Is dairy overrated?

None oth­er than the NYTimes’s Mark Bittman sounds like a veg­an polemi­cist:

Most humans nev­er tast­ed fresh milk from any source oth­er than their moth­er for almost all of human his­to­ry, and fresh cow’s milk could not be rou­tine­ly avail­able to urban­ites with­out indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment not only sup­ports the milk indus­try by spend­ing more mon­ey on dairy than any oth­er item in the school lunch pro­gram, but by con­tribut­ing free pro­pa­gan­da as well as sub­si­dies amount­ing to well over $4 bil­lion in the last 10 years.

These aren’t new argu­ments, but Bittman presents them well, cit­ing his own expe­ri­ences. And of course it makes a dif­fer­ence that he’s a charm­ing, high pro­file Times columnist.

Celebrating nuclear terror with amnesia and techno-lust

The Smith­son­ian Muse­um in Wash­ing­ton has “reassem­bled the eno­la Gay, the plane that dropped the atom­ic bomb on the Japan­ese city of Hiroshi­ma in 1945” Try­ing to avoid the con­tro­ver­sy that accom­pa­nied a 1995 exhi­bi­tion, the cur­rent muse­um direc­tor says this exhib­it will:
bq. “focus on the tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments, because we are a tech­no­log­i­cal muse­um… This plane was the largest and most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced air­plane for its time.”
This con­tin­ues the moral blind­ness that cre­at­ed the blood­i­est cen­tu­ry in human his­to­ry. Instead of look­ing at how pol­i­tics, war and tech­nol­o­gy inter­sect­ed in an event that instant­ly killed 80,000 peo­ple, we shine up the met­al and blab­ber on about tech­nol­o­gy. The bombing’s death count far over­shad­ows the 3,000 deaths at the World Trade Cen­ter two years ago. If the sight of the tow­ers col­laps­ing is a hor­ror we can nev­er for­get or min­i­mize, then so too is Hiroshima’s mush­room cloud.
The only way mil­i­tarism and nation­al­ism sur­vives is by abstract­ing war and ignor­ing the very real death, blood and tragedy. The Japan­ese peo­ple caught up in their country’s lust for war were vic­tims as soon as the fight­ing start­ed. Their par­tic­i­pat­ing in their country’s war was a result of pro­pa­gan­da and nation­al­is­tic fer­vor, the same mix that led so many Amer­i­cans to sup­port the war in Iraq.
The over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of peo­ple killed on August 8, 1945 were peo­ple who nev­er fired a gun. They were sim­ply try­ing to stay alive in a world full of human-made ter­ror. They were ordi­nary peo­ple who watched as their country’s lead­ers plot­ted and warred. Most were afraid to say no to war, to unite with paci­fists around the world, or to denounce mil­i­tarism wher­ev­er it exist­ed and with what­ev­er excuse it gave for its horror.
The roots of World War II were oil and ter­ror: Japan­ese lead­ers attacked its neigh­bors to gain con­trol of the indus­tri­al resources the home islands didn’t have. Amer­i­can lead­ers (indus­tri­al and polit­i­cal) had waged war against Hawaii and the Philip­pines for con­trol of Pacif­ic ship­ping lanes. The plot­ting for war start­ed long before Pearl Har­bor and involved the lead­ers in both coun­tries. In a very real way, the war in Iraq is just the lat­est chap­ter in the century-long war over oil.
But his­to­ry, truth and moral­i­ty will all be stripped out of the Smithsonian’s new exhib­it, as spokes­peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Legion and Air Force have declared:
bq. “As long as the eno­la Gay is pre­sent­ed in the light that it was used — to end the war and save lives — that’s fine.”
bq. “We are sat­is­fied that it is in his­tor­i­cal con­text this time and does not make com­ments about U.S. aggres­sion in the Pacific.”
No, school­child­ren vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton won’t learn the truth about the bomb­ing. Anoth­er gen­er­a­tion will be spoon-fed pro­pa­gan­da about its country’s great­ness and good­ness. Anoth­er gen­er­a­tion will not pause to con­sid­er its country’s old sins and trag­ic mis­takes. A typ­i­cal blog entry about the Smith­son­ian exhib­it that claims “no sin­gle plane did more to save lives in World War II”: . Abstract death and claim right­eous­ness to your coun­try, keep mil­i­tarism going and keep peace­ful peo­ple from unit­ing across nation­al boundaries.

Fifty-eight Years of WMDs

Today, August 6th, marks the fifty-eighth anniver­sary of one of the sad­dest events in human his­to­ry: the use of weapons of mass destruc­tion against a civil­ian population.
There’s much that’s been writ­ten about the atom­ic bomb­ing of the Japan­ese city of Hiroshi­ma. At the time, U.S. lead­ers said that use of such over­whelm­ing force would prompt a quick Japan­ese sur­ren­der that would save the thou­sands of Amer­i­can and Japan­ese casul­ties that would sure­ly result from an inva­sion. We have since learned the Japan­ese were secret­ly suing for peace even as the bomber planes took off.
We have learned that Pres­i­dent Tru­man was look­ing ahead. He used the bomb­ing (and the attack on Nagasa­ki a few days lat­er) to demon­strate the weapon to the Sovi­et Union. In the post-war world emerg­ing, it was clear the U.S. and the Sovi­et Union were on a col­li­sion course and Tru­man want­ed to start the com­pe­ti­tion off with a bang. The les­son the Sovi­et lead­er­ship learned from the blast was that they’d bet­ter get their own atom­ic weapons and the arms race was on, strain­ing the economies of both coun­tries for the next fifty years.
Amaz­ing­ly, those two bombs remain the only atom­ic weapons ever to be used against peo­ple in an act of war. Through all the years of the Cold War and the break up of the Sovi­et Union, and despite the mul­ti­ply­ing mem­bers of the “nuclear club”, no one has ever done what the U.S. did all the Augusts ago. It is a fact that the world should be grate­ful for.
But there is no guar­an­tee that the human race will go anoth­er fifty-eight years with­out mush­room clouds of human ash­es. Or that devel­op­ment of super-bombs that pack Hiroshima-like charges won’t be used to equally-devastating effects. The U.S. is busy devel­op­ing all sorts of low-yield exot­ic nuclear weapons to make their use more palat­able to a queasy pub­lic. “As the cur­rent may­or of Hiroshim Tadatoshi Aki­ba said ear­li­er today”: :
bq. A world with­out nuclear weapons and war that the vic­tims of the atom­ic bomb have long sought for is slip­ping into the shad­ows of glow­ing black clouds that could turn into mush­room clouds at any moment. The chief cause of this is the Unit­ed States’ nuclear pol­i­cy which, by open­ly declar­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a pre-emptive nuclear strike and by start­ing research into small ‘use­able’ nuclear weapons, appears to wor­ship nuclear weapons as God.
On the Non​vi​o​lence​.org Board, there’s a live­ly com­men­tary on this anniver­sary of “Humanity’s dark­est hour approaching”