Friday, November 23, 2001
New weight-loss program hits town
Are you feeling (how shall we say this?) ample after Thanksgiving? Has the tongue on your belt discovered holes heretofore unused? Did that extra helping of pie go straight to your hips? Well, worry not, because help has arrived in the form of the TM Trimathon (sometimes called Special Town Meeting) on Tuesday night, November 27.
This revolutionary one-night program can have you feeling your best in just a few hours. It's accomplished in three steps: attendance, participation and decision.
Step one (attendance) will find you parking in the school parking lot (or, for maximum effect, down by Spalding Field) and walking up to Corey Auditorium. Once you hit those steps, lift your knees high and feel the burn, Carlisle!
Speaking of knees, step two (participation) is the perfect remedy for those of you who never rose from your chairs during all the Thanksgiving football games. Once Town Meeting begins, get up and get to the microphones. Ask questions; make informative comments up, down, up, down. That's the ticket.
The last step (decision) is the easiest of all, and a splendid way to banish those flabby arms. Although most votes at Town Meeting are voice-votes, feel free to raise your arm when you vote anyway. Alternate arms for maximum effect. C'mon, Carlisle, flex those pecs!
Try this three-step program and we guarantee you'll leave the Special Town Meeting feeling much better about yourself. You will have done your civic duty and shed those unsightly Thanksgiving pounds. How can you pass up this win-win situation?
A modern 'Marshall Plan' for Afghanistan
It is clearly in the United States' interest to help Afghanistan rebuild as a nation. Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a shaky Communist regime. They spent 10 years trying to wipe out U.S.-financed mujahadeen, or holy warriors. Although Afghanistan emerged victorious, the nation suffered a million casualties and is now the most heavily mined country in the world. More recently, what little Afghanistan infrastructure survived the Soviet occupation was probably targeted by the recent US campaign to oust the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden. But what would a program to rebuild Afghanistan look like? The Marshall Plan was conceived by one western first-world nation to rebuild several others. As a result, the Marshall Plan succeeded and brought a lasting peace in Europe, with much good will to the United States.
But Afghanistan is a far cry from Western Europe. Recently, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the administration to pledge $1 billion for relief aid to Afghanistan and neighboring countries. What's the best way to spend a billion dollars in Afghanistan? I propose that the answer is not obvious. Our initial reaction might be to rebuild Afghanistan in our own image. I believe this is impractical from an environmental, economic and cultural point of view.
Afghanistan is the size of Texas, and landlocked. Its southern lowlands have intensely hot summers and harsh winters. It stretches from 30 degrees latitude (northern Florida) to 38 degrees (central Virginia). The central mountain peaks reach to 24,577 feet. Average annual rainfall is only 12 inches, similar to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a third of what we expect in New England. Any agricultural assistance we provide to Afghanistan must be geared to the realities of this extreme climate. I would argue that Westerners have little experience cultivating in this type of climate. Our solution has been to grow food in more fertile areas and use our robust transportation infrastructure to distribute it.
Economically, Afghanistan is more rooted in the agricultural age than the industrial age or the service industry of our current western information economy. I don't believe the solution is to build a vast highway system in Afghanistan to facilitate the transport of agricultural products grown in the small regions best suited to cultivation. This approach would have a drastic and, I believe, negative effect on the social fabric of the nation. Inevitably, the agricultural technology that westerners provide is very productive and requires a low labor quotient. If a significant portion of the Afghani population currently participates in the agricultural economy, I think it is our obligation to provide them with technology that still requires a high degree of labor but that allows small-scale yet more diverse food production, during a longer part of the season, with minimal negative environmental impact.
Beyond agricultural technology, Afghanistan should probably avoid the development trajectory followed by the entire western world through the industrial age. Instead of building roads and factories, we should help them build a wireless telecommunications infrastructure suited to their rugged and sparsely populated terrain.
Figuring out the best way to spend a billion dollars to help rebuild Afghanistan is not going to be easy. But if we do figure it out, we have the chance to enrich the lives of 25 million people and create a model of development that could be used in almost any other part of the third world.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito