Sunday, October 22, 2017

Burning the Planet at the Stake

In the Unholy Inquisition that is the Trump administration, the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry in letter dated Sept. 28 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed putting thumb screws to the planet, and applying the rack to our weather.  Pleading grid vulnerabilities in the face of extreme weather events such as the 2014 Polar Vortex, he gave the FERC 60 days to approve the proposal which would have ratepayers subsidizing the dying fossil fuels and nuclear industries to the tune of $14 billion per year.

U.S. taxpayers already foot the bill subsidizing big oil to the tune of about $80 per year per taxpayer according to Oil Change International. Under Perry’s plan, the U.S. would add another 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution over and above the Paris accords schedule which ties the U.S. down to between 30 and 45 billion tons allowed by 2050. 

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria which left devastation in their wake in Texas, Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean, the apocalyptic fires which have reduced vast areas of California to ashes, the droughts causing the death of over a billion trees, the acidification of the oceans—all these extreme weather events are the direct result of burning fossil fuels, and Rick Perry claims he wants more burning to meet these same kinds of extreme weather events head on. He proposes subsidizing old crumbling reactors—99 of them—in order to meet further extreme weather events, despite intensifying risks to them posed by extreme weather events associated with climate warming.

A recent major study published by Lancet claims that one of every every six premature deaths can be attributed to toxic pollution—much from the fossil fuel industry—killing more people than wars, disasters and hunger. Meantime 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands still do not have electricity, over 100 Portuguese have lost their lives to wild fires, nearly 35,000 Californians can’t return to their burnt-out communities. In Texas, more than 60,000 displaced people are living in hotel rooms. Irma survivors in  Florida who are trying to sign up for food stamps are being turned away because officials can’t handle the numbers, and 121 Republican congress people have voted against climate disaster relief for them. How twisted it that?

Although Perry pleads that, “Most…metrics for grid reliability suggest that [it]  is not in good shape….” his own Energy Department’s report of three months ago reports to the contrary. And by referencing the 2014 Polar Vortex to prop up his new rules, his plan fails to factor in how coal power failed abysmally in subzero temperatures because coal piles were frozen, while wind energy performed exceptionally well. Nuclear energy was also forced off line because of temperatures below their operating limit.

The U.S. is not alone. European countries also spend billions each year on fossil fuel subsidies, but the movement toward renewables is inexorable and growing. In the U.S. the solar industry already provides many more jobs compared to coal. Despite the regressive political climate, companies are still investing in renewable energy because they see the advantage. The Google Ivanpah Generating system is one example. Another remarkable example is Dong Energy based in Copenhagen. Originally involved in fossil fuel exploration and production, in less than a decade it became an 85% off shore wind company, and is currently divesting from its remaining fossil fuel interests. And spurred by the recent encyclical from the Vatican, in a project advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, 40 Catholic institutions world-wide are poised to make a record divestment from fossil fuels.

North Westfalia, Germany
In the Land of the Free and Brave, despite employment trends, the administration is wedded at the hip not just to its culture wars but to its carbon-polluting elites and their political contributions.. But an impressive array of stakeholders under the Energy Industry Associations umbrella petitioned the FERC to reconsider Perry’s plan to subsidize a dying market. Resistance is already building up, as the petitions listed below indicate.

Join the Zombie March on Coal in Oakland October 30th.

No funding cuts for the EPA.

Don’t let #DirtyEnergy Trump the climate!


A Scattering of Roses Amongst This Week's Thorns

Hawaii builds homes for the homeless at Kahauiki Village on the sugar-plantation model.

Judge Robert Tiffany of Minnesota allows ‘necessity defense’ in climate trial for charges related to a multi-state action by climate activists last October.

Tom Marino, the administration’s pick as drug czar, withdraws after damaging opioid report.

Banque National Paribas (BNP) to halt shale oil financing, expanding renewable funding.

Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland rules Trump’s Moslem ban unconstitutional after Hawaii judge Derrick Watson blocks most of it from taking effect.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoes SB 649 which would have given the telecommunications  industry free reign to put micro-wave radiation antennas on street lamps, signs, and traffic lights throughout California neighborhoods.

GOP chair of nuclear safety agency secretly urges Trump to abolish the nuclear weapons program.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fire From Heaven

Sunrise over the Nevada Desert - credit Michael Kerr

The Nevada Desert this time of year is a terrestrial paradise. Through the day the course of the sun fires up the mountains in shades of red to pink, golden, and toward evening dark blues, purples, and finally Payne’s grey as the sun sinks below the horizon, marking the close of one more precious day on Earth.

At night the desert wind quiets down. One by one the stars appear against the velvet black sky, so free of light pollution you can sit outside in a tank top and trace the arc of the Milky Way (our galaxy—imagine!) across the night sky, and speculate that somewhere there is another sun with encircling planets, one of them perhaps supporting more intelligent life than ours.

Directly across the highway, is Creech Air Force Base, 2,300 acres or 3.6 square miles housing the 432 Wing, and the home of the (Grim) Reaper Drones where the U.S. government runs its Death Machine. The land was originally the sacred land of the Western Shoshone who were unceremoniously “removed” by the U.S. government, in violation of the 1893 Treaty of Ruby Valley. It is now home of “The Hunters,” (as the drone operators who train there are celebrated) who will eventually graduate to sit in trailers, qualified to hunt human beings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and wherever else the U.S. needs to kill innocent civilians. They watch their video screens, tracing their victims’ passage through life, to determine when and how they will face their deaths.

Their victim’s names may not appear so much in the Book of Life as on the White House Resident’s Tuesday list where he (or she) will check names which he or she neither understands, nor knows, approving the next week’s “kills.”  Kills may include old men, women, children out gathering firewood in Afghanistan, small children flying kites. They look like this:  

or this:

Their bodies look like the bodies of dead children everywhere. They could be our children, except unlike the dead children of Sandy Hook, their deaths are just collateral damage.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


In theory, the emergence of drone warfare was a guarantee that for the U.S. and its brave young men (and women), the battlefield would be bloodless on the home front, saving the hemorrhaging for Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and wherever else U.S. drones hunt their victims.

But even possessed of fail-safe death machines, there are no guarantees. Drone pilots suffer from severe PTSD, which is why, as they resign faster than the U.S. can replace them, it allocates a $75,000 budget each to recruit more of them.

In a Creech Air Force Base newsletter article titled “Taking Care of the Hunter Family: Creech Chaplains Keep Airmen Resilient” chaplains and their assistants are described as providing a “precision guided” ministry, including religious support “operations.” Guidelines for chaplaincy at Creech have recently been updated, and chaplain numbers increased. “We’re doubling our manning, helping out the mission by taking care of the hunter family,” Chaplain Major Cameron is quoted as saying. “By adding three new members to the team, we will be able to do that even better.” Their ministry is described as organized on the industrial model, providing spiritual warrior care. But “for emergencies after duty hours, please contact the Nellis Command Post and ask for the 432D WG Duty Chaplain.” Emergencies?  American service people commit suicide almost every hour of every day, exceeding battlefield casualty numbers.  

Womaning the Barricades

Last week, some 17 demonstrators—the majority of them women—stood on the highway outside Creech AFB protesting drone warfare.  An earlier newsletter describes our daily round. Next year we will celebrate our tenth anniversary serving the spiritual needs of the personnel working there, reminding them—with our signs and varied daily actions—that our numbers, however small, represent the conscience of a nation.

We will through our enactments bring home to them the horrors visited upon innocent Islamic populations whose children have been murdered and dismembered by drone attacks, and whose societies have been destroyed by the unrelenting menace of fire from heaven snuffing out their lives.  We will lament the cruelty of a nation that professes to be Christian.

When Moslems pray, rather than folding their hands inward, they hold them open in welcoming God’s grace, “in the name of God, the most kind, the most merciful.” If the U.S. were to pray to such a God, its economy, its warmaking, its corporate-prison culture might have to come to an end. Its life cycle might no longer end in death. Rebirth might become its promise.

1. Resist. The time to sit on the sidelines waiting for “Joe to do it” is past. We are all Joe now.
2. Join up with organizations advocating for demilitarization of our society at home and abroad, advocating for an end to the prison/corporate complex, organizations protecting the environment, protecting the homeless, advocating for low income housing, advocating for the safety of people of color and LGBT in the streets of our nation, advocating for election protection so that yet another election can’t be stolen.
3. Educate yourself and your children about what fascism looks like.
4. Native Americans are on the front lines protecting our seriously depleted natural resources. Although charges have been dismissed for 400 of the Standing Rock water protectors, there are still some 400 people awaiting trial, some of them facing multiple years in prison for resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Contributions can be made to their legal defense at

Everett J. Iron Eye
P.O. Box 298
Cannonball, SD 58528

High  Quality Roses Amongst This Week’s Thorns

Amazon ordered to pay 250 million euros by EU for “illegal tax advantages.

Charges dropped for 400 water protectors. The struggle continue, however until all 800 cases are dismissed.  Please consider contributing to the Dakota Law Project.

Detroit bands together to being healthy food to food ghettos.

VE-RI-TAS, But Not Too Much


Harvard University, is the oldest (1636) institution of higher learning in the United States. Named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, it secured its first charter from the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Great and General Court. Its mission was to train Puritan ministers who served both the Unitarian and Congregational Churches of New England. Its alumni include 8 U.S. presidents, many foreign heads of state, 62 billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, 242 Marshall Scholars, and its community includes some 130 Nobel laureates. Its motto happens to be Veritas which, still means ‘truth’ no matter how you spell it.
But too much truth is a dangerous thing as Harvard’s Dean Elmendorf suddenly discovered September 15, caving under CIA pressure when he revoked his invitation issued to Chelsea Manning September 14 as a “visiting fellow.” Admitted Elmendorf: ‘I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations.” 
Mike Morell upholding his respectability
Elmendorf’s revoked invitation places Harvard in lock-step with the CIA, whose former director, Mike Morell resigned his post as a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, in reaction to Chelsea Manning’s appointment. His decision won praise from chief CIA apparatchik, Mike Pompeo. who also withdrew—from a Harvard forum he was supposed to participate in that very night. Pompeo was quick to serve up Morell’s  bonafides stating that Morell  is “a respected individual serving his country with dignity.” As Deputy Director of the CIA under the George W. Bush administration, Morell had direct oversight of the CIA’s torture program, its black sites where the torture took place, and the agency’s “extraordinary rendition” program of international kidnapping, all of which presumably he presided over with consummate dignity.
Following his resignation from Harvard and eager to uphold his respectability, Morell forwarded a letter to all MSM outlets stating: “I cannot be part of an organization…that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information…Ms. Manning was found guilty of 17 serious crimes, including six counts of espionage, for leaking hundred of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, [and bowing to higher authority] an entity that CIA director Mike Pompeo says operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence service.”
Its motto notwithstanding, the Crimson doesn’t seem to want its students to be unnecessarily exposed to war crimes, certainly not enough to be able to make up their own minds. And certainly not by Chelsea Manning who had the effrontery to expose actual war crimes in Iraq, and to point to evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, and threats both to public health and public safety., and whose country rewarded her loyalty and devotion with 35 years in the brig (reduced to seven by Obama), where she endured some of the same “enhanced interrogation” techniques the U.S. refined at Abu Ghraib, including more than two years in solitary (defined as torture by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Nor did her punishment end with her release. As a transgender woman, the necessary credit and background checks required to rebuild her life falsely indicated she was committing fraud. She became captive to the tech-driven programmatic thinking (“the computer says ‘no’) that has become dangerous to all citizens in the hands of governments and law enforcement.
But in one of the first articles, Chelsea Manning has written since her release (May 17, 2017), her focus once again reflects her concern for her country and for her fellow and sister citizens, and for those who suffer as victims of the U.S. policy of targeted assassination. She strikes a note of warning with these words:
“In recent years our military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies… harvest more data than they can possibly manage,… in vast, usually windowless buildings called fusion centers.

The United States military uses the metadata of countless communications for drone attacks, using pings emitted from cellphones to track and eliminate targets.

Predictive policing algorithms are already being used to create automated heat maps of future crimes, and like the “manual” policing that came before them, they overwhelmingly target poor and minority neighborhoods.

The world has become like an eerily banal dystopian novel. Things look the same on the surface, but they are not. With no apparent boundaries on how algorithms can use and abuse the data that’s being collected about us, the potential for it to control our lives is ever-growing.
Now that we live in this world, we must figure out how to maintain our connection with society without surrendering to automated processes that we can neither see nor control.”
But evidently Harvard prefers not to burden their Kennedy Institute of Politics students to such dystopian views. It seems to prefer the sunny narration of the likes of Mike Morell and Mike Pompeo: everyday in every way things are getting better and better, particularly if you serve the ruling class.


A Few Roses Amidst This Week's Thorns  


Maori town revives their lost language, and re-awakens anti-capitalist Maori mind.
An article in the Hartford Courant points out that the courts are finally taking climate science seriously while the other two branches of government still either deny or demur.
Maryland passes HB 631 prohibiting manufacturers or distributers from engaging in generic drug price gouging.
Democrat Annette Taddeo wins seat in Florida ‘s State Senate.
Best news of the week: Berkeley High students walk out to create human chain supporting undocumented classmates.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Burned Out on Vietnam

By Roger Herried

For the past two weeks, Americans—some of them—have been glued to their TV screens, watching the eight-part series by Ken Burns: Vietnam. On its face, Burn's presentation is a monumental effort, but like a large legal case, it allows the proponent plenty of room to weave his own agenda into the narrative with little choice left the viewer but either to run away, or submit to further indoctrination into this society's growing militarization cult.

But from my perspective, as someone who served during that war, watching “Vietnam,” I could barely stand sitting through a single episode.  When it showed clips of armed troops entering a village, I found myself switching stations.  
Burn's 18-hour presentation drills into the details of the battles, of Presidents Johnson and Nixon's political agendas, and the acknowledgement that although the war was clearly unwinnable, once fully enmeshed in the briar patch, it had to be fought to the finish.  But imagine any attempt by Burns to develop one of the most blatant themes, best summarized by a good old boy who heard this from Johnson, himself:  “some of my friends were making too much money to want to withdraw!”

Another detail that might have been given more play involves Kennedy’s desire to back away from the war, a desire which may in part have led to his assassination.

As part of a recent project where I was collecting images of protest  I came to understood how necessary it was to resort to a small balancing act.  I imagined that I had 10 grains of sand in front of me to represent the totality of a huge event.

Land mines are among many of Burn's unexposed grains of sand, something that would have horrifying consequences long after the war ended. It would take several generations of maimed humans finally to remove the millions of land mines left behind after the war's end. (It wasn't until 2014 that the U.S. finally agreed to abolish land mines, except in North Korea.)

Another grain that might have taken up an entire program is the human and environmental impacts from Agent Orange. Following the war's end American military brass denied the medical impacts both to GI's and untold numbers of civilians for years. Yes, it would be a bit more comforting to vets on this side of the war had he covered the impacts to us, but imagine Burns actually taking the time even to show the maps or some of the stark images! 

Another grain of sand is the mental trauma to service men and to generations of Vietnamese people who survived.  A veteran friend of mine, who earned the nickname of Rambo, spent over 20 years on the San Francisco streets homeless, crippled from exposure to Agent Orange that left him unable to wear shoes year around, and unable to forget the cold blooded murders of Vietnamese of all ages which still haunted him. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 47% homeless veterans are those who served in Vietnam.

Clinton may have finally opened up trade relations with the country but this issue goes far deeper than just PTSD, trust issues or even political anger.  Burn's gloss over of racism during the heat of the war or American GIs use of terms like "Gooks" or "infestation" terminology to rationalize the dehumanization of the enemy is disgraceful but the practice continues in use right up to the present time.

Alongapo - "Shit River"
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel were living among Asians as part of the support system. Subic Bay and what it stands for is another grain of sand. About 500 miles from Vietnam, in Subic Bay the U.S. Navy maintains a base the size of San Francisco, its largest installation outside of the mainland. Taking its inspiration from a Wild West film, the scene recaptures the miles of sheltered walkways, each building separated by a staircase from which prostitutes hang, angling for a customer. Along the enclosed area where one enters the base to change money runs a river studded with small boys in sampans yelling, “For three bucks, fuck my sister.”

Like most U.S. military bases, a two mile strip of brothels known as Alongapo was located where over 70,000 Filipino women many of whom were forced to support their families, were on duty seeking money for sex – paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.  Five bucks to the bar would buy a date upstairs for a girl. During the peak of the war an estimated 50,000 GIs a week were coming to Subic for a bit of R&R from the war zone.

As far away as Taiwan, where my destroyer tender was berthed doing diplomatic duty, within barely 6 months nearly half of the ship's crew of 700 men got caught up engaged to be married. The filthy underside of this business included Mafia loan sharking, gambling activities and immense pilfering of the supply chain. Yes, a duty-free case of the best whisky in the world went for nine bucks, you could outfit entire machine shops with the best quality tools or make 40% interest compounded every payday on military men caught up in the partying. Anyone who might be incautious enough to expose any of this would never make it back stateside alive. The version presented to me was and is not for public consumption to this day.

I had the pleasure of meeting a number of drug entrepreneurs during my tour of duty. The most astonishing operation involved an entire destroyer from the captain on down, who were using their ship to run drugs - taking stock investments that were meant to make very large profits with an extremely fast turn around - a $2,000 investment for a $10K return every three months. They even had a remote lifting system built into the anchor storage chamber to make sure any customs inspections would turn up clean.  Other individuals planned on large single 'gotcha’ moments such as when they were allowed to ship their belongings back from overseas where they were stationed - a nice refrigerator for example, with its insulation removed and replaced with large quantities of cocaine.  

Every supply system in the military was leaking large amounts of supplies to military personnel.  From just one of its ships - mine - an average of a million dollars a year went missing - a big chunk of change back then.  What was the connection between the Pentagon’s bloated budget and talk of $500 dollar toilet seats?

For a number of years, nineteen-year-old boys were placed in a national draft lottery where anyone with a number below 100 was forced into the military and shipped out for duty in Vietnam. Healthy boys from small towns with low draft numbers like myself had few options other than escaping to Canada or being accepted into college. I went to the nearest induction center with the only other option available, the request for a short term reserve deferment that would mean three months of boot-camp, three months of active duty and then a return to civilian life as part of the national guard. I was lied to by the recruiter and told they were no longer accepting this type of deferment. As a result I spent four years in the Navy, rather than 2 years in the Army fighting in the war zone.  Yet, upon arriving in boot camp, I discovered that nearly half the recruits in my company were given the above reserve deferment.  

Boot camp was no Sargent Pyle moment - within a short time after stepping off the shuttle bus in San Diego, the officer who greeted us made it very clear - we were there to learn how to kill. From that moment on and for the next three months I was indoctrinated into this country's killing machine. Those months forever changed me. Eventually those experiences gave me the ability to say no to our murdering machine, even if I wasn't quite brave enough go CO like many who did. One guy who grew up not far from my hometown went CO soon after we arrived in Asia and was forced to spend a week confined in a muddy pig pen before being discharged to his now-destroyed civilian life. 

In Taiwan where nobody approached me because of  the language barrier except for sexual or financial exchanges, I learned what it was to be an "Ugly American"  I experienced the dark underside of the Chinese Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship, from loin clothed slaves carrying 50-pound bags of rice dawn to dusk, over many blocks in the city of Kaohsiung where many were clearly dying, too weak to keep up with me as I passed by.  The off-duty time I spent - not in bars or brothels but in bookstores or reading - kept me sane, but just barely, a reprieve denied many others: at least as many men died from suicide or drug addiction as those who perished in direct combat.  During my solitude - a 19-year-old foreigner in a foreign land - the real question slowly dawned upon me - What was I doing in their country?  I had no answer - I still don't.

 A Few of This Week's Roses

Maori town revives their lost language, and re-awakens anti-capitalist Maori mind.

An article in the Hartford Courant points out that the courts are finally taking climate science seriously while the other two branches of government still either deny or demur.

Maryland passes HB 631 prohibiting manufacturers or distributers from engaging in generic drug price gouging.

Democrat Annette Taddeo wins seat in Florida ‘s State Senate.