Obama is the man who shakes hands with himself.
Amir Taheri writes at Gatestone:
Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the Oct. 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he says he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation”, fixed for Dec. 15.
But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.
The Iranians have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has not even been discussed at the Islamic Republic’s Council of Ministers. Nor has the Tehran government bothered to even provide an official Persian translation of the 159-page text.
The Islamic Majlis, the ersatz parliament, is examining an unofficial text and is due to express its views at an unspecified date in a document “running into more than 1,000 pages”, according to Mohsen Zakani, who heads the “examining committee”.
“The changes we seek would require substantial rewriting of the text,” he adds enigmatically.
Nor have Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia, who were involved in the so-called P5+1 talks that produced the JCPOA, deemed it necessary to provide the Obama “deal” with any legal basis of their own. Obama’s partners have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else. So they have started doing just that without bothering about JCPOA’s other provisions.
Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies blacklisted because of alleged involvement in deals linked to the nuclear issue.
German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, making it the Islamic Republic’s third-largest partner after China.
China has signed preliminary accords to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors.
Russia has started delivering S300 anti-aircraft missile systems and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.
France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate big business deals, including projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports.
Indian trade with Iran has risen by 17 percent, and New Delhi is negotiating massive investment in a rail-and-sea hub in the Iranian port of Chah-Bahar on the Gulf of Oman.
With help from Austrian, Turkish and United Arab Emirates banks, the many banking restrictions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear program have been pushed aside.
“The structures of sanctions built over decades is crumbling,” boasts Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Meanwhile, the nuclear project is and shall remain “fully intact,” says the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi. “We have started working on a process of nuclear fusion that will be cutting-edge technology for the next 50 years,” he adds.
Even before Obama’s “implementation day”, the mullahs are receiving an average of $400 million a month, no big sum, but enough to ease the regime’s cash-flow problems and increase pay for its repressive forces by around 21 percent. …
The mullahs see the “deal” as a means with which Obama would oppose any suggestion of trying to curb Iran.
“Obama won’t do anything that might jeopardize the deal,” says Ziba Kalam, a Rouhani adviser. “This is his biggest, if not only, foreign policy success.”
Let’s pause and contemplate that for a moment! This farce of a deal, this green light to one of the most oppressive regimes on earth to go ahead and become a nuclear power, is – Obama’s “biggest, if not only, foreign policy SUCCESS”!
More follows on this success:
If there have been changes in Tehran’s behavior they have been for the worse. Iran has teamed up with Russia to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria, mocking Obama’s “Assad must go” rhetoric. More importantly, Iran has built its direct military presence in Syria to 7,000 men.
Tehran has also pressured Iraqi Premier Haidar al-Abadi’s weak government to distance itself from Washington and join a dubious coalition with Iran, Russia and Syria.
Certain that Obama is paralyzed by his fear of undermining the non-existent “deal” the mullahs have intensified their backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Last week a delegation was in Tehran with a long shopping list for arms.
In Lebanon, the mullahs have toughened their stance on choosing the country’s next president.
And in Bahrain, Tehran is working on a plan to “ensure an early victory” of the Shiite revolution in the archipelago.
Confident that Obama is determined to abandon traditional allies of the United States, Tehran has also heightened propaganda war against Saudi Arabia, now openly calling for the overthrow of the monarchy there.
The mullahs are also heightening contacts with Palestinian groups in the hope of unleashing a new “Intifada.”
They have done so. (See yesterday’s post, immediately below.)
“Palestine is thirsty for a third Intifada,” Supreme Guide Khamenei’s mouthpiece Kayhan said in an editorial last Thursday. “It is the duty of every Muslim to help start it as soon as possible.”
Obama’s hopes of engaging Iran on other issues were dashed last week when Khamenei declared “any dialogue with the American Great Satan” to be “forbidden”.
“We have no need of America” his adviser Ali-Akbar Velayati added later. “Iran is the region’s big power in its own right.”
Obama had hoped that by sucking up to the mullahs he would at least persuade them to moderate their “hate-America campaign”.
“Death to America” slogans, adorning official buildings in Tehran have been painted afresh along with US flags, painted at the entrance of offices so that they could be trampled underfoot.
None of the US citizens still held hostages in Iran has been released, and one, Washington Post stringer Jason Rezai, is branded as “head of a spy ring “in Tehran. Paralyzed by his fear of undermining the non-existent deal, Obama doesn’t even call for their release.
Government-sponsored anti-American nationwide events are announced for November, anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran.
The annual “End of America” week-long conference is planned for February and is to focus on “African-American victims of US police” and the possibility of “self-determination for blacks.”
Iran is inciting rebellion and treason among Americans.
According to official sources “families of Black American victims” and a number of “black American revolutionaries” have been invited.
Inside Iran, Obama’s “moderate partners” have doubled the number of executions and political prisoners. Last week they crushed marches by teachers calling for release of their leaders. Hundreds of trade unionists have been arrested and a new “anti-insurrection” brigade paraded in Tehran to terrorize possible protestors.
The Obama deal may end up as the biggest diplomatic scam in recent history.
Obama’s “war on coal” is actually, of course, his “war on capitalism”.
Stephen Moore writes at Investor’s Business Daily:
At the very moment President Obama has decided to shutter America’s coal industry in favor of much more expensive and less efficient “renewable energy”, coal use is surging across the globe.
A new study by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences detects an unmistakable “coal renaissance” under way that shows this mineral of fossilized carbon has again become “the most important source of energy-related emissions on the global scale“.
Coal is expanding rapidly “not only in China and India but also across a broad range of developing countries — especially poor, fast-growing countries mainly in Asia”, the study finds.
Why is coal such a popular energy source now? The NAS study explains that many nations are attracted to “(relatively) low coal prices … to satisfy their energy needs”. It also finds “the share of coal in the energy mix indeed has grown faster for countries with higher economic growth”.
In sum, using coal is a stepping stone to prosperity. So much for it being a satanic energy source.
Hardly a day passes without evidence that coal is making a major comeback:
- Some 1,200 coal plants are planned across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India, according to the World Resources Institute.
- Coal use around the world has grown about four times faster than renewables, according to the global energy monitoring publication BP Review of World Energy 2015.
- German coal “will remain a major, and probably the largest, fuel source for power generation for another decade and perhaps longer”, the Financial Times concludes.
- “The U.S. is dropping coal plants at an unprecedented rate, but still nowhere near as quickly as India is adding them,” Bloomberg Business reckons.
“By the end of this year, some 7.5% of the U.S. coal fleet will have disappeared … . But by 2020 India may have built about 2.5 times as much capacity as the U.S. is about to lose.”
Then, of course, there’s the world’s biggest coal addict by far — the People’s Republic of China. According to a 2014 report from Eric Lawson of Princeton University, a leading climate change apocalyptic on the left:
“The reality is that fossil fuels dominate China’s energy landscape, as they do in virtually every other country. And the focus on renewables also hides the fact that China’s reliance upon coal is predicted to keep growing.”
Lawson’s calculations of how coal use is growing in China are jaw-dropping. “From 2010 through 2013, (China) added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week for seven straight years. And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.”
All this underscores the foolishness and futility of the Obama climate-change regulations designed to drastically reduce coal production in the U.S.
The great excuse for the Left’s “war on coal” is that it’s burning adds CO2 to the atmosphere. And the Left has spread the dogma that CO2, the food of all green plants, is a pollutant, a “green house gas” which “causes global warming”.
But even assuming that to be true, as Stephen Moore apparently does …
As we use less [coal] and the rest of the world uses more, the impact on global temperatures will be very close to zero.
Coal production in the U.S. is much safer and less carbon-intensive (clean coal technologies have reduced pollutants by 30%) than coal from other nations. So Obama’s war on coal may make global warming worse.
Some might say this gesture by the Obama administration to cut off coal production in the U.S. is a useful first step to save the planet. Except this isn’t just a cheap sign of goodwill.
It’s a tremendously expensive gesture that will cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise utility prices by as much as $1,000 per family and reduce GDP by as much half a percentage point a year when we are already barely growing. The poor will be hurt most.
What makes the Obama administration regulations doubly destructive is that the U.S. has more coal than any other nation.
With at least 300 years of supply at a value of trillions of dollars, we are truly the Saudi Arabia of coal.
To leave it in the ground would be like Obama telling Nebraska to stop growing corn, Idaho to stop growing potatoes and Silicon Valley to give up on the digital age.
Ironically, the president justifies his war on coal by arguing, “We must lead so that others will follow.” But outside of dreamland, the rest of the world has no intention of following Mr. Obama’s act of economic masochism.
Most nations value getting richer over getting greener — as well they should.
Given the sad state of our economy today, so should we.
Slavery is not a thing of the past. Some 36 million people are counted this year as slaves. And there are certainly countless more.
Many domestic servants in Arab countries – Saudi Arabia for instance – are not counted as slaves because in theory they are paid wages, but their conditions of work are conditions of enslavement and many go unpaid in practice.
Almost the entire population of North Korea could be described as enslaved in their own country. And according to the Guardian: “Thousands of migrant labourers from North Korea are toiling for years on construction sites in Qatar for virtually no pay – including on the vast new metropolis that is the centrepiece of the World Cup – in what may amount to “state-sponsored slavery”.
And the number of slaves is growing continually, as men of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) – among other devout Muslims – sell women and girls in open slave markets.
Yahoo! News reports:
The Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based human rights group, estimated in its inaugural slavery index last year that 29.8 million people were born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, trapped in debt bondage or exploited for forced labour.
Releasing its second annual index, Walk Free increased its estimate of the number of slaves to 35.8 million, saying this was due to better data collection and slavery being uncovered in areas where it had not been found previously.
For the second year, the index of 167 countries found India had by far the greatest number of slaves. Up to 14.3 million people in its population of 1.25 billion were victims of slavery, ranging from prostitution to bonded labour.
Mauritania was again the country where slavery was most prevalent by head of population while Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, rose up the rank from 96th place to be listed as the fourth worst country by percentage of the population.
“From children denied an education by being forced to work or marry early, to men unable to leave their work because of crushing debts they owe to recruitment agents, to women and girls exploited as unpaid, abused domestic workers, modern slavery has many faces,” the report said.
“It still exists today, in every country – modern slavery affects us all.”
The index defines slavery as the control or possession of people in such a way as to deprive them of their freedom with the intention of exploiting them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception.
The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.
Hereditary slavery is deeply entrenched in the West African country of Mauritania, where four percent of the population of 3.9 million is estimated to be enslaved, the report said.
After Mauritania, slavery was most prevalent in Uzbekistan, where citizens are forced to pick cotton every year to meet state-imposed cotton quotas, and Haiti, where the practice of sending poor children to stay with richer acquaintances or relatives routinely leads to abuse and forced labour, it said. …
The next highest prevalence rates were found in India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria and Central African Republic.
The index showed that 10 countries alone account for 71 percent of the world’s slaves.
After India, China has the most with 3.2 million, then Pakistan (2.1 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million), Russia (1.05 million), Nigeria (834,200), Democratic Republic of Congo (762,900), Indonesia (714,100), Bangladesh (680,900) and Thailand (475,300).
And last year’s report by the Walk Free Foundation recorded this shocking information:
The United States, per capita, has a very low rate of slavery: just 0.02 percent, or one in every 5,000 people. But that adds up to a lot: an estimated 60,000 slaves, right here in America.
And this year?
Here’s the 2014 Walk Free Foundation’s map:
Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video.
Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.
We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.
We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.
Afghanistan is an American protectorate; its kleptocrat president is an American client, kept alive these last twelve years only by American arms. The Afghan campaign is this nation’s longest war — and our longest un-won war: That’s to say, nowadays we can’t even lose in under a decade. I used to say that, 24 hours after the last Western soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. But it’s already as if we were never there. The American imperium has lasted over twice as long as the Taliban’s rule — and yet, unlike them, we left no trace.
So Mark Steyn declares. “All we have built” he writes, “is another squalid sharia state” that practices the stoning to death of adulterers. And we can only nod in sad agreement.
In my book America Alone, I quoted a riposte to the natives by a British administrator. … The chap in question was Sir Charles Napier, out in India and faced with the practice of suttee — the Hindu tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Napier’s response was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
He praises Napier’s “cultural cool”. His confidence in the rightness of his own culture’s laws was “in the long run, more effective than a drone”.
India is better off without suttee, just as Afghanistan would be better off without child marriage, honor killing, death for apostasy, and stoning for adultery. …
The American way of war is to win the war in nothing flat, and then spend the next decade losing the peace. The American people have digested that to the point where they assume that … the next intervention [would be] a fool’s errand. The rest of the world grasps it, too. If Hamid Karzai treats Washington with contempt and gets away with it, why expect the Iranians to behave any differently?
A nation responsible for almost half the planet’s military spending goes into battle with the sentimental multiculti fantasist twaddle of Greg Mortensen’s Three Cups of Tea as its strategy manual — and then wonders why it can’t beat goatherds with fertilizer.
All true. But even if America did manage to put a stop to child marriage, honor killing, death for apostasy, and stoning for adultery in Afghanistan, wouldn’t they resume as soon as the last American troops left? As far as we know, suttee was not resumed in India when the British Raj came to an end. So Napier and his fellow administrators won the argument while they had the power to enforce their law. But that was India, a civilization. Who believes in an Afghan civilization – even if it has had periods with less stoning and more Western pop music in it?
Americans [might] sigh wearily and shrug, “Afghanistan, the graveyard of empire,” or sneer, “If they want to live in a seventh-century s***hole, f*** ’em.” But neither assertion is true. Do five minutes’ googling, and you’ll find images from the Sixties and early Seventies of women in skirts above the knee listening to the latest Beatles releases in Kabul record stores.
Those are undeniable signs of our culture, but are they the best we have to give for the improvement of barbarous s***holes? They are far from matching Napier’s gift to India. But nor are they the worst. What would be most representative of American culture now? The deeply depressing answer may have been given by the Obama Administration and the Pentagon: that cloying lying little book Three Cups of Tea.
Nelson Mandela is a life-long Communist. He even cobbled together a little book called “How To Be A Good Communist”. He co-founded and directed a terrorist organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). He never stopped admiring tyrannies and red dictatorships.
The Mahatma Gandhi was a rather cruel man. He deliberately kept the fifty or so poor Indian workers who labored on his South African farm – which he called “Tolstoy Farm” – on starvation rations, in pursuit of a theory that the body could learn to survive on virtually no food. He also paid them no wages, so it would not be wrong to call them slaves. He abandoned the wife and child he acquired during his years in South Africa, left them with no means of subsistence when he returned to India. In 1946 he commented on the Holocaust, “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife.” By his own confession he was a lecher before he conceived the theory that the body could learn to live without sex. Then to prove his ability to resist temptation, he would, as an old man, have nubile young girls sleep beside him without ever taking advantage of them. What the girls felt about the experiment has not been recorded. He was also a poseur. The image he liked to project of a man who needed nothing but a loin-cloth and a spinning wheel was belied by the colossal expense the British Foreign Office was put to in 1931 in order to meet his demand to “live among the poor” in the East End of London. They had to buy houses, repair them, guard them, furnish them comfortably while leaving the Mahatma a bare room in which to meet diplomats and the press. Had he demanded a whole floor of the Ritz Hotel it would have cost his hosts less.
Gandhi is long dead, and now it seems Nelson Mandela is dying. There will be obituaries and eulogies extravagantly praising him – if also some criticism of him for being too soft or too hard, depending on whether it comes from the left or the right. But Mandela, like Gandhi, will be made as immortal as a mortal can be made.
The human race needs its heroic saviors. It needs its Mandela, its Gandhi, as it has needed its Moses, its Jesus Christ, its Muhammad, its Buddha.
Mandela must be the hero-martyr who bought black freedom from white oppression with his own long incarceration; who set an example of forgiveness; who remained peaceable despite intense provocation to resort to violence. He must be a model of patient virtue under racist oppression; the perfect unvengeful victim who rose to be the gentle leader of a new democratic South Africa.
That picture is false, like the one of Gandhi as a good and simple man. And Gandhi no more liberated India from the British Raj with his passive resistance movement than Mandela overthrew apartheid with his revolutionary leadership exercised from a prison cell.
But the truth about Mandela and Gandhi will not matter. It will not make any difference to what they must stand for in order to satisfy a human need. Mandela the Idol is bigger far than the real man, and so is the Idol named Gandhi. In each case the myth has already replaced the man.
Good saviors these will remain in the collective esteem, the personifications of dearly held ideals. As deeply as the ideals are needed, their personifications will be adored and celebrated, and can no more be allowed to have had weaknesses and vices than the ideals themselves can be forsaken. Our idols prove to us that our highest moral aspirations are attainable; that we are beings capable of perfection. It is our vanity that will preserve them.
Jillian Becker June 12, 2013
Fire or ice 22
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
– Robert Frost
This is from Canada Free Press by Robert Felix:
Satellite data show that glaciers in part of the Karakoram range on the China-Pakistan border are putting on mass, defying the general trend toward glacier shrinkage. In an article entitled “Slight mass gain of Karakoram glaciers in the early twenty-first century,” Researchers from the National Centre for Scientific Research and the University of Grenoble admit to “an anomalous gain of mass” for the Karakoram glaciers.
This is in direct contradiction to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which claimed that ice from most of the region could disappear by 2035.
Often considered a part of the Himalayas, the Karakoram range, which runs through Pakistan, India and China, is technically a separate chain that includes K2, the world’s second-highest peak. …
We’re talking about the greatest chain of ice-capped peaks in the world — from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan — and satellite measurements show that they have lost NO ice in the past 10 years.
Not only have they lost no ice, in a defiant act of political incorrectness, some 230 glaciers in the western Himalayas – including Mount Everest, K2 and Nanga Parbat – are actually growing.
“These are the biggest mid-latitude glaciers in the world,” says John Shroder of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “And all of them are either holding still, or advancing.”
And get this. Eighty seven of those glaciers have surged forward since the 1960s.
But we don’t need to look to the Himalayas for growing glaciers. Glaciers are also growing in the United States. Yes, in the United States.
Look at California. All seven glaciers on California’s Mount Shasta are growing, including three-mile-long Whitney glacier, the state’s largest.
Farther north in Washington State, the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier is growing. The Emmons Glacier on Mt. Rainier is growing. Glaciers on Glacier Peak in northern Washington are growing. And Crater Glacier on Mt. Saint Helens is now larger than it was before the 1980 eruption.
Even farther north, the Juneau Icefield, which covers 1,505 square miles (3,900 sq km) and is the fifth-largest ice field in the Western Hemisphere, is also growing.
Are these growing glaciers also just “an anomalous gain of mass”? Well, let’s look at a few other countries.
• Perito Moreno Glacier, the largest glacier in Argentina, is growing.
• Pio XI Glacier, the largest glacier in Chile, is growing.
• Glaciers are growing on Mt. Logan, the tallest mountain in Canada.
• Glaciers are growing on Mt. Blanc, the tallest mountain in France.
• Glaciers are growing in Norway, says the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).
• And the last time I checked, all 50 glaciers in New Zealand were growing. (The Franz Josef glacier is advancing at the rate of 4 to 7 feet per day!)
But these glaciers are babies when you look at our planet’s largest ice mass, namely, the Antarctic ice sheet.
Contrary to what you may have heard, this huge ice sheet is growing.
In 2007, Antarctica set a new record for most ice extent since 1979, says meteorologist Joe D’Aleo.
Antarctic sea ice has also been increasing, on average, since 1980.
Think about that.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is almost twice as big as the contiguous United States, is about 90 times bigger than all of the rest of the world’s glaciers combined.
Close to 90 percent of the world’s glaciers are growing, in other words, and all we hear about are the ones that are shrinking.
Welcome to the new ice age.
Are the warmists embarrassed? Well, yes:
“Our measurements…indicate that the contribution of Karakoram glaciers to sea-level rise was -0.01 mm yr for the period from 1999 to 2008,” write the French researchers [Julie Gardelle, Etienne Berthier, Yves Arnaud].
Huh? What does that mean? “The contribution to sea-level rise was MINUS 0.01 mm per year”? …
“Why this should be is not clear,” writes BBC News environment correspondent Richard Black. “Though it is well known from studies in other parts of the world that climate change can cause extra precipitation into cold regions which, if they are cold enough, gets added to the existing mass of ice.”
Get that? Global warming adds to the existing mass of ice (“climate change” being the replacement phrase for “global warming” since global warming paused in the last ten years).
Uh huh. First we’re told that global warming will melt all of the world’s glaciers and sea levels will rise catastrophically. Now, we’re being told that global warming will make the glaciers grow and contribute – in a minus sort of way – to sea level rise. Does that mean that sea levels will fall?
If it does mean that, you won’t hear the warmists say so. They believe that sea levels will rise, so rise they must.
Seems, one way or another, the earth has only about 5 billion more years before Carl Sagan’s promised “last perfect day” and then …
In memory of Christopher Hitchens, who died two days ago, here is a video from October 2007 in which he talks about the “profane marriage between media-hype and medieval superstition and the icon it gave birth to” – Mother Teresa.
God is dead.
He died last April.
He had been incarnated as a man known as Sai Baba. He performed miracles. And he never accepted gifts, but simply couldn’t help becoming very rich on donations for his good works.
From the Telegraph:
A lifetime of claiming to be the incarnation of God had brought him a £5.5 billion fortune and a worldwide following of 50 million people. …
The big draw of Sai Baba was the darshan – a glimpse of the God made incarnate – that came twice a day as the little man with the big hair walked among the faithful, sharing a few words with the lucky ones, before taking his place on the long stage beneath which he is now buried. …
As many as 10,000 people could pack into the gaudy main hall, with its golden lions, pink, blue and white colour scheme and glittering chandeliers dangling overhead, to listen to his message of love and compassion. ..
In his prime, the diminutive holy man with the bright orange robes and huge afro haircut could count kings and presidents among his friends, and the likes of Sarah Ferguson …
There’s glory for you!
… among the admirers of his home-spun, “love all, serve all” philosophy.
And “con all” practice.
The film actress Goldie Hawn has visited his religious centre or ashram at least three times and donated tens of thousands of dollars to his projects … while the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who gave £40,000 for a statue of the guru, and a myriad of Indian politicians and Bollywood stars claimed inspiration from his message of putting service above self.
Sai Baba’s … non-denominational ashram in the town of Puttaparthi in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh was a beacon for Indians and westerners seeking spiritual enlightenment, no matter what their original religion – which the guru said they could maintain.
Now that he’s dead, the spiritually enlightened are finding out that even a God can have his faults.
After a decent interval, the stone was rolled back from the mouth of his tomb and … No, wait! That was another story. The discovery in Puttaparthi was this:
Members of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, which runs the ashram, a religious centre, decided that speculation about what might be inside the guru’s private chambers was getting out of hand. The rooms had lain apparently untouched since the 84-year-old spiritual leader was taken ill in March.
The Trust decided to open the rooms, but with caution: the police were kept at a distance and the media were locked out. A select group assembled, including the controversial figure of Satyajit, Sai Baba’s carer, apparently the only person who could penetrate the chambers’ elaborate security. They took the lift to the first floor, opened the door and stepped inside.
What they found made even the wildest rumours seem tame: stacked around the room were piles of gold, diamonds and cash. Cashiers with counting machines were summoned …
A procession of cashiers bearing counting machines, hurrying to the treasuries! A movie scene that.
… and reported that the haul included £1.6 million in rupees, 98 kg of gold and 307 kg of silver. (No figure was provided for the diamonds.)
The Trust denied any previous knowledge of the hoard, said it had immediately paid tax on its value, and denied any impropriety.
Well, we don’t see anything too bad there. Why shouldn’t God be rich when he comes to earth?
Thing is, they’re accusing him of deception, of getting money under false pretenses, of being wily and worldly and not sufficiently God-like. What a shock!
Rumors spread “of more treasure hidden away around the sprawling building, of false ceilings and further underground hoards”. …
One source within the ashram said: “The police have definite intelligence of the existence of secret vaults, and concealed storage in false ceilings and behind false walls in Sai Baba’s personal living quarters. They strongly believe that the wealth hidden there could be much more than what was actually found, perhaps on a staggering scale.”
Suspicion began to grow that vast sums had already been smuggled out. Three days later, police stopped a car carrying Trust members near the border with a neighbouring state – and found the equivalent of £50,000 in cash inside.
What, those honest Trust members, so quick to pay taxes, stole money and tried to smuggle it out of the country? (But why such a paltry sum once they were doing it?)
The Trust first denied any connection with the money, then claimed it had been donated by devotees to pay for a memorial.
The revelations have tested the faith of even the staunchest devotees, said a former member of Sai Baba’s security and intelligence wing. “News is constantly trickling in from Puttaparthi that Sai Baba devotees have been shaken by the huge haul of wealth as well as big cash seizures in the following days,” he said. “Many Sai Baba devotees I know, real hard-core devotees that is, are not even attempting to defend or deny the gold, cash hauls, and are in a complete state of confusion.
Some blame trust members, while a few are asking, “Why did Swami have to keep so much gold and cash? Didn’t Swami always say he never accepted gifts? Who to believe or what to believe?”
Why indeed? And who and what to believe? The eternal questions.
God’s death is turning out to be bad for business in the area:
The implications have not been lost on the people of Puttaparthi, whose livelihoods depend on a constant stream of pilgrims. It was a tiny village when Sai Baba was born there; as he grew in stature it became a thriving town, but business has slumped since his death.
Mind you, miracle-worker though he was, he’d lost control of his own limbs well before the end came:
In later years a stroke obliged Sai Baba to make his way through the vast hall in a specially converted car before taking his place on the stage in his removable white leather car seat, trimmed with gold painted plastic. Still the faithful came. …
But death is a real bummer. Gods should not let it to happen to them.
India is not short of gurus and the fear in Puttaparthi is that those seeking enlightenment will now turn their attentions to other, more vital, sages.
The commercial empire God acquired remains:
There is still a £5.5 billion empire up for grabs, including 1,200 centres in more than 100 countries and a string of hospitals and schools around the world – and there is no shortage of contenders to take control.
The front-runners include 39-year-old R.J. Ratnakar, the guru’s nephew, who owns a petrol station and a cable television network, and Satyajit, 33, Sai Baba’s closest companion for the last nine years.
But they face a spirited challenge from Isaac Tigrett, the Hard Rock Cafe founder, one of the guru’s earliest and staunchest supporters – so much so that he borrowed Sai Baba’s “love all, serve all” slogan for his restaurant chain to help publicise the guru’s message. Mr Tigrett, who donated £4 million to build a hospital at the ashram and has spent much of the last few years at the compound, claims to be the guru’s “living will”. Sai Baba had, he said, confided in him along his plans for the future of the organisation – and he would reveal all later this year.
That cut no ice with the board members of the Trust, however, who dismissed his claims.
“Even a couple of months ago, what has now happened was still unimaginable,” said Robert Priddy, the Sai Baba organisation’s former Norwegian leader.
Norway is a nation with an exceptional appetite for BS. Norwegians award Peace Prizes to terrorists and community organizers who’ve never achieved a damn thing. So we’re not surprised to learn of a Norwegian branch of the Sai Baba cult. Though Mr Priddy seems to have been given pause before the posthumous revelations broke:
Mr Priddy was once a believer but lost his faith as the allegations of sexual abuse which dogged Sai Baba’s final decades began to mount – though not before himself donating a total of £13,500.
Allegations of sexual abuse? God was lubricious as well as avaricious?
For former devotees like Robert Priddy, all this is simply proof that they were right to walk away when they did. “I feel satisfied that his death 10 years before his own prediction and under such inauspicious circumstances further vindicated my views on the falsity of his claims of omnipotence and divinity,” he said.
Into the most faithful heart a little doubt may creep. But there’s a good chance that the disappointed Mr Priddy, and the kings and presidents, and Sarah Ferguson and Goldie Hawn, and Isaac Tigrett of the Hard Rock Cafe chain, and Sachin Tendulkar, and the politicians and the Bollywood stars will find someone else’s claim to omnipotence, divinity, and complete lack of any care for base material things such as filthy lucre, more lastingly believable. Any day now.
Should the United States refrain from any intervention in the world beyond its borders except in its own incontrovertible interest?
Or should it act as the world’s policeman? Does it have a “responsibility to protect”- if so, whom from what? Populations from their rulers? Vulnerable groups from any and all attackers?
To bring the debate to the moment and the actual, should the US keep its forces in Afghanistan after 10 years of fighting savage peasants and failing to crush them? Should there still be a US military presence in Iraq? In Germany? In South Korea? Should the US be fighting – as it is – in Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen?
Should it not be using force to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power? And immediately against Iran’s ally, Bashar Assad, the bloody tyrant of Syria?
Should it not be outspending China on defense?
Should it not be helping Georgia liberate two of its provinces from Russia?
Should it be protecting South Sudan from its northern neighbors and their Ugandan proxies? Or the Nigerian Christians from their Muslim persecutors? Or the ethnic African Muslims of Dafur from the Arab Muslims who are raping, robbing, hounding and massacring them? Or destroying the pirates of Somalia? Or putting an end to the Arab/African slave trade?
Can those who answer yes to the first question fairly be called “isolationists”?
David Harsanyi considers, in a column at Townhall, whether the label is apt when applied to those who want America to withdraw from Afghanistan and refrain from any further participation in the NATO intervention in Libya:
There’s been a lot of talk about an alleged turn in American public opinion — particularly among Republicans — toward “isolationism.”
In a recent debate among GOP presidential hopefuls, there was some discussion about ending the United States’ commitment to the tribal warlords and medieval shamans of the Afghan wilderness. This induced John McCain to complain about the rise of a new “strain of isolationism” … McCain sidekick Lindsey Graham went on to notify Congress that it “should sort of shut up and not empower Gadhafi” when the topic of the House’s potentially defunding the military — er, kinetic, non-warlike bombing activity over Libya — came up. It would be a mistake, he vented, for Republican candidates to sit “to the left” of President Barack Obama on national security.
So if you don’t shut up and stop carping about this non-war war of ours, you are abetting North African strongmen. Makes sense. It’s the return of Teddy Roosevelt-style Republicanism, in which arbitrary power (and John McCain’s singular wisdom) matters a lot more than any democratic institution.
Sure, some on the far right and swaths of the protectionist, union-driven left oppose international trade agreements and [are] endlessly freaking us out about foreign influences.
Our interpolation: Is this protectionist section of the left aware of the left-elite’s longing for world government?
But isolationists? Judging from our conduct in the real world of economy, we’re anything but insular. So perhaps McCain simply meant noninterventionists — as in folks who have an unwavering ideological aversion to any and all overseas entanglement.
That can’t be it, either. Maybe, like many Americans, some in the GOP are simply grappling with wars that never end and a war that never started.
And with plenty of troubles here at home, it’s not surprising that Americans have turned their attention inward.
We can’t be in a constant state of war. Then again, Afghanistan is not a war per se, but a precarious social engineering project that asks our best and bravest (or, as our ally Hamid Karzai calls them, “occupiers”) to die for the Afghan Constitution, which is roundly ignored — except for the parts codifying Islamic law, that is. But all these conflicts come with the price of endless involvement. We almost always win.
When and where? Since World War Two, where has America won a hot war? Oh yes – against Granada.
But we never really go home. …
Did sometimes. From Granada after victory. From Vietnam after defeat.
This week, we learned that Obama rejected the advice of lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department who questioned his legal authority to continue this nonmilitary military involvement in Libya without congressional authorization. Instead, the administration offered a string of euphemisms concocted to bypass the Constitution.
Without any tangible evidence that this conflict furthers our national interests or any real proof that we are preventing a wide-scale humanitarian crisis, it’s not a surprise that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we’re “leading from behind” — which is, in fact, as stupid and deceptive as the case it doesn’t make.
Are you an isolationist for questioning those who continue to weaken the Constitution? … Are you an isolationist for questioning this brand of obfuscation? Are you an isolationist for wanting American forces to win and leave the battlefield rather than hang around for decades of baby-sitting duty?
And Tony Blankley writes, also at Townhall:
I was one of the first GOP internationalist-oriented commentators or politicians to conclude that the Afghanistan War effort had served its initial purpose and that it was time to phase out the war. As a punitive raid against the regime that gave succor to Osama bin Laden, we had removed the Taliban government and killed as many al-Qaida and Taliban fighters as possible. …
But as the purpose of that war turned into nation building, even GOP internationalists had a duty to reassess whether, given the resources and strategy being brought to the new purpose, such policy was likely to be effective.
Now many others in the GOP and in the non-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party are likewise judging failure in Afghanistan to be almost inevitable. That is not a judgment driven by isolationism. Neither are we isolationist in our judgment (along with the opinion of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and almost the entire uniformed chain of command) that we see no national interest in Libya.
This is not isolationism; it is a rational effort at judging how best to advance American values and interests in an ever-more witheringly dangerous world.
Both Harsanyi’s and Blankley ‘s opinions are apt as far as they go.
But the problem is deeper, the questions that need to be raised about foreign policy harder than those they are answering.
Can America have a coherent foreign policy that America itself and the other states of the world can depend upon for any useful length of time? The two political parties are now so divided ideologically that foreign policy will depend on whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat. It will necessarily chop and change. Or if relations with some states stay more or less the same for a while, they will do so unreliably.
Could the very uncertainty characterize foreign policy usefully? No foreign state being secure in its relations with the US, each would have to be vigilant, tack according to the US wind, adjust to the changes. A case could be made that a Machiavellian preference to be feared by other nations rather than loved might serve America well.
But there are other developments to be considered. In countries throughout the world – led in this by Europe – there is an ideological tendency towards world government. The nation state is not liked: new political alignments, such as the European Union, are trying to phase it out. Democrats, for the most part, are in sympathy with the movement; Republicans are not. Democrats – like most leftists everywhere – have a vision of the UN turning into a world government; Republicans – many of them at least – would be happy to see the monstrous institution disbanded. It cannot continue long as it is: being a house of lies, it must fall down.
NATO is weakening. Letting Turkey into it was fatal. No longer secular, Turkey is now in the camp of Islam, inimical to the West.
The world as it was conceived to be after World War Two is changing kaleidoscopically under our eyes.
In relation to the rest of the world, what are American interests? How should they be pursued?
Should America concentrate on preserving itself as a fenced-in area of freedom on an otherwise unfree planet? That would be isolationism. Should it form a union with other as-yet-free nation-states: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel? India perhaps? Honduras? Papau? …
What would such a union do, what would be in its joint interest – “spreading democracy”, “protecting civilians”, “building nations”? The questions troubling America now would trouble it jointly, and the answers remain as hard to find.