Tom's Blog
Tom (Yusha) Sager's website home feedback

Occasional Ramblings

December 7, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: “It is Wrong from Beginning to End.”

A reader writes in to say that the Alice in Wonderland quote (“It is wrong from beginning to end.”) that I used last week to describe our War Against Afghanistan is “perfect.”

My response:

Thank you.

I think Lewis Carroll's genius was that he could write so well for both children and grownups at the same time. The Alice books are full of astute social commentary that is universally applicable. Here is one of my favorite passages:
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. ‘What sort of people live about here?’

‘In that direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.’

‘But I don't want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.

‘Oh, you can't help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.’

‘How do you know I'm mad?’ said Alice.

‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn't have come here.’

“Oh, you can't help that, we're all mad here.” Indeed, what would you call people who in the midst of a pandemic, can't put aside their greed, even as disease spreads wildly among us?

What would you call people who in the midst of devastating fire and floods, continue to warm the planet, making the weather still more inhospitable?

What would you call people who spend trillions of dollars arming themselves with planet-destroying weapons, while they watch their world crumble from drought and disease?

Such people are truly mad.

But Lewis Carroll shows us the way out of that mad world. All Alice had to do is look the kings and queens, knaves and executioners in the eye and say, “ Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!”

Can we look our modern-day royalty in the eye — our politicians, judges, generals, corporate executives, scientists, experts, billionaires, religious leaders, talking news heads... — can we look them all in the eye and say with Alice, “Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!”

That's the way out!

Women's Rights: Forced Marriage and Abortion

First the good news: The Taliban bans forced marriage.

This is in strict accordance with Islamic (Sharia) Law, which gives the woman the absolute Right to consent to or reject a marriage proposal (although you would never know this from reading the Western press).
“‘Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice ... (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it).’ (Ahmad, Hadeeth no. 2469). In another version, the girl said: ‘Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.’ [Ibn Majah]”
This Hadeeth is related in Jamal Badawi's “Gender Equity in Islam,” a short essay which I highly recommend. It is posted online at http://www.islamicweb.com/begin/gender.pdf

More good news: I have seen nothing more in the news about ISIS-K since they attacked a hospital on November 2. It appears that the Taliban is quite capable of suppressing such terrorist organizations which flourished under the corrupt and ineffectual occupation government.

Now the bad news: The US Supreme Court will rule soon on a case involving abortion. They are widely expected to rule against a woman's Right to terminate a pregnancy.

Islamic scholars hold a wide range of opinions on this subject, although they all appear to agree that in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother's life, the Right to an abortion cannot be legally denied. Not so in the West, where Savita Halappanavar and Izabela X died as a result of being denied medical intervention as long as the doctors could still detect a fetal heartbeat.

Whence Cometh the Omicron? (Follow the Money)

The new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, which is far more contagious than the delta variant is spreading around the world like wildfire. Its genesis is debatable since it differs markedly from all previously known variants and does not appear to be a direct descendant of any of them. It appears to have just arrived on the scene full blown.

This article from Sciencemag lays out three possibilities:
1. It gestated unknown in an isolated community before being transmitted back into the population at large.

2. It gestated in an immunocompromised individual before jumping out into the population at large.

3. It gestated in some non-human species before jumping back to humans.

Each conjecture has its drawbacks. None of these three scenarios seem to fit exactly with the facts as we now know them, so let's look at a fourth possibility:
4. It gestated in a laboratory before being released among the population at large. This would seem to fit well with the facts, as we now know them, particularly the lack of known direct ancestors.
Eight large strockholders in Pfizer and Moderna have already become $10 billion richer, and the omicron wave is just beginning. Follow the Money!

Strange that none of those smart scientists quoted in the Sciencemag article thought of that. Sometimes what is not said can be more revealing than what is said.

==================


November 30, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Yet Another Afghanistan Study Group

Seems that some members of Congress want to form an expensive study group to find out what went wrong in Afghanistan. Likely, the group will consist of the same old faces that got us into the Afghan quagmire and kept us there for 20 years.

The US Institute of Peace formed an Afghanistan study group two years ago. After over a year of study, it issued a report last February saying if we stayed and fought just a little bit longer everything would work out fine and we could have Peace on our terms. We stayed an extra four months; but nothing quite worked out.

The problem with these study groups, as I see it, is that they are made up of the same “experts” that were responsible for the debacle in the first place. If I were going to form a group to study what went wrong in Afghanistan I'd pick folks who, from day one, publicly stood up and opposed the invasion of Afghanistan — folks like Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin and Mark Haim. And, I daresay, such a group would be far less expensive than the ones that Congress envisages forming now. Unfortunately, folks who could really help us to understand what went wrong are rarely if ever placed in these highly visible select groups.

If I were going to opine on what went wrong in Afghanistan, I could do no better than to quote the Caterpillar's response to Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: “It is wrong from beginning to end.” From the first bomb that fell to the last bomb that killed 10 civilians, including a two-year-old child, and the many many bombs that fell in between, including those that demolished the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz; from the arrogant demand that Afghanistan turn over former CIA asset Osama bin Laden to the crying of crocodile tears over Afghan Women's Rights; From the funding of warlords, thugs and criminals (aka the Northern Alliance), to the decades of support for a corrupt and unpopular Afghan occupation government, to all the unwarranted publicity over their last stand in the Panjshir Valley before they slunk away to sanctuary in Tajikistan; “it [was] wrong from beginning to end.”

One important question I'd recommend for the group to study is what ever happened to ISIS-K? Haven't hardly heard a peep out of them since they attacked a hospital on November 2. Perhaps, the Taliban is far better at fighting terrorism than NATO and the occupation government ever were, although it is too early yet to say anything for sure.

And the Chutzpah of the Year Award Goes to ...(drum roll)...

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer. (and it's only November!)

After refusing to share Pfizer's vaccine with poor countries, leaving millions to sicken and die, Bourla has the chutzpah to declare that people who spread “misinformation” about vaccine are “criminals” and are responsible for the death of millions.

Lack of sharing is thought to be directly responsible for the latest deadly variant, dubbed Omicron, which may have originated in southern Africa. Because of the lack of vaccine, Africa has become a large reservoir in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus can mutate into new even more virulent and transmissible variants. If vaccines had been shared equitably with poor countries, it is likely that there would be no Omicron variant. If vaccines had been shared equitably with poor countries, it is likely that millions of lives would have been saved.

As Dr. Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance put it: “what is going on right now [spread of the Omicron variant] is inevitable, it's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner. ... It is as a result of [vaccine] hoarding by high-income countries of the world, and quite frankly it is unacceptable.”

[Incidentally, I remain unvaccinated and request that my share of our vaccines be delivered to southern Africa, Haiti, Palestine, Afghanistan or some other poor under-vaccinated country.]

Here's some misinformation that has been spread around recently about Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine:
1. Two jabs and you'll be over 90% safe from COVID-19.

2. Well, you might be safe, but you could still be a carrier and spread COVID-19 to anyone you come in contact with.

3. Well, you might get sick; but just a mild case.

4. Well, you might get very sick; but you won't die.

5. Get a booster, or else you might die of COVID-19...

I agree, Mr. Bourla, it is criminal to deliberately spread such misinformation. And, one of the rarely-mentioned results of spreading such misinformation is that it has totally destroyed the credibility of our public-health sector and led to an increase in quackery and the further spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Incidentally, Mr. Bourla, I think you have created a superb business model:
1. Make a vaccine at government expense.

2. Sell your vaccine to the government at inflated prices.

3. Prevent poor countries from accessing your vaccine leaving a reservoir for viruses to mutate and spread back to wealthy countries.

4. Make a vaccine or booster to counter the mutated virus.

5. Repeat for as long as you can get away with it.

I think, Mr. Bourla, you have earned your Chutzpah of the Year award many times over.

==================


November 23, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: How One US Marine Stood Up To Three Israeli Tanks

A reader sends us this little piece of history from military.com about how one US marine stood up to three Israeli tanks, thwarting their attempt to break the 1983 cease-fire in Lebanon.

I wonder why this is being revived now. Hopefully, it is a sign that the US will stop accepting marching orders from Israel.

Space Wars

While the US builds up its newly inaugurated Space Force, Russia demonstrates its ability to shoot down satellites from the ground. Perhaps, space will be the first battlefield of World War III. Maybe we ought to consider an international treaty demilitarizing space, before it's too late.

Bernie gets it Right — Again

Bernie notes that when it comes to the obscenely huge $778 Billion proposed military budget, Congress's concerns about budget deficits seem to evaporate. In a speech on the Senate floor, Bernie states:
“At a time when the scientists are telling us that we face an existential threat in terms of climate change, we are told that just don't have enough money to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and create a planet that will be healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Just don't have enough money. Yet today, the U.S. Senate will begin consideration of an annual defense budget that costs $778 billion—$778 billion for one year.”
Activism Works: Six Days in Fallujah Video Game Shelved

Due to the activism of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Veterans for Peace, and others, release of the first person shooter video game, Six Days in Fallujah, about one of the worst atrocities of our War Against Iraq, has been postponed until late in 2022. Hopefully, it will be postponed indefinitely. We have reported on this atrocity in recent newsletters.

Joe Biden at COP-26: Speaking with Forked Tongue

After speaking fine words at COP-26 about preventing run-away global warming, Joe Biden comes home and launches auction of off-shore oil and gas leases.

COVID-19 Vaccines: Waning and Expired

Vaccine efficacy is definitely waning, but don't worry folks. You can go out and get a booster, although we don't know how long the booster will be effective either.

Vaccines stockpiled by wealthy countries are expiring — millions of doses. Meanwhile, poor countries are left without. In Haiti, about 1,000 miles from Florida, less than 1% have received even a first dose of vaccine. Lots of would-be Haitian migrants to the United States are being sent back to Haiti. I think the least we could do is give them a jab first before our vaccines expire.

Using mostly Cuban developed vaccines, Cuba has fully vaccinated 80% of its population (compared to around 60% in the United States). 80% is supposed to be enough for herd-immunity. Cuba is also helping out other countries like Venezuela which can't access COVAX vaccines because of US sanctions. Cuban vaccines are based on an older, tried and true technology, and may not wane like the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Only time will tell.

==================


November 16, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Nuclear Weapon Proliferation

In response to the snippet two week ago on nuclear weapon proliferation, a reader writes:
“... [name redacted] believed—if I am remembering this right—that we should not only not oppose the spread of nuclear weapons, but should even support other countries acquiring this capability. The world would be unstable and exceptionally prone to warfare until every country possessed this deterrent. .... I hope I am not misrepresenting his view.”
My response:

I believe I have much in common with your friend. 14 years ago, in response to some nonsense (my opinion) circulating among peace activists, I wrote:
“...drawing on historical experience, I will argue that there is absolutely no reason to believe that a world in which nuclear weapons belong to an exclusive ‘club’ of powerful nations is any safer or more stable than a world in which nuclear weapons can be obtained by all. Indeed, it may well be less so. Nuclear proliferation may, in fact, be a prerequisite for nuclear disarmament.”
The essay is posted here.

50 years ago, many non-nuclear weapon states ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, agreeing to forgo the development of nuclear weapons, while the five (at the time) declared nuclear weapon states agreed to negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.

Far from negotiating an end to the nuclear arms race, the nuclear weapon states have doubled down on nuclear weapons. The US has embarked upon an expensive program of nuclear modernization, including low-yield tactical “battlefield-usable” nuclear weapons and China not only continues to expand its nuclear capabilities, but has threatened Japan with nuclear annihilation.

A much more important treaty, The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, went into force in January, 2021. It now has 56 State Parties and has led to a decrease in private investment in the nuclear weapons industry. Norway appears to be breaking ranks with other NATO countries and has shown interest in the Treaty.

I think shaming nuclear weapon states into de-nuclearizing is far preferable to nuclear proliferation. Unfortunately, big powers with nuclear weapons seem to have no shame at all.

From Our Readers: War Crimes

In response to the snippet last week on Afghanistan, a reader writes:
“Same thing they did in Iraq. The US army tanks were moving in the streets and they are ready to crush any civilian car moving near them with a family inside. They did that many times. They paid 2000$ per victim family as compensation.

“It looks that army leaders advise their soldiers to deal with the people as they are insects or animal. Just crush them without mercy. Thats why many many of American soldiers return back home with psychological problems because of feeling of guilty about crimes they done there. Some of them wrote books and described what bloody mistakes they done or seen in front of their eyes.

“All of that should stop for ever.”

My response:

Iraq veteran, Michael Hanes, notes;
“moral injury is huge with the conflict with Iraq and Afghanistan and I think that has a direct reflection with the extremely high suicide rate that we see that is estimated about 22 per day. ... That’s a tremendously high number.

“We’re sold the idea of, hey, we’re going to go liberate a people. We’re fighting terrorism and then we get in the mix of things and realize we’re the ones terrorizing the people there. That really torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends due to suicide.”

And here's an article from the New York Times about a 2019 US War Crime in Syria that was covered up and has finally seen the light of day.

COP-26 — The Biggest Cop-Out Yet

While climate activists were denied entry, fossil-fuel lobbyists roamed the halls of COP-26 freely. About all COP-26 produced were more empty promises.

The Washington Post recently published an exposé on how governments lie and grossly understate their emissions of greenhouse gases.

And, while “leaders” meeting at COP-26 in Glasgow refused to lead, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere continued to increase, the world continued to warm and extreme weather events increased in number and intensity.

In my opinion, the two most important things that happened around COP-26 were the huge demonstrations by mostly young climate activists and a message from Pope Francis that
“Time is running out; this occasion must not be wasted, lest we have to face God's judgment for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care.”
I tend to differ with the Holy Father of the Catholic Church. I think we are facing God's Judgment now, today. When I think of Climate Change and God's Judgment, I think of these biblical verses:
“And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.”
—Genesis 19:27-28 (KJV)

The biblical scribe might well have been talking about 21st Century California, Siberia, or even Italy. And lest you think I'm talking about some sexual peccadillo, I describe God's Judgment for truly mortal sins, like spending almost $2 Trillion on War while millions go sick, homeless and hungry.

If humanity were to take even half of this $2 trillion and spend it for the benefit of The Creation and the most unfortunate among us, might not The Almighty show Mercy and reverse His Judgment?

a'oodhu billahi minash-shaytaanir-rajeem
(I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan.)

==================


November 9, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

On the Taliban and Women's Rights

It's rare when one finds a topic on which all the major left-leaning and right-leaning news outlets agree. Here's one such topic: The Taliban and Women's Rights. All main-stream media outlets agree: The Taliban denies women basic Human Rights. Unlike the main-stream media, some feminist commentators, like Nandini Archer and Ann Jones, recognize the terrible record the US occupation of Afghanistan holds on human rights issues, but still, as far as the Taliban goes, they agree; The Taliban denies women basic Human Rights.

Well, I might as well just jump on the bandwagon myself. So here goes:

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as influencers like Gabby Petito.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as cinematographers like Halyna Hutchins.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as masseuses like Delaina Ashley Yaun and Suncha Kim

I think Afghan women should have the Right to walk unaccompanied in the Park like Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to attend music concerts like the thousands who attended the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival.

And I think Afghan women should have the Right to play Afghanistan's national sport, buzkashi. (For those of you who are only familiar with sissy western sports like bull riding and US-style football, there is a brief description of buzkashi in Appendix 1 below.)

But, lets not get carried away, folks. I do think Afghan women should be denied the Right to an abortion like the Polish woman known to us only as Izabela.

=================

Sorry about all the satire, folks; but let's get serious now.

The United States and friends made a God-awful mess in Afghanistan. Now, after being ignominiously defeated on the battlefield, they purport to dictate to those who defeated them how they must behave. Isn't that strange? Typically the victors get to dictate behavior to the vanquished, but not here.

The here in the West where there is so much violence, much of it directed at women, isn't it strange that we should focus on women's Rights half way around the world? Why not clean up our own mess at home, instead?

Afghanistan emerged from the 20-year-long US occupation as one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Now, the United States and friends hold billions of dollars of Afghan money abroad, which they refuse to return. After ensuring that Afghanistan's economy was beholden to “foreign aid,” western organizations that have previously given to Afghanistan, deny money to the Taliban government. Afghan women abroad are asking foreign holders of Afghan money to return it to Afghanistan. Still, they refuse. (See Appendix 2 below for a statement from a dear friend who is helping settle Afghan refugees in Canada.)

In spite of continuing attacks on civilians, terrorism seems to be far less prevalent now than it was under the US occupation.

Recently, ISIS-K attacked a hospital killing 20. Four of the five perpetrators died in the attack; the fifth was wounded and captured.

In 2015, the United States bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, totally destroying the hospital and killing more than twice the number that died in the ISIS-K hospital attack. The perpetrators of the attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital, although certainly known, have never been brought to justice.

I can't help wondering where this ISIS-K organization comes from. I only started hearing about them recently. Indeed, ISIS-K appears to be at least partially made up of former members of the despised and defeated occupation government.

Here is an article from Voice of America on the murder of a women's Rights activist and three other women. Suspects have been captured by the Taliban and are being brought to justice. Strange that those in the West who are demanding immediate Rights for women in Afghanistan, never mention how dangerous this would be for the women.

Incidentally, this is the hallmark of CIA destabilization programs: Create economic hardship through theft, sanctions and other similar techniques while supporting and encouraging criminals to create social chaos. (This has been well documented by historians such as Stephen Kinzer, who wrote about the CIA's first post WWII coup in Iran — a coup from which we still reckon with the blowback today.)

Nevertheless, in little more than two short months, the Taliban has made some astonishing progress. When US troops left, only 1.1% of Afghans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, that figure stands at 7.1%.

After 20 years of US occupation, Afghanistan remains one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The Taliban has reached an agreement with the United Nations, to vaccinate every child in Afghanistan against polio.

And in some locations, girls are returning to school.

If I may venture an opinion, I suspect that the Taliban will eventually succeed in creating a stable society in Afghanistan, no matter how hard “warmongerers and imperialists” work to destabilize the country. Of course, here in the West, where we have done so much violence to Afghan society, we may not like the result, which is unlikely to look like a standard Western kleptocracy. But we would have only ourselves to blame for that. We had many chances. We blew every one of them.

Appendices

Appendix 1: A note on buzkashi

Buzkashi is played on horseback with a decapitated, disemboweled goat. The idea is to snag the goat (which other players are also trying to do) and deposit the goat in a circle (while others players are trying to take the goat away from you), all on horseback. Buzkashi champion, Najibullah, owes a cracked skull, broken thumbs, twisted legs, split lips and many broken teeth to the game of buzkashi. Najibullah remarks, “Buzkashi is a really dangerous game; but I still feel great and I'm not afraid.”

After watching this buzkashi video you may understand how the Afghans defeated the Great American Empire in the 21st Century; the Soviet Empire in the 20th Century; the British Empire in the 19th Century and many other empires before that.

Afghanistan is not called the Graveyard of Empires for nothing. We would be far better off with the Afghans as friends than as enemies.

=================

Appendix 2: Statement from aid worker
helping to resettle Afghan refugees in Canada

“I am working these days with a team to help newcomer families from Afghanistan. We are doing our best. The government of Canada is making a great contribution to help them.

“The families here said that the more help is needed inside Afghanistan to help poor families have food. The American government kept [billions] of dollars with it, and refuse to give it back to the Afghani government. Workers are starving as they have no salaries since five months.

“Human rights organisations in the US should stand together and make pressure on the US government to release the money. Civilian are suffering because of the stupid political leaders as usual!

“How can we stop that?”

And further:
“People now are stuck in the middle, if you want to help orphans and widows in Afghanistan to have food, somebody from the US government will accuse you, you are helping Taliban government. How come?

“I remembered now the sanction against Iraq after 1990 war. Five thousand kids died [each month] from lack of [clean water and] nutrition. And [Madeleine] Albright said it is worth it! Remember that answer?

“Now the same story repeated in Afghanistan. US government wants to punish Taliban. The victims are the poor hungry civilian. How can we stop this ugly scenario?

“We are tired, and we can't stand silent, we should work to stop this silliness!”

My response: I wish I knew how. Anyone out in readerland have any ideas? Send them in.

==================


November 2, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Is More Nuclear Proliferation on the Horizon?

As this article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists points out, a South Korean nuclear weapon may be coming soon — I suspect a lot sooner than most may think. Here are some of my thoughts on this matter:

South Korea certainly has the know-how and materiel to build nuclear weapons. They also have a popular mandate. In 2017, 60% of South Koreans were found to favor the development of nuclear weapons.

Following the US defeat in Afghanistan and the very real possibility of the US dissolving into regional entities, the United States is being looked upon more and more as an unreliable partner. And with China expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, a South Korean nuclear bomb, while regrettable, would certainly be understandable. However, I think China's recent threat to use nuclear bombs on Japan in a first strike, and then continuously after that, may well become a deciding factor.

And it's not just South Korea; Japan, Australia, Taiwan, or any combination of the three, might also decide to go nuclear. A nuclear Taiwan would be particularly scary in view of China's claim to the Island. Perhaps, China is now attempting to militarily preempt a nuclear armed Taiwan.

And nuclear proliferation may not be limited to the Far East. Joe Biden appears determined to renege on his promise to return to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal). Ramping up sanctions on Iran would seem to be a sure-fire way to make sure the deal will not be resurrected.

And the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which went into force early this year, has made very little progress over the last eight months. Only Comoros has ratified the Treaty recently. Parties to the Treaty undertake:

“...never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices...”
In 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force. Article VI states:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
Over 50 years later, the nuclear weapons states have made ZERO permanent progress toward ending the nuclear arms race. In fact, recently, they have been walking backwards. But that's only half of it. Non-nuclear states are actively encouraged to go nuclear. Consider:

Libya voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Eight years later, NATO intervened in the Libyan Civil War which virtually destroyed the country. Libya remains today a failed state.

Iran agreed to suspend its nuclear weapons program in 2015 in exchange for sanctions relief. The West reneged on sanctions relief and in fact has increased sanctions upon Iran. Discussions on returning to the JCPOA seem to be going nowhere.

North Korea became a nuclear weapon state in 2006. It probably owes its existence as an independent nation to its nuclear weapons. It maintains the impression that if pushed too far, it will use it's nukes, and take down our entire “global civilization” along with its own.

A comparison of Libya (which gave up its nuclear weapon program), Iran (which suspended its nuclear weapon program) and North Korea (which has become an active nuclear weapon state) is very revealing.

In short, at a time when it is a matter of survival for the human race to put aside old animosities and work together to prevent climate change from progressing any further, we instead put our efforts into acquiring more of the most horrendous weapons the world has ever known.

Extinction is a very real possibility. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reminds us, the Doomsday Clock stands at 100 seconds to midnight.

Let's stop preparing for war, and fight climate change instead.

==================


October 26, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Colin Powell and the Invasion of Iraq

Colin Powell passed away last week from COVID complications. Among all the accolades, the mainstream media has little to say about his role in the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq which led to the death of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Iraqis along with over 4,000 US troops.

Millions took to the streets in February 2003, in a global protest against the planned US invasion of Iraq.

Powell stood up before the United Nations and lied, deliberately, saying Iraq threatened the United States and the world with weapons of mass destruction.

According to Peter Maass, writing in the Intercept, Powell's testimony was key to garnering support for the invasion. If Powell had told the truth before the United Nations, hundred's of thousands of lives may have been saved. But as Maass notes:
“The ironic twist of not just Powell’s career but also the careers of so many American generals is that they abjectly lacked, when the moment called for it, the one thing that soldiers are supposed to possess in abundance: courage. The history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is filled with U.S. generals who were lauded as heroes but lacked the guts or honesty to stand up to the whims and dictates of their superiors. Millions of people have been killed and injured on their failed watch since 9/11.”
And here is my favorite quote on the post 9-11 US wars, from Tom Engelhardt in 2014
“And oh, what they did! Their geopolitical dreams couldn’t have been grander or more global. (Let’s avoid the word 'megalomaniacal.') They expected to pacify the Greater Middle East, garrison Iraq for generations, make Syria and Iran bow down before American power, 'drain' the global 'swamp' of terrorists, and create a global Pax Americana based on a military so dominant that no other country or bloc of countries would ever challenge it.

“It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true.”

And Skip Oliver sends us an article he wrote on the lies upon which the War Against Iraq was built. Written just before the invasion, it was rejected by 30 major US papers. It was published in April 2003 in the New Zealand Herald.

From Our Readers: Iraq and the Rape of Fallujah

I've received many comments concerned last week's snippet on the Six Days in Fallujah video game — too many to include them all here. But, here's a few:
“Oh God! They made the battle of Falluja as a video game? It was the worst memory in our mind after 2003 invasion. How many innocents were killed. How many deformed kids were born after that war on Falluja? How much destruction they done to the infrastructure of that city? And why? Because they show their resistance to the invasion and Abo Graib prison scandal! Who will accept this story and have fun playing it as a game? It is shame on the group who designed and marketed this game. I guess all activists in the US should stand together and refuse the marketing of this game. It will ruin the minds of American youth. ...”

“You are - as I usually [] think - spot on here Yusha. ...”

“Thank you for sharing Rolla Peace Newsletter. I did not know it exist. ... I also wanted to mention that the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was not only illegal but it fell within the definition of Crimes Against Peace that Nazi German leaders were tried for at Nuremberg in 1946. ...”

“The only thing the people of Fallujah did was defend their city against imperialist thugs . . . I remember being particularly horrified at the US Marines use of white phosphorus — ‘shake and bake’ they called it paired with artillery. That was just one more war crime. The legions of Rome were no more brutal.”

“Yes. I guess somewhere in this world, we should build a museum of war crimes. And add the story of Falluja to it. Then we can add war crimes committed in Gaza, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, ... long list!”

“Yes, that museum would cover acres. I wonder if there has ever been a country of any power that did not commit what we now consider war crimes.”

“I was in Falluja with Iraq Water Project a few months before the second invasion. This was the one and only place we Americans encountered obvious hostility from the locals. Unlike in other parts of Iraq, here we felt decidedly unwelcome and were the none too grateful recipients of universally understood obscene gestures. The US had some time before accidentally (I believe) bombed the Falluja market place and killed a lot of people. Relatives of these collaterals did not forget. ...”

And a few comments on Colin Powell:
“It was always my guess that Colin Powell, in spite of grievous doubts about the integrity of US intelligence, succumbed at last to the prevalent military obligation to obey chain of command priorities. I assume that in every military, ours no exception, the model soldier salutes and dutifully carries out the assigned task. ... [He] brought shame upon himself and the rest of us. How Colin Powell dealt in the recesses of his heart with this omission only he himself knew.”

“Colin Powell was the famous face of the Bush administration. But he was only one part of a bigger deeply involved team that formed Project for the New American Century in 1997 in DC, where ten of the 25 founding members of the above-mentioned think tank became essential figures of the George W. Bush Administration, promoting US global leadership by means of what they called [preventive] wars.”

“Nothing was achieved from these dreams. None of them makes America more powerful or more happy!”

“Who will keep these people accountable for the crimes they done?”

And here is my final comment: If there was any earthly accountability at all, the jails would be overflowing. Still, there will be a reckoning. I believe that reckoning is now in progress. The US has been defeated in Afghanistan. I suspect Afghanistan is only the first. Every day I read of more senseless killings on our streets. I suspect that will only increase. God has his own way of holding us accountable, in this world as well as the next.

Climate Catastrophe

I've been updating my ongoing essay, “Climate Catastrophe” religiously each month. But this month I've added something new:

Along with the full essay, there is now a short version, which contains only a few monthly highlights, four graphs, and a table. Check it out.

==================


October 19, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

The Rape of Fallujah: Coming to You in Video Game Format
“‘Bang, you're dead!’ we said. ‘I got you!’ we said. When we played, it was always war. A bunch of us together, one-on-one, or in solitary fantasies—always war, always death.

“‘Don't play like that,’ our parents said, ‘you could grow up that way.’ Some threat—there was no way we would rather be. We didn't need war toys. Any old stick became a weapon in our hands, and pinecones were bombs. I cannot recall taking a single piss during my childhood, whether outside or at home in the outhouse, when I didn't choose a target and bomb it. At five years of age I was already a seasoned bombardier.

“‘If everyone plays war,’ said my mother, ‘there will be war.’ And she was quite right—there was.”

—Sven Lindqvist (A History of Bombing, p1)

Note:
Lindqvist is a Swedish writer. He turned five in 1937, shortly before the outbreak of World War II in Europe. He died in 2019. In his writings, he argued that the racist brutality of European imperialism led to the dark horrors of the 20th century and survived into the 21st.
The latest video game sensation (not yet released) will be Six Days in Fallujah. A player can either be a a US serviceman or an Iraqi civilian trying to escape war with his family.

Iraqis who survived the Rape of Fallujah or lost family members in Fallujah might find it traumatizing to turn this calamity into a game. But war games are very popular, and there is lots of money to be made on the Rape of Fallujah.

In defense of the game, developers claim that it teaches history. But, I wonder:
*       Does it teach that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law?

*       Does it teach that the invasion of Iraq was preceded by United Nations sanctions (Yes, the United Nations!) that destroyed Iraq's ability to provide clean water to the extent that 5,000 children under five years of age died of water-borne disease each month (above what would have been expected from historical data)?

*       Does it teach that two successive UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq resigned because of the inhumanity of the sanctions regime?

*       Does it teach that the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, that Iraq threatened the United States with weapons of mass destruction, was a deliberate lie?

*       Does it teach that even if you argue (FALSELY!) that the invasion was legal because Iraq might have had weapons of mass destruction; troops should have been withdrawn immediately upon ascertaining that Iraq had nothing of the kind, long before the Rape of Fallujah?

*       Does it teach that the Rape of Fallujah was a War Crime and a Crime Against Humanity?

*       Does it teach that the United States and allied troops lay siege to the city of Fallujah before subjecting it to intense bombing?

*       Does it teach that hospitals and ambulances were attacked in violation of international law?

*       Does it teach that copious amounts of radioactive munitions (U-238) were used against Fallujah causing elevated rates of cancer and congenital birth defects?

*       Does it teach that incendiary weapons (white phosphorus, napalm and its derivatives) that can stick to the skin and can burn clean to the bone were used against Fallujans?

*       Does it teach that thousands died in the Rape of Fallujah?

*       Does it teach that Fallujans trying to escape the city by swimming the Euphrates while holding a white flag were shot dead in the water?

*       Does it teach that US troops would fire into houses without even an attempt to ascertain if children were inside?

*       Does it teach that in January 2020 the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel US troops from Iraq? (They are still there today, 17 years after the Rape of Fallujah.)

*       Does it teach that today many US veterans of the War Against Iraq suffer from moral injury, and that many have suicided?

*       Does it teach that Fallujah is often compared to Guernica for its monumental inhumanity, brutality and stupidity?
For my own part, I find turning the Rape of Fallujah into a video game beyond disgusting.

I was in Fallujah with the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project in 2002 (before the invasion) and again in 2003 (after the invasion).

We helped rebuild the Hai al Risallah water treatment plant, within sight of the bridge over the Euphrates where the bodies of four dead Blackwater mercenaries were hung. We were shown the bullet holes in the wall across the road from the school where US troops opened fire on unarmed Iraqis who had the audacity to ask the troops to leave the building so their children could go back to school. Anger against the United States was so thick you could slice it with a knife. And this was over a year before the Rape of Fallujah.

In truth, if we glorify Crimes Against Humanity by turning them into video games, we set ourselves up to commit these crimes over and over, again and again and again.

And indeed, war comes home; it always does. Have you noticed all the senseless killings in the news lately? Have you noticed all the animosity among domestic factions? I suspect our next major war will be against each other, and that we will be no kinder to each other than we have been to Iraqis.

Note: Dahr Jamail was one of the few “unembedded” Western journalists on the ground during the War Against Iraq. Visit his website. Read his description of the Rape of Fallujah through Iraqi eyes.
==================


October 12, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Yuri Deigin and COVID Origins
“... those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads. But, for mine own part, it was Greek to me. ... Fare you well. There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it.”
—William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar 1:2, spoken by Casca)

Yuri Deigin

When I read an article, I usually skip the acknowledgment. Acknowledgments tend to be dull and boring, unless you know one of the folks being acknowledged. However, perchance, I looked at the acknowledgment in Nicholas Wade's The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan? Wade writes:
“The first person to take a serious look at the origins of the SARS2 virus was Yuri Deigin, a biotech entrepreneur in Russia and Canada. In a long and brilliant essay, he dissected the molecular biology of the SARS2 virus and raised, without endorsing, the possibility that it had been manipulated. The essay, published on April 22, 2020, provided a roadmap for anyone seeking to understand the virus’s origins.”
Deigin's essay, Lab-Made? SARS-CoV-2 Genealogy Through the Lens of Gain-of-Function Research, is filled with diagrams, charts and quotes from unintelligible academic papers; but unlike most, Deigin explains what they mean and why they are important. Although writing about a difficult subject, Deigin's treatment is light and humorous. Here's my favorite pun from Deigin's essay:
“But perhaps the most important difference is that furin is also present inside the cell, so it can cut the S protein immediately after virion assembly, thereby providing new virions with the ability to merge with new cells right off the bat (no pun intended).”
Deigin documents how virologists have been playing with dangerous “Gain of Function” research for well over 20 years, since before the SARS1 outbreak in 2003. “Gain of Function” refers to artificially enhancing the ability of a virus to cause disease in humans. This has been going on in the US, China and elsewhere. Sometimes US and Chinese virologists have been working on these projects together; sometimes in competition with each other. Sometimes sharing data; sometimes hiding data.

In this essay, Deigin opines that neither natural origin nor lab origin can be ruled out. But that was in April 2020. In a recent interview, however, he seems to give lab origin a much higher probability.

After presenting historical and virological support for a lab origin, he ends by remarking:
How I Learned to Hate the GOF [Gain of Function]

“I hope this post is not used to prematurely assign blame or propagate one-sided theories. What I do hope it highlights is the scale of dangerous gain-of-function research that has been and is going on in virology. The Covid-19 pandemic really exposed its huge risks in the face of few benefits: GOF research hasn’t protected us from this outbreak, hasn’t provided us with any effective treatments or vaccines in time to save hundreds of thousands of lives lost to CoV2, and if there is even a 0.1% chance GOF research caused the whole thing, that chance is too high.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gain of Function + Deliberate Release

So where do we stand now?

Since early in the pandemic, “experts” have put forth the natural origin conjecture as the only viable explanation. To them, all else was conspiracy theory. But lately, particularly since Nicolas Wade's May 2021 article, it has become more and more difficult to ignore the lab origin conjecture.

Lab origin covers a lot of ground: from accidental to deliberate release; from careless handling of natural specimens to Gain of Function experiments. My preferred conjecture: Gain of Function laboratory manipulation followed by Deliberate Release in an act of sabotage is still considered conspiracy theory. (I don't mind. In fact, I consider it a compliment.) But, as we're seen, this can change very quickly. So, perhaps this is a good time to review some evidence I've mentioned previously.

Horrific Atrocities

To begin with, after over 60 years as an activist in the US Peace Movement, demonstrating against horrific atrocities that have claimed hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of victims, perhaps I am predisposed to look upon rampant deadly events as the work of deranged militarists and their corporate and political enablers. For example:

Those who killed millions, spreading dioxin-laced agent orange over Vietnam, poisoning the land for decades to come, would they have qualms about releasing a deadly virus upon the world?

Those who totally destroyed Iraq's water treatment capabilites, killing at least hundreds of thousands, would they have qualms about releasing a deadly virus upon the world?

Those who killed millions, bombing North Korea, barely leaving a single brick atop another, would they have qualms about releasing a deadly virus upon the world?

Those who maintain a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the world many times over, those who have twice used and threaten to use again these omnicidal nuclear weapons, would they have qualms about releasing a deadly virus upon the world?

The United States has a long history of germ warfare. Read about it in Bionoia, a six-part article by Mark Sanborne.

And so it goes..... But lets consider specifics:

Wilbur Ross

My first inkling that things were not as they seemed came in late January, 2020, when the US had but five confirmed cases of COVID-19. Then Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, is quoted as saying: “So, I think it [the coronavirus outbreak in China] will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well,”

It seemed to me very likely that Ross had planned it this way — that he knew a lot more than he was telling. But, maybe I'm just reading something into this statement that isn't there. Still...

Incidentally, it didn't work out the way Ross expected. China brought the pandemic quickly under control. Meanwhile, it spread around the world and the United States soon led the world in COVID-19 cases.

By the end of 2020, China had experienced just 4.6 thousand deaths associated with COVID-19. The United States had experienced a whopping 366 thousand such deaths.

In 2020, China's GDP increased by 2.3%, while in the United States, it fell by 3.5%.

Letter in the Lancet

In February, 2020, 27 “experts” wrote a letter that was published in the Lancet saying:
“The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its [SARS-CoV-2's] origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
This immediately made me think of another famous line from Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest to much, methinks.” [Hamlet 3:2, Just substitute scientist for lady.] What are these “experts” trying to hide, I thought.

More eminent scientists and a subservient media piled on. The virulence with which these illuminati attacked the idea that the virus might have originated in a lab far exceeded the virulence with which the virus attacked its human hosts.

But, maybe I'm just reading something into this statement that isn't there. Maybe this is merely an example of scientific groupthink. Still...

To its credit, the WHO (World Health Organization) refused to jump on the bandwagon. Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO, when asked about origins, merely replied: “We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences and looked at this virus; and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.”

Well said, Dr. Ryan! “We are assured.” And if their assurances are bogus? Well, that ain't our fault. We never endorsed their assurances.

An Intelligence Leak

In April, 2020, ABC News claimed that according to multiple unnamed sources, the National Center for Medical Intelligence had warned in November 2019 that a contagion was sweeping through China's Wuhan region.

Interesting. This was at least a month before Dr. Li Wenliang became aware of the existence of seven cases of SARS-like infection in Wuhan. It couldn't have been a very large contagion. If US intelligence picked it up and passed it along, it must have been because they were actively looking for it. Now why would US intelligence be looking for an outbreak of SARS-like infections in Wuhan? Perhaps, because they had knowledge that it was planted there.

Well, this could all be fake news. Still...

China's Response

I think the Chinese know, or at the very least, strongly suspect. Recently, China asked the WHO to investigate laboratories at Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina for evidence of a possible release of SARS-CoV-2.

Why don't the Chinese just lay their cards face up on the table? I suspect their hands are far too dirty for that. The United States and China play a dangerous game. It's way past time to end this game before many more millions die.

No, It's far far from a proof; but, I think it easily rises to the level of a serious conjecture that ought to be taken seriously and not dismissed out of hand as conspiracy theory.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I began this snippet with a quote from William Shakespeare, so too, will I end with a quote from William Shakespeare:
“Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
... God, God forgive us all! ...”
—William Shakespeare (Macbeth 5:1, spoken by doctor attending Lady Macbeth)

==================


October 5, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

The Search for COVID Origins Continues

The latest revelation in the ongoing saga of coronavirus origins is an unfunded 2018 grant proposal that was leaked recently to the Intercept. This $14 million proposal to DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] offers to, among other things, splice a furin cleavage site into a bat virus. Researchers have long found it a mystery how the SARS-CoV-2 virus might have got its furin cleavage site, which helps to make it so infectious. None of SARS-CoV-2's closest relatives, including those found recently in Laos, have a furin cleavage site.

The Principal Investigator for this proposal was Peter Daszak, president of the Non-Governmental Organization, EcoHealth Alliance. Daszak was part of the WHO [World Health Organization] mission to China which concluded that lab release was “extremely unlikely.”

Apparently, Daszak was also the driving force behind a February, 2020 letter published in the Lancet in which he and 26 other “experts” claim, “The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its [SARS-CoV-2's] origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

This is extreme chutzpah. Daszak advocates for transparency while hiding his grant proposal, an important piece of evidence, for another 18 months until it was leaked to the Intercept. In 2018, Daszak proposes to genetic engineer something close, if not identical, to what we now know as SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19 disease. Three years later, he condemns all who would entertain conjectures other than natural origin as conspiracy theorists.

Daszak and company also write in the Lancet letter, “We support the call from the Director-General of WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture.” The WHO statement that Daszak references does indeed speak strongly against “misinformation,” but says nothing whatsoever about “conjecture.”

Indeed, conjecture is extremely important to the advancement of science. A conjecture is an educated guess. One often makes a conjecture, and then looks for evidence that supports or contradicts one's conjecture. Without conjecture, we may be stuck forever in a world of scientific orthodoxy, where only “experts” get to decide what is true and what is not.

And unity? Scientific truth is not discovered through unity. Unity can be the end result of a fair and open competition of ideas on a level playing field. The WHO statement that Daszak and Company reference does not mention unity either.

This is another example of extreme chutzpah. Daszak and company rail against all conjectures, except their own, natural origin, while elevating the natural origin conjecture to scientific theory. This would be laughable, if millions had not died.

So where are we in the controversy between natural origin and laboratory origin of SARS-CoV-2? If a strong proponent of natural origin like Daszak is found to have believed that he could, with a mere $14 million, have engineered a SARS-CoV-2-like virus in a laboratory, doesn't this give the lab origin conjecture a boost? Even more so since he hid this past belief and, to my knowledge, never explained why he changed his mind.

So, did scientists in fact create SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory? Did Daszak and his colleagues find some other way to fund their research? Was it successful? I think we may be getting close to an answer.

But one thing is certain. If scientists did create SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory, they would likely go to great lengths to hide it. If you had released a plague upon humanity that killed millions, would you want people to know about it? What might the people do to those responsible for such mass murder?

If you were a scientist, would you want people to know that your colleagues had killed millions through their scientific activities? Might not the people's just anger spill over onto the entire scientific community?

This controversy could probably be resolved by opening up *ALL* the world's biological laboratories to intense international scrutiny. This should include those in the United States, China and all countries engaged in genetic engineering. It should include military, government, educational and commercial laboratories alike. But, “experts” resist such openness. Perhaps they have guilty consciences. Perhaps they don't want the people to know what they do behind closed doors.
About the author: Tom (Yusha) Sager, is a retired mathematician and computer scientist. Most of his writings on COVID-19 appear here in reverse chronological order. He strongly *FAVORS* the *CONJECTURE* that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a laboratory and released in China in an act of sabotage.
==================


September 28, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Cuba and Vaccine

A reader writes: “I, too, am very impressed with what Cuba has done.”

This reader also wonders whether the analysis of vaccine efficacy I provided last week pertains to Cuba.

My response:

I suspect last week's analysis of vaccine efficacy does not pertain to Cuba for a variety of reasons.

1. Pfizer and Moderna, the two most widely used vaccines in the United States, are mRNA (Messenger RNA) vaccines which is a new (and still not completely proven) technology. Cuba's Abdala and Soberana vaccines are both subunit protein vaccines, an older, widely used, and proven technology.

2. The starting point of my analysis was the CDC's estimate that vaccination reduced covid-associated mortality by a factor of 11.3. To my knowledge, there is no data to suggest whether or not the CDC analysis pertains to Cuba or Cuban vaccines.

3. Assumptions in my analysis are based on a significant population of vaccinophobes in the United States, and the assumption that those who are vaccinated would correlate strongly with those who practice other safe behaviors (such as social distancing, masking etc.) To my knowledge, Cuba does not have a problem with vaccinophobia.

Keep in mind that the estimates I offered last week (analysis posted here) were based on assumptions that may or may not turn out to be valid. If they are valid, they reduce the CDC's estimate of a reduction of mortality due to vaccine efficacy from 11.3 to 3.9. The true figure may, in fact, be quite different.

Cuba is making great strides in vaccinating its population and expects to become a fully vaccinated country by the end of the year.

Cuba has begun exporting its vaccines. Vietnam has received its first shippment of Cuba's Abdala vaccine. The contract calls for a total of 5 million doses to be exported from Cuba to Vietnam.

Is China Getting Serious About Fighting Global Warming?

I think the tremendous Summer floods in central China, which devastated the city of Zhengzhou, have finally attracted the attention of the Chinese leadership. Here are two new Chinese policies that have come to my attention, both designed, at least in part, to tackle global warming:

China has announced that it will no longer fund the building of coal-fired plants around the world.

China has made transactions in crypto-currencies, like bitcoin, illegal. Crypto-currencies use large quantities of computing power to verify the validity of transactions. All this computing power requires a lot of energy. Running these computers and keeping them cool creates a lot of climate-warming greenhouse gases. In fact, the crypto-currency industry is responsible for the continued operation of coal-fired plants at a time when we should be cutting our energy usage and transitioning to clean power.

Incidentally, it you own bitcoin or some other crypto-currency, all you really own is a long string of hexadecimal digits. It's only valuable because people believe it to be valuable.

This brings to mind an adage from Voltaire: “Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value — zero.” How much more so for crypto-currencies.

Failing to Defeat Them, The UN Attempts to Isolates the Taliban

The Taliban was not permitted to address the UN General Assembly in spite of the fact that the Taliban drove a very significant portion of the UN membership, along with the occupation government, out of Afghanistan this summer. Several members of the new Afghan government remain on the UN sanctions list.

According to the US Military Times, the Pentagon claims the Right to bomb Afghanistan anytime it feels so inclined. All that is necessary is to claim they are fighting terrorism. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile the US has stolen (they call it freezing) Afghanistan's assets that were deposited in US banks.

Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries, even after the 20-year “boon” of US occupation. Afghanistan is also among the least vaccinated of countries.

Some compare the US defeat in Afghanistan to the US defeat 45 years ago in Vietnam. However there are important differences.

Insurgents in South Vietnam received help from North Vietnam as well as help from the USSR and China, and moral support from a very vibrant US Peace Movement. The Taliban received no significant help from any major country and was reviled in the United States, even by a significantly weaker US Peace Movement. Basically, the Taliban had no one to rely upon but themselves; and that, friends, is a very important difference.

Fallout from a Humiliating Defeat in Afghanistan

The World has certainly taken note of the humiliating US defeat in Afghanistan. Some seem to wonder if an alliance with the United States might not be a mistake.

France recalled its ambassador to the United States in the wake of a spat over a submarine deal with Australia. It appears, however, that the French ambassador will be returning to Washington soon.

Turkey prepares to purchase another military system from Russia, in the wake of failed negotiations with the United States.

Israel is talking to the Palestinian Authority for the first time in years. Perhaps they are feeling they can no longer rely upon the United States.

And here in the United States, the humiliating defeat in Afghanistan is a major cause of the disintegration now underway.

I would expect that more is to come.

==================


September 21, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Cuba and Vaccines

A reader writes:
“I wonder if Cuba will be willing to accept foreigners for vaccination. They have in the past taken non-Cubans for other treatments. It is not free, and the price charged helps support the Cuban medical system. People from wealthier countries of course will not do this, as there is not an availability problem, but a few might do it just for the political message.”
My response: I had thought about this, but decided that Cubans and folks in the countries to which they will be exporting vaccines need the vaccines a whole lot more than I do. However, maybe they would give me a virtual jab of Abdala.

Incidentally, Cuba has begun the vaccination process on 72% of its population, while the United States has begun vaccinating about 65% of its population. While the United States has fully vaccinated a greater percentage of its population, Cuba is quite likely to surpass the United States in this regard within a month or two, as those already in the pipeline reach fully vaccinated status.

Cuba not only accepts foreigners for medical treatment, they train foreign doctors too, including medical students from the United States.

From Our Readers: Vaccines and Profit

A reader writes:
“Always an interesting read. Pfizer and Moderna have been enjoying all the good news of them as saviors, but as you point out, it's more complicated (and profit driven) than that.”
My response: If the purpose of developing vaccines was global health; the world would be close to fully vaccinated by now; and we might never have seen a delta variant. But, as you point out, “its more complicated (and profit driven) than that.” Here in wealthy countries, we let our unused vaccines spoil rather than give them away to poor countries that need them.

It's all part of the profit motive. Let the virus run wild and mutate in poor countries, and then spread to wealthy countries. Then develop vaccines for the mutations and sell at a profit to wealthy countries.

Well, what would you expect from a socio-economic system (capitalism) that elevates greed (second of the seven deadly sins) to the highest good.

Incidentally, “pump-priming” of this kind is second nature to the military. Atrocities, like the August 29 US bombing in Afghanistan that killed civilians as young as two, are meant to illicit a violent response, which is then used as an excuse for more war, more bombs and more profits for the military-industrial complex.

I commend the Taliban for not responding violently to this atrocity, and thereby denying the Pentagon an excuse to commit further atrocities.

I do a lot of reading: left, right, center and unclassifiable. I can't recall seeing a single article in the US media commending the Taliban for anything: Not for ending the war, not for driving out foreign invaders, not for uniting the country, not for being patient, and definitely, not for responding non-violently to provocations like the August 29 bombing. I can't be the only one; or can I?

Climate: Records Falling Like the Autumn Leaves

Here's a compendium of recent climate-change-induced catastrophic events that have never-before happened. In 2021, records have fallen like the autumn leaves from the Pacific Northwest heat dome to the California Dixie Fire to Hurricane Ida.

This article, with two exceptions, covers only the United States, and therefore, misses record floods in Germany and Zhengzhou, China and the summer ring of fire around the Mediterranean, not to mention a deadly drought in Madagascar that has led to severe famine.

So, tell me again how climate change is a Chinese hoax.

==================


September 14, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

COVID-19: Infection-Induced Immunity Stronger Than Vaccine-Induced Immunity

A new study in Israel, currently one of the most vaccinated countries on Earth, has found that those who have had COVID-19 are left with a stronger, longer-lasting immunity than those who have been vaccinated.

I feel somewhat vindicated here, having floated a suggestion for attaining herd-immunity through infection-induced immunity a year ago, while vaccines were still in the trial phase. In this proposal, I stated, “Immunity derived from having recovered from a disease is the real McCoy — much more effective in general than vaccine-induced immunity.” After reading claim after claim from the “vaccine cheerleaders” about the wonders of vaccine-induced immunity, I began to doubt myself.

But now that we are finding that vaccine-induced immunity wanes quickly and vaccines are less effective against the delta variant, infection-induced immunity appears far more robust.

Incidentally, it also appears that a vaccine booster on top of infection-induced immunity, provides even better protection.

Warning! Don't try this at home!!!
With infections and hospitalizations sky high,
this is the wrong time to implement this proposal.


However, I believe that we could have saved ourselves a lot of grief had we implemented this when infection rates were low either in September 2020 (pre-vaccine era) or April 2021 (vaccine era).

How Effective Are Vaccines Against COVID-19?

A new report from the CDC claims to show that if you are fully vaccined, you are approximately 11.3 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than one who is not fully vaccinated. Personally, I don't believe it. If one reads the CDC article carefully, one notes that there are a number of caveats. “The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations. ... causality could not be assessed (i.e., possible differences in testing or behaviors in vaccinated and unvaccinated persons).”

That's a BIG caveat. I suspect their is a strong correlation between those who practice safe behaviors in general and those who get vaccinated (one of many safe behaviors).

Let's ASSUME that those who practice safe behaviors in general are ten times less likely to die of COVID-19 than those who don't. Let's further ASSUME that only 5% of those who aren't fully vaccinated practice safe behaviors in general and 75% of those who are fully vaccinated practice safe behaviors in general. We find that even if vaccines are totally bogus (WHICH THEY ARE NOT), the vaccinated would be 2.9 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than the not fully vaccinated, just from the increased practice of safe behaviors. The CDC tooted 11.3 times less likely has to be reduced by a factor of 2.9, meaning the vaccine itself renders one only 3.9 times less likely to die of COVID-19.

I believe that, in the absence of hard data, the above are reasonable assumptions for the United States where vaccines are readily available, but many suffer from vaccinophobia.

Now let's ASSUME that 95% of those who are fully vaccinated practice safe behaviors in general. We get the fully vaccinated are 6.6 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than the not fully vaccinated just from the general practice of safe behaviors. The CDC tooted 11.3 times less likely has to be reduced by a factor of 6.6, meaning the vaccine itself renders one only 1.7 times less likely to die of COVID-19. I believe that this assumption is not unreasonable.

As Mark Twain put it: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

My analysis is posted here, along with a few notes. Anyone out there in readerland with a background in biostatistics (which I don't have) care to comment?

As Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

It is way past time for the so-called “experts” to stop trying to fool us “deplorables.”

Covid Business Model: Lucrative but Deadly

Pfizer and Moderna are making a killing — literally. Pfizer stock has increased by 25% over the first eight months of 2021, Moderna Stock increased by a whopping 261%. By contrast, the S&P 500 index has gone up by 20%.

Here's the model: Create a vaccine with technology developed with public money. Sell it to wealthy countries at a huge profit. Claiming “intellectual property,” prevent poor countries from accessing your vaccine. As viruses go wild and mutate among the poor and then spread to the wealthy, create vaccines and boosters for the new mutations and sell to wealthy countries at a huge profit. Repeat until folks figure out this racket, and put a stop to it.

Lucrative, yes, but deadly. an estimated 2.6 million people have died of COVID-19 over the first eight months of 2021 to feed the greed of big pharma.

China, Cuba and the Coronavirus

China has been very successful in containing COVID-19 outbreaks. Their method: at the first sign of an outbreak, shut it down, quarantine and test everybody until the potential outbreak is squelched.

Most recently they shut down an entire terminal at the Ningbo port for two weeks after one person tested positive for COVID-19.

In March 2020, as China began to recover from the original COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, they suggested that if the world took the pandemic seriously and did as they did, the pandemic would be over by June. The world couldn't or wouldn't. Worldwide, over 4 million have died a COVID-associated death since June 2020. Over this period, China has lost only 2 to the pandemic.

China is relying on their vaccines and social control of stay virtually COVID-free. Their lack of natural infection-induced immunity may come back to haunt them in the future.

Meanwhile, amid a severe outbreak of COVID-19, Cuba is going all out to vaccinate its entire population as soon as possible with homegrown vaccines, Abdala and Soberana-2, both with over 90% efficacy. 38% of Cubans have been fully vaccinated to date and 62% at least partially vaccinated. By contrast, 64% of Estadounidenses have been at least partially vaccinated with 54% fully vaccinated. Cuban vaccines appear to be working well against the delta variant.

Besides having developed two of the world's five COVID-19 vaccines with over 90% efficacy, Cuba is the first country to begin vaccinating children as young as two.

Cuba and China are working together and have begun a regimen of two shots of China's Sinopharm vaccine followed by a shot of Cuba's Soberana Plus vaccine in Cuba's Cienfuegos Province. It is hoped that the third shot will boost the efficacy of Sinopharm from 79% to a level comparable to the world's best vaccines. Dr. Dagmar Garcia of the Finlay Vaccine Institute stresses that, “This is not a clinical trial, it is an immunization strategy that seeks to maximize efficacy, based on a combination of vaccines.”

Cuba and China are both planning to export vaccines to the world's poorest nations. This will likely spell an end to Pfizer and Moderna's racket of selling vaccines to the rich for high prices while leaving the poor to sicken, die and breed more deadly viruses.

==================


September 7, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Afghanistan: Now Comes the Hard Part

The Taliban has vanquished the last holdouts of the old regime in the Panjshir Valley.

Now comes the hard part: building a new society on the ashes of the old. Is the Taliban up to the task? InshaAllah, (if God wills it) they will succeed. They have already done what few have thought possible: defeating the entire world, both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. With God, all things are possible.

InshaAllah, they will prove as strong at nation-building as they are on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

But what about women? you may ask. Under the Taliban, classes will be segregated with a curtain between the men's and women's sections. How cruel! How terrible!

Well, actually, I may have gotten better grades in school if I had spent more time listening to the teacher and less looking at the girls and thinking thoughts I'm not going to write in this newsletter. And high school classes like gym, health and home-making — totally segregated — different times, different places — not even a curtain.

And demonstrations? Well, we could bring all the female Afghan demonstrators to the United States. They could demonstrate in Florida where they might get run over (legally) by a male-supremacist in a pickup truck (unless, of course, they were demonstrating against Cuba). Or they could demonstrate against polluting pipeline projects in Minnesota where they could get shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed and arrested for protesting.

Well, as George W. Bush once said: “They hate our freedoms.”

Militarism: A Monumental Failure

If nothing else, our defeat in Afghanistan should show us the folly of expecting militarism to prevail in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, we seem not to have learned this lesson. In spite of having squandered $21 Trillion on militarism over the past 20 years; congress has doubled down and appears ready to put an extra $37.5 Billion into our already bloated military budget.

Perhaps we would see better results if we put this money into nation-building at home, instead of tearing down other nations half-way around the world, as well as tearing down our own nation.

Climate-Induced Weather Disasters on the Rise

And indeed, unless we get serious about reversing global warming; there won't be much left to save. While we have been busy militarizing our country, extreme weather events like Hurricane Ida and the intense drought, heat and fires in the western United States are now five times more likely than they were 50 years ago.

Well, maybe we could bomb a fire or shoot down a hurricane.

Peace is a Prerequisite for Progress

And frankly, friends, I don't see how we will make any progress at all until we get over our addiction to War.

==================


August 31, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

US War Against Afghanistan: It Ends As It Started

The US evacuation of Afghanistan appears to have been completed, ending the two decade US War Against Afghanistan. The war ended with a US drone strike that killed at least ten Afghans including children under two years old, presumably in revenge for the killing of 13 US troops.

It began 20 years ago amid US bombings and an invasion and occupation that ended up killing hundreds of thousands of Afghans, presumably in revenge for the killing of 3,000 at the World Trade Center.

In both cases, revenge was taken mostly upon the innocent.

Hopefully, we will have learned that revenge killings are never just. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Perhaps, inshaAllah, (God willing) with US and other foreign troops gone, Afghans will be able to live in Peace.

COVID-19: Let's Stop Pretending

This article by Buzz Hollander, a family physician in Hawaii, came to me by way of a friend of Helen, It appears to be well researched, well thought out and well worth a very careful read. For me, the most important point:

There are still many gaps in our knowledge of COVID-19 and no one can predict the future of a fast-mutating virus. The CDC and others essentially shot themselves (and the rest of us) in the foot by pretending to know what they don't. As Hollander states:
“The obvious gap between ‘what the CDC says’ and ‘what we see, hear and read’ has left a large space for grifters, self-styled experts, and conspiracy theorists to thrive, especially among the large group of vaccine-hesitant (often vaccine-terrified) Americans. The whole thing might have gone better had we stuck to telling the truth as we knew it.”
Perhaps the biggest problem with lying is that once you get a reputation as a liar, (spinning the data as some like to say) folks won't believe you even if you are telling the truth. That seems to be where we stand now.

A few personal notes:
1. My decision to forego vaccination and double-down on avoiding risky behaviors by going double-masked in public and avoiding crowds and, as much as possible, people in general, probably leaves me at least as well protected against COVID-19 as one who is double vaccinated and has thrown caution to the winds.

2. Losing 25 pounds might protect me against serious COVID-19 infections about as much as a vaccination, and protect me against other serious illnesses to boot.

3. Nevertheless, a vaccination would certainly add an extra measure of protection to the above safe behaviors.

4. With folks in wealthy countries receiving booster shots, while less than 2% of Afghans are fully vaccinated, I now find the thought of getting vaccinated even more repugnant than I previously found it.
Hurricane Ida: Stirring the Pot

And while our attention has been focused on Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida came ashore as a category IV hurricane and wreaked havoc throughout Southeast Louisiana. Very likely, the long-term effects from toxic pollution that has been spread about by Ida's winds, rain and storm surge; will be far worse than the immediate damage, which is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

==================


August 24, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Peace Vigils and Newsletter

A reader writes: “Good for you, Tom Sager! Please keep it up. I don't always agree with you. But your viewpoint is vital.”

My response: Thank you for the encouragement. InshaAllah (God willing) I intend to hang in there a little while longer.

From Our Readers: Anthem by Leonard Cohen

A reader writes: “Glad to hear the anthem by Leonard Cohen. I had forgotten about his songs. Afghanistan is such a tragedy from start to finish the whole 20 years.”

My response: Anthem is one of my favorites. I listen to it over and over again. So sad and yet so hopeful. Leonard Cohen is gone; but he left us such an incomparable gift in his music and poetry.

From Our Readers: Turkey Responds to Devastating Wild Fires

A reader writes: “Turkish people were very passionate about putting out the fires; unfortunately, the government didn’t have enough airplanes and played politics on the airplane issue. Long story.”

My response: Like many parts of the world, Turkey was hit by intense heat waves and devastating fires this summer. I think the Turkish people did well. They appear to have been successful in putting out their fires, while fires continue to burn in many other places, including the western United States.

Turkey received a lot of help in firefighting from many friends, from Russia to the United States. International cooperation is so very important.

Turkey has big plans to plant seven billion trees by 2023. Seven billion trees can sequester a lot of carbon which will reduce global warming and make such devastating fires less likely in the future. We wish Turkey a great success in this very important endeavor.

From Our Readers: Planting Trees

A reader writes:
“I read an article today from WaPo [The Washington Post] about a project in Pakistan to plant trees. Lots of trees. Ten billion of them, to be precise. I knew nothing about this project. Turns out it's been around for about six years. It started in a province with a one-billion-tree goal, was successful there, and was expanded to include the whole country. The idea behind it is to fight global warming. Nice that somebody is trying to do something about it.”
My response:

Kudos to all countries like Pakistan and Turkey that are planting large numbers of trees.

Growing a forest is not as easy as it might seem. Like the young of our own species, seedlings must be nurtured until they reach a certain level of maturity.

Trees co-evolved with humans. It is unlikely that any of us would be here today, were it not for the trees. If we are to survive in a changing climate, it is absolutely necessary that we grow and nurture our forests and replant them where they have been destroyed or degraded.

Here is an important tree initiative: Africa's Great Green Wall will stretch across the width of Africa from Senegal to Djibouti and hold back the Sahara Desert, which threatens to engulf land to the south. It is way past time for wealthy countries to step up to the plate, and supply the funding necessary to make this initiative happen.

And here is one of my favorite projects. El Porvenir is working in Nicaragua to restore watersheds. This includes not only planting trees but also nurturing them and building paths, ponds, fences and other infrastructure, thereby creating an entire ecosystem which allows the land and its inhabitants to flourish. While not on the grandiose scale of the above initiatives, small projects like these may be even more important. This is how we reclaim the Earth — one watershed at a time.

And lets not forget our own small tree-planting efforts here in Rolla where citizens planted over 40 trees in Buehler Park to replace aging trees that are nearing the end of their life cycle. Nurturing the seedlings, especially during periods of drought, was key to the success of this effort. Kudos to Chief Forester, Ross Melick.

And here are two lines from a famous poem by Joyce Kilmer:
“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”

From Our Readers: The Taliban and Women

A reader writes:
“I still don't know if the original invasion of Afghanistan was justified. Perhaps it was, but we certainly should have gotten out quickly. However, it seems to me that the one bright spot in the occupation was the improvement of the condition of women there. Things are rarely totally black and white. Sometimes there are shades of gray. I feel that after the inevitable victory of the Taliban, the condition of women there will deteriorate. I would like to see you write about this in an upcoming Peace News.”
My response:

I can hardly think of anything worse for women (and men and children) than war. 20 years of war and occupation perpetrated on Afghanistan by the United States, NATO and other foreigners have left Afghanistan one of the ten poorest countries in the world and the poorest outside of Africa.

To take just one incident: 14 years into the US War Against Afghanistan, The United States bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz killing 42: patients, doctors and other staff alike. Immobile patients in the ICU burned in their beds. Survivors were mowed down from the air as they attempted to flee. The only hospital serving a large area in northern Afghanistan was totally destroyed.

I find it disingenuous for a country that commits such atrocities to even talk about the condition of women in Afghanistan.

If the Taliban can bring Peace to Afghanistan, I don't see how the condition of women (and men and children) can help but improve. I think the world should be supporting this effort to bring Peace to Afghanistan. Instead the West is freezing Afghanistan's accounts in foreign banks, cutting off foreign aid, and Joe Biden is talking nonsense about the Taliban wanting to be “recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government.”

After what the “international community” has done to Afghanistan for twenty years, I should wonder why the Taliban would give a rat's ass to be recognized by the international community. Afghanistan is owed reparations big time by the international community. Foreign aid be damned.

And here is a short article by feminist Nandini Archer expressing a similar point of view.

From Our Readers: The Taliban and Statues

The same reader also writes:
“From a personal viewpoint I saw the stone Buddhas in Bamiyan when I was in Afghanistan. These were cultural treasures. My thought upon hearing that they were destroyed by the Taliban was that these people are f---ing crazy. But they are more than crazy. I think they are evil.”
My response:

I am not in favor of carving mountains into statues. Mountains in their natural state are so much more ecologically functional and beautiful than any work of art we mere humans create.

With that said: I think the decision on whether to “rewild” mountains that have been defaced by human activity should be left to local inhabitants who live in the vicinity.

People half way around the world who feel an attachment to statues that have been carved into mountains should certainly be able to negotiate their maintenance with local inhabitants. Here's an interesting statement on the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas from Mullah Mohammed Omar, co-founder and former leader of the Taliban:
“I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings—the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha's destruction.”
==================


August 17, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

The War Against Afghanistan is Over

I think we ought to all breathe a sigh of relief — at least, that is what I've been doing. 20 years, hundreds of thousands dead and trillions of dollars wasted — that's a lot of lives snuffed out. That's a long time and a lot of money — for nothing. 20 years ago the Taliban controlled maybe 2/3 of Afghanistan. Now they control the whole country except for one airport.

I think back to October 2001 when I demonstrated with a small group of activists in Columbia against starting a war against Afghanistan. I think history has proved us right. Think of all the contributions those hundreds of thousands of lives could have made. Think of all the wonderful things that could have been done over those 20 years with those trillions of dollars. To me, nothing demonstrates the Futility of War better than the failure of the world to impose their will, by force, upon one small impoverished nation.

I recognize that some are unhappy with the decision to end the War Against Afghanistan. I hope everyone gets over their disappointment quickly. There is so much to be done now. So many other wars need to end. Fire, flood and drought are everywhere. Poverty, ignorance, disease and hatred abound.

Let's all put aside our differences and work together, like the lives of our children depend upon it — because they do. So, let's
“Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering;
There is a crack, a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.”
—Leonard Cohen (Anthem)

==================


August 10, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Moral Injury

Every now and again, I feel like it's time to retire from our weekly Peace vigils. 14 and a half years is a long time; and I can't say that we are any closer to Peace now than when we started — maybe even further away. Nevertheless, something always seems to happen that makes me say to myself, “Don't quit now.”

Last week, it was reading Kelly Denton-Borhaug's article, What Americans Don’t Want to Hear About Our Moral Crimes of War. Denton-Borhaug quotes Iraq War veteran, Kevin Powers, who describes “moral injury” as “acid seeping down into your soul, and then your soul is gone.”

Denton-Borhaug notes that modern warfare “not only destroys the foundations of life for its targets and victims, but also for its perpetrators.” Think about it: What valor is there in killing from the safety of an underground bunker, not knowing whether your victims are men, women or children; fighters or civilians? We have lost four time more veterans and service members to suicide than have been killed in war.

And what about us civilians? One veteran states:
“The cynical part of me wants the public to understand that it’s your fault; we are all complicit in all of this horror. I don’t need other people to experience my pain, I need other people to understand that they are complicit in my pain.”
So, that is why I intend to continue our vigils for Peace: Because I'm just as guilty as the one who fired the drones that bombed the wedding party. Perhaps more so, because I knew from day one that modern warfare is morally indefensible.

==================


August 3, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman

Book Review

Animal, Vegetable, Junk:
A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal

by Mark Bittman
This book, published a few months ago, should be a must read for anyone concerned with peace and justice. Bittman has written many books about food, mostly cook books, and for years he wrote a food column for the New York Times. In a fairly short book, about 300 pages, Bittman first talks about the history of agriculture. Then he talks about the monoculture that characterizes US industrial agriculture, and the pesticides and fertilizers necessary to to make this system work. He mentions the poor conditions of farm workers.

He talks about the hyper-processed junk foods that line the supermarket shelves. He mentions that the food advertising budget in the US is $14 billion while the budget for health promotion is $1 billion. He points out that in poorer areas there are less healthy food choices available. Finally he talks about some possible solutions.

Since, as Bittman says, “We are all eaters,” I highly recommend the book.
My response: Thanks for the excellent review. Sounds like a very important book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

In a recent study, the Rockefeller Foundation estimated that food prices would triple if the consumer had to pay for all the environmental degradation and increased healthcare costs caused by our industrial agriculture.

July, 2021: The Month of the Floods
“And all the rain falls down, Amen,
On the works of Last Year's Man.”
—Leonard Cohen (Last Year's Man)

Perhaps, I exaggerate here; but it seems like last month Earth saw the worst floods since the days of Noah and Gilgamesh.

From Germany and Belgium in the West to central China in the East and also Afghanistan, India, The Philippines and elsewhere, the land was covered with water.

Zhengzhou in China received over one inch of rain per hour over a 24 hour period, flooding its subway system, killing at least 300 and creating at least $18 billion of damages.

Meanwhile, in western North America, Siberia, Turkey, Southern Europe, Hawaii and elsewhere drought persists and fires burn. Iran is also experiencing devastating drought.

Responses to Climate Change in Europe, North America, China and elsewhere have been extremely lackadaisical. World-wide emissions of Greenhouse Gases are on track to set a new record by 2023. But, perhaps these disasters will be enough to get wealthy countries to wake up and take Climate Change seriously.

Extreme Stupidity: Bombing Afghanistan Again

Having been defeated, The United States and NATO are leaving the field in Afghanistan — a withdrawal that is estimated to be over 90% complete now. But that doesn't mean they are ready to make Peace.

As the Taliban gains victory after victory over the ineffectual Afghan occupation government, the United States has returned with yet another bombing campaign. I doubt this will do much to slow the Taliban's advance as they switch from gaining ground in the countryside to attacking provincial capitals. Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmond Province, has all but fallen to the Taliban onslaught. Other cities are under attack.

US bombs, however, will certainly kill more Afghans and increase hatred of the United States.

==================


July 27, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Secession: “Making America Great Again”
“We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb.
Who's next?”
—Tom Lehrer (Who's Next?)

Last month, Yougov polled the US public for Bright Line Watch and found that a whopping 37% would support seceding from the United States of America and joining a regional entity. The number supporting secession has increased over a similar poll six months ago. Among southern Republicans, the number that would support secession has reached 66%.

While Bright Line Watch cautions that “this survey item reflects initial reactions by respondents about an issue that they are very unlikely to have considered carefully,” as politics become more and more polarized and divisive, break-up and collapse become more and more likely.

Partition is a really bad idea. All you need do is look at a few historic examples to see what would be in store:
South Asia: partitioned between India and Pakistan
Korea: partitioned between North and South.
China: partitioned between Mainland and Taiwan
Palestine: partitioned between Palestine and Israel
Yugoslavia: partitioned among multiple entities
Vietnam: partitioned between North and South (reunited after a decade of bitter warfare)
In the first five cases, the partitioned entities are at war or in imminent danger of resuming open warfare. The first four cases involve at least one nuclear-weapon state; the first case involves two.

Here are a few questions worth asking:

If the United States breaks up into regional entities, which ones get the nuclear weapons? With thousands of nuclear bombs on hand, there ought to be plenty to go around. Would they use or threaten to use them on each other?

Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami has suggested exploring bombing Cuba. Should he get his hands on a nuclear bomb, would he use it to bomb Cuba?

Some have suggested sealing our southern border to immigration. Would they consider using a few nuclear bombs to seal the border for generations to come?

If this sounds dystopic to you, then I would suggest putting aside your divisive politics and learning to get along with one another. We're all in this together. If we can't learn to get along and share, there won't be much left for anybody.
Note: Scroll half-way down the Bright Line Watch article for discussion of secession. There is also a short discussion of this article in The Hill.
Did China Just Kill Nuclear Non-Proliferation?
“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;”
—William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar: III,1)

In response to a suggestion by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, that “If a major incident happened (over Taiwan), ... Japan and the U.S. must defend Taiwan together,” China has threatened Japan with nuclear annihilation in a video posted to the Chinese Communist-Party-sanctioned channel, Xigua:
“When we liberate Taiwan, if Japan dares to intervene by force, even if it only deploys one soldier, one plane, and one ship, we will not only return reciprocal fire but also start a full-scale war against Japan. We will use nuclear bombs first. We will use nuclear bombs continuously until Japan declares unconditional surrender for the second time.”
The video has since been taken down, although it has been reposted on youtube and partially on twitter with English subtitles.

This is a real about-face for China which previously had been the only nuclear weapon state with a policy of “no first use of nuclear weapons.”

So, how will Japan react to this? Perhaps they will create their own nuclear force. They certainly have the technology, know-how and resources; and with US power in the western Pacific waning, they may feel that the US “nuclear umbrella” can no longer be relied upon.

And how about Iran? With nuclear chaos reigning, and being but a stone's throw from five nuclear-weapon states: Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Israel, might they not decide against a return to the moribund nuclear deal (JCPOA).

Other non-nuclear states may also follow suit.

Every day, it seems, the world becomes a more dangerous place.

It is indisputable that China suffered greatly at the hands of Japan, during the first half of the 20th Century. After the fall of Nanjing in 1937, Japanese soldiers would throw Chinese babies in the air and catch them on their bayonets. The orgy of rape and murder lasted two weeks. Up to 300,000 died.

All in all, China may have lost over 20 million people to Japanese aggression during World War II.

Nevertheless, China has just threatened to totally annihilate Japan, using nuclear bombs continuously, perhaps killing Japan's entire population of 125 million.

What I said in the previous snippet about the United States goes double for the World:
“If this sounds dystopic to you, then I would suggest putting aside your divisive politics and learning to get along with one another. We're all in this together. If we can't learn to get along and share, there won't be much left for anybody.”
On a more optimistic note, the Seychelles have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons bringing to 55 the number of state parties. Likely, they are the only 55 sane countries in the world. How about your country?
Note1: The historic data above are from Wikipedia and may be disputed.

Note 2: There is an interesting discussion of the phrase, cry havoc here.

Note 3: Here is a part of Antony's soliloquy which includes the “cry havoc” phrase:

“Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”

==================


July 20, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Totally Delusional: Biden Calls Cuba “Failed State”
Open Letter to President Joseph Biden of the United States of America

Dear Mr. President:

I read that you have labeled Cuba a “failed state.”

Please explain how a “failed state” could produce two of the world's five most effective vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic. I'd like to know.

You then offer to “look into the possibility of sending vaccines to [Cuba].” Mr. President, Cuba has no need for your vaccines. They have their own. Send your vaccines to Palestine and Africa where they are wanted and needed. However, if you wish to help the Cuban people, you could relax the 60-year-old blockade, so Cuba could more easily import syringes for mass vaccinations.

Also, Mr. President, instead of knocking Cuba, you might pay attention to your own country. The COVID pandemic is making a comeback in every state.

Sincerely,
Tom (Yusha) Sager
Well, things could be worse. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has suggested that the US should explore the option of air strikes against Cuba. That would sure help the Cuban people.

And incidentally, Mayor Suarez, you might take a look at your own state where buildings continue to collapse and the COVID pandemic rebounds sharply.

Strange, so much in the news about large protests in Cuba a week ago Sunday. It's all over the internet. Still, haven't heard of any big protests in Cuba since. I guess there haven't been any. But, no matter, the media can keep recycling these now 9-day-old protests.

This seems to be going like the Nicaraguan protests of 2018. People with legitimate beefs come out and join the protests. Then, when they find the protests are turning violent and are organized by foreign enemies, they go back home; and the protests fizzle like a wet firecracker.

Déjà vu all over again.

Still, plenty of protests in Florida against the Cuban government. In Florida, anti-Cuba protesters block roads with impunity; where Black Lives Matter protesters would be charged with felonies or run down by angry White Supremacists.

Lots of anti-vaxxers among the Florida protesters. While Floridians demonstrate against the Cuban government, Florida has become a hotbed of pandemic contagion.

Here's an interesting conjecture: Why now? Protests could have broken out any time; but why now, just as Cuba successfully completes trials of two vaccines? I think Pfizer and Moderna may be concerned about their profits. After all, suppose Cuba virtually gives away its vaccines, which appears likely. It's just as good as Pfizer's, and in some ways, maybe even better. That's going to eat into Pfizer's profits big time. So what is to be done? Call out the protesters. Create chaos.

Totally Delusional: China to the USA: Clean Up Your Mess in Afghanistan Before You Go
“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!”
—Dr. Seuss (The Cat in the Hat, p55)

China is apparently having second thoughts about a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, opines:
“The United States, which created the Afghan issue in the first place, should act responsibly to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan. It should not simply shift the burden onto others and withdraw from the country with the mess left behind unattended.”
Wang does not opine on what he means by “act responsibly” or what the end result of a “smooth transition” should look like; but one might surmise he is talking about a government that is friendly to China and will not stir up China's Uighur minority or interfere with China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chinese statement implies that the United States is in a position to control the situation in Afghanistan as it withdraws. This seems extremely dubious. In 20 years of invasion and occupation, the United States has failed to act responsibly or successfully control events in Afghanistan. I see no evidence that that could change now, even if desired.

But, let's back up. A little history here: The United States didn't create the “Afghan issue.” the “Afghan issue” goes back at least to Darius I of Persia in the 6th Century BCE and includes Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets and other invaders. Lots of folks have invaded what is now Afghanistan. Where are they now?

Seems like everybody wants to control Afghanistan; but maybe the time has come for Afghans to control Afghanistan.

The United States, the latest invader, invaded and occupied Afghanistan 20 years ago. They brought along 58 other countries in “Operation Enduring Freedom.” (Seriously! I kid you not. That's what they called it.)

Some of the US allies might surprise you. Sweden and Switzerland, usually thought of as “peace loving” nations sent troops. China and Russia both participated, although they were smart enough not to send troops. Turkey may try to leave troops in Afghanistan after the United States and others depart. Afghans are unlikely to appreciate any remaining foreign troops, including Turkish troops. China may try its hand at controlling Afghanistan after others leave. We'll see.

So what will Afghanistan look like with foreigners gone and Afghans in control? I doubt it could be any worse than what the world has put the Afghans through these past 20 years. I think the world owes Afghanistan reparations — big time. Kathy Kelly agrees.

59 countries! Amazing! I know of no parallel in history, where one small impoverished nation single-handedly defeats virtually the entire world. Any of you history buffs out there have a candidate?

Here's one final thought: Want to leave a foreign presence in Afghanistan? Try Cuba. Cuba has a history of sending doctors and medicines where others send troops and bombs. Cuba's Henry Reeve (medical) Brigade was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in Italy and elsewhere in the early days of the pandemic.

The Henry Reeve Brigade is welcomed everywhere it goes. I suspect the Henry Reeve Brigade would be welcomed in Afghanistan along with Cuban medicines and vaccines. Under the US occupation, less than 1% of Afghans have been fully vaccinated. This number would be likely to increase quickly, if Cuban doctors were to replace US troops.

Cuba demonstrated solidarity with the Afghan people by not participating in the invasion and occupation. Cuba and Afghanistan have a lot in common. Both seem to have successfully resisted US efforts at regime change, although in totally different ways.

Indeed, if 20 years ago, we had sent doctors and medicines to Afghanistan instead of troops and bombs, all this devastation might have been avoided. Instead, former president, George W. Bush, sent us into a quagmire from which we are only now ignominiously trying to extricate ourselves, trillions of dollars poorer and vastly weaker.

George W. hasn't learned much in the last 20 years. Now, he opines that we should stay in Afghanistan longer.

Nature Bats Last: Heat, Drought, Wildfires and Floods
“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

“And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

“The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.

“The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

“Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”

—Isaiah 24:1-6 (KJV)

June was quite a month. The world's worst heat wave in recorded history gripped western North America, killing at least 800.

July is turning out to be quite a month too, with heat and wildfires continuing in western North America, and Europe socked with catastrophic flooding, killing at least 199.

There really is little doubt that we are seeing anthropogenic climate change at work.

Saleemul Huq and Mark Hertsgaard note that rich nations have ignored such catastrophic weather events in the past when they occur in poor countries, like Burkina Faso and Bangladesh. But, climate change and catastrophic weather are impossible to ignore when they strike you at home.

The Prophet Isaiah understood, almost 3,000 years ago, that wealth will not protect you from the Wrath of the Lord. We are just learning now.

From Our Readers: Book Recommendation: Ruthless Tide by Al Roker

A reader recommends Al Roker's book about the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889 which killed over 2,000 people: “Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America's Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster” — a very appropriate recommendation as Europe attempts to recover from last week's deadly floods.

And here are articles about some other very recent catastrophic floods:

Mumbai, India
Zhengzhou, China
Flagstaff, Arizona
Inner Mongolia, China

I'm sure there are plenty of others I missed.

==================


July 13, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Cuba's Soberana-02 Vaccine Over 90% Effective Against COVID-19

Cuba now has two vaccines against COVID-19: Abdala with 92% efficacy and Soberana-02 with 91% efficacy, both require three jabs, but unlike Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be stored under normal refrigeration.

Cuba is the only Latin American country to have developed a COVID-19 vaccine and one of two countries in the world to have produced two COVID-19 vaccines of over 90% efficacy.

It is widely believed that Cuba will export its vaccines and technology around the world at little more than cost. By contrast: Western corporations like Pfizer have made billions off of vaccine technology.

Wealthy countries in North America and Europe are still refusing to share with poor countries. As a result, Africa faces its worst outbreak of COVID-19 yet. Perhaps, Cuba will help to quell this outbreak.

This is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. Outbreaks anywhere in the world give the SARS-CoV-2 virus opportunities to mutate and then return to reinfect previously protected populations. To what extent new variants will be resistant to vaccines seems to be an unknown at this time.

Here in Phelps County, Missouri, the delta variant, which is 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus appears to be spiking. New cases have risen to a seven day average of 14, up from 4 two weeks ago, higher than at any time since January.

Indeed, the World, the USA, Missouri and many other locations have experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases recently.

Of course, here in the United States, the only thing most people hear about Cuba is that last weekend a few thousand people demonstrated, largely against shortages, which are mostly due to the confluence of the 60-year-long US blockade of Cuba and the COVID pandemic that has hit Cuba hard economically.

Regardless, Cuba is on track to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of year 2021.

And While We Were Celebrating Our Independence...

North America experienced its hottest June since record-keeping began. Hundreds died from an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

Unbearable heat, drought and wildfires are predicted to continue in western North America.

In northern Finland and elsewhere around the globe, heat records fell like dominoes.

Tropical Storm Elsa sashayed up the Atlantic coast flooding the dilapidated New York City subway system. The worst aspect of urban flooding may be the toxics which are picked up and spread around by flood waters.

A flash-flood emergency was issued as Rockport, Texas received 11 inches of rain in short period of time.

Heavy rains caused a catastrophic mudslide in Japan.

A leak from a ruptured Pemex pipeline caused the Gulf of Mexico to literally burn.

And every minute 11 people die of hunger.

Would you know yet more?

==================


July 6, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Collapsed Buildings

Last week I included photos of a bombed building in Gaza and a collapsed condominium in Surfside Florida, noting the similarity between the two photos.

A reader remarks,
“Good point in paragraph one. The photos are very effective.

“I hadn't thought about what sea intrusion will do to subsoil structures. Might not be a good time to start a career in Miami real estate.”

My response: Nor would I invest in West Coast real estate nor in many other locations that are fast becoming unlivable due to climate change. So far we seem to be doing ok here in the Missouri Ozarks; but don't be fooled. That could change any day.

Sunday they demolished what was left of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.

Another reader notes the similarity between videos of the controlled demolition of the Champlain Towers and videos of the Sept. 11, 2001 fall of the World Trade Center, remarking on the likelihood of a similar cause in both cases.

Greta Thunberg to World Leaders: “The Gap Between Your Rhetoric and Reality Keeps Growing Wider and Wider”

I love the way Greta Thunberg speaks to world leaders: No deference, no punches pulled, no nice words — just telling them exactly who they are and what they've been doing.

Here's a few choice lines from her speech to the Austrian World Summit.
“You compensate with beautiful promises that someone in the future will somehow undo your actions. And when your empty words are not enough, when the protests grow too loud, you make protests illegal.”

“Perhaps playing a role helps you sleep at night.”

“You can and will continue to pretend, but nature and physics will not fall for it. Nature and physics are not entertained nor distracted by your theater. The audience has grown weary. The show is over.”

Meanwhile, western North America, from Canada to Mexico, is literally on fire, suffering from fire, drought and a heat wave that was off the charts, beyond the worst cases predicted by the best climate models.

And fossil fuel lobbyists brag about how they buy US senators.

And pipeline protestor, Jessica Reznicek has been sentenced to eight years in prison, while not a single fossil-fuel executive, responsible so far for hundreds of deaths in the ongoing Pacific Northwest heat wave, drought and wildfires has been charged with a single crime.

Julian Assange: Punishing the Messenger, Not the Perpetrators
“I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.” —Edward Snowden
It's amazing what lengths those in power will go to punish those whose only crime is to have told the truth. Here's an article from the Icelandic Stundin detailing how US authorities colluded with a con-man, embezzler and sexual abuser of children in order to frame Julian Assange.

Key witness against Assange, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, was recruited by US authorities and has now confessed to lying to help US authorities build a case against Assange and having continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Assange's crime: Exposing US war crimes and crimes against humanity. This should not even be controversial. Exposing crimes in high places should ALWAYS be considered a civic duty, NEVER a crime.

Yes, I think Greta Thunberg said it best, the gap between rhetoric and reality has never been wider.

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE!   FREE ALL WHISTLE-BLOWERS!

==================


June 29, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Collapse: Florida and Gaza


One of the collapsed buildings in the photo above is from Gaza. It was destroyed by Israel with bombs that were made-in-the-USA. Israeli bombing killed and injured many and caused much damage to infrastructure in Gaza.

The other photo is from Surfside, Florida. The dead have not yet been counted.

The two photos look quite similar. Can you tell which is which?

While the reasons for the Surfside, Florida collapse are, as yet, unknown, It appears likely that sea-level rise and subsidence, with ocean water attacking the foundations, would be at least a major contributing factor. Sea level rise and subsidence are both caused by global warming.

So there you have it: War and Climate Change, the two greatest threats to modern “civilization.” Isn't it time to get serious about ending war and reversing climate change?

PLANT TREES NOT BOMBS


Cuba: Shipping Millions of Doses of Vaccine to Venezuela

Cuba's Abdala vaccine has completed all trials and was found to be 92% effective. Cuba has another vaccine, Soberana-2, in late trials. With two doses it has been found over 62% effective and may hit the 95% effective mark after the third dose is evaluated.

This is an amazing feat for a small island nation of 11 million people, laboring under 60 years of US sanctions. Even more amazing: since the United States was a party to gain-of-function experiments that may have created the SARS-CoV-2 virus, US vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna could have had a “head start” in developing their vaccines. Without this head start, Cuba may even have beaten the US to having developed a successful vaccine for COVID-19.

Before even completing its vaccination program at home, Cuba has completed the first shipment of Abdala vaccine to Venezuela, which is having difficulties providing for the health of its people because of US sanctions which, among other things, inhibit Venezuela's ability to participate in the international COVAX program.

There is much that we in the United States could learn from Cuba. Perhaps, most importantly, we could learn how to share.

Jeffrey Sachs on SARS-CoV-2 Origins

Jeffrey Sachs, chair of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, gives a short synopsis of the current state of knowledge concerning the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. I highly recommend this article, which contains many extremely important insights.

Sachs points out that major hypotheses fall into two broad categories: natural origin and research-related origin; and there is no overwhelming evidence to choose one over the other. Sachs writes:
“Those who have claimed that a natural origin is the only viable hypothesis overlook the extensive research activity that was underway in the field and in laboratories on SARS-like viruses, including in Wuhan, China, where the first outbreak was identified, and in the United States.”
So what can be said about those scientists who have
“declared that there was overwhelming evidence that SARS-CoV-2 originated in wildlife and that alternative theories of a research-related release of the virus amounted to ‘conspiracy theories’.”?
I would say that those scientists either deliberately lied to the public, or else they are lousy scientists. It's one thing to say, as I have done, that one favors a certain hypothesis or conjecture, it is quite another to declare that all who disagree are conspiracy theorists.

Sachs also notes that:
“We have learned that much of this work ... that was underway in the US, China, and elsewhere, both in collecting viral samples from the field and in studying their infectivity and pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) in the laboratory ... can be classified as ‘gain of function’ ... research.”
In this case, gain of function refers to increasing the ability of a virus to infect a human host and spread among the human population.

In addition, Sachs remarks:
“the tools of genomic manipulation have advanced so rapidly that the potential to create new deadly pathogens in the laboratory and accidentally or even deliberately release them is a very serious concern. The world currently lacks adequate international and national safeguards and transparency on such dangerous work, and the risks are compounded by the secretive bioweapons research programs several governments sponsor that help to sustain it.”
So there it is! Finally! The first time I've seen someone of Sachs's stature use the words “deliberately release” or “bioweapons research” in writing about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since early 2020, I've argued that it is quite likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was intentionally released in China in an act of sabotage. (My reasoning is explained here.) It seems that others are beginning to at least discuss this conjecture seriously in public without the words, “conspiracy theory.”

But, most importantly, Sachs notes that
“Neither the US nor Chinese authorities have yet been sufficiently forthcoming to date to enable researchers to advance our understanding of the origin of
SARS-CoV-2.”

and
“Many biosafety experts have long argued that such work ...requires much greater oversight, control, and scrutiny,”
Yes, it's way past time for the United States and China to both come clean and open up their laboratories to international inspection. It is way past time that all such experimentation be open to public scrutiny. After millions of deaths and hundreds of millions sickened, the public has a right to know.

Note: The emphasis in red within the Jeffrey Sachs quotes is mine.

Afghanistan: Taliban Cake Walk

The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and friends has been described as a “cakewalk.”

Now we have a “cakewalk” in reverse, as district upon district falls to the Taliban as US and other foreign forces slink home. The Taliban may even be purposefully slowing their advance so as to allow US forces time to withdraw.

Here's another wrinkle: China and Russia are apparently both concerned about a Taliban government in Afghanistan. After all, both have restive Muslim populations within their own borders. They may even be encouraging the US not to withdraw completely.

I think that having successfully fought for 20 years to expel foreign invaders from almost 50 different countries, The Taliban would be unlikely to take orders from any foreign source. Once again, Afghanistan has earned the moniker, “Graveyard of Empires.”

==================


June 22, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: On Sharing Vaccine

A reader sends in links to two articles detailing how some vaccine is finally finding its way to poor countries:

Here's one from NPR.

And here's one from the Guardian.

My response:

As these articles state plainly: while totally inadequate, this is certainly a step in the right direction. The process should have been started months ago.

Even supposing the virus did “jump naturally” from beast to man; we should ask who holds the greatest responsibility for human encroachment upon the wilds; setting up the conditions for the jump to humans? It is certainly the wealthy countries, with their infinite greed for oil, meat and lumber, who hold this responsibility. Yet these same wealthy countries have hoarded the supplies of vaccine and refused to even share their “intellectual property” with poorer countries.

Wilbur Ross

Donald Trump's former Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross has been in the news lately for extreme corruption, having made millions of dollars off of his position in the Trump Administration.

Wilbur Ross provided me with my first indication that the COVID-19 pandemic might have started in an act of sabotage against China, when he remarked in January 2020 that the novel coronavirus was “another risk factor” that people will consider before doing business in China.

“So,” Ross opined, “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.”

So, I ask: Would someone so callous, insensitive and corrupt think twice about sabotaging a rival country by releasing a deadly virus? Think about it.

My comment on the Wilbur Ross quote above was: “Hey, Wilbur, You're getting senile. You weren't supposed to say that in public.”

From Our Readers: Canadian Tar Sands

A reader writes:
“In connection with your comment on the Canadian tar sands, I tried to find some photos I had of this area in Alberta province. ... Truly dismaying what we are willing to do to nature for our selfish convenience.”
My response:

Yes, makes you wonder whether Nature might not be better off without us, ... at least until you recall that we are a part of Nature, not some Other that stands in opposition to Nature. The question I posed above might be analogous to asking whether we wouldn't be better off without our right arm.

On the other hand, Nature is quite capable of excising damaged parts of her body. She does it all the time ... and regrows new parts. We refer to this process as evolution. So, maybe we ought to be thinking about how we might survive the next mass excision event.

Erratum

The pipeline I referred to last week should have been the Keystone XL Pipeline, not the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Shanna Swan on Fertility

Shanna Swan's book on Fertility, Countdown: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Males and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race, which I discussed briefly two months ago, is now in the Rolla Public Library. I highly recommend it.

==================


June 15, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Greed and Stupidity at the G7 Summit
“Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail.” —Dave Jorgenson
G7 leaders met in Cornwall in the UK last week and agreed to do as little as possible when it comes to vaccinating folks in poor countries and curbing their own fossil fuel emissions. On the other hand, they agreed to ramp up the cold war against China and Russia. Meanwhile, the Red Arrows, UK's answer to the Blue Angels, in a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, burned up prodigious quantities of jet fuel with acrobatic stunts for the dignitaries waffling below, as our climate continues to heat up.

The self-proclaimed G7 countries are: USA, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.

Keystone XL Pipeline Dead; Now Let's Kill Line 3

After a decade of climate activism, the Keystone XL Pipeline which was to bring Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico has been declared officially dead. It's demise will not be lamented.

Meanwhile, activists continue to demonstrate against Line 3, which threatens potable water supplies and Native American Treaty Rights in Minnesota.

Smoke and Mirrors: Shell Deems Cargo of Fossil Fuels “Carbon Neutral”

Yeah, just like smoking can be cancer-neutral.

Shell apparently paid landowners for trees they had already planted and claimed this “neutralizes” the damage their fossil fuels do.

The bottom line: big oil has no intention of giving up fossil fuels without a fight. They would rather see “human civilization” collapse in a climate catastrophe than give up their cash cow.

US Drought Intensifies

Meanwhile 61% of the lower 48 states are now abnormally dry, with 45% in drought. The entire states of California, Oregon, Nevada and Utah are in drought.

An Environmental Disaster Off the Coast of Sri Lanka

The X-Press Pearl, a container ship loaded with plastic and chemicals burned and sank off the coast of Sri Lanka, contaminating the Sri Lankan coastline and a large area of the ocean.

This may give you some idea of the lack of resilience in our “global civilization.”

==================


June 8, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

COVID-19 Origins — Revisited
“It must be mighty discouragin'
To lie to the left of the origin.”
—Tom Lehrer

British science writer, Nicholas Wade released a bombshell article last month that has revived interest in searching for the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 (SARS2) virus which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Wade's point seems well-argued — that accidental escape from a gain of function experiment at Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is the most likely cause of the pandemic — although he doesn't rule out other hypotheses such as natural evolution.

Wade stresses that gain of function experiments into bat viruses at WIV were funded through the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases . Thus, these were really joint US-China experiments, although being conducted in China.

Gain of function refers to the enhancement of certain qualities of an organism through genetic manipulation, in this case, the ability to infect humans.

So let's call a spade a spade. These were experiments in bio-warfare, being performed under a different name. SARS2 might well be called a frankenvirus.

China and the United States are both signatories to the UN Biological Weapons Convention which prohibits the development of bio-weapons. Therefore, they had to claim that this is research into the ability of certain viruses to jump from animals to humans with the purpose of combatting or preventing the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

Wade writes:
“Why would anyone want to create a novel virus capable of causing a pandemic? Ever since virologists gained the tools for manipulating a virus’s genes, they have argued they could get ahead of a potential pandemic by exploring how close a given animal virus might be to making the jump to humans. And that justified lab experiments in enhancing the ability of dangerous animal viruses to infect people, virologists asserted.”
Ok. So why would the US and China collaborate on research into bio-weapons? Here I'm guessing, but I suspect each was looking to gain a jump on the other through access to each other's research and expertise. More than that, they buy each other's silence. We're all guilty here, so let's all keep our mouth's shut.

Back in July, 2020, I wrote:
“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.”

But secrets do get out. To quote Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley.”

Personally, I still favor the conjecture that I first stated in February, 2020 that SARS2 was created in a laboratory, probably a military laboratory in the United States, and released in China in an act of political or economic sabotage. The fact, which Wade brings out, that the United States knew so much about the gain of function experiments at Wuhan Institute of Virology lends credence to this conjecture. These experiments could easily have been repeated in the United States; and after the release — blamed on an accident at WIV.

China is certainly well-aware of this. China has claimed on multiple occasions that SARS2 might have been brought to China by the US military.

Regardless, it is past time for all biological labs to be open to international inspection. It is past time that the people of the world have a say in what kind of dangerous experiments with deadly viruses are performed in these laboratories. Viruses know no borders. They infect all of us, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. SARS2 has infected at least 174 million and killed at least 3.75 million.

          Note on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Nicholas Wade's article was published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In a box at the end the editors write, “As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever,” followed by a button that reads, “Support the Bulletin.” (That means give us money, in case you wondered.)

I beg to differ. As the Wade article makes plain, we almost certainly have scientists to thank for the current COVID-19 pandemic which has already killed over three million people. And scientists seem to have gone to great lengths to cover up their guilt.

Almost a century ago, Mohandas K. Gandhi formulated his seven social sins:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Religion without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
As a society, we seem to suffer from all seven; not the least of which is Science without humanity. I think what we need is a little less science and a lot more humanity.

          Note on the above Tom Lehrer quote:

This is an amazing pun. But then, Tom Lehrer is an amazing satirist. The quote
“It must be mighty discouragin'
To lie to the left of the origin.”

is from the song, There's a Delta for Every Epsilon (2:55), written decades before the COVID pandemic. It may refer to some other socio-political event or it may be a fortuitous accident.

In my very first post on COVID-19 (January, 2020), I linked to another Tom Lehrer song, I Got It from Agnes, which, among other things, underscores the importance of contact tracing.

==================


June 1, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Biden Proposes $753 Billion Military Budget

This is obscene. $13 Billion over Trump era proposal. Think of all the trees that could be planted and nurtured with this money. Think of all the carbon sequestered. Think of all the oil the military would not be able to burn without this money, and the carbon not added to our fast-warming atmosphere.

Biden Administration OKs $735 Million Sale of Bombs to Israel

To replace all the bombs dropped on Gaza last month; so Israel can devastate Gaza again from the air, including healthcare infrastructure, clean water, sewage, homes, schools, businesses, journalists' offices, etc. — whenever the whim arises.

Bernie Sanders introduces resolution in the Senate blocking the bomb sale.

Thousands in Israel demonstrate for a joint future for Palestine and Israel without bombs.

Biden Declares Goal of “Total Denuclearization” of Koreas
“It’s difficult to persuade someone to make a deal, if he is certain you’re planning to kill him, no matter what he does.” —Robert Alvarez
Hmmm, I wonder... Does denuclearization include the US nuclear submarines off the Korean coast? How about nuclear weapons based in the Pacific and elsewhere that threaten North Korea?

Let's get real. North Korea's ability to cause unacceptable harm to the US global empire is all that stands between North Korea and total devastation. (Think Gaddafi.)

US Troops Leaving Afghanistan; Government Troops Surrendering to Taliban

The Taliban appears to be allowing US and other foreign troops to “peacefully” withdraw. Meanwhile Afghan government forces are reading the writing on the wall and surrendering without a fight.

==================


May 25, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

“Anti-Semitism” in the “Post Truth” Era
“We live in a post-truth era, where facts don’t matter anymore.” —Damien Spleeters
One would expect an accusation of bigotry toward a media outlet would be accompanied by a description of a false, or at least misleading, statement. Not so. The Israeli embassy in China accuses China's state-run CCTV of “blatant antisemitism” for saying: “Jews dominate finance and internet sectors. So do they have the powerful lobbies some say? Possible.”

According to Open Secrets, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spent $2.65 million on lobbying in 2020. Pro-Israel billionaires Sheldon and Miriam Adelson made $218 million in political contributions during the 2019-20 cycle. The Adelsons were number one in political contributions during this cycle, 40% above second place Michael Bloomberg (also Jewish) who made $153 million in political contribution during this cycle.

So back to China's CCTV statement that so incensed the Israeli embassy: Fact or bigotry? You decide.

Personally, I would have difficulty discussing US foreign policy toward Palestine and Israel without also discussing the influence of wealthy Jews like the late Sheldon Adelson on US foreign policy.

US Losing Control; World Opinion Turning Against Israel

Almost 200,000 demonstrated in London in solidarity with Palestine. Huge demonstrations in other major cities too. This has never happened before. What has changed?

Gaza, which has been under Israeli/Egyptian blockade since 2005, has been characterized as the world's largest open-air prison with around two million inmates receiving barely enough sustenance to stay alive.

In 2008-9 Israel assaulted Gaza killing 1,417 Palestinians; Nine Israelis died.

In 2014, Israelis killed 2,251 Palestinians while losing 72, mostly soldiers invading Gaza. U.S.-built F-16s dropped at least 5,000 bombs and missiles on Gaza. Israeli tanks and artillery fired 49,500 shells, mostly massive 6-inch shells from U.S.-built M-109 howitzers.

In response to largely peaceful protests at the Israel-Gaza border in 2018, Israeli snipers killed 183 Palestinians and wounded over 6,100. 122 required amputations, 21 were paralyzed; Nine were permanently blinded.

In response, most of the world said, “tut tut,” and washed their hands.

This month's Israeli assault on Gaza has killed over 200 Palestinians. Israel has suffered ten deaths. The world appears to have finally awakened to this ongoing atrocity. Why?

I suspect the most important factor is that we now live in a multi-polar world. The United States is no longer the world's sole dominant power and no longer able to provide Israel with the level of protection it is used to. This allows others greater independence.

Here's an example: Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan castigated Joe Biden over a $735 million sale of military hardware to Israel saying:
“Now, unfortunately, you [Biden] are writing history with your bloody hands with this event. Gaza is being attacked with seriously disproportionate force causing the martyrdom of thousands of people. You have forced us to say this.”
This kind of independence, particularly from a NATO member, would have been unheard of a few short years ago.

A second factor may be the destruction of Gaza'a only COVID-19 testing site and other attacks on Gaza's woefully inadequate health infrastructure in the midst of a global pandemic. Israel plans to have its entire population vaccinated soon; Very little vaccine has found its way into Gaza.

Perhaps this is the atrocity that has finally inflamed the world.

On a personal note, I remain unvaccinated. I respectfully request that “my vaccine” be sent to Palestine where so many are so much more needy than I am.

“Today, We Are Nazis”

Meanwhile, in Israel, young hooligans, encouraged by police, beat up Palestinians chanting “Death to Arabs.”, “Kill them one by one.” and “Today, we are Nazis.”

“Today, We Are Nazis.” And so goes the noble experiment of a Jewish Homeland far from Europe's religious wars and pogroms.

Whither From Here?

I still feel the only viable future lies in a single state, comprising what are now considered Palestine and Israel, with equal rights for all, and the Right of Return for refugees and their descendants. From my reading, I think others may also be coming around to that point of view.

Time may, in fact, be running out. Here's a thought: What happens when Russian warships start escorting ships loaded with humanitarian aid into Gaza? Think about that one.

==================


May 18, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Autonomous Robo-Armies: The Wave of the Future

Militarists are moving closer to Robo-War. Indeed, the question of whether it is even necessary to have a “human” in the loop is being debated.

If you have never read one of Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories; now would be an excellent time. Saberhagen writes about a future when Berserker Ships, remnants of a long forgotten war, ply the Galaxy with a single objective: Destroy all life.

Israel: Mass Murder, Paid For by YOUR Taxes

Nobody says it like Chris Hedges. If you read only one article on this one-sided Israeli massacre in Palestine, let it be this article by Chris Hedges. Here's a short quote:
“The failure of the United States to stand up for the rule of law, to demand that the Palestinians, powerless and friendless, even in the Arab world, be granted basic human rights mirrors the abandonment of the vulnerable within our own society.”
Here are two more important articles:

Israel destroys Gaza's only COVID-19 testing site. Attacking a people's health-care infrastructure is always a War Crime.

Patrick Gathara discusses the many similarities between Israel and other European colonialist enterprises. He writes:
“Colonial occupiers have long claimed a ‘right’ to defend themselves from the resistance of native communities, including by committing mass murder. The history of African colonisation is littered with the corpses and mass graves of those who dared to resist the militarily superior Europeans.”
And:
“The idea that imperial land grabbers have the right to terrorise, brutalise, torture and murder those whose land they steal under the rubric of ‘self-defence’ flies in the face of UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43 of 1982 which recognised ‘the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle’. That resolution specifically reaffirmed this right in the case of the Palestinian struggle.”
Israel: Its Own Worst Enemy

While rockets fired from Gaza have killed 10 Israelis; 45 Israelis died in a “stampede” at a religious ceremony last month. Little Israeli children were crushed to death by berserk Israeli adults. Two more Israelis died this week when bleachers in a synagogue, built in the illegal settlement of Giv'at Ze'ev, collapsed.

Eventually, violence always turns inward, upon the perpetrators.

But, this is still a pittance compared to the more than 200 killed thus far in May by Israeli air strikes, using weapons paid for by the USA .

In my opinion, Israel has made a tremendous miscalculation. It Ass-U-Me(d) that it could always rely on The United States and that the United States would always remain the world's primary hegemonic power. We now live in a multi-polar world, in which The United States is in retreat. United States support for Israel is fraying. Many in Congress are now demanding an end to unqualified support for Israeli atrocities, a demand practically unheard of in Congress previously.

But I think this may be true of all colonialist enterprises. Empires rot from the inside out. I keep coming back to this line from Leonard Cohen, “Steer your way past the palaces that rise above the rot.”

Oh, I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain

The southwestern United States and much of Mexico remain in terrible drought. California Fires have started early this year. Through the end of April, fires in California have consumed eight times more land than they did in the record-breaking 2020 season. Drought has been predicted to intensify in the coming months.

An above average North Atlantic hurricane season has also been predicted.

Big Pharma Puts Profits Before Life

Lee Fang at The Intercept documents how big pharma spends millions lobbying to keep vaccine out of the hands of poor countries.

Cuba Begins COVID-19 Mass Vaccination

Cuba begins a mass vaccination campaign using its own homegrown vaccines — even before they clear final hurdles.

What I find most interesting here is the popular support the Cuban people have for their health-care workers and vaccines. Contrast this to the United States where 40% remain unvaccinated in spite of mass availability, nurses are leaving the profession over abuse and threats from the public and distrust of science and the medical establishment is rampant

Aerosol or Droplets: How Does COVID-19 Spread?

This article from Wired reads like a mystery thriller: How the medical establishment got it so wrong about how COVID-19 is spread and how a small group of mavericks finally got the establishment to listen, but not before millions died.

==================


May 11, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Covid-19 Vaccine

A reader asks whether I've been vaccinated yet, noting that 2 months ago I wrote that I was refusing vaccination.

My response:

Much has changed since February when I wrote:
“While wealthy countries rush to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, 130 of the World's poorest countries have not received a single dose of vaccine. Frontline medical workers in Zimbabwe are dying for lack of protection, while ‘lawmakers’ and hospital administrators in the United States cut to the front of the line. Israel is vaccinating its entire population while ignoring the needs of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation for over half a century.

“I think I'll pass on getting vaccinated. Send my vaccine to Zimbabwe or Palestine instead.”

and later in March
“Maybe when all the teachers and homeless people are vaccinated and Zimbabwe and Palestine are getting their fair share of vaccine — maybe then, if I'm still around, I'll get in line for a vaccination.”
In the United States, many weeks later, vaccines are overstocked and they are begging people to get their shots. Meanwhile there is still a severe shortage of vaccine in much of the world.

So, again, “I think I'll pass on getting vaccinated. Send my vaccine to Zimbabwe or Palestine instead.”

Here in the United States, Joe Biden has asked the World Trade Organization to waive big pharma's “intellectual property rights,” (Now, there's an oxymoron, if I ever saw one!) and allow other countries to manufacture vaccines. Europe has suggested instead that the US export its surplus vaccine. As this article makes plain, both are necessary. So while rich countries dither and stall, and big pharma grows fat, poor people in poor countries die.

There is yet another reason why rich capitalist countries are now talking about helping poor countries vaccinate their people. Cuba stands on the brink of successfully developing several vaccines, possibly as early as the end of this month. When that happens, it's game over. Because very likely, Cuba will give its vaccine away to poor needy countries.

“And so” as Jennifer Hosek points out in this article from The Conversation, “the US is now going to give away it’s extra fish before the fish rot.”

Ever wonder why the US places such brutal sanctions on Cuba, making vaccine development extra difficult? Think of all the obscene profit big pharma won't make if Cuba develops and gives away vaccine.

So getting back to the reader's question: I suspect by Fall, Cubans will be vaccinating the population of Zimbabwe and Palestine; and I will feel comfortable getting my shots.

Israel Desecrates Jerusalem Mosque; Murders Nine Children in Gaza

Out-of-control Israeli state terrorists fire rubber bullets and tear gas on Palestinians praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan. Israeli terrorists also bombed Gaza, killing nine children and a number of adults. The United States which gives Israel billions of dollars each year in military aid refuses to condemn the killing of Palestinian Children and other war crimes by Israeli state terrorists.

Taliban declares three day cease-fire for Eid al Fitr

Violence in Afghanistan has increased since the US reneged on it's promise to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 1. Nevertheless, the Taliban has declared a three-day Eid cease fire.

Teenage Climate Activists

Meet five very brave young teenagers who are standing up and challenging grown-ups and their climate destroying activities in court: from China's 18-year-old Ou Hongyi to Peru's 15-year-old Saúl Amaru Álvarez Cantoral.

CO2 in Atmosphere Tops 415 ppm

The 12-month average at Mauna Loa of CO2 in the atmosphere topped 415 parts per million last month for the first time in recorded history.

==================


May 4, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

2020: A Year of Militarism, Profits, Poverty, Death, and Disease

It was a year of sickness, death and poverty for the many. Meanwhile military spending worldwide increased to almost $2 trillion with the United States accounting for 39% of all military spending. Billionaires increased their wealth to over $10 trillion. Poverty increased to 800 million worldwide with 50 million in the United States alone. 1.85 million died worldwide of COVID-19, with 363 thousand dying in the United States.

Yes, 2020 was quite a year.

Looking for Wisdom in All the Wrong Places
“To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.” —Howard Zinn
When I first read this, I thought it was a joke. The Biden administration plans to deny the Taliban “international legitimacy” and economic aid, if they won't play by our rules after our departure. Really? The Taliban almost single-handedly beat back the most powerful military the world has ever known, including their Afghan allies and almost 50 other countries. Hey, how much more legitimacy could you ask for? And economic aid? I suspect Afghanistan will always be able to find a market for its opium among the wealthy of Europe and North America.

And Zalmay Khalilzad puts his faith in the Afghan Government to hold back the Taliban after foreign militaries depart. Huh? Without truly massive foreign military and economic assistance the Afghan government would have folded long ago.

And Lloyd Austin has figured out that Climate Change is a threat to our security. No kidding? How many hurricanes, wildfires, floods and droughts did it take you to figure that out?

'Nough said.

Are The American People Racist?

Joe Biden says, “I don't think the American people are racist.” But, I'd have to ask, which American people are we talking about? Still, one thing is for sure. We live in a racist society. The phrasing of this question itself is racist. The Americas include two large continents as well as Central America, the Caribbean Islands and more. To use the word “Americans” to refer exclusively to the inhabitants of just one country comprised of maybe 10% of the area and 30% of the population is racist. Many Americans who are not Estadounidenses find this offensive. Many Americans who are Estadounidenses are totally unaware of this.
Note: Unitedstatesian is hard to say and doesn't sound nice. I like the Spanish word, Estadounidense. It flows easily off the tongue (once you get used to it) and has a nice sound to it. I think we should adopt it. Here are a few other words we have adopted from the Spanish language: mosquito, guerrilla, pronto, rodeo, El Niño. There is a much longer list here.
In truth, I think our problem is an addiction to violence, of which racism is merely one form. Here's an incident that demonstrates this addiction quite well: Last year in Loveland, Colorado, a 73-year-old woman weighing 80 pounds with dementia and sensory aphasia was beat up by police who dislocated her shoulder and broke her arm and then left her for hours without medical attention and joked about it. Her race is not mentioned in this article, although she appears Caucasian. (Loveland, huh?)

Individuals with sensory aphasia typically “have difficulty understanding written and spoken language” and “remain unaware of even their most profound language deficits.” Sensory aphasia can be a death sentence in a society in which police may react violently when their commands are not obeyed immediately.

==================


April 27, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Censorship

          Ban This Book

Last month, when I was writing about Dr. Seuss and censorship, a reader recommended Ban This Book by Alan Gratz.
“[We] are reading a book called Ban This Book. ... I think you might like. ... A parent [Trey's mom] pushes the school board to ban a variety of books (all of which are real books and have been banned at some point) in the school library, and the students set up a hidden library of the books in a locker and loan them out. The students' interest in the books grew because they were banned. ... Trey doesn't like it and starts filling out forms to ban ALL the books as a protest and to show that what his mom is doing is ridiculous. The line ‘Once you ban one book, you can ban them all’ stuck with me. And then the kids start getting creative about banning others: stories about lions? Too gory.”
This book fits in well with the discussion of Dr. Seuss and how children can change the world. In the story, the kids (non-violently) convince the School Bored (sorry about that) to reconsider their actions. The Rolla Public Library has a copy of this book. You are never too old to read good juvenile fiction.

          Censoring Blasphemy

Last year, Charlie Hebdo reprinted hurtful cartoons of Islam. Besides sharing responsibility for a number of murders, Hebdo has created yet another international incident. They almost got the French ambassador expelled from Pakistan. — They may yet succeed. They may even bring about the world's first (and last) war in which both sides use nuclear weapons. Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has suggested that Europe ban blasphemy, drawing a parallel to banning the denial of the Holocaust, which has been done in parts of Europe.

Along with the discussion of Dr. Seuss last month, I noted that:
“We have totally banned religion from our public schools. Maybe if schools would teach the many and important similarities among religions, we wouldn't be plagued with so much religious hatred and deadly attacks upon houses of worship. But teaching religion in a fair, impartial, non-judgmental manner is VERY DIFFICULT. It's much easier to just ban the subject entirely.”
It is understanding and acceptance that we need. Censorship is a very poor substitute for understanding. Censorship is, at best, condescending: We'll save you the details which you wouldn't understand anyway. Just take our word for it. At worst, it is a denial of necessary information, providing severe punishment to any who, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, would disseminate it

Five years ago, I wrote a piece about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. Perhaps, if so much of the world hadn't celebrated the dead at Charlie Hebdo as martyrs to the cause of free speech for publishing hurtful cartoons, this wouldn't be happening again.

Strange. All this brou-ha-ha about a few images in a Dr. Seuss's story; but no public outcry over Charlie Hebdo's images which are thousands of times more hurtful. Why?

From Our Readers: Interview with Noam Chomsky

A reader recommends this interview with Noam Chomsky. It's somewhat long, but well worth the trouble.

Ukraine: Everyone Blinkened

Last week I reported that after a phone conversation between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, Biden decided against sending warships into the Black Sea. This week Putin began withdrawing troops from Ukraine's borders. That's diplomacy.

China and the USA: Committed to Cooperating

Here is a link to the U.S.-China Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis in which they announced that they were “committed to cooperating” (and little else). That's also diplomacy.

==================


April 20, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Afghanistan: Update

As expected, Joe Biden reneged on the agreement to remove all US troops from Afghanistan by May 1. Nevertheless, he hedged his bets by unilaterally declaring a new exit date: September 11. Progressives are ecstatic! However, the Taliban was not impressed and declared that the U.S. has “proven they can’t be trusted,” and promised a “nightmare” for US troops in Afghanistan.

Norman Solomon points out that withdrawing troops does not guarantee Peace between the United States and Afghanistan. As in Iraq a decade ago, withdrawal of troops may not signal an end to bombings, special operations or CIA sabotage.

Brian Terrell discusses the future of the War Against Afghanistan and other important issues of War and Peace in this short article.

My thoughts:

After pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, three years after it went into force and then pulling out of the Doha Peace Agreement with the Taliban two years after signing, US credibility (as we mathematicians like to say) is <ε as ε->0. (For non-speakers of mathematics, that means so close to ZERO only God could tell the difference.)

I can't imagine why anyone who is ecstatic over this would call himself “progressive.”

Here's a likely scenario. The Taliban may react to Biden's abrogating the May 1 withdrawal date with renewed attacks on foreign troops and government forces. After that, Biden may rethink the September 11 withdrawal date and the War Against Afghanistan may drag on into its third decade.

I think we should “declare victory” and get our troops out by May 1. We may still have 11 days left.

Ukraine: Update

After a telephone discussion between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, Biden decided against sending warships into the Black Sea. We don't know what they said to each other, but more war may still be imminent. Pray for Peace.

Unfortunately, the UK is planning to send warships in our stead. If history be a guide, later, when they get into trouble, they will likely ask the US to bail them out, as they did in Iran in 1953 and the Malvinas in 1982. Maybe it's time to stop getting played for a sucker by former imperialists. Had we remained neutral in 1953 and 1982 the world would be a much different place now.

Incidentally, in 1956, the UK, Israel and France expected the US to bail them out after they invaded Egypt. Instead, US President, Dwight Eisenhower, told them all to go home. Our credibility has never been so high.

Taiwan: Omission and Update

Last week I mentioned that Taiwan and the Southwestern United States were both suffering from severe drought. I neglected to mention that the Chinese mainland also suffers from drought. Beijing has weathered three terrible sandstorms in five weeks as sand blows in from drought stricken areas to the North. South China's coastal areas close to Taiwan Island have also been suffering from drought.

Last week, I suggested that everybody put their differences aside and work together to reverse global warming. Apparently someone was listening. John Kerry came home last week from Shanghai with a joint statement that the U.S. and China are “committed to cooperating” on the pressing issue of climate change.

This is the best news I've heard in a while, although I'm not sure what it means to be “committed to cooperate”. Let's hope it means, among other things, reducing tensions and working toward Peace in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Maybe Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, will have some concrete examples for us soon. Meanwhile, extreme weather, brought about by climate change, continues to plague us all.

==================


April 13, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: The Taliban

A reader writes:
“You sound as if you think the Taliban taking over is a good thing. ... My understanding is that the Islam of the Taliban is a disaster for women. ... From what I've read, women have had more rights under the American occupation of Afghanistan than under the Taliban. I fear this progress will be erased once the Taliban takes over again.”
My response:

To my knowledge, no talib has ever shot up an Asian massage parlor. In the United States, where deadly violence has become a daily occurrence, all too often killing women and children, one has to wonder why one would characterize people halfway around the world as “a disaster for women.” Would it not make more sense to spend one's energies trying to decrease the level of violence here at home?

Afghanistan has been constantly at war for 42 years, most of the time against foreign invaders. War is a disaster for all, but particularly for women and children. Not surprisingly, in Afghanistan too, deadly violence is a common occurrence. I find it difficult to talk about any kind of Rights at all, when you may have a bomb dropped on your house at any time or if you go outside you may get mowed down by a reaper.

42 years ago, the United States, with a lot of help from Saudi Arabia, armed, trained and financed foreign mujahideen, including Osama bin Laden, to fight against Afghanistan's Soviet-friendly government which was quite progressive in its treatment of women. After the Soviet Union was driven out of Afghanistan, the Taliban gained control of 2/3 of the country, and may have succeeded in unifying it, had the United States, along with an alliance of close to 50 countries and a smattering of local warlords, not invaded and occupied.

Since 2001, The Taliban has been quite successful in challenging foreign invaders and an occupation government that would likely fall within months were it not propped up militarily and economically by foreigners. The Taliban now control over half of Afghanistan, and the foreign invaders seem to have little stomach for continuing the fight. If the Taliban stands poised to gain control of Afghanistan, it is because they have fought to free Afghanistan from foreign control, while others collaborated.

It is often referred to as “cancel culture,” where you focus on one aspect of a group to paint it with a negative brush. It is very important to give credit where credit is due. If you focus on the negative, that is, indeed, what you will get: negativity. This is not the way to make Peace.

Do I think the Taliban or any other government that may come out of 42 years of war will be a progressive democracy? Of course not. The evils, that result from war, remain long after the fighting has stopped.

War has a way of coming home. We make war all around the world, and now our homeland is at war with itself. Perhaps, had we not made 42 years of war in Afghanistan, the victims of last month's Asian massage parlor shootings and countless others might still be alive.

Unfortunately, this is a bitter lesson that we have yet to learn.

More War on the Horizon
Military Budget:
It doesn't seem to matter whether the government is Democrat or Republican. The military budget goes nowhere but up. Biden's budget proposal includes an increase of $11 billion over the already bloated Pentagon budget.
Taiwan:
China and the United States continue to escalate provocations in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Here's a little history: Taiwan was brought under Chinese suzerainty in the 17th Century and then ceded to Japan in 1895. Japan ruled Taiwan until the end of World War II, when the island was returned to China. When the Guomindang (Nationalists) were driven out of China in 1949, they set up a renegade government in Taiwan, under the protection of the United States, whose navy controlled the strait between Taiwan and the mainland. Since then, China has considered Taiwan a renegade province and proclaimed its intention to eventually reunite the island with the mainland. Until recently, the Guomindang has harbored the illusion that it was going to return to the mainland and seize control of all China.

It is only recently that China has felt strong enough to challenge US dominance in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. As an ascending power, China holds all the aces. All they have to do is wait. The Chinese are a patient people. Waiting is among their strong suits. In the case of Taiwan, they have already waited over 70 years.

Incidentally, Taiwan, like the southwestern United States, is currently suffering from severe drought. Taiwan's scenic Sun Moon Lake is a dry desert. Wouldn't it make far more sense for everybody to work together to reverse global warming?
Ukraine:
A resurgent Russia and an aggressive NATO are both building up their forces on Ukraine's borders and in the Black Sea. A nuclear exchange is certainly possible, perhaps even likely.

March 2021: Eighth Warmest on Record

Driven by a moderate La Niña episode and an unstable jet stream, February 2021 was the least anomalously warm month since November 2014. This relatively cool interlude did not reach into March, which has climbed back into the top ten warmest months of that name. More climate details in this ongoing essay on Climate Catastrophe.

==================


April 6, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Fertility Crisis: Is Extinction Ahead?

When we think of extinction of the human race, we usually think of nuclear war or climate change; but here's another one:

Dr. Shanna Swan, professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York City, estimates that by 2045, most couples may need medical assistance to reproduce. Yes, but what if due to collapse of global civilization such assistance is no longer available?

The culprits are endocrine disrupting chemicals, like the common herbicide, atrazine, that have become ubiquitous in our environment. Besides having been implicated in the gender identity crisis, these chemical have now been linked to infertility that is also reaching crisis proportions.

Afghanistan: Who's Winning?

The US “newspaper of record” since 1913, The New York Times, has noted that “The Taliban think they have already won” the War Against Afghanistan; and that is a “belief, grounded in military and political reality.” In spite of Afghanistan's reputation as the “graveyard of empires,” single-handedly defeating the most powerful military the world has ever known along with an alliance of close to 50 countries and a smattering of local warlords, is certainly no mean feat. This may well be a unique achievement in human history.

So what's next?

Foreign militaries may leave Afghanistan to the Taliban by May 1, over 19 1/2 years after they invaded; or they may prolong the agony into its third decade. Either way, eventually the invaders will be ignominiously forced out with nothing to show for their effort. Some, although not the New York Times, predicted this almost 20 years ago.

Dr. Seuss Snippets Posted

The three snippets on Dr. Seuss from the past three weeks have been combined into a single article and posted at http://tomsager.org/IStillLoveDrSeuss.html

==================


March 30, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Still More on Dr. Seuss and Racism

Last week I included a link to an image from Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo with a comment that I found this image, which contains two black Africans with monkey faces, naked except for a grass skirt and a ridiculous-looking top-knot, extremely offensive. This week I offer an alternative image (below). I do not think this new image adds or subtracts one iota from the story-line. (Gerald McGrew imagining what fantastic creatures he would put in his zoo.)


(Which is Dr. Seuss's and which is mine?)

It's interesting to note that most (if not all) of Dr. Seuss's images are caricatures and yes, caricatures can be offensive, and yes, we should be careful about how we use them.

As a lover of earthworms, perhaps I should be offended by this ridiculous looking worm with huge round eyes from The Big Brag. I'm not. (Read the story to find out why.)


(Incidentally, worms don't have eyes, although they can sense light and dark.)

I recommend to Dr. Seuss Enterprises that they redraw any questionable images and then republish the six books that they have discontinued. There is a precedent for this. Dr. Seuss's Hooray for Diffendoofer Day (another of my favorites) was published posthumously with help from two friends.

And, to close, here is a verse on reading Dr. Seuss:
Oh, the world is so full of a number of books;
Read one or two and you might find you're hooked;
And that's why I think that I do nothing wrong,
When I wait for the sunrise, reading Seuss all night long.
From Our Readers: on Banning Books

One reader recommends T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn, writing:
“Are you familiar with the British author T.H. White? His most famous work is The Once and Future King, a retelling of the Arthurian legends recorded by Sir Thomas Mallory. T.H. White's version is charming and highly fanciful, not a children's book, but one I suspect you might well approve.

“White was a writer of pacifist tendencies, and his final section of the novel called The Book of Merlin was excisioned and set aside at the time of publication, when England was under heavy danger of invasion by Nazi Germany. The Book of Merlin was discovered among his posthumous papers some years ago and published separately by the University of Texas, the current owner of all his manuscripts.

“If you have not read this remarkable work, I highly recommend it. I happened to be attending the University of Texas about the time it came out and ran across it in a bookstore. I am rereading the entire novel all these years after, and with every pleasure I enjoyed at the first.”

Another reader recommends Alan Gratz's Ban This Book, writing:
“[We] are reading a book called Ban This Book. ... I think you might like. ... A parent [Trey's mom] pushes the school board to ban a variety of books (all of which are real books and have been banned at some point) in the school library, and the students set up a hidden library of the books in a locker and loan them out. The students' interest in the books grew because they were banned. ... Trey doesn't like it and starts filling out forms to ban ALL the books as a protest and to show that what his mom is doing is ridiculous. The line ‘Once you ban one book, you can ban them all’ stuck with me. And then the kids start getting creative about banning others: stories about lions? Too gory.”
My response: Both books appear extremely worthwhile. I intend to read them. Yes, if you can ban one, you can ban them all. And here are two further thoughts on censorship:

We have totally banned religion from our public schools. Maybe if schools would teach the many and important similarities among religions, we wouldn't be plagued with so much religious hatred and deadly attacks upon houses of worship. But teaching religion in a fair, impartial, non-judgmental manner is VERY DIFFICULT. It's much easier to just ban the subject entirely.

Julian Assange languishes in Belmarsh Prison for exposing various atrocities committed by the US military in the Middle East. Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia for exposing illegal government surveillance of private citizens. Exposing wrongdoing in high places should NEVER be considered a crime.

I think Snowden said it best: “I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.”

Disruption of the Current World Order

After a week blocking shipping in the Suez Canal the Mega-Freighter, Ever Given, has finally been freed and the backlog of traffic has started to flow through the canal. The disruption has cost world shipping many billions of dollars.

Jeff Masters discusses the weird weather that likely caused the Ever Given to run aground in the canal. He also discusses the connection between climate change and the likelihood of such unusual weather and points out that as the Earth's climate continues to warm, we should expect more such unusual weather events and disruptions of the global supply chain.

There is little resilience in global trade which is extremely vulnerable to disruptions whether the cause is human, natural or both. Without trade, global empires will become impossible to maintain.

Think local!

Violence upon Violence

One would think that after the failed coup of January 6, politicians and media pundits would tone down their rhetoric just a little. It ain't happening. Ron Weiser, a regent of the University of Michigan, called the governor and two other female elected officials “witches,” and in almost the same breath talked about assassination and burning witches at the stake. To my knowledge, he still serves as regent of the University of Michigan.

Ever wonder why we are plagued with so much violence? Ever wonder why our institutions of higher learning are in such disarray. As Robert Koehler has pointed out: “This is America, where we have the freedom to manifest our lethal fantasies.”

==================


March 23, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: More on Dr. Seuss and Racism

Several readers wrote in to say they approved of my defense of Dr. Seuss last week.

One reader writes:
“I agree wholeheartedly with your defense of Dr Seuss. What are we doing right now that future generations may one day condemn and insist our whole culture must be cast in the river? I can hear it now: Do you know what these ignorant ancestors did? They raised animals, fed them and cared for them, and then--brace yourself--ATE THEM. Don't shake your head in disbelief, look it up!”
My response: Here's another example:
“Do you know what these ignorant ancestors did? They made bombs that could destroy all human life on Earth. And then they threatened each other that if they didn't get their way they would explode them!! Don't shake your head in disbelief, look it up! It's a miracle that any of us are still alive today.”
Another reader wonders if the reasons for censoring the Dr. Seuss books were all like the examples I gave last week [the word “Eskimo” in McElligot's Pool and the image of a “Chinese boy who eats with sticks” in And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street] or were any more serious.

My response: Most were similar. However, I found this image from “If I Ran the Zoo” extremely offensive. I would not show this image to young children.

I've given considerable thought to this question since then. I am in no position to decide for anyone else what they should or should not find hurtful. The last thing I would want to do is hurt any of the children I read to, or their teachers, parents or caregivers; so I try to be attuned to what might be hurtful and try to be proactive. I don't always succeed. Here's an example.

I used to read a book entitled Moe Q. McGlutch, He Smoked Too Much — about a wealthy donkey who chain-smoked and his non-smoking zebra cousins. One day, I looked at a girl whose clothes smelled strongly of second-hand smoke and wondered how the book made her feel. I decided to stop reading it.

How would it feel to have your parents characterized as donkeys in front of the whole class? There must be better ways to teach children not to take up harmful habits than to be hurtful to children of heavy smokers. It's not their fault. They didn't ask to be born into a family of smokers.

Is this censorship? I don't think so. There are thousands of stories. We story-tellers choose which ones we tell; and, unlike the act of reading, the telling of a story is personal — it becomes ones own. So changing the words or the images are more acts of personalization than of censorship. I feel under no obligation to the author to tell the story the way it was written. Among pre-literate cultures, story-tellers were among the most revered members of the tribe.

An Example: Sam and the Tigers (aka The Story of Little Black Sambo)

I love this story. I use very little of the original Helen Bannerman (1899) book except the story itself. The images I use are from Christopher Bing's 2003 book that retains Bannerman's words. The name is from Julius Lester's 1996 retelling of the story. The telling is mostly my own.
Sam is on his way to school. It's his first day of kindergarten and he's dressed in his new clothes. He meets four tigers. Each one growls, “Grrrr, Sam I'm going to eat you for breakfast.” Sam gives each tiger an article of clothing and exclaims, “Oh, Mr. Tiger, you're the best dressed tiger in the whole jungle.” The tiger is proud of his new clothes and doesn't eat Sam. (By time we get to the third tiger, most of the class has these two lines down pat.)

The tigers get to fighting over who's the best dressed tiger in the jungle. They take Sam's clothes off the better to fight. Sam puts on his clothes and goes to school. The tigers get overheated fighting each other and melt into a pool of butter. Sam loves school. He's the best dressed kid in his class. Dad finds the pool of butter and takes it home. Mom makes pancakes that come out golden brown with black stripes, just like the tigers. Sam is never bothered by tigers again.
Nice story. And it has a moral. Diplomacy works where brute force fails. And you're never too young to be a diplomat. Nothing offensive here, unless you're a tiger. Hard to remember that the original book was branded as racist and censored.

Racism is a difficult subject. So much is subjective and has to do with intent and perception rather than outward form. Objective forms of racism are much easier to deal with; but subjective forms are far more insidious. I think choosing stories that give a positive image of unfamiliar peoples and cultures are far more effective than censorship.

Here's my favorite book with a Chinese theme: Dragon Soup by Arlene Williams and Sally J. Smith
Tonlu works the family farm with father, mother and her five younger siblings. The farm is on the side of a steep mountain. At the top of the mountain live the immensely wealthy cloud dragons. When Tonlu finds out the merchant will foreclose on their farm unless she marries him, she decides to steal treasure from the cloud dragons to pay the merchant.

Two cloud dragons are squabbling over who makes the best soup and Tonlu shows them how mixed together their two soups are even better than either one separately. The dragons are so thankful they give her treasure to pay father's debt and fly her around the world.
Perhaps, if we had been reading children books like this instead of focusing on an image in a Dr. Seuss story, the eight who died in the recent Asian massage parlors shootings would still be alive.

And my favorite book about Arctic peoples is Lydia Dabcovich's The Polar Bear Son.
An old woman with no children to care for her adopts a young polar bear. The polar bear grows up quickly and becomes the best provider of fish and seal meat in the village. Even after the villagers drive the bear out, the polar bear son continues to catch fish and seal for his mother.
There are so many different cultures from which I'd like to have good stories. I'm always looking for new books. It makes me sad that I have so few.

These days, when we must all work together in the face of so many threats, from militarism to climate change to emergent diseases, positive stories like these send a powerful message of cooperation and understanding.

==================


March 16, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

I Still Love Dr. Seuss
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” —Albert Einstein

“And I thank you, I thank you for doing your duty,
You keepers of truth, you guardians of beauty,
Your vision is right, my vision is wrong,
I'm sorry for smudging the air with my song.”
—Leonard Cohen (A Singer Must Die)

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” —Albert Einstein

Six books by Dr. Seuss, amazing books of childhood imagination, censored by the “keepers of truth and guardians of beauty” Why? Apparently, they didn't like an image of a young Chinese male eating with chopsticks; so they censored And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937). They didn't like the word “Eskimo” so they censored McElligot's Pool (1947). Both books are about a child's imagination running wild and astounding the “adults in the room.”

Such arrogance! First: these “keepers of truth and guardians of beauty” are telling young Marco: Imagination is fine, but we'll tell you what you are allowed to imagine. Don't imagine that you saw a “Chinese boy who eats with sticks;” Don't imagine that you might catch an “Eskimo Fish.” Such imaginings will not be permitted.

Second, these “keepers of truth and guardians of beauty” are reaching far back into the past and telling authors long deceased what they are allowed and not allowed to write. In the case of McElligot's Pool (one of my favorites) those who are presently choking our oceans with plastics and literally killing the fish through global warming and acidification are telling young Marco, almost 75 years in the past, don't imagine that there are Eskimo Fish in the ocean. Such arrogance!

But, as young Marco replies to the farmer who tells him he is a fool to try to catch fish in McElligot's Pool:
“Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish,
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
And that's why I think that I'm not such a fool,
When I sit here and fish in McElligot's Pool.”

Some might argue that a stereotypical image of a Chinese youth eating with chopsticks is hurtful. It certainly wasn't meant to be. In the 1930s China was a land of mystery. About all that many in the United States knew of Chinese people back then was that they have somewhat flatter faces than Caucasian people and eat with chopsticks.

Some might argue that the word, Eskimo, is hurtful. It certainly wasn't meant to be hurtful. In fact, at the time, it was the only word many of us knew for peoples who lived above the Arctic Circle. It wasn't until much later in life that I learned names like Inuit, Aleut, Yupik and Sami.

****************************

So, how are we to deal with changing perceptions of what might be hurtful?

I've spent 19 years volunteering in schools reading to young children. If I think an image is inappropriate, I simply skip that page or, using a photo-manipulation program, change the page to something I feel more appropriate. If I think some words are inappropriate, I change them. (Actually, I rarely read stories. Instead, I tell the story, usually in my own words, particularly if I think some of the written words might be inappropriate.)

Here's a page from McElligot's Pool with “Eskimo Fish” replaced by “North Polar Fish.”



And here's a page from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street with “A Chinese boy that eats with sticks” changed to “Some giant insects, walking sticks” and the image of the Chinese youth changed to a row of giant walking sticks.



Perhaps, Dr. Seuss would approve (of the idea; not the artwork).

****************************

My favorite Dr. Seuss story is Bartholomew and the Oobleck. I think it's at least as important an environmental allegory as The Lorax and I think that having the hero of the story being the same age as my audience is very helpful in keeping their attention. For those not familiar with the story:
King Derwin wants something new to fall from His sky. He calls his royal magicians and they make oobleck fall. Oobleck is green, gooey and sticky. There seems to be no way to stop the oobleck until the page boy, Bartholomew, gets the king to cry, “It's all my fault and I'm sorry. I'm awfully, awfully sorry!” Then the oobleck magically stops falling and melts away.
I particularly like the ending. I think children deserve a happy ending. There is far to much unhappiness in the world already; and many children have already encountered far too much of it. I think Dr. Seuss might have agreed.

Another facet of this story that I like is that it shows that children can change the world. After King Derwin and his magicians (scientists, as I tell the story) almost destroyed the world, Bartholomew sets everything right again by looking the king in the eye and telling him “You might be a mighty king. But you're sitting in oobleck up to your chin. And so is everyone else in your land. And if you won't even say you're sorry, you're no sort of a king at all.”

(Perhaps, Greta Thunberg had this story in mind when she chastised our modern-day royalty: “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!”)

I think youth are learning that they can change the world. Perhaps, Dr. Seuss has helped to show them the way.

****************************

Notes on the word, “Eskimo”:
Note 1: There is an extensive discussion on Wikipedia of the word, Eskimo, which is viewed in Canada and elsewhere as a derogatory term. According to this article:
“There exists a scholarly consensus that the word Eskimo etymologically derives from the Innu-aimun (Montagnais) word ayaskimew meaning ‘a person who laces a snowshoe’ ... and does not have pejorative meaning in origin....

“Some people consider Eskimo offensive, because it is popularly perceived to mean ‘eaters of raw meat’ in Algonquian languages common to people along the Atlantic coast. ... This etymology, which some people still believe, has been discredited. Regardless, the term still carries a derogatory connotation for many Inuit and Yupik.”

Note 2: To my knowledge, there is no universally accepted word in the English language, other than “Eskimo,” for pre-colonial inhabitants of the Arctic, their descendants and no others. (Anyone out there in readerland have one?)

Note 3: Discussions like this of nomenclature bring to mind the conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (in my opinion, the greatest of all English-language writers of children's literature).
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.”
==================


March 9, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Making War in the Greater Middle East and Afghanistan: Will Joe Biden be #8?

Those of us who had hoped that Joe Biden would become a somewhat more peaceful president than his seven predecessors are quickly becoming disillusioned.

Seems like Biden wants to renegotiate the Peace Agreement with the Taliban and may renege on the May 1 deadline for all foreign troops to exit Afghanistan. That's a stupid move. The Taliban seems to hold all the aces. They are far stronger now than they were after George W. Bush's 2001 “cake walk” through Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance of Warlords and a coalition of almost 50 countries. The Taliban has successfully resisted the US occupation for almost 20 years now. I suspect they will continue to resist for another 20 years if that's what it takes to get foreign troops out of their country.

They don't call Afghanistan the “Graveyard of Empires” for nothing.

And next door in Iran: Biden is resisting rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) insisting on Iran making “concessions.” Hey, the United States left the agreement. Indeed, it is the only party to have left the agreement. If the US wants to rejoin, shouldn't it be the first to return to compliance?

Rochester, NY Rivals Our Southern Border for Child Abuse Capital of The United States

A few weeks ago, the Rochester Police handcuffed a nine-year old, put her in the back of a police car and pepper-sprayed her, apparently because she was hysterical and crying for her daddy.

Interim Police Chief, Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, responded to this incident by proclaiming that this is, “just not who we are.”

Well, guess what? Some of the same police officers involved in the pepper-spray incident mentioned above just tackled and pepper-sprayed a mother holding a three-year-old.

No, Ms. Herriott-Sullivan, that is exactly who we are. ICE authorities on the border who separate children from their parents and keep them in cages have nothing on Rochester, NY.

To tie this together with the previous snippet: Is it any wonder that in places as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan and Okinawa, folks want nothing more than for US troops to leave?

The Philippines and the Comoros Ratify Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Philippines and the Comoros have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons bringing the total number of state parties to 54. The Treaty went into force on January 22, 2021. Sadly, the nine Nuclear Weapon States: US, Russia, France, UK, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are still missing in action and hold all of humanity hostage to their nuclear weapons.

Lets hear a loud “Hip Hip Hooray!” for the Philippines and the Comoros.

Fukushima, Ten Years Later, Still Leaking Deadly Radiation

March 11 will mark the 10th anniversary on the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan. Fukushima, like Chernobyl, will threaten the world with deadly radiation for decades to come.

Isn't it long past time to decommission and cleanup all these dangerous nuclear power plants?

Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Meet.

Pope Francis traveled to Iraq and met with Islamic leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This is unprecedented. I pray that this meeting will help put the world on a path toward Peace.

==================


March 2, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: On Getting Vaccinated

I received three responses relating to my short snippet last week on vaccine hoarding, in particular to the final two sentences, “I think I'll pass on getting vaccinated. Send my vaccine to Zimbabwe or Palestine instead.” I have rarely, if ever, received three responses to one small snippet; so I must have hit on something very important.

Here, again, is the snippet:
“While wealthy countries rush to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, 130 of the World's poorest countries have not received a single dose of vaccine. Frontline medical workers in Zimbabwe are dying for lack of protection, while “lawmakers” and hospital administrators in the United States cut to the front of the line. Israel is vaccinating its entire population while ignoring the needs of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation for over half a century.

“I think I'll pass on getting vaccinated. Send my vaccine to Zimbabwe or Palestine instead.”

One reader writes:
“The trouble with passing on your vaccination is that it's not really yours. You can't pass it on to Palestine or Zimbabwe or anyplace else for that matter. In fact, if you don't take it when it's your turn, it may just go bad and be thrown away. Also, you just might get COVID and be put in a hospital, taking up space that somebody else might need for an unrelated matter. And then who would write the Rolla Peace News? So I urge you to please take it.”
Another writes:
“you have packed so much into this week's edition. The Heart of Darkness quotes (I remember the first one). The Over the Edge Piece which was profoundly moving and left me searching to learn more about Afghanistan. The statistics on where our vaccines are going, a new perspective I hadn't yet heard but which does impact whether I would want to get the vaccine. I appreciate the wisdom you share, Yusha, thank you. Wishing you well this evening.”
A third sends a link to register for a vaccination, https://modhss.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_231d5TxZxkGedCt, without comment. (This, I take to mean, Just go register and get your shots. If I misinterpret, let me know.)

A hearty thank you to all three readers who took the trouble to write in. There is so much to respond to here, I hardly know where to start.

Well, let's begin with, “The trouble with passing on your vaccination is that it's not really yours.” Well, then who does it belong to? Big Pharma, which developed the vaccine with public money and is making billions of dollars off of it? The US government, which bought it from Big Pharma with public money after paying for its development?

In my opinion, since this is a global pandemic, vaccines *SHOULD* belong to the global commons, not to any particular country or corporation — you know, like the atmosphere *SHOULD* belong to the global commons and *SHOULD* not be used by any particular country or corporation as their own private trash can.

Unfortunately, as pointed out last week, the wealthy countries, which have a terrible record when it comes to sharing, have cornered the market on COVID-19 vaccines.

Now let's talk about origins. Although the origin of SARS-CoV-19 is uncertain, it was discovered first in China. How did it get there? Lots of conjectures; but few facts. (As mentioned before, I consider most likely the conjecture that it was created in a laboratory and released in China as an act of sabotage.)

How did it spread? People, mostly from wealthy countries, traveling and jet-setting around the world; people shipping stuff around the world, mostly to wealthy countries. One thing is certain: Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, living under an almost complete Israeli blockade, aren't the ones responsible for spreading the pandemic around the world.

Well, when it comes to distributing vaccine, shouldn't those least responsible for spreading disease get priority over those most responsible? Wouldn't that be fair?

Unfortunately, the first reader is correct. As much as I'd like to, I cannot pass “my vaccine” (which isn't really mine) along to Zimbabwe or Palestine. However, since it's not really mine, it shouldn't matter much whether I take it or not. Right now, the lines are long. If I don't make an appointment for a vaccination, “my vaccine” goes to someone who did; and everyone gets to move up one notch. It doesn't sit there spoiling waiting for me to make an appointment. If I change my mind, I can always get on line later.

I don't expect to change my mind soon for a number of reasons:
1. I'll probably only be around for a few more years at most. Seems a shame to waste scarce vaccine on giving someone who sleeps most of the day a possible year or two more of life. Wouldn't it be better to give “my vaccine” to my daughter and son-in-law who are raising four children, one less than six-months-old?

2. I have a home where I can shelter-in-place and not spread disease among the general population. Wouldn't it be better to give “my vaccine” to a homeless person or a prison inmate who can't shelter-in-place?

3. I rarely go out and when I do I am double-masked and come in contact with few people. Wouldn't it be better to give “my vaccine” to a pre-school or kindergarten teacher who comes in close contact with twenty children five days a week for seven hours a day?
And finally:
4. With so many people, so much more needy than I am, in so many corners of the world, I would feel like an accomplice, if I accepted scarce vaccine from the same system that denies that same vaccine to those most in need.
Maybe when all the teachers and homeless people are vaccinated and Zimbabwe and Palestine are getting their fair share of vaccine — maybe then, if I'm still around, I'll get in line for a vaccination.

Addendum:

Here is an article by Nick Dearden detailing the system by which Big Pharma makes obscene profits, while literally killing people in poor countries; and how wealthy countries, through their system of global patents enforce this atrocity.

==================


February 23, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Nature Bats Last: Case Study: Texas Under Winter Storm Uri
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly.”
—Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)

Question: What's the Difference between Human-Induced and Natural Disasters?

Answer: There may not be any. They blend so seamlessly into each other. After all humanity is a part of Nature.

But let's take Texas under Winter Storm Uri as an example:

Without human-induced global warming would Uri have hammered Texas so badly? Probably not. A warmer climate causes a weakening of the jet stream which keeps the winter cold air bottled up in the far North. Texas, with its fossil fuel industry is certainly responsible for more than its share of global warming.

Then there are human factors: Failure to winterize critical infrastructure. Failure to connect to a larger grid. A rate structure that allows utilities to raise rates in real time as demand goes up. All designed to maximize profits while minimizing resiliency. Why, indeed, spend profit preparing for unlikely events like Storm Uri?

And all the pollution, including methane and other greenhouse gases, generated as the oil and gas refineries hastily shut down. These only add to global warming and increase the chances of yet another devastating disaster looming on the horizon.

The storm has passed. As Texas warms up and attempts to recover in the wake of Winter Storm Uri, we would do well to recall another line from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness:
“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.”
Collapse and Extinction: Two from the Past

I've been working on reorganizing my website, rereading old articles I wrote long ago. Here are two oldies particularly pertinent to year 2021.

Over the Edge, an article written in 2012, discusses Collapse of civilization. Strange, much of what I read today assumes that things will eventually get back to the old normal. I don't think so.

And here is a poem on Extinction from 2014, also very pertinent.

Health Outcomes: Two More from the Past
“An isolated incident is business as usual that has been detected.” —Fred Reed
In response to the post from January 2020 that I quoted last week:
“humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe” and the United States is “perhaps particularly vulnerable [to SARS-CoV-19]. 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?”
A reader wrote to me about her difficulty and the expense of trying to get her family medical insurance. This brought to mind two articles from 2018:

Here's one about a woman with her leg caught between the train and the platform screaming at bystanders NOT to call an ambulance because she couldn't afford it.

And here's a video about a hospital in Baltimore dumping a mentally ill patient on the street in a hospital gown in freezing weather.

And people wonder why the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has been the very worst of all wealthy countries. (And there is plenty of competition. But, no, you can't blame it all on Donald Trump)

Vaccine Hoarding

While wealthy countries rush to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, 130 of the World's poorest countries have not received a single dose of vaccine. Frontline medical workers in Zimbabwe are dying for lack of protection, while “lawmakers” and hospital administrators in the United States cut to the front of the line. Israel is vaccinating its entire population while ignoring the needs of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation for over half a century.

I think I'll pass on getting vaccinated. Send my vaccine to Zimbabwe or Palestine instead.

==================


February 16, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Alfred E. Neuman Returns (Incognito)

When I first read the Final Report to the U.S. Congress of the Afghan Study Group of the U.S. Institute of Peace, I had a flash back. I thought I was reading Mad Magazine.

The Study Group recommends “An immediate diplomatic effort to extend the current May 2021 withdrawal date [for U.S. troops from Afghanistan] in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.”

In other words after invading Afghanistan along with a coalition of almost 50 other countries, and remaining almost 20 years, more time is needed to produce an acceptable result.

Funny: although I recognize some of the authors of this report, such as General Joseph Dunford and Michèle Flournoy, as members of the Defense Establishment, I fail to recognize any peace activists such as Kathy Kelly, Mark Haim or Medea Benjamin among the list of authors. Some Peace Institute! Some study group!

Alfred E. Neuman could not have said it any better. “What, Me Worry?”

Revenge of the Polar Vortex

No, this is not the title of a grade C horror movie. This is reality, brought to you by that great Chinese hoax, Climate Change. It's breaking records all over the country. It's making a killing at the box office and beyond. If you haven't seen it yet, just step outside. If you haven't heard about it yet, tune in to your favorite channel.

World Health Organization Mission to China Returns — Empty-Handed

After four weeks in China, the WHO, off-again, on-again, mission to China returned without a clue about the origins of the SARS-CoV-19 virus. They did, however, pronounce the hypothesis that the virus escaped from a Chinese Laboratory “highly unlikely.” “No, No,” said their Chinese counterparts, “you must be thinking of Donald Trump.”

I still maintain that the most likely scenario is that SARS-CoV-19 was created in a laboratory and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.

But don't mind me. I'm just an unrepentant conspiracy theorist. In fact, over a year ago, I spread the conspiracy theory that “humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe” and the United States is “perhaps particularly vulnerable [to SARS-CoV-19]. 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?”

Funny: The Lancet is saying much the same thing now. Never thought a well-respected medical journal like The Lancet would fall for such a conspiracy theory.

And if you think the sabotage conspiracy theory is unlikely, read Bionoia.

==================


February 9, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Bionoia

A reader writes in that she had never before heard of Bionoia but would like to read the article.

My response: I hadn't heard of it either, until I read the Wickiser article and started doing an internet search on bio-warfare and bio-terrorism. I think Bionoia is a very important article and highly recommend it. In order to facilitate the reader, I have combined all six parts in one file and posted it on my website.

Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman's A Higher Form of Killing is another good source for information on biological and chemical warfare.

From Our Readers: A Terrifying Warning

A reader writes in recommending the article, The Terrifying Warning Lurking in the Earth’s Ancient Rock Record by Peter Brennan.

My response: An excellent article. Brennan traces 56 million years of Earth's history back to the Eocene when temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were far higher than they are now and gives us a glimpse of what the world may soon become. Brennan points out that invariably, when it comes to modeling climate projections, worst case scenarios continue “to prove stubbornly accurate in the 21st century so far.”

War in Yemen May Soon Be Over

The War in Yemen has been characterized as the world's worst humanitarian disaster. (And there is a lot of stiff competition.) President Biden is curbing support for the Saudi coalition and has sent an envoy to help arrange a Peace agreement.

Also he has removed the “terrorist” designation from the Houthi side in order to facilitate Peace negotiations.

Bernie Sanders has called the decision to end US participation in the War in Yemen “a tribute to the work of so many activists over the years.”

Lots of other places in the world in desperate need of Peace. Maybe Palestine and Israel can be next.

==================


February 2, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

3. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)

Bio-warfare / Bio-terrorism

The off-again, on-again World Health Organization's fact-finding mission to China to inquire into the origins of the novel-coronavirus (dubbed SARS-CoV-2) has finally materialized — over a year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck Wuhan. I wouldn't expect any new bombshells to come from this mission. Likely, the trail has turned cold; and anyway, I don't think the “experts” really want us “deplorables” to know what actually happened.

Last August, J. Kenneth Wickiser, Professor of Biochemistry and Dean for Research at the US Military Academy warned that with recent advances in molecular biology, it is, or soon will be, possible for an advanced high school student with a few tens of thousands of dollars to create a designer virus, possibly even more deadly than the novel-coronavirus. (But don't worry folks. Just give us more money, and we'll keep you safe from bio-terrorists.) And so it goes...

But, where did SARS-CoV-2 come from? The accepted explanation seems to be that it started out in a bat, probably a horseshoe bat in China's Yunnan Province and jumped around from species to species until — Voila! It ended up as SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan from whence it spread around the world. Interestingly, Wickiser parrots this orthodoxy, while opining that a SARS-CoV-2-like virus could have been synthesized in a laboratory.

Well, putting the two stories together, it occurred to me that perhaps someone took that virus home to their laboratory (maybe an advanced high school student, but far more likely a researcher in bio-warfare) fiddled with it a bit, ended up with SARS-CoV-2 and either by accident or on purpose released it in Wuhan. Now who could have done that?

Mike Pompeo's parting shot was to claim China is hiding information about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and the virus likely came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China countered with why don't you open your hundreds of bio-laboratories, especially the military bio-warfare laboratory at Fort Detrick, to international inspection. The Guardian and other illuminati fired back, calling the implication that the virus was synthesized in a US laboratory a “conspiracy theory.” Meanwhile the Biden White House expressed “great concern” over “misinformation” from China. (The White House doth protest too much, methinks.)

Bio-warfare is a rather nasty way to fight a war — not that there are necessarily any nice ways to fight wars — but spreading disease is certainly one of the more unpleasant ways to fight. I looked into this many years ago when the US Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School moved to Fort Leonard Wood ... enough to know that I didn't want these biological agents 30 miles down the road from me. I was one of a small handful of folks who testified against moving the Army Chemical School. As usual, the military got what it wanted. But, I think I learned something. Now, each time a seemingly new disease or more virulent form of an existing disease hits — I think — bio-warfare / bio-terrorism.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2 there were certainly indications. A year ago, as the COVID epidemic forced China into lockdown, US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, crowed about all the jobs that will now be coming back to North America. It was almost like he had planned it. And any mention of the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 might have been Made-in-the-USA is immediately squashed with loud cries of “Conspiracy Theory.” (Again, they do protest too much, methinks.)

But back to the present. I found this six-part article (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6) written between 2005 and 2007 called “Bionoia” at countervortex.org. It's a good short history of bio-warfare. If you don't care to read the whole thing, then just read Part 6, as it's probably most closely related to the current situation. Part 6 discusses HIV/AIDS and is full of indications that HIV is a synthetic virus, probably synthesized by the US military. In fact in 1969 Dr. Donald MacArthur, then Director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency testified before Congress that with $10 million, in five years he could probably synthesize a new organism that would be resistent to the human immune system. MacArthur got his $10 million; and ten years later, the world got the AIDS pandemic which has claimed many millions of lives.

In short, I defy any reasonable person to read this six part Bionoia article, and then tell me that it is not a plausible hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 was synthesized in a laboratory in the United States.

And getting back to the title of this snippet: What is the difference between bio-warfare and bio-terrorism?

Answer: There may not be any.

While all technology has a tendency to proliferate, bio-weapons have added capabilities. They know no borders. They can hitch rides on mosquitoes, ticks, llamas, dogs, birds, bats, rats — almost anything, especially people. And they are not static weapons. They can mutate — far beyond the imaginations of their inventors.

Here is a pertinent saying from the Chinese:

“Lifting a rock, only to drop it on one's own feet.”

There is a similar saying in English that goes back at least to Shakespeare:

“Hoist with ones own petard.”

==================


January 26, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

What to Do with Donald Trump's Border Wall

Derrumbando Muros Construyendo al Pueblo

Down with Walls; Up with People

Pink seesaws erected across the border wall between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez won the London's Design Museum award for best design of 2020. Now children on both sides of the border can play together defeating the fiction that you can separate people by building walls or drawing lines in the sand.

I hope this concept catches on. Let's turn all man-made borders into playgrounds. Then we can truly become one people sharing one world.
Note: This article comes to us from Art Dorland who has written for us twice before. Art got the article from a friend in Texas.
Honor Our 400,000 Dead

As of this afternoon, the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States stands at more than 434,000. This is more than 144 times the number lost on Sept. 11, 2001 when the twin towers fell in New York City and more even than the number lost during World War II.

Rivera Sun reminds us that:
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of our failure to limit the spread of COVID-19...

“There is no foreign nation to falsely accuse and illegally invade this time. The culprits are ourselves, the lies of politicians, our gullibility, and the propaganda of media outlets. It is painful to think of all the ways we failed our fellow citizens in this crisis.”

And finally:
“To fail to reckon with the losses our nation has faced from this pandemic is to fail to measure up to our basic humanity. The dead deserve far more than what we’ve offered them and their families. These losses will haunt us for centuries to come. We can only hope that in this haunting, we change the ways in which lives are counted or discounted, and souls are lost . . . or perhaps saved.”
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty Goes into Force; START Treaty to be Extended

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have agreed to a five year extention of the START treaty which limits both countries to 1,550 nuclear warheads and bombs apiece. (NOT a Peace!) While this is a breathe of fresh air after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was allowed to lapse last year, still, I have to ask, what does any country need with 1,550 nuclear weapons? One hundred would be more than enough to wipe out the entire human race.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which, among other things, outlaws possession of nuclear weapons, went into effect last Friday with 52 state parties, Benin and Cambodia having recently ratified the Treaty. Still missing in action: the nine nuclear weapon states and most of their allies.

==================


January 19, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Two Things to Celebrate This Week

1. Noon, tomorrow, marks the end of the Donald Trump presidency. Trump has perpetrated numerous atrocities during his four-year presidency such as separating children from their parents and keeping them in dog kennels at the border and ignoring threats to all of humanity like nuclear war, global climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. But perhaps his most atrocious act is the cold-blooded murder on 13 prison inmates on death row. Whereas many of Donald Trump's most atrocious acts can be reversed, there is no way to bring these 13 tortured souls back to life.

Legal documents make difficult reading; but Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer's dissent in these death-penalty cases is well worth the trouble.

Still, I would be remiss if I did not mention this positive aspect of the Trump presidency: Whereas many look at the Trump presidency and say: “This is not who we are.”, Donald Trump has shown us that this is exactly who we are. After four years of Donald Trump, 75 million of us voted to give him another four years in the White House and tens of thousands attempted by force and violence to extend his presidency.

I think that it is time for us all to look in the mirror, and resolve to do better in the future. Make no mistake here. WE are all complicit.

Donald Trump's successor, Joe Biden, claims to want to unite us all. I wish him well. Still, I would like to know: Unite us to what purpose? 20 years ago, as the World Trade Towers burned and fell, we had a president who united us to make war and build empire throughout the world. It was a disaster. 20 years later, wars continue unresolved, atrocities abound, civilization crumbles, and unity is nowhere to be found.

2. On Friday, The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons goes into force. 51 State Parties have agreed: “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Missing are the nine nuclear weapon states and most of their allies. Missing is Japan which has suffered more than any other major state from nuclear weapons. Now with The Treaty entering into force, it is time to bring the rest of the world to proclaim: No nuclear weapons, anywhere.

==================


January 12, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: The Nashville Bomber

A reader writes:
“I read your newsletter last night and was struck by how personal it was. You don't usually say much about yourself—you share opinions but not personal information. ... and you writing about the loneliness of the Nashville Bomber and your own personal experience makes me want to reach out to more people. ...

“I do try to say hi to the quieter neighbors and the ones more isolated. It's hard during the pandemic, though. One neighbor had told me one day that she battled depression and then I didn't see her out walking for weeks, so I sent her a postcard to say we missed her. I got the sweetest note in reply. I like to think that little gestures can mean a lot, and if we all do a little more, we can have a stronger, better community. But maybe that's too ‘Pollyanna-ish’ of me.”

My response:

I agree! Little gestures do mean a lot — perhaps more than grand acts. Helen would say that every little thing we do reverberates throughout the Universe.

In the case of the Nashville bomber, I strongly suspect a small kindness might have prevented the mayhem. The beauty of it is that no one but God will ever know how the small kindnesses we do or don't do will change the world.

And, yes, I try not to write about myself. I don't wish to sound like I'm all wrapped up in myself; and above all, I would not care to bore people.

Wednesday's Coup Attempt: Well, What Did You Expect?

Here is a list compiled by William Blum of U.S. attempts to overthrow foreign governments since the end of World War II. The list ends with the Ukraine in 2014; so let's add:
Nicaragua: 2018, failed coup
Bolivia: 2019, successful coup (overturned 2020)
Venezuela: ongoing attempt
Iran: ongoing attempt
Some of these overthrow attempts, such as Vietnam (1945-73), Chile (1973) and Iraq (2003) have been particularly vicious. Some have led to hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths.

So, here is my question. How long can a country get away with such vicious, bullying behavior before the chickens come home to roost? In the case of the United States, we might well answer: until last Wednesday.

The death toll from Wednesday's coup attempt now stands at six. When all is said and done how high will it rise? I suspect well into the thousands. Tens of thousands of vigilantes came from all over the United States and stormed the Capitol, mostly maskless. They shared their viruses and took them home with them to spread among their communities. Expect our already high numbers of infections to increase; and expect the death toll from COVID-19 to increase along with the infections.

And this coup attempt is far from over. The coup-plotters have vowed to continue; and I suspect they will.

So, what can we do to strengthen our own government? Let's start by leaving other people's governments alone.

==================


January 5, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

A Further Note on COVID-19 Vaccines and Mutations

Thanks for writing to us, Emily. It is so good to hear from you after all these years. And we hope that you and your family are all safe and healthy and have enjoyed the holidays. Thank you for all you are doing to keep us safe and helping us through these trying times of pandemic.

I think the issue with today's vaccines is not so much whether they will work in the future; but that THEY ARE WORKING NOW. I feel confident that they are working as advertised, because they have been subjected to intense international scrutiny. Some countries (such as Cuba) have excellent doctors and medical researchers who would be a lot harder to fool or co-opt than what little is left of our medical regulators in the United States. Also there are websites, such as Russia Today, that would be most happy to jump on any irregularities that came to light in western-produced vaccines. And would the wealthy be cutting in line to get vaccinated if the vaccines were a hoax?

Today, with increased infections and hospitalizations rising precipitously, it is important that we all do whatever possible NOW to keep the infection rate down so as not to further overwhelm our overstretched public health infrastructure and personnel. Getting a vaccination, when available, even if it turns out to be less effective than what we hoped for, would seem to be the very least we can do.

I, too, have seen pronouncement by “experts” that today's vaccines will work on tomorrow's mutations. I do not share your confidence in these experts. They have been wrong again and again, particularly when it comes to predicting the future. This novel coronavirus continues to blindside us.

Rather than looking at vaccines as a magic bullet, I would suggest looking at them as just another weapon in our arsenal against the novel coronavirus: along with masking, testing, contact tracing, hand washing, social distancing, immune system enhancing medications, anti-viral medications, quarantining, crowd avoidance etc.

The bottom line: This will be a protracted war. We must be prepared for further surprises.

More from Dr. Emily Masterson

“I agree that the vaccine will be just one tool, albeit a very important tool, to get the pandemic under control. Here is a nice graphic you can share if you’d like.



“Lastly, thanks for the link to the article about the virus mutating—that’s a good article, however it does not alter my optimism that the vaccines will likely be effective against future mutated strains.”


The Nashville Bomber: “A Most Peculiar Man”
“He was a most peculiar man;
He lived all alone within a house,
Within a room, within himself,
A most peculiar man.”
—Paul Simon (A Most Peculiar Man)

Reading about Anthony Warner, the Nashville Bomber, the Simon and Garfunkel song, A Most Peculiar Man, popped into my head immediately — a lonely man, with no one to talk to, planning his suicide, to the most minute detail.

Fortunately he was a kind man. He could have taken thousands with him. Instead, he parked his RV in downtown Nashville next to an AT&T communications hub and broadcast a warning, “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode.” He took no hostages. He killed no one but himself. There were few injuries — none severe.

Nashville was indeed fortunate. They could have gotten a Stephen Paddock who picked off 60 concert-goers in Las Vegas before turning his weapon upon himself. They could have gotten an Andreas Lubitz who locked himself in the cockpit and set his Germanwings airplane with 150 aboard on a collision course with a mountain; or an Adam Lanza; or a Jim Jones.

The police are looking for a motive. Why did he do it? I think the more important question is why did he go to such great lengths to minimize fatalities when others in his position have sought to maximize death.
“He had no friends, he seldom spoke;
And no one in turn ever spoke to him,
'Cause he wasn't friendly, and he didn't care,
And he wasn't like them.
Oh, no, he was a most peculiar man.”

His neighbors described him as a recluse. Apparently he had internet acquaintances; but that's not the same as having friends. According to a neighbor, he had dogs and took excellent care of his dogs. Dogs make wonderful companions; But dogs grow old and die, often before their owners. According to the neighbor he no longer had dogs. Why didn't he go to the shelter and adopt another dog? It might have saved his life. Or if a neighbor had come to him: “This little dog is homeless. Could you care for her?” or a cat; or a houseplant; anything to drive away the loneliness. Humans are social beasts. Loneliness is a killer.

Could he have sought help from a mental health professional? The lonely and depressed are extremely vulnerable. Perhaps he was afraid of being locked up and doped up. Mental health professionals can be very intimidating.
“He died last Saturday.
He turned on the gas and he went to sleep,
With the windows closed so he'd never wake up
To his silent world and his tiny room...”

Whatever the reason, he planned his suicide carefully and methodically. He could have simply turned on the gas and gone to sleep like Paul Simon's Most Peculiar Man. Apparently he wanted to do something so the world would remember him. So he blew himself up along with Nashville's communications network.

A former girl-friend told the police he was making bombs in his RV. The police chief said they did everything they could do legally to investigate. Perhaps they had. Tennessee is a pro-gun state. Is keeping explosives in an RV against the law in Tennessee? I don't know.

The FBI released a photo of him to the news media. Such a sad face. Looking at the photo, one can well imagine that he was contemplating suicide.

Why did Warner choose a location next to a major communications hub? Given his background in information technology and alarm systems he must have known, or at least suspected, that his bomb would do major damage to Nashville's communications network. So maybe he did Nashville a favor. His dying act demonstrated the vulnerable of Nashville's communication network. Suppose someone intent on killing a lot of people had exploited this vulnerability?

Apparently Warner professed to some eccentric beliefs — such as alien lizards who are changing our DNA. Did this have anything to do with his modus moriendi? Perhaps.

But I have a conjecture here. Maybe he just wanted to show us what it's like to be alone, to be unable to communicate.

Isn't is strange? Here we are, 7.8 billion people on Planet Earth. We have smart phones and 5G networks that allow us to communicate almost instantly with almost everyone on Earth. Yet, in humanity's 1/4 million years of existence on Planet Earth, we have never been more separate and alone.
“And all the people said, ‘What a shame that he's dead;
But wasn't he a most peculiar man?’”

Strange. In all my reading about this incident, I have yet to come across anyone saying, “What a shame that he's dead.” Here was a man with a lot to offer. From the little I've read about him, I would say he may have been a brilliant man. But he was alone, and the loneliness drove him mad.

You may wonder, how do I know this? Well, you see, I've been there.

British Judge Refuses to Extradite Julian Assange

This is a great victory for Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, which published leaked documents on US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than rule on the Freedom of the Press issue, Judge Baraitser refused the US extradition request on the narrow grounds that US prisons are barbaric (which they obviously are). The US has appealed.

Here's an (off-color) cartoon I photo-collaged for Julian Assange ten years ago.

==================

More of
Tom's Blog
2021-22

2019-20
2017-18

2015-16
2013-14

2011-12

==================