Thursday, April 22, 2010
By Wes Park
It's Earth Day! Some of us will be honoring the planet by huffing a more globally responsible aerosol oven cleaner, while others like Ed Begley Jr. will be topping off the coconut oil in their karma powered segways.
This is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day which makes our planet exactly six billion and forty years old. That's how that works right?
Originally Earth Day coincided with the vernal equinox on March 21. An idea proposed by newspaper publisher John McConnell and recognized by The United Nations.
In a spirit of cooperation that more resembles VHS versus beta than global harmony, the date of April 22 was put forth by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. April 22nd was at first recognized by the U.S.A. alone. To make matters more confusing both days were first celebrated in 1970. Eventually the rest of the world came to adopt April 22nd as Earth Day.
The "first" Earth Day took place on April 22nd 1970 and unlike the upcoming revolution was widely televised. The master of ceremonies and self proclaimed co-founder was a young eco-radical named Ira Einhorn.
Einhorn rubbed shoulders with the likes of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and other anti-establishmentarian types who were for the environment, against the war and often incarcerated.
He called himself "The Unicorn" because the translation of his German name means one horn. We know him better as The Unicorn Killer.
Seven years after his moment in the sun, Ira's girlfriend Holly broke up with him. She moved to New York, where she began a relationship with another man. Upon hearing this Ira maturely asked her to come back and collect her belongings. When she did he maturely murdered her. After 18 months Holly's remains were ripe enough to alert the neighbors something was foul in the Einhorn home. The police came and found her in a trunk in a closet. Ira's statement to police? "You found what you found" and he was not referring to his Earth friendly compost bin.
Ira's Attorney was able to get his bail reduced to $40,000 which means that by posting ten percent Ira walked on a murder charge for the sum of $4000. The bail was posted by Barbara Bronfman a Montreal socialite who had married into the Seagram liquor fortune. The Attorney? Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector.
Einhorn skipped bail in 1981 and fled to Europe, got married and lived until he was finally extradited to the United States on July 20, 2001.
In his defense Einhorn claimed that the CIA murdered Holly and framed him for the crime, to discredit his investigations into the Cold War and "psychotronics." Two hours later the jury found him bat shit guilty and affirmed his 1993 absentia conviction. Einhorn is today celebrating Earth Day by serving life without the possibility of parole in the Pennsylvania state prison at Houtzdale.
Back when I started writing this blog, I warned that the idea of preventive war against Iran wasn't going to go away just because Barack Obama was president. The topic got another little burst of oxygen over the past few days, in response to what seems to have been an over-hyped memorandum from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and some remarks by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, following a speech at Columbia University. In particular, Mullen noted that military action against Iran could "go a long way" toward delaying Iran's acquisition of a weapons capability, though he also noted this could only be a "last resort" and made it clear it was not an option he favored.
One of the more remarkable features about the endless drumbeat of alarm about Iran is that it pays virtually no attention to Iran's actual capabilities, and rests on all sorts of worst case assumptions about Iranian behavior. Consider the following facts, most of them courtesy of the 2010 edition of The Military Balance, published annually by the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies in London:
GDP: United States -- 13.8 trillion
Iran --$ 359 billion (U.S. GDP is roughly 38 times greater than Iran's)
Defense spending (2008):
U.S. -- $692 billion
Iran -- $9.6 billion (U.S. defense budget is over 70 times larger than Iran)
U.S.--1,580,255 active; 864,547 reserves (very well trained)
Iran-- 525,000 active; 350,000 reserves (poorly trained)
U.S. -- 4,090 (includes USAF, USN, USMC and reserves)
Iran -- 312 (serviceability questionable)
Main battle tanks:
U.S. -- 6,251 (Army + Marine Corps)
Iran -- 1,613 (serviceability questionable)
U.S. -- 11 aircraft carriers, 99 principal surface combatants, 71 submarines, 160 patrol boats, plus large auxiliary fleet
Iran -- 6 principal surface combatants, 10 submarines, 146 patrol boats
U.S. -- 2,702 deployed, >6,000 in reserve
Iran -- Zero
One might add that Iran hasn't invaded anyone since the Islamic revolution, although it has supported a number of terrorist organizations and engaged in various forms of covert action. The United States has also backed terrorist groups and conducted covert ops during this same period, and attacked a number of other countries, including Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan.
By any objective measure, therefore, Iran isn't even on the same page with the United States in terms of latent power, deployed capabilities, or the willingness to use them. Indeed, Iran is significantly weaker than Israel, which has roughly the same toal of regular plus reserve military personnel and vastly superior training. Israel also has more numerous and modern armored and air capabilities and a sizeable nuclear weapons stockpile of its own. Iran has no powerful allies, scant power-projection capability, and little ideological appeal. Despite what some alarmists think, Iran is not the reincarnation of Nazi Germany and not about to unleash some new Holocaust against anyone.
The Jewish state's substantial Palestinian population — which Israel once sought to expel — serves as a deterrent.
Morris is part of an increasingly vociferous chorus warning of an impending apocalypse for Israel at the hands of a nuclear Iran eager to rid the Middle East of its Jews. Yet Iran's religious leaders have repeatedly stated that such weapons are "un-Islamic" or "forbidden under Islam."
Morris' role in our understanding of the region's history is confounding. Arguably, no one played a more central role in exposing Israel's role in the depopulation of Palestinians from their homeland than Morris. In his seminal work, "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem," Morris, using declassified military documents, exposes the calculated effort by early Israeli leaders to impose a Jewish majority through ethnic cleansing.
Long considered a champion of modern Israeli historians who sought to shed light on the ugly side of Israel's birth, Morris shocked many Israelis and Palestinians alike when he later changed course. To Morris, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was no longer the problem at the heart of the conflict; in fact, he suggested that the problem was that Israel didn't finish the job in 1948.
Morris said in a 2004 interview "Under some circumstances expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands."
Morris added later in the interview that if Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, "was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. ... If he had carried out a full expulsion — rather than a partial one — he would have stabilized the state of Israel for generations."
Yet the pesky Palestinian minority Morris wishes had been expelled decades ago serves as a deterrent from a nuclear-armed Iran, should the Islamic Republic ever build nuclear weapons and consider using them on Israel. The fact that Arab Israelis were among the casualties of the 2006 war with Hezbollah speaks to the reality that no nuclear attack on Israel could happen without the deaths of countless Palestinians and Israelis, not to mention the likely destruction of Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.
The reality of Palestinian casualties, the destruction of Jerusalem, the onset of regional war and the immediate destruction of Iran's regime as a result of a multilateral conventional or even nuclear counterattack all serve as a credible deterrent to a nuclear Iran. The Iranian leadership has shown a demonstrable interest in self-preservation
Just to be clear, the creators of Pop-Up Magazine aren't trying to outdo print mags.
The San Francisco event they've invented--the third issue happened this weekend to a sold-out Herbst Theater--is a stage show aimed to bring the best of magazines into "the medium of live," as Editor-in-Chief Doug McGray told me (his collaborators are Derek Fagerstrom, Lauren Smith, Maili Holiman, Evan Ratliff, and Dave Cerf). Pop-Up's got a masthead and table of contents, shorts, features, even integrated ads, and many of the contributors make their livings through words and images on the page (there are also film-makers and radio producers). There they all were, behind not laptops but a podium, spot-lit and performing.
Disclosures: Doug's a friend, and I worked with my Youth Radio colleague Brandon McFarland on his contribution to Pop-Up's first issue. But this time around, from my vantage point in the audience, I couldn't help but notice five things Pop-Up does better than print.
Urgency: The show sold out in minutes (while print mags struggle to hold their advertisers). And then there was an after-party (see #5) that required special tickets of its own. I felt myself getting physically riled up booking my own tickets, as each little "available seat" icon blinked off before my eyes. Hate to say it, but that kind of flurry changes the way you think about an evening of journalism.
Ephemerality: It's live, as in, no digital record. There's novelty now in content that's over and gone once it's done its thing.
Spontaneity: There was this moment early in the show when the writer Jennifer Kahn was wrapping up her story about her 80-something-year-old dad's unlikely ascent in competitive weightlifting. When a home-video clip of his win ended, the man himself strolled onto the stage, trophy raised. It was pretty awesome, that unexpected shift from media to live. Across the show, the mix of off-the-cuff, scripted, and produced elements meant you never knew what was going to happen next.
Scientists have begun speculating that the root cause of disease conditions such as migraines and irritable bowel syndrome may be endocannabinoid deficiency.
by Paul Armentano
For several years I have postulated that marijuana is not, in the strict sense of the word, an intoxicant.
As I wrote in the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2009), the word 'intoxicant' is derived from the Latin noun toxicum (poison). It's an appropriate term for alcohol, as ethanol (the psychoactive ingredient in booze) in moderate to high doses is toxic (read: poisonous) to healthy cells and organs.
Of course, booze is hardly the only commonly ingested intoxicant. Take the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol). According to the Merck online medical library, acetaminophen poisoning and overdose is "common," and can result in gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract) "within hours" and hepatotoxicity (liver damage) "within one to three days after ingestion." In fact, less than one year ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for tougher standards and warnings governing the drug's use because "recent studies indicate that unintentional and intentional overdoses leading to severe hepatotoxicity continue to occur."
By contrast, the therapeutically active components in marijuana — the cannabinoids — appear to be remarkably non-toxic to healthy cells and organs. This notable lack of toxicity is arguably because cannabinoids mimic compounds our bodies naturally produce — so-called endocannabinoids — that are pivotal for maintaining proper health and homeostasis.
In fact, in recent years scientists have discovered that the production of endocannabinoids (and their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body) play a key role in the regulation of proper appetite, anxiety control, blood pressure, bone mass, reproduction, and motor coordination, among other biological functions.
Just how important is this system in maintaining our health? Here's a clue: In studies of mice genetically bred to lack a proper endocannabinoid system the most common result is premature death.
Armed with these findings, a handful of scientists have speculated that the root cause of certain disease conditions — including migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other functional conditions alleviated by clinical cannabis — may be an underlying endocannabinoid deficiency.
On Monday, Senators Graham (R-SC), Kerry (D-MA), and Lieberman (I-CT) will launch the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill. I'm quite certain there will be something in it to dissatisfy everyone.
On the other hand, has Congress ever passed a significant bill that didn't dissatisfy everyone, particularly on the environment? We haven't had a major piece of clean air legislation for almost exactly two decades now. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (EPA history here), which ultimately passed by large margins, put in place a cap-and-trade system for acid rain pollution, but didn't end the grandfathering of old coal plants. And so they burn on.
No bill that could pass Congress right now or in the immediate future would be sufficient to put us on the path to stabilizing the world at 2°C. We simply aren't sufficiently desperate to do what is needed, which is nonstop deployment of a staggering amount of low-carbon energy, including efficiency, for the rest of the century.
And so my criteria for judging the bill focuses on whether it will create the conditions that will allow more desperate policy makers in the not-too-distant future to have a realistic chance of getting on the necessary path. My new book Straight Up includes one essay on the House's astonishing yet dissatisfying achievement in passing the Waxman-Markey bill. It explains that when we are that desperate, probably in the 2020s, we'll want to already have:
- substantially dropped below the business-as-usual emissions path
- started every major business planning for much deeper reductions
- goosed the cleantech venture and financing community
- put in place the entire framework for U.S. climate regulations
- accelerated many tens of gigawatts of different types of low-carbon energy into the marketplace
- put billions into developing advanced low-carbon technology
- started building out the smart, green grid of the 21st century
- trained and created millions of clean energy jobs
- negotiated a working international climate regime
- brought China into the process
Waxman-Markey, had it become the law of the land, would have achieved all of those vital goals. And that's why I strongly supported it, even though its 2020 target and use of offsets meant that it was, from a purely scientific perspective, unsatisfactory.
Golly, whatever happened to America's good ol', bold-and-brassy, can-do competitive drive?
To see a troubling sign for our nation's famed, free-enterprise frontier spirit, sneak a peek at the downward flight path of America's major airlines. These corporations have become no-can-do, anti-competition behemoths, whining that there are too many airlines, too many planes, too much competition.
"It's a jungle out there," wail top executives of the airlines. So, to enhance their "competitiveness," they are urging a rash of mergers that would consolidate the industry into fewer and even bigger corporations. Yes, in their alternate (and perverse) universe, airline CEOs say that the only way they can compete is to ... well, have less competition!
"The industry needs to evolve into a more rational structure," asserts a top official at American Airlines. "We have an industry that is too fragmented, with too many competitors and with different ideas of capacity, pricing and strategic activity."
Hmmm. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, from Adam Smith, the 18th century Scottish economist who is considered a founding guru of the free enterprise system. The notion of "many competitors ... with different ideas of capacity, pricing and strategic activity" is precisely what Smith hailed as the proper model for free enterprise.
But the competitiveness that Smith celebrated as beneficial to society is what today's timorous airline leaders see as an irritating barrier that they simply can't hurdle. Better just to lower the competitive hurdle. As the former chairman of Continental Airlines put it: "I mean, do we really need 19 domestic airlines in the United States? I think three or four network airlines would still give you plenty of competition."
Plenty? What he and other executives mean by "a more rational structure" is one that allows a small club of gentlemen to divvy up the market, cut flights and raise ticket prices in unison without being challenged by pesky rivals.
Soon, at least one more brand name is expected to join Northwest, Pan Am, TWA and others that have succumbed to consolidation. Both Continental and US Airways are presently in talks to merge with United Airlines. United's chief, Glenn Tilton, has long been a podium-pounding evangelist for the corporate gospel of shrinking the industry into a handful of more cooperative competitors. This is the route to consistent industry profits, he preaches.
Well, yeah! It's called a shared monopoly, and any goober in Guccis can make profits from that rigged deal. Of course, Tilton comes from the oil industry, where he led the merger of Texaco into Chevron, so he's partial to creating a tidier market for corporate fun and profit consumers be damned.
Astonishingly, to press their case for consolidation, industry executives point to the example of the telecommunications giants, which went on a merger binge a decade ago. Excuse me, but consumer satisfaction with the arrogance and avarice of conglomerated and consolidated telecom providers ranks down around public approval ratings for Wall Street banksters.