Facing the Nightmare

climate change


As the world’s leaders gather in Paris this week to belatedly address the urgent threat of climate change, China and India are blanketed in smog so thick that it has been declared a health hazard.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are among 151 heads of state trying to find a global path to clean energy. So are President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In a historic deal with President Obama, President Xi Jinping has promised that clean sources, including solar and wind power, will produce 20 percent of China’s total energy production in the next 15 years.

And, in a one-and-one meeting with the US president, Prime Minister Modi agreed that closer co-operation between their countries is needed in addressing the urgency of climate change .

The Vatican has released a statement appealing to the leaders of nations attending the climate change conference to find a solution to the crisis.

It seems the world is waking up at last. But if talking could solve the world’s pollution problems, they would have been solved long ago.

And action is not as easy as you and I might think.

It’s true that some parts of the developed world are increasingly embracing clean-energy technology, but developing countries insist they need to go slow on curbing carbon pollution as they struggle to rise out of poverty.

President Obama is reportedly pledging $3 billion to help poorer nations deal with this dilemma. And business leaders are putting their financial muscle behind an effort to make clean energy more affordable.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire George Soros, Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal, and Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba are among more than two dozen business leaders who have so far joined that global crusade.

But the climate change crusaders will have stubborn opposition.

It’s not just developing nations that face financial loss as the world struggles to reduce fossil fuel pollution. In US regions like Kentucky and West Virginia, coal mining is an essential part of the economy.

In other areas across the US, oil and gas are major job producers.

Emergence of a robust clean energy industry would create jobs in some areas, of course, but jobs in other areas would disappear. The politicians representing areas that would be adversely affected are digging in their heels.

And, even more to the point, the fortunes of billionaires like the Koch brothers are based on oil and coal. They are not going to stand idly by as clean energy eats into their profits.

In this high-stakes conflict, Republican leaders have chosen to deny that man-made pollution has significant impact on the climate. They are the political front for the fossil-fuel industry, after all, and represent voters in districts dependent on the industry.

While President Obama preaches pollution control to the rest of the world, Republicans in Congress are planning to repeal his latest climate control action – limiting carbon emissions from power plants. And some Republican leaders are traveling to Paris to register their opposition to pollution control.

Meanwhile, temperatures are climbing, the polar caps are melting, sea levels are engulfing coastal regions, and the global warming nightmare predicted by scientists draws ever closer.

Click for more on climate control.


Slaughter of the Innocents



robert-lewis-dearWhile the world cowers in fear and western civilization mobilizes to destroy ISIS, another kind of terror continues unabated in America, becoming almost commonplace.

Of course I’m talking about mass shootings. Another of those senseless tragedies occurred yesterday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. This time the toll was relatively modest –  three people reported dead so far and nine hospitalized.

Police identified the shooter as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina (photos above). No motive has been disclosed, but, according to the AP story, residents near a shack Dear occupied in Colorado describe him as being “slightly off.”

President Obama issued an obligatory statement calling once again for gun control.

“This is not normal,” the President said.

Imagine that. The President has to tell us that mass murder isn’t normal – however normal it may seem to have become.

It has been just three years since a deranged young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and slaughtered 20 children and six adults, before killing himself. Since then, there have been at least 1,029 mass shootings in America, with shooters killing at least 1,300 people and wounding 3,699 more.

That’s about a thousand more fatalities than the ISIS attack caused in Paris a couple of weekends ago. And they’re still agog over that tragedy on cable TV.

What will it take for homegrown mass murder to attract the same kind of horror and outrage?

What will it take for Americans to stand up to the National Rifle Association and to shame Congress into taking action?

If Newtown didn’t do it, and if all the horror inflicted by guns since then hasn’t done it,  what will it take for Americans to say enough?

Map hows where mass murders have occurred since Newtown.

Click for the story.


What Do You Believe?


jolleySheriff Mike Jolley of Harris County, Georgia (photo at right) is in the news today because he paid out of his own pocket to erect a big sign advising newcomers to his domain:

WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you — LEAVE!

None of this offends me, of course. I say “Merry Christmas.” I pray that God will continue to bless America. I salute the brave troops fighting to protect me. And I salute the Stars and Stripes.

But I wouldn’t stay in Harris County.

I say “Merry Christmas” to my Christian friends, but if I know you’re Jewish I will wish you “Happy Hanukkah.” And if you’re a Muslim, and I know it, you would get my best wishes for “Eid al-Adha,” which honors the Old Testament’s Abraham – the same Abraham so many Christians revere.

If I know you’re an atheist, I will gladly say, “Happy Holidays,” especially if I think you would be offended by a spiritual greeting. But, in my heart, I would pray for you because I think being an atheist is a sad state to be in.

I hope and pray that God will bless America. And the rest of the world. He made it – all of it – and it desperately needs His blessing. But I certainly wouldn’t ask for Americans to be the only people to be blessed. That would be un-Christian – and un-American.

As for trusting in God, whom else would  you trust? Mankind? Would you trust the world’s leaders? Or those aspiring to lead? Really?

I salute our troops. I honor them for their bravery and their self-sacrifice. I admire them for their discipline and their endurance. And I weep for the maimed and the dead. I weep for their families. Most of all, I weep for the human frailty of the politicians who sent them into harm’s way when it might have been avoided.

And I certainly salute the American flag. I remember pledging allegiance to it – and the Republic for which it stands – three decades ago in Tampa, Florida. We were a motley crew gathered that day to become Americans,  people of all shades, it seemed, all ethnic origins, all religious and non-religious beliefs.

Nobody asked me what religion I was that day. Or whether I said “Merry Christmas.”

The freedom to believe whatever makes me feel good was one of the blessings I received when I pledged allegiance to the flag of these United States.

Click for the story.


It’s a Kind World After All



It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and many Americans might be thinking they have little to be thankful for. Gratitude is not cool. Rage is cool. Resentment is cool. Selfishness and greed are cool. Cynicism is cool.

But I refuse to be cool. I will continue to  be thankful for my blessings.

So that makes me what? Uncool? A dweeb? A dork?


I know, I know. A worldwide travel alert has been issued by the US government. Terrorists are on the loose, murdering and threatening and scaring people. The media is aflame with extravagant rhetoric. Racism is worse than I can ever remember. On all sides of the ethnic mosaic. not just black and white, the embers of old grievances are stirring into flames once more.

Fascists like Donald Trump are attracting a disturbing number of followers, inciting xenophobia and nihilistic rage in a shameless lust for political power.

Watching the news, you might be forgiven for throwing up your hands and asking yourself whether it’s time to pack up and move to Costa Rica.

But remember, the world depicted by the media is their world, not ours.

In their world, mayhem and murder proliferate, anger and hatred are whipped up by ambitious politicians, conflicting “experts” and other self-serving publicity seekers. Mass shootings are commonplace. Their reporters scour the far corners of the world in search of ugliness and strife and distill it into a toxic brew for our consumption and their enrichment..

In our world, we live and love in the midst of it all. We have romantic liaisons, which may or may not flower into nurturing relationships. We go to work or, if we’re retired, pursue our favorite hobbies.

Young families raise their kids, sending them to school and making whatever plans they can for their future.

Beyond the TV screens, beyond the headlines, beyond “social media,” real people do real things. The ugliness spewing from Trump and so many others flows vaguely past their consciousness as they tend to more pressing matters, fixing that broken drain pipe, looking for a bigger home now another child is on the way, applying for a promotion or a better job…

And, as the holidays approach, a lot of those people take time out to think of others. I watched a video on the internet this morning that showed good Samaritans handing out food to the homeless in New York City, for example. And closer to home, the folks at the church next door collected turkeys for the hungry, various agencies are preparing special meals for drifters and our friend Esther, who is in her nineties, will probably be helping out as usual at the Salvation Army, offering those in need a dry, warm place to sleep  and a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

Yes, the waters of politics might rage and swell and it might seem as if the mountains are going to be cast into the sea, but trust me, that’s in the media’s world, not ours.

In our world, there’s a lot to deplore, a lot that needs fixing, but there’s still a lot to be thankful for.

Click for the video.


With Friends Like These…



Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber is prompting internet chatter about World War III.

Turkey is a US ally, and the incident is sure to cause another confrontation with Russia. America will undoubtedly feel obliged to take the side of its “friends” in Turkey but I hope the issue can be resolved peacefully.

It makes you stop and think, though, doesn’t it? Why would a US ally do a dumb thing like that? It makes me wonder how much Turkey’s friendship is worth.

Some friends are not worth having. You would think America’s professional diplomats would know that, but throughout history America has somehow ended up with allies that are nothing but trouble.

It has been a sad fact of life in neighboring Latin American countries, where brutal dictators have been propped up time and again by the CIA. And it’s true in the Middle East.

I wouldn’t want the Saudis as my friends, for example. Saudi Arabia has a disgraceful human rights record,especially in the way women are treated.

But America has looked the other way, apparently because the Saudis help to keep oil prices down.

The Bush family had close personal ties to the Saudi royal family, and even during the Obama Administration, America has remained a staunch Saudi ally.

But I understand Saudi Arabians are financing terrorists in Iraq and Syria. And they are slaughtering the goat herders in Yemen – with planes bought from the US – on the pretext of battling global terror.

Now, I’m hearing Saudi Arabia refuses to accept any Syrian refugees.

The Saudis are Sunnis, and are inextricably involved in the region’s Sunni-Shia rivalry. As allies of the Saudis, America is at odds with Russia, which has sided with the Shia rulers in Syria and Iran.

Actually, America is fighting on both sides, bombing the ISIS extremists, who are Sunnis, while funding Syrian rebels trying to depose Syria’s Assad, who is a Shia. Incidentally, you might remember that the US deposed Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime in Iraq, replacing it with a Shia government.

Meanwhile, in the fight against ISIS, America is half-heartedly arming the Kurds, who have repeatedly proven their friendship with the West. I suppose America’s reluctance to provide the Kurds with all the support they need is because this wouldn’t sit well with Turkey,where the Kurds are fighting for their independence.

Kurds in Iraq and neighboring Turkey want their own state and might use the arms they get from America to carve a piece out of both countries to create that state. You can imagine how America’s “friends” in Iraq and Turkey feel about that.

Did that have anything to do with shooting down that Russian plane? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know, but the story I’m getting now doesn’t seem plausible, either. Why would the Turks risk a world war because a Russian jet might have unwittingly crossed into their air space?

I don’t really think the incident will precipitate World War III but it brings that unthinkable possibility a step closer.

America’s objective now should be to help rid the world of the ISIS blight, and then have as little to do with places like Iraq and Syria – and Turkey – as possible. As far as I can see, there’s no end in sight to conflict in the region.

Click for the news story.

Click for more on Saudi Arabia.

Click for more on Turkey.


Turn Down the Volume



Islamophobia3Viewing the TV news these days, you might feel as if you’re watching “Scary Movie III.”

Belgium declares a state of emergency at the highest level and pleads with the public not to tweet about any police moves they observe… France is still in a state of emergency as anti-terrorist raids continue… In Mali, 19 people are killed in a terrorist raid on a luxury hotel…

Meanwhile, the President of the United States feels obliged to tell ISIS that it cannot strike a mortal blow against his country.

I never for a moment thought ISIS could strike a mortal blow against America but I suppose the President’s message was necessary to calm the hysteria reflected in the media.

Or is it the media that is creating the hysteria?

Terrorism is not new. Throughout my entire life crazies have been blowing up their surroundings and slaughtering innocent bystanders for one cause or another.

What’s new is the amount of publicity these creeps get from their atrocities. And that’s just what they’re after. The more publicity terrorists get the more terrorism there will be.

Of course, the Nine-Eleven catastrophe was one of a kind. The death toll was in the thousands and the iconic World Trade Center was entirely demolished. But that was a perfect storm. The way the twin towers were constructed contributed to a collapse I’m sure the terrorists could not have predicted.

Is that what changed the world? And is the world changed forever?

It seems so. It has been 10 days since the nightmare in Paris, and cable news channels are still breathlessly exploiting it.

Yes, it was news. Big news. Beautiful, romantic Paris, the global symbol of joie de vivre, defiled by monsters in the name of religion.

What could be more evocative than that?

But in the name of common decency, tone it down, guys. We’ve seen enough of the endless live-action loops, the videos that you warn us might be troubling to watch yet show us anyway.

Enough of loud-mouth fear mongers urging us to bar the door against those fearsome Syrian widows and orphans. Enough of demagogues who want to build a Wall of China around America.

Enough of “homeland security” experts urging us not to be afraid but to be sure and report any suspicious behavior by our neighbors.

Islamophobia already is raging. Some American politicians want to ban Muslims altogether. Others want to tag them or put them in a database or an internment camp or wherever. Mosques are being vandalized.

America spends billions – perhaps trillions – on the CIA, the FBI, the armed forces, the various kinds of police and whatever covert agencies there may be that we are not told about. I’m sure these pros are doing their best to protect us.

They can’t keep us completely safe, of course. But cowering in terror and eyeing each other with suspicion isn’t going to keep us completely safe either.

Click for President Obama’s speech.

Click for more on Islamophobia.


When Polls Go Bad


The polls have ruled in America for decades, but they seem to have lost their magic. Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin’s big win in the Kentucky governor’s race is the most recent example of a new trend. The polls – not one but all – had predicted a comfortable victory by Bevin’s opponent, Democrat Jack Conway

Earlier, Mitch McConnell  had easily won re-election over Alison Lundergan Grimes, despite the polls’ predictions of a squeaky-close race.

And the phenomenon is not restricted to Kentucky. The venerated Gallup poll had called for a close Mitt Romney win over President Obama in 2012.

The polls are failing abroad, too. They were wrong about last May’s British election –  and the Scottish independence vote.

In a recent article in US News and World Report, Joseph P. Williams observes:

Once a seemingly infallible cornerstone of the political system, public opinion polls have racked up a few big-time fails in recent years, embarrassments that compelled a leading firm to conduct an internal audit to find out what went wrong.

What’s going on? For one thing, response rates are way down. Way, way down.


In Salon.com this morning, Paul Rosenberg cites “deep distrust of the political establishment.”

Polling has become so unreliable that Gallup probably isn’t going to try and predict the winner of next year’s presidential election, Rosenberg says. But he sees signs of possible improvement as new and more effective polling methods emerge.

Will the new methods mean better poll results?

And will better polling mean better government? Possibly, because politicians would be hopelessly lost without polls. They rely on the polls to tell them what goodies to promise, what to be outraged about, and so on.

And there’s even more to it than that. Political “leadership” – in America at least – often relies on a mixture of propaganda and polling. Tell the voters what you want them to believe and poll the voters to find out if they believe it. If they don’t believe it, tell them in a different way, hoping that will be more effective.

It looks as if the voters are catching on – and turning off .

Turnout is at obscenely low levels in US elections. Could Americans – could the world – be getting tired not only of the pollsters but of democracy as well?

What do the polls have to say about that? And can we trust the polls to be right?

Click for Williams’ article.

Click for Rosenberg’s article.


Sins of Our Fathers

mali hotelpovertymali


I confess: I had no idea where Mali is. I had to look it up when I read about the latest terrorist atrocity this morning.

According to the news report, gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, where UN forces were holding a function. At least three people died and about 170 were taken hostage, the report said. Later reports said Mali commandos had stormed the hotel and freed the hostages.

But where on earth was Mali? And what did Mali have to do with ISIS, if anything?

I found out that Mali is a former French colony in west Africa with a population of roughly 15 million (see map). Its capital city is Bamako.

A former French colony. That tells me a lot. The abuses of colonization come to mind, for example. The exploitation of other people’s land and resources by foreigners who “own” territory simply by saying it’s theirs.

Of course that claim was backed up by troops – “boots on the ground” they might be called today. And, later, by a more sophisticated form of colonization – economic manipulation.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – and even into the twentieth century – western civilizations grew enormously rich by colonizing territories all over the world, shipping their resources home, processing them into marketable products and selling them back to the colonies.

As I remember it, my History teacher called such colonizers “Metropolitan States.” And he found benefits to the colonies as well as to the colonizers.

You can look at it that way, I guess. You can see it as a process of civilizing “savages,” conferring upon them the cultural and economic advantages of a developed society. And, of course, by concentrating production in the home state, economies of scale resulted, keeping the prices of the processed products down.

But I doubt that’s how the colonized people saw it. Or how they see it today, when a more subtle form of colonization persists throughout the world. The boots on the ground have, to a large extent, been replaced by a global economic system that favors the developed nations, keeping the former colonies mired in debt they cannot hope to repay.

And, in exchange for trade and development concessions, today’s colonial powers have often used their superior military might to support abusive dictators who indulge in lavish lifestyles while leaving the people they rule in abject poverty.

None of this excuses the barbaric behavior of the terrorists who massacre innocent people abroad and commit unspeakable atrocities in their own homelands. They are, without a doubt, mad dogs that must be destroyed to protect the rest of us. But I think history helps to explain the bitter hatred of western civilization that fuels evil cults like ISIS.

This is not just a blast from the past. The global economic system, supported by vast military power, still inflicts widespread injustice around the world, subjecting millions to starvation and disease – and a future devoid of hope.

Mali, for example, is described this way in a CNN-Money  report:

The small land-locked country, which is roughly twice the size of Texas, is among the poorest nations in the world. The Mali population is considered very young; nearly 50% of people are under the age of 14. Life expectancy is 55 years.

As the old Jamaican proverb puts it, “Donkey say the world no level.”

And until the world’s inequity is addressed, I fear that civilization will be threatened by outbreaks of barbarism – sometimes disguised as religious fervor – .in a misdirected desire for retribution.

Photos above show the hotel that was attacked (top) and the way some people in Mali live (bottom).

Click for more on the Mali terrorists.


Yes, Take Trump Seriously



I know I said Donald Trump has no chance of becoming the next American President, and I still think he’s a long-shot. But the winds of chance are drifting his way, and I have to take him seriously.

Yes, he plays the fool. Yes, he is a troll who says provocative – often outrageous – things when he knows better.. But he is not a fool.

He is a fearless campaigner who dares to go where no one has gone before, bragging, posturing and saying tasteless things to appeal to a vulgar audience that’s fed up with political correctness and middle-class gentility.

If you’ve ever been a jock, you know what I mean. Those guys say incredibly insulting things as a mark of friendship. No kidding, ladies.You would cringe at the things that get said in a men’s locker room.

I suppose the same is true among entertainers. George Jones was known affectionately as “Possum,” for example. If you’ve ever seen a possum, I bet you wouldn’t like to be told you look like one.

That might be the secret of Trump’s enduring appeal. Or it could be the fact that he’s a celebrity people recognize from TV and a businessman who has built an empire supposedly worth billions. Beats me. I have no idea.

But when I see his family on the cover of People Magazine and on Good Morning America, I have to pay attention.

Especially now, when Americans are so frightened and angry in the wake of the Paris attacks. This is no time for nuanced foreign policies. Simple-minded bumper stickers are far more comforting to an uninformed public than intricate analyses.

As Ben Carson slides down the polls, as Bobby Jindal throws in the towel and as Jeb Bush flails futilely in single digits, Trump looks more and more like the man to beat.

Marco Rubio is emerging as the bookmakers’ – and the big-money players’ – choice, but his record will not stand up to scrutiny. And his baby-faced looks seem out of place in today’s horror-movie world.

These are tough times and Trump is – despite his clownish style – a tough guy. Thick-skinned and tough. Thick-skinned enough to shrug off any slur that comes his way (he’s heard them all before, I’m sure). Tough enough to make voters believe he can protect them from ISIS.

Tough enough to take on Hillary.

Click for what a new poll says.


Home, Sweet Home

Myrie3miss_world2As I scrolled through the news this morning, waiting for something to trigger a response that might end up as a blog, I felt trapped in a time warp with everything that needed saying already said.

The aftermath of the horror in Paris continued to unfold with a young woman blowing herself up and a young man shot to death by police on the trail of the weekend’s terror suspects. French and Russian bombs, meanwhile, were raining down on Syria in reprisal for ISIS atrocities. And American bombing continued unabated, even with increased intensity.

The various ongoing debates in America continued, pro and con, seeming so contrived, so politically self-serving, so unworthy of further comment. Another general election is drawing close, and the obligatory campaign chatter fills the news.

And then, as I scrolled through my in basket, I came across a video from my friend Margaret, providing a breath of fresh air to relieve the grittiness of the news.

In the video, Jamaica’s Miss World representative, 24 year-old Sanneta (“Pilgrim”) Myrie (shown above at work and at play), briefly discusses her life and her homeland, smiling all the time of course for she is a Jamaican and Jamaicans smile in spite of everything.

The YouTube video goes on to other topics, including past winners of the Miss World pageant. They are all delightful young women, not just physically flawless but also impressively accomplished. Miss Myrie is a medical doctor whose passions include interpretive dancing. She runs an after-school program and mentors inner-city youth in Kingston.

While I find it somewhat absurd for young women to be  judged like that, I have to confess it was a relief to look at them instead of the masked visages of jihadists and the contorted features of “outraged” politicians.

What prompted this morning’s blog, however, was not the parade of beauty contestants but the charming presentation by Miss Myrie and the background scenes and rhythms accompanying it.

Viewing the video, a wave of homesickness engulfed me.

I look out of my den window and I can glimpse the lake. The sun is shining and the grass is still bright green. A warm wind ruffles the oak branches and kicks up whitecaps. This is Florida, after all, and the climate is not that much different from Jamaica’s.  The terrain, although missing the mountains, is also similar.

But Florida is not Jamaica. Nowhere else in this wide world is Jamaica.

After all these years away, my island home still calls out to me, its magic as spellbinding as ever.

Click for the video.

Click for more about Sanneta Myrie.