Two Short Takes

Two Short Takes

The F-Word Comes to Sri Lanka

What F-word is that?  Famine.

As I reported previously, in May of 2021, the Sri Lankan government, at the urging of western governments and environmental groups, banned the use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.  For years, the country had been a net exporter of rice and tea due solely to its use of those very products.  The abrupt ban canceled all that, reducing the country’s access to foreign currency and crushing its ability to produce enough for its people to eat.  That double whammy of too little home-grown food and not enough money to purchase it abroad has, for the last year, had a devastating effect on the lives of everyday Sri Lankans, so much so that they stormed the presidential residence last month and sent him packing.

But things are about to get worse, much worse.  The government rescinded the ban in November, but that was too late to benefit farmers in this year’s first or second growing seasons.  Predicted crop yields have plummeted and farmers are just praying that they can produce enough to feed their families; having enough extra to sell is now out of the question.

Many Sri Lankans aren’t getting enough to eat, and farmers and agricultural experts say the food shortages are set to worsen…

The nationwide yield from this month’s rice harvest—one of two each year—will likely be just half the normal level, said Manoj Thibbotuwawa, a food security expert at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, a Colombo-based think tank. Yields of other major crops such as corn and sorghum will likely be off 30% to 60%…

Nearly 6.3 million Sri Lankans lack access to adequate food, the United Nations World Food Program reported last month, and well over half of households are cutting back on meals or eating less-nutritious foods. Food inflation crossed 90% in July, according to official data.

“Never before in modern history have we faced famine of this scale,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe said last month.

This at a time when the war in Ukraine, having choked off significant amounts of the worldwide supply of grain and increased prices accordingly, could have given Sri Lankan farmers a healthy price for their produce with which they in turn could have ameliorated the grain shortage.  But no.  Environmental ideologues couldn’t accept anything so sensible, constructive and healthy for all.  Alas, you can’t eat ideology.

Meanwhile, there’s no word from the Biden Administration on what, if anything, it intends to do to assist starving Sri Lankans.  Yes, the federal government was instrumental in getting Sri Lanka to ban the fertilizers and pesticides that made it food-self-sufficient, resulting in the current crisis.  But now that the policy has resulted in catastrophe, any U.S. intervention appears unlikely.  Thanks for nothing, Washington.

Democracy and Abortion Rights: The Continuing Saga

Here at home, state Republican lawmakers are finding out what I could have told them long ago and in fact did – that “virtue signaling” on abortion is a lot easier than actually addressing the issue in law.  As I said, one of the greatest benefits of turning abortion issues over to the democratic process is that it makes both pro- and con- forces take the matter seriously.  As long as Roe was law, anti-abortion legislators could pass the most extreme bans knowing full well they’d be struck down by the courts.  That way they could genuflect to their base while having no real impact on abortion policy.  And pro-abortion folks could shout to the skies that babies in utero were just a bunch of undifferentiated cells worthy of no one’s notice.  Who cared?  They had the law on their side, so their zealotry, however nutty, simply made no difference.

But, following Dobbs, democracy has changed all that.  Now, when writing or voting on a bill, legislators have to pay attention to its real-world consequences and to what the voters of the state will think come next Election Day.

“Talking about being pro-life is very different than actually making laws and creating a public policy that will affect real peoples’ lives,” said Elizabeth Bennion, a political-science professor at Indiana University South Bend…

“The zone of wiggle room is gone,” said South Carolina Rep. Micah Caskey, a Republican who pushed for some exceptions and clarifications to the state’s proposed near-total ban. “Instead of just saying we had a performative, politicking moment of passing legislation, this time around it’s absolutely about making sure that we’ve drafted a bill that does what we want it to do.”

Indeed.  Those “performative, politicking” moments are a thing of the past.  What’s replaced them is the hard work of figuring out those oh-so-subtle desires of the voters and trying to meet them.  What anti-abortion forces are finding out so far, is that it’s harder to act than to talk, and that people generally, having lived with extremely liberal abortion rights for 50 years, aren’t eager to give them, at least not entirely.

It’s a long process, but ultimately a healthy one.

This article originally appeared at The Word of Damocles.


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