Free to choose 2

Today, July 31, is the 98th anniversary of the birth of the great free-market economist, Milton Friedman. He died four years ago.

This is how he and his co-author wife Rose conclude their book Free to Choose, first published in England in 1980 [when and where they both signed a copy for me, of which I am still the proud owner – JB].

The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good purposes.

Fortunately, we are waking up. We are again recognizing the dangers of an overgoverned society, coming to understand that good objectives can be perverted by bad means, that reliance on the freedom of people to control their own lives in accordance with their own values is the surest way to achieve the full potential of a great society.

Fortunately, also, we are as a people still free to choose which way we should go – whether to continue along the road we have been following to ever bigger government, or to call a halt and change direction. [Emphasis mine]

That could have been written today, and needs to be remembered always.

The choice is still with us. May the American electorate use it well in November and with every election to come.

Preparing to bomb Iran? 6

What was the Israeli Air Force doing in Romania when one if its helicopters crashed on July 26, killing six of its airmen?

The crash itself is distressing, but the answer to the question is good news: the IAF was rehearsing for an attack on Iranian nuclear sites.

This report comes from DebkaFile:

The Israeli Air Force had been drilling high-risk attacks on precipitous cliff caves similar to the mountain tunnels in which Iran has hidden nuclear facilities. The crash occurred in the last stage of a joint Israeli-US-Romanian exercise for simulating an attack on Iran. Aboard the helicopter were six Israeli airmen and a Romanian flight captain. …

Iran has given up on adequate air and missile defense shields for its nuclear sites and in the last couple of years has been blasting deep tunnels beneath mountain peaks more than 2,000 meters high for housing nuclear facilities. There, they were thought by Tehran to be safe from air or missile attack.

The American and Israeli air forces have since been developing tactics for evading Iranian radar and flying at extremely low-altitudes through narrow mountain passes so as to reach the tunnel entrances for attacks on the nuclear equipment undetected. The drill in Romania took place at roughly the same altitude and in similar terrain that a US or Israeli air attack would expect to encounter in Iran.

For such strikes, special missiles would be used that are capable of flying the length of a tunnel, however twisty, and detonating only when its warhead identifies and contacts its target.

The entire maneuver is extremely hazardous. The pilots must be exceptionally skilled, capable of split-second timing in rising from low-altitudes to points opposite the high tunnel entrances without crashing into the surrounding mountain walls.

The Israeli helicopter is reported to have flown into a cloud patch hanging over its simulated target and crashed into a steep mountainside, while the second helicopter flying in the formation avoided the cloud and continued without incident. Israeli and American Air Force pilots are instructed, when encountering cloud cover of the target, to go around it. At all times, they must have eye contact with their target.

The accident revealed to military observers that the Israeli Air Force is practicing long-distance flights not only by bombers, but also heavy helicopters, such as the “Yasour” CH-53, which would require in-flight refueling. These practice flights have been taking place in cooperation with Greece and Bulgaria as well as Romania, whose distance from Israel of 1,600 kilometers approximates that of Iran. American air bases in Romania and Bulgaria participate in the drills.

Good to know, but the information that the US is participating in the exercise, and the fact that it is being reported – albeit through news of a disaster – makes us wonder if the point of publishing it is to frighten Ahmadinejad and the mullahs rather than actually prepare for a strike. Is it really likely, we wonder, that Obama has decided to take military action against Iran?

Charles Krauthammer seems to think it possible and even probable. The administration, he says, is “hardening its line”. And he sees a growth of determination among Western states and Arab states to stop Iran forcibly from becoming a nuclear power.

He gives these reasons in his column in Investor’s Business Daily:

Passage of weak U.N. sanctions was followed by unilateral sanctions by the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union. Already … Iran is experiencing a sharp drop in gasoline imports as Lloyd’s of London refuses to insure the ships delivering them.

Second, the Arab states are no longer just whispering their desire for the U.S. to militarily take out Iranian nuclear facilities. The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington said so openly at a conference three weeks ago.

The UAE ambassador[‘s] … publicly expressed desire for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities speaks for the intense Arab fear approaching panic, of Iran’s nuclear program and the urgent hope that the U.S. will take it out.

It is true that the UAE ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, was heard to be pleading or at least arguing for military action by “an outside force”, but his government hastily denied that he meant it. There was no denial, however, that his country regards Iran’s nuclear program as a grave and imminent threat.

There is also a rumour, not mentioned today by Krauthammer, that Saudi Arabia would be willing to look the other way while Israeli planes flew through its airspace on a mission to bomb Iranian nuclear installations.

But what of American participation in such a raid? Krauthammer goes on to say:

Third, and perhaps even more troubling from Tehran’s point of view, are developments in the U.S. Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden suggested last Sunday that over time, in his view, a military strike is looking increasingly favorable compared with the alternatives. Hayden is no Obama insider, but Time reports (“An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table,” July 15) that high administration officials are once again considering the military option.

Here is part of what Time had to say:

[Secretary of Defense] Gates … told Fox News on June 20. “We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.” In fact, Gates was reflecting a new reality [sic – shouldn’t it be “realism”?] in the military and intelligence communities. Diplomacy and economic pressure remain the preferred means to force Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, but there isn’t much hope that’s going to happen. “Will [sanctions] deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability?” CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC News on June 27. “Probably not.” So the military option is very much back on the table. …

Intelligence sources say that the U.S. Army’s Central Command, which is in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East, has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes — aided, in large part, by the vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region. “There really wasn’t a military option a year ago,” an Israeli military source told me. “But they’ve gotten serious about the planning, and the option is real now.” Israel has been brought into the planning process … because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own.

There’s a lefty explanation! If whacking the Iranians is now considered a good thing to do, why would it be bad, or “going rogue”, for the Israelis to do it? Note the insistent mention that Netanyahu’s government is “right-wing”. Right-wings are, of course, on the edge of roguery at all times in the assumptions of the left.

One other factor has brought the military option to a low boil: Iran’s Sunni neighbors really want the U.S. to do it. When United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said on July 6 that he favored a military strike against Iran despite the economic and military consequences to his country, he was reflecting an increasingly adamant attitude in the region. Senior American officials who travel to the Gulf frequently say the Saudis, in particular, raise the issue with surprising ardor. Everyone from the Turks to the Egyptians to the Jordanians are threatening to go nuclear if Iran does. That is seen as a real problem in the most volatile region in the world: What happens, for example, if Saudi Arabia gets a bomb, and the deathless monarchy there is overthrown by Islamist radicals?

Message to Time: The “deathless monarchy” IS radically Islamist. The Saudis are, however, Sunni radicals who fear the hegemony of Iranian Shia radicals. So their ardor is not really surprising at all.

For the moment, the White House remains as skeptical as ever about a military strike.

Ah, we thought so!

Most senior military leaders also believe … a targeted attack on Iran would be “disastrous on a number of levels.” It would unify the Iranian people against the latest in a long series of foreign interventions. It would also unify much of the world — including countries like Russia and China that we’ve worked hard to cultivate — against a recowboyfied US. [There’s a coinage for you!- JB].  There would certainly [?] be an Iranian reaction — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, by Lebanese Hizballah against Israel and by the Hizballah network against the U.S. and Saudi homelands. A catastrophic regional war is not impossible.

Of course, it is also possible that this low-key saber-rattling is simply a message the U.S. is trying to send the Iranians: it’s time to deal. … But it is also possible that the saber-rattling is not a bluff, that the U.S. really won’t tolerate a nuclear Iran and is prepared to do something awful to stop it.

So our question remains: is it likely that Obama will even consider the bombing of Iran?

We hope with ardor that Iran’s nuclear capability is knocked out soon by military force. It would be best of course if the US and Israel acted together. But if the US under Obama’s weak leadership holds back, may Israel strike alone – soon, and to devastating effect.

Sheriff Arpaio, Western hero 1

Now that US District Judge Susan R. Bolton has emasculated the Arizona immigration law (best critical analysis of her ruling we’ve read so far is here), there’s some solace to be found in the determination of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County to do all he can to make Arizona as hot a perch as possible for “undocumented aliens”.

From Newsmax:

Arpaio, whose county includes most of the Phoenix metropolitan area, promotes himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.” He has limited county inmates to two meals a day, banned “sexually explicit material” in prison, reinstituted chain gangs, and set up a “tent city” as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail.

On Wednesday a judge blocked the most controversial sections of Arizona’s new law and put them on hold. The law will still take effect on Thursday, but without some of the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.

Nevertheless there are reports that opponents of the new law plan to block Arpaio’s jail on Thursday in an act of civil disobedience.

“There’s a rumor that they’re going to block our jails down the street,” Arpaio says in an exclusive Newsmax interview.

“You know what? They’re not going to block our jails. They’re going into the jail if they block our jail. I’m not going to succumb to these demonstrators keeping law enforcement from booking people in our jail. So we may have to take some action.”

Arpaio also vows to conduct a “crime suppression operation” on Thursday.

“This morning we raided another business and arrested five more illegal aliens with false identification. On Thursday we’re going to do our 17th crime suppression operation and go out with our volunteer posse and deputy sheriffs and catch criminals. We’ve done 16. Just by chance about two-thirds [of those arrested] happen to be here illegally.

“People say, why are you doing it on the day that the law may be put in effect? Well, should I wait? We’ve been enforcing the other state immigration laws and we’re still the only ones doing it. We’re going to continue doing our job.”

Arpaio was asked about concerns that the federal government will refuse to cooperate with a handoff of illegal aliens to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after they are apprehended in Arizona.

“There’s been some rumbles that maybe ICE will not take the illegal aliens off the hands of law enforcement,” he responds.

“So we may have a little problem, but not that big, because most of the time we arrest illegal aliens we have them on another charge and we book them into our jail.

“After people do their time and we have them deported, if [ICE doesn’t] accept many of those people who are going to be deported, the only alternative is that they may be released on the street.

“So let’s see what the federal government does. I know they’re not happy with this new law. They’re not happy with me, because I had 100 deputies trained by Homeland Security, trained to work on the streets and function as federal officers, but they took that away when the new administration took office.”

There have been media reports that with the law taking effect, many Hispanics are moving out of Phoenix this weekend — as evidenced by a recent increase in yard sales to dispose of items before they move. Arpaio calls that “hype” and said “they have garage sales every week. Go into any Hispanic neighborhood and they’re having garage sales.

But a lot of them are moving out. I’d like to take a little credit for that, because they’re accusing me of breaking up families, they’re accusing me because people don’t want to go to church, they don’t want to go to school because they worry about the sheriff coming in and arresting people that are here illegally.

“Consequently many people have moved out. Of course they don’t all go to Mexico. They go to the sanctuary state called California and other states where they don’t care about illegal immigration. But many of them are moving out, moving back to their home country. That’s great. Now let [them] get the proper paperwork and come into this country legally.”

Newsmax also reports (here) that Sheriff Arpaio’s office is responsible for about 25% of all deportations of illegal immigrants from the US since 2006.

Joe Arpaio: hero and star of a real-life Western epic.

Enough to stir a flood of mutiny? 0

The Obama administration will not use the words “Islam” or “Muslim” in connection with terrorism, which means they are not serious about countering the actual terrorist activity that has killed thousands of Americans; but they will use the continuing and growing threat of it as an excuse to invade our privacy, to watch us in the manner of the KGB and the Stasi.

They are taking steps to find out exactly whom you are emailing and what Internet sites you visit.

The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

If this encroachment on our privacy were necessary to protect us from terrorism, we might reluctantly accept it as a temporary measure. But it is not. What is necessary to stop the terrorists is to name their cause, Islamic jihad, and to formulate and implement a policy to defeat it.

Deep surveillance of our private lives is not only unnecessary, it is intolerable.

Something to rely on 0

How stupid does a person have to be to serve in the US (or for that matter any) intelligence services?

Or the State Department?

In a 2010 State Department report on arms-control compliance, requested by Senate Republicans as part of the START ratification debate (see our post below, Raising big red flags), it is revealed (surprise, surprise!) that Russia violated its 1991 START agreements on arms reductions and limitations “to the end”.

If the Washington Times report of the State Department’s report is to be relied on, it also contains this gem:

On Iran’s nuclear program, the report to be released Wednesday reveals that U.S. intelligence agencies still think that Iran halted work on its nuclear-weapons program in 2003, but provides new details showing that Tehran has failed to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency controls on its extensive nuclear program.

Specifically, the report said Iran has not explained evidence showing that it is working on a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-3 missile, and tested detonators and explosives for nuclear arms.

The report said the evidence showed Iran worked on casting uranium metal into hemispheres, like those used in the pit of a nuclear bomb; evidence of work on detonating a high explosive in “hemispherical geometry,” also for a nuclear bomb; and the modification of a warhead for the Shahab 3. Iran also did underground explosives testing that appeared to be nuclear arms, the report said.

But as Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, there’s nothing to worry about. No need to take action to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power.

No evidence, however ample, however strong, can change the resolute minds in the State Department once they’re made up.

That’s something to rely on.

Raising huge red flags 0

The New START agreement that the Russians won needs to be approved by the Senate. As is his way, Obama wants the process to be got through fast: the less time taken for reading and debating the better.

The Heritage Foundation warns:

All the pressure to blow past the critics, cut backroom deals and get the treaty ratified ought to raise huge red flags. New START has had less than half the number of hearings that treaties are normally subjected to, and the pace for approval certainly is trying to outpace any nuclear arms pact the Senate has ever considered. Not only is the speed with which it is being pushed through unprecedented, the administration continues to withhold key documents, including the treaty negotiating record. This is no time for conservatives in the Senate to offer lemming-like support for President Obama’s arms control agenda.

Mitt Romney lists 8 things that are wrong with it. Just one of them, his item 4, should make it a dud in the eyes of Americans:

Counting multiple-warhead bombers as only one warhead, as New START does, is a problem for America, not a plus. Yes, we currently have more long-range bombers than the Russians. But Russia has embarked on at least one new long-range bomber program. Russia also is developing a new long-range air-launched nuclear cruise missile. We, on the other hand, are doing neither. Russia will have modern bombers and modern missiles; we will not. It should come as no surprise that they are happy to undercount nuclear warheads on bombers.

Failing to count multiple warheads on bombers makes the treaty’s announced warhead limits virtually meaningless in any case: Russia can effectively escape the limit of 1,550 by deploying long-range bombers with many nuclear weapons.

Russia is a dying nation. Its birthrate is 11.1 live births per 1,000 population. Its fertility rate, though it rose slightly from 1.3 in 2006 to 1.5 in 2009, is such that the number of Russians born declines sharply with each generation. And Russian life expectancy is only 65. So there’ll be far fewer Russians by the end of this century. For the next fifty years the Russian state could still do harm, such as seizing parts of neighboring countries, as it recently seized two provinces of Georgia – without the world giving a good goddamn. (When it comes to Russian domination, never call it “imperialism”, comrades!) So there’s an argument for limiting its military power. But this treaty won’t do it.

What New START can do is advance the realization of Obama’s dream: a weak, denuclearized America.

With one last leadership role for him, teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Blizzard of paper – little damage 3

So some 92,000 US military documents were leaked by an unknown agent to Wikileaks and handed on to three big news outlets for co-ordinated news releases today.

The question is, what do they reveal according to the New York Times, the Guardian (Britain), and Der Spiegel (Germany)?

Not much is the answer.

The NYT finds proof that Pakistan’s intelligence service has been actively helping the Taliban. But news reports of that have been appearing for some time now.

The Guardian, perhaps a jot more interestingly, finds no convincing evidence of it in the documents. What it does find is evidence that a secret  unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders - which is already known or at least assumed  and that the US has covered up the fact that the Taliban got hold of, and is deploying, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles. The Taliban’s possession of them must be a cause for concern, but is not a startling revelation. If the high command, or the Pentagon, or the administration, or all of them have been trying to conceal the fact, the wonder is why, and how they hoped to succeed.

Der Spiegel finds evidence that German troops are coming under increasing threat. But the German government has plainly said as much.

Any scandalous revelations? There are mentions, yet to be filled out, of civilian deaths that may have been suppressed. Bad, but not unusual in a war.

It’s possible that something surprising, illuminating, significant in some way will yet be caught in that blizzard of paper. Possible, but not very likely.

Wikileaks is an international organization “based” (whatever that means) in Sweden, that “publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive documents from governments and other organizations, while preserving the anonymity of their sources” (according to Wikipedia).  One of its founders is Julian Assange, an Australian who seems also to be its only or chief spokesman.

The Wikileaks list of past revelations is not very impressive.

They were one of several channels through which the Climategate documents were released. Good.

They saw fit to release Sarah Palin’s private emails when she was a vice-presidential candidate, given to them in September 2008 by the hacker himself. Not so good.

Far more useful would be documents revealing  the suppressed facts of Obama’s life, schooling, and career. And even better would be a list of the politicians who made the decision to admit millions of Muslim immigrants into Europe and the United States, and documents that would tell us why they made it. If Wikileaks could supply those, it would truly deserve the gratitude of this generation and future historians.

True tales of Arabia 0

To add more facts about Arab enslavers to our post below, Slavery now, here’s some information about the forced labor, abuse, torture, rape and murder of foreign “maids” in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain.

It comes from The Opinionator (May 13, 2009):

To use the term “maid” is a misnomer – these women (and boys) are nothing more than modern day SLAVES. Slaves to be abused, raped, tortured, maimed, and killed. [They’re imported to be servants, but many are not paid.]

[The maids] come into the Middle East from Indonesia, the Phillipines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia – smaller numbers come from India and Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia has the largest number of these imported domestics estimated at 200,000 in 2004. …

Here are some of the sickening stories of abuse …

Saudi employer accused of Ramadan abuse on Indonesian maid – burned her with hot iron and lye, forced to eat feces, smashed her teeth and jammed broken teeth down her throat

Widespread gang rape of slave boys by Arab masters

Saudi man beat maid – whipped her with an electric wire, burned her genitals & broke her front teeth — and never paid her

Saudi couple beat Indonesian maid for one month – maid’s hands and feet are amputated due to gangrene

Saudi man beats 2 Indonesian maids to death puts 2 others in Intensive Care

Indian maids in Kuwait - beaten and tortured by employers then tossed onto road

Bahrain – Ethiopian maid jumps from second floor window to escape abuse

[In Saudi Arabia] maid kept as slave for 18 yrs – never paid

[In Saudi Arabia] maid kept as slave … never paid salary for 10 yrs

Domestic workers are dying (suicide, murder) in Lebanon at a rate of more than one per week …

Arab families bring their “maids” with them to Western countries. This means that there are slaves in the United States and Europe.

Some headlines quoted by The Opinionator:

Irvine CA Couple  – Abdelnasser Eid Youssef Ibrahim and Amal Ahmed Ewis-abd Motelib  – found guilty of child slavery

Long Island NY – Millionaires arrested after half naked Indonesian maid escapes mansion

Colorado USA – Saudi man “sex slave” trial begins

Brussel’s officials raid hotel and remove 17 girls who were enslaved by Arab Royal family.

Sometimes, in Western states, an Arab slave holder is justly punished.

Saudi Man gets 27 years for keeping woman as “sex slave”

The above USA trial resulted in the conviction of Homaidan al-Turki. This conviction, in turn, brought seething protests from Muslims that al-Turki was “framed” and accusations of “Islamophobia” against the United States judiciary/prosecution. The Saudi press claimed he would never have been convicted in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi press is right.

That is the sad and unfortunate reality for the thousands of women living as maids in the Middle East. Abusive employers receive NO punishment —

Instead – sometimes or often? – the victim gets punished.

— whereas a beaten, gangrenous, hospitalized maid — who reports torture at the hands of her Muslim employer – will get the Islamic Court-ordered 79 lashes for her complaints along with a continued life of abuse or even death.

Slavery now 0

Right now, in 2010, slaves are owned by Arab masters.

Here is a documented case, a report about slaves and their suffering in the miserable land of Yemen:

Officially, slavery was abolished back in 1962 but a judge’s decision to pass on the title deed of a “slave” from one master to another has blown the lid off the hidden bondage of hundreds of Yemenis.

The judge in the town of Hajja, which is home to some 300 slaves, according to residents, said he had certified the transfer only because the new owner planned to free the slave. …

A 2009 report by the human rights ministry found that males and females were still enslaved in the provinces of Hudaydah and Hajja, in northwest Yemen — the Arab world’s most impoverished country.

Mubarak, who has seven brothers and sisters, has never set foot outside the village where he was born into a family which was inherited as slaves by their local master.

Sheikh Mohammed Badawi’s father had bought Mubarak’s parents 50 years ago, shortly before Yemen’s 1962 revolution which abolished slavery. Mubarak has known no other life except that of a slave.

“Whenever I think of freedom, I ask myself, ‘Where will I go?'” he [said] as he stood outside a hut which serves as home for him and his family.

Black-skinned Mubarak does not know his birthday but he knows he has been a slave from birth 21 years ago. He has two children with a wife who was also a slave until she was emancipated by her master, a few years before they married.

“Sometimes I wonder what the fate of my children will be, having a slave father and an emancipated mother,” he said.

Mubarak and his family are just one case among many. …

In addition to “slaves whose owner can use them however he wants,” the [human rights activists’] report also refers to other groups subjected to slave-like conditions, although they are not bound by documents. … “former slaves who have been officially set free, but remain at the service of their former masters, who continue to feed them but never pay them wages. ”

One group includes “former slaves who have been officially set free, but remain at the service of their former masters, who continue to feed them but never pay them wages,” the report said. … Such people are still referred to as “the slaves of such and such a family, or the slaves of such and such a tribe.”…

The authorities do not want to get into a conflict with the powerful tribes, who form the backbone of Yemeni society, over the slavery issue …

Mubarak dreams of living a normal life, though he doubts being capable of coping with it.

“I dream of living like other people … (But) I have always known myself to do nothing but work on the farm and tend the cattle,” he said.

Ashram, enslaved for 50 years before being freed five years ago by his dying master, appeared to have gone through what Mubarak fears.

“When my master Sheikh Ali Hussein told me ‘I have freed you, Ashram,’ I was happy. I started wondering how to live, where to go, and how to make a living.”

Ashram decided to revert to his old life, becoming a “slave of the village,” he said. “I carry water daily to the houses from a well [so that] I will not die of starvation.”

Is anything being done by World Opinion about slavery? Has the International Court of Justice indicted the slavers and slave-owners? Is the United Nations in uproar over slave labor and the traffic in human beings? Does the General Assembly regularly raise the topic? Does the Human Rights Council condemn slavery in the strongest terms? Has the Security Council passed resolutions (supposed to be binding international law) to put a stop to it? Do Western ambassadors raise the subject of contemporary slavery wherever it is practiced, and propose in the UN what should be done to end it?

Not that we’ve noticed.

What about the International Labor Organization (ILO), the UN “specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights”? What is it doing about slavery?

Ah, yes! That organization published a report titled Stopping Forced Labour, which was discussed by the ILO’s 175 member States at the 89th session of the International Labour Conference. It was a thing to be proud of. It asserted that –

Although universally condemned, forced labour is revealing ugly new faces alongside the old. Traditional types of forced labour such as chattel slavery and bonded labour are still with us in some areas, and past practices of this type haunt us to this day. In new economic contexts, disturbing forms such as forced labour in connection with the trafficking of human beings are now emerging almost everywhere.

“The growth of forced labour worldwide is deeply disturbing,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in announcing the publication … “The emerging picture is one where slavery, exploitation and oppression of society’s most vulnerable members – especially women and children – have by no means been consigned to the past. Abusive control of one human being over another is the antithesis of decent work.”

Although they might vary outwardly, different types of forced labour share two common features: the exercise of coercion and the denial of freedom. It was in recognition of this affront to the human spirit that the ILO Declaration included the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour.

“In light of these findings the entire world needs to re-examine its conscience and instigate action to abolish forced labour and the often terrible living and working conditions that go with it,” Mr. Somavia said.

But that was in May 2001. Maybe they’ve been quietly struggling to “abolish forced labour” ever since, but they certainly haven’t succeeded. (They have not been wholly idle. In 2005 they published another report on what they called “forms of slavery”, dealing chiefly with, and objecting to, the exploitation of illegal Guatamalan immigrants working as fruit-pickers in Florida, and of Romanian migrant workers in German abattoirs.)

Some charitable organizations have made it their business to free slaves held by Muslims in Africa. Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is one such. They conceived the idea of buying slaves and setting them free. Though their motives could not have been higher, the dreadful (and surely predictable) result of their well-meant activity was a boom in the slave trade as more helpless Africans, especially women and children – often the same ones over and over again – were kidnapped in order to be sold to CSI.

We listen attentively for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bold denouncement of slavery, to be followed of course by the Obama administration’s effective action to eliminate it.

Any minute now, d’you think?

PS: The UN must be destroyed!

The long sleep 1

Don’t disturb the workers’ sleep by letting an alarm warn them when they’re in danger of being incinerated and their shelter is about to be blown to bits.

That was what BP’s leaders ordered on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

So the alarm was disabled, and had been for a year before the explosion came that burnt up eleven men, wrecked the rig, and polluted the Gulf of Mexico and its shores with an oil spill that deprived thousands of people of their livelihoods.

Highly considerate idiots, those BP guys.

The Washington Post reports:

Long before an eruption of gas turned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig into a fireball, an alarm system designed to alert the crew and prevent combustible gases from reaching potential sources of ignition had been deliberately disabled, the former chief electronics technician on the rig testified Friday.

Michael Williams, an ex-Marine who survived the April 20 conflagration by jumping from the burning rig, told a federal panel probing the disaster that … the rig had been operating with the gas alarm system in “inhibited” mode for a year to prevent false alarms from disturbing the crew.

He said the explanation he got was that the leadership of the rig did not want crew members needlessly awakened in the middle of the night. …

Read it all, and weep.

Posted under Commentary, News by Jillian Becker on Friday, July 23, 2010

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