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The Zimbabwe Disaster

[ 0 ] October 2, 2007 |

It gets worse and worse:

Zimbabwe’s bakeries have shut and supermarkets have warned there will be no bread for the foreseeable future as the government admitted that wheat production had collapsed following the seizure of white-owned farms.

The agricultural ministry announcement that the wheat harvest is only about a third of what is required, and that imports are held up by lack of hard currency, came as a deadline passed today for the last white farmers to leave their land or face prosecution for trespass.

[…]

The agriculture minister, Rugare Gumbo, has blamed the food shortages on black farmers who have taken over formerly white-owned land.

“I am painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers,” he said.

“I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000. In spite of all the support government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern.”

The ministry of agriculture has also blamed electricity shortages for the wheat shortfall, saying that power cuts have affected irrigation and halved crop yields per acre.

I trust beyond the obvious (“wage and price controls don’t work!” “Having no rule of law is bad for economic development!”) that the lesson in the need to temper claims of abstract justice with wisdom here is clear. Even if every farmer whose land was expropriated owed their property ownership quite directly to colonialism and apartheid, and some state policy to broaden ownership was desirable, you also have to ask what a particular policy will accomplish. Having productive land turned over to cronies of the state with no ability or willingness to farm had predictably catastrophic results.

A Victory for the Secular State

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal seeking to nullify a New York law, upheld by state courts, that requires Catholic Charities to provide contraception to women as part of health coverage requirements. I think this point is especially important, and often distorted when debates on the subject come up (the question of whether Catholic hospitals should provide EC to rape victims being another example):

The New York law contains an exemption for churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission that primarily serve followers of that religion. Catholic Charities and the other groups sought the exemption, but they hire and serve people of different faiths.

New York’s highest court ruled last year that the groups had to comply with the law. The 6-0 decision by the state Court of Appeals hinged on the determination that the groups are essentially social service agencies, not churches.

This distinction gets things exactly right. It is appropriate to exempt churches qua churches from some neutral laws and civil rights protections. Nominally religious organizations that hire people of different faiths, serve people of different faiths, and perform secular services with taxpayer subsidies and/or tax breaks should comply with generally applicable statutes except in rare cases when they are specifically targeted at religious groups.

Useful Idiots of the Day

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich. Nice to see that we’re in for more than a year of vapid and sometimes sexist attacks on Clinton from ostensible liberals on an ostensibly liberal op-ed page…

Greg Sargent has more.

Pundit Rule #1: Blame Must Always Be Equally Apportioned Among the Parties Irrespective of the Facts

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Shorter David Ignatius: The fact that the Bush administration reneged on a deal brokered between the director of national intelligence and Democrats in Congress proves that Democrats are unwilling to compromise and putting political interests above national security. Democrats are also to blame for assuming that a general acting as an apologist for a catastrophic Republican policy did not represent an impartial conception of the national interest. [via publius]

Indeed.

To the Last Day and Beyond

[ 0 ] September 30, 2007 |

Ah, there’s nothing more fun that having four teams alive without having clinched on the last day of the year (especially when the one you have a rooting interest came back from the dead.) Officially, of course, I’d like a Mets win and Phillies loss, but absent that I have to say that a four-way tie with multiple play-in games would be pretty much the coolest thing ever. Play-in games are great…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket,

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket,

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gad, that prick has been tormenting me for years, although it used to be because he could pitch. And the focus on the scoreboard by the Mets announcers is beginning to grate; I can’t really generate any enthusiasm for hoping the Nationals win (although it is appropriate that it once again comes down to the former Expos.) The Phillies have been the better team; they deserve to be in. And Edroso‘s not even drunk-blogging the game. The only good thing today is that my gym’s erratic satelite system for once worked in my favor, as they couldn’t get Channel 11 so at least I only had to hear most of it…

…at least there might be a Rockies/Pads play-in!

…I’d also like to know why the Mets’ network isn’t covering the press conferences instead of beach volleyball. But make sure to tune in for the Mets playoff preview at 6:30!

Nice Life

[ 0 ] September 30, 2007 |

At least subprime mortgages have been a good deal for someone:

Countrywide Financial Corp. Chairman and CEO Angelo Mozilo cashed in $138 million in stock options over the last year, switching his trading plans as the mortgage company went into a tailspin, it was reported Saturday.

Between November 2006 and August, Mozilo changed the plans outlining how many of his shares would be sold monthly, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mozilo unloaded 4.9 million Countrywide shares, most of which he bought through exercising options.

But, in fairness, without allowing executives to engage in this kind of self-dealing there wouldn’t be any incentives companies could use to get brilliant executives to protect the interests of their shareholders

To the Regret of Democrats Everywhere

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

Newt is out. The Republican primary remains in the odd position where it seems logically impossible for everyone to win except Huckabee, who seems to be running behind the ghost of George Romney in the polls.

What a Coinky-Dink!

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

The Verizon policy chief behind the selective attempt to stop NARAL from paying Verizon to set up an IM network turns out to be…an anti-choice former Congressman who explicitly endorsed the GOP plank to make abortion 1st degree murder in all 50 states, and not surprisingly was strongly opposed by NARAL. Verizon will have to decide whether it wants someone to let personal and policy grudges hurt the company…

..a commenter suggests that the decision of Verizon wireless was not connected to Tauke, which is certainly possible. Either way, this is a good time for Verizon customers to into that new i-Phone they’ve been thinking about…

It Can Always Get More Pathetic

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

In his latest attempt to revive his stillborn campaign, John McCain — beloved, you may remember, earlier in this decade by the media and an inexplicable number of liberal pundits for an alleged refusal to pander — decides to engage in rank religious bigotry, arguing (among other things) that a Muslim is not qualified to be President of the United States and (in a Orwellian retelling of history) that the Constitution established a “Christian nation.” It’s even more disgraceful because it won’t work.

Gene Mauch Memorial Last Week of the Season Open Thread

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I’ve always thought the pennant race was more exciting than the post-season, and at least in one league this year he have a great finish. Where did the people who care about baseball in Philadelphia come from? Can the Padres keep winning without Bradley and Cameron? Can the Rockies run the table for the last two weeks? Will their incredible luck catch up to the Diamondbacks? Can the Mets win a game against the Marlins? That’s why they play etc…

…Mets up 12-0 in the 8th on Saturday. In fairness, I’d have to give them at least a 15% chance of winning this one…

The MPAA’s Double Standard

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

In her review of the new Ang Lee picture, Manohla Dargis identifies it as another example of the bizarre way that the MPAA evaluates sex and violence relative to each other:

And flirtation is the word, despite the shoving and hitting, a few harsh lashes and geometric configurations that put me in mind of high school geometry more than it did the Kama Sutra. The Motion Picture Association of America, that tireless, cheerless band of Comstocks who regulate all things sexual and few things violent on behalf of the major studios, has saddled the film with an NC-17 rating — no one 17 and under admitted, even with an adult — because of “some explicit sexuality.” The horrors of female nudity (unshaven armpits!) and the vigorous pantomime of coitus apparently offended the sensibilities of the M.P.A.A., which routinely bestows R ratings to movies in which characters are tortured to death for kicks.

If anyone can defend an NC-17 for a not-even-pronographic film with nudity and an R for the torture porn that seems to come out every month, I’d love to hear it…

The Myth of a Shepard Myth

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

Roy has been doing a good job with Andrew Breitbart’s War Against Culture lobs against David Ehrenstein, but missed one thing: Breitbart’s claim that Matthew Shepard “was killed by crazed meth addicts for drugs and money — not because he was gay.” As Roger Ailes points out, these claims that the Shepard killing wasn’t a hate crime rest entirely on on the six-years-after-the-fact, uncorroborated, contradictory, and self-serving claims of the killer and his relatives. If we are to apply the arguments of Breitbart and the other people peddling this crap consistently, we can release about 95% of our prisoners right now –I mean, they didn’t do it, Scout’s Honor!

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