Friday, 28 July 2017


     In its 300,000-year history, Homo the Sap, self-named Homo sapiens, has existed for a large part of it in self-made troubled times.  Quite understandable, as all of us are trapped in a world we do not understand.  The curious among us are making amazing progress but we have a very long way yet to go  Throughout my previous 174 blogs I have dwelt on this, based on what I have gleaned over my 98 tours around the Sun.
My own observations have been accompanied by the writings of thousands of curious, dedicated, and investigative minds.  As we are almost out of time to save ourselves from extinction, let me choose for this blog one of them that you may, and should, know:  In my large library I have Naomi Klein’s July 2017 book “No Is Not Enough”, as well as her earlier books “The Shock Doctrine” and “This Changes Everything”.  Also I have watched her numerous appearances on Amy Goodman’s PBS  “Democracy Now!” and interviews with such as the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.  She is co-author of The Intercept, and a frequent contributor to many magazines.  Her books have been translated into over 30 languages.
      Before I go any further, I want to say that I admire you, Naomi, for leaving your comfortable Vancouver Island home to travel in December 2016 to the cold and snowy North Dakota to join the protectors at Standing Rock - a total of over 10,000 protectors that included members of other US and Canadian tribes and, heart warmingly, 2,000 US Veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq who had come to stand with the Sioux and to apologize for all the wrongs their country had done and is continuing to do to them.   This pipeline was originally designed to go under the city of Bismark but the residents objected, so the builders nibbled further on dwindling Sioux treaty lands to re-route it to go under Lake Oahe, the sole source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux.  The joyous feeling of success when Obama halted the digging, insisting on further study, was dashed when Trump nullified Obama’s efforts and the oil is now flowing.  Again, profits won over people.
But, Naomi, you do have itchy feet, chasing around the globe, interviewing and investigating. You have jogged my failing mind with so many well researched happenings, putting them all together in books, loaded with facts and figures I had lived through but have forgotten or dimly remember.           Gratifying, Naomi, is the fact that there is a growing number of individuals and organizations joining you in pushing us into a new world beyond war (and a so-named organization is thriving) into those broad sunlit uplands envisaged by Winston Churchill, by Buddha’s awareness, by the poets of WW1, and by so many troubled minds over the centuries.  
Can we ever achieve this without the leap you envisage?  We must get beyond Pax Romana, The League of Nations, The United Nations, to a mindset where the world has the will and ability to prevent atrocities, highlighted currently by the crimes in Syria and Yemen where those who suffer most had little to do with the violence.  
Naomi, your Shock Doctrine that, in many countries, produced oligarchies of billionaires exploiting the rest of us, also produced Donald Trump whom we must thank for giving you the incentive for your recent book and for uniting a host of organizations that have struggled with limited, and often short-lived success, but now are finally joining in persistent resistance.
Your so-typical example is that of the four arrested protestors, finding themselves in the same paddy wagon en route to jail, discovering that each belonged to an organization unknown to the other three, but all opposing the same political actions.     
I applaud your leading role in the two Toronto conferences that produced “The Leap Manifesto” - a call for Canada based on caring for the Earth and for Each Other.  It includes totally renewable energy, mass affordable transit, racial and gender equality, fewer work hours, respect for indigenous rights, innovative and democratic ownership. energy-efficient homes, localized and ecological agriculture, welcome for refugees and migrants, reduced military offensiveness, town hall meetings, education and justice reform. Numerous like-minded organizations have been quick to join your unifying call. 
Actually, Canada is a good place for starting foundations.  With a population that rose from 7 to 11 million between World Wars I and II and in which Canada punched well above its weight and did accomplish amazing infrastructure gains in a huge country. It has gone from a top belligerent to a top peacekeeper. For instance in WWI, of the top 45 air aces, 17 were German, 8 Canadian, 6 UK, 5 French.  In WII Canada trained 137,739 aircrew, provided a quarter of the D-Day invaders and got the furthest inland.  Yet, post war,  Canada led in peacekeeping roles, offering 5,000 troops to start a UN standing force that never materialized.  But Canada, now with 36 million, has slipped from first place to 67th as the UN now relies on poorly-paid-and-trained troops from poorer countries.  I also suspect that some Canadian generals prefer to hobnob with wealthy US generals rather than with generals from poorer countries that are much less influential.  But, much of this slippage can be blamed on oil and munition industries promoting turmoil, thus nullifying UN efforts. 
Naomi, your books give me ample statistics of the ill-gotten wealth of Trump and his associates, how brand names can reap fortunes without investments, how great wealth influences politicians, the media, and the common voter who believes those endless TV ads that insult true intelligence but watched by so many who lack the time or will to dig deeper. To return the US to democracy we must eliminate donated money to politicians and their parties.  I still get a daily dozen of repeated e-mail-donation-requests from politicians plus another lot of requests from worthy charities I much prefer to help.  The politicians ask for a mere $3 but, if you activate the donate button, you find that what they are asking for is a recurring monthly donation of $35 or more plus a tip.  
It is essential that electioneering be financed only by fixed grants to contesting parties paid for by taxation, permitting politicians to govern rather than spending half their salaried time fund raising.   The 2012 US election cost $6.3 billion, the 2016 one $6.5 billion.  In 2016 Hillary spent $768 million while Trump got away with $398 million due to the free time the media gave him as his antics were making profits for them. Bernie Sanders, who covered the most issues, raised a surprising $234 million from small donations.
Another huge waste of money, but also lives, is in the military reactions to reactions to initial aggressions, both real and inferred.  Our smart bombs and finely-tuned drones have killed more civilians than have our enemies that we created: Taliban, Al Qaida, and Daesh.  Death statistics may be highly inaccurate but the known numbers are frightening.  Between August 2014 and March 2017 the US admits causing 352 civilian deaths while the UK-based “Airwars” tabulates 3,100 and estimates thousands more from Russian air strikes.
These deaths, added to the immense destruction of homes, utilities, and infrastructure, provide huge recruitment incentives for never-ending bloody strife.  This only speeds the decline of the US Empire with so many other nations finding other associations including a world currency to supplant the US Dollar.
Awareness:  Has our media drowned us in so many dire warnings of imminent disasters, from global warming to a hunk of outer-space rock colliding with us, that millions in islands of prosperity around the globe have shut their ears and eyes to the woes of others?   
Several weeks ago I was alone in a booth at Village Inn when a young man approached me, surprising me with “Do you believe in God?”  I pushed my plate aside and asked him to sit down. For fifteen minutes we had a wide-ranging conversation.  He had returned from duty in Iraq, thoroughly disillusioned.  He had gone there to serve his country and to help the Iraqi people.  Instead he found his sole duty was to guard the oil with no regard or time to help the suffering people.  Losing faith in country and God, he told me his main goal in life was now to protect his two male friends and the woman he hoped to make his permanent girlfriend.  He returned to them in another booth at the opposite end of the room where they finished their meals, but before leaving all four came over to my booth to give me hugs.  Somehow, I had helped a troubled youth.
For a decade after the Cold War democracy had its best flourishing.  Over the past decade this has turned into a steady decline.  Freedom House (a think tank founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie) assessed 195 countries, finding 87 were free, 59 partly free, and 49 not free. Sadly, their 2017 report reveals civil-rights setbacks in 67 countries and gains in only 36.  Voters in free countries, impatient with the slow, bickering progress, have turned to strong autocratic leaders, a course that always proves disastrous.
We (Canada, UK, US, etc) impose sanctions on Russia and Iran when we should impose sanctions on ourselves for our crimes such as lack of concern for common people when we support, and sell arms to, oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia who is now in its 3rd year of using US aircraft and US/UK bombs for indiscriminate bombing of Yemen, a poor country where 20 million of its 28 million people need humanitarian aid.  This infrastructure destruction has caused, among other criminal woes, a massive cholera outbreak with, to date, 1,818 killed and 400,000 infected.   Meanwhile we excuse nuclear-armed Israel’s continued theft of Palestinian land and continuing its unbearable jail of 2 million in Gaza.  
So, Naomi. You are a big wave among many others that are forming the tsunamis necessary to sweep away from our beaches entrenched opposition, but, tsunamis can be destructive so this one also needs to be regulated. 
     It is a daunting, but essential, task.


Saturday, 8 July 2017


      Five thousand years of recorded history reveal that we, who do the suffering and dying, too often for the benefit of the few, are slow learners.  Strange, because we have the numbers and intermittent organization to do better.   Yet, some 4 billion of us have been sacrificed to major wars, not to mention minor conflicts.
Our gullibility is too massive for a single blog, so I will skip along through recent turmoils such as Palestine, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Tibet, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya where so many of our woes are self-inflicted and avoidable.
That brings us to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, China’s Xi Jinping, and somebody’s Donald Trump.
My interest in Korea started in 1952 during the Korean War when I was with 426 Squadron that flew North Star aircraft on the Korean Air Lift, making 600 casualty-free, round-trip, flights from Dorval (Montreal) loaded with supplies for our 26,000 airmen, sailors, and soldiers there, and often returning with wounded from the fighting.  There was a 5-day crew stopover in the Australian-run Marunuchi Hotel at  Haneda, Tokyo, airport.
The Koreans and Japanese that I was fortunate to meet were all friendly, efficient, and helpful.
Korean history starts in 2333 BC and is a long story of peace and turmoil with numerous invasions and takeovers leaving an enduring distaste for foreigners.
The 400-year “Golden age of art and literature” Chinese Han Dynasty embraced North Korea in 108 BC.  It is argued that those who consider themselves Han still think of others, like Tibetan, Yi, and Dai as somewhat retarded.   In 527 AD Buddhism was adopted, The Mongol invasion began in 1231. Paper currency was introduced in 1402.  The first Manchu invasion came in 1627.  It was the strangest and most frightening.  Considered barbarians, the Manchu numbered fewer than 250,000 yet developed military strategies that conquered the Chinese empire to establish the Qing Dynasty that faded into today’s minority of 3 million scattered in China.  This conquest by the uncouth Manchu was a huge humiliation to the Koreans and Chinese of Han persuasion.  It increased their isolationism.
The French campaign against Korea was an 1866 punitive expedition in retaliation for the earlier Korean execution of several French Catholic missionaries. The encounter over Ganghwa Island lasted nearly six weeks. The result was a French retreat and a check on French influence in the region. The encounter also confirmed Korea in its isolationism for another decade, until Japan forced it to open up to trade in 1876 through the Treaty of Ganghwa.
The first US intervention in Korea came in 1871 on Ganghwa Island.  Aboard two US warships, a diplomatic mission had been sent to open trade.  They were fired upon by Korean shore batteries of the isolationist Joseon Dynasty.  Ten days later the US landed 650 troops, captured several forts, and killed over 200 Koreans for a loss of 3 US marines.  Korea then refused to negotiate with the US until 1882. 
In 1895 China granted Korea independence.  Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) urged closer ties with Russia to balance Japanese influence.  She was assassinated in 1895 at age 43 by the Japanese who considered her an obstacle to their overseas expansion after their victory in the first Sino-Japanese war.  Japan received international rebuke and Korea clung to it isolation.  Queen Min’s husband, King Gojong, spent 1 year of refuge in the Russian embassy.
In 1905 Japan made Korea a protectorate. And, in 1907, forced King Gojong to abdicate in favour of his son, Sunjong.  Unrest in Korea led to the assassination of the Japanese Resident-General, Japanese military invasion, an attempt on Emperor Hirohito’s life, and general unrest until Japan’s WWII surrender in 1945 when Korea was divided at the 38th parallel between USSR and USA occupation zones.  Opposition to a divided Korea was led by Kim Gu who was assassinated in his bed in 1949 by a South Korean.
  The 1950-53 Korean War was an episode in the Cold War between the USSR and USA each striving for world dominance without stumbling into a hot nuclear war.
The excuse was Syngman Rhee of South Korea boasting that he was going to invade North Korea.  In 1949, Kim II Sung of North Korea visited Stalin to persuade him that he, Kim, could conquer South Korea.   Stalin did not think that the US would get involved, so gave his consent.   Kim II Sung also went to see Mao Tse Tung, the leader of China, to get his support.
The US got involved because of Harry Truman’s belief in the Domino Theory.  If Korea fell so would Japan, a vital asset for US trade.  He also had the goal of containing Communism that was advancing in eastern Europe and Asia.  China adopted it in 1949.  In 1950 the US National Security Council advised abandoning containment in order to roll back Communism aggressively.
  The US remained in military control of South Korea until 1948 and repatriated 700,000 Japanese.
During the Korean War, six million men fought, half from China, Russia, and North Korea against half from 21 UN countries.  Casualty statistics are:  
For the North: China 900,000, North Korea 600,000
For the South: South Korea 984,400, USA 169,365, UK 5,017, Turkey 3,349, Australia 1,991, Canada 1,396, France 1,135, Thailand 913, Greece 715, Holland 704, Columbia 686, Ethiopia 656, Philippines 488, Belgium/Lux 453, New Zealand 115, South Africa 42.
     During the war the USAF bombed North Korea so heavily that there was nothing left to bomb so the idle bomber crews were allowed to breach the dams thus destroying huge acreages of rice and inducing starvation, thus increasing hatred of the US to the highest levels.
With help from Canada and France, South Korea developed a successful nuclear capability and toyed with a nuclear arsenal to deter North Korea’s.  Jimmy Carter warned that, if it did, it would lose all US support.
So, with that skimpy background, let us concentrate on the current impasse:
Christine Ahn, founder of Women Cross DMZ, criticizes the West for dragging its feet to prolong the dispute that provides an excuse to sell more armaments to a world with too many created tensions.  She reminds us that, in 2015, North Korea offered to halt its nuclear missile deterrent if the US and South Korea stopped their military maneuvers and anti-missile installations.  Repeated offers were rejected by both the Obama and Trump administrations.  Instead the US installed the THAAD anti-missile system against the wishes of South Korea.  Even Bill Perry, ex US Secretary of Defense, admits it is there to protect US bases, not people.  She claims that Germany, Australia, and France are among those supporting her arguments.
She also claims that, in 1999 and 2000 under the Clinton administration, we were very close to offering North Korea the assurance it needed to stop its missile program that is designed to bring the USA to the negotiating table.  In fact Bill Clinton had scheduled a visit to North Korea to do so when political priorities at home caused him to postpone it, never to be reinstated.  North Koreans argue that US lying in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya force them into spending more than they can afford on defense.  Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" has also been helpful in airing her views.
While its nuclear arsenal will always remain puny, North Korea has the insane right, as long as the US, Russia, UK, France, India, Pakistan, and Israel do, to maintain nuclear weapons.
Of course in our highly-unsafe and accident-prone world, it is essential that all nuclear weapons be banned.  We can start with listening to North Korea’s worries before it develops a missile that can hit the USA other than Alaska. (no slight, Alaska, you are also loved)
That, Donald, is now your vital responsibility.   Do remember that War is not the Answer,

p.s. Do note that on 09 July 2017, when 122 UN countries voted to ban all nuclear weapons, North Korea was the only nuclear nation to vote yes.

Ye Olde Scribe