American Elephants

Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum, How lovely are your branches. by The Elephant's Child
December 11, 2008, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Environment, Freedom, Media Bias | Tags: ,

LOCALLY grown, pesticide-free food is gaining sway these days because it is fresh, healthy and supports area farmers.  But how many of us give the same kind of thought to the Christmas trees we bring home? Can you decorate your Fraser fir without getting pesticide residue in your lungs and on your skin?

Sure, if the tree is certified organic by the Department of Agriculture.  Or if it is a Certified Naturally Grown tree, which meets the same basic requirements; it was raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using sustainable methods like composting and erosion control.

Or so says an article in the New York Times. Trouble is, some if this is simply not true.  There is no evidence that “certified organic” food is fresher or healthier than any other.  Organic certification is a marketing scheme which allows growers, by following certain rules, to get  a higher price for their products.  The rules refer to process, not health or safety or wholesomeness.

In the second paragraph above, the key word is synthetic .   Organic farmers are free to use pesticides and fertilizers, they just cannot be “synthetic”.  Organophosphates and pyrethroids will break down in rain and UV light, or you could just turn the hose on the tree and wash it off, if you are concerned about pesticide residue.  The organic label does not guarantee that there are no pesticides, only that they are not synthetic ones.

A popular new buzz-word is “sustainable”.  What it seems to mean is that something “sustainable” is something of which the greenies approve, and unsustainable refers to those things of which they do not approve.  A little common sense is called for here.  Pesticides are some of the most heavily regulated compounds on earth.  Directions are printed on the container, including every caution.  In every case,the dose makes the poison.  You can be poisoned with water, or too much of almost anything.

Environmental activists have long recognized that to get headlines, media attention and the attention of the public they have to present dramatic, scary stories.  There are the pesticide scares, the unsustainable scares, the food scares, the chemical scares, the vaccine scares, the endangered species scares, and far more.

If you want to have a Christmas tree, have exactly the kind that you like.  Apparently old fashioned aluminum trees are fashionable this year, but they must be ‘virgin’ aluminum.  If plastic is your thing, feel free.  If you want a fresh tree, there are Douglas fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir, white pine and blue spruce, and probably a few more that I have forgotten.  You can go to a lot, or if you are lucky, take the kids and go to a growers’  tree farm, and cut your own. If you live near the mountains check with your nearest Forest Service Ranger Station to see if permits are available to cut a tree in the woods.

Growers often shear trees to make them bushier and prettier in the house.  You do not need to feel guilty because they are not really “natural”.  It is Christmas.  Relax and enjoy every minute, and do not let the Green Scrooges spoil your Christmas with their false claims, and environmental preciousness.

Why didn’t anybody do this when I was in school? by The Elephant's Child
December 11, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Entertainment, Fun n Games, Humor, Pop Culture

What a marvelous college lecture prank. I remember the time they let a greased pig loose when I was in school, but that was truly more than unfortunate.  The pig survived, but the other effects were unanticipated.

The Beauty of the Universe. by The Elephant's Child
December 11, 2008, 12:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here is an amazing group of photographs from the Hubble telescope. They are absolutely breathtaking, and so …strange.   Do take a moment to enjoy.

(h/t: Neoneocon)

Pirates and Terrorists and What to Do About Them. by The Elephant's Child
December 11, 2008, 12:40 am
Filed under: Africa, Foreign Policy, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

In the news today, a cruise line disembarked its passengers in Yemen, and flew them farther down the African coast to avoid encountering Somali pirates. Last week pirates fired on a US cruise ship carrying hundreds of passengers as it steamed across the Gulf of Aden on a 32 day cruise from Rome to Singapore. This is serious trouble.

The International Maritime Bureau has estimated that more than 100 ships have been attacked off Somalia by seagoing pirates since January.  At least 14 ships and 250 crew members are still being held for ransom.  I wrote about the attack on the Saudi oil tanker on November 18, here. There was another attack the next day, on another ship.

So why are we letting them get away with it?  How can we allow them to hold 250 crew members prisoner, for ransom?  Bret Stephens explained in the Wall Street Journal, in a splendid essay called “Why Don’t We Hang Pirates Anymore?Mr. Stephens explains how we got to the point where there is, as  senior U.S. military officials indicate “no controlling legal authority”.  We have, evolved perhaps, beyond the 18th century when we could just hang them from the yardarm.  And this is not entirely a positive development.  It is a lot more complicated to be “humane warriors”, as we are, and it makes the world less secure.

Max Boot takes up the problem of pirates and terrorism and failed states, also in the Wall Street Journal.  How do we bring the rule of law to lawless states with no real governance?  There is a vast difference between a war on another state, if it comes to that, and a war against a terrorist enemy that minds no rules of engagement, no international conventions, and is just a menace to international security.

The African Union peacekeepers have been ineffective in dealing with the genocide in Darfur, nor has NATO been effective in trying to get member states to live up to their commitments in Afghanistan.  As Mr. Boot says “If NATO won’t do enough to win the war in Afghanistan, its highest priority, there is scant chance that it will commit troops to police Pakistan’s tribal areas or Somalia’s coast.  And if NATO members won’t act, who will?”

These latter two essays address the essence of some of our problems in the Middle East that are poorly understood here at home.  The alert attention that we paid to international terrorism has faded as news from the Middle East has tapered off, and we have been safe for the past seven years in America.  We forget that our safety has been the result of a lot of hard work by our security forces, as other portions of the world come under attack.  We ignore the threat, which is real, and pick at the niggling details of the security that protects us.

In the absence of other solutions, shipping companies are turning to security firms like Blackwater to cope with the Somali pirates.  Blackwater said that their 183-foot ship McArthur stands ready to assist the shipping industry as it struggles with the problem of piracy.  The ship has state-of-the-art navigation systems, full Global Maritime Distress and Safety System communications, command and control battlefield air support, helicopter decks, a hospital, multiple support vessel capabilities, and a crew of 45 highly trained professionals.

Bret Stephens said in his article: “All this legal exquisiteness stands in contrast to what was once a more robust attitude.” That sums up the situation nicely.  We need to think seriously about what it means.

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