Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Environmentalists Make Poor People Stay Poor

A few months ago my buddy Allen Forkum (of Cox and Forkum fame) told me about a fascinating independent film from Irish filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney about the dangers of environmentalism run amok. It's entitled "Mine Your Own Business". As per the site for the movie
-"Mine Your Own Business, a film produced by New Bera Media in association with the Moving Picture Institute, looks at the dark side of environmentalism. It talks to some of the world's poorest people about how western environmentalists are campaigning to keep them in poverty because they think their way of life is quaint. It is the first documentary to ask hard questions of the environmental movement. "Mine Your Own Business" goes beyond the voice of the foreign environmentalists that we so often hear in the media and meets those who will be most affected by these projects and the well-run campaigns against them.

"Mine Your Own Business" follows George, a 23-year-old unemployed miner from northern Romania whose life has been put on hold after an anti-mining campaign orchestrated by foreign environmentalists. George explains his hopes and dreams for the future - which are different from those prescribed for him by foreign environmentalists. He then travels to other impoverished communities in Madagascar and Chile who are also desperately waiting for large mining projects. George finds people similar to himself with similar hopes and dreams of a decent job and house and a decent education and better life for their children.

"Mine Your Own Business" will be hugely controversial as it makes us all think about the unintended consequences of blindly supporting environmentalist/anti-development campaigns across the globe. It is a challenge to the cosy consensus that allows westerners to deny progress to those who need it most.

I have yet to see the film myself, as I missed it when they came through town last year. Apparently it was screened at Vanderbilt University, and I was unaware of it at the time. I hope to see it in the future, as it touches on a subject that I address on this blog quite often- Hippie Hypocrisy.

John Fund, from the Wall Street Journal talks about the movie in today's paper, and brings up the most ridiculous part about this phenomenon of liberal activists trying to assuage their guilt about western society by demonizing big business, when in reality they are making it worse for the inhabitants of the places they are trying to protect.

Opponents of the mine claim that Rosia Montana residents agree with their stance. "Local opposition to the mine is strong and organized" says a statement signed by 80 environmental groups in January. In his letter, Mr. Soros cites a recent poll organized by some members of Romania's parliament that "found 90% of respondents rejecting the project." But the poll turns out to be an unscientific Internet survey, and one of the environmental groups Mr. Soros funds urged people outside Romania to participate in it. What is clear: Two-thirds of Rosia Montana's people have accepted Gabriel's voluntary offer to buy their homes at above market rates. Most will move four miles away to a less polluted area.

On the other side, Rosia Montana Mayor Virgil Narita supports the mine because it will create 700 permanent local jobs. He was re-elected with 80% of the vote this year. And in late 2004, the Council of Europe sent Eddie O'Hara, a British Labour Party member of the European Parliament, to Rosia Montana to file an official report. Opposition to the mine, he said, was "substantial," but it was "very much fueled by outside bodies, presumably well-meaning but possibly counterproductively. It seems in part at least exaggerated." Mr. O'Hara concluded the opposition "do not take account of modern mining techniques and in fact the Rosia Montana project will help to clear up existing pollution." He also warned that not allowing the mine "would remove any chance of local development for some time."

Perhaps local unemployed miner Gheorghe Lucian says it best: "People have no food to eat. . . . I know what I need--a job." Mr. Soros's Romanian Open Society Foundation is touting "alternative economic activities such as organic agriculture and eco-tourism," unrealistic at best. Stefania Simon, legal counsel for the anti-mine group Alburnus Maior, has no answer for Mr. Lucian. "Unemployment is a problem, but it will not be solved by mining," she told Britain's Guardian newspaper. Noting that Gabriel has only a 17-year lease to mine, she says, "This is a solution for the short term." But right now, even non-permanent jobs and any cleanup of the existing pollution looks like a good deal to people like Mr. Lucian.

During one part of the movie, Mark Fenn, country director for the World Wide Fund for Nature, states that in Madagascar poor people are just as happy as rich people because "they smile more". Then he takes the documentary producers on a tour of his $35,000 catamaran and the site of his new coastal home. Hey, I'd bet the poor folks in Madagascar would smile a lot more if they also had a $35,000 yacht. It reminds me of a recent comedian I heard who joked about the phrase "money doesn't buy you happiness." He said "while that may be true, money can buy you a jet-ski, and have you ever seen someone unhappy on a jet-ski?". This point is lost on people like Mark Fenn.

The serious part of this problem is that environmentalists are making things worse for poor people in many areas of the world by protesting against things like DDT. Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people a year needlessly, and they could drastically reduce these numbers by spraying DDT, which is the single most effective pesticide for reducing mosquito populations that carry the disease. Recently some studies came out that even further reinforced the science behind DDT's effectiveness. The studies claimed that even though some mosquito populations had developed a resistance to DDT, those same populations were repelled by DDT anyways. But there exist serious efforts to stop DDT from reaching those who need it, and all of this in the name of environmentalism. This is madness.

When people talk about environmental concerns, I'm not blind to the fact that global pollution is a major problem affecting our environment throughout the world in various ways. And I'm all for taking steps to reduce pollution that make sense, like emission controls for cars for instance. But one thing I have learned in my studies about asteroids hitting the planet and possibly killing us all is that there are many problems facing mankind today that need to be ranked in order of importance. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, has already done this in his book How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place. In the book Mr. Lomborg details the Copenhagen Consensus Center's study that answered the question posed in the title of his book. Eight distinguished economists evaluated proposals by over two dozen specialists on problems ranging from AIDS and malnutrition to water shortage, civil war, climate change, and migration, among others. Their collective recommendation: focus on AIDS prevention, the provision of micronutrients to poor children, trade liberalization, and the control of malaria.

Some things that did not make the top of the list were saving trees or combating global warming (disclaimer-further funding of asteroid prevention also did not make the list). The reason for this is that there is no point in saving the environment if everyone is starving to death or bed ridden from malaria. This is where the hypocrisy sets in for environmentalists. Many of them want to feel better about fighting for "Mother Gaia" but all they are doing is causing more suffering. Until this truth becomes realized, we will continue to have these idiot birkenstock-wearing, Che Guevara-loving hippies sipping their "free trade" lattes, munching a soy-burger standing in the way of the progress that is needed to truly help those who need it.

Go see the film "Mine Your Own Business" if you can. The guys behind it deserve our support.

Update: Thanks to a heads up from a reader here at Tman in Tennessee (Hi Amanda!), one of the main characters from the movie, Gheorghe Luchian, has his own blog about the situation over the mine in Romania, Report From Rosia. Gheorge has put together a video that shows him filling a number of bottles with poisoned water from the main stream of Rosia Montana. The bottles will reach environmentalists, TV stations and others who want to stop the new mining projects.Mr. Luchian states "this way they will have a proof how Rosia looks like now: environmental mess."

Here it is hippies. This is an example of what could be fixed by a Mining Company FOR FREE if you would just shut the hell up and let people control their own lives.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Midsummer Update- Now With New Bloggity Goodness!!

Just checking in to say hello from my normal summer blogging hiatus. I usually do my best to step away from the monitor during the summer so as not to get that blogger burnout that seems to affect a lot of people around this time of year.

First off, I want to thank the guys from Six Meat Buffet along with Vinnie and his much better half, Toni, and Nigel for inviting me along to a little impromptu blogger meet-up here in Nashville. I had fun with everyone at Boscos and look forward to doing it again sometime, even if we are all a bunch of insufferable pricks. The one great thing about meeting up with this group is there was some great conversation and some quality liberal bashing which um, doesn't happen at too many blogger meet-ups in Nashville. I cherished the moment, that is for certain.

Next up I want to give a blogger heads up to two good friends of mine that recently waded in to the blogosphere, and you should check them out no matter how much I disagree with them. They are both smart dudes, and we disagree over many an issue, yet we seem to be able to hang out anyways. And as an added bonus, one is a Chicago Cubs fan, the other an Atlanta Braves fan. Put the three of us together and you have some serious mental health issues. It's like a therapists wet dream.

Adam-The Cubs Fan- The way I see it, Barry...

Jonathan-The Braves Fan- Planet America..

Go read them, you'll enjoy it and then wonder how we remain friends. The answer? Booze. And lots of it -life's social lubricant! I'm actually working on diluting their liberal beliefs, and they are desperately telling me how wrong I am. Ahh, good times! Seriously, they are great friends and I'm lucky to know 'em both.

Then we have Matty from the Houston Texans blog- Da Good, Da Bad and Demeco. He's a pretty decent writer, and I can appreciate his fanatic devotion to the Texans despite their consistent exercise in futility each season. I can guarantee you that if there is a way of looking on the bright side of a loss this year for Texans fans, Matty can make it happen. He almost convinced me that Mario Williams was a defensible pick over Vince Young, almost. Him and I are going to wager over the two games between the Texans and the Titans this year, so stay tuned for some hilarity.

Finally, I will be renovating the blogroll to your right soon so as to retire some dead links and add some of these fine fellows listed above in due haste. I may go the full route and redesign the site altogether, who knows. I plan on writing my predictions for the Titans this year, and my thoughts on the upcoming baseball playoffs/suicide watch for Red Sox fans.

I leave you now with my favorite logo for this time of year, it kinda puts me in the mood......

Friday, August 03, 2007

Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp And The New Republic Make Dan Rather Proud

You remember "fake but accurate", right? This slogan came from the story of Dan Rather using forged documents to prove Bush lied about his military record, and when shown that the documents were forged Rather said they were "fake but accurate". Well, this apparently is no longer something that evokes a good natured chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness of the statement. Now it appears that respected publications that many people look to for news and analysis are using this as a journalistic standard.

I present to you the case of one Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, author of the "Baghdad Diarist", which was published by The New Republic. The diairies produced one particular story called "Shock Troops" in which Private Beauchamp wrote some chilling narrative that described horrific and atrocious behavior by hiself and other members of the US Military in Iraq.

"I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor. The thing that stood out about her, though, wasn't her strange uniform but the fact that nearly half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head. She was always alone, and I never saw her talk to anyone. Members of my platoon had seen her before but had never really acknowledged her. Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us.

We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
"Man, I can't eat like this," he said.
"Like what?" I said. "Chow hall food getting to you?"
"No--with that f**king freak behind us!" he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
"Are you kidding? I think she's f**king hot!" I blurted out.
"What?" said my friend, half-smiling.
"Yeah man," I continued. "I love chicks that have been intimate--with IEDs. It really turns me on--melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses ... ."
"You're crazy, man!" my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
"In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? IED Babes.' We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles."
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground."

Of course the purpose of this story was the following; according to Private Beauchamp "My pieces were always intended to provide my discrete view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier's view of events in Iraq." This by itself is honorable and warranted. We should all hope that Americans want to hear from soldiers like Marcus Luttrell and Danny Dietz, and what their perspective brings be it positive or negative. I have several friends who have been back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan for several tours, and their perspective is invaluable.

But here is the problem. Private Scott Beauchamp LIED about one of the most shocking bits from his diairies. The whole story about the disfigured woman is complete and total bullshit. And what's even worse, is that the New Republic, when called on this story, supported Beauchamp and claimed "Thus far we've found nothing to disprove the facts in the article; we will release the full results of our search when it is completed." Conveniently, the editors at TNR then decided to go on vacation.

Predictably, the US Military does not take kindly to soldiers or civilians maligning the troops, and they started an investigation in to Beauchamps allegations and anecdotes. The investigation is finished, and Marine Reservist Matt Sanchez has a report on the the results of the investigation-

Beauchamp Investigation Concluded

After a thorough investigation that lasted nearly a week the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has concluded that the allegations made by Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, the "Baghdad Diarist", have been

"refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false"

The official investigation the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Office qualified as "thorough and professional" concluded late August 1st. Officials would not speculate on the possibility of further action against Private Beauchamp, nor would they confirm his current whereabouts or status.

Sergeant First Class Robert Timmons, the acting public affairs official of the 4th IBCT, 1st ID, in the absence of Major Kirk Luedeke, remarked that despite the high level of attention this case received in the American media, soldiers at the 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div, a "surge" Brigade, have not been distracted from their missions.

Things should get interesting when the folks at TNR get back from vacation, because their credibility at this point is in tatters. And for a publication such as that to fail so completely at properly verifying such grandiose claims is inexcusable. But the more serious part is that is several left leaning comments on this particular issue, apologists for Beauchamp have moved on from attempting to verify the stories, and are now in Dan-Rathersville "fake but accurate" territory.

Now I don't doubt that there are soldiers out there who give the US Military a bad name. By sheer percentages alone there are bound to be some bad apples in the group that do stupid things when placed in hostile situations such as the conflict in Iraq.
But that doesn't mean people need to make up stories about them. One thing about America that differentiates us from other countries is our fearlessness in exposing our shortcomings and deficiencies. We aren't afraid to air our dirty laundry, because nothing disinfects better than sunlight.

But that doesn't mean we need to lie about these things just to get some sunlight shone.

And "fake but accurate" is no way to run a serious bi-weekly print magazine that claims to "provide its readers with an intelligent, stimulating and rigorous examination of American politics, foreign policy and culture."

The worst part of this whole thing is that liars like Private Beauchamp are now more well known than Medal of Honor recipients Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham and Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith.