Out of the Fat

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Another day, another twist in the nomination race. Trump and Cruz both won two states yesterday but Cruz got the most delegates. Neither got half of those available. Both called on Marco Rubio to drop out. It seems strange that men who laud the competition of the marketplace should want to restrain trade in delegates but there you go. They are nothing if not inconsistent.

Of course, the desire for Rubio to go is clear once you understand what’s coming up – the so-called winner-take-all states. Unlike the many primaries where the delegates are awarded proportionally, in other states a candidate has a chance to take all of the delegates by winning the state. But there is a catch – while in some (Florida and Ohio are the most important) you simply have to get the most votes, in others you need to get 50% of the vote, something no Republican candidate has done in any vote so far.

With Rubio in the race – and he’s not likely to leave soon, not with a likely victory in Puerto Rico on the horizon today – it is very hard for either Trump or Cruz to ever top 50%. Add in John Kasich who is still hanging in and gaining a few more delegates every day and that goal becomes impossible. And Rubio and Kasich have to be considered real threats in the Florida and Ohio respectively where all they need to do is finish on top by a single vote to take a rich haul of delegates.

So what’s the big deal? Without the winner take all states, it is extremely doubtful that anyone can win enough delegates to get the nomination before the convention. Imagine this: Trump and Cruz arrive at the convention in first and second place but well short of the magic number. Rubio and Kasich are still in the race and, on top of that, there are the delegates that were won by candidates who dropped out and are now free agents. Some states, like Louisiana yesterday, even have provisions for sending some unbound delegates.

You might think that in such a situation either Trump or Cruz would have to win – but it ain’t necessarily so. After the first round of voting – when Kasich will likely drop out – all the delegates become unbound. They can now vote for whomever they like. Most will stick with their chosen man but some might drift away to Rubio or even to someone nominated from the convention floor. And while Trump and Cruz may seem similarly right wing to those on the outside, on the inside they despise each other. If people move it won’t be between those two camps but to somewhere else.

Now suppose that someone other than Trump or Cruz get the nomination? Will that cause the party to split apart once and for all? Will Cruz run as a Tea Party candidate and Trump as an independent? Three candidates on the right (or even two) mean a sure Democratic victory, no matter who the candidate over there might be.

And as to that, Bernie Sanders won two states to Clinton’s one yesterday but the magnitude of the latter’s win in Louisiana means she won more delegates and pulled ever closer to an insurmountable lead. While I’m pretty sure that neither of them would run an independent campaign, it could be fun to see them try. Throw in Bloomberg on a third (sixth) party ticket and you’ll need to be a constitutional expert to figure out the winner. If you think the Supreme Court involvement in the Bush-Gore result was crazy, wait until the House of Representatives gets involved.

And that’s ten minutes.

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Climate Insecurity

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In 2007, in the dying days of the Bush administration, generals in the Pentagon had already identified climate change as a major security risk. They didn’t talk much about it – climate change wasn’t exactly a popular topic with POTUS at that time. Times have changed.

All over the world, military planners and defense strategists not only accept that climate change is happening (and many acknowledge it is manmade as well) but are factoring it into their security and defense considerations. While the evidence that climate change has directly led to conflict remains slim – though not non-existent – the military considers it a major factor in exacerbating and multiplying risk levels, as well as actual conflicts.

Clearly, as climate change causes disruptions to weather patterns – increasing both droughts and floods, depending on where you live – people will seek to move to someplace more stable. At least, they will while such places continue to exist.

Low-lying island nations and places like Bangladesh will be the first to be hit as rising sea levels – brought on by melting ice and the expansion of water as temperatures rise –wash away their land, leaving them no choice but to sail away to someplace with higher ground. Sea level rises will hit the developed world, but those economies are better able to cope with lost coastline – at least for a while.

The tropics will be the next to fall into crisis as higher temperatures reduce the ability of Africa and South America to produce food – perhaps by as much as 25%. When people are hungry and afraid, they have little choice but to move. If the West thinks a few million refugees moving away from war zones is hard to handle, wait until they face  a few hundred million climate fugitives.

The military isn’t merely planning for climate change; they are trying to do something to mitigate it. Many European nations have adopted green defense strategies, trying to find ways to reduce energy consumption in notoriously gas guzzling operations. What they can do is limited in a world where high performance is a necessity to meet combat responsibilities but nonetheless, they are greening their buildings and bases, finding fuel efficiency where they can and integrating alternative energy into their operations. In France they are even turning training grounds into ecological preserves.

In Gabon they are going one step farther and using the army to plant heat hardy trees to replace those being damaged by changing weather (and lousy industrial practices). One might envision the day when those same forces will go after those who caused the devastation in the first place. Indonesia might be a good place to start.

This is all well and good but the military can’t get at the root of the problem, only their host states and the politicians that run them can do that. Scientists already say we are looking at a 2.7C temperature rise by the end of the century – when 2C is where we lose control. The upcoming meeting in Paris is unlikely to stop that from going even higher but they need to at least get a start on it – before the real climate wars start.

And that’s ten minutes.

Motivation

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I saw one of those motivational memes on Facebook the other day — you know the type, a series of Venn circles intersecting neatly (don’t get me started on the misuse of Venn diagrams) to inform me that my Purpose lies at the intersection of what I love, what I’m great at, what I get paid for and what the world needs. Nice. I couldn’t resist — the wag that I am — asking what if none of those separate sets intersect. It, of course, elicited a little lecture about how I could make it happen.

Indeed.

Then it struck me — what if they did intersect but in the wrong way? Suppose what I really love to do is kill people and I’m really good at it. I can certainly get paid to do it (millions do) and the latter fact implies the world needs it. I could insist it does even if the world proves reluctant. Parts of the world seem to need it all the time.

There you go. My purpose in life is to be a contract killer, a mercenary or , wait, a soldier. A fine purpose it is.

This may seems like a cynical little game to play with something that was undoubtedly meant to motivate me into working hard and being happy — maybe even being a creative life-affirming person. But motivation cuts both ways.

It is motivational lectures, exhortations, tricks that are used to recruit fighters to go and kill people in foreign wars. Maybe these fighters are called marines (best of the best of the best, sir!) going off to fight for the good guys (that’s us, in case the results aren’t always clear to you) or they could be called terrorists (that is, them and by them I mean IS who behead people on TV — as opposed to the Saudis (also us) who behead people in public but not on TV).  The point is: the tactics of motivation and subsequently the honing of PURPOSE into an honorable thing is a dangerous tool in anyone’s hands.

That’s why decisions to go to war should not be made behind closed doors — at least not in a democracy. This should not be matter of executive fiat or closed door Cabinet decision making. We are sending men and women into danger, we are sending them to do dangerous things, things that in the end may be — from a distance or from a different perspective — no different than the things we are sending them to stop.

War is not always avoidable; conflict with those determined to harm us or our way of life (even if some of us thing that way of life needs radical revision) is sometimes necessary. But it should be done with reason in command not with the rah-rah –rah of motivational speakers.

War should not be conducted by people who are better suited to run pyramid sales schemes — helping people see their purpose, when they should be helping them to see the greater purpose.

Who knew Venn diagrams could be so dangerous?

But that’s ten minutes.