How Donald Trump would destroy America (and possibly the world)

Published: The Good Men Project (May 19, 2016)

America is in a “boy who cried wolf” situation right now. We’ve grown so accustomed to comparing our presidents with tyrants, or insisting that a candidate’s ascent to power will result in calamity, that even those of us who see an actual wolf in our midst aren’t being taken seriously. The people voting for Donald Trump are well aware of our concerns but – having grown jaded to polemical hyperbole – aren’t able to recognize that the threat is real this time.

Make no mistake about it, though: The danger posed by Trump is very, very real. One may disagree with the policies pursued by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but the hysterical response to their presidencies was always grossly disproportionate. Bush was a neoconservative and Obama is a moderate liberal; Trump, on the other hand, is a man driven more by bold stabs in the dark than any consistent ideology. Assuming he follows through on his proposals, it is quite likely that some of them would cause terrible consequences not only for America, but the entire world.

To explain how this is so, though, we need to stop with the inappropriate comparisons to Hitler (which I debunked in this piece for MSNBC) and instead focus on the nitty gritty of what he has said he would try to do:

1. The economy.

Although Trump makes valid points about America’s anti-working class trade policies, his proposed solutions would be disastrous. As president, he would have the power to increase tariffs on Chinese and Mexican goods by as much as 45 percent. If he did this, those countries would almost certainly retaliate with comparable measures targeting America’s products. The resulting trade war would inevitably increase prices and reduce job growth, knocking the American economy back on its heels only a few years after the Obama administration led us to a precarious recovery. Even more troubling than what we know, though, is what we don’t know. The slightest adverse development can have unforeseen ripple effects in our globalized economy, and because America has been a staunchly pro-free trade nation since the 1930s, it is impossible to predict the full impact of an about-face as abrupt as the one Trump is proposing. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t modify our trade policies to be more amenable to the interests of our working class, but we need to do so responsibly.

2. Global warming.

Trump’s is a well-known denier of man-made global warming, a position that perfectly fits in with his other conspiratorial views (he believes the scientific consensus on global warming is a plot by the Chinese to control the world economy). As a result, when he vows to “renegotiate” the Paris deal in which more than 200 nations vowed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it’s safe to assume that he would not care one whit about slowing our planet’s dangerous overheating. Unfortunately, the science isn’t going to accommodate Trump’s iconoclasm; as the earth continues to overheat, humanity will face mega-storms, droughts, famines, and the mass extinction of countless species. As Peace and World Security Studies Professor Michael T. Klare wrote last October, “Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a ‘linear’ fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years. Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience ‘non-linear’ climate shifts (also known as ‘singularities’ or ‘tipping points’) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature.” As Klare notes, there are early signs that this is already happening, and it stands to reason that if Trump torpedoes an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, that could very well push us past the tipping point.

3. Nuclear war.

Ever since Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan in 1945, American presidents have been expected to appreciate the sober responsibilities that come with being a nuclear power. In the 1964 presidential election, when Republican candidate Barry Goldwater was accused of being fast-and-loose about how he’d use our nukes, the threat of nuclear apocalypse helped sink his campaign. More than half a century later, however, Trump has openly discussed using tactical nuclear weapons against the Islamic State, arguing that “I don’t think you’re going to be successful [with Muslim countries] unless they respect you.” Even foreign policy hawks should be concerned by this position, and not merely because Trump has advocated it in places beyond the Middle East (he once told Chris Matthews that he wouldn’t take using nukes in Europe “off the table”). By equating the use of nuclear force with earning respect, Trump reveals an ominous thought pattern – namely that (a) if America is threatened by foreign enemies, it’s because they don’t respect us and (b) we can demand their respect by threatening them with total annihilation. This is the exact mentality that the United States and Soviet Union scrupulously avoided succumbing to during the Cold War, since both superpowers understood that if nuclear nations were permitted to behave this way, the final result would be total destruction.

Regardless of how one feels about Hillary Clinton, there is no sound reason to believe that she poses an existential threat to our future. Trump, on the other hand, has proposed policies that could plausibly result in economic collapse, ecological devastation, and even worldwide nuclear war. Every American voting in the 2016 presidential election is going to have to make one of the most important choices of their lifetime. For once, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that failure here could bring about the end of the world as we know it.

An aggressive military response is precisely what ISIS wants

Published: Salon (November 20, 2015), The Daily Dot (November 18, 2015)

As the world reels from the last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris, millions of people have taken to Twitter to share their grief and outrage… and many echoed Donald Trump’s call to “bomb the shit” out of them.

The desire to immediately strike back at ISIS with overwhelming force is understandable. It took under 48 hours for the French military to retaliate for the attack with air strikes against targets in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. However, it’s important to remember why groups like ISIS mount large-scale spectacle terrorist attacks against Western targets in the first place: to provoke a dramatic military reaction that brings moderate Muslims around the world into agreeing with its worldview. Retaliatory strikes against ISIS will certainly weaken the group, maybe even destroy it, but that type of response is precisely what ISIS is hoping to elicit.

“There can be no compromise in a cosmic war. There can be no negotiation, no settlement, no surrender.”

In his book Beyond Fundamentalism, religious scholar explains that the chief goal of radical Islamist groups like ISIS is to create a “cosmic war” in which human beings act out a religious war they believe is simultaneously occurring in heaven: Fundamentalist Islam on one side and that Western Christianity on the other.

“There can be no compromise in a cosmic war. There can be no negotiation, no settlement, no surrender,” writes Aslan, arguing that fundamentalists successfully framing their grievances as a black-and-white existential struggle allows groups like ISIS to set the philosophical terms of the fight. “In the end, there is only one way to win a cosmic war: to refuse to fight it.”

President George W. Bush reacted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by engaging in a large-scale military campaign first against Afghanistan and then Iraq. The total cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to the American government has grown to a mind-boggling $6 trillion over the past dozen years. There is little doubt that similar military campaigns from Europe would carry a comparably staggering price tag.

“[Bush] responded with precisely the cosmic dualism that those who carried out the attacks had intended to provoke,” Aslan writes.

As thousands of Muslim civilians died in military campaigns led by America and its allies, Islamic extremists fed off the resulting anger and hopelessness felt by those directly impacted or  outraged by the war. Instead of spreading democracy and stifling radicalism in the Middle East, the bombings and other high-casualty military actions wound up having precisely the opposite effect.

America’s intensive military response to Osama bin Laden’s attack also played a large role in creating ISIS today. “Over the years, bin Laden … never made it a secret what he was up to: trying to bait the U.S. into a ground war in his backyard, so that he could defeat us, just as he’d defeated the USSR, in large part by bleeding us dry financially,” writes columnist Paul Rosenberg in Salon.

Not only did Bush’s military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq lend credence to the radical Islamist argument about a holy war between the Muslim world and the secular West, but deposing Saddam Hussein created a power vacuum in the Iraq that ISIS was willing and able to fill.

ISIS didn’t attack Paris at random. They did so with the goal of provoking a specific response.

Furthermore, the Islamophobia spurred by attacks in Paris reinforces the notion that the West poses an existential threat to the Muslim faith. While all of the Paris attackers identified so far have been European nationals, right-wing parties throughout continental Europe are indulging in anti-refugee rhetoric. It’s arguably worse in the U.S., where 25 Republican governors have announced they will attempt to block Muslim Syrian refugees from settling in their states. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have already been reported in both Europe and the U.S.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for–to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland who specializes in terrorism, said in an interview with theWashington Post. “ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.”

The crisis with ISIS is complex; charting an ideal of course of action has flummoxed many of the world’s best foreign policy thinkers. But as the West continues to process the Paris attacks, its main psychological challenge will be to avoid the reflexively overblown military response that will play right into ISIS’s hands. It feels gratifying to talk like Donald Trump about “bombing the shit out of them,” but just because we have awesome military power doesn’t mean the right thing to do is use it awesomely. ISIS didn’t attack Paris at random. They did so with the goal of provoking a specific response.

The West needs to think long and hard if it’s best course of action is giving ISIS exactly what it wants.

A Plain-English Explanation of How Greece Got Into Its Debt Debacle

Published: Question of the Day (July 13, 2015)

Greece’s years-long debt crisis has finally come to a head this summer. Though Greece looks like it’ll get its third bailout in five years, the Greeks were very much on the brink for the last few weeks, and very close to being kicked out of the eurozone over the last few days. The Greek debt crisis seems like a never-ending tragedy, a story that never seems to go away. Greece will likely be the central crisis center of the European economy for years to come, and because of this, it’s worth asking how the Greeks got into this whole mess in the first place.The Greek economic crisis can be traced back to three core elements. Firstly, when the Nazis occupied Greece during World War II, the nation was left with crippling debt due to a major loan that had been forcibly extracted by the Third Reich. Next, participating in the eurozone (i.e., European nations that use the same currency system, based on the euro) has worked to the disadvantage of countries that need to adjust their monetary policies — Greece among them — to adapt to adverse economic conditions. Greece could have done by devaluing the drachma during the most recent downturn. Finally, the Greek government got itself into a terrible debt crisis, first borrowing money from European banks that it could not repay, then finally paying them off with loans from European governments … which it also doesn’t have the money to repay.

Lets start at the beginning. The Nazi occupation of Greece was particularly heinous. In addition to forcing Greece’s central bank to pay an $11.2 billion wartime loan (and later strong-arming the weaker nation into only accepting a fraction of that amount as compensation), Germany’s military policies resulted in more than 250,000 deaths in a span of just four years, mostly from starvation. Even after Greece was liberated, the vacuum left by the absence of Axis rule led to a chaotic political culture that continues to exist today. Incidentally, this explains how a radical left-wing party like Syriza was able to come to power. Earlier this year they made international headlines by coupling a reasonable demand — that Germany pay its WWII debt — with an unrealistic one, namely, that they be compensated with the equivalent of $303 billion.

Economists across the ideological spectrum — from the liberal Paul Krugman to the conservative Milton Friedman — agree that the euro has been (to quote Krugman) “an economic straitjacket.” As Matthew Yglesias of Vox writes, “to function smoothly, the eurozone would need to have some of these cross-subsidies [akin to how the American government transfers money from rich states to poor states]. Taxpayers in Germany and the Netherlands would have to commit to subsidizing Greece and Portugal [another country struggling under the eurozone] on a constant, ongoing basis without fussing the Greeks and the Portuguese about it too much.” Because voters in wealthier European countries will never agree to do this (even though this is the only way a currency union can work), the rest of Europe has forced Greece to accept strict austerity measures (i.e., massive cuts in government spending), even though as Krugman put it, “cases of successful austerity, in which countries rein in deficits without bringing on a depression, typically involve large currency devaluations that make their exports more competitive” … which Greece isn’t able to do.

Deep Roots

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The current Greek tragedy can be traced back even to World War II, when the Nazis forced Greek to pay heavy war loans. Greece never really recovered. Since then, Greece has been involved in the wider eurozone, a system that has impeded its flexibility to control its own economy.

 

The European Debt Crisis Visualized

The end result of these austerity measures is that Greece now has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio (177%) and the highest unemployment rate (almost 26 percent) in the European Union. The small nation of 11 million also ranks below average or worse in “education and skills, income and wealth, civic engagement, housing, environmental quality, subjective well-being, social connections, and jobs and earnings,” according to the OECD Better Life Index. Thanks to this deteriorating quality of life, Greece has also become a breeding ground for fascist and racist parties like Golden Dawn, which have maintained a disturbing prominence in Greek political life.There are two broader lessons to be learned from the Greek debacle. First, it demonstrates how historical events that seem distant to some of us can still have a direct impact on people’s lives today — in this case, the Nazi occupation of Greece. In addition, it reveals that no nation can afford to elect irresponsible political leaders, including not only the Greek politicians whose profligacy compiled the nation’s current debt, but the European ones who won’t use common sense economics to relieve a country being victimized by its involvement in the Eurozone.

What 9 World Leaders Were Doing In Their 20s

Published: Question of the Day (June 2, 2015)

These were really formative years. The 20-something years are often as sharply defined by the “something” aspect of that term than by their numerical designation. This is the decade in which so many of us struggle to find ourselves in our careers; for some, the path lies clearly in front of us, while for others it wind around and is covered in shadows.With that in mind, what were the world’s most powerful leaders of today doing in this formative decade of their lives?

The Ones With Clear Paths

Some of them had already gotten a head start on their eventual career paths. Former U.S. senator and secretary of state (and current 2016 Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton spent her 20s shedding the conservative political beliefs she had been taught as a child and embracing left-wing student activism. According to her biography, as an undergraduate at Wellesley College, she organized protests for causes ranging from civil rights to ending the Vietnam War. After graduating, she went to Yale Law School (where she met her future husband Bill Clinton), distinguishing herself there with a scholarly article on children’s rights that is still widely cited today.

In a similar vein, Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) attributes his catching the “political bug” to his childhood work in Boys Nation, a civic group run by the American Legion. By the time he was 25, he had managed to get elected to the Wisconsin legislature, putting him on the career track in state politics that would eventually take him to the governor’s mansion.

The Ones With Unexpected Turns

Not every future political leader had such a simple time discovering their destiny. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t become engaged in politics until the age of 35, when the fall of the Berlin Wall opened up a new world of political opportunities to East Germans such as herself. Before that historic event, Merkel had focused on earning her doctorate as a physical chemist, and whatever political aspirations she might have had were subsumed by the political restrictions that she had known for her entire life as an East German. It’s hard to imagine that she, or anyone else inhabiting the bleak repression of Communist Europe, could have conceived of how radically her life would change after the revolutions of 1989.

Unlike Merkel, President Barack Obama had displayed an interest in political and social issues during his 20s, although his own eventual desire to pursue a career in politics had not become fully evident to him at that time, according to his biography. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in political science (specializing in international relations), Obama moved to Chicago and spent three years as a community organizer. While studying at Harvard Law School, he told Ebony Magazine that he was pursuing his JD because it would help him in his work as a community organizer. This was a period of considerable hardship for Obama — he barely scraped by with a decent living, worked grueling hours, and often felt that his various career goals were thwarted by those with more experience and pull than him.

The Ones Who Follow Their Fathers’ Paths

Despite representing opposite ends of the conservative spectrum, 2016 Republican presidential candidate and current Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Florida governor Jeb Bush are both notable for closely following the career paths of their prominent fathers, Ron Paul and George H.W. Bush. In Paul’s case, this entailed spending his undergraduate years at Baylor University as an anti-tax activist with a notorious independent streak, which he then followed by completing medical school and becoming a doctor (although he became an opthamologist even though his father was an obstetrician).

For Bush, this meant spending the years after his graduation trying his hand at various business ventures until he managed to make his own fortune; although he eventually succeeded, Bush was so broke when moved to Miami at the age of 27 that he had to use his American Express card to pay his MasterCard bill. “After Bush moved his young family to Miami, making money — lots of it — became a priority,” wrote Alecia Swasy and Robert Trigaux of the St. Petersburg Times. “Bush was raised in a wealthy household and wanted the same living standards for his family.”

A 26-Year-Old Barack Obama

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KOGELO, KENYA – JANUARY 12: A family photograph of Barack Obama with his step-grandmother Sarah Obama on a 1987 visit to Kenya stands on a table in her house on January 12, 2008 in Kogelo, western Kenya. Barack Hussein Obama, father of US presidential candidate hopeful Obama, was born and raised in Kogelo. He died in a car accident in 1982. Senator Barack Obama’s parents separated when he was young. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Future Leaders of the World: How Millennials Think About Politics

The Ones Who Started In Business or the Military Sometimes the business world brought future political leaders together in surprising ways. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney worked at the prestigious Boston Consulting Group in 1976, where they became good friends. More importantly, despite having had drastically different life experiences beforehand — Romney had served as a Mormon missionary in France, studied business in college, and worked on his father’s presidential campaign, while Netanyahu mixed serving in the Israeli military with completing his higher education — both learned how to “employ similar methods in analyzing problems and coming up with solutions for them” (Netanyahu’s own words) during their time together at BCG.The last group to be included here are the politicians who spent their 20-something years defending their countries. Although Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold very different political ideologies, McCain came of age while serving in the Navy (he wasn’t captured and held as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam until his early 30s), while Putin spent his 20s rising through the ranks of the KGB. If there is any lesson to be learned from studying the early adulthoods of these men and women, it is that one can wind up having a successful career in politics through any number of routes. Sometimes a future politician already sensed that he or she was going to pursue a career as an elected official, whether through their own initiative (Clinton, Walker) or because they were following in their father’s footsteps (Bush, Paul). Others started out in completely different careers than the ones they had set out for themselves (Merkel, Obama), or entered politics through a sideways route such as business (Romney, Netanyahu) or service protecting their country (McCain, Putin). There is no single path that needs to be taken to become a national or world leader.

Bangladesh’s government is stealing land from its citizens

Published: Quartz (May 15, 2015)

I hadn’t spoken to my friend Raad since our undergraduate days at Bard College, in New York, nearly a decade ago. But as I listened to her father’s story, it quickly became apparent why she had spent the past few days frantically contacting friends who worked in the media.

“I’m a 70 year-old man and the police officers put their guns right against my chest and said they would shoot if I didn’t allow their men onto my property,” Syed Ziad Rahman recalled, his voice trembling. “I accepted the fact that I might die and told the main officer that if he wanted to get through, he would have to kill me.”

Rahman’s story may be harrowing, but it is hardly unique. Like all citizens of Bangladesh, Rahman lives under constant threat that the government will decide to seize his land and turn him into a refugee.

More than a million Bangladeshis have already suffered this fate, and countless more will be similarly victimized in the future in large part because—like virtually every other human-rights violation in the country—the Western media has failed to adequately publicize the atrocities and oppression.

A predominantly Muslim nation in South Asia, Bangladesh has the eighth largest population and fifth highest population density in the world, with its 166 million souls crammed into a land area roughly the size of Montana. Established in 1971 after wresting its independence from Pakistan in one of the bloodiest wars of the past half century, Bangladesh is notorious for its political repressiveness, ranging from the persecution of political dissidents and outbursts of electoral violence to draconian crackdowns on the media (such as blocking Facebook and Most of the government’s targets are part of the country’s Hindu or animist minorities. YouTube).

Its international standing on other human-rights issues isn’t much better, as demonstrated by a litany of shocking statistics (just one example: two-thirds of Bangladeshi women in their eary twenties were married off before they turn 18).

The Bangladeshi government is particularly well-known for its aggressive land-grabbing policies. In recent years the state has displaced native tribes by seizing their land, including the Santals, the largest indigenous group on the Indian subcontinent. Most of their targets are part of the country’s Hindu or animist minority populations.

While these instances of Bangladeshi land grabbing had overtones of racial and religious chauvinism, Rahman believes the government simply wants his land because it happens to be valuable. Blossom Garden is a group of 18 shops and a convention center in Chittagong, which is valued at roughly $50 million. According to Rahman, the chairman of the adjacent Peninsula Hotel wants to acquire his property and has been using allies in the Bangladeshi government and chamber of commerce to harass him for years. After repeated lawsuits failed, the alleged cabal of politicians and businesspeople turned to using thugs, threats, arson, and vandalism.

In light of the heavy media restrictions imposed by the Bangladeshi government, it is exceptionally difficult to get impartial third-parties into Bangladesh to collect facts and bring about a fair resolution in cases like that of Rahman’s. Or, for that matter, of the various ethnic and religious Rahman believes the government simply wants his land because it happens to be valuable. minorities that have been harassed by the state over the years.

Even worse, the Bangladeshi government has an unsavory history of making noisy citizens “disappear” (hence why Rahman was reluctant to name the officials involved in his case for this article).

That said, enough information has trickled out that reports of these kinds of events in one of the most populous countries in the world should be garnering much more attention.

Unfortunately, the Western media has a long history of paying scant attention to human-rights issues that occur outside of the West— even when they’re much more extreme than what Rahman described. The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur were either under-reported or only given sufficient coverage after the worst had already passed. Indeed, when Bangladesh fought for its independence in 1971, Pakistan perpetrated a genocidal campaign that took roughly 3.5 million Bangladeshi lives. (During that time, Rahman’s future father-in-law was forced to relinquish 12,000 acres of his own land at gunpoint.)As recently as last year, Western media gave short shrift to the terrorist violence and kidnappings committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, even as it blanketed the airwaves with details about the tragic Charlie Hebdo shootings.

While it’s impossible to know whether Western pressure could improve the situation in Bangladesh, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t try—or, at the very least, be concerned enough to actually follow what’s going on there.

Thanks to Raad, there is now a petition on Change.org for those who wish to express support for Rahman and his family.

The case for reparations in Greece

Published: Daily Dot (April 9, 2015)

Last month, the “Digital Economy and Society Index” determined that Greece ranked close-to-last among European Union nations in keeping up with the progress of the digital revolution. This is hardly surprising, considering how far behind that nation lags in so many other metrics, but it is telling here for one reason: If the Greek public was better connected online, there is a chance they could stimulate more support for their movement to receive long-overdue World War II reparations.

Indeed, the ongoing dispute between Greece and Germany demonstrates that, in more ways than one, World War II is still relevant today. At the center of the controversy: Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas is claiming that Germany owes his country nearly €279 billion (about $303 billion) for the devastation caused by the Nazi occupation of Greece 70 years ago. No one disputes that the Third Reich was guilty of war crimes, or forcing taxpayers to subsidize a major loan their government couldn’t afford, and severely damaging the nation’s infrastructure.

This isn’t even the first recent occasion in which Greece has tried to receive compensation: Just last month they threatened to seize German property in their country if they weren’t paid.

In response to Mardas’ statement, however, German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that the figure produced by the administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras—the first official calculation ever tabulated by the Greek government—was “dumb.” His reasoning contained two parts, namely, that Germany had already compensated Greece in 1960 (even though at that time they pressured the weaker nation into accepting only a fraction of what they were claiming for the damage caused) and that Germany’s reunification in 1990 voided any debts pending from prior German governments.

Twitter has already been abuzz with commentary on the international disagreement:

YouTube also hasn’t been quiet on the subject, with some videos taking a semi-humorous approach to the topic.

However, most focus, with due solemnity, on the horrors of Germany’s atrocities in that country, such as its murder of 60,000 Greek Jews:

The Internet community has identified an important dimension to this issue: While the $303 billion demand by Greece is too high (it would comprise nearly one-third of Germany’s entire GDP), this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to pay Greece in some way. For one thing, the economically collapsing nation genuinely needs all the help it can get, lending a humanitarian dimension to what would otherwise be an ethical and historical case for German reparations.

Right now, Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, its anemic banks are loading up on short-term debt to stave off bankruptcy caused by the harsh austerity measures imposed on them after the 2008 economic crash, and there are even rumors that the country will need to turn to shady financial offers from Vladimir Putin’s Russia if no other options are made available to them. Needless to say, these financial and economic woes have had a considerable humanitarian cost as well, with Greece ranking dead last on the social justice scandal among all EU nations.

The economically collapsing nation genuinely needs all the help it can get.

Ironically, Germany is in a unique position to sympathize with Greece’s predicament. After all, one of the major factors that led to the rise of the Nazis was the economic catastrophe caused by the harsh war reparations demanded of that nation after World War I. Although their effect was not precisely analogous to that of the austerity measures being internationally imposed on Greece, both created widespread unemployment and poverty, and both were rigidly imposed by a callous international community. (Germany didn’t finish repaying its World War I debt until 2010.) As the growing popularity of Greek neo-fascist political parties like Golden Dawn demonstrates, the same ingredients that produced Adolf Hitler more than 80 years ago are present in Greece today.

Even if Germany chooses to ignore the parallels between Greece’s current ordeal and its own historical experience, however, that doesn’t give them the right to avoid any moral accountability for the suffering their past actions inflicted on the Greek people.

For a relevant analogy on this side of the globe, one might look at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ case for reparations for African-Americans victimized by systematic racism, which appeared in the Atlantic last June. Although it acknowledged that “the lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago,” it also pointed out that the lingering income gap between blacks and whites at all socioeconomic brackets is the direct result of racist policies in housing and neighborhood planning, hiring, and access to opportunities for economic uplift out of impoverished inner cities. The net result was that, in America, “the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating.”

The same ingredients that produced Adolf Hitler more than 80 years ago are present in Greece today.

A similar point can be made when looking at the effect of the Nazi occupation of Greece on the Greek people today. The Greek Civil War took place between competing powers that rushed to fill the void caused by the Axis conquest of their nation. Ever since, power has shifted dramatically back and forth, with the nation’s political life practically defined by its instability; for a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were even ruled by a military junta. Germany may not have directly caused Greece’s current economic catastrophe, but the decades of political instability that allowed it to happen occurred because of Adolf Hitler.

When we think about history, our primary guideposts are numbers: years, months, days, etc. While this is certainly useful in terms of remembering important historical events, we need to remember that human existence can’t be neatly tucked away into chronological boxes. Just because the Axis powers left Greece seventy years ago doesn’t mean that the damage caused in the 1940s isn’t responsible for the problems of the 2010s. Indeed, there are genocides throughout the world that are still playing a direct role in current politics: Look at the Holocaust in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the numerous ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, the aftershock following the Rwandan genocides, and so on.

The bottom line is that, morally speaking, Germany should be expected to compensate Greece for what it did during World War II. While the exorbitant figure demanded will need to be trimmed down considerably, its egregiousness shouldn’t obscure the fact that Greece was never fairly compensated for Germany’s past actions, even though a demonstrable link can be made between the chaos of that distant era and Greek experiences today.

The fact that Greeks aren’t as able to present their own case online doesn’t mean the Internet should allow their cause to fade away. This lesson is important not only for Greece and Germany but wherever social justice issues linger throughout the world.

February 2015 Has Been A Historic Month for Science

Published: Pixable (February 24, 2015)

This has been a historic month for science. Even if all scientific progress crawls to a stop this week, the knowledge we’ve already acquired since February 1, 2015 is likely to have a direct impact on all of our lives. Among the lessons we’ve learned:

1. The theory of the Big Bang may be false

(Source: Flickr/nasamarshall)

(Source: Flickr/nasamarshall)

In a paper published by Physics Letters B titled “Cosmology from quantum potential,” researchers Ahmed Farag Ali in Egypt and Saurya Das in Canada propose that the universe is filled with a quantum fluid that expands space by exerting a slight but constant force on all matter. If correct, their argument could disprove the Big Bang theory, which has long been criticized due to its equations being unable to take scientists back to the universe’s origin point – one that, if the Big Bang theory is to be believed, would be an infinitely small and dense singularity. The Ali-Das model not only fixes this by positing a universe that has always existed, but even explains physical phenomena like gravity and the theory of relativity.

2. Global warming is causing a megadrought on the verge of literally transforming America.

(Source: NASA Goddard)

As President Obama pushes for stricter regulations to curb global warming, Americans are being offered an ominous glimpse of what will happen if we fail to act. First, researchers from NASA joined experts at Cornell University and Columbia University to warn against an impending “megadraught” that will grip the Southwestern and Plains states by 2050 if climate change continues at its current pace. According to the report, shifts in weather patterns will lead to major water shortages, threatening America’s agricultural industry and increasing the likelihood of wildfires throughout the country.

Then, a panel of climatologists submitted a report projecting that future heat waves will bury large sections of New York City under water by the middle of the century, turning the Big Apple into another Venice.

(Source: Flickr/mtaphotos)

3. Losing weight isn’t as simple as exercising and dieting.

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(Source: Flickr/Sirwiseowl)

A massive study led by I-Min Lee of the Harvard School of Public Health has found that eating less and exercising may not be enough to cure obesity. Numerous biological mechanisms encourage people to eat more when they’re trying to diet, the paper argued, from the body slowing the rate at which it burns calories during exercise to the brain making high calorie foods seem more appealing. Since 80 to 95 percent of obese people regain the weight they lose solely through diet and exercise, the study concluded doctors should prescribe obesity medications and/or bariatric surgery in conjunction with diet and exercise for patients who want to permanently lose large amounts of weight. Similarly, international genetics researchers have discovered more than 90 gene regions that explain why some people are more likely to gain weight than others, which can be used to further improve weight loss treatment in the future.

As we approach the final ten months of 2015, our best hope for the future is to learn from the fruits of modern scientific progress. Whether we’re discussing the shapes of our bodies, the landscape of our continent, or the origin of the universe, the stakes clearly couldn’t be higher.