29 March 2007

Michael Crichton is stoopid.

Michael Crichton is an idiot. I listened to a podcast this morning of his participation in a debate about global warming. He stood resolved: global warming is not a crisis. Before hearing this debate I would have greed with the resolution, but not because I deny that anthropocentric warming is occurring but because the impact of said warming is not a crisis.

Crichton, however, had a different argument, one that did not prove the resolution. He argued that poverty kills millions of people a year in preventable deaths and that environmentalists were draining funds from preventing these deaths to some future possible crisis. He then reduced environmentalists to be head-in-the-sand deniers of suffering. This is a weak argument and it exposed Crichton for what I had always feared he was: a moron that can write.

His argument does nothing to the resolution. It addresses neither the impact nor the validity of the global warming debate. The true test is if his opponents, those who argued global warming is a crisis, could agree with his argument that environmental resources could be spent instead on poverty prevention. The answer is yes, and therefore is not in competition with the resolution’s negation.

Leave it to a wealthy person that is not charitable enough to stave off his sense of guilt by blaming the philanthropists of callousness. The environmentalists rallying around global warming are anything but callous moralizers. These are people that see deleterious effects, present or future, caused by our way of living. If anyone is oblivious it would be Crichton for failing to see beyond immediate impacts.

I thought Jurassic Park was an excellent book, one which not only entertained but also sparked scientific interest in non-scientific circles. However, maybe there is a time for Crichton to stop talking in scientific circles and return to what he does best: entertaining the masses.

14 March 2007

Tickner 1994

The masculinity of war depends, therefore, on the myth that women are being protected. Spike Peterson has argued that rethinking the meaning of protection is a crucial component of efforts to address problems of world security. By exposing the protector/protected myth we can deepen our understanding of the real victims of direct violence. The National Organization for Women has estimated that up to 90 percent of total casualties in conflicts since 1945 have been civilians, the majority of them women and children. Moreover, as Judith Stiehm points out, if we are to think of men as protectors we must remember they are usually protecting women from other men.
Feminist theory also draws our attention to the issue of domestic violence, which is prevalent but generally underreported and not legislated against in most societies. By pointing to the high incidence of domestic violence in military families and in militarized societies, feminist perspectives can deepen our understanding of the connection between militarism and sexism. Peterson also asserts that the way notions of protection have traditionally been constructed by the state contributes to the reproduction of hierarchies, including gender hierarchies, and hence to the structural violence against which states say they offer protection. Tickner, Anne. 1994. Peace and world security studies: A curriculum guide. 47-8.

This passage needs little work to serve as an explanation for what is happening in Iraq. While some may see Tickner arguing for a conspiracy against women, I see her argument differently. Women tend to bear the brunt of war because military planners unintentionally overlook some of the horrors of war. The main way this overlooking is done is by the militaries assessments of damage. The military is understandably concerned with attrition rates to enemy combatants and less so to the damage done to noncombatants. I will not say the military is callous, however, as I do think they give some concern to non-combatants, but the damage they measure is the damage done by bombs and ammunition. The damage measured is not the damage caused by, for example, the destruction of a dam and the concomitant loss of running water, electricity and the industries powered by the dam – hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, food preparation firms and other essential firms.

Because the military - even the engaged, shocked and awed military - has rations and drugs, it seems the men of that very military are less affected by the disruptions caused by a war. It is also understandable how a military actuary would overlook the cost of these disruptions, since they are not dependent upon such services in their own respect. For example, when ascertaining the cost of destroying a dam in southern Iraq it is understandable that Captain Moore overlooks some things because those aspects of living are not within his realm of experience. I do not know if Tickner goes so far as to claim all war is bad. If she does then I will diverge from her there, as it seems there are times when maybe things can be improved. The problem though is in those assessments of cost and benefit. If history is indicator though, it seems we as a species need some improvement in our calculations.

We can easily see Tickner’s second paragraph at work in Iraq. The US argument all along was to protect the oppressed in Iraq and to liberate them. That message is now being used against us as the insurgents are targeting civilians. While these civilian killings undermine support for the occupation in Iraq, it also damages US credibility abroad as a capable protection force. The occupation in Iraq has ended up hurting, some would say more than Hussein’s Baath Party, those whose original protection was a justification for invasion.