Tom (Yusha) Sager's website home feedback
December 29, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Dr. Jill Biden
A reader writes:
My response:“I didn't follow much of the news in this election cycle---I don't have a tv---but one story I saw tickled me silly. You probably saw this. Biden with his wife alongside was making a speech somewhere when some shouting animal rights demonstrator tried to get on the stage and take over the mike. Jill Biden confronted this woman and forcefully pushed her off the podium. A newspaper interviewed people in the audience about this incident. One guy's comment cracked me up. ‘Whatever you think about Joe Biden,’ he said, ‘Jill Biden's a bad ass.’”
You are very fortunate not to have a tv.
Here's a definition of “badass:”:
And here's a link to an article about this incident.badass, (?bæd?æs) noun, slang, a tough, competent, strong, courageous, independent, unyielding person. Don't mess with her; she's a real badass. (Sometimes written as two words: bad ass)
The more I learn about Dr. Jill Biden, the more I am impressed.
Vaccination Campaign Off to a Shaky Start
Seems like the vaccination campaign is way behind schedule. Surprised? Well, we could have been mass producing and stockpiling vaccines while trials were still in progress. As Dean Baker explains, even if the vaccines turned out to be worthless, we would only have wasted a few hundred million dollars; far less than the cost of the latest tax-breaks for the rich like the “three martini lunch” tax write-off.
And the rich are now cutting to the front of the line and getting their vaccine before front-line healthcare workers. The problem is probably far greater than what has come to light so far at Stanford and New York.
And why are young healthy “law-makers” getting vaccine ahead of the aged who are far more at risk? Congress-member Tulsi Gabbard called out her colleagues and refused vaccine until every elder who wants vaccine gets it. Hooray for Tulsi! Tulsi's another “badass.”
And in spite of the shortage of trained doctors, a for-profit hospital in Indiana has just killed off a doctor, sending her home while sick with COVID-19, almost certainly because she was black. And we are killing off our frontline healthcare workers like flies to the tune of 2,900, largely though failure to provide adequate protective equipment.
And we're not even sure that these vaccines will work against some new COVID strains, such as the new strain that is now devastating Britain. These viruses are tough. They mutate as I write.
With all these shenanigans, how are we to trust a public health establishment that has mounted by far the worst response to the COVID-19 pandemic of all wealthy nations?
Consider: if the wealthy and well-connected are able to buy their way to the front of the line; what's to stop some clever entrepreneur from replacing the real vaccine with something else, say bleach, and selling the real stuff on the black market?
We continue to violate the most important rule of public health: — Gain the trust of the public.
Nevertheless, I have written a jingle for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. It's to be sung to the tune of “Cod Liver Oil” as performed by the Dubliners.
Doctor Anthony Fauci, now don't be so mean;
December 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Wall Street Sewer Rats Attack Dr. Jill Biden
Generally, I steer clear of “trending” news items such as the Wall Street Journal's recent attack on Dr. Jill Biden, unless I feel that I have something to add to the story which is not being told in the news media.
In case you missed it: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed calling Jill Biden “kiddo” and telling her she was not a real doctor and ought not to be using the title. The Wall Street Journal has defended its decision to publish the op-ed.
What I found perplexing was that Wall Street backed Joe Biden, big time. So why would the Wall Street Journal publish such a condescending sexist attack on his wife?
Jill Biden is an educator. She holds a doctoral degree in Education. She has taught English and Education classes in community colleges for many years. She is probably the only individual to ever hold an outside job while serving as second spouse of the United States. She is a strong supporter of public education.
On the other hand Wall Street has grown fat on publicly supported for-profit education. Think of all the public money funneled into private hands through school vouchers, charter schools, and student loans.
In my opinion, this editorial was a thinly veiled threat against Doctor Biden from Wall Street. If you attack our cash cow: our vouchers, our loans, our charter schools, we will attack you any way we can. We will attack your gender. We will attack your credentials. We will attack your accomplishments. We will attack everything about you.
I think Wall Street has made a big mistake. Jill Biden is very popular. Many influential people have come to her defense already — not that she is in need of being defended. She has impressed me as strong and courageous. I think she can take care of herself.
On the other hand, those of us who believe in public education would do well to show our support for Dr. Biden. Wall Street, in its typical myopic fashion, has forgotten that our system of public education has given the United States the edge necessary to become a world leader in business, science, technology and many other areas — a role that we are now in the process of losing thanks to the degradation of public education, due in large part to Wall Street aggression.
December 15, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Relations and Connections
We are all related and connected: all 7.8 billion of us. We are also connected to all living beings on Earth and the ecosystems that sustain us. We ignore these connections at our own peril.
Here's an article by Robert Koehler discussing the connections between War and Climate Change.“The one thing we do not need is another war, certainly not against Planet Earth.” —Robert C. Koehler
And here's another from Jeff Goodell at Rolling Stone discussing the connection between Climate Change and Emergent Diseases. Many think that if the COVID-19 vaccines work as we hope we can get back to “normal.” No, as Goodell makes plain, getting back to equilibrium will require tremendous life-style changes from all of humanity. Are we willing to make those changes?“In the end, pandemics are a political problem, not a scientific one.” —Jeff Goodell
And have you ever wondered about how changes in human life style brought about by the pandemic might affect other life forms? Here's what happened to some New York City rats and a Chipotle restaurant during the pandemic.
And here's one about how efforts to crack down on drug-trafficking fuel forest devastation.
Yes, everything is connected.
November 2020: Lots of Extreme Climate-Related Events
Fires, hurricanes, droughts and more.
The November update to my ongoing Climate Essay has been posted.
And here's a great summary of November's extreme climate-related events from Jeff Masters at Yale Climate Connections.
December 8, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Lots of vaccines for COVID-19 out there now — well — almost out there — available soon — we're assured. Pfizer's vaccine, which is already in use in the UK, should be available by the end of the week in the USA. Moderna's vaccine is expected to be cleared for emergency use very soon after. Then there's Astrazeneca, several Chinese products that you don't hear much about, several Cuban products that you hear even less about, and, of course, one from Russia too.
Seems with so many wonderful products almost available, at least one of them should pan out and soon we can all get back to normal. Which ones will work out in the end? Who knows? Wouldn't it make sense for the whole world to share whichever vaccines turn out to work best? Unfortunately, share doesn't seem to be a very popular word in these days of gross inequality.
Still, I'm not placing any bets. Two reasons:
I'm a skeptic. I'll wait and see.1. This is one tough virus — full of surprises. Back in January, who would have thought that 11 months later the world would be well into a third wave of infections — each one worse than the last?
So maybe we can get back to “normal.” But what is normal? If the pre-Trump years are to be considered normal, I don't think we will ever get back to normal; and that might be a good thing.
I'm not sure what the “new-normal” will look like, I don't think anyone knows; but hopefully we will have learned an important lesson from this novel coronavirus. Hopefully, we will have learned that we are a part of Nature and attempts to dominate Nature often end in disaster.
So who gets the vaccine? In the United States, there seem to be plans for a fair and equitable distribution. Will they materialize? Let's wait and see. I suspect the wealthy elite will want to get theirs first and the pharmaceutical companies will want to maximize profits. China? I suspect China will go whole hog in vaccinating all 1.44 billion Chinese as soon as possible and help vaccinate people in friendly countries too. And Cuba? Cuba is a small island of 11.3 million people. I suspect they will not only vaccinate their entire population; but will go into the world's poorest countries and vaccinate as many as possible there too.
How do I know? I don't. I 'm just extrapolating from past behaviors.
More on Vaccines: History
Here in the West, we usually give Edward Jenner credit for inventing vaccination; but as this article from Wired documents; vaccination had been practiced for hundreds and maybe thousands of years before Edward Jenner. The procedure probably originated in China.
Perhaps this has something to do with why China has had their pandemic under control since early April while in the United States and Europe it just keeps getting worse. (see table below)
This article is particularly important reading for those who do not believe in vaccination. And if you are concerned about being vaccinated with a Bill Gates nanochip; then you can always go to Cuba, beyond the reach of Bill Gates' long arm, and receive your vaccination there, probably for a lot less than it would cost in the United States.
As Bernie Sanders suggested back in March, we should at least give China credit where credit is due, for feeding its huge population and give Cuba credit for caring for the health of its citizens. Maybe if we had, we wouldn't be facing the crisis we are in now where over 15 million of us in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 and 1/6 of us are food insecure. What is really sad is that in suggesting we give China and Cuba credit where credit is due, Bernie torpedoed his own campaign.
Think about this. A candidate who suggests giving folks credit for what they do right doesn't stand a chance in the United States.
Novel Coronavirus: Origins
There appears to be some biologic evidence that the novel coronavirus appeared in the United States and Europe at least as early as December 2019. What does this do to the orthodoxy that the COVID-19 virus came from a Chinese bat? It definitely cast some doubt on that theory. But, in truth, there is little doubt that had we been more interested in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and less interested in blaming it on China, we would be far better off now.
Pandemics and Economics
We often hear how we can't quarantine, isolate and close down businesses because it would have a negative economic impact; but here's some data from the International Monetary Fund showing that some countries that successfully limited COVID-19 infections did relatively well economically too; and some countries that failed to limit COVID-19 infections did relatively poorly economically.
It would seem that countries that have successfully kept their rates of infection low have made out better economically than countries where infection rates are high.
Choosing a Secretary of Defense
In this article Dan Ellsberg (famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers) and Jody Williams (Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work in banning landmines) urge Joe Biden not to pick Michèle Flournoy as his Secretary of Defense because of her ties to the defense industry and her support for just about every lousy Forever War we've ever become embroiled in, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
So what should our next Secretary of Defense look like? Start with someone who advised against our War Against Afghanistan pointing out that the Afghans beat the crap out of Persians, Greeks, British, Russians and others and would likely beat the crap out of anyone who dared to invade their mountain stronghold, even a coalition of 49 countries. Then find someone who also advised against the invasion of Iraq pointing out that Saddam Hussein's nonexistent nuclear program and nonexistent alliance with al-Qaeda were all so much bull-hockey. Then look for someone who is also independent and strong enough to stand up to the weapons industry. Now you have a viable candidate.
It appears that the campaign to dump Flournoy has succeeded. I read this morning that retired general Lloyd Austin is now favored to be our next Secretary of Defense. Austin is on the Board of Raytheon, a major weapons manufacturer that sells their weapons to Saudi Arabia which bombs civilians in Yemen. Doesn't sound any better than Flournoy to me.
2020 Record Breaking Atlantic Hurricane Season Closes
Here's a wrap-up by Jeff Masters. The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season boasted 30 named storms beating out the record of 28 set in 2005, the year of Katrina and Rita. So many records fell this season — you can read about some of them in this article.
November, 2020: The Warmest November on Record
In spite of an intensifying La Niña which should be cooling global surface temperatures down, the Earth just experienced the warmest November on record by a whopping 0.13°C. (Copernicus Climate Change Service)
December 1, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
How to Survive COVID-19 and All Other Pandemics
In this short editorial, Pope Francis tells us everything we need to know about surviving pandemics. Read it carefully and savor each word. This editorial may save your life.
November 24, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two Questions Concerning “Hell No We Won't Go.”
Art's response:1. Does the First Amendment to the US Constitution cover Satan Worship? How about QAnon? How about the Peoples Temple? Any civil liberties scholars out there want to take a stab at this one?
Rolla Gets a Mask Ordinance“As I recall, the academy is not approving Satanic worship as such, but now permits study groups. That is just another measure of how bizarre the world is getting, at least for me and surely other people of our generation. Somebody will surely take this farther and demand authentic Satanic chaplains in the US military services.
Last night the Rolla City Council by a vote of nine to three enacted an ordinance requiring masks and limiting the size of gatherings. If Rollaites obey the ordinance and stop insisting that they have a constitutional right to spread their viruses among the population, it should bring down the COVID transmission rate, which has been surging out of control in Phelps County and overwhelming our regional hospital. Kudos to the Rolla City Council and Mayor Magdits. Special thanks to fifth ward representative, Marie Allen, who led the charge and rallied the troops.
Gee, Folks — Can't We At Least Have One Good War Before Inauguration Day?
Apparently Donald Trump called his closest advisors together asking for options for a military strike on Iran. Thankfully, his closest advisors told him, NO #!@$%!! WAY.
Juan Cole outlines some likely results here.
I suspect that Iran could cause unacceptable damage to our “global civilization,” which is likely why it hasn't been subjected to a “military strike” already. Who needs a nuclear bomb as long as you have an acceptable deterrent? Without such a deterrent, you risk ending up like Gaddafi's Libya. (Thanks, Hillary, for demonstrating to the world why every country needs a good deterrent. Some, like North Korea, will undoubtedly choose the nuclear option.)
The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a game of chicken against Iran. How much damage can we inflict without provoking Iran to use it's deterrent? You and I and close to eight billion others are the counters in this dangerous game.
Will things be better under Biden? I don't see any real change on the horizon. Michèle Flournoy and Antony Blinken, Biden's probable choices for Secretaries of Defense and State, both firmly supported past US militarism and interventionism, and will likely continue to support US militarism and interventionism in the future. On the other hand, Biden seems to have a cautious streak that past presidents lacked. Maybe he'll be able to prevent his “advisors” from starting any new disastrous wars for the next four years.
Making the United States Ungovernable
Richard Heinberg offers here an extension to John Glubb's The Fate of Empires, which I commented on last month. Heinberg introduces the concept of “Overproduction of Elites.” As wealth percolates to the top leaving those below more and more deeply impoverished, elites multiply. Every member of an elite's family expects to become an elite too; and populations, even elite populations, tend to grow exponentially. Soon, with not enough wealth to satisfy all the would-be elites, and nothing further left to be stolen from below, the elites turn on each other, some exhorting the impoverished to support their side.
November 17, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Pray for Peace and Forgiveness
A reader writes:
My response:“Good read...late reading, but just as informative. I wish we could say at last it's over. But this man (Trump), is like the doggone energizer bunny...he keeps going and going and going! ENOUGH ALREADY.
Thank you for this wonderful statement.
I too believe that events of recent years are scriptural in nature. I believe that Donald Trump is a punishment visited upon us by the Almighty — a punishment for creating a society in which a small minority with obscene wealth and power systematically oppress billions, those most beloved of God. Did you think God would let stand a people whose nuclear weapons threaten the entire world with annihilation? Did you think God would let stand a society that for greed and power would desecrate and pollute the entire planet? Did you think that God would let stand a country that tears children from their parents and keeps them in cages?
I fear that Donald Trump is only a warning. If we cannot build a more peaceful, just and equitable world, I fear the next punishment will be far greater.
From Our Readers: Rolla Makes National News With Superspreader Event
In reference to the Daily Beast article on the “private” homecoming dance at Matt's Steakhouse that turned into a superspreader event, a reader writes:
My response:“And, goodness, what were those parents thinking? We don't go inside places without masks, and we sure don't go into crowded places for a homecoming dance. ... COVID is spreading at such high rates again. Stay safe.”
I can't say what those parents were thinking; but I suspect they had been drinking too much kool-aid.
On a positive note, I watched a video of yesterday's Rolla City Council meeting and it appears that Mayor Magdits and many members of the Rolla City Council are finally getting it. We may have an ordinance banning such events by next week. As Mayor Magdits put it, there comes a time when you have to put your ideology aside. (video of meeting to be posted soon)
Again, this was all very predictable. Here's a couple of quotes from previous newsletters:
Rolla Peace News, January 28, 2020 (when the United States had 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19).
Rolla Peace News, February 11, 2020 (when the United States had 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19)“While it's too early to know how far this epidemic will spread, one thing is certain: humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe. There are many reasons: war, poverty, a changing climate and overpopulation are just some that come to mind.
In late March, The United States became the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 infections, surpassing China, Spain and Italy. The US has held that title ever since and now has 11.7 million confirmed cases, 2.8 million more than India, which now has the world's second most confirmed COVID-19 infections. Lately the United States has been averaging over 150 thousand new infections daily. (COVID data from worldometers)“‘Human civilization’ is primed for a global epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may be only a harbinger of what is to come.
From Our Readers: On Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America
A reader writes:
My response:They [Central American countries] are just recovering from Eta and here comes another today [Iota]. If Eta hadn't wiped out the crops, I can't imagine they will survive this one. ... Frustrates me so much that rich countries take such advantage of poor countries—climate change caused by the rich countries is causing this. I wish our gov't “leaders” could see how we're all connected.
This 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season is unprecedented, with 30 named storms already. 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, was the previous record holder with 28; and this season is not over yet. Major Atlantic Hurricanes in November have been extremely rare; but, 2020 has seen two already and November is not over yet.
Yes, it is the wealthy countries that are most responsible for climate change; and the poor countries that are most vulnerable to it. A warming climate makes hurricanes and many other natural disasters so much more likely.
November 10, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Musings on Last Tuesday's Election
It's all over, except for the complaints, the denials, the law suits, the sabotage... Short of a “New Year Surprise”, “Sleepy Joe” Biden will soon be the 46th President of the United States of America. All over the world folks are breathing a sigh of relief, hoping all this nonsense is over, hoping Bernie Sanders and his progressives and those who shout Black Lives Matter will all go back to their marginalized movements, hoping that those who followed Donald Trump in hopes of Making America Great Again, will return to their marginalized movements too.
Biden is calling for unity. Let's all pull together. I want to be everybody's president. Well, I'm all for unity too; but I have to ask: unity for what purpose? Unity to return to the years when Wall Street and its lobbyists and bought politicians hollowed out the United States in favor of greater profits elsewhere? Back to the years when the United States could and would destroy any country its politicians took a disliking to?
I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but I don't see it happening. We've gone too far. We've burned too many bridges behind us.
The biggest winner in last Tuesday's election was the novel coronavirus. Over 100 thousand new infections in the United States each day since Election Day, reaching a high today of over 135 thousand. Well, maybe we'll have a vaccine soon and maybe we'll all be just fine until the next emergent disease comes 'round.
Another big winner was climate change. Drought and wildfire have taken their toll in the western United States — hurricanes and floods in the Southeast. Well, maybe soon we'll have renewable energy and then maybe climate change will just go away and leave us alone; only it won't; it can't.
No, the past is past, no going back, unless you can fit down a worm hole. Adelante, amigos, forward into this Brave New World of our own making.
Joe Biden would seem to be an unlikely choice for a savior. Could he unite the United States to rebuild its shattered polity? Could he unite the world to come to terms with its warming climate and emergent diseases? Could he reduce the crushing inequality responsible for so many of our social problems? Could he rebuild trust in our government? Could he build an era of trust among all nations? Only Time will tell.
Time. So far, Wall Street has failed to package it and sell it. So far, Science has failed to tame it and control it. Time. We have very little left.
November 1, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Thoughts on Tuesday's Election
In the past, winning a free and fair election used to be the goal — no longer. Now, it's winning at any cost. For some, even mass murder and suicide has become preferable to losing. Consider:
Friday, the US experienced around 100,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 (slightly less by some counts, slightly more by others) and close to 1,000 deaths with COVID. By comparison, China has experienced less than 86,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 deaths over the entire life of the pandemic. Think about this: 16% more new cases in one day than China has experienced in 11 months. It didn't have to be this way.
President Donald Trump famously said in March, “One day, its like a miracle, it will disappear.” After bringing its epidemic under control, China claimed that if the world followed China's example, the pandemic could be over by June.
The world hasn't. The pandemic rages evermore out of control (except in China and possibly a few other locations). Over 1.2 million dead worldwide, 236 thousand in the United States — mass murder and suicide.
Climate change is another example. We've experienced what may be this country's worst four-year period ever when it comes to hurricane, drought, wildfire and other climatic disasters. But, according to some, climate change is still a Chinese hoax.
Yet another example: nuclear war. I can well imagine those who hold the nuclear triggers taking down the world in a mass murder/suicide event — like Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple — only this time we're not just talking 918 people, we're talking hundreds of millions, maybe billions.
I think it might be helpful if our next president had a somewhat better grip on reality that our current president.
October 27, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two Excellent Articles on Joe Biden that Changed my Mind
Up to this weekend, I was an undecided voter. For me, it was a toss-up between Joe Biden and Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins. Now I intend to vote for Joe Biden next Tuesday.
The first article is, Biden, Trump and Peace with the Taliban by L. Ali Khan. Khan is the founder of Legal Scholar Academy and emeritus professor of law at Washburn University. Writing in The Jurist, he explains that in 2009 when newly-elected President Obama was discussing the proposed surge of US troops into Afghanistan, Joe Biden was the lone voice of caution. Maybe we should think this out, he suggested.
Just think: if Obama had listened to his Vice-President, maybe we could have been out of Afghanistan 11 years ago. The voice of caution: I like that.
We could certainly benefit from more caution and less impulsiveness.
Further, Khan opines about the recent agreement with the Taliban, “If Biden wins the presidency, he is most likely to endorse the Doha agreement and end a costly war imposed on one of the world’s poorest people.”
The second article that helped change my mind is Tom Weis', Like Sanders and Warren, I'm Backing Biden. Tom Weis, who is president of Climate Crisis Solutions in Boulder, Colorado, relates two chance encounters with Joe Biden. He portrays Biden as a warm, caring person. In 2013, while fasting for immigration reform in a tent on the National Mall in Washington, Vice President Biden came to visit with the fasters. Weis writes, “Inside the fasting tent, egos and lofty titles melted away and it was just real people meeting heart to heart. Joe Biden was no exception. If anything, I remember his empathy and humanity shining especially bright in that tent.”
Empathy and humanity: We need a lot more of that.
If you are considering voting for a candidate other than Joe Biden, please read these two short articles. They changed my mind. They may change yours too.
Bullying Gets You Nowhere: The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Garners 50 State Parties — Enters into Force in 90 Days
In spite of a letter from the Trump Administration suggesting to countries that have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that they have made a “strategic error” and should withdraw from the Treaty, the Treaty garnered three more State Parties over the last week to reach the 50 necessary for the Treaty to enter into force. Let's hear a loud Hip, Hip, Hooray for the three latest additions: Jamaica, Nauru and Honduras.
All parties to the Treaty agree, among other things, to “never under any circumstances ... Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;”
This treaty is a major cause for anxiety among the five original nuclear weapon states, US, Russia, Britain, France and China, which have long been in breach of their obligation under Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
I suspect that having reached the critical 50 State Parties, other countries will soon be lining up to join the Treaty. And I suspect that allies of nuclear weapon states will soon be questioning their role in support of nuclear weapons. Indeed, NATO member, Belgium, has already begun this process.
October 20, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A Comment on Fore & After Shocks
One of the many important points that Dr. Khan discusses in Fore & After Shocks is that the US presidential election will effect everyone, all over the world. Reading the US media and pronouncements by the political pundits, one would think that no one outside the United States has any Right to have a say in this election.
According to this theory, the citizens of Fiji and the Marshall Islands have no Right to an influence in the US elections, in spite of the fact that due to greenhouse emissions from the United States (and other industrialized countries) their islands may soon be totally underwater. No one outside the United States has any Right to an influence in the US elections in spite of the fact that US Nuclear Weapons (and those of eight other nations) threaten every living being on the face of the Earth with annihilation.
One can see this in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which now has 84 signatories and 47 state parties, none of which possess nuclear weapons. None of the nine nuclear weapons states have shown any interest in this treaty, except to denigrate it or ignore it. (So let's hear a loud Hip, Hip, Hooray for Tuvalu, the most recent country to ratify The Treaty.)
On a personal level, barely a day goes by when I don't receive multiple requests for donations to candidates for elective office as far away as Arizona and North Carolina. So why is it ok for me, a resident of Missouri, to influence an election in Arizona; but not ok for a Fiji Islander to influence the election for President of the United States?
King Donald and the Viral Waves (Cartoon)
I've posted a new cartoon on my website.
Climate Catastrophe Updated
I've posted the September update to Climate Catastrophe. In spite of a fall to -0.6 in the ONI index for July though September and the looming La Niña event which one might hope will bring about a fall in global surface temperatures, September 2020 was the warmest September on record.
Unexpected Rise in Deep-Sea Temperatures
Scientists at NOAA have found that the ocean depths are warming faster than expected. This is very scary, precisely because it was unexpected. Think about how large and deep our oceans are and how much heat is required to warm the depths even a few hundredths of a degree.
Whether it's Arctic ice melting, forests burning, or deep-sea temperatures rising, it appears always to be the same story: Global Warming is progressing faster than expected.
How to Keep COVID-19 from Spreading
After discovering six cases of COVID-19 in Qingdao, a city of 9.4 million; China has tested ten million people in four days and found seven more cases. China appears to have contained the outbreak through mass testing and contact tracing.
COVID-19 first made itself known in China and has since then become a global pandemic. As of today, China has experienced less than 86,000 confirmed cases and 4.6 thousand deaths.
The United States, in which many consider the virus a “Chinese hoax,” has experienced over 8 million confirmed cases and over 200,000 deaths. (If you want to know why, see cartoon referenced above.)
So wear a mask, avoid crowds, particularly indoors, and if you feel sick or have been exposed, get tested and, if possible, self-quarantine.
What's Wrong with the Democrats? — A Very Insightful Article by a Young Intern
Mariah Kreutter explains why Republicans almost always seem to win and Democrats almost always seem to lose. Kreutter compares senior Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's treatment of Amy Coney Barrett with her treatment of pre-teen advocates of the Green New Deal — the deference shown to a powerful Republican Supreme Court Nominee with her vicious attack on under-age environmentalists.
By 2016 the electorate was fed up with politics as usual and chose a maverick Republican over a Democratic insider. This year the choice seems to be a maverick Republican incumbent whose policies have failed miserably against another Democratic insider.
I suspect the election could go either way. But, in my opinion, if the Democrats *really* wanted to win this November's election, they would have run Bernie Sanders — just like in 2016.
October 13, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“The Outsider, The Stranger” — That's Us
This message to the world from Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani people of the Amazon rainforest is a MUST READ.
As the Amazon burns and its rivers run with oil and other toxins, she writes to us:
Two years ago, I wrote a short snippet about Ms. Nenquimo. I ended it with the observation:“In each of our many hundreds of different languages across the Amazon, we have a word for you — the outsider, the stranger. In my language, WaoTededo, that word is ‘cowori’. And it doesn’t need to be a bad word. But you have made it so. For us, the word has come to mean (and in a terrible way, your society has come to represent): the white man that knows too little for the power that he wields, and the damage that he causes.”
I think there is very little understanding, particularly among the elite classes in powerful nations, of just how close we are as a species to suicide.“We should be nurturing the few hunter-gatherers left among us, like the survival of our species depends upon them — because it does. As the Web of Life unravels and ‘civilizations’ collapse, hunter-gatherers may be all that remains of the human race.”
In spite of a gathering La Niña that should be cooling surface temperatures, the Earth has just experienced its warmest September on record (Copernicus).
Uncontrollable fires have burned a record four million plus acres in California as well as much of South America. Elsewhere, the Earth is also experiencing terrible fires.
The world moves closer to all-out war as the United States ramps up sanctions on Iran.
Over the past seven days, the world has experienced well over 2 million new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 35 thousand deaths.
To repeat, I think there is very little understanding, particularly among the elite classes in powerful nations, of just how close we are as a species to suicide. And Ms. Nenquimo is absolutely correct in saying we know too little for the power that we wield, and the damage that we cause.
October 6, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The Fate of Empires and the Fate of a Geologic Era
A reader writes regarding last week's snippet on John Glubb's Fate of Empires:
and“depending on how you assign start/stop dates to those empires before us, many can be seen to follow a similar trajectory over 250 years. Terrifying and fascinating.”
My response: Yes, fascinating, and just like the Great American Empire, factions among those previous empires squabbled with each other, apparently oblivious to how their empire was coming unglued at the seams and collapsing. Nowhere was this more evident than at last week's “Great Debate” where the contestants didn't even pretend to show respect for each other.“Those debates last night can't be called debates, they made me so sad to see.”
Incidentally, this did not begin with Donald Trump — not by a long shot. It's been going on for decades, although Trump has raised this internal squabbling to new heights. And, interestingly enough, the people love it! even as their nation crumbles and disintegrates.
If you need examples, think about fetal life, abortion and the right to choose; think about the second amendment, gun control and the right to bear arms.
Here's what John Glubb had to say about internal squabbling:
It would seem that the Great American Empire has had its 250 year run and is now in its twilight years.“Another remarkable and unexpected symptom of national decline is the intensification of internal political hatreds. One would have expected that, when the survival of the nation became precarious, political factions would drop their rivalry and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to save their country.
Being also in my twilight years, I think there is a lot to be said for bowing out gracefully, rather than holding on to the bitter end. So I wonder: has a nation ever read the writing on the wall, and stepped back from empire gracefully? I have no example to give you. Any history buffs out there care to comment?
Now I wish to take Glubb's Fate of Empires one step further. Let's consider the fate of geologic eras. We know that from time to time the world has been all but destroyed with up to 90% of extant species going extinct. A new, more vibrant world, then, arose on the remains of the old world.
For example, at the end of the Mesozoic Era, an asteroid struck the Earth and the ensuing cataclysm famously wiped out the dinosaurs and an estimated 50 to 75% of all extant species.
We seem to be on the verge of another great cataclysm and species die-off as the climate heats up and one rapacious species continues its destructive behaviors that warm the climate and transform the biosphere. One would expect that with the survival of our planetary support system becoming more and more precarious, peoples and nations would drop their rivalry and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to stave off the destruction of what we refer to as “global civilization.”
However, that is not happening. Differences are not being reconciled in an attempt to save the world as we know it. On the contrary, rivalries are becoming more acute, as the global order weakens. Witness, for example, the demise to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, The militarization of Space, the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, and the growing rivalry between the United States and China.
Sadly, there seems to be very little understanding of the necessity for all peoples and all nations of the world to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change, just as there seems to be little understanding, here in the United States, of the necessity of putting aside our differences, if we are to prevent catastrophic national collapse.
I won't be around to see what the next geologic era looks like; nor will I be around, as the current order disintegrates, to see what the new world order looks like. I tend to think that the age of grand empires will be over. I do not think the Earth will be able to support global human empires any longer as the climate becomes less and less hospitable to humanity. The Great American Empire may be the last of the breed.
“Time hurries on;
September 29, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Sir John Glubb and the Fate of Empires
Last week I recommended an article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies which contained a link to a short essay written by John Glubb in 1976, THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL“Empires, like adolescents, think they’ll live forever. In geopolitics, as in biology, expiration dates are never visible. When death comes, it’s always a shock.”
This is an amazing essay. Glubb traces 3,000 years of empires in Europe and the Middle East and describes striking simlarities among them. Empires go through distinct ages. They are:
1. The Age of Pioneers, when a people burst out of their homeland and spread into other lands.
2 .The Age of Conquests, when the nascent empire subdues and incorporates within itself new lands.
3. The Age of Commerce, when the empire grows wealthy as the center of trade.
4. The Age of Affluence, when wealth and power begin to lead to moral decay.
5. The Age of Intellect, when empire turns to intellectual and artistic pursuits.
6. The Age of Decadence — the twilight years as the empire, hollowed out by selfishness, greed, and a loss of a sense of duty, after too long a period of wealth and power, enters a downward spiral, ending eventually in disintegration.
Glubb notes that the entire process, regardless of dates and the level of technology, takes about 250 years or 10 generations and this appears constant over 3,000 years of European and Middle-Eastern history.
Glubb surmises that these are natural stages of growth and decline, much as an individual goes through childhood, adolescence, youth, middle-age and old-age.
He also notes that while the lives of empires shows an amazing uniformity, their destruction, which depends on external factors, does not.
The last stage should be of particular interest to us, here in the United States, since that is where we are, as an empire, now. All the signs of disintegration are there. I think we would be wise to terminate our empire voluntarily and gracefully; however, that is the last thing our leaders have in mind. Whether its Donald Trump's desire to return to a glorious mythological past of long long ago or Joe Biden's desire to return to a more recent era, there seems to be little talk of cutting our loses before they overwhelm us.
This 26 page essay should be required reading in every high-school history course; but, as Glubb points out, “We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.” I think the reason Glubb is not so widely read is that he slaughters so many sacred cows. Perhaps, Dear Reader, he slaughters some of yours too.
Actually, I feel somewhat ashamed that as I approach 80 years, I have never seen this essay before. And I wonder: how about you, Dear Reader? Are you familiar with this essay? If not, read it; and if you think it is as important as I do, recommend it to your family and friends.
China: Carbon-Neutral by 2060
China has announced at the United Nations that it plans to be carbon-neutral by 2060, 40 years from now. China has suffered tremendously this Spring and Summer from climate-change-induced floods of biblical proportions. This is to China's immense credit, that it is finally taking climate change seriously — and particularly, to Ou Hongyi's credit. 17-year-old Ou Hongyi is, to my knowledge, China's first climate striker.
But how about the United States? How many years of devastating wildfires before we finally announce plans to go carbon-neutral?
China can't do it alone. No country or group of countries can. Climate change is a global threat to all of us. We all must put aside our differences and work to preserve our only home, Planet Earth. Benjamin Franklin put it so well when we said:
If China succeeds, it might shave 0.2 to 0.3°C from global heating forecasts for 2100. That is not nearly enough. We, in the United States, and everybody else must do our part too. And 2060 may very well be too late. We must make progress faster.“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
September 22, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Suggested Reading for the Week
i) Will Michele Flournoy Be the Angel of Death for the American Empire? by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies
Michele Flournoy, who is purported to be one of Joe Biden's top picks for Secretary of Defense should he win in November, is a long-time advocate of endless wars and unlimited war budgets. Benjamin and Davies write,
For the victims of US militarism and imperialism, the outcome of the November election may not matter much. Indeed, they may be better off under Donald Trump who has arguably weakened the United States more than any other president in the history of our country, and is likely to continue down that road should he prevail in November.“[S]he suffers from the same chronic malady as the rest of the Washington foreign policy ‘blob.’ She pays lip service to diplomacy and multilateralism, but ... consistently supports the uses of military force ... [to her] every problem looks like a nail waiting to be whacked by a trillion-dollar, high-tech hammer.”
ii) ‘Collapse of civilisation is the most likely outcome’: top climate scientists by Asher Moses
This article makes me feel somewhat vindicated. After saying for over a decade that Collapse of Civilization is virtually assured, here is Will Steffen, one of the world's top climate scientists, saying essentially the same thing.
The passing of the old is always a time for reflection. Perhaps our grandchildren will do better than we have.
iii) Bill Gates' Global Agenda and How We Can Resist His War on Life by Vandana Shiva
Applying a holistic approach: Shiva explains:
And...“The health emergency of the coronavirus is inseparable from the health emergency of extinction, the health emergency of biodiversity loss, and the health emergency of the climate crisis. All of these emergencies are rooted in a mechanistic, militaristic, anthropocentric worldview that considers humans separate from—and superior to—other beings.”
Apparently, money is still the “root of all evil.” A good reason to abolish billionaires. No, Ralph, the super-rich will not save us. We must do it ourselves.“Health is about life and living systems. There is no ‘life’ in the paradigm of health that Bill Gates and his ilk are promoting and imposing on the entire world. ... His ‘funding’ results in an erasure of democracy and biodiversity, of nature and culture.”
iv) Allegations of Forced Sterilization in ICE Detention Evoke a Long Legacy of Eugenics in the United States by Maya Finoh
If you think forced sterilization is something that only happens in regimes like Nazi Germany, you can read here about the long history of this atrocity in the United States. Finoh remarks,
In human society as in biologic ecosystems, “diversity is the key to health.” A sane society (which we are not) might encourage its minorities to reproduce.“At one point in the 1970s, at least one in every four Indigenous individuals capable of giving birth between the ages of 15 and 44 were sterilized. Over one third of women on the U.S. occupied island of Puerto Rico, mostly working-class, were sterilized between the 1930s and the 1970s. Although Black women were only 25 percent of North Carolina’s population in the 1960s, they made up almost 65 percent of all sterilizations of women during that period.”
If you want more, let me know. I've got others that didn't quite make the cut.
From Our Readers: A Tale of Two Kingdoms, Irie Celeste.
I received some very nice comments on Simon Thougaard's article, “A Tale of Two Kingdoms,” comparing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark and Sweden. One reader writes:
And another writes: “Somebody needs to get this before a national audience.”“This was an amazing read! I enjoyed the diversity of topics in this week's article and am thankful, always for the knowledge I take away from the reading. A special thanks to Simon Thougaard, wonderful article, I kept confusing Sweden with the U.S. (smile). Also, a heartfelt recognition to Helen…for citing the words of Conrad. How powerful… ‘The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.’ This passage saddens me, as I think of the world as we know it. So many fall into the ploys of the enemy.”
I also received some nice comments on my granddaughter, Irie Celeste, whose photo was in last week's newsletter under, “The Future We All Fight For.”
One reader writes, “She's so sweet!”
Yes, she is! Irie is pronounced like Irene without the “n” sound. It's a Jamaican name meaning positive and powerful. Irie is almost a month old now and doing very well. I think she will change the world for the better.
If you are fighting so that a special person in your life may have a good future, send me a photo and a short explanation. I'll get it into the newsletter.
September 15, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Donald Trump
A reader writes:
And another reader writes:“Trump is dangerous and scares me. His followers scare me, too, as they are willing to believe what he says. Was it Don Jr who just said that 17 year olds make stupid mistakes in defense of the guy who shot protesters? I'm not going to say all my choices as a 17 year old were good, but never did it occur to me to shoot someone. Trump is provoking gullible people who apparently don't know better. And that shows in the boat parade: they don't even realize they are sinking themselves. Literally. And it could all get much worse.”
My response:“Perhaps you should say something about the super spreader event that took place in Sturgis recently. That can be blamed on Trump since his attitude toward mask wearing and social distancing rubs off on his fans. I'm sorry that I'm not religious because if I were, I'd know that Trump would burn in Hell eternally for breaking the 'thou shalt not kill' commandment.”
I can't quarrel with what our readers have written; but I must note:
If God were not merciful and forgiving, we would all be headed straight for Hell; so let's count our blessings. It is not for me to pass judgment: God redeems whom he will; and leaves whom he will to wander in darkness.
You were a much more mature 17-year-old than I was. At 17, I thought often and hard about shooting people. I was certainly not unique. Militaries thrive on 17-year-olds such as I was.
Keep in mind: Donald Trump invented neither Capitalism nor Imperialism nor Narcissism, although he appears to be pushing each one toward new extremes. Helen suggests the following quote from Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness:”
I love this passage. Replace “peal of laughter” with “wildfires, plagues and hurricanes.” Conrad, could easily have been writing about Donald Trump. Trump is the spittin' image of Conrad's Mr. Kurtz.“You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over.”
Incidentally, there is a very interesting article on COVID-19, the Sturgis rally and other mass gatherings in Wired.
Climate Catastrophe Essay Updated
I've posted the August update to Climate Catastrophe and also added two paragraphs to the section: Can Science Save US? It's not a pleasant read.
The Future We Are All Fighting For
September 8, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Up to 59 Million Refugees and Counting
The Costs of War Project estimates the US War on Terror has displaced up to 59 million people in the Middle East. That's equivalent to 18% of the population of the United States.“We’re sold the idea of—we’re going to liberate people, we’re fighting terrorism. Then we realize we’re the ones terrorizing people. That torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide.”
Meanwhile here in the United States large numbers of people have been driven from their homes due to Hurricane Laura, fires in the western United States, and eviction in the wake of joblessness caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Do you see a connection? I do.
Maybe if we had spent all those trillions of dollars over the past two decades fighting climate change and rebuilding our infrastructure instead of terrorizing people... maybe things would have been different.
Well, it's not to late to reconsider our priorities.
Donald Trump's Lovers' Quarrel With the Military
After leaking secrets about how Trump, who dodged military service during our Vietnam War, has shown contempt for soldiers as “losers,” and “suckers,” Trump fired back:
Well, we all know that Trump holds the whole world in contempt, except himself and a handful of sycophants. [It's a great word, Donald. Look it up, if you can find a dictionary.] And we all know that War is a Racket, meant to enrich the few at the expense of everyone else. Major General Smedley Butler said it 85 years ago. President Dwight Eiserhower said it 60 years ago. Things have only gotten worse.“The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t [in love with me] because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Don't expect anything to come of this lovers' quarrel. Likely, they'll kiss and make up. Hey, Donald: What about that swamp you were going to drain? What about those Forever Wars you were going to end?
Climate Change Continues
In August, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to increased at a rate of approximately 2.5 parts per million per year. August 2020 was among the five warmest Augusts on record in spite of a gathering La Niña episode which tends to cool off surface temperatures (“official” numbers not published yet). And we're in the midst of one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons and California fire seasons ever, both at the same time. Still think it's a Chinese hoax?
If You Can't Find Much to Laugh About...
Try this one: In a Trump boat parade on Lake Travis in Texas, at least five boats were swamped due to reckless and offensive boat handling by Trump supporters. The event has been nicknamed Proud Buoys, Klannish Armada and Dumbkirk.
September 1, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Africa: Missing COVID Cases — Missing Deaths
I've been writing since April about how COVID-19 appears to be primarily a disease of wealthy countries, although in recent months it has spread into some less-wealthy countries.
Here's a very interesting article by Linda Nordling discussing some recent findings from Africa, where it appears that in multiple areas, large numbers of people are developing antibodies to the COVID-19 virus without actually getting the COVID-19 disease or at least not having symptomatic cases. While one might surmise that the health authorities are “missing” a lot of cases, this appears unlikely, as there does not seem to be an uptick in mortality
Medical researchers surmise that it might be due to Africa's youthful population or perhaps even genetic factors; but here's the conjecture that really caught my eye: Due to their exposure to other diseases such as colds and malaria; Africans have developed more robust immune systems better able to adjust to novel germs like the COVID-19 virus.
I'd like to take this conjecture one step further. Perhaps those of us in wealthy countries, who are over-vaccinated and over-medicated have damaged our immune systems to the point where we cannot easily adjust to novel microbes.
Do we really need to be vaccinating the entire population for chicken pox? Do we really need to be exposing the population constantly to antibiotics through the meat we eat? Over-vaccination and over-medication may be causing unintended consequences.
And if you think the medical establishment knows best, consider:
The human immune system is tremendously complex and no one, not even Donald Trump, fully understands it.
Dr. Yoshihiro Sato published over one hundred peer-reviewed papers and even had a medical protocol based on his research adopted. Later his publications were found to be based on fake research.
But, getting back to Africa: One epidemiologist quoted in the article by Linda Nordling, Yap Boum of Epicentre Africa, the research and training arm of Doctors Without Borders, suggests that because of the high prevalence of antibodies in the population and the low prevalence of active cases and deaths, Africa might try for a relatively painless herd-immunity to COVID-19 without waiting for a vaccine.
In a proposal that I made recently, I also suggested a way in which we might arrive at a relatively painless vaccine-free herd immunity in more immuno-compromised populations, such as our own.
What If China Develops a COVID-19 Vaccine First?
The first out with a vaccine will become world famous. Wealth, power and acclamation will certainly accrue. But, shouldn't we all be working together instead of competing? Does it really matter who is first? Isn't it more important that the job be done right?“As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.” —Benjamin Franklin
This article presents dire predictions should China be the first to produce an effective vaccine, an event which is appearing more and more likely all the time. I think competition is just fine on the playing field; but I'd rather not take a vaccine that was the result of a high-stakes competition.
Muhammad Ali: Still The Greatest!
Over 50 years ago, Muhammad Ali refused to be conscripted into the US military. As a result, he was stripped of his boxing titles and banned from the ring — essentially ruining his career — they thought.“I ain't got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me nigger.” —Muhammad Ali
But Muhammad Ali won the Right to box again through the courts and regained the championship title: not once, but twice.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali drew the connection between injustice and racism at home and injustice and racism abroad. This is what really strikes fear into the establishment: that people will begin to draw this connection.
To my knowledge, athletes today like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James have not drawn this connection yet; but I suspect they will soon.
Two New Cartoons
I've added two new cartoons to my website, both on the coronavirus theme.
For those of you old enough to remember mid-20th-century absurdist theatre: Waiting for Dr. Fauci
And for the mathematically inclined: Asymptotic Spreaders
Also the section on Benjamin Franklin and the Postal Service has been redone and some of my more serious writings on the COVID-19 pandemic have been updated.
August 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
California Burnin' (On Such a Summer's Day)
After a relatively light fire-year in 2019 during which little more than 1/4 million acres burned, fires have returned to California with a vengeance in 2020. This year's fires in California are on track to burn more acreage than in any previous year. 2018, year of the Camp Fire which killed 85 and wiped out the town of Paradise, holds the record with close to 1.9 million acres burned. California fires have already burned over 1.4 million acres during the 2020 fire season which is just getting underway.
But there is a silver lining to every cloud. Wall Street investors have learned how to turn a handsome profit from even the worst disaster. The Baupost Group hedge fund has already made a cool $3 billion off these California fires which have displaced at least 100 thousand people.
This years flooding in China appears to rival floods chronicled in folk lore and religious scripture (Gilgamesh flood, Noah's flood, Turkey's Gift to the People [Diné], for example). The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangze is in trouble. Let's pray that it holds, since if that dam goes it may well precipitate the greatest flood the modern world has ever seen. China is no stranger to flooding. The 1938 Yellow River Flood which was deliberately caused by the retreating Guomindang Army killed a 1/2 million or more people.
And here in the United States, a monster derecho storm leveled trees and houses and wiped out much of Iowa's corn crop. And as I write, Hurricane Laura bears down on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
No Such Thing as a “Good War.”
In researching the history of the Post Office, I was reminded of these two sayings of Benjamin Franklin, who was our very first Postmaster General:
This is doubly true today when it is so necessary for the world to come together in the face of climate disasters, emerging diseases, nuclear weapons and other collective threats to humanity. And Franklin had a saying for this too:“There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
August 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Opening Israeli Beaches to Palestinians
I cried when I saw this article: Palestinians enjoying the beaches of Israel after over 70 years. Perhaps a small gesture; but it could grow into something huge. 13 years ago, I wrote:
Perhaps it is finally happening. Who would have thought that a tiny virus could have accomplished so much!“As the power and unconditional backing of its major benefactor [the United States] evaporates, Israel may decide that the best course is not only to make peace with its neighbors, but to enter into some form of economic and military cooperation with them.” [Three Murderous Myths, p13]
I received some very thoughtful comments on the proposal in last week's newsletter on developing herd immunity to COVID-19. One reader felt it would not be ethical to deliberately give a volunteer COVID-19. Another was concerned about long-term side-effects of having been infected with COVID-19. I'm going to save discussion of these points for a later date. Please continue to send in comments. The proposal is posted here.
UN sanctions on Iran to End in October
The United Nations Security Council voted down a US proposal to extend the arms embargo on Iran which is set to expire in October. The United States and the Dominican Republic voted to extend the embargo. China and Russia voted against the proposal. All other Security Council members, including the United Kingdom, abstained.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Makes Progress
So far this August, Ireland, Nigeria, Niue and Saint Kitts & Nevis have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, bringing the total to 44. Six more ratifications and the Treaty goes into force.
This is a very important Treaty, by which mostly small and medium-sized nations are standing up to nuclear bullying from mostly rich and powerful nations.
Here's an article about Fiji which was devastated by French nuclear testing. Fiji ratified the Treaty last month.
August 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Beating the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Modest Proposal
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Some 250,000 new cases are confirmed each day; and counting unreported cases, the daily total may well reach into the millions. Worldwide, death toll estimates from the virus approach 750,000.
Some countries, such as Laos, have been quite successful in avoiding the pandemic so far. In others, most notably, the United States, the pandemic has ravaged through the population for months. Many, such as China, where the pandemic was first noted, have brought the pandemic under control and kept it under control. In other countries, such as Japan, the pandemic is resurging after having been previously brought under control. In still others, such as India, the pandemic arrived late, but when it did arrive, it spread like wildfire.
Second waves of COVID-19 cases are definitely in vogue now. Here are some examples:
Folks in places where new cases have peaked and then fallen drastically, worn out from beating back the initial wave, are living in fear of a resurgence of COVID-19 — hoping science will give them a vaccine before it's too late.Spain peaked with an average of 7,800 new cases reported daily during the week ending April 1. New cases fell to an average of 279 over the week ending June 10, but then surged to an average of 2,704 new cases over the week ending August 10.
Here, I have a modest proposal to make. It's a low-tech solution. It doesn't require a vaccine that may not be available for a long time and may not work particularly well, even after it is available. In fact, this proposal doesn't require anything that we don't already have, except the will to implement it.
First thing is to estimate how many active infections can be handled without overwhelming one's healthcare infrastructure. Here, we must not lose sight of the fact that people still need medical attention for other reasons as well.
Second let's estimate how many active infections we can handle without sending our economy into a tailspin.
These estimates need to be fine-tuned. If infected people are not aged or immuno-compromised, our healthcare infrastructure can tolerate a lot more infections than if the infected are among the most vulnerable in society. If the infected people are from non-critical professions, we can handle far more infections than if the infected are frontline healthcare workers.
Then, we want to build in a safety factor; and when all is said and done, we have a number, let's call it our Maximum Comfortable Active Infection Load or MCAIL for short. Note this number should change over time as we strive to build a more robust healthcare infrastructure and fine-tune the proposal.
Now, estimate our current active infection load. If its above the MCAIL threshold, first thing to do is to bring it down, using known techniques such as isolation, contact tracing, social distancing etc. It's not my purpose here to review these techniques that we have all heard about over and over again.
When our active infection load falls below the MCAIL threshold; we ask for volunteers; who agree to be deliberately infected with COVID-19. Our purpose here is to arrive at herd-immunity as quickly and painlessly as possible, without overwhelming our healthcare infrastructure or destroying our economic livelihood.
Herd-immunity is attained when the immune portion of the population is large enough that the virus cannot easily spread through the portion that lacks immunity. I've seen estimates of herd immunity that vary from requiring 20% of the population to be immune to requiring 80% of the population to be immune. Clearly, the details need to be worked out in real time.
Immunity derived from having recovered from a disease is the real McCoy — much more effective in general than vaccine-induced immunity, particularly new untried vaccines that have been rushed to market by for-profit corporations, hoping to make a killing (literally) off the pandemic. So far, there have been no confirmed instances of a fully recovered individual getting sick with COVID-19 a second time (although there are plenty of rumors).
As volunteers recover, new volunteers are accepted, keeping the active infection load as close as possible to the MCAIL threshold. Once a volunteer has recovered and acquired immunity, he returns to the general population, perhaps a month or so after being selected. Once we reach herd-immunity, we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “Job Well Done.”
Certainly, volunteers should be offered something for agreeing to be human guinea pigs. What should be offered? Whatever it takes to get enough volunteers.
The infection fatality rate, the portion of those infected who can be expected to die from the infection, is low — less than 1% — and even lower if healthy volunteers are chosen. Lasting complications are certainly possible, but seem to be rare among healthy individuals. Volunteers should be isolated and checked daily until they are coronavirus free. If needed, they should receive the best medical care available. Most will likely experience at worst mild symptoms. Volunteers might well be less likely to die of COVID-19 then the general population, because of the constant medical care and attention they would receive while infected.
In addition, volunteers should certainly receive a salary commensurate with their earning abilities. Their salary should also include hazardous duty pay.
Afterwards, being virtually immune, their services should be in great demand in hospitals, nursing homes and other places where workers must be around folks who are likely to be infected or those who are most at risk from infections.
What we are striving for here is far more than flattening the curve. Indeed, if this works as planned; we no longer have a curve at all; Instead we have a level straight line.
Before 1963, it was common knowledge that most children would eventually get measles. Many parents would deliberately expose their children to measles at opportune times in order to get the inevitable over with, in spite of the risk involved.
It is likely that, short of an effective vaccine, most people will eventually contract COVID-19. With this proposal, we are simulating the situation that existed with measles prior to 1963 when the first measles vaccine was developed.
And what happens if an effective COVID-19 vaccine is developed? We can always switch horses (as we did with measles) if desired. But let's not put all our money on the vaccine horse; especially since there is no guarantee that it will ever reach the finish line. Indeed, many think that a COVID-19 vaccine that comes even close to the efficacy of our measles vaccine (97% effective) is highly unlikely. And let's not forget that decades into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, science has failed miserably in producing a vaccine.
Actually, this proposal increases the likelihood of eventually developing an effective vaccine for COVID-19. It allows vaccine developers the time necessary to do the job right. “Warp-speed” is no longer necessary since we have another, perhaps even better, method of fighting the pandemic. Haste makes waste. Personally, I would not want to take a vaccine produced under the conditions now envisioned.
There are certainly a lot of unknowns here; and I am not in a position to fill in all the blanks. However, I believe the idea is sound; and certainly beats doing nothing while living in fear and waiting for a vaccine.
You might ask: where's the money going to come from? How about from the almost $2 trillion that the world spends each year on war and preparations for war. A minuscule percentage of the world's war budget should easily cover implementing this proposal worldwide. Not only would we conquer the pandemic; but we would also render war, potentially a much greater killer than COVID-19, far less likely.
August 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Let's Ban All Nuclear Weapons
This week is Hiroshima/Nagasaki week. 75 years ago on August 6, the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States killing an estimated 120,000 people. Three days later, the second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing another estimated 80,000 people.
It is absolutely incredible that 75 years later, nine nations carry nuclear weapons in their arsenals, threatening all 7.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth. These nations are: The United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
To my knowledge, not one of these nations has even agreed to destroy their nuclear arsenal if the other eight would do so too.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is making progress. In July, Fiji and Botswana ratified the Treaty bringing to 40 the number of State Parties. Ten more and the Treaty goes into force.
This is a very important Treaty. It represents the small nations of the world standing up to nuclear blackmail from the powerful nations. Sadly, not one nuclear-armed nation has signed the Treaty.
From our Readers: Iran
A reader writes: “Always grateful for your newsletter because you provide news I don’t get elsewhere. I had no idea about the Iranian incidences.”
My response: Thank you. I think what I wrote is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a more in-depth article by Reese Ehrlich.
And here's the latest incident that I'm aware of:
From our Readers: California Wildfires
A reader writes: “[P]art of the problem is the same cause as many of our new diseases. Man encroaches upon nature, and as the saying goes 'nature bats last.' Another cause is the greedy utilities who spend money on executive bonuses, but underspend on maintenance of the power lines. Several of the worst fires in the past few years have been caused by PG&E powerlines. And finally climate change seems to have given California a warmer, drier climate which makes the state more prone to fires.”
My response: Excellent summary! The California wildfire season is underway and may be a bad one.
But, here's a place you wouldn't expect to see wildfires this time of year (middle of southern-hemisphere winter), Argentina. Seems like the rivers are drying up from all the forest destruction in the Amazon Basin and the Paraná River Delta is aflame. Yes, Nature Bats Last.
Israel: Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Worse
In the middle of a global pandemic, Israel deliberately demolished a COVID-19 testing center in Hebron on the West-bank of Palestine.
Viruses don't play politics or respect political boundaries. Israel has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Israel reported 1,768 new cases of COVID-19 or 192 cases per million population. By contrast, the United States reported 54,505 new cases or 165 cases per million; and Palestine reported only 229 new cases or 45 new cases per million. Like the United States, Israel is experiencing unrest from those who would rather see their own country-people get sick and die than see their social and economic lives disrupted.
Perhaps, if Israel were more interested in taking care of its own citizens and less interested in brutalizing Palestinians, their COVID numbers would come down at least as far as Palestine's.
(The data above are from Worldometers.info.)
July 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From our Readers: Cognitive Dissonance:
My response: Excellent example! Here's another one:“Cognitive dissonance is when you applaud secret police snatching up people into unmarked vans, then turn around and claim that having to wear a mask is like living in a dictatorship.”
Billions of Dollars Worth of Scrap Metal“When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to recall that your objective was to drain the swamp.”
Michael Klare points out that all those giant aircraft carriers we've payed billions and billions for are nothing but death-traps in this age of the coronavirus; and the next generation of weapons will be small and robotic, able to function with or without a human in control.“Day after day, day after day,
So Congress has passed a $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act to develop and deploy all these shiny new robotic toys, while ignoring much-needed domestic spending. The United States is looking more and more like a failed state with every passing day.
Personally, I wouldn't feel any more secure with a bunch of killer-robots on the loose. How about you?
In early July there was a fire and explosion in Iran's centrifuge production plant at the Natanz nuclear complex — quite likely sabotage. Since then:
There was a fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard — also possibly sabotage.
An Iranian commercial airplane was closely approached by a US fighter plane causing injuries to passengers.
In a military exercise Iran destroyed a mockup of a US aircraft carrier in the Straight of Hormuz.
Some wonder when the missiles will start flying and the bombs dropping in ernest. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to go back to the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA)?
A House Divided
Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon is looking more and more like a war-zone each day. We are definitely a house divided; and as Abraham Lincoln (and Jesus before him) stated so clearly, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Ravages of Nature
And while humanity battles against itself, Nature is getting her own licks in. Floods ravaged much of Asia from China where a dam was blown up to ease flooding to Bangladesh which is 1/3 under water. Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna ravaged parts of Mexico and Texas dropping up to 15 inches of rain in places. Maybe Nature is trying to tell us something. Maybe we should stop what we are doing and listen.
July 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
When Empires Dissolve
We live in momentous times. We live at a time when the United States of America is literally coming unglued.“When dying regimes collapse, they do so with dizzying speed.” —Chris Hedges
Here is the latest: Federal agents in Portland, Oregon driving in unmarked vehicles kidnapped protesters off the streets and beat up and gassed a Navy veteran who asked them to remember their oath to defend the Constitution. City and State elected officials have told the feds, “Get out.” So far, they have refused. And they threaten to do the same in other cities.
Oregon seems to be the Bellwether State. Four years ago, it was the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Reservation by the militia movement. Today, it's the streets of Portland.
I'm wondering: How much longer before the military takeover of an incompetent inept civilian government whose response to an out-of control pandemic seems to be Do no testing; Do no reporting?
Or perhaps the United States will simply dissolve into regional blocks as the Soviet Union did 30 years ago.
I find the former far more likely — the culmination of two long-standing campaigns: “get big government off our backs” and “support the troops.” I wonder: At this point, how many would actually welcome a military takeover?
Palestine and Israel
Seems like some influential Jewish-Americans are finally coming to realize that the “Two-State Solution” is dead and salvation lies in a single state with equal rights for all. It's been a long time coming.
Israel is having some of the same problems as the United States as the COVID-19 pandemic rampages through the population and street demonstrations against a corrupt ineffectual government elicit a violent government response.
The 50 pound elephant turd in the middle of the room that no one talks about is Israel's relationship with the United States. Israel exists on the largesse of the United States, to the tune of billions of dollars each year and non-monetary perks such as shelter from condemnation in the United Nations Security Council. Right now, the United States can't even take care of itself much less a country thousands of miles away.
Israel may indeed be forced, out of necessity, to come to terms with its Palestinian subjects. This would certainly be advantageous for both peoples and for the entire Middle East.
How the United States and Western Europe would deal with a strong, independent, multi-national, nuclear-armed state in this oil-rich region of the world will be a topic for another day's discussion.
July 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers:
A reader writes:
My Response: National Outcomes from COVID-19 Pandemic“Three countries led by leaders who trust their gut feel rather than listen to the scientists have had very bad outcomes: USA, UK, Brazil. Generally countries that have listened to their experts have done much better: New Zealand for example. I have seen studies claiming that if Trump had done the right things such as shut down the country and take the responsibility for stocking PPE when the warnings first came, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. Instead he said that it was no worse than the flu, and would disappear in the summer, and did nothing. That's what happens when we elect an egotistical moron as president. Whatever you can say about Hillary, she is way more competent than Trump, and I believe the outcome would have been much better. I'm no expert on your religion, but I'm sure that tens of thousands of lives saved must factor in somewhere.
How ought we to compare the responses of various countries to the COVID pandemic? total number of cases confirmed? total number of deaths attributed to the COVID virus? cases per population size? mortality per population size? What other factors ought to be taken into account? health? age? wealth? environment? stability? number of tests performed? I have no easy answer; and I suspect no one else does either.
In the comparisons which I have posted online (here and here) and update regularly, I rank countries according to total number of COVID cases. I'm somewhat unhappy about this, although it seems to be working out, provided you don't take the numbers too seriously and keep in mind the limitations of this approach.
At present: (0:00 hrs gmt on July 15) the top countries in total confirmed cases are, in order: USA. Brazil, India, Russia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, UK. One might argue from the first three countries, that countries with right-wing ideologues as heads of state are most susceptible to the COVID pandemic. However, going back to March 20, six of the top ten countries were Western European democracies. China, Iran, USA and South Korea rounded out the top ten.
The UK's performance is in line with other Western European countries, although near the high end: second to Spain in number of cases; first in mortality; and quite far down the list in number of cases per population size
Sweden, with its much-lauded policy of remaining open, is not doing particularly well at present, particularly in deaths per population size
Some countries that might surprise you: Vietnam and Mongolia seem to be doing quite well, Israel and Saudi Arabia quite poorly.
On January 28 when the USA had five confirmed cases and China less than 6,000, I warned:
By early April, the USA was Number One in confirmed COVID cases, a position we have held ever since, even widening our lead over other countries. The United States surpassed a confirmed infection rate of 1% of the population this weekend. On July 10 the United States logged over 71,000 new cases, over 85% of China's 83,000+ total confirmed cases over the life of the pandemic so far.“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
What makes the difference?
China's leadership was willing and able to do whatever necessary to stop the epidemic from spreading. China has a robust national healthcare system which extends to the entire population.
The United States, as you note, is under the leadership of a delusional head of state who doesn't seem to understand or care. Decades of for-profit healthcare have left our public health infrastructure in shambles.
Note 1: Data is from worldometers.info and is “as reported” which may or may not represent the reality on the ground faithfully.
Note 2: COVID-19 is currently the name of a disease, syndrome or pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is the official name given to the virus that causes the COVID-19 syndrome. However, that is hard to say. I prefer to call it the COVID-19 virus or simply the COVID virus
My Response: Donald Trump and Religion
This quote comes from an article I found a couple of years ago, in which the author was interviewing people on the USA/Mexico border. I've been saving it for the proper occasion.“Sometimes, God uses unusual people, people that are not exactly on the straight and narrow. And I believe God is using Mr. Trump. Like I said I don’t like his style, but I believe God is using him. He doesn’t answer to people, he does whatever.” —Kathy Casillas
I'm glad you asked about Donald Trump and religion. I, too, believe God is using him; and the purpose for which I believe God is using Donald Trump appears to be the destruction of the Great American Empire.
Think about it. If your intention was to destroy the Great American Empire, could you think of a better way then to place an “egotistical moron” like Donald Trump in the White House?
On March 31, I warned:
The COVID-19 virus is fast degrading the capacity of the US military to maintain its empire. Here's an example from Okinawa. Okinawans, fed up with the crime and pollution associated with military occupation, long ago asked the US military to pack up and leave their islands. That US troops are now spreading COVID-19 among the population could be the final straw.“But this will pass. Eventually humanity will develop herd-immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
My Response: Origins of the COVID-19 pandemic
Representatives of the World Health Organization are currently visiting China with the goal of forming an international mission to seek the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. They apparently will look into all possibilities, including the possibility that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they find, particularly since the United States has withdrawn from the WHO and presumably will not be participating.
My Response: China and the Cultural Revolution
These seven words, which Kiriakou used to describe a totally different situation, sum up my feelings about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Justified (in my opinion) anger at the elite spilled over into anarchy. And a decade later, when the revolution was over, China embarked on a program of “modernization” with the goal of beating the West at its own game. While China may soon be the world's largest economy and a military super-power, it has paid a high price in terms of pollution and environmental degradation.“Anarchy is a poor answer to tyranny.” —John Kiriakou
China seems to have a belief that it can always recover later from past excesses. Perhaps this comes from its long history, as the longest continuous culture on the planet. However, I suspect when it comes to environmental degradation, there are limits to humanity's ability to recover from past excesses. But that's a tale for another day.
I've posted the June update to my ongoing essay on climate catastrophe. In sum, June was a terrible month; but not nearly so terrible as the previous few months.
July 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: It's All Connected
I received some very nice responses to last weeks column on how everything is connected. One reader writes, “I agree with you wholeheartedly.” Another writes, “Good Stuff Tom! What came first Man or Nature? If we think we can disrespect nature without consequences, we had better think again! We only have to just be still, pay attention and open our eyes.”
My response: Thanks so much to both of you. Here's a verse from the Qur'an:
The Book of Genesis places the creation of man as the final act of God on the sixth day of the Creation. Amerindians also describe the creation of man as the final act of creation, as in stories such as And Me, Coyote. According to Science, modern man evolved around 250 thousand years ago. Life on the planet Earth began around 4 billion years ago. In other words, Nature got along just fine for 3,999,750,000 years without us. I suspect she will get along just fine after we are all gone. So let's show a little respect.“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men: Yet most men understand not.”
A third reader sends in a similar post from Nicaragua, The Rona and Trees, that seems to be inspired by the same article that inspired my column last week.
And yesterday, I found this wonderful article by Robert Shetterly that looks at connections between White Men in Suits, Original Sin, and Rumplestiltskin. I think it is in the aether that all is connected, and many are picking up the vibes.
A fourth reader writes in, “I'm glad to see that you've decided that COVID-19 is zoonotic and not from a lab.”
My response: I've decided nothing of the kind. Assuming the original viral material for the COVID-19 virus came from a bat, it could have been transformed into the COVID-19 virus through natural selection, through genetic manipulation in a laboratory, or perhaps by other means as well. I stand by my statement that:
I have seen no satisfactory explanation as to why it is “impossible” that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. When you brush aside the cobwebs it turns out to be, “We're the experts. We'll spare you all the details that you wouldn't understand anyway. Just take our word for it.” And then the mantra is repeated endlessly through the media.“In my opinion it is quite likely that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
So let's assume for now that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. And let's assume the secret gets out.
So far, 540 thousand have died of COVID-19. People all over the world have lost family and friends to this virus. Folks have had their whole lives disrupted. How are they going to respond to the knowledge that this scourge was visited upon them by a handful of scientists? Might they not torch a few ivory towers? Might they not liberate a few laboratories? Might they not scourge a few scientists?
Indeed, scientists have a very strong interest in keeping the public from believing that they hold any responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic.
We should also keep in mind that in the past, scientists have visited other destructive technologies on humanity. The most obvious example is nuclear weapons. Another is the technology to mine and burn fossil fuels, without which it is unlikely that we would now be plagued by a warming climate. A third example is computer technology, which makes possible unmanned vehicles that can deliver bombs precisely anywhere in the world.
So would folks that have made weapons capable of wiping humanity from the face of the Earth stop at creating a disease which is likely to kill one to five percent of humanity? I'll let you, Dear Reader, answer that one.
Scientists, such as the renowned Dr. Anthony Fauci, decry that so many have “an anti-science bias” for “inconceivable reasons.” As a fellow scientist, let me explain, Dr. Fauci.
Given the discussion above, is it not truly bizarre that so many look upon Science as the Savior of Humanity? Some may not articulate their objection to Science in the manner I have; but I suspect subconsciously they understand.
This age is not unique. There have been ages in the past when people have turned against Science. Consider the early 19th Century English Luddites who smashed machines and turned against industrial automation which was destroying their livelihood.
My favorite example, however, is the Chinese Cultural Revolution (roughly 1967 to 1977) during which universities were shuttered and scientists were sent to the countryside to work on collective farms and learn the value of hard labor.
Maybe, if scientists did more for ordinary people, and less for the elite classes of billionaires, corporate executives, politicians and generals — maybe then, there would not be so many people with “an anti-science bias.”
June 30, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
It's All Connected
A reader sends in this article from the New York Times detailing connections between emerging diseases (particularly COVID-19) and environmental destruction — a perfect illustration of the adage “Nature Bats Last.” The devastation we have done to natural ecosystems comes back to haunt us as zoonotic disease like COVID-19.
Reading the article, I couldn't help feeling that we are going to get hit by disease upon disease until we learn that we are a part of Nature — not separate from it and definitely not holding dominion over it. I think Nature is trying to teach us something. We ignore the lesson at our own peril.
Here's another article from Institute for Policy Studies detailing what may be the most important connection: Militarism and Climate Change. This has been a major theme in my writing; so I was very glad to see this excellent article. War and Climate Change feed on each other. To take one example: War is a carbon intensive activity. Tanks and fighter planes run on petroleum-based products, lots of it, and are heavy emitters of carbon dioxide, causing Climate Change. The changing climate in turn leads to disruption and scarcity of resources which makes War more likely.
And here's an article from the Guardian discussing another connection between Climate Change and disease. Climate Change makes natural disasters more likely. People fleeing natural disasters, like fires, end up crowding into shelters and camps where disease is easily spread.
And one final connection: Inequality. If we can't look at each other as equals, how are we going to join together to tackle so many common problems.
So what's the solution? Learn to live in harmony with each other and with Nature. Sounds easy when you put it that way. Stop looking at ourselves as being exceptional. We're all in this together. If humanity is to survive, we'll have to replace “Make America Great” with “Make Nature Great.” The part can never be greater than the whole.
June 23, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Thinking of a career in Public Health? You might want to think a little harder. Folks are leaving the profession in droves.
Seems like a lot of folks don't care to be healthy. Worse than that, they don't care if others are healthy either. And even worse than that, they'll viciously attack anyone who works to keep folks healthy.
Well, we are a free people. We have a Right to our diseases. And we have a Right to spread them around freely. We are a free people; and as former president George W. Bush once remarked, "They hate our freedoms." Maybe this was what he was referring to. Maybe they hate our freedom to spread disease.
Well, cases of COVID-19 are, very predictably, on the rise in the United States. Having fallen briefly below 20,000 new cases per day, we have now, for the first time since April, surpassed 30,000 new cases in four of the last five days. A rise in mortality will very likely follow on the heals of the rise in new infections.
Amnesty International has come out with a well-researched article on the US response to Peaceful Protests. Amnesty documents 125 recent incidents of Human Rights violations by law enforcement in 40 states and the District of Columbia including indiscriminate use of tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets on mostly peaceful protesters.
A Failed State?
Adding to the twin scourges of militarism and climate change, we now have pandemic disease and a break down in internal order with state-sponsored vigilante justice replacing even a semblance of law and order. And our deranged dotard of a chief executive seems bent upon making the situation as unstable as possible.
I think we are fast approaching Failed State status. (You know, like Yemen or Afghanistan.) We may become the world's first Failed State with Nuclear Weapons. (The former Soviet Union may have come close in the 1990s.)
Think about that! A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons.
I'm wondering... Did any of our oh so smart scientists that developed Nuclear Weapons and any of our oh so smart business executives, politicians, diplomats and generals ever think about this? A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons.
June 16, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Rolla March for Justice
One reader writes in: “It certainly was the best organized march I have been in!”
My response: I second that! I hope to see many more.
Another reader writes: “One person might be arrested. That person was not part of the peaceful protest. He was the angry anti-protester screaming ‘all lives matter,’ waving a trump 2020 banner, carrying an automatic weapon and handgun.... police are asking for information about an incident where he was in the middle of the street instigating things.”
My response: I saw him too. He was certainly trying to incite confrontation, and probably violence as well. I think the police handled the incident well. I don't know whether he was arrested.
“All lives matter.” I agree. What about Palestinian lives? What about Afghan lives? Your life and mine also matter. It isn't “Black Lives Matter” v. “All Lives Matter.” Its“Black Lives Matter” AND “All Lives Matter.”
To quote Rodney King: “Can we all get along?”
I'd like to answer “Yes;” however, at this time, the answer appears to be “No.” Maybe after a few more events like last week's march.
Corona Virus Appears to be Mutating
The COVID-19 virus appears to be mutating and may be becoming more contagious and more virulent. It is moving into war-torn countries on the heels of invading soldiers and foreign bureaucrats. In Afghanistan, confirmed cases increased almost four-fold from 6,664 to 26,310 over the past 30 days. In Yemen, confirmed cases increased almost seven-fold from 128 to 885 in 30 days. These numbers are likely grossly under-reported.
Here, in the United States, we remain by far the country with the most COVID-19 cases and our numbers continue to increase at an alarming rate. While daily new cases have been falling over the past two months; with the reopening of business and social life, new cases have leveled off and appear to be set to rise again.
Come Mighty Storms
With the May numbers out, the Earth has now experienced 12 consecutive months, each either the warmest or second warmest with that name. May 2020 tied with May 2016 for the warmest May on record.
The Atlantic hurricane season is off to a strong start boasting three named storms so far, with the season just beginning. Tropical Storm Cristobal after flooding parts of Mexico and Louisiana, traveled north all the way to Wisconsin, where most tropical storms dare not venture. This year the hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual.
On the up-side, people all over the world are planting mini-forests which help cool planet Earth. Why not here in the United States? Why not here in Rolla, Missouri?
No Three-Way START Treaty
Bernie Sanders and Barbara Lee are calling for a 10% cut in the military budget and investment in people and infrastructure.
Having abrogated the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, (not to mention the JCPOA agreement with Iran), United States negotiators wonder why China is not interested in negotiating a new START treaty with the United States and Russia.
Maybe if we could show the world we are serious about avoiding nuclear war... How about a declaration of No First Use of nuclear weapons? Why would anyone want to be the first to use nuclear weapons anyway?
It has been a while since I have reported on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty now has 38 State Parties. In 2020, Paraguay, Namibia, Lesotho and Belize have ratified The Treaty. 12 more and The Treaty goes into force. Sadly, no nuclear weapon state has signed the treaty or even, to my knowledge, stated that if all the others nuclear weapon states agree to sign, then they would too.
June 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Hundreds March for Justice in Rolla
Sunday, Rolla was treated to a demonstrations of more hundreds of people then this mathematician can count up to, all saying, “Justice!” — justice for George Floyd, who was murdered by four policemen in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and for the many others who have died in similar incidents.
I have been in the Rolla Area for 38 years and I have never seen anything like this. Many thanks to the organizers: Destiny, Deanne and others I am not aware of. Many thanks to the hundreds who came to say, “Justice.” Many thanks to Chief Sean Fagan and the entire Rolla Police Department for keeping the event peaceful; and my particular thanks to the officer who stopped and asked me if I needed help, as I hobbled along far behind the marchers.
To my knowledge: No one was hurt; no one was gassed; no one was shot; no one was arrested; and no property was damaged. (Someone, please inform me if this is not correct.)
Yes, this is the way it should be done. We are the Show-Me City in the Show-Me State!
If you have a minute, listen to this video of Judy Collins singing the Phil Ochs song, In the Heat of the Summer, about a similar demonstration that happened in Harlem over 50 years ago. Here's an important line:
Yes, it is time to start listening. And here is some advice that the Prophet Muhammad gave to an office seeker 1,600 years ago:“Oh where, oh where, are the white silver tongues,
Some great photos of the demonstration by Andrew Sheeley and a short article here in the Phelps County Focus.“Fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and God.”
June 2, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“Violence Upon Violence; Deceit Upon Deceit”
You gonna reap just what you sow: We live in what well may be the most violent culture the world has ever known. So is it at all surprising that our city streets have erupted in violence? Rather than ask why this is happening, we might well ask why it was so long in coming; but God is slow to anger.“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
God is not mocked: Can you think of a greater mockery of God? for the President to use tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters, so he can pose with a Bible in front of a Church. As Bishop Greg Brewer remarked, “This is blasphemy in real time.” Father James Martin noted, “The Bible is not a prop. ... God is not your plaything.”
Be not deceived: God will not let such an empire stand for long. Thermonuclear bombs and daisy cutters are no match for the Word of the Lord; neither are military bases that gird the Planet, even into Space, nor teargas, nor flash grenades; nor even a knee on the back of a neck. Nor can one hide for long in a bunker beneath the White House. It is no invisible hand that writes on the wall:
(Bible quotes above from Jeremiah 9:5 (NABRE), Galatians 6:7 (KJV) and Daniel 5:26-28 (KJV))“Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
May 26, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Coronablog: First the Good News
Italy has recommended the Cuban medical brigade, which has been active in Italy helping to fight the COVID epidemic, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, here in the USA, we sanction Cuba and make it difficult for them to buy ventilators and other medical equipment.
With the help of Cuba, Italy has brought new infections down from a high of over 6,000 daily to less than 500.
Coronablog: Now the Bad News
Looks like the “healthcare” industry is making a killing (literally) off the coronavirus: Timothy Regan who went to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms was socked with over $3,000 in charges of which has medical insurer, United Healthcare, paid about 1/3, leaving him with a bill of more than $2,000.
The “healthcare” industry is making record profits amid the coronavirus pandemic. (In case you are wondering what fuels all these conspiracy theories about COVID-19, you need look no further.)
And Gallup finds that 14% of people in the US would not get checked out if they had fever and a dry cough, typical COVID-19 symptoms, due to the cost.
Let's do a little seat-of-pants calculation here: Taking 14% of the 1.7 million confirmed cases in the United States (the actual number is thought to be much higher), we get 238 thousand people. And each one infects about 2.5 other people, that's 595 thousand. And of those 595 thousand around 2.5% will die. That's almost 15 thousand people who may have died so that the healthcare industry can make record profits.
Question: So, why aren't the CEOs of these corporations being charged with crimes against humanity?
Answer: We live in a country that values profit more than human life. That's Capitalism!
Of course, that is not the whole story. In our rush to reopen Missouri's economy, how many will have caught COVID-19 over Memorial Day weekend? And how many will they infect? And how many of those will die? I'll let someone else do this calculation.
My website has a new look. If you are partial to Conspiracy Theories and bad puns, you may like it. Check it out.
May 19, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Moral Degeneration is Everywhere
One atrocity begets another in an ever-more-diabolical spiral. I thought I had heard it all:
Hundreds of thousands of children dead from preventable disease because of sanctions; (Iraq)
Almost a million children blockaded in an open air prison without adequate clean water or medicine; (Gaza)
Hospitals bombed; (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen)
A school bus full of kids bombed; (Yemen)
Young children separated from parents and kept in cages; (United States)
Three men wearing police uniforms carried out a mass shooting in the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, methodically killing women, children and new-born babies.
Looks like the “Peace Process” is also dead.
Who could be responsible? Most likely those who were left out of the Peace Process and hope to continue enriching themselves from the occupation and the war. Moral degeneration is everywhere.
Here's an image I photo-collaged years and years ago:
May 12, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Tired of Writing About COVID-19
I'm tired of writing about COVID-19. If you wish, you can get the latest numbers at worldometers.org. (Really love this site! Hope you do too. Their data is basically the same as everybody else's — as reported. However, I find their tables and graphs more up-to-date and easier to read than those on other sites.)
It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers therein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.
I would, however, be remiss if I didn't recommend to you this article by Belle Chesler, who is a teacher of visual arts in the Beaverton, Oregon public schools. Chesler talks about how inadequate distance learning is as a replacement for the hands-on classroom experience.
I sure do miss reading to my classes at Mark Twain. (No, I'm not going to start reading on Zoom.)
STOP now and read Chesler's article.
Addicted to War
Seems like some folks are so addicted to War, they can't let go for even a minute. While most of the world would welcome a global ceasefire, the United States blocked the ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council.
Bay of Pigs Redux
And while you were wondering about whether it will be safe to reopen all that has been closed, two former US Special Forces agents staged a raid on Venezuela, hoping to capture President Nicolás Maduro and win the $15 million reward that Donald Trump has placed on Maduro's head.
It was about as successful as the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba or attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro with a loaded cigar. The perpetrators are being held in Venezuela; and it looks like they may be spilling the beans.
And some global climate data for April has been released. April 2020 was (according to one model) the second warmest April on record, just barely behind first-place April 2016. More on this next week after NOAA releases its global climate data for April.
Maybe I'll feel more like writing next week. We'll see.
May 5, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Global Military Spending Up
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has come out with their 2019 asessment of global military expenditures. The world saw a 3.6% annual increase in military spending to over $1.9 trillion, the largest growth in a decade. As you might have guessed, the United States leads the pack spending a whopping $732 billion on its military in 2019, roughly equivalent to the ten countries with the next highest military expenditures, in order: China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.
And the world has topped 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19. The United States again leads the pack with over 1.2 million cases, slightly more than the six countries with the next highest number of COVID cases, in order: Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia.
Lots of overlap in the two lists. I don't think it's coincidence.
Nor do I think it coincidence that the country responsible for over 1/3 of the world's military expenditures has been afflicted with almost 1/3 of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.
Imagine! if the world had spent that $1.9 trillion on public health infrastructure, instead of the wherewithal to kill each other. Perhaps, there would have been no pandemic at all.
But, sadly, it seems that a lot of folks are more interested in fighting each other than staying healthy.
Some Scriptural References to Pandemics
Here's an amazing hadith (Saying of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace and Blessings be upon him):
Today we would say, “shelter in place,” and we would say “pandemic” instead of “plague.” The Prophet knew 1,400 years ago that this was the way to fight a pandemic.“If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.”
And this hadith about plague is even more amazing:
One who dies in a pandemic while sheltering in place will receive in the hereafter the reward of one who chooses death, so that others may live.“It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whoever he wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him but what Allah has decreed, he will be given the reward of a martyr.”
Ancient scripture tells us that pandemic disease is a punishment from God.
This chapter from 2 Samuel, often called the “Census of David” is particular pertinent to this discussion. Here are the results of David's census:“But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them; so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven, for that they infringed (Our command) repeatedly.”
King David was apparently only interested in men who could draw sword. His great sin for which God sent a pestilence upon Israel was preparing for War, perhaps even aggressive War against his neighbors.“And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.”
And the pestilence ended only after David learned humility and spake unto the LORD saying:
Since the European “Enlightenment,” people have stopped believing that pandemic disease is a punishment from God; but today, when modern science finds itself helpless to protect against emerging diseases like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, I think many are returning to the ancient belief.“Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house. ... And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.”
Think about this: The best protection available today against COVID-19 was advocated to his followers 1,400 years ago by Prophet Mohammed.
April 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries?
A reader writes in:
My response:“I read the Rolla news this morning and clicked into your article about coronovirus/wealthy countries. I agree with your premise: you'd think poor countries with less access to handwashing facilities and such would be harder hit. On the other hand, wealthy countries with people who travel more are more likely to spread it. Also, all the stats are based on where tests are available, so hard to say how many cases are where. I agree that we don't know a lot. ... I think the correlation you're making is interesting—I've wondered why we aren't seeing more spread in less developed countries.”
Many very important points in your response. I've included them along with a few others in the Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries? article (the article).
I reran the correlation using numbers as of 0:00 hours gmt April 28 (7pm cdt April 27). There were 43 countries in the top 50 in both Gross Domestic Product and number of coronavirus cases reported (the same number as at 0:00 hours gmt April 7 although a few of the countries had changed). Including the other 14 countries that are in the top 50 in one but not both categories, this time we get a correlation coefficient of 0.43 as opposed to 0.46 on April 7. However, using only the core 43 countries, we get a correlation coefficient of 0.57 as opposed to the previous 0.50.
Statistically speaking, It would seem that little has changed over the past three weeks.
The new graph and table have been added to the article.
There are many interesting factoids that can be gleaned from this data.. For example: Ten of the 11 countries with the highest GDP are among the 15 countries with the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases. And these ten countries comprise 62% of the worlds GDP and 66% of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.
But, putting numbers aside, I think the reason COVID-19 has struck such fear into people in wealthy countries is that they are so used to catastrophes striking those others in poor countries, not us. Now, here's one that seems to strike us more then them. (Doesn't God work in such marvelous ways! Perhaps we will learn humility and the importance of sharing from this, although it doesn't seem to be happening.)
It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers herein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.
Anybody out there with a statistics background interested in playing with these numbers? I'd welcome an informed opinion.
Wherefrom Cometh the COVID?
According to the gurus at Johns Hopkins (and many other respected institutions and publications in the United States):
Likely? Huhhh? If you don't know where COVID-19 came from, how can you rule out human creation?“TRUE or FALSE? The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
I'm no expert on genetic manipulation; but if I wanted to create a deadly disease and release it, I'd sure try my hardest to mimic natural selection to cover my tracks. Wonder whether these “scientists” thought of that. Actually, mimicking natural selection in Nature has been going on for millennia. It often goes under a name like selective breeding or grafting. However, genetic engineering can speed up this process many fold.
Neither you nor I know what goes on in these ultra-secret military and commercial laboratories. And if you think scientists are so hard to fool, remember the Piltdown Man.
But here's the kicker:
Unlike COVID “myth-buster” articles in the United States, like this one, the World Health Organization does not mention man-made creation as a myth. They have apparently refused to jump on this bandwagon; and maybe this has something to do with why the United States just terminated funding for the World Health Organization.
Here are three other reasons why I stand by my previous statement that:
“In my opinion it is quite likely that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
Keep in mind that all the above evidence is purely circumstantial. Nothing has been proved or disproved. Unlike some “science gurus,” I am not claiming to know what I do not.1. Many of these folks in high places are pure sociopaths. They think nothing of killing millions of people.
The term “quite likely” is purposefully vague. How about, “with a probability of 65% or greater?” instead.
This Is Disgusting
Seems some folks are worried that China or Russia might steal our research into COVID-19 vaccines.
Why aren't they sharing? To date over 200 thousand people have died with COVID-19 including over 50 thousand in the United States. Apparently, the important thing is the money and prestige that would come from developing the first vaccine — very little concern over how many more people might die in the meantime.
If you are having trouble keeping a sense of humor about all this, try this article.
April 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
November Intelligence: When Did the US First Learn About COVID-19?
It was reported first by ABC News and a week later by the Times of Israel that US intelligence became aware of the coronavirus epidemic in China back in November, perhaps as early as the second week of November, at least partially through intercepted Chinese messages. US intelligence reported this to the White House and shared with Israel and NATO. Apparently, nobody did a thing.
This doesn't make a lot of sense. It wasn't until December 30 that Doctor Li Wenliang became aware of the existence of 7 cases of a SARS-like infection in Wuhan.
But, lets assume the reports are true. It makes authorities in China, the United States, Israel and Europe all look bad — sitting on their duffs while pandemic disease spreads out of control.
Now let's assume the report is only partially true. US Intelligence became aware of the spreading epidemic in China in November; but only because they were looking for it. Why? Could it be that they had brought the virus to Wuhan themselves?
We could also assume that the whole report is simply “fake news” and ignore it.
Take your choice; but as for me, whereas in the past I have stated:
I now have to upgrade “there is a significant probability” to “it is quite likely.”“in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage;”
If you are part of the “blame it all on China” cabal, read this article from Moon of Alabama. Moon of Alabama opines:
COVID-19 Pandemic: The United States and The Countries It Sanctions“China took extreme and drastic measures at high economic costs to prevent a larger outbreak. It did not do that to deceive anyone but because it saw the seriousness of the problem. It acted in the global interest and to defeat the virus.
Let's look at how the United States, and countries under US sanctions are fairing amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic:
Perhaps, if the United States were more concerned with the health of its citizens; and less concerned with empire building, war making, pampering the rich and brutalizing the unfortunate, our numbers would look more like the other numbers in the table above.
And here are the numbers for a few more selected countries. If I've omitted your favorite, check the worldometers.info site.
Data from worldometers.info as of 0:00hrs gmt April 21 (7pm cdt April 20). Note: All statistics are “as reported.” There is an excellent discussion of this on the worldometers.info website.
Nicaragua: How to Avoid Shutting a Country Down
While Sweden is often cited as a country that has remained open in spite of the COVID pandemic, Nicaragua is a far better example. There is actually no comparison. (See tables above.)
Here's a description of how they are doing it from an Estadounidense who has lived in Nicaragua for over 20 years.
And this is how NOT to avoid shutting a country down.“Yesterday I went to a Nicaraguan government office to take care of necessary paperwork. At the door I was politely asked to wash my hands in one of two outdoor sinks with soap. The nice man at the door then checked my temperature with an infrared thermometer and waved me in. Just inside the door was a disinfectant mat, I was asked to wipe my shoes and then my hands were sprayed with alcohol. At the check-in desk I was given a squirt of alcohol gel for my hands and my ID, which I handed over in exchange for a visitor's ID that had also been disinfected.
And if you are of the opinion that COVID-19 is no different from the flu, read this article from Science.
While most countries are onboard with a ceasefire in all conflicts so humanity can unite to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and Russia apparently think a global ceasefire should not pertain to them.
April 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The Peace Virus
Here inside, all is still. You wouldn't know that outside rages a tiny, but deadly, assassin, a coronavirus, not even a micron in diameter.“And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”
Perhaps, COVID-19 ought to be renamed the Peace Virus. We have been calling for an end to the bombing of Yemen for years. COVID-19 has succeeded where we failed. Saudi Arabia has unilaterally called a truce to go home and fight the coronavirus. And in both Syria and Afghanistan, truces seem to be holding and progress continues to limp toward Peace.
And in the US Navy, COVID-19 has forced a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to port, and forced the acting Secretary of the Navy to resign. That is no mean feat.
I had hopes that the Peace Virus could have helped to reverse global warming, and it yet may. But, in spite of the global disruption and recession, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to rise; and March 2020 was the second warmest March on record.
No, I wouldn't count on the Peace Virus to set everything straight for us. But, Nature has powers that we humans can not even dream of.
So all is still. We hunker down indoors, afraid to go outside, and I think of another Joseph Conrad line:
“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.”
April 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is COVID-19 a Disease Primarily of Wealthy Countries?
In mid-March, I suggested that COVID-19 seems to be attacking primarily wealthy countries such as the United States and many European countries. I think the case is a lot stronger now than it was three weeks ago when I wrote that. I've written a short article here.
New COVID-19 Cases in Iran Fall for Eight Consecutive Days
In spite of US sanctions that have severely degraded Iran's health care abilities, Iran appears to have stopped the COVID-19 virus in its tracks. New cases have fallen for eight consecutive days, and the number of active cases is coming down too. On top of this, Iran appears to have prepared for the worst, which may not come.
March 31, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is Satire Obsolete?
I was just feeling a little silly that evening, when I photocollaged The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus cartoon, Within a few days, as coronavirus cases exploded exponentially around the world, it morphed into dark humor. It wasn't funny any longer.“Sometimes, reality outraces our capacity for satire.”
Decades ago, Tom Lehrer was asked if he was going to return to writing political satire. His response, “political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize,” was political satire at its best.
Recently, I saw an article on CNN that reported that gun and ammunition sales were booming on account of the coronavirus pandemic, which made me think of Lehrer's remark and my cartoon.
Think about that: As a nation, our response to any adversity is to arm ourselves, no matter how inappropriate that might be. This, I think, is a big part of the reason that the United States now leads all other nations in COVID-19 cases.
I still don't know whether political satire is obsolete; but perhaps Lehrer was right.
And here is Tom Paxton singing, Buy a Gun for your Son (1965).
So many of the threats we face are global threats, and require a global response. Besides Global Warming and Nuclear Warfare, the current pandemic is an obvious example. All people must stand together to successfully oppose these threats.
In order to allow all peoples the ability to fight the current COVID-19 pandemic, clearly, all nations should place a hold on warfare and sabotage and, at least temporarily, lift all sanctions and blockades that degrade the ability to fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, the United States is doing exactly the opposite, placing new sanctions on Iran at a time when sanctions should be lifted.
Interestingly, Iran which has suffered for years under US sanctions that have degraded their ability to provide the people with adequate healthcare, appears to being doing far better than the United States at containing the pandemic. By the numbers, the US now has more COVID-19 cases, both in absolute numbers and relative to its population than Iran. The US has also experienced a greater mortality than Iran, in absolute numbers although not relative to their populations. However, perhaps most importantly, the United States now has more than six times the number of currently infectious cases than Iran has. Since future cases come from those currently infected, this numeric disparity seems likely to increase.
The United States is also ramping up attacks on Venezuela, declaring President Nicholas Maduro a “narcoterrorist,” without a shred of evidence and placing a bounty on his head. So far, Venezuela has kept the pandemic mostly at bay, with currently a mere 135 cases.
The closest ally of the United States, Israel, also appears to have done a lackluster job at containing the pandemic. Israel now has 4,695 COVID-19 cases, more than all but 16 other countries. Israel maintains the world's largest open-air prison, Gaza, with 1.8 million Palestinian inmates, half of whom are children. Gaza is ripe for a disastrous epidemic having inadequate clean water and medical facilities due to the long-standing Israeli blockade which clearly should be lifted immediately.
By contrast, China and Cuba are going around the world providing aid in combating the pandemic to many countries in need, including Italy, Iran, Jamaica and Venezuela.
Note: The above statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic come from worldometers.info and are as of 0:00 hours gmt on March 31 (7:00pm cdt on March 30). Statistics are “as reported” and may or may not truly represent the reality on the ground.Whither To?
But maybe there is an upside to all this. I see very little in the news now about War. Perhaps nations are too busy fighting the pandemic to fight each other.
And perhaps this pandemic is giving Nature a chance to make a comeback. Purportedly, the waters in Venice, Italy have never been so clear.
But this will pass. Eventually humanity will develop herd-immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
However, I suspect COVID-19 will prove to be a terminal illness for the Great American Empire. Weakened from without by Perpetual War and Climate Change, hollowed out from within by corruption and inequality, I do not expect the Great American Empire to survive intact. COVID-19 may well be the final nail in its coffin.
What will follow? I don't have a crystal ball. All I have are Leonard Cohen's prophetic words: “You're not going to like what comes after America.”
March 24, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Oh boy! What a day. Don't know where to begin; so lets start with the numbers: over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States yesterday — up from over 9,000 the day before — an 838% increase from a week ago. We're setting new records day after day. No other country has come even close: not China, not Italy, not Iran, none. Among the ten countries with the most COVID-19 cases, United Kingdom is next with a 331% increase over the past week. Worldwide cases have increased 108% over the past week. And in China cases have increased less than 1% over the past week.“I read the news today, oh boy,”
On January 28, I wrote:
On February 11, I elaborated:“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
So why is this happening? Many reasons:“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
1. This can't be happening to us! So, let's go to the beach and party. This is abject stupidity: Californians ignoring a “shelter in place” order and crowding onto the beaches en masse amidst a global pandemic.
2. How can we profit from the coronavirus? Profiteering is rampant. Even the President reportedly tried to buy up exclusive rights to a promising German vaccine that is under development.
3. A total lack of national leadership. We've spent decades getting “big government off our backs”. So it's hardly surprising to find big government missing in action when it is most needed.
4. While the world needs to pull together in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of putting a hold on sanctions which degrade the ability of others to fight the pandemic, the United States is ramping up sanctions on Iran, one of the hardest hit countries.
5. Blame it on the Chinese. Donald Trump insists on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”, sparking racist assaults against East Asians in the United States. This, in spite of that nobody knows where and how COVID-19 came.
Last week I quoted Shakespeare on hand-washing. Here's another Shakespeare line describing a similar situation:Note: I stand by my previous statement that, “in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
The Chinese have a much older saying:“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Some other statistics:“To pick up a rock only to drop it on one's own foot.”
1. There appear to have been few cases of internal transmission in China recently. China is ramping up surveillance at airports and border crossings in order to identify travelers with COVID-19 infections.
2. Israel, with a population of around 9 million, has reported almost 1,500 cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners are held in unsanitary conditions without access to the means to prevent the spread of disease. Israel also holds 1.8 million people, in the world's largest open air prison, Gaza, without adequate medical supplies or clean drinking water.
3. Europe has far more cases than any other continent: around 200,000.
4. Cuba and China are helping Italy and other countries fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States is not even helping itself.
Juan Cole has written an excellent article on the US response to COVID-19.
5. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tracked the rise and fall of the COVID-19 pandemic in China pretty closely. The epidemic spread in China throughout January, peaking in early February and then falling below 100 new cases per day by early March. The 30 day running average of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere peaked on February 25 and fell until March 13 tracking the earlier decrease in economic activity in China caused by the pandemic. After March 13, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose again, this time tracking the resurgence of economic activity in response to China's bringing the pandemic under control.
Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise from October through May.
Maybe now that China has shown the world how to beat the coronavirus, next they will show the world how to beat global warming. It won't be easy; but I believe it can be done. Maybe they could also show the world how to live in Peace. It's never been done before. But, maybe, the time is now.
Note 1: Most of the statistics on COVID-19 above come from the tables and graphs at worldometers.info. The worldometers.info day begin at 00 hours universal (Greenwich mean) time which is 7:00pm cdt the previous day. Thus, yesterday refers to 7pm Sunday, March 22 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt. Weekly growth rates refer to 7pm Monday, March 16 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt.
Note 2: By time you read this, many parts of this post are likely to be out-of-date.
March 17, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
William Shakespeare on Hand-Washing
In truth, I am tired of writing about the COVID-19 coronavirus; yet, here I go again.Sanctions: an Attack on Public Health
Here are three articles on Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and how US sanctions have degraded Public Health in these countries. I suspect Iran, Venezuela and Cuba will continue to do the best they can under the circumstances to inhibit the spread of the Coronavirus. Perhaps, in the long run, better than many far wealthier countries.
Iraq is another case. Sanctions of Iraq, 1990-2003, probably killed well over a million, mostly children, of preventable disease. It was known in the halls of government that this was happening, yet it continued for 13 years.
China appears to have the COVID-19 coronavirus under control. Over the last 10 days, China has averaged 20 new confirmed cases per day.Kudos for China
China claims that if the rest of the world takes appropriate measures, as China has, the pandemic will be over by June.
China has objected to the use of the name Wuhan Coronavirus, pointing out that the virus may not have originated in China.
I agree. And I apologize for having used that name in the past.
And I think the Chinese and some others know exactly how it originated; and I suspect at some point they will go public. If I had anything to do with starting this pandemic, I'd be quaking in my boots right now.
Taking a look at the 20 countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are, in order:Disease of the Wealthy Countries
China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, South Korea, France, United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Portugal.
Except Iran and Malaysia, they are all relatively wealthy countries in North America, Europe, Australia and East Asia.
One can ascribe various reasons for this, but I can't help thinking:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” —Matthew 19:30 (KJV)
This is what really scares me. As I've stated before, I think the world is primed for a really serious epidemic, one which will make COVID-19 look like the common cold. Think, for example, of a respiratory infection like COVID-19, but with all the characteristics of HIV/AIDS. That's scary.What's Next?
The world better learn to put aside its differences and learn to work together.
March 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
As expected, on March 5, new cases worldwide surpassed new recoveries for the first time since February 18. The number of contagious cases, which had been decreasing since February 18 are now on the rise again.
New cases in China fell to 40 on March 8. Meanwhile new cases outside of China stood at 3,847.
Parts of Italy have been placed under partial quarantine. Will this work in Italy the way it has in China? Will the Italians show the dedication and discipline the Chinese have shown? We'll see.
There are now over 500 cases in the United States including one in Missouri. 22 have died.
February Climate Data
Copernicus Climate Change Programme has rated February 2020 the second warmest February on record. This follows the warmest January on record and the second warmest year (2019) on record. After a brief respite, Australia fires were finally extinguished by torrential rain and flooding which added to the continent's woes. And carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 2.36 ppm over February 2019.
John Feffer notes how fragile our global civilization is and how it is literally disintegrating before our eyes under the scourges of climate change, pestilence and militarism. Feffer recommends a new globalization where the world hegemons, the United States and China, work together against climate change, disease and inequality. This is an important article. Please read it.
March 3, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Worldwide, recoveries have exceeded new infections since February 18, mainly due to the work of the Chinese in containing the virus. However, if the trend of the last few days continues, new cases outside China will soon dwarf recoveries in China.
To date, the world has seen close to 100,000 cases with over 3,000 deaths.
The coronavirus epidemic in China appears under control, probably due to draconian measures taken by the Chinese authorities, including the quarantining of millions of people. New infections in China fell to 202 on March 1, 125 on March 2 and 119 on March 3.
In many other locations, new infections are on the rise. Coronavirus cases in the United States reached 124 today. Nine deaths in the United States are attributed to the coronavirus epidemic.
Iran has experienced 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, perhaps partially due to US sanctions that have hit the healthcare sector very hard.
Previously I have stated that in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage. I stand by this statement. If true, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, the perpetrators have a lot to answer for.
I have also stated previously that I felt that among wealthy countries, the United States, with its for-profit health care system and its corrupt government, is among the least prepared to combat an infectious epidemic. I stand by that statement too.
It appears that the Wall Street healthcare moguls are charging folks thousands of dollars just for COVID-19 testing. The cardinal principle of public health is to win the trust of the public. It appears that the cardinal principle of the United States healthcare system is to make as much money as possible off of the public's misfortune. How many will forego testing and spread disease simply to avoid these exorbitant charges?
For my part, I've written a short six line poem stressing the tried and true method of inhibiting the spead of respiratory infection: wash hands and cover mouth when coughing. Here's a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.
On a lighter note, for all you Lone Ranger fans, here's a cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus.
But lets keep this all in perspective. HIV/AIDS has killed over 32 million and still infects hundreds of thousands each year.
Note: Most of the statistics above come from these graphs on worldometers.info.
This is Syrious
Fighting in Northeast Syria between off-and-on allies and antagonists, Turkey and Russia, has escalated. There are (at least) four foreign countries fighting in Syria: Russia, United States, Israel and Turkey. Maybe if they all laid down their arms and got out, the Syrians could learn to live in peace with each other.
Afghanistan Truce: Partial and Temporary
The partial truce ended Saturday. Unfortunately, violence is on the increase again. Again, maybe if all foreign soldiers just laid down their arms and left, the Afghans could learn to live in peace with each other.
February 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus
A reader sends in this article from the Washington Post dated Feb 2 on the early spread of the Wuhan coronavirus with no further comment.
This article highlights a major drawback of top-down authoritarian social systems: They can be slow to react. In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus, precious weeks were lost during which the spread of the virus could have been slowed.
However, the article does not mention the strength of China's system: that once the national leadership began to react, it quickly mobilized all the powers of the State to combat the spread of the virus: quarantining millions and building hospitals at break-neck speed.
Here are some statistics from a graph posted on Worldometer:
New cases appear to have peaked on February 4 shortly after China began to mobilize against the virus.And some final notes:
While new cases outside of China have spiked in the last few days, the transmission rate within China appears to have fallen.Like other existential threats, such as climate change, it is imperative that humanity start working together against the common enemy, instead of making War on each other.
Viewing Climate Change as a Military Problem: The Worst Possible Response
Now that it has become effectively impossible to deny Climate Change, some, such as Pete Buttigieg, are viewing climate change as a military problem. This is the worst possible response. Climate Change is a global threat and requires that all of humanity work together. Nature knows no borders. We do not appear to be rising to the occasion.“The threat of climate change is a very clear example of why we all need to pull together, we are in this together. The United States can't do it alone, Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and no one country can do this alone.” —Bernie Sanders
February 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus
In response to last week's post in which I wrote:
A reader writes in:“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
My response:“You say that the United States is the least able of the wealthy countries to respond to the epidemic. I have no idea whether you consider China a wealthy country, but it is certainly an economic powerhouse. Because of its secrecy and stonewalling it has certainly proved itself the least able to deal with such a crisis. I suspect that if Trump stays out of the way, our infrastructure will handle it okay. The CDC is very professional, and seems to be dealing with this correctly.”
I stand with World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and many others in believing that China has done an admirable job in responding to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Do you think the United States could have quarantined a city the size of Wuhan? Do you think the US could build hospitals as quickly as China has? China has a system of universal health care and a history of top-down social control that permits rapid responses to public health emergencies. We do not.
Reading US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross's gloating remarks about the damage the coronavirus will do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy, the first thing that popped into my mind was biological warfare and sabotage. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking along these lines. Here is a three part article about US biological warfare and sabotage including attempts to spread plague and other disease among the North Koreans and Chinese during the Korean War.
[Hey, Wilbur, You're getting senile. You weren't supposed to say that in public.]
This article comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.
I highly recommend this three part article on biological warfare, although I would have liked to have seen mentioned:
And don't forget that 30 miles down the road from Rolla lies Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.1. The use of smallpox as a biological weapon against our Amerindian population. Smallpox could be as much as 95% fatal to a population that lacked immunity.
January 2020: A Truly Remarkable Month for Global Warming
Not only was January 2020 the warmest January on record, it was the fourth most anomalously warm month on record. January 2020 was 1.14°C. above the average of all Januarys in the 20th Century.
The three most anomalously warm months: December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016 all occurred during a monster El Niño episode with ONI indices as high as 2.6. The ONI index is currently at 0.6. El Niño episodes tend to bring warmer global temperatures. One can't help but wonder what the Earth might experience during the next strong El Niño episode.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in January 2020 increased by yet another 2.57 ppm over January 2019 to reach a monthly average of 413.40 ppm.
Australia, probably the least resilient of the six currently inhabitable continents, was truly devastated in January by intense heat and record wildfires.
The War Against Afghanistan
This quote comes from a short article by Nicolas J. S. Davies, which is well worth the read. Davies goes on to remark:“We defeated the Persian Empire in the 18th century. We defeated the British in the 19th century. We defeated the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Now, with NATO, we are fighting 28 countries, but we will defeat them too.”
“I never doubted him for a minute. But why would America's leaders, in their delusions of empire and obsession with budget-busting weapons technology, ever listen to an Afghan taxi driver?”
February 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two New Statistical Milestones
What do these two statistics have in common? They both demonstrate the inability of “human civilization” to respond positively to global threats.1. Yesterday the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa observatory surpassed 416 ppm for the first time since record-keeping began. (Just nine months ago the 415 ppm milestone was also surpassed at Mauna Loa.)“I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” —Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean
We've known for well over 30 years that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will heat the planet and make it increasingly hostile to “human civilization.” Yet, we seem totally unable to shed the behaviors that drive this crisis: Fighting wars, burning fossil fuels and eating meat (in that order) may be the three most important of these destructive behaviors.
“Human civilization” is primed for a global epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may be only a harbinger of what is to come.
The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?
Here's an interesting article from Science about the World Health Organization and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Russia and Cuba are actively helping China to contain the coronavirus epidemic. US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, gloats over the damage the coronavirus may do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy.
Oops, Killed the Wrong Guy; Almost Started Another World War
Iraqi authorities claim that the organization that fired the missiles that killed a US military contractor and set off a chain of events that almost led to World War III was an al-Qaeda offshoot and not an Iranian-backed militia.
But this is nothing new. Following the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, the United States totally destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq in revenge. 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi Arabian. None were Afghan or Iraqi.
February 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US Deploys “Low-Yield” Nuclear Weapons
According to the Federation of American Scientists, last month the USA deployed “low-yield” nuclear weapons for the first time aboard the submarine, USS Tennessee. Low-yield (5 kilotons, about 1/3 the potential of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945) is only by comparison to the many more powerful weapons whose yield is measured in megatons.“I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.” —Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent)
Of what use is such a weapon? We are told for protection against the Russians or possibly the Chinese; but that makes no sense at all.
Likely their real purpose is to threaten and bully small recalcitrant nations without nuclear weapons such as Venezuela, Nicaragua or Iran who refuse to bow to the world's only superpower. That's a very dangerous game. Weapons are made to be used — particularly against those who are most vulnerable.
As the Conrad quote above makes clear, impression is absolute. “What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means.” In the Conrad novel, possession leads to use, with some very unanticipated results.
Radioactive fallout knows no boundaries. Escalation into nuclear World War III could easily follow any use of nuclear weapons. As the world descends into chaos, use of nuclear weapons becomes increasingly likely.
Wuhan Novel Coronavirus
The Wuhan novel coronavirus, so far has infected at least 20,000 people, mostly in China and killed over 400, all but two in China. It's first cases appeared in December, 2019. While the world panics and markets fall, it is important to put this novel coronavirus in perspective.
Here is a list of epidemics from Wikipedia. Going through the list, the Wuhan coronavirus doesn't appear to distinguish itself. It's kill rate is 2 to 3 percent. Some of those infected early, appears to be healing which is a sign that the epidemic may be peaking. China is now testing the Russian antiviral drug, Triazavirin, on the virus.
Compare to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has killed over 30 million since its onset in the 1960s and still kills hundreds of thousands annually and infects millions each year. All attempts to develop an HIV vaccine have failed including this most recent one.
Both HIV and Wuhan coronavirus are thought to have jumped from other mammals to humans, although we should not rule out that these viruses may have been man-made.
“Deal of the Century:” a Crime Against Humanity
Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu “negotiated” a peace deal for Palestine and Israel. It gave Israel everything and Palestine nothing. Like the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the UK declared Palestine a “homeland” for the Jews, Palestinians were not consulted.“You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side.” —Bernie Sanders
In wake of the “deal of the century” Palestine has cut ties with the United States and Israel.
Juan Cole points out that in so many ways this plan is legally a crime against humanity.
The Iowa Caucus Race
While waiting for the Iowa Democratic Party to tally the results of the Iowa caucus, I reread Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale. I may read it yet again as I await the final results. Really, how hard can it be to count a few thousand votes? In Alice's caucus race everybody wins. In Iowa, I think everybody lost.
January Climate Data
And while we have been engrossed by impeachment and a caucus race: Copernicus has rated January 2020 the warmest January on record; this following the warmest decade on record and the second warmest year on record. After a brief respite, Australia is burning again; and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by around 2.5 ppm over January 2019.
January 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Reset Your Clocks — It's 100 Seconds to Midnight
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has reset the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight — the closest we have ever come to Apocalypse. Mentioning, of course, Nuclear War and Climate Change as the two greatest existential threats to humanity, The Bulletin also mentions as a threat-multiplier “Cyber-based disinformation,” which sows distrust and undermines efforts to foster peace and protect the planet. (You can thank us computer scientists for that one!)
Hooray for Paraguay
Last week Paraguay became the 35th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and so far, the only country to ratify the treaty in year 2020. We are just 15 ratifications short of the treaty going into force. This treaty states in part
No nuclear power has signed this treaty and indeed, the five original nuclear weapon states (USA, Russia [formerly USSR], UK, France and China) have made ZERO progress in living up to their treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: (in force since 1970)“Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;”
In fact they have taken several giant steps backward recently.“to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (Article VI)
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a really big deal and continues to make progress in spite of the lack of publicity from most media outlets. This is a treaty of small to medium-sized nations standing up and saying we will no longer be bullied by a few great powers armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.
Wuhan Corona Virus: This Could Be A Big One
With all the existential threats the human race faces, lets not forget this one: Pestilence. The Wuhan Corona Virus (aka 2019-nCoV,) has so far killed at least 132, spread to over 6,000, and caused China to place at least 60 million people under quarantine. The virus is thought to have jumped to humans from a bat or possibly a snake in a live animal market in Wuhan, although no one is really sure.
While it's too early to know how far this epidemic will spread, one thing is certain: humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe. There are many reasons: war, poverty, a changing climate and overpopulation are just some that come to mind.
The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?
So wash your hands often and well, cover your mouth when you cough, and your nose when you sneeze and if you don't know how disease is spread, Tom Lehrer explains it in song in this two minute video.
Reading the news as much as I do, I am quite used to reading, in their very own words, about the arrogance of the rich and powerful. But two things came to my attention this week that really made me livid:
Chutzpah IJair Boilsonaro, President of Brazil, claimed that the indigenous people whose forest he is burning and whose land he is stealing are “evolving and becoming more and more, a human being like us.”
Speak for yourself, chutzpah. If you are human, I'd prefer to be something else. Possibly a squirrel: I love to watch the squirrels jumping from branch to branch and playing in my yard. They seem to be having so much fun. Yes, Senhor Bolsonaro, I'd rather be a squirrel than be like you.
Or perhaps I could be a split-leaf philodendron. I have one that reaches to the ceiling in a large pot. I take him outside in April and bring him back in in October. He asks nothing more than water, sunlight, and a little fertilizer, and he seems so happy to be brought in out of the cold in the Fall and put out in the sunshine in the Spring. Yes, Senhor Bolsonaro, if you are human, I would prefer to be a split-leaf philodendron.
Chutzpah IIUS Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, in response to Greta Thunberg opined,
Having spent so many years in academia dealing with colleagues who think their academic credentials give them license to dismiss folks who know far more than they do, I find this type of arrogance particularly maddening. While Thunberg at 17 has energiized an entire generation to work to save planet Earth, Mnuchin has left a trail of destruction wherever he has ventured: K-mart, Sears, Global economic meltdown of 2008, homes foreclosed... and more“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I'm confused. After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”
Mr. Mnuchin has a BA degree in economics from Yale, a University that is famous for giving unearned degrees to the idiot children of wealthy donors.
Perhaps I should give up reading and commenting on the news. It can really get quite depressing.
January 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Battle of the Generations
Last Friday the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the case Juliana v. United States in a split 2 to 1 decision with Judge Andrew Hurwitz (Age 72) opining for the majority that although climate change has brought the world close to the “eve of destruction,” plaintiffs have NO STANDING to bring suit demanding that the government take action to reduce climate change. All three judges were Obama appointees.“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.” —William James
The plaintiffs were aged 11 through 22 in 2015 when the suit was filed. They will all presumably be dealing with the evils caused by climate change long after the three judges are dead.
This case is not over yet. When youth challenges age, in the long run, youth will certainly prevail. However, in this case, it may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory; as by then there may not be much left to win.
From Our Readers: Protect, Restore, Fund
A reader sends in this super-cool 3 minute video of 17-year old Greta Thunberg and long-time activist George Monbiot talking about how to save the world: Protect Nature; Restore damaged eco-systems; and fund solutions, not destruction.
Speaking Truth to Power
Hundreds of youngsters (and a few old-timers) descended upon the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to tell world leaders (mostly old-timers like myself) to stop funding fossil fuels and become part of the solution, instead of the problem.
Equivalent to 50 Coal-Fired Power Plants
HFC-23 is over 12,000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Although the phasing out of HFC-23 should have been virtually complete, HFC-23 is now more prevalent in the atmosphere than at any time in history, Emissions of HFC-23 in 2018 are believed to be equivalent to emissions from 50 coal-fired power plants.
This underscores the need for international cooperation and independent monitoring for compliance, at a time when international tensions are increasing dramatically.
Fire and Rain
Rains have finally come to Australia after months of drought and out-of-control fires. While the rain has helped immensely in controlling the fires, it was not completely a blessing. Ash washed into the rivers has killed hundreds of thousands of fish; and the flash floods, dust storms and hail that came with the rain have been destructive in their own right.“Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain.
Weeks ago, I asked whether indigenous Australians practiced controlled burning like the indigenous California tribes. The answer is “Yes.” In fact, most indigenous peoples, where possible, used fire to control their environments; that is, before the coming of “modern civilization.”
January 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
We Dodged a Bullet — But Just Barely
Last week, when I wrote my column, I felt there was at least a 50-50 chance that I would not be here to write my column this week and you might not be here to read it. I think we came very close to World War III last week.
Fortunately Iran limited its retaliation for the assassination of General Suleimani to firing a few symbolic missiles at Iraqi military bases that house US troops and contractors; and the United States limited its retaliation for the symbolic missile attack to imposing further sanctions on Iran and making further threats.
The situation remains tense and could degenerate into a serious shooting war at any time.
Iraq has asked the United States to remove all US troops from Iraqi soil. The United States has refused and threatened to sanction Iraq.
After Donald Trump threatened to attack 52 sites in Iran, including cultural sites, Iran, in the fog of War, mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing all 176 on board. This is reminiscent of 1988 when the United States shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft killing 290.
Meanwhile, here in Rolla, seven of us held vigil for Peace on Earth and No War with Iran. Nationwide thousands demonstrated at hundreds of sites for No War with Iran.
Here are some short articles I wish to share with you:
In contrast to the unintentional downing of Ukrainian airlines flight 752, Brett Wilkins discusses the downing of Iranian flight 655 in Iranian airspace by the United States killing 290 and the downing of Cubana flight 455 by US supported anti-Castro Cuban terrorists killing 73.
Juan Cole discusses former US ally, Iranian General Qassem Suleimani and his relationship with the United States.
Cathy Breen, who travels to Iraq regularly with Voices for Creative Non-Violence, talks about her Iraqi friends.
US Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton exhorts all Catholics to refuse to kill and refuse cooperation with US wars.
As Australia continues to burn, Copernicus Programme declared December 2019 tied for the warmest December on record and 2019 the second warmest year on record.
And while the Earth burns, the United States, China and Russia vie with each other to develop virtually unstoppable hypersonic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons — a matter of “National Pride” says the American Association for the Advancement of Science in large headlines.
I hope to be back next week, inshaAllah.
January 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Blundering into World War III
I'll make this very very short. We are on the brink of blundering into World War III. Recall that World War I started with just such an assassination as happened last week. PLEASE do whatever you can to prevent this from escalating any further.
Also, read this short article by Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-American.
Lots more commentary at commondreams.org.
December 31, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Scientists Say ... But Don't Necessarily Believe Them
I cringe every time I read that scientists say that we only have 12 more years (now 11) to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Tell that to the families of the 88 who died in the Camp Fire which obliterated Paradise, California . Tell that to the thousands and thousands of climate refugees leaving Africa, the Middle East and Central America, hoping to make a new life in a land not quite so degraded by Climate Change. Tell that to the farmers and ranchers of Australia whose livelihood has gone up in smoke or those who are hunkered down in their boats as smoke and fire rage closer and closer.“Surprisingly, scientists proved as susceptible to herd-think as everyone else, and equally unaware of it.”
In truth, we don't have 12 years — or even one year — not even a day. Climate Change is NOW. Oh, what egregious errors hath our scientists made. I haven't heard many apologies from the scientists who have been so busy developing the technology for fouling our air with the byproducts of burning fossil fuels or from those who have consistently low-balled the danger of Climate Change. Have you?
Military scientists are even worse. As we embark on a new era of War-making and the militarization of space, scientists are there at the forefront. At least three different groups of scientists in the United States are working on protecting our satellites from the high energy electrons that would result from a nuclear blast in space. This is very important to the folks who contemplate nuclear war. It is difficult to continue fighting when your eyes and ears have been blown out in the first volley, other than to lash out blindly with everything you have left. And with our nuclear treaties falling by the wayside, nuclear war becomes ever more likely.
Of course China and Russia won't be sitting on their duffs while the United States develops space-fighting capabilities. So while the Earth burns ever hotter under its increasingly thick mantle of anthropogenic carbon, the great powers embark on a new and potentially far more destructive weapons race. Now that's what I call keeping priorities straight.
But there is a silver-lining to this dark cloud. Should you choose to vacation in outer space, this new technology could protect you from electromagnetic radiation as you cross the Van Allen belts. And furthermore, should you be unlucky enough to survive the initial exchange of nuclear bombs, you can rest assured that our satellites have survived and will still be beaming Beavis and Butt-Head replays down to Earth.
And that's not all! Should you be unlucky enough to survive the initial nuclear blasts, scientists are working hard developing algorithms to compute whether you would be safer hunkering down where you are, or making a beeline for the closest fallout shelter before deadly radioactive fallout arrives.
The bottom line... Don't look to the scientists to save humanity from nuclear warfare and global warming. Get out there in the streets and save humanity yourself.
December 24, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
One Honest Vote in the House
Faced with a choice between two evils when impeachment came up for a vote before the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard was the only one to choose neither. She voted, “present” and pissed off everybody. Yes, pissed them all off. Good for her! I like that!“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Certainly Donald Trump deserves to be impeached; but not by that crowd of deranged dolts who had just voted a $738 billion blank check to the Pentagon to make War, even Nuclear War, in all corners of the globe and even in space; not by that crowd of deranged dolts who voted money for a border wall while children are torn from their parents at the border; and not by that crowd of deranged dolts who would pass NAFTA II with little attention to Climate Change and other environmental concerns.
We've been hearing a lot of sacrilege coming from Donald Trump and his crowd of Bible-bangers. Comparing impeachment to the Crucifixion is nothing short of blasphemy. Implying that the deceased husband of a widow who voted for impeachment is looking up from Hell is absolutely disgusting. It's too bad that all these political Bible-bangers missed the Biblical verses that really pertain to this impeachment. Most pertinent, I think, are these verses from John 8:
We can find a close runner-up in Matthew 7:“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto [Jesus] a woman taken in adultery; ... and [said:] ... Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? ...
As Chris Hedges points out, the chances of the Republican Senate convicting Donald Trump are virtually zero. Impeachment is simply a distraction. Even if Trump were to be convicted in the Senate, the chances of a government with Mike Pence as President doing anything to rein in the Pentagon, reduce global warming, or end any of the excesses and atrocities of the Trump presidency would still be virtually zero. Congress could shut down these atrocities now by simply not budgeting any money for them.“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ... Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” —Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV)
Among 435 members of the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard cast the only honest vote. Thank you, Tulsi.
The Conscience of Congress: Another Lone Vote
In last Thursday's debate, Bernie Sanders was asked to justify his vote in 2001 in favor of the War Against Afghanistan. Bernie responded:
Thank you, Bernie, for reminding us of Barbara Lee's immense courage in standing up to 434 representatives and a populace gripped in war fever and voting her Conscience. And yes, she was Right and the other 434 were Wrong — Wrong to the tune of hundreds of thousands dead, trillions of dollars wasted, a land in shambles, and 18 years squandered. To my knowledge, Bernie is the only politician to admit to being wrong on the War Against Afghanistan. That is why we need Bernie so badly.“Well, only one person, my good friend, Barbara Lee, was right on that issue. She was the only person in the House to vote against the war in Afghanistan. She was right. I was wrong. So was everybody else in the House.”
We need to elect a lot more Barbara Lees, Tulsi Gabbards and Bernie Sanderses.
Bernie Sanders on War and Climate Change
I think Bernie is the only candidate for President who really understands the connection between Militarism and Climate Change and just how dire our situation has become. When asked during Thursday's debate about relocating climate refugees, Bernie replied:
If you are still undecided about whom to vote for in the March primary, think hard about Bernie.“With all due respect, Tim, your question misses the mark. It is not an issue of relocating people from towns. The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and grandchildren. ...
December 17, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
COP 25: The Biggest Cop-Out Yet
There have been signs galore: drought, heat, fire, flood, cyclones, bark beetles — to mention just a few that relate to Climate Change. The entire continent of Australia is burning up before our very eyes. Glaciers and polar ice melt away as we stand transfixed. Islands and coastal plains sink into the sea. Productive land turns to desert. Crops fail and people wander in search of new lands, only to have their children torn from them and put in cages as if they were wild animals.“To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.”
1/2 million came to Madrid with dire warnings and spake unto the modern-day Pharaohs as Moses and Aaron spake unto Pharaoh of old. And like Pharaoh of old, the modern-day Pharaohs hardened their hearts and hearkened not unto them, turning them out into the cold. Surely, these modern-day Pharaohs are deaf and dumb and have been left to wander blindly in their arrogance. Surely, their fate will be similar to that of Pharaoh of old.“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.”
On a somewhat less biblical level: COP 25 was a step backwards. Nobody agreed to do anything meaningful. The wealthy who are most responsible for Climate Change again turned their backs on the worst afflicted; and the Earth groans under the weight of the arrogant.
And they continue to fill the atmosphere with Greenhouse Gases; and the Earth continues to warm; and extreme weather and devastation are the lot of the people.
December 10, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: “Greed and Stupidity”
In reference to last week's newsletter on climate collapse in Australia and reduced investment in renewables in China, India and Brazil, a reader writes: “People are too greedy and stupid to survive. Very depressing.”“Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail.”
Extinction looks more and more likely each day. While the world burns, the US Congress just approved in committee a $738 billion giveaway to the Pentagon with virtually no restrictions on continuing their unconstitutional, immoral war-making in all corners of the world, an act which Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna have dubbed “an act of astonishing moral cowardice.”
Meanwhile pro-climate organizations like 350.org refuse to challenge the military and its extrordinary contributions to global warming.
Greed and stupidity win again. And this from a species that prides itself on its brain-power.
17 years ago Eugene Linden wrote in The Octopus and the Orangutan:
How true!“The random mutations that increase brain size are probably ubiquitous, meaning that it is reasonable to expect that virtually every animal alive today has ancestors that produced brainier offspring which in turn had the chance to be fruitful and multiply. But the evidence is that with very few exceptions, evolutionary experiments to increase brain power have not taken. ... The likelihood is that nature has had more failures than successes when it comes to increasing brain size (and in evolutionary terms, the jury is still out on whether the human experiment will ultimately be a success or failure...)”
Impeachment: Finally An Article That Makes Sense
Chris Hedges points out that the chances of the Senate convicting Donald Trump of impeachable offenses are virtually ZERO; and Democratic Representatives have scrupulously avoided including in their Articles of Impeachment any of Donald Trump's far greater crimes that Democrats are also guilty of.
Washington Post: The Pentagon Misled Us
After 18 years of War in Afghanistan costing hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the Washington Post has finally come around to the astonishing conclusion that the Pentagon has been lying to us.
Well, as someone who has argued for 18 years, since before the first bomb fell, that our War Against Afghanistan is a dirty immoral war which we should never have started and could never hope to win, I sit here waiting for an apology from the Washington Post and an invitation to write an editorial for them. I'm not holding my breath.
December 3, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Australia: Greenhouse Gas emissions Fall as Agriculture Collapses
The prolonged climate-change-induced drought has caused the Australian agriculture sector to literally collapse. Agriculture is responsible for a significant part of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, increased emissions from the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector almost made up for the fall in emissions from agriculture and renewable energy generation combined.
And the fires — the worst season ever for bush-fires in Australia — and its not even southern-hemisphere summer yet.
I have a suggestion. Maybe Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his climate-change-denying crew could conserve water by drinking LNG instead.
Lately, I'm starting to hear words like collapse and extinction coming out of Australia. Australia is the least resilient of the six inhabited continents. I suspect the Australian continent will totally collapse within a few years; and I suspect the other continents won't be so very far behind.
Yuroks Bring “Good Fire” Back to California
For millennia the Yuroks and other California tribes practiced controlled burning, until the white man came and made burning the forest a crime. But the ancient wisdom is returning — one piece in the fight against climate change and wildfires.
Perhaps indigenous Australians also possessed the wisdom of how to use a little fire to restore health to the land and prevent uncontrollable wildfires. Anyone out there have any knowledge of indigenous Australian cultures?
China, India, Brazil: Investments in Clean Energy Down
China, in particular, investments in clean energy fell by $36 billion, as China embarks on a new coal-building spree. Hmmm, I wonder what the Chinese think of global warming. Perhaps they think it's an American Hoax.
200 Million Climate Refugees Since 2008
According to a new report from Oxfam International, 200 million people have been displaced by climate-related disasters since 2008. Think about that number — 200 million — over 2.5% of the global population. If Rolla were the world, around 500 of us would be climate refugees. And it's only going to get worse. Collapse is definitely underway.
Actually, we are quite blessed here in Rolla. We haven't been exposed to extreme weather since the Joplin tornado of 2011 and the drought of 2012. However, I suspect our turn will come.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, notes that popular protests are on the rise from Hong Kong to Iraq to Palestine to the UK to Chile. She stresses the importance of meaningful, inclusive dialogue, and of governments listening to the people. Excellent advice.
Unfortunately, it appears that many governments prefer collapse to dialogue, both internally and externally. Perhaps that will change. The world is in great danger and “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Yes, all 7.7 billion of us.
November 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Pope Francis: Nuclear Weapons are “An Affront Crying Out to Heaven”
Last Sunday Pope Francis visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only two cities ever destroyed by nuclear weapons and declared nuclear weapons “an affront crying out to heaven” and called for a world free from nuclear weapons.
And Monday, Antigua & Barbuda became the 34th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Perhaps the Pope's visit to Japan and his outspoken call for a world free of nuclear weapons will encourage 16 more countries to ratify the Treaty making the 50 necessary for the treaty to go into force.
Earlier this month Nauru became the 80th nation to sign the Treaty; but has yet to ratify it.
But sadly none of the nine nuclear weapon states: US, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have shown any interest in the Treaty except to discourage other countries from joining it.
Meanwhile, here in the belly of the beast, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 have been convicted of breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Base in a symbolic protest against nuclear weapons and face possible 25 year sentences.
And the Marshallese, who were used as human guinea pigs for early US radiation experiments and had large parts of their land destroyed in early nuclear weapon tests have been left with a leaking sarcophagus full of radioactive waste for which the US refuses to take responsibility.
The nuclear age is 74 years old. It is long past the time to end it. Indeed, it is an “an affront crying out to heaven” and should have never begun.
Pope Francis: Destroying the Earth is a Sin and Should Be a Crime
Pope Francis has recommended adding ecocide as a “fifth category of crime against peace.” and including it in the Catholic catechism. The Pope defined Ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem.”
Meanwhile... The world burns and floods, the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere continues to increase, and global temperatures continue to rise.
And as our “civilization” collapses, here in the belly of the beast we remain engrossed with a Congressional dog and pony show over the President purportedly trying to trade the Ukraine “a squid for a cow.”
I am very thankful that the world has an activist Pope working to abolish nuclear weapons and prevent further climate change. We should do no less ourselves.
November 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Updating Climate Essay
Yesterday, NOAA (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) published its global climate data for October and I dutifully updated my ongoing Climate Catastrophe essay which consisted of adding a line to two temperature graphs and updating corresponding sections accordingly.
I do this every month about this time, and it's getting quite predictable. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere up; Temperatures among the highest on record; and plenty of extreme weather events around the world.
I read that great things are being done to combat global warming; but the physical data doesn't seem to bear this out.
We are on the cusp of losing an entire continent, as Australia is again faced with multiple out-of-control fires and other extreme weather events such as baseball size hail stones. Smoke from the fires has made breathing in Sydney downright unhealthy.
Meanwhile, Australia probably ranks second only to the United States in Climate Change Denial.
And the US Military?
Michael Klare writes that 20 years in the future the US Military (and other militaries as well) will be in no position to fight wars because of damage at home from multiple simultaneous extreme weather events such as we are already witnessing. While I would welcome the inability of the world's militaries to fight wars, multiple simultaneous extreme weather events seems a rather high price to pay for something that could be accomplished cheaply and simply.
Not mentioned in Klare's article is that The Pentagon has an outsized responsibility for global warming being the greatest single emitter of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, current upgrades to the Pentagon's arsenal lock it into continued future reliance on fossil fuels.
November 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
For the Soldier, War Never Ends
This article by Matthew Hoh on Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide is a Must Read. Combat veterans often suffer from moral injury for the rest of their lives. Hoh notes that the only way to stop veterans from suiciding, is to stop sending them to war.“We’re sold the idea of—we’re going to liberate people, we’re fighting terrorism. Then we realize we’re the ones terrorizing people. That torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide.”
People were not meant to kill each other. It takes billions of dollars worth of conditioning to get soldiers to kill. And when the conditioning wears off, it can leave them crippled for the rest of their life. Hoh writes, “The reality is that deaths by suicide often kill veterans at a level greater than combat, while the primary reason for these deaths lie in the immoral and ghastly nature of war itself.”
If you read nothing else this week, read Matthew Hoh's “And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide”
And if you are a veteran, please consider joining Veterans for Peace.
November 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Syria: I Misspoke
I definitely misspoke two weeks ago when I wrote:
The US called it quits in Syria — well, not exactly. The US came back to save the Syrian oil fields, that were (presumably) rendered unusable by US bombs, from the Islamic State, that was (presumably) defeated, and to assassinate “Big Daddy” Baghdadi, who was (presumably) defeated too. Now it looks like everybody is pretty much against everybody else.“it looks like Vladimir Putin has pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He appears to have brokered a Peace in which Turkey and the Syrian Kurds will get enough of what they desire that they will go along with the plan, leaving Russia and the Syrian government firmly in control.”
So if the United States had really left Syria, could Russia have cobbled together a Peace and made it stick? Who knows? But, I thought it worth a try. After all, the United States has been the major global power in the region for a long time, and has brought the Middle East little besides war and misery. Isn't it time for someone else to have a try?
California: Fires May Soon Be Fully Contained
Could have been worse. Nowhere near as bad as 2017 or 2018 — at least not yet. California fire season is not over by a long shot.
Now here is an interesting wrinkle. Insurance companies and wealthy homeowners are hiring private firefighters to protect their assets. Your life could be in danger; but they won't help you. Their mission is to protect their employer's life and property.
And if you are a low-paid domestic worker, you may end up staying behind and feeding your employer's cat while he evacuates to safer territory.
Most interesting, some are now saying that parts of California have become too dangerous to live in, and it may be time to give them back to Nature. Not at the end of the century, or in 2050 or even 2030 — NOW.
Climate Data: Warmest October on Record
According to the Copernicus Programme, the Earth has just experienced the warmest October on record, although just barely above October 2015 which was previously the warmest October on record. Copernicus estimates October 2019 as 1.32° C. warmer than “pre-industrial” times.
And the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during October 2019 increased by 2.53 ppm over October 2018.
October 29, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
California Burning — Again
This is getting to be a very predictable yearly occurrence — devastating wildfires in California. The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County is threatening some of the same areas laid waste two years ago by the Tubbs Fire that wiped out parts of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 inhabitants. So far 200,000 people have had to evacuate as the dry Santa Ana winds sweep in off the desert and fan the flames. As of the time of writing, the Kincade Fire has burned 75,000 acres and is only 15% contained. California, like much of Australia and many island nations are fast becoming unlivable — at least not in the sense of what we used to think of as a “civilized” existence.“The fire is important to our people and to the telling of tales. The light, the heat, and the sound of burning wood speak to our spirits more deeply than any words. Winter is a time for stories, and one should call upon the fire to join in the telling of the tale.” —Jeffrey Prusski (Bring Back the Deer)
When I was a kid in primary school, I recall a teacher informing us that our early Ice-Age ancestors had “tamed” fire. What a joke! More accurate would be that fire is taming us.
Fire historian Steve Pyne discusses how Fire and Mankind evolved together in symbiosis. Fire gave us big heads and small guts. Mankind gave fire the ability to reach places it could have never colonized on its own. But, sadly, our love affair with fire seems to have taken a violent turn; and fire has assumed the dominant role.
And here Leonard Cohen sings a haunting ballad of the love affair between Sainte Joan of Arc and the Fire.
Good News! Earth May Be More Resilient Than Previously Thought“I saw her wince; I saw her cry;
Paleontologists studying the Corral Bluffs, south of Denver, have reconstructed evolutionary events following the asteroid strike 66 million years ago that killed off 75% of living species including the dinosaurs. It seems that after the holocaust temperatures rose about 5°C and the largest mammal remaining weighed little more than a pound. Corral Bluffs bounced back quickly. After 100,000 years Corral Bluffs boasted mammals 10 times as large and within a million years, mammals weighing over 100 pounds were roamed the site. This recovery is far faster than paleontologists previously thought possible.
There is a lesson here: While Earth seems very likely to recover quickly from the human-induced die-off currently under way, there is no reason to suspect that large land animals like man are any more likely to survive the die-off then the dinosaurs were 66 million years ago.
By way of comparison: Estimating the life-span of the Earth as nine billion years and assuming an average human life-span of 80 years, one million years of geological time equals 3.25 days in a human life. That's a phenomenally fast recovery from almost complete devastation.
And What Happened Last Month?
All eyes are now on Syria and the current US re-invasion to retake Syrian oil for the United States. But last month, September 2019 tied with September 2015 as the warmest September on record and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 3 ppm over September 2018.
From the Bahamas to Asia, September 2019 was marked by numerous record-setting climactic events. Some are listed here.
It seems that we would be wise to leave Syrian oil in the ground, and concentrate on the near-term survival of our species before it is too late.
October 22, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Syria: We May Have Dodged Another Bullet (Thanks to Russia)
After Turkey invaded Syria two weeks ago, I wrote, “This May Be the Big One.” I felt that this could be the spark that sends the whole Middle East and perhaps much of the world up in flames. However, it looks like Vladimir Putin has pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He appears to have brokered a Peace in which Turkey and the Syrian Kurds will get enough of what they desire that they will go along with the plan, leaving Russia and the Syrian government firmly in control.
Meanwhile our former allies, the Syrian Kurds, pelt US troops with rotten fruit as they ignominiously retreat to Iraq.
Putin has remarked that he wants all foreign troops to leave Syria. I suspect that this includes the Golan Heights, a part of Syria that Israel has occupied for over 50 years.
Crapping on the Kurds has been a major Western pastime, at least since the 1920s when Britain and France carved up the defeated Ottoman Empire and reneged on their promise of a homeland for the Kurds. Here's an article by Brett Wilkins detailing many incidents in which Kurds were left to be slaughtered by their Western allies after they were no longer deemed “useful.”
Lets hope the Syrian Kurds receive somewhat better treatment from the Russians.
Japan: Where Man-Made and Natural Disasters Blend Seamlessly
Category V Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan in early October causing $9 billion worth of damage and killing over 80. Fukushima prefecture which suffered a triple nuclear meltdown in 2011 was particularly hard hit. Hagibis appears to have stirred up deadly radioactive particles from the 2011 disaster and spread them about.
Dominica Ratifies Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The Caribbean Island nation, Dominica, has become the 33rd country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. One more ratification will bring us past the 2/3 mark toward the 50 nations necessary for the Treaty to go into force. Unfortunately, it only becomes law for those countries which ratify it.
Dominica was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Maria which also devastated the Island of Puerto Rico. Having recovered from Maria, the Dominicans do not want to be devastated by nuclear weapons too.
Lets hear a loud “Hip-Hip-Hooray” for all the Dominicans.
October 15, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The Sea Is a-Boilin'
Russian climate scientist, Igor Semiletov, and an international bevy of scientists found the Arctic Ocean is literally “boiling” as it releases copious streams of bubbles of methane as the sea warms and the permafrost below melts. Semiletov remarked, “This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe. ... No one has ever recorded anything similar.” Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Semiletov has made 45 such expeditions to the Arctic and has been trying for years to warn of the dangers as the Arctic warms, permafrost melts and methane is released. Unfortunately, until now, few listened.“The Lord said, ‘Sinnerman, the sea will be a-boilin’,
Here's a short snippet I wrote on Semiletov's findings eight years ago. I was among those few who listened.
Isn't it amazing how so many ancient prophecies are now coming true due to climate change? Here's another on sea level rise and wildfires from the old Norse Poetic Edda:
Voluspo also prophesies that after the world is destroyed by fire and water, it will be reborn anew.“The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea,
Syria: This May Be the Big One“Now do I see the earth anew
I can't make head nor tail of this article by Simon Tisdall in which he enumerates all the “players” in the deadly drama unfolding in Syria and how they are all uniting against Turkey. Well, if nothing seems to make sense, make up something that does; so here goes:“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
I wrote the above paragraph Sunday. Three days later, the Syrian Kurds have allied with the Syrian government and by extension, Russia and Iran. ISIS captives have escaped from prison, and will almost certainly reconstitute themselves as a fighting force and take the field.I think there are powerful forces in Washington wanting to teach Turkey a lesson for pursuing an independent foreign policy and buying a Russian missile defense system. I think these same forces are looking at Donald Trump as a liability and wish to be rid of him. So what better way to accomplish both objectives than to get Trump to declare “neutrality” and withdraw from Northern Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies to face the Turkish invasion alone. So while Turkey walks into a trap, Donald Trump takes the rap. But don't mind me. I'm just an old conspiracy theorist.
Four years ago, when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane that may or may not have briefly strayed into Turkish airspace, Vladimir Putin remarked, “There will be consequences” ... “We will keep remembering what they did. And they will keep regretting it.”
I think we may be watching those “consequences” unfold. Think about it. Russia may have just lured Turkey away from its NATO allies, only to ally itself with Turkey's Kurdish enemies. What a coup that would be!
And what happens next? See Robert Burns quote at top of snippet.
In war, there are no winners. Everybody loses. But the biggest losers will certainly be the Syrian people.
Robert Koehler On the Rights of Nature
Generally, I dislike reading opinion from folks I agree with. It tends to be boring and I don't learn anything. Robert Koehler is the exception. He always seems to come up with thoughts that lead to new insights I hadn't considered before.“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men: Yet most men understand not.” — The Holy Qur'an 40:57
Here, Koehler talks about the movement to give legal Rights to Nature. Clearly, he is uncomfortable with the concept, although he seems to endorse it up to a point.
I, too, am uncomfortable with the concept. We are all a part of Nature. How can the part give legal Rights to the whole? It would be like your liver declaring that your spleen had certain Rights. Without a spleen, your body would die, and your liver along with it. Likewise, if an ecosystem dies, so too, all the creatures that depend on that ecosystem die.
Koehler writes, “The prime strangeness about all this is the implicit assumption that ‘the law’ in some way has conceptual dominion over Lake Erie or the Klamath River or Pachamama and can choose (or choose not) to give a particular ecosystem, which sustains life itself, the right to exist.”
Well, here's a story about what happens when the parts declare dominion over the whole:
Perhaps, instead of declaring that ecosystems have legal Rights, we should be asking what mankind must do to attain the Right to exist in Nature?Shortly after God created mankind, all the parts of the human body got together to choose which part should hold dominion over the others.
October 8, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Looks Like More War for Syria
If you thought when ISIS was defeated in Syria not too long ago, that foreign powers would let the Syrians live in Peace, think again. Turkey appears ready to invade Syria and the United States has declared “neutrality.” The Syrian Kurds who Turkey is targeting were supposed to have been our best and strongest allies, but now that ISIS has been defeated, it appears the Kurds have again been hung out to dry.
Well, maybe not completely. I suspect they have plenty of heavy US arms and will put up a spirited resistance. That's a tried and true policy: Sell arms to both sides and let them kill each other while Raytheon and the arms merchants turn a handsome profit.
More war is also a perfect recipe for the return of al-Queda and its offspring to Syria.
Is it any wonder that Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, recently remarked: “Your presence has always been a calamity for this region, and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region.”
China Shows Off its New Military Hardware
During its National Day parade, China showed off a new hypersonic missile thought capable of avoiding detection and delivering nuclear warheads to the United States in 30 minutes. China celebrates its National Day on October 1, the day in 1949 the Chinese People's Liberation Army drove the US-supported Guomindang off the Chinese mainland.
China spends an estimated $250 billion annually on its military, about one third of what the United States spends.
Folks, isn't it about time for some Peace and Disarmament?
Australian Climate Icon Turns Survivalist
Michael Mobbs, who has inspired many a climate activist, has put his off-the-grid state-of-the-art home in Sydney, Australia up for sale and declared that the fight to save civilization is hopeless and he is going to build on Australia's south coast and survive the collapse that he estimates will come in three to five years.
Here's some commentary by climate activist Tim Hollo, who believes, as I do, that “as the climate collapses, we can either stand together – or perish alone.”
I wish both Michael and Tim well. As for me, I'll just sit here and write my weekly column and vigil for Peace and the Environment every Thursday. Is it hopeless? I don't think so. And anyway it wouldn't matter. If you believe in Miracles (as I do) things are never hopeless. To quote Sandy LeonVest:
And in the hours I've spent writing this column, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has gone up an estimated three parts per billion.“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.”
October 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Another Fairytale of Eternal Growth
A record crowd turned out at last week's meeting of the Rolla Chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby for a showing of Leonardo DiCaprio's Ice on Fire. The photography was superb. The narration was faultless. The story line should be quite familiar by now. I'll summarize in a few sentences:
While at one point in the narrative, DiCaprio remarks, “we can come together, we can innovate,” it is far from clear who he means by “we.” Is he talking about the children at our southern border living in filthy cages without clean water? Is he talking about the Afghans, Palestinians and Yemenis being starved and slaughtered by bombs that were made in the USA? Is he talking about North Koreans, Iranians and Venezuelans living in poverty imposed on them by US sanctions? Is he talking about folks in Flint, Michigan, suffering from drinking lead-tainted water?The situation is dire. Human activity has caused a spike in CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting in warming temperatures, melting ice, rising sea levels, species extinction, reduced crop yields and catastrophic hurricanes, droughts, floods and fires. But there is hope, if we act immediately. If we listen to the scientists and make a few small changes, adding less carbon to our atmosphere and removing more from it, all will be well and we can continue to live our lives in fairytale bliss.
One might surmise that should we make these changes, the wealthy of the world will receive 90% of the benefits, while the poor and oppressed will pay 90% of the costs. For example, what will happen to the subsistence farmers and indigenous communities whose land is forcibly taken for wind and solar farms to satisfy the wealthy's ever-increasing demand for “clean energy?” Will they, who have contributed little or nothing to our climate catastrophe, be forced to join the 70 million refugees that have already been created by war, violence, oppression and changing climate? And who will benefit from selling all this clean energy? Will it be those whose land was taken by force? or rich investors from wealthy countries who pat themselves on the back for having turned a handsome profit while doing something for the environment?
And can we even make these changes while much of the world is armed to the teeth and ready to go to war, if not already fighting with it's neighbors? Besides being just plain wrong, I find it absolutely abhorrent that so many, who should know better, believe the fairytale that we can avoid the ravages of runaway climate change, while the world spends $2 trillion annually on war and destruction and billions of people live in abject poverty.
As Benjamin Franklin put it, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Yes, all of us, all 7.5 billion of us. But how can we hang together while we spend trillions to kill each other? And if we can't learn to all hang together, I fear that Nature will hang us all, one at time, until we are all gone.
Here's some related reading:
Medea Benjamin discusses the many ways in which militarism and climate change feed on each other.
Don Fitz argues effectively that there is no such thing as clean energy. The only clean energy is less energy (conservation).
And Robert Koehler argues that a shift in consciousness is a necessary condition for preventing runaway climate change. Koehler quotes this piece of Arhuaco tribal wisdom:
Yes, that says it all. We take and take and take all that we can without ever making payment. We have disturbed the balance of things, and now Nature is exacting payment in her own way. Until we are ready to make payment, catastrophic climate change will only get worse.“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.”
Read these three short articles. Then see whether you agree.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Makes Progress
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons garnered six new ratifications in September reaching 32. 50 is necessary for the treaty to go into force. Bangladesh, Ecuador, Kiribati, Laos, Maldives and Trinidad & Tobago have newly ratified the Treaty. Botswana, Dominica, Grenada, Lesotho, St. Kitts & Nevis, Tanzania and Zambia signed the Treaty in September but have not yet ratified it.
Lets hear a loud HOORAY for these 13 countries that have stood up for a world free from nuclear blackmail.
September 24, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Fairytales of Eternal Growth
Four million turned out Friday to Strike for the Climate — probably the largest demonstration the world has seen since February 15, 2003, when 8 to 30 million demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq. As we all know, the Tellers of Fairytales went ahead and invaded Iraq anyway — and we're all still suffering from the blowback from that invasion 16 years later, just as the Earth will be suffering from the blowback from the arrogance and intransigence of the Tellers of Fairytales for centuries if not millennia.“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth, How dare you!” —Greta Thunberg (address to the United Nations)
But, maybe this time it will be different. More demonstrations are planned and the Tellers of Fairytales are scared — Yes, scared of The People! Now they tell us they are going to impeach Donald Trump and then everything will be fine — only it won't, not until every Teller of Fairytales is impeached and replaced by those who care about peace and the only planet we have to live on.
Here in Rolla, we stood up! Over 60 of us struck for the climate. (See photos here) But once is not enough. If we want to save our planet and our future, we must do this again and again and again in ever-increasing numbers.
September 17, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
2° C. of Warming
This article from the Washington Post details those parts of the Earth which have warmed 1.5° C or more since the late 1800s. Some takeaway points from the maps that accompany this article:
I found the discussion of Uruguay that lies next to an ocean hot spot that has warmed 2.0° C. interesting. I highly recommend this article.1. The Arctic has experienced the most warming of anywhere on the planet — up to 6° C. in places. The Antarctic is labeled insufficient data.
August 2019: A Three Way Tie for Second Place
NOAA published its global climate data for August yesterday. August 2019 has warmed 0.92° C above the 20th Century average and is in a three-way tie for second place with 2017 and 2015, behind first place August 2016 which has warmed 0.98° C. over the same period.
The last five 12 month periods ending in August are the five warmest on record.
In August 2019, CO2 in the atmosphere increased by 2.96 ppm over August 2018
It is highly likely that much of this increase is due to wide-spread forest fires in the Amazon, the Arctic and elsewhere, as well our continued use of fossil-fuels and other climate destructive behaviors.
What can you do? Attend the Global Strike for the Climate at Noon, Friday, Sept. 20 in front of the Rolla Post Office. (See above for details.) Then go out and plant a tree.
War Against Iran: Lying Prepares the Way
After hearing for days that Iran had delivered the oil on the Adrian Darya to Syria after giving “written assurance” that they wouldn't, we read that Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said, “you can see from the images that the oil [from the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1] has ended up in Syria but that’s not to say that there’s a breach of the undertaking [by Iran].” So far, this “written assurance” does not appear to be a “public document.” Keep in mind that by international law, unilateral EU sanctions (against Syria) have no legal effect on third parties (such as Iran); and the seizing of the Adrian Darya was simply an act of piracy on the high seas.
And the US State Department is blaming Iran for a recent drone strike on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities without one shred of evidence that Iran was involved. Indeed, it was Saudi Arabia, not Iran, that bombed a Yemeni school bus last year, killing 40 with a made-in-the-USA bomb, and has since continued to commit atrocities against the Yemeni people. Don't the Yemenis have a Right under international law to retaliate against such crimes against humanity?
September 10, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Kazakhstan Joins the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
On August 29, Kazakhstan became the 26th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Only 24 more and the treaty becomes international law (but sadly only for those countries which have ratified it).
Three Strikes and You (Should Be) Out
Donald Trump struck out again!
After being unable to dock in Greece or Turkey, the Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya I, has apparently unloaded its cargo of Iranian crude off the coast of Syria. (We still do not know the name of the mystery buyer.) Apparently the Trump administration offered the captain millions of dollars if he would dock the tanker where the US could seize it. When the captain ignored the bribe, the US sanctioned the captain.
The Peace Deal with the Taliban that was supposed to end the 18-year-old war against Afghanistan has apparently fallen through. The Taliban's demands are simple: Just get the @#$%#$!! out of our country. They even offered to help the US save face by calling it a peace agreement and allowing the US to withdraw in phases. So brace yourselves for more debilitating years of war against Afghanistan, already our nations longest.
Oh, yes. The first strike was North Korea, which, in spite of the high-profile meetings between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, remains unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons, and continues work on its delivery systems.
Or maybe it was Venezuela, where the Bolivarian government and president Maduro remain firmly in power. Or maybe Nicaragua, another country where a recent US supported coup failed.
Perhaps this is what is meant by “Make America Great Again.”
Many are claiming that the Amazon Rainforest is a world treasure and Brazil has no Right to burn it down to produce more beef and soy beans. I would certainly agree. But shouldn't wealthy countries and international corporations who have in the past benefited from the destruction of the Amazon be willing to reimburse Brazil for the economic value lost by keeping the forest intact?
Truthout has published a list of who benefits financially in the short-term from the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. Some of the names may surprise you. In the long-run, all humanity and our planetary life-support are harmed by the loss of the Amazon Rainforest.
In addition, if we argue that the Amazon Rainforest is a world treasure and should not be the property of any one country to destroy or degrade as they see fit, then shouldn't we also argue that the world has many, many treasures that should be communally owned by all humanity?
For example: Shouldn't we argue that the uranium in the Earth should be owned communally and not be the property of a few powerful countries to make weapons with which to threaten their neighbors? Shouldn't we also argue for open borders, so that those who have been made refugees through war and climate degradation have a Right to settle wherever they feel they can make a new life for themselves? And shouldn't the world's fossil fuels be internationalized so everyone has a say in whether they are mined, burned and allowed to foul our atmosphere? And shouldn't the world's holiest sites like Jerusalem and Mecca be internationalized and not be considered the property of any one country?
Yes, the Earth has many great treasures. Let's stop allowing a few to monopolize these treasures and use them for destruction.
September 3, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Jair Bolsonaro and the Amazon Fires
In reference to the fires in the Amazon, a reader writes:
My response:“I don't think you gave Bolsonaro the condemnation that he deserves.” and “Bolsonaro ... is a right wing populist, in the ilk of Trump, whose policies have encouraged the fires. If he had any interest in fighting the fires, he would have taken the money and asked for more. In fact it wasn't until Macron shamed him that he even pretended to care. The fires are not only an environmental disaster, but a public health disaster as well. Respiratory problems especially among children and the elderly have increased in the area of the fires.”
I really can't argue with what our reader writes, although I think that what has Bolsonaro concerned is more the almost universal condemnation and the threats on an economic boycott than the words of one European Head of State.
For my part, knowing the gargantuan role my own country continues to play in global devastation, I have difficulty criticizing other countries and their heads of state. I believe it would be hypocritical for me to do so, without pointing out at the same time my own country's out-sized role in global devastation.
Incidentally, in spite of the ban on starting new fires in the Amazon, many new fires have started and old ones continue to burn.
The 2019 Northern Hemisphere Summer has been a terrible season for forest fires, not only in the Amazon, but in Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, Canary Islands, and other places.
Forests provide a carbon sink and help keep the Earth cool. Without our forests, the world's climate would be degrading even faster than it is now. Nurturing existing forests and replanting forests that have been destroyed should be a global priority in which all peoples and all countries must participate. Indeed, we must stop fighting each other immediately and start working together to reverse the degradation of our only planet. Think of all the positive things that could be accomplished with the almost $2 Trillion that the world spends on its militaries.
What can you do? Attend the world-wide strike for the climate on Sept. 20.
Bernie Sanders Speaks at Native American Forum
Bernie never stops impressing me. Speaking at the first Native American Presidential Forum, he asks that Native Americans take leadership roles in showing the rest of us how to live in harmony with nature.
Hezbollah Drives Israeli Soldiers Out of Illegal Settlement
This may be a game-changer. After many years of Israel attacking its neighbors and abusing the people in occupied Palestine with impunity, Hezbollah has driven Israeli soldiers from an outpost in an illegal settlement on the Lebanese border of occupied Palestine.
August 27, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Iran Sells 2.1 Million Barrels of Oil Worth About $130 Million to Mystery Buyer
As the Adrian Darya sails East from Gibraltar, Iran announces selling the cargo of Iranian crude to a mystery buyer who will choose the ultimate fate of the cargo. I'm hoping the buyer is a billionaire climate activist who will put the oil back underground where it belongs. Indeed, that is what the G7, a group of wealthy nations who believe they have the Right to set economic policy for the rest of the world, should have been discussing in their meeting on the climate: paying oil-rich nations to leave their oil in the ground where it belongs. Our own Donald Trump didn't even show up for the meeting.
While World Leaders Fail, People Step Up to Protect the Amazon Rainforest
Instead the G7 offered Brazil a paltry $20 million to fight fires in the Amazon. Brazilian President, Jair Boilsonaro, turned down the offer with a suggestion that the G7, particularly France, use the money to clean up the environmental mess they have made in their former colonies in Africa. So while the Earth burns, our great world leaders spend their time insulting each other.
Here's an article from Wired detailing why even small attacks on the Amazon rainforest can have large effects on the forest's ability to maintain itself and sequester carbon.
And as the rain forest burns, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the world gets hotter and more forests burn.
Meanwhile, some people are fired up to resist and standing up for the climate.
Leonardo di Caprio, through a new charity he has formed, has offered $5 million to fight fires in the Amazon.
15,000 indigenous Mura people who live in the Amazon rainforest vow to resist the loggers and ranchers who are devastating the forest.
People around the world are protesting Brazil's failure to protect the Amazon.
And on Friday, September 20, people from all over the world, including little Rolla, Missouri, will be striking for the climate.
August 20, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Something Positive — Something Negative
Last week, due to a suggestion by a reader, I wrote only about positive developments. This week I will try to be more balanced. I think it is important to cover both the positive, the negative, and all points in between.
Iranian Tanker Sets Sail from Gibraltar
The UK, which remains in the nuclear deals with Iran (JCPOA) has apparently decided not to risk further antagonizing Iran by doing Donald Trump's dirty work for him. Gibraltar, which is a territory of the UK, has allowed the Adrian Darya I (formerly the Grace I) to set sail from Gibraltar carrying at least $130 million of Iranian oil, opining that US sanctions carry no weight in Europe.
The positive side is that War against Iran now appears to be somewhat less likely. The negative side is that all this oil will eventually be burned adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and warming the Earth further.
Israel has barred US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from visiting Israeli occupied Palestine, because the Congresswomen support the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions Against Israel Movement, which seeks to end Israeli human rights atrocities against Palestinians.
Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish and has lived in Israel, opined that it takes a lot of chutzpah to accept $3.8 Billion in aid annually from the United States and then bar members of the US Congress from visiting.
Bernie, as usual, leads the pack in standing up for human rights against the swamp monsters.
Many young Jewish constituents demonstrated in support of Rashida Tlaib and against personal attacks against her from Donald Trump.
Tlaib attended the rally and thanked her constituents:
And this is the way to make Peace! Indeed, it's the ONLY way to make Peace.“I can't wait to show my grandmother how I was supported by all of you—it would bring her so much joy. Thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for loving me. And thank you for allowing me to be not just your congresswoman, but also a granddaughter of a grandmother living under occupation.”
The Boys in the Backroom: “Do We Really Need to be Doing That?”
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence in this Hiroshima Day sermon calls out the “boys [and girls] in the backroom” [scientists] for developing improved ways to kill more people more quickly; and he calls out the Christian Churches for their silence and failure to condemn this.“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?” —Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Nishnaabeg)
For the benefit of my Christian brothers and sisters, I wish to point out that they are not alone. Scientists of almost every imaginable religion (Buddhists, Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Animists, etc.) are hiding out in those backrooms working on deadlier and deadlier ways of killing more and more people more quickly.
So maybe we should stop worshiping the Golden Calf of Science. Maybe instead of saying “Because we can,” we should be asking, “Do we really need to be doing that?”
The above quote is a Nishnaabeg elder's response to a request to explain how the Nishnaabeg view our concept of sustainable development.
McCarthy's sermon comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.
August 13, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Include Something Positive
A reader writes: “Thanks for the updates. Would it be possible to include something positive that is happening in this same arena? People begin to feel paralyzed by the immensity of the devastation, and a record of hope reflecting organizations who are actually making positive change, would catalyze people into joining those in some active way. Thanks,”
My response: Yes, that's a very good point. I too feel that this newsletter often lacks positive reinforcement. But don't be paralyzed by the devastation. The birth of the new tends to be a violent event, accompanied by the destruction of the old. So, “Make prayer; do your best; and leave the rest to God.”
This week, I will write only about positive developments. And for future weeks, I encourage readers to write in with their own positive developments. I know there are lots of them. Some I may be aware of; many I am not.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reaches 25 ratifications
We are half way there! 25 ratifications, two within the last two weeks. 50 and the treaty goes into effect.
The treaty states in part,
Encourage the President to sign on and Congress to ratify this very important treaty. There is a pathway for current nuclear powers to follow to join the treaty.1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
Here is the list of new signatories and ratifications since the start of the New Year
And here is a list of states that are making progress toward ratification.
Do not underestimate the importance of 25 countries saying we will no longer be bullied by a handful of powerful nuclear-weapon states.
Bernie Sanders May Become the Next President of the United States
Bernie never fails to impress me. Here is his response in part to the recent El Paso massacre.
While excoriating the President for creating “a climate where we are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes in this country—hates crimes against Muslims, against Mexicans, against Jews. He is creating the kind of divisiveness in this nation that is the last thing we should be doing.”, he also added, “but do I think that he wants to see somebody get shot? Absolutely not.”
Now, that's diplomacy! That's what we need in the White House.
Non-Violent Civil Disobedience is Back
Climate protesters in Australia, a continent that was all but destroyed during this year's southern-hemisphere summer by heat, drought, flood and fire are rising up against plans to develop Australia's coal resources.
And 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg sets sail on a carbon-neutral ship for the United States to attend an important UN climate conference. Thunberg said, “Me speaking to the U.N. is not going to change the situation but if that can help to create awareness ... then I think that together we can try to ... make a change,”
And Here in Rolla
We have just completed 12.5 years of weekly vigils for Peace at the Rolla Post Office. Whereas, when we began we received many raised middle fingers and angry shouts from passers-by; now almost every response we receive is positive.
With the help of our attorneys at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, in 2007 we received a court injunction against using Buehler Park in any way other than a public park. Since then Citizens for the Preservation of Buehler Park has planted 44 trees that are busy as I write sequestering carbon dioxide. The City of Rolla which used to be our adversary is now trying to get Rolla designated Tree City.
Rolla now has a chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, which seeks to pass legislation favorable to our environment. CCL will host a showing of the film “The Human Element” at Phelps County Courthouse on Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm.
Yes, when you think about it, there are a lot of positive developments happening now. Be a part of it. You can help by writing some positive words for this newsletter. In the words of Stephen Kinzer, “Earth-shaking events often happen slowly and quietly.”
August 6, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Losing Our Tree Cover
Arctic fires, brought on by unprecedented hot dry conditions have burned through millions of acres of northern forest. The hot dry conditions have also melted billions of tons of ice, heating the arctic and making it more susceptible to further hot dry weather and forest fires.
And deforestation continues in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro's pro-development policies have led to the doubling in the clearing of Amazon forests over the past two years.
The warming of the poles is viewed by the world's major militaries as an opportunity to further militarize the Earth, which will likely lead to increased deforestation and warming of the planet and perhaps also to war.
The loss of so many trees which form an important carbon sink is likely a major culprit in the recent increases in the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Over the first seven months of 2019, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased over 3 ppm from the first seven months of 2018.
July 2019 has been declared the warmest month on Earth since record keeping began. If humanity were sane, it would be out planting new forests, nurturing existing forests, and forgoing militarization, fighting wars, burning fossil fuels, eating meat and other destructive behaviors. Since we are doing none of the above, the only possible conclusion is that we are a species bent on suicide.
Humanity in Crisis
I've started reading Jared Diamond's new book, “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis” While I am still on the first chapter, already I can recommend this book to you, wholeheartedly. Perhaps the insights Diamond gives us in this book will help us through this most difficult of times.
July 30, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Turkey
Last week I wrote the following short snippet on Turkey:
A reader writes in:“Tiring of Donald Trump's bullying, Turkey took delivery of the first installment of Russia's S-400 Missile Defense System. Donald Trump was livid and threatening ... you guessed it ... sanctions. Turkey also unveiled plans to wean itself militarily away from the U.S. and build it's own fighter jet. Apparently, Turkey is really serious about becoming a military power to be reckoned with. So much so, that they have jailed a number of academics for the crime of signing a petition advocating peace..
My response: Too bad we don't demilitarize the entire Greater Middle East from Libya to Iran and beyond and send all foreign troops home. Would I praise Turkey for spending money on a military missile defense system? No. Lying between a nuclear armed Russia and a nuclear armed Europe, could I condemn them for buying a missile defense system? No. Would I condemn a nation, any nation, for jailing its citizens for signing a petition advocating Peace? Absolutely.“Not clear to me whether you are praising or condemning Turkey.”
Perhaps one of the Turkish-Americans on this distribution list would like to weigh in on this matter.
Turkey's aims in neighboring Syria don't seem to fit well with either US or Russian aims. The US supports Kurdish forces. Russia supports the government. Turkey opposes both.
Incidentally, Turkey increased its military expenditures in 2018 by 24%, the highest increase among the top 15 countries in military expenditures.
Here's an interesting tidbit. In 2015, Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet that appeared to have strayed over the border from Syria into Turkey for 17 seconds. Now, four years later, they are buying Russian missile defense systems and perhaps cooperating militarily with Russia in Syria.
As I said last week: “This world gets more and more dangerous every day.”
Still a standoff. Gibraltar holds an Iranian tanker. Iran holds a British flagged tanker. But, judging by the fall in prices at the gas pump, no one's about to start a shooting war over this.
As far as I know, nobody but yours truly has called for the closing of both the Straits of Hormuz and Gibraltar to all oil tankers. Many climate activists seem to have a blind spot when it comes to militarism. The US military is almost certainly the world's single greatest user of fossil fuels and the World's single greatest producer of greenhouse gases. Now keep in mind that the US spends somewhat more than 1/3 of the world's approximately $1.8 Trillion military budget. This will give you an idea of how much militarism damages our climate; and why we will make no progress in reversing climate change unless we drastically reduce our reliance on military solutions.
By the way, if you don't see the connection between militarism and climate change, try designing a solar-powered fighter jet or an electric-powered tank. 21st Century militarism runs on oil.
Wars are never easy and never clean. Danny Sjursen writes about our messy wars; and opines about Afghanistan:
Leonard Cohen said something similar before he left us: “You're not going to like what comes after America.”“For someone like me who long ago turned his back on America’s never-ending wars on terror, it’s discomfiting to imagine the process that might finally lead to a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially one negotiated by The Donald and his strange team of hawks. Of one thing, rest assured: bad things will happen afterward.”
July 23, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
No Wars for Oil; Keep it in the Ground
Lots of folks are worried that we are heading into another dumb Middle East war, this time with Iran. Here, Juan Cole lays out the legalities of the ongoing tanker battle:
Cole feels that John Bolton tricked the UK into seizing the Iranian tanker; but I have another theory:“First, the EU ban on oil sales to Syria concerned only EU member states.
I think a lot of the British elite are delusional and living in the past when “Brittania ruled the Waves” and could commit any act of piracy on the high seas they chose and get away with it.
In its heyday in the early 20th Century, Britain plundered Iran's oil resources; so theft and piracy are nothing new — except that Iran is now paying the British back by seizing its ships.
Donald Trump is delusional too. North Korea, Nicaragua , Venezuela .... so far just empty threats. That's the thing about bullies: Stand up to them and they back down. Kowtow to them and you encourage them. I suspect Trump will back down with Iran too — but maybe I'm wrong — we'll see. Seems its only here in the United States and among our European allies that folks are cowed by the great Bully-in-Chief.
But here's what I don't understand. It's way past time to give up our addiction to fossil fuels and just leave them in the ground. So why are we so ready to go to War over oil? How come 350.org, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and all the other climate-advocacy organizations aren't weighing in on this? Why aren't they saying, “Stop fighting wars over oil. Just leave it in the ground.” So many climate-activists have a blind spot when it comes to War. The Peace movement is doing much better in recognizing that our militarism and our assault upon the Earth are intertwined. Nothing much will be done to reverse climate change until we tackle our addiction to War. To quote Katherine Ball: “The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.”
It's a golden opportunity. I'm hoping the Climate movement and the Peace movement can join together, make common cause and call for the closure of both the Straits of Gibraltar and Hormuz to oil traffic.
Turkey: Tired of Being Bullied
Tiring of Donald Trump's bullying, Turkey took delivery of the first installment of Russia's S-400 Missile Defense System. Donald Trump was livid and threatening ... you guessed it ... sanctions. Turkey also unveiled plans to wean itself militarily away from the U.S. and build it's own fighter jet. Apparently, Turkey is really serious about becoming a military power to be reckoned with. So much so, that they have jailed a number of academics for the crime of signing a petition advocating peace.
This world gets more and more dangerous every day.
Scientists v. Indigenous Peoples
Two years ago in the months leading up to the first March for Science, I wrote an article pointing out that far from being a solution to all our problems, scientists are a major cause of them. I also pointed out the elitism involved in the March for Science and the science establishment in general.
I've been waiting for the proper moment to elaborate on this; and that moment has come with the attempt to build a $1.4 billion, 300 meter telescope atop the mountain, Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. Mauna Kea, which already sports 13 telescopes, is sacred to indigenous Hawaiians.
So here we have scientists saying our new billion dollar toy that will allow us to see farther is more important than your gods and your culture, so just get out of our way. And as scientists look farther and farther out into space, the Earth continues to crumble under our feet.
Science has a lot in common with other sacred cows like progress, capitalism and development. While 90% of the benefits go to the elite, 90% of the risks and sacrifices come from the people.
Fortunately, indigenous water-protectors and their allies continue to oppose the telescope. Here are links to a two part Democracy Now interview with activist Pua Case: part 1, part 2. And here is a link to a petition in support of the Hawaiian water-protectors who are opposing the telescope.
July 16, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Low Tech v. High Tech: Not Even Close. Two Case Studies: Trees and Goats
Case 1, Trees: Those of us who have been clamoring for forest protection and regeneration got a big boost last week. Researchers estimated that if all the unused land available in the world were planted with climate-appropriate trees, when they reached maturity in 40 to 100 years they would sequester a whopping 205 gigatons of carbon, which is equivalent to about 2/3 of all the carbon dioxide released by human activity since the industrial revolution. Price-wise and capacity-wise trees are way ahead of high-tech solutions like giant machines that pull carbon out of the atmosphere; and, even better, we can start planting and caring for trees today.
Unlike machines, trees run on 100% solar energy and they grow and regenerate their own solar cells!
Actually, we could do much better. We could selectively harvest and replant the trees. Harvested trees could be heated in the absence of oxygen to make bio-char which could fertilize depleted soils, so they could grow more trees faster, or simply buried deep beneath the Earth where the carbon would do no harm.
Are you convinced? Then be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Plant a tree today! or better yet:
Case 2, Goats: Unfortunately, due to climate change and other human activities, many of the Earth's precious trees are going up in smoke. But there is a low-tech solution to this too. Goats are in high demand in fire-prone areas like California. Goats will eat flammable grasses and herbs down to the nub, thereby protecting mature trees, as well as people and buildings, from fire. They are cheaper and more energy-efficiently than the best bulldozers, far more environmentally friendly than herbicides, and while they protect us from fire, they fertilize the soil.“Grow a forest, Protect it from axes that hack,
Goats are also lovable companions. Tired of mowing your lawn? Get a goat!
Nature has solutions to our problems. All we need do is use them.
And if you get a chance, watch Diana Beresford-Kroeger's Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees; and read her book: The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us.
There was other stuff I planned to write about; but that will have to wait until next week. I'll just end here with a link to Joyce Kilmer's famous poem, Trees.
July 9, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is War Against Iran Coming?
Since I last wrote about Iran two weeks ago, British pirates have seized an Iranian super-tanker off the coast of Gibraltar and Iran has begun enriching and stockpiling uranium beyond the limits of the JCPOA agreement, from which the United States has withdrawn.
We are already at war with Iran. US imposed sanctions are an act of War. State Piracy is also an act of War. One question is how much further are the United States and their British ally prepared to push Iran and how will Iran respond? Another question is will China, Russia and the European Union sit back and watch or will they get involved. I can't answer these questions; but keep in mind how unsuccessful the United States has been so far in its War against Venezuela and that they appear ready to pull out of an unsuccessful 18-year-old war against Iran's neighbor, Afghanistan.
I would suspect that Iran is not without the means to retaliate should they choose to. I would also suspect that War against Iran would be yet another war in which everyone loses.
Criminalizing Compassion (Update)
Last week I reported that Scott Warren's felony trial for rendering humanitarian assistance to migrants on our southern border ended in a hung jury. The Federal government has unfortunately chosen to retry the case.
And I reported last week that Captain Carola Rackete who rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya had also been charged in Italy with a felony for her humanitarian work. Captain Rackete has been ordered released by an Italian judge who opined that she has doing her duty to protect life.
90°F. in Anchorage, Alaska
This July 4, Anchorage, Alaska hit a whopping record-breaking temperature of 90°F. 90°F. in Alaska? This must be a Chinese hoax.
July 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I love the way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes hamburger meat out of sacred cows. Her latest: calling the internment camps on our southern border where children are separated from parents and held without proper food or medical attention in cages what they are: Concentration Camps.
Here's an excellent article by Anna Lind-Guzik describing why Alexandria is correct to call them concentration camps.
And here are some tweets as Alexandria visits a concentration camp.
Scott Warren's felony trial for rendering humanitarian aid to migrants on our southern border ended in a hung jury. Rendering humanitarian aid to those in need must NEVER be considered criminal.
We sometimes think of Europe as being somewhat more “civilized” than the United States; but that is really not the case. Captain Carola Rackete who rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya has also been charged in Italy with a felony for her humanitarian work.
NEVER AGAIN IS NOW
And I love the way young Jews in the United States are refusing to look the other way and are standing up for oppressed peoples, be they in Palestine or on our own southern border.
I've completed a major rewrite of my ongoing climate essay and renamed it: Climate Catastrophe: Graphs and Commentary. Check it out.
June 25, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TRUMP BLINKS; AND SANCTIONS IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER, JAVAD ZARIF
US manned and unmanned spycrafts have been flying along the Iranian border, sometimes teasing Iranian defenses by entering Iran's airspace. Thursday, Iran took the bait and downed an unmanned spycraft that, according to Iran, had crossed the border. The US vowed to retaliate; but at the last minute called off the attack. This was certainly a good thing for all of us.
Not wishing to appear weak and wishy-washy, Donald Trump instead sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. I don't get this. Trump says he wants to meet with Iran and negotiate a deal; but instead sanctions Foreign Mininster Zarif.
I think that so many have become so fed up with US unilateralism and sanctions that it will not be long before the rest of the world puts together economic infrastructure that does not revolve around the US dollar and is impervious to US unilateral sanctions. Wait and see what happens to the US economy then.
SIX PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS PLEDGE TO END ENDLESS WAR
Here is the End the Forever War pledge:
It has been signed by six presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. You can sign the pledge too as a citizen sponsor. Click here.The United States has been in a state of continuous, global, open-ended military conflict since 2001. Over 2.5 million troops have fought in this “Forever War” in over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand. I pledge to the people of the United States of America, and to our military community in particular, that I will (1) fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force, and (2) act to bring the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion.
NOAA UNVEILS VERSION V OF ITS GLOBAL TEMPERATURE DATASET
Version V yields results similar to the previous version, however, it shows increased warming within the past few years. The anomaly for March 2016, which in both versions was the highest recorded increased from 1.23°C to 1.30°C above the 20th Century average.
Meanwhile Miami bakes in record temperatures while the Everglades burn and the Democratic National Committee does not want the candidates to debate climate catastrophe.
June 18, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
RED SCARE STIFLES INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN MEDICAL RESEARCH
Chinese-American researchers are being forced out of US institutions over fear that they are helping China “steal” our “intellectual property.”
I've always felt that “intellectual property” is an oxymoron. This is particularly true when it comes to scientific research. Suppose a researcher finds a cure for cancer. Should he have a right to charge people dying of cancer obscene quantities of money for his cure? Tell me it ain't so. But as Bloomberg points out,
“Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.” It appears that the focus has “shifted away from research collaborations and toward business opportunities.”
Maybe if we didn't allow the pharmaceutical industry to make obscene profits over people's medical misfortunes, this would not be happening.
Incidentally, without our foreign-born intellectual talent, our universities and research institutions would be hardly a shell of what they are now. In some circles this is called “Make America Great Again.”
MOHAMED MORSI DIES IN EGYPTIAN COURT
Mohamed Morsi, who was elected President of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 2012 following the events of Arab Spring that deposed former strongman Hosni Mubarak, died in court yesterday. He was facing multiple politically motivated charges. His death has been called “premeditated murder” by not allowing him adequate health care in prison.
Morsi was deposed and then imprisoned in a military coup with the support of the United States.
It's interesting how so many true believers in Democracy are perfectly willing to look the other way when a democratically elected government which they don't happen to like is deposed in a military coup or by a foreign power. Seems to me if one believes in the ability of the people to govern themselves, one ought to be able to accept whatever mistakes the people make — in my opinion, a trifle compared to mistakes made by elites.
Also noteworthy is that I read this first on a Venezuelan news site.
After having defeated a US instigated coup last month, Venezuela went on to beat the US soccer team 3—0 last week, in spite of the grueling sanctions the US has imposed on Venezuela. Let's level the playing field by ending all sanctions of Venezuela and other countries.
June 11, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEFENSE AUTHORIZATIONS AND APPROPRIATIONS
The House is considering Defense Authorizations and Appropriations and there are a number of proposed amendments that would rein in our warmacht — just a little bit. Here is a list of some of them. Please consider asking chairman Jim McGovern to bring all bills that would result in less war to the floor for a vote by signing the petition here. Also, ask your Rep. to support them.
This is unprecedented. The military usually gets everything it wants and more without any effective opposition. This is why we have been holding vigils for Peace for the past 12 years. Maybe in another 12 years we will really have Peace on Earth.
One important bill omitted from the list is Betty McCollum's HR2407 that would prevent any of the Billions of Dollars we give to Israel in military aid from being spent to imprison, interrogate or torture children.
AFGHANISTAN“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” McCollum said. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”
In case you have wondered about this woebegone land that we have been bombing the crap out of for nearly 18 years, Vijay Prasad gives us a rundown on the so-called “Peace Talks” and other matters. The Taliban's demands are simple: Just get out of our country. I won't vouch for all Prasad says, but I'm definitely on board with his final paragraph:
Meanwhile the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground.“The peace talks in Qatar and Russia will not immediately result in any direct outcome. Afghanistan is damaged beyond belief, its own future less important to the external parties than their own petty gains.”
If you thought global warming might give California a respite from the last two years of devastating wildfires, think again. Summer has arrived again with a vengeance of heat and fire.
And India is experiencing a monster drought and heat wave with temperatures breaking 50°C (122°F). Monkeys are said to be killing each other over access to water, a behavior never before documented in monkeys.
But don't worry folks — its only a Chinese hoax.
June 4, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Most of us believe in cataclysms, although perhaps we have little experience with them. And as Conrad reminds us, “belief does not necessarily imply comprehension.”“Had he been informed by an indisputable authority that the end of the world was to be finally accomplished by a catastrophic disturbance of the atmosphere, he would have assimilated the information under the simple idea of dirty weather, and no other, because he had no experience of cataclysms, and belief does not necessarily imply comprehension.” —Joseph Conrad (Typhoon, 1902)
However, cataclysms have become increasingly common. We've had more than our share of dirty weather this past month — devastating tornadoes and floods. Likely, records have been set.
May, 2019 was, according to the Copernicus Center, the third warmest May on record, only marginally missing the second spot. The 12 month running average for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by more than 0.25ppm over last month's running average. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to a warming climate; and a warming climate leads to an increasing likelihood of cataclysms.
I suspect there is far more dirty weather on the horizon.
In Joseph Conrad's yarn, Captain MacWhirr, lacking in experience and imagination, sails his ship, the Nan-Shan, into a typhoon. However, he is a competent sea captain and not one to give up in the face of adversity. Captain MacWhirr brings his ship battered and beaten into port, without losing a single man.
One has to wonder whether our Captain, also lacking in experience and imagination, is capable of bringing the Ship of State through dirty weather safe into port, or whether, even if capable, he would care to do so.
May 28, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BERNIE TELLS IT LIKE IT IS AND APOLOGIZES TO NO ONE
Watch the 2 minute video embedded in this short article in which Bernie states his past opposition to our disastrous wars in Vietnam and Iraq and his current opposition to War Against Iran. Says Bernie:
It you are real about running for President as a Progressive, then oppose War and Militarism.“I was right about Vietnam.”
If you are real about doing something for our Climate, then oppose War and Militarism.
We will be at the Post Office vigilling for Peace at Noon on Thursday; Come join us.
CLIMATE CHANGE COMES TO JEFFERSON CITY
Missouri's state government which is filled with climate change deniers was treated Wednesday to a display of Nature's new normal as our planet warms. Wednesday's Tornado packed 160 mph winds and left a trail of destruction 20 miles long and almost a mile wide across Jefferson City. Nature Bats Last.
May 21, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
QUIZ TIME: WHAT DOES THE CITY OF ROLLA HAVE IN COMMON WITH THE STATE OF NEVADA AND THE COUNTRIES OF CUBA, RWANDA AND BOLIVIA?
Answer: All of the above have legislatures that are 50% or more female.
It makes a big difference. In Nevada, bills that deal with women's health and safety are increasingly being placed at the top of the agenda instead of dying in legislative limbo.
Here in Rolla, I am reminded of how almost 10 years ago, a male dominated power structure censured Donna Hawley and charged her with felony assault on a healthy 200+ pound male. One city councilman who carried a firearm to council meetings and had problems with anger management even left a threatening message on her answering machine. I don't think this could happen now that the Rolla city council is 50% female. There is a huge difference between 17% and 50%.
I think we would all be much better off if legislative bodies at every level were 50% or more female.
TESTOSTERONE AND SPORTS
Governing bodies in the sports world have long claimed the right to dictate to athletes, particularly minorities, how they must behave. (Jim Thorpe, Muhammad Ali, and Colin Kaepernick all come to mind immediately.)
However, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) really outdid itself when it ruled that Caster Semenya must submit to therapy to lower her level of testosterone if she wishes to defend her title in the 800 meter run. Semenya has a naturally high level of testosterone. The IAAF claims that this gives her an unfair advantage over women with lower testosterone levels.
Maybe the IAAF is not aware that all champion athletes have a gift that few others possess. Gifts like Semenya's come directly from God. But the IAAF places itself above the Almighty — a terrible sin.
TESTOSTERONE AND POWER
I shouldn't be too hard on the IAAF. I think they are really on to something here. Suppose we demand that all politicians and political leaders must lower their testosterone levels before taking office. The halls of power definitely suffer from too much testosterone. Perhaps, if we decrease the testosterone levels in Washington, we wouldn't be fighting so many idiot wars all the time.
BERNIE SANDERS ON WAR AND REGIME CHANGE
The New York Times, which has a long history of cheerleading for idiot wars, tried to paint Bernie Sanders as being anti-American for having participated in a 1985 demonstration in Managua against the US funded Contra War and brutal US sanctions against Nicaragua which were responsible for 60,000 deaths.
Bernie fired back:
No wonder the power elite is doing everything possible to prevent Bernie from becoming president.“I strongly oppose U.S. policy, which overthrows governments, especially democratically elected governments, around the world. So this issue is not so much Nicaragua or the government of Nicaragua. The issue was, should the United States continue a policy of overthrowing governments in Latin America and Central America? I believed then that it was wrong, and I believe today it is wrong. That's why I do not believe the United States should overthrow the government of Venezuela.
My experience in Latin America, indeed, throughout the world, is that those of us who come in Peace and Friendship are welcomed. It is those in high places who foster War, Regime Change and Economic Bullying who are not.
TWO SECOND-WARMEST MONTHS IN A ROW
According to NOAA, March and April 2019 were both the second warmest March and April respectively since record-keeping began. The 12-month running average for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased from 409.25 ppm in March to 409.50 ppm in April. Climatewise, statistics are not looking good.
UPHEAVAL: JARED DIAMOND'S NEW BOOK
I've been a fan of Jared Diamond's ever since I first opened GGS (Guns, Germs and Steel), almost 20 years ago. Diamond has a knack for explaining difficult concepts so even I can grasp them. For example, in GGS he explained, without resorting to racism or racist explanations, why “western civilization” had been able to dominate the world for five centuries.
In this interview about his new book, Upheaval, he opines that our global civilization has a 49% chance of collapsing before 2050. I've always felt that Diamond was an optimist — still do.
I promised last week I would stop writing so much — a promise not kept. Reading and writing about the news is addictive. I found it hard to stop. I'll try harder this week. I suppose there are worse addictions I could have had instead.
May 14, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I'm going to try to cut back on my writing. I feel I'm repeating myself. When I find my own writing repetitious and boring, it's time to do something else.
FROM OUR READERS: DONALD TRUMP'S POPULARITY
A reader writes, “Trump's approval rating is high because the economy is doing pretty well. People generally vote their pocketbooks.”
My response, Ok, “Guns and Butter.” Put money in my hand and all else is forgiven: war, death, destruction.... Here's a line from Bertrand Russell:
“I had supposed that most people liked money better than almost anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better.”
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI
The City of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is sinking at a rate of 10in./yr. Other great cities are sinking too. And sea levels are rising. “Nature bats last.”
First the good news: Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute is developing super-plants that are able to sequester far more carbon than natural plants.
Now the bad news: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere measured at Mauna Loa breached 415 ppm on Sunday and Monday. Last week it averaged 414.37 ppm, which was 3.6 ppm above a year ago.
Professor Chory, I hope you develop your super plants soon. We sure do need them now.
Note: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tends to hit a maximum in May and then decrease in the late northern hemisphere spring and summer when plants sequester large quantities of carbon. A much more informative statistic is the 12 month running average which was 409.50 ppm, May 2018 through April 2019. If you like multiples of ten, we are on track to hit 410 ppm this summer.
WHY CHINA INCREASINGLY LEADS THE UNITED STATES
While China trains its youth to be scientists and engineers, here in the United States we scare the bejeezus out of our school children. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law SB7030 which allows teachers to go to school armed. As one third grade teacher explained to her class: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, shut your mouths or I will get a gun.”
May 7, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FAILED COUP IN VENEZUELA: POST MORTEM
Of all the short opinion pieces I've read on the attempted coup in Venezuela, this short article from the moonofalabama site makes the most sense. According to the anonymous author, defense minister Vladimir Padrino and other officials in high places, led the opposition to believe they would defect, and then didn't, leaving the coup-mongers high and dry. I suspect Donald Trump was livid with rage on learning that he had been snookered. He has blamed the failure of the coup on Russia and Cuba and threatened military invasion and increased sanctions.
Well, there haven't been Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba since 1962. We may be seeing them there again soon.
Juan Guaidó has declared himself open to US military intervention. Bad idea. Invasion of Venezuela, with its terrain of impenetrable jungles and mountains would be next to impossible under any circumstances — especially with US troops tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East and US popularity in Latin America at an all-time low. I hope there are still some realists left at the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sachs has estimated that roughly 40,000 Venezuelans have died as a result of US sanctions — not exactly designed to make us popular there — but still not up to the more than 1/2 million children killed in Iraq by sanctions between 1991 and 2003.
The US media, as could be expected, remains clueless, supporting Donald Trump's foreign adventures. Likewise with the Democratic opposition. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez follows her party “leaders” in backing regime change. Only Ilhan Omar and a few others in Congress stand in opposition.
This is not over. There is more to come — and it won't be pretty.
MEANWHILE: BACK IN AFGHANISTAN
Peace talks to end our 18 year old military fiasco continue; but the Taliban holds all the aces. The question appears to be how long they are willing to give the US and other foreign forces to get out of their country: 6 months? 12 months? 18 months? Meanwhile, they continue to gain control of more real estate and kill more Afghan soldiers and police. The situation for the US and its puppet government is so bad that the Pentagon is no longer willing to release data on how much of the country the Taliban controls. But don't worry. We mere citizens who foot the bill and supply the cannon-fodder may be in the dark; but the Taliban surely knows.
HOW ARE AFGHANISTAN AND VENEZUELA SIMILAR? CAN MORE THAN FIFTY COUNTRIES BE WRONG?
Over 50 countries participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Over 50 countries recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela.
CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE
In April, 2019, CO2 in the atmosphere as measured at Mauna Loa reached an average of a whopping 413.32 ppm up 3.08 from April 2018, the highest it has ever been.
DONALD TRUMP'S APPROVAL RATING
According to Gallup, last week Donald Trump's approval rating hit 46%, the highest it has ever been.
Think about this: The CIA and friends totally botch an attempted coup in Venezuela, making the US look like a bunch of inept buffoons; The US military prepares to slink home with its tail between its legs from a disastrous 18 year, multi-trillion dollar war in Afghanistan; Under US (non) leadership, the global climate continues to deteriorate; and Donald Trump receives his highest approval rating ever. You figure it out.
April 30, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ROLLA: YEAR OF THE WOMAN
In the April municipal elections, Rolla elected three women to the City Council: Rachel Schneider, Marie Allen and Christine Ruder. They join Ann Murphey, Jody Eberly and Tiffany Henry, who were elected to the Council last year, making the Rolla City Council 50% women. Two years ago, the Rolla City Council was 100% male.
When I pointed this out in a public council meeting two years ago, I was met by snickers and guffaws. Some of the sexist comments my presentation elicited are really choice. You can view the meeting here. My presentation and council comments are from 1:27:00 to 1:30:15.
Rolla has not had a female mayor since Lou McFarland (1978-1982). Rolla will elect a new mayor in 2022. Perhaps, it's time for a female mayor.
THE MOST WARLIKE NATION IN HISTORY
Jimmy Carter, who at 94 is the oldest living former president of the United States ever, has pointed out that the reason China has surpassed the United States in so many ways is that the US has squandered its lead by fighting wars, while China has gone from a third world country to become the world's economic powerhouse in four short decades.
President Carter, who was responsible for the normalization of relations between the US and China, and whose administration comprised four of the only five years in which the United States has not been at war, remarked in a Sunday sermon,
“It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us in almost every way.”
Here's a short article on the subject by Brett Wilkins, and another by Fred Reed. Fred Reed writes in very colorful language. He refers to the way the United States has squandered its position in the world over the past 40 years as “national suicide” — a very apt description in my opinion.
SOME UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF GLOBAL WARMING
Here's two articles I ran across in my reading this past week. I'm sure there are many more similar articles.
Seems that under a warming climate, waves are growing taller. This bodes ill for those living close to the ocean.
And monster storms, particularly in the US midwest, are pumping water vapor into the stratosphere, which then attacks the ozone layer, which shields us from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.
But, we are too busy fighting wars to give this much thought; and besides, it's only a Chinese hoax anyway.
TODAY'S COUP ATTEMPT IN VENEZUELA APPEARS TO HAVE FAILED
While it is too early to tell for sure, today's coup attempt in Venezuela appears to have failed. Coup leaders and supporters are taking refuge in foreign embassies.
Let's face it. Venezuelans do not want their country turned into another Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya by the United States.
All that money squandered on attacking Venezuela could have been spent on non-polluting renewable energy, replanting trees, health care, education, rebuilding our dilapidated infrastructure... No wonder China is getting so far ahead of us. I bet the Chinese are having a great laugh over this one.
April 23, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HAVE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS DISCOVERED REALITY?
Climate scientists are struggling with their new models. It seems that many of these are predicting global warming to proceed at a much faster pace than hitherto believed (by climate scientists) and produce a much warmer Earth. So, what is to be done? Some are even doubting their own models. Andrew Gettelman, a modeler from National Center for Atmospheric Research opines, “The scary part is these models might be right.”
While it's nice to see that climate scientists are beginning to predict more realistic results, I can't help wondering what took them so long. The signs are all there, and have been for a while.
Look at this graph of overlapping 12 month global temperature averages. The peak anomaly during the 2015-16 El Niño episode was 1.02° C. above the 20th Century average, around 1.29° C. above pre-industrial times. The previous peak during the 2010 El Niño episode was only 0.72° C. Afterwards, temperature anomalies fell to 0.77° C., still above the previous 2010 peak and have since started to rise again. Looking at the graph, this is unprecedented within the past 30 years that the graph spans. This is an indication that we have crossed a boundary within the past decade and temperature rises are now steeper than previous.
Also consider carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Three of the four largest annual increases fall within the past four years. We appear to be heading for another large increase in 2019.
And finally consider the reality on the ground — devastating extreme weather events appear to be on the increase. While 2017 and 2018 have been quite impressive, so far in 2019 the entire continent of Australia has been ravaged by extreme heat, fire and flooding. Southern Africa and central Asia have both experienced unprecedented flooding. In Alaska, the spring ice breakup is beating previous records by approximately one week.
And the socio-political climate is every bit as bad as the physical climate. We now have heads of state like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro who pride themselves on their anti-environmentalism. And many others, like Canada, who claim to be environmental progressives, yet continue to expand their carbon footprint. And military spending, along with war and conflict, also continues its inexorable rise. The United Nations, like its predecessor, the League of Nations, has become completely ineffectual.
Put it all together. We have entered previously uncharted territory. Past assumptions no longer hold. It's nice to see that climate scientists are now incorporating this reality into their models.
MANY PROGRESSIVES CAVE TO THE MILITARY
The dispute in Congress over the military budget appears to be not whether, but by how much, to increase the already bloated US military budget. Personally, I can't see any valid reason to spend more on our military than China and Russia combined. Even this would be excessive. If we trimmed the military budget, we might even be able to re-learn the lost art of diplomacy. (Donald: diplomacy and bullying are not the same thing.)
But, as Robert Koehler points out, “Every war we’ve waged or been a part of over the last seven-plus decades has spewed human and environmental destruction almost beyond comprehension and, at the same time, has failed to accomplish anything remotely beneficial to the country, unless you happen to be a war profiteer.”
Sadly, far too many legislators are willing to see the military budget continue to increase without bound as long as there is also money for their Green New Deal.
BERNIE ATTEMPTS TO REASSERT CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY OVER WAR-MAKING
Congress showed a rare display of courage when it passed the historic Yemen War Powers resolution, which would have ended US complicity in Saudi Arabian war crimes against Yemeni children, 85 thousand of which have starved to death due to this immoral criminal enterprise. Donald Trump, who intends to continue US complicity in this Crime Against Humanity, vetoed the resolution.
Now Bernie Sanders is trying to muster support in Congress to override the veto. Bernie urges senators who support military intervention to “bring that perspective to the floor of the Senate, debate the issue, and call for a vote.”
April 16, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SCIENCE: WORSHIPING AT THE ALTAR OF FALSE GODS
Here is a sequel (of sorts) to the article I wrote two years ago about the March for Science.“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.” —Mark Twain
Last week I read this article in Science about how archaeologists are trying to “re-engage” with folks who believe in Atlantis and ancient alien civilizations on Earth. Great idea! I am in favor of non-violent engagement. Unfortunately, these engagements don't always seem to be non-violent. Apparently, you can receive hate mail and death threats for stating beliefs about the distant past. This is really not surprising. As George Orwell put it: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
I'm not sure what is meant by re-engagement; but from the article it sounds like re-engagement means explaining to all the “deplorables” [Hillary's word, does not appear in article] who believe in Atlantis, why their belief system is so totally wrong.
Whoa! Hold on a minute. Just how do you know that there was never an ancient civilization of Atlantis? And just how do you know that aliens have never visited the Earth? You don't. Science can never prove a negative. [Mathematicians can; but that's a story for later.]
Well, you might argue that Science has a pretty good record of explaining things hitherto unknown (like how an atom is made up of individual particles); and its more technical side (engineering) has a pretty good record of making things hitherto impossible (like thermonuclear bombs that can kill millions of people in one pop). But Science is often wrong. Here are two of my favorites:
With nuclear energy, we can produce electricity “too cheap to meter.” (Really??? Including capital expenditures, decommissioning, cleaning up after accidents like Fukushima, etc. nuclear power is among the most expensive.)
In the computer age, no one will have to work more than two hours a day. (Huhh??? Tell that to someone whose job has gone South and works three jobs flipping burgers and still can't make ends meet.)
There are plenty of others, such as the Boeing 737 Max, in which engineers tried to fix a faulty aerodynamic design with faulty computer software, killing hundreds of people. (Hold on to your hats folks, computer driven vehicles, coming next to a highway near you.)
And then there is Yoshihiro Sato, a researcher in osteoporosis who published hundreds of papers containing bogus results and even had medically accepted treatment protocols based on his work.
And here are two very recent articles in Science attacking the governments of Nicaragua and Iran respectively for their human rights records. No mention in Science of Israel or Saudi Arabia which have far worse human rights records. Is it a coincidence that the United States has slated Nicaragua and Iran for regime change, while Israel and Saudi Arabia, for all their human rights violations, are our allies? I don't think so. Toadying up to the worst elements in the federal government may get you somewhere. It may even get you grant money.
And as for Archaeologists: Aren't you the guys who believed in the Piltdown Man for 40 years which, unlike global warming, turned out to be a real hoax, probably perpetrated by one of your own. [Oh, yes, I know, that couldn't happen today, because now we are so much wiser.]
We mathematicians also have our problems. Seems we've been doing statistics all wrong for the past 200 years. Seems we've been getting the p-values all mixed up. At least that's what some statisticians say.
If you'd like to send me your favorite scientific hoax, I'll print it next week.
But getting back to “re-engagement:” if I wanted to re-engage with folks who believe in alien civilizations on Earth, and introduce them to the scientific method, I would invest truly massive amounts of capital in science education from kindergarten on up. That seems to be the last thing on the agenda of a government bent on destroying or privatizing what is left of public education.
Well, if you've gotten this far, you may understand why I liken faith in Science to the worshiping of false gods. You may understand why I cringe every time I hear someone remark that “Scientists say we only have 12 more years to tackle climate change.” Here's an exercise: Ask how they conclude we have only 12 years. You might be surprised at some of the answers (and non-answers) you get. And you might be surprised at some of the solutions: Nuclear energy (with more Fukushimas, Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands and little decrease in our carbon footprint). Geoengineering (doping the atmosphere with reflective particles with very uncertain and possibly devastating results). Either way, someone is going to make billions off of these unlikely solutions.
As a card-carrying member of the “Deplorables” who don't rule out Atlantis or ancient alien civilizations on Earth, here are my unscientific thoughts on the matter: No, we don't have 12 years. We don't even have one year, or even one minute. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases at greater than two parts per million per year. Global temperatures rise. Extreme weather events get worse and more frequent. Wars become more and more likely. The time is now. The world must get rid of its militaries, stop burning fossil-fuels, stop eating meat, plant lots of trees, and build lots of windmills and solar cells. No one is likely to get very rich from these low-tech solutions; but they just might save us all from disaster.
A note on Tom Lehrer: Lehrer is best known for songs like "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," "The Elements" and "I Got It From Agnes." His biting iconoclastic wit is second to none. The video linked to above contains some of his lesser-known songs and was recorded at a party for Andrew Wiles who proved the famous Fermat conjecture that there are no integral solutions to the equation an+bn=cn, for n>2. (See comment above about how in Mathematics it is possible to prove a negative.) “Sociology” appears on the video at 7:10-10:20. The final song contains a tribute verse to Andrew Wiles. Those who think that the derivative was invented by Wall Street shysters, should listen to the first song. If you ever took a class from me, the third song on the video might bring back old memories.
April 9, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONALD TRUMP AND THE TRUTH
Maybe you feel there is not much value in anything that Donald Trump utters, but Andrew Bacevich points out how Trump's incessant lies have exposed seven myths about the United States that many of us have taken for granted for decades. Myths can mask some very important truths, so without further ado, here are the seven myths:
Myth #1. The purpose of government is to advance the common good.
Myth #2. Good governance entails fiscal responsibility.
Myth #3. Justice is blind.
Myth #4. The “wise men” are truly wise.
Myth #5.The Persian Gulf is a vital U.S. national security interest.
Myth #6. Prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace depend on Washington playing the role of honest broker.
Myth #7. War is the continuation of policy by other means.
Bacevich ends by pointing out that we “may one day come to appreciate the Trump era as the moment when things long hidden became plain to see, when hitherto widely accepted falsehoods, fabrications, and obsolete assumptions about American democracy finally became untenable.”
Read Bacevich's essay and see how many of the above seven myths Donald Trump has helped you to see through.
Yesterday, Donald Trump declared the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Iran wasted no time firing back, declaring the US Central Command a terrorist organization. Maybe, we are on to something here. Maybe most (if not all) militaries operate as organs of state terror. Yup, thank you presidents Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani.
BRING BACK THE DRAFT?
Most of the folks I hung with 50 years ago, cheered when Richard Nixon abolished the draft and created the All Volunteer Force (AVF). We could have saved the champagne. Citizen armies are an important check on imperial overreach. In order to fight a war with a citizen army, you have to convince the citizenry that the war is worth fighting and risking your life for. A volunteer army is only one step removed from a professional army which is only one step removed from a mercenary army. As James Madison argued before the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty,”
Danny Sjursen argues that “paradoxically, the move toward a no-deferment, equitable lottery draft might result in a nation less prone to militarism and adventurism than the optional AVF has.” and then “more military service may actually be the only workable formula for less war. Too bad returning to a citizens’ military is as unpopular as it is unlikely.”
April 2, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Ok: Here's the riddle. What do all these locations have in common: Iowa, Iran, Australia, South Dakota, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Zambia, Nebraska, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Missouri, (and likely other locations as well)?“And all the rain falls down — Amen,
If you answered devastating floods in March, 2019, then give yourself a pat on the back.
Have we ever witnessed so many devastating floods in so many different parts of the world, all within one short month? I doubt it. But if you have a counter example, I would love to hear about it. The only one I am aware of happened many thousands of years ago when:
Perhaps last month's floods have as much to do with global warming and all the carbon we've put in the atmosphere. Warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air. You don't have to be a biblical scholar or a climate scientist to know that. But isn't the violence we do to the Earth, the proximate cause of global warming, exactly the kind of evil which the Bible warns about in Genesis 6?“it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. ... And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.” (Genesis 6:6-17, KJV)
So as the climate warms, such devastating floods become more and more likely.
And how many more years of widespread extreme weather events will it take before what we refer to as our global “civilization” collapses, and “the works of last-year's man” are utterly destroyed? I don't have an answer for you; but my guess is, not many.
TWO OUT OF THREE
Australia has just experienced the warmest January and March on record along with devastating heat, fires and floods. February was not far behind.
Think of this: An entire continent collapsing before our eyes under the bombardment of extreme weather events, with the Americas, Eurasia and Africa perhaps not so very far behind.
How much time do we have left? I don't have an answer for you; but my guess is, not much.
SEPARATION v. TOGETHERNESS
“Should we save the planet or kill the enemy?", Robert Koehler begins his short essay, Our Wounded Planet.
Nobody brings out the connection between Violence and Climate Change the way Koehler does. He quotes Rebecca Solnit saying, “Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected.” Yes, all living beings and the planet we live on are connected. And again, quoting Solnit, “To kill someone you have to feel separate from them.” Koehler continues with this thought:
If we are to address climate change effectively, we must also address the issues of War, Violence and Separateness. Indeed, in a world where we are all aware of how connected we are to everything else, it would be impossible to do such violence to the Earth.“This is our social infrastructure, our status quo: a consensus utterly unquestioned by most politicians and the mainstream media. Indeed, the U.S. may well be the leader of the global ideology of separation, which means a world of standing armies, unconscionable military budgets and endless war; a world of wealth and poverty, where profit is officially valued over the common good; a world of punishment-based justice, a growing prison-industrial complex and indifference to healing; a world of guns and racism; a world of borders and immigrant scapegoating; a world of nuclear weapons.
If you read nothing else this week, read Robert Koehler's Our Wounded Planet.
March 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THREE MILE ISLAND AT 40
40 years ago this coming Thursday, the United States experienced its worst industrial accident ever, when the core at one of the nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island melted down. Had the world heeded the warning and shut down the nuclear power industry then, we would have been spared the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima and likely, more to come in the future. Unfortunately, oblivious to the danger, we push on.
Arnie Gundersen, who was part of the nuclear establishment at the time, discusses the lies and the cover-up that he participated in. These lies continue long after they have been exposed. Sunday, I received a email from a cheerleader for the nuclear power industry claiming there were no radiation releases at Three Mile Island, almost 40 years after this lie was first exposed.
Gundersen also discusses the lies and the cover-up at Fukushima where eight years ago three nuclear reactor cores melted down in one of the world's two worst nuclear accidents. Oblivious to the people's health, the Japanese government has raised “acceptable” doses of radiation by a factor of 20 in order to declare that it is now safe for people to return to their homes. Meanwhile, the three melted reactor cores are still in contact with groundwater and transferring deadly radiation to the Pacific Ocean.
Gundersen recommends sealing off the three reactors for 100 years, after which they may have cooled down enough that they can be cleaned up. The Japanese nuclear establishment appears unlikely to follow this sage advice.
THEY SHOOT TEACHERS, DON'T THEY?
When I first read about this, I didn't believe it. So I did a little research; and here it is, right in the IndyStar. Teachers at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Indiana were deliberately shot in the back with a pellet gun during an “active shooter” training exercise. One teacher remarked, “It hurt so bad.” Now teachers are lobbying the Indiana state legislature to pass a law prohibiting the shooting of teachers during active shooter training exercises.
Methinks we need to lower the level of violence in our society, not add to it.
March 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GLOBAL WARMING CONTINUES
I've updated my ongoing climate essay with the February data posted yesterday by NOAA. It's not good; matter of fact, it's catastrophic. Considering the year to run from March 1 through the last day of February: the last five 12-month periods ending in February were the five warmest on record by a margin of 0.12°C. Nine of the ten warmest such 12-month periods occurred within the last decade.“it isn't just really, really bad; it's catastrophic.”
And although the Paris Climate Agreement was signed over three years ago, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to rise at greater than the average rate over the past 30 years.
Devastating extreme weather events continue at an unprecedented rate. The month of March has seen horrendous flooding in the upper mid-west of the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, southern Africa and maybe elsewhere as well.
1.5 MILLION YOUNGSTERS DEMONSTRATE FOR CLIMATE ACTION
An estimated 1.5 million youngsters around the world walked out of class Friday and demonstrated for climate action to prevent global warming. But here in Rolla, schools closed so students could join the St. Patrick's Day revelry. If there were any demonstrations in Rolla for climate action, I have not heard. And it's unlikely that many of the party-goers learned any real Irish-American history this weekend either.
DONALD TRUMP CONTINUES TO TRY TO STEAL FOSSIL FUELS
And as it becomes more and more important that ALL of humanity work together to address the climate crisis, Trump ramps up efforts for regime change in oil rich countries like Venezuela and Iran. Venezuela's oil resources and those of all other countries must stay in the ground to prevent further warming. “This is not reasonable.”“This is not reasonable.” —Greta Thunberg
March 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Humanity dodged another bullet last week in Kashmir as Pakistan and India, which seemed on the verge of lobbing nukes at each other, appear to have calmed down somewhat.
Here Stephen Kinzer asks how many more bullets can we dodge? Kinzer gives us the following hypothetical scenario:
Maybe it's time to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) before it's too late. Maybe it's time to rein in our rogue ally, Saudi Arabia, before it's too late. Maybe it's time to renegotiate the INF (Intermediate Nuclear-Forces) Treaty with Russia, before it's too late. Maybe its time for the USA and all nuclear weapon states to sign onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, before its too late.“The most terrifying new nuclear powers would be Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has enough scientific talent to develop a bomb, and Saudi Arabia could buy what it needs. Hearing the leaders of those countries snarl at each other is scary enough today. If both had nuclear weapons — not a far-fetched scenario if present trends continue — war between them could be devastating.”
TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: I MISSPOKE
On February 22, South Africa became the 22nd country to ratify the treaty. Let's hear a loud HIP, HIP, HOORAY! for South Africa. Maybe after the near miss in Kashmir we'll be seeing some more activity on this treaty.
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF ADDRESSES CODE PINK PEACE DELEGATION TO IRAN
I was very favorably impressed by Mr. Zarif's talk. Transcript and audio are posted here. This is a MUST READ! (or listen). He stressed that we are all brothers and sisters together on Earth and our destinies are intertwined. Here are a few important lines:
AFGHANISTAN PEACE TALKS“Clean air and clean water are rare commodities, regardless of where you live. You can be in the most developed country in the world and face the same environmental challenges as people living in the least developed country in the world, because of the very fundamental truth, that is: our world has become global. Everything has become indivisible. .... You cannot have a nice environment in San Francisco if Fiji is drowning because of global warming.”
Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban drag on. According to the New York Times the current sticking point is the definition of “terrorism.” The Taliban points out that there is no single accepted definition of terrorism. Indeed, there isn't. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Never forget that Ronald Reagan called the Nicaraguan Contras the moral equivalent of our founding fathers, when indeed, they were widely disparaged in Nicaragua as terrorists. And I'm sure King George III of England used to think of George Washington as a terrorist.
Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground and Afghanistan has been hit by the most devastating floods in seven years
FALSE FLAG OPERATION IN VENEZUELA
In case you were taken in by the line that the Venezuelan government torched some trucks filled with humanitarian aid from the United States, the embedded video here shows clearly that it was the US supported opposition and not the government which torched the trucks. You can't attack people with your right hand and offer them humanitarian aid with your left. That's not humanitarian aid.
LOVE THIS LADY!
Newly-elected Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar has just challenged one more Sacred Cow. Having first challenged AIPAC and the Israel lobby, and then convicted felon and special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, she now points out that some of Donald Trump's most heinous crimes like separating children from their parents and murdering civilians by drone were actually Obama-era policies which Trump inherited.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Omar. Sacred Cows make great hamburger meat!
March 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING TOWARD NUCLEAR WAR
India and Pakistan have just become the only two nuclear-armed states to have ever bombed each other (albeit with conventional weapons). Arundhati Roy analyzes the latest in this 70-year-old war and concludes, “Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved.”
The second summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean party chairman Kim Jong-un fizzled like a wet firecracker. North Korea wants a lifting of sanctions and humanitarian aid due to a poor harvest exacerbated by drought, climate change and sanctions. Trump wants North Korea to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles. The summit ended early with nothing accomplished.
And the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons garnered no new signatories or ratifications in the month of February.
Seems like a lot of folks out there are not interested in sticking around another year or two. Tom Lehrer sang about this 60 years ago.
NEW MONTHLY RECORD SET FOR CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE
CO2 in the atmosphere for February, 2019, as measured at Mauna Loa (the “gold standard” for CO2 measurements) was 411.75 ppm, beating out the previous monthly record of 411.24 set in May, 2018. Significantly, the monthly record for the year is typically set in May. Rarely has a record month been recorded as early as February and never by anywhere near the 0.51 ppm recorded this February. February also set a record at Mauna Loa in 2017 (by 0.16 ppm), 2013 (by 0.06 ppm), and 2010 (by 0.06 ppm). This could reflect an increase in CO2 produced by human activity, a failure of forests, oceans or other carbon sinks to absorb CO2, and/or other factors.
A POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP: CLIMATE CHANGE AND WAR
A colleague sent me a link to this 2009 report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development discussing how Climate Change in the Middle East has exacerbated water shortages, which has led to conflict and distrust, which has led in turn to lack of cooperation and poor water management, which leads to further water shortages. The Middle East is one of the world's most water-poor regions, and is likely to dry out even more in future years due to climate change. The authors write:
Very prophetic words, indeed!“It is possible that climate change, a shared threat like no other, may encourage countries to work together despite their political and ideological differences. In so doing, climate change could become a vehicle for rapprochement and peacebuilding.
February 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
If you haven't watched this clip of Senator Dianne Feinstein talking down to a group of children, one as young as 7, you must see it to believe it. In response to a request to vote for the Green New Deal, Feinstein refuses, bragging that, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing. ... I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality. And I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
Ok. So what has the good senator been doing for 30 years? On her watch: CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 57 parts per million. Global temperatures have increased by almost 0.5° C. Feinstein's own State of California has seen record-breaking heat, droughts and wildfires. Internationally, we have gone from a relatively stable bipolar world with the United States by far the stronger of the two super-powers to a chaotic multipolar world embarking on a new nuclear arms race. Internally, we have gone from a relatively cohesive nation, to one plagued by internal strife. Economically, the wealth of the United States is now more unevenly distributed than any other industrialized nation. Student debt has ballooned to $1.5 trillion, a considerable portion of it for worthless “education.”
Not much to brag about, senator. With a record like that, maybe you and the rest of us old-timers ought to retire and let the kids that you talked down to have a try at creating a better world.
Here's an article from the Guardian that will take you through the extreme weather events of 2018. (There's quite a few of them) The article is worth spending some time thinking about. We can pray that 2019 will not be quite so bad, although we seem to be off to a bad start.
NORTH KOREA: PRAY FOR PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP
The second North Korea — US summit opens tomorrow in Hanoi. Pray for peace and friendship. However, as Christine Ahn and Gloiria Steinem note: “much of the U.S. leadership is singularly focused on forcing North Korea to unilaterally denuclearize as a precondition for peace talks. This approach is backward. To convince somebody to put down a gun, you first have to convince them they will not be harmed. We need to establish peace first to create the necessary conditions for denuclearization.”
VENEZUELA: RESISTING THE COUP
The US attempt to deliver “humanitarian aid at the point of a gun” to Venezuela fizzled last weekend. Opposition supporters impersonated red cross personal while the red cross and other respected humanitarian agencies refused to get involved with this scam. Apparently, in a false-flag operation, opposition supporters burned two aid vehicles on the Colombia side of the border and tried to blame the Maduro government. Meanwhile, Senator Marc Rubio reminds us all of what happened to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Panama''s Manuel Noriega as a result of “US humanitarian aid,” while Trump, Pence and Pompeo threaten invasion.
February 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US, ISRAEL AND OTHER NATIONS MEET IN WARSAW TO PLAN WAR AGAINST IRAN
The Warsaw meeting, called to discuss regime change in Iran, was boycotted by most of Europe. While the US seeks regime change in oil-rich nations like Iran and Venezuela, the petrodollar system, in which oil is priced and traded in US dollars, appears to be in trouble. Some argue that if the petrodollar system falls, the U.S. will be in serious financial trouble. No wonder the US elite is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the world from turning away from fossil fuels. No wonder the US demonizes every oil-rich country which attempts to chart an independent policy.
The solution is clear. Wealthy countries should pay poor oil-rich countries to leave their oil in the ground, and, of course, leave their own oil in the ground too.
A WORLD-WIDE EMERGENCY
No, it's not just our southern border with Mexico. No, it's not just the United States or any one country. It's the WHOLE WORLD which is suffering the effects of climate change which will only get worse.
Here's some very sobering data, mostly from NOAA:
Some think emergencies like this can be held at bay by building a wall. This would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Here's a short discussion by Debbie Weingarten of how counter-effective walls really are.1. January 2019 was the third warmest January since record keeping began in 1880. This follows on the heals of December 2018 which was the second warmest December since record keeping began.
February 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GREEN NEW DEAL: WHERE'S THE PEACE?
Last week Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey unveiled their Green New Deal.
It contains an outline of how we might put the brakes on global warming and a lot of other promises like single-payer health care and the Right to a good job. Ok: but what about Peace?
The New Green Deal doesn't even mention the word “Peace” or “military” once. It's only mentions of “War” are that we must mobilize like the United Sates did during World War II.
Can't quite wrap my mind around this: a Right to a good job; but no Right to live in a peaceful world. Ms. Ocasio knows better. Her campaign platform called for A Peace Economy and included the statement, “we must end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.”
Personally, I see little hope for a green future while we devastate other nations and continue to fight trillions of dollars worth of wars in almost every corner of the globe.
As you might have guessed, the Trump administration's offer of “humanitarian aid” for Venezuela is a scam. Back in the 1980s, Elliott Abrams, who is now in charge of US operations in Venezuela, used to smuggle arms disguised as “humanitarian aid” to the Nicaraguan terrorist army known as the Contras. He even pleaded guilty in court, while opining that their really was nothing wrong with this.
I'm in favor of humanitarian aid, so I propose we send humanitarian aid to Yemen where thousands are dying of starvation, instead of giving military aid to Saudi Arabia to bomb school buses and make war on the Yemenis. As for Venezuela, I think lifting sanctions against Venezuela and staying out of Venezuela's internal affairs would suffice.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS: COMING SOON TO EUROPE
With the INF ( Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty all but dead, Lawrence Wittner gives us a little history of the INF treaty and its recent demise. Wittner points out that all the blame does not lie on the U.S. and Russia. Other nuclear-weapon states, particularly China, have not been interested in joining to make the INF Treaty a multilateral one.
Wittner concludes his article saying “Although the rulers of nuclear-armed nations are usually eager to foster nuclear buildups, substantial public pressure can secure their acceptance of nuclear disarmament.” I guess that leaves it up to you and me.
February 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ... “AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM”
Last week I wrote briefly about 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose idea of a school strike for the climate has caught on like a California wildfire with hundreds of thousands participating. This week I link to a short article written by Thunberg in which she responds to her critics. Thunberg writes:“I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate” —Greta Thunberg
So why all the hate? Perhaps if you read the short quotes above, you will understand.“I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate. I am not saying anything new, I am just saying what scientists have repeatedly said for decades. And I agree with you, I'm too young to do this. We children shouldn't have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue.”
NOTE: March 15 is the day of the world-wide strike for the climate. Perhaps you would consider participating. And if you can't find a local strike, perhaps you could organize one.
ELECTED OFFICIALS FOR CLIMATE ACTION
Three Rolla City Council members, Dave Schott, Tiffany Henry and Daniel Jones have signed on to a letter in support of clean energy and bold climate leadership. Not bad for a small town of 20,000! If you are an elected official and wish to join Dave, Tiffany and Daniel in acting boldly for the climate, you can sign the letter here.
CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY COMES TO ROLLA
Last Thursday, Citizens Climate Lobby gave a presentation at the Phelps County Courthouse to about 50 people. Citizens Climate Lobby is trying to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act which would lead to a reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels, the development of non-polluting renewable energy and the creation of many green jobs. Climate Lobby is attempting to start its first chapter in Missouri's 8th District here in Rolla. If you are interested in participating, contact Dave Schott, email@example.com.
ACCUMULATION OF GREENHOUSE GASES AND EXTREME GLOBAL WARMTH CONTINUE
CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase. January 2019 beat January 2018 by almost three parts per million. Extreme global heat continues with January 2019 being the fourth warmest January on record according to the Copernicus Center.
DONALD TRUMP v. POLAR VORTEX
Donald Trump has said many nutty things about global warming and climate induced disasters. Up to now, “raking” the forest was my favorite, but this week he outdid himself tweeting:
Donald, if you miss global warming, go to Australia, that is, if they will let you in. January, 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history in Australia, with unprecedented floods in the North and fires in the South.“ In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”
ANOTHER DAM DISASTER
A shoddily built dam on a mine tailings pond in Brazil burst, killing at least 110 and causing severe environmental damage. Catastrophic failure of tailings dams are on the rise, heavy rains being a contributory factor. An industrial accident? a result of climate change? Both. Man-made and natural disasters meld seamlessly into each other.
RESISTING THE COUP
The coup attempt in Venezuela continues. So far it appears to be a stalemate, although I suspect that without international backing, particularly from the United States, there would never have been a coup at all. Here are two articles I feel are definitely worth reading.
This interview with Guillaume Long is the most balanced presentation I've been able to find — it is difficult these days to find anything balanced.
And this article by Vijay Prasad ties the coup in Venezuela to the over 60 other U.S. created coups around the world since World War II.
Imagine if Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, (2nd in line to succeed the elected president) were to declare both Donald Trump and Mike Pence unfit for the office of president and declare herself interim-president until new elections could be held. Now also suppose that Russia and China and a few other countries were to immediately recognize Ms. Pelosi as president of the United States. Now you have something of an analogy to what is going on in Venezuela.
The saddest thing about this coup is that it could be solved in a minute. All that is necessary is for the rich countries to pay Venezuela to leave their oil in the ground, which is where it belongs anyway. There would then be nothing left to fight over. Try thinking outside the box. It's amazing how simple solutions can be.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS TREATIES
Since the first of the year, the Treaty On The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons picked up the 20th and 21st ratifications (St. Lucia and El Salvador) and a 70th signatory (Cambodia). 29 more ratifications and it goes into force. Lets give three cheers for these three great nations: St. Lucia, El Salvador and Cambodia.
Meanwhile Donald Trump announces that the U.S. will no longer be bound by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Predictably, Russia immediately followed suit. These acts will almost certainly lead to a new nuclear arms race, and just when it becomes super-critical that all nations put all their energies into combating global warming.
January 29, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“...AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM”
16-year-old Greta Thunberg crashed the party at Davos where the global elite came in their private jets and stayed in $10,000 a night hotel rooms to discuss climate change. Thunberg arrived by train and slept in a tent.
Thunberg told this gathering of multi-billionaires, “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
Naomi Klein points out, “It takes deep courage to go to Davos and tell the masters-of-the-universe *to their faces* that they knowingly torched the planet in order [to] get filthy rich.”
There is an embedded video of Greta Thunberg's speech here.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched for planet Earth
The title quote of this snippet comes from Isaiah 11:6. Here's some context:
So perhaps, unlikely as it may seem, it is time for the Wall-Street wolves and the hedge-fund hyenas to follow the little child and lie down with the lambs and kids. After all, the survival of the human race appears to depend on it.“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (KJV)
CONVICTED FELON APPOINTED US SPEC IAL ENVOY ON VENEZUELA
The ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela unfolds. Speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, (basically Nancy Pelosi's counterpart) declares himself president and is immediately recognized as such by Donald Trump. Trump has now appointed Iran-Contra scandal convicted felon, Elliott Abrams, special US envoy on Venezuela. [Note: Abrams was pardoned by president Bush the Elder, also a prominent figure in the Iran-Contra scandal.]
And the US has also seized [actually stolen] Venezuelan oil assets in the United States and threatened to invade Venezuela, while much of Europe piles on.
Gwynne Dyer makes an interesting conjecture here: Europe is backing the coup in Venezuela in the hopes that Trump will be so busy dealing with Venezuela that he will leave Europe and the Middle East, particularly Iran, alone.
An interesting conjecture, indeed, but I would go one step further. The United States can no longer sustain its global wars and is retrenching back to the Western Hemisphere — withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan and befriending North Korea. Europe is merely helping the process along and is indeed fearful that the US will start a major conflagration in Iran or some other hot spot. US withdrawal will leave Europe, Russia and China a free hand to curve up Eurasia and Africa — Nineteenth Century style. Most interesting will be the evolution of US-Israel relations as the US withdraws from Eurasia (see snippet below).
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS
This eulogy to Martin Luther King by Michelle Alexander calling for justice for Palestinians is notable not so much for what it says (it has been said many times by many people in many places) but for the fact that it is printed prominently in the New York Times. It appears that the pro-Israel lobby is no longer so powerful as it has been. This op-ed should serve notice upon Israel and its supporters in the United States that they should no longer count on unquestioned support from the United States.
US GOVERNMENT: OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Last Friday the US government reopened — without funding for a wall — but only for three short weeks. I think public anger had a lot to do with the reopening. Keep up the pressure, or the government may close down again in three weeks.
January 22, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN CLIMATE DATA
Parts of NOAA that deal with climate change have been shut down, so for the first time, I am unable to update my climate graph this month. (A petty annoyance compared to losing one's job or missing a paycheck.)
In addition an important NASA study on the melting of the polar ice sheets has run out of money because of the government shutdown. I suspect that not wanting to publicize the terrible climate data from 2018 contributes to the desire to shut down the government.
Nevertheless, much of the bad news is available, if you wish to look for it and do some of your own calculations. CO2 in the atmosphere this December is almost 2ppm higher than December 2017. 2018 has become the fourth warmest year on record. The last five years are the five warmest on record. Extreme weather losses topped $85 billion in 2018. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting faster than scientists thought. And Australia is suffering under a humongous heat wave as I write.
PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC SUSPECTED OF ARSON, KILLS 80, DECLARES BANKRUPTCY
I wonder if an ordinary person like you or I could do this — cause a fire that kills over 80 and does billions of dollars of damage and then declare bankruptcy and walk.
PALESTINE: OCCUPATION BREEDS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT SUPERBUGS
Germs do not respect national boundaries (and we should not either). Lack of clean water, sewage treatment and basic necessities due to the 50 year long Israeli occupation, has turned Palestine into a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant superbugs which could spread to Israel and elsewhere.
NICARAGUA: FIFTH IN GLOBAL EQUALITY FOR WOMEN
The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for 2018 is out. Nicaragua ranks fifth (after Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland). The United States ranks 51st out of 149 countries, not even in the top third. As far as political empowerment goes, Nicaragua ranks number 2, the United States ranks 98th. Yet, here in the United States we lambaste Nicaragua as a dictatorship and slap brutal sanctions on the country.
Rather than sanctioning Nicaragua, perhaps, we could learn from Nicaragua. Say what you will about Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. To my knowledge he has never bragged about grabbing women by the p---y.
Nevertheless, the United States made great progress in the November 2018 elections. Congress is now almost 25% women, and some, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, are very strong and outspoken.
GET A GOAT
Nevada City, California is planning a novel solution to the threat of wildfire. They are trying to raise $30,000 to buy a herd of goats to eat down the vegetation around Nevada City before it can catch fire. While this may protect the city somewhat from wildfire, it is unlikely to protect California from the hotter drier climate that comes with global warming, the root cause of the devastating California wildfires of the past few years. Indeed, it may exacerbate global warming as livestock are a major source of greenhouse gases.
Still, Nevada City deserves credit for this proactive solution, and I suspect it will work a lot better than “raking” the forest as Donald Trump proposed. We need lots more proactive solutions to prepare us for upcoming climate disasters. Unfortunately, we lag way behind.
January 15, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THOUGHTS ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: TAKING THE GARBAGE OUT
One of the many consequences of lack of government services that we seldom consider — until it's too late — is the lack of trash disposal. Garbage piles up quickly and eventually cities will choke on their own waste. Rotting garbage breeds rats and flies which spread disease. A city that lacks adequate garbage disposal will soon become unlivable.“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out” —Shel Silverstein
During New York City's sanitation workers strike of 1968 which lasted 8 days, 100,000 tons of garbage piled up in mountains.
Last week, California Reps Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman picked up trash in two California national parks and shipped some it to Washington where they attempted to deliver three boxes of trash to the White House. Huffman remarked that soon they will have enough trash to build a wall.
Meanwhile garbage in Washington DC's national parks is being picked up by the City of Washington DC. It is uncertain whether the federal government will reimburse the city.
Curbside garbage collection and recycling is the fifth most dangerous profession, (after fishermen, loggers, airplane pilots and roofers). Think about it. Sanitation workers have to get on and off slow moving trucks, sometimes on busy streets where cars whiz by. Curbside trash collectors and recyclers experienced 30 fatalities In the US in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the United States, each one of us generates 5 to 7 pounds of garbage each day, depending on whose statistics you use.
Here in Rolla, according to Brady Wilson, director of Environmental Services, we have not experienced a single fatality or serious injury during curbside pickup. Rollaites generate 17,000 tons of trash each year which is landfilled at a cost of $724,000. In addition we recycle 3,000 tons of waste and mulch 2,500 tons of yard waste, which amounts to a considerable savings over the cost of landfilling.
Recycling won't solve our trash problems; but it is an important component. Read about recycling in Rolla here.
And while I'm on the subject of trash, here is my favorite waste disposal story:
MORE THOUGHTS ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNShortly after God created man, all the parts of the human body got together to choose a president.
As the shutdown passes the 25 day mark, an estimated 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. Now factor in all the government contractors who are also out of work due to the government shutdown. And the ripple effect, such as businesses that rely on the patronage of federal workers. Also consider that the banks and health insurance companies are unlikely to wait for payments. And factor in that so many families live paycheck to paycheck and are already in debt. Lot's of folks out there hurting badly. Lots of angry folks out there too.“Popular revulsion for the ruling elite ... is nearly universal.” —Chris Hedges
Bottom line: The government cares a whole lot more about its pet projects than it does about the common people who elected them.
Incidentally, I've been calling our senators and representative asking them (angrily) to open the government (NOW!) If you want to do likewise, here are the phone numbers:
WITHDRAWING US TROOPS FROM SYRIAWhite House comment line: 202-456-1111 (closed during shutdown)
Looks like this might actually happen. Donald Trump has declared victory in Syria. Way past time to end these forever wars.
DRAWING DOWN TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
Another big plus. We're in the 18th year of this longest ever war that was supposed to be a cakewalk. Maybe Trump is ready to declare victory in Afghanistan too and bring the troops home. Meanwhile the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground against an unpopular ineffectual Afghan government.
OI' Donald seems to be fraying about the edges — serving the championship Clemson football team fast food at the White House. He could have at least taken them to a fancy restaurant and given them a rain check to visit the White House later.
Would you want a man who serves fast food to the championship college football team to have the launch codes for thousands of nuclear weapons?
January 8, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AND SHE CAN DANCE TOO!
Well, maybe a young lady in the House of Representatives will do. Especially since America's greatest foes are mostly in Washington; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has barely been seated, is already standing up to America's foes like no one else in Congress — not even Bernie.“We can't expect America to win against its foes,
The anonymous individual who posted a college video of Alexandria dancing calls her “America's favorite commie,” which brings to mind this song: You aint done nothing if you ain't been called a red. (Red here refers to communist, not republican.)
And here's a more recent video of Alexandria dancing.
Incidentally, I don't think we've had a dancer in Congress since one-term republican senator George Murphy (1965-1970).
IMPEACH THE M-----F-----?
Well, I've weighed in on this before. Donald Trump is a symptom; not the disease. The disease is militarism and imperialism. I want to banish the disease, not impeach the symptom.
There was a time in my life when I loved to use words like m-f-. I like to think I've grown up a little since then, although some may dispute that. But here's what bothers me: Why is it ok for president Donald Trump to brag about grabbing women by the p---y; but not ok for Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to say, “Impeach the M-F-”? Perhaps there is a double standard here.
In any case, Donald Trump might actually pull our troops out of Syria which would be a good thing. Let's wait to see if he's serious before we impeach him.
LAST “ADULT” STANDING
James “Mad-Dog” Mattis, hailed as the last “adult” in the Trump administration, departed a few weeks ago complaining about Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Mad-Dog Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division in Iraq during both sieges of Fallujah in 2004. Troops under his command bombed hospitals and fired on ambulances and medical workers. These are war crimes. Donald Trump appointed this war criminal Secretary of Defense and the Senate confirmed him. If this is the way “adults” behave, then maybe I ought to start saying “motherfucker” again.
Back in 2016, US diplomats in Havana claimed they were under sonic attack at the US embassy and produced a recording. Well, the recording has been analyzed and turns our to be the mating call of a species of cricket.“And the crickets are breaking his heart with their song,
Alexander Stubbs of the University of California-Berkeley opines, “It’s entirely possible that they got sick with some other completely unrelated thing that was not a sonic attack, or that they were targeted in some other way.”
But I have a conjecture: I think that maybe the diplomats were just responding in a totally natural way to the mating calls of these crickets. Perhaps the doctors and scientists will research my conjecture further.
January 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DIRECT RAIL AND ROAD CONNECTION BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA
Koreans celebrated the ceremonial opening of rail and road connections between the North and South, yet another small step toward reunification. (Actual physical opening is yet to come.) I suspect that unless the world becomes much more just and peaceful quickly, we will be seeing a united, nuclear armed Korea within the next decade.
Think about it. Whom are the Koreans to trust, if not each other? In recent history, they have been bullied and abused by just about every major power on the globe. During the Korean War, the US bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another” and killed perhaps 20% of the population.
The ceremony was attended by some foreign dignitaries, but apparently none from the United States.
NICARAGUA: THE U.S. SANCTIONS YET ANOTHER COUNTRY
While many of us were preparing for Christmas festivities, Donald Trump signed the NICA act into law. The NICA act levies brutal sanctions against this poor Central American country of about six million people. The sanctions seem to be paybacks for the Nicaraguans putting down a coup that showed all the earmarks of the CIA behind it.
Seems like the United States is sanctioning an awful lot of countries lately: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia.... Someone ought to tell Mr. Trump that the United States is no longer the world's only economic superpower. Quite likely other countries will thumb their noses at our sanctions, as they are doing in Iran.
Missing from most discussions of the NICA act is the economic rivalry between the United States and China, which has spread to our good neighbors to the South. I think China would love to build a canal to rival the Panama canal, spanning Nicaragua from Atlantic to Pacific; and I think the United States would do almost anything to prevent them.
Up to the start of the unrest which began in April, Nicaragua had been relatively stable and economically successful by Central American standards. While hordes of people have fled North from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, emigration from Nicaragua had been but a trickle.
Although the coup failed to bring down the Nicaraguan government, it succeeded in another way: It gave the United States an excuse to sanction Nicaragua and silenced many (excepting yours truly) who might be otherwise disposed to oppose the NICA act and economic sanctions.
Nicaraguans are familiar with these tactics. They are unlikely to forget that after they overthrew the brutal 43-year-old US-supported Somoza dictatorship in 1979, the US levied a total embargo on Nicaragua and armed and trained terrorist armies called “Contras” to fight against the Nicaraguan people.
The NICA act passed Congress unanimously without a single dissenting vote. This makes me think a whole lot less of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that they would fail to oppose such bullying; and makes me think a lot less of US progressives in general that there has been so little public opposition to the NICA act.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes her seat in the House in a few days. Maybe she will be able to educate Congress and the progressive movement.
Here is a short history of the coup that failed:
In short, it appears that the United States had been looking for an excuse to bring down the Nicaraguan government all along. The fire in the Indio Maíz and the attempt to cut Social Security were simply the excuses they had been waiting for. It is unclear what happens next. Nicaragua is a poor Central American country with a large predatory neighbor to the North. However, the Nicaraguans are resourceful people and have accomplished amazing things in the past.Anti-government protests in Nicaragua broke out in early April, 2018 over a fire in the Indio Maíz Reservation that burned 13,500 acres in nine days. Protesters faulted the government of Nicaragua for failure to extinguish the fire promptly. However, it is unclear that there is anything that could have been done to extinguish it sooner.
60 MONTHS OF DEVASTATING HEAT
Now that it's January, we should be hearing soon about how the last five years have been the five hottest on record.
I've been reporting that the last five 12-month periods have been the five warmest on record since August when we crossed that threshold. And I suspect that before the end of 2019, I'll be reporting that the last six 12-month periods have been the six warmest on record, should I live that long.
After all, Nature is not bound in the least by dates on human calendars.
My data comes from NOAA, whose climate section is down for the count due to government shutdown. I've been favorably impressed by NOAA's climate reporting, which may be part of the reason for the shutdown. Sadly, folks at NOAA's climate-monitoring departments are furloughed without pay, while the likes of Donald Trump and the US Congress continue to collect their exorbitant unearned pay checks.
In case you are one of those climate change skeptics, 2018 has been a terrible year for catastrophic weather events which cost the world an estimated $85 Billion, Here's a list of the top ten, four of which, hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the Camp and Woolsey wildfires in California, happened right here in the USA and top the list.
However, 2018 was a piker compared to 2017 which logged over $300 Billion in damages in the United States alone. Topping the list last year was Hurricane Harvey which alone caused around $125 Billion in damages.
AN IMPORTANT CARBON SINK
Here's a short brief from Science News on carbon sequestration that caught my attention.
Tropical volcanic mountains form an important carbon sink and may be the crucial carbon sink that controls the Earth's climate. Volcanic rock, rich in calcium and magnesium, in the presence of heat and rain combines with atmospheric CO2 to form limestone, sequestering prodigious amounts of carbon.
Author Francis MacDonald opines that a hothouse Earth may be the default. Cooler periods such as the one in which modern man evolved and developed a social organization that we like to call “civilization” appear to be anomalous. If this is indeed the case, one might fairly say that humanity has destroyed the climatic conditions that gave rise to its very existence and that these conditions are unlikely to be repeated in the near future.
This is an example of how events far underground affect the Earth's atmosphere. It also works the other way around: Above-ground events affect what happens deep underground. See Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes for an excellent discussion of this topic. (And if you are looking for a project for a high school science fair, here's a short demonstration of how global warming can cause earthquakes.)
So I am wondering: Might the recent volcanic activity on the Indonesian Archipelago which killed over 400 last week also work to reduce global warming? Or perhaps it will increase global warming since it caused the collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano, which is now less than 1/3 its previous volume. And might the recent eruption and tsunami have been triggered by a changing climate in the first place? Any geo-scientists out there care to comment?