Thursday, November 13, 2008

Add Congo to the List

Meanwhile, Africa continues in its doleful role as the most dysfunctional continent on the face of the globe. You've read about the terrors of being a Sudanese and perhaps you've heard of the crimes of Mugabe in Zimbabwe and how he has devastated that once beautiful and productive land. You've seen movies (Hotel Rwanda, Beyond the Gates) about the genocide in Rwanda and other films (e.g. Blood Diamond) about the horrors of child soldiers in Sierra Leone. You may have seen films such as The Last King of Scotland that give some insight into the thugocracy that afflicts these miserable people and you're also familiar, perhaps, with the ghastly gang warfare that plagues Somalia (see Blackhawk Down).

But have you read about what's happening in the Congo? If you haven't yet succumbed to compassion fatigue you might want to peruse a piece at the McClatchey web site that tells the awful tale: Five million deaths over the last decade, 45,000 refugees dying every month, and on it goes. If you've read one of these stories, you've read them all. Corrupt government, rebel militias, unimaginable cruelty and degradation, impotent U.N. and rampant disease and starvation afflicting tens of thousands of terrified refugees. It's the same awful litany of problems almost everywhere across the continent.

In his book The Bottom Billion Paul Collier suggests that the only way African nations like the ones mentioned above, as well as others like Chad and dysfunctional states elsewhere around the world (such as Haiti) will ever be able to achieve some level of normalcy for their beleaguered populations is via a concerted intervention - political, economic, and military - by the developed world. Of course, that means Europe and the U.S. since no other nation with the resources to help has much of a history of humanitarian concern, and unfortunately, because of the violence the radical Muslim world threatens to inflict as it seeks to establish global Islam, our energies must be diverted elsewhere.

It's such a tragedy to be able to help but to be unable and/or unwilling to commit the resources to do anything effective because radical Islamists have us tied down elsewhere. But even if that weren't the case I doubt that many Americans would have the stomach to send troops into Africa when our national interests are not at stake there. Instead we avert our gaze from the teeming mass of humanity that cries out for rescue from the tyrants and thugs and assuage our guilt at doing essentially nothing by sending a few vials of penicillin and a couple of crates of blankets.

The left deplored European colonialism in Africa as oppressive and exploitative, but the people of Africa were far better off under European rule than they are under the boot of the criminals who terrorize them now.


Jefferson on Public Debt

My friend Dick Francis passes along a crucially relevant insight from Thomas Jefferson:

"If we run into such debts as that must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, and give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses;

And the sixteenth [hour of labor] being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they do now, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains around the necks of our fellow sufferers;

And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on 'til the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering... And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train, wretchedness and oppression."

What would Jefferson be thinking were he alive to witness the last year of bailouts and President-elect Obama's talk of higher taxes to come?


Has Anyone Seen Bob?

Those readers who have been on a whale-watch know that you can spend a great deal of time sitting patiently over a spot in the ocean where a whale was seen to have "sounded", waiting eagerly for the creature to rise again from the depths and make its grand appearance as it breaks through the surface. Whale-watching and the sometimes long hours of anticipation, waiting for a whale to "breach", came to mind today as it occurred to me that it had been a long time since the junior Senator from my fair state of Pennsylvania has surfaced.

Two years ago Pennsylvania voters tired of incumbent Senator Rick Santorum, one of the finest men to have served in the senate - a man who fought hard on behalf of the poor, the oppressed and the helpless both at home and abroad, a man who also saw clearly the threat posed by radical Islam, but a man tied too closely to President Bush - and chose in their wisdom to replace him with one Robert Casey.

Mr. Santorum is still involved in his various causes, but that election seems to have been the last anyone has heard from Mr. Casey. The newly-minted senator appears to have "sounded" and Pennsylvanians have been waiting patiently and fruitlessly for two years for him to resurface.

Perhaps it's time that someone file a missing persons report on the gentleman and possibly affix his photo to a milk carton or billboard. Who knows but that he's being held hostage somewhere, bound and gagged, until his term expires at which time he'll be trotted out again by the Democrat nabobs to stand for reelection so that he can once again disappear into the briney depths of political anonymity.