Sunday, November 26, 2006

American and Iraqi leaders disagree

When president Bush was recently in Vietnam, while discussing the prospects for peace in Iraq, he said, "We'll succeed unless we quit." However, even the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, disagreed with Bush when he stated today that politicians must realize "there are no winners or losers in this battle."

The American commander in chief sees his troops as the key to success in Iraq. Bush was asked at a press conference the day after the recent election about withdrawing the troops from Iraq. He maintained that he was "committed to victory" before he would redeploy the troops. Yet, prime minister al-Maliki concedes that America's military presence is not the solution to create peace in his country. Referring to it as a "political crisis," al-Maliki said the current violence in Iraq would only be resolved by politicians.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What a difference a year makes

In October 2005, Iraqis were celebrating their purple fingers. In response to the election in Iraq, president Bush said:
"We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us in the war on terror, that will prevent al Qaeda from establishing safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom."
It was quite a rosy picture he painted of the prospects for the Iraqi people.

A year has now passed. That's enough time to assess the accuracy of Bush's predictions. It seems clear now that they were far off target.

The UN reported the number of Iraqi civilians that were killed in October 2006. It was 3,709, the highest tally since the beginning of the war. Considering that 101 Iraqi civilians were killed today, and recent counts have been as high or higher, November is well on track to surpass October's count.

The killings are not the only staggering numbers. The UN also reported that Iraqi civilians are leaving the country at a rate of 100,000 per year. Since the beginning of the war, 1.6-million Iraqis have fled their homeland.

The favored targets of insurgents are journalists, physicians, professors, politicians and the like. How Iraq could become "a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom" without professionals such as these, Bush has failed to say. It's also unclear how the Iraqi children can go on to replace them considering that many of their schools failed to open in September.

The jury is still out on whether or not Iraq will become that safe haven for al Q'aeda that Bush was convinced it would not become. Nonetheless, the fact that the majority of civilian killings are caused by sectarian violence rather than terrorist attacks is little consolation to the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, a Defense Department official said that the force in Iraq could be increased by 20,000 troops or more over the next few months to quell the growing violence.

Sadly, the state of affairs in Iraq has not turned out to be anything like what Bush described a year ago. Worse yet, for those who say it's only because more time is needed for the peaceful democracy to develop, all indications are that Iraq is headed in the opposite direction.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bipartisanism begins

My friend Dan Stanton is having fun with graphics again. I'll let his graphic speak for itself.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Something smells fishy in the world's seafood supplies

You're sailing along on a clear day while the sun is setting. You look out over the ocean and everything looks beautiful. But underneath the swells, all is not well.

Last week the Science journal released an article by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University. It reports that if current trends continue, the populations of most seafoods will collapse by 2048. By collapse, Worm means that the populations will be so decimated that they will be insufficient to sustain harvesting. In fact, the catch of 29 percent of the seafood species humans consume have already crashed by ninety percent.

This does not bode well for humans. Seafood is high in protein, and is an excellent source of omega oils essential to normal growth in young children. Furthermore, more than a billion people -- many of whom are poor -- rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. And let's face it: seafood is just plain delicious.

The primary source of this problem is the loss of ocean biodiversity caused by humans. Worm's study found that the increasing pace of diversity loss threatens the "ecosystems services" that many human populations depend on for survival. An example of a practice that is highly destructive to biodiversity in the deep ocean is bottom-trawling. Fortunately, international effort is being made to curb bottom-trawling, but this is just one of many ways humans are contributing to the loss of seafood harvests.

Another contributor is the increase in "dead zones" scattered around our planet's oceans. A dead zone is a large area in the ocean devoid of oxygen that leads to the widespread death of animals that cannot swim or crawl away from it. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a dead zone the size of New Jersey that forms each April and lasts through the summer. It is caused by agricultural and urban runoff and wastewater treatment.

Fortunately, it's not too late to reverse the impending loss of our seafood populations if we act now. Worm's study found compelling evidence that ecosystems can recover if action is taken to protect them. But we have to act soon and it will take coordinated international efforts. Some areas will need to be protected from fishing altogether. Additionally, commercial fisheries will need to be provided with incentives to fish any given species only to the extent where a sufficient population remain in any given area to sustain the reproduction of that species so the biodiversity is not lost.

Obviously, this is contrary to the short term financial interests of the fisheries. To address this might mean the implementation of unpopular programs like governmental regulations or subsidies to fisheries. However, such actions could not be as unpopular as humans no longer having seafood on the table would be.