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Year of the Plague – 27 – The Russian COVID-19 Vaccine – Sputnik V – Universally Rejected in the West. More anti-Russian Hysteria or Legitimate Concern?

August 12, 2020

COVID -19 vaccine vials developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow. Phony vaccine – or “the real thing”?

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According to Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian financier and investor, defending the Russian announcement, Russia has been working on developing anti-Coronavirus vaccines since 1980, that is to say for forty years. Remember that COVID-19 is the 19th form of the Coronavirus that includes the common cold and different manifestations of flu. In an article published by Sputnik, a Russian news source, but blackballed to date by the Russian media, Dmitriev claims that Russia has already received orders for a billion doses of the Russian vaccine and has concluded international agreements to produce 500 million doses with the intention to produce more. 

Bill Gates must be in a tizzy!

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Until a few days ago, when the subject came up with some old “Radical Information Project” friends “on a Zoom” discussion, I knew nothing about the fact that the Russians had developed a vaccine to treat COVID-19, the condition caused by the Coronavirus that has reached epidemic proportions. Grave concern was expressed about what the Russians are up to. Once again.

From what I had followed – general information – there has been nothing short of an international scientific stampede in which enormous sums of money can be made or lost by whomever develops a successful vaccine – if that is even possible – and that such “race to the finish” – essentially between bio-tech firms, pharmaceuticals etc, because of the urgency, would probably be down and dirty. Was not surprised that the Russians would be involved.

It is more than a little unsettling – and already very well known to anyone following this thread – that all the major players – from the President himself, to Fauci, Bill Gates, the WHO, the pharmaceuticals – that they are ALL invested in one or another of what each hopes to be the “magic bullet” technical fix cure for this worldwide epidemic; have the Russians been any more “irresponsible” in this effort than others? What do I know? All the same – in the current hysteria against Russia combined with lightening fast manner that the United States has rejected Russian assertions that the vaccine is safe – I have to wonder.

They issue came to a head this morning when Russian President Putin announced that the Russian has approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, that it was registered as such internationally and will soon go into mass production. Developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, the vaccine has been named Sputnik-V, a reference to the surprise 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union. It has yet to go through crucial Phase 3 trials where it would be administered to thousands of people.

The announcement has caused nothing short of an uproar in the West, especially in the United States.

The main arguments given against the Russian vaccine are that it hasn’t gone through vital “Phase 3” tests and that 2000 – the number of humans that will be tested with the Russian vaccine is not adequate. Nature (online) headlined “Russia fast-track coronavirus vaccine draws outrage over safety.” NPR, somewhat more subdued – but with essentially the same message – led off with “Skepticism Greets Putin’s Announcement Of Russian Coronavirus Vaccine.” A number of articles have appeared in major news outlets (NY Times, Washington Post) suggesting the Russia vaccine nothing less than a sham, that it has been poorly tested on humans and, in fact, as a result could be quite dangerous if administered on a broad international level. In what appears to be something of a panicked response, the NY Times ran not one but two articles on the Russian vaccine. The first was entitled “Russia Approves Coronavirus Vaccine Before Completing Tests.” The essence of this article is that pretty much every country “in the West” has rejected this vaccine for the above reasons and has rejected Russian offers to share it. As if to add emphasis, a few hours later, the Times published a second article “‘This Is All Beyond Stupid.’ Experts Worry About Russia’s Rushed Vaccine.”

Undoubtedly, in a classic example of what Chomsky and Herman wrote about how the state and mainstream media “manufacture consent” this line of thinking will be picked up by the major media and repeated ad nauseum. I am skeptical of where all this is going. I do not have sufficient scientific information or background to draw any conclusions scientifically and admit it. The whole weight of the developing mainstream narrative is that the Russians, a la Sputnik, wanted to beat the West to the punch developing a vaccine and that theirs is a political move not based on science. The Trump Administration, which has done more to undermine and discredit scientific research in the USA is suddenly accusing the Russians of being unscientific and political!

The Russians have rejected these accusations.

According to Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian financier and investor, defending the Russian announcement, Russia has been working on developing anti-Coronavirus vaccines since 1980, that is to say for forty years. Remember that COVID-19 is the 19th form of the Coronavirus that includes the common cold and different manifestations of flu. In an article published by Sputnik, a Russian news source, but blackballed to date by the Russian media, Dmitriev claims that Russia has already received orders for a billion doses of the Russian vaccine and has concluded international agreements to produce 500 million doses with the intention to produce more. 

Bill Gates must be in a tizzy!

I would simply note a few points at this juncture.

While it might not be generally known – after all what is known, appreciated about Russia (or the former USSR) these days – is that Russia has a world leader in vaccine research and anti-viral remedies for centuries with scientific pioneers like Dmitri Ivanovski and Nikolaï Gamaleïa who studied at Paris’ Pasteur Institute leading the way. This tradition continued during the period of Soviet Communism and was so respected that even at the height of the Cold War, three Soviet scientists were granted entry into the USA to help develop the vaccine against polio. Today, nearly thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, Russia retains the largest library on viruses in the world. Why would Russia ruin its reputation in this sphere by putting out a sloppy product?

Dmitriev’s article does not specify the countries that have already ordered their vaccine. Who are they? Are they acting responsibly? Would they risk the health of their citizens for a cheap, quick fix?

More soon on this to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

Bensonhurst by B. Lawrence Goldberg – A “Sort of” Book Review..

August 11, 2020

Bensonhurst by B. Lawence Goldberg

Bensonhurst is a west Brooklyn, New York City neighborhood, the western tip of which is within a mile or so of the Verrazzano Bridge. To its west along the water’s edge, Fort Hamilton, where I took my first of two draft physicals for the U.S. army in late autumn of 1968. So I have a sentimental attachment to the neighborhood., sort of and remember well that human meat grinder that offered free one way tickets to SE Asia – all expenses paid.

Moving east from Bensonhurst is Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood, and to the east of that, just a couple of miles away is East Midwood, another personal landmark. There, on Avenue K, just east of Nostrand Ave is the dry goods store by my maternal grandmother, Sarah Magaziner, who both ran the store and tended to the material and spiritual needs of the seven surviving children of the fourteen she to whom she gave birth, in the one long room in the back. (1) If I am reading a book entitled “Bensonhurst” – it ain’t East Midwood – but it’s close! If I read Bensonhurst, it was at least in part, to see if it corresponded at all with my family’s history.

Besides, long ago I knew the author.

Bensonhurst (the book) by B. Lawrence Goldberg is a fictionalized narrative of intra-Mafia struggles based upon an actual event – the attempted, nearly successful, assassination of mafia boss Joe Colombo, head of one of the five families of the American Mafia in NYC. Although the assassination attempt appears in the book, the event itself is treated in a cursory fashion. Instead, the narrative probes people involved and the events the events leading up to the assassination attempt attempt including the complex personal relations between Colombo’s operation that of challenger, Joey Gallo and the FBI.

This is a fine book. Read more…

Year of the Plague – 26 – COVID-19 and Stress: Trying To Deal With It (The first of a series)

August 11, 2020

I just call it “Oy vey – Now What Do We Do?” Munch’s “The Scream”… it’s become an icon… but nobody does it better than a depressed Nordic

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What follows is just some personal musings; I am no psychologist or therapist and don’t claim to be. What follows are more inquiries than “prescriptions” either on a personal or society level. People are hurting – alone and in whatever grouping they feel apart of. More and more indications of stress and depression. For the moment, for whatever reason – call it temporary insanity – I’m not depressed. I’m not worried. That will pass. And although it has not been constant, at different moments I’ve ate, slept with, wrestled with stress and had to come up with a plan to address it, which I have done, sort of – inelegantly I might note – but all the same.

How to get through “this mess” – the pandemic, climate change, the danger of nuclear war, the explosion of racism and anti-immigrant hatred we’re experiencing – in my personal case – my worries about the world my daughters, their partners and our grandson have in front of them? Have a few insights, nothing serious frankly, but thought I’d look at ways of dealing with stress and depression individually and socially.

Of course nothing would help more than replacing the current system we live in with Socialism… but  we need some intermediate strategies until then.

Cheers, Rob P.

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COVID-10 and Stress. A stressed out nation in an increasingly stressed out world. I read where there is the anti-depressant Zoloft in the water supply of many cities, so much of it that soon people won’t have to buy anti-depressants with prescriptions, all they need to do is drink the water.

People get depressed, “stressd out,” “burnt out” but this is a certain annoying variety: But what we are now facing is stubborn, persistent, nasty. The  thing won’t go away not even with Zoloft. Damn!  Not the stress of some temporary situation. It’s long-term, it won’t go away for a while (if ever) – it’s as they say – “structural” in nature. How to live with it? How to overcome it? It’s both a personal and societal challenge.

(A Facebook friend, former philosophy prof at Regis College, John Kane, has started writing about dealing with it – perhaps I shouldn’t but I think of stress and depression somewhat interchangeable. Certainly the one leads to the other. Anyhow, I mention it because it was his very (as usual) thoughtful post which got me thinking last night and this morning).

Yesterday I ran into several examples – names are not important.

Stress is everywhere and among all sectors of society. Here are a few examples I ran into yesterday:

Read more…

Macron in Beirut – Some moved to tears; It makes my stomach churn.

August 7, 2020
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Beirut – after the blast. Largest explosion in an urban area since the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (photo – EPA)

A kind of master of theatrics, French President Macron flew to Beirut in a show of support and solidarity with the people of Beirut. Long time friends – some with diplomatic experience – were “moved nearly to tears” by Paris’s show of support and contrasted it with President Trump’s apparent lack of interest or concern.

I found Trump’s off the cuff remark along the lines that the generals told him it was “a bomb attack” – rather than the result of human error – curious and of interest, but one that could be interpreted in different ways.

Of course French regional interest in the Middle East, and France getting a jump on its allies had nothing to do with Macron’s visit. Nothing at all. Just remember how the French were over anxious to bomb Libya and send in their special forces to kill Khadaffi to position themselves for the spoils of that intervention.

Macron’s visit did not move me to tears, rather it made my stomach churn. And his remark in Beirut about how he’d “roll up his sleeves, and take over!!’ did likewise to many Lebanese, reminding them – as if they needed reminding of France’s colonial legacy in Lebanon and Syria.

What’s he up to?

What’s NATO up to and how will they, once again, using the well worn but completely cynical pretext of humanitarian intervention, find a pretext to send troops that will one day a week deal with the crisis in Lebanon but six days a week set their sights on turning back the advances made by Washington’s foes – Hezbollah, the Syrian government, Iraq and of course Iran? The U.S. and Israel’s hands have gotten burnt though military intervention in Lebanon in 1983 and again in 2006. Perhaps they’ll be more prudent this time? Dunno.

135 dead, 5000 wounded, 300,000 people displaced from their home and the port of Beirut which supplies 80% of Lebanon’s food supply, that part that is imported, is in tatters. The hospitals are already overworked, the wave of anger of the entire country exploding to unprecedented levels. This Lebanese government is, as they say, toast.

And into this vacuum, grave dangers for Libya-like NATO intervention, which will be cheered on by many as they cheered on the overthrow of Khadaffi.

Do I know all this for a fact, of course not, but there other examples, aren’t there?

Concerning who is responsible for this horrific event. Hold your fire; already competing narratives are at work. Teasing out whether it was massive incompetence and corruption by the Lebanese harbor authorities, ie, a non military incident as both the Israelis and Hezbollah originally stated, or something darker more insidious, ie, sabotage of some sort, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that a political vacuum has been created that is extraordinarily dangerous for Lebanon and the Middle East region as a whole. Keep in mind that just prior to Beirut explosion that Lebanon was already “on the edge” – if not at the very precipice of an out of control situation. With the explosion, the crisis has come to a head.

Concerning who is responsible for this horrific event. Hold your fire; already competing narratives are at work. Teasing out whether it was massive incompetence and corruption by the Lebanese harbor authorities, ie, a non military incident as both the Israelis and Hezbollah originally stated, or something darker more insidious, ie, sabotage of some sort, remains to be seen.

At this early date it is a mistake to get wedded to this or that scenario. I have confidence that the causes will be determined and I am guessing that it will be clarified in the not too distant future.

I do assume, from experience, that neither Washington nor Tel Aviv are in any way innocent players in the affairs of Lebanon but that doesn’t add up too much. While they both try to distant themselves from the actual explosion there is little doubt that both Washington and Tel Aviv will try to use the Beirut explosion – a la 9-11, New Orleans – in a “Shock Doctrine” manner to advance their own agendas.

As to what that means in terms of responsibility for the Beirut blast, I don’t know and think that it is a mistake – to rush to judgement.


for one of the better analyses of the situation – The Graystone with Aaron Mate – on the Beirut explosion

75 Years Ago, on August 6, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima…

August 3, 2020

Trident III nuclear weapon site – Northeastern Colorado. (photo credit: Jennifer Otey)

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There will be a demonstration on the west steps of the Capitol in Denver from 8-9 am on Thursday, August 6, to mark the occasion and draw attention to the new fast-escalating nuclear arms race – another kind of COVID-19 epidemic that won’t go away.
Might come out of Coronavirus hibernation for that one – the will to is certainly there.

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The 75th Anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) is upon us.

Although the U.S. government has long denied that the goal of dropping two nuclear weapons on Japan was to pulverize the Japanese population into surrender through terror, the dropping of two nuclear weapons – or as they were then referred to – two atomic bombs – on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – ranks among the greatest crimes against humanity ever.
It’s up there with the Nazi concentration camps, the Japanese chilling rape of Nanking.
It ranks high in what can be considered America’s national shame: the genocide against American Indians, slavery, the genocidal wars the U.S. conducted in Korea and Vietnam after WW2. How else describe the obliteration of an essentially civilian target and the pulverization of 75,000 people in a split second, the deaths of hundreds of thousands more over the decades that followed from radiation poisoning when from a number of indications (see article below), dropping “the bomb” on these two cities had less to do with ending WW2 and more as an example of U.S. postwar power.
And now the nuclear arms race is heating up again and in many ways it is far more dangerous than that of the Cold War years.
More than a $1 trillion is programmed to renew, upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, new and more dangerous nuclear weapons are being developed while the infrastructure of the country is falling apart, educational system – once the world’s finest – spiraling downward, a healthcare system that the Coronavirus has revealed in shambles… but the government is proceeding full steam to make new nukes – and at the same time withdrawing from arms control treaties.
And now the nuclear arms race is heating up again and in many ways it is far more dangerous than that of the Cold War years.
More than a $1 trillion is programmed to renew, upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, new and more dangerous nuclear weapons are being developed while the infrastructure of the country is falling apart, educational system – once the world’s finest – spiraling downward, a healthcare system that the Coronavirus has revealed in shambles… but the government is proceeding full steam to make new nukes – and at the same time withdrawing from arms control treaties.
Here in Colorado, 49 Trident III missiles, each carrying four independently programmed nuclear bombs are on hair trigger alert in the state’s northeast quadrant, making the state a prime target for targeting by a nuclear adversary. Few talk about their presence, but they are very much present and active.
There will be a demonstration on the west steps of the Capitol in Denver from 8-9 am on Thursday, August 6, to mark the occasion and draw attention to the new fast-escalating nuclear arms race – another kind of COVID-19 epidemic that won’t go away.
Might come out of Coronavirus hibernation for that one – the will to is certainly there.
There is classic pretext to justify Truman dropping the bomb – that a frontal assault, a full scale U.S. invasion of Japan would cost the USA a million lives. Many of us who grew up in the shadow of Hiroshima heard that from our parents, the generation that fought the war.
From the time I had anything resembling a mind – the date of which is still debatable – I had my doubts…but I lived in a house where the males of that generation were quick-minded and decisive… nor, given the war crimes the Japanese committed during the war lessen my father and uncle’s ardor: the Japanese “deserved” the “gift” delivered on August 6.
It took a long time to deconstruct those arguments – I might add that a 1982 visit to Denver by two “hibakshas” – Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors – and a 1987 visit to Hiroshima helped me to reconsider the “yes to using nuclear weapons” forever. By then I had – using a variety of sources – pretty much agreed with the assessment given below – and for the reasons Paul Ham cites here.
Did the Atomic Bomb End the Pacific War? – Part One

A novel about the aftereffects of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima – also a movie by Shohei Imamura

“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July 28 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 3

August 2, 2020

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript… Segment Three (Part One, Part Two)

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The NATO invasion (of Libya)fractured the centralized government creating weaker regional authorities (partitioning the country de facto), as a result, Western powers are in a much stronger bargaining position to make favorable deals for oil and natural gas with either the Haftar elements in eastern Libya, with the Tripoli-based (poorly named) Government of National Accord or with a number of other mercenary groupings controlling different sources of oil and natural gas production in different areas of the country.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

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First, it needs to be recalled in the current crisis that the overthrow of the Khadaffi government and the murder – and it was really quite obscene – of Muammar Khadaffi – that all this was “made in Washington DC” as Ibrahim mentioned in 2010. Even if the foot soldiers were French, British and Italian as well as the mercenary militias that popped up all over the country, the plan was hatched in the USA.

But between 2011 and now there has been an interesting evolution, or de-evolution of the U.S. role. Since then U.S. power and influence in the Middle East has declined markedly. It has declined to such a degree that in the current situation in Libya, U.S. influence over the current crisis is rather modest. What emerges now are the regional players that have their own national interests in Libyan oil.

Rob Prince

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Ibrahim Kazerooni continues: Let’s briefly look at the timeline

2010. The decision to attack Libya and overthrow Khadaffi, “regime change”, was taken in the United States and NATO in 2010 to stop Khadaffi from proceeding with his plan (to trade oil and natural gas in gold rather than dollars) and to protect the dollar and the economic market in the West (for an elaboration on this – see the link just above).

February 2011. Demonstrations against the Khadaffi government broke out in February 2011. Western special forces, particularly the British S.A.S. and the French special forces, were immediately dropped into Libya to distribute all kinds of weapons – a huge amount of weapons were distributed and supplied to mercenary elements there. The Western media referred to these elements as involved in a “popular uprising” but these were orchestrated by these foreign special forces.

March 2011. See how quickly they moved! As in Iraq and they (the US/NATO) was planning to do in Syria. One of the first acts after overthrowing and killing Khadaffi: fracturing the centralized Libyan government, the rebels create a new oil company and a central bank to replace the central bank that existed during Khadaffi’s rule, as well as replacing the bank that Khadaffi had already established – earlier – the independent bank with a different bank. (Khadaffi’s independent bank would be based on gold and silver back exchanges for the buying and selling of oil and natural gas to African countries – again, see the link above in the first paragraph).

This newly establish bank was based on Western banking procedures, based on petrodollars again, but not based upon a gold or silver standard.

What surprised everyone – I remember reading about this at the time – was how Al Qaeda terrorists (involved in Khadaffi’s overthrow) acting as astute banking specialists were capable of establishing a whole new banking authority for an oil rich nation. Establishing this bank was the first order of business of the post-Khadaffi period in Libya proving that the primary importance of the invasion was destabilize and dismantle the Libyan banking system as well as the country’s oil industry.

All this continues up until today.

Read more…

“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July 28 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 2

August 1, 2020

One of the results of the 2011 U.S. inspired NATO invasion of Libya: slave markets. Boubaker Nassou describes the prisons where he was held in Libya as “slave markets.” He was repeatedly bought and sold into and out of these prisons before being taken into bonded labour. Now he lives in a shelter run by the Tunisian Red Crescent. (photo credit: Ruth Sherlock/NPR)

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part Two (continued from Part One, Part Three)

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I cite for example the article of Robert Fisk when he visited Baghdad in the initial period of the occupation of Iraq just after the March, 2003 U.S. led invasion. At the time the National Museum of Iraq was being looted. Fisk noted that he was, at the time, within a mile of Iraq’s oil ministry, center of the country’s oil industry. He hurried to the American troops in the process of securing the oil ministry and told them of what was happening at the museum. The officers in charge responded that “that’s not our concern.” They were ordered to guard the oil ministry.

  • Ibrahim Kazerooni

And as it is very poor public relations to admit that these invasions were about securing oil, and so the different pretexts that play better with public opinion were contrived – humanitarian intervention, weapons of mass destruction and the like.

What amazes me is that so many analysts, intelligent and “good people’ can’t see through this nonsense because that is all it’s ever been; and it continues

  • Rob Prince

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Rob Prince continues: In any case, another moment, besides 1973 when U.S. energy policy was called into question and was in crisis, was, interestingly enough 2001. “It” happened just prior to 9-11.

Just to remind the listeners, in the year 2000, George W. Bush was elected president. He was for all practical purposes a rather weak president with a very strong vice president, Dick Cheney. Cheney came out of the oil industry, Halliburton – a company that produces all kinds of products for oil manufacturing. Early in the Bush Administration, Cheney put together what became known as the national energy task force (formally the National Energy Policy Development Group) which in short order produced the National Energy Policy of 2001.

At the time, U.S. energy consumption was such, that the country found itself increasingly dependent upon Middle East oil, then as now, still the overwhelming source of that energy supply. Read more…

“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July 28 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 1

July 31, 2020

Turkey’s political wet dream: ship natural gas from E. Libya to Turkey and from there to Europe.  Control of E. Libyan oil and natural gas fields the heart of the conflict between Turkey and Egypt

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(Although this month’s program was, in the end, of decent quality overall, for the first time in 11 years of doing “Hemispheres’ Middle East Dialogues” we had technical problems with the transmission. I have tried to edit out some of the discussions of those technical problems in the audio. As I am rather novice at it, the result is a bit choppy at the beginning, but still I believe of some social value and so it is reproduced in its edited form here.)

KGNU Hemispheres – July 28, 2020 – Transcript…Part One. (Edited)

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There is an opposing narrative that argues that U.S. foreign policy is framed by its dependence on oil. A wealth of material exists substantiating the second claim (that oil is central to U.S. foreign  policy making). We note the “revolving door” between the State Department and the major oil producing corporations. They bounce back and forth between the State Department and the oil industry. The go from the industry to the State Department and then back into the oil industry again.

We have ample proof of this relationship.

  • Ibrahim Kazerooni

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But Kissinger wanted to fashion the (post 1973 Middle East War oil agreement) in such a way that much of the profits that oil producing countries would now enjoy would somehow find their way back to the United States and the West. His genius was to find a way to recycle those oil profits and thus stabilize relations between oil producing and consuming countries of the core of the global economy.

  • Rob Prince

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Host Jim Nelson: Tonight we’re going to be discussing the danger of a war igniting in Libya between Egypt and Turkey, the background of which we discussed in some detail last month. Something that I enjoy about doing this program that explores events taking place elsewhere in the world. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming presidential elections “the world still turns” and there are developments taking place internationally that we don’t often hear in the corporate mainstream.

This is one reason I enjoy hosting the Middle East Dialogues. It keeps us informed and often the news presented is “breaking news.” Tonight the news about Libya is no exception. A lot going on in the region that we don’t often read in the American press.

Gentlemen, who starts?

Rob Prince: I’ll lead off.

Tonight’s subject is the impending war in Libya in which the main players will be Egypt and Turkey, but to begin with we’d like to put it in context. For starters, some relevant memories.

In 2004, Ibrahim and I participated in a panel at George Washington High School in Denver dealing with the March 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq. At the time, what we were hearing, including from other members of the panel was that the main reason for the U.S. led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein was that a humanitarian intervention was required to save the Iraqi people from Saddam, that the Iraqi military possessed weapons of mass destruction, etc.

Our argument was that, in its essence, this was an invasion about controlling Iraq’s massive amounts of oil and natural gas.

We all know how that played out. Read more…

A Summer’s Morning At Barr Lake…

July 29, 2020

Swallows at Barr Lake, Adams County, Colorado. July 28=9, 2020

I went out to Barr Lake this morning.

Needed to clear my head from spending two days in front of computer screen, preparing for our (Ibrahim Kazerooni and my) KGNU program last night on the possible war between Egypt and Turkey in Libya. Also needed to get out of the city to a place where there wouldn’t be too many people and where most of them would be wearing masks.

Barr Lake State Park was the right place.

Haven’t been there since February when I went to look for eagles… and there were dozens of them. From the look out post on the west side of the lake they were easy to spot although because of the distance involved it was hard to get a good shot. Still, to see so many eagles congregating in one place is something of a thrill, particular for a boy born in Brooklyn.

They’re gone now but in their place is a colony of American pelicans. A lot of them. Can’t give a precise number but would guess it’s somewhere in the hundreds, maybe more. They congregate in large groups – 20, 30 sometimes more. There were other birds too; I saw goldfinches, a house wren, several Western kingbirds, a grayish hummingbird I was unable to photograph, the pervasive great blue heron, and in a ditch, looking for a non-existent way out, either a giant catfish or carp. Not sure which.

Returning to the car I walked a spell with a nice woman, also a birder, who is a retired nurse from the University of Colorado Medical Center. We were both wearing the obligatory Coronavirus masks. Her son has climbed eight fourteeners and whose daughter is about to go off to Wellesley College, from whence Madelaine Albright and Hillary Clinton graduated. The daughter’s hero is Madelaine Albright. I liked this woman with a “Resist” sticker on the rear of her car, so I didn’t mention how Albright had said that it was worth killing half a million Iraqi children to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Nor did I want to discourage the daughter about the shrinking opportunities of getting any kind of paying job with a degree in international relations.

Never have done the full tour of the lake which spans 8.8 miles. Think I did around 4 miles – two out and two back, dropping in to explore the little side trails that brought me closer to the lake and its festival of birds this time of year. The park is popular with birders; over 350 species have been observed. Named after a railroad official, one “Mr. Barr,” it was, prior to Euro-American settlement a buffalo wallow, a natural low area that collected water during the rainy season. It was also a stop on the Goodnight-Loving Trail cattledrive from Texas to the railhead in Cheyenne Wyoming.

As the Friends of Barr Lake blog tells it:

In 1886, A small dam was built at the north end of the buffalo wallow forming the Oasis Reservoir.  The Burlington Canal was built to bring water from the South Platte River to site, then called the Oasis Reservoir. Shortly thereafter, the place turned ugly. Due to the rapid population growth of Denver post WW II raw sewage from the overflow of the Denver sewage treatment plan, slaughter houses, and packing plants along the banks of the South Platte River flowed into the South Platte River and ultimately into Barr Lake.  Barr Lake became known as the largest open sewage lagoon in the nation,

A powerful thunderstorm over the headwaters of the South Platte River swelled the waters of the river and adjacent canals and brought the possibility of renewal.  To protect the dam at Barr Lake the valves north of the dam were opened and the polluted water was drained from Barr Lake.  After repairs to the head gate on the South Platte River, canals, and dam fresh water flowed into Barr Lake.  The clean water afforded Barr Lake a chance of renewal. New water quality laws and construction of the new sewage treatment plant down stream from the Burlington Canal head gate improved the quality of the South Platte River water and the water in Barr Lake.

In the early 1970s the state of Colorado bought the property for $2 million and began renovations. Barr Lake State Park was opened to the public in 1977.

Pelicans at Barr Lake State Park. Adams County, Colorado. July 29, 2020

“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July  28, 2020 @ 6pm MST, KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues.

July 26, 2020

Muammar Khadaffi, murdered October 20, 2011, his government overthrown by a NATO invasion of Libya orchestrated and approved by the Obama Administration

“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July  28, 2020, 6-7 pm Mountain States Time. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Hosted by Jim Nelson.

Turkey and Egypt appear to be lurching towards war in Libya, each one backing an opposing Libyan faction. Supporting the one, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) is Turkey backed financially by Qatar. On the other side the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army headed by Khalifa Haftar supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Russia has intervened to a certain extent in support of the Haftar forces; France, Greece and Cyprus are concerned about expanded Turkish influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. While Washington, which orchestrated the 2011 invasion, overthrow of the Khadaffi government – as well as his gruesome murder, as gruesome as that of Jamal Khashoggi – sits back and let’s the factions fight it out.

All that and more: KGNU, Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues, this coming Tuesday…

Counting Birds – and Homeless Tents in Colorado (and Birds at Lowell Ponds Today)

July 24, 2020

 

Mama wood duck looking out for her chicks. Lowell Ponds, S. Adams County , Colorado. July 23, 2020

1.

This year’s annual bird count, which took place in February, now is joined by another count – that of the Denver area homeless living in tents. The tent count was the brain child of Denver Out Loud, Colorado’s well oiled, politically sophisticated movement for homeless rights.

Counting birds and homeless tents, oddly enough, go hand in hand.

My sense is that unlike many U.S. cities (New York City, Los Angeles) Denver does not count or keep a close track of homeless tents and that Denver Out Loud’s effort to do was, among other things, an embarrassment for the city found of saying – as it displaces them, “them” being, working and middle class folk, people of color – how much it “celebrates diversity.”

Trumping through the brush along the creeks flowing east from the mountains – Ralston Creek, Coal Creek, Clear Creek, Bear Creek, along the gullies – Sanderson and Lakewood Gullies – more often than not I run into as many homeless tents as I do birds to photograph. Yesterday, I found another half dozen to add to the list. I would be surprised if they are included, hidden as they are in the brush on both sides of Clear Creek as it flows east through west Denver towards the South Platte. They seem to be multiplying by the week.

Explaining the tent count to the media, Denver Out Loud spokeswoman Terese Howard commented,

“The fact that we have a moment now where our mass homelessness is visible means that we have a moment to face reality and start working on real solutions which means housing,”

In the last few months, it seems, homeless tent colonies have sprung up all over the city and beyond.

As noted in a local media report, On Jan. 27, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative counted 996 people living without shelter in Denver during the annual Point-in-Time Count. Howard estimates the current number to be much higher.

Howard said 17 volunteers spread out across the city. They counted 154 tents at Lincoln Park and 80 tents at the encampment by Morey Middle School. They came up with 664 tents in all, some sprinkled in the downtown area around the Capitol, others along 14th Ave near St. Johns’ Church, still others along the creeks and gullies running into the South Platte.

Kingfisher, near Clear Creek. S. Adams County, Colorado. July 23, 2020

Several friends in the neighborhood, among them Kathy Hamilton participate in the tent count. Cathy called and asked if I had any suggestions and I did. Frequently on my hikes out to photograph birds I’ve come across homeless tents, rigged shelters and the like. Today I stumbled across yet another half dozen that I had not previously noticed, hidden in the vicinity of Clear Creek. I try not to disturb the folks stuck there. They are justifiably nervous when a big old man like myself emerges trampling through the brush.

In a “Zoom discussion” with old friends from what some of you Denver people might remember was the “Radical Information Project” book store (17th Ave and Clarkson – long gone) the question of the homeless came up. Two points from that discussion:

  • Denver has 667 (or so – probably more) homeless tents in which approximately 1350 non-sheltered homeless reside according to Denver Out Loud’s July 17 “homeless tent count; Los Angeles has more than 44,000 non-sheltered homeless by way of comparison
  • We were wondering how and if residents of the United States that do not have fixed addresses are counted in the 2020 census and concerned that they won’t be or will be seriously under-counted.

How has the state’s liberal facade of a governor, Jared Polis, responded to the Denver homeless crisis and the flowering of homeless tents all over the state? By allocating state funds for toilets, showers, health and mental health care for Colorado’s homeless? No. He’s calling on the city of Denver to sweep homeless off of state property city and authorizing the Colorado State Patrol – that same organization, previously called the Colorado State Militia that destroyed the Ludlow mining strikers camp killing 11 – to help in the effort.

As a Denver Out Loud press release notes:

Yesterday, July 23rd 2020, Governor Polis called on Denver to kick homeless people living in tents on state property, including Lincoln Park and around the Governor’s Mansion, out through police force. Polis said he “encourages any law enforcement to remove them.” Later that day, Michael Robinson, Executive Director of Safety for Denver, issued a “delegation of authority” to enable Colorado State Troopers to enforce a variety of Denver laws on State property (and the adjacent city owned public right of way strips).

2.

It was a fine day to take my mind off of the Trump Administration sending its goon squad to Portland (and soon other places) to go tramping around Lowell Ponds from Lowell to Tennyson, across Clear Creek and back again to Lowell Blvd twice.

No new bird species but a fair number of the familiar ones that hang out in these parts: more Western Kingbirds, a Kingfisher, a Snowy Egret, a Black crowned Heron, a Great Blue Heron and a Mama wood duck guarding over her brew of chicks and  – what I refer to as “the usual crowd” this time of year, this with a number of more homeless tents set up in the brush out of sight from the bicycle path that runs along the creek.

Have seen more Western Kingbirds – those fearless yellow-bellied (literally) birds that take great pleasure in harassing eagles and ospreys – and wood ducks this year than in the past.

Am drawn to the wood ducks, impressed watching the tender loving care Mama wood duck gives to her offspring and how ferocious she gets when Papa wood duck makes a feeble effort to get too close. She lets him know he is – now that he has done his evolutionary duty – now irrelevant and of no consequence, pretty much summing up the male role for most living things. He is more colorful though. Useless other than planting the seed, but otherwise irrelevant.

Ducks are long gone north with the exception of a few varieties that hang out along the S. Platte and some of its tributaries. They’ll be back in the fall sometime.

 

Snowy Egret. Lowell Ponds, S. Adams County Colorado. July 23, 2020

Year of the Plague – 25 – from the Series “The Good Place”

July 24, 2020

Portland Wall of Solidarity. 60 years ago they marched for their future, now they join arms for the future of their children, all children, everywhere. Mother Earths, wearing mask and helmuts, arm in arm with a rpse in one hand…

A daughter recommended it. Watching an episode of “The Good Place,” Kristen Bell provides a fine example of the thinking that goes to explain “the mask rebellion” as she elaborates her “rules for life.” And I quote:

Rule #1 I get what I want; I get to do what I want and you all will just have to deal with it.

Rule #2 No more Spider-man movies. There’s way too many Spider man movies, too many dorky, little, twerpy Spider men.

Rule#3 Leave me alone.

You take care of yourself. You don’t owe anything to anyone else! If people live that way then society would break down.

Yeah, in America, everyone does whatever they want! Society did breakdown. It’s terrible and it’s great! You can only look out for “Number One” and scream at whoever disagrees with you.

There are no bees because they are all dead and if you need surgery you just beg for money on the internet.

It’s a perfect system! Now give me another drink, tomorrow is my birthday

So much for social solidarity, class struggle, etc…

How the country got to such a selfish state is another story – I will only remark here that it was no accident and will try to develop that theme elsewhere.

The Good Place – an unending, at times for Nancy and me, unendurable NBC tv series that ran for four years and can now be watched via Netflix. Yet at some moments, actually approaching something profound about the country in which we live. Its core cast included Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’arcy Carden, Ted Danson and Manny Jacinto. We watched about half of the full series – which was often very funny in a modern sort of way, ultimately a morality tale for young people – how and why to live an ethical life in an often empty world.

Somewhere in the middle, Kristen Bell offers a description of what I would call libertarian/anarchist thinking, so prevalent among many – especially young people these days – the kind of individualism gone wild that so permeates American society these days – the 180 degree opposite of the kind of solidarity promoted during the 1930s, during World War II and then in the 1960s-1970s Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War Solidarity movements.

In the midst of – or more probably at the outset – of the Coronavirus pandemic the whole world has witnessed what works and what doesn’t and although there are still many gaps – particularly in terms of the science of COVID-19 to unpack in terms of defeating the pandemic – still, four, five months now into the pandemic – there are important relative success and failure stories. Damage control is achieved best where a combination of strong national (or as we call it in the USA) federal intervention combined with strict health measures: extensive mask use, social distancing, where required force quarantine measures are in place. Where they are not in place, or poorly applied – here in the United States, India – come to mind, the pandemic has run rampant

It is somewhere between astounding-to-pathetic the degree to which so many Americans have risen in anger against wearing masks. The level of selfishness and plain stupidity of those who “rebel” against such a simple procedure is startling. But then there is the Portland Wall of Solidarity!

Jason Crow and Liz Cheney Hold Hands for War – Join Forces to Slow U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

July 23, 2020

Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and behind her Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich). Omar introduced an Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have sped up U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. A bipartisan vote led by Colorado’s Jason Crow and Wyoming’s Liz Cheney defeated her effort.

It’s a bipartisan thing – warmongering always more dramatic when a generally liberal Democrat like Colorado’s Jason Crow finds common ground with a right-wing militarist enthusiast – a chip off the old block – like Wyoming’s Liz Cheney. Together – and with ample bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, they joined forces to neutralize Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn) effort to speed up U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It is a bit disappointing – but not particularly surprising – to see Jason Crow, who in other ways has already proven to be a breath of fresh air in contrast to Rep. Mike Coffman, who held his position previously. But when it comes to feeding the Pentagon and encouraging American global military presence, frankly, Crow and Coffman line up essentially on the same page.

Common Dreams, the consistently informative anti-war website, published a brief article this morning on the the Cheney-Crow effort in Congress to vote down Omar’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would have given momentum to withdrawing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, bringing to a close the longest war in U.S. history.” The Omar amendment was defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 129 in favor to 284 opposed, with 103 House Democrats joining 181 Republicans to kill the amendment.

Omar’s “Amendment to Rules Comm. Print 116-57” called for “completion of accelerated transition of United States Combat and Military and Security Operations to the Government of Afghanistan” – or put more blunt, the amendment would have given support for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from this war-torn country. Specifically it called for:

complete the accelerated transition of all 14 military forces of the United States, its allies, and 15 coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel by April 29,18 2021

The amendment specified coordinating the U.S. troop withdrawal securing a completion of the peace process, specifically calling for the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement of February 29, 2020. Read more…

Open Letter on Contingent Faculty at University of Denver – Part Time and Non-Tenured Faculty Are Organizing.

July 22, 2020

University of Denver Campus, Fall, 2013

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(When I started teaching at what was then called “The University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies” – whose name was changed to the Korbel School of International Studies in honor of the institute’s founder, Joseph Korbel – I never anticipated that GSIS – or as it was later called “Korbel” would be my academic home for the next 22 years until I retired in June of 2015. But then one of my mother’s two famous sayings “You make a plan for life and then life makes a plan for you!” came to fruition.

I mostly enjoyed the work there, gave it a great deal of my time, intellectual and emotional energy, and without sounding too boastful, know in my heart of hearts that I accomplished something. As in all work there were tensions – I often felt the place was rudderless, without a vision of where the world is headed and how an academic institution like Korbel could shape its curriculum to meet the global challenges that lay in the future. I made some efforts in that direction which came to naught.

For most of my years there I held a somewhat unusual position – I was full time, non-tenured faculty. I had an annual contract, medical benefits, full use of the universities impressive on-line research system and discounted membership in the university’s five star recreational facilities – oh, yes – and a free bus-light rail pass. And more importantly, I had a full time job teaching – and as a result, work-wise, couldn’t have been happier. I was never particularly interested or frankly, impressed with the full time tenured faculty with a few exceptions who know well whom they are.

Early on in my “Korbel experience”, very early on in fact, it became apparent that the non-tenured faculty – non-tenured full-timers, adjuncts – were treated a notch above door mats, had few rights and little voice in the place although over the years – as the statement below notes – we taught an increasing majority of the classes. Heavier workloads, lower – much lower salaries.

We non-tenured and part timers – if we wanted to improve our status, or merely tread water – had better organize into some kind of a union or union like organization to defend our situations. My years at Korbel this never happened, nor did it seem to me, was there much interest from my fellow non-tenured types at the time. 

It has taken the Coronavirus pandemic to shake the non-tenured faculty and part-timers out of their lethargy.

Here is their first salvo. Louis, I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

In solidarity – me.)

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Open Letter on Contingent Faculty at DU

The COVID-19 crisis threatens the most vulnerable in every sector of our economy and community. At institutions such as the University of Denver, one particularly vulnerable group is contingent faculty: those on one-year contracts (VAPs and VTAPs) and those paid course to course (adjuncts.) Contingent faculty generally have the highest teaching loads, are paid less than other faculty, receive little to no research support, and have little to no job security. Contingent faculty taught 62% of the total credit hours at DU in 2018-19.

The exploitation of contingent faculty is a broad and growing problem nationally, and has been increasingly prioritized by groups such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). At some institutions across the country, the position of contingent faculty is being worsened further as they are targeted first with budget cuts related to COVID-19.

DU lists “inclusiveness” as one of its core values and strives to “create a diverse, ethical, and intellectually vibrant campus” in order to provide a “challenging and liberating learning environment.” (https://www.du.edu/about/mission-vision-values) Contingent faculty are more likely to be women, people of color, or members of other traditionally marginalized communities, making them an especially important constituency for building a diverse institution and creating the desired learning environment. Contingent faculty at DU have weathered the storm of the move to online teaching and continue to devote their time and energy over this summer to designing engaging courses for students this fall. It is therefore not ethical or respectful to respond to their efforts by further disadvantaging this already disadvantaged class of faculty. Finally, because the inequities and job insecurity experienced by contingent faculty constrain their intellectual freedom, ameliorating these inequities is crucial for creating an intellectually vibrant campus.

In order to live up to its core values and goals, DU should therefore set a positive example for other institutions by ensuring that the conditions of contingent faculty are not further worsened by the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, in many cases, the opposite has happened.
Although DU is an institution of learning, it has targeted the employees who teach the most DU students first for cuts. Read more…

Year of the Plague 24: An Open Letter To “No-To-Masks Liberation Front”: Trump Policy – Create, Encourage Chaos, and Then Try to Manage It…

July 21, 2020

U.S Border Patrol, the new American Gestapo, from the Rio Grande to Portland… Where next?

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Most importantly (and most missing here in the United States) a national plan that includes international coordination to help the whole world suffer from the pandemic’s effects to the least degree possible. To suggest or order the population to wear masks, social distance and quarantine without a national plan in place –  to use the resources and the power of the federal government to guide the effort against Coronavirus  – that is libertarian rubbish, of which there is a great deal being thrown around.

Without a national plan, we can all wear masks and social distance until we’re blue in the face, the Coronavirus will continue on its merry and deadly way.

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In late March of this year, just as the Coronavirus was gearing up here in the United States, scholar and author Mike Davis gave an interview on the politics of Coronavirus that soon thereafter appeared on YouTube where I watched it. Among the many discussions on the subject I found his among the most lucid, in part because of his overall knowledge and because of his lifelong international and socialist perspective.

I’ve read a few of his books – City of Quartz, Planet of Slums and Ecology of Fear – all of which are excellent. Even the more dated, earlier works (City of Quartz) still resonate. Impressed, I sent the link of Davis’s remarks far and wide only to receive what I would call “an underwhelming response.”

A number of friends and acquaintances panned it. “It’s political and not medical enough,” one commented. Another just said bluntly “I disagree with his perspective,” without elaborating. A third went on blah-blah about how the Coronavius is a conspiracy spawned by Bill Gates, Fauci and the World Health Organization.

This last friend didn’t stop there; along with many others, she was already on campaign to denigrate mask use, to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19 infections “it’s just an ordinary flu”, lock downs and social distancing are useless, attacks on Fauci and the World Health Organization as being tools of the pharmaceutical industry, the Swedish model of herd immunity (ie – free for all with no state policy – a kind of libertarian dream; you know the nonsense about how Coronavirus is treated like a self-regulating – and nonexistent – market). Read more…