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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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.