Archive for August, 2011

29
Aug
11

Hail Sagan!

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15
Aug
11

The road to hell is paved with half-baked activism

If you want a case study in how well-intentioned government actors and NGO activists can royally screw up the lives of those they claim to be helping, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than this — an obscure provision in the Dodd-Frank act meant to ensure that minerals bought from Africa didn’t benefit warlords.

Unfortunately, the provision simply stopped companies from buying minerals in conflict regions altogether — because no one wants to be accused of funding homicidal warlords. The provision devastated the economy of the eastern Congo and, in a sad twist, actually empowered local warlords even more.

From the New York Times:

For locals, however, the law has been a catastrophe. In South Kivu Province, I heard from scores of artisanal miners and small-scale purchasers, who used to make a few dollars a day digging ore out of mountainsides with hand tools. Paltry as it may seem, this income was a lifeline for people in a region that was devastated by 32 years of misrule under the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko (when the country was known as Zaire) and that is now just beginning to emerge from over a decade of brutal war and internal strife.

The pastor at one church told me that women were giving birth at home because they couldn’t afford the $20 or so for the maternity clinic. Children are dropping out of school because parents can’t pay the fees. Remote mining towns are virtually cut off from the outside world because the planes that once provisioned them no longer land. Most worrying, a crop disease periodically decimates the region’s staple, cassava. Villagers who relied on their mining income to buy food when harvests failed are beginning to go hungry.

Meanwhile, the law is benefiting some of the very people it was meant to single out. The chief beneficiary is Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is nicknamed The Terminator and is sought by the International Criminal Court. Ostensibly a member of the Congolese Army, he is in fact a freelance killer with his own ethnic Tutsi militia, which provides “security” to traders smuggling minerals across the border to neighboring Rwanda.

Well, that’s a real tragedy, but there’s no way the U.S. government and the advocacy groups pressing for the provision could have predicted this outcome, right?

The Rev. Didier de Failly, a Belgian priest who has lived in Congo for 45 years, insistently warned Western advocacy groups of the dangers posed by their campaign. He told them it was no defense for them to claim that they weren’t proposing an embargo, since what they were doing would inevitably lead to one.

But once the advocacy groups succeeded in framing the debate as a contest between themselves and greedy corporate interests, no one bothered to solicit the opinion of local Congolese.  As the leader of a civil-society group, Eric Kajemba, asked me, more in confusion than in anger, “If the advocacy groups aren’t speaking for the people of eastern Congo, whom are they speaking for?”

Answer: their own smug little selves.

13
Aug
11

Rectifying Names

[T]rue liberalism is still distinct from conservatism, and there is danger in the two being confused. Conservatism, though a necessary element in any stable society, is not a social program; in its paternalistic, nationalistic, and power-adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism; and with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities, it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place. A conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be a defender of established privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege. The essence of the liberal position, however, is the denial of all privilege, if privilege is understood in its proper and original meaning of the state granting and protecting rights to some which are not available on equal terms to others.

-F. A. Hayek

13
Aug
11

Certain ‘progressive’ authoritarian tendencies pt. 2

Reuters reports on things that wouldn’t need to be said, but for those tres chic leftists:

Berlin’s mayor said on Saturday he was appalled that some Germans were nostalgic for the Berlin Wall and supported a newly fashionable leftist view that there were legitimate reasons for building it in 1961.

At a somber ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction, Mayor Klaus Wowereit, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff paid tribute to the 136 people killed trying to get over the Wall to West Berlin.

Wowereit said the Wall, toppled in 1989, should serve as a reminder of freedom and democracy around the world. Church bells peeled while trains and traffic came to a standstill at noon across Berlin for a moment of silence for the victims.

“We don’t have any tolerance for those who nostalgically distort the history of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s division,” Wowereit said at the ceremony in front of a small section of the Wall recently rebuilt for posterity.

“The Wall was part of a dictatorship,” he said. “And it’s alarming that even today some people argue there were good reasons to build the Wall. No! There’s no legitimate reason nor justification for violating human rights and for killings.”

08
Aug
11

I’m not saying certain ‘progressives’ harbor authoritarian tendencies, but …

Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere:

Many times I’ve riffed on a dark, delicious fantasy about rounding up Tea Bagger types and sentencing them to green re-education camps for minimum one-year terms. Not to punish per se but to expose these contemptible morons to facts, to truth, to the way things really are and how they’re being played by the rich, and the fact that Boomers have taken almost everything and that diminished lifestyles and economic security are being bequeathed to Genx and GenY for decades to come, and that the best is definitely over. The infra-structure that once provided decent, fair-minded quality of life to middle-class people in this country is disintegrating. The game is rigged. This is the fall of the Roman Empire.

All largely because of impediments to logical, intelligent governing put up by the knee-jerk, mule-like, corporate-kowtowing mentality of Tea-Bagger types and their 60 or so looney-tunes Congresspersons now in office. We’ve truly become a South American society of rightist oligarchs, angry lefties, disillusioned wage-earners, retirement-age fuddies and struggling, debt-smothered have-nots, and the rightist boobs will never understand that they’re primarily the problem. The deficit-reduction deal will almost certainly hurt growth and kill jobs, most analysts are saying. And the radical right will own this when it happens. This level of ideological denial is no longer appalling — it’s become lethal. Ignoramuses can no longer be tolerated. The right is killing this country, things have gotten really crazy, and Obama will never stand up to them.

A second Civil War would be an incredibly destructive thing, but it would feel so good.

Well then … re-education camps and civil war … I, uh … um … wow.

If you read the Reason post I culled this quote from, you can see quite a few other examples of liberals saying, basically, that the American public is too stupid to know what’s good for them, and we should just leave complicated things like the debt ceiling up to experts. “Planners,” I suppose you could call them.