Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Gaza 2023 - How Did We Get Here?

The recent Hamas attacks on Israel is the result of both short-term and long-term determinants, with no solutions in sight. The policies of the Netanyahu government have added insult to the injury of oppressive living conditions that reach back decades if not centuries.

Gaza has never been self-governing and arguably has never been a cohesive ethnic or political entity. Part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918, it was then occupied by Britain for the next 30 years. When the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states in November 1947, Israel accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it and launched a war of annihilation, which ended in their defeat. They came under Egyptian control from 1948 until June 1967, during which much of its population remained in refugee camps or similar conditions. perpetuating atrocious living conditions that fomented anger and violence, directed mainly at the most recent occupier, Israel. The wish for revenge among the population has fueled a renewed determination to eliminate the Jewish population entirely from the region.

The abandonment of the Palestinians has actually been a collective transgression, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. Why haven’t the nations (Egypt for Gaza and Jordan for the West Bank) of which they were a part before 1967 opened their doors to those in the territories who preferred not to be governed by Israel, instead of relegating them to impoverished refugee camps in a hostile environment? Has the hidden agenda been to leave them as a thorn in Israel’s side, even while ostensibly making peace?

Perhaps a way out, now that Egypt and Jordan are no longer Israel’s sworn enemies, would be for those nations to revisit their commitments to their former citizens and to the establishment of lasting peace in the region. For the West Bank, that might mean Israel ceding the territory not to a Palestinian state committed to its destruction but to Jordan, its partner in peace, to take responsibility for securing the borders and ensuring Israel’s sovereignty over its own land. For Gaza, the solution may require more creativity, given its limited contiguity with Egypt and its location almost entirely within Israel’s boundaries.

Given the concurrent threat of climate change and rising seas, the viability of the Gaza Strip as a place to live might already have a limited future. Creating an alternative, welcoming homeland might provide the most humane solution for a struggling population.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Who is Protecting Children's Lives?

While conservatives have done everything possible to guarantee the rights of fetuses to be born into this perilous world, liberals are dedicated to protecting the lives and welfare of sentient living children.

  • By advocating for the rights of all children not to go hungry

  • By advocating for the rights of all children to have access to medical care

  • By advocating for the rights of all children to live in healthy environments free of toxins and pollution that would threaten their health and cognitive development

  • By advocating for the rights of all children to be educated and reach their potential

  • By opposing the proliferation of weapons of war on our streets and in our schools. Gun deaths are now the leading cause of childhood deaths, and gun suicides in the US are at an all time high.

  • By acknowledging the reality of human caused climate change and advocating for measures to mitigate it. Climate change not only threatens the future lives of children and future generations, it is already claiming countless lives today worldwide with natural disasters, heat waves, drought, famine, and imperiled water supplies.

When we protect the lives of children and the disadvantaged and improve the environment for every human being and every species of life on the earth, who can that possibly hurt?

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Renewable Energy Can Blow Inflation Away

Aside from the crucial role of renewable energy sources in preventing climate change from making our planet uninhabitable, they also have considerable economic benefit. The current inflation crisis brings into focus the need for measures against inflation going forward. Renewables offer a powerful tool to accomplish this.

The causes of inflation are numerous. Not the least of these is energy costs. As the price of fossil fuels rises, the impact hits many areas of our economy. Direct energy costs are passed on to the consumer in the price of gasoline, the price of fuels for heating homes, and the price of electricity, each adding an inflation surcharge to each household’s monthly expenses. These added costs are already mitigated for households owning electric vehicles and those deriving their energy from renewables either directly, for example from rooftop solar panels, or indirectly, via utilities that use renewable energy sources.

The cost of fossil fuels, however, also contributes to the rising cost of consumer goods. Manufacturing goods requires enormous expenditures of energy. And transporting them from the point of manufacture through the various waypoints to final delivery consumes enormous amounts of fuel. Each step adds to the final cost of products.

Once the infrastructure to capture renewable energy is built, the cost of delivering energy becomes vanishingly small and remarkably stable. The episodic shortages, either because of naturally occurring events or the manipulation of supply by entities who control it, that have whipsawed oil prices until now would no longer occur in an economy based largely on renewable energy. Increasingly efficient energy storage systems would eventually meet seasonal demands. And the direct cost of energy to consumers would no longer threaten their security. While the price of goods would still fluctuate somewhat with supply and demand, the added effect of escalating fuel costs would no longer apply.

Climate change itself contributes to inflationary pressures through damaging effects upon crop production, livestock maintenance, forests, and other resources. The scarcity of these resources results in higher prices to consumers for everything from food to manufactured goods. And the destructive power of extreme weather events adds to scarcity and the demand for materials to repair the damage as well as an increased demand for fuels to heat or cool our homes.

Inflation is a political rallying cry that threatens to divide our nation further. But it should also be a wake-up call for those in power to unite in support of legislation designed to mitigate climate change by powering the future of our nation and the world with renewable energy.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Where Have all the Patriots Gone?

WWII posed a grave threat to America that was met by the greatest generation. Those Americans who did not go to war answered the call of their country to make sacrifices and pitch in to the effort to deter the foreign aggressors. They accepted rationing of goods and services, including food and fuel. Some left their jobs and professions to work in the factories that supported the troops. Most Americans rose to their patriotic duty.

We have recently faced a more insidious and deadly threat: COVID-19. And again, Americans have been asked to make sacrifices: Get vaccinated and wear masks in public in order to deter the enemy and prevent its lethal effects from spreading. We’ve been urged to support the troops, in this case the frontline healthcare workers in harm’s way who have suffered many casualties. Many have risen to this duty, but a substantial minority have refused, resulting in a death toll nearly twice that of WWII and 140 times the toll of the 9/11 attacks, not to mention the countless left wounded with chronic disease.

Where have all the patriots gone? How would the greatest generation have responded to this threat? Do true patriots heed only the bugles of military conflict? Or, in our complex world, should patriotism mean working together to repel any threat to our fellow citizens?

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Homo sapiens: Crafting Our Ecological Niche

 All the laws of nature will bend and adapt themselves to the least motion of man.

Henry David Thoreau

Conservation is caring enough about something other than yourself that you want to save it in abundance for someone you don’t know.

J Drew Lanham

As we consider the next stage of our life and of our giving, the framework for our decisions should be a vision for how the world of the future should look. The world of our descendants should be a world in which children aren’t afraid to grow up, a world of abundance that is sustainable, healthy, safe, and just, not only for people, but for every species with which we share the earth.

Greed for life, possessions, and comforts has dominated human culture until now and has cost the lives of countless other species, while threatening our very existence with climate change and the exhaustion of resources crucial to our survival. We have harvested or squandered most of the wildlife of the seas. We have driven many land species to extinction. The loss of diversity, including bees and other insects, threatens to render the earth sterile and incompatible with all life.

Our quest for technological miracles proceeds willy nilly without sufficient consideration of the unintended consequences. Medical science is hot on the trail of the Holy Grail of radical life extension without considering the consequences. The longer we live, the greater the competition for ever scarcer resources. And the longer each of us lives, the greater our carbon footprint. Extending the lifespan for some can mean extreme deprivation for others and a sharper divide between the wealthy and the poor. And it could accelerate the exhaustion of the resources necessary for our species and every other species to survive.

What would my world of the future look like? 

It would be a world of sharing our habitats and resources, including food, water, and shelter, with all human beings and with other species, even in the face of individual sacrifice.

It would be a world of preserving diversity. We are learning that a multitude of species is good for the health of the planet. And it stands to reason that diversity within our species is good for the health of humanity. We should create a world in which plants, animals, and humans can all flourish.

It would be a world in which we learn to understand the needs of other species and to communicate with them. We are not the only intelligent species on the planet and perhaps not the most intelligent. But for our opposable thumbs, we may never have become dominant. We must respect the mammals of the seas, including whales and dolphins, intelligent land species like elephants and their sense of community, and even some of the tinier, more alien seeming species like the octopus. Learning to understand their languages and their communities, as Project CETI seeks to do with sperm whales, would go a long way toward developing empathy with them and respect for their rights.

As homo sapiens, we should live up to the “wise” in our name and learn to craft an ecological niche for our species that respects our place in a diverse world and acknowledges the life cycle. We should protect our common resources and strive for equity both across species and within our own. We should be willing to sacrifice some of our individual desires in the interest of the common good and become better citizens of Planet Earth.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Move Protests to the Ballot Box

 It's time for protests to move from the streets to the ballot box. While non-violent protests arise out of the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, in the current political climate a disturbing trend has developed. Overreaction of law enforcement with aggressive responses to peaceful protests has inflamed the process, resulting in escalation to more destructive activity. The underlying peaceful protests appear to be overshadowed by opportunists and other bad actors with conflicting motives, leading to a lack of clarity about the perpetrators of vandalism, looting, and other violence. Are these the actions of the protesters, of common criminals, or perhaps even of others who wish to cast the protesters in a negative light?

This plays into the hands of Donald Trump and his supporters as they push an agenda based on "anarchy in the streets." It has led to justification of further escalation of law enforcement response, of the criminalization of protesters, peaceful or not, and talking points in campaign speeches and rallies. The perversion of events is exemplified by VP Pence's statement during his RNC speech spotlighting the murders during the Kenosha protest, while conveniently omitting that it was the murder of two protesters by a presumptive right wing extremist.

The most effective intervention to address violence against minorities in our nation would be a resounding defeat of Donald Trump in the upcoming election. Continuing protests in the street risk jeopardizing the chances of that victory. With only nine weeks left until the November 3 election, a moratorium on demonstrations should be declared. The time and energy spent on demonstrations would better be deployed in constructive activities to ensure the integrity of the election and prevent voter suppression. This could include volunteering to staff the polls in place of the many elderly poll workers who are at the greatest risk from COVID-19 and are likely to opt out of election duty to protect their health.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


Hate isn’t about the need to suppress “bad apples.” Discrimination is too often justified on the basis of obnoxious behavior by a few members of a group. Hate and oppression is the result of “othering,” perceiving others as different from oneself in appearance, culture, or beliefs. Othering is the root of everything from genocide to religious persecution. It’s cultivated by despots in order to acquire and hold power. It’s embraced by individuals as a means of self-validation. When we “other,” we’re saying, “I’m good because you’re bad. I’m valuable because you’re not.”

Discriminatory and violent policing of African Americans has been justified by some with the observation that black people commit more crimes. That they are more often arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated for crimes is at least as much a result of this perception as of an actual increase in crime rate. And any real increase in crime rate among this population is a direct outgrowth of desperate economic circumstances. Poor people may be driven to steal to feed their families. Rich people steal for greed or sport.

Expelling Mexicans from our country has been justified by pointing out high profile crimes by immigrants or by naming high profile gangs. Their real offense, however, in the eyes of the haters is looking and sounding different. White males have committed many horrible crimes, including serial killings, domestic acts of terror, and many acts of sexual aggression. Heavily armed gangs of white males have created civil unrest that targets minorities with sometimes lethal results. White collar crime is a euphemism for stealing from others by gaming the system. Should we therefore propose to expel all white males in order to eliminate these threats?

Rwanda is an object lesson in othering. In the early part of the 20th century, Belgian colonialists taught half the population of Rwanda to hate the other half. They began by defining the physical characteristics that they claimed distinguished Hutus from Tutsis and assigned official racial identities to every Rwandan. No matter that these distinctions were so arbitrary that even members of the same family were often assigned different racial identities. They then set up a power structure based on these distinctions that bred such resentment that it resulted in two genocides within half a century. Epithets, such as “cockroach,” were one of the tools with which Hutus were encouraged to despise their Tutsi neighbors. And when the last genocide was over, the veil of hate lifted somewhat, and many of the perpetrators were horrified to realize what they’d done to their former neighbors, friends, and even family members.

Science fiction uses gruesome imagery to spotlight the threat of aliens from other worlds, a metaphor for the enduring othering pervading human culture. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a particularly poignant example in which the enemy is an insect-like race designated the “buggers” and presumed to be bent on our destruction. The title character grows up to realize that he’s been instrumental in the genocide of a noble race of creatures that were just trying to defend themselves from us. And we can expect that sentient AIs risk becoming the next underclass to be oppressed upon the assumption that they mean harm to carbon-based humans.

Lest we go down the path of Rwanda and of Nazi Germany, we must call out othering for what it is and renounce it. It’s time we realized that we’re all more alike than different, right down to our genomes. It’s time to correct the inequities in circumstances and opportunities in our culture and the inequities in how we treat one another. It’s time to replace hate with compassion.