Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Queer Reasoning

The City of Philadelphia has punted its local Boy Scout chapter from its headquarters, which is has occupied since 1928.

Not for failure to pay rent.

Rather, the City Council voted overwhelmingly to kick the Scouts out unless they either "[reversed] the national Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays serving in the ranks or as scoutmasters ..."

One would think that a local organization that gets 56,000 boys, many without father figures, to "spend countless hours cleaning parks, running food drives, and organizing meals for the needy" would be something to laud, not ostracize.

The alternative: start coughing up the "market" rent of $200,000 per year. Despite the fact that:
For the past 80 years, the scouts have leased their corner lot off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a nominal fee. And they have made the site their own by building a three-story 8,928-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style headquarters with private funds. ... And each year they spend about $60,000 on maintenance. In 1994, they spent $2.6 million on renovations.
What started this exercise in nose cutting and face spiting was the US Supreme Court decision in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, a private organization, could exclude homosexuals.
Following the ruling, local governments and organizations across the country took aim at the scouts.

The Philadelphia chapter lost annual six-figure donations from the United Way and the Pew Charitable Trusts, according to Mark Chilutti, vice chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council.
To some degree, the Scouts have brought this upon themselves. By characterizing homosexuality as a choice, by definition morally wrong, the Scouts have both painted themselves into a rapidly shrinking corner, as well as handing their opponents the stick with which to beat the Scouts.

Far better to take the gay argument as given: homosexuality is innate, no more a choice than left handedness or hair color; however, it is an unchosen characteristic with real consequences. That would allow the Boy Scouts to exclude gays for the same reason they exclude Girl Scouts: sorry, wrong gender.

Just as girls are characteristically different than boys, gays are different, also. Gender is more than just plumbing. It makes no more sense to excoriate the Boy Scouts for excluding girls, or vice versa, than it does to start grabbing torches and pitch forks for the Girl Scouts decision to also exclude gays.

Or for that matter, the Girl Scouts excluding male scoutmasters, never mind making it nearly impossible for fathers to accompany their daughters on Girl Scout camping expeditions.

The only difference among these is that only one is being pilloried at the altar of phantom equality.

The Boy Scouts could do themselves no end of good by ditching religiously derived nonsense in favor of reality, then hoisting their opponents upon their own arguments.

Of course, the outcome would be the same. Pity the City Council, whose collective IQs would leave a room decidedly chilly, can't figure that out.

Full disclosure: My son is a Boy Scout, and my wife is secretary for the troop.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thorium: the other white meat

The advent of $100 oil has put many new energy scenarios in play, including a resurgent nuclear industry. One problem with nuclear power is its role in allowing would-be world powers like Iran and Syria to divert the raw materials and by-products of conventional reactors, fissile uranium, into weapons grade plutonium.

But there is another nuclear fuel out there that hasn't gotten a public hearing: thorium.
Ten Essential Facts about Thorium
1. Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive metal, and it has been considered as an alternative nuclear fuel to uranium.
2. Unlike uranium, thorium is non-proliferative: The key advantage of the thorium fuel cycle is that it does NOT produce plutonium and is non-proliferative for that reason.
3. The energy contained in one kilogram of thorium equals that of four thousand tons of coal.
4. The energy stored in the earth's thorium reserves is thought to be greater than that available from all other conventional (fossil) and nuclear fuels combined.
5. Thorium is cheaper and more abundant than uranium (approx three times more abundant in the Earth's crust than all forms of uranium combined).
6. The thorium fuel cycle produces less radioactive waste than uranium (1,000 to 10,000 times less than in conventional reactors).
7. Unlike natural uranium where only the 0.7% sliver of isotope 235 is fissionable, thorium is fully used in the fuel cycle.
8. Unlike uranium, thorium can burn plutonium waste from traditional nuclear reactors with additional energy output.
9. Unlike uranium, thorium is not suitable for the production of weapons-grade materials.
10. Global reserves of thorium (India, Australia, Norway and the U.S. possess the largest reserves) could cover the world’s energy needs for thousands of years.
Reference Note: Information compiled from the IAEA, World Nuclear Association and scientific journals.

More info here.

The only question now is if the Green movement's global warming hysteria is powerful enough to overcome its fear of nuclear power. Thorium is more abundant, cheaper and cleaner than uranium, can't be use for nuclear weapons production and doesn't produce greenhouse gases. So what's to stop the Thorium Express?

Update: Playing with the numbers, I get:
US has 400,000 tons of thorium reserves.
1 kg of thorium is the energy equivalent of 4,000 tons of coal.
So the US thorium reserves is the equivalent of 1.2 trillion tons of coal. Current US coal reserves, which are the worlds largest, are 273 billion tons. Our thorium reserves are worth roughly five times our coal reserves.

Worldwide there are 2.5 million tons of thorium reserves and 900 billion tons of coal reserves. Worldwide thorium reserves equals 6.6 trillion tons of coal, or about 7.4 times the world coal reserves.

Source of thorium stats: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html

Update 2: Here's a blog dedicated to the future of thorium based nuclear energy:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Duck's Movie Matinee: Vantage Point

I just returned from watching "Vantage Point", starring Dennis Quaid, Sigourney Weaver, Forrest Whittaker, William Hurt and a lot of swarthy Spanish extras. All in all it is a good, fast paced political thriller in the style of "The Bourne Identity" and "24". The President of the US, played by Hurt, is shot in a crowded Spanish plaza while giving a speech at an anti terrorism conference of world leaders. The fateful events are replayed several times, each time from the vantage point of a different player in the drama. Each rewind and replay of the events adds new twists, introduces new players and fills out the picture a little more.
Early on I suspected that the movie would be another Hollywood take on the ugly American syndrome, and I was partially correct. There is some liberal preachiness about the US War on Terror, typical "cycle of violence" pap. But refreshingly for a Hollywood production the bad guys really are the terrorists.
The plot is pretty far fetched, and you have to be a real conspiracy theorist to find it in the least bit plausible. But if you're willing to suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes, you'll find it to be a tight, fast paced thrill ride. Four quacks.

Religion makes you sad

Don't believe any of those polls that show religious people are happier than secular people. R R Reno says that religious people experience more sadness at the thought of death than those who do not believe in an afterlife:

In his meditation on the sources of human community, “Death and Politics,” Jody Bottum makes a case for the foundational importance of death, mourning, and the grave. The dark universality of grief, he argues, glues us together. “We create true communities,” Bottum writes, “only when we have shared death.” We live as we bury.

Thoughts about death and its role in the affairs of the living take us into deep and, as Bottum rightly observes, “dangerous waters.” As a Jew or a Christian, the currents can be hard to swim in. Biblical faith denies the finality of death and trusts in the promises of God. For secular critics, this confidence epitomizes the self-deluding, reality-denying atmosphere of religious belief. “Of all things, death is most certain and cannot be evaded,” the critic says, “and this kind of evasion is exactly what makes faith so repugnant. It makes a mockery of the real experiences of loss and grief that we all feel when a loved one dies.”

Well said, but is it so? Does the promise of eternal life deny the reality of death and help us escape from grief? Is faith an evasion, a psycho-social narcotic developed to avoid the pain of loss?

If we turn to the Bible, then we will be surprised to discover that, in the primal history of humanity, death seems to evoke no strong emotional responses. True enough, death comes as punishment for transgression. But it is an affliction that seems readily accommodated in the subsequent generations. Abel’s blood cries out from the ground, but the book of Genesis makes no mention of Adam or Eve mourning the loss of his life. The generations are recounted. Seth begat Enosh, Enosh begat Kenan, and so on to Noah. Each receives his full allotment of years, but we read no descriptions of weeping or wailing over the dead. It seems that men and women can feel jealousy, lust, ambition, and shame, but not the bitterness of loss. Death seems to become nothing more than a simple, nonnegotiable, and brutal fact of life, no more to be mourned than the setting of the sun.

But something odd happens. With Abraham comes the promise: land, prosperity, and the immortality of countless descendants. Here we find the first step toward Sinai and the covenant of life that Christians believe is fulfilled in Christ. Then Sarah dies, just as Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, died before, and just as her own son Isaac and his sons and the sons of his sons will die in their own time. And for the very first time in the Bible, we find a scene of mourning. Abraham enters her tent and weeps over his dead wife (Gen. 23:2).

As with trying to untangle a mass of knotted Christmas lights, one approaches untangling the mess of Reno's argument with the quandary "where do I begin?" First off, can we really expect Genesis to provide an objective anthropological view of the grief habits of pre-Biblical people? This is a tale that, we are told by authoritative Christians and Jews who comment on this blog on a frequent basis, is largely methaphorical and allegorical, and in no way records literal history. Now we are to believe that it can be used to derive the psychological habits of pre-historic human tribes and cultures. That's rich, it is.

But even if you accept Genesis as an authoritative text, are we to believe that primal people didn't grieve because Genesis didn't record that Adam and Eve grieved the loss of Abel? So now absence of evidence is evidence of absence?

I don't understand why Reno feels a need to make this argument, other than as a game of spiritual one-upmanship. Let it not be said that secular people can best the religious in any human endeavor. Christians are both the happiest and the saddest of people. So there!

I don't know how this new argument will help the recruiting efforts. "You think you fear death now? Come to Christ, and you will fear death like you never thought possible!" They might want to think about this some more.

In chaos there is profit

Belgrade Looters Become You Tube Hit
Feb 23 12:52 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - Can looting be patriotic? Two women who took part in the Belgrade riots to protest Kosovo's independence seem to think the two go hand in hand. A video clip now on the Internet—entitled "Kosovo for Sneakers"—shows two girls going from shop to shop with armfuls of looted items.

Goods drip from their overburdened arms. They drop a sweater, but pick up a box of chocolates—and on and on.

The mobile phone footage posted Friday on the videosharing Web site You Tube became an instant hit, triggering dozens of comments on local blogs and forums. The girls, surprised at sudden fame, contacted a local television to tell their side of the story.

"We came to Belgrade to defend Kosovo," one of the girls, her face blurred to protect identity and identified only as Maja, told B92 television. "We started looting when they all did."

The rioting in Belgrade broke out at the end of the gathering, which drew about 150,000 people. Groups of hooligans first targeted U.S. and other Western embassies, in an outburst of nationalist anger of the countries' recognition of Kosovo's self-proclaimed statehood.

Rioters set the U.S. Embassy on fire and smashed several other Western missions before police chased them away. But they moved on, destroying and looting shops in the capital city's shopping area.

The video shows the two going from shop to shop.

"We looted because we are poor, not because we are rich," Maja said.

Serbia's state prosecutor pledged Saturday to hunt down the hooligans and looters. The You Tube stars said, "we will bear the consequences if we have to."

"It was too much to issue a warrant for our arrest—as if we killed someone," Jovana told B92. "This state is in chaos."

That last line reminds me of the joke about the boy who murders his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court since he is an orphan. Why is the state in chaos? Because you rioted, you clueless twits!!

Abortion and "false consciousness"

The following rant is inspired by this sickening news story:

Artist hanged herself after aborting her twins

Last Updated: 2:03am GMT 22/02/2008

An artist killed herself after aborting her twins when she was eight weeks pregnant, leaving a note saying: "I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum."

Emma Beck was found hanging at her home in Helston, Cornwall, on Feb 1 2007. She was declared dead early the following day - her 31st birthday.

Her suicide note read: "I told everyone I didn't want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does."

The inquest at Truro City Hall heard that Miss Beck had split up with her boyfriend, referred to as "Ben" after he "reacted badly" to the pregnancy.

She saw her GP before the termination, but missed an appointment at a hospital in Penzance. She then cancelled, but later turned up to an appointment at a clinic at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske. The counsellor was on holiday so a doctor referred Miss Beck to a pregnancy counselling telephone service eight days before carrying out the abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, the inquest heard.

The coroner, Dr Emma Carlyon, ordered that the identities of the doctor who performed the abortion and her lead consultant be kept secret.

The inquest heard that Sylvia Beck, the victim's mother, wrote to the hospital after her daughter's death, saying: "I want to know why she was not given the opportunity to see a counsellor.

"She was only going ahead with the abortion because her boyfriend did not want the twins.

"I believe this is what led Emma to take her own life - she could not live with what she had done."

The doctor said: "I discussed Emma's situation with her, and wrote on the form, 'Unsupported, lives alone, ex-partner aware'.

"It is normal practice to give a woman the number for telephone counselling when a counsellor is not available.

"I am satisfied that everything was done to make sure that Emma consented to the operation.

She added: "We have since appointed more counsellors so there is more holiday cover."

Katie Gibbs, Miss Beck's GP, told the hearing: "She was extremely distressed by the abortion procedure, and I didn't think she ever came to terms with it.

"She had a long history of anxiety and depression. Despite my best efforts, she was not willing to see a counsellor after the termination."

Her boss at the clinic, said: "The time that can be given to a woman by a counsellor is limited in a busy hospital.

"I am satisfied everything was done to make sure Emma was consenting to surgery. I don't feel there was any gap in the counselling service.

"There were lots of individuals who would be alert to any doubts. The comments made by Emma's mother are not about a doctor I recognise."

Mrs Beck told the court: "Emma was considered a talented artist, and sold a number of paintings.

"She was pleased when she became pregnant, but Ben reacted badly to the news."

Recording a verdict of suicide, Dr Carlyon said: "It is clear that a termination can have a profound effect on a woman's life.

"But I am reassured by the evidence of the doctors here."

The last sentences should send chills up your spine. A woman who would have loved to be a mother of twins comes to the monstrous decision to abort them, and the medical system carries out her obviously troubled wish with the efficiency and dispatch of a well oiled production line. The only regret from the medical authorities seems to be that there was a slip-up on getting her the necessary counseling after the abortion instead of before, as if the reality of exstinguishing the lives of her two children was something of small consequence that could be dealt with by a few counseling sessions.

I'm using the term "false consciousness" in this regard, a term coined by Karl Marx because if that term ever had any real applicable meaning, it is to the notion that it is in women's self interest to consider abortion an acceptable lifestyle choice of no more moral import than the choice of career or hairstyle. To paraphrase, false consciousness is:
Any belief, idea, ideology, etc., that interferes with an exploited and oppressed person or group being able to perceive the objective nature and source of their oppression.

Elective abortion, it seems, hasn't liberated women at all. It has mainly benefitted men by allowing them to avoid the responsibility of supporting children that they bring into the world through their own selfish sexual activities. There was a time when society didn't care how a man reacted to the news that he had conceived children. His fatherhood wasn't an optional role that he could choose to take or leave. But feminism changed all that. Feminism has conned two generations of women into believing that they have been liberated by the choice of raising children alone with no ability to make a moral claim on the father for support, or to choose to kill her children.

Is it sexist to say that women aren't by nature killers? That they have to be indoctrinated into committing such heinous acts by a morally corrupt society? If so, then I'm a sexist.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When did they add a lawyer to the flight crew?

Bombing missions over Iraq and Afghanistan have become so high tech and sophisticated now that every mission is vetted by a lawyer for compliance with international law.
Feb. 15, 2008 | UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, THE MIDDLE EAST -- The cavernous control room used by the U.S. Air Force to manage the air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan looks exactly how you'd expect it to look in a Hollywood movie. The lights are low. Around 50 camouflage-clad men and women lean forward in their chairs, staring intently at rows of computer screens glowing with multicolored graphs and fluctuating displays. They sometimes glance up from the banks of computer monitors to gaze at a sweeping panel of large television screens mounted on the front wall. Two massive, side-by-side screens in the center display digital maps of Iraq and Afghanistan. Swarms of U.S. aircraft above the war zones are represented by green labels that move about each map, gravitating toward wherever U.S. troops are fighting on the ground, in case they need backup.

To the left and right of those large maps are four smaller screens. Each is about 5 feet wide, displaying remarkably clear live footage from cameras mounted on the Air Force's un-manned Predator drones that buzz incessantly above Iraq and Afghanistan. The Predator drones, however, are not filming a raging firefight, or a bridge about to be strafed from the air.

They are stalking prey.

You see a man, walking through a shrub-dotted, dusty field. A small dog wanders behind him. Another screen shows a group of individuals, standing huddled together on a city street, looking like they could be chatting about a ballgame. A third Predator tracks a figure getting into a car, following as the car snakes through traffic. Yet another screen stays fixated on a single squat house surrounded by what looks like a low cement wall, as if someone is about to emerge from the front door.

The scenes look misleadingly pedestrian. The miniature people on the screens do not know they are being watched. "We are looking for individual people," Lt. Col. Walt Manwill says, as he stares up at the massive screens. "Especially when you are killing people, you want to make sure you do it right." Manwill, a blockish former pilot whose call sign is Fridge, is a chief of combat operations here, on what the Air Force simply calls "the floor." He handles one of three eight-hour shifts in a job that runs 24 hours a day.

Targeters here show me recent footage of two men on the ground in Iraq. The two men, far below the Predator drone's gaze, appear to be setting up a mortar on a city street. They are in the shadow of a building just feet away. Suddenly, the two men explode. Everything around the men, including the buildings, looks unharmed. But when the dust clears, the two men are wiped away. A small bomb, tailor-made for hunting single individuals, has done the job.

An Air Force colonel describes these operations to me as "getting Bubba." This has become a key component of the air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the Air Force has developed it into a science. Air Force officials say the operations are highly effective in targeting enemies of the United States, while minimizing civilian casualties in the war zones. But some experts on international law note that the U.S. has flown into legally murky territory, akin to the Israelis' controversial practice of "targeted killings" in battling Islamic militants.

Is there any sense in acknowledging something as law that has no coercive force behind it to enforce compliance? If international law is so sacrosanct, why aren't more nations willing to provide military forces to enforce it? A four year old child can figure out that the only rules that count are those that bring punishment in their breach, but the highly educated and cultured mandarins of the UN can't understand this most basic fact of human psychology. To the extent that there is a defacto international law, it is represented by US foreign policy. We are the law, by default of every other nation on Earth.

I see one problem with this new method of fighting insurgent wars with high-tech networked systems for command and control, and that is the daily burn rate. We have costly F16 and F18 fighters wearing out in daily sorties serving as nothing more than glorified bomb trucks. If you allocated the costs out over the dozen or so Bubbas that we kill every month, the cost per Bubba would be astronomical. Since we generally achieve air superiority within hours of the start of an engagement, we need to plan our air assets for extended low threat roles like loitering on station with a mixture of ordinance. Cheap, reliable UCAVs would be perfect for this role. Overwhelming technological superiority won't do the job if it bankrupts the treasury before the bad guys are willing to give up.

Spiritual Imperlialism

At one time in the past Europeans and Americans raped Africa through the Atlantic slave trade. Then Christianity eliminated slavery (for the second time in its history) so Europeans had to make do with raping Africans by making them slaves in their own lands via colonial empires. Now Africans are independent of Western imperial powers, but the West has found a new way to rape Africa. Call it spiritual imperialism. It is centered on a new form of trade that basically enslaves African peoples. Westerners provide Africans with pity, and in return they receive assuaged guilt and self satisfaction.

The City Journal documents the new slave trade in the article "Hearts of Darkness":

Paternalism was supposed to be finished. The belief that grown men and women are childlike creatures who can thrive in the world only if they submit to the guardianship of benevolent mandarins underlay more than a century’s worth of welfare-state social policy, beginning with Otto von Bismarck’s first Wohlfahrtsstaat experiments in nineteenth-century Germany. But paternalism’s centrally directed systems of subsidies failed to raise up submerged classes, and by the end of the twentieth century even many liberals, surveying the cultural wreckage left behind by the Great Society, had abandoned their faith in the welfare state.

Yet in one area, foreign aid, the paternalist spirit is far from dead. A new generation of economists and activists is calling for a “big push” in Africa to expand programs that in practice institutionalize poverty rather than end it. The Africrats’ enthusiasm for the failed policies of the past threatens to turn a struggling continent into a permanent ghetto—and to block the progress of ideas that really can liberate Africa’s oppressed populations.

The intellectual cover for the new paternalism comes from economists like Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs, who in his recent bestseller The End of Poverty argues that prosperous nations can dramatically reduce African poverty, if not eliminate it, by increasing their foreign-aid spending and expanding smaller assistance programs into much larger social welfare regimes. “The basic truth,” Sachs says, “is that for less than a percent of the income of the rich world”—0.7 percent of its GNP for the next 20 years—“nobody has to die of poverty on the planet.”

Sachs headed the United Nations’ Millennium Project, created in 2002 by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to figure out how to reverse poverty, hunger, and disease in poor countries. After three years of expensive lucubration, the project’s ten task forces concluded that prosperous nations can indeed defeat African poverty by 2025—if only they spend more money. “The world already has the technology and know-how to solve most of the problems faced in the poor countries,” a Millennium report asserted. “As of 2006, however, these solutions have still not been implemented at the needed scale.” Translation: the developed nations have been too stingy.

We’ve heard this before. The “response of the West to Africa’s tragedy has been constant throughout the years,” observes NYU economist William Easterly. From Walt Rostow and John F. Kennedy in 1960 to Sachs and Tony Blair today, the message, Easterly says, has been the same: “Give more aid.” Assistance to Africa, he notes, “did indeed rise steadily throughout this period (tripling as a percent of African GDP from the 1970s to the 1990s),” yet African growth “remained stuck at zero percent per capita.”

All told, the West has given some $568 billion in foreign aid to Africa over the last four decades, with little to show for it. Between 1990 and 2001, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa below what the UN calls the “extreme poverty line”—that is, living on less than $1 a day—increased from 227 million to 313 million, while their inflation-adjusted average daily income actually fell, from 62 cents to 60. At the same time, nearly half the continent’s population—46 percent—languishes in what the UN defines as ordinary poverty.

How did today’s prosperous nations create the embarrassment of riches that they now enjoy? No benign magician descended, à la Jeffrey Sachs, on London or Washington to shower its inhabitants with money. Instead, the rich nations developed laws and freedoms that enabled people to take their futures into their own hands. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has argued in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, the world’s poorest countries remain poor in part because they lack legal protections—property rights foremost among them—that enable people in the West to tap the potential of “dead” capital and invest it in wealth-generating enterprises.

Kenyan economist James Shikwati agrees that handouts thwart the emergence of a culture of self-reliant problem solving and that they breed corruption to boot. When a drought afflicts Kenya, he says, Kenyan politicians “reflexively cry out for more help.” Their calls reach the United Nations World Food Program, a “massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated.” When the requested grain reaches Africa, a portion of it “often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign.” Much of the rest of the grain gets dumped at less than fair market value. “Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away,” Shikwati says. “No one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program.”

Care, one of the world’s largest charities, would agree. In August, it rejected some $45 million in U.S. government financing to distribute subsidized food in Africa, saying that the subsidies hurt African farmers. “If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote,” George Odo, a Care official, told the New York Times. The American government, however, has no plans to scrap the practice.

Shikwati’s observations have been borne out most recently in Ethiopia, where the government’s collectivist agriculture policies have unsurprisingly resulted in famine. Foreign nations duly sent aid, which, according to a July 2007 report in the New York Times, government soldiers duly squandered: “Soldiers skim sacks of grain, tins of vegetable oil and bricks of high-energy biscuits from food warehouses to sell at local markets. The cash is distributed among security officers and regional officers. . . . Then the remaining food is hauled out to rural areas where the soldiers divert part of it to local gunmen and informers as a reward for helping them fight the rebels. . . . To cover their tracks, the soldiers and government administrators who work with them tell the aid agencies that the food has spoiled, or has been stolen or hijacked by rebels.”

The cycle is vicious. The aid that ends up in corrupt rulers’ bank accounts enables them to stifle both free markets and the political and legal reforms that free markets need to operate efficiently. A recent Heritage Foundation study found that, of the 70 least-free countries on earth, nearly half have received U.S. foreign aid for more than three decades. The result is more poverty, more aid money, and more corruption. In Zimbabwe, for example, foreign aid enabled strongman Robert Mugabe to destroy property rights, introduce a command economy, and create a kleptocracy where the inflation rate recently reached 11,000 percent. Once southern Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe now depends on subsidies to feed its people.

Sachs points to his “Millennium Village clusters”—12 sites located in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda—as evidence that he will succeed where earlier centrally directed efforts failed. The Millennium Village initiative, its apologists claim, does what “has never been done before.” It “addresses an integrated and scaled-up set of interventions covering food production, nutrition, education, health services, roads, energy, communications, water, sanitation, enterprise diversification and environmental management.”

If this doesn’t sound like a conceptual breakthrough, it’s because it isn’t. The Millennium Project, like earlier paternalist programs, is a collectivist enterprise run by bureaucrats and subject to—or as the apparatchiks prefer to say, “scaled up” by—central governments abroad. These “colossally expensive, non-replicable” villages, contends Bunker Roy, founding director of India’s Barefoot College, have been imposed on locals by governments and academics seeking “installations that are friendly to globe-trotting celebrities.”

Sachs boasts that the village of Sauri, in Kenya, recently “celebrated its first harvest as a ‘Millennium Village’ ” with a bumper crop. Yes, with sufficient money and attention, it is possible to produce a Potemkin village. But no centrally directed program has yet been able to create and sustain a sprawling network of prosperous villages, towns, and cities, such as we take for granted in the United States.

Why? One reason is that the amount of information required to administer so extensive a prosperity will baffle even the most careful plan and the most thoughtful administrator. “We know little of the particular facts to which the whole of social activity continuously adjusts itself in order to provide what we have learned to expect,” Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty. Only by renouncing bureaucratic control, Hayek maintained, can a country make the most efficient use of the knowledge that its citizens collectively possess. It is for this reason that a free society can employ “so much more knowledge than the mind of the wisest ruler could comprehend.”

Another reason that Millennium Villages won’t succeed is that they fail to foster a climate of innovation. Four centuries ago, Francis Bacon, analyzing the emergence of problem-solving cultures, observed that the solutions that they lighted upon were often “altogether different in kind and as remote as possible from anything that was known before; so that no preconceived notion could possibly have led to the discovery of them.” But the preconceived notions imposed by large, bureaucratic programs too often thwart the unforeseeable breakthroughs that result when people are free to pursue their own destinies. According to a candid report issued in July by a group of nongovernmental organizations, aid initiatives in the Sahel region, along the southern perimeter of the Sahara, “are almost always driven by externally imposed ideas for development” intended to make donors look good; the architects of the programs approach problems in “narrow and inflexible ways” that ignore the ideas of locals.


If paternalism doesn’t work, why does the paternalist mentality persist? Joseph Conrad suggested an answer in his 1902 novella Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s antihero, Kurtz, is a man of benevolent intention who goes to Africa with grandiose dreams of saving people but who ends by slaughtering those natives who resist his hunt for ivory. The story’s narrator, Marlow, finds a report that Kurtz prepared for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. Kurtz, Marlow says, “began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded.’ ” The thesis of Sachs’s The End of Poverty is not essentially different. He, too, believes that Westerners “can exert a power for good practically unbounded” over people who have not reached our “point of development.”

The patina of benevolence, Conrad suggests, often conceals a messianic narcissism, an incipient megalomania: Kurtz spent his days in Africa “getting himself adored.” Egotism and the desire for adoration are useful stimulants when they spur people to produce things that other people want or need. But it is a tawdry ambition that deters, as the paternalist philosophy does, people from realizing their own potential.

Reading Conrad, one is uneasily reminded of today’s Africrats. Under the guise of helping Africans, they aggrandize themselves, burnish their fame—and, not least, get themselves adored. Their tours of Africa are exercises in hero worship, part Roman triumph, part Felliniesque spectacle. The landing of the jet on some remote shimmering tarmac; the heat of the African sun; the exotic savor of the desert or of the jungle air; the fawning masses: all contribute to the narcotic spell that these progresses cast over those who undertake them.

Then comes the encounter between the benign magician—the Prospero from the northern latitudes—and the Suffering African. Amid a glitter of flashbulbs, the august tourist, like a monarch touching for the King’s Evil, lays hands on the dying AIDS patient or the undernourished child. Bobby Kennedy and Princess Diana perfected the art with which the superstar feels another’s pain; Bono, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie have carried on the tradition. A messianic odor clings to Sachs’s account of this celebrity satrapy, in which the superstars figure both as agents of grace and as high priests of a cult: “The Live 8 concerts, Bono’s ONE campaign, Angelina Jolie’s work for the United Nations, and many other acts of leadership and grace are drawing millions of eager individuals into a new commitment to work for the end of poverty, and thereby for a world of peace and shared well-being.”

Paternalism persists as a psychology precisely because it satisfies the cravings of vanity in a way that real reform doesn’t. (Where people have learned to save themselves, they do not need saviors.) So potent are paternalism’s pleasures that it has beguiled even those who theoretically oppose it. Consider the regression of Sachs himself. Sachs was born, in Detroit, into a family of civic aspiration and the desire to do good. As a young economist at Harvard, during the 1980s, Sachs did good, helping to devise “shock therapy” for Bolivia, a country crippled by public-sector spending.

Today, however, he rejects his old faith in economic freedom, which he ridicules as “magical thinking.” Repudiating his Bolivian policies, he now calls for curing African poverty LBJ-style, through massive wealth transfers. Sachs has discovered that it’s more glamorous to be a paternalist wizard, solving the little people’s problems for them, than it is to help them, as in Bolivia, solve their problems for themselves. When he was advocating a Reagan-Thatcher program of spending cuts and smaller government in Latin America, the most Sachs could hope for was an appreciative notice in the Wall Street Journal. Now he hangs with Bono and goes off into the bush with Angelina Jolie.

So prosperous have free nations become that not only their tycoons and superstars but even members of their middle classes are rich enough to taste the pleasures of paternalism—a fact that Madison Avenue has not failed to exploit. Companies like Gap, Converse, Motorola, and Armani—which were also sponsors of Vanity Fair’s Africa issue—have subscribed to Bono’s “(red) manifesto,” a promise that “if you buy a (red) product or sign up for a (red) service, at no cost to you, a (red) company will give some of its profits to buy antiretroviral medicine” for Africa. The curious (use) of (parentheses) in Bono’s “manifesto” is apparently intended to give the ad campaign an edgy, agitprop flavor, enabling the consumer to flatter himself that, in purchasing his new cell phone or pair of sneakers, he is doing something more than engaging in a routine market transaction. An acquisitive bourgeois on the surface, he is at heart (or so he pretends) a spiritual guerrilla on Bono’s long march to social solidarity.

Unfortunately, Christianity has no intention of abolishing this new outbreak of slavery.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daily Deliberation #8: What is the state of the economy?

Sorry for another dearth of posts, but my creativity has taken another temporary nosedive, along with the temperature. So I'll leave it up to you, my faithful patrons, to fill in the blanks. Recession or no recession?

Friday, February 15, 2008

I blame global warming

For those of you at home in the blogging audience keeping score, that is 39 degrees below normal for this time of year.

For two weeks.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Meet the Zookeepers

There is a war on for the hearts and minds, and more importantly, stomachs, of Africa between the evil shills and toadies of Big Agribusiness and Big Philanthropy and the compassionate and humane central planners of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Working with the FAO is the International Planning Committee (IPC), a global network of Non-Governmental Organizations(NGO) and Civil Society Organizations(CSO)concerned with food sovereignty issues and programs. What is Food Sovereignty you ask?
Forum for Food Sovereignty: Four Priority Areas

· The right to food and food sovereignty: NGOs/CSOs affirm that the right to safe, adequate and nutritious food and healthy water is a fundamental human right of individuals and groups and food sovereignty that of peoples and nations, as well as the right of farmers, peasants and fisherfolk to produce food for their own families and their domestic markets. These fundamental human rights have to be respected by international institutions, governments and the economic actors.

Translation: Government ensured job security for peasant agriculturalists. Government controlled local food markets. A ban on international sales of food.

· Access to, management of, and local control of, natural resources: commitment to ensuring that small-scale farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk and Indigenous Peoples should have equitable access to and control over land, water and genetic resources necessary to maintain their livelihoods in a sustainable manner.

Translation: No private ownership of property. Property, resources or mineral rights cannot be traded. Government will allocate land use based on decisions arrived at in NGO/CSO committee meetings by North American and European graduate students.
· Small-scale family and community-based agroecological food production: commitment to prioritizing agroecology as the mainstream sustainable and appropriate production system for food and farming, livestock raising and fisheries.

Translation: Keep the peasants on the land.
· Trade and Food Sovereignty: commitment to promoting an equitable and fair trade system that is a positive force for development and does not detract from the realization of any human rights.

Translation: You'll have no incentive to produce a superior crop. Yields will dwindle, and eventually some NGO/CSO investigative body will come by to nag you for a few days, will hand you some condoms and then they will leave. You'll beg them to take you with them, but they will refuse, as that would detract from the realization of your human right to be a symbol of your indigenous local culture. If they let you leave your village, you might be infected with capitalism. And then they would have to kill you. For your own good, you see. Africa is the last stand against worldwide capitalism.

Welcome to the zoo.

Life and its Enemies

In "The White Man's Burden" I referenced the Green Revolution as one example of the beneficial impact that the industrial First World has had on the developing Third World, and something that should be weighed on the income side of the cultural impact income statement. Naturally I thought that the saving of one billion lives through the application of advanced agricultural techniques was universally regarded as a net benefit for mankind. So I was surprised to find that there are many critics of the Green Revolution of the 1950s and '60s, as well as a new effort by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation to re-apply the techniques of that revolution to today's Africa:

Unfortunately, the Green Revolution did not extend to the entire planet. Sub-Saharan Africa remained largely untouched. As a consequence, average per capita food production in Africa has declined by 12 percent since 1980.

Enter the Gates Foundation. In September 2006, the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations announced a joint $150 million effort to create an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Last week, the Gates Foundation upped its ante on boosting production by another $306 million. About half of these new grants will fund efforts to improve seeds and soils in Africa. The Gates Foundation has clearly identified the right target. "For the poorest people, GDP [gross domestic product] growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating outside the sector," according the World Bank's World Development Report 2008. But why did the Green Revolution not take off in Africa? The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has noted, "Poor infrastructure, high transport costs, limited investment in irrigation, and pricing and marketing policies that penalized farmers made the Green Revolution technologies too expensive or inappropriate for much of Africa." This list is basically an international bureaucracy's euphemism for saying that government corruption and mismanagement has kept African farmers poor. "Poor infrastructure" means that governments built no roads over which seeds, fertilizers and pesticides could be shipped cheaply to farmers. And conversely, without good roads, farmers can't get their crops to market.

For example, Uganda has just 58 miles of paved roads per million citizens, Mozambique just 87 miles . By contrast, the United States has 8,000. In addition, African governments have a history of imposing price controls on food crops ,which discourage farmers from growing more than they need for their families. Africa has not been alone in pursuing this destructive policy. In the 1960s, India paid its farmers 40 percent less than the world price for their grain. Green revolutionary Borlaug managed to persuade the Indian government to drop grain price controls. Restored market incentives persuaded Indian farmers to rapidly adopt new high yield crop varieties.

Interestingly, modern crop technologies fostered by the Gates Foundation might enable poor farmers to outflank, in part, these corrupt and stupid government policies. For example, seeds that contain traits like pest-resistance and drought-resistance could reduce farmers' dependence on government subsidized pesticides and irrigation systems. In fact, the Gates Foundation has provided nearly $40 million to researchers to develop drought resistant corn varieties for Africa. In addition, the foundation is funding low-cost drip irrigation systems designed by International Development Enterprises that can reduce the cost of irrigation from about $6,000 per acre to about $37.

About half of the $306 million in agricultural grants announced last week will go to the African Soil Health Program which aims to work with 4.1 million small-scale African farmers and regenerate 6.3 million hectares of farm land through better soil management practices. For the time being, AGRA supports only conventional crop breeding and does not fund the development of new varieties by means of genetic engineering. Rich countries have poured almost $600 billion in foreign aid into Africa over the past four decades. Result? Zero increase in per capita incomes. Is the Gates Foundation now pouring in good money after bad? Let's hope not.

Though I think Gates might be on the right track, I think it is prudent to hedge optimism with skepticism due to the long track record of failure for "save Africa" enthusiasms of the past. But if the Gates effort can reproduce some of the successes of the original Green Revolution, then on what ground do his critics stand?

A perusal of the Food First manifesto against the Green Revolution demonstrates that it is political and ideological ground.
1. The Green Revolution actually deepens the divide between rich and poor farmers. In the1960s, at the beginning of the first Green Revolution, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundationspromoted industrial-style agriculture in the Global South through technology “packages”that included modern varieties (MVs), fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. The high cost ofthese purchased inputs deepened the divide between large farmers and smallholders becausethe latter could not afford the technology. In both Mexico and India, seminal studies revealedthat the Green Revolution’s expensive “packages” favored a minority of economically privileged farmers, put the majority smallholders at a disadvantage, and led to the concentration of land and resources .

The industrialization of American agriculture did the same. At our nation's founding almost all people worked in the agricultural sector. In 1900 41% of Americans were employed in agriculture, and in 2000 it was around 2%. Improvements in agriculture puts small farmers out of business. This leads to urbanization and growth in the industrial sectors, and eventually to prosperity and higher living standards.

This is a good thing. Agrarian societies have historically experienced resource limits due to overpopulation, deforestation and degradation of the environment. It happened in Europe in the 19th and early 2oth centuries. Had the new world not been available to penniless peasants from Europe, then the death toll in Europe's wars in the 20th century would have been all the higher. Agrarianism isn't sustainable.

5. Without addressing structural inequities in the market and political systems, approaches relying on high input technologies fail. The growing hunger in Africa is largely due to the increased impoverishment of the very rural peoples who once grew food, but who have now left farming. Today’s African farmers could easily produce far more food than they do, but they don’t because they cannot get credit to cover production costs, nor can they find buyers or obtain fair prices to give them a minimal profit margin. Under such circumstances, what difference will a new 'technology package” make? Without addressing the causes of why African farmers leave farming—or why they under-produce—AGRA will have little impact on this trend.

Rural Africa has been devastated by 25 years of corporate globalization’s free trade and antipeasant policies, imposed on the continent’s governments by the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, the U.S. and the E.U. (Rosset, 2006a, and deGrassi and Rosset, forthcoming).x The forced privatization of food crop marketing boards – which, though flawed, once guaranteed African farmers minimum prices and held food reserves for emergencies – and rural development banks–which gave farmers credit to produce food–have left farmers without financing to grow food or buyers for their produce. Free trade agreements have made it easier for private traders—the only buyers and sellers of food who are left—to import subsidized food from the U.S. and the E.U. than to negotiate with thousands of local farmers. This amounts to “dumping,” which drives local farm prices below the costs of production and drives local farmers out of business.xi The failures of the Green Revolution have taught us that sustainable rural development is not just about increasing yields; it requires the redistribution
of land and resources, a fair and stable market, and sound agroecological management. These are the very aspects of agricultural development that are ignored or undermined by the Green Revolution.

The real problem is that African economies have not been able to diversify and grow, so that displaced farmers have not been able to find work in new industries. I won't pretend to be an economic expert or have a comprehensive understanding of all of the developmental problems that have befallen Africa, but I suspect that it has a lot to do with rent-seeking dictators like Robert Mugabe who have subverted well meaning but naive foreign aid. Africa needs to take the leap into full blown capitalism. It can't be managed to prosperity by technocrats from the United Nations, the World Bank, or the NGOs. This is one reason that I remain a little skeptical about the Gates initiative. For all the scientific sophistication of its approach, it is still charity. Only when non-charitable, return seeking investment capital can find its way to Africa will a sustainable economic growth curve be viable.

10.AGRA’s “alliance” does not allow peasant farmers to be the principal actors in agricultural improvement. The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations consulted with the world’s largest seed and fertilizer companies, with big philanthropy, and with multilateral development agencies, but have yet to let peasant farmer organizations give their views on the kind of agricultural development they believe will most benefit them.
Through Via Campesina (http://www.viacampesina.org), peasant and small farmer
organizations from Africa and around the world are debating and formulating the policy changes needed to truly reverse the policy-driven collapse of peasant agriculture in Africa and other continents. These policies, including a step-back from free trade extremism and market fundamentalism; plus increased supports for family farmers; improved access to farmland, water and local seeds for the poor; and ecological farming methods, are together called Food Sovereignty (Via Campesina et al., undated; Rosset, 2003). Their February 2007 World Forum for Food Sovereignty in Mali, which includes African consumer and environmental groups as well, marks a key point in this process. Without such changes, no farming technology—especially chemical and genetically-engineered based—can truly address hunger. In contrast to
the Gates/Rockefeller approach, creating such a favorable policy environment for family agriculture will make it possible for the hungry to feed themselves using sustainable, ecologically-sound farming methods, create rural employment and produce a surplus, which is critical for the food security of local populations.
The concept of food sovereignty was developed by La Via Campesina, and brought to the
public debate during the World Food Summit in 1996 as an alternative framework for food and agriculture. Since that time the concept has gained tremendous popularity and echo in civil society sectors of nations both North and South, and has been developed into a holistic and internally coherent alternative framework (Rosset, 2006a). Food Sovereignty proponents argue that food and farming are about more than trade. They also argue that production for local and national markets is more important than production for export from the perspectives of broadbased and inclusive local and national economic development; addressing poverty and hunger;
preserving rural life, economies and environments; and management of natural rresources in a sustainable fashion. They argue that every country and people must have the right and the ability to define their own food and agricultural policies that they need to protect local markets. They must also have access to public sector budgets that include subsidies that do not lead to greater production, exports, dumping and damage to other countries. Under these conditions, the farming peoples of every country on Earth (with the exception of some citystates) have the ability to feed their nations’ peoples, and to feed them well. They believe that low prices are the worst force that farmers face everywhere in the world, and therefore that we need to effectively ban dumping, to apply anti-monopoly rules nationally and globally, to
effectively regulate over-production in the large agro-export countries, and to eliminate the kinds of direct and in-direct, open and hidden subsidies that enforce low prices and overproduction. In other words, that we need to move from mechanisms that enforce low prices to those that would promote fair prices for farmers and consumers alike. This alternative model is opposed to patenting seeds, and it also includes agrarian reform, with limits on maximum farm size, equitable local control over resources like seeds, land, water and forests. The food sovereignty approach is increasingly being taken seriously by other sectors, such as organizations representing consumers, urban poor, indigenous peoples, trade unions, environmentalists, and human rights activists, and by researchers and other experts. It also forms the basis for collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN and farmer groups and other civil society actors, as announced by FAO Secretary General Jacques Diouf at the 2002 World Food Summit.
If the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations truly want to end hunger and poverty in rural Africa, then they should put their millions in the service of the struggle by peasant and farmer organizations and their allies to truly achieve food sovereignty.

To underscore the political and ideological agenda at work in the Food First critique, I've bolded every leftist/collectivist shibboleth in their concluding argument. It is almost like the Food First activists are zoological curators trying to preserve these native/indigenous agrarian communities in an exhibit of their natural habitat, instead of looking at the African people as individuals who may have their own ambitions and desires. This is the ground where extreme ideologies of left and right overlap. Agrarianism is as much a utopia of the left as of the right, as described in this paean to the American Agrarian tradition by paleo-conservative blogger Daniel Larison:

In 1930 twelve Southerners, scholars, men of letters, poets and patriots, issued their defense of a way of life and an understanding of how to live well that they had received from their arts, their fathers and their Southern patria: the book of essays in defense of the Southern agrarian tradition, I’ll Take My Stand. They were, as M.E. Bradford described them, “the natural heirs of Randolph of Roanoke, John Taylor of Caroline, and the better side of Jefferson–anti-Hamiltonian, antistatist, conservative Democrat….Community was their a priori ideal–an informally hierarchical social organism in which all Southerners (including the Negro, insofar as the survival of that community permitted) had a sense of investment and participation. In brief, a patriarchal world of families, pre- or noncapitalist because familial, located, pious, and “brotherly”; agrarian in order not to produce the alienated, atomistic individual to whom abstractly familial totalitarianism can appeal; classically republican because that system of government best allowed for the multiplicity that was the nation while at the same time permitting the agrarian culture of families to flourish unperturbed.” (Remembering Who We Are, p.86)

As Dr. Tom Landess recounted to us in a talk last month, the South to which the Southern Agrarians referred and which they defended was neither an imaginary product of nostalgia for the antebellum South nor a the fruit of longing for the days of the Southern aristocracy. The South of their hopes and loves was the South of the small farmer, the yeoman, the small businessman, the shopkeeper, the South that existed, the one which they knew, and the one which they knew was threatened and in danger of passing away under the new onslaught of industrialism and abstract notions. In that land, there was a way of life not unique to the Southern experience but one that was nonetheless peculiarly present in the region that was attuned to the “rhythm of the seasons and the uncertainties of life,” tied to nature and to the passage of time, and thus to history, in a way that, as Dr. Patrick reminded us in his talk on Allen Tate, cultivated a mind all together more historical and culturally European than the mind malnourished in the cities of the Northeast.

On account of the agrarian way of life of the smallholder and the farmer and the culture of the people who settled the South, the region’s people had a keen sense of place that itself grew from an awareness of being fixed and rooted in a place and forming part of the continuity across the years that bound ancestor and descendant. That experience could fuel the imagination of a Faulkner to tell the story of the Sartoris clan where the generations of a family together formed a character in its own right, for perhaps the most complete story and the most fully formed characters come from the experience of multiple generations bound by place and their relationship to that place.

Memory across generations ties a people to their past and lends the place where they live meanings that had been hidden by the veil of time. This sense of the past was fed by the reception of memories from their fathers in the form of simple stories told and retold, the recollecting of their people’s lives that wove together anecdote, gossip and report into the remembrance of who they were and what they were doing in the particular time and place where they were.

The Southern mind saw history as something concrete, the fruit of a series of events that does not move us onwards towards a goal but is embodied in the tangible reality of habit and memory (and Bradford tells us to love the inherited nomos of our place and people rather than rush on madly towards the telos of the teleocrat). This mind saw history as a process of growth and change that those closest to the land understand better, and it remembered that history through the telling of the stories of their kin.

Receptive to memory, the Southern mind was also submissive to nature and God. As the “Statement of Principles” in I’ll Take My Stand tells us:

Religion can hardly expect to flourish in an industrial society. Religion is our submission to the general intention of a nature that is fairly inscrutable; it is the sense of our role as creatures within it. But nature industrialized, transformed into cities and artificial habitations, manufactured into commodities, is no longer nature but a highly simplified picture of nature. We receive the illusion of having power over nature, and lose the sense of nature as something mysterious and contingent. The God of nature under these conditions is merely an amiable expression, a superfluity, and the philosophical understanding ordinarily carried in the religious experience is not there for us to have.

And in its piety the Southern mind did not, like some Eunomian heretic, scrutinise and weigh the essence of God. On the contrary, it tended to set anything that smacked of rationalism to one side in the understanding of the Faith such that the Southern religion might even be called in many respects “arational,” as Dr. Patrick explained to us, and in its spirituality potentially and dangerously prone to think of religious experience as an escape from history rather than a living out of the Word incarnate and the Word enfleshed and embodied in us in the sacraments. And yet it was this same religious spirit in the South that does instinctively recognise the createdness of things and the dependence of the being of all things on the will of the Creator, a recognition that comes and must come in no small part from the relationship to the created order of one who tends and cultivates rather than one who uproots and exploits, which is to say an agrarian relationship rather than that of an industrialist and a consumer. It is there in the tending of the “cultivated garden” that man understands his place before creation and his Creator, particularly by being in his own place where he will give praise to his God for the bounty that has been provided in God’s goodness. It is there that he remembers who he truly is, seeing his connections to his place across the generations in the fields and groves that nourished him and made him into what he is. Then, having remembered, he will tell his sons and daughters of their history on that land, so that they will know it is loved and should be loved, and to see that they must love and care for it because, in a way, the land has already loved and cared for them. As Bradford concluded his essay in defense of the Agrarians (and all agrarians), so will I conclude today, with a few lines from Donald Davidson:

Is good, but better is land, and best
A land still fought-for, even in retreat:
For how else can Aeneas find his rest
And the child hearken and dream at his grandsire’s feet?

So in the end, the Agrarian romanticism of Food First and Larison is about aesthetics. Aesthetics and the worship of suffering.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Religion of Peace

Female Bombers Strike Markets in Baghdad
BAGHDAD — Remote-controlled explosives strapped to two mentally retarded women detonated in a coordinated attack on Baghdad pet bazaars Friday, police and Iraqi officials said, killing at least 73 people in the deadliest day since the U.S. sent 30,000 extra troops to the capital this spring.
Must be tolerant, must be tolerant ...