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December 24, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES
Here is a story of war and Christmas time I wrote for the Rolla Daily News five years ago. It bears repeating every year. The article is based partially on a song of the same name by John McCutcheon.
THE END OF THE WORLD — NOT
The 2012 winter solstice has passed, and thanks be to God, I am still here to write to you. Those who misinterpreted the Mayan calendar as a prophecy of doom owe us all an apology, which we are unlikely to receive. Bolivian president, Evo Morales, brings us a message of hope, explaining the ancient wisdom that this solstice brings to an end the era of selfishness and greed and the beginning of a new era of peace, unity and respect for Mother Earth. Let it be so!
A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FROM JULIAN ASSANGE
As a Christmas present to all of us, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, announces from his asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy the upcoming release of one million new documents which will affect every country in the world.
December 18, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: THE UNIVERSAL SOLDIER
A readers sends in this account of soldiering by Fred Reed. WARNING: the account is very graphic. Here's a short quote:
"I hate what I did and I hate what my friends did
who were there, who are really my only friends.
And I hope you one day pay, what we paid, what
our victims paid and you pay it as we did. And
this will bring me the only joy in my life.
"I am a soldier. I am dirt."
If Fred Reed's account is too graphic for you, then try reading The Maimed by Chris Hedges; or listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie sing Universal Sodier and describe how she came to write the song; or if you don't feel like clicking a link, here again is Tim O'Brien's description of War:
"A true war story is never moral. It does not
instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest
models of proper human behavior, nor restrain
men from doing the things men have always done.
If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If
at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or
if you feel that some small bit of rectitude
has been salvaged from the larger waste, then
you have been made the victim of a very old and
terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever.
There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb,
therefore, you can tell a true war story by its
absolute and uncompromising allegiance to
obscenity and evil. ... You can tell a true war
story by the way it never seems to end ..."
—Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"
If these accounts of War speak to you, then contact Veterans for Peace.
THE FORGOTTEN WAR: "YOU HAVE DESTROYED EVERYTHING"
Cathy Breen writes from Iraq. I met Cathy in Baghdad — it seems like ages ago. Cathy is very brave. I don't think that I would have the courage to go back.
I did a lot of speaking, lobbying and demonstrating years ago before my country invaded Iraq. One weekend, some 15 million people worldwide, over one million in the United States, demonstrated against the invasion. It happened anyway.
They told us Iraqis would welcome the invasion and throw flowers at the feet of our soldiers? Here is what they are saying now:
"You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have taken our dreams!”
“Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”
Read Cathy's latest article.
WAR IS COMING HOME
As I write, information is trickling in on the latest school massacre. 20 young children in Connecticut shot to death — for what? To echo a quote from Cathy Breen's article: What did those young children ever do to us?
President Obama speaks with a tear in his eye: "Our hearts are broken". I have to wonder whether the president's heart breaks over the thousands of children who have died as a result of his militaristic adventures. Apparently, not.
Predictably, liberals call for gun control laws. Predictably, conservatives proclaim no connection between loose gun laws and school shootings. Predictably, few draw the connection between school shootings and our violent militaristic culture.
Me? I wonder. What if it had been one of the kindergarten classes that I read to? What if it had been my grandchildren? What if? What if? What if? I think about the Veterans Day program the school children put on every year glorifying soldiering and War, and wonder if children at Sandy Hook Elementary are taught to glorify War and soldiering. I think about the arrogance of killing, killing, killing — claiming it as our God-given Right — never considering the price. But mostly, it is the words of Fred Reed that echo in my mind:
"I hate what I did and I hate what my friends did
who were there, who are really my only friends.
And I hope you one day pay, what we paid, what
our victims paid and you pay it as we did. And
this will bring me the only joy in my life.
"I am a soldier. I am dirt."
December 11, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: DON'T SHOP OLD NAVY
Sarah Lamb sends this article about how one of our veterans was banned from an Old Navy store after pointing out a young employee improperly wearing a Marine Corps uniform dress jacket complete with rank insignia, ribbons and a weapons badge. This is a federal offense under the Stolen Valor Act.
My response: This incident highlights two important aspects of the society we live in:
1. Living an Illusion
Neither the employee, his supervisor nor anyone else at Old Navy saw anything wrong with an employee decking himself out as something he was not. The officers and stock holders of Old Navy, a for-profit corporation, make lots of money off the sale of an illusion: that by wearing Old Navy clothing, one becomes the warrior that one is not. The veteran who pointed out this discrepancy might as well have shouted The Emperor's Naked. Those who point out that we are living an illusion, must be banned at all cost.
2. Instant Valor
What's valorous about shooting up a wedding party from a drone piloted from a safe haven halfway around the world? What's valorous about pounding, with modern weaponry and toxic ordinance. a city that stands naked without army, navy or air force? Matter of fact, what's valorous about participating on the side of the aggressor in any asymmetric war? Is this much different from wearing medals that one never earned?
There was a time when mighty warriors were expected to meet each other face to face on the battlefield with nothing more than hand weapons. But that was long long ago. Now we have poor to mediocre military leaders who command from afar and go down in defeat to the adulation of a fawning mass media.
Sarah is working for justice for veterans. Keep up the good work, Sarah! And I have no intention of ever buying anything from Old Navy, or its parent corporation, Gap, or any of their other lines of clothing: Banana Republic and Piperlime.
MORE BULLYING IN PALESTINE
If you want to read what it's like to be on the short side of an asymmetric war, read this account by Josh Brollier of Voices for Creative Nonviolence of doctors and medics working in Gaza during recent Israeli invasions.
Still smarting from a diplomatic defeat at the United Nations which accorded Palestine the status of "Observer Nation," Israel raids the offices of three Palestine NGOs in Ramallah, confiscating and destroying equipment.
In truth, THE GAME IS OVER. Israel and its friends ran this racket for 64 long years. But IT'S OVER. No longer can Israel get away with doing whatever it likes in Occupied Palestine. No longer can the United States shield Israel from the consequences of its actions.
COP 18: ANOTHER FAILURE
As expected, the COP 18 climate summit at Doha ended with nothing substantive whatsoever to show for itself, . Politicians and governments pat each other on the back and ignore the danger while the world continues to burn.
Did you know that most of Nebraska and much of the Midwest is still experiencing the highest level (exceptional) drought? It's interesting to watch the progression of the drought through this animation.
2012 was the hottest year ever. I wonder what Nature has in store for us in 2013...
December 4, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SIOUX TRIBES RAISE $9 MILLION TO BUY SACRED LAND
Pe' Sla is a sacred Lakota site in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Four months ago this 2,000 acre site was on the verge of being parceled out and sold at auction. The Great Sioux Nation, bypassing the federal government, successfully raised $9 million and bought this sacred land that was stolen from them over a century ago. Read this statement of Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Cyril “Whitey” Scott.
THE MIGHTY ARMY THAT WASN'T THERE
In a speech at Oxford University, Pentagon lawyer, Jeh Johnson discussed winding down the so-called War on Terror and turning al-Qaeda remnants and its affiliates over to police and law enforcement.
Great idea! 12 years ago I suggested turning al-Qaeda criminals along with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinsky, without whom there would never have been an al-Qaeda, over to the International Criminal Court. Maybe someone's been reading my stuff.
I thought Jeh Johnson's speech was worth a short poem:
I saw an army everywhere,
A mighty army that wasn't there.
It wasn't there again today.
Perhaps al-Qaeda's gone away.
OFFICIAL: PALESTINE IS A STATE
It's official. The UN General Assembly, against the wishes of Israel, The United States and 7 other nations, declared Palestine an "observer state" by a vote of 138 to 9.
Israel, finding itself increasingly impotent and isolated in the world arena, retaliates by building more settlements on Palestinian land and refusing to hand over money belonging to Palestine.
Can't help wondering what took the United Nations so long - 64 years. Well, better late than never.
SENATE VOTES FOR AND AGAINST WAR
The Senate voted 62 to 33 for a non-binding amendment to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In the words of George Aiken: it's time to "declare victory and go home."
Meanwhile, the Senate also voted unanimously to increase sanctions on Iran. Sanctions are the most cowardly way to fight a war because they hit the most vulnerable segments of the population hardest. At the height of the Iraq sanctions, mortality for Iraqi children under 5 years old had increased by 5,000 per month. Unable to win a war fair and square, the Beltway Bullies resort to the most cowardly tactics imaginable - and still can't win a war.
November 27, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A SORT OF VICTORY
Last Wednesday Gazans filled the streets and held a victory party to celebrate the truce that ended the eight day pounding of Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces. The Truce, even though Israel broke it the following day, is a sort of victory. I think the days when Israel could treat Palestinians as their own private "whipping boys" are over.
The difference is that Israel's major benefactor, The United States, is no longer all-powerful — in the Middle East or elsewhere. Having lost the War Against Iraq and on track to lose the War Against Afghanistan, The United States remains powerless to start a War against Israel's current arch-enemy, Iran.
As I wrote five years ago in Three Murderous Myths, "As the power and unconditional backing of its major benefactor [The United States] evaporates, Israel may decide that the best course is not only to make peace with its neighbors, but to enter into some form of economic and military cooperation with them. This would be the worst nightmare for the US and Europe". Perhaps, this truce is the first tentative move in that direction.
Richard Falk supplies essential background and analysis here.
COPS AND ROBBERS 18
194 nations are meeting this week in Doha, one of the world's most energy intensive cities, to discuss Climate Change. In spite of record setting heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms, no one expects much besides the usual political posturing. The meeting is called COPS 18 — 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Robbers are the wealthy nations which claim the Right to treat out atmosphere and oceans as an open sewer in which they dump all sorts of nasty toxic substances without regard to consequences.
WE'RE GONNA BUST THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Have you ever wondered why high school students in the United States compare so poorly against students from most other developed countries? Here's an example: Last month private prison guards participated in a drug sweep in an Arizona High School. This drug sweep that terrorized 1,800 students netted three students in possession of marijuana, only one with more than one gram. As Caroline Isaacs of the AFSC notes: "To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the 'schools-to-prison pipeline' I've ever seen." and "It is chilling to think that any school official would be willing to put vulnerable students at risk this way."
Incidentally, over 80% of us consider the 40+ year old War On Drugs, which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and millions incarcerated, a failure. Over half of the 50 states have eliminated or minimized penalties for possession of recreational marijuana or enacted some form of legalized medical marijuana use.
And if you've never heard the Austin Lounge Lizards sing Bust the High School Students, click here.
Oh, and if you have a three-year-old and live in Oklahoma, don't let him pee on your lawn. It might cost you a $2,500 fine. So goes the War On Children.
November 20, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE
When government fails, as it assuredly is failing now, the people must learn to help and rely on each other. Last week I gave the example of Occupy Sandy. A month ago Occupy Wall Street was being brutalized by the police and mocked by the media. Now Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, is showing government how to deal effectively with a crisis.
Rolling Jubilee is another example. Rolling Jubilee is buying up toxic debt and cancelling it, thereby allowing people to stay in their homes. Government's only response to the housing crisis was to throw money at the bankers, the ones who created the crisis.
People helping people. Some would call this Socialism.
A KIND OF MADNESS
Savita Halappanavar is dead — she died of insanity — not her own insanity — but the insanity of those who could have saved her life, but, instead, watched her die a slow painful death, while denying her the abortion that would have saved her life. Her baby not surprisingly died too. "And, indeed, it was a kind of madness, the madness that comes from being under the spell of a Theory." Isn't is time we started relating to each other's needs, and not the needs of a Theory.
ANOTHER KIND OF MADNESS
Israel is again brutalizing Gaza with powerful weaponry gifted to it by the United States. Gaza, home to 1.6 million people, half of whom are children, is defenseless. Gaza has no choice but to endure this onslaught, while the media cheers and the world looks on with impotence. This too is a kind of madness — a madness born of racism, a hunger for power and an overwhelming thirst for absolute domination.
I find this madness comparable to the madness of a Nazi Germany or an Apartheid South Africa.
SHAKESPEARE ON MADNESS
"'Tis the times' plague when madmen lead the blind." —King Lear (IV:1). But, I think the blind are regaining their eyesight.
November 13, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF SOOTHSAYERS AND SCIENTISTS
Whether right or wrong, scientists should beware of making public pronouncements. In Italy, six scientists and an administrator have been sentenced to six years in prison and hefty fines for failure to predict the April 2009 Earthquake in Aquila. Apparently saying “the possibility [of an earthquake like the one in 1703] cannot be totally excluded” doesn't absolve scientists from their duty to predict disaster in Italian courts of law.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, government agencies are banned from "considering the possibility that climate change might accelerate sea level rise." This brings to mind the following historic account of King Cnut (Canute), 11th Century king of England, Denmark, Scotland, Norway and parts of Sweden.
"[W]ith the greatest vigor [King Cnut] commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying 'You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord'. But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moving away said: 'All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws.'"
Unfortunately, unlike King Cnut, many people in high places today have failed to learn this lesson.
SAGE ADVICE FROM A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Hugo Chavez, who last month won reelection to his fourth term as president of Venezuela by a far larger majority than Obama's reelection has advised Obama to "dedicate himself to governing his own country and stop invading and destabilizing countries." Sage advice that is likely to fall upon deaf ears. Click Here (in English) or aqui (en Espanol).
TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF AN ELECTION
The election is over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
The election was marred by the usual spate of irregularities: Spanish language voting cards with the wrong election date, votes still uncounted in Maricopa County, home of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, and billboards in Spanish saying id is required even though the law requiring them was struck down as unconstitutional. Perhaps it was only massive corporate spending, the majority for Romney, and a spate of laws designed to keep the poor, the elderly and minorities from voting that kept the election even close. Barack Obama won with less than 51% of a vote which consisted of some 58% percent of the electorate — about 30% — hardly what you would call a clear mandate.
Will there be an end to foreign wars? Well, perhaps, sort of. David "Surge" Petraeus, who lost the War Against Iraq (Not by himself. He had plenty of help from his friends.) and was well on his way to losing the War Against Afghanistan, is gone - having resigned over an extra-marital affair. (Huh? Even Bill Clinton weathered the scandal of an extra-marital affair.) I suspect our wars of empire building will continue to morph into drone wars of assassination and proxy wars of regime change and destabilization. I seriously doubt Obama will give up his foreign military bases or his dream of ruling the world. (Almost 70% of us are against the continuation of the War Against Afghanistan, while over 80% of us appear to favor continuing or escalating the Drone War.)
Israel? Obama owes Netanyahu a payback for meddling in the US election and supporting Romney; but I don't see an end to support for Israel - maybe not quite as unqualified support as under the previous few presidents. Many US Jews are finally catching on that Israel's aggressive militarism and expansionism is causing an anti-Jewish backlash, not only in the Middle-East, but at home too. Rumor has it that Hillary Clinton, one of Israel's staunchest supporters, is on her way out. Few will miss her.
Renewable Energy? Hard to expect much here from a president who failed to mention climate change or global warming even once in his reelection campaign - in spite of an unprecedented drought and heat wave that started in March and still continues in much of the United States. Even the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy failed to elicit a mention of Global Warming. Obama might well owe his victory to Hurricane Sandy and the perception that he handled the emergency well, as compared to Mitt Romney who wanted to privatize FEMA and George W. Bush who totally bungled the Katrina emergency.
So where's the hope?
Elizabeth Warren is now in the Senate. She wants to take on the Banking Industry. She is tough. With the help of Bernie Sanders who won reelection to the Senate with an overwhelming 71% of the vote, she may just be able to rein in this rogue industry.
In Colorado and Montana, people voted overwhelmingly (70 and 75%) against corporate personhood. A few more states and we may just get a Constitutional Amendment banning corporate personhood and overturning Citizens United.
And for the most part the worst purveyors of hate and misogyny like Allen West and Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin went down in ignominious defeat. Akin lost by over 15% in a State that went for Romney by almost 10%.
And now that Surge Petraeus has fallen victim to his own surveillance state; maybe we'll even see the unwarranted surveillance of practically everybody reined in to some degree. As Trevor Timm put it, the "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"
These are the things that give me hope for change - people standing up to the rich and powerful - not Obama's reelection by 30% of the electorate. When government fails the people, the people must learn to work together and help each other. I think that is what is happening now.
Obama is not a dummy like his predecessor in the White House. He is a savvy politician, and if the people speak loudly enough, he will bend rather than jeopardize his legacy. I'm sure Obama is mindful of what happened to president Kennedy. He will not step too far out of line lest his corporate puppet masters retaliate. But if the people speak loudly enough, he and his handlers may have no choice.
November 5, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TOMORROW IS ELECTION DAY
Last month I wrote a short snippet on the Chris Hedges article, "The Maimed", remarking that of all the excellent articles Hedges has written, The Maimed may be his best. Hedges' election article that Helen reviews is not far behind.
Tomorrow we dutifully go to the polls. As Hedges notes: If we choose Obama, he will screw us. If we choose Romney, he will screw us harder. "Not much of a choice", as Helen notes.
I suspect I will write in Big Bird for President. My vote won't be counted, but at least in my own small way I will have registered my utter disgust with the Repugnants, the Dementeds and the two-party duopoly. To quote Howard Zinn: "To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do" (regardless of party affiliation).
There are some very important offices and issues on the ballot that deserve to be voted on. (Unfortunately, President of the United States of America is not one of them.) Check my website for some endorsements.
HURRICANE SANDY TAKES MANHATTAN
Last week, fueled by a warming world and rising sea levels, Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast with a vengeance. Coastal areas flooded killing over 100 people — a pittance compared to the death toll from the ravages of 11 year of war against Afghanistan; and causing an estimated $50 billion in insured damages — again a pittance compared to the military budget or the cost of bailing out the big banks.
Bill McKibben notes some unique aspects to Hurricane Sandy: Sandy was not only predictable, it was predicted! — by climate scientists — and in almost all its devastating details, which politicians chose to ignore.
Sandy was unique in another way — it did not discriminate — hitting the poor, middle and wealthy classes with equal ferocity. It brings to mind a prophecy of Isaiah:
"Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.
"The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." — Isaiah 24:1-6 (KJV)
This prophecy appears to describe Global Warming quite well. Will the haughty take heed? I doubt it.
October 30, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF MAD SCIENTISTS AND GEOENGINEERS
When I was 14 years old, I was a terrible student and an avid reader of Science Fiction. Once when I brought home a reportcard full of Cs and Ds, my father sat me down for a serious talk about my future, explaining that with grades like these I'd never get into a good college. Then he asked what I wanted to be in life. I responded, "I'm going to be a mad scientist." My father, who approved of science if not insanity, suggested that I just be a scientist and not a mad scientist. I remarked that mad scientists don't have to get good grades in school.
Ok. It's 56 years later and I'm now a mad scientist emeritus. I'm coming around to the belief that all scientists are mad. Don't believe me? Well here's an article by Naomi Klein about a mad scientist named Russ George who dumped 120 tons of iron dust into the ocean hoping to create an algal bloom to combat global warming. Hey, that's not your ocean. The ocean belongs to all of us. Who said you could dump that iron there? What if there are unintended consequences? Who's going to clean up this mess?
As Naomi Klein points out: In these days of human induced climate change, there are no more Acts of God. Don't like the weather? Blame it on the military or the oil companies. Chances are you'll be right.
EXXON VALDEZ ON STEROIDS
One aspect of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy is that they spread the pollution around. Like Katrina in New Orleans, Hurricane Sandy, fueled by our warmer climate and rising sea levels, has picked up all the pollution that was hidden away in little nooks and crannies and spread it around like peanut butter. Riverkeeper describes it as "an Exxon Valdez spill from nonpoint sources."
Expect in the future to see increased levels of cancers, birth defects, and other environmental diseases in areas flooded by Sandy.
Can it be cleaned up? I doubt it. As Dr, Seuss put it:
"And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!"
In the Dr. Seuss story the Cat in the Hat comes back in a spiffy machine to pick up all his playthings. Will the corporations responsible for global warming come back and pick up their playthings? I doubt it.
In spite of this climate change induced disaster, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney maintain a conspiracy of silence, not to mention climate change and global warming in their election campaigns.
Oh, in case you missed it, Hurricane Sandy devastated Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean Islands before heading Northeast to devastate the Northeastern United States. Unlike the United States, Haiti, which has still not recovered from the 2010 earthquake, has done nothing to contribute to Global Warming. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
PUBLIC ENEMY NUMERO UNO STRIKES AGAIN
New documents released by Public Enemy Numero Uno, Wikileaks, show systemic violations of Human Rights in the 11 years since 9/11, including torture and the disappearing of prisoners in the so-called War on Terror.
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange remarks, "The 'Detainee Policies' show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the US Department of Defense."
And it's not just torture and imprisonment without due process. They will kill anyone, anywhere, anytime, simply on the whim on one person, without oversight or review.
Let no one complain about Human Rights violations in China or Iran while these abysmal violations continue unabated at home.
October 23, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE AGREED TO HAVE A BATTLE...
I've missed all four debates. Well, I have a weak stomach and like to keep my dinner down. I do read the reviews and four times I've concluded that I didn't miss anything.
I must be prescient. Over the weekend I wrote a snippet for my election endorsements in which I pointed out that there is really no difference between the two front-runners. This morning I read the reviews of the final Obama-Romney debate and found out that even the political pundits are saying that their foreign-policies are virtually identical. Hey, I should be earning big bucks as a political commentator instead of writing for a small local newsletter.
Oh. Here's the whole nursery rhyme I began this snippet with:
Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow, as black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so, they quite forgot their quarrel.
Who's the monstrous crow that frightened our heroes into agreeing on everything Monday evening? Maybe it's Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who was arrested at last week's debate. Maybe it's Big Bird. Or maybe it's all the people who are fed up with greedy politicians and a corrupt political system.
THIS CHAMBER REEKS OF BLOOD
Speaking of heroes... One of my heroes died Sunday. George McGovern passed away at age 90. May God reward him.
The only time I've ever really felt good about voting for a major-party candidate was in 1972 when I voted for George McGovern. I knew I was voting for a winner, even if he lost 49 States in the biggest presidential landslide in US history. Two short years later, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace while George McGovern was hailed a visionary leader for his opposition in the Senate to the Vietnam War.
The title of this snippet is from McGovern's speech before the Senate on the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have ended the War Against Vietnam by the end of 1971. After his speech, a senator approached McGovern and indignantly told him that he had been personally offended by the speech. McGovern replied, "That's what I meant to do." The amendment failed and the war dragged on.
Unlike our two front-running presidential candidates today, George McGovern served in the US Armed Forces. During World War II, McGovern flew 35 combat missions in the European Theatre, once bringing his plane home safely with 110 holes in its fuselage and wings and an inoperative hydraulic system. Perhaps, it was his war experience, witnessing the devastation of Europe, that made him so strongly opposed to our War Against Vietnam.
McGovern spent his later life working tirelessly to alleviate world hunger.
Goodbye, George. We'll miss you.
WHOSE FOUR-YEAR-OLDS GET KILLED?
Remember those inane post-9-11 arguments that we have to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and kill the "bad guys" there, before they come here and kill us? Never mind that there wasn't a single Afghan or Iraqi involved in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. Never mind that the Afghan and Iraqi militaries were miniscule compared to ours. Never mind that nobody ever explained how invading Afghanistan and Iraq and killing people there would make Afghans and Iraqis less likely to come to the United States and kill us. These arguments were just taken as gospel.
Fast forward to 2012. Time columnist and Obama supporter Joe Klein now opines that "[the drone war] has been remarkable successful." "[T]he bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old gets killed? What we're doing [with drone warfare] is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror."
Huh? Explain your reasoning, Joe. I think this sums up our foreign policy for the past 11 years. Kill their children before they kill our children. Read Glenn Greenwald's commentary.
October 16, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
VOTE NOVEMBER 6
I have to admit it. I have never been less enthusiastic about a presidential election. There is not a single presidential candidate on my ballot I wish to vote for. Well, I could write in Jill Stein. At least my vote would be counted. Yes, I know -- she doesn't have a chance. Ok. If she doesn't have a chance and the ballot candidates are all unacceptable, then I might as well write in anyone I want. Big Bird, who has been introduced into the election debates by both Romney and Obama, has always been one of my favorites. Check out my Elect Big Bird cartoon.
WORSE THAN SADDAM
Here is one more study, showing "staggering levels of miscarriages and birth defects" in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Basrah. This study implicates lead and mercury poisoning from the heavy bombardment of these cities by the United States and its allies. (Click here for a short summary). "War is hell" - especially for children who happen to be living in a war zone. Meanwhile, here in the United States we are far more concerned about abortion than about miscarriages and birth defects caused by our military adventures.
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH...
Children incarcerated in the United States are systematically tortured by being placed in solitary confinement, sometimes for months. As a study by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union points out, "No other nation in the developed world routinely tortures its children in this manner." Click here for a short summary).
October 9, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Chris Hedges has written many excellent articles; but this one may be his best. After reading it, I wanted to say something; but there was nothing more to say. Here is one paragraph:
"It is impossible to portray war. Narratives, even anti-war narratives, make the irrational rational. They make the incomprehensible comprehensible. They make the illogical logical. They make the despicable beautiful. All words and images, all discussions, all films, all evocations of war, good or bad, are an obscenity. There is nothing to say. There are only the scars and wounds. These we carry within us. These we cannot articulate. The horror. The horror."
If you read nothing else, read this article.
PROTECT PE' SLA
Pe' Sla is a sacred Lakota site in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Two months ago this 2,000 acre site was on the verge of being parceled out and sold at auction. Now the Sioux tribes are joining together to raise $9 million by November 30 to buy this sacred land that should by rights belong to them. Please help the Sioux tribes preserve Pe' Sla.
Read more about Pe' Sla here.
Find out how you can help to protect this sacred land.
TRULY SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE
Good news! Tim DeChristopher, the environmental activist who was convicted for bidding on oil and gas leases in a federal auction, has been released from prison. Read DeChristopher's statement on our legal system of truly systemic injustice.
October 2, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOW DO YOU SAY HYPOCRITE IN HEBREW?
Binyamin Netanyahu bombed out at the UN with his Iranian bomb cartoon. Netanyahu drew a red line across a cartoon bomb allotting Iran 90% of a nuclear bomb before Israel takes military action against Iran. Unmentioned was Israel's vast nuclear arsenal estimated at 200 nuclear weapons. How do you say hypocrite in Hebrew?
I thought Netanyahu's performance was worth a cartoon.
His performance is also worth a riddle: How is a hypocrite like a hippopotamus?
Answer: Hippopotami kill more people than any other kind of animal. Hypocrites kill more people than any other kind of human.
MORE ON JULIAN ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS
The article, Julian Assange, International Intrigue and What’s Going On With Ecuador (translated from Italian) is worth it's weight in gold.
The article claims that documents released by Assange and Wikileaks contain classified records of how wealthy countries, "the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, [and] the Vatican, where money is the master," have conspired "to cripple the economies of South America, ... to take away their energy resources and prevent their recovery." Argentina has "lodge[d] a formal complaint against the US and UK to the World Trade Organization, on the basis of files made available by Wikileaks, that is, Assange;" and Ecuador "decided to cancel the national debt considering it illegal, because it violated the constitution to oppress the people."
No wonder Julian Assange has replaced Osama bin Laden as Public Enemy Number One! Read (or listen to) his address to the UN from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
Also view my Wikileaks cartoons: here and here.
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (UPDATE)
First two victories:
25 states now include kindergarteners in their regime of high-stakes testing. Proponents of the War on Children are looking to include the other 25 states and may even start testing preschoolers too.
Ubiquitous electronics: television, video games, etc. are increasingly depriving children of contact with nature and the out-of-doors.
And one defeat:
Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen apprehended in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15, has, after ten years of torture in harsh custody, been transferred from the Guantanamo gulag into Canadian custody.
September 25, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TERRORISM: THE MOST MEANINGLESS AND MOST MANIPULATED TERM IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), once sponsored by Saddam Hussein, but now, having turned their guns on Iran and crossed the palms of political hacks of both parties with silver shekels, has been de-listed as a terrorist organization.
I love the way Glenn Greenwald writes — so clear and to the point. Read his explanation of the de-listing of the MEK; and try to catch his talk this Thursday in Columbia.
GUANTANAMO: ALIVE AND WELL 4 YEARS AFTER PROMISE TO CLOSE
The names of 55 of the 86 prisoners in Guantánamo who were cleared for transfer years ago have been released. None of them have been transferred out of the Guantánamo gulag. Missing from the list is Adnan Latif who died in Guántanamo, probably from suicide. While charged with no crimes, he endured 11 years of prison and torture — may Allah reward him in the hereafter.
Unlike the 2008 electoral campaign, closing this hell-hole is no longer on anyone's political agenda. That's change you can count on.
DRONES: AL-QAEDA'S BEST RECRUITING TOOL
A joint study by the Stanford and NYU Law Schools shows, what many of us have known for years, that drone strikes kill indiscriminately, cause others to hate us, and have become the recruiting tool of choice for violent anti-US organizations such as al-Qaeda. Only 2% of drone victims are "high value" targets. 74% of all Pakistanis, our "allies" in the "War on Terror" whom our drones terrorize night and day, now consider the United States their real enemy. Read a summary on commondreams or the executive summary which links to the full report.
September 18, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION
While the United States prepares to again break Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) by spending $352 billion upgrading our nuclear arsenal (see Helen's article, Sept. 18, 2012 newsletter, #2), Iran is turning its enriched uranium into fuel plates that are unsuitable for weapons manufacture faster than it is enriching uranium. Thus, the size of Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has decreased over the past three months. This is not the behavior one would expect of a country trying to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities.
Meanwhile, Israel, which is not a member of the NNPT and possesses an estimated 200 nuclear weapons demands that the U.S. set a "red line" for Iran, a limit it must not cross or face military conflict, .
I have a far better suggestion. The U.S. should set a "red line" for Israel that it must join the NNPT and agree to destroy its stockpile of nuclear weapons or face an immediate cutoff of all US aid. Matter of fact we could do that ourselves. We could reduce our stockpile of nuclear weapons to the equivalent of our closest competitor, and offer to destroy the rest of our stockpile, if all other nuclear weapons states do likewise. That would place us in compliance with the NNPT.
MORE ON ORGANIC FOOD STUDY
Last week I wrote a short commentary on Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez' article on a Stanford University study claiming that “fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional counterparts.” Guess what? The Stanford study was funded, at least in part, by corporations like Cargill with a vested interest in the study's outcome. So much for objectivity in the hallowed halls of academia. As Deepthroat advised: Follow the money!
WHY DO THEY HATE US?
A worldwide poll by YouGov shows trust for the United States at all time lows across the Middle East and North Africa, but particularly in Pakistan. Maybe it has something to do with bringing 11 years of devastating war to the region. Maybe it has something to do with internet films mocking the religion of 1.6 billion people. And maybe it has something to do with drone strikes that continue to kill indiscriminately. Can you think of other reasons? I don't think it has anything to do with people "hating our freedoms."
September 11, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF FABLES AND ANALOGIES
I love children's books. Sometimes I think there is little need to read anything else. I particularly love reading to young children. This is, perhaps, all that keeps me from going stark raving mad in this insane world.
As a former mathematician (up until my retirement 12 years ago), I still love analogies. Sometimes analogies make murky ideas shine with clarity.
Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I came to the end of Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez' article on organic food to find an analogy involving organic agriculture and the old English fable, "Jack and the Beanstalk." Browdy de Hernandez writes:
"We might be able to grow a fantastically huge beanstalk if we fed it with enough chemical fertilizers, and we might even be able to climb it and bring back a goose that lays golden eggs.
"But in the end, that beanstalk will prove to be more dangerous to us than it’s worth—we’ll have to chop it down, and go back to the slow but solid organic way of life that has sustained us unfailingly for thousands of years."
In these days of failing corporate agriculture, this analogy is worth its weight in golden goose eggs. Even if you don't like children's fables; and even if you don't like analogies; this short article is well-worth reading.
My favorite fable is Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." In fact, I use a line from it regularly in this column, "The emperor's naked!" When I tell this story, I generally follow a variant told by Cindy Wheeler in "The Emperor's Birthday Suit."
As I tell it, when the emperor finds himself parading around in his underwear, one villager brings him an old coat and another brings him an old pair of pants, and everybody laughs at their own foolishness. The emperor makes the wise little girl who cried out, "the emperor has no clothes" his chief adviser. Then there is the matter of the two con-men. Some want to throw them in the dungeon. Some want to hang them. But the emperor turns to his chief adviser who says, "let them weave clothes for everyone in the realm." This time the emperor makes sure they use cloth that all can see. And from that day on, the emperor was satisfied with his old clothes and never wanted a new suit again.
This is quite different from the ending of Hans Christian Andersen's fable:
"The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, 'This procession has got to go on.' So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all."
I change the story for two reasons. First, I am an incurable optimist and still believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that the ending I tell is possible. Second, I think young children deserve stories with happy endings. They will experience many unhappy endings in due time.
So now, Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney and other would-be emperors: choose your ending. You have been caught parading naked and like Andersen's emperor, you may continue the charade. But, if you choose my ending, you are welcome to all my old clothes. I have a closet full, for I have not bought new clothing in years.
September 4, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
LETTING IT ALL HANG OUT
Sooner of later there comes a defining moment when it all hangs out for the whole world to see. Denials, even apologies, become superfluous, because the emperor stands exposed in all his glorious nakedness, and there is nothing left to do but laugh. And, to quote Mark Twain, the greatest of all humorists, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."
Such a moment came when Todd Akin proclaimed in front of the television cameras, "From what I understand from doctors...if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
It's not like these guys aren't used to lying. They do it all the time. It's not that people don't know they are lying. I hear it all the time at the peace vigils: ordinary folks driving by and giving us the thumbs up or stopping to say thanks and I agree with your message. They know the government and the media lie.
But this time they came out with a message that 50% of the population knows intimately is false. This time it didn't even take a young child saying the emperor is naked.
Even more interesting is the response of Karl Rove: “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!” This is referred to by the media as a "joke." But if you or I said something even remotely similar, we'd likely end up some place like Guantánamo strapped to a board with water being poured down our noses. After what happened to Paul Wellstone and Mel Carnahan, this can hardly be considered a joke - more precisely, I'd call it a threat.
Here's some of the humor that came out of Akin's remark:
A video on legitimate rape as a form of birth control.
And a plug for Todd Akin's new book, "Basic Female Biology and the 'Rape Response'."
MORE ON THE FEDERAL RESERVE
In the August 7 newsletter, Helen wrote a short commentary on "The Creature From Jekyll Island", an article on the Federal Reserve. The following weak, Mark Haim sent in some links as a rebuttal to The Creature from Jekyll Island.
Me? I'm still wading through all these long scholarly articles. In the meantime, here's a third opinion which is probably a more honest evaluation of the Federal Reserve than any of those long articles that Mark and Helen have recommended.
MORE ON JULIAN ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS
Last Week, I linked to Glenn Greenwald's excellent article on media responses to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. As far as I know, Assange is still in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he may remain for the rest of his life. Wonder what he's doing? Follow this link.
Incidently, Glenn Greenwald will be speaking at the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia on Thursday, Sept. 27. Watch for details.
August 28, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NUCLEAR WEAPON FREE WORLD BY 2025?
Iran opened the summit of non-aligned nations in Tehran by calling for a nuclear weapon free world by 2025. A nuclear weapon free world is unfortunately not on the agenda of the world's mightiest military power which continues to flout its responsibilities under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." (Article VI). Meanwhile, the US continues to develop new nuclear weapons in violation of the NNPT and Israel, who is not even a member of the NNPT, maintains a nuclear arsenal thought to be at least 200 weapons strong. The hypocrisy of the United States and Israel sanctioning and threatening Iran for alleged nuclear ambitions should be evident to everyone except perhaps the New York Times.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon thumbs his nose at Israel and travels to Tehran to attend the non-aligned summit, much to Israel's intense displeasure.
THE HYPOCRISY OF THE US MEDIA
Glenn Greenwald analyzes responses in the US media to Wikileaks and Julian Assange who has been granted asylum in Ecuador from persecution by the United States, Britain and Sweden. This article provides some excellent background as well as an admonishment not to believe anything you see or here in the US mass media.
The big loser in this affair is Sweden which has proved itself to be no more concerned about freedom of information and transparency than the United States or Britain. The big winner is Ecuador, which has stood up for justice in the face of bullying from the United States and Britain.
THEIR SMUGNESS WILL MELT
Climate science appears to confirm: The wealthy nations will be battered by the climate change they have caused, as hard or perhaps even harder than the poorer nations (as we have all discovered this summer). Or, as The Prophet Isaiah put it: "And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him." (Isaiah 24:2 KJV) George Monbiot discusses these recent findings, and notes that those who "caused this disaster are now scrambling to profit from it". Their profits will be short-lived indeed.
August 21, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BULLY FOR US
Ever since Mitt Romney's escapades as prep school bully made national news, I've wanted to write an article on bullying. Well, three months have passed. Bullying has dropped out of the news, although the rich and powerful continue their daily bullying of the rest of us unabated.
After three months of thought, here are my comments on bullying - not just Mitt Romney's tormenting of effeminate boys in prep school, but the whole gamut of bullying that goes on day after day after day. The article is somewhat long for this newsletter, so here is a link. The article comes with a cartoon image of Mitt Romney. Enjoy.
August 14, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THIS IS WHAT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA SHOULD BE
The people's response to the burning (probably arson) of the Joplin, Missouri Mosque has been nothing short of AWESOME. In just two days the Islamic Society of Joplin, Missouri surpassed its goal of raising $250,000 to rebuild the Joplin Mosque, This is the REAL United States of America, people saying no to selfishness and hate and helping each other through a crisis. It's not too late to contribute.
AND THIS IS WHAT THE OLYMPICS SHOULD BE
Here's a great photo of Olympic wrestlers Jordan Burroughs (United States of America) and Sadegh Goudarzi (Islamic Republic of Iran) walking arm and arm. Kind of makes you want to forget about all the hype and commercialism that the Olympics have come to stand for.
I was going to write some negative stuff this week, but after the above two snippets, I just can't do it. I'll save it for next week.
August 7, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I CRY OUT, PROCLAIMING VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION
Along with massacres in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a fire, probably set deliberately, at the Joplin, Missouri Mosque, has destroyed it completely. Michael Moore, creator of Bowling for Columbine, discusses our culture of fear and violence, and how it gives rise to these terrible incidents.
The title of this snippet is from Jeremiah 20:8 (NIV).
MISSION FAILED: GET OUT OR DIE
Tom Engelhardt points out that deadly, usually suicidal, attacks against US troops and their allies by the very Afghan soldiers and police they are training are on the increase: at least 21 such attacks resulting in the death of 30 Americans and Europeans in the first 6 months of this year with at least 4 more incidents in July. Englehardt calls this "historically unprecedented," and well it might be. I have maintained before that the Afghans are very special people.
After reading Engelhardt's article, I looked back at some of the stuff I wrote about Afghanistan during the final three months of 2001, during which, most of my compatriots were celebrating our "victory" over the "perpetrators" of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Much of my writing pointed out that our violent response was wrong and had already failed; but some in Washington are just waking up to this now; others have yet to wake up from their violence-induced stupor.
Here are a few quotes I included in my December 4, 2001 post: The first is from Tim O'Brien who wrote so beautifully and realistically about the Vietnam War in which he fought:
"A true war story is never moral. It does not
instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest
models of proper human behavior, nor restrain
men from doing the things men have always done.
If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If
at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or
if you feel that some small bit of rectitude
has been salvaged from the larger waste, then
you have been made the victim of a very old and
terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever.
There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb,
therefore, you can tell a true war story by its
absolute and uncompromising allegiance to
obscenity and evil. ... You can tell a true war
story by the way it never seems to end ..."
---Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"
The second and third are from Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban."
"There is a lesson to be learned here for
today's meddlers - those who intervene in
Afghanistan can face disintegration
themselves - not because of the power of the
Afghans, but because of the forces that are
unleashed in their own fragile societies."
"Afghanistan is not only the mirror of the
Afghans: it is the mirror of the world.
'If you do not like the image in the mirror,
do not break the mirror, break your face,'
says an old Persian proverb."
---Ahmed Rashid, "Taliban"
We have looked upon the mirror of Afghanistan; and have broken our face.
WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
NASA's James Hansen points out that the climate change models were erroneous. Things are a lot worse than the models predicted.
Well, of course; and for several reasons:
1. It has long been recognized that there is a positive feedback loop involved with global warming. Global warming feeds on itself. The increase is not linear.
2. Real scientists tend to be very conservative. Science deals with uncertainty. We never know for sure.
3. Then there is Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will."
I'm not a real scientist; so I've been saying that things are a lot worse than they appear for a long time now.
July 31, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: VOTE TUESDAY, AUGUST, 7, WE CHOOSE OUR NEXT STATE REP.
Summer Thorp-Lancaster, who is president of Friends of Missouri Midwives and a registered doula (birthing support professional) writes in that our state representative in the 121st district, Keith Frederick, actively opposed HB894 (2011) and HB1678 (2012), which were supported by Missouri's midwives and their clients. In 2011 Dr. Frederick introduced an unacceptable substitute, HB887. In addition, Summer reports, he was "absolutely antagonistic during the committee hearing" and "completely unresponsive." Summer has met Frederick's challenger, James R. Skaggs, and finds him supportive of midwifery. Visit Summer's blog.
Like Summer, I take it personally when politicians speak disparagingly and condescendingly of us. For example, I take it personally that our US representative, Jo Ann Emerson voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (derisively called Obamacare); but not her own excellent health care policy paid for by our taxes. I took it personally when the Missouri legislature gutted Proposition C on renewable energy after the electorate voted for it 2 to 1. I take it personally that our Congress chooses to spend over $700 billion annually to make war, while so many of us at home are living on the edge or below. Maybe if more of us took these affronts personally, politicians would be more responsive to us.
Dr. Keith Frederick has huge placards pasted all over Rolla proclaiming that he is for small government and individual liberties and opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires everyone to carry minimal health insurance, with the government paying most of the cost for those who cannot afford insurance. Hey, what's this? People shouldn't be forced to carry minimal health insurance, but they can be prevented from having their babies delivered by midwives even though this is known to be the safest, healthiest, cheapest method of birthing for uncomplicated deliveries. Sounds to me like Dr. Frederick is only for small government and individual liberties when it doesn't interfere with his profession's near-monopoly on providing healthcare.
This is rather typical of ideologues. When their ideology interferes with their self-interest, they suspend their ideology. (Some would call this hypocrisy.) And the louder they proclaim their ideology, the more willing they are to suspend it in favor of self-interest.
The winner of the August 7 Republican primary will be our next state representative as no Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist or Independent is running in the 121st District. Summer has me convinced. I intend to take a Republican ballot and vote for James R. Skaggs. Please consider doing the same.
For those interested in learning more about the sad state of health care in the United States, watch Michael Moore's movie, Sicko.
EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE PLAGUE IS COMING...
If you want to understand the end result of the nexus of our health care for profit system, slashing of our human services budget including public health, and the criminalization of almost everything, including poverty and disease; look at this little publicized story of the Worst TB outbreak in 20 years. In the midst of an out-of-control Florida tuberculosis epidemic that has already killed 13 and sickened 99, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Health chose to cover up the outbreak and close Florida's only TB sanitarium, A.G. Holley State Hospital. A case of drug-resistant TB can costs, on average, $275,000 to cure. Drug-resistant TB has been kept under control by ensuring that those with TB take their venerable cocktail of medication on time. But, it is difficult to ensure that victims who are homeless, and/or hiding from a legal system that increasingly criminalizes poverty and disease, take their medication at all.
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Health, of course, deny any wrong-doing.
In the past it was believed that a single touch from the King would cure tuberculosis. Hmmm, maybe a president would do; or even a governor.
The title of this snippet, is from the song, Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson.
"Everybody know that the boat is leaking;
Everybody knows that the captain lied.
That's how it goes;
FROM OUR READERS: GEOENGINEERING
A reader read through the discussion under the geoengineering article I linked to last week. Here are her favorite remarks:
"Maybe hubris will kill us before greed does...."
"I wish they wouldn't mess with our only home."
"If it works, we'll patent the process and charge everyone a fee to breathe the air. If it fails miserably, oh well, business as usual."
Thanks, Karen. Here's another article describing a known negative side-effect of geoengineering. It seems storms have gotten so strong that they are now injecting water vapor into the stratosphere which then depletes the ozone layer which filters out much of the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. If geoengineers inject sulphate particles into the stratosphere, it will likely catalyze the reaction. Says one atmospheric scientist, “The worst cocktail you can think of is to inject a combination of sulphur and water into the stratosphere, and that is exactly what would be happening.” Oh, well, our engineers can build caves and underground cities and farms for us to live in, so we won't ever have to go out in deadly ultraviolet sunlight. They always said they would bomb us back to the stone age.
Remember that old ditty:
"Johnny was a scientist; but Johnny is no more.
For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4."
Seems pertinent to me.
Actually, it's not the known side-effects; it's the UNKNOWN side-effects of geoengineering that REALLY scare me.
More on climate change...
Here's an article about rats deserting the sinking ship of climate-change skepticism. Longtime skeptic Richard Muller now believes in human induced climate change. (whoopee doo!) Well, Herr Doktor Professor Muller, where's the apology for all those years of climate change denial? Does your epiphany make up for all the damage you and your wealthy funders, the ignominious Koch brothers, have done to the only planet we have? What are you going to do with all the money you made pimping for the Koch brothers and their ilk?
This article by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone is somewhat long; but spells out very clearly where we are and where we are headed. I love the accompanying illustration by Edel Rodriguez.
July 24, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TUESDAY, AUGUST, 7 IS ELECTION DAY
We are two weeks away from primary elections in which a constitutional amendment on school prayer and two important offices will be decided.
School Prayer Amendment (Constitutional Amendment 2)
My recommendation: VOTE NO
The ballot language for this amendment is misleading. Missing is any reference to the following statement in the amendment itself:
"no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious belief."
Does this mean that students belonging to the Church of the Anti-Math can opt out of all math classes? Does this mean students belonging to the Church of the Flat Earth can opt out of all geography and Earth science classes? Will the schools be forced to give them diplomas without requisite math and science classes? How will this affect our children's already inadequate performance in math and science as compared to other countries?
The ballot language also claims that this amendment will result in "little or no costs or savings". Hey! who is going to have to pay to defend this vague, poorly-written amendment against the inevitable legal challenges? YOU, the taxpayer. That's who will pay.
This amendment is just one more attack on our children and our schools disguised as religious freedom.
Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 2.
121st District State Rep. and Public Administrator
Our next State Representative and Public Administrator will be decided in the Republican Primary on August 7 because no Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist or Independent is running. James R. Skaggs is challenging incumbent Keith Frederick for State Rep. Shelly Douglas Cain is challenging Kathy Oliver for Public Administrator. If you wish to vote for these offices, you must ask for a Republican Ballot.
Other Candidate of Note: Rick Vandeven
Libertarian Rick Vandeven is the ONLY pro-peace anti-militarism candidate running for US Representative, 8th District. Rick is unopposed in the primary. Check out Rick at Project VoteSmart and read my endorsement of Rick from the 2010 election.
CLEOPATRA RETURNS TO THE NILE
US popularity hits an all-time low in the Middle East as Hillary Clinton's motorcade in Alexandria is pelted with shoes, tomatoes, and taunts of "Monica". Check out this banner from the demonstration. I'm fond of this Egypt Loves U Hilary cartoon.
HOW CAN A MULTI-BILLIONAIRE BE SO DUMB?
The same mind-set that gave us Fukushima, that made at least 3% of Japan's land uninhatitable, and Deepwater Horizon, that has degraded the Gulf of Mexico for the foreseeable future, now gives us ... [drumroll] ... GEOENGINEERING ... funded by the richest man on Earth, Bill Gates.
With Geoengineering we can improve on God's handiwork; we can burn fossil fuels to our heart's content without warming the Earth. And what if Bill Gates's geoengineering makes matters worse? After all, the Earth's climate is a very complex system that we puny humans simply don't comprehend. We tinker with it at our own risk. Hey, no one asked me if I wanted the planet I live on reengineered by Bill Gates. Don't I have a say? I guess not.
Albert Einstein said it best: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." But then, Einstein never even made a million dollars in his entire lifetime; Gates has made many billions.
Watch Vandana Shiva debate Gwynne Dyer over Geoengineering on Democracy Now.
July 17, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD???
A reader sends a link to the video, "The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER.." with a suggestion to watch it more than once.
This is a short clip from a new HBO television series, "Newsroom". In response to a young lady who asks "Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?", the protagonist goes into a three minute rant beginning "Not the greatest country in the world" and ending "America is not the greatest country in the world, ANYMORE. [emphasis mine]"
Disclaimer: I have not watched the rest of the episode so my answer, like the video clip itself, is out of context. While I find it positive that this question is being discussed on mainstream television, there are numerous things wrong with this clip.
1. The protagonist's statement that we have freedom in America, and so do 180 other countries is incorrect. It is not possible to be free in a world where anyone can be summarily murdered on the whim of one person, the president of the United States, who acts as judge, jury and executioner while the accused has no rights whatsoever, not even the right to know he is accused.
2. Coming from a middle-aged male, I found the remark, "You, sorority girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, ..." sexist, chauvinist and just plain nasty. (See this slide show on how women in the United States fought for the Right to vote.)
3. Further, the statement, "You are nonetheless, without a doubt, a member of the worst PERIOD generation PERIOD ever PERIOD." is misplaced blame. If our generation is so good and smart, it's because our parents went to the trouble and expense to see that we got an education and supported our teachers and schools instead of closing, privatizing and trashing them. If the coming generation is the worst generation ever, it's because we sat them down in front of a television set instead of going to the trouble and expense of educating them.
4. The statement, the United States is 178th in infant mortality is misleading. The US is somewhere around 178th (depending and which set of figures you use) from the worst in infant mortality. The CIA World Factbook recognizes 222 countries and places the United States at 49th lowest (best) in infant mortality rate, behind the much-maligned countries of Cuba and Greece. Highest (worst) on the list is Afghanistan which has apparently benefitted little from 11 years of US sponsored war and occupation.
5. The protagonist claims 25 of the top 26 countries in military spending (exclusive of the US which is number 1) are our allies. Is he claiming that China (number 2) or Russia (number 3) is our ally?
6. The protagonist's use of the F*word is gratuitous, and adds nothing.
7. Most of the final 90 seconds is spent reminiscing on how great the United States used to be. "It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons." Totally missing from the monologue is the near extermination of the Amerindians, slavery or Jim Crow. Missing is the understanding that on at least two occasions, 1945 and 1990, as the world's only economic and military superpower, the United States could have built a world filled with peace, justice, freedom and opportunity for all; but instead opted for empire building and the pursuit of total control of everything. I find no moral reason whatsoever behind any of our imperialist wars: Vietnam War, Spanish-American War, Mexican War and many others besides.
Asking which is the greatest country in the world, is much like asking which is the greatest color in the rainbow, or which is the greatest number. Countries in the modern sense have been around for a few hundred years. The world got divided into countries in the 20th century as former colonies gained independence and bought into the concept of becoming countries. The concept may already have outlived it's usefulness. Their are numerous "failed states" like Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan and many countries, including to a large extent the United States, are now practically owned by corporations and special interests.
In sum: I'm glad this subject is being discussed on mainstream TV; but I still do not want television in my home.
July 10, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: ANTI-OBAMA ANTI-ABORTION VIDEO
A reader writes: "I am sharing a 5 minute video in response to your comment, '(For all you anti-abortion types, infant mortality rate is defined as the number of children who die before their first birthday per 1000 LIVE births.)' This is a 5 minute video, a nurse's testimony, relative to 'Live Births'. Eyes wide open. If there is offense, let it be appropriately directed against what is offensive. This is not a 'political' statement."
My entire snippet which appeared in the May 29 newsletter reads:
"IMF Boss Christine Lagarde Defines Hypocrisy
"Although International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Laguarde, pays no taxes on her income of $500,000, she feels free to lecture Greeks about their need to pay taxes, claiming that she is more concerned about starving children in Niger than the plight of the Greeks.
"Niger has an infant mortality rate of 73 per 1000. Greece's infant mortality rate is 3 per 1000. Maybe the Greeks are lucky that Madame Lagarde cares more about Niger's children than Greece's. By way of comparison, the infant mortality rate in the United States is 7 per 1000. (For all you anti-abortion types, infant mortality rate is defined as the number of babies who die before their first birthday per 1000 LIVE births.)"
When I point out how woefully inadequate our performance (as compared to most other industrialized countries and some non-industrialized countries) is in protecting the newly born, I generally get one of two responses (if I get a response at all).
1. It's because of all the abortions we perform.
2. Because we are a large diverse country, we shouldn't be expected to perform as well as smaller more homogenous countries.
The first excuse ignores the facts that abortions are generally not live births and that many countries with a far lower infant mortality rate than the US, also have a far more liberal attitude toward abortion. While an abortion might be recorded as a live birth either because the obstetrician botched the operation or through administrative error, I would seriously doubt that either happens often enough to affect infant mortality statistics. The reader offers no statistics of her own; nor does the person in the video who claims to have witnessed these events.
The second excuse is equally erroneous. As the world's richest country, we ought to perform better than less wealthy countries. Diversity is generally considered a strength rather than a weakness.
Now let's talk about the video. Reader writes, "This is not a 'political' statement.", yet the entire thrust of the video is an election year attack on now president Barack Obama; from the statement [40 seconds into video] "Barack Obama [inaudible] infanticide, the killing of fully born infants who had survived a failed abortion attempt" and continuing through most of the video. This video is part of a series called "I Invented the Internet" (presumably referring to the derisive attacks on Al Gore for a statement he never made). I looked at a few other videos in this series; they all seem to be attacks on Barack Obama.
I thank our readers for writing in and ask why they and others of similar belief are not spending more of their energies advocating for affordable health care for all families, including prenatal care for expectant mothers.
YOUR WELFARE REFORM PLAN STINKS
While we discuss abortion, real live children in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states are being thrown out of poverty and health care assistance programs.
DEVANT MOI, LE DÉLUGE
Here's two more articles on the consequences of that "Liberal Hoax" global warming to add to the five I gave you last week.
It appears that ocean acidification, also a consequence of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, is progressing faster than scientists thought it was, with dire consequences for oceanic life forms.
At least 150 die in unexpected flash floods in Russia. Some locations receive three months of rain in one night. Climate science models predict more severe weather events of increased severity as the Earth continues to warm.
I wonder if we'll ever receive apologies from the global warming deniers. I'm not holding my breath.
July 3, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ITS AS SERIOUS AS IT GETS
It was hard to choose a title for this snippet. I thought about the old adage NATURE BATS LAST or the Seussism, WE DIDN'T DO IT ... AND NOW ITS TOO LATE, or another Seussism, WON'T LOOK LIKE RAIN, WON'T LOOK LIKE SNOW, WON'T LOOK LIKE FOG, THAT'S ALL WE KNOW; and finally ended up simply quoting Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, "IT'S AS SERIOUS AS IT GETS."
As far as global warming goes, Governor John "I don’t think that the scientific community has decided with certainty that climate change is as catastrophic as so many people think." Hickenlooper has been a fence sitter. Well, Governor Hickenlooper, your State is going up in flames. So what do you think of global warming now?
Nature is exacting vengeance with a passion upon an arrogant insane species that thinks it can control the world: The West is on fire. Hurricane Debby is dumping "unthinkable amounts" of rain on Florida. One of the largest derechos in US history has spawned thunderstorms and high winds from Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic leaving over a million sweltering in intense heat without power. And now we are told that it is TOO LATE to stop catastrophic sea-level rise that will leave 10% of us either homeless or dead.
Meanwhile, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson who has made billions by warming the planet while denying it, assures us, "We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around – we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions."
I spent most of my working life around engineers at Missouri S&T. Why don't I feel assured?
Here's a few of this week's articles on climate disaster:
'Epic' Fire Forces Tens of Thousands to Flee in Colorado
What We Know After Rio: Governments Have Given Up on the Planet
While Colorado Burns, Washington Fiddles
Sea Level Rise Unstoppable, say Scientists
Power Outages Leave Millions Sweltering in 'Dangerous Heat' With 'Hot and Hotter' on the Way
YET ANOTHER FAILED STATE
In the wake of NATO's "humanitarian intervention," Libya, like Iraq and Afghanistan before it, descends into warlordism. Syria, you're next.
SHADES OF ANGER
Listen to Rafeef Zadiah's powerful recitation of her poem, Shades of Anger. I posted this link on my homepage under Poem of the Month.
June 26, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YET ANOTHER VICTORY IN THE WAR ON CHILDREN
Four weeks ago, I wrote that Dr. Shakil Afridi and the CIA probably did more damage with their bogus child vaccination program than bin Laden ever did. I quoted Nobel Prize winning humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders, as saying "[This] grave manipulation of the medical act [will cause] vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services [to] understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid." It seems that Afghans are now rejecting a polio vaccination program, remarking, "In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the US and its allies are running their spying networks in Fata which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes."
MORE AND MORE LIKE VIETNAM
One of the hallmarks of the last few years of the Vietnam War was the increasing frequency of lethal attacks on bars, nightclubs and other locations frequented by foreigners and government officials for R&R. Last Friday, the Taliban staged a similar attack on the Spozhmai Hotel in Kabul killing at least 16.
A CONVENIENT SCAPEGOAT
David Macaray notes that in his experience: In later life men generally blame themselves for their failure to have done well in school; women generally blame their parents for not having had higher academic expectations for them; but no one, no one, seems to blame their teachers. This does not pose a barrier to politicians and other "experts" who blame teachers for everything wrong with our educational system.
June 19, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YOU CAN'T SAY IT (EVEN IF YOU HAVE A MOUTHFUL)
Speaker of the Michigan State House of Representatives, Jase Bolger, has problems with the word, "vagina." Bolger censured and silenced State Rep., Lisa Brown, for saying "vagina" on the House floor during a debate on an abortion bill. Brown's exact words, "Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."
Rep. Mike Callton remarked. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company." I wonder whether Bolger and Callton would find the word, "penis," equally offensive.
The question I want to ask is: Should we be electing men who think that vagina is a nasty word to represent us in Congress? I think not.
This article on commondreams.org contains links to videos of Brown's speech and an interview with her on the Rachel Maddow show.
Bolger and Callton are not alone among legislators in their inability to understand common words that pertain to what they purport to be legislating. Apparently some members of the US Senate Banking Committee have difficulty with the word, "derivative".
Again I ask: Should men who don't know what a derivative is be serving on the US Senate Banking Committee? I think not.
With ignorami like these in Congress (both federal and state), it's a wonder that the Ship of State is still afloat - well, just barely.
ANOTHER VICTORY IN THE WAR ON CHILDREN
The latest report: Gaza's Children: Falling Behind, the effect of the blockade on child health in Gaza by Save The Children and Medical Aid For Palestinians details the lack of potable water and sewage treatment due primarily to the Israeli Blockade, now going into its sixth year. Lack of clean water and sewage treatment is causing death and illness among the inhabitants of Gaza, particularly the more than 800,000 children living there. Gaza has oft been described as the world's largest open-air prison, containing almost 1.6 million inmates, over half of whom are children.
It should be noted that the United States pioneered the strategy of waging war by blockading a country after destroying its basic infrastructure and ability to care for the health of its inhabitants. The result of this strategy in Iraq was that 5,000 children under the age of five (above what would have been expected) died monthly (1991-2003). It is for breaking this blockade that killed 5,000 children monthly that our good friend Shakir Hamoodi will serve three years in prison. May God reward him for his good works and ease the suffering of his family.
NO STEPS FORWARD, TWENTY STEPS BACK
Here are two articles on very different subjects but very similar in tone. George Monbiot details how we have not only failed to live up to the goals of the First Climate Summit 20 years ago, but have backpedaled away from them.
Alice Slater points out how, far from realizing the promise of nuclear disarmament, we have backpedaled away from this goals, increasing the likelihood of nuclear confrontation.
The point of both articles is essentially the same: While we have sat on our collective butts doing nothing, a small elite has led the world down the path to destruction. And don't expect this small cabal of super-rich billionaires to save us. They can't even save themselves. Howard Zinn got it right: "To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do."
June 12, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
drone n. 1. A male bee, performs no work, its only function is sexual. (see gigolo)
There are drones on the water,
There are drones in the air,
50 nations now have drones,
They'll soon be everywhere.
There are drones on the ceiling,
There are drones in the bed,
If we don't do something very soon,
I fear we'll all be dead.
In Vietnam, the Masters of War found that citizen soldiers could not be made to fight their filthy wars once the lies and corruption lay exposed for all to see. In Afghanistan and Iraq, they found that even paid professionals and mercenaries can not be made to fight once the lies and corruption are exposed. Now they are trying to fight their wars with unmanned vehicles.
Berserk drones seem to be universally hated by their civilian victims, even more so than berserk soldiers, .
Read Tom Engelhardt's article, The Dronification of Planet Earth. I look forward to reading his new book, "Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050."
All that is required for drones to become true Berserkers, is for them to become self-replicating. Perhaps they already are. Perhaps in some hidden unmanned factory, Berserker robots are producing drones programmed for all out war against the living. Fred Saberhagen, who began writing the Berserker stories almost 50 years ago, was truly prophetic.
June 5, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SUPPORT THE TROOPS, BRING THEM HOME
David Sirota discusses some new research debunking the legend of the "spat upon veteran", and notes that there is no physical evidence that this ever happened.
My experiences during the Vietnam War support this research. I participated in many events during this period and never once saw a veteran or soldier spat upon. Matter of fact it was just the opposite. Many veterans who joined the Peace Movement achieved hero status and became leaders. Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, is probably the best known example.
A point that Sirota misses is that like today's Peace and Justice movement, the anti-war movement of the Vietnam Era was riddled with spies and agent provocateurs. We will probably never know how much abuse of veterans and soldiers was at the hands of agent provocateurs; but, from my own experiences, I would venture to guess that it is considerable.
The government and the Pentagon went to great lengths to portray the Peace Movement as an enemy of the soldiers; for when the troops join the Peace Movement it becomes impossible to prosecute the War. This is what happened 40 years ago; and it is happening again today. As Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a leader of the Peace Movement 40 years ago, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War are leaders today.
NUCLEAR WEAPON STATES UNLIKELY TO LIVE UP TO RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER NNPT
The 2012 SIPRI yearbook points out that a far greater danger than North Korea's rudimentary nuclear weapons program and whatever nuclear weapons aspirations Iran might have, is the long-term modernization programmes under way in the nuclear weapons states, led by the United States.
Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Theaty that came into force 42 years ago states, "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Define "early date."
BURN, BABY, BURN!
"Super-sized and highly destructive wildfires have become a regular occurrence in America, especially in the south-west, because of drought, climate change and human interference with the natural landscape." The fire currently raging through New Mexico is probably that state's worst ever.
Meanwhile, the planet destroyers, the criminals who put profit and greed before planetary health, continue to deny that the Earth is burning.
May 29, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SHAKIR HAMOODI SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON
Our good friend and brother Shakir Hamoodi of Columbia, Missouri has been sentenced by a federal judge to three years in prison for violating the sanctions of Iraq by sending money to his family and others in need. Please print the petition for clemency, fill it out, and return it to the address on the bottom of petition.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. AFRIDI AND MR. BIN LADEN
Dr. Shakil Afridi who was "helping" the CIA to find Osama bin Laden, probably did more damage than bin Laden ever did. Afridi set up a bogus vaccination program in Pakistan in which he checked for bin Laden's DNA in the blood of the children he vaccinated, leaving children to believe they were protected against Hepatitis B, when in fact they were not. As Doctors Without Borders notes: the CIA and Dr. Afridi for their “grave manipulation of the medical act” will cause “vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services [to] understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid.” For this, Afridi has been convicted in Pakistan of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, to the self-righteous indignation of people over the entire range of the political spectrum in the United States.
Glenn Greenwald and others have noted that Dr. Afridi's bogus vaccination program was of no help in finding bin Laden. In fact, we do not know if bin Laden was found at all. All we really know is that special forces shot an unarmed man and then dumped a corpse in the ocean. Bin Laden? Hmmm. The official story stinks worse than the Kennedy assassination. Remember John Kennedy's assassination? purportedly by a lone killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was then assassinated by organized crime figure, Jack Ruby, under the watchful eyes of the Dallas police. What a lousy coverup story for the palace coup that gave us, among other things, the Vietnam War.
Actually, we don't need Dr. Afridi to mistrust the true motivation of the medical profession. Afridi is just one datapoint among many in the corrupt corporate-owned healthcare profession.
IMF BOSS CHRISTINE LAGARDE DEFINES HYPOCRISY
Although International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Laguarde, pays no taxes on her income of $500,000, she feels free to lecture Greeks about their need to pay taxes, claiming that she is more concerned about starving children in Niger than the plight of the Greeks.
Niger has an infant mortality rate of 73 per 1000. Greece's infant mortality rate is 3 per 1000. Maybe the Greeks are lucky that Madame Lagarde cares more about Niger's children than Greece's. By way of comparison, the infant mortality rate in the United States is 7 per 1000. (For all you anti-abortion types, infant mortality rate is defined as the number of babies who die before their first birthday per 1000 LIVE births.)
May 22, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TOMMY AIN'T A BLOOMIN' FOOL - YOU BET THAT TOMMY SEES!
Watch the video, listen to their speeches, 45 veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan War throwing their medals in the direction of the NATO summit. It took over ten years for this to happen. We live in a culture of instant gratification. But one must be patient. "God is with those who patiently persevere." We must never give up; for to give up is to die.
"A few of us have been standing in front of the Rolla Post Office, every week for over five years, patiently saying, Peace. We watched the mood of the public change. At first responses were about 50% positive, 50% negative. For the last year, they have been 99% positive.
I think we will have peace soon. Because when the soldiers and the veterans speak out and say, ENOUGH, who is left to fight for the 1%? This is "Vietnam Syndrome" - when soldiers refuse to fight. This is how the Vietnam War ended. And this is how today's Asian War will end too.
The title is from the poem, Tommy, by Rudyard Kipling. The quote on patience is from the Holy Qur'an 8:66.
NOT TO REBEL IS SPIRITUAL AND MORAL SUICIDE
Chris Hedges discusses his court victory against the National Defense Authorization Act. He points out that no matter how desperate the situation, no matter how assured we are of failure, we must rebel - because it is the act of rebellion that makes us human.
May 15, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHY I AM MUSLIM (PART IV)
Danger Room has disclosed some of the details of the course on Islamic radicalism given over the past four years at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The course material totally abrogates the Geneva Convention, and discusses, among other atrocities, applying the "historical precedent" of the destruction of entire cities (Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki) to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Total destruction of entire populations and cities is certainly nothing new to the United States. From deliberately spreading small pox, which was up to 95% fatal among some Amerindian tribes, through the firebombing and nuclear bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War II, to poisoning large areas of Vietnam with dioxin, one of the most deadly of organic chemicals, to the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah twice in 2004; one might say that mass destruction has become a national obsession.
The Nazis are notorious for their plans to exterminate every single member of the Jewish race or religion from Germany and territories it occupied during World War II. But now the U.S. military contemplates the world wide destruction of a religion of 1.5 billion people. While the military and the White House has publicly repudiated the course material of this class, one must ask why it took public disclosure for this to happen. One should at least expect the court martial of those responsible for this class, perhaps even for treason; but that is indeed unlikely, given the precedent of General Jerry Boykin and others.
But, back to Why I am Muslim. I take pride in being a member of a group targeted for destruction by people who are no better, and perhaps far worse, than Nazis. If God loves all people, but particularly the poor and oppressed (as I learned years ago as a Christian), how much more must he love people who are specifically targeted by leaders of the most powerful military the world has ever known, a military that has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has both the power and the will to wipe out entire cities.
May 8, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CLIMATE CHANGE AWARENESS DEMONSTRATION
I've posted photos of our Climate Change Awareness Demonstration last Saturday. Also view these photos of world-wide demonstrations.
Here are some statistics about climate change awareness and opinions in the United States from a recent survey. 83% (including 68% of Republicans) think "[T]he time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to realize a renewable energy future." Yes, people are connecting the dots. Unfortunately, politicians and the mass media are still totally out of touch with the people.
WE DON'T DO BODY COUNTS
Robert Fisk visits Fallujah eight years after the almost total destruction of the city by the United States and its allies. Fisk found an increasing number of children being born with birth defects. Infant mortality in Fallujah has reached an astounding 80 per thousand. Dr. Chris Busby of the University of Ulster points out that “Some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”.
By way of comparison, the United States with an infant mortality rate of 7 per thousand ranks 41. Babies born in 40 countries have better chances of survival than babies born in the United States.
Check out the cartoon I photoshopped last year on this subject.
GALLANT GREEKS GROUND GREEDY GRUNGY GEEKS
In Sunday's election, Greeks voted overwhelmingly against bailouts and austerity measures. Lets do the same here in November!
May 1, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON THE ASYLUM
I rarely write on the same subject that Helen chooses. There is so much to write about; so why repeat ourselves? But Chris Hedges article, "Welcome to the Asylum", is so important and so well written that it certainly deserves to be discussed twice.
The first thing that struck me is that he uses the same C-word (Collapse), that I wrote about a month ago in "Over the Edge" (although Hedges doesn't spell it with a capital C as I do). His point is that the super-wealthy would rather see society collapse than give up any of their ill-deserved wealth and power.
The second point that struck me was the final sentences: "The final chapter of this sad experiment in human history will see us sacrificed as those on the outer reaches of empire were sacrificed. There is a kind of justice to this. We profited as a nation from this demented vision, we remained passive and silent when we should have denounced the crimes committed in our name, and now that the game is up we all go down together."
In the 1980's I used to speak out against the sanctions and Contra War against Nicaragua. If people weren't moved by the suffering of the Nicaraguans, I used to tell them if we allow our government to persecute the Nicaraguans, it's only a matter of time before they persecute us too. In the 1990s, I used to make the same point about the sanctions and "low-level" war against Iraq. Few listened; and fewer acted. So something inside me resonates to Hedges remark: "There is a kind of Justice to this."
I'd like to finish this article with four quotes.
The first is from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 24:1-6, KJV):
1 "Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.
4 ¶ The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.
5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left."
The second is from the Roman historian, Tacitus:
"Plunderers of the world, after they, laying everything waste, run out of land, they probe even the sea: if their enemy has wealth, they have greed; if he be poor, they are ambitious; neither East nor West has sated them; alone of mankind they covet poverty with the same passion as wealth. Robbery, butchery, rape they misname empire: they make a wasteland and call it peace."
The third is from Nazi victim, Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
And finally, Jared Diamond's final sentences from his chapters in "Collapse" on the Norse Greenland Colony:
"Ultimately, though, the chiefs found themselves without followers. The last right that they obtained for themselves was the privilege of being the last to starve."
As you can see from these quotes, the problems Hedges discusses go back thousands of years, perhaps to the dawn of history or even before. Welcome to the Asylum!
CLIMATE CHANGE AWARENESS DAY
Check out the posters I made for our Climate Change Awareness Day demonstration. Please join us this Saturday, 11:30 to 12:30 at the corner of Kingshighway and Hwy 63.
April 24, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SIPRI DATABASE FOR 2011 PUBLISHED
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has published their 2011 database. While we will have to wait a couple of months for their yearly report, the new data shows that while the world is scaling back drastically on programs of social uplift, military expenditures are up 0.3% in real terms adjusted for inflation and exchange. Here in the United States where we are responsible for 41% of the world's military expenditures, military spending was cut a meager 1.2% leaving the United States military expenditures well over five times those of second place China, .
FUKUSHIMA: THE WORLD'S WORST NUCLEAR DISASTER
Robert Alvarez describes why Fukushima is the world's worst nuclear disaster, beating out Chernobyl, that has been responsible for almost one million deaths, with the number growing daily. At Fukushima, the disaster is ongoing. Above ground spent fuel pools, weakened by the earthquake and tsunami, could collapse at any time, releasing up to 327 million curies of long-lived radioactivity.
Meanwhile, here in Missouri, Ameren wants the taxpayers to fund new "modular" nuclear reactors. They don't get it. Nuclear energy is dirty, dangerous, expensive and polluting. If you don't want to pay for more dangerous dirty nukes, call your State Senator and Representative and ask them to vote NO on SB 759: Senator Dan Brown, 573-751-5713; Representative Keith Frederick, 573-751-3834; Rep. Jason Smith, 573-751-1688; Rep. Don Wells, 573-751-1490.
Read about Ameren and Small Modular Nuclear Reactors here.
ANOTHER VICTORY IN THE WAR ON CHILDREN
Six-year-old Salecia Johnson was led away from Creekside Elementary School in handcuffs by police after school authorities proved unable to control the girl who according to authorities was throwing a tantrum. Salecia was arrested and charged with assault, criminal damage to property and unruly conduct. Later, caving in to the child terrorist lobby, authorities dropped the charges against Salecia, who according to her parents, remains traumatized by the incident. Nevertheless, this incident represents a clear victory in our War on Children and should be celebrated as such.
Leaving aside the sarcasm, the end result of the militarization of our schools and our so-called zero-tolerance policies is pure and simply traumatized children. While things are bad enough here in the United States, the most egregious example is Gaza where some 800,000 children (about half the population) are kept in the world's largest open-air prison and deprived of basic necessities.
April 17, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ONE MAN'S HANDS CAN'T TEAR A PRISON DOWN
Saturday, the Taliban broke into a Pakistani prison releasing 384 inmates, some of whom apparently belonged to the Taliban. Meanwhile, the US refuses to end the CIA drone strikes within Pakistan. Some might see a relationship between these incidents.
Here in the "Land of the Free" one out of every hundred adults is incarcerated. For African-American males, ages 20 through 34, the number jumps to one out of every nine, that's 11%, . You have to look back to the Soviet Union under Stalin or South Africa under Apartheid to find such appalling statistics. Aren't we keeping excellent company?
Here's a short article about two African-Americans who have been held in solitary confinement for 40 years.
The title line is from Pete Seeger's song, One Man's Hands:
One man's hands can't tear a prison down,
Two men's hands can't tear a prison down,
But if two and two and fifty make a million,
We'll see that day come round.
OUT OF STEP WITH THE HEMISPHERE
At the Summit of the Americas, the US and Canada found themselves challenged by the rest of the hemisphere on their failed policies on Cuba, drugs, finances and other important matters.
HELPING THE NEEDY
Last April, a boatload of migrants, attempting to escape the Libyan War which had been fomented to a large degree by the West, was left floundering at sea by NATO forces that could easily have rescued the boat. 63 died due to NATO's deliberate failure to render humanitarian assistance at sea. Maybe it's time to disband NATO.
April 2, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OVER THE EDGE
At the recent Planet Under Pressure Conference, Bob Watson, former head of the UN's climate panel, remarked, "I would say it's not unlikely that we will hit a 5 C [9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than pre-industrial times] world". Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, noted that "Some people have even talked about a collapse."
Statements like this have a bitter-sweet taste for me. Maybe Steffen was referring to me (although far more likely, to others attending the conference). I've been using the C-word for 9 years now - ever since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and its acceptance by most of the rest of the world, in spite of the millions who took to the streets demonstrating against it.
The invasion of Iraq was a turning point. It set the world inexorably and irretrievably on a path of military competition. If the world had spoken a little louder, come to the aid of Iraq, it might have set us on the path of cooperation, through which we might have solved the problems of a warming world. If leaders had listened a little closer to the millions who said no to war, instead of laboring under their sad belief that they are wiser than the people they claim the Right to speak for...; but it was not to be.
So we are headed - not up to the brink - but over the edge. Why do people have such difficulty with the C-word? Collapse! There, I've said it! And indeed, why not? Can anyone give me a reason why our civilization ought not to collapse?
I do not view the events of September 11, 2001 or the invasion of Afghanistan as turning points. Unlike the Iraq War, there was little opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan (yours truly excepted). But Afghans are tough. They can take care of themselves. The invasion of Afghanistan was an injustice of monumental stupidity from day one, up to and beyond the murder and disposal at sea of a corpse, alleged to have once belonged to Osama bin Laden. There wasn't a single Afghan involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. Yet, this incident was an excuse for 49 countries with an endorsement from the United Nations and a blessing from the Catholic Church, to invade Afghanistan.
I think the Afghans might have beaten back the entire world. They turned back the British at the height of its imperial power. They defeated the Soviet Union and helped bring about its demise. And now they are defeating 49 countries and the most powerful military force the world has ever known.
Remember the old Irish joke:
Q: Why are the Irish always fighting among themselves?
A: Because there are no other worthy opponents.
We ought to make that one into an Afghan joke (no offense meant to the Irish). If we were all Afghans, we might be able to avoid Collapse.
Iraq was different. By the Spring of 2003 the shock of 9/11 had worn off, millions of people from all over the world were saying no to militarism and yes to international cooperation. When the United States ignored this international consensus and invaded Iraq, we lost our best opportunity to deal with climate change. We are unlikely to get another chance. War is the greatest of crimes against humanity, because it includes within it all other crimes against humanity. As Martin Luther King pointed out, "[America's soul] can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over." I don't think this only refers to our moral soul. I think it ultimately refers to our physical existence too. As Brian Terrell points out, much of the movement for domestic change utterly fails to recognize the military roots of our problems. Simply put, we can either deal with important global problems like climate change; or we can wage war. We can't do both.
Consider: As the world warms, crops will fail, famine, blight and pestilence will spread, and societies will fall apart. How will a world steeped in militarism respond? Will hungry people with nuclear weapons refrain from using them in vain attempts to garner the world's ever dwindling supplies of food, water, and other human necessities? More war means more destruction, and fewer necessities of life to go around. This is Collapse.
And do not look to the foolish 1%, the arrogant super-rich, to save us. Howard Zinn got it right: "To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do."
Look at this population graph. For most of humanity's existence, the world supported no more than a few million people. After Collapse, will the world even be able to support that many? How many? one million? 100,000? Zero? Who will be the survivors? Certainly not me. I used to think Collapse would not come during my lifetime. Now I think it is imminent. At age 70, I would guess that I have at least a 50/50 chance of dying in the Collapse. How about my grandchildren? If 10 million of the world's population of 7 billion were to survive, that gives us all a 0.14% chance of survival. Not very good odds, even when you have 10 grandchildren.
So what ought we to be doing? I can only speak for myself. I continue to do as I have been doing: reading, writing, cartooning, speaking and advocating for peace. The boat may be sinking; but like the orchestra on the Titanic, I keep playing.
I do a lot of praying. I still believe in miracles. I don't pray that God will turn off the heat. I don't think God works that way. Rather, I pray, Thy will be done. We know that the world has collapsed before; and it will collapse again. Perhaps God will rebuild the world after this collapse, as God has done before. It has been sung in the blues, "Great God Almighty; bring dynamite and a crane; blow it up; and start all over again." Perhaps, enough of us will survive to try again. And perhaps, we will do better next time.
And who will the survivors, if any, be? I cannot say; but I'm betting that many of them will be Afghans.
March 27, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ISRAELIS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST WAR AGAINST IRAN
People all around the world are fed up with imperialist wars, including people in imperialist countries like the United States and Israel. In Tel Aviv, a thousand marched against making war on Iran. The thousand who marched represent the majority. Polls in Israel show the majority are against starting a war against Iran.
Here, judging by responses we receive at our weekly peace vigils, Rolla area residents are around 10 to 1 in favor of bringing our troops home. In the United States, the latest poll shows opposition to the war against Afghanistan has reached 69%.
RACISM: ALIVE AND WELL IN THE UNITED STATES
Racism in the United States is not just against Muslims. (Also watch this hate video.) We still lynch African-Americans, and the perpetrators still walk the streets, armed. One month ago, Trayvon Martin was gunned down on the streets of Sanford, Florida by a known violent racist. His assailant is yet to be charged with anything. Meanwhile, African-Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites.
IS THIS MARCH OR MAY?
It feels like May, and it's only March. Expect more extreme weather as we keep spewing greenhouse gases into the sky. Climate models predict more and stronger heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornados and other extreme weather events. We are now experiencing weather 15 to 20 degrees above average in Missouri. Meanwhile, climate-change-denial is rampant among those who wish to continue with business as usual until the bitter end.
March 20, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ISRAELIS, IRANIANS MUCH SMARTER THAN THEIR LEADERS
An Israeli couple, Ronnie Edri and Michal Tamir, began posting messages on Facebook expressing love for Iranians. Iranians have responded in kind with messages of love for the people of Israel. Dwight Eisenhower once said: "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it." And it's true!
JULIAN ASSANGE TO RUN FOR SENATE
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange has decided to run for a seat in the Australian senate next year. Assange, who is an Australian citizen, is currently under house arrest in England facing possible extradition to Sweden on dubious charges. I wish Assange as much success as a politician as he has enjoyed as a whistle-blower. Here is a cartoon I photoshopped for Assange last year.
BILL INTRODUCED TO CANCEL STUDENT LOAN DEBTS
Student loan debt reached an unbelievable $1 trillion last year. Many labor under a crushing debt that they have no possibility of paying back and, until now, not even a chance of canceling through bankruptcy. Long overdue, Representative Hansen Clarke has introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 that would enable students to be forgiven from these debts.
Here is a slide presentation on the high cost of education and the high cost of militarism that I gave for the Occupy Rolla Townhall Meeting last Sunday. Also check out my campaign literature. I am running for Rolla School Board. Vote, Tuesday, April 3.
March 13, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOW NOT TO WIN HEARTS AND MINDS II
Burning the Quran, urinating on corpses, night raids on civilians, drone attacks, extrajudicial killings, bombing wedding parties, ... and now ... a "rogue element" kills 16 including 9 children for "no apparent reason." Well, I wonder if it would have made a difference if the murders were committed under orders of Commander-in-Chief Obama instead of by a "rogue element" acting on his own.
How would you feel if you were sent half way around the world to bring civilization and democracy to a country of unfortunate people, only to find that they hate your guts for what we've done to them and will kill you first chance they get? You might just come unglued, go rogue, and kill indiscriminately (like William Calley at My Lai).
The failure of our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has never really been in doubt. Afghans are tough. They beat up the British at the height of British imperial power, then they beat up the Soviets, and now the Great American Empire, possessors of the most powerful military the world has ever known.
Afghanistan had a relatively progressive and peaceful society 33 years ago — until Jimmy Carter's adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, masterminded a plan for giving the Soviet Union a bloody nose by introducing, training, and arming vicious anti-Soviet rogue elements (like Osama bin Laden) in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been at war with itself or foreign occupiers ever since.
Ann Jones gives us a short lesson in Afghan history and culture — one that Presidents Bush and Obama never bothered to learn.
Christopher Cooper gives us a tiny glimpse of the justifiable rage which Afghans feel toward us, and the rage that many of us, myself included, feel toward those who continue to force this terrible misadventure down our throats.
March 6, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OBAMA KOWTOWS BEFORE AIPAC
Obama fawned before the Israeli lobby, which represents neither Israeli nor US Jews, while members of the 99% demonstrated for peace outside the 2012 AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference. If you can stomach watching a president of the United States kowtowing before lobbyists for a foreign power, read the speech or watch the video.
LET THEM EAT - PINK SLIME
The USDA has announced plans to buy up millions of pounds of beef scraps that McDonald's wouldn't feed its customers for use in school lunch programs. Surely, our federal government wouldn't treat our children worse than McDonald's treats its customers.
EVERY TIME YOU STOP A SCHOOL ...
Adwoa Masozi, noting that 22% of the US population is functionally illiterate, details how we are channeling a large percent of our population out of the public school system and into a prison system which already boasts 2.3 million inmates, more both in absolute numbers and relative to the population than any other country in the world.
Mark Twain remarked on this trend over a hundred years ago: "Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog."
I will be speaking on education and other matters at the Occupy Rolla Townhall Meeting, Sunday, March 11, 3 - 5 pm, Phelps County Courthouse multipurpose meeting room.
February 28, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOW NOT TO WIN HEARTS AND MINDS
Afghans have been demonstrating against the US for days after finding the charred remains of the Quran at Bagram Base. Hey, the US has been in Afghanistan over 10 years. It appears that the perpetrators of this 10-year-long misadventure have not learned a thing and remain the same stupid, arrogant, sacrilegious imperialists they were 10 years ago when they invaded Afghanistan.
WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL? (MORE INFO)
Here's one more article on Fukushima. According to Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano, Fukushima has been responsible for over 20,000 excess deaths in the United States alone during 2011. It really doesn't matter which disaster is worse. They were both TERRIBLE and ALL nuclear powerplants should be closed, period.
FROM A READER: BUEHLER PARK ALL OVER AGAIN
Remember our 11-year-long fight to keep our wise all-knowing city and chamber leaders from turning Buehler Park into a restaurant? A reader sends me this article about how in Ipswich, Massachusetts authorities are attempting to annul a 351-year-old dedication and privatize ocean-front property left for the benefit of school children.
February 21, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
STACKING THE DECK
Talk about stupidity. Last week UNESCO held a conference, The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World, on the impact of whistleblower websites like WikiLeaks. Guess who was banned from the conference? If you guessed WikiLeaks, give yourself a gold star. Here's a cartoon I photoshopped for Wikileaks last year, .
But that's just garden variety stupidity. At a House Committee hearing on contraception, women were not permitted to testify. It's hard to believe the lengths some people will go to feed their own ignorance. No wonder this Congress has the lowest public approval rating ever, 13%. This gives new meaning to Mark Twain's famous saying, "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
AN HISTORIC AGREEMENT
In a tripartite summit, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to support Iran in case of any possible aggression against it. Iran also announced that it would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt it were about to be attacked. Apparently, the United States and Israel are no longer the only countries that play the pre-emptive strike game. Clearly, this makes the world a much more dangerous place for its 7 billion inhabitants.
GALLANT GREEKS GRAPPLE AGAINST GREEDY GRUNGY GEEKS
Say it ten times fast: Gallant Greeks grapple against greedy grungy geeks. I can't even say it once without tying my tongue in a knot.
The gallant Greeks are taking to the streets in opposition to austerity measures imposed by the greedy grungy geeks like Sarkozy and Merkel. Most of the world stands in solidarity with the Greeks.
Why all this hullabaloo about such a small nation? According to Ellen Brown, it's the old domino theory. If Greece defaults, then others will follow, bringing the whole over-leveraged world-wide financial system crashing down like the Twin Towers. Brown writes: "What these banks have done is to leverage the system to such an extreme, that the entire house of cards is threatened by a small country of only 11 million people. Greece could bring the entire world economy down."
Perhaps, this partially explains the immense greed of the wealthiest 1%. Nothing is ever enough. One always needs more, and the more one has the more one needs, because the whole system is so flimsy that all it takes to bring it down is for some kid to shout, THE EMPEROR'S NAKED!
Greece is often called the Cradle of Western Civilization. Perhaps it would be apt for the Cradle of Western Civilization to become its graveyard too.
Brown's article brings to mind these lines from Dr. Seuss's Yertle the Turtle:
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he'd taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a little bit mad
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
And his burp shook the throne of the king!
Yertle the Turtle has a happy ending:
And the turtles, of course...all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.
Like Mack the Turtle, we should also work for such a happy ending.
February 14, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM A READER: OPPOSE APPOINTMENT OF MONSANTO VP TO FDA
A reader writes in:
"So glad to see the issue of our seeds on the docket- very important. Just heard that Costa Rica and other countries are burning their GMO seeds, Cornell in 2002 did a study showing that monarch caterpillars who eat milkweed dusted with GMO pollen will die. Einstein said that after we loose our pollinators, we loose our own lives."
She suggests signing this excellent petition opposing Obama's appointment of Michael Taylor, a former VP and lobbyist for Monsanto, the widely criticized genetically modified (GM) food multinational, as senior advisor to the commissioner at the FDA, .
Monsanto has recently been convicted in a French Court of poisoning a farmer.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH CAPITALISM? ASK BILL MCKIBBEN
The standard argument for Capitalism is that if everybody pursues their own self-interest, society as a whole will gain and move forward. Bill McKibben pokes holes in this aphorism big enough to drive a freight train through.
If we burned all our known oil reserves, we would be spewing 2,795 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, at least five times more than enough to raise average surface temperatures above the 2C mark, widely considered the red line beyond which our climate would be disrupted beyond repair. But these oil reserves are worth around $20 trillion. Energy companies are unwilling to write off this bonanza even if it means the end of the world as we know it. That is why they continue to deny global warming; and that is how Capitalism is responsible for disasters of global proportions.
I AM A CANDIDATE FOR ROLLA SCHOOL BOARD
Please read my responses to a questionnaire from the Rolla School District.
Also please read this excellent article by Diane Ravitch on No Child Left Behind.
Also please vote on April 3.
February 7, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NATURALLY THE COMMON PEOPLE DON'T WANT WAR
In spite of the constant drumbeats for making war against Iran only 17% of the population of the United States supports military action against Iran. Interestingly, only 46% of Israeli Jews support war against Iran, even though 90 percent think that Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons. Furthermore, 64% of Israeli Jews favor a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East which would mean giving up their status as the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.
In both Israel and the United States, the people are far wiser than their elected leaders; which makes you wonder about representative democracy. Here's a very pertinent quote from Nazi leader, Hermann Goering:
"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL?
Those who have warned that the damaged reactors at Fukushima could flare up again any time were right. Fukushima #2 is heating up again. If TEPCO knows why, they are not telling. So far, temperatures appear to have remained below the boiling point, the point at which the reactor would begin to emit radioactive steam again.
And those who have said that the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl may be right too. Bird species in the neighborhood of Fukushima appear to have plummeted worse than they did when Chernobyl blew.
I still can't believe that some still look upon nuclear power as a viable option. "Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail."
NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET V
I thought I was done 3 weeks ago when I wrote Nightmare on Arctic Street IV. Now it turns out the unseasonably cold weather that Europe is experiencing may be the result of the warming of the Arctic. We're catching up fast, Freddy.
I just have to add my two cents to Helen's excellent commentary on Vandana Shiva's article on patenting seeds:
Patenting life? What absurd arrogance! God created the world and the life forms upon it - not Monsanto. Why isn't every Mosque, Church, Temple and Synagogue up in arms opposing this?
January 31, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SWARM OF THE KILLER HUMANS
Remember all those killer bee scares and grade C movies like The Swarm? Now, thanks to a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids, humans appear to be winning the war against killer bees and other apian species. It is certain to be a Pyrrhic victory as bees pollinate 70% of the world's major food crops.
OFF AGAIN, ON AGAIN, OBAMA CAVES IN AGAIN
Two weeks ago, I wrote that by postponing planned military exercises with Israel, Obama appears to be asserting himself and stepping back from the brink of a war against Iran which would certainly be devastating to all participants and the entire region. Now, the military exercises are back again, planned for October 2012.
I am reminded of the following cold-war ditty:
There was a man in Washington; he was wise and more.
He jumped into a bramble bush and kept us out of war.
When he saw what he had done, will wonders never cease.
He jumped into another bush and kept us out of peace.
I am also mindful of Albert Einstein's maxim: "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."
PENTAGON AUSTERITY? AN OXYMORON
The Institute for Public Accuracy's analysis of Leon Panetta's so-called Pentagon "austerity" budget shows that it is austere only in comparison to what many politicians, the Pentagon and its military contractors would like. The $525 billion which Panetta is asking remains well above cold-war average, represents almost as much as the military spending of the rest of the world, and doesn't include the money for fighting the war against Afghanistan or possible expansion of war to Iran and elsewhere.
January 24, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
COURT RULES NUCLEAR POWER TRUMPS PEOPLE OF VERMONT
Federal Court Judge John Murtha rules that the People of Vermont have no right to enforce a contract with nuclear power corporation, Entergy and shut down the unsafe aging Vermont Yankee reactor. Vermont Yankee houses the same model General Electric nuclear reactor that has made 3 percent of Japan uninhabitable and caused uncountable damage to people and property.
A COLOSSAL FOLLY
Ralph Nader, with his usual clarity, describes why the West cannot win its war against Afghanistan. And here is an article about Afghan "government" troops "fragging" their US and NATO "handlers".
WAR IS COMING HOME
A Pentagon report details a growing propensity among returning US troops toward violent and sexual crime. This should surprise no one.
January 17, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET IV
I've saved the best for last. The arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, in some places as much as 5F over the past 50 or 60 years. The extent of arctic ice has shrunk by over 1 million square miles. Snow and ice reflect solar radiation back into space far more effectively than land or water. So the more the climate warms, the more the ice melts which causes the climate to warm even more in a positive feedback loop. And what happens in the arctic, effects the weather patterns of the entire Northern Hemisphere in unknown ways.
To recapitulate: In Nightmare on Arctic Street I, II and III, we saw that due to global warming, the arctic is losing 3 important carbon sinks: boreal forests, fossil fuels and sequestered methane. In this installment, we saw that the arctic is losing its ability to reflect solar radiation. In all four cases, these phenomena feed on themselves in a destructive warming spiral.
There is a fairly lengthy article on the arctic and climate change at Wikipedia.
Mark Haim of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks interviewed Andrew Nikiforuk, author of "Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests" (subject of last week's Nightmare on Arctic Street) on KOPN. To listen, click here.
TWO STEPS BACK FROM THE BRINK
Last week the US took a step back from the brink when Leon Panetta declared publicly that (contrary to the neo-con partyline) Iran is NOT building a nuclear bomb. This week the US postponed joint military exercises with Israel, a prelude to war against Iran, in an even greater step back from the brink.
In my column of November 8, 2010, I wrote, "In the past we've backed off from all out war with Iran; but there are signs that this one is the real McCoy." Two short months later, it appears I may have been wrong. Thanks be to God, we are backing off.
I suspect the only thing that will force Israel to make peace with its neighbors is the withdrawal of the unqualified support of the United States and parts of Europe. Perhaps this is a first step in that direction.
A reader sends in this article about how the US has assisted Iranian ships in distress twice this month. There needs to be more of this. People who help each other, don't go to war against each other. The reader asks why there was so little publicity of these events in the main-stream corporate press. It should have made headlines everywhere. Maybe these two incidents have something to do with why we are now stepping back from the brink of war against Iran.
PHIL DONAHUE ON SILENCING THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT
This interview with Phil Donahue is somewhat long, but well worth reading. Donahue details from a personal point of view how the main-stream corporate media has tried to silence him and the anti-war perspective.
It's interesting to note how miserably they failed. 10 years ago, support for the invasion of Afghanistan was near 100%. By 2003, over a million people in the United States (10 to 15 million worldwide) took to the streets to say NO to the invasion of Iraq. Last month the United States declared "victory" in Iraq and went home with nothing to show for 9 years and over a trillion dollars of war. Today, atmost 2/3 of us do not support the War against Afghanistan (click here and here).
If you were active in the peace movement, demonstrated against war, wrote a letter to the editor, or wrote the president or your senators and representatives requesting peace, congratulate yourself. You stood up against a multi-billion dollar media campaign, and won! I think public opinion against these failed wars is the main reason we are not at war with Iran now. So speak out. War is only inevitable when people acquiesce with silence.
January 10, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET III
Last week, I described how the rush to exploit the oil under the Arctic Ocean is made possible by global warming and the melting of arctic ice and, if allowed to occur, will contribute to more global warming. Three weeks ago I described how the melting of arctic ice as a result of global warming is causing the release of methane trapped under the Arctic, which will, you guessed it, cause more global warming.
This week's Nightmare on Arctic Street is the destruction of the northern pine and spruce forests by bark beetles. Andrew Nikiforuk has written a wonderful book, "Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests", on these tiny critters, no larger than a grain of rice, that can demolish entire forests.
Because of global warming, bark beetles have become more numerous, more active, more destructive and have increased their range into higher and colder climates. Industry and government's mismanagement of our forests, through practices like clearcutting, fire prevention and creating single-age monoculture forests have turned northern forests into a beetle banquet. In losing these forests, we lose the vast amounts of carbon sequestered in these forests. This release of carbon will lead to more global warming and create the conditions for more insect devastation in our forests in a positive feedback loop.
Three weeks ago, I made the brash statement that "Our survival as a species is certainly not guaranteed." Andrew Nikiforuk gives one (of many) scenario as to how this might happen. The oxygen concentration of Earth's atmosphere has not always been the 21% it is today. Over the past 550 million years, it is thought to have ranged from 15% up to 35%. A lowering of atmospheric oxygen, a likely result of rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon, would be especially hard on the birthing process of large mammals with long gestation periods (such as humans).
On the average, a species is thought to survive approximately 1 million years before extinction. The rate of extinction is many times higher during periods of rapid climate change such as the period 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs all went extinct. Homo Sapiens have probably been on Earth around 1/2 million years and we are clearly entering a period of mass extinction brought on by rapid human-induced climate change.
As Nikiforuk points out: "[C]hange is not gradual. Big systems don't fail slowly or fall apart in straight lines; they unexpectedly crash and burn."
It's no longer just save the whales, or save the polar bears, or save the wolves. It's time to save the humans, before it is too late. We better get serious if we want our species to survive.
Next week: NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET IV. (Watch out, Freddy; we're catching up to you fast.)
January 3, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET II
Two weeks ago, I wrote about massive methane releases from the Arctic Ocean as the Earth warms and arctic ice and permafrost melt. Methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Now that the arctic ice is melting, countries in the arctic region and the large oil companies rush to exploit the estimated 100 billion barrels of crude that lie under the Arctic Ocean. This means more global warming which means more ice melting which means more global warming in a positive feedback loop, an environmental nightmare.
Watch for Nightmare on Arctic Street III, opening next week, when I discuss the destruction of North America's vast boreal forests. If you want to get a head start, read Andrew Nikiforuk's "Empire of the Beetle".
AREN'T WE NICER II
Lately both Helen and I have been commenting (negatively) on op-eds in the New York Times that can be summarized as: "Don't worry, everything's fine. We're nicer people than we used to be and the wars we fight are fewer and less destructive," (here, here and here).
Something is wrong here: We have more people in prison (both in absolute numbers and relative to our population) than any country since the Soviet Union under Stalin, poverty and homelessness are growing by leaps and bounds, and the military budget has gone off the charts. A quick look at the War Resisters League pie chart shows 48% of our tax dollars gobbled up by the military and the SIPRI database shows ever increasing military expenditures approaching $700 billion in the United States alone and 1.6 trillion worldwide. This certainly doesn't square with the Times' contention that war is becoming obsolete, and we are becoming nicer. We are not spending all this money on our military because war is going obsolete.
I think Helen gets to the meat of this conundrum when she points out that "The modes of attack may have changed somewhat" but "wherever the power and/or the money lies, there you will find ruthless people scheming how to get it all for themselves, and they don't care what they do to attain their ends."
The last war which the world's major military powers fought on their home soils was World War II. An estimated 60 million died. Since then the major military powers have fought their wars on foreign soil, either as wars of aggression or proxy wars, except for the Korean War which briefly involved the US and China fighting each other on Korean soil, but not on their own.
For the most part, these wars are asymmetrical wars, devastating to the people who live through the war, but leaving the major military powers relatively untouched. As Ron David pointed out in "Arabs & Israel for Beginners", "One of the dirty little ironies of war is that it matters less who wins the war than where it was fought." Sven Lindqvist explores this subject of asymmetrical war in "Exterminate All the Brutes." I touched on this subject too in Three Murderous Myths.
Many recent wars have been environmental; and environmental war is not at all nice. The Agent Orange we carpeted Vietnam with still kills today. The depleted uranium we have used copiously in Iraq and Afghanistan will kill for generations to come.
Unless, we, the people, take matters into our own hands, I suspect it is only a matter of time before the major powers get into a serious war which will make World War II look like a bar-room brawl. 67 years is such a short period of time. Why are we building all this destructive weaponry if not to use it? Albert Einstein said it best: "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."
IRAN AND AREN'T WE NICER
This short article by Dave Lindorff on euthanizing an injured deer makes the point that "being nice" is a relatively concept. The local police officer in this story shows compassion for the deer, but not for Iranians.
Speaking of Iran, it appears that after handing Iran the upper-hand in Iraq, now the US wants to take Iran down militarily. This is another problem with all our weaponry. When your only tool is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. When your only tool is a bomb, the whole world looks like a target.
December 27, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Glenn Greenwald discusses the court-martial proceedings against Bradley Manning, and points out the intellectual cowardice of those who try to draw a distinction between Manning, who gave Wikileaks classified papers showing long-term systematic corruption and lying to the public about our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East; and Daniel Ellsberg, who 40 years ago gave the New York Times the Pentagon Papers which showed long-term systematic corruption and lying to the public about our involvement in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
I remember 40 years ago discussing the Pentagon Papers with a friend and saying something like: "What's the big deal? We knew they lied to us. We know that the .....s from Nixon and Westmoreland on down are a bunch of corrupt lying ....s. My friend countered with, "Yeah, but now we have it straight from their own mouths. Now they can't deny it."
So, it's okay for the government to lie to us, murder and torture people halfway around the world; until a Manning or an Ellsberg risks his life outing them? Sadly, we learned nothing from Dan Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers; so now we are going through this again. Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg are one and the same, heroes with the moral courage to risk everything to tell the truth that must be told.
Lowe's home improvement stores have come under fire for withdrawing their advertising from the television show, All-American Muslim, under pressure from right-wing organizations such as the Florida Family Association. Apparently the exhortations for "Moderate Muslims" to stand up and be counted, were just a ruse. Now, they want to kick the moderate Muslims off the air.
While Lowes claims it simply wishes to avoid controversy, many, including myself, view this as an act of corporate cowardice. Although I hate television and do not watch it, I have written an open letter to Lowe's on this subject.
Last month, I mentioned research by Dan Cassino showing that those who watch Fox News know less than those who watch no news at all. This is probably true, although perhaps to a lesser degree, for all corporate sponsored "news." Imagine. For many of us, our primary view of Muslims is influenced by what corporations such as Lowe's find acceptable.
While the 1% are enjoying their ill-gotten gains, homelessness among children is on the rise. Tom Brown gives us some statistics: 1.6 million children living on the streets of the United States or in shelters, motels and doubled-up with other families; up 38% from 2007. Brown also puts a face on a few of these homeless children. With such a large population of homeless children, the United States might well be considered a Third World country, a Banana Republic.
I'm wondering: How many of the 1% would have the courage to walk into a homeless shelter and tell the people, "Your children will remain homeless, so I can tool around the world in my yacht."
This is, of course, the beauty of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", that Scrooge was forced to look upon the faces of those who suffer on his account. Unfortunately, in our world of gated communities and sanitized television, barring supernatural events such as the appearance of three Christmas spirits, this is unlikely to happen.
December 20, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NIGHTMARE ON ARCTIC STREET
One of the worst nightmares for climate scientists has been the possibility that as the arctic ice melts, millions of tons of methane (20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) trapped beneath the arctic ice and permafrost will be released into the atmosphere. Russian scientist, Igor Semiletov has found that this is exactly what is happening now. This methane release may be a harbinger of runaway global warming, far worse and far faster than predicted by most climate change models.
The New York Times lost no time in dragging out its own methane scientist, Igor Dmitrenko, who argues (according to the New York Times) that the increase in methane gas that Semiletov found is negligible. No need for concern, according to the New York Times.
The Idiot Tracker has posted a comparison of the records of Dmitrenko and Semiletov and concludes, "Dmitrenko is a strange choice for a debunker of Semiletov's concerns." (As are most, if not all, of the scientists who claim to debunk climate change; but that is another story.)
Far more important is why did the New York Times find it so important to debunk Semiletov's findings. Well, it certainly wouldn't do to cause panic — the Occupy Movement is already causing enough of that. But if you will indulge me, I will venture a guess.
As I see it, we are already way past the point of no return, when it comes to climate change. The Earth is warming and will continue to do so, no matter what we puny humans choose to do. If it is not arctic methane, then something else will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Like Goethe's Sorcerer's Apprentice, we, in our arrogance and sloth have set forces in motion that we know not how to control; and I find it unlikely that the Sorcerer will bail us out this time — more likely, He will let us stew in our own juice and teach us a much-deserved lesson. (See Isaiah 24:1-6)
You may call me conspiracy theorist (and what is wrong with that?), but I think lots of folks in positions of power know how far down the road toward climate disaster we've come; but there is a conspiracy of silence. One side says its a problem, but we can still dig our way out. The other says its nothing but a hoax. This is why a Semiletov who sounds the alarm must be debunked immediately, at all cost.
I think we better stop denying global warming, hunker down and talk survival. We should be talking about how humanity might survive in a warmer world. Our survival as a species is certainly not guaranteed. If we had a good survival instinct as a species, we would immediately stop fighting wars, and reduce our ecological footprint upon the planet while planning for survival in a far less hospitable world. But that does not seem to be on the agenda at the New York Times or anywhere else in the Halls of Power.
DECLARE VICTORY AND COME HOME
Taking a cue from George Aiken, the US has declared victory in Iraq and (depending on who you believe) is coming home. Much is being written on this event, but one thing is certain, the Iraq War has been an unmitigated disaster for both Iraq and the United States. The Gary Younge article that Helen recommends is a MUST READ.
Also appropriate to the occasion is the Bob Dylan verse:
"All your seasick sailors They are rowing home.
Your empty handed army Is all going home."
CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES
Here is a story of war and Christmas time I wrote for the Rolla Daily News four years ago. It bares repeating every year.
December 13, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NO CHILD'S LEFT BEHIND
This excellent article by Diane Ravitch on No Child left Behind is a MUST READ. For years I've been getting letters from school superintendent, Aaron Zalis, stating that Rolla schools have flunked No Child Left Behind again. And Rolla is supposed to be one of the better school districts. If you want to find out how other school districts fare under NCLB, read Ravitch's article. During both the State and Federal congressional debates last year, I asked Drs. Brown and Frederick, Mrs. Emerson and all contenders for the legislatures about NCLB. All agreed it was broke. It hasn't been fixed. That leaves it up to us, the 99%, children, parents, teachers and citizens to fix it. Don't expect any help from Congress or Wall Street. And check out my NCLB cartoons, here and here.
ONE STEP SIDEWAYS, TWO STEPS BACK
World governments achieved nothing new at the Climate Change Conference in Durban, leaving the world on track for 4C temperature rise, a crime of global proportions. Now Canada takes two big steps backward, withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol, as inadequate as it may be.
COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)'s latest post to their Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Blog, points out that as bad as the Fukushima disaster was, having made 3% of Japan's land mass uninhabitable, it could have been a lot worse, especially if during the critical weeks after the tsunami, winds had been blowing south toward Tokyo instead of out to sea. I am flabbergasted that after Chernobyl and Fukushima, some people still talk about nuclear power as if it were a viable option.
December 6, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHOS FOR PEACE
For all you Dr. Seuss aficionados, here's an image that can be downloaded and used as a greeting card.
MORE BRINKMANSHIP WITH IRAN
Angered by further Western sanctions against Iran, Iranian students storm the British embassy. Retaliating against violations of its airspace, Iran shoots down US drone. Michael Hirsh surmises that war with Iran is already underway. Indeed! The West has been itching to pay Iran back since 1979 when the Iranians booted out Shah Pahlavi, the puppet which the United States installed in a CIA orchestrated coup in 1953.
A GOVERNOR WITH A CONSCIENCE
Oregon governor, John Kitzhaber, after allowing two prisoners to be killed, vows never again on his watch. That's almost as rare as hen's teeth, a politician with a conscience.
November 29, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ON NON-VIOLENCE AND THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
This short address to the Wall Street occupiers by Arundhati Roy describes the link between the occupy movement and peace movement better than I've seen it described anywhere else - a MUST read.
One has to wonder about the level of violence and brutality being used against non-violent dissenters, especially in this most militarily powerful nation on the globe. Violence can easily vanquish violence; but what defense can the violent muster against cries of "shame" and disapproving silence.
It must require tremendous cowardice to nonchalantly pepper-spray people who simply sit silently; just as it takes tremendous cowardice to bomb a wedding party in Afghanistan from the safety of an air-conditioned bunker in Arizona. There is tremendous cowardice involved in any asymmetrical conflict; but it is only when the victims refuse violence as a remedy that the perpetrators are exposed in all their glorious nakedness. As Ron David put it: "[O]nce you see the emperor standing there with his little dingus hanging out, it's all you can do not to burst out laughing." (Arabs & Israel for Beginners - although almost 20 years out of date, still the BEST short book on Palestine ever!)
Never underestimate the power of laughter. Mark Twain said it best: "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." If you don't believe that laughter is more powerful than pepper spray, look at all these cartoons of John Pike pepper spraying non-violent demonstrators. (My cartoon finished dead last in the field of 45.)
I never used to consider myself a pacifist. I've always qualified my semi-pacifism as being against wars of aggression, racist wars, colonial wars, imperialist wars, etc. I'm almost 70 now, and every year that passes leaves me more and more a pacifist. Maybe, with the grace of God, I'll live long enough to become a pacifist.
ON THE NON-OBJECTIVITY OF THE PRESS
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance,
it is the illusion of knowledge" -Stephen Hawking
A recent survey shows that those who watch Fox News are less informed than those who watch no news at all. This is actually a no-brainer. Researcher Dan Cassino might have better spent his time in other ways.
Again, turning to Ron David: "It's the result of what professional bullslingers call 'Disinformation'.... So the more you learn, the less you know ... And the more certain you become that your falsehoods are true. And the more intolerant you become of the truth... and of the people who speak it."
David could easily be describing today's teaparty movement and other Fox News afficionados.
My blog is NOT objective. There are a million things I could write about, I usually limit myself to three each week. My objectivity index is therefore about .0003 percent. Also, I call 'em as I see 'em. I'm not interested in presenting everyone's point of view. It's hard enough just to present my own. I encourage everyone else to do the same.
ARE WE GETTING NICER?
A reader sends me this article by Nicolas Kristof of the New York Times arguing that humans have become nicer people over the past few centuries.
I disagree. I think we are the same old people we've always been, just with the technology to do a lot more damage than our ancestors could. World War II, the granddaddy of all wars, killed about 60 million, half of whom were civilians; Vietnam around 5 million, 90% of whom were civilians; and Iraq, only one or two million, nearly all civilians.
Any lull in the killing that might have occurred over the past 65 years, I would attribute to the unique bipolar world dominated by two superpowers each capable of destroying each other many times over. Today's multipolar world seems poised on the verge of multiple really vicious wars.
I still remember my high school Latin teacher, bless her soul, describing how the victorious Romans soldiers salted the fields around Carthage so that no one could ever live there again. Today, we have much better means for waging environmental war - Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium and a host of other poisons that cause fetal abnormalities. As Bob Dylan put it 50 years ago in his song, Masters of War:
"You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins."
And so far we have talked only of war. Should the great powers continue to ignore impending climate change, as they appear to already have decided to do at the Durban conference, we could easily be facing a billion deaths in the subsequent environmental collapse.
A nicer humanity? A nice thought, Mr. Kristof; but I don't think so.
November 22, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE OCCUPY SONG
Those of you who heard Donna sing The Occupy Song at Rolla's first occupy event can find the words on my website. Let's learn the words so we can all sing them December 3 at our second occupy event.
BUSH, BLAIR CONVICTED OF WAR CRIMES
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President, George W. Bush, and former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of war crimes after two years of investigation and a four day hearing.
HOW WE TREAT OUR VETERANS
Here is a video of Oakland Police beating Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran, Kayvan Sabehgi so hard, they ruptured his spleen. Another Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, was admitted to the hospital in critical condition after suffering head injuries from a projectile fired by the Oakland police last month. My Quote of the Month is dedicated to all our Scott Olsen's.
November 15, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
17 ISRAELI PIRATE SHIPS ATTACK TWO UNARMED VESSELS
Here is Kit Kittridge's report on the Freedom Waves attempt to non-violently break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Kittridge was one of two US citizens aboard the Tahrir when they were accosted by 17 Israeli warships in international waters. Unlike the attack on the Mavi Marmara two years ago, in which Israeli pirates killed nine non-violent humanitarian workers in cold blood, this time the pirates stopped short of murder. The Israeli pirates attacked the Freedom Waves vessels with water cannons, almost sinking the Irish ship, Saoirse, and causing it to collide with the Tahrir.
One has to wonder about a rogue nation that uses such brutal force on unarmed non-violent humanitarian workers. My theory is that as military powers see their ability to control waning, they tend to become more and more brutal.
One thing is for sure. We will see more and more attempts to break the illegal blockade of Gaza, until peace and freedom for the inhabitants of Gaza are secured.
NANODIAMONDS ARE A LIAR'S BEST FRIEND
It appears that the foreign expert who is allegedly helping Iran build nuclear detonation devices is none other than Vyacheslav Danilenko. Unfortunately for the credibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency and warmongers in the United States and Israel, Danilenko is NOT a nuclear weapons scientist. He is one of the world's foremost experts in nanodiamond technology. And the unnamed member state that fingered Danilenko appears to be none other than Israel, which was been itching to embroil the United States in a war with Iran for decades.
But all this begs the question. Why is the United States entitled to thousands of nuclear weapons, Israel entitled to hundreds, but Iran not even entitled to do research that might someday lead to one or two nuclear weapons?
We went to war with Afghanistan on the lie that Afghanistan was responsible for the 9/11/01 tragedy. We went to war with Iraq on the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could hit us in 45 minutes. Now let's find a real whopper, so we can go to war with Iran too.
CHANGE YOU MIGHT COUNT ON
Andrew Bacevich looks at change in the modern world, noting that what appears today to be a big change might in a decade appear to count for very little. He gives 9/11 as an example, and then goes on mention 4 big changes happening now:
1. Failure of the US "Freedom Agenda" to control the Middle East
2. The Great Recession which began in 2008 and continues
3. Arab Spring
4. Europe's financial self-destruction
These would not be my choices. Nevertheless, I think this is a topic worthy of discussion.
My first choice would be Global Warming. It's been going on at least since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution; but for sheer long-term destructive change it appears to dwarf war and economic downturn.
Second, I would choose the electronic computer which has totally remade and continues to remake the manner in which we learn and relate to each other.
Third, the self-destruction of the Soviet Union which signaled the end of the bipolar world and the birth of a multi-polar world which is still in flux.
And fourth, the invasion of Iraq - not because of what happened; but because of what it prevented from happening. I saw, and still see, March 2003 as the last hope for the world to come together, face it's many problems, and work out some real solutions before it was too late. When Western soldiers marched into Iraq and the UN and other powerful countries rolled over and did nothing, I knew we were in for many years of war and denial.
These are my four choices. How about yours?
November 8, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ISRAELI PIRATES TERRORIZE MEDITERRANEAN
Israeli pirates have captured an Irish and a Canadian ship bound for Gaza, beating and otherwise maltreating the crew and passengers. The two unarmed vessels were bound for Gaza in a non-violent attempt to break the blockade and bring relief to the 1.6 million Gazans which Israel holds in the world's largest open-air prison. About half of the 1.6 million Gazans are children. What kind of people would keep 800,000 children in prison? What kind of world would permit this mass maltreatment of children? There can be no real solution to our domestic problems as long as we remain complicit in the ill-treatment of Gaza.
I'LL PICK UP MY MARBLES AND GO HOME
Miffed by UNESCO's decision to admit Palestine as a full member, the US picks up its $60 million contribution and goes home pouting. It appears that much of the world is fed-up with the US-Israeli maltreatment of Palestine.
PREPARED FOR ANOTHER WAR?
And our next war will be ... You guessed it! ... Iran. In the past we've backed off from all out war with Iran; but there are signs that this one is the real McCoy. First and foremost, things have gotten so bad in the US, that we really need a good war to get peoples minds off their troubles and put them in the mood to sacrifice even more of their civil liberties and freedoms, and stoically endure more foreclosures, job loses, and pay cuts. Click here and here for two articles on the march toward war against Iran. And one final question: When US bombs begin to fall on Iran, where will the Occupy movement stand?
November 1, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TO SLAY THE LERNAEAN HYDRA
Sandy LeonVest's article, The Magnetic Force of the Moment, is a must read. LeonVest points out that our struggle against corporate dominance will be a long hard struggle and we must be prepared to stay the course. This will not be a simplistic Good vs. Evil battle.
"If we are to succeed in creating the better world we envision, we’ll need to look, not only outward and backward at the role of corporate greed and corruption in today’s global crisis of greed and inequity, but forward at what kind of future we want, and -- perhaps most challenging -- inward at our own complicity in the problems we now face."
In 1975, after over a decade of bitter struggle, our goal of ending the Vietnam War was realized. Unfortunately, we all went home and bought into the corporate dream of a world based on corporate dominance and consumerism. Meanwhile, the forces of war, repression, injustice, and inequality regrouped and grew stronger. Now we must face down these forces again, as we did half a century ago.
Corporate capitalism is the Lernaean Hydra, the mythical poisonous serpent with nine heads that terrorized the swamps of Lernae. Each time we succeed in cutting off one head, two more grow in it's place. To defeat this beast we must, like Hercules, use our wits as well as our strength. Hercules' nephew, Iolaus, wielded a torch and cauterized the stump each time Hercules bashed in one of the hydra's heads; so that the head could not grow back. Similarly, as we win minor victories, we must learn to cauterize the stumps so that our assailants will not regain their power. Indeed, it will be a long hard struggle; and to succeed, we must be willing to face our own complicity in creating the world of war, repression, injustice, and inequality in which we live.
October 25, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FIVE COMPELLING TRANSFORMATIONS
Members and supporters of the Occupy Movement are often asked: What are the goals of the Movement? That's a difficult question for a movement with no leaders that prides itself on Democratic Decentralism. Here are my suggestions of five goals for the Occupy Movement:
Peace not War
Harmony not Dominion
Sustainability not Growth
Need not Greed
Democracy not Plutocracy
Keep in mind that these are Tom Sager's goals. I don't necessarily speak for anyone but myself.
In formulating these goals, I have tried to keep things clear, simple, general and inclusive. I would like to think that perhaps all worthy goals can be viewed as special cases of one or more of the above. I'd also like to think that these five goals can be viewed as an interlocking network - that progress toward one, will necessarily lead to progress toward the others.
Below, I've added a sentence or three on each goal:
Peace not War: The issues that confront human society are many and complex. It is certain that we cannot even begin to confront these issues unless we lay down our weapons, declare peace, and all work together.
Harmony not Dominion: Western Society, particularly since the Industrial Revolution, has been marked by domination: domination of man over nature and natural processes; domination of Western societies over other human societies; and domination of the rich and powerful over the poor and oppressed. This has led to a world out of balance. If human society is to flourish, we must bring it into harmony with itself and nature.
Sustainability not Growth: Uncontrolled growth has led to humans, particularly the wealthiest one percent, using up our environmental capital faster than it can replenish itself. This cannot go on. If human society, as we know it, is to continue; it must bring itself into balance with the natural processes that sustain it.
Need not Greed: The output of society must satisfy the needs of all its members; not just the insatiable greed of a small group. Societal collapses tend to be marked by extreme inequalities.
Democracy not Plutocracy: If we are to successfully confront the issues facing human society, it will take all of us contributing and working together. As the current financial crisis clearly shows, wealth alone is a very poor criterion on which to chose society's leaders.
October 18, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YET ANOTHER DUMB WAR
Some people NEVER learn. As if Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen etc. wasn't enough, U.S. troops now go marching into Uganda. But don't worry. Our troops will only serve in non-combatant roles.
BEWARE OF USED CAR SALESMEN
A reader sends me the following article from the New York Times on an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Retired CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, finds the alleged plot, featuring an Iranian-American used car salesman in the United States as the alleged kingpin, "implausible". McGovern seems to think the US is trying to find an excuse for starting a war with Iran. So what else is new?
While the US government lacks any solutions other than war, war, and more war; the Occupy Together movement is growing by leaps and bounds, all over the world. Even little Rolla has its Occupy Together movement. Hey, Obama, Petraeus, Clinton: people are fed up. Do you get it?
And if you want to know what the one percent are thinking of our movement, read Sandy Leon Vest's short article.
October 11, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE HIGH COST OF EDUCATION
One of the topics discussed at today's Occupy Rolla Together meeting was the high cost of higher education. I and another attendee remarked that we were able to put ourselves through school 40 or 50 years ago without incurring a penny of debt. The mathematics is straight forward. At the excellent State-run University I attended, tuition and fees were around $50 per quarter, $150/year. Minimum wage was $1.60/hr. Working 3 weeks at minimum wage paid my tuition and fees with money to spare; and, unlike today, minimum wage then was a living wage. Why can't society give this generation the same educational benefits that my generation received? Becuase the money all goes to pay for war and the yachts of the wealthiest 1%.
Up until our first war against Iraq in 1991 and the ensuing 13 years of virtually complete sanctions, Iraq had free higher education. Today, girls in Chile are occupying their school demanding free education. Here in the United States, we could learn a lot from our neighbors in Iraq and Chile.
October 4, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
All over the world, ordinary people are standing up and speaking truth to power. As Bob Dylan put it almost 50 years ago, The Times They are a-Changin'. There are so many excellent examples. Here are three of my favorites:
Concerned Citizens for Crystal City, MO
Concerned Citizens for Crystal City, Missouri won the Riverfront Times' (RFT) Best Gadfly of 2011 award for standing up to the local power structure and saying NO to a coal-fired iron smelter, thereby winning a victory for the Environment, for Democracy, and for the First Amendment. Not mentioned in the RFT article is that they are defended by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the public interest law center which saved our own Buehler Park from Rolla's local power structure. Our victory in Buehler Park was an inspiration to the Concerned Citizens for Crystal City to keep fighting when the going got tough. Victories like this have a way of proliferating. Also not mentioned in the RFT article is that the fight to keep the smelter out of Crystal City is not over; anymore than our fight to save Buehler Park is over. Power hates to lose. Power is the Lernaean Hydra with hundreds of heads that grow back as fast as you can mow them down. The price of Democracy is eternal vigilance.
Jewish Voice for Peace
Young Jews are standing up to the Jewish Power Structure in the United States and defining for themselves what it means to be Jewish; and speaking out against the unqualified support for Israeli atrocities that would be totally unacceptable anywhere else in the world besides the United States and Israel. Watch the video and read the commentary by Rabbi Brant Rosen here. And don't forget the wonderful cartoon!
I love cartoons. They can say so much with so little. Check out a few of mine.
I'll Expose More Crimes
Anti-nuclear activist, Bonnie Urfer, convicted of trespassing at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons facility, tells the judge defiantly: "It doesn’t matter what my sentence is. If I am returned to jail, I’ll expose more crimes. If I am set free, I’ll expose more crimes." Read her story here.
Meanwhile more truth comes out about Fukushima. It appears that in March, Tokyo Electric considered abandoning Fukushima, and then Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, considered evacuating millions of people from Tokyo. Meanwhile, here at Missouri S&T, nuclear proponents were telling people that their fears were unwarranted and that it was safe to visit Tokyo. (Check out my Nuclear Forum cartoon.) I'm flabbergasted that after all this, some people still consider nuclear power a viable option.
September 27, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON THAT LAWLESS CROWD
Last week Iran released Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two US hikers who had "strayed" across the border into Iran and received eight year prison sentences for espionage and illegal entry, . The hikers were each released (read ransomed) on $500,000 bail - a tiny price considering the billions of dollars that frozen assets, economic sanctions, military threats, sabotage, and the coup that toppled the Mossadegh government have cost Iran. (Iran should have accepted my offer to negotiate a prisoner exchange. What I could have gotten for them would be far more valuable than a paltry million dollars.)
Meanwhile, the State of Georgia has executed a probably innocent Troy Davis. Georgia is a piker State compared to Texas when it comes to administering lethal "justice" to the innocent. Read about some of the more controversial Texas executions here. Texas is probably the only State to ever execute two people for firing the same bullet!
Let no one in the United States complain about Human Rights violations in Iran, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
MORE ON CHILDREN'S ART
Children's Art and Children's Rights by Claudia Lefko is a MUST READ. Speaking of the Gazan Children's Art Exhibition that was censored by the Oakland Children's Museum, Lefko points out: "If we cannot look at it, if it is too painful, it is because the world we have created, full of violence and conflict, is not one that is good for children." (Recall that half of the 1.6 million Gazans are children.) Although you can't see the Gazan Children's Art exhibit, you can watch this eight minute video.
Don't forget to create your own Art for Peace and enter it in the Arts Rolla contest (Click here for details.) Submission date is Friday October 21, so there is still plenty of time. Maybe Arts Rolla can display some Palestinian Children's Art too.
ARAB SPRING ARRIVES IN THE UNITED STATES
Arab Spring has finally arrived in the United States - from downtown Manhattan, where protesters, defying pepper spray and billy clubs, continue to occupy downtown Manhattan, the belly of the financial beast responsible for creating so much misery for so many people; to Nebraska where folks refuse to stand by and let the oil industry pollute their underground aquifer; to California, where 11 courageous students are convicted for non-violently protesting the US/Israeli genocidal policy toward Palestine.
And lets not forget our good neighbor to the North where Canadians converge on Ottawa to protest the exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands which would spread pollution and greenhouse gases in unprecedented quantities; nor our good neighbors to the South like Bolivia where protesters attempt to prevent the construction of a highway through the Amazon rainforest.
Yes, there are lots of positive things happening. You can do something positive too, even if you can't go to New York, Nebraska, Irvine, Ottawa or La Paz. Join the vigils for peace every Thursday, Noon to 1PM at the Rolla Post Office and come to Columbia on October 9 and say, ENOUGH!
September 20, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Frances Moore Lappé (Diet for a Small Planet, 1971) discusses both the positive and negative developments in the struggle between people and corporations for control of our food supply. This is a very balanced article.
I CAN'T RUN NO MORE WITH THAT LAWLESS CROWD
Glenn Greenwald discusses the sorry state of so-called "Justice" in the United States, as the State of Georgia gets ready to execute a probably innocent Troy Davis and a federal appeals court rules that 5 years of extreme torture plus 17 years in prison is too light a sentence for Jose Padilla (the so-called Dirty Bomber for which there was absolutely no evidence).
Please consider signing Troy Davis's petition for clemency. This may be Troy Davis's last hope.
The title is from Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem. "I can't run no more with that lawless crowd, While killers in high places say their prayers out loud."
ART FOR PEACE
Don't forget the Art for Peace contest. Click here for details. Submission date is Friday October 21, so there is plenty of time to create your own Art for Peace.
I never thought I had any artistic talent - until I discovered photoshop cartooning two years ago. It all started at a Rolla City Council meeting, back when Donna Hawley was on the Council. Listening to the Council, I thought I was watching a performance of Alice in Wonderland. Over the next few months I composed 13 Donna in Blunderland cartoons. The first few I put together with Word; but for the last ones, I had to learn to compose with photoshop. For my latest two compositions, Obama v. Gaddafi, click here and here.
Photoshopping is, to my knowledge, not recognized as an art form by the "art elite." However, the website, Freaking News, is devoted exclusively to photshopping. Check it out. I suspect, soon, photoshopping will be recognized as a serious art form.
September 13, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WAR ON CHILDREN
This eight minute video of art by Gazan children is a MUST SEE. As you watch, remember that approximately 50 percent of the 1.6 million inhabitants of Gaza are children. Not only do they grow up under war, occupation, blockade and deprivation; but even their art is censored. Abby Zimet states the obvious: "Kids shouldn't have to pay for the appalling cruelty and stupidity of adults." Also check out this article from the Electronic Intifada.
ART THROUGH PEACE
Although Palestinian children are not allowed to have their art work shown in the United States, you can enter your very own creation in Arts Rolla's Art for Peace contest. Click here for details.
MORE CIVIL WAR LOOMS IN LIBYA
Soumaya Ghannoushi discusses the civil war looming in Libya between local military leaders like Abdul Hakim Belhaj and NATO's favored National Transitional Council which includes many of the rats that deserted Ghaddafi's sinking ship. After having seen Iraq and Afghanistan engulfed in civil war following the Western invasion, could we expect anything different in Libya?
August 30, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TWO THINGS POSITIVE
I received a note from an old friend, pointing out that there was much positive going on in the world and asking that I write something positive. My friend is right; so here are two positive events:
In Chile, students are demonstrating and demanding quality education at a price affordable to all. Chilean students will be far ahead of their counterparts in Texas who will no longer learn about our subversive forefathers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Meanwhile, here in the US, environmental celebrity, Bill McKibben, along with many others are arrested while demonstrating to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline which will accelerate global warming and planetary destruction. Check out Ralph Nader's comments also.
Here are a few interesting articles on the devastating effects of climate change (whether or not you believe in it):
1. Expanding deserts
2. Climate cycles and civil war
3. Hurricane Irene floods Vermont
4. The insurance industry understands climate change
The positive thread is that some people are standing up at great risk and saying, "Enough!" How about you?
PIGS AT THE TROUGH
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
— George Orwell (Animal Farm)
Finally, the truth, which we knew all along, comes out: The invasion of Libya, like the invasion of Iraq before it, had nothing to do with democracy, protecting civilians, women's rights, deposing dictators, terrorism, etc.; but had everything to do with oil and lucrative business contracts. With the war seeming to wind down, the pigs are lining up at the trough demanding their unfair share.
August 23, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ISRAELI PROTESTS CALLED OFF AFTER ATTACK FROM GAZA
In the wake of recent rocket attacks from Gaza, Israeli dissidents called off a series of protests against the high cost of living. Israel, acting with its usual reckless lack of restraint, mounted another vicious assault on the civilian population of Gaza, including bombing a sewage treatment plant.
It is apparently uncertain who is responsible for the recent attacks on Israel. It couldn't have worked out better for the Netanyahu government if it has been planned by MOSSAD itself. Maybe it was planned by MOSSAD.
SUGGESTING ANOTHER PRISONER EXCHANGE
Two weeks ago I compared the case of Alan Gross, sentenced by the Cuban courts to 15 years in prison to the case of the Cuba 5 serving life sentences in Miami and the 170 prisoners being held in Guantanamo, some without charge or prospect for release. I suggested an exchange of prisoners.
Last week Iran sentenced US citizens Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal to five years in prison for espionage and 3 years for entering the country illegally. Previously Iran released Bauer and Fattal's female companion, Sarah Shourd, for humanitarian reasons. (If you want to read an account of US espionage in Iran and the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government in 1953, read Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men.)
Again, I suggest an exchange of prisoners. Surely among the 2.3 million people the US holds behind bars are some that could be traded for Bauer and Fattal. I am even offering to negotiate the exchange.
MORE COLONIALISM IN LIBYA
A century ago, Libya became the world's first victim of aerial bombing, and was soon reduced to an Italian colony. One hundred years later, this time under the leadership of the United States, Europe is again bombing Libya. It appears highly likely that soon Libya will again be placed under the Western yoke.
August 16, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
235 years after Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations Capitalism is crumbling, writes Ameen Izzadeen.
Izzadeen is right! Some 20 years ago the Soviet Union dissolved leaving Capitalism by far the world's predominant ideology. 20 years later the world is in a permanent state of war and a seemingly permanent economic depression; droughts, floods, tornadoes and man-made environmental disasters such as Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima have become commonplace; and revolution and riot are breaking out throughout the world.
As if greed (or any vice for that matter) could be the basis for a prosperous human society.
As if Capitalism (or any human philosophy) that spans less than 0.1 percent of human existence on the Earth could be pronounced "good" or "successful."
If you disagree with this, ask yourself: Are people happier? more secure? living more productive, harmonious lives than they did 20 years ago? Is our environment healthier? more supportive of life than it was 20 years ago? If the current situation continues, can one reasonably foresee that human society will improve?
I cannot say what will replace Capitalism as it continues to crumble. I don't believe anyone can. But perhaps, if we work together, we can build a better, sustainable world.
August 9, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CUBA AND JUSTICE
Every now and then one of my right-wing friends suggests that I watch Fox News instead of the "liberal" media. My response: I can't watch Fox, because I don't have television; but I visit Fox News every now and again on the web. My latest visit turned up this AP article on Alan Gross, whose 15 year sentence was recently upheld by Cuba's Supreme Court. Gross was convicted of bringing satellite and other communication equipment into Cuba illegally as part of a USAID-funded "democracy" program (quotation marks mine).
I can't help contrasting the Gross case with the Cuba Five, who have been languishing in prison for over a decade after being convicted of espionage in a Miami court and sentenced to 4 lifetimes + 75 years in prison. (The "espionage" was keeping track of anti-Cuban terrorist organizations operating freely in Miami that have caused the death of thousands of Cubans.)
I also can't help contrasting this case to the Guantánamo detention camp which the USA keeps on Cuban soil. Guantánamo is notorious for torture and degrading treatment. Some 170 prisoners are being held there, many without trial or chances for release.
In the service of justice, I suggest the following exchange of prisoners: Alan Gross for the Cuban Five and the 170 or so inmates at Guantánamo. I believe this exchange would be fair and just to everyone concerned.
The United States holds 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any other country, both in absolute numbers and relative to the population.
I visited Cuba in 1998 with IFCO Pastors for Peace in an effort to break the illegal US blockade of Cuba. I would choose incarceration in a Cuban prison over incarceration at Guantánamo.
August 2, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ARAB SPRING COMES TO ISRAEL
Arab Spring and European protests have finally reached Israel. 150,000 demonstrated in Tel Aviv for affordable housing and against the high cost of living. While most seem to claim no linkage between the protests and Palestinian Statehood and an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; clearly, there is at least one link: Militarism breeds domestic inequality and funds spent on the military can not be spent on domestic social programs. Here are some interesting statistics:
** Military spending per capita (from SIPRI database)
*** Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality with 0 most equitable and 100 most inequitable. The country with the highest Gini Coefficient is Namibia (70.7) The lowest is Sweden (23).
My suggested solution to the impasse in Palestine and Israel is posted on my website as a downloadable T-shirt image. (Some call it a one state solution, although, in fact, it has nothing to do with "States".)
July 26, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YET ANOTHER SENSELESS MASSACRE
Commondreams has posted a number of thoughtful commentaries on this week's Norwegian massacre. If you only read one, I recommend Juan Cole's When Extremism Learns to Blow Things Up; although these articles by Chris Hedges and by John Feffer are definitely worth the read too.
I find it helpful to contrast Norway's response to this massacre, in which 100,000 demonstrated in Oslo against violence, to our response to 9-11 of bombing the crap out of Afghanistan thereby starting a war which continues today and has spread to Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
It's also interesting to note that many news outlets initially blamed the massacre on Muslims (talk about knee-jerk responses). I haven't heard any apologies from Fox News for this error yet. I'm not holding my breath. Incidentally, alleged perpetrator, Anders Breivik, is apparently an islamophobic right-wing Christian fundamentalist.
A final thought: Many characterize Norway as a peaceful country. Norway has 400 troops in Afghanistan and has played a major role in the bombing of Libya. I find it difficult to characterize a country which takes part in these massacres on foreign soil a peaceful country. Violence abroad has a way of morphing into violence at home. Malcolm X famously characterized this as chickens coming home to roost. Here in the USA, we should understand this basic law of the Universe at least as well as anyone else.
July 19, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FORGIVENESS AND REVENGE
According to an account in the July 12 Rolla Daily News, a truck driver who killed three young children in a fatal collision was sentenced to probation by Judge Tracy Storie on the strength of a plea from the children's mother, Christina Miess:
"I feel our family has suffered enough for several families. I do not want the defendant to spend his life in prison because of his selfish act."
In sentencing the defendant to probation, Judge Storie noted the unusual nature of Mrs. Miess's request: "Most of the victims in these manslaughter cases are nothing short of venomous."
In reading this account, I couldn't help thinking how much better the world would be if there were more Christina Miesses and Tracy Stories and fewer people shrieking for revenge.
Below I've compiled ten quotes on forgiveness and revenge:
1. "Forgiveness is better than revenge." — Pittacus
2. "When an injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive." — Alan Paton
3. "Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." — Matthew 5:24
4. "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." — Mahatma Gandhi
5. "Moses son of Imran said, 'My Lord, who is the greatest of Thy servants in Thy estimation" and received the reply, "The one who forgives when he is in a position of power.'" — Hadith of Baihaqi
6. "Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude." — Martin Luther King Jr.
7. "You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." — Leviticus 19:18
8. "[The righteous are] those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain (their) anger and pardon (all) men - for God loves those who do good." — Holy Quran 3:134
9. "Surely it is much more generous to forgive and remember, than to forgive and forget." — Maria Edgeworth
10. "He who seeks vengeance digs two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself." — Chinese proverb
This last is my favorite, because it says so much in so few words. In fact, it could be considered a 15 word account of the United States of America since September 11, 2001.
July 12, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TOO SERIOUS A MATTER TO ENTRUST TO THE MILITARY
Almost a century ago, Georges Clemenceau opined that war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men. "La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires." Barbara Ehrenreich, who 15 years ago wrote "Blood Rites", in my opinion one of the most important books on war ever written, argues that war is fast becoming too serious a matter to entrust to the humans. She points out that standing armies are too unwieldy for modern warfare. It takes robots and drones to fight wars now, and soon computers may indeed make the decisions on when and whether to go to war. John Gray also explores this subject in "Straw Dogs".
When I was in my 20s, I used to love reading Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories, about self-replicating war machines, survivors of a long-ago galactic war with one objective: Destroy all life. Considered science fiction in my youth, today these stories might be considered prophecy.
RALPH NADER ON CORPORATE TAX DODGERS
Four-time independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader points out that American Electric Power, Boeing, Dupont, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, General Electric, Honeywell, International, IBM, United Technologies, Verizon Communications, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo together paid NEGATIVE $2.5 billion in taxes over the past 3 years. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. This excellent article doesn't mention the trillions that we spend on a military whose purpose is to ensure the continued profitability of these and other giant corporations. Ralph Nader for President, 2012!
VE VANT SOME OF YOUR BLOOOOOOOD
Next time someone offers you or your family flu shots or other vaccinations, consider that you may be taking part in a CIA murder plot. The use of a CIA sponsored bogus vaccination drive in an attempt to track down bin Laden gives credence to the allegation that the HIV virus might have been the product of a clandestine US biological weapons laboratory. (While the case for man-made HIV is far from proved, it is certainly plausible. Clearly, the CIA and other US agencies have no qualms about experimenting with such dangerous viral diseases as weapons of war. See, for example, this article by Eric Taylor.)
MAKING A BAD SITUATION EVEN WORSE: THE CLINTON FOUNDATION IN HAITI
The Clinton Foundation's vaunted humanitarian aid to Haiti turns out to be unhealthy, formaldehyde-laced trailers, made by Clayton Homes, the same company that supplied FEMA with formaldehyde-laced trailers for Hurricane Katrina victims. Click here.
July 5, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FREEDOM FLOTILLA II AND THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
As a result of thousands of phone calls and emails, Captain John Kluzmire of the US ship The Audacity of Hope has been released from prison. However, Greece has still not permitted The Audacity of Hope to leave port and sail for Gaza with its cargo of humanitarian aid, so more calls and emails are in order thanking Greece for releasing Captain Kluzmire and demanding that Greek authorities allow The Audacity of Hope to sail.
Quoting the USTOGAZA website:
"Given the tremendous obstacles placed in the way of the flotilla we should not for a moment think this work has been in vain. Just the opposite. We have called greater attention to the urgent need to end the Israeli blockade and siege of Gaza, as well as the overall occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The lengths to which the Israeli government has gone to stop the boats only expose the real story: they are determined to hold on to their repressive, inhuman and illegal policies at any cost. Israel has outsourced its naval blockade of Gaza to Greece.
"We cannot for one moment forget that the flotilla project is about our solidarity with the people of Gaza. Changing the Israeli policies and stopping the support they get from the U.S. government requires the strongest movement we can possibly build!"
I have posted a cartoon for the Freedom Flotilla at http://tomsager.org/Pirates.html.
June 28, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SISYPHUS REVISITED: RACE TO THE TOP
In ancient Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the first King of Corinth. As a punishment for tricking the gods, (intelligence was not a quality generally attributed to the ancient Greek gods) he was made to spend eternity rolling a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back to the bottom each time he reached the top (justice was not one of their attributes either).
Here in the United States, we are outdoing the ancient Greek gods. We have set our children to the Sisyphean task of taking standardized test after standardized test in their "race to the top." These tests of useless and pointless knowledge leave even those who do well back at the bottom preparing for the next Sisyphean test.
Here is an article by Lisa Guisbond of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing on Race To The Top.
During last year's candidate debates, I was permitted by the moderators to ask candidates for State and Federal legislatures their opinion of No Child Left Behind (Race to the Top's forerunner). Every single candidate said it was flawed to one degree or another. Yet, now we have even more of the same.
During my almost 30 years as a teacher, I don't think I ever once administered a standardized test. Standardized education is an oxymoron.
Last year I photoshopped two cartoons on No Child Left Behind. Check them out: here and here.
June 20, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BENEATH THE FIG LEAF
Last year when I photoshopped a cartoon of the Rolla City Council wearing nothing but fig leaves, little did I know that a year later I'd discover America, the Fig Leaf Nation in Linh Dinh's haunting description of the squalor and desperation that lies beneath the spin and hype.
June 14, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a whopping $6.6 billion of Iraqi money has been lost or stolen (probably stolen). This dwarfs the $3.4 billion settlement awarded last December to US Indians in compensation for mismanagement and theft of the Indian Trust Fund.
Over 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson opined that “The purpose of government is to protect the people from the moneyed interests.” Today the purpose of government appears to be to enable the moneyed interests to more and greater theft from the people..
June 7, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
RALPH NADER ON E.COLI OUTBREAK
Ralph Nader points out that while we spend trillions on the so-called "war on terror" and other wars against humanity, microbes are getting the upper hand in their war against disease-prone humanity. Just think! We've had four opportunities to elect Ralph Nader president. Maybe we'll get a fifth chance: Ralph Nader for President, 2012!
May 31, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE PRISON WERE SHAKEN
On Saturday, Egypt's new leaders opened permanently the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, thus shaking the foundations of the world's largest prison, (click here).
Gaza has a population of around 1.5 million of which around half are children 15 and under. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for years, preventing the inhabitants of Gaza from traveling abroad, even in cases of medical emergencies, (click here).
A year ago, the Freedom Flotilla, carrying much needed humanitarian aid to Gaza was attacked in international waters by Israel in an act of piracy. In June, Freedom Flotilla II will set sail for Gaza, again with much needed humanitarian aid. We pray for the success of Freedom Flotilla II.
In an act of supreme chutzpah, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, declared the flotilla "unhelpful," and asked all governments to "use their influence to discourage such flotillas." This, from an organization which, although charged with establishing, maintaining and perpetuating world peace, has for 63 long years been unable to bring peace or justice to 1.5 million people in Gaza, (click here).
The title of this section is from Acts 26:16 (KJV) "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." Clearly, in this analogy Gaza is the prison and Egypt's revolution is the earthquake.
MAKING A BAD SITUATION WORSE: THE UN IN HAITI
16 months ago, Haiti experienced a tremendous 7.0 earthquake which devastated Port-au-Prince. (Aren't the Haitians so lucky to be too poor to afford nuclear reactors?) Promises of help from the international community never materialized, and over one million Haitians still live in makeshift tents in refugee camps.
If that isn't bad enough, Haitians are now being evicted from refugee camps and what little property they own confiscated, (click here).
And if that still isn't bad enough, UN workers have introduced cholera to Haiti, (click here). Thousands have already died, and the epidemic is likely to worsen during the rainy season which is just getting under way.
While the introduction of cholera to Haiti was probably inadvertent, doesn't the UN (and all member nations) have the RESPONSIBILITY to quickly eradicate the cholera it introduced to Haiti and care for its victims? Cholera can be easily eradicated. All that is required is clean water and sanitary sewage disposal. Cholera victims can usually be treated successfully simply through rehydration therapy.
If you wish to read a truly fascinating detective story, read Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map" about the 1854 London cholera epidemic and how John Snow unraveled the mystery of the transmission of cholera.
May 24, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE SAVAGERY AND SILENCE IN THE FIRST WORLD
Every now and then I run across a report of an incident which seems to frame an attitude that is far more universal than the incident itself. In November 2009 I recommended Sandy Leon Vest's Savagery and Silence in the First World, about the gang rape of a 15 year old in Richmond, California while others looked on and watched. To me it exemplified all the sex, violence, and voyeurism so rampant in our culture. I wrote a short commentary under the title, Did the Taliban ever do this to a 15 year old girl?. The question was of course rhetorical. In the Afghan culture from which the Taliban springs, public sex of any kind is taboo.
Here is an article describing a similar practice which I believe to be truly universal. Tiffany Williams discusses the alleged rape of a hotel domestic worker by IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In most accounts of the incident, the woman gets totally lost - its almost like she is a non-person. If it had been a dog that Strauss-Kahn had allegedly brutalized instead of a female domestic; I suspect that there would be a lot more sympathy for the victim. It appears that the abuse of female domestics by powerful males transcends all bounds and all cultures.
May 17, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PIRATES OF THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
Every school child in the United States learns that 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson, tired of paying tribute to the Barbary States (now Morocco, Algeria and Libya), built the U.S. Navy and attacked the Barbary Pirates on their home turf, winning diplomatic treaties protecting US sailors and shipping in the Mediterranean.
We've come a long way since then! In 1967 Israeli pirates attacked the reconnaissance vessel USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 and injuring 172, while attempting to murder everyone on board. (There is a wonderful video of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the subsequent coverup by Tito Howard.) Ever since then, the US has been paying tribute to the tune of $3 billion annually to the Israeli pirates of the Mediterranean. Huwaida Arraf, Noam Chomsky and Gabriel Schivone have compiled a partial list of acts of Israeli piracy. This article is definitely worth reading and hopefully will become a movie, possibly starring Johnny Depp.
May 10, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SUPPORT THE TROOPS, BRING THEM HOME!
We are making a difference!
Last Thursday a young man drove by and stopped at our vigil to say thank you. Then he added, "You brought me home. You mean a lot to my whole unit."
Incidents like this make our effort worthwhile. We are well into our fifth year of vigils now. When we started, positive and negative responses ran about equal. Now almost every response we get is positive, many coming from military people and their families.
While you may not see immediate results in the news media or in pronouncements coming from the White House or the Pentagon, we are turning this around. Public opinion in the United States is strongly opposed to military adventurism.
CHOMSKY ON BIN LADEN
For me, the reported assassination of Osama bin Laden is a non-event, although I did devote a brief mention to it in last week's column.
Noam Chomsky, with his usual clarity, gives us his thoughts on bin Laden's reported demise. They are well worth reading.
The report that bin Laden was unarmed, summarily executed and his body dumped at sea, suggests that there is far more to the story then we are being told. In fact, it puts the whole affair in doubt. The militarists must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they have to resort to a stunt like this to garner support for their wars.
May 3, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SOME PEOPLE NEVER LEARN (Libya)
If there was ever any doubt in your mind that the West's war against Libya is all about oil (like Iraq), read how oil deals with anti-Gaddafi rebels have been cleared by the US Dept. of Treasury.
Saturday, NATO murdered Gaddafi's son, Saif, and three grandchildren in a repeat performance of the 1986 airstrike that murdered Gaddafi's 18-month-old adopted daughter, Hannah. Two years after Hannah's murder, Pan Am 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland, presumably at the hands of Libyan terrorists, killing 270. Some people never learn.
Also, lets remember that a century ago in 1911, Libya became the first victim of the world's first campaign of bombing from the air. In Italy the bombing of Libya was vaunted as "hygienic" and a "moral education." (See Sven Lindqvist's History of Bombing.)
The killing of Osama bin Laden doesn't make war by assassination and extra-judicial murder right. Nazi war criminals like Hermann Goering and Adolf Eichmann were put on trial and given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Hitler would likely have been put on trial too, had he not suicided. It seems that Arabs are nor entitled to the same Rights as Europeans.
Incidently, this is the kind of "war on the cheap" espoused by unsuccessful 8th District Democratic candidate, Tommy Sowers. Some people never learn.
As Ron David so aptly put it: "Terrorists aren't born, they're made. There's even a formula for making them."
NEVER AGAIN (to some of us)
86-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, relates how she was strip-searched and suffered other indignities at the hands of Israeli gerophiles. "Never again," which quickly morphed into "Never again to us," has now further morphed into "Never again to some of us." Hedy spoke in the Rolla Public Schools about a decade ago. I would like to see her speak in Rolla again. Hedy will be demonstrating against AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the US Middle East policy in Washington on May 21-24. Join her if you can.
Meanwhile the post-Mubarak government in Egypt has vowed to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza permanently.
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN ...
Japan has increased allowable radiation doses for children in order to avoid closing schools and evacuating families near the Fukushima catastrophe. This policy will undoubtedly cause many preventable childhood cancers and other diseases.
Watch this interesting video by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen on the likelihood that a "prompt criticality" (the event that causes a nuclear bomb to explode) occurred in the fuel pool of Fukushima Daiichi unit 3.
I have posted some more stuff on nuclear energy, including a new cartoon, on my website.
April 26, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Tom Englehardt's Sleepwalking into the Imperial Dark makes a good companion piece to the Washington on the Rocks article that Helen recommends in (2) above. Both articles discuss a failed empire in decline - but I keep coming back to a point that Noam Chomsky brought out in his global warming hoax video: "If the United States collapsed, the world goes with it." Recall that Rome's collapse sent Europe into centuries of stagnation and anti-intellectualism.
Two recent catastrophic manifestations of imperial collapse are Fukushima and Deepwater Horizon. Both are direct results of the Empire's inability to control corporate greed which is so totally out of control that we would be foolish not to expect more of the same. Both catastrophes have rendered large tracts of real estate either uninhabitable or severely degraded for decades to come.
I think we are seeing more than imperial collapse. We may, in fact, be witnessing collapse of a species - our own. Nature, when angered, can be a very unforgiving mistress.
Here's an exercise: Try to envision what the world will look like after the Great American Empire has gone the way of Rome, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. What you envisage may not be very pretty.
I will write more about this at a later date, inshaAllah.
April 19, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NUCLEAR OR FOSSIL: CHOOSE NEITHER
I have been asked by an advocate of nuclear power, why people like me attack nuclear power, while we are silent about the fossil fuel industry that is destroying the world. The answer is: We are not silent about the scourge of fossil fuels.
Here is an article from Al Jazeera about the Gulf of Mexico a year after being devastated by the oil industry. You won't find articles like this in the mainstream press in the United States.
This person presents a false dilemma, asking for a choice between two terrible alternatives, when there are many good alternatives: solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, conservation, fuel efficiency, less intensive-energy life-styles and more.
If we ended foreign wars, closed foreign military bases and stopped development of new weapon systems, we would slash our energy budget by as much as 20% almost overnight (no one knows exactly how much, because no one knows how much energy goes into these destructive activities.)
So this is a false question. Both fossil and nuclear fuels continue to degrade the Earth's capacity to support complex societies like ours. Just as nuclear energy has degraded the land around Fukushima for (at least) decades into the future; so has fossil energy degraded the Gulf of Mexico for (at least) decades into the future. Choose neither.
April 12, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHY I AM MUSLIM (Part 3)
A reader writes in:
"Some weeks ago you said how proud you were to be a Muslim because of the demonstrations for freedom in Tunisia, Egypt, etc. Are you equally proud of the demonstrations and killings in Afghanistan because some asshole in Florida burned the Koran? You seem rather silent on that subject. My take is that what went on in Egypt and Tunisia had everything to do with freedom and nothing to do with Islam. Many Muslims appear to take their religion much too seriously in all the wrong ways. See also rioting in Denmark over a cartoon, and Khomeini's fatwa exhorting the faithful to murder Salmon Rushdie."
Since I am aware that you are proud of your own religion, Atheism, I could similarly ask you whether you are proud of the atheist Josef Stalin, who probably is responsible for the death of more people than any other single human being who ever lived. The question would be rhetorical, since I know you are not; just as you know that I am not proud of killers of any religion, including my own. I prefer to judge religion (any religion) by its best, not its worst. And that is why I speak so proudly of my Egyptian brothers and sisters, what they have done, and what they continue to do. That is why I prefer to judge my former religion, Catholicism, by Kathy Kelly and her friends; not by Pope Benedict and the Cardinals who selected him.
I assume by "demonstrations and killings in Afghanistan", you refer to the killing of a dozen UN workers two weeks ago in Mazar-i-Sharif. How many Afghans has the UN killed? The UN is not neutral. The UN authorized and therefore bears responsibility for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the almost 10-year-old Afghan War which has devastated the country. You seem rather silent on this subject.
You speak of "some a--h--- in Florida who burned the Koran". This, as you know, is the tip of the iceberg. Watch this hate video. The Muslim haters in this video purport to be Christians, Jews, and Americans. The Muslims who they hate are raising money for women's shelters. You may choose as you wish. For my part, I prefer to be counted among those who raise money for women's shelters, not those who are so full of hate, hubris and hypocrisy toward those who do.
April 5, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
In the past I have discussed climate change and how climate change along with other human activities, most notably making war, is leading to the creation of an Earth, that is far less hospitable to human life than during most of humanity's existence on Earth. This article by Bill McKibben contains a lot of personal accounts that may clarify what we are doing to the Earth, in a way that the Chomsky video I discussed a few weeks ago does not.
Perhaps we should define "civilization" as the ability of a species to organize its activities so as not to interfere negatively with its planetary life support system. Under this definition, human civilization is clearly a myth. Jared Diamond discusses this theme in his book, Collapse.
March 29, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
As my friend Margaret said at last Wednesday's Fukushima Catastrophe Forum on the S&T campus, and I'm paraphrasing:
"I don't like this minimalization. This, oh well, we're all radioactive."
And she's right not to like it. When it comes to radiation dangers there should be no minimalization, because a single gamma ray can cause mutation, birth defect, cancer or death. As Harvey Wasserman points out in "Safe" Radiation is a Lethal Three Mile Island Lie, this fact has been known to the medical community for decades.
One term that is bandied about is "background radiation," radiation that cannot be attributed to human activity. You hear statements like the radiation you receive from Fukushima is only x times normal background radiation. Background radiation is dangerous too. It causes mutations, birth defects, cancers and, yes, death. The unspoken premise is that it is ok to add radiation from human activity to background radiation provided it is no more than a few times background. The problem with this premise is that the danger from radiation exposure is cumulative. If you are exposed to radiation from human activity equivalent to background radiation, your chance of contracting a radiation-induced cancer has roughly doubled. Expose the entire population and you've roughly doubled the number of radiation induced cancers.
Wasserman's article is chilling. It should be read carefully before evaluating statements from the nuclear industry and their proponents concerning risk.
At the S&T Forum, MC, Savannah Avgerinos of Women in Nuclear, answered Margaret, and again I'm paraphrasing, that she is trying to calm unwarranted fears. But Margaret's fears are warranted. As Wasserman points out: Soon after the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster, infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Clouds of radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster traveled around the world causing mutation, birth defects, cancer and death.
Alexey V. Yablokov and his colleagues at the Center for Russian Environmental Policy estimate close to a million deaths from the Chernobyl disaster - not all at once, but over 24 years, with the death toll still increasing daily. (Read Chernobyl Catastrophe Made Visible by Ace Hoffman.)
Fukushima has already surpassed Three Mile Island as the world's second worst nuclear disaster. The disaster is still unfolding. It may surpass Chernobyl. Some feel this is a near certainty.
The danger of radiation should not be minimalized. The world must ban nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons immediately. Tomorrow may be too late. We must do it now.
March 22, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US supported dictators take notice: When you have outlived your usefulness, better to take your ill-gotten gains and quietly disappear to the Riviera or some such place. Try to hold on to power, and you will be called all sort of nasty names, your country will be invaded, and you and your country will probably be a lot worse off for it. While comparisons of Libya to Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan abound, it is better to think Panama, where two decades ago the US, under Bush 1, using our former friend Manuel Noriega as an excuse, invaded Panama, killing thousands and destroying the country. If you never watched The Panama Deception (or have forgotten it), now is a good time.
But, the 21st Century is not the 20th. The US, along with its European allies looking to regain their colonial empires, are fighting three Middle Eastern Wars now, and not doing particularly well in any of them.
If you want to understand Qaddafi's relation to the West, best not to forget how the US under Reagan bombed Tripoli murdering his 18-month-old adopted daughter, Hannah. I'm sure he has not forgotten.
Egypt is an excellent comparison - mainly to show the importance of non-violent revolution, and its vast superiority to the violent type unfolding in Libya.
I am flabbergasted that, with the terrible tragedy unfolding in Japan, the pro-nuke types haven't gone into hiding. But, they are out in force, telling us how we need more nukes.
There hasn't been much new from the media on Fukushima this last week; so likely things are even worse than they seem. Here are some important writings on Fukushima and nuclear power:
Follow the Nuclear Information and Research Service's blog on Fukushima, (click here).
Robert Alvarez points out how vulnerable we are in the United States to nuclear disasters, (click here.
And Amory Lovins answers the very important question, "Why have nukes at all?" with a resounding NO, (click here).
March 15, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
First there was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Later, the Marshall Islands, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Hanford, Rocky Flats, Savannah, over a 100 accidents involving nuclear weapons or nuclear power plants, depleted uranium scattered over much of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vieques and elsewhere, nine nuclear weapon states and likely more on the way. You would think that with the disaster now unfolding at Fukushima, humanity would bring the nuclear age to a quick end, now.
Sure, there are some legitimate uses of radiation in the medical field; but clearly nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation ought be banned. Nuclear research ought to be dealing with disposal of radioactive materials, the dismantling of the world's nuclear arsenals, and safely securing all nuclear sites so the contamination will not spread.
Fukushima ought to show us once and for all what we should have learned long ago. One cannot foresee all eventualities and when you are dealing with nuclear radiation, a single oversight can be devastating. Fukushima is fast approaching Chernobyl as the world's most devastating nuclear accident, and could end up being many times worse.
Nuclear Information and Research Service maintains an ongoing blog on new developments at Fukushima. Visit is often.
March 8, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
In a chilling 22 minute video, How Climate Change Became a 'Liberal Hoax' Noam Chomsky discusses the phenomenon of climate change denial, pointing out that it is an institutional problem. If we were to address this danger, it would interfere with short term profits, so we are subjected to the myth that climate change is a hoax, even though climate change poses a tremendous danger to the entire human species.
Chomsky is not very hopeful: On the one hand he points to the near impossibility of systemic change in this country, "We are marching over the cliff and doing it for institutional reasons that are pretty hard to dismantle." And then, "The latest election, [Nov. 2010], you can almost interpret it as a death knell for the species." [because it placed the climate change deniers in control of Congress], and finally, "If the United States collapsed, the world goes with it."
I can't say I'm hopeful either. In March 2003 when the US invaded Iraq and the world sat on its thumbs and did nothing to stop it, I felt we had passed the tipping point. We were headed for collapse with virtually no possibility of cushioning the fall. And yes, Chomsky is, at least partially, correct. As we collapse, we will take much of humanity down with us, including most of what we like to think of as civilization. It isn't that it's technically impossible to turn the tide against climate change. Our whole culture and institutions precludes us from taking effective action.
Still, I do not consider climate change necessarily the death knell of the species. Empires rot from the inside out - and once the rot becomes visible, there is nothing left but a hollow shell. Perhaps the winds of impending climate change will wash away the rot, and out of collapse will come a better world.
Consider the following scriptural reference:
"I will bring down a flooding rain; hailstones shall fall, and a stormwind shall break out. And when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked: Where is the whitewash you spread on?" --Ezekiel 13:11,12(NAB)
Note that the above quote refers to those who deny impending danger and exhort the people against taking proper precautions (those who have "led my people astray, saying 'Peace!' when there was no peace"). To put this passage in a 21st century context, we might replace whitewash with greenwash.
The Qur'an is even more explicit above mankind's relation to the creation, asking rhetorically:
“What! Are you more difficult to create or is the heaven (above)? (Allah) has constructed it.” --Qur'an 79:27 (translation of meaning by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)
“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is of greater (matter) than the creation of men, yet most men understand not.” --Qur'an 40:57 (translation of meaning by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)
Indeed, the creation may surely outlast humanity, as any cosmologist will tell you.
What a foolish arrogant species that would foul its nest and its place in the creation that a handful of people can amass more wealth than they can possibly enjoy! Should not such a species be laid low? In a very real sense, those of us who are led astray by the climate change deniers, and those who do nothing to oppose them, are every much as guilty as those who proclaim climate change to be a liberal hoax, knowing it to be a tremendous danger to the entire human species.
March 1, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
In my last two columns (and indeed for decades) I have pointed out that the people in the United States need to stand up to tyranny as the peoples of the Middle East are doing now. Happily this is finally happening. In Wisconsin, workers have drawn the line. Last Saturday 100,000 gathered at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to say NO to anti-union legislation and budget cuts (click here). An estimated 400 rallied at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri in solidarity with Wisconsin workers and in opposition to similar legislation in Missouri (click here). Citizens in the USA are finally waking up and standing up. Not since February 2003, when millions took to the streets to oppose the imminent invasion of Iraq, has anything like this happened!
The cardinal mistake of the Union movement in the United States during the second half of the 20th century was its lack of international solidarity with peoples under the thumb of US supported tyrannies abroad, people who were far worse off than US workers. This lack of international solidarity allowed international corporations to export production and jobs overseas and break the back of domestic unions.
While Afghanistan and Egypt were mentioned briefly at the Jefferson City rally, solidarity with the unfolding Middle Eastern revolutions against Western-backed autocrats did NOT receive the attention it deserved. We live in a global society. Without a global perspective, gains will be limited and temporary.
Martin Luther King Jr. best expressed the need to view the struggle for domestic justice and the struggle for international justice as one and the same in his Beyond Vietnam - a Time to Break Silence speech. This speech bears rereading now.
It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. By this definition, our society is indeed insane. 20 years ago, when the Soviet Union self-destructed leaving the USA the world's sole superpower, we were in a position to lead the world forward into an era of peace and prosperity and turn back the tide of global warming and environmental destruction. Instead, we have lead the world into an era of perpetual war, a decreasing standard of living for most, and ever increasing environmental disasters. Yet, all our leadership has to offer is more of the same. In a sane society, such failed leaders would not be permitted to hold positions of power, and such failed policies would not be repeated; but in our world of insanity, the same failed leadership continues the same failed policies; as the rest of the world turns its back on us (click here).
February 22, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ROBERT FISK ON MIDDLE EASTERN REVOLUTIONS
Last week I wrote about the Non-violent revolution unfolding in Egypt and how Egyptians make me proud to be Muslim, the religion of 90% of Egyptians.
I am happy to note that Robert Fisk, arguably one of the foremost Western experts on the Middle East, also notes the importance of Islam in the Egyptian revolution. Fisk writes:
"And Muslims – unlike the 'Christian' West – have not lost their faith. Under the stones and coshes of Mubarak's police killers, they counter-attacked, shouting 'Allah akbar' for this was indeed for them a 'jihad' – not a religious war but a struggle for justice. 'God is Great' and a demand for justice are entirely consistent. FOR THE STRUGGLE AGAINST INJUSTICE IS THE VERY SPIRIT OF THE KORAN [emphasis mine]."
Fisk also notes the total disenchantment of Middle Easterners with the hypocrisy of the West, particularly the United States, even to the point of requesting that the United States refrain from intervening on their side. He quotes an Egyptian student, "The Americans interfered in our country for 30 years under Mubarak, supporting his regime, arming his soldiers. Now we would be grateful if they stopped interfering on our side." And a Bahraini medical orderly: "We are getting shot by American weapons fired by American-trained Bahraini soldiers with American-made tanks. And now Obama wants to be on our side?"
Fisk ends with some excellent advise for Westerners: "Better perhaps to ignore all the analysts and the 'think tanks' whose silly 'experts' dominate the satellite channels."
Meanwhile: Iraqis demonstrate against the so-called democracy that the US promised them in return for 20 years of devastating their country; Western supported Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, using Western weapons, brutally attacks non-violent protesters; Pakistanis demand that CIA agent and Blackwater/XE employee, Raymond Davis, be tried under Pakistani law for murder; and the ultimate hypocrisy, US vetos UN Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.
This is the end result of injustice, empire, militarism, brutality and hypocrisy. Eventually the chickens come home to roost. Never before has the United States, particularly its leaders, been held in such low esteem around the world. Isn't it time we followed the lead of our brothers and sisters in Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere, and did something to correct this situation?
February 15, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHY I AM MUSLIM (Part II)
Two weeks ago, I wrote, "Once again the Islamic World has put the Western World to shame. First Tunisia, now Egypt is throwing off the yoke of decades of Western supported dictatorship and oppression."
Today, I give you one more way in which the Islamic World has put the Western World to shame. The Eqyptian revolution has been almost entirely NON-VIOLENT - masses of humanity turning out to say, ENOUGH! The old order, the hated police state, the corruption, the torture, the grinding poverty must go.
To all appearances, the Egyptian revolution has been a revolution without leaders. Where are the charismatic Kings, Gandhis, Mandelas? Where are the mass movements and political parties? Nowhere to be found. This is a revolution of people, acting as people should act, but seldom do, in the face of decades of violence and injustice.
This is a spirit that I felt a decade ago when I first visited the Middle East - a spirit of peace, justice and understanding. This is the true spirit of Islam - not the lies and half-truths about Islam so pervasive in the Western press.
I have tried many times to explain this; but failed every time. Now, perhaps, I can succeed; but only because the Egyptians have provided us with such a clear example.
Non-violent movements tend to be spiritually oriented - the US civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century certainly was. I find it difficult to imagine the successes of the US Civil Rights movement without the inspiration provided by hundreds of Christian Churches. Even more so, I find it difficult to imagine the successes of the Egyptian revolution without the guiding inspiration of Islam, the religion of 90% of the Egyptian population. Indeed, I would argue that a people are inseparable from their belief system. The best judge of any religion is the behavior and accomplishments of its adherents.**
On the departure of president Mubarak, president Obama said: "It was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing but nonviolence, a moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."
Fine words, but hypocritical in the mouth of the president of a nation that has spent billions propping up a repressive corrupt Egyptian dictatorship for three decades. It would have been far more appropriate had Obama said:
"The Egyptian people have demonstrated to us the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing but nonviolence, a moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. We will endeavor to learn from our Egyptian brothers and sisters. Not only will we immediately cease our support of oppressive governments like the Mubarak regime which the Egyptian people have toppled, but we will begin the dismantling of our own oppressive state apparatus. We will close our military bases around the globe, our prisons, our torture chambers. We will take the trillions of dollars that we have been spending on war and oppression and build a sytem of healthcare that satisfies the needs of all our people; we will create a green society and allow the Earth to heal from centuries of abuse. And above all, we will work in partnership with peoples and governments the world over to achieve these goals."
Don't expect to hear president Obama utter these words; not unless YOU ARE READY TO MAKE HIM do it; not unless you are willing to gather in our courthouses, squares and malls by the millions, day after day, week after week, and chant: War, violence and oppression must go; not unless you are willing to bring business as usual to a grinding halt for as long as necessary.
Consider this a challenge. Are you as strong as an Egyptian? Is your system of belief as powerful as Islam?
February 1, 2011 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TURNING UP THE HEAT
The winner has been announced - 2010 has been declared the hottest year on record; but here in the USA, where hype, spin and nonsense reign supreme, one would hardly know it. So as we listen to Glenn Beck and the like rant about attacks on our way of life, we charge 90 miles an hour down a dead-end street toward our own destruction. To paraphrase Hank Snow:
Warning signs are flying by us but we pay no heed,
Instead of slowing down the pace we keep pickin' up the speed.
Disaster's getting closer while we're turning up the heat.
Doin' 90 miles an hour down a dead end street.
I have no doubt that it is still technologically feasible to reverse the worst effects of global warming; but we are totally unable to muster the political will to do it. Record wars and record profits trump collective security.
Here's an interesting article on global warming by Sandy LeonVest, editor of Solar Times.
WE HAVE NOT ONCE GOT IT WRONG
From the Observer, (UK, where there is still some semblance of a free press), here is an interesting interview with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Assange relates that the threat of exposure imposes a "secrecy tax" on governments and organizations that try to hide from the public eye. If the tax is high enough, then these organizations are forced into openness. This is why whistle-blowers such as Assange are so strongly attacked and vilified.
If you like WikiLeaks, and you like Michael Moore, and you like bathroom humor; then you'll love my latest cartoon.
WHY I AM MUSLIM (one of many reasons)
I am often asked this question by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Here is a partial answer:
Once again the Islamic World has put the Western World to shame. First Tunisia, now Egypt is throwing off the yoke of decades of Western supported dictatorship and oppression. Meanwhile, here in the United States, the super-rich continue to make war in every corner of the globe and against the planet itself, as a docile population is pushed deeper and deeper into poverty and marginalization.
The concept of environmental war seems to be peculiarly Western. While the West revels in environmentally destructive weapons such as agent orange and depleted uranium; and weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear bombs and cluster bombs; the use of such weapons by Islamic countries and organizations has been, indeed, rare.