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Occasional Ramblings
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 Churchill
If you missed Monday's performance of “All Is Calm” at Leach Theatre, you missed one of the most powerful anti-war statements ever to come to Rolla. All Is Calm is a play by Peter Rothstein about the 1914 Christmas Truce on the western front during World War I. The words are mostly from letters and statements made by soldiers in the trenches.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

          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.

          Geoengineering

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.

BOWE BERGDAHL

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”.

EDUARDO GALEANO

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:
          Free

By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.


          Foreigner

In a community newspaper in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, an anonymous hand wrote:

Your god is Jewish, your music is African, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your gas is Algerian, your coffee is Brazilian, your democracy is Greek, your numbers are Arabic, your letters are Latin.

I am your neighbor. And you call me a foreigner?

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October 31, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Just remember that the scariest spooks are in Washington DC.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

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.

TRUMP HUMOR

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.

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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?

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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.

“God forbid that soldiers begin to think. Independence of mind is dangerous to militaries. Training is chiefly a means of preventing it. 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.”

And here's a poem by Utah Phillips, about his experiences in Korea :
“Standing in the alleys of Yongsan,
I wonder if Pyongyang looks the same,
Everything broken; endless mud, Children searching for someone.
Tomorrow the looking will end; and the begging will begin.
Soldiers move briskly, confidently, among the ruins of what we have done to each other.
We did it! not because we wanted to; but because we were told to.
Well, it's done now. Tomorrow I'll go home to where the tellers are.
If there is any purpose to what I have done here,
It is the certainty that I will never again do what I am told.”

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!’
But it's ‘Saviour of 'is country’ when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool — you bet that Tommy sees!”

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.’

“Sadly, I'm afraid ‘strong defense’ still appeals to a good percentage of the electorate. And while many Democrats have been as hawkish as Republicans, the wars in the 21st century were started in Republican administrations.”

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 Trump

“The real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia.”John Pilger

“The irony of Trump perpetuating wars that he once roundly criticized and then handing the conduct of those wars to generals devoid of ideas for ending them almost entirely escapes notice.”Andrew Bacevich
And 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.

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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 )

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” --Walt Kelly (Pogo)
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.

2. The killing doesn't appear to have been for religious, political or ideological reasons. Paddock held no apparent grudge against his victims, either as individuals or as a group. For all intents and purposes, his victims were just like himself. He doesn't appear to be any less sane than the rest of us. He just appears to have decided to kill a bunch of people and then meticulously carried out the act.
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.

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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.

Minutes later, Seoul is in flames; followed by Tokyo. The US responds with its nukes; followed by Russia and then China. Soon the skies are filled with nukes streaking toward their destinations. India and Pakistan launch their nukes at each other. Israel nukes Iran. When a nuke goes astray and blows up over Russia; Russia responds with overwhelming force. Soon most of the cities of the world are on fire. Billions die. They are the lucky ones. Billions more will die a slow death.
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,
2. A limited strike,
3. Assassination of leaders,
4. Acceptance of a nuclear armed North Korea.
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

CORRECTION: SANITY

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.

LAUGHTER
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” —Mark Twain
Desiree 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.

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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 soon
Come mighty storms: Would you know yet more?” (Voluspo 41)

Perhaps 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.”

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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.

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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.”
          —Bertrand Russell (Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare, 1959)

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.

2. As in 1950, I suspect China would take a dim view of preemptive war against North Korea. The last thing the Chinese want is the US military on their borders.
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.

2. And let's recognize that North Korea has just as much right to possess nuclear weapons as the United States or any other member of the club.

3. And let's recognize that all nine members of the nuclear weapons club have placed themselves outside the bounds of “civil society” by refusing to even attend the recent UN conference on nuclear disarmament.

4. And let's recognize that nuclear proliferation is unlikely to stop here. There will likely be other nations, and non-governmental actors acquiring nuclear weapons in the near future.
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.

6. Let's also recognize that “Sanctions” are War. UN sanctions against Iraq were responsible for the murder of 5,000 children under five years of age each month from 1991 to 2003. By imposing sanctions on North Korea, the entire UN Security Council has also placed itself at war with North Korea.

7. And let's also recognize that US military bases girdle the world and the US has been involved in “regime change” from The Ukraine to Libya to Honduras and remains committed to regime change in places such as Venezuela. To my knowledge, North Korea does not have troops stationed outside its borders, nor is it involved with regime change anywhere in the world.

8. Unlike the US and Russian arsenals, North Korea's 10 tiny nukes could not possibly suffice for a successful first strike, wiping out an adversary's ability to respond. Thus, at this point in time, they are defensive in nature.

9. Unlike the United States, North Korea has never used nuclear weapons on an adversary.
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.

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August 8, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

LEAPIN' LIZARDS!

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 Gray
And 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.

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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.

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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 Murphy
In 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'S LOSS

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.

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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.”

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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?

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.

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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.

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June 27, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TEMPERATURE GRAPHS

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.

C-O-2-4-U

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,
And the home of the gods he reddens with gore;
Dark grows the sun, and in summer soon
Come mighty storms: would you know yet more?”
          —
The Poetic Edda, Voluspo:41
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;
Seemed the better way;
Sounded like the truth;
But it's not the truth today.”
          —Leonard Cohen ( Seemed the Better Way)

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.

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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.

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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.

PROLIFERATION ANYONE?

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.

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May 9, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

SLEEPING BEAUTY

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.

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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!

REVILING RUSSIA

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.

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April 25, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DISASTER AHEAD

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.

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April 18, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

VIOLENCE IS WHAT DEFINES US
“Violence upon violence, deceit upon deceit:
They refuse to know me—oracle of the Lord.”
          —Jeremiah 9:5 (NABRE)

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.

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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.

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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,
For trying to change the system from within.
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”

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.
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin.
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”

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;
And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin.
I don't like what happened to my sister.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”

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.

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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.

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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.

MURDERING CIVILIANS

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.

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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.

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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.

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March 7, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

LESSONS UNLEARNED

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.

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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.

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February 21, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

“BAD HOMBRES”

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.

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February 14, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

POET'S CORNER

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 Kinzer
I'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.

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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.

One day, as he walked along the beach trailed by his courtiers, one particularly obnoxious fool said, “Oh, your majesty, you are so very powerful that even the mighty ocean obeys your every command.”

The king had had enough; and noticing that the tide was coming in, he called for his chair to be brought to him. The courtiers fell all over one another to fetch the king's chair. As the king sat on the beach watching the tide come in, he declared: “I am the ruler of the land and the sea, and I command you, waves, do not come ashore and wet our royal feet.”

As if on cue, a wave curled about the king's toes. “Impertinent wave,” admonished the king, “how dare you disobey us.” Again, as if in response, another wave washed ashore, this time wetting the hem of the king's robe.

The king turned to his courtiers and declared, “It appears that we are not so powerful as you claim.” The courtiers were silent, hanging their heads in shame and embarrassment. The king continued, “There is but One King who rules the land and sky and holds the oceans in the palm of his hand and makes the laws by which the tides ebb and swell. Save your praise for the One King who rules over us all and do not plague me again with your flattery.”

It is said that from that day until his death, the good king never again wore a crown.
================================

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,
Year by year,
Month by month,
Day by day,
Thought by thought.”

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.

TARGETING CHILDREN

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.

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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.

“I'm attaching a pic of the lead banner at the front of the March. Peace and Climate Action were major foci. You can see lots more pics via this FB event. BTW, there was a reliable person counting the marchers and he counted 3,608 walking. That makes it the biggest demo I've ever worked on organizing. It was an amazing day.”

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.

“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.”

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.

DONALD TRUMP

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.

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January 24, 2017 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

AN ALTERNATIVE TRUTH
“Sounded like the Truth;
Seemed the better way;
Sounded like the Truth;
But it's not the Truth today.”
          —Leonard Cohen (It Seemed the Better Way)

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. Feynman
Like 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.”

“[S]tabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations will require deep reductions in CO2 emissions.”

Atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm in 2013 “for the first time in millions of years.”
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.

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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.

DUMB INTELLIGENCE

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.

WHAT'S NEXT?

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.

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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!

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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.

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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 Trump
Ok. 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?

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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.

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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.”

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December 6, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

NON-VIOLENCE

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.

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November 29, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MEA CULPA

I apologize for errors in recent posts:

         Registries

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.

         Climate Denial

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.

RECOUNT

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
was my big empty factory...
the Lorax...
and I.” —Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

“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.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)

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November 22, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

REGISTRIES

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.

CLIMATE DENIAL

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.)

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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.
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.

2. The electoral college became an anachronism at least 150 years ago. Surely, a constitutional amendment to elect the president by popular vote could have succeeded at some point within the past 150 years.

3. After 15 years of inconclusive war, the people are fed-up — yet Clinton played the war card to the hilt — including red-baiting Trump supporters and espousing provocations against nuclear-armed Russia. A kinder, gentler foreign policy would have been far more acceptable to the electorate.

4. Clinton could have made climate-change a major issue. Trump, with his record of climate-denial was particularly vulnerable here. It's not only New York and California that are feeling the ill-effects of climate change. Red-state Louisiana was hit with a 1000-year flood this year and the Southern Atlantic coast experienced flooding from Hurricane Matthew's near miss. Clinton foolishly steered clear of climate-change. I was particularly disgusted by her campaign statement that “all voices should be heard and all views considered” while “security goons” were macing, arresting and shooting rubber bullets at non-violent water-protectors at Standing Rock.

5. As noted above, the “rust belt” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin could have made the difference. The Obama administration could have stepped in and declared a national emergency and repaired Flint, Michigan's toxic public water system. Clinton could have made repairing our dilapidated infrastructure a priority. This would likely have swung the election.
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?
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.

Trade

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

Notes:

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.
You want it darker — We kill the flame.”

As Helen reminded me, if we have killed the flame, then we must now rekindle it.
“Hineni, Hineni,
I'm ready, My LORD.”

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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.

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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.” –Tacitus
Empires 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!

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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.

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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.

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October 11, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

A FEW REMARKS ON LAST NIGHT'S PRESIDENTIAL “DEBATE”
“There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.” —Niels Bohr
Ol' Donald Trump created quite a stir last night with this exchange about Hillary Clinton's emails:
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.”

Clinton: “it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country...”

Trump: “Because you’d be in jail.”
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.

Jeffrey Sterling: Sentenced to 42 months in prison for allegedly leaking information about a “poorly executed and dangerous Operation Merlin,” a CIA program to pass bogus nuclear information to Iran which may, in fact, have enhanced Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Bradley (Chelsea) Manning: Serving 35 years for leaking information, including a famous video of our troops in Iraq, acting and talking as if they were playing a video game as they mowed down innocent civilians.

Julian Assange: Founder of Wikileaks, holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, for fear of prosecution and extradition to the United States.

Edward Snowden: Exiled in Russia for divulging that our own government is spying on all of us, day in and day out.
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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 Gray
It'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.
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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 David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? 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.”
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.

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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.

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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, citycouncil@rollacity.org
Royal Canin USA HQ: (800) 592-6687, info.usa@royalcanin.com
Royal Canin in Rolla: Crystal Watson, (573) 202-9034, crystal.watson@royalcanin.com
Kent Jewelry: Kent Bagnall, (573) 364-1030, kent@kentjewelry.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 spook looked around.
But, terrorists are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the spook...,?
No! The spook simply said,
If I can't find a terrorist, I'll make one instead!
          (with sincere apologies to Dr. Seuss)
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.)

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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.

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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.
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please contact:
City of Rolla: (573) 426-6948, citycouncil@rollacity.org
Royal Canin USA HQ: (800) 592-6687, info.usa@royalcanin.com
Royal Canin in Rolla: Crystal Watson, (573) 202-9034, crystal.watson@royalcanin.com
Kent Jewelry: Kent Bagnall, (573) 364-1030, kent@kentjewelry.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 Fisk
Five 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.”
2. Embarrass Barack Obama and others in his administration, such as Hillary Clinton.
3. Create an excuse for more war, bombing and violence.
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,”
          —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
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.”
          —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)

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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.

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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 Gandhi
Gavin 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.

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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.

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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.”
Richard Nixon said, “I cannot tell the truth.”
[current president] said, “I cannot tell the difference.”
I think it fits equally well (perhaps better) as a pre-election joke:
George Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie.”
Donald Trump said, “I cannot tell the truth.”
Hillary Clinton said, “I cannot tell the difference.”
Well, it's not too late to nominate and elect Bernie Sanders.

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June 28, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DISINTEGRATION
“Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal.”
—Chris Hedges
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:

PREPONDERANCE OF THE GREAT

The ridgepole sags to the breaking point.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
Success.
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.
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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.”
— Robert C. Koehler

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.”

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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.

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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 earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” —Isaiah 24:1-6 (KJV)

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.

EXTINCTION

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.”

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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.

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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 randy.verkamp@phelpscounty.org 573-458-6120
Gary Hicks gary.hicks@phelpscounty.org 573-458-6122
Larry Stratman larry.stratman@phelpscounty.org 573-458-6121

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm

“Maybe you can put this out to your group and ask them.”


My response:

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.

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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.

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April 19, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

EARTHDAY

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.

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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.”
          —Fred Reed

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.

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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.”
          —Edward Snowden

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.

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March 29, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TDD/TIF

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.

“Our disagreements will come and go, and we must weather them constructively.

“But it is important among friends to be honest and truthful about differences that we may have.”

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.”
          —The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

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?

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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!

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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)
2. US support for Saudi Arabia's brutal war against Yemen
3. The use of drones, particularly for assassination
4. Executive power to start wars without congressional debate or approval
5, Nuclear DISARMAMENT (not Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons)
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 know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.”
          —Robert Frost (Mending Wall)

As 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.”
          —Ezekiel 13:13-14 (NAB)

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.

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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.

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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.
"We are free now, we can kill now,
We can hate now, now we can end the world.
We're not guilty, she was crazy,
And it's been going on for ten thousand years!"
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.

Requiscas in Pace, Concepcion.
Who now will carry your cross?

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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”
          —The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (related by Sahih Al-Bukhari 8:778)

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.”

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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.”
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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.”
          —Peter van Buren

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.

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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.

ZIKA VIRUS

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.

IOWA CAUCUS

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.

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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 Siddiqui
Two 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 Mandela
The 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).

POLITICAL CARTOONS

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.

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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.”

“Once you are charged in America, whether you did the crime or not, you are almost always found guilty.”

“The reality is that almost no one who is imprisoned in America has gotten a trial. There is rarely an impartial investigation. A staggering 97 percent of all federal cases and 95 percent of all state felony cases are resolved through plea bargaining.”

“The Innocence Project has kept detailed records on the 337 cases across the [United States] where prisoners have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing since 1989. The group’s researchers found that false confessions were made in 28 percent of all the DNA-related exonerations, a striking proportion in itself. But when you look only at homicide convictions—by definition the most serious cases—false confessions are the leading cause of miscarriages of justice, accounting for a full 63% of the 113 exonerations.”

“If all of the accused went to trial, the judicial system, which is designed around plea agreements, would collapse. And this is why trial sentences are horrific.”

“It is a two-tiered system. One set of laws for us. Another set of laws for them. Wall Street’s fraud and looting of the U.S. Treasury, the obliteration of our privacy, the ability of the government to assassinate U.S. citizens, the revoking of habeas corpus, the neutralizing of our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the murder of unarmed people in the streets of our cities by militarized police, the use of torture, the criminalizing of dissent, the collapse of our court system, the waging of pre-emptive war are rendered ‘legal.’”

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?”

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

60 Minutes (5/12/96)
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.

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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.”
          —Charles Caleb Colton (Lacon, 1820)

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.

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January 5, 2016 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

VIGILANTE JUSTICE

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?

ARMED INSURRECTION

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.

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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;”
          —Isaiah 61:1-2 (KJV)

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.
Everybody knows that it's moving fast.
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past.”

          --Leonard Cohen (Everybody Knows)
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)

# Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

# Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around an go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.

# If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get our of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

# Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.

# Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

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.

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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.

STUFF HAPPENS

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.

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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.

ISLAMOPHOBIA

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;
Everybody knows that the captain lied;
Everybody got this broken feeling,
Like their father or their dog just died.”
          —Leonard Cohen (Everybody Knows)

“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?”

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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 ANYONE?

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.

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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.”

How true!

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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.

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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.

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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.

ARMISTICE DAY

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.

GENDER IDENTITY

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.

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November 3, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CYCLONE CHAPALA

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.”

GENDER IDENTITY

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.

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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 RECAP

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.”

2. Embarrassing the Obama administration months before a presidential election.

3. Providing an excuse for further military intervention.
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).

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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.

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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.

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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.”
          — Sven Lindqvist (Exterminate All the Brutes, p19)
So it goes in war:
“They do one act of violence after another, and one deceitful thing after another.”
          — Jeremiah 9:6 (NET Bible)
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?
A: At the enemy, sir.
Q: At people?
A: At the enemy, sir.
Q: They weren't even human beings?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Were they men?
A: I don't know sir. I would imagine they were, sir.
Q: Didn't you see?
A: Pardon, sir?
Q: Did you see them?
A: I wasn't discriminating.
Q: Did you see women?
A: I don't know, sir.
Q: What do you mean you weren't discriminating?
A: I didn't discriminate between individuals in the village, sir. They were all the enemy, they were all to be destroyed, sir....
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.

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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.

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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.”

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September 8, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CLIMATE REFUGEES
“My mother prayed that I would be a man of some renown,
But I am just a refugee as I go ramblin' 'round.”
          —Woody Guthrie

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?

DUMBING-DOWN AMERICA

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.”

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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)

Dear Ralph:

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.

Best wishes,
Tom

POETRY

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.

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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,
And grow us grass and apples there and keep all the animals warm.
And if by chance I wake at night and I ask you who I am,
O take me to the slaughterhouse, I will wait there with the lamb.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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July 7, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DIVESTMENT (ISRAEL)

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 (FOSSIL-FUELS)

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!

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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.

CHILD ENDANGERMENT

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.

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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).

MORE DELUSIONS

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).

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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.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM?

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?.

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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.”

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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.

BERNIE

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.

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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.

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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.

GENOCIDE

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.

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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.

EXONERATIONS

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.

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May 5, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

A FUNDAMENTAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF NONVIOLENCE
“A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold.” — Deborah Orr
I 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.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

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,
A Paradise to live in and grow;
But believe it or not, now it's boiling hot,
'Cause it ain't got the H-2-O.”

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.

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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.

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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,
in just 12 days, you would have 1 million dollars.
in 30 years, you would have 1 billion dollars.
in 30,000 years, you would have 1 trillion dollars.
China's banks have lent 15 trillion dollars in the last 5 years.
U.S. commercial banks lent 15 trillion dollars in the last 100 years.
China has made 6 gigatons of cement in the last 3 years.
U.S. has made 4 gigatons of cement in the last 100 years.
China is building enough highways - every year - to cross the U.S. twice.
They are building whole cities no one can afford to live in.
If everybody in China lit their farts on fire all at the same time,
it would be the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.
Which is also how much we are heating up the earth every day.
If debt is the promise of future growth, then say good bye to life on earth.
We have to tax fossil energy and mass agriculture to pay people to
carbon charr soil and grow organic foods for themselves.”

          -— Whoazzer (top comment)
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!

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April 14, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MIDDLE-EAST CHAOS

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.

ACCOUNTABILITY?

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?

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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!

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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.

DARK HUMOR

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.”

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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.

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March 17, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

LEARNING LIMITS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

And finally:

“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.

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February 3, 2015 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

HOLOCAUST CARTOON CONTEST
“History is the present. That's why every generation writes it anew.
But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.”
          —E.L. Doctorow
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.

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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.

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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.

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December 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

POPE FRANCIS, SPIRITUAL ALZHEIMER'S AND 15 MORTAL SINS

In his Christmas blessing to the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), Pope Francis accused them of harboring 15 mortal sins (actually, he referred to them as “ailments”). The Curia were not amused.

While the blessing was delivered specifically to the Curia, it could have been delivered to almost any religion, secular institution, or individual; so don't stop reading just because you are not Catholic.

Pope Francis led off with “Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.” Indispensable! That's a good one. Makes me think of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright's famous remark, “But if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” (Ok, Madeleine, did you look far enough into the future to see that our use of force would leave us bogged down in decade long trillion dollar wars all over the globe and in our own cities too?) Yup, Pope Francis sure got that one right.

The “ailment” that spoke loudest to me was “Spiritual Alzheimer's”“people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... those who depend completely ... on their passions, whims and manias.” You know, like people who will stuff hummus up a prisoner's nether end, bomb a wedding party with a remote-control drone, shoot an unarmed teenager in cold blood, poison people's drinking water to extract oil and gas cheaply from the ground, ..., not to mention people who approve of or turn a blind eye toward these activities because they might keep us “safe from terrorists,” and besides, the authorities know best.

If War is the gravest of all crimes against humanity because it contains within it all other crimes against humanity, then “Spiritual Alzheimer's” is the gravest of all sins against God because it contains within it all other sins against God and humanity.

I like Pope Francis. He is a most welcome change from former Nazi-collaborator Pope Maledict. Read Pope Francis's list of 15 ailments.

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December 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TORTURERS “R” US

The heavily redacted CIA Torture Report, finally released this month by the Senate, has given rise to a number of thoughtful articles (although you would never know this if you get your information from Fox News or the New York Times). Here are just a few:

This article has been moved. Click here.

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December 16, 2014 (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 seven years ago. It bears repeating every year, especially this year which is the 100th 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.

This article by Adam Hochschild also discusses the 1914 Christmas Truce and how it's being taken over by commercial interests, and why it is “safe” for them to do so. In addition Hochschild discusses other outbreaks of peace that are not considered “safe” to commercialize or even discuss openly. “America’s politicians still praise Iraq War veterans to the skies, but,” asks Hochschild, “what senator has a kind word to say about the hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched and demonstrated before the invasion was even launched to try to stop our soldiers from risking their lives in the first place?”

And finally, here's an article by tireless peace worker Kathy Kelly who has been sentenced to three months in federal prison for attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter from Afghan friends to Brig. Gen. Glen D. Van Herck saying simply “please stop killing us.” The prosecutor argued that Kathy needs to spend time in jail because “she needs to be rehabilitated.” The judge says he “could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.” Ok, judge Whitworth, recommend one to me.

Kathy Kelly, you have my admiration. Don't ever let yourself be “rehabilitated.”

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December 9, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TORTURERS "R" US

The heavily redacted CIA torture report has now been made public. It shouldn't make anyone “proud to be an American.” And you can bet there is a lot more that hasn't been made public. No one has gone to jail for torture; and its likely that few, if any, ever will; certainly not the architects and torturers in high places. Ever wonder why the United States has so many enemies and so few friends? Ever wonder why our society is coming totally unglued — from Ferguson to New York City to Washington DC? Corruption is nearly universal. So is sadism. So is the popular revulsion for our rulers. A society that practices injustices of this magnitude cannot exist for long. It won't.

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December 2, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE CLIMATE WATCHMAN

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I visited Guy McPherson's website. I do this every few months to read what's new in the field of climate-change. Guy's ongoing essay, Climate-Change Summary and Update, is the most complete and up-to-date compendium that I have been able to find...

This article has been moved. Click here.

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November 24, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

BRACE FOR MORE PERPETUAL WAR

Barack Obama, who entered the White House six years ago on a peace platform (well sort of) has become the most bellicose US president ever.

He's back in Iraq, and Syria too. Our bombs and drones instead of hurting the Islamic State are helping it. Seems no one likes being bombed. I wonder why.

And our longest war — Afghanistan is going to be a year (at least) longer.

And the cold war is back with a vengeance. It's already not going well.

Talks with Iran seem to have stalled.

And drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere appear to kill far more civilians than militants.

And this is why it is now more important than ever to keep our vigils for peace going. Please consider joining us.

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November 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

BACK TO IRAQ

“in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.” — Barack Obama, March 2014

“But we say to you, Obama … you claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago. We said to you then that you were liars, that you had not withdrawn. And that if you had withdrawn you would return even after some time – you would return.” — Islamic State, November 2014

The above two quotes speak for themselves and really require no further comment on my part.

IF NOT FOR THE MILITARY, ...

Every now and again, while we vigil for peace in front of the Post Office, someone shouts at us, if it wasn't for the military, you wouldn't have the freedom to demonstrate.

If it were true, one would think that the military would be happy to see us using this freedom, but the shouter seldom seems happy about our peace vigil.

Actually freedom and war are inversely proportional. The more war, the less freedom. Check out this article by Lawrence Wittner.

2.5 MILLION HOMELESS CHILDREN

And while we squander our resources and energies fighting all these dumb wars, it is our children who suffer. Homelessness among children in the United States grew 8% from 2012 to 2013 and has reached a staggering 2.5 million. Over 3% of children in the United States find themselves without a roof over their head or place to call home.

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November 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

ARMISTICE DAY

Today is Armistice Day — the day in 1918 when armed hostilities ceased and World War I, “the War to End All Wars,” came to an end. Armistice Day is a holiday to reflect on World Peace. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day, which became a day to reflect on our state of Perpetual War. I don't recognize the change; so I wish you all a peaceful Armistice Day.

ELECTION WRAP UP

Much good came out of last Tuesday's general election, the most expensive and corrupt election we've ever witnessed.

The most important victory was California's Proposition 47 which may de-incarcerate up to 10,000 non-violent offenders, most of whom should never have been incarcerated to begin with. Under Proposition 47, low-level property and drug offenses including shoplifting, theft, and check fraud under $950, as well as personal illicit drug use will be reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors. This law will apply retroactively.

Long overdue measures raising the minimum wage passed in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Illinois by large margins.

Several communities including Denton, Texas said yes to public health and banned fracking.

Marijuana was legalized in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. for adults over 21.

Many states and communities voted in favor of ending corporate personhood and limiting money in politics.

Richmond, California elected a progressive slate beating out a slate of lackeys funded by Chevon to the tune of over $3 million. Chevron was responsible for a very toxic and destructive fire at its Richmond refinery in 2012 which damaged the health of thousands.

AND... Olivette, Missouri passed a charter amendment requiring that no public park may be “sold, leased, given away or otherwise disposed of, and shall be used only as a public park, nor shall any structure be built in any such park to accommodate activities not customarily associated with park use or outdoor recreation,” unless approved by the voters. Save Our Parks Olivette was represented by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park.

But, what about all those Repugnant victories, Demented defeats and the miserable 33% turnout? While there were some disappointments they pale to insignificance when viewed against the above. Ralph Nader hits the nail on the head as usual. Just think! We had four chances to elect Ralph Nader president and blew them all.

In my opinion, no candidate who waffles on ending our military involvement in the Middle East or drastically cutting our output of greenhouse gases (the two defining issues of the times) is worth my vote.

Meanwhile, here in the “Middle of Everywhere,” the Rolla City Council removed Proposition P (Park Tax) from the ballot having discovered in the 11th hour that the ballot measure was in violation of state statute.

BOMB, BOMB, BOMB; BOMB THE WHOLE WORLD

Glenn Greenwald asks how many Muslim-majority countries has the United States invaded, occupied or bombed since 1980. The answer (from Andrew Bacevich) is 14, which is 14 too many. The count does not include countries like Palestine which has been bombed almost continuously by US ally, Israel; nor countries like Grenada and Panama which are not predominantly Muslim.

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November 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: THE REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN

A reader writes in recommending “The Report from Iron Mountain”. Iron Mountain is purported to be the work of a government panel during the 1960s which concludes that a permanent state of war is necessary to the government and the economy. There is ongoing controversy over whether it is really a government report or a work of fiction.

My response: Government report or work of fiction, Iron Mountain suffers from the same defect as other dystopian novels like Brave New World and 1984. Dystopias are unsustainable. We live in a dystopia of perpetual war which is now falling apart at the seams. Pretty soon there will be little left to fight over and few to do the fighting. Fact or fiction, we have been living Report from Iron Mountain for well over half a century.

OPIUM

US efforts to eradicate the production of opium in Afghanistan have led to a monumental $7.6 billion failure. Opium production in Afghanistan increased from 250 tons in 1979 at the start of the first US War against Afghanistan to the current thousands of tons, including a 50% increase in 2013. In Afghanistan, US efforts have created what can only be described as a narco-state.

MEDICAL SCIENCE: 1 — POLITICAL NONSENSE: 0

Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere ruled that the State of Maine has not made its case in the forced quarantine of Kaci Hickox, a nurse who treated ebola patients in West Africa with Doctors Without Borders. Hickox remains asymptomatic. She is a free woman. This is an important victory. If the State of Maine could impose a forced quarantine on Hickox without any medical evidence that she poses a danger to the population; then the State of Missouri could impose a forced quarantine on any of us.

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October 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

Now that ebola has reached our shores, who should we blame it on? — not the government that has all but ignored the outbreak in West Africa for months, not the fossil-fuel industry and the climate-change deniers that have created a warming climate favorable to the spread of ebola and other diseases, and not our corporate health-for-profit industry that has given us hospitals woefully unprepared to deal with an outbreak of infectious disease. Let's blame it on ... NURSES! After all, since the nurses who care for ebola-infected patients are the ones most likely to catch ebola, the disease must be their fault. Any politician or corporate CEO ought to be able to understand that.

The latest outrage has been the forced incarceration of nurse Kaci Hickox on returning from West Africa where she cared for ebola-infected patients with Doctors Without Borders. Stands to reason, the government has been targeting non-violent protesters for decades, now they have an excuse to target non-violent nurses responding to an unprecedented epidemic for which our government is complicit.

Incidentally, polls have consistently found nursing to be the most honest and ethical of all professions, far ahead of politicians, business executives and HMO managers.

Teachers are another profession that gets a lot of blame. After all, if the kids don't learn what politicians and high-tech moguls think they should, it must be the teachers fault; certainly not the fault of the entertainment industry that fills their minds with worthless dreck, nor the politicians who starve our schools and our children, nor the banking industry that has saddled so many youngsters with so much debt for their worthless for-profit education that they cannot even pay the interest on it, nor the chemical industry that has filled our environment with neurological toxins.

The latest outrage has been Time Magazine's “Rotten Apples” article; which incorrectly states in the headline that you can't fire a bad teacher. Like nurses, teachers enjoy a high level of public confidence. A December 2013 Gallup poll gave grade-school teachers a high rating of 70 for honesty and ethical behavior — compare to newspaper reporters (like Haley Sweetland Edwards who wrote the “Rotten Apples” article) who enjoy a miserable approval rating of 21.

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October 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

During the Iraq-Iran War of the 1980s, with the help and encouragement of Western countries including the United States, Saddam Hussein acquired chemical weapons which he used on Iranian troops and civilians and dissident Iraqis too.

According to a New York Times investigation, on invading Iraq in 2003, US troops found no active chemical weapon program; only degraded chemical munitions from the 1980s. These ancient weapons still could and did cause injuries to US troops who received inadequate training and medical care. The problem was swept under the rug and kept secret since it didn't fit the hype and spin over invading Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction.

Much of this ancient arsenal of chemical weapons was never destroyed and is likely in the hands of the Islamic State now.

According to investigations by Gareth Porter, Iran chose at the highest levels not to develop chemical weapons because under Islam weapons of mass destruction are haram (forbidden). This decision put Iran at a disadvantage in the War with Iraq that possessed and used chemical weapons against Iran.

The obvious conclusion from these two articles is that Iranians care more about the health of US troops than the Pentagon does, this in spite of the fact that the US overthrew Iran's first democratic government in the first ever CIA coup; and then subjected Iran to 26 years of brutal dictatorship followed by 8 years of War with Iraq which at the time was a US client state.

Keep in mind that 25 miles down the road from Rolla at Fort Leonard Wood is the US Army Chemical Weapons Training School. Are you concerned? I think you should be.

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October 14, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FEW DARE CALL IT GENOCIDE

Patricia Davis discusses recent Israeli attacks on Gaza and concludes that they probably satisfy the legal definition of genocide. She quotes Uri Elitzur, the late close advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. [the actors in a war include] those who incite in mosques, those who write the murderous curricula for schools, those who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants.” Moral support! By this definition, almost anyone can be targeted as an enemy combatant. I must be an enemy combatant too. So be it.

Davis also describes the Guatemalan genocide of the 1970s and 1980s which was carried out with the help of Israeli military advisers and Israeli arms. It wound up looking “quite a bit like the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza strip.” In fact Israeli advisers are complicit in training some of the world's most brutal police.

A reader sends in some articles describing Israeli complicity in training St. Louis County police. An article in Al-Jazeera states, “It is no coincidence that the chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, which was responsible for some of the heavy-handed tactics employed against protesters in Ferguson, received training in Israel in recent years.”

And Electronic Intifada states, “The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.”

MISSOURI'S SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK

Constitutional Amendment 3, which will be on your ballot November 4, requires that no teacher in Missouri Public Schools will receive a contract for longer than three years and that teachers must be evaluated according to standardized tests given to their students. If passed, this amendment would be devastating to public education in Missouri. Please go to the polls November 4 and vote NO on Amendment 3.

MISSOURI'S COMPREHENSIVE STATE ENERGY PLAN

The steering committee for Missouri's Comprehensive State Energy Plan is holding public hearing around the State. I attending the hearing at Fort Leonard Wood. There was very little interest among steering committee members in promoting renewable energy in Missouri. There is an open comment period until December 31. Please comment and tell the committee that Missouri needs non-polluting renewable energy and the phasing out of energy from fossil fuels and nuclear sources. The steering committee is extremely top-heavy with industry representatives and includes very few representatives of environmental organizations; so it's imperative that they receive public comments.

Meanwhile, the world just experienced the hottest September since record keeping began in 1880. 2014 also witnessed the hottest May and August on record.

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October 5, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

PESTILENCE

          Ebola

In the wake of the first ever ebola case in the United States, nurses say that US hospitals are ill-equipped to handle an ebola outbreak with our corporate health-for-profit mentality. Just how bad are we? Commonwealth Fund finds that while we pay almost twice what other industrialized countries pay for health care, the United States rates dead last in a field of 11 industrialized countries.

Suppose you were experiencing fever, muscle pain and headaches and thought you might have ebola; but the cost of medical care being what it is (even if you have Obamacare insurance) you decide to wait and see. A few days later you're really sick, vomiting up blood; but by then you've infected several hundred other people with ebola. Get the picture? But don't worry. The Pirates of the Health Care-ibean are going to get paid regardless.

If you are not aware of how disease is spread, listen to Tom Lehrer perform, I Got It From Agnes.

Well, Mr. President, what are you going to do stop the spread of ebola? — maybe you could double-down on those 3,000 troops you're sending to West Africa? That'll scare those pesky viruses.

          Cholera

Three years ago, the UN induced cholera in Haiti. Since then cholera has killed thousands and continues to ravage Haiti. The UN not only denies responsibility; but does practically nothing to combat epidemic cholera which is easily and cheaply controllable. Haitians have been forced to sue the United Nations in hopes of receiving some measure of compensation.

Watch Al-Jazeera's 25-minute Emmy-winning documentary on Haiti's cholera outbreak.

I can relate to this denial of responsibility. It's a “slippery slope.” If the UN takes responsibility for the thousands of cholera deaths they caused in Haiti; they may have to take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died of diarrheal disease during the 13 years of UN sanctions that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US and friends.

As Robert Koehler puts it, “Healing people is nowhere near the priority ... that killing them is.”

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September 30, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WORLD IN CRISIS — THE ISLAMIC STATE

This article by James Carroll from the Boston Globe seems to sum up perfectly the UN and world leaders in general. Carroll points out that there are many crises facing the world — “Climate change. Ukraine. Asylum seekers. Nuclear proliferation. Combating terrorism. Ebola.” But Numero Uno for the UN and our World Leaders is ... [fanfare] ... THE ISLAMIC STATE. So lets put all those other inconvenient crises on the shelf while we make war on the Islamic State.

          Climate Change

400,000 rallied in New York City for government action to address the climate crisis — many more rallied at thousands of satellite demonstrations around the world; but the Climate Crisis will have to take a back seat to the Islamic State. Climate activists were denied entrance to the UN where they wished to present the statement, “We demand that world leaders support and move money to our community-led priorities and local infrastructure needs to build sustainable community economies, energy democracy, zero waste, food justice, public transit and affordable housing—pathways that can create millions of long-term jobs and put our communities back to work.”

Better prepare for all those refugees from California which is quickly running out of water.

          Ebola

Ebola is spreading. It will continue to spread. The Ebola crisis is OUT OF CONTROL. There is now a confirmed Ebola case in the United States. Thousands have died in West Africa. You would think the United States would send doctors, food, medicines, portable hospitals and emergency health-care workers of all types. You would think we would pour funds into organizations like Doctors Without Borders that have the experience and are on the ground helping. But here is the Barack Obama solution: SEND TROOPS TO LIBERIA — 3,000 OF THEM — just what we need to contain an outbreak of disease — more soldiers with guns.

Here's a quick quote:

“They were dying slowly—it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now—nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.”

About the Ebola crisis? No. Joseph Conrad wrote these words over a century ago in Heart of Darkness about Africans being sucked dry and left to die by their European overlords. It appears not much has changed (at least not for the better) in the last century.

          The Islamic State

We'll skip the other “lesser crises” and proceed to the Islamic State. It appears world leaders agree: The Islamic State must be destroyed. War must be waged.

What about diplomacy? Did the UN invite a representative of the Islamic State to come to New York and talk things over? — maybe avoid war so we could focus on some of those other “lesser crises.” If so, I haven't heard. So much for diplomacy. Last week I wrote somewhat sarcastically that “diplomacy may have gone extinct along with the diplodocus.” After reading the latest news, I suspect my sarcasm was lost on our sagacious world leaders.

It looks like another asymmetric war — the rest of the world against the Islamic State. We tried this once before. In 2001 the world declared war on Afghanistan — no need for diplomacy, just send in the bombs and the troops — some 50 or so countries participated. It was supposed to be a “cake walk;” but 13 years later it looks like — well, I won't say Afghanistan is winning — but the rest of the world has certainly lost! As my friend Fred Reed says, “Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.” Sic transit gloria mundi.

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September 23, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: NO GOOD GUYS

In response to last weeks snippet, “Saddam Hussein vs. Islamic State,” a reader writes:
“Oh I so agree with you on "no good guys" in this fight with the Islamic State. It really shocks me that we in the USA think the beheadings are so "brutal," when to me they seem quite neat, surgical, limited, and planned, perpetrated on grown-up people who chose the risks, COMPARED TO all the Middle Eastern parents who've seen their children's tender innocent bodies smashed, their heads squashed and brains splattered across the floor and walls by our DRONE STRIKES and BOMBS continually over the last 10 YEARS! Why is this truth so hidden from our own people? I've been wanting to scream this from the housetops but have not yet mentioned it to anybody. Thanks for giving me an outlet”
My response: Thanks for choosing Rolla Peace News to scream this from the housetops.

CLIMATE CRISIS DEMONSTRATION

Sunday saw 400,000+ rallying in New York City for meaningful government action to address climate change, with thousands of satellite demonstrations around the world (including the demonstration in Columbia which Helen and I attended). Not bad!

But here's a dimension that needs far more recognition: There can be no meaningful government action to address climate change, unless we address our addiction to war. As Tarak Kauff of Veterans for Peace reminds us, “The primary culprit in all this heating the planet is not you or I because we don't recycle quite enough. It is the U.S. military, the biggest user of fossil fuels and the largest emitter of CO2 on the planet.” And from Katherine Ball of Tools for Action: “The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.”

THE LONGEST WAR — IRAQ

Peter Van Buren reminds us that we have been in Iraq so long (24 years) that we now have an aircraft carrier in the Gulf named after the president who started the whole thing, George H.W. Bush.

There are lots of important reminders in Van Buren's article. Here's my favorite: When it comes to war, “The only way to win is not to play.”

UNPARALLELED IN MODERN TIMES — EBOLA

Ebola continues to ravage West Africa. Ebola is a particularly nasty disease — very painful and causes the victim's body to hemorrhage all over, internally and externally. It can be 90% fatal, although the strain currently ravaging West Africa appears to be a mere 50% fatal which means this epidemic is far less likely than previous ebola outbreaks to burn itself out quickly.

Ebola suddenly appeared in Africa in the 1970s, about the same time as HIV. Some say they were both created by the US biological warfare division which then let them loose to see what affect they would have on Africans. What do I think? Quite possible; but I'm not privy to such secrets.

The world response to the current Ebola outbreak is paltry and miserly. We're too busy fighting wars and making money destroying the Earth to waste resources on a bunch of sick Africans. About the only mistake we haven't made in dealing with this Ebola outbreak is to send in the CIA with a bogus vaccination program. Or maybe we have. I'm not privy to such secrets.

Pestilence has a nasty habit of spreading; and our health-care system is the absolute worst among wealthy countries. If not this time, expect next time to see a major epidemic in the heartland, unless we start paying attention now.

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September 16, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

SADDAM HUSSEIN VS. ISLAMIC STATE
“So who are the ‘good guys?’ There may not be any.” —Will Bunch
Back in the dark ages, some 15 or more years ago, I was an anti-sanctions activist. At that time sanctions were killing young children in Iraq to the tune of 5,000 per month. When I spoke about it, very few people took notice; and if they did, they'd usually say something like “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people.” (end of conversation) Some of my fellow anti-sanctions activists tried to teach me to say, “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people; BUT ....” I freely admit it. I have a learning disability. I could never learn to say, “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people; BUT ....”

The mantra just seemed to me so obviously absurd. The world is full of brutal dictators. Saddam was certainly neither the worst nor the best — but everyone, whether you were pro-sanctions, anti-sanctions or somewhere to the left, right, top or bottom, had to say “Saddam is a brutal dictator who gassed his own people.”

After George W. Bush led a “coalition of the willing” into Iraq and deposed Saddam, things got worse. In fact things got so bad a lot of people look back with nostalgia on the days of Saddam Hussein.

Today it's the Islamic State, a name few in the United States can say. (Kind of like for decades no one could say China or People's Republic of China. You had to say Red China or Communist China.) So you don't hear Islamic State very much; always Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and of course you have to mention that they are the most brutal of the brutal and they cut people's heads off and stuff like that. It's even been reported that they've mastered the exotic art of waterboarding. (Now who could have taught them that?) But I'm wondering. Have they destroyed an entire city, the way the United States destroyed Fallujah twice? Have they bombed water treatment plants? hospitals? schools? the way the United States has?

So what am I trying to say? Do I think the Islamic State fighters are the ‘good guys?’ Heck no. But then there may not be any ‘good guys.’ Do I want to go visit them and find out? Heck no. I'm attached to my head. And I don't see any reason why they should distinguish between me and my government and its military that have killed a million or more Iraqis and left another few million homeless and left the whole country in shambles.

So I'm not taking sides. There may not be any ‘good guys’ and I sure don't want to side with a ‘bad guy.’ I may not know much; but one thing I do know is that we are definitely not the ‘good guys;’ so we ought to stay home and use diplomacy, whatever that may be. (I think diplomacy may have gone extinct along with the diplodocus. I'm not sure.) If we stay home, there will be one less ‘bad guy’ in Iraq; and that will be a good thing. With one fewer ‘bad guy’ around; maybe there will be space for a ‘good guy’ to emerge. We've never done it before; but I think it's definitely worth a try. It may work.

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September 9, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WAR WITHOUT END

We now have 1,000 troops in Iraq and have conducted 148 airstrikes since June. Politicians and pundits are saying it may take years to destroy the Islamic State. Yeah, sure. How long has it taken to destroy the Taliban? 13 years and counting; and they are stronger than ever. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, The Islamic State is a enemy of our own making. That's the one thing the United States seems to excel in - creating enemies. And once you have created an enemy, there is only one way to destroy it — stop feeding it. That's a lesson we have yet to learn.

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September 2, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

BOMBS ARE FALLING — EVERYWHERE

We're back in Iraq bombing, and we just bombed Somalia — again. Seems like every bomb we drop just makes things worse — for everybody. There wouldn't be an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria if we hadn't made war on Iraq for 25 years now.

And it looks like Europe may be “sleepwalking” into World War III in the Ukraine. How quickly we forget.

Since bombing only makes things worse, how about a worldwide moratorium on bombing anybody. Bet things would get better fast.

EVOLUTION

Two months ago, Fred Reed posed eight questions on evolution. Since Fred is one of my favorite commentators, I couldn't refuse the challenge. Here are my thoughts on Fred's eight questions.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR NORTH ST. LOUIS

Ferguson exploded a month ago after Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was gunned down by police; but this is only a small part of the story.

North St. Louis has suffered from economic and environmental injustice for decades. The environmental statistics for North St. Louis are horrendous. Kathleen Henry, president of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center writes:
“More than 90% of this area’s population is African-American, and a staggering number of families live below the poverty line. The per capita income in the area we are targeting ranges from $7,865 and $10,008 annually. Low-income families and minorities in North St. Louis bear a disproportionate burden of toxicity in their environment as compared to their racial and socioeconomic counterparts. Environmental hazards, including air, water and land contamination, have had harmful repercussions on the health of local residents, making the region one of the unhealthiest of the nation. Disparity abounds: the people who live here have a 10-year decrease in life expectancy and a higher risk of hospitalizations, asthma, cancer and other chronic conditions. The area has one of the highest levels of atmospheric particulate matter in the nation, which can affect physical activity levels and body weight.”
In the short time Great Rivers has been fighting for environmental justice in North St. Louis, it has scored some amazing successes. Kathleen Henry writes,
“In the spring of 2014, we successfully persuaded the DNR to require the Beelman Truck Company to cover its huge salt piles and maintain the wall around the piles so that the salt does not leach into the Mississippi River. Also in the spring of 2014, we had an expert test soil samples next to Grossman Iron & Steel Company, a scrap metal facility that operates a giant metal shredder that emits large amounts of metal-containing particulate matter into the air. The testing showed lead concentrations of 960 mg/kg, an amount that is more than 145% of the acceptable level for ingestion, inhalation and skin contact, and presents a health risk to any passerby or users of the adjacent Riverfront bike trail.”
Great Rivers continues to strategize with the people in the community about the best ways to continue the fight for environmental justice.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is the same public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Great Rivers. Checks can be mailed to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, 319 No. Fourth St., Suite 800, St. Louis, MO 63102. Donations can also be made online at Great Rivers' website.

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August 26, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: RANIA MASRI ON THE MEANING OF BARBARIC

This 10 minute speech by Rania Masri at an Austin, Texas rally protesting the Israeli assault on Gaza is dynamite! You gotta listen to this!

MORE FROM OUR READERS: THE BEHEADING OF JAMES FOLEY

A reader also sends in this article from Counterpunch on the murder of civilians, making the point that the US has murdered far more civilians in Iraq and Syria than the Islamic State. While the beheading of James Foley is called an “inexcusable and savage act of violence” in this article, I can't help comparing it with the execution of Joseph Wood.

Wood was injected with an experimental cocktail of drugs and left by the State of Arizona to die slowly, gasping for air for two hours. Now suppose you were condemned to death and given a choice by your executioner: You could die like James Foley or you could die like Joseph Wood. Which death would you choose? Think about it.

Incidentally, the video of the beheading of James Foley may have been faked; but there is no doubt about the death of Joseph Wood.

NOAM CHOMSKY ON THE ISRAELI ASSAULT ON GAZA: A HIDEOUS ATROCITY

40 minutes of Noam Chomsky at his best. Don't miss it.

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August 19, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

ARMED AND DISEMPOWERED
“it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and this is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.” —Robert C. Koehler
It's been quite a week. Israel is bombing Gaza again. The U.S. is bombing Iraq again. And the War came home to Ferguson, Missouri where the State responded to public outrage at another police-killing of an unarmed African-American teenager in the only way it knows how — with overwhelming force and violence.

All deja vu. Israel has been terrorizing Palestine for over half a century. The United States has been terrorizing Iraq for over 20 years. White police have been terrorizing Black neighborhoods for centuries. And governments continue to say, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

“Armed and disempowered ... the most dangerous state of all.” Destruction is easy. Arms destroy; but have no power to create. Perhaps the Roman historian Tacitus described this state best:
“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.”
Empires in their last days are in this most dangerous state of all. They are powerless to prevent their own destruction; and so also destroy all that lies before them.

Of all the news items I've read this week, here is the saddest: The majority of us are supporting the bombing of Iraq. When will enough be enough?

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August 12, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Iraq: Well. here we go again — bombing Iraq — for humanitarian reasons of course. Glenn Greenwald gives us an historical look at the many many times we have bombed Iraq. Wonder if Obama expects the children to throw flowers at our soldiers feet.

Gaza: And Israel is bombing Gaza again, in self-defense of course. (There may be a temporary truce in force when you read this.) 1.8 million people blockaded on a tiny strip of land — human guinea pigs for live-testing of the latest US-Israeli weaponry. The cruelty of the Israelis is unbelievable — outdone only by the cruelty of the United States which enables these atrocities. This latest round of atrocities has been met with demonstrations in the United States and repression in Israel.

One has to wonder about a world filled with such cruelty and stupidity. Come join us at the the Post Office this Thursday at Noon. It's not much — but it's one little thing you can do to push back against cruelty and stupidity. And lots of little things taken together can make a big thing. Come join us.

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August 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

VOTE!

Remember to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, August 5. There are five constitutional amendments on the ballot; and an important race for Phelps County Prosecutor. I included my endorsements last week.

WE TORTURED SOME FOLKS

Almost six years into the Obama presidency, he finally comes clean: “We tortured some folks.” But, hey, no big deal. We were all scared shitless after 9/11. We only did it for patriotic reasons. No need to get upset. No need for anyone to resign. Certainly, no need for criminal prosecutions. (I'm paraphrasing loosely here.)

A more honest evaluation of our relation with torture might read something like this: When Europeans arrived in the Americas, we tortured some folks that had been living here for thousands of years. But, hey, no big deal. We wanted the land, for patriotic reasons. When we needed cheap labor to build the country, we imported slaves from Africa. We tortured some folks; but all for patriotic reasons. When we wanted to expand our empire overseas, out of patriotism we tortured some folks, filipinos who didn't want to be part of our empire. And when we overthrew governments in Guatemala, Honduras and Iran; and supported strongmen in Iraq and Nicaragua; we tortured some folks — again all out of patriotism. When we killed two or three million in Vietnam, we tortured some folks; out of patriotism. When we sanctioned Iraq so heavily that nearly a million children died, mostly from lack of clean water to drink, we tortured some folks — all out of patriotism.

And it still goes on. We enable Israel with arms, money and support. With our help they bomb hospitals and UN shelters killing hundreds of children and wounding over a thousand. They torture some folks; but that's patriotism. We force-feed prisoners in a most painful manner. We torture some folks in Guantanamo and other prisons; again, out of patriotism. And last week, we executed Joseph Woods in Arizona, he gulped and gasped for air for two hours before he died — third recent execution botched. Yes, we torture some folks. But, hey, no big deal. We're scared shitless; and we only do it out of patriotism.

THE RAPE OF GAZA, AGAIN

Gaza is home to 1.8 million people, some 50% children. It's a strip of land 40 by 11 kilometers — the world's largest open-air prison. Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for eight years. Gazans can neither enter nor leave. Israel attacks Gaza regularly. The latest invasion has been going on for a month. Hospitals and refugee shelters have been bombed. Children have been gunned down while playing on a beach. The latest figure: 398 children in Gaza dead; a figure that is sure to grow.

Drawing from documents leaked by Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald documents NSA aid and complicity and shows that this atrocity could not happen without help from the United States.

Here is one of many interesting tidbits from the Greenwald article:
“But even as the NSA and its partners are directed by political branches to feed the Israelis surveillance data and technology, they constantly characterize Israel as a threat — both to their own national security and more generally to regional peace. In stark contrast to the public statements about Israel made by American and British officials, the Snowden archive is replete with discussions of the Israelis as a menace rather than an ally.”
Greenwald's article is a “must read.” Thank you Ed Snowden!

Here are three other articles I particularly recommend:

From our friends at Jewish Voice for Peace, here is an article by a Jewish Dutch couple vacationing in Tel Aviv detailing the rampant fascism that grips Israeli society.

And here's an article by Ahdaf Soueif from Jadaliyya discussing world-wide collapse of support for Israel.

And tens of thousands demonstrate at the White House against the Rape of Gaza.

Interestingly: I've always received racist diatribes in my email box. 13 years ago they were overwhelmingly filled with anti-Muslim bigotry. Now it seems that well over half of the bigotry I receive is directed at Jews. I think some people are waking up to what is happening and responding in the only way they have been taught — with bigotry and hate.

Racism is a terrible thing. No one is immune. Here's a very famous poem by Nazi-victim Martin Niemoller: (Note: There are numerous versions of this poem.)
In Germany, they came first for the Communists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . .
And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
DANCES WITH BEAVERS

I've probably written more than enough for one week, but this article by Chip Ward is so upbeat and beautiful, I just have to include it. Yes, we can save our ecosystems, with help from our friends — the beavers.

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July 29, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

ELECTION ENDORSEMENTS

August 5 is our primary election. Don't forget to vote.

There are three contested races, all in the Republican Party. So if you want to vote in these, you have to request a Republican ballot. There are also five constitutional amendments, some very important.
Republican Party contested races:
PHELPS COUNTY PROSECUTOR — BRANT SHOCKLEY
Our next prosecutor will be chosen in the primary since there are no democratic or other party candidates. I recommend Brant Shockley. Brant is a young lawyer from St. James. I've talked with him and like him very much. Brant wants to make changes. Brant wants to be fair to everyone, particlularly victims of crime. He wants to involve the victims in every aspect of the criminal proceedings. I think that is important. Here is a cartoon I made for Brant.

His opponent, Brendon Fox, currently works in the Prosecutor's Office and wants to do everything just like the current prosecutor. I think there are serious problems in the Prosecutor's Office, such as the persecution of Donna Hawley which I have written about extensively. The prosecution of Donna started under former prosecutor, Courtney George. When John Beger assumed the office, instead of dropping the case, he did a Pontius Pilate, washed his hands, and turned it over to the Attorney General to prosecute. When it finally came to trial years later, the jury acquitted Donna in record time. The Prosecutor's Office never had a case against her. We don't need a prosecutor who will follow his predecessor blindly.

Let's elect BRANT SHOCKLEY our next prosecutor.
PHELPS COUNTY CLERK — PAMELA GROW
One of the important duties of the County Clerk is to conduct elections. In my opinion, the County Clerk should not be chosen in a partisan election; since the Clerk must treat all candidates equally regardless of party. But no one really cares what I think; so we have to elect a County Clerk.

Phelps County has been blessed with a fair and competent County Clerk, Carol Bennett. Other counties have not been so lucky. (Take Waukesha, Wisconsin whose former clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, just happened to find 75,000 uncounted Republican votes on her personal computer.) Carol is retiring; and we will miss her. She has a big pair of shoes to fill.

Pamela Grow and Rosalind Breske face off in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat, Paul Long in the November General Election. I like Rosalind, but she is inexperienced and unsure of herself; and I don't think County Clerk is an appropriate office for her.

Pamela is very much aware of how elections should be run, and has some good ideas on how to improve the way the Clerk's Office conducts elections. I'm backing PAMELA GROW in the August primary.
STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 16 — DAN BROWN
Dan Brown is being challenged by the mystery candidate, Bernie Mowinski. Bernie doesn't have a website or a facebook page that I could find. He didn't bother to attend the candidates' forum last Tuesday. I can't find much about him on the internet; and I can't help wondering why he is running.

I like Dan Brown. So do my dog and two cats. I disagree with Dan on many points.

Right now I'm suing a few of Dan's colleagues on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules over Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 (2011) which totally emasculated Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard as passed by the voters on initiative petition by a two to one margin. Dan voted for SCR 1. (This case is moving slowly through the Courts. We just won an important battle this week when the judge denied the defendants motion to dismiss our suit.)

More recently, I have serious problems with concealed weapons in our schools. I don't think more guns in schools will keep our children safe. Dan favors concealed carry by school faculty.

On the plus side, Dan listens to my (mostly unwanted) advice. Very few legislators do. I once shook Claire McCaskill's hand and held on to it, much to her obvious displeasure, while I told her to bring our troops home from Iraq. Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to get a legislator's attention. I've voted for Dan in the past. I'm going to vote for DAN BROWN again. Why? Because he listens and he thinks — legislative qualities almost as rare as hen's teeth.

There are no Democratic or other party candidates running for this position.
STATE REPRESENTATIVES
Keith Frederick is running unopposed in the 121st District. Several other districts bordering Rolla have multiple candidates. I have not researched these districts.
Constitutional Amendments
AMENDMENT 1 (No Right to Farm) — VOTE NO
Amendment One gives no one the right to farm. Amendment One further tilts the playing field in favor of big corporate agriculture owned by Wall Street and foreign interests. Opposed by family farmer organizations, it should be called “Right of Big Ag to Pollute Missouri Amendment.” If you would like to see a mega-chicken farm with all the stench and water pollution that goes with it right outside the Rolla city limits, and if you would like to have no legislative remedy other than amending the Missouri Constitution, then you may like this amendment. But if you value our clean air and water, VOTE NO.
AMENDMENT 5 (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) — VOTE NO
Violence in our society is a serious problem. We live in what may be the most violent and militarized society since the Third Reich. If you think that legislators ought not to be able to address this problem, then you probably favor Amendment 5. But if you would like to see some serious discussion and an attempt to find common sense solutions, then VOTE NO.
AMENDMENT 7 (Transportation Tax) — VOTE NO
Last time we gave MODOT extra money to repair bridges and roads, we got highway markers every 0.2 miles along the Interstate. Now they are back for more. If we pass this whopping 3/4 cent sales tax, we might get markers every 0.1 mile. As the Post-Dispatch editorialized, “The blood is about gone from the sales tax turnip.” This is an unfair tax, falling mostly on those who can least afford it and who benefit least from it. And where's the money for rails, public transportation, education and other pressing needs? Not in this tax. VOTE NO
AMENDMENT 8 (Veterans Lottery) — VOTE NO
The last thing Missouri needs is more gambling. Can't the legislature think of any better way to help our veterans than by gambling? The best way to help our veterans and service men and women is to stop sending them off to invade and occupy places like Iraq and Afghanistan that do us no harm and don't want us there. When our soldiers come home, we need to give them the help they need to overcome PTSD and other military related injuries and integrate into civil society. The way we treat our veterans is a national disgrace. This lottery amendment is equivalent to putting a bandaid on a cancer. VOTE NO
AMENDMENT 9 (Right to Electronic Privacy) — VOTE YES
This is the one pearl, buried in a pile of manure. My electronic data should be treated no differently than the papers in my filing cabinet. My emails should be treated no differently than the letters I write on paper and mail at the Post Office. Hands off my private emails. If you want to see my personal stuff, show probable cause and get a warrant. VOTE YES

paid for by Tom Sager

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July 22, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE WAR ON CHILDREN (PALESTINE)

As of this writing, over 100 children have been massacred in Gaza by the ongoing Israeli onslaught. Hospitals and children have been specifically targeted. According to Netanyahu, Israel is only defending itself. Meanwhile, our Senate passed unanimously (from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren down to Rand Paul and Ted Cruz) a resolution joining Obama in endorsing this atrocity.

Well, why not? Aren't we footing the bill for these crimes. Didn't we commit similar and equally atrocious acts in Iraq? Well, there is a difference. Gazans are trapped in the world's largest open-air prison with no way out and no way to defend themselves. Our noses are still bleeding profusely from those Iraqi and Afghan counterpunches that are still coming in. But, you know, I've got a feeling Israel's going to end up with its nose bloodied by its victims, too.

I've noticed that the estimates of Gaza's population keep rising. Three years ago I was using the figure 1.5 million. Now I see 1.8 million. Israel's savagery seems to net it about 100,000 extra enemies per year, mostly children, which are the worst kind of enemies to have. Well, learning from their mistakes has never been Israel's strong suit (or ours either).

As usual, people have more sense than those they elect to represent them. Thousands have demonstrated against the massacre in Gaza.

MORE ON MAKING ENEMIES

A new report from Human Rights Watch demonstrates that in many of the “terrorist” convictions over the past 13 years, the FBI actually created both the terrorist and the crime. Speaking of one case, a judge said “the government ‘came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,’ and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man ‘whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.’”

Further, “The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent.”

The report notes that “In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement.”

And then of course they boast about keeping us safe from terrorists and ask for more money. How do you spell “corruption.”

MALAYSIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 17

Who done it? Who shot it down? I don't know; but I can tell you that it is very unlikely that it was Russian separatists, because with all our spy satellites trained on Eastern Ukraine, Kerry would certainly be able to document his case, instead of merely providing unsupported innuendo.

Some relevant questions:

What the hell was a civilian plane doing flying over a war zone? Who routed the plane over Eastern Ukraine? Did the pilot object? Why? or Why not?

There were a number of aids/HIV researchers and activists aboard. Might one of them have found inconvenient evidence concerning the HIV virus and epidemic? — perhaps evidence that the virus was created in a laboratory.

Might it have been a “false-flag” operation? It would be surprising if the CIA and other specialists in dirty tricks didn't have agents among the various factions in the conflict.

Malaysian Airlines inexplicably lost another Boeing 777 recently over the South China Sea — same airline, same type airplane. Isn't this a little too much for coincidence?

One thing for sure: if the US had not encouraged and abetted the February coup in the Ukraine and the neo-Nazis which played such a large role, it is unlikely that we would have lost Flight 17 with 298 people aboard.

The bottom line: We can't trust governments or news media to give us or ferret out such information. At this point, your conspiracy theory is as good as mine.

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July 15, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE WAR ON CHILDREN (PALESTINE)

Israel continues to bombard Gaza. The death toll has mounted to 190: 80% civilians including 34 children. Doctors say that Israel is again using experimental DIME weapons. Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert described the effect of the DIME weapons used by Israel against Gaza in 2008:

“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge ax had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off. In addition we saw very very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”

For Israelis the bombing of Gaza and the killing of children has become a spectator sport.

US president Barack Obama has endorsed the murder of Palestinian children in Gaza.

Israel also appears to be targeting what little water-purification capacity remains in Gaza.

The technique of embargoing an entire country while destroying it's water-purification capacity was pioneered by the United States in Iraq where 5,000 children died each month over a 13-year period, 1991-2003, largely due to the lack of potable water.

Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison with 1.7 million inmates, about 50% children. Gazans are trapped and have no where to go to escape the Israeli onslaught.

THE WAR ON CHILDREN (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SOUTHERN BORDER)

Thousands of unaccompanied children are arriving at our borders from Central America, particularly Honduras were the 2009 US supported coup against president Manuel Zelaya has made the country the most dangerous in Central America. Our solution: Throw all those kids in jail and deport them.

THE WAR ON CHILDREN (WEST VIRGINIA): POISON YOUR NEIGHBOR'S WATER FOR LESS THAN FOUR CENTS

Freedom Industries has been fined $11,000 by OSHA for poisoning drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians. That's less than four cents a person. Who says we're not tough on crime?

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July 8, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MERCENARIES

Once upon a time, the United States had a mostly “citizen army.” We had a military draft and most young male citizens served their country in the military.

Then along came Vietnam — a dirty war built on lies. Soldiers became demoralized and turned against their officers. We lost that war ignominiously. So we forgot about the draft and built a “professional army.” But it turned out that even professional volunteers balked at fighting dirty wars in far away places for no discernible reason except empire building.

So now our volunteer army looks more and more like a “mercenary army” every day. Modern day mercenaries aren't called mercenaries - they're called “contractors;” but it's really the same thing. You pay someone to recruit a private army to do your fighting for you. Blackwater, later Xe Services and now Academi, is probably the most infamous of our mercenaries.

This week it was revealed that Blackwater's chief in Iraq, Daniel Carroll, threatened State Department investigator Jean C. Richter just before the Nisour Square incident where Blackwater operatives murdered 17 Iraqi civilians. Carroll purportedly said to Richter “that he could kill [him] at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.” Not surprisingly, the investigation was called off.

Shocking you say? Shocking perhaps, but quite predictable. Here's what Niccolò Machiavelli wrote about mercenaries 500 years ago:
“Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”
And further:
“The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.” (The Prince, Ch. XII)
Sounds to me like he's talking about Blackwater. Perhaps the solution is to go back to a citizen army and forget about empire building and ruling the world. I'd vote for that. But then, once you've tasted empire, it's hard to give up the dream. The dream is very powerful. And what did those “Renaissance men” know anyway? We think we are so much wiser today.

HINDSIGHT'S 20-20

The latest poll on the Iraq war finds 71% of us saying it wasn't worth it, up from 59% 18 months ago. Well, duhhh, we tried to say that 12 years ago. One weekend in February 2003, 15 million of us took to the streets to say NO to the invasion of Iraq. They wouldn't listen. They invaded anyway. They should have known better; but they were blinded with arrogance.

COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

As Israel pummels Gaza in a brutal act of collective punishment of the 1.7 million inhabitants of the world's largest open-air prison, it is important to review these statistics on Gaza supplied by Middle-East expert Juan Cole.

“NO-FLY” INFRINGES RIGHT TO “DO PROCESS”

Plaintiffs challenging their inclusion in the 11-year-old “No-Fly” list won a partial victory as federal judge Anna J. Brown opined that “[W]ithout proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List. … [T]he absence of any meaningful procedures to afford Plaintiffs the opportunity to contest their placement on the No-Fly List violates Plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process.” Judge Brown has ordered the government to institute procedures by which plaintiffs can clear their names and be taken off the No-Fly list, a process that is likely to take many years.

Anyway, I thought this partial victory was worth a cartoon. If you are offended by bathroom humor, don't click here.

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July 1, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WASN'T IT A STRANGE WAY DOWN?

Last week I noted that Iran appears to have rejected an alliance with the United States against the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). And now Massoud Barzani is said to have told Kerry that he (Kurdistan) planned to secede from Iraq and that the US would have to accept it . There are a lot of “sides” in Iraq as it moves inexorably toward disintegration; but it appears that they all have one thing in common: none of them are interested in listening to the United States. The US appears, in the words of Robert Koehler, “to be both armed and disempowered” which is, again in the words of Robert Koehler, “the most dangerous state of all.”

How did it come to this? In 1990, we were riding high as the world's only remaining superpower; and we arrogantly thought we could do anything. Our leaders had dreams — big dreams — dreams of remaking the world as they thought it should be. Yes, and as Tom Engelhardt put it: “It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true.”

As one Iraqi told Cathy Breen not many months ago: “You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have taken our dreams!”

And another Iraqi: “Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”

The answer is that we destroyed an entire country of 25 million people in search of our dreams. And now 24 years later, we have lost everything; and so has Iraq. Iraq will soon be no more; and perhaps the United States will disintegrate too under the unbearable weight of our dreams. Again quoting Engelhardt, “The geopolitical dreams of the Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq.”

I am reminded of Leonard Cohen's song, Dress Rehearsal Rag from which I've taken the title line of this snippet:
“And yes it's come to this,
It's come to this,
And wasn't it a long way down,
Wasn't it a strange way down?”
The dress rehearsal is over — and now for the performance.

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June 24, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Scientists and oil companies: modern-day vampires
Scientists, in complicity with oil giant, Maxus Energy, have stolen blood from at least 800 Huaorani in Ecuador. The Huaorani were told that the blood would be used for medical tests for which they never received results. (Reminds us of how the CIA contributed to a worldwide polio epidemic by stealing blood samples from Pakistanis under the guise of an immunization campaign.) “At least 31 research papers were written between 1989 and 2012 based on the blood samples obtained––all without the consent of the Huaorani or the royalty payments normally required.”
Not to mention sports teams
The Washington “Redskins” just lost a biggie. The U.S. Patent Office has canceled the “Redskins” official trademark registration, ruling that federal law “does not permit the registration of trademarks that ‘may disparage’ individuals or groups or ‘bring them into contempt or disrepute.’”.

One supporter wrote: “If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.)”
Sinking beneath the waves
Interim president of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama chastised world leadership, specifically pointing his finger at major polluting nations like the U.S., Canada, China, and Australia who are responsible for a disproportionate majority of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, saying, “History will judge you harshly if you abandon us to our apparent fate of sinking below the waves because you don't want to make the necessary adjustment to your domestic policies.”
On the front lines
And indigenous peoples continue to stand on the front lines of the fight against the development of tar sands oil: the filthiest, most dangerous, most polluting form of oil known.
Indigenous peoples on immigration
I linked to this one minute video in a snippet I wrote last year. It's a good one and worth watching again.

IRAN: NO DEALS WITH THE DEVIL

Iran has apparently rejected an alliance with The United States to contain or push back against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Says Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “We are strongly opposed to U.S. and other intervention in Iraq. We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition. American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shi'ites and Sunnis. The U.S. is seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges.”

In Iran, people still remember the 1953 CIA coup and the 26 years of US sponsored terror under the hated Shah who was installed by the CIA to replace Iran's democratically elected government.

Whatever happens now in Iraq is unlikely to be nearly so terrible as the years of sanctions, war, occupation and chaos under US hegemony.

YET ANOTHER REASON TO END THE WAR ON DRUGS (AND ALL OUR OTHER OBSCENE WARS)

Last month in a pre-dawn drug raid, one of Georgia's finest law enforcement officers threw a flash-bang grenade into the crib of 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavahn blowing a hole in his chest and critically burning the child. No drugs, guns or suspects were found in the house (as if that would justify critically injuring a toddler). Doctors give Bounkham a 50-50 chance of survival.

What I want to know is when was the last time a drug-crazed marijuana-smoker threw a grenade in a toddler's crib. Don't all answer at once.

Like all our other obscene wars, the War on Drugs creates far worse injustices than whatever injustices it claims to correct.

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June 17, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA RETURNS

Dan Ellsberg became the most dangerous man in America in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers that showed that the US government systematically and deliberately lied to the people and to congress about the Vietnam War. I remember being somewhat confused when I heard the news. “What's the big deal?” I asked a friend. “We already knew that.” It wasn't until recently that I came to realize that it was, indeed, a big deal. For the first time we had it in black and white in their own words, just how arrogant, corrupt, stupid and deceitful our government and military were.

It's like the Emperor's New Clothes. Everybody knew the emperor was naked; but only a few wacko birds would say so, and they were ignored. Then Dan Ellsberg said “But he doesn't have anything on” and all of a sudden even the New York Times was shouting, “The emperor's naked.”

Ellsberg has one regret: that he didn't leak the Pentagon Papers sooner. In Washington DC, half a block from the State Department, now stands a billboard with Dan Ellsberg saying, “Don’t do what I did, don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”

You can contribute to putting up more of these billboards here.

Well, maybe if Ellsberg had stepped up to the plate in 1964, I wouldn't have been able to say, “What's the big deal? We already knew that.” But the mood of the country was a lot different then. By 1971, it was clear that we had lost the Vietnam War and people were tired of it and ready to listen to Dan Ellsberg. If Ellsberg had come forward in 1964, he might have been just another one of us wing nuts, wacko birds and conspiracy theorists.

Here's an article by Marjorie Cohn about Dan Ellsberg and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Although there are points in this article I disagree with, it's well worth reading, especially for those of you too young to remember or, like me, old enough to forget.

ARROGANT, CORRUPT AND INCOMPETENT

Last month I wrote in a little snippet that “The US military has the ‘reverse Midas touch.’ Whatever it touched turns to chaos and corruption.”

Tom Engelhardt expands on that and points out that the U.S. military has “a record of failure to stagger the imagination” and “has not won a serious engagement since World War II” This is an important article. Read it.

Fred Reed has both Tom Engelhardt and me beat. Reed writes, “The military. A trillion withering green ones a year and we get forces that can’t beat a few pissed-off goat-herds with AKs. Which actually is a good thing since they shouldn’t be trying. A chronicle of unmitigated failure, and always for the same reason: trying to use shiny toys to whip whole countries that don’t want us there. Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.”

Well Tom, it figures that Fred would beat us. He's been there. We haven't.

Our military might not be any good at winning wars; but you have to hand it to them. They are by far the most destructive force on the planet. If you don't believe me ask an Iraqi or an Afghan (or for that matter, a Chilean, Nicaraguan, Serbian, Salvadoran, Iranian, Guatemalan ...). And you ain't seen nothing yet. Those 7,300 nuclear warheads could start detonating any time.

I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!!!!

The Iraqi army that we've been arming, paying for and training for almost a decade, turns tail and runs at the first sight of the enemy. Kind of reminds you of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam — that sterling fighting force that we armed, paid for and trained which folded as soon as we left Vietnam.

But get this. Our puppet in Baghdad (Or is it Iran's puppet? I can't seem to get this straight.) Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is rated seventh most corrupt in the world, is begging for help. Seems like our arch-enemy, Iran, across the Shatt al-Arab might actually come to his aid. And the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, sometimes referred to as “al-Qaeda wannabis,” has captured Mosul and a whole treasure chest of US supplied heavy weaponry and is moving toward Baghdad. Furthermore, they are in both Syria and Iraq, having no respect at all for those lines that European colonialists drew in the sand almost a century ago; and they are being bankrolled by our good friends in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

And now, Obama, who got elected on the platform of ending the Iraq War and removed our unwanted troop presence three years ago, is sending troops back to Iraq and threatening more bombing. As Fred Reed says, “Hey, if it doesn’t work, let’s do it again.”

Sound confusing? Just tune in to Fox News or read the New York Times. They'll give you the straight low down. But remember, World War I started in the midst of such confusion.

It's a shame that Tom Lehrer gave up writing satirical songs. Just imagine what he could do with this one! Maybe, he'll come out of retirement.

To keep track of this fast-evolving debacle, I recommend Juan Cole's blog. And here's an informative article by Robert Fisk.

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June 10, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

BOWE BERGDAHL

One would think we would all be celebrating the prisoner of war swap and the release of Bowe Bergdahl. Not so. As Robert Naiman points out:

“The political forces that are trashing the deal to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl are the same political forces that got us into the Iraq war. They are the same political forces who want to keep the Afghanistan war going indefinitely. They are the same political forces who want to keep the Guantanamo prison open indefinitely. ... I challenge anyone to provide a single counterexample.”

Was Bergdahl tortured? I can't say; but I daresay not to the extent the “Five” whom he was exchanged for were tortured in Guantanamo.

Did he receive a trial? Unlike the Five who were incarcerated for 12 years with neither charge nor trial, he received a speedy trial and was convicted.

Was it a fair trial? Ask Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

Did he walk off his post? I don't know. But here I will quote Fred Reed:

“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, ... You have my admiration, Sergeant Bergdahl.”

Did US soldiers die on account of Bergdahl's actions? Highly unlikely.

I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about Bowe Bergdahl, most of it hype and spin; but one thing for sure: this is an important step in ending a war that we should NEVER have started.

Support the troops; bring them home!!!

REMEMBERING THE USS LIBERTY

Sunday was the 47th anniversary of the deliberate and unprovoked Israeli attack on the USS Liberty which killed 34 US sailors and wounded 170. As Ray McGovern reiterates: “[T]here is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew. ... [E]very U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson [has acquiesced] to the false narrative that it was all a terrible case of mistaken identity.”

Mr. Obama, isn't is time, after 47 years, to come clean, and tell what really happened? Doesn't that “sacred rule: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind” apply to the crew of the USS Liberty too?

A NOT SO SURPRISING MOVE

In what Common Dreams refers to as a “Surprise Move,” Russia has freed the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise. The Arctic Sunrise, with 30 aboard, was peacefully protesting against a Gazprom oil rig in the arctic, when it was seized by the Russians eight months ago in an act of international piracy.

Not such a surprising move, says I. With East-West rivalry heating up, particularly in the Ukraine, I suspect Russia is trying to court (or at least neutralize) Western environmentalists. A savvy move, but sadly, like the Western nations, Russia continues to threaten the Arctic with oil drilling. Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International remarked, “We will continue to oppose any oil company that attempts to drill in the Arctic ocean. As the world warms and the ice melts this is fast becoming an era defining battle, and we are determined to win it.”

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June 3, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE IRAQI GENOCIDE AND THE VETERANS FOR PEACE IRAQ WATER PROJECT

Memorial Day, I spoke to the Columbia chapter of Veterans for Peace on the Iraqi Genocide and the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project. My remarks (somewhat fleshed out and cleaned up) are posted here. Please consider a donation to the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project . Checks made out to Veterans for Peace with Iraq Water Project in the memo line can be sent to Veterans For Peace, 216 South Meramec Ave, St. Louis MO 63105.

PAWEL KUCZYNSKI

If you haven't seen Pawel Kuczynski's satiric cartoons, you are in for a treat. My favorite is posted on my website as image of the month. If I had talent, these are the kind of cartoons I'd like to be creating.

MAN UP

John Kerry put his foot in his mouth again telling Ed Snowden to “man up and come back to the US”.

I took a lot of grief from my liberal friends ten years ago for supporting Ralph Nader for president. (Remember, a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.) Well the other choices were Yale graduate with a C average and Skull and Boner macho man George “Bring 'em On” Bush and Yale graduate with a C average and Skull and Boner macho man John “Man Up” Kerry. I still think I made the right choice even if my candidate didn't win.

Actually, telling Snowden to “man up and come back to the US” would be pretty much equivalent to telling a Jew who escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to “man up and come back to Nazi Germany.” Read Juan Cole's article to find out why.

I have a suggestion. Let's have a televised debate between John Kerry and Ed Snowden on spying and whistleblowing. Broadcast it worldwide and let all seven billion of us vote for the winner. The winner gets an unlimited supply of “get out of jail free” cards, good anywhere in the world. (John, you better prepare well for this debate. You might be needing those get out of jail free cards real soon.)

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May 26, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

1,500 UNTHINKABLE ACTS OF SAVAGERY

“To cut down a tree is murder to a child. The tree is snapped out of the drawing and its life is lost. A child knows that a tree has a life. To take down a tree is an unthinkable act of savagery to a child, because a tree is a friend.” — Diana Beresford-Kroeger, “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us”

Israeli soldiers came without warning and cut down 1,500 trees on the Nassar farm West of Bethlehem in occupied Palestine. Israeli authorities simply claimed the farm was state land and that they had “papers from God” to prove it . How do you spell blasphemy?

AN ACT OF GENOCIDE

Francis Boyle has tallied the Iraqi dead from the 20 year (1991-2011) War Against Iraq: 3.3 million dead, of which more than half, 1.7 million died of sanctions. Taking Iraq's population as roughly 25 million, this amounts to 13% of the population and surely qualifies as Genocide. Boyle has been trying since 1991 to get the United Nations to take up the case of Iraq, but with no success. Not surprising when you think about it. The biggest killer was the UN sanction; so if the UN took the case, they would essentially be trying themselves. What is needed is an independent prosecutor and an independent court. Don't hold your breath waiting.

Meanwhile the Rwandan genocide is being used as an argument for more “humanitarian” interventions like we witnessed in Iraq.

THE REAL ENEMY REVEALED

You might have thought the real enemy was the Evil Soviet Empire or Red China or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or maybe even Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad. But if you thought that, you'd have been Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The real enemy is our own home-grown non-violent demonstrators — at least according to our law enforcement fusion centers — and we all know that law enforcement is never wrong.

Oh, and Cecily McMillan, member of the non-violent Occupy movement was sentenced to three months in jail for being grabbed by the breast by Grantley Bovell, one of New York City's finest police officers. Well, she could have gotten seven years, and probably would have, had it not been for the massive public support she received. Yup, the enemy is right here, and probably at a non-violent demonstration for peace, affordable healthcare, quality education or a free independent press; you know, one of those terrible things that only socialists and Muslims are in favor of.

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May 20, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH

Every now and then you hear about how we fought a “good war” — a war in which there was very little loss of life and most people ended up better off after the war than before. Libya, like Iraq before it, has been touted as such a “good war.” Three years after our war to bring “democracy” to Libya and “liberate” it from a cruel dictator, Libya has descended into warlordism and become a “failed state.” One such warlord, Khalifa Hifter, with CIA ties has “raided the parliament building in the heart of Tripoli, sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives as gunmen ransacked the legislature”

No, there are no “good wars.” War is the essence of evil. The US military has the “reverse Midas touch.” Whatever it touched turns to chaos and corruption. As Mohandas Gandhi put it, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

Did I forget to mention the Benghazi debacle? No, I'm saving that for another day.

MORE CRACKS IN THE FACADE

Pope Francis has chosen to visit Palestine first on his upcoming trip to the Middle East. “According to Father Jamal Khader of the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem, the decision to visit Palestine before Israel is ‘a kind of sign of recognizing Palestine’”.

Meanwhile Israeli author Amos Oz uses the unthinkable phrase “Hebrew neo-Nazis”; and a video of Israeli soldiers shooting down Palestinian children in cold blood is receiving wide circulation. The killings are being called war crimes by human rights activists.

Israel has been running this racket in Palestine for 66 years; but folks are beginning to see the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians for what it is. As Smedley Butler pointed out, once people see a racket for what it is; it becomes impossible to continue running it.

WE WON'T DO IT AGAIN

Last week I reported on the CIA's Worst Crime — the use of public health workers and bogus vaccination programs as part of its bag of dirty tricks. Well, due to international outrage, the CIA has promised not to do it anymore. No promise of remuneration for the public health workers who have been killed because some people now think of public health workers as synonymous with CIA agent. No remuneration for the children stricken with polio because their families don't trust public health workers anymore. No, not even an apology.

Oh, would you trust a promise from the CIA? If you would, I have this bridge here. Maybe you would like to buy my bridge. I'll sell it cheap.

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May 13, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE CIA'S WORST CRIME

The CIA has committed a lot of terrible crimes; but posing as public health workers, in an attempt to find Osama bin Laden has got to be the worst. Now, thanks to the CIA, people in Pakistan and elsewhere don't trust public health workers and the world is experiencing a resurgence of polio. Sadly there is no accountability. The only one to go to jail was the Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA.

War and Disease are intimately related as this short article by Paul Rogers documents.

800,000 YEARS IN 90 SECONDS

This powerful 90 second video of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 800,000 years is well worth watching.

INCHING CLOSER TO WORLD WAR III

The Ukraine is coming unglued at the seams, and Russia, the USA and NATO are in it up to their necks. Latest developments: Two provinces vote to break away from Kiev. Neo-Nazi militias, apparently with the blessings of the coup government in Kiev, trap separatists in buildings and burn them alive, twice.

In case you have forgotten: The Ukraine is home to 15 nuclear power plants with two more under construction, not to mention the Chernobyl sarcophagus that has caused an estimated million deaths and counting. The USA and Russia each have enough nuclear warheads to destroy the world many times over.

Is it really wise to continue this game of chicken? Sadly, it may be too late to rein in the chaos and violence. Obama and Putin, even if they talk and decide to negotiate a settlement, may no longer be able to control the forces that they have set in motion.

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May 6, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN'S LATEST LITTLE CHILD

Last week, I pointed out that Hans Christian Andersen's “The Emperor's New Clothes” is an oversimplification:

“[B]efore the little child come all the wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists who shout, ‘The Emperor's naked,’ but 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.”

Diane Ravitch, one of the “wingnuts, wackobirds and conspiracy theorists,” has been telling us all the horrors of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, and standardized testing for years. Now, along comes Andersen's latest little child, comedian Louis C.K. with 3.3 million followers on Twitter, all whispering, “But he hasn't got anything on.”

Here are some of Louis C.K.'s remarks on standardized testing:

“My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”

“[M]y favorite responses have been adults proudly announcing that they were able to solve these problems from a 3rd grade test.”

“I trust a teacher over Pearson [test publisher] or bill hates [Bill Gates] any day of the week.”

Louis C.K. exemplifies a famous aphorism of Mark Twain: “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Thank you Louis C.K. And I swear, I never heard of Louis C.K. until I read Diane Ravitch's article a few days ago.

DONNA HAWLEY ALL OVER AGAIN

Cecily McMillan, who was assaulted and grabbed by the breast by police officer Grantley Bovell as she was leaving Zuccotti Park in New York City was convicted of felony assault against that same police officer. Bovell's history of violent behavior was deemed irrelevant by the Court. McMillan's documented bruises, including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, were deemed suspect.

This is a favored tactic of our criminal injustice system, to accuse the victim of assaulting his/her assaulters.

This is what happened to Rolla's own Donna Hawley, who according to testimony at her trial was the assaulted, not the assaulter; yet she was subjected to four years of hell by our criminal injustice system, before finally being acquitted by a Texas County jury. (Let's hear it for Texas County! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!)

If Donna Hawley's ordeal is in any way unique, it is that she was acquitted. Most victims of our criminal injustice system are not so fortunate.

It is to Rolla's everlasting shame that Donna was abandoned by almost all her supporters. Only one Rollaite came and supported her at her trial.

Fortunately, Cecily McMillan is not being abandoned. In fact she is becoming a cause célèbre as people are beginning to push back against our criminal injustice system which holds incarcerated a whopping 2.2 million victims behind bars, by far the world's largest prison population.

Last week the criminal injustice system in Oklahoma tortured Clayton Lockett to death for 40 minutes in an “experimental” execution. I thought it was only Nazis who performed experiments to discover the most horrible and efficient ways of killing. Maybe I was right.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Our criminal injustice system is so compromised and corrupt that the only just solution is, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “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;”

UNCIVILIZATION

This article about Paul Kingsnorth from the New York Times magazine, although somewhat lengthy, is well worth the read.

Paul Kingsnorth is a former environmental activist who came to the conclusion that the game's over. No matter what we do, civilization is going to collapse, bigtime. Faced with this conclusion, Kingsnorth co-founded the Dark Mountain Project which holds an annual “Uncivilization Festival,” perhaps a space for artists and others like Kingsnorth to grieve the imminent passing of the world as we know it.

Last week, Kingsnorth and his wife made a long-planned move to rural Ireland, where they will be growing much of their own food and home schooling their children; yet he hasn't given up environmental activism altogether. He spent much of the past three years trying to stop a large supermarket from being built. “I’m increasingly attracted by the idea that there can be at least small pockets where life and character and beauty and meaning continue. If I could help protect one of those from destruction, maybe that would be enough. Maybe it would be more than most people do,” remarks Kingsnorth.

My comments:

Many years ago Mohandas Gandhi famously responded to a reporter who asked him what he thought of Western Civilization, “I think it would be a good idea.” So “Uncivilization” is not a new concept. It's what we have been living for centuries.

Like Kingsnorth and others such as Guy McPherson, I too believe that our global society (not civilization) will collapse. I've been asking a question for some time, and have received no serious answers, “Can you give me one reason why our society ought not to collapse?” Classic population dynamics. We are a species that has outstripped our environmental resources. As our numbers increase and our resources degrade, we fight over what's left, which further degrades our resources. Soon the population is decimated for lack of critical resources to sustain it. That's collapse.

I think we ought to be asking questions like, “How can we cushion the Fall?” and “What comes next?” These are not questions I've heard discussed seriously. My own opinion is that when our numbers are reduced to a few million in a degraded world, that remnant may have a chance to try again, and maybe do it right next time. But that's just my opinion. I base it on a belief in God and a belief in miracles. I have no logical underpinnings for this belief.

So I could be wrong. Maybe the technocrats will figure out how to keep the world as we know it going. Maybe the super-rich will finally come to their senses and stop fighting wars and hoarding the world's resources for themselves. Maybe George Orwell got it right in “1984.” Maybe Aldous Huxley got it right in “Brave New World.” Maybe humanity will evolve into a species that can learn to live in harmony with the Earth before it's too late. Or maybe the collapse will be complete, and lead to extinction. All of the above (except the last) I would deem highly unlikely.

So what am I doing? 32 years ago I moved to small college town in central Missouri. I figured my chances of long-term survival were probably at least as good here as anywhere else. I think I made a wise choice.

Now I could buy some land in rural Ireland, and like Kingnorth, grow my own food, homeschool my grandchildren and develop some survivalist skills. But that's not me and I don't think it would do any good. When society collapses, all those folks in the cities will be headed for such pristine rural enclaves. Better arm yourselves real well; but then you are part of the problem, not the solution, defending dwindling resources from a hoard of urban refugees. Personally, I think one could learn more survival skills for the future living on the edge of a toxic-waste dump than growing tomatoes in rural Ireland — just my opinion.

But I have no intention of moving. I suspect I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing right here and now. Writing, cartooning, trying to do something that might cushion the fall or help to make the world a little better. As I told you before: I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I keep coming back to these few lines from Sandy LeonVest: “I've long since accepted that being an activist and a writer, futile though it may be, is who I am. The ship may be going down, but like the orchestra on the Titanic, I keep playing.”

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April 29, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

In 1676 Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders of Giants.” (Actually, the metaphor goes back at least to Bernard de Chartres in the 12th Century, but in those days people weren't quite so concerned about primacy.)

Today the French economist Thomas Piketty is in the limelight for having proved that Capitalism cannot deliver on its promise of a good life for all. Well, I always thought that Karl Marx (a real Giant) proved this almost 150 years ago in Das Kapital. And if Karl Marx didn't demonstrate the failure of Capitalism then certainly the two world wars that followed did. And if that's not enough, during the decade following the self-destruction of the Soviet Union, the problems of war, militarism, environmental pollution and economic inequality all grew worse in a world totally dominated by a single capitalist super-power.

Basically, Capitalism postulates that if everyone acts as greedy as possible, Adam Smith's “invisible hand” (or middle finger) will guide us to a better world for all.

Now, I love fantasy. I read my kindergarten classes stories about talking tigers, a wishing stick that makes your wishes come out upside down if you hold it upside down, a blacksmith who traps the devil and all his demons in a tobacco pouch, etc. But none of the stories I read are nearly as fanciful as Adam Smith's invisible hand. To quote the big blue rabbit Plump in Tim Chadwick' Cabbage Moon “Grown-ups see what they want to see.”

One of my favorite fairy tales is Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes. It is easy to identify with the little child who blurts out, “But he hasn't got anything on.”

We have a lot of incarnations of Andersen's little child: Thomas Piketty, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden to mention a few. But I think Andersen's tale is an over-simplification. Everyone can see the Emperor is naked; but 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.

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April 22, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

OPEN SESAME

I've always felt that “intellectual property” was an oxymoron, sort of like “criminal justice” or “military intelligence.” Today seeds are considered intellectual property. Monsanto and other huge corporations make mega-profits and impoverish poor farmers by patenting seeds.

A group of horticulturists, scientists and seed activists have created an open seed initiative. Free seeds for all — and best of all any varieties derived from these seeds remain open-source forever. So far, there are 29 open source varieties of 14 different crops. (To my knowledge sesame is not one of the 14.)

OH SINNER MAN, WHERE YOU GONNA RUN TO?

In my youth I used to listen over and over again to The Weavers singing songs like
Sinner Man; but perhaps today we need some new verses. Here are a few suggestions:
Run to the Sea, Sea will be a Risin'
Sea levels have risen over 8 inches since 1880 but the rate of increase is accelerating due to melting glaciers and warming water temperatures. 10 percent of the world's population lives along a coast. they are threatened by rising sea levels and stronger storm surges.
Run to the Trees, Trees will be a Burnin'
Wildfires in the western United States have been increasing by 7 fires and 90,000 acres each year since 1984. California is set for the biggest wildfire season in history this summer.
Run to the Earth, Earth will be a Shakin'
Drilling for oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is causing a plethora of small to medium-sized earthquakes.
Run to the Fields, Fields will be a Thirstin'
The entire states of California, Arizona and Nevada and much of the western and southwestern United States are experiencing some level of drought. Almost 1/4 of California is experiencing the highest level of drought (exceptional). There is simply not enough water left to irrigate California's crop land.

That's just a start. Maybe you would like to write a verse or two of your own.

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April 15, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

GOING BACKWARDS

In a world that is heating up, humanity's output of greenhouse gases continues not only to increase, but to increase at ever faster rates, says a leaked report from the IPCC due to be released soon. Meanwhile, policy makers continue to avoid taking significant steps to curb our output of greenhouse gases. So expect more and worse droughts, floods, heatwaves, and hurricanes.

THE ARROGANCE OF STABILITY

Taking a long-term view, there is no such thing as stability. There is only chaos. Try as we might to bring stability to our world, our greatest efforts only serve to bring on chaos.

Robert Shetterly embodies this chaos in the Backward Dancing Man the trickster who “is perversely even handed, democratic, you might say. He dances backwards into everyone's good time, an equal opportunity disrupter, regardless of class or race or gender.”

When I drew my image for Thoughts on Evolution and the Duckbill Platypus, I cast myself as the Backward Dancing Man, sawing off humanity's limb on the Tree of Evolution, bringing myself along with Sarah Palin and the rest of humanity crashing down. Diana Beresford-Kroeger's “blind man in costume” (quoted in the image) who looks up as the branch breaks wondering if it is too late to learn to fly is another incarnation of the Backward Dancing Man.

In Africa, he is Anansi the Spider.

To many indigenous North American cultures, Coyote is the trickster. (See for example Betty Baker's “And Me, Coyote”). Interestingly, in spite of being hunted, trapped and poisoned, coyotes have increased their range and number in North America.

Shetterly writes, “Today I think of the backward dancing man as the climate. Freak storms, floods, droughts, species extinctions, links cut out of food chains, insect plagues, glaciers melting, water rising. The difference, though, is that we see it coming. In the old stories, the dancing man was invisible.”

Yes, we see him coming, yet we ignore the Backward Dancing Man who is already sowing chaos and destruction among us.

OUR SEARCH FOR STABILITY

Last week, three incumbents were reelected to the Rolla School Board. The voters rejected one, well-qualified outsider who might have shook things up a little bit in our school district.

Two years ago I ran for School Board in opposition to high-stakes standardized testing, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. I finished dead last with 8% of the vote.

Today, comes more evidence that high-stakes standardized testing has been and will continue to be a disaster for our public schools. Progressive schools districts, teachers, parents and students all over this nation are standing up in opposition to these tests. Perhaps someday Rolla will get on board too.

Me, I continue to volunteer is our schools. I don't give tests and I don't give grades. I do what I feel is important — I help young children to learn and enjoy reading. I have read two Anansi the Spider stories to my kindergarten classes this year. Next week perhaps I'll read them “And Me, Coyote.” It's important for young children to learn about the trickster who sows chaos among those who search for stability. Maybe I can find a children's story on the Backward Dancing Man. I'm looking.

April 8, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

ART AND WAR

Last week I wrote a short paragraph describing as best I could our 23 year long war against Iraq. It fell way short of the mark. Now here is a review by “the master,” Chris Hedges, of Jonathan Wright's translation of Hassan Blasim's “The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq”. Warning! The review is very graphic and not to be read by one with a weak stomach. Although fiction, I suspect Blasim paints a far more realistic picture of what we have done to Iraq than any work of non-fiction could. But that is what Art is all about — creating something that is more real than Real.

MORE ART AND WAR

Painted on the ground in a heavily bombed region of Pakistan is an image of a young girl who lost her parents and siblings to a drone attack. She is staring up at the sky saying, “These are not bugs. Not ground kills. Not video images. Not abstractions. Not terrorists. They're us, and too often we're kids.” Is it any wonder that so many of our troops become deranged over what they have done?

I am not an artist, but I do the best I can. Sometimes I think the only way I maintain even a semblance of sanity in this insane world is through writing and cartooning.

TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES

After 25 years in prison, Jonathan Fleming, who was 1000 miles away from the murder he didn't commit, is free, one of the many wrongly convicted by our system of criminal injustice. The prosecution knew that he was innocent; but suppressed the evidence and got him convicted anyway. Fleming is Black (in case you wondered).

How many of the 2.2 million people in jails and prisons throughout the United States have been wrongly convicted or received sentences far out of proportion to any crime they might have committed? I'll echo what I wrote last week in reference to Shanesha Taylor: Our criminal justice system is so corrupt and compromised that I see no just solution except “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;”

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April 1, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

ARMED AND DISEMPOWERED

Robert C. Koehler hit the nail and the head when he wrote in Monsters in our Midst: “it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and that is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.” We are armed to the teeth. We spend over 40% of the worlds military budget, but even with 49 allies, can't win a war against small impoverished Afghanistan. We citizens of the United States own 300 million guns, and live in constant fear of out neighbors. Robert Koehler at his best. Don't miss it!

CHUTZPAH AWARD OF THE CENTURY

Barack Obama wins the Chutzpah Award of the 21st Century (so far) with his statement that [unlike Russia in the Crimea] “even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.”

A more honest evaluation might read: 23 years ago the United States of America and its allies destroyed Iraqi water purification, sewage disposal and electric power infrastructure in defiance of international law. It then imposed 12 years of the most comprehensive sanctions ever imposed on a nation preventing the rebuilding of civilian infrastructure and causing the death of well over 1/2 million Iraqi children under the age of five. When this failed to bring Iraq to its knees, the United States invaded Iraq on the pretext that they possessed weapons of mass destruction, without a UN mandate and in spite of anti-war demonstrations by an unprecedented 10 to 15 million people worldwide. Through eight years of occupation, the United States destroyed the social fabric of Iraqi society and sowed destruction causing the death of an estimated one million people and leaving four times that many homeless. Finally after eight years, the United States declared victory and went home leaving the country in chaos.

Now what did Russia do in the Crimea that can even holds a candle to this?

WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT

Shanesha Taylor is just one of an army of homeless mothers. Shanesha had a job interview, but being broke and homeless had no place to leave her children; so she left them in her car with the windows cracked. 45 minutes later she was arrested, charged with felonious child abuse, and her kids placed in state custody.

What can be worse than leaving young children alone in a car? Well, maybe raping your own small children — like DuPont heir Robert Richards IV, who raped his three year old daughter and molested his infant son. Richards got a real stiff sentence: probation and treatment. The case only came to light when the mother of the children sued Richards.

Yup, we gotta revise the Pledge of Allegiance. “With liberty and justice for all those who can afford it.”

As I have said before: Our criminal justice system is so corrupt and compromised that I see no just solution except “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;”

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March 25, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT 2014

In case you didn't notice, Nuclear Security Summit 2014 has come and gone. 53 world leaders vowed to take steps to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of “terrorists.” No mention of taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of the terrorists who now control them; or of preventing them from “modernizing” their huge nuclear arsenals; or making them adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which required them to start working toward nuclear disarmament 43 years ago; or of the standoff in the Ukraine over which Russian Federation president Putin has threatened to pull out of the START treaty.

A quick internet search, yields practically nothing. It appears to have been a non-event. Hope you all feel a lot safer now. Can't say that I do.

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March 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

NAO ROZ MUBARAK (HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR)

In Afghanistan the New Year is celebrated on the first day of Spring, Friday March 21. (This makes far more sense to me than celebrating the New Year 10 days after the winter solstice.) Nao Roz is also celebrated in Iran and throughout much of Central Asia. Pray that this year will bring Peace to Afghanistan and the rest of the world.

This week I began reading William Dalrymple's Return of a King: A history of the ill-fated 1839 British invasion of Afghanistan. Of the nearly 20,000 British troops, only one returned alive. One chapter into the book, I feel I might have a glimmer of understanding how the Afghans could defeat a coalition of 50 nations and the mightiest army the world has ever seen. The arrogance and stupidity of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal in invading Afghanistan and of Obama in not immediately extricating himself are self-evident. Afghans are incredible people. We could learn so much from them.

CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY

Citizens Climate Lobby is looking to have a presence in all 435 congressional districts. So far they lack a presence in Missouri's 8th District. Anyone interested in organizing a branch of CCL should contact Carol Braford in St. Louis.

VOTE YES ON PROP. A: ROLLA'S PARKS AND RECREATION TAX

Please consider going to the polls on Tuesday, April 8 and voting

       YES on Proposition A, Rolla's Parks and Recreation Tax.

If we insist on denying our children and grandchildren a reasonable future by fighting wars and changing our climate through the continued burning of fossil fuels, the least we can do is give our children some reasonable recreational opportunities in the present.

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March 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: WORLD WAR I AND THE UKRAINE

In response to the following comment in last week's newsletter:

“Remember World War I? It started with the assassination of a no-account archduke in Sarajevo. Soon Europe and much of the world was plunged into four years of bitter warfare. Think World War III could start similarly in the Ukraine? I don't doubt it.”

A reader writes:

“I'm not sure I'd call the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne a ‘no-account archduke’. If you want some real insight into WWI, read Christopher Clark's ‘The Sleepwalkers’”

My response:

I've never felt that royalty, or heads of the so-called “democratic” states for that matter, count for much. I looked at the reviews of “The Sleepwalkers;” and yes, it looks like a worthwhile book. But let's continue with the analogy between the days preceding the outbreak of World War I and the current standoff in the Ukraine:

Robert Freeman claims that World War I, like the current standoff in the Ukraine, was all about controlling the world's oil resources. I hardly doubt it. But Freeman seems to miss the irony of it. The use of fossil fuels is warming the Earth making it less hospitable for humanity and will likely bring about the collapse of modern “civilization.” So the “Great Game” is all about control of that which will end up destroying us. Sound familiar to all you Tolkien fans?

Hillary Clinton is another “no-account heir apparent.” She shows off her ignorance of history comparing “Vlad the Bad” to Hitler over his role in the Ukraine. Actually, Putin's role in the Ukraine is far more analogous to Stalin's role in Poland in 1939; which makes the role of the NATO countries in The Ukraine similar to Hitler's, especially considering that the post-putsch Ukrainian government is riddled with neo-Nazis.

And, oh yes, Putin has threatened to pull out of what little remains of our nuclear arms control agreement with Russia. We may not have to wait for global warming to get us. Where are Kennedy and Khrushchev when we need them?

Finally, one must be extremely careful in drawing analogies between the past and present. As Stephen Kinzer put it, “History does not repeat itself, but it delights in patterns and symmetries.”

CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY

Citizens Climate Lobby is looking to have a presence in all 435 congressional districts. So far they lack a presence in Missouri's 8th District. Anyone interested in organizing a branch of CCL should contact Carol Braford in St. Louis.

VOTE YES ON PROP. A: ROLLA'S PARKS AND RECREATION TAX

Please consider going to the polls on Tuesday, April 8 and voting

       YES on Proposition A, Rolla's Parks and Recreation Tax.

If we insist on denying our children and grandchildren a reasonable future by fighting wars and changing our climate through the continued burning of fossil fuels, the least we can do is give our children some reasonable recreational opportunities in the present.

THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER

Three years ago today an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex spewing deadly radiation around the world. Fukushima is a sword of Damocles hanging over all of humanity, leaking radiation into the ocean, the groundwater and the air; contaminating the food supply; and threatening unimaginable further disasters.

On the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, tens of thousands rally in Japan demanding that all of Japan's nuclear reactors remain shut down — PERMANENTLY.

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March 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

A MEMORABLE EVENT

We are now well into our eighth year of weekly vigils for peace in front of the Rolla Post Office. Every once in a while something memorable that will stick with me for the rest of my life happens. Last Thursday a man who appeared to be about my age looked at my placard which said “Support The Troops Bring Them Home,” shook his head and asked, “Where were you when I was in Vietnam?” I explained that I was carrying a sign with a similar message in a different location. He shook his head again and sighed, “Well, at least you tried.”

Incidents like this make me realize how important our weekly vigils are and how important it is that we keep them going. Please consider joining us: Noon to 1 pm every Thursday.

Many other locations also have similar vigils for peace. Here's an article by Dud Hendrick from Deer Island, Maine Veterans for Peace discussing their weekly vigils for peace.

EVEN PUPPETS PULL STRINGS

In the wake of president Karzai's refusal to sign an agreement extending the US occupation of Afghanistan, Obama has asked the military to prepare plans for the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the Zero Option. That doesn't mean Obama will necessarily “Declare victory and get out.” But it's a step in the right direction. It's what we have been asking for all along. “Support the troops; bring them home!”

AGAINST THE ASSAULT OF LAUGHTER

Missouri's greatest humorist, Mark Twain, once famously remarked, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” How true. AIPAC couldn't stand this satirical depiction of their annual conference and banned it from the internet, threatening Codepink with legal action. But here it is, thanks to Common Dreams.

Meanwhile, in violation of international law, Israel continues to build Jewish only settlements on Palestinian land, and at an ever increasing rate.

UNDER WATER IN A DECADE

Marissa Alexander who was awarded a new trial after receiving a 20 year sentence for firing a shot into the wall to scare away an abusive husband, now faces 60 years in prison.

Florida's quite a state. Murderers like George Zimmerman walk free, and abused women like Marissa Alexander get long prison sentences. Feel free to contribute to Marissa's legal defense.

According to Ultraviolet, when it comes to the War Against Women, the State of Florida is Numero Uno! They are campaigning to get people to take their vacations elsewhere. They don't need to convince me.

But I've been thinking... Now I'm an optimist and I like to look on the bright side of things; so consider: Some climate scientists believe that much of Florida will be under water within a decade. Now that's optimism!

I CRANE, UKRAINE, THE WHOLE WORLD'S GONE INSANE

Remember World War I? It started with the assassination of a no-account archduke in Sarajevo. Soon Europe and much of the world was plunged into four years of bitter warfare. Think World War III could start similarly in the Ukraine? I don't doubt it.

Russia has oft been invaded by Western Europe: Napoleon, the post World War I allied intervention, the Nazis... Well Russia has had a bad two decades, and Western Europe is still chomping at it's borders. But Russia's back; and the United States is severely weakened by its unsuccessful military adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia. When you hear about a “Russian invasion,” remember Iraq and Afghanistan. When you hear about Ukrainian freedom, think about a neutral demilitarized Ukraine instead of a nation beholden to NATO and the West. When you hear the hawks crying war and sanctions, remember, Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at the United States and Western Europe. Pretty picture?

Here's an article that tries to make some sense of what's going on in the Ukraine. An important read!

And the runner-up quote of the month from an article on the Ukraine by Will Bunch: “So who are the ‘good guys’? There may not be any.”

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February 25, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

PAY NOW ... OR PAY LATER

“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.” —Arhuaco

The title of this snippet is from an ad for Fram auto filters from my youth. A mechanic points out that a few dollars for a new oil filter could have saved hundreds (today thousands) for a new engine. The add ends with the mechanic saying “You can pay me now ... or pay me later.”

The Arhuaco are indigenous inhabitants of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. When I read the opening quote in Robert Koehler's recent article, Walk Softly. This Is Earth. We Have Much Still to Learn, I had a flashback to the Fram ads of my youth.

Payment! Yes! There is no such thing as a free lunch. We must pay for disturbing the balance of things. And indeed, everything we do disturbs a precarious balance. Living in harmony isn't a lack of making a disturbance; it's making payment for the disturbances you make and not making disturbances that you can't afford to pay for. Make small payments regularly or make a large payment later or eventually go into bankruptcy and foreclosure. I think that is where we are now. As a race, we have gone bankrupt and Nature is about to foreclose.

History and prehistory are full of examples of societies that didn't learn to make payment; and in the end faced bankruptcy and foreclosure. Jared Diamond in his book, “Collapse,” discusses a few, like the Anasazi and the Easter Islanders. Our modern global society is famous for disturbing the balance of things. It's also famous for its refusal to make payment. We have a huge debt. Pay now ... or pay later.

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February 18, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CHUTZPAH

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning shameless audacity and extreme arrogance. Here are a few examples from this week's news:
A good walk spoiled
President Obama visited drought stricken California, played golf on California's water-guzzling golf courses which claim 17% of Coachella Valley's dwindling water resources, and called for shared sacrifice in the face of California's megadrought.

Hmmm, shared sacrifice, good idea. For starters close down all the golf courses in drought-stricken water-poor regions. Let the billionaires take nature walks instead and learn to appreciate the environment that they can't wait to destroy. They could also benefit from reading Mark Twain who famously remarked, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Since I reported on the California megadrought last month, California has received some much needed February rain, but far less than what is necessary to make up the deficit.
Good fracking pizza
After destroying a part of Bobtown, Pennsylvania with an out-of-control fire in one of its fracking wells, Chevron claims to be a “responsible member” of the Bobtown community and offers the residents a free pizza.
Boy, what a boycott
Binyamin Netanyahu, who as Israeli prime minister, holds responsibility for the world's largest open air prison where 1.6 million Gazans, (about half being children) are blockaded and forced to live under conditions reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto, claims, “the most disgraceful thing is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews” and that boycotters are “classical anti-Semites in modern garb”.

Next to “terrorist,” “antisemite” is probably the most misused word in the English language.

Lots more chutzpah in the news. Feel free to send in your favorite example.

JUST WHAT WE NEED: YET ANOTHER NEW WEAPON

The US Navy will be testing its new toy this year — a brand new laser gun — cheap compared to missiles.

The Navy claims, “The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords.” No one seems to ask whether the world really needs a new generation of revolutionary weapons. The Navy claims cost savings. I doubt it. How about peace instead? Now there's cost savings you can count on.

The problem with technology is that it proliferates. Sooner or later everyone gets one; then we'll have to develop newer more revolutionary weapons. This puts us in an arms race with ourselves. Ever wonder why we need a military budget almost equal to the rest of the world? Ever wonder why our civilian infrastructure is in shambles?

THE DAY WE FOUGHT BACK AGAINST MASS SURVEILLANCE

Here are the results of last Tuesday's Day We Fought Back: over 1/2 million emails to Congress, over 89,000 telephone calls. Thanks to all who participated; and if you didn't, it's never too late to contact your elected officials and demand an end to the NSA and the Surveillance State.

For those of you in Missouri's 8th District: Jason Smith 202-225-4404; Roy Blunt 202-224-5721; Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154; Barack Obama 202-456-1111. I reminded the person answering the phone that her phone is being spooked too and the private phone of the official she represents also.

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February 11, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE NSA

Today, Tuesday Feb. 11, is The Day We Fight Back against the National Security Agency. Here are some facts about the NSA from Roots Action:

FACT: A federal judge called the NSA's mass surveillance program “Orwellian” and ruled the activities were likely unconstitutional.

FACT: President Obama's own hand-picked review board criticized the NSA's spying program and found no evidence it stopped a single terrorist act.

FACT: The NSA is even sending spies into online video game worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft.

FACT: The NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data in March 2013 alone, including 3 billion from US computers.

FACT: The NSA has built a surveillance network that has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic.

FACT: The NSA collects data on people’s porn usage habits.

FACT: The NSA can exploit mobile apps — even games like Angry Birds — to extract key personal information about users.

FACT: The NSA collects on the order of 5 BILLION phone records each day.

FACT: The NSA is regularly tracking the locations of hundreds of millions of cell phones.

FACT: Members of Senate Intelligence committee says there’s NO EVIDENCE bulk data collection has made Americans safer.

FACT: Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress by saying the NSA does “not wittingly” collect info on millions of Americans.

FACT: The NSA is so out of control that the author of the Patriot Act is the sponsor of the leading bill to rein it in.

As my contribution to The Day We Fight Back, I've photoshopped a cartoon in honor of George Orwell.

Incidentally, the USA is not the only Orwellian country in the world. Surprise? Eric Margolis discusses how Russian electronic surveillance caught Victoria Nuland in Kiev with her pants down.

Incidentally, as much as I admire George Orwell, I think he missed an important point. A surveillance state is unsustainable, as our spooks found out 40 years ago, the Russians found out 20 years ago, and we are finding out again now.

So visit The Day We Fight Back. Call your president, representative and senators and tell them to dismantle the surveillance state. For those of you in Missouri's 8th District: Jason Smith 202-225-4404; Roy Blunt 202-224-5721; Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154; Barack Obama 202-456-1111. I reminded the person answering the phone that her phone is being spooked too and the private phone of the official she represents also. If you didn't call today, it's never too late to call your elected representatives.

THREE CHEERS FOR TUNISIA!!!!

Tunisia, where Arab Spring began 3 years ago, has a new Constitution. It provides for gender equality, protects the nation's natural resources, establishes health care as a human Right, and demands the government take steps to fight corruption. Maybe they would let us borrow their Constitution. It's been over a decade since we've used ours.

DEATH BY UNRELIABLE METADATA

First Look publishes its first investigative report. Glenn Gleenwald and Jeremy Scahill team up to look at how the NSA partners with the CIA and JSOC to spread “death by unreliable metadata” around the world.

TWO ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS IN ONE DAY

Following the maxim, “get it out of the ground before they shut us down,” today witnessed a massive fracking fire in Pennsylvania and a toxic coal-slurry spill in West Virginia. Yup! “Get it out of the ground before they shut us down.” That's the motto of the fossil-fuel industry.

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February 4, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

US PUBLIC, PARTICULARLY REPUBLICANS, FINALLY GETTING IT ON PERPETUAL WAR

According to a January 2014 Pew Research poll, a majority of us, 52%, believe that we have “mostly failed” to achieve our goals in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The increase has been particularly marked among Republicans.

In addition, 50% say the decision to us military force in Iraq was wrong. Only 41% agree that the decision to use military force in Afghanistan was wrong, but that number has increased to the highest level to date.

Note that these are different questions than the ones asked in the poll I reported on in December that found that 82% OPPOSE the war in Afghanistan.

The bottom line: More and more people are rejecting the failed concept of maintaining a world-wide empire throught perpetual war.

US PUBLIC FAILS TO GET IT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

In spite of increasing climate disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the summer 2012 mega-drought, the great 2013 Colorado flood, and California's worst drought in recorded history, climate change deniers increase in number. According to a Yale / George Mason poll, only 47% believe global warming is caused by human activity (down 7% from 2012) (Findings summarized here by Mother Jones).

Tom Engelhardt tries to interpret these figures in the light of human history. My feelings are that most of us know we are headed for catastrophic collapse; but refuse to face it.

Here's a simple question: Why have we been witnessing so many catastrophic fossil fuel and chemical spills of late? The latest being this weekend at a Duke Energy coal plant in North Carolina.

My answer: Since they know we're all going down big time, why should they worry about it? Just get it out of the ground and onto the market as quickly as possible before our "civilization" collapses (or alternatively, before governments apply stringent regulations to the fossil fuel industry, which is far less likely in my opinion). So what if they hasten collapse? So what if their grandchildren die horrible deaths like most of the rest of us? Let's make all the money we can before it happens. A fitting end to Capitalism and perhaps the human race.

I've done two recent cartoons on catastrophic collapse: World's Greatest Dinosaur Museum and Nature Bats Last. Check them out.

SOME PEOPLE GET IT ON KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

Around 8,000 people participated yesterday in 275 different actions against the northern leg of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring toxic Canadian tarsands crude to the Gulf of Mexico.

SAVE THE OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS

The National Park Service has prepared a draft management plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Current, Jack's Fork and Big Springs). They offer three alternatives and are accepting comments from the public through Friday Feb. 7. ALTERNATIVE A provides the maximum protection for these national treasures. They need to hear from you by Friday.

The Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club provides some background material.

The Draft Management Plan can be read here.

Comments to the National Park Service can be submitted online here.

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January 28, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

OHIO REINVENTS THE GAS CHAMBER

In spite of expert testimony that the proposed experimental cocktail of drugs would cause Dennis McGuire to die in “agony and horror”, the State of Ohio went ahead with McGuire's execution. According to an eyewitness report, McGuire spent 26 minutes gasping for breath before finally succumbing.

Zyklon B, the gas used in the Nazi extermination camps, also causes death by suffocation, but purportedly in far less than 26 minutes. We live in a society obsessed with pain and punishment. For those we choose to punish, no torture is too horrible; no death too prolonged.

AFGHANISTAN TO RELEASE 37 PRISONERS

While the US continues to hold 155 prisoners in Guantanamo under torturous conditions, Afghanistan, much to the displeasure of its foreign occupiers, is releasing from Bagram, often called “The Other Guantanamo,” 37 prisoners for which there is “no incriminating evidence”. Afghanistan's military occupiers call this “a major step backward in further developing the rule of law in Afghanistan”. You gotta hand it to the US occupying forces. They sure do have a sense of humor.

DRIEST YEAR IN CALIFORNIA'S RECORDED HISTORY

For much of the United States, the great drought of 2012 is over; but out in California, it just gets worse. The California drought is now the worst in recorded history and shows no sign of letting up. In fact, like global warming, it appears to be feeding on itself. In spite of all this, California seems to have its share of global-warming deniers.

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January 21, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS TERRORISTS

I haven't written much on the NSA and mass spying since my Edward Snowden cartoon; but after reading Ten NSA Myths Debunked by Peter van Buren (the whistleblower who exposed our Potemkin Chicken Factory in Iraq), I knew I had to at least give you the link. Van Buren debunks these ten myths point by point. Anyone who believes there is a nanogram of legitimacy at the NSA ought to READ THIS ARTICLE, carefully and thoroughly.

My response when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA was: Why is this such a revelation? Of course they spy on us. They always have and, as long as we continue to allow it, they always will. And of course they blackmail and threaten us with their ill-gotten data. They always have and, as long as we continue to allow it, they always will. And whatever we allow them to do to others (You know, the “bad guys”: for most of my life, communists; but 20 years ago they suddenly morphed into terrorists.) they will surely do to us too. Keep this in mind anytime you hear nonsense about keeping us safe from terrorists.

Well, sure, terrorists are everywhere; but mostly in high positions in Washington DC. One sentence in van Buren's article needs correcting: “9/11 was a one-off, an aberration, so unique that its ‘success’ stunned even Osama bin Laden.” I don't think 9/11 was at all unique. Planting bombs (remember those anthrax-laced letters that followed on 9/11's heels), provoking others to do so (don't forget the Tsarnaev brothers) and murdering people in their beds (drone attacks) have always been among their favorite dirty little tricks. They still are. If you don't believe that these people have no moral scruples whatsoever and will resort to any act of terrorism, read the Cointelpro Papers. Oh, and as always, their favorite targets are still practitioners of non-violent civil-disobedience — folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who comprise the most dangerous threat to the established order.

Much is being made of Edward Snowden; but lets not forget the heroes that came before him: Julian Assange, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, John Kiriakou and above all, Tim DeChristopher — people who at great risk refused to be silenced.

Once the cat is out of the bag; it's impossible to stuff the cat back in. People are catching on; and once people catch on, you can't run a racket anymore. You can kill the messenger; but you can't kill the message.

And what am I going to do? Keep on vigiling, writing, cartooning, suing... Just a little pin prick you say; but thousands and thousands of little pin pricks together can make a giant wound that will at least disable the monster. After all, what can they do to me? Kill me. Torture me. Steal all that I own. Expose all the dirty little skeletons in my closet. And for what? When I can no longer fight, there will be others.

I LOVE TREES

A new study shows that old growth trees are far more important in sequestering carbon than previously thought. Says co-author Adrian Das: “It is as if the star players on your favorite sports team were a bunch of 90-year-olds.” Those of you who helped to save the 150-year-old trees in Buehler Park, give yourself a pat on the back.

Meanwhile, Palestinians who seek to replant some of the million trees which Israel has destroyed, come under Israeli fire with tear-gas and live ammunition.

WHAT'S NEW IN AFGHANISTAN?

Child malnutrition, hunger and starvation continue to worsen in Afghanistan.

US Marines shoot and kill four-year-old; blame “poor visibility”.

Seven children die in US airstrike.

21 foreigners die in Taliban raid. (See previous three paragraphs in case you wonder why.)

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January 14, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

SAVAGERY AND SILENCE

Writing about a particularly brutal gang-rape of a teenager in Richmond, California in 2009, Sandy LeonVest remarked, “In America -- in my country -- I fear we are losing the battle for our humanity. Some say we have already lost it. Deep down I think they may be right.”

LeonVest writes well; but this article is particularly important. Every now and then I reread it, particularly when I write about rape and dehumanization.

In Maryville, Missouri, the case of the rape of Daisy Coleman is now closed. Matthew Barnett, high-school football star from a well-connected political family and grandson of a former state representative, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment after raping then 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, and leaving her lying drunk on her front lawn in sub-zero weather. Barnett (17 at the time) admits to having sex with Coleman; but claims it was consensual. The special prosecutor has accepted a guilty plea on one count of misdemeanor child endangerment and has closed the case.

Ok. At 14, Coleman was at the age of consent? After having sex with her, leaving Coleman outside drunk in freezing weather is a misdemeanor? What about the photos of Coleman being raped that were passed around the school? What of the internet harassment? What of the Coleman family being driven out of Maryville? What of the Coleman home mysteriously burning down?

Had Daisy Coleman remained silent; had this case not gone viral on the internet and been taken up by advocacy groups, such as Ultraviolet; it would have been forgotten long ago. No charges at all would have been brought against Barnett. Coleman, along with so many other victims of our culture of “savagery and silence,” would have been forgotten.

Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.

Hang in their Daisy! You are an inspiration to us all. Don't let their savagery silence you.

Please consider signing a card for Daisy.

MORE SAVAGERY AND SILENCE

Abby Zimet writes, “Astonishingly, infuriatingly, two former Fullerton, California cops have been acquitted on all charges after savagely beating to death Kelly Thomas, 37, a mentally ill homeless man who died five days after being set upon by Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli and four other officers.”

I can agree with “infuriatingly,” but not with “astonishingly.” “Savagery and Silence” has become so prevalent in our culture that I doubt that it could ever astonish me again. A big part of the picture is that there is Zero accountability. If “law enforcement” was held accountable for it's savagery; their would be a whole lot less of it.

If you have a strong stomach, watch the video of Fullerton's finest beating and tasering an unarmed man to death as he screams for help.

Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.

STILL MORE SAVAGERY AND SILENCE

And of course we continue to kill brides and grooms and wedding guests in far off places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

We send missiles and drones to the Maliki regime in Iraq; which will likely be used to destroy the city of Fallujah which we already destroyed twice in 2004 with depleted uranium and white phosphorus, sending the prevalence of cancers and birth defects sky high.

We still finance with weapons and money Israel's blockade on Gaza where 1.6 million people are held in the world's largest open-air prison in horrendous conditions.

And we continue to hold 155 prisoners in torturous conditions in Guantanamo, most without any charge of wrongdoing.

And much more.

Yes, I too “fear we are losing the battle for our humanity.” Deep down, I think we may have already lost it.

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January 7, 2014 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

2013 CLIMATE HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS

Tcktcktck has put together two short articles of climate highlights and lowlights. The highlights are that people are coming together and opposing the corporations and governments responsible for global warming and even some government and corporate entities are coming abord. The lowlights are that increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mean global temperatures, and extreme weather events continue.

2013 WAR AND PEACE HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS

I haven't seen anyone put an article like this together, so I'll take a stab at it. Highlights are that peaceful people prevented a war against Syria, forced the Western powers to negotiate with Iran, and quite possibly demonstrated to Karzai that the best course of action would be to stand up to the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Lowlights are that the bloated US military budget continues into FY2014 unabated and a majority in the United States still support drone strikes. What did I miss? Write in and let me know.

INVASION OF THE POLAR VORTEX

Phelps County is still digging out from the invasion of the polar vortex which plunged temperatures into the negative. Rolla schools are still closed. Even my grandson is wondering when the schools will reopen.

Predictably, the global warming deniers and the fossil-fuel-industry lackeys are saying that this disproves global warming. Not so. While we have been freezing, Australia has been baking in far-above-normal temperatures. Well, NOAA predicts temperatures in Rolla will be back to about normal. Australia might not be so lucky. 2013 was the hottest year ever in Australia; and the heat continues into 2014 without a let-up.

If you want to read about the polar vortex and our recent cold weather, check out the weather underground.

I've lived in the Rolla Area for 32 years. I can remember ice that stayed on the ground for almost a month, weather as cold as negative 20 that lasted for a week and a freak late-March snowstorm that dumped 23 inches of snow on the Rolla area. Don't confuse weather with climate. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

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December 31, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WAR AGAINST AFGHANISTAN IS MOST UNPOPULAR WAR IN US HISTORY

According to an end-of-year CNN/ORC poll, support in the US for the War against Afghanistan has tanked to 17%, with 82% saying they oppose the War. This makes Afghanistan not only the longest war in US history (over 12 years); but also the most unpopular.

CNN's findings seem to pretty closely mirror opinions among those who drive past our weekly peace vigils, although I would guess at least 90% oppose the War.

As one of the few who opposed the War against Afghanistan from before it began and declared publicly (to derisive cries of traitor) that it would be a disaster for the United States, I wonder why CNN and the New York Times aren't asking me for interviews and requesting op-eds. Oh, well; I'd rather write for the Rolla Peace Newsletter anyway.

TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES

The last three Uighur inmates at Guantanamo have been freed and transferred to Slovakia. (Vive Slovakia!!!!) Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper and Saidullah Khalik have been held in Guantanamo and subjected to “torturous interrogation” for twelve years without being charged with a single crime. Guantanamo still boasts 155 inmates, most having never been charged with anything. US prisons lead the world with 2.24 million captives, about half being held for non-violent victimless crimes.

It is past time to put into practice Isaiah's famous prophecy:
“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 (KJV)
MILITARY ROLLING IN $$$$

While we are all being asked to tighten our belts some more, (with those of us with the least, having to tighten the most) the military is being lavished with an extra $30 billion. As unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, the military gets a whopping $607 billion in Fiscal 2014.

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December 24, 2013 (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 six years ago. It bears repeating every year, especially this year which is the 99th anniversary of the 1914 World War I 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.

EVOLUTION, MONOTREMES, CATS AND SARAH PALIN

If you like evolution, monotremes, cats or Sarah Palin you might like this cartoon and the two monotreme poems posted with it.

YET ANOTHER DUMB WAR; YET ANOTHER DUMB DRONE STRIKE

While we were all so busy preparing for our yearly Christmas orgy, Barack Obama launched yet another war on an impoverished nation; and yet another deadly drone strike on a wedding party. Merry Christmas one and all!

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December 17, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DAHR JAMAIL CONSIDERS EXTINCTION

Unlike those folks who work for the New York Times and the Washington Post (not to mention the Rolla Daily News), Dahr Jamail is a REAL REPORTER. Back in 2004, Jamail was the only westerner reporting from the ground as the US military totally destroyed the Iraqi city of Fallujah, twice.

Jamail turns his attention to climate change and the possibility (no, make that the probability) (no, make that the near certainty) of near human extinction on the planet Earth over a very short period of time. Jamail interviews the “outliers” like Guy McPherson, climate scientists who are saying that we are headed for nothing less than a mass die-off similar to the Permian Extinction, where an estimated 95% of all species went belly-up; and there is really very little chance, if any, of avoiding it.

This is kind of what I've been saying for over ten years; so it's nice to find someone of Jamail's stature reporting on climate induced extinction and coming to about the same conclusions I did. Jamail ends his article wondering:

I am 45 years old, and I often wonder how my generation will survive the impending climate crisis. ... Above all, I wonder how coming generations will survive.

Me? I don't wonder any more. I try to spend as much time as I can with young children. It doesn't make up for the world that my generation has stolen from them. But, perhaps I can teach some young child a skill that will help the child to survive the mass-extinction event that is already on its way.

Jamail's article is somewhat long; but READ IT ANYWAY!

SUPPORTING THE TROOPS

Apparently, back in March 2011, when the great earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear complex, some folks forgot to support the sailors aboard the USS Reagan. Unknown to the crew of the Reagan, they drank, cooked with and bathed in radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear complex for a month before they were finally informed of the danger. Dozens of crew members have been diagnosed with leukemia, testicular and thyroid cancer.

Among those who didn't support the troops are our friends at Missouri S&T who held a public forum two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami to inform the public that there was no real danger from Fukushima and the authorities had everything under control.

AND A LITTLE GOOD NEWS!

Sorry to write all this depressing stuff so soon before Christmas. Anyway, here are two pieces of good news; little to be sure, but it's the little things that count. Remember that when Jesus was born, he was a little baby lying in a manger, warmed by the ox and the ass and other barnyard animals:

Due to international protest, Israel's Prawer Plan to displace tens of thousands of Israeli bedouins from the Negev has been nixed, at least for now.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, often referred to as NAFTA on steroids, which would give corporations the right to sue local governments if they tried to protect public health and the environment is also on hold, due to international revulsion.

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December 10, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WHAT'S IN A TEST?

Diane Ravitch has a lot to say about education and I love reading her articles. Ravitch was a major inspiration for my “No Child's Left Behind” cartoons: here and here. In her latest, What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores, Ravitch discusses our poor showing on International Tests and explains why it does not matter. She points out that the performance of the USA on International Tests have always been poor to middlin'; and if the USA's continued poor performance in these tests shows anything, it is the total failure of 12 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes testing to accomplish anything, even their primary goal of raising our children's test scores.

Here's a personal observation:

When I was in primary and secondary school, we just assumed that the US system of education was the best in the world. Why? Because all our parents and teachers said so. Then in 1957 came sputnik and all of a sudden the Russians had beaten us at putting a satellite in orbit, and our whole world view came crashing down. I don't recall much in the way of finger-pointing or blaming it on teachers or parents or schools or talk of school vouchers or high-stakes testing or privatizing public education. Instead, we pulled together, put massive resources into mathematics and science education. It turned out we weren't really so far behind the Russians and soon caught up and surpassed them in space exploration.

Compare this response to our response to the current so-called crisis in education. I'm not sure there was a problem in the first place; but through finger pointing, high-stakes testing and privatization, we've sure created a massive problem. Solving it will be up to us. If we wait on the government and the “experts”, the problem will only get worse.

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December 3, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

OUR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOCIETY
WAR HAS COME HOME
Trivializing Peace by Robert Koehler, built around the killing of a 13-year-old boy holding a toy gun by a deputy sheriff in Sonoma County, California, is a MUST READ. Ron David in “Arabs & Israel for Beginners” noted, “One of the dirty little ironies of war is that it matters less who wins the war than where it was fought.

Well, there's the problem with the global war on terror. It's not just fought over there. It's fought here, there and everywhere. Incidents like this have become all too common. Nobody wins.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, AFGHANISTAN!
While many of us enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings, another US drone strike in Afghanistan killed another child. Happy Thanksgiving, Afghanistan!
WALMART: NO GOOD SAMARITANS WELCOME
The parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is certainly a Christmas favorite; but not at Walmart. Walmart's policy is don't get involved, call security; and they enforce it! Walmart employee, Kristopher Oswald, tried to be the Good Samaritan and help out in a possibly life-threatening situation, and got fired from his barely more than minimum wage job for it.
BLACKMAIL ANYONE?
Next time you think about looking at some good-ol'-fashion internet porn; think twice. The NSA is capturing your every click; and if you don't do exactly as they wish, they may disclose your online habits to the public.

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November 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

LOTS OF GOOD NEWS THIS WEEK
The Zero Option
Afghan president Hamid Karzai has shown some surprising cojones. Citing a “lack of trust,” he refused to sign a lopsided treaty which would allow US troops to remain in Afghanistan long after the 2014 withdrawal deadline. National Security Advisor Susan Rice huffed and puffed and would have blown the house in had she been capable, but instead threatened to withdraw all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan (The Zero option). Nice going, Susan! Now follow through on your threat. Whatever chaos and violent will ensue in Afghanistan will be nothing compared to the past 12 years of war, invasion and occupation.

Eighteen months ago, I wrote:
“I think the Afghans might have beaten back the entire world. They turned back the British at the height of its imperial power. They defeated the Soviet Union and helped bring about its demise. And now they are defeating 49 countries and the most powerful military force the world has ever known.”
Hmmmm, perhaps not so far from wrong.
An Extraordinary Breakthrough
William Beeman points out that, while largely symbolic, the agreement between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, is nonetheless an historic breakthrough. Iran and the West are talking to each other seriously, for the first time in 34 years. This accord could lead to far more substantive agreements in the near future.

Not mentioned by Beeman is the groundwork done by the handful of us who have been holding weekly vigils for peace at the Rolla Post Office for almost seven years, and the millions of others around the world who have also been campaigning loudly for World Peace. It is unlikely that this historic accord would have happened without a vibrant world-wide grassroots movement for World Peace.
NGOs and Poor Nations Walk Out of Climate Conference
“Shrouded in farce” is an excellent description of the COP-19 climate conference. The rich polluting nation have shown less and less interest each year in saving our warming planet, and this year the NGOs and poor nations decided they had had enough of this farce, and walked out. The rich nations and the corporations which control them never had any intention of saving the Earth. Their only concern seems to be how to stall any substantive agreement until they get all those trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels out of the ground and sold on the market. That is far more important to them then trying to preserve the climate that has made possible what we sometimes refer to as “civilization.”

I view the walkout as very positive. Maybe now that the farce has been exposed for what it is, we can actually do something to save our planet. Click here to find out who the world's 90 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are.

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November 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

NATURE BATS LAST III
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
Ok. Here it is for the third time in three months — the same quote from Heart of Darkness. This time in reference to Typhoon Haiyan, perhaps the most destructive typhoon mankind has ever encountered. It's too early to count the dead, perhaps 10,000, and the cost of the destruction, perhaps in the billions of dollars. This, along with so many other extreme weather events we have been witnessing: Hurricane Sandy, the great drought of Summer 2012, the unprecedented Colorado Flood 3 months ago, the extreme South Dakota blizzard this Fall ... appears to be a harbinger of things to come. Extreme weather events you can count on!

THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO
“To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
Well, alright, here's another quote from Heart of Darkness. Perhaps a partial answer to the question: “How can people knowingly destroy humanity's planetary support system for nothing more than some ephemeral wealth and power that will in any case be gone tomorrow.” Conrad gives us a one sentence answer. Richard Smith gives us a somewhat longer answer in his indictment of the Capitalist system, “Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth” and then there is Howard Zinn's aphorism, “To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do.” Power corrupts to the point that the powerful simply consider it their birthright to trash the Earth and render it barely habitable for mankind.

TO CLOSE A PRISON
“They were called criminals, and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
Yet another quote from Heart of Darkness. Sweden is closing four (Yes, FOUR!) prisons. It seems they are not needed any more as Sweden's incarceration rate continues to fall in the wake of more rational sentencing policies. Sweden's incarceration rate is 67 per 100,000 and is now dropping at a rate of 6% per year . Here in the United States we are Numero Uno, leading the world with well over 2 million people behind bars, an incarceration rate of 716 per 100,000. With a prison system that stresses profit rather than rehabilitation, you can get a life sentence in the United States for stealing a $159 jacket or facilitating a $10 marijuana sale.

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November 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

HOW WE TREAT OUR VETERANS

If you are thinking of joining the military or know someone who is, then this 15 minute Democracy Now interview with Ann Jones is a MUST READ. Jones describes how we offer our injured veterans nothing more than a drugged escape from their physical and psychological pain. Statistic: In 2012 more US soldiers killed themselves than lost their lives to an enemy.

POLICE STATE 101

You could be stopped for a minor traffic office, and then on the whim of a dog, subjected to forced anal penetration, x-rays, sedation and colonoscopy — and it's unlikely that you would have any recourse against your tormenters — either in the medical, legal or law-enforcement professions. And then you could be billed for all these unwanted medical procedures.

GETTING DIRTY

Long-time environmental activist, David Susuki, discusses the joys and health benefits of getting out and digging in the dirt. Me, I always feel better, at least mentally and emotionally, after working in the yard, or at least playing with my indoor plants which seem to be taking over the house.

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November 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

JOANNE B. MAYBERRY 1926-2013

Judge Joanne Mayberry passed away on October 28. Joanne was Rolla Municipal Judge from 1975 to 1996. Without a formal degree in law, Joanne rewrote the rule book for Missouri's Municipal Courts. When she took office, Rolla's Municipal Court had no accounting system. No one knew what fines were taken in; nor where the money went. Children were incarcerated in the city jail along with their parents. Joanne changed all that. She closed down the city jail and instituted a Municipal Court accounting system. Joanne cared about the people who came before her in court. She exemplified all the qualities one should expect, but seldom finds, in judges today.

Some in the city resented her. On her retirement, they attempted to deny her a pension. She took the city of Rolla, to which she had given so much, to court; and she won. To me, Joanne personifies Albert Einstein's aphorism, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

Read Edward Calvin's tribute to Joanne Mayberry reprinted in the No Standing News from the Newsletter of the Missouri Municipal & Associate Circuit Judges Association. Robert Nash's editorial comments are well worth reading too.

Rest in peace, Joanne. We will miss you.

ONE HELLUVA WAY TO BOIL WATER

Whether or not you believe in prayer, please join me in praying for the success of Tokyo Electric (TEPCO)'s operation to remove fuel rods from the damaged spent fuel pool of unit four of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. This operation, which could begin in a few days has never before been attempted, and failure could release 15,000 times the radiation of the nuclear bomb the United States detonated over Hiroshima in 1945. To make matters worse, TEPCO has done practically nothing right since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged the nuclear complex.

Watch this 20 minute video of Arnie Gunderson discussing the current situation at Fukushima.

I find it incredible, that given the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe, politicians continues to blather about Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions; while world leaders are not even discussing complete worldwide nuclear disarmament and the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants.

The title of this snippet is from another famous Albert Einstein saying, “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!”

HEARTLESS ARROGANCE

Nothing exemplifies the heartless arrogance of our political establishment more than this incident. Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, 9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair, came to Washington, DC to speak at a House of Representatives hearing on our illegal drone war. Of our 435 representatives, only five could be troubled to attend and listen to these innocent victims give a first-hand account of the U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq's mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children.

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October 29, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)
A LITTLE GOOD NEWS
VEOLIA DUMPED

Many thought it was a done deal. St. Louis was about to give away its water department to Veolia, an environmental bad actor, which in order to increase its profit margin, poisoned drinking water in Kentucky with diesel fuel and in violation of a UN resolution operates a landfill for Israeli garbage in Palestine.

But St. Louis mayor Francis Slay wasn't counting on the Dump Veolia Coalition made up of environmental, peace, justice, empowerment and Palestinian solidarity organizations. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted to nix the contract and Veolia has withdrawn — at least for now.

WEANING OURSELVES FROM FOSSIL FUELS WOULD BE EASY...

Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute shows how easy it would be to wean ourselves from our dependence on fossil fuels. Sadly the Wall Street moguls prefer short-term profits from fossil fuels to saving the Earth from pollution and Climate Chaos. That leaves it up to us. We've done it before and can do it again.

SMALL BUSINESSES MAKING A COMEBACK

People are getting tired of Wal-marts and other "big box" retailers. People want to buy locally and small shops are making a comeback.

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October 22, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CONGRESS MEETS DR. SEUSS

Three weeks ago while discussing The Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) Senator Ted Cruz wowed the Senate with a recitation of Dr. Seuss's “Green Eggs and Ham”. Some of my more liberal friends took offense; but I think reading Dr. Seuss to Congress is an excellent idea, and ought to continue. After all, we could all learn a lot from The Good Doctor.

“Green Eggs and Ham” is all about trying something new and finding out that you like it. Presumably Ted Cruz was saying, lets try Obamacare, we might like it. Congress went along with Ted's recommendation, and it looks like many who had no health insurance, will now get a chance to try it; and might even like it.

I love reading Dr. Seuss to young children. For Halloween, I've been reading “What Was I Scared Of?” to my kindergarten classes. In this story, the main character is afraid of a pair of empty pants. At the end he finds that the pants were just as afraid of him and he was of them; and they become friends. Next time Congress discusses bombing some hapless country because they might be harboring terrorists or developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd like to read “What Was I Scared Of?” to them.

The next time Congress talks about American Exceptionalism, I'd like to read them “The Big Brag”. In this story, the rabbit brags that he's the best animal because of his exceptional hearing. Then the bear brags that he is the best animal because of his exceptional sense of smell. Then a worm claims to be better than both of them because of his keen eyesight. He tells the rabbit and the bear all the places he's seen and ends,
“And I kept right on looking and looking until
I'd looked 'round the world and right back to this hill!
And I saw on this hill, since my eyesight's so keen,
The two biggest fools that have ever been seen!
And the fools that I saw where none other than you
Who seem to have nothing much better to do
Then sit here and argue who's better than who!”

I could also read this when the Repugnants and the Dementeds in Congress both claim to be better than the other.

And the next time Congress discusses putting more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, I'd like to read them “The Oobleck”. In this story, King Derwin gets his magicians (when I read the story, they are scientists) to make oobleck, sticky green goo which falls from the sky. The oobleck melts away only when the King cries, I'm sorry and its all my fault. Maybe things would get better if Congress would cry like King Derwin, I'm sorry and it's all my fault.

And the next time Congress claims they can't afford to clean up the superfund sites, I'd read them “The Cat in the Hat”. Like Congress, the Cat enters where he is not invited and makes a big mess; but unlike Congress, in the end the Cat cleans up his mess.

There are many more excellent choices. Here's four of them:

“The Butter Battle Book,” about militarism and mutually assured destruction.

“Yertle the Turtle” about King Yertle who makes all the turtles stand on each other's back to build him a throne. At the end, the turtle on the bottom burps and King Yurtle falls off his throne head first in the mud.

“The Lorax” about how capitalism and greed destroy planet Earth.

And finally, “Your Only Old Once” about our corporate dominated health care system — the worst that money can buy.

I'd go to Washington and read Dr. Seuss to Congress; but I'd have to give up reading to my kindergarteners. I think I'll stick with the kindergarteners. Unlike Congress, they are eager learners and listen well.

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October 15, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

NATURE BATS LAST
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
I used this quote from “Heart of Darkness” last month in reference to the great Colorado flood. Today I use it again, this time in reference to an unprecedented storm that struck western South Dakota two weeks ago. I hate to overuse such writing, but it does seem to capture the heart of the matter so well.

Two weeks ago western South Dakota was hit by an unprecedented early Fall blizzard. Blizzards are nothing new to western South Dakota, but never this strong and this early in the year. Up to 100,000 cows died in the storm totally wiping out whole ranches.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/13/entombed-snow-100000-cattle-perished-where-they-stood-rogue-south-dakota-blizzard-151733

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/15-7

Meanwhile the government that's supposed to help people during weather emergencies was out to lunch; and the Farm Bill which is supposed to help farmers and ranchers in emergencies has not been reauthorized by Congress. But House members responsible for shutting the government down, still receive their salaries and enjoy perks like their taxpayer funded health club, complete with swimming pool, sauna and steam room. No wonder Congress has a dismal 5% approval rating.

And as I write, another storm, “once in a decade” typhoon Wipha, is passing close to the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex which according to Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) is “not under control” and leaking tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. What further damage Wipha does to the precarious Fukushima nuclear complex is yet to be seen.

And some folks still say that human-induced climate change is a hoax!

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October 8, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

AN ARMY OF ONE

Yesterday our war against Afghanistan entered it's 13th year. Judging by the responses we receive at our peace vigils, the vast majority of us here in the United States want this war over and our troops brought home immediately.

Here is a sobering article by Ann Jones, pointing out the expense and difficulty of extricating ourselves from Afghanistan and the likely sequel to the official end of America's Afghan War. Ann Jones also points out that even assuming that we declare victory in 2014 and come home; for many in Afghanistan and the United States the war will be far from over.

And here is an article about the lone man to extricate himself alive from the 1839 British invasion of Afghanistan. When asked “Where is the Army?”, more dead than alive, Assistant Surgeon William Brydon replied: “I am the Army.”

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October 1, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THERE'S A HOLE IN THE BUCKET

30 months after the tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, TEPCO has finally admitting that the situation at Fukushima is “not under control”. Now more bad news: workers have found a hole in the barrier that attempts to keep radioactivity from the damaged complex contained in the harbor.

Commentator Harvey Wasserman predicts we have maybe two months before a disaster strikes that could spread 15,000 Hiroshimas (around 225,000 kilotons) worth of radioactivity around the world. I don't know about the two month limit, but Wasserman has the rest of it right. It's a given that another disaster at Fukushima is just waiting to happen, and Tokyo Electric and the Japanese government are impotent to stop it.

Wasserman is right about another thing too. Fukushima requires an immediate international response which is unlikely to come as the world is too busy with more important things like fighting wars and developing fossil fuel resources that are the primary cause of climate disaster — and here in the “indispensable nation,” we can't even keep the government running.

The title of this snippet, “There's a Hole in the Bucket,” is also the title of a satirical folk song based on an absurd vicious circle, or “Catch 22” as Joseph Heller would have it. Governments, militaries and corporations are famous for creating such vicious circles, as has the nuclear power industry and its supporters in government.

There are many versions of Hole in the Bucket, but my favorite is the Sesame Street version. I think our government could learn a lot from Sesame Street. In fact, I endorsed Big Bird for president last year. Sadly, my countrymen rejected Big Bird in favor of a lesser intellect.

MARISSA ALEXANDER GETS A NEW TRIAL

Marissa Alexander who got a 20 years sentence for firing a warning shot into a wall to scare away an abusive husband, will get a new trial. It appears that Judge James H. Daniel improperly instructed the jury that to be exonerated, Alexander had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she shot the wall in self defense. On appeal, the appellate court ruled: “[T]he trial court improperly transmuted the prosecution’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt into a burden on the appellant to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.” (And what law school did you say you graduated from, Judge Daniel? University of Florida Law School? Hmmmm.)

The Florida State Attorney's Office remarked, “The defendant's conviction was reversed on a legal technicality.” So the Right to be considered innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is just a legal technicality? No wonder our prisons are filled with over 2 million people! Without the “legal technicalities” inscribed in the Bill of Rights which are so often ignored by lawmakers and judges, I suspect our prison population would quickly mushroom to 5 or 10 million.

Many people have wondered how George Zimmerman, who got out of his car to pick a fight with Trayvon Martin and then shot and killed him under very suspicious circumstances, could be exonerated, while Marissa Alexander who fired a shot into a wall injuring nobody could be guilty of a crime that carries a mandatory 20 year sentence. Well? Zimmerman is a white male (Yes, I know, a white Hispanic male) and Alexander is a black female. Do you suppose that might have something to do with it?

I featured Marissa Alexander in a cartoon — probably my most offensive cartoon yet. I don't mind offending people — especially people I find offensive. Sometimes you just have to be offensive to get people's attention.

KICKING THE VERY EARTH TO PIECES
“He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces.” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
The big news on the climate front is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says its “unequivocal” and “unprecedented”: the Earth is heating up and we humans are the primary cause of it. And if we don't act now, things will only get worse .

Most serious commentators such as Jeff Masters seem to believe that there is still time to take action to save our global civilization.

I disagree. I've been hearing this tune for many many years. We must act now, or all is lost. If we do this, that and these other things (the list gets longer and more dire each year) we can go on living our lives pretty much in the way we are accustomed to. I'm tired of this charade. We passed the point of no return at least 10 years ago, if not before.

Like Joseph Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, we have “kicked the very earth to pieces.” And like Mr. Kurtz, our souls have gone mad and we are in danger of dying with the cry “The horror! The horror!” on our breath.

Good science is not done by committee. If Einstein had to work with a committee like the IPCC, we would have no theory of relativity. The IPCC has always underestimated the danger and continues to do so.

The fact is that even if it were possible to put things back together in some semblance of the way they were (and there is certainly no assurance that there is) the will is not there. We prefer to bury our heads in the sand as we kick the very earth to pieces.

The question we should be asking is not “How can we save our modern global civilization?” but “What comes next?” What comes after nature reclaims the planet; and it will. Humans have been singularly inept at exterminating many species they consider pests — rats, ticks, cockroaches, mosquitos, bark beetles, the HIV virus — just to name a few. We may, indeed, exterminate ourselves and many other species; but we are unlikely to exterminate all life on Earth.

Joseph Conrad expressed this thought too in Heart of Darkness:
“And outside, the silent wilderness ... struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”
I am an incurable optimist. I do not believe that we will succeed in exterminating the entire human species: our modern global civilization, certainly; but that may be a boon rather than a loss. I suspect a few million of us might survive the collapse. And perhaps that remnant will learn to live in harmony with each other, the planet, and the myriad species which also inhabit the Earth. Let it be so!

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September 24, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: MIKO PELED VIDEO

Two readers have sent in this video of Miko Peled, an Israeli Jew promoting a democratic Israel with equal-rights for all including Arab-Israelis and those living in Israeli-occupied Palestine. It's a good video and well-worth watching.

For my money, the best book on Palestine and Israel is still Ron David's “Arabs and Israel for Beginners”. It takes you from the time of Abraham to 1993 in a no-holds barred almost comic-strip form. It was published in 1993; but not much has happened since then except for more Israeli atrocities and that people in the United States are finally wising up to the true nature of the State of Israel.

BEATING SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES AND SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS

From Muslim Peacemaker Teams and the Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project comes news of a Global Day of Peace celebration in Najaf, Iraq, in which children donated their toy weapons to be destroyed in the town square by a giant asphalt-rolling machine. MPT/IARP don't have the photos posted yet, so I posted this one on my website. Why don't we do something like this in cities throughout the United States?

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM???

In his 45 minute speech before the UN General Assembly (other world leaders stayed within their allotted 15 minutes), Obama once again appealed to the world to recognize how “exceptional” the United States of America is. Basically, Obama argued that in spite of all the terrible goings-on in the world, without the exceptional United States, the world would surely be even more terrible.

In truth, the United States is no more exceptional than any other empire the world has ever known; except perhaps that modern technology allows us to be even more brutal than past empires. No other country has ever dropped a nuclear bomb as the United States did on Japan; or poisoned another country with dioxin to the extent that the United States did to Vietnam; or terrorized another country with remote-controlled bombs for 12 long years as the United States is still doing to Afghanistan.

This doesn't mean that the Romans, the British, the French, the Nazis and the Soviets would not have liked to do the same; only that they did not have the capability. History shows that empires destroy and destroy and destroy until, though ruthlessness, greed and corruption, they destroy themselves, as the United States is in the process of doing now.

If the United States were truly exceptional, we would have used our exceptional position as the greatest economic and military power the world has ever known to end war, eradicate hunger, reverse global warming, and bring about a world in which Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness would be inalienable Rights for all people everywhere.

Well, Mr. Obama, perhaps you would agree that the United States is not that exceptional.

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September 17, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

SUPPOSE THEY GAVE A WAR AND NO ONE CAME

Due to popular demand, the war against Syria has been postponed.

Let no one ever say again: It's a waste of time to go to demonstrations, sign petitions, call and email your elected representatives, and otherwise protest non-violently. The people of the world have spoken, and their leaders listened: not because they wanted to; but because they had to. And we did it all non-violently — without firing a single gun, or throwing a single rock.

Here, again, are the poll results from last week before Obama announced the postponement of his war against Syria: 55% against military strikes on Syria even if Congress approves. 72% thought air strikes against Syria would not achieve significant goals for the US.

It really ought not to be a question of whether non-violence works. Consider the alternative: our culture of violence has led to perpetual war without end, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, exponentially growing inequalities between a small elite and the rest of us, rampant police and judicial abuse of the powerless, poverty, pollution, climate change, and much more.

If non-violence doesn't work, we are in serious trouble; because violence sure doesn't work either.

I love to quote scripture, particularly when it appears to presage current events. So here is the verse du jour from the prophet Ezekiel 7:14: “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”

“PREPARE CHAINS FOR MY PEOPLE...

...for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.” —Ezekiel 7:23

There is much prophecy in Ezekiel 7 pertaining to the 21st Century United States. The Chris Hedges article on police and judicial violence against the poor and minorities which Helen recommends is, like much of Hedges' writing, a must read. But Hedges is wrong about one thing. Police violence has already arrived in many middle-class white communities.

Here is a video of a white woman who, although totally non-threatening, presenting no danger to the police or anyone else, is thrown to the pavement so hard that her face is broken, after which the police continue to manhandle her while she screams in pain.

Confronted with the video, a spokesperson for the Tallahassee police remarked, “We stand by our practices that we have in place and we also stand by the procedures that we have in place.”

State Attorney Willie Meggs found the video “very disturbing.” I wonder if he finds it disturbing enough to file criminal charges against the offending police officers.

This account from The Raw Story contains a very graphic photo and short clip of the arrest from the police dashcam video. Commondreams has posted the entire 45 minute video of the arrest.

Police violence, like war, has become so commonplace in our society, that the police don't even bother to turn off the video cameras before they beat up a citizen. There is absolutely no accountability.

As Hedges notes: so many of the 2.2 million prisoners we hold have been wrongly arrested, poorly represented, convicted on false or flimsy evidence, tortured, subjected to violence, and otherwise mistreated in a judicial system that is heavily weighted against those with no wealth or power. On the other hand, mass murderers, war criminals and others who have betrayed the public trust are rewarded lavishly. Personally, I see no other just solution than, in the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

A FLOOD OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly...” —Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
Last week's Colorado flood has been described variously as a flood of Biblical proportions and a once-in-a-thousand-year event.

We've been getting a lot of those once-in-a-thousand-year events lately. Colorado in particular has been getting more than its share. Fueled by a warming climate, Colorado was hit first by drought, wildfires, and bark beetles — all three of which decimated the forest cover which provides a bulwark against flooding; and now, a flood of biblical proportions sweeps over that parched, bare, drought-stricken land. The worst of it, I fear, is yet to come. There is so much toxic pollution in the area. Rocky Flats, one of the most polluted pieces of real estate in the world lies nearby, above Denver. How much of that pollution has been washed downstream by the flood? Where did it all end up? I suspect we'll never know the true extent of it.

Interestingly enough, Boulder, one of the hardest hit communities, is home to the University of Colorado and boasts the “highest density of climate scientists in the world.” Apparently, climate scientists are as susceptible to climate-induced disaster as anyone else. I find some poetic justice in this. We're all on this planet together; and if we can't stop fighting wars and doing violence to the Earth and to each other, we are all going down together. As Ben Franklin famously noted: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

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September 10, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

"HISTORY TEACHES THAT EMPIRES ALWAYS DEVOUR THEMSELVES"

With his usual clarity, in an open letter to Barack Obama, Ralph Nader lays out the folly of starting a war against Syria. Just think, in 2008 we could have elected Ralph Nader to be our president instead of Barack Obama. The title of this snippet is a quote from Ralph's letter.

As Obama pushes hard for another war, it's instructive to look at his previous war against Libya. Digby (aka Heather Parton) reviews a much longer article by Greg Shupak detailing the war crimes and human-rights violations so rampant in that war of choice. Digby concluded that a Syrian intervention would, like the Libyan intervention, be fraught with war crimes and that “Humanitarian Intervention” is simply the oxymoron of the day.

TORTURE "R" US

After reading Digby's article referenced above, I looked for more of Digby's writing, and found this article on taser murders. Last month I wrote about the murder of Israel Hernandez by police with tasers. Digby gives us several more instances of murder by taser. She concludes:
“Representatives of the government torture innocent citizens into unconsciousness, on camera, in United States courtrooms with tasers. They use them on prisoners and on motorists and on political protesters and bicycle riders, on mentally ill and handicapped people and on children. And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.”
COMFORT WOMEN

No sooner had I wrote, “The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand.” in last weeks newsletter, when I received an email asking me to add my name to a petition condemning Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto for stating, “Anyone can understand that the system of comfort women [during World War II] was necessary to provide respite for a group of high-strung, rough and tumble crowd of men braving their lives under a storm of bullets,” part of “a necessary system to maintain military discipline.” Click here.

Sorry, I can't condemn mayor Hashimoto's statement because it's true. I'll say it again, “The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand.” I can and do condemn the culture of rape and militarism.

CLIMATE CHANGE NOT SO SIMPLE

The California Rim Fire which has burned for weeks threatening San Francisco's water supply, has grown over the weekend and is still only 80% contained. A reader's comment under a news article caught my attention:
“A strange weather event hit the Sierras in late June. Remnants of a typhoon that pounded Japan blew across the Pacific to California. The typhoon was unusual. The remnant low pounded the Sierras with several inches of rain. Normally the Sierras go through the summer seeing no precipitation other than fog at night.

“The local flora decided that it was time to sprout, so it came up all green in June, and then it died because there was no more rain all summer. It created an unusually robust extra layer of dead oily cellulose which this late August's fire is now feeding upon.

“Climate change isn't always about the heat and the drought. Sometimes it's about a confluence of strange weather events that works in unexpected ways.” — Paul Klinkman
Mess with nature's precarious balance and you pay. Nature bats last.

STUCK IN LODI AGAIN

A small boy, six to eight years old, walked up to a SWAT police officer at a Lodi, California children's reading event where the police were showing off all their spiffy new military hardware, pulled the trigger on the policemen's gun, still in it's holster, and shot the policeman in the leg. The gun, a Glock 35, had no external safety.

Two questions come to mind:
1. Why were SWAT officers showing off their spiffy new military hardware at a children's reading event?

2. Why did the gun lack an external safety?
It seems that the police want to find the child so they can “question” him and find out his motives.

Here's a story of how seven-year-old Wilson Reyes was questioned by police after being accused of bullying and stealing five dollars (which it turns out he didn't steal after all).

Maybe it's best they don't find the child.

The title of this snippet is from a Creedence Clearwater Revival song.

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September 3, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TOUGH ON RAPE

Judge Todd Baugh of Billings, Montana sentenced 54-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold to 30 days in prison for raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales. In explaining his sentence, the judge remarked that Morales was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her schoolteacher rapist. Her relationship with Rambold was a contributing factor in Morales' suicide.

Not to be outdone by Judge Baugh, Yale University gave a student a one-day suspension for attempted sexual assault. All you really need to know about Yale is that George W. Bush who reads at a fourth grade level was awarded a bachelors degree by Yale.

In the June 11 newsletter, I mentioned some other incidents in which our legal system was equally tough on crimes against women.

In researching this snippet, I ran across an interesting statistic: According to the Statistics Brain, The United States rates sixth in the world in prevalence of rape (28.6/100,000). Syria, on the other hand, has the fourth lowest prevalence of rape (0.7/100,000). Maybe instead of threatening to bomb Syria, (by time you read this, the US may actually be bombing Syria) we should send a fact-finding mission to Syria to find out how they keep their rape rates so low.

In my opinion it's really quite simple. The culture of rape and the culture of militarism go hand in hand. The US excels in both.

SYRIA

As the campaign to bomb Syria picks up steam, we should be mindful that if the Syrian government indeed used chemical weapons, it certainly would not be the first.

Our erstwhile ally, Saddam Hussein, used chemical weapons on the Iranians during the 8 year Iran-Iraq War, with blessings from the United States of course.

During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed dioxin-containing Agent Orange copiously over much of this hapless country, whose citizens and our veterans still suffer from the use of this persistent poison 52 years later.

Use by the United States of depleted uranium, white phosphorus, napalm and other chemical weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly the city of Fallujah, has been well-documented.

One has to wonder how a country that has used chemical weapons so many times with such devastating results to civilian populations could dare to speak of another country crossing a “red line” by using chemical weapons.

And one has to wonder how, after Colin Powell's phony performance at the UN on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction, John Kerry could have the audacity to accuse Syria of using chemical weapons on such flimsy evidence. As Jim Naureckas points out, it is far more likely that these chemical weapons were supplied by Saudi Arabia to rebels who did not know how to use them properly. There are, of course, other possibilities as well.

To quote comedian George Carlin: “We are not good at anything else anymore... can't build a decent car or a television, can't give good education to the kids or health care to the old, but we can bomb the shit of out any country...”

FUKUSHIMA: FAR WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT

It turns out that radioactivity from the leaking water tanks at Fukushima is 18 times worse than previously announced. TEPCO's equipment could only measure up to 100 millisieverts an hour, so they announced the radiation level was around 100. It turns out that the radiation that cleanup workers were exposed to was actually 18 times that amount. Isn't that a crime to expose workers to such high radiation levels? Is anyone being charged with at least criminal negligence? Maybe exposing people to deadly radiation is like rape — not that big a deal — even if the victim ends up killing herself or dying of radiation poisoning — a crime that might merit a 30 day sentence.

Japan is finally waking up to the enormity of the radiation problem at Fukushima. Now, 30 months after the tsunami, it wants to build a wall of ice around the damaged nuclear plants to contain the radiation. Why am I so skeptical? Maybe because they tried to immobilize The Incredible Hulk by freezing him in ice; but it didn't work. Seriously, I'm not sure there is a solution. At the very least we should stop creating more dangerous radiation — IMMEDIATELY. Last month I recommended this Democracy Now interview with nuclear physicist Michio Kaku. Here it is again.

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August 27, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS

A reader sends in Philip Giraldi's Homeland Security Made in Israel, detailing Israel's deep involvement in the US security apparatus. Israel's involvement is at least partially responsible for conflating Israeli and US interests and our adoption of the Israeli model, which is based to a large degree on racial profiling and the use of overwhelming force.

New York City's Stop and Frisk policy which has been declared unconstitutional is an excellent example of such a policy of racial profiling. Giraldi points out, [I]t should be no surprise that the New York Police Department has an overseas office in Tel Aviv.

Giraldi notes: The Israeli-American model for dealing with terrorism is itself unusual. Historically speaking, countries that have been plagued with a terrorism problem have focused on countering that specific threat without seeking to expand the conflict. But that has not been the case for post 9/11 America.

Giraldi's article is well worth reading.

GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER

In the Rolla area, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is best known as the non-profit public-interest law center that saved Buehler Park. But Great Rivers does much more than save parks.

Great Rivers has filed suit against the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and a bunch of state legislators for illegally subverting the will of the people who voted almost two to one in favor of renewable energy, both in Phelps County and throughout the State (Proposition C, 2008).

The legislature subverted Proposition C by declaring that utilities could satisfy their renewable-energy requirement simply by buying pieces of paper that presumably represent the production of renewable energy in places as far away as California and Canada — renewable energy that does not bring jobs to Missouri and is not used by Missouri consumers. The State Legislature, The PSC, The Governor and the Secretary of State all caved in to ALEC and the anti-environmental lobby. Great Rivers is suing to restore Proposition C as passed by the voters.

Great Rivers is also suing to stop the Flanagan South Pipe Line which would carry tar-sands oil across Missouri and quite likely lead to toxic spills like the recent spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.

Visit Great Rivers website to read about other projects of Great Rivers and consider making a tax-deductible donation so that Great Rivers can help others as they helped us. Checks made out to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center can be mailed to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, 705 Olive St., Suite 614, St. Louis, MO 63101. Donations can also be made online at the Great Rivers website.

I SPOKE TOO SOON

Last week I wrote: Global Warming has simply moved around to the other side of the globe as China and the Far East bask in unprecedented sweltering temperatures worse than what most of the United States experienced last summer. The climate man must have read my post. Sweltering temperatures have returned to South-Central Missouri with a vengeance. We are now in the midst of a late August heat-wave with no sign of a let-up at least until September.

This is an aspect of Climate Change that many are not aware of. Because warming of the polar regions is occurring faster than in the tropics and temperate zones, the temperature differential between poles and the equator has decreased, causing weather patterns to stall and remain longer than they used to.

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August 20, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE "HIGHER" EDUCATION RIPOFF

When I was a perfesser at UMR (now Missouri S&T) I used to tell my students that my class wasn't worth anywhere near what they were paying for it. Many agreed. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi agrees too. His article is somewhat long; but well worth reading, especially if you are one of the many saddled with humongous student debt to pay off.

My solution to the debt problem, student and otherwise, is to declare a Jubilee Year and (among other things) cancel all debt and return property to its rightful owner. If you don't know what a Jubilee Year is, read Leviticus 25. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jamie Dimon.

If you don't want to read Taibbi's long article, here's three paragraphs I wrote 18 months ago that could be titled:

                              A Most Ungrateful Generation
45 years ago, I put myself through school without incurring a penny of debt or any other obligation. The mathematics is straight forward. At the excellent State-run University I attended, tuition and fees were around $50 per quarter, $150/year. Minimum wage was $1.60/hr. Working three weeks at minimum wage paid my tuition and fees with money to spare; and, unlike today, minimum wage then was a living wage.

Why can't society give this generation the same educational benefits that my generation received? Because the money all goes to pay for unnecessary wars and to enrich those who already have more than they can possibly spend. We pay almost as much for our military as the rest of the world combined. Many of our wealthiest corporations pay no tax at all.

Don't let those who have benefited from virtually free education tell you that you must go into debt to receive your education.

Now that I'm retired and an unpaid volunteer at the pre-school and elementary-school level, I like to think that maybe I'm giving my students back what they are paying me for.

I am not suggesting that these problems are limited to "higher" education. Here's Dianne Ravitch's latest on Common Core and other standardized testing abominations. It seems the New York State regents made the tests harder and found out that fewer students passed. Well, duhhhh. The really sad part is the regents want to blame it on stupid kids. I blame it on stupid regents.

And in Philadelphia, kids, parents and teachers are fighting back against draconian budget cuts. Says one parent, Unless the schools get what's needed for them to educate children and not open buildings, we don't think school should open either.

GLOBAL WARMING OVER? — NOT!

Some folks in South-central Missouri are enjoying our relatively cool wet summer and thinking that maybe global warming is over — NOT! Global Warming has simply moved around to the other side of the globe as China and the Far East bask in unprecedented sweltering temperatures worse than what most of the United States experienced last summer.

Sadly, there are no signs that the weather will improve. It you want to know just how bad things are getting, read Michael Klare's How to Fry a Planet. Where will global warming strike next summer? Your guess is as good as mine.

MOCKING THE PEACE TALKS

Scuttling the peace talks before they even begin, Israel announces theft of Palestinian land for 1,200 new homes for Jews only. As Juan Cole puts it, Negotiating with the Israelis over land they are actively stealing is like negotiating with a glutton over a cake while he is eating it in another room. You might get some crumbs.

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August 13, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

AN OUTLAW STATE IN AN OUTLAW NATION

I've always felt that as long as I keep on laughing, joking and cartooning, somehow things will take a turn for the better. But maybe I went too far three months ago, when a wrote a satiric article for Donna Hawley in which the prosecutor sought to have me condemned to death for painting a building.

Last Tuesday, Israel Hernandez Llach was summarily executed by the Miami Beach police for painting graffiti on a building. Police officer Jorge Mercado shot Hernandez in the chest with a taser, which applies a high voltage current that incapacitates, causes intense pain, and in some instances leads to death. Hernandez was a skinny 18-year-old artist and skateboarder. He was unarmed, cornered, and posed no threat to the police or anyone else. Purportedly the police laughed and gave each other high-fives as Hernandez lay dying.

An estimated 500 people have died of taser shock since 2001.

Israel Hernandez and Trayvon Martin are dead. George Zimmerman is free. Jorge Mercado is on paid administrative leave. His police file boasts six complaints including battery and excessive force.

An outlaw state in an outlaw nation.

IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE

It turns out that radioactivity from Fukushima is leaking into the Pacific Ocean at a far greater rate than previously thought. Well, guess where the ocean currents are taking all that radioactivity? Surfs up, Californians; but so is the radioactivity. The sushi is delicious; but bring along your geiger counter.

I like this Democracy Now interview with nuclear physicist Michio Kaku. Kaku has a lot of interesting things to say.

MONTREAL, MAINE AND ATLANTIC FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A) has filed for bankruptcy, leaving the town of Lac-Mégantic to shoulder the $200+ million cost of cleaning up after the rail disaster that left 47 dead after a train filled with tar-sands oil ran amuck and exploded. It seems that MM&A's parent company Rail World Group—which is ironically headed by the same man who chairs MM&A, Edward Burkhardt—has assets all over the country. Sadly, thanks to the lobbyists and lawmakers, Rail World Group's assets are probably untouchable.

You know, if someone named Osama or Ali had come aboard this train sitting idle without a single guard, and released the brake, we'd probably go bomb some hapless Middle Eastern or Asian country in retaliation. I doubt anything will happen to Burkhardt or the vast army of lobbyists and lawmakers who have made it totally legal to abandon a train full of high explosives on a railroad track.

Rather than change their ways, the super-rich seem to have decided to hold one last gigantic orgy of destruction before the inevitable planet-wide collapse.

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August 6, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS

A reader writes:

I knew that the lynching that took place in this country was bad, but I had no idea in my wildest dreams just how really bad until I saw this. This is a stain and a stench on this country that nothing will remove. I now know what Rev. Jeremiah Wright was saying when everyone was so upset with what he said in those controversial excerpts that gained national attention in March 2008. He phrase it wrong. But I will say it. America now has a curse on it because of this. This is the icing on it's evil cake.

and sends in these websites;

http://withoutsanctuary.org/main.html

http://www.autopsis.org/foot/lynchlinks.html

My comment: Some wounds heal quickly. Some slowly. Some take generations. Some may never heal, particularly when people pretend the wounds don't exist or insist on reopening them again and again and again.

ZIMMERMAN IS FREE WHILE FLORIDA EXECUTES MENTALLY ILL BLACK MAN

The US Supreme Court refused to intervene as Florida executed a man diagnosed as mentally ill by 30 doctors over the span of 40 years.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

John Kerry's attempt at being an honest broker for peace in Palestine is doomed to failure, simply because he is not honest. Ending the siege of Gaza, which has been described as the world's largest open-air prison with 1.6 million inmates, dismantling illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine, and the Right of Return of displaced Palestinians are definitely not on Kerry's agenda.

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July 30, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN COMES TO MISSOURI (IN SPIRIT)

Last week an irate landowner on the Meramec shot and killed a floater, as reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times. Some would say this has nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial. I say, if you exonerate a killer, especially in a widely publicized trial like Zimmerman's, you encourage other would-be killers. Well Zimmerman jurors (and those of you who cheered his acquittal), you might not have Trayvon Martin's blood on your hands, but you sure have the blood of Paul Dart and probably others on your hands. See if it will wash off.

It's interesting how this goes. Nobody had much to say when Ezekiel Gilbert was acquitted of the murder of Lenora Ivie Frago. After all, she was just a paid escort and probably a "slut". Then, George Zimmerman was acquitted after going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend [himself] against. After all Trayvon Martin was just an African-American teenager walking around in a hoodie in a predominately-white gated community.

What about Paul Dart? Just a floater enjoying Missouri's natural beauty? If James Crocker is acquitted; if legislatures, courts of law, and the mass media continue to encourage a shoot and kill mentality; more such killings will occur. Who's next? Could be you or me.

Oh, I can't wait for the gun-lobby's response. Everyone ought to carry a weapon. If you're a floater you need to defend yourself against unstable landowners. If you own land by a river, you need to defend yourself against trespassing floaters. The gun-makers can make a killing off this one [pun intended].

Speaking of economic issues, many rural counties in Missouri rely heavily on the tourist business. They have a vested interest in keeping our rivers safe for floaters. How will the people in these counties respond to this incident? How will floaters respond? Will they decide Missouri's rivers are just too dangerous to float and go elsewhere?

One of the purposes of Government is to prevent interpersonal violence by providing a fair and level playing field in which people can settle disputes without resorting to violence, and clear laws and punishments for those who transgress the limits. Further, such laws and punishments must be fair and proportional and applied equally to all. When government fails to fulfill this purpose, people take the law into their own hands, sometimes with fatal results.

For those of you who are interested in reading about the law concerning public use of Missouri's rivers, check out Harry Styron's blog, Ozarks Law and Economy.

For those of you who appreciate dark humor, check out my cartoons: Float Missouri's Rivers and Ezekiel Gilbert and George Zimmerman in a Bar.

TWO OUT OF THREE AGAINST AFGHAN WAR

After 9/11, I was one of the tiny few who said publicly that bombing the crap out of Afghanistan and hiring known war criminals like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to do our dirty work on the ground was an inappropriate response that would eventually backfire. Guess what? 12 years later, I now belong to the 2/3 majority that believes the War in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting. Still, the war draaaaaaaaaaaags on.

A MAJORITY AGAINST GOVERNMENT'S ASSAULT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES

I was also one of a much larger few who deemed the post 9/11 assault on civil liberties anathema. (Remember: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists?) I seem now to be among the majority who are more concerned that the government's assault on civil liberties has gone too far (47%) than that the government has not gone far enough to protect us from terrorism (35%). Thank you Edward Snowden!

But here's one thing that hasn't changed. Those in power still don't listen to me.

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July 23, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE STRANGE TRIAL OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN

There has been so much written on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman recently, most of it repetitious. I wish to share with you these two articles which I found most thoughtful:

Robert Koehler points to our long history of racism for which we have never atoned. Koehler writes, The glaring prejudices built into our legal system, even if they’ve been erased from the letter of the law, permeate its collective will and heart. and continues, The time has come – I hope – to challenge our legal system all the way to its racist roots.

Deborah Orr gives us a glimpse of how the Zimmerman trial is viewed outside the United States. Orr notes that a jury decided that going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend yourself against, is still self-defense; continues with The jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman say they acted in strict accordance with US law. They probably did. ... That in itself speaks volumes. She ends by remarking, A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold.

And if you don't believe a monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold, check out the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Some of the statistics about the racism inherent in our legal system are horrendous. With 5% of the world population, the United States holds 25% of of the world's prisoners. Blacks in the United States today are incarcerated at a rate six times higher than in South Africa under Apartheid. In the United States, non-hispanic black males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white males.

Had it not been for the public outcry, George Zimmerman would not have even been brought to trial. In fact he wasn't arrested for 44 days. The killing of an unarmed black teenager was simply not considered a matter for the courts.

The Zimmerman trial reminds me very much of the Ezekiel Gilbert trial. After shooting and killing Lenora Ivie Frago, Gilbert argued that he paid her for sex and she left without giving him what he believed he had bought from her. Like Zimmerman, Gilbert was acquitted. I am sure the jurors in this case too thought they were acting in strict accordance with the law; and again, it speaks volumes about our legal system.

Unlike the killing of Trayvon Martin, the killing of Lenora Ivie Frago did not cause much of a stir. I'm wondering why. Perhaps paid escorts and female sex workers are valued even less than African-American teenagers in this society.

Some people believe our legal system can be rehabilitated by some small act like charging Zimmerman with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights or repealing stand your ground laws. I disagree. A legal system that can hold over 2.2 million people behind bars, some 50% for non-violent victimless crimes, while letting those who kill unarmed victims go free, is rotten from the flesh to the bone.

I will have more to say about George Zimmerman and Ezekiel Gilbert in future weeks.

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July 16, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

IMPERIALISM AND PAPER TIGERS REVISITED

I haven't had much to say about Edward Snowden lately, but here's a cartoon that may be worth a thousand words. Besides Spanish and Russian, this one contains a few words of English.

What I find so interesting about the Snowden affair is how impotent US imperialism has become. We can rail and rave all we want about Snowden being a traitor and a spy; but the whole world knows that the United States has broken every rule in the book, and even should Obama succeed in kidnapping Snowden, in the eyes of the world he will only look the more ridiculous for it.

A paper tiger is something that appears fierce on the outside, but is hollow inside; and once exposed for what it is, no longer appears frightening — somewhat like the emperor and his new clothes. Paper Tiger is an ancient Chinese saying that Mao ZeDong famously used half a century ago to describe US imperialism. Osama bin Laden purportedly used the phrase in a similar context, We have religion, we have Islam. The American soldier may have the best weapons in the world, but on the inside, he is spiritually empty — a paper tiger

Personally, I have trouble believing that anyone did not know that Big Brother was spying upon their every word and every action. I just assumed it long ago, and decided since there wasn't much I could do about it, I'd just go ahead saying and doing what I would have said and done anyway. How about you? Were you surprised when Edward Snowden revealed that Big Brother was spying on everything you said or did? Or did you say to yourself, I knew it all along — kind of like the emperor and his new clothes.

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July 9, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TORTURERS R US

Two months ago, I ran across this article by Ann Neumann about force-feeding prisoners in "Waging Non-Violence".

Neumann points out that force-feeding isn't just done to a few Muslims at Guantánamo. It's pretty much standard operating procedure here on the mainland too. (Anything we do offshore to a handful of Muslims, either is or soon will be done to the rest of us here at home. You can count on it!)

What's it like to be force-fed? Watch this video of Yasiin Bey undergoing (voluntarily) the standard force-feeding procedure. Now if that ain't torture...

20 years ago, I was trying to learn yoga. One exercise was to cleanse the nostrils by inserting a soft flexible brush, pushing it down the nostril and out through the mouth and then gently moving it back and forth. I started with a thin flexible rubber tube (many times smaller in diameter than the one you see in the Bey video). Each time it got to the back of my throat, I would gag uncontrollably. Eventually, I gave up.

We are the Gulag State. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies we hold far more prisoners (2,240,000) than any other country in the world, (600,000 more than second place China which holds 1,640,000 prisoners). We hold more prisoners relative to our population (716 per 100,000) than any other country. Other than a few small islands, our closest competitor is Cuba which holds 510 prisoners per 100,000 population, almost 30% less than us.

I was wondering whether China force-feeds its prison population; but all that I could find was that in preparing Peking duck, the ducks must be force-fed for 15 to 20 days, a far-cry from the almost five years that William Coleman has been force-fed by the State of Connecticut. So while China force-feeds animals for 15 to 20 days, we force-feed prisoners for years — not a very appetizing comparison.

In truth, while we accord to corporations the status to personhood, we deny the basic humanity of an increasingly large number of people, treating them worse than animals.

When you think about forced sterilization, you think about Nazis. Right? Wrong! You should be thinking about California which has a long history of racist eugenics and performed 150 illegal sterilizations in prisons between 2006 and 2010. As one inmate who worked in the prison infirmary remarked, Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore? One comment to this article notes that some of the Nazi's policies were copied after US policies.

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.

If this article is making you feel powerless and depressed, here's what you can do. Listen to Dan Bearden singing Pete Seeger's song, One Man's Hands. (I failed to find Pete singing it online.)

            One Man's Hands

One man's hands can't tear a prison down;
Two men's hands can't tear a prison down;
But if two and two and fifty make a million;
We'll see that day come round;
We'll see that day come round.

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July 2, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TEACHERS, ARE MY TESTS ALL DONE?

First day of school is only six weeks away, so I wrote an article on education. It's too long for this newsletter, so click here.

LITTLE DID I KNOW

When I wrote in a satiric article how the prosecutor was seeking to have me condemned to death for painting a building , little did I know that Jeff Olson faced 13 years behind bars for chalking "No Thanks, Big Banks" and "Shame on Bank of America" on a San Diego sidewalk . But the similarity doesn't end there. Olson was acquitted by a San Diego Jury just as Donna Hawley, the subject of my article, was acquitted by a Texas County jury. In both cases, powerful people leaned on prosecutors and courts to press felony charges. Kudos to the people of San Diego, California and Texas County, Missouri!

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS

Firefighters have a tough dangerous job. They put their lives on the line every day. With all the toxics we put into our buildings, a firefighter can become disabled for life just by breathing in the toxic cocktail created as houses burn.

19 Arizona firefighters lost their lives Sunday fighting a wildfire fueled by high winds, intense heat, and years of drought. The culprit, clearly, is human-induced global warming. I'm wondering whether their might not be murder charges leveled against the global-warming deniers in the fossil-fuel industries. Don't hold your breath.

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June 25, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

"I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT DOES THESE SORTS OF THINGS"

As pundits surmise as to Edward Snowden's whereabouts, we lose sight of the bigger question. What are we going to do about the National Security State, aka National Secrecy State, National Spy State, National Snitch State...?

I love Julian Assange's short article because he says so much in so few words. Here's a short quote: "[T]he US government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose."

The validity of this statement should be obvious to everyone — and certainly to anyone who lived through the Vietnam years. A generation that eats its own children leaves no progeny. The battle is over. Obama, Bush, Boehner, Feinstein, Pelosi... You lost! You just don't know it yet.

MORE I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT DOES THESE SORTS OF THINGS

Daniel Somers also decided he didn't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things; but his solution was different than Snowden's.

On June 10, Daniel Somers, veteran of 400 combat missions and suffering from multiple war-related conditions, took his own life. He wrote: "[A]ny kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle?"

And he ends: "Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried. I am free."

A generation that eats its own children leaves no progeny.

Read Somers's final note.

WHAT ABOUT ME?

I too don't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things. But I'm no combat hero. And I have no knowledge worth leaking. So I guess I'll continue to stand in front of the Post Office for an hour every week, and write a short column for the peace newsletter. It's the least I can do.

I do it for the Edward Snowdens, and all others who have had the courage to stand up publicly and say what they know.

I do it for the Daniel Somers's, "Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war."

And I do it for all the victims of this generation that eats its own children.

I may be over 70, and perhaps a traitor to my generation; but I can still stand with the young and work toward a better future.

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June 18, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TOTAL DEPRAVITY

This article by Nafeez Mossaddeq Ahmed, based on information leaked by Edward Snowden, shows the total depravity and moral bankruptcy of the ruling elite. Their enemy is not al-Queda or the Taliban or Kim Jong-un or soon to be ex-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Their enemy is non-violent environmentalists — people like you and me who seek social change and seek to protect our planetary life-support system; and the military has been making plans to deal with non-violent protesters, just in case Homeland Security is not up to the task.

Think about this! After bringing the Earth to the brink of collapse and perhaps beyond, it doesn't even occur to these troglodytes that maybe they need to change their ways. Their enemy is not on the battlefield or flying planes into buildings; their enemy is simply those who non-violently demand that they stop trashing the Earth.

A SINGLE SPARK CAN START A PRAIRIE FIRE

There is a lot of truth in this ancient Chinese aphorism. Edward Snowden appears to be the spark that has set the prairie on fire. It could have been Julian Assange. It could have Bradley Manning. It could have been Tim deChristopher. But it was Edward Snowden.

Here are some more recent leaks: Read about offshore tax evaders; or read about how Bank of America made up bogus reasons for foreclosing on homes; or read both.

Brazil and Turkey are in open revolt; and who knows which country will be next. And the latest lie about Syria's use of chemical weapons doesn't seem to be distracting people the way it should.

Cherish and support our activists and whistleblowers. If we can see far, it is because we stand on the shoulders of GIANTS.

Speaking of fires, the State of Colorado is for the second year in a row experiencing unprecedented wildfires. Nature bats last.

BUEHLER PARK COMES TO TURKEY

It's amazing how urbanites love their small open spaces and are willing to go to battle against governments, police and developers for their parks. Plans by Turkey's ruling elite to take Taksim Gezi Park, the last bit of public open space in Istanbul, for a shopping mall, sparked a protest that has grown in spite of police repression and copious amounts of police violence and pepper spray. The protests now threaten to topple the government of prime minister Erdogan. One protester remarked: "Each of us will guard a tree, and in the morning, we will give a report to the birds." Erdogan would have done well to have learned the lesson of Rolla's Buehler Park.

Here is another similarity: The Buehler Park case hinged upon "standing." Do ordinary people like taxpayers and park users have standing in court to question illegal decisions made by their government? Buehler Park set precedent. For the first time since 1910, a Missouri Court ruled that users of public property have standing to sue to maintain that use.

Like Buehler Park, Taksim Gezi Park has it's own icon of standing. For hours, "Erdem Gunduz stood with his hands in his pockets in the ground zero of clashes, defying government orders to clear the park of protesters." "Standing man" protests have gone viral in Turkey where police violence has left four dead and over 7,500 injured.

Throughout Rolla's 11 year battle over Buehler Park, the Rolla police force remained neutral and professional in spite of attempts by at least one mayor to politicize the police force. Kudos to the Rolla police.

I've been working on the Buehler Park website. There is much work yet to be done, so visit it often.

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June 11, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS — A CORRECTION

Mark Haim of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks notes that there is no evidence that Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, the two FBI agents who "fell" to their death from a helicopter, were present at the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Mark is correct. They were part of the elite FBI unit that arrested Tsarnaev. Some accounts say they were "investigating" the Boston bombing; but it is not clear what, if any, part they played in the arrest. Thanks for the correction, Mark.

LICENSE TO KILL WOMEN

In the State of Texas it is now legal for a man to kill a woman for refusing to have sex with him. Ezekiel Gilbert was acquitted of wrongdoing after shooting and killing Lenora Ivie Frago. His excuse: He had paid her $150 for 1/2 hour of her time and she left without having sex with him.

It's funny how so many people say Muslims discriminate against women; but no one ever says Texans discriminate against women. While I'm not an expert on any kind of law, it is my understanding that under Sharia Law, this would be considered murder and punishable by death. How come so many people say such nasty things about Sharia Law but not about Texas Law?

Meanwhile, the two boys who were convicted of rape in the Stubenville case might end up spending two years in juvenile detention; but Deric Lostutter, who uncovered the evidence that broke the case open, might spend ten years in prison for hacking.

And those who raped 15-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, took a photo of her being raped, circulated it around her school, harassed her, called her a slut and finally drove her to suicide will not even be charged with a crime.

So tell me again how Muslims discriminate against women.

REMEMBER, IT CUTS BOTH WAYS

Its gone viral. Not only does the NSA collect information on some bad guys who might fly a plane into a building; but they collect information on you and me and everyone else. (Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto all of us.) While it has been clear to some of us that this has been going on for years, it is sweet and fitting that one of their own, Edward Snowden, has come forward and supplied the proof, straight from the horses mouth.

While Big Brother claims the Right to spy on anyone, anywhere, for any reason or no reason at all; spying on Big Brother to uncover his copious wrongdoings is considered a most heinous crime. People like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, John Kiriakou, Deric Lostutter, John Snowden, Aaron Swartz and others risk years in prison — in some cases life.

The strange thing: The more draconian the penalties devised by Big Brother, the more people seem to stand up and say, Enough! Here's what I know. And here's how I know it. As Snowden put it, "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things." Protect your local whistleblower!

I think that this is one more sign that The Great American Empire is coming apart at the seams; and all the King's horses and all the King's men will never put The Empire back together again.

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June 4, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

Some new developments in the Boston Marathon saga:

1. A friend of the elder Tsarnaev was murdered while being questioned be the FBI. Dead men tell no tales.

2. Two agents in the elite FBI unit which arrested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev mysteriously fell to their death from a helicopter. Dead men tell no tales.

3. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis testified that the Feds led his department on a wild goose chase, chasing after lawful non-violent protesters, and kept them in the dark about the potential threat from the Tsarnaev brothers. At least now we know who the real enemy is.

The memory of 9/11 is wearing off. It is time for a brand new bleep to keep the sheep all huddled in a heap.

Alex Jones has done some good reporting on the Marathon saga. Alex Jones is derided as a conspiracy theorist for believing that the Boston Marathon bombings were a staged event. I'm not as certain as Jones. But it sure is bizarre how both the FBI and the CIA knew these guys were potential terror threats, at least since 2011; and the Tsarnaev brothers were still able to pull off the Marathon bombings unhampered. I'll stand with Alex on this one.

I also stand with Alex on the bin Laden murder. 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.

My liberal friends think bin Laden should have been given a fair trial. But, how do you give a man who's been dead for years a fair trial? Dead men tell no tales.

TALES DEAD MEN TELL

Mass graves dating back to 1936 and 1948 containing the remains of hundreds of Palestinians have been found near Jaffa. Israeli commentators seem to have difficulty figuring out who might have killed them.

And in spite of this video of the murder of 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Durra, Israel seems to be uncertain whether 12-year-old Muhammad really died at all.

Meanwhile, Muslim leaders visit Auschwitz and Dachau and pray for the Holocaust dead.

STILL MORE ON DONNA HAWLEY

As promised, here is more on Donna Hawley — this time from the Rollover 'N' Retch.

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May 28, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TWO AMAZING NINE YEAR OLDS

This week two amazing nine year olds made history.

Nine-year-old Hannah Robertson stood up at McDonald's annual shareholder meeting and said to CEO Don Thompson, "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time." Hannah was referring to the toys included in "happy meals" with unhealthy junk food.

Let me tell you about the first time a was tricked into nagging my mother to buy food for a toy. I was three years old and there was no television or video games; but we listened to Captain Midnight on the radio. My brother and I just had to have genuine Captain Midnight spy rings which cost two ovaltine box tops. Well, the spy rings were a disappointment, even to a three year old; and the ovaltine tasted and looked like something that someone forgot to flush down the toilet. I learned to beware of junk food and junk toys at the tender age of three. When I was a teenager, I helped mom clean out the kitchen cabinets and found — you guessed it — four jars of ovaltine — three unopened.

Nine-year-old Asean Johnson got up at a rally to prevent the imminent closure of 49 Chicago elementary schools and told mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Bored [misspelling intentional] of Education a thing or two. You gotta watch this three minute video of Asean. After calling out Rahm Emmanual and the Bored of Education for their racist indifference to the needs of Chicago kids, he leads the crowd in a chant of "Education is our Right. That is why we have to fight." There is a lot of talk about electing Asean mayor of Chicago — as soon as he's old enough.

This video should be required viewing in every school in the country.

With Nine-year-olds like Hannah and Asean, there is hope for the United States.

A LITTLE RECOGNITION — AT LAST

Last Thursday, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, interrupted Obama's "major" foreign policy speech. Surprise of surprises, she was not immediately ejected, Obama talked to her, and after she was ejected, Obama remarked, "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to".

Ok. After 12 years of a failed War on Terror and a former illegitimate president smirking at us that "You are either with us or you're with the terrorists", we peace activists have finally received official recognition! And not only that, the president even says we are worth paying attention to.

Those of you who have kept the faith and come to the vigils week after week and otherwise been witnesses for Peace, give yourself a pat on the back. And recall Richard Nixon who when faced with 800,000 peace demonstrators remarked that he was going to watch the football game. And recall George W. Bush who when faced with well over 10 million people demonstrating against his planned invasion of Iraq, put together a so-called "coalition of the willing" and invaded anyway.

But, don't expect to much from Mr. Obama. His speech was full of nice words, but signaled no immediate change in policy.

It's time to turn up the pressure, not relax it. I'm hoping to see a great turnout Thursday at the Post Office.

SEVENTY PERCENT OF US LOVE DRONES

A late April New York Times/CBS poll finds that 70% of us favor "using unmanned aircraft or 'drones' to carry out bombing attacks against suspected terrorists in foreign countries".

Hmmmm. What goes around comes around; and drones are cheap. Will the 70% cry foul when drones attack the homeland?

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May 21, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MORE ON DONNA HAWLEY

I spent last Tuesday in Houston watching the Donna Hawley trial. I got home after dark, elated over the not guilty verdict and wrote a quick blurb for last week's newsletter. But my elation was tempered by my knowledge of the four years of Hell that Donna went through at the hands of our local and state officials before she was finally vindicated.

The following day I wrote an article on the trial which I submitted to the Rolla Daily News. My article was rejected in favor of one written in-house by someone who didn't bother to attend the trial.

Yesterday, I put together a cartoon for Donna — well — it's more than a cartoon — it's something I would have loved to do for her if I had more courage and artistic talent.

I think the Donna Hawley affair is extremely important, and I give you fair warning — I'm going to write more on this. But a few short observations will do for now.

Donna's case is one of prosecutorial misconduct. Former county prosecutor Courtney George should never have charged her. Judge Ron White should never have indicted her. On assuming the office of county prosecutor, John Beger should have dropped the charges. Attorney General Chris Koster should have never have agreed to prosecute her.

It's also a case of misconduct by numerous officials of the City of Rolla and Rolla Municipal Utilities. Right or wrong, she should never have been threatened, or thrown out of meetings, or denied access to pertinent documents, or told to shut up in open council meeting, or dragged into court on bogus felony charges.

It's also a case of misconduct by the news media. Compare my coverage of the trial (and I was there) with that of the Rolla Daily News (and they were not).

It's a case of misconduct by her original attorney, David Mills, who withdrew as Donna's attorney after she refused to accept a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a lesser charge when in fact she was the victim, not the perpetrator.

And it's a case of misconduct by the people of Rolla who abandoned her and left her to fight the entire power structure from the local utility company up to the Attorney General's office with very little support.

Kudos, of course, go to attorney Matthew Crowell of the Public Defender's office who ably defended Donna; judge Bill Hickle who presided over a very fair and impartial trial; the two council members from Owensville who drove all the way to Houston to testify as to what they witnessed at the meeting where Donna was alleged to have assaulted Dennis Roberts; and above all, Texas County, which gave us a jury with the wisdom to see through all the prosecutorial smoke and mirrors.

There is a saying that a fish rots from the head down; but, in fact, a fish rots from the inside out. The body politic is like a fish. We, the people, are the inside of the body politic. And if we neglect our duty to stand up for our Donna Hawleys, the rot spreads quickly to our leaders and institutions.

Donna Hawley is not unique. Here are a few names: John Kiriakou, Bradley Manning, Tim deChristopher, Shakir Hamoodi, Julian Assange, Sister Megan Rice .... The list is very very loooong; but let's stop with Megan Rice, an 82 year-old Catholic Sister who along with two other peace activists entered the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons facility armed with bibles and peace banners. They have been convicted of terrorism and now sit in jail awaiting sentencing, which for Sister Megan, will likely be the rest of her life.

Think about this. Sister Megan and her two friends are convicted of terrorism for non-violently entering a nuclear weapons facility, while those who make the nuclear weapons that terrorize all of humanity continue to ply their trade unimpeded. This is simply Donna Hawley on a grand scale. If we will not defend our Donna Hawleys; how can we defend our Megan Rices?

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May 14, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DONNA HAWLEY NOT GUILTY

Today a Texas County jury found former Rolla city council person and long time critic of Rolla Municipal Utilities Donna Hawley NOT GUILTY of assaulting Rolla Municipal Utilities finance director Dennis Roberts.

In March of 2009, Donna Hawley, as a member of the Rolla city council, attempted to attend a meeting at Rolla Municipal Utilities where certain excessive charges were to be explained. Dennis Roberts attempted to prevent her from entering the meeting room. Hawley is disabled. Roberts weighed in at over 200 pounds and claimed to be perfectly healthy until disabled Donna Hawley assaulted him and tore his wrist. The jury was not convinced and found Hawley not guilty.

During her two years on the Rolla city council, Donna Hawley, foreseeing the coming economic downturn, consistently advised the city of Rolla not to go into debt under the assumption of continued economic growth. For this Hawley was censored by the city council, threatened by one of its members, and finally charged with felony assault for attempting to do her duty as Rolla city council member.

Hawley has since left Rolla. Most people in Rolla have forgotten that it was Hawley who did the research that found that Rolla Municipal Utilities was overcharging its customers and forced RMU to lower its rates by one cent per kWh. Rolla would be in far better financial shape if the city had listened to her advice instead of persecuting her.

I have a question for the Phelps County Prosecutor's Office and the Missouri State Attorney General's Office: How much in taxpayer funds did you spend attempting to convict a disabled woman of felony assault against a healthy 200 pound male?

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May 7, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

THE FOX AND THE HENHOUSE

Here's a couple of examples of the fox guarding the henhouse to add to the many many we already have:

1. The CIA "suggested" changes to the script to Zero Dark Thirty. No wonder the CIA was "absolutely comfortable" with the video.

2. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, was arrested for ... you guessed it ... sexual battery! — after drunkenly accosting a woman in a parking lot.

No wonder sexual assault in the military is on the rise.

RELIGION AND THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS

A Gallup poll conducted a few years ago about religious attitudes toward the killing of innocents found that 89% of Muslims believe the killing of civilians by individuals and small groups is NEVER justified; while only 71% of Christians agreed. 78% of Muslims believe the targeting of civilians by the military is NEVER justified, while only 38/39% of Christians agreed. Atheists and other non-believers held less violent attitudes than Christians but more violent than Muslims.

Jim Naureckas writes: "What stays with me about this polling, though, is not how unwilling Muslims are to kill civilians, but how eager everyone else is."

I can't help recalling how during the Iraq sanctions period (1991-2003) while Iraqi children died at a rate of 5,000 per month beyond what would be normally expected; I would hear justifications like "If we make life harsh enough for the Iraqi people, they'll overthrow Saddam."

CORRECTION

Last week I wrote: "But don't worry; the Earth should be able to cleanse itself within a million years or so, just a blink of an eye in the geological time frame." It's actually quite a bit longer than that. Assuming the age of the Earth to be 4.5 billion years and assuming it will last another 4.5 billion years, one million years is 1/9000 of the Earth's lifespan. Assuming an average human lifespan to be 67 years or 24,472 days; a million years geological time is equivalent to 2.7 days. Most people spend at least that long recovering from even minor illnesses.

By way of comparison, many climate scientists believe that a temperature rise of 2 Centigrade or 3.8 Fahrenheit would lead to irreversible changes in the Earth. If your body temperature rose 3.6 Fahrenheit from 98.6 to 102.4, you would be very sick; and if your body temperature stayed that high for any length of time, you would go through some irreversible changes and then die.

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April 30, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

AND THIS MESS IS SO BIG AND SO DEEP AND SO TALL...

Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric is unable to store all the radioactive water that has been contaminated in the damaged nuclear complex. Apparently they had just intended to dump it all in the ocean — until the public raised an outcry.

As pediatrician Helen Caldicott states: "[Fukushima is] an unmitigated disaster which will remain in perpetuity for the rest of time".

The title line is from Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. To finish it: "We can not pick it up. There is no way at all!"

Maybe we should start thinking about how to clean up our messes before we go around making them. Some of us are a little old to be expecting the Cat in the Hat to clean up after us. But don't worry; the Earth should be able to cleanse itself within a million years or so, just a blink of an eye in the geological time frame. Sadly, none of us (and quite likely none of our descendants) will be around to witness the rebirth.

HOW DO I POISON THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS

Lead, asbestos, dioxins, PCBs ... there are thousands, maybe millions of them, most of which we know nothing about. And the chemical industry keeps churning out new poisons daily to test on our bodies and our environment. Maybe its time to put a moratorium on new chemicals in our environment, at least until we figure out what all the old ones are doing to us.

The title line is adapted from a sonnet by Elizabeth Browning.

THE MOST BIOLOGICALLY DISRUPTIVE CHEMICAL IN OUR ENVIRONMENT

According to a study by Samsel and Seneff, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, may be "the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment" . Glyphosate, in combination with other environmental toxins, could contribute to obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, infertility, and developmental malformations. Read the entire article here.

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April 23, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: FROM PESSIMISM TO OPTIMISM

A reader writes in:

"It's normal to feel down now and then. CommonDreams had an encouraging piece, interviews with 4 or 5 activists on what gets them out of a slump: A Conversation with Common Dreams: 'From Deep Pessimism... to Enduring Optimism'. History is on the side of justice."

My response:

Thanks for writing in. These interviews are all quite short, a few minutes at most; and some are quite wonderful.

Personally, I try to avoid excessive pessimism and optimism. There are good reasons for both. Working for peace and justice can be an end in itself — far more important than whether some small success is scored in a short time-frame.

On one side, there is an old adage: "A single spark can start a prairie fire." So keep on making sparks. Who knows? One of our sparks might start a prairie fire. Did Tim DeCristopher know when he bid on oil and gas leases years ago that he would galvanize the entire environmental movement? Did Bradley Manning know when he leaked secret US documents to Wikileaks, he would become a hero to millions of people and a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize?

On the other side, there are things that will happen regardless of what we do.

To borrow a line from Fred Reed: "The fat lady has sung. ... It's over. ... We can like it, or hate it, or not care. It doesn’t much matter. We might as well dislike gravitation."

Climate change is here to stay. Our environment will never be the same. Is this a reason for pessimism? No. If we are to survive as a species in an increasingly hostile environment, there is much work to be done. So let's get busy! Perhaps, if God wills it, out of the ashes of the old world will come a new and better world. So let's indulge in neither excessive optimism or pessimism. Let's act now. If not us, who?

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April 16, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FOR EACH TIME I SPEAK, I CRY ALOUD; I PROCLAIM VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION

I'm trying to search for something different to write about this week — but not being very successful. Looking back over my recent posts, they are filled with violence and destruction; and I'm just not feeling much like writing about violence and destruction today. I'm beginning to understand how Jeremiah must have felt when he lamented, "For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction."

Sure I could write about how people are coming together to oppose corporate and governmental violence; and that's important. We must do that. But I'd like to be able to proclaim, "Peace on Earth; goodwill toward all of God's creatures" instead of "Violence and destruction." Maybe it's time for me to take a week off. Wage peace!

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April 9, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MORE TORTURE IS US

Remember how Obama promised to close Guantánamo 5 years ago? Well, it's still open and still holding 166 prisoners, most of whom are on a hunger-strike in protest of the horrendous conditions in the prison. Some are being violently force-fed which, like water-boarding, is widely considered torture. Many have been incarcerated for many years, although charged with no crime. Many are "cleared for release" but still held prisoner,

Obama, keep your promise. Close Guantánamo now.

MORE LEAKING RADIOACTIVE STORAGE TANKS

Three weeks ago I did a short snippet on the 75 leaking radioactive storage tanks in Hanford, Washington.

Now, there are three underground tanks leaking radioactive water at Fukushima.

This is an even worse disaster, as the only thing keeping Fukushima from blowing its lid is massive amounts of cooling water that comes out radioactive. So where you gonna put all this radioactive water?

TEPCO general manager, Masayuki Ono, says, "We admit that the underground tanks are not reliable; but we must keep using some of them that are relatively in good shape while monitoring them closely. We just don't have enough tanks on the ground that can accommodate the water." What ever happened to "the peaceful atom" and "electricity too cheap to meter"?

NAVY TO GET NEW WEAPON

As if we don't have enough weapons already, next year the Navy is slated to get some brand new heat-concentrating laser weapons capable of downing a drone or stopping a fast boat. It's suppose to be as revolutionary as gunpowder was in the age of swords and bows and arrows.

Some of us might remember all the spanking new weapon systems that were supposed to "shock and awe" the Iraqis into surrendering. So how come after eight years of fighting, we lost that war? Maybe it takes more than some glitzy weapon systems to win a war. Maybe winning a war requires a just cause: something other than saving people from a dictator we helped to power, something other than ferreting out non-existing weapons of mass destruction, something other than denying a self-created enemy a non-existent safe haven, something other than teaching people about democracy which we know next to nothing about.

Some people never learn. Looks like we may be headed for another war, this time with a fourth-rate nuclear power — North Korea. Or maybe it's Iran; or maybe it's Syria; I just can't keep track of all the places where we may to go to war — or all the silly reasons that I'm told are worth fighting for. Just remember: It's our Environment and our Social Security that are paying for all these wars and the highfalutin life styles of the 1%.

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April 2, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

EDUCATION IS A RACKET

35 Atlanta educators have been indicted under the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) for (REALLY! I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP) cheating on tests. Apparently, there was a large conspiracy to make the Atlanta School District look good by falsifying standardized test results. Valeria Strauss notes that Atlanta is just the tip of the schulberg. Cheating on high-stake tests as required by No Child's Left Behind and Race to the Bottom is widespread among adult educators. What a wonderful example for our children!

Well, I did my part. In almost 30 years as an educator, I do not recall having ever administered a standardized test. And here are my No Child's Left Behind cartoons: here and here. And here is my position paper on standardized testing.

You know these racketeering indictments give me an idea. Let's indict the entire power structure: the generals and admirals, the bankers, the oil executives, the president, Congress and the Supreme Court, under RICO as the racketeers that they are. Major General Smedley Butler suggested something similar 80 years ago. Unfortunately nothing ever came of it.

NUKES KILL

New research by the Radiation and Public Health Project estimates that excess deaths in the United States during the 14 weeks following the Fukushima meltdown are likely around 22,000 instead of the preliminary figure of 14,000 published previously.

Another study shows a dramatic decrease in cancers after the closure of a nuclear plant.

Meanwhile Ameren wants to build another nuclear plant in Missouri when they should be closing down the old one!

BRADLEY MANNING FOR NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE

If you haven't already done so, please consider signing the online petition to the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award Bradley Manning the Nobel Peace Prize. There are over 36,000 signatures already and the number is increasing by leaps and bounds.

Norman Solomon has compiled some of the better comments from the Bradley Manning petition.

AS INSANE AS US

It's kind of a toss-up. I just can't decide who is more insane: our government or North Korea's. Apparently, neither can Eric Margolis.

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March 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

MORE GENDER MATTERS

Here's another one to add to the stuff I've written the past two weeks on gender matters. If you get raped at the University of North Carolina, you could get expelled from school for intimidating your rapist. Huhhhh? Those are the hallowed halls of academia to which I gave far too many years of my life. (I sent UNC an email about this atrocity a few days ago. So far no answer. Maybe they found my email intimidating.)

MORE THAN GENDER MATTERS

In the "enlightened western world" we seem to think that Rights can be compartmentalised — women's Rights, children's Rights, minority Rights, animal Rights, gay Rights, environmental Rights, Gaian Rights.... It takes a Martin Luther King to remind us that an "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Here's a wonderful letter from Zainab Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja from Isa Town Women's Prison in Bahrain. She quotes Dr. King extensively. And let's not forget that the injustices that Al-Khawaja suffers are made possible only by the extensive support which the Bahrainian dictatorship receives from the "enlightened western world."

CHICAGO TEACHERS STAND UP TO BULLIES

While there is plenty of money for wars, prisons, and perks and privileges for the wealthy, Chicago is closing over 50 schools, mostly in poor underprivileged neighborhoods. Here's what Mark Twain had to say about school closures: "Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog." Ever wonder why the United States incarcerates far more people than any other country on Earth — both in absolute numbers (2,239,751), and relative to population (716/100,000)?

Chicagoans are fighting back. I love the message on the placard in the photo, HEY BOARD OF ED: STOP BULLYING STUDENTS, PARENTS & TEACHERS. Mark Twain had something to say about school boards too: "In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards."

WACKO BIRDS

And here is the wonderful wacko-bird image, which just won the "Image of the Month" award. (Scroll down a little. The winner is the second image with the bird perched on the "no birds" sign.)

Note: Rand Paul and his friends were dubbed "wacko birds" for their opposition to John Brennan's nomination as CIA director, due to Brennan's belief that the president has authority to kill anyone, anywhere, for any reason. "Liberal" Democrats, with a few notable exceptions sided with Obama and Brennan.

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March 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

GENDER MATTERS

Last week I wrote a fairly lengthy article, much of it on gender. This week, on the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, I found the following interesting observation on gender and radioactivity. Girls exposed to ionizing radiation in the first 5 years of life are twice as likely as boys in the same age group to develop cancer over the course of their lifetimes. Gender matters. While males dominate the nuclear industry, females assume the lions share of the risk. Sound familiar?

There is a wonderful novel, The White Plague by Frank Herbert, on the theme of a male-created disease that strikes down females.

MORE NUCLEAR MATTERS

While we are on the subject of the depredations of the nuclear industry, in Hanford, Washington, USA, one of the most polluted plots of real estate on the planet, 6 new storage tanks filled with nuclear waste are leaking, bringing the total number up to 75.

And off the coast of Fukushima, a fish containing 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium set a new record as the most radioactive fish ever caught, .

CLIMATE CHANGE IS FOREVER ... WELL AT LEAST FOR THE NEXT MILLENNIUM

While here in South Central Missouri, some most-welcome precipitation seems to have brought last year's drought to an end, out west, the drought continues. Most of Nebraska is still experiencing the highest level, exceptional, drought. Colorado is experiencing March wildfires.

And down under, Australia has just experienced its hottest summer in recorded history.

Here's an article describing what desert cities like Phoenix can expect in the years to come.

And Joe Romm debunks the myth that climate change can be reversed. Climate change is here to stay, so, as I've advised before, we all better hunker down, make the best of it, and try to prevent it from getting any worse.

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March 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: ON ISLAM, GENDER AND SOLIDARITY

In reference to last week's snippet on Nurit Peled-Elhanan's speech a reader writes:

"I can't admire Islam, even though I certainly agree that the USA behaves abominably toward most Moslem nations. I deplore the treatment of women by Moslem individuals and Moslem states. How do you reconcile your religion with its treatment of women, which at its BEST could be called 'separate but equal?'

"It seems to me that your choice of a religion is a statement of solidarity with another people, which is admirable. But don't forget the women."


My response is somewhat long for this newsletter; but can be read here.

THE SINGLE WORST FOREIGN POLICY DECISION IN AMERICAN HISTORY

I've been saying for almost ten years that the Invasion of Iraq was not just one more terrible decision by a ruling cabal with far more money, power and arrogance than brains. The invasion was a tipping point -- a point of no return which "set the world inexorably and irretrievably on a path of military competition" that must ultimately lead to Collapse. It seems this point of view is beginning to work its way, if not into the mainstream news media, at least into alternative media like TomDispatch and Commondreams. Here is such an article by Peter Van Buren who exposed Iraq's infamous Potemkin Chicken Factory, .

DANCING THE WORLD INTO SALVATION

This interview with Leanne Simpson of Idle No More is just so full of wisdom that I don't know where to start. Here's an example:

"[W]e were talking about sustainable development, and I was explaining that term from the Western perspective to the students. And I asked [elder Robin Greene] if there was a similar concept in Anishinaabeg philosophy that would be the same as sustainable development. And he thought for a very long time. And he said no. And I was sort of shocked at the 'no' because I was expecting there to be something similar. And he said the concept is backwards. You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that?"

The interview is somewhat long, but reading it should give you a much-needed sense of hope.

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March 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: WHY DOES THAT STREAK OF BLOOD, RIP THE PETAL OF YOUR CHEEK?

A reader sends in this speech given on International Women's Day 2005 by Nurit Peled-Elhanan. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who lost a child to Israeli/Palestinian violence. This speech is a MUST READ, particularly if you believe in what Peled-Elhanan refers to as "the enlightened western world." Here's a short quote: "[S]tate violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot."

Of course the violence against Muslims that Peled-Elhanan decries continues. Here are three (of many) recent examples: NATO Shot Dead Two Afghan Children in Latest Attack on Civilians, British Citizens Stripped of Status Then Targeted For Killing and Did Arafat Jaradat Die Under Interrogation?.

On a personal note: I could have entitled this snippet, "Why I am Muslim." Islam must indeed be powerful to be feared and attacked so brutally by "the enlightened western world."

The title of this snippet is from Anna Akhmatova and quoted in Peled-Elhanan's speech.

IN THE FIRST PLACE, GOD MADE IDIOTS...

Here's an update on the the Seattle teachers revolt against the computerized MAP test. The movement against high-stakes standardized testing is spreading. Maybe Rolla will be next!

The Los Angeles District School Board election is being flooded with big corporate money. Huh? So corporations get to decide, based on their profits of course, how our children will be educated. The Rolla School Board election is pretty quiet. There's not even a race. But, hold on to your hats. We could be next.

In Florida, a 16 year old high school student was suspended after overpowering a football player who was threatening a teammate with a loaded gun. The 16-year-old remarked, "It's dumb. How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?"

The Title of this snippet is the first part of a Mark Twain aphorism: "In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards."

MORE MARK TWAIN

India's Intellectual Property Appellate Board thumbed it's nose at Bayer and awarded a license to Natco Pharma to produce a generic version of the drug, nexavar, which Natco will sell for 97% less than the Bayer version. This ruling makes nexavar affordable to many suffering from kidney and liver cancer who could not afford the high price that Bayer demands.

I think the Intellectual Property Board must have read Mark Twain's famous aphorism, "Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet."

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February 26, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS (WE'RE ALL ILLEGAL)

In response to my We're All Illegal snippet, a reader reminds me that there were probably multiple waves of prehistoric migration across the Bering Straight from Asia to North America. Apparently, based on genetic evidence, anthropologists are trying to sort out who immigrated when.

My response: In short, any specific claim to having ancestors who were THE FIRST humans in the Americas is in doubt.

In my opinion, we're all here NOW and we'd be wise to learn to share and get along together. As Fred Reed puts it, "Seventeen percent of the United States is now Latino. The percentage is increasing, and will increase. You can like it, or hate it, or not care. It doesn’t much matter. You might as well dislike gravitation."

In 1848 the United States started a war with Mexico and annexed what is now the Southwestern part of the United States. Why? Because the U.S. was stronger than Mexico and it could. Now some are concerned that culturally much of this land resembles Mexico far more than other parts of the United States. Just goes to show the uselessness and stupidity of the wars of aggression we keep starting.

UNITED NATIONS TO HAITI: POOH POOH ON YOU

Losing the last claim to legitimacy that the United Nations might still have, the UN refused to pay reparations for having murdered 7,000 Haitians by introducing a cholera epidemic to Haiti. The UN stated simply, "Claims are not receivable." Cholera causes violent diarrhea; and if untreated, leads to extreme dehydration and death.

WE'RE KNOWN BY THE COMPANY WE KEEP (CORRECTION)

Last week I reported that while 50,000 demonstrated at the White House to stop climate change, Obama was off playing golf with Tiger Woods. Well, I got it half right. According to the Huffington Post, he was playing golf; but not with Tiger Woods. He was playing golf with oil executives who are responsible for much of the climate change the people were demonstrating against. We're known by the company we keep.

JUDGE OVERTURNS US CONSTITUTION; UPHOLDS RELATIVITY

Appealing to a Higher Authority, Judge Denise Lind ruled that scientific law trumps the US Constitution; and in particular, the Law of General Relativity trumps Amendment VI; and that 1000 days in prison without trial does not violate Bradley Manning's Right to a speedy trial.

VIVA L'ITALIA

Italians went to the polls in large numbers and rejected the major Italian political parties in favor of former comedian, Beppe Grillo and the Five Star Movement which garnered 25% of the vote. The Five Star Movement's core principles are: Publicly owned water, Sustainable transportation, Sustainable development, Free and open internet access, and Environmentalism.

I've been saying for years that we need to reject our two major parties, The Repugnants and The Dementeds, in favor of new political parties. Here's my choice from last November's election.

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February 19, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

50,000 DEMONSTRATE TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE — IS 50,000 ENOUGH?

Sunday, 50 thousand people demonstrated in Washington DC in favor of stopping climate change. Bill McKibben declared, "Today was the day. Finally, powerfully, decisively -- the movement to stop climate change has come together." Meanwhile Obama, who should have spoken to the demonstrators and praised them for their social activism, was off playing golf with Tiger Woods. This act is loaded with symbolism. Golf is one of the most environmentally destructive of all sports — perhaps second only to war in the environmental destruction it causes. Mark Twain once commented, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." Too much golf also spoils a good environment.

I am reminded of another demonstration 44 years ago: 800,000 people came to Washington to protest the Vietnam War. Then-president Richard Nixon claimed he was watching a football game during the protest. The war dragged on for another six years.

I am also reminded of another demonstration 10 years ago when some 15 million people turned out all over the world to protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq. While I'm not aware of a specific sports metaphor, elite leaders also claimed to ignore this protest, probably the largest the world has ever seen, saying they would invade Iraq anyway with a Coalition of the Willing.

Looking back at these two previous mass demonstrations, leaders would have done well to listen to the people. In both cases, a few short years later, the US military had to abandon their war plans and came home in defeat with their tails between their legs. But leaders are blind; and the more powerful they are, the blinder they are.

Writing for Time Magazine, Ishaan Tharoor asks the question: Why weren't the demonstrations of the weekend of Febuary 15th, 2003 effective in preventing the Iraq War?. The answer is simple: Because leaders in their arrogance chose to ignore the demonstrators. And the saddest observation is that the people let their leaders get away with ignoring them. When I came to Washington a month later, just a few days before the invasion, there were only a few thousand demonstrating. Had there been 30 million demonstrating world wide in March, maybe, maybe, we would have succeeded in preventing the war. And if not, maybe 60 million could have brought the war to a quick end in April. As it was, the people did not speak loudly enough; leaders did not listen; and they ended up learning the hard way. The War dragged on for 8 years.

Well, let's get back to Sunday's 50 thousand stop-climate-change demonstrators. If 15 million couldn't prevent a war, how can 50 thousand prevent climate change, certainly a far more difficult task than preventing a small war in a small country? Answer: They can't; unless they come back tomorrow with 100,000, next month with a million, and so on. Actually, the movement to stop climate change has a big advantage. It is now obvious to anyway with half-open eyes that with all the monster droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, climate change is directly and negatively affecting all of us. Unless you are a soldier, or know a soldier or an Iraqi or an Afghan, or make the connection between all the money spent on war and all the money not available to spend at home, you may not realize that these wars affect you negatively too.

In short, Sunday may have been the day that finally, powerfully, and decisively, the movement to stop climate change came together; but the movement has a loooong way to go. So, the time is now. Join the movement. If you are already part of the movement, increase your level of activism. Whether we are ignored, derided or attacked, in the end, we win. As Gandhi put it, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

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February 12, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

WE'RE ALL ILLEGAL

You gotta watch this one minute video. Wow! This guy is awesome. He's got guts — and he's right!

Hold on a minute. Maybe things aren't all that simple. What about his ancestors. Didn't they come to The Americas some 14,000 years ago. Well, there were no humans here at the time. But didn't his ancestors slaughter all the mammoths, mastodons and other large mammals. Didn't the mammoths have Rights too?

Ok. So I'm illegal here. Where am I legal? My immediate ancestors came to the United States a little more than 100 years ago from Russia, Poland, and maybe Lithuania or The Ukraine too. Before that, somewhere on the Central Asian steppes most likely. And if you go back far enough, maybe a million years, Africa, where Homo Rapiens [misspelling intentional] first evolved (whether you believe in evolution or not). So again, where am I legal?

If you want a very basic historic overview of humanity's major movements around the planet and why, read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" — in my opinion, one of the most important books of the 20th Century. There is also a documentary film of Guns, Germs and Steel. I haven't watched it.

To cut to the chase, if you live in the United States, your ancestors migrated here; and unless you are among the peoples we incorrectly call "Native American" or "Indian", your ancestors were not the first to migrate here. So don't go around calling others "illegal." You could be the next to be deported.

A 65 YEAR-OLD RACKET

While we are discussing illegal aliens, lets talk about the biggest land-theft of the past 100 years — the theft of most of Palestine by mostly European and North American Jews who are mostly of Central Asian / Khazar origin and probably have little if any Semitic ancestry. This racket seems to be coming to an end as more and more people are beginning to understand that the theft of Palestine is no more and no less than any other colonial land-theft of recent history. The best short book by far on the theft of Palestine (up to 1992) is Ron David's "Arabs & Israel for Beginners". Just Foreign Policy has an excellent fact sheet about the current movement to halt further colonization of Palestinian land. And here is an article on the growing international movement for an economic, academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

The modern State of Israel is a 65-year-old racket. Once a racket is exposed for what it is, it can't continue.

So tell me again. Why do settlers from Europe and North America have more Right to Palestine than people who have lived there continuously for thousands of years?

TORTURE "IS" US

Like the myth that the descendants of European settlers have more Right to North America than the people they displaced or the people that come here after them; and like the myth that Palestine belongs to Jews of European and North American descent; another myth is that the Great American Empire is different than all those other empires that preceded it — Roman, Spanish, British, German, Soviet etc.

How is it different? Well, for one thing it maintains control through the systematic use of torture and terror, just like all those other empires did. (You can read the entire 216 page report here.)

So tell me again. How is the Great American Empire different from all those other empires.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Surprise! North Korea successfully tested another nuclear bomb. Not much in the way of sensible responses from the United Nations and the other nuclear weapon states. Oh, there was one excellent response — from Iran. Let's rid the entire world of nuclear weapons. Makes sense to me. How about you?

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February 5, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

I'LL BE JUDGE, I'LL BE JURY ...

Glenn Greenwald dissects the latest Justice Dept. memo "vesting" our imperial president with authority to kill anybody, anytime, anyplace for anyreason, but Lewis Carroll said it best a century and a half ago.

Note to Republicans on the Imperial Obama Presidency: If you didn't criticize the Imperial Bush Presidency, your criticisms of the Imperial Obama Presidency are hypocritical.

Note to Democrats: If you didn't support the Imperial Bush Presidency, your support of the Imperial Obama Presidency is hypocritical.

SCRAP THE MAP

The Seattle teachers' fight against the standardized MAP test gathers support. We need to get rid of the Missouri MAP test too.

US IMPERIAL NAVY ATTACKS CORAL REEF

In a show of imperial might and power, the USS Guardian, ignoring warnings from park rangers, attacked the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, damaging 4,000 square meters of pristine coral reef at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The coral reef mounted a devastating counter attack, totally disabling the Guardian. Kind of reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez.

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January 29, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

REWRITING HISTORY

Chris Hedges has done it again! In White Power to the Rescue, he discusses how we are rewriting our history, elevating to hero status the likes of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one who made millions as a slave-trader and was responsible for numerous atrocities as a Confederate general. Hedges points out that self-glorification and the rewriting of history is not at all atypical of deteriorating societies. "[T]he replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture." and "Those who retreat into fantasy cannot be engaged in rational discussion, for fantasy is all that is left of their tattered self-esteem." (See, for example, this exchange of minds with a teaparty animal.)

The extent to which we rewrite our history is indicative of just how far and how fast we have fallen. Consider: In 1945 the United States emerged victorious from World War II, unscathed by the devastation visited upon the major European and Asian powers. 30 years later, the United States came home from its Vietnam debacle with its tail between its legs, a Goliath bested by a second-rate David. In 1990, the destruction of the Soviet Union left the United States the World's only military and economic superpower. 22 years later, the US economy is in shambles, with its military defeated by third rate powers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The saddest part of this sad story is that in both cases, it was within our power to remake the world as a place where peace and justice would reign supreme, and instead, we lost everything chasing after the will-o-the-wisp of empire and total world domination.

One final note: Fantasies of regaining lost glory only serve to hasten decline. The more we chase after lost glories, the more we ignore real dangers, like global warming; and real opportunities, like employing our workforce productively building a renewable energy grid; and the more we allow opportunists to promise us what never was, while they loot our treasuries and sap our energies.

I OFFER THEE THREE ALTERNATIVES; CHOSE THEE ONE OF THEM, THAT I MAY DO IT UNTO THEE

Ann Jones discusses what's on the horizon in Afghanistan as the country prepares for the possibility of the United States declaring victory and bringing its troops home in 2014. None of the alternatives: compromise, conflict, and collapse are particularly nice. Which one? In Jones' words, "It's anybody’s guess."

Some important statistics: According to the CIA, children born today in Afghanistan have an almost one in eight chance of dying before their first birthday — by far the highest infant mortality rate in the world, 122/1000. A distant second is Mali, the former French colony which France just invaded with support and blessings from the United States. Mali boasts an infant mortality rate of 109/1000. There seems to be a conspiracy here to invade the poorest most oppressed peoples in the world — in order to make them poorer and more oppressed. What a way to win hearts and minds.

The title of this snippet is from I Chronicles 21:10 — take heed.

JOHN KIRIAKOU AND THE PRISON STATE

John Kiriakou has been sentenced to thirty months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA torture program. Kiriakou did not participate in torture. However, none of the torturers or those who authorized torture are likely to ever serve time in prison. This is what passes for justice in the United States. Glenn Greenwald discusses Obama's historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers.

The United States boasts far more prisoners than any country in the world — both in absolute numbers, 2,239,751, and relative to population, 716/100,000. John Kiriakou adds one more number to these already horrendous statistics.

One must go back to the days of apartheid in South Africa and the days of Stalin in the Soviet Union to find anything comparable.

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January 22, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

DEJA VU (ALL OVER AGAIN)

Every now and then I get into an exchange of minds with a teaparty animal. It rarely lasts long. The teaparty animal doesn't like being contradicted; and if you contradict him he will typically change the subject immediately. If you insist that he respond to the contradiction, after a few attempts at changing the subject, he will not respond at all.

Here an example from a few months ago:

TPA: Then we have the Muslims taking over Europe & we are on the list next!

ME: Did you know that I'm Muslim? No, I have no intention of taking over Europe. Well, Europe took over most of the world in the 450 years before World War II. Then they gave us Hitler and the Nazis. Europe also gave us the most vicious religious wars the world has ever known: Catholics vs. Protestants. With US power waning, expect more of the same from Europe. Maybe it's time for somebody sane to take over Europe.

TPA: Tom, I know you are Muslim. You are saying I dont have Free Speech, to inform people & say that there are problems with Muslims in Europe.

ME: I don't understand how you get from ["Did you know that I'm Muslim?"] to ["Tom, I know you are Muslim. You are saying I dont have Free Speech"]. Please explain.

After a couple of attempts to change the subject, I never heard back from my teaparty animal friend.

In retrospect I was being far too kind to Europe. Right now the French are bombing the crap out of Mali. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a rare moment of truth declared, "The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets [of resistance]." In other words it is Europe that is recolonizing Muslim lands, not the other way around as my teaparty animal friend suggests.

The United States is (of course) backing France. If you are my age you might remember that the United States backed France in its attempt to recolonize Indochina after World War II. When France threw in the towel, we took over the war as our own - one of the worst mistakes the United States ever made. Some people never learn.

The title of this snippet is a quote from Yogi Berra. Here's another famous Yogi quote: "You can observe a lot by watching."

VICTORY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY IN MISSOURI

The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled for Missouri's consumers, environmentalists and the Public Service Commission (PSC) upholding the rules on energy efficiency promulgated by the PSC, . Henry Robertson, attorney for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, who helped formulate and defend the PSC rules remarked, "We're glad we don't have to start the rulemaking process all over again. It took nearly two years, and the PSC was very even-handed and thorough. It's time to get on with saving Missouri's consumers energy and money and reducing our state's unsustainable reliance on coal for electricity."

Great Rivers is the same public interest environmental law center that saved Rolla's Buehler Park, in a landmark victory in which the Missouri Courts ruled for the first time since 1910 that users of public property have standing to sue for the continued use of that property.

FORGET THE MIDDLE EAST — THE WESTERN PACIFIC IS WHERE IT'S AT

Michael Klare looks at the western pacific region and points out that it is ripe for the start of a World War as China, Japan, The United States and other less powerful nations vie for ascendancy in the Western Pacific. This article is a MUST READ. If you are inclined toward peace, get active now; you might never have another chance.

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January 15, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TEACHER BOYCOTT: A RARE AND BEAUTIFUL THING

Teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School have refused to administer a standardized test, akin to Missouri's MAP test, to their student. The revolt against inappropriate standardized testing has spread to two other Seattle High Schools. Former Garfield student, Wayne Au, remarked, "Having all of the teachers at a school decide to support a boycott of a high-stakes, standardized test is a rare and beautiful thing."

It is, indeed! What a wonderful 84th birthday present for Martin Luther King Jr., whose lasting legacy to us is the use of non-violent civil disobedience as a successful strategy for social change.

Personally, I feel vindicated. Last year I ran for a seat on the Rolla School Board. What distinguished me most from the other candidates was my insistence that Rolla should opt out of No Child Left Behind and in particular, standardized testing. I wrote, "I will do whatever possible to terminate the Rolla School District's participation in No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or any of its successors; and, failing that, at least release our schools from some of the more onerous provisions of these laws." I finished last in a field of four.

Well, Seattle has beat us to the punch. While Rolla has lost the chance to be the leader in the growing movement against inappropriate standardized testing, IT IS NOT TO LATE TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT!!! The Rolla School district could still boycott MAP tests this year.

Check out my No Child Left Behind cartoons: http://tomsager.org/NoChildsLeftBehind.html and http://tomsager.org/TestCongress.html.

US HEALTH CARE SYSTEM: ROTTEN TO THE CORE

We in the United States, experience worse health care than people in almost every other industrialized country, according to a study by the National Institute of Health. Panel chair, Steven H. Woolf, remarked, "We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society."

The fact is that our corporate-dominated health care system is rotten to the core. There are no quick fixes. We must revamp our system of corporate-dominated health care from the bottom to the top.

COURAGEOUS ISRAELI SOLDIERS SHOOT UNARMED BOY IN BACK

Two weeks ago, I ran across this article on Commondreams about rampant suicides among the Israeli Defense Forces, at least 237 over the past 10 years. Why?

Well, what glory is there in killing an unarmed boy by shooting him in the back, as described in this article? Those who commit such atrocities are prime candidates for suicide, especially members of an occupying army, universally despised by the population they seek to control. I think, perhaps, in the long run, violence can be far more harmful to the perpetrator than to the victim. This goes a long way toward describing what is wrong with our society, as well as Israeli society.

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January 8, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

BURN, BABY, BURN

It's official now. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the lower 48 states, beating out the previous record holding year of 1998 by a full degree Fahrenheit. It was also among the driest years and most extreme climatewise.

Right now, down under, Australia is in the midst of a record breaking heat wave. But, hold on to your hats, folks. There's more coming. Wonder what else 2013 will bring?

STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL'S HOOF AND MOUTH DISEASE

General Stanley McChrystal sticks his hoof in his mouth again, comparing Afghans to teenagers in need of continued occupation by the omniscient United States. With such a patronizing attitude is it any wonder that McChrystal failed to win Afghan hearts and minds?

Well, maybe McChrystal has a point. The median age in Afghanistan is 18.2 years — less than half of the median age in the United States. After 11 years of U.S. war and occupation, coming on the heals of the U.S. sponsored mujahideen war against the Soviet Union, there just aren't all that many old folks left in Afghanistan.

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January 1, 2013 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CHOLERA EPIDEMIC IN HAITI

As our memories of Newtown and Webster dim — as did our memories of Columbine, Blacksburg, Chardon and other massacres before, Haiti continues to undergo a devastating cholera epidemic that has killed thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands. The Haiti cholera epidemic was started by UN workers in October 2010 who contaminated a major river by disposing of their raw feces therein.

Preventing the spread of cholera is cheap and easy — all that is required is sewage treatment and water purification. Treating cholera is cheap and easy too — a plentiful supply of water and rehydration salts usually suffice. So why didn't the UN immediately stamp out the cholera epidemic it started? Why didn't Haiti's wealthy neighbor to the North (that's us), that makes everything that happens in the world its business, help out? Why is it that over two years after the UN introduced cholera to Haiti, Haitians still struggle with a cholera epidemic? Why is it that almost three years after the devastating earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tent cities without adequate sewage disposal or water treatment?

Two excellent books:

"The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson — Read how John Snow unraveled the cause of the 1854 London cholera epidemic.

"Hideous Dream" by Stan Goff — Read an account of the 1994 US invasion of Haiti by one who took part in it and find out why Haiti is still struggling with poverty, disease and foreign domination today.

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET

Climatewise, 2012 was a year of extremes: drought, heat waves, hurricanes, and now, ending with a monster winter storm. But you ain't seen nothing yet. The devastating drought is predicted to intensify in much of the Western United States throughout the winter months. Sea levels will continue to rise. ...

Earth's Coldest Regions Warming Fastest

Recent Storms Recall Dust Bowl Days as Drought Persists

Meanwhile, politicians still bury their heads in the sand and pretend it just ain't happening.

Check out my Climate Cliff cartoon.

IRANOPHOBIA

In the wake of the death of a 73 year old Iranian citizen, two days after being subjected to "intense questioning" by US customs, Iran advises citizens to avoid travel to the United States.

A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry remarked: "A five-hour unusual and inhumane interrogation of an elderly man cannot be acceptable."

Washington Post article

Agence France Press article

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December 24, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES

Here is a story of war and Christmas time I wrote for the Rolla Daily News five years ago. It bears repeating every year. The article is based partially on a song of the same name by John McCutcheon.

THE END OF THE WORLD — NOT

The 2012 winter solstice has passed, and thanks be to God, I am still here to write to you. Those who misinterpreted the Mayan calendar as a prophecy of doom owe us all an apology, which we are unlikely to receive. Bolivian president, Evo Morales, brings us a message of hope, explaining the ancient wisdom that this solstice brings to an end the era of selfishness and greed and the beginning of a new era of peace, unity and respect for Mother Earth. Let it be so!

A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FROM JULIAN ASSANGE

As a Christmas present to all of us, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, announces from his asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy the upcoming release of one million new documents which will affect every country in the world.

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December 18, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: THE UNIVERSAL SOLDIER

A readers sends in this
account of soldiering by Fred Reed. WARNING: the account is very graphic. Here's a short quote:

          "I hate what I did and I hate what my friends did
          who were there, who are really my only friends.
          And I hope you one day pay, what we paid, what
          our victims paid and you pay it as we did. And
          this will bring me the only joy in my life.

          "I am a soldier. I am dirt."

If Fred Reed's account is too graphic for you, then try reading The Maimed by Chris Hedges; or listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie sing Universal Sodier and describe how she came to write the song; or if you don't feel like clicking a link, here again is Tim O'Brien's description of War:

          "A true war story is never moral. It does not
          instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest
          models of proper human behavior, nor restrain
          men from doing the things men have always done.
          If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If
          at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or
          if you feel that some small bit of rectitude
          has been salvaged from the larger waste, then
          you have been made the victim of a very old and
          terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever.
          There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb,
          therefore, you can tell a true war story by its
          absolute and uncompromising allegiance to
          obscenity and evil. ... You can tell a true war
          story by the way it never seems to end ..."
                    —Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"

If these accounts of War speak to you, then contact Veterans for Peace.

THE FORGOTTEN WAR: "YOU HAVE DESTROYED EVERYTHING"

Cathy Breen writes from Iraq. I met Cathy in Baghdad — it seems like ages ago. Cathy is very brave. I don't think that I would have the courage to go back.

I did a lot of speaking, lobbying and demonstrating years ago before my country invaded Iraq. One weekend, some 15 million people worldwide, over one million in the United States, demonstrated against the invasion. It happened anyway.

They told us Iraqis would welcome the invasion and throw flowers at the feet of our soldiers? Here is what they are saying now:

"You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have taken our dreams!”

“Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”

Read Cathy's latest article.

WAR IS COMING HOME

As I write, information is trickling in on the latest school massacre. 20 young children in Connecticut shot to death — for what? To echo a quote from Cathy Breen's article: What did those young children ever do to us?

President Obama speaks with a tear in his eye: "Our hearts are broken". I have to wonder whether the president's heart breaks over the thousands of children who have died as a result of his militaristic adventures. Apparently, not.

Predictably, liberals call for gun control laws. Predictably, conservatives proclaim no connection between loose gun laws and school shootings. Predictably, few draw the connection between school shootings and our violent militaristic culture.

Me? I wonder. What if it had been one of the kindergarten classes that I read to? What if it had been my grandchildren? What if? What if? What if? I think about the Veterans Day program the school children put on every year glorifying soldiering and War, and wonder if children at Sandy Hook Elementary are taught to glorify War and soldiering. I think about the arrogance of killing, killing, killing — claiming it as our God-given Right — never considering the price. But mostly, it is the words of Fred Reed that echo in my mind:

          "I hate what I did and I hate what my friends did
          who were there, who are really my only friends.
          And I hope you one day pay, what we paid, what
          our victims paid and you pay it as we did. And
          this will bring me the only joy in my life.

          "I am a soldier. I am dirt."

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December 11, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

FROM OUR READERS: DON'T SHOP OLD NAVY

Sarah Lamb sends this article about how one of our veterans was banned from an Old Navy store after pointing out a young employee improperly wearing a Marine Corps uniform dress jacket complete with rank insignia, ribbons and a weapons badge. This is a federal offense under the Stolen Valor Act.

My response: This incident highlights two important aspects of the society we live in:

1. Living an Illusion

Neither the employee, his supervisor nor anyone else at Old Navy saw anything wrong with an employee decking himself out as something he was not. The officers and stock holders of Old Navy, a for-profit corporation, make lots of money off the sale of an illusion: that by wearing Old Navy clothing, one becomes the warrior that one is not. The veteran who pointed out this discrepancy might as well have shouted The Emperor's Naked. Those who point out that we are living an illusion, must be banned at all cost.

2. Instant Valor

What's valorous about shooting up a wedding party from a drone piloted from a safe haven halfway around the world? What's valorous about pounding, with modern weaponry and toxic ordinance. a city that stands naked without army, navy or air force? Matter of fact, what's valorous about participating on the side of the aggressor in any asymmetric war? Is this much different from wearing medals that one never earned?

There was a time when mighty warriors were expected to meet each other face to face on the battlefield with nothing more than hand weapons. But that was long long ago. Now we have poor to mediocre military leaders who command from afar and go down in defeat to the adulation of a fawning mass media.

Sarah is working for justice for veterans. Keep up the good work, Sarah! And I have no intention of ever buying anything from Old Navy, or its parent corporation, Gap, or any of their other lines of clothing: Banana Republic and Piperlime.

MORE BULLYING IN PALESTINE

If you want to read what it's like to be on the short side of an asymmetric war, read this account by Josh Brollier of Voices for Creative Nonviolence of doctors and medics working in Gaza during recent Israeli invasions.

Still smarting from a diplomatic defeat at the United Nations which accorded Palestine the status of "Observer Nation," Israel raids the offices of three Palestine NGOs in Ramallah, confiscating and destroying equipment.

In truth, THE GAME IS OVER. Israel and its friends ran this racket for 64 long years. But IT'S OVER. No longer can Israel get away with doing whatever it likes in Occupied Palestine. No longer can the United States shield Israel from the consequences of its actions.

COP 18: ANOTHER FAILURE

As expected, the COP 18 climate summit at Doha ended with nothing substantive whatsoever to show for itself, . Politicians and governments pat each other on the back and ignore the danger while the world continues to burn.

Did you know that most of Nebraska and much of the Midwest is still experiencing the highest level (exceptional) drought? It's interesting to watch the progression of the drought through this animation.

2012 was the hottest year ever. I wonder what Nature has in store for us in 2013...

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December 4, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

SIOUX TRIBES RAISE $9 MILLION TO BUY SACRED LAND

Pe' Sla is a sacred Lakota site in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Four months ago this 2,000 acre site was on the verge of being parceled out and sold at auction. The Great Sioux Nation, bypassing the federal government, successfully raised $9 million and bought this sacred land that was stolen from them over a century ago. Read this statement of Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Cyril “Whitey” Scott.

THE MIGHTY ARMY THAT WASN'T THERE

In a speech at Oxford University, Pentagon lawyer, Jeh Johnson discussed winding down the so-called War on Terror and turning al-Qaeda remnants and its affiliates over to police and law enforcement.

Great idea! 12 years ago I suggested turning al-Qaeda criminals along with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinsky, without whom there would never have been an al-Qaeda, over to the International Criminal Court. Maybe someone's been reading my stuff.

I thought Jeh Johnson's speech was worth a short poem:

I saw an army everywhere,
A mighty army that wasn't there.
It wasn't there again today.
Perhaps al-Qaeda's gone away.

OFFICIAL: PALESTINE IS A STATE

It's official. The UN General Assembly, against the wishes of Israel, The United States and 7 other nations, declared Palestine an "observer state" by a vote of 138 to 9.

Israel, finding itself increasingly impotent and isolated in the world arena, retaliates by building more settlements on Palestinian land and refusing to hand over money belonging to Palestine.

Can't help wondering what took the United Nations so long - 64 years. Well, better late than never.

SENATE VOTES FOR AND AGAINST WAR

The Senate voted 62 to 33 for a non-binding amendment to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In the words of George Aiken: it's time to "declare victory and go home."

Meanwhile, the Senate also voted unanimously to increase sanctions on Iran. Sanctions are the most cowardly way to fight a war because they hit the most vulnerable segments of the population hardest. At the height of the Iraq sanctions, mortality for Iraqi children under 5 years old had increased by 5,000 per month. Unable to win a war fair and square, the Beltway Bullies resort to the most cowardly tactics imaginable - and still can't win a war.

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November 27, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

A SORT OF VICTORY

Last Wednesday Gazans filled the streets and held a victory party to celebrate the truce that ended the eight day pounding of Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces. The Truce, even though Israel broke it the following day, is a sort of victory. I think the days when Israel could treat Palestinians as their own private "whipping boys" are over.

The difference is that Israel's major benefactor, The United States, is no longer all-powerful — in the Middle East or elsewhere. Having lost the War Against Iraq and on track to lose the War Against Afghanistan, The United States remains powerless to start a War against Israel's current arch-enemy, Iran.

As I wrote five years ago in Three Murderous Myths, "As the power and unconditional backing of its major benefactor [The United States] evaporates, Israel may decide that the best course is not only to make peace with its neighbors, but to enter into some form of economic and military cooperation with them. This would be the worst nightmare for the US and Europe". Perhaps, this truce is the first tentative move in that direction.

Richard Falk supplies essential background and analysis here.

COPS AND ROBBERS 18

194 nations are meeting this week in Doha, one of the world's most energy intensive cities, to discuss Climate Change. In spite of record setting heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms, no one expects much besides the usual political posturing. The meeting is called COPS 18 — 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Robbers are the wealthy nations which claim the Right to treat out atmosphere and oceans as an open sewer in which they dump all sorts of nasty toxic substances without regard to consequences.

WE'RE GONNA BUST THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

Have you ever wondered why high school students in the United States compare so poorly against students from most other developed countries? Here's an example: Last month private prison guards participated in a drug sweep in an Arizona High School. This drug sweep that terrorized 1,800 students netted three students in possession of marijuana, only one with more than one gram. As Caroline Isaacs of the AFSC notes: "To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the 'schools-to-prison pipeline' I've ever seen." and "It is chilling to think that any school official would be willing to put vulnerable students at risk this way."

Incidentally, over 80% of us consider the 40+ year old War On Drugs, which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and millions incarcerated, a failure. Over half of the 50 states have eliminated or minimized penalties for possession of recreational marijuana or enacted some form of legalized medical marijuana use.

And if you've never heard the Austin Lounge Lizards sing Bust the High School Students, click here.

Oh, and if you have a three-year-old and live in Oklahoma, don't let him pee on your lawn. It might cost you a $2,500 fine. So goes the War On Children.

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November 20, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE

When government fails, as it assuredly is failing now, the people must learn to help and rely on each other. Last week I gave the example of Occupy Sandy. A month ago Occupy Wall Street was being brutalized by the police and mocked by the media. Now Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, is showing government how to deal effectively with a crisis.

Rolling Jubilee is another example. Rolling Jubilee is buying up toxic debt and cancelling it, thereby allowing people to stay in their homes. Government's only response to the housing crisis was to throw money at the bankers, the ones who created the crisis.

People helping people. Some would call this Socialism.

A KIND OF MADNESS

Savita Halappanavar is dead — she died of insanity — not her own insanity — but the insanity of those who could have saved her life, but, instead, watched her die a slow painful death, while denying her the abortion that would have saved her life. Her baby not surprisingly died too. "And, indeed, it was a kind of madness, the madness that comes from being under the spell of a Theory." Isn't is time we started relating to each other's needs, and not the needs of a Theory.

ANOTHER KIND OF MADNESS

Israel is again brutalizing Gaza with powerful weaponry gifted to it by the United States. Gaza, home to 1.6 million people, half of whom are children, is defenseless. Gaza has no choice but to endure this onslaught, while the media cheers and the world looks on with impotence. This too is a kind of madness — a madness born of racism, a hunger for power and an overwhelming thirst for absolute domination.

I find this madness comparable to the madness of a Nazi Germany or an Apartheid South Africa.

SHAKESPEARE ON MADNESS

"'Tis the times' plague when madmen lead the blind." —King Lear (IV:1). But, I think the blind are regaining their eyesight.

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November 13, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

OF SOOTHSAYERS AND SCIENTISTS

Whether right or wrong, scientists should beware of making public pronouncements. In Italy, six scientists and an administrator have been sentenced to six years in prison and hefty fines for failure to predict the April 2009 Earthquake in Aquila. Apparently saying “the possibility [of an earthquake like the one in 1703] cannot be totally excluded” doesn't absolve scientists from their duty to predict disaster in Italian courts of law.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, government agencies are banned from "considering the possibility that climate change might accelerate sea level rise." This brings to mind the following historic account of King Cnut (Canute), 11th Century king of England, Denmark, Scotland, Norway and parts of Sweden.

"[W]ith the greatest vigor [King Cnut] commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying 'You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord'. But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moving away said: 'All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws.'"

Unfortunately, unlike King Cnut, many people in high places today have failed to learn this lesson.

SAGE ADVICE FROM A GOOD NEIGHBOR

Hugo Chavez, who last month won reelection to his fourth term as president of Venezuela by a far larger majority than Obama's reelection has advised Obama to "dedicate himself to governing his own country and stop invading and destabilizing countries." Sage advice that is likely to fall upon deaf ears. Click Here (in English) or aqui (en Espanol).

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF AN ELECTION

The election is over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The election was marred by the usual spate of irregularities: Spanish language voting cards with the wrong election date, votes still uncounted in Maricopa County, home of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, and billboards in Spanish saying id is required even though the law requiring them was struck down as unconstitutional. Perhaps it was only massive corporate spending, the majority for Romney, and a spate of laws designed to keep the poor, the elderly and minorities from voting that kept the election even close. Barack Obama won with less than 51% of a vote which consisted of some 58% percent of the electorate — about 30% — hardly what you would call a clear mandate.

Will there be an end to foreign wars? Well, perhaps, sort of. David "Surge" Petraeus, who lost the War Against Iraq (Not by himself. He had plenty of help from his friends.) and was well on his way to losing the War Against Afghanistan, is gone - having resigned over an extra-marital affair. (Huh? Even Bill Clinton weathered the scandal of an extra-marital affair.) I suspect our wars of empire building will continue to morph into drone wars of assassination and proxy wars of regime change and destabilization. I seriously doubt Obama will give up his foreign military bases or his dream of ruling the world. (Almost 70% of us are against the continuation of the War Against Afghanistan, while over 80% of us appear to favor continuing or escalating the Drone War.)

Israel? Obama owes Netanyahu a payback for meddling in the US election and supporting Romney; but I don't see an end to support for Israel - maybe not quite as unqualified support as under the previous few presidents. Many US Jews are finally catching on that Israel's aggressive militarism and expansionism is causing an anti-Jewish backlash, not only in the Middle-East, but at home too. Rumor has it that Hillary Clinton, one of Israel's staunchest supporters, is on her way out. Few will miss her.

Renewable Energy? Hard to expect much here from a president who failed to mention climate change or global warming even once in his reelection campaign - in spite of an unprecedented drought and heat wave that started in March and still continues in much of the United States. Even the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy failed to elicit a mention of Global Warming. Obama might well owe his victory to Hurricane Sandy and the perception that he handled the emergency well, as compared to Mitt Romney who wanted to privatize FEMA and George W. Bush who totally bungled the Katrina emergency.

So where's the hope?

Elizabeth Warren is now in the Senate. She wants to take on the Banking Industry. She is tough. With the help of Bernie Sanders who won reelection to the Senate with an overwhelming 71% of the vote, she may just be able to rein in this rogue industry.

In Colorado and Montana, people voted overwhelmingly (70 and 75%) against corporate personhood. A few more states and we may just get a Constitutional Amendment banning corporate personhood and overturning Citizens United.

And for the most part the worst purveyors of hate and misogyny like Allen West and Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin went down in ignominious defeat. Akin lost by over 15% in a State that went for Romney by almost 10%.

And now that Surge Petraeus has fallen victim to his own surveillance state; maybe we'll even see the unwarranted surveillance of practically everybody reined in to some degree. As Trevor Timm put it, the "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"

These are the things that give me hope for change - people standing up to the rich and powerful - not Obama's reelection by 30% of the electorate. When government fails the people, the people must learn to work together and help each other. I think that is what is happening now.

Obama is not a dummy like his predecessor in the White House. He is a savvy politician, and if the people speak loudly enough, he will bend rather than jeopardize his legacy. I'm sure Obama is mindful of what happened to president Kennedy. He will not step too far out of line lest his corporate puppet masters retaliate. But if the people speak loudly enough, he and his handlers may have no choice.

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November 5, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

TOMORROW IS ELECTION DAY

Last month I wrote a short snippet on the Chris Hedges article, "The Maimed", remarking that of all the excellent articles Hedges has written, The Maimed may be his best. Hedges' election article that Helen reviews is not far behind.

Tomorrow we dutifully go to the polls. As Hedges notes: If we choose Obama, he will screw us. If we choose Romney, he will screw us harder. "Not much of a choice", as Helen notes.

I suspect I will write in Big Bird for President. My vote won't be counted, but at least in my own small way I will have registered my utter disgust with the Repugnants, the Dementeds and the two-party duopoly. To quote Howard Zinn: "To rely on the wisdom of the people in power is the worst thing you can do" (regardless of party affiliation).

There are some very important offices and issues on the ballot that deserve to be voted on. (Unfortunately, President of the United States of America is not one of them.) Check my website for some endorsements.

HURRICANE SANDY TAKES MANHATTAN

Last week, fueled by a warming world and rising sea levels, Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast with a vengeance. Coastal areas flooded killing over 100 people — a pittance compared to the death toll from the ravages of 11 year of war against Afghanistan; and causing an estimated $50 billion in insured damages — again a pittance compared to the military budget or the cost of bailing out the big banks.

Bill McKibben notes some unique aspects to Hurricane Sandy: Sandy was not only predictable, it was predicted! — by climate scientists — and in almost all its devastating details, which politicians chose to ignore.

Sandy was unique in another way — it did not discriminate — hitting the poor, middle and wealthy classes with equal ferocity. It brings to mind a prophecy of Isaiah:

"Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.

"The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left."
— Isaiah 24:1-6 (KJV)

This prophecy appears to describe Global Warming quite well. Will the haughty take heed? I doubt it.

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October 30, 2012 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

OF MAD SCIENTISTS AND GEOENGINEERS

When I was 14 years old, I was a terrible student and an avid reader of Science Fiction. Once when I brought home a reportcard full of Cs and Ds, my father sat me down for a serious talk about my future, explaining that with grades like these I'd never get into a good college. Then he asked what I wanted to be in life. I responded, "I'm going to be a mad scientist." My father, who approved of science if not insanity, suggested that I just be a scientist and not a mad scientist. I remarked that mad scientists don't have to get good grades in school.

Ok. It's 56 years later and I'm now a mad scientist emeritus. I'm coming around to the belief that all scientists are mad. Don't believe me? Well here's an article by Naomi Klein about a mad scientist named Russ George who dumped 120 tons of iron dust into the ocean hoping to create an algal bloom to combat global warming. Hey, that's not your ocean. The ocean belongs to all of us. Who said you could dump that iron there? What if there are unintended consequences? Who's going to clean up this mess?

As Naomi Klein points out: In these days of human induced climate change, there are no more Acts of God. Don't like the weather? Blame it on the military or the oil companies. Chances are you'll be right.

EXXON VALDEZ ON STEROIDS

One aspect of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy is that they spread the pollution around. Like Katrina in New Orleans, Hurricane Sandy, fueled by our warmer climate and rising sea levels, has picked up all the pollution that was hidden away in little nooks and crannies and spread it around like peanut butter. Riverkeeper describes it as "an Exxon Valdez spill from nonpoint sources."

Expect in the future to see increased levels of cancers, birth defects, and other environmental diseases in areas flooded by Sandy.

Can it be cleaned up? I doubt it. As Dr, Seuss put it:

"And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!"


In the Dr. Seuss story the Cat in the Hat comes back in a spiffy machine to pick up all his playthings. Will the corporations responsible for global warming come back and pick up their playthings? I doubt it.