September 23rd, 2014
While researching something for a book I was writing, I stumbled upon a concept god had for the people of Israel. Not only did he tell his people to keep the sabbath day holy, but God commanded his people to rest the land every seven years. A sound environmental message to keep the land productive. And after seven times seven years, was to be the year of Jubilee. A time when not only the land to be given a rest, but a time when slaves were to be set free and all debts were to be wiped clean. A time when the poor burdened by debt could start over. This was discontinued once the temple had been destroyed.
During the time of Jesus when Israel was occupied by the Romans and wealthy merchants had the people bound by debt.
Jesus seems to be talking more than just forgiving people, he also talked about forgiving the poor of their debts. In the Lord's prayer it takes about the forgiveness of debts, not just the forgiving of sins. Jesus seemed to be talking about reinstating the jubilee.
If anyone needs a Jubilee, we as a nation needs a jubilee.
September 21st, 2014
There are more than 7 billion people on Earth now, and roughly one in eight of us doesn't have enough to eat. The question of how many people the Earth can support is a long-standing one that becomes more intense as the world's population—and our use of natural resources—keeps booming.
This week, two conflicting projections of the world's future population were released. As National Geographic's Rob Kunzig writes here, a new United Nations and University of Washington study in the journal Science says it's highly likely we'll see 9.6 billion Earthlings by 2050, and up to 11 billion or more by 2100. These researchers used a new "probabalistic" statistical method that establishes a specific range of uncertainty around their results. Another study in the journal Global Environmental Change projects that the global population will peak at 9.4 billion later this century and fall below 9 billion by 2100, based on a survey of population experts. Who is right? We'll know in a hundred years.
Population debates like this are why, in 2011, National Geographic published a series called "7 Billion" on world population, its trends, implications, and future. After years of examining global environmental issues such as climate change, energy, food supply, and freshwater, we thought the time was ripe for a deep discussion of people and how we are connected to all these other issues—issues that are getting increased attention today, amid the new population projections.
After all, how many of us there are, how many children we have, how long we live, and where and how we live affect virtually every aspect of the planet upon which we rely to survive: the land, oceans, fisheries, forests, wildlife, grasslands, rivers and lakes, groundwater, air quality, atmosphere, weather, and climate.
World population passed 7 billion on October 31, 2011, according to the United Nations. Just who the 7 billionth person was and where he or she was born remain a mystery; there is no actual cadre of census takers who go house to house in every country, counting people.Instead, population estimates are made by most national governments and international organizations such as the UN. These estimates are based on assumptions about existing population size and expectations of fertility, mortality, and migration in a geographic area.
We've been on a big growth spurt during the past century or so. In 1900, demographers had the world's population at 1.6 billion, in 1950 it was about 2.5 billion, by 2000 it was more than 6 billion. Now, there are about 7.2 billion of us.
In recent years we've been adding about a billion people every 12 or 13 years or so. Precisely how many of us are here right now is also a matter of debate, depending on whom you consult:The United Nations offers a range of current population figures and trends, the U.S. Census Bureau has its own estimate, and the Population Reference Bureau also tracks us.
The new UN study out this week projects that the world's population growth may not stop any time soon. That is a reversal from estimates done five years ago, when demographers—people who study population trends—were projecting that by 2045, world population likely would reach about 9 billion and begin to level off soon after.
But now, the UN researchers who published these new projections in the journal Science say that a flattening of population growth is not going to happen soon without rapid fertility declines—or a reduction in the number of children per mother—in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa that are still experiencing rapid population growth. As Rob Kunzig wrote for National Geographic, the new study estimates that "there's an 80 percent chance . . . that the actual number of people in 2100 will be somewhere between 9.6 and 12.3 billion."
A History of Debates Over Population
In a famous 1798 essay, the Reverend Thomas Malthus proposed that human population would grow more rapidly than our ability to grow food, and that eventually we would starve.
He asserted that the population would grow geometrically—1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32—and that food production would increase only arithmetically—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. So food production would not keep up with our expanding appetites. You might imagine Malthus' scenario on geometric population growth as being like compound interest: A couple have two children and those children each produce two children. Those four children produce two children each tomake eight, and those eight children each have their own two kids, leaving 16 kids in that generation. But worldwide, the current median fertility rate is about 2.5, (or five children between two couples) so, like compound interest, the population numbers can rise even faster.
Even though more than 800 million people worldwide don’t have enough to eat now, the mass starvation Mathus envisioned hasn't happened. This is primarily because advances in agriculture—including improved plant breeding and the use of chemical fertilizers—have kept global harvests increasing fast enough to mostly keep up with demand. Still, researchers such as Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Ehrlich continue to worry that Malthus eventually might be right.
Ehrlich, a Stanford University population biologist, wrote a 1968 bestseller called The Population Bomb, which warned of mass starvation in the 1970s and 1980s because of overpopulation. Even though he drastically missing that forecast, he continues to argue that humanity is heading for calamity. Ehrlich says the key issue now is not just the number of people on Earth, but a dramatic rise in our recent consumption of natural resources, which Elizabeth Kolbert explored in 2011 in an article called "The Anthropocene—The Age of Man."
As part of this human-dominated era, the past half century also has been referred to as a period of "Great Acceleration" by Will Steffen at International Geosphere-Biosphere Program. Besides a nearly tripling of human population since the end of World War II, our presence has been marked by a dramatic increase in human activity—the damming of rivers, soaring water use, expansion of cropland, increased use of irrigation and fertilizers, a loss of forests, and more motor vehicles. There also has been a sharp rise in the use of coal, oil, and gas, and a rapid increase in the atmosphere of methane and carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that result from changes in land use and the burning of such fuels.
Measuring Our Rising Impact
As a result of this massive expansion of our presence on Earth, scientists Ehrlich, John Holdren, and Barry Commoner in the early 1970s devised a formula to measure our rising impact, called IPAT, in which (I)mpact equals (P)opulation multiplied by (A)ffluence multiplied by (T)echnology.
The IPAT formula, they said, can help us realize that our cumulative impact on the planet is not just in population numbers, but also in the increasing amount of natural resources each person uses. The graphic above, which visualizes IPAT, shows that the rise in our cumulative impact since 1950—rising population combined with our expanding demand for resources—has been profound.
IPAT is a useful reminder that population, consumption, and technology all help shape our environmental impact, but it shouldn’t be taken too literally. University of California ecologist John Harte has said that IPAT ". . . conveys the notion that population is a linear multiplier. . . . In reality, population plays a much more dynamic and complex role in shaping environmental quality."
One of our biggest impacts is agriculture. Whether we can grow enough food sustainably for an expanding world population also presents an urgent challenge, and this becomes only more so in light of these new population projections. Where will food for an additional 2 to 3 billion people come from when we are already barely keeping up with 7 billion? Such questions underpin a 2014 National Geographic series on the future of food.
As climate change damages crop yields and extreme weather disrupts harvests, growing enough food for our expanding population has become what The 2014 World Food Prize Symposium calls "the greatest challenge in human history."
September 5th, 2014
this has gotten a little bit of discussion in the media, but perhaps not enough..
it's something that was first stated by obama, and then most directly stated by biden.. when you do something to us (americans), we will first tend to our own, and then look to kill you. some good, honest, and well-deserved vengeance.
a bit nationalist, maybe even ultra-nationalist. then again, and given our enemy, so what?
does ISIS actually create these beheading videos with the intent of scaring americans, and leading them pressure the government to appease their demands? do militant islamists/terrorists understand that out of all the groups out there that we (as americans) don't like, we like them the least - to the point where we more or less believe they need to be killed, rather than appeased or negotiated with, or anything in between? if anything, this only makes us want to bomb them even more, and exterminate them as we would cockroaches or other vermin.
we'd like to see muslim countries and people step up to beat back this virulent ideology, and those who are infected by it. but, expecting them to get with the program is also something that we have very little faith in. we also owe these people nothing whatsoever, and we've given far too much.
it's time to mow the lawn..
While President Obama admits “we don’t have a strategy yet” and continues to send mixed messages about his ultimate objective in dealing with ISIS, one message from the American people is very clear:
They want war with ISIS. By a 4-1 margin.
August 19th, 2014
St. Louis Cops Shoot and Kill Man in Incident Near Ferguson
Two St. Louis city police officers shot and killed a man who came within several feet of them brandishing a knife on Tuesday in a confrontation a few miles from the turbulent suburb of Ferguson, authorities said.
The man, 23, had taken energy drinks and a package of pastries from a nearby convenience store, Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters. He said that the man was “acting erratically, walking back and forth, up and down the street.”
The chief said that the officers repeatedly ordered the man to drop the knife. The chief said the man answered: “Shoot me now. Kill me now.” He said the man moved toward one of the officers and came within 3 to 4 feet.
“One of the witnesses described it as a suicide by cop,” Dotson said.
August 18th, 2014
Very bad news, despite the little silver lining (in boldface below). In the Los Angeles Times written by Jim Puzzanghera:
More than a third of American adults have no retirement savings, and 14% of those ages 65 and older also haven’t put money away yet, according to a new study.
The low savings rate for people at or approaching retirement age is alarming, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, which conducted the survey. The results were released Monday.
About a quarter — 26% — of those ages 50 to 64 haven't started saving for retirement, the survey said; the figure was 33% of people 30 to 49 years old.
36% of adults have no retirement funds saved
More than one-third of Americans haven't begun saving for retirement, a study says.
Overall, 36% of those 18 years or older have not started saving for retirement, according to the survey of 1,003 adults.
“They still have time to start, but they still have to save so much as a percentage of their income to make up for the years they weren’t saving that it puts them in a tough spot,” McBride said.
Savers have been hurt in recent years by historically low interest rates caused by the Federal Reserve’s attempts to stimulate the economy after the Great Recession.
The survey's findings were not all bad, McBride said. It indicated that younger people are starting to save earlier than in past generations.
Twice as many adults who are 30 to 49 years old started saving when they were in their 20s instead of waiting until their 30s, the survey said. Seniors were just as likely to have waited until they were in their 40s to start saving as they were to have started in their 20s, McBride said.
Greater awareness of the financial problems of Social Security is a main reason younger people have started earlier on their retirement plans, he said. Automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans also has helped people to start saving earlier.
This is the reason companies had pensions. Pushing savings on to the individual to handle will cause more harm to the society. Ultimately society will have to handle those who were unfortunate, unlucky, made risky choices etc.
“The burden for retirement savings is increasingly upon us as individuals, and people are aware of that,” McBride said.
Still, 69% of those 18 to 29 years old have no retirement savings, according to the survey.
August 17th, 2014
I have said before that being anti-Zionist is not the same as being anti-Semitic.
But it appears that the current anti-Zionism can lead to anti-semitism.
A letter from an "ordinary middle-aged Londoner" expressing fears about growing anti-semitism in Britain has gone viral, with many taking to social media to express their own discomfort.
The letter from Stephen Spencer Ryde, sent to the Independent, has been retweeted more than 1,000 times since it was published on Friday.
I’m just an ordinary middle-aged Londoner.Sent from my GT-P3113 using Tapatalk
I work in an office. I go to football. I like eating out. I enjoy the arts. I am a proud family man. I give up time for charity work. I try to be a decent contributing member of society. I pay my taxes honestly. But there appears to be something that sets me and my kind apart.
At park gates in East London a friend of mine gets told to f**k off for photographing a flag. At a pub in Bath my wife gets called scum when she mentions her background. In a student hall in Manchester a friend’s son is asked to leave as the specially prepared food he chose to eat is not permitted because it carries a label written in a language used by a country that is “banned” by the student union.
In Belfast a historic blue plaque is removed to deny part of my history. In theatres in Edinburgh and London I am told to denounce my opinions or lose the right to perform. A sportsman in Ireland tweets if he sees my kind he’ll punch us in the face and recommends others follow suit.
Protesters across the country show no shame in shouting that my historical persecutors were right and social media is rife with vitriol towards me (even from so-called friends). And in Bradford I’m told that I am not even permitted to enter the city.
What is this? Racism. Where is this? Britain and Ireland. When is this? Now. Who am I? I am a Jew.
Never again, we say, never again.
August 10th, 2014
A report from the Center for Responsive Politics is fascinating, even though it excludes 501(c) organizations.
|Totals on this page reflect donations from employees of the organization, its PAC and in some cases its own treasury. These totals include all campaign contributions to federal candidates, parties, political action committees (including superPACs), federal 527 organizations, and Carey committees. Because 501(c) organizations do not disclose their donors, contributions to those groups are not included here, except in cases where the group discloses voluntarily. Only contributions to Democrats and Republicans or liberal and conservative outside groups are included in calculating the percentages the donor has given to either party.|
The evil Koch Brothers are #36.
July 28th, 2014
so.. war under false pretenses.. . seems familiar..
When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words. "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region.
But now, Israeli officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas's handiwork after all. (Update: The comments from the Israeli spokesperson in question indicate that the group thought to be responsible, a "lone cell," may not have been under direct orders from Hamas's leadership, but was loosely affiliated with the group.
By: Tom Servo
July 21st, 2014
Millennials' Political Views Don't Make Any Sense
That's not a harsh assessment. It's just a fair description.
Derek Thompson Jul 15 2014, 7:56 AM ET
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They're for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they've heard of. They'd like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn't run anything.
That's all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials' political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, "totally incoherent," as Dylan Matthews puts it.
- Millennials hate the political parties more than everyone else, but they have the highest opinion of Congress.
- Young people are the most likely to be single parents and the least likely to approve of single parenthood.
- Young people voted overwhelmingly for Obama when he promised universal health care, but they oppose his universal health care law as much as the rest of the country ... even though they still pledge high support for universal health care. (Like other groups, but more so: They seem allergic to the term Obamacare.)
1. Millennials are more liberal than the rest of the country, particularly on social issues, but they get more economically conservative when they make more money.<snip>
2. Millennials don't know what they're talking about when it comes to economics.<snip>
3. Far less important, but entertaining nonetheless: Millennials don't know what socialism is, but they think it sounds nice.
July 19th, 2014
With the recent decisions in Hobby Lobby, FEC v. McCutcheon, and Citizen's United, overall public opinion of the Supreme Court has been very low. However, I would hazard a guess that the Supreme Court could give a rat's furry behind what the public opinion polling says.
Americans do not seem to understand the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole nearly as much as they think they do. Whether this is a result of the prevalence of shows like Law & Order or courtroom "reality" shows like Judge Judy, or simply due to a lack of ignorance on the part of the American public, I do not know.
What I do know, is the people doing the most criticizing have the least knowledge, and have not read the decisions they're criticizing.
Take, for example, the Hobby Lobby case. That case dealt with, at its core, a person's rights, albeit a juristic person, in conflict with federal law. Strictly speaking, there was not an issue of a human person being denied access to birth control by a company. Another case will undoubtedly wind its way to the Supreme Court that will settle that issue. I disagree with Hobby Lobby's decision, but for an entirely different reason than that which has been given the most attention. In deciding the case, the Supreme Court has affirmed that Congress can decide the outcome of a case by determining which level of scrutiny the Court must apply. Without the RFRA, the statute that caused the decision, the Supreme Court would have likely used rational basis review in deciding the case, which would have made the decision less likely to go for Hobby Lobby.
The only good thing that can come from the Hobby Lobby decision is that now the Supreme Court doesn't have much of a leg to stand on when using a separation-of-powers argument to prohibit Congress from requiring Supreme Court cases be televised. I think something like that would do nothing but good.
In dealing with McCutcheon and Citizens United, the Supreme Court had to deal with the fact that the Constitution was written for a time when political parties were not organized, and thus had to apply the vague language of the Constitution to modern controversies the Framers wouldn't have ever imagined.
Yesterday, when the Supreme Court announced that Utah's application for a stay in their same-sex marriage case was granted, many people on Facebook acted as if they had decided the entire case. When I tried to explain that it was just a procedural step in every case, that a judgement does not go into force until the appeals process is exhausted, I was largely ignored.