Friday, January 19, 2018

Report: Tom Cotton Legally Warns Some Constituents Not to Express Opinions

Friday, 19 January 2018 05:39

Report: Tom Cotton Legally Warns Some Constituents Not to Express Opinions

tomcottonjpg13Tom Cotton should not be a public servant if he has contempt for his constituents.

  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) is a reliable supporter of Donald Trump. He recently was one of two senators who implausibly claimed, during a meeting on DACA, that Trump did not use a highly derogatory and profane term about majority non-white nations. In short, Cotton almost certainly lied to provide the president with cover for wanton bigotry. Charles Pierce writes of Cotton and Trump in the January 16 Esquire: "The two of them share an instinct for vicious, self-serving political utilitarianism, an overweening ambition far beyond their actual talents, and a casual disinterest in the truth if it conflicts with expedience."

  It is not, therefore, surprising that Cotton and Trump share an intolerance toward those individuals and groups that disagree with them. Of course, it is one of the most basic assumptions of democracy that constituents can communicate their concerns and criticisms to their representatives through a variety of means, such as emails, letters, the telephone and protests. This ability for constituents to express their views is one of the most vital ingredients in a robust democracy.

  However, Cotton -- a Tea Party favorite -- apparently doesn't believe that such communication is welcome, when it comes to those who take issue with his positions. The Arkansas Times reported on January 18 that Cotton's Washington, DC office has been issuing cease-and-desist letters to some of his Arkansas residents, warning them not to contact Cotton. The official Senate letter reads:

   This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton.

  All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police.

The Office of US Senator Tom Cotton

   Not only is Cotton's office demanding that unwanted dissenters stop communicating with him, it is also threatening police action. Little Rock CBS television station KTHV quoted a Cotton staffer as saying the cease-and-desist letters are being sent "under extreme circumstances." The staffer claims the letter was only sent to one individual who used vulgar language. However, the advocacy group Ozark Indivisible claims that several threatening letters from Cotton's office were sent. This has been confirmed by the Arkansas Gazette. Thus, it does not appear to be the case of an individual being singled out. Rather, it would be an action aimed at members of an organization -- and perhaps others -- that belong to the Trump resistance movement.

   In 2015, AlterNet ran an article pinpointing "ten horrifying facts about Tom Cotton." After listing his far right positions, the article notes, "this much is clear: this freshman senator is an arrogant bully and needs a time out." Cotton took the lead early on in opposing any nuclear negotiations with Iran. He wants to increase the number of detainees at Guantánamo. According to the AlterNet article, "He thinks food-stamp recipients are 'addicts,'" and "he has opposed legislation to expand women’s rights." In short, his policies are hard to separate from Trump's.

   Given the mailing of cease-and-desist letters to selected residents of Arkansas who contact his office, it appears Cotton and Trump share another characteristic besides general public policies: an inability to accept criticism as public servants.

   The Washington Press wrote an article on the Cotton cease-and-desist letter affair, in which it stated:

   As the Republican Party has turned further and further from even pretending to represent their voters’ interests and devoting themselves wholly to their puppet masters in the plutocracy, their efforts to dismiss and ignore the constituents they ostensibly represent grow more shameless by the day.

   Republicans en masse have refused to hold town hall meetings, called the police on protestors, and even literally run with their tails between their legs to avoid talking to their angry voters.

   The Arkansas Times, in its article on the controversial letters to constituents, reported:
Yesterday, demonstrators -- self-identified as being from "****hole countries" -- were asked to leave Cotton's Washington office after a noisy encounter with staff members who told them they'd be arrested for unlawful entry if they didn't leave. They did, chanting "Dream Act Now."

   Like Trump, Cotton apparently believes that representing people in government means intimidating them.

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

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 19 - May 6, 2018

 36] Mobilize for the Dream Act – Jan. 19
37] MFSB meeting – Jan. 19
38] Peace vigil at White House – Jan. 19
39] WIB peace vigil – Jan. 19
40] Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions – Jan. 19
41] Black Lives Matter vigil – Jan. 19
42] Film THE STONES CRY OUT – Jan. 19
43] Afterimage Requiem – Jan. 19 – Feb. 1
44] Ballroom Dancing – Jan. 19
45] Anne Arundel County NAACP - Monthly Meeting – Jan. 20
46] Women’s March - Newark – Jan. 20
47] Women’s March – Baltimore -- Jan. 20
48] West Chester peace vigil – Jan. 20
49] Annapolis Women's March 2018 – Jan. 20
50] First Member Orientation -- Jan. 20
51] Montgomery Solar Co-op Launch Party – Jan. 20
53] Call Out Corruption – Jan. 20
54] Catonsville Nine Commemoration – May 4 – 6
56] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
57] Do you need any book shelves?
58] Join the Global Zero campaign
36] – On Fri., Jan. 19 at 10 AM, Time is UP! Be a part of the DC Mobilization for the DREAM Act, hosted by CASA, at Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE, WDC 20002. Congress must pass a continuing resolution by January 19th to keep the government open. Join DREAMERS from CASA and across the country to demand that any funding bill includes the DREAM Act and a Fix for TPS! Go to

37] – On Fri., Jan. 19 from 11 AM to noon, attend a MFSB Public Meeting, hosted by Maryland Families for Safe Birth at Tous Les Jours, 9380 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City 21042.  Join for coffee and learn more about MFSB's current legislative activities. Get answers and share your input on the direction MFSB is moving with legislative efforts. See

38] – On Fri., Jan. 19 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. 

39] – On Fri., Jan. 19 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.

  Another vigil is at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St, Baltimore. 21211. However, if weather is iffy, contact Anne at  Lunch will take place at 1 PM at the RPP CafĂ©, 830 W. 40th St., Baltimore 21211.

Wear black. Dress for who knows what kind of weather.  Peace signs will be available. 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 to:

40] – On Fri., Jan. 19 from 1 to 4 PM participate at the FACS 2018 Community Council Kickoff,  hosted by Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions at Providence Presbyterian Church, 9019 Little River Tpke., Fairfax 22031.  Tickets available at  Join for an afternoon of networking, fellowship, dialogue and learning, and help set the tone for a strong response from the faith community to climate justice in 2018. Hear from leaders that will bring us up-to-speed on the current status of climate advocacy at the global, state and local levels; review and discuss FACS' 2018 Strategic Plan. Participate in a workshop on climate messaging, led by George Kralovec, based on the highly rated Citizens Climate Lobby training.

41] – 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 Jan. 19. Black Lives Matter.  

42] – On Fri., Jan. 19 from 6 to 9 PM, the Baltimore-Palestine Solidarity and First and St. Stephen's United Church of Christ present a film “The Stones Cry Out” at 6915 York Rd., Baltimore 21212.  BPS is continuing the 'Mapping Palestine.' In 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinian villagers were driven from their homes in what was officially dubbed “Operation Broom,” intended to literally sweep tens of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in the fertile hills and valleys of the Galilee, and make way for settlers in the newly created state of Israel. Elias Chacour, now the Archbishop of the Galilee, was just a little boy when Israeli troops ordered his family out of the Christian village of Kifr Bir’am. He left the village with a blanket on his shoulder, walking to his new home, a cave. Today Kifr Bir’am is an Israeli national park, the houses of the village are crumbling, and the church is abandoned. After the Galilee came the expropriation of the West Bank in 1967, the settlements, the wall. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, is now hemmed in by the wall, cut off from Jerusalem, and robbed of much of its agricultural land. All too often media coverage of the conflict in Palestine has framed it as a fight between Muslims and Jews, largely ignoring the fact that Palestine was the birthplace of Christianity, that Palestinians are both Muslims and Christians, and that Palestinian Christians have played a critical role in their land’s history and the struggle to maintain its identity. From 1948 up to today, through wars and uprisings, leading Palestinian Christians, including the late President of Beir Zeit University Gabi Baramki, Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi, civil society activist Ghassan Andoni, Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah and others recount the unwavering and sometimes desperate struggle of all Palestinians to resist Israel’s occupation and stay on their land.  The film starts promptly at 6:30 PM.  Homemade Arabic food and pizza will be available before and after the film.  The suggested donation is $5. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Go to

43] – Afterimage Requiem is a large-scale visual and sound installation by Kei Ito and Andrew Paul Keiper that probes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and their intertwined family histories. The public opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Fri., Jan. 19 at 6 PM at the Baltimore War Memorial, 101 N. Gay St. # D, Baltimore 21202.  The exhibition includes 108 human-scale photograms made using sunlight, light sensitive paper and Ito’s body, evoking those lost in the bombing, and a 4-channel sound work that portrays the places and processes of the bomb’s production, and includes field recordings made at atomic heritage sites in New Mexico and Chicago.  Ito’s grandfather witnessed the explosion of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that killed his family, while Keiper’s grandfather was an engineer who contributed to the effort to develop the bomb. Their collaboration grapples with this history while asserting its pertinence to a contemporary audience living in an increasingly unstable political landscape. Ito and Keiper seek mutual understanding while contemplating the roots, sorrow and scope of the bombing. In an era of overt nuclear crisis unlike any seen in decades, Afterimage Requiem asks the audience to reflect on the ramifications of our current course, and to learn from the past.

In 2016, Ito and Keiper received the Rubys Artist Project Grant through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to create Afterimage Requiem. Creation of this work was made possible by the Rubys Artist Project grant. The Rubys were conceived and initiated with start-up funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and are a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Further support for this project comes from Full Circle Fine Art Services.

The exhibit will be on view from Jan. 19 through Feb. 1.  The War Memorial hours are Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 PM.  There will be an artist talk on Fri., Jan. 19 at 7:30 PM.  Enjoy a concert and panel discussion on Fri., Jan. 26. Visit

44] – 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 Jan. 19. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

45] –    The Anne Arundel County NAACP - Monthly Meeting is on Sat., Jan. 20 from 10 AM to noon at the Kingdom Celebration Center, 1350 Blair Dr., Odenton 21113. See

46] – On Sat., Jan. 20 at 9 AM, get over to the Women's March, Marching for a Just and Compassionate World. This will be people of all genders, many colors, faiths and traditions, young, old, differently-abled, each of us with our own story. It is taking place at Newark UU, 420 Willa Rd., Newark, DE 19711.  March at 10 AM with an 11 AM rally. See

47] – On Sat., Jan. 20 from 11 AM to 2 PM, be a part of the Women's March Baltimore 2018 at the War Memorial Plaza, 100 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202. Celebrate the anniversary of the inaugural Women's March, honoring the victories of 2017 and looking ahead to harness our collective power to MOVE FORWARD!  March eight blocks to McKeldin Square. Register at  Sign up to volunteer here See

48] – 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

49] – On Sat., Jan. 20 at 11 AM, attend the Annapolis Women's March 2018 - Mobilize Maryland. RSVP at On the Polls, hosted by WISE, at Lawyers Mall, Annapolis 21401.  Go to  Join the first anniversary Women's March and help highlight grassroots and social justice groups that have been doing so much great work over the last year and are continuing to do so, especially the communities who may not have been represented in last events. At noon, participants will march from Lawyer's Mall through downtown Annapolis to Susan Campbell Park at City Dock.

Supporting organizations and speaker sources are Action Annapolis, Anne Arundel County Indivisible, Anne Arundel Huddle Network, Connecting The Dots, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, Flip The County, Get Money Out – Maryland, March On, Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women, PFLAG Anne Arundel County, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Progressive Maryland, Take Action AAC, Together We Will, and WISE.

50] – On Sat., Jan. 20 from 11 AM to 4:30 PM, 2018’s First Member Orientation will happen at Urbana Regional Library, 9020 Amelung St., Frederick 21074.  There will be a 45-minute break for lunch. Please plan to bring or buy your lunch; there are restaurants available in the shopping center adjacent to the library.   RSVP at  Get energized and engaged in the New Year by joining us for the first Progressive Maryland member orientation of 2018!  Progressive Maryland's member orientation is a great way to connect you with other members of your community who want to make positive change. You'll learn about what Progressive Maryland does, how we build power to influence issues and elections, and how you can get more involved in local organizing work. Contact Brandy Brooks, Leadership Development Organizer, at

51] – The Montgomery Solar Co-op Launch Party is on Sat., Jan. 20 from noon to 2 PM at
Denizens Brewing Company, 1115 East West Highway, Silver Spring 20910.RSVP at

52] – On Sat., Jan. 20 at 1 PM, the SURJ Legislative Day will be at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, University Parkway and N. Charles St., Baltimore.  You must RSVP at  This is a day of education, training, and planning for the Maryland legislative session. The agenda will include presentations from accountability partners including Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Out for Justice, and CASA. SURJ Baltimore is a chapter of the national organization Showing Up for Racial Justice (  The goal as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society.

53] – These democrats love NSA spying.  We need to vote out these pro-surveillance, Orwellian politicians. Just a few days ago, the House voted in favor of Trump’s expansion of our authoritarian and Orwellian mass-surveillance program. 65 Democrats voted for the bill. But here's the good news. Out of our 51 Justice Democrat candidates, 31 of them are challenging members of Congress who betrayed the American people and voted for more domestic spying. Together, if we put in the work, hit the pavement, and knock on doors, I know we can win these races all over the country.

Call Out Corruption - Phone Bank House Party for Justice Democrats is happening at Drue’s place, 5063 Executive Park Drive, Ellicott City, on Sat., Jan. 20 at 2 PM.  YOU are the backbone of the Justice Democrats movement.  Take back Congress. Bring a fully charged phone and laptop. If you have a headset to speak into, bring that as well. Go to  RSVP at  Email

54] – Save the Dates.  The fiftieth anniversary of the Catonsville Nine draft board raid will be commemorated  There will be a CATONSVILLE NINE SYMPOSIUM on FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2018 from 4 to 10 PM at the Shriver Center, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Cir, Catonsville, MD 21250. Enjoy Films, Lectures, Discussion Panels and Dramatic Readings.  There will be more CATONSVILLE NINE COMMEMORATION ACTIVITIES on SATURDAY, MAY 5, 2018 from 9 AM to 2 PM at the Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Branch, 1100 Frederick Rd., Catonsville, MD 21228.  Enjoy more Films, Lectures, Discussion Panels and Dramatic Readings.  On Sun., May 6 there will be an opportunity to engage in direct action and later participate in a prayer service.  Go to


After 44 years of resisting weapons and war, Jonah House is Baltimore is in danger of shutting down. Two of the three core members have announced their intention to leave the community as of May 2018. That leaves one core member, Joe Byrne, who will remain to recruit and re-form intentional community. But if no one steps forward, Jonah House will have to close.

Jonah House was founded by Phil Berrigan, Liz McAlister, and others, in 1973, during the Vietnam War. It was a center of resistance to that war. When the war ended, the focus of resistance became the nuclear arms race. This resistance blossomed into the Plowshares movement. Jonah House members have spent years in jail for Plowshares disarmament actions. Other members have spent years supporting them, and doing the work of the community in their absence. Resistance to weapons and war continues at Jonah House. More recently, Jonah House has also become involved in racial justice efforts in Baltimore, and the environmental justice movement.

Jonah House is planted in the middle of a 22-acre, mostly-wooded cemetery in West Baltimore called St. Peter’s. Maintaining and slowly restoring St. Peter’s Cemetery is the work that pays the bills for the community. Jonah House also uses the property to serve the living as well as honor the dead. Our gardens and orchards feed the Jonah House community, and the surrounding neighborhood community, via a food pantry and weekly food distribution to low-income neighbors. We envision the cemetery—particularly the 11-acre forest patch—as a haven for the people of the neighborhood, international peace activists, and numberless living beings.

Jonah House is also an interfaith spiritual community. We pray or meditate together daily, and our spiritual practice informs and empowers everything we do, whether in the fields or in the streets.

To continue the vision, Jonah House is looking for a few new core members willing to commit to a two-year stint. We are also open to short- and long-term interns (3 months to a year). The work of radical peacemaking, direct service to the poor, and stewarding the land requires workers. We pray that God will send laborers to the vineyard (yes, we have that too) and that Jonah House will continue to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable for another 44 years!  For more information, call 443-804-3410, or email us at

56] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs, records, tarps and table cloths, contact Max at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski2001 at

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

58] -- 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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nuclear Annihilation and the Wisdom of Mass Salvation

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nuclear Annihilation and the Wisdom of Mass Salvation

Mutually assured destruction is not wisdom. It’s playing with global holocaust.
Incoming! Incoming!

    Uh . . . pardon me while I interrupt this false alarm to quote Martin Luther King:
“Science investigates,” he says in The Strength To Love, “religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

   These words stopped me in my tracks on MLK Day. They seemed to fill a hole in the breaking news, which never quite manages to balance power with wisdom, or even acknowledge the distinction.

   Our relationship to power is unquestioned, e.g.: “In the United States itself, there are around [nuclear] 4,500 warheads, of which approximately 1,740 are deployed,” Karthika Sasikumar writes at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Even more worrying, around 900 of these are on hair-trigger alert, which means that they could be launched within 10 minutes of receiving a warning (which could turn out to be a false alarm). . . .

   “The threat to the United States is very real, but fattening the nuclear arsenal is not a rational response. The United States already has 100 times as many warheads as North Korea. . . .”

   The U.S. has enormous power, but so what? Such data is almost never addressed in the mainstream media — certainly not in the context of . . . disarmament. That concept is sealed shut, barred from the consciousness of generals and news anchors. Certainly it didn’t come up in the coverage of what happened last Saturday in Hawaii, when an employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency hit the wrong link on his computer screen during a shift change and an incoming-missile alert went statewide, throwing residents and tourists into 38 minutes of panic: “Children going down manholes, stores closing their doors to those seeking shelter and cars driving at high speeds . . .”

   Nor did it come up three days later, when a false missile alert went off in Japan, a country with a few memories of the real thing: “Within 10 seconds the fire that wiped out the city came after us at full speed. Everyone was naked. Bodies were swelling up. Some people were so deformed I couldn’t tell if they were male or female. People died screaming, ‘Please give me water!’”

   So said Emiko Okada, who was a little girl living with her family on the outskirts of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Her older sister, who had just left for school, disappeared that morning and was never seen again. Emiko tells her story in the remarkable 2010 documentary Atomic Mom.

   In a column I wrote about the movie at the time, I asked: “What if schoolchildren stood facing not the American flag every morning before class started but a photograph of a devastated Hiroshima, shortly after it was obliterated by our atomic bomb, and pledged their allegiance to the idea that such a thing will never happen again?”

  What, I wondered, if we started facing our fears instead of living in fear? To do so, we have to find wisdom in the maw of power.

   What we find instead is a president who shook up the whole planet when he called Haiti and the countries of Africa shithole nations — managing, as far as I can tell, to make the word “shithole” far more acceptable to utter in public than “disarmament.”

    But the monstrousness of the word isn’t that it used to be obscene, but rather that it does what so many other words do: renders a segment of humanity soulless: the enemy, and therefore expendable. Japan is now our ally, but when we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its people were Japs or Nips and without value.

   Is not the first step toward wisdom when it comes to a world still preposterously armed with weapons of mass destruction a national and international commitment never to dehumanize a living soul? With such a commitment in place, the obvious next step is committing never to launch a nuclear weapon, and therefore agreeing to get rid of the ones we have and, of course, refraining from developing new, more “usable” generations of nukes.

  To put it another way, mutually assured destruction is not wisdom. It’s playing with global holocaust, an outcome that may be beyond the ability of anyone, at least anyone who is not a hibakusha — an atomic bomb survivor — to imagine. Free of such paralyzing awareness, national leaders postulate how they would retaliate if attacked, as though a counterattack, killing millions more people, is in any way a sane response to a nuclear attack (or apparent attack).

   The Atlantic, in an article about the Hawaii false alarm, quoted one scholar’s tweet of a possible scenario: “POTUS sees alert on his phone about an incoming toward Hawaii, pulls out the biscuit, turns to his military aide with the football and issues a valid and authentic order to launch nuclear weapons at North Korea. Think it can’t happen?”

   Come on. With this president?

  I think it’s time to free MLK from his day of honor and put him back at the center of the national news.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at or visit his website at

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

These 18 Senate Democrats Just Voted to Hand Trump Mass Spying Powers

These 18 Senate Democrats Just Voted to Hand Trump Mass Spying Powers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 By Jake JohnsonCommon Dreams | Report

Sen. Doug Jones is seen during a photo op in the Capitol on January 3, 2018. Jones was one of 18 Democrats who voted in favor of expanding Donald Trump's warrantless spying powers. (Photo: Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Doug Jones is seen during a photo op in the Capitol on January 3, 2018. Jones was one of 18 Democrats who voted in favor of expanding Donald Trump's warrantless spying powers. (Photo: Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

   Senate Democrats had an opportunity Tuesday night to block legislation that places expanded warrantless spying powers into the hands of President Donald Trump -- who they have frequently criticized as a deranged authoritarian -- but 18 Democrats opted instead to do the opposite, providing the decisive votes in favor of a cloture motion that essentially ensures the bill's passage this week.
While many viewed the Senate's approval of cloture as a sure thing, a bit of drama ensued Tuesday night as the motion was two votes shy of the necessary 60 with two senators -- John Kennedy (R-La.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- left to vote. 
But after Kennedy opted to vote in favor of the motion, McCaskill quickly followed with a yes vote of her own -- giving the Republican majority enough votes to kill debate on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S.139), block any possible privacy amendments, and clear its path to the Senate floor.
In total, 18 Democratic senators -- as well as Angus King (I-Maine) -- voted with Republicans to move the widely denounced bill forward.
The 18 Democrats were: Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).

Democrat Claire McCaskill just made the deciding vote: she voted YES on on cutting off debate for privacy amendments to the NSA spying bill.

The bill—which expands the Trump admin's ability to conduct domestic surveillance—will now almost certainly pass.

   Civil liberties groups were quick to condemn every senator who cast a vote in favor of legislation that, if passed, will renew Section 702 of FISA, which allows the government to spy on the electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant.

   "Members of both parties who voted in favor of this legislation should be sharply rebuked for supporting a bill that is in flagrant violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution," ACLU declared on Twitter following Tuesday's vote. "Instead of instituting much needed reforms and safeguards, Senators supported legislation that would give spying powers to an administration that has time and time again demonstrated its disregard for civil rights and civil liberties."

60 Senators tonight voted to make it easier to spy on people against whom the FBI has no evidence of wrongdoing than against criminal suspects.

The Senate's vote on Tuesday came just a week after 65 House Democrats momentarily dropped their skepticism of Trump's mental capacity and voted to gift him and Attorney General Jeff Sessions the ability to conduct mass surveillance of Americans with little oversight.
What follows is a full list of the senators who voted in favor of the cloture motion Tuesday night. (Ten of the Democrats on the list are up for reelection in November.)
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This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep.
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
By Chris Spannos, ROAR Magazine | News Analysis
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pentagon planning two new nuclear weapons: report/ The Long History of War's Environmental Costs
Pentagon planning two new nuclear weapons: report
BY MAX GREENWOOD - 01/16/18 08:36 AM EST

Pentagon planning two new nuclear weapons: report
© Getty Images
The U.S. is planning to develop two new nuclear weapons, including a "low yield" warhead, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
That low-yield warhead would be used with the Trident missile, a rocket deployed on U.S. Navy submarines, according to the Journal. 
The Pentagon is also planning to develop a new nuclear-armed cruise missile that would also be deployed at sea. That plan would reintroduce a system to the U.S. nuclear arsenal that was retired in 2010. 
The recommendations for the new weapons are laid out in the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, which was commissioned last year by President Trump
HuffPost published an unclassified draft copy of the review last week, though the Pentagon has said that the draft is "pre-decisional."
Still, the plans to develop the new nuclear weapons come in response to growing military threats from Russia and China, which the Pentagon says are moving toward an embrace of nuclear weapons in their strategies.
“While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction,” a draft of the plan said, according to the Journal.
“The United States must be capable of developing and deploying new capabilities, if necessary, to deter, assure, achieve U.S. objectives if deterrence fails, and hedge against uncertainty,” it added.
At the same time, the U.S. has sought to push back against North Korea's development of its nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles, leading an international pressure campaign in an effort to force Pyongyang to abandon its plans.
The review pins the cost of the plan to modernize and operate the U.S. nuclear arsenal at 6.4 percent of the Pentagon's budget, at most, according to the Journal. It currently requires 2 to 3 percent.

By Richard Tucker, World Beyond War
Talk at No War 2017 Conference, September 23, 2017
Good morning, friends,
Nothing like this convergence has happened before. I’m so grateful to the organizers, and I’m tremendously impressed at the range of speakers and organizers who are working together this week and beyond.
The connections between military operations and our stressed biosphere are many-faceted and pervasive, but they’re generally not understood. So there’s work for us to do in many areas. One is the educational system. I’m an environmental historian by trade. As a researcher and teacher, I’ve been working for twenty years on the military dimension of environmental decline through history – not just in wartime, but in peacetime too. As Gar Smith has highlighted, it’s an old story, as old as organized societies.
But in our educational system the many-sided connections between warfare and its environmental costs hardly show up at any level. Environmental historians paid little attention to these connections until our war/environment network emerged less than ten years ago. Most of us didn’t want to study military history. Military historians have always paid attention to the natural world — as settings and shapers of mass conflict – but their work has rarely discussed the long environmental legacies of military operations. Many peace studies programs could be enriched with more environmental material.
We’re producing a steadily growing series of research studies on its history around the world that we’re listing on our website . The more we’re all aware of the impacts, both immediate and long-term, the more compelling our stories become. That’s why I’m so grateful to Gar for putting together the War and Environment Reader. I hope you’ll all get copies. Now I want to add to Gar’s presentation by emphasizing several deep historical roots of our situation.
Military priorities (for both defense and offense) have been foremost for almost every society and state system through history. Those priorities have shaped political organizations, economic systems, and societies. There have always been arms races, managed by the state and produced by the military industry’s work force. But in the 20th century the distortions of entire economies have been unprecedented in scale. We live now in the Warfare State that was created in World War II and sustained by the Cold War. Our ten-author book on the environmental history of the Second World War in the U. S. probes that; it will be published next year.
Looking back into our longer history, I want to highlight the tangled situation of civilians in wartime — civilians as both victims and supporters of military operations. Here’s where we find many critical connections between people’s lives and environmental damage in both wartime and peacetime.
One central link is Food and Agriculture: Farm populations have regularly suffered severely in wartime, as military columns sweep across the land, requisitioning supplies, burning buildings, destroying crops – and damaging landscapes. These campaigns escalated with the coming of industrial warfare in the nineteenth century. Scorched earth campaigns were notorious in the American Civil War. In World War I agricultural disruptions and severe civilian malnutrition were central to almost every region of Europe and the Middle East, as we trace in our multi-author global environmental history of World War I that will also be in print next year. It’s a perennial issue that links civilian populations to environmental stress
Speaking of scorched earth campaigns, let’s consider deliberate environmental war a bit more. Counter-insurgency campaigns, designed to cripple civilian support of insurgents, have repeatedly caused deliberate environmental damage. The use of chemical weapons in Vietnam was derived in part from colonial-war strategies of the British and French, who in turn had studied American strategy in the conquest of the Philippines around 1900. Similar strategies go back through history at least to ancient Greece.
Many wartime upheavals have caused mass refugee movements.   In modern times they’re usually well reported – except for the environmental dimension. Environmental stress intensifies wherever people are forced to leave their homes, and along their escape routes, and where they land. One appalling example, discussed in our newly published multi-author volume The Long Shadows: A Global Environmental History of the Second World War, was China, where tens of millions of refugees fled their homes between 1937 and 1949. Several of us are now studying other cases in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In recent years war’s refugees and environmental refugees are merging into an unprecedented flow of seventy million dislocated people. Environment is both cause and result of these massive migrations.
This leads me to Civil Wars, which blur distinctions between combatants and civilians; environmental damage has been a factor in every one of them. However — over the past century not one was merely internal; all of them have been fed by the international arms trade. The environmental links to Resource Wars and the machinations of industrial powers in fighting to control strategic resources should be obvious. These neo-imperial wars, that use local people as surrogates, are environmental conflicts. (Thanks to Michael Klare, Philippe LeBillon in Vancouver, and others, for their important work on this subject.) So when we study the more than fifty “civil” wars of the past century, we must never ignore the global weapons market. (SIPRI).
Here I want to change my tone for a minute, to consider a somewhat more encouraging topic. Sometimes there have been heart-warming stories of victims working together in resilience, in situations that link militarized economies with public health crises and citizens’ environmental protests. In several Soviet Republics in the glasnost-perestroika era that followed the Chernobyl disaster, grassroots organizations emerged overnight when Gorbachev opened the window for public debate. By 1989 neighbors could publicly organize to protest toxic and radioactive disease and link them to broader environmental troubles. A new study from Kiev will soon tell that story specifically for Ukraine, where NGOs organized quickly and linked immediately to international organizations such as Greenpeace, and to their own expatriates in Canada, the US, and western Europe. But it’s hard to sustain a movement, and recent news has been less encouraging. When a regime discourages its people from international connections, as is happening now in Hungary, environmental action is made more difficult.
Finally, we come to the environmental deterioration that merges all the rest: Climate Change. The military’s contribution to global warming has a history, but it hasn’t yet been studied systematically. Barry Sanders’s powerful book, The Green Zone, is one important effort. Military planners – in the US, NATO countries, India, China, Australia — are working hard on today’s reality. But the full history of the fossil fuel era can’t be understood adequately until we see more clearly what the military segment has been, both consuming fossil fuels and shaping the global political economy of coal, oil, and natural gas.
In sum, when we recognize these and many other connections between militarism and the environment, throughout our history, it makes the case for our work all the more compelling, both in the classroom and in shaping everyone’s consciousness of the complexity and high stakes of our challenging times.
So, how to move forward into the times ahead? Resilience and recovery are also important parts of the historical record – human and environmental damage has often been repaired, at least partially. I haven’t said much about that dimension of our environmental history; it deserves much more attention. I’m happy that this weekend we have the chance to work together to find new and strengthened forms of resistance and renewal.
Our historical project’s website is being revised and expanded this season. It includes an expanding bibliography and a sample of syllabi. We want the site to be increasingly useful for today’s campaigners. I welcome suggestions for how to do that.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for
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