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Saturday, November 14, 2009

What makes 'confidence schemes' ethically problematic for ethically sensitive persons?

Cruelty to persons around the world and throughout natural history is pretty awful.

Aesthetically, that makes ANY kind of metaphysical confidence pretty darn difficult for us mere mortals.

Even if some observable PROGRESS - moral progress, not merely technical improvements in methods and mechanisms - devices and dynamics - could be evident, the needless suffering and victimization make 'lipservice' to prior conceptualizations seem pretty unethical to sensitive folks like us.

But then, who really knows?

What makes 'confidence schemes' ethically problematic for ethically sensitive persons?

Cruelty to persons around the world and throughout natural history is pretty awful.

Aesthetically, that makes ANY kind of metaphysical confidence pretty darn difficult for us mere mortals.

Even if some observable PROGRESS - moral progress, not merely technical improvements in methods and mechanisms - devices and dynamics - could be evident, the needless suffering and victimization make 'lipservice' to prior conceptualizations seem pretty unethical to sensitive folks like us.

But then, who really knows?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

World Public Gives China, US Low Marks on Climate Change: Hu Jin Tao, Obama Prepare to Talk TogetherMaynard.Clark.GooglePages.com

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As Hu Jin Tao, Obama Prepare to Meet, World Public Gives China, US Low Marks on Climate Change

November 11, 2009
With President Barack Obama on his way to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing for talks on global climate change and a range of other issues, a poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org shows that publics in more than half of 20 nations disapprove of the way China and the United States are dealing with global warming.
(Photos: Pete Souza/White House Photo, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)
The poll asked respondents to grade China and the US on several dimensions. China gets poor marks for how it handles human rights--on average 52% say China does not respect human rights while just 36% say it does. The US does better, with 50% saying it is respectful and 38% it is not.
People around the world regard both superpowers as cooperative, but they also see both countries, especially the US, as using the threat of military force to coerce other nations.
Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are expected to focus on climate change, economic concerns, and nuclear issues related to Iran and North Korea when they meet Nov. 16 and 17. The climate change question is of particular importance in the run-up to December's conference in Copenhagen, where 192 countries will attempt to conclude a new treaty on climate change. All eyes will be on China, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and the United States, which long held that distinction.
The WPO poll, conducted during April and May, finds that people in 11 nations disapprove of how [China] is "dealing with the issue of climate change." Clear majorities in six nations -- France (74%), Britain (73%), Germany (72%), the United States (69%), South Korea (69%), and Egypt (58%) -- are disapproving, along with pluralities is five other nations. Only in Pakistan (93%), Nigeria (69%), Kenya (64%), and Indonesia (55%) do majorities approve.
Likewise, majorities in six nations disapprove of the US handling of global warming--Egypt (68%), Britain (65%), France (62%), Pakistan 62%), Turkey (56%), and Germany (56%) --, as do pluralities in five. Nigeria, Kenya, South Korea, India and Indonesia are the only countries where majorities express approval.
Across the 20 nations polled, approval of China's record on climate change is somewhat lower than for the US. On average, 34% approve of China (42% disapprove) while 39% approve of the US (41% disapprove).
WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted the poll of 20,349 respondents in 20 nations that comprise 63 percent of the world's population. This includes most of the largest nations--China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia--as well as Mexico, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and South Korea. Polling was also conducted in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Not all questions were asked to all nations. The margins of error range from +/-3 to 4 percentage points. The surveys were conducted across the different nations between April 4 and July 9, 2009.
WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project involving research centers from around the world, is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
Throughout the poll, some groups of countries consistently favored one superpower and were critical of the other. Most notably, people in most Muslim countries gave China positive ratings and the US negative ratings. Among European countries, the US tended to rate high and China low. Kenya and Nigeria hold consistently positive views of the two superpowers, and Turkey has consistently negative views of both.
China and the United States are both seen as cooperative. Asked "if you think each is or is not generally cooperative with other countries," an average of 59% responded positively with regard to the US, and 53% for China.
On a nation-by-nation basis, the US is judged cooperative by 15 nations and not cooperative by four nations. China is seen as cooperative by eleven nations and uncooperative by seven.
At the same time many nations see these big powers as using "the threat of military force to gain advantages." This is especially true of the US: all nations polled, including the US itself, sees the US this way--on average 77%.
Views of China are less sharp: on average 46% say China does the same, while 41% say it does not. Ten nations say China uses military threats, eight say it does not. Among its neighbors majorities see China as threatening in South Korea (75%), and India (54%) and views are divided in Indonesia.
An area in which people around the world judge China considerably more harshly than the United States is respect for human rights. Majorities in nine countries say China does not respect human rights -- especially France (88%), Germany (88%), South Korea (87%), the US (86%), Britain (86%), and Poland (80%). However, seven, say China does respect human rights: especially Pakistan (91%), Nigeria (77%), and Kenya (67%).
The United States respects human rights in the view of 12 nations, especially. Majorities who disagreed were found in 6 nations, especially the Muslim nations of Pakistan (79%), Turkey (70%), Egypt (68%), and Iraq (60%), but also Mexico (61%).
Asked overall whether China or the US "is playing a mainly positive or negative role in the world" views are mixed. On average the split is dead even for the US, with 40% of respondents overall seeing a positive role and an identical number seeing a negative one. The overall positive response for China is higher, 44%, but still short of a majority, while 34% respond negatively.
Only in Kenya, Nigeria and South Korea do clear majorities say that both China and the US play a positive role in the world. A Majority in Turkey sees both superpowers playing negative roles.
Despite tense relations, Taiwanese views of China are not as negative one might expect. Large majorities believe China uses the threat of military force to gain advantages (70%) and does not respect human rights (76%). However slightly more than half (51%) say that China is playing a mostly positive role in the world. The same number agrees that China is mostly cooperative with other countries in the international arena.
Publics in China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have very favorable views of Chinese policies. Overwhelmingly majorities agree that China is playing a mainly positive role in the world (81% Hong Kong, 81% Macau) and that China usually cooperates with other countries (85% Hong Kong, 89% Macau). Roughly two-thirds of both publics reject any notion that China uses its military power to intimidate other countries (68% Hong Kong, 69% Macau). A slight majority in Macau (51%) and a plurality in Hong Kong (45%) support China's actions in combating climate change.
The exception is on human rights. A large majority in Hong Kong (62%) say China is not respectful of human rights while views in Macau are mixed with many declining to answer.

Funding for this research was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Calvert Foundation.
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World Public Gives China, US Low Marks on Climate Change: Hu Jin Tao, Obama Prepare to Talk Together

November 11, 2009
With President Barack Obama on his way to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing for talks on global climate change and a range of other issues, a poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org shows that publics in more than half of 20 nations disapprove of the way China and the United States are dealing with global warming.

(Photos: Pete Souza/White House Photo, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)


The poll asked respondents to grade China and the US on several dimensions. China gets poor marks for how it handles human rights--on average 52% say China does not respect human rights while just 36% say it does. The US does better, with 50% saying it is respectful and 38% it is not.

People around the world regard both superpowers as cooperative, but they also see both countries, especially the US, as using the threat of military force to coerce other nations.

Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are expected to focus on climate change, economic concerns, and nuclear issues related to Iran and North Korea when they meet Nov. 16 and 17. The climate change question is of particular importance in the run-up to December's conference in Copenhagen, where 192 countries will attempt to conclude a new treaty on climate change. All eyes will be on China, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and the United States, which long held that distinction.
The WPO poll, conducted during April and May, finds that people in 11 nations disapprove of how [China] is "dealing with the issue of climate change." Clear majorities in six nations -- France (74%), Britain (73%), Germany (72%), the United States (69%), South Korea (69%), and Egypt (58%) -- are disapproving, along with pluralities is five other nations. Only in Pakistan (93%), Nigeria (69%), Kenya (64%), and Indonesia (55%) do majorities approve.
Likewise, majorities in six nations disapprove of the US handling of global warming--Egypt (68%), Britain (65%), France (62%), Pakistan 62%), Turkey (56%), and Germany (56%) --, as do pluralities in five. Nigeria, Kenya, South Korea, India and Indonesia are the only countries where majorities express approval.

Across the 20 nations polled, approval of China's record on climate change is somewhat lower than for the US. On average, 34% approve of China (42% disapprove) while 39% approve of the US (41% disapprove).

WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted the poll of 20,349 respondents in 20 nations that comprise 63 percent of the world's population. This includes most of the largest nations--China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia--as well as Mexico, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and South Korea. Polling was also conducted in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Not all questions were asked to all nations. The margins of error range from +/-3 to 4 percentage points. The surveys were conducted across the different nations between April 4 and July 9, 2009.

WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project involving research centers from around the world, is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
Throughout the poll, some groups of countries consistently favored one superpower and were critical of the other. Most notably, people in most Muslim countries gave China positive ratings and the US negative ratings. Among European countries, the US tended to rate high and China low. Kenya and Nigeria hold consistently positive views of the two superpowers, and Turkey has consistently negative views of both.

China and the United States are both seen as cooperative. Asked "if you think each is or is not generally cooperative with other countries," an average of 59% responded positively with regard to the US, and 53% for China.

On a nation-by-nation basis, the US is judged cooperative by 15 nations and not cooperative by four nations. China is seen as cooperative by eleven nations and uncooperative by seven.
At the same time many nations see these big powers as using "the threat of military force to gain advantages." This is especially true of the US: all nations polled, including the US itself, sees the US this way--on average 77%.

Views of China are less sharp: on average 46% say China does the same, while 41% say it does not. Ten nations say China uses military threats, eight say it does not. Among its neighbors majorities see China as threatening in South Korea (75%), and India (54%) and views are divided in Indonesia.

An area in which people around the world judge China considerably more harshly than the United States is respect for human rights. Majorities in nine countries say China does not respect human rights -- especially France (88%), Germany (88%), South Korea (87%), the US (86%), Britain (86%), and Poland (80%). However, seven, say China does respect human rights: especially Pakistan (91%), Nigeria (77%), and Kenya (67%).

The United States respects human rights in the view of 12 nations, especially. Majorities who disagreed were found in 6 nations, especially the Muslim nations of Pakistan (79%), Turkey (70%), Egypt (68%), and Iraq (60%), but also Mexico (61%).

Asked overall whether China or the US "is playing a mainly positive or negative role in the world" views are mixed. On average the split is dead even for the US, with 40% of respondents overall seeing a positive role and an identical number seeing a negative one. The overall positive response for China is higher, 44%, but still short of a majority, while 34% respond negatively.

Only in Kenya, Nigeria and South Korea do clear majorities say that both China and the US play a positive role in the world. A Majority in Turkey sees both superpowers playing negative roles.

Despite tense relations, Taiwanese views of China are not as negative one might expect. Large majorities believe China uses the threat of military force to gain advantages (70%) and does not respect human rights (76%). However slightly more than half (51%) say that China is playing a mostly positive role in the world. The same number agrees that China is mostly cooperative with other countries in the international arena.

Publics in China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have very favorable views of Chinese policies. Overwhelmingly majorities agree that China is playing a mainly positive role in the world (81% Hong Kong, 81% Macau) and that China usually cooperates with other countries (85% Hong Kong, 89% Macau). Roughly two-thirds of both publics reject any notion that China uses its military power to intimidate other countries (68% Hong Kong, 69% Macau). A slight majority in Macau (51%) and a plurality in Hong Kong (45%) support China's actions in combating climate change.

The exception is on human rights. A large majority in Hong Kong (62%) say China is not respectful of human rights while views in Macau are mixed with many declining to answer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

David Roberts writes critically about PETA's PR: Should citizens of conscience become vegetarians?

Vegetarianism and environmentalism

On PETA’s latest campaign 256

Just 'cause I love poking the hornet's nest, I thought I'd weigh in on this brouhaha about PETA, vegetarianism, and environmentalism. As I see it, there are three core questions:
1. Should citizens of conscience become vegetarians?
To me, the answer to this question is pretty obviously yes. I don't see how it can be seriously argued.
Depending on your inclinations, you can heed the health arguments, the moral arguments, or the environmental arguments (regardless whether you agree with the UN study that meat production is the No. 1 contributor to global warming, it is obviously a very large contributor, never mind CAFOs' horrid effects on land, air, and water). Taken together, these arguments strike me as dispositive. It is not possible to participate in industrial animal farming with clean hands.
Add to all this the fact that unlike giving up a car, moving closer to work, or retrofitting a home to be more energy efficient, giving up meat involves virtually no cost or inconvenience. Eating meat is entirely an aesthetic choice, based on taste and habit. Taste and habit are not convincing counterweights to the arguments against meat.
So yes, you should eat less meat; ideally you should eat none. You ought to be a vegetarian.
Two additional notes:
  • Yeah, yeah, the equation is different if you eat only humanely raised animals purchased from local farmers, or if you hunt and kill your own meat. But about 0.001% of Americans do that, and there could never be enough of that kind of meat to match current consumption levels, so it's a distraction from the real argument. At least for me, the argument for vegetarianism is not categorical; it's contingent on the actual state of industrial livestock farming.
  • I'm not a vegetarian, so I'm a big fat hypocrite. I eat meat -- not nearly as much as the average American, but some. I choose local and humane when I can, but lots of times it isn't an option. My personal eating habits give me considerable incentive to justify meat consumption. But I'd rather acknowledge my hypocrisy than use a bunch of bullsh*t arguments.
2. Is it true that you cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist?
This is a deeply silly question. The term "environmentalist" is socially contingent and highly contested. Environmentalism has no metaphysical essence. "You aren't an environmentalist" is moral judgment masquerading as an assertion of fact.
Every discussion I've ever witnessed about who is or isn't an environmentalist, or what does or doesn't count as environmentalism -- and believe me, at this point I've seen plenty -- contains vastly more heat than light. Feelings are hurt, umbrage is taken, but nothing is ever learned, no consensus is ever reached. It's a peacock show through which everyone parades their biases and preconceptions.
What makes an environmentalist? Is it enough to care about (write about, advocate for) environmental policy, or must you also engage in activism? Must you take action to green your own life? If so, how much? Drive less, or not at all? Turn off lights, or go off grid? Eat less meat, or go vegetarian?
I don't know, or much care. There are lots and lots of things decent human beings should do. Nobody's able to do them all. We all do a little; we should all do more. Those of us on more or less the same side gain very little by furiously judging each other's personal choices in a futile attempt to define the tribal boundaries of environmentalism.
3. Is PETA's latest campaign counterproductive?
It's important when thinking about this question to disentangle your own response to the campaign from the question of its overall efficacy. I'll freely admit it bugs the crap out of me. Proclaiming who is and isn't an environmentalist bugs me. Using Al Gore as a foil bugs me. Using global warming opportunistically, as a convenient wedge, bugs me. The whole thing is irksome.
However, the campaign isn't designed to secure my moral or aesthetic approval, or yours. It's designed to spread awareness of something you and I already know: that eating meat is environmentally destructive and exacerbates global warming. A sober, fair-minded, carefully argued campaign would not achieve that goal. It would sink without a ripple.
As I've argued before (in connection to another PETA campaign), it's extremely difficult to make yourself heard over the din of pop culture and 24-hour media. There aren't many people looking around for information on the destructiveness of their most intimate habits. Virtually the only way advocacy campaigns can gain any traction is by generating some controversy. Despite what you may think, that's not all PETA does, but they do it a lot and they do it well. That's why you know who they are. That's why we're having a debate about vegetarianism and environmentalism.
As annoying as it is, I count the campaign a success, because of the hundreds of advocacy campaigns going on right now, this is the one we noticed. That's what PETA set out to achieve, and they achieved it.
David Roberts is staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cheap Eats in the Area: Peace o’ Pie


Cheap Eats in the Area: Peace o’ Pie

Peace o’ Pie As we step into the tiny storefront home of Peace o’ Pie pizzeria in Allston, we are enveloped by the aromas of cheesy, tomatoey goodness. Gorgeous, bubbly-crusted pizzas occupy diners at nearly every shiny table. Walls in avocado green frame the scene. Behind the bamboo counter, a young chef scoops tantalizing pies from the oven. In short, everything about the place looks and smells like a regular, trendy pizzeria, but the ingredient list is far from standard. Peace o’ Pie is scrupulously vegan.
Peace o’ Pie
Read the full Globe review (Denise Taylor, Globe Staff)
Pictured, Vegan pizza at Peace o' Pie.
487 Cambridge St., Allston. 617-787-9884. www.peaceopie.com All major credit cards accepted. Entrance accessible; no restroom.
Get more information about Peace o’ Pie

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The meaning of agnosticism

"I think we're really just guessing!"


"When you don't know, you don't know." - Maynard S. Clark