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Why U.S. Can't Deliver Women's Rights to Afghanistan

April 2, 2013 in Economics

By Malou Innocent

Malou Innocent

During his recent unannounced visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with prominent female entrepreneurs and the captain of the women’s soccer team to discuss the hard-won progress of Afghan women and their uncertain future. Like his predecessor, Secretary Kerry has admirably pledged to prioritize women’s rights in his foreign policy agenda. But the underpinnings of this pledge — the entrenchment of women’s rights across Afghanistan — are beyond the ability of the United States to uphold. It is time to stop making promises we cannot keep.

If the past 12 years in Afghanistan (and Iraq) has taught us anything, it’s that we are not very good at spreading Western-style, Jeffersonian democracy — and all the attendant rights — to foreign cultures. In the end, our military and diplomacy cannot transform deep-rooted societal norms. The future of Afghan women deserves U.S. support, but not a false promise tied to the open-ended presence of U.S. troops.

Undoubtedly, since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the quality of life for many Afghan women has undergone extraordinary transformations. But the progress may be illusionary. As Reuter’s senior correspondent in Afghanistan Amie Ferris-Rotman argued in Foreign Policy last month, President Hamid Karzai has been “increasingly ambivalent on women’s rights,” and the local government has failed to motivate Afghan society at large to adopt new habits to accept gender equality.

The future of Afghan women deserves U.S. support, but not a false promise tied to the open-ended presence of U.S. troops.”

Misogynistic warlords and conservative Afghan traditionalists still wield considerable influence over traditions and customs that govern property rights, marriage and divorce, inheritance, and custody. Despite women’s constitutionally guaranteed rights, fundamentalists in parliament and government ministries continue indigenous cultural prohibitions that discriminate against women.

In addition, women’s rights activists observe that forced marriages involving young girls remain common. Beatings, torture, and other forms of domestic violence against Afghan women persist. Worse, women and girls are often shot, stabbed, or even stoned to death in honor killings when captured for running away from their abusers.

Because Afghan society’s acceptance of women’s social and legal rights has yet to take root organically, from the bottom up, the most viable alternative for changing its long-standing customs and social practices would be top-down with the help of the international community. But as University of California Santa Barbara Assistant Professor Robert …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Shame on Us If Newtown Panic Leads to Unwise Gun Laws

April 2, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

On Thursday, flanked by mothers of shooting victims, President Obama sought to evoke the terror and revulsion Americans felt in the aftershock of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

“We need everybody to remember how we felt a hundred days ago,” he said when images of the carnage — six adults and 20 children dead — were painfully fresh in our minds.

Fear and loathing were appropriate reactions to the Newtown atrocity, but they make for a spectacularly lousy mindset for evaluating legislation. Given some of the destructive proposals Congress has entertained post-Newtown, it’s good that we’ve got a little distance on the horror and can bring sober judgment to bear.

Toward that end, it’s important to remember that the neighborhood school is one of the safest places your child can be. One estimate, published in the journal Educational Researcher (“What Can Be Done About School Shootings?” January 2010), is that any given school in the United States can expect a school shooting every 6,000 years. But because these incidents are so rare they’re also hard to predict and prevent.

Given some of the destructive proposals Congress has entertained post-Newtown, it’s good that we’ve got a little distance on the horror and can bring sober judgment to bear.”

Even supporters of the president’s gun control package all but concede that universal background checks wouldn’t have seriously inconvenienced accused killer Adam Lanza. California Deomocratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s dead-in-the-water assault weapons ban would have deprived him of the Bushmaster rifle he used but not the Glock and SIG Sauer handguns he also had.

On Thursday, Obama warned of “powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running [out the] clock,” hoping “people will just forget about it.”

Was the president referring to the National Rifle Association? Has he listened to Wayne LaPierre lately? The NRA head opposes new gun laws, but he’s otherwise been the president’s partner in panic, breathlessly demanding an “armed good guy” in every school — a federally funded expansion of “America’s police force.”

Actually, America doesn’t have a police force, though LaPierre seems willing to abandon the 10th Amendment to save the Second. If you wanted to spend more than $5 billion to hire 100,000 new cops, it would be silly to put them in schools, where only about 2 percent of youth homicides occur.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., had the properly conservative reaction to LaPierre’s idea: “You …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Global Warming's 'Fatal Conceit'

April 2, 2013 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

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Richard W. Rahn

Much of Northern Europe, including Britain, is suffering under the coldest winter and spring of the last 30 to 100 years. The Northeastern part of the United States has had a record cold March. The record cold in Europe has killed thousands and cost billions. It was not supposed to be this way.

Back in 1998, scientist Michael Mann published a paper with the famous “hockey stick” showing a sharp rise in global temperatures. Mr. Mann and others argued that if global action was not taken immediately, then the temperature rise would be rapid and uncontrollable. Much of Mr. Mann’s work was the basis for Al Gore’s famous film An Inconvenient Truth. What has turned out to be an inconvenient truth is that Mr. Mann and his allies were sloppy in their research and engaged in a campaign to disparage their critics.

It’s hard for believers to admit they’re wrong.”

The United Kingdom’s Met Office has been a major source of global temperature data in recent decades, and has been heavily relied upon by global-warming proponents. On March 12, a report written by David Whitehouse and published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation concluded that “there has been no statistically significant increase in annual global temperatures since 1997.” In the accompanying chart, using the same official data from the Met Office that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses, it can be easily seen that global temperatures have not been rising as predicted by the best-known climate models.

According to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, “The report shows that the temperature standstill has been a much discussed topic in peer-reviewed scientific literature for years, but that this scientific debate has neither been followed by most of the media, nor acknowledged by climate campaigners, scientific societies and prominent scientists.” Lord Turnbull, former Cabinet secretary and head of the Home Civil Service, commented: “Dr. Whitehouse is a man who deserves to be listened to. He has consistently followed an approach of examining observations rather than projections of large-scale computer models, which are too often cited as ‘evidence.’ He looks dispassionately at the data, trying to establish what message it tells us, rather than using it to confirm a pre-held view. “Those of us who have studied “public choice theory” are not particularly surprised that many scientists and their media followers are in denial about what is …read more
Source: OP-EDS