Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THIS is how you protest a Nobel Peace Prize!

Six years ago I stood in front of Obama re-election headquarters and impersonated the King Of Norway in the act of revoking Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

December 10, 2010, in Chicago in front of Obama Re-election HQ:
"King Harald" regretfully revokes Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize
(Photo courtesy FJJ)

I bring this up because the Nobel Prize will be awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Oslo on Sunday. The US objects and says it won't send its Acting Ambassador to the ceremony.

From ICAN:
"The U.S., Britain, and France have decided not to send
their ambassadors to Norway to the #NobelPeacePrize ceremony.
It’s time to engage with the #nuclearban treaty and catch up
with the rest of the international community. #FOMO ?"

The United States government has a lot of resources at its disposal. I would expect that if it's really serious when it says that the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons will not bring peace, it would do something more than just have its diplomats stay home.

Especially when the world will get a stark reminder at the ceremony of the unique role of the US in using nuclear weapons.

From The Nobel Prize:
"On 10 Dec Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow will accept the
Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of @nuclearban."

The US could hold a press conference outside the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony, saying how much it objects to the nuclear ban treaty. Of course, the US tried that when the treaty was being negotiated, and all it got them was 122 countries voting to approve the treaty text . . . .

Maybe it's time for the US government to up the ante.

Hmmm . . . . the US has a lot of planes. How about skywriting? Has anyone thought about skywriting?

Related posts

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

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

133 Is a Lot of #Nuclearban-Supporting Countries

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Monday, December 4, 2017

To Do This Week: More letters to Congress

Last week's plan -- a letter a day to Congress to support HR.669/S.200 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" -- turned out pretty well.

At a busy time of year, it's helpful to set a few simple priorities and get those tasks done.

I'm going to try it again this week, focusing on senators I watched in the video of the November 14 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons." In that hearing . . .

* There was strong affirmation from everyone in the room that Congress (not the president) has the sole authority to authorize a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike through its power to declare war, AND/BUT continuing silence by Congress about its authority tends to have the practical effect of leaving the president completely in control.

* The three experts who testified were deeply knowledgeable and answered all questions to the best of their ability. But, when it was all said and done, as pointed out by Senator Markey, they could not provide satisfactory assurance that the president -- particularly the current president -- could not unilaterally cause the launch of a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike i.e. without Congressional authorization.

Below are the tasks I have set myself for the week. Each is a letter to a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee.

What would happen if a large number of people picked up their pens and took control of this issue?

Monday: Sen. Bob Corker (TN)

Senator Corker chairs the committee. He showed a great deal of leadership in calling the hearing, and he is to be commended. Now ... given the conclusions cited above, what does being a leader call for him to do now?

Tuesday: Sen. Ben Cardin (MD)

Senator Cardin is the ranking member on the committee (i.e. the senior member from the Democratic Party).  I noticed that he zeroed in on the shakiness of any real constraint on the president. (See minute 58:00 of the hearing.)

Wednesday: Sen. Tom Udall (NM)

Viewing the hearing, I got the distinct impression that Senator Udall is not satisfied with what he was hearing. I hope he'll move to support for S.200. (See minute 1:13:00 of the hearing.)

Thursday: Sen. Tim Kaine (VA)

Senator Kaine's exchange with the witnesses zeroed in on the key point: Congress (not the president) has the sole authority to authorize a (non-defensive) nuclear first strike through its power to declare war, AND/BUT continuing silence by Congress about its authority tends to have the practical effect of leaving the president completely in control. (See minute 1:44:00 of the hearing.)

Friday: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

I found it very noteworthy that Senator Shaheen focused on the phrase "civilization-threatening consequences" in the testimony of the witnesses. (See minute 2:03:00 of the hearing.)

It's time for Congress to re-assert its rightful power over nuclear weapons. S.200 is a critical first step.

Who will you be writing to?

Related posts

Notes on how to talk to your representatives in Congress

"Nuclear Citizenship" by Elaine Scarry in Harper's

On Nuclear Weapons: We Need Tenacity

Please share this post . . . .

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thanks, Pat Hunt!

Pat Hunt - ready to march! (May, 2012 - NATO Summit protest, Chicago)

In 2011, I was interested in getting involved in antiwar work . . . but I didn't really know where to find it. Then I met Pat Hunt. As so many people have testified in recent days, the minute you met Pat, there was no longer any question about that.

Pat welcomed people into the movement, and made sure they continued to feel welcome.

Pat's sudden passing has made me stop and notice how important she has been in my life. I met her at a time when many people in Chicago were involved in planning protests marking the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan and the NATO Summit, and in supporting the Occupy movement. Many of those people are important in my life. But Pat was special.

"I support anti-war candidates! (Know any?)
Pat Hunt style activism -- with a dash of wit included.
I remember Pat coming to meet me numerous times at the Panera in Lincoln Park (where I used to sit hour after hour, working on my laptop) to ask about what I was working on and to encourage me. B.P. (before Pat) I wasn't always so sure about whether it was worth it to do all that blogging and tweeting and everything else I was doing. A.P. (after Pat) there was a voice in my head saying "keep at it!" Even after I was two thousand miles away in Berkeley, Pat found ways to nudge me forward with encouragement on social media.

I remember the way Pat made meetings run smoothly. In a room full of people with strong opinions and strong feelings, she found ways to keep everybody working together. (Her tremendous good will and hearty laugh were two of the secrets of her success.)

I remember Pat's willingness to entertain new ideas. To this day, whenever I'm feeling fearful about suggesting something new, I hear Pat's voice in my head: "If the 'way we've always done it' hasn't gotten the job finished -- maybe we should consider something new!"

I often find myself wondering: how can we encourage more people to devote themselves to the antiwar movement? I'm realizing today that most of the answers to that question have come from Pat Hunt.

Thanks, Pat!

MORE: Pat Hunt Improver of the World on Facebook

Monday, November 27, 2017

To Do This Week: One letter a day to Congress

Does anybody think we no longer have to worry about Donald Trump's unilateral authority to use nuclear weapons?

This week I will be writing letters to representatives and senators in the US Congress to urge their support of  HR669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" (corresponding Senate bill: S200).

Last winter I suggested people call and write Congress on this vital issue. As of today, there are 73 co-sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives and 13 in the Senate. We need more.

Two weeks ago the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the issue. (You can watch the hearings here.) This is a startling step in a Republican-controlled Congress and a major step forward in moving this bill forward.

Below are the tasks I have set myself for the week.

What would happen if a large number of people picked up their pens and took control of this issue?

For people in California, the consequences of nuclear conflict
seem just a little bit too real, as the publication of this image
on the front page of The San Francisco Chronicle suggests.
Monday: Sen. Kamala Harris (CA)

I will urge the second of my two senators, Kamala Harris, to co-sponsor S200. (Senator Feinstein was one of the first co-sponsors.)

Tuesday: Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52)

My district is represented by Barbara Lee, who was the first of the eighteen (18) other California congressmen supporting the House version of the bill (HR669), introduced by her colleague from Los Angeles, Rep. Ted Lieu.

Now I will be writing to Scott Peters, who represents San Diego, to encourage him to join his California colleagues in co-sponsoring the bill.

Wednesday: Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5)

During my years in Chicago, I frequently communicated with Rep. Quigley. (See, for instance, this letter from two years ago.) It's time to write to him again to urge him to join his Chicago-area colleagues in the House, Bobby Rush, Jan Schakowsky, and Luis Gutierrez, in co-sponsoring HR669.

Thursday: Sen. Cory Booker (NJ)

Senator Cory Booker sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His support for S200 -- together with committee members Ed Markey (the original sponsor), Jeff Merkley, and Chris Murphy -- is vital.

Friday: Sen. Rand Paul (KY)

Senator Rand Paul also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is an independent voice within the Republican party, and a strong advocate for Congress' war authority under the U.S. Constitution. His support for S200 will all so be vital.

Who will you be writing to?

Related posts

Notes on how to talk to your representatives in Congress

"Nuclear Citizenship" by Elaine Scarry in Harper's

On Nuclear Weapons: We Need Tenacity

Please share this post . . . .

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Congress, Experts Question Trump’s Nuke Authority


What: Public forum on constitutionality of presidential first use of nuclear weapons
Where: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Science Center Hall C)
When: Saturday, November 4, 2017

Contact: Prof. Elaine Scarry, Harvard University --  m 617-519-9735, escarry@fas.harvard.edu
   or    Cole Harrison, Mass Peace Action -– m 617-466-9274, cole@masspeaceaction.org
   or    Prof. Jonathan King, MIT -– m 617 803 8683, jaking@mit.edu

Congress, Experts Question Trump’s Nuke Authority
Long-held Doctrine May Be Unconstitutional

As President Donald Trump travels to China and other Asian countries, where his first priority will be negotiations over handling of the confrontation with North Korea over threats of nuclear strikes, a crescendo of voices in the US is questioning the constitutional authority of the US president to conduct a nuclear first strike.

On Saturday, November 4, at Harvard University, Congressman Jim McGovern (co-sponsor of “H.R.669 - Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017”) will join former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former missile launch officer Bruce Blair, constitutional scholar Bruce Ackerman, and other experts for a public forum on “Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons: Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?”

“This event is intended to bring together the range of voices that will be required to rein in the nuclear threat – members of Congress, defense experts, legal scholars, philosophers, activists … and the general public,” said Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, conference co-chair and author of Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom.

The conference takes place Saturday, November 4, 2017 (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) at Harvard University, Science Center Hall C, Cambridge, MA, and is co-sponsored by Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center,  Harvard’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, and MassPeaceAction Education Fund.


Full conference program at:

H.R.669 - Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017:

S.200 - Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Summer to Remember

Anise swallowtail -- one of our northern California beauties.

Last Friday I went to the Cancer Center here in Berkeley for my scheduled chemotherapy infusion. My oncologist said, "I've been reviewing your scans; I think it's time to move off this chemotherapy course -- from here on, we'll just be giving you periodic maintenance infusions."

That was an unexpected piece of good news. Within minutes we were in the car, headed home, and a friend texted another piece of news: "ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!"

*     *     *

It's taken me a few days to adjust to the new reality. Since my lymphoma diagnosis on June 17, I've spent more and more time dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, and less and less time writing. I've been trying to keep up with events, but in recent weeks it became a bit of a blur. Now it seems the first order of business is to get a clear picture of what has developed in the past 3+ months . . . .


I was still spending time on my computer every day as of July 7, when 100+ countries at the UN agreed on a global nuclear weapons ban treaty text.

When the UN General Assembly re-convened on September 20, formal signing of the treaty began. More than 50 countries have signed so far.

Ratification by 50 countries is required for the treaty to enter into force. In late August, I wrote about how the ongoing process of signing and ratification lifts the nuclear ban treaty into the forefront of the global political discourse. Now, with progress on the signings and ratification, and the Nobel Peace Prize award to ICAN, it's a good time to update that estimate!

US restrictions on presidential first use of nuclear weapons

When my cancer diagnosis came in June, there were 37 co-sponsors on HR669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017." As of today there are 57 co-sponsors.

During the last few months, a conference has been organized to take place in Cambridge on November 4 to address the question, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?"  (This all-day conference has a fabulous lineup, and is free and open to the public. See the link for more info and registration info.)

Trump and Nuclear Diplomacy by Tweet

On August 12, I wrote, "Now along comes Donald Trump, who has sole authority to order a nuclear first strike and is tossing out threats left and right against North Korea. People are waking up. Nuclear war is not an abstraction. It is a real possibility, and it is in the hands (right now) of a single person," and events since then have only served to lend weight to that assertion.

The situation becomes even more urgent as Trump prepares to visit Asia in early November. One thing I'll be doing in the next few days is reviewing and recapping developments over the last several months. I'll be sharing a chronology on this blog.

*     *     *

The summer of 2017 had a great deal about it that must be remembered. Some of my memories of this time will, of course, be very personal to me. But I think everyone will remember it as a time when the global conversation on nuclear weapons underwent a fundamental shift -- one that promises a move away from the unilateral domination of a few nuclear weapons states and toward a truly peace-oriented global community.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Who Has Been "Begging for War"?

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says North Korea's tests of increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons and missiles amounts to "begging for war."

So THAT'S what testing increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons and missiles is! Thank you for the clarification, Ambassador Haley.

Is that what the US and the other nuclear weapons states have been doing for the past 70 years? Perhaps now we have some inkling of how we have been viewed by the rest of the world as we have brandished weapon after weapon after weapon . . . ?

(The video above is a 3 minute version of all nuclear detonations since 1945. I invite you to watch the unrelenting sequence of thousands of nuclear detonations by the US and other nuclear powers unfold in the original 14 minute version, if you have the stomach for it.)

"I think that North Korea has basically slapped everyone in the face in the international community that has asked them to stop," Haley said. Yes, well . . . .

What, then, is the opposite of this way of "begging for war"? Perhaps becoming a party to the UN #nuclearban? Perhaps that is what countries "insisting on peace" are doing?

Related posts

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror

Nuclear Weapons Abolition: What Will Be Different After September 20?

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

Please share this post . . . .

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#Nuclearban: How Will China Play Its Hand?

From the moment the global nuclear ban treaty initiative first
got under way, it was clear that China's role would be pivotal.

I wrote yesterday to begin a conversation about possible ways that the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons may come to dominate the global discourse in the months ahead.

An extremely important question is how China will engage with this new development. People frequently assume that China is a country trying to catch up with and surpass the United States, and so China's behavior in the world must necessarily be a near version of how the US behaves. However, a growing school of thought has begun to notice that the best way to understand what China might do is to ask, "What could China do that in one fell swoop would put them three steps ahead of the US?"

China declined to participate in the negotiations on the nuclear ban treaty. Observing that decision, I began to realize that China's involvement in the process could at the right moment carry enormous weight, and would certainly be calculated to maximize the benefit to China. (See "China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement.")

It's important to remember that China played an important role in defining a post-World War II world in which the countries of Asia, Latin America, and Africa need not be dominated by the US, Europe, and Russia (then the Soviet Union) -- despite the threat posed by the latter countries' nuclear weapons. Yes, China has nuclear weapons. But a quick review of the size of China's nuclear force suggests that, unlike the US and Russia, China does not believe that strength comes from having nuclear weapons. So where does China seek strength?

I propose a thought experiment: Imagine that China deems the advent of a global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (with 50 or more signatory nations), together with the resulting impact on the global security discourse, to offer an advantageous moment to make a bold move. Imagine, further, that China declares its intention to accede to the nuclear ban treaty, together with a definitive timeline -- say 5 years -- for dismantling its nuclear arsenal. What might be some of the possible outcomes of such a move?

First, in the general sense of "global leadership," it would be a stunning complement to the role now being accorded to China in the global effort to address global warming (particularly in light of US abandonment of the Paris Accord).

Second, in the realm of "optionality," it would give China enormous control over its ability to tell its story to the world over the coming five (or however many) years. China would have obtained the option to volunteer progress reports in the years ahead on its work toward fulfilling its unprecedented promise.

Third, it could have particular benefit for China's relations with other countries that support the nuclear ban. For instance:

* China's relations with other countries bordering the South China Sea are vitally important. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the sponsors of the nuclear ban treaty initiative when it was first put forward in October, 2017, and have been strong supporters throughout the process.

* Supporting the nuclear ban would be a way of building bridges with the countries of Latin America -- including original ban sponsors (and Pacific neighbors) Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. In fact, Latin America has a 50-year history of working toward a global nuclear ban.

* And, of course, it has long been apparent that China is busily building relations with countries throughout Africa. Nearly every country in Africa is a supporter of the nuclear ban.

Fourth, there is the potential for shaking loose other "holdouts":

* Australia has opposed the ban, but is a vital trade partner with China. And 75% of the public in Australia support the ban.

* China has been moving progressively toward playing the principal role in negotiating some kind of grand bargain to denuclearize/demilitarize the Korean peninsula.

Finally, in the long run, there will be a solution to the countries that refuse to come to the table: India and Pakistan, the US and Russia. While it may be difficult today to imagine that it will be China that will one day play the "honest broker" and host such talks . . . it is not difficult to imagine people saying "this wouldn't have been possible without China."

Of course, everything outlined above is hypothetical. But I believe it illustrates an important point: the impending nuclear ban treaty carries enormous potential consequences for many countries -- China being just one example -- and the more people delve into the risks, opportunities, and possibilities involved, the more global excitement there will be about the treaty.

Please share this post . . . . 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Nuclear Weapons Abolition: What Will Be Different After September 20?

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The global treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be available for countries to sign when the UN General Assembly begins its session September 20. The treaty enters into force 90 days after 50 countries have signed it.

The treaty text was drafted during a three week conference in June and July. One hundred and twenty-two (122) countries who participated in the special conference voted in favor of the text. (There was one vote against and one abstention.)

Some personal predictions:

* Fifty (and probably many more) nations will rapidly sign the treaty on September 20, or very shortly after. (I base this on the extremely strong support from the many participating countries in the drafting conference, including public statements and social media updates from their delegations.)

* There will be a strong impetus to reach the fifty nation threshold by September 26 - the fourth International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

* There will also be a motivation to reach the fifty nation threshold at the latest by October 3. That would mean that the 2018 would be ushered in with the treaty entering into force on January 1. (Ninety days from October 3 is January 1.) 

The momentum is already building as individual states affirm their intent to sign the treaty as soon as it becomes available.

So here is a question for all of us to think about: how will it change the global conversation when a treaty is affirmed by so many countries from all over the world? What will it feel like to know the clock is ticking down to nuclear weapons abolition . . . instead of worrying that the clock is ticking down to nuclear war? What will be different about the way people talk about the behavior of the states that still stubbornly hold on to nuclear weapons (and threaten each other with them)? In what light will it cast the countries that rely on the "nuclear umbrella" of countries like the US?

I've written about the important conference that will take place in Cambridge on November 4, which will focus on US nuclear weapons. What might be different about those deliberations if the participants know that, within days, a global nuclear weapons ban treaty will be entering into force?

Related post

#Nuclearban: How Will China Play Its Hand?

Please share this post . . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Time to Call the Question: Is Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons Constitutional?

Trump: If N Korea keeps threatening, will be met with 'fire'."

Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times several days ago that law schools are preparing to delve into numerous Constitutional questions that have been brought to a head by the Trump presidency, not the least of which is:

"Must Congress authorize a nuclear strike against North Korea?"

(See "New on This Fall’s Law School Syllabus: Trump.")

Case in point: a conference taking place in Cambridge on November 4 will address the question, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?"  The affiliations of the speakers -- including Yale Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT -- tend to affirm Liptak's suggestion that this is a question that is being taken up in law schools and on campuses nationwide.

Also speaking at the Cambridge conference will be Massachusetts member of Congress Jim McGovern, a co-sponsor of HR669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017." Central to HR669 are the principles that . . .

"The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war";

"By any definition of war, a first-use nuclear strike from the United States would constitute a major act of war"; and

"A first-use nuclear strike conducted absent a declaration of war by Congress would violate the Constitution."

Of course, breathing life into HR669's steely logic requires the participation of actual members of Congress, and in turn by the life-and-blood people they represent. It is worth noting that HR 669 now has forty-seven (47) co-sponsors in the House, including representatives from . . .

New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island

Food for thought: how many law schools and universities will avail themselves of the opportunity to invite their member of Congress to participate in a discussion of this vital question? As the list above indicates, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?" has now become the question people are asking everywhere.

Related posts:

Nuclear Weapons: People Power Over Trump Power

"Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry

Please share this post . . . .

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Donald Trump: The Great Clarifier

Ever since nuclear weapons were first invented and the United States used them against Japan, ordinary citizens have been subjected to an unrelenting campaign of obfuscation and confusion about their true nature and what's at stake. If any of us stopped long enough to think about nuclear weapons, we realized that everything possible must be done to get rid of them, and to make sure no one is every able to cause them to be used. But our ability to think has been challenged by a smokescreen of state propaganda: the state needs them, the state has everything under control, the state will take care of it. (Just feel lucky you're a citizen of such a big, strong state.)

Now along comes Donald Trump, who has sole authority to order a nuclear first strike and is tossing out threats left and right against North Korea.

People are waking up. Nuclear war is not an abstraction. It is a real possibility, and it is in the hands (right now) of a single person.

There are now forty-four (44) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And nine (9) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Now is the time to demand a tidal wave of support for this bill, and get the unilateral authority over these weapons out of the hands of a single person.

Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New This Week (July 18, 2017)

South Korea's new leader: Moon Jae-in
(Image: NY Daily News)

Several months ago, I wrote suggesting that there will be a breakthrough in the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula under the new president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. (See #Nuclearban Game-Changer: South Korea? and Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror.)

Today, The New York Times reported that South Korea wants to enter into negotiations with North Korea, breaking from the confrontational approach of the US in dealing with North Korea's nuclear program. (See "South Korea Proposes Military Talks With North at Their Border.")

*     *     *

There are now forty (40) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And nine (9) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Will support continue to grow in the rest of July and through the summer?

Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Modest Proposal: UNAs and #Nuclearban Education

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has issued a challenge:
" . . . show the people reasons to support the UN . . . "
Exhibit #1 is #nuclearban
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

One hundred and twenty-two (122) countries have agreed on a global nuclear weapons ban treaty text, and the treaty is in line to be adopted and enter into force in the months ahead.

A global network of United Nations Associations (UNAs) exists to engage in public education about the work of the UN, and encourage public support of the UN.

The #nuclearban is an issue the UNAs on which the UNAs can really roll up their sleeves and make a difference -- by using their convening power to bring together members of the public to learn about, discuss, and organize for action in support of this most important of UN initiatives. In doing so, they will foster a better understanding of the UN overall, and form the basis for more and better public involvement with their UNA chapters in the years ahead.

This work is especially important in the US and other countries whose governments are not currently supporting the #nuclearban. The public needs to become much, much more engaged.

It's worth remembering that the United Nations was created at the very moment that nuclear weapons were introduced. The UN's work for peace during all the ensuing decades has been done under the shadow of the nuclear threat.

In my opinion, the future of the UN very much hinges on the #nuclearban. Isn't it time for UNAs everywhere to answer the call and bring this development before the larger public?

Please share this post . . . . 

Related links

"Response to UNA-UK call for UK to attend nuclear ban treaty negotiations"

Monday, July 10, 2017

New This Week (July 10, 2017)

A historic day of liberation for the world;
a historic day of shame for US citizens, because their country tried to stop #nuclearban
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

On Friday at the United Nations, 122 nations voted on final language on the "Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons" (#nuclearban). The treaty will be open for signature when the General Assembly reconvenes September 20 in New York; all signs point to rapidly reaching the threshold that will cause the treaty to go into effect. The treaty enters into force 90 days after 50 signatures are reached. That means that on or about January 1, 2018, the world will very likely have a treaty in force outlawing nuclear weapons.

The United States has opposed the entire nuclear ban process. (Their response to the treaty announcement was to join the UK and France in saying, "We do not intend to sign, ratify, or every become party to it." - see "A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard Part," by Rick Gladstone in The New York Times.)

Of course, the US is bound by treaty to strive toward complete nuclear disarmament -- eventually. I'm referring, of course, to its Article VI obligations under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (See A DEAL'S A DEAL! (What part of "nuclear disarmament" doesn't the US understand?) )

So the question is not if, but when. And the nuclear ban treaty seems to point to a much earlier date for achieving complete nuclear disarmament.

There is so much courageous work by people all around the world to bring about #nuclearban. People in the holdout countries like the US could be forgiven for feeling frustration and shame that their governments are clinging stubbornly to the wrong side of history. The #nuclearban treaty looks like it will sail into force while the US continues its bizarre journey into irrelevance in this and other aspects of global affairs. (viz. climate - e.g. "World Leaders Move Forward on Climate Change, Without U.S.")

Fine. The US is going to stamp its feet and hold its breath. Just one question: do we have to burn through $1 trillion while we're doing it? (See "Why a $1 trillion endeavor to modernize the US nuclear arsenal could get more bipartisan support") There is a massive nuclear weapons modernization program underway in the US, and you've gotta ask, "Is that a good investment as we head into a world in which nuclear weapons are outlawed?"

For our democratically-elected representatives, the calculus has got to be pretty simple, "People are really not happy that we can't agree on a way to come up with the money to make sure everyone will have health care. One trillion dollars -- trillion with a "T" -- maybe we'd better start acting like we're not throwing money down the drain . . . . "

Luckily, there are already a group of senators on the case. In March, 13 US senators wrote, "While we appreciate the work of the Defense Science Board, we strongly disagree with the wisdom or need to develop new nuclear weapons or resume nuclear testing. For 71 years the United States has led the world in opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, leadership that would be called into question should the United States develop new, so-called low-yield nuclear weapons. As you prepare to lead the Trump administration’s review of U.S. nuclear policy and posture, we urge you not to act on the Board's recommendations." (See "Senators Reject Call for New Nuclear Weapons, Ending Nuclear Testing Ban," March 14, 2017, signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Edward J. Markey, Richard J. Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Tammy Baldwin, Jeffrey Merkley, Bernard Sanders, Brian Schatz, Chris Van Hollen, and Kamala D. Harris.)

#nuclearban: If the world is now OUTLAWING #nuclearweapons,
how is a $1 TRILLION development program a good idea?
(Please share this message on Twitter.)

Let's pick up where we left off and start exercising Congressional power over the sky's-the-limit nuclear weapons spending of the US government.

RELATED UPDATE - JULY 12 -  There are now thirty-nine (39) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And nine (9) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Will support continue to grow in the rest of July and through the summer?

Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list! 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Food for Thought: #Nuclearban's Network Character

Global Connectivity

I have written quite a bit encouraging people to be interested in the network aspect of our joint peace promotion endeavors - particularly as it relates to a truly global peace activism community.

I continue to believe that there is a great leap forward that is available to us if we devote more attention to the network character of what we are doing.

It is so close, we can practically taste it. The current work on a global nuclear weapons ban treaty -- particularly connected via social media and #nuclearban hashtag -- brings these network dimensions tangibly close.

In the course of any one individual's activism efforts, they inevitably bump up against the realization that each of us -- even the most prolific, even the most creative -- is limited. But there truly is power in the network: a strong network just keeps getting bigger and stronger and more effective, even as individual nodes (er, people) wax and wane.

What should this realization lead us to do?

Here are three recommendations:

(1) Laboratory Approach

I believe there is a lot that could be learned by putting some of the recent activity (e.g. with respect to #nuclearban) under a microscope.

Activists may not be inclined to sift through several weeks or months of social media communication, but there are lots of talented people who could contribute to this. Data mining and #peacetech are growing areas of interest.

There are existing apps, such as Bluenod, that can be used to take a first stab at this. And there is readily-available data on the major social media platforms -- there for the analyzing by anyone comfortable using a little code. (See Matthew A. Russell, Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GitHub, and More)

#nuclearban Twitter community on Bluenod

(2) Actionable Research Output

Just about every activist and activist organization engages in social media communication. Most organizations (and even some individuals) have an explicit plan to "up their social media game." Some even have staff devoting substantial amounts of their time to just doing social media campaigns.

It seems reasonable that the laboratory approach suggested in (1) above have as a near-term objective communicating its discoveries to organizations (and individuals) that have a real commitment to using them to become more effective.

That naturally points to the desirability of starting the conversation as soon as possible. If people digging into the true face of the social web-driven global peace community know what activist organizations are already observing and conjecturing, and what they wish they know and what they hope they will someday be able to accomplish, they can be that much more alert in their researches.

For instance, in my very limited experience in this area, it seems to me that the evolving global nature of network raises the question for every activist organization, "How much of our effort should be directed at communicating with people who are already part of our audience? How much to people we are not currently reaching? How do we decide the amount of resources to spend on various approaches? How do we gauge return on investment?" In other words, should we be thinking Montana? or Mongolia?

Mongolia: lots of #nuclear ban supporters
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(3) Expand the Conversation

As someone who not-so-long ago moved to the Bay Area I'm having an epiphany . . . .

The technology and social media tools we are using today were, in many cases, conceived by people who are profoundly interested in how these (or next stage) applications can help society be better.

Evan Williams
For instance, this article made me think, "Here's someone who's spending his days asking the same questions I am asking!": "'The Internet Is Broken': @ev Is Trying to Salvage It." "'I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,' Evan Williams says. 'I was wrong about that.'" By the way, Williams created Blogger (on which this blog is published), was one of the founders of Twitter, and has a new project called Medium.

People like Ev Williams may or may not identify themselves as "peace activists," but they and we share some major concerns, and they have enormous resources to contribute.

Resolved: I will meet some new people . . . and have some conversations . . . even if I have to (gulp) leave the East Bay to do it!

The #nuclearban effort on the ground is surging ahead. Now is the perfect time to explore the network character of #nuclearban -- a little measurement and analysis, a little actionable research output, and some scintillating conversation.

To be continued . . . .

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Food for Thought: Global Markets, Global Brands, and the #Nuclearban

The negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban are moving inexorably to conclusion at the United Nations.

By coincidence, the US -- the great #nuclearban refusenik -- will celebrate Independence Day this week, just as the negotiations are wrapping up. So it seems like a good moment to remember what Independence Day is all about . . . .

Consumers saying NO!: The Boston Tea Party

Scholars have recently begun to stress that the real revolutionary power of the American Revolution lay in the organized action of consumers in North America who hit their imperial rulers where it hurt: in their trading businesses. (See, for instance, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, by H.T. Breen)

As someone who had a long career in international trade, I look at the map of all the #nuclearban-supporting countries from the standpoint of a US-based global marketer, and I think, "Uh-oh ...."

Interactive #nuclearban map from @icanaustria.
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People ask, "Even if all the #nuclearban-supporting countries enter into a treaty, what difference does it make if countries like the US remain outside the treaty? Where is the leverage to make the US change?"

I suspect that we have an enormous amount of leverage . . . !

Top 100 Global Brands ... including Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google,
GE, McDonald's, Intel, Apple, Disney, HP, and more ...

Everything that is happening in the US right now -- really, a state of political chaos -- is a function of how rapidly our economy is changing, and our inability to understand where we sit relative to the global economy. We are the beneficiaries of our integration with global markets . . . and we don't seem to realize how good we've got it, or how quickly we could lose the benefits of that integration.

One thing that I learned during my years traveling around the world as a US business person: people in other countries don't actually love us that much.  I'm not saying that people in other countries have anything against people in the US, but we often float through life in a kind of trance in which we imagine that everything about the US is great! and people everywhere are filled with warm feelings about the US. The truth is that there is a lot of ambivalence.

And that means the US -- the government, the people, the businesses -- don't get a free pass for bad behavior.

I was very intrigued by the actions of Apple CEO Tim Cook several weeks ago. When Donald Trump rejected US participation in the Paris climate accord, Cook hastened to reassure the community of Apple stakeholders:

I know many of you share my disappointment with the White House's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. I spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to keep the U.S. in the agreement. But it wasn't enough.

Climate change is real and we all share a responsibility to fight it. I want to reassure you that today's developments will have no impact on Apple's efforts to protect the environment. We power nearly all of our operations with renewable energy, which we believe is an example of something that's good for our planet and makes good business sense as well.

We will keep working toward the ambitious goals of a closed-loop supply chain, and to eventually stop mining new materials altogether. Of course, we're going to keep working with our suppliers to help them do more to power their businesses with clean energy. And we will keep challenging ourselves to do even more. Knowing the good work that we and countless others around the world are doing, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our planet's future.

Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.

(See "Tim Cook emails Apple employees after failing to change Donald Trump’s mind about the Paris climate deal")

I believe business leaders like Tim Cook are gravely concerned about the political risk to their brands. They understand that their wildly popular brands may be tarred by association with the US - the country where they just happen to be domiciled. In the case of climate, there is a world consensus on the problem, and a daily-growing awareness that those who stand to be hurt the most by the problem are in the Global South. The problem for Tim Cook and Apple (and many other global brands based in the US) is: how can we let our customers throughout the world know that we're good guys -- that we're the ones wearing white hats -- despite the fact that we live in painfully close proximity to a practically outlaw regime?

In the days and weeks ahead, we will likely have a global consensus on outlawing nuclear weapons. And in boardrooms across this country, heated discussion of a new kind of political risk will begin . . . .

RELATED POST: Is there a relationship between #nuclearban and #G20?

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Monday, June 26, 2017

#Canada150 and #nuclearban: A World Turned Upside-Down

Expo 67 - Canada Pavilion
#Canada150 and #nuclearban: A World Turned Upside-Down
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I have written before about how formative a few short days I once spent in Canada turned out to be for my life. Back then, I went around the world in 5 days as we went from pavilion to pavilion. During the first decades of my working career, I traveled to every country I could get to in the course of my work in import/export.  And today I'm connecting to a peace movement that is truly global. (See: O Canada! (We'll always have "Expo" . . . . ).)

A big focus of Expo 67 was "Man and his World." It was a moment when people were very much aware of how the human species had come to dominate the planet -- and each other -- and there were the beginnings of a call for balance.

The 50th anniversary of Expo 67 is this year. I've been enjoying reading about the many related exhibits and commemorations, and the memories come flooding back. (See "Expo 2017: Utopia, Rebooted" in The New York Times, by Jason Farago.) I was delighted to hear my daughter say she's hoping to drive up to Montreal this summer.

By the way, I've always particularly loved the inverted pyramid design of the Canada Pavilion from Expo 67 -- although until I sat down to write this piece today, I wasn't quite sure what I thought it meant . . . .

*     *     *

This year is also the 150th anniversary of the beginning of Canada's process of becoming an independent country. As I read more about Canada's  progression from possession of the British Empire to member of the community of nations, I realize that it's been a long road.

Coincidentally, I have just come to realize that there is a very large group of countries that continue to exist in a kind of vague relation to the UK and each other through the Commonwealth of Nations. This hit home when I realized that practically the entire Commonwealth -- in this year when it has adopted the slogan "A Peacebuilding Commonwealth" -- consists of countries that are supporters of the global nuclear weapons ban negotiations at the United Nations. (See The Road to the Commonwealth Games Passes Through #Nuclearban Territory.)

The UK opposes the nuclear ban treaty talks, however, as do Australia and Canada. Is Australia's opposition because of the UK position? Is Canada's?  I wonder why these two countries, almost alone among Commonwealth countries, fail to support the nuclear ban.

*     *     *

Canada's posture is influenced by more than just the UK, of course. It also has something to do with the United States.

The US opposes the nuclear ban talks, and has dragged its main allies along with it. (See USA: Bringing a Trumpian Posture to the Nuclear Ban Talks. (Bankruptcy.).)

There is very public discussion right now about Canada and whether it will follow the line set down by the US -- particularly by Donald Trump.  There was a very intriguing story by Max Fisher several days ago saying that the Trudeau government is not standing still for the Trump stonewall against action on climate: "Canada’s Trump Strategy: Go Around Him".

Could the same thing happen with respect to the nuclear ban?  Ian Austen, in "Canadian Minister Signals a Growing Role Outside the US Umbrella," quoted Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland saying, "To rely solely on the US security umbrella would make us a client state."

*     *     *

It was those words -- "client state" -- that suggested to me what the inverted pyramid may be all about.

The long road signified by #Canada150 (as well as Expo 67) is all about a world turned upside-down, where the rules are no longer dictated by this or that mighty empire, but instead are formulated by people who have the interests of the majority at heart.

Canada beholden to the UK? Canada beholden to the US? Or Canada serving its people, and all people, and Canada's fundamental values?

Please, please, please, Canada: don't stop now. Turn the world really upside-down and join the treaty for a world free of nuclear weapons - #nuclearban.

It's where your heart lies.

Expo 67 artwork

Related post: "At the surrender of the British to the American forces at Yorktown, the band played an old tune called "The World Turned Upside Down." See The World Turned Upside Down - Huff Post, Wash Post, and Twitter.

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New This Week (June 26, 2017)

100+ countries are negotiating a global ban on nuclear weapons right now at the UN, and you can watch it happen.

You can read the updated draft of the #nuclearban treaty, hot off the press; and follow the next steps via live-tweeting at #nuclearban on Twitter.

How mainstream is the global #nuclearban treaty effort? The International Committee of the Red Cross has stepped forward to say: everyone needs to confront the real truth about nuclear weapons and implement a ban now.  (Click the image below to see their video.)

"From the 1st second, to 70 years on: here’s what could happen
to you and your city if a nuclear bomb is dropped. #nuclearban"
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How widespread is the global #nuclearban treaty effort? I've spent recent months encouraging people to delve into the stories of the many countries that are leading the ban effort -- countries ranging from Indonesia to New Zealand to Mexico and many more.

SO GRATEFUL for 100+ countries making the #nuclearban happen at @UN!
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How fast is the global #nuclearban treaty effort growing? Just two cool examples from the last couple of days:

More and more prominent cultural figures support the ban. I had always hoped that the great Chinese artist and activist and social media user Ai Weiwei would help promote #nuclearban. Now . . .  check THIS out:

"Ai Weiwei, renowned artist, lends support to ban"
(See Ai Weiwei's video message on the International
Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) website

And at Sunday's PRIDE parade in NYC . . .  THIS:

@IQAN - International Queers Against Nukes
"We're here! We're queer! Ban the bomb, don't live in fear!"
#pride2017 #nuclearban #disarmhate
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The picture is emerging clearly: #nuclearban is unstoppable . . . .

More to come . . . . 

 . . .  AND . . . in the US . . . there are now thirty-eight (38) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And eight (8) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Will support continue to grow in the rest of June and through the summer?

Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list! 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

INDONESIA: What can we learn about #nuclearban from wayang?

INDONESIA: What can we learn about #nuclearban from wayang?
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It is breathtaking to follow the #nuclearban hashtag and read the live tweets about specific contributions being made minute-to-minute at the "United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination."

We're talking about a treaty banning nuclear weapons globally.

Notably, my own country (the US) is boycotting the talks. So are a few other "big powers." But what is becoming clear day by day is that this is really about who is at the table. And what you see by clicking on #nuclearban is the way 100+ countries are successfully creating a treaty.

I reflected yesterday: "To me, the enormous significance of the #nuclearban is this: global rules are no longer going to be dictated by a small number of countries -- those with the most money, the most weapons, who 'know better,' who have appointed themselves the 'leaders' and 'policemen' of everyone else. With this treaty and other efforts like it -- on climate, for instance -- the majority of people in the world -- the people who for decades have been saying 'we want a nuclear weapons free world' -- are going to be the ones leading the way."

Here's a single tweet that helped crystallize that idea for me:

via @nuclearban
"We need to delegitimize nuclear deterrence as a concept,
says Indonesia. The treaty's preamble can help us do this."
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The representative from Indonesia is wearing native batik. For one thing, it serves as a reminder that the Western business attire of US diplomats is not in the picture because the US chose to un-include itself.  For another thing, it invites you to wonder, "What do I really know about Indonesia and its people . . . ?" Indonesia is a very populous country - did I remember that there are about 260 million people there? Indonesia is one of the supporters of the #nuclearban - did I remember that Indonesia was one of the co-sponsors of the original proposal to hold the #nuclearban talks? India is a growing economic power - did I remember that Indonesia is a member of the G20?

The second aspect of this image of the Indonesian representative at the #nuclearban talks that grabs my attention is all the retweets and "likes." This speaks to the enormous power of social media to help spread these new perspectives and examples of heroic leadership like that of Indonesia around the world in real time.

Then: there are the Indonesian representative's words themselves: "We need to delegitimize nuclear deterrence as a concept. . . . The treaty's preamble can help us do this." This goes to the very heart of what the #nuclearban treaty is about. It is a challenge to the "conventional wisdom" or "global security system orthodoxy" that has been thrust upon the world by a few countries with large nuclear weapons arsenals. A big part of the treaty creation process is to jolt people into breaking out of these old ways of thinking and embracing a new perspective. (See "Deterrence": As a strategy, it makes about as much sense as "proliferation")

I think it's not irrelevant to remark that Indonesia has intellectual and cultural traditions that help give insight and solve problems, and sometimes in ways that those of us outside of the South/Southeast Asian sphere miss. By coincidence, a few months ago I was learning about the epic involving the hero Rama at the Ramayana exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The Ramayana is the subject of an enormous body of performance art in Indonesia -- shadow puppet or wayang theater. When I learned about Rama and the Ramayana, I learned about is arch-foe, the evil king Ravana. Ravana is so bad, so evil, so rapacious, that he actually wants to swallow up the entire universe.  That's when it occurred to me, "Ravana is like the nuclear weapons states!" That's when I created this meme, based on a scene from the Indonesian shadow puppet theater in which Rama battles the evil Ravanna:

Thank you #INDONESIA.
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(Ravana is the scary-looking guy on the left with the bright red eyes and bulging nose.)

The story of Rama's struggle with Ravana extends across many episodes, and wayang performances are marathons -- often lasting all night. This is helpful to remember as we embark on an epic struggle to rid the world of a nearly inconceivable evil, wielded by adversaries willing to contemplate plunging the world into darkness and chaos. The #nuclearban treaty will be just the beginning.

This epic struggle to get the nuclear weapons to disarm: perhaps we can only fully understand it with the help of the  world's great literature and mythology?

Related posts:

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

China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror and The Cynical American Scapegoating of Korea as a Cover for Nuclear Terror

Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World

133 Is a Lot of #Nuclearban-Supporting Countries

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