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No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons

Trump and the nuclear 'football'

 

Maybe having a president in the White House who acts like an impulsive child is a good thing — at least if it convinces the Senate, a body that has for decades surrendered its vital Constitutional power over war and peace to the Executive Branch, to wrest it back.

This is particularly important in the case of nuclear weapons. As things stand, going back all the way to Harry Truman, te only world leader to have actually ordered the use of nuclear weapons in war (twice!), US presidents have been accorded the unfettered power and the technical ability to launch a nuclear strike with no input from Congress.

President Trump has alluded ominously and even gloatingly to his having that awesome power, literally at his fingertips.

US nuclear bomber strike force in a threatening show of force action over the Korean peninsula (USAF photo)US nuclear bomber strike force in a threatening show-of-force action over the Korean peninsula (USAF photo)
 

That has led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has publicly referred to the Trump White House as an “adult daycare center,” to hold a hearing earlier this week to at least consider putting constraints on Trump’s power to launch nukes. No conclusions were reached, but the issue will likely come up again.

As one might have expected, critics are already decrying the idea of tying this or any president’s hands when it comes to the decision to launch nuclear missiles because they claim that a nuclear missile, even if fired from the opposite side of the earth, would only need 15 minutes to reach the US — far too little time for the Senate to debate and authorize a counter-attack.

But that argument is a red-herring. Nobody is proposing that a president should not have the authority to order a retaliatory strike the minute it were to be confirmed that some country had launched missiles towards the US. (Looked at objectively, it seems stupid to order an action that would insure the total destruction of the earth in retaliation for an attack that might only destroy part of it, but I suppose that as long as we have countries with nuclear weapons, there has to be a credible threat of mutually assured destruction or such an attack could happen. Crazy or not, the policy of MAD appears to have successfully prevented a nuclear attack anywhere in the world for 72 years since they were first used by the US, back when it faced no such risk of retaliation in kind.)

Rather, the issue Corker is proposing be debated is whether a president should be able to launch a pre-emptive first strike on an enemy using nuclear weapons, or to decide to use nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear conflict already underway.

I would offer a resounding “No!” to those situations.

Let’s look at them separately.

First, take the idea of a US first strike. Should a president — and go ahead and think in terms of our current mentally unbalanced President Trump as you ponder this question — be able on his own with no input from the Senate to decide to launch nuclear-tipped missiles at another country that is not attacking us, simply to deter them from doing so?

Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform

But where are those supporters when ordinary folks are facing injustice?

 
Meek Mill supporters rally outside Philadelphia's City courthouse. LBWPhotoMeek Mill supporters rally outside Philadelphia's City courthouse. LBWPhoto
 
The recent incarceration of star Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill brings up many issues beyond how the justice system should handle obstinate individuals. A judge imprisoned Mill for serial violations of his parole conditions.

One issue is many of those supporting Mill have never engaged in activities to address structural injustice in the justice system – the kinds of problems those supporters say must be reversed in the case of their revered rapper.

Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s highest racially disproportionate prison populations where 47 percent of the inmates are black and 10 percent are Hispanic. Blacks comprise less than 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population and Hispanics are seven percent. Nearly 30 percent of all inmates in Pennsylvania’s state prisons are from Philadelphia only accounts for 12.8 percent of the state's residents.

Another issue implicated in the Mill matter involves the advocacy for more minorities in the criminal justice system as a remedy for reducing structural inequities based on race/racism. The two Philadelphia police officers that severely beat Mill severely during an arrest were black as is the judge who sentenced Mill.

The imprisonment of Mill for parole violations provoked condemnation around the world. A Change.org petition calling for Mill’s release contained over 351,000 signatures one week after his sentencing to a 2-4-year prison term

The recent celebrity-studded rally outside of Philadelphia’s City courthouse, where hundreds demanded the release of rapper Mill, included sharp criticisms of inequities in the criminal justice system.

We'll make it, a little worse for wear

 

Here there is the rip tide.
And you know what you do when you are caught in a rip tide?
You ride it out.
It carries you further away from the beach
but if you don't panic eventually the current releases you
and you can swim in.
Then you only have to worry about exhaustion
or being swallowed by something from below. . .
When I look at myself,
I see someone
who has been just a little beaten up.
My white skin is blotchy from sun exposure. My eyes are bloodshot.
I'm slightly unshaven. A little hurt in my sleepless eyes.
No anger though. I don't feel any anger at all.
I feel disappointment, and sometimes a deep sadness
for all the suffering of life on the planet.
By 66, you need to have figured some things out on your own!
To be able to close your eyes, set up the video camera and talk about life,
talk about what you have figured out.
No ranting. No whining.
No bullshit.
No bitterness.
Just talk.
Talk to your children, your grandchildren,
other people’s children.
Talk to your people.
Talk about how you experience the universe,
what you make of the unconditional love of the universe,
what you make of aging,
and the wonder of it all.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

General Kelly - Historically Ignorant or Hysterically Bigoted?

Bigotry on the brain

 

The events of November 10, 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina provide added evidence to rebut the recent claim by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that the U.S. Civil War resulted from a failure to “compromise.”

On that Thursday nearly 120-years ago a rampaging mob led by a former Confederate Army officer unleashed the only successful insurrection in American history with the violent overthrow of Wilmington’s legitimately elected municipal government.

During that insurrection – allowed to stand by state and federal authorities – dozens of African-Americans were murdered. Insurrectionists ordered hundreds to leave that coastal city including liberal whites the insurrectionists felt embraced blacks by respecting the rights the U.S. Constitution extended to all including blacks.
 
Wilmington insurrectionists burn building of black owned Daily Record newspaper.Wilmington insurrectionists burn building of black owned Daily Record newspaper.
 
Those Wilmington insurrectionists had no desire for compromise because their intent was control through white supremacy. Since those insurrectionists sought to reestablish pre-Civil War total political and economic dominance for whites over blacks, no compromise was acceptable.

The “White Declaration of Independence” issued by those Wilmington insurrectionists asserted whites in that area would, “never again be ruled” by blacks. That Declaration’s “never again” phrase was unequivocal evidence the insurrectionists had no desire to compromise.

The stance of those Wilmington, N.C. insurrectionists, cemented in white supremacy, was similar to sentiments of the Confederates who launched an armed revolt against the authority of the United States government in April 1861.
Confederates disregarded an attempted compromise in the form of a planned amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have barred Congress from outlawing slavery.

Drugged: The Military's Pill Problem

Smoke pot and you're out; get hurt or get PTS on the battlefield, and the DOD drugs you to keep you fighting

 

Most Americans probably assume that any soldier hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)—peppered with metal fragments, brain bruised by the shockwave from the explosion, and suffering multiple ruptured discs in the neck and spine—would be whisked from the battlefield to a hospital somewhere in Europe or the U.S., treated, and cashiered out of the military with a Purple Heart.

Staff Sgt. Chas Jacquier learned what really happens, though. When an RPG landed next to him in Afghanistan in 2005, spraying him with shrapnel and delivering a concussive blast, he was medevaced to a field hospital and diagnosed with a suspected traumatic brain injury and an injured spine. But when it came to treatment, he was simply loaded up with a medley of pain pills, morphine, “and some other stuff I don’t know about” and sent back into combat just a few days later, expected to resume leading the unit of 25 men under his command.

“They helicoptered me back to my forward base in a sling,” Jacquier recalls. “When we landed, I got out of the sling, grabbed my rifle and climbed into a truck with my men. Fifteen minutes later, we were in a firefight.” He finished his deployment without getting further treatment (other than more drugs) for his injuries, which he said included a fractured neck vertebra. Jacquier is certain that his untreated injuries worsened during this period.

(High Times magazine image)(High Times magazine image)
 

In 2005, the German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote about how the Nazis developed a powerful methamphetamine, Pervitin, and distributed it to Wehrmacht soldiers like candy (35 million pills over the course of the war) to allow them to fight fiercely for days without sleeping. The Allies, for their part, were handing out the potent amphetamine Dexedrine in equally liberal amounts to their troops.

Today, the pharmacopeia of war is much vaster, encompassing not just amphetamines, but also stimulants like Ritalin, antipsychotics like Risperdal, and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Librium, as well as antidepressants like Zoloft and Lexapro. There are the drugs used to “treat” soldiers on the battlefield—antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs for post-traumatic stress, opioids for pain, a variety of amphetamines to keep soldiers awake, and Ambien and other sleep aids to allow them to rest occasionally, when they aren’t actually fighting.

“Something is clearly amiss,” says Kathy Platoni, an Army colonel in her 60s who deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan as a clinical psychologist on the front lines, treating soldiers for all the stresses and traumas of war...
 

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF, which appeared initially in High Times magazine, please go to: High Times

The Attack on 'Fake News' is Really an Attack on Alternative Media

From Salon magazine:

  This article initially appeared in Salon.com magazine, where it can be read in full.
 

These are tough days to be a serious journalist. Report a story now, with your facts all lined up nicely, and you’re still likely to have it labeled “fake news” by anyone whose ox you’ve gored — and even by friends who don’t share your political perspective. For good measure, they’ll say you’ve based it on “alternative facts.”

Historians say the term “fake news” dates from the late 19th-century era of “yellow journalism,” but the term really took off in 2016, a little over a year ago during Donald Trump’s run for the presidency. It described several different things, from fact-free, pro-Trump online media to sensationalistic and largely untrue stories whose only goal was eyeballs and dollars. During the primary season, Trump himself began labeling all mainstream media stories about him as “fake news.” The idea that there could be different truths, while dating at least back to the administration of President George W. Bush, when his consigliere Karl Rove claimed that the administration “made its own” reality, gained currency when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, caught making stuff up in a TV interview, claimed that she was relying on “alternative facts.”

XX
 

The corporate media have responded to being called liars and “fake news” fabricators of news by promoting themselves as “the reality-based community” (NPR), or claiming they are fighting the good fight against ignorance, as demonstrated by the Washington Post’s new masthead slogan “Democracy dies in darkness.” The NY Times has stuck with its hoary “All the news that’s fit to print” slogan, but has added a page-three daily feature listing “noteworthy facts from today’s paper” and has taken to calling out Trump administration whoppers as “lies.”

Last December Congress passed a new law, promptly signed by then-President Barack Obama, that added an Orwellian amendment to the Defense Authorization Act of 2017. Called the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, this measure tasks the State Department, in consultation with the Department of Defense, the director of national intelligence and an obscure government propaganda organization called the Broadcasting Board of Governors, to establish a “Center for Information Analysis and Response.” The job of this new center, funded by a $160 million, two-year budget allocation, would be to collect information on “foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts" and "proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests."

This might all seem laughable, but as a journalist who has worked in this field for 45 years, in both mainstream newspapers and television and in the alternative media, and as a long-time freelancer who has written for publications as widely varied as Business Week, the Nation, the Village Voice and a collectively run news site called ThisCantBeHappening.net, I have watched as this obsession with “fake news” has turned into an attack on alternative news and alternative news organizations…
 
 
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF, please Salon.com magazine.

"I Made A Horrible Mistake"

Whose Decision Threatened Soldiers' Lives More: President Bush's or Bo Bergdahl's?

 
I’m admitting I made a horrible mistake.
        - Bo Bergdahl’s testimony in his court martial
 
Charging a man with murder in Vietnam is like charging someone for speeding at the Indianapolis 500.
        - From Apocalypse Now

 
Obviously, to ask who endangered soldiers more, President Bush or Bo Bergdahl, is a rhetorical question. The real issue is whether a Dishonorable Discharge, a demotion and a fine is enough punishment for Bo Bergdahl. It's clear by now it’s out-of-bounds (poor etiquette) to suggest our major leaders should be held accountable for bad military decisions that put soldiers in harms way and cost lives. It’s a variant of the bumper sticker, “Kill one person, it’s murder; kill 100,000, it’s foreign policy.” Accountability is like gravity; it slips and falls and tends to find the most susceptible person or entity that can be turned into a receptacle for the blame. Naturally, you wave the flag like crazy while guiding the blame downward. Unless, of course, you were Japanese at the height of their failed, imperial thrust into the world; then, you made martial sounds as you sliced your guts open and a loyal factotum lopped your head off. There's a certain honor in that.

Sergeant, now Private, Bo Bergdahl and President George W. BushSergeant, now Private, Bo Bergdahl and President George W. Bush

The question of moral and political accountability is a perennial one. It’s hard to find anyone in either major party who still holds on to the idea the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq by George W. Bush -- the “war president” and “the decider” -- was anything but a terrible foreign policy decision. As the younger President Bush put it: "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best.” Those of us who cried out in vain from the beginning that the decision to invade Iraq was wrong and could lead nowhere but to even worse disasters now see it as a decision that unleashed a debacle that keeps on paying dangerous dividends. President Bush ducked under the radar after his part in it was over and started doing what he probably should have done from the beginning: He painted not-so-bad, primitive paintings of veterans, dogs and his toes in the bathtub.

The lack of accountability at the top is especially acute right now when nuclear war looms over us vis-a-vis North Korea. Not only does the current commander-in-chief not accept accountability -- "the buck" no longer stops in the Oval Office -- he’s a master in the cultural realm he flourishes in at finding and flogging scapegoats. His “base” will let him get away with, as he famously put it, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. In Bergdahl’s case, he wanted the man executed. If he had his way, it would be something produced by Faye Dunaway’s character in the film Network: "The Execution Hour".

Hollywood, War Trauma and the Rule of Money

A simple human story In tumultuous times

 
Jason Hall, the screenwriter who wrote the script for the Clint Eastwood blockbuster American Sniper, a well-made piece of hagiographic cinema based on a memoir by Chris Kyle, has made what feels like a corrective on the subject. This time, he's both writer and director of a film that reportedly was initially slated to be directed by Hollywood giant Stephen Spielberg, with Hall as scriptwriter. Whatever inside Hollywood deal-making went down, Hall's efforts have resulted in a beautiful film. There’s nothing fancy, large or loud about this film. There are no special effects that you notice. It doesn’t traffic in heroics at all. It just feels real.

While it's a very different kind of movie, in a way it's The Best Years Of Our Lives, the great 1946 movie about soldiers returning home from World War Two, translated into the language of Post-9/11 Perennial War. This ain't your dad's or your grandad's war; this is warfare of political choice with a professional, volunteer army and the very human complications that come naturally in the wake of such wars.

Adam Schumann (as actor); Miles Teller (as Schumann) and Beulah Koale (as Solo) waiting at the VAAdam Schumann (as actor); Miles Teller (as Schumann) and Beulah Koale (as Solo) waiting at the VA

Matt Zoller Seitz from Ebert.com, describes the film this way:

The film “has been written, shot, edited and acted in such an intimate and unobtrusive way that the result feels like a throwback to an earlier era of American mainstream filmmaking, when it was still possible to base a handsomely produced feature film around observed behavior, and not feel obligated to safeguard against viewer boredom by shoehorning extra melodrama or contrived genre-movie elements into the mix.”

First off, the title -- Thank You For Your Service -- is meant ironically. The story began as a non-fiction book by Washington Post reporter David Finkel, who was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant for his work. As an embedded reporter on the war in Iraq, he wrote an earlier book called The Good Soldiers. He was moved to write the second book when he began to understand how difficult it was for the soldiers he got to know writing the first book when they returned home from the war. Basically, the story is what happens to Sergeant Adam Schumann and two of his unit-mates when they return to the US and leave the Army. Miles Teller plays Staff Sergeant Schumann and Samoan actor Beulah Koale plays the real-life Samoan character SP4 Tausolo Aieti. Both are excellent in the roles. The real Adam Schumann has a small role in the film.

Democrats in Congress are Fighting for the Rich in Their Opposition to the GOP's 401(k) Cut Proposal

Democrats should demand an end to taxation of Social Security benefits

 

If you want to understand why the Democratic Party lost to Trump and the Republicans in 2016, why they'll probably fail to take back Congress in 2018, and why they'll probably lose big in the next presidential election in 2020, just look at their obscene stand on the GOP's proposal to slash the taxable employee deduction for contributions to 401(k) plans from the current $18,000 to just $2500.

Of course the GOP proposal was classic Republican stick-it-to-the-little-guy stuff and in the end the House tax bill announced Thursday dropped it, leaving the deduction standing.

But let's look at what they had been proposing: If you tell someone who makes, say, $80,000 a year, and has been putting away the typical 6% of that, or about $4800 a year, matched by perhaps another $4000 by the employer if lucky, that suddenly he or she will be limited to a tax deductible contribution of just $2500 a year, you are first of all saying you want that worker to be undersaved for retirement, but worse, you're making that employee lose out on perhaps $2000 or so in employer-contributed retirement money each year!

That's outrageous, I'm sure most sentient citizens will agree.
XX

But what was the Democratic Party's position?

They got up in arms saying that it was outrageous for Republicans to be cutting the tax deductible employee contribution amount from $18,000 to $2500 a year! And they said that instead they want to raise it to $25,000 a year.

This in a country where the average employee who even has a 401(k) plan on the job contributes 6.2% of income, according to the investment firm Vanguard. For a person earning $50,000 a year, that would be $3100, for a person earning $80,000 -- pretty good money for that blue-collar or clerical worker that the Democrats say is their target voter --it would be $4960, for a person earning $100,00 a year, it's $6200, and for a person earning a whopping $150,000 (putting them in likely Republican voter territory), it's $9300.

How many people do you know among your working-class, middle-class, or liberal friends who could manage to contribute more than $10,000 our of their family paycheck, much less their personal paycheck, in a year?

I don't know any. The reality is that 78% of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, unable to save anything. 71% are in debt with net assets that are negative, with more than half of them reporting that they are "over their heads" in debt payments.

So what should the Democrats be proposing as this Republican tax bill gets debated?

First, as a good bargaining point, that the 401(k) deduction limit should be reduced from the 2017 limit of $18,000 (or $36,000 per couple) to $10,000 a year per person ($20,000 per couple).

Second, the savings from cutting the deduction from $18,000 a year to $10,000 must go towards eliminating the tax on Social Security benefits totally.

The 1967 Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam: Confrontation at the Pentagon

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

hundreds of thousands of protesters confront the US War Machine on Oct. 21, 1967 as Generals and DOD leaders watch from the Pentagon the roofhundreds of thousands of protesters confront the US War Machine on Oct. 21, 1967 as Generals and DOD leaders watch from the Pentagon the roof

 

Note 50 years after the March on the Pentagon:

This month marks the 50th anniversary of a historic event: the 1967 MOBE rally and march on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands of students, committed leftists and anti-war activists as well as veterans of the Civil Rights movement from all over the nation descended on Washington and put their bodies on the line at the center of the US War Machine. Over 700 were arrested and jailed, among them the author.

In this report -- this journalist’s first piece of newswriting, done at the age of 18 -- I think readers, and especially younger ones who missed the ‘60s, may get a glimpse of the kind of thinking that was going on among those of us who found ourselves coming unexpectedly face to face with the reality of our government as an oppressive global empire, and with the idea that our own government lies.

There is a naivety here that I hope people will understand and see for what it is: evidence of how middle-class people raised in the post-war era as I was had been lured into a sense of comforting illusion even as our nation was overthrowing governments, propping up brutal dictators, slaughtering Third World people on a scale that can only be called genocide, and promoting a Cold War with the USSR which threatened to trigger a thermonuclear war (sound familiar?).

What I missed in my instant, and rather pessimistic snap analysis of the significance of the MOBE at the time was that it actually led to the peace campaigns of both Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to seek another term as President. It also signaled the beginning of a more militant anti-war movement – one which no longer saw the war as just a mistake or a pointless effort, but as part of a vast imperial scheme of global dominance. In my observation about the relatively small number of genuine radicals at the march, I missed the reality that those hard-core radicals were the ones who had been protesting the war early, and who had done much of the organizing to make it happen. I also failed to even imagine that the violence I saw aimed at MPs guarding the Pentagon was almost certainly the work of agents provocateur -- something we learned more about a few years later later when COINTELPRO was exposed.

Despite the shortcomings of my 18-year-old report here, hopefully we can all learn something useful for today by looking back at that crucial event through the eyes of someone whose worldview was profoundly shaped by his participation in it.
 

Confrontation at the Pentagon

Washington, DC (Oct. 26, 1967) -- As I sat on the bus with the other students, all riding down to Washington for the confrontation, there was a whispering question which sat like a knot in my head. I was going down there to commit civil disobedience and probably to get arrested and sentenced to a short stint in jail. Why was I doing this?

I think that there were several reasons I would have give if asked, but none of them really satisfied me. I am opposed to the war in Vietnam. Still, I love this country and a by no means a subversive…I’m a patriot. These two sentences are not mutually exclusive. I’m opposed to the war not because I think we are losing or because we cannot win, but for another reason which I have not completely resolved. It seems to me that the whole of recorded history has been of wars and killing. Right now we are by no means in some millennium, while we humanity, actually contemplate the very real possibility of total self-annihilation and are finally capable of it.

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut