Something broke in America this week

April 13, 2019

Photograph of the diorama of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 at the Chicago History Museum. Much of America feels like that night in Chicago.http://larchivista.blogspot.com/2011/08/chicago-history-museum-and-old-town.html

It’s a Twitter thread from David Rothkopf. It’s not hopeful, but it’s important to read and digest.

Rothkopf is CEO of the Rothkopf Group, a high-level consulting firm on international and world problems, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Rothkopf continued his Tweet thread (I won’t post all the Tweets here, just the main content):

The Attorney General sneered at the Congress and placed himself imperiously above its questions. He continued to arrogate onto himself what portions of the Mueller Report–paid for by the people, essentially in its totality to the Congress to do its duty–we would see.

He asserted again that he was the final arbiter of whether obstruction of justice by the president had taken place. He even went so far as to imply that law enforcement authorities carrying out their duty to protect America were somehow “spying”, perhaps illicitly…



David Rothkopf @djrothkopf; his profiles says, ” Proud father of J & L, husband of C, CEO, The Rothkopf Group; host,Deep State Radio;, author of this & that.”

on the Trump campaign. (Ignoring that the reasons for the investigation in question were not only sound…but the core reason…that Russia had sought to aid the Trump campaign in the election had been proven again by Mueller.)

At the same time, the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the IRS determined to violate a law that required in no uncertain terms for them to provide the president’s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.

to those who break the law, encouraging a crime and abetting it. We learned that they considered an egregious abuse of power that would involve releasing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities controlled by Democrats.

We saw the president complain that our military would not rough up immigrants. We saw him continue the charade of an emergency at our southern border which was an excuse for him illegally divert government resources to an unnecessary, racist, vanity project.

The president repeatedly called law enforcement officers who investigated him traitors, guilty of treason–a crime that carries with it the death penalty. We discovered that the president considered appointing his grossly unqualified daughter to be head of the World Bank.

It is the stuff of the world’s most dysfunctional governments. But rather than generating a response from within our system commensurate with the threat, nothing occurred. The GOP leaders in the Senate circled round the president and supported his abuses.

In so doing, they sent a message that they would never challenge him much less convict him of the myriad crimes he has committed. The checks and balances our system was built upon are gone. Worse, the courts are being packed with Trump cronies–often unqualified.

Agencies are being left to appointed caretakers some outside the normal chain of succession, many unconfirmed for their current posts by the Senate. Political opponents tip-toed around these crimes daring not to appear “too extreme.”

This is how democracies die. The rule of law is slowly strangled. The unthinkable becomes commonplace. The illegal becomes accepted–from violations of the emoluments clause to self-dealing to Federal election law crimes to serial sexual abuse.

What once was black and white blurs into grey. Right and wrong, old principles, enduring values, fade from memory. Authoritarians arrive in our midst not in tanks but in bad suits and worse haircuts.

I have long thought our system was better than this–more resilient. But candidly, I’m no longer sure. I remain hopeful…hopeful that the next election cycle can redress this manifold wrongs. But it will not be easy. It will be too close. Trump may be with us for six more yrs.

Why? Because we allowed ourselves to become inured to the unthinkable. We are dying the death of a thousand cuts. Right now, this week, the president and his band of thugs are winning. They have become unabashed in their attacks on the law.

They are daring someone to enforce it. But what if…what if the courts rule against them but they ignore it? What if the Treasury Secretary has violated a law and no one arrests him. What if the president steals and canoodles with enemies and he goes unpunished?

Their crimes will only grow more egregious and their ways will only grow more ingrained in our system. Their violations will in fact become the system itself. Corruption will be the norm-greater corruption,to be sure,since it it was corruption that got us here in the first place.

End of the Tweet thread from David Rothkopf

Here is how some others responded on Twitter.

What do you think? Comments are open.


Annals of global warming: Rio Tinto urges mining companies to act on Paris Accord

April 13, 2019

Rio Tinto mines metals, not coal. Still it’s notable when a mining company threatens action if mining company associations do not act to enforce the goals of the Paris Accord, don’t you think?

Tweet from environmental lawyer Elaine Johnson @ElaineEDO

According to the news article in The Guardian, Rio Tinto’s position has been carefully worked out over the past two years.


Rio Tinto has signalled it is prepared to quit its membership of industry associations, including the Minerals Council, if it makes public statements inconsistent with Australia’s Paris climate agreement commitment.
The company published a global statement on Thursday night setting out its expectations of the industry bodies it belongs to about commentary they make on climate policy.
It includes an expectation that Australian industry associations will publicly argue against government subsidies for coal.
The statement comes after more than a year of talks between Rio Tinto and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a not-for-profit group that targets social, environmental and governance issues within large corporations.

Rio Tinto published its environmental statement, urging action against global warming climate change, in 2017. Another giant company using natural resources, urging the rest of us to be wise stewards of the Earth.

It’s a start.


Just how much does Nancy Pelosi own Donald Trump?

February 26, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump, at the State of the Union 2019. News photo via Leah McElrath.

A poem for our time, from our time, for the State of the Union, and 2019, from Houston poet Leah McElrath.

(Untitled)

I have threaded
the balls
that were on
your body

onto
this special necklace
crafted
for tonight

Forgive me
but they are mine now
so small
and orange

#SOTU
#SOTU2019


Special tip of the old scrub brush to Leah McElrath, on Twitter.




Beto’s convention speech

February 13, 2019

Beto O’Rourke, to the Texas State Democratic Convention in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sound feed came from a microphone on the camera, and not from the arena sound system — so it’s rather crummy.

But I’m not finding the official Texas Democratic Party version of this speech all the way through. And I think it ought to be preserved.

It’s not a usual “thanks for supporting me; let’s go win” convention speech. It demonstrates what happens when a thinking candidate tailors remarks to the audience in the hall, somethings thinking as she or he goes.

It’s why Texas should have sent him to the Senate.

Beto O'Rourke keynote at the Texas State Democratic Party Convention in Fort Worth, in June 2018. Fort Worth Star-Telegram video, screen capture.

Beto O’Rourke keynote at the Texas State Democratic Party Convention in Fort Worth, in June 2018. Fort Worth Star-Telegram video, screen capture.


Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2018: Trump’s wall, and Jesus

December 16, 2018

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
==> Georges Santayana,
The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Those who don’t pay attention to history are condemned to repeat it? Then, gods forbid we should have leaders among the condemned, and heaven keep us from joining their folly.

Hey, I’ve been putting this post up for most of a decade. It’s time for everyone to join Mr. Gorbachev, and tear down that wall. Which wall? That one. THAT one. Robert Frost noted, “Something there is that does not like a wall.” That something is God. Humanity. You. Your children. Act now.

Has there ever been a good wall that actually worked to keep trouble away? Do we need to rebuild the Berlin Wall in the Americas?

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

[That paragraph is a decade old; is there anyone who doesn’t know who Banksy is, today? Anyone besides me who didn’t see the movie?]

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original? Plus, in 2008, most people said “Banksy who?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:

More in 2018:

 

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


World Malaria Report 2018: World looks away as malaria bounces back

December 7, 2018

Covers of the last four World Malaria Reports. World Health Organization (WHO)

Covers of the last four World Malaria Reports. World Health Organization (WHO)

It’s a common tale but true: In any period when nations collaborate to defeat or eradicate malaria, funders of the programs get board and cut funding.

Malaria roars back.

This cycle has nothing to do with pesticides or medicines, mostly. Especially it’s not a problem that can be fixed with more DDT.

When a nation focuses on beating malaria, progress occurs. When nations lose their focus, malaria strikes back.

After great progress reducing malaria infections and malaria deaths between 1999 and 2017, nations including the U.S. lost focus. International donors failed to contribute enough money to keep the fight going.

World Malaria Report 2018 notes the striking back by malaria.

One other thing we can be quite sure of: Almost all mass media will ignore this report.

What will you do to change things?

You can help by donating $10 to a charity that delivers bednets to people who need them in Asia and Africa. You can help by writing letters to your local newspapers, to your Congressional representatives, and to the President. Every little bit helps.

Here’s the press release on World Malaria Report 2018, which was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 19, 2018.

WHO and partners launch new country-led response to put stalled malaria control efforts back on track

19 November 2018
News Release

Maputo/Geneva

Reductions in malaria cases have stalled after several years of decline globally, according to the new World malaria report 2018. To get the reduction in malaria deaths and disease back on track, WHO and partners are joining a new country-led response, launched today, to scale up prevention and treatment, and increased investment, to protect vulnerable people from the deadly disease.

For the second consecutive year, the annual report produced by WHO reveals a plateauing in numbers of people affected by malaria: in 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared to 217 million the year before. But in the years prior, the number of people contracting malaria globally had been steadily falling, from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015.

“Nobody should die from malaria. But the world faces a new reality: as progress stagnates, we are at risk of squandering years of toil, investment and success in reducing the number of people suffering from the disease,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We recognise we have to do something different – now. So today we are launching a country-focused and -led plan to take comprehensive action against malaria by making our work more effective where it counts most – at local level.”

Where malaria is hitting hardest

In 2017, approximately 70% of all malaria cases (151 million) and deaths (274 000) were concentrated in 11 countries: 10 in Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) and India. There were 3.5 million more malaria cases reported in these 10 African countries in 2017 compared to the previous year, while India, however, showed progress in reducing its disease burden.

Despite marginal increases in recent years in the distribution and use of insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa – the primary tool for preventing malaria – the report highlights major coverage gaps. In 2017, an estimated half of at-risk people in Africa did not sleep under a treated net. Also, fewer homes are being protected by indoor residual spraying than before, and access to preventive therapies that protect pregnant women and children from malaria remains too low.

High impact response needed

In line with WHO’s strategic vision to scale up activities to protect people’s health, the new country-driven “High burden to high impact” response plan has been launched to support nations with most malaria cases and deaths. The response follows a call made by Dr Tedros at the World Health Assembly in May 2018 for an aggressive new approach to jump-start progress against malaria. It is based on four pillars:

  • Galvanizing national and global political attention to reduce malaria deaths;
  • Driving impact through the strategic use of information;
  • Establishing best global guidance, policies and strategies suitable for all malaria endemic countries; and
  • Implementing a coordinated country response.

Catalyzed by WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, “High burden to high impact” builds on the principle that no one should die from a disease that can be easily prevented and diagnosed, and that is entirely curable with available treatments.

“There is no standing still with malaria. The latest World malaria report shows that further progress is not inevitable and that business as usual is no longer an option,” said Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the RBM Partnership. “The new country-led response will jumpstart aggressive new malaria control efforts in the highest burden countries and will be crucial to get back on track with fighting one of the most pressing health challenges we face.”

Targets set by the WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030 to reduce malaria case incidence and death rates by at least 40% by 2020 are not on track to being met.

Pockets of progress

The report highlights some positive progress. The number of countries nearing elimination continues to grow (46 in 2017 compared to 37 in 2010). Meanwhile in China and El Salvador, where malaria had long been endemic, no local transmission of malaria was reported in 2017, proof that intensive, country-led control efforts can succeed in reducing the risk people face from the disease.

In 2018, WHO certified Paraguay as malaria free, the first country in the Americas to receive this status in 45 years. Three other countries – Algeria, Argentina and Uzbekistan – have requested official malaria-free certification from WHO.

India – a country that represents 4% of the global malaria burden – recorded a 24% reduction in cases in 2017 compared to 2016. Also in Rwanda, 436 000 fewer cases were recorded in 2017 compared to 2016. Ethiopia and Pakistan both had estimated decreases of more than  240 000 in the same period.

“When countries prioritize action on malaria, we see the results in lives saved and cases reduced,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO and global malaria control partners will continue striving to help governments, especially those with the highest burden, scale up the response to malaria.”

Domestic financing is key

As reductions in malaria cases and deaths slow, funding for the global response has also shown a levelling off, with US$ 3.1 billion made available for control and elimination programmes in 2017 including US$ 900 million (28%) from governments of malaria endemic countries.  The United States of America remains the largest single international donor, contributing US$ 1.2 billion (39%) in 2017.

To meet the 2030 targets of the global malaria strategy, malaria investments should reach at least US$6.6 billion annually by 2020 – more than double the amount available today.

Editors note

Download the WHO World malaria report 2018 app for an interactive experience with the report’s country data: App Store (iOS devices) | Google Play (Android devices).


Encore: George H. W. Bush’s letter to Bill Clinton reminds us what we have lost

December 1, 2018

Composite, photo of President Clinton and President Bush, and the letter Bush left for Clinton to find on his first day as president. PHOTO: Composite. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, sabagl/Twitter, via Glamour

Composite, photo of President Clinton and President Bush, and the letter Bush left for Clinton to find on his first day as president. PHOTO: Composite. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, sabagl/Twitter, via Glamour

Do they make Republicans so patriotic and thoughtful any more?

On the death of President George H. W. Bush, I think it’s good to revisit the evidence that, on the surface, a little deeper, and deep down, George Bush the elder was just a very decent, kind human being. We should celebrate his decency and kindness, and encourage it in others.

Most of this post is a repeat from just before the elections in 2016.

1992’s election was unnecessarily nasty, I thought. Incumbent George H. W. Bush had fallen from record approval ratings after Gulf War I, due to economic problems. GOP campaigning targeted Bill Clinton’s failings in personal life, and imaginary policies — much of what were real issues were ignored, I thought.

Transition was relatively smooth. GOP continued the tactic’s they’d adopted in 1977 against Jimmy Carter, constant harping on small issues, some refusal to cooperate.

George H. W. Bush is was always gracious. In his last hours in office, he penned a personal letter to the man who had defeated him, Bill Clinton. He left the letter on the President’s Desk in the Oval Office, one of the first things Clinton would see after the ceremonies, and as the weight of his new job began dragging him into reality.

Bush’s grace, then, shines now as an example of a lost time, when despite deep divisions, Washington politicians understood the nation needed to run, and were willing to compromise to make the laws and appointments necessary to help America.

Bush wrote:

Letter from President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993. Image via NBC News.

Letter from President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993. Image via NBC News.

Bush wrote to Clinton:

You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you. Good Luck.

Are there any such Republicans left in the party? Does anyone make Republicans like that now?

We need that grace, and resolve to make America a better and happier place, back again. Send a thank-you letter to someone you know today.

More:

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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