Department of Peacebuilding

On February 12 of this year, Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland introduced House Resolution 808, the Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013.  It would create a Department of Peacebuilding (DOP) at the cabinet level in the Executive branch of the US government. Its overall goal is to reduce violence in the United States and internationally through conflict prevention and resolution, nonviolent intervention and mediation. Continue reading

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Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence

The foundation for nonviolent alternatives to military force can have their roots in community action. I recently gave a presentation to the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester, New York. Afterwards I scooted up to Waterloo, Ontario to attend a presentation by Nobel peace prizewinner Jody Williams who talked about the need for taking action, rather than just talking about peace. Continue reading

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New Radio Show

After hosting the Transition to Peace radio show for two years on KWMR-FM, I will now be a contributor to KWMR’s Peace Paradigm Radio hosted by Stephanie van Hook and Michael Nagler of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, the premier organization in the US promoting nonviolence.  My first segment proposes a nonviolent way to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

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Carpe Diem, Mr. President

President Obama,

You have in your grasp an opportunity to be the statesman we elected you to be.  You have just taken an important first step by backing off of a missile strike against the Syrian government because of its use of chemical weapons.  Out of the many further actions that you could take, I want to suggest several.  Continue reading

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2013 Peace Tour Final Report #6

Dear Friends,

As I recover from the trip in a pleasant fatigue, I want to wrap up the story and offer some reflections. Continue reading

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2013 Peace Tour #5

Dear Friends,
I got rather behind in sending out reports.  Here’s an update after the sixth week of the trip. Continue reading
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2013 Peace Tour Report #4

Dear Friends,
  • After leaving WDC I spent four days with my son Gabriel and his wife Megan in the Catskills of New York.  The highlight was kayaking across a reservoir to a side stream and soaking under a beautiful large waterfall.
  • From there I stayed in the 1,000 Lakes area of upper NY as a guest of Megan’s friends.  They picked me up in a boat and took me to Occident Island which they own.  It has a 1874 house originally built as a fishing lodge. My stay there in the middle of the St. Lawrence River was a bit of heaven.
  • Continuing on, it was a short drive to the Canadian border but a long, 45 minute process to get across. Several border agents questioned me and ran a security check on my passport.  Apparently I wasn’t a terrorist so they let me enter their country.  On my way out, one of the agents asked if I had any medical marijuana on me.  I said no but if he wanted some I could arrange it. Fortunately he had a sense of humor and didn’t arrest me.  
  • At a gas station run by the local Mohawk tribe, a young man asked about my trip.  When I said I was raising money for peace groups, he pulled out his wallet and handed me $5 for The Peace Alliance.  Native Canadians for peace!
  • Returning to the US at Sault Set. Marie was much easier than my Canadian entry.  The border agent just asked me to remove my helmet and sunglasses so he could verify I was the same person as the one on my passport.  He, like many others along the way, wished me a safe trip.
  • I’ve now been gone three weeks and it has turned from my original idea of a cross-country adventure, then to a peace tour, and now into something more like a Vision Quest.  Seeing this beautiful country, meeting a lot of very nice people and having lots of time for my mind to wander while driving, I’m having insights similar to those in the Vision Quest I took in Hawaii many years ago – mainly that a loving relationship with family and friends is what matters most.    
     Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback.
In peace,
Russ

Russ at Poplar Bluff, Missouri Jobs Corps Center

The Flag at Poplar Bluff that Russ “forgot” to salute

Bob Baskin, President of The Peace Alliance

Man having fun at Parade
Man having fun at Parade

Code Pink Strikes Again!
Code Pink strikes again!

Russ bouldering at waterfall
Russ bouldering at waterfall

Russ leaving Gabe's
Russ leaving Gabe’s

Tiger breathes sign of relief after admittance to Canada
Tiger breathes a sign of relief after being admitted to Canada
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2013 Peace Tour Report #3

Dear Friends,
This was my week in Washington, D.C. the far eastern end of my journey.
I was graciously hosted at the home of David Schmaltz, a fellow Berrett-Koehler author, in Takoma Park, a suburb of WDC.
It was hot, hot, hot. Wearing a motorcycle outfit in this muggy, humid weather is like being in a sauna suit where you have to just accept being drenched from sweat. When walking, I used an umbrella to guard against both the rain and sunshine that took turns bursting out.
Had excellent meetings with the President of The Peace Alliance (for which I was raising money), Director of Congressional Relations at the US Institute of Peace, (they do peace research, education and peacebuilding by training locals in warring region people peacemakers in conflict resolution), a senior advisor in the US Department of Energy Biomass Program (“it’s not food or fuel as both can be generated from corn) and Dr. John Holdren, Chief Advisor to the President on Science and Technology.  John is one of the smartest men I know.  As we were leaving the restaurant he pointed out that the person sitting at the table next to us was the CIA Deputy Director.
Attended the local Fourth of July Parade. It reminded me of the Western Weekend parade back home, with happy crowds enjoying horse-drawn wagons, silly outfits and marching bands. They even had politically progressive entries: a car carrying Takoma Park’s Peace Delegate (nobody knew if she was elected or appointed or to what she was a delegate), a 9/11 Truth Out entry and a Veteran’s for Peace group carrying signs saying Free Bradley Manning and “How is the war economy working for you?” (from my book: “Ultimately, the initiative for change will come from the ingenuity, compassion, and ability of the American people to self-correct and chart a more secure and sustainable course for the future.”)
Did the usual sightseeing including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. This deep gash in the soil symbolizing a grave was particularly moving as my brother took his life after failing to overcome PTSD from his tour in Vietnam as a US Marine.
I have now left sweltering WDC for the cooler hills of the Catskills where I’m visiting my son Gabe and his wife Megan.
Attached are photos from the first week of my trip. More to follow soon!
Keep the good wishes coming. I really appreciate them.

In peace,
Russ

Tiger at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

The Great White Book (my first rock climb in Yosemite)

Mesa in Zuni, NM

Taos Pueblo, NM

(Oldest continuously occupied dwelling in US)

Taos Pueblo, NM

(The Plaza in Easy Rider)

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2013 Peace Tour Report #2

Dear Friends,
I finally made it across this great land of ours to Washington D.C. where I’m staying with a friend. Highlights along the way:

  • In Taos, NM I visited the Taos Pueblo. At 1,000 years old, it has the oldest continuously occupied structures in the US. This is where Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper rode their Harleys in shooting the film Easy Rider.
  • Everybody loves a triumph! Old men with pony tails have told me with fond memories about the Bonneville 500 or 650 that they rode in their youth. Harley riders are OK with Triumphs because at least they are not Japanese bikes, pejoratively referred to as “rice-rockets.”
  • “Caution – Side Winds” – What that sign meant was constant, high buffeting winds for 200 miles, tiring me out. I went to the local Triumph dealer and bought a bigger windscreen.
  • In Norman, OK I spoke to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. It’s not really a church, but rather a group of people who put their Christianity into action for peace and social justice. Good response from the audience.
  • In southern Missouri I visited two towns where I was a VISTA volunteer in the late 1960’s. In Popular Bluff I had worked at a Job Corps Center leading work crews into the forest to build hunting camps. Saw my old barracks and the rundown gym where I was the basketball coach.
  • At the Berrett-Koehler Marketing Workshop in Atlanta, GA I gave a talk on “How Not to Market a Book,” given my extensive experience on the subject. Described as “whimsical and bare naked,” it brought down the house.
  • The only mishap along the way was being stung by a bee who stayed to party in my helmet until I took it off.

Keep holding your breath. I’ll eventually figure out how to get those photos into this missive.

Thanks to all of you who email me good wishes along the way!

In peace,
Russ

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2013 Peace Tour Report #1

Dear Friends,
I’m writing from Taos, New Mexico after 8 days on the road. Travels took me through Yosemite, Death Valley (114 degrees), Mojave Desert, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I’m riding mostly on backroads which are much more scenic than interstates and occasionally technically challenging, such as old Highway 66 near Kingman, AZ. My hat’s off to the old timers who drove this road. It winds through a mountain range with treacherous blind curves, crests and dips. Some uphill curves were so tight and steep that I had to inch my bike through them. Continue reading

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2013 Peace Tour

On June 13 I left home on my Triumph Tiger motorcycle to travel cross-country on a speaking tour about my book Transition to Peace. a Defense Engineer’s Search for an Alternative to War.  I am speaking to various organizations along the way and handing out a postcard that describes the trip and encourages donations to three highly successful peace groups: the Praxis Peace Institute, the Metta Center for Nonviolence and The Peace Alliance.

Over the last two weeks I have traveled a southern route through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Georgia.  My next stop will be in WDC where I will meet with the Obama administration and several organizations that are promoting alternatives to war.  From there I visit my son and his wife in the Catskills of New York, travel into Ontario and through the Great Lakes to Minneapolis, where I return to California following the route of Robert Pirsig who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

If you are interested in receiving the periodic reports I send about the trip, please sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my website.   If all goes well, I will cover about 8,000 miles over seven weeks, an exciting adventure that spreads a message of peace.  I hope you will follow my trip and give me your comments or suggestions.

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Inside Edge Speaking Event

On Wednesday, May 22 Russ will be speaking to the Inside Edge group at UC Irvine on the subject of “Is Peace Possible?”

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Nonviolence & Peaceful Warriorship

What if Gandhian nonviolence were to become the actual foundation for US national security policy?  This question has troubled me for a while.  If we think about history, nonviolence has almost always been used by the oppressed against the oppressor.  In our case, the situation is reversed: the United States, with a huge weapons arsenal and the only worldwide system of foreign military bases, is so militarily powerful that we often function in the role of the oppressor.  There are virtually no examples where an empire has employed nonviolence as a foundation for its defense.  So how can nonviolence work for national security?   Continue reading

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What’s a Trillion?

In talking to groups, I show Power Point slides of US National Security spending, indicating how astronomically high it is.  In 2012 we spent $1.3 trillion on defense, including the Department of Defense base budget, military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, the CIA and other defense related items.  That constitutes 63% of total federal discretionary spending, dwarfing all other categories such as energy, education and the environment.  This amount is also greater than the defense spending of all other countries combined.  These figures get people’s attention.

But what really strikes the audience is when I discuss the difference between a million, a billion and a trillion.  They all sound similar but they are not.   Continue reading

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Review of $20 per Gallon

The quantum physicist Niels Bohr once said, “Predictions are always difficult, especially about the future.” So just what will our future look like?  Christopher Steiner takes a crack at it in $20 Per Gallon, How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better (Grand Central Publishing, 2009).  His analysis is based on the phenomenon of peak oil, meaning that global oil production has peaked and will decline in the future.  He then predicts what will happen as gas prices rise in response, going in increments from $6 to $20 a gallon.  Is he right? Continue reading

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What About Hitler?

This discussion on Hitler is taken from Story #5 in my book Transition to Peace.  I look forward to your comments on this one.   Continue reading

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Knife at the Throat

If someone had a knife at your child’s throat and you had a gun, would you shoot them to save your child’s life?   Continue reading

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Is Capitalism Doomed?

 In his recently published book, The Capitalism Papers, Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System, Jerry Mander deconstructs capitalism in a blistering critique. He grants that capitalism functioned relatively well in the US until the early 1900’s because there was geographic room to expand and resources were plentiful.  But now we are out of room and we are hitting the limits of unending growth, on which capitalism is based.  Can capitalism survive? Continue reading

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Review of “Drift” by Rachel Maddow

In her newly released book Drift, TV commentator Rachel Maddow writes an excellent 248 page analysis of how the US has drifted toward being a national security state with greater power in the Presidency to wage war without Congressional approval.  She then presents a four-page To Do list of how this can be changed.  I would take this analysis one step further. Continue reading

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Can the Defense Industry Convert?

One of the key programs in my book Transition to Peace, a Defense Engineer’s Search for an Alternative to War is the conversion of the defense industry to civilian manufacturing.  Steven J. Marcus argues that such a conversion can’t work in his article entitled “Turning Missiles into Chevrolets,” published in Technology Review, an MIT publication.  My response is,  “Poppycock!” Continue reading

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The Prayer of St. Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi, a thirteenth century Italian Catholic friar, is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. He is the author of a well-known prayer that has been publicly recited by political figures as disparate as Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton and by Nobel Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa.  In a recent meditation class, I pondered the relevance of this prayer to my message of peace.  The following is the prayer with references to relevant portions of my book Transition to Peace, a Defense Engineer’s Search for an Alternative to War (TTP).

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The Indians Got It Right

I used to think that the Indians had it wrong. Western science, based on the laws of physics and biology, reveals the true story of Earth’s history and life on the planet.  In contrast, Native American myths and legends seemed quaint and naïve, a result of trying to understand the real world in the absence of science.

Over time I have come to the opposite point of view – that Native Americans and other indigenous peoples of the world fundamentally got it right.  Or at least their view has as much legitimacy as our own.  Here are some examples of why. Continue reading

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The Hippies Almost Had It Right

When we rebelled against the establishment in the 1960’s, we knew something was wrong with our society.  In general, we thought that the opposite of what our parents thought must be right.  We rejected war and believed in peace, protesting the Vietnam war with flowers in our hair.  Rock and roll was our chosen medium and we began recycling our cans and bottles.  We experimented with drugs, free sex and communal living.  Growing our own vegetables and living in tepees provided a great deal of satisfaction.  It felt right but we didn’t know exactly why.  And we couldn’t see a very clear picture of the future. Continue reading

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I’m Back

I just returned from a two-month trip and have submitted my first proposal to a publisher for Transition to Peace, a Defense Engineer’s Search for an Alternative to War.  I discovered that a book proposal makes you think hard about what you are doing and why.  Here’s my response to the question of how the book offers a new contribution to its field:

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Nonviolence in Tahrir Square?

In an interview on February 12, Michael Nagler, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley and founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, discussed the deficiencies of the Egyptian protest.  He stated that the citizen revolution in Egypt was not “true nonviolence.”  While I fundamentally agree, I would like to make a few observations about his main points. Continue reading

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We Can Make It Happen

In two earlier articles I argued that world peace is possible and that we can pursue it with a new national security policy. The question is: How will the change come about? Continue reading

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Are They Getting It?

An article today by the Chronicle Washington Bureau headlines “Right and Left Zero In On Defense Budget, ” stating, “Astronomical federal deficits and Tea Party enthusiasm for deficit reduction are producing hairline cracks in the Republican Party over defense spending and [are creating] an uneasy alliance between anti-war liberals and small government conservatives.   Continue reading

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A New National Security Policy

The following is part 2 of a three part Good News series I am publishing in our local newspaper.  It lays out concepts for how to revise our national security policy to replace our current outmoded thinking.

Good News: A New National Security Policy

To move in the direction of peace, we need to make fundamental changes in our national security policy of maintaining a global military presence and invading foreign countries as necessary to protect American interests.  The new strategy I envision is based on three Peace Principles that are quite different: 1) Commit to the well-being of the entire world, 2) Protect everyone, even our adversaries and 3) Use moral rather than physical force. Continue reading

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Peace Is Possible

In our local newspaper I recently published Part One of  a “Good News” series about peace. On this last day of 2010, I thought it would make good reading as we look forward to a New Year.  Enjoy.

Good News: Peace Is Possible

Is peace possible? In a word, YES. The odds may be long, but peace has a chance. To move in this direction, we don’t need to throw out capitalism, just modify how it’s used. We don’t need to dismantle our Armed Forces, just reorient their mission. And we don’t need to dissolve our defense industry, just convert it. Continue reading

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Nonviolence and National Security

I recently submitted this article to the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.  You get to read it here before they even publish it.  Merry Christmas!   Continue reading

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Thank You!

Hello all,

For those of you who attended my November 17 and/or December 1 presentations, thank you so much for your feedback and comments during our discussions.  Your responses were very gratifying and helpful and I’m encouraged to continue spreading the Message, especially to our youth. Continue reading

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Anger Management

When I wrote the first draft of my peace book, I told myself it would NOT be an “ain’t it awful” book.  After getting feedback from a few friends, I realized that the book violated my own instructions.  It was filled with hate, anger and resentment about war and those who support and engage in it. Continue reading

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Feedback on November 17 Presentation

The audience at the Pt. Reyes Presbyterian Church presentation offered the following feedback on The Message and how to spread the word.  My comments are added in red.

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Out of the Starting Blocks

Wednesday night was my first public presentation on the subject of “World Peace and How To Get There.”  No one fell asleep or said I was crazy.  In fact, there were lots of smiles and nodding heads as people took in the message.  But then, I was preaching to a very receptive choir. Continue reading

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Going Public

After 10 years of research, drafting a book,  jousting with doubters and generally driving my wife crazy with this stuff, I’m finally ready to go public with “The Message.”  Tomorrow night I will be interviewed by Bernie Stephan at the regular monthly meeting of Transition West Marin – 6:30 at the Presbyterian Church in Pt. Reyes.  The topic will be “World Peace and How To Get There.”  While it is entirely preposterous and presumptuous to address such a subject, I believe I have something relatively unique to say.  It should either delight or offend (or both) most conservatives, progressives, hawks, doves, economists, environmentalists and others who believe that war is here to stay and things will go on as they have in the past.

In my next post I’ll talk about the feedback from the presentation and where I go from here.  To Mark and Donna, thanks for being the first two responders to my initial blog.  I think I’m starting to warm up to this blogging idea.  More to come…

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The Search

In 1967 I was working at Stanford Research Institute as a Systems Analyst calculating the most cost-effective way to blow up the world. I didn’t think war made any sense, but as with most people, I believed we had to live with it as a necessary evil. One day I found myself staring at a top secret map of North Vietnam. My job was to analyze the use of Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) equipment on our Naval strike aircraft to optimally penetrate past North Vietnamese radar and missile sites.

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