GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS
Global temperatures rise and fall in a complex natural cycle. After each ice age, warming occurs, followed about 800 years later by a rise in carbon dioxide. CO2 does not normally initiate global warming, but acts as an amplifier for thousands of years once temperatures are rising. It is estimated that the greenhouse gases methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and CO2 cause at least half of the warming. Some other factors affecting earth’s atmospheric temperature include volcanic, El Nino, and cyclical solar activity. Scientists cannot account for current temperatures without factoring in the effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. Nor is it likely mankind can exert beneficial control over any other temperature-affecting phenomenon. Extreme care should be exercised in implementing such ideas as seeding the oceans with iron to reduce greenhouse gases; dire unintended consequences could ensue.
The effects of global warming are increasing at an alarming rate. January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record since global instrumental temperature records began 130 years ago. The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2010 indicates the warmest May on record since 1880. Carbon dioxide levels have increased about 30% in the past 130 years. CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for centuries and science asserts that current levels are the highest in 650,000 years. Precise CO2 measurements in the atmosphere began in 1958, when the level was 318 parts per million. The June measurement for 2008 was 387.88, for 2009 it was 389.43, and June 2010 CO2 levels were 392.04 ppm. There have been no decreases from one year to the next in CO2 levels since 1958. The rise in CO2 is accelerating; the increase from 2000-2010 was almost triple the increase during the 1960’s. The upper safety limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350 ppm. CO2 levels have exceeded that limit since 1988.
The cycle of impact is long and we must act now. Even if immediate and drastic global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are made, the warming will certainly continue for decades. Alaska has 180 coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels. Millions are presently endangered in India, Bangladesh and elsewhere. Even in a best-case scenario, many coastal communities are expected to be below sea level within a generation. While certain local benefits may be felt in some regions, recent evidence indicates that global weather and agricultural yields will be negatively affected. Other impacts of climate change include increases in disease, starvation, migration, and species extinctions. Some areas may experience colder winters and weather prediction will become more difficult.
Let’s consider the effects of “positive feedback”. Polar ice and snow is rapidly decreasing, causing less heat to be reflected back to space. Scientists estimate that between 100 and 200 billion metric tons of ice are melting annually. Northern lakes are beginning to melt, threatening to release the carbon stored underneath. There is more carbon stored in Northern Hemisphere permafrost than presently exists in our atmosphere. The production of methane from thawing tundra is increasing rapidly. Methane is also stored in the ocean depths. It would be advisable to investigate methods to utilize the methane being "naturally" released. On the other hand, any attempt to tap into methane storehouses could trigger the premature release of large quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a major contributor to global warming, although it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years. Because its main effects last such a short time, the reduction of methane output is the best hope we have to rapidly reduce global warming. A methane emission will have 25 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years. Methane levels have risen about 150% in the past 250 years. Scientists assert that this greenhouse gas caused mass extinctions in earths past and that the level of methane in our atmosphere is at its highest level in the past 400,000 years. Some scientists believe that rising temperatures could soon lead to a tenfold increase in atmospheric methane, due to thawing of ancient biomass. Methane "time bomb" threatens abrupt climate change. This scenario could unleash runaway global warming on a catastrophic scale. Recent measurements suggest that while some arctic soils continue to absorb carbon, with two or three degrees more warming they will begin to release their stores. Sea levels are currently rising about an inch every seven years; should methane levels balloon tenfold, the oceans could be expected to rise much faster, perhaps by half an inch annually. This translates to a sea level rise of one meter within a time period of about one human lifetime. Among the developing countries, the major region most affected by a one meter sea level rise would be the Middle East and North Africa, where over 3% of the population and 1% of the agricultural land would be impacted. Aside from numerous small islands, the most severely affected country would likely be Bangladesh, where one meter of sea level rise would submerge 17% of the nation.
While it is the developed nations which are mainly responsible for the climate change phenomena, the poor nations are increasingly paying the heaviest price. Today humanity is presented with an exceptional opportunity. Should the developed nations devote ten percent of GDP for ten years towards assisting a sustainable development in the poorer countries, the benefits would be enormous. Deep-seated frustration and resentment would give way to hope and understanding. Peace and cooperation would likely flourish and terrorism be reduced. The climate crisis could be managed much better by enabling developing nations to leapfrog unsustainable technologies. Humanity would learn how to rapidly implement cleaner technologies on a global basis. The alternative is to continue to take half-measures on our path to global catastrophe (G8, 2008- too little, too late). Developing countries will continue to follow the example of developed nations, burning more fossil fuels and producing more meat. Without considerable international collaboration, it is unreasonable to expect anything else from poor countries; they have just as much right to develop and pollute as do the developed nations. Additionally, they are inhibited from quickly embracing emerging technologies by economic, educational, and manufacturing limitations. Carbon Sequestration
Government should promote plant-based diets since animal farming is a major contributor to deforestation and the main human contribution to global warming. Tropical rainforests are the earth’s lungs and pharmacy. Millions of hectares are deforested annually, leading to increases in greenhouse gases, soil erosion and natural disasters, and a decrease in rainfall. Meat production produces large quantities of methane and nitrous oxide. Transportation is our second greatest contribution to climate change, followed by power plants and industry. The delicate balance of earth’s ecosystem may soon tip too far and it could be millennia before restoration occurs. While it is true that nuclear power is virtually carbon neutral, it has been established that children living near nuclear power plants have increased incidence of leukemia. Nuclear power suffers from considerable risks, especially relating to atomic weaponry, waste, and radiation exposure. The ideal would be to build no more nuclear plants and replace existing plants with safe and renewable energy sources when the nukes are decommissioned. Carbon Sequestration2
Even disregarding climate change, all human-generated pollution has negative impacts on health and ecology. 40% of deaths worldwide have been attributed to pollution. Pollution is a prime suspect in honeybee colony collapse, which gravely threatens agriculture, and thus, human survival. The solution our earth requires is to reduce levels of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. Wind, solar, geothermal, wave and other hydropower should all play a part; conservation, reforestation, and recycling are also crucial.
Planting trees in the tropical belt near the equator combats global warming. The sequestration rate of carbon in tropical forests could be as much as 10 to 20 tons/hectare per year. These figures suggest that to sequester the carbon currently being emitted would require reforesting an area equal to at least half the size of Brazil. (Tree-planting in non-tropical regions has less effect on temperature, but does bring other benefits.) Other crops sequester lesser amounts of carbon. Ethanol-based fuels from nitrogen-fixing varieties of sugarcane may have potential to greatly reduce net carbon emissions. Transitioning chemical-based agriculture to an organic system would have major impact on climate change, not only through reduced consumption of petroleum products but also by transferring large quantities of atmospheric carbon into the soil. Scientists recommend an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in order to avert dire consequences. This obviously requires immediate and urgent action by all humanity. Climate change is not always gradual. At the end of the last ice age, temperatures rose 18 degrees F in ten years. Obviously we should invest in adapting to global warming as well as in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We will pay a heavy price if we fail to recognize the signs of an impending radical climate change. The cost to future generations will be even higher. The price of inaction will exceed the investment of proactive initiatives. Inertia can be ever so deadly.
Earth, spinning, finely balanced, exquisite-
Are we careful not to wobble it?
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Washington, DC is vulnerable to coastal disaster and difficult to protect from attack. Tornados strike the area almost every year. Consideration should be given to relocating the national capital to a safe and more central location. The decommissioned salt mines in Kansas are a possibility, due to their proven usefulness in saving energy. These can be heavily fortified with little expense due to the protective nature of subterranean environments. The present Capitol buildings in Washington, DC would make an excellent historical museum.
“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”
Without dissent there is no debate. Without debate there is no democracy.
Wise energy policy promotes environmental protection, innovation and independence. Innovation is currently stifled due to the inertia of vested interests. The existing infrastructure is designed based on petroleum-powered personal transportation, making change difficult. The way to progress is to tax fossil fuels and use the funds to develop alternatives. High gas prices will also promote the development and sale of more fuel-efficient vehicles due to public demand. This taxation will increase demand for public transport and reduce demand for imported oil. To promote drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is highly unwise. Not only could it cause enormous damage to an important ecosystem, its effect on energy independence would be minimal. It would serve only to delay the inevitable transition to a radically different transportation regime. Estimates are that all Alaskan oil reserves would supply total US consumption for less than seven years. Even if we believed it possible to drill our way to energy independence, would we really want to damage our environment when we could be leaders in adopting the technologies of the future? The US will either export new technologies, creating jobs here, or import them as we lose jobs. The more petroleum we extract from the depths, the greater the likelihood of unintended seismic consequences.
Without a national grid of high-speed electric charging stations the practical use for electric vehicles will be limited. Electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than do hybrids, as it is simpler and less costly to control emissions at power plants than on millions of vehicles. An alternative to battery technologies is the “FlowAIR”. This vehicle is also very earth-friendly as it produces fewer emissions than hybrids and doesn’t have battery disposal issues. This technology will probably save energy compared to battery power due to reduced vehicle weight.
The railroad system needs to be renovated and used in preference to tractor-trailers for transport of commodities. This will save fuel, improve public safety and lessen the need for highway maintenance and construction. Safe and reliable public transportation should be expanded, starting in the heavily populated areas including the entire area from Boston to the nation’s capitol. Wind, solar, hydrogen, and wave energy technologies need government support as well. Wind energy is now comparably priced to nuclear, without the security and waste issues. (The US has abundant wind resources. Iran could probably find energy sources preferable to nuclear as well.) Wind power plants occupy very little land; a certain separation is needed between turbines, but this land can be used for farming, etc. North Dakota could supply one fourth of US electricity from wind power. The Southwest could easily produce all its electricity from sunlight, with minimal impact on land usefulness.
"Clean coal" is little more than a dream at present. The burning of coal contaminates the oceans with large quantities of toxic mercury. The Monday before Christmas, 2008, a retaining wall broke at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal-fired power plant, releasing 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic sludge. The Environmental Protection Agency claims enough coal ash was released to cover more than 3,000 acres with sludge one foot deep. “Very high” traces of arsenic, lead, and thallium were found in the Emory River a mile and a half downstream from the plant, according to the EPA. The Kingston Fossil Plant Disaster at Harriman, TN was certainly one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.
Probably the most eco-friendly method of disposing of used cooking oil is to convert it to biofuel. Growing food crops for biofuel is worsening an already critical lack of food in poor nations. Switchgrass biofuel from marginal cropland can yield five times the energy expended in production. Jatropha is also promising. Algae might safely yield at least 15 times the biofuel compared to any other plant, per acre of land. Soil fertility is irrelevant for algae production- what’s needed is a source of CO2, such as a power plant. Other similar “filters” can be developed to limit pollutants. Perhaps gases can be filtered through “engineered wetlands” of some type.
Energy storage devices need intensive research; vehicles are one vital application. Storage is also helpful with solar and especially wind power, since production fluctuates. Supercapacitors and Cui and vanadium batteries are possible examples. Compressed air is commonly used for power tools and is now powering cars; large tanks could store enormous amounts of energy for air-powered engines, generators and other devices. Huge expenditures of fuel and water are required to raise animals for food. Plant-based diets create much less environmental impact.
Urban/suburban design needs considerable change and this is almost impossible without government involvement. Cities like Curitiba (Brazil), Masdar (UAE) and Dongtan (China) hold important lessons for future development. Earth-friendly food production areas can be surrounded by, or interspersed with housing. With proper urban design, there is less reliance on expensive modes of transport while bicycle and foot traffic flourish. Given the opportunity, many people combine exercise with transportation. Government regulations need to be tailored to promote diversification and decentralization of food production. Transporting food long distances not only wastes energy; it lessens nutritional value and makes the nation more vulnerable to disruptions during emergencies.
Home-based solar power is now available in 40 US states with no equipment investment.
Less than half of 1% of the water on earth is fresh water available for human use. And 70% of that water is used for agriculture. Most water for agriculture is squandered on meat production and highly inefficient irrigation methods. While some believe "peak oil" may not arrive until as late as 2013, "peak water" is long past. The worlds oil reserves are expected to be virtually depleted by mid-century, perhaps sooner. Few would argue with the fact that water and oil shortages will play an increasing role in global conflicts.
“We did not inherit the Earth from our parents.
We are borrowing it from our children.”
September 11 Irony: Chile attacked, democracy squashed and human rights trampled, with the aid of “the champion of democracy”, which later suffers her own 9/11, which, it is claimed, is due to her promotion of democracy and human rights.
After winning the presidential election in Chile, Salvador Allende took power in 1970. Allende was friendly with Cuba and the USSR, and was accused of subverting the Constitution. The 1973 coup led to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s junta dissolved Congress on September 13. The Pinochet regime arrested, imprisoned, and tortured about 28,000 people. (One in every 400 citizens.) Thousands were killed. Nevertheless, Chile would probably have been worse off had the coup not occured.
"Coups do not happen in Chile." - Augusto Pinochet, 1971
"We didn't do it. I mean we helped them.”
- Henry Kissinger, conversing with President Nixon concerning the coup.
The War on Drugs: A “war against violence, crime and the harm caused by drugs”. The American experiment with a Constitutional alcohol prohibition was rescinded as a misguided attempt to legislate morality. History repeats in the current extra-Constitutional prohibition. The main fruits of prohibition remain violence and crime, helping make the US the nation with the highest rate of incarceration. The formulation and enforcement of prohibition laws often involves racism. A recent study revealed that blacks are much more likely to be arrested for drug use than whites in the US. They are also less likely to enjoy effective legal representation. The war on drugs not only makes people into criminals by definition, but the prohibition itself fuels crime by bringing users into the black market and discouraging them from seeking help due to fear of prosecution. Taxing and controlling drugs is the way to mitigate the harm they cause. Compared to the US, the rate of marijuana consumption is lower in Holland, under decriminalization and regulation. When laws make sense, respect for government increases, as does compliance. LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) works to advocate reform. By resorting to prohibition, governments trample human rights and divert scarce resources. In effect, they create corruption and fund terrorism. Prohibition causes more harm to society than the harm it prevents. Prohibition leads to contaminated products of unknown purity. The creation of a black market causes huge increases in theft and violence. These "by-products of prohibition" cause more harm to public health than the drugs themselves. Public health issues should not be clogging our court system. No honest member of human society is victor in this war.
Death penalty: The death penalty is promoted as justice and deterrent. It is implemented in a haphazard, discriminatory manner in rare instances and many years after the crime, creating little deterrent. An executed person can provide no further information to authorities attempting to solve crime and provide important information to victims and their families. Several prisoners have been released from death row after being proved innocent, often by DNA evidence. Executions of innocent persons, especially minorities, have occurred. How many people languish on death row today due to unreliable eyewitness testimony? It is highly unwise to rely on fragile human memory in order to achieve an execution. Many nations are reluctant to cooperate with a nation clinging to a practice considered barbaric. All this makes claims of justice appear preposterous.
Eyewitness unreliability- http://www.pickingcottonbook.com/eyewitness.html
Iraq: Iraq was invaded “to protect the world from terror, remove a dictator from power and bring democracy to the region”. It became a major training ground for terrorists because of the invasion, and the democracy is unstable and semi-artificial. Iraq was recently ranked as having the third most corrupt government on earth. Instead of focusing on defeating the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan, the US became distracted and inadvertently promoted the development of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The main regional results of the invasion are instability and the increase in Iranian influence. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have settled in Syria and Jordan, causing enormous strain on their societies. As for the dictatorship, many fear this will be replaced by something similar soon after foreign troops leave. Much of the decrease in sectarian violence has been due to two unfortunate factors; considerable “ethnic cleansing” has already occurred, and secondly, concrete walls have been erected between different religious groups. Both of these factors tend to lessen the contact between factions. There are hopeful signs in Iraq. Nevertheless, the overall result would probably have been better had the US stood by those who rose up against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War, rather than encouraging their rebellion and then abandoning them to genocide.
We might well find it possible to negotiate with certain factions of the Taliban. The Qaedas, on the other hand, seem to be invariably opposed to civilized behavior.
…honesty and compassion are imperatives for human survival on this planet.
-Norman Solomon, author of
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death
Middle East policy & Islamophobia:
Supporting Israel is considered by many a noble undertaking, for religious and other reasons. No informed individual denies the special relationship of the Jewish people to the land they now “occupy”. And it is dangerous and willful blindness to deny the horrors of the Holocaust. But Israel is in no way exempt from employing discriminatory practices against minority citizens. Too often they have mirrored some of the atrocities they and their ancestors suffered at Nazi hands. We should recognize that a certain number of those who have “returned” to the Promised Land were converts, whose ancestors were gentiles. Many Moslems feel that the establishment of Israel amounted to another example of colonization by Europeans. As a general rule, the Jewish immigrants did not arrive in Palestine humbly seeking refuge- too often they have engaged in confiscation and similar injustice. For their own, understandable reasons, they have established a “Jewish state”. So those who were the majority inhabitants for many centuries now find themselves being treated as “second-class citizens”, under a system Jimmy Carter compared to apartheid. Of course, the situation is undoubtedly worse in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip than for the Arab Israelis within Israel’s recognized borders. In addition to the internal refugees among the Palestinians, hundreds of thousands have spread around the world. It is the reestablishment and development of Israel under these untidy circumstances which accounts for the majority of the animosity felt by Arabs (Muslim and Christian) towards the Jewish state. It is beyond argument that anything resembling reconciliation will be a monumental task, but the world must invest itself in supporting such an outcome.
Iran’s president makes disparaging remarks concerning the state of Israel, even predicting its imminent disappearance. To take such statements as threats of aggression may be misinterpretation- he seems to feel that Israeli injustice will bring about self-destruction. Iran’s PressTV mentions repeatedly that their president never voiced a threat of aggression against Israel. On the other hand, AlJazeera claims that Iran’s president has repeatedly threatened Israel. Iran’s supposed intention to develop nuclear weapons may also be a misinterpretation. Evidence indicates a previous attempt to develop nuclear arms; what appears to be occurring now is a game of “chicken”- Iran wants to keep a bargaining chip in order to gain something from the West. They don’t feel it reasonable to comply with US demands before entering negotiations, considering that a backwards and demeaning approach. They insist their program is peaceful and in compliance with the Nuclear NPT, which treaty, they assert, Israel and India never signed and the US ignores when it wishes, since we make little progress towards the disarmament the treaty requires. Meanwhile, the US assumes Iran is up to no good and couldn’t possibly have peaceful intentions. We don’t want to “legitimize” someone considered dangerous, by entering into talks without preconditions. I humbly suggest three components that could lead to a solution. The first step is simple- talk. Thank Iran for helping combat the Taliban. Treat them with the respect any nation deserves and we will likely see a much better result than what aggression could bring. Not only would it be close to impossible to disable any Iranian attempt to acquire the Bomb, but they are willing and able to retaliate. Step two is to cease neglecting the plight of the Palestinians. Tie aid to Israel to a cessation of settlement expansion beyond the 1967 borders. If Israel desires a security fence/wall, they should build it on the border, not inside the West Bank. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems throughout the region. Step three is to truly commit to peace on a global scale- renounce nuclear weapons as an abuse of technology. The US led in the development of these weapons- today we must continue to lead in their annihilation. Once we apply the same standard to all nations, respect and cooperation can certainly find a firmer footing. The unbalanced US policy in the Middle East supplies terrorists with more excuses for their violence.
Excerpts from the transcript of Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech against Israel, October, 2005, reported by Iranian government news agency, ISNA (His arguments are based on half-truths and “convenient omissions” and his “solution” is extreme and without compassion.)
The occupying state [Israel] is the bridgehead of the Oppressor World in the heart of the Islamic world. They have built a base to expand their domination to the entire Islamic world. There is no other raison d’etre for this entity without this objective.
Such people are using words like “it’s not possible”. They say how could we have a world without America and Zionism? But you know well that this slogan and goal can be achieved and can definitely be realized.
Our dear Imam ordered that the occupying regime in Al-Qods [Jerusalem] be wiped off the face of the earth. This was a very wise statement. The issue of Palestine is not one on which we could make a piecemeal compromise… This would mean our defeat. Anyone who would recognize this state [Israel] has put his signature under the defeat of the Islamic world.
The issue of Palestine will only be resolved when all of Palestine comes under Palestinian rule, when all the refugees return to their homes, and when a popular government chosen by this nation takes the affairs in its hands. Of course, those who have come to this land from far away to plunder this land have no right to participate in the decision-making process for this nation.
….God willing, it will pave the way for the annihilation of the Zionist regime….
In response to international criticism of his statements, the foreign ministry said that Tehran "has never used force against a second country or threatened the use of force."
Ahmadinejad has also made repeated attempts to call into doubt the factual basis of Holocaust history, if not outright denying it occurred at all. Here’s what George Galloway had to say on that (Iran’s Press TV): “….The Holocaust killed many millions of people, six million of whom were Jews. Millions more were Russians, communists, trade-unionists, Christians, gays, Gypsies, disabled people. The Holocaust killed millions upon millions of people. And it does no good to rubbish it, to doubt it, to pretend, somehow, that it never happened, or to agonize, in your words, about whether it was really 6,000,000, or just 5,225,000. This is wickedness, evil, and stupid. Let’s accept that the Holocaust is a fact, and concentrate on condemning what a country calling itself the Jewish state is now doing to others. Ghadaffi was right when he said in the United Nations- It was the Europeans that burned the Jews in the ovens in the Holocaust, it wasn’t the Arabs or the Muslims. The Muslims gave the Jews sanctuary and protected them from European Christian anti-Semitism. That’s the point that should be being made, not stupid Holocaust denial, quibbling over numbers. I always say that those who wish to quibble over numbers are really quibbling over the fact that it happened at all. And those who are quibbling over the fact that it happened at all, are being very, very foolish as well as wicked, because if Hitlerism had survived after he had gassed the Jews, trust me, he’d have come for the Muslims next.”
Excerpts from PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the 64th UN General Assembly (broadcast on AlJazeera English):
“….whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis. Are those tattoos a lie too? One-third of all Jews perished in the great conflagration of the Holocaust. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife’s grandparents, her father’s two sisters, and his three brothers, and all the aunts, and uncles, and cousins- all murdered by the Nazis. Is this a lie?.... For eight long years, Hamas fired rockets, fired those rockets from Gaza on nearby Israeli cities, and citizens- thousands of missiles, mortars, hurling down from the sky on schools, on homes, shopping centers, bus-stops…. How should we have responded? Well, there’s only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country’s civilian population- this happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II. During that war, the Allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. I’m not passing judgment- I’m stating a fact. A fact that is the product of the decision of great and honorable men, the leaders of Britain and the United States, fighting an evil force in World War II. It is also a fact that Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians, Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes directed against the rocket launchers themselves. Now mind you, that was no easy task, because the terrorists were firing their missiles from homes, and from schools. They were using mosques as weapons depots, as missile caches, and they were ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties, by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas…. We sent thousands and thousands of text messages to the Palestinian residents. We made thousands and thousands of cellular phone calls, urging them to vacate, to leave. Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths, to remove the enemy’s civilian population from harm’s way. Yet faced with an absolutely clear-cut case of aggressor and victim, who do you think the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to condemn? Israel, a democracy legitimately defending itself against terror, is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot. By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth, what a perversion of justice…. In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples- a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted this resolution; the Arabs rejected it, and invaded the embryonic Jewish state, with the hopes of annihilating it. We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they refused to do for 62 years- say ‘yes’ to a Jewish state- as simple, as clear, as elementary as that. Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the land of Israel- it is the land of our forefathers. Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace, ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; they shall learn war no more.’ These words were spoken by the great Jewish prophet Isaiah 2800 hundred years ago, as he walked in my country, in my city, in the hills of Judea, and in the streets of Jerusalem. We are not strangers to this land; this is our homeland. But as deeply connected as we are to our homeland, we also recognize that the Palestinians also live there and they want a home of their own. We want to live side-by-side with them, two free peoples living in peace, living in prosperity, living in dignity…."
Mr Netanyahu makes some interesting points. Undoubtedly many atrocities were perpetrated by both sides in WWII. In 1949, the Geneva Convention was adopted, updating the terms of the first three treaties and adding a fourth treaty. All UN members have ratified the Geneva Convention, which was designed to radically diminish the effects of war on civilians. Allowable use of weapons of war is covered by the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Protocol.
Binyamin Netanyahu seems to compare the bombing of British cities by the Nazi war machine with the use by the armed resistance movement Hamas of improvised mortars and small rockets. It is a legal fact that Gaza is occupied territory, in no way on an even playing field with the military giant, Israel.
PM Netanyahu claims that the UN investigation concerning the 2008/09 Gaza conflict was biased against Israel. The evidence does not support this conclusion. The investigation was led by the respected Judge Richard Goldstone. Judge Goldstone investigated alleged war crimes on both sides of the conflict, and condemned both sides, calling for Hamas and Israel to investigate the apparent violations. Richard Goldstone is a Jew and a Zionist who supports Israel’s right to exist and to defend herself. Israel has called for a revision of the “rules of war”, which, as Judge Goldstone points out, would seem to indicate a recognition on the part of Israel that they violated the conventions. Unfortunately, Israel has responded to the Report rather as she responded to Palestinian allegations of Israeli organ theft from Palestinian casualties: Israel attacks the messenger and obstructs independent investigation. Read the Report
Foreign assistance: The prevailing foreign aid methodology, especially food aid, leaves much to be desired. Rather than encouraging independence, the opposite is often seen. This is especially true due to the food production subsidies given in the developed world. This artificially lowers the price of commodities and discourages developing countries from trying to compete on an uneven playing field. Policies which discourage sustainable development should be reformed. Food aid should encourage production in the recipient country or in neighboring nations. Employees distributing aid should likewise be local as much as possible.
Many developing economies are cursed by enormous foreign debt. Often, governments feel obliged to factory-farm cash crops for export in order to make payments. In many cases this causes displacement for small farmers, who then settle the slums surrounding the big cities. Often they can’t find work, and no longer have land to farm. This is but one way that the poor become victims of unwise policies undertaken by the powerful. The claims made by proponents of genetically modified food crops, that these will play a large role in eliminating hunger, are questionable. They are risky biological experiments which create a cycle of dependency upon seed and chemical companies.
If you’re a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking what is being done right now…it is time for civil disobedience. -Al Gore
The adoption in the USA of Mexico’s presidential election policies would carry certain benefits. Without an electoral college, the president would be directly elected by the people, rather than by their supposed representatives. There would be less of an imbalance in the value of voters’ opinions from one state to another. Democracy would be better served by a system which equally encourages campaigning and voting, even in states where one candidate holds a considerable lead. A six year term would give the president sufficient time to carry out long-term projects. The prohibition on reelection would eliminate the issue of an acting president being distracted from the nation’s business by campaigning. The inherent advantage an acting president often enjoys in a reelection campaign would be replaced by a more balanced race with more real debate on the issues.
Another important election safeguard is the use of paper ballots; electronic systems are open to fraud, with election results being essentially unverifiable.
Government has a role in prohibiting untruthful speech which causes damage to others. As for advertising for "sexual services", alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, government should also impose controls. Regarding politics, religion and related topics, government violates a fundamental human right by censoring citizens’ speech or access to information not advocating or based on violence or hatred. As for speech advocating government overthrow, it is understandable that no government would allow it, regardless of where it might fall on the scale of just-unjust. While we would prefer a peaceful world and peaceful change, people do feel obliged at times to free themselves by any means necessary from the bonds of oppression. And the histories of such uprisings vary depending on who is recounting the succession of events. Generally the most circulated version of an historical conflict is written by the victors.
Peace & Democracy
US policies in the Middle East are ostensibly aimed at promoting peace and democracy. It often appears that the US strongly pushes democracy only to raise objections if those elected aren’t deemed beneficial to US interests. Israel is supported almost unconditionally, which serves to antagonize neighboring countries. Palestinians feel that the US is biased against their legitimate grievances. The use of such terms as “crusade” serves to exacerbate the situation by bringing up historical grievances related to the Crusades. While many terrorists proclaim religious motivations, to use such terms as “Christian terrorists” for IRA or KKK members or “Islamic terrorists” for AlQaeda members is misleading and unhelpful. Islam and Christianity specifically forbid the killing of innocents. The message of Judaism is the same; justice and compassion. Injustice and a feeling of hopelessness are often the root causes of terrorism. While condemning violence, we must also condemn the injustice which breeds it. The insistence that no more nations in the Middle East develop nuclear weaponry is considered unsound since Israel is widely assumed to have nuclear weapons. The US is one of the main arms suppliers to Middle Eastern countries. The democratic credentials of all those being armed are suspect. (The other two major global arms suppliers are Israel and South Africa.)
America’s Infrastructure Emergency & the Perfect Storm
“There are 85,000 dams in the US; 4,000 of them are unsafe, and 1,800 of those are high-hazard dams- dams that are likely to kill people if they fail…. On average, dams in the US are now over 51 years old…. Nationwide, America’s sewers pour over 900 billion gallons of sewage storm water into US waterways every year. That’s the amount of water that spills over Niagara Falls in 21 days. More than 700 cities have antiquated combined sewer/storm water systems that overflow when it rains, sometimes in as little as a tenth of an inch…. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, it will take 2.2 trillion dollars over the next five years to raise America’s infrastructure grade-point average from a “D” to a “B”. If the United States doesn’t put up the money, the problems are only going to get worse, and much more expensive. And that’s without taking into account two words that scare infrastructure planners the most- global warming.” –History Channel. ASCE experts gave the following areas a grade of “D minus” (one notch above total inadequacy): drinking water, roads, inland waterways, wastewater, and levees. Our electric grid and bridges have already proven their vulnerability. Safety inspections of our dams are grossly inadequate. Where will we find 2.2 trillion dollars ($7,200 per resident)? Money spent on military operations in the current Iraq war would have covered about a third of the urgently needed investment. http://www.costofwar.com/ Money spent on the “war on drugs” during the past several decades would have covered at least another third. In short, America must set new priorities: We can be the world’s policeman and fight wars against every type of “immorality” on the home-front. Or we can invest in our people, in our land, in our infrastructure- in our future as a nation. We are in danger of repeating the experience of the USSR: clinging to military dominance while our society and economy crumbles around us. Our current role as the world’s only superpower is widely suspected of being almost over. What’s at stake now is whether we rejoin the developed world or continue our slide towards developing nation status.
We have taken “two giant steps” down the road to tyranny. These "steps down the slippery slope" make mockery of our Constitution and endanger our existence as a democracy. Step 1: The “war on drugs”. (While it accomplishes nothing positive, it is extremely destructive to our foundation- the Bill of Rights). Step 2: The “war on terror” (or whatever it’s now called): More erosion of privacy, prisoner abuse (and worse), and the erosion of due process. Step 3: “The Perfect Storm” (And let’s hope this isn’t the final step to a police state). Here’s a possible scenario: Perhaps related to climate change, the US experiences two or more major disasters (natural or otherwise) in short order, or one disaster with major impact on the nation’s capital. The military is heavily invested in foreign theaters and thus unable to respond appropriately in the homeland. Aging infrastructure fails at critical locations, causing a cascade effect. Once a national emergency is declared, we may effectively be under martial law, regardless of the terminology employed.
(The United States currently operates roughly 700 military bases in 40 countries.)
US military spending amounts to thousands of dollars annually for each citizen. Meanwhile, some put
the number of annual deaths due to a lack of health insurance at 45,000.
No Pain, No Gain?
There is a strategy the United States could implement to effectively promote several important goals:
We need to reduce dependence on imported energy. Related issues are reducing overall energy consumption and, of course, addressing the climate change “time-bomb”. The current schemes for the handling of toxic coal ash need major modifications. We need to transition to eco-friendly urban development and much greater use of mass-transit.
We need to fund urgent infrastructure repairs. Related issues include accelerating the transition to renewable energy production and improving homeland security practices.
Here’s a solution: America should implement an additional and substantial tax on most fossil fuels: petroleum products, coal, etc. A smaller tax on corn ethanol, natural gas, and nuclear would also discourage these half-measures and make renewable energy competitive. We need to cease subsidizing harmful practices. It’s imperative we implement a permanent tax regime to accelerate the innovation and adaptation which will lead to greater security, global competitiveness, and climate stability. We need legislation detailing the acceptable uses for the considerable amount of money this taxation will generate. Our needs are great- there is no shortage of important priorities, but diversion to other uses must be avoided.
Unless the US drastically reduces military expenditures soon, we really have only two options to address our revenue crisis- larger deficits, or greater tax revenues. Today’s crucial needs demand a strategy as bold and visionary as President Kennedy’s push to put men on the moon. To continue with the current foot-dragging will only lead to ever more frequent and severe energy crises. The status quo will lead to environmental ruin, and a frightening increase in disasters, causing loss of life and property. Wars over oil, water, and foodstuffs will become even more frequent than they are today. If the US hopes to maintain her global position, we must choose to lead the world in adopting a mindset of peace and stability. If America fails to set a noble example, we will face widespread contempt, and be supplanted by other regimes.
CEPD (Chronic Earth Pulmonary Disease)
Forests provide us with essential oxygen, and are referred to as “the lungs of the earth”. In the year 1800, there were about 23,000,000,000 hectares of forest for earth’s 980,000,000 population. For 2011, earth’s population of 7,000,000,000 will share about 5,000,000,000 hectares of forest. This represents a decline of 97%, from 23.4 hectares of forest per person in 1800, to 0.7 hectares per person in 2011. An average tree absorbs ten pounds of pollutants from the air each year, including four pounds of ozone and three pounds of particulates. Robert Sloan, Professor Department of Geology and Geophysics University of Minnesota, found the percentage of oxygen in air samples from dinosaur-era amber at 28% - 35%. Currently, dry air contains about 20.94% oxygen. An Australian government research organization calculated recent declines in atmospheric oxygen at about 0.15% per century.
Government censorship of “inconvenient truths” is a common practice globally. Of course, national security requires censorship at times, but sometimes the motives are purely political. Sometimes facts are very unappetizing to those with certain agendas. Unfortunately, the US government is far from exempt from this dangerous practice. While examples may abound, two come to mind:
Ronald Reagan: In 1983 the Reagan/Bush administration tried to persuade U.S. universities and researchers to destroy all cannabis research work done from 1966 to 1976, including compendiums in libraries. (The Emperor Wears no Clothes) For years, arrests for marijuana possession (not sale or manufacture) have exceeded arrests for all violent crimes combined. (Why should the government try complicated cases against violent criminals when it's such a simple matter to reach conviction quotas against poor people who were found to be in possession of the "dangerous reefer"?) Marijuana prohibition costs at least 11 billion dollars annually and has resulted in about 20 million arrests in the US. Most of those arrested are black. Project Censored
George W. Bush & Dick Cheney: After Al Gore won the most popular votes in the 2000 election, Bush took office and made a mockery of our nation’s commitment to government transparency. The Bush/Cheney administration censored climate change science in order to justify reneging on their campaign promise to cap carbon emissions. Scientific assessments were altered for purely political reasons; James Hansen’s research was especially distasteful. The Bush White House spread wild exagerations concerning the uncertainties of climate science. GWB's administration even hid things from the other branches of government. Our nation’s international credibility was seriously compromised by a pattern of “factual fuzziness”. The bombing of AlJazeera could be another example.
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