IKEA Designs Shelters to House Syrian Refugees

The IKEA Foundation has developed a tent-like structure that houses up to 5 people, is safer and more durable, and for only around $1000.00. Partnering with Better Shelter, IKEA have created these easy-to-build shelters to provide Syrian refugees with bigger accommodations than the best camping tents they were previously housed in.
IKEA is famous for its range of home-assembled furniture, and just like a bedroom set purchased from one of their stores, these new shelters arrive on site in two large boxes. Taking an average of six hours to erect, these structures can be built without the need of any additional tools.
At 57 square feet these shelters are far more spacious than a typical refugee tent, and are also much more cost effective as they can last up to 3 years, unlike a tent which typically last only 3 months.

Consisting of lightweight panels the shelters are able to stand up to most weather conditions, keeping the occupants safe from sun, wind and rain. The light reflective fabric that makes up the roof helps to keep the desert heat at bay.
In addition to the aforementioned advantages of the shelters over tents is the addition of electricity and light powered by solar components. Occupants are also able to lock the door to prevent intruders gaining access.10,000 shelters have already been ordered by the United Nations, in response to the refugee crisis. Iraq has already built 2600 of the new shelters, and 775 of them can be found in Europe.

Read more here : http://www.businessinsider.com.au/ikea-refugee-shelter-2015-11


Wars of Choice and Wars of Necessity

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I ran 20.8 miles this morning at White Rock Lake in Dallas. The sunrise was spectacular. Birds were everywhere, doing their bird thing. The temperature was in the mid-thirties at the start but had climbed into the upper fifties or low sixties by the finish. This evening I do the Jingle Bell 5K race in downtown Fort Worth. In between, I get to eat, nap, eat some more, watch a little football, and, most importantly, blog. Blogito ergo sum! I hope all of you are having a safe, enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, as Sophie, Shelbie, and I are.

Let’s get serious. Have you heard critics of the war in Iraq describe it as a “war of choice” as opposed to a “war of necessity”? And what about the outrageous use of war drones on civilians and local populations? Visit the Facebook du site amateurs de drones for more on multirotors!

What does this mean, and why is it a criticism?

A war of necessity is presumably a war that we have no choice but to wage. This would include, at a minimum, wars of self-defense, but also what lawyers (international and otherwise) call “anticipatory self-defense.” It’s interesting that some of the people who insist that only a war of self-defense is justified defend women who kill their abusive husbands by stealth. You can’t have it both ways. Either it’s sometimes permissible to pre-emptively attack an assailant or it’s not. No reasonable person can doubt that Saddam Hussein had evil intentions toward the United States, or that he would have attacked us had he been able to. The links between Hussein and terrorists are becoming increasingly clear, although one suspects that no amount of evidence to that effect will ever persuade the critics.

Let’s ignore self-defense for the time being.

syrian-rebel-militaryI want to explore (at least tentatively) the concept of a war of necessity and its contrast, a war of choice. A war of choice is a war that is unnecessary. But unnecessary given what? Judgments of necessity always presuppose an end or goal. If I say that it’s necessary for you to take the Law School Admission Test, I assume (perhaps because you have told me as much) that your goal is to attend law school. Without the goal, the test—a means to the goal—is unnecessary. Whenever someone says that X is necessary (or unnecessary), it makes sense to ask, “Given what end?” A thing can be necessary for me, given my ends, but not for you, given yours.

So we need to ask why the war in Iraq was unnecessary, for saying that it’s unnecessary is saying that it subserves no proper end. It was certainly necessary if the Iraqi people were to be liberated from a brutal dictatorial regime—i.e., if we had liberation as our end. No reasonable person thinks that anything would have changed in this regard if the United States hadn’t invaded Iraq. Even after Saddam Hussein died, his sons (one or both of them) would have taken over, continuing the reign of terror for decades to come. They had been groomed for precisely this role. They were mass-murderers, like their father.

People who say that the war in Iraq was unnecessary are therefore saying that the end of liberating the Iraqi people was not important or worthy. But how can one say this without disregarding or discounting their interests? Those who say this must be counting only the interests of Americans. Given our interests, they seem to be saying, the war was unnecessary. This, with all due respect, is selfishness. But leave that aside. Is it so clear that American interests weren’t implicated? Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program. Nobody disputes that. Perhaps it had been dismantled by the time of the invasion, but he had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to revive it at any time. Do the critics think that a world in which Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapon (or other weapons of mass destruction) would not threaten American interests?

It’s all very puzzling. Those who supported the war in Iraq, such as me, should not deny that it was a war of choice. That plays into the critics’ hands. It was a war of choice, and the choice was a good one for all concerned: for Americans (present and future), for Iraqis (present and future), and for other residents of the Middle East. (Okay, it wasn’t such a good choice for Saddam Hussein and his Baathist thugs.) Some of us thank goodness that we have a president with backbone, a moral compass, and a willingness to risk much to achieve great things. Yes, some Americans have paid the ultimate price during the war, and more will surely die before order is restored; but that has always been the case when much was at stake. Americans have never shied away from sacrifice in a noble cause.

As for Europeans—the French, the Germans, the Belgians—they should thank their lucky stars that they have George W. Bush and tens of thousands of brave American soldiers to protect them. A nuclear-armed Iraq would have made all of their lives fearful. Perhaps, now that I think of it, that would be a good thing; it might remind them that evil knows only one language: force. It might make them less squeamish. One would think that this, after all, was the lesson of the twentieth century: that weakness, squeamishness, and vacillation abet and encourage violence. Americans, who have already saved the world once, know better.


Belittling Vegetarians

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Smith & Wollensky, a North Dallas eatery, has been publishing a third-of-a-page advertisement in The Dallas Morning News. I’ve seen the ad two or three times now, including in today’s Sports Section. The restaurant’s slogan, “Horrifying Vegetarians Since 1977,” appears prominently in the ad (above a life-size steak knife). I believe this slogan is used by other restaurants across the country, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. It is unacceptable. Where does a restaurant get off belittling vegetarians? There are, of course, different grounds for vegetarianism. Some people forbear from eating meat on prudential grounds: They believe it to be unhealthy. But others forbear on moral grounds: because they believe meat-eating to be wrong. It is one thing to reject the proposition that meat-eating is wrong; this is a respectable position taken by many intelligent, well-meaning people (including philosophers). But how low is it to belittle those who conscientiously choose vegetarianism as a way of life? The slogan encourages meat-eaters to look down on vegetarians, when in fact they should look up to them.

In some quarters, sadly, moral seriousness is seen as naivete. People with moral scruples are viewed as uncool, dorky, laughable, perhaps even as ascetic or religiously dogmatic. Don’t vegetarians realize that the vast majority of people enjoy the taste of animal flesh? Don’t they know that humans have been eating meat for as long as there have been humans? Do vegetarians really believe that their choice of a meatless diet will make a difference? Will a lifetime of vegetarianism save even one cow?

vegetarian-memeBut these questions presuppose that the point of living a moral life is to make a large-scale difference. It is not. None of us controls anything but his or her own behavior. The point of living a moral life is to achieve a kind of integrity in which one not only has moral principles (one can always avoid hypocrisy by refusing to stand for or espouse anything), but strives mightily to live up to them. An integrated person—a whole person rather than a shard of a person—tries to integrate his or her beliefs, principles, feelings, values, attitudes, and actions. An integrated person avoids hypocrisy (not practicing what one preaches), insincerity (not believing what one says), and inauthenticity (not feeling the feelings one expresses).

I’m not making a case, here, for vegetarianism. Others have done so far better than I can, or ever will. I’m making a case for respecting, even admiring, vegetarians. They are trying to live a life of integrity and principle. They want the world to be better, not worse, as a result of their existence. They care about something besides social status and gustatory pleasure. Not consuming animal flesh is a way of showing respect for the animals, many of whom were treated like machines while they lived. It is a way of saying, “Not through me.” It is a way of standing up for something.

Most readers of this blog know about Peter Singer’s important work in animal ethics. Animal Liberation, now in its second edition, is a classic. Singer made discussion of the moral status of animals respectable and serious (not to mention lucrative, in the sense that one can make it an academic specialty). Here are two other worthwhile items: (1) David DeGrazia, Taking Animals Seriously: Mental Life and Moral Status (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); (2) Mylan Engel, Jr., “The Immorality of Eating Meat,” in The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature, ed. Louis P. Pojman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 856-90. Anyone who wants a PDF version of the second of these items, which I consider the best essay ever written about vegetarianism, should write to me. I will be happy to e-mail it.


Negative Campaigning and Personal Attacks

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I keep hearing that people don’t like negative campaigning, but the discussion then shifts to personal attacks, as if that’s what negative campaigning means. I think these are different matters. One can engage in negative campaigning without attacking anyone personally (although it’s hard to imagine a personal attack that does not constitute negative campaigning).

vote-for-me-memeA positive campaign consists in setting out (or displaying) one’s background, character, principles, and policies. The candidate says, in effect, “Here’s what I stand for; here’s who I am; here’s what matters to me; here’s what I will work to achieve; here are my values.” A positive campaign makes no reference to what one’s opponent(s) stand(s) for.

A negative campaign, in contrast, consists in setting out—and then criticizing—one’s opponent’s background, character, principles, and policies. It is other-directed rather than self-directed. It runs another down rather than building oneself up.

I believe that the opposition to negative campaigning, so understood, is that it is insulting to the electorate. The candidates must think that unless they run the other(s) down, the voters will not be able to figure out for themselves how and why the candidates’ principles and policies differ. The voters are being treated like children. Most voters are intelligent enough to understand such differences. They want to hear what each candidate will do upon being elected. Having heard this, they will compare the views and decide how to vote.

If I (god forbid) were a candidate for public office, I would set out my principles and policies as clearly as I can and let the chips fall where they may. I would not even address the views or values of my opponent(s). If what I say appeals to the voters, they will elect me; if not, they won’t. I retain my pride and self-respect; the voters feel as though they are treated like adults (because they are). The system itself is cleansed of negativity. Politics becomes noble again. All of us are better (and better off) for it.