Monday, September 29, 2008

Please explain yourselves

I'm perplexed. I'm feeling quite similar to how I did 8 years ago when I was in The Gambia and listening to the results of pre-election polls on shortwave radio. What are my fellow Americans thinking? And I don't know if this would be any clearer to me if I were living in the US right now; in fact, I think I might be even more confused. I've read numerous commentaries flowing out of American publications during this final countdown to the elections, but few have made me think "Yes, that's at least a piece of the puzzle!"

The following are some excerpts from Professor Jeffrey Sachs that I found particularly insightful. Read the full commentary here.

"While many factors contributed to America’s destabilizing actions, a powerful one is anti-intellectualism, exemplified recently by Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s surging popularity.

"By anti-intellectualism, I mean especially an aggressively anti-scientific perspective, backed by disdain for those who adhere to science and evidence. The challenges faced by a major power like the US require rigorous analysis of information according to the best scientific principles."

"In the US, however, the attitudes of President Bush, leading Republicans, and now Sarah Palin, have been the opposite of scientific. The White House did all it could for eight years to hide the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are contributing to climate change. It tried to prevent government scientists from speaking honestly to the public. The Wall Street Journal has similarly peddled anti-science and pseudo-science to oppose policies to fight human-induced climate change.

"These anti-scientific approaches affected not only climate policy, but also foreign policy. The US went to war in Iraq on the basis of Bush’s gut instincts and religious convictions, not rigorous evidence. Likewise, Palin has called the Iraq War 'a task from God'.

"These are not isolated albeit powerful individuals out of touch with reality. They reflect the fact that a significant portion of American society, which currently votes mainly Republican, rejects or is simply unaware of basic scientific evidence regarding climate change, biological evolution, human health and other fields. These voters generally do not reject the benefits of technologies that result from modern science, but they do reject the evidence and advice of scientists regarding public policies."

"In many statements, Palin seems intent on invoking God in her judgments about war, an ominous sign for the future if she is elected. She would certainly stoke many enemies who will look to their own brands of fundamentalism to strike back at the US. Extremists on both sides end up putting at risk the vast majority of humans who are neither extremists nor anti-science fundamentalists."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scotty, beam me out of September

This week I will find out if my running days, at least for the next several months, are over due to a stress fracture in my left tibia, meaning no Eurasia Marathon for me. Needless to say, I'm pretty bummed about this prospect as I've been training for this event for most of the year.

Seems like it's just been that kind of month, starting with the 3am drumming sessions for Ramadan. I don't deal well with chronic sleep deprivation and I just can't seem to sleep through the morning rhythms, another thing that I envy Ev for -- he can sleep through virtually anything. I'm sure when the 9.0 magnitude quake hits the Bul, he'll snooze right through that too. Work is bordering on harrowing as we're understaffed right now and have to meet an early deadline for Ramadan.

Please evacuate me from this month!