A Tale of Two Stockpiles: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Anniversary of his Murder in a Pandemic Year

The United States Strategic National Stockpile of essential medical supplies maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seems unable to respond to the present COVID-19 crisis. There is much discussion in today’s news about who is responsible for the shortcomings. Did Trump find the shelves empty or full when he took office after President Obama? Is the stockpile meant to support local governments in dealing with shortages in such a crisis, as the DHHS website said until last Friday, or is it specifically meant for use by the federal government, "our stockpile… not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use," as White House senior advisor Jared Kushner insists, a view supported by the newly amended DHHS website?

The United States maintains other strategic stockpiles, more carefully and at a far greater expense. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a stockpile of oil and gasoline and in 2009, President Obama announced the "Stockpile Stewardship Program," pledging more than a trillion dollars to ensure the "safety, security, and reliability" and the "life extension" of the deteriorating nuclear weapons stockpile. A common dictionary definition of the word "stewardship" is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources for the future, but in 2009, President Obama was not speaking of stewardship over the fragile environment, nor over the crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels, nor hospitals or schools, nor even stewardship for our national parks and forests, but stewardship for a stockpile of nuclear weapons. The "life extension" he called for was not for the world’s elderly increasingly at risk, but for the aging arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threaten the obliteration of all life.

President Trump’s determination to purge his predecessor’s legacy does not apply to Obama’s Stockpile Stewardship Program. With unique bipartisan support, the life extension of nuclear weapons has been kept safe from Trump’s budget cuts that decimated the United States’ ability to respond to a pandemic.

On this day in 1967 (April 4), one year before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech at New York’s Riverside Church titled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," that speaks to the present situation where weapons of mass destruction have priority over instruments of healing. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift," Dr. King declared, "is approaching spiritual death." In this speech Dr. King labeled the "triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism" and he lamented that "adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube" while human needs, especially those of the poor, went unmet.

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He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else

On April 4, 2020, my friend Steve Kelly will begin a third year of imprisonment in Georgia’s Glynn County jail. He turned 70 while in prison, and while he has served multiple prison sentences for protesting nuclear weapons, spending two years in a county jail is unusual even for him. Yet he adamantly urges supporters to focus attention on the nuclear weapons arsenals which he and his companions aim to disarm. "The nukes are not going to go away by themselves," says Steve.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 now await sentencing for their action, performed two years ago inside the Kings Bay Trident Submarine base in southern Georgia. They acted in concert with many others who take literally the Scriptural call to "beat swords into plowshares." Commenting on their case, Bill Quigley, a member of their legal team, told me "their actions speak louder than their words and their words are very powerful." Bill encourages us to remember each of them in our thoughts, prayers, and, hopefully, through our actions. "The legal system is not big enough for the hearts, minds and spirits of these folks," he adds. "The legal system tries to concentrate all of this down to whether you cut a fence or sprayed some blood." Bill believes we should instead look at the impending disaster nuclear weapons could cause, and the continuing disaster they do cause by wasting crucially needed resources to potentially destroy the planet.

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Neither Pandemic nor Panic Supersede the First Amendment

Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River church in Tampa, Florida, strongly believes that God wants his church to continue holding live services for hundreds of parishioners even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister and state attorney Andrew Warren strongly believe that they’re entitled to threaten Howard-Browne with arrest for holding those services, then follow through on that threat.

Howard-Browne is obviously willing to go to jail for his belief. Are Chronister and Warren willing to go to prison for theirs?

Whether Howard-Browne is correct in his assessment of God’s commands isn’t something I’ll pretend to know. But Chronister and Warren are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, incorrect in their claims of authority.

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The Intense Backlash To Firing Captain Crozier

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

The backlash to the Navy’s punishment of Capt. Crozier has been intense, and some influential members of Congress are denouncing the decision to relieve him of command:

Some Navy veterans were disgusted:

David Lapan, a retired Marine colonel, had this to say:

“What signal does this send to the fleet?” said Lapan. “Relieving that commander under these conditions makes it appear to be retaliation. It makes it appear the Navy is more interesting in not being embarrassed rather than taking care of sailors.”

Especially, he said, when one day earlier Modly was calling for commanders to be honest about what they need.

“It makes it appear that you really don’t want them to be honest.”

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Distraction? Trump Sends Warships to Venezuela

In a shocking press conference yesterday, President Trump and his advisors announced that the US military would begin conducting a “counter-narcotics operation” in the eastern Pacific and Caribbean. Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump’s Justice Department indicted Venezuelan president Maduro on drug trafficking charges. Is the US about to “do a Noriega” on Maduro based on half-baked charged that the Venezuelan leader is some kind of drug kingpin? Have the president’s war-braying neocons convinced him that the best thing to get our minds off of coronavirus is a “nice little war”? Today on the Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Why the US Should Scrap the Useless, Noxious Saudi Relationship

Gil Barndollar and Sam Long do an excellent job of making the case against the noxious U.S.-Saudi relationship:

These attacks on individuals, however, paled in comparison to the Kingdom’s military misjudgments. The war in Yemen, pushed by Mohammed bin Salman when he became Minister of Defense in 2015, was expected to be a quick triumph. Instead it has become the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. American-made missiles and bombs have killed thousands of civilians due to some combination of Saudi carelessness, incompetence, and malice. The campaign has also been an embarrassment for Saudi Arabia’s paper tiger military, outfought by Yemen’s Houthi militia and trapped in an unwinnable war – a war backstopped by the support of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

These decisions ultimately damage the United States, rightly seen as Saudi Arabia’s unblinking protector. Though Congress took belated steps to end the Saudi campaign in Yemen, most Americans could and did ignore Saudi Arabia’s recent actions in its own neighborhood. But as job losses mount, ordinary Americans will finally face the consequences of our toxic relationship with the Saudi monarchy.

The U.S. has worked with some very nasty authoritarian states over the decades, sometimes out of genuine necessity in WWII and sometimes because it was deemed expedient for the sake of a larger policy goal. The US has usually come to regret the compromises that it has made by cooperating with these governments, and the benefits from these relationships have usually been few and limited. The U.S.-Saudi relationship serves no such purpose now if it ever did, and the US gets no benefits from it at all. Now there are only costs and risks, and they continue to increase as the reckless Mohammed bin Salman consolidates his hold on power.

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