Clinton emails and the coup in Honduras

So I’ve been poking around the Hillary Clinton emails released by Wikileaks. Though the most recent dump pertains to wars in the Middle East, I’ve used to occasion to dive into earlier content about Honduras specifically.

 

Honduran troops clash with Zelaya supporters (by Roberto Breve; CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

While popular media focuses on Benghazi, it is clear that the worst event that is definitely connected to Clinton is the 2009 military coup in Honduras against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Clinton has openly admitted her role in backing the military, under false pretenses concerning Zelaya setting himself up as a dictator. The story linked:

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assemblyand other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Clinton’s defiant and anti-democratic stance spurred a downward slide in U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, which has continued. It eroded the warm welcome and benefit of the doubt that even the leftist governments in region offered to the newly installed Obama administration a few months earlier.

Clinton’s false testimony is even more revealing. She reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.” This is simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.

Not surprisingly, allowing the military to seize power has led to a Honduras that is substantially more violent, unsafe for women and LGBT+, and perpetuated the centuries-long cycle of civilian-turned-military rule in Latin America. If generals can seize power and face no lasting sanction from the United States, then every democratic government is perpetually on the edge. As we have seen all over the world, democratization is shallow when all policy is subject to a de facto veto by the military. There is a very real limit to how much progress can be made in the Americas if the State Department continues to sanction militarization.

Central American refugees flee violence.

I thought this passage from Hugo Llorens, the US ambassador, was very telling of how America really thought of Zelaya.

We found him unyielding in his position. He says that he is unwilling to return to the talks with the M [ed: interim president Roberto Micheletti] regime since he doesn’t believe they are acting in good faith.

He insisted that M was not interested in stepping down and would do everything in his power to ensure that he (Z) would never be restored. He stressed that if he was not restored the elections would not be legitimate and those involved in the coup would not be able to free themselves from the stigma of their actions. Z seemed totally out of touch and seemed completely focused on himself and that the future of Honduras and the future of democracy in the entire region hinged on his restoration to power prior to the elections. He predicted that if he was not restored that Honduras faced a bleak future led by a weak and discredited government and with a high probability of violence and civil conflict. I attempted to make him see the obligation he and M had in creating conditions for a workable step-by-step process that would allow for the regime to step down, ensure the holding of free and fair elections, and the smooth transfer of power, hopefully from the legitimate head of state to the newly elected president.

I will report the details on the high side, but at this moment I see no probability that Z will seek to go back to the table under the TSJA framework. He may be gaming it in order to put maximum pressure on M prior to the elections.

While on the surface the State Department backed the restoration, they saw no issue with a transition period that did not reverse the coup. As we can see in 2016, Zelaya was totally, totally right about how the coup affected Honduran democracy and a move towards violence and civil strife. Instead of seeing the fundamental legitimacy crisis caused when the peaceful transfer of power between administrations is interrupted, Clinton’s team saw vanity and pride.

This attitude has cost many lives. The unaccompanied minors surge across the southern border included many from a dysfunction post-coup Honduras. Central American stability can never be lasting if there is an exodus from some countries rife with murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.

I don’t support Hillary Clinton. There are many reasons why, but it goes beyond her image, words, and political party. Her actions have hurt many. Honduras is a situation of her creation; it’s not something we paint by association with her husband’s presidency. Instead of Benghazi hysteria, citizens should remember something that is not only real, but that she publicly admits to.

Measles, and smart people with dangerous ignorance

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I’m a native Californian, having lived most of my life in Santa Clara county, then five years in adjacent San Mateo county. It is very worrying to see more cases of the measles in these two counties, knowing that despite a privileged, elitist mentality, parents in the Bay Area have completely jettisoned their sensibility when it comes to parenting.

A key truth is that few people are intelligent across the board. Ivy League kids with perfect SAT scores may have little to know practical ‘street smarts’. Environmentalists may have a grasp of the dangers of climate change, but may support quack medical remedies or get involved in religious cults. And the high rate of special exemptions for vaccination in wealthy parts of California comes from many people with advanced degrees and critical thinking skills.

With vaccines, it is not only a total lack of evidence for systemic harm, but a lack of any mechanism that would lead to harm. Vaccine hysteria lacks the very basic parts of scientific argument. It’s just blind fear in the face of overwhelming evidence that vaccines are both harmless and one of the best, simplest things we can do for our children and our society. In my own lifetime certain horrible diseases have been locally eradicated in parts of the developing world.

These decades have been marked by a rapid progress in science and medicine, and a backpedaling on its use. Vaccines, like many other things, are objects that can only be of use if humans utilize them. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of vials piling up at pharmacies and doctors’ offices. It is disappointing to see denialism, even among groups like the Unitarian Universalist church I attend, which has members who use their reason in all things except vaccines. All our intellect can be undermined by a lack of understanding and fairness on a single issue.

Drug education doesn’t work well, here’s part of the solution

Last year I wrote a paper (“A Flawed Solution, a Persistent Problem”) about a concrete solution to the War on Drugs, painting it as a failed solution to a legitimate problem, that we need to solve in a better, more humane way. Beyond the policy mechanics is the education schools and parents provide to kids about drug addiction and safety.

Writing for Vox, German Lopez states that current drug education for teens is bad, and has been bad for a long time. Put simply, D.A.R.E is scaremongering pseudoscience, and I’ve never personally met a person in my age cohort that took it the slightest bit seriously. With marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado, and several other states on the same path, we are moving from a paradigm where adult pot use was common, to now one where it is also accepted and part of above-the-board society. Drug policy is finally liberalizing, and the end result for anti-drug groups is pretty difficult. If whole states are making pot legal, why are government-funded groups like D.A.R.E say that the drug is dangerous and has all sorts of serious short and long-term effects?

What teen education groups have long done is discredit themselves on soft drugs, so anything they say about hard drugs like cocaine and heroin is treated with suspicion. If you’re willing to lie and say, as some groups have, that pot can lead to insanity, why would already skeptical teens believe all the (totally true) dangers of heroin?

Education should mirror the policy ideas I suggest. The main thing is a strategic retreat from pot education, particularly any education that isn’t rooted in hard science and can reconcile with the teens, who sometime smoke it and definitely know at least a couple people who do. Programs should deal with the consequences of drug use, but also drug policy. With so many non-violent drug offenders in prison, things need to move beyond the simple scare warning (“Do you want to end up in prison?”) but acknowledge that demonization of drug use impacts families and may drive addicts away from treatment.

Some of the more over-the-top teen ed programs really remind me of bible-thumping evangelical education. Both talk about the immense punishment one will receive for certain acts, often minor ones that outsiders wouldn’t view as a big deal. The thing is that even if teens are super-smart themselves, social media and the Internet allow for a counter-narrative to form, coming from people that teens may trust more than an anti-drug teacher.

Drug abuse is a problem, but the drug trafficking born of making drugs illegal has killed tens of thousands. Drug ed, and public policy, should focus on personal cost. A ironclad anti-drug policy may seem like a way to a better society, but the raping and murdering of Mexican women by the hundreds comes from criminalizing so many drugs. Drugs kill people, but making drugs illegal kill more. The people who die from drugs still die under the War, but the collateral damage of trafficking and distributing drugs is massive.

The drug war: where would Jesus stand? Who would Jesus jail?

There was a great story on Al-Jazeera America posted yesterday, regarding the push by faith leaders to end the war on drugs and establish more reasonable sentencing guidelines. The quote that ended the story hits home:

“We believe the greatest stimulus for the mass incarceration of our loved ones is the failed war on drugs that has spent billions and billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of lives, for primarily a public health issue,” said the Rev. Michael McBride, director of urban strategies at Lifelines to Healing in Berkeley, Calif. “Mass incarceration is the civil rights movement of our generation, and the faith community is at the forefront.”

Emphasis mine.

Let us remember the words of Matthew 25

34 … ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Jesus traveled with a diverse group of people, outcasts included. He told a crowd ready to stone an adulterer that if they looked deep within them, they would see their own hypocrisy. The New Testament emphasizes that no person is beneath redemption; a system that throws millions to rot in prison cannot be a just one. Yet today there are huge numbers of prisoners serving serious time, despite their crimes being small and non-violent.

When the decision comes, Jesus triumphed empathy towards prisoners, not condemnation. Those that rejected a religious duty not only damaged the prisoner that needed them, but also themselves.

It is good to see a diverse group of faith leaders come together to speak with a united voice. In some modern Christian circles there can be an undercurrent of hypocrisy- people who triumph life in one instance yet don’t find the injustice in war and capital punishment. Often I see pockets that seem more at home with the Old Testament than the New. I won’t generalize, it would be unfair of me; there are many who see the grave danger of mass incarceration, religious and non-religious.

Chart based on US Department of Justice statistics

I don’t believe in God, though I am a proud Unitarian Universalist, but I find great wisdom in the words and actions of Jesus. Often people put words in his mouth, use him like some use Martin Luther King Jr. to gain false credibility. There is a sense of power with this movement, that only comes when a group of people truly grasp the mission they need to embark on. There is not the sense of dissonance that accompanies some journeys, where the premise is twisted or unfair.

I’ve been involved in the prison reform movement for several years now- I founded reddit’s prison reform community (reddit.com/r/prisonreform) and marched during the hunger strike in California prisons that opposed solitary confinement The problem truly is massive, there needs to be a mass movement to counter it. Big problems demand big solutions. I’m glad to know there are religious leaders alongside other activists and the families affected by mandatory minimums, three strikes laws, and other policies that stuff existing prisons and demand the construction of new ones.

A job awaiting death

Image of Mess of Pottage

Today brought yet more insight on the dire state of the military personnel in charge of the American nuclear missiles stock. Investigations are looking into two officials suspected of possessing illegal drugs in Montana. Earlier the general in charge of the ICBM program had been sacked due tohard drinking, swearing, and spending time with “suspect” women on a trip to Russia.

The article points out the obvious things- the Cold War has been over for a generation. Nuclear treaties have reduced the number of facilities (and thus staff). It neglects to mention another aspect which I think is incredibly important.

Personnel in charge of nuclear weapons and the protocols for readying and launching them spend a lot of time sitting around, doing nothing. And if that dreary existence were to be interrupted by serious action, there’s a good chance that it would involve the destruction of a massive number of people. In an exchange with the Russian Federation, that could involve the deaths of the staff and everyone they’d ever known- it all would be over in a matter of minutes.

Why do we subject people to this- where any action of interest would prove destructive? That if they were ever to launch missiles from their given facility, it would kill huge amounts of people- including some great number of civilians? The whole nuclear weapons system has a foundation based on insanity- cloaked by a bit of game theory that justifies being armed to the teeth in the sea, on land, and through the air. The substance-using staff aren’t bad people, and coming down hard on them doesn’t change anything. It is all self-medication to deal with a job built upon death.

In the opening stages of the Holocaust, gas chambers weren’t always the means of extermination. In 1941 the invasion of Eastern Europe had units that shot Jews and other groups in huge numbers. Gassing “began after Einsatzgruppe members complained of battle fatigue and mental anguish caused by shooting large numbers of women and children.”

Any job where death and murder are inescapable will create the kind of problems seen at missile bases. Even when it’s not as personal as shooting someone in the head, it is still there. It’s a job nobody wants.

And it’s a job nobody should need to do.

Who has the US fought? Drugs. Who won that war? Drugs.

In 1970, Gallup started polling on a new issue. Asking “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” Their first poll recorded 12% in support of legalization.

What happened the next year would prove the catalyst of a massive long-term shift in public opinion. President Richard Nixon declared a War on Drugs, intensifying existent efforts to eradicate drug use and drug production. It would be the beginning of a expansive campaign, which has cost somewhere in the neighborhood of one trillion dollars. For comparison, the eight and a half year Iraq War only cost about $800 billion.

Continue reading “Who has the US fought? Drugs. Who won that war? Drugs.”