Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Preserving Life On Earth

The title sounds a bit grandiose and the Globe and Mail even suggests that the task facing the 193 national delegations descending on Nagoya, Japan, ...is one befitting a deity: how to preserve life on Earth. The Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement signed amid great hope and in the early 1990s is part of what's at stake during the eleven day conference. And it begins with bad news:

The document bound countries to cut mass species loss “significantly” and preserve 10 per cent of the world’s ecological regions by 2010. But this year brought the sobering realization that not one country had met those targets.
Not one! After twenty years of high-level talks and treaties, mass extinction continues apace and three contentious issues issues have the potential to send this off the rails. There are seventeen developing countries bearing the overbearing moniker Group of Like Minded Megadiverse Countries and they've formed to accuse their richer counterparts of biopiracy. This group includes India, China and Brazil and they want regulations in place that would compensate them for pirated resources. With Canada leading the way, Western nations have largely resisted, according to those involved in the negotiations.

These developing countries are demanding that rich countries bankroll their conservation efforts as they cannot afford it. The same is not true of the west and there has been success of a kind: A recent World Wildlife Fund inventory of world biodiversity over the past 40 years found that while extinction rates continue unabated in the developing world, they have levelled off in the West, where expensive conservation projects have a ready place in national budgets.

Lastly, the ambitiousness of the targets undermined by failure and a lack of action means that the future viability of the convention is in doubt.

Interestingly, Canada's Conservative government has increased its support for the Global Environmental Facility, a global fund that invests in biodiversity projects fund by 50 per cent to $238-million over the next four years. And Jim Prentice the Minister for the Environment, who will attend the last four days of the conference has spoken constructively of this get together saying, “It’s an extremely important summit because biodiversity is an area where we all need to improve. This is a real issue for us and our children.”
“This is the one chance governments have to fix the loss of species and loss of biodiversity, said Bill Jackson, deputy director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Switzerland-based group working closely with governments in Nagoya. “In some ecosystems, we only have 10 or 15 years left before they’re gone.”

UPDATE: Here's a wonderful page full of links from the Guardian with 100 tasks for world governments to undertake to tackle the biodiversity crisis. George Monibot emphasizes what's at stake: The outcome is expected to be as tragic and as impotent as the collapse of last year's climate talks in Copenhagen.

We cannot accept this. We cannot stand back and watch while the wonders of this world are sacrificed to crass carelessness and short-termism.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

War: What is it Good For?

Wednesdays down at the radio show once the Canadian headlines are all covered are now officially for the conflicts taking place around the globe so I ask you, who could resist using that title at least once? Certainly not me.

In Canada an anti-war ad made by the Federation des femmes du Quebec was edited to appease military parents who were upset that the ad referred to the soldiers as "cannon fodder." It looks like a free speech issue to me. The objecting parents have every right to be unhappy with the ad but it is within the rights of the anti-war protesters to say what they want say about how they feel about war and Canada's participation in the Afghan conflict. Cannon fodder or not, good Canadian kids have died for a war that serves who in Canada? What exactly does victory look like? Why are we still there? Seems as if these questions should be answered poste haste.

And the wars of occupation in the middle-east continue to go poorly -- civilian casualties it is being reported are soaring in Afghanistan (and NATO is lying about it) and the occupations and wars it only serve to feed terrorism around the globe studies prove. Glenn Greenwald writes, ...a new, comprehensive study from Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer, substantiates what is (a) already bleedingly obvious and (b) known to the U.S. Government for many years:  namely, that the prime cause of suicide bombings is not Hatred of Our Freedoms or Inherent Violence in Islamic Culture or a Desire for Worldwide Sharia Rule by Caliphate, but rather.  . . . foreign military occupations.

Those oft mentioned peace talks with the Taliban have no momentum and would seem to offer little hope for peace in the near future.

As for Iraq, Juan Cole argues that the real victor of the Iraq election, albeit 7 months later has been Iran.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Truculent Tuesday

Decided that for the radio show I'd make Tuesdays the day to chronicle the goings on in American hate-radio and tea party/John Bircher madness. A couple of stories from last week while I was off seemed to be emblematic of the current state of divisiveness in American politics.

 One happened in Obion County Tennessee the house of the Cranicks caught fire and they fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.

The selfish, heartless and soulless philosophy of the GOP and tea party types on display for all to see. Not surprisingly this was defended by Glenn Beck and all the writers over at the National Review. It's hard to tell from my perch up here in Canada how this is resonating with people other than the choir.

The second story involves a group of Missouri tea partiers who have decided to campaign against regulations that would mandate more humane conditions in the state’s puppy mills. Missouri’s Proposition B, which would place new regulations on puppy mills, including mandating that they provide “sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, sufficient housing, including protection from the elements, sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend his or her limbs, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles.”

It is ridiculous to even debate with the right at this point as they are not interested in having a debate on any issue. If a liberal is for it they are against it and that includes puppies. Like my sometimes blogging partner said, "I'm pro-puppy!"

On to the hate spewers, beginning with a story about the man who wanted to murder the people in the Tides Foundation and the ACLU and start a revolution. Spurred on by conspiracies he heard Beck relate on his show -- you can watch a sample of this for yourself:

Media Matters does a terrific job of chronicling the bile vomited up Beck in just a single month. It's astounding that Fox lets him do this -- the extreme violence suggested by his rhetoric and the outright fiction he peddles as truths are frightening. In another era they would not have been tolerated but are now standard fare on American hate-radio. At some point in the near future they will have blood on their hands. Go read the whole long list of Beck's so-called "...anarchists, Marxists, communists, revolutionaries, Maoists who have to "eliminate 10 percent of the U.S. population" in order to "gain control."

 Beck has other enablers, like Palin, and co-conspirators in his spreading of hate and lies like Rush Limbaugh, who is "ready for the overthrow of Imam Obama's agenda."

None of this would be possible without the enabling of the regular MSM. Time magazine's editor Mark Halperin demonstrates what makes Time worth ignoring even when it's free. Media elites like Halperin have been witness to the most unhinged and hateful and sustained attack on a sitting president in modern American history. Their take-away after nearly two years of this hate-fest? It's Obama's fault. And worse, it's his fault when he defends himself.

The hack who passes for a moderator on Meet the Press, David Gregory, distinguishes himself similarly as he bows before his corporate, republican masters and advances right-wing lies about the current state of Social Security solvency in this clip courtesy of the good people at C&L.

Bob Herbert of the NYT's believes the US is losing its soul and becoming a second rate power -- it's hard not agree.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monst Important Story Of The Week (IMHO)

On Monday September the 27th, the Washington Post published the first of three excerpts from Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars. There was some notice but hardly any genuine consternation over what should be alarming to believers in representative democracy -- especially as it concerns our American cousins.

I have been openly critical of Obama's Afghanistan war strategy on my radio show. I saw it as a continuation of the previous administration's policies -- which is as damning a thing as I could think to say about it. After reading the excerpts I no longer feel that way but am far more worried about who really is in charge. Woodward reports of Obama's dilemma in his 'I am the tape recorder' fashion,

He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end.

"So what's my option? You have given me one option," Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command.

"We were going to meet here today to talk about three options," Obama said sternly. "You agreed to go back and work those up."

The only real option offered him was a surge of 40,000 troops and the beginnings of a drawdown in 2016 from the war in Afghanistan -- everything else was a variation on those same ideas. Not what he wanted or asked for but it was where the military brass were steering him. Gaming him if you will. As he tells the brass that his lawyerly compromise of a 30,000 troop surge and a drawdown in 2011 is what they'll have to accept, there is a moment where he looks to call their bluff and just get out noting that would be the expedient thing to do politically,

"It'd be a lot easier for me to go out and give a speech saying, 'You know what? The American people are sick of this war, and we're going to put in 10,000 trainers because that's how we're going to get out of there.' "

It was apparent that a part of Obama wanted to give precisely that speech. He seemed to be road-testing it.
Sadly, Obama is swayed by Defense Secretary Gates and the people who seem to want a forever war and he opts for the compromise. He tries to define victory -- something few people have been able to do when discussing the afghan conflict calling for a plan that will deny safe haven to al Qaeda, to "degrade,” rather than defeat the Taliban insurgency as well as provide guidelines for building sufficient Afghan capacity to secure and govern their country. An approach that is not fully resourced counterinsurgency or nation building -- just a way out.

In reading this I was reminded of the Dwight Eisenhower farewell address he gave 50 years ago and the warning about the Military Industrial Complex, that came with it. His words have as much relevance today as they did then but clearly have not been heeded. There is an awful lot at stake here and cable news as well as the rest of the MSM are doing a poor job of explaining it. When the duly elected civilian head of state tells his generals he wants to see plans that will take them out of a bloody conflict that the people are tired of, he should get what it is he asks for. Anything else is unacceptable.

Sin City

Good morning to any passers by! I've not been filling up these pages of late but it's always on my to do list so before I get distracted today -- hopefully with a bike ride in the crisp October air here in Montreal, I thought it'd be nice if I posted a great piece of music. It's called Sin City and it has one of my favourite verses in any song:

A friend came around, tried to clean up the town, his ideas made some people mad,
But he trusted his crowd and he spoke right out loud and they lost the best friend they had!