Move the Money Op-Ed in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

March 7, 2013

Great job by Peace Action Wisconsin Program Director Mike Helbick, who got help on this from our friends at the Coalition for Human Needs.

Cuts Threaten Milwaukee, our Economy
By Mike Helbick
March 6, 2013

This year alone, Milwaukee taxpayers will contribute $695 million to the U.S. Department of Defense. That would be enough to provide Milwaukee with 10,700 elementary school teachers, 10,500 police officers or medical care for 96,400 veterans. Instead, Milwaukee’s hard-earned tax dollars are paying for foreign military interventions and ineffective weapons systems at a time when Milwaukee desperately needs these funds here at home.

The implications of this budget choice are even worse when you consider that money spent on domestic priorities such as education, health care, housing and clean energy creates more jobs than military spending. For example, when Congress spends $1 billion on the military, it creates 11,200 jobs, but when it spends the same amount on education, it creates 26,700 jobs.

So it’s easy to see why last September, Milwaukee’s Common Council unanimously adopted a “Move the Money” resolution calling for the United States to redirect federal spending from foreign military interventions to investing in programs to address critical domestic and urban needs. What’s difficult to understand is how last week Congress could make life even harder for Milwaukee residents.

On March 1, Congress allowed indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to go into effect. These cuts are harming thousands of Wisconsin residents. We may not see the results yet, but we will soon. Because of the cuts, people in our state will go without food, lose jobs and income and get pushed toward homelessness. The cuts are dangerous. They are also unnecessary. And they come on top of $1.9 trillion in spending cuts and interest savings that have already happened. Wisconsin has lost 8.3% of its federal funds since 2010. We can’t afford to lose more.

The U.S. Senate considered, but failed to pass, legislation to replace these cuts in February. The Democratic leadership offered a proposal that would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, ending some farm subsidies, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing other tax loopholes. This is a balanced, sensible approach to reducing the deficit that will protect Wisconsin’s economy and residents. It is supported by most Americans.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) voted for this pragmatic approach, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did not.

While the March 1 cuts affect a broad range of services touching the lives of most Americans, many reductions will hit low-income people particularly hard. For example, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs, 8,100 low-income young children and mothers in Wisconsin will lose access to nutritious food. An estimated 1,377 low-income families will lose rental housing vouchers – for most, that probably means they will lose their homes. Nationally, nearly 5 million people have been out of work at least six months, but unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed will be cut 9.4%. In Wisconsin, 900 children will lose their place in Head Start and 500 will lose the help they need to pay for quality child care. These cuts will slash education, meals for low-income seniors, mental health treatment, environmental cleanup, food safety protections and much more.

The cuts also will harm our fragile economy, eliminating 700,000 jobs nationwide just when the economy is finally beginning to recover.

Milwaukee will be hit even harder than the rest of Wisconsin. Because nearly one out of three Milwaukee residents lives below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four), Milwaukee has more residents in need of help with basic needs such as nutrition and housing, and less local funds to help meet their needs.

Pushing more families and seniors into poverty and reducing our investment in education even further is simply not necessary. Instead of this self-inflicted wound, we should reduce bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending and move the money we save to job creation, education, health care and other priorities.

We should ask millionaires and top corporations to pay more of their share. A 5.6% surtax on income over $1 million could raise more than $450 billion over 10 years, which would replace most of the next decade’s domestic cuts. Options to tax offshore profits of corporations would raise hundreds of billions more.

When the Common Council passed the “Move the Money” resolution, it called for our nation to change its priorities and put domestic challenges first. Congress needs to give the balanced approach a second chance, in order to prevent real harm to Wisconsin’s people and economy.

Mike Helbick is program director with Peace Action-Wisconsin. Email Mike@peaceactionwi.org


Action Alert: Call Congress, Tell them to Stop the Hype and Cut the Pork!

February 26, 2013

There is a lot of hype around the showdown over sequestration or the across the board cuts in the federal budget. The worst fear mongering is about the impact on the Pentagon budget.

 

The New York Times editorial today said, “Some of this is plainly hype. Both the generals and the civilians in the Pentagon know that some cuts are possible and that even under the sequester American security need not be compromised. The military has many resources, and in some respects it is over-resourced.”

 

Call Congress (202) 224-3121 and tell your representatives to stop the hype and save the programs we need by cutting the waste from the “over-resourced” Pentagon budget.

 

Urge our representatives to act because the public supports  balancing the budget on the back of reductions to the Pentagon budget rather than through cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

 

Our communities cannot afford cuts in “under-resourced” programs that are investments in our future: education, healthcare, infrastructure and green energy.

 

Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to:

1. Support cutting the Pentagon budget by $1 trillion over 10 years.

2. Fund education, rebuild infrastructure and create green energy in order to rebuild our economy and our communities.

 

Significant cuts in the Pentagon budget, closing corporate tax loopholes and getting the rich to pay their fair share of taxes is the only way to break the cycle of hype and fear mongering. The time to act is now.

 

Call Congress (202) 224-3121

 

Power to the Peaceful,

Judith Le Blanc

Field Director

Peace Action

PS Join us at the February 27 actions to Pull the Pork from the Pentagon budget in your city or town. Find locations here.


Chicago Area Peace Action on Huffington Post yesterday on Do the Math Climate Crisis Tour

November 21, 2012

Great piece by Roxane Assaf of Chicago Area Peace Action on Huffington Post yesterday.

Fossile Fuel Fury: Climate change Activist Barnstorms Through 21 Towns Inciting Fiscal Revolution

If Noam Chomsky is right that there’s no way the ordinary citizen could possibly understand the threat of climate change by getting their news from mainstream media, no worries.  350.org‘s revered enviro-guru Bill McKibben makes housecalls.  Assuming McKibben gets his point across the way he hopes to, his sold-out barnstorming tour through 21 U.S. cities will come to be regarded as the historic beginning of a divestment campaign like the one that buckled apartheid South Africa.

2012-11-18-McKibbenDotheMathNYCNaomiKlein.jpgDo the Math New York City

On opening night of his “Do the Math” tour, one day after President Obama’s victory speech got its loudest applause at the mention of global warming, McKibben said backstage, “We’ve got to reduce the power of the fossil fuel industry.”  Do the Math was designed to “spark the movement that will begin to cut the power of this industry before they raise the temperature of the earth just too high for any of us to deal with.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Tom Zeller lays out the terms of the impending crisis, but he notes that Washington isn’t doing much.  McKibben blames fossil fuels. “They’ve been able to block every significant piece of legislation in Washington for decades,” he said. “The fossil fuel industry has bought one party, and they’ve scared the other one.”

So local groups like Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA), host of the Chicago engagement of Do the Math, is poised to carry the torch to its constituency. “The fossil fuel industry and its attendant power elite will not go quietly into the night,” said CAPA Board President David Borris.  “But a broad-based global social movement that we can and will be a part of has the power to move public policy and lead to a more just and sane energy policy that can sustain us far into the future.”

Taking their cues not only from McKibben’s acclaimed Rolling Stone article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” but also from author/activist Naomi Klein’s piece in the Nation “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” CAPA members are prepared for a battle to win minds.  CAPA’s Michael Lynn said he wants to be “a prophet of the social transformation necessary to move from a consumer society to a sustainable one.”

But is anybody listening?

Chomsky asserts that as long as the news is framed in such a way that climate-change denialists like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin get equal time with climate scientists, the public is fed an illusion that there’s an authentic argument pro and con.  Such news-crafting shields people from the vast scientific consensus proving that the course we’re on does indeed spell the end of life on earth as we know it.

Nevertheless, HuffPost’s Alana Horowitz reported the November 2012 results of a Rasmussen poll finding that 68% of likely voters in the US do believe global warming to be a serious problem.  Furthermore, McKibben’s focus on student activism using the apartheid model has already proven well placed, as the trustees of Unity College in Maine have voted to divest that school’s endowment of all stock in the fossil fuel industry.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be proud.  And he is.  He appears on the 350.org site as a boisterous endorser, as do Naomi Klein, Josh Fox and Rev. Lennox Yearwood.  Other notables keeping the drumbeat steady are Obama’s former specialist on green jobs Van Jones and actor/activist John Cusack who both use Twitter to combat climate skeptics and raise awareness.

Does Obama care?

“The real first test for the president is going to come when he decides whether or not to approve the Keystone pipeline,” McKibben said of the plan to complete a crude oil delivery system between Canada and U.S. destinations from Illinois to Texas.  “He put it off for a year, and that year has seen the warmest year in American history.  It has seen the catastrophic melt of the Arctic.  It’s seen epic drought across the Midwest.  And it saw a storm so powerful that it flooded our greatest city.”

In light of all that, McKibben said he couldn’t imagine the president agreeing to “a giant straw stuck into that toxic milkshake up there.”


Excellent Op-ed in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal by Mike Helbick of Peace Action Wisconsin

November 2, 2012

http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/shift-us-spending-priorities-save-state-jobs-8p7ehg2-176860871.html

By Mike Helbick
Nov. 1, 2012
On Oct. 25, Oshkosh Corp. announced that 450 employees will find themselves without jobs in January. While the national debate rages over economic recovery and job production, hundreds of Wisconsin families are left in uncertainty, with unemployment and hardship waiting to greet them in the new year.

Oshkosh Corp. has been a stable employer for longer than most of us can remember. What began as the Wisconsin Auto Duplex Co. in 1917, today Oshkosh Corp. sells and services products in more than 130 countries. Oshkosh Corp. has worked its way to its current position as the seventh-largest military contractor in the nation, while providing good-paying union jobs to Wisconsin families.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need for all-terrain, mine-resistant vehicles prompted Oshkosh Corp. to aggressively ramp up its production between 2008 and 2011. However, as the wars wind down and the urgent need for these vehicles disappears, so disappears stable employment for 450 workers.

This reality must force us to re-evaluate the foundation of our industry in Wisconsin and across the nation. Wars are profitable, but the long-term impact is disaster because layoffs are inevitable when wars end. Thus, the building of industry on top of the unreliable and ever-changing realities of conflict and war is not a permanent plan for permanent employment.

This much is clear: We must diversify our economy. To do this, we must re-evaluate our federal spending priorities.

Military spending at the federal level is a very low job creator in comparison to similar spending in other areas. For every $1 billion of federal money spent on the military, 11,200 jobs are created. Spending that same amount in education creates 26,700 jobs, or in health care creates 17,200 jobs, or in clean energy creates 16,800 jobs (according to University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute).

Although the Fox Cities continue to benefit greatly by the presence of Oshkosh Corp. and the federal money paid to that company, nationally speaking, military spending is a very poor job creator.

Our federal spending must now set as a high priority the conversion of military production by companies such as Oshkosh Corp. to production of products that enjoy a more stable market. The United States has done this before, and on a much larger scale.

After World War II, for example, the successful transition from a wartime to civilian economy took place due to extensive planning and protections at the local, state and national levels. The success of such diversification throughout our nation’s history has depended largely on this federal planning and assistance.

As the wars wind down, as soldiers begin to return home from the war in Afghanistan, as Oshkosh Corp. returns to peacetime levels of production and as 450 Wisconsin workers will begin the new year without employment, now is the time for diversification and a long-term plan for good, union jobs.

Neither Oshkosh Corp. nor its workers should have to go it alone. Let’s refocus our federal spending priorities and ensure that industry and communities can thrive in America in times of war and peace.

Mike Helbick is program director of Peace Action WI. Email: Mike@peaceactionwi.org


Romney’s China Zinger Offers an Opening for a Serious Debate on U.S. Asia Policy (not his intention I’m sure!)

October 4, 2012

So I have to admit that when I heard it last night during the presidential debate, I thought this was a clever zinger by Mitt Romney (or his speech writers more likely):

“What things will I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it.”

This needs a bit of unpacking (and my few points about this quote are far from comprehensive, I’m sure others have very different takes in it).

First, Romney’s “test” is somewhat appealing, purposely so I’m sure, to folks who are concerned about the U.S. debt, much of which is owned by China. However, one could have made the point in a generic way, leaving out the fact that China is our largest banker (“Is the program worth continuing to borrow money to pay for it?”). That would still be a good test, yes? In addition to judging government programs by that standard, people make that judgement in their personal lives all the time, determining whether to borrow money to buy a car or a house or to go to college is a smart move.

So was Romney’s mention of China just an off-hand remark? I don’t think so. “China” to many Americans can mean very different things, but many of them are, in my observation, unfortunately pejorative. So my guess is this was intentional, meant to raise unhelpful and maybe even racist stereotypes about China, and concerns about the U.S.-China economic relationship.

However, Romney gave us an opening, unwittingly I presume, for deeper analysis and conversation about the U.S.-China relationship, especially in the “security” realm (others could certainly go much deeper than I into the economic interdependency, not always healthy, between the world’s two largest economies).

Josh Rogin, blogging for Foreign Policy, captured this very nicely: “Is Romney saying it’s worth borrowing from China to build more ships to contain China?” This is so brilliant and succinct because this is exactly what the U.S. is doing now, and planning to increase in the future, under the military’s much-ballyhood but little understood “Asia-Pacific pivot.” (For example, and speaking directly to Rogin’s point, the U.S. Navy has announced it plans to station 60% of the overall fleet in the Pacific.)

While Romney won’t publicly say this (and neither will Obama), the U.S. war machine needs an enemy to continue to justify its raison d’etre and its stranglehold on the lion’s share of our federal tax dollars. “International terrorism” just doesn’t cut the mustard. China is the only plausible “enemy” that might fit the bill.

Except China, which certainly has many economic, environmental, energy, human rights and democracy challenges, has no real interest in an arms race or global competition for military hegemony with the U.S. China certainly has regional interests that are of serious concerns to its neighbors, but it is simply not an expansionist power to anything like the degree the U.S. is. A few factoids on this are instructive:

-The U.S. has somewhere between 800 and 1000 foreign military bases (there is no agreement on the number or even the definition of a “base,” which is why the number is so imprecise). China has one, a relatively new one at that, in Seychelles (which is telling, representing as it does a key Chinese concern, keeping open shipping lanes).

- At $711 billion per year, the U.S. spends about as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (and the full “national security” budget is over $1 trillion per year). China, with the number two military budget, spends about one-fifth of what the U.S. does, at $143 billion (figures from SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

-The U.S. has a dozen aircraft carrier battle groups, able to project fearsome military might worldwide (to say nothing of our nuclear arsenal). China just recently inaugurated its first aircraft carrier, which experts say is at least several years away from minimal combat readiness, according to a recent Wall St. Journal article. At present it is fit only for training purposes, and China doesn’t have any jets that can land on it. So by U.S. standards, the number of Chinese aircraft carriers would be “none.”

-The U.S. military divides the entire planet into regional “commands,” with forces and power projection plans covering basically the whole planet. Neither China nor any other country has any such structure or capability.

So the wisdom and advisability of “pivoting” in order to economically, militarily and politically isolate your main banker is a head scratcher. Why would China want to underwrite that? Especially when its biggest economic interest will soon probably be to stimulate domestic consumer demand.

And why would this pivot, offering only a pointless, counter-productive military competition with China, be in the interests of the people of this country? It would certainly fail this test – should we spend our tax dollars on an idiotic, open-ended military buildup to “contain” China (when the best policy would be to rely on non-coercive diplomacy to balance the interests of all the peoples of the region), instead of on schools, sustainable energy and jobs, affordable housing, infrastructure and addressing climate change?


President Obama’s Speech – What did you think?

September 7, 2012

Here’s my quick take on the President’s acceptance speech at the Dem Convention last night, but I’d love to know what you thought of it as well. (The New York Times has the transcript and video of the president’s speech with sidebar analysis from Times reporters).

Overall, there was a pretty good “feel” in terms of connecting with Democratic Party and even broader American values (several strong nods to the importance of investing in education, for example, though there are lots of critics of Administration education policies). But often, as when describing environmental and energy policy (more on this later), it sounded like the president struggled to reconcile progressive, pro-people policies with the priorities of the party’s corporate overlords (as he spoke in the Time Warner Cable Arena, moved from Bank of America, oops we mean Panthers, Stadium!). To be sure, this is the reality of the struggle within the party all the time, and I think most neutral observers would posit the corporate interests are overwhelming the progressive elements of the party. Which is why Peace Action and other peace and social justice, environmental, human rights and other progressive forces need to maintain our integrity as independent, nonpartisan advocates for a better world.

Starting with the good on wars/Pentagon spending/re-investing in priorities here at home, the president said, “And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways.  After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.”

Pretty good, let’s hold him to it. And of course the logic of this would lead to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan ASAP, not at the end of 2014. Also very troubling (unmentioned by POTUS in his speech) are plans in the works to keep 10-15,000 U.S. troops there for at least another 10 years after that.

Also not bad was the fact there was relatively little fear-mongering about “threats” the country faces. Yes, China was mentioned twice as a bogeyman, but in economic, not military terms. Al Qaida, the Taliban, generic “terrorists” and Iran were mentioned, but almost as a pro forma “well we have to mention some threats out there” exercise.

Not so good or truthful – the president claimed credit for ending the Iraq war. True, he did oppose the war before it started in 2003 (when he was an Illinois State Senator) and consistently spoke out against it, but as president all he did was accept the agreement to withdraw our troops President Bush had made with the Iraqi government. Well, actually there is controversy even about that, as the president and others in his administration sent up at least trial balloons, and perhaps more serious overtures, about keeping troops there longer if the Iraqi government asked for it (perhaps knowing full well it couldn’t do that).

Lastly, I was struck by huge contradictions on energy and environmental policy, but allow me to turn to folks who know these issues much better than I do (thanks to the Institute for Public Accuracy for these quotes):

DAPHNE WYSHAM, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy@ips-dc.org, daphne@ips-dc.org, http://www.ips-dc.org

Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. She said today: “While it is heartening to hear President Obama affirm that climate change is not a hoax, he — like his Republican opponent — seems to place a higher value on achieving ‘energy independence’ via expanded oil and gas drilling than on action on climate change. The Obama administration has promoted policies that will result in enormous greenhouse gas emissions being released from the expanded mining and burning of coal — regardless of whether it is burned via unproven ‘clean coal’ technology — and via the poisonous and dangerous practice of fracking for gas, as well as via expanded offshore oil drilling. He has also signaled that, after the election, it will be full steam ahead for a pipeline for the dirtiest of all fossil fuels — tar sands from Canada. This is what happens when moneyed fossil fuel interests, like the Koch brothers, maintain their grip on our nation’s politics.”

TYSON SLOCUM, bholzer@citizen.org, http://www.citizen.org

Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “It was important that President Obama made clear his belief that climate change remains a major threat — a contrast to Governor Romney’s use of climate change as a punchline to a joke in his speech. But more important will be what policy solutions President Obama proposes to tackle climate change — and how his ‘all of the above’ strategy may undermine that commitment. This election, fossil fuel corporations will spend millions to not only shape voters’ opinions of the candidates, but their attitudes on energy policy –- namely that producing and using more fossil fuels will liberate our economy. The fact is that the longer we remain with the fossil fuel status quo, the farther we fall behind on the sustainable era of renewable energy. There is no such thing as benign fossil fuel production and consumption, and the future of fossil fuels will only become more expensive.”

RICHARD STEINER, richard.g.steiner@gmail.com, http://ricksteineralaska.com

A retired professor at the University of Alaska, Steiner was deeply involved in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He said today: “Neither the Republican Party, nor the Obama administration seem to grasp the severity of the energy/climate crisis we are in. While the Republicans are further from an energy plan that addresses the situation, both are playing games with something that is truly a life and death situation.

“That Romney belittled sea level rise and the global ecological crisis in his convention speech one night, and the very next day toured southern Louisiana, flooded with sea water from Hurricane Isaac, was one of the most spectacular ironies in the history of American politics. I suppose we expect this sort of delusion from the Republicans.

“But the Obama administration has had several years to make serious inroads into our carbon-intensive economy, and their performance has been an utter disaster. With only a few small achievements to tout, such as the recent auto fuel efficiency standards a decade or so in the future, this administration has failed miserably to live up to what those of us who voted for them expected.

“In energy efficiency and alternative fuels, we are now at a place we should have been at 40 years ago. Here in Alaska, and across the Arctic, we are presently experiencing the lowest sea ice extent since records have been kept. Walrus and polar bears are struggling on thin ice, and in open water. At this rate, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer within a few years.

“But instead of a crash emergency program to do everything possible to save the Arctic Ocean ecosystem from this unfolding disaster, the administration just approved Shell’s oil drilling in offshore waters. In addition to the chronic degradation from increased industrialization in the Arctic, and the very real risk of a catastrophic oil spill, every carbon atom produced from the Arctic Ocean seabed will simply wind up in the global atmosphere and oceans, further exacerbating the death spiral from climate warming. It’s a lose-lose proposition, and everyone who knows this issue knows that.

“In fact, the administration’s offshore drilling program for the coming five years is worse than that of the former Bush administration. It harkens back to the 1980s days of James Watt and Ronald Reagan.

“We cannot continue dancing around the edges of this beast, and if we care about our common future, we need immediate, emergency action on the part of the U.S. government, and world governments to reduce carbon emissions some 80 percent. Nothing short of this will do. The continuing denial of the severity of this crisis by both main political parties could be our collective undoing.”


It’s not the heat, or the humidity, or the three days without electricity (in the near 100 degree heat in the DC area)…

July 2, 2012

…or the constant roar of the neighbors’ generators near my house in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside our nation’s capital, that make one crazy. Well, they kinda do, though my family and I are coping fine.

It’s the thought of our tax dollars constantly squandered on war and militarism instead of our communities’ real priorities like burying electric lines so they aren’t constantly brought down by storms like last Friday’s derecho which raged from Chicago to the Delmarva peninsula (and climate scientists are already speculating wild storms like that one are part of human-caused climate chaos) and building a smart grid.

A quick web search didn’t yield a succinct estimate on the cost of burying existing power lines in the DC area, although a generic estimate is $10 per foot, which is expensive. Yet, in the city of Washington itself, folks are generally faring better than in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, because more power lines are buried underground in DC than in the ‘burbs.

As to the cost to build a national smart grid, NPR reports that estimates range from $100 billion to $2 trillion dollars, quite a range. Whether the actual cost would be on the high or the low end, can we afford not to get started now? According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, electrical blackouts cost the nation $80 billion dollars per year in lost business.

And, for perspective, $100 billion per year is about what we’re spending on the endless, futile war in Afghanistan. $2 trillion is about two years worth of total U.S. “national security” spending (which includes the Pentagon budget, nuclear weapons spending under the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security and other government spending supposedly aimed at making the country safer, but really most of it is projecting U.S. military power around the globe).

So yeah, these sums regarding the electrical grid are large, and we have plenty of other human and environmental needs that need to be prioritized over endless wars and weapons systems that are uneccesary (F-35 fighter jet), don’t work (Star Wars “missile defense”) or the Pentagon itself doesn’t even want (a second engine for the F-22 fighter).

So let’s turn out the lights on war and militarism, and turn ‘em on at my house. Please. Soon.

 


Excellent Op-Ed on the Military and Climate Change by Tim Rinne of Nebraskans for Peace

January 23, 2012

Not only is the U.S. military the largest consumer of fossil fuels and the largest polluter in the world, it knows the climate crisis is real and can drive future military conflict. Tim Rinne, State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace (a Peace Action affiliate) nails the issue in his op-ed in Saturday’s Lincoln Journal Star. For a terrific resource on this issue, see the website for the film Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War, which Peace Action helps promote as an educational and organizing tool linking peace and environmental concerns. You can view the film online and order DVD’s for home or public viewing.

BY TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2012 11:57 pm | (5) Comments

Skeptics of human-caused climate change unremittingly contend that the science is inconclusive and the debate still is unsettled. The U.S. military, on the other hand, entertains no such doubts.

As far back as 2003, during the first term of the Bush/Cheney Administration, a specially commissioned Pentagon report titled “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and the Implications for United States Security” warned that rapid climate change could “potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles and even war” over scarce food, water and energy supplies. The threat of climate change, the report went on to state, needed to “be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern.”

By the time the Defense Department’s Center for Naval Analyses released its landmark 2007 report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” the Bush/Cheney Administration had officially acknowledged the reality of global warming — although it continued to question whether humans were the cause. The 11-member Military Advisory Board of retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals who headed up the Center’s study, however, unanimously accepted the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, concluding that “the evidence is sufficiently compelling and the consequences sufficiently grave” to warrant the military’s urgent attention.

The MAB asserted that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” In response, the MAB proposed a number of recommendations, including that

· The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies;

· The United States should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability;

· The United States should commit to global partnerships that help less-developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

The report also called upon the Pentagon to adopt its own energy efficiency measures.

Every four years, the Department of Defense issues a congressionally mandated “Quadrennial Defense Review” framing the Pentagon’s strategic choices and establishing priorities to determine appropriate resource investments. In February 2010, for the first time, climate change was formally designated in the QDR as a “National Security Threat.”

Climate-related changes, from increases in heavy downpours and rises in temperature and sea levels to rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost and earlier snowmelt “are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters,” the QDR notes. It warns that “climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability and conflict …”

The 2010 QDR also addresses the fact the Defense Department is itself the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels and, correspondingly, the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases. In the review, the Pentagon pledges to dramatically reduce its own carbon footprint through increased energy efficiency and major investments in renewable energy.

The Republican Party for decades has styled itself as the party of national defense and military strength. Yet debunking the international scientific consensus on climate change has become a veritable article of faith among Republican candidates and officeholders. That position puts the GOP squarely at odds with the military establishment, which has unequivocally accepted the scientific conclusions of the 97 percent of the world’s climatologists who actually conduct research on climate and publish in journals reviewed by their peers.

This past November, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released its own study, “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.” The study asserts that “climate impacts are observable, measurable, real, and having near and long-term consequences.” Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes, the report argues, “increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures.”

Climate change, the Defense Science Board warns bluntly, already is occurring and is destined only to grow as a security concern for the United States. And the longer we (and the GOP’s skeptics and deniers) delay acting, the worse it will be for all of us, everywhere.

Tim Rinne is the State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace and a member of 350.org — Nebraska.


Peace Action on C-SPAN

August 17, 2011

Thanks to the hard work of national Peace Action board member (and University of Hawai’i Human Rights Law Center founder) Joshua Cooper, Peace Action got some serious airtime (an hour and a quarter) on C-SPAN. Joshua has organized Human Rights on the Hill conferences in DC for law students and the public for a decade now, and he and I were filmed at this year’s event at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke Law School.


Confusion over Libya War Reflects the Decline of US Empire (Which is a Good Thing!)

March 23, 2011

–by Kevin Martin, Executive Director

The U.S./British/French-led intervention in the civil war in Libya has caused confusion on many sides – in domestic public opinion, congressional opinions about the legal, moral and strategic rationales for launching yet another war (President Obama may well be lucky he is visiting Central and South America and that Congress is out of session right now), and in the international community. Here are just a few of the many unanswered questions:

What are the objectives in Libya? Regime change? The UN didn’t authorize that but Obama and others have said Col. Muammar Qaddafi must go.

Who is leading or coordinating the “coalition” of military forces attacking Libya? Not NATO (Turkey won’t allow it, good for them). Obama said the U.S. will turn over leadership of the war to someone – he didn’t specify whom – in a matter of days. France is proposing a new “steering committee” of the various countries involved. What is this, a pick-up game of war?

Who exactly, other than the amorphous “anti-Qaddafi forces,” are we supporting in Libya?

How will this war impact other countries and peoples in a region that has seen such breathtaking change in just the last couple of months? What is going on in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iran and Iraq (an invasion – Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces into Bahrain – and mass killings and/or crackdowns against protesters, presumably because those in power think they can get away with it while the world’s attention is focused on Libya)? Do the U.S. and U.N. have any consistent standards for invoking the “responsibility to protect” justification for “humanitarian” military interventions?

I’m sure the reader could think of many more. All of this is not surprising, and it’s not just from “the fog of war.” It’s evidence of the emergence of a multi-polar, somewhat messy world order in the winter of US Empire.

I know most people get defensive hearing the U.S. called an Empire. But look at our failed, endless wars, economic and fiscal crises at the national, state and local levels (manufactured, not “real,” by our bailout of Wall Street, refusal to justly tax the rich and corporations, and the wars and gargantuan military budget equivalent to the rest of the world’s countries combined), rapacious, reckless energy consumption and destruction of the environment. Call it something other than Empire, but call it what it is – unsustainable. We have to find a better path forward for our children, our country, and the world.

Johan Galtung, considered a founder of the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, predicts the end of the Empire by 2020, but even if he is off by a few years – and he was pretty dead-on about the demise of the Soviet Union – we need to start constructing a better society now.

So the real questions are how do we minimize the destruction likely to be caused as this decline accelerates, and most importantly, how do we build something better, both internationally and domestically, in its wake? How do we empower people to take control of their lives, communities, workplaces, schools, economies, countries, and the stewardship of finite, fragile planet we all share?

Anyone claiming to have all the answers would be a fool. The “triple evils” of our society – racism, militarism and economic exploitation – decried by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967 are still powerful today. But the beginnings of that new, more just world are seen where people come together to stand against injustice and demand a better way.

The people of Egypt captivated the world with their mostly nonviolent and secular revolution against a dictator the U.S. supported for nearly thirty years. Obama, and his successor, and his successor’s successor, would gladly have kept lavishing money, weapons and political cover on Mubarak and his son (who Mubarak had anointed to replace him) ad infinitum, but the people of Egypt stood up and said, “No More!”

In Wisconsin, the illegal, audacious union-busting move by Governor Scott Walker, ironic as Wisconsin was the first state to recognize state workers’ right to collective bargaining, sparked an awe-inspiring response from working people there (and in other state capitals as well). People peacefully occupied the Capitol Building (aided by the police!) and farmers on tractors converged on Madison to join a crowd of over 100,000 two Saturdays ago. That is what solidarity looks like! And Peace Action Wisconsin activists were there, loud and proud!

Then there was U.S. Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) congressional hearing on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community. This racist, repugnant, new McCarthyite sham was widely denounced, deservedly so, in the media and among civil liberties activists, in a show of support for our American Muslim sisters and brothers.

Progress is being made in other places as well. Illinois recently became the 16th state to repeal the death penalty, and Maryland may also do so soon; the votes are there in the legislature and the governor has said he will sign the bill into law. Maryland and other states are making progress toward legally recognizing gay marriage, and medical marijuana and decriminalization seems to have inexorable momentum in many states and municipalities.

One needn’t agree with all these moves to see what is happening – people are standing up, standing together, and demanding better solutions to our country’s challenges. It is also happening, if slowly, on health care reform, energy and food safety and sustainability (great issues for building community), ending our disastrous wars and cutting our outrageous military budget in order to reinvest in human needs.

Just as protesters in Madison drew inspiration and support from those in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, advancement domestically is linked to progress in building better structures to replace a Pax Americana (what Pax? We’re fighting three wars!).

The Libya “humanitarian intervention” should be the last of its kind. Instead of selective, pick-up wars (with who knows what unintended consequences) against selected despots, a permanent UN peacekeeping force under the direction of the Secretary-General, not the Security Council, needs to be established. Regional economic and security alliances, based on respect for human rights and democracy, need to be strengthened. And diplomacy, sustainable economic development and disarmament, rather than coercive threats, human and resource exploitation and arms races, must be the cornerstones for a more peaceful and stable international order.

The demise of the U.S. Empire will likely not be pretty, or easy, but we can help steer it to a softer landing. And we should keep our eyes on the prize that will follow, the blossoming of the U.S. Republic (as Galtung has termed it), and a more peaceful, just, stable world.


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