Category Archives: Politics

The Strange Question of ‘Legal’ or ‘Illegal’ Nuclear Strikes

nuke-005-680x365_cOver the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, in the absence of other stimulation, media in the U.S. has obsessed over whether President Donald Trump will lob a nuclear warhead eastward. Constantly mentioned but not defined is the idea of whether such a strike would be “legal.” How odd.

I guess there’s a reason the media’s question of a nuclear strike’s legality is left vague. What does that mean? In many broadcast interviews the question was not even asked. Why? It’s too tough a question to answer in 15 seconds. And there is no answer, perhaps. How can widespread annihilation be legal? One answer: Because “war” can be made legal.

In a cruel world where our attempts to maintain rule of law and therefore peace are constantly thwarted, the definition of an “illegal” nuke strike appears to have only to do with whether the decision to use it impinges upon the human rights of potential victims. As if war itself does not destroy human rights. It always does. The weapons are beside the point, though their magnitude is hard to ignore.

There is a question in law about whether weapons are necessary because war is at hand because it has been legally declared. Just to make the obvious point, it should never be at hand because it destroys all. War should be illegal. But the collective decision to make it so does not reflect our current reality.

Clearly — as if clarity is even possible given the sad state of human communication in which assumptions rule unfairly — international law has not advanced as far as it thinks it has toward properly defining what “human rights” are and what “war” is. U.S. media’s ridiculously vague discussions of illegal use of nukes show it in comic relief, or at least display the horrific gap between such mouthpieces’ version of reality and the tremendous efforts of people around the world to make a difference.

As someone who has worked for a UN-affiliated agency in Geneva, Switzerland, dedicated to better-establishing human rights in the context of law and policy, I remain frustrated that we’re not getting any closer to a “Star Trek” ideal of a unified humanity that can get over our differences and save each other and our planet from our abuse — as well as get off this pretty rock if necessary.

We’re not going to get there if we’re not together, able to agree on terms. That means communicating effectively and, frankly, loving each other. Our capacity for that is supposed to be our best quality, after all. I wish to think positively, but we’re going the wrong way. And so there is work to be done and hope to be nurtured. So keep working and keep hoping.

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Filed under Conflicts, Extinction, Politics, United Nations

From the DNC: A Call for Climate Action


Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Environmentalists are heartened to hear prominent Democrats — Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), among others — calling for urgent climate action at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) taking place in Philadelphia. California Gov. Jerry Brown devoted his whole speech to tearing down climate denial. That’s a stark contrast with the recent Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, where the subject was largely ignored. After all, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Brown’s main target, has called climate change a “hoax,” conjuring a picture of thousands of climate scientists all over the world having quite a laugh.

The party platform documents make the contrast more clear. “Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time,” the Democrats say, pledging an array of actions in support of the The Paris Agreement, moving to clean energy sources and creating jobs in the process. The Republicans reject the agendas of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, demand a halt to U.S. funding of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and vow to defeat President Barak Obama in his “war on coal” through the Clean Power Plan.

Key points summarized in the Dems’ platform:

Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.

Read more:

2016 Democratic Party Platform (pages 27-29)

2016 Republican Party Platform (pages 20-22)

Democrats call for immediate action on climate change – Engadget

How the Democratic and Republican party platforms stack up on climate change, Iran and more key issuesLos Angeles Times

Party platforms clash on climate change – courier-journal

Finally, the climate teardown of Trump you’ve been waiting for – Grist

Related posts:

Dubious: The Donald’s Claims About the Calif. Drought

World Water Day: UN World Water Development Report Warns of Global Crisis by 2030

Study: Freshwater Shortage Will Double Climate Change’s Impact on Agriculture

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Filed under Climate Change, North America, Politics, United Nations

Dubious: The Donald’s Claims About the Calif. Drought


Photo by Gage Skimore, via Wiki Commons

Trump’s Dubious Drought Claims

The candidate said California has “no drought” and that water farmers need is being used to protect a “three-inch fish”  

At a recent campaign rally in Fresno, “Trump suggested ‘there is no drought’ in California because the state has ‘plenty of water.’ But California is in its fifth year of a severe ‘hot’ drought, the kind that’s expected to become more frequent with global warming. He also said water is being shoved ‘out to sea’ to protect a ‘three-inch fish’ at the expense of farmers. But officials release fresh water from reservoirs primarily to prevent salt water from contaminating agricultural and urban water supplies.”

– Vanessa Schipani, via Scientific American. Read the whole article.

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Filed under Drought, North America, Politics, Water Resources