Archive for February, 2011

Representative Chris Lee from New York has resigned from Congress over his misrepresentation about his age and marriage status while apparently attempting to date a woman from Craigslist.

Anyone has the right to date and to enter into a relationship and to meet people by whatever manner they choose. However, we expect people to conduct themselves and live their lives with integrity, and most especially our elected officials.

Be who you are, be authentic, do what you say and have some self respect. If you are going to represent Americans, act in the best interests of the American people. If you are elected to Congress and you lie about your marriage status and age online to have an affair, how can the American people trust you to act in our best interests? Especially when your decisions affect our lives in countless ways and you control how our tax dollars are spent?

More importantly, when our elected leaders act such as Representative Lee, they send the message to all of us, young and old alike, that lying, cheating, misrepresentation in any form is acceptable conduct. If our country is to continue to be great, our elected leaders must demonstrate behaviors that are above reproach. They have to set the example. If they are not willing to do so, they should not run for office. Plain and simple.

Representative Lee is not the first elected official to have an affair. He will not be the last. But one would hope his resignation and the internet publicity he has already received will serve as a lesson for all of us on the importance of integrity.

Thanks for reading.

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Ismail Serageldin, former Vice President for Special Programs of the World Bank warned in 1995: “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” In truth, “the challenge of freshwater scarcity and ecosystem depletion is rapidly emerging as one of the defining fulcrums of world politics and human civilization. A century of unprecedented freshwater abundance is being eclipsed by a new age characterized by acute disparities in water wealth, chronic insufficiencies, and deteriorating environmental sustainability across many of the most heavily populated parts of the planet. Just as oil conflicts played a central role in defining the history of the 1900s, the struggle to command increasingly scarce, usable water resources is set to shape the destinies of societies and the world order of the twenty first century. Water is overtaking oil as the world’s scarcest critical natural resource. But water is more than the new oil. Oil, in the end, is substitutable; but water’s uses are pervasive, irreplaceable by any other substance, and utterly indispensable.” (Solomon, 2010, p. 367). Proponents of realist theory would argue that Serageldin is correct, and that in light of increasing water scarcity, conflict over water is inevitable. However, since Serageldin’s pronouncement more than fifteen years ago, while there has been conflict, not one water war has ensued and international cooperation over water issues have been the norm. According to neoliberal institutionalist thinking water scarcity provides a motive for cooperation since water interests transcend national boundaries and states stand to gain from cooperative efforts addressing water supply issues. (Dinar, 2009). Constructivists would argue that cooperative efforts would be expected so long as states can gain from those efforts. Should the status quo become upset, constructivist thinking would indicate states would reevaluate their position(s) and pursue courses of action in reaction to the changing situation. (Viotti and Kauppi, 2009). So which school of thinking is correct and which outcome is most likely? Water wars or water peace? As Allan (2009), Bierman and Boas (2010), Solomon (2010) and others illustrate, the state of world peace and the future of human civilization is balanced on the delicate fulcrum of each nation state’s supply and access to freshwater. While the world’s leaders may choose differing courses of action in response to water scarcity according to the school of thought they subscribe to, ultimately they will all share the same cause of action: the forcing of their hands by climatic change affecting the water cycle and precipitation distribution combined with accelerating population growth. Humanity is at a crossroads. This article will argue that increasing global water scarcity and water quality deterioration will hasten either a global degeneration into a Hobbesian state of war or spark a transformation of nation states into a peaceful global civil society.

Click to continue reading “Water Wars or Water Peace? Part I”

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In the past, United States promulgation of human rights has been seen by other nations as sovereign intrusion. (Viotti and Kauppi, 2009). And the “lack of intellectual agreement among social-contract theorists, utilitarians, Kantians, and others who think about values in universal terms is part of the global confusion on such matters. This lack of consensus on human rights—how we are to understand rights and values and what we are to do about them—underlies the global debate on what commitments and obligations we have to fellow human beings throughout the world. Disagreement on what and whose human rights ought to be recognized hinders the construction of a just world society.” (Viotti and Kauppi, 2009, p. 441). The emergent right to water in conjunction with other international declarations on the rights of women and children, the emergence of new networks of activists and NGOs dedicated to the establishment of these rights, such as the water justice movement’s demand for change in international law to eliminate the commodification of water and instead universally assign governments to hold water in the public trust (Barlow, 2007) and Kaldor’s assessment that humanitarian concerns are taking precedence over sovereign issues may indicate those barriers to the construction of a just world society are evaporating.

One final key in determining which path the world will follow in dealing with water scarcity is the role played by multinational corporations (MNCs). While scapegoated in India, the role of MNCs in the commodification of water is a serious issue with many advantages and disadvantages. In addition to the aforementioned groundwater depletion issue which exacerbates global water scarcity impacts, one of the major advantages of MNCs in the water business has been in the increase of water productivity and conservation.

“While cities are learning to use their existing water more efficiently, industry has been the largest single contributor to the unprecedented surge in water productivity. Across the industrial spectrum, water is a major input in production. Alone, five giant global food and beverage corporations—Nestle, Danone, Unilever, Anheuser-Busch, and Coca-Cola—consume enough water to meet the daily domestic needs of every person on the planet…. American companies began to treat water as an economic good with both a market price for acquisition and a cost of cleanup before discharge in response to federal pollution control legislation in the 1970s. With characteristic business responsiveness wherever operating rules were clear and predictable, they sought ways to do more with the water they had and to innovate in their industrial processes so that they needed to use less overall. The results were startlingly instructive of the enormous, untapped productive potential in conservation.” (Solomon, 2010, p. 469).

Click to continue reading “Water Wars or Water Peace? Part II”

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The history of education in the United States is a patchwork of family teachings, independent tutorials, public and private religious schools, grammar schools, vocational academies, Latin schools, colleges and universities with varying degrees of private, local township, school district, state and federal organization and control. While the framers of the United States constitution firmly believed that an educated citizenry was essential for the practice of democracy, and many of them argued for a national University of the United States and school system, there is no right to education articulated in the constitution or the Bill of Rights, and so no national system of education was ever organized. Pulliam and Van Patten (2007). Under the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states anything not granted to the federal government or prohibited to the states by the constitution, systems of education have remained for the most part under local control.

The basic unit of education throughout the United States is the public school district. But since the days of the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony, there has been great disparity in the funding of local education and the quality of education each district has provided for its population. Pulliam and Van Patten (2007). Nearly four-hundred years later not only do these funding and educational quality disparities continue to persist, but they are exacerbated by the positional nature of education. A quality education is necessary to get into a good college. A good college education is necessary to obtain a good job. A good job is necessary to pursue one’s dreams and live the life every man and woman wants to live, or in other words, to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” Payne-Tsoupros (2010). But the disparities that exist between school districts, and even within individual districts, jeopardize the ability of those most at risk—and especially those from school districts made up of populations on the lower end of the socio-economic continuum—from obtaining that all-important quality education.

Click to continue reading “Against a Constitutional Right to Education”

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The American Revolution was almost 250 years ago, and yet, ripples are still being felt today as the thought of Hobbes, Locke, and the Framers of our government are just as pertinent to world events today as they were a quarter of a millennium ago. Historiography is essential since it’s only through a broad understanding of what has transpired that we can understand why certain theories have arisen and why they have gained acceptance.

Hobbes and Locke were very much products of their time and they themselves were undoubtedly influenced by what had transpired in their own recent history. The Reformation had taken place, King Henry VIII had lived and died, Catherine of Aragon had lived and died and greatly influenced her daughter Mary in the Catholic traditions, Ann Boleyn had become queen and was executed, but not before being a key player in the rise and spread of Protestantism, which her daughter Elizabeth I had adopted. Had all the dynamics during Henry VIII’s reign not taken place, had the Protestants not been persecuted and heretics not executed by the Crown, and especially by Queen Mary; the Pilgrims night not have been compelled to leave England in pursuit of religious freedom. Had the Pilgrims not left England, there might never have been a Mayflower Compact, which in 1620, constituted an early social contract, the creation of which must have influenced both Hobbes and Locke to some degree as it came into existence when Hobbes was a young man and twelve years before Locke was born—to Puritan parents.

Click to continue reading “Egyptian Unrest is in the Finest American Tradition: Hobbes, Locke and the Founding Fathers”

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