Putting humanity on trial

In Sweden, all of humanity has been put on trial with a jury of Nobel Laureates.

On Tuesday 17 May, humanity will be on trial as the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium brings together almost 20 Nobel Laureates, a number of leading policy makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability.

With Planet Earth as plaintiff and Nobel Laureates as jury members, compelling evidence will be presented showing how humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth. Nobel Laureates will hear how our vast imprint on the planet’s environment has shifted the Earth into a new geological period labelled the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Man.

“This court case is a bold step to take, especially in the context of this Nobel Laureate Symposium. It is, however, a necessary step towards recognising that our generation is the first to know that human pressure is so large that the possibility of irreversible changes to the Earth System can no longer be excluded. The prosecution will therefore maintain that humanity must work towards global stewardship around the planet’s intrinsic boundaries, a scientifically defined space within which we can continue to develop,” says Professor Will Steffen, prosecutor and Director at Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

One of the most recent and most significant attempts to provide scientific guidelines for such improved stewardship was published in Nature in 2009. The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been transgressed and that several other are already in the danger zone.

“We know the earth’s resilience and resource base cannot be stretched infinitely. Moreover we are now uncomfortably aware that “business as usual” is not an option anymore. Our societies and economies are integral parts of the biosphere and it is time for the leaders of the world to act as stewards of nature’s invaluable and inescapable contribution to human livelihoods, health, security and culture,” says Professor Johan Rockström, Symposium Chair and Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and Stockholm Environment Institute.

The court verdict will contribute to the Stockholm Memorandum to be signed by Nobel Laureates on 18 May. The Memorandum will be handed over in person to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed by the UN Secretary General in preparation for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20) and for the ongoing climate negotiations.

via Humanity on trial in Nobel Laureate Court Case | Global Symposium 2011.

First of all, this report was made before the event and it sounds like humanity was not considered innocent before being proven guilty.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I was not read my rights and did not have legal counsel.  The jury did not consist of my peers, since the Nobel Prize winners are smarter than me, and, anyway, aren’t they human beings too and thus part of the indictment?  I assume that the verdict was “guilty.”  So are they going to throw all of humanity into the slammer?  And if they do, who is going to run the prison?

HT: James Kirschner

Losing the rule of law?

More fundamental than government, more important than politics, is the rule of law.   Not only the citizens but the rulers must follow their own laws.  Otherwise, no matter who is in power, you have rule by decree, which is nothing more than the arbitrary exercise of power; that is to say, tyranny.  Victor Davis Hanson is worried that we are losing the rule of law:

The new lawlessness at the federal level. . . is predicated on “social justice”: those deemed “in need” shall be exempt from the law; those “not in need” shall not.

The War Powers Resolution, like it or not, is the law of the land. It requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. Without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war, the military cannot remain in combat abroad. That’s why George W. Bush went to Congress to authorize the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. During the heated rhetoric over the Iranian missile controversy, presidential and vice-presidential candidates Obama and Biden both expressed support for the resolution — apparently outraged that Bush might unilaterally bomb Iran without notifying a Senator like themselves.

So when we recently passed the 60-day limit after the initial and continual use of armed forces in Libya, why did not Obama seek permission from Congress?

Here the question is not the usual Obama hypocrisy that has seen him demagogue and damn Guantanamo, preventative detention, tribunals, renditions, the Patriot Act (just signed by a former critic via computerized autopen from the UK no less), and Predators — only to expand or embrace them all. Rather, the problem is a question of legality itself.

Is the War Powers Resolution the law of the land or not? Or are we to assume a progressive president is complying with both UN resolutions and an Arab League mandate, and therefore, as the good internationalist and Nobel laureate, sees no reason to consult, as American law requires, his own elected U.S. Congress — the latter a more suspect and reactionary body that does not enjoy the moral stature of the UN or the Arab League? . . .

In that regard, an administration is sworn to uphold the established law; why, then, was the Defense of Marriage Act arbitrarily rendered null and void without legislative appeal, simply because it was considered illiberal by those now with executive power? Can President Obama and Attorney General Holder de facto declare a law unconstitutional and then not enforce it? Could a renegade conservative counterpart likewise declare Roe vs. Wade unconstitutional, and go after abortionists because it deemed them too liberal?

Or perhaps a better example is the bailout to Chrysler that was contingent upon reversing the contractual order of creditors, putting union members and retirees, contrary to law, to the front of the line, and those who held Chrysler debt to the rear. Was the logic something like the following spread-the-wealth notion: Bondholders are wealthier anyway and so have enough money already; union members — and Democratic stalwarts — actually do the work, and so have a moral claim to the money that trumps the superfluous legal right of the wealthy and powerful?

Or we might ponder the administrative decision by bureaucratic decree to stop a company like Boeing from opening a new airline production line in South Carolina, purportedly because it is a red, right-to-work state. Again, the logic is that companies cannot open factories where they wish, since they have moral obligations that must stand above a mere legal notion of freedom of commerce and association.

Do we remember the voter intimidation case dropped against the Black Panthers — on the supposition that, given the history of the poll tax and Jim Crow voter discrimination, a little minor pushback is small potatoes?

Then we come to federal immigration law, or rather the deliberate effort to undermine it — in a fashion that goes well beyond the neglect of the law shown by previous administrations. The Obama administration is going to court, along with Mexico, to sue the state of Arizona that is trying to find ways to bolster a federal law that the administration will not enforce.

But it gets worse: the Obama administration tries to subvert states that wish to follow its own laws, but ignores cities that deliberately flaunt them by declaring themselves “sanctuary cities.” And consider entire states like California, whose Assembly just passed its own version of the “Dream Act” to provide millions in state funds to support illegal aliens at the state-run colleges and universities (at a time when the state is $15 billion short in balancing its annual budget, and, due to such a shortage of funds, must release 40,000 prisoners because of an inability to comply with a court order addressing overcrowding). . . .

Where does this end, this effort by Ivy League lawyers and civil libertarians to substitute supposedly enlightened progressivism for purported reactionary law? We easily and rightly condemn the crime when the Right tries to overthrow legality in the cases of a Franco, Hitler, Greek colonels, or Pinochet, who are easily identified as autocrats and dictators openly subverting constitutional government. But the assault from the Left is more insidious, given that the miscreants do it in self-declared high-minded fashion for “us.” I think here of the frightening trial of Socrates in ancient Athens, the ascendency of the Jacobins during the French Revolution, or Hugo Chavez’s thuggery in Venezuela — not coups as much as overdue punishment of “them.”

Without the law, there is nothing.

Via Works and Days » Land of the Lawless.

Christians and the “Arab Spring”

The uprising against authoritarian rule in the Arab world leaves Christians in a precarious position.  Ask the Copts in Egypt:

The Arab Spring initially appeared to open a welcoming door to the dwindling number of Christian Arabs who, after years of feeling marginalized, eagerly joined the call for democracy and rule of law. But now many Christians here say they fear that the fall of the police state has allowed long-simmering tensions to explode, potentially threatening the character of Egypt, and the region.

“Will Christians have equal rights and full citizenship or not?” asked Sarkis Naoum, a Christian commentator in Beirut, Lebanon. A surge of sectarian violence in Cairo — 24 dead, more than 200 wounded and three churches in flames since President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall — has turned Christian-Muslim tensions into one of the gravest threats to the revolution’s stability. But it is also a pivotal test of Egypt’s tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law. The revolution has empowered the majority but also opened new questions about the protection of minority rights like freedom of religion or expression as Islamist groups step forward to lay out their agendas and test their political might.

Around the region, Christians are also closely watching events in Syria, where as in Egypt Christians and other minorities received the protection of a secular dictator, Bashar al-Assad, now facing his own popular uprising.

“The Copts are the crucial test case,” said Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch here, adding that facing off against “societal pressures” may in some ways be ever harder than criticizing a dictator. “It is the next big battle.”

But so far, there is little encouragement in the debate over how to address the sectarian strife. Instead of searching for common ground, all sides are pointing fingers of blame while almost no one is addressing the underlying reasons for the strife, including a legal framework that treats Muslims and Christians differently.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the 80 million Egyptians, say the revolution has plunged them into uncharted territory. Suppressed or marginalized for six decades here, Islamists entering politics have rushed to defend an article of the Egyptian Constitution that declares Egypt a Muslim country that derives its laws from Islam. Christians and liberals say privately they abhor the provision, which was first added as a populist gesture by President Anwar el-Sadat. But the article is so popular among Muslims — and the meaning so vague — that even many liberals and Christians entering politics are reluctant to speak out against it, asking at most for slight modifications.

via Egypt’s Christians Fear Violence as Changes Embolden Islamists – NYTimes.com.

HT:  Kirk Anderson

The end of the megachurch?

As we have already blogged about, Robert Schuller’s megachurch has gone into bankruptcy.  Now the famous Crystal Cathedral has been sold to a real estate developer who plans to build apartments on the site.  See Developer to buy Crystal Cathedral campus for apartment construction – latimes.com.

Emergent church theorists have turned against the megachurch as a model for attracting people today, and traditionalists have always been leery of congregations so huge that the pastor and his people hardly know each other.

Megachurches are also under serious economic pressure, due to their vast facilities and big payrolls.

Obviously, lots of megachurches still exist.  But do you think their time has passed?

Candidates considering a run

I think we have a pretty good selection of Republican voters who read this blog.  Do any of you really want Sarah Palin to run for president?  How about Mitt Romney?  Rudy Giuliani?

Go East, young scientist

The United States is now facing a brain drain that threatens its traditional scientific and technological leadership, as more and more American scientists are heading for greater opportunities in China and other ambitious countries.  So says scientist Matthew Stremlau:

Twenty years ago, most molecular-science PhD graduates in the United States went on to start up their own labs at universities across the country. These labs drive innovation and keep the United States globally competitive. Today, however, only a handful of my friends will go on to run their own labs, though more would like to. Some go into industry or consulting or law. Others leave science altogether.

As public funding for science and technology shrinks, it just isn’t possible for people who want to become scientists in America to actually become scientists. So when a friend of mine who recently received her PhD in molecular biology asked for some career advice, the answer was easy. Go to China, I told her. . . .

The global science landscape is radically different from what it was when I started graduate school 10 years ago. Opportunities for cutting-edge science are sprouting in many other countries. China stands out. But there are plenty of others. India, Brazil and Singapore built world-class research institutes. Saudi Arabia aggressively recruits researchers for its King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. With a staggering $10 billion endowment there — larger than MIT’s — American scientists no longer need to suffer through Boston’s endless winters. Not to be outdone, Abu Dhabi opened the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in 2009. These emerging powers have a voracious appetite for good scientists. So they’re trying to poach ours.

I spent nearly two years doing molecular biology research in China. I have worked at the National Laboratory for Agrobiotechnology and at Peking University in Beijing. The Chinese are serious about science. Government spending on research and development has increased 20 percent each year over the past decade. Even in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008-09, China continued to bet big on science and technology. China now spends $100 billion annually on research and development. The Royal Society, Britain’s national science academy, estimates that by 2013, Chinese scientists will author more articles in international science journals than American scientists do.

Chinese labs are cutting-edge intellectual melting pots of Chinese scientists trained in the East and in the West. This environment of creativity and hard work will produce big breakthroughs. Chinese universities aggressively recruit foreign scientists. The start-up packages can be generous and in some cases comparable to what a young faculty member receives in this country. In the future, China might be a better option for U.S. scientists desperate to fund their research. . . .

Talented scientists in this country often fall through the cracks because they can’t get funding. Agencies are deluged with applications and often have to reject as many as 90 percent of the proposals they receive. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to deteriorate further as budget cuts limit the resources available for research. So I’ve started encouraging my friends to think more creatively about their careers. Go to China, I tell them. Or Singapore or Brazil or the Middle East. If the United States can’t fund its scientific talent, find a country that will.

via Go to China, young scientist – The Washington Post.

Is this more evidence of American decline?  Or does it really matter in a global economy?


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