A small sampling of the good stuff on the internet today

Victorian posy of pansiesIf you read one thing today, it’s this Ace of Spades post, in which Gabriel Malor spells out every incident in which the media tried, wrongly, to pin a shooting on the Tea Party.  Reading the list, you begin to realize what the problem is with mass shootings:  it’s not the guns, which are inanimate objects, it’s the Democrats who are using them.  This is perfectly analogous to car accidents, where it’s not the cars, which are inanimate objects, it’s the drunks driving them.  With both guns and cars, people handling them can make mistakes, but if there’s one particularly toxic class handling these objects, it’s Democrats with guns or drunks with cars.

Was Terry Loewen a psychopath who found Islam, or did Islam turn him into a psychopath?  Keep in mind what my cousin, a prison chaplain, said about prison conversions to Islam:

It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly [sic] remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.

Andrew McCarthy spells out precisely what kind of man Nelson Mandela was — and it’s not the type of man who should inspire hagiographies.  Still, no matter  his motives or the pressure put upon him by outside forces (such as the Zulu), he did preside over a remarkably bloodless transition from apartheid state to failing state.  OIf course, the nature of an African failed state is that we can expect the blood to flow with increasing force and frequency as the state continues its slide.

And while we’re on the subject of guns, Caped Crusader forwarded me an email that is making the rounds.  I can’t vouch for the number of dead, but I do know that it is true that the murder rate in a few Democrat-run, gun-controlled cities do, in fact, grossly skew America’s gun-death statistics:

Black deaths in America

ALSO:

The United States ranks 3rd in Murders throughout the World.

But if you take out Chicago , Detroit , Washington DC and New Orleans, the United States is 4th from the Bottom for Murders.

These 4 Cities also have the toughest Gun Control Laws in the United States.

All 4 are also controlled by Democrats.

It would be absurd to draw any conclusions from this data ………………. RIGHT….RIGHT?

Nelson Mandela, RIP

nelson-mandela

I didn’t like Nelson Mandela’s communism, but in all other ways he was a truly admirable, dignified, and iconic figure, who stared down a tyrannical system, mouldered for decades in prison and, through the strength of his personality, ensured that South Africa transitioned fairly peacefully from an apartheid nation to a nation that, at least in the law books, considered all citizens equal regardless of skin color.

My very limited understanding of events in South Africa today, though, is that the peace he achieved was very tenuous, and that white South Africans are feeling increasingly less secure.  Indeed, from what I’ve read, many are bracing themselves for race riots now that he’s gone.  In other words, it appears that his legacy will not outlast him.

The problem with introducing freedom into industrial societies — or the tyranny of fossil fuels

Two things happened on November 26, two entirely unrelated things, that nevertheless ended up merging into a single thought in my mind:  In the modern world, fossil fuels equal liberty.  If you cannot assure the people the former, forget about trying to foist upon them the latter.  Let me walk you through my thought processes.

The first thing that impinged onto my awareness was a conversation I had with a most delightful 85-year-old Jewish man who, except for WWII and the Israeli War of Independence, has always lived and worked in South Africa.  During a wide-ranging conversation, I asked him what the situation was like today in post-apartheid South Africa. “Horrible,” he said, “just horrible.”  According to him, the moment Nelson Mandela left office, the new ANC government began to be as racist as the old apartheid government, only with the benefits flowing to the blacks, this time, not the whites.  It’s not Zimbabwe, yet, but he sees it coming.

What was most fascinating to me was this man’s claim that the black people are deeply unhappy with the status quo.  Yes, ostensibly they have civil rights that were denied them under the old regime.  The problem, though, is that the country is so horribly mismanaged under the current government that, while they have civil rights, they lack electricity, clean water, food and transportation.  The blacks he speaks to therefore look back longingly on apartheid.  While their lives then were demeaning and economically marginal, the old government was stable and efficient.  Excepting those who lived in the most abysmal poverty, apartheid-era blacks could rely on what we in the modern era consider to be the basics for sustaining life:  not just the bare minimum of food and water, but also electricity, reliable long-distance transportation, and plumbing — all of which are dependent upon a modern fossil fuel economy.

The second thing that happened on November 26 was that Danny Lemieux put up a post commenting on Bruce Bawer’s Thanksgiving article examining the possibly naive American notion that all people crave freedom.  Danny had this to say:

I believe that I can understand the pull of serfdom for many people. Just think of all of the difficult life decisions that are taken away from the individual serf: as wards of the state, they don’t have to worry about where they will get their food (of course, they can forget about shopping at Whole Foods as well), whether they will meet their financial needs (albeit at a subsistence level), understanding politics, moral values, education, finding a job…etc. It is, in other words, regression to the mind of a child. They can simply exist for the moment of the day: no responsibilities but, also, no hope. Like vegetables, if you think about it.

I agree with Danny (and Bruce Bawer), but I I’d like to add to what both say, by dragging in fossil fuels.

What may have made the extraordinary American experiment in individual liberty possible was that it happened right at the start of the industrial era, before people’s expectations were raised by the industrial and post-industrial era.  At the end of the 18th century, people’s material expectations were limited by the technology of the time (electricity was a lightening bolt; clean water was the creek behind your house; transportation could be found in the bones and muscles reaching from your hips down to your feet).  Fortunately for America’s future, she was rich, not only in space, but in the natural resources that would become so necessary in the next two centuries, including fossil fuel and the drive to put that fossil fuel to work.  Put another way, at the moment our nation was born, our material expectations were low, but the possibilities proved to be almost endless.  The exquisite historic timing that brought together our new freedoms and the nascent industrial revolution made the American miracle possible.

Nowadays, the source of all physical comfort is fossil fuel.  Except for those people who still live a virtually stone age existence (whether in Indian, Africa, Latin America or Asia), every single person in the world benefits from fossil fuels.  They give us light, water treatment plants for clean water, food in the fields and in the marketplace, transportation, clothing, housing, every bit of our technology, everything.   Nothing in our modern world would be possible without them.  Fossil fuels drove Hitler’s maniacal push to the Soviet Union and ended the Japanese ability to fight a war.  (If you’re interested in more on oil’s central role in WWII, check out The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.)  No wonder the global warmists, with their anti-Western mindset, are so determined to destroy fossil fuel.

In a modern world, one that premised upon expectations of fossil fuel’s blessings (an abundance of food, clean water, ready transportation, technical, etc.), giving people freedom without meeting those expectations — which are, by now, the minimal expectations for creature comfort — is doomed to failure.  It is no longer enough to couple free speech with a horse, a plow, and some seeds.  Nor will people be excited about freedom of worship if they have only a small flame to light the night-time darkness.  Today, America’s famous four freedoms will satisfy people only if they are coupled with the riches flowing from modern energy.

What all this means in practical terms is that, if you invade Iraq and destroy a tyrant, but simultaneously knock out the power supply, you will not have a happy population.  Post-industrial people would rather have tyranny and electricity (and the food, water, transportation and other things flowing from that electricity), than freedom in a world limited to stone age energy sources.  Proverbs 15:17 therefore got it wrong.  As you recall, that proverb says “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”  Our modern experience with trying to bring people to the American model shows that most would say, “Better a stalled ox and a well-lighted barn where tyranny is, than starvation and the darkness of night where freedom lives.”

 

It was never about Africa qua Africa

Burt Prelutsky today, in a longer column about Obama’s political failings, launches into a blistering attack against US aid to Africa:

Speaking of Africa, when are we going to wean the dark continent? Are we ever going to get over this nutty notion that we have an obligation to keep pumping money down that particular sewer? It’s bad enough that George Bush is convinced that billions of American tax dollars — money that could better be spent trying to cure Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS — should be squandered dealing with AIDS in Africa, but Obama has already endorsed the U.N.-inspired giveaway known as the Global Poverty Act. It’s estimated that filling this particular Christmas stocking would run us $845 billion. Worse yet, most of this largesse would wind up in the pockets or Swiss bank accounts of those various thugs, such as Omar al-Bashir, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, Isayas Afeworki and the aforementioned Robert Mugabe, who run Africa the way that Al Capone ran Chicago.

What Prelutsky rather surprisingly forgets is that America’s political and economic involvement in Africa was never really about the Africans.  That is, while a bunch of individuals and NGOs today may be genuinely concerned about the plight of individual citizens in that benighted continent, the West’s support for Africa was simply an outcropping of the Cold War.  Once the old Imperialism vanished, Africa was the place of a thousand proxy battles between the Americans and the Soviets.  Savvy tinpot tyrants in Africa, freed from the benefits and burdens of their former imperial ties, quickly learned that they could increase the flow of money into their coffers by playing the two Superpowers off against each other.

Even South Africa wasn’t about apartheid as far as the Superpowers were concerned.  Instead it was about a West-leaning white government that found itself facing a black opposition that got funding from the Soviets.  And before you start thinking that the Soviets funded the blacks because of a principled stand vis a vis apartheid, abandon that thought immediately.  The Soviets funded the blacks only because the government, at a political level separate from apartheid, allied itself with the West.

Nowadays, with the face-off being one between Islam and the West, Sudan is exactly the modern South Africa.  It’s not the slaughter that’s the problem — sadly, that’s par for the course in Africa — it’s the nature of the hand wielding the machete that’s the problem.  You see, this time around it’s not a Communist hand, it’s an Islamic hand.  Of course, 30 years ago, America would have done something, not out of any Carter-esque human rights mushiness, but because the Sudan had suddenly become a front in a larger ideological war, not between the Sudanese, but between America and her enemies.  Things are different now, when we just stand on the sidelines wringing our hands.

All of which means that our presence in Africa, which looks like a lot of mushy, emotionally driven money, is in fact a Cold War legacy.  And it turns out that our presence their may still be necessary as we fight proxy battles against yet another Communist entity — China.  You see China is doing a fair bit of meddling in Africa now and, given Africa’s vast natural reserves, it’s not in America’s interests to let that continent drift irrevocably away from the West and land in the Chinese orbit:

Close on the heels of the latest sham election in Zimbabwe, the International Criminal Court announced last week that it is seeking the arrest of the president of Sudan on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As Africa notches up more failures on the long road out of colonialism, a new pseudo-colonial power–China–is busily engaged in getting exactly what it wants out of the continent. The implications for the kind of political and economic evolution likely to unfold in Africa are significant.

Until about 20 years ago, China’s interest in Africa consisted mainly of encouraging Marxist revolutionary factions. Lately, however, that interest has taken a decidedly economic turn. China is in the market for most of Africa’s products and is selling its own there as well. Once a major oil exporter, China became a net importer of oil in 1993 and is now dependent on imports for half its oil and natural gas. To meet this need, it has diversified its sources, in particular making deals with most of Africa’s oil-producing states.

Just in the past three years, Beijing has signed energy deals with Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Sudan. Its investment in Sudan’s pipeline and refinery infrastructure, valued at between $3 billion and $5 billion, is mind-boggling in such a poor country, but it is not unusual for the energy industry. China bought a stake in a Nigerian offshore field two years ago for $2.5 billion and promised to invest the same amount in further exploration and development.

China has huge investments in Algeria, with whose government it is also cooperating on the development of nuclear energy, and Angola, which this spring overtook Nigeria as the continent’s largest producer of oil.

Read more about China and Africa here — and keep in mind that, as has always been the case, while ordinary citizens agitate about Africa because it’s pathetic, governments get involved there because it’s important.