Monday, June 30, 2003

Antisemitism at Oxford 

The latest outrage of an Israeli science student's application being turned down at Oxford because of his nationality should come as no surprise. This is, after all, the university of poet Tom Paulin, who wants US born Jews in Israel 'shot dead'.

"I have a view on the situation in the Middle East but I am not a racist or anti-Semitic," says the bigot. "I just want to draw a line under the whole thing."

Oh, I'm sure you do, old boy. I'm sure you do.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Stating the Obvious 

A recent Pew Global Attitude Survey reports that opinions toward globalization are significantly more positive in poorer nations than in wealthy ones. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, increased trade and integration is twice as popular as it is in the United States and Europe. This shouldn't be surprising. On the contrary, it is in concordance with common sense: developing countries require foreign capital if they are to to increase their rate of economic growth (and hence reduce their overall level of poverty). It is therefore natural for the overwhelming number of people in the world who live in abject poverty to welcome the opportunity to improve their lot. In contrast, it is often the comparatively well off citizens of the developed world who oppose globalization based on self-interested protectionist fallacies (e.g., Pat Buchanan and US labor unions) or delerious anti-capitalist rhetoric (e.g., Ralph Nader and WTO protestors).

We witness these positive opinions toward globalization in individual cases. Commenting on a 1997 attack by US unions on the long hours in Nicaragua's nascent garment industry, garment factory worker Candida Rosa Lopez replied, "Sometimes, at the end of the year, the factory doesn't have enough orders. Then we can't work as many hours, or make as much money. I wish more people would buy the clothes we make" ("We Need These Jobs: Nicaraguan Workers Dispute 'Sweatshop' Report", Miami Herald, November 30, 1997). It so happens that wages in these factories are 50% better than the Nicaraguan average, with workers making almost twice as much as school teachers. "I make a lot more here, putting seams in shirts," says Rosa. "The work is simple and I make about 900 cordobas [$90] a month. No other business would give me this opportunity".

Likewise, in Vietnam, Nike factory worker Tsi-Chi makes three times the minimum wage for a state-owned enterprise, earns more than her husband, and receives from Nike free or subsidized meals, along with free medical services and education ("The noble feat of Nike", The Spectator, June 7, 2003). It offers her far better prospects than the alternative of working 10 to 14 hours a day outdoors in agriculture. When asked what her hopes are for her son's future, Tsi-Chi answers that a "generation ago, she would have had to put him to work on the farm from an early age". Instead "she wants to give him a good education, so that he can become a doctor. That's one of the most impressive developments since Vietnam's economy was opened up. In ten years 2.2 million children have gone from child labour to education".

When we compare these sentiments with the inane and economically illiterate remonstrations of globalization opponents, it becomes obvious that said individuals are likely to live in that deluded state that George Orwell termed "money-sheltered ignorance"; a special kind of idiocy observed in those operating under "a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security" ("Pacifism and the War", Partisan Review, August-September 1942). It is a plain and unfortunate fact that people in the developing world like Rosa Lopez and Tsi-Chi can afford no such illusions.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Depleted Uranium- Propaganda vs. Reality 

After reading John Sweeney's recent J'accuse of radical dingbat John Pilger for his tendentious claims about the putative health hazards of depleted uranium used in the Gulf War (in essence a de facto miming of Saddamista agitprop), the curious reader may find the following articles illuminating:

Risks From Uranium Limited, Experts Say

Depleted Uranium FAQ

Nuclear Genocide? Piercing through the depleted uranium myths

Moral Stupidity  

Orson Scott Card has a brilliant essay on the sickening attempts to draw moral equivalence between Israeli actions and Palestinian terrorism. A must-read.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Not Bad... 

"Libertarian - You believe that the main use for government is for some people to lord it over others at their expense. You maintain that the government should be as small as possible, and that civil liberties, "victimless crimes", and gun ownership should be basic rights. You probably are OK with capitalism. Your historical role model is Thomas Jefferson."

Which political stereotype are you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

"O Lord, the Jews...kill them one by one"  

What the Saudi Arabian government funds.

In other news, the Saudis are desperate to ease their growing economic difficulties. How unfortunate.

Who Armed Iraq? 

An old but important reminder.

Monday, June 23, 2003

New Republic dissembles on Iraq 

Already gearing up for its 2004 smear campaign, the New Republic has now changed its tune on the Bush administration's stance on Iraq. Weekly Standard has the goods.

Particularly egregious is TNR's assertion of Iraq having no "clear terrorist link". Aside from carrying out assassination attempts on former US presidents lives, rewarding the families of Hamas homicide bombers who blow up Jewish civilians in buses and pizzerias, and funding, e.g., the Abu Nidal Organization, Kurdish PKK separatists in Turkey, and the Iranian Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, I can't see one either. Also, despite the attempts of various groups to downplay links with Al Qaeda, there was in fact a highly suspicious prima facie case to the contrary.

Perhaps if a few more massacres of thousands of civilians on American soil were accomplished, and were found to be connected to Iraq, it would have been OK to go ahead on in and take out the dictator who had flouted the ceasefire agreement he signed in 1991 for 12 years, all the while continuing his weapon programs under the noses of UN inspectors and mercilessly oppressing his people. Certainly we all would have slept better knowing we took the time to make sure, as would the dissidents languishing in Saddam's torture chambers.

Favorite blog of the moment 

Notes of an Iranian girl

One of the best of the relatively few English-speaking Iranian weblogs around presently.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Review: Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father 

A Riveting Khmer Rouge Memoir

Loung Ung is only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge march triumphantly into her home of Phnom Penh in 1975. When she sees the soldiers in black pants and red sashes roll into the city, she asks her father who these men are and what they want:

"They want us", he replies. "They're not nice people. Look at their shoes- they wear sandals made from car tires".

"Pa, why the shoes? Why are they bad?"

"It shows that these people are destroyers of things".

In her book First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung shows just how prescient her father was, painting the 4 year nightmare that followed for her and her family in graphic detail. As opposed to many other survivor accounts (e.g., Pin Yathay, Stay Alive, My Son), First They Killed My Father is written from a child's present tense perspective, making the horrific events it portrays all the more disturbing. Removed from her happy city life after the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh, Ung and her family are made to walk at gunpoint for days into the countryside, away from the "bourgeois" cities and their corrupt Western influences. Her father, a former police officer, instructs them to pretend to be poor peasants, knowing it's the only way they will survive the purges of anyone associated with the previous regime.

The next two years are ones of ever-present hunger and constant moving, as Ung's family tries to prolong the inevitable discovery of their identity. When the soldiers do come and take her father away to be brutally tortured and executed, Ung's mother is left to care for the children by herself. Knowing that staying together will mean certain death for them all, she makes the most difficult decision a mother can make: she tells Ung and her siblings to leave her and for each of them to learn to survive on his own.

Claiming to be an orphan, Ung joins a camp for child soldiers and is trained to fight Vietnamese (The Angkar, as the Khmer Rouge called themselves, were convinced of an imminent Vietnamese invasion and launched continuous pre-emptive attacks on Vietnamese villages, thereby provoking an invasion). She later finds out her mother was executed just months before the 1979 Vietnamese invasion. At this point an actual orphan, Ung re-unites with her remaining brothers and sisters in a refugee camp and makes her way from several foster families in Cambodia into the United States to start a new life. Though she quickly adjusts to normal American life, she will never forget the enormous suffering and loss she experienced under the Khmer Rouge.

First They Killed My Father is an absorbing and stirring book. Loung Ung lucidly recounts appalling scenes of starvation, murder, and enslavement that were everyday occurrences for millions of Cambodians from 1975-79. Her vividly macabre description of a lynching of a captured Angkar soldier by a mob of Cambodians is but a small example of the seething hatred the victims of the Khmer Rouge feel even today for those who murdered their families and destroyed their lives. Ung also reveals the not-so-benign nature of the Vietnamese occupation, describing her horrifying near rape experience at the hands of a Vietnamese soldier.

Read First They Killed My Father, and you will begin to grasp the utter depravity and terror of life under one of the most notorious communist regimes of the twentieth century.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Can Anarchy and a free market work in Somalia? 

Andrew Cockburn seems to think it can. Pretty fascinating stuff.

The Gold Standard 

"the hippie dirtbags didn't think 12 years was long enough because it takes most of them 12 years after college to find a job".

-Michael Steedman, on why the Left thinks the US should have given the inspectors more time to work.

Greetings and Salutations 

Welcome to my blog.

I'll be posting articles, links and original commentary about topics that interest me: Politics, Economics, History, and Current Events in particular. Updates will depend on my busy personal schedule but should be fairly regular. Stay tuned.

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