Archive | May, 2012

The War in Afghanistan Is No Longer Tenable in Congress | The Nation

21 May

Count this as the most under-covered story of the week: late Thursday, Republicans in the House of Representatives forbade a vote on a resolution that would end the war in Afghanistan next year—because they knew it would pass. This means that, though we don’t have the roll call vote to prove it, Obama’s current strategy for Afghanistan is no longer sustainable in Congress.

via The War in Afghanistan Is No Longer Tenable in Congress | The Nation.

10,000 March at Frankfurt Occupy Protest Rally – NYTimes.com

19 May

Occupy is alive and well in Frankfurt, Germany:

German police say some 10,000 activists are participating in a major rally of the local Occupy movement in Frankfurt.

Police spokesman Ruediger Regis said Saturday more protesters are still flowing into the city center of continental Europe’s biggest financial hub.

Organizers have said they expect some 20,000 protesters.

The protest group calling itself Blockupy denounces the power of the banks and what they perceive to be untamed capitalism. It has called for barring access to the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt’s downtown business district.

via 10,000 March at Frankfurt Occupy Protest Rally – NYTimes.com.

The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com

16 May

TnT’s not a Douthat fan, but he has some interesting remarks about the failure of Americans Elect to gain traction:

Successful third parties need dynamic, high profile leaders, and ideally deep-pocketed ones as well. But instead of a Bloomberg, the Americans Elect ballot had ex-Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer; instead of a Bayh or a Snowe, they had Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University. Kotlikoff has impressive policy proposals and Roemer has an entertaining Twitter feed, but neither is exactly the potential general election spoiler who could keep David Axelrod awake at night.

But the fault also lay with the project’s essential theory of what kind of third party contender disillusioned voters are pining to elect. From the (inarguable) premise that the public is wearied by the failures of the political and economic establishment, it leaped to the (preposterous) conclusion that the country is crying out for a presidential candidate who mostly represents the interests and values of exactly that same establishment.

Like the afore mentioned New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a wealthy  centrist technocrat. To the contrary

 the most successful third party surges, from the William Jennings Bryan-era Populists down to Ross Perot’s 19 percent, usually arise from precisely the opposite impulse – a “plague on both your houses” populism that highlights issues and anxieties that the leaders of the two major parties have decided to ignore.

Such a populism has flowered over the last two years, but it’s mostly appeared on the right and left-wing fringes of the two parties rather than in the space between them — in the Tea Party’s backlash against bailouts and spending and in the Occupy Wall Street revolt against Wall Street’s political influence.

It’s possible to imagine a gifted political figure emerging to fuse elements from the Tea Party and O.W.S. critiques into a plausible third party challenge to politics as usual. But such a candidate would look nothing like Michael Bloomberg or any other high-minded Davos/Brookings type of technocrat. Instead, he or she would be more disreputable, more eccentric, and probably more demagogic as well. Such a candidacy (Pat Buchanan meets Ralph Nader) wouldn’t have to actually govern the country; instead, its purpose would be to jolt the two parties out of their usual habits and arguments and to persuade one or both of them to adopt some of its ideas.

via The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com.

Less Meat, Less Global Warming – NYTimes.com

16 May

Whether it’s 18%, 51%, or somewhere in between, the percentage of greenhouse gases attributable to livestock is very large.

Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling.

A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that that number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: “All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.  ”But according to the most widely-used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”

via Less Meat, Less Global Warming – NYTimes.com.

Superweeds: A Long-Predicted Problem for GM Crops Has Arrived – Marion Nestle – Health – The Atlantic

16 May

I was a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee when the agency approved production of genetically modified foods in the early 1990s.

At the time, critics repeatedly warned that widespread planting of GM crops modified to resist Monsanto’s weed-killer, Roundup, were highly likely to select for “superweeds” that could withstand treatment with Roundup….

Today, the idea that planting of GM crops is “widespread” is an understatement.

So, according to Reuters, is Roundup resistance.

“Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.

“Many of the worst weeds, some of which grow more than six feet and can sharply reduce crop yields, have become resistant to the popular glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup, as well as other common herbicides.”

This is not a trivial problem….How is the chemical industry responding to this threat? Zap it harder!

The industry is pressing the U.S. and Canadian governments to approve GM corn engineered to resist 2,4-D.

Remember 2,4-D? It was the principal ingredient in Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the Vietnam War.

Some people never learn, do they?

via Superweeds: A Long-Predicted Problem for GM Crops Has Arrived – Marion Nestle – Health – The Atlantic.

April 2012 heats up as 5th warmest month globally

16 May

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center calculated that April’s average temperature of 57.9 degrees (14.4 degrees Celsius) was nearly 1.2 degrees (0.7 degrees Celsius) above the 20th Century normal. Two years ago was the hottest April since recordkeeping started in 1880.

Last month was the third hottest April in the United States and unusually warm in Russia, but cooler than normal in parts of western Europe. This is despite a now ended La Nina which generally lowers global temperatures…

The last time the globe had a month that averaged below the 20th Century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row. Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to United Nations data.

via April 2012 heats up as 5th warmest month globally.

Cartwright, Retired General, Backs Large U.S. Nuclear Reduction – NYTimes.com

15 May

WASHINGTON — Gen. James E. Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the United States’ nuclear forces, is adding his voice to those who are calling for a drastic reduction in the number of nuclear warheads below the levels set by agreements with Russia.

General Cartwright said that the United States’ nuclear deterrence could be guaranteed with a total arsenal of 900 warheads, and with only half of them deployed at any one time. Even those in the field would be taken off hair triggers, requiring 24 to 72 hours for launching, to reduce the chance of accidental war.

That arsenal would be a significant cut from the current agreement to limit Russia and the United States to 1,550 deployed warheads each, down from 2,200, within six years.

via Cartwright, Retired General, Backs Large U.S. Nuclear Reduction – NYTimes.com.

Americans Elect defeated by American indifference – Alex Pareene – Salon.com

15 May

Ignore the snarky tone of the article. It has some useful information. Too bad Americans Elect didn’t find more interest.

Poor Americans Elect. The well-funded experiment in fielding a third-party presidential candidate selected by the Internet is this close to giving up. It doesn’t have a candidate. It was apparent back in March that none of the declared candidates would meet the threshold of support necessary to qualify it for the online primary votes scheduled for May. Since then, no white knight has emerged….

A lot of the more prominent AE supporters and many of the people involved in organizing the group are disillusioned Republicans — like former Giuliani speechwriter John Avlon and former Bush strategist Mark McKinnon — which helps explain why AE keeps going after people who only appeal to … disillusioned moderate Republicans.

AE dreamed that superstars like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would decide to jump into the race once AE did the hard work of securing ballot access. You may note that neither of those candidates represents a significant national constituency whose interests are currently being ignored by the two major parties.

via Americans Elect defeated by American indifference – Alex Pareene – Salon.com.

Nearly one-tenth of hemisphere’s mammals unlikely to outrun climate change: study

15 May

It’s not just about us. It’s about all the animals and plants in the biosphere.

For the first time a new study considers whether mammals will actually be able to move to those new areas before they are overrun by climate change. Carrie Schloss, University of Washington research analyst in environmental and forest sciences, is lead author of the paper out online the week of May 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don’t also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas,” Schloss said.

Indeed, more than half of the species scientists have in the past projected could expand their ranges in the face of climate change will, instead, see their ranges contract because the animals won’t be able to expand into new areas fast enough, said co-author Josh Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forest sciences.

via Nearly one-tenth of hemisphere’s mammals unlikely to outrun climate change: study.

Council to Ask Banks to Describe Efforts to Aid Poor Areas – NYTimes.com

15 May

As a huge trading loss at JPMorgan Chase intensifies criticism of the nation’s big banks, the New York City Council plans to vote on Tuesday to require banks to make public their efforts to be socially responsible before the city decides where to deposit the billions of dollars it keeps in banks….

Cleveland and Philadelphia have had laws in place for over a decade similar to the one being proposed in New York, and now the financial crisis has led several other cities to consider them. Pittsburgh recently passed a bill that requires banks that want city deposits to submit community reinvestment plans every two years. Los Angeles, Boston, and San Diego are all considering similar measures.

It’s  a start, but Bloomberg is opposed, naturally.

via Council to Ask Banks to Describe Efforts to Aid Poor Areas – NYTimes.com.