United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

LECTURE: The political rhetoric of perpetual war

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In this essay, recently retired UW-Tacoma prof Rob Crawford analyzes the presidential campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  --  He concludes:  "Clinton is committed to the ideology of American exceptionalism; Trump is hoping to win over the nationalist, whatever-it-takes, xenophobic sector of the electorate; he wants to rip off this mask of justification which has been the ideological foundation of the national security state and put in its place the justification of 'what’s in it for us.'"  --  "[U]nlike Clinton, Trump’s entire candidacy is a call to war."  --  As for ISIS, "both candidates . . . have embraced the proposition that ISIS poses a grave and imminent threat to the U.S. and they have pledged to 'defeat and destroy' it. . . . This is the recipe for a 'forever war' with ISIS or with its next incarnation."[1]  --  Crawford's essay is adapted from a talk delivered to a meeting of the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation on Sept. 18; it was posted by CounterPunch on Sept. 26....


NEWS: DOJ phase-out of private prisons doesn't apply to states, ICE, halfway houses, or US marshals

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On Aug. 18 56-year-old Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates of the U.S. Dept. of Justice issued a two-page memo instructing department officials "to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or 'substantially reduce' the contracts’ scope," the Washington Post reported.[1]  --  "They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security," Yates wrote.  --  The goal, in Yates's words:  "reducing -- and ultimately ending -- our use of privately operated prisons."  --  The memo presented the use of private prisons by the Dept. of Justice as the consequence of a rapid rise in the federal prison population that is now in decline, "from nearly 220,000 inmates in 2013 to fewer than 195,000 inmates today."  --  The director of the ACLU National Prison Project called the announcement "historic and groundbreaking.  --  For the last 35 years, the use of private prisons in this country has crept ever upward, and this is a startling and major reversal of that trend, and one that we hope will be followed by others."  --  But Matt Zapotosky and Chico Harlan noted that "While experts said the directive is significant, privately run federal prisons house only a fraction of the overall population of inmates.  --  The vast majority of the incarcerated in America are housed in state prisons -- rather than federal ones -- and Yates’ memo does not apply to any of those, even the ones that are privately run.   --  Nor does it apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are technically in the federal system but not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons." ...

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 August 2016 04:40

BACKGROUND: Understanding where pandemics come from

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Sonia Shah is a 47-year-old independent journalist who has already written a series of interesting books including Between Fear and Hope: A Decade of Peace Activism (1992), Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire (1999), Crude: The Story of Oil (Seven Stories Press, 2004), The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients (New Press, 2006), and The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Picador, 2011).  --  This year she published Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016).  --  In a review published in the New York Review of Books in June, malaria expert Annie Sparrow said that while the publication of her book might seem opportunistic, given the recent Zika outbreak, in fact Shah's work "represents six years’ work and considerable prescience."[1]  --  Essentially, Shah explains, civilization is the cause of pandemics.  --  (Particularly Christian civilization, since "Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews all have built hygiene into their daily rituals, but Christianity is remarkable for its lack of prescribed sanitary practices.")  --  Civilization brings about the "unnatural confinement and proximity" of animals, which "provides pathogens with the opportunities not only to mutate rapidly but also to jump species."  --  "[D]evelopment, urbanization, and population growth transform harmless animal microbes into human pathogens. . . . the environment -- biological, social, political, and economic -- is both the source and driver of today’s emerging diseases."  --  "Pandemics are caused by zoonoses -- diseases that 'jump' from animals to humans.  --  Historically, this was a slow process, requiring considerable personal contact.  --  Malaria took millennia to make the leap from primates to mankind.  --  About ten thousand years ago, the dawn of agriculture and the domestication of livestock led to new levels of intimacy between humans and animals, which encouraged the emergence of our most familiar microbes.  --  Cows gave us measles and TB; pigs gave us pertussis; ducks gave us influenza."  --  In other words, it's just natural selection doing its usual thing.  --  Such pathogens play a wider role than is generally realized.  --  "Many of our most familiar diseases are set off or directly caused by pathogens.  --  Viruses lie behind at least 25 percent of all cancers.  --  Cervical cancer, for example, the second-most-common cancer among women worldwide, is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).  --  Infestation by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori is a common cause of ulcers, but also causes gastric cancer and lymphoma.  --  Epstein-Barr virus causes Burkitt’s lymphoma, leukemia, and gastric, breast, and ovarian cancer.  --  Hepatitis B and C cause liver cancer.  --  Herpes virus can cause brain tumors and Kaposi’s sarcoma.  --  Even psychiatric diseases are linked to pathogens:  a few years after influenza outbreaks, schizophrenia is more commonly diagnosed."  --  Another theme of Shah's book is that governments (another product of civilization) have not been good at facing up to pandemics.  --  In the present context, it is important to know that "The structure of the World Health Organization . . . lends itself to giving priority to governmental preferences over public health needs."  --  "Shah’s book should be required reading for anyone working in global health," Sparrow concludes, emphasizing the importance of vaccination campaigns, particularly universal measles vaccination, and inveighing against "the false and financially motivated connection made in 1998 between the measles vaccine and autism has permanently damaged the eradication effort." ...

Last Updated on Friday, 19 August 2016 21:34

FORUM: 'There has never been U.S. isolationism' (Andrew Bacevich)

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Only one thing emerges with clarity in the lengthy conversation of six experts on contemporary international relations published in the September issue of Harper's:  that international relations in the first quarter of the twenty-first century are in a state of utter confusion.[1]  --  Each of the participants has his or her own axe to grind, and nothing particularly of note emerges from the discussion.  --  All the participants are inclined to agree that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq have been "catastrophic," but no rewind button is available and there is little agreement about what follows from that premise.  --  Andrew Bacevich's spirited refutation of the notion that the United States has ever been "isolationist" comes at the end of the long colloquy and for this reader constituted its most notable portion....


BOOKS: Winston Churchill, the adulatory legend and the elusive reality

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A banker who last year published a book that took as its subject Winston Churchill's finances and which was reviewed in June in the New York Review of Books said that "I have never encountered risk-taking on Churchill’s scale."[1]  --  In general, writes reviewer Geoffrey Wheatcraft, in his private affairs Churchill "defied every idea of sanctity of contract, or even of gentlemanly behavior."  --  "[H]e was spendthrift beyond imagining."  --  "[H]e was always years behind with his cigar merchant’s accounts, as with those of every other tradesman."  --  In the period 1929-1937 when Churchill was out of politics, he turned his home at Chartwell into a "a veritable word factory, with a team of researchers and ghostwriters, notably Edward Marsh, a fastidious civil servant and patron of the arts, and an obscure journalist, Adam Marshall Diston"; even the preface to his Thoughts and Adventures was ghost-written.  --  Also reviewed by Wheatcraft is a biography of Churchill's wife, Clementine, revealing that "at the height of the [World W]ar [II] the American ambassador to the Court of St. James’s was sleeping with the prime minister’s daughter, and the president’s special envoy was sleeping with the prime minister’s daughter-in-law.  --  Special relationships indeed.  --  The ambassador was Gil Winant, a former Republican governor of New Hampshire, a very popular replacement for the old monster Joseph Kennedy.   --  He discreetly took up with Sarah, [Churchill's 30-year-old daughter]."  --  The other relationship referred to was Pamela Churchill, the wife of Churchill's son Randolph, and Averill Harriman, the Democratic power broker; Harriman and Pamela Churchill would ultimately marry, in 1971, and Pamela Harriman remained an important player in Democratic party politics to the end of her life, serving as Bill Clinton's U.S. ambassador to France in 1993-1997.  --  From the two books, "a sharp dissonance emerges between Churchill as the jovial bulldog of popular American imagination and the somber reality of a life scarred by bitterness and tragedy:  in all, suicides close to Churchill included a brother-in-law, a former stepfather, a daughter’s estranged lover, a former daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and a daughter."  --  Clementine was ultimately hospitalized for depression.  --  Nevertheless, Churchill's historical importance is indubitable, and he "abides still, a vast looming presence, defying the biographer, his greatness matched by his meanness, his nobility by his brutality, his courage by his rapacity; 'the man of the century,' and as elusive as ever." ...


BACKGROUND: Are we going to Scarborough Shoal?

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A long-simmering international dispute has been threatening to boil over in the South China Sea as China asserts itself more and more forcefully and unilaterally there.  --  In a July primer, the BBC summarized the background of the dispute, which purports to be about the sovereignty of island groups but is really about control of natural resources and shipping routes.[1]  --  In its own review, the Council on Foreign Relations noted that "Washington’s defense treaty with Manila could draw the United States into a China-Philippines conflict over the substantial natural gas deposits in the disputed Reed Bank or the lucrative fishing grounds of the Scarborough Shoal," 100 miles from the Philippines and 500 miles from the Chinese mainland.  [2]  --  Last week, two Chinese scholars published two articles in shaky English defending China, criticizing U.S. policy, and claiming that China had been "deliberately humiliated."[3]  --  On Aug. 2, WSWS called attention to a Chinese article warning Australia against meddling in the dispute, and noted that "The Chinese foreign ministry announced last week that China and Russia would conduct naval exercises in the South China Sea in September.  --  While the two navies have held joint war games before, next month’s operations are far from 'routine' as claimed by spokesman Yang Yujun.  --  In the wake of The Hague ruling, the U.S. could well seize on the opportunity to once again raise tensions in the strategic waters.  --  Russia has backed China’s claims in the South China Sea."[4] ...

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United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).