Tag Archives: war

1/3 OF WORLD’S MILITARY SPENDING DONE BY USA. TRUMP DOES NOT NEED TO INCREASE U.S. MILITARY BUDGET BY $54 BILLION – A 10% INCREASE

But first …


Trump + Russia = bigger than Watergate. (Show America your tax returns, Donald!) – R.T.

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By Steven R. Maher

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” – President Dwight Eisenhower

President Donald J. Trump has called for a $54 billion increase in the United States military budget. The Associated Press reported on March 3, 2017, that this would be a 10% increase in the Defense Department budget.

The Wall Street Journal reported on February 28, 2017, that the U.S. in 2015 accounted for 34% of the world’s military spending. The newspaper, citing the U.S. Defense Department for the U.S. figures and the Stockholm International Peace Institute for those of other countries, put the spending as follows:

• The U.S. spent $595 billion on defense.

• China spent $214 billion on its armed forces.

• Russia spent $91 billion.

• Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, spent $85 billion.

• France, the U.S.’s oldest ally, spent $61 billion on defense.

• Britain, the U.S.’s closest ally, spent $60 billion.

• India, the world’s largest democracy, spent $51 billion on defense.

• Germany, another U.S. ally, spent $47 billion.

• Japan, another U.S. ally, spent $46 billion.

• South Korea, a flashpoint because of North Korea’s erratic dictator, spends $39 billion.

• Brazil spends $32 billion.

The 10 countries above, less the U.S., account for 42% of the world’s military spending. Counting the U.S., the figure rises to 76%. The rest of the world makes up the remaining 24%, or $412 billion.

While the most likely country the U.S. would go to war with remains North Korea, its military spending did not make the top ranks of military spenders. That leaves China and Russia to consider.

The U.S. and its formal NATO allies (France, Britain and Germany) and allies through other treaties (Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea) spend $933 billion on defense. China and Russia are spending $305 billion.

The U.S. and its allies are spending three dollars for every dollar spent by its potential wartime enemies.

This is before the increases Trump is calling for.

Where spending is needed

According to various media outlets, there are two areas the U.S. does need to spend more money on: First, there have been reports that some U.S. military units are running low on ammunition. Second, there have been reports that some military equipment, particularly aircraft, have been “cannibalized”, i.e., spare parts have been taken from working machines to repair other equipment, and not replaced.

There is no argument that such spending is required. But buying enough ammunition and filling up the backlog of spare parts won’t cost anywhere near $54 billion.

What does Trump want to spend the extra money on?

Trump wants to expand the U.S. Navy from 272 ships to 350 ships, reports the Associated Press. The navy itself wants to expand it to 308 ships after 2020, says the same report.

Trump wants to expand the Fleet to a size even beyond what the U.S. Navy says is needed. Trump recently visited the newest naval aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, which cost $12.9 billion. The amounts Trump would spend to get the 350 ships the Navy says it doesn’t need, could be extraordinary. This would be to face two potential enemies, China and Russia. The U.S. and its allies are already outspending three to one on their militaries.

Trump appears to be falling into a trap frequently encountered among political leaders: he is preparing to refight the last conventional war. But the future threats are more likely to be in the areas of terrorism and cyber-warfare. These are the areas Trump should concentrate on, not buying ships the Navy doesn’t say it needs.

It will be interesting to see how the 30 Tea Party Congressmen – the so-called freedom lobby – vote on Trump’s wasteful military spending plans. These are the people who have spent the last eight years denouncing Barrack Obama’s budget deficits. Let’s see if they’re willing to put the taxpayers’ money where their big Tea Party mouths have been and vote down Trump’s fiscally irresponsible military buildup.

InCity Documentary Review

But first …

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“HARVEST OF EMPIRE: A History of Latinos in America”

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

For Direct TV viewers: “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” can be watched or recorded on the LINK Channel 375 Tuesday, February 28, at 6 a.m. There are also several websites where the movie can be seen.

The hottest button issue on the American political agenda today is immigration from Mexico and Central America. Donald J. Trump was elected President in part by harping on this issue. It was with that in mind I recently watched an obscure Direct TV Channel (LINK, Channel 375) documentary – “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.”

This documentary is based on a book by Juan Gonzalez, from Puerto Rico. This writer was very surprised when the film opened with Harry Truman saying Puerto Ricans were being starved on slave labor wages in the land of their birth. Truman’s narration of corporate exploitation was accompanied by films of farm laborers in Puerto Rico looking like emaciated concentration camp survivors.

This was surprising because in November 1950 a Puerto Rican independence group attempted to assassinate Truman and because Republicans today often cite Truman as a “good Democrat.” Gonzalez places Latino immigration to America in a historical context. Gonzalez makes a persuasive argument that past American military intervention has created an environment that periodically stimulates the very immigration Trump wants to build a wall to stop.

Started with Mexico

In 1845 – 1848 the United States invaded Mexico and annexed the northern half of the country, where southern California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of other states now exist. Some in the U.S. wanted to annex Mexico in its entirety, but others believed a shotgun marriage between White Anglo Saxon Protestant America and Catholic Mexico would not be a happy union. A compromise was reached where it was agreed the U.S. would take Mexico’s relatively unpopulated northern provinces. While the film didn’t give any statistics, there was a Mexican populace in these provinces “who didn’t come to the border, the border came to us.”

Throughout American history, Mexican immigrants were welcomed in the United States when we experienced labor shortages, such as during World War I and World War II. Then, after the wars ended and native Americans came home looking for work, the Mexicans were expelled as illegal immigrants, says Gonzalez.

In 1898, the United States, after a war with Spain, expanded American territories to include Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. While the first two countries eventually became independent, Puerto Rico was retained as essentially a U.S. protectorate. The U.S. imposed on Puerto Rico a justice system where English was the only language used and an educational system where Spanish could not be spoken. While many Puerto Ricans over time benefitted financially from their status as quasi-Americans, Gonzalez says they “paid a heavy price.”

Five Nations Spur Immigration

Gonzalez argues that U.S. interventions in five Central American nations led to an explosion of the U.S. Latino population:

• Early in the 20th century the U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic, brought to power dictator Rafael Trujillo, and reoccupied the country in 1965 to stop an alleged pro-Castro takeover. This is the least persuasive example cited by Gonzalez. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Dominicans seem drawn here more for economic reasons than because of a civil war more than half a century ago.

• Cuba is identified as a country where U.S. military intervention also spurred immigration. A better argument could be made that Fidel Castro’s repressive regime and catastrophic economic mismanagement led to mass flight to the U.S.

• In 1954 the CIA overthrew a Guatemalan government that had expropriated land owned by the United Fruit Company, with which the U.S. Secretary of State and the Director of the CIA, the brothers Dulles, had strong commercial ties. This was a very disturbing scene to view. One could not help but think of members of the Trump cabinet, with their business interests around the Developing World, while watching the Dulles brothers plunge Guatemala into a 40-year civil war that killed 200,000 Guatemalans.

• During the waning years of the Cold War, Gonzalez claims the United States funded death squads in El Salvador that assassinated Archbishop Óscar Romero and four Maryknoll nuns. (Some of these death squads were organized by Roberto D’Aubuisson, known as “Major Blowtorch” for his preferred torture method.)

• During the Cold War, the United States in the 1980s funded the Nicaraguan Contras to overthrow the pro-Communist Sandinista government. Gonzalez says the Contras were comprised primarily of former members of the deposed Somoza dictatorship. However, there were many former Sandinistas in the ranks of the Contras, along with many Nicaraguan freedom fighters, who had nothing to do with the Somozas.

While the U.S. military involvement in Cuba and the Dominican Republic did not send fleeing masses of Cubans and Dominicans to our shores, Gonzalez is on safer grounds in stating the ramifications of the Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan civil wars spurred immigration to the U.S. It should be noted that the Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan conflicts were resolved in the early 1990s, a quarter of a century ago.

Viewing Time

Direct TV users who want to record “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” on the LINK Channel 375 can do so Tuesday, February 28, at 6 a.m. There are also several websites where the movie can be seen.

Steve parked in Rose’s space … InCity Book Review

But first:

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The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World

By Derek Chollet, (2016, Perseus Books, 262 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Journalism has often been called the first draft of history. With that in mind, former Obama administration official Derek Chollet has evaluated President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Chollett covers an enormous number of issues, personalities, and events in a short 262 pages, a concisely written book and that will be a valuable resource for future historians.

Unexpected foreign events often arise during a Presidency. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II, and changing the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to the missile crisis and John F. Kennedy’s finest hour. 9/11 pushed George W. Bush into being a different President than the one he campaigned as. While Bush’s unexpected event was in his first year in office, two of Obama’s problems came late in his second term: the catastrophic insurgency of ISIS, and the ominous resurgence of Putin’s Russia.

Disasters inherited

Barack Obama inherited an America facing the abyss. As Wikipedia put it: “The bursting of the US housing bubble, which peaked at the end of 2006, caused the values of securities tied to US real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of policies that encouraged home ownership, providing easier access to loans for subprime borrowers, overvaluation of bundled subprime mortgages based on the theory that housing prices would continue to escalate, questionable trading practices on behalf of both buyers and sellers, compensation structures that prioritize short-term deal flow over long-term value creation, and a lack of adequate capital holdings from banks and insurance companies to back the financial commitments they were making.”

America hovered on the edge of another Great Depression:

• By January 2009 the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs a month.

• American families were losing 100,000 homes a week as home values plummeted and entire neighborhoods, particularly in the inner cities, were devastated.

• The banking system seemed ready to implode, with major financial institutions like the Lehman brothers going bankrupt. Hard core conservatives urged the U.S. government to stay out.

• The automotive industry ran out of money. Cash burn was so bad that General Motors told the White House it had on hand only two weeks of money left to operate. The potential loss of jobs from this one problem alone could be counted in the millions.

Mitt Romney wrote a tome in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, saying the U.S. should not save the auto industry. That the “supply chain” – the subcontractors and factories manufacturing components for the auto industry, located mainly in the “Rust Belt” states that voted in 2016 for Donald Trump – would die and could not be revived, did not worry Romney.

The Long Game

It should be borne in mind that these were just the domestic issues Obama faced. It says nothing about the foreign affairs calamities facing the U.S., including ongoing wars tying up 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is hard to think of a president who entered office facing more challenges of historic magnitude,” commented Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Obama set out to play the “Long Game.”

“The defining element of Obama’s grand strategy is that it reflects the totality of American interests – foreign and domestic – to project global leadership in an era of seemingly infinite demands and finite resources,” writes Chollet. “This is playing the ‘Long Game.’”

Chollet describes Obama as a political version of Warren Buffett, who became a billionaire by buying up companies with a strong market base but which were financially weak. When the economy got better, the values of these investments skyrocketed. Buffett made his billions by looking not at these companies’ value at the time he bought them, but what he expected these entities to be worth over time.

“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard,” observed Buffett.

Obama believed the U.S. overextended itself by pouring so much manpower, equipment, and money into Iraq, instead of hunting down Al-Qaeda and its leaders. Obama thought the U.S. should shift America’s focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Basin; rebalance America’s projection of power, putting as much emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions/assistance as Bush did on the use of military force; and reset America’s alliances with NATO and Russia.

To go into every topic Obama’s administration dealt with would fill up this entire newspaper. We’re going to look at some of Obama’s foreign policy successes, his failures, and draw some conclusions.

Disarming Iran

Historians are likely to regard the Iran nuclear treaty as a hallmark of Obama’s administration. When Bush left office, Iran was moving full speed ahead on its
nuclear program. Obama convinced the Russians, Chinese, British, and French to impose sanctions that devastated the Iranian economy. Since the July 2015 signing of the treaty, Iran has removed weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of centrifuges by two thirds, and removed the heavy water reactor at Arak and filled it with concrete. For the moment, Iran has been disarmed. That is no small achievement, and may be one a bellicose Trump could build upon.

Disarming Syria

In August 2013 Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against opposition held territory, killing 1,400 civilians, including women and children. Obama had warned Assad in 2012 that doing this would be crossing a red line. The only nation willing to back the U.S. in using military force was France (derided as the seller of “freedom fries” during the Bush era). Britain’s parliament voted against participation, and the American people overwhelmingly opposed involvement in a third Middle East conflict. Congress refused to authorize military action by Obama. The Republican Congressional war dogs made macho denunciations of Assad, but wouldn’t vote to authorize U.S. military action against the Syrian tyrant.

Chollet cited other problems related to using military force to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. There were 50 sites containing 1,300 pounds of chemical weapons, dispersed around Syria. Neutralizing these would require heavy air and naval attacks along with 75,000 ground troops. There was a danger Assad’s military would collapse under such an assault, and hundreds of tons of chemical weapons fall into the hands of ISIS/Al-Qaeda. After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that the matter could be resolved by Assad giving up his weapons, the crisis was resolved diplomatically.

Chollet writes: “Without a bomb being dropped, Syria admitted to having a massive chemical weapons program it had never before acknowledged, agreed to give it up, and submitted to a multinational coalition that removed the weapons and destroyed them in a way that had never been tried before.”

Obama lost face because he drew the red line and didn’t take military action against Syria. But he achieved the maximalist objective of disarming Syria. Reagan faced a similar situation when 250 Marines were massacred in Lebanon by terrorists in 1982. Instead of doubling down, Reagan prevented America from getting dragged into a quagmire by “redeploying” the surviving Marines to ships offshore. Both Presidents did what was best for their country, even if it meant a personal loss of face.

Bin Laden and the drones

Obama’s Presidency reached its pinnacle in May 2011 when Seal Team Six descended upon Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed the Al-Qaeda leader. Few Americans knew that Obama had played a key role in planning the mission. The plan originally call for the Seals to go in without helicopter backups. Obama insisted that backup helicopters be situated in reserve not far from Abbottabad. These proved crucial when one of the Seal helicopters crashed while landing.

Obama used the same strategic approach to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan that Richard Nixon used to get the U.S. out of Vietnam: advance the air power while withdrawing the troops. Nixon used B-52s and laser guided ordinance to bomb North Vietnam into signing a peace treaty. Obama sent American drones on hundreds of missions to kill Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist leaders. Some criticized this because of the civilians killed in the drone strikes. However, by and large, it did disrupt Al-Qaeda’s ability to launch mass casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland.

The Russian Reset, Part I

With all the noise being generated over Trump and Vladimir Putin, Obama’s “reset” with Russia has been widely viewed as a failure. However, when the policy was first implemented in 2009, it did lead to some successes. This was due to the fact that Putin was not the Russian President; Dimitri Medvedev was, and he wanted to work with the United States. With Medvedev’s help, the U.S. organized the sanctions against Iran; agreed to destroy one third of Russia’s nuclear arsenal; supported setting up supply lines to Afghanistan that avoided a volatile Pakistan; and voted with the U.S. during the U.N. debate authorizing the use of military force against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Now, let’s look at some of shortcomings of Obama’s Presidency.

Syria

According to the mainstream media, upwards of 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war and millions have fled to Europe. Obama appears to have done what he could diplomatically to stop the carnage. But faced with the obduracy of Syrian President Assad, the lack of allies who supported intervening in Syria, the U.S. had no good choices. If it supported Assad, the U.S. would be siding with a blood thirsty dictator. If Obama opposed Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda might take control of the country. His critics charged that he could have supported moderate Syrians earlier, but there was a problem with vetting these groups.

What Obama should have done is establish no fly zones in Syria where Syrians fleeing the conflict could be protected. This would also have stopped large masses of Syrians from fleeing to Europe.

Iraq

When America troops left in 2011, Iraq by and large was peaceful. The emergence of ISIS could not have been foreseen by any American President. It was with a few thousand guerillas that ISIS attacked and conquered huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, with its million residents, stated Wikipedia, “the Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force.” With such favorable odds, the ISIS force should have been smashed. Instead, the 30,000 Iraqi soldiers abandoned their U.S. equipment and fled.

Few were clairvoyant enough to anticipate the total ineffectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces, equipped with billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment. From a few thousand fighters, ISIS grew to an armed force of 30,000 men as wannabe Jihadists from Europe and the Middle East swelled their ranks. They were armed with the American weapons left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army.

Libya

In 2011 there was yet another U.S. intervention on “humanitarian” grounds in Libya that turned into a mission to overthrow Gaddafi. After Gaddafi was killed, Libya descended into anarchy as warring factions fought each other. The U.S. was prodded into action on Libya by its European allies; Obama should have insisted on a post-war NATO occupation force from these allies to assist Libyans in setting up a stable government.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed intervening in Libya, saying: “Can I just finish the two wars we’re already in before you go looking for new ones?”

The Russian Reset, Part II

In 2012 Vladimir Putin took back his old job of Russian President. Putin’s animus against Hillary Clinton stems from this episode; Putin apparently believes that Clinton ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to clandestinely block his return to the Russian Presidency. In any event, Obama’s measures to persuade Putin to stay out of Syria and the Ukraine were unsuccessful, and this must be regarded as another Obama shortcoming.

Closing thoughts

History will give a much fuller judgment on Obama when the facts become available. Since Obama’s foreign policy was set up with the intention of yielding long term benefits, a historical perspective will be necessary to evaluate Obama. The failures he had, particularly in the Middle East, rose from his fervent desire to keep the U.S. out of another war.

Obama may well be remembered by historians for two things that didn’t happen on his watch. First, he kept the economy from imploding. The car industry was saved, the banking system made solvent, and a slow but painful process of economic revival took place. Second, he didn’t get sucked into another quagmire like Iraq. The 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to 15,000. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect Presidency. But considering the near collapse of the economy in 2008, Obama did well in keeping America from falling into the abyss of a second Great Depression, and from being drawn into another grinding war. History is likely to view Barack Obama very kindly.

Go, Worcester, go! “Power to the people!”

By Rosalie Tirella

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I’m the grand-daughter of immigrants…
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Rosalie and her Polish grandpa many moons ago🌃

All of us Americans, if we look far back enough, or just over our shoulders to our parents, have roots that lead back to other lands, places that often persecuted us, kept us down, treated us like second and third class citzens and worse …

These past few years the blood has flown in Syria – horrible oppression and chaos and war. Maybe President Obama should have sent troops into Syria, U.S. combat boots on the ground, especially after the country’s “leaders” began using poisonous chemicals to kill dissidents, killing the children, too. Horrific. Many Syrian families swarmed into inflatable “boats” to cross the ocean to leave their hellish country for new countries … They had hope. But they were poor…So many of the people, little children!, didn’t make it…

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“Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Alan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.” The Guardian

When Donald Trump bans Syrian refugees from American soil for months, this can happen…

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“A Turkish police officer carries the young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.” The Guardian. Photographs: Reuters.

And this …

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Trauma

Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney has sunk to a new low, and his toxic political shell game could have brought our city to its knees. But instead the people were glorious and rose up and rallied! – HUNDREDS IN A JANUARY SNOWSTORM OUTSIDE OUR CITY HALL! Where, in the snow and raw New England cold, they shouted, NO! NO! NO! NEVER IN OUR CITY! Refugees and immigrants ALWAYS welcome here!

And then, inside Worcester City Hall, people whose roots extend to countries all over the globe got up to testify – tell their family stories. Armenia. Vietnam. Central America. Italy. Ireland. Africa. They were saying: Listen to our stories. The refugee and immigrant stories of today are our stories! AMERICAN stories!

Lovely!

The Gaffney resolution went down to defeat tonight. So will City Councilor Konstantina Lukes’ miserable proposal. A toxic after-thought cobbled together by – get this! – the daughter of Albanian immigrants who owned and operated a diner in Connecticut! (What would your father think of your shit-sandwich, hold the compassion, Konnie? You were the apple of his eye!)

Worcester is not Trumpland! We are not a police state where people are bullied into doing what our impetuous, vindictive, dangerous new president wants them to do! As Worcester Mayor Joe Petty said to the peaceful, yet ebullient (cuz they were on justice’s side😇) crowd before the City Council meeting: He – WE – will not allow WALLS TO GO UP BETWEEN GROUPS OF PEOPLE. In Worcester, the walls COME DOWN!

Go, Mayor Petty, go!!!

No one, no child, should fear that he or she will be forced to leave Worcester, their home: friends, school, church, work, sports teams, a routine they call their own … a place where they’ve begun to realize their unique American Dream!

Power to the people! We, the people, can do amazing things! We did, here in Worcester, TONIGHT!!!

Just every day people …

Steve parked 🚙 in Rose’s space … InCity Times Book Review

Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel

By Dov Waxman, (2016, Princeton University Press, 316 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

If you’re looking for a well sourced, even handed account of the split among American Jews over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel” may be for you. But if you stumbled across it in the “New Books” section of your local library and decided to read it because of a general interest in the Middle East, you may be bored.

This is due to Waxman’s effort to present each side in a neutral, objective style. He has compiled an enormous amount of material and stuffed it into a small amount of space but did so in a bifurcated manner that makes getting the full story more difficult. This is unfortunate because with a crisper, punchier writing style, this could have been a much more compelling story – and a goldmine of information for historians.

First, a few stats. “Trouble in the Tribe” is 316 pages in total, of which 215 pages is the body of the book. There are 72 pages of end notes and 16 pages in the bibliography. There were 563 end notes; chapter 2 alone had 164 end notes. The documentation of the author’s sources was so thorough that their page length was equivalent to 40% of the corpus of the book itself.

This is not a bad thing. Serious historians should cite appropriately to sources. But the author appears to have dumped a great deal of specific information into endnotes, which should have been better served in the main text, or attached as footnotes on the pages where they are cited.

A good example was the author stating that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to mobilize American Jews against the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal “although initial polling showed that most Jews actually supported it.”

If you go to the end note cited as the source, it reads: “The most reliable survey of American Jewish public opinion regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal shortly after the agreement was announced, found that American Jews supported the deal 49 percent to 31 percent (more than Americans in general) and that 54 percent of American Jews wanted Congress to approve the deal, compared with 35 percent who opposed Congressional approval.”

To get to this information, you had to turn ahead more than 200 pages and read the end note itself! Doing this every time a vague comment is end noted is too time consuming for the average reader.

Six-Day War

Waxman did bring up some interesting points about American Jews’ less than enthusiastic support for establishing the state of Israel. After Israel declared its independence in 1947, American Jews’ interest in the nascent state waned.

In 1967 Israel’s existence was threatened by Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, who talked of wiping Israel off the map. This was traumatic for American Jews, who had spent much of the prior two decades learning details about the Holocaust.

There was a prolonged period of agony as Israel sought to resolve the crisis diplomatically. Unable to do so, Israel struck preemptively and achieved what Leon Uris called the greatest Jewish military victory in 6,000 years. In six days, they captured the Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. It was an astounding military achievement.

From 1967 to 1977 was the golden era between American Jews and Israel. At the time, Israel was run by a socialist government, was an extremely progressive society, and was applauded and supported almost unanimously by American Jews.

This changed in 1977 when Menachem Begin and his Likud party were elected. Begin, was a militant, messianic figure who was called a terrorist in the pre-state days after his followers bombed the King David hotel, killing 94 British soldiers. Begin began the mass building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This led eventually to 650,000 Jews (the same population as the entire state of Israel when it became independent in 1947), living on land formerly owned by Palestinians or the Kingdom of Jordan.

It also led to an emotional conflict between the Israeli government and many American Jews, which Waxman describes at length.

It is doubtful an Israeli government will emerge with the political gravitas or skills to relocate these 650,000 Jews into the pre-1967 Israeli borders. The last Israeli Prime Minister who was in such a position, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist.

Palestinian birth rates are far higher than Israeli birth rates. Soon Palestinians will be the majority in Israel and the occupied territories. Unless a Palestinian state is created, Israelis will be confronted with the choice of suppressing the democratic rights of a majority of its citizens – or adhering to their democratic principles and allowing a Palestinian majority to vote themselves into control of the state of Israel.

From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office …

McGovern Announces $836,000 for UMass Medical to Fight Heart Disease

Funds will Support Heart and Vascular Disease Research, push for Cures

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday that UMass Medical School has been awarded $836,858 by the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on treatments and cures for heart and vascular diseases. The new federal funding is awarded through the Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease program, a national HHS effort to invest in medical research at world-class universities like UMass Medical School.

“Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research. This new federal funding for UMass Medical School will help them continue their cutting-edge medical research that will help save lives while supporting economic growth right here in Massachusetts,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful to HHS Secretary Burwell for making this investment in our community and recognizing UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Together we can continue to support this important work to help families in Massachusetts and across the country.”

The grant continues the decades-long work of the Worcester Heart Attack Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s. The community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the Greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Robert Goldberg, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences and founder and principal investigator of the renamed Worcester Heart Attack Study. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?”

The new funding will help Dr. Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients; and patient management.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”

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McGovern, House Democrats Call for White House to Strengthen Safeguards on “Killer Robots”

House Lawmakers Raise Concerns About New Military Technology

Congressman Jim McGovern led a group of House Democrats yesterday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter to push for meaningful human control as a safeguard on lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots – an emerging and concerning military technology.

The letter comes ahead of the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016. The CCW is five-year Review Conference and will focus on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In today’s letter to the Obama Administration, Congressman McGovern and House Democrats write that these weapons “would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.”

Joining Congressman McGovern on yesterday’s letter to the White House were Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The lawmakers expressed their support of “the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more. This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol.”

In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats called on the Obama Administration to take the following actions at the CCW Review Conference next week:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

The Full Text of the Letter to the Obama Administration:

December 8, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of State Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretaries Kerry and Carter,

We are writing with respect to the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016.

The main focus of this five-year Review Conference will be lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots.” The high contracting parties, including the United States, will decide whether to continue discussions on this issue in the CCW, and if so, what the format, content, objective and duration of the talks should be.

We believe that fully autonomous weapons are a matter of vital concern. They would not simply be another weapon in the world’s arsenals, but would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.

We support the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more.

This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol. The CCW has already taken similar action on one weapon, namely preemptively banning blinding laser weapons through its Protocol IV.

We urge that at the CCW Review Conference in December the U.S. delegation take the following actions:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

In closing, we would like to stress that we recognize the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics to the future of the U.S. military, and their central role in the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, but we firmly believe that there must always be meaningful human control over critical combat functions.

Sincerely, …

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Bipartisan McGovern Human Rights Bill Passes Congress

McGovern Bill Will Crack Down on Corruption and Human Rights Abuses Around the World

McGovern Urges Trump to Continue U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern this week applauded Congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bill he co-authored to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses around the world. … Congressman McGovern is one of four co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“America must stand up for human rights at home and abroad. With today’s passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, Republicans and Democrats came together to continue America’s leadership on human rights around the world,” Congressman McGovern said. “This bill will empower the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. I urge President Obama to sign this important bill into law. This is an important step, but there is still much more work ahead.”

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights’ and that should concern all of us. President-elect Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and other world leaders guilty of brutal crackdowns on dissidents. Since his election, President-elect Trump has continued to raise red flags about his approach to political opponents. … Americans need a leader who will stand up for the freedoms our country was founded on and I hope President-elect Trump proves his critics wrong and uses the new tools in this bill to bring the leadership we need on human rights.”

The Global Magnitsky Act allows the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. It also directs the president to consider information from NGOs when determining who to sanction. Members of Congress and certain assistant secretaries of state may also recommend names for sanction. The president is required to make public the names of individuals being targeted.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations.

 

Our Vets – never out of fashion! … Today! Worcester Veterans Day events … and for all vets! FREE SPECIAL-FOR-YOU MEALS at Applebees, Friendlys

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Cece’s first ICT photo shoot. She’s no bigger than a greeting card! pic: R.T.

WORCESTER HONORS OUR VETS

Pancake Breakfast at Veterans Inc

8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Veterans Inc.,

69 Grove Street, Worcester

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Parade: 11 AM

Parade begins at corner of Glennie Street and Grove Street by Percy’s Appliances.

It will proceed down and end at 69 Grove Streetl.

For information regarding parade participation please call (508) 791-1213 x123.

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Wreath Laying Ceremony

2 PM

At the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Green Hill Park, off Lincoln and Belmont streets

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Wreath Laying Ceremony

2 PM

At the Korean War Memorial on Worcester Center Boulevard.

– City of Worcester website

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AT APPLEBEES restaurant – there’s one on Park Ave – FREE SPECIAL ENTREES FOR ALL VETS!

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And at all FRIENDLYs ice cream:

Free breakfast, lunch or dinner today for all vets! Bring military ID.

Free! Vets can order the Big-Two-Do: two slices of Brioche French toast, two buttermilk pancakes or two slices of toast; two strips of applewood-smoked bacon or two sausage links, sided by two made-to-order fresh eggs. Plus: a cup of joe!

Or: Free All-American Burger with fries and soda, iced tea or hot beverage.

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Jett says relax and enjoy this holiday!

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How spoiled is my brat #10

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The Monuments by Worcester City Hall

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The George Hoar monument

By Gordon Davis

Yesterday morning a friend called me to get historical information about the Worcester Common, behind our City Hall.  She has lived in Worcester for most of her life. She has seen the Common go through several iterations.

She is too young to remember the Old South (Congregational) that doubled as a religious meeting house and the Town Hall.  The cemetery in the Common is of parishioners. The Church still exists on Salisbury Street.

She is not too young to remember the so called reflecting pool that only seemed to collect trash and restrict the foot traffic flow through the park area. The architect seemed not to have read Jane Jacobs!

The jury is still out on the Ice Oval which doubles as a skating rink in the winter and a sitting/eating area in the summer. I have never used the skating rink, but I like the tables and sun umbrellas in the summer.

Monuments sprinkle the Worcester Common and nearby area.  Some of them are relatively new.

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There is a monument concerning the genocide of Armenian people by the Turks during World War I.  This monument is located on the right hand side of the front of City Hall as you face City Hall.

There is also an Irish Cross which symbolizes the 1916 Easter Rebellion by the Irish Republican Army against British rule.

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Korean War memorial

The number of war memorials is surprising. The most surprising is that of the anti-imperialist and anti-racist founder of Worcester Polytechnical Institute, George Hoar (above). His image sits majestically wondering why the City has not changed much of its war mentality or its racist policies. Mr. Hoar opposed the Spanish American War.

The City has honored Colonel Biglow of Worcester who fought against he British in the War of American Independence.

The Civil War memorial has the names of the 398 soldiers from Worcester who died fighting the racist Confederacy and its system of chattel slavery.
 
There is a relatively new monument to the brave trooper who gave their lives in the Iraq Wars I and II. I suppose we will have to modify the monument to include Iraq War III.

On the side of City Hall there is a statue of an American GI. This generation fought the Nazis and the Axis of Fascism, Germany, Italy, and Japan government.  The Honor Roll of Black Veterans should be erected next to it, instead of on the isolated traffic island in Lincoln Square.
 

Across the street from the Worcester Commons is the first Vietnam War memorial. It predates the extravagance in Green Hill Park.  I thought for a while no knew that it existed, but every once and while I see flowers there.

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A few blocks away is the Korean War memorial (above). Although the statue is moving, it is pretext. Nonetheless, the soldiers who died and fought there performed their duty as they understood it. 

Unfortunately, it has the feel of the Western savior. Many more Koreans died in that Cnflict than Westerners.

The Worcester Common’s character changed when the Worcester Regional Transportation moved it busses to the Hub.

What will our Common be like with the demolition of Notre Dame and finished construction of City Square?

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Gordon is parked in Yum Yums cuz I want to post now!

The War in Afghanistan, President Obama and Worcester PeaceWorks

By Gordon Davis

President Obama has broken his promise to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

This is not a surprise, but it is sad and it is discouraging. It means that the misery of war in Afghanistan will continue for an indefinite time. Only death, misery and refugees will be the product of the President’s decision.

When the United States went to war with Afghanistan in 2002 it was to avenge the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. George Bush was President when the Taliban was defeated and Al Qaeda went into hiding.

Worcester PeaceWorks was formed immediately after 9-11 by many in the Worcester peace community. Claire and Scott Schaeffer Duffy and Kevin Ksen played major roles. We held rallies in Worcester and went to the huge, anti-war rally in New York City – a worldwide event in which millions of people participated.

Worcester PeaceWorks tried to get the Worcester City Council to pass a resolution against the War in Iraq when several soldiers from Worcester were killed. The City Council would not hear the petition, citing Rule 33 of the Worcester City Charter.

Since then President Obama has killed or captured almost all of Al Qaeda who were responsible for the 9-11 attacks and withdrew troops from Iraq.

Worcester PeaceWorks, for the most part, stopped functioning after President Obama’s election in 2008. The Worcester Catholic Worker movement, including Mike True and the Center for Non Violence, continued to have anti-war demonstrations at Lincoln Square. The Progressive Labor Party would every so often call for an end to “imperialism” – as it did during the beginning of the Civil War in Syria.

President Obama ordered a drawdown of forces from Afghanistan with the hope that a government friendly to the USA would be able to rule Afghanistan after the American troops leave.

This has not happened.

After more than 10 years no government set up by the USA has been strong enough to defeat the Taliban.

This effort at nation building in Afghanistan has proven a failure.

There is no clear American policy there except to protect the suspect American friend, President Hammid Karzai, living in Kabul.

The people of Afghanistan are suffering, as can be seen in the thousands of refugees seeking asylum in the European Union.

Killing people with drones has done more harm than good, especially when so many civilians are killed. There is an insight of another of the irony in one Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama, killing another Nobel Peace Prize winner, the International Doctors Without Borders.

It looks like we have lost in Afghanistan, like we did in Vietnam.

It is time we get out and take those who want to leave with us as refugees.

It makes no sense to continue with the misery of war when we cannot win. 

The USA has avenged the 9-11 attacks and punished the perpetrators. It is time to declare “mission accomplished” and stop the killing and misery.  

Unfortunately, many in the Peace community, including Worcester activists, do not want to oppose politicians who are considered to be “progressive” candidates. 

Like the BlackLives Matter activists, the peace activists should compel the candidates to declare their intentions with Afghanistan, Israel and Syria.