Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cafe Libre

How's this for an idea?

Red, white, and blue coffeehouse

Ed Lasky
In a welcome reversal of history, where coffee houses were associated with Beatnicks and then with Millenials, there is now a coffee shop opens for us conservatives.

There is now a cafe that serves up coffee with a "conservative flavor" in Crown Point, Indiana, suburb of Chicago. A picture of Ronald Reagan hangs on the wall.

A former art teacher came up with the idea after souring on Starbucks:

More at: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/07/red_white_and_blue_coffeehouse.html

We meet this evening, as usual, at VPL in the atrium from 7-9:p.m. for coffee and talk and some space in which to be free and responsible citizens and residents of this city. We'll be outside Blenz coffee bar in the atrium. Look for the blue scarves ( in support of our conservative friends in France at the Revolucion Bleue)
or Israeli flags on baseball caps in support of our friends under seige in Israel, or look for the tee-shirts in support of free speech in Canada: Hooray Mark Styne and Ezra Levant! Feel comfortable with that? Then feel free to join us for some company and coffee. Coffee's on me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If One Can Do It...

This won't be news for many, but it will be news for some, it was new to me and for someone out there it will be new to you.
So this is for you:




That was the beginning. Here's the happy ending.

Sometimes, if we keep looking, we can find dreams that do come true.


"If"

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

[hat tip to Shooting Star for the inspiring video]

Filling Holes

I've just about finished reading The Tide Is Turning Towards Catholicism, by David J. Hartline, and of all the lessons it's teaching me, there's a simple one that it seems I will be re-learning over and over again, as yesterday I learned it for the millionth time: to learn how little I really know.

I'm not much into sports, so when I got to the book's 11th chapter, on "Catholic athletes and coaches", I was mightily tempted to skip it, and zip ahead to chapter 12, "Megachurches, Salvation, and other debated issues", which sounded much meatier and more to my interest. Ankle-deep into that next chapter I mentally forced myself to go back and tackle the book in the order the author intended; how could I know whether or not the previous chapter was not worth reading, unless I at least made the effort to listen to what he had to say? Why was I presuming that the author wouldn't find a way to at least make his stories interesting? He had, after all, succeeded in doing so in every other chapter I had read so far. So I steeled myself to read it.
Was I ever glad I did. It ended up being the most inspiring chapter of the book to date, and introduced me to someone a non-sports person like myself would probably never have heard about otherwise: the remarkable Coach Lou Holtz.
Author David Hartline quotes from an interview he had conducted with the former Notre Dame football coach, and it was so inspiring that it whetted my appetite for more. Taking my lead from the chapter that I almost chose not to read, I searched for the full interview at the author's website; at the end of the online interview came this marvelous suggestion for a game plan for living life:
Coach Holtz: You know Dave it has taken me a long time to figure this out but I now live by the belief that if something isn’t going to bother you on your death bed then it shouldn’t bother you now. I can’t say that I do that with every problem, but I am trying.
[Let] me leave the Catholic Report readers with a couple of thoughts. There are four things that we must do and have to succeed in life.

1. Something to live for
2. Someone to love and love us
3. Something to hope for
4. Something to believe in
Due to my vanity I almost ended up missing out on discovering this most helpful advice. I can't help but think if I had heard it twenty years ago I would have lived a much more meaningful pair of decades... if I could have summoned the humility to feel the need to listen to him in the first place.
Goes to show that we can just never know what lies ahead; try as we might, think as we will, we really can't know everything. We can't really know who will and who will not prove to be of service to us.
When we're young we're taught the sensible advice, "Don't Talk To Strangers". But like so much else in life, that should be a principle, not a rule; as we are changed through aging, this admonition should adapt as well, growing as we grow, maybe even to the point of us growing out of its first formulation, in the same way that we eventually outgrow the teeth we first use to chew our daily bread.
If we never listen to strangers, how do we test our ideas? Is it so impressive to win an argument against yourself? Even if we're convinced we're right, do we really have the whole truth..? Do we really see the big picture... or are there holes needing to be filled? How do we even know what holes might need filling, unless we interact with different people with different experiences, holding different pieces to the puzzle.
The old analogy of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind; the lord of a castle looks into his courtyard, and watches a group of blind men examining an elephant, by touch. Being blind, they can't know that it's an elephant, so they are busily relaying to each other the conclusions they are drawing from their individual pieces, together trying to define this big picture. Their best guess is shattered by the lord surveying the test, who shouts down to them: "You're describing an elephant."
In our own lives, we tend to think of ourselves as the lord of the castle, and not who we really are, one of the groping blind men, with holes to fill.
UPDATE: Welcome readers of the Catholic Report! Thank you for visiting our Canadian team blog. My usual "beat" is to write about European news, searching for stories that don't seem to get picked up by other North American sites.

The Times, It is a Changin'

The last time I looked at the site meter here I saw that the New York Times still gets more readers than we here; but I see today that it's only a matter of time before Covenant Zone buries the Grey Lady. What? You want proof? Well, that's what we're here for. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth except some of the things I make up sometimes.

Thomas Lifson, "
More bad news for the New York Times... tick tock, tick tock."

Moody's Investor's Services, the bond rating agency, has notified the New York Times Company that its bond rating may decline, according to Editor & Publisher. Without changing the current Baaa3 rating (at least for the moment), NYTCo's outlook has been downgraded from "stable" to "negative."

"The change in the rating outlook to negative reflects Moody's concern that a continued deterioration in the company's advertising revenue could make it increasingly challenging for the company to bring metrics in line with the rating in 2009 as anticipated in the prior stable rating outlook," wrote senior analyst John E. Puchalla and Corporate Finance Group Managing Director Alexandra S. Parker.

A Baa3 rating qualifies as investment grade, enabling many funds to hold its unsecured debt. If the rating were to decline to below investment grade (and it is perilously close now), many funds would no long hold NYTCo's debt securities, and their prices would decline. This could make refinancing that debt, as it expires and must be rolled over, much more expensive for NYTCo.

...the ratings firm added that it is currently operating at levels more consistent with a rating lower than Baa3. The investment grade rating, it added, is predicated on better performance in 2009.

In other words, if NYTCo fails to improve its performance, the current "investment grade" rating is in peril. So far, the decline in advertising is accelerating, while cost cutting efforts have not realized their announced goals.

The clock is ticking.
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/07/more_bad_news_for_the_new_york.html

The Marketplace of Ideas is actually a market that has some cash money involved, the real test of things. Who will invest their time in the Times? Who will invest the time it takes to make a few bucks to pay for the paper? Who will invest their time in reading a paper that tells things they don't want to know, time that could be well spent on learning better things? The Gray Lady is bleeding to death before our eyes. Does it matter at all? The Times will survive regardless of money. Some wag suggested George Soros would buy it to inflate his already sizable ego. It's not going to be buried, but it won't be a paper of any record worth spinning. Elitists can crank out as much vile propobama as they choose, but the people who count, those who count their dollars and cents and spend them freely by choice, they have made the final word count where it counts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Modern Agriculture (8): The Green Revolution

Norman Borlaug? Get down on your knees and praise him, thanking the gods for the fact that because of him you and yours do not depend on "organic" food. Norman Borlaug.

Say what you will about Jesus and Lao Tzu and Mr Clean; but friend, praise to the skies Norman Borlaug.

I'll admit to my surprise that a search of the phrase "Modern Agriculture" at No Dhimmitude brings up 44 posts. I'm a guy who never spent a day on a farm, not even an hour at a petting zoo. But here we are, post number seven directly entitled "Modern Agriculture." Obviously it means something to me. I think it means something to all of us, though the interest is likely not there for most. We take it for granted that there is an abundance of food, that the fridge is full and the cupboard' groaning, shelf after loaded shelf. Maybe it's me, years of traveling in places where food is scarce or even where the food will eat right back if it doesn't poison you to death first. Norman Borlaug. The man saves my life, and I for one am damned grateful. I'm grateful that he save the lives of billions. He's the father of the Green Revolution. He's the real revolutionary, O you friends of Che Guevara.

I write often about Povertarians and Death Hippies. Below are some of the reasons I use words and phrases such. Yes, I hate environmentalists and "ecologists" following the proto-fascist path of Ernst Haekel and Walter Darre. Yes, I hate Keith Pianka and D.H Lawrence. I hate Gandhi. They are Povertarians and Death Hippies, so I don't hate them for no good reason. They are killers. They are evil people. Norman Borlaug is a hero who must go down in history as the closest thing to Jesus in 2000 years.

A paragraph from wikipedia on the Green Revolution:

"The Green Revolution is unpopular among many leftists because of its context within the Cold War. A major critic of the Green Revolution, the US investigative journalist Mark Dowie, writes that the primary objective of the program was a Cold War geopolitical one: providing food for the populace in underdeveloped countries which thus brought social stability and weakened the fomenting of communist insurgency. Citing internal Foundation documents, he states that the Ford Foundation had a greater concern than Rockefeller in this area.[27]"

That's what we are up against. No Red Revolution because there was a Green Revolution instead. The mad cynicism of that should send the average reader into the streets to hang a Death Hippie on the spot.

I use the term "philobarbarism" quite often. I think it is often coupled with the phrase :Hang the Death Hippies."

"Additionally, it is maintained elsewhere that there is a significant amount of evidence suggesting the Green Revolution had the effect of weakening socialist movements in many nations. In countries like India, Mexico, and the Philippines, technological solutions were sought as an alternative to expanding agrarian reform initiatives, the latter of which were often linked to socialist politics.[28]"

The monstrous evil of the Povertarian Death Hippies who live in high style live to condemn those who live a mediocre life of privacy. Annie, get your gun!
****

The Green Revolution refers to the transformation of agriculture that began in 1945 at the request of the Mexican government to establish an agricultural research station to develop more varieties of wheat that could be used to feed the rapidly growing population of the country. In 1943 Mexico imported half its wheat; in 1956, the Green Revolution had made Mexico self-sufficient; by 1964, Mexico exported half a million tons of wheat[1]. The associated transformation has continued as the result of programs of agricultural research, extension, and infrastructural development, instigated and largely funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, along with the Ford Foundation and other major agencies.[2] [3] The consensus among some agronomists is that the Green Revolution has allowed food production to keep pace with worldwide population growth. The Green Revolution has had major social and ecological impacts, making it a popular topic of study among sociologists.

The projects within the Green Revolution spread technologies that had already existed, but had not been widely used outside of industrialized nations. These technologies included pesticides, irrigation projects, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and Genetically modified food.

The effects of the Green Revolution on global food security are difficult to understand because of the complexities involved in food systems.

The world population has grown by about four billion since the beginning of the Green Revolution and most believe that, without the Revolution, there would be greater famine and malnutrition. India saw annual wheat production rise from 10 million tons in the 1960s to 73 million in 2006.[16] The average person in the developing world consumes roughly 25% more calories per day now than before the Green Revolution.[12] Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%.

The production increases fostered by the Green Revolution are widely credited with having helped to avoid widespread famine, and for feeding billions of people.[17]

The term "Green Revolution" was first used in 1968 by former USAID director William Gaud, who noted the spread of the new technologies and said, "These and other developments in the field of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the Shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution."[4]

With the experience of agricultural development begun in Mexico by Norman Borlaug in 1943 judged as a success, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to spread the Green Revolution to other nations. The Office of Special Studies in Mexico became an informal international research institution in 1959, and in 1963 it formally became CIMMYT, The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

In 1961 India was on the brink of mass famine. Norman Borlaug was invited to India by the adviser to the Indian minister of agriculture M. S. Swaminathan. Despite bureaucratic hurdles imposed by India's grain monopolies, the Ford Foundation and Indian government collaborated to import wheat seed from CIMMYT. Punjab was selected by the Indian government to be the first site to try the new crops because of its reliable water supply and a history of agricultural success. India began its own Green Revolution program of plant breeding, irrigation development, and financing of agrochemicals. [4]

India soon adopted IR8 - a rice semi-dwarf variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute that could produce more grains of rice per plant when grown properly with fertilizer and irrigation. In 1968, Indian agronomist S.K. De Datta published his findings that IR8 rice yielded about 5 tons per hectare with no fertilizer, and almost 10 tons per hectare under optimal conditions. This was 10 times the yield of traditional rice.[5] IR8 was a success throughout Asia, and dubbed the "Miracle Rice."

In the 1960s, rice yields in India were about two tons per hectare; by the mid-1990s, they had risen to six tons per hectare. In the 1970s, rice cost about $550 a ton; in 2001, it cost less than $200 a ton. India became one of the world's most successful rice producers, and is now a major rice exporter, shipping nearly 4.5 million tons in 2006. [5]

Famine in India, once accepted as inevitable, has not returned since the introduction of
Green Revolution agriculture.

[....]

There have been numerous attempts to introduce the successful concepts from the Mexican and Indian projects into Africa. These programs have generally been less successful, for a number of reasons. Reasons cited include widespread corruption, insecurity, a lack of infrastructure, and a general lack of will on the part of the governments.

[....]

Cereal production more than doubled in developing nations between the years 1961 – 1985.[12] Yields of rice, maize, and wheat increased steadily during that period.[12] The production increases can be attributed roughly equally to irrigation, fertilizer, and seed development, at least in the case of Asian rice.[12]

While agricultural output increased as a result of the Green Revolution, the energy input into the process (that is, the energy that must be expended to produce a crop) has also increased at a greater rate,[13] so that the ratio of crops produced to energy input has decreased over time. Green Revolution techniques also heavily rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, some of which must be developed from fossil fuels, making agriculture increasingly reliant on petroleum products.[14] Proponents of the Peak Oil theory fear that a future decline in oil and gas production would lead to a decline in food production or even a Malthusian catastrophe.[15]

Some criticisms generally involve some variation of the Malthusian principle of population. Such concerns often revolve around the idea that the Green Revolution is unsustainable[18][19][20], and argue that humanity is currently in a state of overpopulation with regards to the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth.

Malthusian predictions have frequently failed to materialize. In 1798 Thomas Malthus made his prediction of impending famine.[21] The world's population had doubled by 1923 and then had doubled again by 1973 without fulfilling Malthus' prediction. Malthusian Paul R. Ehrlich, in his 1968 book The Population Bomb, said that India would never feed itself and claimed that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980" and "Hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs."[21] Ehrlich's predictions failed to materialize when India became self sustaining in cereal production in 1974 (six years later) as a result of the introduction of Norman Borlaug's dwarf wheat varieties.[21]

To some modern Western sociologists and writers, increasing food production is not synonymous with increasing food security, and is only part of a larger equation. For example, Harvard professor Amartya Sen claimed large historic famines were not caused by decreases in food supply, but by socioeconomic dynamics and a failure of public action. [22] However, economist Peter Bowbrick has accused Sen of misrepresenting historical data, telling outright lies and being wrong on his theory of famines. In fact Bowbrick argues that Sen's views coincide with that of the Bengal government at the time of the Bengal famine of 1943 and the policies Sen advocates failed to relieve the famine.

[....]

There are several claims about how the Green Revolution may have decreased food security for some people. One such claim involves the shift of subsistence-oriented cropland to cropland oriented towards production of grain for export and/or animal feed. For example, the Green Revolution replaced much of the land used for pulses that fed Indian peasants for wheat, which did not make up a large portion of the peasant diet.[25] Also, the pesticides involved in rice production eliminated fish and weedy green vegetables from the diets of Asian rice farmers.[26] Critics of this view counter that this presupposes an inherent superiority of subsistence living, which tends to be romanticized in rich Western countries.

[....]

Norman Borlaug has dismissed most claims of critics, but does take certain concerns seriously. He states that his work has been "a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia". Of environmental lobbyists he has stated, "some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution#cite_note-conway1-11


Norman Ernest Borlaug (born March 25, 1914) is an American agronomist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate, and has been called the father of the Green Revolution.[1] Borlaug is one of five people in history to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.[2] He is also an awardee of the Padma Vibhushan, India's highest civilian honour to non-citizens of exemplary accomplishment.

Borlaug received his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.[3] He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

More recently, he has helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa. Borlaug has continually advocated the use of his methods and biotechnology to decrease world famine. His work has faced environmental and socioeconomic criticisms, including charges that his methods have created dependence on monoculture crops, unsustainable farming practices, heavy indebtedness among subsistence farmers, and high levels of cancer among those who work with agriculture chemicals. He has emphatically rejected many of these as unfounded or untrue. In 1986, he established the World Food Prize to recognize individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food around the globe.

[....]

To finance his studies [during the Depression era], Borlaug periodically had to put his education on hold and take a job. One of these jobs, in 1935, was as a leader in the Civilian Conservation Corps, working with the unemployed on US federal projects. Many of the people who worked for him were starving. He later recalled, "I saw how food changed them...All of this left scars on me".[9]

[....]

During the mid-1960s, the Indian subcontinent was at war, and experiencing widespread famine and starvation, even though the US was making emergency shipments of millions of tons of grain, including over one fifth of its total wheat, to the region.[13] The Indian and Pakistani bureaucracies and the region's cultural opposition to new agricultural techniques initially prevented Borlaug from fulfilling his desire to immediately plant the new wheat strains there. By the summer of 1965, the famine became so acute that the governments stepped in and allowed his projects to go forward.[9]

In the late 1960s, most experts said that global famines in which billions would die would soon occur. Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971," and "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."

In 1965, after extensive testing, Borlaug's team began its effort by importing about 450 tons of Lerma Rojo and Sonora 64 semi-dwarf seed varieties: 250 tons went to Pakistan and 200 to India. They encountered many obstacles. Their first shipment of wheat was held up in Mexican customs and so could not be shipped from the port at Guaymas in time for proper planting. Instead, it was sent via a 30-truck convoy from Mexico to the US port in Los Angeles (LA), encountering delays at the US-Mexico border. Once the convoy entered the US, it had to take a detour, as the US National Guard had closed the freeway due to Watts riots in LA. When the seeds reached LA, a Mexican bank refused to honor Pakistan treasury's payment of US$100,000 because the check contained three misspelled words. Still, the seed was loaded onto a freighter destined for Bombay, India, and Karachi, Pakistan. Twelve hours into the freighter's voyage, war broke out between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region. Borlaug received a telegraph from the Pakistani minister of agriculture, Malik Khuda Bakhsh Bucha: "I'm sorry to hear you are having trouble with my check, but I've got troubles, too. Bombs are falling on my front lawn. Be patient, the money is in the bank..."[9]

[....]

The initial yields of Borlaug's crops were higher than any ever harvested in South Asia. The countries subsequently committed to importing large quantities of both the Lerma Rojo 64 and Sonora 64 varieties. In 1966, India imported 18,000 tons —the largest purchase and import of any seed in the world at that time. In 1967, Pakistan imported 42,000 tons, and Turkey 21,000 tons. Pakistan's import, planted on 1.5 million acres (6,100 km²), produced enough wheat to seed the entire nation's wheatland the following year.[13] By 1968, when Ehrlich's book was released, William Gaud of the United States Agency for International Development was calling Borlaug's work a "Green Revolution". High yields led to a shortage of various utilities: labor to harvest the crops, bullock carts to haul it to the threshing floor, jute bags, trucks, rail cars, and grain storage facilities. Some local governments were forced to close school buildings temporarily to use them for grain storage.[9]

In Pakistan, wheat yields nearly doubled, from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 7.3 million tons in 1970; Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production by 1968. Yields were over 21 million tons by 2000. In India, yields increased from 12.3 million tons in 1965 to 20.1 million tons in 1970. By 1974, India was self-sufficient in the production of all cereals. By 2000, India was harvesting a record 76.4 million tons (2.81 billion bushels) of wheat. Since the 1960s, food production in both nations has increased faster than the rate of population growth. Paul Waggoner, of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, calculates that India's use of high-yield farming has prevented 100 million acres (400,000 km²) of virgin land from being converted into farmland—an area about the size of California, or 13.6% of the total area of India.[20] The use of these wheat varieties has also had a substantial effect on production in six Latin American countries, six countries in the Near and Middle East, and several others in Africa.

[A]ssuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods such as organic farming would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high-yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction. On a global scale, this view holds strictly true ceteris paribus, if all land either consists of forests or is used for agriculture. But other land uses exist, such as urban areas, pasture, or fallow, so further research is necessary to ascertain what land has been converted for what purposes, in order to determine how true this view remains. Increased profits from high-yield production may also induce cropland expansion in any case, although as world food needs decrease, this expansion may decrease as well.[22]

[....]

As Borlaug's name is nearly synonymous with the Green Revolution, over the decades environmentalists, nutritionists, progressives, and economists have mounted many criticisms of the Green Revolution. Throughout his years of research, Borlaug's programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects.[23] Borlaug's work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming[24]. These farming techniques reap large profits for US agribusiness and agrichemical corporations such as Monsanto and have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of US corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.[25] There are also concerns about the long-term sustainability of farming practices encouraged by the Green Revolution in both the developed and developing world.[26]

Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: that the construction of roads in populated third-world areas could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.[27]

[....]

In the early 1980s, environmental groups that were opposed to Borlaug's methods campaigned against his planned expansion of efforts into Africa. They prompted the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the World Bank to stop funding most of his African agriculture projects. Western European governments were persuaded to stop supplying fertilizer to Africa. According to David Seckler, former Director General of the International Water Management Institute, "the environmental community in the 1980s went crazy pressuring the donor countries and the big foundations not to support ideas like inorganic fertilizers for Africa."[20]

[....]

[Who'd know?] Borlaug was also featured in an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, where he was referred to as the "Greatest Human Being That Ever Lived". In that episode, Penn & Teller play a card game where each card depicts a great person in history. Each player picks a few cards at random, and bets on whether they think their card shows a greater person than the other players' cards based on a characterization such as humanitarianism or scientific achievement. Penn gets Norman Borlaug, and proceeds to bet all his chips, his house, his rings, his watch, and essentially everything he's ever owned. He wins because, as he says, "Norman is the greatest human being, and you've probably never heard of him." In the episode—the topic of which was genetically altered food—he is credited with saving the lives of over a billion people.

[....]

On September 27, 2006, the United States Senate by unanimous consent passed the Congressional Tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Act of 2006. The act authorizes that Borlaug be awarded America's highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal. On December 6, 2006, the House of Representatives passed the measure by voice vote. President George Bush signed the bill into law on December 14, 2006, and it became Public Law Number 109–395. According to the act, "Dr. Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived, and likely has saved more lives in the Islamic world than any other human being in history." The act authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to strike and sell duplicates of the medal in bronze. He was presented with the medal on July 17, 2007.[38]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

Modernity isn't perfect, but thanks to Norman Borlaug there are billions of healthy people around to complain about it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The New Reformation

There's quite a thought-provoking article in First Things magazine on the decline of Protestantism in the United States. Joseph Bottum's "The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline" chronicles the results of the theological shifts that are reforming the Protestant churches of America.

Reading this article reminded me of the eternal question we wrestle with as we seek a personal relationship with God by learning from the experiences of those who have searched before us: Do you want your church's faith to change you, or do you want to change your church's faith?

Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran—the name hardly matters anymore. It’s true that if you dig through the conservative manifestos and broadsides of the past thirty years, you find one distressed cry after another, each bemoaning the particular path by which this or that denomination lost its intellectual and doctrinal distinctiveness.

After you’ve read a few of these outraged complaints, however, the targets begin to blur together. The names may vary, but the topics remain the same: the uniformity of social class at the church head­quarters, the routine genuflections toward the latest political causes, the feminizing of the clergy, the unimportance of the ecclesial points that once defined the denomination, the substitution of leftist social action for Christian evangelizing, and the disappearance of biblical theology. All the Mainline churches have become essentially the same church: their histories, their theologies, and even much of their practice lost to a uniform vision of social progress. Only the names of the corporations that own their properties seem to differ.
The emptying churches don't necessarily reveal an abandonment of religious faith; in many cases, it seems, believers in absolute truths are merely seceding to new religions, although they may not define their choices that way...:

Look at the fury, for instance, with which environmentalists now attack any disputing of global warming. Such movements seek converts, not supporters, and they respond to objections the way religions respond to heretics and heathens. ...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Go Figure...

"I haven't committed a crime. I love Peru and show it with my body and soul," the dancer said on RPP radio.

Mario Amoretti, a well-known lawyer, said it depends in part on how Peru's red-and-white flag was used.

"It's one thing to cover your body with the flag, but quite another thing to be naked and using it as a horse's saddle," he said.

El Source

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Looking For Reasons To Keep Faith In The UK

In Charles Dickens' classic story A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Spirits in order to give him a more three-dimensional view of his life: the values of the past he had forsaken, the choices that remained available to him and the likely consequences of those choices.

Reading the news in the European press reminds me ever so much of being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, and being offered a glimpse into my, our, potential future... a world empty of hope, compassion and reason.
The stories out of the UK speak of a decaying nation, and it's increasingly challenging to believe that the institutions designed to serve as a candle's light in the darkness will remain untouched by the fog of despair blanketing today's not-so-Great Britain, like a shroud.

Every small flicker of light suggesting that the system still works seems offset by larger shadows promising that the system may be beyond salvation. It's hard to keep faith in the hope that, down the road, the story of these islands and their people will have a happy ending.

From reading the history of the British Isles I learned a lesson from a good teacher that, I believe, holds the key to turning things around: the most assured path to defeat would be to live without hope. Never give up, never surrender, so when people look at you for reassurance, you can honestly show them a sign that affirms, with sincerity, that you are still in the fight, committed to victory. A commitment fueled by that most powerful of secret weapons: hope.

Once we abandon this source of strength, what resources remain within ourselves to renew the amount of energy and commitment required to keep one's hand at the wheel, come what may? The hole left within us by a lack of hope soon causes much else to fall away, as well; when we stop believing in a better tomorrow, what reasons remain to live well today?

Why be civil, why be polite, why listen, why see, why learn, if there's to be no solution to our present-day problems?

Having accepted one loss, we leave ourselves open to allowing another, and another, until we live as empty shells, prisoners of the present, refusing to rise, preferring to fall, perhaps even welcoming a nihilist embrace of the nullity of death... for it seems a future not so different from our present, empty existence.

At a micro level, you can see such behavior exhibited through the UK commentors who come here and at other North American blogs, anonymously leaving their unrelated links in comment threads no matter the subject of the posts, links to doom and despair. I always wonder what the purpose of these actions are... what goal does it serve, except maybe to get me to lose my faith in order for them to continue justifying having lost theirs. Their comments are not even cries for help, since they never seem to return to see what aid might be forthcoming. Maybe they simply believe that we've already given up, as they have. They've given up so much they've even given up their very identity, not even bothering to call themselves "jack" or "tom"... whether it's their real name or not, it would at least create a sense of a person at the other end of the comment. A person to be helped. A person worth helping.

Or maybe they don't return because they think they're talking to an imbecile, since they're talking to a person straining to keep his faith in the UK, despite his following the same news that they are reading.

To live with faith is not to live as an imbecile. It does not involve steadfastly ignoring unpleasant truths and unwelcome news. To live in hope is not to live blindly, it's in fact the act of seeing as much as possible. It's looking at the world three-dimensionally, remembering the past, examining the present in order to imagine the future. As with Scrooge, it's a hard balancing act to sustain without the help of gifted teachers, maybe each with a particular specialty, dividing the challenge into smaller, bite-sized morsels so that the lesson may be more easily digested.

To live with faith is to somehow co-exist with doubts. For me, it's not really the macro stories that challenge my faith in the UK so much as it is the micro stories; somehow, in their simplicity, in their small scale, they seem to speak volumes about how much has been lost, how far the great have fallen...:
A painter and decorator and his wife have both received a £30 fines for smoking in their own van.

Gordon Williams, of Llanafan, near Aberystwyth, west Wales, and his wife Sue were on the way to buy tea bags when they were slapped with the fixed penalty fines under anti-smoking laws.
...
The married grandfather had just lit up when a council official approached him and dished out the on-the-spot fine. Mr Williams said it was justified to him by the accusation that his van was classed as a workplace.
He claims that he had, in fact, been working in the nearby village of Talybont that day and only ever used his van as transport.
"I was actually driving to Llanbadarn Fawr to get some tea bags from the garage, so how was I going to my place of work?" he said.
"I appreciate that a driver of a coach or a bus can't smoke at the wheel because, obviously, that is the law of the land.
"But this is insured as a private vehicle and I only use it to drive to wherever I will be working on any given day.
"Of course, there are tools and things in the van but a barrister would carry about documents in a briefcase in his own car, this is no different to my mind."
Have the people who used to send their Prime Minister box after box of free cigars, for him to smoke at ten Downing Street while he kept faith in the fight to preserve Great Britain, have they really come down to this..? Have they so quickly forgotten who, and where, they are?

Remember your past, be grateful for it, so that in that gratitude you can find a bounty of resources sufficient to light a new candle in your dark room, in order to see your way through to a future worth living in, on your precious stone, your "blessed plot". It's not living there that is supposed to ennoble you, it is by how you act that you ennoble where you live.

It's not called an act of faith, for nothing.

Obama Shaft Interview, with Follow-up.

I can't make up parodic nonsense that competes equally with reality. Found this at American Thinker:

Here's the incredible account of Judith Bonesky's meeting...

It's 16:02 pm and I've been training in the gym of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Berlin. A man in a suit approaches me and says: "Barack Obama is about to come and train ..." Shortly after half past four and he actually arrives! Barack Obama is wearing a grey t-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms - and a great smile!
"Hi, how's it going?" asks Obama in his deep voice. My heart beats. "Very good, and you?" I say. Obama replies: "Very good, thank you!"

[....]
He goes and picks up a pair of 16 kilo weights and starts curling them with his left and right arms, 30 repetitions on each side. Then, amazingly, he picks up the 32 kilo weights! Very slowly he lifts them, first 10 curls with his right, then 10 with his left. He breathes deeply in and out and takes a sip of water from his 0,5 litre Evian bottle.

Shortly before five o'clock Obama comes over and sits directly next to my cross-trainer on the mat. First he does 10 sit-ups, then stretches. Then he looks at his watch and says to his bodyguard: "It's time, let's go." Quickly I ask: "Mr. Obama, could I take a photo?". "Of course!" he answers, before asking my name and coming over to stand next to me.

"My name's Judith" I reply. "I'm Barack Obama, nice to meet you!" he says, and puts his arm across my shoulder. I put my arm around his hip - wow, he didn't even sweat! WHAT A MAN!

(HT: Media Blog at NRO)/ http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/07/the_most_incredible_example_of.html

I got on the phone to interview Judith, the girl who talked with The Obama, to find out more. Here's the interview, unedited:

Dag: Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks?

Judith: "OBAMA SHAFT! Ya damn right!"

Dag: Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man?

Judith: "OBAMA SHAFT! Can you dig it?"

Dag: Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about?

Judith: "OBAMA SHAFT! Right On!"

Dag: They say this cat Obama Shaft is a bad mother--

Judith: "SHUT YOUR MOUTH! Stop the smears."

Dag: I'm talkin' 'bout Shaft.

Judith: "THEN WE CAN DIG IT!"

I concluded from this in-depth interview that Obama Shaft is a complicated man and no one understands him but his woman.

OBAMA SHAFT!

Obama Shaft. Shafting the nation in '08.

Let's see. Do I know anyone else who goes to the gym and doesn't sweat while working-out? Oh! By golly-wolly, I just happen to know a person like that after all. Kinsey Milhone For President!



http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/s/shaftlyrics/themefromshaftlyrics.html

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hmmm... not everyone is humming "here comes the Sun king/Everybody's laughing..."

Judging from last night's Covenant Zone meeting, with all the gloom and despair on display when America voting was the subject among us, there is probably someone here who could use a laugh:
[...] From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.
[...]


He ventured forth to bring light to the world | Gerard Baker - Times Online

Via Wolf Howling

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Covenant Zone, Geeks or Greeks?

From time to time, a notice for our weekly Thursday meetings has appeared at other blogs and websites. It's great to have friends who want to give our "blue scarf" meetings a little publicity. Lately, Findalis at Monkey in the Middle has had a notice on her side bar.

Many thanks Findalis.

If the three of us here at CZ weren't so phobic about matters computer programming, we'd have a side bar full of neat stuff too. But at heart, I guess we're more just interested in just talking and writing about freedom. Heck, this week Sean has had to remind us that we're a bunch of "semantic" toffs more interested in playing homoerotic games like private school boys than with talking the serious stuff, whatever Sean thinks that is.

Well, there's only one way to know for sure what the ever open meanings of Covenant Zone are about. Are you interested in renewing the possibilities and freedoms of our shared culture, of fighting for your stakes in a free society? Then join us one Thursday, or start your own "covenant zone" wherever you are, figuring out how you can do something to guarantee the openness of the systems on which our shared freedom depends.

We meet at the chairs and tables outside Blenz Coffee in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, 7-9pm, Thursdays.
Photo by Lightgazer, via mirage bookmark

Frank Frank

Somehow along the way I got on the mailing list for B'nai Brith Canada, the Jewish human rights organization (which actually began its history as a masonic-type Jewish fraternal organization, something like the Knights of Columbus).

The word on the street among those of us fighting the thought policing of the Canadian "human rights" commissions is that B'nai Brith, while having been a frequent intervenor and occasional complainant before Canada's human rights commissions, are not as censorious in their general outlook as the Canadian Jewish Congress. While B'nai Brith won't break with its past and come out against the "human rights" commissions now that Jews and somewhat jewish writers are being targeted by Islamist fatwas via the hrcs, they have come out against the supposed misjudgments that have allowed the fatwas to be heard by the hrcs, because they still hope to use the hrcs to protect Jews in Canada.

There are, however, apparently voices within B'nai Brith opposed to the hrcs, realizing that the old game whereby "hate speech" prosecutions were basically reserved for antisemites can no longer be sustained.

Anyway, today via the mailiing list comes news that Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President (basically B'nai Brith's executive head) has started a new blog, Frankly Speaking
‘Frankly Speaking’, we believe it is about time that the pressing issues of concern to Canada’s Jewish community were addressed head on. No more nuanced meaning disguised under the banner of political correctness. ‘Frank’ talk is what you will come to expect as a regular visitor to the blog.

Frank Dimant is one of Canadian Jewry’s senior leaders. He can always be counted on to tell the truth as he sees it. He will communicate what many of you are thinking, but often reluctant to say out loud.
Now that is something I'd like to read!

Most of the mailing is a cry for us to join together in fighting "online hate". There is no indication that our tools should be other than fighting back with the truth (especially about Israel), at sites like Youtube and Facebook.

So I checked out Frank's blog:
...The protestations on the lack of human rights in Arab countries are so muted that you cannot even hear them. The lack of rights granted to homosexuals and lesbians in Muslim countries brings absolutely no protest from Canadian human rights organizations. The torture of citizens in Arab lands is not an issue for academia. Child labour is simply not on the agenda. The stoning of men and women on charges of adultery barely raises an eyebrow. The right of Hindus to pray in their temples is not a matter of public concern. The list can go on indefinitely.

The dual standard of judging the Jewish nation and the Islamic world is so blatantly biased that it cries out for justice. Sadly, today, the international human rights bodies and human rights organizations, including the United Nations, are controlled by the very entities that promote hatred against the Jewish people and their ancestral homeland.

Sadly, we as a worldwide Jewish community, together with our friends and allies - and we do have friends - have failed to take the initiative. Instead of being on the offensive, we fall back on classical defense lines. We list the Nobel Prize winners that the Jewish people have produced, we list the universities that exist and flourish in Israel, we speak about the human rights of Arab citizens in Israel in stark contrast to the lack of rights they would have in neighboring Arab countries, but these defenses fall on deaf ears.

We have done ourselves and our friends a disservice. We have not launched an offensive to fend off the Islamists. We have not focused our attention on the tragic wars being promoted by Islamists whose ultimate aim is to impose Islamic rule throughout the world. We have not exposed in consistent or systemic fashion the depths of anti-Jewish hatred being taught to young children in the Arab/Muslim world, nor have we done nearly enough to highlight the threat of Ahmadinijad and Iran to the civilized community of nations.

It is high time that we begin a pro-active campaign of exposing our enemies for who and what they are and the threat they pose not only to our survival, but indeed to the very fundamental survival of western civilization as we know it.

The rights of women to dress in the fashion they so choose, to drive cars and be educated, which are so elementary to us and yet a rarity in the Muslim world, the rights of Christians not to be intimidated by Islamic rulers, the rights of Buddhists to have their shrines remain intact, and the rights of the Baha’i to practice their faith, are all basic human rights that are denied by the Islamist forces.

If the so-called politically correct human rights organizations refuse to address these issues, we must not be silent when such injustices are committed and when they risk being superimposed on western civilization. It is time for us to shatter the silence and step into the void. ‘Frankly Speaking’, it is long overdue.
Frankly Speaking » Blog Archive » Drowning in Political Correctness

Now I have always wanted to join a real human rights organization, i.e. one that talked something like this. If Frank can only come to the conclusion that the Canadian "human rights" commissions, in having acquired the right to police our freedom of expression, and in first having gone after marginal antisemites with the heavy hand of the state, has now led to an environment in which the fear of a "hate speech" prosecution by "the hrc" is now being felt more widely by many Canadian writers, especially writers who might write like Frank, then I might consider switching from the mailing to the membership list.

In the meantime, and knowing that B'nai Brith does not support the prosecution of Mark Steyn by the HRCs, but knowing that what Frank Dimant has written here is not much different from the kind of things Steyn writes, how will the frank blogger envision a future in which the HRCs should and can only police the "right" kind of "hate" mongers? I mean, for a man who is aware of the antisemitic, anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Western corruption that has crept into the entire complex of the "human rights" world view, from the UN down, how can he expect the "human rights" agents of the Canadian state not also to be so influenced by the inherent antisemitism in the politically-correct world view of the victimary left?

And more generally, how could he ever imagine a body set up to police "hate speech" that was not either just a way to fine the most marginal nutters, at considerable expense to the taxpayer who would otherwise never hear of these lost losers, or a way to make, through its choice of prosecutions, one politically-correct worldview the officially protected world view of the Canadian state and "democracy", at the expense of others? The mere existence of a "hate speech" law is either a way for the righteous to become more disturbingly righteous by allowing them to scapegoat and punish the pathetic and inconsequential, or, when such a law is applied to silence figures with any significant audience, a way to chill all kinds of dissident opinion that should be heard in a free and democratic society, if we believe that allowing people to air their resentments - resentment being something so fundamental and inescapable to the human condition - is usually a much better way to mediate and defer resentment than is the stateist attempt to try and silence the "hate".

Let's see if frank Frank will contest the point. Let's see if he really believes that a free and open society with real human rights is always the best way to protect Jews and free people generally?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Velvet Fascism (9): Infantalization and Rule by Experts

The link immediately below concerns "experts" intervening in the lives of children to save them from bad parents, and goes on to discuss the nature of these so-called experts who possibly do more harm than good, sticking up for each other in the case of objections to their Gnostic brilliance. Below that is a piece from Toronto, Canada about the state planting trees so children will be protected from skin cancer. Both pieces are examples of what I term "Velvet Fascism." Both articles are examples of totalitarianism and infantalization. Thanks to RS and Truepeers for putting me on to these stories.

Mediocracy: Inversions & deceptions in an 'egalitarian' society. 19 July 2008

The eighth circle of Hell

Remember: experts are not neutral. They have their own agenda. If they are employed by the state, as most doctors effectively are, they will reflect the interests of the state, and/or those of their own profession. An organisation with power will act to expand that power. Assertions about doing things for people's 'own good' should be treated with as much scepticism as the claims of dictators that they are acting 'for the people'. As O'Brien says in Orwell's 1984, "Power is not a means, it is an end".
http://inversions-and-deceptions.blogspot.com/2008/07/eighth-circle-of-hell.html


MARGARET WENTE, "Watch out! Here comes the sun." Globe and Mail. 22 July 2008

Toronto's citizens will be relieved to learn that the city's elected leaders are determined to stamp out a grave threat to children's health and safety. Can you guess what it is? No, not pedophiles. Not lawn spray (they've already banned that) or Coke in school vending machines (on the way out). All of those can harm your child, but now officials are on to something much, much bigger.

The sun! That's right. Sunlight is bad. Too much of it can kill. Parents can't be trusted to limit their children's sun exposure to the appropriate amounts. So the City of Toronto will do it for them. Not even the most powerful bureaucrats can regulate the sun -- yet -- but they can, and will, regulate the shade.

As you read this, city workers are fanning out to playgrounds and other public spaces to conduct what are known as "shade audits." These audits will measure the angle of the sun at different times of day, as well as the amount of direct and reflected sunlight, the quantity and usability of shade from trees and other structures, and how many children are likely to be in attendance. Then they will determine where our little ones are likely to be most at risk from dangerous UV rays that cause deadly skin cancer. I can guarantee it's not my part of town, where conscientious parents cover their children with so much protective goop and gear that it's a wonder they don't get rickets.

But why take a chance? As councillor Gord Perks argues, "It makes no sense to me that people would object to fighting an epidemic of skin cancers among children." Also, not all children get to live in the leafier parts of town. As another city councillor reminds us, we have a special duty to protect the less fortunate children who live in high-rises, because they are forced to play in hazardous sun-drenched public parks.

Personally, I think we should be happy the little tykes are outside at all. If you ask me, what we really need is a public-health campaign to pry them away from their video games. But public-health officials are so busy whipping up imaginary dangers it's a wonder parents ever let their kids out the door. Heat alert! Heat alert! Any day the mercury hits 32.1, they declare a heat alert. Where did these people grow up? Iqaluit?

The city's sprawling Shade Policy Committee (which includes environmental planners, foresters, meteorologists, dermatologists, architects, parks personnel, oncologists and a healthy lifestyles nurse) is a bureaucrat's delight. It is the logical offshoot of a mindset that believes ordinary people are completely incapable of exercising common sense, combined with the belief that the right policies, devised by wise public officials like themselves, can save the world. These policies have been years in the making, and have generated mountains of pilot projects and reports. So who am I to gripe? Personally, I adore the shade, and I think we ought to have more of it. But I wonder if we really need this many experts to figure out where to plant a tree.

Sometimes I suspect that in between pandemics, the main job of public-health officials is to dream up new menaces to make themselves indispensable. These are the same folks who warned last week that too much cellphone use could give your kids brain cancer (and, after all, nobody can ever prove it won't). They're always there to remind us that in summer it gets hot, in winter it gets cold and in spring it gets smoggy.

Whatever did we do before we had qualified experts to tell us how to cope? How did we survive before the healthy lifestyle nurses came along to nag that junk food is bad for us and exercise is good? Oh, yeah. We had Mom. But what does she know? If you leave it up to her, the kids will probably get skin cancer.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080722.wcowente22/BNStory/specialComment/?query=

This is more than just silliness. The danger is that in this world-view we come to see the meaning of life as that given to us by those who are better qualified to live our lives for us and our children than we are. We lose our right to make our own meaning of life. We lose our freedom-- and our meaning in that loss. This fad of idealizing the Gnostic Philosopher Kings is a danger we too often bow to uncritically in the usual social manner of most good citizens. We half-listen to the words, hear the sounds, pick up on the vibe, and we go along with things we are often too busy to concern ourselves with in our busy lives.

Experts know about our safety? Well, who are we to object and decide to do something stupid and unhealthy? Why should we stand by and let others do such things? Yes, we are infantalized, and increasingly so by Velvet Fascism. But it's for the good of all. Freedom? That's for stupid people.

Count me really stupid.

Fantasy made into scenic reality...

PARIS (Reuters) - France's data protection authority has given permission for a nudist resort to keep a "black list" of guests barred from its facilities, the organization said.

...nudity is not exhibitionism
riiighttt.....
Not everyone can meet our nudist standards | U.S. | Reuters

Excellent overview of the fate of "policing" in today's Britain

Another great example of why centralized government and rule by bureaucrats more interested in having appealing statistics with which to build their careers, than having any sense of reality as it is lived on the ground in the various and specific scenes of every day life, is a bad thing:
Wolf Howling: Deconstructing the Socialist's War On Law & Order In Britain

France Cooking The Books On Burned Cars Statistics..?

We know that several hundred cars were burned by out-of-control young vandals during the festivities for France's Bastille Day holiday... but how many, exactly?

Last week several mayors of the long-suffering communities hardest hit by these raging arsonists, started questioning the government's official version of the Bastille Day car-nage, implying that the ministry of the Interior's figures deliberately under-represent the actual numbers of torched cars. [my loose translation]

Elected officials on the left in Seine-Saint-Denis have contested the official report on burned cars the night of 13 to 14 July [Bastille Day], demanding from the Ministry of the Interior "numbers that haven't been fiddled with", after having counted "over 140" within their region.

Friday the minister of the Interior stuck to his report, that as of 6:00 AM on the morning of July 14th, there had been 91 cars burned (including those by propagation) [Note: the government policy is to keep two sets of numbers, one for deliberately torched cars and a separate one for cars that end up catching on fire from being located next to cars that have been set ablaze by arsonists; often the numbers cited in French reports don't include these secondary fires, unless it's stated otherwise, as the minister does here.] in Seine-Saint-Denis, in relation to the 211 vehicles set ablaze in Ile-de-France [the Parisian region] (297 throughout all of France). As ongoing complaints have been filed by the victims, "the tally must certainly have increased since then, yet no consolidated report has yet been established", the ministry was told.

In a press release, the elected officials affirmed that they had assessed, after several days, "over 140 vehicles" destroyed or damaged by fire on just that one night alone, after a "checklist" compiled from other elected officials in 23 of the 40 cities in the d├ępartement. They are now "demanding" numbers that are not fudged, mostly in consideration for the residents of Seine-Saint-Denis and especially for resources so that these events do not become a ritual on each festive holiday.

According to the elected officials, these numbers were "revised" on July 14th. The first report that they refer to (20 vehicles burned in Seine-Saint-Denis), released to
the press by police sources, was established at 2:00 AM.

"Why this kind of manipulation of the figures? Is it to justify a decrease in the number of officers and resources for the police in our departments?", asks Claude Dilain, mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois...

This wouldn't be the first time that France's official accounting of its youthful residents' fiery vandalism has been called into question. The ministry of the Interior is France's equivalent, more or less, to the FBI; and the individual holding the cabinet position of Minister of the Interior, for four of the last five years prior to France's 2007 Presidential election, was France's current President, Nicholas Sarkozy.

The allegations are pretty serious; is Sarkozy pressuring his cabinet ministers to cook the books on crime statistics, in order to beef up his self-professed image of being tough on crime..? Maybe, as with political rival Segolene Royal's outrageous claims that the Sarkozy administration is breaking into her apartment, Watergate-style, the socialist mayors are just engaged in political theater.

Or maybe, where there's smoke, there's fire...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ezra threatened with another suit, needs help!

CHRC lawyer threatens me with another lawsuit. (I'm still "serene") - Ezra Levant

It would seem to me that a government lawyer criticized for his work as part of a scandalous government operation shouldn't have quite the same status in a defamation case as would a person not in the public employ. Of course it is the responsible minister of the crown, and the government more generally, who should be held ultimately accountable for the CHRC fiasco; still, I don't see how Vigna has much of a case (but I know I'm not a lawyer). Anyone who prosecutes under Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is enabling an evil law. But I doubt if Canadian courts will allow such an understanding of the facts when it comes to considering if a reputation has been unfairly lost. We are a people too keen to defer to government- and legally-constituted authority, even when it's morally wrong.

This is just more evidence that Barbara Kay is right that we need more protection in Canada against SLAPP suits:
...A billionaire Saudi sheik threatened a libel suit in Britain, where truth is no defence and libel laws are plaintiff-friendly. Ehrenfeld hadn’t the funds to contest, and lost the suit. The decision has hurt her career. Since the British market is now closed to them and they fear future liability, publishers shun her work.

Exactly the same thing could happen to Levant and Steyn if a negative HRC decision chills Canadian publishers and distributors. Steyn is presently poised to defend America Alone in its French translation if an HRC-type fatwa emerges in France — “And I’ll do that in every Western jurisdiction where bullies who can’t withstand free, open debate decide instead to use the legal system to shut the debate down.”

One way or another we must stop the fatwa industry in its tracks. Begin with removal of speech-regulation from the HRCs’ legal mandate. Build on that with legislation that imposes costs and damages on litigious third parties who seek to chill journalists.

Canada should also pass legislation imitative of the U.S. Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) law, presently active in 24 U.S. states, which disallows harassment of those writing on matters of “public concern,” as well as the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, a New York state initiative that will combat libel tourism.

The HRC crisis is not a tempest in a teapot. Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, says: “I don’t think it’s too strong to say that the [HRC] complaint against Mark Steyn is a totalitarian document.”

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that Levant and Steyn are fighting for the defining ideal of Western civilization which, once lost, would spell the beginning of the end of all our other freedoms.
So help out Ezra if you can, financially. He alludes to many other legal attacks against him. I have some inkling of why he can't talk about them, given the ethics of professional organizations. The lawyer bills for his fight for our shared freedom must be considerable. Follow the link above to his paypal.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Newsflash: British Columbia Has Some Nice Scenery

Okay, so it's not exactly breaking news... I was just looking for an excuse to post some new photos I took over the weekend, on my latest hike along mountain trails. This is a new park I hadn't visited before, and didn't know what to expect. I didn't expect it to be so big... 16 km I walked, and I only managed to see half of it.
It was all as quiet as it looks, usually with only your own thoughts to keep you company.
And, the occasional passerby, like this little feathered fellow. (Click to enlarge, to see some of his colorful plumage)

I had a good book to keep me company along my journey: "The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success", by Rodney Stark. This is one of the most stimulating books I've read in a long while, and I have a feeling it will take me a long while to finish... I keep stopping and thinking about what I've read, after virtually every page, so far. There's so much information in here that I never knew before. I spend more time thinking about it than reading it, which makes it a good fit for hiking.
I highly recommend it, if you're a history buff looking for some fascinating summer reading..!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The fight moves to Burnaby

Good to see the local paper, the Burnaby Now, is picking up the "human rights" fight:
Tribunal not about 'rights' at all (via Blazing Catfur!!)

It's also good to see that it's a lawyer, Mike Sporer, voicing his disgust with the "human rights" tribunal. When we were out demonstrating on day one of the Maclean's/Mark Steyn "trial" at the BCHRT, I tried to draw the attention of some of the lawyers walking by on their way to court. It has always seemed to me that it is the legal profession that should be in the lead in this fight since it is their profession that is brought into disrepute by the abuses of natural justice, such as the lax rules of procedure and evidence, that are part of the "human rights" political show trial. But in response to my provocations that their profession was being thrown into disrepute, I received blank faces and a couple of cynical "what's new" responses.

That's why, even when we hear of a federal cabinet minister showing up to support Guy Earle, we need to mark Mike Sporer's words:
It is a mistake to blame the complainants who have tried to take advantage of Canadian laws that encourage the use of state power to silence others.

The blame falls squarely on the state actors involved and the legal system they enforce, a system that increasingly promotes - at various levels and in various ways - the expansion of state power and the erosion of a free society.
[...]
The name of the tribunal is carefully chosen.

And the very name of the human rights tribunal, like that of the Ministry of Love in Oceania and the Department of Defence in the United States, serves to blur and shade the real and true nature of the state action involved.

Ultimately, Canadians will have to decide if they want to be government subjects or if they want to be citizens of a free society.

Those diminishing few who would prefer to be citizens had better awaken from their slumber.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Richard Dawkins, RIP

Richard Dawkins, famous scientist/atheist and television star of Hogan's Heroes, is dead.

I got on my cell phone and asked him what he thinks about things now.



"I guess what I miss most is being drunk."

New Yorker Cartoon

by Frank Cotham

Now we know.

Dag wants a laugh


globeandmail.com: No laughing matter
This is one of the less-noticed glories of the Canadian human-rights insanity. Complainants float unburdened like puffballs in a summer breeze – blowing whither they list. Targets – Catholic bishops, Catholic magazines, fundamentalist pastors, genital surgeons, heckled comedians, school boards, fast-food joints, school-prom nights, Maclean's magazine – empty bank machines and call in lawyers while the “leisurely” process unfurls in an eerie, Kafkaesque slow motion.

Indeed, in the most celebrated case, against Mark Steyn and Maclean's, the Ontario part-time imam and self-help guru Mohamed Elmasry who set in motion the separate grinding wheels of three human-rights commissions (Ontario, federal, and British Columbia) didn't even bother showing up at the only one (B.C.) that actually deigned to have a hearing.

Mark Steyn showed up. Maclean's lawyers showed up. An expert on Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed up. (As a witness for the complainant. Who else would a TV vampirologist testify for?) The Yanks have the First Amendment. We have Buffy-sociologists.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A revelatory event

If you haven't yet seen the video spoofing Richard Dawkins and the amazing response of Dawkins and his crowd in not knowing they were being spoofed, see Mark Shea's excellent summary: Not So Bright | Catholic Exchange

This is one of those events which show us things about our humanity we half knew but could never entirely grasp without the revelatory power of the event. Now, the whole Dawkins-atheist religion is laid bare, humiliated for being out of touch with humanity.

Reason alone cannot do the revealing job because reason is always a distillation of previous events. Revelation into the paradoxical human tensions of the present day requires the coming together of new scenes that relate parties in new and unpredictably revealing ways.

A new and successful event like this video, thanks to the amazingly blind response to it, should have the revelatory power of an event like Cortes defeating Moctezuma. But it's one of the sad facts of our history-bound humanity that the losers often take a long time to realize they've lost. And sometimes the winners, while masters of one event, are not all they think they are.

What is a human right in today's British Columbia?

Compare and Contrast:

1)
A program to remove panhandlers and homeless people from streets and parks amounts to "systemic discrimination," says a complaint filed Thursday with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The complaint, put forward by the Pivot Legal Society, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users Society (Vandu) and the United Native Nations Society, takes aim at the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association's Downtown Ambassadors Program.

The program employs ambassadors to patrol parts of downtown, dispensing information to tourists and trying to deter petty crime, vandalism and aggressive panhandling.

The complaint says the ambassadors order people who are sitting or sleeping on the street to move along, prevent persons from searching for recyclables in garbage cans, identify people as undesirables, take pictures of them and tell them they are not allowed in certain areas of the downtown.

That amounts to harassment and discrimination against the homeless and the poor in Vancouver, it says.

The complainants ask for $20 in damages for every person affected by the Ambassadors' conduct, to a maximum of 1,000 people.
2)
The city's police department has unveiled a safety program for restaurants in the hope it will deter gangsters from frequenting their establishments.

Modelled after the successful Bar Watch program, Restaurant Watch encourages staff to call police if they spot someone who fits the criteria of a gangster, gang associate, drug trafficker or violent person.

Police officers then take on the responsibility of deciding if the suspicious person should be removed from the restaurant.
[...]
Police said uniform and plainclothes officers will also do periodic walk-throughs of the 40 restaurants.

"We're not going to tolerate violence from these criminals," VPD superintendent Warren Lemcke said in a news release. "They're not welcome in our city."
AND:
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association dismissed the program as "bloody odd," with the easy potential to threaten the rights of restaurant patrons. Micheal Vonn, BCCLA policy director, wondered how restaurant staff will be able to tell people with gang-like appearances are actual gangsters with violent tendencies.

"It certainly raises a very serious question about what these people look like. On the basis of what possible criteria do you determine someone has a 'propensity for violence'?

"This is a very different thing than saying someone is causing a disturbance, which is always a justification for seeking police involvement," Ms. Vonn said.

"It is completely bizarre to assume there is some kind of behavioural or appearance profile that is going to effectively make this work. The slippery-slope notion would be how long before we say, 'We're going to scan your ID before you come into a restaurant.' "

Supt. Lemcke said that he is mindful of civil-liberties issues and that he and his officers would act within the law.

Restaurants have always been free to call police, but Restaurant Watch is being touted as a more visible and organized alliance between police and restaurants.

Ian Tostenson, president of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the effort will take the guesswork out of calling police on gang issues.

"If the restaurant is somewhat uncertain and not quite sure and detect something but they are not feeling good about it, it puts the onus on the Vancouver Police Department to make that determination. That's really key to this program," Mr. Tostenson said.
So... if you use drugs, and generally look pathetic, are you more likely to be seen as having your "human rights" violated than if you are a gang member making good money from dealing drugs?

It might seem so. This would suggest that "human rights" have become in good part a question of our capacity to feel guilt for those being claimed as victims.

Guilt is an irrational, potentially delusional, form of "thought" because even where guilt may be appropriate, we are not able to reflect rationally on our feelings of guilt when we are feeling guilty. We have to snap out of the feeling first to truly judge our feeling of guilt and, when necessary, to decide on any appropriate course to redeem our guilt.

But in today's society, we are more and more encouraged to dwell in and use our feelings of guilt as a true guide to reality. Pathetic looking dumpster diver, or barely cogent addict panhandling and making tourists feel guilty and scared? at what point along the way were his human rights violated? Expensively-dressed and obnoxious young men with an expensive sports cars eating steaks? when are we going to stop them and let the rest of us live in peace?

Resentment, you see, is the flip side of guilt and equally delusional: you can't think rationally about whatever you resent, at the time when you are feeling resentful.

Because guilt and resentment are delusional states of being we should always struggle against thinking about "human rights" claims when under their influence. We can't avoid seeing the scenes that make (some of) us feel guilty or resentful. But we must attempt to view and judge them from within the framework of a larger discipline of real thinking that does not allow our so-called "emotions" to rule.

Because if we reduce "human rights" to mean whatever makes a successful claim on victim status, whatever makes us feel guilty, we likely make victim status more and more desirable and create a positive need for it. Then, on the one hand, we may well become cynical towards any victim claim because we have become aware that it's a way to game the system (are we now to think people who look like gangsters have a right to eat in restaurants???) and are less able to identify genuine human rights victims. Or, on the other hand, we may become so enamored of victimary thinking that we fall in love with the heavy hand of the state (I'm taking you to the Human Rights Tribunal, you nasty business owner, you) as part of some Utopian dream of overcoming "victimization". This, of course, only has the unintended effect of creating a whole new kind of victim of the heavy-handed state. In Vancouver, it seems the povertarians and workplace victimologists are always looking for ways to use moral blackmail, a kind of extortion, on the business owners and taxpayers.

"Human Rights" needs to mean guaranteeing the freedom of any and all to access and play out their lives on our various public stages, when they agree to play by the rules that maximize freedom for all. To do this, we need to avoid giving some the power to manipulate the scenes that we "play" out (the more they are manipulated, the less free we are to play them out), by giving them the power to appeal to our guilt and resentment, which is ultimately an appeal to enforce a form of closure on our freedom. Those who think of human rights in terms of equality of outcome and not equal rights and opportunities under law, are people who will restrict all freedoms, because any freedom when exercised will have the effect of making differences among people. And social differences even when part of a rational economy that attempts to maximize wealth and exchange can make us feel guilty and resentful.

We should only care about keeping these differences in constant circulation and exchange, that people may have the chance to work their or their family's way out of a bad situation. We should not try to eliminate differences in some Utopia where no scene will make us feel guilty or resentful. Utopia can't be done, and the attempt only makes things worse. It creates a dependent class, people willing to play their part in "guilting" and blackmailing the successful. And no system can do that for long and remain free and successful.

Of course, for all I know, maybe the Downtown Ambassadors are doing something wrong in respect to the homeless and the addicts. It would be nice to have a real court of law with real rules of evidence where such claims could be played out. But in our victimary culture, I'm not likely to take the word of povertarians or the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal for it. And that's the problem. Civil suits with respect for our legacy of Common Law and torts don't seem to be in fashion among lawyers for "victims".

Nor can we be sure that the police understand "human rights" either.