LAWRENCE WITTNER – Amid all the flag-waving, chants of “USA, USA,” and other nationalist hoopla that characterize mainstream politics in the United States, it’s easy to miss the fact that most Americans favor global governance.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either. Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Although, beginning in about 2015, nationalist political parties made enormous advances in countries around the world, more recently they have been on the wane.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Last year was a terrible time for vast numbers of people around the globe, who experienced not only a terrible disease pandemic, accompanied by widespread sickness and death, but severe economic hardship. Even so, the disasters of 2020 were not shocking enough to jolt the world’s most powerful nations out of their traditional preoccupation with enhancing their armed might, for once again they raised their military spending to new heights.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – The world is currently engulfed in crises—most prominently, a disease pandemic, a climate catastrophe, and the prevalence of war—while individual nations are encountering enormous difficulties in coping with them. These difficulties result from the global nature of the problems.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Rather than manufacturing jobs returning during the Trump administration, they have been departing.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – After nearly four years of the Trump administration, U.S. voters have a pretty good idea of the policies that the President and his Republican allies champion when it comes to America’s dealings with other nations. These policies include massive increases in military spending, lengthy wars abroad, threats of nuclear war, withdrawal from climate and nuclear disarmament treaties, a crackdown on refugees, and abandonment of international institutions. But what about the Democrats?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – It’s hard to take seriously Trump’s claim that U.S. workers have thrived during his presidency. Indeed, even before the disasters wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, American workers received a raw deal.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Although there is not much time left before the world succumbs to one or more catastrophes, human beings have been able to alter their behavior and institutions. Let’s hope they will rouse themselves and do so again.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – A nonprofit employer is not necessarily a better boss than a profit-making one. That sad truth is reinforced by the experience of some 2,200 nurses at Albany Medical Center, who have been fighting for a contract since April 2018, when they voted for union representation.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Despite the upbeat words from America’s billionaire president about the “economic miracle” he has produced, economic inequality in the United States is on the rise.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – The meaning of democratic socialism―a mixture of political and economic democracy―should be no mystery to Americans. After all, socialist programs have been adopted in most other democratic nations. Even so, large numbers of Americans seem remarkably confused about democratic socialism.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – On June 19, 2019, President Donald Trump bragged at his re-election kickoff rally in Orlando that, thanks to his leadership, the wages of American workers “are rising at the fastest rate in many decades.” The reality, however, is that they are not. Indeed, wages rose at a faster rate only a few years before, under his predecessor. And a key reason for the very limited wage increases since Trump entered the White House is his administration’s success in blocking any wage increases for some workers and in reducing wage increases for others.
LAWRENCE WITTNER -Maintaining the U.S. status as “No. 1” in war and war preparations comes at a very high price. That price is not only paid in dollars—plus massive death and suffering in warfare―but in the impoverishment of other key sectors of American life. After all, this lavish outlay on the military now constitutes about two-thirds of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending. And these other sectors of American life are in big trouble.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – People searching for an alternative to the nationalist and military alliance-driven approaches of the past would do well to consider strengthened global governance. It’s a foreign policy that has enormous potential for addressing current world problems, as well as substantial public support.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Whatever happened to the notion that rich people should pay their fair share of the cost for their country’s public programs?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Although many people have criticized the bizarre nature of Donald Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea, his recent love fest with Kim Jong Un does have the potential to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Even so, buried far below the mass media coverage of the summit spectacle, the reality is that Trump―assisted by his military and civilian advisors―is busy getting the United States ready for nuclear war.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Early this February, the Republican-controlled Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed new federal budget legislation that increased U.S. military spending by $165 billion over the next two years. Remarkably, though, a Gallup public opinion poll, conducted only days before, found that only 33 percent of Americans favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 65 percent opposed it, either backing reductions (34 percent) or maintenance of the status quo (31 percent).
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Most countries are moving down the road toward a nuclear weapons-free world. This past July, the official representatives of most of the world’s nations, meeting in a UN-sponsored conclave, voted 122 to 1 (with 1 abstention) for an international treaty prohibiting countries from developing, testing, manufacturing, possessing, transferring, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. However, the nine nuclear-armed nations boycotted the conference and are not among the countries backing this Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―at least not yet. Given the staggering economic and human costs of nuclear weapons, isn’t it time that the nuclear nations got on board?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Leaving aside the wisdom of U.S. policy, why is the U.S. government playing a leading role in the North Korean nuclear situation at all?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – An awful lot of Americans are skeptical about the value of their nation’s corporate executives. As a 2016 nationwide survey reveals, 74 percent of Americans believe that top corporate executives are overpaid. This public dismay with CEO compensation exists despite the fact that Americans drastically underestimate what top corporate executives are paid every year. In fact, the survey found that CEO compensation at Fortune 500 companies was approximately 10 times what the typical American thought it was.
LAWRENCWE WITTNER – Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates? The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died.
PATRICK T. HILLER – I don’t know any of the 13 activists who lowered themselves from the St. John ’s Bridge in Portland, Oregon, nor any of the dozens of kayakers paddling in the Willamette River below them, but they succeeded in a temporary blockade of the Shell-leased Arctic-bound icebreaker MSV Fennica. I know that the activists participated in our democracy—they were nonviolent and far more civil than many members of Congress. The ship was in Portland for repairs of damage to the hull, which ironically occurred when it was scheduled to leave for the Arctic as part of the safety conditions Royal Dutch Shell Oil needed to fulfill for federal approval to drill for oil after a series of accidents in 2013.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – For several decades, state and local governments have been showering private businesses with tax breaks and direct subsidies based on the theory that this practice fosters economic development and, therefore, job growth. But does it? New York State’s experience indicates that, when it comes to producing jobs, corporate welfare programs are a bad investment.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Now that the Republican Party―the conservative voice in mainstream U.S. electoral politics―has attained the most thoroughgoing control of Congress that it has enjoyed since 1928, it’s an appropriate time to take a good look at modern conservatism.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Sometimes, amid the heated political debate about what should done by the U.S. government in world affairs, a proposal cuts through the TV babble of the supposed experts with a clear, useful suggestion.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – After thousands of years of bloody wars among contending tribes, regions, and nations, is it finally possible to dispense with the chauvinist ideas of the past? To judge by President Barack Obama’s televised address on the evening of September 10, it is not. Discussing his plan to “take out” ISIS, the extremist group that has seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq, the president slathered on the high-flying, nationalist rhetoric.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Americans committed to better living for bosses can take heart at the fact that college and university administrators—unlike their faculty (increasingly reduced to rootless and benefitless adjuncts) and students (saddled with ever more debt)―are thriving.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Countries are not only preparing for wars, but are fighting them―sometimes overtly (as in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and sometimes covertly (as in portions of Africa and the Middle East). Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Your doctors are worried about your health―in fact, about your very survival. No, they’re not necessarily your own personal physicians, but, rather, medical doctors around the world, represented by groups like International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). As you might recall, that organization, composed of many thousands of medical professionals from all across the globe, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for exposing the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Is there an emotional connection between the oceans and the pursuit of peace? For whatever reason, peace ships have been increasing in number over the past century.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – There would certainly be less disillusionment, as well as a great savings in lives and resources, if more Americans recognized the terrible costs of war before they rushed to embrace it. But a clearer understanding of war and its consequences will probably be necessary to convince Americans to break out of the cycle in which they seem trapped.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – Can the world’s biggest corporations act with impunity? When it comes to General Electric (GE) — the eighth-largest U.S. corporation, with $146.9 billion in sales and $13.6 billion in profits in 2012 — the answer appears to be “yes.”
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – Some 47 million Americans live in poverty, and a key reason is the decline of the minimum wage. First established under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the nationwide minimum wage was designed to lift millions of American workers out of poverty and to stimulate the economy. Unfortunately, however, it was not indexed to inflation, and big businesses — hostile from the start — fought, often successfully, to prevent congressional action to raise it.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – The conventional explanation for nuclear restraint by the relatively small number of nations possessing nuclear weapons is that the danger posed by these weapons has “deterred” nations from waging nuclear war and, overall, has created a situation of nuclear safety. But something is missing from the conventional explanation. The missing ingredient is a massive grassroots movement: one that has mobilized millions of people in nations around the globe: the world nuclear disarmament movement. This is the text of a talk delivered by Dr. Wittner in May 2013 to the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Ottawa.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – Nearly a quarter century after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government is still getting ready for nuclear war.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – On October 9, 2012, the legislature of Albany County, New York approved a proclamation calling upon Congress to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, cut the U.S. military budget, and use the savings to fund vital public programs at home.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – On some issues, there is a serious disconnect between candidates for public office and the public they are hoping to represent. Take the case of Mitt Romney and military spending.
LAWRENCE WITTNER – It’s often said that nuclear weapons have protected nations from military attack. But is there any solid evidence to bolster this contention? Without such evidence, the argument that nuclear weapons prevented something that never occurred is simply a counter-factual abstraction that cannot be proved.
DAVID SWANSON – Almost every account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which a government was been spying on and infiltrating activist groups. And almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which government officials were influenced by activist groups even while pretending to ignore popular pressure.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER -“World military spending reached a record $1,738 billion in 2011 — an increase of $138 billion over the previous year. The United States accounted for 41 percent of that, or $711 billion.”
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – On February 8, 2012, Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act (H.R. 3974).
LAWRENCE A. WITTNER – The discussion of the Tucson tragedy should be familiar, as we witness similar massacres in U.S. schools, shopping centers, and other public places played out periodically. Each time, the NRA and other gun apologists tell us that the easy accessibility of firearms, including assault weapons, had nothing to do with it. Indeed, they argue that the key to our safety is to obtain more guns. But does the fact that nearly 100,000 Americans are shot with guns and nearly 10,000 Americans are killed with them each year really have no connection to the remarkable availability of guns in the United States?
LAWRENCE WITTNER – With U.S. Senate ratification of the New START treaty on December 22, supporters of nuclear disarmament won an important victory. Signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last April, the treaty commits the two nations to cut the number of their deployed strategic (i.e. long-range) nuclear warheads to 1,550 each — a reduction of 30 percent in the number of these weapons of mass destruction. By providing for both a cutback in nuclear weapons and an elaborate inspection system to enforce it, New START is the most important nuclear disarmament treaty for a generation.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – In Oregon, the Nuclear Freeze movement was led by Citizen Action for Lasting Security, one of the organizations that later merged into Oregon PeaceWorks. As we end one year and begin a new one, it is encouraging to look back at historian Lawrence Wittner’s chronicle of that exciting movement. – Editor
Thirty years ago, Randall Forsberg, a young defense and disarmament researcher, launched the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Designed to stop the drift toward nuclear war through a U.S.-Soviet agreement to stop the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons, the freeze campaign escalated into a mass movement that swept across the United States. It attracted the support of nearly all peace groups, as well as that of mainstream religious, professional, and labor organizations.
LAWRENCE WITTNER — One of the ironies of the current international situation is that, although some government leaders now talk of building a nuclear weapons-free world, there has been limited public mobilization around that goal — at least compared to the action-packed 1980s.
LAWRENCE WITTNER — The offshore oil drilling catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico brought to us by BP has overshadowed its central role over the past century in fostering some other disastrous events.
LAWRENCE WITTNER — For some time now, it has been clear that nuclear weapons threaten the existence not only of humanity, but of all life on Earth. Thus, Barack Obama’s pledge to work for a nuclear weapons-free world—made during his 2008 presidential campaign and subsequently in public statements—has resonated nicely with supporters of nuclear disarmament and with the general public.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER — Rand Paul’s criticism of the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960s can be better evaluated by looking at the workings of similar legislation that appeared on the state level two decades before.