Hawaiians fight Mauna Kea telescope

SUBHEAD: Native Hawaiians say "If not now, when will we stand to protect our sacred lands?" 

By Amy Goodman on 22 July 2019 for Democracy Now!-

Image above: From the Honolulu newspaper The Star labeled "Hawaiian activists prepare convoys ton convoys to proposed telescope site. From (https://images.thestar.com/nOL4rf4iZSFiR1QqCmEx-tahjR8=/1086x869/smart/filters:cb(1563118201053)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/world/us/2019/07/14/hawaiian-activists-prepare-for-mauna-kea-telescope-convoys/HIHIO301-413_2018_164051.jpg).

A historic indigenous resistance is unfolding on the Big Island of Hawaii, where thousands have descended on Mauna Kea, a sacred Native site, to defend it from the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope.

Scientists say the Thirty Meter Telescope will help them peer into the deepest corners of space, but indigenous resisters say the construction was approved without their consent and will desecrate their sacred lands.

Last week, police arrested 33 people — most of them Hawaiian elders — as they blocked a road to prevent work crews from reaching the site of the telescope being planned atop Mauna Kea.

And on Sunday, demonstrators reported that more than 2,000 people had gathered at the access road to stop construction. We speak with Pua Case, an indigenous organizer and activist defending Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.


AMY GOODMAN: The Filipino-Hawaiian musician Kalani Pe’a, who’s been at the protests that we’ll be talking about now. This is Democracy Now!

I’m Amy Goodman, as we go to Hawaii’s Big Island, where growing protests are heading into a second week against the construction of a massive telescope on top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, sacred Native site, that’s become a flashpoint of indigenous resistance.

On Sunday, demonstrators reported more than 2,000 people had gathered at an access road to stop construction on Hawaii’s highest peak from starting.

Last week, police arrested 33 people, most of them Hawaiian elders, as they blocked a road to prevent work crews from reaching the site of the Thirty Meter Telescope being planned atop Mauna Kea.
HAWAIIAN ELDER: We have a right to worship god in the environment of our belief. Respect it!
AMY GOODMAN: Just hours after the arrests, Hawaii’s Democratic Governor David Ige signed an emergency order granting police more power to clear the way for construction equipment.
GOV. DAVID IGE: This afternoon, I signed an emergency proclamation for the situation on Mauna Kea. Since Monday, protesters have illegally occupied roads and highways. … We do believe that this emergency proclamation gives law enforcement the additional tools that they need to continue to work to keep the people safe.
AMY GOODMAN: Activists say construction of the telescope was approved without consulting the local Native community. The protests build on decades of indigenous resistance in Hawaii. This week, the Hawaii County Council plans to vote on a resolution, quote, “strongly urging” Governor Ige and Mayor Harry Kim to honor a request for a 60-day moratorium on the construction.

For more, we go to Hawaii’s Big Island, where we’re joined by Pua Case, an indigenous organizer, one of the leading activists defending Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Pua. If you can describe for us where you are and just tell us what is happening? Who is building, or attempting to build, this telescope? And why are the indigenous people of Hawaii so concerned?

PUA CASE: Aloha Mai Kako. ‘O Pua Case ko’u inoa. ‘O Mauna a Wakea ko’u mauna.Aloha, everyone. My name is Pua Case. Mauna Kea is my mountain. I’m reporting from a hunter’s check-in station, at a place called Pu’u Huluhulu, which is right across the street of the access road leading up to Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is a sacred mountain for us here in Hawaii. Mauna Kea is genealogically linked to the Native people of these lands. Mauna Kea is known as our kupuna, our ancestor, our teacher, our protector, our corrector and our guide.

And so, for the last 10 years, we have held off the project of the building of an 18-story telescope on the top of our mountain, near the summit, on a pristine area called the northern plateau, over our water aquifer and the source of water for much of this island.
Those who are partnering in this project are Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States in the area of California, with the largest single donor being the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto.

So, why we are standing for this mountain is quite simple, Amy. And thank you for having me on the show. If I could put it very simply, I would say, if we don’t stand for the most sacred, what will we stand for? And if not now, when will we stand?

So, we are making a stand as not just Native people and not just the local community, but really a worldwide community, because there are so many similarities. There are Native people everywhere around the world standing for their mountaintops, for their waters, for their land bases, their oceans and their life ways. We are no different than them.

But because Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in the world from seafloor, and, spiritually speaking, there are reasons that Mauna Kea is connected to many different mountains around the world, and the integrity and the essence of water in our spirituality, is why we must not allow 18 stories to be built on the northern plateau of our mountain.

It is the one too many and the one too big. And we have said no for the last 10 years and have been successful so far in stopping the project.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the foundation gave money to Caltech, is that right, Pua?

PUA CASE: Yes, it is.

AMY GOODMAN: And who was consulted? Why do they have rights to this mountain?
PUA CASE: The university —

AMY GOODMAN: There are other telescopes there, is that right?

PUA CASE: Yes, there are other telescopes on the summit of the mountain. The University of Hawaii has the lease on the summit of the mountain until 2033. So, from the late 1960s, there have been smaller telescopes built on the mountain. And, you know, Amy, you have to understand, and I’m explaining to the world community right now, it would take a whole semester course to try to explain why 13 telescopes are now sitting at the top of the mountain.

What I can say is that for many of our people, my grandparents’ generation and my parents’, as well, you know, there comes — in that time period, you don’t even know if you have the ability to stop something like that. We were in a time period where people would say, “Oh, they’re just going to build it anyway.”

And a lot of times, we were not even aware that building was occurring on the summit. And so, for a lot of different reasons, 13 telescopes sit on the summit of Mauna Kea.

The 18-story Thirty Meter Telescope cannot possibly fit on the mountain. The desecration, the construction and the destruction of the northern plateau is just something that cannot be allowed on our sacred mountain. As I said before, it’s the one too many and the one too big.

So, what I will say is, the University of Hawaii initiated the permit on behalf — the permit application on behalf of the countries, because most of the countries are already up on the mountain in those 13 other telescopes. Only China and India are not on the mountain at this time.

AMY GOODMAN: We heard that the National Guard might be called in. You have the Hawaii governor, David Ige, issuing an emergency order granting police more power to clear the way for construction equipment. He says that the protesters are dangerous. Can you talk about what you expect to happen today? First, I want to go to an activist speaking last week during a news conference.

KAHO’OKAHI KANUHA: And I reaffirm to each and every maka’i, each and every police officer, each and every individual who’s going to come and attempt to get us out of the way, we will stand, and we will stand in Kapu Aloha. We are committed. We are absolutely committed to peace, peaceful protest, nonviolent action. We are not wavering from that. And so, to the maka’i, I ask you folks to make that same commitment, because you guys are not my enemy. None of you are my enemy. Our enemy is this illegal occupying state, that continues to deny the rights of Kanaka, who continue to treat us as a nonexistent, dead people. Eka Lahui, are we dead?
AMY GOODMAN: That, an activist at a news conference last week. So, talk about the governor’s charges and also where the Honolulu mayor stands.

PUA CASE: That young activist is one of our organizers. That’s Kaho’okahi Kanuha. And his words exemplify the stance that we were taking on the day that the law enforcement came in to the access road area.

And what I want to preference — preface this with is, who would ever think — and that’s what I spoke to the maka’i, or the law enforcement, about as they stood there, some of them in full riot gear with their batons, many of them either our relatives or Native Hawaiians, who are put in a very difficult position to have to stand there and possibly arrest us, and, certainly, the possibility of harm.

So, what I said to them that day was, who would ever think — who would ever think that in Hawaii, I, as a middle school teacher and just the daughter of ranchers that come from this area — and many of us, you know, we are just — we are mothers and fathers. We are aunties and uncles. We are elders, and we are youth.

And being so passionate about what is left of our culture, our sacred places and our life ways — that we would find ourselves standing in the middle of the street facing armed officers with only our Kapu Aloha, or the manner in which we stand, our code of conduct, integrity, standing in the way that our ancestors would expect and command of us, in nonviolence, no resistance, facing our relatives. And so that that in itself is very difficult.

So, Governor Ige, our governor, did issue a state of emergency at the end of that day, after 33 of our elders were arrested because they had made a stand, and they are still sitting in those chairs ’til today, make a stand to block that access road, because that is the only way that the machinery will be able to go up the mountain. So, what I want to —

AMY GOODMAN: Pua, I wanted to —

PUA CASE: — have — yes?

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the local paper.

AMY GOODMAN: It says, “The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2007 committed $200 million to the California Institute of Technology and the University of California toward TMT’s construction. Gordon Moore is a leader in the semiconductor industry and co-founder of Intel Corp., creator of the world’s first microprocessor.”

You have what happened yesterday at Standing Rock, the Standing Rock Sioux tribal members gathering at the epicenter of the Dakota Access pipeline to show solidarity with you, with Native Hawaiians, who are opposing the construction of this huge telescope at Mauna Kea. Can you compare what’s happening right now to what took place in Standing Rock? Do you see similarities?

PUA CASE: You know, I certainly can, because I was at Standing Rock twice. And so were a large number of our people here. When Standing Rock occurred, we already had a relationship with the leadership of both Sacred Stone Camp and Standing Rock. And, in fact, the first day, when we took that stance, when the elders sat there and chose to block the road, the first caller that we had that morning to bless our day was LaDonna Brave Bull Allard.

So, we have a very close relationship to our relatives, because we are both standing for what is sacred: water. We are standing for the water from our mountain, and they, of course, are standing for their water.

The similarities are astounding, some of them being you have a small space with a large amount of people that cannot help themselves but be there, because for those of us who are either struggling, who have lost so much, when we see the opportunity to assist and support relatives who are going through the same thing, we will do everything in our power to either be there or assist in some way from afar.

So, many, many of our relatives from Standing Rock have pledged to be here, if we put the call out. So, the camaraderie, the alliances, the networking and the relationships that you create when you stand on each other’s front lines is something that is binding. We make a commitment to each other.

Right now we have not put out that call, because we went from 30 people, when we started last Friday — we are up to about 3,000 people. So, at this point, we have not put a call out to anyone anywhere other than Hawaii. However, we are finding each day that relatives from all around the world are finding their way here, even though that call out has not been made.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you expect the National Guard to come out today?

PUA CASE: The National Guard is here, yes. When Governor Ige did issue the state of emergency that allowed for the deployment of the National Guard, we know that they have been flying in. We know that they are housed very close to where we are, because the Pohakuloa military base is just miles down the road.

I can’t tell you what will happen today, to be quite honest. It changes every second of the day. I’m not sure we are aware of what is going to happen. We just remain on alert. We remain vigilant, 24 hours.
We are actually located in a parking lot, which has become a sanctioned sanctuary and safe place for us, and along the sides of a road in lava fields.

So, that’s where we differ from Standing Rock. We don’t have the kind of infrastructure here to create a large camp, except to be right in the elements, in the lava, and in the parking lot across from the access road.

We know that the National Guard is here. We know that a large amount of law enforcement is here, as well. And again, I have to emphasize that we are people, just people. We are not trained. We are not armed. We come from all walks of life. We are Native people. We are local residents. We are visitors. But we have made a commitment.So, what I would like to share, just as an example of how it is here —

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, Pua.

PUA CASE: Oh, I’m sorry. So, what I would like to say, in ending, if we have 30 seconds left, is I want to thank the worldwide community for standing with us. And so, what we are asking is that you go to Actions for Mauna Kea Facebook page.

You can find all the information about us. Thank you to everyone around the world, and to you, Amy, for allowing us to voice what is happening here in Hawaii. We are proud people. We are standing for what we have left. And —


PUA CASE: Mahalo.

AMY GOODMAN: Pua, I want to say thank you for joining us. I’d like to ask you to stay to the top of the hour to do Part 2 of this interview, where you can explain further why you are taking this stand. I want to thank you, Pua Case, indigenous organizer defending Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.

She is there at the access road with so many others, who are trying to prevent the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, from being built at the summit of Mauna Kea, the largest mountain in the world, a volcano. Thank you so much for being with us from Hawaii.

See also:
Mauna Kea telescope protest - Ea O Ka Aina 2 April 2014
Ige listens to Hawaii - Ea O Ka Aina 8 April 2015
Education and the Mountain - Ea O Ka Aina 15 April 2015
Eight arrested on Mauna Kea - Ea O Ka Aina 10 September 2015
No permit for TMT on Mauna Kea - Ea O Ka Aina 3 December 2015


Sweet and fitting to die for country

SUBHEAD: “Dulce et Decorum est” - Xenophobia, racism, patriotism and collapse are leading us towards WWIII.

By Alexander Aston on 25 July 2019 in The Automatic Earth -

Image above: Results in Lebanon of America's long fought Middle East Warn continue. In the future this could be Miami. From (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/03/23/the-coming-long-planned-middle-east-war/).
“Dulce et Decorum est” is a poem written by Wilfred Owen during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. The Latin title is taken from Ode 3.2 of the Roman poet Horace and means “it is sweet and fitting …”. It is followed there by “pro patria mori”, which means “to die for one’s country”.

“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again.”
– Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
If you have not read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August you should do so, it is one of the great, accessible works of history. Tuchman details with great clarity the diplomatic failures, miscalculations and political logics that ensnared the imperial powers of Europe into the cataclysm of the Great War.

It was the book that Kennedy drew upon when navigating the Cuban missile crisis. Just over a century since the guns fell silent in Europe, and nearly fifty years since nuclear holocaust was averted, the world is teetering on what might very well be the largest regional, potentially global, conflict since the second world war.

The United States is a warfare economy, its primary export is violence and it is through violence that it creates the demand for its products.

The markets of the Empire are the failed states, grinding civil conflicts, escalating regional tensions and human immiseration created by gun-boat diplomacy. In true entrepreneurial spirit, the United States has repeatedly overestimated its abilities to control the course of events and underestimated the complexities of a market predicated on violence.

However, since the beginning of the twenty-first century the American Imperium has proven itself as incompetent as it is vicious. After nearly two decades of intensifying conflicts, a fundamentally broken global economy and a dysfunctional political system, Washington has turned feral, lashing out against decline.

The points of instability in the global system are various and growing, and the only geo-political logics that the Imperium appears to be operating under are threats, coercion, and violence. It is at this moment, with the most erratic president in the country’s history, surrounded by some of the most extreme neo-conservative voices, that the United States has been belligerently stumbling across the globe.

In the past few months we have witnessed a surrealistic reimagining of the Latin American coup, the medieval melodrama of Canadian vassals taking a royal hostage from the Middle Kingdom and British buccaneers’ privateering off the coast of Gibraltar. The Imperial system is in a paroxysm of incoherent but sustained aggression.

It has long been clear that if another Great War were to emerge, it would likely begin in the Middle East. Just over a century later, we have found ourselves amidst another July crisis of escalating military and diplomatic confrontations. European modernity immolated itself in the Balkans though miscalculation, overconfidence and the prisoners dilemma of national prestige.

The conditions of the contemporary Middle East are no less volatile than those of Europe when the Austro-Hungarian Empire decided to attack Serbia. If anything, conditions are far more complex in a region entangled with allegiances and enmities that transgress and supersede the national borders imposed in the wake of the first world war.

The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the stated aim of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero has enforced a zero-sum logic between the American Imperium and Persia. With each move and counter move the two countries are further entangled into the dynamics of a conflict.

Much like the run up to July 28th 1914, tanker seizures, drone shoot downs, sanctions, military deployments and general bellicosity reinforce the rational of the opposing sides and make it harder to back down without losing face and appearing weak.

Due to the asymmetry of the two powers the Iranians have the fewest options for de-escalation while the American establishment perceives the least incentive. This dynamic is further exacerbated by major regional powers agitating for a conflict they believe they will benefit from.

Indeed, the slide to war might be inexorable at this point, the momentum of historical causality may have already exceeded the abilities of those in power to control.

Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm were cousins that desperately wanted to avoid war and were nonetheless impotent to avert disaster. There is nowhere near such intimacy, communication and motivation in our current context.

If war with Iran erupts, the Pax Americana will come to an end and humanity will fully enter a new historical epoch. The most unlikely scenario is an easy victory for the United States, yet even this outcome will only exacerbate the decline of the Empire. The other great powers would expedite their exit from the dollar system and drastically increase investment into the means to counter American hegemony.

Likewise, victory would further reinforce Washington’s hubris, generating more serious challenges to the Imperial order and making the US prone to take on even bigger fights. Ironically, easy military success would almost assure the outbreak of a third world war in the long-term.

War with Iran would likely ignite violence in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, re-energise and expand the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen as well as generate sectarian violence and domestic insurgencies across the Middle East.

Under such conditions regional actors would likely utilise a dramatically intensifying conflict as cover for their own agendas, for example with a renewed Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurds. The conditions for rapid escalation are extremely high in which non-linear dynamics could easily take hold and quickly outstrip any attempts to maintain control of the situation.

Pyrrhic victory for either side is the most likely outcome, making the parallels to the Great War all the more salient. Global conflagration is a possibility, but with “luck” the fighting could be contained to the region. Nonetheless, amplified refugee crises, supply chain disruptions and immense geopolitical realignments will cascade out of such an event.

Undoubtedly, there would be concerted efforts to abandon the dollar system as quickly as possible. Furthermore, rapid increases in the price of oil would all but grind the global economy to a halt within a matter of months, tipping citizenries already saturated with private debt into financial crises.

Furthermore, the entanglement of the military-industrial complex, the petrodollar reserve currency system and the omni-bubble generated by quantitative easing has left the Empire systemically fragile.

Particularly, the bubble in non-conventional fuels precipitated by QE, depressed oil prices with scaled down exploration, R&D and maintenance makes the possibility of a self-reinforcing collapse in the American energy and financial systems extremely plausible. It is a Gordian knot which war with Persia would leave in fetters.

The most likely long-term outcome of a war with Iran would be the economic isolation and political fragmentation of the United States. What is assured is that whatever world results it will not look anything like the world since 1945.

The first world war collapsed the European world system, dynasties that had persisted for centuries were left in ruins and the surviving great powers crippled by the overwhelming expenditures of blood and treasure. We are on the precipice of another such moment. The American world system is fundamentally dependent upon the relationship between warfare, energy dominance and debt.

Conflict is required to maintain control of the energy markets which prop up a financialised economy. A dynamic that puts the nation deeper in hock while amplifying resistance to financial vassalage.

Losing energy dominance undermines the country’s reserve currency status and weakens the Empires ability to generate the debt necessary to sustain the warfare economy.

Likewise, the system of national and international debt peonage parasitizes global populations to work against their own best interests. This fuels resentment and resistance which further drives the warfare economy. It is, in the inimitably American expression, a “self-licking ice cream cone.”

On August 3rd 1914, one week into the war, the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey famously remarked that “the lamps are going out across Europe and we shall not see them relit in our lifetime.”

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we face similar, terrifying prospects. Indeed, we could witness the collapse of democratic societies for a very long time to come. If we have any hope of averting calamity we need to generate loud opposition to imperialist warfare.

This does not mean some hackneyed anti-war movement based on past glories and the parochialism of domestic politics, but earnest effort to find common cause in resisting the insanity of those that seek profit in our collective suffering.

This means working with people that we have very deep disagreements with by respecting our mutual opposition to the masters of war. It also means serious commitment to strategies such as tax and debt strikes as expressions of non-consent as well as other peaceful means of direct action.

Indeed, it is from a place of agreement that we can potentially rebuild civil discourse and renew our trust in the ability of democratic institutions to mediate our quarrels. Perhaps it is too late to change course, but how sweet and fitting it is to face madness with dignity.

“What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? …power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand. ”
“Kings are the slaves of history.”
– Tolstoy, War and Peace

Moon Shot Fever Over

SUBHEAD: Landing on the Moon seemed a big deal at the time... But it was not the future we planned.

By Juan Wilson on 20 July 2019 for Island Breath -

Image above: Colored pen drawing by Juan Wilson of campsite in Titusville Florida, on the Banana River, looking towards the launch pad for the first moonshot a day before the flight as the launch tower was returning to the VAB (Vehicle Assemply Building). Note mop pole and plastic sheet camp tent behind our rented Camaro. From (Moonshot Part III: Natives Witness the Launch).

It has been fifty years since I witnessed the takeoff of the first successful landing of humans on the Moon. At the time it seemed to be heralding a new future - but it turned out to be a blind alley... a dead end.

Just the year before Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated and the country was in a mood for good news. Throwing a wet blanket on the party was the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, who had succeeded Martin Luther King as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Council. During the week before the moonshot Abernathy lead  the SCLC in a series of demonstrations titled the Poor Peoples Campaign march in and around the NASA Cape Canaveral launch site. Their rallying cry,
“If we can spend $100 a mile to send three men to the moon, can’t we, for God’s sake, feed our hungry?”
Instead of a Saturn V rocket the symbolic vehicle Abernathy chose to lead the demonstration was a conestoga wagon pulled by mules. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed so senseless and unrelated their effort.

Now I know better. Interest in the moon landings jumped the shark early on. Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. Interest in the Apollo series was waning. Fuzzy black and white images of grown men jumping around in the dust and desolation of the Moon got old fast.

Alan Shepard, in a feeble attempt to spark interest in the effort famously hit two golf balls on the lunar surface with a makeshift club he had brought from Earth. They did fly far but nobody really cared.

Surviving the next 50 years seems the real challenge for life on Earth now.

See also:
Moooshot Part I: A Rocky Road to the Cape
Moonshot Part II: Up Close to a Saturn V Rocket
Moonshot Part III: Natives Witness the Launch
Woodstock Forgotten: An alternate Adventure 

Kauai Expanding Military Role

SUBHEAD: A testing site for weapons systems, missiles, and rockets in the middle of the Pacific.

By John Letman on 4 May 2019 for The Diplomat-

Image above: An Aegis rocket is fired from a US Navy ship in test of defense patrols. The navy wants a for aggressive role for the Aegis system. See article (https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/06/16/the-us-navy-is-fed-up-with-ballistic-missile-defense-patrols/).

[IB Publisher's note: A former US Navy Commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility on KauaiBruce Hay  said, "We’re in an isolated location. But, we’re doing big things for very important people all across the globe." (see https://www.thegardenisland.com/2013/09/22/lifestyles/talk-story-with-capt-bruce-hay-commanding-officer-of-pmrf/). Unfortunately that means endangering all life on Earth for the sake of American dominance of the world. We living on Kauai are temporarily in the eye of an apocalyptic storm that will likely devastate our island. Can we not turn towards life instead of away from it?]

In the 76 years since Pearl Harbor catapulted Hawaii onto center stage of America’s Pacific war efforts, the islands’ importance to the Pentagon have only grown. Today, Hawaii hosts 142 sites (military bases and facilities) and, from its headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith on Oahu, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) oversees America’s military operations across half the planet. It’s difficult to overstate Hawaii’s importance to the military and increasingly, that includes the island of Kauai.

Since 1940, Kauai has been used as a military landing field, quietly cultivated as a site capable of hosting a broad range of military operations from aviation and underwater testing to amphibious and ground assault training, testing cluster bombs and drones, missile launches, telemetry, radar, and low orbit rocket launches.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The Garden Island, as Kauai is known, is home to the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), which describes itself as “the world’s largest instrumented multi-environment range, capable of providing complex and realistic training scenarios.” A spokesman for the naval base said, “PMRF is unique in that it can simultaneously support surface, subsurface, air, and space training scenarios.”

Every two years, PMRF plays a role in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest maritime exercise. In 2016, U.S. Marines and three allied nations conducted a simulated helicopter raid in support of “amphibious, offensive, defensive, and stability operations” at PMRF and the base supported SINKEX, an exercise in which decommissioned naval ships are used for practicing live-fire sinking.
Doing Big Things for Important People
As a missile testing and training facility, PMRF is said to be admired in Israeli defense circles. It’s also valued by NASA, the University of Hawaii, and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Atomics, and Northrop Grumman.

PMRF was critical in testing the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system as well as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the mobile missile defense system deployed on Guam and now in South Korea. PMRF also served as the launching ground for the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a system designed to strike a 6,000 km range in 35 minutes with an accuracy of ten meters.

PMRF’s commanding officer declined to comment for this story but in 2013, PMRF’s former commanding officer told Kauai’s local newspaper, “We’re doing big things for very important people all across the globe.” Among those big things is providing a home to Sandia National Laboratories’ Kauai Test Facility (KTF) which was established in 1963 in support of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Operation Dominic series of 36 high-altitude nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific.

Since its founding, the 130-acre KTF has supported at least 443 launches and provided resources for assembling, testing, and launching test vehicles on Kauai and elsewhere. Sandia describes KTF as a national asset that offers a laundry list of services from weapons research and development, operational and missile defense testing, radar tracking, telemetry reception, and training and launch projects. Both Sandia and KTF declined to be interviewed for this story.

Combat Ready?
In 2016, PMRF made headlines when USPACOM’s Admiral Harry Harris said the military should consider transforming PMRF from a testing and training facility into a combat ready missile defense base. At that time, PMRF dismissed the idea of serving as an operational facility. When asked again in April, a PMRF spokesman responded: “[PMRF] has not changed and… continues to test technology and train the fleet. The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex is a test asset and not an operational facility.”

But testifying before Congress on April 26, Harris said North Korea posed an immediate threat to Hawaii, again calling for a defensive radar system and missile interceptors in Hawaii. Kauai’s Congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) has also been a vocal advocate for introducing a combat ready missile defense system in Hawaii but her fellow congresswoman, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), questioned the need, calling North Korean threats to Hawaii overstated.

‘Bird’ Watching on Kauai
The U.S. Marine Corps is also eyeing Kauai for testing and training CH-53 and H-1 helicopters and the MV-22 Osprey hybrid tilt-rotor aircraft. If approved, additional training would involve low altitude flights in the rugged mountains of west Kauai and the neighboring privately owned island of Niihau.

In an October 6, 2016 email, a Marine spokesman wrote, “No final decision has been made by the U.S. Marine Corps with respect to any new or additional aviation training to be conducted at Kauai or Niihau. The Marine Corps is completing an Environmental Assessment… before making a decision to carry out new or additional aviation training… ”

Despite this, at least four Osprey were filmed flying and landing at or near PMRF ten days earlier. Then, in January 2017, a Kauai resident recounted the surprise appearance of Osprey flying over a public beach some ten miles east of PMRF. He described the incident and uploaded a short clip here.

Previously a Marine spokesman said Kauai was selected, in part, based on past training conducted at these locations and the proximity to PMRF. However, a PMRF spokesman stated, “PMRF is not involved in testing of the MV-22 Osprey. In reference to MV-22 Osprey activities on Kauai, we recommend that you contact the U.S. Marine Corps…”

In September 2016, when the Marines published notification of the proposed increase in training, there was almost no awareness by local government officials. Six months later, in April, when asked about Osprey training, Hawaii State Rep. Daynette Morikawa, who represents west Kauai and Niihau, said she hadn’t heard any news and declined to comment.

Deadly crashes in Hawaii involving both the Osprey and CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters in 2015 and 2016, along with an Osprey crash in Okinawa last December, have raised concern among some, but many Kauai residents remain unaware of the aircraft’s presence. The Marine Corps plans to deploy an additional Osprey squadron (12 aircraft) to Hawaii in 2018.

Dolphins, Whales, and Long Range Strike Weapons
The waters northwest of Kauai include the Barking Sands Underwater Range Extension (BSURE), where the U.S. Air Force has announced a five-year plan (September 2017-August 2022) to test the Long Range Strike Weapons Systems Evaluation Program.

That plan calls for the use of multiple types of inert and live bombs and missiles delivered by bombers and fighter aircraft and requests authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting munitions testing.

In an email, a spokeswoman for the 53rd Wing Public Affairs Office cited the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)’s definition of take marine mammals as “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.” Incidental is defined as “unintentional, but not unexpected.”

The Air Force’s 86 Fighter Weapons Squadron’s request for a letter of authorization states that the proposed Long Range Strike Weapons and other munitions operations off Kauai could expose marine mammals to sound levels associated with Level A and B harassment.

Level A means “any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal.” Level B is described as “any act[s] that disturb… by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, [etc.]…”

A total of nine species of whales, including humpback, melon-headed, and minke, and seven species of dolphins, including bottlenose, spinner, and striped, could be taken.

According to a NOAA spokeswoman, under the MMPA, NOAA Fisheries can “authorize impacts to marine mammals… provided [they] can ensure that the activity will have negligible impact on the affected species…” The Air Force has said, “No mortality is expected.”

Multiple requests for comment from the University of Hawaii Marine Mammal Research Program went unanswered.

A Shield or a Target?
Despite the breadth and frequency of military activities, most tourists on Kauai, and even many local residents, are scarcely aware of the military presence. Driving west toward PMRF along Kauai’s two-lane highway, a hand-painted wooden sign announces Hanapepe as “Kauai’s biggest little town.”

The sleepy community, better known as the fictitious setting for the Disney animated film Lilo & Stitch, is also home to a Hawaii Army National Guard (HIANG) Armory and the 299th Cavalry Regiment Combat Team Troop C.

It’s here, along the shoreline and by the mouth of the Hanapepe River that the 29th Infantry Brigade carries out monthly reconnaissance and infantry tactics training, preparing for the kind of battles they’ve faced in past deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here on Kauai, PMRF employs around 1,000 people (mostly Department of Defense and contract civilians) along with 90 active duty sailors. As one of Kauai’s top employers, the military is warmly regarded and touted as a way for the island’s youth to access high-tech and government employment.

It’s one reason why most residents (but not all) see nothing untoward when Kauai’s civilian airport is used for periodic touch and go exercises by the Hawaii Air National Guard’s F-22 Raptors or HIANG training in public, with camouflage-painted faces and firearms at the ready.

Kauai remains synonymous with beautiful beaches, dense tropical forests, and a laid-back island culture. But far from a sleepy Polynesian backwater removed from a troubled world, Kauai is an understated defense juggernaut with a growing role that leaves some wondering if all this weaponry serves more as a shield or a target.


Nuclear Risk Soar

SUBHEAD: The US is modernizing and expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities, to the detriment of all.

By Jon Letman on 16 July 2019 for Truthout -

Image above: Illustration of nuclear weapons carrying missiles over sunset on American flag. From original article.

On July 16, 1945, the U.S. detonated the first-ever nuclear device in the New Mexico desert. Less than a month later, it dropped two more atomic bombs, destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and injuring more than 200,000 civilians.

Today, 74 years later, President Donald Trump has elbowed his way to the precipice of war threatening fire, fury and obliteration against one state that has nuclear weapons (North Korea) and one that doesn’t (Iran). In June, shortly after Trump reportedly called off a military strike against Iran with just 10 minutes to spare, he lashed out on Twitter: “Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons!”

Meanwhile, the United States is pushing forward with plans to modernize, upgrade and rebuild its own aging nuclear stockpile. Over the next 30 years, the U.S. will spend at least $1.2 trillion on maintaining and modernizing nuclear weapons. With inflation, cost overruns and common under-estimation of weapon systems, the final cost of the U.S. nuclear enterprise could be as high as $2 trillion.

Trump’s 2020 budget alone calls for $16.5 billion (an increase of 8.3 percent over 2019) for the Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which maintains the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

When President Obama delivered his landmark Prague speech in 2009, he spoke of a U.S. commitment “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but quickly adopted the language of the NNSA: “As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.”

A decade later, the U.S.’s nuclear triad — weapons based on land, air and sea — is being granted a life extension, fueling a boon to the weapons industry and prompting opponents to warn of an expensive, potentially deadly new nuclear arms race.

The idea of modernizing the stockpile was born, in part, from the decision to end nuclear weapons explosive testing in 1992. The resulting Stockpile Stewardship Management Plan modernizes existing nuclear weapons through life-extension programs, modifications and alterations in order to maintain a nuclear deterrent.

While “life extension” is meant primarily as a means of refurbishing specific nuclear weapons, it is also a prime driver for nuclear delivery vehicles (missiles, submarines, bombers) to be newly redesigned as more capable, faster, stealthier systems, making the overall nuclear arsenal more lethal.

The NNSA did not agree to speak to Truthout for this story, but an NNSA spokesperson did confirm by email that it is currently executing five major nuclear weapons modernization programs. Those programs include a gravity bomb and an air-launched cruise missile whose nuclear yield can be dialed up or down (adjusted), allowing for greater flexibility.

Among the modified warheads is the W76-2, a lower yield (5-7 kilotons) version of the earlier more powerful (100 kiloton) W76-1. By comparison, the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki were around 15 and 20 kilotons respectively.

The first W76-2 warhead was completed in February at the United States’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. However, in June, House Democrats blocked funding for deployment of the W76-2 onto submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Opponents of new low-yield “mini nukes” argue that bombs with an adjustable selective yield option can produce less radioactive fallout, and may thereby lower the threshold for using them, making a nuclear conflict more likely. Currently, the U.S. stockpile includes around 1,000 warheads with selective yield options, some believed to be as low as 0.3 kilotons (exact yields are classified).

“Even the lowest yield is a very large explosive force compared to even the biggest conventional weapons that humans have been able to build,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

He points out that the U.S. is not alone in modernizing and upgrading its nuclear arsenal. All nine nuclear states have their own version of modernization reflecting the maturity of their program. The idea that Russia, for example, is modernizing, and the U.S. is “falling behind” is a mischaracterization of the real situation, says Kristensen.

“All countries use that [argument] to their advantage,” Kristensen told Truthout.

Modernization proponents include Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who said in a May press release, “Congress must invest in the modernization of our nuclear triad and the additional low-yield capabilities called for in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. These investments are critical to America’s ability to provide credible deterrence and rein in China and Russia.”

In the same release, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton argued future arms-control agreements should take into account Russia and China’s own nuclear expansion and modernization efforts.

Plans to use nuclear weapons are not just an abstraction for U.S. military planners. As the FAS’s Steven Aftergood reported, the Joint Chiefs of Staff posted an updated version of U.S. nuclear policy that included the passage: “Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability … specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.” FAS noted that the original document was quickly taken offline (but not before being preserved).

The above passage provoked concern because people saw it as a greater willingness to consider the use of nuclear weapons. “Rattling the nuclear sword a little more explicitly,” Kristensen said, noting that the language was consistent with half a century of nuclear strategy, but he was struck by the bluntness of the message at a time when the Trump administration is seeking low-yield nuclear weapons.

“To me, those things coinciding is a worrisome trend that we may be seeing signs here that … what you could call nuclear war planning operations are becoming a little more active than they were before,” Kristensen said.

Proponents argue modernization is essential to maintaining a “safe, secure, and effective” arsenal, but modernization can represent many different things. It may be something relatively simple, such as replacing components to extend the life of a warhead, to highly complex redesigns that carry the risk of introducing uncertainty and reducing confidence that a weapon will work.

Kristensen says it may be possible that at some point, a military commander could say they lack confidence that the weapon will function as intended. “The United States, therefore, could back itself into a corner where it would be forced to conduct a reliability test — a live nuclear test of that warhead to figure out it if really worked,” Kristensen said. To do so, he warned, would set off a cascade of nuclear tests around the world.

Tom Collina is the director of policy for the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation seeking to reduce nuclear risks. He calls the modernization of the U.S. arsenal “excessive and dangerous,” and argues that an adequate deterrence can be achieved with far fewer missiles than the U.S.’s more than 6,000 warheads.

“The more [nuclear weapons] that you build beyond what you need, not only is it very expensive — billions and billions of dollars — but it encourages Russia to build up as well so you create a new arms race,” Collina told Truthout.

According to Collina, the combination of rebuilding the U.S. nuclear stockpile and Trump’s efforts to pare down and withdraw from arms control agreements suggest a dangerous new arms race against Russia is in the making.

“We are planning our whole nuclear policy against the possibility of an intentional attack from Russia — a bolt from the blue,” Collina says. Rather, the U.S. should be more concerned about bumbling into a nuclear war through miscalculation, poor judgment by the president, or a false alarm.

Doubling down on Cold War-era threat perceptions, spending up to $2 trillion to rebuild nuclear weapons based on the past actually increases the danger of an accidental war, Collina argues. “Today we have a very different threat and we’ve never adjusted.”

Collina distinguishes between replacing components that remain unchanged and designing new parts that will result in a new, untested (currently untestable) weapon. “This is the danger when you give these assignments to the weapons laboratories (Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos) because these people like to design stuff. They like to make new things. They like to improve things — it’s kind of their nature,” he says.

In contrast to the positive “safe, secure and reliable” language used by the nuclear weapons industry, Collina offers a more sobering description, calling them “incredibly dangerous killing machines … these are weapons that annihilate women and children.”

He continues, “This is why nuclear weapons are different from any other weapon in the U.S. arsenal…. They do not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, between civilians and military. They kill anyone, anywhere, nearby. This is why they are not weapons of war. They are weapons of mass destruction.”

After more than 135 nations adopted the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, told Truthout that while the overall global number of nuclear weapons continues to gradually decline, those that remain are being modernized, upgraded and given new missions.

“The total number keeps going down very slowly … but they are also making these upgrades and alterations of nuclear weapons, which means that the qualitative impact of using them is not going down; rather the opposite — they’re planning for new types of nuclear warfare scenarios,” Fihn said. “It shows that they are expanding on the type of scenarios where they think that nuclear weapons can be used.”

As technology advances at a pace with which humans are struggling to keep up, Fihn worries that artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, autonomous weapons systems and other emerging technologies increase nuclear risks exponentially.

According to Fihn, the nuclear weapons industry has very successfully used the highly technical and complex nature of nuclear weapons to keep the general public in a state of feeling helpless and completely removed from the decision-making process.

In pursuing the nuclear ban treaty, ICAN is following the examples of successful campaigns that have led to the prohibition of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions. Fihn says there’s a need to strip nuclear weapons of the mystique of being viewed as a security tool with almost magical powers.

“As long as governments believe nuclear weapons are the ‘ultimate security guarantee,’ they won’t be abandoned,” says Fihn, adding that the commonly accepted notion that it’s necessary to maintain and modernize nuclear stockpiles runs counter to the idea of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

To argue in favor of “keeping nuclear weapons until they are gone” is an incoherent argument, she says. To do so is to never give up nuclear weapons, Fihn argues. She believes nuclear weapons, like other weapons of mass destruction, need to be delegitimized.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Fihn says, “is the vehicle where we stigmatize and reject nuclear weapons so that they are seen as unattractive, problematic, dangerous — what they actually are is a security threat to anyone who has them.”


Ghosts of the Fourth

SUBHEAD: There’s one big advantage to living in this flyover corner of America: We're far from the Interstate Highway System.

By James Kunstler on 5 July 2019 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: Ruins of the Baxter Marble Mill on the Battenkill River., later the Bartlett All-Steel Scythe Company. From original article.

Here in the Battenkill Valley in far upstate New York, the bones of the small towns are still visible while the flesh of the economy that built the towns is now long gone. The Battenkill River runs from the other side of the Vermont line across Washington County to the Hudson River.

It’s a swift, clear stream, and back-in-the-day it powered dozens of little factories along its winding way. They made men’s shirts, women’s lingerie, tea trays, ploughs, rye thrashers, boots, paper, and lots more. In a few places you can still find the ruins of these once-grand buildings.

We heard there was a good parade up in Salem, NY, ten miles northeast of here. Salem was a railroad town after 1852. It changed everything for a while. Farmers could send their potatoes and milk all the way to Boston.

Slate was abundant nearby and there was a lively commerce in it for roofing and other things. Marble came over from Vermont and was dressed into tombstone blanks, which were sent as far as the Midwest. The railroad itself employed scores of hands in the roundhouse where its locomotives were repaired. This rail connection to distant places and markets must have seemed wondrous.

The system held together for less than 100 years and now it, too, is a ghost presence, along with the factories. History has treated this corner of the country with something that feels like swift injustice. Today, we remain hostages to the automobile, with its geography-negating banality, but you can see the end of that road from here, too, and it is already subject to a very public nostalgia.

Image above: Families chatting and waiing for the parade to start in Salem NY. From original article.

The Fourth of July parade up in Salem was mostly a parade of motor vehicles: fire engines, EMT trucks, tractors, vintage 1920s flivvers, 1960s muscle cars, one classic hot-rod, and one weird Avanti, a mid-60s product of the then-floundering Studebaker Company — which, ironically, had run a wagon and carriage assembly factory in Salem around 1910, just as cars were being introduced.

The economic history of this place looks like a sequence of great works performed at enormous capital investment, and then quickly trashed for the next new thing. It must have been intoxicating at the time. I’d put the high-tide of it all at about 1900, when all the systems of manufacturing and transport were humming in synchrony.

Turns out it was an economy with a surprising purpose: to get rid of itself! And it’s stunning how gone it all is now. What replaced it is not only happening far, far away, but many items made far, far away can’t even be bought within a twenty-mile journey of any town in the county.

I pass through Salem about six or seven times a year for one reason or another. The rather grand old Main Street is usually empty of pedestrians.

Only a few of the remaining shopfronts sell useful merchandise so there is no reason to walk down the street. There are several impressive old buildings — skeletons of that ghost economy — clearly falling into terminal disrepair. Yet, on the Fourth of July, the streets were full of life, for a change.

Many (like us) had come from far-and-wide. We turned out to show love and respect (and curiosity) for whatever it is this enterprise called the USA is supposed to be now. Mostly, our national situation seems a matter of waiting for various shoes to drop.

There’s one big advantage to living in this flyover corner of America: it has received next-to-zero of the destructive suburban development overlay that has obliterated the landscape in those parts of the country that can pretend to still be booming. It is a blessing that I’m keenly aware of. We’re just too far away from the cities, and even from the Interstate Highway network.

So, when I behold the economic desolation in these little towns of the Battenkill Valley, I’m aware that, at least, we will not have to dig out from under the burden of the Big Box hell imposed on just about every other place from sea to shining sea, when that economy turns over — a process actually underway now. The K-Mart in my town, Greenwich, NY, shut down in March.

When enough of those predatory outfits are gone, someone may get a notion to sell stuff out of our empty main streets shops again. Of course, nobody’s thinking about making stuff that might be sold in those storefronts, but a sense of opportunity may arise quickly as the wind-down of Globalism — and all it implies for local places — becomes self-evident.