A couple of weeks ago the Washington Post published an article (no longer available; excerpted here from AP) that showed that both Gazans and Egyptians were surprised that Gaza was in comparatively better shape than Egypt was:
A little travel has gone a long way toward changing perceptions in Gaza. After excursions to Egypt across a border breached by Hamas militants, some Palestinians pepper their local Arabic dialect with Egyptian expressions while others say they are shocked by the poverty there.This theme has been reinforced by former Reuters reporter Mona Eltahawy, hardly a fan of Israel. From Indian Muslims:
Jihad Jaradeh, 24, a Gazan whose family owns a furniture shop, reached the Egyptian town of El Arish, some 25 miles from the border. Although shop owners doubled and tripled prices, Jaradeh paid up, saying he even gave extra “because they looked so poor.”
Many Gazans who visited Egypt remarked on the discrepancy between their more glamorous image of urban Egypt - derived mostly from movies - and the run-down border region of unpaved streets and small houses they encountered.
A trickle of Egyptians also made it into Gaza. Mohammed, an Egyptian truck driver who rented his truck to Palestinians to ferry goods into Gaza, pointed to cars crowding a nearby street and said: “I thought conditions here would be harder than this. I thought people would be starving.”
I must confess that when Hamas militants blasted holes into Egypt’s border to end an Israeli blockade on Gaza, my first thought was how lucky those Gazans were. Landlocked and living on less than $2 a day-their plight rarely elicits envy, I know. But there are Egyptian slums that swim in more sewage and are submerged in even greater poverty. In those slums, chronic diseases go unchecked and uncured, and children grow up next to the dead in tombs turned into makeshift-housing.Yet nobody rushes to blast holes into the imaginary border of poverty that suffocates those slums, nor are they sporting t-shirts urging us to sympathise. Why?It is still the rare Arab voice that points out the obvious - Palestinian Arabs in “refugee” camps have been given decades of free food, shelter and education, not to mention attention, that Arab countries do not provide for their own citizens.
Because Israel cannot be blamed.
For decades, successive dictators in the Arab world have sacrificed their respective national concerns on the altar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling us it must be resolved before any kind of progress can be made, whether it’s stopping terrorism, embracing democracy or ending poverty. Unsurprisingly, despite peace with Israel for the past 29 years, Egypt still suffers with the same problems.
As a Jerusalem-based Reuters correspondent in 1998, I visited several Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and was astonished to see living conditions better than in the slums of Cairo, my hometown. (Frustration and not mean-spiritedness compels me to make that comparison.)
Despite its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian regime discourages its citizens from visiting Israel or the Palestinian areas, so few can even make the comparison.
Arab media, particularly the state-owned kind, are equally discouraged from focusing on national issues - such as the desperate state of our slums - and instead devote most newsprint and airtime to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iraq.
The latter never got much attention when Saddam Hussein was filling mass graves with Shi’ites and Kurds, but catapulted to the top of the news bulletins when the Arab world’s other bete noire - the United States - invaded Iraq in 2003.
Recently the baton of Palestine passed into the firm and dangerous grip of Islamists. Years of corrupt Fatah leadership handed Hamas a 2006 electoral victory, which unfortunately paved the way for civil war between the rival factions, shattering illusions that Palestinian leaders cared more for their people than their jostle for power.
The masked gunmen of Hamas - who lob rockets into Israel with little regard for the consequences for their own people - are now the heroes of the day for bombing the Egyptian border. Egypt, to the west and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction to the east are seen as Israel’s surrogate jailers of Gaza, and the more Israel tightens its grip, the more that scenario is magnified.
Some Egyptians struggled to square their fears over seeing armed Islamists bomb their country’s borders with their desire to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The popular social networking site Facebook became home to some heated arguments in groups titled “Save Gaza for Humans Not Hamas” and “Get the Palestinians Away from Arish-We Want Our Borders Back.”
A young Egyptian woman told me she considered Hamas’ action at the Egyptian border an ‘invasion’: “They did blow up the border. Putting women and children first does not make it ok,” she said. “They attacked the Egyptian forces. They acted like thugs. It was a political move, and they had no respect for Egypt. That’s why I want them out really.”
Most Palestinian Arabs left the area for much more lucrative jobs in the Gulf and would have happily settled elsewhere had the Arab countries allowed them to become repatriated as refugees rather than purposefully keeping them stateless.
The ones that stayed in these “camps” for generations are the lazy ones who feel that free medical care, housing and food are their right long after their status of “refugees” is long gone by any sane definition. And this mindset that Palestinian Arabs deserve this exalted status at the expense of all poor Arabs has penetrated Arab society to keep a self-perpetuating problem alive for purely political reasons.
Child abuse by a California government
Government rips an autistic boy from his home because it prefers a different treatment than the one offered by the parents
What kind of society rips a 17-year-old autistic boy from his loving home and places him in a state-run mental institution, where he is given heavy doses of drugs, kept physically restrained, kept away from his family, deprived of books and other mental stimulation and is left alone to rot? Certainly not a free or humane one.
Yet that's exactly what has happened to Nate Tseglin, after a teacher called Child Protective Services, the county agency charged with protecting children from many forms of abuse and given power to remove children from their family homes in certain circumstances. The teacher reported seeing self-inflicted scratches on Nate's body and complained about the doctor-approved arm restraints his parents used to keep Nate from hurting himself. Nate remains in Fairview Developmental Center (formerly Fairview State Hospital) in Costa Mesa, labeled a danger to himself and others, while his parents fight a lonely battle to bring their son back home.
Isn't there anyone out there who can help them?
After the complaint, social workers intervened and decided that the judgment of a psychologist who examined Nate's records but never even met the boy trumped a lifetime of treatment and experiences by his parents, Ilya and Riva Tseglin. Without prior notice, "the San Diego Health and Human Services agency social worker, with the aid of law enforcement, forcibly removed a struggling and terrified autistic boy . from his home, while his mother and father, who are Russian Jewish immigrants, and Nate's younger brother stood by helplessly," according to the complaint the parents, who have since moved to Irvine to be near Nate, filed with the court.
The forced removal came after the Tseglins came to loggerheads with the government over Nate's proper treatment. The parents are opposed to the use of psychotropic drugs and argue that Nate has had strong negative reactions to them. They point to success they've had with an alternative, holistic approach that focuses on diet and psychiatric counseling. The government disagreed, so it took the boy away from home and initially placed him in a group home - where he had the same negative reaction to the drugs that his parents predicted would happen.
Of course, once social workers are involved in a family, they are reluctant to relinquish their power - something I've found in every Child Protective Services case I've written about. And even though the court determined "the evidence is clear that the parents have always stood by and tried to help their son," the court sided with the government. That's another common theme from these closed family-court proceedings - the social workers' words are taken as gospel, and the parents are treated like enemies and given little chance to defend themselves.
The details are complicated and discouraging. But, essentially, the parents were cut out of any decision-making regarding their son. They were given only short visits with him. After he ran away from the group home, the government transferred Nate to a mental hospital. The Tseglins say the drugs the hospital gave Nate caused him to have a "grand mal" seizure, and his health has continued to deteriorate while he languishes in a government mental facility. When they visited him over the summer, they found his face swollen. He faded in and out of consciousness and was suffering from convulsions. They believe he has been beaten and are worried about sexual abuse, given that he is housed with the criminally insane.
The Tseglins claim Child Protective Services has told them they have the "wrong set of beliefs" and even threatened to force them to undergo court-ordered psychological evaluation. The agency at one point suspended the parents' visitations as a way "to assist them in coming to grips regarding their son." The Tseglins, as former citizens of the Soviet Union, have good reason to be fearful of the authorities. But they tell me that they experienced nothing of this sort in the former communist nation. If their descriptions are correct, then the Soviets weren't the only ones who know how to create a totalitarian bureaucracy.
The family's legal argument is persuasive: "Riva and her husband have cared for Nate, in their home, for his entire life, until he was dragged kicking and screaming away from his parents. . The court found that it was very impressive that the parents 'were able to maintain Nate in the home for the better part of a decade when he was having some severe behavioral difficulties.' . The court found further that when the parents put Nate on a 'more holistic approach' and ignored the professional opinions, that 'for a period of time, Nate responded very well to that.' Even though Nate subsequently deteriorated, the court found that he fared no differently using the more traditional medical approach.' .
"In short, this case turns on value judgments, such as whether it is preferable for Nate to be maintained in his own home, subject to occasional physical restraint, surrounded by the love and devotion of his parents and brother, or whether Nate should be placed in a locked facility, subject to occasional physical restraint and constant chemical restraint, surrounded by strangers and a burden to the California taxpayer. . The real issue in this case is that the agency and some medical personnel believe their opinions regarding Nate's treatment are better than the parents' choices, and have sought the judicial intervention to override the parents' decisions regarding their son."
In a free society, individuals and families get to make those judgments and decisions. As the Tseglins argue, "Riva has a right to raise her child, Nate, free from government interference, as long as he is not at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect or exploitation."
Sure, the state can and does intervene when parents are accused of abusing or neglecting their children. There are many problems and injustices even in those cases, but at least it's understandable when the government intervenes to protect a potentially threatened child. But in this case, the state is simply saying that it knows best, that no matter how diligently a boy's parents have worked to provide the best-possible care for him, that officials get the final say. And the government's choice of mandatory incarceration seems harsh and cruel, which shouldn't surprise anyone, given the basic nature of government. At last check, autism is not a crime. It's time to free Nate Tseglin and return him to the love and care of his parents.
How do we deal with the control freaks?
Writing for Freedom Communications newspapers, philosopher Tibor Machan says that candidates and proposals that maximize individual choice and restrict government mandates consistently lose at the polls because Americans just aren't all that interested in being free.
The very plain fact is that too many voters don't want to be free. Over and over again they reject candidates who champion free markets, civil liberties, global free trade and similar ideas and institutions.I think that Machan is essentially correct, though I'll differ from him so far as to say that most people think they want freedom. Just about everybody has a complaint to share about laws, taxes, or regulations that rub them the wrong way. They'll tell you over a beer or in a business meeting how much they'd love to have the government off their backs on one issue or another.
Instead, they favor protectionism, government regulation, meddling in people's personal lives and habits and restricting freedom so as to achieve the mirage of perfect safety - be this about over-the-counter drugs, the threat of terrorism or environmental concerns.
They want to restrict other people's liberty and rip them off for various benefits. It's a mad dash to raid the treasury at others' expense and to control people's lives so as to serve various precautionary goals.
Sadly, that's now the character of the bulk of the American citizenry. They are not being mislead by the media or pundits or politicians. No. They want to get a free ride wherever they see a chance, never mind that this simply is impossible for them all to achieve.
But most people don't want to extend the same courtesy to others. They don't see freedom as something that you have to extend to everybody or else lose; instead, they see it as an a la carte menu from which they can select. So the guy who wants the building code inspector to stop harassing him is also eager to lock up pot smokers and raise taxes to fund Social Security. The woman who thinks gays and lesbians should be free to marry also wants private establishments forbidden to permit their patrons to smoke and wants to force taxpayers to pick up the tab for her healthcare. And the nice folks down the street who resent being told what color to paint their house also think that any organization that criticizes politicians should have to register with the government and file financial disclosure forms.
And, if it really comes down to it, they're more opposed to leaving you free to decide on your pet issues than they're dedicated to gaining breathing room on their pet issues. So, advocates for liberty all, Americans fuel a political culture that tends toward ever-more control every year because putting the screws to the next guy is more important to them than being left alone themselves.
Machan says that he is "not a pessimist in the long run," but he really doesn't explain his grounds for a cheery outlook and I'll be damned if I can see them myself. True, there have been large constituencies for liberty in the past. The most ideological period in this country's history was probably around the time of the revolution. Eighteenth-century Americans actually sat around debating political philosophy in bars and then went out, muskets in hand, to create a generally pro-liberty political system. They were far from consistent -- many had slaves at home and wives who were damned near chattel themselves. But that's as close as we've ever been to a national consensus that leaving people alone is better than bossing them around.
People are much less consistently ideological now, and few are willing to entertain the tradeoffs required to maintain truly free society. To be left alone to engage in the activities that matter to you, you have to be willing to leave your neighbors similar space, even if their businesses and pastimes offend you; if you don't allow for that live-and-let-live compromise, you create no precedent for a government of limited power and scope. By and large, most modern Americans are unwilling to make that concession, so the state grows larger and more intrusive every year, unbound by any consensus that there are things that it just should not do.
Maybe we'll spawn another generation of sort-of libertarians some day, but I don't see that in the offing. Increasingly centralized schooling has produced not just poorly educated Americans (a bad enough offense), but graduates who share overly much in the way of views and values. Taught about the glories of government control, and unlikely to meet many people raised with values very different from their own, there's little reason for them to say, you go your way and I'll go mine.
But I do think that there will always be a constituency for liberty, and the question is: How do we live life in a country that's likely to diverge from our political ideals a little bit more with every passing year? How do we survive as a political minority in a hostile culture?
There's probably not just one right answer. I tend to favor a somewhat in-your-face and subversive approach. We need to keep the ideas of liberty in the public forum so that, even if widely rejected, they don't become completely unthinkable to the wider culture. A population that's consistently reminded of the case for drug legalization, for example, will produce more converts to the cause -- and occasional victories -- than one for whom such a proposal is so alien as to be unthinkable.
We can also carve out small victories through jury nullification, naming and shaming abusive officials and making the enforcement of intrusive laws difficult, expensive and dangerous. I guess that's a policy of political guerrilla warfare -- less about winning than about keeping the enemy from total victory.
Other people may prefer a more academic approach -- researching problems with authoritarian policies and making intellectual arguments that keep the ideas of liberty alive and respectable. That's a long-term approach that looks to small changes in policy now and bigger effects in a friendlier future.
And some people will prefer to drop out or build parallel systems and cultures. They'll ignore bad laws, bypass the authorities and work with like-minded people, the better to enjoy just a little more freedom in the here-and now. I don't think any of these approaches are mutually exclusive, so which approach(es) you take depend on your preferences and temperament. But I think we're all going to have to choose one approach or another. Freedom in this country looks like it's in for a long and bumpy ride.
Political correctness backfires in Australia
The recent "apology" to blacks (for their alleged past mistreatment) from Australia's new center-Left Federal government has become an excuse for mob violence by blacks
PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generation has sparked a spate of racial violence in Darwin. Five people had to be admitted to hospital after one brawl. The Caucasian men were attacked by a group of 10 Aboriginal men, who demanded that their victims "say sorry".
A 28-year-old Territory woman watched helplessly as her friend was king-hit and kicked to the ground outside a Darwin 24-hour eatery on Sunday morning. She said three men ran at them from across the road, when they looked at the group yelling at two women. "They just started king-hitting him. They got him on the ground and then two others came over and started kicking him," she said. "They kept screaming that we were not sorry at all - 'Say sorry to us'. You just couldn't stop them."
The woman said three more men grabbed another Caucasian man and punched him in the middle of Smith St. "That's when I called the police. He managed to roll into the gutter but they kept on kicking him," she said. They and her friend ran to the Mitchell St police station, where they met up with other victims of the racial attack.
"The police officer said since the sorry apology on Wednesday, it had been completely out of control."
The woman said there were four other victims of racial violence in the emergency room at Royal Darwin Hospital. Her friend had fractured ribs and bad bruising. Others had head injuries and bruises. "I don't know why they did it," she said. "They're just making it worse for everyone. It was gutless. It doesn't have to be this way."
Another big brawl occurred at Fairway Waters in Palmerston on Saturday night. Police said witnesses and victims of the "series" of assaults on Sunday were being questioned. Senior Sergeant Steve Martin warned that "thugs" and "troublemakers" had no place in Darwin. "Police take a zero tolerance approach to violence and antisocial behaviour and any assaults of this nature will be thoroughly investigated," he said. Constable Michael Lunney, officer-in-charge of the investigation, said he was confident police would find the men responsible for the attacks.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.