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Saturday, February 15, 2003

What Kind of Nuclear Weapons Will We Need Panel

The Los Alamos Study Group has acquired a minutes document of a Jan 10th Pentagon meeting of the U.S. Stockpile (as in Nuclear) Stewardship Group. The shocking aspect to me is clipped below -- the so-called "Future Arsenal Panel." We've known since Clinton that the U.S. has taken an active interest in theorizing and developing for use the so-called mini, low-yield type nukes that might (though scientists have denied this) burrow into the ground to get deep bunkers and strongholds. This, to my mind, shows that under the Bush leadership, this has now become a main-theme, centralized focus and the U.S. appears to be thinking about the active development of an entirely new type of nuclear arsenal. Again, as we encourage other nation's to de-escalate this strikes me as the entirely wrong strategy. Clearly, politics has descended to an absolutely Themistoclean level of "kill or be killed" in such language. But I don't want to kill or be killed...

For more information regarding this and other documents, click here.

Future Arsenal Panel  

Major Topics:

(1) What are the warhead characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR environment?

(a)  Establish methodology for making choices
(b)  Strategy for selecting first “small builds”
(c)  Requirements for low-yield weapons, EPWs, enhanced radiation weapons, agent defeat weapons
(d)  Effects modeling capabilities to effectively plan for these weapons
(e)  What forms of testing will these new designs require?
(f)  What obvious weaknesses exist in our ability to attack targets and assess target damage for present and future targets and weapon systems?

(2) How do we link service-provided platform requirements for the arsenal?

(a)  What is the testing strategy for weapons more likely to be used in small strikes?
(b)  Does a requirement for higher confidence in small strikes drive larger test asset inventories?
(c)  Hardness and compatibility of conventional and dual use platforms
(i)  How do we institutionalize these requirements?
(d)  Leverage on existing SAGSAT efforts on dual-use platforms
(e)  Reliability requirements
(f)  Other requirements (e.g. precision)

(3) Given the size and composition of the operationally deployed stockpile, are our assumptions correct as we size the stockpile?  (Leverage on existing US STRATCOM and NWC work.)

(a)  Reliability replacements
(b)  Augmentation quantities
(c)  Reserve

(4) Plans for modernization of delivery platforms

(a)  Are these plans consistent with the SSP and NMMP?
(b)  Is the LEP schedule tuned to DoD needs?

(5) Regarding guidance requirements and assumptions on availability of GPS:

(a)  Is GPS, or other advanced systems, available for all plans or just special cases?
(b)  Do we put GPS on all systems, or just a few?


Posted by Richard
2/15/2003 08:11:42 AM | PermaLink

Friday, February 14, 2003

A Break in the Movement? Let's Hope So...

As the movement towards popular demonstration grows exponentially here in America, and this weekend the turn out is expected to be truly historic across the nation, a fault-line has finally been able to be articulated -- this by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun -- around the perception of an ugly form of anti-semitism that has been lurking within the contemporary scene. Rabbi Lerner pointed a finger at the group ANSWER (in my opinion, with some measure of justification) and then took his case public when this criticism of the group apparently prevented him from being a spokesperson this weekend.

Radicals are furious with Rabbi Lerner that he would plead his case in the mainstream media and present on the eve of the demos the representation of anything other than a united front. I can understand that -- even though the movement from below has a head full of steam, it is still paltry in comparison to state and corporate forces, and to achieve anything like a victory, it must be strategic. Anyone with any degree of grassroots political experience knows that you must choose the image you sell the media wisely and with caution.

Perhaps Rabbi Lerner should have worked closed-mouthed this time around and buried his grudge within the back-room meetings. But, even if this is so, this doesn't dismiss either his claim or what I take to be another fundamental problem with how these events were apparently organized -- the abiding rule of the various organizations was that no one would be allowed to speak who had made a public criticism of any of the organizations involved. Lerner's critique of ANSWER's praxis, thus, eliminated him on sight.

This to me is reprehensible. How is the movement to be a grassroots democratic politics if it is working at the level of an unquestionable vanguard party-lineism? Lerner's crtique of ANSWER does not weaken the movment, it strengthens it. Being able to air criticism openly and to have discussion openly has to be the guiding vision. In this case, the politics of media representation and the attempt to fashion a spectacle of grassroots power unity has worked to the detriment of what the movement really should be. Organizers provide a needed boost to organize. But they must have the courage to be hands-off enough to allow freedom within the space that they are able to temporarily liberate. Fear of criticism within that space only reproduces domination there. ANSWER and the other groups involved, now that this has happened, should lower their hackles and invite Rabbi Lerner to have his say. One would hope, in the spirit of reciprocity, that Rabbi Lerner would then make public a self-critique at the level of his own media tactics. If all this happened, this would advance the process ten-fold and turn a reactionary development into something truly constructive, furthering and positive for the social whole.

There is also the charge, however, of anti-semitism at work. ANSWER has issued a statement decrying anti-semitism in lieu of what has happened and clarified that the critique of Israeli governmental practices is not equivalent in their minds to an attack upon Jewish self-determination. Having been in the trenches with ANSWER I think that the statement is fair at the level of their general policy -- and as I am not an organizer, I leave it to Lerner and others to critique the reality of their backroom ideology (i.e. what an organization says is not always what an organization means).

Yet, it is undeniable to me (as a non-zionist Jew) that contemporary manifestations on the Left -- especially amongst the youth -- have produced explicitly one-sided critiques of the Middle Eastern situation and an unfair obsession with Israel which has led to gross stereotyping of both Israeli politics and Jewish life. I didn't need Rabbi Lerner to tell me this, I could see it and feel it for myself and I have been privately watching its recent development.

Personally, I wonder if Noam Chomsky is not more of a cause than ANSWER ever could be. I mean this without denigrating Prof. Chomsky's position and critique of Israel -- which, like just about everything else Noam says, is carefully documented with an encyclopedia of facts and references, and which is buoyed by his own history as a Jew and a radical intellectual of four decades. This is not the case of many of my compatriots in the streets or classrooms, however. There is, to the contrary, an excitement about Chomsky intellectual anarchism and a form of hero worship (to varying degrees) of both Chomskian critique of Zionist state power and Western imperial interest and of ZMag-type socialism altogether.

To my mind, this is good. The youth of today need their heroes and the long adventure into philosophy must always begin in wonder and excitement. But it has its dangerous aspects too -- youth tend to fashion superficial critiques, construct stereotypes, over romanticize their own position, and invest a greater deal of personal identity in the positions and heroes that they worship. Thus, today in America, if part of the construction of a burgeoning youth movement from below involves the critique of imperial interests in the so-called Middle East, and if Chomsky represents the ideological justification, while ANSWER represents the anti-zionist praxis, it is only to be expected that the rather sophisticated analysis of Arab-Israeli history would descend into forms of popular anti-semitism.

Announcing this, as such, seeking to nip it in the bud, and so forcing the level of political engagement and critique to a higher level of analysis and practice, in which further dialectical observations are revealed, this is the right path. Rabbi Lerner, who has shown himself to be a special person in many other respects, deserves to be thanked (and not just shunned) for highlighting the potential divides and rifts, especially around what could be a major blow to solidarity if not reckoned with.

True democracy is not media spectacle. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in...

Posted by Richard
2/14/2003 08:47:41 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The Buffalo Commons

In an age when we are getting prepared to live 500 people to the acre (thanks Virginia of Green Consciousness!), it appears that the frontier is not only not closed but is spreading rapidly east and westward -- re-opening the Great Plains of the country, with many counties supporting less than 2 people per square mile!

Profs. Frank and Deborah Popper of Rutgers have proposed an idea of the "Buffalo Commons" in which American Bison (which are on the increase again) would be re-introduced en masse to the newly re-imagined plains...creating a uniquely American spectacle of historic wilderness that would revitalize the nation's spirit and allow it to coalesce around something more enduring and humane than market ideology and media propaganda. This would be natural propaganda of the larger than life kind -- akin to what happened over a century ago, when the Frontier was declared closed, and American's rushed to conserve their wilderness in fantastic and symbolic National Parks and Monuments.

Posted by Richard
2/13/2003 11:10:33 AM | PermaLink

War and the Environment -- the West Bank Situation

I've posted previously documenting the ways in which the state militaries are by far the worst environment degraders and polluters, and the massive damage caused globally by the American military -- who uses its rights as defenders of the homeland and peacekeepers abroad to work under top-secret (anti-democratic) conditions that are generally free of environmental legislative constraints.

So, while the United States is the worst in this respect, that isn't to say that military agression across the board isn't extremely damaging. A large part of the reasoning behind global nuclear descalation processes has to come out of the conclusions that fall out of these international investigations.

But even relatively small-arms conflict is quite capable of decimating a region, destroying the lives of people, animals, plant species, and thus placing a greater ecological burden upon surrounding regions -- with a sort of ripple effect that mushrooms outward. Prior to the devastation wrought by the US intervention into the Afghani Hindu-Kurd region, we already saw that decades of war had taken an important diverse region and turned it into desert rubble.

After a five-month review by UNEP of the Gaza strip and West Bank, war there is showing all the tell-tale effects of a growing environmental emergency: increasing water pollution, loss of natural vegetation, indiscriminate waste dumping, and the razing of forestland. Additionally, the Israeli practice of razing houses in the area, those that are suspected of providing quarter for terrorists and/or bomb-making factories, has come under question from an environmental standpoint. UNEP points out that many of the Palestinian dwellings there were constructed using carcinogenic abstestos. Thus, even a carefully and well-coordinated levelling of such a residence, serves only to release the abstestos into the air, filling it with toxic dust to breathed into the lungs of all, and to settle as a cancer-causing agent in water and food supplies.

Both sides in this conflict have agreed to adopt UNEP's strategies for mitigating some of these concerns -- but the fact of the matter is that war is equal to the destruction of the planet and that as long as each side continues with a policy of agression there should be little hope that technocratic measures can mitigate environmental violence.

Read the report at:

Posted by Richard
2/13/2003 10:42:24 AM | PermaLink

Tune In, Turn OFF, Drop Out

There's no question that the neoliberal strategy of handing cheese over to the mice in the name of self-regulation will not result in the greater and more long-term net preservation of cheese. The market-based plan to meet necessary environmental standards has a logic to it, and is reacting to some real problems in the way that prior legislation affected total costs, but it is illogical to the effect that it claims it is environmentally sound. It is not -- it is economically coherent...which is a vastly different thing.

But my point here would be that for the average American consumer -- the average person trying to live a life -- who is becoming more aware of these issues, and is realizing that the bevy of products that crowds his/her house comes with the invisible cost of large-scale industrial pollution and disease building up to staggering proportions over generations, the injustice of exporting the burden of this toxicity upon poorer communities, and the further integration of corporate power (if you buy their stuff, you give them power), it is this person who is the only answer to the legislative failures that cloud our skies with soot.

Even if a more thorough-going piece of legislation had been passed -- like the Clean Air Act as proposed by the NRDC -- a real shift in consumer awareness and behavior was going to be necessary if life in an advanced industrial state was going to be anything resembling sustainable. Legislation represents trajectories -- and under the pressures of the market -- often conservative trajectories at best. That means that the ultimate difference between the right-wing plan and the left-wing plan these days often amounts to style and split-hairs, but the end results aren't that far off...though this is not true of much of the Bush agenda, which represents a rather extreme form of marketism and is vastly different than other contemporary notions of Third Way Economics: the Clinton approach.

We are going to have to search within ourselves and find the pathways towards democracy -- a political vision in which we all have a say. This is not happening at the level of transnational or national government. Nor is it happening at the level of the average American's lifestyle choices -- being pawns for advertisers, state and corporate education agendas of all kinds (in school and out), and then being indentured to the workforce is not autonomous democracy.

But there may be room to begin moving in that direction within our own lives -- without needing government or corporate consent -- and this might be just as effective in limiting corporate environmental abuses as any piece of legislation ever could be. In fact, it could do more. Simply, a better world for our children and theirs is only possible if people who are "tuning in" to the fact that the market economy as it has been developed jeopardizes all life on Earth at the present moment, "turn off" the spectacle of advertisers and market popularizers, and then "drop out" of the American popular culture imaginary by constructing a better life for all based on a more holistic understanding of the ways in which our lives increasingly affect all those immediately around us and across the globe (at once).
U.S. utilities, automakers, oil refiners, and other industries said Wednesday they will voluntarily trim carbon dioxide emissions, drawing praise from the Bush administration and sighs from environmentalists who say it is not enough to reduce heat-trapping gases.

Posted by Richard
2/13/2003 08:19:30 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Billions Wasted On Redundant Federal IT Spending

Leaves one wishing for the days of the 300 dollar hammer or 1000 dollar toilet...again, this was to be the president who streamlined the big Clinton socialist government and cut it down to size. Looks like this administration is about as effective in taming inhuman bureaucracy as it is in promoting peace and harmony.
The federal government might be squandering as much as one-fifth of the nearly $60 billion it allocates for IT on redundant systems and services.

Eric Chabrow, InformationWeek
Billions Wasted On Redundant Federal IT Spending

Posted by Richard
2/12/2003 01:11:22 PM | PermaLink

Vegetarianism Catches On

According to recent studies, some individuals are turning away from meat products and heading for the vegetable aisle.

In a recent study in Time Magazine conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, a marketing-research firm, one in four teenagers think vegetarianism is "cool."

James Painter, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, said several reasons account for why people might turn to vegetarianism.

"There are religious reasons and humanitarian reasons for animal rights," Painter said. "Although the primary reason that a number of people become vegetarians is probably because it's healthy. Vegetarianism has been the 'in' thing, and it has not been the 'in' thing."

Vegetarianism can be broken into many different types. Lacto-ovo refers to vegetarians who eat no meat but consume dairy products and eggs. Lacto vegetarians don't eat meat and eggs, but consume milk, cheese and other dairy foods. The strictest form of vegetarianism are vegans, who avoid all animal products.

Vinay Tota, senior in engineering, said he recently became a vegan because he didn't like the way eggs and milk were produced.

"I always sort of excepted that it wasn't the best thing to be consuming those," he said.

For individuals looking for a meat-free meal, University dining halls offer daily vegetarian meals. An alternative to the meat heavy portions of Fat Don's is Field of Greens, a specialty restaurant at Lincoln Avenue Residence Halls. Field of Greens, Monday through Friday, serves no meat or meat by-products and offer a salad, fruit and nut bar.

Because of a recent rise in vegetarianism among teenagers, marketing companies have thought of a new campaign that links meat with "coolness."

According to the Cool2BReal Web site, launched by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, to "Keep it Real" is to eat beef. The association encourages eating beef three or four times a day. The Web site says by "Keeping it Real," people build strong bodies and strong minds.

Jane Li, vice president of the Campus Vegetarian Society, said vegetarianism could be a healthy way to lose weight but warns of replacing meat with sugars and junk food. Iron and nutrient deficiencies are also a common problem. Some low-protein problems vegetarians can experience are thin, brittle hair, bad skin and low energy.

"Vegetarianism can be a very healthy lifestyle," Painter said. "But people have to approach it in a responsible and logical manner."

By Joann Ku, The Daily Illini

Posted by Richard
2/12/2003 01:01:03 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

EPA Plans to Relax Toxic Emission Standards

Here we go -- welcome to the Clean Skies Initiative, where local (often poor and ethnic) communities get subjected to toxics, while big corps. pay their way out of having to be pressured into doing anything about it. CEOs (a majority of whom are white males) love the market-based solution to the industry toxics issue, they can reduce costs -- which means reducing costs added on to the consumer (b/c that's who always pays in the end) -- and so increase productivity and sales. Unfortunately, the solution breaks down on a number of divides -- including class, race, and gender...studies have repeatedly shown that poor or working-class black, latino/chicano, and American Indian communities are the overwhelming victim of poisonous industry sludge. This also plays out at the level of gender in terms of the affects upon female reproductive health and process. Further, of course, there is the affect to species and bio-regions, as the pollutants are released into the larger environment proper.
The Bush administration is proposing to relax measures that curb toxic emissions from a variety of industries, including pulp mills, auto factories, petrochemical plants and steel mills. Under a new set of rules drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the businesses could opt out of the current requirement to reduce toxic fumes from their plants to the maximum extent possible. In some instances, those controls can eliminate virtually all emissions harmful to people's health, but businesses contend they cost too much and provide little health benefit.


Posted by Richard
2/11/2003 10:25:34 AM | PermaLink

Monday, February 10, 2003

Iran to Mine Uranium

News out now that Iran intends to mine and enrich uranium. I'm seeing little media coverage of this as of yet, but it strikes me as close to as serious a blow to the Bush plan as was North Korea's announced intentions.

The basic scenario that we see is that in growing response to economic and military attempts at control of global resources and position, countries that have sufficient funds and/or resources to begin the nuclear process are racing to get in the ring. Iraq, no doubt, was/is one of these countries -- whether any materials directly linking Iraq to current arms buildup or not, I am sufficiently convinced based on its past activities and the current manifestations of global political logic, that if it could feasibly acquire nuclear warheads, it would.

But Iraq becomes an illogical target when nuclear weapons dominate the Earth and a host of more ideologically oppostional regimes enter negotiations at the atomic table. No matter how powerful America is, it does not have the capability to engage in war with every nation that wishes to enrich uranium and build a plant. And yet, since this is essentially the Bush strategy -- to starve those who can't be attacked, and attack those who won't succumb to starvation -- it appears that increasingly more and more countries will be attempting to homestead on the nuclear frontier. It is either open or it is closed.

Right now it is open -- as long as it is open to a few, it is open. But it must be closed.

Posted by Richard
2/10/2003 03:02:41 PM | PermaLink

Sunday, February 09, 2003

One Generation to Save World, Report Warns

The human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself, according to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.

The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept, the institute says in its 20th annual report.

Overuse of resources, pollution and destruction of natural areas continue to threaten life on the planet. Conditions continue to deteriorate rapidly, the report says, although there are some hopeful signs in that technical solutions to the problems have been found and - where there is political will - adopted. In most cases, though, nothing is being done.

Among the worst trends worldwide is that 420 million people live in countries which no longer have enough crop land to grow their own food and have to rely on imports. Around 1.2 billion people, or about a fifth of the world's population, live in absolute poverty - defined as surviving on the equivalent of less than $1, or 62p, a day.

About one quarter of the developing world's crop land is being degraded, and the rate is increasing. The greatest threat is not a shortage of land, says the report, but a shortage of water, with more than 500 million people living in regions prone to chronic drought.

By 2025 that number is likely to have increased at least fivefold, to between 2.4bn and 3.4bn. A probable world population increase of 27% over the same period will create social and ecological instability.

Global warming is accelerating, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 370.9 parts per million, the highest level for at least 420,000 years and probably for 20m years.

Toxic chemicals are being released in ever-increasing quantities, and global production of hazardous waste has reached more than 300m tonnes a year. There is only a vague idea of what damage this does to humans and natural systems, the report says.

Another threat is the movement of highly invasive species to regions where they may pose problems to native species.

The state of the world's natural life support system is perhaps the most worrying indicator for the future, says the report. About 30% of the world's surviving forests are seriously fragmented or degraded, and they are being cut down at the rate of 50,000sq miles a year, it says.

Wetlands have been reduced by 50% over the last century. Coral reefs, the world's most diverse aquatic systems, are suffering the effects of overfishing, pollution, epidemic diseases and rising temperatures.

A quarter of the world's mammal species and 12% of the birds are in danger of extinction.

On the hopeful side, the report says that renewable energy technologies have now developed sufficiently to supply the world. They could significantly reduce the threat to the world from pollution - but currently there is a lack of political will to introduce them fast enough.

Another industry which causes widespread destruction, mining for minerals, could be largely replaced by re-use and recycling.

Mining consumes 10% of the world's energy, spews out toxic emissions, and threatens 40% of the world's undeveloped forests but these effects could be drastically reduced.

Another crisis which the report identifies is in the world's cities, where one billion people seek shelter in shanty towns, often on hillsides, flood plains, in rubbish dumps or downstream of industrial polluters.

The inhabitants of these settlements live at constant threat of eviction, but also of natural disasters and disease. Urban centres in the south now dominate the ranks of the world's largest cities.

Slum dwellers are organising for greater rights and better lives, the report says. One of the great challenges for governments is to help their poorest citizens feel secure in their own homes, make a living and improve their environment.

Dark clouds, silver linings

Worst trends

• Malaria claims 7,000 lives every day

• Bird extinctions running at 50 times natural rate

• Global rate of ice melt more than doubled since 1988; sea levels may rise 27cm by 2100

• New fishing technologies help to locate and further exploit declining stocks

Reasons for hope

• Populations have stabilised in Europe and much of south-east Asia

• Organic farming is the fastest-growing sector of world agricultural economy

• Wind and photovoltaic electricity generating capacity to increase 30% a year for five years (1% for fossil fuels)

• Production of ozone-depleting CFCs fell 81% in the 90s, slowing growth in ozone hole

One generation to save world, report warns

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian

Posted by Richard
2/09/2003 09:06:32 AM | PermaLink