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The Problem is Washington, Not North Korea April 17, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in History, North/South Korea, Nuclear weapons/power, Trump, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: I am old enough to remember that the Korean War is not officially a war, but rather a “police action.”  And that the police action that was really a war is still not over, there is only a cease-fire that has been in place since 1953, with the United States not interested in a permanent peace treaty with North Korea.

The article below is written by an American but from the North Korean point of view, not an easy task and one that most Americans are unwilling to even consider.  We have been brainwashed (and I mean that literally) to believe that the United States is a world power only for the purpose of maintaining peace (that’s a joke), democracy (joke two) and stability (I’m running out of jokes).

Even many of those who are serious critics of U.S. foreign policy are of the opinion that the U.S. government “makes mistakes” as opposed to committing crimes.  One needs to step back, as a citizen of the world and as a human being, to see that the United States of America is a criminal empire bent on world domination for the sake of its military establishment and its giant corporations.

In the last few days, as Trump has escalated the bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea, which some are beginning to compare to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and in light of the launching of 59 missiles into Syria, and not to mention that Trump is a certifiable sociopath; I cannot help but thinking that petitions, and traditional marches, and electing Democrats to Congress may not be enough to save ourselves from actual annihilation.

I picture tens of millions of American taking direct action in Washington and all other American cities, surrounding the White House, the Capital, the Pentagon, government offices, the offices of Congress members, etc.

By whatever means necessary.  SNL aside, Trump is no joke.

By   

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Photo by Stefan Krasowski

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation,  prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.

Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior.  Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible.  The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.

But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea. Brainwashed Americans, who get their news from FOX or CNN, may differ on this point, but if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican border (with the express intention of scaring the shit out of people) then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.

And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields.  Absent Kim’s WMDs,  Pyongyang would have faced a preemptive attack long ago and Kim would have faced a fate similar to Gadhafi’s.  Nuclear weapons are the only known antidote to US adventurism.

The American people –whose grasp of history does not extend beyond the events of 9-11 — have no idea of the way the US fights its wars or the horrific carnage and destruction it unleashed on the North.  Here’s a short  refresher that helps clarify why the North is still wary of the US more than 60 years after the armistice was signed.  The excerpt is from an article titled “Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea”, at Vox World:

“In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry….

According to US journalist Blaine Harden:  “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops……

“On January 3 at 10:30 AM an armada of 82 flying fortresses loosed their death-dealing load on the city of Pyongyang …Hundreds of tons of bombs and incendiary compound were simultaneously dropped throughout the city, causing annihilating fires, the transatlantic barbarians bombed the city with delayed-action high-explosive bombs which exploded at intervals for a whole day making it impossible for the people to come out onto the streets. The entire city has now been burning, enveloped in flames, for two days. By the second day, 7,812 civilians houses had been burnt down. The Americans were well aware that there were no military targets left in Pyongyang…

The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…Some 50,000 inhabitants remain in the city which before the war had a population of 500,000.” (“Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea“,  Vox World)

The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. Like Vietnam, the Korean War was just another  muscle-flexing exercise the US periodically engages in whenever it gets bored or needs some far-flung location to try out its new weapons systems. The US had nothing to gain in its aggression on the Korean peninsula, it was mix of imperial overreach and pure unalloyed viciousness the likes of which we’ve seen many times in the past. According to the Asia-Pacific Journal:

“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine.” (“The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 – 1960”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus)

Repeat: “Reservoirs, irrigation dams, rice crops,  hydroelectric dams, population centers” all napalmed, all carpet bombed,  all razed to the ground. Nothing was spared. If it moved it was shot, if it didn’t move, it was bombed. The US couldn’t win, so they turned the country into an uninhabitable wastelands.   “Let them starve. Let them freeze.. Let them eat weeds and roots and rodents to survive. Let them sleep in the ditches and find shelter in the rubble. What do we care? We’re the greatest country on earth. God bless America.”

This is how Washington does business, and it hasn’t changed since the Seventh Cavalry wiped out 150 men, women and children at Wounded Knee more than century ago. The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge got the same basic treatment as the North Koreans, or the Vietnamese, or the Nicaraguans, or the Iraqis and on and on and on and on. Anyone else who gets in Uncle Sam’s way, winds up in a world of hurt. End of story.

The savagery of America’s war against the North left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people.  Whatever the cost, the North cannot allow a similar scenario to take place in the future. Whatever the cost, they must be prepared to defend themselves. If that means nukes, then so be it. Self preservation is the top priority.

Is there a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust?

Of course there is. The US just needs to start treating the DPRK with respect and follow through on their promises. What promises?

The promise to build the North two light-water reactors to provide heat and light to their people in exchange for an end to its nuclear weapons program. You won’t read about this deal in the media because the media is just the propaganda wing of the Pentagon. They have no interest in promoting peaceful solutions. Their stock-in-trade is war, war and more war.

The North wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That’s it. Just keep up your end of the goddamn deal. How hard can that be?   Here’s how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):

“…in September 2005, an agreement … reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…

“This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005….

“North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be ‘on the table’ for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the ‘temporary’ cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.”

(“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)

Most people think the problem lies with North Korea, but it doesn’t. The problem lies with the United States; it’s unwillingness to negotiate an end to the war, its unwillingness to provide basic security guarantees to the North, its unwillingness to even sit down with the people who –through Washington’s own stubborn ignorance– are now developing long-range ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting American cities.

How dumb is that?

The Trump team is sticking with a policy that has failed for 63 years and which clearly undermines US national security by putting American citizens directly at risk. AND FOR WHAT?

To preserve the image of “tough guy”,  to convince people that the US doesn’t negotiate with weaker countries,  to prove to the world that “whatever the US says, goes”?   Is that it?  Is image more important than a potential nuclear disaster?

Relations with the North can be normalized,  economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. The situation with the North does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that genuinely want peace more than war.

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

 

 

Marine Le Pen Is What Happens When You Try to Meet Racism in the Middle April 25, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, France, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It’s curious.  The notion of “appeasement” is widely misused to justify all kinds of illegal military invasions.  Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler, so now for all time forward it is legitimate to attack anyone we don’t like.  They must not be “appeased.”  Saddam must not be appeased, Gaddafi must not be appeased, Iran must not be appeased, North Korea must not be appeased, Assad must not be appeased, etc. etc. etc.

(This doctrine, curiously, was not applied to South African Apartheid, to Chile’s Pinochet, Cuba’s Batista, Haiti’s Duvalier and a host of other tyrannical rulers.  Nor is it applied today to Egypt’s Sisi or Turkey’s Erdogan or the Saudis, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention Israel’s Netanyahu.  Curious.)

But where do we appease when we shouldn’t?  We do we lack the courage or the moral fibre to confront such cancerous social phenomenon as racism?  Read on.

marine-le-pen-france-election-1493045458-article-header Photo: Aurore Marechal/Sipa/AP

SHAME ON THEM all. French leaders from across the political spectrum could not prevent a far-right candidate who has denied the role played by her country’s wartime Vichy government in the Nazi Holocaust from reaching the second and final round of the presidential election.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen became only the second National Front candidate in French history to make it through to the second round — the first was her Holocaust-denying father, FN founder Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2002 — where she will face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7. Never before in the history of the French Fifth Republic have both the Socialist and the Republican candidates failed to reach the presidential run-off. This is nothing less than a political cataclysm.

So who is to blame for the rise and rise of Le Pen and the FN? The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Go back to September 1984, when the Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, told a TV interviewer that the elder Le Pen, a card-carrying racist and neo-fascist, was posing the right questions but giving the wrong answers. A few years later, the Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, declared that France had reached a “threshold of tolerance” in terms of the impact of immigrants.

In 1991, after clashes broke out between French police and youths of Arab and North African descent, politicians from the left, right, and center fell over one another to denounce immigration and bash French Muslims. In June of that year, for example, it wasn’t the elder Le Pen who decried an “overdose” of immigrants who brought to France “three or four wives, some 20 children,” plus “noise” and “smell.” It was former center-right prime minister (and later president) Jacques Chirac. A month later, it wasn’t Le Pen who announced that the French government would charter planes to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. It was then-Prime Minister Edith Cresson, a Socialist. Just a few months later, in September 1991, it wasn’t Le Pen who warned of an “invasion” of immigrants and called for French citizenship to be based on “the right by blood.” It was former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Every time the established politicians and parties hardened their stance on immigration, or on Islam, the FN became less fringe, more mainstream. Perhaps the biggest boost to the LePenization of French politics came from Nicolas Sarkozy. As president of France between 2007 and 2012, he actively courted FN voters and helped dismantle the “Republican pact,” under which the two main parties had pledged to work together to defeat the FN at a national and local level. Remember: It was Sarkozy who launched the “Great Debate on National Identity” in 2009; who ordered the ban on the face veil, worn by only 2,000 out of the roughly 2 million adult Muslim women in France, in 2010; who absurdly declared halal meat to be the “issue which most preoccupies the French” in 2012. And it was Sarkozy who called the FN “a democratic party” and deemed its values “compatible with the Republic.”

The French left, however, also has a lot to answer for. Manuel Valls, Socialist prime minister between 2014 and 2016, defended a ban on the burkini and said the “most important thing” is not unemployment but “the identity battle, the cultural battle.” Marine Le Pen herself could not have said it better. Valls’ Socialist colleague Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights, compared Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf to “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.” And the far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth on Sunday, condemned the candidacy of a headscarf-wearing female Muslim candidate in the local elections of 2010.

These are the moral depths to which French socialism has fallen.

With enemies like these, who needs friends? Should we be surprised then that Marine Le Pen has pulled off an unashamedly cynical policy of dédiabolisation (or de-demonization) in recent years, based on playing down the FN’s (unpopular) anti-Semitism while playing up its (more popular) Islamophobia? Without much resistance, she has framed the party’s hard-line stance on immigration as a liberal defense of French laicité, or secularism, against fanatical and illiberal Muslims at home and abroad.

Islamophobia long ago united French public figures from across the spectrum. “That anti-Muslim rhetoric can be used from the far left to the far right … illustrates the convergence of points of views about Muslims,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights activist, tells me. “They can disagree on everything but not Islamophobia.”

To fight the FN, he says, there has to be a recognition of the role that endemic racism and religious discrimination still plays in French society, from the boardrooms to the banlieues. A former colonial power like France, argues Louati, has “racism enshrined in its DNA.” The official statistics on rising hate crimes, like Sunday’s election result, seem to back him up.

Nevertheless, to also be fair to the French, the latest polling suggests around two out of three of them will vote against Le Pen and in favor of Macron in the run-off next month. Macron is on course to win a resounding victory — but Le Pen has made clear she is here to stay. Le Pen and her fascist friends will be back in 2022 to fight again, enthused and energized, not to mention legitimized, by achieving such success in 2017 — and by forcing both left and right to dance to their bigoted tunes.

So it’s time for a reckoning. The French elites’ strategy of trying to defeat the Le Pens by aping their rhetoric, stealing their policies, and pandering to their voters has been a political and moral failure. As Gary Younge wrote in The Guardian after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock victory in the first round in 2002, “Every step you make in the direction of a racist agenda does not ‘neutralize’ racists but emboldens them.”

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed. You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it. Perhaps French politicians should re-read their national motto. Fighting for égalité and fraternité, regardless of race or religion, is the only way forward.

Top photo: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses activists at the Espace Francois Mitterrand in Henin-Beaumont, north of France, on April 23, 2017.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British columnist, broadcaster, and author based in Washington, D.C. He hosts UpFront on Al Jazeera English and has interviewed, among others, Edward Snowden, Hamid Karzai, Ehud Olmert, and Gen. Michael Flynn. He is also the author of two books — a biography of former U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and an e-book on the financial crisis and austerity economics. Mehdi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Times of London, among others, and is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. and a contributing editor to the New Statesman. He has been included in the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world and named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter.

Obama and Clinton Brought Slavery to Libya April 23, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Libya, slavery, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I am not sure I agree that the evidence of Assad atrocities is “dubious,” but it is clear that the US interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya were violations of international law (i.e. war crimes) and have resulted in monumental humanitarian disasters.  Be it a Democratic or Republican, US interventions justified at humanitarian are always suspect and almost always result in the opposite.  When trying to understand motives for the MIC in the middle east, remember the code name that Baby Bush was going to use for his invasion of Iraq before someone noticed there might be a problem with it: Operation Iraq Liberation (O.I.L.).

“The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.”

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

According to international observers, “African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya” – yet another consequence of “R2P,” the pernicious doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” No one is protecting Black Africans from the bestial forces let loose by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Libya in 2011. “America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country.”

Nearly every day there is a new report of desperate migrants rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. Some are less fortunate and are among the estimated 12,000 who have died there in the last three years alone. Their point of embarkation is Libya, a nation now a haven for human traffickers because of President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Their deliberate destruction of Libya was a war crime by all standards of international law. That country was just one victim of the American plan to eliminate secular governments in the Middle East. Under the guise of a phony “responsibility to protect” and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act. Now come reports from media and the International Organization for Migration that African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya. This practice would not be taking place if Muammar Gaddafi not been murdered by American backed jihadists in 2011.

Obama’s evil success in Libya set off an endless trail of disasters. Libya is a hot bed of ISIS activity along with Iraq and Syria. It is not a coincidence that all three countries were targets of American regime change. Even the American ambassador in Libya fell victim to his government’s machinations in Benghazi.

“Under the guise of a phony ‘responsibility to protect’ and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act.”

Obama and Clinton hoped to continue their victory in Syria, but president Assad was stronger than they anticipated. When the Russians proved to be fickle allies who were willing to push Assad under the proverbial bus, Obama and Clinton wouldn’t take yes for an answer. They insisted that Assad had to go and they didn’t care how many Syrians they killed or turned into refugees in the process. Now the bloodshed continues under a new administration.

European countries struggle to contend with the flow of people from Syria and Libya who would be in their homelands were it not for America’s designs on that part of the world. Yet the corporate media say nothing. They may report on the refugee crisis and the migrant crisis without ever stating what is easily provable, that the United States is entirely responsible for the suffering.

There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world. “We came, we saw, he died,” is one of the more memorable Hillary Clinton statements, memorable for all the wrong reasons. Obama knew better than to be so crass, but he privately called Libya a “shit show” as if he were a bystander and not the perpetrator.

While the corporate media make hay out of very dubious evidence of atrocities allegedly committed by the Syrian government, the atrocities caused directly by the American government go unmentioned. Or rather they are reported absent of any context of American responsibility.

“There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world.”

Even press reports of slave trading in Libya follow the same proscribed language. They will say that Gaddafi was an autocrat and a dictator, but omit that the humanitarian ,disaster was carried out by the United States, NATO, and Gulf monarchs. The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.

Now we see the supreme and awful irony. America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country and his role is covered up by people who once would have condemned his actions.

Black people defended Muammar Gaddafi if no one else did. American presidents made a show of castigating Gaddafi, calling him crazed, fanatical, dictatorial and mentally ill. Black Americans were unanimous in their support whenever he was attacked, whether militarily or even rhetorically. But that support ended when he fell under Obama’s cross hairs. Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency was a curse on black America’s political heritage.

That curse is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon. There was never a great willingness to point out his wrong doing, and now that the despised Trump is president the selective amnesia grows worse.

The corporate media do not fulfill their most basic obligations. They repeat lies if they are told by people they decide to protect. They hide the truth if it is told by the people they decide to disappear from discourse and from history. But that dissembling should not silence people who put themselves in the anti-war camp. When they read or hear about refugees and migrants dying or being sold as slaves they must state loudly and clearly that Obama and Clinton are the villains in the story.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

WHY THEY MARCH: “SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS ARE NOW UNDER ATTACK” April 22, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Science and Technology, Trump.
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Roger’s note: the massive destruction of our biosphere did not begin with Donald Trump.  The essential nature of a capitalist economy demands that the individual need for profit will always override social needs.  As world capital runs out of natural resources to appropriate and cheap labor to exploit, it can afford less and less to give in to society’s pressure to preserve the planet.

One of the scientists interviewed below has worked for many years in Cuba, a country that I have visited many times and studied for years.  Cuba is by no means a genuine socialist state, but because it had its roots in a socialist-like revolution (much like the U.S.S.R.) it has maintained some of the socialist idealism that was the driving force behind its revolution.  Perhaps because of universal free education up to and including the post secondary level, there is a degree of culture and sophistication that I consider to be unique to Cuba.

I fear that with the detente that began with Obama and Raúl Castro, many of what remains of Cuba’s revolutionary gains with respect to environmental conservation may be lost. This is what I mean:

For the past 17 years, Guggenheim has been working in Cuba, which has some of the healthiest coral reefs left in the Caribbean. The Cuban reefs have thrived because the country has protected its coastal waters — and also hasn’t suffered the effects of large-scale tourism or agriculture. Also, said Guggenheim, “they actually listen to their scientists. There’s no climate debate there like we have here.”

 

April 22 2017, the intercept 

The March for Science is a response to the Trump administration’s distaste for science — or at least the kind that gets in the way of profit — but it is also a celebration of those among us who have devoted their lives to understanding how the world works. The thousands descending on the National Mall, on the first Earth Day under a regime that has taken a sharp knife to government science budgets, study stars and butterflies, barrier reefs and hedgehog reproduction, viruses and bird flight patterns.

Most days, they make and test their hypotheses in laboratories or perhaps in the Arctic Circle or the Australian Outback, in an anti-gravity chamber or a deciduous forest. But on this warm April Saturday, they have come together in Washington, D.C, to make a point that feels more urgent than ever: Science matters, and we ignore its findings at our peril.

crop-170422_Michael_Mann_027-1492877508-article-header

Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Michael Mann (shown above), a climatologist and geophysicist, has pioneered computational models based on patterns of the past 600 years of climate changes. Mann is perhaps best known for the “Hockey Stick graph,” which shows a sharp uptick in global temperatures starting around 1900. And he was one of the lead authors of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which helped establish the scientific consensus about the global phenomenon. But Mann may be proudest of his most recent work documenting the sometimes subtle impacts the climate is having on hurricane activity, extreme weather events, and phenomena like El Niño. “This is an area of the science where there is still legitimate debate and a lot of interesting work left to be done,” he said, “much of it steeped in basic physics where I got my start.”

Mann is marching because “Science and scientists are now under attack in this country.” He should know. Mann is one of the favorite targets of climate deniers, as evidenced most recently by a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology at which he was the only witness representing the mainstream view that climate change is the result of human activity.

“When congressional Republicans are denying basic science,” Mann said, “and the Trump administration — run largely by polluting interests — is trying to revoke policies to protect our health and our environment, more than ever we need to hear the voices of scientists, loudly and clearly.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Mary Droser at Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“Not all species are equal,” said Mary Droser, a paleontologist who uses fossils to study how ecosystems develop and change over time. “You take out a particular species, a keystone species, and the whole thing crashes. That’s why so many people are now worried about the Great Barrier Reef.”

Having studied the rise and fall of past species can make our current crisis particularly scary. “When people say save the earth, I think the earth will be fine. It’s humanity that I’m worried about. We know from the past that, in terms of extinctions, and in terms of environmental change, the tipping points come sooner than we think.”

Droser finds it absurd that the current administration “wants to pick and choose what science to believe.” Still, she considers herself an optimist. “You can’t just go into despair,” she said. “What am I going to do, tell my 16-year-old that I’m just going to sit this one out?”

170421_David_Guggenheim_049-1492835680

David Guggenheim in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“We’re starting to realize how seriously our oceans are in trouble,” saidDavid Guggenheim, a marine biologist who studies coral reefs. Since 1970, the Caribbean has lost about 50 percent of its reefs.

For the past 17 years, Guggenheim has been working in Cuba, which has some of the healthiest coral reefs left in the Caribbean. The Cuban reefs have thrived because the country has protected its coastal waters — and also hasn’t suffered the effects of large-scale tourism or agriculture. Also, said Guggenheim, “they actually listen to their scientists. There’s no climate debate there like we have here.”

Protecting fish is essential for protecting reefs, said Guggenheim. “We think of fish as something to eat, as crops that grow in the ocean. But they have jobs to do and one of them is keeping coral reefs healthy.”

Guggenheim is marching because he’s alarmed by the anti-science bent of the new administration. “I’m used to getting around the table with the opposition. I’m used to compromising. But this is different,” said Guggenheim. “It’s a throw-back to the dark ages. The problem is the voice of science is not being heard. The voice of Trump is being heard.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Melanie Killen at her home in Bethesda, Md., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Melanie Killen is a developmental scientist who looks at the emergence of moral concepts from early childhood to adulthood. Theorists used to speculate that morality emerged in adolescence. But Killen and her team showed that a sense of right and wrong begins to form in children who are as young as 3, 4, and 5.

By age 5, Killen’s team showed, children can also understand and account for relative advantage. Asked to divide supplies between two schools that have unequal resources, for instance, children will often choose to give a larger share to that the one with less. “They start saying things like, ‘well you have to give them more because then it’ll all be fair,” she said.

Killen is marching to stand up for continued support for basic science. “The U.S. has been a leader in the world in terms of basic research funding for everything from child health to space exploration and cures for cancer,” she said. “The idea that we are reducing that funding is a terrible blow to progress.”

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Jessica Ware at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Jessica Ware is an evolutionary entomologist. Her work focuses on dragonflies, which were the first creatures to fly on earth and are also among the fastest of the animals responding to climate change. Ware has traced the evolution of the insects’ genes through fossils, which date as far back as 250 million years ago, and follows current dragonfly populations in the Yukon and the northern-most points of the world.

“Trying to understand how, when and why they evolved helps us understand where the planet is now and where it’ll be in the future,” said Ware. She is marching, in part, to highlight the importance of evolution. “The U.S. is lagging behind almost every single country in terms of the general public’s belief in evolution. But it’s not something to be believed. It’s a process that creates life and causes things to go extinct. It exists.”

Ware also wants all young people to know that they could be scientists, something she didn’t realize as a child. “I am an African American woman with LGBT family,” said Ware. “When people think of science, they don’t think of someone who looks like me.”

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John Vadermeer and Ivette Perfecto, ecologists at the University of Michigan, at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

“Most science gets done for the benefit of the powerful,” said John Vandermeer. “We feel it should be done for the benefit of everyone.” Vandermeer and his wife, Ivette Perfecto, have worked together for 37 years, using ecological principles to improve agriculture. For much of that time, they have focused on coffee production in Puerto Rico. They have also established a coffee plantation in Chiapas, Mexico, where they research interactions among pests and their natural enemies.

Agriculture is a major cause of both climate change and species extinctions. But Vandermeer and Perfecto have been studying more sustainable ways of growing, focusing on natural systems that control pests without pesticides. They’ve recently developed games that help farmers understand the complexity of ecosystems.

For Perfecto, the march is about more than science. “I feel like we’re losing democracy,” she said. “Science is just one of the casualties.”

Faces of Science: March for Science

Robin Wall Kimmerer, outside her hotel in Rockville, Md., on Friday April 21, 2017.Photo: Matt Roth for The Intercept

Robin Kimmerer’s work as a botanist and professor of environmental and forest biology has largely focused on the ecology of mosses, the tiniest and most ancient plants. “They’ve been on the planet for 350 million years and have endured every climate change, every movement of continents,” said Kimmerer. “And they’re still flourishing!”

A member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer has also worked to integrate indigenous knowledge with Western science. She combined the two in an effort to restore the sweetgrass plant, which had been disappearing from its native habitats throughout the Northeast several years ago. “We found, in order to restore it, it wasn’t enough to restore the plant and leave it alone. Sweetgrass flourished only when it was used.”

In Kimmerer’s view, it’s not just the land that’s broken, it’s the relationship to land that’s broken. She is marching in part to bring such indigenous views into the mainstream of science. “It’s not a matter of just marching for science. I’m marching for sciences. There are multiple ways of doing science.”

Happy Easter (Dr. Schrodinger) April 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion, Science and Technology, Uncategorized.
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Anti-Choice Activists Flank Trump as He Delivers Final Blow to Family Planning Safeguards April 15, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Poverty, Race, Right Wing, Sexuality, Trump, Uncategorized, Women.
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Roger’s note: in addition to its radically increasing war making and killing abroad, and its dismantling of environmental protections, the Trump presidency is creating untold harm domestically, and, naturally, to those most vulnerable: immigrants, refugees, poor people, racial minorities, women, children, seniors, etc.  This is an unmitigated disaster.

Withdrawing the rule hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.

Apr 13, 2017, Christine Grimaldi, rewire.news

President Trump on Thursday signed off on congressional Republicans’ push to shred family planning safeguards enacted under the Obama administration.

With the stroke of his pen, Trump officially withdrew an Obama-era rule intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates—the real target of the GOP’s ire over the fact that the health-care organization provides abortion care with its own funds. Withdrawing the rule, however, hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.

Doing so disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the four million Title X patients in 2015, 30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate wielded an arcane procedural tool known as the Congressional Review Act to undo the Title X rule and other key regulations enacted in the last six months of Obama’s presidency. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to send the resolution of disapproval (HJ Res. 43) targeting the rule to the president’s desk over the objections of Democrats in the chamber.

Trump signed the bill with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the sponsor of the resolution of disapproval, by his side, according to a White House pool report and an Instagram post from Concerned Women for America President Penny Young Nance. Anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was pictured in another photo with Black and Nance at the White House and also witnessed the signing, per the pool report. The press was not allowed to watch Trump sign the bill.

Rewire‘s Ally Boguhn reported this week on how White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s connections have given anti-choice groups “ready access” to Trump.

Eliminating Title X protections represents the GOP’s latest strike to women’s health-care services that transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on too.

Trump expanded the global gag rule prohibiting foreign nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that receive U.S. family planning aid from providing abortion care or information about the medical procedure using their own funds. And Trump picked up on congressional Republicans’ failed quest to repeal Obamacare, preparing a regulatory war against women’s health-care benefits and a thousand cuts to benefits for vulnerable populations, specifically transgender people, pregnant people, and those with low incomes.

“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”

“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns April 13, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, Trump, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945; Nangarhar, 2017.  Another first for the United States of America.  We can be proud of this peace loving nation whose elected president has promised to  “bomb the shit” out of its enemy by using a weapon that is designed, according to the Pentagon, “to terrify America’s enemy into submission…”  Notice that, by the use of the word “terrify,” the US government is in effect acknowledging that it is a major terrorist, something some of us have been saying for a long time.  Also, notice the use of the euphemism, “collateral damage,” when the real meaning is the terrifying destruction of innocent human beings.  The truth is indeed the first and ongoing casualty of war.

 The MOAB, a precision-guided munition weighing 21,500 pounds, is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Center.

 

April 13 2017, 5:07 p.m., The Intercept

 

FULFILLING DONALD TRUMP’S campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.

When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”

Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”

Marc Garlasco, a former senior targeting official in the Bush-era Pentagon, told The Intercept on Thursday that the weapon was never put to use “due to collateral damage concerns.”

US never dropped the MOAB in Iraq due to collateral damage concerns. I was on the targeting team that considered it @barbarastarrcnn https://twitter.com/vicenews/status/852575670379188226 

Garlasco was the Pentagon’s chief of high-value targeting, and ran the intelligence cell whose goal was to “find, target, and kill Saddam Hussein.”

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch organization gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2009.

Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

The Pentagon considered using the MOAB in Iraq in 2003, he said.

“We were going after a target, I would say, in a similar manner,” said Garlasco. “But the concern there was that once the weapon was put forward as an option, we reviewed it, did a collateral damage estimate, and well let’s just say the collateral damage was impressive. It was decided that the civilian harm greatly outweighed the military gain.”

Garlasco said the strike would have been in a “high-collateral region.” And he said that to his knowledge that was the only time the use of the MOAB was ever suggested.

“It’s got a huge blast radius. I mean, it’s beyond huge,” Garlasco said. “I’m sure the collateral damage estimate is going to be fairly extensive. And you’re not talking about just blast, and people within that blast, you have to consider secondary and tertiary effects of use of the weapon. So looking at things like: How does that affect the water supply to people? Is it going to destroy power within the area?”

Thursday’s bomb drop came a week after the death of Army Special Forces Sgt. Mark De Alencar, the first combat death in Afghanistan in 2017. Alencar was assisting Afghan forces in an operation against a local ISIS group when he was hit with small-arms fire, the Pentagon said.

While the MOAB strike has attracted far more media attention, the U.S. and Afghan government forces have killed increasing numbers of people lately. According to a U.N. report in February, airstrikes from the Afghan government forces and the U.S.-led coalition killed nearly 600 civilians — almost double the number in 2015 — and have been repeatedly accused of bombing residential areas.

Alex Emmonsalex.emmons@​theintercept.com@AlexanderEmmons

Brazil/Canada: Toxic Mega-Mine Looms Over Belo Monte’s Affected Communities April 12, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment, First Nations, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: it may be that Canada has a young hip looking (if vacuous) Prime Minister and a reputation for being more peace loving and less aggressively capitalistic than the United States, but that image is belied by Canadian mining companies in Africa and Latin America.

On the banks of Brazil’s lower Xingu River, a toxic controversy looms large, threatening to heap insult upon the grievous injuries of the nearby Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. In early February, the Canadian company Belo Sun received the final operational licence for its proposed Volta Grande mine from the Pará state environmental agency (SEMA-PA). The sprawling nearly 620 square-mile concession would become Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine, straddling the territories of three indigenous peoples and other traditional communities that are already reeling from the many social and environmental impacts of Belo Monte.

Since field research for the mine began in 2008, the peoples of Xingu have publicly decried the occurrence of human and environmental rights violations in the lead-up to the mine’s construction. They have also warned of the likely negative social and environmental impacts that the mine project will cause, and recently they and their allies have taken these complaints to the courts.

First, they have denounced that some of the land on which the mine will be constructed was purchased illegally, given that it is land that the federal government designated for agrarian reform in the 1980s. Second, the mine is close to the village of Ressaca, a community of 300 families, all of whom would be displaced and have not been relocated by the company as required.

Third, local communities fear that the project may well end in a tragedy, like the Samarco Mariana dam collapse in 2015, given that Belo Sun intends to use a mining waste storage dam similar to the one used in Samarco. And even if the mine did not suffer a major catastrophe, the environmental and health impacts of the liberal application of cyanide, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals frequently employed in gold mining would lead to dire implications for communities already dealing with the dramatic changesto their way of life caused by the Belo Monte dam.

In a small piece of good news for communities, on February 21st a judge issued a 180-day injunction on the license in response to a legal complaint filed by the local public prosecutor’s office. In doing so, Judge Álvaro José da Silva Souza recognized that the license issued by SEMA-PA had ignored the community’s complaints, that the allegations of illegal land purchases warrant further investigation, and that the company had not fulfilled its promises to properly relocate the families that would be displaced by the mine. As Judge da Silva said in issuing the injunction, “I understand it to be completely absurd and unjustifiable that the families are currently still at the mercy of their own luck.”

The ruling gave the company 180 days to develop a plan to reallocate impacted communities. The company insists that it will appeal the decision.

Public hearing airs concerns and condemnations

Such concerns were front and center at a March 21st public hearing in the city of Altamira, where Belo Monte’s affected communities aired their grievances to a panel of government and corporate representatives, including from Belo Sun.

After attending the hearing, local analysts described the companies’ neglect of the affected communities as an intentional tactic meant to give them no recourse but to accept meager resettlement plans far from the river and their traditional livelihoods.

During the hearing, Janete Carvalho, an environmental licensing agent from the Brazilian indigenous agency (FUNAI), recalled the toxic legacy of the 2015 Samarco disaster on the Doce River, which killed nineteen people and left another 700 homeless, as a warning to those threatened by Belo Sun. “The closest indigenous territory to Samarco is more than 300 kilometers away and the Krenak people still do not have enough clean water to live,” she stated. “Any accident by Belo Sun will create a situation of ethnocide. The risk is unacceptable.”

FUNAI representatives reiterated that their office does not recognize the mine’s original environmental impact studies and demanded that a new, more rigorous, analysis be conducted that respects the communities’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

“We would like prior consultation to be conducted,” said Chief Gillarde Juruna of Miratu village, located only six miles from the mine’s epicenter. “I was born and raised in that region. We never asked for any project and now there are two of Brazil’s largest projects there. We have no guarantees.”

To address these irregularities, FUNAI filed a lawsuit against Belo Sun in February charging that its installation license was issued by completely ignoring the indigenous agency and its demands that the project’s impact assessment and licensing adhere to a specific study of its impacts on nearby indigenous communities. That case is currently pending.

“Who are you lying to, Belo Sun?”

At the close of the contentious hearing, public prosecutor Humberto Alcântara Ferreira Lima raised serious concerns about the true size and scope of the Volta Grande mine. He revealed a major discrepancy between the mine’s projected gold production as reflected in the license granted by SEMA-PA (pending resolution of Judge da Silva’s injunction) and what the company is telling its investors it will extract. Licensed on the basis of a 2012 estimate that the project will yield roughly 37.7 million tons of gold, Belo Sun has separately touted different projection numbers to its investors: 88.1 million tons in 2013 and most recently 116 tons in February of this year.

“What is the real dimension of Belo Sun’s Volta Grande gold mining project?” asked Mr. Lima. “The one disclosed to Brazilian public institutions or the one disclosed the company’s shareholders, which is more than three times as large? Who are you lying to: the investors or the [licensing agencies]?”

Map of proposed Belo Sun operations

Like Belo Monte, Belo Sun is likely to cause more harm than good

One thing is clear: Belo Sun’s mega-mine is shrouded in irregularities and incalculable risk, much like its neighbor, the Belo Monte dam. Like Belo Sun, local communities and allies warned of the serious environmental and social impacts of Belo Monte, and, unfortunately, those dire warnings have proved prescient. And also like Belo Monte, the corporate interests behind the mine demonstrate neither concern nor prudence, rushing instead to initiate operations at any cost.

Belo Sun is owned by Canada’s Forbes & Manhattan, a private merchant bank. Canadian mining giant Agnico Eagle Mines is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 19% ownership of Belo Sun. Known for its notorious Malartic urban gold mine in Quebec, Agnico is subject to no fewer than 4,000 violations of environmental laws and regulations and is subject to a CAD $70 million lawsuit for its impacts on local residents.

The struggle to preserve what is left of the lower Xingu’s environment and communities from another catastrophic mega-project is not over. Even as political and economic forces line up behind Belo Sun and the region’s untapped riches, the local communities and their allies prepare to resist them. Amazon Watch has been standing with the communities of the Xingu for many years, and we will we not give up our support for them now!

Veterans For Peace condemns the illegal U.S. attack in Syria April 8, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Syria, Trump, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: Charlie Brown fell for the trick every time.  He never learned.

Lucy Football Trick

The American political and pundit class will Charlie Brown-like fall for it every time.  When a president’s popularity approaches rock bottom, launch a military attack.  It’s as predictable as night following day.  Yet most fall for it every time.

But this is no funny cartoon trick.  This is an act of war that will likely escalate into unpredictable levels of new killing.  The New York Times fell for it.  The Canadian Prime Minister fell for it.  The majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress fell for it.  Falling all over themselves to congratulate Sociopath Trump.

As if Psychopath Trump really cares about Syrian children being killed.  As if acts of escalation can be controlled.  As if cruise missiles will not result in more refugees. As if there can be anything legitimate about the Trump Disaster Presidency.

Here is a sane analysis from those who know better.

 

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Ecuador: Reflections April 4, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Health, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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galapagos-islands

Reflection 1) For many years now my mantra has been: no more voting for the “lesser of evils.”  I have dual U.S / Canadian citizenship, and in North American elections I vote Green, but with no illusions that if the Greens ever came to power they wouldn’t act any different than than the existing major parties.  We’ve seen this time and time again where Social Democratic parties that call themselves Socialists form governments, they soon don’t smell any different than the others.  Why is this inevitable?  Because governments of capitalist democracies are basically there to protect the interests of capital over people; and the parties that win elections are basically tasked with administrating those interests.

 Anything different would be, in fact, revolutionary.  Fidel Castro understood this, which is why the Cuban Revolution didn’t devolve into wishy-washy social democracy.

So my Green vote is basically a protest vote.

But I digress.  Back to the lesser of evils.  As a Canadian / American it has become painfully obvious over many decades of observation and participation that when it comes to the big ticket items (military, finance, commerce, labor, etc.) there really is no substantial difference between the established parties.  The Democrats in the U.S. and the New Democrats in Canada can only attempt to create the illusion that there is indeed such a difference.

Well I suppose mantras are made to be broken.  Because the minute Trump was elected (no, the mini-second), which I never believed could happen, I was sorry I hadn’t voted for Clinton (whose policies on major issues I detest).  The lesser of evils.

Which brings me to Ecuador.  Sunday’s presidential election pitted the government supported candidate against a far right ex-banker (which the former won with a slim two percent advantage).  While I do not support the Correa government’s actions with respect to environmental protection (its expansion of oil and metal extraction in sensitive areas) or its aggressive repression of protest; unlike any government before it, going back to the end of the dictatorship in 1979, it has invested heavily in health, education, housing and infrastructure and considerably reduced the level of poverty in the country.

On the other hand, the election of the ultra-right ex-banker Guillermo Lasso, who has ties with rightest governments across the hemisphere, the quasi-facist Opus Dei, and almost certainly our friendly CIA, would have signalled a return to the neo-Liberal economic policies so inimical to workers and the poor.  The Lasso campaign played on the manufactured-in-the-USA fear that electing the government candidate would be turning Ecuador into Venezuela.

If I had a vote in Ecuador it would have been for the government candidate, so much for my mantra.  The name of the president-elect, by the way,  is Lenin Moreno (I would have preferred Vladimir, but you take what you can get).

(On a side note, you may remember that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been living for several years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was given asylum by the Ecuadorian government.  Well, Lasso had commented before the election that, if he won the presidency, he would cordially give Assange 30 days to leave the Embassy.  Yesterday, upon receiving the election results, i.e., Lasso’s defeat, Assange made a statement calling for Lasso to cordially leave Ecuador in 30 days!)

Reflection 2) My friend, David, who is a professor at a state university in the States, vacations every year in the Galapagos Islands, which is a province of Ecuador.  This year, a week prior to his scheduled return home, he had a nasty bike accident and seriously injured his leg.  He was carried back to his hotel, where he remained bed-ridden and unable to stand up.  This was on the distant and less populated island of Isabella, which has a small under-supplied medical clinic and one doctor, who examined David and thought there might be a fracture.  David was hoping that it was only severe ligament or muscle damage that would ease up in days so that he could rest up and return home on schedule.

On the Sunday prior to his scheduled departure on Tuesday, things still didn’t look good.  The doctor suggested that they get him to the central island of Santa Cruz, where there is a hospital with an X-ray facility.  The idea was that if there were no fracture, he could fly home Tuesday on schedule; but if it was serious, then he would probably have to remain in Ecuador for surgery.

On Monday, David flew to Santa Cruz, where his X-ray showed that he had indeed fractured his femur.  However, in spite of this finding, David decided he would tough it out and fly home the following day loaded up with pain killers and have his operation in the States.  This he did and is now resting post-surgery in a New Jersey hospital.

The point of my story?  Here are the medical services that David received.  The doctor who attended him on Isabella provided pain killers and spent an hour with him every day at his hotel.  On Monday, an ambulance met him at the hotel and took him to the small Isabella airport, where he boarded for the island of Santa Cruz.  At Santa Cruz and ambulance and a crew were waiting for him to take him to the hospital.  When he decided, in spite of the X-ray result, to return home on Tuesday, he had to be taken from the hospital in Santa Cruz by boat to the Island of Baltra, where he would catch his flight to Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city) from whence he would take his American Airlines flight home to the States.

All these services: the doctor’s fees, the medication, the X-ray, the overnight hospital stay in Santa Cruz and the ambulance services were paid for by the government of Ecuador.  And when David was informed that policy did not allow him to use an ambulance to get from Santa Cruz to his flight to Guayaquil because he was not being transported to an Ecuadorian hospital, David contacted his best friend and chess rival on the Galapagos, whose brother was the head of tourism there, it was arranged for an exception be made for him.  Otherwise he could not have made it home.

This entire episode did not cost David a red cent!

Now I want you to imagine an Ecuadorian tourist to the United States experiencing a similar traumatic accident and what they would have gone through and what it would have cost them.  And tell me, which country is the Banana Republic and which the “civilized” nation.

I experienced something similar in Cuba many years ago, but I will save that for another time.