Thinking About the American Presidency | Geopolitical Futures December 30, 2015Posted by tkcollier in In The News, Politics.
Tags: Elections, Politics, President, United States
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To understand the American system, it is important to grasp how little power the American president has at his disposal.
Nevertheless, the American presidency was crafted for the unexpected moment, such as 9/11, where fundamental decisions need to be made within hours or days. When I vote for president, I ignore the policies and programs because they will rarely have the opportunity to pursue them. The American public is very clear in how it votes — it looks at the candidates, not the issues. This has been seen as a sign of shallowness. It is actually a sign of their deep understanding of the presidency.
The most important decisions presidents make are the ones they were never prepared for and have no policy for. Truman and Korea. Eisenhower and Suez. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Johnson and Vietnam. What their farm programs might have been is of monumental irrelevance. First, they can propose but Congress and the courts must enact. Second, it was the crises that defined their presidency. They had no policy for any of these, because they did not know what was coming.
When voters say they judge the person, what they are saying is that character is more important than the intentions. Intentions of presidents are crushed by history. Character, if you can glimpse it, tells you if the person is smart enough to understand the moment of history he is compelled to govern in, and the constraints it imposes on his choices. He needs to understand what is possible and impossible, in order that he have the ability to cause the least damage to the nation. Because in the end that’s what presidents must do. And the president must have the strange combination of hubris in imagining being president, and modesty, in understanding how little it means
Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie | WIRED December 28, 2015Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Food.
Tags: Food, Genes, GMO, Monsanto, Organic, Vegetables
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Well before their veggie business went kaput, Monsanto knew it couldn’t just genetically modify its way to better produce; it had to breed great vegetables to begin with. As Stark phrases a company mantra: “The best gene in the world doesn’t fix dogshit germplasm.”
What does? Crossbreeding. Stark had an advantage here: In the process of learning how to engineer chemical and pest resistance into corn, researchers at Monsanto had learned to read and understand plant genomes—to tell the difference between the dogshit germplasm and the gold. And they had some nifty technology that allowed them to predict whether a given cross would yield the traits they wanted.
The key was a technique called genetic marking. It maps the parts of a genome that might be associated with a given trait, even if that trait arises from multiple genes working in concert. Researchers identify and cross plants with traits they like and then run millions of samples from the hybrid—just bits of leaf, really—through a machine that can read more than 200,000 samples per week and map all the genes in a particular region of the plant’s chromosomes.
They had more toys too. In 2006, Monsanto developed a machine called a seed chipper that quickly sorts and shaves off widely varying samples of soybean germplasm from seeds. The seed chipper lets researchers scan tiny genetic variations, just a single nucleotide, to figure out if they’ll result in plants with the traits they want—without having to take the time to let a seed grow into a plant. Monsanto computer models can actually predict inheritance patterns, meaning they can tell which desired traits will successfully be passed on. It’s breeding without breeding, plant sex in silico. In the real world, the odds of stacking 20 different characteristics into a single plant are one in 2 trillion. In nature, it can take a millennium. Monsanto can do it in just a few years.
And this all happens without any genetic engineering. Nobody inserts a single gene into a single genome.
One God for Christians, Muslims and Jews? Good Question December 20, 2015Posted by tkcollier in Religion.
Tags: Belief, Christianity, Evangelical, Faith, Jewish, Muslim, Pope, Religion
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So why don’t evangelicals walk around saying they don’t worship the same God as the Jews, the same way they’re insisting on saying it about Muslims? Here’s the kicker: Evangelicals do believe they’re worshiping the God of the Old Testament — they just think Jews have failed to understand his essence as revealed in the New Testament.
In evangelical theology, God revealed himself to the Hebrews without expressly making his triune nature known. The incarnation changed all that, and created the possibility of Christian salvation. The Jews failed to get the message. All along, they were worshiping the triune God. They just never knew it, and still don’t.
Hence, to an evangelical Christian, it would make no sense to say that Jews worship a different God — even though to the Jews, that God isn’t theologically very different from the God of the Muslims. To bring this full circle, note that Pope Francis might well believe the same thing. The difference is that he believes Muslims, too, are worshiping the God of the Hebrews. Given that the Prophet Muhammad himself believed that the God of the Jews and of the Christians was the same God he was serving, that view seems pretty convincing. The pope’s view would have the benefit of being consistent as among Jews and Muslims.
If all this makes you want to run to atheism, fair enough. Otherwise, Merry Christmas!
The Paris Terror Attacks Remind Us That ISIS Needs Our Help to Survive – Resilient Corporation December 20, 2015Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, In The News, Religion.
Tags: Geopolitics, Globalization, Immigration, ISIS, resilience, Terror
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This dream of absolute disconnection from an “evil world” is what all fundamentalists (religious and secular) seek as their collective salvation. In the not too-distant past, such disconnects were far simpler to achieve: head to some desolate place beyond marked borders, plant your flag, and fight off anyone who dared to trespass. This is why religions – as a rule – have always burned hottest along frontiers.
But that’s the thing with globalization: it engulfs frontiers, reformatting local cultures at a disorienting speed. Alongside all those networks arrive unprecedented economic opportunities that have – over the past half century – shrunken the share of humanity suffering extreme poverty to an all-time low of 10 percent. But that global force of change creates enormous local frictions, unleashing all manner of social tensions, civil strife, political revolutions, and extremist movements – all of which put people on the move and further accelerate globalization’s blending dynamics. It’s one thing for your world to be transformed by my networks, but quite another if that process drives you to my doorstep in search of your better life.
Discarded refugee life vests
But that’s exactly what continues to happen. Muslims fleeing the Middle East and North Africa for Europe and North America don’t seek to replicate in these new environments the harsh life they left behind. Yes, they want to retain their cultural and religious identities amidst this disorienting transition, but who wouldn’t? The key point is that they seek the combination of social peace, political freedom, and economic opportunity that only a pluralistic, diverse nation-state can provide. These people aren’t seeking refuge in authoritarian regimes; they’re seeking legitimate sanctuary in countries whose capacity for tolerance ensures it. So, again, when we unduly oppress Muslims within our ranks, we essentially endorse ISIS’ message of intolerance and apartheid. We feed their strength while dissipating our own.
In the end, it’s our diversity that renders our nations truly resilient. Indeed, that melting-pot mindset defines these United States – the world’s oldest and most successful multinational union. It’s what makes us resilient in the face of all the vulnerabilities that our open societies present to our enemies as logical targets. The West can – and should – never hope to harden itself sufficiently to withstand any attack without suffering internal perturbations. We cannot firewall ourselves off from this wonderful world of our creating and still thrive.
Instead, we must continue to grow our collective resilience from the bottom-up – family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, and community by community. Resilience helps people where they live by fostering communal bonds built around the basic human instinct for empathy beyond kinship – that rarest of behaviors in nature. All who are willing must be invited to join in this effort, because, the bigger our “tent” is, the sooner we prevail in this struggle to define humanity’s future.