Is There Really Such Thing As Sustainable Tourism?

For the last 3 years of my life I have been working to create real sustainable tourism around the world. Whether it be in the Peace Corps in Panama working with indigenous cacao farmers for 2 years helping to create a low impact agro-based eco-tour, or the latest project I’m involved in, Keteka, which helps to find small community based tourism projects around the world that feature low impact tourism and bring in cultural exchanges as well as extra money to places that really need it. As our Indiegogo campaign for the project has intensified and become extremely popular, I have had the chance to answer questions from journalists, bloggers, and radio show hosts. The question “Is this really sustainable” comes up frequently and I think it is an important one. I feel that this question is so important that sharing the following recent exchange that I had with a journalist is the best way to for me to present it. Read and discus:

How do you show tourists little seen areas of Panama without irrevocably changing those areas?

The idea is to change these areas believe it or not. At least a small amount. All three of the founders of Keteka worked on tourism in our two years in the Peace Corps and in that time we found the effects of responsible tourism in our community to be much much more on the positive side in terms of impact than the negative. This is especially true in the indigenous communities. I can give you a couple examples of this: In my community (Rio Oeste Arriba ) it is very common for the people not to communicate very well. Because of this, a recent road put into the area, and the many church groups that have come through throughout the years telling the community that they need to “become more civilized” they have lost many of their traditions and language. With the tour that we set up, we literally had to spend a large portion of tourism training getting the very old generation in my community to teach the middle aged and younger generation the old customs, language, dress, and food.

I will never forget seeing community members coming to see the food we were cooking for tourists and wondering what it was not realizing that it was a traditional dish of the area and that it was all from local plants. In the two years that I had to work on the Chocolate tour that we set up I saw new tour guides that we were training learn the language of their grandparents as well as English and how to use a computer. I saw timid women become more confident and start to take leadership roles where there had not been in the not to distant past. And I saw many many many tourists learn about a culture that is on the absolute brink of being no-more. As I mentioned before, change is the idea here. It is just helping these communities change with the time in a way that helps them keep their traditions and offers new opportunities.

How do you balance traveling in an eco-friendly way when airplane transportation is so damaging? Or are there any sustainable (in the green sense) trips?

This is an interesting question and in a world where “green” is thrown out there more often than not it is hard to tell what is really helping our planet and what is not. We don’t pretend to be “green” service. Whenever you are traveling you are using non-renuable energy sources to get there and back and you are probably eating things such as local seafood that is from areas that are from severely fish depleted waters such as most of the areas in Panama. As you probably know, bottled water is one of the biggest energy users and the containers fill our landfills or in Panama, the side of the road. If you are trying to be “green” or earth friendly I would honestly recommend finding a local place you can visit a new culture and have those experiences. Of course this is easier to do in a larger city. You would be amazed at the amount of diversity we have in the states and many of these people keep their traditions. That said, there is a “greener” way of traveling and that is by bus, which is how a great majority of Keteka users travel.

Especially true in Central America, busses are packed and relatively cheap. The more packed the bus, the less damage it is going to do to the environment. Panama in particular has a great bus system and even have newer buses that are energy efficient. If you really need to fly somewhere as your time is limited or you just can’t handle the crowded bus, I would suggest becoming a vegetarian for at least your trip or maybe even the month. This will help offset the amount of pollutants put into air from your plane trip and will keep more of fish in the water to see later when your snorkeling.

See the Drones? Forget the Drones!

Former Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who now works as an MSNBC reporter, revealed yesterday (Sunday, February 24, 2013) on MSNBC that while being prepared in 2008 to assume the Press Secretary job for the incoming Obama Administration, he was specifically told to deny the drone program’s existence:

“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program,” he explained on MSNBC. “You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”

Gibbs admitted that it was a troubling instruction since the drone program was already known to exist so that his denial of its existence put him in the peculiar position of saying to reporters in effect, “listen to what I’m saying and ignore what you already know to be factually true.”

But then again, isn’t that in fact what the Press Secretary’s job is now?

Here’s how Gibbs specifically put it:

“Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition,” Gibbs continued. “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program — pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

What the vast majority of people in this country rely upon, of course, is what the Press Secretary says. He or she is the designated spokesperson for the president to the media who are in turn the conduit to the people about what their president and the White House more generally are doing and thinking. Even those people who know better and recognize that the Press Secretary is more Press Flack than truth teller are still strongly pulled in the direction of what the Press Secretary tells the nation. Moreover, Obama campaigned on an explicit pledge to restore transparency to government. His administration, however, was not even yet in the White House and his incoming Press Secretary was already being told to deny the drone program’s existence.

What makes this even more revealing about how much contempt the governing parties have for the public is that while campaigning for the presidency in 2007, it was none other than Obama who first publicly advocated using drones in Pakistan.

As I wrote in September of 2008:

As reported by the New York Times on September 11, 2008, in July 2008 Bush secretly approved Spec Ops forces to launch ground military attacks inside Pakistan without prior approval from the Pakistani government. The NYT essay notes: “It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country.” It’s unclear because such actions are blatantly against international law. (During the Vietnam War when President Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that he had begun bombing Cambodia and thereby expanding the war, a fury broke out in America. During the widespread protests that followed, four students were famously shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4.)

“The Times” article continues: “Pakistan’s government has asserted that last week’s raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

“Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. “In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.”

What gives this story even more resonance is the fact that the Bush regime is now finally embracing the tactics that Obama had called for back in August 2007. At the time, Bush, John McCain and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton derided Obama for offering such a bellicose proposal. Bush said: “he’s going to attack Pakistan” in disbelief.

As Reuters reported on August 1, 2007: “Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” Obama said.”

So there you have it: the reactionary Bush White House has now adopted a plan that it previously publicly described as overly aggressive – can you imagine this White House thinking anything is too aggressive? – a plan offered up by the Democratic Party’s standard bearer, Obama, the man that many progressives pin their hopes on.

This reminds me of the line from a comic who wondered what the world is coming to when the world’s best golfer is black and the best rapper is white. (Emphasis added).

droneSo there you have it: an ex-Press Secretary feels free today to tell us how he was instructed to lie, now that he is no longer holding the job that required him to lie, instructed by an administration that touts itself as the most transparent in history, led by a president whose credibility rests upon his persona as honest and forthcoming. This ex-Press Secretary was instructed to even to lie about something that at least those in the media knew to be a lie, and those who had been paying attention to the news and the Obama campaign knew to be a lie.

Obama was trying to distinguish himself during the campaign as someone who could be relied upon to be properly aggressive because when you run for the presidency, you are also auditioning for the 1% who actually run things.

So this issue reveals both the Presidential office holders’ duplicity and the very carefully concealed fact that whoever is running for president is also sending out messages while running for the office that the real powers will recognize.

Obama’s Asia Pivot

In late 2011, Obama prioritized reasserting America’s Pacific presence. His Asia pivot was announced.

It involves advancing America’s military footprint. Doing so aggressively is planned. China’s growing economic might and military strength are targeted. So is checking Russia at the same time.

Containment is policy. Cold war politics is back. Unchallenged global dominance is prioritized. Anything goes intends to maintain it.

War in a part of the world hostile to invaders is possible. Vietnam echoes remain audible. So are Afghanistan ones today. China’s a far more formidable adversary. So is Russia.

It’s hard imagining any country challenging them militarily. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. America hasn’t won a war since WW II. Lessons weren’t learned.

Permanent war remains policy. War profiteers demand it. In January 2012, Obama expanded the Bush doctrine. Dick Cheney explained it. In June 2003, he said:

“If there is anyone in the world today who doubts the seriousness of the Bush Doctrine, I would urge that person to consider the fate of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.”

Bush put it his way, saying “You’re either with us or against us.” Neutrality’s not an option. Neither are equity, justice, rule of law principles, democratic values and peace.

Supporters thought Obama was different. He exceeds the worst of Bush. He does so at home and abroad. He hardened homeland tyranny. He asserts America’s right to replace independent governments with client ones.

Doing so prioritizes global aggression. It violates international law. Washington operates with impunity. Its interests matter most.

Obama’s biting off a mouthful targeting China and Russia. He rules out no options. Bush addressed “wars of the 21st century.”

Obama continues them. Tactics include creating instability, chaos and violence. North Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia are targeted. It’s done to justify America’s intervention and presence.

Obama prioritizes global belligerence. He’s cold-blooded about America’s interests. He’s mindless of whatever it takes to achieve them. Realpolitik continues Washington’s odious tradition.

Waging wars on humanity reflect it. Doing so spurns rule of law principles. Democratic values don’t matter. They never did and don’t now.

Obama’s pivot escalated regional tensions. Challenging China and Russia pose enormous challenges.

Asia’s on the boil. Japan’s a virtual US colony. It serves US imperial interests. Washington treats Asian areas like its own. It has no right to do so.

Administrations and Congress believe America has sovereign rights over East Asian waters and territory. It wants to dominate and exploit them.

Strengthening America’s regional presence is part of its new imperial strategy. It’s going head-to-head with China and Russia. It aims to undermine and isolate Beijing and Moscow regionally. It’s a recipe for heightened tensions and eventual confrontation.

Washington has been rebalancing East Asia for years. Strategy calls for strengthening military, economic, and political ties with Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam.

It involves undermining Chinese and Russian influence, isolating them from neighbors, and asserting Washington’s dominance over territories and waters not its own.

Echoes of WW I and II remain audible. Never again is possible. Flashpoints have a way of igniting them. Small disputes lead to greater ones.

Obama’s Asia pivot encourages them. Military alliances, strategic partnerships, and expanding bases make them more likely.

Cold War politics is back. Soviet Russia’s dissolution reignited old rivalries. Scrambling for vital resources followed. Marginalizing Beijing’s influence is prioritized. So is challenging Moscow the same way.

Both countries are rising world powers. America’s been declining for years. Its military might is used to offset it. Waging war on humanity is a losing game.

Walden Bello calls Obama’s Asia pivot “flawed.” Critics denounce transgressing areas of traditional Chinese influence.

Obama continues the worst of Bush administration policies. His pivot strategy is more than meets the eye.

It’s “a faint,” says Bellow, “a maneuver to cover up a strategic retreat from America’s disastrous two-decades-long engagement in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.”

It’s Washington attempt “to retreat to an area for imperial power projection that it sees as more manageable than a Middle East that is running out of control.”

It’s hard understanding how. It won’t work. Realpolitik won’t let Washington disengage. It’s “condemned to a condition of imperial overreach.”

Increasing America’s Pacific footprint triggers military competition with China. It prioritizes protecting its part of the world. It’s doing so “as it races to become the world’s biggest economy.”

Its politics reflects centuries of contesting Western intervention. Don’t underestimate its capacity to “promot(e) peace, harmony, and respect for sovereignty better than” America’s hegemonic madness.

Washington uses whatever it takes to advance its imperium. Its Asia pivot encircles China and Russia with bases.

With all related categories included, its defense spending exceeds all other nations combined. It wants dominance over both countries. It wants it regionally and globally.

It wants Beijing and Moscow marginalized and subservient. It wants control over vital world resources. It wants challengers eliminated.

China and Russia are formidable competitors. They’re dominant enough to matter.

America’s grand geopolitical strategy prioritizes Eurasian dominance. China’s America’s chief economic rival. It’s dependent on vital resources.

Russia’s military might matters. Both countries represent major Eurasian challengers. Washington tolerates no rivals. No-holds-barred tactics target them.

Obama declared global cyberwar. China, Russia, Iran, and other independent states are targeted. Draconian cybersecurity legislation is prioritized.

CISPA is back. It’s more about destroying personal freedom than online security. It gives government and corporate predators unlimited power.

They’ll take full advantage. They’ll use it to access personal/privileged information online. They’ll claim fake cybersecurity threats to do so.

Constitutional protections don’t matter. Diktat power replaced them. Big Lies substitute for truth. War on terror is America’s national pastime. China is public enemy number one.

On February 19, a New York Times editorial headlined “China’s Cybergames.”

Times editors are paid to lie. They claim Washington “and security experts have long known that China is the main source of cyberattacks on the United States.” A new Mandiant report says so. Claims without corroboration don’t wash.

Mandiant’s a private security firm. Kevin Mandia heads it. He’s a retired military cybercrime investigator. He specializes in computer forensics. His staff includes former intelligence officials and law enforcement agents.

He targets China. He operates like a digital Blackwater. He’s well paid to do so. “We’re security guys,” he says. “We’re not diplomats.”

He claims Chinese hackers are linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). US government agencies, corporations and organizations are targeted from a Shanghai area office tower. It’s PLA Unit 61398 headquarters, he says.

China denounced his report. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous. Determining their origins are extremely difficult. We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.”

Bet on it having no credibility whatever. Most countries spy on others. They do so for national security reasons. Government hacking is war by other means. Washington does it aggressively. Media scoundrels don’t explain.

Obama stopped short of accusing China. No one’s fooled by who he has in mind. Congressional hardliners say the same thing.

Concerns are discussed privately. Patience is wearing thin, said Times editors. “China-emanated attacks have grown,” they claim.

A more aggressive response is warranted, they say. “Publicizing China’s transgressions and blocking Internet access to hackers should be a warning to Beijing. Washington is right to defend its interests.”

Attorney General Holder weighed in. He warned of “a significant and steadily increasing threat to America’s economy and national security interests.” He lied saying so. He’s paid to lie. So is Obama and likeminded hardliners.

Robert Hormats was Goldman Sachs International chairman. That alone makes him damaged goods. Goldman makes money by stealing it. Hormats was complicit in grand theft.

He’s now Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. He said Washington “repeatedly raised concerns about trade secret theft by any means at the highest levels with senior Chinese officials.”

Get China is official US policy. Marginalizing, weakening, and isolating it is prioritized. New threats follow earlier ones. Cyberwar opens a new front.

Capability to wage it adds to America’s arsenal. Preemption is prioritized. Diktat authority bypasses Congress. Obama’s word is policy.

He’ll say what he wants without evidence. He’s a serial liar so expect it. He’s waging multiple direct and proxy wars.

Cyber ones are ongoing. They’re aggressive, malicious and lawless. New ones are planned. China is prioritized. Obama’s got other targets in mind. Cyber sabotage is policy. It’s war by other means. Rogue states operate that way. America’s by far the worst.

US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) has full operational control. It’s a cyber hit squad. It’s part of the US Strategic Command.

It’s based at Fort Meade, MD. General Keith Alexander serves as National Security Agency (NSA) director and US Cyber Command head.

Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 20 set guidelines for confronting cyberspace threats.

Last fall, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” It could “cause physical destruction and loss of life,” he said. It could “paralyze and shock the nation and create a new profound sense of vulnerability.”

US officials prioritize hyperbolic fearmongering. Americans are easy marks to deceive. They’re dismissive and don’t think. They let Washington get away with murder and much more.

Obama may have WW III in mind. He prioritizes waging war on humanity. He does so at home and abroad. He’s the worst of rogue leaders.

He risks what no head of state should dare. Despots operate that way. Impeaching him is a national imperative. Doing it in time matters most.

Pension theft: Marie Benedetto, a retired San Francisco math teacher, says CalPERS is increasing teachers’ insurance premium for long-term health care a whopping 85 percent

Long-term care rate hike stuns CALPERS teacher and public worker retirees and they should be stunned.  For the forces of reaction are not just cannibalizing our kids, but they are helping themselves to a hefty plate of senior pensions in their Donner Party dinner that includes all public pensions.  All over the nation, since 2010, as I have reported, teacher pension funds have been the big pinata for investment bankers, banks, politicians, and hedge funds all looking for a free ride in the ‘free market’ and all the other scallywags we call ‘job  creators’, investment specialists and undemocratic representatives.  They are in fact, job destroyers and when they can’t get their hands on jobs to destroy, they look, like the vampires they are, to suck the blood out of public worker pensions and leave workers decimated.  This is the slow incremental drip of austerity, American style.

In a recent article in the San Francisco Gate, online, reporter Victoria Colliver has written about how CALPERS is now being attacked by the demons of despair — the financial class and the ruling elites.  All this while Jerry Brown, capitalism’s ‘handshake’, sits back and makes budget decisions along with his cronies that promise to devastate the public sector and its members.  Brown is part of a long line of neo-liberal politicians who likes to quote Zen sayings while he slashes and burns California.  There was a time he posed as a liberal but that was before ‘neo’ liberalism to which he has taken a fond liking to.  He is little more than a huckster.

From charter schools to budget devastation, from cuts in welfare and childrens’ needs to slashing public pensions, Brown has proved to be the scourge of California, doing what Schwartznegger could never do under a republican administration.  Now he is after seniors and retirees, while he and his wife, founder of the Gap, attend parties with criminal Sandy Weill of Citigroup (remember Weill: he orchestred the destruction of Glass-Seagal, which seperated investment banks from ‘regular’ banks).

Yet Brown, no friend of working people, really is only a minor method actor in the destruction of the public commons.  Meanwhile, while ’the Governor’ and his wife enjoy lofty parties with ruling elites, working people actually die.