Tom (Yusha) Sager's website home feedback
July 14, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Bob Dylan and Chess
Our reader writes:
My response: I've heard that besides being the iconic singer/songwriter of the 1960s, Bob Dylan was also a pretty good chess player. I don't think he ever released the story of East Orange and the chess pieces.“I enjoyed your column, as usual. But there’s one thing that I really appreciated, namely, Dylan’s routine about chess. I didn’t even know it existed. I realize that’s not the main point of your remark, but still, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Thought I must say I’m glad the university didn’t pay me in chess pieces!”
Incidentally, Dylan's East Orange routine comes from the song, State of Arkansas, which, in turn, comes from traditional roots. Here's a 1940s recording of State of Arkansas by the Almanac Singers.
I'm still no closer to understanding economics and currency than I was last month; but, I found this quote from Chief Joey Dearling of the KhoiSan tribe helpful:“Then I got me a job on a farm. But I didn't like the work, nor the food, nor the farmer, nor his wife, nor none of his children. So I went up to him one day and I told him, ‘Mister, I'm quittin' this job, and you can just pay me off right now.’
From Our Readers: Ralph Nader“Money divides communities and does not satisfy the needs of the people.”
Our reader writes: “I worked so hard in 2000 to get Nader elected. We need viable new political parties that actually represent us. I lost steam after that loss; I need to find my spark again.”
My response: Ralph Nader was by far the most qualified presidential candidate I've seen in my entire lifetime. I worked hard for him in 2000 too. Given my age and the state of my health, I think my spark is gone for good. I leave it in the capable hands of my readers.
From Our Readers: The Mitten
Our reader writes: “The Mitten is one of my all time favorite Jan Brett books, and she has many that I like. I, too, hope you'll be writing about peace in your next newsletter.”
My response: When war expanded to encompass the entire Ukraine, one of the first thoughts to enter my mind was, The Mitten. Sadly, there is still no Peace in the Ukraine — not even close.
From Our Readers: Brutality
Our reader writes: “Nice piece, Tom. One comment: [you write] ‘gains won through excessive brutality tend to be short lived.’ Japan's gains in WWII certainly bear that out, but this statement would be hard to defend when applied to the European conquest of indigenous America”
My response I think ‘French’ Guiana and a few small Islands are all that's left of the brutal European colonizations of the Americas. Also Denmark has a colony in Greenland which is nominally a part of North America. If I've missed any, let me know.
Nowadays, we call US colonies, such as Puerto Rico and Standing Rock, territories or reservations instead of colonies.
And here is a wonderful two minute video of an Amerindian and his attitude toward some descendants of European colonizers.
There is a reason why Brazil, and now Argentina and other American countries traditionally in the Western economic sphere, are turning toward establishing strong economic ties with Russia, China and the BRICS nations.
June Update to Climate Catastrophe Posted
June saw flooding from Yellowstone National Park and Cuba to Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the southwestern United States and much of Africa, Asia and Europe experienced intense heat and drought.
NOAA rates June 2022 as the sixth warmest June on record, although NASA rates June 2022 as tied with June 2020 as the warmest June.
Other highlights are posted in Climate Catastrophe.
Writings on Russo-Ukrainian War Posted
I've put them all together in a single blog and posted them here.
Addendum to Who is *REALLY* Responsible for Global Hunger?
In addition to what I wrote last month, George Monbiot points out that land that could be used to feed people is being used to grow bio-fuel to feed our machines. He also notes that there is little if any savings from the point of view of emissions of greenhouse gases. Indeed, there may even be increased costs in carbon emissions to using land in this way.
More European History: an Animation
This 12-minute animation of 2,400 years of European history is well worth watching. You can watch nations come into existence, change their boundaries and disappear.“I've seen the nations rise and fall,
In the February 28 newsletter I linked to a long list of European wars and discussed a few of them briefly. Besides the ubiquitous internal European wars, Europe gave the world centuries of wars of colonial exploitation, two world wars, a 45 year long cold war, and much more. The Russo-Ukrainian War is just the latest in a long list of dumb European wars.
To be sure, the other continents have their problems with war too; but not to the extent Europe does.
Some folks, such as our good neighbors to the South in Mexico, are smartening up and refusing to take part in this latest dumb European War.
Months ago, I suggested that Afghanistan, having been invaded by every major player in the Russo-Ukrainian War, and having driven out every last one of them, would be uniquely qualified to work out a peace deal in the Ukraine. This suggestion hasn't gained much traction. Still, I renew it again today.
Here's another question: Why would anyone, after watching this animation, expect the map of Europe not to change further in the future? Anyone out there in readerland have an answer?
June 29, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Who is *REALLY* Responsible for Global Hunger?
If you only read the Western press you might be excused for thinking that global hunger is all Russia's fault; but let's dig a little deeper, as Ralph Nader does in this article.
Why doesn't each country and each region produce locally what is necessary for its people to survive?
Answer: Global Capitalism. Corporations make a killing (Literally!) on leaving people dependent on so-called free trade. So, people in Africa are dependent on grain from Russia and the Ukraine for survival. And what happens when the supply chain is disrupted? People starve.
And why are supply chains disrupted? Many reasons: Pandemic disease, Climate change, Wars, Sanctions, or the people are just too darn poor to be bothered with and have nothing of interest to global markets. But these are proximate causes. The root cause is that global capitalism is interested only in profits. People be damned!
Obviously, a resilient system that cares about people would ensure survivability, regardless of global disruptions; but resilience eats into profits; and global capitalism runs on profit.
After reading Ralph Nader's article, think about how we had four chances to elect Ralph Nader, President of the United States, and instead opted for vastly inferior candidates: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
May Update to Climate Catastrophe Posted
Among the Catastrophic May highlights: Agricultural production throughout much of the world has been hit hard by heat, drought and floods, compounding food shortages, also caused by war, theft, greed and inequality, and causing humanitarian disasters from Africa to Afghanistan. Follow link for details.
BRICS Nations May Develop Reserve Currency to Challenge Dollar
The BRICS Bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is working on developing a reserve currency based on the combined currencies of the BRICS nations. Besides challenging the dominance of the dollar, a BRICS reserve currency would be a boon for all nations that suffer under Western sanctions — not only Russia, but also Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, North Korea and others. The loss of dominance of the dollar could spell extreme economic difficulties for the United States and other economies whose currency is tied to the dollar.Look, sir. Look, sir.
Argentina and Iran have applied to join the BRICS bloc. Others may follow.
Note: I have never understood economics, and still don't. When I think of currencies, I always think of this famous line from Karl Marx:
How much more so for our modern electronic-based currencies!“Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your subjective imagination.”
I also think of this Bob Dylan routine about money, chess and East Orange, New Jersey.
Maybe, someone out in readerland can explain currency, so I can understand it.
Roy Jones Jr.: Runner-up to The Greatest
Former world champion heavyweight boxer, Roy Jones Jr., who has dual citizenship in the United States and Russia, responded to an attack from another former world champion heavyweight, Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, who questioned Jones's “moral compass.”
Jones responded: “If it was up to me, we wouldn't even have a war.”“So, Roy, whose side are you on? On the side of the aggressor, or on the side of the defender of his right to live? I respect you as a fighter but I really question your moral compass.”
Jones added:“I have people on both sides of the fence. I don't wanna see nobody die. Nobody fight like that because people die of war. I don't wanna see nobody on either side die. I have loved ones on both sides of the fence. You understand me? I got kids on this side, people on that side. I love both sides. I don't want to see nobody die.”
Jones is working on freeing basketball star Brittney Griner who faces trial in Russia on drug charges. He remarks, “if [Brittney] was my daughter, I would want somebody to do the same thing for me.”“If you think you can whoop me, that's a whole different thing. ... If you want to do something about it, then me and you can fight anytime.”
I've heard talk of a prisoner exchange. I like the idea. I suggest a one-on-one prisoner swap: Julian Assange for Brittney Griner. Everybody wins.
Jones is a great boxer. Perhaps, second only to the late Muhammad Ali, who famously quipped about another brutal devastating war fifty five years ago, “I ain't got no quarrel with the VietCong. No VietCong ever called me nigger.” Muhammad Ali is still THE GREATEST. But, Roy Jones Jr. is a close second. (my opinion)
Note: I saw this story first on Russia Today. Had they not run this important story, I probably would have missed it. I don't follow sports and entertainment; and, outside the sports section, US news outlets apparently didn't consider it “newsworthy.”
66 States Have Joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Seven States ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the first six months of 2022 (through June 29), bringing the total to 66. They are: Cabo Verde, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Grenada, Guatemala, Malawi and Timor Leste.
There is still no interest in this treaty among the nine pariah states that maintain nuclear arsenals. They are: China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, The United Kingdom and The United States.
State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons undertake (among other things) to “never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
Chris Hedges on the Progressive Bloc
Chris Hedges notes that every single so-called progressive in Congress voted to pour $40 Billion of oil on the fires of war in the Ukraine. Meanwhile, It was left to Marjorie Taylor Greene to state the obvious, “$40 billion [for Ukraine] but there's no baby formula for American mothers and babies.”
Europe Returns to Burning Coal and Other Environmental Disasters
As gas imports from Russia diminish, Germany and other European nations turn to coal, the dirtiest of the dirty and the most carbon intensive of the carbon intensives.
And the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, plus the European Union) “with a view to accelerating the phase-out of our dependency on Russian energy, [stresses] the important role increased deliveries of LNG can play, and acknowledge that investment in this sector is necessary in response to the current crisis.”
And in the USA, Biden breaks campaign promises and restarts selling new drilling leases.
And across the great divide, Russia is postponing green energy projects, citing US/EU sanctions which make importing necessary technology difficult.
Seems like hurting Russia has become more important than helping planet Earth recover from centuries of unbridled human exploitation and greenhouse gas emissions.
What happened to conservation and non-polluting renewables which should be replacing disruptions in global fossil-fuels?
Boris Johnson Mocks Vladimir Putin — Threatens to Go Topless
Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders joked about competing with Vladimir Putin by taking their shirts off.
I'm not sure what their plan is here. Maybe they think Putin will die laughing, looking at Johnson's naked chest.
I know I've told you this before, Boris, but here it is again: Don't mock warriors with nuclear weapons.
June 5, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Some Ukrainian and Russian Stories
Before the pandemic hit and they closed the schools, I used to read stories to pre-school though first grade classes at Mark Twain Elementary. Some of our favorite folk tales were from the Russo-Ukrainian area.
In truth, I'm tired of writing about War; so here are some wonderful stories. Maybe someone else will pick up the ball and read these tales to the children when school reopens in August:
The Mitten: a Ukrainian folktale adapted and illustrated by Jan BrettAnd some other good stories from the Ukraine and Russia:
Christmas Spider's Miracle: a Ukrainian tale written by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated by Stephen Costanza. How a poor widow and her three children shared Christmas with a spider family.Maybe if we learned each others folk tales we could stop fighting and live in Peace. Here's how you write, “Peace,” in Ukrainian and Russian: мир. It's the same in both languages. Both languages use the Cyrillic alphabet. Its pronounced slightly differently in each language: mir (Russian), myr (Ukrainian). Perhaps, God willing, in the next newsletter I will be able to write that now we have мир in the Ukraine.
May 13, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Climate Catastrophe Updated
The April update to my Climate Catastrophe essay has been posted. Most notable among the April highlights is the brutal heat wave in Pakistan and parts of India. In humid locations, like the Indus Valley, this heat wave is pushing the climate toward the limit of human survivability.
I found extremely thought-provoking this article by Michael Marshall in the Guardian about the Little Ice Age and what we can learn from it. Give it a try.
Russo-Ukrainian War: Winners and Losers
The big winners seem to be certain oil companies and weapons manufacturers. For example: from February 23 (the day before the invasion) to May 12 (closing time, yesterday), Chevron stock gained 22% and Lockheed Martin stock gained 12%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index fell by 7%. “Follow the Money”
The big losers are Ukrainians: Thousands have died. Over 6 million have left the Ukraine, millions more are internally displaced, and hundreds of billions of dollars of damage has been done to Ukrainian infrastructure. However, if one only listens to the mainstream Western media, one might be tempted to conclude that The Ukraine is winning the war.
Still, things could be worse. The UN, under the leadership of the United States, levied brutal comprehensive sanctions on Iraq which caused an excess of 5,000 children, no older than five, to die each month, mostly from lack of drinkable water. Sanctions continued from 1990 until the invasion in 2003 by the US and its “Coalition of the Willing.”
By contrast, Ukraine is reported to have lost no more than a few hundred children in 11 weeks of fighting. However, the most important difference between Ukraine today and Iraq in the 1990s may be that Ukraine has the backing of some of the world's most powerful states, Iraq had no significant backing at all. One need only look at the ongoing devastation in Yemen (from Saudi atrocities) and Palestine (from Israeli atrocities) to see what can happen to a small country that lacks backing from a powerful state.
How about Russia? I think they have accomplished their main goal: To punish Ukraine so brutally that others will think twice before allowing themselves to be used as proxies for a NATO that doesn't care to risk itself in a war with Russia. This, however, is a double-edged sword. Rather than risking being hung out to dry like the Ukraine, Finland and Sweden appear ready to give up on neutrality and join NATO.
According to The Economist, the much touted Western sanctions seem to have hurt Russia little, if at all. Sure, Russia has sustained losses; but Russia is a huge country; they can probably handle their losses. And on the reverse side of the ledger, they appear to have gained some valuable real estate in the South and East of the Ukraine.
However, gains won through excessive brutality tend to be short lived. No one likes a bully. And no one likes to be subject to the whims of a bully. I suspect that Russia's gains will prove unsustainable. (Keep in mind that the Soviet Empire lasted a mere 70 years, 28% of the average lifespan of empires, according to John Glubb.)
And how about NATO? The NATO countries have risked little, letting Ukrainians do their fighting for them. While they certainly are hoping for a weakened Russia, to date, that has not happened. Russia does not appear to be running out of weapons, or hurting economically, no matter what the Western media might say.
And the rest of the world seems to have smartened up. As Jeffrey Sachs points out, except for close allies of NATO, other states aren't buying into the anti-Russian trope. The majority of the world's population remains pro-peace, pro-diplomacy and pro-neutrality. The majority of countries have not sanctioned Russia.
Do not lose sight of the fact that if the Ukraine had remained neutral, this war would have been avoided. But, wars are easy to start — and difficult to stop.
There's a moral here: If you are a small country, stay out of big-power rivalries. (Note: It helps to have nuclear weapons, like North Korea, to avoid the necessity of seeking the protection of one big power against another.)
And the future? Here's a video of Russia threatening to annihilate the British Isles with one thermo-nuclear bomb. Could they do it? Of course they could. Would it lead to all-out nuclear war? Very likely. Will they do it? The Western media says, “No;” but I wouldn't place any bets.
Indeed, as war spreads and formerly neutral states get involved, the chances of nuclear war increase dramatically. The doomsday clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight. But, if I controlled the hands of the clock, I would set them at a few seconds to midnight, maybe even a few nanoseconds to midnight. In any case, I think Boris Johnson and Ben Wallace would be wise to stop goading Russia.
Perhaps, the most horrific aspect of the Russo-Ukrainian War is that it has become an excuse for governments to renege on their inadequate climate commitments and burn more fossil fuels. As the warming climate makes the world more and more hostile to human “civilization,” victory in the Ukraine would be the most Pyrrhic of victories.
Again, what is so sad is that this could have been avoided so easily. But wars are easy to start — and difficult to stop.
April 18, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Another Eastern European History Lesson
Two months ago I briefly discussed some Russo-Ukrainian history starting around World War I. Now, let's go back to around the 9th Century CE: It is fairly well-known in the United States that the Vikings came out of Scandinavia and raided the coasts of Western Europe and offshore islands. Less well known is that they also followed inland rivers into the heart of Eastern Europe and built the Kievan-Rus' Empire that included much of what is now European Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.“History does not repeat itself, but it delights in patterns and symmetries.” —Stephen Kinzer
The Kievan-Rus' empire lasted into the 13th Century when the Mongol Horde swept out of Central Asia and established the largest land empire ever created that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. When the Mongols arrived in Eastern Europe they sent an envoy to Kiev proposing that the Kievan-Rus' surrender in exchange for their lives. The Kieven-Rus' killed the Mongol Envoy.
When the Golden Horde arrived at the gates of Kiev, they sent another envoy demanding surrender. He was also killed. The Mongols laid siege to Kiev and killed all but 2,000 of its 50,000 inhabitants.
Moscow was also burned to the ground by the Mongols but ended up faring better than Kiev. By paying high tribute to the Mongols, they won concessions and later turned on the Mongols and drove them out of Russia.
The Mongols generally offered their victims the choice of surrendering and living or dying in battle. Vladimir Putin, who is certainly familiar with this history, offered The Ukraine a much better deal. The Ukraine could have avoided the current war by simply declaring neutrality. Instead they listened to false promises from the United States and Western Europe, and ended up at war. Even if Russia were to withdraw from The Ukraine today, Ukraine would certainly be left far worse off than if they had accepted neutrality.
There is little solace in the fact that empires always end up devouring themselves, typically, within a few centuries. Due to climate change, today's empires are likely to fall a whole lot quicker than the historic empires discussed above.
Sadly, neither Helen nor I knew of the Kievan-Rus' Empire until recently; but you can bet that every child in The Ukraine learns this history and more.
There is a story about Genghis Khan that he personally killed 1.75 million people in an hour in revenge for the killing of his favorite son-in-law. While clearly an exaggeration, we should note that science and technology has given Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and others the wherewithal to kill far more than 1.75 million people in an hour.
Joke of the Year
Joe Biden has recently called for the trial of Vladimir Putin for “War Crimes.” Ok, where? The International Criminal Court (ICC)? Neither The Ukraine, Russia nor the United States are members; so the ICC lacks jurisdiction. In fact, the United States has done far more than any other country to hamstring the ICC.
In 2002, the Hague Invasion Act which authorized the use of “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any U.S. or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court” was signed into law by then president George W. Bush.
In 1986, Nicaragua won a judgment against the United States for “unlawful use of force,” in the International Court of Justice (different from the ICC). The required reparations were never paid.
Actually, I'd love to see Vladimir Putin in the dock at The Hague, along with numerous US presidents who have committed War Crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Does the theft of billions of dollars [by Joe Biden] from a nation facing famine and starvation [Afghanistan] rise to the level of a Crime Against Humanity? Perhaps we should let the ICC rule on that one too.
Interview with Noam Chomsky
At 93, Noam Chomsky remains as sharp as a tack. Don't miss Jeremy Scahill discussing the Russo-Ukranian War and other matters with Noam Chomsky.
Still Some Sanity Left in this World
Last month, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) became the 60th State Party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons undertaking (among other things) to “never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
Climate Catastrophe Updated
The March update to my Climate Catastrophe essay has been posted. Most notable among the March highlights was the simultaneous heat waves at both the Arctic and Antarctic during March. If you live near an ocean, watch out! Sea levels are arising.
The April update is sure to include the recent floods is South Africa which have killed over 400.
March 15, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: A Note From Linden Mueller
Linden writes: “That was so kind of you to publish [my statement on environmental activism] — thank you! I feel proud to be included in the Rolla Peace News.”
My response: And I am so proud to have had the honor of having worked with Lewis Green, who founded Great Rivers Environmental Law Center 20 years ago. Thank you, Linden, for all your good work in keeping Lewis' dream of a public interest environmental law center in Missouri alive.
From Our Readers: Lament to the Spirit of War
A reader sends in this powerful, haunting poem about the sorrows of war, Lament to the Spirit of War, written by Enheduanna who lived thousands of years ago. Our reader remarks: “There's an irony, though, Enheduanna, priestess of the moon god at Ur, was daughter of Sargon of Akkad, warrior king and conqueror, builder of what is thought to be the world's first empire.”
From Our Readers: Russo-Ukrainian War          Lament to the Spirit of War
In reference to snippets I have written about the Russo-Ukrainian War a reader writes:
My response: If you want condemnation of Mr. Putin, try the New York Times, CNN or any one of a number of other mainstream media “war cheerleaders.” I am not responsible for Vladimir Putin. I am responsible for Joe Biden. I voted for him, which in hindsight was a great mistake.“You're quite outspoken in your condemnation of Biden. Putin who has actually started a war and threatened to use nukes doesn't get anything near that condemnation. Very strange.”
Russia has a strong anti-war movement. Thousands have risked arrest and beatings to protest against the Russo-Ukrainian War. I suspect if we, too, had such a strong, vibrant anti-war movement here in the United States, the Russo-Ukrainian War might never have happened.
And, incidentally, last week I wrote: “I don't think anyone will trust Russia either after their brutal assault on the Ukraine and the cavalier way they threatened the whole world with nuclear war. Russia's major ally, China, also seemed shocked by Russia's behavior.”
And further: I find the behavior of the United States and the European NATO countries nothing short of perfidious and cowardly. While I would hate to see NATO and Russia get into a nuclear war, the way NATO has hung The Ukraine out to dry disgusts me. NATO has encouraged The Ukraine to challenge Russia at every turn. Now that Russia has responded with overwhelming force, NATO limits its support for The Ukraine to ineffectual economic sanctions and some feeble attempts to provide inadequate military and humanitarian aid. God forbid that Europeans should park their cars, turn down their thermostats and do without Russian oil and gas. God forbid that NATO should challenge Russian aircrafts in the skies over Ukraine. And God forbid that the United States should ever agree to a neutral Ukraine at peace with all its neighbors. Absolutely nauseating!
And I think the ferocity of the Russian invasion has taken some “expert” war planners in the West by surprise. And I think the tough resolute defense of the Ukranians has taken some “expert” war planners in Russia by surprise. War seldom unfolds the way that “experts” predict.
From Our Readers: Russia’s Horrific Past Could Become Our Future Under Putin
A reader recommends the article, Now we know: Russia’s horrific past could become our future under Putin by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. The title summarizes the article well.
From Our Readers: Joseph Conrad
In reference to last week's Joseph Conrad quote:
a reader writes:“I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.”
My response: Conrad is also one of my favorite novelists. It is uncanny that the quote above from The Secret Agent (1907) could easily have been spoken by Vladimir Putin. Back, not so long ago, when Donald Trump was president, I used to compare him to Conrad's Mr. Kurtz in Heart of Darkness (1898). Consider this passage that, with a few minor changes, could have been written about Donald Trump:“By the way, Joseph Conrad is one my favorite novelists. If you liked The Secret Agent, I recommend also Under Western Eyes, another story of turn of the century revolutionary terrorism and tsarist repression. One more book you might find useful: The Origins of Nazi Violence, by Enzo Traverso. It fits in well with your comments about how the Holocaust is not a unique event. The book is very scholarly, ... It is published by The New Press, a non-profit publisher more interested in getting ideas and information out to readership than in making money. This book was acquired by my local library in 2003 and I can tell I am the first person to check it out. What a sad comment on where American interests lie.”
And I love the way Conrad talks about Nature as a powerful living entity that wreaks vengeance on us humans for our “fantastic invasion.” Consider this passage:“You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over.”
and this one:“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.”
I have several more quotes from Joseph Conrad here.“And outside, the silent wilderness ... struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”
One of the things I hope to do in my retirement is read a lot more Joseph Conrad, including the story you recommend.
Conrad wrote in English, which was his third language, after French and his native Polish. He was a truly remarkable man.
From Our Readers: Franklin Pierce and the Crimean War
In response to my snippet on Franklin Pierce and the Crimean War, a reader writes:
My response: Franklin Pierce was President of the United States from 1853 to 1857. This was an era when expanding the United States beyond its continental borders was under serious consideration. The United States entered the Second Opium War against China in 1856. William Walker raised a private army and invaded Nicaragua in 1855 with the intention of joining the Union as a slave-holding state. It is certainly not inconceivable, perhaps even likely, that a more adventurous president, such as Theodore “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one” Roosevelt, would have sent US troops to Crimea. Franklin Pierce deserves credit for resisting the temptation.“Franklin Pierce is generally considered one of our worst presidents. He was a Northerner with Southern sympathies, and basically did nothing about the slavery problem which exploded into the Civil War four years after his term ended. I don't believe there was ever a chance that we would get involved in Crimea even if Pierce had wanted to, so I think you're giving him way too much credit. ... [Last year, “expert”] historians ranked the presidents. Trump wasn't last. Pierce is very close to the bottom.”
I strongly disagree with your “expert” historians who rated the presidents. I wouldn't think of trying to rate presidents from before I came of age; but starting from 1945, I would rate Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush as the two very worst. They were presidents at times when the United States was the world's uncontested military and economic superpower. They could have used their position to further the cause of Peace on Earth. Instead, they opted for war and empire building.
I would rate Dwight Eisenhower as the very best for having slowed the march toward war and empire, which was already well underway. In particular, I appreciated his having, without firing a shot, forced our “allies:” Britain, France and Israel, who had invaded Egypt in 1956, to turn around and go home. Just months after President Eisenhower's first inauguration, the Korean Armistice agreement was signed, ending the active phase of a terrible war that never should have begun.
Some Further Reading on the Russo-Ukrainian War: Environment
Modern warfare is extremely harsh on the environment. Even if the Russo-Ukrainian War were to end today, The Ukraine, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and many other places, would be dealing with toxic pollution for decades into the future. As Ron David sagely noted in Arabs & Israel for Beginners: “One of the dirty little ironies of war is that it matters less who wins the war than where it was fought.”
I still have not seen any estimates of how much CO2 the Russo-Ukrainian War has added to our already overburdened atmosphere; but I suspect it is considerable.
Some Further Reading on the Russo-Ukrainian War: Displaced Peoples
To the 84 million people, already forcibly displaced by war, persecution and violence, many of whom are victims of the so-called “War on Terror,” we can now add at least 3 million Ukrainians. Up until now, the vast majority of the displaced came from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and parts of Asia. It looks like Europe is beginning to catch up. “What goes around, comes around.”
Some Further Reading on the Russo-Ukrainian War: Children
And while we hear much about the Ukrainian children killed in the Russo-Ukrainian War, we hear very little about how over 10,000 Yemeni children have been killed by Saudi Arabia and allies, largely with made-in-USA bombs and other military hardware. The killing goes on, but then again, as many have noted, Yemeni children are not light-skinned Europeans like Ukrainian children.
Some Further Reading on the Russo-Ukrainian War: Bio-labs
The US military has been running multiple biological laboratories in the Ukraine. Russia says the US was developing bio-weapons. The US says that is “preposterous” and “laughable.” But is it?
While I do not know whether the accusation is true or not, it is certainly neither preposterous nor laughable. Read about the history of bio-warfare in Bionoia, and then ask yourself whether or not this accusation is preposterous.
Not so long ago, I suggested that it is likely that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a laboratory, and advocated that all bio-labs be open to international inspection. Neither the United States nor China appeared open to this very sensible suggestion. Perhaps, the idea of international inspection of bio-labs will gain traction now.
March 8, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Has The Ukraine Become the New Afghanistan?
I think The Ukraine was meant to be the new Afghanistan — the Russian neighbor that, like Afghanistan in the 1980s, would bleed Russia dry.“I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.”
Step 1: Create an anti-Russian force on Russia's border.But, what went wrong? Everything seemed to be working out so perfectly.
Putin is no Brezhnev, and Zelensky no bin Laden. Russia doesn't appear to be attempting to occupy The Ukraine. Rather, the purpose of the invasion seems to be to inflict maximum pain upon it's neighbor, while sustaining minimal loses. Russia also has effectively neutralized many countries that would like to support The Ukraine, by issuing credible threats (in the eyes of it's foreign enemies, see Joseph Conrad quote above) to escalate, even unto a nuclear World War III.
I think Zelensky has finally figured out that as far as NATO is concerned, Ukrainians are nothing but sacrificial lambs. Zelensky's call for a Nato imposed “no fly zone” over The Ukraine was met with the NATO response: “If we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe, involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering.” In other words, you Ukrainians can suffer and die; but not us; not here in the United States, the UK, France or Germany. Zelensky responded, “All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you, because of your weakness, because of your lack of unity.” How true!
In fact, Russia, being in full control of six Ukrainian nuclear power reactors at Zaporizhzhya, has yet another option: Wait for a day of strong easterly winds; create a false-flag attack on Zaporizhzhya, releasing deadly radiation which will blow over Western Europe.
So what is next? Wars are easy to start; hard to stop. I think, at this point, almost everyone is ready for this war to end (except, of course the war profiteers at Raytheon, Lockheed, General Electric, etc.) Perhaps, the world's best bet for avoiding disaster is to ask Afghanistan to mediate a Peace agreement. Afghanistan has so much experience with foreign invasions and was still able to successfully negotiate a Peace agreement with the United States. The World could benefit from their wisdom.
And here is some of the likely fallout from the Russo-Ukranian War:
Whatever happens from here on out, I suspect most will agree that the whole world, including The Ukraine, would have been far better off with a neutral Ukraine at Peace with all its neighbors.
NATO has, indeed, shown itself to be untrustworthy and ineffectual. I don't think anyone will ever trust NATO again.
I don't think anyone will trust Russia either after their brutal assault on the Ukraine and the cavalier way they threatened the whole world with nuclear war. Russia's major ally, China, also seemed shocked by Russia's behavior.
The absolute hypocrisy of the West has been exposed beyond redemption. All this talk about Russia violating Human Rights in Ukraine. Hey, what about Afghanistan where children are starving while the West steals what little money they have; What about Palestine where occupation, bombings and apartheid have been going on for over half a century with Western support; what about Yemen, where the Saudi coalition with Western arms has created one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.
The Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of grain to the world. Disruption of Ukainian exports due to War and Russian exports due to sanctions will increase the already considerable global hunger, particularly in the poorest nations that rely on food imports.
Western Sanctions against Russia will likely hasten the move, which is already underway, toward replacing the US dollar as the currency of choice in international commercial transactions.
Nuclear non-proliferation, which has been on life-support, may soon be dead. Who is going to trust any of these nuclear powers now?
February 28, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Some Observations on the Russo-Ukrainian War
Well, were you surprised when War broke out in the Ukraine? You really shouldn't have been. Europe has a long history of fighting wars. If there was ever a time when Europe wasn't at war, it was because Europeans were too busy preparing for future wars.
Here is a very very looooooong list of European Wars, starting thousands of years ago and continuing until today. I won't ask you to read about them all. (I haven't.) But take a look at these few:
Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, in which Russia won a decisive victory over Napoleon at the expense of an estimated 200,000 Russian deaths.
The Crimean War (1853-56) which stood out for its “notoriously incompetent international butchery.”
(I include this one for the benefit of UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, who bragged that the Brits had “kicked the backside” of the Russians in the Crimean War and could “always do it again.” Mr. Wallace seems to be missing from action. Talk is cheap. Maybe he could go to the Ukraine with 600 mounted cavalry and execute a frontal charge into heavy Russian artillery.)
Franklin Pierce was President of the United States during the Crimean War. His major claim to fame may be that he kept the United States out of the Crimean War. He even expelled a British minister and three consuls over trying to recruit for the Crimean War on US soil. Sadly, later US presidents seem to have lacked Mr. Pierce's wisdom.
The Russian Civil War (1917-1921) After Russia's withdrawal from World War I, civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and the White Army which was made up of various monarchists, capitalists and social democrats. 13 foreign countries, including the UK, US and France, intervened on the side of the White Army.
World War II (Eastern Front, 1941-1945) The Soviet Union suffered tens of millions of deaths, including millions of children, in the Nazi invasion. Russia's victory on the Eastern Front is thought to be the primary event leading to the defeat of Nazism and the allied victory in Europe.
After reading about these four European wars, you may understand why Russia is a little bit touchy about aggressive foreign troops on its western border, especially when they are supported by great powers that wish Russia ill.
Some less recent and less well-known European wars may have been equally horrendous. For example:
The 30 Years' War (1618-1648) started out as a religious war: Catholics v. Protestants. Satan soon got the upper hand and the 30 Years' War morphed into a giant free-for-all with everybody slaughtering everybody else. Some locations were decimated with those who didn't flee being put to death. It has been estimated that 4.5 to 8 million died in the 30 Years' War, probably setting a record at the time.
We can only hope and pray that the current Russo-Ukrainian War won't morph into yet another horrendous European war.
And, I would be remiss, if I didn't offer a solution. I propose that Afghanistan be asked to mediate a peace agreement between Russia and The Ukraine. Having been invaded by the British in the 19th Century, the Soviet Union (including The Ukraine, but mainly Russia) in the 20th, and NATO (and other allies, but mainly the United States) in the 21st, and having defeated all three invasions, Afghans would likely have a unique perspective on making Peace in the midst of a foreign invasion. In exchange, those who have stolen money from Afghanistan could show their appreciation by giving Afghanistan back what they have stolen.
Some notes on The Ukraine and Crimea
Prior to the First World War, the area we know today as The Ukraine was partitioned among three empires: The Ottoman Empire (Turkey), The Hapsburg Empire (Austria) and the Tsarist Empire (Russia). Following World War I and the demise of the above three empires, The Ukraine declared itself a Soviet Socialist Republic and in 1922 became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It only became an independent country in the modern sense with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Crimea was part of the Russian Soviet until 1954 when it was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet in an administrative action.
The breakup of the Soviet Union was extremely messy. While The Ukraine retained administrative control over Crimea, many Crimeans were unhappy with this arrangement. The Black Sea Fleet, stationed in Crimea, was split between Russia and The Ukraine. Russia was given possession of all Nuclear Weapons. This arrangement was clearly untenable after 2014, when an anti-Russian government came to power in The Ukraine in what has been described as a western-backed coup.
Russian troops entered Crimea and Crimea, which is, ethnically, majority Russian, voted to secede from The Ukraine and join with Russia.
In the wake of the 2014 regime change, other Russian majority regions (Donbass) also seceded from the Ukraine.
And in case you missed it:
Not wishing to get involved in a (possibly nuclear) war with Russia, the United States instead bombs Somalia. Somalia is one of world's poorest countries and lacks nuclear weapons or other means to retaliate.
NATO has threatened to deploy nuclear weapons on Russia's border in Poland.
Belarus says it intends to give up its status as a non-nuclear nation and has asked Russia to return its nuclear weapons which it gave up when the Soviet Union broke up.
Switzerland has given up its historic neutral status joining in sanctions against Russia. Finland, also has given up neutrality by supplying arms to the Ukraine.
Ukraine is home to the radioactive remains of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Ukraine is also home to a purported 15 functioning nuclear power plants. War could lead to world-wide catastrophe at any of these locations.
The Ukraine seems to be putting up a much stronger than expected resistance to the Russian invasion. The Russian invasion seems to have been stalemated; Russia seems to have forgotten its Afghan fiasco of 40 years ago, when the United States and its allies enticed the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan by creating, arming and training an insurrectionist force.
It's a shame that our memories are so short and we refuse to learn from history. As Stephen Kinzer sagely remarked: “History does not repeat itself, but it delights in patterns and symmetries.”
Peace talks between Russia and The Ukraine today were unsuccessful. (Unless you consider it a success that they even spoke to one another.) I'm not sure if and when a further round will be scheduled; but pray for successful Peace negotiations. Meanwhile, military operations continue.
We move closer and closer to nuclear confrontation each day, with each side blaming the other (in spite of what President Biden might say).
I haven't seen any estimates of how much carbon this war is adding to our already overburdened atmosphere, but I'm sure it is considerable.
February 21, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
More on Whoopi Goldberg, Race and Man's Inhumanity to Man
With Whoopi Goldberg back on The View, I thought this might be a good time to recount some recent scientific discoveries about race.“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
As this article from the Scientific American points out, according to mathematical models, somewhere between 2,000 and 3,500 years ago, there lived a person from whom EVERYONE (Yes! EVERYONE) alive today descended. And going back further, 4,000 to 7,500 years ago, everyone alive today shares ALL (Yes! ALL) of their ancestors who lived back then.
There is no need to go back to Adam and Eve. This occurred far more recently than that. “Modern man” is thought to have appeared on Earth around 300,000 years ago — forty times earlier than our ancestral divergence began.
Yes, indeed, we are all sisters and brothers, genealogically, as well as spiritually. Genealogically speaking, there is no Black Race or White Race or Jewish Race or Oriental Race. There are no master races or civilized races or indispensable races. There is only one race, the Human Race; and the sooner we learn that, the better off we will all be.
However, while genealogically we are all of one race, we are not all of the same ethnicity. That is an entirely different matter. Ethnicity refers to cultural heritage, while race, as used here, refers to genealogical heritage. We should celebrate our ethnic distinctions as well as our genealogical similarities.
And while we are all of one race, we are all, except identical twins, genetically distinct since we inherit half our genetic makeup from each biological parent. And then, there are random genetic mutations introduced into the human genome from time to time.
It's really too bad that Ms. Goldberg's comments have been swept under the rug, particularly her comment about Man's Inhumanity to Man, which goes on today. It is happening before our eyes in Afghanistan, where the wealthiest country in the world (that's us) steals from the Afghans and leaves them to starve and freeze.
It's also happening in many other locations such as Palestine, where Israel has created the world's largest open air prison with almost two million inmates and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, through bombings and blockade, have created one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.
Why Are We Financing Our Own Extinction?
Governments spend at least 1.9 trillion annually in subsidies for industries that harm the environment according to a study by Doug Koplow and Ronald Steenblik. The two sectors receiving the largest amount of harmful subsidies are: fossil fuels, $640 billion and agriculture, $520 billion.
Here are a few examples from the recent news:
The Biden Administration continues coal leasing on federal lands.
The purchase of carbon offsets has become an excuse for further environmentally damaging development, accelerating environmental collapse.
China has decided to “go slow” on decarbonization, citing its need for continuing economic development.
Demand in rich countries for nickel which is used in electric car batteries is contaminating drinking water and causing environmental devastation in Indonesia
Per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in rich countries dwarf those of poor countries and show no signs of abating. An average Estadounidense emits more greenhouse gases in a day than an average Congolese emits in a year.
Ethanol, the much touted biological substitute for gasoline may be even harsher on our environment than gasoline.
Government subsidies for turning manure into methane only create more corporate animal farms at a time when we need to be transitioning to plant-based diets.
What have I missed? Let me know.
As George Monbiot has pointed out, “There is nothing that cannot be corrupted, nothing good that cannot be transformed into something bad.”
In truth, we need to stop lying to ourselves and everyone else. Our “civilization” is unsustainable and there is no way we can continue consuming the Earth's resources as we have been doing and living a profligate life-style. Transitioning to a sustainable culture will require large life-style changes — changes that we do not appear ready to make. However, not making the necessary changes, will, most assuredly, lead to environmental collapse and possibly even extinction.
Care for the Children; and They Will Care for You
Using their home-made vaccines, last September, Cuba became the first country to vaccinate children as young as two years old. They have now reached 95% coverage of young children. As a result, the omicron variant, which spreads to a large degree through children, didn't hit Cuba nearly as hard as other countries with many unvaccinated children.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, where we have been unable to produce a safe and effective vaccine for children under 5, we have allowed the $300-a-month Child Tax Credit to expire, causing a 41% spike in child poverty. And the New York City Police Department brags about arresting “criminals” over stolen diapers, medicines and baby formula. Eliza Orlins, a former candidate for Manhattan district attorney remarked, “This is not public safety, this is cruelty on display.”
One More Toke Over the Nuclear Line
Last week, the United States deployed nuclear-ready B-52 bombers to Fairford Air Base in the UK, from which they threaten western Russia. This week, Russia held nuclear drills on its western border.
I suspect most people don't want nuclear war — not even the threat of nuclear war: not in the US, not in Russia, not in the Ukraine, nor in Europe, Asia or anywhere else in the World. Yet, this is what our world's dystopian “leaders” give us — threats of nuclear war, that at any minute may escalate to worldwide nuclear annihilation.
February 15, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: In Defense of Whoopi Goldberg
In response to last weeks snippet in Defense of Whoppi Goldberg, one reader writes: “I appreciate the perspectives on genocide, etc. that you shared here.”
Another reader writes: “Really good essay, Tom.”
My response: Thank you.
From Our Readers: Free Banned Books
A reader sends in a link to the IPES/EyeSeeMe Banned Book Program. IPES/EyeSeeMe is offering free banned books upon request, The February Banned Book of the Month is Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, the story of a young black girl who prayed for blue eyes so she would be beautiful. The New York Times opines that Morrison’s writing is “so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry.”
The Bluest Eye has been banned by the Wentzville, MO school district.
Ilhan Omar describes the decision of the Biden Administration to seize $7 Billion of Afghan money and give half of it to the heirs of 9/11 victims in the midst of a famine in Afghanistan as unconscionable. Omar notes that “ there wasn't a single Afghan” among the nineteen 9/11 hijackers and the United States continues to give Saudi Arabia and Egypt which had “direct ties to the 9/11 terrorists” billions of dollars of aid.“There is only moral breakdown everywhere
Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Naeem responded:
and“The theft and seizure of money held/frozen by the United States of the Afghan people represent the lowest level of human and moral decay of a country and a nation.”
Indeed, it appears that the Taliban has not only defeated the United States militarily, but morally too.“The greatest and most shameful defeat is when moral defeat combines with military defeat.”
Stealing from those who are starving and cold, whatever the reason, is morally reprehensible; but when the theft is perpetrated by the wealthiest country in the world, it gives a new meaning to phrase “moral decay.”
The Media Push for War in The Ukraine is Grotesque!
Amidst the clamor for War, Edward Snowden opines, “There is nothing more grotesque than a media pushing for war,” noting that, “Being pro-war is not smart, cool, or sophisticated.”“Militaries have a very poor record of predicting
Bernie Sanders has learned a lot since he voted in 2001 with the entire House of Representatives, except *Barbara Lee*, for War Against Afghanistan. Bernie opines:
What is really sad to contemplate is that 30 years ago, when the Soviet Union fell apart, we had a perfect opportunity to make Peace with Russia and defuse any future conflict in Eastern Europe. Instead, we opted for global empire. So sad....“wars rarely turn out the way the experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, only to be proven horribly wrong. Just ask the mothers of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action during those wars. Just ask the millions of civilians who became ‘collateral damage.’”
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Sets New Record
Atmospheric CO2 set a record yesterday, Feb. 14, 2022, at Mauna Loa of 421.59ppm, beating out the record set on Apr. 8, 2021 of 421.36ppm.
Climate Catastrophe has been updated to include some January climate highlights.
February 8, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Hermann Goering
A reader notes that the Hermann Goering quote I used last week is from an interview by Dr. Gustave Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials. Our reader writes:
My response: This brings to mind a line from Solomon Song in the Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill: “I thought that brains were good — guess not.”“Gustave Gilbert was principal psychologist at Nuremberg. He also wrote a book containing psychological profiles of all the main Nazi defendants, Nuremberg Diary. All of them tested out very high in IQ, and even the abominable Julius Streicher was decidedly above average. So despised was Streicher, the other Nazi accused even refused to sit at the same table with him at lunchtime. Pretty interesting book, I've read it twice”
In Defense of Whoopi Goldberg
In this short essay, I am going to try to give Whoopi Goldberg a fair hearing, something that, to my knowledge, no one else has done.“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, ... Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing.”
First, what did she say that upset the “keepers of truth” and “guardians of beauty” so terribly? In speaking of the Holocaust, she opined:
Why should this opinion upset people so much? The part about “man's inhumanity to man” hasn't (and in my opinion shouldn't) cause much controversy. However, the part about race was deemed “wrong and hurtful” by ABC president, Kim Godwin and Ms. Goldberg was forced to apologize and then suspended for two weeks.“The Holocaust isn't about race. It's not about race. It's about man's inhumanity to man.”
So what is race anyway? Quoting from the abstract of an extensive article on Wikipedia:
So, what have we here? Ms. Goldberg is being castigated for saying the Holocaust isn't about a term that has been deemed by many as naive, simplistic, ambiguous, and with no inherent physical or biological meaning; and indeed, with no universally accepted meaning whatsoever.“A race is a categorization of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into groups generally viewed as distinct within a given society.”
This could have led to a serious discussion of race. It could have led to a serious discussion of the Holocaust and its place in history. Instead, Ms. Goldberg has been “silenced with surprising effectiveness” by the guardians of the “prevailing orthodoxy” (at least for now). ABC president Kim Godwin arrogantly told Ms. Goldberg “to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of [your] comments,” while doing everything possible to ensure that nobody learns anything from Ms. Goldberg's comments.
Sven Lindqvist, In his inquiry into racism, Exterminate All The Brutes, gives us numerous examples of how Europeans used the concept of race to justify the extermination of whole populations, such as the pre-European Tasmanians. Here's one example from Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871)
Lindqvist also has much to say about the Holocaust. Here are a few short quotes:“At some future period not very distant as measured in centuries, the civilized races of man [meaning Europeans] will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races [meaning Africans, Asians, Americans and Australians].”
And here we come to why the “keepers of truth” and “guardians of beauty” were so enraged by Whoopi Goldberg's comments:“Europe's destruction of the ‘inferior races’ of four continents prepared the ground for Hitler's destruction of six million Jews in Europe.”
If we were to really discuss the Holocaust in a way in which even a “genuinely unfashionable opinion” is “given a fair hearing,” we might have to face our own complicity in the Holocaust. We might have to answer questions like: How does the extermination of 90 to 95% of the estimated 10 to 15 million pre-Colombian inhabitants of North America differ from the Holocaust? How does the trans-Atlantic slave trade in which millions died before even reaching the Americas differ from the Holocaust? How does the deliberate destruction of Iraq's ability to provide potable water, which led to the death of 5,000 Iraqi children each month for years differ from the Holocaust?
Lindqvist ends his inquiry with this short paragraph:
Whoopi Goldberg had the courage to try to understand and draw conclusions. Perhaps the rest of us can learn to be as courageous as Ms. Goldberg.“You already know that. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.”
I am reading rumors that Ms. Goldberg will be quitting The View. I hope she does. She can do much better than work for ABC. She certainly didn't deserve any of this ill-treatment.
Perhaps, Ms. Goldberg will start her own show — one in which even a “genuinely unfashionable opinion” is “given a fair hearing.”
Note: the phrase “you keepers of truth, you guardians of beauty” is from the Leonard Cohen song, A Singer Must Die.
February 1, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
No One Wants War (Except the Government, the Media and Wall Street)
While NATO and Russia face each other across the Ukranian border, people clamor for Peace. Unfortunately, our “leaders” may give us War; perhaps even Nuclear War.
Maybe it is time to revisit this famous quote of Hermann Goering:
Let's prove Hermann Goering wrong! Let's muzzle our “leaders.”“Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Cuba Aims to Vaccinate the World
Having successfully vaccinated almost its entire population with home-grown vaccines and boosted over half the population, Cuba now plans to step up exports of its vaccines and technology around the world.“Medicines and vaccines are not a commodity. It’s not something to get rich with. It’s something to save people’s lives.”
Here's an interview on Democracy Now with Dr. Mitchell Valdés-Sosa, the director of the Cuban Center for Neuroscience. Dr. Valdés-Sosa discusses Cuba's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron variant in particular. Dr. Valdés-Sosa wonders:
Well, Dr. Valdés-Sosa, if a trip to the emergency room might cost you your life savings and more, you might start distrusting the health-care profession too.“Public health in Cuba is free for everyone. We have family doctors in every neighborhood. People trust their doctors. So, we’re very puzzled when we see the news abroad that there are people that distrust the vaccines, that there are people that don’t want to get vaccinated.”
Taliban Rescues Pregnant New Zealand Reporter
Charlotte Bellis, who as a reporter for Al-Jazeera once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women, opined that it was “brutally ironic” that after being denied permission to return to her home country, New Zealand, the Taliban has welcomed her with open arms.
Bellis wrote, “When the Taliban offers you — a pregnant, unmarried woman — safe haven, you know your situation is messed up.” A Taliban official advised her, “Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry.”
Seems like the Taliban cares more about pregnant women and unborn children than many Western governments, including our own. Remember that! next time you hear how the Taliban mistreats women.
On a personal note, a dear friend recently sent me a copy of her memoire which included some chapters on being unmarried, pregnant and homeless. That's really scary — being unmarried, pregnant and homeless. How much scarier would it have been, if she had been stranded in a foreign country with no way back.
Meanwhile, as Afghans face a Winter of Starvation, the US refuses to return $9.5 billion of money that belongs to Afghanistan, citing ... (you guessed it) ... “mistreatment of women.”
Update(2/1/22): The adverse publicity proved too much for the New Zealand government. Charlotte Bellis will be allowed to return home to New Zealand.
We wish Ms. Bellis and her unborn baby well.
More “Ban This Book”
Not satisfied with attacking books on Critical Race Theory, racial injustice, and homosexuality, the censors have moved on to attacking books about the Holocaust.“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
This latest effort to control the flow of information seems to have backfired. After the McMinn, Tennessee school district's decision to ban Maus, a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic personal account of the Holocaust by Art Spiegelman, Maus climbs to near the top of the bestseller list.
A reader writes: “What Art Spiegelman did with Maus was create a new way to share history while processing something deeply personal. He was clearly grappling with what happened in his family and looking to express that.”
Want to do something for freedom? Read a banned book!
15 years ago, I wrote:
This seems to have happened. While it is no longer reasonably possible to deny the failure of our Middle-East policy of the last 32 years; we have seen a sharp resurgence of bigotry directed toward Jewish people.“The US is already experiencing a shift in sentiment. The public is beginning to blame Jews for the failure of the US Middle East policy. (No, of course it couldn't possibly be our own fault.) As the failure of our Middle East policy becomes more and more difficult to deny, I would expect to see a sharp resurgence of anti-Jewish bigotry in the US.”
Yes, “Once you ban one book, you can ban them all.”
And once you attack one racial group, you can attack them all.
January 25, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Climate Catastrophe
I received several very nice comments about the Climate Catastrophe Essay I discussed last week:
“That's a good essay and I hope many people see it”
My response: Thank you. I hope many will see it too.“I'm going to have to take a deeper look at the Avoiding Extinction section — there is a lot there.”
My response: Yes, please do! I can't think of many more important tasks that confront us then avoiding extinction.“I got a grin out of your ‘take it from an unrepentant conspiracy theorist...’ bit.”
My response: The phrase, “conspiracy theorist” is generally used to shut people up and avoid responding to unorthodox ideas. It is rarely accompanied by any reasonable explanation of why the “theory” might be wrong or why it is a conspiracy.“[I was] hit by this line: ‘belief does not necessarily imply comprehension.’ I think that is true for myself and climate change — I believe it — I envision it — I expect it and dread it — but do I really comprehend it? And if I do, I wonder, why am I not running through the streets crying out for change?”
My response: I think the work you do for the climate is far more effective than “running through the streets crying out for change.” In fact, it IS “crying out for change.” Maybe you would write us a few paragraphs on the work you do for the climate.Taliban Meets With US and European Diplomats in Norway
A three-day round of closed door negotiations between the Taliban and the West began in Norway on Sunday. We pray for successful negotiations that will facilitate the return to Afghanistan of almost $10 billion of Afghan money being held mostly in the United States.
Without the return of this money, Afghans face a bleak winter with little to eat and possible mass starvation.
As I have pointed out before, we would be far better off with Afghans as friends than as enemies. Starving people is not the way to make friends.
With US Support, Saudi Coalition Bombs Yemen, Again
Last week, the Saudi coalition, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and with diplomatic and matériel support of the United States, bombed the crap out of Yemen with made-in-the-USA bombs, killing women, children and other civilians.
Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries and has been declared by many to be the world's worst humanitarian disaster. The UN Population Fund estimates that over 300,000 Yemenis have died in these bombings since 2015.
Actually, the War Against Yemen goes back (at least) to 1990 when Yemen voted in the UN Security Council against Resolution 678 endorsing the first US War Against Iraq. A United States diplomat told the Yemeni ambassador, “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” Within three days, a US aid program of $70 million to one of the world's poorest countries was terminated.
30 years later, Yemenis are still paying the price for voting against a war which totally destroyed Iraq's ability to provide it's people with potable water, thereby killing hundreds of thousands of young children through diarrheal disease.
It's a shame that in the United States people don't care about the lives of Yemeni and Iraqi women and children nearly as much as they care about freedom for Afghan women who are now facing starvation.
January 17, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Climate Catastrophe (Updated)
I've posted the December update for my ongoing essay on Climate Catastrophe.
There have been a few recent changes in format. I've added a shortened version which contains only the graphs which are updated monthly and a few highlights from the most recent month. Also, new paragraphs that were added this month to the full essay are marked in red with (New Jan. 2022).
The most important addition is the subsection on Avoiding Extinction, which I hope you will all look at. In this subsection I outline many of the things we humans must do if we wish to continue living on Planet Earth.
Of the December Highlights, I particular call your attention to this one:
While flooding in South Asia and drought in Africa barely rate a mention in our news feeds, we can read a lot about the terrible climate-related weather disasters that have plagued the United States during 2021: the February freeze in Texas, the June heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, and Hurricane Ida in the late summer which devastated both Louisiana and the Middle Atlantic States. No longer can we think of climate-related disasters as something that happens to THEM. They are happening to US, now, as I write. This brings to mind these verses from Isaiah:December 2021 tied for the sixth warmest December worldwide, but in the United States it was the warmest December on record with two major tornadic outbreaks in the Midwest and wildfires in Colorado that wiped out two towns in the Denver-Boulder area.
Isaiah 24 — King James Version
January 11, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: “Ban This Book”
A reader writes in to say that she liked the paragraph from Ban This Book that I quoted last week. She has read all ten of the top challenged books from 2020, and hopes others will read them too.
My response: I'm way behind. The only book on the list I've read is John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men; but since I played Lennie in a college theatre production 60 years ago, maybe that ought to count as two reads.
Here's the list again. I still can't figure out why anyone would want to ban Of Mice and Men.
Fanned by hurricane force winds, we rang out the old year with a devastating December wildfire in drought-stricken Colorado. We ring in the new year with an unprecedented snow and ice storm in Virginia which left motorists stranded in their cars on the Interstate for over 24 hours.
The last few years have been terrible years for climate-change-enhanced extreme weather events. Maybe, it's time to park our cars for good and go back to riding horses.
Stand-Up Comedy at Its Best: Five Nuclear Weapon States Respond to Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
This would make hilarious satire, if it didn't put the lives of almost 8 billion people at risk. The world's first five nuclear-weapon states, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States got together and issued a Joint Statement on Preventing Nuclear War. Meanwhile, they continue to modernize and expand their nuclear arsenals and arm themselves to the teeth with nuclear weapons.
They say, “[We] consider the avoidance of War between Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.” But they say nothing about war between nuclear-weapon states and other states, which tells us that the **REAL** purpose of nuclear weapons is not to fight an omnicidal war between nuclear-weapon states, but to bully states which have no nuclear weapons. To this end they opine that “further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”
They go on to say:
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970. 50 years later the “early date” is yet to arrive. (These folks seem to march to geologic time. Maybe they will get around to it by the end of the Anthropocene.)“We remain committed to our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, including our Article VI obligation ‘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.’”
Indeed, Time appears to have left these five dinosaurs behind. You wouldn't know from reading their statement that they are no longer “the Five Nuclear-Weapon States,” but merely five of the nine known nuclear-weapon states.
Nor would you know from their statement that 59 states have joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by which “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to ... Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Three states: Guinea-Bissau, Mongolia and Peru just joined last month.
In fact, you wouldn't even know from their statement that this Treaty, which none of the nuclear-weapon states have expressed the least interest in joining, even exists.
And meanwhile, the nuclear-armed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) has successfully tested a hypersonic missile which may prove very difficult to defend against. North Korea is a nuclear-weapon state. How come North Korea, along with nuclear-weapon states: India, Israel and Pakistan weren't invited to the party?
January 3, 2022 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A People's Vaccine: A Gift to the World
Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez at Texas Children's Hospital have developed a vaccine against COVID-19 with a few million dollars of private money. They do not intend to make a penny off their vaccine. They are giving it away, patent-free, a gift to the world. There are already plans to produce their Cobervax vaccine in India, Indonesia, Botswana, and elsewhere.
Hotez opines that if they had received even a fraction of the billions of dollars that Pfizer and Moderna received in public money, maybe the whole world would be vaccinated by now and there would be no omicron variant.
It is really nice to know that the medical profession is not completely subservient to Wall Street, and there are still some who put people before profit. Kudos to Bottazzi and Hotez.
Hey, anybody out there in readerland remember Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi strongman and CIA asset? Iraq was one of the first casualties of the end of the Cold War. As president of the sole remaining military and economic superpower, Bush, the Elder, enticed Saddam to invade Kuwait and then turned against him and totally destroyed Iraq.
On his way out, Saddam burned and spilled copious quantities of Kuwaiti oil. Much of the pollution was ignored and has now become almost impossible to clean up.
Saddam was captured after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and executed a few years later.
To paraphrase William Shakespeare: Oh Saddam, thou art mighty yet! Thy spirit walks abroad and turns our swords In our own proper entrails.
“Ban This Book” (Revisited)
“Read! In the name of your Lord, Who created (everything that exists)Under Oklahoma Senate Bill 1142, upon receiving a written request from just one parent objecting to a book that includes discussion of “sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity,” a school district would have 30 days to eliminate all copies of the material from circulation. After 30 days, a parent could collect $10,000 per day from the school district for as long as the book in question remains in circulation.
Well, any book that uses words like girl, boy, woman or man would certainly be fair game. What's left? Maybe we could even ban this article about fireflies glowing for sex.
This brought to mind Alan Gratz's delightful story, Ban This Book, which I highly recommend for children and advanced grown-ups.
Here's a short speech the school librarian gave to the School Board:Fourth grader, Amy Anne Ollinger, finds that her favorite book has been removed from the school library. One parent, Mrs. Spencer, has requested its removal, along with other books. Amy fights back and starts running a library of banned books out of her locker. After the principal closes down her library, Amy realizes that once you ban one book, you can ban them all. She and her friends find reasons to request the removal of every book in the school library. Then, with a little research, she discovers that Mrs. Spencer used to read some of the banned books when she was a kid in school.
Censorship is a slippery slope. One easily ends up banning (classifying) videos of our troops shooting up civilians in Iraq, and meting out draconian prison sentences to those who disclose such wrong-doing in high places.“It's our job as educators to expose our children to as many different kinds of books and as many different points of view as possible. That means letting them read books that are too easy for them, or are too hard for them. that means letting them read books that challenge them, or do nothing but entertain them. And yes, it means letting students read books with things in them we might disagree with and letting them make up their own minds about things, which is downright scary sometimes. But that's what good education is all about.”
When one resorts to censorship, one has already lost the battle. There is no better way to attract readers than to ban a book. A reader sends me this list from the American Library Association of the top ten “challenged” books of 2020.
“And I thank you, I thank you for doing your duty.
December 28, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Hundreds Demonstrate in Kabul
No, No, No! Not demonstrating for women's Rights. Demonstrating for the return of billions of dollars, which were stolen from Afghanistan by Western bankers (the spittin' image of the moneychangers referenced in the verse above), while Afghans face a winter of starvation.“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
And here is another verse from Matthew:
Afghan Terrorist Shot Dead“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat:”
Last Thursday, a would-be suicide bomber was shot dead outside a passport office by Taliban police. This is the first terrorist attack in Afghanistan that has come to my attention since November 2, when five terrorists attacked a hospital killing 25. Of the five terrorists involved, four were killed and one captured.
Seems like the Taliban are quite capable of dealing with terrorists without foreign interference.
Afghan Drought Continues
Adding to Afghanistan's woes is a poor harvest resulting from a multi-year drought, which, if not caused outright by climate change, is at least aggravated by it. Afghanistan's contribution to climate change is minimal. The carbon footprint of an average Afghan is 55 times less than that of an average Estadounidense.
Oh, My Cron! Yet Another Deadly SARS-CoV-2 Mutation
The Omicron Variant is now the primary variant in many countries. It is thought to have mutated in southern Africa among peoples with little or no access to vaccines (although, this is far from certain). Omicron's distinguishing features include: Increased transmissibility, Ability to evade neutralizing antibodies, whether from vaccine or infection, And ability to infect young children.“I was ... sick ... and you visited me not.”
Many believe that if vaccines had been made available to poor countries, instead of being sold by the pharmaceutical industry to the wealthy who have hoarded them, mutations such as Omicron may never have appeared.
Perhaps, if enough of us in wealthy countries had shown solidarity with the peoples of Burundi, Haiti and Chad and refused vaccinations until vaccines were made available to poor countries on the basis of equality; perhaps then, there would be no deadly Omicron variant and the pandemic would have ended.
I think God has his own way of teaching us the value of sharing.
Do We Need an Omicron-Specific Vaccine? Dr. Anthony Fauci v. Cuban Doctors“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
While Dr. Fauci opines that our current vaccines are good enough for the Omicron variant, Cuba, which has developed two of the world's most effective vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is taking no chances. Cuba has been developing an Omicron-specific vaccine since late November. They hope to have one available very soon.
In the meantime, Cuba, which has vaccinated almost its entire population two years of age or older, is busy giving boosters to its people.
Given Cuba's high success rate in dealing with Covid-19, I would be far more inclined toward trusting the Cuban doctors.
December 21, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From our Readers: Abu Zubaydah
A reader writes in reference to last week's snippet on the torture of Abu Zubaydah:
And here is the letter:“In the matter of Abu Zubayda, you might be interested in the enclosure, dated November 2010. It is a letter from my vfp [Veterans for Peace] chapter to the Ohio Psychology Board recommending an investigation of Dr Larry C James, one of the Army psychologists who devised and instituted so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. A group of [law professionals] approached me about this matter and this letter is the result. Predictably, there was no answer.”
November 3, 2010
From our Readers: Hamid Karzai and The Taliban
A reader sends in this interview with 13-year president of Afghanistan (2001-2014), Hamid Karzai, who claims he had worked out a power-sharing “deal” with the Taliban but his successor, Ashraf Ghani, blew it by fleeing the country.
I wouldn't believe a word of it.
Hamid Karzai was selected as president by occupation forces in Dec. 2001 and remained President of the occupation government for 13 years during which time: opium production soared. insurgency grew stronger and corruption grew. Had he so desired, he had plenty of time to work out a power-sharing “deal” with the Taliban.
In the waning days of the occupation, the Taliban was offered a power-sharing “deal” in a “coalition government.” They weren't interested. Their victory was already 99.9% assured.
The Taliban offered amnesty to all who would surrender. In general, unlike most Western politicians, they seem to be men of their word. Karzai continues to live in his “tree-lined compound” in the center of Kabul with his children. I think Karzai is trying to position himself as THE politician who can deal with both the Taliban and the former occupying powers. In that regard, he may be successful.
2021: A Year of Extreme Weather in the United States and Everywhere Else
While deadly, destructive extreme weather-related events struck everywhere, 2021 has been a particularly devastating year in the United States. Here are some monthly highlights of extreme weather in the United States in 2021. Maybe next week we'll do extreme weather from other continents.
Jan: California fire season extends into January. Indeed, one might now say that the California fire season is 12 months long.
Feb: Midwest Deep Freeze extends as far south as Texas which was totally unprepared. This extreme weather event caused 215 deaths and $23 Billion in monetary damages.
Mar: Severe weather stretching from the plains to the southeast US killed14 and caused $3.4 Billion of damage.
Apr: Texas, still recovering from the February deep freeze, hit by high winds, hail and tornadoes.
May: An atmospheric river floods the lower Mississippi Valley from Mississippi to Texas.
June: A heat dome over the Pacific northwest United States and Southwestern Canada sets record for most extreme heat event anywhere in the world since record-keeping began.
July: Hurricane Elsa hits West Coast of Florida, crosses to Atlantic seaboard and causes catastrophic damage as it moves up the Atlantic coast.
Aug: The Caldor Fire crosses the divide from California to the Nevada side of the Sierras, threatening Lake Tahoe and causing over $1 Billion damage. 2021 was a long devastating fire season in California and much of the North American West.
Aug-Sept: Hurricane Ida makes landfall in Louisiana crosses to mid-Atlantic states where it meets with a frontal system causing extreme flooding, The death toll from Ida stands at 77. Ida caused $65 Billion of damage.
Oct: An atmospheric river hits drought parched and fire scarred California causing floods and landslides.
Nov: An atmospheric river hits British Columbia flooding the Pacific Northwest and cutting Vancouver off from the rest of Canada.
Dec: A rare December tornadic outbreak in the Midwest was responsible for at least seventy deaths, mostly in Kentucky and Illinois.
Plus: the multi-year drought in western North America (Mexico, United States and Canada) continues throughout the year.
And much, much more!
Due to so much extreme weather around the globe, global food prices have hit a high not seen since the great Russian drought of 1972.
Anyone out there in readerland care to write in and tell me how it's all a Chinese hoax?
Meanwhile, lots of folks seem to have nothing better to do then to threaten each other with nuclear weapons. Other articles about nuclear threats here and here.
December 14, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Islam and Marriage
In reference to last week's snippet on Islam and marriage, a reader writes:
My response:“My mother comes from a long line of prominent Shi’ite scholars. Among them was my great-grandfather, who was a marja (scholar of reference for other Shi’ites). He was invited to perform a wedding ceremony. He asked the bride if she consents to the marriage (using the boilerplate Arabic language typical of Shi’ite marriages). She said, ‘No.’ The wedding was canceled. Everyone went home. This was at least 100 years ago, in Iran! Many people in the US assume that we’re still being forcibly married off.”
Thank you for this wonderful story.
Little more than 100 years ago, women demonstrating in the United States for the Right to vote were arrested for “obstructing sidewalk traffic,” jailed and tortured. Here's a short video of a presentation that a reader sent me over a decade ago.
From Our Readers: Women's and Children's Rights Today
Another reader recommends the article, “With Maxwell Sacrificed, the Ruling Oligarchs Will Once Again Escape Justice” by Chris Hedges. Hedges outlines some of the details of the Jeffrey Epstein / Ghislaine Maxwell sex ring. He points out that two former presidents of the United States, billionaires, and other assorted illuminati participated in this gross violation of the Rights of women and children. However, they are unlikely to receive any punishment, much less jail time.
Maybe someone would explain to me: What Right does a country that permits such abuses have to preach to others about Human Rights?
Abu Zubaydah: 20 Years of Torture
And here's an article by Abby Zimet discussing the torture of Abu Zubaydah, who is still, after 20 years, being held in Guantánamo without charge.
Abu Zubaydah has said,
He was once waterboarded 83 times in a month. At one point he stopped breathing, literally died and had to be revived. Now he has petitioned the court for his release on the grounds that the War Against Afghanistan and al-Qaida is over; so he can no longer be held as an enemy combatant.“I was told that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied. It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people.”
Abu Zubaydah's story, “The Forever Prisoner,” is now a movie by Alex Gibney on HBO.
It appears unlikely that the people who tortured Abu Zubaydah for 20 years will ever be held accountable. So, again, I ask, What right does a country that permits such abuses have to preach to others about Human Rights?
Final US Strike of Afghan War: No One to be Held Accountable
And in case you wondered... No one will be held accountable for the August 29 drone strike in Afghanistan that killed ten civilians including a two-year-old child. The strike was totally gratuitous. The US had already acknowledged defeat and would finish its withdrawal within days.
Meanwhile... Daniel Hale, who exposed the heavy civilian death toll from the US drone campaign, languishes in prison, serving a multi-year sentence for leaking classified information. We, the People, have an absolute Right to know what atrocities are being committed in our name.
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.”
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:
“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?Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. ‘What sort of people live about here?’
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).
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“‘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]”
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:
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:1. It gestated unknown in an isolated community before being transmitted back into the population at large.
Eight large strockholders in Pfizer and Moderna have already become $10 billion richer, and the omicron wave is just beginning. Follow the Money!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.
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.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.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.
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:
Activism Works: Six Days in Fallujah Video Game Shelved“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.”
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:
My response:“... [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.”
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:
The essay is posted here.“...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.”
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:
My response:“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.
Iraq veteran, Michael Hanes, notes;
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.“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.
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
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:“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.”
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.“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.”
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?
(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.
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
And further:“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.
My response: I wish I knew how. Anyone out in readerland have any ideas? Send them in.“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?
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:
In 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force. Article VI states:“...never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices...”
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:“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.”
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:
And here is my favorite quote on the post 9-11 US wars, from Tom Engelhardt in 2014“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 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.“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.
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:
And a few comments on Colin Powell:“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. ...”
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.“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.”
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
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.“‘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.
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:
For my own part, I find turning the Rape of Fallujah into a video game beyond disgusting.*       Does it teach that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law?
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
Yuri Deigin“... 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.”
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:
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:“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 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.“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).”
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.“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.”
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...
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
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.
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:
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.“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.”
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:
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.“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.”
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.
With infections and hospitalizations sky high,
this is the wrong time to implement this proposal.
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:
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.“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.”
A few personal notes:
Hurricane Ida: Stirring the Pot1. 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.
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:
My response:“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.”
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:
From Our Readers: The Taliban and Women“Poems are made by fools like me,
A reader writes:
My response:“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.”
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:
My response:“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.”
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;
August 10, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
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:
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.“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.”
August 3, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman
Animal, Vegetable, Junk:
A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal
by Mark Bittman
My response: Thanks for the excellent review. Sounds like a very important book. I'm looking forward to reading it.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.
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
Perhaps, I exaggerate here; but it seems like last month Earth saw the worst floods since the days of Noah and Gilgamesh.“And all the rain falls down, Amen,
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”
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%.“We'll try to stay serene and calm
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 PakistanIn 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?
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:“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;”
The video has since been taken down, although it has been reposted on youtube and partially on twitter with English subtitles.“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.”
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:
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?“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.”
Note1: The historic data above are from Wikipedia and may be disputed.
July 20, 2021 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Totally Delusional: Biden Calls Cuba “Failed State”
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.Open Letter to President Joseph Biden of the United States of America
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
China is apparently having second thoughts about a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, opines:“And this mess is so big
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 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.”
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
June was quite a month. The world's worst heat wave in recorded history gripped western North America, killing at least 800.“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
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:
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,
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.“Good point in paragraph one. The photos are very effective.
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.
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.“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.”
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
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.“I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.” —Edward Snowden
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.
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?
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:
So what can be said about those scientists who have“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.”
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.“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’.”?
Sachs also notes that:
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.“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 addition, Sachs remarks:
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.“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.”
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
and“Neither the US nor Chinese authorities have yet been sufficiently forthcoming to date to enable researchers to advance our understanding of the origin of
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.“Many biosafety experts have long argued that such work ...requires much greater oversight, control, and scrutiny,”
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.
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.
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:
My response:“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.”
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.
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
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.“Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail.” —Dave Jorgenson
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
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.“It must be mighty discouragin'
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.
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.“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.”
Back in July, 2020, I wrote:
But secrets do get out. To quote Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley.”“So let's assume for now that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. And let's assume the secret gets out.
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:
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.Wealth without work.
Note on the above Tom Lehrer quote:
This is an amazing pun. But then, Tom Lehrer is an amazing satirist. The quote
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.“It must be mighty discouragin'
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
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?“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
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
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.”“We live in a post-truth era, where facts don’t matter anymore.” —Damien Spleeters
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:
This kind of independence, particularly from a NATO member, would have been unheard of a few short years ago.“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.”
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:
Here are two more important articles:“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.”
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:
And:“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.”
Israel: Its Own Worst Enemy“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.”
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.
Much has changed since February when I wrote:
and later in March“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.
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.“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.”
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
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.“To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.” —Howard Zinn
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?
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)
Ban This Book
Last month, when I was writing about Dr. Seuss and censorship, a reader recommended Ban This Book by Alan Gratz.
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.“[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.”
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:
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“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.”
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)
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.
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.
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:
My response:“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.”
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:
From Our Readers: on Banning BooksOh, the world is so full of a number of 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.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.
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:
My response: Here's another example:“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!”
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.“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.”
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.
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.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.)
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
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.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.
And my favorite book about Arctic peoples is Lydia Dabcovich's The Polar Bear Son.
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.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.
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
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.”“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
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:
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.“Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish,
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.”
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:
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.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.
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:
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:
One reader writes:“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.
Another 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.”
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.)“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 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:
And finally: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?
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.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.
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
Question: What's the Difference between Human-Induced and Natural Disasters?“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.”
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:
Collapse and Extinction: Two from the Past“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.”
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
In response to the post from January 2020 that I quoted last week:“An isolated incident is business as usual that has been detected.” —Fred Reed
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:“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?”
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)
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
Down with Walls; Up with People
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:
And finally:“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of our failure to limit the spread of COVID-19...
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty Goes into Force; START Treaty to be Extended“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.”
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:
My response:“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 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:
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.Nicaragua: 2018, failed coup
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”
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.“He was a most peculiar man;
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.
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.“He had no friends, he seldom spoke;
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.
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.“He died last Saturday.
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.
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.“And all the people said, ‘What a shame that he's dead;
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.