Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Hillary’s Uphill Fight Against Sexual Violence

22.08.2009 (11:11 am) – Filed under: Africa,Islam,Justice ::

image Hillary Clinton has arguably done more to combat sexual violence in Africa in her short time as Secretary of State than the entire U.N. has in the last decade.  Mrs. Clinton had this to say about visiting the Congo and witnessing the aftermath of the brutality of life there:

While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila. I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity.

There are lessons that people in the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world can learn simply from reading this single paragraph.  We do not have to visit Africa and see the mauled and maimed women first-hand to realize that, whatever our differences politically, we really have a minimal number of problems to deal with in our lives and that it is our general adherence to the rule of law, with all of its compulsions and flaws, that creates the sense – and more than that, the reality – of security most westerners enjoy day in and day out.  Yet even here freedom and safety is not universal.  I’ll discuss below the latest court case regarding the practice of Islamic honor killings.

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Obama Strikes the Right Tone on Africa

11.07.2009 (3:17 pm) – Filed under: Africa ::

image President Obama’s speech Ghana was televised across the African continent and in it Mr. Obama delivered the message that Africans have needed to hear for many decades, that after all of the history between the people of the continent and the outside world – western exploitation, remuneration, and billions in foreign aid – it’s up to Africans themselves to bring stability and hope to their own countries.

Peter Baker writes:

He delivered a strong and at times even stern message in words that, had they come from any of his predecessors, might not have been received the same way. Instead, it was cast by the White House as hard truths from a loving cousin who could say what no one else could.

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War Crimes in Gaza, Mogadishu

13.01.2009 (9:41 pm) – Filed under: Africa,Crime,Middle East,Military ::

Jeffery Goldberg wonders if American troops committed war crimes in Somalia while fighting rebels in Mogadishu.  The question seems ridiculous at first.  What war crimes could be committed against murderous insurgents responsible for a civil war?  Goldberg’s big gun, however, is astounding.  According to Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, 80% of Somalia casualties were civilians.  This number, if true, is alarming and news to me.  I find it unbelievable, to be completely frank.  Yet there it is.  So is a battle such as the one in Mogadishu a crime if more civilians die than bad guys?

Bowden:

…gunmen in that battle hid behind walls of civilians and were aware of the restraint of the (Army) Rangers. These gunmen literally shot over the heads of civilians, or between their legs. They used women and children for this. It’s mind-boggling. Some of the Rangers shot civilians, some of them inadvertently and some of them advertently. They made the choice to shoot at crowds. When a ten-year-old is running at your vehicle with an AK-47, do you shoot the kid? Yes, you shoot the kid. You have to survive.

American waged war on the Somali rebels right enough.  But the crimes were committed by the rebels who deliberately placed innocent lives in harms way because of their own lack of courage, equipment, skill.

Earlier Michael quoted Daniel Pipes, who I respect a lot, as saying that he doesn’t know what the Israelis hope to achieve in Gaza or if their army knows how to do the job there.  With respect to Mr. Pipes, I don’t think the objective is in doubt – it is to hurt and hopefully cripple Hamas, a purely military action that’s overdue.  As to whether the IDF knows how to do that cleanly…is such an outcome even possible?

Mark Bowden also has something useful to say about Gaza:

I believe that culpability for these casualties is very much with Hamas. Take this leader, Nizar Rayyan, who was killed with many of his children. He knew he was a target. If I knew that I was a target, I sure as hell wouldn’t have my children near me. It’s a horrible and cynical choice he made.

In other words, Rayyan was using his sworn enemy’s own sense of mercy and fair play as a weapon against them.  It did not work and while we ought to mourn the innocent lives that have been lost, the objective is a good one. 

To allow terrorists to hold hostage the civilian lives that are unfortunately entangled with their own is not an acceptable option for any nation at war with these people. 

For a guide, consider the Moscow theatre hostage crisis engineered by Chechen terrorists in the Russian capital.  Even though many hostages were killed, Russia’s choice to use force against the terrorists was the correct one. 

Only the size of the stage and the number of hostages is different in Gaza.

A Primitive, Disgusting Practice

05.12.2007 (10:56 pm) – Filed under: Africa,Islam,Society ::

NY Times blogger John Tierney wonders:

Should African women be allowed to engage in the practice sometimes called female circumcision? Are critics of this practice, who call it female genital mutilation, justified in trying to outlaw it, or are they guilty of ignorance and cultural imperialism?

The topic is to be debated at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting.  What could there possibly be to debate?

Dr. [Fuambai] Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, was raised in America and then went back to Sierra Leone as an adult to undergo the procedure along with fellow members of the Kono ethnic group. She has argued that the critics of the procedure exaggerate the medical dangers, misunderstand the effect on sexual pleasure, and mistakenly view the removal of parts of the clitoris as a practice that oppresses women. She has lamented that her Westernized “feminist sisters insist on denying us this critical aspect of becoming a woman in accordance with our unique and powerful cultural heritage.”

Contrary to what Ahmadu says, the issue isn’t about denying women’s empowerment or reducing anyone’s cultural heritage, it’s about the maiming of toddlers and young girls not of an age to make an informed decision or have such a decision respected if they were able to make it.

This article says that there are some possible benefits to certain types of operations on the female clitoris.  As a lay person I will not dispute the validity of these claims; however, given the life-long effects and possible reduction or elimination of the so-called patient’s sexual life I would submit that no amount of cultural relativism should permit such an operation to be forced on a minor.

I applaud Dr. Ahmadu’s commitment to her unique culture and respect her right to, as an adult, do whatever she wants with her own life.  But that in no way gives credence to the idea that children’s future sexual practices and enjoyment should be mandated by primitive tribal customs.

Dr. Richard Shweder, who will also be participating in Saturday’s debate, would disagree, as he’s on record as saying:

…speaking as a moral realist who believes that moral realism is compatible with cultural diversity in social norms I conclude with a brief moral evaluation of the culturally endorsed West and East African practice of genital modifications for both females and males.   I use the global campaign aimed at the eradication of female genital modifications on the Africa continent as an example of some of the hazards of cultural parochialism and ethnocentrism that arise in making condemnatory moral claims about the unfamiliar cultural practices of third world “others.”   A properly applied moral realism, one that is free of ethnocentrism, should be slow to judge others and must be grounded on accurate and valid cultural knowledge and not on overheated rhetoric and sensational depictions designed to reinforce our own cultural prejudices in the name of universal human rights.

Strictly speaking, Shweder is correct, of course.  But in the same way that modern cultures have worked to eliminate “age inappropriate” sexual relationships and other practices common to many primitive cultures, female genital mutilation in children should be discouraged as a matter of policy at the state level.

There is also the question of forced FGM for adult women at the hands of their husbands and/or relatives in some cultures, notably among certain segments of the Muslim population.  From an ethical point of view, this situation as the equivalent of rape.  No consent, you understand.  But then we’ve seen how Saudi Arabia treats female rape victims, haven’t we? 

A wrong is a wrong and should be acknowledged as such, even at the risk of foisting western cultural values on other, less-developed societies.  While this may be anathema to Drs. Ahmadu and Shweder, I would suggest that their interest in maintaining the relative purity of certain primitive tribes and their rituals is at best a secondary concern to the well-being and individual human rights of the young women involved.

To Tierney, who concludes:

If I were asked to make a decision about my own daughter, I wouldn’t choose circumcision for her. But what about the question raised by these anthropologists: Should outsiders be telling African women what initiation practices are acceptable?

I say that the answer is yes, western women should indeed tell their African and Muslim counterparts exactly what their cultures may be depriving them of, namely the certain dignity of making their own choices and, perhaps, the ability to feel the deepest, most meaningful pleasure life has to offer – the female orgasm.

 

h/t Debbie Schussel (note:  her article contains a graphic, sickening image that, to me, defines the issue quite clearly)

Two types of Liberal Derangement

29.07.2007 (4:14 pm) – Filed under: Africa,Environment,Liberalism,Media,Politics,Stupidity ::

First off, I am not a fan of Michael Savage, but one of his books is titled Liberalism is a Mental Disorder and I think he hit that on the head.  To whit I will point out two items for your reading pleasure.

First, while driving to work this week I was listening to NPR and I heard an interesting story about two tribes of Kenyans who have been battling each other for centuries.  It was a sad tale that was designed to tug at the heartstrings of the listener and make them care for the plight of these two tribes, the Turkana and the Pokot.  You see they live a hard scrabble existence in the uplands of Kenya.  As far back as can be remembered these two tribes have lived in close proximity to each other and have raided each others livestock, fought long bloody feuds, and in general killed each other when the opportunity arises.  Now, you might think that a group that has been fighting and killing each other for so long doesn’t really require that much sympathy from us fat, dumb, and lazy westerners…but on that you would be wrong.  You see, these subsistence farmers (when they aren’t reaving) live right on the ragged edge and thus when…CLIMATE CHANGE comes along, they are hurt much worse.  Yes, CLIMATE CHANGE is causing the Turkana and the Pokot to kill each other, and YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE.  And that is the lesson that we are supposed to take from this heart rending story complete with interpreters over the indigenous tribal language that lament the loss of cattle, goats, camels, and fellow tribesmen and women…we are responsible for their plight.  Forget that they have killed themselves since time immemorial and likely will kill themselves even if they lived in a land of milk and honey, the Church of Climate Change requires us to realize that unless we properly atone for the sin of our Carbon Footprint these poor African tribespeople will KILL EACH OTHER.  The only solution, according to the Church of Climate Change, is the we must pay for the sin of Carbon Footprint by purchasing indulgences in the form of Carbon Offsets.  Thus we much submit ourselves and our lifestyle to the mandates of the Church of Climate Change.

In the NPR article, it was assumed that it was Climate Change that was responsible for the droughts that have plagued the uplands of Kenya.  For evidence they simply state

The climate is changing — and not for the better. Turkana is mostly semi-arid to arid territory, and increasingly, there’s more dust than grass. The Pokots are better placed, but even they suffer. Drought and the unpredictability of rain over the years have made paupers of them all.

Well, that is definite proof that Climate Change is responsible.  I mean, if I lived in an arid to semi-arid land I would definitely think that westerners driving SUVs were responsible if the rains didn’t come.

Rainfall well above normal over the past several months has resulted in unprecedented flooding. Villagers say that rain comes when they don’t expect it. This year, they expected it to come in April, but instead, the rain fell heavily in June.

Darn that unpredictable weather.  I hate it when I was expecting it to rain and it didn’t.  And then when it does rain in an arid to semi-arid land…you get flooding.  Of course there is no mention if this is an annual occurrence.

The other type of Liberal Disorder is usually called Bush Derangement Syndrome, and can be found throughout the Internet, the Blogosphere, the Mainstream Media, and in many offices.  It runs the gamut from the Loose Change idiots, to the Kossaks.  One example of the nuttery of this group is the recent article by Kossack 3CCD.  It was entitled, Was Pat Tillman killed on Cheney’s or Rumsfeld’s orders?  I will give 3CCD some credit, they do manage avoid one of the primary pitfalls of BDS and that is the thought that President Bush is simultaneously completely and totally incompetent and brilliantly scheming to overthrow the American way of life.  This was brought to my attention by the blog of the writer that like John Scalzi (of whom I think his politics are thankfully not overtly apparent in his writing).  He wrote on his blog Whatever about the nutrootery claims that the coup is coming and that President Bush will suspend the Constitution and impose Martial Law and stay in office come 2008.

Practical reasons first. Assuming Bush did decide to declare martial law over the entire nation, how on Earth is he going to enforce it? The federal government, even at this late stage in the Bush administration, is not entirely composed of Regent University graduates; there aren’t enough people in the government itself who would be willing to follow Bush down that road. And even if there were, does anyone believe the sort of people the Bush administration appoints — folks who we know are picked for ideological purity over actual competence in their job — are going to be able to administer a coup of this magnitude? For God’s sake, it took them a week to find the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. It’s on maps. Does anyone really believe that this bunch could manage martial law — an infinitely more complex undertaking — any better?

At least in this case Mr. Scalzi manages to take the side that President Bush is completely incompetent (along with being an idiot) and thus even if he wanted to perform an coup (which he is silent on) he feels it would be impossible.  While I agree that it is basically impossible to have a military coup of the types that the nutroots claim is in the pipeline, its not because of the President’s incompetence.  Mr. Scalzi points out that to effect such a coup would require the military to be behind it 100%, and that is doubtful in the extreme.  It would also require the media to be behind it at least in large part because if every television station went off the air and new people came on the TV telling them something it would cause confusion at best.  While it is true that the majority of the people in the US are more concerned with the plight of Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Brangelia then any issue of real importance…the media would have to be there in almost its current form to effect any kind of coup.  Thus it would be much easier for a coup to take place that the media was in favor of (thus the Church of Climate Change) then the opposite.

I am honestly looking forward to the day when President Bush is no longer in office.  Not because I disagree with him (though on some issues I do), but rather because I wonder what the nutroots of the looney left will latch onto next if someone like Rudy Guilliani, Mitt Romney, or Fred Thompson wins the White House.  Heck, they will likely be just as looney if a moderate Democrat were to win…but that isn’t likely to happen as there doesn’t appear to be one of those anyway.

Obligations

10.06.2007 (12:13 am) – Filed under: Africa,Environment ::

There are those who believe that the United States is obligated to help poor nations because we are “rich”.  And there are those who believe that America’s influence in the world must be reduced so that their own can increase.  The interests of these groups intersect in the debate over global warming which, to summarize, says:

  • climate change is occurring now
  • it is caused by Western countries’ production-based economies
  • it is endangering the entire world’s population
  • it must be stopped regardless of the economic and social consquences.

Of these, only the first can reasonably be said to be “certain”.  Yet historical temperature data is sketchy at best; our ability to make long-term claims about the current pattern is hardly ideal given our limited perspective and understanding. 

For now, however, let us accept the environmentalists’ trend charts as accurate and move on.  Man-made carbon dioxide emissions – produced by industrialized nations – are the culprit of choice when it comes to explaining the observed rise in temperature.  But is this correct science? 

I have my doubts and while I have no scientific knowledge whatsoever about the subject, Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology does.  He says:

Most of the literate world today regards “global warming” as both real and dangerous. Indeed, the diplomatic activity concerning warming might lead one to believe that it is the major crisis confronting mankind. The June 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, focused on international agreements to deal with that threat, and the heads of state from dozens of countries attended. I must state at the outset, that, as a scientist, I can find no substantive basis for the warming scenarios being popularly described.

In fact there seems to be substantial evidence that global warming scientists have their minds made up about what their findings will be prior to research being conducted, that they will ignore findings that contradict their preconceived notions about the problem, and that they actively censor opposing points of view by branding dissenting scientists as apostates.

The Lindzen article reference is 15 years old.  Has he changed his mind in the intervening years?  Hardly.  Indeed, Dr. Lindzen confirms the apostacy conspiracy and names the reason for it:

there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.

But let us be generous again and allow – for the sake of discussion only – the assertion that global warming is caused by Western, industrialized nations.  So what?

So far as I am aware, no one has been demonstrably injured by climate change, natural or otherwise.  Yes, skin cancers are increasing in certain parts of the world and ozone levels in certain large cities are uncomfortably dangerous.  Yet human life expectancy and comfort levels are both at all-time highs in spite of the adversity that global warming is presenting us with.

Looking back over the last 300 years, one would not go too far wrong by stating that everything good that mankind has created in the world has been produced by Western capitalism and the feedback loop of competition that it engenders.

The increases in life expectancy and quality of life mentioned above are due entirely to mechanical automation, scientific research, and modern technology.  Left to their own devices, non-Western nations would still be living as they did at the start of the previous millenium.  Whether this attitude is necessarily wrong is not the point of this post.  The fact that Western economic growth has improved life for all of mankind is.

So, are the advances that Western industry has created for us to be blithely cast aside?  Clearly not.  The latest G8 Summit ended with the proper result:  President Bush and the U.S. refusing to agree to untenable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Ask survivors of the Great Depression if climate change is a significant enough issue to mandate a world-wide recession of even greater magnitude and you’ll find that very few buy into environmentalists’ economic nihlism.  The greatest generation knows what real adversity is; the angst felt by proponents of global warming simply doesn’t measure up.

Does this mean that Americans should continue on as they have, guzzling gas and other resources at an ever-increasing rate?

Yes, actually.  In essence there are two ways out of any situation one is in:  backwards and forwards.  Many environmentalists and Muslim fundamentalists would take us backward to the time of the horse-drawn plow, the former foolishly not considering the massive human death toll that it would take to re-stablize society at their idealized technology level and the latter rabidly desiring it.  Neither are correct.

The way to a better life for all is forward through advances in science and technology, not intellectual and economic surrender.  Electricity, in a word, is the basis for human society.  Ideally we would have more efficient ways of producing it.  In this more reasonable environmentalists are on the mark.  For the continued health of the eco-system and many other socio-political reasons, cleaner, more sustainable energy sources must be found.

There is significant though not conclusive evidence indicating man’s part in the current global warming trend.  It is entirely reasonable to strive to reduce greenhouse gas emission, but only within the framework of the existing economic system. 

Capitalism, after all, encompasses the intangible value of the environment just as it does the tangible production of industry.  To the extent that people recognize a problem with and value the environment they will automatically adjust their behavior in accordance with that value.

If one cares about CO2 emissions, for instance, actively seeking out personal transportation that produces the least amount of CO2 is a rational capitalistic response.  However, if I deem that option too expensive or inconvenient and refuse it, the value I place on the environment is measured by my actions.

Al Gore, of course, is a famous environmentalist.  He is also a famous electrical and gas power hog, consuming 20 times the power of an average American on his household alone.  Gore’s method of valuing the environment is, we’re told, measured by his words and not his actions.  Rather convenient for him.

The truth is that American’s do not particularly care about the environment.  But we are hardly alone in this.  China, Russia, Brazil, India, and many other countries have environmental records that are completely shameful.  Yet they are not on trial in the court of environmental opinion; only the U.S. is.

(Indeed, one could easily argue that nations that are responsible for depleting their lands of forests are the true culprits behind excess carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere.  Yet no mention is made of this when it comes time to assess blame or to consider future policies.)

Bush was wise to avoid committing the country to a course of economic reductionism.  This is a road to ruin – particularly in a world seemingly paralyzed by a radicalized Islam – one that only fools and blind men would trod willingly.

After all, what are our obligations to other nations?  The poorest African country could turn itself into a viable, functioning state if the people there valued prosperity.  They do not.  Instead they choose to fight endless guerilla wars and to spread disease among themselves as if they were incapable of bettering themselves.  This is not true and the African situation doesn’t have to be the way it is.  Sadly, the reasons for their poverty have little to do with America.  If they did we would be able to remedy them.

Indeed we have given African nations billions and billions of dollars in aid money, medicine, and technology only to see it wasted, ruined, and forgotten.

At the recent G8, Bush was not clever enough to avoid the trap of giving yet more money to Africa.  Or perhaps he lacked the energy to engage in yet another politically incorrect battle with no hope of dodging liberal’s poison arrows at home.

And so goes another $60 billion dollars – half of it American money – evidently to be poured into Africa as if it were nothing.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:

“We said that on behalf of the countries of the G-8, that we are aware of our obligations and we would like to fulfill the promises that we entered into and we are going to do that.”

Obligations?  There’s that word again.  Yet America owes no debt to Africa.  If anything the scales tip in the other direction.

And money is not nothing, regardless of what liberals would have us believe.  Rather, it is the distilled essence of mankind’s efforts to produce things of value.  It is a precious, finite resource that should not be squandered, least of all by governments using taxpayer dollars.

Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute says this:

“Altruism holds that one’s highest moral duty is to selflessly serve others–and thus that the world’s ‘haves’ must sacrifice for the sake of its ‘have-nots.’ The productive, on this abhorrent view, have no moral right to pursue their own interests and keep their wealth; their only justification for existing is to serve the needy. Thus the world’s richest nations must atone for their prosperity by sacrificing for the sake of those who lack, or don’t care to earn, values.

“Africa is poor because it is rife with bloody tribalism and superstition–ideas that in the Dark Ages kept the Western world as poor, if not poorer, than today’s Africa. If aid advocates were genuinely concerned with helping Africans, they would campaign for political and economic freedom, for individualism, reason and capitalism, for the ideas necessary to achieve prosperity.

This is the extent of our obligations to poorer nations:  to share the knowledge that would help them break the cycle of poverty that they have – to a very great extent – foisted on themselves. 

To teach our fellow man to fish, in other words.

To the extent that individual Americans feel that they would like to give their personal resources to African individuals and/or aid agencies I encourage them to do so.  Charity is its own reward and virtue.  Give, if the spirit moves, out of love.  But never from false obligation and not from the public coffers.

Our debts to the world in terms of climate change are similar in nature: 

  • to perform the best, most objective and truthful research into the existence and nature of the climate change problem and to determine the correct course of remediation, if any
  • to make good-faith efforts to reasonably reduce greenhouse gas production in the interim without jeoparizing the world economy
  • to continue and expand scientific research that will ultimately lead to clean, renewable energy sources

The truth about the issue of global warming is that it is a sword held over the necks of Western nations by those who envy and despise us.  It has very little to do with science, truth, or consequences thereof.

Surrendering America’s right to determine our own destiny would have been a huge mistake on the part of the Bush administration, one I am glad that he avoided making.

RE: What if super-rich in U.S. helped save Africans?

10.07.2003 (6:26 pm) – Filed under: Africa ::

As printed in the Houston Chronicle, Jeffery D. Sachs asks what if super-rich in U.S. helped save Africans? Good question, what if they did?

The primary problem with African nations is not poverty, as Sachs so blithely postulates. While quite serious, this condition is simply a by-product of the real issue. The real problem with Africa is that much of the continent is ungovernable in its present form.

Nigeria, Liberia, Congo, Rwanda. What do these countries have in common? Bloody tribal and religious riots, constant active military conflicts, a complete lack of stable government.

Sachs editorial hits the right tone: if well-off Americans want to volunteer money and services to Africa, then they should be encouraged to do so. But no one should believe that doing so will make a difference. Until the people of Africa want to live in peace, there’s nothing to be done from this side of the Atlantic.