Selling Death

It is a pretty well known fact that the US is the global leader in arms sales. Some will also have heard that Russia is second. But in fact, if you put together all the European Union numbers, in terms of total arms sales in the last 10 years, they come very close to tying the US. Somehow its not a very publicized fact, Europe sells almost as many weapons as the US.

And who gets those weapons? Which countries in the world? Better yet, which groups in the world? Places where there is civil war? Dictatorships? Or civil wars yet to come? I think of all those child soldiers in the world and wonder where their gun came from? USA? France? Probably both.

Global warming gets a fair amount of play in the media these days. There is even some, though surely not enough, mobilization to do something about it. Yet all over the developed world in all these lovely places with people that are so highly educated and experienced, people are engaging in the arms trade. Making money selling weapons for people to kill each other with. Trading stocks and benefiting while people arm themselves and carry out mass murders in the name of the latest cause or call-to-arms. Even in the US now, the favored presidential candidate Hillary CLinton has become the number one choice of weapons manufacturers… and yet people believe she will bring change and restore some sort of self respect for the nation.

With each passing year that arms dealers post record profits, more people die needlessly in the name of business and strategic defense. If that isn’t a threat to our world, I don’t know what is.

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Tradition

If you should browse the current.com website, which belongs to the people behind currenttv (American cable channel founded by Al Gore), you’ll find a growing amount of content from yours truely. And as I posted a link to an article about the new French requirement that immigrants who wish their family members to join them in France must take a DNA test to prove they are really family, I received some interesting comments, and I say that not because several people agreed with me.

In discussing this topic on that website and amongst friends here in Amsterdam, one common concern that people bring up to defend the policy sounds something like this: “Using DNA will ensure that immigrants aren’t lying about who is family.”

I realize many people agree with this, on the surface it is a simple request, that people not lie. But when I hear this comment, my mind travels to the past.. to who I am and how I got to be where I am.. or better yet.. how I got to be at all. Or beyond me, what about all the people all over the world, who are the children of immigrants or the grandchildren of immigrants… what if they had had DNA testing?
The idea that people would not have been able to lie in any aspect of the immigration process would have basically changed the entire face of the western world, destination for many immigrants over the past 300 years. The midwest of the United States, with its huge Scandinavian population… imagine they had not been able to lie about who is who’s cousin or daughter.

I realize, there are immigration laws, there is a process, and it isn’t going away. I also realize that no matter the rules, if humans want to go somewhere, they will find a way, they will break or bend the rules, because it is a question of survival.

When it comes right down to it, history teaches us that there is a long and glorious tradition of lying for the sake of moving your family.. your hopes.. your dreams. It is a tradition that deserves our respect… it should be honored.. not disrespected with DNA tests that few migrants could ever afford anyway.

There are of course, numerous other criticisms of this policy that governments should take note of. But for right now, in this particular post, I just wanted to show my respect by defending the rights of immigrants.. of humans.. to not be DNA tested because they want to try and make a new life.. a better life.

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International Effort in Greece

Last week I talked about the rainbow families rescue work that Rob was involved in throughout the United States. Today I thought of him as I listened to RFI reporting about how extremely terrible the forest fires in Greece have now become. Photos of the earth published by NASA show just how huge the fires have gotten as the smoke is visible from space.

Amidst all this tragedy and the struggle to combat the fires, I get a strange sort of positive feeling from listening to the news reports. This is because I listen closely to the part about Firefighters coming from all over the world to battle the fires. France sends several hundred firefighters. Spain, Germany, and Italy also send firefighters who specialize in these types of fires. My dear Portugal, which struggles year after year with similar fires, sends re-enforcements. Canada, the United States, Russia, and Israel .. all send firefighters, water dropping planes, and equipment. Even Romania sends an elite unit of firefighters to take part in the battle to control the fires.

Photo from Flickr

Imagine being there… being one of the firefighters standing amongst all those nationalities.. all those languages.. the different uniforms.. all with one common goal. So often in history the story is about some conflict or invasion where a few countries get together to kill another country’s people, or to defend people from being killed by killing other people… variations on that theme. Yet here we get to see what is possible.. the kind of world that CAN exist when nations put all the other issues aside and focus on one – helping each other.

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El Sicko

Well I can’t ignore all the mainstream subjects… I have to write something about Sicko, Michael Moore’s new film. (which you can watch, in two parts, here)

I’m sure you’ve heard something about it. And Im also sure you can go anywhere in the blogosphere and people will be talking about it. Even YouTube have opened a channel in cooperation with Mike, so people can record their own health insurance horror stories.

Despite the mainstreamness, and perhaps the excessive buzz, I cannot remain silent about how important this film is. Simple… but important.

Of course plenty will echo this feeling. But I’d like to add that this film is more than important for the USA, this film is important for Europe. Why? Because Europe is forgetting what a good health system is. Or perhaps to put it another way, I see that much of Europe takes their universal and quality healthcare for granted. Worse than that, the health insurance lobby is growing in Brussels, and its seeping into many countries where people have some of the highest standards of health and human services. Seeping in and selling this idea that health should be privatized.. for everyone’s benefit.

Even though we can find plenty of evidence worldwide about how dangerous this can be, I don’t hear many voices reminding the governments about this. At least not the most powerful voices. Sure France is still holding tough, and England still has the NHS, but there is growing pressure in Europe, and private health insurance companies are popping up and expanding right under our noses.

So yes.. Sicko is a very powerful and important question to the USA. Not just why can’t they have a good health system, but also what is happening with values in America that people don’t care enough to have such a system. BUT this film should also be seen by Europeans who should ask themselves what is changing in their values.. and what direction they are heading when it comes to who runs and who can access the health system.

Bike in the air

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