The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

July 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Money, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( Over this past week there were news stories that exemplified the best, and the worst, of human behavior. As we applaud the best among us, unfortunately, we are reminded of the basest instincts and actions of people and nations as well.

The Good: The rescue of twelve boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand was a triumph of competence, cooperation and compassion. It was a too rare display, or at least a too rarely reported on, feat of unselfish heroism. The degree of difficulty in getting everyone out safely cannot be overstated as we have to remember that a trained and experienced diver lost his life in the execution of the planned rescue.

At a time when we have become accustomed to blatant displays of government incompetence, here we saw government officials carefully weigh options – drilling an alternate escape route, sheltering in place until the end of monsoon season – come up with a plan and its near flawless (we can’t forget the death of the Thai Navy SEAL) execution.

The cast of nations that contributed people and material to the effort was also impressive. Rebuffing the go-it-alone, “my country first” attitude espoused in the current political climate, here we saw the positive benefits of international cooperation with each nation contributing what it could for the common good: in this case the rescue of those stranded boys.

It’s also remarkable what we didn’t see. There were no recriminations for the coach who led the boys into the cave, no complaints about the costs of the operation and, as of yet, no lawyers lining up to press lawsuits against anyone they would attempt to hold liable. There was only an outpouring of compassion for the boys and their coach and an unyielding resolve to get them out safely.

The Bad: Contrast that with the ongoing debacle on the United States’ southern border. Seeking to curb the flow of refugees trying to enter the country, and in defiance of international law protecting refugee status, the U.S. enacted a “zero tolerance” policy resulting in the separation of parents from their children: over 100 under the age of five.

The separated children were placed in internment camps, (so-called “tender age facilities” for toddlers and infants) apparently without ascertaining information that would be required for reunification with their parents, either if their request for refugee status was granted, or if it was denied and they were returned to their country of origin. Critics have observed that they have seen “coat check operations” operate more efficiently, resulting in the return of a garment to its owner, than the haphazard and so far largely unsuccessful attempts to reunite these families.

When the full story is told, the real scandal of this tawdry episode will be the amount of money spent and who held the contracts for lodging, food, clothing, transportation etc. It has been reported that the incarceration of people crossing the border is a billion dollar industry with many large defense contractors, who may be good at building planes, bombs and tanks but with no human service experience, holding many of the contracts. What hasn’t been reported is how were those contracts let: competitively bid, emergency, no bid – and who is responsible for overseeing the procurement process? This is all too reminiscent of the “outsourcing” of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to Haliburton for which then vice president Cheney turned a handsome profit.

The Ugly: In one of the most appalling displays of international diplomacy in recent memory, U.S. diplomats sought to thwart a resolution before the United Nations- affiliated World Health Assembly “to protect, promote and support breast feeding.” That’s right, the Trump administration came out against mothers’ milk!

As reported in the New York Times, the United States threatened tiny Ecuador, who was to introduce the resolution, with punitive trade measures and withdrawal of military aid if they did not drop their sponsorship – which they did. The same pressure forced several other small Latin American and African countries to refuse sponsorship as well. This despite at least four decades of research that has “established the importance of breast milk which provides essential nutrients as well as hormones that protect newborns against infectious disease”, quoting health experts in the article. Behind the U.S. intimidation was the $70 billion baby food industry that sells infant formula and has been accused of sometimes using “inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes”, which can result in unwarranted disease or death to infants. The resolution only passed when Russia stepped in to sponsor it and the U.S. suddenly stopped its bullying tactics.

This crass, not to mention dangerous, surrender to money interests is right up there with the tobacco industry’s defense of smoking, even in the face of scientific evidence linking tobacco use to nicotine addiction and deadly diseases like lung cancer. To have the government front for this egregious behavior is particularly abhorrent.

There is still much good in the world as evidenced by the rescue in Thailand. And that operation is a potent reminder that “good” is not the sole province of any race, culture or continent. There are, however, also malevolent forces for whom greed is their only motivation. And too often those forces are in the position to use governments and other powerful institutions for their dastardly purposes. We can’t allow our government to totally surrender to those who would exploit mankind or nature strictly for personal gain.

Stay woke.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell 

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