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December 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
POPE FRANCIS, SPIRITUAL ALZHEIMER'S AND 15 MORTAL SINS
In his Christmas blessing to the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), Pope Francis accused them of harboring 15 mortal sins (actually, he referred to them as “ailments”). The Curia were not amused.
While the blessing was delivered specifically to the Curia, it could have been delivered to almost any religion, secular institution, or individual; so don't stop reading just because you are not Catholic.
Pope Francis led off with “Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.” Indispensable! That's a good one. Makes me think of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright's famous remark, “But if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” (Ok, Madeleine, did you look far enough into the future to see that our use of force would leave us bogged down in decade long trillion dollar wars all over the globe and in our own cities too?) Yup, Pope Francis sure got that one right.
The “ailment” that spoke loudest to me was “Spiritual Alzheimer's” — “people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... those who depend completely ... on their passions, whims and manias.” You know, like people who will stuff hummus up a prisoner's nether end, bomb a wedding party with a remote-control drone, shoot an unarmed teenager in cold blood, poison people's drinking water to extract oil and gas cheaply from the ground, ..., not to mention people who approve of or turn a blind eye toward these activities because they might keep us “safe from terrorists,” and besides, the authorities know best.
If War is the gravest of all crimes against humanity because it contains within it all other crimes against humanity, then “Spiritual Alzheimer's” is the gravest of all sins against God because it contains within it all other sins against God and humanity.
I like Pope Francis. He is a most welcome change from former Nazi-collaborator Pope Maledict. Read Pope Francis's list of 15 ailments.
December 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TORTURERS “R” US
The heavily redacted CIA Torture Report, finally released this month by the Senate, has given rise to a number of thoughtful articles (although you would never know this if you get your information from Fox News or the New York Times). Here are just a few:
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December 16, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES
Here is a story of War and Christmas time that I wrote for the Rolla Daily News seven years ago. It bears repeating every year, especially this year which is the 100th anniversary of the 1914 World War I Christmas outbreak of Peace. The article is based partially on a song of the same name by John McCutcheon and partially on the events that led up to the 1890 massacre of 350 Lakotas at Wounded Knee.
This article by Adam Hochschild also discusses the 1914 Christmas Truce and how it's being taken over by commercial interests, and why it is “safe” for them to do so. In addition Hochschild discusses other outbreaks of peace that are not considered “safe” to commercialize or even discuss openly. “America’s politicians still praise Iraq War veterans to the skies, but,” asks Hochschild, “what senator has a kind word to say about the hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched and demonstrated before the invasion was even launched to try to stop our soldiers from risking their lives in the first place?”
And finally, here's an article by tireless peace worker Kathy Kelly who has been sentenced to three months in federal prison for attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter from Afghan friends to Brig. Gen. Glen D. Van Herck saying simply “please stop killing us.” The prosecutor argued that Kathy needs to spend time in jail because “she needs to be rehabilitated.” The judge says he “could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.” Ok, judge Whitworth, recommend one to me.
Kathy Kelly, you have my admiration. Don't ever let yourself be “rehabilitated.”
December 9, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TORTURERS "R" US
The heavily redacted CIA torture report has now been made public. It shouldn't make anyone “proud to be an American.” And you can bet there is a lot more that hasn't been made public. No one has gone to jail for torture; and its likely that few, if any, ever will; certainly not the architects and torturers in high places. Ever wonder why the United States has so many enemies and so few friends? Ever wonder why our society is coming totally unglued — from Ferguson to New York City to Washington DC? Corruption is nearly universal. So is sadism. So is the popular revulsion for our rulers. A society that practices injustices of this magnitude cannot exist for long. It won't.
December 2, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE CLIMATE WATCHMAN
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I visited Guy McPherson's website. I do this every few months to read what's new in the field of climate-change. Guy's ongoing essay, Climate-Change Summary and Update, is the most complete and up-to-date compendium that I have been able to find...
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November 24, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BRACE FOR MORE PERPETUAL WAR
Barack Obama, who entered the White House six years ago on a peace platform (well sort of) has become the most bellicose US president ever.
He's back in Iraq, and Syria too. Our bombs and drones instead of hurting the Islamic State are helping it. Seems no one likes being bombed. I wonder why.
And our longest war — Afghanistan is going to be a year (at least) longer.
And the cold war is back with a vengeance. It's already not going well.
Talks with Iran seem to have stalled.
And drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere appear to kill far more civilians than militants.
And this is why it is now more important than ever to keep our vigils for peace going. Please consider joining us.
November 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BACK TO IRAQ
“in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.” — Barack Obama, March 2014
“But we say to you, Obama … you claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago. We said to you then that you were liars, that you had not withdrawn. And that if you had withdrawn you would return even after some time – you would return.” — Islamic State, November 2014
The above two quotes speak for themselves and really require no further comment on my part.
IF NOT FOR THE MILITARY, ...
Every now and again, while we vigil for peace in front of the Post Office, someone shouts at us, if it wasn't for the military, you wouldn't have the freedom to demonstrate.
If it were true, one would think that the military would be happy to see us using this freedom, but the shouter seldom seems happy about our peace vigil.
Actually freedom and war are inversely proportional. The more war, the less freedom. Check out this article by Lawrence Wittner.
2.5 MILLION HOMELESS CHILDREN
And while we squander our resources and energies fighting all these dumb wars, it is our children who suffer. Homelessness among children in the United States grew 8% from 2012 to 2013 and has reached a staggering 2.5 million. Over 3% of children in the United States find themselves without a roof over their head or place to call home.
November 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Today is Armistice Day — the day in 1918 when armed hostilities ceased and World War I, “the War to End All Wars,” came to an end. Armistice Day is a holiday to reflect on World Peace. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day, which became a day to reflect on our state of Perpetual War. I don't recognize the change; so I wish you all a peaceful Armistice Day.
ELECTION WRAP UP
Much good came out of last Tuesday's general election, the most expensive and corrupt election we've ever witnessed.
The most important victory was California's Proposition 47 which may de-incarcerate up to 10,000 non-violent offenders, most of whom should never have been incarcerated to begin with. Under Proposition 47, low-level property and drug offenses including shoplifting, theft, and check fraud under $950, as well as personal illicit drug use will be reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors. This law will apply retroactively.
Long overdue measures raising the minimum wage passed in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Illinois by large margins.
Several communities including Denton, Texas said yes to public health and banned fracking.
Marijuana was legalized in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. for adults over 21.
Many states and communities voted in favor of ending corporate personhood and limiting money in politics.
Richmond, California elected a progressive slate beating out a slate of lackeys funded by Chevon to the tune of over $3 million. Chevron was responsible for a very toxic and destructive fire at its Richmond refinery in 2012 which damaged the health of thousands.
AND... Olivette, Missouri passed a charter amendment requiring that no public park may be “sold, leased, given away or otherwise disposed of, and shall be used only as a public park, nor shall any structure be built in any such park to accommodate activities not customarily associated with park use or outdoor recreation,” unless approved by the voters. Save Our Parks Olivette was represented by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park.
But, what about all those Repugnant victories, Demented defeats and the miserable 33% turnout? While there were some disappointments they pale to insignificance when viewed against the above. Ralph Nader hits the nail on the head as usual. Just think! We had four chances to elect Ralph Nader president and blew them all.
In my opinion, no candidate who waffles on ending our military involvement in the Middle East or drastically cutting our output of greenhouse gases (the two defining issues of the times) is worth my vote.
Meanwhile, here in the “Middle of Everywhere,” the Rolla City Council removed Proposition P (Park Tax) from the ballot having discovered in the 11th hour that the ballot measure was in violation of state statute.
BOMB, BOMB, BOMB; BOMB THE WHOLE WORLD
Glenn Greenwald asks how many Muslim-majority countries has the United States invaded, occupied or bombed since 1980. The answer (from Andrew Bacevich) is 14, which is 14 too many. The count does not include countries like Palestine which has been bombed almost continuously by US ally, Israel; nor countries like Grenada and Panama which are not predominantly Muslim.
November 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: THE REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN
A reader writes in recommending “The Report from Iron Mountain”. Iron Mountain is purported to be the work of a government panel during the 1960s which concludes that a permanent state of war is necessary to the government and the economy. There is ongoing controversy over whether it is really a government report or a work of fiction.
My response: Government report or work of fiction, Iron Mountain suffers from the same defect as other dystopian novels like Brave New World and 1984. Dystopias are unsustainable. We live in a dystopia of perpetual war which is now falling apart at the seams. Pretty soon there will be little left to fight over and few to do the fighting. Fact or fiction, we have been living Report from Iron Mountain for well over half a century.
US efforts to eradicate the production of opium in Afghanistan have led to a monumental $7.6 billion failure. Opium production in Afghanistan increased from 250 tons in 1979 at the start of the first US War against Afghanistan to the current thousands of tons, including a 50% increase in 2013. In Afghanistan, US efforts have created what can only be described as a narco-state.
MEDICAL SCIENCE: 1 — POLITICAL NONSENSE: 0
Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere ruled that the State of Maine has not made its case in the forced quarantine of Kaci Hickox, a nurse who treated ebola patients in West Africa with Doctors Without Borders. Hickox remains asymptomatic. She is a free woman. This is an important victory. If the State of Maine could impose a forced quarantine on Hickox without any medical evidence that she poses a danger to the population; then the State of Missouri could impose a forced quarantine on any of us.
October 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PLAYING THE BLAME GAME
Now that ebola has reached our shores, who should we blame it on? — not the government that has all but ignored the outbreak in West Africa for months, not the fossil-fuel industry and the climate-change deniers that have created a warming climate favorable to the spread of ebola and other diseases, and not our corporate health-for-profit industry that has given us hospitals woefully unprepared to deal with an outbreak of infectious disease. Let's blame it on ... NURSES! After all, since the nurses who care for ebola-infected patients are the ones most likely to catch ebola, the disease must be their fault. Any politician or corporate CEO ought to be able to understand that.
The latest outrage has been the forced incarceration of nurse Kaci Hickox on returning from West Africa where she cared for ebola-infected patients with Doctors Without Borders. Stands to reason, the government has been targeting non-violent protesters for decades, now they have an excuse to target non-violent nurses responding to an unprecedented epidemic for which our government is complicit.
Incidentally, polls have consistently found nursing to be the most honest and ethical of all professions, far ahead of politicians, business executives and HMO managers.
Teachers are another profession that gets a lot of blame. After all, if the kids don't learn what politicians and high-tech moguls think they should, it must be the teachers fault; certainly not the fault of the entertainment industry that fills their minds with worthless dreck, nor the politicians who starve our schools and our children, nor the banking industry that has saddled so many youngsters with so much debt for their worthless for-profit education that they cannot even pay the interest on it, nor the chemical industry that has filled our environment with neurological toxins.
The latest outrage has been Time Magazine's “Rotten Apples” article; which incorrectly states in the headline that you can't fire a bad teacher. Like nurses, teachers enjoy a high level of public confidence. A December 2013 Gallup poll gave grade-school teachers a high rating of 70 for honesty and ethical behavior — compare to newspaper reporters (like Haley Sweetland Edwards who wrote the “Rotten Apples” article) who enjoy a miserable approval rating of 21.
October 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
During the Iraq-Iran War of the 1980s, with the help and encouragement of Western countries including the United States, Saddam Hussein acquired chemical weapons which he used on Iranian troops and civilians and dissident Iraqis too.
According to a New York Times investigation, on invading Iraq in 2003, US troops found no active chemical weapon program; only degraded chemical munitions from the 1980s. These ancient weapons still could and did cause injuries to US troops who received inadequate training and medical care. The problem was swept under the rug and kept secret since it didn't fit the hype and spin over invading Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction.
Much of this ancient arsenal of chemical weapons was never destroyed and is likely in the hands of the Islamic State now.
According to investigations by Gareth Porter, Iran chose at the highest levels not to develop chemical weapons because under Islam weapons of mass destruction are haram (forbidden). This decision put Iran at a disadvantage in the War with Iraq that possessed and used chemical weapons against Iran.
The obvious conclusion from these two articles is that Iranians care more about the health of US troops than the Pentagon does, this in spite of the fact that the US overthrew Iran's first democratic government in the first ever CIA coup; and then subjected Iran to 26 years of brutal dictatorship followed by 8 years of War with Iraq which at the time was a US client state.
Keep in mind that 25 miles down the road from Rolla at Fort Leonard Wood is the US Army Chemical Weapons Training School. Are you concerned? I think you should be.
October 14, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FEW DARE CALL IT GENOCIDE
Patricia Davis discusses recent Israeli attacks on Gaza and concludes that they probably satisfy the legal definition of genocide. She quotes Uri Elitzur, the late close advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. [the actors in a war include] those who incite in mosques, those who write the murderous curricula for schools, those who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants.” Moral support! By this definition, almost anyone can be targeted as an enemy combatant. I must be an enemy combatant too. So be it.
Davis also describes the Guatemalan genocide of the 1970s and 1980s which was carried out with the help of Israeli military advisers and Israeli arms. It wound up looking “quite a bit like the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza strip.” In fact Israeli advisers are complicit in training some of the world's most brutal police.
A reader sends in some articles describing Israeli complicity in training St. Louis County police. An article in Al-Jazeera states, “It is no coincidence that the chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, which was responsible for some of the heavy-handed tactics employed against protesters in Ferguson, received training in Israel in recent years.”
And Electronic Intifada states, “The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.”
MISSOURI'S SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK
Constitutional Amendment 3, which will be on your ballot November 4, requires that no teacher in Missouri Public Schools will receive a contract for longer than three years and that teachers must be evaluated according to standardized tests given to their students. If passed, this amendment would be devastating to public education in Missouri. Please go to the polls November 4 and vote NO on Amendment 3.
MISSOURI'S COMPREHENSIVE STATE ENERGY PLAN
The steering committee for Missouri's Comprehensive State Energy Plan is holding public hearing around the State. I attending the hearing at Fort Leonard Wood. There was very little interest among steering committee members in promoting renewable energy in Missouri. There is an open comment period until December 31. Please comment and tell the committee that Missouri needs non-polluting renewable energy and the phasing out of energy from fossil fuels and nuclear sources. The steering committee is extremely top-heavy with industry representatives and includes very few representatives of environmental organizations; so it's imperative that they receive public comments.
Meanwhile, the world just experienced the hottest September since record keeping began in 1880. 2014 also witnessed the hottest May and August on record.
October 5, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
In the wake of the first ever ebola case in the United States, nurses say that US hospitals are ill-equipped to handle an ebola outbreak with our corporate health-for-profit mentality. Just how bad are we? Commonwealth Fund finds that while we pay almost twice what other industrialized countries pay for health care, the United States rates dead last in a field of 11 industrialized countries.
Suppose you were experiencing fever, muscle pain and headaches and thought you might have ebola; but the cost of medical care being what it is (even if you have Obamacare insurance) you decide to wait and see. A few days later you're really sick, vomiting up blood; but by then you've infected several hundred other people with ebola. Get the picture? But don't worry. The Pirates of the Health Care-ibean are going to get paid regardless.
If you are not aware of how disease is spread, listen to Tom Lehrer perform, I Got It From Agnes.
Well, Mr. President, what are you going to do stop the spread of ebola? — maybe you could double-down on those 3,000 troops you're sending to West Africa? That'll scare those pesky viruses.
Three years ago, the UN induced cholera in Haiti. Since then cholera has killed thousands and continues to ravage Haiti. The UN not only denies responsibility; but does practically nothing to combat epidemic cholera which is easily and cheaply controllable. Haitians have been forced to sue the United Nations in hopes of receiving some measure of compensation.
Watch Al-Jazeera's 25-minute Emmy-winning documentary on Haiti's cholera outbreak.
I can relate to this denial of responsibility. It's a “slippery slope.” If the UN takes responsibility for the thousands of cholera deaths they caused in Haiti; they may have to take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died of diarrheal disease during the 13 years of UN sanctions that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US and friends.
As Robert Koehler puts it, “Healing people is nowhere near the priority ... that killing them is.”
September 30, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WORLD IN CRISIS — THE ISLAMIC STATE
This article by James Carroll from the Boston Globe seems to sum up perfectly the UN and world leaders in general. Carroll points out that there are many crises facing the world — “Climate change. Ukraine. Asylum seekers. Nuclear proliferation. Combating terrorism. Ebola.” But Numero Uno for the UN and our World Leaders is ... [fanfare] ... THE ISLAMIC STATE. So lets put all those other inconvenient crises on the shelf while we make war on the Islamic State.
400,000 rallied in New York City for government action to address the climate crisis — many more rallied at thousands of satellite demonstrations around the world; but the Climate Crisis will have to take a back seat to the Islamic State. Climate activists were denied entrance to the UN where they wished to present the statement, “We demand that world leaders support and move money to our community-led priorities and local infrastructure needs to build sustainable community economies, energy democracy, zero waste, food justice, public transit and affordable housing—pathways that can create millions of long-term jobs and put our communities back to work.”
Better prepare for all those refugees from California which is quickly running out of water.
Ebola is spreading. It will continue to spread. The Ebola crisis is OUT OF CONTROL. There is now a confirmed Ebola case in the United States. Thousands have died in West Africa. You would think the United States would send doctors, food, medicines, portable hospitals and emergency health-care workers of all types. You would think we would pour funds into organizations like Doctors Without Borders that have the experience and are on the ground helping. But here is the Barack Obama solution: SEND TROOPS TO LIBERIA — 3,000 OF THEM — just what we need to contain an outbreak of disease — more soldiers with guns.
Here's a quick quote:
“They were dying slowly—it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now—nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.”
About the Ebola crisis? No. Joseph Conrad wrote these words over a century ago in Heart of Darkness about Africans being sucked dry and left to die by their European overlords. It appears not much has changed (at least not for the better) in the last century.
The Islamic State
We'll skip the other “lesser crises” and proceed to the Islamic State. It appears world leaders agree: The Islamic State must be destroyed. War must be waged.
What about diplomacy? Did the UN invite a representative of the Islamic State to come to New York and talk things over? — maybe avoid war so we could focus on some of those other “lesser crises.” If so, I haven't heard. So much for diplomacy. Last week I wrote somewhat sarcastically that “diplomacy may have gone extinct along with the diplodocus.” After reading the latest news, I suspect my sarcasm was lost on our sagacious world leaders.
It looks like another asymmetric war — the rest of the world against the Islamic State. We tried this once before. In 2001 the world declared war on Afghanistan — no need for diplomacy, just send in the bombs and the troops — some 50 or so countries participated. It was supposed to be a “cake walk;” but 13 years later it looks like — well, I won't say Afghanistan is winning — but the rest of the world has certainly lost! As my friend Fred Reed says, “Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.” Sic transit gloria mundi.
September 23, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: NO GOOD GUYS
In response to last weeks snippet, “Saddam Hussein vs. Islamic State,” a reader writes:
“Oh I so agree with you on "no good guys" in this fight with the Islamic State. It really shocks me that we in the USA think the beheadings are so "brutal," when to me they seem quite neat, surgical, limited, and planned, perpetrated on grown-up people who chose the risks, COMPARED TO all the Middle Eastern parents who've seen their children's tender innocent bodies smashed, their heads squashed and brains splattered across the floor and walls by our DRONE STRIKES and BOMBS continually over the last 10 YEARS! Why is this truth so hidden from our own people? I've been wanting to scream this from the housetops but have not yet mentioned it to anybody. Thanks for giving me an outlet”My response: Thanks for choosing Rolla Peace News to scream this from the housetops.
CLIMATE CRISIS DEMONSTRATION
Sunday saw 400,000+ rallying in New York City for meaningful government action to address climate change, with thousands of satellite demonstrations around the world (including the demonstration in Columbia which Helen and I attended). Not bad!
But here's a dimension that needs far more recognition: There can be no meaningful government action to address climate change, unless we address our addiction to war. As Tarak Kauff of Veterans for Peace reminds us, “The primary culprit in all this heating the planet is not you or I because we don't recycle quite enough. It is the U.S. military, the biggest user of fossil fuels and the largest emitter of CO2 on the planet.” And from Katherine Ball of Tools for Action: “The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.”
THE LONGEST WAR — IRAQ
Peter Van Buren reminds us that we have been in Iraq so long (24 years) that we now have an aircraft carrier in the Gulf named after the president who started the whole thing, George H.W. Bush.
There are lots of important reminders in Van Buren's article. Here's my favorite: When it comes to war, “The only way to win is not to play.”
UNPARALLELED IN MODERN TIMES — EBOLA
Ebola continues to ravage West Africa. Ebola is a particularly nasty disease — very painful and causes the victim's body to hemorrhage all over, internally and externally. It can be 90% fatal, although the strain currently ravaging West Africa appears to be a mere 50% fatal which means this epidemic is far less likely than previous ebola outbreaks to burn itself out quickly.
Ebola suddenly appeared in Africa in the 1970s, about the same time as HIV. Some say they were both created by the US biological warfare division which then let them loose to see what affect they would have on Africans. What do I think? Quite possible; but I'm not privy to such secrets.
The world response to the current Ebola outbreak is paltry and miserly. We're too busy fighting wars and making money destroying the Earth to waste resources on a bunch of sick Africans. About the only mistake we haven't made in dealing with this Ebola outbreak is to send in the CIA with a bogus vaccination program. Or maybe we have. I'm not privy to such secrets.
Pestilence has a nasty habit of spreading; and our health-care system is the absolute worst among wealthy countries. If not this time, expect next time to see a major epidemic in the heartland, unless we start paying attention now.
September 16, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SADDAM HUSSEIN VS. ISLAMIC STATE
“So who are the ‘good guys?’ There may not be any.” —Will BunchBack in the dark ages, some 15 or more years ago, I was an anti-sanctions activist. At that time sanctions were killing young children in Iraq to the tune of 5,000 per month. When I spoke about it, very few people took notice; and if they did, they'd usually say something like “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people.” (end of conversation) Some of my fellow anti-sanctions activists tried to teach me to say, “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people; BUT ....” I freely admit it. I have a learning disability. I could never learn to say, “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people; BUT ....”
The mantra just seemed to me so obviously absurd. The world is full of brutal dictators. Saddam was certainly neither the worst nor the best — but everyone, whether you were pro-sanctions, anti-sanctions or somewhere to the left, right, top or bottom, had to say “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people.”
After George W. Bush led a “coalition of the willing” into Iraq and deposed Saddam, things got worse. In fact things got so bad a lot of people look back with nostalgia on the days of Saddam Hussein.
Today it's the Islamic State, a name few in the United States can say. (Kind of like for decades no one could say China or People's Republic of China. You had to say Red China or Communist China.) So you don't hear Islamic State very much; always Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and of course you have to mention that they are the most brutal of the brutal and they cut people's heads off and stuff like that. It's even been reported that they've mastered the exotic art of waterboarding. (Now who could have taught them that?) But I'm wondering. Have they destroyed an entire city, the way the United States destroyed Fallujah twice? Have they bombed water treatment plants? hospitals? schools? the way the United States has?
So what am I trying to say? Do I think the Islamic State fighters are the ‘good guys?’ Heck no. But then there may not be any ‘good guys.’ Do I want to go visit them and find out? Heck no. I'm attached to my head. And I don't see any reason why they should distinguish between me and my government and its military that have killed a million or more Iraqis and left another few million homeless and left the whole country in shambles.
So I'm not taking sides. There may not be any ‘good guys’ and I sure don't want to side with a ‘bad guy.’ I may not know much; but one thing I do know is that we are definitely not the ‘good guys;’ so we ought to stay home and use diplomacy, whatever that may be. (I think diplomacy may have gone extinct along with the diplodocus. I'm not sure.) If we stay home, there will be one less ‘bad guy’ in Iraq; and that will be a good thing. With one fewer ‘bad guy’ around; maybe there will be space for a ‘good guy’ to emerge. We've never done it before; but I think it's definitely worth a try. It may work.
September 9, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WAR WITHOUT END
We now have 1,000 troops in Iraq and have conducted 148 airstrikes since June. Politicians and pundits are saying it may take years to destroy the Islamic State. Yeah, sure. How long has it taken to destroy the Taliban? 13 years and counting; and they are stronger than ever. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, The Islamic State is a enemy of our own making. That's the one thing the United States seems to excel in - creating enemies. And once you have created an enemy, there is only one way to destroy it — stop feeding it. That's a lesson we have yet to learn.
September 2, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BOMBS ARE FALLING — EVERYWHERE
We're back in Iraq bombing, and we just bombed Somalia — again. Seems like every bomb we drop just makes things worse — for everybody. There wouldn't be an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria if we hadn't made war on Iraq for 25 years now.
And it looks like Europe may be “sleepwalking” into World War III in the Ukraine. How quickly we forget.
Since bombing only makes things worse, how about a worldwide moratorium on bombing anybody. Bet things would get better fast.
Two months ago, Fred Reed posed eight questions on evolution. Since Fred is one of my favorite commentators, I couldn't refuse the challenge. Here are my thoughts on Fred's eight questions.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR NORTH ST. LOUIS
Ferguson exploded a month ago after Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was gunned down by police; but this is only a small part of the story.
North St. Louis has suffered from economic and environmental injustice for decades. The environmental statistics for North St. Louis are horrendous. Kathleen Henry, president of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center writes:
“More than 90% of this area’s population is African-American, and a staggering number of families live below the poverty line. The per capita income in the area we are targeting ranges from $7,865 and $10,008 annually. Low-income families and minorities in North St. Louis bear a disproportionate burden of toxicity in their environment as compared to their racial and socioeconomic counterparts. Environmental hazards, including air, water and land contamination, have had harmful repercussions on the health of local residents, making the region one of the unhealthiest of the nation. Disparity abounds: the people who live here have a 10-year decrease in life expectancy and a higher risk of hospitalizations, asthma, cancer and other chronic conditions. The area has one of the highest levels of atmospheric particulate matter in the nation, which can affect physical activity levels and body weight.”In the short time Great Rivers has been fighting for environmental justice in North St. Louis, it has scored some amazing successes. Kathleen Henry writes,
“In the spring of 2014, we successfully persuaded the DNR to require the Beelman Truck Company to cover its huge salt piles and maintain the wall around the piles so that the salt does not leach into the Mississippi River. Also in the spring of 2014, we had an expert test soil samples next to Grossman Iron & Steel Company, a scrap metal facility that operates a giant metal shredder that emits large amounts of metal-containing particulate matter into the air. The testing showed lead concentrations of 960 mg/kg, an amount that is more than 145% of the acceptable level for ingestion, inhalation and skin contact, and presents a health risk to any passerby or users of the adjacent Riverfront bike trail.”Great Rivers continues to strategize with the people in the community about the best ways to continue the fight for environmental justice.
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is the same public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Great Rivers. Checks can be mailed to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, 319 No. Fourth St., Suite 800, St. Louis, MO 63102. Donations can also be made online at Great Rivers' website.
August 26, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: RANIA MASRI ON THE MEANING OF BARBARIC
This 10 minute speech by Rania Masri at an Austin, Texas rally protesting the Israeli assault on Gaza is dynamite! You gotta listen to this!
MORE FROM OUR READERS: THE BEHEADING OF JAMES FOLEY
A reader also sends in this article from Counterpunch on the murder of civilians, making the point that the US has murdered far more civilians in Iraq and Syria than the Islamic State. While the beheading of James Foley is called an “inexcusable and savage act of violence” in this article, I can't help comparing it with the execution of Joseph Wood.
Wood was injected with an experimental cocktail of drugs and left by the State of Arizona to die slowly, gasping for air for two hours. Now suppose you were condemned to death and given a choice by your executioner: You could die like James Foley or you could die like Joseph Wood. Which death would you choose? Think about it.
Incidentally, the video of the beheading of James Foley may have been faked; but there is no doubt about the death of Joseph Wood.
NOAM CHOMSKY ON THE ISRAELI ASSAULT ON GAZA: A HIDEOUS ATROCITY
40 minutes of Noam Chomsky at his best. Don't miss it.
August 19, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ARMED AND DISEMPOWERED
“it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and this is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.” —Robert C. KoehlerIt's been quite a week. Israel is bombing Gaza again. The U.S. is bombing Iraq again. And the War came home to Ferguson, Missouri where the State responded to public outrage at another police-killing of an unarmed African-American teenager in the only way it knows how — with overwhelming force and violence.
All deja vu. Israel has been terrorizing Palestine for over half a century. The United States has been terrorizing Iraq for over 20 years. White police have been terrorizing Black neighborhoods for centuries. And governments continue to say, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
“Armed and disempowered ... the most dangerous state of all.” Destruction is easy. Arms destroy; but have no power to create. Perhaps the Roman historian Tacitus described this state best:
“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.”Empires in their last days are in this most dangerous state of all. They are powerless to prevent their own destruction; and so also destroy all that lies before them.
Of all the news items I've read this week, here is the saddest: The majority of us are supporting the bombing of Iraq. When will enough be enough?
August 12, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HERE WE GO AGAIN
Iraq: Well. here we go again — bombing Iraq — for humanitarian reasons of course. Glenn Greenwald gives us an historical look at the many many times we have bombed Iraq. Wonder if Obama expects the children to throw flowers at our soldiers feet.
Gaza: And Israel is bombing Gaza again, in self-defense of course. (There may be a temporary truce in force when you read this.) 1.8 million people blockaded on a tiny strip of land — human guinea pigs for live-testing of the latest US-Israeli weaponry. The cruelty of the Israelis is unbelievable — outdone only by the cruelty of the United States which enables these atrocities. This latest round of atrocities has been met with demonstrations in the United States and repression in Israel.
One has to wonder about a world filled with such cruelty and stupidity. Come join us at the the Post Office this Thursday at Noon. It's not much — but it's one little thing you can do to push back against cruelty and stupidity. And lots of little things taken together can make a big thing. Come join us.
August 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Remember to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, August 5. There are five constitutional amendments on the ballot; and an important race for Phelps County Prosecutor. I included my endorsements last week.
WE TORTURED SOME FOLKS
Almost six years into the Obama presidency, he finally comes clean: “We tortured some folks.” But, hey, no big deal. We were all scared shitless after 9/11. We only did it for patriotic reasons. No need to get upset. No need for anyone to resign. Certainly, no need for criminal prosecutions. (I'm paraphrasing loosely here.)
A more honest evaluation of our relation with torture might read something like this: When Europeans arrived in the Americas, we tortured some folks that had been living here for thousands of years. But, hey, no big deal. We wanted the land, for patriotic reasons. When we needed cheap labor to build the country, we imported slaves from Africa. We tortured some folks; but all for patriotic reasons. When we wanted to expand our empire overseas, out of patriotism we tortured some folks, filipinos who didn't want to be part of our empire. And when we overthrew governments in Guatemala, Honduras and Iran; and supported strongmen in Iraq and Nicaragua; we tortured some folks — again all out of patriotism. When we killed two or three million in Vietnam, we tortured some folks; out of patriotism. When we sanctioned Iraq so heavily that nearly a million children died, mostly from lack of clean water to drink, we tortured some folks — all out of patriotism.
And it still goes on. We enable Israel with arms, money and support. With our help they bomb hospitals and UN shelters killing hundreds of children and wounding over a thousand. They torture some folks; but that's patriotism. We force-feed prisoners in a most painful manner. We torture some folks in Guantanamo and other prisons; again, out of patriotism. And last week, we executed Joseph Woods in Arizona, he gulped and gasped for air for two hours before he died — third recent execution botched. Yes, we torture some folks. But, hey, no big deal. We're scared shitless; and we only do it out of patriotism.
THE RAPE OF GAZA, AGAIN
Gaza is home to 1.8 million people, some 50% children. It's a strip of land 40 by 11 kilometers — the world's largest open-air prison. Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for eight years. Gazans can neither enter nor leave. Israel attacks Gaza regularly. The latest invasion has been going on for a month. Hospitals and refugee shelters have been bombed. Children have been gunned down while playing on a beach. The latest figure: 398 children in Gaza dead; a figure that is sure to grow.
Drawing from documents leaked by Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald documents NSA aid and complicity and shows that this atrocity could not happen without help from the United States.
Here is one of many interesting tidbits from the Greenwald article:
“But even as the NSA and its partners are directed by political branches to feed the Israelis surveillance data and technology, they constantly characterize Israel as a threat — both to their own national security and more generally to regional peace. In stark contrast to the public statements about Israel made by American and British officials, the Snowden archive is replete with discussions of the Israelis as a menace rather than an ally.”Greenwald's article is a “must read.” Thank you Ed Snowden!
Here are three other articles I particularly recommend:
From our friends at Jewish Voice for Peace, here is an article by a Jewish Dutch couple vacationing in Tel Aviv detailing the rampant fascism that grips Israeli society.
And here's an article by Ahdaf Soueif from Jadaliyya discussing world-wide collapse of support for Israel.
And tens of thousands demonstrate at the White House against the Rape of Gaza.
Interestingly: I've always received racist diatribes in my email box. 13 years ago they were overwhelmingly filled with anti-Muslim bigotry. Now it seems that well over half of the bigotry I receive is directed at Jews. I think some people are waking up to what is happening and responding in the only way they have been taught — with bigotry and hate.
Racism is a terrible thing. No one is immune. Here's a very famous poem by Nazi-victim Martin Niemoller: (Note: There are numerous versions of this poem.)
In Germany, they came first for the Communists,DANCES WITH BEAVERS
I've probably written more than enough for one week, but this article by Chip Ward is so upbeat and beautiful, I just have to include it. Yes, we can save our ecosystems, with help from our friends — the beavers.
July 29, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
August 5 is our primary election. Don't forget to vote.
There are three contested races, all in the Republican Party. So if you want to vote in these, you have to request a Republican ballot. There are also five constitutional amendments, some very important.
Our next prosecutor will be chosen in the primary since there are no democratic or other party candidates. I recommend Brant Shockley. Brant is a young lawyer from St. James. I've talked with him and like him very much. Brant wants to make changes. Brant wants to be fair to everyone, particlularly victims of crime. He wants to involve the victims in every aspect of the criminal proceedings. I think that is important. Here is a cartoon I made for Brant.Republican Party contested races:PHELPS COUNTY PROSECUTOR — BRANT SHOCKLEY
His opponent, Brendon Fox, currently works in the Prosecutor's Office and wants to do everything just like the current prosecutor. I think there are serious problems in the Prosecutor's Office, such as the persecution of Donna Hawley which I have written about extensively. The prosecution of Donna started under former prosecutor, Courtney George. When John Beger assumed the office, instead of dropping the case, he did a Pontius Pilate, washed his hands, and turned it over to the Attorney General to prosecute. When it finally came to trial years later, the jury acquitted Donna in record time. The Prosecutor's Office never had a case against her. We don't need a prosecutor who will follow his predecessor blindly.
Let's elect BRANT SHOCKLEY our next prosecutor.
PHELPS COUNTY CLERK — PAMELA GROWOne of the important duties of the County Clerk is to conduct elections. In my opinion, the County Clerk should not be chosen in a partisan election; since the Clerk must treat all candidates equally regardless of party. But no one really cares what I think; so we have to elect a County Clerk.
Phelps County has been blessed with a fair and competent County Clerk, Carol Bennett. Other counties have not been so lucky. (Take Waukesha, Wisconsin whose former clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, just happened to find 75,000 uncounted Republican votes on her personal computer.) Carol is retiring; and we will miss her. She has a big pair of shoes to fill.
Pamela Grow and Rosalind Breske face off in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat, Paul Long in the November General Election. I like Rosalind, but she is inexperienced and unsure of herself; and I don't think County Clerk is an appropriate office for her.
Pamela is very much aware of how elections should be run, and has some good ideas on how to improve the way the Clerk's Office conducts elections. I'm backing PAMELA GROW in the August primary.
STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 16 — DAN BROWNDan Brown is being challenged by the mystery candidate, Bernie Mowinski. Bernie doesn't have a website or a facebook page that I could find. He didn't bother to attend the candidates' forum last Tuesday. I can't find much about him on the internet; and I can't help wondering why he is running.
I like Dan Brown. So do my dog and two cats. I disagree with Dan on many points.
Right now I'm suing a few of Dan's colleagues on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules over Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 (2011) which totally emasculated Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard as passed by the voters on initiative petition by a two to one margin. Dan voted for SCR 1. (This case is moving slowly through the Courts. We just won an important battle this week when the judge denied the defendants motion to dismiss our suit.)
More recently, I have serious problems with concealed weapons in our schools. I don't think more guns in schools will keep our children safe. Dan favors concealed carry by school faculty.
On the plus side, Dan listens to my (mostly unwanted) advice. Very few legislators do. I once shook Claire McCaskill's hand and held on to it, much to her obvious displeasure, while I told her to bring our troops home from Iraq. Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to get a legislator's attention. I've voted for Dan in the past. I'm going to vote for DAN BROWN again. Why? Because he listens and he thinks — legislative qualities almost as rare as hen's teeth.
There are no Democratic or other party candidates running for this position.
STATE REPRESENTATIVESKeith Frederick is running unopposed in the 121st District. Several other districts bordering Rolla have multiple candidates. I have not researched these districts.
Amendment One gives no one the right to farm. Amendment One further tilts the playing field in favor of big corporate agriculture owned by Wall Street and foreign interests. Opposed by family farmer organizations, it should be called “Right of Big Ag to Pollute Missouri Amendment.” If you would like to see a mega-chicken farm with all the stench and water pollution that goes with it right outside the Rolla city limits, and if you would like to have no legislative remedy other than amending the Missouri Constitution, then you may like this amendment. But if you value our clean air and water, VOTE NO.Constitutional AmendmentsAMENDMENT 1 (No Right to Farm) — VOTE NO
AMENDMENT 5 (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) — VOTE NOViolence in our society is a serious problem. We live in what may be the most violent and militarized society since the Third Reich. If you think that legislators ought not to be able to address this problem, then you probably favor Amendment 5. But if you would like to see some serious discussion and an attempt to find common sense solutions, then VOTE NO.
AMENDMENT 7 (Transportation Tax) — VOTE NOLast time we gave MODOT extra money to repair bridges and roads, we got highway markers every 0.2 miles along the Interstate. Now they are back for more. If we pass this whopping 3/4 cent sales tax, we might get markers every 0.1 mile. As the Post-Dispatch editorialized, “The blood is about gone from the sales tax turnip.” This is an unfair tax, falling mostly on those who can least afford it and who benefit least from it. And where's the money for rails, public transportation, education and other pressing needs? Not in this tax. VOTE NO
AMENDMENT 8 (Veterans Lottery) — VOTE NOThe last thing Missouri needs is more gambling. Can't the legislature think of any better way to help our veterans than by gambling? The best way to help our veterans and service men and women is to stop sending them off to invade and occupy places like Iraq and Afghanistan that do us no harm and don't want us there. When our soldiers come home, we need to give them the help they need to overcome PTSD and other military related injuries and integrate into civil society. The way we treat our veterans is a national disgrace. This lottery amendment is equivalent to putting a bandaid on a cancer. VOTE NO
AMENDMENT 9 (Right to Electronic Privacy) — VOTE YESThis is the one pearl, buried in a pile of manure. My electronic data should be treated no differently than the papers in my filing cabinet. My emails should be treated no differently than the letters I write on paper and mail at the Post Office. Hands off my private emails. If you want to see my personal stuff, show probable cause and get a warrant. VOTE YES
paid for by Tom Sager
July 22, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (PALESTINE)
As of this writing, over 100 children have been massacred in Gaza by the ongoing Israeli onslaught. Hospitals and children have been specifically targeted. According to Netanyahu, Israel is only defending itself. Meanwhile, our Senate passed unanimously (from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren down to Rand Paul and Ted Cruz) a resolution joining Obama in endorsing this atrocity.
Well, why not? Aren't we footing the bill for these crimes. Didn't we commit similar and equally atrocious acts in Iraq? Well, there is a difference. Gazans are trapped in the world's largest open-air prison with no way out and no way to defend themselves. Our noses are still bleeding profusely from those Iraqi and Afghan counterpunches that are still coming in. But, you know, I've got a feeling Israel's going to end up with its nose bloodied by its victims, too.
I've noticed that the estimates of Gaza's population keep rising. Three years ago I was using the figure 1.5 million. Now I see 1.8 million. Israel's savagery seems to net it about 100,000 extra enemies per year, mostly children, which are the worst kind of enemies to have. Well, learning from their mistakes has never been Israel's strong suit (or ours either).
As usual, people have more sense than those they elect to represent them. Thousands have demonstrated against the massacre in Gaza.
MORE ON MAKING ENEMIES
A new report from Human Rights Watch demonstrates that in many of the “terrorist” convictions over the past 13 years, the FBI actually created both the terrorist and the crime. Speaking of one case, a judge said “the government ‘came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,’ and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man ‘whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.’”
Further, “The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent.”
The report notes that “In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement.”
And then of course they boast about keeping us safe from terrorists and ask for more money. How do you spell “corruption.”
MALAYSIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 17
Who done it? Who shot it down? I don't know; but I can tell you that it is very unlikely that it was Russian separatists, because with all our spy satellites trained on Eastern Ukraine, Kerry would certainly be able to document his case, instead of merely providing unsupported innuendo.
Some relevant questions:
What the hell was a civilian plane doing flying over a war zone? Who routed the plane over Eastern Ukraine? Did the pilot object? Why? or Why not?
There were a number of aids/HIV researchers and activists aboard. Might one of them have found inconvenient evidence concerning the HIV virus and epidemic? — perhaps evidence that the virus was created in a laboratory.
Might it have been a “false-flag” operation? It would be surprising if the CIA and other specialists in dirty tricks didn't have agents among the various factions in the conflict.
Malaysian Airlines inexplicably lost another Boeing 777 recently over the South China Sea — same airline, same type airplane. Isn't this a little too much for coincidence?
One thing for sure: if the US had not encouraged and abetted the February coup in the Ukraine and the neo-Nazis which played such a large role, it is unlikely that we would have lost Flight 17 with 298 people aboard.
The bottom line: We can't trust governments or news media to give us or ferret out such information. At this point, your conspiracy theory is as good as mine.
July 15, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (PALESTINE)
Israel continues to bombard Gaza. The death toll has mounted to 190: 80% civilians including 34 children. Doctors say that Israel is again using experimental DIME weapons. Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert described the effect of the DIME weapons used by Israel against Gaza in 2008:
“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge ax had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off. In addition we saw very very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”
For Israelis the bombing of Gaza and the killing of children has become a spectator sport.
US president Barack Obama has endorsed the murder of Palestinian children in Gaza.
Israel also appears to be targeting what little water-purification capacity remains in Gaza.
The technique of embargoing an entire country while destroying it's water-purification capacity was pioneered by the United States in Iraq where 5,000 children died each month over a 13-year period, 1991-2003, largely due to the lack of potable water.
Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison with 1.7 million inmates, about 50% children. Gazans are trapped and have no where to go to escape the Israeli onslaught.
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SOUTHERN BORDER)
Thousands of unaccompanied children are arriving at our borders from Central America, particularly Honduras were the 2009 US supported coup against president Manuel Zelaya has made the country the most dangerous in Central America. Our solution: Throw all those kids in jail and deport them.
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (WEST VIRGINIA): POISON YOUR NEIGHBOR'S WATER FOR LESS THAN FOUR CENTS
Freedom Industries has been fined $11,000 by OSHA for poisoning drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians. That's less than four cents a person. Who says we're not tough on crime?
July 8, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Once upon a time, the United States had a mostly “citizen army.” We had a military draft and most young male citizens served their country in the military.
Then along came Vietnam — a dirty war built on lies. Soldiers became demoralized and turned against their officers. We lost that war ignominiously. So we forgot about the draft and built a “professional army.” But it turned out that even professional volunteers balked at fighting dirty wars in far away places for no discernible reason except empire building.
So now our volunteer army looks more and more like a “mercenary army” every day. Modern day mercenaries aren't called mercenaries - they're called “contractors;” but it's really the same thing. You pay someone to recruit a private army to do your fighting for you. Blackwater, later Xe Services and now Academi, is probably the most infamous of our mercenaries.
This week it was revealed that Blackwater's chief in Iraq, Daniel Carroll, threatened State Department investigator Jean C. Richter just before the Nisour Square incident where Blackwater operatives murdered 17 Iraqi civilians. Carroll purportedly said to Richter “that he could kill [him] at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.” Not surprisingly, the investigation was called off.
Shocking you say? Shocking perhaps, but quite predictable. Here's what Niccolò Machiavelli wrote about mercenaries 500 years ago:
“Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”And further:
“The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.” (The Prince, Ch. XII)Sounds to me like he's talking about Blackwater. Perhaps the solution is to go back to a citizen army and forget about empire building and ruling the world. I'd vote for that. But then, once you've tasted empire, it's hard to give up the dream. The dream is very powerful. And what did those “Renaissance men” know anyway? We think we are so much wiser today.
The latest poll on the Iraq war finds 71% of us saying it wasn't worth it, up from 59% 18 months ago. Well, duhhh, we tried to say that 12 years ago. One weekend in February 2003, 15 million of us took to the streets to say NO to the invasion of Iraq. They wouldn't listen. They invaded anyway. They should have known better; but they were blinded with arrogance.
As Israel pummels Gaza in a brutal act of collective punishment of the 1.7 million inhabitants of the world's largest open-air prison, it is important to review these statistics on Gaza supplied by Middle-East expert Juan Cole.
“NO-FLY” INFRINGES RIGHT TO “DO PROCESS”
Plaintiffs challenging their inclusion in the 11-year-old “No-Fly” list won a partial victory as federal judge Anna J. Brown opined that “[W]ithout proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List. … [T]he absence of any meaningful procedures to afford Plaintiffs the opportunity to contest their placement on the No-Fly List violates Plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process.” Judge Brown has ordered the government to institute procedures by which plaintiffs can clear their names and be taken off the No-Fly list, a process that is likely to take many years.
Anyway, I thought this partial victory was worth a cartoon. If you are offended by bathroom humor, don't click here.
July 1, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WASN'T IT A STRANGE WAY DOWN?
Last week I noted that Iran appears to have rejected an alliance with the United States against the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). And now Massoud Barzani is said to have told Kerry that he (Kurdistan) planned to secede from Iraq and that the US would have to accept it . There are a lot of “sides” in Iraq as it moves inexorably toward disintegration; but it appears that they all have one thing in common: none of them are interested in listening to the United States. The US appears, in the words of Robert Koehler, “to be both armed and disempowered” which is, again in the words of Robert Koehler, “the most dangerous state of all.”
How did it come to this? In 1990, we were riding high as the world's only remaining superpower; and we arrogantly thought we could do anything. Our leaders had dreams — big dreams — dreams of remaking the world as they thought it should be. Yes, and as Tom Engelhardt put it: “It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true.”
As one Iraqi told Cathy Breen not many months ago: “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!”
And another Iraqi: “Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”
The answer is that we destroyed an entire country of 25 million people in search of our dreams. And now 24 years later, we have lost everything; and so has Iraq. Iraq will soon be no more; and perhaps the United States will disintegrate too under the unbearable weight of our dreams. Again quoting Engelhardt, “The geopolitical dreams of the Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq.”
I am reminded of Leonard Cohen's song, Dress Rehearsal Rag from which I've taken the title line of this snippet:
“And yes it's come to this,The dress rehearsal is over — and now for the performance.
June 24, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Scientists and oil companies: modern-day vampiresScientists, in complicity with oil giant, Maxus Energy, have stolen blood from at least 800 Huaorani in Ecuador. The Huaorani were told that the blood would be used for medical tests for which they never received results. (Reminds us of how the CIA contributed to a worldwide polio epidemic by stealing blood samples from Pakistanis under the guise of an immunization campaign.) “At least 31 research papers were written between 1989 and 2012 based on the blood samples obtained––all without the consent of the Huaorani or the royalty payments normally required.”
Not to mention sports teamsThe Washington “Redskins” just lost a biggie. The U.S. Patent Office has canceled the “Redskins” official trademark registration, ruling that federal law “does not permit the registration of trademarks that ‘may disparage’ individuals or groups or ‘bring them into contempt or disrepute.’”.
One supporter wrote: “If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.)”
Sinking beneath the wavesInterim president of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama chastised world leadership, specifically pointing his finger at major polluting nations like the U.S., Canada, China, and Australia who are responsible for a disproportionate majority of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, saying, “History will judge you harshly if you abandon us to our apparent fate of sinking below the waves because you don't want to make the necessary adjustment to your domestic policies.”
On the front linesAnd indigenous peoples continue to stand on the front lines of the fight against the development of tar sands oil: the filthiest, most dangerous, most polluting form of oil known.
Indigenous peoples on immigrationI linked to this one minute video in a snippet I wrote last year. It's a good one and worth watching again.
IRAN: NO DEALS WITH THE DEVIL
Iran has apparently rejected an alliance with The United States to contain or push back against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Says Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “We are strongly opposed to U.S. and other intervention in Iraq. We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition. American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shi'ites and Sunnis. The U.S. is seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges.”
In Iran, people still remember the 1953 CIA coup and the 26 years of US sponsored terror under the hated Shah who was installed by the CIA to replace Iran's democratically elected government.
Whatever happens now in Iraq is unlikely to be nearly so terrible as the years of sanctions, war, occupation and chaos under US hegemony.
YET ANOTHER REASON TO END THE WAR ON DRUGS (AND ALL OUR OTHER OBSCENE WARS)
Last month in a pre-dawn drug raid, one of Georgia's finest law enforcement officers threw a flash-bang grenade into the crib of 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavahn blowing a hole in his chest and critically burning the child. No drugs, guns or suspects were found in the house (as if that would justify critically injuring a toddler). Doctors give Bounkham a 50-50 chance of survival.
What I want to know is when was the last time a drug-crazed marijuana-smoker threw a grenade in a toddler's crib. Don't all answer at once.
Like all our other obscene wars, the War on Drugs creates far worse injustices than whatever injustices it claims to correct.
June 17, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA RETURNS
Dan Ellsberg became the most dangerous man in America in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers that showed that the US government systematically and deliberately lied to the people and to congress about the Vietnam War. I remember being somewhat confused when I heard the news. “What's the big deal?” I asked a friend. “We already knew that.” It wasn't until recently that I came to realize that it was, indeed, a big deal. For the first time we had it in black and white in their own words, just how arrogant, corrupt, stupid and deceitful our government and military were.
It's like the Emperor's New Clothes. Everybody knew the emperor was naked; but only a few wacko birds would say so, and they were ignored. Then Dan Ellsberg said “But he doesn't have anything on” and all of a sudden even the New York Times was shouting, “The emperor's naked.”
Ellsberg has one regret: that he didn't leak the Pentagon Papers sooner. In Washington DC, half a block from the State Department, now stands a billboard with Dan Ellsberg saying, “Don’t do what I did, don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”
You can contribute to putting up more of these billboards here.
Well, maybe if Ellsberg had stepped up to the plate in 1964, I wouldn't have been able to say, “What's the big deal? We already knew that.” But the mood of the country was a lot different then. By 1971, it was clear that we had lost the Vietnam War and people were tired of it and ready to listen to Dan Ellsberg. If Ellsberg had come forward in 1964, he might have been just another one of us wing nuts, wacko birds and conspiracy theorists.
Here's an article by Marjorie Cohn about Dan Ellsberg and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Although there are points in this article I disagree with, it's well worth reading, especially for those of you too young to remember or, like me, old enough to forget.
ARROGANT, CORRUPT AND INCOMPETENT
Last month I wrote in a little snippet that “The US military has the ‘reverse Midas touch.’ Whatever it touched turns to chaos and corruption.”
Tom Engelhardt expands on that and points out that the U.S. military has “a record of failure to stagger the imagination” and “has not won a serious engagement since World War II” This is an important article. Read it.
Fred Reed has both Tom Engelhardt and me beat. Reed writes, “The military. A trillion withering green ones a year and we get forces that can’t beat a few pissed-off goat-herds with AKs. Which actually is a good thing since they shouldn’t be trying. A chronicle of unmitigated failure, and always for the same reason: trying to use shiny toys to whip whole countries that don’t want us there. Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.”
Well Tom, it figures that Fred would beat us. He's been there. We haven't.
Our military might not be any good at winning wars; but you have to hand it to them. They are by far the most destructive force on the planet. If you don't believe me ask an Iraqi or an Afghan (or for that matter, a Chilean, Nicaraguan, Serbian, Salvadoran, Iranian, Guatemalan ...). And you ain't seen nothing yet. Those 7,300 nuclear warheads could start detonating any time.
I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!!!!
The Iraqi army that we've been arming, paying for and training for almost a decade, turns tail and runs at the first sight of the enemy. Kind of reminds you of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam — that sterling fighting force that we armed, paid for and trained which folded as soon as we left Vietnam.
But get this. Our puppet in Baghdad (Or is it Iran's puppet? I can't seem to get this straight.) Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is rated seventh most corrupt in the world, is begging for help. Seems like our arch-enemy, Iran, across the Shatt al-Arab might actually come to his aid. And the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, sometimes referred to as “al-Qaeda wannabis,” has captured Mosul and a whole treasure chest of US supplied heavy weaponry and is moving toward Baghdad. Furthermore, they are in both Syria and Iraq, having no respect at all for those lines that European colonialists drew in the sand almost a century ago; and they are being bankrolled by our good friends in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
And now, Obama, who got elected on the platform of ending the Iraq War and removed our unwanted troop presence three years ago, is sending troops back to Iraq and threatening more bombing. As Fred Reed says, “Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.”
Sound confusing? Just tune in to Fox News or read the New York Times. They'll give you the straight low down. But remember, World War I started in the midst of such confusion.
It's a shame that Tom Lehrer gave up writing satirical songs. Just imagine what he could do with this one! Maybe, he'll come out of retirement.
To keep track of this fast-evolving debacle, I recommend Juan Cole's blog. And here's an informative article by Robert Fisk.
June 10, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
One would think we would all be celebrating the prisoner of war swap and the release of Bowe Bergdahl. Not so. As Robert Naiman points out:
“The political forces that are trashing the deal to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl are the same political forces that got us into the Iraq war. They are the same political forces who want to keep the Afghanistan war going indefinitely. They are the same political forces who want to keep the Guantanamo prison open indefinitely. ... I challenge anyone to provide a single counterexample.”
Was Bergdahl tortured? I can't say; but I daresay not to the extent the “Five” whom he was exchanged for were tortured in Guantanamo.
Did he receive a trial? Unlike the Five who were incarcerated for 12 years with neither charge nor trial, he received a speedy trial and was convicted.
Was it a fair trial? Ask Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
Did he walk off his post? I don't know. But here I will quote Fred Reed:
“Infrequently a soldier has the courage to see that what he is doing is both stupid and immoral, and walk away from it. Bowe Bergdahl did. I say, speaking as a former Marine in Viet Nam, ... You have my admiration, Sergeant Bergdahl.”
Did US soldiers die on account of Bergdahl's actions? Highly unlikely.
I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about Bowe Bergdahl, most of it hype and spin; but one thing for sure: this is an important step in ending a war that we should NEVER have started.
Support the troops; bring them home!!!
Sunday was the 47th anniversary of the deliberate and unprovoked Israeli attack on the USS Liberty which killed 34 US sailors and wounded 170. As Ray McGovern reiterates: “[T]here is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew. ... [E]very U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson [has acquiesced] to the false narrative that it was all a terrible case of mistaken identity.”
Mr. Obama, isn't is time, after 47 years, to come clean, and tell what really happened? Doesn't that “sacred rule: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind” apply to the crew of the USS Liberty too?
A NOT SO SURPRISING MOVE
In what Common Dreams refers to as a “Surprise Move,” Russia has freed the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise. The Arctic Sunrise, with 30 aboard, was peacefully protesting against a Gazprom oil rig in the arctic, when it was seized by the Russians eight months ago in an act of international piracy.
Not such a surprising move, says I. With East-West rivalry heating up, particularly in the Ukraine, I suspect Russia is trying to court (or at least neutralize) Western environmentalists. A savvy move, but sadly, like the Western nations, Russia continues to threaten the Arctic with oil drilling. Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International remarked, “We will continue to oppose any oil company that attempts to drill in the Arctic ocean. As the world warms and the ice melts this is fast becoming an era defining battle, and we are determined to win it.”
June 3, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE IRAQI GENOCIDE AND THE VETERANS FOR PEACE IRAQ WATER PROJECT
Memorial Day, I spoke to the Columbia chapter of Veterans for Peace on the Iraqi Genocide and the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project. My remarks (somewhat fleshed out and cleaned up) are posted here. Please consider a donation to the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project . Checks made out to Veterans for Peace with Iraq Water Project in the memo line can be sent to Veterans For Peace, 216 South Meramec Ave, St. Louis MO 63105.
If you haven't seen Pawel Kuczynski's satiric cartoons, you are in for a treat. My favorite is posted on my website as image of the month. If I had talent, these are the kind of cartoons I'd like to be creating.
John Kerry put his foot in his mouth again telling Ed Snowden to “man up and come back to the US”.
I took a lot of grief from my liberal friends ten years ago for supporting Ralph Nader for president. (Remember, a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.) Well the other choices were Yale graduate with a C average and Skull and Boner macho man George “Bring 'em On” Bush and Yale graduate with a C average and Skull and Boner macho man John “Man Up” Kerry. I still think I made the right choice even if my candidate didn't win.
Actually, telling Snowden to “man up and come back to the US” would be pretty much equivalent to telling a Jew who escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to “man up and come back to Nazi Germany.” Read Juan Cole's article to find out why.
I have a suggestion. Let's have a televised debate between John Kerry and Ed Snowden on spying and whistleblowing. Broadcast it worldwide and let all seven billion of us vote for the winner. The winner gets an unlimited supply of “get out of jail free” cards, good anywhere in the world. (John, you better prepare well for this debate. You might be needing those get out of jail free cards real soon.)
May 26, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
1,500 UNTHINKABLE ACTS OF SAVAGERY
“To cut down a tree is murder to a child. The tree is snapped out of the drawing and its life is lost. A child knows that a tree has a life. To take down a tree is an unthinkable act of savagery to a child, because a tree is a friend.” — Diana Beresford-Kroeger, “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us”
Israeli soldiers came without warning and cut down 1,500 trees on the Nassar farm West of Bethlehem in occupied Palestine. Israeli authorities simply claimed the farm was state land and that they had “papers from God” to prove it . How do you spell blasphemy?
AN ACT OF GENOCIDE
Francis Boyle has tallied the Iraqi dead from the 20 year (1991-2011) War Against Iraq: 3.3 million dead, of which more than half, 1.7 million died of sanctions. Taking Iraq's population as roughly 25 million, this amounts to 13% of the population and surely qualifies as Genocide. Boyle has been trying since 1991 to get the United Nations to take up the case of Iraq, but with no success. Not surprising when you think about it. The biggest killer was the UN sanction; so if the UN took the case, they would essentially be trying themselves. What is needed is an independent prosecutor and an independent court. Don't hold your breath waiting.
Meanwhile the Rwandan genocide is being used as an argument for more “humanitarian” interventions like we witnessed in Iraq.
THE REAL ENEMY REVEALED
You might have thought the real enemy was the Evil Soviet Empire or Red China or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or maybe even Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad. But if you thought that, you'd have been Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The real enemy is our own home-grown non-violent demonstrators — at least according to our law enforcement fusion centers — and we all know that law enforcement is never wrong.
Oh, and Cecily McMillan, member of the non-violent Occupy movement was sentenced to three months in jail for being grabbed by the breast by Grantley Bovell, one of New York City's finest police officers. Well, she could have gotten seven years, and probably would have, had it not been for the massive public support she received. Yup, the enemy is right here, and probably at a non-violent demonstration for peace, affordable healthcare, quality education or a free independent press; you know, one of those terrible things that only socialists and Muslims are in favor of.
May 20, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH
Every now and then you hear about how we fought a “good war” — a war in which there was very little loss of life and most people ended up better off after the war than before. Libya, like Iraq before it, has been touted as such a “good war.” Three years after our war to bring “democracy” to Libya and “liberate” it from a cruel dictator, Libya has descended into warlordism and become a “failed state.” One such warlord, Khalifa Hifter, with CIA ties has “raided the parliament building in the heart of Tripoli, sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives as gunmen ransacked the legislature”
No, there are no “good wars.” War is the essence of evil. The US military has the “reverse Midas touch.” Whatever it touched turns to chaos and corruption. As Mohandas Gandhi put it, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
Did I forget to mention the Benghazi debacle? No, I'm saving that for another day.
MORE CRACKS IN THE FACADE
Pope Francis has chosen to visit Palestine first on his upcoming trip to the Middle East. “According to Father Jamal Khader of the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem, the decision to visit Palestine before Israel is ‘a kind of sign of recognizing Palestine’”.
Meanwhile Israeli author Amos Oz uses the unthinkable phrase “Hebrew neo-Nazis”; and a video of Israeli soldiers shooting down Palestinian children in cold blood is receiving wide circulation. The killings are being called war crimes by human rights activists.
Israel has been running this racket in Palestine for 66 years; but folks are beginning to see the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians for what it is. As Smedley Butler pointed out, once people see a racket for what it is; it becomes impossible to continue running it.
WE WON'T DO IT AGAIN
Last week I reported on the CIA's Worst Crime — the use of public health workers and bogus vaccination programs as part of its bag of dirty tricks. Well, due to international outrage, the CIA has promised not to do it anymore. No promise of remuneration for the public health workers who have been killed because some people now think of public health workers as synonymous with CIA agent. No remuneration for the children stricken with polio because their families don't trust public health workers anymore. No, not even an apology.
Oh, would you trust a promise from the CIA? If you would, I have this bridge here. Maybe you would like to buy my bridge. I'll sell it cheap.
May 13, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE CIA'S WORST CRIME
The CIA has committed a lot of terrible crimes; but posing as public health workers, in an attempt to find Osama bin Laden has got to be the worst. Now, thanks to the CIA, people in Pakistan and elsewhere don't trust public health workers and the world is experiencing a resurgence of polio. Sadly there is no accountability. The only one to go to jail was the Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA.
War and Disease are intimately related as this short article by Paul Rogers documents.
800,000 YEARS IN 90 SECONDS
This powerful 90 second video of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 800,000 years is well worth watching.
INCHING CLOSER TO WORLD WAR III
The Ukraine is coming unglued at the seams, and Russia, the USA and NATO are in it up to their necks. Latest developments: Two provinces vote to break away from Kiev. Neo-Nazi militias, apparently with the blessings of the coup government in Kiev, trap separatists in buildings and burn them alive, twice.
In case you have forgotten: The Ukraine is home to 15 nuclear power plants with two more under construction, not to mention the Chernobyl sarcophagus that has caused an estimated million deaths and counting. The USA and Russia each have enough nuclear warheads to destroy the world many times over.
Is it really wise to continue this game of chicken? Sadly, it may be too late to rein in the chaos and violence. Obama and Putin, even if they talk and decide to negotiate a settlement, may no longer be able to control the forces that they have set in motion.
May 6, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN'S LATEST LITTLE CHILD
Last week, I pointed out that Hans Christian Andersen's “The Emperor's New Clothes” is an oversimplification:
“[B]efore the little child come all the wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists who shout, ‘The Emperor's naked,’ but nobody listens. Somehow Andersen's little child says it in the right way at the right time and in the right place, and all of a sudden everyone is whispering, ‘But he hasn't got anything on.’ Interestingly, no one seems able to predict the right person, the right place, and the right time; but sooner or later Andersen's little child always magically appears.”
Diane Ravitch, one of the “wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists,” has been telling us all the horrors of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, and standardized testing for years. Now, along comes Andersen's latest little child, comedian Louis C.K. with 3.3 million followers on Twitter, all whispering, “But he hasn't got anything on.”
Here are some of Louis C.K.'s remarks on standardized testing:
“My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”
“[M]y favorite responses have been adults proudly announcing that they were able to solve these problems from a 3rd grade test.”
“I trust a teacher over Pearson [test publisher] or bill hates [Bill Gates] any day of the week.”
Louis C.K. exemplifies a famous aphorism of Mark Twain: “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Thank you Louis C.K. And I swear, I never heard of Louis C.K. until I read Diane Ravitch's article a few days ago.
DONNA HAWLEY ALL OVER AGAIN
Cecily McMillan, who was assaulted and grabbed by the breast by police officer Grantley Bovell as she was leaving Zuccotti Park in New York City was convicted of felony assault against that same police officer. Bovell's history of violent behavior was deemed irrelevant by the Court. McMillan's documented bruises, including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, were deemed suspect.
This is a favored tactic of our criminal injustice system, to accuse the victim of assaulting his/her assaulters.
This is what happened to Rolla's own Donna Hawley, who according to testimony at her trial was the assaulted, not the assaulter; yet she was subjected to four years of hell by our criminal injustice system, before finally being acquitted by a Texas County jury. (Let's hear it for Texas County! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!)
If Donna Hawley's ordeal is in any way unique, it is that she was acquitted. Most victims of our criminal injustice system are not so fortunate.
It is to Rolla's everlasting shame that Donna was abandoned by almost all her supporters. Only one Rollaite came and supported her at her trial.
Fortunately, Cecily McMillan is not being abandoned. In fact she is becoming a cause célèbre as people are beginning to push back against our criminal injustice system which holds incarcerated a whopping 2.2 million victims behind bars, by far the world's largest prison population.
Last week the criminal injustice system in Oklahoma tortured Clayton Lockett to death for 40 minutes in an “experimental” execution. I thought it was only Nazis who performed experiments to discover the most horrible and efficient ways of killing. Maybe I was right.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Our criminal injustice system is so compromised and corrupt that the only just solution is, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”
This article about Paul Kingsnorth from the New York Times magazine, although somewhat lengthy, is well worth the read.
Paul Kingsnorth is a former environmental activist who came to the conclusion that the game's over. No matter what we do, civilization is going to collapse, bigtime. Faced with this conclusion, Kingsnorth co-founded the Dark Mountain Project which holds an annual “Uncivilization Festival,” perhaps a space for artists and others like Kingsnorth to grieve the imminent passing of the world as we know it.
Last week, Kingsnorth and his wife made a long-planned move to rural Ireland, where they will be growing much of their own food and home schooling their children; yet he hasn't given up environmental activism altogether. He spent much of the past three years trying to stop a large supermarket from being built. “I’m increasingly attracted by the idea that there can be at least small pockets where life and character and beauty and meaning continue. If I could help protect one of those from destruction, maybe that would be enough. Maybe it would be more than most people do,” remarks Kingsnorth.
Many years ago Mohandas Gandhi famously responded to a reporter who asked him what he thought of Western Civilization, “I think it would be a good idea.” So “Uncivilization” is not a new concept. It's what we have been living for centuries.
Like Kingsnorth and others such as Guy McPherson, I too believe that our global society (not civilization) will collapse. I've been asking a question for some time, and have received no serious answers, “Can you give me one reason why our society ought not to collapse?” Classic population dynamics. We are a species that has outstripped our environmental resources. As our numbers increase and our resources degrade, we fight over what's left, which further degrades our resources. Soon the population is decimated for lack of critical resources to sustain it. That's collapse.
I think we ought to be asking questions like, “How can we cushion the Fall?” and “What comes next?” These are not questions I've heard discussed seriously. My own opinion is that when our numbers are reduced to a few million in a degraded world, that remnant may have a chance to try again, and maybe do it right next time. But that's just my opinion. I base it on a belief in God and a belief in miracles. I have no logical underpinnings for this belief.
So I could be wrong. Maybe the technocrats will figure out how to keep the world as we know it going. Maybe the super-rich will finally come to their senses and stop fighting wars and hoarding the world's resources for themselves. Maybe George Orwell got it right in “1984.” Maybe Aldous Huxley got it right in “Brave New World.” Maybe humanity will evolve into a species that can learn to live in harmony with the Earth before it's too late. Or maybe the collapse will be complete, and lead to extinction. All of the above (except the last) I would deem highly unlikely.
So what am I doing? 32 years ago I moved to small college town in central Missouri. I figured my chances of long-term survival were probably at least as good here as anywhere else. I think I made a wise choice.
Now I could buy some land in rural Ireland, and like Kingnorth, grow my own food, homeschool my grandchildren and develop some survivalist skills. But that's not me and I don't think it would do any good. When society collapses, all those folks in the cities will be headed for such pristine rural enclaves. Better arm yourselves real well; but then you are part of the problem, not the solution, defending dwindling resources from a hoard of urban refugees. Personally, I think one could learn more survival skills for the future living on the edge of a toxic-waste dump than growing tomatoes in rural Ireland — just my opinion.
But I have no intention of moving. I suspect I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing right here and now. Writing, cartooning, trying to do something that might cushion the fall or help to make the world a little better. As I told you before: I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I keep coming back to these few lines from Sandy LeonVest: “I've long since accepted that being an activist and a writer, futile though it may be, is who I am. The ship may be going down, but like the orchestra on the Titanic, I keep playing.”
April 29, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
In 1676 Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders of Giants.” (Actually, the metaphor goes back at least to Bernard de Chartres in the 12th Century, but in those days people weren't quite so concerned about primacy.)
Today the French economist Thomas Piketty is in the limelight for having proved that Capitalism cannot deliver on its promise of a good life for all. Well, I always thought that Karl Marx (a real Giant) proved this almost 150 years ago in Das Kapital. And if Karl Marx didn't demonstrate the failure of Capitalism then certainly the two world wars that followed did. And if that's not enough, during the decade following the self-destruction of the Soviet Union, the problems of war, militarism, environmental pollution and economic inequality all grew worse in a world totally dominated by a single capitalist super-power.
Basically, Capitalism postulates that if everyone acts as greedy as possible, Adam Smith's “invisible hand” (or middle finger) will guide us to a better world for all.
Now, I love fantasy. I read my kindergarten classes stories about talking tigers, a wishing stick that makes your wishes come out upside down if you hold it upside down, a blacksmith who traps the devil and all his demons in a tobacco pouch, etc. But none of the stories I read are nearly as fanciful as Adam Smith's invisible hand. To quote the big blue rabbit Plump in Tim Chadwick' Cabbage Moon “Grown-ups see what they want to see.”
One of my favorite fairy tales is Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes. It is easy to identify with the little child who blurts out, “But he hasn't got anything on.”
We have a lot of incarnations of Andersen's little child: Thomas Piketty, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden to mention a few. But I think Andersen's tale is an over-simplification. Everyone can see the Emperor is naked; but before the little child, come all the wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists who shout, “The Emperor's naked,” while nobody listens. Somehow Andersen's little child says it in the right way at the right time and in the right place, and all of a sudden everyone is whispering, “But he hasn't got anything on.” Interestingly, no one seems able to predict the right person, the right place, and the right time; but sooner or later Andersen's little child always magically appears.
April 22, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I've always felt that “intellectual property” was an oxymoron, sort of like “criminal justice” or “military intelligence.” Today seeds are considered intellectual property. Monsanto and other huge corporations make mega-profits and impoverish poor farmers by patenting seeds.
A group of horticulturists, scientists and seed activists have created an open seed initiative. Free seeds for all — and best of all any varieties derived from these seeds remain open-source forever. So far, there are 29 open source varieties of 14 different crops. (To my knowledge sesame is not one of the 14.)
OH SINNER MAN, WHERE YOU GONNA RUN TO?
In my youth I used to listen over and over again to The Weavers singing songs like Sinner Man; but perhaps today we need some new verses. Here are a few suggestions:
Run to the Sea, Sea will be a Risin'Sea levels have risen over 8 inches since 1880 but the rate of increase is accelerating due to melting glaciers and warming water temperatures. 10 percent of the world's population lives along a coast. they are threatened by rising sea levels and stronger storm surges.
Run to the Trees, Trees will be a Burnin'Wildfires in the western United States have been increasing by 7 fires and 90,000 acres each year since 1984. California is set for the biggest wildfire season in history this summer.
Run to the Earth, Earth will be a Shakin'Drilling for oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is causing a plethora of small to medium-sized earthquakes.
Run to the Fields, Fields will be a Thirstin'The entire states of California, Arizona and Nevada and much of the western and southwestern United States are experiencing some level of drought. Almost 1/4 of California is experiencing the highest level of drought (exceptional). There is simply not enough water left to irrigate California's crop land.
That's just a start. Maybe you would like to write a verse or two of your own.
April 15, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
In a world that is heating up, humanity's output of greenhouse gases continues not only to increase, but to increase at ever faster rates, says a leaked report from the IPCC due to be released soon. Meanwhile, policy makers continue to avoid taking significant steps to curb our output of greenhouse gases. So expect more and worse droughts, floods, heatwaves, and hurricanes.
THE ARROGANCE OF STABILITY
Taking a long-term view, there is no such thing as stability. There is only chaos. Try as we might to bring stability to our world, our greatest efforts only serve to bring on chaos.
Robert Shetterly embodies this chaos in the Backward Dancing Man the trickster who “is perversely even handed, democratic, you might say. He dances backwards into everyone's good time, an equal opportunity disrupter, regardless of class or race or gender.”
When I drew my image for Thoughts on Evolution and the Duckbill Platypus, I cast myself as the Backward Dancing Man, sawing off humanity's limb on the Tree of Evolution, bringing myself along with Sarah Palin and the rest of humanity crashing down. Diana Beresford-Kroeger's “blind man in costume” (quoted in the image) who looks up as the branch breaks wondering if it is too late to learn to fly is another incarnation of the Backward Dancing Man.
In Africa, he is Anansi the Spider.
To many indigenous North American cultures, Coyote is the trickster. (See for example Betty Baker's “And Me, Coyote”). Interestingly, in spite of being hunted, trapped and poisoned, coyotes have increased their range and number in North America.
Shetterly writes, “Today I think of the backward dancing man as the climate. Freak storms, floods, droughts, species extinctions, links cut out of food chains, insect plagues, glaciers melting, water rising. The difference, though, is that we see it coming. In the old stories, the dancing man was invisible.”
Yes, we see him coming, yet we ignore the Backward Dancing Man who is already sowing chaos and destruction among us.
OUR SEARCH FOR STABILITY
Last week, three incumbents were reelected to the Rolla School Board. The voters rejected one, well-qualified outsider who might have shook things up a little bit in our school district.
Two years ago I ran for School Board in opposition to high-stakes standardized testing, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. I finished dead last with 8% of the vote.
Today, comes more evidence that high-stakes standardized testing has been and will continue to be a disaster for our public schools. Progressive schools districts, teachers, parents and students all over this nation are standing up in opposition to these tests. Perhaps someday Rolla will get on board too.
Me, I continue to volunteer is our schools. I don't give tests and I don't give grades. I do what I feel is important — I help young children to learn and enjoy reading. I have read two Anansi the Spider stories to my kindergarten classes this year. Next week perhaps I'll read them “And Me, Coyote.” It's important for young children to learn about the trickster who sows chaos among those who search for stability. Maybe I can find a children's story on the Backward Dancing Man. I'm looking.
April 8, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ART AND WAR
Last week I wrote a short paragraph describing as best I could our 23 year long war against Iraq. It fell way short of the mark. Now here is a review by “the master,” Chris Hedges, of Jonathan Wright's translation of Hassan Blasim's “The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq”. Warning! The review is very graphic and not to be read by one with a weak stomach. Although fiction, I suspect Blasim paints a far more realistic picture of what we have done to Iraq than any work of non-fiction could. But that is what Art is all about — creating something that is more real than Real.
MORE ART AND WAR
Painted on the ground in a heavily bombed region of Pakistan is an image of a young girl who lost her parents and siblings to a drone attack. She is staring up at the sky saying, “These are not bugs. Not ground kills. Not video images. Not abstractions. Not terrorists. They're us, and too often we're kids.” Is it any wonder that so many of our troops become deranged over what they have done?
I am not an artist, but I do the best I can. Sometimes I think the only way I maintain even a semblance of sanity in this insane world is through writing and cartooning.
TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES
After 25 years in prison, Jonathan Fleming, who was 1000 miles away from the murder he didn't commit, is free, one of the many wrongly convicted by our system of criminal injustice. The prosecution knew that he was innocent; but suppressed the evidence and got him convicted anyway. Fleming is Black (in case you wondered).
How many of the 2.2 million people in jails and prisons throughout the United States have been wrongly convicted or received sentences far out of proportion to any crime they might have committed? I'll echo what I wrote last week in reference to Shanesha Taylor: Our criminal justice system is so corrupt and compromised that I see no just solution except “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”
April 1, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ARMED AND DISEMPOWERED
Robert C. Koehler hit the nail and the head when he wrote in Monsters in our Midst: “it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and that is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.” We are armed to the teeth. We spend over 40% of the worlds military budget, but even with 49 allies, can't win a war against small impoverished Afghanistan. We citizens of the United States own 300 million guns, and live in constant fear of out neighbors. Robert Koehler at his best. Don't miss it!
CHUTZPAH AWARD OF THE CENTURY
Barack Obama wins the Chutzpah Award of the 21st Century (so far) with his statement that [unlike Russia in the Crimea] “even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.”
A more honest evaluation might read: 23 years ago the United States of America and its allies destroyed Iraqi water purification, sewage disposal and electric power infrastructure in defiance of international law. It then imposed 12 years of the most comprehensive sanctions ever imposed on a nation preventing the rebuilding of civilian infrastructure and causing the death of well over 1/2 million Iraqi children under the age of five. When this failed to bring Iraq to its knees, the United States invaded Iraq on the pretext that they possessed weapons of mass destruction, without a UN mandate and in spite of anti-war demonstrations by an unprecedented 10 to 15 million people worldwide. Through eight years of occupation, the United States destroyed the social fabric of Iraqi society and sowed destruction causing the death of an estimated one million people and leaving four times that many homeless. Finally after eight years, the United States declared victory and went home leaving the country in chaos.
Now what did Russia do in the Crimea that can even holds a candle to this?
WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT
Shanesha Taylor is just one of an army of homeless mothers. Shanesha had a job interview, but being broke and homeless had no place to leave her children; so she left them in her car with the windows cracked. 45 minutes later she was arrested, charged with felonious child abuse, and her kids placed in state custody.
What can be worse than leaving young children alone in a car? Well, maybe raping your own small children — like DuPont heir Robert Richards IV, who raped his three year old daughter and molested his infant son. Richards got a real stiff sentence: probation and treatment. The case only came to light when the mother of the children sued Richards.
Yup, we gotta revise the Pledge of Allegiance. “With liberty and justice for all those who can afford it.”
As I have said before: Our criminal justice system is so corrupt and compromised that I see no just solution except “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”
March 25, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT 2014
In case you didn't notice, Nuclear Security Summit 2014 has come and gone. 53 world leaders vowed to take steps to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of “terrorists.” No mention of taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of the terrorists who now control them; or of preventing them from “modernizing” their huge nuclear arsenals; or making them adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which required them to start working toward nuclear disarmament 43 years ago; or of the standoff in the Ukraine over which Russian Federation president Putin has threatened to pull out of the START treaty.
A quick internet search, yields practically nothing. It appears to have been a non-event. Hope you all feel a lot safer now. Can't say that I do.
March 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NAO ROZ MUBARAK (HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR)
In Afghanistan the New Year is celebrated on the first day of Spring, Friday March 21. (This makes far more sense to me than celebrating the New Year 10 days after the winter solstice.) Nao Roz is also celebrated in Iran and throughout much of Central Asia. Pray that this year will bring Peace to Afghanistan and the rest of the world.
This week I began reading William Dalrymple's Return of a King: A history of the ill-fated 1839 British invasion of Afghanistan. Of the nearly 20,000 British troops, only one returned alive. One chapter into the book, I feel I might have a glimmer of understanding how the Afghans could defeat a coalition of 50 nations and the mightiest army the world has ever seen. The arrogance and stupidity of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal in invading Afghanistan and of Obama in not immediately extricating himself are self-evident. Afghans are incredible people. We could learn so much from them.
CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY
Citizens Climate Lobby is looking to have a presence in all 435 congressional districts. So far they lack a presence in Missouri's 8th District. Anyone interested in organizing a branch of CCL should contact Carol Braford in St. Louis.
VOTE YES ON PROP. A: ROLLA'S PARKS AND RECREATION TAX
Please consider going to the polls on Tuesday, April 8 and voting
YES on Proposition A, Rolla's Parks and Recreation Tax.
If we insist on denying our children and grandchildren a reasonable future by fighting wars and changing our climate through the continued burning of fossil fuels, the least we can do is give our children some reasonable recreational opportunities in the present.
March 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: WORLD WAR I AND THE UKRAINE
In response to the following comment in last week's newsletter:
“Remember World War I? It started with the assassination of a no-account archduke in Sarajevo. Soon Europe and much of the world was plunged into four years of bitter warfare. Think World War III could start similarly in the Ukraine? I don't doubt it.”
A reader writes:
“I'm not sure I'd call the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne a ‘no-account archduke’. If you want some real insight into WWI, read Christopher Clark's ‘The Sleepwalkers’”
I've never felt that royalty, or heads of the so-called “democratic” states for that matter, count for much. I looked at the reviews of “The Sleepwalkers;” and yes, it looks like a worthwhile book. But let's continue with the analogy between the days preceding the outbreak of World War I and the current standoff in the Ukraine:
Robert Freeman claims that World War I, like the current standoff in the Ukraine, was all about controlling the world's oil resources. I hardly doubt it. But Freeman seems to miss the irony of it. The use of fossil fuels is warming the Earth making it less hospitable for humanity and will likely bring about the collapse of modern “civilization.” So the “Great Game” is all about control of that which will end up destroying us. Sound familiar to all you Tolkien fans?
Hillary Clinton is another “no-account heir apparent.” She shows off her ignorance of history comparing “Vlad the Bad” to Hitler over his role in the Ukraine. Actually, Putin's role in the Ukraine is far more analogous to Stalin's role in Poland in 1939; which makes the role of the NATO countries in The Ukraine similar to Hitler's, especially considering that the post-putsch Ukrainian government is riddled with neo-Nazis.
And, oh yes, Putin has threatened to pull out of what little remains of our nuclear arms control agreement with Russia. We may not have to wait for global warming to get us. Where are Kennedy and Khrushchev when we need them?
Finally, one must be extremely careful in drawing analogies between the past and present. As Stephen Kinzer put it, “History does not repeat itself, but it delights in patterns and symmetries.”
CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY
Citizens Climate Lobby is looking to have a presence in all 435 congressional districts. So far they lack a presence in Missouri's 8th District. Anyone interested in organizing a branch of CCL should contact Carol Braford in St. Louis.
VOTE YES ON PROP. A: ROLLA'S PARKS AND RECREATION TAX
Please consider going to the polls on Tuesday, April 8 and voting
YES on Proposition A, Rolla's Parks and Recreation Tax.
If we insist on denying our children and grandchildren a reasonable future by fighting wars and changing our climate through the continued burning of fossil fuels, the least we can do is give our children some reasonable recreational opportunities in the present.
THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER
Three years ago today an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex spewing deadly radiation around the world. Fukushima is a sword of Damocles hanging over all of humanity, leaking radiation into the ocean, the groundwater and the air; contaminating the food supply; and threatening unimaginable further disasters.
On the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, tens of thousands rally in Japan demanding that all of Japan's nuclear reactors remain shut down — PERMANENTLY.
March 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A MEMORABLE EVENT
We are now well into our eighth year of weekly vigils for peace in front of the Rolla Post Office. Every once in a while something memorable that will stick with me for the rest of my life happens. Last Thursday a man who appeared to be about my age looked at my placard which said “Support The Troops Bring Them Home,” shook his head and asked, “Where were you when I was in Vietnam?” I explained that I was carrying a sign with a similar message in a different location. He shook his head again and sighed, “Well, at least you tried.”
Incidents like this make me realize how important our weekly vigils are and how important it is that we keep them going. Please consider joining us: Noon to 1 pm every Thursday.
Many other locations also have similar vigils for peace. Here's an article by Dud Hendrick from Deer Island, Maine Veterans for Peace discussing their weekly vigils for peace.
EVEN PUPPETS PULL STRINGS
In the wake of president Karzai's refusal to sign an agreement extending the US occupation of Afghanistan, Obama has asked the military to prepare plans for the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the Zero Option. That doesn't mean Obama will necessarily “Declare victory and get out.” But it's a step in the right direction. It's what we have been asking for all along. “Support the troops; bring them home!”
AGAINST THE ASSAULT OF LAUGHTER
Missouri's greatest humorist, Mark Twain, once famously remarked, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” How true. AIPAC couldn't stand this satirical depiction of their annual conference and banned it from the internet, threatening Codepink with legal action. But here it is, thanks to Common Dreams.
Meanwhile, in violation of international law, Israel continues to build Jewish only settlements on Palestinian land, and at an ever increasing rate.
UNDER WATER IN A DECADE
Marissa Alexander who was awarded a new trial after receiving a 20 year sentence for firing a shot into the wall to scare away an abusive husband, now faces 60 years in prison.
Florida's quite a state. Murderers like George Zimmerman walk free, and abused women like Marissa Alexander get long prison sentences. Feel free to contribute to Marissa's legal defense.
According to Ultraviolet, when it comes to the War Against Women, the State of Florida is Numero Uno! They are campaigning to get people to take their vacations elsewhere. They don't need to convince me.
But I've been thinking... Now I'm an optimist and I like to look on the bright side of things; so consider: Some climate scientists believe that much of Florida will be under water within a decade. Now that's optimism!
I CRANE, UKRAINE, THE WHOLE WORLD'S GONE INSANE
Remember World War I? It started with the assassination of a no-account archduke in Sarajevo. Soon Europe and much of the world was plunged into four years of bitter warfare. Think World War III could start similarly in the Ukraine? I don't doubt it.
Russia has oft been invaded by Western Europe: Napoleon, the post World War I allied intervention, the Nazis... Well Russia has had a bad two decades, and Western Europe is still chomping at it's borders. But Russia's back; and the United States is severely weakened by its unsuccessful military adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia. When you hear about a “Russian invasion,” remember Iraq and Afghanistan. When you hear about Ukrainian freedom, think about a neutral demilitarized Ukraine instead of a nation beholden to NATO and the West. When you hear the hawks crying war and sanctions, remember, Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at the United States and Western Europe. Pretty picture?
Here's an article that tries to make some sense of what's going on in the Ukraine. An important read!
And the runner-up quote of the month from an article on the Ukraine by Will Bunch: “So who are the ‘good guys’? There may not be any.”
February 25, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PAY NOW ... OR PAY LATER
“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.” —Arhuaco
The title of this snippet is from an ad for Fram auto filters from my youth. A mechanic points out that a few dollars for a new oil filter could have saved hundreds (today thousands) for a new engine. The add ends with the mechanic saying “You can pay me now ... or pay me later.”
The Arhuaco are indigenous inhabitants of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. When I read the opening quote in Robert Koehler's recent article, Walk Softly. This Is Earth. We Have Much Still to Learn, I had a flashback to the Fram ads of my youth.
Payment! Yes! There is no such thing as a free lunch. We must pay for disturbing the balance of things. And indeed, everything we do disturbs a precarious balance. Living in harmony isn't a lack of making a disturbance; it's making payment for the disturbances you make and not making disturbances that you can't afford to pay for. Make small payments regularly or make a large payment later or eventually go into bankruptcy and foreclosure. I think that is where we are now. As a race, we have gone bankrupt and Nature is about to foreclose.
History and prehistory are full of examples of societies that didn't learn to make payment; and in the end faced bankruptcy and foreclosure. Jared Diamond in his book, “Collapse,” discusses a few, like the Anasazi and the Easter Islanders. Our modern global society is famous for disturbing the balance of things. It's also famous for its refusal to make payment. We have a huge debt. Pay now ... or pay later.
February 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning shameless audacity and extreme arrogance. Here are a few examples from this week's news:
A good walk spoiledPresident Obama visited drought stricken California, played golf on California's water-guzzling golf courses which claim 17% of Coachella Valley's dwindling water resources, and called for shared sacrifice in the face of California's megadrought.
Hmmm, shared sacrifice, good idea. For starters close down all the golf courses in drought-stricken water-poor regions. Let the billionaires take nature walks instead and learn to appreciate the environment that they can't wait to destroy. They could also benefit from reading Mark Twain who famously remarked, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”
Since I reported on the California megadrought last month, California has received some much needed February rain, but far less than what is necessary to make up the deficit.
Good fracking pizzaAfter destroying a part of Bobtown, Pennsylvania with an out-of-control fire in one of its fracking wells, Chevron claims to be a “responsible member” of the Bobtown community and offers the residents a free pizza.
Boy, what a boycottBinyamin Netanyahu, who as Israeli prime minister, holds responsibility for the world's largest open air prison where 1.6 million Gazans, (about half being children) are blockaded and forced to live under conditions reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto, claims, “the most disgraceful thing is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews” and that boycotters are “classical anti-Semites in modern garb”.
Next to “terrorist,” “antisemite” is probably the most misused word in the English language.
Lots more chutzpah in the news. Feel free to send in your favorite example.
JUST WHAT WE NEED: YET ANOTHER NEW WEAPON
The US Navy will be testing its new toy this year — a brand new laser gun — cheap compared to missiles.
The Navy claims, “The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords.” No one seems to ask whether the world really needs a new generation of revolutionary weapons. The Navy claims cost savings. I doubt it. How about peace instead? Now there's cost savings you can count on.
The problem with technology is that it proliferates. Sooner or later everyone gets one; then we'll have to develop newer more revolutionary weapons. This puts us in an arms race with ourselves. Ever wonder why we need a military budget almost equal to the rest of the world? Ever wonder why our civilian infrastructure is in shambles?
THE DAY WE FOUGHT BACK AGAINST MASS SURVEILLANCE
Here are the results of last Tuesday's Day We Fought Back: over 1/2 million emails to Congress, over 89,000 telephone calls. Thanks to all who participated; and if you didn't, it's never too late to contact your elected officials and demand an end to the NSA and the Surveillance State.
For those of you in Missouri's 8th District: Jason Smith 202-225-4404; Roy Blunt 202-224-5721; Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154; Barack Obama 202-456-1111. I reminded the person answering the phone that her phone is being spooked too and the private phone of the official she represents also.
February 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE NSA
Today, Tuesday Feb. 11, is The Day We Fight Back against the National Security Agency. Here are some facts about the NSA from Roots Action:
FACT: A federal judge called the NSA's mass surveillance program “Orwellian” and ruled the activities were likely unconstitutional.
FACT: President Obama's own hand-picked review board criticized the NSA's spying program and found no evidence it stopped a single terrorist act.
FACT: The NSA is even sending spies into online video game worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft.
FACT: The NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data in March 2013 alone, including 3 billion from US computers.
FACT: The NSA has built a surveillance network that has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic.
FACT: The NSA collects data on people’s porn usage habits.
FACT: The NSA can exploit mobile apps — even games like Angry Birds — to extract key personal information about users.
FACT: The NSA collects on the order of 5 BILLION phone records each day.
FACT: The NSA is regularly tracking the locations of hundreds of millions of cell phones.
FACT: Members of Senate Intelligence committee says there’s NO EVIDENCE bulk data collection has made Americans safer.
FACT: Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress by saying the NSA does “not wittingly” collect info on millions of Americans.
FACT: The NSA is so out of control that the author of the Patriot Act is the sponsor of the leading bill to rein it in.
As my contribution to The Day We Fight Back, I've photoshopped a cartoon in honor of George Orwell.
Incidentally, the USA is not the only Orwellian country in the world. Surprise? Eric Margolis discusses how Russian electronic surveillance caught Victoria Nuland in Kiev with her pants down.
Incidentally, as much as I admire George Orwell, I think he missed an important point. A surveillance state is unsustainable, as our spooks found out 40 years ago, the Russians found out 20 years ago, and we are finding out again now.
So visit The Day We Fight Back. Call your president, representative and senators and tell them to dismantle the surveillance state. For those of you in Missouri's 8th District: Jason Smith 202-225-4404; Roy Blunt 202-224-5721; Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154; Barack Obama 202-456-1111. I reminded the person answering the phone that her phone is being spooked too and the private phone of the official she represents also. If you didn't call today, it's never too late to call your elected representatives.
THREE CHEERS FOR TUNISIA!!!!
Tunisia, where Arab Spring began 3 years ago, has a new Constitution. It provides for gender equality, protects the nation's natural resources, establishes health care as a human Right, and demands the government take steps to fight corruption. Maybe they would let us borrow their Constitution. It's been over a decade since we've used ours.
DEATH BY UNRELIABLE METADATA
First Look publishes its first investigative report. Glenn Gleenwald and Jeremy Scahill team up to look at how the NSA partners with the CIA and JSOC to spread “death by unreliable metadata” around the world.
TWO ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS IN ONE DAY
Following the maxim, “get it out of the ground before they shut us down,” today witnessed a massive fracking fire in Pennsylvania and a toxic coal-slurry spill in West Virginia. Yup! “Get it out of the ground before they shut us down.” That's the motto of the fossil-fuel industry.
February 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US PUBLIC, PARTICULARLY REPUBLICANS, FINALLY GETTING IT ON PERPETUAL WAR
According to a January 2014 Pew Research poll, a majority of us, 52%, believe that we have “mostly failed” to achieve our goals in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The increase has been particularly marked among Republicans.
In addition, 50% say the decision to us military force in Iraq was wrong. Only 41% agree that the decision to use military force in Afghanistan was wrong, but that number has increased to the highest level to date.
Note that these are different questions than the ones asked in the poll I reported on in December that found that 82% OPPOSE the war in Afghanistan.
The bottom line: More and more people are rejecting the failed concept of maintaining a world-wide empire throught perpetual war.
US PUBLIC FAILS TO GET IT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In spite of increasing climate disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the summer 2012 mega-drought, the great 2013 Colorado flood, and California's worst drought in recorded history, climate change deniers increase in number. According to a Yale / George Mason poll, only 47% believe global warming is caused by human activity (down 7% from 2012) (Findings summarized here by Mother Jones).
Tom Engelhardt tries to interpret these figures in the light of human history. My feelings are that most of us know we are headed for catastrophic collapse; but refuse to face it.
Here's a simple question: Why have we been witnessing so many catastrophic fossil fuel and chemical spills of late? The latest being this weekend at a Duke Energy coal plant in North Carolina.
My answer: Since they know we're all going down big time, why should they worry about it? Just get it out of the ground and onto the market as quickly as possible before our "civilization" collapses (or alternatively, before governments apply stringent regulations to the fossil fuel industry, which is far less likely in my opinion). So what if they hasten collapse? So what if their grandchildren die horrible deaths like most of the rest of us? Let's make all the money we can before it happens. A fitting end to Capitalism and perhaps the human race.
I've done two recent cartoons on catastrophic collapse: World's Greatest Dinosaur Museum and Nature Bats Last. Check them out.
SOME PEOPLE GET IT ON KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
Around 8,000 people participated yesterday in 275 different actions against the northern leg of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring toxic Canadian tarsands crude to the Gulf of Mexico.
SAVE THE OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS
The National Park Service has prepared a draft management plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Current, Jack's Fork and Big Springs). They offer three alternatives and are accepting comments from the public through Friday Feb. 7. ALTERNATIVE A provides the maximum protection for these national treasures. They need to hear from you by Friday.
The Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club provides some background material.
The Draft Management Plan can be read here.
Comments to the National Park Service can be submitted online here.
January 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OHIO REINVENTS THE GAS CHAMBER
In spite of expert testimony that the proposed experimental cocktail of drugs would cause Dennis McGuire to die in “agony and horror”, the State of Ohio went ahead with McGuire's execution. According to an eyewitness report, McGuire spent 26 minutes gasping for breath before finally succumbing.
Zyklon B, the gas used in the Nazi extermination camps, also causes death by suffocation, but purportedly in far less than 26 minutes. We live in a society obsessed with pain and punishment. For those we choose to punish, no torture is too horrible; no death too prolonged.
AFGHANISTAN TO RELEASE 37 PRISONERS
While the US continues to hold 155 prisoners in Guantanamo under torturous conditions, Afghanistan, much to the displeasure of its foreign occupiers, is releasing from Bagram, often called “The Other Guantanamo,” 37 prisoners for which there is “no incriminating evidence”. Afghanistan's military occupiers call this “a major step backward in further developing the rule of law in Afghanistan”. You gotta hand it to the US occupying forces. They sure do have a sense of humor.
DRIEST YEAR IN CALIFORNIA'S RECORDED HISTORY
For much of the United States, the great drought of 2012 is over; but out in California, it just gets worse. The California drought is now the worst in recorded history and shows no sign of letting up. In fact, like global warming, it appears to be feeding on itself. In spite of all this, California seems to have its share of global-warming deniers.
January 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS TERRORISTS
I haven't written much on the NSA and mass spying since my Edward Snowden cartoon; but after reading Ten NSA Myths Debunked by Peter van Buren (the whistleblower who exposed our Potemkin Chicken Factory in Iraq), I knew I had to at least give you the link. Van Buren debunks these ten myths point by point. Anyone who believes there is a nanogram of legitimacy at the NSA ought to READ THIS ARTICLE, carefully and thoroughly.
My response when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA was: Why is this such a revelation? Of course they spy on us. They always have and, as long as we continue to allow it, they always will. And of course they blackmail and threaten us with their ill-gotten data. They always have and, as long as we continue to allow it, they always will. And whatever we allow them to do to others (You know, the “bad guys”: for most of my life, communists; but 20 years ago they suddenly morphed into terrorists.) they will surely do to us too. Keep this in mind anytime you hear nonsense about keeping us safe from terrorists.
Well, sure, terrorists are everywhere; but mostly in high positions in Washington DC. One sentence in van Buren's article needs correcting: “9/11 was a one-off, an aberration, so unique that its ‘success’ stunned even Osama bin Laden.” I don't think 9/11 was at all unique. Planting bombs (remember those anthrax-laced letters that followed on 9/11's heels), provoking others to do so (don't forget the Tsarnaev brothers) and murdering people in their beds (drone attacks) have always been among their favorite dirty little tricks. They still are. If you don't believe that these people have no moral scruples whatsoever and will resort to any act of terrorism, read the Cointelpro Papers. Oh, and as always, their favorite targets are still practitioners of non-violent civil-disobedience — folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who comprise the most dangerous threat to the established order.
Much is being made of Edward Snowden; but lets not forget the heroes that came before him: Julian Assange, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, John Kiriakou and above all, Tim DeChristopher — people who at great risk refused to be silenced.
Once the cat is out of the bag; it's impossible to stuff the cat back in. People are catching on; and once people catch on, you can't run a racket anymore. You can kill the messenger; but you can't kill the message.
And what am I going to do? Keep on vigiling, writing, cartooning, suing... Just a little pin prick you say; but thousands and thousands of little pin pricks together can make a giant wound that will at least disable the monster. After all, what can they do to me? Kill me. Torture me. Steal all that I own. Expose all the dirty little skeletons in my closet. And for what? When I can no longer fight, there will be others.
I LOVE TREES
A new study shows that old growth trees are far more important in sequestering carbon than previously thought. Says co-author Adrian Das: “It is as if the star players on your favorite sports team were a bunch of 90-year-olds.” Those of you who helped to save the 150-year-old trees in Buehler Park, give yourself a pat on the back.
Meanwhile, Palestinians who seek to replant some of the million trees which Israel has destroyed, come under Israeli fire with tear-gas and live ammunition.
WHAT'S NEW IN AFGHANISTAN?
Child malnutrition, hunger and starvation continue to worsen in Afghanistan.
US Marines shoot and kill four-year-old; blame “poor visibility”.
Seven children die in US airstrike.
21 foreigners die in Taliban raid. (See previous three paragraphs in case you wonder why.)
January 14, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SAVAGERY AND SILENCE
Writing about a particularly brutal gang-rape of a teenager in Richmond, California in 2009, Sandy LeonVest remarked, “In America -- in my country -- I fear we are losing the battle for our humanity. Some say we have already lost it. Deep down I think they may be right.”
LeonVest writes well; but this article is particularly important. Every now and then I reread it, particularly when I write about rape and dehumanization.
In Maryville, Missouri, the case of the rape of Daisy Coleman is now closed. Matthew Barnett, high-school football star from a well-connected political family and grandson of a former state representative, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment after raping then 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, and leaving her lying drunk on her front lawn in sub-zero weather. Barnett (17 at the time) admits to having sex with Coleman; but claims it was consensual. The special prosecutor has accepted a guilty plea on one count of misdemeanor child endangerment and has closed the case.
Ok. At 14, Coleman was at the age of consent? After having sex with her, leaving Coleman outside drunk in freezing weather is a misdemeanor? What about the photos of Coleman being raped that were passed around the school? What of the internet harassment? What of the Coleman family being driven out of Maryville? What of the Coleman home mysteriously burning down?
Had Daisy Coleman remained silent; had this case not gone viral on the internet and been taken up by advocacy groups, such as Ultraviolet; it would have been forgotten long ago. No charges at all would have been brought against Barnett. Coleman, along with so many other victims of our culture of “savagery and silence,” would have been forgotten.
Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.
Hang in their Daisy! You are an inspiration to us all. Don't let their savagery silence you.
Please consider signing a card for Daisy.
MORE SAVAGERY AND SILENCE
Abby Zimet writes, “Astonishingly, infuriatingly, two former Fullerton, California cops have been acquitted on all charges after savagely beating to death Kelly Thomas, 37, a mentally ill homeless man who died five days after being set upon by Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli and four other officers.”
I can agree with “infuriatingly,” but not with “astonishingly.” “Savagery and Silence” has become so prevalent in our culture that I doubt that it could ever astonish me again. A big part of the picture is that there is Zero accountability. If “law enforcement” was held accountable for it's savagery; their would be a whole lot less of it.
If you have a strong stomach, watch the video of Fullerton's finest beating and tasering an unarmed man to death as he screams for help.
Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.
STILL MORE SAVAGERY AND SILENCE
And of course we continue to kill brides and grooms and wedding guests in far off places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
We send missiles and drones to the Maliki regime in Iraq; which will likely be used to destroy the city of Fallujah which we already destroyed twice in 2004 with depleted uranium and white phosphorus, sending the prevalence of cancers and birth defects sky high.
We still finance with weapons and money Israel's blockade on Gaza where 1.6 million people are held in the world's largest open-air prison in horrendous conditions.
And we continue to hold 155 prisoners in torturous conditions in Guantanamo, most without any charge of wrongdoing.
And much more.
Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.
January 7, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
2013 CLIMATE HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS
Tcktcktck has put together two short articles of climate highlights and lowlights. The highlights are that people are coming together and opposing the corporations and governments responsible for global warming and even some government and corporate entities are coming abord. The lowlights are that increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mean global temperatures, and extreme weather events continue.
2013 WAR AND PEACE HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS
I haven't seen anyone put an article like this together, so I'll take a stab at it. Highlights are that peaceful people prevented a war against Syria, forced the Western powers to negotiate with Iran, and quite possibly demonstrated to Karzai that the best course of action would be to stand up to the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Lowlights are that the bloated US military budget continues into FY2014 unabated and a majority in the United States still support drone strikes. What did I miss? Write in and let me know.
INVASION OF THE POLAR VORTEX
Phelps County is still digging out from the invasion of the polar vortex which plunged temperatures into the negative. Rolla schools are still closed. Even my grandson is wondering when the schools will reopen.
Predictably, the global warming deniers and the fossil-fuel-industry lackeys are saying that this disproves global warming. Not so. While we have been freezing, Australia has been baking in far-above-normal temperatures. Well, NOAA predicts temperatures in Rolla will be back to about normal. Australia might not be so lucky. 2013 was the hottest year ever in Australia; and the heat continues into 2014 without a let-up.
If you want to read about the polar vortex and our recent cold weather, check out the weather underground.
I've lived in the Rolla Area for 32 years. I can remember ice that stayed on the ground for almost a month, weather as cold as negative 20 that lasted for a week and a freak late-March snowstorm that dumped 23 inches of snow on the Rolla area. Don't confuse weather with climate. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.
December 31, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WAR AGAINST AFGHANISTAN IS MOST UNPOPULAR WAR IN US HISTORY
According to an end-of-year CNN/ORC poll, support in the US for the War against Afghanistan has tanked to 17%, with 82% saying they oppose the War. This makes Afghanistan not only the longest war in US history (over 12 years); but also the most unpopular.
CNN's findings seem to pretty closely mirror opinions among those who drive past our weekly peace vigils, although I would guess at least 90% oppose the War.
As one of the few who opposed the War against Afghanistan from before it began and declared publicly (to derisive cries of traitor) that it would be a disaster for the United States, I wonder why CNN and the New York Times aren't asking me for interviews and requesting op-eds. Oh, well; I'd rather write for the Rolla Peace Newsletter anyway.
TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES
The last three Uighur inmates at Guantanamo have been freed and transferred to Slovakia. (Vive Slovakia!!!!) Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper and Saidullah Khalik have been held in Guantanamo and subjected to “torturous interrogation” for twelve years without being charged with a single crime. Guantanamo still boasts 155 inmates, most having never been charged with anything. US prisons lead the world with 2.24 million captives, about half being held for non-violent victimless crimes.
It is past time to put into practice Isaiah's famous prophecy:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” —Isaiah 61:1-2 (KJV)MILITARY ROLLING IN $$$$
While we are all being asked to tighten our belts some more, (with those of us with the least, having to tighten the most) the military is being lavished with an extra $30 billion. As unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, the military gets a whopping $607 billion in Fiscal 2014.
December 24, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES
Here is a story of War and Christmas time that I wrote for the Rolla Daily News six years ago. It bears repeating every year, especially this year which is the 99th anniversary of the 1914 World War I outbreak of Peace. The article is based partially on a song of the same name by John McCutcheon and partially on the events that led up to the 1890 massacre of 350 Lakotas at Wounded Knee.
EVOLUTION, MONOTREMES, CATS AND SARAH PALIN
If you like evolution, monotremes, cats or Sarah Palin you might like this cartoon and the two monotreme poems posted with it.
YET ANOTHER DUMB WAR; YET ANOTHER DUMB DRONE STRIKE
While we were all so busy preparing for our yearly Christmas orgy, Barack Obama launched yet another war on an impoverished nation; and yet another deadly drone strike on a wedding party. Merry Christmas one and all!
December 17, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DAHR JAMAIL CONSIDERS EXTINCTION
Unlike those folks who work for the New York Times and the Washington Post (not to mention the Rolla Daily News), Dahr Jamail is a REAL REPORTER. Back in 2004, Jamail was the only westerner reporting from the ground as the US military totally destroyed the Iraqi city of Fallujah, twice.
Jamail turns his attention to climate change and the possibility (no, make that the probability) (no, make that the near certainty) of near human extinction on the planet Earth over a very short period of time. Jamail interviews the “outliers” like Guy McPherson, climate scientists who are saying that we are headed for nothing less than a mass die-off similar to the Permian Extinction, where an estimated 95% of all species went belly-up; and there is really very little chance, if any, of avoiding it.
This is kind of what I've been saying for over ten years; so it's nice to find someone of Jamail's stature reporting on climate induced extinction and coming to about the same conclusions I did. Jamail ends his article wondering:
“I am 45 years old, and I often wonder how my generation will survive the impending climate crisis. ... Above all, I wonder how coming generations will survive.”
Me? I don't wonder any more. I try to spend as much time as I can with young children. It doesn't make up for the world that my generation has stolen from them. But, perhaps I can teach some young child a skill that will help the child to survive the mass-extinction event that is already on its way.
Jamail's article is somewhat long; but READ IT ANYWAY!
SUPPORTING THE TROOPS
Apparently, back in March 2011, when the great earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear complex, some folks forgot to support the sailors aboard the USS Reagan. Unknown to the crew of the Reagan, they drank, cooked with and bathed in radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear complex for a month before they were finally informed of the danger. Dozens of crew members have been diagnosed with leukemia, testicular and thyroid cancer.
Among those who didn't support the troops are our friends at Missouri S&T who held a public forum two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami to inform the public that there was no real danger from Fukushima and the authorities had everything under control.
AND A LITTLE GOOD NEWS!
Sorry to write all this depressing stuff so soon before Christmas. Anyway, here are two pieces of good news; little to be sure, but it's the little things that count. Remember that when Jesus was born, he was a little baby lying in a manger, warmed by the ox and the ass and other barnyard animals:
Due to international protest, Israel's Prawer Plan to displace tens of thousands of Israeli bedouins from the Negev has been nixed, at least for now.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, often referred to as NAFTA on steroids, which would give corporations the right to sue local governments if they tried to protect public health and the environment is also on hold, due to international revulsion.
December 10, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHAT'S IN A TEST?
Diane Ravitch has a lot to say about education and I love reading her articles. Ravitch was a major inspiration for my “No Child's Left Behind” cartoons: here and here. In her latest, What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores, Ravitch discusses our poor showing on International Tests and explains why it does not matter. She points out that the performance of the USA on International Tests have always been poor to middlin'; and if the USA's continued poor performance in these tests shows anything, it is the total failure of 12 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes testing to accomplish anything, even their primary goal of raising our children's test scores.
Here's a personal observation:
When I was in primary and secondary school, we just assumed that the US system of education was the best in the world. Why? Because all our parents and teachers said so. Then in 1957 came sputnik and all of a sudden the Russians had beaten us at putting a satellite in orbit, and our whole world view came crashing down. I don't recall much in the way of finger-pointing or blaming it on teachers or parents or schools or talk of school vouchers or high-stakes testing or privatizing public education. Instead, we pulled together, put massive resources into mathematics and science education. It turned out we weren't really so far behind the Russians and soon caught up and surpassed them in space exploration.
Compare this response to our response to the current so-called crisis in education. I'm not sure there was a problem in the first place; but through finger pointing, high-stakes testing and privatization, we've sure created a massive problem. Solving it will be up to us. If we wait on the government and the “experts”, the problem will only get worse.
December 3, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OUR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOCIETY
WAR HAS COME HOMETrivializing Peace by Robert Koehler, built around the killing of a 13-year-old boy holding a toy gun by a deputy sheriff in Sonoma County, California, is a MUST READ. Ron David in “Arabs & Israel for Beginners” noted, “One of the dirty little ironies of war is that it matters less who wins the war than where it was fought.”
Well, there's the problem with the global war on terror. It's not just fought over there. It's fought here, there and everywhere. Incidents like this have become all too common. Nobody wins.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, AFGHANISTAN!While many of us enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings, another US drone strike in Afghanistan killed another child. Happy Thanksgiving, Afghanistan!
WALMART: NO GOOD SAMARITANS WELCOMEThe parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is certainly a Christmas favorite; but not at Walmart. Walmart's policy is don't get involved, call security; and they enforce it! Walmart employee, Kristopher Oswald, tried to be the Good Samaritan and help out in a possibly life-threatening situation, and got fired from his barely more than minimum wage job for it.
BLACKMAIL ANYONE?Next time you think about looking at some good-ol'-fashion internet porn; think twice. The NSA is capturing your every click; and if you don't do exactly as they wish, they may disclose your online habits to the public.
November 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
LOTS OF GOOD NEWS THIS WEEK
The Zero OptionAfghan president Hamid Karzai has shown some surprising cojones. Citing a “lack of trust,” he refused to sign a lopsided treaty which would allow US troops to remain in Afghanistan long after the 2014 withdrawal deadline. National Security Advisor Susan Rice huffed and puffed and would have blown the house in had she been capable, but instead threatened to withdraw all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan (The Zero option). Nice going, Susan! Now follow through on your threat. Whatever chaos and violent will ensue in Afghanistan will be nothing compared to the past 12 years of war, invasion and occupation.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote:
“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.”Hmmmm, perhaps not so far from wrong.
An Extraordinary BreakthroughWilliam Beeman points out that, while largely symbolic, the agreement between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, is nonetheless an historic breakthrough. Iran and the West are talking to each other seriously, for the first time in 34 years. This accord could lead to far more substantive agreements in the near future.
Not mentioned by Beeman is the groundwork done by the handful of us who have been holding weekly vigils for peace at the Rolla Post Office for almost seven years, and the millions of others around the world who have also been campaigning loudly for World Peace. It is unlikely that this historic accord would have happened without a vibrant world-wide grassroots movement for World Peace.
NGOs and Poor Nations Walk Out of Climate Conference“Shrouded in farce” is an excellent description of the COP-19 climate conference. The rich polluting nation have shown less and less interest each year in saving our warming planet, and this year the NGOs and poor nations decided they had had enough of this farce, and walked out. The rich nations and the corporations which control them never had any intention of saving the Earth. Their only concern seems to be how to stall any substantive agreement until they get all those trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels out of the ground and sold on the market. That is far more important to them then trying to preserve the climate that has made possible what we sometimes refer to as “civilization.”
I view the walkout as very positive. Maybe now that the farce has been exposed for what it is, we can actually do something to save our planet. Click here to find out who the world's 90 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are.
November 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NATURE BATS LAST III
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)Ok. Here it is for the third time in three months — the same quote from Heart of Darkness. This time in reference to Typhoon Haiyan, perhaps the most destructive typhoon mankind has ever encountered. It's too early to count the dead, perhaps 10,000, and the cost of the destruction, perhaps in the billions of dollars. This, along with so many other extreme weather events we have been witnessing: Hurricane Sandy, the great drought of Summer 2012, the unprecedented Colorado Flood 3 months ago, the extreme South Dakota blizzard this Fall ... appears to be a harbinger of things to come. Extreme weather events you can count on!
THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO
“To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)Well, alright, here's another quote from Heart of Darkness. Perhaps a partial answer to the question: “How can people knowingly destroy humanity's planetary support system for nothing more than some ephemeral wealth and power that will in any case be gone tomorrow.” Conrad gives us a one sentence answer. Richard Smith gives us a somewhat longer answer in his indictment of the Capitalist system, “Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth” and then there is Howard Zinn's aphorism, “To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.” Power corrupts to the point that the powerful simply consider it their birthright to trash the Earth and render it barely habitable for mankind.
TO CLOSE A PRISON
“They were called criminals, and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)Yet another quote from Heart of Darkness. Sweden is closing four (Yes, FOUR!) prisons. It seems they are not needed any more as Sweden's incarceration rate continues to fall in the wake of more rational sentencing policies. Sweden's incarceration rate is 67 per 100,000 and is now dropping at a rate of 6% per year . Here in the United States we are Numero Uno, leading the world with well over 2 million people behind bars, an incarceration rate of 716 per 100,000. With a prison system that stresses profit rather than rehabilitation, you can get a life sentence in the United States for stealing a $159 jacket or facilitating a $10 marijuana sale.
November 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOW WE TREAT OUR VETERANS
If you are thinking of joining the military or know someone who is, then this 15 minute Democracy Now interview with Ann Jones is a MUST READ. Jones describes how we offer our injured veterans nothing more than a drugged escape from their physical and psychological pain. Statistic: In 2012 more US soldiers killed themselves than lost their lives to an enemy.
POLICE STATE 101
You could be stopped for a minor traffic office, and then on the whim of a dog, subjected to forced anal penetration, x-rays, sedation and colonoscopy — and it's unlikely that you would have any recourse against your tormenters — either in the medical, legal or law-enforcement professions. And then you could be billed for all these unwanted medical procedures.
Long-time environmental activist, David Susuki, discusses the joys and health benefits of getting out and digging in the dirt. Me, I always feel better, at least mentally and emotionally, after working in the yard, or at least playing with my indoor plants which seem to be taking over the house.
November 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
JOANNE B. MAYBERRY 1926-2013
Judge Joanne Mayberry passed away on October 28. Joanne was Rolla Municipal Judge from 1975 to 1996. Without a formal degree in law, Joanne rewrote the rule book for Missouri's Municipal Courts. When she took office, Rolla's Municipal Court had no accounting system. No one knew what fines were taken in; nor where the money went. Children were incarcerated in the city jail along with their parents. Joanne changed all that. She closed down the city jail and instituted a Municipal Court accounting system. Joanne cared about the people who came before her in court. She exemplified all the qualities one should expect, but seldom finds, in judges today.
Some in the city resented her. On her retirement, they attempted to deny her a pension. She took the city of Rolla, to which she had given so much, to court; and she won. To me, Joanne personifies Albert Einstein's aphorism, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Read Edward Calvin's tribute to Joanne Mayberry reprinted in the No Standing News from the Newsletter of the Missouri Municipal & Associate Circuit Judges Association. Robert Nash's editorial comments are well worth reading too.
Rest in peace, Joanne. We will miss you.
ONE HELLUVA WAY TO BOIL WATER
Whether or not you believe in prayer, please join me in praying for the success of Tokyo Electric (TEPCO)'s operation to remove fuel rods from the damaged spent fuel pool of unit four of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. This operation, which could begin in a few days has never before been attempted, and failure could release 15,000 times the radiation of the nuclear bomb the United States detonated over Hiroshima in 1945. To make matters worse, TEPCO has done practically nothing right since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged the nuclear complex.
Watch this 20 minute video of Arnie Gunderson discussing the current situation at Fukushima.
I find it incredible, that given the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe, politicians continues to blather about Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions; while world leaders are not even discussing complete worldwide nuclear disarmament and the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants.
The title of this snippet is from another famous Albert Einstein saying, “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!”
Nothing exemplifies the heartless arrogance of our political establishment more than this incident. Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, 9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair, came to Washington, DC to speak at a House of Representatives hearing on our illegal drone war. Of our 435 representatives, only five could be troubled to attend and listen to these innocent victims give a first-hand account of the U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq's mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children.
October 29, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
VEOLIA DUMPEDA LITTLE GOOD NEWS
Many thought it was a done deal. St. Louis was about to give away its water department to Veolia, an environmental bad actor, which in order to increase its profit margin, poisoned drinking water in Kentucky with diesel fuel and in violation of a UN resolution operates a landfill for Israeli garbage in Palestine.
But St. Louis mayor Francis Slay wasn't counting on the Dump Veolia Coalition made up of environmental, peace, justice, empowerment and Palestinian solidarity organizations. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted to nix the contract and Veolia has withdrawn — at least for now.
WEANING OURSELVES FROM FOSSIL FUELS WOULD BE EASY...
Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute shows how easy it would be to wean ourselves from our dependence on fossil fuels. Sadly the Wall Street moguls prefer short-term profits from fossil fuels to saving the Earth from pollution and Climate Chaos. That leaves it up to us. We've done it before and can do it again.
SMALL BUSINESSES MAKING A COMEBACK
People are getting tired of Wal-marts and other "big box" retailers. People want to buy locally and small shops are making a comeback.
October 22, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CONGRESS MEETS DR. SEUSS
Three weeks ago while discussing The Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) Senator Ted Cruz wowed the Senate with a recitation of Dr. Seuss's “Green Eggs and Ham”. Some of my more liberal friends took offense; but I think reading Dr. Seuss to Congress is an excellent idea, and ought to continue. After all, we could all learn a lot from The Good Doctor.
“Green Eggs and Ham” is all about trying something new and finding out that you like it. Presumably Ted Cruz was saying, lets try Obamacare, we might like it. Congress went along with Ted's recommendation, and it looks like many who had no health insurance, will now get a chance to try it; and might even like it.
I love reading Dr. Seuss to young children. For Halloween, I've been reading “What Was I Scared Of?” to my kindergarten classes. In this story, the main character is afraid of a pair of empty pants. At the end he finds that the pants were just as afraid of him and he was of them; and they become friends. Next time Congress discusses bombing some hapless country because they might be harboring terrorists or developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd like to read “What Was I Scared Of?” to them.
The next time Congress talks about American Exceptionalism, I'd like to read them “The Big Brag”. In this story, the rabbit brags that he's the best animal because of his exceptional hearing. Then the bear brags that he is the best animal because of his exceptional sense of smell. Then a worm claims to be better than both of them because of his keen eyesight. He tells the rabbit and the bear all the places he's seen and ends,
“And I kept right on looking and looking untilI could also read this when the Repugnants and the Dementeds in Congress both claim to be better than the other.
And the next time Congress discusses putting more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, I'd like to read them “The Oobleck”. In this story, King Derwin gets his magicians (when I read the story, they are scientists) to make oobleck, sticky green goo which falls from the sky. The oobleck melts away only when the King cries, I'm sorry and its all my fault. Maybe things would get better if Congress would cry like King Derwin, I'm sorry and it's all my fault.
And the next time Congress claims they can't afford to clean up the superfund sites, I'd read them “The Cat in the Hat”. Like Congress, the Cat enters where he is not invited and makes a big mess; but unlike Congress, in the end the Cat cleans up his mess.
There are many more excellent choices. Here's four of them:
“The Butter Battle Book,” about militarism and mutually assured destruction.
“Yertle the Turtle” about King Yertle who makes all the turtles stand on each other's back to build him a throne. At the end, the turtle on the bottom burps and King Yurtle falls off his throne head first in the mud.
“The Lorax” about how capitalism and greed destroy planet Earth.
And finally, “Your Only Old Once” about our corporate dominated health care system — the worst that money can buy.
I'd go to Washington and read Dr. Seuss to Congress; but I'd have to give up reading to my kindergarteners. I think I'll stick with the kindergarteners. Unlike Congress, they are eager learners and listen well.
October 15, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NATURE BATS LAST
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)I used this quote from “Heart of Darkness” last month in reference to the great Colorado flood. Today I use it again, this time in reference to an unprecedented storm that struck western South Dakota two weeks ago. I hate to overuse such writing, but it does seem to capture the heart of the matter so well.
Two weeks ago western South Dakota was hit by an unprecedented early Fall blizzard. Blizzards are nothing new to western South Dakota, but never this strong and this early in the year. Up to 100,000 cows died in the storm totally wiping out whole ranches.
Meanwhile the government that's supposed to help people during weather emergencies was out to lunch; and the Farm Bill which is supposed to help farmers and ranchers in emergencies has not been reauthorized by Congress. But House members responsible for shutting the government down, still receive their salaries and enjoy perks like their taxpayer funded health club, complete with swimming pool, sauna and steam room. No wonder Congress has a dismal 5% approval rating.
And as I write, another storm, “once in a decade” typhoon Wipha, is passing close to the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex which according to Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) is “not under control” and leaking tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. What further damage Wipha does to the precarious Fukushima nuclear complex is yet to be seen.
And some folks still say that human-induced climate change is a hoax!
October 8, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AN ARMY OF ONE
Yesterday our war against Afghanistan entered it's 13th year. Judging by the responses we receive at our peace vigils, the vast majority of us here in the United States want this war over and our troops brought home immediately.
Here is a sobering article by Ann Jones, pointing out the expense and difficulty of extricating ourselves from Afghanistan and the likely sequel to the official end of America's Afghan War. Ann Jones also points out that even assuming that we declare victory in 2014 and come home; for many in Afghanistan and the United States the war will be far from over.
And here is an article about the lone man to extricate himself alive from the 1839 British invasion of Afghanistan. When asked “Where is the Army?”, more dead than alive, Assistant Surgeon William Brydon replied: “I am the Army.”
October 1, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THERE'S A HOLE IN THE BUCKET
30 months after the tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, TEPCO has finally admitting that the situation at Fukushima is “not under control”. Now more bad news: workers have found a hole in the barrier that attempts to keep radioactivity from the damaged complex contained in the harbor.
Commentator Harvey Wasserman predicts we have maybe two months before a disaster strikes that could spread 15,000 Hiroshimas (around 225,000 kilotons) worth of radioactivity around the world. I don't know about the two month limit, but Wasserman has the rest of it right. It's a given that another disaster at Fukushima is just waiting to happen, and Tokyo Electric and the Japanese government are impotent to stop it.
Wasserman is right about another thing too. Fukushima requires an immediate international response which is unlikely to come as the world is too busy with more important things like fighting wars and developing fossil fuel resources that are the primary cause of climate disaster — and here in the “indispensable nation,” we can't even keep the government running.
The title of this snippet, “There's a Hole in the Bucket,” is also the title of a satirical folk song based on an absurd vicious circle, or “Catch 22” as Joseph Heller would have it. Governments, militaries and corporations are famous for creating such vicious circles, as has the nuclear power industry and its supporters in government.
There are many versions of Hole in the Bucket, but my favorite is the Sesame Street version. I think our government could learn a lot from Sesame Street. In fact, I endorsed Big Bird for president last year. Sadly, my countrymen rejected Big Bird in favor of a lesser intellect.
MARISSA ALEXANDER GETS A NEW TRIAL
Marissa Alexander who got a 20 years sentence for firing a warning shot into a wall to scare away an abusive husband, will get a new trial. It appears that Judge James H. Daniel improperly instructed the jury that to be exonerated, Alexander had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she shot the wall in self defense. On appeal, the appellate court ruled: “[T]he trial court improperly transmuted the prosecution’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt into a burden on the appellant to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.” (And what law school did you say you graduated from, Judge Daniel? University of Florida Law School? Hmmmm.)
The Florida State Attorney's Office remarked, “The defendant's conviction was reversed on a legal technicality.” So the Right to be considered innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is just a legal technicality? No wonder our prisons are filled with over 2 million people! Without the “legal technicalities” inscribed in the Bill of Rights which are so often ignored by lawmakers and judges, I suspect our prison population would quickly mushroom to 5 or 10 million.
Many people have wondered how George Zimmerman, who got out of his car to pick a fight with Trayvon Martin and then shot and killed him under very suspicious circumstances, could be exonerated, while Marissa Alexander who fired a shot into a wall injuring nobody could be guilty of a crime that carries a mandatory 20 year sentence. Well? Zimmerman is a white male (Yes, I know, a white Hispanic male) and Alexander is a black female. Do you suppose that might have something to do with it?
I featured Marissa Alexander in a cartoon — probably my most offensive cartoon yet. I don't mind offending people — especially people I find offensive. Sometimes you just have to be offensive to get people's attention.
KICKING THE VERY EARTH TO PIECES
“He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)The big news on the climate front is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says its “unequivocal” and “unprecedented”: the Earth is heating up and we humans are the primary cause of it. And if we don't act now, things will only get worse .
Most serious commentators such as Jeff Masters seem to believe that there is still time to take action to save our global civilization.
I disagree. I've been hearing this tune for many many years. We must act now, or all is lost. If we do this, that and these other things (the list gets longer and more dire each year) we can go on living our lives pretty much in the way we are accustomed to. I'm tired of this charade. We passed the point of no return at least 10 years ago, if not before.
Like Joseph Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, we have “kicked the very earth to pieces.” And like Mr. Kurtz, our souls have gone mad and we are in danger of dying with the cry “The horror! The horror!” on our breath.
Good science is not done by committee. If Einstein had to work with a committee like the IPCC, we would have no theory of relativity. The IPCC has always underestimated the danger and continues to do so.
The fact is that even if it were possible to put things back together in some semblance of the way they were (and there is certainly no assurance that there is) the will is not there. We prefer to bury our heads in the sand as we kick the very earth to pieces.
The question we should be asking is not “How can we save our modern global civilization?” but “What comes next?” What comes after nature reclaims the planet; and it will. Humans have been singularly inept at exterminating many species they consider pests — rats, ticks, cockroaches, mosquitos, bark beetles, the HIV virus — just to name a few. We may, indeed, exterminate ourselves and many other species; but we are unlikely to exterminate all life on Earth.
Joseph Conrad expressed this thought too in Heart of Darkness:
“And outside, the silent wilderness ... struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”I am an incurable optimist. I do not believe that we will succeed in exterminating the entire human species: our modern global civilization, certainly; but that may be a boon rather than a loss. I suspect a few million of us might survive the collapse. And perhaps that remnant will learn to live in harmony with each other, the planet, and the myriad species which also inhabit the Earth. Let it be so!
September 24, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: MIKO PELED VIDEO
Two readers have sent in this video of Miko Peled, an Israeli Jew promoting a democratic Israel with equal-rights for all including Arab-Israelis and those living in Israeli-occupied Palestine. It's a good video and well-worth watching.
For my money, the best book on Palestine and Israel is still Ron David's “Arabs and Israel for Beginners”. It takes you from the time of Abraham to 1993 in a no-holds barred almost comic-strip form. It was published in 1993; but not much has happened since then except for more Israeli atrocities and that people in the United States are finally wising up to the true nature of the State of Israel.
BEATING SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES AND SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS
From Muslim Peacemaker Teams and the Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project comes news of a Global Day of Peace celebration in Najaf, Iraq, in which children donated their toy weapons to be destroyed in the town square by a giant asphalt-rolling machine. MPT/IARP don't have the photos posted yet, so I posted this one on my website. Why don't we do something like this in cities throughout the United States?
In his 45 minute speech before the UN General Assembly (other world leaders stayed within their allotted 15 minutes), Obama once again appealed to the world to recognize how “exceptional” the United States of America is. Basically, Obama argued that in spite of all the terrible goings-on in the world, without the exceptional United States, the world would surely be even more terrible.
In truth, the United States is no more exceptional than any other empire the world has ever known; except perhaps that modern technology allows us to be even more brutal than past empires. No other country has ever dropped a nuclear bomb as the United States did on Japan; or poisoned another country with dioxin to the extent that the United States did to Vietnam; or terrorized another country with remote-controlled bombs for 12 long years as the United States is still doing to Afghanistan.
This doesn't mean that the Romans, the British, the French, the Nazis and the Soviets would not have liked to do the same; only that they did not have the capability. History shows that empires destroy and destroy and destroy until, though ruthlessness, greed and corruption, they destroy themselves, as the United States is in the process of doing now.
If the United States were truly exceptional, we would have used our exceptional position as the greatest economic and military power the world has ever known to end war, eradicate hunger, reverse global warming, and bring about a world in which Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness would be inalienable Rights for all people everywhere.
Well, Mr. Obama, perhaps you would agree that the United States is not that exceptional.
September 17, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SUPPOSE THEY GAVE A WAR AND NO ONE CAME
Due to popular demand, the war against Syria has been postponed.
Let no one ever say again: It's a waste of time to go to demonstrations, sign petitions, call and email your elected representatives, and otherwise protest non-violently. The people of the world have spoken, and their leaders listened: not because they wanted to; but because they had to. And we did it all non-violently — without firing a single gun, or throwing a single rock.
Here, again, are the poll results from last week before Obama announced the postponement of his war against Syria: 55% against military strikes on Syria even if Congress approves. 72% thought air strikes against Syria would not achieve significant goals for the US.
It really ought not to be a question of whether non-violence works. Consider the alternative: our culture of violence has led to perpetual war without end, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, exponentially growing inequalities between a small elite and the rest of us, rampant police and judicial abuse of the powerless, poverty, pollution, climate change, and much more.
If non-violence doesn't work, we are in serious trouble; because violence sure doesn't work either.
I love to quote scripture, particularly when it appears to presage current events. So here is the verse du jour from the prophet Ezekiel 7:14: “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”
“PREPARE CHAINS FOR MY PEOPLE...
...for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.” —Ezekiel 7:23
There is much prophecy in Ezekiel 7 pertaining to the 21st Century United States. The Chris Hedges article on police and judicial violence against the poor and minorities which Helen recommends is, like much of Hedges' writing, a must read. But Hedges is wrong about one thing. Police violence has already arrived in many middle-class white communities.
Here is a video of a white woman who, although totally non-threatening, presenting no danger to the police or anyone else, is thrown to the pavement so hard that her face is broken, after which the police continue to manhandle her while she screams in pain.
Confronted with the video, a spokesperson for the Tallahassee police remarked, “We stand by our practices that we have in place and we also stand by the procedures that we have in place.”
State Attorney Willie Meggs found the video “very disturbing.” I wonder if he finds it disturbing enough to file criminal charges against the offending police officers.
This account from The Raw Story contains a very graphic photo and short clip of the arrest from the police dashcam video. Commondreams has posted the entire 45 minute video of the arrest.
Police violence, like war, has become so commonplace in our society, that the police don't even bother to turn off the video cameras before they beat up a citizen. There is absolutely no accountability.
As Hedges notes: so many of the 2.2 million prisoners we hold have been wrongly arrested, poorly represented, convicted on false or flimsy evidence, tortured, subjected to violence, and otherwise mistreated in a judicial system that is heavily weighted against those with no wealth or power. On the other hand, mass murderers, war criminals and others who have betrayed the public trust are rewarded lavishly. Personally, I see no other just solution than, in the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
A FLOOD OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)Last week's Colorado flood has been described variously as a flood of Biblical proportions and a once-in-a-thousand-year event.
We've been getting a lot of those once-in-a-thousand-year events lately. Colorado in particular has been getting more than its share. Fueled by a warming climate, Colorado was hit first by drought, wildfires, and bark beetles — all three of which decimated the forest cover which provides a bulwark against flooding; and now, a flood of biblical proportions sweeps over that parched, bare, drought-stricken land. The worst of it, I fear, is yet to come. There is so much toxic pollution in the area. Rocky Flats, one of the most polluted pieces of real estate in the world lies nearby, above Denver. How much of that pollution has been washed downstream by the flood? Where did it all end up? I suspect we'll never know the true extent of it.
Interestingly enough, Boulder, one of the hardest hit communities, is home to the University of Colorado and boasts the “highest density of climate scientists in the world.” Apparently, climate scientists are as susceptible to climate-induced disaster as anyone else. I find some poetic justice in this. We're all on this planet together; and if we can't stop fighting wars and doing violence to the Earth and to each other, we are all going down together. As Ben Franklin famously noted: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
September 10, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
"HISTORY TEACHES THAT EMPIRES ALWAYS DEVOUR THEMSELVES"
With his usual clarity, in an open letter to Barack Obama, Ralph Nader lays out the folly of starting a war against Syria. Just think, in 2008 we could have elected Ralph Nader to be our president instead of Barack Obama. The title of this snippet is a quote from Ralph's letter.
As Obama pushes hard for another war, it's instructive to look at his previous war against Libya. Digby (aka Heather Parton) reviews a much longer article by Greg Shupak detailing the war crimes and human-rights violations so rampant in that war of choice. Digby concluded that a Syrian intervention would, like the Libyan intervention, be fraught with war crimes and that “Humanitarian Intervention” is simply the oxymoron of the day.
TORTURE "R" US
After reading Digby's article referenced above, I looked for more of Digby's writing, and found this article on taser murders. Last month I wrote about the murder of Israel Hernandez by police with tasers. Digby gives us several more instances of murder by taser. She concludes:
“Representatives of the government torture innocent citizens into unconsciousness, on camera, in United States courtrooms with tasers. They use them on prisoners and on motorists and on political protesters and bicycle riders, on mentally ill and handicapped people and on children. And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.”COMFORT WOMEN
No sooner had I wrote, “The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand.” in last weeks newsletter, when I received an email asking me to add my name to a petition condemning Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto for stating, “Anyone can understand that the system of comfort women [during World War II] was necessary to provide respite for a group of high-strung, rough and tumble crowd of men braving their lives under a storm of bullets,” part of “a necessary system to maintain military discipline.” Click here.
Sorry, I can't condemn mayor Hashimoto's statement because it's true. I'll say it again, “The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand.” I can and do condemn the culture of rape and militarism.
CLIMATE CHANGE NOT SO SIMPLE
The California Rim Fire which has burned for weeks threatening San Francisco's water supply, has grown over the weekend and is still only 80% contained. A reader's comment under a news article caught my attention:
“A strange weather event hit the Sierras in late June. Remnants of a typhoon that pounded Japan blew across the Pacific to California. The typhoon was unusual. The remnant low pounded the Sierras with several inches of rain. Normally the Sierras go through the summer seeing no precipitation other than fog at night.Mess with nature's precarious balance and you pay. Nature bats last.
STUCK IN LODI AGAIN
A small boy, six to eight years old, walked up to a SWAT police officer at a Lodi, California children's reading event where the police were showing off all their spiffy new military hardware, pulled the trigger on the policemen's gun, still in it's holster, and shot the policeman in the leg. The gun, a Glock 35, had no external safety.
Two questions come to mind:
1. Why were SWAT officers showing off their spiffy new military hardware at a children's reading event?It seems that the police want to find the child so they can “question” him and find out his motives.
Here's a story of how seven-year-old Wilson Reyes was questioned by police after being accused of bullying and stealing five dollars (which it turns out he didn't steal after all).
Maybe it's best they don't find the child.
The title of this snippet is from a Creedence Clearwater Revival song.
September 3, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TOUGH ON RAPE
Judge Todd Baugh of Billings, Montana sentenced 54-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold to 30 days in prison for raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales. In explaining his sentence, the judge remarked that Morales was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her schoolteacher rapist. Her relationship with Rambold was a contributing factor in Morales' suicide.
Not to be outdone by Judge Baugh, Yale University gave a student a one-day suspension for attempted sexual assault. All you really need to know about Yale is that George W. Bush who reads at a fourth grade level was awarded a bachelors degree by Yale.
In the June 11 newsletter, I mentioned some other incidents in which our legal system was equally tough on crimes against women.
In researching this snippet, I ran across an interesting statistic: According to the Statistics Brain, The United States rates sixth in the world in prevalence of rape (28.6/100,000). Syria, on the other hand, has the fourth lowest prevalence of rape (0.7/100,000). Maybe instead of threatening to bomb Syria, (by time you read this, the US may actually be bombing Syria) we should send a fact-finding mission to Syria to find out how they keep their rape rates so low.
In my opinion it's really quite simple. The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand. The US excels in both.
As the campaign to bomb Syria picks up steam, we should be mindful that if the Syrian government indeed used chemical weapons, it certainly would not be the first.
Our erstwhile ally, Saddam Hussein, used chemical weapons on the Iranians during the 8 year Iran-Iraq War, with blessings from the United States of course.
During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed dioxin-containing Agent Orange copiously over much of this hapless country, whose citizens and our veterans still suffer from the use of this persistent poison 52 years later.
Use by the United States of depleted uranium, white phosphorus, napalm and other chemical weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly the city of Fallujah, has been well-documented.
One has to wonder how a country that has used chemical weapons so many times with such devastating results to civilian populations could dare to speak of another country crossing a “red line” by using chemical weapons.
And one has to wonder how, after Colin Powell's phony performance at the UN on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction, John Kerry could have the audacity to accuse Syria of using chemical weapons on such flimsy evidence. As Jim Naureckas points out, it is far more likely that these chemical weapons were supplied by Saudi Arabia to rebels who did not know how to use them properly. There are, of course, other possibilities as well.
To quote comedian George Carlin: “We are not good at anything else anymore... can't build a decent car or a television, can't give good education to the kids or health care to the old, but we can bomb the shit of out any country...”
FUKUSHIMA: FAR WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
It turns out that radioactivity from the leaking water tanks at Fukushima is 18 times worse than previously announced. TEPCO's equipment could only measure up to 100 millisieverts an hour, so they announced the radiation level was around 100. It turns out that the radiation that cleanup workers were exposed to was actually 18 times that amount. Isn't that a crime to expose workers to such high radiation levels? Is anyone being charged with at least criminal negligence? Maybe exposing people to deadly radiation is like rape — not that big a deal — even if the victim ends up killing herself or dying of radiation poisoning — a crime that might merit a 30 day sentence.
Japan is finally waking up to the enormity of the radiation problem at Fukushima. Now, 30 months after the tsunami, it wants to build a wall of ice around the damaged nuclear plants to contain the radiation. Why am I so skeptical? Maybe because they tried to immobilize The Incredible Hulk by freezing him in ice; but it didn't work. Seriously, I'm not sure there is a solution. At the very least we should stop creating more dangerous radiation — IMMEDIATELY. Last month I recommended this Democracy Now interview with nuclear physicist Michio Kaku. Here it is again.
August 27, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS
A reader sends in Philip Giraldi's Homeland Security Made in Israel, detailing Israel's deep involvement in the US security apparatus. Israel's involvement is at least partially responsible for conflating Israeli and US interests and our adoption of the Israeli model, which is based to a large degree on racial profiling and the use of overwhelming force.
New York City's
Stop and Friskpolicy which has been declared unconstitutional is an excellent example of such a policy of racial profiling. Giraldi points out,
[I]t should be no surprise that the New York Police Department has an overseas office in Tel Aviv.
The Israeli-American model for dealing with terrorism is itself unusual. Historically speaking, countries that have been plagued with a terrorism problem have focused on countering that specific threat without seeking to expand the conflict. But that has not been the case for post 9/11 America.
Giraldi's article is well worth reading.
GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER
In the Rolla area, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is best known as the non-profit public-interest law center that saved Buehler Park. But Great Rivers does much more than save parks.
Great Rivers has filed suit against the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and a bunch of state legislators for illegally subverting the will of the people who voted almost two to one in favor of renewable energy, both in Phelps County and throughout the State (Proposition C, 2008).
The legislature subverted Proposition C by declaring that utilities could satisfy their renewable-energy requirement simply by buying pieces of paper that presumably represent the production of renewable energy in places as far away as California and Canada — renewable energy that does not bring jobs to Missouri and is not used by Missouri consumers. The State Legislature, The PSC, The Governor and the Secretary of State all caved in to ALEC and the anti-environmental lobby. Great Rivers is suing to restore Proposition C as passed by the voters.
Great Rivers is also suing to stop the Flanagan South Pipe Line which would carry tar-sands oil across Missouri and quite likely lead to toxic spills like the recent spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.
Visit Great Rivers website to read about other projects of Great Rivers and consider making a tax-deductible donation so that Great Rivers can help others as they helped us. Checks made out to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center can be mailed to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, 705 Olive St., Suite 614, St. Louis, MO 63101. Donations can also be made online at the Great Rivers website.
I SPOKE TOO SOON
Last week I wrote:
Global Warming has simply moved around to the other side of the globe as China and the Far East bask in unprecedented sweltering temperatures worse than what most of the United States experienced last summer.The
climate manmust have read my post. Sweltering temperatures have returned to South-Central Missouri with a vengeance. We are now in the midst of a late August heat-wave with no sign of a let-up at least until September.
This is an aspect of Climate Change that many are not aware of. Because warming of the polar regions is occurring faster than in the tropics and temperate zones, the temperature differential between poles and the equator has decreased, causing weather patterns to stall and remain longer than they used to.
August 20, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE "HIGHER" EDUCATION RIPOFF
When I was a perfesser at UMR (now Missouri S&T) I used to tell my students that my class wasn't worth anywhere near what they were paying for it. Many agreed. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi agrees too. His article is somewhat long; but well worth reading, especially if you are one of the many saddled with humongous student debt to pay off.
My solution to the debt problem, student and otherwise, is to declare a Jubilee Year and (among other things) cancel all debt and return property to its rightful owner. If you don't know what a Jubilee Year is, read Leviticus 25. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jamie Dimon.
If you don't want to read Taibbi's long article, here's three paragraphs I wrote 18 months ago that could be titled:
A Most Ungrateful Generation
45 years ago, I put myself through school without incurring a penny of debt or any other obligation. 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 three weeks at minimum wage paid my tuition and fees with money to spare; and, unlike today, minimum wage then was a living wage.
Now that I'm retired and an unpaid volunteer at the pre-school and elementary-school level, I like to think that maybe I'm giving my students back what they are paying me for.
I am not suggesting that these problems are limited to "higher" education. Here's Dianne Ravitch's latest on Common Core and other standardized testing abominations. It seems the New York State regents made the tests harder and found out that fewer students passed. Well, duhhhh. The really sad part is the regents want to blame it on stupid kids. I blame it on stupid regents.
And in Philadelphia, kids, parents and teachers are fighting back against draconian budget cuts. Says one parent,
Unless the schools get what's needed for them to educate children and not open buildings, we don't think school should open either.
GLOBAL WARMING OVER? — NOT!
Some folks in South-central Missouri are enjoying our relatively cool wet summer and thinking that maybe global warming is over — NOT! Global Warming has simply moved around to the other side of the globe as China and the Far East bask in unprecedented sweltering temperatures worse than what most of the United States experienced last summer.
Sadly, there are no signs that the weather will improve. It you want to know just how bad things are getting, read Michael Klare's How to Fry a Planet. Where will global warming strike next summer? Your guess is as good as mine.
MOCKING THE PEACE TALKS
Scuttling the peace talks before they even begin, Israel announces theft of Palestinian land for 1,200 new homes for Jews only. As Juan Cole puts it,
Negotiating with the Israelis over land they are actively stealing is like negotiating with a glutton over a cake while he is eating it in another room. You might get some crumbs.
August 13, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AN OUTLAW STATE IN AN OUTLAW NATION
I've always felt that as long as I keep on laughing, joking and cartooning, somehow things will take a turn for the better. But maybe I went too far three months ago, when a wrote a satiric article for Donna Hawley in which the prosecutor sought to have me condemned to death for painting a building.
Last Tuesday, Israel Hernandez Llach was summarily executed by the Miami Beach police for painting graffiti on a building. Police officer Jorge Mercado shot Hernandez in the chest with a taser, which applies a high voltage current that incapacitates, causes intense pain, and in some instances leads to death. Hernandez was a skinny 18-year-old artist and skateboarder. He was unarmed, cornered, and posed no threat to the police or anyone else. Purportedly the police laughed and gave each other high-fives as Hernandez lay dying.
An estimated 500 people have died of taser shock since 2001.
Israel Hernandez and Trayvon Martin are dead. George Zimmerman is free. Jorge Mercado is on paid administrative leave. His police file boasts six complaints including battery and excessive force.
An outlaw state in an outlaw nation.
IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE
It turns out that radioactivity from Fukushima is leaking into the Pacific Ocean at a far greater rate than previously thought. Well, guess where the ocean currents are taking all that radioactivity? Surfs up, Californians; but so is the radioactivity. The sushi is delicious; but bring along your geiger counter.
I like this Democracy Now interview with nuclear physicist Michio Kaku. Kaku has a lot of interesting things to say.
MONTREAL, MAINE AND ATLANTIC FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A) has filed for bankruptcy, leaving the town of Lac-Mégantic to shoulder the $200+ million cost of cleaning up after the rail disaster that left 47 dead after a train filled with tar-sands oil ran amuck and exploded. It seems that
MM&A's parent company Rail World Group—which is ironically headed by the same man who chairs MM&A, Edward Burkhardt—Sadly, thanks to the lobbyists and lawmakers, Rail World Group's assets are probably untouchable.has assets all over the country.
You know, if someone named Osama or Ali had come aboard this train sitting idle without a single guard, and released the brake, we'd probably go bomb some hapless Middle Eastern or Asian country in retaliation. I doubt anything will happen to Burkhardt or the vast army of lobbyists and lawmakers who have made it totally legal to abandon a train full of high explosives on a railroad track.
Rather than change their ways, the super-rich seem to have decided to hold one last gigantic orgy of destruction before the inevitable planet-wide collapse.
August 6, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS
A reader writes:
I knew that the lynching that took place in this country was bad, but I had no idea in my wildest dreams just how really bad until I saw this. This is a stain and a stench on this country that nothing will remove. I now know what Rev. Jeremiah Wright was saying when everyone was so upset with what he said in those controversial excerpts that gained national attention in March 2008. He phrase it wrong. But I will say it. America now has a curse on it because of this. This is the icing on it's evil cake.
and sends in these websites;
My comment: Some wounds heal quickly. Some slowly. Some take generations. Some may never heal, particularly when people pretend the wounds don't exist or insist on reopening them again and again and again.
ZIMMERMAN IS FREE WHILE FLORIDA EXECUTES MENTALLY ILL BLACK MAN
The US Supreme Court refused to intervene as Florida executed a man diagnosed as mentally ill by 30 doctors over the span of 40 years.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
John Kerry's attempt at being an
honest brokerfor peace in Palestine is doomed to failure, simply because he is not honest. Ending the siege of Gaza, which has been described as the world's largest open-air prison with 1.6 million inmates, dismantling illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine, and the Right of Return of displaced Palestinians are definitely not on Kerry's agenda.
July 30, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN COMES TO MISSOURI (IN SPIRIT)
Last week an irate landowner on the Meramec shot and killed a floater, as reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times. Some would say this has nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial. I say, if you exonerate a killer, especially in a widely publicized trial like Zimmerman's, you encourage other would-be killers. Well Zimmerman jurors (and those of you who cheered his acquittal), you might not have Trayvon Martin's blood on your hands, but you sure have the blood of Paul Dart and probably others on your hands. See if it will wash off.
It's interesting how this goes. Nobody had much to say when Ezekiel Gilbert was acquitted of the murder of Lenora Ivie Frago. After all, she was just a paid escort and probably a "slut". Then, George Zimmerman was acquitted after
going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend [himself] against. After all Trayvon Martin was just an African-American teenager walking around in a hoodie in a predominately-white gated community.
What about Paul Dart? Just a floater enjoying Missouri's natural beauty? If James Crocker is acquitted; if legislatures, courts of law, and the mass media continue to encourage a shoot and kill mentality; more such killings will occur. Who's next? Could be you or me.
Oh, I can't wait for the gun-lobby's response. Everyone ought to carry a weapon. If you're a floater you need to defend yourself against unstable landowners. If you own land by a river, you need to defend yourself against trespassing floaters. The gun-makers can make a killing off this one [pun intended].
Speaking of economic issues, many rural counties in Missouri rely heavily on the tourist business. They have a vested interest in keeping our rivers safe for floaters. How will the people in these counties respond to this incident? How will floaters respond? Will they decide Missouri's rivers are just too dangerous to float and go elsewhere?
One of the purposes of Government is to prevent interpersonal violence by providing a fair and level playing field in which people can settle disputes without resorting to violence, and clear laws and punishments for those who transgress the limits. Further, such laws and punishments must be fair and proportional and applied equally to all. When government fails to fulfill this purpose, people take the law into their own hands, sometimes with fatal results.
For those of you who are interested in reading about the law concerning public use of Missouri's rivers, check out Harry Styron's blog, Ozarks Law and Economy.
For those of you who appreciate dark humor, check out my cartoons: Float Missouri's Rivers and Ezekiel Gilbert and George Zimmerman in a Bar.
TWO OUT OF THREE AGAINST AFGHAN WAR
After 9/11, I was one of the tiny few who said publicly that bombing the crap out of Afghanistan and hiring known war criminals like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to do our dirty work on the ground was an inappropriate response that would eventually backfire. Guess what? 12 years later, I now belong to the 2/3 majority that believes the War in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting. Still, the war draaaaaaaaaaaags on.
A MAJORITY AGAINST GOVERNMENT'S ASSAULT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES
I was also one of a much larger few who deemed the post 9/11 assault on civil liberties anathema. (Remember:
Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists?) I seem now to be among the majority who are more concerned that the government's assault on civil liberties has gone too far (47%) than that the government has not gone far enough to protect us from terrorism (35%). Thank you Edward Snowden!
But here's one thing that hasn't changed. Those in power still don't listen to me.
July 23, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE STRANGE TRIAL OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
There has been so much written on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman recently, most of it repetitious. I wish to share with you these two articles which I found most thoughtful:
Robert Koehler points to our long history of racism for which we have never atoned. Koehler writes,
The glaring prejudices built into our legal system, even if they’ve been erased from the letter of the law, permeate its collective will and heart.and continues,
The time has come – I hope – to challenge our legal system all the way to its racist roots.
Deborah Orr gives us a glimpse of how the Zimmerman trial is viewed outside the United States. Orr notes that
a jury decided that going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend yourself against, is still self-defense;continues with
The jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman say they acted in strict accordance with US law. They probably did. ... That in itself speaks volumes.She ends by remarking,
A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold.
And if you don't believe a monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold, check out the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Some of the statistics about the racism inherent in our legal system are horrendous. With 5% of the world population, the United States holds 25% of of the world's prisoners. Blacks in the United States today are incarcerated at a rate six times higher than in South Africa under Apartheid. In the United States, non-hispanic black males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white males.
Had it not been for the public outcry, George Zimmerman would not have even been brought to trial. In fact he wasn't arrested for 44 days. The killing of an unarmed black teenager was simply not considered a matter for the courts.
The Zimmerman trial reminds me very much of the Ezekiel Gilbert trial. After shooting and killing Lenora Ivie Frago, Gilbert argued that he paid her for sex and she left without giving him what he believed he had bought from her. Like Zimmerman, Gilbert was acquitted. I am sure the jurors in this case too thought they were acting in strict accordance with the law; and again, it speaks volumes about our legal system.
Unlike the killing of Trayvon Martin, the killing of Lenora Ivie Frago did not cause much of a stir. I'm wondering why. Perhaps paid escorts and female sex workers are valued even less than African-American teenagers in this society.
Some people believe our legal system can be rehabilitated by some small act like charging Zimmerman with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights or repealing stand your ground laws. I disagree. A legal system that can hold over 2.2 million people behind bars, some 50% for non-violent victimless crimes, while letting those who kill unarmed victims go free, is rotten from the flesh to the bone.
I will have more to say about George Zimmerman and Ezekiel Gilbert in future weeks.
July 16, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
IMPERIALISM AND PAPER TIGERS REVISITED
I haven't had much to say about Edward Snowden lately, but here's a cartoon that may be worth a thousand words. Besides Spanish and Russian, this one contains a few words of English.
What I find so interesting about the Snowden affair is how impotent US imperialism has become. We can rail and rave all we want about Snowden being a traitor and a spy; but the whole world knows that the United States has broken every rule in the book, and even should Obama succeed in kidnapping Snowden, in the eyes of the world he will only look the more ridiculous for it.
A paper tiger is something that appears fierce on the outside, but is hollow inside; and once exposed for what it is, no longer appears frightening — somewhat like the emperor and his new clothes. Paper Tiger is an ancient Chinese saying that Mao ZeDong famously used half a century ago to describe US imperialism. Osama bin Laden purportedly used the phrase in a similar context,
We have religion, we have Islam. The American soldier may have the best weapons in the world, but on the inside, he is spiritually empty — a paper tiger
Personally, I have trouble believing that anyone did not know that Big Brother was spying upon their every word and every action. I just assumed it long ago, and decided since there wasn't much I could do about it, I'd just go ahead saying and doing what I would have said and done anyway. How about you? Were you surprised when Edward Snowden revealed that Big Brother was spying on everything you said or did? Or did you say to yourself, I knew it all along — kind of like the emperor and his new clothes.
July 9, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two months ago, I ran across this article by Ann Neumann about force-feeding prisoners in "Waging Non-Violence".
Neumann points out that force-feeding isn't just done to a few Muslims at Guantánamo. It's pretty much standard operating procedure here on the mainland too. (Anything we do offshore to a handful of Muslims, either is or soon will be done to the rest of us here at home. You can count on it!)
What's it like to be force-fed? Watch this video of Yasiin Bey undergoing (voluntarily) the standard force-feeding procedure. Now if that ain't torture...
20 years ago, I was trying to learn yoga. One exercise was to cleanse the nostrils by inserting a soft flexible brush, pushing it down the nostril and out through the mouth and then gently moving it back and forth. I started with a thin flexible rubber tube (many times smaller in diameter than the one you see in the Bey video). Each time it got to the back of my throat, I would gag uncontrollably. Eventually, I gave up.
We are the Gulag State. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies we hold far more prisoners (2,240,000) than any other country in the world, (600,000 more than second place China which holds 1,640,000 prisoners). We hold more prisoners relative to our population (716 per 100,000) than any other country. Other than a few small islands, our closest competitor is Cuba which holds 510 prisoners per 100,000 population, almost 30% less than us.
I was wondering whether China force-feeds its prison population; but all that I could find was that in preparing Peking duck, the ducks must be force-fed for 15 to 20 days, a far-cry from the almost five years that William Coleman has been force-fed by the State of Connecticut. So while China force-feeds animals for 15 to 20 days, we force-feed prisoners for years — not a very appetizing comparison.
In truth, while we accord to corporations the status to
personhood,we deny the basic humanity of an increasingly large number of people, treating them worse than animals.
When you think about forced sterilization, you think about Nazis. Right? Wrong! You should be thinking about California which has a long history of racist eugenics and performed 150 illegal sterilizations in prisons between 2006 and 2010. As one inmate who worked in the prison infirmary remarked,
Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?One comment to this article notes that
some of the Nazi's policies were copied after US policies.
In 1971 Philip Zimbardo performed the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in which he took willing volunteers and designated some as guards and some as prisoners at random. After six days he prematurely ended the experiment because it had gone out of control. The Guards had become increasingly brutal and authoritarian and the prisoners increasingly dehumanized and depressed.
The moral (as far as I'm concerned) is no person should be given the kind of control over another person that we routinely give to those who run our prisons over those we designate as prisoners.
If this article is making you feel powerless and depressed, here's what you can do. Listen to Dan Bearden singing Pete Seeger's song, One Man's Hands. (I failed to find Pete singing it online.)
July 2, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TEACHERS, ARE MY TESTS ALL DONE?
First day of school is only six weeks away, so I wrote an article on education. It's too long for this newsletter, so click here.
LITTLE DID I KNOW
When I wrote in a satiric article how the prosecutor was seeking to have me condemned to death for painting a building , little did I know that Jeff Olson faced 13 years behind bars for chalking "No Thanks, Big Banks" and "Shame on Bank of America" on a San Diego sidewalk . But the similarity doesn't end there. Olson was acquitted by a San Diego Jury just as Donna Hawley, the subject of my article, was acquitted by a Texas County jury. In both cases, powerful people leaned on prosecutors and courts to press felony charges. Kudos to the people of San Diego, California and Texas County, Missouri!
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS
Firefighters have a tough dangerous job. They put their lives on the line every day. With all the toxics we put into our buildings, a firefighter can become disabled for life just by breathing in the toxic cocktail created as houses burn.
19 Arizona firefighters lost their lives Sunday fighting a wildfire fueled by high winds, intense heat, and years of drought. The culprit, clearly, is human-induced global warming. I'm wondering whether their might not be murder charges leveled against the global-warming deniers in the fossil-fuel industries. Don't hold your breath.
June 25, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
"I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT DOES THESE SORTS OF THINGS"
As pundits surmise as to Edward Snowden's whereabouts, we lose sight of the bigger question. What are we going to do about the National Security State, aka National Secrecy State, National Spy State, National Snitch State...?
I love Julian Assange's short article because he says so much in so few words. Here's a short quote: "[T]he US government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose."
The validity of this statement should be obvious to everyone — and certainly to anyone who lived through the Vietnam years. A generation that eats its own children leaves no progeny. The battle is over. Obama, Bush, Boehner, Feinstein, Pelosi... You lost! You just don't know it yet.
MORE I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT DOES THESE SORTS OF THINGS
Daniel Somers also decided he didn't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things; but his solution was different than Snowden's.
On June 10, Daniel Somers, veteran of 400 combat missions and suffering from multiple war-related conditions, took his own life. He wrote: "[A]ny kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle?"
And he ends: "Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried. I am free."
A generation that eats its own children leaves no progeny.
Read Somers's final note.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
I too don't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things. But I'm no combat hero. And I have no knowledge worth leaking. So I guess I'll continue to stand in front of the Post Office for an hour every week, and write a short column for the peace newsletter. It's the least I can do.
I do it for the Edward Snowdens, and all others who have had the courage to stand up publicly and say what they know.
I do it for the Daniel Somers's, "Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war."
And I do it for all the victims of this generation that eats its own children.
I may be over 70, and perhaps a traitor to my generation; but I can still stand with the young and work toward a better future.
June 18, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
This article by Nafeez Mossaddeq Ahmed, based on information leaked by Edward Snowden, shows the total depravity and moral bankruptcy of the ruling elite. Their enemy is not al-Queda or the Taliban or Kim Jong-un or soon to be ex-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Their enemy is non-violent environmentalists — people like you and me who seek social change and seek to protect our planetary life-support system; and the military has been making plans to deal with non-violent protesters, just in case Homeland Security is not up to the task.
Think about this! After bringing the Earth to the brink of collapse and perhaps beyond, it doesn't even occur to these troglodytes that maybe they need to change their ways. Their enemy is not on the battlefield or flying planes into buildings; their enemy is simply those who non-violently demand that they stop trashing the Earth.
A SINGLE SPARK CAN START A PRAIRIE FIRE
There is a lot of truth in this ancient Chinese aphorism. Edward Snowden appears to be the spark that has set the prairie on fire. It could have been Julian Assange. It could have Bradley Manning. It could have been Tim deChristopher. But it was Edward Snowden.
Here are some more recent leaks: Read about offshore tax evaders; or read about how Bank of America made up bogus reasons for foreclosing on homes; or read both.
Brazil and Turkey are in open revolt; and who knows which country will be next. And the latest lie about Syria's use of chemical weapons doesn't seem to be distracting people the way it should.
Cherish and support our activists and whistleblowers. If we can see far, it is because we stand on the shoulders of GIANTS.
Speaking of fires, the State of Colorado is for the second year in a row experiencing unprecedented wildfires. Nature bats last.
BUEHLER PARK COMES TO TURKEY
It's amazing how urbanites love their small open spaces and are willing to go to battle against governments, police and developers for their parks. Plans by Turkey's ruling elite to take Taksim Gezi Park, the last bit of public open space in Istanbul, for a shopping mall, sparked a protest that has grown in spite of police repression and copious amounts of police violence and pepper spray. The protests now threaten to topple the government of prime minister Erdogan. One protester remarked: "Each of us will guard a tree, and in the morning, we will give a report to the birds." Erdogan would have done well to have learned the lesson of Rolla's Buehler Park.
Here is another similarity: The Buehler Park case hinged upon "standing." Do ordinary people like taxpayers and park users have standing in court to question illegal decisions made by their government? Buehler Park set precedent. For the first time since 1910, a Missouri Court ruled that users of public property have standing to sue to maintain that use.
Like Buehler Park, Taksim Gezi Park has it's own icon of standing. For hours, "Erdem Gunduz stood with his hands in his pockets in the ground zero of clashes, defying government orders to clear the park of protesters." "Standing man" protests have gone viral in Turkey where police violence has left four dead and over 7,500 injured.
Throughout Rolla's 11 year battle over Buehler Park, the Rolla police force remained neutral and professional in spite of attempts by at least one mayor to politicize the police force. Kudos to the Rolla police.
I've been working on the Buehler Park website. There is much work yet to be done, so visit it often.
June 11, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS — A CORRECTION
Mark Haim of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks notes that there is no evidence that Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, the two FBI agents who "fell" to their death from a helicopter, were present at the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Mark is correct. They were part of the elite FBI unit that arrested Tsarnaev. Some accounts say they were "investigating" the Boston bombing; but it is not clear what, if any, part they played in the arrest. Thanks for the correction, Mark.
LICENSE TO KILL WOMEN
In the State of Texas it is now legal for a man to kill a woman for refusing to have sex with him. Ezekiel Gilbert was acquitted of wrongdoing after shooting and killing Lenora Ivie Frago. His excuse: He had paid her $150 for 1/2 hour of her time and she left without having sex with him.
It's funny how so many people say Muslims discriminate against women; but no one ever says Texans discriminate against women. While I'm not an expert on any kind of law, it is my understanding that under Sharia Law, this would be considered murder and punishable by death. How come so many people say such nasty things about Sharia Law but not about Texas Law?
Meanwhile, the two boys who were convicted of rape in the Stubenville case might end up spending two years in juvenile detention; but Deric Lostutter, who uncovered the evidence that broke the case open, might spend ten years in prison for hacking.
And those who raped 15-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, took a photo of her being raped, circulated it around her school, harassed her, called her a slut and finally drove her to suicide will not even be charged with a crime.
So tell me again how Muslims discriminate against women.
REMEMBER, IT CUTS BOTH WAYS
Its gone viral. Not only does the NSA collect information on some bad guys who might fly a plane into a building; but they collect information on you and me and everyone else. (Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto all of us.) While it has been clear to some of us that this has been going on for years, it is sweet and fitting that one of their own, Edward Snowden, has come forward and supplied the proof, straight from the horses mouth.
While Big Brother claims the Right to spy on anyone, anywhere, for any reason or no reason at all; spying on Big Brother to uncover his copious wrongdoings is considered a most heinous crime. People like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, John Kiriakou, Deric Lostutter, John Snowden, Aaron Swartz and others risk years in prison — in some cases life.
The strange thing: The more draconian the penalties devised by Big Brother, the more people seem to stand up and say, Enough! Here's what I know. And here's how I know it. As Snowden put it, "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things." Protect your local whistleblower!
I think that this is one more sign that The Great American Empire is coming apart at the seams; and all the King's horses and all the King's men will never put The Empire back together again.
June 4, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
Some new developments in the Boston Marathon saga:
1. A friend of the elder Tsarnaev was murdered while being questioned be the FBI. Dead men tell no tales.
2. Two agents in the elite FBI unit which arrested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev mysteriously fell to their death from a helicopter. Dead men tell no tales.
3. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis testified that the Feds led his department on a wild goose chase, chasing after lawful non-violent protesters, and kept them in the dark about the potential threat from the Tsarnaev brothers. At least now we know who the real enemy is.
The memory of 9/11 is wearing off. It is time for a brand new bleep to keep the sheep all huddled in a heap.
Alex Jones has done some good reporting on the Marathon saga. Alex Jones is derided as a conspiracy theorist for believing that the Boston Marathon bombings were a staged event. I'm not as certain as Jones. But it sure is bizarre how both the FBI and the CIA knew these guys were potential terror threats, at least since 2011; and the Tsarnaev brothers were still able to pull off the Marathon bombings unhampered. I'll stand with Alex on this one.
I also stand with Alex on the bin Laden murder. After a ten-year-long manhunt, the most-wanted man in history is found unarmed and undefended, summarily executed and his body dumped in the ocean. If you believe that, I got a bridge I'll sell you cheap — it goes over the Skagit River in Washington on Interstate 5.
My liberal friends think bin Laden should have been given a fair trial. But, how do you give a man who's been dead for years a fair trial? Dead men tell no tales.
TALES DEAD MEN TELL
Mass graves dating back to 1936 and 1948 containing the remains of hundreds of Palestinians have been found near Jaffa. Israeli commentators seem to have difficulty figuring out who might have killed them.
And in spite of this video of the murder of 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Durra, Israel seems to be uncertain whether 12-year-old Muhammad really died at all.
Meanwhile, Muslim leaders visit Auschwitz and Dachau and pray for the Holocaust dead.
STILL MORE ON DONNA HAWLEY
As promised, here is more on Donna Hawley — this time from the Rollover 'N' Retch.
May 28, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TWO AMAZING NINE YEAR OLDS
This week two amazing nine year olds made history.
Nine-year-old Hannah Robertson stood up at McDonald's annual shareholder meeting and said to CEO Don Thompson, "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time." Hannah was referring to the toys included in "happy meals" with unhealthy junk food.
Let me tell you about the first time a was tricked into nagging my mother to buy food for a toy. I was three years old and there was no television or video games; but we listened to Captain Midnight on the radio. My brother and I just had to have genuine Captain Midnight spy rings which cost two ovaltine box tops. Well, the spy rings were a disappointment, even to a three year old; and the ovaltine tasted and looked like something that someone forgot to flush down the toilet. I learned to beware of junk food and junk toys at the tender age of three. When I was a teenager, I helped mom clean out the kitchen cabinets and found — you guessed it — four jars of ovaltine — three unopened.
Nine-year-old Asean Johnson got up at a rally to prevent the imminent closure of 49 Chicago elementary schools and told mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Bored [misspelling intentional] of Education a thing or two. You gotta watch this three minute video of Asean. After calling out Rahm Emmanual and the Bored of Education for their racist indifference to the needs of Chicago kids, he leads the crowd in a chant of "Education is our Right. That is why we have to fight." There is a lot of talk about electing Asean mayor of Chicago — as soon as he's old enough.
This video should be required viewing in every school in the country.
With Nine-year-olds like Hannah and Asean, there is hope for the United States.
A LITTLE RECOGNITION — AT LAST
Last Thursday, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, interrupted Obama's "major" foreign policy speech. Surprise of surprises, she was not immediately ejected, Obama talked to her, and after she was ejected, Obama remarked, "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to".
Ok. After 12 years of a failed War on Terror and a former illegitimate president smirking at us that "You are either with us or you're with the terrorists", we peace activists have finally received official recognition! And not only that, the president even says we are worth paying attention to.
Those of you who have kept the faith and come to the vigils week after week and otherwise been witnesses for Peace, give yourself a pat on the back. And recall Richard Nixon who when faced with 800,000 peace demonstrators remarked that he was going to watch the football game. And recall George W. Bush who when faced with well over 10 million people demonstrating against his planned invasion of Iraq, put together a so-called "coalition of the willing" and invaded anyway.
But, don't expect to much from Mr. Obama. His speech was full of nice words, but signaled no immediate change in policy.
It's time to turn up the pressure, not relax it. I'm hoping to see a great turnout Thursday at the Post Office.
SEVENTY PERCENT OF US LOVE DRONES
A late April New York Times/CBS poll finds that 70% of us favor "using unmanned aircraft or 'drones' to carry out bombing attacks against suspected terrorists in foreign countries".
Hmmmm. What goes around comes around; and drones are cheap. Will the 70% cry foul when drones attack the homeland?
May 21, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON DONNA HAWLEY
I spent last Tuesday in Houston watching the Donna Hawley trial. I got home after dark, elated over the not guilty verdict and wrote a quick blurb for last week's newsletter. But my elation was tempered by my knowledge of the four years of Hell that Donna went through at the hands of our local and state officials before she was finally vindicated.
The following day I wrote an article on the trial which I submitted to the Rolla Daily News. My article was rejected in favor of one written in-house by someone who didn't bother to attend the trial.
Yesterday, I put together a cartoon for Donna — well — it's more than a cartoon — it's something I would have loved to do for her if I had more courage and artistic talent.
I think the Donna Hawley affair is extremely important, and I give you fair warning — I'm going to write more on this. But a few short observations will do for now.
Donna's case is one of prosecutorial misconduct. Former county prosecutor Courtney George should never have charged her. Judge Ron White should never have indicted her. On assuming the office of county prosecutor, John Beger should have dropped the charges. Attorney General Chris Koster should have never have agreed to prosecute her.
It's also a case of misconduct by numerous officials of the City of Rolla and Rolla Municipal Utilities. Right or wrong, she should never have been threatened, or thrown out of meetings, or denied access to pertinent documents, or told to shut up in open council meeting, or dragged into court on bogus felony charges.
It's also a case of misconduct by the news media. Compare my coverage of the trial (and I was there) with that of the Rolla Daily News (and they were not).
It's a case of misconduct by her original attorney, David Mills, who withdrew as Donna's attorney after she refused to accept a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a lesser charge when in fact she was the victim, not the perpetrator.
And it's a case of misconduct by the people of Rolla who abandoned her and left her to fight the entire power structure from the local utility company up to the Attorney General's office with very little support.
Kudos, of course, go to attorney Matthew Crowell of the Public Defender's office who ably defended Donna; judge Bill Hickle who presided over a very fair and impartial trial; the two council members from Owensville who drove all the way to Houston to testify as to what they witnessed at the meeting where Donna was alleged to have assaulted Dennis Roberts; and above all, Texas County, which gave us a jury with the wisdom to see through all the prosecutorial smoke and mirrors.
There is a saying that a fish rots from the head down; but, in fact, a fish rots from the inside out. The body politic is like a fish. We, the people, are the inside of the body politic. And if we neglect our duty to stand up for our Donna Hawleys, the rot spreads quickly to our leaders and institutions.
Donna Hawley is not unique. Here are a few names: John Kiriakou, Bradley Manning, Tim deChristopher, Shakir Hamoodi, Julian Assange, Sister Megan Rice .... The list is very very loooong; but let's stop with Megan Rice, an 82 year-old Catholic Sister who along with two other peace activists entered the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons facility armed with bibles and peace banners. They have been convicted of terrorism and now sit in jail awaiting sentencing, which for Sister Megan, will likely be the rest of her life.
Think about this. Sister Megan and her two friends are convicted of terrorism for non-violently entering a nuclear weapons facility, while those who make the nuclear weapons that terrorize all of humanity continue to ply their trade unimpeded. This is simply Donna Hawley on a grand scale. If we will not defend our Donna Hawleys; how can we defend our Megan Rices?
May 14, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONNA HAWLEY NOT GUILTY
Today a Texas County jury found former Rolla city council person and long time critic of Rolla Municipal Utilities Donna Hawley NOT GUILTY of assaulting Rolla Municipal Utilities finance director Dennis Roberts.
In March of 2009, Donna Hawley, as a member of the Rolla city council, attempted to attend a meeting at Rolla Municipal Utilities where certain excessive charges were to be explained. Dennis Roberts attempted to prevent her from entering the meeting room. Hawley is disabled. Roberts weighed in at over 200 pounds and claimed to be perfectly healthy until disabled Donna Hawley assaulted him and tore his wrist. The jury was not convinced and found Hawley not guilty.
During her two years on the Rolla city council, Donna Hawley, foreseeing the coming economic downturn, consistently advised the city of Rolla not to go into debt under the assumption of continued economic growth. For this Hawley was censored by the city council, threatened by one of its members, and finally charged with felony assault for attempting to do her duty as Rolla city council member.
Hawley has since left Rolla. Most people in Rolla have forgotten that it was Hawley who did the research that found that Rolla Municipal Utilities was overcharging its customers and forced RMU to lower its rates by one cent per kWh. Rolla would be in far better financial shape if the city had listened to her advice instead of persecuting her.
I have a question for the Phelps County Prosecutor's Office and the Missouri State Attorney General's Office: How much in taxpayer funds did you spend attempting to convict a disabled woman of felony assault against a healthy 200 pound male?
May 7, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE FOX AND THE HENHOUSE
Here's a couple of examples of the fox guarding the henhouse to add to the many many we already have:
1. The CIA "suggested" changes to the script to Zero Dark Thirty. No wonder the CIA was "absolutely comfortable" with the video.
2. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, was arrested for ... you guessed it ... sexual battery! — after drunkenly accosting a woman in a parking lot.
No wonder sexual assault in the military is on the rise.
RELIGION AND THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS
A Gallup poll conducted a few years ago about religious attitudes toward the killing of innocents found that 89% of Muslims believe the killing of civilians by individuals and small groups is NEVER justified; while only 71% of Christians agreed. 78% of Muslims believe the targeting of civilians by the military is NEVER justified, while only 38/39% of Christians agreed. Atheists and other non-believers held less violent attitudes than Christians but more violent than Muslims.
Jim Naureckas writes: "What stays with me about this polling, though, is not how unwilling Muslims are to kill civilians, but how eager everyone else is."
I can't help recalling how during the Iraq sanctions period (1991-2003) while Iraqi children died at a rate of 5,000 per month beyond what would be normally expected; I would hear justifications like "If we make life harsh enough for the Iraqi people, they'll overthrow Saddam."
Last week I wrote: "But don't worry; the Earth should be able to cleanse itself within a million years or so, just a blink of an eye in the geological time frame." It's actually quite a bit longer than that. Assuming the age of the Earth to be 4.5 billion years and assuming it will last another 4.5 billion years, one million years is 1/9000 of the Earth's lifespan. Assuming an average human lifespan to be 67 years or 24,472 days; a million years geological time is equivalent to 2.7 days. Most people spend at least that long recovering from even minor illnesses.
By way of comparison, many climate scientists believe that a temperature rise of 2 Centigrade or 3.8 Fahrenheit would lead to irreversible changes in the Earth. If your body temperature rose 3.6 Fahrenheit from 98.6 to 102.4, you would be very sick; and if your body temperature stayed that high for any length of time, you would go through some irreversible changes and then die.
April 30, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AND THIS MESS IS SO BIG AND SO DEEP AND SO TALL...
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric is unable to store all the radioactive water that has been contaminated in the damaged nuclear complex. Apparently they had just intended to dump it all in the ocean — until the public raised an outcry.
As pediatrician Helen Caldicott states: "[Fukushima is] an unmitigated disaster which will remain in perpetuity for the rest of time".
The title line is from Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. To finish it: "We can not pick it up. There is no way at all!"
Maybe we should start thinking about how to clean up our messes before we go around making them. Some of us are a little old to be expecting the Cat in the Hat to clean up after us. But don't worry; the Earth should be able to cleanse itself within a million years or so, just a blink of an eye in the geological time frame. Sadly, none of us (and quite likely none of our descendants) will be around to witness the rebirth.
HOW DO I POISON THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS
Lead, asbestos, dioxins, PCBs ... there are thousands, maybe millions of them, most of which we know nothing about. And the chemical industry keeps churning out new poisons daily to test on our bodies and our environment. Maybe its time to put a moratorium on new chemicals in our environment, at least until we figure out what all the old ones are doing to us.
The title line is adapted from a sonnet by Elizabeth Browning.
THE MOST BIOLOGICALLY DISRUPTIVE CHEMICAL IN OUR ENVIRONMENT
According to a study by Samsel and Seneff, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, may be "the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment" . Glyphosate, in combination with other environmental toxins, could contribute to obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, infertility, and developmental malformations. Read the entire article here.
April 23, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: FROM PESSIMISM TO OPTIMISM
A reader writes in:
"It's normal to feel down now and then. CommonDreams had an encouraging piece, interviews with 4 or 5 activists on what gets them out of a slump: A Conversation with Common Dreams: 'From Deep Pessimism... to Enduring Optimism'. History is on the side of justice."
Thanks for writing in. These interviews are all quite short, a few minutes at most; and some are quite wonderful.
Personally, I try to avoid excessive pessimism and optimism. There are good reasons for both. Working for peace and justice can be an end in itself — far more important than whether some small success is scored in a short time-frame.
On one side, there is an old adage: "A single spark can start a prairie fire." So keep on making sparks. Who knows? One of our sparks might start a prairie fire. Did Tim DeCristopher know when he bid on oil and gas leases years ago that he would galvanize the entire environmental movement? Did Bradley Manning know when he leaked secret US documents to Wikileaks, he would become a hero to millions of people and a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize?
On the other side, there are things that will happen regardless of what we do.
To borrow a line from Fred Reed: "The fat lady has sung. ... It's over. ... We can like it, or hate it, or not care. It doesn’t much matter. We might as well dislike gravitation."
Climate change is here to stay. Our environment will never be the same. Is this a reason for pessimism? No. If we are to survive as a species in an increasingly hostile environment, there is much work to be done. So let's get busy! Perhaps, if God wills it, out of the ashes of the old world will come a new and better world. So let's indulge in neither excessive optimism or pessimism. Let's act now. If not us, who?
April 16, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FOR EACH TIME I SPEAK, I CRY ALOUD; I PROCLAIM VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION
I'm trying to search for something different to write about this week — but not being very successful. Looking back over my recent posts, they are filled with violence and destruction; and I'm just not feeling much like writing about violence and destruction today. I'm beginning to understand how Jeremiah must have felt when he lamented, "For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction."
Sure I could write about how people are coming together to oppose corporate and governmental violence; and that's important. We must do that. But I'd like to be able to proclaim, "Peace on Earth; goodwill toward all of God's creatures" instead of "Violence and destruction." Maybe it's time for me to take a week off. Wage peace!
April 9, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE TORTURE IS US
Remember how Obama promised to close Guantánamo 5 years ago? Well, it's still open and still holding 166 prisoners, most of whom are on a hunger-strike in protest of the horrendous conditions in the prison. Some are being violently force-fed which, like water-boarding, is widely considered torture. Many have been incarcerated for many years, although charged with no crime. Many are "cleared for release" but still held prisoner,
Obama, keep your promise. Close Guantánamo now.
MORE LEAKING RADIOACTIVE STORAGE TANKS
Three weeks ago I did a short snippet on the 75 leaking radioactive storage tanks in Hanford, Washington.
Now, there are three underground tanks leaking radioactive water at Fukushima.
This is an even worse disaster, as the only thing keeping Fukushima from blowing its lid is massive amounts of cooling water that comes out radioactive. So where you gonna put all this radioactive water?
TEPCO general manager, Masayuki Ono, says, "We admit that the underground tanks are not reliable; but we must keep using some of them that are relatively in good shape while monitoring them closely. We just don't have enough tanks on the ground that can accommodate the water." What ever happened to "the peaceful atom" and "electricity too cheap to meter"?
NAVY TO GET NEW WEAPON
As if we don't have enough weapons already, next year the Navy is slated to get some brand new heat-concentrating laser weapons capable of downing a drone or stopping a fast boat. It's suppose to be as revolutionary as gunpowder was in the age of swords and bows and arrows.
Some of us might remember all the spanking new weapon systems that were supposed to "shock and awe" the Iraqis into surrendering. So how come after eight years of fighting, we lost that war? Maybe it takes more than some glitzy weapon systems to win a war. Maybe winning a war requires a just cause: something other than saving people from a dictator we helped to power, something other than ferreting out non-existing weapons of mass destruction, something other than denying a self-created enemy a non-existent safe haven, something other than teaching people about democracy which we know next to nothing about.
Some people never learn. Looks like we may be headed for another war, this time with a fourth-rate nuclear power — North Korea. Or maybe it's Iran; or maybe it's Syria; I just can't keep track of all the places where we may to go to war — or all the silly reasons that I'm told are worth fighting for. Just remember: It's our Environment and our Social Security that are paying for all these wars and the highfalutin life styles of the 1%.
April 2, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
EDUCATION IS A RACKET
35 Atlanta educators have been indicted under the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) for (REALLY! I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP) cheating on tests. Apparently, there was a large conspiracy to make the Atlanta School District look good by falsifying standardized test results. Valeria Strauss notes that Atlanta is just the tip of the schulberg. Cheating on high-stake tests as required by No Child's Left Behind and Race to the Bottom is widespread among adult educators. What a wonderful example for our children!
Well, I did my part. In almost 30 years as an educator, I do not recall having ever administered a standardized test. And here are my No Child's Left Behind cartoons: here and here. And here is my position paper on standardized testing.
You know these racketeering indictments give me an idea. Let's indict the entire power structure: the generals and admirals, the bankers, the oil executives, the president, Congress and the Supreme Court, under RICO as the racketeers that they are. Major General Smedley Butler suggested something similar 80 years ago. Unfortunately nothing ever came of it.
New research by the Radiation and Public Health Project estimates that excess deaths in the United States during the 14 weeks following the Fukushima meltdown are likely around 22,000 instead of the preliminary figure of 14,000 published previously.
Another study shows a dramatic decrease in cancers after the closure of a nuclear plant.
Meanwhile Ameren wants to build another nuclear plant in Missouri when they should be closing down the old one!
BRADLEY MANNING FOR NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE
If you haven't already done so, please consider signing the online petition to the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award Bradley Manning the Nobel Peace Prize. There are over 36,000 signatures already and the number is increasing by leaps and bounds.
Norman Solomon has compiled some of the better comments from the Bradley Manning petition.
AS INSANE AS US
It's kind of a toss-up. I just can't decide who is more insane: our government or North Korea's. Apparently, neither can Eric Margolis.
March 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE GENDER MATTERS
Here's another one to add to the stuff I've written the past two weeks on gender matters. If you get raped at the University of North Carolina, you could get expelled from school for intimidating your rapist. Huhhhh? Those are the hallowed halls of academia to which I gave far too many years of my life. (I sent UNC an email about this atrocity a few days ago. So far no answer. Maybe they found my email intimidating.)
MORE THAN GENDER MATTERS
In the "enlightened western world" we seem to think that Rights can be compartmentalised — women's Rights, children's Rights, minority Rights, animal Rights, gay Rights, environmental Rights, Gaian Rights.... It takes a Martin Luther King to remind us that an "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Here's a wonderful letter from Zainab Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja from Isa Town Women's Prison in Bahrain. She quotes Dr. King extensively. And let's not forget that the injustices that Al-Khawaja suffers are made possible only by the extensive support which the Bahrainian dictatorship receives from the "enlightened western world."
CHICAGO TEACHERS STAND UP TO BULLIES
While there is plenty of money for wars, prisons, and perks and privileges for the wealthy, Chicago is closing over 50 schools, mostly in poor underprivileged neighborhoods. Here's what Mark Twain had to say about school closures: "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." Ever wonder why the United States incarcerates far more people than any other country on Earth — both in absolute numbers (2,239,751), and relative to population (716/100,000)?
Chicagoans are fighting back. I love the message on the placard in the photo, HEY BOARD OF ED: STOP BULLYING STUDENTS, PARENTS & TEACHERS. Mark Twain had something to say about school boards too: "In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards."
And here is the wonderful wacko-bird image, which just won the "Image of the Month" award. (Scroll down a little. The winner is the second image with the bird perched on the "no birds" sign.)
Note: Rand Paul and his friends were dubbed "wacko birds" for their opposition to John Brennan's nomination as CIA director, due to Brennan's belief that the president has authority to kill anyone, anywhere, for any reason. "Liberal" Democrats, with a few notable exceptions sided with Obama and Brennan.
March 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Last week I wrote a fairly lengthy article, much of it on gender. This week, on the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, I found the following interesting observation on gender and radioactivity. Girls exposed to ionizing radiation in the first 5 years of life are twice as likely as boys in the same age group to develop cancer over the course of their lifetimes. Gender matters. While males dominate the nuclear industry, females assume the lions share of the risk. Sound familiar?
There is a wonderful novel, The White Plague by Frank Herbert, on the theme of a male-created disease that strikes down females.
MORE NUCLEAR MATTERS
While we are on the subject of the depredations of the nuclear industry, in Hanford, Washington, USA, one of the most polluted plots of real estate on the planet, 6 new storage tanks filled with nuclear waste are leaking, bringing the total number up to 75.
And off the coast of Fukushima, a fish containing 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium set a new record as the most radioactive fish ever caught, .
CLIMATE CHANGE IS FOREVER ... WELL AT LEAST FOR THE NEXT MILLENNIUM
While here in South Central Missouri, some most-welcome precipitation seems to have brought last year's drought to an end, out west, the drought continues. Most of Nebraska is still experiencing the highest level, exceptional, drought. Colorado is experiencing March wildfires.
And down under, Australia has just experienced its hottest summer in recorded history.
Here's an article describing what desert cities like Phoenix can expect in the years to come.
And Joe Romm debunks the myth that climate change can be reversed. Climate change is here to stay, so, as I've advised before, we all better hunker down, make the best of it, and try to prevent it from getting any worse.
March 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: ON ISLAM, GENDER AND SOLIDARITY
In reference to last week's snippet on Nurit Peled-Elhanan's speech a reader writes:
"I can't admire Islam, even though I certainly agree that the USA behaves abominably toward most Moslem nations. I deplore the treatment of women by Moslem individuals and Moslem states. How do you reconcile your religion with its treatment of women, which at its BEST could be called 'separate but equal?'
"It seems to me that your choice of a religion is a statement of solidarity with another people, which is admirable. But don't forget the women."
My response is somewhat long for this newsletter; but can be read here.
THE SINGLE WORST FOREIGN POLICY DECISION IN AMERICAN HISTORY
I've been saying for almost ten years that the Invasion of Iraq was not just one more terrible decision by a ruling cabal with far more money, power and arrogance than brains. The invasion was a tipping point -- a point of no return which "set the world inexorably and irretrievably on a path of military competition" that must ultimately lead to Collapse. It seems this point of view is beginning to work its way, if not into the mainstream news media, at least into alternative media like TomDispatch and Commondreams. Here is such an article by Peter Van Buren who exposed Iraq's infamous Potemkin Chicken Factory, .
DANCING THE WORLD INTO SALVATION
This interview with Leanne Simpson of Idle No More is just so full of wisdom that I don't know where to start. Here's an example:
"[W]e were talking about sustainable development, and I was explaining that term from the Western perspective to the students. And I asked [elder Robin Greene] if there was a similar concept in Anishinaabeg philosophy that would be the same as sustainable development. And he thought for a very long time. And he said no. And I was sort of shocked at the 'no' because I was expecting there to be something similar. And he said the concept is backwards. You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that?"
The interview is somewhat long, but reading it should give you a much-needed sense of hope.
March 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: WHY DOES THAT STREAK OF BLOOD, RIP THE PETAL OF YOUR CHEEK?
A reader sends in this speech given on International Women's Day 2005 by Nurit Peled-Elhanan. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who lost a child to Israeli/Palestinian violence. This speech is a MUST READ, particularly if you believe in what Peled-Elhanan refers to as "the enlightened western world." Here's a short quote: "[S]tate violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot."
Of course the violence against Muslims that Peled-Elhanan decries continues. Here are three (of many) recent examples: NATO Shot Dead Two Afghan Children in Latest Attack on Civilians, British Citizens Stripped of Status Then Targeted For Killing and Did Arafat Jaradat Die Under Interrogation?.
On a personal note: I could have entitled this snippet, "Why I am Muslim." Islam must indeed be powerful to be feared and attacked so brutally by "the enlightened western world."
The title of this snippet is from Anna Akhmatova and quoted in Peled-Elhanan's speech.
IN THE FIRST PLACE, GOD MADE IDIOTS...
Here's an update on the the Seattle teachers revolt against the computerized MAP test. The movement against high-stakes standardized testing is spreading. Maybe Rolla will be next!
The Los Angeles District School Board election is being flooded with big corporate money. Huh? So corporations get to decide, based on their profits of course, how our children will be educated. The Rolla School Board election is pretty quiet. There's not even a race. But, hold on to your hats. We could be next.
In Florida, a 16 year old high school student was suspended after overpowering a football player who was threatening a teammate with a loaded gun. The 16-year-old remarked, "It's dumb. How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?"
The Title of this snippet is the first part of a Mark Twain aphorism: "In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards."
MORE MARK TWAIN
India's Intellectual Property Appellate Board thumbed it's nose at Bayer and awarded a license to Natco Pharma to produce a generic version of the drug, nexavar, which Natco will sell for 97% less than the Bayer version. This ruling makes nexavar affordable to many suffering from kidney and liver cancer who could not afford the high price that Bayer demands.
I think the Intellectual Property Board must have read Mark Twain's famous aphorism, "Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet."
February 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS (WE'RE ALL ILLEGAL)
In response to my We're All Illegal snippet, a reader reminds me that there were probably multiple waves of prehistoric migration across the Bering Straight from Asia to North America. Apparently, based on genetic evidence, anthropologists are trying to sort out who immigrated when.
My response: In short, any specific claim to having ancestors who were THE FIRST humans in the Americas is in doubt.
In my opinion, we're all here NOW and we'd be wise to learn to share and get along together. As Fred Reed puts it, "Seventeen percent of the United States is now Latino. The percentage is increasing, and will increase. You can like it, or hate it, or not care. It doesn’t much matter. You might as well dislike gravitation."
In 1848 the United States started a war with Mexico and annexed what is now the Southwestern part of the United States. Why? Because the U.S. was stronger than Mexico and it could. Now some are concerned that culturally much of this land resembles Mexico far more than other parts of the United States. Just goes to show the uselessness and stupidity of the wars of aggression we keep starting.
UNITED NATIONS TO HAITI: POOH POOH ON YOU
Losing the last claim to legitimacy that the United Nations might still have, the UN refused to pay reparations for having murdered 7,000 Haitians by introducing a cholera epidemic to Haiti. The UN stated simply, "Claims are not receivable." Cholera causes violent diarrhea; and if untreated, leads to extreme dehydration and death.
WE'RE KNOWN BY THE COMPANY WE KEEP (CORRECTION)
Last week I reported that while 50,000 demonstrated at the White House to stop climate change, Obama was off playing golf with Tiger Woods. Well, I got it half right. According to the Huffington Post, he was playing golf; but not with Tiger Woods. He was playing golf with oil executives who are responsible for much of the climate change the people were demonstrating against. We're known by the company we keep.
JUDGE OVERTURNS US CONSTITUTION; UPHOLDS RELATIVITY
Appealing to a Higher Authority, Judge Denise Lind ruled that scientific law trumps the US Constitution; and in particular, the Law of General Relativity trumps Amendment VI; and that 1000 days in prison without trial does not violate Bradley Manning's Right to a speedy trial.
Italians went to the polls in large numbers and rejected the major Italian political parties in favor of former comedian, Beppe Grillo and the Five Star Movement which garnered 25% of the vote. The Five Star Movement's core principles are: Publicly owned water, Sustainable transportation, Sustainable development, Free and open internet access, and Environmentalism.
I've been saying for years that we need to reject our two major parties, The Repugnants and The Dementeds, in favor of new political parties. Here's my choice from last November's election.
February 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
50,000 DEMONSTRATE TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE — IS 50,000 ENOUGH?
Sunday, 50 thousand people demonstrated in Washington DC in favor of stopping climate change. Bill McKibben declared, "Today was the day. Finally, powerfully, decisively -- the movement to stop climate change has come together." Meanwhile Obama, who should have spoken to the demonstrators and praised them for their social activism, was off playing golf with Tiger Woods. This act is loaded with symbolism. Golf is one of the most environmentally destructive of all sports — perhaps second only to war in the environmental destruction it causes. Mark Twain once commented, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." Too much golf also spoils a good environment.
I am reminded of another demonstration 44 years ago: 800,000 people came to Washington to protest the Vietnam War. Then-president Richard Nixon claimed he was watching a football game during the protest. The war dragged on for another six years.
I am also reminded of another demonstration 10 years ago when some 15 million people turned out all over the world to protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq. While I'm not aware of a specific sports metaphor, elite leaders also claimed to ignore this protest, probably the largest the world has ever seen, saying they would invade Iraq anyway with a Coalition of the Willing.
Looking back at these two previous mass demonstrations, leaders would have done well to listen to the people. In both cases, a few short years later, the US military had to abandon their war plans and came home in defeat with their tails between their legs. But leaders are blind; and the more powerful they are, the blinder they are.
Writing for Time Magazine, Ishaan Tharoor asks the question: Why weren't the demonstrations of the weekend of Febuary 15th, 2003 effective in preventing the Iraq War?. The answer is simple: Because leaders in their arrogance chose to ignore the demonstrators. And the saddest observation is that the people let their leaders get away with ignoring them. When I came to Washington a month later, just a few days before the invasion, there were only a few thousand demonstrating. Had there been 30 million demonstrating world wide in March, maybe, maybe, we would have succeeded in preventing the war. And if not, maybe 60 million could have brought the war to a quick end in April. As it was, the people did not speak loudly enough; leaders did not listen; and they ended up learning the hard way. The War dragged on for 8 years.
Well, let's get back to Sunday's 50 thousand stop-climate-change demonstrators. If 15 million couldn't prevent a war, how can 50 thousand prevent climate change, certainly a far more difficult task than preventing a small war in a small country? Answer: They can't; unless they come back tomorrow with 100,000, next month with a million, and so on. Actually, the movement to stop climate change has a big advantage. It is now obvious to anyway with half-open eyes that with all the monster droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, climate change is directly and negatively affecting all of us. Unless you are a soldier, or know a soldier or an Iraqi or an Afghan, or make the connection between all the money spent on war and all the money not available to spend at home, you may not realize that these wars affect you negatively too.
In short, Sunday may have been the day that finally, powerfully, and decisively, the movement to stop climate change came together; but the movement has a loooong way to go. So, the time is now. Join the movement. If you are already part of the movement, increase your level of activism. Whether we are ignored, derided or attacked, in the end, we win. As Gandhi put it, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
February 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WE'RE ALL ILLEGAL
You gotta watch this one minute video. Wow! This guy is awesome. He's got guts — and he's right!
Hold on a minute. Maybe things aren't all that simple. What about his ancestors. Didn't they come to The Americas some 14,000 years ago. Well, there were no humans here at the time. But didn't his ancestors slaughter all the mammoths, mastodons and other large mammals. Didn't the mammoths have Rights too?
Ok. So I'm illegal here. Where am I legal? My immediate ancestors came to the United States a little more than 100 years ago from Russia, Poland, and maybe Lithuania or The Ukraine too. Before that, somewhere on the Central Asian steppes most likely. And if you go back far enough, maybe a million years, Africa, where Homo Rapiens [misspelling intentional] first evolved (whether you believe in evolution or not). So again, where am I legal?
If you want a very basic historic overview of humanity's major movements around the planet and why, read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" — in my opinion, one of the most important books of the 20th Century. There is also a documentary film of Guns, Germs and Steel. I haven't watched it.
To cut to the chase, if you live in the United States, your ancestors migrated here; and unless you are among the peoples we incorrectly call "Native American" or "Indian", your ancestors were not the first to migrate here. So don't go around calling others "illegal." You could be the next to be deported.
A 65 YEAR-OLD RACKET
While we are discussing illegal aliens, lets talk about the biggest land-theft of the past 100 years — the theft of most of Palestine by mostly European and North American Jews who are mostly of Central Asian / Khazar origin and probably have little if any Semitic ancestry. This racket seems to be coming to an end as more and more people are beginning to understand that the theft of Palestine is no more and no less than any other colonial land-theft of recent history. The best short book by far on the theft of Palestine (up to 1992) is Ron David's "Arabs & Israel for Beginners". Just Foreign Policy has an excellent fact sheet about the current movement to halt further colonization of Palestinian land. And here is an article on the growing international movement for an economic, academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
The modern State of Israel is a 65-year-old racket. Once a racket is exposed for what it is, it can't continue.
So tell me again. Why do settlers from Europe and North America have more Right to Palestine than people who have lived there continuously for thousands of years?
TORTURE "IS" US
Like the myth that the descendants of European settlers have more Right to North America than the people they displaced or the people that come here after them; and like the myth that Palestine belongs to Jews of European and North American descent; another myth is that the Great American Empire is different than all those other empires that preceded it — Roman, Spanish, British, German, Soviet etc.
How is it different? Well, for one thing it maintains control through the systematic use of torture and terror, just like all those other empires did. (You can read the entire 216 page report here.)
So tell me again. How is the Great American Empire different from all those other empires.
Surprise! North Korea successfully tested another nuclear bomb. Not much in the way of sensible responses from the United Nations and the other nuclear weapon states. Oh, there was one excellent response — from Iran. Let's rid the entire world of nuclear weapons. Makes sense to me. How about you?
February 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I'LL BE JUDGE, I'LL BE JURY ...
Glenn Greenwald dissects the latest Justice Dept. memo "vesting" our imperial president with authority to kill anybody, anytime, anyplace for anyreason, but Lewis Carroll said it best a century and a half ago.
Note to Republicans on the Imperial Obama Presidency: If you didn't criticize the Imperial Bush Presidency, your criticisms of the Imperial Obama Presidency are hypocritical.
Note to Democrats: If you didn't support the Imperial Bush Presidency, your support of the Imperial Obama Presidency is hypocritical.
SCRAP THE MAP
The Seattle teachers' fight against the standardized MAP test gathers support. We need to get rid of the Missouri MAP test too.
US IMPERIAL NAVY ATTACKS CORAL REEF
In a show of imperial might and power, the USS Guardian, ignoring warnings from park rangers, attacked the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, damaging 4,000 square meters of pristine coral reef at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The coral reef mounted a devastating counter attack, totally disabling the Guardian. Kind of reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez.
January 29, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Chris Hedges has done it again! In White Power to the Rescue, he discusses how we are rewriting our history, elevating to hero status the likes of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one who made millions as a slave-trader and was responsible for numerous atrocities as a Confederate general. Hedges points out that self-glorification and the rewriting of history is not at all atypical of deteriorating societies. "[T]he replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture." and "Those who retreat into fantasy cannot be engaged in rational discussion, for fantasy is all that is left of their tattered self-esteem." (See, for example, this exchange of minds with a teaparty animal.)
The extent to which we rewrite our history is indicative of just how far and how fast we have fallen. Consider: In 1945 the United States emerged victorious from World War II, unscathed by the devastation visited upon the major European and Asian powers. 30 years later, the United States came home from its Vietnam debacle with its tail between its legs, a Goliath bested by a second-rate David. In 1990, the destruction of the Soviet Union left the United States the World's only military and economic superpower. 22 years later, the US economy is in shambles, with its military defeated by third rate powers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The saddest part of this sad story is that in both cases, it was within our power to remake the world as a place where peace and justice would reign supreme, and instead, we lost everything chasing after the will-o-the-wisp of empire and total world domination.
One final note: Fantasies of regaining lost glory only serve to hasten decline. The more we chase after lost glories, the more we ignore real dangers, like global warming; and real opportunities, like employing our workforce productively building a renewable energy grid; and the more we allow opportunists to promise us what never was, while they loot our treasuries and sap our energies.
I OFFER THEE THREE ALTERNATIVES; CHOSE THEE ONE OF THEM, THAT I MAY DO IT UNTO THEE
Ann Jones discusses what's on the horizon in Afghanistan as the country prepares for the possibility of the United States declaring victory and bringing its troops home in 2014. None of the alternatives: compromise, conflict, and collapse are particularly nice. Which one? In Jones' words, "It's anybody’s guess."
Some important statistics: According to the CIA, children born today in Afghanistan have an almost one in eight chance of dying before their first birthday — by far the highest infant mortality rate in the world, 122/1000. A distant second is Mali, the former French colony which France just invaded with support and blessings from the United States. Mali boasts an infant mortality rate of 109/1000. There seems to be a conspiracy here to invade the poorest most oppressed peoples in the world — in order to make them poorer and more oppressed. What a way to win hearts and minds.
The title of this snippet is from I Chronicles 21:10 — take heed.
JOHN KIRIAKOU AND THE PRISON STATE
John Kiriakou has been sentenced to thirty months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA torture program. Kiriakou did not participate in torture. However, none of the torturers or those who authorized torture are likely to ever serve time in prison. This is what passes for justice in the United States. Glenn Greenwald discusses Obama's historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers.
The United States boasts far more prisoners than any country in the world — both in absolute numbers, 2,239,751, and relative to population, 716/100,000. John Kiriakou adds one more number to these already horrendous statistics.
One must go back to the days of apartheid in South Africa and the days of Stalin in the Soviet Union to find anything comparable.
January 22, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEJA VU (ALL OVER AGAIN)
Every now and then I get into an exchange of minds with a teaparty animal. It rarely lasts long. The teaparty animal doesn't like being contradicted; and if you contradict him he will typically change the subject immediately. If you insist that he respond to the contradiction, after a few attempts at changing the subject, he will not respond at all.
Here an example from a few months ago:
TPA: Then we have the Muslims taking over Europe & we are on the list next!
ME: Did you know that I'm Muslim? No, I have no intention of taking over Europe. Well, Europe took over most of the world in the 450 years before World War II. Then they gave us Hitler and the Nazis. Europe also gave us the most vicious religious wars the world has ever known: Catholics vs. Protestants. With US power waning, expect more of the same from Europe. Maybe it's time for somebody sane to take over Europe.
TPA: Tom, I know you are Muslim. You are saying I dont have Free Speech, to inform people & say that there are problems with Muslims in Europe.
ME: I don't understand how you get from ["Did you know that I'm Muslim?"] to ["Tom, I know you are Muslim. You are saying I dont have Free Speech"]. Please explain.
After a couple of attempts to change the subject, I never heard back from my teaparty animal friend.
In retrospect I was being far too kind to Europe. Right now the French are bombing the crap out of Mali. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a rare moment of truth declared, "The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets [of resistance]." In other words it is Europe that is recolonizing Muslim lands, not the other way around as my teaparty animal friend suggests.
The United States is (of course) backing France. If you are my age you might remember that the United States backed France in its attempt to recolonize Indochina after World War II. When France threw in the towel, we took over the war as our own - one of the worst mistakes the United States ever made. Some people never learn.
The title of this snippet is a quote from Yogi Berra. Here's another famous Yogi quote: "You can observe a lot by watching."
VICTORY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY IN MISSOURI
The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled for Missouri's consumers, environmentalists and the Public Service Commission (PSC) upholding the rules on energy efficiency promulgated by the PSC, . Henry Robertson, attorney for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, who helped formulate and defend the PSC rules remarked, "We're glad we don't have to start the rulemaking process all over again. It took nearly two years, and the PSC was very even-handed and thorough. It's time to get on with saving Missouri's consumers energy and money and reducing our state's unsustainable reliance on coal for electricity."
Great Rivers is the same public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park, in a landmark victory in which the Missouri Courts ruled for the first time since 1910 that users of public property have standing to sue for the continued use of that property.
FORGET THE MIDDLE EAST — THE WESTERN PACIFIC IS WHERE IT'S AT
Michael Klare looks at the western pacific region and points out that it is ripe for the start of a World War as China, Japan, The United States and other less powerful nations vie for ascendancy in the Western Pacific. This article is a MUST READ. If you are inclined toward peace, get active now; you might never have another chance.
January 15, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TEACHER BOYCOTT: A RARE AND BEAUTIFUL THING
Teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School have refused to administer a standardized test, akin to Missouri's MAP test, to their student. The revolt against inappropriate standardized testing has spread to two other Seattle High Schools. Former Garfield student, Wayne Au, remarked, "Having all of the teachers at a school decide to support a boycott of a high-stakes, standardized test is a rare and beautiful thing."
It is, indeed! What a wonderful 84th birthday present for Martin Luther King Jr., whose lasting legacy to us is the use of non-violent civil disobedience as a successful strategy for social change.
Personally, I feel vindicated. Last year I ran for a seat on the Rolla School Board. What distinguished me most from the other candidates was my insistence that Rolla should opt out of No Child Left Behind and in particular, standardized testing. I wrote, "I will do whatever possible to terminate the Rolla School District's participation in No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or any of its successors; and, failing that, at least release our schools from some of the more onerous provisions of these laws." I finished last in a field of four.
Well, Seattle has beat us to the punch. While Rolla has lost the chance to be the leader in the growing movement against inappropriate standardized testing, IT IS NOT TO LATE TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT!!! The Rolla School district could still boycott MAP tests this year.
Check out my No Child Left Behind cartoons: http://tomsager.org/NoChildsLeftBehind.html and http://tomsager.org/TestCongress.html.
US HEALTH CARE SYSTEM: ROTTEN TO THE CORE
We in the United States, experience worse health care than people in almost every other industrialized country, according to a study by the National Institute of Health. Panel chair, Steven H. Woolf, remarked, "We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society."
The fact is that our corporate-dominated health care system is rotten to the core. There are no quick fixes. We must revamp our system of corporate-dominated health care from the bottom to the top.
COURAGEOUS ISRAELI SOLDIERS SHOOT UNARMED BOY IN BACK
Two weeks ago, I ran across this article on Commondreams about rampant suicides among the Israeli Defense Forces, at least 237 over the past 10 years. Why?
Well, what glory is there in killing an unarmed boy by shooting him in the back, as described in this article? Those who commit such atrocities are prime candidates for suicide, especially members of an occupying army, universally despised by the population they seek to control. I think, perhaps, in the long run, violence can be far more harmful to the perpetrator than to the victim. This goes a long way toward describing what is wrong with our society, as well as Israeli society.
January 8, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BURN, BABY, BURN
It's official now. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the lower 48 states, beating out the previous record holding year of 1998 by a full degree Fahrenheit. It was also among the driest years and most extreme climatewise.
Right now, down under, Australia is in the midst of a record breaking heat wave. But, hold on to your hats, folks. There's more coming. Wonder what else 2013 will bring?
STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL'S HOOF AND MOUTH DISEASE
General Stanley McChrystal sticks his hoof in his mouth again, comparing Afghans to teenagers in need of continued occupation by the omniscient United States. With such a patronizing attitude is it any wonder that McChrystal failed to win Afghan hearts and minds?
Well, maybe McChrystal has a point. The median age in Afghanistan is 18.2 years — less than half of the median age in the United States. After 11 years of U.S. war and occupation, coming on the heals of the U.S. sponsored mujahideen war against the Soviet Union, there just aren't all that many old folks left in Afghanistan.
January 1, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CHOLERA EPIDEMIC IN HAITI
As our memories of Newtown and Webster dim — as did our memories of Columbine, Blacksburg, Chardon and other massacres before, Haiti continues to undergo a devastating cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands. The Haiti cholera epidemic was started by UN workers in October 2010 who contaminated a major river by disposing of their raw feces therein.
Preventing the spread of cholera is cheap and easy — all that is required is sewage treatment and water purification. Treating cholera is cheap and easy too — a plentiful supply of water and rehydration salts usually suffice. So why didn't the UN immediately stamp out the cholera epidemic it started? Why didn't Haiti's wealthy neighbor to the North (that's us), that makes everything that happens in the world its business, help out? Why is it that over two years after the UN introduced cholera to Haiti, Haitians still struggle with a cholera epidemic? Why is it that almost three years after the devastating earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tent cities without adequate sewage disposal or water treatment?
Two excellent books:
"The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson — Read how John Snow unraveled the cause of the 1854 London cholera epidemic.
"Hideous Dream" by Stan Goff — Read an account of the 1994 US invasion of Haiti by one who took part in it and find out why Haiti is still struggling with poverty, disease and foreign domination today.
YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET
Climatewise, 2012 was a year of extremes: drought, heat waves, hurricanes, and now, ending with a monster winter storm. But you ain't seen nothing yet. The devastating drought is predicted to intensify in much of the Western United States throughout the winter months. Sea levels will continue to rise. ...
Earth's Coldest Regions Warming Fastest
Recent Storms Recall Dust Bowl Days as Drought Persists
Meanwhile, politicians still bury their heads in the sand and pretend it just ain't happening.
Check out my Climate Cliff cartoon.
In the wake of the death of a 73 year old Iranian citizen, two days after being subjected to "intense questioning" by US customs, Iran advises citizens to avoid travel to the United States.
A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry remarked: "A five-hour unusual and inhumane interrogation of an elderly man cannot be acceptable."
Washington Post article
Agence France Press article