Saturday, November 26, 2016

IN THE AGE OF TRUMP: Learn from history ( ... or else ... )

Since the election of Donald Trump, people are dusting off their history books to learning about resistance, critical thinking, dissent. protest, and much more . . . .

A friend of mine shared on Facebook today:

"Historian, Holocaust expert and Yale Professor Timothy Snyder posted to FB on Tuesday Nov 22: Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today. . . . "

Earlier this year, I devoted many hours to reading Snyder's books Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. (See Regime Change! Intervention! "Kick Out the Bad Guys!" Not so fast ....)

Below I've pasted Prof. Snyder's "twenty lessons" ... and added some links to pertinent blog posts of my own.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

 . . . see Hoping Against Hope (Resistance in America)

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

 . . . see Using the Good, Old Criminal Justice System: Worth a Try?

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges. 

 . . . see Easter Victory: The Guantanamo Lawyers

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of "terrorism" and "extremism." Be alive to the fatal notions of "exception" and "emergency." Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary. 

 . . . see Greenwald Was Right: "Humanitarian" War in Syria? It's Just More War

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it.

 . . . see 9/11 Memory: Grieving and Celebrating Valor, Leaving Vengeance Behind

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

 . . . see reflections on 1984

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

  . . . see I am (I will become) Bradley Manning

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

 . . . see Why Weren't People Talking About It?

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

. . . see October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

. . . see Never Try to Silence a Tuesdayista

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

. . . see Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter)

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

. . . see Pentecost, Guantanamo, and the Moment When Talk Becomes Priceless

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

 . . . see got police state?

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

. . . see Independence Day - From SURVEILLANCE

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

 . . . See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

. . . see Obama in Japan: How About a Pivot Toward Peacemaking?

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

 . . . see How Is the US Implicated in Argentina's "Years of Lead"?

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

 . . . see Disarm the CPD

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

 . . .  see Edward J. Snowden: The 365-Day Man

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

 . . . see Dissent: PRICELESS!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

REFLECTION: When people say "the Muslim faith itself is the source of the problem"

The Trump administration has staked out a position against Islam and against Muslims. What does this mean . . . ?

The incoming administration of Donald Trump has placed itself in opposition to Islam, a religion with an estimated 1.7 billion adherents worldwide.

Donald Trump has named retired general Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. Flynn has said Islam poses an "existential threat" to the United States. "Islamist militancy poses an existential threat on a global scale, and the Muslim faith itself is the source of the problem, he said, describing it as a political ideology, not a religion." (See The New York Times, "Michael Flynn, Anti-Islamist Ex-General, Offered Security Post, Trump Aide Says.")

Read those words again: "[T]he Muslim faith itself is the source of the problem."

Now would be a good time for people in the US to learn some facts about Islam, and about its followers (Muslims), and to reflect on the adversarial position the new president has promised to adopt toward it and them.

A reflection

Muslim prayer rug, Turkey, 18th c.
(The arrow points the way)
Islam is fundamentally about submission to God:

Islam is a verbal noun originating from the triliteral root s-l-m which forms a large class of words mostly relating to concepts of wholeness, submission, safeness and peace.[32] In a religious context it means "voluntary submission to God".[33][34] Islām is the verbal noun of Form IV of the root, and means "submission" or "surrender". Muslim, the word for an adherent of Islam, is the active participle of the same verb form, and means "one who submits" or "one who surrenders". Believers demonstrate submission to God by serving God, following his commands, and rejecting polytheism. (See Wikipedia: "Islam: Etymology and Meaning")

This reminds me of the words in the Lord's Prayer: "thy will be done," and of Jesus' words on the cross: "yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).

I can understand people who say, "You know, putting God's will before your own -- that's really the hardest part of all this. The temptation is to just turn your back on the 'thy will be done' part. But if we're serious about our faith, we actually have to try to ask what God wants, for us and for everyone else, and to begin to see how small our own personal desires are in comparison."

And I can also understand a government that says, "If people start taking their faith in God seriously, their priorities are going to change, and they're certainly going to be a lot less in awe of us!" and "Hey, I'm the boss around here!"

It occurs to me that a lot of people of faith -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- are going to see the posture the US government is adopting, and they are going to say, "Does this government oppose anyone who has devoted themselves to serving God? How about me?"

A lot of people are going to be thinking about those words: "thy will be done."

Related posts

I've got a feeling he's gotten a lot of people to ask themselves, "What is my theology?"

(See It's a Matter of Theology)

We live in a 24/7 entertainment and media culture, and it is a constant struggle to shift from being a passive participant in the dominant cultural narrative to being an active influence on the ideas circulating in our communities.

(See In 2016, Walk the Talk: "Anti-Islamophobia." (You can do it.) )

I wonder if the outrage that many Muslims seem to feel at the suffering of other Muslims doesn't put us Christians to shame.

(See Fighting Back: It's alright as long as you're a Christian, right? )

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Meaning of "Race" in the USA: Class Is In Session ....

In his confirmation hearings for attorney general, Trump-appointee Senator Jeff Sessions will be asked to define the word "race." The nation will be listening . . . .

The USA is about to get a national tutorial on the definition of #race"
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

When Senator Jeff Sessions goes before the Capitol Hill hearing on his confirmation as attorney general in the administration of President Donald Trump, he will be asked about the time he called a  civil-rights lawyer a "disgrace to his race."

What may surprise some people is the amount of time that will be spent exploring the question, "What does the word 'race' mean?"

I will refrain from guessing what is in Senator Sessions' mind, or how the questions will unfold. That will all come out in the hearing.

Instead, I will explain why I think the process will be important for the rest of us.

What comes first?

A significant part of my past several months were devoted to reading and discussing Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, together with others from my church.

I can attest to the fact that the statement from the book that provoked the most discussion was:

"[R]ace is the child of racism, not the father." (p. 7)

. . . and the discussion that proved the most difficult, and required the most time, involved understanding the difference believing that "race" is biological and understanding that it is a social construct.

What I noticed in those discussions was that people were so nervous about acknowledging an obvious physical fact -- skin that is dark brown or light brown or beige or pink or something in-between -- that they had trouble separating in their minds two distinct phenomena:

* the biological ramifications of those skin colors (very few)

* the ways society has acted over and over again -- with reference to those skins colors -- to impact the realities of those in those skins (very many)

One helpful step was to recognize that a social construct -- once it is constructed -- has real consequences. (You're not imagining that people in the US with dark skin have a very different experience than people with light skin.) A social construct, however, has no claims to being natural or right. And it certainly need not persist.

So 19th century . . . 

Louis Agissiz in 1879
It is fascinating to see how many great (and not-so-great) thinkers in the past took a shot at using biology to posit "racial" differences. You can read the role of (dis)honor in the Wikipedia article on "Scientific Racism."

One example that stands out in my mind -- in part because there are several important buildings at Harvard that bear his name -- is Louis Agissiz. Agissez was the very model of a modern 19th century scientist and public intellectual. He led expeditions all over the world, collected lots and lots of specimens, lectured widely, and published thousands of pages worth of scientific writing.

The only problem: on the biological determination of race (his big topic) he was dead wrong.

Freedom of thought

People are allowed to believe what they want to believe. (It's a free country.)

The challenge before the members of the committee evaluating the Sessions nomination, however, will be whether it matters what the attorney general of the United States thinks "race" means.

Here's an exercise: Read the words of any of the many US laws the attorney general is sworn to uphold -- the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, for instance, or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The protections afforded by such laws against discrimination based on "race" -- are those protections provided in the face of biological differences? Or in the face of socially-caused differences?

What do you think? Does it matter? Why?

Related posts

The heart of the matter, at least as I understand it, is that race is a social construct, and it's concerned with power. "Whiteness" is a condition of power over and against people who get defined as "not white." "Dying to 'whiteness'," then, will involved giving up power, I think.

(See How Might the White Church "Die to 'Whiteness'"?)

The ELCA's presiding bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, has set an example: own the white privilege we've experienced in our lives. Will Lutherans step up?

(See "Personal Success Story"? "White Privilege"? or Both?)

"We need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation."

(See Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is the Outcome of the 2016 Election a Matter of Theology?

Post-Trump-election-victory USA: if ever good theology was needed . . . . Will the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its members bring it?

Detail from poster for the film Bal (Honey) by Semih Kaplanoğlu

I read a blog post yesterday by Lutheran seminarian and vicar Lenny Duncan: "The Road to 270 Was Through the ELCA." It's about the election of Trump, and it makes a very provocative claim:

"[T]he problem isn’t political. It isn’t sociological. It is theological." 

That feels right to me at a gut level. And it has forced me to think. "What is my theology?"

Before last week, I kind of took theology for granted. "We know what we need to know about God," I thought. "We just need to do a better job of getting organized."

But Pastor Lenny's blog post has made me go back to square one.

I'm hoping to get clear on some theology that will make as much sense this week, and next week, and beyond, as it seemed to make before November 8.

I've been turning a lot over in my mind. I'm realizing that I'm carrying around a lot of snippets of scriptural wisdom, but not all of them rise to the level of theology. And I've been taught a lot of theology, but very little of it feels totally reliable at the moment.

The best I've been able to come up with as of today is this:

We've nearly perfected the practice of treating other people as objects;
what might happen if we tried treating each other as children of God?

I know, I know, that's rather tentative. It's what I can manage right now, using what little I am carrying with confidence with me every day, and using words that I hope others can understand. (Perhaps what it lacks in certainty, it makes up for in possibility.)

The good news is that I know I'm not the only person reading what Pastor Lenny writes. I've got a feeling he's gotten a lot of people to ask themselves, "What is my theology?"

I look forward to seeing what others come up with.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Where to Put Effort for a World Beyond War

Are you looking ahead to a world beyond war? Education, infrastructure, and decisions about communal action are the key . . . .

"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which
to place it and I shall move the world."


"A lot of people are opposed to war, but what might look different when a group of people approach war as a soon-to-be-obsolete institution?"

It was a month ago that I posed that question in WAR: Headed for the junkheap, yes . . . but how quickly?

I gave one answer to the question in The Mind of the "World Beyond War" Activist: "Saying 'war is going away; the question for me is how fast' implies optimism-realism, outcome orientation, and humility."

But does the "world beyond war" approach help determine where to put effort?

It seems to me that there are some obvious places to focus. Once one is able to imagine a world in which war is a no-go, it becomes possible to imagine certain aspects of that world that will be starkly different than the world in which we live today -- aspects of life that will be inherent to a world beyond war. And, having imagined these aspects, we realize that it seems very hard to imagine having arrived at the world beyond war without the hand-in-hand changes in those aspects themselves. In other words: what would be rendered profoundly outdated if it survived into a world without war?

(1) Education - In a world beyond war, it will no longer make sense to spend a lot of time becoming knowledgeable about war.

We sometimes imagine that education is fundamentally about building up a store of absolute truths; more and more, however, we are realizing that education mostly has to do with acquiring knowledge of what works in the world.

In the world to date, there has been a prevailing emphasis on learning about wars: how they begin, how they are fought, who makes the critical decisions, who leads the fighting, who follows the orders, who derives the benefits from the wars, how the wars are ended, and what changes after they end. The result is that our society is dominated by people who are highly educated about war, and have devoted little time to learning about other ways of settling conflicts.

The inflection point will come when society begins to reward people who know a great deal about how to resolve conflict in the absence of war -- particularly those who can provide value in the form of outcomes that give maximum possible satisfaction to all the parties to a given conflict.

     ... for more see An Educational Alternative to Rivalry

(2) Infrastructure - In a world beyond war, it will no longer make sense to be in possession of massive amounts of infrastructure for carrying out war.

Infrastructure requires time to build. The process of infrastructure development inherently involves trying to imagine what will be needed in the future.

In the world to date, there has been a prevailing attitude toward war infrastructure that says, "Because the cost of failing to have it when we need it would be so high, the only sensible choice is to build as much as we possibly can -- in case we need it."

The inflection point will come when a new attitude begins to gain adherents: "Any overspending on infrastructure that turns out to be useless, will be deeply corrosive to our joint endeavors."

     ... for more see An Infrastructural Alternative to Military Spending

(3) Decisions about communal action - In a world beyond war, it will no longer make sense to hold counsels about decisions to go to war. No one will participate.

In the United States today, we are still living with a constitution that spells out certain war powers, and we maintain an ideal - only intermittently practiced, as it turns out -- in which a highly democratic process may result in a decision to go to war, or not to go to war.

In the world to date, there has been a prevailing acceptance of the wisdom of the group -- some form of democracy -- to decide whether to embark on communal violence. This is in contrast to our views about individual violence, which we tend to view as something which is virtually never ratified by a claim of "wisdom."

The inflection point will come when our systems of group decision-making begin to include norms of "more wisdom, less violence" in proportion to the scope and size of the decision-making forum.

     ... for more see "Problems from Hell" and Real Options Under Democracy

Each of these aspects of our communal life involves an inflection point. And the interesting thing is that, after the inflection point, things will change very fast. The new pattern of education . . . the new direction in infrastructure . . . the new civic decision-making . . . they will all hasten the coming of the world beyond war.

So . . . are there ways to devote effort to assure that we reach each of these inflection points sooner?

Related posts

People working for peace are intensely attuned to the way education impacts peace efforts -- and also war efforts.

(See Education for Peace? or "Education IS Peace"?)

Just like a family that has extra rooms in its house which inevitably become filled with stuff, the U.S. has thousands of bases -- here, there, and everywhere -- that inevitably create the "need" to spend.

(See What Will "Strategic" Mean in Our Children's Lifetime?)

As all the other senators sat patiently through the obfuscation of Barack Obama's Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey -- Rand Paul gave 'em hell.
"Stand up for us and say you’re going to obey the Constitution and if we vote you down — which is unlikely, by the way — you would go with what the people say through their Congress and you wouldn’t go forward with a war that your Congress votes against."

(See Obama's Syria "Vote" in Congress: Democracy? or Theater? )

There is a growing movement of people focused on the "world beyond war." To many of these people, the question is not "if" but "when?" They share a conviction that the world will get there, and they see that it makes a difference how quickly (and in what manner) the world gets there.

(See WAR: Headed for the junkheap, yes . . . but how quickly?)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Surfing a Tidal Wave of Stuff

The Trump election puts a fine point on the urgency of re-directing our economy. We will fail unless we develop a deep understanding of the human factors in the economy we've arrived at.

Mr. Do-it-yourself: paintbrush, Ikea furniture, and thou ...
As I try to comprehend the fact that Donald Trump was elected US president, my mind keeps turning to all the states that voted red.

I currently live in California. For 20 years I lived in Illinois. My early years were spent on the East Coast -- the metro New York City area, then Boston, then Philadelphia.

But I haven't forgotten the other parts of the country that I learned about along the way. In particular, during the '80s I traveled a lot as a importer/exporter. I had clients in Wooster, Ohio ... Atlanta, Georgia ... Johnson City, Tennessee ... Tampa, Florida ... Milwaukee, Wisconsin ... St. Louis, Missouri . . . Charlotte, North Carolina ... Greenville, South Carolina ... Fort Worth, Texas .... I made a second foray into the world of manufacturing in the early 2000's, and that took me to places like Omaha, Nebraska ... Waterloo, Iowa ... Detroit, Michigan ... Chattanooga, Tennessee ....

It looks to me as if Donald Trump was elected president by people in places like those, and principally by people asking, "Where did my job go?" (and, ultimately, "How am I going to survive and prosper?").

This has been a wake-up call to me. I have to confess that I had felt relieved to have moved beyond the part of my career that involved touring factories and sitting in purchasing agents' offices and telexing orders and scouting competitors' products at the shopping center. It was clear to me that the US economy faced a painful restructuring, but trying to figure it out was wearing me out.

I preferred to think about peace and social justice.

It's clear to me now that we will all have to be part of figuring out this economic change. (Together with peace and social justice.) (Or . . . maybe that is peace and justice.)

So . . . herewith I begin the painful process of remembering what I've seen, and trying to make sense of it. What follows are not answers; they're not even quite questions. They are the beginnings of impressions of how the economy has been changing underneath us, and perhaps what we need to think about to get to the best next step. The thread that ties them together is: it's not just a question of creating more manufacturing jobs of the old type. We need to better understand all the ways people can contribute value in this new evolving economy - not just in the factory, but also in stores, as service providers, as designers and crasftspeople, in transport, as business people and inventors . . . and more . . . .

(1) True Value - My years in business coincided with the rise of "discount merchandising" - a.k.a. "big box retailers."  People abandoned the dinky Main Street retailers (think: the local hardware store) for mega-stores that you drive to a mall to shop at (think: Home Depot).

At the time, it seemed like that had only one important implication: more stuff! But it's worth doing the mental exercise: name ten implications of the rise discount merchandising on life in the US . . . .

(Future installment: "on wheels" and "haven't you ever heard of a buyback?")

(2) DIY - It amused me to visit suppliers in Taiwan and South Korea who referred to the "DIY" trend in the US. (You know, "do it yourself.") As someone who had grown up in a family that could not afford to hire outside help to do things like repaint the living room (and kitchen and bathroom and dining room and . . . . ), it had never occurred to me that there was anything but "doing it yourself."

Now . . . I know that the US was built on self-reliance, and I continue to love the odd weekend project as much as the next person. But is it possible that we've missed a huge point about the value of having really skilled people do work?

(Future installment: the story of the time my friend Bob and I built a deck behind his and Wendy's home in Annandale, Virginia.)

(3) Style - I had a few mini-tutorials along the way from suppliers I visited in Italy. They demonstrated that they would only take on a project if that, in doing so, they would be able to make the quality noticeably better than it was last time. They also attested to the fact that they knew where their home was and that their community's success was important to them.

It is embarrassing to think about how novel those two attitudes seemed to me, considering that, at the time, I was spending a lot of time with manufacturers and other business people all around the US.

(Future installment: lunch in the Citte Alta of Bergamo.)

Google Earth image of Omaha, Nebraska - showing Walmart locations

(4) Malcolm MacLean - If you're not familiar with that name, it's time for a Google search. MacLean was the person who figured out that the way to move stuff was not box by box, but truck by truck (i.e. via "containerization). (Cue Season 2 of The Wire.)

I came of age during a decade that revolutionized international trade, and in which we "destroyed distance."

At the time, our only concern was whether we were going to run out of oil to power our cars and trucks and ships and airplanes.

Then somebody told us the problem we needed to worry about was the one we couldn't even see: CO2 . . . .

(Future installment: mental image of Sam Walton flying his plane and identifying future store locations based on where interstates were being built.)

(5) The English Problem - When I was in middle school and high school, I took French. I was a terrible French student. My only consolation was that I wasn't taking Spanish, which I considered even more pointless.

(Luckily I lived in a very very very homogeneous town. I was completely insulated from anyone who wasn't just like me.)

When I went to college, I decided to turn over a new leaf and get serious. I studied Chinese. I took great pride in learning a lot of Chinese. And it turned out to be very useful in my business efforts.

But what I noticed along the way was that you don't have to be fluent in Chinese to gain a lot of benefits. Actually, an enormous number of doors are opened as soon as you know ten words. A hundred words practically make you a visiting prince.

The real limiting factor was not that languages are difficult, something different: was I willing to think that those people from other places and cultures might be worth talking with?

Now, about that Spanish (and French) (and . . . ).

(Future installment: the day we had a substitute teacher in my high school French class.)

(6) Electronics and stuff - An enormous part of the way our economy has changed has to do with electronics. (In fact, I imagine some people who have read this far may think everything I've talked about above is beside the point; "It's the smartphones, stupid!")

It seems to me that we are still in our infancy when it comes to deriving true benefit from the electronics revolution -- we're still swimming in noise. This, in turn, is suggestive of the degree to which we are behind the curve in dealing with the tidal wave of stuff that has come to overwhelm us, beginning in the second half of the 20th century.

What is the real lesson of electronics for our lives?

(Future installment: when I learned that "foundry" referred to semiconductor industry structure.)

To be continued . . . .

Friday, November 11, 2016

VETERANS: A Debt You Can't Bankrupt Your Way Out Of

"The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have costs
billions of dollars over the last decade, but
the spending won't stop when the fighting
does.Just how much money are we
spending on health care because of war?"
Veterans Day is a good day for everyone to ask about long-term health care costs for veterans. And that includes Donald Trump . . . .

I wrote a Veterans Day post three years ago that focused on long-term health care and other costs for veterans. My point was that the lies we tell ourselves to make it "okay" to engage in war begin with denying the true magnitude of taking care -- over the very long term -- of the people we force to fight.

Three days ago, a new US president was elected. His expertise is in financing big -- huge -- projects.

Here's a huge project: the US has more than 20 million veterans. (See Veterans Administration statistics.) The nation's financial obligation to them continues until they die - in many cases 30, 40, 50 or more years from now. It has been suggested that long-term benefits for veterans are a massively underfunded liability.

(Can you begin to imagine this? It's insurance "enrollment season." Take your own health insurance headaches and multiply by 20 million.)

Admittedly, projecting long-term outcomes and costs is difficult, particularly for such a large population with such a range of experiences. Naturally, some people will "blow things out of proportion," and other people will try to "sweep the problem under the rug." The solution, however, is not to do nothing. The solution is to obtain and analyze data, and come up with the most responsible estimate.

(Example: An Australian study, "Long-term Disability Associated With War-related Experience Among Vietnam Veterans(Retrospective Cohort Study)" by Philip M. Clarke, PhD, Robert Gregory, PhD, and Joshua A. Salomon, PhD, in Medical Care found "The steepest rise in disability incidence was observed among Vietnam veterans starting in the 1990s, around 20–30 years after deployment for most veterans. . . . " and "Long-term effects of deployment into military conflicts are substantial, and likelihood of war-related disability is associated with service history. If similar patterns follow from more recent conflicts, significant additional resources will be needed to prevent and treat long-term health conditions among veterans.")

A modest proposal: US president-elect Donald Trump should devote the time between now and Inauguration Day using his expertise to bring forward a new, honest evaluation of the long-term liabilities that the US has accrued as a result of its wars of recent decades, and of the necessary steps to assure those liabilities can be met.

Certainly, Donald Trump intends to do right by US veterans.

Donald Trump can do the math required to count the cost and make sure those liabilities are funded. It's just finance. As they say in business: "Just give me the number."

And most of all - Donald Trump understands the difference between playing the luxury real estate game -- in which mistakes end with a bankruptcy and a shrug -- and our obligations to our veterans. That underscores the importance of providing ironclad assurances that veterans will be taken care of. Not a "kinda sorta" plan. A platinum guarantee.

So . . . President-elect Trump. What's the number?

Related posts

It's time for us to get honest about the true costs of war, including the long term health consequences for people who serve in the military, and the corresponding long-term costs that our society must commit to bear.

(See How to REALLY Honor Veterans)

"The drone program gives people PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," says a former operator in the film, against the background of her attempt to get the VA (Veterans Administration) to acknowledge her condition. "What's so surprising about that?"

(See The Truth About Drones (*NOT* APPROVED by the US Air Force))

"A terrible disease has struck the area . . . people call it the "flu" . . . many in our own community have fallen to it . . . including someone very dear to you, someone in your own family . . . I'm talking about your sister, Margaret." (See November 11, 1918: Another Veteran for Peace )

On November 11, 2015, Veterans for Peace had a message about reclaiming Armistice Day that proved itself massively spreadable on social media . . .

(See What will it take to reclaim Armistice Day for peace?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Messrs. Trump and Putin: CHANGE THIS MAP!

The rest of the world is committed to abolishing nuclear weapons in 2017.  US, Russia -- Trump, Putin -- your move . . . .

DECEMBER SURPRISE: Putin calls Trump "outstanding" (12/2015)

If Donald Trump intends to have good relations with Vladimir Putin and Russia, he can negotiate total nuclear disarmament.

That is something Barack Obama has failed to do.

And, by the way, it's something the entire US government can get behind -- starting right now. First step: let's hear from every US senator. The US president doesn't conduct foreign affairs in a vacuum. Treaties (such as disarmament treaties) are made with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The time is ripe. Just days ago, the majority of the world's nations voted to bring about a ban on nuclear weapons through negotiations in 2017. As the map below illustrates, the glaring holdouts against such a step were the US and Russia.

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(Via @ILPIwmd - share on Twitter)

The key to turning the rest of this map from red (NO) to green (YES) is the agreement of the US and Russia.

"Messrs. Trump and Putin: CHANGE THIS MAP!"

Related posts

Today, we may not be seeing kinetic (currently unleashed) violence on anything like the scale that consumed Europe and other parts of the world and resulted in 60 million deaths. Instead, thanks to technology, we have potential (waiting to be unleashed) violence -- nuclear devastation just the push of a button away.

(See Obama's (and Putin's) Missed Opportunity at Hiroshima)

It can all happen very fast . . . . No one really knows ahead of time what will happen . . . . That's why it's so important for people to get together and talk.

(See The Lesson of Reykjavik: TALK About Nuclear Disarmament (You Never Know) )

The nuclear "haves" are meeting in London today and tomorrow. Everyone in the world should be doing everything possible to drive them towards an agreement on nuclear disarmament. It's more important than ISIS. More important than Iran, Bibi, or Boehner. And certainly more important than the top ten things trending on Twitter or coming up in your Facebook feed.

(See Job #1 Vis-a-vis Russia: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

Of particular interest when the UN vote was taken - the actions of USA, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea ... and Japan.

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(Via @ILPIwmd - share on Twitter)

"What do you notice . . . ?"

If I were lucky enough to be a high school or college teacher, I would seize the opportunity to invite my students to investigate a real life moment in global politics.

Last Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to proceed with negotiations in 2017on global nuclear disarmament - a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

It is a stunning lesson in global civics to observe who voted "YES" and who voted "NO" (and also who abstained) on L.41 - "taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations."

ROLL CALL: votes on "taking forward multilateral
nuclear disarmament negotiations"

The assignment is simple: Pick a country ... guess how you might expect them to vote, giving reasons for your answer ... then look at how they really voted.  Next, try to think about additional reasons that might explain their actual vote. Final step: go online and see what others are saying about why the country voted the way they did.

This will prove to be a very illuminating exercise for anyone -- young or old -- who thinks they know which countries are working for the peace and safety of the world.

More information at on Common Dreams: "US Votes 'No' As UN Adopts Landmark Resolution Calling to Ban Nuclear Weapons"

For instance, see . . . 

133 Is a Lot of #Nuclearban-Supporting Countries

Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World

SCIENCE MARCHES: Are All These Countries In the Dark About Nuclear Weapons?

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

A Peace-building Commonwealth Wants to Ban Nuclear Weapons
and The Road to the Commonwealth Games Passes Through #Nuclearban Territory

NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN TALKS: With Japan at the Table (Hopefully)

NOWRUZ: New Day for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement

USA: Bringing a Trumpian Posture to the Nuclear Ban Talks. (Bankruptcy.)

North Korea and #NuclearBan

(Most of) The Mideast Wants a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World

Where Will Europe Stand on #Nuclearban?

Additional resources

"Standing With the Nonwhite World to Ban Nuclear Weapons" by Vincent J. Intondi: "It is no surprise that this current attempt to eliminate nuclear weapons is being led by many nonwhite nations. In 1955, ten years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, twenty-nine nations of Asia and Africa gathered in Bandung, Indonesia . . . "

"Nuclear weapons and the dialectic of universalism: the UN convenes to ban the bomb" by Kjølv Egeland: "[T]he nuclear ban-treaty movement marks the first time an instrument of international humanitarian law is forced into existence against a kicking and screaming European core. The civilising mission of normative stigmatisation has been taken up by those formerly on the receiving end."

 . . . and links to more helpful explanations on the "Full voting result on UN resolution L.41" page on the ICAN website.

More related posts

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Hibakusha is a word that has traditionally been used to refer to people affected by the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagaski.  It is now being broadened to recognize the many additional victims of acute affects of nuclear radiation (including fallout from tests and radioactivity from mining and processing). In fact, we are all subject to the impact and threat of nuclear radiation spread indiscriminately by nations and corporations.

(See HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, "We are ALL 'hibakusha'?")

"It's not enough to remember this just once a year; it's not enough that we make a single book -- Hiroshima -- required reading, and never go beyond that. There should be a whole canon that people study progressively, year by year, to grasp and retain the horror of this."

(See FIRE AND BLAST: A Curriculum that Confronts Nuclear Danger?)