EMERGENCY PETITION (will be delivered January 1st. : to get justice for Oscar Grant – after his family has waited for 11 years the family and the community demanded the reopening of the Oscar Grant case, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley agreed but has yet to file charges. We’re going to deliver petition signatures on January 1st.
Over a decade ago, Oscar Grant was just 22 years old when a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer shot and killed him at a train station. Since then, a stack of evidence has emerged that shows Officer Anthony Pirone was largely responsible for Oscar’s death. But he was never charged for murder.
See event # 3
2. Trump’s shameful pardon spree: Congress must investigate
As the global COVID-19 death toll mounts, the debates rage on. Masks, or no masks? This drug, or that one? Send kids to school, or keep them home?
Absent from most of the mainstream coverage of COVID-related issues is the life-or-death conversation we should be having: How do we make sure that this—or something much worse—never happens again?
It’s time to end the reckless genetic engineering and weaponizing of pathogenic viruses and organisms, carried out under the guise of “biomedicine” and “biodefense,” by demanding an immediate and total global ban all gain-of-function research.
4. Support Parole and Compassionate Release for Dr. Mutulu Shakur
Join editors and publishers from the city’s leading independent news outlets for a discussion about why their work is essential.
About this Event
The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the bottom lines of the city’s news publishers yet their work is now more important than ever. Please join us for a discussion among the editors and publishers of the city’s leading independent news outlets about the critical importance.
Black Liberation – – Black Lives Matter – – Indigenous Sovereignty – – Land Back
– the event is organized by Bay Area activists – our intention: this is a STATEWIDE call to action for unification on the cause of BLACK LIBERATION. we don’t want the movement to disperse or deplete any longer. we must unite and organize as ONE in order to bring a brighter light to our communities, lives taken from us, and our fight for abolition to a NATIONAL level.
As we gather on this day of new beginnings to address the people, on what steps we will be taking next as a collective going into this new and sacred year. A call to all oppressed Nations peoples that have suffered under this reign of terror and its cruel rulers the United States Government. It is time we shine light on the urgency to separate political bands with this system and to institute a new system that will protect our freedom , our dignity, and our future. A new system for the People, by the People that will protect us all with the same Military structure only new leadership that will no longer be based solely on world domination and dictatorship.
For Decades if not Centuries now this Leadership has showed us why it is written that a Revolution is the duty of the People to carryout once a system becomes destructive and or threatens the safety of the People without cause. These cruel rulers have showed us that they do not have our Children’s wellbeing, health, our safety or our future in their greatest interest.
5. Monday, 12Noon – 1:00pm, Drop The Charges Against Assange & Snowden: Free Them NOW!
(In person demo)
British Consulate 1 Sansome St. (nr. Market St.) SF
JULIAN ASSANGE EXTRDITION HEARING VERDICT RELEASE
Judge Vanessa Baritser, who is presiding over Julian Assange’s extradition hearings, had acknowledged the political nature of Assange’s hearings and decided not to rule until after the U.S. Presidential election on November 3rd.
This decision will have lasting impacts on journalism in the U.S. and globally.
Now is the time to stand up for the freedom of journalist Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden. The trial decision will be read at the UK court hearing on January 4, 2020 at 12 noon and we will be rallying in San Francisco at the British consulate to demand that he be immediately freed.
He is a journalist who is in jail for exposing the crimes of US, British imperialism and the multi-nationals that run the world. WikiLeaks has taken the mask off the real criminals and terrorists running the US government.
We demand that all charges be dropped against him and Edward Snowden who is also faced with being arrested for being a whistleblower against the crimes of the US war machine.
Join us, along with #Candles4Assange events world wide.
Bring signs/banners if you have them, but mainly bring yourself.
Join if are a tenant and/or a tenant advocate with questions about your rights and to learn about what is happening regarding our #CancelRent campaign!
EVERY other TUESDAY from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
What to expect: * Share updates on local, regional, state and national policies * We will answer questions and concerns * It will be space for sharing stories and popular education * Collectively strategize to #CancelRent
This report was written by David Sirota, Walker Bragman and Andrew Perez
As the fight to provide one-time $2,000 survival checks crescendos in Washington, it can be difficult to grasp the size of the figures being thrown around. Can our country afford the proposal? Is the cost worth it?
Let’s look at the economic and social devastation unfolding throughout the country. Even before the pandemic, 40 percent of Americans were struggling to afford at least one basic necessity and a stunning 78 percent of full-time workers were living paycheck-to-paycheck according to figures from 2017. Half a million people were counted as homeless in 2018 alone.
The pandemic has made things worse: In the spring, 22 million jobs were lost which could take as long as four years to recover without significant relief. As of June, roughly 14 million workers and their dependents had lost employer-based health insurance. The number of Americans impacted by food insecurity is now projected to hit 54 million — up from 35 million pre-pandemic. More than 14 million American households are at risk of eviction and more than 336,000 Americans have died from the virus.
One in ten adults — and one in four young adults — have considered suicide in the last year, and violent crime has risen across the country. One recent study warned that the pandemic was creating fertile ground for terrorist recruitment by inspiring “angst” in millions of people and incapacitating “major functions and institutions of world’s societies.”
So, with all of this in mind, can the world’s richest nation afford one-time $2,000 survival checks? Should Congress filibuster the defense bill for as long as it takes to force Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the aid? Is there a double standard at play when it comes to government largesse for rich people and support for everyone else? Are $2,000 checks good policy? Is Congress even listening to the public?
Read these ten stats and then you decide.
1. The total cost of $2,000 checks ($465 billion) is less than half the amount that American billionaires have made during the pandemic ($1 trillion). The total cost of the checks is less than the amount that just 16 American billionaires increased their net worth by during the pandemic ($471 billion).
2. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk gained more wealth during the pandemic ($158 billion) than Congress just authorized for additional unemployment benefits for millions of Americans ($120 billion).
3. Jeff Bezos’s personal wealth increased more every second of 2020 ($2,800) than Congress is considering giving Americans who are facing eviction, starvation and bankruptcy ($2,000).
5. It took Congress less than a month to pass legislation giving a $700 billion bailout to bank executives during the financial crisis. It has taken Congress more than 8 months to even seriously consider a far less expensive bill to give $2,000 checks to millions of Americans during this economic crisis.
6. A $2,000 survival check would give the average soldier more money than the proposed 3 percent military pay increase that is included in defense legislation that Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey are filibustering in order to force a vote on the survival checks.
8. In 2016, “children, elderly, disabled people, and students made up around 70 percent of the poor,” according to the People’s Policy Project. Unlike unemployment benefits, $2,000 checks would help them.
9. About 60 percent of Georgia households make less than $75,000, meaning Georgia Republican senators allowing $2,000 checks to be blocked would deny aid to roughly 2 million of their state’s households as they run for reelection.
10. As Republicans try to block the $2,000 check legislation, a new national survey found that 78 percent of Americans support it, even as some pundits insist that the proposal is “divisive.”
This newsletter relies on readers pitching in to support it. If you like what you just read and want to help expand this kind of journalism, consider becoming a paid subscriber by clicking this link.
During the twentieth century, America managed to make its economic and social systems both more and more fair and more and more prosperous. A huge, secure, and contented middle class emerged. All boats rose together. But then the New Deal gave way to the Raw Deal. Beginning in the early 1970s, by means of a long war conceived of and executed by a confederacy of big business CEOs, the superrich, and right-wing zealots, the rules and norms that made the American middle class possible were undermined and dismantled. The clock was turned back on a century of economic progress, making greed good, workers powerless, and the market all-powerful while weaponizing nostalgia, lifting up an oligarchy that served only its own interests, and leaving the huge majority of Americans with dwindling economic prospects and hope.
Why and how did America take such a wrong turn? In this deeply researched and brilliantly woven cultural, economic, and political chronicle, Kurt Andersen offers a fresh, provocative, and eye-opening history of America’s undoing, naming names, showing receipts, and unsparingly assigning blame—to the radical right in economics and the law, the high priests of high finance, a complacent and complicit Establishment, and liberal “useful idiots,” among whom he includes himself.
Katie Halper Note: tonight’s stream starts at 10pm EST, not 9PM EST as usual. After co-hosting a #forceTheVote town hall with Briahna Joy Gray, Katie hosts a #ForceTheVote after party show with special guests Briahna Joy Gray and town hall participants Nick Brana & Jimmy Dore.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) heads to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol building on December 20, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders is planning to filibuster the Senate’s upcoming attempt to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the annual military spending bill in an effort to force a clean vote on House-passed legislation that would provide one-time $2,000 direct payments to struggling Americans.
“This week on the Senate floor [Republican Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell wants to vote to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion defense funding bill and then head home for the New Year,” the Vermont senator said in a statement late Monday. “I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation to provide a $2,000 direct payment to the working class.”
“We can force the Senate to stay in session until the New Year. This is no bluff.” —Warren Gunnels, Sanders staff director
“Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve,” Sanders added. “Let’s do our job.”
Sanders’ statement came shortly after the Democrat-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the CASH Act, which would increase the direct payments in the new coronavirus relief law from $600 to $2,000 and include some people who were originally deemed ineligible for the checks, such as adult dependents. The measure passed by a 275-134 vote, with 44 House Republicans joining 231 Democrats in approving the bill.
Following the House vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated his intention to try to pass the CASH Act on Tuesday, declaring that “every Senate Democrat is for this relief.”
But McConnell has not committed to allowing a vote on the bill, intransigence that prompted Sanders’ vow to hold up a Senate vote to override Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House voted to override the president’s veto Monday night.
“At noon tomorrow, McConnell is expected to ask for Unanimous Consent to vote on the veto override of the $740 billion defense bill,” said Warren Gunnels, Sanders’ staff director. “Bernie will object until we get a vote on $2,000 direct payments. We can force the Senate to stay in session until the New Year. This is no bluff.”
In an interview with Politico, Sanders said that “it would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this.”
“The American people are desperate,” the Vermont senator added, “and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town.”
Politico noted that “the Vermont independent can’t ultimately stop the veto override vote, but he can delay it until New Year’s Day and make things more difficult for the GOP… Though veto overrides can be filibustered, as Sanders plans to do, it is a rare procedural move because the veto override already requires 67 votes and the filibuster is simply a delay tactic, according to the Congressional Research Service.”
While Sanders may not have the power to single-handedly kill the NDAA veto override, The AmericanProspect‘s David Dayen wrote Monday that the Vermont senator “has the procedural means at his disposal to keep the Senate in session all the way to New Year’s Day, inconveniencing senators of both parties, particularly the incumbent Republicans from Georgia, who are in their final full week of campaigning for runoff elections on January 5.”
Dayen reported that Sanders will be operating “with the backing of the Senate Democratic caucus.”
As Dayen explained:
In order to get through the week without a clean vote on the $2,000 payments, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have to object numerous times to Sanders’ pleas to bring up the bill…
The Senate operates on the principle of unanimous consent. It’s not impossible to get things done if one senator objects, but it’s quite a bit slower. The majority needs to hold votes and waste time to muscle past an objecting senator. For this reason, Sanders can prevent quick passage of the defense bill override, the only thing McConnell really wants to accomplish in the last week of the Senate session.
This ramps up pressure on McConnell to just hold a vote on the $2,000 checks. Senators don’t want to be stuck in Washington on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day if they can prevent it…
McConnell has options to eventually get to the defense bill vote. He can move to end debate, known as a cloture vote, and push past Sanders’ objection. However, he cannot do that on Tuesday, because he won’t have enough senators in the building to win a floor vote.
In a tweet late Monday, Sanders pointed to new Data for Progress polling showing that 78% of likely U.S. voters—84% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents—support a $2,000 direct relief check.
“The House approved a $2,000 direct payment,” Sanders wrote. “Let the Senate vote, Mitch!”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) leave after the weekly senate policy lunch on Capitol Hill on December 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked efforts by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic lawmakers to advance a House-approved measure that would provide one-time $2,000 direct payments to most Americans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) requested unanimous consent for immediate consideration and passage of the popular direct payments, but McConnell objected without comment.
Following the Kentucky Republican’s objection, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke up to prevent McConnell from moving ahead with Senate business, declaring that it is time for the chamber “to step up to the plate and do what the working families of this country overwhelmingly want us to do.”
“Working families need help now. Not next year, now,” said the Vermont senator, who has vowed to filibuster the annual military spending bill in an effort to force a vote on the direct payments.
When Sanders requested unanimous consent for a clean up-or-down vote on the $2,000 checks, McConnell objected once again.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined his Senate colleagues in demanding that the chamber approve the House-passed measure.
“People will spend this money,” Markey said. “They need it for the necessities that are confronting their families right now.”
McConnell’s objections came shortly after Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia both expressed support for the $2,000 direct payments as they fight for their political lives in runoff contests against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The two Democratic challengers endorsed the $2,000 payments last week.
As The Daily Poster‘s David Sirota pointed out, Perdue and Loeffler “are not saying they will back Sen. Bernie Sanders’ move to force a vote—they are only indicating that they would support the legislation if it somehow happens to make it to the Senate floor.”
“That’s the tell here—it signals that these two aristocrats still aren’t serious and that these gestures are fraudulent in comparison to what they could do,” Sirota added. “The theatrical performance of Georgia’s Republican senators pretending to support the initiative while doing nothing to force a vote almost makes you wonder if these two notorious wheeler dealers are quietly day trading on poverty futures.”
Sanders and Senate Democrats are expected to continue attempting to force a vote on the House-passed legislation in the coming hours and days, if necessary. The bill, known as the CASH Act, would increase the one-time direct payments in the new coronavirus relief law from $600 to $2,000.
McConnell suggested Tuesday that he might attempt to lump together several of President Donald Trump’s demands, including the $2,000 checks, an investigation into the “sanctity” of U.S. elections, and an examination of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
But Senate Democrats have made clear that they will only accept a vote on the stand-alone measure overwhelmingly passed by the House late Monday with bipartisan support.
“Anything less than a clean vote on the $2,000 payment bill is a deliberate attempt to submarine the payments,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted Tuesday. “There’s four days left in this Congress—there is no way to start from scratch and negotiate a new bill. McConnell knows this.”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
When Agnes Gund, philanthropist and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, saw Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, about criminal justice and mass incarceration, she experienced a revelation. The movie so affected her that she sold her favorite Roy Lichenstein painting, Masterpiece, and used $100 million dollars from the sale to start Art for Justice, which grants money to artists and activists working to reducing the prison population.
Now she’s made that movie. Aggie explores her mother’s world view and commitment to social justice. Gund didn’t just donate her money to the fund, Catherine says—she encouraged other collectors and gallerists to do the same. She didn’t want to ask artists, who are often asked to donate work, Catherine says. But people like Julie Mehretu and Mark di Suvero made donations anyway. So did Mark Bradford after a group of people from Art for Justice Fund (Catherine is on the board, along with DuVernay), including formerly incarcerated artists visited his studio.
“It was a beautiful watershed moment,” Catherine said. “We were at his [Bradford’s] wonderful studio with all those huge canvases sharing stories, and he was so blown away by them, he sold them all and raised $1 million. Art for Justice is different from a traditional charity. Like the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker says, it’s philanthropy by justice not generosity. It’s seeing a better world.”
Catherine made the movie to document her mother’s unique way of looking at things. At the beginning, she wasn’t planning an entire film, just some taped conversations with her mom. That didn’t go so well.
“I shot one, and it was really bad,” Catherine said. “I was bored. She was bored.”
So Catherine decided to have her four kids ask their grandmother some questions. That went better. Then friends, like Mehretu did some interviews as well. It’s clear in the movie that Gund doesn’t love talking about herself, so having her talk with artists and friends seemed like a good way into her life.
“How did she leave the very wealthy suburban enclave of the Midwest were there were no expectations of her and she was belittled for being a women?” Catherine said. “I need to know how she got here. She sees the world through art, which allows her to entertain vastly different perspectives. It was clear to me that this was the way people would be able to see the prism of who she is. She’s not so forthcoming. She spends most of conversations asking other people questions.”
The film covers Gund’s upbringing in Cleveland as one of six children. She talks about being aware of injustice as a child and realizing her father didn’t think women were worth much. We also see her in conversation with people like filmmaker John Waters, (the MOMA acquired a print of his Pink Flamingos), Thelma Golden, chief curator and founder of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and artist Xaviera Simmons, along with some of her 12 grandchildren.
Starting Art For Justice was a radical act, Catherine thinks. But it’s a part of who her mother is. Seeing 13th was a tipping point, she believes, and Art for Justice was a straight line from her Studio in a School, a way to value creativity and to ask children what they think instead of just asking them for the answer.
“My son Kofi turned to me after he saw Aggie,” Catherine said. “He said, ‘If we’d had studio in a school everywhere, we wouldn’t have needed Art for Justice.”
Aggie is streaming on Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play. A discussion guide to some of the issues raised in the film is also available
That’s the day the world might have ended, had Madman Richard Nixon had his druthers.
In his recent book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Daniel Ellsberg paints a doom and boom picture of the future, unless we immediately engage in negotiations with other nuclear armed nations to strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and begin the dismantling of the Doomsday Machine that is programmed to destroy as much life as possible on the planet once global nuclear war begins — a perilously close possibility under the current postures and protocols of nuclear-armed governments. (Even as late as last week, NATO rejected a UN call for the elimination of these omnicidal weapons.)
In the above example, Richard Nixon was inspired by Dwight D. Eisenhower’s strong arming tactics in securing an armistice in Korea. Citing Nixon Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, Ellsberg writes,
Nixon “saw a parallel in the action President Eisenhower had taken to end another war. When Eisenhower arrived in the White House, the Korean War was stalemated. Eisenhower ended the impasse in a hurry. He secretly got word to the Chinese that he would drop nuclear bombs on North Korea unless a truce was signed immediately. In a few weeks, the Chinese called for a truce and the Korean War ended.”
Like Ike, Nixon knew that there was no point in bluffing; your future credibility was on the line. Diminished credibility, if you’re a super power, could be a dangerous thing.
Nixon was set to nuke the North Vietnamese on October 15, 1969: he was certain that the North Vietnamese were not ready to cave, and he was going to hit them with tactical nukes to make them kow-tow and to flash his terrible swift sword at the supporting Soviets. But a miracle happened:
What had prevented Nixon’s test of the madman theory from being carried out in 1969 was neither any leak of his threats and plans nor any North Vietnamese compliance with them. It was, as Nixon recounted in his memoirs, the fact that two million Americans took part on October 15 in the “Moratorium” (a general strike by another name), a nationwide weekday work- and school-stoppage protesting the war…The North Vietnamese would not believe that he could continue such attacks in the face of this unprecedented popular resistance.
Nixon was livid, but. he was just beginning his presidency and there would be other opportunities to nuke the North Vietnamese.
In fact, just three years later, on April 25, 1972, an election year, Nixon was back looking to escalate in Vietnam, rather than seeking Peace with Honor. Ellsberg cites this conversation between Nixon and Kissinger on the White House tapes:
PRESIDENT: I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?
HENRY KISSINGER: About two hundred thousand people.
PRESIDENT [reflective, matter-of-fact]: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
KISSINGER [like the president, low-key]: That, I think would just be too much.
PRESIDENT [in a tone of surprise]: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.
He longed to deliver “a ‘savage, brutal blow’ that would bring the ‘little fourth-rate country’ North Vietnam to its ‘breaking point.’”
TDM is chock full of revelations, surprises, and awe-inspiring anecdotes. Ellsberg explains that as inflammatory as the Pentagon Papers proved to be, as he distributed copies to newspapers across the country, while on the lam, and citizens came to the understanding that even the top generals prosecuting the war in Nam had already concluded that it could not be won and the draft and carnage were for nothing, his “other Pentagon Papers,” copied at the same time, regarding nukes and the two Doomsday Machines (the USA and Russia each have one), were even more important. Nixon was terrified that Ellsberg had secret documents that laid bare Nixon’s first strike nuclear intentions in Vietnam.
Ellsberg went to great lengths to hide the Doomsday material. He was already facing a 115 year sentence if he got convicted for the PP leak, but he felt the nuke papers could finish him off. He writes,
Later, when the papers were published in 1971, Henry Kissinger’s fear that I did know about Nixon’s nuclear threats and plans, and might have documents to back it up, was sufficient reason for him to regard me as “the most dangerous man in America,” who “must be stopped at all costs.”
Ellsberg gave the trove to his brother, who buried it in a landfill, only to have a hurricane come along and rearrange the dump so randomly that his marker was lost and the bag of top secret documents could no longer be found. That was the only reason the Doomsday material wasn’t released around the same time as the Papers. Amazingly enough, he had to reconstruct his data from FOIA requests years later.
The Doomsday Machine is dense and rich material, but very accessible, Ellsberg goes out of his way to be layperson friendly, telling us he’s aware that dry academic texts go unread — no matter how important — because of the language barrier. He’s kind of like Dante’s Vergil that way — a guide to an underworld of secrets and madness. As his subtitle implies, he was a war planner, an egghead from the RAND Corporation (RAND = Research and Development), who was contracted by the Pentagon to spec out options through war games, statistical analysis, and historical research that led to war doctrines and postures and, as we’ll see, critical speeches that provoked crises.
The Doomsday Machine covers a lot of ground, from 1945 to the present, but three main themes stood out for me: one, the delegation of authority regarding the use of the nuclear option in battle, and the precariousness of its control, given what Ellsberg describes as the US refusal to rule out a first strike posture (indeed, he argues that the US intention is the opposite); second, he describes in riveting detail the many miraculous near-miss nuclear arms incidents since 1945 that might have about brought Doomsday, including an incredible re-examination of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with shocking new revelations, including his admission that he himself may have caused the Crisis; and, third, there is his urgent quest to dismantle the Doomsday Machines while there is still time.
Ellsberg points out that the public has been lead to believe over the decades — by “unnamed high-ranking government officials,” the MSM, and Hollywood — that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, is in charge of the “football” and is the go-to guy for the orders to nuke the enemy. Under this conceit, as long as we have a rational, stable chief, then we are unlikely to engage in the kinds of self-destructive sword swaggering that could lead to nuclear holocaust. We saw this question raised in 2016 during the presidential debates with Hillary Clinton, channeling either Condoleeza Rice and the mushroom cloud or the pussygate cloud, asked viewers if Donald Trump was someone Americans wanted to see with his finger on the nuclear option (we now know the answer). But also one could ask the same of Hillary, given her well-known war hawk proclivities.
But in his chapter, Delegation: How Many Fingers on the Button?, Ellsberg discusses the totemic symbolism involved:
In a truly symbolic gesture that television cameras often capture during the inauguration of a new president, the aide carrying the football visibly shifts his gaze from the departing president to the new one at the moment of his swearing in. That shift signifies not only that the new president has acquired the full authority of his office but also that the existence of a civilian commander in chief of the nuclear forces of the United States—with, supposedly, exclusive control of these almost godlike powers of destruction—must not be and has not been interrupted for a single moment.
I admit I’ve never seen this exchange Ellsberg describes, but he goes on to insinuate that as with our Exceptionalism, the Hail to the Chief bullshit, is part of our delusional, habituated thinking that gets us into pickles time after time.
He details all the presidents from Truman onward and the nuclear mischief they got up to, and even provides a handy reference list of the 25 nuclear crises presidents have got themselves up to from GW Bush to Donald Trump (yes, including, especially Jimmy Carter). It’s a sobering list you’ll want to have a drink after reading. So, if rationality and stability are meant to be safeguards of our doctrines and postures, we are in a world of trouble, and, to use a phrase that Ellsberg keeps repeating in the book, we have been saved “only by a miracle” many times. But it only gets worse (another expression Ellsberg uses throughout the book).
It turns out that we can’t have a situation where the “football” carrying president (can you believe that clumsy-footed Ford was a gridiron standout?) is decapitated and no one is authorized to order a nuclear strike against the enemy. We (and the Russkies) can’t have that: each side must be able to retaliate if struck first by a fusillade of nuclear tipped arrows. So submarine commanders and field generals with nukes at their disposal can, under some circumstances, strike with vengeance. The delegated authority to strike is so widespread on each side (Russians and Americans, and Ellsberg thinks it’s true of the other nuclear states too) that, again, the chances of an “accident” are raised exponentially.
He recalls when he learned of the extent of the delegation of authority during Ike’s years, specifically in 1959 when he visited the cruiser St. Paul, the flagship of the Seventh Fleet, and talked with the commander, Vice Admiral Frederick N. Kivette and others. He wanted to know more about how the delegation worked. He writes,
So I ventured to raise the issue I’d been told about in great secrecy. I asked Admiral Kivette if he had heard of a letter from President Eisenhower to Admiral Felt delegating authority over nuclear operations if communications were out. He said, yes, he knew that Admiral Felt held such a letter.
But knowing and knowing are two different things. Trust derived from rank can be catastrophic (recall Captain Queeg and the strawberries aboard the Caine.)
Ellsberg notes that such delegation “contravened and superseded the guidance I’d read in Top Secret war planning,” and further notes, disturbingly,
I still didn’t feel certain that the alleged letters from President Eisenhower actually existed; no one had offered to show them to me, or even claimed to have seen one himself.
He notes that such information could easily be hidden in a Byzantine system of top secret tiers that provide access in one case, and lack of access to another, related, matter. The implicit authority given to tactical nuclear warriors may or may not have existed, but as one commander told him “it wouldn’t matter once the firing started.” Today, such delegation is widespread across the tactical nuclear forces of Europe.
Ultimately, the retaliatory systems of the super powers, a chain reaction of human impulses and computer-enhanced logic that could lead to “omnicide,” known by the Russians and the US as The Doomsday Machine, is the bottom line delegated authority. Ellsberg describes going with a colleague to see Dr. Strangelove in 1964, in which the term Doomsday Machine is used for the first time — in itself derived from a RAND study:
We came out into the afternoon sunlight, dazed by the light and the film, both agreeing that what we had just seen was, essentially, a documentary. (We didn’t yet know—nor did SAC—that existing strategic operational plans, whether for first strike or retaliation, constituted a literal Doomsday Machine, as in the film.)
It reminds me of the times Jon Stewart used to say that you knew we were in confusing times when people were turning to Comedy Central to get the real, reliable news.
In a book full of shockers, none is more jaw-dropping than Ellsberg’s mea culpa regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis. He spends two chapters explaining the lead-up to the Crisis and its much-hairier-than-we-know subplots. It begins with the Berlin Crisis of 1961. Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev wanted the Americans out of East Germany. The Soviets, frustrated with the “brain drain” of the professional class from East Germany into Ally-protected, totally surrounded West Berlin, began harassing and hindering US troops. It all led to the construction of the Berlin Wall and a near war when US and Soviet tanks faced off with hair-trigger tension at Checkpoint Charlie on October 27.
In the lead-up to the tension at Checkpoint Charlie, Roswell Gilpatric, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense, gave a speech (written by Ellsberg) to the Business Council on October 21, 1961 that for the first time implied that the US might engage the conventional forces of Soviets with nukes. Said Soviet Defense Minister Rodion Malinovsky the next day,
A realistic assessment of the picture would lead one to believe that what the imperialists are planning is a surprise nuclear attack on the U.S.S.R. and the socialist countries.
Ellsberg adds, the Soviets “had never been threatening nuclear first use, over Berlin or anywhere else. We were.” Further, Gilpatric’s speech contained a humiliating revelation to the world — the Soviets had a teeny-weeny number of ICBMs — 4! — and the Americans knew where they were (Plesetsk). It meant that tactical nukes from NATO could take out those ICBMs, leaving the Russians impotent to strike at the continental USA. Ouch.
Ellsberg writes that Khrushchev’s response was immediate. He shook off the humiliation, and, “Khrushchev’s first reaction was to go ahead with a thirty-megaton nuclear test explosion two days after the speech, soon followed by a fiftyeight-megaton explosion, the largest ever.” Ellsberg, who’d apparently yet to break good, gave another “humiliating” proxied speech a few months later. At a commencement speech at the University of Michigan in July 1962, Secretary of Defense Robert NcNamara, announced the new US intention of striking Soviet Command-and-Control centers (aka, decapitation) rather than cities. Khrushchev took this news the wrong way. He had postured that threatening cities and their citizens was a more effective deterrent to war.
Things were heating up and getting busy behind the scenes. Ellsberg writes,
Ten days later, Khrushchev attacked100 the Ann Arbor speech publicly asseeking “to legalize nuclear warfare and thereby the death of millions and millions of people.” He also said it was deceptive to the American people because bases in the United States were in or near large cities. “It will be first of all the civilian population that will fall victim to the weapons of mass annihilation.”
By the time of this speech Khrushchev was already sending medium range nuclear missiles to Cuba. In addition, Ellsberg reveals that Soviet soldiers were in possession of tactical nukes and permission to use them on any American invasion force.
So Ellsberg reckons he made Khrushchev mental with these new threats he wrote for the Kennedy administration and K wanted some payback. By October, the Kennedy administration discovered that Khrushchev didn’t need ICBMs to take out Americans, when satellite photos showed that the Soviets had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. This time it was Jack Kennedy caught with his pants down. (Oh wait.) Many films, books, and college courses have been produced over the years to account for what happened during the 13 days in October, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Ellsberg’s account is the best by far. Aside from all the close-up shots of the conferring Kennedys (Robert and Jack) angst-filled and chewing their fingernails, and getting photo-snapped looking meaningfully out windows, Ellsberg provides details that ratchet up the tension to the breaking point. I was going mental myself; my plush carpet looks like one of those mysterious crop circles.
Aside from the aforementioned tactical nukes awaiting an invasion that Kennedy didn’t know about, Ellsberg details how ultimatums and warnings to the Soviets were complicated by Cuban soldiers kept firing at American aircraft (they shot down a U2 and hit another low-flying plane), and the Soviets were helpless to stop them; only the fact that they were newbies on the guns kept us all in this world. The Pentagon was ready to go. The Cubans didn’t see themselves as puppets of the Soviets, much to their surprise. The Americans were on DEFCON-2, one step below all-out war.
But the craziest stuff happened on the four Soviet diesel-powered submarines circling Cuba. The subs each had a nuke. They weren’t built for warm water; cooling equipment malfunctioned and temperatures reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit; the men moved around in their underwear, they were dehydrating and dropping like “dominoes”; they needed to surface for air but feared being be-bopped by US naval vessels enforcing the blockade.
On the B-59 sub, the men reached a derangement level, with the heat, and no air, and Americans dropping practice depth charges. Ellsberg cites Vadim Orlov, chief of the special signals intelligence, who describes the scene:
…Americans,,, surrounded us and started to tighten the circle, practicing attacks and dropping depth charges. They exploded right next to the hull. It felt like you were sitting in a metal barrel, which somebody is constantly blasting with a sledgehammer.…
They finally decided they’d had enough and got ready to nuke the Americans, but on that sub, on that day, instead of needing just two officers willing to launch the missile — that sub had three, one of whom, Alexandrovich Arkhipov refused to launch. Instead, they surfaced.
We generally know what happened after that: Khrushchev caved again and had to leave Cuba and take his toys with him. More humiliation before the Politburo. Khrushchev had been prepared to ixnay with just a promise from Kennedy not to invade Cuba, but the latter waited too long and K upped the ante again to include the US removal of nuclear missiles from Turkey, which were aimed at Moscow. US military commanders were livid at the concessions, writes Ellsberg:
For military commanders who had regarded the failure of the crisis to lead to invasion as an intense disappointment, this last revelation was one more proof of Kennedy’s weakness and “appeasement.”
We’ll leave this episode there.
There’s another near Cuban Missile-like crisis that Ellsberg mentions that took place on the Iranian border in August 1980, just a couple of months prior to the presidential election. Ellsberg describes the still highly secretive event:
…the possible imminent use of tactical nuclear weapons if a secret Soviet buildup on the Iranian border led to a Soviet invasion of Iran, followed by the expression of explicit, secret nuclear warnings to the Soviet Union (a hidden episode…[that Carter] press secretary Jody Powell was quoted as describing it as “the most serious nuclear crisis since the Cuban missile crisis”).
Again, the US has shown that it is willing to go up against a conventional force it cannot defeat by introducing first strike nukes. (Carter even championed the people-hating neutron bomb.)
Ellsberg closes out The Doomsday Machine by calling for a dismantling of the omnicidal system that he convincingly argues will eventually destroy us, especially as we leave decisions on their use on the battlefield up to commanders, in a line of delegation that is not clear or fully predictable. He offers up a list of proposed changes:
+ a U.S. no-first-use policy
+ probing investigative hearings on our war plans in the light of nuclear winter
+ eliminating our ICBMs
+ forgoing delusions of preemptive damage-limiting by our first-strike forces
+ giving up the profits, jobs, and alliance hegemony based on maintaining that pretense
+ otherwise dismantling the American Doomsday Machine
These, along with more whistleblowing, grassroots movement and education are required.
Along with Fail Safe, another film that graphically reminds us of the stakes of a nuclear holocaust, The Day After and Threads are also compelling depictions that may inspire political activism. Ellsberg also maintains a website where documents referenced in The Doomsday Machine are available on Ellsberg’s website. The Doomsday Machine is highly recommended reading.
John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia. He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.
EMERGENCY PETITION will be delivered January 1st. : to get justice for Oscar Grant – after his family has waited for 11 years the family and the community demanded the reopening of the Oscar Grant case, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley agreed but has yet to file charges. We’re going to deliver petition signatures on January 1st.
Over a decade ago, Oscar Grant was just 22 years old when a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer shot and killed him at a train station. Since then, a stack of evidence has emerged that shows Officer Anthony Pirone was largely responsible for Oscar’s death. But he was never charged for murder.
For 11 years, our family has been fighting to seek accountability and answers. And now it looks like we’re finally going to get our chance at justice.
California District Attorney, DA Nancy O’Malley has officially reopen Oscar’s case — this is HUGE. We are reaching out to everyone asking for help in making sure DA O’Malley takes the next step.
Help Outreach Working Group lift the fog of corporate media. Donate to help us maintain this website and distribute literature on the street.
San Jose CalCare SpeakOut Car Rally corner or Lawrence Expressway Prospect Rd 3565 Prospect Rd, San Jose, CA Saturday, April 17, 12:00 PM RSVP NOW » Mike, In just 4 days, Californians across the state will join together to call on our state legislators to support AB 1400 – the new California single-payer healthcare bill. We’re hosting Covid-safe CalCare SpeakOuts in 18 cities across the state this Saturday, April 17th. During these car rallies, we’ll hear patient stories and other speakers, and make clear to our elected leaders that Californians want health care for all. Will you join the CalCare SpeakOut event in… Continue reading →
Stand with Chesa volunteer launch Saturday, April 17 at 12:30-1:30pm Please register for yourself and also invite your friends and networks to join too! Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/w/98912747561?tk=_n6U9668MxpKeBRaCt7m8i7ksxn2Lno1X1WBX6BqHgI.DQIAAAAXB6jAKRZCYmNzRDRsQVRnMjF3cDBTTTRRYW5BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Meeting ID: 989 1274 7561 This Saturday, the Stand with Chesa team is organizing the official volunteer program launch call, and we want you to be part of it. We’ve already built strong momentum to spread the truth about Chesa’s hard work to hold police accountable, increase support for victims, reduce incarceration, and create real public safety. But we can’t slow down now – not while white supremacists and right-wing… Continue reading →
In just 4 days, Californians across the state will join together to call on our state legislators to support AB 1400 – the new California single-payer healthcare bill. We’re hosting Covid-safe CalCare SpeakOuts in 18 cities across the state this Saturday, April 17th. During these car rallies, we’ll hear patient stories and other speakers, and make clear to our elected leaders that Californians want health care for all. Will you join the CalCare SpeakOut event in Oakland this Saturday, April 17? After you sign up, we’ll make sure you have all the information you need. Here are the details: Oakland CalCare SpeakOut Car… Continue reading →
SDBA Book Group: Saturday, April 17th, 2021, 4:30 PM. https://occupyoakland.org/event/strike-debt-bay-area-book-group-the-optimists-telescope-thinking-ahead-in-a-reckless-age/?instance_id=312698 For our April meeting we’ll be reading the first five chapters of The Optimist’s Telescope – Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age by Bina Venkataraman. “… all of us need to know how we can make better long-term decisions in our lives, businesses, and society. Bina Venkataraman sees the way forward. A former journalist and adviser in the Obama administration, she helped communities and businesses prepare for climate change, and she learned firsthand why people don’t think aheadand what can be done to change that…” If you are not generally receiving Zoom… Continue reading →
The Institute for the Critical Study of Society at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library Sunday Morning at the Marxist Library OUR CURRENT SCHEDULE (NOTE: These are all tentative and may be changed. Please check back the week before, or sign up for our weekly reminders/updates at email@example.com) Sun, Dec 27, 2020: 10:30 am to 12:30 pm CONFIRMED: The Three Concepts of Freedom Synopsis: In this session we will compare and contrast the Liberal, Democratic, and the communist concepts of freedom. We will discuss that the Liberal freedom consists of the legal guarantees against outside intrusions. Democratic freedom emphasizes the right to participate in the… Continue reading →
Indivisible Marin & Common Cause For the People Phone Bank for HR1/S1: Sunday, April 18, 12–2 PM. Join Indivisible Marin every Wednesday and Sunday to phone bank in support of For The People Act and to oppose the filibuster! Sign up for a shift here.
The Future of Medicare for All: What Way Forward? Join us on Sunday, April 18 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. for a panel discussion on the future of Medicare for All and a single-payer health care system that ensures care for all, regardless of wealth or employment status. The panel will include Dr. Susan Rogers, President, of Physicians for a National Health Program; Stephanie Nakajima, Director of Communications for Healthcare-NOW; Shamus Cooke, public sector worker, union activist and member of Portland DSA; and Michael Lighty, National spokesperson for the DSA Medicare for All Campaign, and will touch on maternal and infant mortality, life expectancy… Continue reading →
OH – Phone Banks, Our Revolution Ohio for Nina Virtual Phone Bank Time Sundays and Wednesdays6:30 – 8:30pm EST Location Virtual event Join from anywhere About this event Join us as we make calls to Congressional District 11 to help send Senator Nina Turner to Washington! Available times Sun, Jan 24, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Wed, Jan 27, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Sun, Jan 31, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Wed, Feb 3, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Sun, Feb 7, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Wed, Feb 10, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Sun, Feb 14, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Wed, Feb 17, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Sun, Feb 21, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Wed, Feb 24, 6:30pm–8:30pm EST Sun, Feb… Continue reading →
Announcing The April Lineup for our National Organize to Win Calls! On Monday, April 12th, Sen. Jeff Merkley will kick-off our first call of the month with the latest on For the People Act and the fight against the filibuster. And on the following Mondays, don’t miss Nina Turner, Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen and other powerful progressive rock stars! RSVP NOW!
Join Us to Discuss National Popular Vote on Tuesday April 20 at 6:30-7:30 PM Eastern Please join the Committee of Seventy, the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia, and National Popular Vote in an interactive discussion of the National Popular Vote Bill. We will be joined by Representative Chris Rabb and citizen advocate Beth Goldstein-Huxen. Sign up for free Facebook event The National Popular Vote bill will make every vote equal in presidential elections, guarantee the presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide, and give candidates reason to campaign in all 50 states. It will ensure that every voter,… Continue reading →