Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech in South Carolina

Yes We Can.

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

from this NYT article, Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler:

A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil.

It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.
Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation. ...
read the rest here

Steven Pinker: A brief history of violence

In a preview of his next book, Steven Pinker takes on violence. We live in violent times, an era of heightened warfare, genocide and senseless crime. Or so we've come to believe. Pinker charts a history of violence from Biblical times through the present, and says modern society has a little less to feel guilty about.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Keith Olbermann's 9/11 Commentary on President Bush. Comment

Saturday, August 5, 2006

dwyane wade - a true champion


Absence Of America's Upper Classes From The Military

"Thanks to Sen. John McCain's youngest son checking into Marine Corps boot camp, the number of Congress members with enlisted children will skyrocket a whopping 50 percent."

A Duke University study demonstrates that it matters whether civilian decision makers have military experience: A review of U.S. foreign policy over nearly two centuries shows that when we have the fewest number of veterans in leadership and staff positions in Congress and the Executive branch, we are most likely to engage in aggressive (as opposed to defensive) warfighting. And we are most likely to pull out of conflicts early.

A study by the eminent military sociologist Charles Moskos shows that the population of a democracy is not willing to sustain military engagements over time if the leadership class does not also serve in the armed forces. Its lack of service sends a signal that the conflict is not vital, or worthwhile. Since we don't know what conflicts will come -- or which party will be in power when they do -- these findings should matter to all of us. ...

But how can we expect privileged young people to do military work? Military work is dangerous. You could be asked to kill or be killed. It is fraught with the risk of being sent into an unpopular conflict, as many now understand Iraq to be. Why should the children of our leadership classes or those ambitious for leadership chose such a path, when there are so many better options available to them?

In World War I, one of Congress's stated reasons for proposing a draft was that without it, too many of the upper-class children would rush to service, and we'd lose the leadership class of the country. In 1956 a majority of the graduating classes of Stanford, Harvard and Princeton joined the military, and most were not drafted. Leadership was then understood to have a moral dimension -- the cry "follow me" was more convincing than "charge!" Those who aspired to future leadership saw service as a hallmark of credibility.

As a country we have stopped presenting military service as a principled statement. We sell it instead as a job opportunity, one from which those with "better options" are excused. We need to revisit our stance on who should serve, and why. All members of our elites need not serve, just a representative number, enough to bring the leadership in line with the rest of the country, to bring the wisdom and perspective that in the aggregate can come with experience and responsibility. With such leaders, with such a military, we will be a stronger, fairer, better country. With such leaders, the enlistment plans of young Jimmy McCain need not seem so surprising.
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Thursday, August 3, 2006

Beyond Lebanon

Brent Scowcroft (national security adviser to Ford and G.H.W. Bush) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "Now, perhaps more than ever, we have an opportunity to harness that concern and energy to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the entire 58-year-old tragedy. Only the United States can lead the effort required to seize this opportunity."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that a simple cease-fire in Lebanon is not the solution to the current violence. She says it is necessary to deal with the roots of the problem. She is right on both counts. But Hezbollah is not the source of the problem; it is a derivative of the cause, which is the tragic conflict over Palestine that began in 1948. ...

The outlines of a comprehensive settlement have been apparent since President Bill Clinton's efforts collapsed in 2000. The major elements would include:
  • A Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with minor rectifications agreed upon between Palestine and Israel.
  • Palestinians giving up the right of return and Israel reciprocating by removing its settlements in the West Bank, again with rectifications as mutually agreed. Those displaced on both sides would receive compensation from the international community.
  • King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia unambiguously reconfirming his 2002 pledge that the Arab world is prepared to enter into full normal relations with Israel upon its withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967.
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia working with the Palestinian Authority to put together a government along the lines of the 18-point agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah prisoners in Israeli jails in June. This government would negotiate for the Authority.
  • Deployment, as part of a cease-fire, of a robust international force in southern Lebanon.
  • Deployment of another international force to facilitate and supervise traffic to and from Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Designation of Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and Palestine, with appropriate international guarantees of freedom of movement and civic life in the city.
These elements are well-known to people who live in the region and to those outside who have labored over the decades seeking to shape a lasting peace. What seems breathtakingly complicated, however, is how one mobilizes the necessary political will, in the region and beyond, to transform these principles into an agreement on a lasting accord.

The current crisis in Lebanon provides a historic opportunity to achieve what has seemed impossible. That said, it is too much to expect those most directly implicated -- Israeli and Palestinian leaders -- to lead the way. That responsibility falls to others, principally the United States, which alone can mobilize the international community and Israel and the Arab states for the task that has defeated so many previous efforts.
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Bush's Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father

When they first met as United States president and Israeli prime minister, George W. Bush made clear to Ariel Sharon he would not follow in the footsteps of his father. He told Sharon in that first meeting that "I'll use force to protect Israel", which was a shock to everybody, said one person present.

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls “a new Middle East.” In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father’s approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Kimball: Historical Analogies, the Middle East, and World War

Jeffrey Kimball (from HNN):

Polls indicate, for example, that 60 percent of Americans, as well as many editorialists across the political spectrum, believe that the fighting in Lebanon could or might lead to a larger war in a manner similar to the onset of World War I, when the assassination of one high official and his consort escalated into a global war. ...

[T]here was at least one element in the lead-up to World War I that to my mind serves as a useful analogy in the Middle East imbroglio. In 1914, the status-quo government of Austria-Hungary foolishly decided, with the support of imperial aspirant Germany, to militarily punish Serbia for having supported the nationalist assassins of the Austrian archduke. Austria-Hungary cared little about the assassination compared to its larger purpose: by seizing upon the event to teach the Serbs a lesson, pan-Slavism might be contained and the old order preserved. In our day, the status-quo government of Israel, supported by hegemonic America, decided to punish Hamas and Hezbollah, and collaterally Lebanon—not for the kidnapping of a few soldiers but to teach them a lesson in military power and perhaps even to "root out" Hamas and Hezbollah. Both Austria-Hungary/Germany and Israel/United States chose military force over real diplomacy; that is, they chose the sword over a political solution to a deeply-rooted struggle between status-quo governments and the tide of nationalistic/religious/ideological rebellion.

No, I don't think that the current conflict in the Middle East will lead to a world war, though it might lead to a larger regional conflict. Even if no wider war comes about, we should nonetheless remember one of the lessons of the onset of World War I: explosive political issues cannot be solved with brute force in an age of "people's war," or weapon-rich guerrilla war. Political problems mainly require political solutions. Conventional military responses alone produce conventional failures.

Kristof: Another Small Step for Earth

Nicholas Kristof in the NYT:

It’s true that the risks of climate change are uncertain, but when encountering other kinds of dangers — like Iran apparently trying to develop nuclear weapons — we don’t shrug and say there’s no point in doing anything because of the uncertainties. The risks of warming are potentially enormous — imagine much of the east coast under water — and our obligation to protect our planet is not just technical but also moral.

So it’s time to abandon the old self-defeating notion that curbing greenhouse gases is too costly to be effective. Portland and other localities are showing that there’s plenty we can do inexpensively, at least in the early phases — if we don’t mind rush-hour traffic smelling of French fries.

I almost didn’t write this column, because with the Middle East in flames it’s obvious that climate change is not the most important topic of the day. But it could be the most important issue of this century.