Tom (Yusha) Sager's website home feedback
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.
December 26, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SOME GOOD NEWS: CALIFORNIA FIRES CONTAINED
The fires that have been ravaging southern California for three weeks have been contained and are not expected to spread further. The Thomas Fire, at 281,600 acres, is the largest in California since record keeping began in the 1930s — still a piker compared to the 2016 Fort McMurray fire that burned 1.5 million acres of Canadian boreal forest, the 1.3 million acres burnt this summer in Montana and the 3 million acres lost to wildfires in British Columbia during the 2017 fire season.
However, the record probably belongs to the 2003 Siberian Taiga fires that burned around 47 million acres.
Charges were dropped against the two youngsters accused of starting the November 2016 Gatlinburg fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It seems Park officials decided to let the fire burn and five days later it swept down on the unexpecting town of Gatlinburg on equally unanticipated 90 mile per hour winds, killing 14. The connection between the teenagers and the death and destruction caused by the fire appeared tenuous at best.
No charges have been filed against Rex Tillerson or anyone else responsible for the climate change that makes these fires more likely and more severe. In fact, for his part in causing these fires, Rex Tillerson was confirmed as US Secretary of State. The connection between Tillerson and the death and destruction caused by the Gatlinburg fire is far more concrete than the connection between the two young hikers and the fire.
Now the bad news:
These mega-fires are probably the new normal as the climate heats up and droughts become more severe. Due to a changing climate and perhaps other factors, forests, which soak up heat-causing carbon dioxide may not be regenerating as they have in the past.
MORE GOOD NEWS: PHELPS COUNTY GETS ONE HALF INCH OF PRECIPITATION AND A WHITE CHRISTMAS
Last week I reported what most of you probably already knew, that Phelps County was in moderate to severe drought. This week, we have received around a half inch of precipitation including some much-welcomed snow which still lies on the ground this Christmas day as I write. I wish you all a white Christmas.
AMERICAN DREAM OR AMERICAN ILLUSION? — FOR MANY, AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, visited the United States during the first two weeks in December. Here are some excerpts from his report:
* US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.Alston's statement is somewhat long; but you can read a summary here. His full report should be available in the Spring.
Here are two comments of my own:
* Two of the great social upheavals in modern Western history, The French revolution of 1789 and the Russian revolution of 1917, occurred among great levels of inequality and corruption. Today, it is undeniable that the Great American Empire is disintegrating under the ever increasing burden of inequality and corruption.PUERTO RICO
I've been looking for a good report on the devastation of Puerto Rico by hurricanes Irma and Maria for many weeks. There has been precious little in the news. Now, here's an article from New York Magazine detailing the devastation of the island, the callousness of the meager federal response and how the Puerto Rican people have courageously coped with the catastrophe.
We may never know how many Puerto Ricans die as a result of Hurricane Maria; but it is surely in the thousands and will increase. 100 days after Maria, much of the island is still without power and potable water.
Philip Alston (see snippet above) had much to say about Puerto Rico in his statement on extreme poverty and human rights in the United States:
“If it were a state, Puerto Rico would be the poorest state in the Union. But Puerto Rico is not a state, it is a mere ‘territory.’ Puerto Ricans have no representative with full voting rights in Congress and, unless living stateside, cannot vote for the President of the United States. ... Puerto Rico not only has a fiscal deficit, it also has a political rights deficit, and the two are not easily disentangled. ... there would seem to be good reason for the UN Decolonization Committee to conclude that the island is no longer a self-governing territory.”WAS JESUS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN?
Having allowed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to expire; our legislators will be home celebrating the birth of Jesus, while our Dreamers live in fear of arrest and deportation. So lets remember, as Juan Cole reminds us, that Jesus was a Dreamer. He was taken as a baby to Egypt to escape King Herod. At a young age, his parents took him to live in Palestine which had become a province of the Roman Empire (see Matthew 2:19).
He had no citizenship and no papers. Had he been a citizen, he could not have been crucified. Crucifixion was for barbarians and slaves. As far as Pontius Pilate was concerned, Jesus was entitled to none of the Rights of a citizen of the Empire. Like our undocumented aliens today, he was “open to displacement and arbitrary arrest and punishment even though [he had] done nothing wrong.”
Juan Cole ends his Christmas sermon with these words, “We have to decide if we want to be more like Jesus or more like Pontius Pilate.”
Today there are over 65 million displaced people in the world. They feature prominently in Pope Francis's Christmas Homily:
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.”
December 19, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NUCLEAR SWORD OF DAMOCLES
I've been reporting since March on the progress of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It now has 56 signatory nations and three ratifications. Robert Koehler explains the importance of this treaty:
It takes nuclear disarmament out of the hands of the nuclear weapons powers which have boycotted the treaty; and puts it where it belongs: in the hands of all peoples everywhere (and by extension, all life on the planet Earth).
Since 1945 humanity has been living with a nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging by a thin horsehair over its head. At any time, without warning, one or more of the nuclear weapons powers may unleash nuclear holocaust upon the world. MAD, it's called: Mutually Assured Destruction. You can destroy me; but I can destroy you too, and the rest of the world to boot. We're told a nuclear deterrent makes us secure; but do you feel secure? I don't. I think I would feel a lot more secure if these weapons were banned forever. As the Roman orator, Cicero, commented on the Sword of Damocles, “Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms?”
LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE
No, this is not about Donald Trump. It goes back to 1990 when the Soviet Union was imploding. The West promised that in exchange for a Soviet withdrawal from East Germany leading to peaceful reunification, NATO would not expand one inch to the East. It was a lie, of course. In the wake of the destruction of the Soviet Union, US planners saw nothing standing between the United States and complete and total Global Empire.
Of course, they did not only lie to the Soviets. Here in the US we were promised a “Peace Dividend;” but instead of a peace dividend, we got NAFTA and a corporate takeover. In Iraq, they lied to Saddam Hussein that they would not oppose an invasion of Kuwait. Step One in remaking the Middle East: the destruction of Iraq. Believing that lie cost Iraq a million children.
There is blowback in lying. No one will ever believe you again, even if you're telling the truth. We would like North Korea to cash in their nukes for a promise of “security.” Can you blame them for not believing there is any security for themselves in such negotiations?
THIS IS VERY VERY SCARY
I found this article in Wired rather serendipitously . It's about ISIS's munitions factories. The scary part is not that so much of the ISIS arsenal comes from the United States; but that it is now so easy to manufacture sophisticated weaponry and to transmit the know-how. How far in the future before nuclear weapons can be manufactured almost as easily? Oh, Science! see what thou hast wrought.
In case you think ISIS/Al Queda has been defeated, think again. Defeated insurgencies have a way of returning, stronger than ever.
NOT WELCOME HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE
US President Donald Trump had to cancel a January visit to the United Kingdom after pissing off millions of Britons. Pence has “delayed” his trip to the Middle East after Adeep Joudeh, the custodian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre said, “I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I will not be physically in church during his visit.”
TRUMPSTERS DECLARE WAR ON THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
When I saw the title of this article on seven forbidden words, I thought the seven words would be racial or ethnic slurs, like the N-word, or sexually explicit words, like the F-word. Oh, I was so egregiously wrong! Here are the seven terrible words, forbidden at the Center for Disease Control and other government agencies: Vulnerable, Entitlement, Diversity, Transgender, Fetus, Evidence-based, Science-based — far worse than the N-word or the F-word.
WHY WE SHOULD HOUSE THE HOMELESS
Seems like one of the recent California fires that burned through an upscale neighborhood in southern California started in a homeless encampment where folks were trying to cook a meager meal. There's still some poetic justice left in this world.
PEACE ON EARTH
Tonight is the final night of Chanukah, with Winter Solstice coming up Thursday, right before our Peace Vigil. Christmas is on Monday and New Years (Western) the following Monday. This is supposed to be a Season of Peace. Since we are not likely to get much Peace from our governments, that leaves it up to us, We the People. Please come and join our Peace vigils: every Thursday, Noon to 1:00pm at the Rolla Post Office.
December 12, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FIRST SOME GOOD NEWS
The Treaty to prohibit Nuclear Weapons has garnered three more signatories, bringing the total so far to 56 signatory nations and three ratifications. Let's all shout a loud hip-hip-hooray for the three new signatories: Jamaica, Namibia, and St Vincent & Grenadines .
The World Bank agreed to drastically curb funding for fossil fuels. A good start but far more is necessary.
Powerful sexual predators are being called out right and left. Ann Jones suggests they be paraded down the street naked. I like that. Certainly a punishment that fits the crime.
20 founders of the internet and industry leaders, not to mention thousands of ordinary people like you and me, demand FCC cancel anti-net-neutrality vote.
And now some bad news:
RUBBING SALT IN THE WOUND
Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has further angered the Arab world as the status of the United States in the world continues to deteriorate.
Stephen Zunes points out, a bipartisan congress in 1995 passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act which was reaffirmed this year by a vote of 90-0 in the Senate. Well, Congress, if you are crazy enough to mandate such an inflammatory act, it shouldn't surprise you that the President is crazy enough to follow through.
So far there have only been demonstrations and condemnations; but I wouldn't be surprised to see some significant escalations in coming months, perhaps enough to change the political landscape in the Middle East.
Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would be illegal under international law. Phyllis Bennis points out that one thing this will not do is derail the “peace process” which has been essentially non-existent for years.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
Democrat-leaning pundits continue to babble about the “Russian Connection” and collusion between the Trumpsters and Russia (see Glenn Greenwald's article here). How come the pundits never mention collusion between most politicians of both parties and Israel, which has done the United States far more damage than any alleged Russian meddling in US elections?
Hey, we meddle in other country's elections all over the world. We've been doing it for decades, with Honduras being the most recent example.
A WOULD-BE PEACE BROKER
Speaking of Russia: Russia has offered to broker a Peace between the United States and North Korea. That would be a wonderful thing for most of the world, at least those who do not relish being vaporized in an atomic blast. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said North Korea is ready for direct talks and Russia is willing to help.
Unfortunately, the Trumpsters are not interested. State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said direct talks with North Korea were “not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize.” Now, suppose the North Koreans were to say direct talks with the United States are not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize. Hey, maybe we are on to something here. Maybe the other seven nuclear weapons states could join in and we could ban all nuclear weapons everywhere on Earth.
THE COLOR PURPLE
To firefighters, the color purple means extreme danger. Last week California Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said, “I've never seen the purple ‘extreme’ threat issued. But this is where we find ourselves.”
Fueled by high winds and dry conditions, wildfires that broke out last week in southern California have burned 1/4 million acres and counting . On top of the wildfires that devastated northern California two months ago, this has to be California's worst fire season ever.
Adding to that the four late summer hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, this has to be the very worst year for climate-change induced natural disasters in the United States ever. So Congratulations, Donald Trump! you are President of a country that is burning up and washing away. Do you still think it's all a Chinese hoax? You do? How bad does it have to get before you admit that human-induced climate change is real?
Here in Phelps County, we are suffering from moderate to severe drought. We have been lucky so far; but perhaps we will be the next victims, as Nature continues to pay us back for our depredations.
We would do well to beef-up our fire-fighting and disaster-response capabilities. Sadly, the City of Rolla seems more interested in building roads and shopping centers.
December 5, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SOME GOOD NEWS
Police in Honduras are refusing to suppress demonstrations against a corrupt and delusional ruling government. One police officer stated, “It's that we have family. We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”
When police refuse to do the bidding of a corrupt ruling elite, a nation is not very far from regime change. The current regime came to power in a 2009 coup supported by the Obama/Clinton government in the United States.
And here at home, one has to wonder how long our corrupt and delusional government can remain in power.
Abuses of power abound — and are certainly not limited to Donald Trump and his inner circle. Probably the most egregious abuse is the escalating confrontation with nuclear armed North Korea.
So here's a scenario and a question:
First the scenario: Suppose the Pentagon shuts down the government in a palace coup claiming that Donald Trump was about to launch the nukes, and the coup was necessary to the survival of humanity.Far-fetched? I don't think so.
November 28, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ALL IS CALM
“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 ChurchillIf 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.
All Is Calm makes you realize to what lengths the politicians and generals must go in order to get people to fight wars. It also makes you realize why we fight wars at a distance, so soldiers cannot see the humanity in the enemy facing him. It also makes you realize why the next step in warfare will likely be robo-wars which may make soldiers, and perhaps all of humanity, obsolete.
If you missed the play, here's a ten minute discussion with director Peter Rothstein along with excerpts from the play.
And here is John McCutchen's famous song about the Christmas Truce.
And here's a short piece I wrote on this subject ten long years ago.
November 21, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TO PREVENT A NUCLEAR WAR
A lot of folks seem to be concerned that Donald Trump, or Kim Jong-un, or maybe both together may start a nuclear war. So here's an article on how the generals, presumable our last and final hope, may be able to thwart a nuclear war, when some crazy politician decides it's time to launch the missiles. So, how many generals does it take to prevent a nuclear war? — probably more generals than it takes Californians to screw in a light bulb.
But, hey, here's a much better way. It's called nuclear disarmament. There's even a draft treaty to rid the world of nukes, waiting for signatures and ratifications. I doubt you will find many generals in favor of this treaty.
THE ZOMBIE FUNGUS: SCARIER THAN DONALD TRUMP
Anyone remember Robert Heinlein's, The Puppet Masters? Well, here it is, in the flesh — the Zombie Fungus, ophiocordyceps unilateralis — literally tales over an ant's body and controls it. Hey, maybe that's what's happening to Donald Trump.
SEXUAL PREDATORS IN POSITIONS OF POWER
There's been an awful lot in the news lately about folks in high places abusing their wealth and power to satisfy their sexual lusts. So what else is new? I suspect that humanity (particularly males) are hard wired for sexual greed. In fact, I wouldn't be the first to suggest that the whole point of wealth and power is to satisfy one's sexual cravings. If you don't believe me, hang out with a gang of teenage boys for a while.
Well, there are ways to overcome a built-in desire for sexual license. You can threaten people with jail, humiliation, loss of privilege, mutilation or hellfire. Or you can try to teach males to be respectful of females. But, I think in the end our genetic disposition toward wanton sexuality will usually win out. Remember that we are less than a million years removed from our (non-human) animal heritage.
As John Gray put it, “Those who spurn their animal nature do not cease to be human, they merely become caricatures of humanity.” (Straw Dogs, p132)
For those who wish to transform humanity into something loftier, I believe the first step must be to accept who we are now.
November 14, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CLUELESS IN ASIA
Wherever Donald Trump went in Asia, he preached War, while demonstrators demanded Peace.
Trump apparently can't understand why a “country of samurai warriors” didn't shoot down a North Korean missile as it flew over Japan. Sounds like Donald's been watching too much television. Maybe some folks would prefer not to have a nuclear war which would likely kill millions, maybe billions.
Not surprisingly, the main stream media (liberal and conservative both) played down anti-war protests, if they bothered to mention them at all.
November 7, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SAUDI WAR AGAINST YEMEN CONTINUES WITH US SUPPORT
Last Wednesday, with US complicity, Saudi Arabia bombed Yemen again killing another 29. House leadership refused to bring to the floor for debate Concurrent Resolution 81 which calls for end of US support for the Saudi war.
As a result of the Saudi war, Yemen suffers from widespread famine and disease, including over 800,000 cases of cholera. Saudi Arabia's war against Yemen may now have surpassed Israel's war against Palestine as the worst Human Rights violation in the Middle East. Both would be impossible without US support.
THE DIFFERENCES AMONG LAS VEGAS, NEW YORK AND SUTHERLAND SPRINGS
Stephen Paddock, a white man, killed 59 in Las Vegas with an arsenal of firearms — not terrorism. Sayfullo Saipov, a male Muslim immigrant, killed 8 in New York with a truck — that's terrorism. Devin Patrick Kelley, a white man, killed 27 in Sutherland Springs with a firearm — not terrorism. One might be tempted to conclude that you have to be Muslim to be a terrorist.
Actually we have only scratched the surface here. According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 378 instances so far in 2017 of mass shootings in the United States killing in total over 500. Most don't make the national news.
Passing laws may help, but we need to get to the root of the problem — the violence inherent in our society. Tackling that would be bad for some powerful lobbies like weapons makers and video game producers — so we don't do anything that makes any sense.
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Silly me! I thought that after 54 years I would finally get to see documents showing that Kennedy's assassination was orchestrated by forces in the government that were unhappy with his decision to pull out of Vietnam. Seems like Donald Trump isn't going to keep his word (what else is new) and release the papers. It could be damaging to national security for folks to know that a president can me assassinated for not wanting to go to war.
Seems like covert attempts to prevent runaway climate change may be making a bad situation worse. According to Geoengineering Watch, one of the major processes being used is the spraying of aerosol particulates into the atmosphere which may reflect a certain amount of our Sun's radiation back into space, but may also play havoc with earthly weather patterns adding to the intensity of weather-related disasters.
Would governments that continue to invest in ever more powerful ways to kill more and more people do such a thing? You bet they would!
Conspiracy theories abound. Some you suspect are true because they are the only theory that makes any sense (such as 9/11 being an inside job). Sometimes the “official story” is so outrageous (such as that the most wanted man in the world was found unarmed in a refugee camp, shot dead, and then his corpse dumped at sea) that almost anything would sound more convincing. Often it takes an insider like Dan Ellsberg or Ed Snowden spilling the beans to convince folks that the “official story” is a big lie.
Above, Helen discusses the movement toward international oligarchy, another example of a conspiracy theory that is the only theory that actually makes any sense.
After pleading guilty to deserting his post, Bergdahl received a dishonorable discharge, but no jail time. The no jail time apparently pissed Donald Trump off “bigly”.
The Uruguayan poet, Eduardo Galeano, died two years ago of lung cancer. His last work, Hunter of Stories, will be published in English translation next week. Here's a couple of excerpts:
October 31, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Just remember that the scariest spooks are in Washington DC.
A quotation is worth a thousand original words. Briana Mitchell sends out this collection of quotes from presidents, politicians, generals and military officers on nuclear weapons (second reply to Gary Kohl's article on the nuking of Nagasaki). Many of these quotations I've seen before, but never all in the same place. Read them carefully and then ask yourselves: “Who are the real terrorists?”
CO2 IN OUR ATMOSPHERE
We've passed the late September low and CO2 in the atmosphere is on the increase again as our Northern Hemisphere trees go dormant and stop converting large quantities of CO2 to oxygen. The 2017 low was around 403 ppm as compared to the 2016 low around 401 ppm. If it's any consolation the rate of increase in 2016 was slightly less than the 2015 rate which set a record. Ever wonder about those devastating hurricanes and wildfires plaguing us this Summer and Fall?
THE MOST UNPOPULAR PRESIDENT IN US HISTORY
Donald Trump's disapproval rating hit 62% Sunday, setting a new record according to Gallup's ongoing poll.
Here's a cartoon on why we don't need Trump's wall.
And some choice ripostes by Michael Moore to a Donald Trump insult.
October 24, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
VIETNAM: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Seems like there is a lot of interest in the new PBS series on Vietnam. I haven't watched it, and don't intend to; but here's what Fred Reed has to say:
“People are talking about some Vietnam series by Ken Burns, I think it is. I saw the original, so I’ll pass. But if we want opinions, I’ll contribute from long ago.”You can read Fred's article of 37 years ago here.
Here Robert Freeman asks whether we Vietnam-era anti-war protesters were heroes or traitors. Neither sits very well with me. We were (mostly) just a bunch of kids “doing our thing.” We thought we could build a better world, full of peace, love and harmony — hardly heroic or traitorous. Well, maybe we could have; but 50 years later, see what our generation hath wrought!
Suppose, 50 years ago, we had just stayed home and smoked dope. Would the Vietnamese have laid down their arms and surrendered? Not a chance. Would our troops not have fragged their officers? Would Vietnam vets not have come home and told the truth about the war? Would Dan Ellsberg not have leaked the Pentagon Papers? I suspect the answer to all these questions is: “This would have happened anyway.”
Anti-war protesters are simply a part of a far larger Peace Movement, albeit the most visible part. From comments we receive at our peace vigils, it is clear that for every protester, there are hundreds who are fed-up with our wars and want peace. Perhaps, we give some the courage to work for peace in their own way.
What is really sad is how little we have learned from Vietnam. Here we are, bogged down in multiple Vietnams, with more to come on the horizon. There is very little anti-war protesting going on now — here in Rolla just the four of us old-timers in front of the Post Office for an hour a week. We still haven't won a war since 1945.
One thing to remember: Donald Trump and Dick Cheney were Vietnam-era draft-dodgers — just like I was; and George W. Bush avoided Vietnam by joining the National Guard. With this level of “leadership,” what would you expect?
October 17, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE CRUCIFIXION OF BOWE BERGDAHL
Monday, Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to deserting his post and misbehaving before the enemy. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, was captured by the Taliban, held for five years, allegedly tortured, returned to the US in a POW exchange, and then held for court martial.
From some of the tripe I read, you would think that it is all Sgt. Bergdahl's fault that we are still fighting (and losing) in Afghanistan after 16 years. (Remember how defeating the Taliban and pacifying Afghanistan was supposed to be a “cake walk.”)
Here's an article by Matthew Hoh presenting a totally different point of view; but I think the Bergdahl case was best summed up by Fred Reed three years ago:
“Men engaged in killing for petroleum can develop a suspicion that what they do is just wrong. Soldiers are trained, conditioned by experts, to do things that the civilized finds abhorrent. If a veteran begins to doubt the justness of the war, then he becomes no more than a hired murderer. This is not pleasant. Thus no one must be permitted to say it. A contagion might result.And here's a poem by Utah Phillips, about his experiences in Korea :
“Standing in the alleys of Yongsan,And here's a piece of a poem by Rudyard Kipling:
“For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’FROM OUR READERS: HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN MEMOIRS
A reader writes:
“I disagree with your premise [that Hillary might have lost because of her ‘advocacy of multiple wars and other military actions, many, if not all, of which were rather disastrous’] as I believe that Trump was equally, if not more, bellicose than Hillary. A quote from Trump's campaign that I dug up on google: ‘As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military.’My response: Glenn Greenwald's article has raised quite a few eyebrows, for example, this article by John Frederick Kaufmann. It appears counter-intuitive; but in politics, perception is paramount. Here are a few more quotes:
“I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.” —Donald TrumpAnd sadly, our 21st Century wars in Libya and The Ukraine appear to belong to Obama and Clinton.
WALL STREET: FOLLOW THE MONEY
Over the last two months, the United States has been plagued by many very expensive “natural” disasters: four hurricanes and numerous wildfires, many still burning. On August 24, one day before Harvey, the first of the four hurricanes, made landfall in Texas, the Dow stood at 21,783 Today with the majority of Puerto Ricans still without power or clean water and devastating wildfires still burning in California, the Dow stands at 22,997, an increase of over 5%. Climate Change in action; Disaster Capitalism; Follow the money.
October 10, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WARS COME HOME
“We are living in a time that's so extreme that if it doesn't drive you mad, you are not sane.” --Hamza Yusuf (Game of Wars )Well, the stats are in. Stephen Paddock killed 58 in last week's shooting spree in Las Vegas and wounded hundreds before killing himself. People who knew him expressed surprise that he would do such a thing. After all, he was just like us, or at least what many of us would have liked to be: wealthy, successful, retired, real estate tycoon, high-rolling gambler.
What struck me about this killing was:
1. It was obviously premeditated — meticulously planned to the smallest detail.In this, the Paddock massacre appears to differ from most recent mass killings. The mass murder that I find most similar is the 2015 crash of Germanwings Flight 9525. Here, Andreas Lubitz, apparently considered sane enough to be first officer on a commercial flight, locked the pilot out of the cockpit and set the autopilot for the plane to crash into a mountain killing 150 including himself.
After the fact, investigators found reasons to believe Lubitz may not have been completely sane. And I'm sure information will surface about Paddock which might lead one to conclude that he wasn't entirely sane either.
How do you protect against such massacres? Well, airplane pilots, retired accountants, real estate tycoons, gamblers and gun-owners might all be considered suspect. But, the chances are that the next such mass-murderer will have an entirely different profile.
Lubitz used his position as an airline officer to kill. Paddock used his arsenal of firearms, legal under US law, to kill. What's next? A dirty bomb? Sarin? Anthrax?
I think the problem is the violence, so inherent in our society. In a country fighting war after war after war in which millions die directly and indirectly; why would one hesitate to kill a mere 50 or 150, or even 1,500 people?
If we wish to proactively stop the next Lubitz or Paddock, we had better start right now in building a more peaceful society. Although many would agree, I don't see any progress toward ending our addiction to War and Violence.
NATURE BATS LAST: FLOOD AND FIRE
This week, a fourth hurricane, Nate, came ashore in the US near the mouth of the Mississippi. Nate caused serious devastation in Central America, and less serious devastation on the US Gulf Coast.
The Western US continues to burn. This weekend 17 wildfires sprang up out of nowhere in northern California, fed by the dry brush and fanned by 50 mile-per-hour winds. Thousands of Santa Rosa's 175,000 inhabitants have been evacuated. Many of these fires are yet to be contained, with high winds forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
With Nature on the rampage at home, it is hard to envision any reason to be fighting wars halfway around the world.
“ON THE PATH TOWARD WORLD WAR III”
Senator Bob Corker made news this week by claiming that Donald Trump was risking putting us “on the path toward World War III.”
Some might add: Ask an Afghan or an Iraqi or a Syrian. They might tell you that World War III started years ago — and indeed, Senator Corker, for them it has. Having brought devastation to these places, what would make one think that we here in the United States could avoid similar devastation? (see above two snippets)
In response to a Trump insult, Corker quipped, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” Nice ripost, Bob! I could say the same about the Senate that just put us farther along the path toward World War III by voting 89 to 8 to increase military authorizations by $80 billion to $700 billion, well over twice the budgets of China and Russia combined.
Bob, I deeply appreciate your joining with seven other senators, including Bernie Sanders, in voting Nay on this military authorization bill.
October 3, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
IS THE UNITED STATES AT WAR WITH NORTH KOREA?
Clearly! The armistice signed at Panmunjom in 1953 was not a peace treaty; it was simply a cease-fire preliminary to peace negotiations. Peace negotiations were a dismal failure. The United States has maintained a continuous military presence in South Korea since the signing of the armistice. When the United States introduced nuclear weapons into South Korea in 1956, it violated paragraph 13d of the armistice. China withdrew its troops from North Korea in 1958.
It should be noted that both Koreas claimed to be the legitimate government of all Koreans. The Korean War of 1950-1953 started as a civil war until the United Nations, represented principally by the United States, intervened on the side of the South. China, and to a lesser extent the Soviet Union, later entered the war on the side of the North.
Thus, it could be said that North Korea is not only at war with the United States; but with the entire world. The entire world continues to sanction North Korea for doing no more than what other nations are doing.
Consider that if the United States and the Soviet Union had not partitioned Korea into spheres of influence, without regard for the desires of the Korean people, all this would never have happened.
The situation in Korea in 1945 was similar to that of Austria. Austria had been annexed by Germany, Korea by Japan. Both were colonial annexations without regard for the people being annexed. Austria was divided after World War II, but later reunited as a neutral country. Korea was never given that opportunity.
STANISLAV PETROV: REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Last May, Stanislav Petrov, “The Man Who Saved The World” passed away at age 77 . Petrov was on duty in 1983, when the sirens signaled a surprise attack coming from the United States. Petrov could have followed orders and reported it. He didn't. Had he, I would not be here to write this and you would not be here to read this. Petrov disobeyed orders. It was a false-alarm.
There have been many close calls and false alarms; but this one came at a particularly dangerous moment when the Soviet Union was on high alert due to threats from then-president Ronald Reagan.
Reading this account made me wonder: North Korea is certainly on high alert now due to threats from President Trump. Likely, their early warning system is far more error-prone than the 1983 Soviet early warning system. So let's consider the following scenerio:
The computer screens at military headquarters in North Korea suddenly go blank. Cyber attack, to be followed, by gigatons of US bombs. They waste no time launching the nukes. A few seconds later the computer screens light up. Software glitch. False alarm. Oops, we launched the nukes; and there is no bringing them back; and even if we could; US bombs would be sure to follow on their heels.Pretty? Yes? There is still time to deescalate. But where is the will?
Put yourself in Petrov's shoes. What would you do? Launch the nukes and kill a billion people? Just ride it out? Maybe its a false alarm; and even if its not, who wants to meet their God with the blood of a billion people on their hands?
Reading about Petrov's death, I thought of this sermon by Utah Phillips:
“Look, the President makes choices. The Congress makes choices. The Chief of Staff makes choices. The officers make choices. All those choices percolate down to the individual trooper with his finger on the trigger. The individual private with his thumb on the button that drops the bomb. If that trigger doesn’t get pulled, if that button doesn’t get pushed, all those other choices vanish as if they never were. They’re meaningless. So what is the critical choice?”CHOICES
Here is an interesting article by Mark Bowden from the Atlantic.
Bowden offers four alternatives for dealing with North Korea, noting that none of them are good.
1. An all out first strike,The article is somewhat long but well worth reading. Bowden opines that acceptance is probably the best of the four. As far as it goes, I would agree; but here is a fifth alternative which is far better: Peace.
Let's unilaterally cease all provocative actions toward North Korea, preparatory toward resuming, with no preconditions, long overdue peace negotiations.
LAS VEGAS SHOOTING
As I began writing this column, news came of the Las Vegas shooting. For no apparent reason, a white non-Islamic male opened fire on a crowd, killing over 50 and wounding in excess of 500.
Is there a connection between the US president threatening to totally destroy a nation of 24 million people, and a mass murder by a retired gambler? I think there is. Violence begets violence. Our wars are coming home. They have been for years. This is an age of universal insanity.
As Hamza Yusuf noted: “We are living in a time that's so extreme that if it doesn't drive you mad, you are not sane.” In this video Yusuf discusses both civilian and military violence.
September 26, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“AWAY WITH THE DOTARD! TO THE JAIL WITH HIM!”
What I find most interesting about the recent exchange of insults between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump is that all the wise television talking-heads and internet trolls had to scramble to their dictionaries to discover the meaning of “dotard.” It's a perfectly fine English word, used multiple times by William Shakespeare. (The title quote is from Taming of the Shrew: Act V, Scene 1). Basically, a dotard is a senile old fool. I would say it describes Donald Trump quite well.
Here are a couple more Shakespearean references to “dotard” and “dotage,” which is the state in which a dotard dwells.
“Thou dotard; thou art woman-tired, unroosted by thy Dame Partlet here.” (Winter's Tale: Act II, Scene 3.) Dame Partlet refers to Chanticleer the rooster's favored hen who tells Chanticleer she cannot love a coward and almost gets him eaten by a fox.
“Banish me? Banish your dotage, banish usury that makes the senate ugly.” (Timon of Athens: Act III, Scene 6) Shakespeare might easily have been talking about our own Senate here. (See snippet below on Pentagon budget.)
If Chairman Kim gets us all reading Shakespeare instead of watching [un]reality shows and listening to fake news, I would say that he will have done us a great favor.
And here is a task for you, President Trump. Find a reference in classical Korean literature that fits Kim Jong-un as well as dotard fits you.
And here is the statement in which Kim Jong-un refers to Donald Trump as a “mentally deranged US dotard.”
TREATY TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS: 53 SIGNATURES; 3 RATIFICATION
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signatures at the United Nations last Wednesday. It garnered 50 signatures on opening day. Three nations: Guyana, The Holy See (Vatican), and Thailand also ratified the treaty on opening day. As of the time of writing the treaty has 53 signatory nations.
The treaty reads in part: “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;”
I called the White House comment line 202-456-1111 and asked President Trump to sign the treaty and submit it to Congress for ratification. Please call too, if you feel so inclined.
PENTAGON BUDGET UP $81 BILLION
Oblivious to the world around them, the Senate voted 89 to 9 last week to up the military budget by $81 billion to $700 billion while our infrastructure continues to crumble, Puerto Rico, which has been totally destroyed by Hurricane María, wallows in debt, and our citizens are asked to do without schools and healthcare to feed the voracious appetite of the military-industrial complex.
September 19, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TRUMP AT THE UNITED NATIONS
Yesterday Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly and threatened and insulted four member nations: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and nuclear-armed North Korea. After claiming, “We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife,” Trump went on to threaten to “totally destroy North Korea.” This is on top of Trump's previous threat to meet North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” And don't forget the total destruction of North Korea during the Korean War, and the destruction of Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Honduras, Libya etc. over the last quarter century. Any wonder that North Korea wants a nuclear deterrent?
And South Korea wants nukes on its territory now. How do you spell P-R-O-L-I-F-E-R-A-T-I-O-N?
No one has ever explained to me why some countries have a right to nuclear weapons and others do not. I favor total and complete world-wide nuclear disarmament; but I also think that no nation has any more right to nuclear weapons than any other — which is ZERO.
HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A WOMAN SCORNED
And while President Trump was addressing the United Nations, Hurricane Melania (María according to the National Hurricane Center) grew from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane. It has since demolished the Island of Dominica and is bearing down on Puerto Rico as I write.
This has been quite a season: devastating hurricanes; flooding in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Columbia, Texas, Florida, and many other places; drought and wildfires in what may be the hottest summer that parts of the Northwest United States have ever experienced; and earthquakes and tsunami in Mexico.
Maybe, instead of war, we ought to be appeasing Nature. She is obviously fed-up with Humanity.
Note: The causal relation between global warming and earthquakes is less well-known than the relationship between global warming and weather-related events; but equally straight-forward. A warming climate causes glaciers and polar ice to melt shifting the weight of melting ice from mountains and polar regions to ocean basins. The Earth responds to the shifting of weight on its crust with quakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. See Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant.
HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN MEMOIRS
I had promised myself that I would never ever write about Hillary again; but here goes. I thought I could describe her defeat in one word: Arrogance; but after reading Glenn Greenwald's article, I think there is more to be said.
Greenwald points to Hillary's “advocacy of multiple wars and other military actions, many, if not all, of which were rather disastrous,” as a significant factor in Hillary's defeat. He references a paper by Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen entitled Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat which finds “a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The authors further claim, “Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.”
I suspect Kriner and Shen are right. During 10+ years of vigiling for peace, the most appreciative comments always seem to come from military personnel and their families. One day a man driving by looked at my Support the Troops, Bring Them Home placard, rolled down his window and said “You brought me home! My whole unit appreciates you.”
On a personal note: At times when my resolve not to vote for either major party candidate weakened, I thought of Hillary's snooty “We came, we saw, he died.” comment, referring to the gruesome rape of Muammar Gaddafi by US supported “moderates” with bayonets. Then I would ask myself: “Why would I vote for her?”
I think there is a lesson here for politicians. The days when support for militarism is a prerequisite for election to public office may be over.
September 12, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DEVASTATION FROM HURRICANES HILLARY AND IVANKA
Well, ok: Harvey and Irma. I guess I don't get to name the hurricanes. But, seriously, I think the question now should be how much of the Gulf Coast and Florida should we simply write off? After all, it's tremendously polluted and the question is when, not if, we'll get socked with more monster hurricanes. Harvey and Irma were unique on so many ways; but it's only going to get worse, not better, as the Earth continues to heat up.
After Hillary and Ivanka, if you still don't believe in Global Warming, I guess you'll never believe in Global Warming; but that doesn't mean it's not happening. If you want a very graphic description of what is in store for all of us, read this article by Chris Hedges .
PLAYING NUCLEAR CHICKEN
In response to a North Korean bomb test that was likely a hydrogen bomb, the United Nations Security Council voted 15 to 0 to increase sanctions on North Korea. North Korea wasted no time in announcing its resolve to seek to become a nuclear power at an even faster rate. Goading a nuclear-armed adversary is a very dangerous game. Harvey and Irma should have taught us that we are not invulnerable.
This article by Robert Parry gives some background.
A COMIC INTERLUDE
Rush Limbaugh put his tail between his legs and fled Palm Beach after telling his listeners that the danger from Hurricane Irma was exaggerated to (you guessed it) promote a climate-change agenda.
Seriously, I have been very very impressed by the accuracy with which NOAA was able to model and predict the recent hurricanes. I guess that's why President Trump wants to cut their budget.
September 5, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: HURRICANES
A reader writes in recommending Al Roker's “The Storm of the Century” about the 1900 hurricane (long before they started giving hurricanes cutsie names like Sandy, Katrina and Harvey) that flooded Galveston killing upwards of 8,000 people.
My response: Looks like an excellent book and I've ordered a copy. Good reminder that “Nature bats last:” always has and always will. In return, I recommend Bob Gibson's song “Mighty Day” about the same hurricane and flooding. (Somewhat shorter than the book, 2 minutes)
The link I provided last week with the line from Hamza Yusuf: “We are living in a time that's so extreme that if it doesn't drive you mad, you are not sane.” should have gone to “Game of Wars.”
Some to you may have received this link to “End of Days” instead .
Both Hamza Yusuf videos are relatively short, quite interesting and worthwhile.
A note on End of Days: These are signs of the End. They do not mean that the world will necessarily be destroyed in a matter of days, years, or even centuries. In fact, Yusuf warns elsewhere that it is dangerous to assume that the destruction of the world is imminent.
TONY DE BRUM: STANDING UP TO NUCLEAR BULLIES
The Marshall Islands lie about midway between New Guinea and Hawaii. From 1946 to 1958 these islands and the Marshallese people who inhabit them were a sacrifice zone for the nuclear weapons industry. The Marshall Islands were the site of 67 US nuclear bomb tests and the Marshallese were treated as lab rats to test human reactions to nuclear radiation.
Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, who died last week of cancer, was the driving force behind a law suit against all nine nuclear-weapon states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferatrion Treaty (NPT). The courts dismissed the law suit opining that the nuclear-armed nations “had their fingers crossed” when they agreed almost 50 years ago to negotiate nuclear disarmament.
Perhaps, more than anyone else, de Brum is responsible for the understanding that is beginning to take hold that the primary contradiction among nations is no longer between this military power and that military power, but between the nine nuclear-armed bully-nations and the non-nuclear-armed rest of the world that is under constant threat from these nine.
Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent UN conference on the prohibition of nuclear weapons that was boycotted by all nine nuclear-weapon states and many of their allies. 122 non-nuclear-weapon states hammered out a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that reads in part: “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: (a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
The treaty will open for signatures on September 20. Please consider asking President Trump to sign.
The nine nuclear-weapon states are: The United States, Russia, China, The United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
Article VI of the NPT reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
In case you missed it: It appears likely that North Korea has the hydrogen bomb now. Who's next?
Tony de Brum: Requiescat in pace.
DICK GREGORY: AN ICON PASSES
Comedian, Civil Rights leader, activist for many wonderful causes, presidential candidate: Dick Gregory passed away last month at age 84. Here's an obituary. And here's a story that brings back some old memories.
I am proud to say that in 1968, along with over 40,000 others, I rejected lesser presidential candidates: Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, Eldridge Cleaver, Eugene McCarthy, Pat Paulsen etc., and cast my ballot for a truly great man: Dick Gregory.
But, you might say: “He had no chance of winning.” To which I would respond with the words of Eugene Debs: “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”
Dick Gregory: Requiescat in pace.
IT'S THE POLLUTION, EVERYONE
The dead will be grieved; structures will be rebuilt; but like the Fukushima meltdown, the pollution caused by Hurricane Harvey will linger on for many generations. Click here and here.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” —Mark TwainDesiree Fairooz will stand trial for a second time for laughing when Senator Richard Shelby argued at Jeffrey Sessions' confirmation hearing that Sessions' record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” Had I been there, I don't think I could have contained my laughter either.
I think laughter is one of our greatest weapons. Just keep laughing at these jerks.
August 29, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ZIKA VIRUS: WE DODGED A BULLET
The Zika epidemic which raged through the Americas last year and caused severe brain damage in thousands of fetuses has plummeted to almost nothing. Epidemiologists believe that through exposure to the virus, enough people have acquired an immunity that the zika virus is no longer able to spread easily among the population. However, don't write off the zika virus. It may flare up into an epidemic again in the future. Like its cousins that cause chikungunya and dengue, zika flare-ups may be very difficult to predict.
HURRICANE HARVEY: BUT THIS ONE GOT US
As of Tuesday evening, Hurricane Harvey still rages off the coast of Texas dumping prodigious quantities of water on Southeast Texas. Some locations in and around Houston have received over 50 inches of rain. Harvey already holds the record for dumping more water on the continental United States than any hurricane in recorded history, and is expected to continue bringing rain and flooding to Texas and Louisiana for at least two more days.
Many are asking if global warming is among the causes of Hurricane Harvey. Well, of course. Hurricanes feed off warm ocean waters and the waters of the Gulf are warmer now than they have been in the past, even the deeper waters of the gulf, which typically churn to the surface as a result of hurricane winds, have warmed. Sea levels are higher too. And the warm air above the Gulf holds more moisture than cooler air. All three factors lead to increased precipitation and flooding.
And lets not forget that all the money used in our wars of choice could have gone instead toward building a more flood-resistant infrastructure.
And watch out for pollution. Lots of hidden pollution will come to the surface during the floods, and with all those oil refineries and chemical plants — it may be best to write off much of Houston as a Superfund Site.
As bad as the flooding from Hurricane Harvey is, it could be far worse. 1,200 have died recently from flooding in South Asia.
Catastrophic flooding like this may have become the “new normal.”
OUR INDIGESTIBLE SUN
I hope you all got out to watch the solar eclipse last Monday. Helen and I drove up to Vichy to get into the band of totality.
I posted a slide show of the eclipse with images unlike anything you are likely to have seen.
Having read parts of the Poetic Edda a few months ago, I thought about using an image for the wolf that “in monster's guise was soon to steal the sun from the sky” (Voluspo 40), but opted for the dragon image, because the line from Alberto Sánchez Argüello's Mi amigo el dragón seemed to fit so perfectly.
With Hurricane Harvey following on the heels of the eclipse, I can't get over how prophetic the lines from the Poetic Edda that I quoted a few months ago seem:
“Dark grows the sun, and in summer soonPerhaps this is somewhat frivolous; but a little frivolity is necessary to keep one's sanity. As Hamza Yusuf has stated: “We are living in a time that's so extreme that if it doesn't drive you mad, you are not sane.”
August 22, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: ON “NORTH KOREA CRISIS”
In reference to my snippet last week: A Modest Proposal On The “North Korea Crisis:” Nuclear Disarmament, one reader writes:
“Solid 9 points that others don't want to recognize. It's a do-as-I-say mentality rather than a do-as-I-do. But North Korea isn't listening.”My response: Thank you.
Another reader writes:
“Newsflash, Tom IT WORKED~FIRST PRESIDENT IN 60 YEARS TO STAND UP TO THIS SWINDLER AND HE GOT THE CHICOMS AND RUSCOMS TO GO ALONG! It's called LEADERSHIP, Tom.”My response: I began last week's snippet with a quotation from Bertrand Russell that read in part:
“when the game [nuclear chicken] is played by eminent statesmen, who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings, it is thought on both sides that the statesmen on one side are displaying a high degree of wisdom and courage, and only the statesmen on the other side are reprehensible.”This reader's response is a perfect example of what Russell describes. According to this reader our “statesman” shows “leadership;” theirs is a “swindler.” Russell continues:
“This, of course, is absurd. Both are to blame for playing such an incredibly dangerous game.”The reader's remark on Russian and Chinese support for increased UN sanctions of North Korea also deserves a response: 25 years ago, Russia and China also supported sanctions on Iraq which were responsible in the short term for the murder of over 1/2 million Iraqi children under five years of age and in the longer term gave the world ISIS and al-Queda.
I suspect Russia and China are thinking: “If the United States wants to destroy itself, let's offer our sincere encouragement.” If so, it is a very dangerous game they play. Clearly, no one will benefit from a nuclear war, no matter how big or small.
SOME KOREAN HISTORY
You are unlikely to learn this Korean history from any major news outlet. Korea hosted an ancient civilization with artifacts dating back at least 10,000 years. From 1910 to 1945, Korea was under the Japanese yoke. As in China, the most effective anti-Japanese resistance was under the leadership of the Communist Party.
At the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union divided Korea into two spheres of influence. No one bothered to ask the Korean people whether they wished to be divided or to be placed in anyone's sphere of influence. As in Palestine, South Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and Vietnam, post-war partition was a disaster and led to bitter warfare.
First the United States and later China, and also many other countries intervened. Millions died in the Korean War of 1950-1953. According to U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay, “we went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another, and some in South Korea, too.” Since 1953 there has been an uneasy truce with more warfare always on the horizon.
ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
“I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.” —Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent, 1907)If you are a regular reader of my column, you already know that I love to quote Joseph Conrad. Writing 110 years ago, Conrad describes the current mindset of the United States and North Korea perfectly. They both have the means; and, many believe, the will to use them.
Can North Korea deliver nuclear tipped missiles to the continental United States? Andrew Cockburn thinks not, at least not yet . But what does it matter? Why gamble a nuke on a long shot when you only have a few? Wouldn't Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Vladivostok be much easier targets than San Francisco and London. With nukes around the world on hair-trigger alert, that would likely be more than enough to start nuclear World War III.
Conrad's “professor” 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. And, he boasts, “Yes, I would give the stuff with both hands to every man, woman, or fool that likes to come along.”
PIVOT TOWARD AFGHANISTAN
Having found out that nuclear-armed North Korea won't be bullied, Donald Trump pivots to Afghanistan, which (as far as we know) is not yet armed with nuclear weapons. He vows to continue this 16-year-old war ad infinitum by sending 4,000 more troops, which is certain to make the United States even more unpopular than it is now.
August 15, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A MODEST PROPOSAL ON THE “NORTH KOREA CRISIS:” NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
“As played by irresponsible boys, this game [Chicken] is considered decadent and immoral, though only the lives of the players are risked. But when the game is played by eminent statesmen, who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings, it is thought on both sides that the statesmen on one side are displaying a high degree of wisdom and courage, and only the statesmen on the other side are reprehensible. This, of course, is absurd. Both are to blame for playing such an incredibly dangerous game. The game may be played without misfortune a few times, but sooner or later it will come to be felt that loss of face is more dreadful than nuclear annihilation. The moment will come when neither side can face the derisive cry of ‘Chicken!’ from the other side. When that moment is come, the statesmen of both sides will plunge the world into destruction.”A key point in the above paragraph is that there comes a time when total annihilation becomes preferable to losing the game. You can see this mind set on Wall Street, where destruction of our planetary support system is seen as preferable to losing buried assets of coal, oil and gas.
This mindset can be seen even among young children. The editors of Rethinking Schools quote a second grader as stating, “Everything is just so bad. We should just nuke the world and start over.”
I suspect our video games, [un]reality shows, “alternative facts” and 21st Century lifestyles feed this mindset.
In the wake of the recent North Korean missile tests, Donald Trump's threat to meet North Korea “with fire and fury like the world has never seen before,” and North Korea's counter threat to conduct missile tests off the coast of Guam, folks seem to be finally getting it: The doomsday clock stands at two and a half minutes to midnight and may move even closer. Here in the US, polls show a substantial majority are concerned about a North Korean threat.
Some call for preemptive war; others call for diplomacy.
Preemptive war suffers (at least) two serious drawbacks
1. I suspect North Korea has it's nukes on hair-trigger alert — maybe not pointed at the continental United States yet; but likely, targets closer to home like Seoul and Tokyo.Calls for diplomacy such as the one referenced above seem to be based on convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in return for security. I can't help wondering what world these folks are living in. I can't think of anything the United States could do, short of unilateral demilitarization, that would convince North Korea of their security, especially considering what happened to Libya after it gave up its nuclear weapons program.
So here's my modest proposal:
1. Let's recognize that North Korea has joined the “nuclear weapons club” and accept it as a full member along with India, Pakistan, Israel and the original five.These four points could form a basis for negotiating world-wide nuclear disarmament. Let the party begin!
5. Let's also recognize that the United States has been at war with North Korea for 67 years. It is hard to envision any serious attempt at nuclear disarmament without an end to the Korean War.These five additional points should be kept in mind should the nine nuclear powers choose to adopt my modest proposal and seriously consider discussing nuclear disarmament.
I'm thinking that the people of the world must be pretty much fed up with these so-called world leaders. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see folks taking matters into their own hand. In fact, I think it's happening right now.
August 8, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I've always liked lizards. No trip to the zoo could ever be complete without visiting the reptile house. Lizards can do amazing things like sloughing off their tails and growing them back; but here's something I would never have guessed possible:
Lizards can evolve genetically in a matter of months. We tend to think of evolution (at least those of us who believe in it) as being a slow process taking many generations; but here's a documented case of lizards, responding to environmental stimuli, evolving the ability to function at cooler temperatures within months!
So why is this important? We are changing our environment at an unprecedented rate. Some extinctionists argue that it's impossible to evolve fast enough to keep pace with our changing climate. Hardly a convincing argument for extinction; but if lizards can evolve quickly, maybe we can too. Lizards may hold the key to survival in a changing environment.
And here's another thought: Maybe evolution plods along at a snail's pace in stable environments, but speeds up proportionally as environmental change accelerates.
Science can be fascinating; but let's never forget:
“Science will never be used chiefly to pursue truth, or to improve human life. The uses of knowledge will always be as shifting and crooked as humans are themselves. Humans use what they know to meet their most urgent needs — even if the result is ruin.” —John GrayAnd if you don't believe that “humans use what they know to meet their most urgent needs — even if the result is ruin,” read Helen's article in this week's newsletter.
August 1, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING FURTHER TOWARD WORLD WAR III
Last week Congress voted to sanction Russia with very few dissenting votes. Russia retaliated by cutting the US diplomatic mission in Russia by 750 people. Russia and the United States have thousands of nuclear warheads targeting each other. Some of Russia's nuclear warheads are probably on drone submarines near the US coasts.
North Korea tested another missile. This one capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as Chicago, St. Louis or even Rolla.
Donald Trump is unhappy with China for not leaning on North Korea to stop testing missiles; but why should the Chinese comply (even if they could)? A strong North Korea provides a buffer between China and US proxies South Korea and Japan.
As an aside, Libya once had a nuclear weapons program which they voluntarily gave up in 2003. Had they developed a nuclear deterrent similar to North Korea's, Muammar Gaddafi might still be alive. Had North Korea voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons program, Kim Jong-un might, like Gaddafi, have been raped with a bayonette by US supported “moderates.”
More Washington snafus: Trump appoints potty-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director to replace Sean Spicer. Scaramucci lasts 10 days.
Trump addresses New York police telling them to be rough with detainees. Police cheer and applaud. New York City Police Department denounces Trump comments as irresponsible.
Trump addresses Boy Scouts in what can only be described as verbal child abuse. Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologizes for remarks made by President Trump at the organization’s National Jamboree.
This is sure making America great again, and the World a far more dangerous place for all of us.
A few months ago, I told Donald Trump that if he would listen to me, I might be able to save his presidency. At this point I doubt that would be possible.
July 25, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THEY'VE GIVEN ME A NUMBER FOR A NAME
No, this snippet is not about prison; it's about school. If you are thinking, “same difference,” you may not be so far from right. Steven Singer points out that our students are increasingly known by a number, their score on a standardized test. Schools are increasingly becoming places with neither joy nor discovery; but “a lifeless environment devoid of hope.”
Singer details the increase in middle school child suicide which has risen along with our stress on standardizing testing, doubling in seven years. But things could be worse, and may become worse, if we continue down our current path. South Korean children are among the highest achievers on standardized tests. They also have one of the highest child suicide rates.
“High stakes testing is child abuse. We should not emulate other nations’ scores especially when they come at such a cost. The fact that we don’t engage in the worst abuses of Asian schools should be a point of pride, not jealousy. We should cherish and nurture our children even if other nations sacrifice theirs on the altar of competition and statistics.”
I agree: here's a cartoon of mine from seven years ago, back in the days of No Child's Left Behind. It's only gotten worse.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO MURPHY'S LAW?
“If anything can go wrong, it will.” —attributed to Ed MurphyIn this article, John Acheson talks about facing up to a worst-case climate-change scenario.
Yes. Great idea. It's good to be prepared for the worst.
The problem is we've been hearing for over a decade that if we don't act now, we won't be able to prevent catastrophic climate change. We're still hearing it. Ok, if what they say now is correct, then they have been wrong for the last nine years. So, why should we believe them now?
Yes, let's have a little honesty please, everyone. It's fine to have an opinion. But pleeeease, don't sugar-coat your opinions and don't state them as fact.
We are already experiencing catastrophic climate change. It's here. So instead of talking about how to avoid it, let's talk about how we might live with it and limit it. Wouldn't that be more productive?
As a starter, lets talk about ending war and putting a big chunk of our bloated war budget into preparing for and limiting catastrophic climate change. There would be an added benefit here. The US military is surely the world's biggest consumer of fossil fuels and producer of greenhouse gases.
Antarctica just lost a chunk of ice the size of the State of Delaware That's one helluva skating rink. And when it melts, as it surely will, it will add to the already rising sea level. Catastrophic climate change is today, not tomorrow.
July 18, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AND THE WARS GO ON....
Trump Deathcare may be dead for now; but perpetual war is still very much alive. The house voted 344-81 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets military policy. This bill authorizes up to $696 billion in spending for the Department of Defense, up $77 billion from last year. That $77 billion could provide a lot of healthcare for all of us.
President Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of ISIS;” but his bombing appears to have killed 4 times more civilians per month in Iraq and Syria than during the Obama years. I suspect ISIS recruits increase sharply with civilian casualties from US air strikes.
I think it is great to be concerned that here at home we should all have access to quality healthcare; but what about Iraq and Syria? “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
July 11, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A TALE OF TWO MEETINGS
122 nations met and approved the text for a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The text states in part:
“Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: (a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;”The nine nuclear weapon states boycotted the conference. The first five nuclear states, US, Russia, UK, France and China, are signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty which went into force in 1970, and stated in part:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (Article VI)47 years later they have done no such thing. Matter of fact they are modernizing their nuclear arsenals as I write.
Japan which has suffered far more than any nation from both nuclear weapons (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and nuclear energy (Fukushima) also boycotted the conference.
Iran, which some claim is developing nuclear weapons, agreed to the text of the treaty. Countries that refused to even attend the conference should stop trying to paint Iran as a nuclear wannabe.
If you want to know who the nuclear wannabes are: look to the non-nuclear weapon states that also boycotted the conference.
Instead of attending the conference on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, six nuclear weapons states, the original five plus India, attended the G20 conference, where the world's 20 largest economies agreed to do nothing to make the world a more peaceful and just place.
Other conference participants snubbed Donald Trump for not pretending that he wants to make the world a more just and peaceful place. This was rather disingenuous. Donald Trump is the bastard son of Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Without Putin, Merkel and the rest of that cabal, there would be no President Donald Trump.
Incidentally, no one elected the G20 to make decisions for the rest of the world. Some of these wealthy countries claim to be “democracies.”
Military superiority is very illusive. Nations that want military superiority can easily spend themselves into the poorhouse, with nothing to show for it.
A few months ago I pointed out that Russia has drone submarines that, at a fraction the cost, have neutralized the billions (maybe trillions.) that the United States has spent on missile defense systems.
North Korea, for a fraction the cost of the United States nuclear program, has developed nuclear weapons and missiles that can target Seoul, Tokyo, Alaska, Hawaii and maybe even the lower 48 states. Actually the missiles are just icing on the cake. To inflict unacceptable damage all they need do is wait for the wind to blow toward Seoul or Tokyo, and lob a nuclear bomb in that direction.
China appears to have developed quantum radar, which, at a fraction of the price, neutralizes all the billions (maybe trillions.) that the United States has spent on the B2 bomber and other stealth technology .
And the Islamic State, for almost nothing as world military expenditures go, continues to challenge the United States and its allies, in spite of their recent lose of Mosul.
Military superiority? Ha! What military superiority? And the Trump response? Gut the nation's infrastructure even more to spend even more lavishly on the military.
Better to study the fate of the Roman empire and all other empires that went down the superiority road.
SCIENCE HATH TAKEN AWAY, SCIENCE GIVETH BACK
One of the truly great triumphs of modern Science was the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. Smallpox could be as much as 95% fatal in populations, such as many 18th Century Amerindian tribes, with no natural immunity. Soon after the eradication was complete, smallpox vaccinations became a thing of the past. Much of the population is no longer protected.
But, this dread disease could make a comeback. A group of virologists has synthesized horse pox, a close relative of small pox from commercially available DNA at the cost of a mere $100,000. If it can be done with horse pox, it can certainly be done with small pox too.
Are you scared? You should be. And who knows what other dread diseases, like for instance, Zika, lie on the horizon?
Science hath taken away, Science giveth back; blessed be the name of Science.
July 4, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WORLD GETS EVEN SCARIER
In case you missed it because you were too busy celebrating US Independence Day: North Korea successfully tested a missile capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii, and possibly even the lower 48 States.
Referring to Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump opined, “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Well, Donald, how would you suggest that he defend his country from the likes of you?
Representative Ted Lieu opined, “North Korea clings to nukes [because] it is paranoid it will be invaded.” Paranoid? With US nuclear subs off the Korean coast and US troops invading Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan? Ted, maybe realistic would be a more appropriate word than paranoid.
There has never been a weapon that didn't proliferate. Nuclear weapons and ICBM technology are no exception. Maybe its time to wage Peace, before we all go up in nuclear flames.
AIR FLIGHTS GROUNDED DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING
Last month Phoenix reached a blistering 122 F. degrees: too hot to fly. Well, maybe there is a small plus-side to global warming.
It's the density of the air. The denser the air, the more lift. Hot air is less dense than cold air. If the air is too hot, there is not enough lift to get the plane off the ground.
UPDATES TO WEBSITE
Posted a new graphic on the index page. Take a look.
Also continuing to work on my climate graphs.
June 27, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I've updated my global temperature graph to include latest 120 months. I've also added some more commentary and a few deeper historical graphs. This is a work in progress. Check it out.
Amid the bad news that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere continue to increase in spite of a leveling off of carbon dioxide emissions, Bill McKibbon tweets, “On the list of scary things, this is near the top: Forests and oceans seem to be starting to absorb a lot less co2.”
Forests? What forests? Destroyed by insects, bulldozers and wildfires. Last summer the Fort McMurtry fire alone burned 1.5 million acres of boreal forest. This month, devastating wildfires are burning up forests in Utah, Arizona, Portugal, South Africa and probably many other places as well. Concerned about CO2 in the atmosphere? Go plant a tree.
What about the leveling off of emissions? Stabilizing emissions at levels above those that created global warming isn't going to help much. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Emissions need to come down — way down. And we need to revitalize our carbon sinks — our forests and our oceans.
Meanwhile, for the big banks, it's business as usual, funding to the hilt extreme fossil fuels (tar sands oil, coal, etc.) to the tune of $290 billion over the past three years.
Here's a suggestion for getting CO2 out of the atmosphere. I've floated this idea before; but never received any feedback.
Grow a forest of fast-growing high-carbon-absorbing trees. Harvest the trees. Burn them in an oxygen-poor environment creating charcoal. Bury the charcoal in a hole in the ground. Repeat.
Readers: Please let me know. Is this a stupid idea? Why?
June 20, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
COURTS RULE FOR WATER PROTECTORS AGAINST DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
First the good news: U.S. District Judge James Boasberg has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial” and ordered a review of DAPL permits issued by the Trump administration.
The Standing Rock Sioux will now ask that the pipeline, which has already sprung leaks, be shut down.
4,000 MORE TROOPS
Now the bad news: It appears that 4,000 more US troops are on their way to Afghanistan to fight against one of the poorest nations in the world in our longest war ever (16 years in October). It is unlikely that 4,000 US troops (or even 400,000) will make much of a difference. When you are invaders and occupiers and have committed unspeakable attrocities against the populace, winning a war becomes impossible.
In the words of former Senator George Aiken, let's “Declare victory and get out.”
SLOUCHING TOWARD WORLD WAR III
The US shot down a Syrian airplane. Russia has declared US aircrafts flying in Syria, West of the Euphrates as “legitimate targets.” So we have two nuclear behemoths, one with a leader, cold and calculating; the other, brash and impetuous. Could this spiral into nuclear World War III? It sure wouldn't surprise me.
CONGRESS IN THE CROSSHAIRS
Several congressmen and staffers were shot and injured on a baseball field this week, all Republicans. One, Steven Scalise, was injured seriously. Six years ago it was Gabby Gifford, a Democrat, who was shot and seriously injured. Should we be surprised?
The shooter was apparently not Muslim. Had he been, we would have known it within hours. I still don't know James T. Hodgkinson's religion, if any. I guess, as long as he is not Muslim, it doesn't really matter.
Scalise, Gifford and the others are not alone. The United States loses a whopping 30,000 to gun-violence every year.
To teach the populace that disputes are to be solved through violence, arm them to the teeth, and then teach them to despise their government is stupidity with few, if any, historical parallels.
June 13, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
STEPHEN KINZER ON SAUDI ARABIA
This article by Stephen Kinzer is a must read. He details how Saudi Arabia spread radical Islam to Indonesia and elsewhere and spreads terror thoughout the Islamic world (with money and support from the United States, of course).
Under a Saudi-led blockade and bombing regime, hunger and pestlence are now endemic in Yemen Cholera cases may reach 130,000 this month. This is not Religion. This is apostasy.
In all fairness, I must point out that there is little difference between what Saudi Arabia is doing to Yemen, what Israel is doing to Palestine, and what the United States is doing to Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
I GOT YOU ELECTED PRESIDENT; NOW I'M GOING TO GET YOU IMPEACHED
In case you missed the three hours of James Comey's testimony before Congress; here it is condensed into one sentence. Very likely, Comey's pre-election anoucement that he was investigating Hillary's emails, swung the balance in a close election to Trump. I guess Comey is unhappy with his payback; so now he's going to try to get Trump impeached.
With all the brouhaha, few are asking whether the Director of the FBI should have the power to make or break presidents; and indeed, whether we are giving far too much power to all our investigative agencies.
I find myself standing up for Donald Trump far too often. So for the record, I think he should be impeached. No, I think he should never have been elected. Why? — because of what he has done, what he might yet do, and above all, his utter disdain for the human race and the planet we live on. I do not think he should be impeached just because some former Director of the FBI says he is a liar.
THREE YEARS LATER: STILL NO POTABLE WATER IN FLINT
It has been three years since the State of Michigan poisoned the city water supply in Flint. Families poisoned by the toxic water-supply, are facing eviction for non-payment of toxic water bills, yet no one has gone to jail for poisoning the water supply for a city of 70,000 people.
June 6, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
IN MEMORIAM: REBECCA GIBBS
Rebecca Gibbs passed away on May 11. She was a reader of this newsletter and would email me every Wednesday, sometimes to comment, but more often just to say thanks for sending the newsletter. I miss getting her weekly emails.
Nine years ago, Becky started the orange balloon release for her husband, Bill, and all other victims of agent orange poisoning. Here's a video by Lois Ann Marler of the first orange balloon release . And here's a placard I made for a later balloon release .
FROM OUR READERS
A reader, noting the religious and apocalyptic nature of my snippet last week on Stephen Hawking, sends in this cartoon which speaks for itself and requires no further comment.
WHOLE LOTTA FUZZY THINKIN' GOIN' ON
Donald Trump is taking a lot of flack for pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. You'd think from what I've been reading that the Paris Accord would save us all from climate collapse, if it weren't for Donald Trump.
Not so. Paris is essentially a “feel good” document — no hard goals or milestones — just tell the world what you are going to do to prevent global warming, and later say whether or not you did it. “[K]eeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius?” Gimme a break. We're already almost past 1 degree Celsius.
I think it would be much more realistic and productive to say that now that Paris is dead, let's hammer out a real agreement that will slow down or even reverse climate change. It's unlikely that Donald Trump would be of much help here.
Why isn't this being done? I don't think any of the big polluters: China, Europe, Russia, Japan, The United States, Exxon, BP, World Bank, etc. are really interested in tackling runaway climate change. Much easier to blame it all on Trump and go back to business as usual. Donald, what would we do without you?
And here's some more fuzzy thinking: Representative Jamie Raskin tells us “Putin is the ringleader of the unfree world” and “Donald Trump is the hoax perpetrated on the Americans by the Russians.” No Jamie, perpetrated by us on ourselves. Give credit where credit is due.
All this anti-Russian rhetoric only increases hostility between the two nuclear-armed behemoths and makes a nuclear World War III more likely. “Even crazier than Donald Trump:” That's how I would characterize people who would risk World War III just to win a game of one-up-man-ship.
ANOTHER KOREAN WAR? - WORSE THAN YOU THINK
Did you know that Korea, all 85,000 square miles of it, contains “more soldiers and armaments than any other place on the planet?” North Korea has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them; and Seoul, with a population of 25 million, is 35 miles away as the missile flies. The United States has nuclear armed submarines off the coast of Korea. The tinder is all in place. All that is required is the spark.
I don't think North Korea can be bullied into giving up its nukes — not after what happened to Gaddafi.
Rajan Menon offers a roadmap for rapprochement. It's never too late to try.
May 30, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
STEPHEN HAWKING AND THE FATE OF THE GODS
“There feeds he full on the flesh of the dead,Three weeks ago I wrote a short snippet on Stephen Hawking's upcoming television series and his pronouncement that Earth will become uninhabitable by humans and we have but a century left to find a new home planet.
Here, David Macaray also opines on Stephen Hawking's pronouncement , noting that expertise and genius in one field doesn't necessarily translate into expertise and genius in another. I would go a step further: Expertise or genius in one field often precludes expertise and genius in others. The dynamic is straight forward: Become a specialist and put all your energies into one area, and there is often little left for other endeavors. The keyword is “often.” Some, like the late Isaac Asimov, seem to be able to achieve expertise in almost every field of endeavor.
Now, Macaray's second point: To declare that planet Earth is damaged beyond redemption is “the cruelest and most destructive form of defeatism.” This requires some discussion.
For someone like myself who believes in miracles, nothing is ever damaged beyond redemption. On the other hand, it seems clear that Collapse is imminent; Even if we were to stop producing greenhouse gases immediately, even if we were to all work together instead of fighting with one another, it is unlikely that we could avoid Collapse.
So what comes next? Suppose that a few of us, heeding Hawking's advice, manage to escape Earth's collapsing environment and find a new home among the stars. Perhaps possible, but lets focus on those of us left behind on an inhospitable Earth.
I am mindful here of Tom Godwin's 1950's science fiction novel, The Survivors. The plot:
“A group of humans are marooned on Ragnarok, an inhospitable planet. Death is assured — well — almost. They survive and evolve under Ragnarok's harsh environment into a race that is somewhat more than human. And over the generations they remember their destiny: To return to the stars and exact revenge upon those who marooned their ancestors on Ragnarok. At the end of the novel, their destiny is fulfilled.”Before you book passage on the Hawking Interstellar Express, reflect on this story, especially since those who abandon Earth will likely be those most responsible for her destruction.
I think Macaray got is right. Let's all focus our resources on saving and protecting Earth.
The stanza from the Poetic Edda at the top of this snippet describes Ragnarök. Ragnarök, literally, the fate of the gods, in Norse mythology, might be likened to End Times. Earth is consumed by fire and water (as seems to be happening now) and even the gods die. But Ragnarök is also a myth of rebirth. Earth rises from the waters and is repopulated by two surviving humans; and even the gods return.
Let it be so.
AMERICAN INDIAN WARS — STILL NOT OVER
Here is an expose from The Intercept based on both leaked and public domain information. It shows collusion between federal, state and local law enforcement, Energy Transfer Partners, and private mercenary and security firm TigerSwan against the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies.
Documents show that the non-violent water protectors were considered terrorists and that TigerSwan and law enforcement consider this confrontation a war and used brutal military counter-terrorism tactics such as water cannons, attack dogs, LRAD sound devices and rubber bullets against the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies.
AND OUR MIDDLE EASTERN WARS GET EVEN MORE BRUTAL
US military raids and airstrikes are killing more and more civilians in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.
All this brings to mind a frequently asked question from 16 years ago: “Why do they hate us?” No, I don't think it has anything to do with our fast-disappearing freedoms.
GIMME SOME TRUTH
“Sounded like the Truth;Back in March when I wrote about the March for Science, I jokingly said to myself, next there will be a March for Truth. I oughtn't to joke about such things. There is an International March for Truth this Saturday. Actually, it seems to be a march for an independent investigation into Donald Trump and his friends' dealings with Russia; but that is a totally different thing.
Personally, I think we ought to try to get along with Russia and all other countries; but I don't see how a March for Truth will move us in this direction. Maybe someone will explain it to me. I've written about this before.
The title of this snippet is also the title of a John Lennon song.
May 23, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A DIFFERENT KIND OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Amidst all the “tough on crime” calls, defense attorney and civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner won the Democratic nomination for DA in Philladelphia. Krasner vows to end abusive practices that target the poor like cash bail, asset forfeiture and jail for non-violent offenders . He also vows to put an end to mass incarceration and stand up for civil liberties. In this very Democratic city, the winner of the Democratic primary is usually victorious in the general election.
COP FIRED FOR NOT SHOOTING SUICIDAL MAN
Officer Stephen Mader could have shot R.J. Williams who was holding an unloaded gun and attempting to commit “suicide by cop.” Officer Mader didn't shoot. When backup arrived they shot Williams dead. Williams got what he wanted: death by cop. Mader was fired for trying to save his life. Stephen Mader would be an asset to any police force in the nation.
HOW TO CREATE A “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” WITH THE UNITED STATES
With Donald Trump's visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, we would do well to recognize how their “Special Relationship” to the United States was created.
1. Attack the United States:
In 1967 Israel attacked the USS Liberty, a navy reconnaissance vessel, in international waters attempting to sink the ship and kill every sailor aboard.
On September 11, 2001, 15 Saudi nationals (along with four others) attacked the United States destroying the World Trade twin towers. The purported mastermind of this attack, Osama bin Laden, was also Saudi Arabian. (Note: There is much controversy over whether bin Laden was really the mastermind, whether MOSSAD, the Israeli CIA, was involved, and whether the whole affair was an inside job.)
2. Terrorize and Kill Civilians: As Israel continues to do in Palestine and Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Here's an interesting article on this subject by Richard Falk; and read Helen's snippet on Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia above.
May 16, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DONALD TRUMP: EVERYTHING WE DESERVE
If you are tired of shallow post-mortems on how Donald Trump became President of the United States, you might like this short article by David Macaray that digs a little deeper. Macaray believes Trump became President because we deserve him. I have to agree. Here are the reasons Macaray gives:
1. We are a nation of dedicated consumers. Trump is a salesman par excellence.
2. We idolize the rich and Trump is very rich.
3. We idolize TV celebrities and Trump is a TV celebrity.
4. We despise intellectuals, deep thinking, nuance, ambiguity and doubt. Trump is anti-intellectual, just like us.
5. We love war, strength and power. Trump promises to give us more powerful weapons, make us Great again and give us more and more War.
6. We are narcissists. We think our country is the greatest ever and we are the greatest people ever. Trump is definitely one of us.
If I've whet your appetite, go read the article.
COLLUSION WITH FOREIGN POWERS
Well, it's all over the news: The FBI has been investigating the Trump administration for collusion with Russia. Trump fired FBI director, James Comey, and people are shouting in the streets, “Impeach Trump!” Many are already licking their chops.
I'm wondering: How come no President has ever been investigated for collusion with Israel? Israel has been blackmailing the United States for billions of dollars every year for decades.
How come no President has ever been investigated for collusion with Wall Street, arguably more powerful than any government? Indeed, they own governments. As Napoleon Bonaparte put it: “Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain”
Hey, the United States has been colluding with foreign powers to its detriment for decades. Why Russia, now? Well, we've been taught for a Century to hate and fear Russians (except during World War II when they were our allies).
Friends, we got a power struggle going on in high places. And this is just a battle; the war will go on regardless. I think the Neo-crazies have the advantage; but don't underestimate the Dumpsters. If they can energize their base, which boasts over 300 million firearms, the Neo-crazies might find themselves on the defensive. (In my opinion: Trump's biggest mistake has been to flip off his supporters and cozy up to Wall Street.)
Many of my liberal friends want to get rid of Trump at any cost, without a thought to what might come next. But as I've written before: “Do you know what really scares me, Donald? What comes next? I fear we may some day look back in nostalgia at the Trump presidency.”
So, I'm wondering why I should back either side. Neither side wants to end war or fight climate change. Seems to me, they are fighting over who will have the Right to steal from us all and rape Planet Earth. Seems to me we have far more in common with the Russian people and peoples all over the world than we do with the elites of any nation or with Wall Street.
If I were to look at the world through early 20th Century glasses, an alliance with Russia might make more sense than our old cold-war alliances. But this is the 21st Century; and our very survival depends on alliances with everybody and every nation against the two great existential threats to humanity: War and Climate Change.
Sadly, we're all stuck in the early 20th Century.
There has never been, and probably never will be, a weapon that doesn't proliferate.
Case in point: cyber-weapons. Someone stole the NSA's super-cyber-weapon and brought down computer systems all over the world. In places, medical staff resorted to pre-computer-age pen and paper. (And maybe we all should do that too.)
So proliferation goes on, and at a faster and faster pace. Ok: maybe next time we'll be dealing with nuclear weapons. Maybe Al-Queda or ISIS or one of their offshoots. Friends, there is no protection against proliferation, except maybe trying to get along with everybody. I think Tom Lehrer said it best: “We'll try to stay serene and calm when Alabama gets the bomb.” Just as pertinent now as it was a half century ago.
May 9, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
If you missed the Russian National Ballet's performance of Sleeping Beauty last Tuesday, you missed one of the most exciting performances ever to come to Leach Theatre. I was entranced from start to finish.
As these gorgeous dancers enchanted us with their skill and dexterity, I couldn't help but think of their friends and family back home who are targeted by gigatons of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Isn't it time to replace Mutually Assured Destruction with Peace, Friendship and Disarmament?
Here's a commemorative image for the performance.
THUNDERBOLTS OF A PITIFUL JUPITER
This article by John LaForge really says it all. No to nuclear disarmament; yes to more nuclear weapons testing and development. While our military establishment stands ready to use nuclear weapons, our political establishment (along with all the other nuclear weapon states except North Korea) boycotted the March UN sponsored conference on nuclear disarmament. Our “leaders” hate the thought of mutually verifiable nuclear disarmament so much they refuse to even discuss it.
US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, declared that “The United States is the moral conscience of the world.” Ummmm, how do you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y. The moral conscience of the world? Try Bhutan, Standing Rock or the Marshall Islands.
The title of this snippet comes from Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness.” When Mr. Kurtz is taken aboard Marlowe's steamboat, sick and dying, Conrad describes his weapons, “two shot-guns, a heavy rifle, and a light revolver-carbine,” perhaps the late 19th Century equivalent of nuclear weapons as “the thunderbolts of that pitiful Jupiter.”
Amazing how, all experience to the contrary, so many people cling to the belief that heavy weaponry can bring peace and security.
FLYING MOTHER NATURE'S SILVER SEED TO A NEW HOME
Apparently Stephen Hawking believes that in 100 years planet Earth will be uninhabitable by humans and we have just a century to get off of Earth and find a new home, or else face extinction. In fact, a new upcoming television series will be discussing space travel and livable planets.
From anyone else but Stephen Hawking, I would dismiss this as new age malarky; but you have to take Stephen Hawking seriously.
Well sure, we could travel through space and maybe find habitable planets; but our military is more interested in putting weapons in space than in finding a new home for humanity. We could do lots of wonderful things if our “civilization” wasn't so intent on fighting wars and supporting a handful of greedy leeches at the top. Maybe we could even rehabilitate planet Earth and there would be no need to travel the Universe looking for a new home.
I guess I'm a Centrist. I don't believe extinction of humanity on planet Earth is assured; nor do I believe that it's possible to maintain our unsustainable “civilization.” I'm still betting on collapse with humanity hopefully returning to a prehistoric-like state rather than going extinct. As Albert Einstein famously said: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
The title of this snippet comes from the Neil Young song, After the Gold Rush.
May 2, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DIPLOMACY IS DIFFICULT
Well, yeah — especially if you are used to getting your way by bullying and threatening. So, we move closer to a nuclear war with North Korea which may have as many as 10 nuclear bombs to our over 7,000. Hey guys, it only takes ONE!
Norman Solomon details how the Democrats have been, and still are, hoping to win back congress (and maybe start a nuclear World War III in the process) by demonizing Russia and linking Trump's electoral victory to Russian meddling. They've been partially successful. They goaded Trump into bombing Russian ally, Syria, just to prove that he's really not “Putin's poodle.”
I doubt they have accomplished much else. As Solomon states, “Tone deaf hardly describes the severe political impairment of those who insist that denouncing Russia will be key to the Democratic Party’s political fortunes in 2018 and 2020.”
DROUGHT TO FLOOD
Central Missouri, which has been experiencing abnormally hot and dry to drought conditions for most of the winter and early spring, has been hit by flash flooding. The historic town of Devils Elbow in Pulaski County on the Big Piney is totally destroyed — gone — swept away by the rising waters.
I learned of this from a climate change denier. I wonder what it is going to take before he and others like him will begin to recognize what we are doing to our planet. And I wonder what's next — maybe Mar-A-Lago in southern Florida. Will that make a believer out of Donald Trump? I doubt it.
Incidentally, the article linked to above talks about year 2100. I think that's overly conservative. I'd GUESS 2035 to 2050 at the latest. Some would think that I am also being overly conservative.
FIRES IN FUKUSHIMA
Wildfires, thought to have been started by lightning, are burning in evacuated areas of Fukushima prefecture. So all those radionuclides are being wafted up into the atmosphere. Likely they will come down somewhere: perhaps in someone's food, perhaps someone will breathe one in. One more reason that Fukushima has been dubbed “a ticking time bomb.”
Hey, folks: Sorry about all the bad news this week. Maybe next week will be better.
April 25, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
News on the climate front is about as bad as it could get. Data for March 2017 show that for the first time since April 2016 we have breached the 1 C. degree warming mark. This has been done only six times in recorded history, with the other five falling within the 2015-2016 monster El Nino event. The climate has been warming precipitously since the beginning of 2017, although the mainstream media (and the liberal press) have been mostly mum about this first quarter warming. I've updated my climate graph here . Strange how we continue with business-as-usual as catastrophic climate warming threatens to wipe us off the face of the Earth.
Other harbingers of impending doom include the continued shrinking of polar ice and the continued increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But don't worry folks. Humans may be headed for extinction, but the naked mole rats will have a good chance for survival.
Well, we may not be doing anything much to prevent runaway climate change, but when it comes to wars, we are certainly no slouch. Trump seems to be picking up where Obama left off, and may turn out to be the most warlike US president ever (and he's got a lot of competition). Cheerleaders from both parties are falling in line, with little dissent.
April 18, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
VIOLENCE IS WHAT DEFINES US
“Violence upon violence, deceit upon deceit:Every once in a while, there comes an event that seems to define society in all its ugliness. I think such an event happened last week. David Dao, a 69 year old Vietnamese-American doctor refused to give up his seat on a United Airlines airplane stating that he had patients to see in the morning. This was right and proper. Doctors are supposed to put their patients first — even before the profits of United Airlines.
For refusing to give up his seat, Dr. Dao was beat up and dragged off the plane by three airport security goons who knocked him unconscious and broke his nose and two teeth. Dr. Dao also suffered a concussion and sinus injuries.
It seems unlikely that there will be any criminal charges, much less convictions or jail time for this brutal assault. Only after videos of the incident went viral did United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz, apologized for having to “re-accommodate” customers. So, in this ultra-violent society we live in, getting knocked unconscious and having your nose broken is simply being “re-accommodated.”
It's not like violent acts like this don't happen every day — they do. But, here we have a well-respected doctor being beat up by law enforcement in front of an airplane full of people for nothing more than demanding that he be permitted to fly home and see his patients in the morning.
For what it is worth, it has been around eight years since I've been on an airplane. I don't expect to ever fly again. Ever since 9/11, I've felt very uncomfortable around airports. Maybe, I saw this coming.
We're well into the 16th year of our War Against Afghanistan — 38th year if you want to count from 1979 when the CIA hired, armed and trained some thugs like Osama bin Laden to destabilize the Soviet-leaning government of Afghanistan. Those were the good ol' days. It's been down hill for Afghanistan ever since.
Last week, for the first time, the US military exploded its 11 ton bomb, dubbed the Mother of All Bombs. Purportedly the bomb killed some “militants,” in Afghanistan. If 16 years of bombing Afghanistan just creates more and more resistance, then — obviously — what we need is a bigger bomb.
More and more violence — that seems to be what defines us as a nation and a society.
April 11, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF WAR AND TERRORISM
I've always felt that the most positive thing about Donald Trump was that he didn't seem to want to get in a war with Russia and in particular, he didn't seem to want a nuclear exchange with Russia.
For this he has been called a wimp and Putin's poodle, names which I'm sure have hurt him terribly. Last week Trump showed the World what a “tough guy” he really was by escalated the War Against Syria by firing missiles at Syria's Shayrat airport.
But, lets give credit where credit is due. He gave Russia advanced notice of his intentions, thereby reducing to almost zero the chance that Russia would immediately retaliate and the incident would escalate into nuclear confrontation. (I guess Trump really isn't such a “tough guy” after all. He doesn't seem to have the stomach for a nuclear war.)
Russia denounced the missile strike, as has most of the world. But Russia stopped short of shooting back. (Let's hear it for the Russians!) It seems that Trump did only minimal damage to the airport, which is functioning again and bombing rebels, some of whom Trump supports. Trump is huffing and puffing about what he might do next, but his bluff has been called.
And what about the chemical attack? Sarin is not so difficult to make. And with so many different actors in Syria, and shifting alliances and false-flag operations, we might never know who's responsible.
Maybe it's time to declare Peace before things get any further out of hand: not just in Syria but throughout the Middle East and the World.
In contrast to the international community, the US Congress and the major US media, with a few minor exceptions, are praising Trump for showing his resolve. One of the most relevant comments came from MSNBC's Brian Williams who, in talking about our tomahawk missiles, quoted from Leonard Cohen's, “First We take Manhattan:” “We are guided by the beauty of our weapons.”
Probably unbeknownst to Brian Williams, “First We Take Manhattan” is a terrorist song. Here is what Leonard Cohen had to say about it:
“I’m not sure of what it means right now because I had this long voyage from Chicago. I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it's a response to terrorism. There's something about terrorism that I've always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive.” (backstage interview)Apparently, it was attractive not only to Leonard Cohen, but to Brian Williams and most of Congress and the major media too.
Leonard begins the song:
“They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom,Yes, changing the system from within is too slow and boring for the terrorist. The terrorist wants action, now. The song continues:
“I'm guided by a signal in the heavens.This verse could be labeled the terrorist creed. We do as we wish because it's our destiny, as in “Manifest Destiny.” We do as we wish because of who we are, as in the “Indispensable Nation” or “God's Chosen People.” And above all because we can, because of our wonderful powerful weaponry.
I was singing this song to myself and all of a sudden I found myself singing, “We are blinded by the beauty of our weapons.” Well, there is that too. Power is blind to its limitations. (Leonard, sorry for meddling with your poetry. It wasn't on purpose. It just happened.)
And there are the complaints against society. Wrongs, on both a social and a personal level that must be righted:
“I don't like your fashion business mister;If you really want to understand terrorism, listen to the Master. The rest of Leonard's backstage interview quoted above is also pertinent.
“I don't like it when [terrorism is] manifested on the physical plane — I don't really enjoy the terrorist activities — but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I'll give you a paraphrase of it. It was ‘well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there,’ he says. ‘But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking...’”So how many wars fought and people murdered in the name of Christianity and Marxist political economy? How much destruction in the name of the sciences pioneered by Freud and Einstein? Is it right to blame Jesus, Freud, Marx and Einstein as one would blame Hitler, Stalin or Kissinger? These are questions we need to think about if we are to wage Peace and come to terms with all the terror around us.
Yes, perhaps it's time to declare Peace before things get any further out of hand.
April 4, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: MARCH FOR SCIENCE REVISITED
Interest in the March for Science seems to have grown since I wrote about it three weeks ago . There are now 400 marches planned on April 22 in 38 countries .
Donald Trump has been good for Science. I can't remember such a popular interest in Science since Sputnik and the early days of space exploration.
I've received some very thoughtful comments from our readers. An organizer for a satellite march writes in:
“basically I’m in agreement with what you’ve written, particularly the more qualified second part.
“I think some of what the science march is aiming to do is to focus politically on the need to keep the corporations from riding totally roughshod over what little protections our climate, air, water, soil, food, etc. have right now. Even workplace safety and our ability to be protected from all sorts of toxic chemicals depends on respecting and acting on the science, rather than deep-sixing research, killing regulatory agencies, as ineffective as they are, and allowing the chips fall where they may, years after the thieves have made off with everything in the unlocked barn.
“We can’t accept the notion that everyone is entitled to their own facts and administrations like Trump's are entitled to establish public policy based upon ‘alternative facts,’ especially after they’ve canned the researchers, killed the research budgets and then their Director of OMB, Mulvaney, can state, ‘Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward — we're not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.’”
My response: I totally agree with “the need to keep the corporations from riding totally roughshod over what little protections our climate, air, water, soil, food, etc. have right now.” and that public policy should be based on the best Science available and not “alternative facts.” So I wonder why we aren't marching for a science-based public policy and public control of predatory corporations. That would make a lot more sense to me. Incidentally, there is another big march on April 29 — the People's Climate March — which focuses on some of these issues.
Leona Heitsch writes:
“Back in l950 thereabouts, Robert W. Parry, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan told us...‘come back next year and we will come closer to the truth as we teach’.... He KNEW the crinkles and wrinkles that stand in the way of really understanding Science, at all levels. So much of the stuff I hear on the radio, NPR, misses the boat for any real scientific understanding. Marching will help??? Maybe we need to learn to boil grass, eat bark and lichens.”
My response: Great idea, Leona; but I don't think there is enough grass, bark and lichens to feed a human population of 7.5 billion people.
And Sean Fagan writes:
“Great newsletter once again, however let us not forget that although science has created terrible weapons, harmed our eco-system, and polluted our air, it has also done some great things.
“Science has cured polio, small pox, and a great number of other deadly diseases and sickness. Science has connected the world through various forms of communication. It had allowed us to explore the heavens and the deep oceans. It has helped to create the very method for you to write and distribute this newsletter.
“I truly hope that science will one day be the instrument of peace that will cure the faults of man. There's always hope.”
My response: Yes, Science has accomplished great things; and truly, there is always Hope; and that is the force that keeps us going through all hardships!
As a final note:
In the final paragraphs of the article I wrote three weeks ago, I suggested that we evaluate Science as a whole by asking ourselves which world would we prefer for our grandchildren to grow up in:
“the Paleolithic Era when the human population was under 10 million, life expectancy at birth was perhaps 33 and Science provided little more than crude stone tools? Or would we have our grandchildren grow up in today's world where almost 50% of the 7+ billion people on Earth live on a few dollars a day and millions, perhaps billions, live in fear of extreme violence from other human beings? (Don't assume that our grandchildren will necessarily live the privileged existence that we live.)”
I've given considerable thought to this method of evaluating Science and am not completely satisfied with it. However, I have been unable to think of anything better. Perhaps some of you readers can help me out.
March 28, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD (AGAIN)
Some of you may have missed this. I did, until I read Mark Haim's post earlier this month. 36 years of research and development and gazillions of dollars later, our attempt to develop and deploy an impermeable shield to protect us from Russia's nuclear weapons has come to naught. Russia now has nuclear-capable drone submarines capable of totally destroying coastal cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco (but perhaps not Rolla).
So we're back to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). We can destroy you; but we can't prevent you from destroying us.
You would think that military strategists would learn something from this; but don't hold your breath. They will continue trying, with money stolen from your wages and health care and your children's education. That is, unless we get serious about saying that this is unacceptable and demand nuclear disarmament.
We still vigil for Peace at the Rolla Post Office, Noon to 1:00pm every Thursday. Come join us.
Lot's in the news this month about air attacks on civilians. Here's a few articles:
US Military Bombs Syrian Mosque During Evening Prayers, Killing Dozens
US Bombing Blamed for Killing Dozens of Civilians Sheltering in Syrian School
Local Official Says US-Built Apache Helicopter Behind Massacre of Refugees
With 200+ Iraqi Civilians Feared Dead, Carnage Surging Under Trump
Don't suppose we'll win many converts away from ISIS this way.
CLIMATE CHANGE GRAPH
Did a little work on my short-term climate change graph this week. I think it is somewhat more understandable now. Let me know what you think.
And I've updated my CO2 in the atmosphere poster from 5 years ago.
March 21, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE CLIMATE DATA FROM NOAA
In spite of Trump's threats to muzzle NOAA, NOAA came our with its climate data for February — and it's not good. February 2017 was the second warmest February on record (second only to February 2016 which came in the midst of a monster El Niño event).
I've graphed the data over the last five years. February was 0.98 C degrees warmer than the 20th Century average. Only six months have a higher anomaly than this, and they all fall within the 2015-2016 monster El Niño event.
Only a fool would make short-term climate predictions, but here goes: Expect at least one (but likely more) warmest month on record in 2017. (January and February were both second warmest.)
Meanwhile, here in South-Central Missouri, it's shaping up to be a hot dry year. It's only March, the weather has been unseasonably warm and most of the state is in some stage of drought.
And atmospheric carbon dioxide? Not only does it continue to rise, but at an ever increasing rate. We are seeing consistent readings of over 400ppm. But, don't worry, folks. It's only a Chinese hoax.
You have to wonder about our “leaders'” reaction to these events which are almost certain to spell Disaster for humanity: Cut funding for the EPA. Increase funding for nuclear energy. Increase funding for nuclear weapons and war. Mine and burn more fossil fuels. And refuse to enter into needed international agreements on combating global warming.
March 14, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF SCIENCE AND MARCHES
I was rather surprised when I first heard that some folks were organizing a huge national March for Science in Washington DC, with satellite marches everywhere, including little Rolla, Missouri. Science has always “struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth.” I couldn't quite wrap my mind around a March for Science. Science exists — whether we march for it or not, indeed, whether we believe in it or not. So what would a March for Science hope to accomplish?
You can read the rest of this article here.
March 7, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
On Sept. 11, 2001 I was driving to St. Louis while the twin towers were going down in flames. I remember thinking as we approached St. Louis how clear the air was — not as I expected at all. Later I learned that the probable cause of the unexpectedly clean air was that all air traffic had been grounded.
On hearing about the twin-towers, my first thought was maybe we will learn from this. Maybe we can start getting along with other peoples and treating them as we would wish to be treated. Maybe we will lift the sanctions on Iraq so that the Iraqis can live again.
Sadly, no lessons were learned — just the opposite. 9/11 became an excuse for perpetual war. Injustice, oppression and inequality increased at home and abroad.
So, here we are, 15 years later, mired down in perpetual wars which we are, to be charitable, simply not winning. You would think we would learn a lesson from this. Maybe, arrogantly throwing our weight around and picking fights is not a productive policy. Maybe a kinder gentler policy would be more productive.
Sadly, the lessons of the past 15 years have not been learned either. The new administration promises more war, more injustice, more oppression, and more inequality.
This time we are going to win, we are told. Where have I heard this before? I think of 2003, George Bush and the “mission accomplished” stunt.
I think this is the way it has been for every empire since the dawn of history. Lessons unlearned. I had hoped that America could be different.
Here is an article by Ramzy Baroud that is pertinent to the discussion above; but if you don't get around to reading it, here are a few important lines:
“The colonizer, oppressor, invader is always blind to his crimes. He sees only the violent reaction — however minuscule — of the people whom he subjugates.”
“the identity of the American Muslim is, at its heart, a political one, concerned with human rights, justice and equality, with Black Muslims playing a tremendous role in confronting, challenging and clashing with the ruling White elitist order that controlled the US from the beginning.”
“According to the New America Foundation, alleged ‘Jihadists’ killed 94 people in the US from 2005-2015, during which time the US also killed nearly 2 million Muslims in their own countries.” [and, I might add, killed 300,000 of our own through gun violence.]
I hope that I have whetted your appetite for reading the entire article.
February 28, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PEOPLE'S CLIMATE MARCH ENDORSES PEACE
The People's Climate March slated for April 29 in Washington DC took a great leap forward last week when its steering committee endorsed peace as a specific goal of the Climate March. The March's website now reads:
“On April 29th, we will march for our families. We will march for our air, our water, and our land. We will march for clean energy jobs and climate justice. We will march for our communities, the people we love, and for peace.”
This puts the upcoming Climate March way ahead of January's Women's March which refused to endorse a woman's right not to be bombed by a mostly-male military. Still, it falls way short of the mark. There needs to be a recognition that without peace, our efforts to prevent the continued heating of the Earth will surely fail. We can fight perpetual war or we can try to prevent further climate degradation. We can't do both.
There is also an upcoming March for Science on Earth Day, April 22. This march doesn't even seem to recognize the responsibility of scientists for giving us nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. While praising Science to the Heavens, the leaders of this march fail to call for an end to scientific research that promotes military aims. I'll probably write more about this in upcoming weeks.
BERNIE SANDERS ON PEACE
Bernie Sanders appears to have learned a lesson about the importance of peace from his bid for the presidency last year. In his address to J Street yesterday, he uses the word, “Peace”, 14 times . This may be a record.
Sadly, this is a lesson that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and their supporters seem to have failed to learn.
The bottom line: Unless We, the People get serious about demanding peace from our leaders, things are only going to continue to get worse.
February 21, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
One month into the Trump presidency, Donald Trump has already trashed US-Mexico relations: first by depicting Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals” and vowing to build a wall between Mexico and the US which he would force Mexico to pay for; then by calling the Mexican army cowards and threatening to invade Mexico.
Purportedly Trump told Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto: “You have a bunch of bad hombres down there, You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
Last weekend saw tens of thousands in Mexico participating in anti-Trump demonstrations.
So what happens if the US sends the marines to Mexico to take care of some “bad hombres?” The best description I've seen comes from Fred Reed. Fred is a disabled Vietnam combat vet living in Mexico. Fred sees such an invasion as a disaster, and for the same reasons that Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq are all disasters. US troops would be seen as invaders, far worse than the narcotraficantes. They'd lord it over the locals and kill a bunch of innocent people. Needless to say, Mexicans would retaliate as Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqis do.
One thing I'd like to add. There are very close people to people ties between the United States and Mexico. In the United States we are over 11% of Mexican descent. So what happens when someone in the United States finds out that his mother, sister or child down in Mexico has become “collateral damage” in one of the inevitable botched military actions? I'll let you ponder that question yourselves.
As Fred ends his article, “Maybe it isn’t a really bright idea.”
IRAQ: 14 YEARS AND COUNTING
Any hope that Donald Trump might get us out of our 14-year-old War Against Iraq (26 if you choose to count from the 1991 Gulf War) has gone the way of our hopes that Obama would keep his promise and end our military involvement in Iraq. Trump's Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, proclaimed, “I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while.” As John Gray remarked: “To invade a country, dismantle its institutions, create a failed state, exit from the ensuing chaos, and then return with unending bombing campaigns is imbecility of an order that has few historical parallels.”
Unfortunately, we're seeing lots of imbecility with few historical parallels lately.
THREE CHEERS FOR NOAA
I've been looking at the monthly data on global warming coming out of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for several years now. With Trump's pronouncements against the government publishing climate data, I was wondering if there would be any new climate data for January. I was pleasantly surprised to find there was. (The data itself is decidedly unpleasant. What's pleasant is that they are still publishing it.)
January 2017 was the third warmest January on record since 1880, 0.88 degrees C. above 20th Century average. January 2016, in the midst of a super strong El Nino was the warmest. What is real bad news is that after a few cooler months at the end of the 2015-16 El Nino, the climate appears to be heating up again. I've added January 2017 to my color-coded graph of NOAA climate data. I hope to be able to continue to add NOAA data as it comes out.
AND THREE CHEERS FOR SCIENCE
Donald Trump has been really great for Science. All of a sudden, folks are demonstrating in the streets in the thousands for Science. Seems they have forgotten that Science gave us nuclear bombs, the Fukushima disaster, pervasive surveillance technology, and the ability to transform our climate into something hostile to human life.
I can still remember 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into space. Then President, Dwight Eisenhower's response was a massive investment in science education in the United States. But even then, I can't recall pro-Science demonstrations in the streets.
I was 15 years old back then. I was an avid reader of science fiction and had already decided upon a career in Math and Science, albeit what I really wanted was to become a “mad scientist.” (I think perhaps I succeeded in that ambition.)
Actually Donald Trump is not against all science. He's just against science that stands in his way of making money or contradicts his cherished beliefs. This is certainly nothing new.
As Steven Johnson remarks in Ghost Map, his book about the 1854 London cholera epidemic: “How could so many intelligent people be so grievously wrong for such an extended period of time? How could they ignore so much overwhelming evidence that contradicted their most basic theories?”
I've run into this mind-set again and again in my career. As an example, here's a cartoon I made after being ridiculed by scientists and engineers at Missouri S&T for suggesting publicly that Fukushima was a unmitigated disaster that they would be unable to fix. This was viewed as damaging to their livelihood and contradicting their cherished beliefs.
Here is the latest on Fukushima: six years later, still an unmitigated disaster.
And here is an article comparing Donald Trump to Joseph Stalin, whose denial of Science turned out a terrible disaster for the Soviet Union.
February 14, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A reader sends in the poem: Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes, very appropriate today, with the Muslim Ban and so many other acts of racism.
Here again is Robert Frost's Mending Wall which a reader sent in a few months ago — also very appropriate today with the imminent construction of a multi-billion dollar wall on our southern border.
And one of my favorites, Sedition by Edmund Vance Cook, which I include especially for Ed Snowden who may soon be rendered back to the United States to be tortured.
And here is my book of creature poems for children, recently updated to include the Elephant, Monster Mothers and other creature poems.
TEN YEARS OF PEACE VIGILS AND GOING STRONG
Thanks to all who came by our Thursday Noon Peace Vigil last week and wished us well as we completed ten years of weekly Peace vigils. This Thursday starts year eleven for us. Not much “Peace on Earth” in sight; but we are in this for the long haul. Please consider joining us, Noon to 1:00pm every Thursday at the Rolla Post Office.
OZARK ACTION COALITION
Rolla now has an umbrella organization for progressive causes. Not much interest in Peace there, but YOU could change that by joining and becoming active for Peace.
UPDATE ON YEMEN RAID
After botching the recent Yemen raid, missing its stated target, killing a bunch of women and children, and getting navy seal, Ryan Owens, killed, Donald Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, declares raid a success. He further declares that anyone who says otherwise (including John McCain) is disrespecting Owens, who died due to the brutality, stupidity and incompetence of what passes for “leadership” in the belly of the beast. Spin doesn't get much higher and faster than this.
ONE DOWN — MANY MORE TO GO — WHO'S NEXT?
“History does not repeat itself; but it delights in patterns and symmetries” —Stephen KinzerI'm seeing lots of patterns and symmetries between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. Michael Flynn is gone. Who's next? What about Trump? I think he's on his way out already, after less than a month in office. He's just too much of an embarrassment; and he doesn't take orders. But before you break out the champagne, think about what might come next.
February 7, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE KING AND THE WAVES
Once upon a time there lived a wise and beneficent king. He ruled well and the land prospered. The king was happy, except for one problem — he was plagued by a cadre of foolish courtiers who were always flattering him and telling him what a great and powerful king he was.
Perhaps, “King Donald,” there is a lesson here for you. As you sit in your palace at Mar-a-Lago, look to the land and see your people laughing at your buffoonery and demanding your abdication. And look to the sea and watch as the tides rise higher and higher with every passing day.
And consider the wise counsel of your priest:
“Steer your way past the palaces that rise above the rot,You can read more about the tale of King Cnut and the Waves here, a tale which, in keeping with historical tradition, I have embellished in my own peculiar way.
Any hope that we might still have held that Donald Trump would reverse the long-standing US policy of targeting children for geo-political gain, was dashed last week, as Trump ordered his first military strike which failed to kill its stated target; but instead killed numerous civilians including eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki.
Donald, you are still way behind past administrations. Consider: Iraq sanctions under Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton killed well over 1/2 million Iraqi children under 5. Bush Jr.'s illegal war against Iraq on Trumped-up evidence was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands and leaving millions homeless, And Obama was no slouch either. He spread the Middle East War to Libya and Syria and totally destroyed the only functioning hospital in the Afghan province of Kunduz.
But, Donald, I suspect if given half a chance you will equal or surpass all past administrations in cruelty toward children.
IRANIAN AYATOLLAH TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
Today, Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei stated: “We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights.”
I think many US citizens are finally getting the picture too.
January 31, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON
In response to my statement last week:
“The Women's March on Washington [January 21] drew an estimated 1/2 million, double the inauguration, and that's in Washington alone. There were satellite marches all over the world, estimated at 4 to 5 million total. There were marches in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri; but not, to my knowledge, in Rolla. Rolla boasted a Peace vigil the day before the inauguration that drew a crowd of four. But quality beats quantity any day of the week. The Rolla peace vigil was the only one of the three events that recognized a woman's Right not to be bombed by a mostly male military.”Mark Haim, executive director of Mid-Mo Peaceworks writes:
“I do have a minor revision to offer up. The CoMo march was a Solidarity March put together by a broad coalition of 24 groups, largely spearheaded by Peaceworks and had a broader issue focus than most of the Women's marches, including PEACE.And a Rollaite who attended the St. Louis march also notes:
“There were signs for many concerns, at the march. Mostly for ACA, women's rights, and against his racist and exclusion policies, as well as gay rights. People are really afraid they'll lose visas, get deported, etc . Didn't see too many anti-war signs. A lot of ‘love Trumps hate’”Many thanks to Mark Haim and all who kept PEACE alive at last Saturday's marches. While all these other issues: healthcare, education, bullying, racism, and discrimination of all colors and flavors are important, they pale to insignificance in comparison to PEACE and Climate Justice. Tens of millions have died or been driven out of their homes due to war and climate degradation and now eke out a bare living at best as refugees. Even more millions have lost close friends and relatives to war and climate degradation. How do our little complaints compare? Another reader writes:
“I don't know about Helen, but my understanding was that Tom did not support Hillary Clinton, the only candidate with a chance to beat Trump. Since you did nothing to attempt to defeat Trump, your carping rings a bit hollow to me.”First Helen's response:
“I supported Bernie Sanders, who would (imho) have beaten Trump decisively. The feeling in this country was for change, not more of the same. Hillary and her cohorts in the DNC and the media, as evidenced by some of the leaked emails, rigged the primaries against Bernie. There's every chance that without the dirty tricks, Bernie would have won the primary and the presidency. Enough people wanted change at any price that Trump was able to squeak out a win, with the help of the gerrymandered electoral districts. The truth is, we have a broken political, social and economic system that appears to be going down. Maybe it would have gone down slower under Hillary, but I don't think it's sustainable for much longer in any case. Civilizations have always come and gone over time; there's no reason to think this one will last forever. What happens next is anyone's guess. Old Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’”And my response: Here is what I wrote the day before the election. I have nothing further to add:
“Tomorrow I'm going to the polls to vote.MORE ON PEACE
The hands of the Doomsday Clock have moved. We have two-and-a-half minutes left; the closest we have been to Doomsday since the 1950s.
Mikhail Gorbachev writes an editorial on the pressing need for nuclear disarmament.
BERNIE AND HILLARY
Here's a rousing speech that Bernie, whom we should have elected president, gave to the Women's March. And you might like the quotes and image of Bernie on my website (index page, top-center).
Hillary, apparently, did not attend the Women's March; but here's a couple of day-after tweets from her.
There's been a lot written about Donald Trump recently. Here are two of my favorites.
As noted before, Donald Trump is a most unpopular president. It took him only eight days to gain a 50% disapproval rating.
And here's a psychological evaluation of Donald Trump that a reader sent me — Malignant Narcissism. I think the evaluation is “Right On.”
And don't miss Helen's column (above) on Trump advisor and climate denier Myron Ebell.
January 24, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AN ALTERNATIVE TRUTH
“Sounded like the Truth;Many thanks to Donald Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, for a brand new phrase. When asked about the discrepancy between the photos of Donald Trump's inauguration that showed about 250,000 attending and Donald Trump's claim of 1.5 million, Conway replied that Trump was presenting “Alternative Facts,” which is to say, to be charitable, he made up a big fish tale. Kellyanne, scholars of the English language will be forever indebted to you for that phrase.
The Women's March on Washington the following day drew an estimated 1/2 million, double the inauguration, and that's in Washington alone. There were satellite marches all over the world, estimated at 4 to 5 million total. There were marches in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri; but not, to my knowledge, in Rolla. Rolla boasted a Peace vigil the day before the inauguration that drew a crowd of four. But quality beats quantity any day of the week. The Rolla peace vigil was the only one of the three events that recognized a woman's Right not to be bombed by a mostly male military.
Donald, you are unique among presidents. You are the only US president who within one day of your inauguration, drew a world-wide protest of millions. That's a feat that even the great Richard Nixon could not accomplish.
I'd say that after five days in the White House you are already in deep doo-doo. The establishment was very generous with Richard Nixon. He was permitted to resign and go home in disgrace. I don't think Hillary and her friends will be nearly so charitable with you, especially after you threatened to put her in jail.
Donald, I'd be sorry to see you go that way. Maybe, if you would listen, I could save your presidency; but listening is, unfortunately, not your strong suit.
Do you know what really scares me, Donald? What comes next? I fear we may some day look back in nostalgia at the Trump presidency.
Here are two short articles on the Trump presidency that make for good reading:
Beyond the Spasmodic and Petty: An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump by Ralph Nader.
A Globalism of the 1%: Donald Trump Against the World by John Feffer.
OUR AWESOME YOUTH
“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” —Richard P. FeynmanLike Nature (but unlike many of us old-timers who say climate change is a Chinese hoax) our youth cannot be fooled. 21 youngsters aged 9 to 20 sued the federal government asserting that, “through the governments affirmative actions in causing climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”
In November, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken conferred standing to the plaintiffs opining, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
Answering plaintiff's allegations, the US Department of Justice has admitted many of our youth's essential assertions such as:
That the use of fossil fuels is a major source of CO2 emissions, “placing our nation on an increasingly costly, insecure, and environmentally dangerous path.”Closer to home: Watch this fantastic 7 minute video on climate change, “Do We Have To Change,” produced by Isabel Nauman, a Kirkwood High School student. It features an interview with Sarah Willey, outreach and development coordinator for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.
I've put together this climate change graph from NOAA data. I think it shows well the 2015-2016 El Niño (warming) event and that the La Niña (cooling) event of the last few months is cool only in relation to the 2015-2016 El Niño and probably only temporary.
And click here for a good description of El Niño and La Niña.
Here also is a graph of three year overlapping temperatures from NOAA data that I believe demonstrates the trend of the last century very well.
Enjoy this wonderful NOAA data while it is available. With the Climate-Denier-in-Chief in charge, it may disappear any day now.
The Army Corps of Engineers has published a notice of intent to require an Environmental Impact Statement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Please consider making a comment. Remember, we here in Missouri are downstream from this dangerous project and many Missouri communities rely on the Missouri River for drinking water.
January 17, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AN EXCITING WEEKEND
We have a big weekend coming up. Friday is the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump. Saturday is the Women's March on Washington DC. The Women's March is expected to be the larger event. That figures. Women make up about 1/2 the population. Donald Trump was elected by a minority and his popularity appears to have taken a hit since election Day.
The Women's March has a long list of Visions and Principles. Missing from the list is any statement of solidarity with the women of Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who live in fear that their homes will be bombed and families killed. On the other hand, we are told “that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings.”
OK. The Women's March believes in protecting the rights of folks of indeterminate sex; but has nothing to say about the rights of women not to be bombed by a mostly male military. I'm a little thick. Someone, please, explain this to me.
I'm going to skip both events. On Thursday, as usual, I'll be at the Noon Peace Vigil at the Rolla Post Office, inshaAllah.
Our “intelligence” agencies claim that Russia was behind the leaking of emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta. These emails made Hillary Clinton look bad and may have contributed to Trump's victory. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity thinks it's all smoke and mirrors and asks to see some proof that Russia was involved in these leaks. So far its all “classified;” but we're supposed to believe it anyway.
Totally missing from the discussion is that whoever passed those emails to Wikileaks is a national hero. We, The People, have the right to know that in any fair contest, Bernie Sanders would have trounced Hillary Clinton; but the entire Democratic Party establishment connived to get Hillary the nomination.
Just think. If the Democratic Party establishment had played fair, we would likely be preparing to inaugurate Bernie Sanders Friday, instead of Donald Trump.
US MARINES TRAINING IN NORWAY FOR WAR WITH RUSSIA
We've gone to war for lamer excuses than allegedly hacked computers. US marines have landed in Norway and are busy learning how to fight in the grueling Russian winters. Maybe they should hire the ghost of Napoleon Bonaparte as a consultant. He, at least, had some experience fighting in Russian winters.
HOW FAR DOWN WE'VE COME
From income inequality to suicide, the United States is at or near the bottom among industrialized nations in almost every significant category. And, we're still three days away from inaugurating Donald Trump.
So Friday, a most-unpopular president will take the reins of command over a most-divided country. Sadly, this most-unpopular president seems hell-bent on exacerbating divisions in society, rather than uniting people. A society this divided will typically either be taken over be a strong autocrat or disintegrate into warlordism. Take your pick; and remember: There are 300 million fire-arms out there — many of military grade.
PASSING OF ANOTHER ICON
A monster storm and high winds, following on the heals of four years of drought, toppled California's famous drive-through sequoia. The tree had already been weakened by being hollowed out so that tourists could drive through in their cars. Such is human folly.
EARLY APRIL FOOL
Guess what, Rollaites? Starting April Fools Day you'll be paying an extra penny sales tax on the dollar to pay for a road to enhance the value of property you don't own that will be developed by an out-of-town developer with money that should be paid in local taxes. Yup, they sure did make fools of us.
January 10, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS
1. Agent Orange: The widow of an agent orange victim writes: Agent orange is still a problem in our family. My son has Aspergers and my girl's hormones are screwed up, another legacy of agent orange!
2. Death Penalty: A reader writes: I don't think it benefits society to execute a criminal. Executing a person ends up costing the state substantially more then a sentence of life in prison. There have been several instances where a death penalty inmate has been proven to be innocent. In my opinion, ALL life is sacred.
3. Free Higher Education: A reader writes:
“There is one thing that worries me about [New York State governor] Cuomo's project: How is it going to be paid for? I don't doubt that there are ways to do it by taking money from other parts of the New York state budget. But I really think that proposals such as this ought to contain information about the financing.
“Liberals have been chastised for years about 'unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky' proposals that sound good but that can't be paid for. There is merit to some of the chastisements. This detracts from the possibility of getting good proposals approved. So I'm in favor of talking about how to fund them at the same time that such proposals are put forth. If that were to happen, I believe the opponents would have a harder time arguing against them.”
My response: I agree, the people have a Right to know how proposals that politicians put forth will be funded. I was unable to find the details on financing Cuomo's proposal to provide free college tuition to low and middle income families in New York State, so let me make two suggestions:
A minuscule cut in the war budget could easily finance free tuition for lower and middle-income students in state-supported institutions of higher learning, not only in New York State; but throughout the nation. I've suggested this before.
How about a tax on all transactions at the New York Stock Exchange? You buy a bar of soap; you pay sales tax. You buy a piece of a corporation, there is no equivalent tax to be paid.
Incidentally, my higher education in state-supported institutions was virtually free. If it was doable 50 years ago, it should be doable now.
Before 1991, when the United States imposed brutal sanctions on Iraq, higher education was free to all Iraqis.
Long ago, I saw a Frank and Ernest cartoon in which the loan officer (Ernest) is telling Frank, “We could loan you money if you wanted to buy Kraft or Nabisco, but not to pay for your groceries.”
A DESPERATE AND DYING CULTURE
As expected, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service has declared 2016 the warmest year on record, beating out 2015 by 0.2C degrees which in turn beat out 2014, the previous warmest year on record. Three years in a row declared the warmest year on record. That is unprecedented!
But, I doubt you will hear much more on climate change from NOAA or NASA. Soon-to-be-anointed Climate-Change-Denier-in-Chief, Donald Trump, has vowed to kill government-funded climate research in the United States; so I guess we are going to have to look to Europe, Asia and elsewhere for this kind of research from now on. That's what's called “Make America Great Again” and truth and science be damned.
Meanwhile, California, coming off a four-year exceptionally severe drought, is experiencing floods of near biblical proportions. Indeed, Nature Bats Last.
Like others, I've been searching for historical parallels to Donald Trump. The best I've come up with is Mr. Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Six weeks ago, I quoted the following passage:
“There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air.”Now here's a few more lines:
“You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over.”Yes, next time you listen to Donald Trump holding forth, particularly on climate change or fossil fuels, listen to the background noise. See if you can hear Nature “burst into a prodigious peal of laughter.”
And, indeed, why shouldn't she? I suspect she will recover from the depredations of a “desperate and dying culture” quite quickly in geological terms. I used to think recovery time would be measured in millions of years; but that was before I read Bill McGuire's Waking the Giant.
McGuire points out that The Giant is not static. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, the movement of tectonic plates — the pot is being stirred constantly, and with global warming it will be stirred all the more vigorously. The artifacts of a “desperate and dying culture” may soon be melted down within the Earth's mantle.
I suspect I was off by a factor of at least ten, maybe an hundred. Recovery may be measured in mere tens of thousands, not millions, of years — a blink of an eye on a geological timescale.
The phrase, “a desperate and dying culture,” comes from Jim Tull's, Positive Thinking in a Dark Age that Helen has written about above. Tull recommends that we, “Practice seeing the world as it is ... Resist writing off absurdities and horrors as normal ... Allow [ourselves] to witness and feel the effects of a desperate and dying culture.” Sage advice!
January 3, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NETANYAHU THROWS A TEMPER TANTRUM
In response to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestine as illegal under international law (passed 14 to 0 with the United States abstaining), Netanyahu vows even more illegal settlements and lambasts Obama as having orchestrated the “gang-up” on Israel. Israel also threatens to sanction France, China, New Zealand, and the 11 other countries voting for the resolution.
Sadly UN resolution 2334 does not specify any sanctions against Israel should it continue to flout the UN, as Netanyahu has threatened.
And sadly, Netanyahu thinks Israel is above international law, and should be allowed to continue to bully and abuse Palestinians and steal as much of Palestine as he wants.
ISIS AND ALABAMA
Last month the State of Alabama “cruelly and excessively violated the bounds of human decency ... when it knowingly inflicted torturous pain during Ronald Smith’s botched execution.” Smith heaved, struggled for breath, coughed, and talked during his painful 34 minute ordeal.
Smith had asked to be executed by firing squad believing it would be less painful than lethal injection; but the State of Alabama refused his request. In Smith's case, the jury had sentenced him to life in prison; but the judge overrode the jury, and converted the sentence to death by lethal injection, in accordance with Alabama law.
Now I've heard that ISIS is the baddest of the bad and they torture prisoners to death in all sorts of gruesome ways. I'm wondering where they might have learned to do such awful things. Maybe they learned in Alabama, which has by far the highest per capita death sentence rate in the United States, with the judge overriding a life sentence imposed by jury in almost 25% of death sentence cases.
IRAQ WATER PROJECT — GOOD FOR PEOPLE, GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
I've been working with the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project , supplying water purification units to Iraqi schools, hospitals, and other institutions, for 16 years. But this week I learned something new about the Iraq Water Project: Every water filter we install is equivalent to one half million plastic bottles of water — so not only does the water project provide clean drinking water to thousands of people, it keeps millions of plastic bottles out of the waste stream — good for people; good for the environment.
INTER-GENERATIONAL WAR INJURIES
War is even more expensive than you might think. Battlefield toxics like agent orange and depleted uranium can affect the unborn or yet-to-be-conceived children of exposed soldiers and civilians alike. This article by the Virginian-Pilot and ProPublica explores inter-generational injuries, the cost of which may dwarf costs to the current generation.
December 27, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TRUMP'S NUCLEAR MADNESS: BEEN THERE; DONE THAT
Ol' Donald has caused quite a stir again, suggesting a nuclear arms race. Lots of people think Donald Trump mad, and are frightened and concerned that he'll blow up the world; and well he might. But here's the part that really got to me:
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes” —Donald TrumpOk. The first country to possess nuclear weapons, and the country with the most powerful and diverse nuclear arsenal, and the only country to ever drop a nuclear weapon on a city, is waiting for “such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” It isn't spelled out what is meant by “coming to its senses;” but one might surmise that if the rest of the world gave up their nuclear weapons and nuclear ambitions, leaving the United States the world's sole nuclear power, this would pass for “coming to its senses.”
This is pretty much mainstream thinking, here in the belly of the nuclear beast. If it's out of the ordinary at all, it's only that it is being said bluntly, without even a “but don't worry folks, we're the good guys, and we wouldn't use our nukes, except on the bad guys, and anyway, the good guys always win.”
Still, there is nothing like a bit of history to put a little madness in perspective.
In 1969 Richard Nixon was anointed President of the United States. Nixon had a secret plan to end the War Against Vietnam. That secret plan, we know now, was to pretend to be mad — to act like if North Vietnam didn't capitulate, he would loose nuclear holocaust on the world. To back up this threat he sent nuclear armed aircrafts to the borders of the Soviet Union, where they flew for days, in the vain hope that the Soviet Union would be frightened into cutting off support for North Vietnam.
In truth, Nixon need not have pretended to be mad. He WAS mad — mad as a Prince Hamlet with nukes. What kind of person would risk starting a nuclear war because things weren't going his way? — Only a mad person would even contemplate such a thing. Fortunately for the world, the Soviets weren't mad — not even pretending. They refused to escalate this game of nuclear chicken.
Yup. We been there, done that. We've played the mad card before. It didn't work.
Here's another bit of history:
In 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed now by 191 nations including the United States, came into force. A key provision, Article VI, reads:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”And here we are — 46 years later — again escalating the nuclear arms race. “early date” might be somewhat vague; but clearly, after 46 years, the nuclear powers, particularly the United States as the mightiest of the nuclear powers, are in breach of their treaty obligations.
A couple of months ago, some non-nuclear nations got fed up with the nuclear powers and called for a UN conference in 2017 to totally outlaw nuclear weapons. The vote was 123 in favor, 38 against and 16 abstaining.
The United States and its nuclear allies: Britain, France and Israel all voted against calling the conference. (Voted against even talking about nuclear disarmament for God's sake.) The only nuclear power to vote in favor of the conference was North Korea. (And people here call the North Koreans crazy???) The other four nuclear powers: Russia voted no and China, India and Pakistan abstained.
Most surprising to me was Japan. Japan, which has suffered far more from nuclear weapons than any other nation on Earth, voted against the conference.
And so nuclear madness continues. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime. The nuclear arms race and the possession of nuclear weapons is a crime against God, humanity and nature.
Donald Trump didn't start this madness, although he seems to want to perpetuate and even escalate it.
That, my friends, leaves it up to us, WE, THE PEOPLE. If not us, then who?
December 20, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES
Here is a story of War and Christmas time that I wrote for the Rolla Daily News nine years ago. It bears repeating every year, especially this year which is the 102nd anniversary of the 1914 World War I Christmas outbreak of Peace. The article is based partially on a song of the same name by John McCutcheon and partially on the events that led up to the 1890 massacre of 350 Lakotas at Wounded Knee, which is particularly important to remember this year in view of the great victory over the Dakota Access Pipeline won this winter by the Standing Rock Sioux and allies.
And here's a song by and about today's Veterans Against War.
ON CHICKENS ROOSTING IN THEIR COUPS
A quarter century ago, the physicist, Michio Kaku, explained that in US politics, when the elite is united, the people have no real say about government policy; but when the ruling class is divided, the people can often choose which faction will rule.
For a quarter century, since the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the elite has been united. The official policy of the United States has been to establish hegemony as the world's sole superpower, crushing any country or faction that stands in its way (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Honduras, etc.)
Lately, with the obvious failure of this policy, cracks have appeared in the facade. A new faction has arisen. This new faction believes in forging an alliance with former arch-enemy Russia (remember the God-less communists of the Evil Empire) against China, Iran, the Islamic world, the Hispanic world and others.
In this year's election, this faction, favoring an alliance with Russia, backed Donald Trump, and won. The Old Guard backed Hillary Clinton, and lost. Both factions are pro-war and pro-empire. They just don't agree on which wars are to be fought and whether to go it alone or share the spoils of war with Russia.
Both factions chose terrible standard bearers — the two most unpopular presidential candidates in modern US history. In spite of their rhetoric, neither faction gives a rat's ass for the people of the United States or any other country. Neither faction gives a rat's ass for the Earth — they just ASS-U-ME that while others will die, they will survive along with their yachts and golf courses.
That brings us to today. The Old Guard is fighting back. We're hearing from them how Vlad the Bad stole the election for Donald Trump and now Trump is filling his cabinet with pro-Russian sympathizers and fellow-travelers. Some say the Democratic Party is making lame excuses for its failures. Some say this is a blatant case of red-baiting. Some say Russia really did influence the election. Some say it's a tempest in a teapot. Believe as you wish; and call me a “conspiracy theorist;” but I think the Old Guard is setting the stage for a coup. What better excuse for a coup than that the government has been usurped by Russian stooges?
For those who are salivating at the thought of deposing Donald Trump, consider the result of the 2013 coup in Egypt in which democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed. Yes, it can happen here.
As I've written before, the United States is balanced on the verge of chaos and disintegration — perhaps even unto civil war. We've fomented coups and civil wars in so many countries. Perhaps, now it's our turn. Perhaps the chickens are finally coming home to roost in their coups.
Related reading: Now, America, You Know How Chileans Felt.
WHO STARTED THE TENNESSEE FIRE?
“The people before you were destroyed because they inflicted legal punishments on the poor and forgave the rich.” —The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)Two juveniles have been taken into custody for allegedly starting the recent Tennessee fire that killed 14 and injured many more. If found guilty, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Hey, what about folks in the fossil-fuel industry who created our warming climate and the unprecedented Fall drought that allowed a tiny wildfire to spread and eventually kill 14? Not only has Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson not been changed with a crime, he has been appointed, and likely will be confirmed, as Secretary of State.
What about all the climate deniers in Congress, like James Inhofe, who accept bribes (sorry, campaign contributions) from the fossil-fuel industry in exchange for passing fossil-fuel friendly laws, which create the conditions necessary for global warming and the devastating Tennessee fire. Why aren't they charged as accomplices and co-conspirators? Certainly, they knew, or should have known, the consequences of their actions to a far greater degree than two careless minors with matches.
But this is our system of injustice: Punish the poor; reward the rich.
December 13, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“PREPARE CHAINS FOR MY PEOPLE”
Donald Trump surprises me (although maybe I should not be so surprised). One would expect a minority president who lost the popular vote by a good two million to reach out to his former adversaries; one would expect a president to avoid surrounding himself by anti-government advisors; one would expect a president to take threats like Climate Change seriously — but not Mr. Trump.
Ralph Nader gives us brief biographies of Trump's appointees. If you still haven't forgiven Ralph Nader for running for president 16 years ago, you can read a somewhat watered-down version, updated in real-time, at the New York Times. And you haven't forgiven the New York Times ... lots of stuff at the commondreams website.
As I've pointed out before, our nation is on the verge of disintegration — perhaps even civil war. Mr. Trump appears to be making disintegration all the more likely and sooner rather than later. (Does he really think that the Clinton camp will take this lying down? Does he really think that those who voted for him based on a promise of a better life to come, will not come to realize that he is a humbug? Does he really think the poor and the oppressed will not stand against further impoverishment and oppression?)
What can you do? Learn to be prayerfully peaceful like the Standing Rock Sioux, “for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.”
The title and and biblical verse above are from Ezekiel 7:23; but it behooves us to read what follows in verse 25: “Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.”
December 6, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Helen sent me this article by Charles Eisenstein a few days before the Corps of Army Engineers denied a permit for Energy Transfer Partners to drill underneath Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access Pipeline. I think it's the best short article on non-violence I've read in a long long time; and I hope you will all take the time to read it carefully.
Eisenstein points out that only through non-violence can we protect the Earth from those who would do violence to her.
“Around the globe, powerful interests are destroying ecosystems and landscapes, clearcutting, stripmining, and polluting. In every case, the destroyers have more military, political, and financial power than those who would resist them. If this planet and our civilization is to heal, it cannot be through winning a contest of force.”Had the water protectors met violence with violence, surely they would have failed; but having met extreme violence: (attack dogs, mace, pepper spray, water cannons, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades) with peaceful prayer, they won an unexpected victory. Who would have thought that five centuries of defeat after defeat for indigenous Americans would suddenly be reversed at Standing Rock through peaceful prayer?
Perhaps this victory at Standing Rock in which violence has been overcome with peaceful prayer can be translated into many more such victories, in many more such places. Perhaps in this way, the Earth may be saved from the ravages of human violence.
Eisenstein writes: “when we choose love in the face of enormous temptation to hate, we are issuing a powerful prayer for a world of love.” and “Each time you refuse the invitation onto the warpath, you become more powerful. Those who can stay peaceful in the face of any terror or threat become virtual miracle-workers.”
Indeed, our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock are truly Miracle-Workers.
ANOTHER FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
On the heels of the hottest driest autumn that the Southern Appalachians have experienced in recorded history, fire engulfed the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week killing 14 .
In their presidential primary, 333,000 Tennesseans voted for Donald Trump who says climate-change is a Chinese hoax, 245,000 voted for Hillary Clinton who doesn't believe in doing anything much to reverse climate-change, and only 120,000 voted for Bernie Sanders who wanted to make reversing climate-change a national priority.
In the November election, 1.5 million Tennesseans voted for Donald Trump who says climate-change is a Chinese hoax, 869,000 voted for Hillary Clinton who doesn't believe in doing anything much to reverse climate-change, and only 16,000 voted for Jill Stein who wanted to make reversing climate-change a national priority.
If Tennesseans had a chance to vote again, in light of the Gatlinburg fire, I wonder how many would change their vote.
DO YOU SEE IT?
If you do nothing else today, watch this very powerful three minute video.
November 29, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I apologize for errors in recent posts:
1. Dyed-in-the-wool was misspelled. I must have been thinking of a sheep I once knew who died in the wool. (Sorry, that was lame.)
2. Helen reminds me that medical procedures to change one's sex are not simple.
3. At this time, there are no planned registries of ALL Muslims that I am aware of. Under discussion by the Trump team are registries of Muslims born in various countries. This, however, could easily morph into a registry of all Muslims.
While on the campaign trail, Trump apparently called for a registry of all Muslims, but backed away saying he was talking about a wall. To date, and to my knowledge, he has refused to rule out a general registry of Muslims.
4. The month that tied for third warmest on record was October 2016, not September 2016. (The link pointed correctly to October.)
Sailing Uncharted Waters
5. I quoted a paragraph from an article I wrote almost ten years ago that states, “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.” (Three Murderous Myths, p13)
This, indeed, seems to be happening; but I neglected to quote the following paragraph that appears way wide of the mark, claiming that without US support, Israel may decide that the best course would be to make peace with its neighbors.
To the contrary, Gideon Levy points out that the Israelis and their AIPAC mouth-pieces are perfectly willing to allow anti-Jewish bigotry to flourish in the United States as long as it doesn't interfere with Israel's program to occupy, colonize and brutalize Palestine.
Juan Cole discusses a possible 11th hour UN Security Council resolution to recognize Palestine as a state. Obama may be ready to back such a resolution, or at least not veto it.
Green party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, has raised money for a hand recount in Wisconsin, with Pennsylvania and Michigan to come. Stein expects us to believe that the Clinton campaign has nothing to do with this; that she just wants people to have confidence in our election results.
Confidence in our elections? Ha! That's a good one.
George W. Bush stole two elections. In 2000, if all the votes were counted correctly, Al Gore would have won Florida and the presidency. But the biggy was all the dark-skinned voters in Florida who were detained by law enforcement on election day to make sure they didn't vote.
In 2004, Bush won Ohio, which used Diebold voting machines with no paper trail. Walden O'Dell, Diebold CEO, said “he was committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.” Deliver them he did! If Ohio had gone to Kerry, Kerry would have become president in 2004.
Meanwhile, Trump claims he would have won the popular vote, if folks hadn't voted illegally for Clinton.
In my opinion, if we had anything approaching fair elections in this country, Bernie Sanders would now be president-elect.
The elite will vet the candidates, and make sure that an acceptable candidate wins. If you don't believe the elite loves Trump, just look at how the stock-market has shot up since Trump was declared president-elect.
KILL THE MESSENGER
The latest on the climate front is that the Trump team wants to axe NASA's Earth sciences program. It seems all this data NASA is discovering about the Earth heating up is a bit disconcerting to a climate denier who claims it's all a Chinese hoax.
Trump may, indeed, have won the election, but he's unlikely to win the climate war. Mr. Trump, let me remind you: Nature Bats Last.
Donald Trump, like Dr. Seuss's Once-ler or Joseph Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, may for a time create an alternate reality, but only for a time. Eventually, like the Once-ler or Mr. Kurtz, he will be left stranded in his alternate reality.
“Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky
November 22, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
It seems that with our president-elect calling for a registry of all Muslims; some non-Muslims are vowing that in solidarity they will register as Muslims.
Others are calling for a National Registry of White Men, claiming that “statistically speaking, white men pose the greatest threat to domestic security for all American Citizens.”
I'm glad to see that so many of my fellow citizens are finally catching up with me. I've been a registered, card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool white male Muslim for 15 years.
For those non-Muslims who are considering registering as Muslims, might I suggest that you could easily become a Muslim – then you wouldn't have to lie to the authorities when you go to register. It's easy, rewarding, and a far stronger act of solidarity than simply vowing to register as Muslim. Contact your local Mosque if you are interested.
Actually, I've been a registered white male for almost 75 years. When my mother registered me as a white male, I'm sure she thought it was for life. I don't think she understood that 75 years hence, a simple medical procedure could change one's sex and skin color.
I'm often asked how I came to be Muslim. I left my former religion in late 2001 when it endorsed as “regrettable but necessary” bombing the crap out of Afghanistan and hiring brutal thugs to destroy on the ground what couldn't be destroyed from the air. I spent the next six months trying to decide what I was; while a voice inside me kept saying, “You're Muslim.”
Listen to your inner voices. Maybe they will tell you what you really are.
There are two kinds of climate denial:
The first is outright denial as in, Global warming is a Chinese hoax.
The second is that if we do x, y and z immediately, we can hold global warming in check and go on living our lives pretty much as we have been.
Both are wrong — dead wrong.
We are already in the early stages of Collapse. Unlike previous collapses, this one will be global in extent and affect everybody.
Here's the latest:
In spite of the end of the 2015 El Nino event, October, 2016 is still tied for third warmest October on record after 2015 and 2014.
2016, which has set so many climate records already, is still on track to be the warmest year on record.
Here we are in late November and Rolla has not yet experienced any serious cold weather.
In spite of 24-hour-long nights, the arctic is still melting. This is unprecedented.
The survival of our species is not at all certain. We should be discussing how to avoid extinction; not how to continue with business as usual.
After having done little for the climate in eight years, Obama now proposes a “bold” plan to combat climate change which will almost certainly be ignored by his successor. Meanwhile, he turns a blind eye, ignoring atrocities committed by the Dakota Access Pipeline against non-violent water-protectors. (see Helen's article above.)
November 15, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SAILING UNCHARTED WATERS — BETWEEN SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS
Many are having trouble digesting the election results. How could poor Hillary have lost? Well, maybe because of “deplorables,” like me, who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and still refuse to do penance for our sin; or maybe it was James Comey; or maybe it was Julian Assange; or a host of other “deplorables.”
For me, watching the election returns roll in was like watching the seventh game of a world series between two of my least favorite teams. An exciting game to be sure; but pity both teams can't lose.
Actually, Clinton won, by well over 800,000 popular votes. Second time in 16 years that the candidate with the most votes lost the election.
Clinton lost the electoral college by 107,300 popular votes — less than 0.1% of the total vote: 68,300 more popular votes would have given her Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes; 27,300 would have given her Wisconsin's 10; and 11,700 Michigan's 16. That would have given her more than the requisite 270 electoral votes needed to win. Elections don't get much closer than this.
All the wise pundits, who predicted Hillary, are now ringing their hands and saying, oh, we should have known. No, you shouldn't have known. You are as wrong now as you were before the election. It was too close to call. It could have gone either way.
But let's not dwell on the past. Donald Trump is president-elect. Now we sail the uncharted waters between the Scylla of war and the Charybdis of climate-change. So what are we to do?So here's a few things that could easily have made the difference:1. The Democrats could have nominated Bernie Sanders. I suspect he would have trounced Trump, who is now the most unpopular president-elect our nation has ever had. Instead, Democrats opted for a tainted candidate who was wildly unpopular and particularly vulnerable to Trump's taunts of “elitist,” “crooked,” “liar,” etc.
For starters: we might at the very least praise Trump for what he's said correctly.Nuclear Weapons
Trump's position on the use of nuclear weapons is of paramount importance.
“I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.”Our wise pundits mostly miss the overwhelming importance of no first strike. Never before has a president-elect eschewed a nuclear first strike. In fact, one of our former presidents, Richard Nixon, threatened to unleash nuclear holocaust on the world if he didn't get his way in Vietnam. It may well be that Trump's election has saved the world from nuclear holocaust and we should be truly thankful for this.
So let's encourage him to reiterate this position and take further steps toward nuclear disarmament.
And lets praise him for calling out the military establishment and their perpetual wars.
“Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right? George Bush made a mistake, we can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty.”Let's encourage him to ratchet down our devastating Middle East wars and bring our troops home. He's already shown himself open to this.
Trump deserves credit for his forceful repudiation of toxic trade agreements like TPP. Let's give credit where credit is due and encourage him to further repudiate these corporate-friendly, people-hostile international agreements.
And, let's not shy away from pointing out where he has spoken poorly:Climate Change
Trump is going to have a serious problem here. He can deny climate-change 'till the cows come home, but that's like denying the law of gravity. You do so at your own peril. (If you don't believe me, try jumping off a cliff. No, PLEASE, don't try this.)
So what's he going to do the next time we experience a devastating flood, drought, wildfire or other climate-related disaster — particularly in a state that supported him — blame it on Muslims or Hispanics? He wants to “make America great again.” That's hard to do when much of your country is drowning, baking or burning.
Being famous for saying whatever he likes, whenever he likes, and getting away with it, it might not be that difficult for him to reverse himself here.
Let's encourage him to rethink this one.
Racism is a toxic beast. It's like poison ivy. It spreads. Scratch it; it spreads further.
Trump didn't invent racism or misogyny. He didn't introduce racism to the United States. He simply scratched it, and let it spread.
And spread it did!
Trump's campaign and his election appear to have emboldened racists to abuse and violence, a violence that Trump, himself, seems to encourage.
It also appears that Trump is now taking aim at Jews, as well as more traditional scapegoats. Ten years ago I wrote,
“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. ... 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.” (Three Murderous Myths, p13)Pity this article was read by so few.
So here we are in uncharted waters. Never before has the population of the United States been so diverse — 61% White; 18% Hispanic, 12% Non-Hispanic Black, 6% Asian; 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim.... If Trump is to “make America great again,” he will have to quell the violence. This most-unpopular president-elect in US history will have to bring many disparate groups together. It is a daunting task; and If he fails, I fear the United States will degenerate further into chaos and collapse.
So, as we sail into uncharted waters, there is reason for hope.
I think Donald Trump wants to be more than just The President. I think he wants to be a good president. On the other hand, I don't think he has a clue. How could he, given the crowd of corporate moguls and Hollywood stars he hangs with? That leaves it up to us — to show him how to be a good president. Our behavior will determine what kind of a president Donald Trump will be.
1. This is a work in progress. I fully expect to revise and expand it. However, I feel compelled to distribute this intermediate version. All suggestions will be welcomed.
2. Earlier writings on Donald Trump can be found on my website.
YOU WANT IT DARKER — WE KILL THE FLAME
Another icon has passed. Leonard Cohen died just weeks after releasing his final album, You Want It Darker.
No poet or entertainer has touched my life the way Leonard has. While others in my generation followed Bob Dylan, or The Beatles, or The Grateful Dead, I listened to Leonard Cohen, over and over again, especially when I was sad or depressed.
Nothing could pull me out of a depression like Leonard Cohen. His music spoke to me of people I knew: A stranger who is “reaching for the sky just to surrender;” A puppet master whose “body is a golden string;” A saint whose “body is gone; but ... his spirit continues to drool;” Somehow Leonard would see me through it all and I'd come out the other side whole.
Leonard could see clearly what few others could even glimpse. He paid for his gift with a lifetime of sadness and depression. I think Leonard saw what was coming. I think he was ready to leave.
Leonard, I pray that where you are now there is neither sadness nor depression. I am truly thankful for your visions and the music that you have left us.
Leonard, I must have listened to the title song of your final album almost 100 times since the election:
“If Thine is the Glory, then mine must be the shame.As Helen reminded me, if we have killed the flame, then we must now rekindle it.
November 7, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YES ON AMENDMENT ONE
Please consider voting YES on November 8 for Amendment One to renew the State Parks, Water and Soil Conservation tax for another 10 years.
More information here.
ELECTION DAY AND BEYOND
Tomorrow I'm going to the polls to vote.
I'd like to vote for peace; but she's not on the ballot.
I'd like to vote for a serious and sustained effort to reverse climate change. She's not on the ballot either.
It's sad. Here are the two greatest existential threats to humanity; and neither one is on the ballot.
After I vote, I'm going to continue to vigil for peace.
After I vote I'm going to continue to support the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies who are fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
After I vote, I'm going to continue reading to young children. Maybe they will grow up and do a better job of building a peaceful, just world than my generation has done.
After I vote, I'll continue to defend Buehler Park. Maybe when the children I read to are grown, Buehler Park will still be there for their children too.
In short, no matter who wins or loses, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.
Change comes from below. Change rarely, if ever, comes from the top. I still believe that if enough of us band together and work for peace, we shall have peace.
November 1, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
LAST DAYS OF THE EMPIRE
“Plunderers of the world, after they, laying everything waste, run out of land, they probe even the sea: if their enemy has wealth, they have greed; if he be poor, they are ambitious; neither East nor West has sated them; alone of mankind they covet poverty with the same passion as wealth. Robbery, butchery, rape they misname empire: they make a wasteland and call it peace.” –TacitusEmpires in their last days are in the most dangerous state of all. They are powerless to prevent their own destruction; and so also destroy all that lies before them.
Here is the latest from Syria and Iraq. The United States and its allies are bombing Mosul. Mosul, home to over one million people is likely to be destroyed, increasing human suffering and the flow of refugees. Aleppo is being bombed too – by Russia and the Syrian government. Here we support the rebels who hold the city, the same people we are bombing in Mosul. In neither case do the suffering inhabitants of these cities count one single iota.
10 to 15 million people took to the streets 13 years ago to protest against the invasion of Iraq – to no avail. Empire shut its eyes and ears. John Pilger notes that, “if journalists had done their job, ‘there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq.’” Journalists too shut their eyes and ears and muted their voices.
In truth, The United States has not won a single war since World War II, unless you want to count the tiny Island of Grenada. In fact, winning a war in the last days of empire has ceased to have any meaning. It's the destruction, and only the destruction, that counts. What would it mean to “win the war” in Iraq? Think about this. I can't even begin to formulate a definition.
And lets not think that we are immune to the destruction we wreak elsewhere.
We come now to the end of the “Freak Show,” as Pilger calls the US presidential campaign. As we enter the final week, we have a virtual tie.
Clinton leads with an unfavorability rating of 60% to Trump's unfavorability rating of 58%. Never before have the two major presidential candidates been so unpopular.
As far as popular vote goes – again neck and neck, with Trump gaining. Electoral votes? Clinton seems to have the edge here; so maybe next week we'll see Clinton elected president with a minority of the popular vote.
Scary! The Trump campaign has already declared a Clinton victory illegitimate – and the election still a week away. What happens when a government loses the consent of the governed? Rebellion? Chaos? Martial Law, Military takeover? And don't forget that there are three million fire-arms out there, many of military caliber; and “it doesn't take much to turn a well-armed population into a mob.”
Sorry to bring such bad tidings; but there is something you can do to help. Work for Peace!
October 25, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHAT I LEARNED FROM HOURS OF DEBATES (MOST OF WHICH I DIDN'T LISTEN TO)
I learned that neither candidate has a plan to bring Peace to the World or even to the United States of America. Indeed, neither candidate seems to care about bringing Peace to the World or even to the United States of America.
I learned that neither candidate has a plan to stop or even slow runaway climate change. Indeed, neither candidate seems to care about stopping or even slowing runaway climate change.
I learned that there are many other things that these candidates want to accomplish; but I doubt they will be successful, if they don't bring Peace to the World and stop runaway climate change. Indeed, I doubt success in these other endeavors would matter very much without bringing Peace to the World and stopping runaway climate change.
But I'm a slow-learner. Maybe some of you readers learned a lot more from the debates than I did.
October 18, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ARE YOU SCARED? – YOU SHOULD BE!
Gilbert Doctorow lays out how close we are to nuclear Armageddon and a shooting war with Russia. This is scary. Two nuclear-armed behemoths facing each other in the Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere.
But this is 2016, not 1962 when the Soviet Union backed away from nuclear confrontation.
A resurgent Russia is facing a United States debilitated by 15 years of inconclusive war in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. We have little stomach left for more foreign wars. In addition, we are a nation divided in so many ways, hollowed out by corruption and poised on the brink of disintegration. This will likely get worse in January when the most unpopular president ever, Trump or Clinton, is sworn in.
October 11, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A FEW REMARKS ON LAST NIGHT'S PRESIDENTIAL “DEBATE”
Ol' Donald Trump created quite a stir last night with this exchange about Hillary Clinton's emails:“There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.” —Niels Bohr
Trump: “if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, ... you know what? People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace.”Great riposte, Donald! If Hillary were in your class, she would have fired back, “If I win, you'll be in Guantánamo, strapped to a board with water dripping down your nostrils.” She'd do it too, Donald; and then gloat, “I came; I saw; he drowned.”
Now, I'd like to focus on what remained unsaid or only half-said.
Of course Clinton should be in jail. And so should 99% of our politicians, billionaires and policy-makers. If I had my way, I'd try them all for TREASON. I just can't think of any more appropriate charge for what the elite class has been doing to the United States of America and the entire World. Putting classified emails on a personal email server is probably the least of their crimes.
And “People [whose] lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what [Clinton did]”? Let's mention a few of their names here:
John Kiriakou: sentenced to 30 months in prison for confirming the use of waterboarding which he described as torture.Note that these draconian sentences were for divulging information in the public interest and not for monetary gain. Were it not for these whistle-blowers, We, the People, might still be in the dark about certain treasonous acts of the elite class.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE – MIGHT BE USEFUL IF YOU RUN OUT OF TOILET PAPER
Well, what would you call a prize awarded to Henry Kissinger, possibly the most evil man alive today, and Barack Obama, likely the most warlike president the United States has ever elected?
This year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia for negotiating a peace deal with the FARC rebels which might have ended Colombia's 50-year long civil war, had it not been voted down. FARC leader, Timochenko, and Cuba's Raul Castro, under whose auspices the negotiations took place, were systematically excluded as recipients of the prize. They used to say it takes two to negotiate a peace; apparently not anymore, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE DURING THE COLD WAR?
Last week an S&T student came by our peace vigil. He was concerned about the possibility of nuclear war with Russia, and asked me what it was like living during the Cold War.
I hadn't thought about that for a long time. I tried to remember what it was like hiding under our desks in school during an air-raid drill. (Fat lot of good that would have done us in the event of a nuclear war.) I tried to remember all the gullible people who mortgaged their homes to put an expensive fallout shelter in their backyard. (Fat lot of good that would have done.)
I tried to think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which Kennedy advisor, Arthur Schlesinger, described as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Or as Major Don Clawson put it, “We were damned lucky we didn't blow up the world – and no thanks to the political or military leadership of this country.”
Well, Russia just held a civil-defense drill involving 40 million people. I guess they are taking the possibility of a nuclear war with the United States seriously.
So what can you do to prevent nuclear war? Come join us at our peace vigils in front of the Rolla Post Office every Thursday from Noon to 1pm. And come see the Russian National Ballet Theatre when they perform Sleeping Beauty at Leach Theatre on May 2 (assuming we're all still around then). Be sure to wear a shirt, hat or button that says both  МИР  and  PEACE .  And for God sake: Don't vote for political candidates who like war.
PIRACY ON THE HIGH SEAS
Israeli pirates illegally captured the unarmed Women's Boat to Gaza, 40 miles off the coast of Palestine. The women's boat was attempting to non-violently break the 10 year long blockade of Gaza, which is the world's largest open-air prison, boasting 1.9 million inmates, half of whom are children, living under horrendous conditions. The women aboard the boat have all been freed and vow to continue their work to break the blockade and free Gaza.
October 4, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: PAKISTAN-BORN ONCOLOGIST SPEAKS OUT ON IMMIGRATION
A reader sends in this article written by a Pakistan-born oncologist which details the contributions that he and other immigrants have made to the United States of America and to the World.
My response: The following brief history of immigration to the Americas follows closely the chronology given by Jared Diamond in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Guns, Germs and Steel.”.
Between 1/2 and 1/4 million years ago, modern (anatomically indistinguishable from humans today) man evolved in Africa. Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago modern man began spreading out geographically. They reached Alaska via the land-bridge that is now the Bering Straight around 14,000 years ago and over the next 2,000 years spread throughout the Americas. Some 500 years ago, people began crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Europe and immigrating to the Americas. Through the trans-Atlantic slave trade, people came from Africa through forced immigration. Soon the Americas were populated with people from every corner of the planet.
Europeans were neither the first nor the last to immigrate to the Americas. So why do Donald Trump and his followers think people of European ancestry should be so much more privileged than anyone else?
FLINT, MICHIGAN CAN WAIT
The water in Flint, Michigan was deliberately poisoned 30 months ago in a money-saving measure to create more profits for the wealthy. Congress recessed last week telling the residents of Flint that they could wait until Congress returns from vacation for federal money to rebuild their destroyed water system. Some 10,000 pipes that are leaching lead into the public water system are yet to be replaced.
Meanwhile, in a country that incarcerates 2.2 million people, not a single person has done even a single day of jail-time for poisoning 9,000 children.
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS KUNDUZ HOSPITAL — ONE YEAR AFTER DESTUCTION
A year ago yesterday, the United States bombed the only hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 patients, doctors and staff and totally destroying the facility. This left the people of Kunduz without a single medical facility.
Since then, there have been 77 other attacks on Doctors Without Borders medical facilities in Syria and Yemen.
As DWB General Director, Christopher Stokes, notes: “A war without limits leads to a battlefield without doctors.” Isn't it way past the time to end all these vicious wars?
COLOMBIANS VOTE AGAINST PEACE
This is so sad. Colombia has been embroiled in a half-century-long civil war. The government and the rebels worked out a peace treaty which was put to a popular vote, where it was rejected by the slimmest of margins — less than 1%.
The government and the rebels are back in Cuba, working out a new peace treaty. Both agree that the historic June ceasefire will continue in force.
Well, the Colombians are way ahead of us. We're fighting multiple wars and haven't even put a single one of them to the popular vote. The Syrian ceasefire collapsed amid new US bombings before the ink on the ceasefire agreement had even dried.
September 27, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“GAZE UPON THE SYRIAN EXAMPLE – AND TREMBLE”
As Syria goes, so goes the world.
Rarely do I read an article that resonates as strongly within me as John Feffer's, When States Dream, Is Syria Their Nightmare? Feffer points out the utter folly of creating “failed states;” and then believing that we are immune to the chaos that we have begotten. It began with a few small states like Somalia and Afghanistan; but chaos can metastasize and spread faster than a cancer. Feffer writes:
“Disharmonious pluralism has become the new global standard. Other countries – Turkey, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the EU, even the United States – gaze upon the Syrian example and tremble.”The modern secular, pluralist nation-state is perhaps a few hundred years old – yet we act like what might be no more than a fleeting fad is a universal, timeless phenomenon. For most of humanity's brief existence on Earth, the predominant social organization was tribal – and perhaps humanity is reverting to its natural tribal state.
Amid all the flag waving and calls to make America great again, signs of disintegration are everywhere. As Feffer points out, trust in the Federal Government is falling, the prevalence of armed anti-government groups is rising, and almost 25% of the population want their state to secede.
The Presidency and the Supreme Court have an approval rating of 36%, while Congress has a dismal 9% approval rating. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most unpopular presidential candidates in US history.
There are over 300 million guns in the United States and military-grade hardware is ubiquitous. As Feffer points out, “It doesn’t take much to turn a well-armed population into a mob.”
Yes, “gaze upon the Syrian example – and tremble.”
September 20, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YOUR FRIEND'S ENEMY'S ENEMY'S FRIEND MAY BE YOUR BEST FRIEND OR YOUR WORST ENEMY
In the chaos of the Middle East, the United States gave ISIS an enormous boost by bombing Syrian troops surrounded by ISIS near the Deir al-Zor airport in eastern Syria. Taking advantage of this perhaps unexpected assistance, ISIS quickly overran government positions and now threatens to overrun the airport.
Needless to say, as a result, the tenuous ceasefire in Syria has fallen apart.
US Central Command claims it was all a mistake; but didn't they claim the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz was also a mistake? The US military in the greater Middle East appears totally out of control, lashing out wildly, and willing to bomb anyone or anything on a whim.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CLINTON LANDSLIDE?
Remember how all the “smart guys” were saying a month ago that Clinton would win in a landslide? Looks like Clinton's landslide has evaporated faster than a Middle East ceasefire. Depending on which poll (if any) you want to believe, you could say either Clinton or Trump is ahead by 5 points.
Me? I'll be unhappy with the results no matter who wins. I'm still backing Bernie.
I think Chris Hedges summed it up the mood of the electorate best when he said, “Popular revulsion for the ruling elite ... is nearly universal.” For what it's worth, here, again, is my take on Trump and Clinton.
PROTEST IS IN
People generally don't protest in huge numbers unless things get really, really bad; but today, “Popular revulsion for the ruling elite ... is nearly universal.” So we have protests from North Dakota to Florida to Germany and many places in between.
While these protests all seem to have a different focus; they are similar in that they are all protests against the excesses of a totally corrupt ruling elite.
Here in Rolla, a few of us still hold vigils for peace every Thursday at Noon in front of the Rolla Post Office. Join us.
September 13, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE COST OF WAR — ALMOST $5 TRILLION
In a new study of the cost of our wars, researcher Neta Crawford finds that the previous estimate of $3 trillion by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes was overly conservative. The true monetary cost of our post 9/11 wars is at least $4.79 trillion, and that too is probably an under-estimate.
And this estimate assumes that our foreign wars will end at the close of the next fiscal year — highly unlikely.
Crawford also notes that a full accounting of the cost of war cannot be reckoned in dollars alone, and must include civilians harmed or displaced by violence, soldiers killed and wounded, and children who play years later on roads and fields sown with IEDs and cluster bombs.
Just think of what could have been done instead with $4.79 trillion!
ITS OFFICIAL — ZIKA CAUSES NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE TO FETUSES
Researchers at University of Washington injected zika virus into a pregnant monkey and documented the progress of the neurological damage to the monkey fetus caused by the virus.
“The monkey mother showed no signs of illness, but very quickly — within 10 days of infection — the fetus developed brain damage similar to that seen in human babies affected by Zika.”
Meanwhile, our “pro-life” monkey brains in Congress continue to block funding for efforts like this to increase our knowledge of zika-caused disease and find a vaccine or cure for it. Obstetrician Adams Waldorf notes “U.S. citizens are not getting the message. They don’t know how dangerous the epidemic is.” As many have noted over the years, the United States is ill-equipped to deal with health epidemics and emergent diseases. “Greed and stupidity make a lethal cocktail;” and arrogance knows no bounds.
YET ANOTHER HOTTEST MONTH — OFF THE CHARTS
With El Nino waning, many had hoped for a break in the heat, but August marks the 11th consecutive month of record-breaking heat.
So, expect more and intenser wildfires, droughts, floods and other weather-related disasters, not to mention the spread of mosquito-related diseases like the zika virus.
September 6, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THEY MURDERED SIX MILLION
In a forlorn attempt to control the spread of the zika virus which is linked to microcephaly (infants born with underdeveloped brains), Dorchester County, South Carolina resorted to the aerial spraying of naled, which decimated the local bee population. Bees pollinate our crops. No bees, no food. Naled is also implicated in neurological fetal disorders. In this case the cure (if one may even call it that) is worse than the disease.
BULL CONNOR RETURNS
If you thought the days when the “public safety” establishment set the dogs on non-violent protesters were over, guess again. Dakota Access released the dogs on non-violent protestors at a Standing Rock Sioux encampment. Pipeline construction has demolished Native burial sites and threatens to pollute the water supply. At least one child was bitten.
THE BEST FREE ATTRACTION IN THE USA
“A zoo is a better window from which to look out of the human world than a monastery.” —John GrayIt's official. The St. Louis Zoo has been voted our nations best free attraction. If you are a member or supporter of the St. Louis Zoo, give yourself a hearty pat on the back.
August 30, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I OFFER THEE THREE ALTERNATIVES (A SERMON BASED ON 1 CHRONICLES 21)
“Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.” —1 Chronicles 21:10 (KJV)And what were the alternatives that God almighty offered to David?
“Either three years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land”And what was David's great sin?
“And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.” [Mathematicians take note]It appears that David was interested only in men who “drew sword.”
“And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.”So, David's great sin was not simply counting, it was placing the entire Kingdom on a total military footing (and presumably, if I may read between the verses of this chapter, ignoring health, welfare, agriculture and infrastructure).
God's judgment was not a punishment; but a blessing. For indeed, a nation that places military matters above all others deserves all three consequences.
David chose disease;
“So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.”And hearing these words,
“the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.”I think there is great lesson for all of us in 1 Chronicles 21. Can you imagine Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump praying: “let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued?” Here, my imagination fails me.
THE ZIKA COMETH
The zika virus has arrived on our shores. No barrier, wall or fence exists, strong enough to hold back the zika. For indeed, zika is carried from place to place by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which in the wake of global warming is spreading its range northward. It may not be long before it arrives in Rolla.
Zika is thought to be responsible for a sharp uptick in microcephaly and other fetal abnormalities, and well it might be; although microcephaly could have multiple causes. Perhaps all the toxics and pesticides we are exposed to play a role too.
Some also think that zika can cause brain-damage in adults.
Indeed, Florida has begun spraying with naled, a known teratogen, carcinogen and mutagen. Naled is an organophosphate, somewhat akin to sarin .
Another proposal is to release genetically modified, male mosquitoes on the aedes aegypti population. Presumably, they will mate with the females but produce non-viable offspring, thus controlling the mosquito population. It may help; but there could also be serious long-term unintended consequences.
Sadly, few appear to suggest shutting down the war industry and the fossil-fuel industry and working to reduce global warming, which would at least inhibit the spread of aedes mosquitoes northward.
In combating emergent diseases, it is crucial that the people and government health authorities have a relationship of trust. Unfortunately, that is sadly lacking.
But one thing is for sure. Until we stop fighting wars and bring rogue industries under control, we will be plagued by one emergent disease after another.
August 23, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
TALIBAN MAKING GAINS IN AFGHANISTAN
In spite of more US boots on the ground, the Taliban continues to make gains and now controls more territory than at any time since 2001, 15 years and billions, if not trillions, of dollars ago.
I'm absolutely amazed. In 2001, we were told pacifying Afghanistan would be a “cake walk.” I suppose that's what the British thought in the 19th Century and the Russians in the 20th.
Great powers are truly blinded with arrogance. For a local analogy, consider the ongoing nature of the City of Rolla's 20 year battle to destroy Buehler Park.
OUR CRIMINAL INJUSTICE SYSTEM
This article by private eye, Judith Coburn, is a MUST READ for anyone at all interested in “reforming” our criminal injustice system. As Coburn notes, “Oakland feels like Saigon, Tegucigalpa, or Gaza. There's the deception of daily life and the silent routine of dread punctured by out-of-the blue mayhem. Oakland's poor neighborhoods are a war zone...”
Looking at photos of the climate-induced mayhem in Louisiana and California, I suspect that more and more of the world will soon be looking like war zones.
As one of Coburn's clients notes, “It ain't just, but that's how they do.”
AND THE PRESIDENCY.... ITS UP FOR GRABS
It appears that Donald Trump's short flirtation with the Republican Party establishment may be coming to an end. I suspect that this will bring his campaign a boost. As I noted months ago in a open letter to Donald Trump, “Your true talent is buffoonery. Stick to what you do best. You will not get elected by pretending to be a ‘rational statesman.’ If you win, you will win as a buffoon.”
And by contrast, as Ralph Nader notes, “Hillary is the clear reported choice for president not just by the Wall Street crowd. The champions of the military-industrial complex love her variety of extreme hawkishness, which rings the cash registers for ever more military weapons contracts.”
Polls (for what little they are worth) seem to be mostly favoring Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin. But if I were to place a wager, it would be on Donald Trump.
Disclaimer: I do not intend to vote for either of the two major-party candidates.
August 16, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BUEHLER PARK DECISION DELAYED UNTIL MID-OCTOBER
Rolla mayor Lou Magdits announced at yesterday's city council meeting, that the subject of a dog park in Buehler Park would not be considered in council before mid-October.
I think the phone calls and email are having a positive effect. Keep them coming. Here are the details:
Please contact:City of Rolla: (573) 426-6948, firstname.lastname@example.org
Royal Canin USA HQ: (800) 592-6687, email@example.com
Royal Canin in Rolla: Crystal Watson, (573) 202-9034, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent Jewelry: Kent Bagnall, (573) 364-1030, email@example.com
and respectfully request:“Please do not build a dog park in Buehler Park. Let Buehler Park remain a beautiful park for all people to use and enjoy.”
You may also add something like:“Instead please consider building a dog park across Kingshighway near the Welcome Center or at some other location in Rolla.”
Thanks for your help. More info at http://buehlerpark.org
The Rolla Parks Advisory Commission will meet at 5:30 Wednesday, August 24 in the Centre. Please consider attending and asking the Park Commission not to put a dog-park in Buehler.
YET ANOTHER MILLENNIAL CLIMATE EVENT
In some locations in Louisiana, the ongoing deluge is being considered a once in a thousand year event. Well, warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air; and the world is warming due to humanity's depredations in spite of what the climate-change deniers say. So, what did you expect?
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton appoints Ken “there's not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone” Salazar to head her “transition” team.
And July, 2016 has been declared the warmest month in all of recorded history.
HOW TO MAKE A TERRORIST
All I need is a terrorist...The latest terror suspect was apparently befriended by an FBI informant who claimed to have traveled to ISIS held territory. Nicholas Young sent him $245 worth of gift cards and is now facing a possible 20 year sentence. Ironically, Young had previously tried to dissuade the informant from joining ISIS!
And for all you mathematicians — don't solve differential equations while flying. Professor Guido Menzio's flight was delayed while security questioned him about the differential equation he was solving on board. Apparently, his neighbor thought that solving differential equations is a sign of terrorism.
Menzio wonders about a system that “relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless.” Welcome, professor Menzio, to the United States of America!
(This article fails to mention whether the terrorist differential equation was partial or ordinary — a grievous omission.)
August 9, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARISM AND CLIMATE CHANGE
On several occasions, I've pointed out in this newsletter how militarism and climate change feed on each other. Here is another example from this week's news:
In the 1960s the Pentagon built a city under the ice in Greenland to test the feasibility of launching nuclear weapons at the Soviet Union from close to the pole. When they closed the base, they left behind tons of radioactive waste, PCBs and other toxics entombed in the ice. As the Greenland ice sheet melts, guess what will happen to all that waste? If you guessed it will be washed into the North Atlantic where it will poison humans and marine life, you are correct.
WAR CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH
A new study of deciduous (baby) teeth of Iraqi children finds extremely elevated levels of lead which causes birth defects and developmental disorders in children. The lead is a result of over a quarter of a century of war and heavy bombing.
Conclusion: If you want your children to grow up healthy, don't raise them in a war zone. Or better yet: Stop making war, so children all around the world might grow up healthy.
August 2, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Rolla's Buehler Park Under Attack — Again
On July 18 the Rolla city council received a serious proposal from Kent Bagnall and Crystal Watson to fence in 1/3 to 1/2 of Buehler Park for dog runs.
Kent Bagnall is the owner of Kent Jewelry and Crystal Watson represents Royal Canin.
Although this is apparently the first formal proposal to convert Buehler Park into a dog park, the City has been discussing this possibility for nine years.
Buehler Park is a beautiful, small city park, and because of its location there have been various suggestions that would either destroy it (1996; sale to Cracker Barrel) or alter its present character (the recent dog-park proposal).
Fencing in the Western part of Buehler Park for dog runs would significantly alter the nature of the park. It would no longer be a park for all local people and visitors to our area. It would be primarily for dog-owners willing to drive their dogs to the park.
City of Rolla: (573) 426-6948, firstname.lastname@example.orgHERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELPPlease contact:
Royal Canin USA HQ: (800) 592-6687, email@example.com
Royal Canin in Rolla: Crystal Watson, (573) 202-9034, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent Jewelry: Kent Bagnall, (573) 364-1030, email@example.com
and respectfully request:“Please do not build a dog park in Buehler Park. Let Buehler Park remain a beautiful park for all people to use and enjoy.”
You may also add something like:“Instead please consider building a dog park across Kingshighway near the Welcome Center or at some other location in Rolla.”
Thanks for your help. More info at http://buehlerpark.org
We're Bombing Libya — Again
“Who's ever heard before of a ‘moderate’ with a Kalashnikov.” —Robert FiskFive years ago the Obama administration bombed Libya and armed a group of “moderates,” who deposed strongman Muammar Ghaddafi. I guess, in reality, these “moderates” weren't quite so moderate. If you want to see how “moderate” they really are, just look at one of the videos of the death of Ghaddafi (WARNING: very gruesome!).
Then came the Benghazi incident, where a bunch of our allies attacked the US consulate and killed our ambassador and three others.
I'd like to share with you my Benghazi Conjecture. It's really not a conspiracy theory. In fact, it's not a theory at all. After all, I have no proof. And the best supporting evidence I have is that it makes sense, whereas nothing else I've heard about this incident does.
I think the Benghazi incident was an inside job, probably orchestrated by neocon forces within the US establishment. Its purpose appears to have been three fold:
1. Get rid of a troublesome ambassador who had “gone native.”In any case, now we are bombing our former allies in Libya in a “sustained offensive” that is unlikely to end soon.
A TERRIBLE TERRIBLE HORRIFIC INCIDENT
“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,”Ellicott City, Maryland received a whole month of rain in just two hours in what is described as a 1,000 year event. The Patapsco River rose more than 13 feet. But 1,000 year events are becoming all too commonplace. We have seen a number of them already this year. India has also experienced devastating floods in July.
California and much of the North American West are in the midst of a devastating fire season. The Soberanes fire in the Big Sur has destroyed thousands of acres and keeps growing. The length of the fire season has been growing too. Soon the California fire season may become 12 months long.
In Washington, a wildfire burns dangerously close to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the most polluted parcels on Earth.
Here is some of Stuart Palleys wildfire photography Absolutely awesome!
Scientists are astounded by how rapidly the Earth has heated up and millennial weather events have become commonplace. They needn't be. This was predicted many years ago.
The problem is to a great extent with their computer models — never trust a computer. Their models apparently assumed linearity. A little more carbon dioxide results in a little more heat and a few more extreme weather events. But in truth, complex natural processes are rarely linear. In this case, a little more carbon dioxide has resulted in a lot more heat and a lot more extreme weather events.
Here's a riddle for you: How are our California fires like our foreign wars? Answer: They never end.
And how do our presidential nominees feel about climate change? One doesn't believe in it and the other doesn't care about it.
Yet, here in Rolla, the summer weather does not appear unusual. But don't let the stillness fool you.
“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.”
July 26, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PRESIDENT TO BE, DONALD TRUMP — GET USED TO IT
Donald Trump has caught up and maybe surpassed Hillary Clinton (depending on which poll you look at). Well, as I said four months ago in an open letter to Donald Trump, “she's just not in your class — not even close.”
The Democratic Convention is now in full swing. Yesterday, Bernie gave a rousing speech about how the political revolution will continue. He mentioned defeating the TPP, $15 minimum wage, single-payer health insurance, .... but not a single word about war or militarism.
Bernie, I'll give it to you straight. All those good things you hope to accomplish in your political revolution — they are meaningless, unless you end the wars and bring the Pentagon under control. Good things for all here; built on denial of basic human rights over there. No Bernie, that is not going to work anymore.
FEELING THE HEAT
According to NOAA, June makes a string of 14 months in a row — each one hotter than any previous month of the same name since record keeping began around 1880 — and many by a whopping margin (see graph here).
The United States just had a week of hot dry weather; with fires breaking out again in California; but that's nothing. Consider the Middle East — where temperatures soared into the 120s. War and climate change feed on each other. Imagine sweltering in 120 degree weather, while the people most responsible for climate change are bombing you out of your homes.
JUST ANOTHER CRAZY TEENAGER
We can all breathe a sigh of relief. The Munich shooter wasn't a terrorist at all — just a crazy kid who went off the deep end, like the copilot of the Germanwings airplane who killed 150 by locking himself in the cockpit and putting his plane on a crash course with a mountain top.
How do you tell the difference between insanity and terrorism? It's hard, especially when someone is trying to kill you. Some might venture to say that there is no difference at all.
But truly, we live in a culture that is almost certain to drive people crazy. We live in the time of, not so much the destruction of civilization, but the civilization of destruction — when the whole purpose of civilization seems to be the destruction of the world — both through environmentally destructive weaponry and through climate change. This insight came to me through this video by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Watch it. It's only six minutes long.
July 19, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
LONGER AND STRONGER: THE ARC OF INSTABILITY GROWS:
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” —Mahatma GandhiGavin Long, who allegedly killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, was, like Micah Johnson, who allegedly killed five policemen last week in Dallas, a veteran of our wars in the greater Middle East. Long declares in this video:
“100 percent of revolutions—of victims fighting their oppressors, from victims fighting their bullies—100 percent have been successful through fighting back. Through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It has never worked and it never will. You've got to fight back. That's the only way a bully knows to quit. He doesn't know words. He can't understand words. I promise you. He doesn't understand protest. If you all want to keep protesting, do that. But the serious ones, the real ones, the alpha ones, we know what it's going to take. It's only fighting back or money. That's all they care about. Revenue and blood, revenue and blood, revenue and blood, nothing else. Don't even think about it.” (2:40)There are plenty of counter examples: most recently the Turkish people who (the ensuing government violence not withstanding) non-violently put down an attempted military coup this week.
US coalition forces have just killed 77 civilians in Syria, including at least 11 children. How many Micah Johnsons and Gavin Longs were created?
Everything is connected. Atrocities we commit “over there” come home and haunt us.
Now go back and reread Helen's article on Crime and Punishment. We need to get beyond the violence and revenge mindset. Our lives depend on it.
July 12, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED? WAR IS COMING HOME
The news that five policemen were killed by a sniper in Dallas seems almost deja vu to someone who has been following our Middle East and Asian wars for the last quarter century. The headlines should have been that a man who was trained by the US military to be a killer, came home and used his military skills here to ambush and kill.
That's the problem with training killers: When war goes sour, as it always does eventually, sometimes they use their killing skills back at home — sometimes on the “wrong people.” To paraphrase the Gospels: A nation that lives by the sword, will die by the sword.
Ann Wright draws many parallels, including comparing the assassination of Afghan War veteran and suspect Micah Johnson by remote control with our military's policy of assassination by drone.
No, I'm going to refrain from describing this event with words like “horrendous.” If I use the word horrendous to describe this killing, then what word should I use to describe our killing of millions of children in the Greater Middle East and the destruction of the entire region? Yes, war is coming home.
WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED? BERNIE ENDORSES HILLARY
The big news on the political front is that, as expected, Bernie, coming up way short in delegates to win the Democratic nomination, has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bernie is just too good a politician to do otherwise.
Bernie was never very strong as a peace candidate. His main issues like single-payer health care for all, free higher education, and opposition to toxic trade agreements were basically domestic issues. Clinton on the other hand is the quintessential hawk. Bernie may push her in the right direction on domestic issues; but the last thing the establishment will give up is their alleged right to make war at any time, in any place and in the way of their choosing.
July 5, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NATIONAL UNPOPULARITY CONTEST
The latest Gallup poll shows the extent of the unpopularity of the two presumed major party candidates. When asked to describe Hillary Clinton, a full 27% don't trust her and another 13% don't like her. For Donald Trump, 16% don't like him and another 12% describe him as an idiot, a joke, crazy or just plain embarassing. Clinton has a negativity rating of -12. Sounds bad; but consider that Trump's negativity rating is -40.
Here's an article by Robert Parry detailing Clinton's warlike past, warlike present, and probable warlike future. Hillary loves war and is most certainly the war candidate.
And here's an article by Ralph Nader detailing Donald Trump's dishonesty and lack of patriotism. “According to the nonpartisan Politifact, nearly 80% of the statements made by Donald Trump fall under the categories of Mostly False, False, or ‘Pants on Fire.’”
Actually, I find Clinton's warlike pronouncements far more scary than Trump's lies, although most likely, I will vote for neither.
Here's a joke I've heard about every president of the United States since Richard Nixon:
George Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie.”I think it fits equally well (perhaps better) as a pre-election joke:
George Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie.”Well, it's not too late to nominate and elect Bernie Sanders.
June 28, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal.”The subject of my column today is disintegration. Three years ago, Chris Hedges reduced global disintegration to the single sentence above. The cause for the popular revulsion — the corruption of ruling elites.
Here are three recent articles that all elaborate on Hedges's sentence:
Patrick Cockburn discusses the “failed states” of the Middle East and neighboring parts of Africa and Asia; and their replacement by non-state organizations such as the Islamic State.
Stephen Kinzer looks at brexit, the British exit from the European Union, and concludes that this ought to be a wake-up call for arrogant elites.
John Feffer looks at the rise of right-wing nationalism and neo-fascism in Europe and the United States.
I recommend all of these articles. The unifying thread is that the State is not supporting the people; so the people stop supporting the State and look elsewhere for support.
I would also add that it is not only states that are disintegrating; our planetary life-support system is also disintegrating under the weight of corrupt elites.
Here is a judgment from the I Ching that describes this situation well:
The weight of the great is excessive. The load is too heavy for the strength of the supports. The ridgepole on which the whole roof rests, sags to the breaking point, because its supporting ends are too weak for the load they bear. It is an exceptional time and situation; therefore extraordinary measures are demanded. It is necessary to find a way of transition as quickly as possible, and to take action. This promises success. For although the strong element is in excess, it is in the middle, that is, at the center of gravity, so that a revolution is not to be feared. Nothing is to be achieved by forcible measures. The problem must be solved by gentle penetration to the meaning of the situation. Then the change-over to other conditions will be successful. It demands real superiority; therefore the time when the great preponderates is a momentous time.PREPONDERANCE OF THE GREAT
June 21, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FLYING THE “FRIENDLY” SKIES
William Astore gives a short history of bombing and concludes that what air power provides is “not victory, but carnage, terror, rubble — and resistance”. Yup, 15 years after the US invasion of Afghanistan and 13 years after the invasion of Iraq: plenty of carnage, terror, rubble and resistance; but no victory in sight.
For a somewhat longer treatise on bombing read Sven Lindqvist's History of Bombing.
OVER 84 MILLION REFUGEES ... AND COUNTING
“The world hemorrhages. Refugees flow from its wounds.”Nope, no victory, but plenty of refugees — over 65 million fleeing from war and persecution and another 19+ million uprooted through climate change (referred to in this article as “natural disasters.” There are more refugees now than ever before — and half of them are children.
Meanwhile countries most responsible for creating refugees close their borders and grow more and more antagonistic and xenophobic.
CLOSE THE BASES, END THE WARS, BRING THE TROOPS HOME
The United States maintains hundreds of overseas bases which provide “plenty of carnage, terror, rubble and resistance” for the local populations.
In Okinawa some 65,000 rallied to close US military bases on their island and held signs reading “Murderer Marines. Out of Okinawa,” and “Our anger is past its limit.”
Earlier this month over 5,000 Germans formed a human chain around Ramstein Air Base in protest of its use in the global drone war. Peace activist Reiner Braun said, “The chain is not complete but it is a sign! Ramstein needs to be shut down.”
June 14, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
I CAN SEE THE MOUNTAINS, I CAN SEE THE SKY, WITH THREE MORE MINUTES TO GO
The Doomsday Clock stands at three minutes to midnight; Noam Chomsky thinks it might ought to stand closer. I suspect he's right. The world is threatened by the dual menaces of nuclear war and climate change, and, to quote Isaiah, “he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare.”
In describing our world leaders Chomsky uses the phrase, “beyond insanity.” He doesn't even mention that the next president of the United Stated will almost certainly be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, two of the most unfit individuals on Earth to have their hands on the nuclear launch codes.
I cannot do this article justice in a few paragraphs. Read it!
The title of this snippet comes from Johnny Cash's song, 25 Minutes to Go; but with an important difference. In Johnny Cash's song, a man is led unwillingly to the gallows. In reality, we have not only built our own gallows; we walk willingly toward it.
June 7, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A YEAR OF CLIMATE-INDUCED EXTREMES (WITH MORE TO COME)
2016 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history by a long shot (as was 2015 and 2014 before it).
2016 started with a bang in January. Much of the East Coast of the United States was paralyzed in a record-setting category-five blizzard.
February saw a monster category-five cyclone in the South Pacific that devastated the Fiji Islands.
Winter 2016 never arrived in the arctic. In March, snow had to be hauled to Anchorage in order to run the iconic Iditarod dogsled race.
April saw a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador. Hold on, you say. What does climate change have to do with earthquakes? Turns out that all the melting of glaciers and all that water running off the glaciers into the oceans, trillions of tons of it, is causing movement in the Earth's crust, hence earthquakes and tsunamis, like the monster tsunami that caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushimi Daiichi nuclear complex.
May: Last month was a doozy. The Fort McMurray, Canada fire burned out of control most of the month and is still burning out of control today. The wildfire caused the evacuation of a city of 70,000 inhabitants and has burned almost 1.5 million acres of boreal forest.
Phalodi, India experienced a record-breaking temperature of 124 F. Much of India sweltered in May, and after a brief respite, the heat is back in June.
We are seven days into June now, with flooding in Paris and much of Europe, not to mention Texas and the Gulf Coast.
June also saw the derailment of an oil train in the Columbia River Gorge, causing an oil spill in the Columbia River and the burning of highly flammable tar sands oil in the Gorge. But what does that have to do with Global Warming?
One way or another the days of fossil fuels are numbered. Either governments will start listening to the people and shut the industry down, or Nature will put an end to it in its own way — and the oil magnates have known this for years. So the name of the game is get it out of the ground as quickly as possible and sell it while it is still possible to do so, and the hell with health, safety and the environment. (Ever wonder why gas has become so cheap at the pump?)
Did climate change cause the above? You can give a lot of weasel answers if you like; but statistically, a warming climate makes all of the above types of disasters both more likely and more intense. They might have happened anyway: but fewer of them and less intensely.
And what's to come? Very likely, arctic sea ice will be totally gone by the end of the summer. Then you will really begin seeing temperature and weather anomalies.
Here's a high school physics experiment you can do. Put ice water in a pan on the stove and put a thermometer in the water. The thermometer holds steady at 32 F, until the ice is melted. Then the water temperature rises quickly. What happened to the heat while there was ice in the pan? It went into melting the ice.
The arctic moderates the climate for the entire hemisphere. So what can we expect to happen as soon as the arctic sea ice has all melted?
The bottom line: You ain't seen nothing yet. Here's what the Prophet Isaiah foresaw:
“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.The key word in the last sentence is “few.” We can only pray that there will, indeed, be a few of us left after the collapse.
EXIT THE PROFESSOR
Professors Kim Hill (Arizona State) and Robert Walker (Mizzou) have been trying to get permission to contact the few indigenous tribes that have so far avoided contact with outsiders (meaning us). Now we have a video of the chief of the Guajajara tribe which, in the absence of effective action by governments, has set itself up as protector of neighboring uncontacted Amazonian Awa tribes (see embedded video in article above).
The Guajajara know from first hand experience what happens when indigenous tribes come into contact with the outside world. 45 years ago as a result of outside contact the Guajajara population plummeted 50%.
Hill and Walker believe that contact is necessary to protect these tribes from illegal loggers and drug dealers. Hill and Walker, who come from the same outside population as the illegal loggers and drug dealers, obviously don't consider themselves “illegal.” But that is a matter of opinion. Consider the short video embedded in this article, (You're All Illegal).
Hill and Walker also believe that uncontacted tribes want contact with the outside world; but given the sad history of contact between indigenous tribes and European culture, this is unlikely.
Here is a short story from my childhood: “Exit the Professor” by Henry Kuttner and CL Moore, 1947. A “perfesser” contacts a family of mutants living in the hills of “Kaintuck” and wants to study them. The family does not wish to be studied, and in the end it is the perfesser, and not the mutant family, that gets studied. You can read part of this delightful story here. For the rest of the story, you will have to buy it or borrow it from a library.
Harping back to the previous snippet. Who, if any, will be the “few” that are left after the collapse? It may well be that these uncontacted tribes are humanity's best chance to avoid extinction. Let's leave them alone.
Last weekend, I visited Guy McPherson's website and reread his Monster Essay, Climate Change Summary and Update. I do this about twice a year. This is the most complete compendium on climate change that I have been able to find anywhere, and Guy updates it regularly. There is a lot of new stuff posted since my last visit. I recommend this essay to anyone who is seriously interested in the subject of climate change. Here's a short article I wrote 18 months ago about Guy McPherson.
While I totally disagree with Guy, who believes that human extinction is assured, I thank him for this wonderful ongoing essay. The link to the connection between climate change and earthquakes and tsunamis came to me from Guy's monster essay, and led me eventually to Bill McGuire's book, Waking the Giant.
In an email exchange last year with Guy, I suggested:
“One possible argument you might make, is that with rising temperatures and increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, atmospheric oxygen concentrations would fall below the threshold where humans could successfully give birth; but then I've never seen any predictions as to possible concentrations of atmospheric oxygen in a 5C or higher world — and I'm not a physiologist.”Guy's essay now contains a link to the following abstract in which the authors surmise that “Our results indicate that the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on global scale (which, if happens, obviously can kill most of life on Earth) is another possible catastrophic consequence of the global warming, a global ecological disaster that has been overlooked.”
Here is an interesting graph showing atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations over time. Note that oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have fluctuated considerably over the past 500 million years. Also note that CO2 concentrations (and temperatures) have often been much higher than they are now.
The bottom line: Extinction is not necessarily assured; so “make prayer, do your best, and leave the rest to God.”
May 31, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FORT MCMURRAY FIRE STILL BURNS OUT OF CONTROL
Although folks will begin returning to Fort McMurray tomorrow, the Fort McMurray fire, which so far has consumed almost 1.5 million acres of boreal forest, still burns out of control. Burning trees have been turned to a plume of carbon dioxide, adding to the warming of the Earth which is to a great extent responsible for this megafire. Parts of Fort McMurray remain uninhabitable due to the presence of toxic ash.
WELCOME TO OUR POST-ANTIBIOTIC WORLD
The first superbug, resistant to all known antibiotics, has arrived in the United States, a harbinger of the post-antibiotic world to come. While we spend our strength and energies fighting wars of choice all over the world — the first antibiotic resistant bacterium, aka the ISIS bug, has arrived on our shores. Likely, there will be more. Spurred on by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, bacteria can mutate faster than humans can develop new antibiotics. Welcome to our post-antibiotic world.
BABY BORN IN NEW JERSEY WITH MICROCEPHALY, THOUGHT TO BE ZIKA INDUCED
And the zika virus, aka the illegal-alien virus, spread by mosquitoes and thought to cause microcephaly has arrived in New Jersey, where a child infected with the zika virus was born with an underdeveloped brain. The mother is thought to have contracted the zika virus while visiting Honduras. Hmmm — wonder if all these walls and barriers politicians want to build on our southern border will keep mosquitoes and viruses out. Our warming climate favors the spread of mosquitoes and mosquito-related diseases northward. And Honduras was the location of a recent Hillary-Clinton-supported coup, which has been followed by an increase in violence and a decrease in available healthcare.
May 24, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ONE PERCENT: THAT'S ALL YOU NEED!
Ralph Nader's Breaking Through Power conference is in full swing. Ralph wants people like you and me to become social activists. It doesn't take much. Just consider it a hobby, a few hours a week and a few hundred dollars a year. Ralph claims that if just one percent of us became social activists — one percent — we could change the world: get money out of politics, rein in Wall Street, reform our system of injustice, healthcare for all, — you name it. The problem, says Nader, is that we are asleep at the wheel. “People don't show up.”
Ralph, you are 100% correct! As Albert Einstein put it, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.”
Last week Helen included a similar quote from the I Ching, “The inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct means, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally collapses.”
Well, here's a little bit of social activism you can do in a few minutes to a few hours at a cost of Zero.
The nine member Phelps County Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission consisting of Jim Packard, Aaron Zalis, Bob Whites, Merle Alderson, Kelly Long, Larry Stratman, Mike Duncan, Joyce Thomas and Mike Miller recommended unanimously last week that Phelps County adopt the Westside Marketplace TIF, giving away some $22 million of taxes that you will pay to a St. Louis developer to build a shopping center for Menards — a reverse Robin Hood scheme — taking from the poor and giving to the rich.
This scheme must first be voted upon by the Phelps County Commission. They will probably vote the morning of Thursday, June 2. That gives you eight days to call and email your commissioners and tell them to vote this tax-giveaway down. Then show up at 9:00 am June 2 at the Phelps County Courthouse and tell your commissioners face to face to vote NO.
The population of Phelps County is around 45,000. One percent is 450. Let's see if Ralph Nader is right. Let 450 Phelps Countians call and email the three County Commissioners and then show up at the Thursday, June 2 meeting of the County Commission. Then we'll know whether Ralph Nader is correct.
Here is more on the TIF.
And here's the contact information for the Phelps County Commissioners:
Randy Verkamp firstname.lastname@example.org 573-458-6120
Gary Hicks email@example.com 573-458-6122
Larry Stratman firstname.lastname@example.org 573-458-6121
May 17, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YET ANOTHER HOTTEST MONTH IN RECORDED HISTORY
The world has just experienced what is by far the hottest April in recorded history. This follows upon the hottest March, the hottest February, and the hottest January in recorder history. 2016 is well on track for being the hottest year in recorded history as was 2015 before it and 2014 before that.
Meanwhile the wildfire that caused the evacuation of Fort McMurray, formerly a urban area of 70,000 people in northern Alberta, continues to rage out of control, threatening large areas of boreal forest. How do you spell G-L-O-B-A-L W-A-R-M-I-N-G?
This is one of many positive feedback loops that feed the warming climate. The warming climate makes hot dry weather more likely which makes wildfires more likely that burn trees and release their carbon content into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide which heats the Earth still further warming the climate which makes hot dry weather more likely ...
Oops, we are not supposed to talk about global warming in the context of disasters like the Fort McMurray fire. For some reason, we are told it's not fair to the victims. If we don't believe that global warming is a liberal hoax, we ought to just keep our mouths shut and let others go on believing that monster storms, droughts, floods and fires are not fed by our industrial appetite for burning fossil fuels. Searching the media, pundits seem more concerned about the effects on Alberta's economy of this monster fire which has closed down Alberta's tar sands industry, than the loss of thousands of acres of trees.
But if not now, then when? As Tim DeChristopher put it, “Protests are always criticized as being at the wrong time because those who need to protest are never the people writing the agenda. That’s the value of protest.”
Oh, in case you didn't notice. We're having March weather in May this week in central Missouri. But don't be fooled. Weather and Climate are totally different concepts. Wish we could send some of this cool rain up to Canada. They need it!
AND THE WAR GOES ON....
While our climate becomes less and less hospitable to human life as we know it, the war goes on.... As Peter Van Buren put it: The news from Iraq is that there is no new news. Our leaders continue to tell us that victory, whatever that might mean, is just around the corner. Van Buren sums it up this way: “when you have to repeatedly explain how much you're winning, you’re likely not winning much of anything at all.”
AND ON THE HOME FRONT
Bernie Sanders has just been declared the winner in the Oregon democratic primary. With 60% of the vote counted, Bernie leads by six percentage points. The pollsters who predicted Clinton by 15 percentage points got egg on their faces — again!
And Bernie came within a half percentage point of staging another upset in Kentucky.
update: Bernie won Oregon by 12 percentage points!
Nevertheless, democratic party hacks want to give us a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in November in spite of the fact that voters have never before found the presumptive nominees of the two major political parties so distasteful.
May 10, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A RECORD-BREAKING DISTASTE
I think this may be the defining factor in the 2016 presidential campaign: Never before have the voters found the presumptive nominees of the two major political parties so distasteful.
Unless Bernie pulls off another miracle (Don't count Bernie out.) voters will vote in November in record numbers for the candidate they perceive as the lesser of two evils. Me? I can't decide which candidate I find more repugnant; but I'm leaning heavily toward Hillary Clinton. In truth, I stand with the 19th Century theologian, Tryon Edwards, who famously advised: “Between two evils, choose neither; between two goods, choose both.” I will likely vote for Bernie whether he receives his party's nomination or not.
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS WITHDRAWS FROM HUMANITARIAN SUMMIT
Doctors Without Borders (DWB) has seen 75 of its hospitals bombed and hundreds of its patients and health workers killed in clear violation of the most fundamental rules of war. This includes the deliberate bombing of the DWB hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan by US forces killing 42 and injuring many more.
Comparing the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit to a fig leaf, Doctors Without Borders has withdrawn from the conference. In a speech before the UN Security Council, DWB president, Joanne Liu asks,
“What are individuals in wars today? Expendable commodities, dead or alive. Hospitals are routinely bombed, raided, looted or burned to the ground. Medical personnel are threatened. Patients are shot in their beds. Broad attacks on communities and precise attacks on health facilities are described as mistakes, are denied outright, or are simply met with silence. In reality, they amount to massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate civilian targeting in urban settings, and, in the worst cases, they are acts of terror.”Personally, I think Sven Lindqvist said it best in his History of Bombing:
“The laws of war protect enemies of the same race, class, and culture. The laws of war leave the foreign and the alien without protection. When is one allowed to wage war against savages and barbarians? Answer: always. What is permissible in war against savages and barbarians? Answer: anything.”And just who are today's “savages and barbarians?” Anyone who isn't one of us.
If you wish to donate to Doctors Without Borders, here's the URL.
TRUTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN REVENGE
Reinhold Hanning is standing trial in Germany for his role in facilitating the murder of 170,000 mostly Jewish people over 70 years ago in the Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp. Hanning was a guard at Auschwitz and is not accused directly of murder. One of his accusers, Auschwitz survivor, Leon Schwartzbaum, said before the trial, “I’ll look into his eyes and see if he is honest, because the truth is what is most important. I don’t want revenge; I don’t want him tormented in prison. He is just an old man like me.” .
Sadly, we must often wait until we are old to understand that the truth is more important than revenge.
Two thoughts struck me as I read this short article:
1. Why is US complicity in the Nazi death camp murders never discussed? For example, In 1944 oil refineries and factories adjacent to the Auschwitz death camp were bombed from US bases in Italy. The gas chambers at Auschwitz were allowed to continue uninterrupted operation until Auschwitz was evacuated the following year before advancing Russian troops. Perhaps a half million mostly Hungarian Jewish lives could have been saved by simply bombing the gas chambers. (See Sven Lindqvist's “History of Bombing,” pp,100-101)
2. Instead of Reinhold Hanning, why not Henry Kissinger, who is probably responsible for more deaths than any single person since World War II? Why not Binyamin Netanyahu? Why not Dick Cheney? How about Tony Blair? I suspect they too, if they live long enough, will, like Reinhold Hanning, have their day in Court. Perhaps they too will one day express remorse for their actions, as Hanning is now doing.
May 3, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: TRUTH
A reader writes in:
“I read your newsletter. I have a bone to pick about your ‘big lie’ theory about WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]. Please let me know if this link publishing undisputed quotes from Democrats was also part of your alleged conspiracy.
“Maybe you can put this out to your group and ask them.”
I'm assuming our reader is referring to Helen's article in last week's newsletter entitled “Truth;” but I will respond nonetheless since it is a subject that I am somewhat familiar with.
The reader brings up two questions:
1. Did Iraq have Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq?
2. If many prominent Democrats agree with Republicans that something is true, does that make it true?
The rape of Iraq began in earnest in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and has continued for over 1/4 of a Century under the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In short, it was and is a bipartisan gang rape, that has killed millions. It appears likely to continue into the next administration, whether Democrat or Republican. All viable presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, want to continue our military involvement in Iraq in one form or another, although Bernie shows some signs of rethinking his position.
I had thought that the question of WMDs in Iraq in 2003 had been settled in the negative a long time ago, although it reared its ugly head again last year when the New York Times published a series of articles about how we failed to protect our invading soldiers from Iraq's aging chemical weapon dumps.
During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), The West (USA and mostly European allies) supplied Iraq with the know-how and precursor chemicals to make chemical weapons, which were used against Iran with enthusiastic Western approval. Many of these weapons, although now militarily useless, still lie in weapons dumps around Iraq, where they pose a danger to anyone who might stumble upon them.
These are what our invading troops found — no viable chemical weapons program or militarily useful chemical weapons, no mobile biological weapons laboratories, and no viable nuclear weapons program.
To understand what an impossible job accounting for all these aging weapons was, keep in mind that the United States has literally lost as many as 50 nuclear warheads. Suppose we were given the task of accounting for all nuclear material in the United States? We just couldn't do it.
I suspect what really upset our reader about Helen's article, was the final paragraph in which she talks about each one of us creating our own [subjective] truth. I can see where this might be upsetting to someone who thinks their subjective truth is the only objective truth.
As Helen put it, “It's important to have an open mind, and to listen to what others who disagree with you have to say, but the last word has to come from one's own judgment.”
As a disclaimer: I believe in an objective truth, essentially a mystery to all but God.
In his lecture, Does God play Dice, Stephen Hawking ends by noting, “God still has a few tricks up his sleeve.”
If you haven't listened to John Lennon sing “Gimme Some Truth” recently, here's the URL.
MEANWHILE PENTAGON ABSOLVES ITSELF OF WAR CRIMES
The Pentagon report (redacted) on the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz has been released. The report claims that the bombing was unintentional and therefore no war crimes were committed. (Wrong on both counts.) No criminal charges will be filed.
AND THE RAPE OF IRAQ CONTINUES...
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has ramped up the bombing of Iraq killing even more civilians. I wonder if our military is capable of doing anything other than killing.
April 26, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A TERRORIST WHO WASN'T: ABU ZUBAYDAH
“Abu Zubaydah wasn’t involved with al-Qaeda; he was the ringleader of nothing; he never took part in planning for the 9/11 attacks. He was brutally mistreated and, in another kind of world, would be exhibit one in the war crimes trials of America’s top leaders and its major intelligence agency,” writes Rebecca Gordon. In fact, Abu Zubaydah helped the CIA run a training camp for the Afghan Mujaheddin which defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
So why did we torture Abu Zubaydah? Why did we waterboard him 83 times? Why did we blind him in one eye? Because we could. Because we think we are the “indispensable nation,” the lone superpower, and not subject to the laws which others should be subject to. And because there is absolutely no accountability. Not a single person involved in our torture program has seen the inside of a prison, except whistle-blower, John Kiriakou — not George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Michael Hayden. And as long as there is no accountability, torture and abuse will surely continue. Isn't it way past time to charge those who tortured, authorized torture or enabled torture with war crimes and crimes against humanity?
And why is Abu Zubaydah still incarcerated and held incommunicado? Maybe because he may talk about what we have done to him; and it isn't pretty. Read Gordon's article, if you have the stomach for it.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: FLINT, MICHIGAN
Three underlings have been charged with relatively minor offenses in the poisoning of the city water supply of Flint, Michigan. So far no charges of domestic terrorism against Michigan governor, Rick Snyder, or Emergency Manager, Darnell Earley. And the worst thing is that among all the brou-ha-ha, two years after the poisoning of Flint's water supply, nothing substantive is being done to pipe clean water to Flint, Michigan. Again, where's the accountability?
MORE BOOTS ON THE GROUND: IRAQ
Meanwhile, we continue to escalate war in Iraq and Syria. We've just sent 217 more troops to the mission that was accomplished in 2003 and the war that ended in 2011. Why haven't Colin Powell and others who lied us into this devastating war been charged with Treason? Where's the accountability?
Meanwhile, there is still no money to bring potable water to the people of Flint, Michigan.
April 19, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
This Friday, April 22, is Earthday. Celebrate Earthday in Rolla at S&T from 10 to 2 in front of Havener Center. I'll be at the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center table reading “The Lorax” (abridged version) and playing the “Plant a Tree for the Lorax” game.
In Columbia, Earthday will be celebrated on Sunday, April 24 from Noon to 6:30 in Peace Park. I'll be reading the Lorax and playing the Lorax game at the Great Rivers table there too.
FEELING THE BURN
The much expected climate report shows March, 2016 was the warmest March in recorded history by a long shot, over one degree C. above the 20th Century average. This has been going on month after month after month. The last time we had a month that wasn't a warmest such month in recorded history was, I believe, April 2015.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention now says there is no doubt that the Zika virus causes birth defects including microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small brains. The evidence, however, is still purely circumstantial (see top comment below article). Zika virus is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito which also carries yellow fever and other diseases. In the wake of global warming, aedes aegypti is spreading its range northward, perhaps soon into Central Missouri. If you've never read "The White Plague" by Frank Herbert (of Dune fame), now might be a good time.
HEY, WHERE'S THE DOUGH?
A report by Oxfam America claims that 50 corporations have stashed at least $1.4 trillion away in safe tax havens. Oxfam writes that for every dollar spent lobbying, these 50 corporations receive $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Meanwhile, there is still no money to bring potable water to the people of Flint, Michigan.
April 12, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OPPOSE ROLLA TDD/TIF
As previously mentioned, the “Move Rolla Transportation Development District” (TDD) will add an extra one cent sales tax to most businesses in Rolla and the companion “Westside Marketplace Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) will give away millions of dollars in taxes belonging to our schools, parks, library, fire-fighters and other city and county departments to a St. Louis developer who promises to bring us a Menards which will then compete unfairly with Lowes, Meeks and the Family Center. All this will cost an estimated $37 million of taxpayer money.
Not mentioned previously, owner, founder and multi-billionaire John Menard could give the Koch Brothers and Ira Rennert a run for their money. The National Labor Relations Board has found Menards in violation of federal labor law and Menards has been fined millions of dollars for more environmental violations than any other company in the State of Wisconsin.
Proponents of the TDD/TIF say we need jobs; but what kind of jobs would Menards bring to Rolla? Managers would automatically have their pay cut 60% should workers form a union and Menards mostly minimum-wage workers must agree that they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all and will not sue Menards or participate in class-action suits. I think we will be better off here in Rolla without a Menards.
Read more about Rolla's TDD/TIF here. Attend the Westside Marketplace TIF open hearing at 5:30pm, Wednesday, May 4 in the Phelps County Courthouse — room to be determined.
STUPID AND IMMORAL
“Infrequently a soldier has the courage to see that what he is doing is both stupid and immoral, and walk away from it. Bowe Bergdahl did. I say, speaking as a former Marine in Viet Nam, and as a life member of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled Veterans of America: You have my admiration, Sergeant Bergdahl.”Like Bowe Bergdahl, Rory Fanning and Michael Hanes had the courage to see that what they were doing was stupid and immoral. They left the military, Fanning as a conscientious objector.
Both former soldiers are speaking out — defying official lies and the blood-lust of the military.
Fanning says, “I’m more proud of leaving the military than of anything I did while in it. I signed up to prevent another 9/11, but my two tours in Afghanistan made me realize that I was making the world less safe. We know now that a majority of the million or so people who have been killed since 9/11 have been innocent civilians.”
“Soldiers are not encouraged to talk about the realities of war when they come back,” Fanning continues. “They’re labeled a hero or warrior. That’s a major problem. It leads to further seclusion, isolation with soldiers. We talk about the suicide rates amongst veterans—22 a day. It’s because we’re not allowed to talk about what we saw overseas, how unjust it was, how we feel like bullies.”
Says Hanes: “We’re sold the idea of—we’re going to liberate people, we’re fighting terrorism. Then we realize we’re the ones terrorizing people. That torments you psychologically. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide.”
And both soldiers are protesting our perpetual wars, each in his own way. Fanning is going into high schools and speaking of his experiences in the military and the realities of war. Hanes has been arrested in Okinawa, along-side of Okinawans, protesting the building of more US military bases. This is what the Masters of War fear most: that those who have fought will come home and tell the truth.
Chris Hedges writes about Fanning and Hanes here. And here is an article by Rory Fanning.
UNPRECEDENTED VICTORY FOR YOUNG CLIMATE ACTIVISTS
21 young climate activists and renowned scientist, James Hansen, won an important decision in the courts. Judge Thomas Coffin ruled against the federal government and fossil fuel interests, declaring that plaintiffs have standing to continue their suit to force government to act to bring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere down to 350ppm by 2100. In denying the government's motion to dismiss, Judge Coffin has called this case “unprecedented.”
Read Judge Coffin's decision here.
April 5, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHAT THEY FEAR IS LIGHT
“I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.”The revelations just keep coming. First a trickle, then a stream, then a wave, and now, devant moi, le déluge. The latest revelation: The Panama Papers.
In 1989, then president, Bush the Elder, invaded Panama, ousted strongman Manuel Noriega, bombed the crap out of the country, and then he and his successors set up a government to their liking, where the super-wealthy could safely hide their assets from prying eyes and tax collectors.
Of course, many have known this was happening for a long time. What the leak of the Panama Papers gives us is all the gory corrupt details: Who did what, when, where and how. Iceland prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, has been driven out of office in a barrage of eggs. Many others will follow.
But, would you believe that in 2011 Bernie Sanders fought against the Panama Free Trade Agreement which made hiding assets in Panama even easier? Then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, supported the agreement which was passed and signed into law.
March 29, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Lot's of new stuff posted on the “Move Rolla Transportation Development District” (TDD) and the “Westside Marketplace Tax Increment Financing” (TIF). The proposed TDD will add an additional one cent sales tax to most businesses in Rolla, while the proposed TIF will abate taxes belonging to our schools, parks, library, etc. For an estimated $37 million, Rolla will get a Menards which will then compete unfairly with Lowes, Meeks and the Family Center. Check it out here.
And if you haven't watched John Oliver's 15 minute video on Special Taxing Districts, prepare yourself for a humorous and informative experience.
FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS COMMIT WAR CRIMES
In the speech that Bernie did not give at the AIPAC annual conference (He give it in Utah instead), he points out with reference to the United States' relation with Israel:
“To my mind, as friends – long term friends with Israel – we are obligated to speak the truth as we see it. That is what real friendship demands, especially in difficult times.Here's an article which includes a video of Israeli soldiers shooting and killing a wounded man lying still on the ground — a clear war crime. What's notable is that this appears to be so commonplace that it is hardly worth even taking note of.
Emad Abu Shamsiya who took the video is now being intimidated for speaking out. Please visit Jewish Voice for Peace and consider signing the letter of solidarity with Emad Abu Shamsiya.
Meanwhile, for all the other candidates that did attend the AIPAC annual meeting and expressed their fawning allegiance to Israel, truths like this are never spoken of.
Why do we even tolerate politicians who express such fawning allegiance to a foreign power?
THE PEOPLE BEFORE YOU WERE DESTROYED...
“The people before you were destroyed because they inflicted legal punishments on the poor and forgave the rich.”Here's a couple of excellent examples from this week's news:
Bill Quigley writes about two Texas mothers who, lacking $1,740 for bail, were held in a Louisiana jail for allegedly stealing two hot dogs. Incidentally, one of the mothers is vegan.
Meanwhile, Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy who is responsible for the 2010 mine explosion which killed 29 miners, was found guilty of conspiracy to violate mine safety laws. Maximum sentence: one year in prison. Likely, he won't even have to serve that.
Why wasn't this prosecuted as domestic terrorism?
March 22, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BERNIE SANDERS GIVES FIRST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH
Yesterday, Bernie gave the speech in Utah that he would have given had he attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting. Not surprisingly he focused on Peace throughout the Middle East. While not all that I would have liked to hear, Bernie's speech was a ray of sunshine compared to the fawning of ALL the other presidential contenders. Here are a few gems from Bernie's speech:
“You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side.”
“The path toward peace will require tapping into our shared humanity to make hard but just decisions.”
“The truth is there are good people on both sides who want peace, And the other truth is there despots and liars on both sides who benefit from continued antagonism.”
Bernie notes that achieving peace will not be easy; but I think that if anyone can do it, Bernie can. Bernie has performed so many miracles already. Who would have believed six months ago that in late March, he would remain a serious contender for president of the United States? And its the will of the People. The vast majority of people in the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the World want Peace.
DOES DONALD TRUMP INCITE VIOLENCE?
If there is any doubt in your mind, watch this short video that Moveon posted. Interestingly, if you or I got up on a stage and exhorted the audience, “Knock the crap out of him, would you. Seriously. Ok. Just knock the Hell... I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”, we would rightly be hauled off in handcuffs. But if you're a multi-billionaire and leading presidential contender — well that's different.
On a lighter note, you might enjoy my open letter to Donald Trump.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS
Yesterday was International Day of Forests. Forests provide us with oxygen, remove impurities from the atmosphere, absorb carbon dioxide, hold water, moderate temperatures ..., well I'm sure you have all heard this before; so if you planted a whole forest or even a single tree, you have performed an important deed for all of humanity. And if you didn't plant a tree yesterday, go out and plant one tomorrow.
In Bhutan, 180,000 people including the prime minister planted 108,000 trees to commemorate the birth of the Royal Child. Why 108,000? Buddhists believe that we must overcome 108,000 impurities to achieve enlightenment; and, of course, trees help us to overcome impurities. Bhutan's Constitution mandates that 60% of the country remain forested. Bhutan is a carbon sink. It's forests will soon absorb more carbon than is emitted by the entire country. Lets hear it for Bhutan!
March 14, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHERE DO THE CANDIDATES STAND ON IMPORTANT ISSUES OF WAR AND PEACE?
Trevor Timm suggests five foreign policy questions which the presidential candidates are mostly silent on. They are:
1. The INVASION of Libya (not Hillary Clinton's emails)Since the media won't ask these questions, We, The People, must demand answers.
FROM OUR READERS: SOMETHING THERE IS THAT DOESN'T LOVE A WALL
A reader writes in:
“I have thought since high school that 'Mending Wall' is a fine poem. Recall it was banned by the communists from collections of Frost's poems after the Berlin wall went up. Frost had a way of saying important things in a way that did not sound important. Sometimes, this is a very effective way of getting through to people.”Yes, wonderful poem, and very pertinent to last weeks snippet on walls.
“Before I built a wall I'd ask to knowAs subtle as the verses of Ezekiel I quoted last week are blunt:
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: In my fury I will let loose stormwinds; because of my anger there will be flooding rain, and hailstones will fall with destructive wrath. I will tear down the wall you whitewashed and level it to the ground, laying bare its foundations. When it falls, you shall be crushed beneath it. Thus you shall know that I am the LORD.”FEBRUARY BROKE ALL CLIMATE RECORDS
Many locations had virtually no winter this year. In Alaska, they had to haul snow to Anchorage by rail in order to run the famous Iditarod dogsled race. February 2016 was 1.35 C degrees above the 1951-1980 average, breaking the previous record set last month. Note how this ties in with the Ezekiel prophecy in the snippet above.
March 8, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WALLS ARE TO BE WALKED
Over a 2,000 year period the Chinese built walls to keep out the Mongol people to the North. These walls, now referred to as the Great Wall of China, are a tourist attractions — to be walked upon.
1,900 years ago, the Romans built Hadrian's Wall across England to keep the “barbarians” to the North out of the Empire. This too is now a tourist attraction, with a path to be walked.
In 1961, East Germany built a wall around West Berlin to keep the “fascists” out. 30 years later, the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall came down.
Today, Donald Trump proposes to build a wall across the southern border of the United States to keep out Mexican “drug dealers and rapists.” He wants to make Mexico pay for it, although Mexico is not interested.
Binyimin Netanyahu wants to extend the wall that Israel has built to keep Palestinians from the West Bank out, to surround the entire State of Israel, to keep out “wild beasts.” Haaretz columnist, Asher Schechter, writes, “Israel circa 2016 is fearful, hateful, and paranoid, self-involved to a degree even Donald Trump would find distasteful.”
Somehow walls don't seem to last very long or keep people separated very well. Some think they can create peace by building walls to separate people, but true peace will come only when we realize that we are all one people, brothers and sisters.
Here is what the Prophet Ezekiel had to say about people who try to create peace by building walls:
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: In my fury I will let loose stormwinds; because of my anger there will be flooding rain, and hailstones will fall with destructive wrath. I will tear down the wall you whitewashed and level it to the ground, laying bare its foundations. When it falls, you shall be crushed beneath it. Thus you shall know that I am the LORD.” —Ezekiel 13:13-14 (NAB)I swiped the title for this snippet from a wonderful children's book by Nathan Zimelman and Donald Carrick, Walls are to be Walked.
February 29, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AN ICON PASSES
Last month Concepcion Picciotto passed on. Concepcion held the longest ever demonstration outside the White House. She demonstrated for peace and the end to nuclear madness for 30 years. She held hand-lettered signs saying, “Read My Lips, No New Wars,” “Silence is a War Crime,” and “Live by the Bomb, Die by the Bomb.” She was closest neighbor to five presidents, none of whom, to anyone's recollection, ever smiled at her, said hello, or wished her good health.
Many thought she was crazy. But who, I ask you, is crazy: a woman who demonstrates 30 years for peace or the politicians, generals, businesspeople and journalists who would destroy the world as we know it — and for what?
Here is something you can do for Concepcion: Listen to Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary) sing The Great Mandala.
And then, listen again and again and again until you become the song and the song is you. Then you will know what you too can do for World Peace."We are free now, we can kill now,
Requiscas in Pace, Concepcion.
Who now will carry your cross?
February 23, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, HE IS FREE AT LAST
“The people before you were destroyed because they inflicted legal punishments on the poor and forgave the rich”Albert Woodfox is free after 43 years in prison, mostly in solitary, for a crime he did not commit. In spite of having his conviction overturned three times, his tormentors used every legal trick in the book (and made up a few new ones) to keep him in prison long after it was clear beyond any reasonable doubt that he was innocent.
Meanwhile, not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy; not one politician or general has been prosecutes for lying us into a devastating illegal war in Iraq; nor has anyone been prosecuted for the poisoning of Flint, Michigan's water supply.
Note1: I got tired of quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 so went looking for another scriptural quote on the same subject. I found the Hadith above. For us, in the 21st Century United States, “legal” is the key word.
Note 2: The title of this snippet was made famous by Martin Luther King Jr.
NATURE BATS LAST: OPIUM POPPIES vs. US MILITARY
This article by Alfred McCoy is somewhat long; but it gives a good summary of our devastating (both for the US and Afghanistan) involvement in Afghanistan since 1979.
If you don't believe that opium is more powerful than the mightiest military the world has ever known, ask a parent of a narcotics addict.
The author entitled this article “How a Pink Flower Defeated the World’s Sole Superpower: America’s Opium War in Afghanistan;” but I think my title is more to the point.
BYE, BYE, BUSHIE
A year ago Jeb Bush was the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination; but last week, in the wake of a humiliating defeat in South Carolina, he “suspended his campaign.” The final nail in his coffin was likely Donald Trump's remarks the previous week on how his brother George lied us into a big fat mistake of a war in Iraq and allowed the attack on the twin towers during his reign.
Robert Reich talks about how “establishment candidates” are hurting big time and people are flocking in droves to alternative candidates: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Bernie is nipping at Hillary's heals, Trump has taken a two digit lead over his closest rival and appears “unstoppable” and the establishment doesn't seem to have a clue.
Here's my favorite line from the article: “most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth because for years they’ve got few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens.” Reich also notes that this is much bigger than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump opining that “regardless of the political fates of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the rebellion against the establishment will continue.”
February 16, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE EMPEROR'S NAKED
Hans Christian Andersen's “The Emperor's New Clothes” is one of my favorite fairy tales; but, as I've pointed out before, it is an oversimplification:
Before the little child, come all the wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists who shout, “The Emperor's naked,” while nobody listens. Somehow Andersen's little child says it in the right way at the right time and in the right place, and all of a sudden everyone is whispering, “But he hasn't got anything on.” Interestingly, no one seems able to predict the right person, the right place, and the right time; but sooner or later Andersen's little child always magically appears.
And Hans Christian Andersen's latest little child is ..... none other than ..... Donald Trump.
In last weekend's debate, Trump called out Jeb Bush and his whole family stating:
“Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right? George Bush made a mistake, we can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty ... They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction – there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
And, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign, remember that. ... That's not keeping us safe.”
Some pundits think Trump's honesty will hurt his chances of winning the Republican nomination; but I don't think so. And, more importantly, I don't think Trump really cares one way or the other. Why should he?
Donald, while I could never support a candidate who wants to build a wall around the United States and close down Houses of Worship, I feel that I am greatly in your debt for the wonderful things you said last weekend. So here, as a small down payment, a line you might use next time you spar with young Jeb:
“I made my fortune in real estate, the Bush family inherited theirs from grandfather Prescott who made his fortune collaborating with Nazis.”
And lets be mindful of the ending of Andersen's wonderful fairy tale:
“‘But he has nothing on at all,’ said a little child at last. ‘Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,’ said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. ‘But he has nothing on at all,’ cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, ‘Now I must bear up to the end.’ And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.”
February 9, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HILLARY NEVER MET A WAR SHE DIDN'T LIKE
I've been taking flack already for saying that if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic Party nomination, I'll have a difficult choice to make between the Republican Party nominee, whomever it may be, and Big Bird, whom I voted for four years ago.
Jeff Sachs lays out Hillary's disastrous pro-war record and concludes, “Perhaps more than any other person, Hillary can lay claim to having stoked the violence that stretches from West Africa to Central Asia and that threatens US security.”
And then there are the endorsements of some of the world's most evil denizens:
Hillary claims she “was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better—better than anybody had run it in a long time.” Kisssinger was responsible for military atrocities from Chile to Vietnam to East Timor to the Middle East and once famously quipped of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War that killed an estimated one million people, “It's a pity both sides can't lose.” As in all wars, both sides did lose.
Madeleine Albright in introducing Hillary Clinton remarked, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” and “Young women have to support Hillary Clinton.” This is the same Madeleine Albright who in response to a reporter's question about the killing of 1/2 million Iraqi children, callously quipped, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.” I wonder how the mothers of these children who “paid the price” feel about Albright's remark about “a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Trevor Timm lays out the reason that I am not so concerned about Bernie Sanders lack of a specific foreign policy. Timm writes, “After a series of disastrous wars overseas, we should be looking for someone who has better ‘judgment’ rather than candidates who have ‘experience’ but are calling for more of the same policies in the Middle East that have led us into the mess we’re in now in the first place.” Right! If nothing else, Bernie has good judgment; and that is what every US administration since Jimmy Carter has lacked.
It looks like I may not have to choose between Big Bird and a Republican. With 80% of the vote in, Bernie has received 60% of the vote in the New Hampshire democratic primary.
WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE, NOR ANY DROP TO DRINK
For weeks I've been calling for the arrest of Rick Snyder and his cronies on charges of domestic terrorism for poisoning the water supply in Flint, Michigan; and asking the question, “How many cities have had their water supplies deliberately poisoned by the Islamic State?”
Democracy Now must have seen my posts. They write, “Where the terrorists have failed to mount any attack on a water supply, the Michigan state government has succeeded. In the city of Flint, lead-poisoned water has been piped into homes and offices since 2014, causing widespread illness and potentially permanent brain damage among its youngest residents.”
Actually, residents of Flint would be far better off if the Islamic State had poisoned their water. Then we might have rushed to get Flint some emergency potable water instead of denying there was a problem until it could no longer be denied and then holding hearings and investigations. Maybe if our military wasn't so busy bombing and degrading public water supplies in the Middle East, they might have rigged up an emergency water distribution system in Flint. The US Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to be good at that kind of thing.
Readers who are familiar with academia might relate to this interview with Marc Edwards, who helped expose the poisoning of Flint's water supply. As you will see from this article there are plenty of Rick Snyder cronies around who need to be charged with domestic terrorism.
The government is now supplying bottled water to the residents of Flint — except if you don't have a valid id or you are afraid of being deported or you don't speak or read English. In that case, you can continue to drink poison.
The title of this snippet is a famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (A REVIEW)
“The real secret of war for those who experience it isn't the visceral knowledge that people can be filthy and horrible, but that you, too, can be filthy and horrible.”Last Tuesday The Stanford Prison Experiment screened in Leach Theatre as part of the Missouri S&T Spring free film festival. The film is a reenactment of Philip Zimbardo's famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment in which he took willing volunteers and designated some as guards and some as prisoners at random. After six days he prematurely ended the experiment because it had gone out of control. The Guards had become increasingly brutal and authoritarian and the prisoners increasingly dehumanized and depressed.
The moral (as far as I'm concerned) is that no person should be given the kind of control over another person that we routinely give to those who run our prisons over those we designate as prisoners. As Zimbardo notes: The only difference between guard and prisoner is a flip of the coin.
While it may be easy to draw parallels between the experiment and “real life” we should guard against it.
1. The film is twice removed from the reality of prison life. It is a reenactment of a simulation of prison life.
2. The involvement of the experimenteur (Zimbardo) in his experiment skews the results.
3. To draw general conclusions from a scientific experiment it must be repeatable. The Stanford Prison Experiment is not.
4. To be valid, the sample population must be indicative of the general population. The volunteers appeared to all be young white college boys looking for a summer job. Hardly indicative of the general prison population.
Watching the film, there were many instances from which the experiment could have gone in a much different direction:
1. Suppose one of the guards who did not participate in tormenting the prisoners had been more assertive. (In real prison life he would probably be shunted into a desk job or fired.)
2. Suppose one of the prisoners had had training in non-violent passive resistance and simply refused to cooperate with the degrading treatment. Suppose others had followed suit.
3. Suppose one of the prisoners had the skill and ability to overpower the guards or at least do some real physical damage to them. (In a real prison life, he would likely never get the chance.)
4. Suppose one of the prisoners had said something like, “Have your fun now; but this ends in two weeks and you'll spend the rest of your life watching your back for me; and that goes for you too Dr. Zimbardo.” (In a real life prison, he might never get released.) From the actor's portrayal of Zimbardo, I doubt he would have handled a threat like that very well.
5. Suppose during visiting day, one of the prisoners had said, “Mom, they are torturing us. Get me out of here.” (The real prison life equivalent: “Mom, get me a lawyer.”)
Once you start down the authoritarian route, it's hard to turn back. Prison uprisings are scary indeed. Once in control, people who have been brutalized and dehumanized do not generally behave nicely. The brutalized become the brutal. I think Zimbardo realized that early on in the experiment.
Disclaimer: When I was in my 30s, I lost a friend to a prison uprising. F and I used to spar together. Although many years younger, he was many levels more advanced than I and had a talent for hand to hand combat far beyond mine. On the rare occasion that I could score a point on him, it was invariably because he got overconfident and careless. While I do not know the circumstances of his death, I suspect he picked the wrong time to get careless and overconfident.
Establishing complete control over another human being is an authoritarian dream — and prisons and military training camps are the research laboratories where this experiment, which is perhaps 10,000 years old, continues.
The world prison population now stands at 10.35 million. Of those, 2.2 million (over 20%) are in the United States which holds less than 5% of the world population. We have prisons like Guantanamo that have no other purpose than human experimentation. Not included in these figures is Gaza, the world's largest (open air) prison which boasts 1.8 million prisoners, half of whom are children. Living under the whim of their Israeli overlords, prisoners are unable to leave and receive only what their Israeli guards allow, which is barely enough for survival.
But humans are humans, not robots. The authoritarian dream of complete control is further away than ever. George Orwell's 1984 is simply a work of fiction. The prison population of the United States is falling — slowly to be sure — but falling nevertheless — not out of the largesse of authoritarians, but because people in and out of prison are demanding it. Calls to close Guantanamo strengthen. Gazans continue to rebel. The Israeli hold on Gaza is crumbling — after almost 50 years of authoritarian military rule. Humans are humans, not robots.
Prison guards are as much the victims of this grand experiment gone awry as prisoners. As Zimbardo notes — the only difference between guard and prisoner is the toss of a coin. This part of the experiment is just as true in “real life” as in Zimbardo's simulation.
I hope the authoritarian dream of complete control is never realized. If it is, we, guards and prisoners alike, all cease to be human. But I don't think it ever will be realized. I'm an optimist. I'm betting on the human race.
February 2, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON POISONING THE WATER
I've written a few snippets on how Michigan governor Rick Snyder and his cronies deliberately poisoned the water supply of Flint, Michigan; and I've called it what it is: Domestic Terrorism. So let's assume that Rick Snyder and his cronies have been convicted of domestic terrorism and it's now sentencing time. Here's my suggestion:
As a part of their sentence they should be made to go door to door covering the entire city and deliver bottled water, which they must buy with their own money, and look every single resident of Flint in the eye and apologize for poisoning their water, especially the young children who have sustained irreversible developmental and neurological damage.
The World Health Organization is calling the outbreak of microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with small underdeveloped brains an International Emergency. 3,700 cases have been diagnosed in Brazil alone. This epidemic is thought to be linked to the zika virus, which is carried by mosquitoes. Deforestation, along with global warming and human overpopulation have allowed mosquitoes to increase their number, voracity and range. This epidemic could easily spread North into the United States.
Aysha Ahktar puts this in perspective and links emerging diseases like zika to our maltreatment and overuse of animals for food, skins and entertainment.
Actually, we humans are living on borrowed time. AIDS, SARS, Ebola and other emergent diseases have been brought somewhat under control, at least for now; but its only a matter of time before some new emergent disease rages completely out of control.
“Lethal Gift of Livestock,” chapter 11 of Jared Diamond's “Guns, Germs and Steel” provides an historical overview of this important subject.
According to the latest results, Bernie Sanders came within 0.3% of Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Caucus winning 21 delegates to Clinton's 23. Caucuses are different than primaries and tend to favor establishment candidates over challengers. Charges of voter fraud have been leveled against the Clinton camp. Watch the video here. This is no way to elect a president.
I sure hope Bernie becomes our next president, as I don't think our country can survive another four years with a corporate-friendly, pro-war democrat in the White House without becoming a failed state.
January 26, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WE HAVE LOST OUR CAPACITY TO THINK STRAIGHT
“... we have ... lost our capacity to think straight — a grievous self-inflicted wound...” —Haroon SiddiquiTwo weeks ago, while writing on how Michigan governor, Rick Snyder, and his cronies deliberately poisoned the water supply of Flint, Michigan, a city of around 100,000 inhabitants , I posed the question: “How many cities have had their water supplies deliberately poisoned by the Islamic State?”
This week a reader responded: “Why on earth would the Islamic State want to poison water? That kills way too slowly. They use much more direct methods to kill.”
To which, I asked for clarification: “You mean like nuclear bombs?”
The reader responded “No. They do it the old-fashioned way. Like beheading.”
Personally, I wonder how one can even begin to equate execution by decapitation with methods of mass murder like nuclear bombing or poisoning the water supply.
“We have lost our capacity to think straight.”
Think about this the next time you hear how we need to bomb the crap out of a city of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants like Ramadi in order to liberate it from the Islamic State.
Incidentally, Flint, Michigan is not the only city in the United States with a poisoned water supply. Sebring, Ohio too. How many others? Again, poisoning city water is domestic terrorism and should be prosecuted as such.
I still don't have a single example of the Islamic State deliberately poisoning a city's water supply.
THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT: DON'T MISS THIS MOVIE
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” —Nelson MandelaThe movie, The Stanford Prison Experiment will screen 7:00pm Tuesday, February 2 at Leach Theatre as part of the Missouri S&T free film series. Here's what I wrote about this experiment several years ago:
“In 1971 Philip Zimbardo performed the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in which he took willing volunteers and designated some as guards and some as prisoners at random. After six days he prematurely ended the experiment because it had gone out of control. The Guards had become increasingly brutal and authoritarian and the prisoners increasingly dehumanized and depressed.
“The moral (as far as I'm concerned) is no person should be given the kind of control over another person that we routinely give to those who run our prisons over those we designate as prisoners.”
Don't miss this movie.
HOISTED BY THEIR OWN PETARD
A Texas grand jury investigation of Planned Parenthood has ended with an indictment, not of Planned Parenthood which has been totally exonerated, but of the liars who edited the fake video purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue. Hopefully, I did a somewhat better job of photo-enhancing my political cartoons than the jerks who made the Planned Parenthood tape (see snippet below).
We are now well into the presidential election extravaganza, with the Iowa caucuses coming up next week. Here is my second contribution. If you missed my first, here it is again.
January 19, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON OPENING UP THE PRISONS TO THEM THAT ARE BOUND
I won't quote Isaiah 61:1-2 to you again this week. If you wish you can follow the link. But here's a powerful article by Chris Hedges on the USA “prison state”. If you don't want to read the whole article, here are a few highlights:
“If you are poor, you will almost never go to trial—instead you will be forced to accept a plea deal offered by government prosecutors. If you are poor, the word of the police, who are not averse to fabricating or tampering with evidence, manipulating witnesses and planting guns or drugs, will be accepted in a courtroom as if it was the word of God. ... if you are poor, because you don’t have money for adequate legal defense, you will serve sentences that are decades longer than those for equivalent crimes anywhere else in the industrialized world.”I hope I've whetted your appetite enough to read the entire article .
Our own Donna Hawley was railroaded into this system and eventually, after four long years, acquitted; but she had a lot going for her that most of the 2.2 million prisoners in the USA don't have. She is white and educated; stubborn enough to refuse to plea bargain, even when her original attorney (David Mills) withdrew from the case. In addition, she had an excellent public defender (Matt Crowell) and a fair and impartial jury (Texas County) and judge (Bill Hickle) presiding at her trial.
Even so, the criminal injustice system tormented her and made her life miserable for four years.
Three weeks ago I wrote on our criminal injustice system and asked: “Tell me why we should not follow the prophetic words of Isaiah and proclaim ‘the opening of the prison to [ALL] them that are bound;’” I have received only one response. One reader writes in, “Awesome work, sir.”
MORE ON THEY POISONED THE WATER AS THEY ALL THOUGHT THEY OUGHT TO
After writing last week about how Michigan governor Rick Snyder and his cronies deliberately poisoned the water supply of Flint, Michigan, I looked up this article by Thomas Nagy detailing how after Gulf War I, the United States deliberately degraded Iraq's water system to the point where 5,000 Iraqi children under five years old, above what would have been expected, were dying of diarrheal disease directly traceable to unsafe water.
This led to a famous exchange between reporter Leslie Stahl and Bill Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”At the time, if people were not swayed by the horrendous moral sin of deliberately killing 1/2 million children, I argued, usually to deaf ears, that if we allow our leaders to get away with poisoning the water in Iraq, it will not be long before they poison our water too.
So once again I argue, If we allow our leaders to get away with poisoning the water in Flint, Michigan, it will not be long before they poison the water in other communities too — maybe even our own Rolla, Missouri.
Incidentally, after 16 years, the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project is still going strong, making a small down-payment on the trillions of dollars that the United States owes to the Iraqi people for the almost total destruction of their country.
Last week, I posed a question, “How many cities have had their water supplies deliberately poisoned by the Islamic State?” So far I've received no answers.
TO DELIBERATELY INFLICT MAXIMUM SUFFERING ON A CIVILIAN POPULATION
The two snippets above are examples of deliberately inflicting maximum suffering on a civilian population — both domestic and foreign. Here's a third:
Recently declassified documents show that our cold war strategy against the Soviet Union included not only nuking military and industrial targets; but also population centers in order to “so reduce the morale of the enemy civilian population through fear—of death or injury for themselves or loved ones, [so] that they would prefer our terms of peace to continuing the struggle, and that they would force their government to capitulate.”
This strategy has been called “shock and awe” in Iraq. Clearly it is counter-productive and did not work in Iraq as planned.
January 12, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ROSE HAMID BENEFITS AND IMPROVES THE MOB
“It is an easy and a vulgar thing to please the mob, and not a very arduous task to astonish them; but essentially to benefit and to improve them, is a work fraught with difficulty, and teeming with danger.”Wearing a shirt which read “Salam, I come in peace,” Rose Hamid was forcibly ejected from a Donald Trump rally as some Trump supporters hurled Islamophobic epithets at her. Watch the embedded CNN interview with Ms. Hamid.
How many of us would have the courage which Ms. Hamid showed in attempting to benefit and improve this mob? Sister Rose, you have my admiration!
SLOUCHING TOWARD NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION
North Korea claims to have successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb last week, although the seismic signature of the test does not seem to bear this out. While North Korea has received worldwide condemnation for its nuclear ambitions, the numbers tell a different story:
North Korea is thought to possess at most 10 nuclear bombs. The United States has an estimated 7,200.
North Korea has performed 4 nuclear tests. The United States has performed over a thousand and continues to test nuclear weapons.
North Korea has no systems capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States. The United States could annihilate North Korea with thermonuclear bombs delivered by airplane, submarine or ICBM.
North Korea has nuked zero cities. The United States has nuked two.
And North Korea, having legally withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, is not in violation of it; while the United States remains in violation of Article VI requiring that:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”And all this against the backdrop of the continued “modernization” of US nuclear forces and the push to deploy “battlefield usable” nuclear weapons.
Sadly, it was the United States and not North Korea, that created a world in which the only way a small impoverished nation can effectively maintain its independence from big power bullying, is to gain a credible threat, nuclear or otherwise.
LOOK WHAT WE'VE DONE TO OUR WORLD
Welcome to the Anthropocene Epoch (the geological age of man). Actually we have been living in the Anthropocene for most or all our lives, according to a paper published this month in the journal, Science (“The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene”, Waters et al.). The authors argue that sediments deposited worldwide after the 1950s are distinct from those deposited before 1950 in that they contain plastics, residues from burning fossil-fuels, radio-nucleides, concrete, lead and other industrial man-made substances in quantities large enough to warrant classifying the post 1950s world as a new geological epoch.
Kieran Suckling cautions against the name Anthropocene, arguing that it's human power structures, not humanity as a whole, who are responsible for these changes.
Sorry Kieran, but I must side with Waters et al. here. In the unlikely event that anyone is still around in a few thousand years to analyze sediments and core samples, I suspect they will say, “Look what they did to their world.” rather than “Look what human power structures did.” While some are certainly more guilty than others, we are ALL responsible.
The title of this snippet is taken from a popular song of the early Anthropocene, Look What They've Done To My Song.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FREE-SPEECH ENTHUSIASTS GONE?
Glenn Greenwald revisits the Charlie Hebdo murders and points out the hypocrisy of the millions who marched a year ago for free speech in Paris proclaiming, “Je suis Charlie.” Today, these free-speech advocates are nowhere to be found, as France becomes more and more repressive, silencing and jailing dissidents and critics alike. Greenwald writes:
“In all the many years I’ve worked in defense of free speech, I’ve never seen the principle so blatantly exploited for other ends by people who plainly don’t believe in it as was true of the Hebdo killings. It was as transparent as it was dishonest. Their actual agenda was illustrated by how they invented a brand new free speech standard specially for that occasion: In order to defend free speech, one must not merely defend the right to express an idea, they decreed, but must embrace the idea itself.”I've also written about both the Charlie Hebdo murders and the more recent Friday the 13th murders in Paris.
Like the previous snippet, the title of this one is also from an early Anthropocene popular song.
THEY POISONED THE WATER AS THEY ALL THOUGHT THEY OUGHT TO
Michael Moore and many others are calling for the prosecution, conviction and incarceration of Michigan governor, Rick Snyder and his cronies who switched the water supply for Flint, Michigan, a city of around 100,000 inhabitants, to the highly polluted Flint River, poisoning the entire population.
In spite of these revelations, little or nothing has been done to provide the residents of Flint with safe drinking water.
Hey, isn't deliberately poisoning the water supply for a major city terrorism? Why aren't these guys languishing in Guantánamo waiting to be tried by military tribunal?
I have one further question: How many cities have had their water supplies deliberately poisoned by the Islamic State? A quick search of the internet turns up only alleged plots.
The title line of this snippet comes from the poem, Extinction.
January 5, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Here, to go along with last week's snippet on “the opening of the prison to them that are bound,” is a website listing 1,200 people summarily executed by police in 2015 in the USA — many unarmed. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Ammon Bundy and his posse of vigilantes has taken by force of arms federal lands in Oregon belonging to We, the People. The response of the Obama Administration and the media have been deeply muted — going to show that armed insurrectionists are no problem. It's non-violent protesters who pose the real threat to law and order and must be dealt with most harshly.
A RACIST STATE — FOR SURE
The Israeli Ministry of Education recently banned the book, “Borderlife,” a novel for young adults about a romance between an Israeli girl and an Arab boy. After all, you're supposed to kill 'em, not love 'em. Now the book is selling like hotcakes all over the world. Love conquers all.
Here's an editorial on the subject from Israeli newspaper, Haaretz; and a short quote, “When racism is accepted as natural, as a legitimate value, another human cell has died in the war against bestialization.”
Note: Haaritz may want you to “subscribe” to read this article; so here is Abby Zimet's take on Common Dreams — Free.
December 29, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OPEN THE PRISON TO ALL THEM THAT ARE BOUND
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”I think I have quoted these two verses from Isaiah more than any other verses of scripture. Yet, when I advocate to “the opening of the prison to [ALL] them that are bound;” I seem get these what-planet-did-you-come-from stares.
Here's some of the latest from our system of injustice:
Clarence Moses-EL walked free last week after spending 28 years in prison, convicted of rape solely on the strength of a dream.
Police officers in Dotham, Alabama have charged that their colleagues have been planting guns and drugs on Black suspects for at least 20 years.
In a Kafkaesque move, the Pentagon has been deliberately planting administrative roadblocks to prevent the release of those which it has “cleared for release” from the Guantanamo hellhole.
And oh yes, Wall Street is making a killing [pun intended] on private for-profit prisons. The more prisoners, the more money. In fact we have a quota to fill.
And if you happen to be one of the unlucky over 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, you might be thrown down the stairs and then kicked and beaten to death.
So, dear reader, after reading the five short recent articles above, tell me why we should not follow the prophetic words of Isaiah and proclaim “the opening of the prison to [ALL] them that are bound;”
Note that the above does not even begin to address the summary execution of mostly Black victims by law-enforcement personnel. The tally is well over 1,000. Here is a summary of the year 2015 to-date.
EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE PLAGUE IS COMING
“Everybody knows that the plague is coming.A seminal moment in my life came some 20 years ago when I read Laurie Garrett's “The Coming Plague.” Garrett made me realize just how close to apocalypse we are. Here's a couple of short articles from this past week on the subject of epidemic disease:
In the wake of climate disruption, cases of microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with small underdeveloped brains, linked to the zika virus have increased from 147 last year to 2700 this year in Brazil. According to Brazil's Health Ministry, “This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research.”.
Driven by corporate agriculture's greed and overuse of antibiotics, we appear to be entering a post-antibiotic age, as organisms are fast acquiring immunity to our most important antibiotics — faster than we can develop new ones.
YET ANOTHER YEAR OF CLIMATE RECORDS
2014 was the warmest year to date since record keeping began; but 2015 is off the charts, and with only a few days to go, will beat 2014 by leaps and bounds. Take a look at the NOAA graph near the bottom of this article by Erica Spanger-Siegfried. As Spanger-Siegfried explains: global warming is like walking up the stairs; but then add El Nino. It's like standing on your tiptoes as you walk up the stairs. Not only does El Nino warm the Earth; but a warmer Earth may contribute to a longer stronger El Nino.
2015, which saw droughts and megafires in the North American West and Indonesia, ends with “biblical” floods in South America and England, unseasonable tornadoes in the Mid-West, and a heat wave in Australia. So tell me again how anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax.
We've been having our very own flooding and tornadoes here in Missouri which is now under a State of Emergency. Here's some sage advice from the Red Cross on dealing with flooding:
# Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA weather radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)To which I would add, demand a complete and immediate end to all wars and a quick transition from fossil-fuel and nuclear energy to non-polluting renewables beginning now. If we don't, climate disasters will only get worse.
December 22, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PARIS CLIMATE DEAL DISSECTED
Avi Lewis and Rajiv Sicora discuss the Paris climate deal point by point and conclude that it is 99% hype and spin. To cop a line from Shakespeare, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.” So if governments won't act, that leaves it up to us — we, the people. If not us, then who?
OUTRAGEOUS AND TOTALITARIAN
Maul of America [misspelling intentional] has sued Black Lives Matter to halt Wednesday's planned demonstration. Organizers say they have “no plans to halt the demonstration unless authorities release the tapes related to Jamar Clark's case, prosecute police without a grand jury by special prosecutor, and bring federal terrorism charges against white supremacists who shot five protesters during the occupation.”
Now I'm wondering: suppose the organizers of the climate demonstrations in Paris had shown such courage and refused to honor the French government's ban on demonstrations. Maybe we would have come out of the Paris conference with a real deal to save the Earth.
I THINK BERNIE IS FINALLY GETTING IT
I think Bernie is finally coming around and realizing that unless we come to terms with the destruction we have wrought through our militarism, his domestic program, as admirable as it may be, can never be realized. In particular, he calls out Hillary Clinton for her role in fomenting civil war, regime change and chaos in Libya.
That's a good start, Bernie. The next step is to point out that war does not solve problems, it creates them. We don't need an international coalition against the Islamic State. We need an international coalition including the Islamic State and ALL other actors.
You're a bright guy, Bernie. You care about people; and I have faith in you. I just dropped another donation to your campaign in the mail.
Well, we just shot and killed some more “allies” in Iraq. It's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between our friends and enemies. Maybe there is no difference. With friends like us, who needs enemies.
December 15, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHO IS ON FIRST
For all you baseball fans, a modernization of Abbott and Costello's comedy classic, brought up to date to include everything that is going on in the Middle East and more.
The Huffington Post is keeping a list of Islamophobic Acts in the US and Canada since the Friday the 13th deadly incident in Paris last month. The list is at 71 and growing. Incidents range from arson to vandalism to threats with knives and guns.
And here's a new twist: Two Dutch film makers disguise a Bible as the Qur'an and read some of the more gory verses from the Old Testament and then ask folks to comment. Note the surprise on their faces when they find out that its the Bible and not the Qur'an.
COP21 CLOSES WITH EMPTY “HISTORIC AGREEMENT”
“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking;“Long on rhetoric, short on action” — that's an excellent description of what 195 countries agreed to after two weeks of “negotiations” in Paris. Hailed as a “major leap for mankind,” this agreement contains very little of substance. Nothing in the deal about bringing an end to the wars and militarism that are major drivers of climate change.
In my opinion, COP21 is comparable to the 1938 Munich conference in which Britain and France signed an agreement with Nazi Germany buying an empty promise of “peace for our time” in exchange for the betrayal of Czechoslovakia. In this case the stakes, the future existence of the human race, are so much higher.
Well, what would you expect after the way the climate justice leadership caved in to France's demand to cancel activities because of “security concerns?”
December 8, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
PEACE AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
In this very important article, Vandana Shiva points out that “The same processes that contribute to climate change also contribute towards growing violence amongst people. Both are results of a war against the Earth.”
And I would add, a War Against God. What arrogant creatures we humans are to think that we can fight a War Against God!
I WANT MY STORY TO BE HEARD
Khalid Ahmad, a pharmacist who was seriously injured in the October 3rd US bombing attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan tells his own story. “I’m angry,” says Khalid. “The U.S. military is killing us just because they want to be the Empire of the world. ... God will hold them accountable.”
Diplomacy? Yes, says Obama, but not WITH the Islamic State — diplomacy to forge a broader coalition AGAINST the Islamic State (presumably on our terms).
Let me remind you, Mr. Obama, that as a result of your broad coalition against the Taliban, the Taliban has become stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, we've dropped so many bombs in the Middle East, we are running out of bombs. This apparently makes the weapons manufacturers extremely happy. Although not “winning the war,” they are making money hand over fist. Much of the Islamic State's arsenal has come from United States weapons manufacturers according to Amnesty International . How do you spell W-A-R P-R-O-F-I-T-E-E-R-I-N-G?
OOPS, WE GOOFED
Yet another military “expert” admits (12 years later) that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a “huge mistake.” We seem to be making the same mistake again in Syria.
OOPS, GOOFED AGAIN
Held without charge under “harsh conditions” in Guantanamo since 2002, the Pentagon now believes that Mustafa Abd-al-Qawi Abd-al-Aziz al-Shamiri was held as a result of “mistaken identity.” His name sounded a lot like the name of some “suspected terrorist.” Well, don't all those A-rab names sound about the same.
A TALE OF FOUR SELF-RADICALIZED MASS MURDERERS
Juan Cole examines the cases of:
Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who shot up a black church because he apparently didn't like black people;
Robert Dear, a misogynist who shot up an abortion clinic because he apparently didn't like women;
and Syed Farooq and Tashfeen Malik who went “postal” and shot up a party at Malik's place of work for no apparent reason.
Roof and Dear are not “terrorists.” Farooq and Malik are. You figure it out.
December 1, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SLOUCHING FURTHER TOWARD WORLD WAR III
I am happy to be able to write this column today. Last week, when NATO member, Turkey, shot down a Russian airplane that might have briefly strayed over the Syrian border into Turkey, I thought that perhaps I had written my final column.
The Middle East War (likely to soon expand into World War III) spirals further out of control. Little wars morph into big wars. Putin has called the downing of the Russian plane “a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists,” referring to Turkey's not so secret support of the Islamic State whom NATO and Russia are presumable allied against.
NATO is supporting Turkey in this act of war against Russia. Russia is moving anti-aircraft missiles into Syria. Obama brags an anti-Islamic State coalition of 65 countries, to Russia's tiny coalition, failing to mentioning that his coalition gave rise to the Islamic State and has totally failed to contain it, while Russia boasts some recent successes.
One might surmise that Russia will respond to this act of provocation in its own way and at a time of its own choosing.
NATO members: United States, United Kingdom and France are nuclear armed; so is Russia.
THOUSANDS DEFY FRENCH PROTEST BAN
Demonstrating again who their real enemy is, French authorities place 24 climate activists under house arrest for the duration of the COP21 climate conference, citing again “security concerns” over the Friday the 13th attacks that killed 130 in Paris. Meanwhile, the French bombing of civilians in Syria has become ever more vicious, although that hardly addressed the fact that the perpetrators of the Friday the 13th attacks appear to be almost entirely European citizens.
By now, it is no secret that Western allies, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with the blessings of the United States, Europe and Israel, have been supporting the Islamic State for some time and continue to support it. US arms destined for a non-existent army of “moderates” end up in the hands of Islamic State fighters, yet the United States continues to support this non-existent force of “moderates.” As Robert Fisk quipped facetiously, “Who’s ever heard before of a ‘moderate’ with a Kalashnikov?”
In spite of the “ban” on climate demonstrations, climate activists have found novel ways to demonstrate for real action at COP21 to protect the Earth from further climate degradation. Thousands of pairs of shoes appeared on the streets Sunday, where an estimated 200,000 climate activists were to have marched. Monday, thousands linked hands in a human chain and later in the day, demonstrators were met with tear gas and arrests.
As Tim DeChristopher has sagely pointed out, “an unwanted protest is far more powerful than a sanctioned one.” How true. Sadly, many “leaders” of the climate movement continue to distance themselves from those who ignore the protest ban.
Steffen Böhm points out that COP21 is already a failure. Even if it were miraculously to achieve its stated goals, it would still be woefully inadequate. This article is a MUST READ.
THE END OF SANITY
Ramzy Baroud let's it all hang out — everything the United States with its European and Israeli allies have done to the Middle East over the past 25 years, from Gulf War I to Syria. Baroud writes, “we were crushed; pulverized; imprisoned, burnt, beaten and raped and, once more, told that we are not yet ready for democracy; not ready to be free, to breathe, to exist with even a speck of dignity.”
Now, it appears that the chickens may be coming home to roost (see snippets above). Baroud end his article:
“The crux of the matter: we either live in dignity together or continue to perish alone, warring tribes and grief-stricken nations. This is not just about indiscriminate bombing - our humanity, in fact, the future of the human race is at stake.”
November 23, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF EMPIRES, TERRORISTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Maybe I'm prescient. Last Tuesday I wrote:
“My greatest fear about the Paris attacks are that they will be used as an excuse to crack down on the Real Enemy, non-violent protesters who will come to Paris en masse later this month to demand that world leaders at the COP21 climate talks take real action to protect the Earth from further climate degradation, and maybe, horror of all horrors, end the wars which are the primary drivers of climate change.”Wednesday, it was announced that because of “security concerns,” the COP21 opening day march, slated to draw 200,000 climate activists, was canceled. Up to 5,000 protesters will be permitted to protest in a sealed off box far from the conference. Meanwhile, 30,000 police officers will keep close watch on climate activists.
This post has been expanded and moved. Click here.
November 17, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OF HOSPITALS AND SPORTS ARENAS
Last Friday, Paris witnessed coordinated attacks on a rock concert, a sports arena and several bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Well over 100 people died. Many more were injured.
In Iraq and Syria this would hardly cause a stir — just an everyday occurrence. But this is Paris — the belly of the beast. Europeans and North Americans have claimed a “God-given” right to spread terror everywhere in the world: the Middle East, Africa, Asia, South and Central America; but even the thought, much less the actuality, of Middle Easterners spreading terror in Europe must be met, in the words of French President François Hollande, by waging “pitiless war.” So, what else is new? Haven't Europeans been waging pitiless war against the rest of humanity for centuries? (with some short respites to fight wars against each other for the privilege of waging pitiless war against everyone else)
Last month the Pentagon bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, massacring 30. Doctors and patients, including children, died horrible deaths. Patients died on the operating table or burned to death in their beds. Were it not for the fact that this hospital belonged to the Nobel-prize-winning Western relief organization, Doctors Without Borders, this would hardly have caused a stir. Even so, it did not receive near the attention lavished on a rock concert and a football [soccer in the United States] match in Paris.
According to the Geneva conventions, hospitals are protected spaces. Attacking a hospital is a WAR CRIME — PERIOD. I'm not an expert on international law; but I could not find any mention of concert halls, bars and sports arenas as protected spaces. So, however one might feel about the carnage in Paris, unlike the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, it does not rise to the level of a war crime. While some of those who died last Friday in Paris may have been innocent civilians, others may have been soldiers, arms traders, weapons researchers or manufacturers, surveillance professionals, bankers, politicians, stockholders in oil companies, etc. Strangely, I haven't heard of anyone in Paris being referred to as “collateral damage” like we label so many in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
My greatest fear about the Paris attacks is that they will be used as an excuse to crack down on the Real Enemy, non-violent protesters who will come to Paris en masse later this month to demand that world leaders at the COP21 climate talks take real action to protect the Earth from further climate degradation, and maybe, horror of all horrors, end the wars which are the primary drivers of climate change.
November 10, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE “LAWS” OF WAR
“The laws of war protect enemies of the same race, class, and culture. The laws of war leave the foreign and the alien without protection. When is one allowed to wage war against savages and barbarians? Answer: always. What is permissible in war against savages and barbarians? Answer: anything.” —Sven Lindqvist (A History of Bombing, p2)Doctors without Borders has released a preliminary report on the October 3rd bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It's well worth reading — all 13 pages of it. Some of the highlights: US command was aware that they were bombing a protected hospital, but continued the bombardment for over an hour. At least 30 doctors, patients and staff died in this unprovoked attack. Patients, including children, burned to death in their beds and on the operating table. Some who tried to flee were shot from a gunship as they ran from the carnage. The only functioning hospital in the area of Kunduz was destroyed and is now unable to function.
Attacking hospitals, healthcare workers and healthcare facilities is nothing new for the US military. It was scarcely noticed, except by the Iraqis, when US forces demolished the Nazzal Emergency Hospital in Fallujah 11 years ago. Nor did the destruction and occupation of other hospitals and healthcare facilities in Iraq receive much attention. The difference here seems to be simply that Doctors Without Borders is a Western organization run by Western doctors and healthcare professionals. Perhaps, the Pentagon was safe as long as it attacked only local healthcare facilities. It may have crossed the line into committing war crimes by bombing a hospital belonging to a Western relief organization.
Tomorrow is Armistice Day — the day soldiers on both sides lay down their arms bringing to an end the First World War, which was at the time thought to be “The War To End All Wars.” Instead of a day to celebrate peace, Armistice Day has become Veterans Day, a day to celebrate war: past, present and future. Let's revive the original meaning of Armistice Day and spend the coming year working to end all war.
Last week, I linked to my rather frivolous cartoon and myth about Gender Identity. Since then I've added a somewhat serious discussion of the subject.
November 3, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Cyclone Chapala made landfall on the coast of Yemen today bringing five years of rain to the coastal city of Mukalla in a matter of hours. Chapala is the first ever hurricane-strength cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea to make landfall. Chapala formed over record-warm waters and caused intense flooding to add to the woes of this impoverished, war-torn country. Along with Hurricanes Joaquin and Patricia, Chapala makes three monster storms since early October. How do you spell “human-induced global warming.”
Several weeks ago, I found a link to this hilarious 16 minute John Oliver video on gender identity in my mail box. After watching it multiple times, I just had to photo-collage a cartoon on gender identity along with a story about gender identity straight out of Greek mythology. One aspect of gender identity rarely discussed is the effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals like atrazine on sexual development. Incidentally, this week a trans-gender student, represented by the ACLU, won a major victory in federal court.
NAZI GAS-CHAMBERS REVISITED
Dropping all pretense of being anything but a brutal occupation army, Israeli troops stormed the Aida Refugee Camp on the West Bank blasting tear gas with the message, “People of Aida Refugee Camp, we are the Occupation army," it proclaimed in Arabic. "Throw stones and we will hit you with gas until you all die - the youth, the children, the old people...You will all die. We will not leave any of you alive.”
MORE SLOUCHING TOWARD WORLD WAR III
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” —Albert Einstein
Two weeks ago I included a short snippet on how close we may be to World War III. Here's more on the subject . Wake up and smell the roses. Soon, there may not be any left.
October 27, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
NATURE DOESN'T NEGOTIATE
“Nature doesn't negotiate. It responds to our intransigence.” —Kumi Naidoo
September 2015 was the hottest September ever recorded, and 2015 is well on track to be by far the hottest year in recorded history. Global warming is here with a vengeance. Yet, preparatory to COP21 in Paris, world leaders concede very little, if anything, at preliminary talks in Bonn.
Meanwhile North America has been hit by two monster hurricanes already in October: Joaquin which brought unprecedented flooding to South Carolina; and Patricia, the strongest storm ever measured, which struck the Southwestern coast of Mexico with fury; but did far less damage than expected.
Benghazi is back in the news as legislators grill presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton for 11 hours on her role in the 2012 attack on the US consulate that killed ambassador Christopher Stephens. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that the attack on the US consulate has all the earmarks of an “inside job.” It appears to have had three purposes:
1. Getting rid of a troublesome ambassador who had “gone native.”It seems to have been at least partially successful on all three counts; but don't mind me; I'm just a “Conspiracy Theorist.”
OPEN SEASON ON HOSPITALS
Taking a cue from its major arms supplier, Saudi Arabia, with US-supplied arms, bombs a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen, just weeks after the United States did the same to a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. How do you spell “War Crimes?”
TEST CONGRESS, NOT SCHOOLS
Five years ago I photo-collaged this cartoon against excessive testing in our schools; and in 2012 I ran for a seat on the Rolla Board of Education on the platform of becoming the first school district to opt out of Missouri's MAP tests. Now it seems that limiting standardized testing is gaining traction, even with the pro-testing [pun intended] Obama administration. Far more work needs to be done to end this abomination.
And here's the latest school atrocity to go viral: Burly South Carolina cop with long history of beating up students, attacks girl sitting at her desk in front of entire class. Ever wonder why so many don't finish high school?
BTW: The cop is White and the girl is Black (in case you wondered).
October 20, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AHMED MOHAMED VISITS THE WHITE HOUSE
Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager with the “magic clock” that I wrote about last month, visited the White House yesterday for Astronomy Night and talked to the President.
It is unlikely that any of the Irving, Texas police who took Ahmed out of school in handcuffs or the school officials who suspended him will ever be invited to the White House.
Apparently Ahmed did not bring his clock to the White House.
SLOUCHING TOWARD WORLD WAR III
US and Russian fighter planes apparently came dangerously close to each other over Syria. Daniel Lazare lays out a description of many of the competing forces in Syria and the shifting alliances. This is how World War I began, amid a multitude of competing forces and shifting alliances.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE — OUR SOULS
Jeff Faux discusses the term, “Collateral Damage,” particularly in relation to the recent bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Faux writes: “Implicit in this notion of collateral damage is that war absolves its participants of murder.” And later, “Wars of aggression never were and never will be free of atrocities. The decision to invade another nation is a decision to kill those who resist and get in your way - soldiers or civilians.”
Faux believes that ultimately we are ALL responsible for atrocities committed in our name. He ends his article: “So, by all means, let us urge the President to find out what happened that night in Kunduz. But let the search continue up the ladder of power. When the investigation reaches those ultimately responsible, we will find ourselves looking in a mirror.”
This short article is a MUST READ. Don't miss it!
ARCTIC OIL LEASE SALES CANCELLED IN WAKE OF NON-VIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
The recent spate of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience against oil drilling in the Arctic has caused the cancellation of two major lease sales. This is being hailed as a great victory by the “keep it in the ground” movement.
I suspect that if we became as passionate about ending our foreign wars as we've become about saving the Arctic, our troops would soon be coming home and our foreign military bases closing.
October 13, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A NUCLEAR ISLAMIC STATE? — NOT YET
I think some unsavory folks might be reading my column. Well, it's nice to have such non-discriminating followers.
A few months ago (July 28), I wrote a column stating that if Greece had a few nuclear weapons and a missile that could reach Paris or Berlin, the European bankers wouldn't be treating the Greeks so shabbily. I further wrote:
“Let's not stop with Greece; let's talk about the Islamic State. While it's unlikely that Greece would acquire nuclear weapons, the Islamic State is another matter. It's already under control of men who at least appear to be mad and there is a lot of loose nuclear material floating around. (You can thank your own leaders for that.) Do you think the world would be so cavalier about bombing territory controlled by the Islamic State if they had nuclear weapons? ... The only way a poor small nation can get any respect is to acquire nuclear weapons or an equivalent threat. You can thank your own leaders for that too.”
It appears the FBI might have foiled a plot to sell nuclear material to the Islamic State. The problem is that the potential buyers seem to have been FBI agents and there is (proclamations by the news media not withstanding) apparently no evidence that the Islamic State is looking for nuclear material, which is a good thing. After all, the world is dangerous enough with a nine member exclusive nuclear club consisting of the USA, Russia, Israel and six other unsavory states.
I read that the Islamic State does all sorts of nasty things, but I wonder: Has the Islamic State ever bombed a hospital like the US military did again last week? How about wedding parties? That seems to be a favored target for the US and its allies.
WHERE DO REFUGEES COME FROM?
According to Thomas Harrington it has been long-standing US/Israeli policy to dismember Middle-Eastern states by fomenting war and strife in the hopes that all sides lose. This policy of creating chaos instead of stability was supposed to make Israel safer. Ha! Having made much of the Middle East unlivable, we now have armies of refugees attacking the European fortress. And now Russia is involved in Syria which, while partially foiling the US/Israeli plot, is likely to make the world far less safe in the long run. Harrington's article is important. Read it.
John Feffer supplies some background on modern “population transfers”.
And here's what happens to some of our American refugees who are deported back to the violent situations they sought to escape.
AND THE REAL ENEMY IS — NON-VIOLENT PEACE ACTIVISTS
Saturday, a peace demonstration in Turkey was bombed killing almost 100. Turkish police then prevented ambulances and other emergency medical workers from entering the scene of the bombing and aiding the victims. The government is blaming the Islamic State, although anger over the bombing seems to be focused on the government. Whoever set the bomb off, it appears that some warring factions in Turkey may have colluded against a common enemy — non-violent peace activists. Sound familiar?
WHAT IF THEY GAVE A DEMONSTRATION AND NOBODY CAME?
Saturday was supposed to be a day of hate-demonstrations against Islam in the United States. But it seems like Islam has found a new popularity. A demonstration in Huntsville, Alabama netted zero anti-Islam demonstrators. Many demonstrations boasted more supporters of tolerance than hate-mongers.
October 6, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
THE ULTIMATE OBSCENITY
“People are seized with a kind of madness when they take to violence. The violence carries them along, transforms them and makes them — even afterwards, when it is all over — unrecognizable.”So it goes in war:
“They do one act of violence after another, and one deceitful thing after another.”Last Saturday, US forces in Afghanistan repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 22, including 3 children. This would hardly have caused notice had it not been for the fact that Doctors Without Borders is run by western-based physicians and other medical care professionals. Indeed, it was scarcely noticed, except by the Iraqis, when US forces demolished the Nazzal Emergency Hospital in Fallujah 11 years ago.
Humanitarian Organizations are not highly appreciated by the Pentagon, particularly effective ones like Doctors Without Borders. After all, War is meant to cause maximum suffering to the civilian population. Any attempt to alleviate the suffering is suspected as providing comfort to the enemy. It is nearly impossible for an occupying military force to distinguish between civilians and freedom fighters — indeed, in cases like this, there may not be a great deal of difference.
For years, there has been tension between the US military and Doctors Without Borders. In 2010, in the wake of the great earthquake in Haiti, the US military closed the Toussaint L'Ouverture airport to a Doctors Without Border airplane carrying a full inflatable hospital and staff. Doctors Without Borders had to land in the Dominican Republic and travel overland to Haiti, while Haitian earthquake victims waited for emergency medical treatment. We weren't even involved in a shooting war in Haiti at the time. This was the subject of one of my first cartoons.
I think the deliberate bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz may be a watershed event, like the 1968 My Lai Massacre — an event that leaves war naked in all its horribleness, for all the world to see.
It is instructive to review an excerpt from the court-martial of Lt. William Calley. Calley and his men murdered hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese men, women and children at My Lai, one fateful day in March 1968. For this crime, Calley eventually served three and half years under house arrest — three days for each person murdered.
Q: What were you firing at?Like the My Lai Massacre, the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz is deliberate mass indiscriminate killing — and Doctors Without Borders is calling it exactly what it is — a war crime. Being a highly respected international humanitarian organization and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, it is difficult to fob Doctors Without Borders off with apologies and platitudes. They want a transparent independent investigation; and they should have one. Maybe there will even be convictions and prison sentences — perhaps, even some people in high places.
Meanwhile, what can we do? Bring the troops home; End the War.
September 29, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WAR NOT GOING WELL? TRY PEACE
14 years into the endless War Against Afghanistan, the Taliban, who, we were told, were totally destroyed in the first months of the war, have captured Kunduz, an important provincial capital.
Saudi Arabia, US proxy in the War Against Yemen, bombs a wedding party killing over 100, including women and children . Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries.
US backed “moderate” Syrian rebels turn over US supplied arms to the al-Nusra front.
Meanwhile, as “the world hemorrhages, refugees flow from its wounds,” threatening to inundate Europe, as millions try to escape war and climate destruction.
And here in the United States, nine million acres have burned to the ground in what may become the worst fire-year ever.
So goes endless warfare. Maybe it's time to try Peace.
September 22, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AHMED AND THE MAGIC CLOCK
This is the most spectacular story I've seen in years — how a 14 year old boy with a homemade clock exposes the racism and paranoia inherent in our society, where punishment of the powerless is paramount. Who would ever have thought that a young teen with a magic clock could do so much!
This story is so amazing, I had to write about it. Here's my article.
HALF MY WEALTH
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani yogurt, is donating $700,000,000 ($700 million), half his wealth, to help refugees. Imagine if all the billionaires in the world would follow suit and donate half their wealth to making this a better world.
Chobani means shepherd in Turkish. If you've never tasted Chobani yogurt, you are in for a treat. Rich and creamy — not at all like most of the yogurt you see in supermarkets today.
OPENING UP THE PRISON TO THEM THAT ARE BOUND
I thought it was only a handful of religious nutcakes like myself who took the prophet Isaiah seriously when he “proclaim[ed] liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” Now a bipartisan federal commission on our own refugee crisis proclaims that “the violations — which include denial of food and medical care, lack of due process, and allegations of sexual assault — are so egregious that all families should be released, detentions reduced, and alternatives to incarceration fostered.”
September 8, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“My mother prayed that I would be a man of some renown,If I were to modernize this famous Woody Guthrie song from 80 years ago, I might change the second line of the couplet to “But I'm a climate refugee as I go ramblin' 'round.”
I can still remember, back when I was in high school studying a unit on the 1930s. When we got to the section on the Great Dust Bowl, our teacher remarked, that couldn't happen again because we are so much wiser now and know so much more. Really, Mr. B? Take a look around you — the west coast of North America, the entire Middle East, and to a lesser extent, Europe, are baking while low-lying ecosystems are flooding.
As some commentators have noted, the “refugee crisis” with Europe being inundated with refugees from the Middle East is climate driven. Large areas of Africa and the Middle East, once the “cradle of civilization,” are fast becoming unlivable due to climate change.
Climate disruption brings conflict in its wake, as fewer resources are available. If climate disruption is not effectively managed, we get War. War gobbles up tremendous quantities of resources and contributes to further climate disruption. And where does climate change come from? The greed and stupidity of capitalists and politicians who consistently choose short-term profits over long-term environmental health and stability. And, voila! We have hundreds of thousands, probably millions, fleeing war, poverty and climate change.
As Kathy Kelly sagely put it, “Earth's military crisis, its climate crisis, and the paralyzing economic inequalities that burden impoverished people are linked” . But, the word linked is deceptive. Kathy's three crises feed one another, in an endless spiral, leading eventually to — Collapse.
And what's the solution in the United States, Israel, and to a lesser extent, Europe? Build walls and other barriers to keep climate refugees out.
Recommendation: Listen to Woody Guthrie's dust-bowl ballads. Also reread John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. We are reliving the dust-bowl years with a vengeance. And what happens when all the climate refugees come streaming out of California and our low-lying coastal cities like New York, Washington, Houston and Miami?
For the 10th straight year, SAT college entrance scores are down, demonstrating the total failure of high-stakes testing regimes like No Child Left Behind and its successors: Race To The Top and Common Core. But high-stakes testing can't claim to be the only factor. SAT scores correlate extremely well with family income. Thus impoverishment and income inequality must also be considered important factors in the dumbing-down of children in the United States.
Well, no matter. We can always get good students and professionals from China, India, the Middle East and elsewhere, while we feed our own children a diet of television, violence and incarceration. How much longer this can continue is anyone's guess.
Also new on the education front: The Supreme Court of the State of Washington has ruled that publicly funded but privately operated [charter] schools are unconstitutional. This deals a big blow to Wall Street's ongoing takeover of public education. Let's hope that other states, including Missouri, will follow suit.
LONG-TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN CALIFORNIA PRISONS COMES TO AN END
Prison inmates, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights have won a landmark victory in a federal suit against the governor of California. In a settlement agreement, California has agreed to sweeping prison reforms including the abolition of indeterminate long-term solitary confinement as a punishment. Some inmates have been in solitary for more than 20 years.
I am still of the opinion that our system of criminal injustice has been so arbitrary, corrupt and abusive, that there is really no just alternative but “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
September 1, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
MORE ON PETER WADHAMS
Two weeks ago, I included a link to a lecture by Peter Wadhams on the almost-complete demise of arctic sea ice in which he states that if he were “King Peter of the World” and people had to do what he commanded, he would take all our scientists who are working on military research and all the funds given to military research, some 90% of all research funds, and put these resources to work developing a process to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He then adds that this is the only way that our children will have any future (23:00).
I've been thinking about this problem and I don't believe there is any need to put all our scientists to work on developing such a process since we already have one. Nature has given us a life-form capable of removing atmospheric carbon dioxide with extraordinary efficiency. Humans are unlikely to improve on these life-forms. We call them, Trees.
Researchers have noted that agricultural wastes could contain as much as 12% of the annual input of anthropogenic carbon in the atmosphere. The problem is that when organic matter decays it releases its carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
But there is a way to sequester organic carbon that has been known for 30,000 years. 30,000 years ago a long ago ancestor of Pablo Picasso picked a partially burnt stick of wood out of a fire and started drawing on the walls of a cave — thus biochar or charcoal was discovered. Biochar is the result of heating organic carbon-rich substances in the absence of oxygen. Impurities are driven off, and what's left is virtually pure carbon. So lets say we plant the land with fast growing trees, harvest them, turn them into biochar, dig a deep hole and bury the biochar. Then we can grow more trees on the same land. So this is a continuous process. We take atmospheric carbon dioxide that resulted from the past burning of fossil fuels that were buried in the ground, turn it back into carbon and bury it back in the ground. I would call this the “Rumpelstiltskin Process!” — spinning straw [agricultural output] into [black] gold. And maybe millions of years in the future, a new species, as foolish as the extinct humans, will mine this black gold and burn it.
Of course, there is still plenty of work left for the scientists. Which mixes of trees sequester carbon fastest? How do you harvest the trees: limb by limb or cut down an entire tree and replant? How best to maintain or increase soil fertility while removing the maximum amount of carbon? Can something similar be done on the oceans — perhaps with kelp or some other sea plant?
But we better get to work immediately and stop raising animals for food and burning fossil fuels, and above all — let's stop fighting wars — the biggest driver of global climate change. Atmospheric carbon dioxide will continue to increase if we only sequester 12% of our yearly input. But if we decrease the input to zero, we begin to sequester CO2 produced in past years and slowly bring atmospheric CO2 back down to a safe level.
So lets start thinking not just about stopping detrimental processes; but actually reversing them.
Here's another example, admittedly somewhat more difficult than growing trees, converting them to biochar and burying them. Our planet is heating up because greenhouse gases like CO2 are transparent to much incoming solar radiation but opaque to the electromagnetic radiation the Earth should be radiating back into space. Can we reverse the process? Laser light is both monochromatic and focusable; thus laser light theoretically can be beamed back into space at a frequency transparent to atmospheric gases. So how do we convert the Earth's excess energy to laser light and beam it back into space?
Laser research is hot topic for the military — not that they want to save the world from global warming, but due to its actual and potential utility as a weapon. So following Peter Wadham's suggestion, let's put these laser scientists to work figuring out how to beam the Earth's excess energy safely back into space. I would call this the “Scotty, Beam Me Up Process.”
So there's the good news — “Yes, We Can!”
Now for the bad news — “No, We Won't.” — not unless billions and billions of people demand it. War and military research continue unabated and even Bernie Sanders appears to have little stomach for challenging the Pentagon.
DEAR RALPH (AN OPEN LETTER TO RALPH NADER)
I'm sure you don't remember me. We were on stage together 15 years ago when you were running for president and I was running for congress on the same (Green) party ticket. I was one of your most fervent supporters. You may not recall, but I told you to think big; that you really could be the next president of the United States.
When some idiot would babble at me “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.” I would respond, “A vote for Bush-Gore is a vote for the billionaires. A vote for Nader is a vote for the rest of us.” Ah, those were the days!
I read your recent article on Commondreams, Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire! You claim that there are lots of billionaires who really want to do the right thing, but don't know how. Since I don't know any billionaires, I really can't dispute this statement. But maybe some of your billionaire acquaintances who would like to do the right thing, would be interested in funding my ideas for reversing climate change outlined in the snippet above.
They could buy up some land that in Wall Street parlance is referred to as “underutilized” and begin carbon farming. Or they could hire some top laser scientists away from the Pentagon and put them to work figuring how to beam the Earth's excess energy back into space. If there is enough interest, I could probably think up some other ideas too.
If you like children's poetry, take a look at my book of creature poems.
This month, for the first time, I've posted a Poem of the Month on my website I Have Truth and No Force; You Have Force and No Truth by Sanjiv Bhatt. Let me know what you think.
August 25, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: GUY MCPHERSON RESPONDS
Last week I wrote:
“I have asked [Guy] McPherson and other extinctionists, ‘Why is it not possible that as catastrophic climate change kicks in, humanity will be able to soldier on as a few small bands of hunter-gatherers as it has done for all of its half million of so years of existence on the planet Earth, except the last few thousand?’ I first posed this question years ago. I am still awaiting an answer.”In an email to me, McPherson writes:
“Have you read any of my work? Do you have any understanding of biology and ecology? If not, there is no point in having a discussion with you. Uninformed conversation is frustrating and not useful. Ergo, a waste of precious time.”I'll leave it up to you, dear Reader, to decide whether professor McPherson has made his case for complete and utter extinction of the human race within the next few decades.
Guy, If there is anything you would like to add to your response, shoot me an email, and I'll try to get it in next week's newsletter.
HAPPY 25TH ANNIVERSARY, PEACE NOOK
Sunday, the Peace Nook in Columbia, Missouri held it's 25th anniversary birthday party.
The Peace Nook is a non-profit, volunteer-based community resource center operated by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks. The Nook is an information and social change activism referral center. It is also a storefront offering books, fair trade imports, natural foods, environmental products, posters, jewelry, T-shirts, magazines and much, much more!
This is amazing! A mostly volunteer-staffed non-profit keeps a community center and store going for 25 years! Congratulations to all Peace Nook volunteers and staff and particularly to Mark Haim.
I was very pleasantly surprise at the size of the turnout for the birthday party — particularly the large number of young people. I'm used to being among the youngest at affairs like this; but Sunday I looked around, and I was among the oldest. Activism is back. Youngsters are waking up to the fact that we old-timers have stolen their future, and they are doing something about it.
MORE ON LIVING WITH TOXIC WASTE
Last week, in relation to living off the land in bucolic bliss, I wrote:
“There isn't enough good land to go around and what happens when our cities flood or bake in a heatwave and people exit en masse for the good-ol' countryside? This is why I've said that your family is probably better off in the long run living next to a toxic-waste dump than growing tomatoes on an organic farm. We're all going to have to live with our toxic waste and of course many will die from cancers and other nasty diseases. But those who have lived with toxic waste for several generations will have an evolutionary advantage, having already taken the first tentative steps in adaptation. Perhaps that's the true meaning of ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’”Here's what Leonard Cohen sang on this subject half a century ago:
“O come with me my little one, we will find that farm,Leonard, that is exactly what I was trying to say last week!
MORE ON BURN, BABY, BURN
Last week I recommended Ecowatch's interactive wildfire map and noted that 2015 is on track to be the worst year for wild fires ever in the United States.
This week the State of Washington was put under emergency orders by the White House. Emergency workers are being flown in from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Globally, July has been declared the hottest month ever, since record keeping began in 1880; but you'd never know it by watching TV. And 2015 is still on track to surpass 2014 as the hottest year ever.
MORE ON OUR COURT OF LAST RESORT
Economic and environmental criminals beware. Spanish judge, Balthazar Garzón, who is most famous for indicting US stooge and former Chilean dictator and torturer, Augusto Pinochet, on charges of crimes against humanity, wants to expand the definition of crimes against humanity to include economic and environmental crimes.
This is long overdue. Crooks like Jaime Dimon, Rex Tillerson and Charles and David Koch belong in prison and their billions of dollars confiscated and used to remediate the damage they have done.
August 18, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS: PETER WADHAMS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
A reader recommends this 30 minute video of Peter Wadhams discussing the demise of arctic sea ice which may totally disappear next month, possibly for the first time since humanity walked the face of the Earth, and will almost certainly disappear in the summer within the next few years. Wadhams points out that the arctic has a tremendous effect on the climate of the northern hemisphere; and that we should expect runaway climate disruption to follow.
When asked what he would do if he were in a position to call the shots, he responded that he would take all our scientists who are working on military research and all the funds given to military research, some 90% of all research funds, and put these resources to work finding ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He then adds that this is the only way that our children will have any future (23:20).
Unlike Guy McPherson, whom I have discussed in previous posts, Wadhams sees a way out of our predicament, as unlikely as it may seem that governments, particularly our own, will give up military research in order to combat climate change.
In his ongoing essay, Climate-Change Summary and Update, McPherson never once mentions war as a cause of climate change and his only mention of the military is to point out that the military is aware of climate change and is planning to deal with citizen unrest caused by catastrophic climate change.
I have asked McPherson and other extinctionists, “Why is it not possible that as catastrophic climate change kicks in, humanity will be able to soldier on as a few small bands of hunter-gatherers as it has done for all of its half million or so years of existence on the planet Earth, except the last few thousand?” I first posed this question years ago. I am still awaiting an answer.
WHERE WERE YOU?
Jeffrey Sterling, who blew the whistle on the CIAs dangerous plan to pass along false information on nuclear weapons to Iran, and is now serving 42 months for espionage, asks the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and others:
“Where were you when the United States put me — the only person and only black face investigated over a 10-year period of time — on trial in federal court on Espionage Act charges, claiming that I am a traitor to national security? When the prosecution used against me the same issues from my discrimination case that I had not been allowed to pursue in civil court? When a jury without a single black member found me guilty, even when the FBI itself said there was no evidence?”Sterling's letter highlights the cowardice of many civil rights organizations in their refusal to take on the CIA, the Pentagon and the “National Defense” power structure. Incidentally, I could say the same about many environmental organizations and other organizations that espouse important social and political causes. I could also say the same about some high-profile activists who espouse these causes.
We all owe Jeffrey Sterling a great debt (perhaps even greater than the debt we owe to high-profile whistleblowers like Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning). What if Iran acting on the CIA's bogus information had caused a nuclear accident which, like Chernobyl and Fukushima had released large quantities of harmful radiation which then traveled in the wind knowing no national boundaries? Fortunately, the Iranians appear to be far more intelligent and to care far more about the overall health of the Earth than their Western counterparts.
BURN, BABY, BURN!
Here's a frightening resource — an interactive map showing wildfires burning throughout the United States — particularly Alaska and the western part of the lower 48. 2015 is on track to be the worst year ever for wild fires in the United States. So far over 7 million acres have burned.
ISLAMIC DECLARATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In the wake of Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and similar statements by other religious leaders, 60 Islamic scholars have signed the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change calling on the people of all nations and their leaders to “phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; [and] Commit themselves to 100% renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;”
Sadly, this declaration, like so many other similar statements, does not call on nations to demilitarize and stop fighting wars — without which there can be no real progress toward stabilizing our environment.
OUR COURT OF LAST RESORT
21 youngsters have filed suit in federal court alleging that the continued development and burning of fossil fuels violates their constitutional rights. These young plaintiffs, age 8 through 19 allege that federal support for the development and use of fossil fuels is a violation of the Fifth and Ninth Amendments, as well as the public trust doctrine.
This action comes on the heals of court victories in similar suits in the State of Washington and the Netherlands.
LIVING WITH TOXIC WASTE
It seems that nary a month goes by without news of a major new toxic waste spill. Last week, it was the spill on the Animas River in Colorado that has turned the Animas and San Juan rivers orange with heavy-metal pollution from the Gold King mine that has been closed for decades.
Last month it was the five million liter tar sands oil spill from a ruptured Alberta pipeline.
Then of course there is Lac Megantic, Deepwater Horizon, Hurricane Katrina and Fukushima just to mention a few of our more famous recent toxic events.
Basically there is little left in the way of pristine real estate and what there is is going fast.
I kind of snicker when people tell me about their dream of moving to unspoiled land, raising their kids and growing organic vegetables in bucolic bliss. Some people I know are actually trying to live that dream.
There isn't enough good land to go around and what happens when our cities flood or bake in a heatwave and people exit en masse for the good-ol' countryside? This is why I've said that your family is probably better off in the long run living next to a toxic-waste dump than growing tomatoes on an organic farm. We're all going to have to live with our toxic waste and of course many will die from cancers and other nasty diseases. But those who have lived with toxic waste for several generations will have an evolutionary advantage, having already taken the first tentative steps in adaptation. Perhaps that's the true meaning of “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
NATURE BATS LAST
I want to share with you my all-time-favorite “Nature Bats Last” song — Saguaro by the Austin Lounge Lizards — available now on Youtube.
August 11, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ONE MONUMENTAL INJUSTICE COMES TO AN END
Jeff Mizanskey was the only person in Missouri serving life without parole for nothing but marijuana offenses. After a petition on change.org garnered almost 400,000 signatures, Governor Nixon commuted his sentence to life with the possibility of parole and it appears that the parole board has granted Jeff his parole. Congratulations to Jeff Mizanskey on his upcoming freedom and to his son, Chris, who worked so tirelessly to free his father. And thank you Jeremiah Nixon and the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole for (partially) righting this grievous wrong.
SCIENTISTS FOR HIRE
Who would you trust: a politician? a lawyer? a used car salesman? How about a scientist?
Well, if you thought you had seen it all with scientists supporting tobacco use, scientists denying human-caused global warming, scientists supporting nuclear energy as a "safe carbon-free" alternative and scientists helping the CIA devise new ways to torture people; now we have scientists supporting .... if you guessed Coca Cola, you are right. Drink all the liquid sugar you like, they say. You can always exercise it off. Mark Morford writes, “Coca-Cola Asks: How Stupid Are You, Really?” And then answers the question, “If you’re the Coca-Cola company (or the NRA, or Monsanto, or RJ Reynolds, or Taco Bell, et al), the answer is: Very. You are very stupid. Still. Now and forever. They are counting on it.”
Morford's article glosses over the likely toxicity of "sugar-free" alternatives.
The bottom line: Every profession has members that are cruel, greedy and dishonest. Some more so than others. A recent Gallup poll found nursing to be the most trusted profession; members of Congress are the least trusted (in case you wondered). Scientists were not polled. Maybe Gallup will include them next time.
KIDS WHO DIE
One year after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, little has changed — except that the movement is growing. And if it continues to grow — we will certainly see substantive changes.
Watch this very short video of Danny Glover reciting the 1938 Langston Hughes poem, Kids Who Die.
And read this article by Bree Newsome, the courageous Black woman who scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina State Courthouse and took down the confederate flag.
August 4, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
ON TERRORISM AND NON-VIOLENCE
Animal-rights activists, Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, have been arrested on terrorism charges for allegedly breaking into mink-farms and releasing over 5,000 mink and committing assorted acts of vandalism to these farms.
Glenn Greenwald notes that Dylann Roof who in cold-blood gunned down and killed nine African-Americans in a church is not considered a terrorist.
Ok, crimes against property are terrorism under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; but premeditated lethal violence against people is not; at least not if they are Black and happen to be in a church. This is probably all you really need to know about terrorism to conclude that it is a meaningless designation.
With that said, I have a few issues with Greenwald's article (and to a lesser extent with a similar article by Chris Hedges). Greenwald writes:
“This latest federal prosecution, and the public branding of these two activists as ‘domestic terrorists,’ highlights the strikingly severe targeting over many years by the U.S. government of nonviolent animal and environmental rights activists. The more one delves into what is being done here — the extreme abuse of the criminal law to stifle nonviolent political protest or even just pure political speech, undertaken with tragically little attention — the more appalling it becomes. There are numerous cases of animal rights activists, several of whom spoke to The Intercept, who weren’t even accused of harming people or property, but who were nonetheless sent to federal prison for years.”While I totally agree that the persecution of non-violent protestors is a grave injustice, (I have called this the “War on Non-Violence.”) I have problems with characterizing the alleged acts of Buddenberg and Kissane as non-violent. Had they simply removed the minks to a more humane environment, that would be one thing; but why vandalize the farms?
I also have problems with the way Greenwald appears to be elevating Buddenberg and Kissane to hero status. Farm animals are notoriously inept at surviving in the wild; so I wonder how many of these 5,000 mink have actually survived. I suspect very few.
Another problem I have with Greenwald's article is his characterization of protest that is “fundamentally respectful of the rules imposed by institutions of authority [as] often ineffective ... strengthening the process it believes it is subverting.”
“But there’s something deeper driving this persecution. American elites are typically willing to tolerate political protest as long as it remains constrained, controlled, and fundamentally respectful of the rules imposed by institutions of authority — i.e., as long as it remains neutered and impotent. When protest movements adhere to those constraints, they are not only often ineffective, but more so, they can unwittingly serve as a false testament to the freedom of the political process and the generosity of its rulers (they let us speak out: see, we’re free!). That kind of marginal, modest ‘protest’ often ends up strengthening the process it believes it is subverting.”A few of us hold weekly vigils that are “constrained, controlled, and fundamentally respectful of the rules imposed by institutions of authority” for an hour at the Rolla Post Office. I don't like to characterize these events as protests or demonstrations. I use the word vigil to emphasize that we are awaiting peace, the true meaning of vigil.
One of the most memorable moments from our weekly vigils for peace came when a man drove by, saw our “support the troops; bring them home” placard, rolled down his window and said, “You brought me home.” and then told us that his whole unit appreciates what we are doing.
I can't count how many times someone has stopped to tell us that they agree with us. How many of these people go on to do something for peace they might not have done otherwise? Your guess is as good as mine.
And I've learned a lot interacting with people at these vigils, especially people who disagree with us.
One day a man drove by in an SUV, rolled down his window and said, “I hope they bomb your house.” I admit it. I was speechless. The man drove off. I thought about his comment and a few weeks later, when he drove by again with the same comment, I responded, “I don't want anyone to bomb your house. that's why I'm standing here saying, peace.” He never stopped by again. I hope he thought about my comment as much as I thought about his.
I am admonished from time to time that my freedom to demonstrate is based on our military might. My typical response has been, “Then you ought to be happy that we are using the freedom you fought for.” But, if the opportunity presented itself now, I believe I would respond differently. I would agree. I would point out that our democracy is based on theft: Land stolen from the Amerindians. Industry built with slave labor. Theft from our own underclasses. Theft of resources from far-away lands unable to stand up to our military might. And theft from the Earth itself — and to such a degree that all humanity is now in danger of extinction. I would also say that I find this a rather high price to pay for the Right to stand in front of the Post Office with signs declaring Peace is Patriotic.
And, finally, I've learned a lot from local law-enforcement, who have been very helpful and understanding during the few tense moments that occur now and then.
I've learned that if you respect people and listen to them, generally they will respect you too. I've learned that if you try to understand others, they will generally make the effort to try to understand you.
Do these vigils, “constrained, controlled, and fundamentally respectful of the rules imposed by institutions of authority” have a positive effect? Others may disagree, but I think they do; so I will continue to vigil for Peace. If you can suggest a better road to Peace, let me know. I'm all ears.
In spite of these short-comings, Greenwald has written a very important article. I encourage you to read this excellent article.
AG-GAG LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in a landmark decision has struck down Idaho's notorious Ag-Gag law as unconstitutional, violating both free speech and equal protection. Idaho's Ag-Gag law criminalizes videoing and exposing abuses at factory farms.
The undercover videoing of animal abuse at factory farms has, at least in my opinion, done far more to galvanize the animal-rights movement than actions like releasing farm animals into the wild.
JUSTICE FOR CECIL THE LION
A petition calling for justice for Cecil the Lion who was allegedly shot by US bounty hunter, Walter James Palmer, in Zimbabwe, has garnered over 1.1 million signatures.
I agree that actions like this will not stop factory farm animal abuse. Nevertheless, I signed the petition.
July 28, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
SUPPOSE GREECE HAD NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The Greek people voted overwhelmingly against austerity; but when their prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, tried to negotiate rationally with the European bankers, they simply said, “Drop your drawers and bend over.” He did.
Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece who recently resigned remarked, “[Tsipras] was faced with an incredibly hard choice when he went to the eurogroup summit: commit suicide or be executed, effectively.”
No one should be treated the way the European bankers treated the Greek people. 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte said it right: “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”
So I wonder, suppose Greece had nuclear weapons: not necessarily the hundred or more that Israel has; but just a handful of nukes, say, like North Korea, and a missile or two capable of reaching Paris or Berlin. Do you think they would have been treated that way?
Lets further suppose, instead of a government consisting of rational people, Greece was under the control of men who at least appeared to be mad, like Binyamin Netanyahu and Kim Jong-un. Do you think the European financiers would treat them with such contempt?
Let's not stop with Greece; let's talk about the Islamic State. While it's unlikely that Greece would acquire nuclear weapons, the Islamic State is another matter. It's already under control of men who at least appear to be mad and there is a lot of loose nuclear material floating around. (You can thank your own leaders for that.) Do you think the world would be so cavalier about bombing territory controlled by the Islamic State if they had nuclear weapons?
In short, the world has become a very very dangerous place. The only way a poor small nation can get any respect is to acquire nuclear weapons or an equivalent threat. You can thank your own leaders for that too.
What's that? Did I forget Iran's purported nuclear ambitions? As Peter Van Buren notes, nuclear Iran is a non-issue, “None of this matters.”
BERNIE SANDERS RESPONDS TO BLACK LIVES MATTER
Just days after a confrontation with activists from Black Lives Matter at a town-hall meeting, Bernie Sanders responds,
“This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior. No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that three days later she is dead in her jail cell. This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop.”
Incidentally, Bernie Sanders has a 100% rating from the NAACP
THE WAR AGAINST NON-VIOLENCE
Last week I wrote, “So much has been accomplished through (mostly) non-violent protests — most notably, the gains in Civil Rights of the 1960's and bringing the War Against Vietnam to an end. And so much is lost when people stop protesting non-violently — for example, the resurgence of racism and militarism of the last few decades. The act of non-violent protest is healthy — regardless of the message. This is why regressive forces will work so hard to violently crush non-violent movements and their friends in the mass media will waste no effort in denigrating non-violent activism.”
As it turns out, the feds have been “monitoring” Black Lives Matter since the murder of Michael Brown by the Ferguson police.
Raven Rakia notes, “There’s a long history of the federal agencies, especially the FBI, seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security.”
Maurice Mitchell points out that “Surveillance is a tool of fear. When the police are videotaping you at a protest or pulling you over because you’re a well known activist — all of these techniques are designed to create a chilling effect on people’s organizing.”
This is hardly any surprise. Let's not forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was under FBI “surveillance” when he was murdered by a terrorist under their watchful gaze.
Often “monitoring” goes far beyond surveillance into encouraging violent actions or even organizing them. Here's an article about a corporate stooge attempting to turn non-violent protests against Sea World's treatment of orcas into a violent action.
I have personally witnessed this kind of behavior on more than one occasion.
July 21, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
STILL MORE ON WAR AND THE CLIMATE
The last couple of weeks I pointed out how more and more people are beginning to draw the connection between war and climate change. Two weeks ago I mentioned Pope Francis's encyclical, Laudato Si. Last week it was near-term human extinction guru, Guy McPherson. I also pointed out last week how they are simply catching up to Veterans for Peace which connected the dots years ago.
This week one of my favorite anti-war activists, Kathy Kelly, devotes her latest article to connecting the dots, writing: “Earth's military crisis, its climate crisis, and the paralyzing economic inequalities that burden impoverished people are linked.” Kathy believes “that ‘low carbon’ and ‘no carbon’ energy and energy efficiency should be paid for by abolishing war.” Right On, Kathy! The US Military is almost certainly both the world's largest single user of fossil fuels and the largest creator of greenhouse gases.
I am forever thankful to Kathy Kelly for taking me to Iraq in 1999 and opening my eyes to the atrocities my government had been committing (and still commits) against the Iraqi people.
TIM DECHRISTOPHER ON PROTEST
While Bernie Sanders has a lot going for him, he certainly has his blind spots. (Well, don't we all?) I pointed out previously that while he is very strong on climate justice and economic justice, he is at best lukewarm when it comes to ending war and militarism and has done practically nothing about achieving any measure of justice for Palestine.
Tim DeChristopher discusses another of Bernie's blind spots, Racism. Bernie apparently feels that our problems of racism are institutional and can be solved through institutional changes. Those who have experienced racism personally, don't necessarily see it that way. In a confrontation at a Town Hall Meeting with the women of Black Lives Matter, Bernie comes across cold and lacking in compassion, refusing to speak the name of Sandra Bland who was recently murdered while in police custody in Texas for alleged failure to signal before changing lanes.
I'm hoping to see a lot more protests, especially at events involving political candidates. There is so much to protest about; and as DeChristopher notes, “Protests are always criticized as being at the wrong time because those who need to protest are never the people writing the agenda. That’s the value of protest.”
I'm hoping that next time Bernie will respond more appropriately to protests. I'm still supporting him.
In my opinion, Tim DeChristopher has done more to galvanize climate activists than all the climate scientists in the world. Tim's protest against oil and gas leases on federal land was so simple, effective and creative: Bid on the leases. Never mind that he raised the money to pay for the leases he bid successfully on; never mind that the auctions were found to be illegal; he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for “disrupting” the process of hastening planetary destruction by enabling the fossil-fuel industry to profit off of federal lands.
I confess: I love non-violent protests, even when I don't agree with the message protesters are conveying. So much has been accomplished through (mostly) non-violent protests — most notably, the gains in Civil Rights of the 1960's and bringing the War Against Vietnam to an end. And so much is lost when people stop protesting non-violently — for example, the resurgence of racism and militarism of the last few decades. The act of non-violent protest is healthy — regardless of the message. This is why regressive forces will work so hard to violently crush non-violent movements and their friends in the mass media will waste no effort in denigrating non-violent activism.
ON TRACK FOR ANOTHER RECORD-BREAKING YEAR
With 2015 only half over, it seems likely to surpass 2014 (itself a record-breaker) as the hottest year in recorded history. Climatewise, the records continue to fall as fast as they are set. It's rare to see the same record broken in two consecutive years; but these are not normal times. As Bob Dylan sang, The Times They Are A-Changin'. So is our climate.
July 14, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
FROM OUR READERS (GUY MCPHERSON AND ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE)
A reader writes in recommending this video of Guy McPherson lecturing on abrupt climate change. In particular, our reader was concerned about a statement that when industrial civilization collapses, the world's 442 nuclear power plants will go ballistic and, like Fukushima, spew ionizing radiation over the entire globe (9:30-11:10).
My comment: An extremely valid concern. We ought to be decommissioning nuclear power plants as fast as possible; but unfortunately we're still fighting to prevent the building of new ones. Our modern industrial civilization is full of such booby traps and Trojan horses. Consider all the pollution that was stirred up by events like Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of the World Trade Center. Also consider that as the planet warms, mega-events like Hurricane Sandy, the 2013 Colorado Flood and Typhoon Haiyan will become more and more frequent.
If you haven't read Guy McPherson's Climate Change Summary and Update, please do. It's the best summary of climate change that I have been able to find and Guy updates it regularly.
MORE ON WAR AND THE CLIMATE
Last week I pointed out that Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si, on caring for the Earth noted that “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” (paragraph 57)
This week I note that Guy McPherson has also mentioned the part that war plays in catastrophic climate change. Here's a short two minute video Guy posted last week.
In both cases, the statements do not do justice to the problem; but I am overjoyed that people are finally drawing the connection. Veterans for Peace has been talking about war and climate change for many years. They are the ones who know war best and the leaders in publicizing the connection between the two.
July 7, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
The divestment movement is picking up steam and is taking its toll on Israel and its supporters. In fact, some seem to consider it a greater threat to Israel than the non-existent Iranian nuclear bomb. Hillary Clinton seeks help from rich Jewish donors in countering this threat. Meanwhile, we wait for a statement on justice for Palestine from Bernie Sanders, who has been very outspoken on climate justice and justice for this country's poor and middle class, but has in the past failed for the most part to be supportive of justice for the Palestinian people.
Divestment from coal, oil and gas companies is also picking up steam and taking its toll. Most recently, the Lutheran World Federation voted to divest from fossil-fuels and Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si, talks about the “urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
2016 US presidential candidates were asked to sign a pledge to neither solicit nor accept contributions from fossil-fuel companies. Only Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley and Jill Stein signed. Hillary Clinton and the 14 republican candidates did not reply.
WAR AND THE CLIMATE
War is intimately related to climate degradation — perhaps the primary driving force. Pope Francis also notes in Laudato Si, “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.”
NOW IS THE TIME FOR TRUE COURAGE
If you haven't already done so, read the full statement of Bree Newsome, the courageous young African-American woman who scaled the flag pole at the South Carolina Capitol and took down the confederate flag. VERY INSPIRING!
June 30, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WHY AM I STILL HERE?
“Why am I still here?” asked Moath al-Alwi who has been held in Guantanamo since 2002 without charge or trial. “I wonder now,” he writes, “if the U.S. follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution. Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?” Read al-Alwi's letter here.
Al-alwi is not unique. Abdul Rahman Shalabi and Tariq Ba Odah are among the 52 inmates cleared for release but still held captive under horrendous conditions.
The obvious solution is to give Guantanamo, including all the prisoners, back to Cuba from which we stole it over a century ago. I have confidence that the Cuban people will administer to all 116 inmates, the justice which the United States is apparently incapable of.
In one more horrendous incident, Philadelphia transit cops assaulted a man holding a toddler for alleged failure to pay for a $2.25 train ride. It appears he was first accused of not paying for a ticket for the child, until the transit cops figured out that children under four are permitted to ride free, after which they changed the charge to not paying for his own ticket, which the man denies.
But things could be worse. Last May, in Habersham County, Northwest of Atlanta, a SWAT team raided the Phonesavanh home based on a tip that an informant had bought methamphetamine there. Habersham County's finest threw a flash-stun grenade into the crib of 19 month old Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” almost killing the toddler, who has required $1 million of surgery. “Law Enforcement” allegedly argued in court that it was the child's fault for getting in the way of the grenade. No illegal drugs were found in the raid. No criminal charges have been filed.
With the spate of police murders we have experienced recently, Bill Quigley has compiled the 15 best excuses for murder, from “He was Dancing in the Street and Walking with a Purpose” to “It Was an Accident.” Read them here.
THE NEW BARBARIAN PIRATES
In the early 19th century, the young United States, tired of paying tribute to the Barbary States, built a navy to protect its ships in the Mediterranean and win more favorable terms from pirates off the Barbary Coast. Today the United States pays over $3 Billion annually in tribute to the State of Israel and the New Barbarian Pirates as they plunder ships in the Meditarranean. The latest outrage is the attack on the Marianne of Gothernburg in International Waters, in which Israelis tasered non-violent activists attempting to bring aid to Israel's 1.8 million captives in Gaza, held in horrendous conditions without adequate supplies of potable water in the world's largest open-air prison.
In 1967 the New Barbarian Pirates attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 and wounding 170. They did not succeed in their goal of killing everybody on board the Liberty. Rather than fight back, then president Lyndon Johnson chose to pay an annual tribute of $3 Billion to Israel. Every United States president since Johnson has continued to pay tribute to Israel.
But some people (although not the government) of the United States are fighting back. The United Church of Christ with 1.1 million members voted to divest from companies profiting from human rights violations arising from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
June 23, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OPEN THE PRISONS TO THEM THAT ARE BOUND
I am so tired of quoting Isaiah 61; but here it is again: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” —Isaiah 61:1-2
Well, read Helen's post; and tell me that it is not way past time to “proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”
What's that you say? There are bad people in prison along with the innocent and they will harm us if they are released? Perhaps so. But isn't that what our system of justice is all about? Innocent until proven guilty. And in these days of extreme prosecutorial, police and legislative misconduct, how does one separate the innocent from the guilty? How does one separate those who have paid their debt to society from those that have not? And above all: How does one justify incarcerating lesser criminals while the Bushes, Obamas, Petraeuses, Rehnerts, Tillersons and Dimons all go free?
Since, ultimately, “We, the People,” are responsible for these injustices, we must accept the release of the guilty along with the innocent.
BERNIE ON MILITARISM
In May, I wrote: “Well, Bernie has the first part down — bringing the high cost of education under control. How about the second part, Bernie? How about a plan to bring the high cost of militarism under control?”
I think Bernie was listening to me (and many many others). In his June newsletter he writes: “Our military agenda is out of control. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The United States spends more on the military than the next nine nations combined. There are massive cost over-runs with defense contractors, and the Pentagon cannot even pass an independent audit.”
And further: “War and Peace: I voted against the war in Iraq, and that was the right vote. I am vigorously opposed to an endless war in the Middle East — a war which is unwise and unnecessary. We must be vigorous in combating terrorism, but we can't do it alone. We must be part of an international coalition, including Muslim nations, that can not only defeat ISIS but will work hard to create conditions for a lasting peace.”
Maybe not everything we could hope for; but a lot more than I've seen from a close-to-front-running candidate in many many years. Printed newsletters are great, but hope to see this on his website too, very soon.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
This article by Conn Hallinan and Leon Wofsy is a little long and tedious for my tastes; but makes some important points.
Hallinan and Wofsy note, “We still act as if our enormous military power, imperial alliances, and self-perceived moral superiority empower us to set the terms of ‘world order.’”
But, “while the United States remains a great economic power, economic and political influence is shifting and giving rise to national and regional centers no longer controlled by U.S.-dominated global financial structures.”
And further, “Beyond the problems our delusions of grandeur have caused in the wider world, there are enormous domestic consequences of prolonged war and interventionism. We shell out over $1 trillion a year in military-related expenses even as our social safety net frays and our infrastructure crumbles. Democracy itself has become virtually dysfunctional.”
Seems to me like a perfect recipe for Collapse (capital C intentional).
In case you missed it, The Senate passed Fast-track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the ultimate undemocratic treasonous giveaway of sovereignty to multinational corporations. Both Missouri senators, Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, voted for this abomination (in case you wondered).
June 16, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS BACK
“Kayaktivists” in Seattle attempted (unsuccessfully) to prevent Shell's drilling rig from leaving Seattle for the Arctic. However the fight to save the Arctic (and the world) from the ravages of our addiction to fossil fuels will continue.
Pope Francis in a leaked draft encyclical meant not just for Catholics but for all the people of the world writes, “[the Earth] is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her.”
Massive protests derailed (at least temporarily) the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would give corporations and the super-wealthy increased authority to continue trashing the Earth for profit. Helen writes more on this above.
Sister Megan Rice and her two Plowshares colleagues were released from prison last month, when their conviction for sabotage at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons facility was overturned. Says Sister Megan. “As long as there’s one nuclear weapon existing, nobody is free.”
Every single nuclear weapon in the United States, Russia, China, The United Kingdom and France is illegal. These five nuclear powers signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which came into force in 1970, agreeing to nuclear disarmament at an early date. They have not even begun to fulfill their treaty obligations.
As Bernie Sanders points out, we need a MASS MOVEMENT to take back America from the billionaire class and those who profit from war and climate change.
At the University of Illinois, tenured professors can say what they believe as long as they don't criticize Israel or anger wealthy Jewish donors. The American Association of University Professors has censured the University of Illinois for the firing of tenured professor Steven Salaita who was dismissed for public statements critical of the Israel's most recent massacre in Gaza. Salaita's attorneys described the censure as “a serious blemish on the university’s record.”
Meanwhile the Israeli Defense Forces have absolved themselves of all wrong-doing in the murder of four children playing on the beach in Gaza.
OUR COURTS FAIL — AGAIN
Last week I reported that a federal judge ordered that Albert Woodfox who has served 43 years in solitary confinement be released from prison, and that the State of Louisiana was barred from retrying Woodfox. The State of Louisiana appealed and will be allowed to keep Woodfox in prison during the appeal. Isn't 43 years in solitary punishment enough for any crime?.
June 9, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
OUR BROKEN SYSTEM OF CRIMINAL INJUSTICE
It seems like practically every day I come across a new injustice perpetrated by our Criminal Injustice System, usually but not always the perpetrators are white and the victims are non-white:
After 43 years in prison, mostly in solitary, Albert Woodfox has been ordered freed. Judge James Brady not only ordered Woodfox unconditionally released, but also barred the State of Louisiana from retrying Woodfox, noting, “lack of confidence in the state to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over 40 years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over 40 years ago.”
Kalief Browder was arrested at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He never got a trial. He was held in solitary at Rikers Island and tortured for two years before finally being released. He claimed, “I'm not all right. I'm messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that's not going to help me mentally. I'm mentally scarred right now.” Saturday he killed himself at age 22 .
A white police officer in McKinney, Texas crashed a teenage pool party and assaulted a 15-year-old black girl in a bikini throwing her to the ground by her hair and pinning her arms behind her.
In Salinas, California, five police officers beat mentally ill Jose Velasco sensless with batons.
And this is just what I found on the Common Dreams website in the last few days.
With so much injustice dispensed by our Criminal Injustice System, can we really say that there is a single prisoner that deserves to spend one single additional day incarcerated? Isn't it time, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “to preach good tidings unto the meek ... to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”
And what about those who are released from prison? As Ralph Nader documents, they are discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and in every way imaginable. There is no such thing anymore as “paying your debt to society” and starting fresh. No wonder recidivism rates are so high.
Nader concludes his article, “Not very smart for a country that thinks so much of itself.”
June 2, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
From Our Readers (re: Robert Nash tribute): HIS INTEGRITY SHONE AS A BEACON
Former Rolla resident, Lois Ann Marler writes:
“Thank you very much for the fitting memorial on Robert Nash. My mind is flooded with so many fond memories of Robert. Working with him was a special season in my life. He was a father figure to me, and I will forever have a very special place in my heart reserved only for him. His love and passion for justice inspired me, as it did all who knew him. He leaves behind a legacy in his community, one of selfless devotion to 'doing the right thing.' His integrity shone as a beacon in a very dark world.”
Lois used to sing at our picnics in Buehler Park and helped in so many ways in our struggle to save Buehler Park. Check out Lois's website, and should you be in the Puget Sound area, don't miss her performance.
It's official. Bernie Sanders is running for president on the democratic ticket in 2016! And he is drawing overflow crowds. “There are millions and millions of people who are tired of the establishment politics and corporate greed who are going to lead the mass movement in this country,” says Bernie.
Think Bernie's just another protest candidate who doesn't have a chance? Well, think again. Bernie is squarely mainstream. His positions are shared by a strong majority of the people. The question is can he beat a candidate like Hillary Clinton who belongs to the billionaires and the corporate moguls? I think he can. Bernie is a consummate politician. He knows how Washington works and wouldn't be running if he didn't think he could win!
Check out his campaign platform and his store. If you hurry, you could be the first in Rolla to have a Bernie for President sign in your yard or wear a Bernie for President T-shirt.
Wow, someone to vote for in 2016. In 2012 there was no one for me to support but Big Bird.
THANK YOU ED SNOWDEN
Yesterday the Patriot Act died, thanks to a large extent to the revelations of Ed Snowden. Today it was resurrected, but in a somewhat less onerous form.
As Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers puts it, “the importance of the Senate's rejection of the legislation cannot be discounted, and Snowden's influence on the changing political landscape in the U.S. deserves credit.”
Bad policy does not die easily. There is still much more work to do.
Fast track authority for The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the secret law which signs away our sovereignty to multi-national corporations is also back. Fast-track authority is not only a bad idea — it's treason. Fast-track approval abrogates Congress's constitutional authority to make legislation.
May 26, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
IN MEMORIAM: ROBERT WESLEY NASH
On May 4, Robert Wesley (Bob) Nash, one of Rolla's most prominent citizens, passed away quietly, at the age of 84 in Apple Valley, California surrounded by close family .
Bob retired in 1992 after 39 years as a metallurgy research technician with the US Bureau of Mines. After retirement, Bob took an active role in civic affairs. Bob was fearless. He had strong beliefs and would stand up to anyone no matter how powerful and influential.
Read the rest of this tribute to Robert Nash.
FREE HIGHER EDUCATION
With student debt out of control and skyrocketing to $1.2 Trillion, Bernie Sanders, who is running for president, has a plan to provide free higher education. (You know, like we had 50 years ago in the United States and like Iraq had until 1991 when we destroyed the country.)
I've been remarking for years that virtually free higher education was available to my generation. Why can't my generation give our children what our parents gave us? A few years ago, I gave Occupy Rolla a slide show on The High Cost Of Higher Education and The High Cost Of Militarism.
Well, Bernie has the first part down — bringing the high cost of education under control. How about the second part, Bernie? How about a plan to bring the high cost of militarism under control?
WELL, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
If you thought that the Islamic State (ISIS, DAESH, ISIL ...) was down for the count after their loses at Kobani and Tikrit, you thought wrong. The Islamic State came roaring back this week capturing Ramadi and Palmyra. One doesn't win victories like these without significant popular support.
Maybe we are asking the wrong question when we ask why so many people support such a brutal organization. Maybe the proper question to ask is why so many people prefer a brutal organization like the Islamic State to an even more brutal US military and their brutal allies.
Think about it.
May 19, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AMTRAK AND GERMANWINGS
What does the Germanwings crash two months ago and last week's Amtrak derailment have in common? In both cases, a man considered sane and responsible was placed in a position of responsibility over a group of travelers. In both cases the man appears to have been derelict in his duty and many died.
In one case, the Germanwings copilot is said to have locked himself in the cockpit, placed the plane on a collision course with a mountain, and breathed easily as he and 149 others plunged to their death. In the other, the engineer is said to have no recollection of the train speeding up to 106 mph on a 50 mph curve. Neither story rings true to me. In both cases I feel there are lots of missing pieces.
I have grown so used to official lies. I just assume the government is lying to me because that is what it does, consistently and shamelessly. Perhaps there is a connection between the two incidents. Then, again, perhaps there isn't. But don't expect to hear the truth from your government.
ANOTHER ATROCITY IN BALTIMORE
While people have been focused on the police murder of Freddie Gray, the city of Baltimore has shut off water to 1,600 homes in the past six weeks creating a health and environmental hazard.
Here's a story about a genocide that you may not have heard of. The Rohingya people are fleeing persecution in Burma where they are forced to live in camps that can only be described as open-air prisons. The lucky ones are the ones who make it to Malaysia. When asked, “Given all of the dangers they’ve risked, from drowning to rape and beatings, would they recommend the journey to those still in Burma?” The answer without hesitation is “Yes.”
There are lots of genocides going on in the world. You can read about a few of them at End Genocide. Not mentioned at this website are the genocides in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq.
May 12, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
DR. SHAKIL AFRIDI, I APOLOGIZE
The big news this week is Seymour Hersh's expose on the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago. According to Hersh, it didn't happen at all the way Obama and the military tell it; and remember that Seymour Hersh was the investigative journalist who exposed the My Lai Massacre.
Hersh's narrative holds together fairly well. The official narrative is completely unbelievable from the get-go.
On May 10, 2011, I wrote:
“The report that bin Laden was unarmed, summarily executed and his body dumped at sea, suggests that there is far more to the story then we are being told. In fact, it puts the whole affair in doubt. The militarists must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they have to resort to a stunt like this to garner support for their wars.”And two years later on June 4, 2013:
“After a ten-year-long manhunt, the most-wanted man in history is found unarmed and undefended, summarily executed and his body dumped in the ocean. If you believe that, I got a bridge I'll sell you cheap — it goes over the Skagit River in Washington on Interstate 5.”One government lie I fell for hook, line and sinker concerned the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, and his vaccination campaign (Tom's Blog, May 29, 2012). According to Hersh, the vaccination campaign was legitimate, although Dr. Afridi was, indeed, a CIA asset. Afridi was the patsy, the fall guy set up to take the blame for the botched raid on the Abbottabad compound. And now, thanks to the CIA, health workers, the world over, who are attempting to save lives through vaccination campaigns are looked upon with suspicion. This was likely the most damaging part of the government's false narrative. My apologies, Dr. Afridi.
This week I was introduced to a new website: The National Registry on Exonerations. According to the University of Michigan Law School, since 1989, 1,597 people have been exonerated after being convicted of crimes they did not commit. If you thought most of the exonerations were because of DNA evidence, you thought wrong. The vast majority were related to perjury, false accusation, and official misconduct.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Of the 2.2 million prisoners in the United States, likely tens of thousands languish in prison for crimes they did not commit.
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, it is time “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;”
OMAR KHADR IS FREE ON BAIL
Omar Khadr is a Canadian who was brought to Afghanistan as a child to fight with the Mujahideen. He was captured in 2002 at the age of 15, and shipped off to Guantanamo where he was tortured. Khadr has been released on bail by a Canadian judge, although the US is attempting to keep him in prison. Under international law, as a child soldier, Khadr should never have been imprisoned; but here in the USA, we remain above international law.
May 5, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A FUNDAMENTAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF NONVIOLENCE
“A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold.” — Deborah OrrI can think of nothing more arrogant than the violent preaching Nonviolence to their victims. And this is what happened in Baltimore in the wake of demonstrations against the police murder of Freddie Gray. Maybe the politicians and the police ought to try a little nonviolence themselves, instead of claiming that they, and only they, have the Right to be violent. This article by Ta-Nehisi Coates tells it straight.
I've never thought of myself as a nonviolent person. I know the violence inside me. Yes, I struggle against it; but, it's a part of me. It's like struggling against your right arm. Nevertheless, the older I get, the more I see the futility of violence. While we struggle violently against one another, our planetary support system continues to collapse. That ought to tell us something about ourselves and Nonviolence.
As California slouches into its fourth year of drought, its forests lie littered with the dry remains of 12.5 million trees that died in the previous years' drought — dry tinder for this years forest fires. With streams, lakes, aquifers and reservoirs drying up and water rationed, maybe its time to bring Woody Guthrie's famous song up to date:
“California was a Garden of Eden,WELL, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is upset that the Pentagon is apparently making no progress against sexual assault in the military. Well, Senator Gillibrand, what did you expect? Don't you know that rape and violence are an integral part of military culture? You might just is well be upset by the law of gravity.
It's been a long time since I've linked to Fred Reed's article on soldiering, so here it is again. WARNING! VERY GRAPHIC.
April 28, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
AGAINST THE ASSAULT OF LAUGHTER
If you haven't seen an episode of Halal in the Family, you are in for a treat. Halal in the Family is a sitcom in the tradition of All in the Family. It makes fun of all things islamophobic. There are four episodes posted on their website. My favorite is the Halloween episode where Aasif Qu'osby wants to out-do his neighbors on Halloween and turns his house into a haunted terrorist training camp and plans to dress up in a Zombie Bin-Laden costume
If Mark Twain was even half right when he wrote, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand,” islamophobia is as good as dead.
Halal means legal, permitted, good for you; and Halal in the Family is certainly halal.
SWEDISH POLICE SHOW NEW YORK HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE
Four Swedish police officers vacationing is New York City witnessed a fight on the subway, broke it up, made sure no one was injured, and did all the stuff police officers are supposed to do, except if they work in St. Louis, Baltimore, New York, Chicago or some other big city in the United States. No one got shot, tasered, killed or brutalized. Unbelievable! You know, maybe we ought to send our police to Sweden for training, or hire Swedes to police our cities.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS BACK!
People are wising up and saying, NO. No to business as usual; no to burning dirty fossil-fuel; no to police killings; no to over-testing our children; no to corporate-friendly trade agreements; no to drone strikes that kill civilians; ... no to lots of things that ought not to be happening.
Me? I'm still standing in front of the Rolla Post Office at Noon on Thursdays saying NO to war. You are welcome to join me. While I find all these protests and demonstrations very positive, it will be difficult to make lasting progress on these issues as long as we remain in a state of perpetual war.
April 21, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A TOUCH OF CHINA
I just returned from watching A Touch of Sin, four fictionalized vignettes of modern China, directed by Jia Zhang-ke. Well, actually, I watched half the movie. In the first half, some ten people are gunned-down in cold blood. I decided I'd had enough violence and killing for the evening and figured the second half was unlikely to be much different than the first.
I spent the 1979-80 school year at Hunan University. There was very little crime in China at the time. As far as I could tell, the major campus crime of the year was when they caught a local farmer sneaking on campus in the dead of night and emptying out the University out-houses. Night-soil was a very valuable commodity in China — probably still is. Here we think nothing of flushing it down the toilet. In China, farmers spread it on the fields to make the crops grow.
1979 was an exciting year. It was the year the United States, after pretending China didn't exist for 30 years, finally recognized China as a country. (It was also the year that the Nicaraguans overthrew the brutal U.S.-backed Somozan dictatorship and the Iranians overthrew the U.S. puppet-dictator, Shah; but those are other story.)
Everyone in China was excited about “Learning from the West” — it was the in-thing. When I left, I told them that learning from the West was admirable, but they were learning all the wrong things — adopting the bad, while rejecting the good. It was definitely not what they wanted to hear.
After watching (half of) “A Touch of Sin,” a suspect I might have been right. Here's a comment I found on the Common Dreams website — its mostly, although not exclusively, about China:
“If dollars were seconds,A “Touch of Sin” was part of the Missouri S&T free Spring film festival. There are still two movies left. Don't miss them!
April 14, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
This article by Peter Van Buren (and the introduction by Tom Englehardt) are well worth reading. To distill the essence of this article on the Middle-East chaos into a few sentences: The United States has been reduced to the role of the “big dumb guy” who others call on to beat-up their enemies, but laugh at behind his back. For example: the US provided air power to dislodge Daesh from Tikret, while Iranian-backed militias moved in and took the city. Meanwhile, Iran has taken advantage of every dumb mistake the US has made.
Well, what would you expect of a country with a bloated military budget and a grossly underfunded and mis-managed system of education?
The US elite came up with a real dumb idea after Vietnam: They would dumb-down the population to the point that they would never object to the next war. What the elite was too dumb to recognize is that a dumbed-down populace elects dumb leaders; and dumb leaders make dumb mistakes: again and again and again. Fortunately, the dumbing-down was only partially successful. The populace is wising-up. Sadly, I can't say the same for the leaders.
So there you have it!
WHAT'S WRONG WITH CAPITALISM
In one word — EVERYTHING. While there is nothing really new in this article by John Atcheson, I have never seen it laid out so succinctly and clearly as Atcheson does.
Four Blackwater security thugs were given stiff sentences for their part in the 2007 massacre in Baghdad's Nisour Square in which 17 died including a nine-year-old boy. My question: What about Erik Prince, Tommy Franks, Paul Bremer, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush ...? When will they be sentenced for their crimes? Just like Abu Ghraib, its the low-level operatives who are punished while the big criminals go free to murder again?
April 7, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A LITTLE ACCOUNTABILITY — MAYBE
Its finally happened: after Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Ezell Ford and many others. When a video surfaced of North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slagger shooting unarmed Walter Scott in the back multiple times, Slagger was charged with murder. I suspect, when we start holding police accountable for their actions, the number of police murders like this will plummet.
In case you haven't already guessed: Slagger is White. Scott is Black.
BUT NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR MILITARISTS
“Stuff happens,” as former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said. Libya, that beacon of success among humanitarian interventions has become a failed state and Yemen grabs the limelight as the latest catastrophic Middle-Eastern war. So when are the folks who have orchestrated 14 years of war in the Middle East going to be held accountable? Don't hold your breath. Yup! Rumsfeld got that one right. “Stuff happens.”
The bright spot is the recent accord with Iran which might head-off one more dumb Middle-Eastern war. But this is far from certain. Many in Congress have vowed to torpedo this agreement; and it may simply represent a realignment among players in the great Middle-Eastern war game rather than a real move toward peace.
AND NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SPOOKS
John Kiriakou emerged recently from prison uncowed. Kiriakou got a 30 month sentence, not for torturing anyone, but for blowing the whistle on CIA torture. In a recent interview, Kiriakou claims that CIA officials knew that Canadian citizen Mahar Arar was innocent when they “rendered” him to Syria to be tortured, but had him tortured anyway. So where's the accountability?
ROLLAITES VOTE FOR PARKS AND SCHOOLS
In a welcome shift, on the third go-around Rollaites approved a much-needed tax to support Rolla's public parks; and a school bond and tax which will allow the most needy children among us to go to public preschool. All three issues passed by large margins.
HUGE BILLBOARDS DO NOT A VICTORY MAKE
Some of you might have noticed those huge signs around town proclaiming James Marcellus for Hospital Board. (How could you have missed them?) Ignoring those huge billboards, Phelps County voters chose to reelect JoAnn Brand-Hoertel, the only health-care professional and the only woman on the hospital board by a margin of 9 percentage points. Congratulations JoAnn!
March 31, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
YEAR 2014 SETS ANOTHER RECORD
Over the last three months, I've reported that 2014 was the hottest year on Earth since record-keeping began and almost certainly for thousands if not millions of years, and that 2014 was the worst year ever for human rights. Now it appears that 2014 was also the deadliest year for Palestinians since 1967. If you liked 2014, you'll just LOVE 2015.
FROM OUR READERS
Human Rights: One reader calls into question Juan Méndez's statement that the United States is the “only State in the world that still sentences children to life imprisonment without the opportunity for parole” by citing this Op-Ed in the New York Times by Fatima Bhutto. Bhutto cites the case of Pakistani Shafqat Hussain who was allegedly sentenced to death in Pakistan as a child after being tortured into confessing to a murder he did not commit.
Well, some might take solace in the fact that others may also have sunk to the same depths of depravity that we have. I don't.
Germanwings Fl. 9525: Several readers have remarked that my hunch in last week's newsletter that the crash of Germanwings 9525 may have had something to do with human-induced climate change was all wrong. Well I labeled it “the product of one deranged mind with absolutely no scientific evidence to back it up.” It does appear unlikely at this point.
The official explanation that the co-pilot had a “bad hair day,” locked himself alone in the cockpit, set the plane on a collision course with a mountain and continued to breathe normally while he and 149 others plunged to their death also leaves a lot to be desired. News commentators are quick to note that since the co-pilot wasn't Muslim, it couldn't have been an act of terrorism — just a normal European with “emotional problems.”
Well, I must admit, the explanation is somewhat more plausible than the one about US Navy SEALs finding the most wanted man on Earth unarmed in a refugee camp, killing him on the spot, and dumping his body at sea.
SHIFTING ALLIANCES AND EXPANDING WARS
Robert Parry tries to make sense out of what makes no sense at all — Middle-East wars and alliances. Although I suspect there is a piece or two missing here, this article is well worth the read.
In times like this, I take solace in dark humor.
For all you Green Eggs and Ham fans: Here's a poem on Ted Cruz.
And for those of you who laud Indiana's support for religious freedom, you'll just love Indiana's First Church of Cannabis.
And not to be outdone, here's my latest contribution.
As Mark Twain so famously remarked, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
March 24, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
“REINVIGORATED PARTNERSHIP” — NO END IN SIGHT
Seems like some 10,000 US troops are going to remain in Afghanistan for the entire year now that Barack Obama and Ashraf Ghani have “reinvigorated” their partnership. Well what's one more year in a war that has already lasted more than 13. (36 years if you want to go back to the days when The United States created the anti-Soviet Mujahideen in 1979.)
Sonali Kolhatkar remarks that, “Having the U.S. stay on cannot make the situation any better as it is U.S. involvement that has taken Afghanistan to the brink of utter devastation.” More devastation for Afghanistan, and for the US, another estimated $4 Billion withering green ones flushed down the toilet.
NO SURVIVORS EXPECTED
This morning I woke up around 8:00 am. A cold rain was falling and the temperature had fallen into the mid 30s. I thought of my plants that I left outside thinking the morning temperature would be 10 degrees warmer and cussed the weatherman. Why can't they be more accurate, I thought? I apologized to my plants as I brought them inside. Fortunately they all seem to be ok. Then I read the news...
Today, Germanwings Fl. 9525 went down in the French alps probably killing all 150 aboard, including 16 students and two opera singers. It made me think of two air disasters last year: Malaysia Airlines Fl. 370 in which all 238 aboard probably died and Malaysia Airlines Fl. 17 in which all 298 aboard died....
About five years ago, I stopped flying. Lots of reasons: airport (in)security, never liked flying, tired of traveling. But I think the most important reason was the thought that what the hell was I doing 33,000 feet above sea-level?
Back to Germanwings Fl. 9525 — it made me think and do a little research — and led me to Wikipedia's list of aircraft incidents involving 50 or more fatalities. Germanwings had already been added and was the sole 2015 incident on the list. I checked 2014: There were the two Malaysian airline flights along with three others: There was a sole survivor to one incident; the others yielded no known survivors. But what really struck me was all six of these flights occured en route, presumable the safest phase of an air-flight. All except Malaysian 17 were listed as “accident/incident.”
Hey! What's going on in our atmosphere at 33,000 feet? Here's a hypothesis I wish to put on the table. Keep in mind that it's the product of one deranged mind with absolutely no scientific evidence to back it up.
We know that because of human-induced climate change the atmosphere is heating up and becoming less stable. Near the surface, catastrophic weather events have become more numerous and more intense. So, why not at 33,000 feet above sea level too? Perhaps events at 33,000 feet can happen with no warning and be so intense they can totally disable an aircraft before a distress call can be made.
What's that you say? Requires more research? I agree. Meanwhile, I'll continue to stay out of airplanes.
March 17, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
Richard Heinberg's article, Only Less Will Do, discusses limits of growth, and contains a valuable insight: Many of us like to think of indigenous societies as living in harmony with nature, while modern man, in his quest for more, seeks unsuccessfully to dominate nature rather than to live in harmony.
This is only a part of it. Heinberg writes: “All traditional indigenous human societies eventually learned self-restraint ... They discovered through trial and error that exceeding their land’s carrying capacity resulted in dire consequences.”
I would prefer to say “those indigenous societies that survived.” Many did not. The Anasazi and the Mississippian and many other indigenous cultures simply destroyed themselves by not learning limits and disappeared. It was those who learned, who, for the most part, survived.
The Arhuaco people of northern Colombia are among those who learned. Here is a saying of the Arhuaco:
“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.”
It's not just living in harmony. It's making payment for the disturbances we make. Whatever we do, we disturb the balance. The secret is to make payment.
Our modern global society is built on theft and greed. We call it Capitalism. We revel in our failure to pay for what we take and for the disturbances we make. And if we cannot learn to take less and make payment for what we take — I fear that we will go the way of the Anasazi.
LETTER TO IRAN
Last week, in another violation of the separation of powers decreed in our Constitution, 47 senators wrote a letter to Iran claiming that no matter what the president says, Iran has two choices: surrender to all the demands of the 47 senators or face war. There's a parody of the letter at the end of this article. Read it — and laugh.
WHAT HUMAN RIGHTS?
2014 was the worst year in history for human rights. And 2015? It only gets worse.
When confronted with our many many violations of basic human rights, we say, like little children, but he's worse than I am.
Well, here's an instance where we are not only the worst, we are the only. The United States is the only nation that sentences children to life in prison.
March 10, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOW DO YOU SPELL H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y
General David (Surge) Petraeus got two years probation and NO JAIL TIME for leaking information more secret than Top Secret (Sensitive Compartmented Information) to his mistress. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning got tortured and then 35 years in prison for leaking information that was no more sensitive than Secret, although he had access to Sensitive Compartmented Information too.
Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers showing that the government consistently and deliberately lied to the public about the Vietnam War, discusses the hypocrisy of slapping Petraeus on the wrist, while giving Manning 35 years and forcing Ed Snowden and Julian Assange into exile. In other words, who you are and who you leak to is so much more important than the leak itself. This could be called the “misrule of law.”
As an old college friend writes to me, “I guess if disclosing classified info is because you [are] getting laid instead of trying to do something moral, that makes it almost OK.”
GETTING PRETTY CLOSE TO HOME
The latest oil train explosion happened less than a week ago in neighboring Illinois. That makes three oil train derailments in three weeks. You would think that it is about time to shut these trains down and convert to safe non-polluting renewable energy. Wouldn't you? — unless you happen to be more concerned about the fossil-fuel industry's megaprofits and the gajillions they spend lobbying the government than you are about public safety or the safety of the planet.
Oops, I spoke too soon. There's been another train derailment and oil explosion. This time in Ontario, making four in four weeks. They just keep coming.
The 2013 Lac-Mégantic explosion which killed 47 people is still the great-granddaddy of oil train explosions.
BIBI GO HOME!
50,000 demonstrators in Tel-Aviv chant “Bibi Go Home!” Keynote speaker and former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan explains, “Israel has enemies but I do not fear them. What scares me is the current leadership of the country.”
Here in the United States, Netanyahu got multiple standing ovations from Congress as he attempted to sabotage any diplomatic agreement with Iran, while calling for war, war and more war. Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions are unproven and unlikely. Israel harbors an estimated 200 nuclear weapons.
56 US senators and representatives (slightly over 10%) boycotted Netanyahu's speech before Congress. Lacy Clay was the only Missouri lawmaker among the 56.
It is way past time that we stop letting Israel dictate our foreign policy to us.
March 3, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WAR AND CLIMATE CHANGE
One of the major themes in my writing has been the interconnectedness of war and climate change. Militaries, ours in particular, are gluttons when is comes to the use of fossil fuels. The US military is probably the world's largest user of fossil fuels; and add to this that their major activity is burning things and blowing them up. Burning fossil fuels is the major cause of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which warms the planet and creates ever more severe and numerous climate disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes and blizzards. Climate disasters degrade resources such as the food supply and drinkable water, and this leads to increased competition and wars over the ever-dwindling supply of resources.
Pretty straight forward. Right? Well academia is finally catching up to straight forward common sense. A group of scientists has proved that drought in the Middle-East, added to all the other stressors, helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict in Syria.
Watch out California! You may be next!
NEWS, NEWS, AIN'T THAT NEWS? IT'S MIGHTY GOOD NEWS TO ME
We won two major victories last week. Under intense pressure from the public, Barack Obama vetoed the bill giving the green light to the KXL tar sands pipeline that would bring dirty bitumin from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Also under intense public pressure, the Federal Communications Commission ruled for an open Internet, classifying broadband service as a public utility.
Add to this the recent agreement with Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations and exchange prisoners, the legalization and decriminalization of Marijuana in an increasing number of states and localities, the awarding of an Oscar to Citizenfour, Laura Poitras's documentary on Edward Snowden, and much, much more.
That's mighty good news. But we got a long way to go, baby. There has been little or no progress in ending the US Wehrmacht's ability to make war all over the globe; and until we accomplish this task, we have done very little.
The elite will give ground on many fronts, as long as they can preserve their ability to make war. We saw this in the waning days of the Vietnam War, when they gave us the EPA, methadone treatment, and the first steps toward diplomatic relations with China, in a vain effort to preserve their ability to continue to fight in Vietnam.
Tariq Ali gives some interesting thoughts on these matters in this conversation with Chris Hedges. Although there is much in this article I disagree with or only half agree with, it is well worth the read.
The title of this snippet comes from the song Ain't That News by Tom Paxton.
HERE THERE BE TYGERS
For many years, I've been trying to find a short science fiction story I read long long ago. It was about space explorers who landed on a beautiful living planet which welcomed them. One man tried to mine her precious metals, and she killed him. The others, except one who stayed, left, never to return.
I was looking at some tiger images I received in the mail when all of a sudden the name popped into my head: “Here There Be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury, 1951. The story is allegorical, about the relationship we could have had with our own planet, Earth. Some might say the relationship we still can have, although I rather doubt it. Here it is. Read it — and weep.
February 23, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
WE HAD OUR FINGERS CROSSED
Guess what? We're not really withdrawing from Afghanistan. First the 2014 deadline became 2016. Now? Well, who knows? Newly anointed secretary of defense Ashton Carter wants to hang around and make sure that “progress sticks.” Hey? What progress? Afghan civilians are facing record levels of casualties and displacement.
Meanwhile, China is busy building economic ties with Afghanistan and slowly bringing Afghanistan into the Chinese economic sphere of influence. Well, you catch more flies with an ounce of honey than with a gallon of vinegar.
SO DID NETANYAHU
Remember Netanyahu's 2012 speech about the imminent Iranian nuclear bomb? Well it turned out he had his fingers crossed too. A short month later, his own spooks at Mossad concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” and “doesn't appear to be ready to enrich uranium to the higher levels needed for a nuclear bomb.”
WAR IS PORN
Over a decade ago, there was a demonstration at Rolla City Hall against pornography. I came, with a homemade t-shirt that said something like WAR IS PORN: NO WAR; NO PORN. Well, at least I was tolerated by the crowd as a fellow traveler.
This by way of an introduction to Peter Van Buren's article entitled Watching the Same Movie About American War for 75 Years: War porn in Hollywood from World War II to American Sniper. This article is a must read, especially if you are addicted to war movies. Van Buren ends asking us, “Is it that our varied enemies across nearly three-quarters of a century of conflict are always unbelievably alike, or is it that when America needs a villain, it always goes to the same script?”
Speaking of pornography, Chris Hedges's article, Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like is hard to stomach; but well worth the read. Hedges also draws the parallel between War and Pornography.
February 17, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
GREAT RIVERS WINS VICTORY FOR SOLAR ENERGY IN MISSOURI SUPREME COURT
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center attorney Henry Robertson successfully argued before the Missouri State Supreme Court that a statute exempting Empire Electric from the requirement to provide solar rebates to its customers is unconstitutional. Empire must now provide its customers who install solar energy with a rebate of up to $2 per Watt. Henry Robertson also wrote the ballot language for Proposition C which gave Missouri a Renewable Energy Standard in 2008 and also required privately owned utilities such as Empire to give rebates to those who install solar energy.
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is best known in Rolla as the public-interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park.
Sadly, in its coverage of last week's victory on solar energy, The Rolla Daily News failed to even mention Great Rivers.
INTERVIEW WITH A FORMER JIHADIST
This interview with Fahim Ahmad who has been in prison since 2006 and slated to be released in two years is a real eye opener. He says that social alienation, a desire to do good and disgust at events like the invasion of Iraq played the largest part in his radicalization and his desire to do violence. Fahim is a changed man. He remarks:
“I also don’t think people should go and take part in other people’s conflicts, because from a distance you can’t really know what’s going on. Things are never so black and white, and if you go there, people are just going to end up using you.”
Sage advice. Don't meddle in other people's conflicts, or you end up getting used. Wish Obama could learn that.
“HUMANITARIAN WAR” AN OXYMORON
The Western intervention in Libya was hailed in 2011 as a “good humanitarian war.” Since then, Libya has descended into chaos and warlordism. This should have been predictable. As the great Gandhi once said:
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
February 10, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
BEHOLD, I WILL MAKE THEE A TERROR TO THYSELF
In the establishment Western media, DAESH (aka IS, ISIS, ISIL) which burned Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, alive is the most brutal and degenerate of the brutal and degenerate. But hold a minute. Let's see what the alternative press has to say.
Glenn Greenwald points out the hellfire missiles used in drone strikes will typically burn victims and bystanders to the point that the body is often unrecognizable. In its 2004 attack on Fallujah, The US used white phosphorus and napalm-like substances which burned many Iraqis to death. But hey, we don't publicize videos of all the children we burn to death.
Israel has also used white phosphorus bombs made in the USA in populated areas of Gaza.
To Greenwald's compendium, I would add the 1991 attack on the Amiriya bomb shelter during Gulf War I which incinerated some 400 civilians who had taken refuge from US bombing in the bomb shelter .
And let's not forget our good neo-Nazi friends in the Ukraine who have twice cornered ethnic Russians in buildings and then set the buildings on fire burning to death those inside.
Nor should we forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki where hundreds of thousands were burned to death in nuclear holocaust.
Juan Cole discusses DAESH's crazy card. We're so crazy that we will do anything including burning you alive in an iron cage, so better not cross us. Cole points out that that is exactly the crazy card US forces played in the 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq which used 15,000 lb BLU-82B bombs with a 5000 ft blast radius that burned alive soldiers and civilians alike. Cole notes that the Iraqis were not too shocked or awed to learn the terror tactics of their invaders, turn guerilla and later form DAESH.
Speaking of crazy cards, let's not forget Richard Nixon who upon realizing that the Vietnam War was irretrievably lost, threatened to nuke Vietnam if it didn't surrender. We owe a great debt to the Vietnamese who kept on fighting in spite of this ultimate terror threat.
Bill Moyers compares the burning alive of Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, to the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas in 1916, noting of course that burning black people alive on the slightest pretext, or just for sport, was quite common during the Jim Crow era.
Hold on you say. That was long ago. Lynchings in the US ended almost 50 years ago. Not so. Take the case of Darren Rainey who in June 2012 was placed in a locked shower stall in the Dade Correctional Institute and left there in scalding 180 degree water for over an hour while prison guards mocked him. No one has been indicted for the lynching of Darren Rainey.
In The Terror We Give is the Terror We Get Chris Hedges does not mince words:
“We produce high-budget films such as ‘American Sniper’ to glorify our war crimes. They produce inspirational videos to glorify their twisted version of jihad. The barbarism we condemn is the barbarism we commit. The line that separates us from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is technological, not moral. We are those we fight.”
“Terror is the engine of war. And terror is what all sides in this conflict produce in overabundance.”
The title of this snippet is from the prophet Jeremiah. Adding a little context:
“For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it:” —Jeremiah 20:4 (KJV)
Terror is thousands of years old. The knowledge that those who give terror, will receive it in kind is also thousands of years old. The only difference is that our modern technology allows us to give and receive far greater terror than ever before.
ARTIST BEATEN FOR PROMOTING COEXISTENCE
Art can be dangerous. French street artist, Combo, was beaten for his art promoting coexistence and suffered a dislocated shoulder. Combo refuses to talk about his assailants simply saying “To me, it doesn't matter where they come from, what colour their skin is, what their religion or their political ideas are. In this context, all they represent is stupidity and ignorance.”
US MILITARY BUDGET: HIGHER THAN EVER!
Obama has requested a base military budget of $534 Billion for FY 2016. This does not include spending for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria . For a more honest view of US military spending look at this pie-chart courtesy of the War Resisters League which places US military spending for FY 2015 at $1.3 Trillion. Budget and spending can be quite different.
February 3, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
HOLOCAUST CARTOON CONTEST
“History is the present. That's why every generation writes it anew.Predictably, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo affair, Iran's House of Cartoons and Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex are sponsoring a second Holocaust Cartoon contest. Also predictably, Western pundits are scrambling to find reasons why Holocaust cartoons should be condemned; but Charlie Hebdo's cartoons degrading Islam should be lauded.
It doesn't work that way. Either accept them both on the altar of “free speech” or condemn them both as inflammatory, deliberately offensive and degrading to a large number of people. (Actually, you could do both and still be consistent.)
Western criticisms of the decision to sponsor a second Holocaust Cartoon Contest seem to center on Holocaust denial and the rewriting of accepted Western history. But consider:
In 2003 the United States invaded and destroyed Iraq on the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. As of 2012, less than 50% knew this to be a lie (Question 63). Clearly, no “accepted” history should ever be considered above scrutiny.
The overriding theme among the winners of the First Holocaust Cartoon Contest appears to be drawing a parallel between the Holocaust, and the current treatment of Palestinians under the admittedly Jewish State of Israel. (You would never know this by reading the coverage of the contest in the Western media.) The winning entry, a cartoon of an Israeli crane erecting a wall adorned with an image of a Nazi concentration camp with the Dome of the Rock in the background, draws this comparison precisely, without denying the validity of the Holocaust .
So where do I stand? This is not an objective opinion, but I'm partial to my own cartoon of the Charlie Hebdo affair.
I AM STEVEN
Steven Salaita has filed suit against the University of Illinois and certain unspecified donors for alleged “violations of his free speech and due process rights along with claims for breach of contract, conspiracy, and destruction of evidence”. Salaita's contract was allegedly denied because during the latest Israeli massacre in Gaza which killed over 2,000 Palestinians along with 71 Israelis, all but five of whom were soldiers, he posted tweets critical of Israel. Andrew Fishman writes in the Intercept that “his termination is seen as the latest in a long line of cases where Israel critics are punished or even fired.”
I'm baffled. Where are all those millions, including many prominent world leaders who proclaimed “Je suis Charlie” in Paris last month? Why aren't they in Champaign-Urbana proclaiming, “I am Steven.”
THEY POISONED THE WATER AS EACH THOUGHT HE OUGHT TO
Not only is California suffering from an unprecedented multi-year drought; but, according to an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle, it's dwindling supplies of underground potable water have been illegally poisoned by oil-drilling companies with the blessings of state regulators.
According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, the entire State of California has been under drought conditions since March 2014. California has not been 50% drought-free since December 2011. The drought reached its height so far in the summer of 2014 when the entire state was in stage 2 drought with 58% in stage 4, the highest stage of drought. While the drought has mitigated somewhat since then, it took a slight turn for the worse last week with the wet season still in progress.
Be thankful that you live in Missouri.
The title of this snippet comes from a poem entitled Extinction that I penned a few months ago.
January 27, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A DOZEN DAMN DAMS
When we think of environmentally destructive energy, we usually think of fossil fuels or nuclear energy. But large-scale hydro-electric dams can be environmentally destructive too, as Peter Bosshard shows in this article from International Rivers. From the 1936 Hoover Dam which gave us Las Vegas while destroying downstream fisheries to China's Three Gorges Dam which displaced over 1 million people and ravaged the Yangze River ecosystem, large-scale hydro-electric projects have wreaked havoc on our environment.
NOR'EASTER JUNO — YET ANOTHER “HISTORIC” STORM
After Juno that is still pounding New England passes, the Northeast can expect still more harsh winter weather this week. Driven by an increasingly warm, moist climate, extreme precipitation events in the Northeast have increased by 70% and release 70% more precipitation than 6 decades ago.
POPE FRANCIS TO TAKE ON GLOBAL WARMING
Meanwhile Pope Francis plans a moral offensive against Global Warming to begin in March. This is good news that religious leaders are beginning to view combating Climate Change as a moral imperative. I hope they are not too late.
January 20, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A CARTOONIST MUST DIE
Last weeks snippet has been cleaned up and expanded and posted on my website along with a cartoon that may well be my most offensive yet.
And Noam Chomsky discusses the hypocrisy of “Je suis Charlie”.
HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD
Since November I've been hearing that 2014 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history. Now it's official. Enjoy the beach while you have the chance. With sea-levels rising, soon there may not be any more beaches to enjoy; and if there are, you may want to stay away from them (see Revenge of the Marshall's below).
REVENGE OF THE MARSHALLS
From 1948 to 1958, with no regard for the health of the Marshall Islanders, the US military used Eniwetok Island in the Marshall Islands to test atomic weaponry. In the 1970s the US “cleaned up” Eniwetok bulldozing over 100 pounds of plutonium, the most dangerous substance known to man, into a pit.
If one pound of plutonium could be distributed equally, it would be enough to kill the entire human population on Earth. Plutonium remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
Now, the highest point on Eniwetok is two meters above sea-level. Sea levels are slated to rise far higher than that as the planet warms and the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt.
What happens to all that plutonium when Eniwetok is covered with corrosive sea water? Better stay away from beaches.