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Dear Senator,
I would like to urge you to vote against any law (such as S.2828, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014) which would provide military and financial aid to the Ukrainian government for the ostensible reason of “defending Ukraine’s democracy against Russian aggression”. Our government has no business in providing weapons to foreign governments or intervening in the internal affairs of other nations, in general, and in Ukraine in particular, even if Russian government supports separatists in the south-east of Ukraine.

Providing military aid to the current Ukrainian government will only make the armed conflict in the south-east bloodier and has the potential of turning it into a full-out war. It would make the US morally responsible for the victims of this conflict, earning our nation a status of a war financier. Instead we should let the conflict run its course and for the Ukrainian and Russian governments to figure out how to deal with each other given that the conflict is destructive for both sides.

Clearly, the fervor with which our Administration supports the current pro-EU government in Ukraine has to do with a long-term US policy of weakening Russia’s ties with Ukraine despite their thousand year long history of cultural and economic relations. We should stop doing this and concentrate on building our own nation instead.
Учебное пособие посвящено рассмотрению требований к проектированию архитектурных объектов в условиях низкотемпературной окружающей среды и способы их удовлетворения путем формообразующих градостроительных и планировочных решений. Основными такими требованиями являются:
1) Защита внутреннего пространства зданий от экстремальных неблагоприятных воздействий окружающей среды: морозов, снежных бурь и холодных ветров;
2) Компенсация ограниченного контакта жителей с природой путем формирования общественных рекреационных зон с благоприятным микроклиматом;
3) Оптимизация пешеходных коммуникаций между жилыми комплексами и зонами сферы обслуживания с целью минимизации контакта с неблагоприятной окружающей средой.

В пособии рассматривается ряд формообразующих концепций, таких как объёмно-объединенная и непрерывная, способствующих улучшению микроклимата внутри зданий и в прилегающих территориях. Такие типы формообразования позволяют улучшить ветрозащиту внутренних дворов, минимизировать площади поверхности оградительных конструкций и соответствующих теплопотерь, а также интегрировать обслуживающие учреждения и рекреационные зоны непосредственно в структуру жилого комплекса. В качестве последних рассматриваются варианты использования атриумов крытых прозрачной кровлей и расположенных в подсолнечной части комплекса. Указывается энергетическая эффективность компактных корпусов, достигаемая за счет: 1) расширения стандартных корпусов путем помещения кухонь во внутреннем пространстве квартир и 2) ограничения этажности.

Автором предпринимается оригинальная попытка выявления закономерностей архитектурного формообразования в экстремальной среде исходя из исторического опыта строительства и анализа морфологии и физиологии живых организмов. К сожалению, на практике, рассмотрение устройства и функционирования снежных иглу или устройства плавников дельфина не дают импульса для инновационных инженерных решений при проектировании современных архитектурных объектов. Напротив, неконкретные и порой тривиальные рассуждения, отвлекают от сути предмета, умаляя компетенцию автора и интерес к книге.

Автор неоднократно указывает на энергоэффективность плотной застройки, не упоминая сопутствующие негативные социальные и психологические последствия: низкая степень приватности и безопасности, знакомое всем проявление вандализма и бесхозяйственности в общественных пространствах. Однако следует учесть, что в советскую эпоху указание недостатков коммунальной многоквартирной урбанизации можно было бы проинтерпретировать как антисоциалистическую пропаганду.

Книга содержит серьезный недостаток: автор не приводит детального воплощения архитектурного проекта комплексно реализовывающего рассматриваемые в пособии принципы формирования комфортного и энергоэффективного жилья. Напротив, приведенные примеры проектов призеров всесоюзного конкурса «Северный Дом» проведённого в 1985 г. обнаруживают, на мой взгляд, серьёзные недостатки не указанные автором.

Например, рассмотрим проект комплекса на Рис. VII. 11. Из разреза (2) видно, что окруженное квартирами внутреннее общественное пространство комплекса не способно получать достаточного уровня солнечного освещения. Такое пространство - освещаемое искусственным светом - будет очень угнетающим независимо от его функции или степени благоустройства. Прямолинейная коридорная планировка (4) лишает жилье индивидуальности и приватности. Наконец, генплан (5) предполагает очень высокую плотность заселения, имеющую, как указано выше, негативные социальные и психологические последствия.
Рисунок VII. 11
Недостатками комплексов приведенных на Рис. VII. 13 и VII. 15 является очень высокая плотность застройки и затенение внутренних фасадов от прямого солнечного освещения.
fig7.15
Рисунки VII. 13,15
На Рис. VII. 14 показан не менее неудачный проект генплана в форме спирали. Возможно такое решение обеспечивает определенную ветрозащиту, но не учитывает некомфортность жильцов вынужденных передвигаться по спирали для того чтобы попасть в центральные подъезды комплекса.
Рисунок vII. 14
В заключении, хотелось бы высказать автору запоздалую благодарность за проделанную работу в выработке особенностей архитектурного проектирования в условия сурового климата и порекомендовать книгу всем интересующимся этой тематикой.

Полное название книги: Б.М. Полуй «Архитектура и градостроительство в суровом климате», Ленинград: Стройиздат, 1989г.

Motivation


In recognition of the need for a focused effort at promoting the mission of the organization, the VFP Board of Directors proposed a National Strategy Plan in August 2012. However, in my opinion, it was so unfocused that it defeated the very purpose it was created to accomplish. More importantly, I claim that the existing action strategy is severely deficient. Here, I first briefly examine the current action strategy, emphasize its deficiency and offer a way to correct it.

Before proceeding I would like to fix a few terms: a mission is the grand goal for which an organization is created; an action strategy is a plan for achieving a mission while tactics are the specific activities carried out by members enabling the strategy.

Current action strategy


Reviewing the range of past and present activities and the National Strategy Plan one may conclude that the existing action strategy condenses to:

    - Exposing the public to the true costs of war and the real motives as to why the Executive branch engages in wars. This is intended to undermine public support for wars in favor of nonviolent means of conflict resolution.


    - Emphasizing to the public the overblown size of “national defense” spending in comparison to the rest of the national priorities. This is intended to galvanize the public to demand a reduction in military funding, thus taming US military capability and limiting the Executive branch’s ability to conduct large scale military offensives abroad.


    - Building a culture of peace on an individual level. This is intended to alter how we think about dealing with international conflicts and ultimately produce a more sensible foreign policy.


This strategy was in place for many years; however, the US Empire remains and the waging of war by our federal government continues, indicating that the strategy is not working well. I claim that the whole strategy is defective because it assumes that the informed public will be able to effectively influence their Congress members or otherwise elect pro-peace candidates needed to keep in check the war-mongering tendencies of the Executive branch.

Genuine representation myth


Someone may claim that members of Congress genuinely represent the public’s views on matters of foreign policy/national security since the public often supports the Executive branch’s decisions for starting wars. The problem with this argument is that when a few years later public opinion swings against a war, Congress does not rush to act to end it. More importantly, members of Congress are elected to represent public interests not the majority opinion. The waning of support for wars over time as war costs begin manifesting while the facts start cracking the facade of propaganda indicates that true public interest does not align with waging occupational wars. However, this realization always comes too late because the manifestations of war costs are always delayed. Here is where a genuinely public representative must rise and present to the constituency the ramifications for a nation to engage in a war proposed by the Executive branch.

Congresspersons are sufficiently familiar with US history to remember that wars lead to displaced federal priorities, economic costs, lots of bloodshed, hatred from people of the occupied nations, and ultimately blowback. Congress members vote annually on the federal budget and know that most of the discretionary funds are spent funding militarism and the maintenance of the Empire at the expense of domestic priorities. Members on Foreign Intelligence Committees have access to intelligence reports to study evidence or lack thereof about potential threats to our national security and ask difficult questions of members of the Administration or to subpoena them if necessary. Moreover, they have the power to authorize (Article I, Section 8) and (de)fund wars. The War Powers Resolution Act of 1973 explicitly spells out the terms for the separation of war powers with Congress having an upper hand. Despite significant powers most members of Congress comply with the judgment of the Executive's branch on matters of war (while some actively push for wars) against public interest. Why? The majority of congresspersons do not represent the interests of the general public because the general public plays a minor role in electing them to power in the first place as detailed below.

Campaign financing


The success of (re)election increasingly depends on the availability of campaign funds, needed to attack political opponents; therefore raising campaign funds is the first priority of each member of Congress who must allot at least 4 hours/day fundraising. According to the Center for Responsive Politics successful House and Senate candidates in hot races had to raise in excess of $2 and $5 million dollars respectively in the 2012 election cycle. It also found that 67% of contributions in the 2012 election cycle toward federal candidates, parties or PACs came from 0.53% of the adult US population! Below is shown the distributions of sources of funds to congressional campaign committees in the San Diego area:

Brian Bilbray (replaced by Scott Peters in 2012):
Brian_Bilbray_campaign_sources

Susan Davis:
Susan_Davis_campaign_sources

Darrel Issa:
Darrel_Issa_campaign_sources

Duncan Hunter:
Duncan_Hunter_campaign_sources

The above data shows that small individual contributions (less than $200) rarely exceed 5-8% of the total campaign funds, whereas the rest of the funds come from large campaign donors (corporate PACs and wealthy individuals). Therefore members of Congress are easily accessible and attuned toward the demands of major campaign donors and fundraiser organizers (commonly lobbyists). No incumbent member of Congress or candidate wants to upset major campaign donors who thereby implicitly set the political climate and the federal policy. This is very problematic because the interests of the economic elites and the ordinary public are commonly in conflict.

Contradiction of interests


Such a contradiction of interests is vivid on the issue of war. Ordinary Americans overwhelmingly pay human and economic costs at the time of wars whereas executives of “defense” companies and their lobbyists reap huge rewards from government contracts. As war ends, ordinary Americans continue paying economic costs due to displaced government priorities whereas executives of transnational corporations and banks receive favorable access to new markets falling under the control of the American Empire. The described contradiction of interests when multiplied by the differences in the ability to influence Congress (roughly measured by the amount of campaign donations) creates a gross misrepresentation of public interest in Washington D.C. and therefore is a form of government corruption. So, even though the ordinary public constitutes the majority of voters and technically elects candidates to Congress, large campaign donors effectively decide which candidate will be able to sustain the political campaign to end up on the voting ballot. To that extent, the assumption that “the informed public will be able to effectively influence their Congress members or otherwise elect pro-peace candidates ...” is flawed because public demands are not matched by campaign contributions vital for the Congressperson’s re-election campaign.

Revised action strategy


Existing misrepresentation in Congress indicates that repairing the current action strategy requires putting ordinary people at the center of the congresspersons’ attention. Moreover, since waging occupational wars contradicts the interests of ordinary people, a genuine representation of those interests in Congress, not corrupted by the influence of large campaign donations, may actually be sufficient to guide the peace-oriented foreign policy. Therefore, an effective action strategy should include a campaign toward putting ordinary people at the center of the congresspersons’ attention.

Campaign finance reform


CU_Banner
There is a reason public approval of Congress consistently polls around 15%. The majority of Americans understand that our Republic is severely ill, but the cause of the illness is far less obvious. Therefore many advocacy groups attempt to treat the symptoms of the illness manifested in unending wars, a militarized budget, income inequality, an absence of accessible health care and higher education, etc. My thesis is that the root cause common to all of the above (and many other) ills is the undue influence of big money in politics and must be addressed by enacting campaign finance reform for congressional elections.

The infamous Supreme Court ruling in 2010 on Citizens United vs. FEC invigorated the public on the broader issue of the influence of big money on our elected officials. Now, the majority of voters across party lines support some form of campaign finance reform. In my opinion, VFP and other peace groups must not only welcome but actively advocate for campaign finance reform in order to create an effective action strategy.

Some believe that only a constitutional amendment declaring that “corporations are not people” and that “money is not a protected speech and can be regulated” is the only way to address the problem. Since constitutional amendments are hard to obtain, a meaningful reform may seem out of reach. However, it appears that substantial reform may be achieved without a constitutional amendment. As of 2013 there are several legislative proposals which would help reduce the influence of big money and increase the influence of ordinary voters on the decision making process in Washington D.C. Undoubtedly, most of them will fail or if enacted would not solve the entire problem. Nevertheless, they are the elements which shift the influence on Congress from the affluent minority with special interests towards the general public in order to create a more perfect union. Until then all we have is the hope that our Presidents will choose to not over-abuse their war power.

Further reading:
Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role of Money in the 2012 Elections
Democracy 21
United Republic
Dear Senator,

As a concerned parent of a kindergarten age child I am fully supportive of your leadership in introducing the updated Assault Weapons Ban Bill in Congress. I would like for you to consider including in this bill a ban on a Slide Fire stock which, building on the effect of the bump fire, enables a rapid-fire from a semi-auto rifle comparable to that of the automatic fire. Approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this new but popular device is currently available for the AR-15 and AK-47 with many other popular platforms in the development, according to the company’s website. Since the semiautomatic weapons are not going to be banned retroactively, we must at least assure that no more of those will be modified to enable the extremely deadly fire of military-grade automatic rifles.
AACA-logo-h
The unwillingness of Congress to accept the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2% earners favored by more than 60% of voters underscores that collectively Congress does not represent its People. Instead congresspersons are attuned to the interests of a tiny affluent elite funding election campaigns. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 67% of contributions in the 2012 election cycle toward federal candidates, parties or PACs came from less than 0.5% of the adult US population! We cannot expect Congress to act on behalf of the ordinary people, as opposed to wealthy campaign backers, lobbyists and their corporate clients, until we institute campaign finance reform which puts ordinary people at the center of the congresspersons’ attention.

Whereas the constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech may be a long way off, we can act now by supporting the American Anti-Corruption Act. If implemented, it will empower ordinary Americans to participate in campaign funding by creating an annual $100 tax rebate that can be used for contributions to federal candidates. It will close the revolving door, limit super PAC and lobbyist contributions, mandate full transparency and prohibit members of congress from soliciting money from special interest groups.
Location: University City, San Diego

I am asking for your support in urging the city of San Diego and UCSD to approve the development and financing of a separated bikeway (cycle-track) described herein which will connect the UCSD campus with the southward residential area east of I-5. This community has a large population of students and UCSD employees in need of convenient commuting options to campus. The campus shuttle route A and city bus Route 201/202 are overcrowded and frequently cannot accommodate passengers during the peak hours. Having a convenient and safe bikeway would provide a needed commuting alternative for those residents and reduce the city bus and campus shuttle loads.
The proposed dedicated bikeway would run north along Regents Road - starting from the canyon as shown in Fig. 1, then turning east into the UCSD owned Mesa Apartments complex along Executive Drive and finally connecting with the west side of campus on Gilman Drive by means of a bicycle/pedestrian only bridge running over I-5 (see Fig. 2), which needs to be constructed as a result of this proposal. The total length of the bikeway is about 2 miles, which could be ridden in about 15 minutes. Optionally, it may also be proposed to construct another bicycle/pedestrian only bridge across the canyon and the railroad to connect the bicycle commuters on either side of the canyon along Regents Road.
bicycle_pathFig1
There are significant advantages to this bikeway route:
1. It connects multiple residential communities currently without a safe bicycle commuting option to campus.
2. Regents Road is very wide along most of the proposed path and therefore may be easily remodeled to accommodate a separated bikeway.
3. There are a number of destinations along the path that local residents would be able to commute to by bycicle: Regents Park, Doyle Elementary School, the Vons Shopping area, La Jolla Country Day School, UCSD Medical center, etc.
4. This bikeway will connect with the bicycle path running along the canyon, considerably expanding the bicycling commuter reach.
5. The bikeway may be built in stages providing improved bicycle commuting at each stage. Completion of the proposed stage 1 (marked in yellow) will already allow bicycling to campus via Voigt Street. However, completing stage 2 (orange) will provide a more attractive route to encourage a larger group of commuters to switch to bicycling to campus. Completing the stage 3 (magenta) will connect the other side of the canyon opening the campus bicycling commute option to an even wider community.
6. The bikeway conveniently connects the student Mesa apartments and UCSD Medical Center with the West side of campus.
Having such a bikeway would reduce loads on city bus Route 201/202 and campus shuttle routes A, M, SC, C, H. It would also potentially reduce the campus parking needs because some drivers would switch to bicycling.
Imagine a community where students commute to campus by bicycles, local residents ride bicycles with their families to Doyle and Mandell-Weiss Eastgate parks or to schools. How much more would residents enjoy living in a community which provides a safe, inexpensive, environmentally conscientious way of bicycle commuting.
bridgeI5bFig2
Benefits to local residents:
The local residents will enjoy the following benefits in addition to having the above mentioned commuting option and access to the network of bicycle paths:
1. Increased bicycle commuting will reduce the car traffic, the ensuing pollution and car noise.
2. Such a unique to San Diego infrastructure improvement should raise property values in the area.

FAQ:
Q: Are you sure that many people will use it?
A: A safe, convenient, fast and free way of commuting should find many followers. It would take about 15 minutes to cross a 2 mile distance – faster than when using a shuttle bus (if considering a wait time at the bus stop). Cycling is a much more attractive option than driving to the UCSD campus because of high car parking fees.
Many people own bicycles but they do not use them because of a lack of infrastructure and/or habit. However, most of the campus commuters are young people, thus capable of riding and altering their commuting habits when presented with a reasonable alternative.

Q: Why do you need a separated bikeway?
A: A separated bikeway provides safety for bicyclists and allows for faster riding. Lack of safety is likely the main reason people are skeptical of cycling. Regular bicycle lanes are not safe. On the contrary, a cycle-track protects bicyclist from car traffic, providing safe riding even for children (See short video http://www.streetfilms.org/ninth-avenue-gets-a-physically-separated-bike-lane/).

This proposal was well received by the UCSD Senior Planner, the ofice of Councilmember Sherri S. Lightner and bikeSD.org. If you like the plan, let them know that.

Helpful science for raising a child

wellcome2childsbrain
As a new parent I thought that I had a pretty good idea of how to raise my child, but soon I began questioning my knowledge, recognizing that it is little more than a collection of personal observations mixed in with the popular tales. As a child grows and develops many questions for how to deal with different developmental stages arise, but where are the reliable answers? Cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology seem to abound with theories and research, but they are of limited merit for parents with no time to delve into such a body of research. This book compensates for some of the discontinuity between scientific knowledge and practice and deserves the praise. In what following I will mention several notable concepts picked up from the book.

Parenting style and environmental circumstances in general have limited, though measurable, effect on child development under good enough conditions. If you do not neglect, abuse or constantly chastise your child, the home conditions are considered good enough. One important recommendation for parents: relax, do not over-think it and enjoy watching how your child's brain develops itself.

Most pregnancies turn out fine as long as they are allowed to run the full course. Expectant mothers should avoid drugs, smocking, alcohol, and stress and should pay attention to their nutrition (not the same as dieting).

Both heredity and the environment determine brain development. The interactions between environmental and hereditary influences are non-linear and are entangled in closed causal feedback loops. Inherited personal characteristics bias a child toward a particular environment which subsequently may cause epigenetic modifications to some regions of the DNA. Therefore, identifying strictly environmental and hereditary causes for a particular behavior when the two components are coupled may be impossible. One conclusion is that heredity or the environment separately does not determine particular developmental outcomes, but the interaction of them does. The possibility to change the environment therefore gives some wiggle room in developmental outcomes.

By birth the addition of new neurons is nearly complete and structural brain development continues by elaboration of axons, dendrites and formation of new synaptic connections. In fact, a huge number of nonselective synapses is being formed during the first year, and unused synapses are gradually pruned during sensitive periods of development. A sensitive period is a developmental interval when experience has a particularly strong effect on the construction of brain circuitry. The quality of a child's experience during sensitive periods can have a permanent effect on the construction of brain circuits. The formation of native language and deficits of visual acuity in infants with surgically removed cataracts are manifestations of the crucial importance of specific experiences during sensitive periods of development.

Sleep enhances remodeling of brain circuits in response to experience and is implicated in memory consolidation. A baby's sleep can be made more regular by establishing a regular feeding schedule. Children learn to associate particular cues with sleep, therefore a consistent bedtime routine is essential for falling asleep.

Most behavioral gender differences are too small to matter because variability within each sex group in most cases is greater than between the sexes. The noticeable differences are that the boys are significantly more active and aggressive than girls. Girl's brains mature earlier; their brains are moderately better at inhibitory control and fine motor coordination when starting school. On the other hand, boys are better at mentally rotating objects through space which predicts performance on the math part of the SAT.

Babies can hear before they are born, starting at the beginning of the third trimester. Loud noises can cause partial hearing loss throughout the lifetime.

Babies who are not snuggled enough in early life become developmentally delayed, which is not an issue in most households.

Flavor preferences learned in infancy can last a lifetime. Small children can be taught to like vegetables after consuming them multiple times. Seeing parents and siblings eat vegetables and participating in the preparation of food seems to work as well. Combining a new flavor with a familiar well-liked flavor also helps to develop new food preferences.

Preschool children's ability to resist temptation is the best known predictor of eventual academic success. Self-control can be improved at any age (no sensitive period there). Parents can help their children to self-regulate by encouraging children to pursue their own interests, i.e., the activities children like to intensely concentrate and engage in.

Play is necessary for forming normal social interaction. Outdoor play improves vision. Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to become myopic.

Exercise is vital for cognitive ability. Children should be physically active at least an hour a day, and it is best to introduce them to sports which then can become lifelong hobbies.

People cannot perform multiple attention-demanding tasks. Attempting to do multiple things at once merely switches attention.

Babies are born with specific temperaments which show strong heritability, although environment also plays a role in shaping their adult personality. In particular, culture has a strong influence on personality development.

Children are extremely emotional because the parts of the brain which produce raw emotions (amygdala) mature earlier than the parts that interpret and manage them (prefrontal cortex). A child's ability to recognize and regulate emotions improves throughout childhood. Parent should coach their children on experiencing emotions and suggest constructive ways to deal with them.

By age four children develop the capacity to think about other people's state of mind such as emotions, desires and beliefs including false beliefs.

A child is likely to remember more if there is time to process the learned information between training sessions. The most likely reason is that breaks between study sessions allow time for the newly acquired information to be consolidated. Since memories are reconsolidated learning, tests, except for the multiple choice test, improve learning. Also varying timing, location, and the presentation of different examples of the learned concepts improves memory consolidation.

It is much more effective to praise children for their specific efforts, rather than generally. For instance, it is better to say "you did a great job building this castle", than "you are so smart".

Reasoning ability is mostly controlled by genes and modestly by the environment. Educational baby videos are detrimental to development, especially before the age two. Listening to classical music does not make children smarter. However, learning to play a musical instrument has some cognitive benefit.

Children before age 5-6 lack the capacity to distinguish letter "b" from "d" and mirror images along the vertical/horizontal plane in general. Studies show that babies watching videos claiming to teach reading are doing nothing more than forming associations between sounds of the word and symbols on the card, rather than reading them.

A moderate amount of stress is helpful for developing coping skills in children: it should be high enough to notice, but low enough that they can handle it. Chronic stress causes hippocampal damage leading to impaired learning.

Children's behavior is strongly influenced by the positive or negative consequences that immediately follow a certain action. Setting appropriate expectations for behavior and selecting the right consequences (rewards or their absence) will convince your child to follow the household rules. Children yearn for parents' attention, thus completely ignoring the problem behavior is usually an effective way to stop it. Conversely, a parent's approval, expressed enthusiastically should be the best reward for positive behavior rather than toys and food. Another good type of reward is letting children exert more control over their lives: the right to decide what is for dinner, etc. Yelling and spanking are not effective means of behavior modification in the long run and lead to fear and anxiety. In order to suppress undesired behavior, parents need to promote positive behavior by explaining to the child what exactly the positive behavior constitutes and reinforce it when it occurs.
StopTheWarOnIran
Iran has not historically been an aggressive state in modern times, having invaded and occupied no other state for over 250 years.

Numerous retired U.S. military general staff have publicly stated that Iran poses no threat to the United States.

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), allows regular inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, has formally renounced nuclear weapons, and agreed in March 2012 to six-party talks and permission for IAEA inspectors to visit its key military research site.

Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful energy production.

According to the principle of self-determination established by Article 55 of the UN Charter, no nation has the right to engage in covert or overt aggression, or interference with the internal affairs of other nations, including Iran, whose policies and conduct are in compliance with international law.

The government of Israel — a state with an undeclared and formidable nuclear arsenal that has refused to sign the NPT or allow IAEA inspections despite a formal IAEA request in September 2009 — has no right to dictate nuclear conditions to any other state.

As American citizens who have seen U.S.-supported police states abroad in violation of Article 55(c) of the UN Charter, we regrets and apologize for the suffering caused to the Iranian people by covert U.S. operations in 1953 that deposed Iran’s democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadeq, and subsequently installed Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi who subjected the Iranian people to 25 years under a brutal police state.

As American citizens who have witnessed interference by the U.S. government in other states in violation of UN Charter Articles 1(2) and 2(4) that establish “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” and prohibit “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” we are strongly opposed to the unjust, illegal and unnecessary trade and banking sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States. These sanctions have already caused a great amount of suffering for the Iranian people.

Article VI of the United States Constitution defines our treaty obligations, which include the United Nations Charter, as “the Supreme Law of the Land,” thereby establishing the above-cited UN Charter violations as Constitutional violations as well.

As American veterans who have seen the horrors of military violence inflicted by our country and its allies in violation of UN Charter Articles 2(3) and 2(4), which require member states “to settle international disputes by peaceful means” and “refrain from the threat or use of force,” we are alarmed at U.S. and Israeli efforts to intimidate the Iranian people with threats of military attack.

From these positions grounded in the UN Charter and United States Constitution, we oppose the U.S. government economic sanctions against Iran, U.S. government threats of military attack upon Iran, and any U.S. government support of Israel in preparing or launching such an attack.

We are urging you, as a member of U.S. Congress, to actively oppose the sanctions and threat of war by against Iran by U.S. and Israeli governments.

The folly of war on Iran

Prepared by the Central Jersey Coalition against Endless War

Attacking Iran would be a triple disaster:



Moral disaster – Attacking Iran would:


- Kill thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Iranians, many of whom will be children;
- Produce widespread hunger, disease, and permanent disabilities among Iran’s civilians;
- Devastate a country that, inspectors say, is not now building nuclear weapons;
- Continue a dangerous policy of preemptive attack on countries which have supposedly considered acts that they have not carried out yet;
- Punish the people of a resource-rich, strategically located country for having a government that does not do Washington’s bidding or allow U.S. corporations to control and amass super-profits off of their oil;
- Severely damage the fragile fabric of international law (an unprovoked attack is illegal).

Economic disaster – Attacking Iran would:


- Send the price of gas through the roof;
- Destabilize the American economy which is barely recovering from a severe recession;
- Provide an excuse to divert resources from critical needs such as education, healthcare, rebuilding infrastructure and development of non-destructive sources of energy;
- Destroy the Iranian economy for years (possibly decades) to come;
- Devastate other poor countries by increasing energy costs and destabilizing their frail economies;

Political disaster – Attacking Iran would:


- Threaten the prodemocracy movement specifically of women and the Iranian 99%.
- Provide another example of the hypocrisy of Washington which ignores both the nuclear weapons development of its friends and its own failure to follow the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while using charges of weapons development to weaken its opponents;
- Weaken our remaining human rights in the US by giving even more power to politicians and bureaucrats who use war and “national security concerns” as a cover to restrict dissent;
- Start another protracted war just when the US is trying to get out of Afghanistan;
- Strain relations with China, India, and Russia among others;
- Give millions more people reason to fear and hate the United States for its war-making and perhaps induce attacks upon Americans;
- Accelerate acquisition of nuclear weapons as the only potent safeguard against being attacked.



Further reading: Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran

US Military Spending

Let’s look at how the federal government spends our money…

The pie chart below shows the distribution of the total federal budget spending for FY 2013.
proposed-total-fy2013-np
The "Social Security & Unemployment" and "Medicare & Health" take on a major fraction of the federal spending, amounting to about 58% of the total outlays, whereas "Military" spending appears to amount to just 18%. The problem with this representation is that the Social Security & Medicare are parts of the mandatory spending directly financed by the dedicated revenue raised from payroll taxes, as imposed by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), not through the Federal income tax and thus represents a different Treasury account.

If we separate the mandatory spending and look only at the discretionary spending component appropriated by Congress on an annual basis and for which all the federal programs compete, a very different picture arises.
proposed-dicretionary-fy2013-np

The Military (“National Defense” budget function 050) consumes nearly 57% of the discretionary budget in comparison to Education (6%), Science (3%), Energy & Environment (3%), etc. Military spending has sharply risen since the beginning of the War on Terrorism, from $294b in FY 2000 to $705b in FY 2013 (data from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2013, Table 6.1).

Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is now greater than at any time since World War II -- even greater than during the peak spending years of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War (figure credit: RandomNonviolence).
fy13histmilitaryspend

A large portion of this spending goes to the military contractors, companies whose profits and viability critically depend on the size of the military budget. Defense contractors actively lobby and donate campaign money to the members of Congress who sit on the Armed Forces and Appropriations Committees which oversee military spending. The table below shows the amounts of federal contracts awarded to the five largest defense contractors, and the corresponding expenses on lobbying and political campaign contributions for 2011.
major-defense-contractors

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, FedSpending.org - a project of OMB watch

You can see that these companies are having an excellent return on their investment. To be fair we must also mention that defense companies do employ many workers across the country who are reminded by their bosses of potential job losses if spending decreases. Undoubtedly, the Military budget can be reduced at such a rate as to allow for natural job attrition from the defense sector to avoid the defense contractors having to fire their employees, but this is never discussed. Instead we hear that cuts to the Military budget will result in huge job loss for the economy; however, research shows otherwise. The Political Economy Research Institute conducted a study of “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities” concluding that $1 billion spent on domestic priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military: 1.5 times more in Clean Energy and 2.4 times more in Education. Therefore, spending shifted from the defense to the domestic sectors of the economy will actually create jobs not the other way around. You can watch interview with the institute's co-director: Military spending: Bang for the Buck?

Similarly, reductions in the Military budget should be accompanied by a natural attrition of military personnel toward a more sustainable, leaner size for the Armed Forces. Veterans for Peace does not support pay cuts or forced lays offs of military personnel in order to balance a federal budget.

Reduction in the Military budget does not threaten our national security. Even if defense spending were reduced by half, the US would easily remain the world's strongest military superpower. The figure below shows how the US military spending compares to the rest of the world. The US spends almost 5 times more than China on the military, 10 times more than Russia, and 95 times more than Iran!
Global distribution of military expenditures

And do not expect the DoD to be careful with that money. In 2001 the US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the DoD cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions, supposedly because of the complexity and the multitude of accounting systems which do not conform with each other. Read Rumsfeld's entire speech.

The DoD continues on the goose chase after the loose money preparing for its first audit by 2017 amidst the Government Accountability Office’s sobering assessment of the department’s accounting issues.

The defense contracting systems is ripe with fraud and abuse and according to a DoD report hundreds of defense contractors that defrauded the U.S. military received more than $1.1 trillion in Pentagon contracts during the past decade.

Proponents of high military expenditures commonly emphasize that military spending as a percentage of GDP has considerably declined since the end of the WWII as shown in the figure below suggesting that military spending is already at historically low levels.
Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP

The problem with this argument is that military spending as a percentage of GDP represents the burden such spending puts on the entire economy, but does not indicate the burden military spending places on the taxpayers. The general decline in military spending as a percentage of the GDP is a testament to economic growth, not to a reduction in military appropriations, which have continued to increase since the end of WWII even when adjusted for inflation as was previously shown. The accurate measure of the burden military spending puts on the taxpayer is the percentage of the discretionary budget spent on the military as shown below.
Military expenditures as a percentage of the discretionary budget

This fraction has changed significantly since the end of the WWII and does not manifest a consistent downward trend. On the contrary, since the beginning of the War on Terrorism the fraction spent on the military is on the rise.

In any case, the US spends more of its GDP on the military than any other major military power as shown below, and far surpasses those nations in spending when looking in absolute amounts.
ex-percent-gdp-historical
Further reading:

Our Taxes Are Off to War
World Military Spending