Posts from January 2008

Bordercrats Against Joy and Plenty

Here's a photo of Gazans stepping over a destroyed border wall.
Here's a photo of Germans standing on top of the Berlin Wall as it is being torn down.

The Gaza strip is surrounded on every side either by the sea, or by a border wall erected and guarded by the military forces of the Israeli and Egyptian governments. The one and a half million people locked down in this tiny strip of sand have suffered grinding poverty and cultural deprivation, as a direct result of the extreme difficulty, or, for the past seven months, the complete impossibility, for peaceful workers or merchants to make their way over the government-created borders within which they are imprisoned, or to ply their trades in either Israel or Egypt. The walled-off border-crossing into Egypt has been repeatedly closed off for indefinite periods of time at the discretion of the Israeli government, and now has been locked down completely since June 2007. Last week, Palestinian militants, probably with the backing of Hamas, blew a hole in the wall near the Rafah Border Crossing in the middle of the night. Here’s what happened the next morning:

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – On foot, in cars and in donkey carts, tens of thousands of Gazans flooded into Egypt on Wednesday through a border fence blown up by militants — puncturing a gaping hole in Israel’s airtight closure of the Gaza Strip and giving a boost to Hamas.

In a shopping spree that was both festive and frenzied, Gazans cleared out stores in an Egyptian border town, buying up everything from TV sets to soft drinks to cigarettes.

… For ordinary Gazans, it was a day of joy and plenty.

Osama Hassan, 25, said the border opening will enable him to marry his 17-year-old fiancee next week, because they were able to get items they need to set up a household. He bought a special mattress for his injured back and she assembled kitchen supplies.

Freedom is good. We need no border after today, said Mohammed Abu Ghazal, a 29-year-old out-of-work Gazan.

Children bought soft drinks and chocolate, women scooped up cheese and cleaning products, and men stocked up on cigarettes — all expensive or simply unavailable in Gaza because of Israel’s shutdown of cargo crossings.

Other Palestinians staggered over toppled metal plates that once made up the border fence, carrying TV sets, cell phones, tires and plastic bottles filled with fuel. Some brought in goats and chickens.

Four Palestinians in wheelchairs were pushed over the border, where ambulances picked them up for treatment in Egypt. At one point, a dozen people crowded around a motorcycle to lift it over a low border wall in Egypt.

… After news of the breach spread, people across Gaza boarded buses and piled into rickety pickup trucks heading for Egypt. It was a rare chance to escape Gaza’s isolation.

Moussa Zuroub, 28, carried his young daughter, Aseel, on his shoulders through the muddy streets of Rafah, which is divided by a wall into Egyptian and Gazan segments. I’m coming just to break that ice — that all my life, I’d never left Gaza before, he said.

By nightfall, more than 1,000 Gazans reached El-Arish, an Egyptian town about 37 miles south of Rafah, walking the streets and shopping in stores that stayed open late.

… The chaotic scenes came almost a week after Israel imposed a tight closure on Gaza, backed by Egypt, in response to a spike in Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli towns. On Tuesday, Israel eased the blockade slightly, transferring fuel to restart Gaza’s only power plant.

But true relief came with the toppling of the wall. Egyptian shopkeepers took advantage of the surge in customers, swiftly raising prices of milk, taxi rides and cigarettes. Shops quickly ran out of most of their goods.

In Gaza City, the price of cigarettes, which had skyrocketed during the closure, started to drop. Local money changers began charging extra to change Israeli shekels into dollars, as Gazans were using the U.S. currency in Egypt.

Crowds waited along roads in Gaza City, trying to catch rides to the border. Taxi driver Mahmoud Abu Ouda made one trip to Rafah, but stopped because he had no more fuel.

The city is empty of cabs. They are all in Rafah, he said.

— Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press (2008-01-23): Gazans flood Egypt after border breach

Meanwhile, here’s the official reaction — which is the dignified term that the press uses to describe the ranting power-trips of a tiny, parasitic minority sitting in comfortable government offices far away from the millions of people upon whose lives and livelihoods they constantly render their sanctimonious opinions and summary judgments — to thousands of desperate people suddenly having a momentary taste of joy and freedom:

Official reaction to the day’s events ranged from dismay to embarrassment to outright anger.

The United States expressed concern about the border breach. Israel demanded that Egypt take control of its border. Hamas called on its rivals to help come up with new arrangements for Gaza’s crossings.

Egypt’s leader said he had no choice but to let in the beleaguered Palestinians. But Arab and U.S. officials in Washington said the Egyptian government assured the United States the border would be closed quickly.

We are concerned about that situation and frankly I know the Egyptians are as well, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

… An Arab diplomat in Washington said Egypt indicated to the U.S. that the flow of people would end by midday Thursday and pledged to rebuild the smashed barrier. A senior U.S. official, however, said Egypt was not specific on when the border would be closed but promised the situation would not continue for long.

They will make an effort first to contain the crowd on their side of the border so they don’t go anywhere, and then coax people back. We’ll see tomorrow how that has worked, said the official, who like the Arab diplomat, insisted on not being quoted by name in return for describing the conversations between the two governments.

— Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press (2008-01-23): Gazans flood Egypt after border breach

Please note that in the minds of the bellowing blowhard lords of the world, assembled under the banner of Peace Through International Apartheid, the free and jubilant movement of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, their ability to, for once, get enough food and seek healthcare and even get a few minor luxuries and pleasures like chocolate for their children or cigarettes–and, for once, to trade with equals for the things they want, rather than being forced to take hand-outs from the all-pervasive U.N. relief agencies and NGOs that provide minimal relief in Gaza’s permanent state of emergency–is chaos that a government needs to take control of, a situation to be defused, a breach to be repaired–in short, a violation of sanctified bordercrat prerogatives which provokes concern and demands a prompt solution–which, in the mind of the Commissar, means a gang of armed men coaxing and corralling thousands of happily freed people back into their pens, and rebuilding the walls that shut them in as quickly as possible. To hell with joy and plenty–there are National Interests and Security Concerns involved.

It should go without saying that I have nothing but contempt for Hamas, the quasi-governmental terrorist force that uses Gaza as a base for exchanging dick-swinging shows of belligerence with the Israeli government, each armed faction playing off the other while their innocent neighbors, both Jewish and Arab, pay for it in death, terror, and ruined livelihoods. But even the most despicable creeps can be the occasion of something good, and I wonder–with fear and trembling–what kind of psychology it could possibly take to look at the Gazan’s jubilee days and see nothing but a menace to be eradicated and a situation to be coaxed and jostled and hammered back into the status quo ante.

Tear down the walls and bury the stones from which they were made.

(Via Mike Linksvayer 2008-01-27.)

Here’s to The Greatest American ever!

(Via Austro-Athenian Empire 2008-01-29.)

Come on, guys. You’re making this too easy. Seriously.

Here’s an amateur Ron Paul ad recently released on YouTube.

Here’s to The Greatest American ever!

Long live our great leader Chairman Ron!

The old fashioned way

Here’s a weird passage from Lew Rockwell’s article in the next-to-last Mises Institute newsletter. Not because the basic point being argued is false, but because of how the argument leaves off at the end:

Now, Ron Paul stands in this tradition of thinkers in every way. Even on the campaign stump, he speaks about the evil of fiat money and Fed management of the nation’s money stock. In a true sense, he says, we’ve put a cartelized gang of central planners in charge of the good that constitutes half of every economic exchange, and we are paying the price in terms of declining purchasing power, exchange-rate chaos, rampant debt, and growing crises in sector after sector.

Is there a way out? Most certainly! It goes by the name of gold. Make the dollar as good as gold and you eliminate the inflation problem and the business cycles that go along with it. Here is the great secret of the gold standard. The problem is not that it is unviable from the perspective of economics; the problem is that there are many people allied against it: the big banks, the creditor class, and government. You see, gold would provide a hard-core anchor for liberty. Under the right form of the gold standard, government could no longer spend with impunity or run up debt without limit. The resources it spent would have to be raised the old fashioned way.

By stealing it?

Meanwhile, in Minarchistan…

Steven Rhett gets pinched by the border cops at San Ysidro while he’s trying to peaceably move some marijuana across an imaginary line for some willing customers in the United States. Dale Franks, a California limited-governmentalist blogger who opposes drug prohibition, gets to sit in as Juror #1. If Dale Franks doesn’t vote to convict, the jury will hang and Steven Rhett will be able to go on living his life. After a short chat about the facts of the case, Dale Franks does his civic duty by voting to convict Steven Rhett on all charges, because that’s what The Law says. Back at QandO, Dale Franks blogs about his interesting experience. Meanwhile, Steven Rhett will be having an interesting experience in federal prison for the next ten years of his life.

Down in the comments, several anarchists ask Franks how he justifies directly collaborating in ruining a harmless man and robbing him of ten years of his life, when Franks himself doesn’t believe that anything Rhett did should be treated as a crime. Franks answers their objections decisively by getting into an argument with another limited governmentalist over whether or not the Constitution says it’s O.K., and what the word regulate meant in the 1780s.

If this is how the trains run around here, I’ll pass. I’m not interested in Dale Franks’s kind of railroading.

The tall poppies, part 3: prosperity threatens to spread into southern Iraq

Third verse, same as the first.

Let’s say that you are trying to rebuild a once-prosperous country racked by years of tyranny, desperate poverty and near-constant violence. Corruption, terrorism, and warlordism are daily sources of terror. Most of the country is completely dependent on foreign aid. Grinding poverty is the norm all throughout the countryside, and farmers cannot support themselves on their usual crops. But there is one glimmer of hope: lucrative new opportunities to grow a traditional cash crop, which promises to lift many small farmers, currently on the edge of penury or starvation, into a much more comfortable standard of living. How should you react?

Well, according to the United States government, the best thing to do is to portray this lucrative cash crop as a fundamental menace to civil society, to shoot the farmers who grow it, and to poison or burn the fields they grow it in. We know this because they already did it in Afghanistan, in spite of the obviously hurtful consequences for Afghan farmers. Meanwhile, in southern Iraq, the same thing is likely to happen again soon:

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.

Afghan with experience in planting poppies have been helping farmers switch to producing opium in fertile parts of Diyala province, once famous for its oranges and pomegranates, north-east of Baghdad.

At a heavily guarded farm near the town of Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba, poppies are grown between the orange trees in order to hide them, according to a local source.

The shift by Iraqi farmers to producing opium is a very recent development. The first poppy fields, funded by drug smugglers who previously supplied Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with heroin from Afghanistan, were close to the city of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq. The growing of poppies has now spread to Diyala, which is one of the places in Iraq where al-Qa’ida is still resisting US and Iraqi government forces. It is also deeply divided between Sunni, Shia and Kurd and the extreme violence means that local security men have little time to deal with the drugs trade. The speed with which farmers are turning to poppies is confirmed by the Iraqi news agency al-Malaf Press, which says that opium is now being produced around the towns of Khalis, Sa’adiya, Dain’ya and south of Baladruz, pointing out that these are all areas where al-Qa’ida is strong.

The agency cites a local agricultural engineer identified as M S al-Azawi as saying that local farmers got no support from the government and could not compete with cheap imports of fruit and vegetables. The price of fertilizer and fuel has also risen sharply. Mr Azawi says: The cultivation of opium is the likely solution [to these problems].

Initial planting in fertile land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al-Ghammas and Shinafiyah were said to have faced problems because of the extreme heat and humidity. Al-Malaf Press says that it has learnt that the experiments with opium poppy-growing in Diyala have been successful.

Although opium has not been grown in many of these areas in Iraq in recent history, some of the earliest written references to opium come from ancient Iraq.

It was known to the ancient Sumerians as early as 3400BC as the Hul Gil or joy plant and there are mentions of it on clay tablets found in excavations at the city of Nippur just east of Diwaniyah.

— Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch (2008-01-24): http://www.counterpunch.org/patrick01242008.html

Cockburn, buying into the basic mythology of the United States government’s warped narco-diplomacy, bizarrely describes this rare chance for Iraqi farmers to lift themselves out of poverty with a traditional Mesopotamian crop, now extremely lucrative, as a menacing development, and immediately links it with warlordism and terrorism, rather than with the small farmers who are now able to get by on their new source of income. In fact, as far as I can tell, the upshot of the story is, in some parts of Iraq, because the government’s prohibitionist apparatus has more or less entirely broken down, many currently impoverished farmers are now menaced by the prospect of once again being able to make enough money to support themselves, and the only genuine dangers involved anywhere are the dangers that directly or indirectly result from the bullheaded commitment of the United States government and its client government in Iraq to destroying the opium farmers’ chance at a viable new source of income.

Just as it happened in Afghanistan, what will happen from here in Iraq is that U.S. officials will scream their heads off about the horrible menace of pain-killers being sold to willing customers, and then funnel money and military resources to the Iraqi government in order to launch chemical and paramilitary eradication programs–the primary effects of which will be to dramatically reinforce the power of terrorists and local warlords over the opium trade, and meanwhile to destroy the livelihoods of desperately poor farmers. Eradication, after all, forces illegal opium farmers to deal with whoever has the political juice necessary to do the smuggling, and in southern Iraq that mainly means gangsters, militia warlords, and influential jihadis. The farmers, on the other hand, will be forced to choose between living with the constant danger of having their lives and livelihoods ruined by government eradicators, or else going back to more-or-less guaranteed penury while they try to grow more of the same old unprofitable crops that they failed to make any money from before.

Meanwhile, this violent campaign on behalf of political corruption and mass starvation will be passed off by sanctimonious U.S. and U.N. narco-bureaucrats as a make-or-break struggle for democracy and freedom in Iraq, which, among those who have lost themselves in the twisted labyrinth of statist policy goals, have somehow become immediately and unquestioningly equated with adopting a particular set of policy outcomes in support of the United States government’s hyper-aggressive commitment to domestic drug prohibitionism.

This is statist nation-building on the march — with warlordism and grinding poverty dragging the country down into hell, the U.S., U.N., and U.K. gear up to enforce a political economy straight out of Mao’s Great Leap Forward on a nation of millions so that they never have to question their domestic policy initiatives. The United States government’s rabid pursuit of international narcotics prohibition, no matter what the predictable human consequences of their belligerence, reflects an absolutely deranged set of priorities.

Further reading: