An Open Letter to Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Two emotionally unstable national leaders who threaten to use nuclear weapons


My elder son, who participated in the Grant High School Constitution team, proposed to me tonight a means of you, Mr Blumenauer, helping to de-escalate our present circumstances of near-nuclear-war with the supposedly “rogue” state of North Korea.

Would you please introduce a bill into Congress to the effect that Congress insists upon the President consulting with the Congress before any first use of nuclear weapons.  Include, would you please, the requirement of a vote, for the record — as was done with the so-called Authorization for the Use of Military Force, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon nearly two decades ago. I will promise, in return, not to run against you in the next election.

Update: 11 August 2017 : I find that such a bill has already (on 24 January of this year) been introduced:

Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced H.R. 669 and S. 200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear “first use” is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.

Posted in Afghanistan, Brian Willson, Elections, Empire, Global, Pacific Green Party, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Constitution, US Senate, War | 1 Comment

What Transgender Means

from the cover story of Grant Magazine, May 2016


Surely in writing this post, which is a highly personal meditation, I have to begin from the admission of my own lack of principled stance over time.  My opinions have changed and developed in the course of years.

Today the principal of Grant High School sent the parents of the Class of 2017 an email, notifying us of the suicide of one of the members of the class.  Aditi Staub.  This notice, which my 18-year-old son Michael Kepler Meo did not receive, had a significant impact on him because he recalled being very friendly with Staub, as a freshman, before the young man’s transition to female presentation.

He wondered whether his discomfort with the female, Aditi, as opposed to his warm appreciation for the male, Jack Staub, contributed to the tragic outcome. In discussing this sad news I advised him that I had just today learned that the head of the Healthcare for All Oregonian movement in my city, Portland, a woman named Robin Cash, is transgender.  She writes today:

Analysis of today’s news: (TW: this is dark)
Today Trump announced trans people cannot serve in the military, and simultaneously that Taiwanese manufacturer FoxConn is making a $10 billion investment in building factories in Wisconsin. These two announcements are connected. This day has Steve Bannon written all over it.
I don’t personally care whether we can serve in the military, and don’t particularly want to get into a debate about whether this is an issue trans folk should focus on.

I connected this to the fact, which I had already shared with him, that the treasurer of the statewide Green Party, Trish Driscoll, as well as its secretary, Christina Lugo, are both of them transgender male-to-females.  I am perfectly comfortable with these two last people — I may have met Robin Cash, but I do not recall it well, if at all — but I am not comfortable with the prominence of transgender people within the political party in which I am an activist.  No, it is not that I am not comfortable . . . it makes me wonder about the nature of the political party.

I don’t know whether the suicide rate of transgenders after the sex-change operation is four times that of the rest of us, or six times.  It’s a lot, and that’s all that matters.  It doesn’t drop down to anything like a rate comparable to the general population. I consider the demand for transition to a different sex to be unethical, although I am willing to let people do it.  That suggested to me the Green Party is run by people I like personally, but whose ethics I do not accept; that is, that I ought to quit the Party.

I reject that option because I reject the idea that we all have to agree on everything before we can work together on social justice.  Let me continue, however, to riff on my own lack of consistency before the reader demands an elaboration of the rational basis for the above “unethical” comment.  I have previously celebrated those women who have breast implants.  I posted their pictures on this blog.

That got me more or less read out of the Green Party, for “sexism”.

How can I allow, indeed glorify, surgical implantation of plastic bags into a woman’s body and then turn around and condemn in for god’s sake moral terms the surgical transition operation?

Well, that suicide rate has a lot to do with it.  I will admit, as well, that my masculinity is involved, and I am conscious of a general social re-evaluation of people with penises and testicles at the present time, and so as one of those folk, I claim that there’s an inherent difference between adding a bit of padding to a body part and cutting your entire genital equipment out.

Perhaps I am in error.  I don’t think so, but then again, there was a time when —  it was back when I was in my 20s — I opposed equal rights for gays.  I can remember George Balint, a Hungarian refugee I knew in the late 1960s, pointing out to me how widespread homosexual behavior and status had been in many different cultures around the world.  I lived in Oakland, California, then, and I subsequently came to meet a wide spectrum of gay men. I learned to acknowledge my own liking for submissive feminized individuals willing to give me blow jobs.  It was not enough for me to engage in the practice — just as I’ve never been to bed with a prostitute, but I’ve certainly thought about it (and my opposition is not purely to the empirical problem of sexually transmitted disease, but also to the payment for affection).  Homosexuals also have a higher suicide rate than the general population, but less than transexuals.  The argument that many gays have contributed, in so many different ways and means, to the heritage of human accomplishment which I appreciate — science, music, education, the arts in particular, but there are too many to mention — also contributed to my change of opinion.

If everyone in leadership positions of a political party of which I am a member is/were gay, that would also make me wonder what’s up, even though I’m firmly on board with gay people having no bar to social, economic, or legal acceptance.  I do wonder about the Green Party of Oregon, but not enough to leave.

That’s about it.

Posted in Bradley Manning, Cameron Whitten, Education, Elections, Friendship, Inequality, Oakland, Pacific Green Party, Spiritual life, Vali Balint | 15 Comments

Good News

The day after the long-overdue termination of the U.S. program supporting Syrian rebels, a hawkish high-ranking Defense Department official (in the words of the headline “Trump’s top Middle East aide”) got the boot:

Harvey was viewed as one of Trump’s more hawkish foreign policy advisers—particularly on Iran, whose leadership he has studied closely and which he recommends confronting more aggressively. He has also been a staunch critic of the Iran nuclear deal. And Harvey has pushed for a strong U.S. military role against the Islamic State in Syria. Many military officials consider him the government’s most knowledgeable source on the Sunni insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

I consider this at least provisional evidence that there remains a degree of anti-intervention sentiment within the Trump Administration.

Posted in Afghanistan, Iran, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, War | Leave a comment

The Fine Line between Prediction and Paranoia

Ruins of the Forum in Rome, the classic example of a collapsed empire.


James Petras is a commenter with whom I find myself frequently agreeing.  In a good way, it’s something akin to how I feel about Paul Krugman (with whom I have plenty of disagreements, of course; but I’m generally on the same side).

Today I feel obliged to mull over his prediction of a coming breakdown in the federal government, which, again, I view pretty similarly as Petras does, as an institution running a global empire, and maintaining it by means of an endless war. I perform this exercise not as a critique of Mr Petras alone, but as a warning about how we can all go off the cliff of overconfidence.

The post begins with a valuable prefatory statement, saying that the ruling elite, the imperial power of the United States, has a variety of conflicting factions, and that the surprise election of Donald Trump has revealed, since his accession to power, an open struggle for power within these factions.

When I say I agree with this I am not only consenting to its plausibility but asserting that Mr Petras is simply examining our own government within a framework informed by the history of virtually all imperial regimes, bar none; they all suffer factional struggle for control among competing factions.  Roman, Holy Roman, Spanish, Russian, Austro-Hungarian histories — all of these could provide innumerable specific examples if the reader wished me to elaborate.

Then the column turns to a prediction of a coming struggle between factions.

The September Showdown

The big test of power will be focused on the raising of the public debt ceiling and the continued funding of the entire federal government. Without agreement there will be a massive governmental shutdown – a kind of ‘general strike’ paralyzing essential domestic and foreign programs – including the funding of Medicare, the payment of Social Security pensions and the salaries of millions of government and Armed Forces employees.

Well, what if there is  an agreement; what then?  Mr Petras is not simply suggesting what might happen if there’s no agreement (which might indeed take place, although we have reason to doubt it); he’s so certain that there will be no agreement that he draws horrific conclusions from this coming lack of agreement.  The next sentence speaks about the militarized bureaucracy and the Democratic Party which have been openly conspiring to overthrow the Trump Administration since it began.

The pro-‘regime-change’ forces (coup makers) have decided to go for broke in order to secure the programatic capitulation of the Trump regime or its ouster.

You see the verb use is in the perfect indicative tense: “have decided”.  No reason to believe that a fairly large group, with shifting allegiances and agendas, has come to a definite plan of decisive action, is given by Mr Petras.  He simply asserts it without any evidence.

The Presidential power elite may choose the option of ruling by decree – based on the ensuing economic crisis. They may capitalize on a hue and cry from a Wall Street collapse and claim an imminent threat to national security on our national borders and overseas bases to declare a military emergency. Without support from the intelligence services, their success is doubtful.

Were there to be a significant threat by (let us call it) the Deep State to the powers of the Trump Administration, the classic response would appear to be a declaration of an external threat.  We might go to war with North Korea, for instance.  We won’t see that, says Mr Petras, because the intelligence services won’t support it.

We just saw that the intelligence services did not support a strike against Syria. I put the recent summary of that incident in boldface:

Hersh’s article, “Trump’s Red Line,” based on US intelligence sources, documents that the US intelligence apparatus knew that the Syrian attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was a conventional weapons attack on a meeting of anti-regime Islamists. Plans for the attack were communicated to the US military-intelligence apparatus ahead of time by the Russian military.

“A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the US military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground,” Hersh writes.

The Syrian bombing of Khan Sheikhoun was used as a pretext by the Trump administration for firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the al-Shayrat airbase, reportedly killing nine civilians. The Democratic Party, which has based its opposition to Trump on demands that it adopt a harder line against Syria and Russia, supported the strikes.

So we are expected to believe that the very same intelligence services which allowed Trump to bomb Syria and, a few days later, shoot down a Syrian air force jet, without objection, are going to intervene in some future adventure by Trump in some other theater.

Both sides will blame each other for the mounting breakdown. Temporary Treasury expedients will not save the situation. The mass media will go into a hysterical mode, from political criticism to demanding open regime change. The Presidential regime may assume dictatorial powers in order ‘to save the country’.

Congressional moderates will demand a temporary solution: A week-to-week trickle of federal spending.

However, the coup-makers and the ‘Bonapartists’ will block any ‘rotten compromise’.

The military will be mobilized along with the entire security and judicial apparatus to dictate the outcome.

The hysterical mode here is that of Mr Petras, not the putative mass media discussion of the circumstances of a failure to increase the debt ceiling.

Now, I could be wrong and Mr Petras right.  We will see in September.  What I am saying is, that he’s going out on a very long limb here, and I disagree, not only with this prediction, but even with the self-assurance with which he makes such an extraordinary statement.  Recall how shocked the Republicans were when Romney didn’t win, or the Democrats, when Hillary Clinton lost.  On such quicksands you cannot build a reliable conception of the way the world works (you can practice your Doublethink, if that’s what you’re choosing to do; but that’s exactly the opposite of what I am attempting here).

Factional struggle in Washington’s ruling circles is especially open these days, revealing a great deal of what is usually decided behind closed doors.  With that I think we all can agree.  With that Mr Petras begins, and I wish he had stayed there.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Empire, Fascism, Global, Inequality, John Schweibert, Pacific Green Party, Ronald Reagan, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, US Senate, War | Leave a comment

How to Address the Korea Problem

The President of the United States is threatening military action against North Korea, and the only response the Koreans have made, is to test a new long-range missile that can reach, potentially, Alaska.

Suppose the U.S. bombs Korea.  Their reply could be, to throw a nuclear weapon at Seoul, which is within artillery range of their border.

We Had To Destroy Seoul In Order To Save It

I would like to join ten thousand people marching through Portland tomorrow, protesting the threat by the United States potentially to begin a war that could kill a million Koreans within hours.  I don’t have the power to initiate that action, or anything even similar to it.

All I can do is articulate a reasonable way to address the present situation in Korea.  It is to the interests of China, Russia, Japan, and both North and South Korea, that the Korean peninsula be a single country.  As a first step toward building confidence in such a nonviolent solution to the unreasonable division of one country, long after the end of the Cold War, I suggest that the United States withdraw all its troops and weapons from South Korea.

South Korea is many times richer than North Korea, can defend itself, and can take its own steps to promote such a unification.  The task of the United States in that process should be to join Russia, China, and Japan in facilitating it, not threatening a member of the United Nations with unilateral aggressive military action, such as bombing.

We lost in Vietnam.  Afghanistan has lasted for a longer time and is no closer to solution.  We are returning to Iraq.  Our foreign policy is in shreds.  The most likely chance we have for success is to adopt a non-violent, multi-lateral promotion of the best interests of all involved.

All of our attempts, in greater and greater measure, have failed to accomplish our aim of policing the world according to our dictates.

Give peace a chance.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Brian Willson, Dan Handelman, Empire, Gar Alperovitz, Global, John Schweibert, Pacific Green Party, Spiritual life, U.S. Constitution, War | Leave a comment

Another Dead Citizen — Cop Protects Himself

In Los Angeles today, another unarmed citizen was shot and killed by a police officer.  In this case there was a complaint at three o’clock in the morning that there was a too-loud party.  The police who arrived were attacked by a pit bull.  In protecting themselves against a pit bull, the police shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who was attempting to restrain the dog.

This is yet one more example of why I claim the police officers don’t need more training; they need automatically to be fired.  You do not shoot at a person who is trying to restrain the dog.  You do not shoot at the dog; rather you hit him with a club.  But why say that, in the first place?

The bottom line ought to be — someone who is not assaulting a police officer is dead, then the police officer is fired.  That would restore proportion to all kinds of situations.  We don’t have reasonable proportionate use of force, and it is basically because we give the police a free pass to use force.

Oh, by the way . . . the name of the 17-year-old victim of police homicidal use of force was named Armando Garcia.  Come on now, does it matter?  Does it matter, his name? Or whether or not he was black?

All lives matter.  Fire homicidal police officers.

Update 22 June 2017: This poor fellow’s name is Anthony Promgvongsa, a Loatian name. He is not assaulting the officer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Deep State Publicized

There may be an unexpected silver lining to the ongoing train wreck that is the Trump Administration, now under fire from virtually all quarters for a variety of reasons, some of them well-based but many of them not.

Where, back a couple of months ago, only the tinfoil-hat conspiracy-mongers spoke about the “Deep State” at all, and bien-pensant commentators downplayed any such an entity, now it is the Trump Administration which openly accuses the Deep State, by name and title, of engaging in a campaign to unseat a democratically-elected leader of the Executive Branch.

Here is The Real News network on 17 May, less than a month ago:

The series, the daily scandals that we’re talking about — the Comey letter today, the leak to the Russians yesterday, on and on — are kind of distracting us from the bigger picture. Not only the question of, you know, what are our common interests, if any, with Russia, and can we seriously work towards them, but also, what are we going to do in the Middle East, and what are we doing in East Asia? These pivotal foreign policy strategic issues aren’t getting much attention because of the daily soap opera. You’re absolutely right.

Let me just add at the end here — I know we’re running out of time — I’ve noted the accidental clumsy careless leak that could’ve had tragic consequences of the first Bush president. We might also note that the second Bush presidency, that administration leaked like a sieve from, you know, exaggerated false intelligence on Iraq to the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, when it suited their purposes. And the Obama administration wasn’t a lot better. People like McCain and others were furious at some of the leaks, whether it was the Stuxnet cyber war tactic that was used against Iran, to a whole series of other military facts that were leaked selectively by the Obama administration to serve their purposes. Let’s just remember this context. Mistaken leaks, strategic leaks, dishonest leaks go on all the time in Washington, and against that backdrop, let’s not fall off the cliff here over Trump sharing some intel about terror attacks with the Russians, about our common enemy, the Islamic State in Syria.

After, mind you, the Comey firing, and from a stoutly progressive source.  Naked Capitalism had the same angle of attack — the Deep State is a category error.

Today, however, the same source writes:

Lambert here: Putting legal and ethical issues aside, if a special counsel ends up taking Trump down, Comey will be credited with having performed a feat hitherto unknown in politics: Taking down the presumptive front-running candidate in a Presidential election (at least according to the dominant faction in the Democrat Party), and then taking down the candidate who was elected instead. In my view, that will give Comey (along with his faction in the “intelligence community) open veto power over any future Presidential candidate, should he choose to exercise it, a change in the Constitututional order. I mean, the story of the quadrennial trek to visit with The Last Honest Man in Washington on his front porch practically writes itself. Comey is only 56.

What has just happened is, the line-up is no longer a covert struggle but one which is declared and open.

From the point of view of those who realize the trappings of democratic control of the imperial levers of power are simply rhetorical nods in the direction of traditional symbols, performed for the purpose of making onlookers more comfortable with the  control which is anything but democratic, this openly-declared struggle is an, as I said, unexpected benefit of the generally sad interregnum that the Trump Administration increasingly appears to be.

Posted in Elections, Empire, Global, Pacific Green Party, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Constitution, US Senate, War | Leave a comment