War Crimes 'R Us!

SOURCE: Andy Parx (andyparx@yahoo.com)
SUBHEAD: Anatomy of a Murder - How the US and NATO have killed Qaddafi family members.

 [Andy Parx note: We were going to re-post our traditional column regarding the traditional sickness of celebrating war and death on this day, as we did last year in "Baloney Hero, Hold The Mustard Gas". But somehow with the Obama regime's abandonment of all pretense that American war criminality is a thing of the past, the following "dispatch" from Tripoli, penned by former Georgia Congresswoman and 2010 Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney, seemed far more appropriate.]  

By Cynthia McKinny on 29 May 2011 for InfoWars -  

Image above: Aftermath of attack that killed Qaddafi's youngest son in Tripoli. From (http://www.ongo.com/v/848062/-1/B92D5C34B3142DF6/british-italian-embassies-attacked-in-tripoli-following-nato-airstrike).

How many times must a parent bury a child? Well, in the case of Muammar Qaddafi it's not only twice: once for his daughter, murdered by the United States bombing on his home in 1986, and again on 30 April 2011 when his youngest son, Saif al Arab, but yet again for three young children, grandbabies of Muammar Qaddafi killed along with Saif at the family home.

Now, I watched Cindy Sheehan as she bared her soul before us in her grief; I cried when Cindy cried. Now, how must Qaddafi and his wife feel? And the people of Libya, parents of all the nation's children gone too soon. I don't even want to imagine.

All my mother could say in astonishment was, "They killed the babies, they killed his grandbabies." The news reports, however, didn't last more than one half of a news cycle because on 1 May, at a hastily assembled press conference, President Obama announced the murder of Osama bin Laden.

Well, I haven't forgotten my empathy for Cindy Sheehan; I haven't forgotten my concern for the children of Iraq that Madeleine Albright said were OK to kill by U.S. sanctions if U.S. geopolitical goals were achieved. I care about the children of Palestine who throw stones at Israeli soldiers and get laser-guided bullets to their brains in return.

I care about the people of North Africa and West Asia who are ready to risk their lives for freedom. In fact, I care about all of the children--from Appalachia to the Cancer Alley, from New York City to San Diego, and everywhere in-between. On 22 May 2011, I had the opportunity to visit the residence of the Qaddafi family, bombed to smithereens by NATO.

For a leader, the house seemed small in comparison, say, to the former Clinton family home in Chappaqua or the Obama family home. It was a small whitewashed suburban type house in a typical residential area in metropolitan Tripoli. It was surrounded by dozens of other family homes. I spoke with a neighbor who described how three separate smart bombs hit the home and exploded, another one not exploding.

According to the BBC, the NATO military operations chief stated that a "command and control center" had been hit. That is a lie. As anyone who visits the home can see, this home had nothing to do with NATO's war. The strike against this home had everything to do with NATO adopting a policy of targeted assassination and extra-judicial killing--clearly illegal.

The neighbor said he found Saif Al-Arab in his bedroom underneath rubble; the three young grandchildren were in a different room and they were shredded to pieces. He told of how he picked up as many pieces as he possibly could. He told us that there are still pieces there that he could not get. He asked us to note the smell--not the putrid smell of rotting flesh, but a sweet smell. I did smell it and thought there was an air freshener nearby. It smelled to me of roses. He asked me why this was done and who was going to hold NATO accountable. Muammar Qaddafi was at the house.

But he was outside near where the animals are kept. It is a miracle that he survived. From the looks of that house and the small guest house beside it, the strike was a complete success if the goal was to totally and thoroughly demolish the structure and everything inside it. NATO wants us to believe that toys, items and clothing, an opened Holy Koran, and a soccer board game are the appointments found in military command and control offices. I wonder if we could find such articles in NATO's office in Brussels.

 The opened Holy Koran seemed to be frozen in time. In fact, there was a clock dangling from its cord--dangling in space. And indeed, for the four young people in that house at the time of NATO's attack, time had stopped. The concussion from the bombs were so great that eery tile on the walls and floors of the home had been knocked from the walls.

Black burn marks scorched the walls. The force broke a marble or granite countertop. The bathtub was literally split into two parts. Shards of the bomb were everywhere. I wondered if the place was now contaminated with depleted uranium.

The Qaddafi home is a crime scene--a murder scene. The United States prisons are full of men and women who are innocent--even on death row. I wonder where the guilty who are never prosecuted go. Now, if the International Court of Justice were really a repository of justice, it would be investigating this crime. Instead, it is looking for yet another African to prosecute.

We in the United States are familiar with this: on our local news every night, we are saturated with photos of Black and Brown criminals with the implication being that White people don't commit crime. The moment the face of someone arrested is not shown, then we know that the culprit is White. It's the unwritten code that we people of color all live by wherever in the world we might happen to be.

Global apartheid is alive and well and exists on many levels. I left the house sick in my heart. As I was about to depart, the neighbor begged me, asked me over and over again, why had this happened? What had they done to deserve this? He seemed to not want me to leave.

Honestly, I think I was his little piece of America, his little piece of President Obama and I could help him to understand why this course of action was necessary from my President's point of view. He said NATO should just leave them alone and let them sort out their problems on their own.

I did leave his presence, but that man's face will never leave me. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." In response to my previous article, "NATO, A Feast of Blood," I received the following quite about Buddha from Shiva Shankar who excerpted Walpola Rahula's "What The Buddha Taught:" "...

The Buddha not only taught non-violence and peace, but he even went to the field of battle itself and intervened personally, and prevented war, as in the case of the dispute between the Sakyas and the Koliyas, who were prepared to fight over the question of the waters of the Rohini. And his words once prevented King Ajatasattu from attacking the kingdom of the Vajjis. ... ...

Here is a lesson for the world today. The ruler of an empire publicly turning his back on war and violence and embraced the message of peace and non-violence. There is no historical evidence to show that any neighbouring king took advantage of Asoka's piety to attack him militarily, or that there was any revolt or rebellion within his empire during his lifetime.

On the contrary there was peace throughout the land, and even countries outside his empire seem to have accepted his benign leadership. ..." Please don't allow special interest press and war mongering gatekeepers of the left to blot out the tragedy unfolding in Libya. Please don't allow them to take away our chance to live in peace throughout our land and with countries inside and outside our hemisphere.

Congress should vote to end NATO's action in Libya and barring that should assert its Constitutional prerogatives and require the President to come to it for authorization of this war. And then, Congress should heed the wisdom of the people of our country who are against this war and vote for peace.

Baloney Hero - Hold the Mustard Gas
By Andy Parx on 31 May 2011 for Parx News Daily - 

It’s easy to lambaste war. It’s harder to cut to the chase and hold those who fight responsible for their actions- especially if they died doing so. Nevertheless we’ve felt compelled to be critical of those who glorify the actions of those who died in war. They serve to perpetuate the insanity of war by telling children that it’s ok to pick up guns and kill by promising remembrance and honor for their dishonorable acts.

Two years ago- to much criticism- we condemned the very concept of Memorial Day for glorifying what should be shame and doing it to bamboozle impressionable children into thinking that there is some kind of honor in murder.

We are re-running our May 2008 piece today in hopes that young people won’t fall for all the “dead hero” propaganda being perpetrated today by their elders many of whom have inexplicably been holding back in condemning the current war-monger-in-chief with the same vigor they displayed during the reign of the previous one just because he’s “our” war criminal.


It’s dead soldier day again. People are honoring those who took the lives of others for no reason other than that they were young and stupid and were told to do so by demented old men who sought to plunder, rape and pillage. Not us.

Today we honor the veterans of anti-war movements throughout history. In our lifetime every war in which our country has engaged has been an invasive, imperialistic debacle waged at the behest of profiteers and in the name of raw power.

And the one thing they have in common is that when we all “wake up” afterward we are left with a generation of cripples- both physical and mental- and a bunch of tombstones. Every dead soldier died in vain. There never was a noble cause or even a valid one. The soldiers died protecting nothing but greed and avarice.

 The notion that soldiers protected our right to say this is ludicrous. Every war has been accompanied by a diminution of our constitutional rights. Those that fought against the war are the ones who kept free speech alive in the face of depraved and often felonious attempts of the war mongers to stifle it.

Only a true coward kills because they are told to do so. But there have been a few truly courageous young men and women that have been there to say no- we will not go and kill for your plunder. We will not demonize and dehumanize to enable those without the guts to stand up and say no to that which they know to be wrong to pull a trigger and delay the remorse until they get home- if they get home. Recently someone we know wrote of how he was duped into fighting in Viet Nam- the most common of all excuses for homecoming soldiers for why they went and “fought for their country”.

He claimed he had no way of knowing that fighting against communism, domino theories and the Asian menace wasn’t the right thing to do because “no one told me”. Bullcrap- you just weren’t listening. The writer claimed that there weren’t even any real anti-war activates until 1967 when the fact is that there were major anti-war demonstrations in all major cities in 1965 and many going back to 1961... and some earlier.

 No one can tell us it wasn’t a choice made. If by the time you were 18 you hadn’t heard people say that sending young people to die for the demented politics and overflowing wallets of so-called “leaders” you just weren’t listening... to us or even Republican Ike when he spoke of the danger of the military-industrial complex.

Starting in 1965 when this mangy mutt was but a 13 year old pup, many afternoons were spent at the American Friends’ Service committee offices advising young men on how to get out of the draft.

In those days you had two choices- kill or go to jail unless you could show your particular religious upbringing forbade you from fighting and killing in a war. And you had to have a note from your religious leader stating this was true and you, uniquely and individually, were a conscientious objector... in which case you still had to serve the war effort, they just didn’t give you a gun but instead a bed pan.

But there was a book called 4F that listed all of the physical anomalies and illnesses that would enable you to move your 1A designation - aka “cannon fodder”- to the medically excused 4F classification. This draft-counseling dingo-coyote never lost a client. College deferments were very popular. But if frat life wasn’t your cup o’ tea and you couldn’t find a physical deferment on your own, we’d find one for you- or even make one up.

And if that was too hard in those days they “asked” and the right answer could get you out. If all else failed it was the old licking-the-peanut-butter-off-your-butt-in-front-of-the-sergeant dodge or a similarly bizarre act... we even held rehearsals. And there was always Canada where AFSC had a network set up to welcome you and find you a place to live and even a job.

But you’d be surprised at how many honest kids there were who wanted out of the draft. So finally, along with a fellow draft-counselor who himself was approaching draft age, we wrote and filed the first successful “conscientious objector” filing for someone without a religious background. And we couldn’t help but notice what was going on in the next office where the walking wounded coming back from the war congregated to bemoan their prior fate. They didn’t always show physical scars.

The trick was to allow them to use their mental anguish to express their anger at a system that had robbed them of their youth, health and integrity. They organized against the nonsense and told others- like the ones who really didn’t know any better- why despite what their parents and the politicians told them there was no “just cause” or “noble service”, just the depraved ravings of lunatics and fearful little minds who waged war for peace, forced servitude for justice, imprisoned for freedom and killed for life.

We say this not to just tell a story but to show that like most, it was nobody’s fault if you were ignorant in the early 60’s but had a revelation in 1969 just as it was if you believed the 2003 lies and finally had a revelation in 2006 or 2007. If a 13-year-old knew better, why didn’t you? They say it’s different now that the draft has been temporarily suspended- even though it is still mandatory to register- but the rhetoric remains the same.

 Returning Iraq vets still say “you never told us they were lying before the war. All of us believed the lies.” Bullcrap. Millions screamed from the rooftops about blood for oil and a lying maniac and his butchers in the White House and serving in Congress. You just didn’t listen.

Meanwhile some obviously tortured souls now, as then, continue to want us to actually honor those that should have known better... and in many cases did but signed up anyway. Some may say we are being cruel to those who lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and fathers and mothers.

But the real cruelty is that the Dead Soldier Day rhetoric gives aggrieved people a lie to believe in to fool and delude themselves and eventually to tell to their kids and grandkids fooling generations into thinking that it is, was or will ever be in any way an honorable thing to be a soldier- alive or dead. It is not that all those that grieve on Memorial Day are perpetuating the myths Cindy Sheehan grieves for her son Casey.

But as to those that must accept and repeat the lies to rationalize the waste of their dead relatives’ lives it is even sadder still to see them cling to the notion that their kin did not die in vain and served and died honorably. For that they should be ashamed of themselves because by perpetuating that myth they prospectively kill again. They’ve now become the ones the kids wrongly believe before marching off to kill someone else they never met.

And so we honor those who did not serve, those who tried to warn others, those that resisted the draft and later those that didn’t fall for the “army with the condos” scam, those who didn’t sell their soul for a college education, from those who were harassed beaten and jailed in Washington and Chicago in the 60’s to those harassed, beaten and jailed in NYC at the Republican Convention in 2004 to everyone who participated in every demonstration, organizing meeting, puppet show, pentagon levitating, and letter writing session in between.

Those are the honorable- those are the ones whose service to their country we should remember and honor today. Those who listened in the early 60’s- no matter what their age- had a lot to listen to....as do kids today, as will kids tomorrow. As long as people speak out, kids will see through the charade of honorable war and they won’t go and fight and kill and die for nothing.

We’ll leave you with three examples of the information available to those considering the murderous life from way back when- the first in some words written by a lady that lives down the street that were popular in 1965 about who’s really to blame, the second by a kid we saw at Gertie’s Folk City in ’61 who wrote words in 1964 about taking sides, the third by an unfortunate son who survived the 60’s to write again in 2007 telling us not to take it any more.
Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie
( “I wrote "Universal Soldier" in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It's about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all. Donovan had a hit with it in 1965.”)
He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you
And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way
And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls
But without him how would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier
and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war
With God on Our Side by Bob Dylan
Oh my name it is nothin' My age it means less
The country I come from Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there The laws to abide
And that land that I live in Has God on its side.
Oh the history books tell it They tell it so well
The cavalries charged The Indians fell The cavalries charged
The Indians died

Oh the country was young With God on its side.
Oh the Spanish-American War had its day
And the Civil War too Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting I never got straight
But I learned to accept it Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead When God's on your side.
When the Second World War Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.
But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

I Can't Take It No More
by John Fogerty

I Can't Take It No More
I Can't Take It No More
I'm sick and tired of your dirty little war
I Can't Take It No More

You know you lied about the casualties
You know you lied about the WMD's
You know you lied about the detainees
All over this world

Stop talking about staying the course
You keep a-beating that old dead horse
You know you lied about how we went to war
I Can't Take It No More
I can't take it
I can't take it

I bet you never saw the old school yard
I bet you never saw the national guard
Your daddy wrote a check and there you are
Another fortunate son
I can't take it no more
I can't take it no more

I'm sick and tired of your dirty little war
I can't take it no more
I can't take it no more
I can't take it no more
I'm sick and tired of your dirty little war
I can't take it no more

Dumb Question - Is it Legal?

SUBHEAD: Welcome to post-legal America. Time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and ask Do you really want to be this safe? By Tom Englehart on 30 May 2011 for TomDispatch.com - (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175398/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_welcome_to_post-legal_america/#more) Image above: Dirty Harry was a nice guy who followed a code of ethics. Compare and contrast. From (http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2009/11/blog-post.html).

Is the Libyan war legal? Was Bin Laden’s killing legal? Is it legal for the president of the United States to target an American citizen for assassination? Were those “enhanced interrogation techniques” legal? These are all questions raised in recent weeks. Each seems to call out for debate, for answers. Or does it?

Now, you couldn’t call me a legal scholar. I’ve never set foot inside a law school, and in 66 years only made it onto a single jury (dismissed before trial when the civil suit was settled out of court). Still, I feel at least as capable as any constitutional law professor of answering such questions.

My answer is this: they are irrelevant. Think of them as twentieth-century questions that don't begin to come to grips with twenty-first century American realities. In fact, think of them, and the very idea of a nation based on the rule of law, as a reflection of nostalgia for, or sentimentality about, a long-lost republic. At least in terms of what used to be called “foreign policy,” and more recently “national security,” the United States is now a post-legal society. (And you could certainly include in this mix the too-big-to-jail financial and corporate elite.)

It’s easy enough to explain what I mean. If, in a country theoretically organized under the rule of law, wrongdoers are never brought to justice and nobody is held accountable for possibly serious crimes, then you don’t have to be a constitutional law professor to know that its citizens actually exist in a post-legal state. If so, “Is it legal?” is the wrong question to be asking, even if we have yet to discover the right one.

Pretzeled Definitions of Torture

Of course, when it came to a range of potential Bush-era crimes -- the use of torture, the running of offshore “black sites,” the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects to lands where they would be tortured, illegal domestic spying and wiretapping, and the launching of wars of aggression -- it’s hardly news that no one of the slightest significance has ever been brought to justice. On taking office, President Obama offered a clear formula for dealing with this issue. He insisted that Americans should “look forward, not backward” and turn the page on the whole period, and then set his Justice Department to work on other matters. But honestly, did anyone anywhere ever doubt that no Bush-era official would be brought to trial here for such potential crimes?

Everyone knows that in the United States if you’re a robber caught breaking into someone’s house, you’ll be brought to trial, but if you’re caught breaking into someone else’s country, you’ll be free to take to the lecture circuit, write your memoirs, or become a university professor.

Of all the “debates” over legality in the Bush and Obama years, the torture debate has perhaps been the most interesting, and in some ways, the most realistic. After 9/11, the Bush administration quickly turned to a crew of hand-picked Justice Department lawyers to create the necessary rationale for what its officials most wanted to do -- in their quaint phrase, “take the gloves off.” And those lawyers responded with a set of pseudo-legalisms that put various methods of “information extraction” beyond the powers of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N.’s Convention Against Torture (signed by President Ronald Reagan and ratified by the Senate), and domestic anti-torture legislation, including the War Crimes Act of 1996 (passed by a Republican Congress).

In the process, they created infamously pretzled new definitions for acts previously accepted as torture. Among other things, they essentially left the definition of whether an act was torture or not to the torturer (that is, to what he believed he was doing at the time). In the process, acts that had historically been considered torture became “enhanced interrogation techniques.” An example would be waterboarding, which had once been bluntly known as “the water torture” or “the water cure” and whose perpetrators had, in the past, been successfully prosecuted in American military and civil courts. Such techniques were signed off on after first reportedly being “demonstrated” in the White House to an array of top officials, including the vice-president, the national security adviser, the attorney general, and the secretary of state.

In the U.S. (and here was the realism of the debate that followed), the very issue of legality fell away almost instantly. Newspapers rapidly replaced the word “torture” -- when applied to what American interrogators did -- with the term “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which was widely accepted as less controversial and more objective. At the same time, the issue of the legality of such techniques was superseded by a fierce national debate over their efficacy. It has lasted to this day and returned with a bang with the bin Laden killing.

Nothing better illustrates the nature of our post-legal society. Anti-torture laws were on the books in this country. If legality had truly mattered, it would have been beside the point whether torture was an effective way to produce “actionable intelligence” and so prepare the way for the killing of a bin Laden.

By analogy, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that robbing banks can be a successful and profitable way to make a living, but who would agree that a successful bank robber hadn’t committed an act as worthy of prosecution as an unsuccessful one caught on the spot? Efficacy wouldn’t matter in a society whose central value was the rule of law. In a post-legal society in which the ultimate value espoused is the safety and protection a national security state can offer you, it means the world.

As if to make the point, the Supreme Court recently offered a post-legal ruling for our moment: it declined to review a lower court ruling that blocked a case in which five men, who had experienced extraordinary rendition (a fancy globalized version of kidnapping) and been turned over to torturing regimes elsewhere by the CIA, tried to get their day in court. No such luck. The Obama administration claimed (as had the Bush administration before it) that simply bringing such a case to court would imperil national security (that is, state secrets) -- and won. As Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case, summed matters up, "To date, every victim of the Bush administration's torture regime has been denied his day in court."

To put it another way, every CIA torturer, all those involved in acts of rendition, and all the officials who okayed such acts, as well as the lawyers who put their stamp of approval on them, are free to continue their lives untouched. Recently, the Obama administration even went to court to “prevent a lawyer for a former CIA officer convicted in Italy in the kidnapping of a radical Muslim cleric from privately sharing classified information about the case with a Federal District Court judge.” (Yes, Virginia, elsewhere in the world a few Americans have been tried in absentia for Bush-era crimes.) In response, wrote Scott Shane of the New York Times, the judge “pronounced herself ‘literally speechless.’”

The realities of our moment are simple enough: other than abusers too low-level (see England, Lynndie and Graner, Charles) to matter to our national security state, no one in the CIA, and certainly no official of any sort, is going to be prosecuted for the possible crimes Americans committed in the Bush years in pursuit of the Global War on Terror.

On Not Blowing Whistles

It’s beyond symbolic, then, that only one figure from the national security world seems to remain in the “legal” crosshairs: the whistle-blower. If, as the president of the United States, you sign off on a system of warrantless surveillance of Americans -- the sort that not so long ago was against the law in this country -- or if you happen to run a giant telecom company and go along with that system by opening your facilities to government snoops, or if you run the National Security Agency or are an official in it overseeing the kind of data mining and intelligence gathering that goes with such a program, then -- as recent years have made clear -- you are above the law.

If, however, you happen to be an NSA employee who feels that the agency has overstepped the bounds of legality in its dealings with Americans, that it is moving in Orwellian directions, and that it should be exposed, and if you offer even unclassified information to a newspaper reporter, as was the case with Thomas Drake, be afraid, be very afraid. You may be prosecuted by the Bush and then Obama Justice Departments, and threatened with 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act (not for “espionage,” but for having divulged the most minor of low-grade state secrets in a world in which, increasingly, everything having to do with the state is becoming a secret).

If you are a CIA employee who tortured no one but may have given information damaging to the reputation of the national security state -- in this case about a botched effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program -- to a journalist, watch out. You are likely, as in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, to find yourself in a court of law. And if you happen to be a journalist like James Risen who may have received that information, you are likely to be hit by a Justice Department subpoena attempting to force you to reveal your source, under threat of imprisonment for contempt of court.

If you are a private in the U.S. military with access to a computer with low-level classified material from the Pentagon’s wars and the State Department’s activities on it, if you’ve seen something of the grim reality of what the national security state looks like when superimposed on Iraq, and if you decide to shine some light on that world, as Bradley Manning did, they’ll toss you into prison and throw away the key. You’ll be accused of having “blood on your hands” and tried, again under the Espionage Act, by those who actually have blood on their hands and are beyond all accountability.

When it comes to acts of state today, there is only one law: don’t pull up the curtain on the doings of any aspect of our spreading National Security Complex or the imperial executive that goes with it. As CIA Director Leon Panetta put it in addressing his employees over leaks about the operation to kill bin Laden, “Disclosure of classified information to anyone not cleared for it -- reporters, friends, colleagues in the private sector or other agencies, former Agency officers -- does tremendous damage to our work. At worst, leaks endanger lives... Unauthorized disclosure of those details not only violates the law, it seriously undermines our capability to do our job."

And when someone in Congress actually moves to preserve some aspect of older notions of American privacy (versus American secrecy), as Senator Rand Paul did recently in reference to the Patriot Act, he is promptly smeared as potentially “giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected."

Enhanced Legal Techniques

Here is the reality of post-legal America: since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Security Complex has engorged itself on American fears and grown at a remarkable pace. According to Top Secret America, a Washington Post series written in mid-2010, 854,000 people have “top secret” security clearances, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001... 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks... [and] some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.”

Just stop a moment to take that in. And then let this sink in as well: whatever any one of those employees does inside that national security world, no matter how “illegal” the act, it’s a double-your-money bet that he or she will never be prosecuted for it (unless it happens to involve letting Americans know something about just how they are being “protected”).

Consider what it means to have a U.S. Intelligence Community (as it likes to call itself) made up of 17 different agencies and organizations, a total that doesn’t even include all the smaller intelligence offices in the National Security Complex, which for almost 10 years proved incapable of locating its global enemy number one. Yet, as everyone now agrees, that man was living in something like plain sight, exchanging messages with and seeing colleagues in a military and resort town near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. And what does it mean that, when he was finally killed, it was celebrated as a vast intelligence victory?

The Intelligence Community with its $80 billion-plus budget, the National Security Complex, including the Pentagon and that post-9/11 creation, the Department of Homeland Security, with its $1.2 trillion-plus budget, and the imperial executive have thrived in these years. They have all expanded their powers and prerogatives based largely on the claim that they are protecting the American people from potential harm from terrorists out to destroy our world.

Above all, however, they seem to have honed a single skill: the ability to protect themselves, as well as the lobbyists and corporate entities that feed off them. They have increased their funds and powers, even as they enveloped their institutions in a penumbra of secrecy. The power of this complex of institutions is still on the rise, even as the power and wealth of the country it protects is visibly in decline.

Now, consider again the question “Is it legal?” When it comes to any act of the National Security Complex, it’s obviously inapplicable in a land where the rule of law no longer applies to everyone. If you are a ordinary citizen, of course, it applies to you, but not if you are part of the state apparatus that officially protects you. The institutional momentum behind this development is simple enough to demonstrate: it hardly mattered that, after George W. Bush took off those gloves, the next president elected was a former constitutional law professor.

Think of the National Security Complex as the King George of the present moment. In the areas that matter to that complex, Congress has ever less power and, as in the case of the war in Libya or the Patriot Act, is ever more ready to cede what power it has left.

So democracy? The people’s representatives? How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, almost religious attitude toward security and the U.S. military.

The National Security Complex has access to us, to our lives and communications, though we have next to no access to it. It has, in reserve, those enhanced interrogation techniques and when trouble looms, a set of what might be called enhanced legal techniques as well. It has the ability to make war at will (or whim). It has a growing post-9/11 secret army cocooned inside the military: 20,000 or more troops in special operations outfits like the SEAL team that took down bin Laden, also enveloped in secrecy. In addition, it has the CIA and a fleet of armed drone aircraft ready to conduct its wars and operations globally in semi-secrecy and without the permission or oversight of the American people or their representatives.

And war, of course, is the ultimate aphrodisiac for the powerful.

Theoretically, the National Security Complex exists only to protect you. Its every act is done in the name of making you safer, even if the idea of safety and protection doesn’t extend to your job, your foreclosed home, or aid in disastrous times.

Welcome to post-legal America. It's time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and start asking: Do you really want to be this “safe”?


Bring life to a transformative culture

SUBHEAD: Having to let go of the conveniences and advantages that money brings today will halt the separating of people from nature.

By Jan Lunberg on 26 May 2011 for Culture Change - 

Image above: Reborn in Nature. From (http://urbantitan.com/10-weird-new-years-resolutions/back-to-nature-www-cottelston-com/).

Why should people take action to improve society and the ecosystem, if collapse is imminent? Apart from ameliorating our present worsening conditions a tad (which is better than nothing), activism is vital for;
(a) practicing resistance and refusing bad deals,
(b) creating models of sustainability through honing our skills and establishing long lasting projects and communities, and
(c) maintaining both the traditional and newly established projects and communities, which will evolve rapidly through vigilance, trial and error, and above all, cooperation. 
Before we fret about how difficult a new society will be without the familiar order of the corporate state and top-down authoritarianism, it helps to recall what humans' natural state has been for the vast majority of our time on Earth:
Tribal and natural living are proven for efficiency and sustainability. Traditional, indigenous ways lasted thousands of years, as unique cultures proliferated. The diversity ranged from matriarchal to patriarchal, from ostentatious wealth (often shared, as in the Potlatch) to egalitarian communism, and from strict codes to fluid, loose guidelines to live by. Occurrences of violence and injustice were no doubt intolerable in places at times, so some members of a society would break away -- not a problem when population was low and there was room.
Modern rejection of the benefits of past tribal culture fails to admit that the environment wasn't despoiled by the pre-history ancients, as in water contaminated by non-biodegradable petrochemical toxins. Another complaint about pre-civilization is that its technological inferiority allegedly meant short life spans. But not only were non-civilized peoples healthier than moderns, it was the higher infant mortality of the distant past that, when averaged into adult life spans, brought down a population's apparent longevity.
Another public health concern is that the future will not offer highly energy-intensive, high-tech facilities for the masses, for saving the lives of the weak. The human race will be strengthened, painfully but surely, by the accelerated loss of so many premature babies and perhaps many Cesarian babies. Similarly, the elderly on life-support machines, and disabled, obese people on various pharmaceutical drugs may be absent post-collapse. This is not something to look forward to at all, for we must be compassionate. But being compassionate also means taking real trends seriously.

Having to let go of the conveniences and advantages that money brings today will halt the separating of people from nature. This is thoroughly objectionable to many who feel helpless or revel in techno-toys and convenient petroleum. Indeed, many believe that a car-free lifestyle is merely a choice for exercise nuts or eco-zealots. But when car-free living is the only choice -- very soon, perhaps -- and we have established alternative low-tech transport systems that work locally and across oceans, we will find that the traffic jams, the pollution, the crash fatalities and the urban sprawl are not missed.

There will be eco-cities if they are linked eco-villages, as sufficient farmland and wildlife habitat must provide almost all of the communities' needs. Sail transport can bring some distant products as well as art and visitors.

Detailed living outside the system
There have always been people living outside their original social systems. In the distant past it was a matter of choice or, in the case of outcasts, survival. But with the advent of totalitarian agriculture and the expansion of civilization that imperialistically took over all lands, individual rebels or misfits were of a different spirit and mentality than the masses.

The cultural or lifestyle rebels or misfits have always had ways of operating and sharing that assure survival and enjoyment of life. Some are just trying to be left alone while others are opponents of the system. Some attributes and practices of living outside the system are mainly money-saving, whether done individually (including by hermits) or communally (the very social). Some grow their skill sets in a determined fashion, while others thrive on the convivial and try to spread happiness. It should be noted that many people living outside the system are only succeeding to a degree, and they may not wish to adjust the degree.

The nuclear family in a suburb is least likely to live outside the system. Divide-and-conquer social trends aided the economy of expansion. Living as slaves, albeit wage slaves, participating in "the rat race," can be more or less tolerable depending on the psychological make-up of the worker and the level of material success. But when health is lost because of the (a) sedentary lifestyle, (b) the tainted water, food and air, and (c) Western medicine's petrochemical drugs that weaken the body, the freedom to shop and the self-gratification of sex no longer serve. At that point it may be deemed too late for someone to change lifestyle and live outside the system. But it is never too late to question one's past decisions influenced by conditioning, and embark on some measure of liberation.

Ironically, it is the system dwellers who are less community oriented than the nonconformists and rebels living outside the system. Indeed, living outside the system may primarily feature maximizing community. This is what communes achieve. For the word "communism" to be demonized when the root words are "common" and "community," we see the effects of propaganda and brainwashing. Capitalism separates those who manipulate the social means of production, and seize resources of the commons, from the "common" people with invisible yokes on their necks. A non-alternative is state socialism for industrial growth. It is merely another aspect of Western Civilization that fails to value pristine nature and the wild, untamed human spirit.

The DIY movement -- Do It Yourself -- is part of the anarchist movement. How DIY (and its counterpart "skill-share") can be criticized would take a twisted capitalist or totalitarian democrat, because what could be wrong with being resourceful and skilled? The strange trend of opting for unknown, distant expertise and products has happened alongside the loss of thrift. Thrift means saving and not wasting. But astronomical debt and an indebted lifestyle have served economic growth. And maximized spending meant more wealth for the elite. How so many non-elite folks fail to see this trap, this scam, points toward a tendency for the human to follow blindly and fail to recognize a relatively new threat. The corporate media assiduously ignore DIY, skill-share, and thrift, in favor of revving up consumption and fear.

Enough of generalities; here are specific behaviors and methods for living outside the system or subverting the system for local economic enhancement:
• Cultivate others who take pleasure in being self-reliant and preventing the system from cheating them of their natural energy. Mutual aid props us up and builds powerful relationships that are better than any amount of money.
• Have fun and be creative. Do so in such a way to pull the plug on one's dependency on the machinery of destruction and false gratification. For example, play music with people using acoustic instead of electric instruments. Go talk to a human being instead of using a cellphone or texting or using Facebook.
• Forget about time, and focus on the quality of the act. To travel to another continent by jet may be faster than sailing or going on land, but much is lost as well.
• Because the system has become heavily globalized as to trade -- with petroleum-powered, polluting transport -- local purchases are an act of independence and even rebellion. Lowering the miles that goods are transported fills one with satisfaction.
• Buying used items rather than new ones furthers the local economy even more. But, knowing the seller or the maker of an item gives a feeling of confidence while perhaps inspiring the learning of a skill.
• Defend Mother Nature. The system hates this, as it must feed on farmland and wildlife habitat that the system turns into asphalt, concrete or dead soil. Agribusiness fields are saturated with artificial fertilizers and pesticides, while farm equipment uses petroleum fuels. Boycotting GMO food and growing one's food are so natural they are acts of rebellion and lead to a sustainable culture.
• Live in Nature. Outdoor living does not have to be under a highway bridge. Being homeless can be easy compared to working. The image of constant camping, when one doesn't like it, can be horrible. But if you like camping and nature, it can be a good lifestyle. Having to pay for dental work, however, may not fit with low-income management or being utterly broke. The U.S. empire prefers not to offer socialized health care, so one often lives close to the edge.
• Become extra healthy and fit so as to lessen dependence on having to spend money on medicine, surgeries, and therapy. A healthier mind will result, making it easier to cope with the system of oppression that would force us to conform and pay for unneeded stuff.
• In the event of illness in old age, or in case an elder ought to but cannot live with his or her children, a new kind of elder care "insurance" could be offered by friends for each other. This is the Health Care Tribe concept that author Daniel Quinn told this writer was "Intriguing."
• Start a buying cooperative, or a commune, or tribe. A collective is another form of living in solidarity, depending on the span of activities. An affinity group can be formed by like-minded folk to carry out one or more actions that fight the non-community culture. The actions can have either a negative or positive emphasis; both can be educational and inspiring.
• Migration can save on hassles relating to weather and climate. For example, homeless people in Portland, Oregon can do alright when the weather is good, but in the fall they migrate south to mild climes. It gets harder to find a safe spot and find wild foods to forage when development steals healthy land and overpopulation crowds out those who wish to live simply.
• Dumpster diving and curbside collections are so satisfying when goods are available and taken for reuse. Why pay for what can be free?
• Paying no taxes through having a low income can reduce stress and give satisfaction that the military budget or road building are not being supported with one's funds (if such funds existed).
• Raising one's own children, instead of palming them off to strangers hired to exert crowd control and conditioning for the job market, is part of rejecting the system and breeding more resisters.
• Some live outside the system by preying upon it, as in thieving and defrauding. When this is utilized there may occur drift into unethical, antisocial behavior that hurts other people.
• Know other cultures. Outside the confines of the U.S. national security state and the reaches of the corporate state -- even in Mexico with its socioeconomically vicious WalMarts -- there is more social cohesion, love and support of family and friends, and less materialism.
• Prepare for collapse on all levels, so when it hits there is less confusion and you know what you and your collective, commune, tribe or affinity group need to do in any situation.
The overall result of taking such steps can appear to be only a mixed bag: sense of accomplishment while knowing not enough is being done; acting ahead of the curve so as to be a visionary but lacking in wide support; living the future now while foregoing the reward-system of being a slave or predator. Community is key, and can be created even though the present system discourages it. Community and love will outlast the system.

See also:
PART 1 of this essay Getting There: Awakening from the U.S. Delusion

Palin in Nazi Black Leather

SUBHEAD: As the sage Robert Crumb once remarked about our homeland: "You can't make this shit up." By James Kunstler on 30 May 2011 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2011/05/memorial-day-enter-hitler-release-20.html) Image above: From ().
Sarah Palin entered the race for president this week (without stating it in so many words) with a national bus tour, itself kicked off with a motorcycle parade through Washington.
By Philip Elliott, Associated Press - Sun May 29, 5:57 pm ET
Sarah Palin rumbled through Washington on the back of a Harley as she and her family began an East Coast tour Sunday, renewing speculation that the former Alaska governor would join the still unsettled Republican presidential contest.
Wearing a black leather jacket and surrounded by a throng of cheering fans, Palin and family members jumped on bikes and joined thousands of other motorcyclists on the Memorial Day weekend ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial....
"How do you wear all this leather and stay cool?" she asked one woman. Palin asked others to show off their tattoos as she took off her own leather jacket and worked her way through a crush of fans, photographers and reporters.
Adolf Hitler liked leather and crypto-military costumes, too, and the build-up to the Third Reich was all about colorful pageantry. Make no mistake - to borrow a favored presidential locution, if I may - Sarah Palin's campaign is all about shame, about being a nation of losers and feeling bad about it. Adolf Hitler's career was all about him feeling like a loser at a peculiar moment in history when his whole country felt like a loser nation. His feelings resonated with the crowd's. Germany had just lost the First World War. The victors (England, France, Great Britain) had imposed a harsh peace, including massive cash reparations. Germany was broke, demoralized, and humiliated. Hitler had fled to Germany from his own loser homeland, the fading empire of Austria, after a shiftless decade in Vienna of living in rented rooms and homeless men's shelters, having failed twice to get into the national arts college.
Image above: Hitler in black leather trench coat observes military assembly. From (http://onesixthnet.yuku.com/topic/2684/Hitler-leather-greatcoat-made-by-3R#.TePrqeb3E0g)
Hitler loved the First World War. It energized him. The German army was the first club he was comfortable being in. When the war was over, he stayed on the army's payroll as long as possible, even as he became active in Munich's post-war extremist politics. The emergent Nazi party was the second club he felt good being a member of. And it was in the years 1920 to 1923 that he discovered his theme: playing on Germans' feelings of humiliation and promising deliverance back to lost greatness.
This is exactly the theme of Sarah Palin's campaign. A large segment of the American public has entered the dark wilderness of loserdom. They've lost jobs, incomes, and even their homes. They can't support a family, can't afford to gas up their God-given cars, can hardly even afford to buy food - though many of this group have been programmed, tragically, to get much of their food from hamburger and taco dispensaries that "free market" America has generously dotted the landscape with. They are ashamed, especially living in a nation where liberty is supposed to enable you to get a leg up in the world, to be self-reliant, to make something of yourself. Hence, they imagine themselves to have somehow been deprived of liberty (and honor!) which they must now get back.
They have even lost their racial standing now that the role of president is occupied by a half-African man (who, they suspect, is not even a legitimate citizen, but rather an alien opportunist!). This is very hard for them to articulate, because racism is also something to be ashamed of, and they are already overwhelmed with shame - but nonetheless the old tribal-ethnic feelings dog them. So they express it in a convoluted way as the hobgoblin of "socialism" - the government lavishing money on people who don't deserve it.
But wait a minute. What money for whom?
  • Not people on Medicare ("keep your hands off my Medicare!").
  • Not people on Social Security ("ditto Social Security").
  • Not Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks ("ditto Free Market Capitalism").
  • Not the futility of endless war ("Support our troops!")
  • Not people on food stamps (over 40 million Americans)
  • Not people on extended unemployment (probably 16% in reality).
So, who's left? ("Do we have to say?")
So, the Sarah Palin campaign - and, make no mistake (I love that phrase!) it is a campaign - trafficks in code and buzzwords about the shame of being losers. Her bus tour rolls heavy under the rubric: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Recognize those phrases? They are from the national oath that we are all trained to recite in the first grade. Most of Sarah Palin's followers got through the first grade - and are proud of it. The phrase that really rings out, though, is "justice for all." For a nation of tattooed, hopelessly fat, angry people without jobs or incomes, filled with shame, this phrase resonates. How come no justice for us?
Hitler was more direct. From his emergence out of obscurity in the early 1920s, he made no bones about how come there was no justice for his followers: because it was stolen by the Jews, along with their honor and their greatness. Sarah Palin may never get as explicit, at least not without igniting some kind of new Civil War in the USA. So the bad feelings her followers nourish about being swindled out of their livelihoods and their honor are liable to be expressed indirectly and perversely. One avenue is the idea of "American Exceptionalism" that Palin is retailing to her followers. It is not unlike Hitler's idea that Germans were a "master race" who were different (exceptional) from other people (and ought to rule them).
I prefer to be direct. Sarah Palin represents a dangerous force in American culture that is startlingly similar to the grandiose hyper-patriotic militarism that Hitler brought to Germany during his rise to power. We have better things to do in this nation than go down some twisted path of vengeance-seeking in the name of lost glory. I hope that Sarah Palin's competitors on the right will stand up to her American fascist themes and call her out for what she is: a half-educated TV performer unqualified for high political office. The true shame of this country is that we have to take a clown like Sarah Palin seriously.

KIUC Special Meeting on FERC

SUBHEAD: KIUC standing by Free Flow Power agreement and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission participation.

 By Vanessa Van Voorhis on 28 May 2011 for Garden Island News -  

Image above: Deliverance. The Feds get involved with managing local Kauai streams. From (http://www.wallpaper.net.au/wallpapers-aviation1.php). Mashup by Juan Wilson
KIUC member meeting

8:30 a.m., Saturday, June 4th 2011

Kaua‘i Veterans Center, 3125 Kapule Hwy., Lihu‘e

KIUC management, board members and representatives of Free Flow Power

To answer questions about the co-op’s contract with Free Flow Power and the FERC process prior to member ballot dissemination on June 13

Concerns over a federal agency dictating water rights have prompted some residents to question a recent agreement between the island’s primary power provider and a private renewable energy company.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative members will have an opportunity Saturday morning to pose questions to co-op representatives regarding a contract with Free Flow Power to design small-scale hydroelectric facilities throughout the island.

The special member meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. at Kaua‘i Veterans Center in Lihu‘e. Free Flow representatives will also attend.

The meeting is in response to a petition generated by Adam Asquith, a local taro farmer and extension specialist for the University of Hawai‘i’s Sea Grant program.

Asquith has spoken out against Free Flow’s use of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permitting process as a method of developing hydroelectricity. He has argued that FERC, as a federal regulatory agency, could assert authority over and supersede state water-rights laws.

KIUC has argued that the FERC permitting process will protect the utility’s investment in exploring the feasibility of hydroelectricity on six Kaua‘i waterways.

The meeting will allow each member three minutes to ask questions and make comments. KIUC will in turn have three minutes to respond, KIUC spokeswoman Anne Barnes said. The format will be similar to its regular board meetings.

“It is our intention to keep responses as concise as possible,” she said.

“In the best of all worlds, we wouldn’t be so constrained,” Asquith said when asked if three minutes was enough to adequately address such numerous and complex issues surrounding the potential ramifications of FERC.

“We did a video tape that will come out on Ho‘ike and we’ll probably do a full-page ad in the paper at some point,” said Asquith, adding that he also plans to hand out a sheet of questions to members at the meeting. He said he is also working with KKCR to get a live stream broadcast of the meeting because he believes there are a lot of off-island people that will be interested in watching how things unfold.

As requested in the petition, KIUC must also distribute a ballot to co-op members asking them to vote on whether the utility should continue its contract with Free Flow.

“We are looking to drop ballots on June 13 and count on July 8 at noon,” Barnes said. “This is all pending until after the (Board of Directors) regular meeting on May 31.”

Asquith has repeatedly stated that it is not a question of whether the co-op should develop hydroelectricity. He said they should, but not in a way that jeopardizes farmers and wildlife.
Barnes said KIUC was attracted to Free Flow because it is the only proven developer of small hydropower in the U.S. It is a one-stop shop of a vast mix of consultants, she said, adding that the company is experienced in and committed to a deeply inclusive, thorough stakeholder engagement process.

Free Flow, a Massachusetts startup company created in 2007, has yet to develop a hydroelectric project; however, it has been successful at obtaining FERC preliminary permits for exclusive rights to explore hydro development at select locations for a period of three years.

To date, FERC has granted Free Flow three of its six preliminary permit requests for Kaua‘i. It has also granted Free Flow permits at dozens of sites along the lower Mississippi River.

KIUC has not yet fully explained whether Free Flow applied for permits for exclusive rights to some Kaua‘i waterways before contracting with the co-op.

“KIUC’s longtime investment banker, Bill Collet, introduced KIUC and FFP in late 2010,” Barnes said Friday. “The two organizations were already in talks about working together when FFP demonstrated its experience, capability and willingness to invest by doing the engineering and legwork to file for preliminary permits with FERC.”

She said Free Flow was attracted to KIUC because of its access to low-cost capital, its co-op culture and “its role in the legacy of hydropower developed in the last century.”

To date, KIUC has not developed hydroelectric power. It has tapped into the resources of existing hydropower facilities created before the co-op’s existence.

Water laws
Under the Federal Power Act, Congress gave a broad delegation of power to FERC, including jurisdiction over licensing, but reserved jurisdiction over water rights to states through a “savings clause,” according to a 2006 Foothills Water Network report.

However, the FPA does not require FERC applicants to submit evidence of compliance with state law regarding water use, the report said, and the FPA therefore divides jurisdiction between federal and state agencies.

A 1990 water-rights case — California vs. FERC, heard before the U.S. Supreme Court — ruled in favor of FERC. California argued a hydroelectric project did not allow for enough stream flow for trout. The court said trout do not have vested rights to the water, so FERC trumped the state’s law.
Honolulu attorney William Tam, co-author of Hawai‘i’s Water Code and recently appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie as deputy director of water at the Department of Land and Natural Resources, has said that Hawai‘i has some of America’s most stringent public-trust water laws, but they are badly understood and essentially ignored. He blames it partly on official mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

Recent History of FFP and FERC preliminary permit applications on Kauai:

Wailua River Hydroelectric Project
Filed: October 22, 2010
Issuance: March 2, 2011
Hanalei River Hydroelectric Project, 3.5 mgh
Filed: Nov. 11, 2010
Issuance: April 8, 2011
Makaweli River Hydroelectric Project
Filed: Nov. 15, 2010
Issuance: May 20, 2011
Kitano Water Power Project, 7.7 mgh
Filed: Oct. 22, 2010
Issuance: Pending
Wailua Reservoir Water Power Project
Filed: Feb. 28, 2011
Issuance: Pending

Kekaha Waimea Water Power Project
Filed: Feb. 28, 2011
Issuance: Pending
COMMENTS selected from TGI article:
mrb said on: May 29, 2011, 5:44 am
For KIUC to have entered into an MOA with FFP (which includes the FERC approach) is what the problem is all about. Hydroelectric delivery systems have existed here on Kauai for decades. What prior assessments were made about harnessing what there is and/or having additional privately-owned systems providing KIUC what it needs in its portfolio to provide a comparative cost analysis which could have been reviewed PRIOR to the MOA? With FFP being a company formed as recently as 2007 which has NO track record except to gather permits for studies, how is that advantageous to us, the rate-payers, who will have to pick up the tab for the 3 years of anticipated "study" which is now going to be an additional cost added to our monthly bills? How does the MOA reflect the membership's will if we have already expressed our concerns and disdain about this process at public meetings held in Waimea, Lihue, and Kilauea and through the petition which as been submitted? Hydro-yes! FERC - no!
AnonyMouse said on: May 29, 2011, 9:29 am
It's interesting to note that FERC only has jurisdiction over “navigable waters” which the Federal Power Act defines as "those parts of streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction under its authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and which either in their natural or improved condition notwithstanding interruptions between the navigable parts of such streams or waters by falls, shallows, or rapids compelling land carriage, are used or suitable for use for the transportation of persons or property in interstate or foreign commerce, including therein all such interrupting falls, shallows, or rapids, together with such other parts of streams as shall have been authorized by Congress for improvement by the United States or shall have been recommended to Congress for such improvement after investigation under its authority." http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/usc_sec_16_00000796----000-.html
truthislaw said on: May 29, 2011, 9:29 am
Check that recent sugar coated message that KIUC recently sent out; a lot of words that lull you into death by boredom BUT there is something revealed: Portfolio Investment Strategy...they don't need to follow through with the project when they can trade on the company at Kauai's expense but they still leave the damage behind such as FERC and NO other HYDRO project will be allowed on Kauai because they own the rights. It's like another mortgage scam. Check out their site where 2-3 weeks ago they had 3 people employed by the company, now they have over 2 dozen: http://www.free-flow-power.com/OurTeam.html
dakine said on: May 29, 2011, 11:46 am
We need hydropower...and PV, and biomass, and wind...if we're to achieve any semblance of self-sustainability. Of course, one can turn off the lights in the brain closet and not give a frak about self-sustainability, but that's another (and seemingly continuing) issue. What bothers me most about this situation is that KIUC is basically giving the store to a four-year old company that has yet to successfully build a project, but is top-heavy with "experts." The connection came from KIUC's investment banker, and that also has a sort of week-old fish aroma to it. Sorry...I support hydro and other alternative power development, but this has too many red flags flying.
truthislaw said on: May 29, 2011, 12:30 pm
Yes, investment and government "experts" not to mention FFP are former employees of the scandalized and corrupt UBS. Guess this really isn't about HYDRO but more about a new product to go public with. That new product would be Kauai's resources and Kauai's "Member owned Co-op". I notice KIUC's PR publications really downplay SOLAR. Who is David Bissel? He came here a few years ago and locked in.

Germany to Shutdown Nuke Plants

SUBHEAD: Germany's ruling coalition says that it has agreed to shut down of all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.

By Staff on 30 May 2011 for Reuters - 

Image above: In Berlin 200,000 demonstrate against nuclear power. From (http://www.vosizneias.com/79583/2011/03/26/berlin-200000-in-germany-protest-nuclear-power).
Germany will shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government agreed on Monday, in a reaction to Japan's Fukushima disaster that marks a drastic policy reversal.

As expected, the coalition wants to keep the eight oldest of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors permanently shut. Seven were closed temporarily in March, just after the earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima. One has been off the grid for years.

Another six would be taken offline by 2021, environment minister Norbert Roettgen said early on Monday after late-night talks in the chancellor's office between leaders of the centre-right coalition.

The remaining three reactors, Germany's newest, would stay open until 2022 as a safety buffer to ensure no disruption to power supply, he said.

Merkel backtracked in March on an unpopular decision just months earlier to extend the life of aging nuclear stations in Germany, where the majority of voters oppose atomic energy.

Her Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and junior coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP) met on Sunday after an ethics commission ended its deliberations this weekend.

"It's definite: the latest end for the last three nuclear power plants is 2022," Roettgen said after the meeting. "There will be no clause for revision."

Some politicians had wanted a clause allowing for the agreement to be revised in future. The FDP had wanted no firm date but rather a flexible window for the exit, plus the option of bringing back at least one of the seven oldest nuclear reactors in case of emergency.

The coalition agreed to keep one of the older reactors as a "cold reserve" for 2013 if the transition to renewable energies cannot meet winter demand and if fossil fuels do not suffice to make up for a potential shortfall.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in March crippled Japan's Fukushima plant, causing releases of radioactivity, sparking calls for tougher global safety measures and prompting some governments to reconsider their nuclear energy strategy.

The German decision still needs to go through parliament and leaders of the opposition Social Democrats and Greens were present at parts of the meeting to enable a broad consensus.

The decision could still face opposition from RWE, E.ON, Vattenfall and EnBW, the utility companies that run the 17 plants, mostly because of plans to keep a disputed nuclear fuel rod tax.

The coalition wants to retain the tax, which was expected to raise €2.3bn ($3.29bn) a year starting this year but so far has not been levied. With the immediate exit of eight plants it will raise less than envisaged.

Sources had said the government was mulling scrapping the tax in return for the four big power providers supporting an earlier exit from nuclear energy and not suing the government for its policy U-turn.

Juergen Grossmann, chief executive of the biggest power provider, RWE, has lobbied for nuclear plants to stay open longer, arguing a quick exit would cost energy-intensive industry dearly and could threaten Germany's industrial base.

Before Merkel shut down the oldest plants for three months, Germany got 23% of its power from nuclear plants.

Her about-turn has done little to regain her support but has drawn scorn from the opposition and from within her own party ranks. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against nuclear energy at the weekend across Germany.

Nuclear policy is heavily disputed in Germany and the issue has helped boost the Greens, who captured control of one of the CDU's stronghold states, Baden-Wuerttemberg, in an election in March.

Merkel's majority in the Bundesrat upper house vanished last year after the CDU failed to hold on to North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state. Losing Baden-Wuerttemberg, a vote held after Fukushima and fought in part over energy issues, dealt another blow to Merkel's authority.
[IB Editor's note: If Germany cannot meet its ambitious goal they may find themselves going to France and Poland for electricity that is generated by nuclear power plants.] .

Vietnam is our future

SUBHEAD: Where it’s not being used as space for concrete buildings, the whole country is being cleared and terraced to grow vegetables. By John Rember on 28 May 2011 for Nature Bats Last - (http://guymcpherson.com/2011/05/vietnam-is-our-future/) Image above: Rickshaws in the streets of Dalat, Vietnam, servicing tourists. From (http://www.vietnam-travel-and-food.com/traveldalat.html#dalatshopping). 1. In the fall of 2010, it’s still possible to buy two round-trip plane tickets from the west coast of the United States to Vietnam for two thousand dollars. Once there, it’s cheaper than staying home. A clean hotel room with a shower and toilet costs two people fifteen to twenty-five dollars and includes breakfast. Lunch can be locally-grown fruit, and it’s hard to eat a dollar’s worth. A lavish dinner for two costs ten dollars. Beer is cheap and good. Wine is expensive and not good.

Of course, a lot of times a beer sounds good with lunch. Beer doesn’t go with mangos or papaya or pineapples or bananas. It goes with curry, or a seafood hot-pot, or braised pork ribs, or prawns in tamarind sauce. Sometimes you get hungry near a tall hotel, with a rooftop restaurant where menu prices are in dollars, the tables have bouquets, and even the chairs wear tablecloths.

So you can spend money as if you were a rich American tourist. Even with Vietnamese inflation running at twelve percent in 2010, being a rich American in Vietnam isn’t nearly as expensive as being a rich American in Venice or London. But if you are a Vietnamese farmer, in the fall of 2010 you’re paying more for basic necessities such as food and fuel than you were in 2009, and a lot more than you were in 2008, because inflation in 2009 was twenty-four percent.

The reason for this inflation has been an invasion of foreign capital, some brought in by tourists, but most brought in by people building infrastructure for more tourists. Earlier rounds of inflation have come with the sweatshops and electronics factories built when the Vietnamese government opened its human resources to international capitalism.

The government doesn’t call it capitalism. They call it enhanced communism, and sure enough, the government takes a generous cut from the new factory builders and the new factory workers and anyone else who wants to invest in Vietnamese land or resources.

But tourism is regarded as the real cash cow. Neighboring Thailand has made an art form of tourism, building whole cities of hotels on islands that once held only rubber and coconut plantations. The Vietnamese are following their example. They too want eight-hundred-dollar hotel rooms and sex tourists and people who will order Armani suits from people not named Armani. They ignore signs that Thailand’s tourist industry has been overbuilt, with half-empty hotels lining its beaches even before the crash of 2008.

People hoping to get in on the ground floor of the Next Best Place are waving their money, and the government admits anyone with the price of admission. Vietnam is like Thailand, only its beaches aren’t as crowded with tourists. That’s a good thing, at least in the eyes of tourists, who can be a self-loathing species.

But not all tourists are looking for the perfect deserted beach, the most primitive trek, or the best curry dish in the world. Not all of them are looking for low-priced art or antiques. Not all of them are looking to lie drunk on a sun-drenched beach chair for two weeks. Some of them are looking for their youth, and in Vietnam, some of them can pinpoint the spot where they saw it last.

2. I didn’t take the first chance I had to go to Vietnam. That was in May of 1968, when I graduated from high school. Some of my classmates had joined the Marines that spring, and they went from commencement to boot camp. As a college student, I didn’t have to worry about going to war until my junior year, when a draft lottery was instituted.

The night of the lottery, my college roommate and I purchased a six-pack of Rolling Rock, a bag of Doritos, and two cans of bean dip. A party.

Our lives were tied to the numbers that were picked for us, but we didn’t understand that. We each opened a beer, scooped up gobs of bean dip with our Doritos, and turned on the radio. The lottery started. The second date called was my roommate’s birthday. His draft number was two. The party was over.

My roommate enlisted rather than be drafted into the infantry, and ended up going to language school and learning Japanese. He spent his war on Okinawa, eavesdropping on Japanese military communications. Once out of the Army, he became an auto mechanic in Philadelphia, probably the only auto mechanic in Philadelphia capable of reading Toyota shop manuals in their original language.

My own number was 117. Selective Service drafted to 113 that year.

Vietnam didn’t teach me Japanese, but it shaped me. It gave me a deep distrust of the powerful and demented old men of my government. It derailed my plans to go to law school and become wealthy and live in a gated subdivision and learn to play golf and eventually become one of those old men.

I couldn’t articulate those thoughts at eighteen, but I did sense that Vietnam pulled my life out of its ordained path and made it more alienated and thoughtful than it should have been. Though invisible, it was always there, always exerting a genetic influence. It was like discovering that you were adopted, and that your real parents were Vietnamese. Who knew?

3. Julie and I fly into Saigon from Boise on November 17, 2010. It’s a twenty-three hour trip. We are jet-lagged and confused.

We get ripped off right away by a taxi scam. It costs us thirty-five dollars to be delivered to the wrong hotel. It should have cost us ten to be delivered to the right one. It’s our first encounter with Vietnamese economic policy. It will remain in our minds during all subsequent transactions in Vietnam.

The good news is that over the next two months we will save far more than the twenty-five dollars we lose to the taxi-scammer. Paranoids make hard bargainers, and we refuse to be good-willed American tourists, free with our dollars and excited about mailing souvenirs home. Instead we look for the next person who might trick us and take our money. I take the lead in this matter, refusing offers for treks and tours and motorcycle taxi rides to the best hotel in town. “We’re not rich American tourists,” I say. “We’re poor American tourists.”

There is no way to translate “poor American tourist” into Vietnamese. American tourists get to Vietnam on jet planes, from a country that lets its citizens leave and then return. They have carbon footprints that Paul Bunyan can’t match. They have cards that pull wads of money from ATM machines.

When a poll was taken of young people in Southeast Asia, asking them what they most desired in life, the majority wanted an ATM card.

So we walk instead of ride around Saigon. We do not take a tour. For reasons of claustrophobia, we do not visit the Cu Chi tunnels, used to shelter a Viet Cong battalion during the war. We consult the guidebook and walk around our crowded neighborhood. We visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the war rooms under the presidential palace of the defunct Republic of South Vietnam. We find some good restaurants and once, an air-conditioned coffee shop where even the prices are modeled on Starbucks.

Saigon is a city of seven or eight or nine million. Motorcycles are the preferred form of transport. Most intersections lack traffic lights. Five or six streams of traffic, fifty motorcycles wide, will move through each other without as many collisions as you’d expect. The decibel level is in the hearing-damage range.

Our hotel is comfortable and in a neighborhood of restaurants and shops, but the size of Saigon, its traffic, its noise, the beggars displaying Agent-Orange-mutated children, and the warnings in our guidebook of motorcycle thieves make us want to go south, through the Mekong Delta to the island of Phu Quoc.

4. Life on Phu Quoc: up at dawn, watch the sunrise off the balcony. Walk down to the restaurant, have a coffee, have another coffee. Walk a mile along the beach or until you pass one hundred thousand lost flip-flops, whichever comes first. Walk back. Have lunch. Start a new book on the Kindle. Feed the tan. Swim in the crashing surf. Have a beer. Have dinner. Finish the new book on the Kindle.

Watch the evening thunderstorm march across the water on legs of lightning. When the rain hits, head for the suite for the night. Go to sleep to thunder. Dream of war.

Rinse. Repeat.

We stay at a small boutique hotel on a secluded southern beach of the island. Our suite is all teak and marble and beveled glass. It would be luxurious except there is no electricity after 10 p.m. No television anytime. No hot water, even though our bathroom has a jacuzzi tub inset into its marble surfaces. Not much water pressure. It would take all day to fill the tub. But the shower dribbles enough cool water to wash off the salt after a day at the beach.

Julie and I don’t normally stay at boutique hotels, but our hotel wasn’t planned to be boutique. It was supposed to be much larger, with a dozen or so bungalows built out behind the hotel. Our suite, I decide, is the owner’s intended residence.

The common areas, the kitchen, the restaurant and gift shop are all built for the crowds that will come with Phase II.

Phase II is not going to make it. Work has yet to start on the bungalows, or on a good water system, or on the power lines to run twenty air-con units. Meanwhile, Phase I is deteriorating, despite the efforts of a small army of landscapers, beach attendants, waitresses and bartenders. From the balcony, I can see peeling paint and the balding thatch of aging beach umbrellas. The hotel’s two jet skis sit rusting and unused in a litter-filled storage bay behind an artisan-crafted rock wall from the restaurant.

But the crippled luxury of our hotel suits both our sensibilities and our budget. The food is beyond good, and an expert massage on the beach costs three dollars. Long walks along the coastline don’t cost anything except time and sweat, and reveal more beaches and more shoals of plastic, and now and then a single standing wall of a collapsed house, a remnant of the time before the war.

5. At the end of World War II, the population of Vietnam was less than 25 million. Now it’s ninety million. Population density is 628 people per square mile, twice that of China. Seventy percent of present-day Vietnamese were not born when the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

It’s a country of young and hopeful people, and there’s no thought that they will ever run out of resources to exploit or markets to sell to. But we see lots of inflation-impoverished old people, lots of unemployed young ones, lots of people selling lottery tickets, lots of new plastic crap in the markets on its way to becoming the old plastic crap that marks the high-tide lines. Every year the new market economy grows seven percent, and that growth is seen as proof that things will get better and better until everyone has an ATM card.

The communists need to change their name of their party to something more American. They’re a new hereditary elite, feeding off an ability to pass laws in their favor and siphon tax dollars for their own companies and appoint their relatives to high positions in companies or governments.

At street level, you pass rows of shops, all selling the same goods. Hotel districts are expanding in beach towns — you can spot them by the construction cranes. The buildings going up are monsters with hundreds of rooms. Under the skeletal shadows of the hotels, restaurants park children on the sidewalk, and it’s not uncommon to have tiny smiling girls thrust menus under your nose five or six times in a single block.

Fans of capitalism tout its capacity for creative destruction, but more than once in Vietnam I had the thought that what was being destroyed was a nation’s young people. They compete with each other on a life-and-death basis, and it made me glad that there was an ocean between Vietnam’s young people and ours.

6. A temporary incursion into Cambodia:

Kampot is a small, lazy town on a Cambodian estuary that leads to the Gulf of Thailand. The food is good. Our hotel is clean and new. A population of English-speaking expatriates is happy to recount sad life stories and local survival tips for the price of a beer. The Honey Bar, whose outside sign has a dissipated Pooh Bear hoisting a beer mug, is for sale for five thousand dollars, and that includes the girls who work there. We leave Kampot thinking we should have stayed maybe a year longer. I’ve been a bartender. I could do it again.

We escape Phnom Penh as quickly as we can, distressed that our hotel has been built on the site of one of the Khmer Rouge’s slaughterhouses, and by the taxi drivers’ incessant cries: “Killing Fields? You want to go to Killing Fields?”

We tour Angkor Wat and a small percentage of the temples that surround it. A thousand years ago, these jungle-covered ruins were the biggest city in the world, ten miles on a side, containing a million people. It shows the scale of our own time that two to three times that many were killed in the Khmer Rouge genocide alone.

When we were in Kampot, we met a down-at-his-heels Australian running a small-time tour business with his Cambodian in-laws. He had explained for us the pathologically laid-back attitude of Cambodians: “Most of them had their whole families killed by the Khmer Rouge. They live with no sense of the future.”

7. Hanoi is not laid-back. It is the capital of a huge and diverse but officially unified nation, although in our short time in the capital we see evidence of deep divisions between rich and poor, young and old, north and south, mountain and lowland, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese.

Communism still has a religious heft in Hanoi, even as global capitalism pays the bills. A few of the self-sacrificing heroes of 1975 are still in power, and younger middle-aged bureaucrats still pay lip service to the people’s struggle against American imperialism. A still younger generation of communists is composed of a familiar international breed: intelligent but unimaginative young people who do all the right things in high school and college to worm their way into the existing power structure. Once there, they display a commendable respect for enforcing rules, following procedures, and advancing their careers. But like the generation before them, they have little ideological backbone when it comes to keeping their fingers out of the cookie jar, and Vietnam’s corruption index matches that of Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Tanzania.

A local magazine survey of Hanoi residents reveals that what Hanoians want most in life is not an ATM card. They want a car. This, in spite of the fact that if everybody in Hanoi who wants a car gets one, there will be no room – none — on the already gridlocked streets.

One good thing the government has done is to build housing for the homeless, and down the coast from Hanoi, there are countless five- to ten-story concrete buildings going up around every town. Much of Vietnam is made up of limestone mountains, and those mountains are being ground into powder, and the powder is mixed with water and gravel and poured into forms. There are a limited number of forms: one for family housing, one for multi-family housing, one or two for tourist hotels, and so on. Different colored ceramic facades distinguish one building from another.

In the future there will be no mountains left in the country. In their place will be a vast grey hive, a labyrinth a thousand miles long, with caste-specific cells for genetically-engineered farmers, shopkeepers, soldiers, party members, and tourists.

8. The week we arrive in Nha Trang, it’s been listed by an international tourist organization as one of the ten worst beach towns in the world. We don’t know that when we check into the Ha Van hotel, where friendly people usher us to a nice twenty-dollar room that comes with the best breakfast we’ll have in Vietnam. We don’t know that when we discover the Louisiana Brew House, across the shore highway from our hotel, where you can sit by the pool all day, drinking beer and Kindling your way through a Russian novel, and eat a superb lunch at poolside or in the attached restaurant. We don’t know that when we walk through the town’s bizarre beachfront sculpture garden in seventy-degree sunshine, or when we visit its restored Cham Dynasty towers. We especially don’t know that when we find an inexpensive Indian restaurant on a narrow back street right across from an ATM.

What could Nha Trang done to have gotten itself on a ten-worst list? It’s the most touristed place we visit in Vietnam, but we’ve become hardened to the beggars and street-hawkers and sidewalk touts, and they have long ago learned to read the subtle signals of that hardening, and they mostly leave us alone. Nha Trang has a half-dozen half-completed high-rise hotels, and some of the completed hotels in town are empty, even though the weather is good. If you dine upstairs at the Indian restaurant, you look across the street to a clothing factory, where the teen-aged workers get ready for bed, right next to their sewing machines. They look out at you with eyes a hundred years old. They see you looking back at them, and you both realize how unbridgeable the gap is between you, how improbable for each the gaze of the other. The blinds come down with a snap. You go back to your beer and lamb vindaloo.

Perhaps the worst thing that Nha Trang has done is to sprawl into a miles-long high-rise carnival on a beautiful white half-moon beach. It doesn’t help that the beach lies between two fog-topped mountain headlands and faces a soft blue bay full of dark green islands.

There is a headless chicken tendency in the tourist industry, one that keeps on keeping on even when it’s clear the tourist infrastructure threatens to kill the thing that attracted tourists in the first place. Nha Trang isn’t quite there yet. It won’t get there, either.

We still want to go back in ten years, not just for another week around the pool at the Louisiana Brew House, but to see what becomes of a place built on the ability of people from all over the world to buy cheap airline tickets in a time when airline tickets won’t be cheap.

9. In the mountain town of Dalat, home to Vietnam’s wine industry, a university, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, an astonishing botanical garden, and the summer palace of Vietnam’s last emperor, we strike up a conversation with our waiter in the restaurant across the street from our hotel.

He speaks good English, and acts happy to see us. He’s twenty-one years old and goes to Dalat University. He grew up on his parents’ coffee farm. His name is Kong, he says, like King Kong. He flexes his muscles and laughs.

He asks us where we’re from and we say America and we ask where he’s from and he says he’s from his mother. It’s a joke we’ve heard before in Vietnam but when we ask where his mother’s from, he says his parents have always lived in the mountains north of Dalat.

Does he see his parents? Not often. They work the farm. When Kong isn’t working as a waiter, he needs to study.

Kong wants to meet us for coffee in the morning. He has some questions he wants to ask us, and we reluctantly agree. I tell Julie that if he tries to sell us something or get us to go on a trek, I’m out the door. But Kong wants information, not money.

“How can I get rich?” he asks, even before the coffee comes.

I’m not the person to ask, I tell him. I revert to an old cultural narrative and tell him to work hard, save his money, and do everything he can to stay out of debt, but that advice doesn’t even work in America any longer. Finally I say, “Kong, some money is good, but you can have too much. Make sure you own things. Don’t let things own you.”

He doesn’t like this advice. “Interesting,” he says.

I ask him about his family’s farm and he says it’s on a steep hillside. Each coffee plant has to be watered by hand in dry season, he says. He has one brother and three sisters. His brother will run the farm. His sisters will be married to other farmers. He is the oldest son, and for that reason he was chosen to go to university.

He asks how old I am. When I tell him sixty, he says that his parents are younger than me but they look much older. He says that he would like to own a car someday, when he’s a hotel manager in Saigon.

“You will never be rich if you buy a car,” I say. He doesn’t like this advice either.

Julie compliments him on his command of English and apologizes for our not knowing Vietnamese.

“You learn Vietnamese?” he asks. “Why?” Then he says, “I have to learn English. English is my future.”

10. There is little awareness in Vietnam that the world might run short of oil, or that the economy won’t grow by seven percent every year forever. There is no understanding that recent floods in the central part of the country might be related to changes in the world climate, or that the rice fields of the Mekong Delta could be under sea water by the year 2100. There is no fear that tourists might stop coming due to collapsed economies, or that tourism might become morally unaffordable in a world of scarcity. Population growth is seen as a problem by a few government officials, but when Vietnam’s official two-child policy was recently relaxed, it took only a year for the population growth rate to almost double.

Where it’s not being used as space for concrete buildings, the whole country is being cleared and terraced to grow vegetables. Vietnam will still have food if industrialism and globalism and world currencies get tossed on the ash-heap of history. But it’s not hard to imagine the great tourist hotels becoming high-rise versions of the overgrown temples of Angkor Wat. As for the ambitious young people who have put their faith in our cherished western narrative of hard work and accumulated wealth, I think there will be a time that they will be angry and disappointed for themselves and their families. At least they won’t starve, I think, but then I remember that when the Japanese confiscated the Vietnamese rice crop in 1945, two million of them did.

Near the end of our time in Vietnam, Julie and I hike to a high peak outside the city of Dalat. On our way back down we stop at a roadside café, and a wizened old woman sells us two cans of Coke and sits down at our table. She looks at our wedding rings and smiles.

“How many children?” she asks.

“None,” says Julie. “Zero.”

I try to say that we’re content to be uncle and aunt, but that doesn’t translate well.

“I have eleven children,” she says. “My children have ten children.”

She asks me my age, and I tell her.

“I’m fifty-eight,” she says.

I pay her for the Cokes and get up to leave.

“No children,” she says, “No grandchildren.” She shakes her head in pity, and makes a face so sad that it looks like she’s crying. I’m making the same face, but she’s not looking at me.