September 19, 2008
September 19, 2008
September 19, 2008
On September 25, five American religious organizations plan to host a Ramadan dinner for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his upcoming visit to the United States. These include the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quakers, the World Council of Churches, and Religions for Peace. How is it that these Christian “peace” organizations are willing to break bread with a declared warmonger and Holocaust denier? An answer lies in the troubling history of these organizations – a history that includes a shameful alliance with Nazi Germany during World War II.
The pacifist-Nazi axis dates to the 1930s. None other than the worldwide spokesman for non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, wrote letters to Adolph Hitler that were deferential in their tone and abhorrent in their implications. A 1939 letter was apologetically described by Gandhi as a “mere impertinence” and included the following signoff: “I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, Your sincere friend, Sd. M. MK Gandhi.”
In a letter dated December 24, 1940, Gandhi assured Hitler that he had no doubt of “your bravery or devotion to your fatherland.” Zionist appeals for Gandhi to support a national home for the Jewish people, meanwhile, fell on deaf ears, as he insisted that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs.” Not only did Gandhi reject the cause of a Jewish state but he effectively echoed Nazi propaganda, as with his warning that “this cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.”
Even more supportive of Hitler were the Mennonites. In a letter dated September 10, 1933, the Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites from the German city-state of Danzig wrote to the Fuhrer to express its “deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy” and wished Hitler a “joyful cooperation in the up building of our Fatherland through the power of the Gospel.” If its enthusiasm for hosting Ahmadinejad is any guide, the Mennonite Church has learned little from this dark chapter in its past. On the contrary, the church’s alliance with the Iranian leader is an extension of its hard-line anti-Israel politics, which find expression in its funding of books advocating the so-called “right-of-return” for Palestinian Arabs – a policy that, if implemented, would mean the destruction of Israel.
One finds a similar antagonism for the Jewish State in the activism of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the “peace” arm of the Quakers. As an example of what it calls “Quaker values in action,” the AFSC includes its campaigns to “challenge” American support for Israel. A supporter of the PLO, the AFSC not only backs radical anti-Israel groups like Zochrot but opposes Israel’s attempts to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. That the Quakers are now willing to sit down to dinner with the man who has openly called for Israel to be wiped off the global map should not be entirely surprising.
By any reasonable standard, self-styled peace activists might be expected to condemn leaders who support terrorism and who unashamedly seek the destruction of other nations. But just as advocates of non-violence found a way to accommodate the genocidal designs of Adolph Hitler, so they have been willing to make peace with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And just as Gandhi never expressed remorse for his “dear friend” letters to Hitler, its unlikely that these supposed believers in non-violence will break a dinner date with his Iranian heir.
September 19, 2008
Why, in one uproarious week of American politicking that not even H.L. Mencken would have expected, has the obscure governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, outraged roughly one half of the country and overjoyed the other?
What intrigues people about elections aren’t the platform planks. Deep down, political contests are about picking symbolic champions. Just as Barack Obama, recently of the Illinois legislature, has excited tens of millions by his emphasis on his bloodlines, by his implication that national racial reconciliation is “in my DNA,” the overstuffed life story of the caribou huntress and mother of five (and soon to be grandmother at age 44) embodies the oldest boast Americans have made about their homeland: the fecundity of the frontier.
Compared to Obama’s much-lauded but tedious life, cautiously plotted in countless Chicago backrooms, the Alaskan-sized lustiness of Governor Palin’s full-throttle biography—the only-in-Alaska factoids about her keep piling up like an Old West tall tale—always leaves me laughing.
Consider, for example, Palin’s husband Todd. What kind of man could be married to a woman so hormonally exuberant, with her dual archetypes straight out of a Camille Paglia reverie: half Alaskan Amazon, half Venus of Willendorf? Exactly the kind you’d expect: he works as both a North Slope oilfield roughneck and a salmon fisherman. He’s also won the state’s snowmobile championship, the 2,000-mile Tesoro Iron Dog race, four times. He only finished fourth this year because he had to ride the last 400 miles with a broken arm after being thrown 70 feet. Did I mention he’s part Eskimo?
Mrs. Palin’s instant ascent to frontier folk hero explains some of the unhinged hatred felt by Obama supporters. They’d been fantasizing about their genetically nuanced man of the future, their political Tiger Woods, when they were blindsided by a figure out of America’s buried past, a merrily comic Wild West character in the tradition of Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. She’s already inspired hundreds of one-liners in the Chuck Norris mode—“As head of Alaska’s National Guard, Sarah Palin taught troops how to scare a grenade into not exploding”—the modern equivalent of all the yarns about Davy Crockett.
The even more fundamental reason underlying all the fury on one side and amusement on the other is that this brouhaha centers around female fertility.
In more than a few liberals, she sets off the same creepy stalker behavior that Michelle Malkin has endured for years. Palin has the accent of Francis McDormand’s classic character Marge Gunderson, the heavily pregnant lady sheriff who shoots the bad guy in “Fargo,” but, as Obama has discovered, Palin has an old point guard’s sharp elbows. The little-studied but no doubt sizable Nerd Bloc is excited by pictures of an attractive woman shooting big guns, just like in their favorite Angelina Jolie movies.
Human beings can’t help feeling strongly about making babies. Look at the celebrity gossip columns. The who-is-sleeping-with-whom stuff can’t compete with the pregnancy news. Stars now auction off exclusive rights to the first photos of their offspring, even though all newborns look alike. Pictures of the new twins from the most celebrated breeding stock—Jolie and Brad Pitt—went for a reported $14 million.
An obsession in politics with breeding is both very old (hereditary monarchy) and very contemporary. The main qualifications of the current president and this year’s Democratic runner-up are that they are, respectively, the scion and consort of ex-presidents. More subtly, Obama launched himself at the 2004 Democratic convention by devoting the first 380 words of his famous speech to detailing the two stocks from which he was crossbred. He implied that, like the heir to a dynastic merger of yore—think King Henry VIII, offspring of a Lancaster-York marriage that ended the War of the Roses—he is the one we’ve been waiting for to end the War of the Races. (Obama left out the part about his mom being 17 when his polygamist father, who already had a family, got her pregnant.)
To the outrage of Obamaphiles, Palin has horned in on all that subliminal symbolism with her own old-fashioned American brand. She’s had five kids while throwing out the crooks and nepotists. And now she has a 17-year-old pregnant daughter engaged to a strapping 18-year-old hockey player in one of the few places left in America where a young man with a strong back can support a family.
Thus, Blue State whites are alarmed and enraged to be reminded that Red State whites can afford to outbreed them.
Frontier fecundity is hardly a new concept. In 1751, Ben Franklin pointed out that America’s low population density meant higher wages and lower land prices, which in turn allowed earlier marriages and more children.
In this century, the fundamental engine painting low-density areas red and high-density areas blue is what I call Affordable Family Formation. Where wages are high compared to home prices, people can afford to marry earlier and have more children. For instance, Todd Palin, who is not a college graduate, earned $93,000 last year between fishing and oilfield work. (He would have made even more, but to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest for his wife in her dealings with oil companies, he stepped down from a management position to a unionized rank-and-file job.) According to ACCRA cost-of-living data on BestPlaces.net, the standard of living you can enjoy in red Wasilla, Alaska for $93,000 would cost you $159,000 in blue San Francisco. Due to its remoteness and frigidity, Alaska isn’t a cheap place to live, but housing costs in exurban Wasilla are only 35 percent of what they are in San Francisco. Moreover, Alaska’s distance from the Mexican border means that blue-collar wages are high.
Not surprisingly, Alaska is second only to Mormon Utah in total fertility among non-Hispanic white women, with 2.28 babies per lifetime, 38 percent higher than in crowded California.
This Baby Gap helps paint the electoral map red or blue. In 2004, Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in the total fertility rate (expected number of babies per woman per lifetime) among whites, while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16. It’s all about the ratio of land and resources to people. Even excluding Alaska, the counties that Bush carried in 2004 are four times as large in area as Kerry’s counties.
The policy implication of this was clear to Ben Franklin a quarter of a millennium ago: restricting immigration benefits Americans. The political implications of the Baby Gap should be equally clear to Republican leaders today, but there’s little evidence that John McAmnesty has noticed.
In Palin’s case, having this much of a life might be too much for a president. (Margaret Thatcher once told my wife that she was glad she had twins so she could get having babies over and done with and get back to work.) Still, John McCain, who lost five planes yet survived and who picked up the GOP nomination by the random chance of winning in winner-take-all states, may have stumbled into another piece of luck
September 19, 2008
Western do-gooders are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional farming at the expense of modern scientific agriculture, according to Britain’s former chief scientist.
Anti-science attitudes among aid agencies, poverty campaigners and green activists are denying the continent access to technology that could improve millions of lives, Professor Sir David King will say today.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Europe and America are turning African countries against sophisticated farming methods, including GM crops, in favour of indigenous and organic approaches that cannot deliver the continent’s much needed “green revolution”, he believes.
Speaking before a keynote lecture tonight to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he is president, Sir David said that the slow pace of African development was linked directly to Western influence. “I’m going to suggest, and I believe this very strongly, that a big part has been played in the impoverishment of that continent by the focus on nontechnological agricultural techniques, on techniques of farming that pertain to the history of that continent rather than techniques that pertain to modern technological capability. Why has that continent not joined Asia in the big green revolutions that have taken place over the past few decades? The suffering within that continent, I believe, is largely driven by attitudes developed in the West which are somewhat anti-science, anti-technology – attitudes that lead towards organic farming, for example, attitudes that lead against the use of genetic technology for crops that could deal with increased salinity in the water, that can deal with flooding for rice crops, that can deal with drought resistance.”
Sir David, who stepped down in December as the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, will use his presidential address to the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool to accuse governments and NGOs of confused thinking about African development.
“Solutions will only emerge if full use is made of modern agricultural technology methods, under progressive, scientifically informed regulation,” he will say. “The most advanced form of plant breeding, using modern genetic techniques, is now available to us. Plant breeding needs to meet a range of demands, including defences against evolving plant diseases, drought resistance, saline resistance, and flood tolerance. The problem is that the Western-world move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food – and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences.”
His remarks will place him in direct opposition to former Whitehall colleagues. The Government endorsed recently the International Assessement of Agricultural Science and Technology, a report from 400 scientists and development experts published in April, which championed small-scale farming and traditional knowledge. The exercise was led by Professor Bob Watson, the chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Sir David said that its findings were short-sighted. “I hesitate to criticise Bob Watson, who I admire enormously, but I think that we have been overwhelmed by attitudes to Africa that for some reason are qualitatively different to attitudes elsewhere.
“We have the technology to feed the population of the planet. The question is do we have the ability to understand that we have it, and to deliver?” Sir David, who was born and brought up in South Africa, added: “I think there is a tremendous groundswell of feeling that we need to support tradition in Africa. What that actually means in practice is if you go to a marketplace in a lovely town like Livingstone in Zambia, near Victoria Falls, you will see hundreds of people with little piles of their crops for sale.
“This is an extremely inefficient process. The sort of thing we’re seeing existed in this country hundreds of years ago. I don’t believe that will lead to the economic development of Africa.”
He will cite the example of rice that can resist flooding, which has been developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Its development has been held up for several years because scientists felt they could not use GM techniques, such is the scale of Western-influenced opposition to the technology.
He will also accuse green groups such as the UN Environment Programme of agitating against new technologies on the basis of speculative risks, while ignoring potential benefits.
“For example, Friends of the Earth in 1999 worried that drought-tolerant crops may have the potential to grow in habitats unavailable’ to conventional crops. The priority of providing food to an area of the world in greatest need appears to not have been noted.For decades, approaches to international development have been dominated by this well-meaning but fatally flawed doctrine.”
September 19, 2008
What one personal flaw do you think might hinder your ability to be president?
Barack Obama to Katie Couric:
I don’t think … there’s a flaw that would hinder my ability … to function as president. I think that all of us have things we need to improve.
Same question to John McCain:
You know I’m not an objective observer. I think that would have to be to make sure that I don’t make any decisions that are not fully informed by every source of information that’s credible I can possibly get.
September 19, 2008
Here’s the latest news on the withdrawal of the invitation to Sarah Palin (and all other politicians) to Monday’s protest of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — withdrawn by the sponsor, the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization. COMMENTARY has learned that Joe Biden was invited to the event in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to appear on the same stage as Palin — and he declined. In an e-mail to me, Biden spokesman David Wade said that “we’ve had longstanding commitment to speak at National Guard Convention on Monday in Maryland.”
After that, the decision was made to disinvite Palin — who is, let us recall, the chief executive of one of the 50 state of the union as well as the vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States. According to Ben Smith of Politico:
The appearance that the non-partisan group was aligning with the Republican ticket put the group and its president, Malcolm Hoenlein, under heavy pressure from Jewish Democrats, including members of the conference, members of Congress, and the liberal group J Street, not to give Palin a platform, sources said. Hoenlein told the McCain campaign that he would have to rescind Palin’s invitation or cancel the rally.
The question is: Was Hoenlein put in this position because of a decision by the Obama team and its supporters to treat Sarah Palin as though she were not a legitimate political figure with whom major Democratic politicians can or should share the stage. The McCain camp has issued a statement in the candidate’s name:
Throughout my political career, I have sought to rise above partisanship on critical national issues. Nowhere is this more true than on important matters of national security. Earlier this year, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and I issued a joint statement on the genocide in Darfur and pledged to support efforts to bring it to an end. Earlier this month, Senator Obama and I put the campaign aside to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country and talk about the importance of national service.
Next Monday, the day before Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to speak before the United Nations General Assembly, several organizations will sponsor an event to draw attention to the importance of halting Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Governor Palin and I share a strong belief that a nuclear armed Iran poses a grave threat to the security of Americans and to our allies. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The risk that Iran would provide terrorists with a nuclear weapon is too great for the world to ignore. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust occurred and called Israel a ’stinking corpse.’ A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the entire region.
Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be a shared goal of every American, not another occasion for partisan posturing.
Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue, regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.
We haven’t heard the end of this story.