Let Them Eat Tortillas

With protests against the insurgency operation in the Iraq (the war was over three years ago – we’re there at the request of, and to lend assistance to, the constitutional elected, internationally recognised government) in the Washington and against the banning of Catholic conscience in London, you may have missed the protests in Mexico City.

According to the BBC:

Tens of thousands of Mexican farmers and trade unionists have joined a march in Mexico City to protest against the rising price of tortillas.

The price of tortillas has risen by over 400%. Now this may not seem like a big deal for the occasional Taco Bell patron, but for poor Mexicans, tortillas are the staple source of calories. And whose to blame for this crisis? The US, of course.

Mexico’s Economy Minister blames the dwindling supply of corn on increased ethanol production in the US. Mexico got used to lots of cheap corn under NAFTA. Mexican tortilla companies got used to a very healthy profit margin. Now they’re not getting the corn.

But that’s the thing about free trade. It’s free. It’s just as free to sell corn for ethanol as it is to sell it to giant Mexican tortilla companies.

No, it is the responsibility of the tortilla companies to take an ethical approach and temper their profit opportunities. The Mexican President worked out a voluntary cap on prices, but tortilla makers have been ignoring it. There have also been accusations of unfair speculation and monopoly practices. They may have to shrink the traditional enormous divide between rich and poor in Mexico just this once.

But tradition being the power force that it is, this is unlikely. As is the case with so many corrupt economies around the world, the US will probably have to come in and bail out the situation. So they will be vilified at the same time they are saving the victims. Sound familiar?

Worth a Thousand Words

— “I died while waiting for a cure to be found by research on embryonic stem cells, and you?”
— “I was that embryo!”

Attributed to http://www.arbil.org/LTRHA.htm (though even with Google translator I can’t find the right link)
H/T to Fr Pat Reardon

Marginalised Men

First it was the middle class, now it is men. According to The Times:

A generation of young men risk being “locked out” of university and marginalised over jobs.

Latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that 180,556 men enrolled on undergraduate courses in September 2006, compared with 210,334 women. Nearly half (47 per cent) of women aged 17 to 30 have enrolled on a university course, compared with just over a third (37 per cent) of men of the same age.

David Eastwood, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council, said: “If we are not careful we are going to arrive at a position where young lads are alienated.” Les Ebdon, head of student experience at Universities UK, was concerned about the figures.

Bill Rammell, the Minister for Higher Education, said that his department was “spending a great deal of time and money on the problem”.

This is only going to increase the problem. It is an unerring trend that when the Government spends time and money on anything, the problem only gets worse. Usually much worse.

I thought I would compare this to US statistics. Unfortunately I can’t compare apples with apples. The US Department of Education indicates that in 2004, 57.2% of students enrolled in degree-granting institutions were women. In 2003, women earned 58% of all degrees – 60% of associate’s, 58% of bachelor’s, and 59% of master’s.

Since 1984, the number of women in graduate schools has exceeded the number of men. Between 1994 and 2004, the number of male full-time graduate students increased by 25 percent, compared to 66 percent for full-time women. Among part-time graduate students, the number of men increased by 3 percent compared to a 17 percent increase for women.

I suppose it’s a good thing I’ve made it through when I did.

Memory Eternal

Today is the third anniversary of my brother’s repose.

May his memory be eternal.

Due Process

If nations want to establish the ultimate sanction for offences up to and including the full panoply of OT moral laws, I’m don’t have a big problem with that. That’s the residual theonomist still left in me.

I think the real reason people are shocked at the idea of criminal sanction, not to mention capital sanction, for certain violations of the Seventh Commandment, where they might have no problem with the death penalty for violations of the Sixth, is that they have fewer qualms about finding themselves in that situation.

Thus when it comes to this story, the main problem I have is due process. There is no evidence that the couple in question violated any valid law, nor that they had the benefit of an impartial judicial process. This is one of the defining features of civilisation. For all of the denigrating of OT law (and there’s always some smarmy list of would-you-really-want-these-horrible-laws that pops up when someone says something positive about the OT), if you look at the procedural aspects of it, there is always due process. Someone’s brother is not allowed to tie a rope around their neck, tie them to a tree, and stone them to death within ten minutes.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Whenever Orthodox monastics make the news, it’s usually not a good thing. Recently there were the physical fights raging on Mount Athos. Now it’s nuns.

The nuns have fled the Saints Kirykos and Ioulittis monastery at Sidirokastro on the Bulgarian border in Greece because they can’t pay their debts. They appear to owe banks €500,000 and private creditors another €120,000. They are hiding out at the St Xenia monastery in the hills of central Greece. It’s a ready-made headline – one that Reuters, The Times, CNN, Ananova, The Australian, and many others have been unable to resist, referring to “nuns on the run”.

News reports also indicate that all 55 of the nuns are known as Maria, which I suppose is easier than making up names like Sister Euphemia of the Five Wounds and Sister Inviolata Of The Immaculate Conception (not that Orthodox nuns would ever name anything or anyone after the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or any other Roman innovation).

The nuns had used the money to set up a knitting business. If you are thinking of them sitting in their cells and quietly clicking needles together when they are not in the chapel praying, think again. They had a factory with six large knitting machines. They sold their goods to 25 store chains around Greece. It’s not clear what caused the business to go belly up. Maybe it could never recoup the investment. They apparently used some of the money for travel to fashion shows throughout Europe to stay apprised of the latest trends in woollen wear.

This doesn’t appear to be a straightforward case of bankruptcy. Bank sources say that at least one loan application could have been forged. The nuns, who also had a candle-making and iconography business on the side, arranged to have their knitting factory equipment and furniture taken away to an unknown location in three trucks days before their own disappearance.

Even though it appears that some of their business activities may have been secret from Church authorities, the nuns initially asked their local hierarch Metropolitan Makarios to bail them out by selling other monastery properties. He declined. They want to settle at another monastery near Athens, but he won’t give them release papers. Now the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, has stepped in and is negotiating with them.

Skidboot

Some of you may have seen him on Letterman, Leno, Oprah, or Animal Planet. My cousin sent me a link to this video segment from Texas Country Reporter. This is truly an amazing dog.

At over eight minutes, it takes a long time to load, but it is worth it.