TCS Daily


Doubting Der Spiegel

By Michael Cecire - April 27, 2009 12:00 AM

The already embattled Georgian President Mikheil "Misha" Saakashvili's ill-fortunes don't seem to be improving. In late March, Der Spiegel published a damning account of the yet-unreleased findings of the EU inquiry into the brief August war between Georgia and Russia. In short, the article places blame for the conflict most heavily upon the Georgian leadership, particularly Saakashvili. Paired with the PR blow of the New York Times' open questioning of the Georgian account in early November, there is a shifting consensus of the narrative. However, like the Times article, the circumstances of the Spiegel piece provide context for doubt and showcases more framed innuendo than evidence.

The EU-sponsored inquiry was officially announced in early December 2008 to investigate the causes of the August war in an objective manner. In a symbolic bid to highlight the commission's neutrality, Swiss veteran diplomat Heidi Tagliavini was appointed to lead the investigation. Although the final report has yet to be released, the Spiegel piece illustrates findings that explicitly lay majority blame with Georgia.

According to Spiegel, the inquiry's verdict is chiefly rooted in the existence of a rumored document known as Order Number 2. Issued on August 7, 2008 by Tbilisi, the order allegedly calls for the Georgian military to "reestablish constitutional order," which Spiegel reports as possible proof of premeditated aggression by Georgia. These same words were also uttered by Georgian General Mamuka Kurashvili on August 7th in televised remarks, and alluded to by the Russian deputy head of the general staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, in consultations with the EU investigation. To the commission and Spiegel, the exposure of this secret order will demonstrate that it was Georgia, and not Russia, who is guilty of aggression.

However, there is disagreement over the nature of this secret order; although the Spiegel article claims that the Georgian government has refused to permit access to this document, Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia's Minister for Reintegration, has vociferously denied the document's existence.

Thomas Goltz, a professor at the University of Montana and considered a foremost expert on the Caucasus, is skeptical of the conclusions being drawn based on Kurashvili's comments.

"[The 'constitutional order' quote] is a direct echo of Russian rationalization to go into Chechnya," says Goltz. "But it is also the basis of virtually any country's decision to re-establish control over breakaway pieces of real estate and mafia dens, ranging from the U.S. South in 1861 to Italian efforts to trim the mob in Sicily."

Goltz also has concerns about the article's information quality, including what he called the "burying" of Russia's distribution of passports to separatists halfway into the story, which served as the immediate cassus belli for Russian intervention. He also notes that the cell phone intercepts which point to Russian military movement well before originally acknowledged went unmentioned.

The leak itself might also be reason for pause. The commission, of which at least two members are of questionable neutrality, leaked the report exclusively to Der Spiegel, a curious choice given the notoriously strong relationship between Russia and Germany, whose government led the opposition within NATO to Georgia and Ukraine's accession bids. Although hardly damning evidence, the choice has raised eyebrows among those observers wary of the warm ties between Russia and Germany.

The official, final report has not yet been made public, and although the slant of the Spiegel piece unequivocally -- if unofficially -- places blame with Georgia, the context and content of the article was decidedly limited. It would be surprising if the final EU report were so narrowly focused. More to the point, although the article might legitimately raise concerns about the final report's fair-mindedness, there is no compelling reason to assume that the Spigel line is necessarily an echo of the EU commission, who have largely kept mum on the matter. In fact, it might be possible that Der Spiegel cherry-picked the Secret Order nugget from a report that may turn out to favor the Georgian position. Also, the relative silence from both Tbilisi (with the exception of Iakobashvili's denial of the order) and Moscow does not demonstrate the radical departure that the Spiegel article exhorts.

Paul Goble, renowned Eurasia specialist and publisher of the Window on Eurasia weblog, also points out that the commission's findings, however optically problematic if true, do not change the larger picture. In a recent post on his blog, Goble notes that the commission has done no more than find Saakashvili guilty of "miscalculation." On the other hand, Russia's invasion makes it "guilty of an international crime."

The alignment of these issues may be enough to legitimately question the motives of the European probe, whose Western European sponsors have been at the forefront of efforts to thaw relations with Russia. If the Spiegel piece accurately reflects a commission whose findings have truly been compromised by inclinations to placate Russia for political and economic reasons, then Europe's posturing as an honest broker between Russia and Georgia may no longer reflect reality.

This in mind, the fears of Georgia's western advocates are not ill-founded, as this interpretation suggests that Europe is using the commission as a vehicle to justify accelerating re-normalization efforts with Russia, from whom help on a host of issues -- from Afghanistan, to Iran, to stable energy -- is seen as crucial.

For its part, Georgia, the United States, and Georgia's neighborhood allies, should all take notice of what could be a politically-driven campaign by Europe to discredit a troublesome (if legitimate) Saakashvili government, and to secure the cooperation of the Kremlin. Either way, the article matters: as Russian troops re-amass along Georgia's borders, Russian Putin Youth activists attempt to enter Georgia, and a weirdly single-minded Opposition further tries to destabilize the capital, a revisionism of history and a fabricated portfolio of 'evidence' may be the cassus belli that the Kremlin seeks to conclude the jackbooted plunge they began last August.

Categories:

61 Comments

And the MSM wonder why they are losing money.
My grandfather, born in 1910, who worked through the Depression and FDR, used to say 'believe half of what you read and none of what you hear'.

I'm with Cecire on this one
The conclusions in the article are correct. There exists evidence of violent provocation by the South Ossetians against Georgian territory prior to August 7 , 2008. And the strong assumption is that such provocations would never have occured had they not been instigated by the Russian armed services.. who stood ready to come rushing in to occupy the contested area.

This evidence does not rely on the opinion of some professor in Montana, either. It relies on a very thorough set of reinforcing eyewitness accounts offered up by someone you will all be familiar with-- Michael Totten.

http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2008/08/the-truth-about-1.php

I'll be very interested to read the supporting details, and hopefully the complete text of "Order Number Two" when and if it is ever released. But if the order merely "allegedly calls for the Georgian military to "reestablish constitutional order", as the story indicates, that would just be the logical response to South Ossetian shelling of three Georgian villages on August 6.

Der Spiegel has a great sounding story. Only trouble is, its credence is totally reliant on a document no one has ever seen.

Question
SOMETHING happened in history. How do you propose to find out what it was, if you accept nothing as evidence?

Decide what half to believe.

You forgot to leave a message
Apparently you've never thought about HOW you "decide what half to believe". You just do it.

I assume you decide to believe the side that makes you feel good. Why not try this approach instead? Understand that each "side" must have good reasons for thinking what they think. And discover what those good reasons are. Then evaluate the two sets of evidence critically.

Use an evidence-based approach instead of just the knee-jerk system. Lots of people know in their bones what's right. But they don't all believe in the same things.. so they can't ALL be right. Can they?

In other words (to bring this conversation back to the subject matter) a lot of people have political reasons for wanting to think that Russia was the bad guy in the South Ossetia dust-up. And a lot of other people think it was Georgia who was the bad guy.

Does it matter what actually happened? Or is it enough just to "believe" in whichever side you owe allegiance to?

I get the feeling you're not even going to understand any of this.

Who to believe?
How do you trust an institution that gives an award to a 'journalist' that covers for Stalin's murder of millions.
Or when they manufacture evidence as Dan Rather did.
Or when CNN ignores Saddam Hussien's murder of civilians for 'access'?
Given the history of Russia, the onus is on them to prove their 'good intentions'.

Your trusted sources
This is the perfect example. Your trusted sources can whisper any amount of preposterous BS into your ear and you will beleieve it uncritically.. just because they've said it to you. You never feel the ned to check behind them, just to make sure.

Yet if it's an untrusted source, you can assure us that every word the NYT has ever told us is a lie. Your evidence? Back in the 1920s they had a roving reporter, Walter Duranty, who was snookered into dispatching reports about the Soviet Union that subsequently turned out to be false.

A, the NYT had no other correspondents in Moscow at the time. On what basis could they have refused to print the reports given them by their correspondent?

B, no one currently on the NYT editorial board or staff was even born back then. How then do you know without even checking, that they share the opinions and outlook of Walter Duranty?

You don't. Nor does it matter to you. Rather, this is an unquestioned belief that you will hold til death, despite any evidence.

Am I right about that?

****

Nor, of course, did Dan Rather manufacture any evidence. The page in question was obtained by the producer of 60 Minutes, not Rather. And it was never shown to be a fabrication (in fact if you look at the actual page, it does in fact appear to have been typed on an IBM Selectric). Instead, the issue was that it could not be proven to be authentic.

The main events surrounding George Bush's tenure in the Texas Air Guard and the Alabama NG have never been effectively disputed. This false issue is a thread you use to obscure the truth around our ex-president's evasion of military service.

Duranty knew he was writing lies.
"Through his dispatches, Duranty denied time and again that famine existed at all in the Ukraine, despite the fact that Duranty himself was the source of the 10 million estimate. In other words, even though his stories denied that famine existed at all in the U.S.S.R., Duranty knew all along that he was writing lies."
http://www.lewrockwell.com/anderson/anderson45.html

"I opened Microsoft Word, set the font to Microsoft’s Times New Roman, tabbed over to the default tab stop to enter the date “18 August 1973,” then typed the rest of the document purportedly from the personal records of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian.

And my Microsoft Word version, typed in 2004, is an exact match for the documents trumpeted by CBS News as “authentic.”"

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=12526&only=yes

If you say so
I can't say just what Mr Duranty was thinking, way back when.. any more than Lew Rockwell can. But that's hardly the point.

The point is, does this have anything to do with whether you can rely on the facts reported in today's NYT? I don't think it does.

In everything, there's a mixture of fact and opinion. Whether the source you're using is trusted or distrusted matters not. You still have to separate the wheat from the chaff. The NYT at least promptly reports any errors in the facts it publishes. And anyone of ordinary intelligence knows that the opinions expressed therein are just that: opinions.

Plus, the fact remains that the staff on today's NYT is entirely different from the staff back in 1930.

As for your trusted source, LGF, I would rather look at the actual evidence, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rathergate

I would invite you to examine "Charles Johnson's animated GIF image comparing what CBS claimed to be a 1973-era typewritten memo with a 2004-era Microsoft Word document made with default settings". To me they look very different. For one thing, the letters in the typewritten memo are smudged and irregular. For another thing, not all the letters appear in a line. Just as you'd expect with a typewritten document, some are a little high while others are a little low.

How do you suppose Mary Mapes was able to accomplish that in a Microsoft Word document?

"CBS failed to exercise anything even approximately like due diligence."
The Bush "Guard memos" are forgeries!
http://www.flounder.com/bush2.htm

No Subject
Far be it for me to question the Flounder. If he says they're forgeries, I guess that's final. But the original memo looks like it was typed, not done on Word. The letters don't line up.

Even in the Flounder's piece, he gives us a pixilated version of "187th". And the 7 doesn't line up with the 1 or the 8. So who are we to believe? The Flounder? Or our own eyes.

The problem with your arguments is that you always begin with your desired conclusion, and argue back to whatever evidence you can find. Even if it's just a Flounder you found on the internet.

It's a jump ball. Obviously no one was ever able to prove the document was authentic. Even if it had been typed, it's not worth much without the guy who typed it. We have far better, more complete evidence of what Bush was doing during the years everyone else was fighting a war.

The issue was trusting 'unbiased' 'journalists'.
Which half do you believe?

Reputation goes a long way in such a business and the NYT and CBS have little credibility as shown by their customer base.

What's really going on...
...that any half-idiot with common sense and some knowledge of geopolitics and history would instantly know:

1) Russia, which is easily invadeable, needs to secure its traditional borders. That means securing Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine as well as the Baltics. The Baltics, which are now part of NATO, will resist. Belarus and Ukraine will fall in the next 5-10 years. So will Georgia, through eventual conquest.

2) Germany whored its energy dependence to Russia way back in the 1980s, when it signed up for those natural gas pipelines.

3) Germany thus will suck up to Russia. Der Spiegel is a German newspaper in case those of you were wondering. The EU is hardly better where Germany's vital national interests are concerned.

4) End of Story

If you want to learn just about everything there is to know about geopolitical imperatives and how they drive nations to do what they do, I recommend this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Next-100-Years-Forecast-ebook/dp/B001NLL946/ref=ed_oe_k

The author is just a tad bit too conservative on this technological advancement estimates and their effects though, in my opinion. But his geopolitics are spot on.

We'll see
Your analysis may well be on target, where Germany has decided to back the Russian view because they're beholden to them for natural gas. But I doubt the editors of Der Spiegel are in the actual pay of their masters in government. If they work like editors in the rest of the world, they're there to sell ads. And when they give their readers what they want to read, they sell more ads.

End, as they say, of that part of the story.

As for your book club recommendation, I'll probably look for it and pick it up when (if) it hits the library. I love those what the future will look like kinds of books.. mostly because they prove to be so laughably far off the mark.

Back in 1991, when Communism fell, we had a handful of those Whole New Ballgame books. Pick one up today. They're all huge embarrassments for the authors. The future we end up with almost always turns out to be a lot different than the one everyone imagines.

That's because once the last dinosaur is dead, no one can predict which one of the tiny forest dwellers underfoot is going to turn out to be the Next Big Thing.

Plus which, I don't believe there's any book that will tell you "just about everything you need to know". The puzzle's just too big. But I will look for your book.

Rule number one
You should never trust anything someone says just because of the person saying it. That sets you up to be a dupe. Check behind the things you hear, and figure it out for yourself.

Tele-celebs like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are among the biggest liars on the planet. Yet I know you imbibe all their crap without hesitation. Because they're tlling you things you want to hear.

Sit down with a pen and paper, and take down a few of the facts they come up with. Check them out for accuracy. The only way these people continue to exist is because they are never EVER questioned by their vast, gullible audience of knee jerks. People on the left are gone over, quite literally, with a microscope until a ***** in the armor is found. Then everything they've ever said can be tossed aside.

Try applying the same set of scales to both sides.. as I do.

"Try applying the same set of scales to both sides.. as I do."
I have seen no evidence of that from you.

re: we'll see
This is very ironic that you rag on the prediction books.

I believe it was you who said you still believed in Paul Ehrlich's false predections....and about every other scare mongering story out there like GW, killer bees, bees dying off, etc.

Aren't you also the guy who recently was demanding that animals have a seat on the security council since, after all, they're human too?

really going on
Yes, Russia is just behaving the way big strong countries always do; i.e. dominate their immediate neighbours, and keep them as vassal buffer states. Sure they fell behind for some years there after the fall of the commies, but now they've manage to climb up quite a bit, mostly thanks to the oil/gas. It was clever of them to get the former german chancellor on the board of Gasprom too; nothing like buying political influence, just like they do in the States.

We can expect more of the same.

Just the facts, ma'am
"I believe it was you who said you still believed in Paul Ehrlich's false predections....and about every other scare mongering story out there like GW, killer bees, bees dying off, etc."

I won't be responsible for your skewed thinking. It's obvous whatever I write, you read something different.

1) No, I don't "believe in" Paul Ehrlich's predictions. What I've said, in response to people who seem to recall they had all been "disproven", is that is you go to the trouble of finding an old 1968, original edition of his Population Bomb, and read what he actually has to say, he made predictions about what life would be like in the 1990s and beyond.

These projections were all "disproven" in the 1970s.. before they could even come to pass. But if you look back on Ehrlich's ideas now, they're pretty much on target. We are now, for example, vacuuming the last of the fishes up from the sea. Marine fauna in much of the world's oceans largely consists of jellyfish and algae, with squid as the remaining top predator. Those fish you see in the store mostly come from fish farms now.

And there are now nearly as many hungry people on earth as there were total humans alive in 1968. So he was pretty good, if you want to judge by the actual evidence instead of something you remember reading about him.

2) Global warming. Yes, it's warming. Greenland's ice sheets are now falling apart. The ocean is expanding because the water's warmer. Coral reefs worldwide are in fact dying. Etcetera ad infinitum. It's hard NOT to see this happening. You have to try really hard not to look.

3) Killer bees. You don't believe in killer bees? Really?

4) Bees dying off. It might surprise you to know that there are a lot of people studying Colony Collapse Disorder. Before you decide it's a myth, you might google the term and see what's out there in the knowledge base.

5) "Aren't you also the guy who recently was demanding that animals have a seat on the security council since, after all, they're human too?"

No.

You might be confused, Colonel
"5) "Aren't you also the guy who recently was demanding that animals have a seat on the security council since, after all, they're human too?"

You might be confusing Roy Bean with Bob Jones, Colonel.

It is SOOOO easy to do. Trust me.

maybe confused
Could be, but I was right on the first four.
About point 5, I guess it was Roy who just thought that beasts should have human rights because he thinks they have attributes like love, hate, empathy, etc.

Maybe he was the guy who said that when the buffalos where being killed off, the wolves felt very sorry for them so devised a plan to hide some away, and guide others up to Canada like some sort of underground railway system. They consulted with the passenger pidgeons who provided areal reconisance for this valiant effort for a fellow animal. Don't we see that all the time, just like with humans?

Right on the first four?
You mean you've done your research, and still don't think Ehrlich's predictions, describing how the world would look in the 21st century, look an awful lot like the way things really are now?

I'll bet you've never actually opened that book in your life. What you've done instead is to recall reading an article from twenty years ago, telling you how far off it was.

And you don't believe the world's getting a lot warmer?

And there's no such thing as killer bees?

And bee colonies are not dying off at a precipitous rate?

How about flying saucers? Believe them?

Tell me whether you've ever in your life opened a copy of Ehrlich's first book.. the one you know so much about.

re Ehrlich's book
Yeah, I read the pop. bomb all those years ago. Since that was a long time ago I just now looked it up in wikipedia which says, " it predicted disaster for humanity due to overpopulation and the "population explosion". The book predicted that "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death", that nothing can be done to avoid mass famine greater than any in the history, and radical action is needed to limit the overpopulation.edia too. "

All those hundreds of millions didn't die in the 70s and 80s, and you'll remember that he also lost his bet with some guy about resources disappearing.

Remember too I was the guy that proposed a bet about there being no fruits etc because of no pollination.

All that stuff is ridiculous scare mongering, your usual modus operandi.

Millions of people dying
"The book predicted that "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death"...

"All those hundreds of millions didn't die in the 70s and 80s..."

Yes they did. Just counting the children, over ten million children die each year from malnutrition directly and diseases that no one well fed ever dies from. And you can get figures in this ballpark from twenty different sources. Just google something like "world deaths hunger year" and see what the average figures are that various sources give.

In the 1970s and 80s the total deaths for hunger and malnutrition-caused diseases around the world was two hundred million. The reason you don't know that is because of what news gets reported. When Brad Pitt gets a hangnail, it's in all the papers. When 100,000 Burmese die from poverty, it isn't.

"Remember too I was the guy that proposed a bet about there being no fruits etc because of no pollination."

That bet would take too long to decide. I'm sure you're crowing now because you said that last year.. and fruits and vegetables haven't yet crashed. But bee species are in trouble worldwide, and in central China the peach industry has had to go over to hand pollination (kids climbing peach trees with little vials of pollen and a bird feather) because their bees are all extinct.

So it could happen yet. And you won't believe it's happening until the last bee dies.

The thing that makes us see these things differently is that you think these people are all lying to you. And I think they're talking about problems we need to confront and resolve before they get worse. Ten million kids each year, to me, is a problem we need to be doing some work on.

What is the cause of malnutrition?
The cause is government tyranny, not lack of physical resources.
Yet you continue to oppose the free market which will 'feed the children'.

all those dying people
All those who died where not because of a lack of food as Ehrlich predicted. There was plenty of food but their own oppressors prevented them from getting it. Like the Stalinist and Maoist famines, all are because of bad governance. There is no shortage of food in the world.

Making things simple
"There is no shortage of food in the world."

There is in fact a shortage of food in the world. The fact is that when ALL of the food grown in a season gets sold, there are still hungry people left over. About two billion of them.

If we search for one simple explanation though, we would be wrong. There's also a shortage of money. If those two billion people had more money they could bid up the price for the available food.. and maybe get a larger share of it.

The way we can tell that food supplies are limited is by seeing what happens to prices when a new user is found. Once we started using corn to make ethanol, and using food acreage to grow biofuel crops, the prices for grain worldwide suddenly shot up. And we had greater hunger than ever-- because people could not compete with industrial users.

It's not a simple answer, that evil oppressors with guns are not letting their people have all that food sitting in the warehouse. The food's not there. It's not being grown because there's no market for it at available prices. All there is is lots of hungry people with no money.

food made simple
When you said there's also a shortage a money, that is almost right, and almost my point. Even in the poorest of countries, if you have money you can get food. But usually governments destroy the ability of people to get richer, so they use food as a political tool, or as a consequence of political actions.

All your talk of using corn for fuel supports my case of political interference with the markets that always provide food.
You do not make Ehrlich's point about running out of food, and my analogies of the Stalinist, and Maoist, and Zimbabwe, and Sudan examples are more relevant.

When people are free, there's no problem with food at all.

The system requires money to run
"When people are free, there's no problem with food at all."

The problem with food is a simple one. A: there's only so much land on earth that you can grow a decent crop on. B: the human population is expanding, so you have to divide an increasing number of mouths into a given amount of acreage. And C: the only way you can increase yields per acre is to apply artificial fertilizers, which are made from oil.

Therefore, as the cost of oil increases, the price of food increases. That's simple math. And the unemployed people of the world can't afford to buy it. Which brings us to:

"Even in the poorest of countries, if you have money you can get food. But usually governments destroy the ability of people to get richer, so they use food as a political tool, or as a consequence of political actions."

What's needed is another two billion jobs. And lovely as capitalism is for the capitalists, it doesn't do much for all those people in the Third World looking for work. So they just can't afford to buy enough food even at today's prices. And it will get worse.. much worse. Their numbers will be increasing by another two billion or more in the next twenty years, before the population begins to level off. And the cost of oil will be going up exactly in tandem with the supply going down. You don't think we'll hit four bucks again? How about ten? Then how about twenty?

The reason socialist governments in Africa subsidised food was to keep their people from starving. But it didn't work without paying the farmers to grow more. There was no incentive to lose money by growing food crops and competing with cheap, subsidised imports.

But we'd have the same thing under capitalism. Farmers would have to pay more for fertilizer and other inputs, like pesticides. So they'd still have to hike prices above what people were able to pay.

You'd end up with the market working PERFECTLY. It would be Hayek's dream come true. Production would be exactly equal to the amount of total demand represented by the sum of money available.

And by then it would be four billion people starving. Because without money, they do not contribute to the economists' definition of "demand". They don't count in that world.

Both models fail
"All your talk of using corn for fuel supports my case of political interference with the markets that always provide food."

That's my case too. Corn ethanol is a bad idea from every angle. You damage overused cropland, you create a dead zone in the Gulf from your effluent, you use nearly as much oil growing the corn as you save in gasoline, and you end up with a fuel that costs a lot more than gas, but gets fewer mpg's. It's a terrible idea.

"You do not make Ehrlich's point about running out of food, and my analogies of the Stalinist, and Maoist, and Zimbabwe, and Sudan examples are more relevant."

Just to point to socialist food policies that have failed does not in itself prove that capitalist policies will succeed. That's a logical fallacy. Merely positing the freedom to invest in profit-making schemes does not result in your model providing more food to people who have no money.

Where's the profit?

more voodoo economics and revisionist history
Many of those African countries you mention had(and some still have) 'cheap food' policies; price controls on food so the dictators, who get most of their support from city people, give a benefit to that favored group. If a farmer can't raise prices, there's no point in growing the food, thus leading to shortage.

Your simple formula of; too little land, too many people, expensive oil is also too simplistic since it doesn't acount for all the other types of innovations in food production, distribution etc.

Nobody would have thought a few years ago that china could ever product so much food for so many people, but even they did when they freed up the economy.
The same would happen in north Korea if it were free.

And you make the point of the dumping of subisidized food surpluses from the US and EU etc. I've always been against that too as another government interference in the economy.

There was no capitalism or free markets in food, and still isn't now, but there should be, and then a Hayekian dream of freedom wkould lead to more food and richer people to buy it.

both models
Those were examples of governments controlling food policies, ones that always lead to failure, just like the stupid food for gas policy in the US.

But it's not a logical fallacy because the comparison with freer, or more capitalistic policies is empirical.
The freer a country is the more food it has whether people are poor or not. Early America was full of poor hillbillies etc. yet lots of food, the same with all other places that weren't interfered with by government meddling, same with the red indians, and peasants elsewherer when allowed to produce; when the break away slave movement in Jamacia headed to the hills they made their own food, same when there was a breakaway slave kingdom in brazil(till the government went in and murdered them); money is not needed since most of history of people never had any money, but still succesfully made food.

Famines are mostly political.


You haven't proven your case
You need to do better than this:

"The freer a country is the more food it has whether people are poor or not. Early America was full of poor hillbillies etc. yet lots of food, the same with all other places that weren't interfered with by government meddling.." etc.

No, in fact those hard scrabble Scots Irish you call "hillbillies" have always been very malnourished. They used to exist on very little besides corn, pork and collards. They had terrible skin, teeth and bones due to chronic rickets. The only thing they had going for them was they were totally FREE. And dirt poor.

They're still free, malnourished and poor. There's no jobs available to them. Many of them exist on little besides diet Mountain Dew and crystal meth. And they live in a capitalist system.

Your instant cure-- that everybody ought to throw their money away and try subsistence farming-- doesn't work in a world of seven billion people. It didn't put enough food on the table back in 1750 and it doesn't now.

Hayek will provide their food
"Many of those African countries you mention had(and some still have) 'cheap food' policies; price controls on food so the dictators, who get most of their support from city people, give a benefit to that favored group. If a farmer can't raise prices, there's no point in growing the food, thus leading to shortage."

I believe this is the same point I just made to you. There have been many failed socialist policies. That does not prove that all capitalist policies are good.

"Your simple formula of; too little land, too many people, expensive oil is also too simplistic since it doesn't acount for all the other types of innovations in food production, distribution etc.

"Nobody would have thought a few years ago that china could ever product so much food for so many people, but even they did when they freed up the economy.
The same would happen in north Korea if it were free."

That brings us up to the present. There are very few places left on earth where food can be produced more efficiently than it is this year. And the model that makes our mode of production efficient is one of very high energy inputs. Mechanized, intensive farming using ag chemicals that are produced by the use of huge amounts of fossil energy.

That won't last. Check the upward progress of the price of a gallon of gas if you want to see where cheap food is going. Sure, it's only two bucks today. But that's because we have a mild depression going on and all prices are deflating. Once we're past that the cost will be going back up, as the economy gets back on its feet.

Grain production can't increase but very little beyond what it is today. One very real food gain that can be realized would be for people to switch from meat diets to grain diets. But that won't happen for a while yet. So what you'll be looking at is what was in the news back in 2007. Every time food prices go up a notch you'll see headlines to the effect that millions are suddenly starving all around the globe.

"There was no capitalism or free markets in food, and still isn't now,"

False. There absolutely is. Food costs money everywhere, except for the DPRK. Capitalism won many years ago.

A third of the people on the planet have no money. Thus, without some government program, there is no market to feed them. Ergo, they will starve.

food choices
The matter of bad food choices doesn't deny my case. They are allowed to grow food, but if they're too stupid or too lazy to grow say tomatoes, then that's their own problem, not a matter of not enough food. There is no famine situation where those hillbillies are.

But in some countries they would call you an enemy of the people if you cut some wasted grass beside the railway track to give to your cow, and take you out and shoot you.
Other places they were allowed to grow food, but not sell it, or maybe transport it to where the markets were, in other places when the harves was ready the army would come in and steal everything, etc. It's those types of political interference from politicians that create famines.

No where did I say people should throw their money away, and try subsistence farming and I didn't even see anyone else say that. My cure instead is that there there be a free market in food, because the places that have had that, have had enough food.

In any case they don't live in a capitalist system because they're in the US.

Zimbabwe proves the case.
DPRK, ROK.
Haiti and Dominican Reppulic

"They're still free, malnourished and poor. There's no jobs available to them. Many of them exist on little besides diet Mountain Dew and crystal meth. And they live in a capitalist system."

American agriculture is not a free market, and neither is the moonshine business.

Boone, NC
I visited Boone once and saw how poor it was. Too bad so many are not encouraged to leave. The government gives them enough welfare to keep them 'down on the farm' and they are 'happy' to be ignorant and lazy.

How does Singapore raise enough food to feed itself?
It doesn't does it?

Way, WAY off base
"I visited Boone once and saw how poor it was."

You couldn't have. Boone's a playground for the rich. It's full of golf courses, resorts and expensive shops. Yes, there are some Appalachian poor there, but none of them are on "welfare".

I tire of telling you this, but long term welfare ended back in 1994. Two years per lifetime is all you get now if you're a single woman. Nothing, if you're a man or married to one.

To say the colorful natives are happy to be ignorant and lazy is to indulge in the most scurrilous of stereotypes. Most poor people around here have to work a lot harder than most rich people, for the simple fact that the system is set up to work them harder. And those that have given up and fail to find work are neither happy nor on welfare. They usually end up on drugs or in prison.

Boone itself is far from poor. There's poverty, though, in the surrounding counties.

It doesn't
Singapore's an urban entrepot, situated at the heart of the commercial routes. They make their money the same way people do in New York City or Hong Kong.. by trading.

Zimbabwe's got nothing to trade. Even if they had a decent government they wouldn't be rich.

And even when Ian Smith ran the place they weren't rich on average. The white folks got modestly rich only because they appropriated the fruits earned by cheaply paid black labor. But per capita income for all Rhodesians was never anything special.

They're much like North Carolina. A tobacco and corn economy. Except that they're thousands of miles from the nearest markets.

Zimbabwe was not starving a few years ago.
Zimbabwe exported food for money!

Singapore food
Singapre used to grow a lot of food even till the British handed it over in 1965. But the government there had the good sense to realize that they couldn't get too rich by growing their own food, so they analyzed what tends to make people richer, even if they have no oil, or gold or any resources at all. They realized it was to have a free economy, so that's what they did, and predictable got really rich. There average wealth is equal and exceed many western countries.
But how can they eat if they don't make any food. No problem as I always keep saying. They simply buy it from others. Want meant, Australia, and NZ, and Brazil and many others have tons of the stuff. Want fruits, Malaysia, china, many countries have tons of the stuff. Want wine, anybody will sell it. It's the same for other such countries. In Switzerland you can get as many oranges and bananas and kiwi fruit as you like.

This is why the lack of food is only a political problem like the example of Zimbabwe you mentioned. That used to be the 'bread basket' of southern Africa till the idiot government wrecked it. The Ukraine used to be one of those bread baskets too until the idiot bosheviks made a famin there too.
It could also happen in other big food countries like the US and Canada etc. if the government gets too crazy.
Roy is wrong when he says that governments have to subsidize food in order to get people to make it, or that people have money to buy it.

Zimbabwe
The people were much better off when the place was still Rhodesia, and there was plenty of food. Often left wingers with their false economy say that such countries maybe do export food for money, but that there is nothing left for them to eat. But this is also false, because mostly people who are left alone will grow their own food.
The exception would appear to be the hillbillies of the US who according to Roy are too lazy; he says they decided to stay poor. It could also be that there are too stupid because they could be growing things like tomatoes, lettuce, spinach etc. and have a good diet.

way off base
When you say the 'the systemis set up to work them harder", what do you mean exactly. If one of those rich guys in that playground needs to hire say a plumber for his villa, does he not pay the market rate? Or does he make the guy work 10 hours a day and not 8?
Do they refuse to give tips to the waitresses in the luxury restaurants and bars? Will they prevent an electrician or mechanic in the area to stay there instead of going to some other state?

If you say they don't get welfare, could that be the only area in the US where lots of guys get their girlfriends pregnant, who do get a free meal ticket, and then live off them? If so Boone is the only place where that is not a way of life, and an easy lifestyle choice.

Or are they like the people you mentioned in NC who had decided to give up on life and stay poor?

If half of Detroit has moved away to look for jobs, why can't the people around Boone. What would happen to wages in tht playground if there were no labor around the place?

Castro lets Cubans have gardens in Havana
Before the USSR failed, locals were permitted the government to grow their own food and sell the surplus. I don't know if the Cubans can sell their surplus, but isn't that nice of Fidel to let people raise their own food. What a guy!

The problem poor rural areas.
So many don't want to move and they are willing to say poor to stay and then the government pays a few welfare or subsidies some local industry to keep the place poor and dependent.

Cuban food
If the castro dictators now let them grow some of their own food, then that must be a recent change; probably because they're so desperate.

Traditional in cuba under the commies they weren't allowed to go or sell any kind of food. About 20 years ago they tried it, and fidel stopped it quickly because it looked too capitalistic to see people actually working on something real like that.

Imagine, a tropical country where they can't even have enough food for themselves; all because governments don't want it.

In fact I was in cuba two times, in the early 70's and went to several parties where government big shots were. Guess what? Unlike the ration cards of common people, these corrupt officials had every sort of delicacy from all over the world. Just like all politicians, they are hyporcrites.

Neither Hayek nor God
It's not the same to have price controls on food, as I said was mostly the case, and subisdizing food, as you said.
The former means that they aren't allowed to sell above a certain price, and this keeps the dictators city folk happier. But when you subsidize, it's usually a matter of paying the TO grow more and otherwise would be.

It's false when you say there is capitalism in food. Capitalism means there must be free markets, and the US subsidizes agra to about 20billion a year, and the EU is worse at about 40billion a year, thru their CAP. That's just the upfront stuff. Then you can include the various tarif and non-tarif barriers against certain foods; one example would be in sugar in the US. Ther are many other such distortions in food, thus it's not a free market, thus not even capitalistic.

I don't say v.Hayek will provide food, nor God, but free people will make their own food(except apparently those hillbillies who are too stupid to grow tomatoes, lettuce and spinach).

Let's try a thought experiment. What if, all of a sudden, north korea and cuba were freed from their dictators. Would they still be using ration cards and suffering from shortages after a very short while? I propose that they would have lots of food and no need form rations cards.

A link
"In addition to increased food security, the gardens have also empowered many individuals and communities. They have renewed solidarity and purpose among the communities, sustaining morale during the ongoing economic crisis. The popular gardens have helped to build community pride; they clean up vacant urban spaces that had once been local dumps, replacing these eyesores with greenery. The gardens also serve as a source of leisure, exercise, and relaxation for many gardeners, a refuge where they can work with the land and reconnect with nature. One gardener referred to his garden as a family park where he liked to spend time with his grandchildren. "
http://www.cityfarmer.org/cuba.html

There is the danger for Castro.

Recent history
"The people were much better off when the place was still Rhodesia, and there was plenty of food. Often left wingers with their false economy say that such countries maybe do export food for money, but that there is nothing left for them to eat."

That depends on what you mean by "the people". Under Ian Smith, white farmers were very prosperous and the black majority not only dirt poor but landless.

For the first fifteen years or so the new Zimbabwean government did a good job managing the transition. Several million poor black families got land. And the white farmers still ran a productive export business, providing both foreign exchange and jobs. They retained enough profit to provide an incentive to stay in the country.

Then the government grew corrupt, the remaining whites were thrown out and the productive farms given to cronies in the ruling party. Since then the country has been mismanaged to the point of detitution.

TCS Daily Archives