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From “Let them eat cash: Can Bill Gates turn hunger into profit?” by Frederick Kaufman in the June 2009 Harper’s.
The latter-day emperors arrived in Rome. Presidents, prime ministers, plutocrats, puppets, dictators, and thugs left their limousines across the street from the Circus Maximus and paraded into the High-Level Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy. That was quite a bit to consider in one conference, but as the number of starving people on earth rose toward one billion, famine pushed aside all other concerns.
On the first day, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, echoed the wisdom of Thorstein Veblen as he blamed world hunger on “conspicuous consumptions,” which have “put all nations in the world on the verge of destruction.” Such practices, declared Ahmadinejad, were satanic.
Mahmoud al Habash, the Palestinian minister of agriculture, articulated a different perspective. “The main reason for the world food problem is political,” he said. “The rich countries want to control the world.” The way to end world hunger, explained al Habash, was to end the occupation of the West Bank.
The Pope sent an envoy with blessings from the Almighty, and a few words of advice. “Feed the hungry,” said His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
During the three days of the hunger summit, more than a thousand reporters filed stories they culled from more than a hundred hunger speeches and hunger news conferences, a vast testament to the involuntary urge of non-hungry people to say something in the face of hunger, to explicate starvation, to offer a solution. The conference in Rome may have inspired the greatest mass recital of famine narratives in human history, and as I downed my espressos in the mornings before the assembly I’d read the latest installments.
But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration’s outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable “casual conversations” to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it. As a libertarian and refugee from the authoritarian Roman Catholic church of my youth, I simply do not understand the drift of my party toward a soulless collectivism. This is in fact what Sarah Palin hit on in her shocking image of a “death panel” under Obamacare that would make irrevocable decisions about the disabled and elderly. When I first saw that phrase, headlined on the Drudge Report, I burst out laughing. It seemed so over the top! But on reflection, I realized that Palin’s shrewdly timed metaphor spoke directly to the electorate’s unease with the prospect of shadowy, unelected government figures controlling our lives. A death panel not only has the power of life and death but is itself a symptom of a Kafkaesque brave new world where authority has become remote, arbitrary and spectral. And as in the Spanish Inquisition, dissidence is heresy, persecuted and punished. –“Obama’s Healthcare Horror: Heads should roll–beginning with Nancy Pelosi’s!” by Camille Paglia, Salon (via)
To reduce the risk of litigation it is now permissible to turn your back on the queen;
Slovak book covers;
the monthly rent for a hot-dog cart outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is $53,558;
a trucking scam explained
Stiner analyzed the pattern of cut marks on bones of deer, aurochs, horse and other big game left at Qesem Cave by hunters of 400,000 to 200,000 years ago. Her novel approach was to analyze the cut marks to understand meat-sharing behaviors between the earlier and later cooperative hunting societies. And the patterns revealed a striking difference in meat-sharing behaviors: The earlier hunters were less efficient, less organized and less specialized when it came to carving flesh from their prey… By contrast, by later times, by the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, “It’s quite clear that meat distribution flowed through the hands of certain butchers….” –“Early Human Hunters Had Fewer Meat-Sharing Rituals,” Lori Stiles, AU News
The new laws in Colorado and Louisiana, though, also make it illegal to throw things at bike-riders, and here is where we start getting into problems. Personally I am constantly throwing things out of my car’s windows while driving, and I don’t think I should be penalized just because a bicyclarian happens to intersect one of them. The Colorado bill would prevent that, at least, because the projection of a missile “at or against a bicyclist” must be done “knowingly.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-116. There is also the question, though, of what the meaning of “at” is. According to a supporter of the legislation, it was necessary because under prior law, “police could only cite a motorist if they actually hit the rider” with the missile. I don’t think that’s really true (it would still be assault, if not battery), but on the other hand, I guess it doesn’t make any sense to punish for accuracy. –“Cyclists Get More Room To Ride, Increased Taunt Protection,” Lowering the Bar, Kevin Underhill
California town shuts down girl’s unlicensed lemonade stand;
North Carolina banning unsightly wind turbines;
global warming = shrinking creatures;
the government wants to give you cookies, a plan defended by U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra, who has a degree from the University of Maryland after all
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature