22 May 2010


BIODIVERSITY. By United Nations proclamation, May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity, an international holiday to promote biodiversity issues. The term is defined as "the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or on the entire Earth," and is a measure of the health of biologicial systems -- which include human beings. With greater diversity among species comes greater health and enhanced resilience in response to perturbations such as sudden environmental change. With greater diversity within a species comes greater species robustness and resistance to extinction.

Just imagine the risk if all species were in the position of the magnificent cheetah -- individuals within the species are genetically virtually identical to each other, a result of a population bottleneck during the last ice age. So few cheetahs survived that inbreeding was inevitable. Today, cheetahs have low genetic variability, as well as low sperm count and sperm motility.

Similarly, in domestic agriculture, if we homogenize (as we do) our cattle, rice, wheat and other livestock and crops to uniformity, we run the risk of disaster if a virulent disease appears. Far better to maintain nature's variety of species, as life insurance for all concerned. The same principal holds true for humans -- diversity is a virtue, not a threat.

RAND PAUL. "Thanks to Rand Paul 's come from behind during this week's primary, KY will forever be associated with jelly." -- JLS.

Our resident social Luddite and darling of the Tea Party movement (a disorganized mob with no coherent philosophy, no organized structure, no designated leaders, and no apparent goal other than to be against whatever crosses its extremely narrow field of vision), Paul has wasted no time in stirring up controversy. He famously denounced the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making the ludicrous claim that while he opposes racial discrimination, he also opposes government interference with businesses which discriminate. Paul was joined by another monumental airhead, John Stossel, in the call to repeal the public accomodations part of the Act. More recently, Paul called President Obama "un-American" for daring to criticize BP in its handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. All of which elates Democrats and makes Republicans very nervous. A loose cannon like Paul could well cost Republicans not only votes among citizens of all ethnicities, but also could shred what little remains of Republican credibility. If the GOP is hijacked by the Tea Party fringe, the lunatics will be running the asylum.

Paul's rhetoric (if one may charitably call it that) stands in sharp contrast to the eloquent statesmanship and political courage of John F. Kennedy, who would have turned 89 on May 29. It was JFK, not Lyndon Johnson, who was the principle architect of the Civil Rights Act. You can both read and hear JFK's address to the nation on this subject at this link. Whatever his human frailties, Kennedy was our last great president. Had not he, his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr. not fallen to assassins' bullets, our nation and the world would be a very different, much better place. We would still face economic, political and moral challenges, but our assumptions regarding what is acceptable behavior in facing those challenges would be more constructive, more visionary.

Incidentally, to those who whine about the role of government, and call for less interference with Big Bidness, I would remind you that the word "capitalism" does not appear in either of our founding documents, the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Nowhere will you find listed as inalienable rights "life, liberty and the pursuit of profit." In fact, just as Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his farewell address against the dangers of the military-industrial complex, so too must we be aware of the dangers posed by too little government. It is there for a reason. Left to their own devices, individuals and business seek to maximize their own self-interest at the expense of others -- through economic means, political power, violence. Government exists precisely to protect its citizens from abuse by regulating how business is conducted and by spelling out how how individuals may legally behave. It also exists to serve its citizens by providing infrastructure, military security, human services, and equal educational and workplace opportunities for all. Those services aren't free, which is why we pay taxes.

Bottom line, as the Gulf oil disaster so tragically demonstrates, we require not less regulation and oversight, but more. Paul Krugman explains why. Government oversight does not impinge on our essential freedoms -- it guarantees them.

No comments:

Post a Comment