Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert - August 18 - 19, 2017

29] Zero Waste Tour – Aug. 18
30] Peace vigil at White House – Aug. 18
31] WIB peace vigil – Aug. 18
32] AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER – continues through Aug. 24
33] Release Aging People in Prison – Aug. 18
34] Black Lives Matter vigil – Aug. 18
35] Ballroom Dancing – Aug. 18
36] Progressive Maryland healthcare deep canvasses -- Aug. 19
37] West Chester peace vigil – Aug. 19
38] Do you want to adopt a furry friend? – Aug. 19
39] Green Party meeting – Aug. 19
40] Support the Wheeler family who lost their home in a fire
41] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
42] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
43] Do you need any book shelves?
44] Join the Global Zero campaign
29] –  On Fri., Aug. 18 from 9 to11 AM, take a Zero-Waste Tour of the Brown Station Road Landfill, Upper Marlboro. When you throw stuff away, where does it go? Learn more about the Prince George's County waste-management system through this tour of the Brown Station Road Landfill, including how landfills are designed and how environmental impacts are mitigated. This is organized by the Prince George's Sierra Club. The tour will include the leachate treatment plant and methane collection. Registration is required: Contact Janet Gingold at (

30] – On Fri., Aug. 18 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! This vigil will take place at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contract Art @ or at 202-360-6416. 

31] – On Fri., Aug. 18 from noon to 1 PM, join a Women in Black peace vigil. A vigil will take place in McKeldin Square at the corner of Light and Pratt Sts. Stay for as long as you can. Wear black. Dress for who knows what kind of weather. Bring your own poster or help with the "NO WAR IN MY NAME" banner.  When there are others to stand with, you don't need to carry the burden alone. Do this to be in solidarity with others....when everything around us says “Be afraid of the stranger.” Carpool and parking available. Just send an email that you need a ride [].  Peace signs will be available. 

32] – Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER continues through Aug. 24 at the CHARLES THEATRE. A decade after AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH brought Climate Change into the heart of popular culture comes the follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution.

33] – There is a DCRAPP (Release Aging People in Prison) Monthly Coalition Meeting at the BF Senior Wellness Center, 3531 Georgia Ave. NW, WDC 20010, on Fri., Aug. 19 from 3 to 4:15 PM.  DCRAPP is working together with other campaigns, groups, and organizations to take on the crucial issue of people aging and dying in prison without justification. There are elderly DC prisoners who are trapped in the federal prison system due to denials of parole, compassionate release, and clemency. Come out to the next coalition meeting to learn more about this issue; DCRAPP plans to usher in change; and how you can become involved in the campaign.  Email or go to

34] – There is usually a silent vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends Meeting, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St.  The next scheduled vigil is on Aug. 18. Black Lives Matter.  

35] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at  8 PM.  Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St.  Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be on Aug. 18. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

36] – Progressive Maryland is having healthcare deep canvasses on Sat., Aug. 19 from 10 AM to 2 PM. Contact Beth Landry at RSVP at

37] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

38] – Looking to adopt? The Maryland SPCA is participating in the third annual Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption event on Sat., Aug. 19. To help people wanting to add a new fury addition to their families and to help every dog, cat and kitten needing the love of a family, the MD SPCA will be waiving adoption fees for ALL available animals. Visit the adoption center (3300 Falls Road, Baltimore 21211) from 11 AM to 4 PM or Project Adopt (cats & kittens) located in White Marsh Mall open from 11 AM to 7 PM, and you can find your match! The $25 Pet ID Package fee still applies and includes a collar, an engraved ID tag, microchip and license (Baltimore residents). Clear the Shelters sponsor VCA will be providing give-a-ways to adopters.  Bring your ID and information from your landlord (if you rent) granting you permission to adopt an animal. Out-of-state adopters welcome! Check the website or FB page for additional details

39] – On Sat., Aug. 19 from 1:15 to 3:15 PM, get over to a Prince George's County Green Party organizing meeting at the South Bowie Branch Library, 15301 Hall Road, Bowie 20721.  The Maryland Green Party has teamed up with local Prince George’s County greens and grassroots organizers to launch a Prince George’s county chapter of the Maryland Green Party.  The goal is to create an independent grassroots party committed to Peace, Ecological wisdom, Social Justice, and Grassroots democracy which can provide residents of Prince George’s county an opportunity to be active participants in shaping a better county, state, and world. 

40] – Activists Joyce and Tim Wheeler now live in Sequim, Washington, but their son, Morgan and his family have lived in the Wheeler’s Baltimore home, 816 Beaumont Avenue for some time.  Tragically, at 3 AM on February 4, the home was burned beyond recognition.  Morgan was able to get his family out, but the house and its contents are totally destroyed.  Morgan's daughter, Erin, has created a Go Fund Me page which you can access below.  Anything you are able to contribute to support Morgan and his family would be greatly appreciated. Go to 


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41] -- The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

42] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at

43] -- Can you use any book shelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

44] -- Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees.  This is an historic window of opportunity.  With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

Baltimore Activist Alert - August 16 - 20, 2017

19] Janice & Max need a ride on Aug. 16 & 20
20] Hearing on oil trains – Aug. 16
21] Consent Decree Community Forum – Aug. 16
22] Emergency meeting on white supremacy – Aug. 16
23] Anti-corruption meeting Aug. 16
24] Baltimore Vegan Group Monthly Meetup – Aug. 16
25] Devin Allen speaks – Aug. 16
27] Civilian Review Board Meeting – Aug. 17
28] Fiction and social change – Aug, 17
19] – Janice and Max need a ride from Govans to the Light Rail stop on North Avenue on Wed., Aug. 16 at 2:30 PM.  On Sun., Aug. 20, they will need a ride at 8:30 PM from the Light Rail stop on North Avenue at 8:30 PM.  I f you can assist, let Max know at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski 2001 at comcast dot net.

20] – On Wed., Aug. 16 at 1 PM, there will be an informational hearing for the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in West Baltimore in the Land Use & Transportation Committee, Du Burns Council Chambers, 4th Floor, City Hall.  The Baltimore City Council is sponsoring an informational hearing on the proposed replacement of the B&P Tunnel. Use this opportunity to attend and voice your concerns to the City Council Land Use and Transportation Committee. The details can be found in 17-0023R, Informational Hearing on Proposed Replacement of the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel.

21] – The Consent Decree for Baltimore City Police is in the final stages of selecting the Independent Monitor. You are invited to a Community Forums for an opportunity to be heard and raise questions. A forum will be held on Wed., Aug. 16 from 6 to 8 PM at Morgan State University, Student Center, 2nd Floor, Ballroom C.

22] – On Wed., Aug. 16 at 6PM, there is an emergency meeting/potluck called by CodePink to discuss How to Confront White Supremacy.  It is happening at 1241 Evarts St. NE, WDC 20018-3710. In light of what took place in Charlottesville, come to a brainstorming session at the CODEPINK House. Bring your questions and ideas and some food to share.

23] – Learn about the Anti-Corruption Movement on Wed., Aug. 16 at 6 PM at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Waverly Branch.  Learn more about Represent.Maryland, a 100% volunteer operated, fiercely non-partisan group dedicated to diminishing the power of money in politics. Our political system is beholden to a small handful of wealthy contributors and special interests, meaning our voices as average citizens are often ignored by our elected officials. Help pass an anti-corruption resolution in Baltimore City. Go to prior.

24] – The Baltimore Vegan Group Monthly Meetup is on Wed., Aug. 16 at 7 PM at Mr. Chan, 1000 Reisterstown Road, across the street from the Pikes Theater. There is often street parking available. And there is free parking behind the restaurant, and a public parking area adjacent to that lot.

It is a people-friendly group, which welcomes all who are interested in learning a healthier and more peaceful way of eating and living. Discussion topics include nutrition and health, food preparation, animal protection, ecology, activism, spirituality, and more. Come and join for great food and friendly, supportive conversation! Go to

25] – On Wed., Aug 16, meet the author: Devin Allen at 7 PM in the Randallstown Branch Library. Allen, the photographer of Baltimore's 2015 uprising, found fame with his Time magazine cover photo of a man fleeing riot-gear clad police. Allen discusses his new book, “A Beautiful Ghetto,” which contains nearly 100 powerful images shot throughout his beloved Baltimore community. Book sales and signings available following the discussion, provided by The Ivy Bookshop.

26] -- On Wed., Aug. 16 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, attend a talk THE RUSSIAN ANTI-FA MOVEMENT.  The problem of dealing with fascism, the problem of the rise of the neo-Nazi movements on the post-soviet territories started almost immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union. While the official propaganda praises the “memory of our grandfathers” and flirts with Stalinism, it also encourages the xenophobic attitude among the young (often combining the two). As a response to the neo-Nazi street violence, a new movement arose – an antiauthoritarian, antiracist group, which later, under the influence of Anarcho-Communism, became what we now know as “Antifa”. Please join us as we welcome Danya Piunov to speak about the current Russian antifa m0ovement and their persecution by the government. Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at

27] – On Thurs., Aug. 17 from 6 to 9 PM, attend a Civilian Review Board Meeting, hosted by Baltimore City Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, 7 E. Redwood St., Baltimore 21202.

28] – On Thurs., Aug. 17 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, attend a talk SPECULATIVE FICTION AND SOCIAL CHANGE with MARGARET KILLJOY AND K.M. SZPARA.  The stories we tell one another have an enormous impact on what we see as possible, what we strive to create, and what we know to resist. The speculative fiction landscape is changing. Killjoy, on tour with her new anarchist, punk fantasy novella “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion” (, out on August 15) will join Baltimore native author K.M. Szparafor a reading and discussion. Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, August 14, 2017

You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf

Sunday Review

You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf

AUGUST 12, 2017

It was September 1738, and Benjamin Lay had walked 20 miles, subsisting on “acorns and peaches,” to reach the Quakers’ Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beneath his overcoat he wore a military uniform and a sword — both anathema to Quaker teachings. He also carried a hollowed-out book with a secret compartment, into which he had tucked a tied-off animal bladder filled with bright red pokeberry juice.

   When it was Lay’s turn to speak, he rose to address the Quakers, many of whom had grown rich and bought African slaves. He was a dwarf, barely four feet tall, but from his small body came a thunderous voice. God, he intonedrespects all people equally, be they rich or poor, man or woman, white or black.

   Throwing his overcoat aside, he spoke his prophecy: “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.” He raised the book above his head and plunged the sword through it. As the “blood” gushed down his arm, several members of the congregation swooned. He then splattered it on the heads and bodies of the slave keepers. His message was clear: Anyone who failed to heed his call must expect death — of body and soul.

   Lay did not resist when his fellow Quakers threw him out of the building. He knew he would be disowned by his beloved community for his performance, but he had made his point. As long as Quakers owned slaves, he would use his body and his words to disrupt their hypocritical routines.

  Lay’s methods made people talk about him, his ideas, the nature of Quakerism and Christianity, and, most of all, slavery. According to Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the name of this “celebrated Christian philosopher” became “familiar to every man, woman and to nearly every child, in Pennsylvania.” For or against, everyone told stories about Benjamin Lay.

  Lay, a hunchback as well as a dwarf, was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature. He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa., ate only fruits and vegetables — “the innocent fruits of the earth” — and championed animal rights. He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.

  Today Benjamin Lay is largely forgotten, for essentially two reasons.

   The first is that he did not fit the dominant, long-told story about the history of the abolitionist movement. Formerly a common sailor, he was not one of the so-called gentleman saints like William Wilberforce, an aristocratic leader of the abolition movement in Britain. He was wild and confrontational, militant and uncompromising.

   A second reason is that he has long been considered deformed in both body and mind. As a little person and as a man thought eccentric at best and more commonly deranged or insane, he was ridiculed and dismissed, even among Quakers who were ostensibly committed to an ideal of spiritual equality. The condescension continued in subsequent accounts of his life.

  Yet Lay deserves a proud place in our history. He predicted that for Quakers and for America, slave-keeping would be a long, destructive burden. He wrote that it “will be as the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps, in the end.” The poison and the venom have had long lives indeed, as we still live with the consequences of slavery: prejudice, poverty, structural inequality and premature death.

   Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act. His greatest power, indeed his genius, lay in his gift as an agitator. In every meeting he attended, public or private, he drew a line over the issue of slavery. He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?

   Slowly, over a quarter-century, his relentless agitation changed hearts and minds. In 1758 a friend arrived at his cave to inform him that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting had finally taken the first big step toward abolition, ruling that those who traded in slaves would henceforth be disciplined and perhaps driven from the community. Lay fell silent for a few reverential moments, then rose from his chair, praised God and announced, “I can now die in peace.” He died a year later, an outsider to the Quaker community he loved, but a moral giant of a man.

   Benjamin Lay was, in sum, a class-conscious, race-conscious, environmentally conscious ultraradical. Most would think this combination of beliefs possible only since the 1960s, two centuries after Lay’s life ended. But by boycotting slave-produced commodities, Lay pioneered the politics of consumption and initiated a tactic that would become central to the ultimate success of abolitionism in the 19th century, and one that still motivates global movements against abuses like sweatshops today.

   In his time Lay may have been the most radical person on the planet. He helps us to understand what was politically and morally possible in the first half of the 18th century — and what may be possible now. It is more than we think.

Marcus Rediker, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of the forthcoming “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist,” from which this essay was adapted.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor De

To Combat Trump's Attacks on Democracy, We Must Understand Precedents Set by Obama

To Combat Trump's Attacks on Democracy, We Must Understand Precedents Set by Obama

Saturday, August 12, 2017By Zak Witus, Truthout | Op-Ed

President Barack Obama speaks at Prince George's Community College on March 15th, 2012.President Barack Obama speaks at Prince George's Community College on March 15th, 2012. (Photo: Daniel Borman / Flickr)
Seven months into the Trump presidency, many people still deny how some of Donald Trump's most regressive and harmful policies directly continue the legacy of Barack Obama. Yes, Trump is demonstrably worse than Obama. The nasty rhetoric that Trump spews from his bully pulpit does real harm to marginalized communities, especially Muslims and immigrants. Under Trump's watch, US airstrikes have killed innocent civilians at a much higher rate than under Obama, with horrifying numbers of people killed in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile Stephen Bannon is overseeing the "destruction of the administrative state," including the attempted rollback of environmental regulations and federal rules protecting internet freedom; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rekindled the racist, classist "war on drugs," reversing Obama's policy of prosecutorial leniency for low-level drug offenders. And the Republicans' attempts to gut Medicaid and sabotage Obamacare could do unconscionable violence to millions of Americans.
Nonetheless, we do ourselves a disservice by fixating solely on the overt discontinuities while ignoring the major continuities between the two administrations. Even Bernie Sanders, the champion of the democratic socialist left in this country, fails to adequately acknowledge that Obama committed many of the offenses that he now accuses Trump of committing. In a recent speech at the People's Summit in Chicago, Sanders condemned Trump for his major constitutional violations and disregard for democracy. He spoke about Trump's "unprecedented attack against the media," calling it an effort to "undermine respect for dissent and free press." Sanders criticized Trump's outlook and treatment toward the judiciary, charging the president with "seek[ing] to diminish the separation of powers that our Constitution outlined." And Sanders lamented the fact that Trump appears "to be more comfortable with autocrats and authoritarian politicians than with leaders of democratic nations." But has he (and have we) honestly reckoned with how Obama was guilty of the same kinds of undemocratic acts -- that Obama undermined the free press, violated the separation of powers, and aided and abetted dictatorships and war criminals abroad?
Everyone who opposes Trump agrees that he treats the press as his adversary. The Trump administration on numerous occasions has explicitly branded the news media "the enemy of the people." In recent weeks, the White House has banned TV cameras from press briefings with greater and greater frequency. Trump even singles out specific journalists that he doesn't like for bullying on Twitter. But if we really want to defend the First Amendment, the public's right to know, the free press and the right to dissent, then we have to understand how the Obama administration laid much of the groundwork for Trump’s anti-free speech agenda.
One person to ask about Obama’s disappointing record on free speech is James Risen, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist who helped reveal Bush's program of warrantless wiretapping, and who the Obama administration prosecuted for seven years, threatening him with jail time. Led by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obama Justice Department called on Risen to testify in a criminal case against one of Risen's alleged sources, former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, charged with leaking classified documents to Risen that Risen published in his book, State of War. But Risen refused to testify, arguing that forcing journalists to identify confidential sources infringes their ability to do their jobs. The work of journalists being instrumental in fulfilling the purposes of the First Amendment, this infringement constitutes a constitutional violation, Risen argued.
But Holder and Obama would not relent and prosecuted the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled against Risen. The Justice Department ultimately did not call on Risen to testify, as it would've effectively meant that the Obama administration was imprisoning a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, which would've created a major publicity scandal for the administration. Nonetheless, Obama succeeded in establishing a highly problematic precedent with the nation's top court: According to the Supreme Court, there is no such thing as journalist-source confidentiality in the way that there is doctor-patient confidentiality or lawyer-client privileges. Hence, according to our country's highest court, journalists' communications with government whistleblowers are not, under the First Amendment, protected from state surveillance.
Six weeks after Donald Trump's election and on the eve of the New Year, Risen published a prescient op-ed in The New York Times, headlined, "If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama." Risen wrote: "If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama."
Though Risen's own story is a case in point, Obama accumulated a long and illustrious record of going after journalists and news agencies, which Risen recounts in the piece. For example, in May 2013, Obama's Justice Department informed The Associated Press that over a two-month period, it had seized records for more than 20 phone lines associated with the agency's staff. That same year, the Justice Department also seized phone records and emails between a Fox News reporter and a State Department contractor. In 2014, at the near end of his tenure as Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder signed off on a subpoena request on a "60 Minutes" producer.
In addition to journalists, Obama has also executed an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers and leakers. As Risen highlights in the op-ed, the administration's signature practice for responding to leaks was to charge the leakers/whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act, a vestige of World War I-era red-baiting. Obama's Justice Department prosecuted nine such cases during its eight years -- three times as many as all past administrations combined. Never mind the fact that the people who Obama was prosecuting weren't spies but government officials who talked to journalists.
Trump's actions have proved Risen's prediction to be correct. In June, Trump's Justice Department announced its first leak case, charging intelligence contractor Reality Winner with spying under the Espionage Act for leaking a highly classified document to The Intercept. The document that Winner leaked reveals a Russian intelligence cyberattack just days before the 2016 presidential election aimed at voting software and local election officials. The document is no doubt newsworthy, especially to Democrats, who have been alleging Russian interference in the election for months. Unfortunately, because of Obama's pattern of prosecution, Trump and Sessions now have a strong legal precedent for pursuing these bogus charges against Winner and other leakers. Moreover, Sessions's recently pledged to clamp down harder via subpoenas and prosecution on journalists who report on leaks, extending the problematic practices employed by Obama and Holder.
So, while Trump's attacks on the media may indeed be "unprecedented" in a sense, we have to clarify what specific actions are new to the presidency. Obama did not openly attack specific news outlets, TV anchors or reporters in the manner that Trump now does flippantly (e.g., Obama didn't tweet a video of himself beating up someone with the CNN logo on their head). But the Obama administration did search through and seize journalists' notes and records, and prosecuted journalists, whistleblowers and leakers for informing the public of the nefarious business that our government does in the shadows. The long-term damage of the Supreme Court ruling in Risen's case will potentially be felt for decades. As of now, Trump has not succeeded in undermining the free press at its foundations. But Obama may have permanently hindered the ability of journalists to do their job without fear of governmental repression.
Senator Sanders, in the aforementioned speech, channeled mainstream liberal opinion when he pointed out Trump's second nascent constitutional violation: that is, violating the separations of powers by disrespecting and demeaning the judiciary. To his point, Trump has called judges he disagrees with "so-called judges." He has made racist remarks about a judge presiding over the lawsuit against Trump University. And, as with the media, Trump appears to resent the checks that the courts impose on his authority.
But how did Obama, the constitutional law professor, regard the separation of powers in this country? In terms of civil liberties, we might also ask: How did Obama regard the constitutional right to due process?
Perhaps Obama's most flagrant violation of the Constitution occurred when he ordered the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was a US-born imam whose sermons and lectures became widely popular throughout the English-speaking Muslim world during the 1990s and 2000s. For much of his life, Awlaki opposed terrorism and violent jihad. After 9/11, President George W. Bush even called upon Awlaki to join a coalition of American imams publicly opposing terrorism. But as the "war on terror" dragged on, and with the disastrous and criminal US/UK invasion and occupation of Iraq, Awlaki became more and more radicalized, eventually calling for violent jihad against the United States. Awlaki moved to Yemen and continued sermonizing, praising groups like Al Qaeda for their bloody resistance to US hegemony in the region.
It's worth noting that praising Al Qaeda publicly is not itself a crime. In fact, it is protected free speech under the First Amendment. One can, of course, morally disagree, but as a legal matter, a president cannot legally arrest -- much less assassinate -- someone for praising Al Qaeda, ISIS or any other group, no matter how violent that group may be.
All of this notwithstanding, in a one-month span in 2011, Obama ordered a series of drone strikes that killed not only Awlaki, but also Awlaki's 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, who was, by all accounts, totally innocent.
Awlaki had links to Al Qaeda, expressed despicable views and glorified violence. But Awlaki was nonetheless an American citizen, and as such, he was legally entitled to due process, including the right to a trial in which he could respond to evidence against him. With his assassination of Awlaki, Obama assumed the role of judge, jury and executioner. Despite the president's assertion that "Awlaki was the leader of external operations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," and "In that role, [Awlaki] took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans," his administration steadfastly refused to make its evidence for these claims public.
So, what precedent does the killing of Awlaki set for President Trump? If President Obama killed multiple US citizens with impunity, what should we fear from President Trump, who is, by all signs, more belligerent and indifferent to the lives of Muslims? We know that Trump is already continuing (and expanding) Obama's terroristic drone wars in the Middle East. Hence Trump has already conferred upon himself the same authority as judge, jury and executioner that Obama did when it came to foreigners and, in the Awlaki family's case, US citizens. But will Trump go so far as to violate the constitutional rights of his own citizens as Obama did? This remains to be seen.
Lastly, there is Trump's affinity for dictators and his support for their repressive regimes abroad. Trump has openly embraced authoritarian rulers such as President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan of Turkey and Prime Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, both of whom have visited the White House and shook hands with the president in the Oval Office. But that's just it: What is criticized is the openness of the embrace. Where were these critics when Obama more quietly aided and abetted repressive regimes the world over, particularly in the Middle East?
Take an especially horrifying example from the final years of the Obama presidency, the period that many of his supporters celebrate as the highest point of his tenure. In the spring of 2015, Saudi Arabia, unprovoked, began bombing Yemen, supposedly targeting the Houthi rebels, which Saudi Arabia and the United States claim to be Iranian proxies. The Saudi bombing has continued up to this day with more than 10,000 civilians dead directly at the hands of the Saudis. Using US weapons and fighter jets, Saudi Arabia has committed serious war crimes according to human rights groups, hence making the US complicit in war crimes. Due to the devastation of Yemen's health, water and sanitation systems by Saudi bombing, a cholera outbreak has killed more than 1,600 people, and the Red Cross reports that there are over 300,000 more suspected cases. The UN is warning that about 19 million people are on the brink of famine. Meanwhile, the Saudis maintain their vicious, total blockade of the country, which depends on imports for 90 percent of its food.
There can be no serious debate over the fact that the US has given Saudi Arabia support that makes it possible for it to starve and slaughter the people of Yemen in the face of the entire world. In the course of his presidency, Barack Obama approved an estimated $115 billion in arms sales to the Saudis, including the sale of cluster munitions, which are considered illegal by most countries on the planet. And Obama continued to approve weapons sales to Saudi Arabia even after its act of open aggression in Yemen. The flow of arms, the refueling of Saudi jets and the sharing of intelligence continued over the course of the next 18 months as the civilian death toll mounted and human rights groups were alleging more and more war crimes committed by the Saudis.
All of us on the left have heard how openly the Trump administration has disregarded human rights concerns. Trump literally did the war dance with the Saudi leadership. Obama, in contrast, made the politically correct rhetorical flourishes. Hence, former White House press secretary Josh Earnest was quite correct when he said, apropos his blocking some weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, that Obama had "long expressed some very significant concerns about the high rate of civilian casualties" in the Yemeni conflict. Yes, in fact Obama had expressed concerns, just as he expressed opposition to Israeli settlement development in the West Bank, and promised us that he would only authorize drone strikes when there was a "near certainty" of avoiding civilian casualties. Contrary to this rhetoric, though, none of the above statements turned out to be true in fact: The billions of dollars of military aid continued to flow to Israel even though Israel, like Saudi Arabia, is a known violator of international law; and US drone strikes continued to take the lives of scores of innocent civilians.
We cannot exonerate Obama for the same crimes that we upbraid Trump for committing. We must recognize Obama's major infringement on the freedom of the press, denial of citizens' right to due process, and alliances with dictators and waging of endless war -- crimes that Trump is already (or will likely soon be) guilty of as well. Forgetting and/or forgiving these crimes of the past invites their reincarnation in the present, and that's not something we can afford.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Zak Witus is a freelance writer based in metro Detroit. Zak is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan, where he studied Cognitive Science and Art History. His research and writing post-graduation have focused on US foreign policy and international relations, particularly the US role in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Zak currently works on an urban farm on the East Side of Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @ZakWitus.
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, August 13, 2017

No Fire, No Fury: Common Security Diplomacy to Resolve US-North Korean Crisis

Friday, August 11, 2017

No Fire, No Fury: Common Security Diplomacy to Resolve US-North Korean Crisis

We face a situation with dangerous parallels to the period leading to the Guns of August in 1914

We need to do all that we can to bring reason to bear with Common Security diplomacy that can bring these two nuclear powers back from the brink and to establish the basis for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
"We need to do all that we can to bring reason to bear with Common Security diplomacy that can bring these two nuclear powers back from the brink and to establish the basis for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia." (Photo: Flickr/CC)

   President Trump’s off the cuff and extremely dangerous and outrageous threat to devastate North Korea with “fire and fury… unlike the world has ever seen” is bringing us to the brink of the unthinkable. There is no military solution to the dangers posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  We need to do all that we can to bring reason to bear with Common Security diplomacy that can bring these two nuclear powers back from the brink and to establish the basis for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

  At a time when even his Secretary of State was raising the possibility of conditional U.S.-DPRK negotiations, with ignorance and brutal arrogance President Trump ratcheted up the confrontation in ways that make it more difficult for Kim Jung-Un to compromise without losing face. Regardless of whether Trump’s threat was simply braggadocio in the tradition of Kim Jun-Un or an attempt to divert attention in the U.S. from his cratering poll numbers and the possibility of his being indicted or impeached, he is sleepwalking the world toward catastrophe. With China indicating that it would intervene on North Korea’s behalf in Trump launches a regime change war, we face a situation with dangerous parallels to the period leading to the Guns of August in 1914.

"Regardless of whether Trump’s threat was simply braggadocio in the tradition of Kim Jun-Un or an attempt to divert attention in the U.S. from his cratering poll numbers and the possibility of his being indicted or impeached, he is sleepwalking the world toward catastrophe."

   Except this time, the guns could be either side’s nuclear armed missiles.
Unlike 1914, the terms for diplomatic solution of this crisis have already been identified and enjoy considerable international support, including from elite sectors and grassroots activists across the United States:  As William Perry, Richard Hass, Bruce Cummings and others have urged, the U.S. must commit to direct negotiations with the North Korean government. The goal would be an agreement whereby the Kim regime freezes its missile and nuclear tests; the U.S., South Korea and Japan halt their provocative joint military exercises, and all sides would commit to ending the Korean War with negotiation of a peace agreement.
In crisis, there is opportunity.

   The U.S.-North Korean confrontation has been described as a “Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” On one side is North Korea’s “relentless” and unacceptable drive to build its nuclear arsenal and its more recent threat to devastate Guam, whose innocent Chamorro population never invited the U.S. military to occupy their nation with massive military bases.  On the other side are the mixed signals emanating from President Trump and his administration which have exacerbated the crisis. At various times, President Trump has vowed that North Korea will never achieve the capability to attack the United States, although this has now apparently been achieved. He and his Secretary of States have expressed a willingness to meet and negotiate with Kim Jung-un, while simultaneously threating to take severe actions against North Korea, piling on sanctions and threatening “regime change.”

   As Bruce Cummings, the leading U.S. scholar of Korean history teaches, the Kim regime is ruthless and brutal, but it is not reckless. Nor is it suicidal. Instead, its priorities and nuclear arsenal are designed to preserve the “divine” Kim Dynasty and North Korean sovereignty, with development of the North Korean economy an important but secondary priority. 

   True, like the United States, Russia, China and the other nuclear powers, Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal will be a threat to everyone within range of its missiles. But to overcome the crisis, its root must be addressed: the lingering wounds of Japan’s brutal decades-long colonization of Korea, U.S. destruction of more than 90% of the North’s buildings and structures during the Korean War, the many times the U.S. has prepared and/or threatened to initiate nuclear attacks against North Korea, the failure of W. Bush’s and Obama’s benign neglect of Pyongyang, and Obama’s and Trump’s simulated nuclear attacks against the DPRK.  And, having taken lessons from U.S. regime change wars in Iraq and Libya, Kim Jun-Un will not lightly trade away his nuclear arsenal.

"Before Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un paint themselves into nuclear corners from which they and we cannot escape, in every way that we can imagine we need to urge them and those around them to step back from the brink."

  As former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, former head of State Department Policy Planning and many others note, adopting a policy of deterrence against North Korea carries considerable dangers, especially that it could spur nuclear weapons proliferation, in Japan and South Korea. With Seoul within range of hundreds of North Korean artillery positions, not to mention its nuclear capabilities, a U.S. preemptive or preventive attacks would be catastrophic, leading to the loss of millions of lives in Korea, Northeast Asia, and likely beyond. The only alternative is direct U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang.

  Consistent with North Korean, Chinese and Russian proposals—under the cover of “creative diplomacy”—the Common Security approach seeks a near-term freeze in North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenals in exchange for halting threatening U.S.-South Korean military exercises and finally ending the Koran War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Agreement. Negotiations for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula could then be pursued on the basis of the improved relations and increased trust.

  With Moon Jae-in’s election, his commitment to negotiations, and his commitment to framing a negotiation plan for the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, Trump—if he lasts in office—may have no alternative but to pursue the diplomatic option.

   In 1962, the U.S. and the Soviet Union went “eyeball to eyeball” in their nuclear confrontation, with figures in the Kennedy Administration stating they believe the chances that the U.S. would initiate a nuclear exchange at between one-third and one-half. We now know that such an exchange would have brought on nuclear winter, ending all life as we know it.  We are here because a face saving solution was found with public and secret compromises.  Before Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un paint themselves into nuclear corners from which they and we cannot escape, in every way that we can imagine we need to urge them and those around them to step back from the brink. The challenge is to unleash the popular forces in the United States and the necessary diplomatic pressure from European Asian nations.

  The time to act is now.

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Joseph Gerson

Dr. Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends Service Committee in New England. His most recent book is Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World. His previous books include The Sun Never Sets and With Hiroshima Eyes.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs