe woe. Really?
How is it, then, that John Kerry has just promised $60 million in starter funds plus more “non lethal” aid to the Free Syrian Army, the irregulars in Syria who are mirroring some of the worst of the Assad regime? The FSA has tortured, killed civilians, and shut down all current hope of a nonviolent solution to this civil war. John! Where is that $60 million coming from? Do they let you just walk into the printing room at the U.S.Dept of Treasury and grab a suitcase full? Who do you think is going to pay for it, now that the budget is sequestered and all we hear is whining from the military and their media buds? At least Fox News is your new BFF, eh?
Kerry is talking about sending military vehicles to the FSA while NPR reports from Pentagon spokespeople that the U.S.military–thanks to the sequester–will be short on military vehicles. John! Are you paying attention or are you just paying thugs to continue a violent revolution they hijacked from a very promising nonviolent civil society Arab Spring uprising two years ago?
Syrian and Iranian officials responded predictably, asserting that this aid will only prolong the war, which is almost certainly true. When dictators face elections–as Assad will next year–they usually run out of excuses and lose when they face organized nonviolent civil society opposition, even when they brutally suppress it. This happened to Pinochet, Milosevic, and to hand-picked successors to crime bosses like Kuchma in Ukraine, and yet now we see Bashar al-Assad given the perfect excuse to postpone elections indefinitely and the U.S. is contributing to that.
Yes, the Iranian and Syrian officials are cynical. Syria’s Walid al-Moallem and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi claim that Syria’s regime is legitimate and that Syria is a sovereign nation and everyone should shut up about whatever Bashar al-Assad wants to do to his lowly subjects. This is quite 19th-century of them, at best, but when Kerry arranges support for the armed revolution, he is Just So 20th Century. Yes, Assad’s sovereignty stops at violations of human rights, but now we know that nonviolent interventions, coupled with support for nonviolent indigenous civil society opposition, work best, and incur lower costs for all parties.
Back when Assad was being terribly brutal toward a mostly nonviolent opposition, Iran criticized him. The foreign minister of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi told Assad to recognize the legitimate voices of Syrians and even Ahmadinijad said the crackdown should stop. Thanks to the justification provided first by the FSA and now by the USA, Iran has closed ranks and is attacking the U.S. This is so unnecessary and so very unhelpful to Syrians (remember them, John?).
If we could apply the sequester double-time to the U.S. military and use a small part of that instead to support nonviolent civilian movements we would repair much of the damage to the U.S.image worldwide even as we would be far far more effective at spreading sustainable democracy.
~~ Dr. Tom H. Hastings ~~
West Virginia, Spain Sign Agreement to Expand Spanish Instruction in Public Schools
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares on Tuesday joined education leaders from the Embassy of Spain in forming a partnership to bring Spanish teachers to the Mountain State.
The Letter of Intent, signed by Phares as well as Education Counselor Xavier Gisbert da Cruz and Education Adviser Pedro Rey Rodil, both with the Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C., initiates a pilot project to bring five certified Spanish teachers to West Virginia. The Spanish teachers will be placed in areas of the state with a critical shortage of world language teachers.
“As our world becomes more and more connected, a thorough knowledge of foreign languages is no longer an optional skill but an essential one,” Phares said. “Providing our children with the opportunity to understand the Spanish language and culture will give them a better chance of succeeding in today’s global economy.”
The cross-cultural program promises to provide students an opportunity to learn Spanish from an experienced native speaker and can foster mutual global understanding. Participating teachers can work for up to three years in West Virginia upon mutual consent.
The program’s goal is to place Spanish teachers who come to West Virginia in schools with a critical need. Such counties include Berkeley, Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Grant, Hancock, Jefferson, Logan, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Nicholas, Raleigh, Upshur, Wayne, Wetzel, Wood and Wyoming.
G-Comm™: Spreading War: Kerry’s Gift to Syria
The United States fancies itself as the shining light for freedom, as the power on Earth for good, spreading democracy. How does this factcheck?
We spent much of the 19th century spreading US hegemony in several directions, starting with owning slaves and stealing both native lands and Mexican lands, and, toward the end, invading and overthrowing governments in Central America. We only invaded Canada once.
We spent much of the 20th century making the world safe for democracy whoops US corporations. Mostly, we won—got rid of some threats to US interests who happened to be elected by their people but who were unfriendly to predatory capitalism. Mohammed Mossaddegh in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Patrice Lumumba in Congo,Salvador Allende in Chile come to mind. These are the sorts of cases that make the world somewhat suspicious and of course the illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq based on two Big Lies feed into that mistrust.
Why, then, would the Obama administration, in the person of John Kerry, offer to assist the Free Syrian Army? It looks like it fits the pattern, the Yes-he’s-a-son-of-a-#####-but-he’s-our-son-of-a-##### routine, where we pick an armed thug or a bunch of them, give them weapons and training, and expect them to be US-corporate-friendly at the end of the day, plus providing war profiteers upfront profits immediately by grabbing US taxpayer money, shoveling it into the accounts of corporations. Which corporations? All corporations. Seriously.
Just a tiny example, only a couple of brief notes from just one day of Pentagon contracts, from Friday, March 01, only a select few:
• Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Wayne, NJ, was issued a modification exercising the first option year on contract SPM2D0-12-D-0002/P00006. The modification is a fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum $49,401,788 for various pharmaceutical products.
• Tennier Industries*, Boca Raton, FL, was awarded contract SPM1C1-13-D-1028. The award is a fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract with a maximum $15,551,438 for universal camouflage patterned jackets.
• Exide Technologies, Milton, GA, was awarded contract SPM7LX-13-D-0029. The award is a fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract with a maximum $6,754,515 for procurement of storage batteries.
• DLT Solutions, Herndon, VA, is being awarded a $23,212,706 firm-fixed-price contract (FA8771-13-F-8100) for procurement of software maintenance and support for perpetual enterprise Oracle software licenses.
• L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace L.L.C., Madison, MS, is being awarded a $8,076.281 contractmodification (FA3002-09-C-0006, P00022) for aircraft flightline maintenance for the F-16 aircraft in support of Taiwan’s F-16 program.
There were more, of course. I mean, when you are tasked with spending a half a $trillion each year, you need to keep it flowing out and flowing heavy in many directions. You’ll hear nothing but dire threat complaining from the military about their budget, of course—if a general fails to kvetch they can find another who will. Really, however, when will it finally become poor form to talk poor mouth with their mouths full?
Creating conflict, nurturing threat, all requires violence capacity-building, and John Kerry is fitting right into that groove right away. The results will be fabulous, no doubt. The contracts for more non lethal military aid to the Free Syrian Army will begin to appear in the DOD daily contract listings and already, just on the great news of Kerry’s support, the FSA is promising to widen the war into Lebanon and, while they are at it, Iraq! Nice going, John! We’ve done so so much to help inflame hatred and violence between Shia and Sunni in Iraq and now you’ve helped spread that more assuredly and now violently into Syria and Lebanon—and doubling back on Iraq yet again. What a Secretary of State.
President Obama, are you paying any attention to John? There are Syrians who still believe in nonviolence, know how to wage a nonviolent campaign, and every time we pay attention and pay money to the violent rebels we make it all worse. You thought it couldn’t get worse? It’s about to, thanks to US help. State Department should be about spreading real democracy, about enlightenment, about reason and rational discourse and indigenous decision, not about military aid to the least worst armed bunch.
~~ Dr. Tom H. Hastings ~~
G-Comm™: Ending Syria’s Violence
As John Kerry prepares to start arming violent insurgents trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria, we on the nonviolent side wonder if this is just one of those wars with no chance for nonviolent solutions. Isn’t it a bit like the communists shooting at dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in the 1970s and 80s? Isn’t it something along the lines of the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic slaughtering civilians as the armed Kosovo Liberation Army fought back hopelessly in the late 1990s? Couldn’t we say that this is just one of those times that is similar to the civil war in Liberia, with “Christian” dictator Charles Taylor in a death match with the violent warlords in a coalition charmingly calling themselves the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) in the early 2000s?
Oh, that’s right. All these wars were stopped and resolved by nonviolent people power.
In 1989 a civil war began in Liberia, led by Charles Taylor, who had strong relationships to both Moammer Qaddafi and evangelist Pat Robertson. Can you say, “Odd bedfellows?” Both helped fund Taylor’s war, Qaddafi by diverting oil funds from Libya and Robertson by purchasing rights to diamond mines in Liberia. Taylor and Samuel Doe and Prince Johnson were among the squabbling leadership and eventually Taylor came out on top, only to find his presidency attacked by a new crop of warlords.
Finally, in 2003, after suffering massacres, rapes, abductions, child soldiering, and the impoverishment of war long enough, the women of Liberian united and stopped that war. They were the ones. They not only brought all parties to the table in Accra, Ghana, they forced them to stop dallying and then they made sure the warlords in the transitional post-Taylor government gave way to the first African woman head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Leymah Gbowee and Johnson Sirleaf received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize (along with amazing Yemeni Arab Spring organizer Tawakkol Karman) for this remarkable achievement.
Syrian women could end their civil war and topple the Assad regime. Syrian civil society could use nonviolence in a number of ways to finish this horrific war and overthrow this bloody murderous ruling party. Learning from others in similar situations, we can devise our own ways to win without war, to stop wars in their blood-soaked tracks, and to bring peace and justice to our world.
John Kerry should return to his antiwar years and start a new US era of helping nonviolent civil society, not arming those who commit mirror atrocities to the dictators they fight and then establish new dictatorships once they take power.
~~ Dr. Tom H. Hastings ~~
G-Comm™: Big Bullies
The United States has seen a deluge of much-needed attention to the issue of bullying in the last decade. Horrific examples of young people harassing and abusing their peers–sometimes to the point that the victims commit suicide–have forced parents and educators to begin thinking about the issue and to initiate or expand bully prevention efforts. What is often missed in these discussions, however, is the problem of adults who bully young people. Adult bullies cause perhaps even more damage, as it is adults that young people are supposed to trust and to look up to.
The United States is, as Jessie Klein recently argued, a Bully Society. And it is not just our young people who are responsible. Adults model bullying behavior all the time, demonstrating to young people how to pick on others who have different-colored skin, look different, or act different. Big bully 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley, upset because 19 month-old African-American toddler Jonah Bennett had the audacity to cry on an airplane, announced that someone should “shut that nigger baby up.” Hundley then proceeded to slap Jonah in the face, according to numerous reports. Bullies berate and attack those who dare to challenge them. This was cyclist Lance Armstrong’s decades-long modus operandi whenever he was asked whether he was riding free of performance-enhancing substances, which of course he was not.
While we hear about students bullying each other, teachers bully students, too. Take for instance the case of Akian Chaifetz, a 10-year-old boy with autism who suddenly began having violent outbursts in class. His father found out why when he sent Akian to school wearing a wire. The verbal abuse Akian was enduring by teachers and aides would bring anyone to tears. The tape revealed the following barrage: “Oh, Akian, you are a bastard … Go ahead and scream because guess what? You’re going to get nothing until your mouth is shut. Shut your mouth!”
Like so many other problems, this one also cannot be chalked up to “bad apples.” Rather, bullying persists in our educational institutions that are created and maintained by adults. In many of our public schools, young people endure abusive yelling by teachers, are prohibited from using restrooms when they are in desperate need, and sometimes even experience physical assault in the form of corporal punishment. Special education students and young men of color are disproportionately told they are worthless when they are suspended or expelled via “zero tolerance” laws. In higher education, administrators sometimes bully students who offer any form of dissent, as in the case of Hayden Barnes who was “administratively withdrawn” from Valdosta State University because he protested the university’s proposal for a new parking garage. While these actions aren’t typically called bullying but instead are “for their own good,” the result is that young people are harassed, excluded, and assaulted in educational institutions with regularity.
The young people who are victimized by big bullies suffer emotionally, academically, and often physically. They are more likely to drop out of school and engage in other dangerous behaviors.
What can we do? We can start by calling these things what they are. Bullying. Abuse. Assault. Adults need to practice what we preach and treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve. Adults also need to recognize that the policies and practices we say are protecting children or holding them accountable often create more damage than good.
Since we have begun a “national dialogue” about violence and bullying, we better be sure to look at our own behaviors as well.
~~ Laura L. Finley, Ph.D. - Teaches Sociology and Criminology ~~
Ron Paul: The Drone Threat
Last week, Senators threatened to put a “hold” on the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director over his refusal to answer questions about the use of drones to kill Americans on US soil. That the president’s nominee to head the agency that has used drones to kill perhaps thousands overseas could not deny their possible use at home should be shocking. How did we get to this point?
The Obama administration has rapidly expanded the use of drones overseas, as they appear a way to expand US military action without the political risk of American boots on the ground. In fact they are one of the main reasons a recent Gallup survey of Pakistan, where most US drone strikes take place, found that 92% disapprove of U.S. leadership. This is the lowest approval rate Pakistan citizens have ever given to the United States. And it is directly related to US drone strikes. The risk of blowback increases all the time. However the false propaganda about the success of our drone program overseas leads officials to believe that drones should also be used over US soil as well.
In attempt to ease criticism of the use of drones against Americans, some in Congress propose more oversight, as if that should make us feel any better. In last week’s hearings, CIA nominee Brennan suggested that he was open to a Congressional proposal to set up a secret court to oversee the president’s program to kill Americans by drone. Should we cheer that a court selected by government officials will meet in secret to oversee the president’s secret decisions on killing Americans without charge or trial? Has the Constitution been so eroded that we accept such a horrific and terrifying prospect?
While touting the success of its overseas drone program, the US administration refuses to even admit publicly that the CIA has an overseas drone program. In response to a recent ACLU Freedom of Information request regarding the existence of the CIA’s drone program, the Department of Justice responded, “"the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified.“ How is that for government transparency?
Recently, Federal Aviation Administration official, Jim Williams, stated that no armed drones would presently be permitted in US airspace. But what good are the promises of government officials when the Constitution, and especially the Fourth Amendment, has been gutted? More than1,400 applications to use drones in US airspace have been approved, including for police, universities, and at least seven federal agencies. Do we want to live in a society where the government is constantly watching us from above? The East Germans and Soviets could only dream of such technology in the days of their dictatorship. We might ask ourselves how long before “extraordinary” circumstances will lead to a decision to arm those drones over US territory.
The US government justified its attack on Saddam Hussein in Iraq and against Gaddafi in Libya, and elsewhere, with claims that these despots were killing their own citizens without trial or due process. It is true that extra-juridical killing is the opposite of justice in a free society.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote last week about the president’s assassination program, “When [the president] kills without due process, he disobeys the laws he has sworn to uphold, no matter who agrees with him. When we talk about killing as if it were golf, we debase ourselves. And when the government kills and we put our heads in the sand, woe to us when there is no place to hide.”
G-Comm™: American Youth Internalize Legitimized Violence
On December 12, 2012, I visited a good friend and colleague at Leadership and Public Service High School in downtown, Manhattan. You can see the construction of the freedom towers at ground zero from the school’s windows. My colleague is the dean of youth programs coordinating a restorative justice program at the school. Restorative justice is a community approach to solving conflict nonviolently through dialogue, engagement and authentic participation of stakeholders of the conflict and the community. Through restorative justice circles, the school is engaged in community-wide behavioral transformation. Every day, students are confronted with competing ethics coming from their communities and a broader society that considers violence a valid approach to problem solving. Our government sanctions violence as a legitimate way to solve conflict , and this legitimization is in many ways internalized by students as acceptable means of resolving differences. School shootings, mass killings and other forms of societal violence are reflections of this internalization.
After wrapping our Friday restorative justice circle, a student received a text message about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. As events unfolded and information streamed out, and the day progressed, I became even more horrified by the details of this tragic event. Looking out the window onto the freedom tower construction site, I remembered 9/11 and how as a peace education graduate student I spent most of late 2001 writing curriculum for an afterschool program in the aftermath of the tragedy. We helped students to memorialize the tragedy through the production of small personal monuments that held individual significance to the students, placing them in public spaces and interacting with the community by asking for feedback. Then we compared 9/11 to other tragedies in history, and ended the semester with students engaging in activities with Arab-American youth in Brooklyn. We wanted our students to humanize those who were being painted as the enemy.
The response to the horrendous tragedy of Newtown is different and yet similar to those of 9/11 in that violence or tools of violence are again being considered, such as the National Rifle Association’s proposal to provide armed guards in schools and to arm teachers with assault weapons. We should be reminded that violence begets violence. For the first time in public-media discourse, I have heard the term “culture of violence” being used. The idea of a culture of violence, as many peace educators and like-minded folks have been trying to get across for some time, is that violence is deeply embedded in our culture. However, it is not our nature. The Seville Statement on Violence, a culmination of scientific and scholarly research on human nature and violence, suggests that we are not naturally violent, although conflict is natural. Yet, violence is so deeply grounded in our culture that the use of it has been rationalized and even considered ethical in some cases.
In her 1996 Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice article, “Women or Weapons?”, Betty Reardon, famed peace scholar, suggests that society has become “addicted to weapons” on every level of society, from international to local, whereby amassing weapons constitutes gaining power. This addiction to weapons and violence pervades human culture in games, language, music, national celebrations and every other aspect of society. Weapons have contributed to a culture of violence that provides a false sense of security. This false sense of security is the basis of national security and militarism; we are more secure believing our weapons make us so; we are less secure, quite often, in reality.
The “security” of weapons and violence is a hollow attempt to preserve one’s power and ultimately one’s sense of self. So, rather than a Second Amendment historically situated in the ability to revolt against tyrannical governments, many choose to coalesce around a thin interpretation of a right to bear arms that is not appropriate in our contemporary world. Use of weapons in our society is for the protection of resources that many, the most insecure among us, do not possess. To put it bluntly, violence (which can take many forms) and weapons are used by individuals, institutions and governments to maintain power. Even as President Obama cries at the podium over loss of young lives, drones target sleeping children in Pakistan.
The use of violence by our government while simultaneously condemning social violence is what I call “cognitive blindness,” on which I wrote an editorial for In Factis Pax in 2007. Presidential administrations have directed the U.S. military to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay is still open, people have been tortured at US hands, there are drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan killing innocent lives, and police stop and frisk men of color in N.Y.C. We must consider the possibility that the shooters from Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Arizona, Kandahar, and Newton have witnessed and at some level internalized these many examples of legitimized violence as excuses or even subconscious rationalizations for their acts. Have they learned that violence is an accepted way of handling conflict? Violence at many levels is legitimized by government and then accepted and compartmentalized by society. We put bullying in one box and drone strikes in another.
We must see how the social acceptance of government-sanctioned violence, as well as the availability of guns, is part of the calculus of understanding school violence. American youth internalize the use of violence as legitimate in solving conflict, and this is a blind spot we must address if we are to prevent further violence. Addressing these root causes are moral and ethical imperatives as part of local, national, international school and community discussions toward a universal and global commitment to peace, human life and its inherent, self-adjudicating dignity.
~~ David J. Ragland, Ph.D. - A Visiting Lecturer at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the Learning, Culture and Society Program, philosophy of peace education and justice scholar, teacher of Philosophy of Education and Education for Peace and Justice courses ~~
G-Comm™: The Real New World Order. Bankers Taking over the World
How quickly best laid plans become passé. New world orders come, it seems, as frequently as eclipses.
The old world order (ancien régime), along with 16 million people, died during the Great European War which began on June 28, 1914 when the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo. (Today he would be called a terrorist.) This assassination sent nations that had no desire to go to war into the most destructive war the world had yet experienced.
Europe at the beginning of 1914 consisted of six major empires and an assortment of minor states that the major empires didn’t care much about. The six major empires, (the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Ottoman, and Russian) were ensnared in military alliances (much like the US is today) which were formed to keep the peace. The diplomats, like those today, believed that forming alliances that balanced the powers of different groups would keep them from attacking each other. The Central Powers consisted of Austro-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; the Triple Entente consisted of the other three. Peace, the diplomats thought was assured. What happened?
When the archduke was assassinated, the Austrians, confident in their military prowess (as Americans are today), decided to punish Serbia which was attacked on July 28. But the Serbs ambushed the Austrians at the battles of Cer and Kolubara. The Austrians were thrown back with heavy losses. Russia came to the aid of its ethnically related Serbs, and Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain came to the defense of France and the Ottoman Empire joined the war in the Balkans on the side of the Central Powers. The alliances that were to ensure the peace changed a single assassination into a massive war. When it was over, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the Ottoman, and the Russian Empires had vanished and the United States, which joined the war late on the side of the Triple Entente had become a world player. The old world order was gone!
Woodrow Wilson, the American President, sought to create a new old world order by proposing his Fourteen Points. Wilson wanted to create separate nations out of former colonies and ensure the peace by creating a League of Nations (another peace by treaty scheme). Territorial reductions were made to Germany and Austria, a slew of new and revived nations were created in Eastern Europe, while France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit themselves. The new old world order was just a reconfigured old world order. It didn’t last and it didn’t ensure the peace. So much for the best laid plans of diplomats.
Germany was reborn in 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. He, too, sought to create a new world order, one dominated by a Thousand Year Reich (Empire). To that end, his policies were aimed at seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the German people by extending Germany’s borders. Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed and Poland was invaded. But alas, Poland had a mutual defense treaty (another alliance formed to ensure the peach) with Great Britain and France, so the invasion of Poland started World War II.
When it was over, Germany again was destroyed and Great Britain and France, for the most part, had had their empires diminished. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia) found themselves at the top of another new old world order.
The victorious powers, the US, the USSR, China, Great Britain, and France tried again to ensure the peace by creating the United Nations which they attempted to keep firmly in their control by making themselves rulers of the Security Council which had a veto on all UN Activities all five nations didn’t give unanimous approval to. That was to be the new old world order. But it began to come unglued immediately. China was not represented by mainland China which had become Communist but by “Nationalist” China whose government had fled to Taiwan. Communist China soon took the Chinese seat and the two Communist nations formed a bloc while the remaining three Capitalist nations formed another. The United Nations became the Disunited Nations and has remained so to this day. This new old world order was stillborn.
Sometime after 1950 (because of secrecy, the exact date is unknown) the Bilderbergers, realizing that the old world ancient régime and all of these new old world orders were founded on nation states that kept going to war with each other, began an attempt to create a truly new world order. David Rockefeller writes,
|“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. . . . It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”|
|“For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it”|
If there were no nation states, no wars could erupt between them!
Some believe that these international bankers have succeeded in taking over the world, but it has never succeeded in abolishing nation states. In fact, there is some evidence that nation states may be disintegrating into smaller ones. Scotland is going to hold a referendum on withdrawing from England, Catalonia is talking about withdrawing from Spain, Czechoslovakia has broken up into the Czech and Slovak republics, there is talk again of secession in the US, and no one quite knows what is really happening in the Arab world. A new world order ruled by one government? Not hardly!
But things began to break down in the 1950s. Until then, wars were fought between armies supported by nation states, and their endings were foreseeable. A war ended when one army, either voluntarily or on command, surrendered. That era appears to have ended. Old world order warfare appears to have become passé.
When the second world war ended, the Korean Peninsula was partitioned into Northern and Southern sections occupied by the Russians and Americans respectively. Elections for unification were to be held in 1948 but were not; the Americans were unsure the result would favor the South. Open warfare broke out when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in June, 1950. Because the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations Security Council at the time, the United States and other countries passed a Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention. The war’s progress favored each side from time to time and continued until July, 1953 when an armistice was signed. Officially, the war still goes on today. The US provided 88% of the 341,000 international soldiers which aided South Korea. The Russians and the People’s Republic of China aided North Korea. The West’s army was international, and the era of never ending, wars may have begun.
After a short pause, the American hubris led the US to play one-upmanship with France. Since the end of World War II, the French had been trying to maintain its hold on its Southeastern Asian colony of Vietnam. But at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French were soundly defeated and decided to give up the fight. American hubris about its military prowess made American diplomats believe that the US could do what the French could not and began to use American military resources to keep South Vietnam from being united with the North.
The Pentagon’s military minds viewed this conflict as a traditional two-nation-state one and believed that America’s military only had to defeat a primitive North Vietnamese army to succeed. They were wrong, and after twenty years of fighting, 58,000 Americans, millions of Vietnamese had died, and the Americans fled. But this war marked another first: the army that won all the battles lost the war. That had never before happened in history. Today, winning battles does not win wars. Truly a new era in warfare has begun. What the Pentagon’s commanders failed to realize was that the war was not a two state war. It was a war between an invading army and an indigenous people who could only be defeated by total annihilation. No possible way existed for Americans (or any other nation-state) to “win” this war.
But Americans are hard learners and they learned nothing from Korea and Vietnam, so after two misadventures that appeared to be successful (Grenada and the 1st Gulf War), the US led another multinational force into Iraq and Afghanistan. After eight years in Iraq and the installation of a new government, the US withdrew without achieving its goals, leaving Iraq in disarray. And after more than a decade in Afghanistan a similar outcome seems to be imminent. Like Vietnam, these wars too are not two-state wars.
They amount to invading armies battling indigenous peoples who themselves are not united and not under the control of any government, group, or commander. No surrendering army in either country will ever be found. But now there’s a new twist. The forces facing the invaders do not merely consist of local peoples. Those peoples are assisted by non-state but similarly minded multi-state actors. The people opposing the West in Afghanistan are the same groups opposing the West in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, the Sudan, and elsewhere. People who have been subjugated and exploited by the West have begun an undeclared war on the West and westerners everywhere, and winning this war will require not their defeat but their annihilation. The West cannot do that without annihilating itself in the process.
The real new world order has emerged–the world’s downtrodden against the West and its puppet, surrogate colonial governments. These non-state but similarly minded actors will determine the course of future world history. There is now a new world order that the West cannot control, that military force cannot subdue, and that concessions cannot placate. Ancien régimes relied on military power to influence events. The true new world order renders military power effete. All it can now accomplish is kill for killing’s sake. Pure barbarity is what the promise of Western Civilization has been reduced to. What a wonderful world we have made!
G-Comm™: Is the Obama Administration Abandoning Its Commitment to a Nuclear-Free World?
In a major address in Prague on April 5, 2009, the newly-elected U.S. president, Barack Obama, proclaimed “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” On January 24, 2013, however, Senator John Kerry, speaking at Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination to become U.S. Secretary of State, declared that a nuclear weapons-free world was no more than “an aspiration,” adding that “we’ll be lucky if we get there in however many centuries.” Has there been a change in Obama administration policy over the past four years?
There are certainly indications that this might be the case.
During the 2008 presidential election campaign, Obama made his support for nuclear weapons abolition quite clear on a number of occasions, most notably in Berlin. Speaking on July 24 before a vast, enthusiastic crowd, the Democratic presidential candidate promised to “make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy.” He argued that “this is the moment to secure the peace of the world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama certainly seemed to follow through with this program during his first year in office. His Prague speech of April 05, 2009 — the first major foreign policy address he delivered as President — was devoted entirely to building a nuclear weapons-free world. In September of 2009 he became the first American president in history to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council — one dealing with nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The upshot was unanimous Security Council support for Resolution 1887, which backed the goal of nuclear abolition and an action plan to reduce nuclear dangers. Obama’s promotion of a nuclear weapons-free world played a key role in the announcement that October that he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The anti-nuclear momentum, however, slowed somewhat in 2010. In April of that year, the White House released its Nuclear Posture Review, which did reorient U.S. policy toward less reliance on nuclear weapons. But the policy shifts were fairly minor and smaller than anticipated. Soon thereafter, the U.S. and Soviet governments announced the signing of the New START treaty, which set lower limits on the number of deployed nuclear warheads and deployed delivery systems for the two nations. Although the U.S. Senate ratified New START by a vote of 71 to 26, the reductions in all types of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia were actually rather modest. Consequently, the two nations continued to possess about 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Much worse, from the standpoint of nuclear disarmers, was the fact that strong Republican opposition to the treaty led to an Obama administration retreat on the issue of building a nuclear-free world. The most obvious indication was the White House pledge to provide roughly $214 billion over the next decade for modernizing U.S. nuclear forces and infrastructure. Apparently offered in an attempt to buy GOP support for the treaty, this pledge set the U.S. government on a course that totally contradicted its talk of disarmament. In addition, the administration withdrew plans to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996) for Senate ratification, did not even begin negotiations for further nuclear arms reductions with Russia, and — with the exception of mobilizing other nations against the possibility of Iran joining the nuclear club — let nuclear arms control and disarmament vanish from the policy agenda. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked dismissively that a nuclear weapons-free world would be attained “in some century.” President Obama’s January 2013 inaugural address did not discuss a nuclear-free world, or even specific arms control and disarmament measures.
The hearings on Senator Kerry are revealing. As the Republicans were eager to have him leave the Senate and open up his seat for a Republican (presumably former Senator Scott Brown), Kerry had a very easy time of it, and used his newfound popularity to defend the more controversial Chuck Hagel, the administration’s nominee for secretary of defense. When the Republicans raised the issue of Hagel’s support for Global Zero, a group advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons, Kerry responded that he did not believe Hagel wanted to completely eliminate them. Kerry added that, personally, he favored a policy of nuclear deterrence and believed that “we have to maintain” the U.S. nuclear stockpile. “We have to be realistic about it,” Kerry explained, “and I think Senator Hagel is realistic about it.” Kerry’s remarks about the “many centuries” it would take to eliminate nuclear weapons emerged in this context.
Of course, actions can speak much louder than words. Kerry’s remarks might represent no more than soothing pabulum for GOP hawks. The real test of the Obama administration’s commitment to a nuclear-free world will be its actions in the coming years. Will it reduce expenditures for modernizing U.S. nuclear weapons and facilities, promote Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, negotiate a treaty with Russia for deeper weapons reductions, and take actions that do not require Senate ratification (for example, join with Russia to remove nuclear weapons from high alert status)? Above all, will it begin to negotiate a treaty for the verifiable, worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons? We shall see.
In the meantime, people interested in removing the dangers posed by more than 17,000 nuclear weapons around the globe might want to press the administration to honor its commitment to seek a nuclear-free world.
~~ Lawrence S. Wittner - Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany ~~
State of the Union 2013: President Obama’s Address to Congress
Here is a full transcript of President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address as delivered.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Please, everybody, have a seat.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow Americans, 51 years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power, but partners for progress.”
“It is my task,” he said, “to report the state of the union. To improve it is the task of us all.”
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.
After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years and less foreign oil than we have in 20.
Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.
OBAMA: So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.
But—but we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs, but too many people still can’t find full- time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged. It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class.
It is—it is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like or who you love.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few, that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.
OBAMA: The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.
They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can, for they know that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.
Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget, decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery. Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.
Now we need to finish the job. And the question is: How?
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness, they’d devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts—known here in Washington as “the sequester”—are a really bad idea.
Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.
Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.
But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.
We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans—Democrats, Republicans and independents—understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.
And that’s the approach I offer tonight. On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.
And—and the reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.
We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital. They should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.
And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep, but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.
To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency, justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits, but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?
Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.
We can get this done.
The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms and more time expanding and hiring, a tax code that ensures billionaires with high- powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries, a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.
That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.
I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.
So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.
The greatest nation on Earth—the greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can’t do it.
Let’s agree—let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open and pay our bills on time and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another. Now…
... most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.
A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs, that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.
Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
OBAMA: A year-and-a-half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda; I urge this Congress to pass the rest. But…
... tonight I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat: Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.
That’s what we should be looking for.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.
So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.
(APPLAUSE) Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have—have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. We’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race. We need to make those investments.
Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.
We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before, and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.
Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.
Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct…
I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.
(APPLAUSE) That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.
In fact, much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.
If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.
We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire, a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self- healing power grids.
The CEO of Siemens America—a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina—has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district; I’ve seen all those ribbon- cuttings.
So, tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.
And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.
Let’s prove there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.
OBAMA: And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent. And construction is expanding again.
But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.
Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. So what are we waiting for? Take a vote and send me that bill.
Why are—why would we be against that?
Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process and help our economy grow.
Now, these initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing, all these things will help entrepreneurs and small-business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.
And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.
So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.
That’s something we should be able to do.
Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children—like Georgia or Oklahoma—studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school. They’ve been trained for the jobs that are there.
Now at schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York public schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering. We need to give every American student opportunities like this. And four years ago…
Four years ago, we started Race to the Top, a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.
OBAMA: Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge, to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: The more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.
So, tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.
And—and tomorrow, my Administration will release a new college scorecard that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work—everybody who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.
And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now’s the time to do it.
Now’s the time to get it done.
Now’s the time to get it done.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration’s already made, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship, a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America will be better for it.
Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.
But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women’s Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And I now urge the House to do the same.
Good job, Joe.
And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a—a living equal to their efforts and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
OBAMA: We know our economy’s stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty—and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.
We should be able to get that done.
This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.
And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where, no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead—factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up, inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job.
America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them. Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in rundown neighborhoods.
And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. And we’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety and education and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low- income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child, it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that.
Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity—broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class—that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.
Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of Al Qaida.
OBAMA: Already we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that, over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.
Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of Al Qaida and their affiliates.
Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.
It’s true, different Al Qaida affiliates and extremist groups have emerged, from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans. Now…
... as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world. Of course…
... our challenges don’t end with Al Qaida. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know, they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.
Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.
At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands, because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.
Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.
That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information-sharing and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.
OBAMA: But now—now Congress must act, as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.
Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats. It presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all, not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do.
You know, in many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades, by connecting more people to the global economy, by empowering women, by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed and power and educate themselves, by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.
You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American president into the home where she had been imprisoned for years, when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”
In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances, from the Americas to Africa, from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.
We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can—and will—insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.
We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.
These are the messages I’ll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.
And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk: our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States armed forces. As long as I’m commander-in-chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known.
We’ll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families, gay and straight.
We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors…
... supporting our military families, giving our veterans the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned. And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they have served us.
Thank you, hon. Thank you, Jill.
Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy, the right to vote.
When any American—no matter where they live or what their party—are denied that right because they can’t wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. So…
So, tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I’m asking two long-time experts in the field—who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign—to lead it. We can fix this. And we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.
Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource, our children.
It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence, but this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans—Americans who believe in the Second Amendment—have come together around commonsense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators…
Senators—senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.
If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote, because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. More than a thousand.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette.
OBAMA: She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.
Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.
They deserve a vote.
They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.
They deserve—they deserve a simple vote.
Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all of the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can—to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her, because Desiline is 102 years old.
And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Brian was the first to arrive, and he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the fellow Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.
And when asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.” That’s just the way we’re made.
We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.
Executioner in Chief:How a Nobel Peace Prize Winner Became Head of a Worldwide Assassination Program
“Much of our foreign policy now depends on the hope of benevolent dictators and philosopher kings. The law can’t help. The law is what the kings say it is.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for The Atlantic
“If George Bush had done this, it would have been stopped.”
—Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and current MSNBC pundit
When Barack Obama ascended to the presidency in 2008, there was a sense, at least among those who voted for him, that the country might change for the better. Those who watched in awe as President Bush chipped away at our civil liberties over the course of his two terms as president thought that maybe this young, charismatic Senator from Illinois would reverse course and put an end to some of the Bush administration’s worst transgressions—the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, the torture, the black site prisons, and the never-ending wars that have drained our resources, to name just a few.
A few short years later, that fantasy has proven to be just that: a fantasy. Indeed, Barack Obama has not only carried on the Bush legacy, but has taken it to its logical conclusion. As president, Obama has gone beyond Guantanamo Bay, gone beyond spying on Americans’ emails and phone calls, and gone beyond bombing countries without Congressional authorization. He now claims, as revealed in a leaked Department of Justice memo, the right to murder any American citizen the world over, so long as he has a feeling that they might, at some point in the future, pose a threat to the United States.
Let that sink in. The President of the United States of America believes he has the absolute right to kill you based upon secret “evidence” that you might be a terrorist. Not only does he think he can kill you, but he believes he has the right to do so in secret, without formally charging you of any crime and providing you with an opportunity to defend yourself in a court of law. To top it all off, the memo asserts that these decisions about whom to kill are not subject to any judicial review whatsoever.
This is what one would call Mafia-style justice, when one powerful overlord—in this case, the president—gets to decide whether you live or die based solely on his own peculiar understanding of right and wrong. This is how far we have fallen in the twelve years since 9/11, through our negligence and our failure to hold our leaders in both political parties accountable to the principles enshrined in the Constitution.
According to the leaked Department of Justice memo, there are certain “conditions” under which it is acceptable for the president to kill a U.S. citizen without the basic trappings of American justice, i.e., a lawyer and a fair hearing before a neutral judge.
First, you have to be suspected of being a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or an “associated force.” Of course, neither of these terms is defined. Making matters worse, the government doesn’t actually have to prove that you’re an “operational leader.” It simply has to suspect that you are. (Of course, if all it takes for the government to pull the trigger and kill a U.S. citizen is a hunch, then the rest of the conditions set out in the memo are moot.)
Second, capturing you has to be “infeasible.” Easy enough, since “infeasibility of capture” includes being unable to capture someone without putting American troops in harm’s way.
Third, you must pose “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” whether or not you can actually execute an attack on our soil. Before you breathe a sigh of relief that perhaps your neck is safe now, keep in mind that the imminence requirement “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” The Bush administration should get some credit here, since it was their creative parsing of the “imminent” threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his so-called weapons of mass destruction that inspired the Obama lawyers to play footloose with the laws on killing American citizens.
In short, by simply asserting that an American citizen is an enemy of the United States, the Obama administration has given itself the authority to murder that individual. This pales in comparison to George W. Bush’s assertion that he could detain an American citizen indefinitely simply by labeling him an enemy combatant.
Compounding this travesty, the Obama administration also insists that the power to target a U.S. citizen for murder applies to any “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government,” not just the president. Therefore, any bureaucrat or politician, if appointed to a high enough position, can target an American for execution by way of drone strikes.
It’s been done before. Without proving that they were “senior operational leaders” of any terrorist organization, the Obama administration used drone strikes to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, both American citizens.
So now we find ourselves at this strange, surreal juncture where clear-cut definitions of right and wrong and the rule of law have been upended by legal parsing, government corruption, corporate greed, partisan games, and politicians with questionable morals and little-to-no loyalty to the American people.
It’s a short skip and a jump from a scenario where the president authorizes drone strikes on American citizens abroad to one in which a high-level bureaucrat authorizes a drone strike on American citizens here in the United States. It’s only a matter of time. Obama has already opened the door to drones flying in American skies—an estimated 30,000 by 2015, and a $30 billion per year industry to boot.
Yet no matter how much legislation we pass to protect ourselves from these aerial threats being used against us domestically, either to monitor our activities or force us into compliance, as long as the president is allowed to unilaterally determine who is a threat and who deserves to die by way of a drone strike, we are all in danger.
This is surely the beginning of the end of the republic. Not only are we upending the rule of law, but killing people across the globe without accountability seriously undermines America’s long term relationships with other nations. The use of drones to kill American citizens demonstrates just how out of control the so-called “war on terror” has become. A war that by definition cannot be won has expanded to encompass the entire globe. This confirms the fears of those who have been watching as the American drone program has slowly expanded from targeting members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to include any person the president cares to see eliminated, not to mention the countless civilians killed along the way.
Retired general Stanley McChrystal has said that drone strikes are “hated on a visceral level” and feed into a “perception of American arrogance.” By attacking small time jihadists, as well as innocent civilians, the American government further inflames populations where terrorist groups are embedded, exciting anti-American sentiment among those who may have previously been an asset to America’s relationship with Muslim countries. In fact, McChrystal and former CIA director Michael Hayden have both expressed concern that American drone strikes are “targeting low-level militants who do not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
For example, Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a Muslim cleric in Yemen gave a long sermon in August 2012 denouncing Al-Qaeda. A few days later, three members of Al-Qaeda showed up to his neighborhood, saying they wanted to talk with Jaber. Jaber agreed, bringing along his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection. In the middle of the conversation, a hail of American missiles rained down upon the men, killing them all.
Incidents such as these are the exact reason that America cannot seem to bring an end to its myriad military commitments abroad. By undermining our potential allies, we simply further endanger American lives. According to Naji al Zaydi, an opponent of Al-Qaeda and former governor of Marib province in Yemen, “some of these young guys getting killed have just been recruited and barely known what terrorism means.” In direct opposition to the stated goal of the “war on terror,” we are creating enemies abroad who will gladly look forward to the day when the United States falls in on itself, like the Roman Empire before it.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no exit from this situation. Too many high-level officials, both Democrats and Republicans, either don’t care, or actively champion the murder of American citizens and innocent civilians alike by the president. As journalist Amy Goodman put it, “the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.”
~~ John Whitehead ~~
Ron Paul: Beware The Consequences of Pre-Emptive War
Last year more U.S. troops died by suicide than died in combat in Afghanistan. More than 20% of military personnel deployed to combat will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some 32% of U.S. soldiers reported depression after deployments. More than 20% of active-duty military are on potentially dangerous psychotropic drugs; many are on multiple types. Violent crime among active duty military members increased 31% between 2006-2011.
The statistics, compiled by the military last year, are as telling as they are disturbing. The Defense Department scrambles to implement new programs to better treat the symptoms. They implement new substance abuse and psychological counseling programs while they continue to prescribe more dangerous psychotropic drugs. Unfortunately, most often ignored are the real causes of these alarming statistics.
The sharp rise in military suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic and other violence, is the unintended consequence of a violent foreign policy—of an endless and indefinable “global war on terrorism.”
Particularly in the past decade or so, we have lived in a society increasingly marked by belief in the use of force as a first and only option. We have seen wars of preemption and aggression, everywhere from Iraq to Pakistan to Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. We have seen an unprecedented increase in the use of drones to kill overseas, often resulting in civilian deaths, which we call “collateral damage.” We have seen torture and assassination (even of American citizens) become official U.S. policy. When asked by Senator Ron Wyden last week if the president has the right to assassinate American citizens on U.S. soil, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, could not even give a straight answer.
The warning that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword” goes not only for individuals but for entire societies. It is a warning to all of us. A country or a society that lives with the violence of pre-emptive war in fact self-destructs.
Let us not forget that this endless war is brought to us primarily by the neo-conservatives who dominate foreign policy in both political parties and who never cease agitating for U.S. military deployments overseas. Of course with very few exceptions they have declined to serve in the military themselves. These endless wars would not be possible, we should also remember, without the Federal Reserve printing the money out of thin air to finance our overseas empire. We are speeding toward national bankruptcy while at the same time turning the rest of the world against us with our aggressive foreign policy. Does anyone really believe this will make us safer and more secure?
Many who claim to support the military look the other way when the service-members return home broken in mind and body after years of deployments abroad. I served five years as a U.S. military doctor in the difficult 1960s and even then saw some of this first-hand. During the 1960s the consequence of an unwise prolonged war tragically resulted in violence in our streets, and even students being shot by our military at Kent State University.
The truth is, killing strangers in unconstitutional and senseless wars causes guilt to the participant no matter what kind of military indoctrination is attempted. Those afflicted may attempt to bury the pain in alcohol or drugs or other destructive behaviors, but we see that only leads to more problems. It may not be popular to point this out, but it goes against human nature to kill a fellow human being for retaliating against those who initiate a war of aggression on their soil.
Who cares most for those in military service, those who agitate for more of what is destroying their lives and weakening our national defense, or the many of us who are urging a foreign policy of non-intervention and peace? If we are to survive, we must beware the seen and unseen consequences of pre-emptive war.
G-Fin™: U.S.A.: Economic Brief – 02.08.13
U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2012
Total December exports of $186.4 billion and imports of $224.9 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $38.5 billion, down from $48.6 billion in November, revised.
December exports were $3.9 billion more than November exports of $182.5 billion.
December imports were $6.2 billion less than November imports of $231.1 billion.
Productivity and Costs
Productivity decreased 2.0% in the non-farm business sector in the fourth quarter of 2012; unit labor costs increased 4.5% (seasonally adjusted annual rates).
In manufacturing, productivity increased 0.5% and unit labor costs increased 0.4%.
G-Fin™: S&P’s Credit Rating Agency Charged With Fraud in Sub-Prime Mortgage Ratings
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday filed a civil suit in Los Angeles charging Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, the world’s biggest credit rating agency, with defrauding investors and the public by inflating the credit ratings it gave to subprime mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
The suit was announced Tuesday at a Washington press conference presided over by Attorney General Eric Holder. He indicated that the government would seek damages of at least $5 billion from S&P, a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have joined the federal suit.
Coming nearly four-and-a-half years after the Wall Street crash, the suit is the first federal action against a credit rating firm. S&P and its main competitor, Moody’s Investors Service, played a critical role in the vast edifice of financial speculation and fraud that came crashing down following the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007.
S&P, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings are all private, for-profit companies. As previous US government investigations have documented, S&P and Moody’s made huge profits between 2004 and 2008 by landing contracts from Wall Street banks to rate residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were assembled by the banks from home loans and sold to other financial institutions and investors around the world.
Wall Street drove mortgage lenders to sell high-risk, high-interest subprime home loans to people who could not afford them, bought up the loans from the mortgage companies, bundled them into RMBS and CDOs, and sold off these toxic investments, making massive profits in the process. The entire US and global financial system was infected as a result by what was, in essence, a vast Ponzi scheme.
While US bank regulators looked the other way, the credit rating firms facilitated the fraud by giving triple-A ratings to RMBS and CDOs backed by mortgages they knew were headed for default.
The credit rating firms had a financial interest in inflating the ratings on RMBS and CDOs, since they were paid by the banks whose securities they were rating. Under the inherently corrupt, deregulated system for rating securities—a system that serves the interests, in the first instance, of Wall Street—banks shop around for the credit rating firm most likely to give their products the highest rating. Consequently, the credit rating firms compete for a share in the lucrative financial derivatives market, which includes mortgage-backed securities, by proving to their bank paymasters that they will deliver the top ratings the banks need to maximize their profits.
At the Justice Department press conference, Holder and other officials painted a picture of pervasive and deliberate fraud, costing investors and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Between 2004 and 2007, Holder said, “S&P executives made false representations to investors and financial institutions, and took other steps to manipulate ratings criteria and credit models to increase revenue and market share.”
“Put simply,” he declared, “this alleged conduct is egregious—and it goes to the very heart of the recent financial crisis.”
Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West described how the major banks, beginning in 2007, worked furiously to package their failing subprime home loans into CDOs and offload the CDOs to investors, in order to get the bad loans off of their books. “And we have evidence,” he said, “that S&P not only knew this is what the banks were doing; S&P helped them to do it.
“As our complaint explains, through the spring and summer of 2007, S&P moved at a record pace, rating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of CDOs packed with subprime mortgage bonds… S&P gave triple-A ratings to nearly all of the CDOs it rated during this time—and they did this despite their own internal reports which showed that the ratings on the mortgage bonds on which the financial quality of these CDOs depended would not hold.”
Despite this narrative of outright criminality, amply documented in the 119-page complaint filed by the Justice Department in US District Court, the government does not name a single individual in its legal brief, nor has it pressed criminal charges. The Obama administration is thus maintaining its record of refusing to criminally prosecute a single leading figure on Wall Street for illegal actions that brought the US and world economy to the brink of collapse and triggered the deepest slump and highest unemployment since the Great Depression.
The government spent four months in talks with S&P in an attempt to reach a settlement and avoid going to court, as it has done in dozens of previous financial fraud cases. Talks reportedly broke down in the last two weeks when S&P rejected any deal requiring it to admit wrongdoing and objected to a cash payment above $100 million.
The Justice Department’s legal complaint cites internal emails, messages and reports demonstrating that the company was well aware it was violating its own standards and giving securities inflated ratings. The legal brief focuses on 40 CDOs S&P rated between March and October of 2007.
The document cites one S&P analyst who wrote in 2006 that the company had loosened its criteria for CDOs to create “a loophole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.” In December of 2006, an S&P employee wrote in an internal email: “Rating agencies continue to create an even bigger monster—the CDO market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”
In April 2007, one S&P analyst told another, “We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”
In a July 2007 exchange between an S&P analyst and an investment banking colleague, the banker wrote: “I mean, come on, we pay you to rate our deals, and the better the rating the more money we make?!?! What’s up with that? How are you possibly supposed to be impartial????”
The complicity of the credit rating agencies was previously documented in extensive government reports on the financial crisis. “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report,” issued in January of 2011 by a commission established by Congress in 2009, wrote: “The three credit rating agencies were key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval.”
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations devoted 75 pages of its 639-page report on the Wall Street crash, released in April of 2011, to the role of S&P and Moody’s in facilitating the subprime mortgage swindle. It wrote: “It was not in the short-term economic interest of either Moody’s or S&P, however, to provide accurate credit ratings for high-risk RMBS and CDO securities, because doing so would have hurt their own revenues.”
The Senate report found that more than 90 percent of triple-A ratings given to mortgage-backed securities in 2006 and 2007 were eventually downgraded to junk status.
Whatever the outcome of the suit filed on Monday, the Obama administration has systematically worked, and will continue to work, to shield the banks and their accomplices from any accountability for their crimes, and create conditions for Wall Street to make more money than ever.
The same credit rating system—unregulated and dominated by the banks—remains in place today. The same credit rating companies continue to make millions by giving top ratings to high-risk bonds and derivatives and helping conceal violations of securities laws by the banks, creating the conditions for another, even more catastrophic financial crisis.
Ron Paul: US Action in Mali is Another Undeclared War
President Obama last week began his second term by promising that “a decade of war is now ending.” As he spoke, the US military was rapidly working its way into another war, this time in the impoverished African country of Mali. As far as we know, the US is only providing transport and intelligence assistance to France, which initiated the intervention then immediately called Washington for back-up and funding. However, even if US involvement is limited, and, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, US boots on the ground are not being considered “at this time,” this clearly is developing into another war. As usual, the mission is creeping.
Within the first week of French military action in Mali, the promise that it would be a quick operation to put down an Islamic rebel advance toward the capitol was broken. France announced that it would be forced to send in thousands of troops and would need to remain far longer than the few weeks it initially claimed would be necessary.
Media questions as to whether the US has Special Operations forces, drones, or CIA paramilitary units active in Mali are unanswered by the Administration. Congress has asked few questions and demanded few answers from the president. As usual, it was not even consulted. But where does the president get the authority to become a co-combatant in French operations in Mali, even if US troops are not yet overtly involved in the attack?
How did we get to Mali? Blowback and unintended consequences played key roles. When the president decided to use the US military to attack Libya in 2011, Congress was not consulted. The president claimed that UN and NATO authority for the use of US military force were sufficient and even superior to any kind of Congressional declaration. Congress once again relinquished its authority, but also its oversight power, by remaining silent. That meant the difficult questions such as why is the action necessary, what would it entail, and what kind of unintended consequences might we see if the operation does not go exactly as planned, were neither asked nor answered.
When Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya, many fighters from Mali who had lived in Libya and been trained by Gaddafi’s military returned to their home country with sophisticated weapons and a new determination to continue their fight for independence for northern Mali. Thus the France-initiated action against Libya in 2011 led to new violence and instability in Mali that France decided it must also address. Shortly after the French attack on Mali, rebels in Algeria attacked a BP gas facility in retaliation for their government’s decision to allow foreign military to fly over Algerian territory en route to Mali. Thus the action in Mali to solve the crisis created by the prior action in Libya is turning into a new crisis in Algeria. This is the danger of interventionism and, as we saw in Vietnam more than four decades ago, it threatens to drag the US further into the conflict. And Congress is AWOL.
There is a reason why the framers of our Constitution placed the authority to declare war strictly with the Legislative Branch of government. They knew well that kings were all too willing to go to war without the consent of those who would do the killing and dying—and funding. By placing that authority in Congress, the people’s branch of government, they intended to blunt the executive branch’s enthusiasm toward overseas adventurism. The consequences of this steady erosion of our system toward the unitary executive are dire.
Gun Control in Australia - Watch and Weep
Unreported by the Media: America’s Nuclear Weapons Tests. The Truth is a “Bitter Pill”
On December 13, 2012, North Korea’s state-run news agency issued a two-sentence statement via radio, joining critics in Iran and Japanese hibakusha and anti-nuclear activists who have condemned the U.S.’s December 5th subcritical nuclear experiment named ‘Pollux.’
The critical part of the North Korean statement, as translated by a BBC news monitoring service, reads: ‘Despite strong objection and denunciation from the world community, the United States is continuously and frantically clinging onto carrying out nuclear tests for developing new nuclear weapons.’
There are elements of truth and mistruth in North Korea’s statement. Let’s start with the mistruths. Contrary to misleading statements made in blogs and by some in the international media, the recent subcritical experiment was not a nuclear test. Nor did it lead to any leaked radiation. These tests occur in a fortified containment in an underground tunnel that prevents the possibility of an accidental release (although one similar test, decades ago, did cause a fire).
The U.S. Department of Energy argues that because it can’t conduct a real nuclear test to ensure that aging components and weapons-grade plutonium inside U.S. nuclear warheads are still reliable, it therefore has to resort to subcritical tests and other so-called ‘stockpile stewardship’ experiments.
As long as these laboratory tests on plutonium (and warhead weapons parts) don’t induce a runaway chain reaction, the U.S. is allowed by the CTBT to do these things. A runaway chain reaction, by the way, is the modern definition of a nuclear explosion, but modern doesn’t mean good. In fact, the current definition of ‘nuclear explosion’ is a very bad one. Why? Well, no one opposing nuclear weapons has ever said they oppose them on the grounds that they’re designed to induce a domino effect on the fissioning of plutonium. People complain about nukes because of the size of the energy release these weapons of mass (or worldwide) destruction are designed to discharge – as heat, blast and radiation. It would make more sense to ban all man-made nuclear energy releases.
Critics of the U.S. program allege that the hundreds and hundreds of stockpile stewardship experiments conducted since the U.S. signed the CTBT and the fact that most of them are duplicate experiments of precursor ones suggest that the program is not, or not any longer, credible. The thought is that the program is either a big boondoggle or the Department of Energy is secretly designing new nuclear weapons.
But you don’t have to agree with the critics. Take it from the horse’s mouth. Have you heard of the declassified document known as the DOE “Green Book?” Obtained in 1997 through the Freedom of Information Act, the Green Book indicated that the DOE’s stockpile stewardship program – of which subcritical tests are a part – is not really about stewardship at all, but about new nuclear options. The Green Book states “In the meantime, future national policies are supported for deterrence by retaining the ability to develop new nuclear options for emergent threats.” The DOE would argue that it isn’t currently designing and testing next-generation nuclear weapons via simulations, however the lack of transparency of its stockpile stewardship program (the last time the U.S. allowed international inspectors access to an underground subcritical test was in the late 1990s) speaks louder than its words.
And sometimes the curious omission of words creates the most suspicion. Take for example the omission by the DOE about its December 5th test ‘Pollux.’ A May 2012 report titled ‘Supplement to Department of Energy Activities Relating to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, Fiscal Year 2011 Site-Specific Activities’ described Pollux as a ‘scaled subcritical experiment with special nuclear material. The experimental campaign is a first-of-a-kind demonstration…’ Yet neither that report nor any subsequent one (and not even the DOE’s Pollux press release) elaborated on these ‘scaled subcritical experiments.’ The government never gave us a definition of them. Why not? Has the Department of Energy been keeping something from the public?
So, what really are ‘scaled subcritical experiments?’
Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists wrote in his September 2011 article titled ‘Hydrodynamic Tests: Not to Scale’ that scaled experiments are ‘experiments in an implosion geometry that is essentially identical to an actual warhead design, but reduced in size.’
These are scaled down versions of the real thing. Kristensen mentioned in his article that Pollux may be the first of several ‘scaled’ tests that would be roughly half scale models too…of a nuclear warhead! So, Pollux was a subcritical nuclear test on plutonium-239 weapons grade fuel INSIDE a half-scale model of a nuclear bomb!
The U.S. has carried out a first-ever subcritical nuclear test in a shrunken nuclear fission bomb!?
And if the Department of Energy doesn’t really have a need for its stockpile stewardship tests, then what was the purpose of this provocative experiment? Was it a boondoggle? Or is the U.S. simply, as North Korea suggests, ‘frantically clinging onto carrying out nuclear tests?’ I’d hate to agree with North Korea, but it sure looks like the folks in the Energy Department are simply not able to control their lust for conducting a nuclear test. In my opinion, they never have been able to control that lust. That lust is the reason why the U.S. won’t ratify the CTBT and why the U.S. is one of only two or three countries left which still has a nuclear test site that it hasn’t yet shut down. That lust was also the reason why it and its predecessor – the Atomic Energy Commission – lied to the American people about the fallout from nuclear weapons testing. They said the radioactive debris falling on Americans’ homes was safe (‘There is no danger’) because they simply didn’t want citizens to force a halt to their precious weapons development program.
It all makes perfect sense when you accept this truth. Think about it. Why else are they blowing up shrunken nuclear bombs at a nuclear test site?
~~ Andrew Kishner - founder of NuclearCrimes.org, which provides analysis into contemporary environmental radiation dangers and also the history and public health consequences of nuclear weapons work during the 20th century by several ‘nuclear club’ nations. ~~
The Spirit of Christmas: George W. Bush and Tony Blair Banned from the Birthplace of Jesus Christ
George W. Bush and Tony Blair were banned for life in April 2003 from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, widely believed to be the birth-place of Jesus Christ. The ban was announced at the height of the illegal U.S.-allied bombing and invasion of Iraq.
Below are the original 2003 press reports pertaining to that decision as well as a subsequent introductory note published by in December 2006.
“The Bethlehem sanctuary issued a ringing reprisal Sunday [April 2003] of the coalition attack, going as far as barring U.S. President George W. Bush, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw from entering church grounds, due to their “aggressive war on Iraq.”
“The priest in the Church of the Nativity has every right to ban Bush and his supporters since they have marred the teachings of Christ. Their entry into the church will tarnish it as [Bush’s] hands are covered in the blood of the innocent,” Karmash told The Jordan Times.
The local priest went on to say that he felt the punishment was not enough. “We need a tougher one to eradicate evil at its very root,” he exclaimed.
The Nativity Church’s parishioner, Father Panaritius, said during a rally organized Sunday by the Greek Orthodox community in Bethlehem that Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and Straw are “war criminals and children killers that will be banned from entering the church forever!”
The Church Parishioner Father Panaritius made the decision public at a massive protest demonstration organized by Orthodox institutions in front of the Church of Nativity.”They are war criminals and murderers of children. Therefore the Church of Nativity decided to ban them access into the holy shrine for ever,” the parishioner said.”
There is no indication from The Church of the Nativity that this ban on war criminals Bush, Blair et al. has been revoked.
This ban should now be extended to a number of other Western leaders including President Barack Obama, who in the course of their mandate have waged illegal and criminal wars on the people of Libya and Syria.
In recent developments, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has found former United States president George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of “crimes against peace”.
“The five panel tribunal unanimously decided that Bush and Blair had committed genocide and crimes against peace and humanity when they invaded Iraq in 2003 in blatant violation of international law.”
The indictment was based on testimonies presented to the Tribunal as well the findings and report of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)
May the Spirit of Christmas prevail in criminalizing war and bringing the war criminals to justice.
~~ Michel Chossudovsky ~~
Happy Christmas, O Prisoners of the Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
While carving the turkey for your family and merrily quaffing mulled wine ‘midst happy laughter, remember that the romantic Little Town of Bethlehem at the centre of our childhood Christmases is now “an immense prison” in the words of Michel Sabbah, former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and entirely surrounded by Israel’s ugly 8-metre separation wall bristling with machine-gun towers.
The good citizens of Bethlehem are cut off from their capital Jerusalem, only six miles away, the rest of the West Bank and the whole world.
Consider that the United Nations, for obvious reasons, designated Jerusalem and Bethlehem a protected international zone under UN administration. Israeli rule was not to be permitted.
Consider also that when Palestine was under British mandate Christians accounted for 20% of the population and how 63 years of terror, illegal occupation, dispossession, interference and economic wrecking tactics have whittled their numbers down to less than 2%.
Consider that, at this rate, there will soon be no Christians left in the land where Christianity was born… thanks to the cowardice and inaction of our political leaders.
How will the 26 bishops sitting around in our House of Lords, doing nothing, explain that to their dwindling congregations?
As usual, many Palestinians in Bethlehem and the other cities and villages throughout occupied Palestine will be unable to reunite with their families or celebrate Christmas at their holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem due to cruel Israeli-imposed travel restrictions.
Imagine for a moment what sort of Christmas the half-starved children in blockaded Gaza are having this year, and every year… and what New Year prospects face all the other Palestinian children struggling to grow up with the Israeli army’s boot on their necks.
Deep down it is not about religion at all. The struggle is between justice and a criminal conspiracy of huge international proportions, the tentacles of which spread far beyond the Holy Land and impact on all of us, even here in the deepest recesses of England’s green and pleasant land.
In the New Year civil society must resolve to DO SOMETHING about it, one way or another, before the evil spins irreversibly out of control.
~~ Stuart Littlewood ~~
The Great Dictator
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
― Charles Chaplin
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