Health derangement syndrome 1

If starving isn’t unhealthy, what does the word ‘unhealthy’ mean?

There are powerful persons who believe with fanatical conviction that (other) people should starve to death rather than eat something ‘unhealthy’.

As a result, millions are deprived of food.

Even Bill Gates protests about this state of affairs. We say ‘even Bill Gates’, because he usually goes along with the thinking of those who believe in government control of individual lives, aka socialists. (See in the quotation below a list of lefty organizations he supports.)  He doesn’t seem to realize that he is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind ever, through supplying billions of people with something they want: the products of Microsoft, which are put to trillions of productive uses throughout the world. Doing so –  as a model capitalist – has rightfully made him rich, and he has no moral obligation to redistribute his wealth in a secondary and much feebler attempt to do good. But he apparently thinks there is, perhaps out of some unwarranted feeling of guilt.

Whatever prompts him, he has undertaken to alleviate the chronic hunger of whole populations in Africa. And he has run into an impediment: the adoption, by stupid African rulers, of two Western ‘progressive’ notions: that people must be made to eat healthy food, and that genetically modified foods are unhealthy.

This article is from FrontPageMag:

The left-of-center philanthropist says starving Africans should be allowed to eat genetically modified foods.

Bill Gates took on the Famine Lobby while addressing a forum on the world food supply in Iowa. Speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Gates took aim at the chorus of environmental leftists and organic food advocates who believe Africans should starve rather than eat genetically modified (GM) foods. “Some voices are instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity. They act as if there is no emergency, even though in the poorest, hungriest places on earth, population is growing faster than productivity,” he said.

The opposition is significant, because Gates is left-of-center himself. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with assets of $29 billion as of 2005, has focused on the “population” side of the “problem” in the past, sending billions of dollars in grants to such pro-abortion groups as Planned Parenthood; Population Action International, Population Services International, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the Population Resource Center. Gates has also financed such organizations as the [Soros supported] Tides Center, the Tides Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, and has supported a gun control initiative in Washington state.

However, Gates announced he will issue a $120 million grant to increase food productivity in sub-Saharan Africa through the planting of genetically modified seeds. In Des Moines, Gates cited a Stanford study from 2008 concluding African farmers will lose one-quarter of their productivity within 20 years if they continue to plant the same strains of corn. However, “If the seeds perform well, African farmers can expect to produce two-million more tons of maize in a year of moderate drought.” Radio Iowa reports Gates has “committed more than a billion dollars” in all.

In proposing this initiative, he is standing up to the Green Left, which has long favored environmental “purity” [over] human well-being. Greenpeace cooked up the term “Frankenfood” to demonize genetically modified foods a decade ago. …

Dire predictions aside, GM foods not only potentially increase food production but have replaced the need to spray crops with chemical pesticides, which sickened or killed Africans. Those farmers who spray can now streamline the process, saving them much time and money. The modified crops are more resistant to cold, drought, herbicides, pests, and disease. They also supplied nutritional gaps in the consumption patterns of the poor. For instance, so-called “golden rice” spliced Vitamin A into rice, which could stave off blindness among the world’s poor who eat little more than rice. …

Greenpeace has long claimed GM foods increase allergies; however, the World Health Organization – hardly a corporate, capitalist shill – concluded, “No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.” Although six EU nations ban GM foods, Jaap Satter, a senior policy adviser at the Dutch Agriculture Ministry, has said, “You cannot say anymore that there is a scientific reason to be against genetic modification.” The National Research Council summed up the situation: “no conceptual distinction exists between generic modification of plants and microorganisms by classical methods or by molecular techniques that modify DNA and transfer genes.”

Some environmentalists seem concerned the foods will be too successful at feeding the poor. Al Gore has worried, “The most lasting impact of biotechnology on the food supply may come not from something going wrong, but from all going right…we’re far more likely to accidentally drown ourselves in a sea of excess grain.” Given the environmentalist movement’s hatred of population – best exemplified by Obama Science Czar John Holdren’s justification of compulsory abortion in the United States – this may be the real locus of their disdain.

So deep is the Green Left’s hatred of GM foods that even an organization Gates founded has given genetically modified food a chilly reception. “The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” and the Rockefeller Foundation in 2006 “with the objective of improving agriculture in Africa.” However, its leader, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, vowed in 2007: “We in the alliance will not incorporate GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in our programmes. We shall work with farmers using traditional seeds.”

The scare tactics and shunning of American and Euro-socialist leftists is theoretical and faulty – but their mania has reaped a deadly harvest among the world’s most vulnerable people.

In 2002, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa refused to accept tons of U.S. food aid for his starving nation, because the aid contained genetically modified food (maize, specifically). “Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them poison, to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health,” he said. The deluded president continued, “I will not allow Zambians to be turned into guinea pigs no matter the levels of hunger in the country.”

The levels of hunger were staggering. Nearly one-third of Zambia’s 10 million people faced famine. Some 14 million Africans faced starvation region-wide. Nonetheless, the president privately upbraided officials in the UN World Food Programme for distributing GM foods, which fed 125,000 people in five camps. The WFP reported some impoverished Zambians “resorted to eating little more than twigs and ash from the fire in a brown soupy concoction.” Desperate, rural villagers broke into the palace where the stockpiles were rotting and stole 2,000 bags of maize.

In response, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, signed a “statement of solidarity” with Zambia. Charlie Kronick of Greenpeace went further, alleging the humanitarian aid constituted a sick capitalist ploy. “There is a constant drip of pressure from the U.S. government and biotech industry to make sure Africa is softened up for GM,” he theorized. “Europe is closed to them and they need a market for it.”

Others offered more than ideological support. Zimbabwe joined the boycott, preventing GM grain’s importation. Angola followed suit in 2004. Lesotho and Mozambique milled all such grain so it would not be planted and “infect” other crops.

Not all were limited to the EU and Africa. In 2004, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez passed “possibly…the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the western hemisphere.”

At home, the opposition has been remarkably well-heeled. National Review’s Deroy Murdock found:

In 2001, the 30 leading anti-biotech groups…spent $341.4 million, including Greenpeace USA’s expenditure of $23,748,737, Environmental Defense’s $38,794,150 and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s $41,625,882. Between 1996 and 2001, this crusade’s lavish underwriters included the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($11,906,500), the Ford Foundation ($39,978,020) and the Pew Charitable Trusts ($130,996,900).

It also included a large portion of the organic food market. Somehow, this story of an industry trying to spike a competitor did not make MSNBC or the pages of Mother Jones.

Whatever the dangers, the prohibition of GM foods is a moral issue. As Velasio De Paolis of the Pontifical Urban University has said, it is “easy to say no to GM food if your stomach is full.” However misled he is on other issues, Bill Gates deserves credit for standing up against the Green Left on this point.

But on another, closely related, issue he has so far failed to take the right stand:

The question remains, will he do so on the issue that seems closest to his heart: the eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa? In a recent speech on the topic Gates admitted, “two tools helped to bring the death rate down: One was killing the mosquitoes with DDT.” Before Rachel Carson’s crusade – based entirely on scientific theories that never panned out – DDT use had nearly eradicated malaria. Now, according to one report, “there are approximately 350 to 500 millions cases of malaria, killing close to one million people” annually. “Every day, malaria takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa alone.” Yet instead of backing DDT use, Gates has sought to find a vaccine.

If Gates truly wants to put the well-being of Africans above political correctness, DDT is the best place to start.

The thoughts of a turnip head 0

Far from stopping Iran from making nuclear weapons, the Obama administration has legitimized its efforts and given it yet more time to advance its project.

From Investors.com (Investor’s Business Daily):

The mullahs ruling Islamofascist Iran are having a fine laugh at the easily beguiled infidels running U.S. foreign policy. First they agree to a nuclear “diplomatic breakthrough.” Then they say no.

The week before last, when Iran’s negotiators agreed to send most of its enriched uranium out of the country, diplomats in the U.S. and Europe were popping the champagne corks.

But last week Iranian officials backtracked on the agreement reached in Vienna to send three-quarters of its nuclear material to Russia for processing, after which it would be returned. Some 2,600 pounds of uranium was to be shipped by mid-January.

The pact was supposed to give the U.S. a year of extra time to work its negotiating magic on the Islamist terror state, as well as hold off an attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities. …

Iran now wants to keep its uranium until it gets fuel from the West. And this change of mind comes right after dubiously re-elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared: “We welcome cooperation on nuclear fuel, power plants and technology, and we are ready to cooperate.” …

Even if the Vienna deal had stuck, it makes a mockery of three U.N. Security Council declarations by legitimizing Tehran’s violations of the U.N. and allowing this fanatical, terrorist-supporting regime to continue its “peaceful” nuclear program.

How can a theocratic government with a stone-age worldview take the most sophisticated, modern, industrialized nation in the world for a ride, as if we just fell off the turnip truck?

Because those who run Iran realize they are engaged in a global war. Those who now run American foreign policy, on the other hand, think “war on terror” is passe. Peace must be given a chance first, they think. And “yes, we can” make it work, without firing a shot. Hope will triumph. …

Think? Those who now run American foreign policy think?

Does this burble (from The Times of India) by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – delivered in Pakistan on Friday  when Iran said  ’no’ – sound like thinking?

“We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up,” Clinton said.

Posted under Commentary, Defense, Diplomacy, Iran, Islam, Israel, jihad, Terrorism, United Nations, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Saturday, October 31, 2009

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But? 1

The New York Times journalist David Rohde was captured and held by the Taliban for 7 months and 10 days, and finally escaped. He tells his story here.

An extract:

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

As Cliff May points out in a Townhall  article discussing Rohde’s story here, ‘Though groups such as the Taliban — as well Hezbollah and Hamas — may fight locally, their leaders have always thought globally, viewing their struggles as part of a broader War Against the West.’  We would add, ‘and against the whole of the non-Muslim world’.

Rohde goes on:

I had written about the ties between Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Taliban while covering the region for The New York Times. I knew Pakistan turned a blind eye to many of their activities. But I was astonished by what I encountered firsthand: a Taliban mini-state that flourished openly and with impunity.

The Taliban government that had supposedly been eliminated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was alive and thriving.

All along the main roads in North and South Waziristan, Pakistani government outposts had been abandoned, replaced by Taliban checkpoints where young militants detained anyone lacking a Kalashnikov rifle and the right Taliban password. We heard explosions echo across North Waziristan as my guards and other Taliban fighters learned how to make roadside bombs that killed American and NATO troops.

And I found the tribal areas — widely perceived as impoverished and isolated — to have superior roads, electricity and infrastructure compared with what exists in much of Afghanistan.

As the months dragged on, I grew to detest our captors. I saw the Haqqanis as a criminal gang masquerading as a pious religious movement. They described themselves as the true followers of Islam but displayed an astounding capacity for dishonesty and greed.

Why did he not understand how extreme the Taliban ‘had become’ when millions of us who have never set foot in Afghanistan know how extreme they have always been?

That ‘but’ of his in the last sentence  gives the answer  - and may evoke sardonic laughter.

Remember, though, that this is a New York Times journalist we are talking about. There are many facts about the world we live in, well known to the rest of us, that must come as a surprise to NYT writers, editors, and loyal readers, if forcibly impressed on their consciousness at last by extraordinary circumstances.

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Islam, jihad, Muslims, War by Jillian Becker on Friday, October 30, 2009

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Aid for torturers 0

While politicians in Western democracies, or at least in Britain and the US, interrogate their consciences over how much physical and mental pressure they may allow their agents to use on captured terrorists to elicit vital security information, they choose to overlook the practice of torture in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank …

The West Bank? There Britain has suddenly to take heed of  what the following report calls ‘a wave of torture’  because Britain is the paymaster of the torturers.  The Mail on Sunday is to be commended for exposing the facts, but calling it a ‘wave’ that has been going on for ‘the past two years’ implies that the practice is unusual, when in truth, as the British Foreign Office knows perfectly well, it is prevalent and customary.

From the MailOnline:

The Government is sending British police and intelligence officers to the West Bank to try to stop a wave of brutal torture by Palestinian security forces funded by UK taxpayers.

Their mission is to set up and train a new ‘internal affairs’ department with sweeping powers to investigate abuse and bring torturers to justice.

The department is being paid for by Britain, with an initial planning budget of £100,000 – a sum set to soar as it becomes established.

Yesterday a senior official from the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs the West Bank and its security agencies, admitted for the first time that torture, beatings and extra-judicial killings have been rife for the past two years, with hundreds of torture allegations and at least four murders in custody, the most recent in August. …

Support for the new department follows the disclosure by The Mail on Sunday in January that Britain spends £20million a year funding the forces responsible for the abuse.

Most of their victims are accused of involvement with Hamas, the radical Islamist party that seized power through violence in the Gaza Strip in 2007. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is controlled by the rival Fatah party.

Fatah and Hamas are both terrorist organizations. Britain gives millions to Hamas too – though strictly, of course, for ‘humanitarian aid’.

As if money were not fungible!

Posted under Arab States, Britain, Commentary, Diplomacy, Islam, middle east, News, Terrorism, United Kingdom, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, October 30, 2009

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Christians for collectivism 0

For decades the World Council of Churches has been on the wrong side of the great political divide, consistently supporting collectivism and opposing freedom. Not a word of criticism of the Soviet terror came out of the WCC through all the years of the Cold War. Now, all too predictably, it wants the paranoid psychotic Manuel Zelaya back in power in Honduras, where he was deposed by constitutional means before he could entrench himself as dictator.

Mark D. Tooley writes:

An international church delegation recently visited Washington, D.C. to demand U.S. and global pressure on Honduras to restore Hugo Chavez wannabe Zelaya to the presidency.

Evidently uninterested in Zelaya’s unconstitutional attempts to gain an illegal second term, modeled on Venezuela’s populist dictatorship, the church officials insist that Honduras was “torn apart by a coup’etat.” Of course, Zelaya was removed by Honduras’ Supreme Court and Congress, and legally replaced by the second inline for the presidency, who was from Zelaya’s own party. But evidently any resistance to permanent left-wing rule is illegitimate, these religious voices of conscience seem to believe.

“The suffering and insecurity of the people of Honduras has reached crisis proportions, and long delays in resolving the situation following the coup are unacceptable,” a news release from the World Council of Churches (WCC) solemnly intoned. If there is a “crisis” in Honduras, it is mostly thanks to international sanctions imposed against Honduras, one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations, in solidarity with Zelaya. Pushing for “firmer and more decisive action to restore democracy and ensure full compliance with rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights in Honduras,” the delegation included officials from the U.S. National Council of Churches, the U.S. United Church of Christ, the Swiss-based WCC, an Argentine Methodist bishop and human rights activist, and an apparent Honduran seminary official.

Most of Honduras’ religious groups supported Zelaya’s constitutional ouster, including the Roman Catholic Church and many evangelicals. But the international Religious Left, as with Cuba for 50 years, and as with Sandinista Nicaragua in the 1980’s, claims a higher level of spiritual discernment that overrides local religious opinion when it resists Marxist or far-left rule. Sitting in ecclesial offices in New York on Geneva, left-wing church officials evidently can more impartially judge human rights situations than can the simple locals.

The WCC’s UN representative … explained that “churches in Honduras feel called to accompany the people in creating dialogue and promoting a message of healing and reconciliation.” It’s not clear to which Honduran churches he referred. The WCC delegation seemed mostly to represent declining liberal denominations in wealthy, first world countries, not Honduras. “The repression and violations of human rights must stop and new bridges must be built to create a society which is based on justice and respect for all,” he still insisted.

Honduras’ resistance to permanent Chavez-style, leftist rule has so perturbed the WCC that in August it dispatched a special delegation of international church leftists, in tandem with the equally left-leaning Latin American Council of Churches, to that ostensibly troubled nation. The religious international busybodies wanted Honduran churches to “accompany the people in their search for peace with justice and the re-establishment of democracy.” But what if Honduran churches do not want Chavezism in Honduras? The delegation of course hoped Honduran churches would heed wiser outside voices.

This August delegation wanted “Christian voices [to] be heard […] in defense of human rights and in support of humanitarian actions” and alleged that “violence has intensified” since Zelaya’s removal. The church officials, apparently without the help of professional pollsters, mystically discerned that the Honduran people “do not accept the imposition of a de facto government.” So the church delegation urged “the re-establishment of the constitutional order as soon as possible,” which it equated with political restoration for the man legally removed for subverting the constitution.

A WCC news release described Zelaya’s having been exiled in a “coup” by the military and “civilian sectors,” in the “context of a power struggle” over Zelaya’s “plans for constitutional change, which had been rejected by the Supreme Court and the Congress.” That’s a polite way of describing how Zelaya organized a mob to seize ballots for an illegal referendum to keep him in power indefinitely.

This delegation sought “reconciliation” and to “heal wounds,” as it tried to stir up Honduras churches “not to resign themselves to accept the present situation” and to rise up and “to accompany all people who suffer and to practice solidarity with those in greatest need.” It incongruently claimed that “the response of the people in the face of the coup d’état was immediate and massive,” thanks to decades of work by and among popular movements.” In fact, it plainly was distressed by the lack of wider, pro-Zelaya resistance, and was acclaiming only “the people” who were Zelaya’s revolutionary activists.

Twenty-five years ago, church groups like the NCC and WCC similarly expected Nicaragua’s churches to support the Sandinista revolution. The majority of churches that declined, especially the Roman Catholics, were deemed counter revolutionary reactionaries. Undoubtedly, these international church leftists feel similarly contemptuous towards most Honduras Christians who don’t share their revolutionary fervor. …

While the WCC is pushing for MORE international pressure against struggling Honduras, it is urging removal of international sanctions against communist North Korea. Evidently, in the eccentric WCC mind, Honduras’ constitutional government, which will hold previously scheduled national elections in November, is worse than North Korea, where no free election has ever been held, and whose slave masters aspire for nuclear weapons. Wherever churches in the world are looking for political counsel, they do well to learn the WCC’s stance, and vigorously pursue the alternative.

The sheer malice of the left 0

David Horowitz knows the left from the inside, as he was once passionately part of it. He changed to become a great campaigner for freedom.

What he tells us about the left is to be trusted.

These paragraphs by him are from his blog at FrontPageMag:

Bill Clinton is not like those who worship him, corrupting himself and others for a higher cause. Unlike them, he betrays principles because he has none. He will even betray his country, but without the slightest need to betray it for something else – for an idea, a party, a cause. He is a narcissist who sacrifices principle for power because his vision is so filled up with himself that he cannot tell the difference.

But the idealists who serve him — the Stephanopoulos’s, the Ickes’s, the feminists, the progressives and Hillary — can tell the difference. Their cyncism flows from the very perception they have of right and wrong. They do it for noble ends. They do it for the progressive faith. They do it because they see themselves as gods, as having the power — through correct politics — to redeem the world. It is that terrifyingly exalted ambition that fuels their spiritual arrogance and justifies their means.

And that is why they hate conservatives. They hate you because you are killers of their dream. You are defenders of a Constitution that thwarts their cause. They hate you because your “reactionary” commitment to individual rights, to a single standard and to a neutral and limited state obstructs their progressive designs. They hate you because you are believers in property and its rights as the cornerstones of prosperity and human freedom; because you do not see the market economy as a mere instrument for acquiring personal wealth and stocking political war chests, but as both means and end.

Conservatives who think progressives are misinformed idealists will always be blind-sided by the sheer malice of the left — by the cynicism of those who pride themselves on their principles; by the viciousness of those who champion sensitivity; by the intolerance of those who call themselves liberal; and by the ruthless disregard for the well-being of the poor on the part of those who preen themselves as their champions.

Conservatives are surprised because they see progressives as merely misguided, when they are, in fact, morally – and ontologically — misdirected. They are the messianists of a false religious faith. Since the redeemed future that justifies their existence and rationalizes their hypocrisy can never be realized, what really motivates progressives is a modern idolatry: their limitless passion for the continuance of Them.

Posted under Commentary, Progressivism, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Cuba: seeking a road back from serfdom? 0

From Newsmax:

President Raul Castro …  called for a national dialogue on the future of the country’s socialist system in an August speech.

Since then, authorities have set up discussions at universities, government workplaces and under the glow of street lamps. Community organizations called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution — created in part to root out anti-government activity — are now tasked with collecting criticism of the socialist system, along with suggestions for how to reform it.

Declining revenues and mounting debts have stretched the Cuban government to the point that it must trim some of its longstanding entitlement programs, Castro told the National Assembly during the August speech.

“Nobody, no individual nor country, can indefinitely spend more than she or he earns. Two plus two always adds up to four, never five,” he said. “Within the conditions of our imperfect socialism, due to our own shortcomings, two plus two often adds up to three.”

That losing formula has the Cuban government increasingly exhorting its citizens to work harder, expect less and come up with solutions to their own problems.

The input is funneled upward to Cuba’s leaders and will ostensibly be used to guide the reform process. Similar discussions soliciting criticism and ideas were gathered during a round of open-air discussions called by Castro in 2007. The government collected 1.3 million opinions from residents during that period, Castro said, nearly half of which were criticisms of one problem or another.

While Cuban authorities have made it clear that major political and economic reforms to the country’s one-party system are not on the discussion agenda, participants at the meetings are being encouraged to speak freely and openly about problems in their daily lives.

Many Cubans simmer with frustration brought by chronic transportation and housing shortages, a gargantuan state bureaucracy and salaries that average roughly $20 a month, even though most consumer goods in state-run stores are priced above what they would cost in the United States.

Subsidies for food, utilities and other basics offset those meager earnings, but as the government’s fortunes decline, authorities are increasingly telling Cubans to tackle their own problems. One high-ranking party official recently said Cubans can’t expect for the “daddy state” to fix everything, waiting with open mouths “like baby birds.”

Such a statement is “offensive” to the Cuban people, said dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who has spent time in prison for his opposition to the government.

This system was designed to control everyone, so it’s absurd that the official propaganda talks about the ‘daddy state,’” he said, referring to Cuba’s government-run media. “It’s as if the Cuban people were to blame for this economic debacle, and not the government. The government is to blame for the way Cubans behave, because this is the system it created.”

Espinosa Chepe said Cubans would gladly solve their own problems if the government would allow for more small businesses and other forms of economic independence. …

Two major rollbacks of the island’s socialist system are now under consideration, and both involve major government programs that, though often criticized, deliver basic nutrition staples to all Cubans. The first proposed reform would gradually eliminate the workplace cafeterias that provide nearly-free lunches to a third of the island’s population each weekday, at a cost of more than $350 million a year. Instead, workers will receive a cash stipend, doubling the average workers’ salary.

The second major reform threatens to eliminate the ration-card system that provides every Cuban with about two weeks’ worth of food at highly subsidized prices, but is beset by inefficiencies. In the name of egalitarianism, the program doles out the same amount of food to everyone, even to those who don’t need it. [Who could those be? - JB]

Earlier this month in a much-discussed editorial that appeared in the communist party daily Granma, editor Lazaro Barredo Medina said the ration book had become a drag on the state’s struggling finances and reform efforts. “The ration booklet was a necessity at one time, but it has become an impediment to the collective decisions the nation must take,” he said.

His words touched off rampant speculation about the imminent demise of the ration system. But it’s not clear how the Cuban government would be able to quickly implement such a measure, since so many seniors and low-income families depend heavily on it. Cuba has no income-tax system and a vast black market economy, so ascertaining citizens’ real earnings for the purpose of welfare eligibility would be extremely difficult.

Then there is the threat of inflation.

“Getting rid of the ration book seems like a good move, but only if salaries can keep pace with the price of food,” said Aurelio Alonso, deputy editor of Cuba’s Casa de las Americas journal.

For Cubans to be able to pay market prices for food, worker salaries would have to double or triple, he said, and that would bring inflation if food supplies remain the same. “And that would be a big problem,” he said.

Still, Alonso said he sees the younger Castro as a practical man who understands economics, and he expects further reforms to follow. “You can’t have social justice and social goods if you don’t have an economy capable of sustaining it.”

And if you have an economy capable of sustaining ‘social justice’ and ‘social goods’, you’ll wreck it if you put it to that use.

The choice is freedom or collectivism. You cannot have both. They are mutually exclusive. Freedom brings plenty, collectivism brings want. Will the ‘practical man who understands economics’ – Raul Castro – ever get to understand that?

‘Thrilling’ images of Christian torture 5

Christianity, as everyone knows, is a cult of suffering.

Theo Hobson writes rapturously in the Spectator:

I enjoyed the show of Spanish religious art at the National Gallery. The painted wooden sculptures, mostly of Christ dying or dead, are not really art objects, nor even sacred art objects. They are blood-caked liturgical props. Many of them are still used in Holy Week street parades: held aloft on swaying flickering floats they seem to come to life, like magic wax-works. By the way there’s a good little film adjoining the show that gives you a taste of these thrilling events, packed with pointy-hooded penitents straight out of Goya. If this sort of thing happened in Britain, even I would probably convert to Rome.

And he quotes -

… a very Protestant poem, ‘Conscience’ by George Herbert … He has …

Some wood and nails to make a staffe or bill

For those that trouble me:

The bloudie crosse of my dear Lord

Is both my physick and my sword.

And he comments that Herbert -

… understood that religion needs a bit of violence to animate it …

Note: ‘Pointy-headed penitents’ refers to marchers in the Spanish parades of today voluntarily wearing the hoods that were forced on accused heretics by the Spanish Inquisition in the centuries when the Catholic Church tried, with the utmost cruelty, to exert totalitarian power over all the peoples of Europe.

Posted under Britain, Christianity, Commentary, Totalitarianism by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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While Obama dithers 0

Obama’s effect as Commander-in-Chief is the profound – and ultimately incapacitating? –  demoralization of the troops in Afghanistan.

He doesn’t know what they’re fighting for, so neither do they.  Some (including General McChrystal) think that their mission is ‘to help Afghanistan’. But the people of Aghanistan didn’t ask for their help and don’t seem to want it.

From The Times (London):

American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taleban. Many feel that they are risking their lives — and that colleagues have died — for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion. “They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. “They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through.” The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not. …

Several men approached by The Times, however, readily admitted that their morale had slumped. “We’re lost — that’s how I feel. I’m not exactly sure why we’re here,” said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose closest friend was shot dead by a renegade Afghan policeman last Friday. “I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out here or if I’m going to die.”

Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: “If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.” The only soldiers who thought it was going well “work in an office, not on the ground”. In his opinion “the whole country is going to s***”.

The battalion’s 1,500 soldiers are nine months in to a year-long deployment that has proved extraordinarily tough. Their goal was to secure the mountainous Wardak province and then to win the people’s allegiance through development and good governance. They have, instead, found themselves locked in an increasingly vicious battle with the Taleban.

They have been targeted by at least 300 roadside bombs, about 180 of which have exploded. Nineteen men have been killed in action, with another committing suicide. About a hundred have been flown home with amputations, severe burns and other injuries likely to cause permanent disability, and many of those have not been replaced. More than two dozen mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been knocked out of action. …

Most of the men are on their second, third or fourth tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, with barely a year between each. Staff Sergeant Erika Cheney, Airborne’s mental health specialist, expressed concern about their mental state — especially those in scattered outposts … “They’re tired, frustrated, scared. A lot of them are afraid to go out but will still go,” she said. …

The men are frustrated by the lack of obvious purpose or progress. “The soldiers’ biggest question is: what can we do to make this war stop. Catch one person? Assault one objective? Soldiers want definite answers, other than to stop the Taleban, because that almost seems impossible. It’s hard to catch someone you can’t see,” said Specialist Mercer.

It’s a very frustrating mission,” said Lieutenant Hjelmstad. “The average soldier sees a friend blown up and his instinct is to retaliate or believe it’s for something [worthwhile], but it’s not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill. There’s no tangible reward for the sacrifice. It’s hard to say Wardak is better than when we got here.”

Captain Masengale, a soldier for 12 years before he became a chaplain, said: “We want to believe in a cause but we don’t know what that cause is.”

The soldiers are angry that colleagues are losing their lives while trying to help a population that will not help them. “You give them all the humanitarian assistance that they want and they’re still going to lie to you. They’ll tell you there’s no Taleban anywhere in the area and as soon as you roll away, ten feet from their house, you get shot at again,” said Specialist Eric Petty, from Georgia.

Captain Rico told of the disgust of a medic who was asked to treat an insurgent shortly after pulling a colleague’s charred corpse from a bombed vehicle.

The soldiers complain that rules of engagement designed to minimise civilian casualties mean that they fight with one arm tied behind their backs. “They’re a joke,” said one. “You get shot at but can do nothing about it. You have to see the person with the weapon. It’s not enough to know which house the shooting’s coming from.”

The soldiers joke that their Isaf arm badges stand not for International Security Assistance Force but “I Suck At Fighting” or “I Support Afghan Farmers”.

To compound matters, soldiers are mainly being killed not in combat but on routine journeys, by roadside bombs planted by an invisible enemy. “That’s very demoralising,” said Captain Masengale. …

The chaplains said that many soldiers had lost their desire to help Afghanistan. …

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Defense, Islam, jihad, Muslims, News, Terrorism, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, October 26, 2009

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A man with a plan 5

The excellent Diana West writes at Townhall:

When it comes to Afghanistan, what separates President Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal?

Not much. Neither wants to destroy the Taliban — just tamp it down to the point where an as-yet non-existent Afghan state can function. Which is why — prediction time — McChrystal won’t quit when Obama gives him fewer forces than McChrystal is asking for.

McChrystal’s assessment frankly states that what the general calls his “new strategy” — an intensification of “population protection” at the expense of “force protection” — is his top priority, not increased troop levels. But this strategy is ignored in the debate, and certainly by most conservatives, who only emphasize the need to “give the general the forces he needs to win.” What it is that McChrystal actually wants to win — namely, the support of the Afghan people — is rarely mentioned.

And how to win that Afghan support? The man has a plan. It amounts to a taxpayer-funded, military-implemented bribery scheme. As the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins recently put it: “McChrystal’s plan is a blueprint for an extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan, where one has never existed. … Even under the best of circumstances, this effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men. And that’s if it succeeds. “

In other words, the Afghan “surge” under consideration is for “nation-building,” not war-making. But guess what? The United States of America already tried building a modern state in Afghanistan — or, at least, building a state of modernity in Afghanistan — and it just didn’t stick. And this was no fly-by-night operation. University of Indiana professor Nick Cullather describes the 30-plus years of sustained U.S. development in Afghanistan as “an `integrated’ development scheme, with education, industry, agriculture, medicine, and marketing under a single controlling authority” — a massive dam project known as the Helmand Valley Authority. As historian Arnold Toynbee observed in 1960: “The domain of the Helmand Valley Authority has become a piece of America inserted into the Afghan landscape.” And from the project’s beginning in 1946 — designed by Morrison Knudson, builder of Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and Cape Canaveral — to 1979 when it ended, there was no Taliban “insurgency” complicating the social work of nation-building.

But this crucial episode of U.S.-Afghan history has been erased from national consciousness, pricked only by the odd remember-when news story. Of course, these historic U.S. efforts in Helmand Province — the Taliban-spawning, opium region into which 4,000 U.S. Marines “surged” this summer — have themselves been erased from Afghanistan, which may explain the amnesia.

Still, for nation-building utopians such as Gen. McChrystal, those from Left to Right who see different peoples and cultures as interchangeable markers on a game board, reality never tempers the fanaticism. A blind faith empowers believers both to see their utopian visions and to block out the reasons they can never materialize — in this case, the specifically Islamic reasons (Sharia) Afghanistan can neither serve nor fulfill Western ends.

Here lies the fatal flaw in our strategy. … The United States and its Western allies ignore the threat of jihad … ”We miniaturize the challenge,” writes Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review Online. “Thus, the war is said only to be in Afghanistan. The ‘challenge’ is framed as isolating a relative handful (of extremists) rather than confronting the fact that tens of millions of Muslims despise the West.” And even worse, the fact that tens of millions of Muslims work to assuage their feelings by following and imposing Islamic law across the West.

In other words, nation-building in the Islamic world is a distraction from nation-saving in the Western one.

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