Sunday, October 16, 2011

US Chair Force Inviting Drone Attacks on Our Homeland

Here's a letter I wrote to the NY Times, not published in response to their op-ed,  Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race

It borders on treason that the US Chair Force is permitted to sit at their computers, playing with their joysticks, assassinating” suspected terrorists” thousands of miles away, without benefit of evidence, charges, or trial—impersonally murdering selected targets based on “military intelligence”, a dubious proposition in these millennial times, given the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Does anyone believe that our computers are so finely calibrated that we are not slaughtering innocent men, women and children as well—or wreaking “collateral damage” as our military marauders are wont to call unsuspecting innocents murdered in the paths of our deadly forces?

President Obama is currently authorizing this shooting frenzy in six countries--Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, with no publishable legal authority for these unconstitutional crimes.   Even the Nazis were entitled, under America’s rule of law, to a trial at Nuremberg.  But regardless of the moral, ethical or legal considerations, what about the sheer stupidity of allowing our military to set this awful precedent that will surely result in blowback and the killing of innocent Americans?   After all, mastery of drones isn’t like arcane nuclear technology which enabled us to maintain our technical superiority, for the most part, for more than 65 years (although with the commercial push to spread “peaceful” nuclear technology to wannabe nuclear countries, giving them the keys to their own bomb factories, our technical superiority will fade).  Any computer nerd can target a drone to rain terror or death by remote control anywhere in the world.

Will somebody put a stop to our wildwest cowboys shooting off their technology, mindlessly disregarding the consequences to life and limb?   Perhaps we need a Council of Grandmothers, like the one established by the Iroquois Confederacy, with absolutely authority to remove the Chief if they felt he was engaged in an ill-advised war.  Isn’t it time to take the toys away from the boys and set our country on its proper, lawful path?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Nuclear Chaos

Sometimes chaos comes along as a wake-up call to humanity. The double-whammy- earthquake-tsunami in Japan this week is overwhelmingly sad. To be at the total chaotic effect of the elements—to be wiped out by a wave of water from the sea, is an insult to the arrogance of modern humanity that thinks it can insulate and protect itself with technological know-how from the calamities visited upon our earth by Mother Nature. It is ironic that this catastrophe took place in earth-quake plagued Japan where scientists and engineers actually protected against this seventh largest earthquake cataclysm in recorded history, by spending billions on new infrastructure, building their homes, offices, and factories on rubber shock absorbers and reinforced pillars that merely swayed with the punch and didn’t collapse despite the enormous force from the renting of the earth—a force so powerful it actually moved Japan ten feet eastward and caused the axis of the earth to shift. Yet even the careful, methodical, Japanese couldn’t realistically anticipate the power of the tsunami well enough to protect their land against the violent onrush of the ocean in the wake of the spasms caused by the radical shift in the earth’s tectonic plates.

And while they had provided adequate technology to guard their lethal nuclear power plants even against the quaking earth, the surge of the ocean destroyed their best efforts to insure backup and shut down plans to always keep water pumping on the nuclear fuel, even during an earthquake. They were unable to avoid the loss of electricity essential to maintain and pump a constant stream of cool water to cover the radioactive fuel in their reactors, and after the pumping machines failed to deliver water to the overheated guts of the fuel vessel, they were unable to keep this foolhardy technology from “melting down” and spewing its lethal radiation across the land, and eventually perhaps across the planet, hanging like a sword of Damocles over the earth as radioactive particles are borne on the air currents that circle the globe.

More than 200,000 people were evacuated in the vicinity of the five nuclear reactors at Fukishima which may be failing. The reports are mixed and unclear from the Japanese government. We know that numbers of people were contaminated with radioactivity on their skin and clothing and that the government is distributing potassium iodide tablets to prevent thyroid cancer in people who may have been exposed to radioactivity released in a series of explosions at two reactors. Those tablets will not prevent other forms of cancer and leukemia that may increase exponentially from the release of the radioactivity at the reactors. We also know that US sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, that was sent from our military base in Okinawa to the vicinity of the accident, have now been contaminated by airborne radioactivity. Meanwhile the US mainstream media continues to downplay the catastrophic potential of so many reactors in Japan to create an environmental holocaust, where brave workers are struggling to cool their hot radioactive fuel, while industry spokespeople assure us that our reactors in America are much safer, that Chernobyl only had 50 immediate deaths, while Russian scientists recently reported that there were close to 1,000,000 cancer deaths since the dreadful accident in 1986 spewed lethal radiation over a broad swath of the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and then dispersed to many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

Let this chaos be a wake-up call for a time out on any new nuclear energy development. And like the massive mobilization gathering strength in Japan with emergency workers coming from all over the world to help rescue and recover the tens of thousands of people overcome in their villages by the trembling earth and fierce rushing waters, let us make a massive global effort to put a solar panel on every roof, a geothermal pump in every house and building, windmills on every windswept plain, tidal energy pumps in our rivers and seas to harness the clean safe energy of our Mother Earth.

In the words of that famous visionary thinker, Buckminster Fuller:
We may now care for each Earthian individual at a sustainable billionaire's level of affluence while living exclusively on less than 1 percent of our planet's daily energy income from our cosmically designed nuclear reactor, the Sun, optimally located 92 million safe miles away from us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nixon in China, Max Frankel and Me

Nixon in China, Max Frankel, and Me                                 February 13, 2001

by Alice Slater

This Saturday I met my friend Nellie at the Ziegfield Theater on 54th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, converted to a film house after its glory days as a Broadway Theater. We went to see Nixon in China which was being performed that day at the Metropolitan Opera and broadcast live in High Definition TV larger than life piped in to a huge silver screen with a surround sound aural system that beat the $150 orchestra seat ticket at the Met. You could see the sweat on the brow of the conductor during the overture, and just about make out the tonsils of the soprano ululating during the four separate heart-piercing high D’s as Chairman Mao’s violent wife. Madame Mao, Jiang Qing, was leader of the infamous Gang of Four that took most of the blame for the devastating Cultural Revolution that shattered so many in China during their time of terror and troubles.

John Adams the composer, as well as the conductor, has a Philip Glassian minimalist style so there’s not much to sing about in this dissonant opera. But it was great fun seeing Nixon and Mao carrying on in their groundbreaking meeting, with Pat, in her bright red dress and coat and Henry Kissinger going along for the ride with Chou En Lai. Max Frankel, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times, “reviewed” the opera today in the Sunday Times and as one who was present at those historical meetings, he was singularly unimpressed with the accuracy of the libretto. But then we had the Director of the Met talking to us on the big screen during the intermission and interviewing the singers, director, choreographer, librettist, noting what a breakthrough Nixon’s visit was to China after years of unrelenting hostilities between the two countries, ironically due to this very same Nixon’s antagonistic and provocative policies towards China. Even more tellingly, the Met Director was euphorically exclaiming to us on the historical significance of the Met’s lending its imprimatur to Nixon in China, by staging it for the first time since its debut in 1987, which just coincidentally happened to be the very day that the autocratic Pharaoh of Egypt resigned on a wave of unprecedented peaceful grassroots democracy that returned to Tahiri Square with their own mops and brooms today to clean up the mess of the last two week’s demonstrations. The live audience at the Met and our canned audience at the Ziegfield cheered wildly--acknowledging our joy at what had been accomplished in Egypt.

I had my own personal run-in with Max Frankel in 1998. India and Pakistan had just detonated their first overt nuclear tests (India had quietly tested once before in 1974 but when Clinton negotiated the Comprehensive Test Ban in 1996 and wouldn’t cut off laboratory testing and sub-critical underground tests, India broke out with a series of nuclear explosions so it wouldn’t be left behind in the technology race, swiftly followed by Pakistan). Frankel wrote a stunning mea culpa column in response, noting that the US had blown it, we had every opportunity to stop this proliferation, but we said, “I’m alright Jack. I’ve got mine” and we blew it. We did nothing to anticipate and prevent the breakout of other nuclear wannabes responding to our fierce attachment to our nuclear arsenals, unleashing potential catastrophe upon the world.

I wrote Max Frankel a long letter, thanking him for his observations and reassuring him that it wasn’t too late, we had lots of good creative initiatives to ban the bomb, we had generals, scientists, policy analysts ready to report on the enormous possibilities for ending the nuclear scourge and moving to a nuclear weapons free world, whose voices, if amplified by the New York Times would make an enormous difference in the world. He responded:

Dear Ms. Slater,
 Thank you for your note, but I am a journalist, not an advocate.


Max Frankel

Several months later, Nelson Mandela announced that he would be retiring from the presidency of South Africa. We organized a world-wide letter writing campaign, urging him to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons at his farewell address to the United Nations. The gambit worked. At the UN, Nelson Mandela called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, saying, "these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction --why do they need them anyway?" The London Guardian had a picture of Mandela on its front page, with the headline, “Nelson Mandela Calls for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.” The New York Times had a story buried on page 46, announcing Mandela’s retirement from the Presidency of South Africa and speculating on who might succeed him, reporting that he gave his last speech as President to the UN, while omitting to mention the content of his speech.

I sent a copy of the front page of the Guardian to Max Frankel, writing:

Dear Mr. Frankel,

Grassroots activists from all over the world worked on a campaign to urge Nelson Mandela to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons and it was reported on the front page of the London Guardian, but I guess the New York Times didn’t think this news was fit to print!

Sincerely, Alice Slater

Three days later, I had to report to jury duty. I had been postponing my summons for over a year and this was it. No further extensions! If I didn’t serve now, they would send me to jail! I went down to the NY State Courthouse on Center Street, near City Hall and the Municipal Building. I reported to the jury room and waited in the large, smoky room where people twiddled their thumbs, knitted, read, looked at newspapers, before the days of cell phones and lap tops. One by one the citizens were called by name to report to various jury panels for voir dire, where jurors are questioned about their biases and knowledge to judge their suitability for service at a particular trial. After about two hours, they called out, “Max Frankel!” I looked up and saw this medium height, compactly built, slightly graying person walk out to the jury room down the hall. Two names later they called, “Alice Slater” and I was sent to the same jury room as Frankel. About twenty of us were standing in the marbled hallway, before locked oaken double doors, guarding the entrance to the jury room.
I went up to Frankel.

“Max Frankel?” I said.

“Yes”, he replied.

“I’m Alice Slater”.

He looked somewhat taken aback but reached out to shake my hand as the doors opened and we all filed into the jury room sitting on rows of benches to be called for the voir dire. I sat amidst a group of jurors on the bench behind his. Up on the wall was a bomb shelter sign, left over from the fifties with a fading yellow background supporting the black trefoil, a symbol of radiation. He turned around to look at me, smiling and pointing his finger towards the nuclear shelter sign on the wall. “A lot of good that will do you!” I said.

Neither of us were chosen on that jury. The next day I returned to the waiting room and there he sat, reading his New York Times and clipping out columns. And there I sat, reading my New York Times and tearing out articles for future reference. At lunch time, neither of us had been summoned and we were dismissed for lunch. I went up to him and asked him if he’d like to join me for lunch. He said he would welcome it so we strolled over to Chinatown and had a delightful meal, trading life stories and war stories. His autobiography was scheduled to be published the following month in which he describes his family’s fortuitous escape to New York from Germany, just before Hitler really got going, and his extraordinary rise to the pinnacle of the American Dream as the leading journalist at America’s most prestigious paper. He gave me his card and urged me to send him anything I thought he should see.

A few months after that he retired from the Times. We still can’t get the straight story published in that “paper of record”. I’m sure if people knew all the facts about the bomb and what’s keeping it in place, it would have been gone long ago. In that sense, we aren’t much different from the Egyptians who were kept in line for 30 years by a state controlled media and could only break out through the use of the internet. The Times is hopelessly establishment and is so immersed in the status quo, that it can’t even imagine another side to the story, or the role America plays in maintaining the nuclear terror.