Thursday, 25 August 2016


     As far back as I can remember, and that now exceeds 90 years, citizens of what is known as the United States of America have been noted for bragging that they inhabit the greatest, most unique, country in the world.
     Could they be right?  What other country inflates what in sedate countries is about an 8-week task into a 208-week circus requiring exemplary courage to endure?  Theirs is a country that contains more than enough brilliant and capable individuals who can lead not only their own country but make it a leading light in a troubled world.  But, that is too easy.
     Instead they accept the challenge of not voting for the best candidates but voting against those they despise.  In the process they waste billions of dollars that are badly needed in repairing failing infrastructure, fighting Greed, Climate Change, Gun Lobbies, Inequalities, Health and Education Costs, an out-of-control Military-Industrial Complex, Nuclear Arsenals, and so on.
     Daily, individual computer screens are infected with at least eight requests for political donations that range from one to ten dollars.  Those naive enough to respond discover what they really want is a much larger donation on a monthly basis.
Why feed politicians, already bloated with corporate and foreign  fortunes, when numerous and much-worthier organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, Concerned Scientists, and the like, put donations to much better use?
    But, pause a bit to explore what also belongs here:  the opposition-criticized Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Foundation established in 1997 by Bill.  Claims that donors receive deliberate kickbacks are unsubstantiated.  Overlooked are the improvements in agriculture, education, health, and finances of millions especially in Detroit, El Salvador, Haiti, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania where 88% of funds raised go directly to aid, making praiseworthy improvements.
       Yet, all US politicians are kept quite busy, but not in governing.   It seems essential that they waste over half their time and effort with fund-raising to support a system obviously badly broken.  Far too many young, elected, hopefuls arrive in Washington, ready and capable to do good for their country and their world, only to find that the system has not evolved to permit that.  Their first duty is to raise about $18,000 daily for party funds. 
     Discouraged, too many settle for the enormous, and unfair, perks that go with the job.  The US public has about a 15% approval rating of Congress yet it keeps re-electing the same representatives. Inflexible party adherence or entrenched money? Some senators tell us it costs $100 million to win a seat.  Flooding voters with endless TV ads may work but it is insulting to voter intelligence. Results?  Since the Cold War, UN politicians have had an 85% success record in troubled areas while the US record is dismal.
     Dare we try to assess the current cycle?  The field that started out with a dozen candidates has dwindled to the two who command the least affection.
     Now, I still like Berni Sanders, Jill Stein, and Ajama Baraka whose foreign policies are worthy of a great nation.  Berni may still influence Hillary but Jill, Ajama, and their Green Party remain relatively unknown and unheeded.  This is a far greater pity than most realize.
     When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the world breathed such a sigh of relief that it rushed to present him with a Nobel Peace Prize.  At last, the US would lead, not dominate. Not succeeding in closing Guantanamo, not following Mikhail Gorbachev’s lead in eliminating nuclear weapons, but rather pledging $1 trillion to update the US inventory of such world-destroyers, and not taming, but supporting, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel have engendered great disappointment and soiled the US image abroad in spite of the Peace Corps, the Clinton Foundation, and other US philanthropists.
     Alas, inherited problems, corporate interests, and Republican opponents would not permit Obama-expected results.  While Obama has made impressive gains he falls far short of what the world expected and Hillary, as Secretary of State, has been forged by financial interests in the USA, and the World, as they do dominate.
     Yet, it is high time the US had a woman as head of state.  Hillary does possess the stamina, knowledge, and ability to be an effective president, but she is still a hawk, much less so than all of her Republican opponents, but, as her famous e-mails reveal, she and her associates partied when Saudi Arabia signed that Boeing contract for F15s that are now criminally murdering innocent people in impoverished Yemen.  This contract includes training, maintenance, and in-flight refueling, resulting in much blood on US hands and world disdain.  Meanwhile the Clinton Foundation gets bribes of $10 million from Saudi Arabia and almost a million from Boeing.  This is not statesmanship, nor are the billions of dollars donated annually to aggressors like Israel and Egypt.  Like the US, Israel has the ability to be a shining light in the Middle East and many of its citizens strive for this, but overall it has not learned from the holocaust.  Its treatment of Palestinians is criminal.  Its settlements are cruel and illegal; its formidable nuclear arsenal is secret and free of inspections thanks to US support.  The US-supported Egyptian military has no empathy for their much-needed dissidents. 
     Much of the world condemns the US for its support of such aggressors.  Obviously, the US puts power and money above human rights and self respect.
      So, is Donald Trump an answer?  He is outspoken and a hero to many who yearn for a change in their stagnant or deteriorating economic status.  He is more of a hawk than his hawkish party mates who keep trying, unsuccessfully, to push him aside.  With inherited wealth he went on a building spree that left contractors and workers who built his empire complaining they were short-changed.  He has faced over 3,000 lawsuits.
     He lacks the composure and depth of knowledge to trust as someone who could ignite the nuclear end of civilization.  Voting for him is a risk our already-endangered world cannot afford.  A Berni-influenced Hillary  is a safer choice.
     Advice?  The country is in a political mess of its own making but the wherewithal for resurrection exists.  Perhaps a better look at 3rd parties?  Jill and Jamana do deserve more attention and much more publicity.  So do many of the current politicians if they are released from their heavy and incentive-killing monetary chains.
     Jill and Jamana, in the very limited time provided them by the mainstream media, voice more human-rights values than do those from the other parties where only Berni is a true advocate.  The gridlock of a 2-party system needs to be unlocked.
     Elections should be time-and-money-limited, tax-supported, and free of paid lobbyists, domestic or foreign.  As a showman, Trump earned money for the media, so, gratefully, they give him the greatest publicity.  
     There is a slogan out there: "Make the USA great again.”  Yes, it is possible, but, first, the electoral policy must be reformed.

Saturday, 13 August 2016


Dissidents and Whistleblowers are a species that permeates not only our current world but all of recorded history.  A few have been successful while millions have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed.  Hitler’s concentration camps, and many current ones, were, and are, full of them.  The UK-based Global Witness reports that at least 185 environmental activists were murdered in 2015 alone. Brazil led with 50, the Philippines 33, Colombia 26, Peru and Nicaragua 12 each, Congo 11, down to Guatemala and Honduras with a couple each.  Most were opposing foreign-financed mining, logging, and hydro-electric projects.
But dissidents exist in all countries and in many fields: economic, educational, medical, military. political, religious, science, and society in general.   Do they not also include you and me?
Thousands deserve our remembrance and appreciation for risking careers and lives to inform us just how much we were, and are, being exploited.  Actually July 30th was declared National Whistleblowers Appreciation Day in 2013 by the US Senate when a 30 July 1776 Continental Congress law protecting whistleblowers was rediscovered.  This law was passed to protect two sailors who were being prosecuted for exposing the misdeeds of the top US Navy officer.  The US 4th amendment was to protect whistleblowers.  It has many failures.   
The saddest part of all this is that too many of us continue to stumble along, ignorant and ungrateful of sacrifices made to enlighten us and to promote justified reactions.  Worse still far too many refuse to think and persist with mindsets inflexible to change.  Thinking does require courage, action even more.
Lord John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902) reminded us: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.”  Travelling widely in elite circles in Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and the Vatican, he did have ample examples.  In the US civil war he backed the South, not for slavery, but for States Rights as he feared a USA, led by the North, would be an aggressive behemoth.
Over the last few years Amnesty International has warned of an alarming proliferation of laws that restrict free speech in some 96 countries and that, even in Europe, the UK and US, terrorism fears have been used to induce measures that harm the ability of Human Rights NGOs to function.  Even the Obama administration in the US is guilty of prosecuting more whistleblowers than all previous US administrations.   Both Obama and Hillary argue Edward Snowden must return to the US to face trial while Trump calls him a traitor with whom he will deal harshly after he gets his friend, Putin, to kick him back to the USA.
We, in what we call the “West”, do enjoy freedoms to express our views even if money is too often used to influence information outlets and viewers are too often lethargic in exercising skepticism or in joining movements to effect needed actions, such as the Arab Spring, intifadas, Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists, and activists in such pursuits as climate change, population control, and gun laws.  All this while discouraging armed militias, and hate groups, 784 of which exist in the US alone. When Obama was elected to a second term, armed militias increased to over 3,000 but are now down to about 1,100.  This, with a dysfunctional Congress out to kill Obama’s initiatives, make for a difficult country to govern.   Yet: 
Hundreds of well-researched books, and e-books, and even more articles are available for those who take the time to read them.  The pictures they paint reveal a human species with minorities so powerful and so terrifying that corrective actions are imperative and long overdue.  Let us sample just a few whistleblowers:
Ida Tarbell 1901-04;  Following Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign against business corruption, Ida  amassed an extremely thorough 2-year investigation of John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil empire that had harmed small, independent Pennsylvania oil producers, including her father.  She exposed malpractices in a series of 19 articles in McClire’s Magazine.
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962: Overuse of pesticides killing birds and harming the environment.
Paul Erlich. Population Bomb 1968: World resources unable to sustain ever-increasing human population. 
James E. Hansen, NASA, 2004-6: how the government downplayed and ignored climate change data.
Peter Buxton, US Public Health Service, tried for 6 years to halt the Tuskegee study of untreated syphilis started in 1932 on Black US soldiers.  Finally it was stopped in 1972 when he informed the Washington Star.
     Ronald Ridenhour, a helicopter gunner, exposed the 1967 My Lai massacre in which 347 unarmed Vietnamese men, women (many of whom had been raped) and children were murdered by members of the US 23rd Division.   Only one soldier was punished: William Calley who spent 3.5 years under house arrest. 
Daniel Ellsberg, US Marine Corps platoon leader in Vietnam, Harvard PhD, Rand Corporation analyst, Defense Department on counter insurgency in Vietnam, becomes convinced Vietnam a wrongful war, studies and copies Pentagon Papers, reveals to New York Times, arrested in 1971 for espionage, Henry Kissinger called him the most dangerous man in America.  Charges dropped in 1973 and war ends in 1975. 
In 2014 Icelandic and Swedish MPs nominated Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 2015 Germany’s Green Party erected statues of Manning, Snowden, and Julian Assange in Berlin’s Alexanderplsatz.  Why, then, is Chelsea still serving, under cruel conditions, a 35-year prison sentence in the USA, Edward a refugee in Russia, and Julian holed up for 4 years now in the Ecuadorian embassy in London?
Bradley/Chelsea Manning:  In spite of having an alcoholic mother, a father whose job kept him on the road most of the time, being raised by an older sister, and with a persistent feeling of being a girl not a boy, Bradley Manning excelled in science and computers.  He enlisted in the army hoping that exclusive male company would jolt him away from female tendencies.  He was posted to Iraq where, due to trade shortages, he spent long hours computerizing data that included reckless helicopter attacks that killed innocent civilians.  His attempts to stop this eventually led to him sharing thousands of files with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, his arrest, and current sentence of 35 years in prison much in solitary confinement and torturous conditions. He did manage to have authorities recognize his sex change to Chelsea, but she faces increased restrictions and imprisonment due to a recent suicide attempt Her many, worldwide, supporters argue her leaks pose no military dangers and that she should be freed for her humanitarian actions.
      Julian Assange:    With great ability at penetrating computer codes, Julian set up Wikileaks in 2006 to publish corporate wrongdoing, attaining world prominence in 2010 when he included Chelsea’s exposures.  Later that year Sweden issued an arrest warrant on sex charges during a visit to Sweden. Claiming innocence, but fearing Sweden would extradite him to the US, he has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from which he continues to release accumulated documents including many that affect US electioneering.
Thomas Drake was a senior executive with NSA, 2001-08, who disagreed with the mass surveillance program.  He tried approved channels to expose and dilute this.  His home was raided and he was charged with espionage.  After his career was wrecked and he was bankrupt all but one minor charge were dropped in 2011.
John Crane for 25 years was in the Inspector General’s office that ensured principled dissent to assist senior management, only to find the system was broken and that informers on minor housekeeping affairs suffered homes raided, gunpoint arrest, and careers ruined.  His home was raided at gunpoint while he was in the shower and taken for questioning.  He was fired in 2013. He went to the Guardian and Der Spiegel because they published the Snowden story on massive NSA surveillance.  This led to Mark Hertsgaard’s book “Bravehearts - Whistleblowers in the Age of Snowden”
Edward Snowden: is exactly where the US intelligence community wants him so it is unlikely any politician or organization will get him back to the USA.  He is a huge embarrassment to them, taking them from the Hero to the Big Brother role.    Snowden insists his revelations in no way harmed US individuals or interests.  Learning from Drake, Crane, and others he worked through the Manchester Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and is considerably better off than Manning.  He continues to have visitors, conduct interviews, and influence the outside world.  He warnings include: technology will continue to steal jobs from an expanding population, female inequality is inexcusable, powerful individuals within governments defy constitutions.  He  accepts his situation as the price to pay for following his conscious.  The US intelligence community, he claims, waited to have his passport revoked until he was on a stopover in Russia en route to Latin America where the US had enough influence to get him quickly extradited.  With no passport he was unable to continue.
     NEW: I have found a new handyman and friend.  I am amazed at how conscientious and capable he is in a wide variety of fields.  I learned he was an MD who practiced in 2 states.  When he exposed deadly diagnostic errors,  he was appreciated by doctors but not profit-oriented managers, influential enough to bar renewal of his licenses and his $360,000 income for no valid reason, causing him to take 3-month medical stints in Saudi Arabia where he found much graft and maltreatment of foreign medical workers.  Often their (and his) final month’s pay to be sent after arrival home never arrived. A spinal injury plus high legal costs to fight for license renewal now prevent him taking a permanent medical job.  I am urging him to publish a book on how prevalent medical incompetence can be and the indifference of some humans towards others.