Tom (Yusha) Sager's website home feedback
September 15, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Donald Trump
A reader writes:
And another reader writes:“Trump is dangerous and scares me. His followers scare me, too, as they are willing to believe what he says. Was it Don Jr who just said that 17 year olds make stupid mistakes in defense of the guy who shot protesters? I'm not going to say all my choices as a 17 year old were good, but never did it occur to me to shoot someone. Trump is provoking gullible people who apparently don't know better. And that shows in the boat parade: they don't even realize they are sinking themselves. Literally. And it could all get much worse.”
My response:“Perhaps you should say something about the super spreader event that took place in Sturgis recently. That can be blamed on Trump since his attitude toward mask wearing and social distancing rubs off on his fans. I'm sorry that I'm not religious because if I were, I'd know that Trump would burn in Hell eternally for breaking the 'thou shalt not kill' commandment.”
I can't quarrel with what our readers have written; but I must note:
If God were not merciful and forgiving, we would all be headed straight for Hell; so let's count our blessings. It is not for me to pass judgment: God redeems whom he will; and leaves whom he will to wander in darkness.
You were a much more mature 17-year-old than I was. At 17, I thought often and hard about shooting people. I was certainly not unique. Militaries thrive on 17-year-olds such as I was.
Keep in mind: Donald Trump invented neither Capitalism nor Imperialism nor Narcissism, although he appears to be pushing each one toward new extremes. Helen suggests the following quote from Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness:”
I love this passage. Replace “peal of laughter” with “wildfires, plagues and hurricanes.” Conrad, could easily have been writing about Donald Trump. Trump is the spittin' image of Conrad's Mr. Kurtz.“You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over.”
Incidentally, there is a very interesting article on COVID-19, the Sturgis rally and other mass gatherings in Wired.
Climate Catastrophe Essay Updated
I've posted the August update to Climate Catastrophe and also added two paragraphs to the section: Can Science Save US? It's not a pleasant read.
The Future We Are All Fighting For
September 8, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Up to 59 Million Refugees and Counting
The Costs of War Project estimates the US War on Terror has displaced up to 59 million people in the Middle East. That's equivalent to 18% of the population of the United States.“We’re sold the idea of—we’re going to liberate people, we’re fighting terrorism. Then we realize we’re the ones terrorizing people. That torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide.”
Meanwhile here in the United States large numbers of people have been driven from their homes due to Hurricane Laura, fires in the western United States, and eviction in the wake of joblessness caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Do you see a connection? I do.
Maybe if we had spent all those trillions of dollars over the past two decades fighting climate change and rebuilding our infrastructure instead of terrorizing people... maybe things would have been different.
Well, it's not to late to reconsider our priorities.
Donald Trump's Lovers' Quarrel With the Military
After leaking secrets about how Trump, who dodged military service during our Vietnam War, has shown contempt for soldiers as “losers,” and “suckers,” Trump fired back:
Well, we all know that Trump holds the whole world in contempt, except himself and a handful of sycophants. [It's a great word, Donald. Look it up, if you can find a dictionary.] And we all know that War is a Racket, meant to enrich the few at the expense of everyone else. Major General Smedley Butler said it 85 years ago. President Dwight Eiserhower said it 60 years ago. Things have only gotten worse.“The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t [in love with me] because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Don't expect anything to come of this lovers' quarrel. Likely, they'll kiss and make up. Hey, Donald: What about that swamp you were going to drain? What about those Forever Wars you were going to end?
Climate Change Continues
In August, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to increased at a rate of approximately 2.5 parts per million per year. August 2020 was among the five warmest Augusts on record in spite of a gathering La Niña episode which tends to cool off surface temperatures (“official” numbers not published yet). And we're in the midst of one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons and California fire seasons ever, both at the same time. Still think it's a Chinese hoax?
If You Can't Find Much to Laugh About...
Try this one: In a Trump boat parade on Lake Travis in Texas, at least five boats were swamped due to reckless and offensive boat handling by Trump supporters. The event has been nicknamed Proud Buoys, Klannish Armada and Dumbkirk.
September 1, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Africa: Missing COVID Cases — Missing Deaths
I've been writing since April about how COVID-19 appears to be primarily a disease of wealthy countries, although in recent months it has spread into some less-wealthy countries.
Here's a very interesting article by Linda Nordling discussing some recent findings from Africa, where it appears that in multiple areas, large numbers of people are developing antibodies to the COVID-19 virus without actually getting the COVID-19 disease or at least not having symptomatic cases. While one might surmise that the health authorities are “missing” a lot of cases, this appears unlikely, as there does not seem to be an uptick in mortality
Medical researchers surmise that it might be due to Africa's youthful population or perhaps even genetic factors; but here's the conjecture that really caught my eye: Due to their exposure to other diseases such as colds and malaria; Africans have developed more robust immune systems better able to adjust to novel germs like the COVID-19 virus.
I'd like to take this conjecture one step further. Perhaps those of us in wealthy countries, who are over-vaccinated and over-medicated have damaged our immune systems to the point where we cannot easily adjust to novel microbes.
Do we really need to be vaccinating the entire population for chicken pox? Do we really need to be exposing the population constantly to antibiotics through the meat we eat? Over-vaccination and over-medication may be causing unintended consequences.
And if you think the medical establishment knows best, consider:
The human immune system is tremendously complex and no one, not even Donald Trump, fully understands it.
Dr. Yoshihiro Sato published over one hundred peer-reviewed papers and even had a medical protocol based on his research adopted. Later his publications were found to be based on fake research.
But, getting back to Africa: One epidemiologist quoted in the article by Linda Nordling, Yap Boum of Epicentre Africa, the research and training arm of Doctors Without Borders, suggests that because of the high prevalence of antibodies in the population and the low prevalence of active cases and deaths, Africa might try for a relatively painless herd-immunity to COVID-19 without waiting for a vaccine.
In a proposal that I made recently, I also suggested a way in which we might arrive at a relatively painless vaccine-free herd immunity in more immuno-compromised populations, such as our own.
What If China Develops a COVID-19 Vaccine First?
The first out with a vaccine will become world famous. Wealth, power and acclamation will certainly accrue. But, shouldn't we all be working together instead of competing? Does it really matter who is first? Isn't it more important that the job be done right?“As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.” —Benjamin Franklin
This article presents dire predictions should China be the first to produce an effective vaccine, an event which is appearing more and more likely all the time. I think competition is just fine on the playing field; but I'd rather not take a vaccine that was the result of a high-stakes competition.
Muhammad Ali: Still The Greatest!
Over 50 years ago, Muhammad Ali refused to be conscripted into the US military. As a result, he was stripped of his boxing titles and banned from the ring — essentially ruining his career — they thought.“I ain't got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me nigger.” —Muhammad Ali
But Muhammad Ali won the Right to box again through the courts and regained the championship title: not once, but twice.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali drew the connection between injustice and racism at home and injustice and racism abroad. This is what really strikes fear into the establishment: that people will begin to draw this connection.
To my knowledge, athletes today like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James have not drawn this connection yet; but I suspect they will soon.
Two New Cartoons
I've added two new cartoons to my website, both on the coronavirus theme.
For those of you old enough to remember mid-20th-century absurdist theatre: Waiting for Dr. Fauci
And for the mathematically inclined: Asymptotic Spreaders
Also the section on Benjamin Franklin and the Postal Service has been redone and some of my more serious writings on the COVID-19 pandemic have been updated.
August 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
California Burnin' (On Such a Summer's Day)
After a relatively light fire-year in 2019 during which little more than 1/4 million acres burned, fires have returned to California with a vengeance in 2020. This year's fires in California are on track to burn more acreage than in any previous year. 2018, year of the Camp Fire which killed 85 and wiped out the town of Paradise, holds the record with close to 1.9 million acres burned. California fires have already burned over 1.4 million acres during the 2020 fire season which is just getting underway.
But there is a silver lining to every cloud. Wall Street investors have learned how to turn a handsome profit from even the worst disaster. The Baupost Group hedge fund has already made a cool $3 billion off these California fires which have displaced at least 100 thousand people.
This years flooding in China appears to rival floods chronicled in folk lore and religious scripture (Gilgamesh flood, Noah's flood, Turkey's Gift to the People [Diné], for example). The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangze is in trouble. Let's pray that it holds, since if that dam goes it may well precipitate the greatest flood the modern world has ever seen. China is no stranger to flooding. The 1938 Yellow River Flood which was deliberately caused by the retreating Guomindang Army killed a 1/2 million or more people.
And here in the United States, a monster derecho storm leveled trees and houses and wiped out much of Iowa's corn crop. And as I write, Hurricane Laura bears down on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
No Such Thing as a “Good War.”
In researching the history of the Post Office, I was reminded of these two sayings of Benjamin Franklin, who was our very first Postmaster General:
This is doubly true today when it is so necessary for the world to come together in the face of climate disasters, emerging diseases, nuclear weapons and other collective threats to humanity. And Franklin had a saying for this too:“There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
August 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Opening Israeli Beaches to Palestinians
I cried when I saw this article: Palestinians enjoying the beaches of Israel after over 70 years. Perhaps a small gesture; but it could grow into something huge. 13 years ago, I wrote:
Perhaps it is finally happening. Who would have thought that a tiny virus could have accomplished so much!“As the power and unconditional backing of its major benefactor [the United States] evaporates, Israel may decide that the best course is not only to make peace with its neighbors, but to enter into some form of economic and military cooperation with them.” [Three Murderous Myths, p13]
I received some very thoughtful comments on the proposal in last week's newsletter on developing herd immunity to COVID-19. One reader felt it would not be ethical to deliberately give a volunteer COVID-19. Another was concerned about long-term side-effects of having been infected with COVID-19. I'm going to save discussion of these points for a later date. Please continue to send in comments. The proposal is posted here.
UN sanctions on Iran to End in October
The United Nations Security Council voted down a US proposal to extend the arms embargo on Iran which is set to expire in October. The United States and the Dominican Republic voted to extend the embargo. China and Russia voted against the proposal. All other Security Council members, including the United Kingdom, abstained.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Makes Progress
So far this August, Ireland, Nigeria, Niue and Saint Kitts & Nevis have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, bringing the total to 44. Six more ratifications and the Treaty goes into force.
This is a very important Treaty, by which mostly small and medium-sized nations are standing up to nuclear bullying from mostly rich and powerful nations.
Here's an article about Fiji which was devastated by French nuclear testing. Fiji ratified the Treaty last month.
August 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Beating the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Modest Proposal
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Some 250,000 new cases are confirmed each day; and counting unreported cases, the daily total may well reach into the millions. Worldwide, death toll estimates from the virus approach 750,000.
Some countries, such as Laos, have been quite successful in avoiding the pandemic so far. In others, most notably, the United States, the pandemic has ravaged through the population for months. Many, such as China, where the pandemic was first noted, have brought the pandemic under control and kept it under control. In other countries, such as Japan, the pandemic is resurging after having been previously brought under control. In still others, such as India, the pandemic arrived late, but when it did arrive, it spread like wildfire.
Second waves of COVID-19 cases are definitely in vogue now. Here are some examples:
Folks in places where new cases have peaked and then fallen drastically, worn out from beating back the initial wave, are living in fear of a resurgence of COVID-19 — hoping science will give them a vaccine before it's too late.Spain peaked with an average of 7,800 new cases reported daily during the week ending April 1. New cases fell to an average of 279 over the week ending June 10, but then surged to an average of 2,704 new cases over the week ending August 10.
Here, I have a modest proposal to make. It's a low-tech solution. It doesn't require a vaccine that may not be available for a long time and may not work particularly well, even after it is available. In fact, this proposal doesn't require anything that we don't already have, except the will to implement it.
First thing is to estimate how many active infections can be handled without overwhelming one's healthcare infrastructure. Here, we must not lose sight of the fact that people still need medical attention for other reasons as well.
Second let's estimate how many active infections we can handle without sending our economy into a tailspin.
These estimates need to be fine-tuned. If infected people are not aged or immuno-compromised, our healthcare infrastructure can tolerate a lot more infections than if the infected are among the most vulnerable in society. If the infected people are from non-critical professions, we can handle far more infections than if the infected are frontline healthcare workers.
Then, we want to build in a safety factor; and when all is said and done, we have a number, let's call it our Maximum Comfortable Active Infection Load or MCAIL for short. Note this number should change over time as we strive to build a more robust healthcare infrastructure and fine-tune the proposal.
Now, estimate our current active infection load. If its above the MCAIL threshold, first thing to do is to bring it down, using known techniques such as isolation, contact tracing, social distancing etc. It's not my purpose here to review these techniques that we have all heard about over and over again.
When our active infection load falls below the MCAIL threshold; we ask for volunteers; who agree to be deliberately infected with COVID-19. Our purpose here is to arrive at herd-immunity as quickly and painlessly as possible, without overwhelming our healthcare infrastructure or destroying our economic livelihood.
Herd-immunity is attained when the immune portion of the population is large enough that the virus cannot easily spread through the portion that lacks immunity. I've seen estimates of herd immunity that vary from requiring 20% of the population to be immune to requiring 80% of the population to be immune. Clearly, the details need to be worked out in real time.
Immunity derived from having recovered from a disease is the real McCoy — much more effective in general than vaccine-induced immunity, particularly new untried vaccines that have been rushed to market by for-profit corporations, hoping to make a killing (literally) off the pandemic. So far, there have been no confirmed instances of a fully recovered individual getting sick with COVID-19 a second time (although there are plenty of rumors).
As volunteers recover, new volunteers are accepted, keeping the active infection load as close as possible to the MCAIL threshold. Once a volunteer has recovered and acquired immunity, he returns to the general population, perhaps a month or so after being selected. Once we reach herd-immunity, we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “Job Well Done.”
Certainly, volunteers should be offered something for agreeing to be human guinea pigs. What should be offered? Whatever it takes to get enough volunteers.
The infection fatality rate, the portion of those infected who can be expected to die from the infection, is low — less than 1% — and even lower if healthy volunteers are chosen. Lasting complications are certainly possible, but seem to be rare among healthy individuals. Volunteers should be isolated and checked daily until they are coronavirus free. If needed, they should receive the best medical care available. Most will likely experience at worst mild symptoms. Volunteers might well be less likely to die of COVID-19 then the general population, because of the constant medical care and attention they would receive while infected.
In addition, volunteers should certainly receive a salary commensurate with their earning abilities. Their salary should also include hazardous duty pay.
Afterwards, being virtually immune, their services should be in great demand in hospitals, nursing homes and other places where workers must be around folks who are likely to be infected or those who are most at risk from infections.
What we are striving for here is far more than flattening the curve. Indeed, if this works as planned; we no longer have a curve at all; Instead we have a level straight line.
Before 1963, it was common knowledge that most children would eventually get measles. Many parents would deliberately expose their children to measles at opportune times in order to get the inevitable over with, in spite of the risk involved.
It is likely that, short of an effective vaccine, most people will eventually contract COVID-19. With this proposal, we are simulating the situation that existed with measles prior to 1963 when the first measles vaccine was developed.
And what happens if an effective COVID-19 vaccine is developed? We can always switch horses (as we did with measles) if desired. But let's not put all our money on the vaccine horse; especially since there is no guarantee that it will ever reach the finish line. Indeed, many think that a COVID-19 vaccine that comes even close to the efficacy of our measles vaccine (97% effective) is highly unlikely. And let's not forget that decades into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, science has failed miserably in producing a vaccine.
Actually, this proposal increases the likelihood of eventually developing an effective vaccine for COVID-19. It allows vaccine developers the time necessary to do the job right. “Warp-speed” is no longer necessary since we have another, perhaps even better, method of fighting the pandemic. Haste makes waste. Personally, I would not want to take a vaccine produced under the conditions now envisioned.
There are certainly a lot of unknowns here; and I am not in a position to fill in all the blanks. However, I believe the idea is sound; and certainly beats doing nothing while living in fear and waiting for a vaccine.
You might ask: where's the money going to come from? How about from the almost $2 trillion that the world spends each year on war and preparations for war. A minuscule percentage of the world's war budget should easily cover implementing this proposal worldwide. Not only would we conquer the pandemic; but we would also render war, potentially a much greater killer than COVID-19, far less likely.
August 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Let's Ban All Nuclear Weapons
This week is Hiroshima/Nagasaki week. 75 years ago on August 6, the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States killing an estimated 120,000 people. Three days later, the second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing another estimated 80,000 people.
It is absolutely incredible that 75 years later, nine nations carry nuclear weapons in their arsenals, threatening all 7.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth. These nations are: The United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
To my knowledge, not one of these nations has even agreed to destroy their nuclear arsenal if the other eight would do so too.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is making progress. In July, Fiji and Botswana ratified the Treaty bringing to 40 the number of State Parties. Ten more and the Treaty goes into force.
This is a very important Treaty. It represents the small nations of the world standing up to nuclear blackmail from the powerful nations. Sadly, not one nuclear-armed nation has signed the Treaty.
From our Readers: Iran
A reader writes: “Always grateful for your newsletter because you provide news I don’t get elsewhere. I had no idea about the Iranian incidences.”
My response: Thank you. I think what I wrote is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a more in-depth article by Reese Ehrlich.
And here's the latest incident that I'm aware of:
From our Readers: California Wildfires
A reader writes: “[P]art of the problem is the same cause as many of our new diseases. Man encroaches upon nature, and as the saying goes 'nature bats last.' Another cause is the greedy utilities who spend money on executive bonuses, but underspend on maintenance of the power lines. Several of the worst fires in the past few years have been caused by PG&E powerlines. And finally climate change seems to have given California a warmer, drier climate which makes the state more prone to fires.”
My response: Excellent summary! The California wildfire season is underway and may be a bad one.
But, here's a place you wouldn't expect to see wildfires this time of year (middle of southern-hemisphere winter), Argentina. Seems like the rivers are drying up from all the forest destruction in the Amazon Basin and the Paraná River Delta is aflame. Yes, Nature Bats Last.
Israel: Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Worse
In the middle of a global pandemic, Israel deliberately demolished a COVID-19 testing center in Hebron on the West-bank of Palestine.
Viruses don't play politics or respect political boundaries. Israel has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Israel reported 1,768 new cases of COVID-19 or 192 cases per million population. By contrast, the United States reported 54,505 new cases or 165 cases per million; and Palestine reported only 229 new cases or 45 new cases per million. Like the United States, Israel is experiencing unrest from those who would rather see their own country-people get sick and die than see their social and economic lives disrupted.
Perhaps, if Israel were more interested in taking care of its own citizens and less interested in brutalizing Palestinians, their COVID numbers would come down at least as far as Palestine's.
(The data above are from Worldometers.info.)
July 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From our Readers: Cognitive Dissonance:
My response: Excellent example! Here's another one:“Cognitive dissonance is when you applaud secret police snatching up people into unmarked vans, then turn around and claim that having to wear a mask is like living in a dictatorship.”
Billions of Dollars Worth of Scrap Metal“When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to recall that your objective was to drain the swamp.”
Michael Klare points out that all those giant aircraft carriers we've payed billions and billions for are nothing but death-traps in this age of the coronavirus; and the next generation of weapons will be small and robotic, able to function with or without a human in control.“Day after day, day after day,
So Congress has passed a $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act to develop and deploy all these shiny new robotic toys, while ignoring much-needed domestic spending. The United States is looking more and more like a failed state with every passing day.
Personally, I wouldn't feel any more secure with a bunch of killer-robots on the loose. How about you?
In early July there was a fire and explosion in Iran's centrifuge production plant at the Natanz nuclear complex — quite likely sabotage. Since then:
There was a fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard — also possibly sabotage.
An Iranian commercial airplane was closely approached by a US fighter plane causing injuries to passengers.
In a military exercise Iran destroyed a mockup of a US aircraft carrier in the Straight of Hormuz.
Some wonder when the missiles will start flying and the bombs dropping in ernest. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to go back to the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA)?
A House Divided
Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon is looking more and more like a war-zone each day. We are definitely a house divided; and as Abraham Lincoln (and Jesus before him) stated so clearly, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Ravages of Nature
And while humanity battles against itself, Nature is getting her own licks in. Floods ravaged much of Asia from China where a dam was blown up to ease flooding to Bangladesh which is 1/3 under water. Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna ravaged parts of Mexico and Texas dropping up to 15 inches of rain in places. Maybe Nature is trying to tell us something. Maybe we should stop what we are doing and listen.
July 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
When Empires Dissolve
We live in momentous times. We live at a time when the United States of America is literally coming unglued.“When dying regimes collapse, they do so with dizzying speed.” —Chris Hedges
Here is the latest: Federal agents in Portland, Oregon driving in unmarked vehicles kidnapped protesters off the streets and beat up and gassed a Navy veteran who asked them to remember their oath to defend the Constitution. City and State elected officials have told the feds, “Get out.” So far, they have refused. And they threaten to do the same in other cities.
Oregon seems to be the Bellwether State. Four years ago, it was the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Reservation by the militia movement. Today, it's the streets of Portland.
I'm wondering: How much longer before the military takeover of an incompetent inept civilian government whose response to an out-of control pandemic seems to be Do no testing; Do no reporting?
Or perhaps the United States will simply dissolve into regional blocks as the Soviet Union did 30 years ago.
I find the former far more likely — the culmination of two long-standing campaigns: “get big government off our backs” and “support the troops.” I wonder: At this point, how many would actually welcome a military takeover?
Palestine and Israel
Seems like some influential Jewish-Americans are finally coming to realize that the “Two-State Solution” is dead and salvation lies in a single state with equal rights for all. It's been a long time coming.
Israel is having some of the same problems as the United States as the COVID-19 pandemic rampages through the population and street demonstrations against a corrupt ineffectual government elicit a violent government response.
The 50 pound elephant turd in the middle of the room that no one talks about is Israel's relationship with the United States. Israel exists on the largesse of the United States, to the tune of billions of dollars each year and non-monetary perks such as shelter from condemnation in the United Nations Security Council. Right now, the United States can't even take care of itself much less a country thousands of miles away.
Israel may indeed be forced, out of necessity, to come to terms with its Palestinian subjects. This would certainly be advantageous for both peoples and for the entire Middle East.
How the United States and Western Europe would deal with a strong, independent, multi-national, nuclear-armed state in this oil-rich region of the world will be a topic for another day's discussion.
July 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers:
A reader writes:
My Response: National Outcomes from COVID-19 Pandemic“Three countries led by leaders who trust their gut feel rather than listen to the scientists have had very bad outcomes: USA, UK, Brazil. Generally countries that have listened to their experts have done much better: New Zealand for example. I have seen studies claiming that if Trump had done the right things such as shut down the country and take the responsibility for stocking PPE when the warnings first came, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. Instead he said that it was no worse than the flu, and would disappear in the summer, and did nothing. That's what happens when we elect an egotistical moron as president. Whatever you can say about Hillary, she is way more competent than Trump, and I believe the outcome would have been much better. I'm no expert on your religion, but I'm sure that tens of thousands of lives saved must factor in somewhere.
How ought we to compare the responses of various countries to the COVID pandemic? total number of cases confirmed? total number of deaths attributed to the COVID virus? cases per population size? mortality per population size? What other factors ought to be taken into account? health? age? wealth? environment? stability? number of tests performed? I have no easy answer; and I suspect no one else does either.
In the comparisons which I have posted online (here and here) and update regularly, I rank countries according to total number of COVID cases. I'm somewhat unhappy about this, although it seems to be working out, provided you don't take the numbers too seriously and keep in mind the limitations of this approach.
At present: (0:00 hrs gmt on July 15) the top countries in total confirmed cases are, in order: USA. Brazil, India, Russia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, UK. One might argue from the first three countries, that countries with right-wing ideologues as heads of state are most susceptible to the COVID pandemic. However, going back to March 20, six of the top ten countries were Western European democracies. China, Iran, USA and South Korea rounded out the top ten.
The UK's performance is in line with other Western European countries, although near the high end: second to Spain in number of cases; first in mortality; and quite far down the list in number of cases per population size
Sweden, with its much-lauded policy of remaining open, is not doing particularly well at present, particularly in deaths per population size
Some countries that might surprise you: Vietnam and Mongolia seem to be doing quite well, Israel and Saudi Arabia quite poorly.
On January 28 when the USA had five confirmed cases and China less than 6,000, I warned:
By early April, the USA was Number One in confirmed COVID cases, a position we have held ever since, even widening our lead over other countries. The United States surpassed a confirmed infection rate of 1% of the population this weekend. On July 10 the United States logged over 71,000 new cases, over 85% of China's 83,000+ total confirmed cases over the life of the pandemic so far.“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
What makes the difference?
China's leadership was willing and able to do whatever necessary to stop the epidemic from spreading. China has a robust national healthcare system which extends to the entire population.
The United States, as you note, is under the leadership of a delusional head of state who doesn't seem to understand or care. Decades of for-profit healthcare have left our public health infrastructure in shambles.
Note 1: Data is from worldometers.info and is “as reported” which may or may not represent the reality on the ground faithfully.
Note 2: COVID-19 is currently the name of a disease, syndrome or pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is the official name given to the virus that causes the COVID-19 syndrome. However, that is hard to say. I prefer to call it the COVID-19 virus or simply the COVID virus
My Response: Donald Trump and Religion
This quote comes from an article I found a couple of years ago, in which the author was interviewing people on the USA/Mexico border. I've been saving it for the proper occasion.“Sometimes, God uses unusual people, people that are not exactly on the straight and narrow. And I believe God is using Mr. Trump. Like I said I don’t like his style, but I believe God is using him. He doesn’t answer to people, he does whatever.” —Kathy Casillas
I'm glad you asked about Donald Trump and religion. I, too, believe God is using him; and the purpose for which I believe God is using Donald Trump appears to be the destruction of the Great American Empire.
Think about it. If your intention was to destroy the Great American Empire, could you think of a better way then to place an “egotistical moron” like Donald Trump in the White House?
On March 31, I warned:
The COVID-19 virus is fast degrading the capacity of the US military to maintain its empire. Here's an example from Okinawa. Okinawans, fed up with the crime and pollution associated with military occupation, long ago asked the US military to pack up and leave their islands. That US troops are now spreading COVID-19 among the population could be the final straw.“But this will pass. Eventually humanity will develop herd-immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
My Response: Origins of the COVID-19 pandemic
Representatives of the World Health Organization are currently visiting China with the goal of forming an international mission to seek the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. They apparently will look into all possibilities, including the possibility that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they find, particularly since the United States has withdrawn from the WHO and presumably will not be participating.
My Response: China and the Cultural Revolution
These seven words, which Kiriakou used to describe a totally different situation, sum up my feelings about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Justified (in my opinion) anger at the elite spilled over into anarchy. And a decade later, when the revolution was over, China embarked on a program of “modernization” with the goal of beating the West at its own game. While China may soon be the world's largest economy and a military super-power, it has paid a high price in terms of pollution and environmental degradation.“Anarchy is a poor answer to tyranny.” —John Kiriakou
China seems to have a belief that it can always recover later from past excesses. Perhaps this comes from its long history, as the longest continuous culture on the planet. However, I suspect when it comes to environmental degradation, there are limits to humanity's ability to recover from past excesses. But that's a tale for another day.
I've posted the June update to my ongoing essay on climate catastrophe. In sum, June was a terrible month; but not nearly so terrible as the previous few months.
July 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: It's All Connected
I received some very nice responses to last weeks column on how everything is connected. One reader writes, “I agree with you wholeheartedly.” Another writes, “Good Stuff Tom! What came first Man or Nature? If we think we can disrespect nature without consequences, we had better think again! We only have to just be still, pay attention and open our eyes.”
My response: Thanks so much to both of you. Here's a verse from the Qur'an:
The Book of Genesis places the creation of man as the final act of God on the sixth day of the Creation. Amerindians also describe the creation of man as the final act of creation, as in stories such as And Me, Coyote. According to Science, modern man evolved around 250 thousand years ago. Life on the planet Earth began around 4 billion years ago. In other words, Nature got along just fine for 3,999,750,000 years without us. I suspect she will get along just fine after we are all gone. So let's show a little respect.“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men: Yet most men understand not.”
A third reader sends in a similar post from Nicaragua, The Rona and Trees, that seems to be inspired by the same article that inspired my column last week.
And yesterday, I found this wonderful article by Robert Shetterly that looks at connections between White Men in Suits, Original Sin, and Rumplestiltskin. I think it is in the aether that all is connected, and many are picking up the vibes.
A fourth reader writes in, “I'm glad to see that you've decided that COVID-19 is zoonotic and not from a lab.”
My response: I've decided nothing of the kind. Assuming the original viral material for the COVID-19 virus came from a bat, it could have been transformed into the COVID-19 virus through natural selection, through genetic manipulation in a laboratory, or perhaps by other means as well. I stand by my statement that:
I have seen no satisfactory explanation as to why it is “impossible” that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. When you brush aside the cobwebs it turns out to be, “We're the experts. We'll spare you all the details that you wouldn't understand anyway. Just take our word for it.” And then the mantra is repeated endlessly through the media.“In my opinion it is quite likely that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
So let's assume for now that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory. And let's assume the secret gets out.
So far, 540 thousand have died of COVID-19. People all over the world have lost family and friends to this virus. Folks have had their whole lives disrupted. How are they going to respond to the knowledge that this scourge was visited upon them by a handful of scientists? Might they not torch a few ivory towers? Might they not liberate a few laboratories? Might they not scourge a few scientists?
Indeed, scientists have a very strong interest in keeping the public from believing that they hold any responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic.
We should also keep in mind that in the past, scientists have visited other destructive technologies on humanity. The most obvious example is nuclear weapons. Another is the technology to mine and burn fossil fuels, without which it is unlikely that we would now be plagued by a warming climate. A third example is computer technology, which makes possible unmanned vehicles that can deliver bombs precisely anywhere in the world.
So would folks that have made weapons capable of wiping humanity from the face of the Earth stop at creating a disease which is likely to kill one to five percent of humanity? I'll let you, Dear Reader, answer that one.
Scientists, such as the renowned Dr. Anthony Fauci, decry that so many have “an anti-science bias” for “inconceivable reasons.” As a fellow scientist, let me explain, Dr. Fauci.
Given the discussion above, is it not truly bizarre that so many look upon Science as the Savior of Humanity? Some may not articulate their objection to Science in the manner I have; but I suspect subconsciously they understand.
This age is not unique. There have been ages in the past when people have turned against Science. Consider the early 19th Century English Luddites who smashed machines and turned against industrial automation which was destroying their livelihood.
My favorite example, however, is the Chinese Cultural Revolution (roughly 1967 to 1977) during which universities were shuttered and scientists were sent to the countryside to work on collective farms and learn the value of hard labor.
Maybe, if scientists did more for ordinary people, and less for the elite classes of billionaires, corporate executives, politicians and generals — maybe then, there would not be so many people with “an anti-science bias.”
June 30, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
It's All Connected
A reader sends in this article from the New York Times detailing connections between emerging diseases (particularly COVID-19) and environmental destruction — a perfect illustration of the adage “Nature Bats Last.” The devastation we have done to natural ecosystems comes back to haunt us as zoonotic disease like COVID-19.
Reading the article, I couldn't help feeling that we are going to get hit by disease upon disease until we learn that we are a part of Nature — not separate from it and definitely not holding dominion over it. I think Nature is trying to teach us something. We ignore the lesson at our own peril.
Here's another article from Institute for Policy Studies detailing what may be the most important connection: Militarism and Climate Change. This has been a major theme in my writing; so I was very glad to see this excellent article. War and Climate Change feed on each other. To take one example: War is a carbon intensive activity. Tanks and fighter planes run on petroleum-based products, lots of it, and are heavy emitters of carbon dioxide, causing Climate Change. The changing climate in turn leads to disruption and scarcity of resources which makes War more likely.
And here's an article from the Guardian discussing another connection between Climate Change and disease. Climate Change makes natural disasters more likely. People fleeing natural disasters, like fires, end up crowding into shelters and camps where disease is easily spread.
And one final connection: Inequality. If we can't look at each other as equals, how are we going to join together to tackle so many common problems.
So what's the solution? Learn to live in harmony with each other and with Nature. Sounds easy when you put it that way. Stop looking at ourselves as being exceptional. We're all in this together. If humanity is to survive, we'll have to replace “Make America Great” with “Make Nature Great.” The part can never be greater than the whole.
June 23, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Thinking of a career in Public Health? You might want to think a little harder. Folks are leaving the profession in droves.
Seems like a lot of folks don't care to be healthy. Worse than that, they don't care if others are healthy either. And even worse than that, they'll viciously attack anyone who works to keep folks healthy.
Well, we are a free people. We have a Right to our diseases. And we have a Right to spread them around freely. We are a free people; and as former president George W. Bush once remarked, "They hate our freedoms." Maybe this was what he was referring to. Maybe they hate our freedom to spread disease.
Well, cases of COVID-19 are, very predictably, on the rise in the United States. Having fallen briefly below 20,000 new cases per day, we have now, for the first time since April, surpassed 30,000 new cases in four of the last five days. A rise in mortality will very likely follow on the heals of the rise in new infections.
Amnesty International has come out with a well-researched article on the US response to Peaceful Protests. Amnesty documents 125 recent incidents of Human Rights violations by law enforcement in 40 states and the District of Columbia including indiscriminate use of tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets on mostly peaceful protesters.
A Failed State?
Adding to the twin scourges of militarism and climate change, we now have pandemic disease and a break down in internal order with state-sponsored vigilante justice replacing even a semblance of law and order. And our deranged dotard of a chief executive seems bent upon making the situation as unstable as possible.
I think we are fast approaching Failed State status. (You know, like Yemen or Afghanistan.) We may become the world's first Failed State with Nuclear Weapons. (The former Soviet Union may have come close in the 1990s.)
Think about that! A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons.
I'm wondering... Did any of our oh so smart scientists that developed Nuclear Weapons and any of our oh so smart business executives, politicians, diplomats and generals ever think about this? A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons.
June 16, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Rolla March for Justice
One reader writes in: “It certainly was the best organized march I have been in!”
My response: I second that! I hope to see many more.
Another reader writes: “One person might be arrested. That person was not part of the peaceful protest. He was the angry anti-protester screaming ‘all lives matter,’ waving a trump 2020 banner, carrying an automatic weapon and handgun.... police are asking for information about an incident where he was in the middle of the street instigating things.”
My response: I saw him too. He was certainly trying to incite confrontation, and probably violence as well. I think the police handled the incident well. I don't know whether he was arrested.
“All lives matter.” I agree. What about Palestinian lives? What about Afghan lives? Your life and mine also matter. It isn't “Black Lives Matter” v. “All Lives Matter.” Its“Black Lives Matter” AND “All Lives Matter.”
To quote Rodney King: “Can we all get along?”
I'd like to answer “Yes;” however, at this time, the answer appears to be “No.” Maybe after a few more events like last week's march.
Corona Virus Appears to be Mutating
The COVID-19 virus appears to be mutating and may be becoming more contagious and more virulent. It is moving into war-torn countries on the heels of invading soldiers and foreign bureaucrats. In Afghanistan, confirmed cases increased almost four-fold from 6,664 to 26,310 over the past 30 days. In Yemen, confirmed cases increased almost seven-fold from 128 to 885 in 30 days. These numbers are likely grossly under-reported.
Here, in the United States, we remain by far the country with the most COVID-19 cases and our numbers continue to increase at an alarming rate. While daily new cases have been falling over the past two months; with the reopening of business and social life, new cases have leveled off and appear to be set to rise again.
Come Mighty Storms
With the May numbers out, the Earth has now experienced 12 consecutive months, each either the warmest or second warmest with that name. May 2020 tied with May 2016 for the warmest May on record.
The Atlantic hurricane season is off to a strong start boasting three named storms so far, with the season just beginning. Tropical Storm Cristobal after flooding parts of Mexico and Louisiana, traveled north all the way to Wisconsin, where most tropical storms dare not venture. This year the hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual.
On the up-side, people all over the world are planting mini-forests which help cool planet Earth. Why not here in the United States? Why not here in Rolla, Missouri?
No Three-Way START Treaty
Bernie Sanders and Barbara Lee are calling for a 10% cut in the military budget and investment in people and infrastructure.
Having abrogated the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, (not to mention the JCPOA agreement with Iran), United States negotiators wonder why China is not interested in negotiating a new START treaty with the United States and Russia.
Maybe if we could show the world we are serious about avoiding nuclear war... How about a declaration of No First Use of nuclear weapons? Why would anyone want to be the first to use nuclear weapons anyway?
It has been a while since I have reported on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty now has 38 State Parties. In 2020, Paraguay, Namibia, Lesotho and Belize have ratified The Treaty. 12 more and The Treaty goes into force. Sadly, no nuclear weapon state has signed the treaty or even, to my knowledge, stated that if all the others nuclear weapon states agree to sign, then they would too.
June 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Hundreds March for Justice in Rolla
Sunday, Rolla was treated to a demonstrations of more hundreds of people then this mathematician can count up to, all saying, “Justice!” — justice for George Floyd, who was murdered by four policemen in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and for the many others who have died in similar incidents.
I have been in the Rolla Area for 38 years and I have never seen anything like this. Many thanks to the organizers: Destiny, Deanne and others I am not aware of. Many thanks to the hundreds who came to say, “Justice.” Many thanks to Chief Sean Fagan and the entire Rolla Police Department for keeping the event peaceful; and my particular thanks to the officer who stopped and asked me if I needed help, as I hobbled along far behind the marchers.
To my knowledge: No one was hurt; no one was gassed; no one was shot; no one was arrested; and no property was damaged. (Someone, please inform me if this is not correct.)
Yes, this is the way it should be done. We are the Show-Me City in the Show-Me State!
If you have a minute, listen to this video of Judy Collins singing the Phil Ochs song, In the Heat of the Summer, about a similar demonstration that happened in Harlem over 50 years ago. Here's an important line:
Yes, it is time to start listening. And here is some advice that the Prophet Muhammad gave to an office seeker 1,600 years ago:“Oh where, oh where, are the white silver tongues,
Some great photos of the demonstration by Andrew Sheeley and a short article here in the Phelps County Focus.“Fear the cry of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and God.”
June 2, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“Violence Upon Violence; Deceit Upon Deceit”
You gonna reap just what you sow: We live in what well may be the most violent culture the world has ever known. So is it at all surprising that our city streets have erupted in violence? Rather than ask why this is happening, we might well ask why it was so long in coming; but God is slow to anger.“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
God is not mocked: Can you think of a greater mockery of God? for the President to use tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters, so he can pose with a Bible in front of a Church. As Bishop Greg Brewer remarked, “This is blasphemy in real time.” Father James Martin noted, “The Bible is not a prop. ... God is not your plaything.”
Be not deceived: God will not let such an empire stand for long. Thermonuclear bombs and daisy cutters are no match for the Word of the Lord; neither are military bases that gird the Planet, even into Space, nor teargas, nor flash grenades; nor even a knee on the back of a neck. Nor can one hide for long in a bunker beneath the White House. It is no invisible hand that writes on the wall:
(Bible quotes above from Jeremiah 9:5 (NABRE), Galatians 6:7 (KJV) and Daniel 5:26-28 (KJV))“Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
May 26, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Coronablog: First the Good News
Italy has recommended the Cuban medical brigade, which has been active in Italy helping to fight the COVID epidemic, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, here in the USA, we sanction Cuba and make it difficult for them to buy ventilators and other medical equipment.
With the help of Cuba, Italy has brought new infections down from a high of over 6,000 daily to less than 500.
Coronablog: Now the Bad News
Looks like the “healthcare” industry is making a killing (literally) off the coronavirus: Timothy Regan who went to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms was socked with over $3,000 in charges of which has medical insurer, United Healthcare, paid about 1/3, leaving him with a bill of more than $2,000.
The “healthcare” industry is making record profits amid the coronavirus pandemic. (In case you are wondering what fuels all these conspiracy theories about COVID-19, you need look no further.)
And Gallup finds that 14% of people in the US would not get checked out if they had fever and a dry cough, typical COVID-19 symptoms, due to the cost.
Let's do a little seat-of-pants calculation here: Taking 14% of the 1.7 million confirmed cases in the United States (the actual number is thought to be much higher), we get 238 thousand people. And each one infects about 2.5 other people, that's 595 thousand. And of those 595 thousand around 2.5% will die. That's almost 15 thousand people who may have died so that the healthcare industry can make record profits.
Question: So, why aren't the CEOs of these corporations being charged with crimes against humanity?
Answer: We live in a country that values profit more than human life. That's Capitalism!
Of course, that is not the whole story. In our rush to reopen Missouri's economy, how many will have caught COVID-19 over Memorial Day weekend? And how many will they infect? And how many of those will die? I'll let someone else do this calculation.
My website has a new look. If you are partial to Conspiracy Theories and bad puns, you may like it. Check it out.
May 19, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Moral Degeneration is Everywhere
One atrocity begets another in an ever-more-diabolical spiral. I thought I had heard it all:
Hundreds of thousands of children dead from preventable disease because of sanctions; (Iraq)
Almost a million children blockaded in an open air prison without adequate clean water or medicine; (Gaza)
Hospitals bombed; (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen)
A school bus full of kids bombed; (Yemen)
Young children separated from parents and kept in cages; (United States)
Three men wearing police uniforms carried out a mass shooting in the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, methodically killing women, children and new-born babies.
Looks like the “Peace Process” is also dead.
Who could be responsible? Most likely those who were left out of the Peace Process and hope to continue enriching themselves from the occupation and the war. Moral degeneration is everywhere.
Here's an image I photo-collaged years and years ago:
May 12, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Tired of Writing About COVID-19
I'm tired of writing about COVID-19. If you wish, you can get the latest numbers at worldometers.org. (Really love this site! Hope you do too. Their data is basically the same as everybody else's — as reported. However, I find their tables and graphs more up-to-date and easier to read than those on other sites.)
It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers therein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.
I would, however, be remiss if I didn't recommend to you this article by Belle Chesler, who is a teacher of visual arts in the Beaverton, Oregon public schools. Chesler talks about how inadequate distance learning is as a replacement for the hands-on classroom experience.
I sure do miss reading to my classes at Mark Twain. (No, I'm not going to start reading on Zoom.)
STOP now and read Chesler's article.
Addicted to War
Seems like some folks are so addicted to War, they can't let go for even a minute. While most of the world would welcome a global ceasefire, the United States blocked the ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council.
Bay of Pigs Redux
And while you were wondering about whether it will be safe to reopen all that has been closed, two former US Special Forces agents staged a raid on Venezuela, hoping to capture President Nicolás Maduro and win the $15 million reward that Donald Trump has placed on Maduro's head.
It was about as successful as the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba or attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro with a loaded cigar. The perpetrators are being held in Venezuela; and it looks like they may be spilling the beans.
And some global climate data for April has been released. April 2020 was (according to one model) the second warmest April on record, just barely behind first-place April 2016. More on this next week after NOAA releases its global climate data for April.
Maybe I'll feel more like writing next week. We'll see.
May 5, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Global Military Spending Up
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has come out with their 2019 asessment of global military expenditures. The world saw a 3.6% annual increase in military spending to over $1.9 trillion, the largest growth in a decade. As you might have guessed, the United States leads the pack spending a whopping $732 billion on its military in 2019, roughly equivalent to the ten countries with the next highest military expenditures, in order: China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.
And the world has topped 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19. The United States again leads the pack with over 1.2 million cases, slightly more than the six countries with the next highest number of COVID cases, in order: Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia.
Lots of overlap in the two lists. I don't think it's coincidence.
Nor do I think it coincidence that the country responsible for over 1/3 of the world's military expenditures has been afflicted with almost 1/3 of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.
Imagine! if the world had spent that $1.9 trillion on public health infrastructure, instead of the wherewithal to kill each other. Perhaps, there would have been no pandemic at all.
But, sadly, it seems that a lot of folks are more interested in fighting each other than staying healthy.
Some Scriptural References to Pandemics
Here's an amazing hadith (Saying of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace and Blessings be upon him):
Today we would say, “shelter in place,” and we would say “pandemic” instead of “plague.” The Prophet knew 1,400 years ago that this was the way to fight a pandemic.“If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.”
And this hadith about plague is even more amazing:
One who dies in a pandemic while sheltering in place will receive in the hereafter the reward of one who chooses death, so that others may live.“It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whoever he wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him but what Allah has decreed, he will be given the reward of a martyr.”
Ancient scripture tells us that pandemic disease is a punishment from God.
This chapter from 2 Samuel, often called the “Census of David” is particular pertinent to this discussion. Here are the results of David's census:“But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them; so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven, for that they infringed (Our command) repeatedly.”
King David was apparently only interested in men who could draw sword. His great sin for which God sent a pestilence upon Israel was preparing for War, perhaps even aggressive War against his neighbors.“And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.”
And the pestilence ended only after David learned humility and spake unto the LORD saying:
Since the European “Enlightenment,” people have stopped believing that pandemic disease is a punishment from God; but today, when modern science finds itself helpless to protect against emerging diseases like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, I think many are returning to the ancient belief.“Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house. ... And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.”
Think about this: The best protection available today against COVID-19 was advocated to his followers 1,400 years ago by Prophet Mohammed.
April 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries?
A reader writes in:
My response:“I read the Rolla news this morning and clicked into your article about coronovirus/wealthy countries. I agree with your premise: you'd think poor countries with less access to handwashing facilities and such would be harder hit. On the other hand, wealthy countries with people who travel more are more likely to spread it. Also, all the stats are based on where tests are available, so hard to say how many cases are where. I agree that we don't know a lot. ... I think the correlation you're making is interesting—I've wondered why we aren't seeing more spread in less developed countries.”
Many very important points in your response. I've included them along with a few others in the Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries? article (the article).
I reran the correlation using numbers as of 0:00 hours gmt April 28 (7pm cdt April 27). There were 43 countries in the top 50 in both Gross Domestic Product and number of coronavirus cases reported (the same number as at 0:00 hours gmt April 7 although a few of the countries had changed). Including the other 14 countries that are in the top 50 in one but not both categories, this time we get a correlation coefficient of 0.43 as opposed to 0.46 on April 7. However, using only the core 43 countries, we get a correlation coefficient of 0.57 as opposed to the previous 0.50.
Statistically speaking, It would seem that little has changed over the past three weeks.
The new graph and table have been added to the article.
There are many interesting factoids that can be gleaned from this data.. For example: Ten of the 11 countries with the highest GDP are among the 15 countries with the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases. And these ten countries comprise 62% of the worlds GDP and 66% of the world's reported COVID-19 cases.
But, putting numbers aside, I think the reason COVID-19 has struck such fear into people in wealthy countries is that they are so used to catastrophes striking those others in poor countries, not us. Now, here's one that seems to strike us more then them. (Doesn't God work in such marvelous ways! Perhaps we will learn humility and the importance of sharing from this, although it doesn't seem to be happening.)
It cannot be stressed too much that the numbers herein are only as good as the reported data, which may or may not faithfully represent the situation on the ground.
Anybody out there with a statistics background interested in playing with these numbers? I'd welcome an informed opinion.
Wherefrom Cometh the COVID?
According to the gurus at Johns Hopkins (and many other respected institutions and publications in the United States):
Likely? Huhhh? If you don't know where COVID-19 came from, how can you rule out human creation?“TRUE or FALSE? The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
I'm no expert on genetic manipulation; but if I wanted to create a deadly disease and release it, I'd sure try my hardest to mimic natural selection to cover my tracks. Wonder whether these “scientists” thought of that. Actually, mimicking natural selection in Nature has been going on for millennia. It often goes under a name like selective breeding or grafting. However, genetic engineering can speed up this process many fold.
Neither you nor I know what goes on in these ultra-secret military and commercial laboratories. And if you think scientists are so hard to fool, remember the Piltdown Man.
But here's the kicker:
Unlike COVID “myth-buster” articles in the United States, like this one, the World Health Organization does not mention man-made creation as a myth. They have apparently refused to jump on this bandwagon; and maybe this has something to do with why the United States just terminated funding for the World Health Organization.
Here are three other reasons why I stand by my previous statement that:
“In my opinion it is quite likely that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
Keep in mind that all the above evidence is purely circumstantial. Nothing has been proved or disproved. Unlike some “science gurus,” I am not claiming to know what I do not.1. Many of these folks in high places are pure sociopaths. They think nothing of killing millions of people.
The term “quite likely” is purposefully vague. How about, “with a probability of 65% or greater?” instead.
This Is Disgusting
Seems some folks are worried that China or Russia might steal our research into COVID-19 vaccines.
Why aren't they sharing? To date over 200 thousand people have died with COVID-19 including over 50 thousand in the United States. Apparently, the important thing is the money and prestige that would come from developing the first vaccine — very little concern over how many more people might die in the meantime.
If you are having trouble keeping a sense of humor about all this, try this article.
April 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
November Intelligence: When Did the US First Learn About COVID-19?
It was reported first by ABC News and a week later by the Times of Israel that US intelligence became aware of the coronavirus epidemic in China back in November, perhaps as early as the second week of November, at least partially through intercepted Chinese messages. US intelligence reported this to the White House and shared with Israel and NATO. Apparently, nobody did a thing.
This doesn't make a lot of sense. It wasn't until December 30 that Doctor Li Wenliang became aware of the existence of 7 cases of a SARS-like infection in Wuhan.
But, lets assume the reports are true. It makes authorities in China, the United States, Israel and Europe all look bad — sitting on their duffs while pandemic disease spreads out of control.
Now let's assume the report is only partially true. US Intelligence became aware of the spreading epidemic in China in November; but only because they were looking for it. Why? Could it be that they had brought the virus to Wuhan themselves?
We could also assume that the whole report is simply “fake news” and ignore it.
Take your choice; but as for me, whereas in the past I have stated:
I now have to upgrade “there is a significant probability” to “it is quite likely.”“in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage;”
If you are part of the “blame it all on China” cabal, read this article from Moon of Alabama. Moon of Alabama opines:
COVID-19 Pandemic: The United States and The Countries It Sanctions“China took extreme and drastic measures at high economic costs to prevent a larger outbreak. It did not do that to deceive anyone but because it saw the seriousness of the problem. It acted in the global interest and to defeat the virus.
Let's look at how the United States, and countries under US sanctions are fairing amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic:
Perhaps, if the United States were more concerned with the health of its citizens; and less concerned with empire building, war making, pampering the rich and brutalizing the unfortunate, our numbers would look more like the other numbers in the table above.
And here are the numbers for a few more selected countries. If I've omitted your favorite, check the worldometers.info site.
Data from worldometers.info as of 0:00hrs gmt April 21 (7pm cdt April 20). Note: All statistics are “as reported.” There is an excellent discussion of this on the worldometers.info website.
Nicaragua: How to Avoid Shutting a Country Down
While Sweden is often cited as a country that has remained open in spite of the COVID pandemic, Nicaragua is a far better example. There is actually no comparison. (See tables above.)
Here's a description of how they are doing it from an Estadounidense who has lived in Nicaragua for over 20 years.
And this is how NOT to avoid shutting a country down.“Yesterday I went to a Nicaraguan government office to take care of necessary paperwork. At the door I was politely asked to wash my hands in one of two outdoor sinks with soap. The nice man at the door then checked my temperature with an infrared thermometer and waved me in. Just inside the door was a disinfectant mat, I was asked to wipe my shoes and then my hands were sprayed with alcohol. At the check-in desk I was given a squirt of alcohol gel for my hands and my ID, which I handed over in exchange for a visitor's ID that had also been disinfected.
And if you are of the opinion that COVID-19 is no different from the flu, read this article from Science.
While most countries are onboard with a ceasefire in all conflicts so humanity can unite to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and Russia apparently think a global ceasefire should not pertain to them.
April 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The Peace Virus
Here inside, all is still. You wouldn't know that outside rages a tiny, but deadly, assassin, a coronavirus, not even a micron in diameter.“And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”
Perhaps, COVID-19 ought to be renamed the Peace Virus. We have been calling for an end to the bombing of Yemen for years. COVID-19 has succeeded where we failed. Saudi Arabia has unilaterally called a truce to go home and fight the coronavirus. And in both Syria and Afghanistan, truces seem to be holding and progress continues to limp toward Peace.
And in the US Navy, COVID-19 has forced a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to port, and forced the acting Secretary of the Navy to resign. That is no mean feat.
I had hopes that the Peace Virus could have helped to reverse global warming, and it yet may. But, in spite of the global disruption and recession, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to rise; and March 2020 was the second warmest March on record.
No, I wouldn't count on the Peace Virus to set everything straight for us. But, Nature has powers that we humans can not even dream of.
So all is still. We hunker down indoors, afraid to go outside, and I think of another Joseph Conrad line:
“And outside, the silent wilderness ... struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”
April 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is COVID-19 a Disease Primarily of Wealthy Countries?
In mid-March, I suggested that COVID-19 seems to be attacking primarily wealthy countries such as the United States and many European countries. I think the case is a lot stronger now than it was three weeks ago when I wrote that. I've written a short article here.
New COVID-19 Cases in Iran Fall for Eight Consecutive Days
In spite of US sanctions that have severely degraded Iran's health care abilities, Iran appears to have stopped the COVID-19 virus in its tracks. New cases have fallen for eight consecutive days, and the number of active cases is coming down too. On top of this, Iran appears to have prepared for the worst, which may not come.
March 31, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is Satire Obsolete?
I was just feeling a little silly that evening, when I photocollaged The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus cartoon, Within a few days, as coronavirus cases exploded exponentially around the world, it morphed into dark humor. It wasn't funny any longer.“Sometimes, reality outraces our capacity for satire.”
Decades ago, Tom Lehrer was asked if he was going to return to writing political satire. His response, “political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize,” was political satire at its best.
Recently, I saw an article on CNN that reported that gun and ammunition sales were booming on account of the coronavirus pandemic, which made me think of Lehrer's remark and my cartoon.
Think about that: As a nation, our response to any adversity is to arm ourselves, no matter how inappropriate that might be. This, I think, is a big part of the reason that the United States now leads all other nations in COVID-19 cases.
I still don't know whether political satire is obsolete; but perhaps Lehrer was right.
And here is Tom Paxton singing, Buy a Gun for your Son (1965).
So many of the threats we face are global threats, and require a global response. Besides Global Warming and Nuclear Warfare, the current pandemic is an obvious example. All people must stand together to successfully oppose these threats.
In order to allow all peoples the ability to fight the current COVID-19 pandemic, clearly, all nations should place a hold on warfare and sabotage and, at least temporarily, lift all sanctions and blockades that degrade the ability to fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, the United States is doing exactly the opposite, placing new sanctions on Iran at a time when sanctions should be lifted.
Interestingly, Iran which has suffered for years under US sanctions that have degraded their ability to provide the people with adequate healthcare, appears to being doing far better than the United States at containing the pandemic. By the numbers, the US now has more COVID-19 cases, both in absolute numbers and relative to its population than Iran. The US has also experienced a greater mortality than Iran, in absolute numbers although not relative to their populations. However, perhaps most importantly, the United States now has more than six times the number of currently infectious cases than Iran has. Since future cases come from those currently infected, this numeric disparity seems likely to increase.
The United States is also ramping up attacks on Venezuela, declaring President Nicholas Maduro a “narcoterrorist,” without a shred of evidence and placing a bounty on his head. So far, Venezuela has kept the pandemic mostly at bay, with currently a mere 135 cases.
The closest ally of the United States, Israel, also appears to have done a lackluster job at containing the pandemic. Israel now has 4,695 COVID-19 cases, more than all but 16 other countries. Israel maintains the world's largest open-air prison, Gaza, with 1.8 million Palestinian inmates, half of whom are children. Gaza is ripe for a disastrous epidemic having inadequate clean water and medical facilities due to the long-standing Israeli blockade which clearly should be lifted immediately.
By contrast, China and Cuba are going around the world providing aid in combating the pandemic to many countries in need, including Italy, Iran, Jamaica and Venezuela.
Note: The above statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic come from worldometers.info and are as of 0:00 hours gmt on March 31 (7:00pm cdt on March 30). Statistics are “as reported” and may or may not truly represent the reality on the ground.Whither To?
But maybe there is an upside to all this. I see very little in the news now about War. Perhaps nations are too busy fighting the pandemic to fight each other.
And perhaps this pandemic is giving Nature a chance to make a comeback. Purportedly, the waters in Venice, Italy have never been so clear.
But this will pass. Eventually humanity will develop herd-immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
However, I suspect COVID-19 will prove to be a terminal illness for the Great American Empire. Weakened from without by Perpetual War and Climate Change, hollowed out from within by corruption and inequality, I do not expect the Great American Empire to survive intact. COVID-19 may well be the final nail in its coffin.
What will follow? I don't have a crystal ball. All I have are Leonard Cohen's prophetic words: “You're not going to like what comes after America.”
March 24, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Oh boy! What a day. Don't know where to begin; so lets start with the numbers: over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States yesterday — up from over 9,000 the day before — an 838% increase from a week ago. We're setting new records day after day. No other country has come even close: not China, not Italy, not Iran, none. Among the ten countries with the most COVID-19 cases, United Kingdom is next with a 331% increase over the past week. Worldwide cases have increased 108% over the past week. And in China cases have increased less than 1% over the past week.“I read the news today, oh boy,”
On January 28, I wrote:
On February 11, I elaborated:“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
So why is this happening? Many reasons:“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
1. This can't be happening to us! So, let's go to the beach and party. This is abject stupidity: Californians ignoring a “shelter in place” order and crowding onto the beaches en masse amidst a global pandemic.
2. How can we profit from the coronavirus? Profiteering is rampant. Even the President reportedly tried to buy up exclusive rights to a promising German vaccine that is under development.
3. A total lack of national leadership. We've spent decades getting “big government off our backs”. So it's hardly surprising to find big government missing in action when it is most needed.
4. While the world needs to pull together in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of putting a hold on sanctions which degrade the ability of others to fight the pandemic, the United States is ramping up sanctions on Iran, one of the hardest hit countries.
5. Blame it on the Chinese. Donald Trump insists on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”, sparking racist assaults against East Asians in the United States. This, in spite of that nobody knows where and how COVID-19 came.
Last week I quoted Shakespeare on hand-washing. Here's another Shakespeare line describing a similar situation:Note: I stand by my previous statement that, “in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
The Chinese have a much older saying:“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Some other statistics:“To pick up a rock only to drop it on one's own foot.”
1. There appear to have been few cases of internal transmission in China recently. China is ramping up surveillance at airports and border crossings in order to identify travelers with COVID-19 infections.
2. Israel, with a population of around 9 million, has reported almost 1,500 cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners are held in unsanitary conditions without access to the means to prevent the spread of disease. Israel also holds 1.8 million people, in the world's largest open air prison, Gaza, without adequate medical supplies or clean drinking water.
3. Europe has far more cases than any other continent: around 200,000.
4. Cuba and China are helping Italy and other countries fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States is not even helping itself.
Juan Cole has written an excellent article on the US response to COVID-19.
5. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tracked the rise and fall of the COVID-19 pandemic in China pretty closely. The epidemic spread in China throughout January, peaking in early February and then falling below 100 new cases per day by early March. The 30 day running average of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere peaked on February 25 and fell until March 13 tracking the earlier decrease in economic activity in China caused by the pandemic. After March 13, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose again, this time tracking the resurgence of economic activity in response to China's bringing the pandemic under control.
Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise from October through May.
Maybe now that China has shown the world how to beat the coronavirus, next they will show the world how to beat global warming. It won't be easy; but I believe it can be done. Maybe they could also show the world how to live in Peace. It's never been done before. But, maybe, the time is now.
Note 1: Most of the statistics on COVID-19 above come from the tables and graphs at worldometers.info. The worldometers.info day begin at 00 hours universal (Greenwich mean) time which is 7:00pm cdt the previous day. Thus, yesterday refers to 7pm Sunday, March 22 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt. Weekly growth rates refer to 7pm Monday, March 16 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt.
Note 2: By time you read this, many parts of this post are likely to be out-of-date.
March 17, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
William Shakespeare on Hand-Washing
In truth, I am tired of writing about the COVID-19 coronavirus; yet, here I go again.Sanctions: an Attack on Public Health
Here are three articles on Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and how US sanctions have degraded Public Health in these countries. I suspect Iran, Venezuela and Cuba will continue to do the best they can under the circumstances to inhibit the spread of the Coronavirus. Perhaps, in the long run, better than many far wealthier countries.
Iraq is another case. Sanctions of Iraq, 1990-2003, probably killed well over a million, mostly children, of preventable disease. It was known in the halls of government that this was happening, yet it continued for 13 years.
China appears to have the COVID-19 coronavirus under control. Over the last 10 days, China has averaged 20 new confirmed cases per day.Kudos for China
China claims that if the rest of the world takes appropriate measures, as China has, the pandemic will be over by June.
China has objected to the use of the name Wuhan Coronavirus, pointing out that the virus may not have originated in China.
I agree. And I apologize for having used that name in the past.
And I think the Chinese and some others know exactly how it originated; and I suspect at some point they will go public. If I had anything to do with starting this pandemic, I'd be quaking in my boots right now.
Taking a look at the 20 countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are, in order:Disease of the Wealthy Countries
China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, South Korea, France, United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Portugal.
Except Iran and Malaysia, they are all relatively wealthy countries in North America, Europe, Australia and East Asia.
One can ascribe various reasons for this, but I can't help thinking:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” —Matthew 19:30 (KJV)
This is what really scares me. As I've stated before, I think the world is primed for a really serious epidemic, one which will make COVID-19 look like the common cold. Think, for example, of a respiratory infection like COVID-19, but with all the characteristics of HIV/AIDS. That's scary.What's Next?
The world better learn to put aside its differences and learn to work together.
March 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
As expected, on March 5, new cases worldwide surpassed new recoveries for the first time since February 18. The number of contagious cases, which had been decreasing since February 18 are now on the rise again.
New cases in China fell to 40 on March 8. Meanwhile new cases outside of China stood at 3,847.
Parts of Italy have been placed under partial quarantine. Will this work in Italy the way it has in China? Will the Italians show the dedication and discipline the Chinese have shown? We'll see.
There are now over 500 cases in the United States including one in Missouri. 22 have died.
February Climate Data
Copernicus Climate Change Programme has rated February 2020 the second warmest February on record. This follows the warmest January on record and the second warmest year (2019) on record. After a brief respite, Australia fires were finally extinguished by torrential rain and flooding which added to the continent's woes. And carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 2.36 ppm over February 2019.
John Feffer notes how fragile our global civilization is and how it is literally disintegrating before our eyes under the scourges of climate change, pestilence and militarism. Feffer recommends a new globalization where the world hegemons, the United States and China, work together against climate change, disease and inequality. This is an important article. Please read it.
March 3, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Worldwide, recoveries have exceeded new infections since February 18, mainly due to the work of the Chinese in containing the virus. However, if the trend of the last few days continues, new cases outside China will soon dwarf recoveries in China.
To date, the world has seen close to 100,000 cases with over 3,000 deaths.
The coronavirus epidemic in China appears under control, probably due to draconian measures taken by the Chinese authorities, including the quarantining of millions of people. New infections in China fell to 202 on March 1, 125 on March 2 and 119 on March 3.
In many other locations, new infections are on the rise. Coronavirus cases in the United States reached 124 today. Nine deaths in the United States are attributed to the coronavirus epidemic.
Iran has experienced 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, perhaps partially due to US sanctions that have hit the healthcare sector very hard.
Previously I have stated that in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage. I stand by this statement. If true, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, the perpetrators have a lot to answer for.
I have also stated previously that I felt that among wealthy countries, the United States, with its for-profit health care system and its corrupt government, is among the least prepared to combat an infectious epidemic. I stand by that statement too.
It appears that the Wall Street healthcare moguls are charging folks thousands of dollars just for COVID-19 testing. The cardinal principle of public health is to win the trust of the public. It appears that the cardinal principle of the United States healthcare system is to make as much money as possible off of the public's misfortune. How many will forego testing and spread disease simply to avoid these exorbitant charges?
For my part, I've written a short six line poem stressing the tried and true method of inhibiting the spead of respiratory infection: wash hands and cover mouth when coughing. Here's a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.
On a lighter note, for all you Lone Ranger fans, here's a cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus.
But lets keep this all in perspective. HIV/AIDS has killed over 32 million and still infects hundreds of thousands each year.
Note: Most of the statistics above come from these graphs on worldometers.info.
This is Syrious
Fighting in Northeast Syria between off-and-on allies and antagonists, Turkey and Russia, has escalated. There are (at least) four foreign countries fighting in Syria: Russia, United States, Israel and Turkey. Maybe if they all laid down their arms and got out, the Syrians could learn to live in peace with each other.
Afghanistan Truce: Partial and Temporary
The partial truce ended Saturday. Unfortunately, violence is on the increase again. Again, maybe if all foreign soldiers just laid down their arms and left, the Afghans could learn to live in peace with each other.
February 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus
A reader sends in this article from the Washington Post dated Feb 2 on the early spread of the Wuhan coronavirus with no further comment.
This article highlights a major drawback of top-down authoritarian social systems: They can be slow to react. In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus, precious weeks were lost during which the spread of the virus could have been slowed.
However, the article does not mention the strength of China's system: that once the national leadership began to react, it quickly mobilized all the powers of the State to combat the spread of the virus: quarantining millions and building hospitals at break-neck speed.
Here are some statistics from a graph posted on Worldometer:
New cases appear to have peaked on February 4 shortly after China began to mobilize against the virus.And some final notes:
While new cases outside of China have spiked in the last few days, the transmission rate within China appears to have fallen.Like other existential threats, such as climate change, it is imperative that humanity start working together against the common enemy, instead of making War on each other.
Viewing Climate Change as a Military Problem: The Worst Possible Response
Now that it has become effectively impossible to deny Climate Change, some, such as Pete Buttigieg, are viewing climate change as a military problem. This is the worst possible response. Climate Change is a global threat and requires that all of humanity work together. Nature knows no borders. We do not appear to be rising to the occasion.“The threat of climate change is a very clear example of why we all need to pull together, we are in this together. The United States can't do it alone, Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and no one country can do this alone.” —Bernie Sanders
February 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus
In response to last week's post in which I wrote:
A reader writes in:“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
My response:“You say that the United States is the least able of the wealthy countries to respond to the epidemic. I have no idea whether you consider China a wealthy country, but it is certainly an economic powerhouse. Because of its secrecy and stonewalling it has certainly proved itself the least able to deal with such a crisis. I suspect that if Trump stays out of the way, our infrastructure will handle it okay. The CDC is very professional, and seems to be dealing with this correctly.”
I stand with World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and many others in believing that China has done an admirable job in responding to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Do you think the United States could have quarantined a city the size of Wuhan? Do you think the US could build hospitals as quickly as China has? China has a system of universal health care and a history of top-down social control that permits rapid responses to public health emergencies. We do not.
Reading US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross's gloating remarks about the damage the coronavirus will do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy, the first thing that popped into my mind was biological warfare and sabotage. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking along these lines. Here is a three part article about US biological warfare and sabotage including attempts to spread plague and other disease among the North Koreans and Chinese during the Korean War.
[Hey, Wilbur, You're getting senile. You weren't supposed to say that in public.]
This article comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.
I highly recommend this three part article on biological warfare, although I would have liked to have seen mentioned:
And don't forget that 30 miles down the road from Rolla lies Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.1. The use of smallpox as a biological weapon against our Amerindian population. Smallpox could be as much as 95% fatal to a population that lacked immunity.
January 2020: A Truly Remarkable Month for Global Warming
Not only was January 2020 the warmest January on record, it was the fourth most anomalously warm month on record. January 2020 was 1.14°C. above the average of all Januarys in the 20th Century.
The three most anomalously warm months: December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016 all occurred during a monster El Niño episode with ONI indices as high as 2.6. The ONI index is currently at 0.6. El Niño episodes tend to bring warmer global temperatures. One can't help but wonder what the Earth might experience during the next strong El Niño episode.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in January 2020 increased by yet another 2.57 ppm over January 2019 to reach a monthly average of 413.40 ppm.
Australia, probably the least resilient of the six currently inhabitable continents, was truly devastated in January by intense heat and record wildfires.
The War Against Afghanistan
This quote comes from a short article by Nicolas J. S. Davies, which is well worth the read. Davies goes on to remark:“We defeated the Persian Empire in the 18th century. We defeated the British in the 19th century. We defeated the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Now, with NATO, we are fighting 28 countries, but we will defeat them too.”
“I never doubted him for a minute. But why would America's leaders, in their delusions of empire and obsession with budget-busting weapons technology, ever listen to an Afghan taxi driver?”
February 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two New Statistical Milestones
What do these two statistics have in common? They both demonstrate the inability of “human civilization” to respond positively to global threats.1. Yesterday the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa observatory surpassed 416 ppm for the first time since record-keeping began. (Just nine months ago the 415 ppm milestone was also surpassed at Mauna Loa.)“I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” —Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean
We've known for well over 30 years that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will heat the planet and make it increasingly hostile to “human civilization.” Yet, we seem totally unable to shed the behaviors that drive this crisis: Fighting wars, burning fossil fuels and eating meat (in that order) may be the three most important of these destructive behaviors.
“Human civilization” is primed for a global epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may be only a harbinger of what is to come.
The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?
Here's an interesting article from Science about the World Health Organization and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Russia and Cuba are actively helping China to contain the coronavirus epidemic. US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, gloats over the damage the coronavirus may do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy.
Oops, Killed the Wrong Guy; Almost Started Another World War
Iraqi authorities claim that the organization that fired the missiles that killed a US military contractor and set off a chain of events that almost led to World War III was an al-Qaeda offshoot and not an Iranian-backed militia.
But this is nothing new. Following the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, the United States totally destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq in revenge. 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi Arabian. None were Afghan or Iraqi.
February 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US Deploys “Low-Yield” Nuclear Weapons
According to the Federation of American Scientists, last month the USA deployed “low-yield” nuclear weapons for the first time aboard the submarine, USS Tennessee. Low-yield (5 kilotons, about 1/3 the potential of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945) is only by comparison to the many more powerful weapons whose yield is measured in megatons.“I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.” —Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent)
Of what use is such a weapon? We are told for protection against the Russians or possibly the Chinese; but that makes no sense at all.
Likely their real purpose is to threaten and bully small recalcitrant nations without nuclear weapons such as Venezuela, Nicaragua or Iran who refuse to bow to the world's only superpower. That's a very dangerous game. Weapons are made to be used — particularly against those who are most vulnerable.
As the Conrad quote above makes clear, impression is absolute. “What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means.” In the Conrad novel, possession leads to use, with some very unanticipated results.
Radioactive fallout knows no boundaries. Escalation into nuclear World War III could easily follow any use of nuclear weapons. As the world descends into chaos, use of nuclear weapons becomes increasingly likely.
Wuhan Novel Coronavirus
The Wuhan novel coronavirus, so far has infected at least 20,000 people, mostly in China and killed over 400, all but two in China. It's first cases appeared in December, 2019. While the world panics and markets fall, it is important to put this novel coronavirus in perspective.
Here is a list of epidemics from Wikipedia. Going through the list, the Wuhan coronavirus doesn't appear to distinguish itself. It's kill rate is 2 to 3 percent. Some of those infected early, appears to be healing which is a sign that the epidemic may be peaking. China is now testing the Russian antiviral drug, Triazavirin, on the virus.
Compare to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has killed over 30 million since its onset in the 1960s and still kills hundreds of thousands annually and infects millions each year. All attempts to develop an HIV vaccine have failed including this most recent one.
Both HIV and Wuhan coronavirus are thought to have jumped from other mammals to humans, although we should not rule out that these viruses may have been man-made.
“Deal of the Century:” a Crime Against Humanity
Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu “negotiated” a peace deal for Palestine and Israel. It gave Israel everything and Palestine nothing. Like the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the UK declared Palestine a “homeland” for the Jews, Palestinians were not consulted.“You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side.” —Bernie Sanders
In wake of the “deal of the century” Palestine has cut ties with the United States and Israel.
Juan Cole points out that in so many ways this plan is legally a crime against humanity.
The Iowa Caucus Race
While waiting for the Iowa Democratic Party to tally the results of the Iowa caucus, I reread Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale. I may read it yet again as I await the final results. Really, how hard can it be to count a few thousand votes? In Alice's caucus race everybody wins. In Iowa, I think everybody lost.
January Climate Data
And while we have been engrossed by impeachment and a caucus race: Copernicus has rated January 2020 the warmest January on record; this following the warmest decade on record and the second warmest year on record. After a brief respite, Australia is burning again; and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by around 2.5 ppm over January 2019.
January 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Reset Your Clocks — It's 100 Seconds to Midnight
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has reset the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight — the closest we have ever come to Apocalypse. Mentioning, of course, Nuclear War and Climate Change as the two greatest existential threats to humanity, The Bulletin also mentions as a threat-multiplier “Cyber-based disinformation,” which sows distrust and undermines efforts to foster peace and protect the planet. (You can thank us computer scientists for that one!)
Hooray for Paraguay
Last week Paraguay became the 35th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and so far, the only country to ratify the treaty in year 2020. We are just 15 ratifications short of the treaty going into force. This treaty states in part
No nuclear power has signed this treaty and indeed, the five original nuclear weapon states (USA, Russia [formerly USSR], UK, France and China) have made ZERO progress in living up to their treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: (in force since 1970)“Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;”
In fact they have taken several giant steps backward recently.“to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (Article VI)
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a really big deal and continues to make progress in spite of the lack of publicity from most media outlets. This is a treaty of small to medium-sized nations standing up and saying we will no longer be bullied by a few great powers armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.
Wuhan Corona Virus: This Could Be A Big One
With all the existential threats the human race faces, lets not forget this one: Pestilence. The Wuhan Corona Virus (aka 2019-nCoV,) has so far killed at least 132, spread to over 6,000, and caused China to place at least 60 million people under quarantine. The virus is thought to have jumped to humans from a bat or possibly a snake in a live animal market in Wuhan, although no one is really sure.
While it's too early to know how far this epidemic will spread, one thing is certain: humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe. There are many reasons: war, poverty, a changing climate and overpopulation are just some that come to mind.
The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?
So wash your hands often and well, cover your mouth when you cough, and your nose when you sneeze and if you don't know how disease is spread, Tom Lehrer explains it in song in this two minute video.
Reading the news as much as I do, I am quite used to reading, in their very own words, about the arrogance of the rich and powerful. But two things came to my attention this week that really made me livid:
Chutzpah IJair Boilsonaro, President of Brazil, claimed that the indigenous people whose forest he is burning and whose land he is stealing are “evolving and becoming more and more, a human being like us.”
Speak for yourself, chutzpah. If you are human, I'd prefer to be something else. Possibly a squirrel: I love to watch the squirrels jumping from branch to branch and playing in my yard. They seem to be having so much fun. Yes, Senhor Bolsonaro, I'd rather be a squirrel than be like you.
Or perhaps I could be a split-leaf philodendron. I have one that reaches to the ceiling in a large pot. I take him outside in April and bring him back in in October. He asks nothing more than water, sunlight, and a little fertilizer, and he seems so happy to be brought in out of the cold in the Fall and put out in the sunshine in the Spring. Yes, Senhor Bolsonaro, if you are human, I would prefer to be a split-leaf philodendron.
Chutzpah IIUS Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, in response to Greta Thunberg opined,
Having spent so many years in academia dealing with colleagues who think their academic credentials give them license to dismiss folks who know far more than they do, I find this type of arrogance particularly maddening. While Thunberg at 17 has energiized an entire generation to work to save planet Earth, Mnuchin has left a trail of destruction wherever he has ventured: K-mart, Sears, Global economic meltdown of 2008, homes foreclosed... and more“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I'm confused. After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”
Mr. Mnuchin has a BA degree in economics from Yale, a University that is famous for giving unearned degrees to the idiot children of wealthy donors.
Perhaps I should give up reading and commenting on the news. It can really get quite depressing.
January 21, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Battle of the Generations
Last Friday the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the case Juliana v. United States in a split 2 to 1 decision with Judge Andrew Hurwitz (Age 72) opining for the majority that although climate change has brought the world close to the “eve of destruction,” plaintiffs have NO STANDING to bring suit demanding that the government take action to reduce climate change. All three judges were Obama appointees.“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.” —William James
The plaintiffs were aged 11 through 22 in 2015 when the suit was filed. They will all presumably be dealing with the evils caused by climate change long after the three judges are dead.
This case is not over yet. When youth challenges age, in the long run, youth will certainly prevail. However, in this case, it may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory; as by then there may not be much left to win.
From Our Readers: Protect, Restore, Fund
A reader sends in this super-cool 3 minute video of 17-year old Greta Thunberg and long-time activist George Monbiot talking about how to save the world: Protect Nature; Restore damaged eco-systems; and fund solutions, not destruction.
Speaking Truth to Power
Hundreds of youngsters (and a few old-timers) descended upon the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to tell world leaders (mostly old-timers like myself) to stop funding fossil fuels and become part of the solution, instead of the problem.
Equivalent to 50 Coal-Fired Power Plants
HFC-23 is over 12,000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Although the phasing out of HFC-23 should have been virtually complete, HFC-23 is now more prevalent in the atmosphere than at any time in history, Emissions of HFC-23 in 2018 are believed to be equivalent to emissions from 50 coal-fired power plants.
This underscores the need for international cooperation and independent monitoring for compliance, at a time when international tensions are increasing dramatically.
Fire and Rain
Rains have finally come to Australia after months of drought and out-of-control fires. While the rain has helped immensely in controlling the fires, it was not completely a blessing. Ash washed into the rivers has killed hundreds of thousands of fish; and the flash floods, dust storms and hail that came with the rain have been destructive in their own right.“Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain.
Weeks ago, I asked whether indigenous Australians practiced controlled burning like the indigenous California tribes. The answer is “Yes.” In fact, most indigenous peoples, where possible, used fire to control their environments; that is, before the coming of “modern civilization.”
January 14, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
We Dodged a Bullet — But Just Barely
Last week, when I wrote my column, I felt there was at least a 50-50 chance that I would not be here to write my column this week and you might not be here to read it. I think we came very close to World War III last week.
Fortunately Iran limited its retaliation for the assassination of General Suleimani to firing a few symbolic missiles at Iraqi military bases that house US troops and contractors; and the United States limited its retaliation for the symbolic missile attack to imposing further sanctions on Iran and making further threats.
The situation remains tense and could degenerate into a serious shooting war at any time.
Iraq has asked the United States to remove all US troops from Iraqi soil. The United States has refused and threatened to sanction Iraq.
After Donald Trump threatened to attack 52 sites in Iran, including cultural sites, Iran, in the fog of War, mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing all 176 on board. This is reminiscent of 1988 when the United States shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft killing 290.
Meanwhile, here in Rolla, seven of us held vigil for Peace on Earth and No War with Iran. Nationwide thousands demonstrated at hundreds of sites for No War with Iran.
Here are some short articles I wish to share with you:
In contrast to the unintentional downing of Ukrainian airlines flight 752, Brett Wilkins discusses the downing of Iranian flight 655 in Iranian airspace by the United States killing 290 and the downing of Cubana flight 455 by US supported anti-Castro Cuban terrorists killing 73.
Juan Cole discusses former US ally, Iranian General Qassem Suleimani and his relationship with the United States.
Cathy Breen, who travels to Iraq regularly with Voices for Creative Non-Violence, talks about her Iraqi friends.
US Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton exhorts all Catholics to refuse to kill and refuse cooperation with US wars.
As Australia continues to burn, Copernicus Programme declared December 2019 tied for the warmest December on record and 2019 the second warmest year on record.
And while the Earth burns, the United States, China and Russia vie with each other to develop virtually unstoppable hypersonic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons — a matter of “National Pride” says the American Association for the Advancement of Science in large headlines.
I hope to be back next week, inshaAllah.
January 7, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Blundering into World War III
I'll make this very very short. We are on the brink of blundering into World War III. Recall that World War I started with just such an assassination as happened last week. PLEASE do whatever you can to prevent this from escalating any further.
Also, read this short article by Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-American.
Lots more commentary at commondreams.org.
December 31, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Scientists Say ... But Don't Necessarily Believe Them
I cringe every time I read that scientists say that we only have 12 more years (now 11) to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Tell that to the families of the 88 who died in the Camp Fire which obliterated Paradise, California . Tell that to the thousands and thousands of climate refugees leaving Africa, the Middle East and Central America, hoping to make a new life in a land not quite so degraded by Climate Change. Tell that to the farmers and ranchers of Australia whose livelihood has gone up in smoke or those who are hunkered down in their boats as smoke and fire rage closer and closer.“Surprisingly, scientists proved as susceptible to herd-think as everyone else, and equally unaware of it.”
In truth, we don't have 12 years — or even one year — not even a day. Climate Change is NOW. Oh, what egregious errors hath our scientists made. I haven't heard many apologies from the scientists who have been so busy developing the technology for fouling our air with the byproducts of burning fossil fuels or from those who have consistently low-balled the danger of Climate Change. Have you?
Military scientists are even worse. As we embark on a new era of War-making and the militarization of space, scientists are there at the forefront. At least three different groups of scientists in the United States are working on protecting our satellites from the high energy electrons that would result from a nuclear blast in space. This is very important to the folks who contemplate nuclear war. It is difficult to continue fighting when your eyes and ears have been blown out in the first volley, other than to lash out blindly with everything you have left. And with our nuclear treaties falling by the wayside, nuclear war becomes ever more likely.
Of course China and Russia won't be sitting on their duffs while the United States develops space-fighting capabilities. So while the Earth burns ever hotter under its increasingly thick mantle of anthropogenic carbon, the great powers embark on a new and potentially far more destructive weapons race. Now that's what I call keeping priorities straight.
But there is a silver-lining to this dark cloud. Should you choose to vacation in outer space, this new technology could protect you from electromagnetic radiation as you cross the Van Allen belts. And furthermore, should you be unlucky enough to survive the initial exchange of nuclear bombs, you can rest assured that our satellites have survived and will still be beaming Beavis and Butt-Head replays down to Earth.
And that's not all! Should you be unlucky enough to survive the initial nuclear blasts, scientists are working hard developing algorithms to compute whether you would be safer hunkering down where you are, or making a beeline for the closest fallout shelter before deadly radioactive fallout arrives.
The bottom line... Don't look to the scientists to save humanity from nuclear warfare and global warming. Get out there in the streets and save humanity yourself.
December 24, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
One Honest Vote in the House
Faced with a choice between two evils when impeachment came up for a vote before the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard was the only one to choose neither. She voted, “present” and pissed off everybody. Yes, pissed them all off. Good for her! I like that!“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Certainly Donald Trump deserves to be impeached; but not by that crowd of deranged dolts who had just voted a $738 billion blank check to the Pentagon to make War, even Nuclear War, in all corners of the globe and even in space; not by that crowd of deranged dolts who voted money for a border wall while children are torn from their parents at the border; and not by that crowd of deranged dolts who would pass NAFTA II with little attention to Climate Change and other environmental concerns.
We've been hearing a lot of sacrilege coming from Donald Trump and his crowd of Bible-bangers. Comparing impeachment to the Crucifixion is nothing short of blasphemy. Implying that the deceased husband of a widow who voted for impeachment is looking up from Hell is absolutely disgusting. It's too bad that all these political Bible-bangers missed the Biblical verses that really pertain to this impeachment. Most pertinent, I think, are these verses from John 8:
We can find a close runner-up in Matthew 7:“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto [Jesus] a woman taken in adultery; ... and [said:] ... Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? ...
As Chris Hedges points out, the chances of the Republican Senate convicting Donald Trump are virtually zero. Impeachment is simply a distraction. Even if Trump were to be convicted in the Senate, the chances of a government with Mike Pence as President doing anything to rein in the Pentagon, reduce global warming, or end any of the excesses and atrocities of the Trump presidency would still be virtually zero. Congress could shut down these atrocities now by simply not budgeting any money for them.“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ... Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” —Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV)
Among 435 members of the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard cast the only honest vote. Thank you, Tulsi.
The Conscience of Congress: Another Lone Vote
In last Thursday's debate, Bernie Sanders was asked to justify his vote in 2001 in favor of the War Against Afghanistan. Bernie responded:
Thank you, Bernie, for reminding us of Barbara Lee's immense courage in standing up to 434 representatives and a populace gripped in war fever and voting her Conscience. And yes, she was Right and the other 434 were Wrong — Wrong to the tune of hundreds of thousands dead, trillions of dollars wasted, a land in shambles, and 18 years squandered. To my knowledge, Bernie is the only politician to admit to being wrong on the War Against Afghanistan. That is why we need Bernie so badly.“Well, only one person, my good friend, Barbara Lee, was right on that issue. She was the only person in the House to vote against the war in Afghanistan. She was right. I was wrong. So was everybody else in the House.”
We need to elect a lot more Barbara Lees, Tulsi Gabbards and Bernie Sanderses.
Bernie Sanders on War and Climate Change
I think Bernie is the only candidate for President who really understands the connection between Militarism and Climate Change and just how dire our situation has become. When asked during Thursday's debate about relocating climate refugees, Bernie replied:
If you are still undecided about whom to vote for in the March primary, think hard about Bernie.“With all due respect, Tim, your question misses the mark. It is not an issue of relocating people from towns. The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and grandchildren. ...
December 17, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
COP 25: The Biggest Cop-Out Yet
There have been signs galore: drought, heat, fire, flood, cyclones, bark beetles — to mention just a few that relate to Climate Change. The entire continent of Australia is burning up before our very eyes. Glaciers and polar ice melt away as we stand transfixed. Islands and coastal plains sink into the sea. Productive land turns to desert. Crops fail and people wander in search of new lands, only to have their children torn from them and put in cages as if they were wild animals.“To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.”
1/2 million came to Madrid with dire warnings and spake unto the modern-day Pharaohs as Moses and Aaron spake unto Pharaoh of old. And like Pharaoh of old, the modern-day Pharaohs hardened their hearts and hearkened not unto them, turning them out into the cold. Surely, these modern-day Pharaohs are deaf and dumb and have been left to wander blindly in their arrogance. Surely, their fate will be similar to that of Pharaoh of old.“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.”
On a somewhat less biblical level: COP 25 was a step backwards. Nobody agreed to do anything meaningful. The wealthy who are most responsible for Climate Change again turned their backs on the worst afflicted; and the Earth groans under the weight of the arrogant.
And they continue to fill the atmosphere with Greenhouse Gases; and the Earth continues to warm; and extreme weather and devastation are the lot of the people.
December 10, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: “Greed and Stupidity”
In reference to last week's newsletter on climate collapse in Australia and reduced investment in renewables in China, India and Brazil, a reader writes: “People are too greedy and stupid to survive. Very depressing.”“Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail.”
Extinction looks more and more likely each day. While the world burns, the US Congress just approved in committee a $738 billion giveaway to the Pentagon with virtually no restrictions on continuing their unconstitutional, immoral war-making in all corners of the world, an act which Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna have dubbed “an act of astonishing moral cowardice.”
Meanwhile pro-climate organizations like 350.org refuse to challenge the military and its extrordinary contributions to global warming.
Greed and stupidity win again. And this from a species that prides itself on its brain-power.
17 years ago Eugene Linden wrote in The Octopus and the Orangutan:
How true!“The random mutations that increase brain size are probably ubiquitous, meaning that it is reasonable to expect that virtually every animal alive today has ancestors that produced brainier offspring which in turn had the chance to be fruitful and multiply. But the evidence is that with very few exceptions, evolutionary experiments to increase brain power have not taken. ... The likelihood is that nature has had more failures than successes when it comes to increasing brain size (and in evolutionary terms, the jury is still out on whether the human experiment will ultimately be a success or failure...)”
Impeachment: Finally An Article That Makes Sense
Chris Hedges points out that the chances of the Senate convicting Donald Trump of impeachable offenses are virtually ZERO; and Democratic Representatives have scrupulously avoided including in their Articles of Impeachment any of Donald Trump's far greater crimes that Democrats are also guilty of.
Washington Post: The Pentagon Misled Us
After 18 years of War in Afghanistan costing hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the Washington Post has finally come around to the astonishing conclusion that the Pentagon has been lying to us.
Well, as someone who has argued for 18 years, since before the first bomb fell, that our War Against Afghanistan is a dirty immoral war which we should never have started and could never hope to win, I sit here waiting for an apology from the Washington Post and an invitation to write an editorial for them. I'm not holding my breath.
December 3, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Australia: Greenhouse Gas emissions Fall as Agriculture Collapses
The prolonged climate-change-induced drought has caused the Australian agriculture sector to literally collapse. Agriculture is responsible for a significant part of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, increased emissions from the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector almost made up for the fall in emissions from agriculture and renewable energy generation combined.
And the fires — the worst season ever for bush-fires in Australia — and its not even southern-hemisphere summer yet.
I have a suggestion. Maybe Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his climate-change-denying crew could conserve water by drinking LNG instead.
Lately, I'm starting to hear words like collapse and extinction coming out of Australia. Australia is the least resilient of the six inhabited continents. I suspect the Australian continent will totally collapse within a few years; and I suspect the other continents won't be so very far behind.
Yuroks Bring “Good Fire” Back to California
For millennia the Yuroks and other California tribes practiced controlled burning, until the white man came and made burning the forest a crime. But the ancient wisdom is returning — one piece in the fight against climate change and wildfires.
Perhaps indigenous Australians also possessed the wisdom of how to use a little fire to restore health to the land and prevent uncontrollable wildfires. Anyone out there have any knowledge of indigenous Australian cultures?
China, India, Brazil: Investments in Clean Energy Down
China, in particular, investments in clean energy fell by $36 billion, as China embarks on a new coal-building spree. Hmmm, I wonder what the Chinese think of global warming. Perhaps they think it's an American Hoax.
200 Million Climate Refugees Since 2008
According to a new report from Oxfam International, 200 million people have been displaced by climate-related disasters since 2008. Think about that number — 200 million — over 2.5% of the global population. If Rolla were the world, around 500 of us would be climate refugees. And it's only going to get worse. Collapse is definitely underway.
Actually, we are quite blessed here in Rolla. We haven't been exposed to extreme weather since the Joplin tornado of 2011 and the drought of 2012. However, I suspect our turn will come.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, notes that popular protests are on the rise from Hong Kong to Iraq to Palestine to the UK to Chile. She stresses the importance of meaningful, inclusive dialogue, and of governments listening to the people. Excellent advice.
Unfortunately, it appears that many governments prefer collapse to dialogue, both internally and externally. Perhaps that will change. The world is in great danger and “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Yes, all 7.7 billion of us.
November 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Pope Francis: Nuclear Weapons are “An Affront Crying Out to Heaven”
Last Sunday Pope Francis visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only two cities ever destroyed by nuclear weapons and declared nuclear weapons “an affront crying out to heaven” and called for a world free from nuclear weapons.
And Monday, Antigua & Barbuda became the 34th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Perhaps the Pope's visit to Japan and his outspoken call for a world free of nuclear weapons will encourage 16 more countries to ratify the Treaty making the 50 necessary for the treaty to go into force.
Earlier this month Nauru became the 80th nation to sign the Treaty; but has yet to ratify it.
But sadly none of the nine nuclear weapon states: US, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have shown any interest in the Treaty except to discourage other countries from joining it.
Meanwhile, here in the belly of the beast, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 have been convicted of breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Base in a symbolic protest against nuclear weapons and face possible 25 year sentences.
And the Marshallese, who were used as human guinea pigs for early US radiation experiments and had large parts of their land destroyed in early nuclear weapon tests have been left with a leaking sarcophagus full of radioactive waste for which the US refuses to take responsibility.
The nuclear age is 74 years old. It is long past the time to end it. Indeed, it is an “an affront crying out to heaven” and should have never begun.
Pope Francis: Destroying the Earth is a Sin and Should Be a Crime
Pope Francis has recommended adding ecocide as a “fifth category of crime against peace.” and including it in the Catholic catechism. The Pope defined Ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem.”
Meanwhile... The world burns and floods, the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere continues to increase, and global temperatures continue to rise.
And as our “civilization” collapses, here in the belly of the beast we remain engrossed with a Congressional dog and pony show over the President purportedly trying to trade the Ukraine “a squid for a cow.”
I am very thankful that the world has an activist Pope working to abolish nuclear weapons and prevent further climate change. We should do no less ourselves.
November 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Updating Climate Essay
Yesterday, NOAA (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) published its global climate data for October and I dutifully updated my ongoing Climate Catastrophe essay which consisted of adding a line to two temperature graphs and updating corresponding sections accordingly.
I do this every month about this time, and it's getting quite predictable. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere up; Temperatures among the highest on record; and plenty of extreme weather events around the world.
I read that great things are being done to combat global warming; but the physical data doesn't seem to bear this out.
We are on the cusp of losing an entire continent, as Australia is again faced with multiple out-of-control fires and other extreme weather events such as baseball size hail stones. Smoke from the fires has made breathing in Sydney downright unhealthy.
Meanwhile, Australia probably ranks second only to the United States in Climate Change Denial.
And the US Military?
Michael Klare writes that 20 years in the future the US Military (and other militaries as well) will be in no position to fight wars because of damage at home from multiple simultaneous extreme weather events such as we are already witnessing. While I would welcome the inability of the world's militaries to fight wars, multiple simultaneous extreme weather events seems a rather high price to pay for something that could be accomplished cheaply and simply.
Not mentioned in Klare's article is that The Pentagon has an outsized responsibility for global warming being the greatest single emitter of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, current upgrades to the Pentagon's arsenal lock it into continued future reliance on fossil fuels.
November 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
For the Soldier, War Never Ends
This article by Matthew Hoh on Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide is a Must Read. Combat veterans often suffer from moral injury for the rest of their lives. Hoh notes that the only way to stop veterans from suiciding, is to stop sending them to war.“We’re sold the idea of—we’re going to liberate people, we’re fighting terrorism. Then we realize we’re the ones terrorizing people. That torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide.”
People were not meant to kill each other. It takes billions of dollars worth of conditioning to get soldiers to kill. And when the conditioning wears off, it can leave them crippled for the rest of their life. Hoh writes, “The reality is that deaths by suicide often kill veterans at a level greater than combat, while the primary reason for these deaths lie in the immoral and ghastly nature of war itself.”
If you read nothing else this week, read Matthew Hoh's “And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide”
And if you are a veteran, please consider joining Veterans for Peace.
November 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Syria: I Misspoke
I definitely misspoke two weeks ago when I wrote:
The US called it quits in Syria — well, not exactly. The US came back to save the Syrian oil fields, that were (presumably) rendered unusable by US bombs, from the Islamic State, that was (presumably) defeated, and to assassinate “Big Daddy” Baghdadi, who was (presumably) defeated too. Now it looks like everybody is pretty much against everybody else.“it looks like Vladimir Putin has pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He appears to have brokered a Peace in which Turkey and the Syrian Kurds will get enough of what they desire that they will go along with the plan, leaving Russia and the Syrian government firmly in control.”
So if the United States had really left Syria, could Russia have cobbled together a Peace and made it stick? Who knows? But, I thought it worth a try. After all, the United States has been the major global power in the region for a long time, and has brought the Middle East little besides war and misery. Isn't it time for someone else to have a try?
California: Fires May Soon Be Fully Contained
Could have been worse. Nowhere near as bad as 2017 or 2018 — at least not yet. California fire season is not over by a long shot.
Now here is an interesting wrinkle. Insurance companies and wealthy homeowners are hiring private firefighters to protect their assets. Your life could be in danger; but they won't help you. Their mission is to protect their employer's life and property.
And if you are a low-paid domestic worker, you may end up staying behind and feeding your employer's cat while he evacuates to safer territory.
Most interesting, some are now saying that parts of California have become too dangerous to live in, and it may be time to give them back to Nature. Not at the end of the century, or in 2050 or even 2030 — NOW.
Climate Data: Warmest October on Record
According to the Copernicus Programme, the Earth has just experienced the warmest October on record, although just barely above October 2015 which was previously the warmest October on record. Copernicus estimates October 2019 as 1.32° C. warmer than “pre-industrial” times.
And the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during October 2019 increased by 2.53 ppm over October 2018.
October 29, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
California Burning — Again
This is getting to be a very predictable yearly occurrence — devastating wildfires in California. The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County is threatening some of the same areas laid waste two years ago by the Tubbs Fire that wiped out parts of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 inhabitants. So far 200,000 people have had to evacuate as the dry Santa Ana winds sweep in off the desert and fan the flames. As of the time of writing, the Kincade Fire has burned 75,000 acres and is only 15% contained. California, like much of Australia and many island nations are fast becoming unlivable — at least not in the sense of what we used to think of as a “civilized” existence.“The fire is important to our people and to the telling of tales. The light, the heat, and the sound of burning wood speak to our spirits more deeply than any words. Winter is a time for stories, and one should call upon the fire to join in the telling of the tale.” —Jeffrey Prusski (Bring Back the Deer)
When I was a kid in primary school, I recall a teacher informing us that our early Ice-Age ancestors had “tamed” fire. What a joke! More accurate would be that fire is taming us.
Fire historian Steve Pyne discusses how Fire and Mankind evolved together in symbiosis. Fire gave us big heads and small guts. Mankind gave fire the ability to reach places it could have never colonized on its own. But, sadly, our love affair with fire seems to have taken a violent turn; and fire has assumed the dominant role.
And here Leonard Cohen sings a haunting ballad of the love affair between Sainte Joan of Arc and the Fire.
Good News! Earth May Be More Resilient Than Previously Thought“I saw her wince; I saw her cry;
Paleontologists studying the Corral Bluffs, south of Denver, have reconstructed evolutionary events following the asteroid strike 66 million years ago that killed off 75% of living species including the dinosaurs. It seems that after the holocaust temperatures rose about 5°C and the largest mammal remaining weighed little more than a pound. Corral Bluffs bounced back quickly. After 100,000 years Corral Bluffs boasted mammals 10 times as large and within a million years, mammals weighing over 100 pounds were roamed the site. This recovery is far faster than paleontologists previously thought possible.
There is a lesson here: While Earth seems very likely to recover quickly from the human-induced die-off currently under way, there is no reason to suspect that large land animals like man are any more likely to survive the die-off then the dinosaurs were 66 million years ago.
By way of comparison: Estimating the life-span of the Earth as nine billion years and assuming an average human life-span of 80 years, one million years of geological time equals 3.25 days in a human life. That's a phenomenally fast recovery from almost complete devastation.
And What Happened Last Month?
All eyes are now on Syria and the current US re-invasion to retake Syrian oil for the United States. But last month, September 2019 tied with September 2015 as the warmest September on record and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 3 ppm over September 2018.
From the Bahamas to Asia, September 2019 was marked by numerous record-setting climactic events. Some are listed here.
It seems that we would be wise to leave Syrian oil in the ground, and concentrate on the near-term survival of our species before it is too late.
October 22, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Syria: We May Have Dodged Another Bullet (Thanks to Russia)
After Turkey invaded Syria two weeks ago, I wrote, “This May Be the Big One.” I felt that this could be the spark that sends the whole Middle East and perhaps much of the world up in flames. However, it looks like Vladimir Putin has pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He appears to have brokered a Peace in which Turkey and the Syrian Kurds will get enough of what they desire that they will go along with the plan, leaving Russia and the Syrian government firmly in control.
Meanwhile our former allies, the Syrian Kurds, pelt US troops with rotten fruit as they ignominiously retreat to Iraq.
Putin has remarked that he wants all foreign troops to leave Syria. I suspect that this includes the Golan Heights, a part of Syria that Israel has occupied for over 50 years.
Crapping on the Kurds has been a major Western pastime, at least since the 1920s when Britain and France carved up the defeated Ottoman Empire and reneged on their promise of a homeland for the Kurds. Here's an article by Brett Wilkins detailing many incidents in which Kurds were left to be slaughtered by their Western allies after they were no longer deemed “useful.”
Lets hope the Syrian Kurds receive somewhat better treatment from the Russians.
Japan: Where Man-Made and Natural Disasters Blend Seamlessly
Category V Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan in early October causing $9 billion worth of damage and killing over 80. Fukushima prefecture which suffered a triple nuclear meltdown in 2011 was particularly hard hit. Hagibis appears to have stirred up deadly radioactive particles from the 2011 disaster and spread them about.
Dominica Ratifies Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The Caribbean Island nation, Dominica, has become the 33rd country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. One more ratification will bring us past the 2/3 mark toward the 50 nations necessary for the Treaty to go into force. Unfortunately, it only becomes law for those countries which ratify it.
Dominica was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Maria which also devastated the Island of Puerto Rico. Having recovered from Maria, the Dominicans do not want to be devastated by nuclear weapons too.
Lets hear a loud “Hip-Hip-Hooray” for all the Dominicans.
October 15, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The Sea Is a-Boilin'
Russian climate scientist, Igor Semiletov, and an international bevy of scientists found the Arctic Ocean is literally “boiling” as it releases copious streams of bubbles of methane as the sea warms and the permafrost below melts. Semiletov remarked, “This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe. ... No one has ever recorded anything similar.” Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Semiletov has made 45 such expeditions to the Arctic and has been trying for years to warn of the dangers as the Arctic warms, permafrost melts and methane is released. Unfortunately, until now, few listened.“The Lord said, ‘Sinnerman, the sea will be a-boilin’,
Here's a short snippet I wrote on Semiletov's findings eight years ago. I was among those few who listened.
Isn't it amazing how so many ancient prophecies are now coming true due to climate change? Here's another on sea level rise and wildfires from the old Norse Poetic Edda:
Voluspo also prophesies that after the world is destroyed by fire and water, it will be reborn anew.“The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea,
Syria: This May Be the Big One“Now do I see the earth anew
I can't make head nor tail of this article by Simon Tisdall in which he enumerates all the “players” in the deadly drama unfolding in Syria and how they are all uniting against Turkey. Well, if nothing seems to make sense, make up something that does; so here goes:“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
I wrote the above paragraph Sunday. Three days later, the Syrian Kurds have allied with the Syrian government and by extension, Russia and Iran. ISIS captives have escaped from prison, and will almost certainly reconstitute themselves as a fighting force and take the field.I think there are powerful forces in Washington wanting to teach Turkey a lesson for pursuing an independent foreign policy and buying a Russian missile defense system. I think these same forces are looking at Donald Trump as a liability and wish to be rid of him. So what better way to accomplish both objectives than to get Trump to declare “neutrality” and withdraw from Northern Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies to face the Turkish invasion alone. So while Turkey walks into a trap, Donald Trump takes the rap. But don't mind me. I'm just an old conspiracy theorist.
Four years ago, when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane that may or may not have briefly strayed into Turkish airspace, Vladimir Putin remarked, “There will be consequences” ... “We will keep remembering what they did. And they will keep regretting it.”
I think we may be watching those “consequences” unfold. Think about it. Russia may have just lured Turkey away from its NATO allies, only to ally itself with Turkey's Kurdish enemies. What a coup that would be!
And what happens next? See Robert Burns quote at top of snippet.
In war, there are no winners. Everybody loses. But the biggest losers will certainly be the Syrian people.
Robert Koehler On the Rights of Nature
Generally, I dislike reading opinion from folks I agree with. It tends to be boring and I don't learn anything. Robert Koehler is the exception. He always seems to come up with thoughts that lead to new insights I hadn't considered before.“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men: Yet most men understand not.” — The Holy Qur'an 40:57
Here, Koehler talks about the movement to give legal Rights to Nature. Clearly, he is uncomfortable with the concept, although he seems to endorse it up to a point.
I, too, am uncomfortable with the concept. We are all a part of Nature. How can the part give legal Rights to the whole? It would be like your liver declaring that your spleen had certain Rights. Without a spleen, your body would die, and your liver along with it. Likewise, if an ecosystem dies, so too, all the creatures that depend on that ecosystem die.
Koehler writes, “The prime strangeness about all this is the implicit assumption that ‘the law’ in some way has conceptual dominion over Lake Erie or the Klamath River or Pachamama and can choose (or choose not) to give a particular ecosystem, which sustains life itself, the right to exist.”
Well, here's a story about what happens when the parts declare dominion over the whole:
Perhaps, instead of declaring that ecosystems have legal Rights, we should be asking what mankind must do to attain the Right to exist in Nature?Shortly after God created mankind, all the parts of the human body got together to choose which part should hold dominion over the others.
October 8, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Looks Like More War for Syria
If you thought when ISIS was defeated in Syria not too long ago, that foreign powers would let the Syrians live in Peace, think again. Turkey appears ready to invade Syria and the United States has declared “neutrality.” The Syrian Kurds who Turkey is targeting were supposed to have been our best and strongest allies, but now that ISIS has been defeated, it appears the Kurds have again been hung out to dry.
Well, maybe not completely. I suspect they have plenty of heavy US arms and will put up a spirited resistance. That's a tried and true policy: Sell arms to both sides and let them kill each other while Raytheon and the arms merchants turn a handsome profit.
More war is also a perfect recipe for the return of al-Queda and its offspring to Syria.
Is it any wonder that Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, recently remarked: “Your presence has always been a calamity for this region, and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region.”
China Shows Off its New Military Hardware
During its National Day parade, China showed off a new hypersonic missile thought capable of avoiding detection and delivering nuclear warheads to the United States in 30 minutes. China celebrates its National Day on October 1, the day in 1949 the Chinese People's Liberation Army drove the US-supported Guomindang off the Chinese mainland.
China spends an estimated $250 billion annually on its military, about one third of what the United States spends.
Folks, isn't it about time for some Peace and Disarmament?
Australian Climate Icon Turns Survivalist
Michael Mobbs, who has inspired many a climate activist, has put his off-the-grid state-of-the-art home in Sydney, Australia up for sale and declared that the fight to save civilization is hopeless and he is going to build on Australia's south coast and survive the collapse that he estimates will come in three to five years.
Here's some commentary by climate activist Tim Hollo, who believes, as I do, that “as the climate collapses, we can either stand together – or perish alone.”
I wish both Michael and Tim well. As for me, I'll just sit here and write my weekly column and vigil for Peace and the Environment every Thursday. Is it hopeless? I don't think so. And anyway it wouldn't matter. If you believe in Miracles (as I do) things are never hopeless. To quote Sandy LeonVest:
And in the hours I've spent writing this column, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has gone up an estimated three parts per billion.“I've long since accepted that being an activist and a writer, futile though it may be, is who I am. The ship may be going down, but like the orchestra on the Titanic, I keep playing.”
October 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Another Fairytale of Eternal Growth
A record crowd turned out at last week's meeting of the Rolla Chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby for a showing of Leonardo DiCaprio's Ice on Fire. The photography was superb. The narration was faultless. The story line should be quite familiar by now. I'll summarize in a few sentences:
While at one point in the narrative, DiCaprio remarks, “we can come together, we can innovate,” it is far from clear who he means by “we.” Is he talking about the children at our southern border living in filthy cages without clean water? Is he talking about the Afghans, Palestinians and Yemenis being starved and slaughtered by bombs that were made in the USA? Is he talking about North Koreans, Iranians and Venezuelans living in poverty imposed on them by US sanctions? Is he talking about folks in Flint, Michigan, suffering from drinking lead-tainted water?The situation is dire. Human activity has caused a spike in CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting in warming temperatures, melting ice, rising sea levels, species extinction, reduced crop yields and catastrophic hurricanes, droughts, floods and fires. But there is hope, if we act immediately. If we listen to the scientists and make a few small changes, adding less carbon to our atmosphere and removing more from it, all will be well and we can continue to live our lives in fairytale bliss.
One might surmise that should we make these changes, the wealthy of the world will receive 90% of the benefits, while the poor and oppressed will pay 90% of the costs. For example, what will happen to the subsistence farmers and indigenous communities whose land is forcibly taken for wind and solar farms to satisfy the wealthy's ever-increasing demand for “clean energy?” Will they, who have contributed little or nothing to our climate catastrophe, be forced to join the 70 million refugees that have already been created by war, violence, oppression and changing climate? And who will benefit from selling all this clean energy? Will it be those whose land was taken by force? or rich investors from wealthy countries who pat themselves on the back for having turned a handsome profit while doing something for the environment?
And can we even make these changes while much of the world is armed to the teeth and ready to go to war, if not already fighting with it's neighbors? Besides being just plain wrong, I find it absolutely abhorrent that so many, who should know better, believe the fairytale that we can avoid the ravages of runaway climate change, while the world spends $2 trillion annually on war and destruction and billions of people live in abject poverty.
As Benjamin Franklin put it, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Yes, all of us, all 7.5 billion of us. But how can we hang together while we spend trillions to kill each other? And if we can't learn to all hang together, I fear that Nature will hang us all, one at time, until we are all gone.
Here's some related reading:
Medea Benjamin discusses the many ways in which militarism and climate change feed on each other.
Don Fitz argues effectively that there is no such thing as clean energy. The only clean energy is less energy (conservation).
And Robert Koehler argues that a shift in consciousness is a necessary condition for preventing runaway climate change. Koehler quotes this piece of Arhuaco tribal wisdom:
Yes, that says it all. We take and take and take all that we can without ever making payment. We have disturbed the balance of things, and now Nature is exacting payment in her own way. Until we are ready to make payment, catastrophic climate change will only get worse.“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.”
Read these three short articles. Then see whether you agree.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Makes Progress
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons garnered six new ratifications in September reaching 32. 50 is necessary for the treaty to go into force. Bangladesh, Ecuador, Kiribati, Laos, Maldives and Trinidad & Tobago have newly ratified the Treaty. Botswana, Dominica, Grenada, Lesotho, St. Kitts & Nevis, Tanzania and Zambia signed the Treaty in September but have not yet ratified it.
Lets hear a loud HOORAY for these 13 countries that have stood up for a world free from nuclear blackmail.
September 24, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Fairytales of Eternal Growth
Four million turned out Friday to Strike for the Climate — probably the largest demonstration the world has seen since February 15, 2003, when 8 to 30 million demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq. As we all know, the Tellers of Fairytales went ahead and invaded Iraq anyway — and we're all still suffering from the blowback from that invasion 16 years later, just as the Earth will be suffering from the blowback from the arrogance and intransigence of the Tellers of Fairytales for centuries if not millennia.“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth, How dare you!” —Greta Thunberg (address to the United Nations)
But, maybe this time it will be different. More demonstrations are planned and the Tellers of Fairytales are scared — Yes, scared of The People! Now they tell us they are going to impeach Donald Trump and then everything will be fine — only it won't, not until every Teller of Fairytales is impeached and replaced by those who care about peace and the only planet we have to live on.
Here in Rolla, we stood up! Over 60 of us struck for the climate. (See photos here) But once is not enough. If we want to save our planet and our future, we must do this again and again and again in ever-increasing numbers.
September 17, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
2° C. of Warming
This article from the Washington Post details those parts of the Earth which have warmed 1.5° C or more since the late 1800s. Some takeaway points from the maps that accompany this article:
I found the discussion of Uruguay that lies next to an ocean hot spot that has warmed 2.0° C. interesting. I highly recommend this article.1. The Arctic has experienced the most warming of anywhere on the planet — up to 6° C. in places. The Antarctic is labeled insufficient data.
August 2019: A Three Way Tie for Second Place
NOAA published its global climate data for August yesterday. August 2019 has warmed 0.92° C above the 20th Century average and is in a three-way tie for second place with 2017 and 2015, behind first place August 2016 which has warmed 0.98° C. over the same period.
The last five 12 month periods ending in August are the five warmest on record.
In August 2019, CO2 in the atmosphere increased by 2.96 ppm over August 2018
It is highly likely that much of this increase is due to wide-spread forest fires in the Amazon, the Arctic and elsewhere, as well our continued use of fossil-fuels and other climate destructive behaviors.
What can you do? Attend the Global Strike for the Climate at Noon, Friday, Sept. 20 in front of the Rolla Post Office. (See above for details.) Then go out and plant a tree.
War Against Iran: Lying Prepares the Way
After hearing for days that Iran had delivered the oil on the Adrian Darya to Syria after giving “written assurance” that they wouldn't, we read that Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said, “you can see from the images that the oil [from the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1] has ended up in Syria but that’s not to say that there’s a breach of the undertaking [by Iran].” So far, this “written assurance” does not appear to be a “public document.” Keep in mind that by international law, unilateral EU sanctions (against Syria) have no legal effect on third parties (such as Iran); and the seizing of the Adrian Darya was simply an act of piracy on the high seas.
And the US State Department is blaming Iran for a recent drone strike on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities without one shred of evidence that Iran was involved. Indeed, it was Saudi Arabia, not Iran, that bombed a Yemeni school bus last year, killing 40 with a made-in-the-USA bomb, and has since continued to commit atrocities against the Yemeni people. Don't the Yemenis have a Right under international law to retaliate against such crimes against humanity?
September 10, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Kazakhstan Joins the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
On August 29, Kazakhstan became the 26th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Only 24 more and the treaty becomes international law (but sadly only for those countries which have ratified it).
Three Strikes and You (Should Be) Out
Donald Trump struck out again!
After being unable to dock in Greece or Turkey, the Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya I, has apparently unloaded its cargo of Iranian crude off the coast of Syria. (We still do not know the name of the mystery buyer.) Apparently the Trump administration offered the captain millions of dollars if he would dock the tanker where the US could seize it. When the captain ignored the bribe, the US sanctioned the captain.
The Peace Deal with the Taliban that was supposed to end the 18-year-old war against Afghanistan has apparently fallen through. The Taliban's demands are simple: Just get the @#$%#$!! out of our country. They even offered to help the US save face by calling it a peace agreement and allowing the US to withdraw in phases. So brace yourselves for more debilitating years of war against Afghanistan, already our nations longest.
Oh, yes. The first strike was North Korea, which, in spite of the high-profile meetings between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, remains unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons, and continues work on its delivery systems.
Or maybe it was Venezuela, where the Bolivarian government and president Maduro remain firmly in power. Or maybe Nicaragua, another country where a recent US supported coup failed.
Perhaps this is what is meant by “Make America Great Again.”
Many are claiming that the Amazon Rainforest is a world treasure and Brazil has no Right to burn it down to produce more beef and soy beans. I would certainly agree. But shouldn't wealthy countries and international corporations who have in the past benefited from the destruction of the Amazon be willing to reimburse Brazil for the economic value lost by keeping the forest intact?
Truthout has published a list of who benefits financially in the short-term from the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. Some of the names may surprise you. In the long-run, all humanity and our planetary life-support are harmed by the loss of the Amazon Rainforest.
In addition, if we argue that the Amazon Rainforest is a world treasure and should not be the property of any one country to destroy or degrade as they see fit, then shouldn't we also argue that the world has many, many treasures that should be communally owned by all humanity?
For example: Shouldn't we argue that the uranium in the Earth should be owned communally and not be the property of a few powerful countries to make weapons with which to threaten their neighbors? Shouldn't we also argue for open borders, so that those who have been made refugees through war and climate degradation have a Right to settle wherever they feel they can make a new life for themselves? And shouldn't the world's fossil fuels be internationalized so everyone has a say in whether they are mined, burned and allowed to foul our atmosphere? And shouldn't the world's holiest sites like Jerusalem and Mecca be internationalized and not be considered the property of any one country?
Yes, the Earth has many great treasures. Let's stop allowing a few to monopolize these treasures and use them for destruction.
September 3, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Jair Bolsonaro and the Amazon Fires
In reference to the fires in the Amazon, a reader writes:
My response:“I don't think you gave Bolsonaro the condemnation that he deserves.” and “Bolsonaro ... is a right wing populist, in the ilk of Trump, whose policies have encouraged the fires. If he had any interest in fighting the fires, he would have taken the money and asked for more. In fact it wasn't until Macron shamed him that he even pretended to care. The fires are not only an environmental disaster, but a public health disaster as well. Respiratory problems especially among children and the elderly have increased in the area of the fires.”
I really can't argue with what our reader writes, although I think that what has Bolsonaro concerned is more the almost universal condemnation and the threats on an economic boycott than the words of one European Head of State.
For my part, knowing the gargantuan role my own country continues to play in global devastation, I have difficulty criticizing other countries and their heads of state. I believe it would be hypocritical for me to do so, without pointing out at the same time my own country's out-sized role in global devastation.
Incidentally, in spite of the ban on starting new fires in the Amazon, many new fires have started and old ones continue to burn.
The 2019 Northern Hemisphere Summer has been a terrible season for forest fires, not only in the Amazon, but in Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, Canary Islands, and other places.
Forests provide a carbon sink and help keep the Earth cool. Without our forests, the world's climate would be degrading even faster than it is now. Nurturing existing forests and replanting forests that have been destroyed should be a global priority in which all peoples and all countries must participate. Indeed, we must stop fighting each other immediately and start working together to reverse the degradation of our only planet. Think of all the positive things that could be accomplished with the almost $2 Trillion that the world spends on its militaries.
What can you do? Attend the world-wide strike for the climate on Sept. 20.
Bernie Sanders Speaks at Native American Forum
Bernie never stops impressing me. Speaking at the first Native American Presidential Forum, he asks that Native Americans take leadership roles in showing the rest of us how to live in harmony with nature.
Hezbollah Drives Israeli Soldiers Out of Illegal Settlement
This may be a game-changer. After many years of Israel attacking its neighbors and abusing the people in occupied Palestine with impunity, Hezbollah has driven Israeli soldiers from an outpost in an illegal settlement on the Lebanese border of occupied Palestine.
August 27, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Iran Sells 2.1 Million Barrels of Oil Worth About $130 Million to Mystery Buyer
As the Adrian Darya sails East from Gibraltar, Iran announces selling the cargo of Iranian crude to a mystery buyer who will choose the ultimate fate of the cargo. I'm hoping the buyer is a billionaire climate activist who will put the oil back underground where it belongs. Indeed, that is what the G7, a group of wealthy nations who believe they have the Right to set economic policy for the rest of the world, should have been discussing in their meeting on the climate: paying oil-rich nations to leave their oil in the ground where it belongs. Our own Donald Trump didn't even show up for the meeting.
While World Leaders Fail, People Step Up to Protect the Amazon Rainforest
Instead the G7 offered Brazil a paltry $20 million to fight fires in the Amazon. Brazilian President, Jair Boilsonaro, turned down the offer with a suggestion that the G7, particularly France, use the money to clean up the environmental mess they have made in their former colonies in Africa. So while the Earth burns, our great world leaders spend their time insulting each other.
Here's an article from Wired detailing why even small attacks on the Amazon rainforest can have large effects on the forest's ability to maintain itself and sequester carbon.
And as the rain forest burns, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the world gets hotter and more forests burn.
Meanwhile, some people are fired up to resist and standing up for the climate.
Leonardo di Caprio, through a new charity he has formed, has offered $5 million to fight fires in the Amazon.
15,000 indigenous Mura people who live in the Amazon rainforest vow to resist the loggers and ranchers who are devastating the forest.
People around the world are protesting Brazil's failure to protect the Amazon.
And on Friday, September 20, people from all over the world, including little Rolla, Missouri, will be striking for the climate.
August 20, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Something Positive — Something Negative
Last week, due to a suggestion by a reader, I wrote only about positive developments. This week I will try to be more balanced. I think it is important to cover both the positive, the negative, and all points in between.
Iranian Tanker Sets Sail from Gibraltar
The UK, which remains in the nuclear deals with Iran (JCPOA) has apparently decided not to risk further antagonizing Iran by doing Donald Trump's dirty work for him. Gibraltar, which is a territory of the UK, has allowed the Adrian Darya I (formerly the Grace I) to set sail from Gibraltar carrying at least $130 million of Iranian oil, opining that US sanctions carry no weight in Europe.
The positive side is that War against Iran now appears to be somewhat less likely. The negative side is that all this oil will eventually be burned adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and warming the Earth further.
Israel has barred US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from visiting Israeli occupied Palestine, because the Congresswomen support the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions Against Israel Movement, which seeks to end Israeli human rights atrocities against Palestinians.
Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish and has lived in Israel, opined that it takes a lot of chutzpah to accept $3.8 Billion in aid annually from the United States and then bar members of the US Congress from visiting.
Bernie, as usual, leads the pack in standing up for human rights against the swamp monsters.
Many young Jewish constituents demonstrated in support of Rashida Tlaib and against personal attacks against her from Donald Trump.
Tlaib attended the rally and thanked her constituents:
And this is the way to make Peace! Indeed, it's the ONLY way to make Peace.“I can't wait to show my grandmother how I was supported by all of you—it would bring her so much joy. Thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for loving me. And thank you for allowing me to be not just your congresswoman, but also a granddaughter of a grandmother living under occupation.”
The Boys in the Backroom: “Do We Really Need to be Doing That?”
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence in this Hiroshima Day sermon calls out the “boys [and girls] in the backroom” [scientists] for developing improved ways to kill more people more quickly; and he calls out the Christian Churches for their silence and failure to condemn this.“You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that?” —Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Nishnaabeg)
For the benefit of my Christian brothers and sisters, I wish to point out that they are not alone. Scientists of almost every imaginable religion (Buddhists, Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Animists, etc.) are hiding out in those backrooms working on deadlier and deadlier ways of killing more and more people more quickly.
So maybe we should stop worshiping the Golden Calf of Science. Maybe instead of saying “Because we can,” we should be asking, “Do we really need to be doing that?”
The above quote is a Nishnaabeg elder's response to a request to explain how the Nishnaabeg view our concept of sustainable development.
McCarthy's sermon comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.
August 13, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Include Something Positive
A reader writes: “Thanks for the updates. Would it be possible to include something positive that is happening in this same arena? People begin to feel paralyzed by the immensity of the devastation, and a record of hope reflecting organizations who are actually making positive change, would catalyze people into joining those in some active way. Thanks,”
My response: Yes, that's a very good point. I too feel that this newsletter often lacks positive reinforcement. But don't be paralyzed by the devastation. The birth of the new tends to be a violent event, accompanied by the destruction of the old. So, “Make prayer; do your best; and leave the rest to God.”
This week, I will write only about positive developments. And for future weeks, I encourage readers to write in with their own positive developments. I know there are lots of them. Some I may be aware of; many I am not.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reaches 25 ratifications
We are half way there! 25 ratifications, two within the last two weeks. 50 and the treaty goes into effect.
The treaty states in part,
Encourage the President to sign on and Congress to ratify this very important treaty. There is a pathway for current nuclear powers to follow to join the treaty.1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
Here is the list of new signatories and ratifications since the start of the New Year
And here is a list of states that are making progress toward ratification.
Do not underestimate the importance of 25 countries saying we will no longer be bullied by a handful of powerful nuclear-weapon states.
Bernie Sanders May Become the Next President of the United States
Bernie never fails to impress me. Here is his response in part to the recent El Paso massacre.
While excoriating the President for creating “a climate where we are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes in this country—hates crimes against Muslims, against Mexicans, against Jews. He is creating the kind of divisiveness in this nation that is the last thing we should be doing.”, he also added, “but do I think that he wants to see somebody get shot? Absolutely not.”
Now, that's diplomacy! That's what we need in the White House.
Non-Violent Civil Disobedience is Back
Climate protesters in Australia, a continent that was all but destroyed during this year's southern-hemisphere summer by heat, drought, flood and fire are rising up against plans to develop Australia's coal resources.
And 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg sets sail on a carbon-neutral ship for the United States to attend an important UN climate conference. Thunberg said, “Me speaking to the U.N. is not going to change the situation but if that can help to create awareness ... then I think that together we can try to ... make a change,”
And Here in Rolla
We have just completed 12.5 years of weekly vigils for Peace at the Rolla Post Office. Whereas, when we began we received many raised middle fingers and angry shouts from passers-by; now almost every response we receive is positive.
With the help of our attorneys at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, in 2007 we received a court injunction against using Buehler Park in any way other than a public park. Since then Citizens for the Preservation of Buehler Park has planted 44 trees that are busy as I write sequestering carbon dioxide. The City of Rolla which used to be our adversary is now trying to get Rolla designated Tree City.
Rolla now has a chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, which seeks to pass legislation favorable to our environment. CCL will host a showing of the film “The Human Element” at Phelps County Courthouse on Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm.
Yes, when you think about it, there are a lot of positive developments happening now. Be a part of it. You can help by writing some positive words for this newsletter. In the words of Stephen Kinzer, “Earth-shaking events often happen slowly and quietly.”
August 6, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Losing Our Tree Cover
Arctic fires, brought on by unprecedented hot dry conditions have burned through millions of acres of northern forest. The hot dry conditions have also melted billions of tons of ice, heating the arctic and making it more susceptible to further hot dry weather and forest fires.
And deforestation continues in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro's pro-development policies have led to the doubling in the clearing of Amazon forests over the past two years.
The warming of the poles is viewed by the world's major militaries as an opportunity to further militarize the Earth, which will likely lead to increased deforestation and warming of the planet and perhaps also to war.
The loss of so many trees which form an important carbon sink is likely a major culprit in the recent increases in the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Over the first seven months of 2019, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased over 3 ppm from the first seven months of 2018.
July 2019 has been declared the warmest month on Earth since record keeping began. If humanity were sane, it would be out planting new forests, nurturing existing forests, and forgoing militarization, fighting wars, burning fossil fuels, eating meat and other destructive behaviors. Since we are doing none of the above, the only possible conclusion is that we are a species bent on suicide.
Humanity in Crisis
I've started reading Jared Diamond's new book, “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis” While I am still on the first chapter, already I can recommend this book to you, wholeheartedly. Perhaps the insights Diamond gives us in this book will help us through this most difficult of times.
July 30, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers: Turkey
Last week I wrote the following short snippet on Turkey:
A reader writes in:“Tiring of Donald Trump's bullying, Turkey took delivery of the first installment of Russia's S-400 Missile Defense System. Donald Trump was livid and threatening ... you guessed it ... sanctions. Turkey also unveiled plans to wean itself militarily away from the U.S. and build it's own fighter jet. Apparently, Turkey is really serious about becoming a military power to be reckoned with. So much so, that they have jailed a number of academics for the crime of signing a petition advocating peace..
My response: Too bad we don't demilitarize the entire Greater Middle East from Libya to Iran and beyond and send all foreign troops home. Would I praise Turkey for spending money on a military missile defense system? No. Lying between a nuclear armed Russia and a nuclear armed Europe, could I condemn them for buying a missile defense system? No. Would I condemn a nation, any nation, for jailing its citizens for signing a petition advocating Peace? Absolutely.“Not clear to me whether you are praising or condemning Turkey.”
Perhaps one of the Turkish-Americans on this distribution list would like to weigh in on this matter.
Turkey's aims in neighboring Syria don't seem to fit well with either US or Russian aims. The US supports Kurdish forces. Russia supports the government. Turkey opposes both.
Incidentally, Turkey increased its military expenditures in 2018 by 24%, the highest increase among the top 15 countries in military expenditures.
Here's an interesting tidbit. In 2015, Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet that appeared to have strayed over the border from Syria into Turkey for 17 seconds. Now, four years later, they are buying Russian missile defense systems and perhaps cooperating militarily with Russia in Syria.
As I said last week: “This world gets more and more dangerous every day.”
Still a standoff. Gibraltar holds an Iranian tanker. Iran holds a British flagged tanker. But, judging by the fall in prices at the gas pump, no one's about to start a shooting war over this.
As far as I know, nobody but yours truly has called for the closing of both the Straits of Hormuz and Gibraltar to all oil tankers. Many climate activists seem to have a blind spot when it comes to militarism. The US military is almost certainly the world's single greatest user of fossil fuels and the World's single greatest producer of greenhouse gases. Now keep in mind that the US spends somewhat more than 1/3 of the world's approximately $1.8 Trillion military budget. This will give you an idea of how much militarism damages our climate; and why we will make no progress in reversing climate change unless we drastically reduce our reliance on military solutions.
By the way, if you don't see the connection between militarism and climate change, try designing a solar-powered fighter jet or an electric-powered tank. 21st Century militarism runs on oil.
Wars are never easy and never clean. Danny Sjursen writes about our messy wars; and opines about Afghanistan:
Leonard Cohen said something similar before he left us: “You're not going to like what comes after America.”“For someone like me who long ago turned his back on America’s never-ending wars on terror, it’s discomfiting to imagine the process that might finally lead to a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially one negotiated by The Donald and his strange team of hawks. Of one thing, rest assured: bad things will happen afterward.”
July 23, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
No Wars for Oil; Keep it in the Ground
Lots of folks are worried that we are heading into another dumb Middle East war, this time with Iran. Here, Juan Cole lays out the legalities of the ongoing tanker battle:
Cole feels that John Bolton tricked the UK into seizing the Iranian tanker; but I have another theory:“First, the EU ban on oil sales to Syria concerned only EU member states.
I think a lot of the British elite are delusional and living in the past when “Brittania ruled the Waves” and could commit any act of piracy on the high seas they chose and get away with it.
In its heyday in the early 20th Century, Britain plundered Iran's oil resources; so theft and piracy are nothing new — except that Iran is now paying the British back by seizing its ships.
Donald Trump is delusional too. North Korea, Nicaragua , Venezuela .... so far just empty threats. That's the thing about bullies: Stand up to them and they back down. Kowtow to them and you encourage them. I suspect Trump will back down with Iran too — but maybe I'm wrong — we'll see. Seems its only here in the United States and among our European allies that folks are cowed by the great Bully-in-Chief.
But here's what I don't understand. It's way past time to give up our addiction to fossil fuels and just leave them in the ground. So why are we so ready to go to War over oil? How come 350.org, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and all the other climate-advocacy organizations aren't weighing in on this? Why aren't they saying, “Stop fighting wars over oil. Just leave it in the ground.” So many climate-activists have a blind spot when it comes to War. The Peace movement is doing much better in recognizing that our militarism and our assault upon the Earth are intertwined. Nothing much will be done to reverse climate change until we tackle our addiction to War. To quote Katherine Ball: “The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.”
It's a golden opportunity. I'm hoping the Climate movement and the Peace movement can join together, make common cause and call for the closure of both the Straits of Gibraltar and Hormuz to oil traffic.
Turkey: Tired of Being Bullied
Tiring of Donald Trump's bullying, Turkey took delivery of the first installment of Russia's S-400 Missile Defense System. Donald Trump was livid and threatening ... you guessed it ... sanctions. Turkey also unveiled plans to wean itself militarily away from the U.S. and build it's own fighter jet. Apparently, Turkey is really serious about becoming a military power to be reckoned with. So much so, that they have jailed a number of academics for the crime of signing a petition advocating peace.
This world gets more and more dangerous every day.
Scientists v. Indigenous Peoples
Two years ago in the months leading up to the first March for Science, I wrote an article pointing out that far from being a solution to all our problems, scientists are a major cause of them. I also pointed out the elitism involved in the March for Science and the science establishment in general.
I've been waiting for the proper moment to elaborate on this; and that moment has come with the attempt to build a $1.4 billion, 300 meter telescope atop the mountain, Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. Mauna Kea, which already sports 13 telescopes, is sacred to indigenous Hawaiians.
So here we have scientists saying our new billion dollar toy that will allow us to see farther is more important than your gods and your culture, so just get out of our way. And as scientists look farther and farther out into space, the Earth continues to crumble under our feet.
Science has a lot in common with other sacred cows like progress, capitalism and development. While 90% of the benefits go to the elite, 90% of the risks and sacrifices come from the people.
Fortunately, indigenous water-protectors and their allies continue to oppose the telescope. Here are links to a two part Democracy Now interview with activist Pua Case: part 1, part 2. And here is a link to a petition in support of the Hawaiian water-protectors who are opposing the telescope.
July 16, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Low Tech v. High Tech: Not Even Close. Two Case Studies: Trees and Goats
Case 1, Trees: Those of us who have been clamoring for forest protection and regeneration got a big boost last week. Researchers estimated that if all the unused land available in the world were planted with climate-appropriate trees, when they reached maturity in 40 to 100 years they would sequester a whopping 205 gigatons of carbon, which is equivalent to about 2/3 of all the carbon dioxide released by human activity since the industrial revolution. Price-wise and capacity-wise trees are way ahead of high-tech solutions like giant machines that pull carbon out of the atmosphere; and, even better, we can start planting and caring for trees today.
Unlike machines, trees run on 100% solar energy and they grow and regenerate their own solar cells!
Actually, we could do much better. We could selectively harvest and replant the trees. Harvested trees could be heated in the absence of oxygen to make bio-char which could fertilize depleted soils, so they could grow more trees faster, or simply buried deep beneath the Earth where the carbon would do no harm.
Are you convinced? Then be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Plant a tree today! or better yet:
Case 2, Goats: Unfortunately, due to climate change and other human activities, many of the Earth's precious trees are going up in smoke. But there is a low-tech solution to this too. Goats are in high demand in fire-prone areas like California. Goats will eat flammable grasses and herbs down to the nub, thereby protecting mature trees, as well as people and buildings, from fire. They are cheaper and more energy-efficiently than the best bulldozers, far more environmentally friendly than herbicides, and while they protect us from fire, they fertilize the soil.“Grow a forest, Protect it from axes that hack,
Goats are also lovable companions. Tired of mowing your lawn? Get a goat!
Nature has solutions to our problems. All we need do is use them.
And if you get a chance, watch Diana Beresford-Kroeger's Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees; and read her book: The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us.
There was other stuff I planned to write about; but that will have to wait until next week. I'll just end here with a link to Joyce Kilmer's famous poem, Trees.
July 9, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Is War Against Iran Coming?
Since I last wrote about Iran two weeks ago, British pirates have seized an Iranian super-tanker off the coast of Gibraltar and Iran has begun enriching and stockpiling uranium beyond the limits of the JCPOA agreement, from which the United States has withdrawn.
We are already at war with Iran. US imposed sanctions are an act of War. State Piracy is also an act of War. One question is how much further are the United States and their British ally prepared to push Iran and how will Iran respond? Another question is will China, Russia and the European Union sit back and watch or will they get involved. I can't answer these questions; but keep in mind how unsuccessful the United States has been so far in its War against Venezuela and that they appear ready to pull out of an unsuccessful 18-year-old war against Iran's neighbor, Afghanistan.
I would suspect that Iran is not without the means to retaliate should they choose to. I would also suspect that War against Iran would be yet another war in which everyone loses.
Criminalizing Compassion (Update)
Last week I reported that Scott Warren's felony trial for rendering humanitarian assistance to migrants on our southern border ended in a hung jury. The Federal government has unfortunately chosen to retry the case.
And I reported last week that Captain Carola Rackete who rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya had also been charged in Italy with a felony for her humanitarian work. Captain Rackete has been ordered released by an Italian judge who opined that she has doing her duty to protect life.
90°F. in Anchorage, Alaska
This July 4, Anchorage, Alaska hit a whopping record-breaking temperature of 90°F. 90°F. in Alaska? This must be a Chinese hoax.
July 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I love the way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes hamburger meat out of sacred cows. Her latest: calling the internment camps on our southern border where children are separated from parents and held without proper food or medical attention in cages what they are: Concentration Camps.
Here's an excellent article by Anna Lind-Guzik describing why Alexandria is correct to call them concentration camps.
And here are some tweets as Alexandria visits a concentration camp.
Scott Warren's felony trial for rendering humanitarian aid to migrants on our southern border ended in a hung jury. Rendering humanitarian aid to those in need must NEVER be considered criminal.
We sometimes think of Europe as being somewhat more “civilized” than the United States; but that is really not the case. Captain Carola Rackete who rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya has also been charged in Italy with a felony for her humanitarian work.
NEVER AGAIN IS NOW
And I love the way young Jews in the United States are refusing to look the other way and are standing up for oppressed peoples, be they in Palestine or on our own southern border.
I've completed a major rewrite of my ongoing climate essay and renamed it: Climate Catastrophe: Graphs and Commentary. Check it out.
June 25, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TRUMP BLINKS; AND SANCTIONS IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER, JAVAD ZARIF
US manned and unmanned spycrafts have been flying along the Iranian border, sometimes teasing Iranian defenses by entering Iran's airspace. Thursday, Iran took the bait and downed an unmanned spycraft that, according to Iran, had crossed the border. The US vowed to retaliate; but at the last minute called off the attack. This was certainly a good thing for all of us.
Not wishing to appear weak and wishy-washy, Donald Trump instead sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. I don't get this. Trump says he wants to meet with Iran and negotiate a deal; but instead sanctions Foreign Mininster Zarif.
I think that so many have become so fed up with US unilateralism and sanctions that it will not be long before the rest of the world puts together economic infrastructure that does not revolve around the US dollar and is impervious to US unilateral sanctions. Wait and see what happens to the US economy then.
SIX PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS PLEDGE TO END ENDLESS WAR
Here is the End the Forever War pledge:
It has been signed by six presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. You can sign the pledge too as a citizen sponsor. Click here.The United States has been in a state of continuous, global, open-ended military conflict since 2001. Over 2.5 million troops have fought in this “Forever War” in over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand. I pledge to the people of the United States of America, and to our military community in particular, that I will (1) fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force, and (2) act to bring the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion.
NOAA UNVEILS VERSION V OF ITS GLOBAL TEMPERATURE DATASET
Version V yields results similar to the previous version, however, it shows increased warming within the past few years. The anomaly for March 2016, which in both versions was the highest recorded increased from 1.23°C to 1.30°C above the 20th Century average.
Meanwhile Miami bakes in record temperatures while the Everglades burn and the Democratic National Committee does not want the candidates to debate climate catastrophe.
June 18, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
RED SCARE STIFLES INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN MEDICAL RESEARCH
Chinese-American researchers are being forced out of US institutions over fear that they are helping China “steal” our “intellectual property.”
I've always felt that “intellectual property” is an oxymoron. This is particularly true when it comes to scientific research. Suppose a researcher finds a cure for cancer. Should he have a right to charge people dying of cancer obscene quantities of money for his cure? Tell me it ain't so. But as Bloomberg points out,
“Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.” It appears that the focus has “shifted away from research collaborations and toward business opportunities.”
Maybe if we didn't allow the pharmaceutical industry to make obscene profits over people's medical misfortunes, this would not be happening.
Incidentally, without our foreign-born intellectual talent, our universities and research institutions would be hardly a shell of what they are now. In some circles this is called “Make America Great Again.”
MOHAMED MORSI DIES IN EGYPTIAN COURT
Mohamed Morsi, who was elected President of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 2012 following the events of Arab Spring that deposed former strongman Hosni Mubarak, died in court yesterday. He was facing multiple politically motivated charges. His death has been called “premeditated murder” by not allowing him adequate health care in prison.
Morsi was deposed and then imprisoned in a military coup with the support of the United States.
It's interesting how so many true believers in Democracy are perfectly willing to look the other way when a democratically elected government which they don't happen to like is deposed in a military coup or by a foreign power. Seems to me if one believes in the ability of the people to govern themselves, one ought to be able to accept whatever mistakes the people make — in my opinion, a trifle compared to mistakes made by elites.
Also noteworthy is that I read this first on a Venezuelan news site.
After having defeated a US instigated coup last month, Venezuela went on to beat the US soccer team 3—0 last week, in spite of the grueling sanctions the US has imposed on Venezuela. Let's level the playing field by ending all sanctions of Venezuela and other countries.
June 11, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEFENSE AUTHORIZATIONS AND APPROPRIATIONS
The House is considering Defense Authorizations and Appropriations and there are a number of proposed amendments that would rein in our warmacht — just a little bit. Here is a list of some of them. Please consider asking chairman Jim McGovern to bring all bills that would result in less war to the floor for a vote by signing the petition here. Also, ask your Rep. to support them.
This is unprecedented. The military usually gets everything it wants and more without any effective opposition. This is why we have been holding vigils for Peace for the past 12 years. Maybe in another 12 years we will really have Peace on Earth.
One important bill omitted from the list is Betty McCollum's HR2407 that would prevent any of the Billions of Dollars we give to Israel in military aid from being spent to imprison, interrogate or torture children.
AFGHANISTAN“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” McCollum said. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”
In case you have wondered about this woebegone land that we have been bombing the crap out of for nearly 18 years, Vijay Prasad gives us a rundown on the so-called “Peace Talks” and other matters. The Taliban's demands are simple: Just get out of our country. I won't vouch for all Prasad says, but I'm definitely on board with his final paragraph:
Meanwhile the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground.“The peace talks in Qatar and Russia will not immediately result in any direct outcome. Afghanistan is damaged beyond belief, its own future less important to the external parties than their own petty gains.”
If you thought global warming might give California a respite from the last two years of devastating wildfires, think again. Summer has arrived again with a vengeance of heat and fire.
And India is experiencing a monster drought and heat wave with temperatures breaking 50°C (122°F). Monkeys are said to be killing each other over access to water, a behavior never before documented in monkeys.
But don't worry folks — its only a Chinese hoax.
June 4, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Most of us believe in cataclysms, although perhaps we have little experience with them. And as Conrad reminds us, “belief does not necessarily imply comprehension.”“Had he been informed by an indisputable authority that the end of the world was to be finally accomplished by a catastrophic disturbance of the atmosphere, he would have assimilated the information under the simple idea of dirty weather, and no other, because he had no experience of cataclysms, and belief does not necessarily imply comprehension.” —Joseph Conrad (Typhoon, 1902)
However, cataclysms have become increasingly common. We've had more than our share of dirty weather this past month — devastating tornadoes and floods. Likely, records have been set.
May, 2019 was, according to the Copernicus Center, the third warmest May on record, only marginally missing the second spot. The 12 month running average for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by more than 0.25ppm over last month's running average. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to a warming climate; and a warming climate leads to an increasing likelihood of cataclysms.
I suspect there is far more dirty weather on the horizon.
In Joseph Conrad's yarn, Captain MacWhirr, lacking in experience and imagination, sails his ship, the Nan-Shan, into a typhoon. However, he is a competent sea captain and not one to give up in the face of adversity. Captain MacWhirr brings his ship battered and beaten into port, without losing a single man.
One has to wonder whether our Captain, also lacking in experience and imagination, is capable of bringing the Ship of State through dirty weather safe into port, or whether, even if capable, he would care to do so.
May 28, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BERNIE TELLS IT LIKE IT IS AND APOLOGIZES TO NO ONE
Watch the 2 minute video embedded in this short article in which Bernie states his past opposition to our disastrous wars in Vietnam and Iraq and his current opposition to War Against Iran. Says Bernie:
It you are real about running for President as a Progressive, then oppose War and Militarism.“I was right about Vietnam.”
If you are real about doing something for our Climate, then oppose War and Militarism.
We will be at the Post Office vigilling for Peace at Noon on Thursday; Come join us.
CLIMATE CHANGE COMES TO JEFFERSON CITY
Missouri's state government which is filled with climate change deniers was treated Wednesday to a display of Nature's new normal as our planet warms. Wednesday's Tornado packed 160 mph winds and left a trail of destruction 20 miles long and almost a mile wide across Jefferson City. Nature Bats Last.
May 21, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
QUIZ TIME: WHAT DOES THE CITY OF ROLLA HAVE IN COMMON WITH THE STATE OF NEVADA AND THE COUNTRIES OF CUBA, RWANDA AND BOLIVIA?
Answer: All of the above have legislatures that are 50% or more female.
It makes a big difference. In Nevada, bills that deal with women's health and safety are increasingly being placed at the top of the agenda instead of dying in legislative limbo.
Here in Rolla, I am reminded of how almost 10 years ago, a male dominated power structure censured Donna Hawley and charged her with felony assault on a healthy 200+ pound male. One city councilman who carried a firearm to council meetings and had problems with anger management even left a threatening message on her answering machine. I don't think this could happen now that the Rolla city council is 50% female. There is a huge difference between 17% and 50%.
I think we would all be much better off if legislative bodies at every level were 50% or more female.
TESTOSTERONE AND SPORTS
Governing bodies in the sports world have long claimed the right to dictate to athletes, particularly minorities, how they must behave. (Jim Thorpe, Muhammad Ali, and Colin Kaepernick all come to mind immediately.)
However, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) really outdid itself when it ruled that Caster Semenya must submit to therapy to lower her level of testosterone if she wishes to defend her title in the 800 meter run. Semenya has a naturally high level of testosterone. The IAAF claims that this gives her an unfair advantage over women with lower testosterone levels.
Maybe the IAAF is not aware that all champion athletes have a gift that few others possess. Gifts like Semenya's come directly from God. But the IAAF places itself above the Almighty — a terrible sin.
TESTOSTERONE AND POWER
I shouldn't be too hard on the IAAF. I think they are really on to something here. Suppose we demand that all politicians and political leaders must lower their testosterone levels before taking office. The halls of power definitely suffer from too much testosterone. Perhaps, if we decrease the testosterone levels in Washington, we wouldn't be fighting so many idiot wars all the time.
BERNIE SANDERS ON WAR AND REGIME CHANGE
The New York Times, which has a long history of cheerleading for idiot wars, tried to paint Bernie Sanders as being anti-American for having participated in a 1985 demonstration in Managua against the US funded Contra War and brutal US sanctions against Nicaragua which were responsible for 60,000 deaths.
Bernie fired back:
No wonder the power elite is doing everything possible to prevent Bernie from becoming president.“I strongly oppose U.S. policy, which overthrows governments, especially democratically elected governments, around the world. So this issue is not so much Nicaragua or the government of Nicaragua. The issue was, should the United States continue a policy of overthrowing governments in Latin America and Central America? I believed then that it was wrong, and I believe today it is wrong. That's why I do not believe the United States should overthrow the government of Venezuela.
My experience in Latin America, indeed, throughout the world, is that those of us who come in Peace and Friendship are welcomed. It is those in high places who foster War, Regime Change and Economic Bullying who are not.
TWO SECOND-WARMEST MONTHS IN A ROW
According to NOAA, March and April 2019 were both the second warmest March and April respectively since record-keeping began. The 12-month running average for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased from 409.25 ppm in March to 409.50 ppm in April. Climatewise, statistics are not looking good.
UPHEAVAL: JARED DIAMOND'S NEW BOOK
I've been a fan of Jared Diamond's ever since I first opened GGS (Guns, Germs and Steel), almost 20 years ago. Diamond has a knack for explaining difficult concepts so even I can grasp them. For example, in GGS he explained, without resorting to racism or racist explanations, why “western civilization” had been able to dominate the world for five centuries.
In this interview about his new book, Upheaval, he opines that our global civilization has a 49% chance of collapsing before 2050. I've always felt that Diamond was an optimist — still do.
I promised last week I would stop writing so much — a promise not kept. Reading and writing about the news is addictive. I found it hard to stop. I'll try harder this week. I suppose there are worse addictions I could have had instead.
May 14, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I'm going to try to cut back on my writing. I feel I'm repeating myself. When I find my own writing repetitious and boring, it's time to do something else.
FROM OUR READERS: DONALD TRUMP'S POPULARITY
A reader writes, “Trump's approval rating is high because the economy is doing pretty well. People generally vote their pocketbooks.”
My response, Ok, “Guns and Butter.” Put money in my hand and all else is forgiven: war, death, destruction.... Here's a line from Bertrand Russell:
“I had supposed that most people liked money better than almost anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better.”
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI
The City of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is sinking at a rate of 10in./yr. Other great cities are sinking too. And sea levels are rising. “Nature bats last.”
First the good news: Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute is developing super-plants that are able to sequester far more carbon than natural plants.
Now the bad news: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere measured at Mauna Loa breached 415 ppm on Sunday and Monday. Last week it averaged 414.37 ppm, which was 3.6 ppm above a year ago.
Professor Chory, I hope you develop your super plants soon. We sure do need them now.
Note: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tends to hit a maximum in May and then decrease in the late northern hemisphere spring and summer when plants sequester large quantities of carbon. A much more informative statistic is the 12 month running average which was 409.50 ppm, May 2018 through April 2019. If you like multiples of ten, we are on track to hit 410 ppm this summer.
WHY CHINA INCREASINGLY LEADS THE UNITED STATES
While China trains its youth to be scientists and engineers, here in the United States we scare the bejeezus out of our school children. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law SB7030 which allows teachers to go to school armed. As one third grade teacher explained to her class: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, shut your mouths or I will get a gun.”
May 7, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FAILED COUP IN VENEZUELA: POST MORTEM
Of all the short opinion pieces I've read on the attempted coup in Venezuela, this short article from the moonofalabama site makes the most sense. According to the anonymous author, defense minister Vladimir Padrino and other officials in high places, led the opposition to believe they would defect, and then didn't, leaving the coup-mongers high and dry. I suspect Donald Trump was livid with rage on learning that he had been snookered. He has blamed the failure of the coup on Russia and Cuba and threatened military invasion and increased sanctions.
Well, there haven't been Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba since 1962. We may be seeing them there again soon.
Juan Guaidó has declared himself open to US military intervention. Bad idea. Invasion of Venezuela, with its terrain of impenetrable jungles and mountains would be next to impossible under any circumstances — especially with US troops tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East and US popularity in Latin America at an all-time low. I hope there are still some realists left at the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sachs has estimated that roughly 40,000 Venezuelans have died as a result of US sanctions — not exactly designed to make us popular there — but still not up to the more than 1/2 million children killed in Iraq by sanctions between 1991 and 2003.
The US media, as could be expected, remains clueless, supporting Donald Trump's foreign adventures. Likewise with the Democratic opposition. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez follows her party “leaders” in backing regime change. Only Ilhan Omar and a few others in Congress stand in opposition.
This is not over. There is more to come — and it won't be pretty.
MEANWHILE: BACK IN AFGHANISTAN
Peace talks to end our 18 year old military fiasco continue; but the Taliban holds all the aces. The question appears to be how long they are willing to give the US and other foreign forces to get out of their country: 6 months? 12 months? 18 months? Meanwhile, they continue to gain control of more real estate and kill more Afghan soldiers and police. The situation for the US and its puppet government is so bad that the Pentagon is no longer willing to release data on how much of the country the Taliban controls. But don't worry. We mere citizens who foot the bill and supply the cannon-fodder may be in the dark; but the Taliban surely knows.
HOW ARE AFGHANISTAN AND VENEZUELA SIMILAR? CAN MORE THAN FIFTY COUNTRIES BE WRONG?
Over 50 countries participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Over 50 countries recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela.
CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE
In April, 2019, CO2 in the atmosphere as measured at Mauna Loa reached an average of a whopping 413.32 ppm up 3.08 from April 2018, the highest it has ever been.
DONALD TRUMP'S APPROVAL RATING
According to Gallup, last week Donald Trump's approval rating hit 46%, the highest it has ever been.
Think about this: The CIA and friends totally botch an attempted coup in Venezuela, making the US look like a bunch of inept buffoons; The US military prepares to slink home with its tail between its legs from a disastrous 18 year, multi-trillion dollar war in Afghanistan; Under US (non) leadership, the global climate continues to deteriorate; and Donald Trump receives his highest approval rating ever. You figure it out.
April 30, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ROLLA: YEAR OF THE WOMAN
In the April municipal elections, Rolla elected three women to the City Council: Rachel Schneider, Marie Allen and Christine Ruder. They join Ann Murphey, Jody Eberly and Tiffany Henry, who were elected to the Council last year, making the Rolla City Council 50% women. Two years ago, the Rolla City Council was 100% male.
When I pointed this out in a public council meeting two years ago, I was met by snickers and guffaws. Some of the sexist comments my presentation elicited are really choice. You can view the meeting here. My presentation and council comments are from 1:27:00 to 1:30:15.
Rolla has not had a female mayor since Lou McFarland (1978-1982). Rolla will elect a new mayor in 2022. Perhaps, it's time for a female mayor.
THE MOST WARLIKE NATION IN HISTORY
Jimmy Carter, who at 94 is the oldest living former president of the United States ever, has pointed out that the reason China has surpassed the United States in so many ways is that the US has squandered its lead by fighting wars, while China has gone from a third world country to become the world's economic powerhouse in four short decades.
President Carter, who was responsible for the normalization of relations between the US and China, and whose administration comprised four of the only five years in which the United States has not been at war, remarked in a Sunday sermon,
“It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us in almost every way.”
Here's a short article on the subject by Brett Wilkins, and another by Fred Reed. Fred Reed writes in very colorful language. He refers to the way the United States has squandered its position in the world over the past 40 years as “national suicide” — a very apt description in my opinion.
SOME UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF GLOBAL WARMING
Here's two articles I ran across in my reading this past week. I'm sure there are many more similar articles.
Seems that under a warming climate, waves are growing taller. This bodes ill for those living close to the ocean.
And monster storms, particularly in the US midwest, are pumping water vapor into the stratosphere, which then attacks the ozone layer, which shields us from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.
But, we are too busy fighting wars to give this much thought; and besides, it's only a Chinese hoax anyway.
TODAY'S COUP ATTEMPT IN VENEZUELA APPEARS TO HAVE FAILED
While it is too early to tell for sure, today's coup attempt in Venezuela appears to have failed. Coup leaders and supporters are taking refuge in foreign embassies.
Let's face it. Venezuelans do not want their country turned into another Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya by the United States.
All that money squandered on attacking Venezuela could have been spent on non-polluting renewable energy, replanting trees, health care, education, rebuilding our dilapidated infrastructure... No wonder China is getting so far ahead of us. I bet the Chinese are having a great laugh over this one.
April 23, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HAVE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS DISCOVERED REALITY?
Climate scientists are struggling with their new models. It seems that many of these are predicting global warming to proceed at a much faster pace than hitherto believed (by climate scientists) and produce a much warmer Earth. So, what is to be done? Some are even doubting their own models. Andrew Gettelman, a modeler from National Center for Atmospheric Research opines, “The scary part is these models might be right.”
While it's nice to see that climate scientists are beginning to predict more realistic results, I can't help wondering what took them so long. The signs are all there, and have been for a while.
Look at this graph of overlapping 12 month global temperature averages. The peak anomaly during the 2015-16 El Niño episode was 1.02° C. above the 20th Century average, around 1.29° C. above pre-industrial times. The previous peak during the 2010 El Niño episode was only 0.72° C. Afterwards, temperature anomalies fell to 0.77° C., still above the previous 2010 peak and have since started to rise again. Looking at the graph, this is unprecedented within the past 30 years that the graph spans. This is an indication that we have crossed a boundary within the past decade and temperature rises are now steeper than previous.
Also consider carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Three of the four largest annual increases fall within the past four years. We appear to be heading for another large increase in 2019.
And finally consider the reality on the ground — devastating extreme weather events appear to be on the increase. While 2017 and 2018 have been quite impressive, so far in 2019 the entire continent of Australia has been ravaged by extreme heat, fire and flooding. Southern Africa and central Asia have both experienced unprecedented flooding. In Alaska, the spring ice breakup is beating previous records by approximately one week.
And the socio-political climate is every bit as bad as the physical climate. We now have heads of state like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro who pride themselves on their anti-environmentalism. And many others, like Canada, who claim to be environmental progressives, yet continue to expand their carbon footprint. And military spending, along with war and conflict, also continues its inexorable rise. The United Nations, like its predecessor, the League of Nations, has become completely ineffectual.
Put it all together. We have entered previously uncharted territory. Past assumptions no longer hold. It's nice to see that climate scientists are now incorporating this reality into their models.
MANY PROGRESSIVES CAVE TO THE MILITARY
The dispute in Congress over the military budget appears to be not whether, but by how much, to increase the already bloated US military budget. Personally, I can't see any valid reason to spend more on our military than China and Russia combined. Even this would be excessive. If we trimmed the military budget, we might even be able to re-learn the lost art of diplomacy. (Donald: diplomacy and bullying are not the same thing.)
But, as Robert Koehler points out, “Every war we’ve waged or been a part of over the last seven-plus decades has spewed human and environmental destruction almost beyond comprehension and, at the same time, has failed to accomplish anything remotely beneficial to the country, unless you happen to be a war profiteer.”
Sadly, far too many legislators are willing to see the military budget continue to increase without bound as long as there is also money for their Green New Deal.
BERNIE ATTEMPTS TO REASSERT CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY OVER WAR-MAKING
Congress showed a rare display of courage when it passed the historic Yemen War Powers resolution, which would have ended US complicity in Saudi Arabian war crimes against Yemeni children, 85 thousand of which have starved to death due to this immoral criminal enterprise. Donald Trump, who intends to continue US complicity in this Crime Against Humanity, vetoed the resolution.
Now Bernie Sanders is trying to muster support in Congress to override the veto. Bernie urges senators who support military intervention to “bring that perspective to the floor of the Senate, debate the issue, and call for a vote.”
April 16, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SCIENCE: WORSHIPING AT THE ALTAR OF FALSE GODS
Here is a sequel (of sorts) to the article I wrote two years ago about the March for Science.“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.” —Mark Twain
Last week I read this article in Science about how archaeologists are trying to “re-engage” with folks who believe in Atlantis and ancient alien civilizations on Earth. Great idea! I am in favor of non-violent engagement. Unfortunately, these engagements don't always seem to be non-violent. Apparently, you can receive hate mail and death threats for stating beliefs about the distant past. This is really not surprising. As George Orwell put it: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
I'm not sure what is meant by re-engagement; but from the article it sounds like re-engagement means explaining to all the “deplorables” [Hillary's word, does not appear in article] who believe in Atlantis, why their belief system is so totally wrong.
Whoa! Hold on a minute. Just how do you know that there was never an ancient civilization of Atlantis? And just how do you know that aliens have never visited the Earth? You don't. Science can never prove a negative. [Mathematicians can; but that's a story for later.]
Well, you might argue that Science has a pretty good record of explaining things hitherto unknown (like how an atom is made up of individual particles); and its more technical side (engineering) has a pretty good record of making things hitherto impossible (like thermonuclear bombs that can kill millions of people in one pop). But Science is often wrong. Here are two of my favorites:
With nuclear energy, we can produce electricity “too cheap to meter.” (Really??? Including capital expenditures, decommissioning, cleaning up after accidents like Fukushima, etc. nuclear power is among the most expensive.)
In the computer age, no one will have to work more than two hours a day. (Huhh??? Tell that to someone whose job has gone South and works three jobs flipping burgers and still can't make ends meet.)
There are plenty of others, such as the Boeing 737 Max, in which engineers tried to fix a faulty aerodynamic design with faulty computer software, killing hundreds of people. (Hold on to your hats folks, computer driven vehicles, coming next to a highway near you.)
And then there is Yoshihiro Sato, a researcher in osteoporosis who published hundreds of papers containing bogus results and even had medically accepted treatment protocols based on his work.
And here are two very recent articles in Science attacking the governments of Nicaragua and Iran respectively for their human rights records. No mention in Science of Israel or Saudi Arabia which have far worse human rights records. Is it a coincidence that the United States has slated Nicaragua and Iran for regime change, while Israel and Saudi Arabia, for all their human rights violations, are our allies? I don't think so. Toadying up to the worst elements in the federal government may get you somewhere. It may even get you grant money.
And as for Archaeologists: Aren't you the guys who believed in the Piltdown Man for 40 years which, unlike global warming, turned out to be a real hoax, probably perpetrated by one of your own. [Oh, yes, I know, that couldn't happen today, because now we are so much wiser.]
We mathematicians also have our problems. Seems we've been doing statistics all wrong for the past 200 years. Seems we've been getting the p-values all mixed up. At least that's what some statisticians say.
If you'd like to send me your favorite scientific hoax, I'll print it next week.
But getting back to “re-engagement:” if I wanted to re-engage with folks who believe in alien civilizations on Earth, and introduce them to the scientific method, I would invest truly massive amounts of capital in science education from kindergarten on up. That seems to be the last thing on the agenda of a government bent on destroying or privatizing what is left of public education.
Well, if you've gotten this far, you may understand why I liken faith in Science to the worshiping of false gods. You may understand why I cringe every time I hear someone remark that “Scientists say we only have 12 more years to tackle climate change.” Here's an exercise: Ask how they conclude we have only 12 years. You might be surprised at some of the answers (and non-answers) you get. And you might be surprised at some of the solutions: Nuclear energy (with more Fukushimas, Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands and little decrease in our carbon footprint). Geoengineering (doping the atmosphere with reflective particles with very uncertain and possibly devastating results). Either way, someone is going to make billions off of these unlikely solutions.
As a card-carrying member of the “Deplorables” who don't rule out Atlantis or ancient alien civilizations on Earth, here are my unscientific thoughts on the matter: No, we don't have 12 years. We don't even have one year, or even one minute. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases at greater than two parts per million per year. Global temperatures rise. Extreme weather events get worse and more frequent. Wars become more and more likely. The time is now. The world must get rid of its militaries, stop burning fossil-fuels, stop eating meat, plant lots of trees, and build lots of windmills and solar cells. No one is likely to get very rich from these low-tech solutions; but they just might save us all from disaster.
A note on Tom Lehrer: Lehrer is best known for songs like "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," "The Elements" and "I Got It From Agnes." His biting iconoclastic wit is second to none. The video linked to above contains some of his lesser-known songs and was recorded at a party for Andrew Wiles who proved the famous Fermat conjecture that there are no integral solutions to the equation an+bn=cn, for n>2. (See comment above about how in Mathematics it is possible to prove a negative.) “Sociology” appears on the video at 7:10-10:20. The final song contains a tribute verse to Andrew Wiles. Those who think that the derivative was invented by Wall Street shysters, should listen to the first song. If you ever took a class from me, the third song on the video might bring back old memories.
April 9, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONALD TRUMP AND THE TRUTH
Maybe you feel there is not much value in anything that Donald Trump utters, but Andrew Bacevich points out how Trump's incessant lies have exposed seven myths about the United States that many of us have taken for granted for decades. Myths can mask some very important truths, so without further ado, here are the seven myths:
Myth #1. The purpose of government is to advance the common good.
Myth #2. Good governance entails fiscal responsibility.
Myth #3. Justice is blind.
Myth #4. The “wise men” are truly wise.
Myth #5.The Persian Gulf is a vital U.S. national security interest.
Myth #6. Prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace depend on Washington playing the role of honest broker.
Myth #7. War is the continuation of policy by other means.
Bacevich ends by pointing out that we “may one day come to appreciate the Trump era as the moment when things long hidden became plain to see, when hitherto widely accepted falsehoods, fabrications, and obsolete assumptions about American democracy finally became untenable.”
Read Bacevich's essay and see how many of the above seven myths Donald Trump has helped you to see through.
Yesterday, Donald Trump declared the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Iran wasted no time firing back, declaring the US Central Command a terrorist organization. Maybe, we are on to something here. Maybe most (if not all) militaries operate as organs of state terror. Yup, thank you presidents Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani.
BRING BACK THE DRAFT?
Most of the folks I hung with 50 years ago, cheered when Richard Nixon abolished the draft and created the All Volunteer Force (AVF). We could have saved the champagne. Citizen armies are an important check on imperial overreach. In order to fight a war with a citizen army, you have to convince the citizenry that the war is worth fighting and risking your life for. A volunteer army is only one step removed from a professional army which is only one step removed from a mercenary army. As James Madison argued before the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty,”
Danny Sjursen argues that “paradoxically, the move toward a no-deferment, equitable lottery draft might result in a nation less prone to militarism and adventurism than the optional AVF has.” and then “more military service may actually be the only workable formula for less war. Too bad returning to a citizens’ military is as unpopular as it is unlikely.”
April 2, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Ok: Here's the riddle. What do all these locations have in common: Iowa, Iran, Australia, South Dakota, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Zambia, Nebraska, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Missouri, (and likely other locations as well)?“And all the rain falls down — Amen,
If you answered devastating floods in March, 2019, then give yourself a pat on the back.
Have we ever witnessed so many devastating floods in so many different parts of the world, all within one short month? I doubt it. But if you have a counter example, I would love to hear about it. The only one I am aware of happened many thousands of years ago when:
Perhaps last month's floods have as much to do with global warming and all the carbon we've put in the atmosphere. Warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air. You don't have to be a biblical scholar or a climate scientist to know that. But isn't the violence we do to the Earth, the proximate cause of global warming, exactly the kind of evil which the Bible warns about in Genesis 6?“it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. ... And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.” (Genesis 6:6-17, KJV)
So as the climate warms, such devastating floods become more and more likely.
And how many more years of widespread extreme weather events will it take before what we refer to as our global “civilization” collapses, and “the works of last-year's man” are utterly destroyed? I don't have an answer for you; but my guess is, not many.
TWO OUT OF THREE
Australia has just experienced the warmest January and March on record along with devastating heat, fires and floods. February was not far behind.
Think of this: An entire continent collapsing before our eyes under the bombardment of extreme weather events, with the Americas, Eurasia and Africa perhaps not so very far behind.
How much time do we have left? I don't have an answer for you; but my guess is, not much.
SEPARATION v. TOGETHERNESS
“Should we save the planet or kill the enemy?", Robert Koehler begins his short essay, Our Wounded Planet.
Nobody brings out the connection between Violence and Climate Change the way Koehler does. He quotes Rebecca Solnit saying, “Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected.” Yes, all living beings and the planet we live on are connected. And again, quoting Solnit, “To kill someone you have to feel separate from them.” Koehler continues with this thought:
If we are to address climate change effectively, we must also address the issues of War, Violence and Separateness. Indeed, in a world where we are all aware of how connected we are to everything else, it would be impossible to do such violence to the Earth.“This is our social infrastructure, our status quo: a consensus utterly unquestioned by most politicians and the mainstream media. Indeed, the U.S. may well be the leader of the global ideology of separation, which means a world of standing armies, unconscionable military budgets and endless war; a world of wealth and poverty, where profit is officially valued over the common good; a world of punishment-based justice, a growing prison-industrial complex and indifference to healing; a world of guns and racism; a world of borders and immigrant scapegoating; a world of nuclear weapons.
If you read nothing else this week, read Robert Koehler's Our Wounded Planet.
March 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THREE MILE ISLAND AT 40
40 years ago this coming Thursday, the United States experienced its worst industrial accident ever, when the core at one of the nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island melted down. Had the world heeded the warning and shut down the nuclear power industry then, we would have been spared the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima and likely, more to come in the future. Unfortunately, oblivious to the danger, we push on.
Arnie Gundersen, who was part of the nuclear establishment at the time, discusses the lies and the cover-up that he participated in. These lies continue long after they have been exposed. Sunday, I received a email from a cheerleader for the nuclear power industry claiming there were no radiation releases at Three Mile Island, almost 40 years after this lie was first exposed.
Gundersen also discusses the lies and the cover-up at Fukushima where eight years ago three nuclear reactor cores melted down in one of the world's two worst nuclear accidents. Oblivious to the people's health, the Japanese government has raised “acceptable” doses of radiation by a factor of 20 in order to declare that it is now safe for people to return to their homes. Meanwhile, the three melted reactor cores are still in contact with groundwater and transferring deadly radiation to the Pacific Ocean.
Gundersen recommends sealing off the three reactors for 100 years, after which they may have cooled down enough that they can be cleaned up. The Japanese nuclear establishment appears unlikely to follow this sage advice.
THEY SHOOT TEACHERS, DON'T THEY?
When I first read about this, I didn't believe it. So I did a little research; and here it is, right in the IndyStar. Teachers at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Indiana were deliberately shot in the back with a pellet gun during an “active shooter” training exercise. One teacher remarked, “It hurt so bad.” Now teachers are lobbying the Indiana state legislature to pass a law prohibiting the shooting of teachers during active shooter training exercises.
Methinks we need to lower the level of violence in our society, not add to it.
March 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GLOBAL WARMING CONTINUES
I've updated my ongoing climate essay with the February data posted yesterday by NOAA. It's not good; matter of fact, it's catastrophic. Considering the year to run from March 1 through the last day of February: the last five 12-month periods ending in February were the five warmest on record by a margin of 0.12°C. Nine of the ten warmest such 12-month periods occurred within the last decade.“it isn't just really, really bad; it's catastrophic.”
And although the Paris Climate Agreement was signed over three years ago, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to rise at greater than the average rate over the past 30 years.
Devastating extreme weather events continue at an unprecedented rate. The month of March has seen horrendous flooding in the upper mid-west of the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, southern Africa and maybe elsewhere as well.
1.5 MILLION YOUNGSTERS DEMONSTRATE FOR CLIMATE ACTION
An estimated 1.5 million youngsters around the world walked out of class Friday and demonstrated for climate action to prevent global warming. But here in Rolla, schools closed so students could join the St. Patrick's Day revelry. If there were any demonstrations in Rolla for climate action, I have not heard. And it's unlikely that many of the party-goers learned any real Irish-American history this weekend either.
DONALD TRUMP CONTINUES TO TRY TO STEAL FOSSIL FUELS
And as it becomes more and more important that ALL of humanity work together to address the climate crisis, Trump ramps up efforts for regime change in oil rich countries like Venezuela and Iran. Venezuela's oil resources and those of all other countries must stay in the ground to prevent further warming. “This is not reasonable.”“This is not reasonable.” —Greta Thunberg
March 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Humanity dodged another bullet last week in Kashmir as Pakistan and India, which seemed on the verge of lobbing nukes at each other, appear to have calmed down somewhat.
Here Stephen Kinzer asks how many more bullets can we dodge? Kinzer gives us the following hypothetical scenario:
Maybe it's time to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) before it's too late. Maybe it's time to rein in our rogue ally, Saudi Arabia, before it's too late. Maybe it's time to renegotiate the INF (Intermediate Nuclear-Forces) Treaty with Russia, before it's too late. Maybe its time for the USA and all nuclear weapon states to sign onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, before its too late.“The most terrifying new nuclear powers would be Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has enough scientific talent to develop a bomb, and Saudi Arabia could buy what it needs. Hearing the leaders of those countries snarl at each other is scary enough today. If both had nuclear weapons — not a far-fetched scenario if present trends continue — war between them could be devastating.”
TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: I MISSPOKE
On February 22, South Africa became the 22nd country to ratify the treaty. Let's hear a loud HIP, HIP, HOORAY! for South Africa. Maybe after the near miss in Kashmir we'll be seeing some more activity on this treaty.
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF ADDRESSES CODE PINK PEACE DELEGATION TO IRAN
I was very favorably impressed by Mr. Zarif's talk. Transcript and audio are posted here. This is a MUST READ! (or listen). He stressed that we are all brothers and sisters together on Earth and our destinies are intertwined. Here are a few important lines:
AFGHANISTAN PEACE TALKS“Clean air and clean water are rare commodities, regardless of where you live. You can be in the most developed country in the world and face the same environmental challenges as people living in the least developed country in the world, because of the very fundamental truth, that is: our world has become global. Everything has become indivisible. .... You cannot have a nice environment in San Francisco if Fiji is drowning because of global warming.”
Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban drag on. According to the New York Times the current sticking point is the definition of “terrorism.” The Taliban points out that there is no single accepted definition of terrorism. Indeed, there isn't. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Never forget that Ronald Reagan called the Nicaraguan Contras the moral equivalent of our founding fathers, when indeed, they were widely disparaged in Nicaragua as terrorists. And I'm sure King George III of England used to think of George Washington as a terrorist.
Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground and Afghanistan has been hit by the most devastating floods in seven years
FALSE FLAG OPERATION IN VENEZUELA
In case you were taken in by the line that the Venezuelan government torched some trucks filled with humanitarian aid from the United States, the embedded video here shows clearly that it was the US supported opposition and not the government which torched the trucks. You can't attack people with your right hand and offer them humanitarian aid with your left. That's not humanitarian aid.
LOVE THIS LADY!
Newly-elected Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar has just challenged one more Sacred Cow. Having first challenged AIPAC and the Israel lobby, and then convicted felon and special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, she now points out that some of Donald Trump's most heinous crimes like separating children from their parents and murdering civilians by drone were actually Obama-era policies which Trump inherited.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Omar. Sacred Cows make great hamburger meat!
March 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING TOWARD NUCLEAR WAR
India and Pakistan have just become the only two nuclear-armed states to have ever bombed each other (albeit with conventional weapons). Arundhati Roy analyzes the latest in this 70-year-old war and concludes, “Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved.”
The second summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean party chairman Kim Jong-un fizzled like a wet firecracker. North Korea wants a lifting of sanctions and humanitarian aid due to a poor harvest exacerbated by drought, climate change and sanctions. Trump wants North Korea to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles. The summit ended early with nothing accomplished.
And the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons garnered no new signatories or ratifications in the month of February.
Seems like a lot of folks out there are not interested in sticking around another year or two. Tom Lehrer sang about this 60 years ago.
NEW MONTHLY RECORD SET FOR CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE
CO2 in the atmosphere for February, 2019, as measured at Mauna Loa (the “gold standard” for CO2 measurements) was 411.75 ppm, beating out the previous monthly record of 411.24 set in May, 2018. Significantly, the monthly record for the year is typically set in May. Rarely has a record month been recorded as early as February and never by anywhere near the 0.51 ppm recorded this February. February also set a record at Mauna Loa in 2017 (by 0.16 ppm), 2013 (by 0.06 ppm), and 2010 (by 0.06 ppm). This could reflect an increase in CO2 produced by human activity, a failure of forests, oceans or other carbon sinks to absorb CO2, and/or other factors.
A POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP: CLIMATE CHANGE AND WAR
A colleague sent me a link to this 2009 report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development discussing how Climate Change in the Middle East has exacerbated water shortages, which has led to conflict and distrust, which has led in turn to lack of cooperation and poor water management, which leads to further water shortages. The Middle East is one of the world's most water-poor regions, and is likely to dry out even more in future years due to climate change. The authors write:
Very prophetic words, indeed!“It is possible that climate change, a shared threat like no other, may encourage countries to work together despite their political and ideological differences. In so doing, climate change could become a vehicle for rapprochement and peacebuilding.
February 26, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
If you haven't watched this clip of Senator Dianne Feinstein talking down to a group of children, one as young as 7, you must see it to believe it. In response to a request to vote for the Green New Deal, Feinstein refuses, bragging that, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing. ... I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality. And I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
Ok. So what has the good senator been doing for 30 years? On her watch: CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 57 parts per million. Global temperatures have increased by almost 0.5° C. Feinstein's own State of California has seen record-breaking heat, droughts and wildfires. Internationally, we have gone from a relatively stable bipolar world with the United States by far the stronger of the two super-powers to a chaotic multipolar world embarking on a new nuclear arms race. Internally, we have gone from a relatively cohesive nation, to one plagued by internal strife. Economically, the wealth of the United States is now more unevenly distributed than any other industrialized nation. Student debt has ballooned to $1.5 trillion, a considerable portion of it for worthless “education.”
Not much to brag about, senator. With a record like that, maybe you and the rest of us old-timers ought to retire and let the kids that you talked down to have a try at creating a better world.
Here's an article from the Guardian that will take you through the extreme weather events of 2018. (There's quite a few of them) The article is worth spending some time thinking about. We can pray that 2019 will not be quite so bad, although we seem to be off to a bad start.
NORTH KOREA: PRAY FOR PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP
The second North Korea — US summit opens tomorrow in Hanoi. Pray for peace and friendship. However, as Christine Ahn and Gloiria Steinem note: “much of the U.S. leadership is singularly focused on forcing North Korea to unilaterally denuclearize as a precondition for peace talks. This approach is backward. To convince somebody to put down a gun, you first have to convince them they will not be harmed. We need to establish peace first to create the necessary conditions for denuclearization.”
VENEZUELA: RESISTING THE COUP
The US attempt to deliver “humanitarian aid at the point of a gun” to Venezuela fizzled last weekend. Opposition supporters impersonated red cross personal while the red cross and other respected humanitarian agencies refused to get involved with this scam. Apparently, in a false-flag operation, opposition supporters burned two aid vehicles on the Colombia side of the border and tried to blame the Maduro government. Meanwhile, Senator Marc Rubio reminds us all of what happened to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Panama''s Manuel Noriega as a result of “US humanitarian aid,” while Trump, Pence and Pompeo threaten invasion.
February 19, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
US, ISRAEL AND OTHER NATIONS MEET IN WARSAW TO PLAN WAR AGAINST IRAN
The Warsaw meeting, called to discuss regime change in Iran, was boycotted by most of Europe. While the US seeks regime change in oil-rich nations like Iran and Venezuela, the petrodollar system, in which oil is priced and traded in US dollars, appears to be in trouble. Some argue that if the petrodollar system falls, the U.S. will be in serious financial trouble. No wonder the US elite is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the world from turning away from fossil fuels. No wonder the US demonizes every oil-rich country which attempts to chart an independent policy.
The solution is clear. Wealthy countries should pay poor oil-rich countries to leave their oil in the ground, and, of course, leave their own oil in the ground too.
A WORLD-WIDE EMERGENCY
No, it's not just our southern border with Mexico. No, it's not just the United States or any one country. It's the WHOLE WORLD which is suffering the effects of climate change which will only get worse.
Here's some very sobering data, mostly from NOAA:
Some think emergencies like this can be held at bay by building a wall. This would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Here's a short discussion by Debbie Weingarten of how counter-effective walls really are.1. January 2019 was the third warmest January since record keeping began in 1880. This follows on the heals of December 2018 which was the second warmest December since record keeping began.
February 12, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GREEN NEW DEAL: WHERE'S THE PEACE?
Last week Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey unveiled their Green New Deal.
It contains an outline of how we might put the brakes on global warming and a lot of other promises like single-payer health care and the Right to a good job. Ok: but what about Peace?
The New Green Deal doesn't even mention the word “Peace” or “military” once. It's only mentions of “War” are that we must mobilize like the United Sates did during World War II.
Can't quite wrap my mind around this: a Right to a good job; but no Right to live in a peaceful world. Ms. Ocasio knows better. Her campaign platform called for A Peace Economy and included the statement, “we must end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.”
Personally, I see little hope for a green future while we devastate other nations and continue to fight trillions of dollars worth of wars in almost every corner of the globe.
As you might have guessed, the Trump administration's offer of “humanitarian aid” for Venezuela is a scam. Back in the 1980s, Elliott Abrams, who is now in charge of US operations in Venezuela, used to smuggle arms disguised as “humanitarian aid” to the Nicaraguan terrorist army known as the Contras. He even pleaded guilty in court, while opining that their really was nothing wrong with this.
I'm in favor of humanitarian aid, so I propose we send humanitarian aid to Yemen where thousands are dying of starvation, instead of giving military aid to Saudi Arabia to bomb school buses and make war on the Yemenis. As for Venezuela, I think lifting sanctions against Venezuela and staying out of Venezuela's internal affairs would suffice.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS: COMING SOON TO EUROPE
With the INF ( Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty all but dead, Lawrence Wittner gives us a little history of the INF treaty and its recent demise. Wittner points out that all the blame does not lie on the U.S. and Russia. Other nuclear-weapon states, particularly China, have not been interested in joining to make the INF Treaty a multilateral one.
Wittner concludes his article saying “Although the rulers of nuclear-armed nations are usually eager to foster nuclear buildups, substantial public pressure can secure their acceptance of nuclear disarmament.” I guess that leaves it up to you and me.
February 5, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ... “AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM”
Last week I wrote briefly about 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose idea of a school strike for the climate has caught on like a California wildfire with hundreds of thousands participating. This week I link to a short article written by Thunberg in which she responds to her critics. Thunberg writes:“I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate” —Greta Thunberg
So why all the hate? Perhaps if you read the short quotes above, you will understand.“I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate. I am not saying anything new, I am just saying what scientists have repeatedly said for decades. And I agree with you, I'm too young to do this. We children shouldn't have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue.”
NOTE: March 15 is the day of the world-wide strike for the climate. Perhaps you would consider participating. And if you can't find a local strike, perhaps you could organize one.
ELECTED OFFICIALS FOR CLIMATE ACTION
Three Rolla City Council members, Dave Schott, Tiffany Henry and Daniel Jones have signed on to a letter in support of clean energy and bold climate leadership. Not bad for a small town of 20,000! If you are an elected official and wish to join Dave, Tiffany and Daniel in acting boldly for the climate, you can sign the letter here.
CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY COMES TO ROLLA
Last Thursday, Citizens Climate Lobby gave a presentation at the Phelps County Courthouse to about 50 people. Citizens Climate Lobby is trying to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act which would lead to a reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels, the development of non-polluting renewable energy and the creation of many green jobs. Climate Lobby is attempting to start its first chapter in Missouri's 8th District here in Rolla. If you are interested in participating, contact Dave Schott, email@example.com.
ACCUMULATION OF GREENHOUSE GASES AND EXTREME GLOBAL WARMTH CONTINUE
CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase. January 2019 beat January 2018 by almost three parts per million. Extreme global heat continues with January 2019 being the fourth warmest January on record according to the Copernicus Center.
DONALD TRUMP v. POLAR VORTEX
Donald Trump has said many nutty things about global warming and climate induced disasters. Up to now, “raking” the forest was my favorite, but this week he outdid himself tweeting:
Donald, if you miss global warming, go to Australia, that is, if they will let you in. January, 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history in Australia, with unprecedented floods in the North and fires in the South.“ In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”
ANOTHER DAM DISASTER
A shoddily built dam on a mine tailings pond in Brazil burst, killing at least 110 and causing severe environmental damage. Catastrophic failure of tailings dams are on the rise, heavy rains being a contributory factor. An industrial accident? a result of climate change? Both. Man-made and natural disasters meld seamlessly into each other.
RESISTING THE COUP
The coup attempt in Venezuela continues. So far it appears to be a stalemate, although I suspect that without international backing, particularly from the United States, there would never have been a coup at all. Here are two articles I feel are definitely worth reading.
This interview with Guillaume Long is the most balanced presentation I've been able to find — it is difficult these days to find anything balanced.
And this article by Vijay Prasad ties the coup in Venezuela to the over 60 other U.S. created coups around the world since World War II.
Imagine if Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, (2nd in line to succeed the elected president) were to declare both Donald Trump and Mike Pence unfit for the office of president and declare herself interim-president until new elections could be held. Now also suppose that Russia and China and a few other countries were to immediately recognize Ms. Pelosi as president of the United States. Now you have something of an analogy to what is going on in Venezuela.
The saddest thing about this coup is that it could be solved in a minute. All that is necessary is for the rich countries to pay Venezuela to leave their oil in the ground, which is where it belongs anyway. There would then be nothing left to fight over. Try thinking outside the box. It's amazing how simple solutions can be.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS TREATIES
Since the first of the year, the Treaty On The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons picked up the 20th and 21st ratifications (St. Lucia and El Salvador) and a 70th signatory (Cambodia). 29 more ratifications and it goes into force. Lets give three cheers for these three great nations: St. Lucia, El Salvador and Cambodia.
Meanwhile Donald Trump announces that the U.S. will no longer be bound by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Predictably, Russia immediately followed suit. These acts will almost certainly lead to a new nuclear arms race, and just when it becomes super-critical that all nations put all their energies into combating global warming.
January 29, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“...AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM”
16-year-old Greta Thunberg crashed the party at Davos where the global elite came in their private jets and stayed in $10,000 a night hotel rooms to discuss climate change. Thunberg arrived by train and slept in a tent.
Thunberg told this gathering of multi-billionaires, “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
Naomi Klein points out, “It takes deep courage to go to Davos and tell the masters-of-the-universe *to their faces* that they knowingly torched the planet in order [to] get filthy rich.”
There is an embedded video of Greta Thunberg's speech here.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched for planet Earth
The title quote of this snippet comes from Isaiah 11:6. Here's some context:
So perhaps, unlikely as it may seem, it is time for the Wall-Street wolves and the hedge-fund hyenas to follow the little child and lie down with the lambs and kids. After all, the survival of the human race appears to depend on it.“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (KJV)
CONVICTED FELON APPOINTED US SPEC IAL ENVOY ON VENEZUELA
The ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela unfolds. Speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, (basically Nancy Pelosi's counterpart) declares himself president and is immediately recognized as such by Donald Trump. Trump has now appointed Iran-Contra scandal convicted felon, Elliott Abrams, special US envoy on Venezuela. [Note: Abrams was pardoned by president Bush the Elder, also a prominent figure in the Iran-Contra scandal.]
And the US has also seized [actually stolen] Venezuelan oil assets in the United States and threatened to invade Venezuela, while much of Europe piles on.
Gwynne Dyer makes an interesting conjecture here: Europe is backing the coup in Venezuela in the hopes that Trump will be so busy dealing with Venezuela that he will leave Europe and the Middle East, particularly Iran, alone.
An interesting conjecture, indeed, but I would go one step further. The United States can no longer sustain its global wars and is retrenching back to the Western Hemisphere — withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan and befriending North Korea. Europe is merely helping the process along and is indeed fearful that the US will start a major conflagration in Iran or some other hot spot. US withdrawal will leave Europe, Russia and China a free hand to curve up Eurasia and Africa — Nineteenth Century style. Most interesting will be the evolution of US-Israel relations as the US withdraws from Eurasia (see snippet below).
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS
This eulogy to Martin Luther King by Michelle Alexander calling for justice for Palestinians is notable not so much for what it says (it has been said many times by many people in many places) but for the fact that it is printed prominently in the New York Times. It appears that the pro-Israel lobby is no longer so powerful as it has been. This op-ed should serve notice upon Israel and its supporters in the United States that they should no longer count on unquestioned support from the United States.
US GOVERNMENT: OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Last Friday the US government reopened — without funding for a wall — but only for three short weeks. I think public anger had a lot to do with the reopening. Keep up the pressure, or the government may close down again in three weeks.
January 22, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN CLIMATE DATA
Parts of NOAA that deal with climate change have been shut down, so for the first time, I am unable to update my climate graph this month. (A petty annoyance compared to losing one's job or missing a paycheck.)
In addition an important NASA study on the melting of the polar ice sheets has run out of money because of the government shutdown. I suspect that not wanting to publicize the terrible climate data from 2018 contributes to the desire to shut down the government.
Nevertheless, much of the bad news is available, if you wish to look for it and do some of your own calculations. CO2 in the atmosphere this December is almost 2ppm higher than December 2017. 2018 has become the fourth warmest year on record. The last five years are the five warmest on record. Extreme weather losses topped $85 billion in 2018. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting faster than scientists thought. And Australia is suffering under a humongous heat wave as I write.
PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC SUSPECTED OF ARSON, KILLS 80, DECLARES BANKRUPTCY
I wonder if an ordinary person like you or I could do this — cause a fire that kills over 80 and does billions of dollars of damage and then declare bankruptcy and walk.
PALESTINE: OCCUPATION BREEDS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT SUPERBUGS
Germs do not respect national boundaries (and we should not either). Lack of clean water, sewage treatment and basic necessities due to the 50 year long Israeli occupation, has turned Palestine into a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant superbugs which could spread to Israel and elsewhere.
NICARAGUA: FIFTH IN GLOBAL EQUALITY FOR WOMEN
The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for 2018 is out. Nicaragua ranks fifth (after Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland). The United States ranks 51st out of 149 countries, not even in the top third. As far as political empowerment goes, Nicaragua ranks number 2, the United States ranks 98th. Yet, here in the United States we lambaste Nicaragua as a dictatorship and slap brutal sanctions on the country.
Rather than sanctioning Nicaragua, perhaps, we could learn from Nicaragua. Say what you will about Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. To my knowledge he has never bragged about grabbing women by the p---y.
Nevertheless, the United States made great progress in the November 2018 elections. Congress is now almost 25% women, and some, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, are very strong and outspoken.
GET A GOAT
Nevada City, California is planning a novel solution to the threat of wildfire. They are trying to raise $30,000 to buy a herd of goats to eat down the vegetation around Nevada City before it can catch fire. While this may protect the city somewhat from wildfire, it is unlikely to protect California from the hotter drier climate that comes with global warming, the root cause of the devastating California wildfires of the past few years. Indeed, it may exacerbate global warming as livestock are a major source of greenhouse gases.
Still, Nevada City deserves credit for this proactive solution, and I suspect it will work a lot better than “raking” the forest as Donald Trump proposed. We need lots more proactive solutions to prepare us for upcoming climate disasters. Unfortunately, we lag way behind.
January 15, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THOUGHTS ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: TAKING THE GARBAGE OUT
One of the many consequences of lack of government services that we seldom consider — until it's too late — is the lack of trash disposal. Garbage piles up quickly and eventually cities will choke on their own waste. Rotting garbage breeds rats and flies which spread disease. A city that lacks adequate garbage disposal will soon become unlivable.“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out” —Shel Silverstein
During New York City's sanitation workers strike of 1968 which lasted 8 days, 100,000 tons of garbage piled up in mountains.
Last week, California Reps Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman picked up trash in two California national parks and shipped some it to Washington where they attempted to deliver three boxes of trash to the White House. Huffman remarked that soon they will have enough trash to build a wall.
Meanwhile garbage in Washington DC's national parks is being picked up by the City of Washington DC. It is uncertain whether the federal government will reimburse the city.
Curbside garbage collection and recycling is the fifth most dangerous profession, (after fishermen, loggers, airplane pilots and roofers). Think about it. Sanitation workers have to get on and off slow moving trucks, sometimes on busy streets where cars whiz by. Curbside trash collectors and recyclers experienced 30 fatalities In the US in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the United States, each one of us generates 5 to 7 pounds of garbage each day, depending on whose statistics you use.
Here in Rolla, according to Brady Wilson, director of Environmental Services, we have not experienced a single fatality or serious injury during curbside pickup. Rollaites generate 17,000 tons of trash each year which is landfilled at a cost of $724,000. In addition we recycle 3,000 tons of waste and mulch 2,500 tons of yard waste, which amounts to a considerable savings over the cost of landfilling.
Recycling won't solve our trash problems; but it is an important component. Read about recycling in Rolla here.
And while I'm on the subject of trash, here is my favorite waste disposal story:
MORE THOUGHTS ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNShortly after God created man, all the parts of the human body got together to choose a president.
As the shutdown passes the 25 day mark, an estimated 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. Now factor in all the government contractors who are also out of work due to the government shutdown. And the ripple effect, such as businesses that rely on the patronage of federal workers. Also consider that the banks and health insurance companies are unlikely to wait for payments. And factor in that so many families live paycheck to paycheck and are already in debt. Lot's of folks out there hurting badly. Lots of angry folks out there too.“Popular revulsion for the ruling elite ... is nearly universal.” —Chris Hedges
Bottom line: The government cares a whole lot more about its pet projects than it does about the common people who elected them.
Incidentally, I've been calling our senators and representative asking them (angrily) to open the government (NOW!) If you want to do likewise, here are the phone numbers:
WITHDRAWING US TROOPS FROM SYRIAWhite House comment line: 202-456-1111 (closed during shutdown)
Looks like this might actually happen. Donald Trump has declared victory in Syria. Way past time to end these forever wars.
DRAWING DOWN TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
Another big plus. We're in the 18th year of this longest ever war that was supposed to be a cakewalk. Maybe Trump is ready to declare victory in Afghanistan too and bring the troops home. Meanwhile the Taliban continues to make gains on the ground against an unpopular ineffectual Afghan government.
OI' Donald seems to be fraying about the edges — serving the championship Clemson football team fast food at the White House. He could have at least taken them to a fancy restaurant and given them a rain check to visit the White House later.
Would you want a man who serves fast food to the championship college football team to have the launch codes for thousands of nuclear weapons?
January 8, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AND SHE CAN DANCE TOO!
Well, maybe a young lady in the House of Representatives will do. Especially since America's greatest foes are mostly in Washington; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has barely been seated, is already standing up to America's foes like no one else in Congress — not even Bernie.“We can't expect America to win against its foes,
The anonymous individual who posted a college video of Alexandria dancing calls her “America's favorite commie,” which brings to mind this song: You aint done nothing if you ain't been called a red. (Red here refers to communist, not republican.)
And here's a more recent video of Alexandria dancing.
Incidentally, I don't think we've had a dancer in Congress since one-term republican senator George Murphy (1965-1970).
IMPEACH THE M-----F-----?
Well, I've weighed in on this before. Donald Trump is a symptom; not the disease. The disease is militarism and imperialism. I want to banish the disease, not impeach the symptom.
There was a time in my life when I loved to use words like m-f-. I like to think I've grown up a little since then, although some may dispute that. But here's what bothers me: Why is it ok for president Donald Trump to brag about grabbing women by the p---y; but not ok for Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to say, “Impeach the M-F-”? Perhaps there is a double standard here.
In any case, Donald Trump might actually pull our troops out of Syria which would be a good thing. Let's wait to see if he's serious before we impeach him.
LAST “ADULT” STANDING
James “Mad-Dog” Mattis, hailed as the last “adult” in the Trump administration, departed a few weeks ago complaining about Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Mad-Dog Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division in Iraq during both sieges of Fallujah in 2004. Troops under his command bombed hospitals and fired on ambulances and medical workers. These are war crimes. Donald Trump appointed this war criminal Secretary of Defense and the Senate confirmed him. If this is the way “adults” behave, then maybe I ought to start saying “motherfucker” again.
Back in 2016, US diplomats in Havana claimed they were under sonic attack at the US embassy and produced a recording. Well, the recording has been analyzed and turns our to be the mating call of a species of cricket.“And the crickets are breaking his heart with their song,
Alexander Stubbs of the University of California-Berkeley opines, “It’s entirely possible that they got sick with some other completely unrelated thing that was not a sonic attack, or that they were targeted in some other way.”
But I have a conjecture: I think that maybe the diplomats were just responding in a totally natural way to the mating calls of these crickets. Perhaps the doctors and scientists will research my conjecture further.
January 1, 2019 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DIRECT RAIL AND ROAD CONNECTION BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA
Koreans celebrated the ceremonial opening of rail and road connections between the North and South, yet another small step toward reunification. (Actual physical opening is yet to come.) I suspect that unless the world becomes much more just and peaceful quickly, we will be seeing a united, nuclear armed Korea within the next decade.
Think about it. Whom are the Koreans to trust, if not each other? In recent history, they have been bullied and abused by just about every major power on the globe. During the Korean War, the US bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another” and killed perhaps 20% of the population.
The ceremony was attended by some foreign dignitaries, but apparently none from the United States.
NICARAGUA: THE U.S. SANCTIONS YET ANOTHER COUNTRY
While many of us were preparing for Christmas festivities, Donald Trump signed the NICA act into law. The NICA act levies brutal sanctions against this poor Central American country of about six million people. The sanctions seem to be paybacks for the Nicaraguans putting down a coup that showed all the earmarks of the CIA behind it.
Seems like the United States is sanctioning an awful lot of countries lately: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia.... Someone ought to tell Mr. Trump that the United States is no longer the world's only economic superpower. Quite likely other countries will thumb their noses at our sanctions, as they are doing in Iran.
Missing from most discussions of the NICA act is the economic rivalry between the United States and China, which has spread to our good neighbors to the South. I think China would love to build a canal to rival the Panama canal, spanning Nicaragua from Atlantic to Pacific; and I think the United States would do almost anything to prevent them.
Up to the start of the unrest which began in April, Nicaragua had been relatively stable and economically successful by Central American standards. While hordes of people have fled North from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, emigration from Nicaragua had been but a trickle.
Although the coup failed to bring down the Nicaraguan government, it succeeded in another way: It gave the United States an excuse to sanction Nicaragua and silenced many (excepting yours truly) who might be otherwise disposed to oppose the NICA act and economic sanctions.
Nicaraguans are familiar with these tactics. They are unlikely to forget that after they overthrew the brutal 43-year-old US-supported Somoza dictatorship in 1979, the US levied a total embargo on Nicaragua and armed and trained terrorist armies called “Contras” to fight against the Nicaraguan people.
The NICA act passed Congress unanimously without a single dissenting vote. This makes me think a whole lot less of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that they would fail to oppose such bullying; and makes me think a lot less of US progressives in general that there has been so little public opposition to the NICA act.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes her seat in the House in a few days. Maybe she will be able to educate Congress and the progressive movement.
Here is a short history of the coup that failed:
In short, it appears that the United States had been looking for an excuse to bring down the Nicaraguan government all along. The fire in the Indio Maíz and the attempt to cut Social Security were simply the excuses they had been waiting for. It is unclear what happens next. Nicaragua is a poor Central American country with a large predatory neighbor to the North. However, the Nicaraguans are resourceful people and have accomplished amazing things in the past.Anti-government protests in Nicaragua broke out in early April, 2018 over a fire in the Indio Maíz Reservation that burned 13,500 acres in nine days. Protesters faulted the government of Nicaragua for failure to extinguish the fire promptly. However, it is unclear that there is anything that could have been done to extinguish it sooner.
60 MONTHS OF DEVASTATING HEAT
Now that it's January, we should be hearing soon about how the last five years have been the five hottest on record.
I've been reporting that the last five 12-month periods have been the five warmest on record since August when we crossed that threshold. And I suspect that before the end of 2019, I'll be reporting that the last six 12-month periods have been the six warmest on record, should I live that long.
After all, Nature is not bound in the least by dates on human calendars.
My data comes from NOAA, whose climate section is down for the count due to government shutdown. I've been favorably impressed by NOAA's climate reporting, which may be part of the reason for the shutdown. Sadly, folks at NOAA's climate-monitoring departments are furloughed without pay, while the likes of Donald Trump and the US Congress continue to collect their exorbitant unearned pay checks.
In case you are one of those climate change skeptics, 2018 has been a terrible year for catastrophic weather events which cost the world an estimated $85 Billion, Here's a list of the top ten, four of which, hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the Camp and Woolsey wildfires in California, happened right here in the USA and top the list.
However, 2018 was a piker compared to 2017 which logged over $300 Billion in damages in the United States alone. Topping the list last year was Hurricane Harvey which alone caused around $125 Billion in damages.
AN IMPORTANT CARBON SINK
Here's a short brief from Science News on carbon sequestration that caught my attention.
Tropical volcanic mountains form an important carbon sink and may be the crucial carbon sink that controls the Earth's climate. Volcanic rock, rich in calcium and magnesium, in the presence of heat and rain combines with atmospheric CO2 to form limestone, sequestering prodigious amounts of carbon.
Author Francis MacDonald opines that a hothouse Earth may be the default. Cooler periods such as the one in which modern man evolved and developed a social organization that we like to call “civilization” appear to be anomalous. If this is indeed the case, one might fairly say that humanity has destroyed the climatic conditions that gave rise to its very existence and that these conditions are unlikely to be repeated in the near future.
This is an example of how events far underground affect the Earth's atmosphere. It also works the other way around: Above-ground events affect what happens deep underground. See Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes for an excellent discussion of this topic. (And if you are looking for a project for a high school science fair, here's a short demonstration of how global warming can cause earthquakes.)
So I am wondering: Might the recent volcanic activity on the Indonesian Archipelago which killed over 400 last week also work to reduce global warming? Or perhaps it will increase global warming since it caused the collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano, which is now less than 1/3 its previous volume. And might the recent eruption and tsunami have been triggered by a changing climate in the first place? Any geo-scientists out there care to comment?
December 18, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WEB OF LIES UNRAVELS
We live in momentous times. So many scams are unraveling. People are finally catching on. In part, I think we have Donald Trump to thank for that. He has such a great disregard for the truth. He doesn't even pretend to be telling the truth. He just says whatever pops into his deranged mind.“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” —Abraham Lincoln
And there is a lot of money to be made in scamming the public. Trapped by their greed, the scammers can't let go — even after a sizable mass of people have caught on. It's difficult. We come to think of privilege as an entitlement. Some would sacrifice their lives and their children down to the umpteenth generation to hold on to their entitlements.
Below I list four scams that are coming unraveled. I believe there will soon be a reckoning on all four accounts. People don't take kindly to being scammed. Some may react violently.
The Israel Scam
James Zogby notes that public opinion in the United States is turning against Israel.
Airbnb has refused to list Israeli rentals in occupied Palestine.
While Marc Lamont Hill was fired from his job as CNN commentator for calling for a Free Palestine, Temple University has refused calls to fire or even censor Dr. Hill.
Zogby notes that individuals and companies like Marc Lamont Hill and Airbnb are getting more praise than criticism for standing up to bullies.
The Boycott, Divestiture and Sanction of Israel movement has taken hold in spite of draconian laws aimed at criminalizing criticism of Israel.
Lana del Rey and other musicians have canceled performances in Israel.
Bahia Amawi was fired from her job as speech pathologist for refusal to take a Texas loyalty to Israel oath. She is now suing the State of Texas.
And most importantly, about half the people in the United States now favor a one-state solution in Palestine/Israel with equal rights for all. (This is a position I have held for many many years and been laughed at by liberals and conservatives, Zionists and anti-Zionists alike.)
It used to be that any criticism of Israel was considered one step shy of treason and could cost you your livelihood. Now it has become almost mainstream. It could be that the billions of dollars the United States gives to Israel each year will soon be in jeopardy.
In the last few years, we have been treated to a long series of unprecedented hurricanes, floods, droughts and fires like we have never seen before. After decades of official denials of human-induced climate change, Pew Research finds that 59% of us believe that our communities have been affected by climate change. That number goes up to 67% if you live near a coastline (see number 16 in Pew Research document).
Demonstrations against government inaction to reduce the threat of climate change are growing more and more commonplace.
The Refugee Scam
You may have thought you had seen it all with children separated from their parents and kept in dog kennels. The latest atrocity is the murder of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security. She was running a 105.7 fever and prison guards ignored her father's plea for help until it was too late. She died of shock and dehydration. the ACLU blamed the child's death on “lack of accountability and a culture of cruelty.”
People are catching on that this is not an “invasion.” These are destitute people trying to find some safe place where they can live with their families; and for this they are bullied and abused.
Not only has the United States helped to make Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala barely livable for many due to death squads, climate change and repressive US-backed regimes, the US is now attacking Nicaragua. First came an attempted "soft coup" that failed; and now we have the NICA act designed to put economic pressure on Nicaragua through denial of credit and banking services. If successful, we are likely to see large numbers of Nicaraguans joining other Central Americans at our southern border.
The United States and Hungary were the only two countries to vote against a UN resolution on managing refugees.
The War Scam
This is unprecedented. The Senate passed a resolution to end support for Saudi- Arabia's brutal war against Yemen where 85,000 children are starving to death. Never before has the Senate stood up to a war president and the military-industrial complex in this way.
People are finally catching on that war does not make us more secure — it only fattens the Pentagon and the weapons manufacturers at the expense of the rest of us.
DR. SEUSS GOES TO COURT
Our friends at El Porvenir, which provides clean water and watershed restoration in Nicaragua, and Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, Missouri's only public interest environmental law center and the law center that saved Rolla's beautiful historic Buehler Park, both send me this story about how a panel of federal judges threw out permits to build a pipeline across two national forests. Noting that the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it issued the permits, the panel cited Dr. Seuss's Lorax in saying, “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’”
You can view a telling of the Lorax story here.
HOW RUDOLPH GOT HIS RED NOSE
Reindeer feed on moss and lichens. Heavy fallout of cesium 137 from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and from atmospheric nuclear testing bio-accumulates in the moss and lichens and then in the reindeer that feed on them. Today, some Lapland reindeer still carry a burden of radiation of over 2,000 Becquerels / kilogram and their herders 1,000 Becquerels.
This should be a reminder to us how important it is to end the nuclear age.
(Actually, Rudolph was born in 1939, a few years before the beginning of the atomic age.)
December 11, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A WAR THAT MAY NOT HAPPEN
In 2001, the US put together a coalition of almost 50 nations and attacked Afghanistan, a war that still goes on today.
In 2003, only three countries (UK, Australia and Poland) contributed troops to the US invasion of Iraq — again, a war that still goes on today.
Today, it seems the US can only muster support for a war against Iran from a handful of brutal nations like Israel and Saudi Arabia with terrible human rights records. And the governments of these countries are all facing determined opposition.
Moreover, it appears that China and Europe are putting together a vehicle to skirt US unilateral sanctions on Iran.
And this week Iran tested a medium range missile, which Mike Pompeo claims (probably falsely) is contrary to the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) which the US unilaterally pulled out of earlier this year.
Trita Parsi remarks, “Today, if you’re sitting in Tehran, you’re probably more confident in the future than if you're in Riyadh or Washington.”
WHAT EXACTLY DO DIPLOMATS DO FOR A LIVING?
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this article. Seems like the diplomats at COP-24 are arguing whether to “welcome” the IPCC report that essentially spells doom for “human civilization” or to “note” it. The US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait wish to “note” it, while the rest of the world wishes to “welcome” it.“To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.” —Howard Zinn
“Note” sounds rather bland; while I would hardly “welcome” the doom of “human civilization.” How about “consent with extreme horror and dread?”
I would suggest putting all these diplomats to work planting trees, or in the case of the US diplomats, raking the forest. Can you believe we are up to COP-24 now? And each one opens on a situation more dire than the previous one.
The most positive part of COP-24 is all the people in the streets protesting and demanding action.
ADDITIONS TO WEBSITE: CHRISTMAS IMAGE, READING OF HANUKKAH STORY
I've posted an image of Christmas at the border.
And a video of a reading of Eric Kimmel's “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” along with a non-traditional Hanukkah celebration.
December 4, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WEB OF LIFE UNRAVELS
The University-Industrial Complex has really been caught napping. While the University-Industrial complex has been busy developing more and more sophisticated ways of killing insects, it took a small German society of insect enthusiasts to document the disappearance of perhaps 3/4 of our flying insects, the so-called “Insect Apocalypse,”. This includes not only honey bees and butterflies, but flies and mosquitoes as well. I've run across multiple articles on the work of the volunteer-run Krefeld insect society, but this article by Brooke Jarvis in the New York Times Magazine speaks loudest to me.“Look for what's missing. ... Few are able to see what isn't there.” —Donald Rumsfeld
Insects are an important part of the web of life. In one German nature reserve near Düsseldorf their numbers have fallen by over 75%. Likely much of the world is also experiencing similar declines. Flying insects provide food for frogs, birds and bats which provide sustenance up the food chain. They may provide other known and unknown services to the Web of Life as well.
Jarvis notes: “One result of their loss is what’s known as trophic cascade, the unraveling of an ecosystem’s fabric as prey populations boom and crash and the various levels of the food web no longer keep each other in check. These places are emptier, impoverished in a thousand subtle ways.”
It's like the shirt I'm wearing. One little hole I may not notice. Several more holes and the fabric begins to fray. More holes and I'm walking around naked from the waist up. That seems to be what's happening to our environment. It's becoming so full of holes that soon it will no longer provide us with the support we need.
Brad Lister, who has noted similar changes in Puerto Rico, remarks, “Nature’s resilient, but we’re pushing her to such extremes that eventually it will cause a collapse of the system.”
There does not appear to be any one single cause for this biological impoverishment — the usual culprits are insecticides, herbicides, climate change, habitat destruction, etc. Jarvis compares this to death by a thousand cuts.
I suspect another cause as well — electromagnetic radiation, like the radiation generated by millions and millions of tiny cell phones and other similar devices. It is only recently that people have started to carry devices that generate electromagnetic radiation with them constantly and it has only been recently that declines in flying insects have become so noticeable. Cell phones are a diffuse source of radiation, in contrast to broadcast media which provides a point source. The two are qualitatively different. They may well provide different stresses on our environment. Circumstantial evidence? Yes. But definitely worth checking out.
I like to brag that I am one of the very few left who do not own a cell phone. If my conjecture holds, I'll also add that I am just doing my part to preserve the Web of Life.
Meanwhile....As the world prepares for more and more war, and corporations prepare to do more and more violence to the Earth, our environment continues to unravel. Like North America, Australia is battling horrendous fires and floods this year. There is no longer a fine line between natural disasters and human-induced disasters. They blend seamlessly into one another. It is no longer a matter of preserving what is left. If we are to survive as a species, we must think about re-creating what has been lost.
Here is a message from the Waorani of the Amazon forest, brought to us by Nemonte Nenquimo, whose name means Many Stars.
Nenquimo notes, “the company doesn’t see the forest. They don’t see us. They see what they want to see. They see oil wells where we see gardens. They see money where we see life.”
We should be nurturing the few hunter-gatherers left among us, like the survival of our species depends upon them — because it does. As the Web of Life unravels and “civilizations” collapse, hunter-gatherers may be all that remains of the human race.
November 27, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: DIZZY DEAN
It's been a long time since I've received multiple responses on the same snippet; but two readers wrote in that they liked the Dizzy Dean quotes. One reader thought that along with the Dean quote on statistics, I should have included this line that was popularized by Mark Twain and attributed to Benjamin Disraeli:
The same reader also sent in two more great Dizzy Dean quotes: “It ain't braggin' if you can back it up.” and “Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss?”“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Here's my favorite: “I ain't what I used to be, but who the hell is?”
Dizzy Dean won 30 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934. There has been only one major league 30-game winner since (Denny McLain in 1968).
Rereading the snippet I wrote last week, it seemed to end too abruptly; so I reworked it. It's posted here.
“ALL IS CALM”
“All Is Calm,” a play about the 1914 Christmas truce on the Western front during World War I opens today at Cedar Street Playhouse and runs through Saturday, December 1. Extremely powerful statement on war and peace. Don't miss it!
HEARTLESS AND CRUEL
Donald Trump's border police fired tear gas rounds at the caravanistas, including young children and toddlers in their mother's arms. The caravanistas had trekked on foot all the way from Central America to our southern border to apply for asylum from the violence and poverty back home for which the United States is largely responsible. How heartless and cruel we have become!
I've reworked the image of Paradise, California burning that I had posted last week. It now includes a short quote from John Milton's “Paradise Lost.”
While reading “Paradise Lost” looking for an appropriate line to include with the image, it struck me that the disasters we are experiencing today are positively biblical. I suspect if there is anyone alive a hundred years from now, they will be reciting ballads about how God punished the ancient inhabitants of the Earth for their arrogance, cruelty and selfishness.
November 20, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CORRECTION: OCEAN HEAT UPTAKE
Two weeks ago I mentioned that a recent study, “Quantification of ocean heat uptake...” found that our oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than previously thought. The authors of the article have now published a correction. Seems they got their statistical analysis all wrong. Well, it might be 10% and then again it might be 70%. We just don't know yet.“I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.”
Climate deniers are having a good laugh over this one.
Ok, folks, I suppose this means Hurricane Florence never devastated the Carolinas and the Camp Fire never really wiped out Paradise, California — and if they did, its all China's fault anyway.
So let's get real. The burning question isn't where all this heat gets stored. The question is what's it doing to us when it comes out of storage; and what are we going to do about it.
Here's another Dizzy Dean quote which may be pertinent to this topic:
“I can't tell you why there's a delay [of the ball game], but stick your head out of the window and you'll know why.” [Note: During World War II, announcers were prohibited from broadcasting weather reports over the radio.]
Climate scientists have been telling us for years not to confuse climate [long term] with weather [day to day]. Seems to me that weather change has caught up to climate change — maybe even surpassed it. Also seems like Dizzy Dean was way ahead of his time. Yup, just “stick your head out of the window and you'll know why.” — or worse — wait for your house to wash away in a flood or burn up around your ears.
Climate change is upon us. You don't need a climate scientist to tell you that. And you know what needs to be done — nothing short of changing our entire life-styles will do. So let's get busy. There is much to be done.
[Note: Dizzy Dean was one of baseball's greatest pitchers — some might say, The Greatest. Dizzy Dean had a second grade education.]
FROM OUR READERS: A EUROPEAN MILITARY
A reader writes:
Yup, check out this list of Conflicts involving Russia. And if you go back to 1814, Russian troops occupied France along with the British and much of the rest of Europe.“I am not supporting a European Military, but it does seem that within the last 80 years Russia (USSR) has invaded Finland, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine. I am probably missing several more countries. Not exactly a good neighbor to have.”
Good neighbors are hard to find these days — especially if you make a habit of disrespecting them. A little detente can go a long way.
We should be trying to get along with all our neighbors on planet Earth, like our lives depended on it — because they do.
IT IS A MANAGEMENT PROBLEM
Sometimes Donald Trump can make some really profound statements, although he rarely gets much credit for it, at least not among the publications I tend to read. For example: Here's Donald Trump on this month's California fires:“The fact that the messenger is deranged doesn’t mean the message itself contains no significant truths.”
That's great as far as it goes; but let's talk about mismanagement now.“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”
One of the biggest problems is that there are too darn many people in California; and in particular, too darn many rich people who have to build their mansions in environmentally sensitive locations, fill their swimming pools and water their golf courses, even in the middle of an extended drought. That's a management problem.
And then there's the corruption: Nestlé is still bottling tons of California water, even in the midst of a water crisis. And California's crumbling infrastructure: California utilities may have been responsible for starting these devastating fires. They have started forest fires in the past.
And the world's addiction to fighting wars, burning fossil fuels, eating meat, air travel, wearing fashion clothing and a host of other environmentally insensitive behaviors which cause a warming climate with longer more frequent droughts.
And finally, the rich are now hiring their own private fire fighters which can't help but further stress and degrade the public forest service's fire fighting capabilities.
I suspect I've only scratched the surface here.
So let's give credit where credit is due. Mr. President, you made a very profound statement about forest management. Congratulations!
Oh, by the way, I'm saving raking the forest for some future week.
SOME OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES
I've expanded and redone my web page on favorite quotes. Check it out.
November 13, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SHOULD EUROPE HAVE A MILITARY?
In his Armistice Day speech, French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for a European military. Macron claimed, “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”“France got the bomb; but don't you grieve,
Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I which was supposed to be “The War to End All Wars,” seems like an incongruous time to talk about building a military; but we're used to that here in the United States, where Armistice Day has been renamed Veterans Day and has become a celebration of all things military.
Further, a European military to protect Europe against Russia (which is also part of Europe) seems incongruous. France invaded Russia under Napoleon. Much of Europe and parts of the rest of the world invaded Russia following the First World War. Germany invaded Russia under the Third Reich. If Russia ever invaded France, I am not aware of it. I suspect a European military would be offensive in nature, rather than defensive as Macron suggests, particularly toward Russia.
Europeans are known for fighting nasty brutal wars against each other. Wikipedia gives us a long list of European wars — more than I can count. Think not only of the two world wars but wars like the Napoleonic Wars and the 30 Years War. (30 years, my God!, we've only been in Afghanistan 17.) The 30 Years War was a religious war — Christians against Christians — eight million died.
Actually the United States and the Soviet Union performed a super-human feat together for 45 years after World War II — they kept Europeans from killing each other in huge numbers. (There were a few notable exceptions such as Northern Ireland.) Sadly the US and the USSR did not do the same for the rest of the world which experienced terrible massacres and human Rights abuses — think Korea, Vietnam and Palestine for examples.
As soon as one pole, the Soviet Union, fell, Europeans quickly returned to their old habits of killing each other en masse. The Soviet Union was barely laid to rest before another nasty brutal European war broke out in the Balkans.
So I am wondering: what would a European military look like? Who would it side with in the inevitable European conflicts to come? Would a European military be another giant step toward World War III?
A NEW LOOK FOR THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Newly elected congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib lent support to climate activists occupying Nancy Pelosi's office. Ocasio told the protesters:
No more business as usual Pelosi. We want to see some action.“I just want to let you all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line to make sure that we save our planet, our generation, and our future. It's so incredibly important.”
STILL TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR “ALL IS CALM”
Don't miss this very powerful play about the 1914 Christmas Truce on the western front. Fine Linen Theatre presents “All Is Calm” at Cedar Street Playhouse, Nov. 27-Dec. 1. Tickets still available.
It has a new look. Check it out. I've posted my talk at the Lewis C. Green Awards Party.
November 6, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GLOBAL WARMING: 13 ZETTAJOULES FOUND IN OCEANS
Turns out the IPCC has likely low-balled global warming big time. A new study has found that our oceans have warmed 60% more than previously thought, absorbing 13 zettajoules of heat energy each year. (1 zettajoule = 1021 joules [a one followed by 21 zeros] = 2.39x1017 [food] Calories.) This is a really big deal. The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. seems more and more unlikely every year.
Folks: we ain't seen nothing yet. If humanity is to survive, we are going to have to learn to live in a much warmer world.
HOW TO SURVIVE ON A WARMING PLANET
I really have little to offer here. I'm not a survivor. Likely, within a decade I'll be dead anyway, even without global warming. But I'd look at the !Kung, the Pygmies and other peoples who have learned to survive in shifting environments of scarcity. Or I'd look at animals like coyote who have learned to live in some very unlikely environments.
Think about it. Of what use will cities and global transportation networks be when everything can quickly be wiped out by increasingly likely extreme weather events.
WHY MAINTAINING THE INF TREATY IS SO IMPORTANT
Martin Fleck, nuclear weapons abolition program director at Physicians for Social Responsibility, explains the importance of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty and how it “contributed to the end of the Cold War and played a significant role in reducing the global arms race.” Fleck notes that if the US abrogates the INF treaty, we may soon find ourselves with no nuclear arms control agreements left at all.
DETENTE WITH NORTH KOREA HITS SNAG
The United States refuses to ease sanctions on North Korea, holds a large scale military exercise with Japan and Canada, and a mini-exercise with South Korea. North Korea threatens to restart its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
UNITED STATES BECOMING INCREASINGLY ISOLATED INTERNATIONALLY
Last week the United Nations voted 189 to 2 in favor of the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” with Israel joining the United States in voting No. US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, called the resolution a “waste of time,” because we're the United States, the indispensable nation, and we do whatever we want and the rest of the world be damned.
PAKISTAN-CHINA ECONOMIC COOPERATION GETS BOOST
Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan is visiting China where he has signed 16 agreements which include infrastructure projects that traverse Pakistani controlled Kashmir and the development of the port of Gwadar across the Arabian Sea from Oman and close to the border with Iran.
China and Pakistan are also attempting to bring Afghanistan into the development of the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor).
TALIBAN KILLS UTAH MAYOR AND ALMOST GETS US GENERAL
In an insider attack, North Ogden mayor, Brent Taylor, who was in Afghanistan with the Utah National Guard, was killed by an Afghan commando.
In a separate incident, a Taliban infiltrator killed Afghan general Abdul Raziq, and barely missed US general Austin Miller.
Insider attacks where an Afghan soldier who is presumed to be our ally turns his weapons on US or Afghan government troops are becoming increasingly common. And this after 17 years of a war that was supposed to be a cakewalk.
IRAN BRACES FOR INCREASED US SANCTIONS; US SCIENTIFIC ESTABLISHMENT PILES ON
Monday, a second round of sanctions was reimposed on Iran. Sanctions are war. Make no mistake about it. Iran which is already hurting economically, will hurt even more. One would think that after the total failure of 13 years of Iraqi sanctions (1990-2003) to do anything but hurt the Iraqi people, Trump and friends would think twice about this. And whereas Iraqi sanctions were almost total, China and India (and to a lesser extent Europe) are likely to thumb their noses at this new round of US sanctions against Iran.
Further demonizing Iran, the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) published an article on four Iranian conservationists accused of spying for the West. The article quotes an Iranian scientist living in the UK as saying “The scientific community can do a lot by challenging the narrative [that the four were spies].”
There is no mention in the article of how Iran has been hurt in the past by US spies and has had their democratically elected government overthrown in a coup by the CIA. Iranians are rightly wary of scientists with western ties. If the AAAS was truly concerned about the persecution of Iranian scientists, they would be calling loudly for an end to the demonization of Iran, easing of sanctions and a return to the nuclear treaty which the US unilaterally abrogated.
Note: I have no information to suggest that the four Iranian scientists were or were not spies.
MEANWHILE, TRUMP SENDS 3,500 TROOPS TO SOUTHERN BORDER TO COUNTER THREAT FROM HUNGRY HOMELESS CENTRAL AMERICANS
The local people don't seem to appreciate the troops that Trump is sending to the border. As lifelong resident of the Rio Grande valley, Emmanuel Torres, put it, “ I feel safer here [in Brownsville] than when I go up to bigger cities,” and “People that don't live here are just going to create a bigger negative image.”
Well, folks: sorry about all the bad news. Maybe things will get a little better in the morning. Maybe a bunch a Peaceniks who care about Planet Earth will be elected.
October 30, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BIGOTRY AND VIOLENCE
Much has been written already about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead.“Violence upon violence,
Here is an article by Middle East historian Juan Cole that I found particularly insightful. Cole notes that bigotry is bigotry and it so easily morphs from one group to another. Cole writes, “Those extremists who despise minorities tend to be equal opportunity haters, and to sweep up Jews with Muslims.”
How true! And those who encourage bigotry against one group may soon find that same bigotry turned back against their own ethnic or racial identity. Cole gives this example: “Ron Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, gave the hate group [Secure America Now] $1.1 million to spread its conspiracy theories against Muslims.”
And I would wonder how multi-billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson feels now about his $25 million donation to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Here's another insightful article by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, California. Lerner notes “the absence of any call on the part of the U.S. government to expose and arrest the major manifestation of terrorism in the U.S. in the past several years—the radical right with its violence against African Americans, gays and lesbians, Muslims, and increasingly against Jews.” He further suggests that “This pattern of violence and demeaning of ‘the Other’ has become so deeply embedded in the culture of the U.S. that only a true consciousness transformation will undermine its prevalence in both major political parties.”
Lerner further states, “We stand in solidarity with all the ‘other’ of our society whose lives are threatened and endangered by acts of violence and continue to commit to loving the stranger, the ‘other.’” He then exhorts us “to build a movement that replaces ‘America first’ with ‘love first.’”
For my part, reading these two insightful articles and several others made me think back to a paragraph I had written over ten years ago.
It has become very difficult to deny the failure of US Middle East policy. Donald Trump astutely used this failure during his successful 2016 presidential campaign to attack his rivals who had supported the War Against Iraq. The Trump presidency has been steeped in bigotry, particularly against Muslims and Latinos. Is it surprising that this bigotry has spilled over into bigotry against Jews?“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.”
Following the above paragraph, I wrote:
Will this come to pass too? Only time will tell. But consider Rabbi Lerner's conclusion, “there is a fundamental decency and goodness in most people on this planet and in the U.S. We see that in the love pouring out toward the Jewish community from all sectors of this society.”“Israel may react differently. As the power and unconditional backing of its major benefactor evaporates, Israel may decide that the best course is not only to make peace with its neighbors, but to enter into some form of economic and military cooperation with them.
Yes, I think Peace is more than just possible, perhaps even likely; especially if we take to heart Lerner's final sentence: “It is our task to affirm and strengthen that loving energy rather than sink into despair.”
ONE GIANT STEP TOWARD WORLD WAR III
While the world is demanding an end to nuclear weaponry, Trump vows to pull out of the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty with Russia which will likely superheat the nuclear arms race.
With a caravan of several thousand Central American refugees wending its way toward our southern border, fleeing from hunger and violence, it behooves us to understand why there is so much violence, devastation and poverty in Central America. This article from 350.org explains how US military interventions, unfair trade agreements and (lack of) climate policy has fueled Central America's violence, poverty and insecurity.
While Central America's responsibility for climate change is barely a fraction of that of the United States, Central America receives a far larger share of the devastation caused by climate change. “Asylum for immigrants — and all people displaced by US military, economic and climate policy — is not a matter of charity, it’s a question of basic justice.”
HAWAII JUST LOST AN ISLAND TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Well, only a small one — 11 acre East Island. Hurricane Walaka passed through earlier this month and totally erased the Island. Chip Fletcher who had been doing research on the Island remarked “I thought the island would be around for a decade or two longer, but it’s far more fragile than I appreciated. The top, middle and bottom of it has gone.”
Maybe Manhattan is next.
Super-Typhoon Yutu has totally destroyed Saipan, Tinian and Rota in the US Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands. The Marianas will be months in recovery.
Yutu then went on to terrorize Luzon in the Philippines killing at least six and is now approaching China.
October 23, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SAUDI ARABIA AND THE YEMINI GENOCIDE
For years Saudi Arabia has been carrying out a genocidal war against the Yemeni people with the blessings and support of the US and Europe. Apparently cracks in Western support for the Yemeni Genocide are beginning to grow. Germany has put on hold the sale of a few million dollars worth of patrol boats to Saudi Arabia and calls are coming in for a UN investigation into the apparent murder, torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi was a reporter for the Washington Post who was very critical of the Saudi regime and Saudi Prince Salmon. He entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee. He never returned. He is thought to have been murdered, tortured and dismembered. The Turks say they have proof.
I'm also a journalist (of sorts) and a critic of Saudi Arabia's genocidal war. I intend to stay out of Saudi Arabian consulates.
And like Robert Koehler, I can't help wondering why the murder of one Washington Post journalist is so much greater an atrocity than the murder of 40 children on a Yemini school bus.
LASER TECHNOLOGY: CROWD CONTROL OR GLOBAL WARMING MITIGATION
For years I have been pointing out that theoretically lasers could be used to beam some of Earth's excess heat back into space at a frequency transparent to Earth's atmosphere. I know of no research on this potential application of laser technology. Instead the US Military is actively researching the use of lasers for “crowd control.” Apparently attack dogs, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons in freezing weather are not enough. More powerful and versatile weapon are needed and the military is actively researching the use of lasers to blind, deafen, burn, incapacitate and even kill non-violent peaceful protesters.
Apparently, the military views the real enemy as non-violent peaceful protesters; not the Taliban or al-Queda or the Chinese or the Russians or even runaway climate change.
CLIMATE GRAPH UPDATES
I've updated my ongoing essay: Some Historic Temperature Graphs. I've added a 30-year climate graph which depicts the wave-like nature of Earth's warming and the correlation between some historic heat waves and El Niño conditions.
October 16, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AFTER 17 YEARS, WAR AGAINST AFGHANISTAN MAY BE ENDING SOON
This month the War Against Afghanistan entered its 18th year. That is, if you count from the October 7, 2001 invasion by the US and allies. There are other reasonable times you could count from, such as:
1979: Beginning of US supported jihad against the Soviet Union.
1838: Disastrous British invasion in which the entire British army was totally annihilated except for one lone survivor.
Counting as you wish, an end to the current War Against Afghanistan would be a wonderful thing for Afghanistan, the United States and the world.
In 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan with around 49 allied nations in what was supposed to be a “cake walk.” 17 years later, the Taliban controls more territory than at any time since 2001, with its influence growing.
The United States and the Taliban are meeting in Qatar to discuss ending the war. The Taliban precondition is the negotiation of the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
I am amazed by the Afghan people. In the United States they are almost always portrayed by the Left as victims. Yet in modern times, they have been victorious over the British, the Russians, and perhaps soon, victorious over the United States too.
Of course, Donald Trump will claim to have brought Peace to Afghanistan; just as he claims to be bringing Peace to Korea. However, I suspect history may pass a somewhat different verdict.
FIRE AND RAIN
Wildfires, floods and droughts are intensifying throughout the world. Here are two sites that specialize in climate disasters:
Natural disasters and extreme weather
And here are two important articles from the Guardian's Natural Disasters page on recent devastation:
This is what our future looks like: Hellfire
From Harvey to Michael: how America's year of major hurricanes unfolded
The IPCC has come out with another document claiming dire consequences if humanity doesn't drastically cut its use of fossil fuels immediately. As far as I'm concerned, the IPCC is again a day late and a dollar short .
My conjecture is that we passed a tipping point during the monster El Niño event of 2015-16. Surface temperatures have declined since then; but devastating fires and hurricanes have increased. Current events would seem to support my conjecture.
WAR AND CLIMATE CHANGE
In my writing, I try to bring out the strong correlation between War and Climate Change. Here is a short five minute talk I gave at the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center's Lewis Green Environmental Service Awards Party which, I think, establishes the connection in very few words.
October 9, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“ALL IS CALM:” 1914 WORLD WAR I CHRISTMAS TRUCE
“All is Calm” is the story of the 1914 World War I Christmas Truce along the Western Front, told in the words of those who experienced it. It wasn't planned. It just happened. It's one of the most powerful statements on war and peace I've ever encountered.
If you missed the performance of “All Is Calm” last year at Leach Theatre; you have another chance this year. Fine Linen Theatre will be performing “All Is Calm” at Cedar Street Playhouse from Nov. 27 through Dec. 1 with a cast of local talent. DON'T MISS IT!
Here's what I wrote last November after watching “All Is Calm.”
WAR BY “ACCIDENT”If you missed Monday's performance of “All Is Calm” at Leach Theatre, you missed one of the most powerful anti-war statements ever to come to Rolla. All Is Calm is a play by Peter Rothstein about the 1914 Christmas Truce on the western front during World War I. The words are mostly from letters and statements made by soldiers in the trenches.“What would happen, I wonder, if the armies of both sides suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and said some other method must be found for settling the dispute?” —Winston Churchill
Here is an article from The National Interest discussing what might happen if US and Chinese vessels were to collide in the South China Sea. Not so far-fetched. We've already had a very close call. It would be in everyone's interest to de-escalate the tension between the US and China now. Unfortunately we seem to be going in the opposite direction.
THE WORLD THUMBS ITS NOSE AT U.S. SANCTIONS ON IRAN
China and India are both likely to continue to purchase Iranian oil in spite of US sanctions. Europe is looking for a vehicle to skirt US sanctions on Iran. This is one more example of the United States being sidelined by the rest of the world.
The result of continued sanctions and trade wars will likely be more and more oil traded in Chinese Yuan and Euros as the dollar ceases to be the world's most dominant currency.
Meanwhile, the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that US sanctions on Iran are “Illegal and Cruel” and ordered an easing of sanctions. The US will likely ignore the ruling, further isolating The United States.
NASA'S CLIMATE PROGRAM MOVES FORWARD
In spite of Donald Trump's vow to axe NASA's climate science program, it appears to be expanding and doing quite well.
EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMIS AND VOLCANOES, OH MY!
The Indonesian Island of Sulawesi has been hit by all three: an earthquake, tsunami and volcano. Thousands have died. Could this be the result of human activity? It's possible. What we do on the surface and above affects the subsurface too. If you are interested in how climate change can trigger earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes read Bill McGuire's “Waking the Giant.”
And here's an interesting article on what makes cities sink.
October 2, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
KAVANAUGH: THE GENTLEMAN DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH
While Kavanaugh's angry denials become increasingly difficult to believe, his friends in Congress continue to push his appointment to the Supreme Court forward. Well, suppose he is confirmed. The Supreme Court will be known forevermore as the Rape Court (especially when they make their inevitable decisions against the Rights of women) and will likely lose whatever public respect it still has after the disastrous Citizens United decision.
And while we have all been so mesmerized by the Brett Kavanaugh circus...
TRUMP: AGAINST THE ASSAULT OF LAUGHTER NOTHING CAN STAND
The whole world laughed at our president. When Trump bragged in front of the UN General Assembly that “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the entire history of our country,” there were laughs and guffaws. I think Trump is the first US president to have ever been laughed at in the General Assembly. If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.
Meanwhile, the US has been sidelined as the rest of the world moves on. Korea and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are two such examples.
TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: FOUR NEW RATIFICATIONS, ONE ACCESSION & TEN NEW SIGNATURES
Since I last reported on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in early August; the Treaty has garnered four ratifications (Gambia, Samoa, San Marino and Vanuatu), one accession (Cook Islands, legally equivalent to ratification) and ten signatures (Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Benin, Brunei, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Myanmar, St Lucia, Seychelles and Timor-Leste). Let's hear a loud Hip Hip Hooray for all these brave nations that are standing up against big-power nuclear bullying.
The Treaty now has 69 signatories and 19 ratifications (or equivalent). 31 more ratifications and the treaty becomes international law; but sadly, only for those states that have ratified the treaty.
Of the nine nuclear-weapon states, (USA, Russia, France, UK, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea); North Korea is the only one to express interest in de-nuclearizing if its security can be guaranteed in other ways.
You will find very few reports of this in the media, even in the so-called progressive media. But I think this is important — much more important than what happens to Brett Kavanaugh.
Sept. 25, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
UPDATE: BRETT KAVANAUGH
When I wrote a short snippet on Brett Kavanaugh last week, I felt there was an important piece missing from the discussion of the Christine Blasey Ford accusation. Well, folks: Here it is.
According to a former student at the elitist boy's school, Georgetown Prep, the school was filled with spoiled brats from wealthy families who felt entitled to do whatever they wanted with impunity: alcohol, drugs, sex, rape,... They never thought they would ever be held accountable for anything they did. This is the environment in which the attempted rape described be Blasey Ford takes place.
As Kavanaugh has stated himself, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us.” That's the Georgetown code. And this is a small-time mafia. Don't snitch; and if you do you could end up dead. Blasey Ford has received death threats. The former student interviewed in this article won't give his name for fear of what might happen to him. (And Donald Trump asks why Blasey Ford didn't come forward 35 years ago???)
The fact that it was part of the Georgetown Prep culture and almost everybody there was doing it doesn't make it any more or less right or wrong. It does, however, mean that everybody who participated in this culture, particularly the “adults” who enabled it and looked the other way are accomplices and co-conspirators.
And everybody who tries to sweep this accusation under the rug is simply perpetuating this culture of entitlement and unaccountability.
UPDATE: HURRICANE FLORENCE: 3.4 MILLION DEAD CHICKENS AREN'T MUCH FUN
Last week I wrote: “[Hurricane Florence's] most lasting effect may well be from all the pollution that it likely stirred up. The Carolinas are home to several nuclear power plants and superfund sites plus many other toxic waste sites.”
Folks in the Carolinas are coming home to a cesspool of dead chickens, faecal wastes and toxic coal ash. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about the pollution stirred up by Florence in future weeks. Catawba Riverkeepers have posted these maps of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and Coal Ash disposal sites. Note that many lie in flood plains and given the number of severe hurricanes that have hit the Carolinas, this was all too predictable.
UPDATE: CODY WILSON
Since I wrote a snippet two weeks ago on Cody Wilson who made untraceable 3D-printed do-it-yourself guns available to the masses, Wilson has been arrested for — you guessed it — having sex with an underage girl.
I'll bet 10 to 1 that this was a sting operation. If they can't get at you any other way, they get at you through sex. That's how they captured Mordecai Vanunu. That's how they tried to get Julian Assange.
But, as I said two weeks ago, they are a dollar short and a day late. The cat's out of the bag and there is no stuffing it back in.
DRONES: THE SMALL ASSASSINS
Untraceable, do it yourself, guns are not the only weapons in the arsenals of the violent. Last month the enemies of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro tried to assassinate him with off the shelf drones loaded with explosives. Drone technology is readily available. Expect the range, load capacity and guidance systems of consumer drones to improve.
Now suppose that Stephen Paddock also had a fleet of drones loaded with explosives when he shot and killed 59 at an open-air country music festival in Las Vegas. It could easily have been 559 or even more.
Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-an made great progress toward Korean detente and the eventual reunification of the Two Koreas. Together they took steps to demilitarize the border and build peace on the Korean peninsula. “We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” declared chairman Kim. They also agreed to make a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics.
This is great news for the Korean people and the world.
COLIN KAEPERNICK: THE $6 BILLION HERO
Nike's new advertising campaign featuring NFL star quaterback Colin “take a knee” Kaepernick has been a great success. Nike stock has surged to the tune of $6.1 Billion.
President Donald Trump was totally wrong when he tweeted, “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”
Donald, I think if we held a popularity contest today: You v. Colin Kaepernick, Kaepernick would win in a landslide. Isn't it nice to have a president who is so completely out of touch with the people?
Kaepernick is the latest in a line of celebrities that have bravely risked their celebrity status to oppose war and racism.
50 years ago world heavy weight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, was stripped of his title for his opposition to the Vietnam War and famously drawing the crucial connection between war and racism, “no Vietcong ever called me nigger.”
Fifteen years ago, Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, told a London audience, “We don't want this war [Iraq], this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas.” The Dixie Chicks were boycotted and Maines forced to apologize. But you know what? Maines was right and you would be hard pressed to find anyone today who doesn't think the Iraq invasion was a terrible mistake. Many, such as myself, think it was a criminal enterprise and the perpetrators should be prosecuted.
We've come a long way since 1967. The racist warlike cabal in Washington has been exposed for what it is — again and again. And Colin Kaepernick is a $6 Billion hero.
Sept. 18, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN
This weekend the world was hit by two unusually powerful cyclones: Hurricane Florence in the western Atlantic and Typhoon Mangkhut in the western Pacific.“Five year plans and new deals,
Mangkhut, a category five cyclone (the highest) slammed into the Philippines killing at least 65 and probably hundreds. Mangkhut then went on to devastate Hong Kong from miles out to sea and cause millions in South China to evacuate from their homes.
Florence, a huge monster of a storm, stalled over the Carolina coast bringing six foot storm surges and intense flooding. Yesterday, a weakened Florence continued to drop prodigious amounts of rain in the Appalachians which will flow down to the already flooded Carolina coastal plain. However, its most lasting effect may well be from all the pollution that it likely stirred up. The Carolinas are home to several nuclear power plants and superfund sites plus many other toxic waste sites.
As is typical of such disasters, it is the poor who pay the highest price. Wealthier people can often rebuild at taxpayer expence through federal flood insurance.
North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, likened Florence to “an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave.” Sorry Governor, but Florence was invited by every climate change denier in the state. Maybe now you will get serious about trying to control climate change.
Interestingly, in 2012 the North Carolina legislature passed a law that for planning purposes, only linear extrapolations from historic sea-level data will be allowed. The law remains on the books. Well folks, complex systems are rarely if ever linear. In the case of sea-level rise its a no-brainer. A warming climate melts glaciers and ice caps that drive sea-level rise. Warmer water is less dense than cold and has a greater volume. As sea-level rise continues to accelerate, it leaves the North Carolina coast open to increased devastation from storms like Florence.
Now I feel punishment should fit the crime; so here is my suggestion: Every North Carolina legislator who voted for this bill should be staked out on the beach with a pencil and a notebook as the tide rolls in. In order to earn his release, he must write a 1,000 word essay on the non-linearity of climate change. The essays should then be published and submitted to their constituents for grading.
And here's another suggestion: The United States and China, both hard hit by Florence and Mangkhut, are the two largest emitters of Greenhouse Gases (The US is number one historically although recently overtaken on an annual basis by China.) Instead of economic rivalry and a continued arms race leading to a likely military confrontation, they should be made to pool their resources to fight climate change and global warming, which are responsible for feeding monster cyclones like Mangkhut and Florence.
Meanwhile, driven by climate change, the Middle East, Australia, the western United States, and other locations remain in serious drought. 98% or more of seven western US states are in some stage of drought.
FIVE YEARS OF INTENSE HEAT
If there is any doubt in your mind that the Earth is warming and that climate change is causing extreme weather events like Mangkhut and Florence, consider the following: The latest five (September through August) 12 month periods have been the five warmest on record (see table below). The sixth and seventh warmest were both during El Niño years which tend to superheat the climate.
But what I find most interesting is that these five years when graphed resemble a hand with the middle finger extended. (See graph below.) I think Nature is saying something to us. Too bad so few are listening.
I can think of lots of reasons why Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. First and foremost he is a close-minded ideologue. A judge, and in particular a Supreme Court justice, should be capable of considering all sides of an issue fairly, a quality that Kavanaugh clearly lacks.
And what about this accusation that at age 17, over 30 years ago, he got stinking drunk at a party and tried unsuccessfully to rape a young lady? Hey, I did lots of things when I was a teenager that I'm not exactly proud of. (No, I won't tell you; ask Helen.) Let's just say that I've been in remission for a number of years.
But I think we are missing the most important aspect of the Ford accusation — that the rape attempt ended in failure. From the 1857 Dred Scott decision to the recent Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court has been successfully raping us all. Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, has compiled a long list of such cases. So maybe we would be better off with a failed rapist on the Supreme Court than with another more successful rapist.
ISRAEL: BOYCOTT, DIVEST AND SANCTION MOVEMENT
It appears that the movement to boycott Israel for unspeakable crimes against humanity is having its effect. In this world, filled with injustice, there are still crimes that do not go unnoticed. Apparently, blockading almost 2 million people, half of them children, in an open air prison without sufficient food, water and medicines is still beyond the pale.
20 international acts, including superstar singer Lana Del Rey, cancelled their appearance at Israel's Meteor Music Festival.
Paraguay decided to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. Netanyahu threw a hissy fit and closed the Israeli embassy in Paraguay. That leaves only the United States and Guatemala with embassies in Jerusalem.
17-year-old Palestinian rights activist, Ahed Tamimi, who at 16 was jailed for slapping an Israeli soldier who invaded her house, is now speaking in France, in spite of Israeli attempts to prevent her from traveling. She intends to do more speaking in Europe.
Ships from Europe continue to attempt to break the illegal Israeli blockade and bring humanitarian relief to Gaza. Israeli pirates continue to capture these humanitarian vessels; but still they keep coming.
Poet-activist Dareen Tatour is serving a jail term in Israel for — you guessed it — writing poetry. Here is a sample of her poetry:
Detaining a Poem
Sept. 11, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GUN CONTROL IS DEAD
Joseph Conrad's “professor,” quoted above, carries a flask of high explosives on his person. His hand rests in his pocket on a rubber ball which if squeezed activates a 20 second trigger. He, it is believed, is perfectly willing to blow himself up along with everyone in the vicinity.“Yes, I would give the stuff with both hands to every man, woman, or fool that likes to come along.” —Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent, 1907)
Conrad's professor also wants to give the whole world his “stuff.” He thinks that if everyone were armed like he is, the world would be a much better place.
Today, Cody Wilson is on a similar crusade. Wilson has made it possible to download the blueprints and 3D print your own untraceable weapon for a song. And what's more, it's perfectly legal! And even if it weren't — it wouldn't matter. Policing the internet is next to impossible. And once you are in possession of the blueprint and a 3D printer, you don't even need the internet.
And this technology is certain to be perfected further, leading to cheaper, more powerful and more readily available weapons. And, as this technology is perfected, it will become easier and easier for gun owners to not only bypass any existing state sponsored weapons controls, but the weapons manufacturers also. As a result, weapons manufacturers, in order to continue turning handsome profits, will be forced to peddle faster, more powerful and more accurate weapons.
So much for gun control.
And this works for non-State armies as well. Nine months ago I wrote about how ISIS had perfected the art of weapons manufacture and surmised that maybe soon it will be possible for an ISIS to manufacture weapons of mass destruction — maybe even nuclear weapons.
Joseph Conrad was prophetic. Perhaps he foresaw the day when “every man, woman or fool that likes to come along” could possess powerful weaponry.
And we should be mindful of the end of Conrad's “The Secret Agent,” in which people die as a result of the professor giving his “stuff to every man, woman or fool that likes to come along.”
States exist to a large measure to protect their citizens from violence from each other. To do so, a State will often claim a monopoly on violence.“A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold.” —Deborah Orr
What happens when a State cannot or will not enforce its monopoly on violence and protect its citizens equally? People may look elsewhere for protection, such as to a local gang, warlord or Mafia don. However, in a situation where deadly weapons are readily available, a citizen might well decide to take matters into his own hand, like, for example, Nikolas Cruz or Stephen Paddock.
A third possibility is that some will just leave and look for less violent pastures, such as the victims of Central American violence who show up in large numbers at our southern border.
Here in the United States we are faced with a State that is fast becoming a failed state — unable and unwilling to protect its citizens equally. We are also faced with the growing availability of more and more powerful weaponry. It's a deadly combination. Expect the level of violence to increase.
Is there a solution? Well, we could all try getting along with each other. Maybe we need to start sharing what's left of the world before there is nothing left to share. After all, there are 7.5 billion of us. That's a lot of folks — and a lot of weapons.
Sept. 4, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (UPDATE)
Yemen: Under intense international pressure, Saudi Arabia changed its tune, officially stating that their bombing of a school bus in Yemen, killing over 30 children was “unjustified.” However, Alan Fisher points out that “if you look at the actual wording ... they are not saying that there was a problem with killing children.” It was apparently unjustified only because their target was not aboard the bus at the time. Incidentally, the bomb that killed the children was manufactured in the United States with your tax dollars.
Palestine: Sounds like a statement that could have come out of Israel. Not only do Israelis murder Palestinian children; but they mock the families as they bury their murdered children. “Birds of a feather flock together.”
United States: Weeks after the court-mandated deadline, 497 children separated from their families at our southern border, including 22 under five-years-of-age, have still not been reunited with their families. The parents of 322 of these children were deported without their children. Representative Barbara Lee rightly calls this “government-sanctioned child abuse.” So far, no criminal charges have been filed.
And families are leaving the supplemental nutrition program (WIC) for fear of being deported or having their immigration status revoked.
MORE ON RELIGION
Here is an article by Brian Terrell of the Iowa Catholic Worker community pointing out that while pedophilia in the Catholic Church is justly condemned; the far greater crime of War, which is so damaging to children, is barely mentioned.
Similar statements could probably be made about most religions and other systems of ethical behavior. (See snippet above)
ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE — BUT YOU CAN PLANT ONE YOURSELF
If we are to save our fast-warming planet from disaster, it will be through the help of our good friends, the trees.
Here's an article about how magical gao trees are greening Niger and transforming the Sahel region of Africa.
And here is one about how the people of Delhi saved 16,000 trees that were slated to be cut down.
So go out and plant a tree, or two, or many. And if you have several thousand dollars to spare you could, like Melania Trump, plant a tree in 4 inch stiletto heels and a $4,000 floral Valentino skirt with a gold-plated shovel. Yes — seriously — I'M NOT KIDDING.
Part of the title of this snippet is from the poem, Trees, by Joyce Kilmer.
August 28, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Two weeks ago, in reference to the referendum vote in Missouri overturning Right to Work by a 2 to 1 margin and the passing of Proposition C by initiative petition by a 2 to 1 margin 10 years ago, I asked:“You may run on for a long time;
“Here's a conundrum for you. Why do we keep electing politicians who are so totally out of touch with The People? Anyone out there care to venture a guess?”
A reader responds:
“Several years ago, I asked a sitting MO legislator this same question. His answer: ‘Religion.’”
Now that's an interesting answer. What kind of religion makes people elect someone who votes for sending good jobs out of state, cutting wages of Missouri workers and damaging Missouri's air quality? I don't think that's any religion at all; and if it is, it's the Devil's own religion.
But let's not stop there. What kind of religion causes people to elect a president who proudly kidnaps children while deporting their parents. The Devil's own religion.
What kind of people (Israelis) would blockade a million children in a tiny enclave (Gaza) without adequate water or medicine, take potshots at those who protest and claim religious justification? The Devil's own religion.
What kind of people (Saudi Arabians) would claim to be devout followers of God and bomb a school bus full of children (Yemen). The Devil's own religion.
Samuel Johnson once said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel;” but I think religion might have patriotism beat here.
TRUTH (A WORLD IN DENIAL)
While I have become used to liars in high places, here's one that really threw me. After a phone conversation between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and newly confirmed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kham, Pompeo declared that they had discussed Terrorists. Pakistan declared that no such thing was discussed and demanded a retraction. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert then said that the State Department stood behind its original statement.“People will trust treacherous people;
Huh???? One can certainly see why the North Koreans have accused Pompeo of “gangster-like” behavior.
The truth no longer matters. Make up any lie you want to. It's not a problem.
We have become a world in denial. We have taken this beautiful world that God gave us, and degraded it beyond redemption. The world is split between the total deniers; and those who claim that the degradation is reversible on a short time scale, if we only make a few small changes. If you want to reverse climate change and planetary degradation, better start praying, because it will require an act of God.
EXAMPLE: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. YOSHIHIRO SATO
Some believe our problems can be solved by listening to scientists, who are to a great extent responsible for the World's problems in the first place. Scientists, they claim, are truthful people. They even want us to march for Science. But scientists, it turns out, are just as big liars as everybody else.“Surprisingly, scientists proved as susceptible to herd-think as everyone else, and equally unaware of it.”
Consider Yoshihiro Sato who published over 100 papers over the course of more than a decade. Many of his papers were cited in the scientific literature and treatment guidelines were made to reflect his studies. It took many years before Dr. Sato was exposed as the biggest scientific fraud since the Piltdown Man. He has reportedly suicided.
Many are astonished by the extent of the fraud perpetrated by Sato. I'm not. I was a scientist up until my retirement. I've experienced scientific dishonesty first hand.
Many are wondering why he published so many fraudulent studies and how he got away with it for so long. Ask Donald Trump or Mike Pompeo. They know.
August 21, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NICARAGUA: A FAILED COUP
The coup in Nicaragua has failed — at least for now. In spite of US support for the opposition, the government appears to be firmly in control. What happened?
According to Charles Redvers, the opposition was united only in its desire to see the Ortega government fall and had no common program of improvement. Further, the coup had turned violent, people were dying, a relatively stable economic life was disrupted, and people were afraid to venture out into the streets. The coup lost whatever popular support it had, without which, it was no match for a government that had improved the livelihood of many a Nicaraguan family.
There has been an uneasy 11-year truce between the United States and the Ortega government. The truce has been broken and is perhaps irreparable.
China is the wild card. The Chinese would love to build the Grand Canal across Nicaragua from the Atlantic to the Pacific — a canal to rival the Panama Canal. I think the US would do anything to prevent this. China is a rising global power; The US: a waning power. Clearly, China is concerned about the possibility of closure of the Panama Canal to Chinese shipping, especially in view of the current trade war.
Will there be a showdown in Nicaragua? Will Nicaragua be the bone over which the two big dogs fight? Wait and see.
The Grand Canal would be an environmental disaster. Some say it will never be built; but I would not bet on it. Environmentalists concerned about the possibility of a Grand Canal across Nicaragua would do well to work for World Peace.
This article by Alfred McCoy discusses the global rivalry between the US and China and remarks in the final paragraph that with global warming and climate change there may not be a winner.
13 former top “intelligence” officers published an open letter criticizing Donald Trump. This is unprecedented. The CIA likely holds more power in the United States than the presidency and the CIA has lots of experience with coups d'etat.
Is this letter a warning? Perhaps. I can't imagine that the “intelligence” community is happy about the way the Trump administration blew the attempted Nicaraguan coup.
And for those who would welcome a coup d'etat against the Trump presidency: I suggest you first think about what's likely to follow. (Hint: It's unlikely to be Bernie Sanders.)
STACY BANNERMAN ON THE FAILURE OF FEMINISM
Two weeks ago I discussed Stacy Bannerman's article pointing out how our militarism is a major cause of climate change and how few will even talk about it. Bannerman is back this week discussing the military and feminism, showing how our militarism aggravates sexism and gender inequality and calling out the feminist movement for its failure to talk about it.“War is the weaponization of discrimination, classism and misogyny. So why are so few women talking about it.”
Bannerman ends her article:
This is a very important article. Read it!“So, ladies, let’s end our silence about America’s endless wars, and start talking about peace as if justice depends on it. Because it does.”
RALPH NADER: ADVICE FOR PROGRESSIVES
Four time failed presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, also has some harsh words for today's timid “progressives.” Had we elected Ralph Nader, The United States would likely be the great nation we all want it to be and the Trumpian slogan, “Make America Great Again” would have fallen upon deaf ears.
IMRAN KHAN SWORN IN PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN
Saturday Imran Khan was sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan. It's hard to describe Imran Khan here in the United States. Think of Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali all rolled into one person. Now you are getting close.
Khan led Pakistan to its one and only victory in the world (cricket) cup. As a philanthropist he built hospitals and colleges in Pakistan. Then he went into politics campaigning against corruption and for improving the livelihood of the People.
He has been very critical of Pakistan's participation in US wars:
It's unclear how the US could continue fighting its 17-year-old War against Afghanistan without Pakistani help.“We became a U.S. proxy for a war against the Soviet Union when it entered Afghanistan and we allowed the CIA to create, train, and arm Jihadi groups on our soil and a decade later we tried to eliminate them as terrorists on U.S. orders. The time has come to stand firm and give a strong response to the U.S.”
Khan described a potential meeting with Donald Trump as a “bitter pill,” but added that he would meet him.
Here in the USA, we do not play much cricket, but elsewhere in the world cricket is a very popular sport. It's somewhat akin to baseball. You have a pitcher (bowler) and a batter (batsman); but the batsman's primary objective is to protect his wicket (5 sticks, 3 vertical and 2 horizontal) and the bowler's primary objective is to knock down the other team's wicket.
Here is a description of cricket written especially for folks like us who are unfamiliar with cricket but familiar with baseball.
I developed an interest in cricket decades ago when I read G.H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology. Hardy was an avid cricket fan as well as one of the best mathematicians the world has produced. However, he is best known for having mentored Ramanujan, perhaps the greatest mathematician of all. I highly recommend Hardy's Apology.
August 14, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SELF-PERPETUATING VIOLENCE AND CLIMATE CHANGE
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” —Mahatma GandhiHere is a fourth way in which the US military contributes to climate change: (See last weeks newsletter for the first three.)
It has been said that when your only tool is a hammer; everything looks like a nail. Similarly, when your only asset is a military, war appears to be the solution to every problem.
How useless is a military in reducing climate change! When climate activists mention the military it is invariably, with a few notable exceptions, to point out that the military regards climate change as a threat to national security. There is little, if any, mention that the threat is to a large extent self-created and self-perpetuating.
Excessive violence creates a positive feedback loop. Twice in recent history, (1945 and 1990), the United States emerged from a war as the undisputed world leader and sole super-power. As such, it was probably within our power to build a world free of war where humanity could tackle more important problems, like climate change.
And perhaps, if we had emerged from these wars as a power that had accomplished its objectives using a minimum of force, instead of one that had introduced horrendous weapons hitherto unknown to the world, this would have happened. In both cases the United States opted for more war and world empire with devastating results for itself and the entire world.
And the saddest part is that we have learned nothing. We still dream of America First and World Empire.
MORE WAR ON THE HORIZON
In 2003, as the United States prepared to invade Iraq, much of the world objected. Millions of people demonstrated in the streets. Our close allies: France, Germany and Turkey opted out. I said to myself, maybe the world is finally coming to its senses. Sadly, it was not to be. The US invaded, the millions of anti-war demonstrators went home, and our European allies demanded their share of the spoils too.
15 years later, the United States appears to be preparing for War against Iran. This time it might be different. China and Europe stand against it. They might do more than politely object.
The saddest part is that this conflict is over access to Iran's oil which, as any climate activist will tell you, should stay in the ground. The world should be paying Iran to keep its oil in the ground — not fighting over who gets access to it.
MISSOURI POLITICIANS: TOTALLY OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE
Last year, the Missouri legislature passed SB 19 (Right to Work, sponsored by our own senator Dan Brown) by a greater than 2 to 1 margin. Last week, The People spoke, rejecting Right to Work by referendum petition by a greater than 2 to 1 margin.
This is not the first time this has happened. Ten years ago, the voters passed Proposition C by initiative petition by an almost 2 to 1 margin. Prop. C established a renewable energy standard for Missouri. The legislature then proceeded to run roughshod over the Will of the People and gutted key provisions of Prop C and Missouri's renewable energy standard.
Here's a conundrum for you. Why do we keep electing politicians who are so totally out of touch with The People? Anyone out there care to venture a guess?
YET ANOTHER NEW CLIMATE DISASTER
Toxic red-tide algal blooms are nothing new to the Gulf of Mexico. But, algal blooms are usually constrained to a few months in late summer or early fall, This year's bloom off the coast of Florida started in November and is still going strong. It has an unusually high density and is believed to be responsible for killing much wildlife.
It remains to be seen whether this will become another new climate normal which will occur year after year.
August 7, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Today is election day — and I hope you all voted.
Me? I voted. I'd like to have voted for Peace; but she wasn't on my ballot. There wasn't even a line where I could write her name in. I'd like to have voted to repeal Climate Change. That wasn't on my ballot either. What kind of election is that? War and Climate Change: the two greatest existential threats to humanity and neither one is on the ballot.
Instead my mailbox has been inundated with flyers from candidates who say they love guns and life. I suspect the irony is lost on them. Guns take lives — lots of them — tens of thousands.
In response to the paragraph I wrote three weeks ago on election meddling:
“Oh, incidentally, have you ever contributed to a candidate in some other state or district? for example, Tammy Duckworth, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Elizabeth Warren. If so, you have meddled in an election. The voters in Massachusetts are supposed to choose their senator — not residents of Missouri.”A reader writes:
“I disagree with you that by contributing to an out-of-state senator (like Elizabeth Warren to whom I have contributed) is meddling in an election. It is simply supporting a candidate in another state. And no one except the candidate and her staff knows you have contributed.Well, I've contributed to out-of-state politicians too. Was I meddling? I think so. Money = Votes; and big Money = lots of Votes. If it didn't, I wouldn't be getting all these requests for money from politicians thousands of miles away whom I've never even heard of before.
Sorry, I don't have the resources to meddle on the grand scale of the NRA or the Israeli lobby. Maybe that's why politicians seem to like Guns more than Peace. Maybe that's why politicians seem to like Israel more than the United States.
So far no one, to my knowledge, has accused Russia of buying the election, just hacking and leaking stuff that should have been public anyway.
I may write about how to get money out of the electoral process and make elections fairer later.
HOW WAR DESTROYS OUR CLIMATE
“The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.” —Katherine BallThe cause and effect relationship between War and Climate Change has been a recurrent theme in my writings; so I was very happy to see Stacy Bannerman's article on this relationship on Common Dreams.
Climate activists tend to ignore the military contribution to climate change. Indeed as Bannerman writes:
“How do you clear a room of climate activists? Start talking about war. It’s not just environmentalists that leave; it’s pretty much everyone.”That says it in a nutshell. Militarism, and the US military in particular is the single largest contributor to climate change, but few will even talk about it.
We can divide the military's contribution to Climate Change into three broad categories.
1. Lost OpportunityThis short article is not meant to be inclusive. Can you think of other points that should be added?
The bottom line: If the world learned to get along and stop spending on their militaries; it would free up more than enough resources to convert the entire world energy supply to non-polluting renewables with plenty left over for reforestation and other activities that reduce our carbon footprint. Seems we humans would rather fight each other; even if it kills us all.
CALIFOIRNIA SETS ANOTHER FIRE RECORD
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, 1898)Last December the Thomas Fire set a record for the most acres burned by any California fire on the books. The record was short lived. Eight months later, the Mendocino Complex Fire has outdone the Thomas Fire and it's still burning out of control. We're seeing climate related records fall almost as fast as they are set.
Donald Trump, with his typical disdain for facts, claimed the fire was a result of California State water policy. Sure, Donald, Global Warming is still a Chinese hoax. Right?
THE LOMBOK EARTHQUAKE
“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.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, 1898)The Earth is astir. Volcanoes in Guatemala and Hawaii. Earthquakes in Indonesia, The 6.9 Lombok earthquake just killed 105. Does this have anything to do with human induced climate change? You bet it does. What we do to the surface of the Earth and the atmosphere reverberates deep in the bowels of the Earth. If you don't believe this, read Bill McGuire's “Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes.” Or you can watch this 14 minute video I put together instead.
TREATY TO PROHIBIT NUCLEAR WEAPONS: I SPOKE TO SOON
Last week I reported that in July three countries ratified the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. The number should have been four. On July 31, New Zealand also ratified the treaty. Lets hear a loud hip, hip, hooray for New Zealand!
IS THE FRIEND OF MY BEST FRIEND'S ENEMY'S FRIEND MY FRIEND OR MY ENEMY?
We've been supporting Saudi Arabia in their brutal, inhumane war against the Yemenis. Now, it turns out, we have, at least indirectly, also been supporting Saudi Arabia's good friend: al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. Think about this one! After 9/11, we set about to destroy al-Qaeda. 17 years and Trillions of dollars later, we are helping them. Such are the fortunes of War!
July 31, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THREE NEW RATIFICATIONS TO TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
July brought three new ratifications to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — all from our good neighbors to the South: Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Uruguay. That brings the total to 13, 37 shy of the 50 ratifications needed for the treaty to go into force. Kudos to all three nations. Viva Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Uruguay!
Arctic wolf spiders appear to have an awesome method of fighting Climate Change. In cold weather one of their favorite foods is springtails, a crustacean that eats fungi that grow on dead organic matter. The fungi cause the dead organic matter to decay, releasing carbon dioxide and methane, both powerful greenhouse gases. So in cold weather, the fungi have free reign; and in this way, the spiders contribute to the warming of the arctic climate.“twas an elderly mother spider
However, as the weather warms, they turn to cannibalism, eating each other and allowing the springtails to flourish and eat the fungi that would otherwise release greenhouse gases. Thus in warm weather, the spiders contribute to cooling the arctic climate.
Nature is full of complex feedback mechanisms like this. We mess with Nature's checks and balances at our own peril.
And this little tale of a species that turns to cannibalism to control a warming climate should serve as a warning to another species that appears totally unable to control its behaviors that leads to rampant Global Warming.
I find this research by Amanda Koltz of Washington University in St. Louis extremely exciting, although I must take issue with one comment she made: “Everyone loves to hate spiders.”
Personally, I find spiders very attractive in spite of having almost lost a finger to a brown recluse bite. I think Don Marquis who wrote the poem quoted above might have agreed. On completing this poem, Don Marquis's archy continues:
YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE AND YOUR CHILDREN ARE GONE“i will admit that some
It seems that wildfires get worse every year. Sometimes I hardly think that they are worth reporting on any more.“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
This year is no exception. Long hot dry spells spawn wildfires. Much of Europe in on fire, from Greece, where deadly fires swept through a fashionable resort town on the Aegean, to Sweden, where unprecedented wildfires burn north of the Arctic Circle.
California is on fire again. The deadly Carr fire in the northern Sacramento Valley spawned a fire whirl, often referred to as a firenado, where the fire burns so hot it picks up burning debris in a rotating column of air similar to a tornado. Small fire whirls are not uncommon; but fire whirls that, like the one spawned by the Carr fire, can uproot large trees and last for an hour are extremely rare.
Atmospheric scientist, Neil Lareau, remarked, “it’s not a coincidence that this is the record [hottest] July for the northern Sacramento Valley, embedded in a broader trend, and we’re going to keep seeing that.”
As of July 8, the US had lost over three million acres to wildfire. But, wait for October. Last year, California's most devastating fire on record, the Tubbs Fire, occurred in October.
Wildfires devastate our forests releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a potent Greenhouse Gas and warms the climate further creating the conditions for yet more wildfires which cause more warming.
MORE ON RUSSIA
Here's an interesting addendum from the Southern Poverty Law Center to the snippet I wrote on Russia last week.
Apparently far right-wing hate groups in Russia and the United States are working together to advance their common cause. So why aren't left-wing groups in Russia and the United States working together for Peace? Why am I hearing so much about Russian meddling in our elections instead.
Consider: If Russia was indeed responsible for helping Wikileaks publish the Democratic National Committee emails showing much wrong-doing by corporate Democrats, then they did us a great favor. We, the people, have a Right to know what shenanigans the leaders of our political parties are up to. Actually, Julian Assange and Wikileaks have denied that Russia was their source for these emails.
I stand by my conjecture from last week (which the SPLC article appears to support): Our rapprochement toward Russia is simply the beginning of the realignment of global alliances in the modern world, and likely will not presage a turn toward world peace.
PAKISTANIS REJECT US WARS AT THE POLLS
Famous former cricket star, now politician, Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was the big winner in Pakistan's parliamentary elections. Likely, the PTI will be able to make enough alliances with smaller parties to be able to form a new government for Pakistan.
Khan is a strong critic of US wars and has written:
“We became a U.S. proxy for a war against the Soviet Union when it entered Afghanistan and we allowed the CIA to create, train, and arm Jihadi groups on our soil and a decade later we tried to eliminate them as terrorists on U.S. orders. The time has come to stand firm and give a strong response to the U.S.”
I agree. Countries should not have to fight proxy wars for one another. Matter of fact, countries should not have to fight wars at all.
SUPER-WEALTHY INVESTMENT MOGULS PREPARE TO BAIL OUT OF HUMAN RACE
This article by Douglas Rushkoff describes a Q&A with five hedge-fund operators where they grilled him on how best to survive the upcoming collapse. One CEO “explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?'” (“The Event” here refers to collapse due to war, climate change, social unrest, disease or other factors.)
Rushkoff notes that these sorry excuses for human beings “were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger” — a danger which they had done much to create themselves.
In closing, Rushkoff opines, “Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together.”
This is a very important article. Please read it.
July 24, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DETENTE WITH NORTH KOREA ON AGAIN
After Mike Pompeo's disastrous visit to North Korea earlier this month where he made “gangster-like” demands; and Trumps declaration that North Korea is still an “extraordinary threat,” Trump declared that North Korea's nuclear disarmament will take time. North Korea responded by beginning to dismantle a missile site. Folks: we are making progress!
WHAT'S GOING ON WITH RUSSIA?
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin apparently got along real well at the Helsinki summit; and the pundits of all stripes are wondering: What's going on?
Thom Hartmann advances a number of conjectures:
1: Donald Trump has been a Russian agent all along.While I wouldn't discount any of the above, here's a fourth which I find far more likely. From a geopolitical standpoint, Russia would make a far better ally in a multipolar world than either Europe or China. Look at the Northern Hemisphere on a globe. Going West to East: USA, Europe, Russia, China (to the South), and back to the USA. Russia was our best ally in World War II. Europe has been waiting 60 years for the two late 20th century superpowers to decline so they can reassume what they view as their rightful position of global dominance. China has waited far longer — centuries — to reestablish its dominance.
Now I can't imagine that there aren't folks in our nation's “think tanks” who understand this; but old habits die slowly; and many still look upon Russia as our primary geopolitical enemy and Europe as our best friend. Many others are still living in a world where the one and only superpower can do whatever it likes wherever it likes. But, I think, Trump's natural affinity for “strong men” is winning out, at least for now.
Viewed in this way, detente with North Korea makes a lot of sense. A militarily strong Korean ally might help to contain China.
And it makes Trump's insistence on trashing the nuclear deal with Iran understandable. Both Europe and China would both love to have access to Iran's petroleum reserves. If Trump can't control Iran's oil, he can at least make access difficult.
Which side am I on? both and neither. While the world's great powers rearrange their alliances in a multi-polar world, an angry Nature batters us all with heat waves, hurricanes, floods, droughts and other “natural” disasters. I favor all of us working together to reduce the impact of global warming and climate change. It can't be done as long as we continue to play geopolitical games of domination.
THE WAR AGAINST CHILDREN (UPDATE)
463 parents may have been deported, leaving their children stranded here in the United States. Apparently, some parents were led to believe that if they agreed to voluntary deportation, they would be reunited with their children. Now the Trump administration is claiming once the parents have been deported they are no longer required to unite the families.
This is clear child abuse. Anyone going to jail for this? Probably not.
MISSOURI SUPREME COURT RULES FOR WIND POWER
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Public Service Commission erred in rejecting the Grain Belt Express that would bring wind power from Kansas across Missouri to the Eastern grid. The Public Service Commission must now revisit the issue and this time, we hope, will rule in favor of this much-needed transmission line.
Henry Robertson of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a Friend of the Court brief for The Sierra Club and Renew Missouri in favor of the Grain Belt Express. Robertson said, “The wind is on the Great Plains where the people aren’t. To stop climate change we have to get wind energy to the populations farther east. The Grain Belt Express addresses that need.”
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is the same public-interest law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park from commercial development in a landmark case where, for the first time since 1910, Missouri Courts ruled that users of public property have standing to sue to maintain that use.
July 17, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TRUMP AND PUTIN REFUSE TO ANSWER QUESTION ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN
While 59 nations have signed the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, the presidents of the United States and Russia which together own some 90% of the world's nuclear weapons refused to answer a question about a nuclear weapons ban. Journalist Sam Husseini was ejected from their press conference for trying to ask.
And that may be the most important event of the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki.
I am far more interested in what, if anything, the US and Russia will do to rid the world of nuclear weapons and slow or reverse global warming than I am in alleged Russian meddling in US elections. That's what big powers do. They meddle in elections — all over the world. The U.S. has meddled in 81 foreign elections since 1945. This doesn't include a multitude of coups and military interventions.
Oh, incidentally, have you ever contributed to a candidate in some other state or district? for example, Tammy Duckworth, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Elizabeth Warren. If so, you have meddled in an election. The voters in Massachusetts are supposed to choose their senator — not residents of Missouri.
Politicians are brazen about it. I get mail all the time asking me to meddle in an election on behalf of some politician who may be as far away as California. It's all perfectly legal. The Supreme Court in Citizens United has enshrined the Constitutional Right to meddle in elections.
And if you're looking for foreign meddling in our elections, take a good look at Israel. Pro-Israel entities donated a whopping $17 million to influence our 2016 elections.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
Well, it's finally getting into the mainstream media, what most of us have known for years. Climate Change is not something that might happen in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Climate Change is happening now, and people all over the world are feeling it. All the extreme weather events we have been experiencing are a result of or aggravated by climate change.
Extreme weather events have always been with us. What is different now is that they are happening everywhere, all at the same time, and lingering for long periods of time.
Floods in Japan; heat records from California to Algeria to Taiwan. Wildfires in England, and much much more.
And its only going to get worse. Temperatures and atmospheric CO2 continue to rise. Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations topped 411 ppm for the first time in May.
Friends: Sometimes I think I'm living in a sick joke (see Helen's article above) . Our world is burning all around us, largely of our own making, and the best we can do is talk about election meddling.
WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE MEDICAL CARE
Here's a story of a woman who sustained a serious injury when her leg got caught between a subway and the platform. She begged bystanders not to call an ambulance, because she couldn't afford it.
I'm wondering: Is there any other profession besides health care where once they get you in their clutches they can do pretty much whatever they want to you and then bill you whatever they like? Let me know if you think of one.
And if you can't pay, you'll be hounded for the rest of your life by bill collectors, if you're lucky. If not, you could be thrown out on the street in freezing weather in your hospital gown.
Is there a solution? Yes! single payer health insurance for all.
July 10, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NUCLEAR WEAPONS ROUNDUP
Costa Rica Ratifies Treaty On The Prohibition Of Nuclear Weapons
Viva Costa Rica! On July 5, Costa Rica joined the select few socially responsible nations that have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The other ten are: Austria, Cuba, Guyana, The Holy See (Vatican), Mexico, Palau, Palestine, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam. 39 more and the treaty goes into effect.
The People In Four NATO Nations Want To Join The Treaty
In a poll taken in Germany, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands, all NATO counties that host US nuclear weapons, YouGov found that the majority of the people, and in many cases an overwhelming majority, want US nuclear weapons out of their country and want their government to sign The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
This is a clear case where the government in these so-called democracies represents the will of the elite and not the will of the people.
Nuclear Detente With North Korea May Be Short Lived
Less than two weeks after the Singapore summit where Trump assured us that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump declared that North Korea posed an “extraordinary threat” and renewed sanctions on North Korea.
After a meeting last week between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea's Kim Yong-chol, North Korea claimed that Pompeo made “gangster-like” demands. (par for a former director of the CIA)
Get over it. North Korea has nuclear weapons, although far fewer and smaller than the United States. It would be nice if both countries would sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and get rid of their nuclear weapons. I seriously doubt either country will agree unilaterally to nuclear disarmament.
I am hopeful that this is just a temporary setback. People are demanding Peace so strongly that, I think, governments will no longer be able to ignore them.
THE WAR ON CHILDREN (UPDATE)
Today is the court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to return all children under five years of age that were illegally separated from their parents at our southern border. Not surprisingly, the Trump administrations will probably reunite far less than half of those mandated by the court.
Some of the problems seem to be that some of the parents have already been deported without their children. In other cases there is apparently no record of which child belong with which adult. The Trump administration seems to be trying to solve this problem with DNA testing (which misses cases where there is little or no blood relationship).
So I'm wondering: Is anyone going to prison for child abuse? for contempt of court? Why is it so easy to put children in prison with no due process, but so difficult to put the adults who abuse these children behind bars?
And if you think that this is just a Trumpian aberration, guess again. Chilean-American writer, Ariel Dorfman, gives us a glimpse into human zoos, past and present, from the placing of Laplanders on public display in 19th Century Germany to the modern refugee camps for those displaced by war and other forms of violence. Sadly, Dorfman misses today's most egregious example: the open air prison called Gaza which now holds close to two million people, half of whom are children, in conditions of severe depredation which you are not likely to find in any of our modern zoos.
MANCHESTER MOOR FIRES
Mother Nature is on the rampage again: heat, drought, flood and wildfires everywhere. Here's a page from the Guardian where you can link to articles about the latest climate-related disasters around the world.“There were three jovial huntsmen,
This one about England's moor fires really caught my eye: Seems they turned the moor into a tinderbox raising grouse for Britain's elite to shoot. Now the weather has turned hot and dry. Dry peat is almost pure carbon and burns so hot it's almost impossible, short of a good soaking rain, to put these moor fires out completely. Hope you gentlemen all enjoyed your driven grouse shoot.
Most of these so-called “natural” disasters are either caused directly or aggravated by human-induced climate change. But don't worry friends; it's only a Chinese hoax.
July 3, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GREENPEACE DRONE CRASHES INTO NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
In order to demonstrate how dangerous and insecure nuclear power is, Greenpeace France piloted a drone into the wall of the spent fuel pool of a nuclear power plant close to Lyon. The pool contains highly radioactive waste.
The drone was made of polystyrene, the same stuff styrofoam is made of, and posed no danger to the power plant or the workers in the plant. The drone was dressed up as Superman.
The response of the plant operators is typical: they are filling a legal complaint against Greenpeace for exposing the dangers of nuclear power plants and the incompetence of their operators to the public.
France gets about 75% of its electricity from nuclear power.
This article contains a video of the drone crashing into the wall of the spent fuel pool.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC SIGNS TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
In June, the Dominican Republic became the 59th signatory to the Treaty To Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. Viva República Dominicana!
WORLD LOSES 72.6 MILLION ACRES OF TREES IN 2017
Countries and businesses spend 100 times more on activities that destroy forests than on forest conservation, so it is not surprising that the world lost enough forests to cover the country of Italy in 2017 alone. Forests provide an important carbon sink and their loss has led to a hotter world, as the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases continues to rise precipitously.
Maybe, if the world keeps on electing progressive politicians, we can begin to turn this around and rebuild our forests.
June 26, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WAR AGAINST CHILDREN CONTINUES
There is a lot being written now about our disgusting inhumane abuse of children at our southern border, which includes separation from parents and indefinite detention in cages that resemble dog kennels.
Will Bunch points out that this is nothing new and just a continuation of policy under the Obama and Bush administrations.
Abby Zimet points out that Amerindian children in the United States were torn from their parents and sent involuntarily to boarding schools. Children of slaves were property of their master and could be and often were sold at whim.
So what's different now? Donald Trump is so crude and bombastic that our War on Children has been exposed to the whole world for what it is. And more importantly, exposed to each and every one of us to the point where we can no longer deny it, make any reasonable excuses for it or even claim that it is just a few “bad apples.”
Its an event similar to the My Lai massacre, where in one rural village US troops massacred over 400 women, children, and old men. There were many other such massacres during the Vietnam War, but My Lai was the event that exposed our genocidal policy to each and every one of us.
But, here is the danger: Don't let this be viewed as the evil machinations of one deranged dotard. This is and has been US policy, our policy, for centuries. It is way past time for self-examination. It is way past time to put an end to this brutal war against children.
June 19, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONALD TRUMP: GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Seems like the “opposition” is pretty much united in denigrating Trumps performance at the G7 meeting and the Singapore summit with North Korea; but let's give credit where credit is due.
Many point out the agreement signed with Kim Jong-un is without substance (kind of like the Paris Climate Accord; but more on that later). Well, what did they expect? Did they expect North Korea and the United States to both start decommissioning their nuclear arsenals today?
I think the fact that they emerged from the meeting as friends and didn't call each other names like “Little Rocket Man” and “Deranged Dotard” should be considered progress enough for anyone; but not the Trump opposition. On top of that the suspension of the US-South Korea military exercises, even if it turns out to be only temporary, cannot be seen as anything other than positive.
Of course, it may all evaporate tomorrow. But, then again, we may be able to build on it and finally end the 68-year-old Korean War. Certainly, the way to build on it is to talk it up, not put it down. One might think that those who denigrate the importance of the summit feel that Peace is less important than denying Trump a diplomatic victory. I disagree.
Now, let's compare this agreement to the Paris Climate Accord, another agreement without substance, whose importance depends totally on whether we can use it as a basis to build upon. The Paris Climate Accord simply states that we all agree that holding global warming to 2° C., and preferably 1.5° C., would be a good thing and we should all report on the progress we have made toward this goal. It doesn't require anybody to do anything and imposes no penalties on anyone, even for negative progress. The Accord says nothing about even trying to end the wars that are ravaging the Earth, without which there can be little progress toward anything positive.
I suspect that Peace on the Korean Peninsula would be a far more effective basis for battling global warming than anything in the Paris Accord.
Now on to the G7 meeting:
First, who elected this bunch of elitists to make economic decisions for the entire world? These are the people most responsible for creating a world dominated by a few large corporations and billionaires where billions live in grinding poverty. I'd far prefer to see the United States befriend nations like North Korea than rub elbows with this crowd. Actually, I think Trump's early exit from the G7 was rather restrained. If it had been me, I'd have flipped them the bird as I left.
So we're having a trade war. I think that may be a good thing. Seems the only ones who benefit from “free trade” are those who are already so filthy rich they don't know what to do with their money but make themselves even richer at the expense of most of the rest of the world. Maybe now nations will begin to stand up for their own people against the free-traders.
And how about Russia? Russia was thrown out of the G8 (now G7) for annexing Crimea after a bunch of G8 nations, including the United States, fomented an illegal coup and helped install a fascist anti-Russian government in The Ukraine. So let them kick us out of the G7 too. I think we may find that we have a lot more in common with Russia than we have with the (soon to be) Goofy 6 crowd. Remember that during World War II, Russia was our close ally against some of this Goofy 6 crowd.
Nothing that I have written above should be considered an attempt to whitewash the Trump administration's many crimes against humanity like separating young children from their parents and its use of and support for indiscriminate bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
But let's give credit where credit is due. This time Trump did something right.
POPE FRANCIS AND THE DEVILS
Two weeks ago Pope Francis invited the world's top fossil fuel and energy executives to the Vatican and lectured them on (their lack of) morality. While I certainly applaud the attempt, I do not think that it will be possible to reform the devils.
SCIENTISTS UNDERESTIMATE ANOTHER CLIMATE DANGER
Last week I wrote about how scientists have underestimated the weakening of the Gulf Stream which could have terrible consequences for our climate. Now it appears they have also grossly underestimated the melting of the Antarctic glaciers, which will cause sea levels to rise far more than previously predicted. I hate to denigrate climate scientists too much. They are still way ahead of climate-change deniers.
June 12, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
84-YEAR-OLD DUST-BOWL-ERA RECORD FALLS
May 2018 was the warmest May in the lower 48 states in recorded history, beating out by a full 0.7° F. a record set in 1934, during the dust-bowl years.“I'm a dust bowl refugee,
The United States is not the only place setting records for hot and dry. Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are also setting records, including hurricane strength dust storms. Here are some dust storm photos published by The Atlantic under the title: “The Strange Beauty of Sandstorms.”
Yes, there is a certain deadly beauty to dust storms and sand storms, as there is to all extreme weather events; but more importantly, they remind us of how puny we humans really are.
Northern India experienced freak dust storms last month that killed over 100. Desertification and accompanying dust and sand storms fuel instability and the refugee crisis in large parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Fueled by hot dry weather, we're experiencing dry storms in the southwest United States too.
Here is Woody Guthrie again, singing of the Great Dust Storm of April, 1935.
65 years ago, my middle school American history textbook had a short page on the dust bowl. I can remember my teacher telling us that this could not happen again, because now we are so much wiser and more knowledgeable. Oh! if she only knew. That was a time when we believed in the myth that with science and technology we will build a brave new world. Myths die slowly. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, this myth is still strong today.
One of the recurrent themes in my writing has been the relationship between Climate Change and War. Climate Change and War both fuel instability. Instability fuels Climate Change, War and other forms of extreme violence in a continuous positive feedback loop. We can see that at our borders where refugees, destitute from War, violence and Climate Change, beat at the gates. I suppose it is to be expected that we, who are most responsible for War and Climate Change, should be the least hospitable, even going so far as to separate young children from their parents in a vain attempt to keep these refugees out.“From the south land and the drought land,
I think that the difference between now and 84 years ago is both scope and intensity. War and Climate Change are now both worldwide phenomena and have progressed far beyond the levels of the dust-bowl era.
Back in April, the scientific journal, Nature, published two papers, each showing an unexpected slowing down of the Gulf Stream (AMOC, if you read the scientific journals). Pretty scary! Right? Remember that silly Hollywood movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where the Gulf Stream stops, and the northern hemisphere is enveloped in a new ice age? Well, that ain't likely to happen; but I'll tell you the really scary part: The scientific models of the Gulf Stream that climate scientists use underestimated the slow-down, big time. So what else do all their scientific climate models underestimate?“You cannot steer and control an ecosystem but you might be able to dance with one.” —Chip Ward
First, lets talk about modeling. A model is simply someone's idea of how a complex system, like the Earth's climate, will react to various stimuli, like increased input of carbon dioxide. A simulation is simply running the model on a given set of inputs, and watching where it goes. It might make more sense to say: Our best guess is that..., instead of, Our models show that ...
So, whom are we to believe? I've got a few rules of thumb. Probably the most important one is what kind of record do they have predicting complex outcomes in the past. Second is can they explain it so it makes sense. Third is who's paying the bill and what's their stake in the outcome.
Here's an example: I've been hearing every year for decades, we have to act now or we'll pass a tipping point, after which there is little hope of doing anything to prevent runaway climate change. Well, after 20 years this gets old. If you say that every year for 20 years, you've been right at best 5% of the time — hardly a record to crow about. And no one ever explains why this year? Why not last year or next year? And if we've already passed the point of no return, what's the sense in all this anyway?
Now, back to the Gulf Stream. So it's slowing down faster than scientists thought. What next? Likely it will slow down even more. Why? Because all the factors that are likely causing the slow-down, like warming of the polar region and melting of the ice, have been accelerating. Then what will happen? Likely a cooling of the North Atlantic since the Gulf Stream no longer brings as much warm water to the North Atlantic. And if that warm water stays in the tropics, likely it will add to the warming of the tropics, which likely means yet more and stronger hurricanes.
Note: I've used the word likely five times in the preceding paragraph. Also note: I did not use the word likely with the warming of the polar region and melting of the ice. It's measurable. It happened. It's still happening.
I've said this before; but I'll say it again. MY OPINION ONLY: We are well past the point of no return, and the question shouldn't be how can we avoid catastrophic climate change? but how far and fast do we fall and how hard do we hit bottom. These are important questions. If we can slow our fall, maybe we can roll when we hit bottom and avoid breaking too many bones. But if we are going to be successful; it will take all of us working together — ALL — including those thousands of refugee children we tear from their mothers' arms and the 1.8 million Palestinians locked up in the open air prison called Gaza.
Bernie Sanders put it so well when he said, “The threat of climate change is a very clear example of why we all need to pull together, we are in this together. The United States can't do it alone, Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and no one country can do this alone.”
That means we have to stop fighting and learn to work together.
DONALD TRUMP, KIM JONG-UN AND THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un got along famously at their meeting Monday night. That's a good thing. Now folks are talking about giving the two of them a Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not against that; but I'll tell you who the prize really belongs to: The Korean People — all of them. The Korean People stood up and demanded Peace. Leaders had no choice but to give it to them.“I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
May the rest of us show the same courage that the Korean people have shown and stand up and demand Peace.
June 5, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING TOWARD WORLD WAR III: BIG POWER RIVALRY ON THE ARABIAN PENINSULA
Russia will be supplying surface to air missiles to Qatar. Saudi Arabia threatens war against Qatar over the missiles and accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism.“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Hey that's a good one. Saudi Arabia has been bombing the crap out of Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, for years, with lots of help from the United States and lots of civilian casualties. By what Right do they call others terrorists.
Oh, does anyone remember Osama bin Laden's nationality? Anyone remember the nationality of 15 of the 19 terrorists that brought down the twin towers 17 years ago?
ORGANIC GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
Six months ago, I reported that Galapagos Finches were found to have evolved into a separate species in three generations (instead of the hundreds previously thought necessary by evolutionists). I opined at the time, “This is important because humanity may not have hundreds of generations left to adjust to a rapidly changing climate, largely of its own making.”“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned
Now here's another similar example: Saltwater steelhead trout have evolved into Lake Michigan fresh water trout in little more than one short century.
Isn't evolution wonderful! Nature has been genetically modifying organisms for billions of years. As far as genetic modification goes, humans are bungling oafs in comparison.
Perhaps Nature may modify a few of us so we can survive on a polluted world of our own making. Maybe Nature will even give some of us the genetic ability to eat money.
Ellicott City, MD: Another 1,000-Year FloodEllicott City, Maryland was hit two years ago with a 1,000-year flood. Last week they were hit again with a second 1,000-year flood. Bad luck? or maybe climate change. Lots of other floods happening around the world now.
Rio Bravo Del Norte (Rio Grande): Two Thousand Miles Of DryThis once mighty river has been only a trickle since April. For the river to dry up this early in the year is virtually unprecedented.
Much of the southwest United States is in severe to exceptional drought.
Hurricane Season: Off To An Early StartThe North Atlantic/Caribbean Hurricane Season is off to an early start. Late May Subtropical Storm Alberto came ashore on the Florida Gulf Coast and traveled North almost to the Canadian border killing nine. Some are predicting another terrible hurricane season in the Caribbean and North Atlantic.
Here's an interesting article on the recent increase in the intensity of hurricanes worldwide.
May 2018: Third Warmest May On RecordThe Copernicus Center has declared May 2018 as the third warmest May on record, after 2016 and 2017 respectively. The La Niña event of the past six months has officially ended and with it apparently, the somewhat cooler global temperatures that La Niña events tend to bring.
To sum up: climatewise, we are in deep doo-doo.
LAWYERS TO TRUMP: YOU CAN GO OBSTRUCT YOURSELF
In a 20 page legal letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, leaked to the New York Times, Donald Trump's attorneys opine:
“It remains our position that the President's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.” (emphasis mine)Opposition lawyers were quick to brand the memo “ludicrous;” but I disagree. I think Donald Trump should go obstruct himself.
May 29, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THREE NEW RATIFICATIONS TO THE TREATY TO PROHIBIT NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons made progress during the month of May. Palau, Austria and Vietnam have ratified the treaty bringing the total ratifications to ten. 50 are needed for the Treaty to take force. Another 48 nations have signed but not yet ratified the Treaty.
Let's hear a loud HIP-HIP-HOORAY for Palau, Austria and Vietnam.
Of the nine nuclear weapon states, only North Korea has expressed interest in nuclear disarmament; but not without adequate security safeguards.
NORTH KOREA - UNITED STATES SUMMIT MAY BE ON AGAIN
Looks like the DPRK-US summit may be on again, thanks to a smart diplomatic move by South Korean President, Moon Jae-in. Moon staged an impromptu visit to the North and met with Kim Jong-un, where they announced their purpose was the successful resurrection of the North Korea - United States summit.
Ray McGovern writes, “It is no longer a fantasy to suggest that the DMZ could evaporate just as unexpectedly and quickly as that other artifact of the Cold War did — the Berlin Wall almost three decades ago.”
INDIA THUMBS NOSE AT US SANCTIONS
India has announced that it will not honor the new US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and will continue to trade with these two petroleum-exporting nations. Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj said, “We don't make our foreign policy under pressure from other countries.”
It appears that the days when the United States could unilaterally impose economic sanctions and expect most of the world to follow suit are over.
May 22, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SCARIEST NEWS ITEM OF THE WEEK
No it's not the increased likelihood of nuclear war with North Korea, although that is scary too.
No, its not the murder of over 100 Palestinians in Gaza by Israelis, although that is scary too.
No, its not Israelis chanting “Burn Them, Shoot Them, Kill Them” referring to Palestinian demonstrators, although that is scary too.
No, its not the increased likelihood that the Middle Eastern War will expand to include Iran, although that is scary too.
No, its not the eruption of Mount Kilauea in Hawaii, although that is scary too.
No, Its not the prevalence of floods all over the world, many totally unexpected, although that is scary too.
No, its not the prediction of another monster hurricane season in the Atlantic and Carribean, although that is scary too.
No, its not the emasculation of the EPA, although that is scary too.
No, it's not that Donald Trump called refugees “animals”, although that is scary too.
No its not that ICE is tearing infants from the arms of their mothers, although that is scary too.
No, its not the new outbreak of Ebola in Africa, although that is scary too.
No, its not the deep cuts in the budget to combat infectious disease, although that is scary too.
No its not the latest school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas , although that is scary too.
No, its not that our multi-trillion dollar military has fought many wars and destroyed many countries, but hasn't won a single war since 1945, although that is scary too.
No, it's not that 42 billionaires control more wealth than 3.7 billion people, although that is scary too.
Well, What is it? Tired of guessing games? Here 'tis!
CFCs, which were banned under the Montreal Protocol of 1987, are making a comeback and inhibiting the regeneration of Earth's protective ozone layer; and no one knows exactly why. The Montreal Protocol is the gold standard of international pollution agreements. Atmospheric pollution sleuths (whose budgets in the United States are being slashed) believe someone in East Asia is cheating on the Montreal Protocol and they wonder what, if anything, they can do about it.
The dangers of continued use of CFCs are clear. They destroy the Earth's ozone layer which absorbs deadly ultraviolet radiation. The benefits of not using them are also clear. The ozone layer has been recovering. Furthermore there are alternatives available which are not so dangerous.
So why would someone be manufacturing CFCs? Its cheap and easy and a good way to make a few bucks. Same reason we fight wars. Same reason we destroy our environment.
Well, what can we do about it? Find the perpetrators and make them stop? Think of whoever is doing this as the al-Queda of the pollution world. They are unlikely to wave a red flag and say here we are; Likely they are paying off the local gendarmes, bureaucrats and warlords. Folks like this flourish in a world full of failed states, warlordism and corruption. And if necessary they can always move to a more hospitable location — kind of like the opium trade.
This is the sign of the times. The powerful have lost control and made themselves irrelevant.
The way to stop this, perhaps the only way to stop this kind of behavior is for everyone to be treated with respect and have their basic needs met. Then everyone has a vested interested in keeping the established order afloat. But the world seems to be going in the opposite direction.
I know many are worried about the rise of authoritarianism and fascism. I wouldn't worry too much about an Orwellian world. I think an anarchy is far more likely — a lawless world, where for all its might, the established order is powerless
So why is this worse then all the other atrocities listed above? Because we've lived with the above list of atrocities for a long time. It's simply more of the same. Here we have something new. Something we thought was secure is being taken from us.
Of course, it's all one in the same. It all flows from a society steeped in violence, greed and corruption.
What to do? End the violence, greed and corruption and many good things will follow.
Here is a judgment from the I Ching that describes this situation well. The emphasis is mine.
May 15, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: NICARAGUA, IRAN, OLIVER NORTH, JOHN BOLTON AND MORE
A reader suggests an article on the return to the news of Nicaragua, Iran and Oliver North.
Over 30 years ago, the Iran-Contra scandal broke. The Reagan administration sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of US hostages held in Iran. Proceeds from the sale of arms were then funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras, a group of terrorist organizations engaged in drug smuggling and gun running, who were also fighting against the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua: illegal, perhaps even treasonous, on both accounts. Oliver North, recently named President of the NRA, oversaw operations. John Bolton, now Donald Trump's National Security Advisor was then Assistant Attorney General. Bolton refused to hand over subpoenaed documents to Congress and did his best to torpedo the congressional investigation.
The connection today may not be quite so clear.
As National Security Advisor, John Bolton is pushing the United States toward another Middle Eastern War with Iran. Abrogating the Iran Nuclear Agreement was only the first step.
Oliver North, as President of the NRA says Parkland kids who watched their classmates mowed down by gunfire are engaged in “intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking” and compares protests against the NRA to Jim Crow racism and violence.
Nicaragua has been pretty stable lately, up until April when the government imposed an increase in social security taxes and a reduction in benefits. This austerity measure was met with popular protests, which soon morphed into protests against the government. Violence ensued. Protests continue in spite of the cancelling of these austerity measures.
Today, peace talks which include the government, the opposition and other stake holders began under the auspices of the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishops. The government has also announced that the Inter American Commission of Human Rights will investigate the deaths of several demonstrators that have occurred over the past month.
In 1990 the US was successful in fomenting regime change in Nicaragua through an economic blockade which included the mining of the Nicaraguan port of Corinto and support for the Contra War. Many see the dirty hands of the CIA involved in today's unrest too.
One of the results of further unrest and violence in Nicaragua will likely be an outflux of Nicaraguan emigrants headed for the US border. Immigration to the United States from Nicaragua is quite small compared to its less stable, more violent northern neighbors: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; but that could change.
Iran seems determined to keep the nuclear agreement in place in spite of the withdrawal of the United States. I hope they are successful and I hope that Europe, China and Russia back the agreement to the fullest extent possible. Donald Trump's attempt to escalate war in Korea appears, for now, to have backfired. Let's hope this one backfires too. China may hold the key to keeping this important international agreement alive.
Sadly those most responsible for Iran-Contra got off without jail time in spite of some felony convictions. In fact, they were rewarded. So now here they are, back again to foment more violence and do more damage.
ISRAEL: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
This is unbelieveable. Israelis firing live ammunition indiscriminately at unarmed Gazans protesting non-violently against the Israeli blockade and for the right to return to their ancestral homelands which are now in Israel. There are approximately two million people crammed into Gaza's 141 square miles without adequate access to water, food, medicines and other humanitarian necessities and virtually no possibility of leaving. Almost 100 dead and thousands wounded in the past few weeks.
Here in the United States, which funds this atrocity to the tune of billions of dollars each year, only Bernie Sanders and a few other legislators have the guts to speak out against these crimes against humanity.
May 8, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CLIMATE CHANGE ACCELERATES
I've been updating my 120-month climate graph religiously every month, although it has been a number of months since I have written about it for this newsletter. Here are some interesting statistics, all according to the temperature anomaly data as reported by NOAA.
1. Each month over the last ten years has been over 0.4° C warmer than the 20th century average for months of the same name.If that is not enough to make you think seriously about accelerating global warming consider that average monthly CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa topped 410 ppm in April 2018 for the first time ever since record keeping at Mauna Loa began in 1958. (The April 1958 average was 317 ppm)
And look at what's happening on the ground. Extreme weather events involving flooding and heavy rains are up 50% over the past decade and 400% since 1980. Think about the 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Last Saturday, Ankara, Turkey experienced flash flooding “like never before.”
In Late April, a flash flood in Israel killed nine hikers on a pre-army course. (By contrast, no Israeli casualties have been reported in 5 weeks of the Palestinian Great March of Return during which Israel has killed at least 43 unarmed Palestinians. Nor has Iran killed a single Israeli during this period.)
Other extreme weather events involving drought, storms and heat-waves have also increased, doubling since 1980. Think about the recent six year California mega-drought that ended last year amid torrential rains and flash flooding.
The Middle East and South Asia have also endured unprecedented flooding, drought and heat, sparking wars, massive movement of refugees and instability. Middle Eastern and South Asian wars have cost the United States a whooping $4.3 trillion so far, with trillions more to come.
Nawabshah, Pakistan set a record this year for the highest April temperature ever recorded in Eurasia (and possibly the entire world), 122.36° F.
And that's not all. Consider the melting of glaciers and ice caps, weakening of the gulf stream, and the drying up of a 140 mile wide band of prime agricultural land across North America.
So are we doomed? Not unless we fail to act. Action is possible. Three countries: Scotland, Portugal and Costa Rica are now on virtually 100% renewable energy. Suppose the rest of the world followed suit?
But effective action to preserve what is still preservable appears less likely every month. As Mayer Hillman points out, it would require international cooperation and (in spite of the Korean breakthrough) there seems to be far too little of that. Our own president has reneged on two very important international agreements (Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate agreement). Who is going to trust us now?
As the climate continues to warm, there will be winners and losers. Humans are among the big losers. We have lost prime agricultural land and fresh water resources. Likely we will be losing a lot more in the near future.
A big winner is the San Quintin kangaroo rat, back from 30 years of presumed extinction. When agriculture failed in the Baja California peninsula due to the Great California Mega-drought, the San Quintin kangaroo rat made a surprise comeback from near extinction.
Here is a poem for the San Quintin kangaroo rat.
Can humanity also return from near extinction? I won't be around to find out; but I hope our species can learn to live in Harmony with each other and all of God's creatures. Earth's climate changes constantly. Often life forms are the prime-movers of climate change. 2.5 billion years ago it was cyanobacteria which produced free oxygen, a very corrosive gas without which humans can't live. In the Anthropocene (present) it is humanity that is driving climate change.
There have been times in Earth's history, like the Eocene Epoch, when temperatures and CO2 concentrations soared far higher than our models now predict and life seems to have thrived. So likely, life on Earth will continue. But the survival of genus homo is far from assured. The sooner we face up to this crisis, the better our chances.
April 30, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ANYONE REMEMBER DOUMA?
Anyone remember Douma? — the alleged chemical attack supposedly carried out by the Syrian government? If you've forgotten, you can't be blamed. After all, that was over three weeks ago and the news media has gone on to other atrocities.
Robert Fisk was (again) the first Western reporter on the scene. He talked to a Syrian doctor, who believes that symptoms exhibited were consistent with hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) and could have other causes besides chemical weapons. Shouldn't we have waited for an independent evaluation?
And suppose damage was shown to be caused by chemical weapons? Who was responsible? Stephen Kinzer gives us a few examples of false-flag operations used as casus belli.
And what have we accomplished by bombing Syria? We destroyed another pharmaceutical plant. Pharmaceuticals seem to be one of our favorite targets. 20 years ago, the US bombed and totally destroyed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, again alleging chemical weapon production with very little, if any, hard evidence. I suppose denying access to pharmaceuticals passes in Washington for protecting civilians, although the big winners are the multinational pharmaceutical corporations like Merck and Bayer.
And just who empowered the USA, UK and France to bomb anyone they like, any time they like, without presenting a shred of evidence, much less a trial?
So who should we believe? It may be best not to believe anyone, and certainly not anyone in power. Follow the $$$.
PIVOT TO IRAN
Donald Trump and friends appear to have failed in their attempt to escalate the War on the Korean Peninsula (largely because Donald Trump scared the bejeezus out of the Koreans, all of them, that he'd start a nuclear war). Koreans are now on the verge of making Peace and possibly re-unifying Korea. Trump and friends are looking for another War to start or escalate. It looks like they have chosen Iran. Israel and Saudi Arabia are ecstatic!
We made a deal a few years ago with Iran and a bunch of other countries which included ending the possibility of Iran joining the nuclear weapon state's club. Trump and friends are doing their best to scuttle the agreement, which seems to mean that they would welcome a nuclear Iran (and likely a nuclear war too!).
So, why do we need another War? Well, we've spent trillions on our military. What a shame it would be to let all that money go to waste without fighting a war. John Johns and Trita Parsi point out that we are now prepared to hire out our military to the highest bidder, which appears to be Saudi Arabia. Maybe this is what's meant by “America First.”
Two weeks ago, Bolivia became the 58th nation to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Bolivia was also the only non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to vote to condemn the recent bombing of Syria by the USA, UK and France.
THE DRYING OUT OF MIDDLE AMERICA
The boundary between the dry plains to the west and the more humid eastern United States has shifted 140 miles to the East over the past century. It is likely to shift even further to the East over the coming century. This spells trouble for agriculture in the central US and Canada and all who rely on it.
In the wake of global climate change, other locations, such as California, Capetown, and Mumbai have been plagued by exceptionally strong drought in recent years which may be fast becoming their new normal.
April 24, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THREE WOMEN ELECTED TO ROLLA CITY COUNCIL
Earlier this month, the people of Rolla elected three women to that former bastion of male supremacy, The Rolla City Council. A big thank you and congratulations to Ann Murphey, Jody Eberly and Tiffany Henry for successfully re-integrating our city government.
A year ago, when Susan Eudaly's retirement left Rolla without female representation on council, I gave a short presentation reminding the council that somewhere around 50% of their constituency was female. My presentation drew strenuous objections from this all-male body:
“Think about what you're saying, Tom.” —Mayor Lou Magdits
“We still represent everybody.” —speaker uncertain
“It was their choice.” —Jim Williams
“Their were five uncontested elections.” —Brian Woolley
“My wife would be happy to tell you that she's tickled to death that I'm here and she's not.” —Don Morris
Morris's comment drew loud guffaws from most members of the all-male council and a further comment from another male council member, “I got another wife that will say that.”
Apparently, not all of Mr. Morris's constituents thought his comment was funny. This April they sent him home to his wife and replaced him with Ms. Jody Eberle who garnered 59% of the vote to Morris's 41%.
You can watch a video of my presentation to Council last April here, starting at 1:27:00 and ending 1:30:10. A couple of notes:
1. The Carolyn I refer to is attorney Carolyn Buschjost who was attending the meeting as attorney for the City.Here's a suggestion for the ladies on council: Stick together. Form a woman's caucus. Otherwise they will turn you into rubber stamps or pick you off one at a time like they did to Donna Hawley. These men play dirty pool.
ADDENDUM TO LAST WEEK'S SNIPPET ON THE WAR AGAINST SEX
Here's an (incomplete) list of federal political sex scandals from Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump. It includes Newt Gingrich, Al Franken, Dennis Hastert, John Conyers, Roy Moore, and many many others. Unfortunately the compiler of this list neglected to include Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.
Here's one of my favorites: Representative Scott DesJarlais, “while running on a pro-life platform, made his ex-wife have two abortions, and tried to persuade a mistress who was his patient, into an abortion as well.” And he's still representing Tennessee's fourth district!
Two more of my favorites: Florida Rep. Mark Foley resigned amid accusations of sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage male congressional pages and New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was convicted of sending sexually explicit photos of himself to a 15-year-old girl and was made to sign the sexual offenders register.
Bill Clinton's blow job is small zucchini compared to some of these guys.
This list makes for some pretty spicy reading; but more importantly, it makes clear that this is not just a few “bad apples.” Washington sports a culture of hypocrisy, corruption and sexual abuse that cuts clean to the genitalia. And likely this list is only the tip of the iceberg.
Oh, and the latest: Donald Trump recommended to James Comey putting journalists in jail and raping them so they'll divulge their sources. James Comey laughed.
So who the heck are these perverts to make laws about sexual behavior for the rest of us? Why don't they clean up their own act instead?
You can read the updated article in entirety here.
CONGRATULATIONS SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH!
Last Monday Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first US Senator to give birth while in office. Her daughter, Maile Pearl, became the first infant on the senate floor as mother cast an important vote Thursday.
While the Senate passed a resolution unanimously to allow Senator Duckworth to bring her baby onto the senate floor; it was not without some complaining.
Senator Tom Cotton thought new parents should be exiled to the cloakroom. Orrin Hatch mused: What if we have ten babies on the floor. One pundit worried that Ms. Duckworth might “weaponize that baby to affect legislative decision-making.”
“Weaponize the baby?” Maybe that means that Maile Pearl might remind some senators that they are supposed to represent ALL their constituents, even those too young to vote. Maybe she could teach some senators that providing adequate health-care and nutrition to all babies and mothers is more important than providing more profits to the health care industry. Maybe she could teach the Senate that babies in an affluent society should have a Right not to grow up in poverty. Maybe she could teach the Senate that babies have a Right not to be torn from their mother's arms over questions of citizenship. Or maybe she could teach that children have a Right to safe gun-free schools or that teachers have a Right to a fair salary. She could even teach that babies all over the world have a Right not to have bombs dropped on them.
And if there were ten mature babies on the Senate floor, they might provide a positive example to Ms. Duckworth's less mature colleagues in the Senate, who might even start to grow up.
April 17, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WE DODGED ANOTHER BULLET (BUT JUST BARELY)
When I went to bed Friday night, I wasn't sure whether I would wake up Saturday. Friday night the US started bombing Syria and Russia had vowed to retaliate. This could have been the big one. Fortunately, it was just bluster on the part of Donald Trump, who launched a few missiles, and then, like others before him, bragged “mission accomplished.” Russia limited it's retaliation to shooting down a few missiles; so I'm here to write my column again today. Next time we may not be so lucky.
I think people are beginning to realize just how close to World War III we are. Last Thursday we had more visitors at the peace vigil than I can remember ever having before; and all with positive things to say.
We are at the Post Office every Thursday, Noon to 1:00. Come join us or just stop by and visit for a while.
THEY AIN'T MARCHING ANYMORE
Rumor has it that Koreans, both North and South, are hammering out the details to officially end the Korean War which has been going on for 68 years: perhaps the world's second longest extant war after Palestine.
Meanwhile Stephen Kinzer explains why the United States is working overtime to keep all these wars going, and inventing new ones in the process.
The title of this snippet comes from the Phil Ochs song, I Ain't Marching Anymore.
WAR AGAINST DRUGS; WAR AGAINST SEX; WAR AGAINST ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL
The War Against Drugs was a total failure. It meted out long prison sentences to non-violent, mostly minority, folks who were doing nothing more than getting high, while the capitalists who were making big bucks off of drugs kept raking in the dough.
The War Against Afghanistan was a boon for the drug trade. By 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan, opium poppy production was at a low of less than 20,000 acres. By 2017 it had soared 4,000% to over 800,000 acres. War is great for business! That's why we fight so many wars. If there was no money to be made in War, we wouldn't fight them.
Now that more and more folks are catching on, that we never should have fought a war on drugs in the first place, it's time for another war against a different social pastime. Enter, the War Against Sex! (and by extension, the War Against Women).
Actually this war has been going on for quite some time and includes the War Against Contraception (If you have sex, expect to get pregnant), the War Against Abortion (If you get pregnant, expect to give birth) and the War Against the Social Safety Net (and if you have a child, expect to raise her in poverty or have her confiscated by the state).
The latest volley in the War Against Sex is the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act for which many politicians, including our own Claire McCaskill, take credit, and the closing down of Backpage, a favorite online marketplace for sex workers.
There have been many societies that have attempted to eradicate sex or drugs (outside of proscribed state-controlled limits). All have failed; and very likely all future attempts will fail too. There are limits to state power.
Some will tell you that closing down Backpage was necessary to fight under-age sex trafficking; but there are much more effective ways to control under-age sex trafficking than closing down an online marketplace; just as there are far better ways to control the use of dangerous substances than to put millions of non-violent small-time marijuana users behind bars; and there are far more effective ways of bringing the perpetrators of the 9/11 disaster to justice than to bomb the crap out of one of the poorest countries in the world for 16 years running.
Here's an article from the women's fashion magazine, The Cut, detailing in their own words how seven sex workers have been negatively impacted by the closing of Backpage.
If it wasn't for how this will hurt folks already living on the edge, it would make a great laugh. Think about it! The DC establishment fighting a War Against Sex? Why, Washington is chock full of whores, pimps, johns, gigolos, sexual predators and other deviants. We have even had a White House communications director who proclaimed proudly (and probably falsely) that he was “not trying to s*** his own c***”. (Now that's what I call communicating!) The President, in his own words, has boasted that he is a sexual predator, although he appears senile to me. (I think Kim Jong-un pegged him perfectly when he called him a deranged dotard.)
Jefferson City is not far behind Washington. Missouri boasts a governor who has been indicted for felony privacy invasion, allegedly photographing his lover in the nude and blackmailing her with the photos. Quite likely a first! Hey, we're not called the Show-Me State for nothing.
So why do we look down on sex workers? Why are brain workers considered so much better than sex workers? A good sex worker will give her clients enough pleasure that they will come back for more. I have only once been accused of teaching a pleasurable class. Here are the details:
When I first entered the profession, I taught a class in “computer appreciation.” I had a student who would rarely miss a class and always sat front row center, but never turned in an assignment or took a test. Toward the end of the semester he dropped the course; but kept coming to class. The same thing happened the following semester. Being curious, I asked him, "Hey, what's going on?" He responded, “Dr. Sager, you are a trip. I love getting stoned and watching you lecture. Can I take your class again next semester?”
Sex workers:1 ; brain workers:0.
While I can't speak for sex workers in general, I wouldn't imagine that a sex worker would feel guilty about crimes against humanity committed by a client outside of their professional relationship. Me? I've had students go to work for the military-industrial complex. Every time I read of a child being blown up by a computer-guided bomb, I think, maybe if I had gone into sex work instead of computer science, that child would still be alive.
Sex workers:2; brain workers:0.
And I wouldn't imagine that a sex worker would feel guilty about a client's anti-social behavior outside of their professional relationship. Me? A former student of mine went on to be a founder of Twitter, likely the most socially destructive computer system ever developed.
Sex workers:3; brain workers:0.
Let's stop here. Maybe instead of closing down Backpage, they should have closed down Communications of the Association for Computer Machinery.
Perhaps this snippet has whetted your appetite. If so, you may enjoy Le Balcon (The Balcony), a play by Jean Genet that confounds illusion and reality leaving the audience unsure which is real and which is illusion: the brothel where the play takes place or the world outside.
April 10, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
COLLAPSE AND DISSOLUTION: COMMENTARY ON AN ARTICLE BY RANA DASGUPTA
At the time of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent implosion of the former Soviet Empire, I can recall listening to the crowing of cold warriors about how “We won the war.” I can also remember the promise of a Peace Dividend which never materialized as our leaders planned the remaking of a world in which the one superpower now reigned supreme. I can also recall saying things like, “Don't count your chickens, we may be next.”
That was less than 30 years ago — less than a blink of an eye as geological time goes. And look where we are now! Our entire global society has come unglued. Nation-states are failing. Demagogues and dictators are everywhere. The world is embroiled in Perpetual War, and Violence reigns supreme.
Inequality grows without bounds. The rich get richer as the poor get poorer and those in between get fewer and fewer. The Earth itself has become a commodity to be exploited as desired by those with the wealth and power to do so.
Here is a rather long article from The Guardian by Rana Dasgupta which attempts to analyze “the demise of the nation state.” While there is much in this article I disagree with, it is definitely worth the read.
Dasgupta points to loss of control of wealth by nation-states, as the free movement of capital from place to place reigns supreme. Whether Barack Obama really intended to stem the rise of inequality, and whether Donald Trump was ever serious about draining the swamp are moot points. Controlling wealth is now beyond the ability of even the President of the United States.
Meanwhile, people are unable to follow capital. The southern border of the US becomes increasingly fortified to keep people out. Israel has created an open-air prison called Gaza containing 1.8 million inmates, about half being children. Even protesting this condition is enough to get you killed. And 65 million refugees flow from failed states, many dying in the attempt to reach a new land where they can build a new life.
As Dasgupta remarks: “Citizenship is itself the primordial kind of injustice in the world. It functions as an extreme form of inherited property and, like other systems in which inherited privilege is overwhelmingly determinant, it arouses little allegiance in those who inherit nothing. ... 97% of citizenship is inherited, which means that the essential horizons of life on this planet are already determined at birth.”
As the world descends further into gangsterism, “the true extent of our insecurity will be revealed as the relative power of the US further declines, and it can no longer do anything to control the chaos it helped create.”
Please consider reading this article. Although long, it is certainly worthwhile.
April 3, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SOUTH KOREAN K-POP VISITS NORTH KOREA
South Korean k-pop music groups were well received in North Korea as relations between the two Koreas thawed further ahead of Korean summit later this month. Kim Jong-un loved the concert. This is a most positive development for peace.
PIPELINE PROTESTERS NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF NECESSITY
Judge Mary Ann Driscoll allowed each of 13 pipeline protesters to explain to the court why they were motivated to take part in actions to stop a Massachusetts pipeline. She then ruled that all 13 were not guilty, because their actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm.
Defendant Tim DeChristopher, who served 21 months in prison for bidding at a 2008 federal gas and oil land lease auction which was later found to be illegal, said they “asked the judge to recognize that evidence was out there—that it's clear across our society the severity of climate change, the degree to which the government response has been a failure, and the degree to which regular folks like us have a necessity to act to prevent this harm.”
To my knowledge, this is the first time a US court has ruled in favor of climate protesters by reason of necessity. This is a ground-breaking case.
THE KING WHO TRIED TO CLEAN THE MOON
As the US ramps up its propaganda against Iran and attempts to scuttle a very important international agreement on nuclear weapons, I offer this reading of an Iranian folk tale about a king who tried to clean the moon. The story may make you think of Donald Trump.
March 27, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ON GUN VIOLENCE
On February 20, I wrote, “I think Parkland might have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.” It appears this statement was correct. As Helen details above, a probable 1.25 million people marched this weekend to end gun violence, most of them young people.
So far, their demands are rather small and subdued: pass a few common-sense laws controlling the availability of fast-firing large-capacity guns. Given the cool reception they have received in the Halls of Power, I would expect these demands to escalate; and indeed, why shouldn't they? After all, we old-timers have stolen their future and squandered their inheritance.
A battle between age and youth can only have one outcome. We've been there before. How little we learned.
HOORAY FOR PALESTINE AND VENEZUELA! — SIXTH AND SEVENTH NATIONS TO RATIFY THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Last week Palestine joined Cuba, Guyana, The Holy See (Vatican), Mexico and Thailand in ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and just today, Venezuela ratified the treaty too. Palestine's ratification is particularly note-worthy as Palestine suffers under an illegal Israeli occupation that has gone on for over 50 years.
Israel is one of the nine nuclear weapons states, all of which refuse to sign The Treaty and rid the world of the most horrendous of all weapons.
It seems that everyone has something to say about successful actress and movie star, Stormy Daniels (née Stephanie Clifford). Not wishing to be left out, I photo-collaged this cartoon.
I've written before about walls; but today I offer a reading of Margaret Leaf and Ed Young's “Eyes of the Dragon.” It's a story of how a village in ancient China sought security by building a wall. The illustrations are awesome.
March 20, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AWESOME SPEECH BY BERNIE SANDERS
Bernie is not known for giving anti-war speeches; but his speech yesterday on the 15th anniversary of the illegal US invasion of Iraq was absolutely awesome. It's posted here on Common Dreams. If you don't want to read the whole speech, here are a few highlights:
“People in my country, the United States, and all over the world are sick and tired of spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, war planes, missiles, bombs, and tanks.”CHINA AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Here's a link to me reading Sara Pennypacker's “Sparrow Girl” to my grandchildren. “Sparrow Girl” tells the story of one of China's worst environmental disasters from the point of view of a little girl who saves seven sparrows during China's 1958 “War on the Sparrows.”
And here is a report on China's efforts to reduce air pollution. They appear to have made phenomenal progress.
CRIME OF FASHION
Along with fossil fuels, nuclear energy and animal husbandry: here's another dirty, environmentally unfriendly industry: Fashion. What can you do? Make your own clothes, buy at Community Thrift Store or Goodwill and continue to wear your old clothes. Can you think of other possibilities?
March 13, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: CHINA
A reader writes: “My experience of going to China, while exhilarating was that there is a ton of poverty there. Travel guides complained of working 7 days a week and a few were asking me to help smuggle them to America. While they were proud of their heritage, they'd had it with their government.”
My response: This is my understanding too, although I have not been back to China since 1981. After the “Cultural Revolution,” China embarked on a program of “Learning from the West.” The problem was they learned all the wrong things. The result was out-of-control economic growth in which the benefits went mostly to a few. Many lost their safety net, and ended up worse off than before. The environment suffered tremendously. Pollution soared off the charts and public health suffered.
I think Xi Jinping is attempting to reverse this. Will he succeed? I don't know. But, succeed or not, I certainly give him credit for trying. Is he becoming a “dictator?” I suspect he is. I doubt he could succeed otherwise. There are too many powerful forces arrayed against him. I see much of Mao Zedong in him.
Without Mao there would not be a China such as we know it. Defeating Japan in World War II might have proved far more difficult, had it not been for Mao and the Peoples Liberation Army. Mao was a firm believer in The People. In proclaiming the Cultural Revolution (~1966-1976), he did an end-run around the bureaucrats and intellectuals, going directly to the People. Universities were shuttered and professors sent to the countryside to learn what it's like to have to do hard physical labor for a living. (As a retired “perfesser,” I can tell you that this was not a bad idea, although I think China overdid it.) I see much of Chairman Mao in Xi Jinping.
In this article from the Economist, the author complains that China is becoming a dictatorship. What the author really means is that China is not accepting its proper place in the global economic order. Whereas for decades China has amassed great wealth and power by processing garbage from the US and supplying Wal-mart with cheaply made consumer goods, China now intends to become a leader in many critical fields such as super-computing and artificial intelligence, and in the process give its people a better livelihood and tackle its pollution problem.
This is not a bad idea. I don't think any country ought to have to become a “shithole” country and process garbage for its wealthy neighbors.
FROM OUR READERS: GLOBAL WARMING
The same reader also remarks: “As to the Global Warming screed, history shows us that the 800's to about the 1200's mini-warming spell brought pioneers to the formerly frozen tundra. There they settled and farmed. They even had a name for their newly found home-Greenland.”
The Norse Greenland colony, 10th through 15th Century, is a case study in what happens when people ignore environmental considerations and refuse to change their ways and live in harmony with nature. In the end there were no survivors — not one. And as Jared Diamond concludes his case study of the Greenland Norse in Collapse: “Thus, Norse society's structure created a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole. ... Ultimately, though, the chiefs found themselves without followers. The last right that they obtained for themselves was the privilege of being the last to starve.”
Diamond also opines that “We modern Americans should not be too quick to brand them as failures, when their society survived in Greenland for longer than our English-speaking society has survived so far in North America.” Let's not let this happen to us!
Incidently, as the fourth graph at my Climate Graph's page shows, the much-vaunted Medieval Warming Period was really just a tiny bump in a 7,000 year period of falling global temperatures from around 5000 BCE to the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850 CE. The rise in global temperatures over the past 165 years as been orders of magnitude faster than at the start of the Medieval Warming Period.
DONALD TRUMP TAKES CREDIT FOR THAW IN KOREAN RELATIONS
And well he should! Donald Trump is so outrageous that he tends to unite everybody against him. In this case, the Koreans, both North and South, have concluded that their best interests lie in improved relations. Kim Jung-un has even agreed in theory to nuclear disarmament if the security of his nation can be assured.
HOORAY FOR KAZAKHSTAN! — 57TH NATION TO SIGN THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The nine nuclear weapons states still refuse to sign The Treaty.
RUSSIA UNVEILS MODERNIZATION OF ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS
With a fraction of our military budget, Russia has developed weapons like the drone nuclear submarine which will likely be able to survive a US first strike. Thus, we seem to be headed into another MAD generation, where you can annihilate us, but we can surely annihilate you back. Insane? Yes! Nuclear disarmament would be a far better choice for everyone.
March 6, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BORED FOREIGNERS WITH FULL STOMACHS
“the greatest contribution towards the whole of human race, made by China, to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger ... There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?” —Xi Jinping, Feb. 2009A reader writes in:
“Whether Xi will prove to be a real environmentalist is a moot point, but it certainly seems that he is becoming a dictator. Personally I believe that other policy imperatives will prevent him from doing any environmental good. Talk is cheap.”Huhhh? Whether the chief executive of the world's most populous country and greatest emitter of greenhouse gases proves to be a real environmentalist is a moot point??? I would say whether he turns out to be an environmentalist is far far more important than whether he turns out to be a dictator; but I'm afraid that the US press sides whole-heartedly with this reader.
But, let's give credit where credit is due. Whatever the outcome, China deserves credit for at least trying to move toward a more harmonious relationship with Nature, while we here in the United States move in the opposite direction.
Will China succeed? It partially depends on us. Environmental degradation is a world-wide problem beyond the ability of any one country to solve. I think we should be cheering the Chinese on and trying to bring our own country on board, rather than pointing fingers.
At this point, the problem of environmental degradation may be beyond solution. There are some things that “all the King's horses and all the King's men [cannot put together again];” and I think that the climate which I grew up in 75 years ago is one of them. As the native Greenlander quoted by Robert Koehler says: “The Old People of Greenland have told us, since the sixties, this time it’s too late to stop it . . . Your religion, your money and your politics cannot stop the melting of the Big Ice.”
And neither can our Science. As goes the Arctic, so goes the world. But, nevertheless, we must do what we can, little as it may be. China says it will do its part. Let's respond that we will also do our part.
February 27, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEVELOPING AN ECOLOGICAL CIVILIZATION
“Man and nature form a community of life; we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways, and protect it. Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.”We'll begin this snippet with a short quiz. Who spoke the above quotation? Hint: It was not Donald Trump.
Answer: Xi Jinping, President of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, October 2017
I've been intending to write about China for some time; but it always seemed there were more pressing events to write about. But this week two events caught my eye and said to me: This is the week you will write about China.
“The modernization that we pursue is one characterized by harmonious coexistence between man and nature.”Reading this, you might think that the environmental portion of President Xi's speech was written by Greenpeace. Is China serious about this? I suspect it is.
In their rush to “develop,” China has made some terrible mistakes. The campaign to increase grain production by killing sparrows was an unmitigated disaster. Air pollution in Chinese cities has reached legendary proportions. And China has surpassed the United States to become the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gases.
Nevertheless, in the 40 years since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has become the second largest economy in the world and has assumed leadership in some important areas, like super computing and artificial intelligence. So, having beat the West at its own game of “economic development,” perhaps, over the next 40 years, China will transform itself into the world's first ecological superpower.
This will not be easy. It is far better not to make a mess in the first place, than to try to clean it up later. But China has succeeded before in ways that few in the West have thought possible. I think the Chinese are quite likely to succeed again.
Like the United States and most other nations, China was a class of leeches who have grown fat on “economic development” at the expense of the people and the environment; and a cadre of politicians and civil servants who enable them. However, I suspect that China will find it far easier to bring wealth and corruption under control than we have. They have done it before; they can do it again.
Meanwhile, others, who do not take controlling corruption and living in harmony with Nature seriously, will be left behind.
So, what are we to do, now that China will not accept our contaminated recyclables?I have three suggestions:
A note on schistosomiasisWhen I was young — oh — many, many years ago, I was most impressed by the story of how China, under Mao Zedong, eradicated schistosomiasis. The whole population in infected areas was mobilized to kill the snails that carried the disease. It's amazing what people can accomplish, if they work together under effective leadership.
Unfortunately, with China's rush to industrialize, many important aspects of society like public health were neglected; hence, the return of schistosomiasis to China. China is now paying more attention to public health, and the incidence of schistosomiasis has fallen. However, there is still much room for improvement. And with the warming climate, it is likely that the range and incidence of tropical parasites like schistosoma will again be on the rise.
And one final thought: instead of complaining about China, let's try to become an ecological superpower too. Two ecological superpowers would certainly be better than one. And if China and the United States were to work together to clean up the world, the chances of success would likely increase ten fold.
Some things you can do to make recycling more effective
February 20, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I think Parkland might have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. 17 dead and 15 wounded in a school shooting where the confessed perpetrator apparently had a history of racism and mental illness. Many are clamoring for gun control legislation, which I favor. Decreasing the availability of semi-automatic firearms could not but decrease the probability of mass shootings of which we have experienced 46 in the United States, so far in 2018 — 46 mass shootings; 90 dead; 163 wounded.
Our children have a right to feel safe in their schools. I agree. Other people's children have a right to feel safe in their schools too. So what about Puerto Rico, where in the wake of Hurricane Maria the school system is about to be sold off to Wall Street for a song. What about Palestine, where school children are likely to wake up to find their schools occupied by armed Israeli settlers. What about Iraq and Afghanistan which used to have excellent school systems until we turned the land into a war zone. What about North Korea, where 60,000 children are at risk of starvation due to sanctions.
Is it not arrogant to demand safety for our children, while we perpetrate mayhem on the children of other lands? What we do to children in far off lands will almost certainly come 'round 180 degrees to our children — in fact, it already has.
Prevalence of firearms, I think is a symptom. The disease is a culture of violence and greed. I suspect whatever legislation will be forthcoming, will likely treat the symptom, leaving the disease to spread further.
When I ran for US Congress in 2000, the second most common question I received concerned my position on gun control. (The most common had to do with abortion.) My answer was we certainly need gun-control and we need to start with the most dangerous weapons of all — nuclear weapons. I proposed negotiating a complete and verifiable nuclear arms ban with all other current and would-be nuclear powers. Sadly, I finished last with less than 1% of the vote.
Today such a treaty is on the horizon; but the nuclear powers all balk at signing it.
Bottom line: If you are concerned about school shootings, work to decrease the violence in society. Begin with the most violent entity in the world: The US Military. Begin with the most violent weapons in the world: nuclear weapons.
A LETTER FROM THE TALIBAN ADDRESSED TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Here's a link to the letter; since you are unlikely to see it in the main-stream US media. They say many of the same things I've been saying for over 16 years. Maybe they read my columns — I don't know. They suggest peace talks and diplomacy to end the 16-year-old war. I think this would be an excellent idea. Read the letter carefully. It's addressed to you.
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS MOVEMENT NOMINATED FOR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Norway again leads the way as Norwegian member of Parliament, Bjørnar Moxnes, nominates the movement to Boycott, Divest from and Sanction Israel for the Nobel Peace Prize. Moxnes describes the BDS movement as a “peaceful, global human rights movement that urges the use of economic and cultural boycotts to end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.”
STORIES FOR CHILDREN AND GROWN-UPS
Here's a video of my reading of Howie Schneider's “Wilky the White House Cockroach” to my grandchildren. The President who lived in the White House at the time was a much kinder, gentler president than lives there now. The president learns that even with cockroaches, diplomacy is better than war.
February 13, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING TOWARD WORLD WAR III
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,Syria downs an Israeli fighter.
NATO ally, Turkey, attacks US supported troops in Syria; Kurds down Turkish helicopter.
US airstrikes in Syria kill 200 Russians.
US War Against Afghanistan to continue, silently.
Korean peace overtures rebuffed by US.
US military gets humongous budget increase.
Chances of Nuclear War increase.
2018 slated to be a very profitable year for arms merchants.
The Doomsday Clock stands at two minutes to midnight.
Would you know yet more?
February 6, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CUBA RATIFIES TREATY TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Last week Cuba joined Guyana, The Holy See, Mexico and Thailand, becoming the fifth nation to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. While our two good neighbors to the South have declared that they will “never under any circumstances ... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” the United States not only continues to threaten and bully others with nuclear weapons, but seeks to modernize and expand its nuclear capabilities.
Is his State of the Union message, Donald Trump declared that “As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal.” Neither Joe Kennedy who delivering the official Democratic response, nor Bernie Sanders who delivered his own response, challenged this statement. Silence is acquiescence.
We should also note that 1/3 of all Puerto Ricans remain without power in the wake of a “scandalously inadequate.” federal response to Hurricane Maria. On the other hand, Cuba has prioritized rebuilding after the devastation caused by this Fall's hurricanes. In fact, Cuba is now engaged in a long-term program to protect the Island and the Cuban people from climate change, the only such program in the world that I am aware of. Meanwhile, here in the United States, we have a president who thinks global-warming is a hoax.
In Cuba, medical care is a Right, belonging to all people. With a fraction of the resources of the United States, infant mortality in Cuba stands at 4.5 per 1,000 live births compared to 5.8 in the United States (source: CIA Factbook). Situations like this one, where a patient at University of Maryland Medical Center was dumped in the street, probably because she couldn't afford hospital care, would be unheard of in Cuba or any other civilized country.
FOLLOWUP ON AHED TAMIMI
Last week, I discussed the fake news that 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who slapped a heavily armed Israeli soldier who invaded her home, was an actor. Ahed Tamimi remains in an Israeli prison facing a possible 10 year sentence for slapping. Jonathan Cook tells us how the fake news that she is an actor began. According to Cook:
“Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and now a government minister, was so unwilling to believe Ahed could be blonde-haired and blue-eyed – like him – that he ordered a secret investigation to try to prove her family were actors.”Hmmmm.... blond haired and blue eyed. Ever hear of the 12th century European crusaders who invaded Palestine? and like all armies on the march, stopped just long enough to rape the local women. Semitic folks: Arabs, Hebrews, Bedouins etc. are thought to have come out of Africa and spread throughout the Middle East. They tend to be dark-skinned people, unlike the blond-haired, blue-eyed Europeans, many of whom make the unsubstantiated claim that they are Semites and continue to invade and colonize the Middle East.
Cook also mentions the case of 14-year-old Ghada who was declared an “illegal alien” by Israeli authorities and dumped in Gaza without a word to her parents who lived on the West Bank.
Hey, all you champions of the Rights of the child, speak up!
Lots of interesting stuff in this Jonathan Cook article.
January 30, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONALD TRUMP CARTOON
I kind of feel bad about making fun of Donald Trump. After all, as I've pointed out before, he is only doing what his predecessors have done, albeit in a somewhat more buffoonish style, generating a somewhat greater backlash. (see Helen's article.)
But, on the other hand, he is such an inviting target. So, without further ado, here is a link to my latest cartoon.
Note: With Spring-training camps opening in two weeks, I couldn't resist the baseball metaphor. Let's hope the Cardinals have a better season this year.
FROM OUR READERS: AHED TAMIMI
A reader writes in suggesting that the photo of Ahed Tamimi, the slight 16-year-old Palestinian girl who faced down heavily armed Israeli soldiers, might have been “a faked shooting of a Palestinian teenage girl by an actor dressed in an IDF uniform.”
My response: First, it was not a shooting. Second, there is no need to fake shootings of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers. It's a common occurrence. In fact, Ahed's younger cousin Mohammed had been shot in the face by Israeli soldiers less than 24 hours before the incident involving Ahed. At the time Ahed faced down the Israeli soldiers, cousin Mohammed was in critical condition.
The incident involving Ahed has gone viral. You can read about it all over the internet, including the mainstream Israeli press. In fact, she will turn 17 tomorrow in an Israeli prison. You can sign a birthday card for her, via Jewish Voice For Peace.
i) Laser technologyThree years ago, I suggested that we might soon be able to beam some of the Earth's excess heat back into space with lasers. Since then there have apparently been some important breakthroughs in laser technology coming out of China, as well as other places. So I'm wondering: How close are we? Any laser scientists out there want to respond?
ii) EvolutionResearch on Galapagos finches suggests that species can evolve in a matter of three generations rather than the hundreds of generations previously thought necessary.
This is important because humanity may not have hundreds of generations left to adjust to a rapidly changing climate, largely of its own making.
It also makes me wonder about the great die-offs of the past in which as many as 95% of all species are thought to have gone extinct. Were they really die-offs? Or maybe just examples of evolution proceeding at an unheard of pace.
iii) Horse poxSix month's ago I reported on how a group of scientists synthesized horse pox, a close relative of small pox, with a budget of $100,000. The paper has now been published. So if you have $100,000 and a little genetic know-how; you could probably synthesize small pox which was as much as 95% fatal to Amerindian tribes that had no previous exposure and immunity. When I was a child, I was vaccinated against this dred disease. Since the 1980's, when smallpox was declared eradicated, few have been vaccinated.
iv) Alzheimer'sCollaboration between the United States and Cuba on research into Alzheimer's has been stopped in its tracks by the Trump administration's reinstatement of sanctions on Cuba.
January 23, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FOURTH RATIFICATION OF TREATY TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS: VIVA MEXICO!
Last week Mexico, joined Guyana, The Holy See (Vatican) and Thailand, becoming the fourth country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Only 46 more ratifications and this International Treaty goes into effect! This is a huge event! Small and medium sized nations standing up to big nation nuclear terror. But our “fake-news media” totally ignored it. You won't find this story in the New York Times or the Washington Post or Fox News or Breitbart or even Common Dreams (virtually nowhere in the United States except Rolla Peace News).
Donald Trump thinks Mexicans are “rapists,” “criminals” and “drug-dealers” and wants to build a wall to “protect” us from Mexicans. It was (and still is) all over the fake-news media. I think we should be inviting Mexicans to come live here. Maybe they could teach us how to live in Peace without nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon not only refuses to get rid of their nuclear weapons: they want better nukes. The problem they say with nuclear weapons is that they are too big and destructive to use. Apparently, they want mini-nukes that might only kill 100,000 people, like the ones they used 70 years ago at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
TAXING JUNK FOOD: VIVA MEXICO!
While searching the US fake-news media (in vain) for news about Mexico ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, I ran across this article from VOX on how Mexico is one of only two countries in the world (the other is Hungary) that taxes junk food; and it seems to be helping to produce better health outcomes.
So here's an idea for Rolla. We have a municipal health and recreation center that is running around $300,000 annually in the red. A lot of people in Rolla object to their taxes supporting an institution that produces better health outcomes; so here is my plan. Place a special tax on McDonald's and other purveyors of junk food and use the proceeds to fund memberships for those who can not afford. We win triple: more exercise, less junk food, better health!
Incidentally, The United States has the highest prevalence of obesity in the “developed” world.
ON THE SEPTICALLY CHALLENGED (“SHITHOLE” TO YOU, MR. TRUMP)
Last month I discussed a report by Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, on his visit to the United States. Here are two short excerpts:
“In Alabama, I saw various houses in rural areas that were surrounded by cesspools of sewage that flowed out of broken or non-existent septic systems. The State Health Department had no idea of how many households exist in these conditions, despite the grave health consequences. Nor did they have any plan to find out, or devise a plan to do something about it.”
“Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA. It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama”
January 16, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WAIST DEEP IN THE BIG MUDDY (AND THE BIG FOOL SAYS TO PUSH ON)
“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” —Richard P. FeynmanNature is on the rampage in 2018, following over $300 billion of weather-related damages in the United States in 2017. First week of January: a “bomb cyclone” hit the east coast of North America; Second week: torrential rains in southern California, falling on bare ground left charred by last year's drought and wildfire, caused mudslides that killed at least 20 people and caused tremendous damage .
Southern California is literally, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and the “Big Fool” in Washington DC (and all the little fools that surround him) say we “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming”. The little fools include all the “fake news” media, that report on weather-related disasters with barely a mention of global warming or climate change .
“Good Old Global Warming!” “Push On!” More oil, more fossil fuels, more meat in our diets, more wars, more growth, more development, more progress....
Pete Seeger really nailed it when he wrote Waist Deep In The Big Muddy. The troops are being led to their death by a captain, ignorant of the danger and unwilling to listen. They are saved only when the captain drowns and the sergeant leads them back to shore. Listening to this powerful story in song, one can understand why 50 years ago, the “fake news” media tried to censor Pete. “Every time I read the paper, them old feelings come on ... waist deep, neck deep, soon even a tall man will be over his head....”
Where is the sergeant to lead us back to dry land? How much time do we have left? Perhaps it is already too late....
This article from Wired on how New York's JFK Airport was paralyzed for four days on account of the recent storm might give you an idea of how thin is the thread that holds together our society. Journalist, Alex Davies, notes, “Perfect-storm weekend disasters like the one at JFK could become more common in the future. The changing climate will produce more, fiercer, weirder weather events.”
TRUST NOT IN EARLY WARNINGS OR VIOLENT SOLUTIONS
“To long for lasting, transcendent peace — to imagine that it’s possible — is to marginalize yourself.” —Robert C. KoehlerOf all the columnists I read, I like Robert Koehler the best. Koehler can see the big picture without getting lost in the details. He writes about terrible things, yet always manages to maintain his equilibrium. So here is an article by Robert Koehler on “swatting.”
“Swatting” is turning in a false alarm, with the intention of bringing down a militarized response on some unsuspecting person or household. Swatting can be a practical joke, sometimes a deadly one, as in the case of Andrew Finch, who was shot dead in front of his home in Wichita by a SWAT team responding to a false alarm. Swatting can also be a way of purposely attacking a victim for whatever reason or no reason at all.
A variation on swatting is common in occupied lands like Afghanistan where the military relies on paid informants for information on partisan militias (often referred to as terrorists). In fact, the less connected military and law enforcement are to the territory and its inhabitants, the more likely they are to be victimized by a swatter.
“There’s a reason why swatting is such an effective tactic. It’s because police departments across the country have largely, in the dark, militarized to the extent that they are really hair-trigger ready to be deployed by a malicious actor like this in a prank.” says Kade Crockford of the ACLU.
Koehler adds, “Unavoidably, it calls attention to the essential flaw of our trust in armed social order.”
Of course the swatter hopes to avoid recognition. In the Wichita case cited above, a man has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. In other cases no suspect has been identified.
Sadly, the more hi-tech our 911 emergency warning system gets, the more prone it may become to anonymous false alarms.
False alarms can be very dangerous, particularly within our nuclear early-warning system. Here is a list of some close calls. Many are false alarms generated within the nuclear early warning system, any one of which could have caused millions of people to be vaporized in nuclear holocaust.
To this list, must now be added this week's false alarm in Hawaii, where millions of Hawaians received the emergency alert:
SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Really? The world can be plunged into nuclear war because an employee pushes the wrong button????
I suppose it might have happened that way; but I find these other three scenarios far more likely:
1. A practical joker hacked into the early warning system.We may have to wait a looooooooooooooooooong time to find out what really happened. 54 years and running, and we still haven't seen the John F. Kennedy papers.
What can we do about this? The solution is simple: demilitarize, decrease the level of violence in our society, increase openness and trust. There will always be bad actors in society; but let's cease letting them define who we are.
Norway can show us how this can be done. In 2011 Norway was the victim of a horrific terrorist attack that killed 77. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg vowed that the attack would not hurt Norwegian democracy, and said the proper answer to the violence was “more democracy, more openness, but not naivety.” Stoltenberg also said, “No one has said it better than the AUF girl who was interviewed by CNN: ‘If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.’” Norway did not allow this incident to lead to militarism and secrecy; or attacks on democracy and openness.
Mr. Trump: Good luck in enticing Norwegians to immigrate to the United States. I think we could learn a lot from Norway; but It might be a hard sell. Norwegians are the happiest people in the world and number one in democracy, maternal health, freedom of the press and many other important categories.
I think we could also learn a lot from Haitians, Salvadorans and Africans, if we would only learn to listen.
January 9, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THIS IS WHAT COURAGE LOOKS LIKE
Here is a link to a photo of Ahed Tamimi, a slight 16-year-old Palestinian girl, facing down heavily-armed jack-booted Israeli thugs with nothing but her hands and feet. David and Goliath all over again; only this time David is a young Palestinian girl and Goliath is the heavily-armed Israeli military. Shunning the light of day, the jack-booted thugs returned in the middle of the night and arrested Ahed. Now she's in an Israeli jail facing 12 charges.
Ahed Tamimi declared:
“I don’t want to be perceived as a victim, and I won’t give their actions the power to define who I am and what I’ll be. We don’t want you to support us because of some photogenic tears, but because we chose the struggle and our struggle is just. This is the only way that we’ll be able to stop crying one day.”By way of contrast, Israeli journalist, Ben Caspit, writes:
“In the case of the girls the price must be exacted at another time, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.”Are these really the people we pay billions of dollars in tribute to every year?
Hmmm..., I wonder, with all the talk these days about women having the Right to be safe from abusive males... Who will demand these Rights for Ahed Tamimi and other Palestinian women?
DONALD TRUMP V. GLOBAL WARMING
After opining in late December that the United States “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming” the United States was socked by one of the most powerful winter storms in modern history. Fueled by a warming climate, the Northeast United States was hit by a "bomb cyclone" that set records. Sometimes it's best not to ask. You might just get what you wished for.
As many have noted: a few cold days in one region of the world, does not cancel out global warming. While New Yorkers were freezing, much of the world, including Alaska and California was experiencing above normal temperatures.
Incidentally, December 2017 is, according to the Copernicus Center, the second warmest December on record, right behind December 2015, which is still number one; and the 2017 calendar year was also second warmest, right behind 2016 which was boosted by a monster El Niño event.
While only second warmest, 2017 is number one by far in terms of the cost of weather-related disasters in the United States, over $300 billion.
Note 1: “Bomb cyclone” is the nom du jour for Nor'easter: A storm off the Atlantic coast of North America, usually accompanied by a sudden drop in barometric pressure and heavy winds out of the Northeast, often bringing precipitation, flooding and a drop in temperature.
Note 2: NOAA uses a somewhat different model than Copernicus Center for arriving at an average world temperature. NOAA's data for December 2017 will not be released until 18 January.
TRUMP MAY HAVE (FINALLY) GONE TOO FAR
I think Donald Trump may have crossed the red line when he proclaimed, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than [Kim Jong-un's], and my Button works!”
Now, North and South Korea are talking to each other and the joint US, South Korea military exercises have been postponed. It would be nice to see these talks lead to Peace and friendship, economic and cultural exchanges, and maybe some day, even reunification. I think Koreans (both North and South) have decided that Peace and friendship Trumps mutual nuclear annihilation.
Seems like Trump is getting rebuffed everywhere. In July, 122 nations hammered out a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons which now has 56 signatures. All nine nuclear-weapon states boycotted the conference.
Last month, the UN voted overwhelmingly to reject Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. The only support the US and Israel could muster were a handful of vassal states.
In an emergency Security Council meeting that the United States called to discuss the protests in Iran, The United States was asked, what about the peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri who were attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas by a militarized police force?
Actually the US got off easy. They could have been asked why peaceful Water Protectors were attacked with dogs and water cannons in sub-zero weather; they could have been asked why so many African-Americans have been shot dead by police. They could have been asked why prisoners are still being held without charge in torturous conditions in Guantanamo and elsewhere.
And after castigating Pakistan for failing to help in the war against Afghanistan, Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, finally said what everybody knew or should have known years ago; but nobody would say: The United States has been defeated in Afghanistan.
And here at home: Donald Trump has outdone Hans Christian Andersen. The tale of the Emperor's New Clothes has always been one of my favorites; but folks aren't just saying “the Emperor's naked.” Now they are saying “the Emperor's insane.” Literally!
In truth, I ought not to be picking on Donald Trump. What Donald Trump has been doing: supporting The Palestinian genocide, belittling or ignoring global warming, and bullying other nations, is exactly what All of his recent predecessors have done. And I really can't say that any of them were any more or less sane than Donald Trump either. However, through his bombastic buffoonery, Trump has created a backlash that his predecessors were able to avoid.
Note on insanity:
Far be it from me to define insanity for our mental health professionals. But, consider: the last five US Presidents, as chief executive of the world's only superpower, could have changed the world into a far more just and peaceful planet. Instead, they opted for militarism, war and empire.
Likewise they all had the ability to tackle the problem of a climate, warming dangerously under the threat of increased human-induced atmospheric green-house gases. They all opted to ignore the danger.
Now if that is not insanity, then please, someone tell me: What is insanity?
January 2, 2018 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS
A reader writes: “I'm not sure where you get your fire records from, but the fires at the end of the Cretaceous surely dwarfed all of those that you named.”
My response: My Snippet in last week's newsletter contains the caveat: “since record keeping began in the 1930s” (long after the end of the Cretaceous). It also contains links to my references.
Some scholars believe that at the close of the Cretaceous, Earth's atmosphere was 30% or more oxygen (50% more than today) and a direct hit by a large astronomical body caused, among other events, world-wide conflagrations that brought about the demise of the dinosaurs and perhaps 75% of all extant life-forms.
I suspect what we have seen to date will be minuscule compared to what's in store. Nature Bats Last. We would do well to remember that we are a part of the web of life and learn to live in harmony with Nature and all her children instead of trying to bend Nature to our will.
Trees and Good Health
This study of the relationship between trees and health outcomes comes to me from El Porvenir. El Porvenir, which means The Future, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. El Porvenir restores entire watersheds in Nicaragua to health by planting trees, building dikes for water-retention and irrigation, fencing to keep domestic animals out of water sources and building latrines and paths to prevent people and their wastes from degrading the water supply.
The study by the the University of Vermont finds a direct relationship between trees, the health of a watershed, and the health of the people who live there. the study finds that “forests and other natural systems can complement traditional water sanitation systems, and help compensate for a lack of infrastructure.”
If you have some spare cash after the end of the year, please consider a donation to El Porvenir.
A reader sends in this quote from H.L. Mencken:
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the white house will be adorned by a downright moron.”My response: Donald Trump may be a lot of unsavory things, but a moron he is not. If I were to describe him, words like narcissist, sociopath, buffoon, chutzpah, megalomaniac, delusional, and senile come to mind. I like Kim Jong-un's description of Donald Trump best, “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” because it includes so much of the above in one short phrase.
And incidentally, I vehemently disagree with H.L. Mencken's implication that “plain folk” are “downright moron[s].” This is the kind of elitist arrogance that was responsible for the election of President Donald Trump.
JAMES ZOGBY'S CHRISTMAS LETTER TO MIKE PENCE
In this letter to Vice-President Pence, James Zogby describes “why the Arab Christian leadership in Palestine was so troubled by your blindness to their plight that they refused to meet with you.” Zogby compares Palestine at the time of Jesus to Palestine now.
“That Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were able to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s vengeful wrath was possible back then. Today, that option is unlikely. The barrier/wall that encapsulates the West Bank, the hundreds of checkpoints, and the closure of Gaza would make such a life-saving flight impossible.”This is a very important letter, particularly for Christians in the United States. If you read nothing else today, please read this letter.
MINE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS
In response to North and South Korea's decision to hold high-level talks (see Helen's article above) which will hopefully lead to peace on the Korean Peninsula, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, says that she will not take such talks seriously. Meanwhile President Trump tweets:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”Sorry Nikki and Donald. This is a Korean affair. You have no say. The United States totally destroyed Korea 65 years ago and has kept the peninsula close to war ever since. The Korean people, both North and South, want peace. By what Right do you tell them they can only have peace on your terms?
TRUMP INSULTS AND ANGERS ANOTHER NUCLEAR POWER
In his first tweet of the year, Donald Trump opines:
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”The actual figure is more like $15 billion, for which the US receives use of Pakistani territory and other support in fighting its war against the Afghans.
Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, retorted that “Trump is disappointed at the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan and that is the only reason he is flinging accusations at Pakistan.”
I suspect that Asif is correct. I think that after 16 years of war, it is past time to declare victory and go home.