Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Nightmare Weaponry of Our Future

"We are not winning the war on terrorism (and would not be even if we knew what victory looked like) or the war in Iraq. Our track record in Afghanistan, as well as in the allied "war" on drugs, is hardly better. Yet the Pentagon is hard at work, spending your money, planning and preparing for future conflicts of every imaginable sort.

From wars in space to sci-fi battlescapes without soldiers, scenarios are being scripted and weaponry prepared, largely out of public view, which ensures not future victories, but limitless spending that Americans can ill-afford now or 20 years from now.

Even though today the Armed Forces can't recruit enough soldiers or adequately equip those already in uniform, the Pentagon is committing itself to massive corporate contracts for new high-tech weapons systems slated to come on-line years, even decades, from now, guaranteed only to enrich their makers."

Read more on AlterNet.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Why Fixing the Media System Should Be on the Feminist Agenda

"Ask a feminist to identify what the most important issues are facing women, and she might mention reproductive freedom, violence against women and children, the disproportionate burdens women bear in light of the growing gap between rich and poor in America or the many ways in which war specifically impacts women. Chances are she wouldn't immediately point to the media. But she should.

Without accurate, non-biased, diverse news coverage and challenging, creative cultural expression it is virtually impossible to significantly impact public opinion of women's and human rights issues or to create lasting social change. Indeed, corporate media are key to why our fast-moving culture is so slow to change, stereotypes are so stubborn and the power structure is so entrenched. Pop culture images help us determine what to buy, what to wear, whom to date, how we feel about our bodies, how we see ourselves and how we relate to racial, sexual, socio-economic and religious "others."

Journalism directly links and affects every individual issue on the socio-political continuum in a national debate over the pressing matters of the day, from rape to racism, hate crimes to war crimes, corporate welfare to workplace gender discrimination. By determining who has a voice in this debate and who is silenced, which issues are discussed and how they're framed, media have the power to maintain the status quo or challenge the dominant order.

And how have media used this power where women are concerned? With a vengeance."

Read more on the AlterNet.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Future of Progressivism depends on harnessing the Power of Digital Media

"On Friday, several thousand U.S. media activists will converge in Memphis to attend the Free Press group's "National Conference for Media Reform." Much of the conference is focused on current and upcoming public policy battles designed to help make this country's media system more democratic. Right now there is greater interest in media policy than we have seen since the 1960s.

Among the key concerns is fighting against the Federal Communications Commission's current plan to permit greater consolidation of our nation's newspapers and broadcast stations; battling Congress over the broadband Internet (network neutrality); and highlighting the lack of ownership of media outlets by women and people of color. These are important topics, but the real action it requires must take place outside of the D.C. beltway.

With network neutrality legislation now being introduced in the new Democratic-controlled Congress, it is likely that many attending the Free Press conference will leave Memphis feeling that fighting for its passage should be the progressive media movement's top priority. After all, hundreds of thousands of activists, bloggers and media makers just successfully fought to a standstill plans by the former Republican-controlled Congress to pass legislation giving phone and cable companies greater control over the future of the Net in the United States.

But our most urgent task is to proactively intervene to shape -- on behalf of progressive values -- the emerging commercial digital communications system. This will require a strategic intervention to create sustainable "new media" services that help harness the power of digital media to better promote social justice. Our digital media system will have the capability to help "define" political and social "reality" for the majority of Americans. Unless progressives can seriously "program" the new media -- in every community and across the nation -- we will face even greater obstacles promoting our agendas."

Read more on the AlterNet.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Can We Create A World Without Nuclear Weapons?

From Alexander Zaitchik's Too Little, Way Late, Mr. Kissinger: "In 1958, Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger published Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. The book argued that people should relax about the use of those newfangled hydrogen bombs, which didn't necessarily spell doom for humanity, let alone vast continental powers like the United States and the Soviet Union. Because manageable, limited nuclear war was possible, the nuclear option should be kept on the table during crises, argued Herr Professor. In certain cases, the nuclear option was preferable to a prolonged conventional war.

As in, say, the latter stages of the Vietnam War. Nixon and Kissinger famously and seriously contemplated using nukes against North Vietnam; "madman theory" hype aside, they really did think about it.

But there was the same Henry Kissinger -- who, together with Edward Teller, was one of the inspirations for Dr. Strangelove -- arguing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The essay -- entitled "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons" and co-authored with George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn -- lays out a commonsense and urgent plan for American leadership to stop and reverse proliferation, with the ultimate goal of complete abolition. Fifty years after writing a sanguine book about thermonuclear charges being detonated over cities, Kissinger is worried that things have gotten out of hand.

Describing a post-Cold War world in which reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is "becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective," Kissinger et. al. site Reagan's vision of a world without nukes and put forth a laundry list of steps to get us there. They are taken largely from the Ted Turner-funded Nuclear Threat Initiative, which Nunn co-chairs. The main elements include immediately reducing the size of nuclear arsenals, taking weapons off of hair-trigger alert, and halting the production of all weapons-grade fissile material. The last of these is arguably the lynchpin. To paraphrase Stalin: no material, no problem."

Can We Create A World Without Waste?

"Aside from Oscar the Grouch, few people would argue that trash is a good thing. In addition to being stinky, ugly and a pain to lug out to the curb, the detritus of modern life causes problems on a far grander scale. Landfills and incinerators have been linked to a host of human health issues, and as for the environment -- you don't have to be an ecologist to know that lingering piles of plastic, metal and toxic goo are bad news all around.

Yet, we continue to throw things away -- and how could we not? What else would we do with that annoying cellophane packaging? The to-go boxes? The packing peanuts? The after-dinner scraps that even the dog won't touch?

Part of the solution is as simple as a blue bin. Curbside recycling is still an incredibly effective way to save energy and divert tons of plastics, cans and glass away from landfills. Another answer is composting, which would address more than 60 percent of what ends up in residential dumpsters.

But in addition to getting the word out about these tried and true solutions, a new movement is taking a more holistic approach. Rather than focusing solely on what to do with existing waste, the "Zero Waste" movement looks at a product's entire life cycle -- and redirects the conversation toward usable options for every step along the way. The ultimate goal is to eliminate waste as a concept entirely -- a lofty aspiration indeed. But Zero Wasters say loftiness is part of the point -- after all, creating a trash-free world is going to take nothing short of revolution."

Read more on the AlterNet.