Saturday, May 24, 2008

Israelis to the rescue in India's desert State

The desert of Rajasthan in the north of India is to be planted with a million olive trees grown in Israel in an effort to transform the landscape and the fortunes of its struggling farmers. The countries are finalising a three-year plan on agriculture that will introduce several crops associated with the Middle East and Mediterranean to India. It is hoped that the sub-continent - more famous today for its mangoes and spices - will become an exporter of olive oil by 2011. Lior Weintrub, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, said: "The symbolism is significant: an olive tree in the Middle East ... well, it means a lot."

Diplomacy has also paved the way for dates and grapes from Israel to be grown in Maharashtra, a state in western India that has been blighted by tens of thousands of suicides among desperate smallholders in recent years. Israeli technology companies will be drafted in to lend their expertise on matters such as water recycling and irrigation. In their home country, Israeli scientists have been credited with "greening" the Negev desert, performing what has been termed an agricultural miracle.

Indian olive oil is likely to find a ready market in the West as there is a global shortage of the product amid rising demand. It is also hoped that the adoption of new crops and farming techniques can be a stepping stone towards a second green revolution in India - the first being the period in the 1960s and 1970s when the introduction of modern methods and new plant varieties radically boosted yields and eradicated famine. Productivity growth in India's fields has since slowed to a crawl. In February the Government's official annual economic survey said that the farming sector, on which 70 per cent of the country's population depends for a living, was expected to grow 2.6 per cent this year, down from 3.8 per cent last year.

The report's authors gave warning of potentially dire consequences. "Due to uncertainties in global markets and hardening of international prices of food ... the food security of India critically depends on the farm sector," they said.

Economists estimate that India's ability to increase harvests of staple foods such as grains, rice and pulses now runs at less than 1 per cent a year, lagging behind the 1.5 per cent population growth. Dinker Panandikar, of the RPG Foundation, an economic think-tank, said: "It is touch and go whether India feeds itself." Across India as many as 150,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past decade after falling behind in payments to money lenders, according to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The Government took radical action this year when it waived œ7.5 billion in debt owed by struggling farmers, as part of the annual budget.



In the now-familiar century-old ritual of corporate punishment, the U. S. Senate judiciary committee yesterday ordered members of the Big Oil's CEO chain gang to explain themselves. Which they did, very effectively. Whether any of the demagogic politicians were inclined to hear the message is another matter. The committee chair is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, from a state not known for its firm grasp of the oil business or even market economics; the other Senator from Vermont, Bernie Saunders, is a socialist radical known in some circles as "Vermont's Communist Senator."

The gap between Leahy and Saunders is a small one. Yesterday, Leahy lit into oil industry profits, oil executive salaries, and the oil industry's alleged links to President Bush. "The president once boasted that with his pals in the oil industry, he would be able to keep prices low and consumers would benefit. Instead, it is his pals in the oil industry who have benefited," Leahy said. "Why has the price of oil increased 400% since President Bush took office?"

As the price of oil topped US$130 a barrel, the best U. S. politicians can come up with as a response is blind partisanship and destructive policy initiatives aimed at attacking the oil industry. Among the dumb ideas is the Consumer First Energy Act, to impose a windfall profit tax on U. S. oil firms. Another plan would force U. S.-based oil companies to disclose money they pay foreign governments for resources.

The dumb self-destructive futility of these political inquisitions into corporate America -- rituals that date back through to the Robber Barron myths of the 19th century -- has always been lost on most Americans, even as they paid a price. The great power of the U. S. national market economy could always pull the country out of the worst effects of mounting levels of government control and regulation.

The post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley overkill began to show that the ability of the U. S. economy to overcome major blows to its corporate sector was weakening. During the oil and inflation crises of the 1970s and 1980s, price controls and regulatory corporate attacks were eventually shoved aside, minor irritants in the great national economic enterprise. Sarbanes made the great enterprise look vulnerable. This current oil price crisis, if it becomes that, could prove to be a major watermark in the declining capacity of the U. S. to weather regulatory storms and political attacks on the markets that give America it's economic strength.

If no one in America's political system pays attention to the messages delivered yesterday by the executives of the oil firms to the Senate judiciary committee, then U. S. economic fortunes are destined to decline. The politicians are living in a 1960s fantasy world, playing old and mythical Marxist themes on the alleged power of giant oil capitalists to control, manipulate and direct energy markets at the expense of the common man, the consumer.

The Big Oil giants that appeared in Washington yesterday were actually pipsqueaks in the new global energy market. Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips have no more control over oil supply and prices than the owner of a corner gas station. CononoPhillips executive vice-president told the committee that in the 1960s as much as "85% of the global oil and natural gas reserves were available for direct development by international oil companies, versus only 7% today."

What kind of impact do politicians expect to have if they go about policy with the idea that the few executives standing before them--and the media--are the powers behind the price of oil? Price controls, tax grabs and new regulations can only damage the few remaining market-based links in an industry that is now largely controlled and regulated by foreign governments.

Shell president John Hofmeister tabled a report from the Argonne National Laboratory listing 40 U. S. laws and regulations that prevent, delay, limit and/or increase costs in the gas industry. Hundreds of lawsuits hamstring development. Similar obstacles to energy development are building in Canada, forcing oilsands projects into retreat. Imperial Oil's Nearl project is now before the federal Cabinet, awaiting a jumpstart following a botched legal processs. Will Canadian politicians behave any differently that their American counterparts?

The oil industry's main message was aimed at getting U. S. politicians to act on policies that can actually increase oil and gas supplies: Remove obstacles to new exploration and development and resist the temptation to impose new taxes and constraints that will limit the oil industry's ability to operate.

In the past, the United States could afford to shoot itself in the foot, confident that its economic power could repair the damage. The current state of the world energy markets are such that current misguided policies, let alone new ones, are much more than a shot in the foot.


The decay of feminism

Feminism has been dying the death of a sick old woman. Shackled to the political party that opposed women's suffrage, just as blacks are manacled to the political party of the Ku Klux Klan, both captives levied en masse as foot soldiers to fight the political party of Susan B. Anthony and of Abraham Lincoln, the party of all the original feminists and all the original abolitionists, feminists, like civil rights straw bosses, long ago sold their political soul. So, when Hillary Clinton is pilloried by the radical Left, her protests of victimhood produce no feminist outrage, because feminists cannot afford to speak too loudly against their Leftist masters. They know their place.

Even when Hillary is treated with gross unfairness by the Left (and one must try hard to be unfair to Hillary Clinton!) the mice of feminism do not squeak: Their devotion is to those men who feed them smidgens of power; the really care little about women or ideals or fairness. They are aging, tired, weak, dull and sour. And they know their place.

Feminism was hijacked decades ago. Once it was connected to the Republican Party and those notions of individual merit, personal liberty and legal equality which that party championed. Then the Left and other totalitarian groups began to seize a once noble movement and transform it simply into another cog in the political machine.

It began almost a century ago. One of the leading feminists in Italy was Margherita Sarfatti. She was a Socialist who became a leading Fascist. She was also the editor of two major Fascist periodicals, the biographer of Mussolini, and his mistress of many years. What Sarfatti wanted was power and access to men with power. Feminism was a fulcrum to help her get near power and glamour.

In America, one of the most celebrated feminists was Betty Friedan. Not only was she a communist, but she was a Stalinist-style communist. From September 1939 until June 1941, Friedan opposed America helping Britain fight the Nazis. She did not do this passively, but aggressively, traveling with eight other Stalinist feminists from Smith College to Washington to protest Lend-Lease, being opposed by morally serious people right up to May 1941 for being a tool of the Nazis, until, at last, Hitler invaded Russia -- then she flip-flopped. Friedan, like Sarfatti, simply used the sloganeering of feminism to connect herself to totalitarian movements that promised her attention and power.

How ill has the sick old woman of feminism become? Around the world today, Moslems perform horrific "female circumcision" on young girls, imprison women for the "crime" of having been raped, men murder daughters and sisters in "honor killings," and crowds stone women to death for alleged "adultery." Where are the squawking feminists while these monstrosities are being performed? These sick, tired old ladies are sitting silently in their cages, afraid that their squawking might help President Bush -- a much greater crime to their owners than the very real, very savage treatment of millions of women. These women know their place.

Why, precisely, do these chattel slaves of Leftism feel obliged to hate Bush? He opposes abortion (just like Susan B. Anthony did) , but is preventing a doctor from murdering a mother's unborn child the clearest or greatest crime against women (even for those people who assume abortion helps women)? What else has President Bush done to offend these feminists? That is about it. All the remaining feminist complaints about President Bush are, upon closer examination, simply parroting Leftism, not feminism, and have little, if anything, specific to do with women.

Women who actually cared about women would care about how particular men treated women. President Bush adores his wife. There has not been even a hint of any marital misconduct on his part. He and Laura have protected and loved their twin daughters. President Bush also deeply reveres his mother. His whole life bespeaks respect and admiration for women.

What about Bill Clinton? He was a serial adulterer. He used his power and position to molest and terrorize women. The evidence is strong, perhaps overwhelming, that Clinton brutally raped a woman. Even his consensual adultery involved a young intern whose welfare feminists pretend to value.

Hillary, the feminist champion, not only endured these indignities, but used her own very public humiliation as a vehicle to snatch a Senate seat and then to make a run for the White House. The precedent both these horrid people made has pulled any effort to protect women from sexual degradation much harder. Both are, if anything, anti-feminists.

But they larded out goodies to feminist bureaucrats. They have made speeches exalting "feminists" like Anita Hill (who, like Hillary, testified that she silently endured her concocted sexual harassment, despite being a civil rights attorney, so that her career would not suffer - what honor!)

The facade of modern feminism is dying -- in the defense of the indefensible Bill Clinton, in dead silence when confronted with genuine crimes against women by enemies of America, in the demand that Hillary step aside so that a junior senator with no experience can win the White House for Democrats.

The real moral battles of feminism were won long ago. Women have had the vote for almost a century. Women had been admitted to advanced professions for just as long. Most of the wealth in America is owned by women. Most voters in America are women. Feminism really has no moral purpose any more. But it does have the purposes that attracted Sarfatti, Freidan and Hillary. As a ladies' auxiliary of different incarnations of totalitarianism, rotten modern feminism can earn raw power, and raw power alone drives the engines of feminism.

Even the ladies' auxiliary club of the Totalitarian Movement inevitably must yield ground to men. In the bitter, rough and amoral struggle for raw power, women simply cannot compete with men (that is a compliment to real women, not an insult.) Hitler was propelled into power largely by gaining the women's vote in Germany. Mussolini made feminist visitors to Italy swoon when he talked about his support for women's suffrage and the importance of women in Fascism. Stalin had lots of movements and propaganda supporting women's rights in Russia.

Yet none of Hitler's power partners were women. Sarfatti ultimately left Fascist Italy in 1938 and Fascist support for feminism was forgotten. None of the members of the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party were female. When brute force -- state or party power -- reigns, then women will also be second class citizens.

It is the Twilight of the goddesses today. The world is staggering toward totalitarianism, and that certainly includes the Leftists in free democracies who hate the freedom and hate the democracy which prevents them from grasping raw power. Hillary was never going to become the master of America. Feminism is a cruel joke played on women. It is no more "pro-women" than the Nazi Party was "pro-German" or the Ku Klux Klan was "pro-white people." Just as the Wagnerian catastrophe of Nazi produced a horrible Ragnarok for the German people, so feminism is producing a needless savaging of women.


Disrespect towards the Military at Harvard

It's a long way from Harvard yard to Benedictine College. But this little Kansas campus could give Cambridge a big lesson in diversity. Benedictine held its annual commencement ceremonies this past weekend, and I happened to be there because I was the speaker. After all the degrees had been handed out, two young men in dress blue were called back on stage. Before their families, their classmates, and their teachers, these men raised their right hands and swore to "support and defend" our Constitution. And then Lt. Jeff Fetters and Lt. Michael Mundie were presented to their class as "the newest officers in the United States Army."

What a striking moment this was. Here were two young men who had stepped forward to wear the uniform in a time of war - and who had their service publicly acknowledged by their peers and institution. One retired general who graduated from this same campus in 1966 put it this way. "These young men will need every bit of encouragement in the world they have now entered," said Tom Wessels. "And by golly, it was great to see them get it."

Now, Benedictine is hardly an Army kind of place. On this campus, you are far more likely to encounter someone becoming a missionary than someone entering the military. And not everyone assents to its generally conservative outlook. In fact, one of the three valedictorians made a point of saying so - and used her address to emphasize that it was important for Benedictine to make room for people like her. The point, of course, is that Benedictine did make room for her.

How far removed this is from the kind of orthodoxy that reigns at Harvard. There ROTC has not been allowed on campus (students can do the coursework at another school) since it was booted off during the Vietnam War. It remains unwelcome largely because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that excludes openly gay individuals.

In November 2001, the school's then-president, Larry Summers, tried to bridge the divide. At the Kennedy School, he spoke about the "special grace" that attends "those who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for our country." And Mr. Summers backed up his words by attending the commissioning ceremonies for Harvard's ROTC graduates.

Unfortunately, his successor, Drew Faust, did not attend last year's ceremony. Recently, she announced she will attend this year's ceremony. And in an email, a Harvard spokesman confirms that while President Faust has the "greatest admiration" for Harvard's ROTC students, she has clearly stated that the opportunity to serve should be open to all Harvard students - and any reference she makes that day will be "respectfully and appropriately conveyed." In other words, she reserves the right to use the event to voice disagreement with "don't ask, don't tell."

What would this mean? Well, for the Harvard seniors who will be receiving the gold bars of a second lieutenant, it would mean a political note injected into what should be a day of pride and celebration. It would mean that they will be called to account for a political policy that they do not set. And it would mean that in their first moments as new officers, they will be told by the leader of their university that they serve an institution that isn't, well, quite worthy of Harvard.

How sad this is. We are constantly told by critics that it is the war and the administration's policy they oppose, not the troops. University commissioning ceremonies would be a good time to prove it. Whether our new officers come from Benedictine or Harvard, they will be entrusted with one of the gravest responsibilities in our democracy: the lives of the men and women under their command. When America's sons and daughters are put in harm's way, we want them led by officers of character and integrity.

The United States military is one of our nation's most open and diverse institutions. The freedoms our universities depend on are defended by those who wear the uniform. And whether you are for the war in Iraq or against it, for gays in the military or against them, we should be able to honor these good men and women - publicly and without embarrassment.

When the lieutenants at Benedictine were sent off from their campus, it was with the prayers and respect of their college community. Our young officers at Harvard deserve no less. And if President Faust wants an example of the kind of diversity that makes this possible, she need look no farther than Atchison, Kan.



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 is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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