How Much Is Right?

How Much Is Right?

rightoeducationThe success of childhood education is directly the result of how much tax payers will pay and how good the government is that implements it.

Backpedaling in America and proudful politics in Kenya forecasts doom for those countries. Instability and war not only inhibits but defiles education. Massive government investments have assured Asia will become the political, economic and cultural center of our earth. So says PISA.

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A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

ugandapicturewordsAnyone taking a picture is arrested or shot. Then, Facebook takes down the pictures of the courageous who manage to post the massacre. A Kenyan TV journalist is charged with “abetting terrorism” for taking … TV video.

And most noteworthy of all, the organizer of the massacre, self-imposed Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni poses for a “government picture” in sunny South Africa with its despised leader, Jacob Zuma. You can truly wonder in Trumpian vernacular, “What the f*#! is happening in the world today!”

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Genocide in Uganda?

Genocide in Uganda?

ugandaviolenceMajor violence erupted in Uganda over the weekend. This morning the U.S. embassy warned travelers intending to visit the west of the country which includes its major tourist attractions.

The country’s major opposition leader, Kifefe Besigye, tweeted the photo shown above with the caption, “Genocide in Kasese.” News media have not confirmed it.

The worst violence in Uganda’s modern history follows the dictator’s self-installation Thursday for a fifth term as president, and then his implementation of several draconian laws including an anti-gay measure that some believe was withheld until Trump seemed securely in power.

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Goose Steps in Nigeria

Goose Steps in Nigeria

buhariandgeneralsDemocracy’s principle flaw allows the right to choose something that’s wrong. Mature societies seem to handle this OK. Young and troubled societies are twisted apart.

For the last decade Nigeria’s GDP has been the highest in Africa exceeding $1 trillion in just the last few years. It has more than half as many people as the U.S. but an area only about a tenth as big.

Nigeria’s history since independence from Britain in 1960 has been a dosey-doe between democracy and military rule. Today a former general is the president of a democracy, but the rumors are growing that won’t last much longer.

“We are constrained to let the cat out of the bag,” a top military commander said today in the typical African way of saying something you shouldn’t. “Some military men are making moves to remove [President Buhari].”

The current President, Muhammadu Buhari, understands this better than most. Although he was freely elected last year as President, he had also been the Head of State for two years in the 1980s after leading a coup against the then democratic regime.

Yes, that’s what I said. The man who forcefully toppled democracy on New Year’s Eve, 1983, was freely elected its democratic President on May 31, 2015.

Well, a lot can change in 32 years, no?

The longest and most damaging civil war in modern Africa was the Biafran civil war in Nigeria from 1967-1970. Only 15 years into independence, Cold War headaches were disrupting Nigeria’s polity, famine appeared in 1968, and the better educated and democratic Biafran was feeling increasingly oppressed by the growing non-secular, autocratic government that favored the Islamic north.

That was almost a half century ago. It’s happening all over, again.

The Nigerian economy is in a free fall with the price of oil, its soul fuel. The world Battle Against Terrorism is playing out in its northeast. Climate change is decimating its agriculture, and the better educated and democratic Biafran is feeling increasingly oppressed by the growing non-secular, autocratic government that favors Buhari’s Islamic north.

In a partially televised official dinner last night, President Buhari reminded his nation that two million mostly Biafrans died in that civil war:

“We were quarrelling with our brothers, we were not fighting an enemy… Somebody is saying that once again: he wants Biafra. I think this is because he wasn’t [yet] born” and doesn’t remember the horror of the war.

Agreeing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent statement that “Nigeria is fantastically corrupt,” one of the leaders of the modern Biafran secessionist movement said yesterday:

“”Nigerians … have blood in their hands. They are ethnic bigots, unrepentant dictators, religious fundamentalists and arch genocidists. They are arch supporters of terrorism. They circumvent the electoral laws… They do not understand the basic tenets of democracy… These are men whose only mission is to annihilate their perceived enemies.”

This deputy leader of the Biafran secessionist movement is too young to have experienced his last civil war, but he’s certainly hell bent on another one.

As we know all too well here in the United States, democracy gives you the right to lie. Many of these lies are believed by the electorate without due diligence. An absolute lie becomes an unmitigated truth, and the resultant battle has clearly drawn borders: Right-vs-Wrong.

But real democracy rarely creates thoughtful policy that is neither wholly right or wholly wrong, and that reality flies in the face of the easiness and sanctity of believing something is truthful or a lie.

The gun replaces the vote. Some strongman takes over, and at least in the beginning of his reign he brings with him something all people pine for: peace.

Goose steps replace strolling.

History repeats itself.

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day 2016

memorialweekendToday is the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.

The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who have died in action. It’s similar to the Remembrance Days celebrated in many parts of Africa, and like in South Africa created primarily to honor the freedom fighters for independence.

But America’s Memorial Day has grown to honor all dead soldiers, not just those who fought in the 18th century revolution. In fact it wasn’t started until after the Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day,” following a petition by recently freed slaves (most who came from Africa) to honor the Union soldiers who had freed them.

After World War I it was changed to “Memorial Day” and extended as an honor to all soldiers in all conflicts.

As a young boy it was a big red-white-and-blue festival. We decorated our little red wagons and bikes, just as we would hardly a month later for the July 4th Independence Day Holiday.

Since then my own personal regards for Memorial Day has diminished. The numerous wars my country began during my life time have mostly been unfair and unjust. The end of conscription, which happened when I was in university, changed the military so radically that it is no longer a people’s army; it no longer represents society as a whole.

Today the military is composed either of young men who can’t get any other kind of job, or who need the benefits once their service is finished, or avowed militarists.

I do stop during the day and think of my relatives in the Great Wars. I think of the way the country ultimately came together to fight world tyranny. But in my life time, there is little in America’s wars to be proud of. They are mostly memories I wish we didn’t have.

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.

Kenya Backs into The Future

Kenya Backs into The Future

charcoal stockpilesJust as Kenya was doing everything right it arrests a journalist for uncovering corruption, while the Kenyan army that Obama built to route Somali terrorists turns out to be in cahoots with the terrorist leaders!

When will Kenyans stop being on the take?

The government’s interior minister oversaw the arrest Tuesday of a prominent Kenyan journalist who’d uncovered possible corruption in his ministry. The backlash was swift, the journalist was released, the minister comically claimed he hadn’t order the arrest, but the damage was done.

And today another courageous group of Kenyan journalists released a scathing report linking Kenyan occupying forces with the illicit half billion dollar trade in sugar and charcoal that had hugely financed Somali pirates.

Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery oversaw the arrest Tuesday of Kenyan journalist John Ngirachu. The journalist had discovered a multi-million dollar hole in Nkaissery’s budget that was unaccounted for.

By the time police brought Ngirachu to the station, the outcry in Kenya was so loud that he was simply kept for a short time and not even interrogated before being released.

Then yesterday, acting as if this was all news to him, Nkaissery ordered the “end to any investigation” by journalists claiming he knew nothing about it.

It’s so lame. Just before the arrest Nkaissery told Reuters that Ngirachu’s reporting was “unacceptable” and “calculated to harm the nation” since it portrayed his ministry as corrupt and that it was a trend by journalists “increasingly taking the shape of a larger plot of economic sabotage.”

So whether the minister then went down a floor and ordered the arrest by his chief of arrests, or whether his chief of arrests knew he would be canned if he didn’t do it on his own, the arrests came swiftly thereafter.

We often scratch our noggin wondering how in the world corrupt politicians think they can get away with it. Well, in Kenya you have to scratch all the way through the scalp to wonder how this guy would think just by denying what he had just said to a worldwide news agency, everything would be fine!

Today Kenyan soldiers are paid well and are well equipped, because of our own dear Obama. I’ve written critically many times about the Obama war effort in Somalia. We Americans built, funded and trained the Kenyans to oust the Somali warlords that had more or less run that evaporating country for nearly 20 years.

And they did a great job.

Now they’re flipping.

According to the Kenyan Journalists’ report, “Eating with the Enemy,” the Kenyan occupying soldiers have struck a deal with what’s left of the al-Shabaab they were supposed to nuke.

They are splitting about $24 million annually through illicit exporting of charcoal to the Arabian peninsula.

Charcoal burning stoves still fire many of the homes in the Arabian peninsula, where there aren’t any forests. Somalia has been deforesting itself for decades to supply them. So this isn’t just an illegal and corrupt act, it’s raping the planet.

But the Kenyan soldier scandal doesn’t stop there. Putting together UN reports with other Kenyan journalist reports, Nancy Agutu of Kenya’s Star wrote today that $400 million is being earned by the Kenyan soldiers and their middlemen back home for the illegal importation of sugar from Somalia.

There are so many angles to this story it’s hard to parse: America once again duped into trying to do good with military means; the ongoing rape of Somalia’s earth even after the war is stopped; the corruption of Kenyan officials high and low; the demand for charcoal in a modern age…

Only one thing is clear. There are some really good, possible heroes among Kenyan journalists.

One of Kenya’s most famous anti-corruption activists, John Githongo, told Reuters recently, “This is the most corrupt Kenya has been since we began measuring corruption in the ’90s.”

Kenya has been working so hard recently to combat crime and corruption, to work through their new constitution, to deal with the Somali crisis at their borders and stem terrorism … that’s it’s simply a crying shame that idiots like this minister and cowboys in the army we built would try to blow their future to smithereens.

Pitiful Profits

Pitiful Profits

zanburndi and religioniZanzibar and Burundi, today, are both tinder boxes rooted in ethnicity ready to explode.

It’s time to stop pretending that both Christianity and Islam, Hutu and Tutsi, or Arab and African are mostly “good.” It’s time to denounce religious ideology and ethnicity as mostly “bad.”

Recent studies about religion reenforce this. “Religion doesn’t work,” a South African newspaper has concluded. “Children of non-religious people are nicer than their religiously raised brethren.” (More on this below.)

Zanzibar’s divide is two-fold: Africans who link their heritage to animism and Christianity versus Arabs dedicated to Islam; and a never successful federation between Zanzibar and Tanganyika nearly a half century ago, which poorly formed modern Tanzania.

Burundi’s divide is wholly tribal: Hutu versus Tutsi, the same divide that led to the Rwandan genocide.

Zanzibar has progressed far more than Burundi has in the modern era. From ancient times the island was the seat of Arab power on the Swahili African coast. Its royal families grew trade with parts of the world as far afield as China.

Its gigantic misstep in history was to become dependent upon the slave trade. That gave the British colonizers a moral platform on which to justify their empire building. (It is, of course, illustrative that British industry – ships in particular – were indispensable in the development of the slave trade.)

Burundi is struggling through the ethnic chasm between Hutu and Tutsi that Rwanda solved by becoming an autocratic if communist state. Smaller than already small Rwanda, it’s nearly lockstep historically.

A “civil” (read “ethnic”) war was ended almost a decade ago with a peace agreement that led to free enough elections and a period of relatively stability. But the democratic mechanisms riveting the government were inevitably seen as threats by one side to the other, and the current man power is so unconstitutionally – nondemocratically.

As everywhere in the world, from Syria to Myanmar to Obama/Netanyahu, ethnic divides easily reenforce themselves with religious ideology.

Obviously I don’t want to give up St. Patty’s Day or Christmas, for that matter. But it’s time to grow up. Black Lives Matter. Intelligent Lives Matter.

A study published last week in Current Biology of 1170 children from a variety of religious backgrounds around the world concluded that children from religious families were less generous and more intolerant and sanctioned physical punishment more than children from non-religious families.

Christian and Muslims scored identically with regards to generosity, both groups are 28% less likely to share than nonreligious children.

The children were tested in seven different cities: Chicago, Cape Town, Toronto, Amman, Izmir, Istanbul and Guangzhou.

Researchers asked the parents to identify their child’s religious orientation: 23.9% were Christian, 43% Muslim, 27.6% not religious, 2.5% Jewish, 1.6% Buddhist, 0.4% Hindu, 0.2% agnostic, and 0.5% something else.

The research funded by the religious John Templeton Foundation used animation, physical games and structured social intercourse with other children in the study to reach these conclusions.

“Consistent with previous studies, in general the children were more likely to share as they got older. But …the negative relation between religiosity and altruism grew stronger with age; children with a longer experience of religion in the household were the least likely to share.”

According to Science Daily the studies “challenge the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior, and call into question whether religion is vital for moral development — suggesting the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact, it does just the opposite.”

In a world of diminishing resources, increasing human demand and aggressive global warming, some very tough decisions are going to have to be made.

The Bible and the Koran, like Mao’s Little Red Book or Gaddafi’s slightly larger Green Book, should not be used as references for a solution.

The Rise of The Have-Nots

The Rise of The Have-Nots

MaliErruptsThe deteriorating situation in Mali this week made me realize the crises throughout the world aren’t clashes of ideologies or religions. It’s so simple: the Have Nots are rising.

Mali, you might remember, was the final joint success story of the Obama/Hollande alliance to defeat terrorism in Africa.

Since the Kenyan invasion of Somali on October 16, 2011, I have chronicled in my blogs the slow but methodical Obama/Hollande alliance that pushed the Afghani/Iraqi bad guys to Yemen, to Somalia, through East Africa and to Central Africa, thence finally to Mali.

Where, I wrongly presumed, they were finally clobbered to death by the French foreign legion in January, 2013.

I should have read more carefully my guest blogger, Conor Godfrey, who so passionately described the shock of a Mali suicide bomber which followed in February, 2013.

I mostly ignored that piece by Conor, who is now with the State Department and then as now has one of the finest analytical minds about Africa. That was a mistake. I jumped the gun. Mali was not pacified.

The insurgents that I believed were swept up into a single pile and ultimately defeated by the French Foreign legion that scattered the few remaining fugitives to doom in the Sahara, is now threatening central Mali.

Conor’s piece in 2013 expressed the surprised horror that a suicide bombing had taken place in Mali.

If you asked a random American if there were any suicide bombings here, what percentage do you think would say “None?”

To date this year alone, there have been 285 mass shootings in America, and while I have not had the time to go through them one by one to determine how many ended with the shooter killing himself, I know it was more than several.

That is simply a more modern consumer society’s suicide bomber. It’s easier in America to get a gun than make a bomb.

America is not yet threatening to implode like Mali, even with today’s announced resignation by John Boehner. But the acts are identical, across radically different cultures and historical time zones.

Whether Charlie Hebdo or Boston or Chechnya or a Finish island, people are blowing themselves up in order to kill others.

Conor knows what suicide bombing doesn’t mean:

“Maybe somewhere where life comes a little cheaper, and craziness prevails. This is nonsense…”

He suggests that it might be “blowback from our global war on terror.”

But folks, there has to be a common thread among all these seemingly disparate places and peoples, something that as horrible as it sounds, connects the bomber in Mali with the bomber in Colorado.

In ancient history legions of soldiers knew they were headed into sacrificial battles. But not really until the age of kamikazes did “suicide war” become an individual act.

There has always been desperate dissatisfaction with life by individuals, but the kamikaze, the suicide bomber seems fundamentally screwed up, totally irrational.

Unless you really embrace the concept of hopelessness. Everything is then lost. There is no more morality. Vengeance is the only possible success.

People become hopeless for a lot of different reasons. Many are obvious, like hunger. But many are more complicated, like losing a job. (US 2015 Mass Shooter #246, Vester Flanagan.) But certainly this isn’t just a feature of our modern age. So what is?

Guns and bombs. Never before has such powerful destruction been so easily obtained by an individual.

Hopelessness. There really seems today to be an unusual amount of this worldwide.

Anger. Today we worship and encourage anger like never before.

Hopelessness curls the finger around the trigger. Anger pulls it.

All three are needed for the tragedy. We gotta work on them all, and quick.

Freedoms Crumbling

Freedoms Crumbling

VaderPilatoNo wonder that stability may trump Africa’s expanding democracies. Just look at Mosul or the Boko Haram held areas of Nigeria.

Today a popular rap singer was arraigned by a Lusaka magistrate for “defaming the president” of Zambia even though such a specific law doesn’t exist.

Pilato’s rap depicts the president as an oaf who spends much of his time drinking.

Pilato is very popular, very political and shows a definite sophistication of complex issues. This rap, for example, berates a political merger between two previously antagonistic political parties.

But the hook which gave his rap such a wide audience was the accusation of drunkenness. Drunken old men in rural Africa are the bane of their families, a condition closely associated with dementia.

It’s understood that age and dementia are not willful situations but nonetheless divine the good old men from the bad old men: prosecutor, judge and jury be damned.

So prosecutor, judge and jury respond, waging their own powers in equally questionable ways. A judge arraigned Pilato, today, but who knows for what. A prosecutor will now have to trump up charges, and a jury may assert its legitimacy by adjudicating violations of nonexistent laws.

From my untrained ears, Pilato doesn’t seem to be a specially powerful artist. Acting as if he’s a threat to society, makes him one and only because of that.

Last week at the inauguration of the new president in Nigeria, local journalists so accosted President Mugabe of Zimbabwe that his office later called them Boko Haram.

The video of the SaharaReporters’ encounter is particularly illustrative.

In my view, the so-called journalists were offensive. I’m hardly a supporter of Mugabe, who I consider one of the most devilish leaders Africa has ever seen.

I believe there are times when journalism should work with politics. I remain a devotee of Angela Davis and Herbert Marcuse. But this incident in Nigeria is not one of them.

These reporters had little interest beyond making headlines of themselves. “There is no democracy in Zimbabwe!” the woman journalist yells after persistently being unable to get Mugabe to answer her question, “Is there democracy in Zimbabwe?”

So with Pilato, no there’s not “too much” freedom of speech. But with the Nigerian journalists, yes they exercised “too much” freedom of speech.

There are ignorant rich, and there are ignorant poor, and technology is thrusting them backwards into the age old irresolvable battles between religions and tribes.

Neither side understands the facts, yet the IT technologies of iPads and iPhones present them constantly with situations requiring immediate reactions.

There is a reason that ISIS bans most technology. It wants to control the culture and the first step in controlling anything is to neutralize or pacify it. Many in Mosul as in the Boko Haram areas of Nigeria actually prefer such pacification to confrontation. My father did.

Democracy doesn’t exist without confrontation. Open societies need it. But when it reaches the level that technology brings it to, today, it’s like fusion. It expands under its own power and becomes uncontrollable and unpredictable.

When confrontation is such that it provokes a yearning for less freedom than more, when stability becomes society’s first priority, Darth Vader arises again.

Excessive Force

Excessive Force

RangersGunManyaraNot just in Dallas or Cleveland, “Excessive Force” is a top news story in Tanzania where four Lake Manyara park rangers were arrested last week.

The rangers got into a confrontation with herders bringing cattle into the park, which is illegal.

The rangers tried to impound the cattle for trespassing on national park lands, then claimed that up to 30 villagers attacked them with traditional weapons provoking them to fire modern weapons in self-defense.

Several villagers were wounded, and one 34-year old man was killed.

Only the Arusha police commissioner issued any statement and that simply that four of the rangers were arrested for using excessive force. Tanzania national park authorities issued no comments.

East African media, though, unlike here at home was reluctant to publish the story. One of Tanzania’s smaller, independent newspapers published it only on its on-line edition, which when I checked this morning had received less than 400 views.

The reporter discovering the story, Hazla Quire, resorted to filing his news through friends on Facebook: John Mrosso: June 6 posting.

By the end of last week only the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, had picked up the story and distributed it in East Africa but notably not in China.

Incursions by local herders into national park lands are increasing throughout Tanzania as the competition for good grazing increases. It’s particularly stressful during times of drought.

I was in this remote part of Lake Manyara National Park in April, and we saw several small herds of cattle in the deep forests just after the park gate about 10k west of &Beyond’s Tree Lodge.

The private lands leading up to the gate are relatively prosperous by village standards in East Africa. Densely populated the farms here produce several types of grain and a lot of rice irrigated by waters related to Lake Manyara.

But there had been an intense although short drought in February. I think the rice was doing OK but the grains were stunted. Heavy rains had just begun and several farmers were trying to plant all over again, their normally planted first-of-the-year crops lost.

Herders were suffering more, because it takes only a few weeks of drought before all available private grassland is grazed out. As this happens more and more with climate change, grassland rejuvenation is trumped by the erosion that occurs with the first rain.

Whereas inside the national park wild animals have achieved a balance with the grassland that is more resilient to a drought. It takes only a few days of rain and the grasslands inside a national park begin to rejuvenate.

East African park rangers are among the better educated, better paid security forces in the country. Consider that regular police often miss paycheck after paycheck. This isn’t the case with park rangers who are heavily subsidized by foreign NGOs.

They are also well armed and otherwise well equipped and well trained. Like police here at home, their actions are being captured on mobile devices and provoke the debate over “excessive force.”

This is not a debate about the issues of the confrontations. I, for one, believe that much of Africa’s wondrous wilderness is protected for us rich foreigners with very little benefit to the local population, and that’s a massively important debate.

As is why Baltimore’s waterfront has received so much money for development but little more than one CVS store has been built in west Baltimore.

But those are not the issues at hand: the police have been given a job however morally compromised: it’s their sworn vocation.

I think they used far too much force in many of the incidents surfacing recently in America. But what about in Tanzania last week in Manyara?

In a less developed society where arrest is often tantamount to conviction, one would naturally surmise that the four rangers were guilty of the use of excessive force, but not necessarily.

Arresting the rangers was likely the only way to defuse the volatile situation. I think it highly unlikely that anything further will come of this.

What is now more unclear than ever is whether more cattle will intrude the remote western forests of Lake Manyara.

Listen to Africa

Listen to Africa

notpropagandaAfrican critics are condemning the Oscars for validating American Sniper, which they charge is little more than propaganda.

Calling it a “highly dangerous and simplistic film,” respected Kenyan author Rasna Warah claimed this morning that American Sniper will reenforce the lies that many Americans believe regarding the Iraq War.

Popular South African movie critic, tha-bang, called the movie Clint Eastwood’s “biggest propaganda film ever.”

Warning her African readers that “though it may be hard to believe,” Warah explained that many Americans still think Saddam Hussein was involved with the Twin Towers bombing and that he harbored weapons of mass destruction.

Kenyans were drawn into this controversy, because director Clint Eastwood used documentary footage of the bombing of the Kenyan Embassy (in 1998) as part of sniper Chris Kyle’s motivation to become a Navy Seal and go into combat.

There is of course no connection whatever between those who organized and blew up the Kenyan embassy and those who were later fighting in Iraq.

“The fact that the weapons of mass destruction lie is so conveniently skipped in this movie as the rationale for the invasion of Iraq instead of the Twin Towers, just shows what kind of film this is,” tha-bang concludes angrily.

“The film has not only angered Arabs but fueled anti-Muslim sentiments,” Wasna warns.

Warah knows her stuff: she’s a Kenyan expert on African terrorism. Her books include “War Crimes” and “Mogadishu Then and Now,” two essential reads for persons interested in understanding Somalia.

I think we need to heed these voices, and of course critics of American Sniper for being propaganda are not confined just to Africa. There have been many similar critiques here at home and from respected critics abroad.

The better a production a movie is, the more dangerous it becomes if its message is unreal or untruthful.

American Sniper carries a message which is a lie, “American avengers are honest souls.”

They are not. American soldiers were no less tricked than me or you into thinking what they were doing was right.

It was wrong, and the film pulls that reality back into the fictionalized grandeur of a nonexistent America.

So whether or not the acting is superb, or the cinematography is near perfect, or the music splendid and dramatic, a message … which is a lie … is carried into the watcher.

We pride ourselves in America for allowing any voice short of one untruthfully screaming “fire” to enter our collective consciousness.

But if critics here at home condemn Obama because he won’t say “Islamic terrorist” then they better endorse Warah and tha-bang, too, for condemning Eastwood for not just rehashing but promulgating the biggest lies of my lifetime.