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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
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”