Trade, Colonization, South Africa and Apartheid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 10th, 2013

History 101

Alexander Spread the Advanced Greek Civilization from the Mediterranean to the Indus River Valley

The first civilizations grew up on the great rivers.  The Nile.  The Tigris and Euphrates.  The Indus.  And the Yangtze.  For the river was the source of life.  The flooding of its banks produced the rich black earth that gave us farming.  They helped us irrigate land further from the banks.  And they allowed the spread of civilizations.  For these rivers provided our first means of transporting people and cargo.  Allowing food and goods to travel between settlements.  This cross-pollination of settlements of different people and resources flowered into the great civilizations of the world.

The Chinese civilizations along the Yangtze grew in isolation from the rest of the world due to the geography at first.  Then, later, by choice.  The other three great civilizations came into contact with each other.  The Egyptians on the Nile spread east and made contact with the Sumerians of the Tigris and Euphrates.  Who were in contact with the Harappan of the Indus River valley.  These civilizations traded with each other.  And fought with each other.  As their civilizations flourished they attracted the attention of envious neighbors.  Who wanted what they had.  And conquered them.

Wars pushed boundaries back and forth.  Civilizations rose and fell.  One of the last great empires of the ancient world, the Persian Empire, bumped into a new rising power.  Athens.  Which was conquered by a Greek-trained king from the north in Macedonia.  Whose son, Alexander, went on to conquer the known world.  Spreading the advanced Greek civilization from the Mediterranean world to the Indus River valley.  Creating a Greek-speaking world steeped in science and philosophy.  Creating a greater Hellenistic civilization out of the lands Alexander conquered.  The shared Greek culture allowing an explosion of trade and commerce.

In Time the English and the Dutch would Bump Heads in South Africa

The Romans adopted Greek knowledge and used it for great engineering projects.  Roads, aqueducts, ships, weapons of war, etc.  Soon the Roman Empire displaced the Hellenistic civilization and spread even further.  Ironically, it was the cost of empire that began the fall of the Roman Empire.  High taxes to fund a huge army on the frontier and to pay for a massive bureaucratic state.  Including welfare programs.  The empire first collapsed in the West.  It lasted another 1,000 years in the East as the Byzantine Empire.  With its capital in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).  Named by the Roman Empire Constantine the Great.  Who helped turned the Roman Empire Christian.

Constantinople was the center of the world.  It was where East met West.  Where Europe met Asia.  All trade from the East went through Constantinople on its way to the West.  For the Silk Road passed through Constantinople.  Making it a very rich city.  As it controlled trade.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the great Italian city-states rose.  Venice, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Siena, Lucca and Cremona.  With their merchant banking they controlled the Mediterranean trade.  Until the Muslims conquered Constantinople.  Which is when the center of economic power moved north to Europe.  Thanks to advances in navigation that allowed ships to sail around Africa to the East.  Bypassing the Muslim-held Constantinople.

It was the Age of Discovery.  And the great European powers discovered new lands full of valuable resources.  The Portuguese and the Spanish lead the way.  And were soon followed by the Dutch.  And the English.  These nations established colonies around the world.  And, in time, the English and the Dutch would bump heads in South Africa.  Where they discovered gold.  Leading to a century of conflict between the British Empire and the Dutch settlers.  Known as Boers.  During the Napoleonic Wars the British defeated the Boers in Cape Colony in 1806.  And officially took possession of the colony in 1814.  Then it was Britain’s turn to send settlers to the region.  As a prosperous colony at the southern tip of Africa would come in handy for the empire that controlled the trade routes with the most powerful navy in the world.

Mandela Languished in Jail in part because of his Being a Communist

The Boers resented British rule.  And they didn’t like their abolishing slavery.  So they moved north.  Establishing two Boer independent republics.  The discovery of diamonds and more gold would make the region the richest and most powerful in southern Africa.  There was only one problem.  They didn’t have the manpower.  Or an industrial base.  Which led to another wave of immigration.  Mostly from Britain.  Which soon outnumbered the Boers.  Tensions led to the two Boer Wars.  The second one being the longest, costliest and bloodiest war the British fought in the century following the Napoleonic Wars.  With the British ultimately winning the African territories from the Boers in 1902.

The contested areas were all absorbed into the British Empire in 1910 as the Union of South Africa.  And became independent of the British Empire in 1931.  As the foreign powers fought over the African lands they pushed aside the native blacks.  And segregated them.  In 1948 the National Party rose to power.  And began to make segregation law.  The official beginning of apartheid.  Where the whites lived in a first-world nation (which they built with their capital along with black labor).  While the blacks lived in third-world conditions.  The African National Congress (ANC) fought apartheid.  Which was good.  But the ANC was a communist organization during the height of the Cold War.  Which did not make it a friend of the Western World.  Nor was Nelson Mandela.  Who was a communist.  Mandela co-founded the militant wing of the ANC in 1961.  Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).  Which planned a campaign of sabotage against the apartheid government.  Landing Mandela in jail for 27 years.

Mandela languished in jail in part because of his being a communist.  For they didn’t want what happened in Southern Rhodesia to happen in South Africa.  Alignment with the Soviet Union.  And bloody civil war.  This is what they feared if the ANC/MK rose to power under the charismatic Mandela.  Civil war in South Africa fueled by the Soviet Union to aid in their war with the West.  As it turned out, though, Mandela was more like Abraham Lincoln when he emerged from jail.  Who told his generals that once the American Civil War was over there was to be no reprisals or retaliation against the South.  For once the war was over they would move on together as Americans.  Both North and South.  Which made the peace that followed much easier on the South.  Allowing the nation to heal her wounds more quickly than if there had been a period of bloody purges and reprisals.  And this is the gift Mandela gave to South Africa.  Allowing the nation to move forward after apartheid without bloody purges or reprisals.  Which is why South Africa went on to become one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) economies.  While another former member of the British Empire in Africa, Southern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), suffers corruption, poverty, human rights abuses and one of the lowest life expectancy in the world.  Because Mandela spoke of peace and reconciliation when released from prison.  Not vengeance.  Like they did in Zimbabwe.

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FT181: “Slavery in America is the best thing that ever happened for today’s black Americans.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 2nd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit the Man Jesus had to Die

There are some Christians who still have bad feelings towards Jews.  Who they blame for killing their Lord and Savior.  Jesus Christ.  Even though Christ died for man’s sins.  He knew the state was going to execute Him.  But He did not try to save Himself.  He accepted His fate.  Because His death was preordained.  It was all part of God’s plan.  For Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit He had to die.  And He had to be crucified.  As horrible as that was.  To give the religion that would follow their most sacred icon.  The crucifix.  Or cross for the non-Catholics.

God’s will was done.  And because of it the Christians got a new religion.  Based on the life and death of a Jew.  The Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth.  Which is why the Christian Bible includes the Old Testament.  To include the Mosaic teachings that Christ Himself taught.  So for Christians to hold a grudge against Judaism is illogical.  Especially when the ultimate instrument of Jesus’ death was politics.  Not religion.

The Jews lived under a Roman occupation.  An uneasy Roman occupation.  The Jews were a thorn in Rome’s side.  As they were quite burdensome.  With their not knuckling under as willingly as others.  So to keep the peace they allowed the Jews to keep their religion.  Or rather, they tolerated it.  Something the high priests and Pharisees were very conscious of.  And they didn’t want any trouble that would cause them to lose their privileges.  Like this young whippersnapper coming around and riling up the masses.  For they knew it wouldn’t take much for the Romans to lose their tolerance of them.  And they especially didn’t like His way of not revering them.  That especially cheesed them off.  So the high priests and Pharisees went to the Romans and said this guy, Jesus, is calling Himself king of the Jews.  Something they were sure would not please Caesar.  Emperor of them all.  Well, one thing led to another and they crucified Christ.  Because of politics.  Not Judaism.

Some of the Countries today enjoying the Greatest Liberties and Highest Standards of Living have a Christian Past

Jesus has done more to bring peace to the world than anyone else.  The golden rule?  It has done more to let people live peacefully together than any government law.  It made people kind to each other.  Instead of the brutes we once were.  Religion civilized us.  And Jesus did more than most to make that happen.  Would that have happened if the Romans hadn’t crucified Him?  Of course this is a moot question.  For it was God’s will.  What happened had to happen.  And we are better off because it happened.  (When people use religion to justify violence it’s a different story.  The horrific wars between Catholics and Protestants had nothing to do with the golden rule.  But people who in their zealotry forget the golden rule.)

Death by crucifixion was a long, painful death.  People hung by their arms until they could hang no longer.  Then they transferred their weight to their legs.  Standing up.  And this went on until death mercifully came.  So Jesus hung by His arms with His weight pulling His tissue and tendons against the nails through His hands.  And when He stood the weight of his body forced His tissues and tendons against the nail through his feet.  And up and down he went.  Forcing those nails through His flesh.  A horrible death.  But a death He did not try to avoid.  People make Him out as some hippy peacenik.  But He had guts.  Though it’s easy for a God to have that kind of guts.  Jesus was just a man when He died.

So something good came from something horrible.  The world became a better place.  Yes, there were a lot of religious wars when some bastardized Jesus’ teachings.  But some of the countries today enjoying the greatest liberties and highest standards of living have a Christian past (and are still predominantly Christian).  Like those that were once part of the Christian British Empire.  Where the rule of law and the respect for the individual—not the ruling powers—rule supreme.  And that would not have happened without Christ.  For even the atheist among the Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—thought that Jesus’ teachings were the greatest in the world.  So good things can come from bad things.  Like another good thing that came from one of the worst things there ever was.  Slavery.

There’s a Prosperous Black Middle Class and Black Millionaires in America thanks to Slavery

Africa is a horrible place.  Sadly.  In any metric you use Africa measures horribly.  More people live in poverty in Africa than they do anywhere else in the world.  Africa has the world’s highest infant mortality rates.  Africa has the lowest life expectancy rates in the world.  Africa has the highest homicide rates in the world.  Africa has the lowest per capita GDP in the world.  And Africa has the lowest Human Development Index in the world.  Which basically says that Africa is the worst place in the world to live.  Whereas Europe and the countries that were once part of the Christian British Empire consistently have the best numbers in all of these metrics.  Making them some of the best places to live.  Unlike Africa.

Of course, the slaves who traveled in the hellish conditions of the slave ships to the New World would have preferred to have remained in Africa.  In the world they knew.  With the family they knew.  Without suffering the horrors of that Atlantic crossing.  The slave markets.  And their brutal overseers.  But something good came from all that suffering.  Unfortunately it was not for them.  But their distant ancestors.  Who today can live in a prosperous black middle class.  Where they don’t have to live in poverty.  Where their children are likely to survive their childhood.  And grow up to live a full life.  Where they have a lesser chance of being murdered.  Where they can have a much higher standard of living.  And a higher Human Development Index.  Unlike in Africa.

Slavery in America is the best thing that ever happened for today’s black Americans.  Ironically, the ancestors of those who were lucky enough to escape the slave traders don’t live as good a life as those who did not.  Today blacks in America are CEOs.  Athletes.  Movie stars.  Hip hop-stars.  Doctors.  Lawyers.  Even president of the United States.  So in addition to a prosperous black middle class there are black millionaires in America.  Blacks who started with nothing.  And earned a champagne and caviar life.  Something that just isn’t happening in Africa.  Sadly.

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Cane Sugar, Crystallized Sugar, Sugar Trade, West Indies, Wealth and War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 7th, 2013

History 101

As Muslim displaced Christians from the Lands of the Roman Empire Sugar moved West

There is a war on sugar.  It’s making us fat.  And it’s making us sick.  Because it tastes so damn good.  We crave it.  And always have.  Since the first days we chewed on sugarcane.  Sucking out the juice.  Which was where that sweet delight was.  It was so good that the people in New Guinea (just north of Australia) learned how to plant it and raise it themselves.  Instead of just looking for it in the wild.  Around the eighth millennium BC.  From there it spread.  North.  To Southeast Asia.  Southern China.  And into India.  Where they took sugar to the next level.  They didn’t just chew on sugarcane to suck out the juice in India.  They refined it into a crystallized substance.  Around 350 AD.  Concentrating that sweetness.  And making it portable.  Then the Arabs entered the picture.

The Arabs took the Indian sugar-making technique and made it into big business.  They established plantations to grow it in tropical climes.  Where the two things that made sugarcane grow best—heat and water—were plentiful.  They built the first sugar mills to refine the cane.  Basically presses to squeeze out the juice.  Which they then boiled the water out of.  Leaving behind sugar crystals.  And added it to their foods.  As Muslim Arabs displaced Christians from the lands of the Roman Empire sugar moved west.  The Arabs introduced sugarcane plantations as far west as southern Spain.  When Christian Crusaders returned from fighting Muslims in the Holy Land they brought back crystallized sugar to Europe.  And they quickly fell in love with those white crystals.  By the late 13th century even England had grown a sweet-tooth.  Who would go on to consume so much of the stuff that they would rot their teeth away.

Then the Europeans entered the sugar business in the 15th century.  At first it was just the wealthy that enjoyed sugar.  Then it spread to the common people.  As demand grew they established new plantations to meet that demand.  In southern Spain.  The Atlantic island of Madeira.  The Canary Islands.  The Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.  All had good growing climates for sugarcane.  And each plantation had its own processing plant.  For a ship’s hold full of crystallized sugar was far more valuable than a ship’s hold full of harvested sugarcane.  Making these plantations labor intensive endeavors.  And working the fields was backbreaking work.  To step up production required a larger labor force than was available.  And to meet that demand they turned to using African slaves.

Sugar was a Turning Point from an Agrarian World of Slaves and Indentured Servants to the Modern Industrial World

By the 16th century the Europeans were taking sugarcane across the Atlantic.  And African slaves.  The Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and British brought sugarcane and slaves to Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Barbados, the Virgin Islands, Guadaloupe, Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti) and elsewhere in the Americas.  With the Caribbean Islands becoming the sugar capital of the world.  France’s Saint-Domingue being the single largest producer in the world.  Until their slave uprising.  It was France’s wealthiest possession in the Western Hemisphere.  And its loss changed French ambition in the New World.  For Napoleon had his eyes on rebuilding the French Empire in North America that was so rudely interrupted by France’s loss in the Seven Years’ War.  But with the loss of Saint-Domingue and all that sugar wealth Napoleon lost all interest in the New World.  And sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States.  To prepare for war with Britain.  Again.

The British and the French both had lucrative sugar plantations in the West Indies.  When the American Revolutionary War turned into a world war the British and French squared off once again.  Especially in the West Indies.  Where they wanted to protect their possessions producing that valuable sugar.  And take the other’s possessions.  So they could expand their holdings.  And their wealth from the sugar trade.  As well as put down any slave uprisings.  Such as would later happen in Saint-Domingue.  Some say the reason the British lost the American Revolutionary War was because they diverted too much of their military resources to the Caribbean.  But the French were diverting a lot of their military resources to the Caribbean, too.  Which is one reason why the war lasted 8 years.  As the French were more interested in taking the British possessions in the West Indies than American independence.  Their first efforts fighting alongside the Americans (Rhode Island in 1778.  Savannah, Georgia, in 1779) did not help the cause.  It was only when the French fleet could be spared from the action in the West Indies that they joined General Washington in trapping General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  With Cornwallis’ surrender effectively ending the war.  Even though they wouldn’t sign the final peace treaty until 1783.

By the end of the international slave trade Europeans sent approximately 10 million Africans to the New World.  Mostly to Brazil and the Caribbean.  To work in the sugar plantations.  Where slave ships left Africa.  They unloaded slaves in the New World.  Loaded the sugar these slaves grew.  Shipped the sugar back to the Old World.  Unloaded the sugar and loaded on finished goods.  Then sailed back to the African slave stations.  Where they traded their finished goods for more slaves.  There was big money in The Trade Triangle (trade from Africa to the New World to the Old World and back to Africa).  But sugar also helped to kick off the Industrial Revolution.  For the iron industry grew to make the machinery of the sugar mills.  As each plantation processed their sugarcane into crystallized sugar that was a lot of cast iron gears, sprockets, levers, axles, boilers, etc.  Basically a turning point from an agrarian world of slaves and indentured servants.  To the modern industrial world and wage-earners.

There is a Correlation between America’s Obesity Problem and the Switch from Cane Sugar to Corn Sugar

By the 19th century technology was making better sugar at lower costs.  The British designed a low-pressure boiler.  As water boils at a lower temperature when at lower pressure they were able to refine sugar with less energy.  Cutting production costs.  And waste.  As higher temperatures caramelized some of the sugar.  Though caramelized sugar can be delicious on crème brûlée you don’t want it when you’re producing crystallized sugar to sell.  Then the Americans improved this process by creating the multiple-effect evaporator.  A multi-stage device where the pressure is lower in each successive stage.  They use steam to boil water in the first stage.  This vapor then provides the energy to boil water in the next stage.  Which is at a lower pressure.  And, therefore, has a lower boiling point.  That vapor then boils water in the next stage which is at a lower pressure.  And so on.  Where one energy input creates a lot of useful work cost-efficiently.

With the advance in refining equipment refinery plants grew more complex.  And expensive.  So instead of building one on every plantation they built fewer but larger ones.  And shipped raw product to them.  Modern ships and economies of scale made this the new business model.  Companies grew and opened other refineries.  And expanded vertically.  Growing sugarcane as well as refining it.  One of the best at this was the American Sugar Refining Company.  That at one point controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the United States.  Which earned it a spot on the original Dow Dozen.  The first 12 industrial stocks the Dow used in calculating their Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896.  And remained a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average until 1930.

Eventually the Americans couldn’t compete with foreign sugar producers any more.  They enlisted the help of Congress to impose tariffs on cane sugar imports.  Forcing Americans to pay more for their sugar.  Then they started making sugar out of government subsidized corn.  High-fructose corn syrup.  Which pretty much sweetens anything manufactured in the United States today.  That some say causes more health problems than cane sugar.  Including obesity.  Those in the high-fructose corn syrup business vehemently deny this.  But there is a correlation between America’s obesity problem and the switch from cane sugar to corn sugar.  Because of the different way the body metabolized corn sugar it did not satiate our appetite.  Leading us to over consume.  Such as with sugary drinks.  Which have gotten so large in size that New York City Mayor Bloomberg tried to make these large sizes illegal.  Because America’s over consumption of sugar was making us obese.  While Britain’s over consumption of cane sugar only rotted their teeth away.  It didn’t make them obese.  Which makes the case that corn sugar is less healthy than cane sugar.  Despite what the corn sugar lobby says.

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Oil and Natural Gas in East Africa are Bringing the Chinese and other Nations to Africa

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2012

Week in Review

The developed nations are falling in love with East Africa.  Why?  Because they have oil literally oozing out of the ground.  And enormous natural gas deposits are under the waters off Tanzania and Mozambique.  The kind they measure using the word ‘trillion’.  This energy bonanza is drawing the developed nations to East Africa to bring these resources to market.  And into their economies (see Oil and gas are the new African queens by Emily Gosden posted 7/1/2012 on The Telegraph).

“In the space of a few years, East Africa has become a feeding ground for most of the world’s oil majors, which have sniffed our resources of oil and gas on a truly gargantuan scale,” wrote Malcolm Graham-Wood, oil analyst at VSA Capital, in a recent note. And in the world of oil and gas where, as he puts it, “if you find it, they will come”, those gargantuan reserves are the key.

“It’s been known there’s oil here for 100 years,” Laurie Hunter, chief executive of explorer Madagascar Oil says. “It actually seeps out on the surface in places.”

But with exploratory drilling consistently exceeding expectations, the geology of East Africa is proving to be even better than once thought.

FTSE 100 explorer Tullow Oil began drilling by Lake Albert in Uganda in 2006 – the first well there since 1938. It has drilled 45 wells to date; 43 of them have hit hydrocarbons. The company says it believes the Lake Albert rift basin is a “a major hydrocarbon province in its own right”, with resources as high as 1.1bn barrels. French oil major Total and Chinese CNOOC have paid $2.9bn to buy into Tullow’s stakes…

But while the oil discoveries look transformational – for all involved – it is gas that is causing the most excitement. In the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, off the coasts of Tanzania and Mozambique, gas discoveries are estimated to stand at more than 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Potential resources are significantly higher. By way of context, the UK’s entire annual natural gas consumption in 2010 was 3.3tcf…

But it’s not just the geology that makes East Africa so exciting – it’s also the geography. “Conveniently,” Mr Graham-Wood notes, East Africa’s gas “faces the lucrative markets of India and the Far East and is now a truly valuable commodity”.

The gas will be cooled into liquefied natural gas (LNG) so it can be shipped to Asia. Gas consumption jumped 21.5pc in China and 11.6pc in Japan in 2011, according to BP data…

Exploiting the reserves in East Africa is not without its challenges, as Mr Joyner notes from a recent visit to Mozambique. “There are no roads and you have to fly everywhere on dodgy twin-props.”

China has been particularly busy in Africa.  Building a lot of infrastructure.  In an infrastructure-starved continent.  Out of the goodness of their heart.  Unlike the colonial powers of times past.  And I’m sure it’s just coincidental that enormous natural gas reserves are located so close to China.  Just begging to find their way into that Chinese economy.  Where gas consumption has jumped 21.5% in 2011.  No, I’m sure that hasn’t a thing to do with their interest in Africa.  Even though they’re investing in the energy industry in Africa.

As the developed nations buy these resources it should bring money into the private economies of East Africa.  Or create them if they don’t yet exist.  Creating jobs.  A middle class.  And hopefully a stable society.  Complete with all the middle class institutions and the rule of law.  Raising the standard of living for all in East Africa.  By using the revenue from their energy sales to build an infrastructure in an infrastructure-starved continent.  Preferably one that favors their needs and not the Chinese.  Or the other nations flocking to East Africa.

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China pours Billions into African Infrastructure in Exchange for Lucrative Trade Agreements

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2012

Week in Review

China is pouring billions into Africa.  Apparently out of the goodness of their heart (see Track record by Andrew Moody and Zhong Nan posted 6/29/2012 on China Daily).

The relationship between China and Africa will come under the spotlight once again when leaders of up to 50 African nations will descend on Beijing in July for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation…

China’s stock of overseas direct investment on the continent has increased eight-fold from $1.6 billion (1.3 billion euros) in 2005 to $13.04 billion at the end of 2010, the last year for which figures are available, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Trade has also seen a similar large increase with exports to Africa rising from $10.18 billion in 2003 to $59.95 billion in 2010.

In Africa itself the relationship is viewed as central. John Dramani Mahama, vice-president of Ghana, says dealing with China helps avoid the red tape linked to alternative sources of funding from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or various international aid agencies…

Meles says far from exploiting Africa, China was in the process of rescuing Africa from the so-called Washington Consensus of the past 30 years that dictated that the private sector was the best engine for development in Africa…

Only one dominant view of the China-Africa relationship seems to exist in the West – that it is an exploitative and neo-colonial one…

The retired diplomat also feels China offers a great role model for Africa in terms of showing what can be achieved with a commitment to develop.

“I can remember when Sanlitun (now the bustling entertainment district in Beijing) was just bush and Shenzhen was a small fishing port and now it is like Hong Kong. There is a feeling if they can do it, we can do it too,” he says…

[Samuel B.] Nagbe [assistant minister in the Ministry of Public Works in the capital Monrovia], however, says this also has drawbacks since there is a lack of competition when large infrastructure projects are offered for tender…

The overall relationship between China and Africa will remain a subject of debate. Philip Nyinguro, associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Nairobi, argues the weak state of some African countries makes them vulnerable when they are cutting deals with any country, whether it is China or a Western power.

This doesn’t sound much different than the spread of the British Empire.  And British colonialism.  Only the colonies may not do as well under the Chinese than they did under the British.  For let us not forget that it was the British Empire that made Hong Kong the jewel it became.  Not the Chinese.

And that attack on the private sector?  The wealth that China is creating that allows them to invest in Africa came from the private sector.  Granted it’s not what the West would call the private sector.  It’s more state-capitalism.  However, it was the transition from communism to capitalism (at least towards capitalism) in the cities that ignited their economic ascent.  So, yes, even China must agree that the best engine for economic development must come from the private sector.  Because it’s what they used.  For the communists sure couldn’t make it happen.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Clearly the Chinese want those African resources.  Just like the early mercantilist empires wanted colonies in foreign lands to feed raw materials to their economies.  The Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French and the British.  They’re just doing it a little differently.  By ‘crowding out’ all other foreign investment.  Who don’t ask any questions or place any conditions on their aid beyond the economics of their trade deals.  Giving them a presence in these African nations.  Who will expect favorable treatment in return for their generosity.  If not they can just pull it away.  And without a developing private sector these countries could return to where they were before the Chinese investments.  Or accept an expanding Chinese influence in their nations.  Just like a colony power.

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The Miracle in Africa – Declining Child Mortality Rates thanks to Robust Economic Activity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 13th, 2012

Week in Review

We have poured enormous amounts of aid into Africa.  Celebrities have championed African causes.  To get more charitable donations.  And to shame governments in advanced economies to provide more aid.  Little of this has helped.  But here is something that has (see Africa’s Child Health Miracle: The Biggest, Best Story in Development by Michael Clemens posted 5/4/2012 on the Center for Global Development).

These shocking new numbers are in a paper released today by Gabriel Demombynes and Karina Trommlerová in the Kenya office of the World Bank. Here are their figures for some of the recent changes in rates of child death across the continent. The numbers in the last column are the percent declines in child death rates every year over the past few years.

This is a stunningly rapid decline, and nothing like it was occurring even as recently as the first half of the decade. For comparison, the Millennium Development Goal of a 2/3 decline in child mortality between 1990 and 2015 translates into a 4.3…percent annual decline in child mortality. In other words, the above countries are collectively reducing child mortality at an annual rate much greater than the rate called for by the Millennium Development Goals. They are doing this across hundreds of millions of people, across a vast landscape of hundreds of thousands of villages and cities.

These numbers originally come from the DHS Surveys, which are free and open-access. The paper’s authors investigate the reasons for the decline in Kenya alone, and conclude that in Kenya it results from a combination of broad public health efforts and the recent robust economic growth across the region.

With all the public health aid going to Africa all these decades it would appear that these miraculous reductions in child mortality rates has more to do with that robust economic growth.  It’s the improvement in their standard of living.  Which affords them better living conditions and better public health.  For it is no coincident that the healthiest countries are also the most prosperous countries.  Where wealth can build hospitals and clinics.  Pharmaceutical companies and drug stores.  And modern cities where there is no malaria. 

This is the greatest gift we can give to an impoverished people.  Free market capitalism.  Which empowers people.  Makes them the masters of their own destiny.  By raising their standard of living.  Without having to depend on celebrities or governments.  Who can take it away just as easily as they can give it to them.  But if they create this wealth on their own?  That’s a different story.  They will be independent.  And never again will they have to depend on the kindness of others just so their children can survive childhood.

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The Wall Street Protesters’ Pain is a Joke to those Truly Suffering around the World

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 10th, 2011

Cuba is Imploding.  Like all Communist Countries Have.  Are.  Or Will.

Wall Street is bad.  Capitalism is bad.  Because they put profits ahead of people.  Instead of putting people before profits.  Like they do in Cuba (see A Troubling Sign that Economic ‘Reform’ in Cuba Isn’t Working by Juan Carlos Hidalgo posted 10/10/2011 on Cato@Liberty).

The number of Cubans intercepted at sea trying to reach the coast of Florida more than doubled in the last fiscal year according to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security…

This is yet another sign that the much heralded economic “reforms” announced by Havana aren’t working. The massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro were meant to be absorbed by Cuba’s almost non-existent private sector…

Earlier this year I talked to an official from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana who told me that we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady increase of Cubans trying to escape the island towards the United States. Faced with a dilapidated economy, hundreds of thousands of unemployed, and growing social unrest, the Castro regime wouldn’t hesitate in letting more Cubans use the “escape valve” of emigration. We might be seeing the first signs of this.

The Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) are no fans of America.  Or capitalism.  No.  Cuba is a hardcore communist country.  Because the communist way guaranteed the best of everything for everyone.  Without corporate greed or the pursuit of profit getting in the way.  But Cuba is imploding.  Like all communist countries have.  Are.  Or will.  As they always will.  Whenever you have the government put people before profits.  Because when states do that somehow the people always take it on the chin.

So the solution to save their people?  Get rid of their people.  Let them swim to America.  Because if they’re no longer in Cuba they no longer have to feed them.  House them.  Or fight them in the inevitable revolution.

Life is Truly Difficult in Syria with some 400 People Dying on Average each Month

Castro would rather these people flee his communist utopia than fight them.  Because this kind of thing has been going on in North Africa.  The Middle East.  And he wants none of that (see Syria violence: EU poised to announce fresh sanctions in wake of latest killings by Adrian Blomfield posted 10/10/2011 on The Telegraph).

More than 30 people were killed in the latest wave of violence after security forces opened fire on a funeral in the city of Homs and the army clashed with deserters from its ranks who have defected to the opposition. The battle underscored the growing shift in the uprising from the peaceful demonstrations of its early days to an armed insurrection that is gaining strength on the periphery of what is still an overwhelmingly civilian revolt.

The latest fatalities took the overall death toll since the uprising began to just under 3,000, according to UN calculations.

Makes you scratch your head about the Libyan War.  For we launched that war to prevent these things from happening in Libya.  And here they are.  Happening in Syria.  And yet we have a different policy.  Why is that?  But that’s another story.

This brutal oppression has been going on for some 7 months.  And it’s only gotten worse.  After living under such an oppressive regime these people won’t give up.  And neither will Assad.  Making life truly difficult in Syria.  And claiming some 400 lives on average each month.  For now.

Why is Europe the go-to Continent during Humanitarian Crises?  Because they are Richer and More Capitalistic.

Some of these Syrians are fleeing their country.  A lot of them are trapped for the duration.  Not really knowing what their nation’s fate is.  Or their own.  As millions of others face turmoil throughout the world.  And millions of these are fleeing their countries.  And for their lives (see Multiplying crises create 43 million refugees by D. Parvaz posted 10/10/2011 on Al Jazeera).

Regional conflicts and the potential for violence have complicated aid efforts aimed at the nearly 12 million affected by the drought in Africa. The unrest rose to such a level that people were crossing over from Libya to Tunisia, from which people were also fleeing to France and Italy due to mass unrest.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as of September 30, more than 700,000 people have left Libya, with the bulk of that migration, 304,127, heading to Tunisia…

Livio Zilli, the international secretariat of Amnesty International’s Refugees’ and Migrants’ Rights Team, points out that many of the people leaving Libya aren’t Libyan nationals, but likely were already among transient populations who were forcibly displaced due to security or economic issues. These people are refugees twice over…

This, said Zilli, makes the current situation: “A refugee crisis on the doorsteps of Europe.”

And Europe might not want to deal with it, he said.

Like Europe doesn’t have enough problems to deal with.  What with that whole sovereign debt crisis crippling Europe.  They’re going broke.  And spending more and more tax dollars to try and save the Euro.  Which is in danger of going the way of the dodo because of excessive government spending.  That caused excessive government debt.  And the last thing they need are tens of millions of refugees being fed and housed on the taxpayers’ dime.

Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis.  But Africa was here before Europe.  So why is it that Europe is the go-to continent during humanitarian crises?  Because they are richer than most of these countries in crisis.  And more capitalistic.  Where the Rule of Law keeps the peace.  And puts no one above the law.  Setting the stage for a prosperous free market economy.  That can provide for all a nation’s needs.  Or trade for them during times of crisis.  All handy things for a safe, healthy, prosperous nation.

No Doubt some of the Egyptian Protestors from 8 Months back are having Buyer’s Remorse

Egypt had a lot of these things.  By Middle East standards it was a pretty prosperous nation.  People had more freedom than others.  A bustling tourism industry thanks to a rich and glorious past.  Peace and stability with its neighbors.  And within the country.  Even Muslims and Christians lived together in relative peace.  For all its corruption, oppression and faults, it was one of the most benign of Middle East dictatorships.  But the Egyptian people threw out the tyrant during the Arab SpringHosni Mubarak.  And it hasn’t been as peaceful since (see Coptics Criticize Egypt Government Over Killings by David D. Kirkpatrick posted 10/10/2011 on The New York Times).

Egypt’s Coptic Christian church harshly criticized the government on Monday over its actions in crushing a bloody protest in Cairo the night before that left at least 24 people dead, mostly Christians, as grieving families began to bury their dead, some of them mangled by tanks, bullets and beating wounds.

The protest on Sunday was the most violent in Egypt since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency eight months ago and raised new questions about the country’s ability to move forward toward a pluralistic and tolerant democracy…

The violence on Sunday began after a demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church. By day’s end it had morphed into a raging riot directed against the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mr. Mubarak was ousted in February. The violence seemed to be aggravated by the public’s widespread distrust of the military’s authority because of repeated delays in turning power over to Egyptian civilians.

After some 8 months of ‘freedom’ from the tyrant the country still bleeds.  And burns.

If you’re a Christian in Egypt you no longer have the peace and security you had under Mubarak.  And if you’re a Muslim that just wants to live in peace with everyone.  As you did before the Arab Spring.  You now risk being caught in the crossfire.  Eight months and still no democracy.  Still military rule.  And growing violence.  No doubt some of the protestors from 8 months back are having buyer’s remorse.  And probably believe perhaps Mubarak with some reforms might have been better than near-anarchy they’re seeing the occasional glimpse of.

The Protesters are Asking the People to Use the Power of Capitalism to Redress the Abuses of Capitalism

We finally have a demand from the Occupy Wall Street people.  Well, not so much of a demand.  But a request.  Not for the oppressive bankers and corporate thugs.  But for the people (see Wall Street Protests Get Specific: Could ‘Bank Transfer Day’ Pit Americans Against Their Big Banks? by Martha C. White posted 10/10/2011 Time Moneyland).

The growing anger directed at U.S. banks (especially the big ones that took federal bailout funds) over recent fee increases coalesced this weekend into a Facebook-driven campaign urging Americans to close their accounts at large banks and move their money to credit unions by Nov. 5.

Remarkable.  They’ll march on Wall Street because Bank of America imposed a monthly debit card fee.  But they could care less about the out of control government spending and regulation that takes more out of their pockets every hour of every day.  But I digress.

These protesters aren’t all that original.  I’ve heard of this request before.  They’re asking the people to use the power of capitalism.  If one business becomes less attractive to your needs let your wallet voice your displeasure.  They act as if we aren’t free to be able to do this already.  But we are.  And we have a myriad of choice available.  Because that’s what capitalism is.  Businesses compete against each other to see who can please us the most.

People Truly Suffering Around the World must be Thinking if Only they Had it so Bad as the Wall Street Protesters

There is real suffering around the world.  And these Occupy Wall Street people are whining about high bank fees.  They want government to intervene.  When they already have the power to cause change themselves.  We call it free market capitalism.  We have it.  A lot of people don’t.  People in Cuba.  Syria.  Libya.   Somalia.  Kenya.  Ethiopia.  And everywhere else where capitalism is constrained and maligned.

Can you imagine these people truly suffering around the world seeing these Wall Street protesters?  Playing their drums?  Tweeting their whiny tweets to family and friends?  Wearing face paint?  Women dancing topless?  While they starve.  Get run over by tanks.  And shot.  They must be thinking if only they had it so bad.

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Obama’s ‘help’ may Lose the Middle East to Radical Islam

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 25th, 2011

Libya no Worse than other Humanitarian Crises

Everyone is still asking that question.  Why Libya?  The Middle East and Africa are full of humanitarian crises.  Yet we’re not bombing them.  Is their suffering not as bad as the Libyan suffering?  Or are their people simply not worth saving?  People want to know.  Because people are suffering everywhere. 

[Syria]  Violence erupted around Syria on Friday as troops opened fire on protesters in several cities and pro- and anti-government crowds clashed on the tense streets of the capital in the most widespread unrest in years, witnesses said.  -By Associated Press, The Washington Post, 3/25/2011 

[Bahrain]  Clashes erupted in Shiite villages across Bahrain on Friday as antigovernment protesters defied a government ban on public gatherings, despite a beefed-up presence by the military and security forces.  -By Joe Parkinson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/2011 

[Ivory Coast]  Up to one million Ivorians have now fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday as violence escalated in a 4-month power struggle.  – Stephany Nebehay, Reuters, 3/25/2011 

[Yemen]  With hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators on Sanaa’s streets, soldiers fired warning shots to prevent loyalists whipped up by Mr Saleh’s speech attacking anti-regime protesters on Friday, the Muslim day of prayers and rest… The rallies came one week after a bloodbath in which 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation and a spate of defections from within his ruling circle.  -By AFP, ABC News, 3/25/2011 

And there’s more.  Iran.  North Korea.  And others.  It’s everywhere.  Suffering.  But you know why we’re not helping any of these nations?  Because it’s too much for anyone to do.  Suffering is bad but it is NOT the United States’ duty to end it all.  And yet we’re trying to do just that in Libya.  Was the Qaddafi regime a great threat to American security interests?  No.  He’s been pretty quiet since the Iraq War.  He seemed content to oppress his people and leave others alone.  Perhaps the others noted above were even less dangerous than Qaddafi.  Perhaps in comparison they’re just docile pussy cats.

If any Nation Deserves Regime Change it’s Syria

Let’s look at Syria.  They make no secret of the fact that they don’t like America.  Or Israel.  They are behind a lot of unrest in the Middle East.  They want to see the whole region under Sharia Law.  And be less friendly with the West.  As bad as Qaddafi was, he did sell a lot of his oil to the West.  So that would make Syria more of a national security concern than Libya.  But we’re not bombing Syria.  Perhaps the Syrian violence just isn’t that bad (see Resident says troops open fire on protesters in Daraa, other Syrian cities by Associated Press posted 3/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

The violence erupted after tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country, shouting calls for greater freedoms in support of a more than week-long uprising in Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online…

An activist in Damascus in touch with eyewitnesses in the southern village of Sanamein said troops there opened fire on demonstrators trying to march to Daraa, a short distance away. He said there had been witness reports of fatalities, some claiming as many as 20 slain, but those could not be independently confirmed…

About 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting “our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa!” and “freedom! freedom!” They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

No.  That isn’t it.  That’s some pretty bad violence.  That’s Qaddafi bad.  Killing your own people.  And it is far worse than what Mubarak was doing in Egypt.  He didn’t turn the army against his people.  And yet Obama said he had to go. But we’re not attacking Syria.  With bombs.  Or words.  Perhaps Syria is a strategic force for stability in the Middle East.  Like how Iraq balanced Iran once upon a time.  We supported Iraq then.  Because Iraq balanced the greater risk in Iran.  Like that old saying.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So maybe Syria offsets the ‘big bad’ in the Middle East.

Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers — a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.

No.  That ain’t it either.  Syria is cozy with all the ‘big bads’ in the Middle East.  The powers that want to kill Jews, Americans and all other infidels.  But wait.  It gets worse.

Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.

The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.

The Baath party?  Sound familiar?  That was the party of Saddam Hussein.  Emergency laws since 1963?  Arrests without warrants?  Imprisoned without trial?  Torture and abuse?  No due process?  This is bad stuff.  What some would call a humanitarian crisis.  Like the one in Libya.  But as bad as that all sounds, it’s the Iraq connection that is most troubling.

Before the Iraq War, Iraq and Syria were close.  So close that many think those weapons of mass destruction we were looking for in Iraq were hidden in Syria during the run-up to war.  We know Saddam had them.  He used them on the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  But he never documented their destruction.  So if he hid them in Syria they may still be there.  They may have been hesitant to use them thus far because we could probably trace them back to them.  Especially if they had Iraqi markings on them.  But if all these ‘democracy’ movements in the Middle East and North Africa gather steam, they could become a problem.  If the region goes Muslim Brotherhood and is closer to Iran and/or al Qaeda, Syria won’t be the only country to see the world the way they do.  And they may feel safe enough to use these weapons.  Should they have them.  Oh, and Israel would be surrounded by countries that have the destruction of Israel at the top of their top-10 list.  And that is very bad.  Because that could start a world war.  Shut off the oil supply to the Western economies.  And plunge the world into a depression.

The Muslim Brotherhood Establishing an Islamic State in Egypt?

So let’s back up a bit.  Let’s take a closer look at these ‘democracy’ movements.  Are they really democracy movements?  Or are they more theocracy movements?  Well, in Egypt, things aren’t looking good for democracy (see Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt by Michael Slackman posted 3/24/2011 on The New York Times).

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Sound familiar?  This is what happened in Iran.  The young people who started the revolution didn’t end the revolution.  Ayatollah Khomeini ended it.  With one of the most oppressive theocracies in the Middle East.  And those young women in the Iranian Revolution?  They don’t protest anymore.  They live good Muslim lives under Sharia Law.  Whether they like it or not.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group…

 “We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone…”

When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. A Brotherhood member was also appointed to the committee that drafted amendments to the Constitution.

The big question was would Mubarak turn the army on the people.  Or, should he, if the army would follow that order.  You see, the people respected the army.  Most had family that had or were serving in the army.  The army was good.  It was the security forces the people hated.  Not the army.  It was the army the people thought they could trust.  And now we’re hearing that they struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?  That’s very ominous.  As are the beards.  That’s hardcore, conservative Islam.  Like they have in Iran.  And that sure ain’t what the protestors wanted in Egypt.  I mean, there were women in those crowds.  If Egypt goes the way of the bearded men, these women will never protest anything ever again.  Just like in Iran.

And the lying has begun.  Egypt was a secular country.  But they still had their religion.  It was still a Muslim country.  Like Turkey.  There’s the state.  And the religion.  Both very important parts of life in these countries.  But separate parts.  Now it appears secular means state atheism.  Like in the former Soviet Union.  Or in parts of America where anything goes.  According to the more radical elements in Egypt, at least.

“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”

Talk about scare tactics.  If you don’t vote for a more conservative Islam there will be no Islam.  People will be free.  Women will be free.  And gay, I guess.  All horrible thoughts to the conservative Muslim.  And a lot of Muslim men who are just not fans of feminism.

This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state…

None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. “We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,” he said. “We are not keen for power.”

He would not comment on whether the Brotherhood had an arrangement with the military, but he said the will of the people to shift toward Islam spoke for itself and was a sign of Egypt’s emerging democratic values. “Don’t trust the intellectuals, liberals and secularists,” Mr. Erian said. “They are a minor group crying all the time. If they don’t work hard, they have no future.”

Warning Klaxons should be going off.  These are things that dictators say before they oppress their people.  Why, you can almost see the reassuring eyes and the soothing voice of Ayatollah Khomeini as he calmed the anxious Iranian people shortly after 1979.  Before those eyes became scary.  And we all saw how that turned out.  Oppressive theocratic rule.  And the odds just got better for the same in Egypt.

Virginity Tests in Egypt

And it’s already started (see Egypt women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’ posted 3/24/2011 on the BBC).

A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take “virginity tests” during protests earlier this month.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate.

It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March.

It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched.

The army denies the allegations.

This isn’t what the women in the crowds were protesting for.  And the reason these women were protesting?  Because they could.  Egypt was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East.  Women had some of the greatest freedoms enjoyed in a Muslim country.  Not anymore.

A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.

She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked.

The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a ‘virginity check’ on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges.

“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement.

Mubarak may have been bad.  But he wasn’t that bad.  The painful moral of this story is to be careful what you ask for.  The enemy you know is often better than the enemy you don’t know.  Unfortunately we sometimes learn this lesson too late.  Including presidents.  For it was a mistake to throw Mubarak under the bus.  Middle East scholars knew it then.  And the rest of us are learning it now.  And now we’re helping to destabilize Libya.  That, too, could turn out to be a mistake.  Because we don’t know who the rebels are.  Just like we didn’t know who they were in Egypt.  So the chances are good that what happens in Egypt could very well happen in Libya.  A “shift towards Islam.”

Of course, there are a couple of countries in the Middle East that probably warrant our involvement.  Two come to mind.  Iran.  And Syria.  Things could only get better in these countries.  Yet we don’t help the protesters in these sovereign countries.  So when President Obama finally tells us why Libya, perhaps he can tell us why not in countries that already hate us.  And while he’s explaining these great mysteries perhaps he can tell us why he’s undermining our allies in the Middle East.  Is there a method to this madness?  Or is it just madness?

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Democracy or Theocracy Movements in the Middle East and Africa?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 20th, 2011

A Domino Theory in the Middle East and Africa

You may not know where Bahrain is.  But you’ve probably heard of it.  Long before the protests there.  It’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.  We support our operations for Afghanistan and Iraq from Bahrain.  So it’s pretty important to U.S. security.

It’s an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia.  Not too far from Kuwait (the nation Saddam Hussein invaded back in 1990).  Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are still friendly to the U.S.  And these Sunni states provide a strategic counter to Shiite Iranian power in the Persian Gulf area.

Protests following the democratic uprising in Tunisia and Egypt got pretty bloody in Bahrain.  But is Bahrain going through a democratic uprising?  Or is it a civil war between Sunni and Shiite (see Saudi Arabia says it’s ready to help Bahrain’s rulers by Janine Zacharia and Michael Birnbaum posted 2/20/2011 on The Washington Post)?

Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it stands ready “with all its capabilities” to shore up Bahrain’s ruling royal family if a standoff with the Shiite-led opposition is not resolved soon, underscoring the kingdom’s deep concern about its neighbor’s ongoing political crisis.

Sunni-led Saudi Arabia props up Bahrain’s al-Khalifa family with cash and has long sought to prevent the tiny Persian Gulf state – with its majority Shiite population – from falling into Iran’s orbit. With dwindling oil resources, Bahrain relies heavily on Saudi Arabia for money and security.

This is what makes any ‘democratic’ uprising in the Middle East complicated.  You see, the Sunnis and Shiites don’t exactly get along.  The 8-year war between Iraq and Iran was a war between Sunni (Iraq) and Shiite (Iran).  They hate each other.  And the only way they appear to live in peaceful coexistence is when one is oppressing the other.

But the more stabilizing force tends to be the Sunnis.  The Sunni nations are typically the more modern nations.  The ones with women’s rights.  The Shiites are more old school.  They want to turn the hands of the clock back when there were no comforts in life but prayer.  And women were little more than chattel.  They’re a bit more radical.  Then again, the Sunnis have their own radicalism.  Let us not forget that Osama bin Laden is a Wahhabi Sunni.  As is Al Qaeda.  But the big destabilizing force in the Middle East is Iran.  And they’re Shiite.  They’re big, powerful and trying to acquire nuclear weapons.  So her neighbors are understandably worried.

Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, also called the Bahraini king on Sunday and stressed that “the security of Bahrain is the security of the region,” reflecting the growing anxiety among gulf monarchies that Bahrain’s troubles could have a spillover effect. In Kuwait, protesters have already taken to the streets demanding more rights.

Talk about a domino theory.  We still don’t know what will rise from the ashes in Tunisia and Egypt.  They could very well go Muslim Brotherhood.  This would be a huge boost to Iranian interests in the area.  Adding Bahrain and Kuwait could very well seal the deal and give Iran the hegemony it so desperately wants in the region.

We need to be careful in urging democracy to break out in the Middle East and Africa.  Because sometimes stability is better than instability.  For there is a good chance that democracy will lose these revolutions in time.  Opening the door to the more radical elements (such as the Muslim Brotherhood).  Who may impose an oppressive theocracy instead.  Like they said they’ve always wanted to in Egypt.  And if they get what they want, say hello to $4/gallon gasoline.  Or more.  Because they will turn back the hands of time.  And cut off our oil.  Shutting down our economies.  And then, if they get their nuclear weapon, they’ll take it up a notch.

It is important to understand something.  They don’t want our land.  They don’t want our industry.  They just want to get rid of us.  The only thing that prevented the Soviets from destroying us was that they needed our food.  And our technology.  Iran wants technology to make their bomb.  But once they use it they’ll be content to go back to living in abject poverty.

Iran Likes Democracy as long as it is in Egypt

These protests are getting contagious.  Libya, Morocco and China.  And, yes, even Iran.  Now if there was ever a democratic movement for the U.S. to stick its nose into it would be in Iran.  This isn’t complicated. The Iranian people have been suffering under the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime.  Ahmadinejad is the greatest threat to peace in the region.  He’s working on a nuclear bomb.  And he wants to incinerate Israel.  It doesn’t get simpler than this.  He’s the big bad now.  Osama bin Laden is holed up in a cave.  Kim Jong-il desperately needs western food and energy.  China may be flexing her muscle but she owns so much of our debt that she needs us to prosper if she is to prosper.  Iran, though, has no use for us.  And would be quite happy to see us in the past tense.

And how are the Iranians handling their protesters?  Sounds like they’re not quite as nice as the Egyptians were (see Iran Squelches Protest Attempt in Capital by Liz Robbins posted 2/20/2011 on The New York Times).

Despite a steady rain, large crowds of protesters gathered throughout Tehran, the capital, from the main thoroughfare to city squares, according to opposition Web sites and witnesses. Those sites and witnesses reported that ambulances were being driven into crowds and officers were making arrests. Security forces, some on motorcycles, deployed tear gas to disperse crowds near Valiasr Square. A hazy cloud of tear gas hung over Vanak Square.

Plainclothes officers randomly stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said. There were reports of police officers firing on the crowds, although that could not be immediately verified because foreign journalists were largely not allowed to report in Iran.

And this from the government that praised the people of Egypt of going after what they deserved.  Democracy.  It’s funny how they can praise democracy that can destabilize a nation friendly with the West but attack it within its own borders.  It almost makes one think that Iran has other motives in the region.

It was unclear how many people joined the demonstrations in Tehran on Sunday. Witnesses estimated that more than 20,000 people attended demonstrations on Feb. 14, making them the largest opposition protests since the aftermath of the 2009 disputed election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, president Obama said he would speak with Ahmadinejad.  To address our differences.  And find common ground.  He thought he could reason with him. Then came the Apology Tour.  And the Cairo speech.  He called for more democracy in the Muslim world.  Then came the Iranian election.  There appeared to be massive fraud.  And then the uprising.  Iranians trying to get some of that democracy that Obama spoke of.  And what did Obama do?  Acted timidly.  He didn’t attack Ahmadinejad.  He treated him with far more respect than he gave Hosni Mubarak.  And Mubarak was our ally.  And now the people of Iran are rising up again.  And the Iranian regime is fighting back against the forces of democracy.

The government, however, appeared to limit the electronic voice of the protesters on Sunday. Witnesses in Iran reported that the Internet was working very slowly, cell phone service was shut down in areas where people were demonstrating and satellite television, including Persian BBC, was jammed.

Out on the streets, the police in Tehran appeared to be recruiting teenagers to quell the protests on Sunday. Witnesses observed packs of young boys armed with batons, and wearing helmets and army fatigues.

A witness told the International Campaign for Human Rights that security forces on Mirdamad Street in Tehran had used live ammunition against protesters, and one person is believed to have been killed there, but that could not be verified.

There’s a difference between Ahmadinejad and Mubarak.  Ahmadinejad oppresses his people, supports terrorism, wants to incinerate Israel and seeks to disrupt peace throughout the Middle East.  Mubarak only oppressed his people.  Other than that Egypt was a stabilizing force in the region.  And yet look who’s still in power.

Time for a New Strategy

Instability in every nation other than Iran in the Middle East and Africa is cause for concern.  The one country where it can’t get any worse is Iran.  If their regime collapses anything that replaces it will be closer to democracy.  And if we support all of those democratic uprisings everywhere else, we should support the hell out of it in Iran.  Why, then, has our response there been so lukewarm?

I guess it goes back to the Cairo speech.  And the apology tour.  It would appear that our national security strategy is to get people who have a deep-seated hatred for us to like us. To believe that rolling over and showing our soft underbelly can get our enemies to forget tradition, custom and religion.  But after two years look what it has gotten us.  An emboldened enemy.  And fallen and threatened allies.

I think it’s time for a new strategy.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #42: “Romantics often don’t have a clue of what they romanticize about.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2010

A Lady like Scarlet O’Hara no doubt Smelled of Ass and Armpit

Some people just don’t like modern times.  Like environmentalists.  Who say things were better before man industrialized everything.  Back before the big cities.  When things were quaint.  Like on that great plantation, Tara, in Gone with the Wind

Yes, things were simpler then.  And better.  There was no plastic.  Or glass and steel skyscrapers.  Or indoor plumbing.  If you had to poop during the night, you just squatted over a bowl.  That quaint, little chamber pot.  Which you either dumped out of your window.  Or left on the bureau until the following morning.

Of course, you didn’t shower every day back then.  Even the wealthy.  Even someone like Scarlet O’Hara.  Who no doubt smelled of ass and armpit.  But things were better back then.  Simpler.  And the environment was cleaner.

Once Upon a Time, Our streets were filled with Poop and Urine

Well, perhaps cleaner is not the word.  Let’s say more natural.  Back before polluting cars and that big-ass carbon footprint, the internal combustion engine, we used horses.  We rode them to get from here to there.  And we used them for work.  And there was no gasoline or polluting products of combustion.  Carbon monoxide.  A horse ate what grew naturally.  The way things should be.  And pooped and peed all over the place.

You ever go to a quaint touristy area with a historic part of town?  Where you can take a cozy moonlight ride in a horse-drawn carriage?  They try to be authentic.  But they throw in a few modern conveniences.  Like a poop bag under the horse’s butt.  To keep the street clean of horse poop.  And free of flies that are attracted to the horse poop. 

In the good old days, the streets were full of horses.  Horse poop.  Horse urine.  And flies.  A lady in here finest Sunday-go-to-meeting dress dragged her dress through those streets.  And the filth in them.  And if she walked on the sidewalks she probably dragged that dress through human poop and urine.  From all those chamber pots poured out from the windows above.  And the flies were everywhere.

To Protect Children in Africa from DDT, We let them Die from Malaria

Then man had to come along and ruin everything.  They took a plow to paradise and built cities.  They paved the streets.  After installing storm drains first.  Little creeks and wetlands disappeared.  As did malaria.

Say what you will about the cities, but a concrete jungle does not breed mosquitoes.  You know what does?  Jungles.  Swamps.  Wetlands.  And you know what mosquitoes breed?  Malaria.  But thanks to America’s concrete jungles (a.k.a., the big cities), we don’t have a malaria problem.

You know who does?  Africa.  Big time.  Because they’re still very much that pristine paradise the environmentalists pine for.  And a mosquito breeding ground.  There’s wholesale dying there because of these little buggers.  And what are we doing about it?  We’re sending them mosquito netting to sleep under.

There was a time, though, when we held the mosquitoes at bay in Africa.  We saved lives with DDT.  By killing mosquitoes wholesale.  But Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring.  And it did to DDT what the movie The China Syndrome did to nuclear power.  Some countries still use it (India, China and North Korea, for example).  But kids continue to die in Africa from malaria because of the ban of that nasty chemical DDT.

Plastic, Chemicals, Internal Combustion Engines, Glass and Steel save Lives

But there are still some of us that want to get away from it all.  Who eschew this modern world.  They want to get back to a simpler time.  And some do.  In retirement.  Move out to the country.  Away from the big noisy cities.  And away from those big city hospitals.

Not my dad, though.  Good for him, too.  For he had a couple of heart of attacks.  The paramedics were at the house in about 7 minutes.  They had him in the hospital emergency room about 20 minutes later.  They saved his life.  Twice.  With all those things of the modern world.  Plastic.  Chemicals.  The internal combustion engine.  And a glass and steel building in a concrete jungle.

George Washington lived in that environmental paradise some pine for.  He died in 1799.  From what started out as a sore throat.  Washington was the Father of our Country.  The truly indispensible one.  The most powerful man in America.  He could have been king.  It was there for the taking.  He was that loved.  But that didn’t matter in 1799.  In that quaint time, a sore throat could kill.

The Miserable Enjoy Smelling Ass and Armpit?

In our modern world, we use daily showers, deodorant, perfume, cologne and even bidets.  It has become a pleasant smelling world.  And anyone who has sat on a 14-hour flight in coach can really appreciate how nice that is.

I like my concrete jungle.  It’s nice to know that falling asleep with a body part outside a mosquito net won’t kill me.  And if I get sick, it’s comforting to know that I can receive emergency medical treatment within 7 minutes. 

I don’t think those who want to turn the hands of time back fully understand how disgusting and dangerous those times really were.  Or they’re just miserable and hate life.  And they can only find comfort in making everyone as miserable as they are.  Either that or they just enjoy smelling ass and armpit.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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