Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Next Quick Fix: BioFuels and Automobiles

In Stephen Lendman's article Global Food Crisis: Hunger Plagues Haiti and the World he brings up some very valid points about how the search for the answer to the world's fuel problems have affected the world.

The World's food prices have skyrocketed in the past year, and there are food shortages as a result. Farming has been geared towards growing corn, wheat and sugar cane to create ethanol and this has created a shortage of corn grown for food. Lendman states:

"The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that worldwide food costs rose almost 40% in 2007 while grains spiked 42% and dairy prices nearly 80%. The World Bank said food prices are up 83% since 2005. As of December, it caused 37 countries to face food crises and 20 to impose price controls in response.

It also affected aid agencies like the UN's World Food Program (WFP). Because of soaring food and energy costs, it sent an urgent appeal to donors on March 20 to help fill a $500 million resource gap for its work. Since then, food prices increased another 20% and show no signs of abating. For the world's poor, like the people of Haiti, things are desperate, people can't afford food, they scratch by any way they can, but many are starving and don't make it."

This rise has been caused by oil prices and transportation costs increasing, but the steady shift towards bio fuel crop growing has only added to the problem. People see bio fuels, ethanol in particular, as the saviour to our low oil resources but that is far from the truth. They actually produce greenhouse gases, and destroy forests just like their gasoline counterparts. It is not the answer to global warming, or a 'safe' replacement for gasoline. Just because it is made from corn, wheat, or what have you, doesn't mean it is not bad for the environment.

Lenderman quotes Eric Holt-Gimenez, the executive director of the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, and states the realities behind bio fuels:

"1. Agrofuels aren't clean and green. As cited above, they produce far greater greenhouse gas emissions than they save and also require large amounts of oil-based fertilizers that contribute even more.

2. Agrofuel production will be hugely destructive to forests in countries like Brazil where vast Amazon devastation is well documented and is currently increasing at nearly 325,000 hectares a year. By 2020 in Indonesia, "palm oil plantations for bio-diesel (will continue to be) the primary cause of forest loss (in a) country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world."

3. Agrofuels will destroy rural development. Small farmers will be forced off their land and so will many thousands of others in communities to make way for Big Oil, Agribusiness, and Agribiotech to move in and take over for the huge profits to be extracted in the multi-billions.

4. Agrofuels increase hunger. The poor are always hurt most, the topic is covered above, and Holt-Gimenez quotes another forecast. It's the International Food Policy Research Institute's estimate that basic food staple prices will rise 30 - 33% by 2010, but that figure already undershoots based on current data. FPRI also sees the rise continuing to 2020 by another 26 to 135% that will be catastrophic for the world's poor who can't afford today's prices and are ill-equipped to raise their incomes more than marginally if at all.

5. Better "second-generation" argofuels aren't around the corner. Examples touted are eco-friendly fast-growing trees and switchgrass (a dominant warm season central North American tallgrass prairie species). Holt-Gimenez calls the argument a "bait and switch-grass shell game" to make the case for first generation production now ongoing. The same environmental problems exists, and they'll be hugely exacerbated by more extensive GMO crop plantings."

These are just some of the 'myths' debunked about the biofuel answer to global problems. It seems that they make more problems than fix. For instance, I remember when TATA Motors released the Nano (the world's cheapest car) that environmentalists said it would cause the rate of polution to drastically increase. They said that since it was so inexpensive that more people would be able to buy a car and pollute the environment. What about SUV owners in North America though? Shouldn't they be more concerned with how much pollution is created from the larger engines of those automobiles? What I am trying to get at here is that since it was the latest thing in the media, people attached themselves to the cause and saw nothing else but that. They were blinded by the immediate circumstances.

There is no quick fix to the environmental problem of our planet. Ethanol is not the answer, the banning of the TATA Nano is not the answer, we need to all work together to make a difference. Hybrid cars and SUVs are a step in the right direction, but in reality they don't do very much if they are more expensive than a gasoline variant, or 90% of people are driving gasoline guzzling vehicles. Ethanol may be another choice besides gasoline, but if it adds to world hunger, what is the point? We now have a second choice to oil, but people are dying of starvation! We all need to work together, not as individual countries, but as a world society. It is not just the Canada, or the United States, or Iceland, or Zimbabwe, or Hong Kong, etc. that are affected by our changing climate, it is everyone.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Texas Fred on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Point of View Best Left Unread

I recently visited Technorati to check up on the latest Independent News blogs, and came across a blog called TexasFred's. I started reading, and the more I read, the more my mouth dropped at the comments that were being made. On one hand, I was appalled at many of the posts that he made, but on the other hand I was happy. If you have visited the blog, I am sure you are wondering why would I be happy? Well, I was glad that he posted his ideas because it is a good example of what extremist views, racism, and closed thinking can accomplish.

I have a particular beef with one of his latest posts however, where he comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his blog article, World News and Commentary from TexasFred the very last comment he makes is on a recent Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, where 20 Palestinians were killed.

His comments on this missile attack are:

"The only thing I have to say to our Israeli friends is this, don’t stop now, you’re just getting warmed up, put an end to this Palestinian infestation once and for all, and take Mr. Peanut out with that trash too while you’re at it, the world would be a much nicer place…"

I was shocked to read this because, although TexasFred may call me 'mushy' or 'weak,' I value people's lives no matter who they are. Both the Israeli's and Palestinians live in this area and need to come to some peace agreement to live together. The Palestinians are not some type of "infestation," they are human beings! They deserve to live as much as anyone else. I am sort of glad that TexasFred isn't running the United States, because I am pretty sure that the US would be involved in numerous wars around the world, from South America to China.

In his news snippet that he provides in his article he also fails to mention that of the Palestinians killed:

"At least 12 Palestinians, including five children aged 12-15, were killed, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry."

So, does TexasFred condone the killing of children? I should hope not, because those children are most likely not a part of some terrorist organization. There are Palestinian people that are NOT terrorists, which Fred seems to find hard to swallow.

Fred also comments that "the world would be a better place" but for who? Would it be a better place for the families of Palestinians that are killed? Violence and killing is not always the answer, and in this case it is the EASY answer. Sometimes the easy answer isn't always the best answer, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is definitely not something that can be easily answered, BUT this doesn't mean that people should give up on working on a peaceful solution.

TexasFred's point of view on this situation is very narrow. I do not agree with much that he says, but I do agree with free speech, and his viewpoint is up to him. He can post whatever he wants, but I suggest taking his point of view with a critical mindset. Think about the motives behind what he is saying, and for me, I will be leaving most of what he says unread. Just because he CAN post his point of view, doesn't mean it has to be read.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update: Decreasing Violence in Colleges

In a recent Time's article, the issue of violence on college campuses was raised again. As I discussed in Idea: To Decrease Violence at Colleges, Allow Weapons on Campus I think the number of weapons allowed on campus should NOT be increased, whereas some politicians and pro-gun organizations think the opposite.

The Time's article called, After Virginia Tech, Little Change discusses how many lawmakers, such as those I mentioned in my previous blog article, want to allow guns on campus. Aside from these pro-gun toting activists, information on mentally ill people is being shared with the Federal government to prevent these types of people from purchasing weapons. The interesting point I found in the article is that apparently the percentage of gun deals done without assessing the Federal database are 'unclear,' to say the least:

"Gun-control proponents say it could be nearly 40% of guns; gun-rights groups say the number is under 3% — mostly just family members selling rifles to each other over kitchen tables."

It's very interesting that both groups have come up with such drastically different numbers. Since each side seems to be polarized to either side of the spectrum on the issue, I think a neutral company or organization should do a study on this. That is the only way a true perspective can be gained. But, as the article states these gun deals done without consulting the Federal database are irrelevant because:

"It's also worth remembering that the vast majority of violent crimes — some estimates say 95% — are committed by people who are not technically mentally ill."

The only commonality, which the article points out, is that guns have been used in situations such as Virginia Tech, and the mental stability of the shooters are not always similar. So, here is my question, if guns are always used in this type of violence, then why do lawmakers and politicians want to increase the amount of guns on campuses? Just because it is your second amendment right to carry weapons doesn't mean that you HAVE to. I mean, back in the 1800s in English crown colony's it was legal to whip someone if they were found guilty of a crime, but that hardly was ever enforced.

Thom Manard, of the States United to Prevent Gun Violence, sums it up very nicely when he says:

"What never really seems to occur is a real, thorough discussion on the fact that often the only common denominator in these tragedies is the use of guns. There is no other weapon that is legally available that can kill so many in such a short period of time. It's amazing that more people don't make that simple acknowledgment."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Michael Yon: The Broken Record

In the article titled Let's 'Surge' Some More Michael Yon, promotes the idea that the U.S. is definately winning the war in Iraq. He purports that the Iraqi people are ecstatic with the United States presence in Iraq.

Blue Texan from FireDogLake uncovers how Yon has been singing the same tune for many years. Texan states:

"But wait -- what did he say about the war 2 years ago?

'Please do not let your respective media delude you: we are winning in Iraq.
I'm shocked.'

What about 3 years ago?

'I get the impression that people at home are losing faith in the effort, though we are winning.' "

It seems that Michael Yon is a broken record. He has borrowed Bush's rosy-colored glasses to assess the situation in Iraq. Although he has spent an enormous amount of time in Iraq, as he states in his article:

"I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst."

He still seems to be overly optimistic as always. Perhaps it's the books he wants to sell? (I don't know, do people aggrandize events to gain monetary gains? I'm not totally sure) But, that point aside, he thinks that there is a need for more soldiers in Iraq! I agree with Blue Texan on this one in asking the question when will propgandists like Yon ever admit that it just isn't working.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bush Suspends Drawdown; Continues to Play Dominoes

The Washington Post states that President George W. Bush wants to:

"indefinitely suspend a drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq to consolidate recent security gains"

The President has agreed with General Petraeus' assertion that U.S. presence in Iraq is needed, and even though the government is planning to reduce the number of soldiers, and the length of their tour of duty, they are STILL going to stay in Iraq.

Not only does he want soldiers to stay in Iraq until an unspecified end date, he also sees Iraq as:

" 'the convergence point' for two of the greatest current threats to the United States: al-Qaeda and Iran."

It seems that Bush is setting up his dominoes. He has taken the 'War on Terror' from Afghanistan, to Iraq, and now it seems that he wants to knock down the next tile on the board game he calls war, with his sights fixed solely on Iran.

What does Bush hope to accomplish? It just seems that he is trying to eventually occupy the whole Middle East... It is just too hard to say where Bush's domino game will end.

With regards to the soldiers having no foreseen end date placed on their occupation of Iraq, I see Iraq as slowly becoming another imperial holding (more or less) for the United States. Their acquisition of Iraq was done with cloaked intentions (for instance under the guise of the 'War on Terror' and weapons of mass destruction).

Bush is really grasping at straws when he tries to prove his case for U.S. presence in Iraq. Now he is trying to turn attention away from Iraq, and onto Iran, WHILE still holding onto Iraq.

Now, my rant does not mean that I am against the troops already in Iraq (Because I am not). I wish them a happy life, but I hope that they get to return to their homes and families safe and sound. The best way to do this would be to get them out of Iraq as quick as possible. The answer is not to continue to occupy Iraq, and then somewhere in the near future, when Bush sets his sights on Iran have them sent there! Send the troops home, there has been enough bloodshed on both sides, nothing is being answered by their presence there. Soldiers are people, and people have rights too! I am sure every solider overseas cannot wait for the day when they are sent back home indefinitely. You cannot tell me that I am wrong about that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Attacks on Jimmy Carter Uncalled For

Fausta's blog article regarding Jimmy Carter's reported plans to visit the leader of Hamas, states:

"few things spread the virtues of democracy like kissing up to murderous thugs."

The article lists the many "murderous thugs" that Carter has met with over his time in the president's office: such as Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il of North Korea and Omar al-Bashar of Sudan. But can you really cast a bad light on Carter because he has chosen to meet with this people? I am pretty sure that he hasn't met with these leaders to talk about world domination or converting the United States into a Communist nation.

There is no way he is meeting with Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, to give him a pat on the back and tell him to keep up the good work. I think people are blinded by bad publicity waged against Carter if they believe is he 'up to no good.' You cannot try to formulate peace if you are unwilling to acknowledge there is two sides to an argument. Just because the United States has a great relationship with Israel, and no relationship with Palestine at all, doesn't mean their point of view is any less valid. Personally, I believe both sides are adding to the tensions and hostilities. If there is no inclusion of a Palestinian perspective, then there is no hope for peace.

People are always so quick to judge, and call Carter an anti-semite... but is he really? Isn't a peace between the Palestinians and Israelites a good thing? I don't think that an extermination of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza is right? Do you? No, because they are still people, and it seems that Carter wants to create a peace process that would allow both sides to live peacefully together.

On a side note, if you knock Carter for meeting with Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il, and other labeled 'bad guys' as deplorable, then I think that is a very narrow-minded viewpoint. He was able to meet with these leaders, when present day governments just ignore them until something happens. Because of all the 'bad press' that Carter has received over making the hard decisisons, people are quick to judge him as a horrible person. He is doing more than George W. Bush is at the moment. When was the last time Bush met with the leaders of the countries that he doesn't agree with (like Iran)???

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Idea: To Decrease Violence at Colleges, Allow Weapons on Campus

There has been a response to the deadly shootings at Illinois and Virginia campuses, and that is a move to make weapons legal at colleges. A recent NPR Article states:

"12 states are considering legislation to allow guns on college campuses."

This seems a little mind boggling to me, I don't know, (maybe my brain isn't working properly after writing three term papers last week) but it seems a little contradictory. So, after the shocking deaths of many college students at the hands of gunmen, they want to INCREASE not decrease the number of guns that are present on College campuses. So instead of having more security, and metal detectors, they want to allow students to bring handheld guns, and what have you, into classrooms, and onto the campus in general. Isn't this really a blaring statement against the memories of the innocent people that died on April 16th, 2007 and February 14th, 2008?

So they are going to allow students to bring 'a gun' to school with them, so that they can have it just in case something happens. I think this is proposterous, because this will only add to the problem. There is going to be no regulation on who is able to carry a gun, so that means it will be easier for people that would use guns for evil purposes to gain access to campus consequence-free. Also, even if people feel safer carrying guns on campus, what happens if there is a 'life or death situation?' Is there going to be a shootout? Wouldn't this most likely cause more deaths?

I say keep a ban on guns from College campuses. The college atmosphere is for learning, not for gun toting. I don't think that people carrying concealed weapons are going to make the campus any safer. Leave the guns at home, and protect the college atmosphere. Even though the shootings at Illinois and Virginia were heinous crimes, this doesn't mean that we should resort to allowing weapons on College grounds. Increase the security at campus, increase the police presence, etc.. But, I do not believe the power over life and death should be left to College students carrying guns.

Here is Glenn Beck stating the other side of the argument (just to make my opinion objective):

Apparently it doesn't matter if someone with a concealed weapon "accidentally kills someone," because they could have saved lives. Also, they "don't know who has been in a shootout," but what do you think will happen with scared College Students and a gunman on campus if even at least 1/3rd of the students are carrying guns? Just increase the security on the campuses... allowing people to carry guns on campuses is a cheap, 'quick fix' because then no one has to pay for extra security measures. Using students to provide security is totally ridiculous I say.