Crashing Ceese

Crashing Ceese

maliiiThe big news yesterday about France’s election is prophetically linked to yesterday’s buried news of the collapse of Mali’s election.

Results are not yet known, they will never be, for the 12,000 local and regional Mali officials. Cast ballots were burned, stolen and even blown up by jihadists. In the rebellious north most polling places never even opened.

Yesterday I showed Mali as the quintessential example of climate change and rapid development sabotaging African society. The tragedy goes much further: Soon it will threaten France. Ultimately it will kill Trumpism.

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Decamping to the Desert

Decamping to the Desert

desertjihadistsAs radical jihadists slowly and systematically lose control of Iraq and conditions improve in Somalia, it’s clear where they’re fleeing to: the deserts of Africa.

From eastern and northern Mali to western Niger radical jihadism is on the rise. This is the very southern fringe of the great Sahara. The dynamic is accelerated by Nigeria’s successful campaign against jihadists, both militarily and diplomatically.

Why now, and why the desert?

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Gimme a break!

Gimme a break!

TrumpTerrorWhen asked if going on safari was safe my rejoinder has been, “Well of course it’s not as safe as Disneyland.”

Everything’s perfectly arranged: an angry son of an Afghan immigrant who most psychotherapists think is a closeted gay man; high-powered weaponry you can buy online; an obese anti-terror bureaucracy incapable of stopping carnage; wildly dancing happy go-luckies under a strobe deemed sexual deviants by local evangelists; and the icing on the cake: hated presidential candidates who know beyond doubt that their opponent is the cause.

Did you watch the Tonys last night? Not even close.

And everything that needs to be said already has, so all we can do is repeat:

Terrorism, or the probable hurt or disruption from terrorism is greater in America than anywhere in Africa. Some blanket generalization that you might employ to not travel to Africa because “it’s not safe” couldn’t seem more ludicrous than on this terrible Monday morning.

Your belief that terrorism is worse “somewhere else” is one of the reasons it’s getting worse. Terrorism grows on itself. It’s the cancer you’ll never have. Your denial is its chief accomplishment.

Terrorism is an incredibly daunting phenomenon. It’s not easy to understand why someone becomes a kamikaze. It’s similar to trying to understand why someone commits suicide. So we grasp for shortcut explanations, and that just short circuits our need to explore and understand its complexities.

The most published news story in Africa about Orlando was by Agence France Presse: “With many victims of the carnage yet to be identified… Trump wasted no time in harnessing the assault to his political advantage.”

How does Trump “harness the assault?” With shortcuts like “Radical Islam”, “Political Correctness”,“Muslims”,“Weak Response:” buzz words that seem to relieve us of any responsibility to figure it out.

It’s so easy to exploit things which are difficult to understand like terrorism for political advantage.

A South African was killed in Pulse. Plenty of Americans have been killed by terrorists since 9/11 but the vast, vast majority have been killed in the U.S.

“Americans have … willingly surrendered their civil rights because they are frightened,” writes a Kenyan today.

Don’t we fight ISIS because they deny human rights? So we fight ISIS by giving up our rights? Doesn’t that mean ISIS has already won?

It’s easier for someone to get a high-powered weapon than food, Pope Francis told a convocation today.

These are very complicated issues that can undoubtedly help us understand and prevent terrorism. But you’re not going to get quick explanations at a political rally or on Meet the Press.

When deciding what world press agency would give the most balanced report about Orlando, the South African moderate newspaper, The Cape Times, chose the Chinese press agency Xinhau.

So the stage is set. The worst terrorism on earth at Disneyworld. Tickets now on sale.

Don’t Go? Just Do It!

Don’t Go? Just Do It!

Thank you GreyJed91 on YouTube
Thank you GreyJed91 on YouTube
So what do you do? Play cribbage? Watch Re-Runs?

This week the U.S. said there was credible evidence that a terror attack is imminent in South Africa, France, Poland and … the U.S.: In fact, basically all over the whole damn world.

Britain and Australia issued similar warnings.

This sounds like a spoof. Is there some actuary out there who can give me the odds of dying watching the Tour de France vs. walking across my street? There probably is, actually, and I imagine it’s worse trying to walk across my street so that means DON’T GO OUT!

The explanation for this incredible blanket of warnings – really unprecedented – is that ISIS and other Islamic militant groups are on the run, it’s Ramadan (started June 5) so crazies are likely to lash out.

Crazed mullahs who warp Islam the way freaky tele-evangelists warp Christianity tell suicide bombers that they get more virgins if they blow themselves up during Ramadan.

Particular warnings were issued for the European Soccer Championship, the Tour de France (bicycle competition) this summer in France, the Catholic Church’s World Youth convention in Poland in July, and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The warnings won’t expire until August 31, the end of the vacation season. To many sensible people, this security-speak means, “Don’t Go.”

Look, whatever inclinations you as a traveler, father or mother, teacher or tour guide might have … don’t you see what’s happening? Without even pulling the suicide rip cord, the terrorists have won!

They’ve stopped life as we know it, the care-free personal will that takes us to the movies on a whim or motivates Dad to shell out a couple thousand to take junior to watch bikes race up the Alps! Bamm! Stop!

Our governments have fallen for this lock, stock and security screen! We’ve spent how much of our national treasures, how much good will, how much time and energy to prevent a single “credible” threat from happening?

Here’s a thought.

What if we just stopped all this nonsense? Well, we’d probably have a lot more bombings and suicide attacks because god knows how many crazies there are out there.

But let’s say that with all those recovered resources: money, time, good will, energy, we flew big planes over troubled areas of the earth and dropped millions – billions of dollar bills, might the crazies decide to alter their travel arrangements and go get an ice cream?

It would be no more insane a world than it is right now.

Ludicrousness aside, take your chances kid. Alter your lifestyle and the terrorists win and it doesn’t matter then if you’re dead or not, you aren’t you.

Listen and be careful, to be sure. Play the odds.

Your kid was so thrilled to be a delegate to the World Convention, don’t stop her from going but maybe don’t let him go the whole time. The last thing on your bucket list was to visit Cape Town, so do it. Go browsing for your curios for the time being online rather than in the mall but for christ’s sake don’t hesitate going to the mall to pick up a quick hamburger.

You’re on your way to the college bicycle team, so watch those guys in France for sure! If you learn something valuable, it’s worth the risk of being blown to smithereens! Just like you risk being demolished by some drunk kid texting in his Mom’s Benz after prom on the highway!

Life’s a bunch of risks and chances and it’s always been this way. So there may be a greater risk today that a crazy will stand next to you at Walmart and blow you up, but there’s a much lower risk that you’re going to die of measles.

Life goes on, just make sure you’re on board and not in some air raid shelter! Everything balances out, and in the end it’s all the same. Just don’t give in to the Dark Side. You’re going to die someday. Just make sure it was worth it.



stopterrorismPolitical extremism cannot be taught against.

There is a huge movement right now, from Kenya to St. Paul, to teach “anti-extremism” in schools.

Last week a number of media outlets featured a finalist for this year’s Global Teacher Prize, a man in Nairobi who promotes school programs designed to convince teenagers to stay clear of terrorist organizations.

Ayub Mohamud’s programs begin with pretty standard stuff, the challenge to students to withstand “brainwashing.”

It’s not long after that, though, that he gets kids to promise to finger possible radicals to the police, or if they can’t do that, at least to confide in him or other trusted adults.

Tempered with a good measure of evidential platitudes on the ability to change society for the better through non-violent, law-abiding means, Mohamud and scores of others around the world are pushing an equally doctrinal lifestyle that for all practical purposes strikes me as simply a new religion: anti-extremism.

I’m not sure there’s anything intrinsically wrong with this, any more than teaching Catholicism or Judaism or love-of-country, all of which expressly disavow violence as a means to their ends.

What’s wrong is to think it works. The greatest flaw in doctrinal religions is that they believe in their infallibility. If nothing’s wrong, it will never be fixed.

Belief that the best way to inhibit extremism is to teach against it destructively blindsides advocates to the root causes of terrorism: poverty and despair.

The photograph in the New Yorker of Mohamud in his Nairobi Eastleigh school suggests he’s preaching to the choir. Eastleigh is not one of Nairobi’s legendary slums from which most terrorist recruits come.

It’s certainly “working class” as the New Yorker points out, but it’s a long way from the day-to-day survivors of the Kibera slum, for example, where the vast majority of al-Shabaab recruits come from.

Of course we’ll learn of this middle-class girl or that boy from an upstanding working class family who join ISIS because because they’ve been mesmerized by some hand-thumping mullah. How many enter Liberty University each year?

Programs like Mohamud’s may indeed discourage these youngsters. But these teens hardly represent the mainstream of young terrorists. In fact, they’re a very small minority. The vast number of recruits would never find themselves in the pleasant looking schoolroom in which Mohamud teaches.

But Mohamud and others like him would never dare teach their program in the Kibera slum. It would take hardly a nano-second before some still clear-headed kid with a distended belly challenged him with the bare facts of life. Everything in poverty is survival. Nothing is done, or believed or otherwise accepted without an equal or greater quid pro quo.

“What will I get?” I can imagine a teenager in the slum asking, “for turning in Odhiambo?”

There’s nothing inherently good about non-violence if there’s no alternative: It’s the reason we accept revolutions and wars, the death penalty and all sorts of other less extreme but violent acts. It would be another thing if Mohamud were teaching pacifism, but he isn’t.

The New Yorker captured the following exchange from Mohamud’s class:

Mohamud: “What does Islam say about killing?”

Student: “It’s only for God.”

‘Brainwashing’ or the determination of what constitutes ‘an act by God’ are deeply subjective. What Mohamud and others are trying to teach is that their way is the right way.

Absent of any inherent truth such teachings become terribly oppressive.

Last year Britain mandated that secondary school instruction include programs that promote anti-terrorism. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act places a legal duty on schools to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”

A rash of suggested programs and techniques from Britain’s Department of Education which followed the Act has many British teachers up in arms.

The National Union of Teachers demanded the government withdraw the Act, claiming it “created suspicion and confusion rather than safety in schools.”

Getting it much more correctly, St. Paul educators are using federal funds to “cultivate and fund youth programs, job training, and expand after-school programs intended to facilitate mentorship.”

There are components in the St. Paul programs that also teach against extremism, but personally I think that was slipped in as a compromise to get the ideologues on board. Everyone in St. Paul knows that the real problem is that there are too few jobs for the large number of Somali immigrants.

Anti-extremism can be taught and has even been legislated as in Britain, and it may indeed discourage a few well-off kids from joining ISIS, but it will do nothing to stop the flow of the poor and despairing to the battalions of extremists.

And in its worst and more mature form, it will do exactly what the terrorists want it to do: foment dissent.

Mowing down the weeds does not get rid of them. You’ve got to get to the roots.

Happening Right Now, Folks!

Happening Right Now, Folks!

obamawarAstounded. Shocked. No mainstream or even maincreek media covered today’s military conference in Arusha called by and hosted by the U.S.

Even the Army’s own publications buried the story. Talk about a society burying its head in the sand… First, the news…

General Mark Miller, head of Obama’s Africom, hosted 37 of Africa’s land chief heads of force in Arusha, Tanzania, today to talk about … what? Gender mainstreaming?

You have to go to the Army’s Africom twitter account to get what’s really going on. Africom’s website might suggest it’s a conference about gender mainstreaming, but their twitter account revealed the truth.

No, they aren’t gathered primarily to talk about gender mainstreaming. The agenda is obviously secret, but here’s some suggestions:

● Drone Assassinations
● Al-Shabaab & Boko Haram
● Military budgets and hardware
● U.S. Navy docking privileges

As I’ve often written AFRICOM is the mendacious brainchild of Obama. The command’s operating budget is currently a quarter billion dollars. (Navigate to the pdf page 107, document page 104.) This does not include, of course, an equal or greater amount through the CIA or direct country-to-country assistance.

For example, in 2015 Kenya was given around $100 million to fight terrorism and undoubtedly that much or more through other agencies.

It’s a complete guessing game, but I imagine that there’s at least $5-6 billion annually for Obama’s proxy militaries in Africa.

Congress likes AFRICOM, one of the few things that Congress likes from Obama and 2017 funding is expected to increase, and that’s why there are 37 educated leaders with their hands out in Arusha today.

As I’ve conceded, AFRICOM has made America safer for the time being. And, the TV asks, isn’t that the President’s job?

The key qualifier here is “for the time being.” I know from history and common sense that budget-creep, gun-creep, militarism-creep will stifle terrorism in the short term, but terrorism is impossible to extinguish altogether.

So when a relative period of peace and stability arrives, and the budget and the military aid and the overall militarism is toned down, the ugly terrorist raises his head yet again.

Newly reborn with new technologies and a period of good night’s sleeping.

If in this interim period during which the terrorist has been suppressed, the people of the forest terrorized by the terrorist have improved their lot, they probably will support the terrorist less. If their lot has declined, they will all wholeheartedly become terrorist martyrs.

We decry the notion of “nation-building” and it is so historically loaded with baggage I suppose we should. But I can’t really think of a better moniker for what has to be done to avoid this constant cycle of greater militarism and greater terrorism.

It isn’t happening now and that’s why AFRICOM is so mendacious. All it does it rev up this terrible cycle.

And nobody, it seems, cares even to know.

Finders Keepers?

Finders Keepers?

SavingArtifactsShould the obelisk and Rosetta Stone in France be returned to Egypt? Should tens of thousands of artifacts held in western museums be returned to their origin?

The debate is not new but acquired a new edge recently with a proposed new German law and with the upcoming ten-year birthday celebration of Paris’ Musée du quai Branly.

The relatively new Parisian museum was an amalgamation of two older museums in order to consolidate the city’s most precious African artifacts. But according to critics:

“Westerners and their museums seem very keen to tell the history of Africans but they do not seem to understand … that Africans might also want to tell their own history,” explains African artifact expert, Kwame Opuko.

The point is how can Malians tell the story of Timbuktu when it’s under a threat of destruction by terrorists?

Germany is reconsidering its law to tighten ownership of foreign artifacts after a Chilean who had acquired a massive collection of African artifacts slipped into the country to avoid prosecution from authorities at home … with his collection … and then slipped out before the Germans could decide what to do about it.

It’s not clear yet whether Mr. Patterson did anything illegal. But his accumulation of rare artifacts (particularly from Benin) and his popping in and out of a variety of countries to avoid possible prosecution has opened wide the conversation whether it’s ethical to hold any foreign artifacts outside their place of origin.

No, says Yale University. Yes, says the British Museum.

This is a question that really taxes the intellect and it’s particularly timely with the trouble in Syria and Mali.

The Timbuktu library holds the largest collection of very early African manuscripts in the world. Remarkable efforts by people who lived there saved many of them from the destruction ordered during the recent brief occupation of radical Islamists.

But many probably were lost, and had that single hero not intervened all would have been lost. Timbuktu and most of Mali was “liberated” from this 21st century occupation by the French, and the argument continues in France whether the treasures of Mali should be exported there, now.

We see the wanton destruction to many of Syria’s ancient ruins. It seems to me this is example enough that Mideast treasures in the British Museum should stay right where they are.

But once Syria is peaceful, again, should they be returned?

Who will decide that “Syria is peaceful, again”? How long a period of peace is required? Is autocratic peace or dictatorial peace … peace enough?

When it gets down to it, are we just saying that only the west is capable of making this judgement? Might not Donald Trump or a new Adolf Hitler fund their infrastructures with looted artifacts from Mexico or France just as ISIS is doing now?

I believe very strongly that artifact preservation is essential to understanding ourselves. It applies mostly to our evolution but when understood in the context of the time it was created, social insights crucial to our long-term survival may become evident.

Something of this importance can’t be left to chance survival. Artifacts should not be returned to unstable areas, and the threshold of stability must be high.

Who should make the determination? The past.

That’s the best gamble. Yes Adolph Hitlers and Donald Trumps might lose the bet, but wherever artifacts have been well kept for the longest time resides the right to make the determination whether their return is safe. So, yes, the British Museum is a good place and no, Timbuktu is not.

Egypt isn’t as clear. Many precious Egyptian artifacts are held in France, yet to date none in Egypt have been destroyed. On the other hand it came very close during the April Spring.

The Arab Spring fires, looting and wanton destruction occurred right at the edge of the Egyptian National Museum. Its exterior was damaged. It’s now up to the French authorities to determine whether Egyptian artifacts should be returned.

It’s not a comfortable position, but antiquity must be preserved.

Virtual Video

Virtual Video

whichistherealsavimbiWhat’s the difference between a video game and a terrorist?

The family of a controversial Angolan rebel leader who died in 2002 is suing the manufacturer of the “Call of Duty” video game for defaming Jonas Sivimbi.

I interviewed Sivimbi in Paris when I was covering the Paris Peace talks (on Vietnam) for several U.S. newspapers. Back then in the 1970s he was a hero to the independence movement as well as the South African anti-apartheid movement, since South Africa was at the time fighting the independence movement in Angola.

Subsequent to my brief acquaintance, though, Savimbi’s reputation declined substantially.

Independence was won by a rival rebel group, MPLA, from Portugal in 1975, and though initially Savimbi was a part of the overall peace process, he immediately started a brutal civil war against the MPLA that lasted virtually until the moment he was killed by government soldiers in 2002.

During that civil war he grew vicious becoming the first warlord to finance his battle with blood diamonds. UNITA and Savimbi were ultimately investigated for war crimes by The Hague.

“Call of Duty” features Savimbi, or for sure someone who looks (and acts) the spitting image.

In answering the Savimbi family suit, the French creator and owner of “Call of Duty” claimed that Savimbi-in-the-game was actually shown in a “favorable light” and a “good guy who comes to help the heroes.”

Seeking 100 million Euros, Savimbi’s now 42-year old son said, “Seeing him kill people, cutting someone’s arm off … that’s not like Papa.”

I haven’t looked at the game. I can’t stand media violence and I know that “Call of Duty” is one of the worst.

NPR featured “Call of Duty” in its series of violence in video games in 2013 as at the time the most popular and most violent.

UNITA is now a franchised part of peaceful Angolan society, and they are encouraging – possibly joining – the Savimbi family in their suit.

The line between moral freedom fighters and amoral terrorists is thin. But there is no division at all between the violence of a video game and the violence promoted by today’s jihadists.

Games targeted to teenagers who have yet to fully develop their moral compass strikes me as one of the most barbaric outcomes of crass capitalism.

Ratings are only rarely useful and require parents or guardians actually capable of enforcing them.

If Republican candidates will blithely suggest carpet bombing the Levant, I guess it’s not radical for me to suggest that video games like “Call of Duty” should be banned.

I’ve no loyalty to my brief encounter with Savimbi, who at the time was a gentle, highly respected and admired grass roots leader. He turned, and so did a bunch of kids from Minneapolis who participated in the Westgate Mall attack and dozens of others from America who appear on jihadist videos.

Carpet bombing them simply cleans the field for new faces. Getting rid of their platform is the only way to end the game.

All Alone

All Alone

rumsfeld's solitaireJust as you sensed an iota of stability settling onto the Middle East another Syrian debacle starts up in Africa.

And for all the same reasons.

South Sudan is exploding. A UN Report issued last week compares what’s happening in the South Sudan to Syria and Iraq.

More than 2.2 million people have fled recent fighting, the UN is taking care of more than 600,000 as refugees, and the vicious war is replete with widespread rape, conscripted child soldiers and already specific personalities being considered for war crimes.

A high UN official told Reuters yesterday that the conflict “was comparable to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.”

And for all the same reasons:

Ruthless dictators were removed and the vacuum of governance was never filled. Instead, rebels of several or more generations who had fought the ruthless dictator and who were unable to consolidate their interests and power, began to fight one another.

Old big weapons procured from the havoc of the end of the Cold War and new big weapons being rapidly manufactured by military/industrial complexes around the world flooded in (in South Sudan’s case, mostly via the Ukraine).

Well-intentioned aid for such things as food and education was diverted by corrupt rebel leaders to buying weapons, and the aid givers seemed helpless to do anything about it… other than stop giving aid.

Famine and disease grows.

Neighbors either have no interest or not enough power to do anything. In several cases, the neighbors are run by ruthless dictators, and the last thing they want to do is get involved and show their colors.

Organized thugs like ISIS and al-Qaeda hover in the wings.

This morning on the world’s most schizoid cable television show, Morning Joe, a contrite, grandfatherly Donald Rumsfeld could not explain what was happening in the world other than to say it will continue. He preferred to discuss his new ap, The Churchill Solitaire Game.

The most fundamental reason for all of this is weapons. The successful empires of the 20th Century are unable to control their military/industrial complexes.

But removing this component now provides opportunities for the crazy suicide bombers, the mega-terrorist, the ultimate Darth Vader.

But own up, folks. We built the weapons, but we also built the Darth Vaders. The weapons came from steel, the bad guys came from want and starvation with a bit of added military training. Charles Dickens knew it two hundred years ago.

So we had two hundred years to do something, and we didn’t.

So what now?

Some say Trump. I say Sanders. Some say Trudeau. Some say Corbyn. We have no choice. We’ve got to move on to something new.

#1 : Terrorism

#1 : Terrorism

NM_14trump5.jpgAfricans have an important skill to teach Americans: how to deal with terrorism.

Thousands were killed this year by terrorists in Nigeria and Mali, and hundreds in Kenya and Somalia. But Nigerians and Malians and Kenyans and Somalis know that things are actually getting better. They are winning the battle against terrorism.

Just as Britain overcame the IRA and Spain overcame the Basque Separatists and Japan overcame the Red Army and Germany overcame Nazism: the solution takes time. It does not include creating impenetrable defenses. Africans successful fight against terrorism includes taking on head-to-head the two most significant causes of terrorism:

Hunger, physical and psychological.

Exclusion, ethnic and economic.

Most Americans when asked who Timothy James McVeigh is don’t even pretend to know. Yet many Americans when asked who presents the greatest threat of terrorism insist with divine certainty that it is Muslims and refugees.

On April 19, 1995, a 27-year old Gulf War veteran, Starpoint (NY) Central High School’s Most Promising Computer Programmer, devout Roman Catholic, registered member of the Republican Party and National Rifle Association, killed 168 Americans and injured another 600 by blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City. Why?

Because, in his own words, he wanted to inspire a revolution against America’s tyrannical government.

“I’m sorry these people had to lose their lives. But that’s the nature of the beast….Innocents [have to die] to win the war.”

Hundreds followed McVeigh in America as terrorists since 1995. Almost all of them were fully fledged, driver-license endowed, passport eligible home-grown boys – Americans through and through.

McVeigh was Irish American. Hear any calls from Trump to ban Irishmen from entering the U.S.?

Terrorism – which we once incorporated into the phrase, “guerilla warfare” – is nothing new, but seems so, and that may be because it’s finally becoming successful.

Terrorists can’t amass enough fire power to prevail. So their strategy is simple: get inside the shirt of their adversary, inject the heart with fear and make the adversary turn on himself.

Fear uncovers our soul. We run or we fight. We save others at the risk of ourselves or we hide. We can’t masquerade our inner identity when we get afraid – it all shows.

Donald Trump and his frighteningly large number of followers are cowards of the simplest sort. They won’t fight the real battles, so they make up battles that don’t exist, like the religious “clash of civilizations.”

They want to believe they can still gun down their opponents, so they amass huge stockpiles of arms, but in their heart of hearts they’ve been frightened into believing in the near invincibility of terrorists.

So they want to build walls to barricade themselves from the rest of the world, an ultimate defense against the foreign phantom. What irony that future Timothy McVeighs, Americans through-and-through, Christians of the most flowery sort, Republicans and NRA contributors will all be behind the wall together. Easier to blow things up from the inside, isn’t it?

If the wall’s big and strong enough, the blast won’t hurt anybody at all on the outside.

Africans are fighting for ways to fairly redistribute diminishing resources, to find better ways of feeding everybody who’s hungry, to end corruption to make life inclusive for everyone. I don’t doubt that long before America achieves economic inclusiveness, most African nations will.

I’ve written about all these last year. These are tireless, thankless but meaningful battles. How pitiful are the extremists on the right who refuse to take these battles on.

Listen to Africa. Listen to Europe. Listen to Trump and his followers, too, but beware of them: This isn’t just entertainment. They’re standing in front of a white flag.

(For my summary of the top 10 stories in Africa in 2015, click here.)

Cheering Your Opponents

Cheering Your Opponents

cheeringtooloudlyNigerian forces have fallen into a jihadist trap as they wipe out Boko Haram.

Terrorist strategies are simple: provoke fear and reprisal, and that’s exactly what’s happening worldwide as their power declines.

The change of presidents in Nigeria last year heralded a major offensive against the jihadists that once controlled nearly a third of the country. The army was finally paid and reconstituted by the new Nigerian president Buharu who was previously a decorated Army general.

In Nigeria, like in Syria with Russian forces, jihadists began falling like straws. In Iraq ISIS, too, has been in retreat following increased coalition attacks.

So what’s the problem?

Non-jihadist Muslim Nigerians warned Buharu yesterday “against plunging the country into another Boko Haram-like insurgency.” Read carefully: “another” – ‘ a different.‘

Terrorists are terrorists because they don’t have battleships and long-range bombers. They are guerrillas who master weapons of small but notorious destruction. The success of their killings is not evident across fields of slaughter, but on millions of tiny television screens. Geographical control is no longer as important as mind control.

The Nigerian sweep against Boko Haram has been impressive and fast. Hundreds of hostages have been freed after months, almost all of the country has been liberated from the terrorists’ control.

That’s good. Cheers to the Nigerian Army! But they didn’t stop. Fed by the propaganda of the bits of Boko Haram that remain, their fears were stoked and they charged on.

Nigerian soldiers this weekend swept into Islamic areas that had never been under jihadist control and that had never been associated with insurgents.

They ransacked homes of these Muslim leaders, detained others, laid to waste several Muslim facilities and in the course of this “over-reaction” provoked a number of Muslim (but non-jihadist) leaders to vow revenge.

This is exactly what the terrorists want: they will die happily knowing that others will replace them.

As a real corollary here in the U.S., individuals attacking mosques and presidential candidates claiming they will somehow effect policy against virtually all Muslims… this breeds new terrorism.

Nigeria is the petri dish right now for this theory.

Personally, I fear President Buharu has already gone too far. He’s a ruthless soldier. Not exactly a Donald Trump, he nonetheless swept to power in a wave of nationalist sentiment of “no-holds barred” against the terrorists.

He delivered on his promise, but then he didn’t stop. In a sense it’s not entirely reflective of any over intentions, it’s just that terrorists are the chimera of world conflict. One moment they’re al-Qaeda, and the next, ISIS. Hack one down, and another arises.

Nigeria must stop now and read history: As Russia and the U.S. learned decades ago, you never wipe out terrorists, whether that be in Vietnam or Afghanistan. You simply clean the surface of old terrorists so that new ones can grow.

Terrorists will never be defeated on the battlefield. Terrorists might never be defeated, period. But they can be massively diminished and with time suffocated out of importance.

This requires a certain military restraint by the aggrieved societies of the sort I worry Nigeria cannot develop so long as Buharu is at the helm.

Vitriolic Visa

Vitriolic Visa

visapprejectOnline visa applications are being rushed to operation by countries all over the world, including India and Kenya.

Most of these new sites are very difficult to use. Many countries like Kenya have inadequate servers to process even the fewest simultaneous requests. While it’s unlikely this new impediment to a vacation will impede tourism growth, it’s a horrible blemish on the country’s image as a holiday destination.

Kenyan officials justified the new process when their site went live last July as providing a better level of security.

Kenya, in particular, has dramatically turned around its level of security in just the last 18 months. That country’s incidence of terrorism is now lower than the U.S.’

I’m also sure of another benefit: less corruption. Immigration officials were notorious at extracting bribes from incoming travelers. This occurred most often when the agent claimed there was no change when a visitor used a large note (like $100) to pay for a less expensive ($50) visa.

So I think without question this benefits the countries instituting the procedures, at least in the short run. They really have to improve their processes, though, or it will begin to take its toll on future tourism:

Of the couple sites I reviewed India’s is the worse, and that seems incredibly ironic given the technological level of the country. But their difficulty was in building a site without adequate foreign culture input.

Like all cultures whose principal script is not letters but images, the transliteration into a language like English tends to get very wordy and organization is often in color rather than structure.

Kenya, on the other hand, has a wonderfully intelligible site. Problem is, it’s ridiculously slow and often crashes. It’s the same problem I presume that Obamacare went through, only the Kenyans have not remedied this problem after six months.

Kenyans deal with this every day, and so to them, it’s no big deal. Everything from their home electricity to the turn signals on their cars will frequently stop working … but it always comes back. Kenyans must understand that isn’t good! It doesn’t take much for a visitor to wonder if the small aircraft taking them to the Mara might lose power as easily!

In all cases the bugaboo to most applicants is the uploading of images of their passport pictures and the front sections of their passports.

The majority of leisure travelers to India and Kenya are retired and have not mastered image manipulation. Many aren’t capable of scanning at all. And for those who can scan, the restrictions to the size, resolution and shape of the images that these sites impose are too difficult for the visitor to manipulate.

It seems to me that as a simple courtesy these countries ought simply accept whatever legible image is presented, and then develop their own technology to manipulate it however they wish.

That hasn’t happened, and so this is the point which stymies most travelers. The remedy requires finding someone or some business that will manipulate the images to the required parameters.

Many travelers have previously used visa application services, and I expect in due course these agencies will learn to process these applications in a way that overcomes a liability issue for them, now:

Currently they aren’t allowed to setup the initial account online or fill in the particulars on the pages that accept what is tantamount to a digital signature from the applicant. Although these steps aren’t the difficult online ones, it reduces the visa agency’s assistance to nothing more than what a local Kinkos or nephew must do to manipulate image structure.

All travelers must applaud efforts to enhance the security of their vacation. We’ve spent years now complaining about TSA but we’ve come to accept it, and to its credit TSA has also improved.

Let’s hope these countries’ online sites also do. For the time being, though, if you’re a typical traveler accustomed to little time getting your visa, better think twice and set aside a week or two!

Rumblings of Revolution

Rumblings of Revolution

PhotoPix by William Hong / Reuters
PhotoPix by William Hong / Reuters
Many believe – I find it intriguing – that the mounting catastrophes of global warming will undo the global economic system with rapid and radical redistributions of wealth.

Ergo, global revolution.

If this right, we must view conferences like the one today in Paris as presaging a very violent future. The powers-that-be seem to know what to do, but seem incapable of doing it.

I find the rather humorous now technical term employed by conference negotiators, “mitigation,” particularly revealing. For the COP conferences it’s the “nice way” to justify wealth distribution to the poorer countries incapable of the investments needed to prepare for global warming.

That’s what they say, anyway. What they really mean is mitigation against another Arab Spring, another Syrian civil war, another Ukraine, another series of mass migrations.

The COP20 (the conference before this one) pledged $100 billion annually from developed countries to undeveloped countries as “mitigation” to help them avoid high carbon emitting fuels. This is offensive: hardly a drop in the bucket, almost useless. What’s worse: hardly half of the pledges materialized as one western leader after another faced pushback from their legislatures.

“$100bn is an inadequate political figure. What the international community needs to mobilise … is in the order of trillions,” Seyni Nafo, spokesman for the African Group of Negotiators, told the press at the conference.

“Mitigation” admits that the world’s order is changing as human suffering accelerates: ISIS leaders may be evil souls, but the support from the people over which they reign comes from a desperation to survive.

Desertification is a process that was identified more than 100 years ago showing that the Sahara Desert is growing. But the expansion has been ridiculously fast in just the last few years. In 1925 Lake Chad in Africa was 25,000 sq. km. Today it is only 2,500 sq. km.

The highest temperature ever recorded in October on our planet, 119F, occurred just a few weeks ago in South Africa’s Western Cape.

The link between global warming and terrorism is clear, ridiculously so as the summit occurs in Paris. It’s a simple connection that only crazy deniers try to refute. It’s a simple extrapolation of the tension on societies as their needs grow but planet earth’s bounty diminishes.

As crises pile upon one another, fixes will, too: migration, GMO agriculture, storm shelters, zoning away from coastal cliffs, etc. But only the developed world is capable of mounting these kinds of viable challenges.

Nuclear power, for example, seems like a quick fix if you discount the potential catastrophes it can produce on its own. But the cost of a single new nuclear power plant in France (which enjoys 75% of its power from nuclear) is $15-20 billion dollars. This is about a third of the Kenyan GDP.

The raw fact that the cost of fixes today is so high but exponentially greater for each moment of delay is, unfortunately, a non-starting argument where it matters most with the world’s biggest contributors to global warming: the U.S., China and India. There are still too many deniers in the U.S., too many impoverished waiting for rapid development in China and India.

There are naysayers as well as deniers. Naysayers, though, deserve our attention.

“Even if the world celebrates a Paris climate deal on December 11, the process will still have to be regarded as failure,” writes Prof. Steffen Böhm of the University of Essex.

Böhm is hardly alone in embracing the science of global warming while simultaneously insisting that the global economic system is incapable of confronting it meaningfully.

“Talking will continue until we realize climate change is a failure of a system, which – on the back of fossil fuel – is geared towards exponential economic growth. Nobody who sits at the negotiation table in Paris has the mandate nor inclination to ask fundamental, systemic questions of the logic of the dominant economic system and the way we consume the resources of this planet.”

But for the time being, for the day-to-day moments on which an Indian businessman or Kenyan farmer survive, we can only hope for greater western generosity.

But the end is nigh. No financier can reverse global warming. Nature is demanding greater justice for the deprived of mankind as the only logical way the planet can survive.

We either give it now with all the turbulence of the more privileged finally suffering some, or it will be taken away by the force of nature, and that will be much more painful to all.

Violence Check

Violence Check

Westgate mall attackIs it safe to travel to Nairobi? Is it safe to travel to LA?

To date this year there have been 352 mass shootings in the U.S. which have killed 461 people and wounded 1309. To date this year in Kenya there have been two (that’s “2”) mass shootings which have killed 161 people and wounded another 113.

The murder rate in Kenya (including from “terrorism”) is 6.8 per 10,000 inhabitants. This is less than the murder rate in South Carolina, Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and about the same as the murder rate in Delaware, Maryland and Missouri.

Are you considering a vacation to Carolina’s outer banks, to the Mardi Gras, to our nation’s capital or maybe to a concert at Branson? Better watch out.

Why is Kenya’s murder rate lower, and its deaths from terrorism lower than in the U.S.?

Why is the U.S. so violent?

U.S. residents own more guns than residents of anywhere else in the world, 50% higher than the next two highest nations, Yemen and Serbia, and three times as many as major European countries such as France and Germany.

And 17½ times as many guns as in Kenya.

Racism or Stupidity?

Racism or Stupidity?

larrymadowo“Terrorists aren’t just… in Syria; sometimes they’re card-carrying defenders of the Second Amendment.”

The above is not the rant of some leftie like myself. It’s from a respected, very popular national news anchor in Nairobi.

Chastising his American colleagues for not calling the Planned Parenthood shooter, Robert Dear “what he really is, a terrorist,” Madowo in a few paragraphs explained American racism, why we go into endless wars, why black policeman are now being prosecuted, and probably a dozen other American ailments.

Larry Madowo is probably the most watched and liked young African news anchor on the continent north of South Africa. He’s witty and insightful. He writes and speaks English better than most Americans, travels constantly entangling himself in injustices that he recounts with mounds of humor.

But time and again after drilling down into some western wrong (like Dutch MacDonald’s selling their tiny packets of ketchup for 75¢) Madowo sees the root explanation as western racism.

“If [Robert Dear] was a man of colour, the talking heads and think-pieces would not have stopped theorising about his motive and how his background led to all this. But white shooters are almost always ‘mentally disturbed lone rangers’ in need of understanding and support from society.”

“Three people were killed and at least five others wounded” but because the murderer wasn’t Muslim and didn’t behead his victims “American news outlets won’t call him what he really is… because of the colour of his skin.”

It’s worth considering but Madowo has fallen into the trap of many modern media personalities: oversimplification while playing to the ratings.

Racism surely is at the root of many American evils but American media aren’t calling the Planned Parenthood shooter a terrorist not because he isn’t black but because Americans foolishly believe that terrorism is something strictly external.

We have compartmentalized foreign violence as terrorism and domestic violence as anything but, something less threatening and onerous.

Statistics don’t seem to matter: exponentially more Americans are killed annually by American rebels and shooters than foreigners. Extent of destruction doesn’t seem to matter: the effect on Boston’s economy from the marathon shooters is multiple times anything foreign that’s happened in the last few years.

“Home-grown” is a nice adjective for Parisian bombers which is begrudgingly becoming accepted by the American populace as the sobriquet for the killers there, but it just doesn’t apply here.

This isn’t racism. It’s stupidity.

Another Madowo episode also illustrates this.

Madowo recently visited to the U.S. carrying two really favorite gifts for his Kenyan friends here: Ujimix and Royco Cubes.

Customs agents in San Francisco delayed him unconvinced that they were foods.

“A young black male travelling internationally always raises eyebrows. Traveling while black is to accept indignity, racism and delays because of the colour of your skin, even in a post-Obama world. Those of us village boys who grew up dreaming of faraway cities and now have opportunities to visit are resigned to that ugly downside to it all.”

It’s quite possible that the San Francisco customs agent had never been east of Vegas or north of Monterey. Anything that isn’t labeled “Hamburger Helper” is suspect.

Indeed racism is sustained by ignorance, and ignorance is what I’m talking about here. We’ve got a barrel full of problems in the U.S. as a result of a generation of negligence from a government hamstrung by crazies.

But as we begin to disentangle our rotting fibers to start applying fixes, let’s be clear about what to do. In these cases, it starts with education.