Ryan Lochte: An Ugly American Or A Sad Product Of U.S. Policymakers?

Ugly American

The Rio Olympics are now over. The competitors have arrived back in their own countries and TV companies worldwide have returned to screening their mediocre programming of old movies, half-baked sitcoms, and third-rate ‘reality TV’ shows.

The Olympics were a success. At least, they were portrayed that way, and for most viewers there wasn’t too much external controversy to detract from the events themselves.

One man’s name did make the headlines and it wasn’t for winning a medal. Ryan Lochte, a U.S. swimmer, disgraced himself and his country by a drunken altercation in the early hours of the morning with security guards at a local petrol station. Not content with trashing the premises’ restroom, he then lied to police and made a false statement concocting a story of being robbed at gun point.

The next day, realizing there may be repercussions, he abandoned the three colleagues who had accompanied him on the escapade and caught a flight back to the United States. Unfortunately for Lochte the media had picked up the story and it made banner headlines around the world. Now we learn the Brazilian police are charging him with making a false statement and he could be extradited and face time in a Brazilian prison.

Of course, that’s unlikely to happen:

The US and Brazil have an extradition treaty which Brazil has flouted in the past. Authorities in the US could take the same stance if Mr Lochte is found guilty. ~ BBC [1]

The U.S. government is quick to protect those of its citizens who behave badly in other countries. It’s probable they’ll do likewise with Lochte. After all, wasn’t this just a case of four young men out for a night on the town who became embroiled with over-officious foreigners just because they were having fun?

No, it wasn’t. It was four men in a foreign country who showed disrespect and arrogance towards their hosts. At least one of them caused damage to property, threatened those who tried to stop him, and then made up a cock-and-bull story for the police when they became involved.

Ryan Lochte showed himself up as the epitome of the ‘Ugly American’. It’s a well known and oft-used phrase to describe certain elements in American society, particularly when they’re abroad on vacation or business. It stems from the spoiled brat image, the kid who had too much, who was brought up to believe he was better than anyone else – particularly if the ‘anyone else’ was a foreigner, or as U.S. officialdom derisively calls them – an alien.

It may be that Lochte shouldn’t be blamed too much for his behavior. After all, he was only aping his nation’s political policies. The U.S. has coerced governments in over sixty countries worldwide into accepting U.S. military bases on their territory. Most are bitterly resented by the populace. The attitude and behavior of many U.S. servicemen in these bases towards the local people can leave much to be desired. ‘Ugly American’ behavior by military personnel is a frequent cause of media attention in many countries:

Okinawa protest

Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa have taken part in one of the biggest protests against US military bases in recent years, weeks after the arrest of an American base worker in connection with the murder of a 20-year-old local woman…

…Okinawa’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, told the crowd he regretted being powerless to prevent crimes by US military personnel, two decades after the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen…“We had pledged never to repeat such an incident,” Onaga said. “I could do nothing to change the political system to prevent that. That is my utmost regret as a politician and as governor of Okinawa. The government … must understand that Okinawa residents should not suffer any more from the burden of the bases.” ~ Guardian [2]

US military personnel have committed over 5,800 crimes on Japan’s Okinawa Islands since the territory was returned to Japan in 1972, according to police figures cited by protesters rallying against US presence in Japan’s southernmost prefecture…[10% were classed as ‘serious crimes’ – RJA]

Mass protests are regularly staged by the island’s inhabitants over incidents of alleged rape by US armed forces’ personnel stationed in Okinawa. The Japanese government has started taking action to address the concerns. In May, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government is set to create a special interdepartmental commission for preventing crimes committed by US military base personnel. ~ Sputniknews [3]

And that’s an example from just one base. The exact figure isn’t known, but it’s estimated the U.S. has between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide.

We need only to remember the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib Detention Center in Iraq to realise America’s powerful military presence throughout the world is perpetuating the ‘Ugly American’ image demonstrated so admirably by Ryan Lochte.

America’s determination to utilize its military to globalize the world and bring all nations under its control and influence may not appear so threatening as the aspirations of the radical Islamic group, Islamic State, but it’s certainly breeding an unattractive example of citizenship, as characterized by Lochte.

That’s unfortunate for the majority of Americans who are decent, friendly, warm-hearted people. Sadly, it’s easy to become tainted by the actions of a few, particularly when those actions are highlighted by the world’s media.

Lochte’s paid for his arrogance. Due to his prowess as a swimmer, sponsors once rushed to do business with him . Now, they’ve deserted him. One of his co-patriots on that early morning rampage was fellow swimmer Jimmy Feigen. He paid $11,000 to a Brazilian charity in settlement of his case. It’s not likely Lochte will get away with less.

However, it’s a cheap price to pay for the damage he’s done to his country.

[1] “Brazil police charge Lochte over robbery claim” BBC, August 25th 2016

[2] “Thousands protest at US bases on Okinawa after Japanese woman’s murder” Guardian, June 19th 2016

[3] “US Military Personnel Have Committed Nearly 6k Crimes in Okinawa Since 1972” Sputniknews, June 20th 2016

Climate Change: Are We Fifty Years Too Late?

Paris Climate Summit

It seems so much has been written about climate change that it’s almost become a matter for complacency due to over-exposure. The recent flooding in Louisiana should shake us free of any lethargy, but it’s unlikely it will. Media accounts of ‘historical’ natural disasters and record-shattering weather events have become so common that it’s human nature to start taking them for granted – particularly by those as yet unaffected by any cataclysmic weather occurrence.

One reason is the apparent lack of urgency displayed by our leaders. U.S. Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, for example, still refuses to accept man’s part in global warming, even though recent surveys show only 15% of Americans continue to deny its existence, and while in some areas effort is being made to reduce carbon emissions the agreements reached in Paris last year are woefully inadequate, even if one optimistically assumes they will be met.

As the New York Times reported at the time:

Scientists who are closely monitoring the climate negotiations said on Friday that the emerging agreement, and the national pledges incorporated into it, are still far too weak to ensure that humanity will avoid dangerous levels of climate change.

The pledges, even if put in place in full, would result in emissions reductions perhaps half as large as those needed to meet a global goal of limiting planetary warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)….

…Many countries and many scientists are pushing for an even tighter target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, one that would require that fossil-fuel emissions in rich countries virtually stop by around 2030.

That tighter target is mentioned in the current draft of the agreement, but it remains unclear whether the final language would be strong enough to require that countries try to meet it, or whether it would become simply an aspirational goal.[1]

An aspirational goal? This could prove the end of civilisation as we know it; possibly the extinction of mankind. It’s hardly hoping one’s son or daughter will attain sufficient grades to make university.

Or could it be the politicians have already worked out the futility of it all and just decided to go through the motions until they have to say, “Sorry, guys, we did our best but we’re afraid you’re screwed.”

Let’s look at the facts. There were so many scientists and inventors vying for glory as inventor of the internal combustion engine it’s hard to pin down who truly was the first, but they’d probably all want to disown the device if they were alive today. Its invention (in the 18th century) may well mark the beginning of the end for human life on Earth.

At the same time as those intrepid inventors were working to perfect their ideas of internal combustion using fossil fuels, the evolution of electric power was also vying for a place in the new vehicle market. Investment and entrepreneurship won out over the electric model and thus the fossil fuel engine became the power of choice. There are now 1.2 billion cars, light, medium and heavy duty trucks and buses on the world’s roads, all pumping out greenhouse gases and other noxious substances.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (U.S.):

In total, the US transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions, more than almost any other sector.[2]

How different would the world now be had the electric vehicle triumphed over the internal combustion engine?

To convert all coal or gas-fired power stations to a form of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting fuel, even nuclear, would take decades and cost more than any government is prepared to invest. Even if it were achieved, converting 1.2 billion vehicles to non-CO2-emitting power units would be prohibitively expensive, assuming such technologically-advanced engines existed in any quantity, which they don’t.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s it was considered quite acceptable for factory chimneys to belch forth vast columns of smoke and soot, until scientists realised that not only were the soot particles responsible for smog, but also the sulphur dioxide emitted from burning raw coal. Clean air laws helped to remedy the smog problem, and smokeless fuels lessened the sulphur dioxide, but invisible (and apparently harmless) CO2 gases continued to be released into the atmosphere, and in many places still are today.

The coal, oil and gas industries have successfully hog-tied the U.S. Congress in the past and will continue to do so as long as they can spread lies about the causes of climate change and still cast doubt with sufficient people to prevent a major public outcry over their irresponsibilities.

Governments are not simply allowing more and more oil drilling, fracking, and mining, but are actively supporting them. The decline of Arctic sea ice is viewed as a further source of profit-making, rather than a symptom of the poisoning of the planet.

In the U.K. plans are in the pipeline for five more open-cast coal mines which, if passed, will produce 11 million tons of coal. As the Guardian reported in June of this year:

There are a number of proposals in the planning pipeline for opencast coal mines in England and Wales, totalling 11Mt:

Nant Llesg, South Wales: 6Mt

Highthorn, Northumberland: 3Mt

Tower Colliery, South Wales: 1.2Mt

Dewley Hill, Newcastle: 800,000t

Hilltop, Derbyshire: 200,000t[3]

NOTE: Since the Guardian published this article the three million ton mine at Highthorn, Northumberland, has been given the go-ahead.

It would seem that Western governments are paying lip service to their commitments at Paris, while continuing to support the very industries responsible for the problem.

India, the fastest developing nation, is making efforts to control CO2 emissions, and China has already gone some way down the road towards limiting greenhouse gases. If the science proves correct it’ll not be sufficient to prevent escalating global warming, given the rapidity of ice melt at the Poles, the consequential rise in sea level, and the additional increase in warming created by loss of heat reflectivity due to polar ice melt.

Global warming is accelerating faster than any of the science predicted. In Paris it was agreed to cut emissions sufficiently by 2050 to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Already scientists are predicting it’ll be too little too late. The latest research supports that. An Australian study reveals that climate change began around 1830, that’s a good fifty years before previous estimates. At that time there were barely one billion humans on the planet:

Climate Council professor Will Steffen said the research was a dire warning to today’s ever-increasing population. “In the first half of the 1800s, the human population was much smaller, homes did not have electricity and coal-fired power generation was in its infancy,” Steffen said. “And yet this study finds that Earth’s climate was still responding to the small increase in carbon emissions at the start of the Industrial Age…This study demonstrates that human influence on the climate system can be traced back to centuries ago, but that those 19th century changes were small and slow compared to the massive, planet-wide changes in climate we are experiencing today.”[4]

Maybe those self-congratulatory celebrations by politicians in Paris came just fifty years too late?

To lay all the blame on politicians is really to pass the buck. Few of us can give up our cars to save the planet. Americans would likely burn the White House down at any law taking away their gas-guzzlers. The writer still has his vehicle, and so most likely does the reader. We want global warming dealt with, but we’ve become too reliant on fossil fuels to be able to make the change sufficiently quickly.

The simple truth is we have proceeded along the wrong path for too long. Technology and our profit-driven societies have blinded us to the damage we have done, and are still doing, to our fragile planet.

Man’s total failure to consider the long term effects of his pollution on the Earth have created the problems we face today. We’ve treated the planet as an unruly teenager treats his bedroom: trash everywhere, and the expectation that someone else will clean it up.

Climate changes, the devastation and suffering they are already causing, and the vastly greater suffering still to come, are, to coin a truth made infamous by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright after 9/11, man’s chickens coming home to roost.

[1] “The Road to a Paris Climate Deal” NYT, December 11th 2015 *NOTE: This link has now been deleted but the article is still available. Scroll down the page to, “Scientists see catastrophe in Latest Draft of Climate Deal”, together with an image of people holding a banner reading “Adieu”.

[2] “Car Emissions and Global Warming” UCSUS, (Undated)

[3] “Opencast coal mine planned for Northumberland coast” Guardian, June 22nd 2016

[4] “Global Warming Actually Began In The 1830s, And That’s Very Troubling” Huffington Post, August 25th 2016

It’s Much Too Easy To Forget

John Hersey

“There, in the tin factory, in the first moment of the atomic age, a human being was crushed by books.” ~ John Hersey.

There was really no reason to remember 6th August 1945. It was seventy-one years ago – hardly an anniversary. It’s not like it was a hundred years, or even seventy-five. Besides, the Rio Olympics had just started, and it was a time for celebration – all those bronzed, lithe, bodies displaying their fitness to the world. It helped us forget our own sagging, McDonald-inflated bellies and flabby fat deposits where muscles might once have thrived had we made more effort, like that window box planted in the spring in anticipation of a great floral display only to be left neglected and un-watered, the occupants drawn and sparse with just the odd stinted flower desperate to manufacture at least one seed to reproduce, before expiring from thirst. We forgot they needed constant care and attention. Such hopes when they were planted, but over time other things got in the way and they were left to wither.

That’s how it is with Hiroshima today. With each passing year we neglect the memory, until finally it only takes a sports event to erase it from our consciousness.

One man, John Hersey, was determined we wouldn’t forget. He wrote a book called simply, Hiroshima. It began as a 30,000 word article in the New Yorker magazine of 31st August 1946. Hersey was there, in Hiroshima, in the spring of that year nine months after the bomb was dropped.

As the BBC reporter, Caroline Raphael, writes:

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days.[1]

Hersey had anticipated writing about the city, the buildings, and the progress of rebuilding. Instead, he found himself writing about the people. They were of a nation castigated and demonized, non-human. Propaganda had them marked as the Yellow Peril. Hersey reminded us they were just people like ourselves, the vast majority innocent of any crime or wrongdoing.

At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.[2]

John Hersey died in 1993. His work Hiroshima was adjudged by many the finest piece of American journalism of the 20th century.

On August 31st 2016 it will be seventy years since Hersey’s article first appeared in print. To mark its publication the New Yorker has reproduced Hiroshima in full online. Perhaps, now that the Olympics are over we might find the time to read it.

For surely, that’s an anniversary worth remembering.

[1] “How John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb” BBC, August 22nd 2016

[2] “HIROSHIMA by John Hersey” The New Yorker, August 31st 1946

Owen Smith Wants A Chat With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Owen Smith ISIS

The British Labour Party is suffering a crisis of leadership. It’s present front man, Jeremy Corbyn, has lost a vote of confidence by his members of parliament and a new man, Owen Smith, is garnering support to oust him.

The convoluted shenanigans of British politics are likely lost on anyone not familiar with the U.K.’s system of government – and that includes most Brits – but the intricacies of the system are not the subject of this article.

On Wednesday August 17th, a debate took place between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, each giving their views on how they would steer the Labour Party forward, if elected to (or in the case of Corbyn, if he retained) the leadership in September.

We’ve all become used to our latest generation of politicians, or would-be’s – uttering the most inane remarks. America’s Donald Trump is a fine example of a possible leader of his country continually announcing to the world his unsuitability for the task.

But even Donald Trump has to move over and surrender his top position on the dais to Owen Smith, given the asinine response he made to a question from the BBC’s debate audience in Britain.

Smith was asked, “What would you do about ISIS?”

His answer was that eventually ISIS would have to come to the negotiating table if there was ever to be peace in Syria.[1]

Take a moment to digest that comment from a man seeking leadership of the only other political party in the U.K. capable of forming a majority government; a man hopeful of one day becoming Britain’s next prime minister.

Smith is basing his views on his minor role in the peace talks over Northern Ireland – an entirely political issue bearing no relationship to the situation presently playing out in the Middle East. ISIS is intent on conquering the Middle East and imposing a Caliphate on the region, with the eventual objective of subjugating the whole planet under their brutal interpretation of Sharia law.

In September 2014 a Sparrow Chat post compared the threat of ISIS to that of Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s;

ISIS is no minor Arab skirmish between tribes vying for power. It poses a threat to the world comparable with Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The world shilly-shallied then. It’s behaving in a similar manner today. ISIS must be stopped while it’s still possible to do so. It’s forces grow stronger with each day that passes.

Yesterday, it was ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Today, it’s IS (Islamic State). Tomorrow, it will be ICME (Islamic Caliphate of the Middle East).

Make no mistake, its leaders intend world domination. They’ll not be content with reclaiming the lands of the Ottoman. Their quest is total Islam, just as the Nazi intention was world Aryanism.[2]

ISIS cannot be compared to the Irish Republican Army, though Owen Smith appears to think differently. Its rise to power must be seen in the light of Germany 1938. While ISIS may not have the naval fleet, the vast quantities of tanks and munitions, and the air power of the Third Reich, it has something equally deadly, the ability to radicalize thousands of individuals prepared to infiltrate western societies and cause devastation and death to hundreds of innocent people. The war it wages is a guerrilla war against unarmed citizens unable to defend themselves.

To suggest that criminality and cruelty enacted on such a vast scale by ISIS can be appeased by negotiation is to relive the mistakes of Neville Chamberlain.

The Sparrow Chat post of September 2014 continued:

There’s a simple solution to the ISIS problem, but it’s not a politically acceptable one in the West. NATO needs to join forces with the Assad regime in Syria and destroy the ISIS strongholds, put an end to the Syrian civil war, then use its diplomatic muscle to work peaceably with Assad towards an, eventually, democratic Syria.[2]

Joining forces with Assad means joining forces with Putin’s Russia. Donald Trump has suggested doing exactly that. Even madmen occasionally display moments of sanity. The only way to destroy a monster is to cut out its heart, not feed it tit-bits and expect it to become your household pet.

Owen Smith may well be one of those political aspirants who genuinely believe they’re inspired to serve the people. If this is his way of solving the greatest threat to Western civilisation since WW2, then he might serve them better from behind a counter in Walmart, or an Asda supermarket.

[1] “Labour leadership debate: Owen Smith suggests IS talks” BBC, August 17th 2016

[2] “ISIS, IS, Or ICME?” Sparrow Chat, September 12th 2014

It’s Time To Draw A Line Under Political Correctness


One of the problems with ‘social media’ is it gives the deadheads opportunities to spout their nonsense all over the internet. To call this tweet racist is to admit to being a racist. If the fastest guy in the Olympics was a white man and Degeneres had Photoshopped herself on his back no-one would have turned a hair.

Political correctness is out of control thanks to ‘social media’.

“Why do some people think this meme is racist?” BBC, August 17th 2016