Author: Beamcorp (page 2 of 2)

The High Price Of Double Standards And Short Term Policies – An Open Letter Industrial Nations. Ref:Iraq.

To those concerned:

Ensuing a decade of extensive arms trade with Iraq, it seems that all parties involved are reaping the fruits of their investments.

Iraq, on the one hand, has managed to build the world’s fourth largest army, and has been very resourceful at adapting this acquired military technology to their own needs on a road to relative self-sufficiency, uncommon among Third World nations.

On the other hand, the major economic powers have made a fat profit supplying this equipment while justifying these actions as a balancing strategy against Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war.

The present Gulf quagmire is a direct outcome of short term policies, combined with stubborn disregard to available information regarding the Iraqi government’s goals, and ruthless acts towards it’s own people. Were it not for greed and the promotion of short term goals, there would be a greater understanding of the region and it’s leaders, and the major industrial powers would not be in such a serious predicament.

Our policies have fed the dreams and demons of Saddam Hussein and his Ba`th party, thereby condemning the Iraqi people and allied soldiers to death. To those who were not purely motivated by blind political and economic commitments to anyone opposing Khomeini, but were aware that the policies of Saddam Hussein’s government were among the most ruthless in the world, caution was always a reality. It was not a mystery that Iraq had a long history of bloody dictatorial politics, of which Saddam was merely a by-product. We were also aware of Saddam’s frequent purges, and physical elimination of all opponents, including close friends and family members. Yet we conveniently chose to ignore these facts, just as we ignored the devastation of the Iran-Iraq war, and Iraq’s subsequent use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops, and Iraqi Kurds in the town of Halabja. Ghastly acts which prompted minimal reaction from Western governments, and the media, up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, where it was no longer convenient to be unaware of these facts.

After the Iraqi aggression, we heard officials cry out “No more Munichs!” “No more Rhineland’s!” would have be more appropriate. The question is, why encourage nations to accumulate such a military buildup in the first place, and turn a blind eye for the sake of trade and short term political interests, while justifying that “the enemy of our enemy must therefore be our friend.”

In light of present and past blunders, it is imperative to have control over how and why we supply governments with sensitive technology, especially to political leaders with dubious profiles, and dismal human rights. It is time to acquire a real sense of responsibility which seems to be lacking beyond our borders, due to an underlying and often sublimated feeling of bigotry which permits us to forego any moral obligation, particularly in regards to developing nations. We can no longer take the approach that it is acceptable, and good business to supply weapons of destruction to countries which do not directly affect our values as long as they quietly fight each other and do our dirty work. It is an arrogant, and irresponsible attitude which worked within the contained spheres of influence of the Cold War.

Direct Western power involvement in this conflict is finally bringing a growing acknowledgement of responsibility to the surface. The reluctant acceptance that we voluntarily chose to ignore trade restrictions which existed against Iraq, as a balance against Iran, and that our administrations consequently offered little or no interest in regards to reports of severe human rights abuses within that country. The Germans are finally showing belated concern as to the criminal nature of the activities perpetrated by German companies who sold chemical, and nuclear know how to Iraq, and the acceptance that the leaders of these companies should indeed be treated as criminals. Furthermore, the Allies are beginning to realize that the traditional balance of the Cold War (U.S.-Israel, U.S.S.R.-Arabs) was never a valid long term option, for Israel or the Arabs, and that the never-ending Palestinian dilemma will have to be resolved if there is to be a long term balance in the region.

The Iraqi situation is an extreme case in point of First World double standards throughout the developing world. It is time that we stopped justifying our actions according to Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim that “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

If we are to increase our compatibility between nations, and their peoples, we must drop these self-righteous attitudes, and make intelligent, long term policies using the wealth of information at our disposal, and start acting like the democracies we claim to be, and not like the nations we are trying to curb, for if we truly have democratic ideals, they should not stop at our borders.

Every nation has its own set of interests regardless. If we disagree with these governments basic ideologies, then we should not be supplying them, because our interests will eventually diverge.

If we feel the economical need to supply arms and technology of mass destruction, then we must accept that they will not always be in our best interest and that this situation can be alleviated by creating an international organization which can effectively control decisions on trade, not only for the recipient nation, but at the source of our governments. It would in effect enforce the restrictions passed by the legislatures. An important guideline would be to sell this technology to nations who are in full compliance with the United Nations resolutions, and international law. In the shrinking world of the information age, where common markets between nations are being formed, the time would seem right for implementing such steps. The world is becoming too small and the weapons too lethal for short term simplistic ideals. In light of these threats we must redouble our efforts to make rational intelligent decisions.

The end of the Cold War and the unique stability of fear it created has brought an era of danger of an even greater magnitude. In a world where communist countries are on the verge of civil war, with countless nuclear weapons at the disposal of potential extremist governments (eg: Soviet Republics), global economic problems, high population growth, and massive ecological disasters, how we conduct policy for the long term and resolve these issues, will indicate whether we survive into the 21st Century.

We must reach a different level of political and economic consciousness to understand a new world with deep rooted problems. This must include a wider range of checks and balances for the conduct of political and business interests. The demands for reforms and a new way of thinking are hardly idealistic, but require a higher degree of mental sophistication on all levels (political, economic, cultural) to bridge the widening gap between modern technology and a lagging emotional evolution. There is little time left for indecision, shortsightedness, and double standards, for they do not benefit anyone in the long run. If we are indeed entering a new world order, then we cannot do so without modifying our perceptions.

A. C. Citizen

© 1991. www.beamcorp.com. All Rights Reserved


Helicopter Frost Abatement

Gary Ball, an independent citrus and avocado farmer from Fillmore, says that helicopters are his most valuable weapon against frost. The use of helicopters for frost abatement in Southern California started about ten years ago and has become more extensive in the past four years. It is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to protect avocadoes, citrus, and strawberries, against frost destruction.

One of the helicopter companies used for frost control by farmers is Air Cavalry, Inc., based at Van Nuys Airport. The main participants in Air Cavalry’s frost program are, it’s owner and commander Albert Cito II, an ex army captain who served four years in Vietnam. Wayne Richardson, the energetic chief pilot who is known amongst his colleagues for flying off the handle. Chuck Davey, a funny guy who laughs so much that one can’t help but laugh along with him. Mario Fatigati, a cool, pleasant, smooth talking Italian-American, always looking for a deal, who runs a mobile pet grooming service on the side. These pilots are the frost warriors awaiting the farmer’s word to lift-off within minutes and eradicate an invisible but deadly enemy. The degree of collaboration between the farmer and the pilot is precise, “They [the farmers] know exactly where they are all the time, like a military organization they keep you programmed ahead of time so that you’re ready to come out at a moment’s notice and raise that temperature if necessary, and raising that temperature one degree can be the difference between a failure and a saved crop,” says Al Cito.

Terrain, orientation, wind, moisture, and vegetation are all conducive to frost formation. The type of terrain where crops are located is important. Most of the groves are in gently rolling terrain in the Santa Paula and Ojai valleys. “The rolling nature of the land causes the low pocket to collect supercooled air, and it’s in that low pocket that the problem occurs,” says Al Cito. Gary Ball, a citrus and avocado farmer out in Fillmore, says that each one of these elements can increase frost twofold. For instance, Gary’s field faces Southward, and has 5 to 6 nights of frost per year, versus fields facing Northward which have between 10 to 15 nights of frost per year. In addition, clear windless nights where the temperatures fall below freezing are ideal for frost formation. Because of this, Gary and other farmers have removed their wind shields, mostly composed of eucalyptus trees. Other factors like dry ground and weeds also increase frost.

The purpose of the helicopter in this process is twofold. First, the rotor downwash moves the air which stirs the leaves. Creating friction, which generates heat. Second, during the night, the heat which is trapped by the Earth during the day rises as the ground cools. This results in a layer of warmer air above the cooler air covering the ground. When you have an increase in temperature with height, this is called an inversion. The helicopter’s function is to push down that inversion into the cooler air on the ground.

Since the warm air will tend to rise, this effect will last for about an hour, depending on how cold the night gets. The helicopter then has to repeat this process. It flies above the orchards in strait patterns. Unless a field is clearly separated by wires or trees that define a clear border, only a single helicopter can be used per field, to prevent a collision. During very cold nights the pilots will literally continue to fly until they run out of fuel. The fuel for the operation is stored in 55 gallon drums with hand pumps. This is done simply because during the stretch of time it would take the helicopter to refuel at Van Nuys, the farmer could loose his crop. Al Cito stresses the importance of this service: “Now, think about this, when a strawberry farmer looses his crop, he’s lost a lot. He’s lost a whole years worth of work, and he’s not going to make anything when comes harvest time. When an orchard grower or a grovier looses his crop, he’s not only lost this year’s crop, he’s lost his ability to make a crop because those trees have to be mature before they bare fruit.”

In conjunction with helicopters, farmers use diesel powered windmills, smudge pots, and microsprinklers. These are not as efficient as a helicopter because they are fixed, require constant upkeep, and are labor intensive. Gary Ball says that the helicopter is not cheap, but it is only used for a few days out of the year. The windmill’s height does not always coincide with the height of the warm air they are to use, and the horizontal wind they create cannot get past some of the trees. The helicopter on the other hand has the ability to change altitude and find the inversion (warmer air) and feed the air to each individual tree. Smudge pots are cheap to purchase, costly to operate, and very polluting. Chuck says that it’s like flying through fog when they are on. The use of water sprinklers to keep the Earth moist is a a useful means of retaining the heat within the soil. Because water freezes slower, moist soil will freeze at a slower rate than dry soil.

The comparative figures are interesting. A helicopter covers 100 acres for $250 an hour while a windmill only covers 10 and costs 15-20000 Dollars plus fuel and maintenance. Gary says he would need eight machines. You need about 40 smudge pots per acre at one gallon per hour of diesel at 0.50-1.00 Dollar per gallon.

A typical frost alert scenario might begin with Gary, after checking his preliminary weather report at 10:30 and final report at 18:30, he deduces that frost might be a factor that evening. He calls Wayne around 16:00. Wayne then calls Chuck to tell him that he will be on standby for the night. Chuck comes in to the Air Cavalry at around 18:00. He puts on a turtleneck, long johns with a rear trap door, and apres ski boots. Then he dons his bright, polyester filled, orange overalls “so if I crash they can locate me,” he says. He goes out to preflight the helicopter and then returns to await the farmers call giving him the go-ahead. Sometimes the go-ahead never comes. In that case the pilots do not get paid their hourly rates but a night standby fee. Chuck says that it’s cheap insurance considering the unpredictability of frost. Some farmers will call them before midnight if they feel the frost threat has subsided, some will not. In which case, Chuck often end up sleeping on the floor.

The call comes in. The helicopter is preflighted and ready. Chuck jumps in, straps himself tight, cranks it, the rotors are turning, he lifts off. He arrives at the field 30 to 40 minutes later. The farmer says the temperature is decreasing fast. Chuck takes off and hovers fifteen feet above the trees, not too low so as not to destroy the foliage. “It’s like mowing your little lawn, all night long,” says Chuck wearily about the constant, straight line, hovering pattern above the trees. The farmer communicates with the pilot through a handheld transceiver. He tells Chuck to divert to another area of the field which is getting colder. Gary or his foreman positions flares or bright lanterns to direct the pilot. Each area has a thermometer which the farmer can gauge, since the whole field does not remain at the same temperature. Chuck looks at the fuel gauge. Its getting low on fuel. Time to land. On the ground, he refuels from the 55 gallon drums tanks the Air Cav. brought, and Gary brings him coffee, “it was dark out there, dark and cold,” Chuck said. The night is getting colder, so he has about an hour to rest before he must go up again to slap that warm air down on those trees. This can go on till sunrise and can get very boring and tiring. There are also many inherent dangers like having an engine failure in the dark with few spaces to land, or hitting wires.

Mario had a package deal when he flew over a field on a hillside with wires going up on each side of the hill and crossing in the middle of the field, like an “H” pattern. In addition, there were wind machines blowing air at each corner of the field, which made flying all the more fun. When he finally had to refuel, he had to drop into an enclosure of high eucalyptus trees where the fuel drums were placed, and had engine failures on landing and takeoff from the fuel site. At dawn he had barely enough gas left to make it back to Van Nuys, after having flown over six hours. “It sounds funny now, it wasn’t funny then,” Chuck mentioned later.

There is no doubt that there are certain dangers in this type of helicopter flying, but none that a conscientious pilot can’t overcome. From what we have seen, the helicopter is not just a luxury in the fight against frost, but an efficient and economically viable means of protecting crops.

© 1989. www.beamcorp.com. All Rights Reserved

Genetic Engineering: Probing in the Dark?

Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common
sense on the ground-floor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The quality of our future through genetic engineering will depend on how rational and prudent we are in evaluating our findings and forging ahead. With the advent of genetic engineering we are no longer dealing with inanimate inventions but with complex living alterations, which can affect our entire biosphere.

Initial controversy over this field began with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1980 of Diamond Vs Chakrabarty (447 U.S. 303) which set the precedent for the patenting of microorganisms. On April 7, 1987 the US Patent and Trademark Office based itself on the Chakrabarty case and extended patents to cover all multicellular organisms except for humans (under 35 USC 101-Inventions Patentable). From this decision, on April 12, 1988, the first patent for a multicellular organism was awarded to Harvard College, and about two dozen more are pending. Although these decisions are controversial, the Patent Office and the Supreme Court acted on sound legal principle based on precedent. Since such legal principles are often based on technicalities, morally relevant issues must therefore depend on Congressional supervision.

Members of Congress (Sen. Mark O. Hatfield R-Oregon and Rep. Charlie Rose D-N.Carolina) have attempted to curb these decisions but with little long term success.

The question remains that if the Chakrabarty case evolved from the patenting of microorganisms to multicellular organisms, what prevents it from evolving to humans.

In light of potential abuse in this matter, it will be Congress’ responsibility to curb business and military ventures in genetic engineering. Various interest groups and the media, not always for the right motives, are also important forces which can spur public opinion to these problems. This is a major concern because the profit and power motive supersede caution and actual necessity. A patent should not mean “carte blanche.”

A fundamental problem in our contemporary societies is that we have been unable to bridge the widening gap between scientific and sociopolitical evolution; maturity. This leads to a multitude of problems which we must learn to control before we forge blindly ahead. Our scientific innovations are too far reaching and therefore dangerous for us to further avoid prudence as to their long term effects, e.g. drugs which are brought to the market and considered safe are at a later date found to cause unforeseen side effects.

Since anything created by man alters the environment, we must think carefully before acting. In the latter part of the 20th Century we have exponentially destroyed many of our natural elements. Since the end of World War II the problems we face due to modernization are numerous. They range from the depletion of the rain forests by 40 % which provide over 1/4 of our oxygen. Over 1000 animal species have been destroyed through the advent of careless technological applications. We severely depleted the protective ozone layer of our atmosphere, already a known fact in the early 70’s. Waste disposal impasse. The hazards of nuclear power and radioactive waste which we are unable to store much less destroy safely even in the absence of natural disasters. Problems of destruction by acid rain due to environmental pollution. Etcetera.

In nature, the evolutionary process takes millions of years. During which time period different species evolve and change with their environment to create a stable and balanced biosphere. this is called Succession. Succession is a crucial part of this topic because with genetic engineering we are attempting to alter lifeforms in a short period of time. The rapid introduction of new organisms on an ecosystem can have devastating effects. I.e., The Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) which appeared in 1981 and devastated crops throughout Northern California for two years and a 100 million dollar price tag.

Our biosphere suffers because changes occur too rapidly without accurate control and understanding at this stage. Can we safely create new lifeforms when we are incapable of safeguarding our own present natural habitats. Can we then safely assume that new patented species of animals will not cause harm to the breeders, consumers, and other natural habitats. The rapidity at which these species could be created would not allow for the timely observation that one would have with selective breeding.

An important answer to the uncertainties of genetic engineering can be found in gene mapping. It is the most efficient way to understand our genetic makeup. Through better understanding of the genetic code, scientists are learning how to decipher the human genome, which contains all the genetic information on humans. It is estimated that the genome’s information and the mapping of its structure will take between 10 to 20 years, for over 90% of the genome’s code sequence has no known function.

Until we acquire additional information we cannot claim to follow a prudent course. But with patience, gene mapping is the best way for optimizing our use of genetic engineering; to offset the negative unforeseen effects.

It is therefore too early and far too dangerous to meddle with a whole balance of life at this early stage of the game without full awareness of all known present and future ecological consequences, just for the sake of pride and profit. The profit motive, further encouraged by the government’s patent law.

Genetic engineering could be most productive in improving our life quality, such as the treatment of ailments, aging control,non animal testing, etc. But as recent agricultural developments show, we must also learn to successfully integrate genetic advances with the economy. Through genetic engineering we have increased the resistance and efficiency of farm animals. Therefore, we have a huge surplus of agricultural goods in the United States and European Economic Community. This was demonstrated by the failure of the 1985 farm bill (U.S. dairy herd buy out program). Low feed prices and genetic improvements not only make this obsolete but compound the problem. At present, agriculture and food problems do not need to be improved through genetic engineering but through political means. The majority of the world’s food problems come with political ineptitude.

We have reached a period in our history when we can no longer compromise our environment for political or economic questions. The pressures on our biosphere have reached a saturation point. The tradeoffs are no longer in our favor.

We must first be aware and able to control the normal inputs we make on the environment before we can effectively control altered genetic inputs we make on that environment. It is therefore imperative that genetic research be done in a strictly controlled environment. That provisions be made for dealing swiftly with products of such research leaking into the environment. That Congress help keep strict supervision, at least until further advances in genetic engineering come to fruition.

Any new developments we wish to make cannot be successful if they do not balance in the biosphere as a whole. Genetic improvements can only be achieved through concerted sociopolitical maturity resulting in a greater grasp and respect of our environment and all its combined elements.

© 1988. www.beamcorp.com. All Rights Reserved

Tactical Nuclear Weapons – Breaking The Nuclear Threshhold

At the height of Operation Desert Storm, people throughout the United States advocated the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, as the appropriate U.S. response to an Iraqi chemical attack against allied forces, thus expediently ending the war and reducing allied casualties. It is possible that this threat dissuaded Saddam Hussein from using his weapons of mass destruction, in which case nuclear weapons effectively played their role as deterrents.The disconcerting fact is that these nuclear advocates were ready to use these weapons regardless of the moral implications such actions would bring to the world stage. It was especially frightening to see that these proponents were not fringe elements of society but constituted a wide range of people, from the man on the street to the high level politician.

First of all, to counter one weapon of mass destruction with another weapon of mass destruction, chemical versus nuclear in this case, gives little moral credence, because both kill and maim innocent civilians. The latter is simply more sophisticated and more devastating than the former. Then, to claim that these weapons could safely be used by Allied troops in the field of battle, and that their aftereffects could be kept localized has about as much logic as the containment of chemical blasts. But the most devastating aftermath would be that the psychological inhibitions against the use of nuclear weapons would forever disappear. A decision which would irrevocably undermine the United States’ credibility to stop nuclear proliferation and would in effect set a precedent to sanction the use of such weapons.

When the United States dropped the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the argument then was also that these weapons could save countless Allied lives by preventing a massive ground assault. Whether or not this was justified, the difference then was that the novelty of these weapons could somewhat justify their use because of unknown aftereffects, coupled with the decisive advantage that the U.S. held the nuclear monopoly.

Then, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s parity with the United States made these weapons tactically viable only as deterrents because in the case of a superpower conflict, the devastation incurred on each nation would be so great that there could be no winner. Thus the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

Now that the Cold War is over, the assumption seems to be in the minds of many, that the Soviet counterbalance is no longer a major threat and that it would be feasible to use these weapons on a limited scale. One must not forget however that the same old threat is still present in a much more chaotic world where the Soviet Union and many other nations are in mounting disarray. Whereas before nuclear weapons were not used because of MAD, setting a precedent now would plunge the world into chaos and a renewed, more dangerous arms race, with a wider range of participants.

The complexity of nuclear weapons combined with the high technology required to deliver them has so far kept their proliferation in check. Proliferation will increase when nuclear technology becomes more affordable. Tactical nuclear weapons offer such an alternative versus long range strategic nuclear weapons because they are smaller and do not need the sophisticated delivery systems of their long range counterparts. Furthermore, since these weapons make tactical sense against an opponent who does not have a nuclear capability, when proliferation spreads, it will do so quickly, because other nations will then need them as deterrents.

It is already a grave mistake that we use double standards and turn a blind eye to certain nations who acquire a nuclear capability (e.g.,India, Israel, South Africa), while we have no problem understanding the danger of proliferation when it comes to Iraq. In our war against Saddam Hussein, our underlying fear was always Iraq’s acquisition of such weapons at a future date, like their acquisition of chemical weapons, which the West provided. If Iraq had indeed waited to acquire a nuclear capability, they would have been invincible. However, one must keep in mind that more benign countries could revert to nuclear weapons if threatened. One must not rule out that in a future war over Kashmir, India could go nuclear against Pakistan, just like Israel could go nuclear if they felt cornered in a future Middle Eastern conflict. A nation’s internal democratic principles will not necessarily create eternal restraint in light of external aggression, and furthermore, these new members of the “nuclear club” are far from stable, and it is not unreasonable to believe that Saddam type figures could emerge in India or South Africa at a future date. We are now watching the Soviet Union and its disintegration – something that just three years ago was unthinkable.

The U.S. cannot and must not be the policeman of the world, but it can and must check nuclear proliferation. The reason being that it is the only stable superpower left, which gives it greater legitimacy. But in order to do so it must not set the wrong example – by ever utilizing its nuclear arsenal – which would legitimize other nations to follow suit and permanently break the nuclear threshold. If we are to gage military superiority, we should do so in light of the accuracy and effectiveness of conventional weapons, and never allow ourselves to throw in our nuclear arsenal as an extension of that superiority. To do so would be a grave mistake with unknown aftereffects, uncertain ramifications, and dubious moral justifications. If – as the democratic superpower – we still have a certain de facto moral leadership, then we must take every step to retain that leadership; at least where nuclear weapons are concerned. An important priority in this post war environment is to set strong guidelines to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in conjunction with effective organs of control (international security systems and a forceful central agency) to uphold these decisions. The success of international cooperation in the Gulf could provide a model for international cooperation via the United Nations in the area of nuclear proliferation control. There is still a chance to prevent a future scenario where there will be no other option but to use nuclear weapons against another nation with suchlike weapons. In an ever complex and chaotic world, if we fail to act now, we will certainly face a very bleak and chaotic future.

© 1991. www.beamcorp.com. All Rights Reserved

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