sábado, 16 de abril de 2016

World War Three? Not quite!

In the aftermath of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris it is hard to believe that the world has not suddenly been thrown into World War Three. A new “fascist” regime threatens world peace and is personified by the so-called Islamic State.  The new “Nazism” is religious fundamentalism from the middle east. The Allied victory of World War One sowed the initial seeds of discontent in the region when the British and French divided up the region in one last example of colonial posturing. The creation of Israel after World War Two drove a sword through an already volatile area and challenged Arab leaders to come with some sort of response to the permanent presence of westerners in their land. Hatred for the west- usually the United States or Israel- and the puppet governments, or dictatorships, the west set up across the region eventually boiled over and climaxed with the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. And rather than see this attack as the reflex action of a culture fed up with western neo-colonialism the Americans declared war on Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. After almost 15 years of conflict almost all of what was once the Ottoman Empire, stretching from Egypt to Turkey, has been laid waste. From this vacuum the fundamentalist forces of ISIS have arisen.
            Just as Germany was swallowed up by the Nationalist fervour of the Nazis Iraq has been taken hostage by a similar evil in the form of Islamic Fanaticism. Both movements are eerily similar. The Nazis intended to purify themselves and create a master race of racial separatists. ISIS sees itself as the truth path of Islam and has set out to cleanse and redefine it’s Reich, or empire. The Nazis chose ethnic cleansing as a means of purifying their people and all those who didn’t fit their profile or who stood in their way were annihilated. Isis too has chosen the path of genocide and intolerance to achieve its aims. Both regimes have persecuted their chosen enemies in the most barbaric and inhuman ways. And just as Germany was not satisfied with the limited expansion and consolidation of their territory and began invading and subjugating their enemies and neighbours through the terror of “blitzkrieg”, Isis also seems unsatisfied with the establishment of their “caliphate” and has decided to expand their presence globally through the terrorism.
            War with the Nazi regime was unavoidable after the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Allies united to meet and defeat the threat. Isis has, in recent weeks, launched attacks against Russia and France, as well as Lebanon and Turkey and it now seems inevitable the Allies will once again unite to fight against the twin-terror of  Fascism and Fanaticism.  

            The November 13 terror attacks in Paris represent the latest and bloodiest ISIS attacks in the west. If we are going to effectively combat this threat against Western Idealism by Islamic Fanaticism (a new Cruscade?) the following strategy is required: an intelligence-oriented, military commitment to confront and annihilate the enemy wherever he may be (abroad AND at home) based upon an unbiased and thorough historical study of the root causes of the present conflict. It is one thing to defeat the enemy physically and win the war; we must also ensure that we do not further antagonize and isolate the homeland from where the enemy was born and lose the peace afterwards.
            The relationship between the Middle East and West has historically been complicated, divisive and all-too-often bloody. Since the days of the Crusades it has been a history of racist imperialism and religious intolerance. The immediate history of what is fast becoming a quagmire of cultural conflict is easy enough to trace and begins with Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately it does not end with his death.  If the same strategy I have suggested for the present conflict against ISIS  had been adopted against Bin Laden and his organization, Al Queda, it is arguable that things never would have reached the explosive stage they have now. Just as if Germany’s grievances before and after World War One had been appreciated and assuaged the Second World War would not have been so inevitable, so too if the grievances of the Arab world had been addressed more sympathetically before and (especially) after the events of September 11, 2001 the present crisis might also have been averted.
            While going after Bin Laden and the fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan which housed and supported him was arguably justified and sadly unavoidable the West, in the form of American President George Bush and his conservative administration, made little effort to understand what forces had compelled Bin Laden to marshall his limited forces for a one-time attack against the United States. Bin Laden may have called for a Jihad against the West but he must have known he himself was doomed from the start. And that’s probably what he counted upon, dying as a martyr and somehow inspiring a larger movement against the infidel West he and many others had so come to hate. In this sense he achieved his aim. The belief that their “purer” Islamic culture was being diluted by the “alien” culture of the West had reached a boiling point and Bin Laden decided he would be the one who would take action, if no one else.
            Whatever efforts were made to win a war and then establish peace in Afghanistan failed when the United States illegally, insanely and unjustifiably decided to invade Iraq after Afghanistan. This was the worst thing the West could have done. Rather than isolate the threat against the United States in Afghanistan and surgically deal with Bin Laden and his Taliban cohorts the United States proudly (or greedily) over-reached themselves and threw themselves into an unnecessary power struggle in neighbouring Iraq, again without much understanding if any of the tribal and ethnic politics at play there.  How could anyone, especially in the Middle East except Israel, interpret the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq as an effort to win peace in a region already alienated and long persecuted by western powers?
            The Invasion of Iraq was unconvincingly justified by the Americans as necessary to rid the region of a despotic dictator, Saddam Hussein, who was practicing genocide on his own people AND was in possession of mass destruction with intent to use them against Western enemies. Now as a United States-backed dictator one can only wonder who those western enemies could have been! The cruelty and ruthlessness of Saddam Hussein may have been very real but the allegations of weapons of mass destruction have since been proven false. It is far more likely the US decided to invade Iraq because they had simply grown tired of one of their dictators no longer content to play the role of puppet and follow orders from his handlers. Saddam had simply outgrown his usefulness and had become a liability. It is also possible the US decided to take advantage of their presence in Afghanistan to flex a little more muscle in the region and re-establish their political presence in a region with vast oil reserves.
            To say the US-led invasion of Iraq was ultimately a failure is an understatement. The modern, if problematic, nation of Iraq was destroyed. Removing Saddam (and his repressive Baathist party government) did not result in the beginnings of a new, freer and more democratic Iraq (if that ever was part of the plan). After almost 15 years of conflict without result the US finally decided to withdraw its military and abandon Iraq. What arose from the chaotic vacuum of power was ISIS.
            In a very short time ISIS has morphed from a regional to global threat. Having now carved out their “Caliphate” nation from the wasteland of war torn Iraq and territory unclaimed by civil war in neighbouring Syria, home of another western-sponsored dictator, Bashar al Assad, ISIS has decided to pick up the baton of western hatred left behind by Bin Laden’s Al Queda and strike across additional international borders.
            So once again we are back at the start, and on the brink of world war. The West continues to misunderstand the Middle East and vilify, rather than, empathize with the people of the Middle East. The West’s response continues to involve little more than military thinking. Without forethought and an understanding of how to win the inevitable peace that will come a military response will achieve little beyond containing a simmering pot from boiling over again next time. And unless we learn from the past and apply lessons learned from the past to the present situation there will be a next time, who knows where, who knows when fanatical, militant Islamists attack “soft” western targets. We would do well to listen to the cries of an angry and bereaved people. If we don’t we risk losing the support of the local population in favour of their determined leadership and that will make the war to come that longer, bloodier and more difficult to win.
            How are we ever going to win over the hearts and minds of the people if our only response is always violence and war? As we deal militarily with the threat violent Jihad against the West we must not lose track of our ultimate goal which is to re-establish peace between the West and Middle East and not allow another senseless Crusade to come between us.
The End

            Afterward One: One important reason why the present conflict should not in any way be seen as some sort of third world war is that the population of the ISIS caliphate do not play a role on the administration of their so-called leaders, willingly or unwillingly. Whoever is able to flee the horrors of the Syrian Civil War and the atrocities of nation-building ISIS forces has done so. ISIS has no popular support amongst moderate Muslims in the region. And this is something that can be used against them. Without the support of the local population for food, forces and revenue, and even as human shields, the military forces of ISIS should be easy to target, attack and eliminate. So why doesn’t the West just piece together it’s overwhelming military and intelligence forces and destroy ISIS on the field. Arguably without its military force the ideological force of ISIS would soon wither and die. Then, and only then, can the long overdue work of peace-making between the West and Middle East begin again.     

Afterward Two: The “mass shooting” December 15 in San Bernardino, California is an example of home grown terrorism here in the USA. The shooters were of Middle-eastern decent but the husband involved was US-born, US-raised, US-educated and US-employed. (And aren’t the terrorists in Belgium all of Middle-eastern decent but Belge-born, Belge-raised, Belge-educated, Belge-employed or unemployed?) His “mail-order” bride may have been “a plant” or she may have “radicalized” her husband. They, like their European counterparts claim they were “inspired” by ISIS to attack their target. This incident of course exposes our vulnerability to a spontaneous attack on the public at any time and in any place by otherwise normal looking citizens who suddenly strike without apparent warning or reasonable cause. This violence can only be countered by the vigilance and preparedness of normal citizens working together with local police authorities to insure the safety of our communities. These incidents might also be prevented by addressing more seriously the causes of diverse mental health problems affecting so many of our citizens and residents. Not only must we do more to make our society fairer and more democratic- so no one is excluded from the prosperity of our nation- but we also need to understand that we have a responsibility to help others lest their problems become our own. We must unite in an effort to make the purchase and distribution of fire arms as regulated a process as possible without infringing upon the right of our citizens to bear these same arms for sport and to defend themselves. It’s not that guns are the problem or people are the problem…what needs to be prevented are guns in the hands of people with problems.

Afterward Three: On March 22, 4 days after the last suspect in the November Paris bombings was captured, ISIS-inspired terrorists struck again in Europe, this time in the country the Paris bombers called home. In two  separate, but apparently coordinated, attacks suicide bombers in Belgium killed more than 20 persons and wounded hundreds after detonating bombs at the main Brussels airport and in the city center. Whether these bombers were part of the same terrorist cell as the Paris group- or if this is another, secondary cell following its own agenda- remains to be seen. But these attacks will keep certainly Europe on high alert for a long time to come. These attacks also beg the question, how could the best security forces in Europe allow another series of terrorist attacks to occur with their resources in full use since the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January and especially since the attacks in Paris last November?

quinta-feira, 30 de outubro de 2014

The NEW Revolution

            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- United States Declaration of Independence

The NEW revolution is against the tyranny and apathy of recent decades and previous generations. We harken back to the LOVE of the 1960s and the BROTHERHOOD of the 1980s.  Born and coming of age in these times we now call ourselves to (join) ARMS against what has been denied us despite our goodwill, our innocence and even our ignorance.  We stupidly thought our parents were opening doors for us towards a brighter, more egalitarian future. And we let ourselves believe we wouldn’t have to work too hard to insure that future.  How could we think that we wouldn’t have to actually work for it? Some of us did realize we’d have to work for Glory but not enough of us. Most of us mistook the apparent progress of a few for something more positive than what it really was. Look what that got us. Science may have made life better but Technology hasn’t. It’s made prisoners of most of our generation and seems to have already imprisoned most of the newest generation. WE at least know what we’re missing though. The newest generation has no idea. They have been born into a state of “technology-induced dumbness”.
The present fascination with Zombies is a perfect reflection of the current state of affairs, only most of us ARE the zombies and few are the survivors! We’ve been zombie-fied by our own complacency. Are there enough “survivors” left to fight now or just more zombies on the way to mix with the other zombies?  How do we shake ourselves awake again? Can we rekindle in our children the tiny spark of passion that must (hopefully) still be within them? Isn’t the ideal of the Noble Savage something innate to all men and women? Isn’t that what makes us human, the desire to break free of our “chains” and reach- even if only partially or unsuccessfully- towards a state of Beauty (Perfection)? The road is, after all, more important than the destination. Do we not hope for, in the few moments of silence we allow ourselves these days, a better world, a cleaner world, and a more just world?
MY generation- let’s call it "6080"- cannot give up now just because we have reached 50. Too many of us have. And too few of us are left to, if not exactly pass the torch, inspire our “still-born” children and guide our species once again towards loftier and more worthy heights.   


domingo, 7 de setembro de 2014

The Kennedy Assassination: Final Thoughts?

Lee Harvey Oswald, the supposed “lone shooter” of President John F Kennedy on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas claimed to be a “patsy” after he was arrested. Was he involved in some way, big or small, in a conspiracy to kill JFK? Was he a loner in search of infamy? Or was he truly ignorant of a plot to kill the president and innocent of all charges? 

Eyewitness testimony claims Oswald did not watch the president’s motorcade, let alone shoot at it, that fateful day in Dallas. He was seen in the Texas School Book Depository lunchroom before AND after the shooting and appeared calm and collected. But when he did finally leave the TSDB after the president was shot- the only employee to do so- why did he collect an automatic pistol he owned at his rented room and make his way to a Dallas movie theater where he was ultimately arrested and charged with shooting a Dallas Police Officer, J.D. Tippett? What were his plans? Why did he not stay at home if he was not involved in the assassination of the president? Why was he rambling about town with a gun in his possession? Did he shoot PO J.D.Tippet? And, if so, why? Later in the Dallas Police Department he looks composed albeit apprehensive and anxious. But is he an innocent caught up in the whirlwind of the crime of the century, the ultimate being in the “wrong place at the wrong time”? Or is he a cool, calculating killer? The evidence suggests he was involved in something, but what exactly?

What is the path of Oswald’s Carcano carbine rifle from mail order purchase to TSBD building sniper’s nest? How did the gun get there? Apparently in a package described by Oswald himself as containing curtain rod packages. What is the ballistics and forensics evidence linking Oswald to this rifle? Order form, palm print and fiber analysis, ballistics? Was it ever confirmed as the rifle used to shoot President Kennedy? Apparently, yes.

And what is the history behind Oswald’s automatic pistol? When did he obtain that? A separate mail order, apparently. Was it ever confirmed as the pistol used to kill DPO Tippett? Apparently Oswald’s gun was fully loaded still (with 6 bullets?) and had not been fired that day. And Tippet was apparently shot with a revolver and not an automatic.

Whoever shot President Kennedy knew the motorcade route would pass around Dealey Plaza, below the TSDB and in front of the Grassy Knoll. The route was only made public in local newspapers on NOV 18. Prior to that the Secret Service agents-in-charge of Dallas operations had been informed of the proposed Dallas visit by the White House on NOV 4 and began making motorcade plans on NOV 8. The motorcade route was put together primarily by secret service agent Forrest Sorrells and ________ Lawson and included two slow turns from Main Street onto Houston Street and then onto Elm Street below the TSBD. Why did the secret service plan such a route which in hindsight was so obviously dangerous? After all the route presented the shooter or shooters of JFK with a made-to-order shooting gallery. Oswald would certainly have thought so.

Agent Sorell’s justification for the Houston-Elm street path was that only that route would give the motorcade access directly to the freeway which led to the Dallas Trade Mart where JFK was scheduled to speak on NOV 22. Apparently there was no access to the freeway from Main Street in November 1963, access that would have placed Kennedy outside the scope of any shooter in the TSBD building, Grassy Knoll or any other sniper’s nest overlooking the Elm Street side of Dealey Plaza. Oswald would not have been able to shoot Kennedy from the TSBD if the secret service had chosen to keep the presidential motorcade on Main Street.

If Oswald alone shot JFK without any outside assistance or direction he made his final plans after NOV 18 when the motorcade route was published and he learned the president was to pass (providentially) below where he had been working since OCT 15. If he was involved in a conspiracy involving the secret service or other government agency his plans could have been made after NOV 4 when Kennedy decided to go to Dallas. And if someone other that Oswald was a shooter in the TSDB and/or from other sites he too could only have made his plans in the same way. If there were other shooters above the Grassy Knoll or in other buildings around Dealey Plaza they could only have made their plans independently after NOV 18 or together with the secret service or another government agency after NOV 4.  

If Oswald was innocent of shooting the president because he was having his lunch in the 3rd floor lunchroom at the time could he also have been unaware of someone else shooting the president from the 6th floor of the building where he worked? However weak the evidence is it implicates Oswald as the only shooter of JFK. Either he did it or-and he may have known this- he was set up to take the fall for someone who did do it.

What was Oswald’s involvement in the assassination of JFK (and Dallas PO J.D. Tippett)? Was he THE shooter, A shooter, a Patsy who helped plan the assassination but then “sat it out” and was set up, or a complete Innocent (someone in just the wrong place at the wrong time)? The evidence suggests Oswald was certainly A shooter and, more than likely, THE (only) shooter. He was in the building from which the president was shot at the time of the crime. The murder weapon found at the scene of the crime was his own rifle. A partial (if suspicious) palm print on the murder weapon was identified as his. Then after the killing of the president he fled the TSBD without permission, returned home to obtain a pistol, perhaps killed a Dallas police officer with this pistol, and was finally arrested hiding (from what?) in a Dallas movie theater.

Any evidence there were any shooters of President John F Kennedy other than Lee Harvey Oswald from the TSBD on NOV 22, 1963 is circumstantial at best. There is no evidence that there was a conspiracy to kill the president. On the other hand it is arguable that Oswald alone had the means, the motive and the opportunity to commit the crime. The only other possibility is that he truly was what he claimed to be in the Dallas PD, a Patsy, who was involved in a conspiracy to kill the president and was set up to take the fall for the true assassin or assassins. I truly wish I could convince myself of the truth of one of these possibilities. And I wish I could resolve other questions about possible shots from the grassy knoll, the direction of Kennedy’s head shot, the magic bullet theory and J.D. Tippet’s murder amongst other things. But I cannot. I lean towards the theory of Oswald as a lone shooter, but I have my doubts still.

* The NOVA program Cold Case: JFK (first aired PBS NOV 13, 2013) offers forensic and scientific evidence supporting the “single bullet theory” and “rear-entry head wound theory”.

*      Oswald's ownership of the weapons used to kill President Kennedy and Officer Tippet remains questionable, See George Bailey's blog,  http://oswaldsmother.blogspot.com/2009/11/who-bought-guns.html

sexta-feira, 14 de março de 2014

The Hound and La Bete: 
Cryptozoological Investigations in British Fiction and French Film

In Conan Doyle’s 1906 classic novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the detective Sherlock Holmes investigates the existence of a mythical hound in the haunting moorlands of Dartmoor, Southwest England. Not for a moment however does Holmes consider the hound to be directed by anything but the hand of Man, a cunning adversary at best, a depraved lunatic more likely. To Conan Doyle and his agent, the ever-skeptical Sherlock Holmes, Man is the only true monster we must fear. Still this terrific novel, and the story behind the story, can be seen as a record of a double-sided crytozoological investigation, one begun by the author Arthur Conan Doyle and another concluded by his protagonist, Sherlock Holmes. We know that Doyle’s novel was based upon folk tales told him by his friend, Bertram Fletcher. Doyle’s own investigation of the Cornish “hounds of hell” leads him to create a popular thriller in which his capable hero debunks the existence of real monsters in favor of the human agent behind them.
The 2001 film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, treats similar subject matter in a similar way. News of a ferocious beast preying upon the innocent French country folk of Gevaudan compels the authorities to dispatch an investigator, nobleman and pre-Darwinian naturalist, Gregoire de Fronsac, to find and kill the beast of Gevaudan. Once again the principles of scientific investigation and Holmesian skepticism are brought to bear against “the terror” of a supernatural monster. Once again the existence of any real monster is rejected from start to finish and the hand of Man is declared the madness behind the mayhem. De Fronsac’s crytozoological investigation, just like that of Sherlock Holmes, results in the debunking of a myth beneath the magnifying glass of “enlightened” reason. 
The creators of Brotherhood of the Wolf took inspiration from the true history of a wave of killings which swept the French countryside during the reign of Louis XV (c. 1764) and which were thought to be the doings of some werewolf-type monster or gigantic wolf. But whether “La Bete de Gevaudan” was a rabid wolf (or wolves), or historical serial killer, was never determined. One day the killings just stopped, and the mystery remains to this day. 
Fiction can so easily be made more fantastic than fact. But fiction is not born without the facts it is based upon. Is there anything more to these stories that we might investigate today? Certainly they offer up fantastic food for thought. The picturesque countrysides of Dartmoor and Gevaudan are certainly atmospheric and evocative destinations. These stories invite us to explore the folklore, history and resulting fiction of two very interesting phenomena. In fiction Holmes and De Fronsac may have found no real monsters but themselves, but in real life what might we find? Would that our own investigations were as exciting and as entertaining as the creation of these memorable fictions. And why shouldn’t they be? 

Other beasts to investigate include the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti (or Sasquatch) and the Lions of Tsavo.  And here's an interesting book you cryptozoologists might want to check out.


quinta-feira, 18 de julho de 2013

Build it and they will come? 
The race to package the Great White Sharks of Cape Cod
“The argument reaches into the heart of the sport, and even into each individual’s motivations and basic philosophy of life: In essence, why do you surf? Are you a competitive glory-hound or a soul surfer? Are you trying to make a buck- either as a mercenary or a profiteer- or are you participating in a way of life while training to have transcendent experiences few humans will ever have? Further who has the right to promote, and profit from, the waves?”
- from Ghost Wave by Chris Dixon

“What if they don’t even come back this year, or next year, or any other year for that matter?” 

The words of conservationists, Ryan Smith and Priscilla Bloomfield of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, were ominous, and thought-provoking. With all the excitement and concern surrounding the spectacle of Great White Sharks venturing into outer cape waters between Truro and Chatham’s Monomoy Island the truth is no one really knows what the sharks will be doing in the years to come. No one denies that the visible presence of these sharks in cape waters is due to the ever greater numbers of seals flocking to the outer cape’s secluded beaches and which the sharks feed upon. But what if other factors came into play such as warmer water temperatures due to global warming, the possible decision to cull an out-of-control seal population, or even a craze for the sport fishing of sharks...any of these factors or a combination of them could drive the sharks from the region and that’d be the end of the discussion. Plenty of people are hoping for something just like this, by the way. 

On the other hand, and this is probably a more likely scenario, the sharks will be back again this summer, they will continue to visit cape waters for the foreseeable future, and we are going to have to figure how to deal with them, and live with them. We, as a community, must recognize the powerful spell and attraction these awesome fish have over most of us, and begin to consider what sort of consequences might result from that fascination. 

The presence of great white sharks in any significant number near our shores obviously offers our biologists a rare opportunity to study and better understand one of the most misunderstood, if not infamous, denizens of the deep. Doctor Greg Skomal, Massachusetts state biologist, and his mates are happy-as-larry to have these sharks dining so close to home all of a sudden. And the more controversy, and even trouble, they cause, the more the scientific community will learn and (supposedly) pass onto the rest of us, for our enlightenment and safety. The presence of sharks in our cold waters shines a brighter light on the wonders of the sea world beyond our sandy shores, and this is something organizations such as the Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary and Brewster’s Museum of Natural History will be capitalizing on and turning into an array of fascinating educational programs for our citizen-scientists and especially our children. Cape Cod is much more than an idyllic beach walk or contemplation of the sublime passing of nature’s seasons; Cape waters are home to an impressive, unique and unrestrained collection of some of our world’s most impressive wild animals. Humpback Whales, Harbour Seals and now Great White Sharks define Cape Cod today as one of the world’s preeminent locations to see animals of the wild kingdom on the grandest of scales on its most spectacular stage, the open ocean.

And therein lies my major point. Are we ready in any way for what the recognition these attractions mean for our sleepy, small town communities, or for the animals themselves, or for the habitats they frequent? It is a blessing that in the whale-watching fleets of Provincetown we already have an efficient model of sustainable tourism, a common-sense approach to the situation- developed over time of course- that is a win-win situation for animal, man and habitat. We would do well to study this model as we begin to consider how we are going to offer up our sharks to the maddening crowd that will be coming. And come they will. If the tourism activity of the last couple of years is any indication shark fever is already well established, particularly in the town of Chatham. This is only going to increase which is arguably good and bad. No one can deny the incredible economic potential of a successful tourism operation based upon the presence of mighty marine animals. The words, Cape Cod, have long been calling cards to generations of families and vacationeers, a brand name if you will. Add Great White Shark to that and the sky’s the limit. Think Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple...get the picture?

Developing a business plan to turn the spectacle of Great White Sharks into a sustainable tourism product should be a priority for all towns concerned- a plan that benefits and protects the greatest number of persons possible, while at the same time guarantees the safety of the animals concerned and the environs they inhabit. 

Besides the obvious jockeying for position by members of the scientific community, who I am sure would like nothing more than to restrict contact with these sharks to their people and no one else, other actors in this play will include without a doubt tourism operators wishing to capitalize on the potential gains offered by the viewing of great white sharks. Will state and local authorities follow the initial advice of the scientific community to restrict if not prohibit access to the waters that house these sharks? Or will the scientific community join hands with the more capable and responsible of local tourism operators- if such people can be identified- to work towards guaranteeing the conservation and preservation of Great White Sharks through a form of ecotourism that benefits the public and private sector together.  

In the Amazon, where I have lived and worked in the area of sustainable tourism for the last 20 years, the closing-off to the public of conservation lands that are home to some of the planet’s last indigenous peoples has backlashed. The larger population outside these reservations has not been allowed to benefit economically from the presence of these peoples. The indians within these often vast reservations have been abandoned and grow impoverished when they are left to the quantitative methods of ignorant politicians and cold-hearted social scientists. The result is that these indians are forgotten by the larger society that might otherwise have fought for their happiness, health and social well-being. Once forgotten they are doomed to disappear for there is no one left to fight for them. Through first-hand experience I observe that the lip service paid towards the tourism sector in the Brazilian Amazon has resulted in more illegal tourism than ever, as stricter restrictions are dealt with by a demanding market in ever-more careless and unregulated visits. The most well-meaning of tourism operators in Brazil, the ones who promote and practice a real form of ecotourism, have turned away form a tourism product the government seems uninterested in promoting, or unwilling to promote responsibly. In a culture devoid of of regulation and responsibility the indians have been left at the mercy of the most ambitious of promoters and ruthless of pirates.

So what’s it gonna be on Cape Cod? The same-old, same-old...so-called specialists of the private sector and so-called spokespersons of the public sector deciding what’s in everyone’s best interests- including the sharks- a policy no doubt to be based upon what’s easiest and most expedient in the short-run for these special interest groups? Or are we going to open up the conversation to the plethora of voices and opinions buzzing around us and develop a series of projects that will give us all satisfaction in the long run, including the sharks? 

I want to conclude with one last thought. Above all our concern should be for the well-being of the animals we are talking about. The endangered animals of our threatened planet deserve more from the human race who many call the stewards of the planet though who have rarely shown the qualities becoming of such a title. Sharks and all animals should first and foremost be free, free to wander where they may and do what they may. There is after all no such thing as a malicious animal. Animals cannot be defined as good and bad. They are innocents. They are instinctively natural in all they do. We need to understand this, respect this and champion this. Therefore if we ALL decide it’s best to leave the sharks alone and create a marine sanctuary around them to protect them, fine. That’s what we’ll do. But let’s not assume that any one group has the final and only say in the matter before all have had a chance to weigh in. As even Dr. Skomal admits, no one approach to sharks should necessarily be judged better or worse than any other.

“ We are all familiar with sharks. some fear then, some eat them, some fish for them, some swim with them, some love them, and some study them. i do all of these things...[I am] someone who has watched sharks, held sharks, killed sharks, and saved sharks.” 
 - The Shark Handbook, Dr. Greg Skomal, pp. 10-11

No one said this would be an easy discussion.

sexta-feira, 1 de fevereiro de 2013

From 11/22/63 to 9/11: Celebrating the Legacy of John F. Kennedy's Struggle

This year marks the 50th anniversary of November 22, 1963 when President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. I was born in 1962 so I have no personal memory of this event but I have grown up beneath its ever-lengthening shadow. The controversy just will not subside. Despite efforts from both sides, the lone gunman camp and the conspiracy camp, the public at large has been unable to understand fully why Kennedy was shot, by whom he was shot nor even how he was shot and give closure to this colossal event.

President Kennedy was murdered at a time when the United States of America was asserting its political, military and economic might over the post-World War Two world. The Vietnam War was to be the greatest flexing of US muscle since the world war. But it was also a time when an alternative vision of the world was born personified on the one hand by the hippie and free love movement of the 1960s and the flowering of Kennedy’s Camelot on the other.  While the most powerful families in the country were planning a global economic empire propped up by an invincible military machine other Americans, less powerful ones of course, were nurturing the country in another direction away from military might and economic hegemony and towards something more peaceful, humane and social-minded.

The conflict between these two forces, of war and peace, or aggression and pacifism, has continued right up to the present day. We still struggle between what some term the forces of the right and the left and seem unable to find compromise and peace amongst us, or amidst the larger world around us that we so often belittle and ignore at our own expense. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 represent not so much a maniacal assault on innocent victims but a violent global backlash against the doctrines most of our leaders have espoused since Kennedy’s era and which to the simple-minded perpetrators was concentrated on New York City’s twin towers as a symbol of American economic and cultural domination of the world.

The forces of peace and humanity have not prevailed over the last 50 years. War, famine and climate change have. The less powerful and less affluent amongst us continue to clamor for a more just society and a more just world. The more powerful nations on earth bore ahead with plans of economic might despite the collateral damage suffered by those who are cast aside or who are unable to participate. Oil might be replaced by biofuel for the mighty while biofuel replaces food for the rest. Around the world, as illustrated in the events of the so-called Arab Spring, for example, we are being reminded (or warned) that the American model will never sweep the world any more than our leaders at home should take their citizens for granted and assume they can control them. Within and without the United States people yearn for positive change, and for social and economic justice in particular. Our country and our world cannot continue to develop in a way that favors only the richest and most affluent, while degrading and ostracizing the rest.

Twice in the last decade the American people have voted for positive change. What needs to be promoted is the dialogue amongst ourselves born of these elections, specifically the need to consider and weigh the opinions of those who would at first seem different from us, but who are not at all deep down. Without dialogue we will continue to see strangers around us, and not brothers and sisters. Without dialogue we will be unable to plan for a better world. Without dialogue there will be no bright future to share with our sons and daughters.

The turbulent 60’s were highlighted by great struggles and sacrifices. But we are still a long way from the peace and security we all desire. Dark forces continue to plot and manipulate us from below. Darker forces have chosen other ways to combat our insolence and arrogance. If anything the human situation is more complicated today than it was 50 years ago. Now it is more difficult to separate the good from the bad as opposing camps use the same arguments against each other, each convinced of his agenda over the other. If nothing else the year 2013 should serve as an opportunity for us to look back to a simpler age and attempt to acquaint ourselves once more with the values and needs that make us truly human. The year 2013 should also serve as a year for us to celebrate the struggles of John F Kennedy and assist us in finding our way back upon the path to truth, justice and what truly should be the American way!