Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, December 30, 2005

Political Lunacy . . .


        . . . is not a monopoly of the Left.  Still, they are the masters.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Roger L. Simon on the MSM

        . . . there is a deep psychological disturbance in our mainstream media, a kind of willed need to ignore the world around them. . . .

        They have no real interest, financial or otherwise, in the truth - or in the future of humanity, really.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

And In Further Shocking News, Water Has Always Been Wet


        More evidence surfaces showing what the informed have known for two decades: the defenders of Nicola Sacco and Bartolemo Vanzetti thought they were guilty, but lied about the case.

        Hat tip: Betsy Newmark.

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Lack of Historical Knowledge


        Robert Samuelson demonstrates his ignorance, courtesy of Betsy's Page.

At Length:

        In the Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson has a story worth looking at, called Our Entitlement Paralysis.  It has some interesting things to say, and is worth reading in full (it's fairly short).  But on one level, it fails abysmally.

        No, I don't mean its Bush bashing, which is more or less a requirement of being an MSM reporter writing about this subject.  No, I don't mean the way it goes easy on the Democrats.  I mean the author's flat out ignorance of history.

        My grandfather St. Onge was an insurance salesman.  When Socialist Insecurity was created, he pulled out the actuarial tables, ran the numbers, and concluded that it wouldn't work.  It wasn't actuarially sound.

        But S.S. wasn't supposed to be actuarially sound.  What it was supposed to be was politically sound.  In Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan, Michael Barone tells of the then head of the S.S.A. going to see Roosevelt.  'The whole business of Social Security accounts is bogus and a waste of money,' he said.  'Why don't we just eliminate it, and run it out of the general funds.'  FDR replied that the guy was both right and wrong.  Yes, it was a waste of money, yes, the S.S. trust fund was bogus, but that wasn't important.  What was important was, the S.S. numbers and accounts made the program politically untouchable.  Congress couldn't abolish it.  And the reason it was untouchable was those phony individual accounts.  They covered up a government giveaway with the appearance of paying into some personal account.  People believe that they're owed Social Security, because they "paid into it."

        Politicians have always found it easy to make big promises concerning S.S., secure in the knowledge that when the time comes to pay, they won't be in office.  Private industry is not much better -- when General Motors came up with its pension fund idea, Peter Drucker immediately wrote an article titled "The Mirage of Pensions," saying that the promises being made couldn't be kept.  But as the philosopher P. Simon put it: "A man hears what he wants to hear."  The management of General Motors wanted to believe it could buy some labor peace with a pension fund that wouldn't cost them anything.  Members of the UAW wanted to hear that someone else would cover their health care bills, and fund a lavish retirement.  The public at large wanted to hear how they'd get something for nothing.  They still do.  Social Security and other "entitlements" were run by paying out to the old more than they paid in, and sticking the current generation with the bill.  Now the unpayable bills are coming due.

        Eventually, the realities of the budget, and the inability to keep the promises made, will force people to make hard choices.  But not till we're a lot closer to the edge of disaster.  Democracy may be better than other forms of government, but it still isn't very good.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Weirdly Interesting


        Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos is profiled by the Washington Monthly.  It leaves me wondering what the point was.

At Length:

        I'm not being in the least snarky or insulting when I ask what the point of the Washington Monthly's story on Moulitsas is.  I genuinely don't get it.  I'm not sure there is a point to get.  And I'm not sure if the pointlessness is Moulitsas's, or the Washington Monthly's.

        Markos Moulitsas Zuniga gets a lot of respect today in the Democratic Party.  Why?  That isn't clear at all.  He does raise a lot of money for Democrats.  He raised half a million in 2004.  And having raised it, he funneled it to thirteen candidates he'd picked himself, every one of which lost.  This is the great Democratic guru who will lead them to a triumph?

        As the story points out:
        There was another reason, though, why hundreds of thousands of liberals around the country found themselves addictively checking and rechecking Daily Kos as the 2004 election approached.  It made them think Democrats were going to win.  Moulitsas wasn't just posting any polls, he was selecting those that suggested Democrats—from John Kerry to congressional candidates—were heading for victory, while downplaying less encouraging signs.  It left liberals trapped in a bubble of reassurance.  Heading into the election, it would have been reasonable to assume from the evidence presented on Daily Kos that Kerry was the clear favorite to beat Bush, and that Democrats were likely to pick up seats in both houses of Congress. . . .

        In November 2002, the Democrats lost seats in the midterm elections. Moulitsas had confidently predicted a big win . . .

        What's really crazy is that this:
        "They want to make me into the latest Jesse Jackson, but I'm not ideological at all," Moulitsas told me, "I'm just all about winning."

        But what have they won?  The article lists some recent Democratic "victories":
        . . . fighting off the White House's Social-Security privatization plan, closing down the Senate to force an investigation into pre-war intelligence, and defeating an attempt by the White House to suspend labor laws in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

        Does the phrase 'Pyrrhic victory' ring any bells?  Do you think the Democrats will win a single race in 2006 that they would have lost if they hadn't forced a third investigation into pre-invasion intelligence?  How many races will be won by having prevented any action on Social Security's impending collapse, without proposing a plan to change things?  And the Gulf Coast rebuilding 'victory' is arguably a defeat, long-term.  Making sure that federal labor laws are enforced creates jobs for office workers, who fill out endless forms that said laws require, but they also make rebuilding a lot slower and more expensive, without putting a dime into the pockets of the construction workers.

        Results?  The longer it takes to rebuild New Orleans, the fewer people will move back there.  The New Orleans vote, very heavily Democratic, provided the Party's margin of victory in many statewide races.  "Enforcing the labor laws" helps ensure Louisiana becomes a red state.

        Moulitsas's message seems to be, 'This time for sure!', or so the Washington Monthly story would lead me to believe.  Is this accurate?  I don't know.  But if there's any reason to believe that the Kos approach is going to lead to Democratic election victories, I can't see it in the story.

        And why have Democrats been losing?  The only suggestion in the story is that the Democrats employed the wrong tactics.  If they'd just presented the message differently, they'd have won — or at least, that seems to be what the Monthly thinks that Kos thinks.  Are we supposed to believe that electoral victory has no relationship to message content?

        Most puzzling of all, there's really nothing here about why Kos wants "win."  Moulitsas wants to beat the Republicans, but there's no motivation.  Moulitsas isn't interested in ideology or policy, we're told.  He's depicted as sorta liberal, but not seriously so.  Then why the ambition to put Democrats in office?  What would the candidates he favors do, that isn't being done now?  The question is never really raised.

        Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: he just wants to win, with no goal beyond victory?  Truly, a weird article.  Maybe one of you can explain it to me.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Lacking the Courage of Their Non-Convictions


        The Rocky Mountain News tries to lie and tell the truth at the same time.

At Length:

        I guess Mainstream Media bias is getting embarassing to the MSM itself.  That, at least, is the only explanation I can come up with for this story in the Rocky Mountain News.

        The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless wants something or another (the article is too badly written to tell what), and they held a vigil which was somehow supposed to help them achieve their goal.  The Rocky Mountain News article begins:

Vigil remembers 122 homeless who died
2005 toll is highest in 20 years; mayor again pledges help

By Hector Gutierrez,
Rocky Mountain News
December 22, 2005

        With only 10 days left to go, 2005 already may prove to be the deadliest year for the metro area's homeless.

        So, the story's about 122 homeless people who died in 2005?  Not quite:

        Representatives for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless read the names of 122 men and women - those who died on the streets or eventually died after living on the streets this year

        So, what's the point?  That people die?  That people who are homeless die?  That conditions for the homeless are getting worse?

        The story doesn't tell you.  But the headline and first paragraph sure make it sound like 'Things are getting worse for the homeless' without actually ever coming out and making that statement.

        The paper also covers its ass by pointing out that this is an "unofficial" tally by the advocacy group, so that, if the story turns out to be false, they can say they weren't responsible for the error.

        The mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper:
. . . . reiterated his pledge to try to end homelessness in Denver within 10 years.  Hickenlooper, who formed the Commission on Homelessness to come up with solutions to ending the city's social ill, said "people living on the streets is not acceptable.

        How is this end to homelessness to come about?  No suggestion given.  Why were these people homeless in the first place?  No answer.  How many died on the streets, how many in care facilities, how many in their own homes?  Beats me, the Rocky Mountain News can't be bothered with anything like that.  This paragraph is choice:
        "Tonight, we remember," said Farrell, a family practitioner. "We remember all of the Wills and Roberts, Cynthias and Willards, Tammys and Christines, and all the homeless people in the nation who have died this past year, a litany of people that most of our nation seems to have forgotten."

        You remembered them after they died, but the lack of details in the article suggests you didn't find out anything about them while they lived.

        Maybe, if the MSM stopped running nothing stories like this, and started running stories in which they told us why people were homeless, and what proposals there are to change that, we just might begin to get a real handle on the problem.

        Instead, we get disguised press releases for the Mayor, and the advocacy group.  Give the Mayor votes, and the group money, and maybe, someday, the homeless will be better off.  Then again, maybe they won't be.  But the Mayor will get reelected, the advocacy group will be able to pay for their offices and salaries, and the donors will get to feel good about themselves and take charitable deductions, even if the homeless continue to live on the streets.  Three out of four ain't bad, right?


Paranoia on Parade

        Winger has choice quotes from the Daily Kos, here.

        Rather stupid paranoia, by the way.  Somebody needs to get these people back on their meds.


The St. Onge/Monaco Dialogue continues: The Bill of Rights


        Jerry Monaco of New York has been leaving long, thoughtful, rather impassioned comments on this blog.  You can find the previous ones here, here, and here.  My response to that last contribution ran so long, I've decided to break it up by subject.  Of course, this neat separation won't last, but I expect that, and don't mind it.

        This installment concludes my response to Jerry's last set of comments.


        You wrote in your comment:
        Actually, what you call a lie, in referring to the ACLU doesn't make sense.  Calling such things lies is a category mistake.  Your interpretation of the constitution is wrong and I don't think you are lying.

        Well, I'm glad to see you agree with me 100% on this issue.

        What, you say you don't agree?  You say you were specifically disagreeing with me?  Sorry, but to maintain that position, words have to have meaning independent of the interpretation the reader chooses to put on them.  If they don't, then my interpretation of you as agreeing with me is perfectly valid.

        The official positition of the ACLU is, (or at least was, last time I checked), that the words "the right of the people" had a meaning that varied from Amendment to Amendment.

        My, the possibilities are glorious.  Want to reinstitute slavery?  Just say the Thirteenth Amendment means you can require someone to work for you for life, against his will, as long as you call it something else.

        Or perhaps you're a fan of censorship?  Just say that the phrase "no law" in Amendment One really means "any law you please."

        When it comes to something the ACLU already agrees with, like freedom of speech, they resist that principle of interpretation, and insist that "no law" in Amendment One means no law, none at all, not any, with only the most grudging of concessions regarding slander/libel, or child pornography, or military secrecy.  When it comes to Amendment Two though, interpreting the text the same way means that their desired political policy would be automatically unconstitutional, so they claim that the words "the right of the people" refer to a right of state governments — but only in that Amendment, not in Amendments One and Four.

        And your constitutional history, while correct, is irrelevant.  The issue was not 'How did the Bill of Rights, intended to restrain the federal government only, become applied to the states?'  The issue was 'Does James Madison's phrase "the right of the people" mean the same thing in the three Amendments he used it in, or different things from Amendment to Amendment?'  An honest argument that it means different things in different amendments might be interesting.  The problem is, I don't think it's possible.  And you certainly haven't attempted it.

        Ah, memories.  My speech teacher told me 'When asked to speak on something you don't know about, start out by pretending to comply, then change the subject to something you want to speak about.'  Did you study with Mr. Hemmen too?

        My contention remains that the ACLU lies when it claims the words of the Bill of Rights mean one thing in Amendments One and Four, when interpreting "the right of the people" as an individual right coincides with their pre-existing agenda, but mean a different thing in Amendment Two, when it conflicts with their pre-existing agenda.

        As for the Roger Baldwin quote, I saw it years ago, and made the mistake of not keeping a reference.  But I'm looking for a source, and if I ever find it, I'll post it.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Blog Worth Checking Out

        Ideas, the blog of David Friedman, son of Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman.  I met David over twenty years ago, when we both attended the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society fairly regularly, and he always was worth listening to.

        And if you go to this particular post, you should find two particularly scintillating comments by someone named St. Onge.


Lies, Damned Lies, and Liberalism

        Well what do you know, the newspaper story of how 'Dept. of Homeland Security agents visit student over Interlibrary Loan' turns out to be a hoax.

        Now that the latest liberal attempt to slander the Administration is exposed, now that this particular sabotage of the War Against Terrorism is repaired, and now that cowards can use the library again without wetting their pants in anxiety, can we now renew (and, it is to be hoped, rename) the USA PATRIOT Act?

        'Loyal Americans' my ASS!

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A Suggestion


        If you haven't thanked a soldier for being in Iraq, today's an especially good day to spend two to five minutes doing so.

        But if you don't get to it today, Christmas, then any other day would be good too.

        God Bless and Keep You All, Servicepeople, wherever you are.


Tom Maguire on the NSA "Scandal"

        . . . as a vicious partisan, I think the NY Times, in combination with the Moore-Streisand wing of the party, is pushing the Dems off a cliff.

        What is the Dem message here?  "Oh my gosh, that evil Bush is spying on Al Qaeda and anyone who talks to them - as Democrats, we will never do that!"

        Good luck.  Let us know how that works out in '06.

  Read it all.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Reply to an Anonymous Commentor


        I reply to an anonymous commentor's remarks on my history of Plamegate, part II.  I find his criticisms of my argument not supported, unfounded, or incorrect, and I invite his reply.

At Length:

        By the way, many of the FBI agents actually working the case speculated or concluded that Iraq was involved. Were they all wrong?

        They also believed the Serbs were involved, and they were all wrong.

        I've never heard that Serbs were suspected. Do you have a citation for evidence on this?

        He ended in Iraq, where he was granted a house, stipend, and asylum till at least 2002. He remains at large.

        This has not been verified, only Dick Cheney cited this intelligence, and given his track record i will wait for more evidence to be shown. It is quite probable that Yasin was put under wraps when he got back to Iraq so the reigme would not be blamed for his attacks. He is most likely dead now, a minor player nothing more.

        Abdul Yasin definitely entered Iraq, in 1993, and he has interviewed there in 2002. The Iraqis could have turned him over to us. They claim they tried to, with the only condition being that we sign a statement that we got him from Iraq, a statement that we absurdly refused to sign — but somehow, they never got around to publishing the statement, which would have forced the hand of the Administration.  And somehow, they didn't tell CBS News, who interviewed Yasin in Baghdad in 2002, 'Here, we'll prove our sincerity.  We will take Yasin to the U.S. embassy in a neutral country and turn him over there, or turn him over here in Baghdad, with no conditions whatsoever.  All we ask in return is that, you, CBS, tape the turnover and broadcast it on television when you broadcast the story you're doing on Yasin.  Feel free to get in touch with your government and find out if they have any conditions about accepting him.' In my arrogant opinion, this sounds more like a guy the Iraqis didn't want talking to us, than one they had no connection with.

        As for the idea that Abdul Rahmin Yasin was "a minor player," you are kidding, right?  Yasin helped make the bomb.  "Ramzi Yousef" met the conspirators at the apartment of Abdul Yasin's brother, Musab Yasin, and it was Abdul who told the FBI where the apartment was that was used to make the bomb.  If that's a minor player, who's a major one?

        It's amazing that even though Iraqi intelligence did not have the capability to engage in long-term planning or ops, even though they could not assassinate former President Bush, couldn't recurit a simple suicide bomber to take out Radio Free Europe, their capacities so severely limited by the first Gulf War . . .

        Making stuff up as you go along is not a good way to argue, Anonymous.  The Iraqis didn't have the capability to engage in long-term planning or ops?  Evidence, please.  They did fail to assassinate Bush Sr.  Whether they could have recruited a suicide bomber to take out Radio Free Europe we don't know, because the guy in charge of the plot, Jabir Salim defected to the West and tipped us off before he had a chance to recruit anyone.  That enabled Czech Intelligence to get on top of the situation, and expel another Iraqi intelligence official.  The expelled other diplomat was Salim's replacement, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani, who was reported to have met with Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers.  Certain people in U.S. intelligence supposedly disputed the idea that Atta could have been in Prague then, because there was no record of him leaving the country, (<sarcasm>We all know terrorists never have more than one set of travel documents at a time, right?  And of course, Immigration and Naturalization has perfect records</sarcasm>), and because his cell phone was definitely in the U.S. at the time (<sarcasm>Well, that settles things.  We definitely know that all the 9/11 terrorists had their cell phones surgically attached to their bodies.  I wonder why we haven't used that fact to arrest more terrorists?</sarcasm>).  Although Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all deny that the meeting took place, there assertions are always either based on the statements of anonymous souces, or logically invalid ('Investigators found no evidence such a meeting took place .'  Absence of evidence that X occurred is not evidence that X did not occur).  At last report, the Czechs publicly stood by the story that Atta and al-Ani met.  Iraq issued a non-denial denial in 2002 'The meeting didn't take place, and even if it did, it's not important.'

        . . . yet somehow could create a 'legend' that could attack the US at will.

        I'm not sure what that last phrase means, and would grateful if you'd clarify it, Anonymous (by the way, you really ought to register with Blogger, using a phony name if you'd like, and pick a user handle).  I think what you just asserted is something like, 'The government of Iraq in 2002-2003 was so totally inept, it couldn't have built a truck bomb in secret and driven it into the World Trade Center.  That required the much greater capabilities of Islamist fanatics who had no help from anyone.'  If that is indeed your contention, I'd like to see evidence — especially since Iraq did manage to build a vehicle bomb and drive it into Kuwait in 2003 in the attempt to assassinate Bush Sr.

        This 'legend' was so disciplined that he didn't need orders or directions from Iraq, nor any contact with them at all.

        And your evidence that Ramzi Yousef/Abdul Karim never contacted Iraq is . . . what?  It's known that one of the people in the bomb plot contacted Iraq dozens of times, till his phone service was cancelled.  It's known that phone calls were made from the same number in the U.S. to the same number in Pakistan, the offices of the Saudi Red Crescent, at around the time the shootings took place at the CIA, and around the time the WTC was bombed.  It's knows that, in at least three of the four phone calls, the Saudi Red Crescent offices were closed at the time calls were made.  It's known that in both cases, a terrorist escaped using the same route, Kennedy International to Karachi International to Qetta, Pakistan.  It's known that "Ramzi Yousef" started making overseas calls that appear to be connected with the WTC bombing and his escape starting in December of 2002 (Mylroie documents both here).  So since "Yousef" apparently was in contact with someone concerning the World Trade Center, why can't it have been Iraq?

        Not only that but he remained so loyal to Saddam that even when his 'sponsor' has been defeated, and he sits in jail for 240 years he still will not confess his 'true intentions'.

        So?  Alger Hiss, a soviet spy and member of the American Communist Party, maintained his innocence over nearly forty years, before dying.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who chose to die in the electric chair rather than admit their guilt.  Why should "Yousef" confess to working for Iraq?  It would make Bush's assault on Saddam look justified, link terrorist organizations to al-Qaeda, and otherwise help us.

        And Saddam's loyalists may have other holds on him, for instance, the ability to threaten members of his family with death.  We know what "Yousef" hasn't said, not what he might say if he were telling the whole truth.

        We have KSM, al-Ani, Ramzi, Saddam all in custody and have even tortured some of them.  If Saddam had links to the 1993 WTC attack certainly there would be more evidence in the IIS documents the US has unearthed, or the tortured AQ terrorists would have confessed.

        We don't have transcripts of the interrogations, the IIS documents haven't been published, the CIA and FBI are reported to be uninterested in examining them carefully — again, absence of evidence x took place isn't evidence x didn't take place, suggestive though it is.

        Ramzai Yousef is Abdul Karim--the difference in height could have been from an older document (when Karim was younger).

        Abdul Basit Karim was born in 1968.  In 1986, at age eighteen, he moved to Britain to study.  This is the earliest the document listing his height as 5'8" could have been made.  HIs passport of 1988 lists his height as 5'7".  Karim stayed in Britain till 1989, and was thus 21 when he left there.  His teachers remembered him as 5'6", maybe as much as 5'8".  So far your theory to work, he either had a four to five inch growth spurt that started after age 20, and that was never noticed by anyone who knew him at the time..  I find that difficult to believe.

        That he is a Pakistani Blauchi is concidental.  If he was a Lebanese Shiite does that mean Iran used him?

        No, but it would be suggestive, and worth following up.

        So your theory seems to be: Abdul Karim was a Pakastani born in Kuwait, and he lived in Kuwait and in Great Britain through 1990, when he left for Pakistan.  Between 1988, aged 20, and 1992, he grew four inches.  Although the country was under occupation at the time, the Iraqi occupation authorities conveniently decided to record the fact that he and his whole family had left "the 19th province of Iraq" in 1990, and specified the route and destination in the records.  At the same time, by an incredible coincidence, the Pakistanis were losing all record of Abdul Karim and his family.  In early June, 1992, Muhammed Salameh becomes part of the plot to plant bombs in New York, and begins calling his terrorist uncle in Baghdad.  Somehow, without the Iraqi government being in the least involved, Abdul Yasin hears about this and decides to come to the U.S. to help out — or maybe that was just an incredible coincidence.  Yasin arrives around September, and so does Abdul Karim, traveling under the name "Ramzi Yousef," with an apparently genuine Iraqi passsport that he obtained we don't know how, and an indications that the trip started in Bagdhad, though the Iraqi government knows nothing of him.  Somehow, Karim has found out about the plot to kill the judge, the assemblyman, and random Brooklyn jews, and heads for Musab Yasin's apartment — or alternately, he has no idea, and hooks up with Musab by an incredible coincidence.  The two new arrival from abroad, "Yousef"/Karim and Abdul Yasin, take over the bomb plot, with the youngest as leader, scrap the original idea, and replace it with a a plot to destroy the World Trade Center, carry out the bombing on the second anniverary of the end of the Gulf War, and escape, one of them going to Iraq.  The rest of the plotters are easily apprehended.  The Iraqi government lets Yasin in, and give him sanctury for years.  They also let Abu Nidal, terrorist and murder of Americans, have sanctuary in Iraq, and Abu Abbas, terorist murderer of Leon Klinghoffer.  And they try to assassinate Bush Sr. with a vehicle bomb in 1993.  But they never knew of the World Trade Center plot, no sirree.

        Well, it's a story.  It may be true.  But it seems awfully thin to me.  If you have evidence to support it, I'd be interested in seeing it.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Why is Modern Liberalism So Cowardly and Stupid?


        The title question was raised by James Pinkerton's Newsday column on the King Kong remake.

  • Pinkerton doesn't have the balls to say what he thinks.  Instead, he puts it in the mouths of others.

  • A lot of his argument depends on history — history he gets ridiculously wrong.

  • Pinkerton also either doesn't understand how the google search engine works, or tries to deceive his readers about it.

  • And he doesn't even have the courage of his convictions, to say 'stay away from this racist movie.'

  • Here's another interpretation — it's about Cooper's experiences in WWII, and the need for military preparedness.  It actually has more going for it than Pinkerton's thesis.  In other words, it's only 95% horse manure.

        Why do people write stuff this dumb?  And why can't Pinkerton come up with a decent argument?  He's smarter than this.

        Special note: Thanks to my buddy Cal D. for spotting two typos on the page ('right' for 'write,' 'Darrell' for 'Darrow,') since fixed.

At Length:

        A few days ago, December 15th to be exact, James Pinkerton of Newsday had a column on the new King Kong movie.  It was reprinted by local substitute for a newspaper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  The column is liberal (in the political sense), cowardly, and stupid.  It's interesting, in a depressing sort of way, that those three characteristics show up together so often nowadays.

        Pinkerton starts off:
        Is "King Kong" racist?

        Lots of people say it is.

        Well la-di-da.  Lots of people say all kinds of things Pinkerton disagrees with, like: 'Homosexuality is evil,' 'Abortion should be outlawed,' and 'The Holocaust never happened.'  This is just cowardice on Pinkerton's part — pretend to avoid taking a stand.

        He goes on:
        And, if it is, why does the film keep getting remade?  What does it say about us if the new "Kong" is a huge hit?

        Of course, an equally good question is, 'What does it say about James Pinkerton, and "Lots of people," if King Kong isn't racist?'  Wanna guess how much consideration that question will bet in this column?  That's right, zero.

        Any movie that features white people sailing off to the Third World to capture a giant ape and carry it back to the West for exploitation is going to be seen as a metaphor for colonialism and racism.  That was true for the original in 1933 and for the two remakes: the campy one in 1976, and the latest, directed by Peter Jackson.  (In addition, a "Kong" wannabe, "Mighty Joe Young," has been made twice.)

        Well, the pictures are going to be seen that way by you, Pinkerton.  You could make a case that the two remakes and both versions of Mighty Joe Young are anti-colonialist, along with the unmentioned.  But that's putting too much weight on these movies.  What they really are, is entertainments.

        Movie reviewer David Edelstein, writing in Slate.com, notes the "implicit racism of 'King Kong' - the implication that Kong stands for the black man brought in chains from a dark island (full of murderous primitive pagans) and with a penchant for skinny white blondes."  Indeed, a Google search using the words "King Kong racism" yielded 490,000 hits.

        Comparing the new film with the original, The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter observed, "It remains a parable of exploitation, cultural self-importance, the arrogance of the West, all issues that were obvious in the original but unexamined; they remain unexamined here, if more vivid."

        Pinkerton, Edelstein, and Hunter all assume that what their interpretation must be what dwelt in the minds of the movie makers.  Horse balls.  Prove that you can read minds from a distance guys.  And demonstrate that you aren't using the film as the equivalent of a Rohrsach blot, projecting your own mind onto that which is inherently meaningless.

        And by the way, a lot of us know how Google works.  Put those words into the search field, and it brings up accusations King Kong is racist, statements that it isn't racist, comparisons of King Kong with rap videos.  As you go further in you'll find references to Kings this, that, and the other who aren't the fictional gorilla, references to the city of Hong Kong, references to racism real and imagined, and pages that don't contain the word King, Kong, or racism anywhere on them, but which showed up because one or more of those terms was on other pages, and the other pages with "King," "Kong" and "racism" linked to the one that google returns as a hit.

        By the way, I entered those search terms a moment ago, and got 615,000 hits, rather than 490,000 hits Pinkerton mentioned.  The extra 125,000 hits, where did they come from?  Well, add -Pinkerton to the search terms, and it knocks off 13,000, which gives you some idea of how many results one item can cause, as it spreads around the web.  A search on King Kong racism -pinkerton -newsday brings the number down to 559,000.  And if we quit fooling around, and search "King Kong" racism -pinkerton -newsday -Edelstein -Post -Hunter
-Hong -China, we get down to 45,400 hits.  In other words, Jim Pinkerton, David Edelstein, and Stephen Hunter generated almost 93% of the hits with their '"King Kong" is racist' pieces.  And be sure not to miss this page either.

        And by more vivid, Hunter might be referring to the natives of mythical Skull Island, where Kong is discovered.  Director Jackson took people of Melanesian stock - the dark-skinned peoples who are indigenous to much of the South Pacific, including Jackson's own country of New Zealand - and made them up to look and act like monsters, more zombie-ish than human.  Indeed, one is moved to compare these human devils to the ogre-ish Orcs from Jackson's mega-Oscar "Lord of the Rings" films.  The bad guys are dark, hideous and undifferentiatedly evil.

        Well, I suppose King Kong, the various dinosaurs, and other strange creatures could have be discovered in upstate New York or maybe Romania, but approximately every single human being who saw the picture would promptly have screamed 'Wait a second, there's no way these creatures could live in New York and not have been discovered a long time ago.  I want my money back.'  To discover strange, unusual and LARGE creatures, the fictional discoverer must go someplace isolated from the rest of the world.  In 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle used the Amazon jungle for The Lost World, and Edgar Rice Burroughs employed the interior of Africa the year after, but by 1932, both were old, and explored enough that they weren't very believable anymore.  So Merriam C. Cooper used the South Pacific.  Guess what, Pinkerton?  The natives there ain't white.

        One might note that the original source material for both films dates from the same period: "Kong" in '33, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" four years later.  Both works are ultimately meditations on the West and Western uniqueness.  Which is to say, what's the role for white Europe - and for its ethnic offshoot, North America - in a world that is mostly non-white?

        Wrong again, Pinkerton.  Tolkien started writing The Silmarillion around 1916, gradually spinning out the whole Middle Earth setting.  The sources are the lore and legends of northern Europe, Norse myths and the King Arthur tales, created at a time when most people had no idea there was such a thing as non-whites.

        As for King Kong, the new two-disc collector's edition of the original movie has a documentary on Merriam C. Cooper, the screenwritier and director of the original Kong.  Cooper had been fascinated by tales of adventure, exploring, and wild animal capture since he was a boy, especially the capture of gorillas, and he spent years in Asia filming documentaries (the character of "Carl Denham" in the original is modeled directly on Cooper).  Another inspiration was the film of The Lost World in 1925.

        As for the idea that the U.S. and Europe were worried about "the role for white Europe - and for its ethnic offshoot, North America - in a world that is mostly non-white," now that is pure projection of modern attitudes into the past.  I read most of Edgar Rice Burroughs's work when I was a kid, as well as other things from the teens through thirties, and the assumption that white people would always dominate blacks was absolutely unquestion (though Burroughs, who was a typical, casual racist in the teens, was an avowed anti-racist in the forties).  Pinkerton, a suggestion: don't write about things you're utterly ignorant of.

        Some would label such sentiments as racist, but others would note that every ethnicity naturally feels a special affection for its own kind.  Yet, in the West, outright invocations of white nationalism, such as the 1915 film "Birth of a Nation," were politically unacceptable, even in the '30s, and so the same race-conscious sentiments were encrypted into allegory - in print or on celluloid.

        This is so thickheaded, I almost can't react.  Open expressions of racism were unacceptable in the 1930s?!?!?!?!?!?!  Try googling Lincoln Perry actor, or Willie Best, or "Amos 'N' Andy."  Or just watch Gone With the WindThat is a racist movie, friends.

The new "Kong" drills home its race consciousness by making repeated references to Joseph Conrad's 1899 novel, "Heart of Darkness," which denigrates both the colonizing whites and colonized blacks.  In the novel's climax, the once-idealistic character Kurtz writes of Africans, "Exterminate all the brutes!" Conrad presents Kurtz as crazy, but Africa is presented as a crazy-making place.

        The movie actually uses Heart of Darkness as an example of someone who knows he shouldn't do something, but feels compelled to go on anyway.  And by the way, the critical interpretation of Conrad's novel is far richer than Pinkerton's simplistic view.

        The new Kong is, as always, a noble beast with a tender side.  But, at the same time, his killing is presented as a cruel necessity.  And at the end of the film, the white people - love interests Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody - are brought closer together, thanks to their brush with the big ape.

        Leaving aside the question of whether it's necessary to kill Kong (the film suggests it's not), the idea of Ann Darrow running off to live happily ever after with the giant gorilla is something that needs a psychiatrist.  And the Darrow and Driscoll characters are strongly drawn to each other before they ever reach Skull Island.

        But if the movie is so loaded with race-charged imagery, why isn't it being protested?  Why aren't we seeing pickets and boycotts?  Perhaps it's because today, as people look around the world, they see that most political strife is, in fact, ethnic strife.  Folks like to say that "diversity is our strength," and they resolve to fight racism, but every day's news reminds us that ethnic conflict lurks in the human heart.

        That's a gloomy reality that "Kong" captures, in its crypto fashion, and so there's no point in getting worked up over it.  Indeed, since the film is entertaining - like the similarly themed, much honored and extremely popular "Rings" movies of a few years back - one might as well go see this one, too.

        So, the movie is white racism, denigrates the majority of the human race, and we should all go see it.  Thanks for clearing that up James.  See ya at the lynching.

        I'm not sure why people aren't boycotting the movie, but here's a few guesses: because most non-whites don't see themselves as giant gorillas irrestistably drawn to the first blond they meet; because most people realize that a classic monster movie is just that — a monster movie, not a film about anyone in particular; because most people aren't stupid, and obsessed with finding yet another reason to attack their own civilization; because most non-whites, to the extent they identify themselves with Kong, see him as a noble but bad-ass monster that the white folk are just barely able to take down in a rigged fight, machine guns against muscle, and the Melanesians as scary dudes who run the white invaders off Skull Island.  In other words, they're not implicitly pacifist, as Pinkerton is.  But most importantly, they aren't cowards, and the reason they don't protest is because they aren't offended by the movie.

        By the way, I just had a thought.  Machine guns against muscle, planes against the earth bound — Merriam C. Cooper was a World War I pilot, and volunteer flier for the Poles against the 'bestial' Soviet Union.  That's what King Kong is really about: the future of warfare, it's domination by technology, and the need for military preparedness.

        "And I am Marie of Romania."

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The St. Onge/Monaco Dialogue continues: the U.S. and Latin America, Chile Especially


        Jerry Monaco of New York has been leaving long, thoughtful, rather impassioned comments on this blog.  You can find the previous ones here, here, and here.  My response to that last contribution ran so long, I've decided to break it up by subject.  Of course, this neat separation won't last, but I expect that, and don't mind it.

        All blockquoted material is from Jerry's previous comments, unless otherwise noted.


        As you say, the Latin American situation is not directly relevant to our original subject, CIA secret prisons.  But it's worth going over, as it illustrates the difference between the ways we think about issues of national security.

        You wrote:
        The reason I thought that the National Security States in Latin America were relevant is because we installed them in the first place and because they ran secret prisons where thousands of people disappeared.  We weren't fighting Marxists in the cases of Brazil and Argentina, we were opposing governments that sought "independent development outside of the U.S. economic system," or so the liberal Kennedy administration documents say.

        I expect you give the U.S. too much credit/blame here.  Latin Americans have managed to create a lot of dictatorships on their own over the years.

        I wasn't quite eight when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, and my parents were Nixon supporters.  I've never paid a lot of attention to JFK's policies in Latin America.  You say the people we opposed in Brazil and Argentina weren't Marxists.  Maybe, but the phrase "sought ‘independent development outside the U.S. economic system’" sounds a lot like the way the Marxists have typically described their activities — 'we reject the tyranny of the market, dominated by the capitalist countries, and wish to develop independently of it, for the benefit of the workers and peasants.'  After which they usually began slaughtering said workers and peasants, along with the middle class, the upper class, non-Communist intellectuals, political opponents, religious people who didn't preach that Marxism was God's truth and will, and various random passersby.  In short, your quote doesn't reassure me.

        As I said, I'm not particularly familiar with Argentina and Brazil of forty-plus years ago.  But if I did get outraged about it, it would be because people were murdered, tortured, etc.  The fact that they were murdered or tortured by a government that was friendly to the U.S., even one installed by the U.S., wouldn't make me particularly more indignant.

        You say:
        I simply don't understand expressions of such callousness, by you and many of the people who consider themselves conservatives, and I am not sure where it comes from.  Such expressions are not conservative but sound to my ears bloodthirsty and, frankly, willfully blind.  I beg of you to think outside of the stock phrases and labels and try to understand what is actually happening in the world.

        I must confess to a similar lack of understanding concerning liberals.  I read, for instance, about Mao Zedong's deliberate starvation of an estimated forty two MILLION in three years, plus another thirty five MILLION murdered over four decades, for a total of seventy seven MILLION and I figure that if you are upset about the deaths of seventy nine THOUSAND murdered in Brazil in 22 years then you should be about nine hundred seventy five as upset at the deaths in Red China.  Or maybe it should only be five hundred fifty times as upset, considering the Chinese murders were over a longer period?  Or perhaps only eighty eight times as upset, considering the population differences?  If you object that you can't count human lives and suffering that way, I'd agree ("Men are not potatoes" -- Robert A. Heinlein in Starship Troopers) but I still think liberals should be at least as upset at Mao, and probably a lot more so.  In any given year, on average, the Chinese Communists killed about eighty eight times the percentage of China's population that the generals did of Brazil's population.  Instead, liberals tend to shrug at Mao's butcheries, but get endlessly upset about the far smaller atrocities south of the Rio Grande.

        And even in Latin America, only some atrocities seem to cause concern.  For instance, I've seen it asserted that the Sandinistas murdered around two thousand political prisoners in the first few months of their dictatorship, that one to three thousand more people disappeared, that over four thousand were held as political prisoners.  I've never dug into the sources for this, so I won't swear it's true, but I heard lots of stories like that during the 1980s.  And I couldn't help noticing that people upset about repression in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, etc. didn't seem to care how many Nicaraguans were killed at the hands of the Sandinista government.  People killed by the Contras were another matter, and liberals were very upset about them, though I'm told one journalist heard from the Sandinistas that four out of five of those killed by the Contras were combatants.  I can't understand an apparent point of view that says murder is only a bad thing when done by the U.S. government, or those friendly to it.

        After doing the first draft of this, I found R. J. Rummel's figures for 'democide,' murder by government.  Rummel estimates the Sandinistas murdered about five thousand people during their time in power, while he blames the Contras for about five hundred murders.  Rummel figures the Samoza regime murdered about three hundred fifty people per year, average, while the Sandinistas were murdering about five hundred ninety per year, and the Contras maybe sixty.  The Sandinista improvement over Samoza isn't obvious, and the Sandinistas were attacking their neighbors as well.

        I also pulled some figures from the table, murder rates.  Out of every hundred thousand people in the country, how many were murdered by the government or a political movement in an average year?

Low  Best High Estimates
      1        1        3  United States, mostly the Klan
      2       2        2  Nicaragua, the Contras
      1        2     46  Cuba, Batista
      2       3        4  Brazil, the generals
      1        6      19  Chile, Pinochet
      8      11      22  Argentina, the dirty war
     11     32      53  Nicaragua, Somoza

     15     20      27  Nicaragua, Sandinistas
     13     28      54  Cuba, Castro

        Notice that the thugs my side backs seem to murder a lot fewer people, generally speaking, than the Communist thugs who were trying to replace them.  That's why I'd take the generals over the commies -- my chance of getting murdered would generally be about a half to a tenth as large

        You wrote:
        Allende was the elected president of Chili.  He won the election.  Chili was a democracy for more than a hundred years and there was no question that the election was as free and fair as any U.S. election.  His program was to institute a Swedish style welfare state.  Our government opposed those reforms because Allende had promised to nationalize the coal mines, the energy companies, and the utilities.  He promised compensation but U.S. businesses were opposed to Allende's program.  He himself was a Socialist, a member of a Socialist Party no different than the Labor Party in Britain at that time.

        That didn't agree with what I remembered, so I googled a little.  According to this webpage, by someone who seems quite sympathetic to Allende, there were coups in Chile in the 1920s and '30s.  Allende received 36.6% of the votes cast in the 1970 election, and was, if I recall correctly, installed by the Chilean Congress, who didn't have to do so under the Chilean Constitution — a somewhat dubious 'election win,' in my arrogant opinion.  Allende's government nationalized businesses without compensation, saying they'd made "excess profits" that were greater than their book value, so they weren't owed anything (by the way, standard accounting operates on the quaint theory that there's no such thing as inflation, and thus book value invariably understates the present value of the original investments).  None of this sounds particularly like the Sweden of the 1960s, where most industry was in private hands, or the British Labour Party.

        The site on Chile goes on to suggest that Allende intended to nationalize all large industry.  "Much" of the private sector was to be taken over by the state, after first "squeezing" the owners.  While they were doing this, the Chilean government apparently expected to get loans from the U.S. and the World Bank, in line with Lenin's wisecrack that the capitalists would compete to sell the Communists the rope they'd be hanged with.  Faced with a lack of support from those he was trying to rob, the economy began to crumble.  "Spontaneous" nationalizations were going on, which some people in Allende's coalition allegedly wanted to "slow down the pace of."  Stop and think about that a moment — if "nationalization" was happening spontaneously, how could the Allende govt. slow it down?  And who was compensating the "nationalized" for the theft of their property?

        Anyway, in 1972, there was a big debate among Allende supporters about the future course.  According to the site, some wanted to "rebuild" their alliance with the middle class, and win "a more solid" electoral majority.  (Allende's government, by the way, didn't have a majority in the Chilean Congress, the site says.  I wonder how they were able to carry out their plans without one?  Could it be Allende was breaking the law?)  Others just wanted to seize the land and factories, repudiate foreign debt, and implement rationing, hoping this would build support for changes that would be "largely constitutional and legal" (my emphasis).  There was also the MIR, which proposed "the left should prepare for a direct seizure of power."  Again, this doesn't sound like democratic socialism, a la Sweden and Britain.  It does rather sound like a Marxist dictatorship struggling to be born.

        And what did I stumble across, after writing the first draft of the above?  A review of a book I haven't read yet, entitled The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin.  In case you've forgotten, Mitrokhin was the KGB's chief archivist, and he smuggled huge amounts of secret KGB documents out of the Soviet Union.  The ones in this book cover Soviet subversion in the '60s and '70s.  Whadda ya know, they were supporting Allende, at least according to the review.

        So I suggest your view of Allende as a nice guy who wanted to do marvelous things for the citizens of Chile is born more out of loathing for the U.S., and out of a desire to see those the United States government opposes as good guys, than out of any real evidence.

        If you go here, you can find a different view of Chile under Allende from The New Australian, one I've encountered before [note, I've edited out some extraneous press bashing]:
        Pinochet and the other generals only agreed to act when they had irrefutable proof that communists were moving to take over Chile.  Allende had welcomed about 14,000 left-wing foreign agitators and organizers into the country with the purpose of undermining any opposition to his Marxist agenda.  **
(Footnote text: The Left has made much of those foreigners who were killed during the Chilean coup but make no mention of how many were actively engaged in trying to destroy Chilean democracy and replace it with a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.)
They included hardline Spanish and Portuguese communists, Soviet and Czech experts in subversion and North Korean specialists in weapons training and terrorism.  Then there were the Cuban DGI agents who Allende invited to organize the nation's security along the lines of Castro's secret police.  [This was written, by the way, seven years ago, before Mitrokhin's book of this year confirmed KGB support of Allende.  To me, at least, it suggests the author has some good sources, and should be listened to with respect. — St. O.]  The situation became so bad that shortly before the coup Chile's Supreme Court and Parliament ruled that the Allende's Government was repeatedly violating the constitution. . . . Regis Debray, well-known French Marxist and a mate of Castro's had a conversation with Allende in early August 1973, part of which he related in the French left-wing Nouvel Observateur:

        "We [Allende] all knew that it was merely a tactical matter of winning time to organize, to arrange, and to coordinate the military formations of the parties that made up the Popular Unity Government.  It was a race against the clock." . . .

        The generals had no illusions about what was in store for them and their country if Allende succeeded.  They struck first, Allende was killed along with any possibility of installing Marxist -Leninist dictatorship on Chile.  This was literally a life-or-death struggle and Allende's totalitarian intentions created it.  In short it, was self-defence.  That there were excesses and thousands killed is to be deplored.  On the other hand, communist dictatorships killed over a 100 million of their citizens.  Given the murderous history of communist states . . . what else where the generals to do?. . .

        Allende trampled on Chile's democratic traditions, attacked its constitution and wrecked its economy.  Now it's democratic traditions have been restored and its constitution is respected, making it a model for other Latin American states, except totalitarian Cuba.  The Australian pompously opined that the price was too high.  What was the alternative?

        Gee, sounds like a different country, doesn't it?  Again, I swear to the truth of this, it suggests there was more to the story than the simple tale of good Allende-vs.-evil Nixon & Kissinger that you tell.

        And the above information is what determines my answer the questions you ask when you say:
        And so what? If we don't like the government that gives us the right to overthrow them?  More than 50,000 people were murdered by the Pinochet government and in the first years they did so with our assistance.  Some of my friends from college moved back to Chili and were themselves caught up in the terror.  (Not much different from the kind of terror you read in history books from Robespierre or Hitler in his first few years.  This is what you support?)  One of my friends was first raped repeatedly, tortured, and then thrown from an airplane over the Atlantic ocean by an Argentine military plane (made in U.S.A.) doing a favor for the Pinochet government.  (This is what you support?)  The Pinochet government was a terrorist state that the U.S. government, the Nixon-Kissinger gang, helped into power.  This was massive terrorism on a grand scale that our tax dollars supported.

        I'll assume that everything you say in the immediately above is true, for the sake of argument (though I must note, Rummel's best estimate for the people murdered by Pinochet's govt. is ten thousand with thirty thousand as the maximum), and answer your questions.  Yes, under the circumstances, and assuming Allende was aiming to install a Communist regime, I support that.  We were engaged in a war with the Soviet Union, now deceased (WHOOPEE!  Fuck your mother, Vladimir Ilych, we beat you!), and we needed to stop the Communists from taking over Chile.  I would wish that it could have been done without rape, torture, and mass murder.  I wish we could have stopped Hitler without the Red Army gang raping every woman in Central Europe, outside a portion of Yugoslavia.  But you have to play the hand you're dealt.  With the choice of Hitler or Stalin taking over Central Europe, I choose Stalin -- Joe was less of a danger to us and the world.  With Allende-the-Marxist or Pinochet-the-semi-Fascist running Chile, I'll take Pinochet -- Augusto was out of power in fourteen years, Salvador and his successors might well have lasted longer and killed more people.  Castro certainly has.

        And yes, when a revolutionary movement comes along that wishes to conquer the world and destroy our way of life (and also exterminate a good many of us), we have the right to defend ourselves.  When foreign governments cooperate with this revolutionary movement, we have the right to overthrow them.  They've decided on the rule that if you don't like a country's way of life, you can interfere in it, and having started the game, they have no cause to complain when they lose.

        I do not support any government or group that deliberately targets civilians.

        Well, you seemed to support Allende and the Sandinistas, who certainly seem to have targeted civilians, so I'm not sure how to take that.  But pass it by.  I don't like deliberately targeting civilians myself, but during World War II, Churchill deliberately targeted German civilians, and we deliberately targeted Japanese civilians.  In Interrogations: THE NAZI ELITE IN ALLIED HANDS, 1945, by Richard Overy, I believe there's an account of Herman Goering's evaluation on the war.  He said that the bombing campaign was, indirectly, the decisive factor in Germany's defeat.  Not only did the bombing do a lot of damage that interfered with war production, the German air defense effort consumed huge Luftwaffe resources.  The fighters and flak units devoted to shooting our bombers weren't available to stop the Red Army, and as a result the Werhmacht was pushed back on the eastern front.

        So, while we murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians in air bombardments, our opponents murdered tens of millions.  I wish there'd been a better way, but after examining the alternatives, I don't see much room for improvement.

        'It's a hard old world, babe.  Things are tough all over.'  Sometimes, all courses lead to horrible destinations.  R. J. Rummel estimates that governments around the world murdered two hundred twelve million people in the twentieth century.  You'd be hard pressed to get my side's murders much over twelve or thirteen million, and for that you have to include the ten or so million murdered by the Kuomintang regime, at a time when our support of them was mostly verbal.  In the war against totalitarianism, the other side was around fourteen to sixty times as horrible as us.  I really don't understand your indifference to the other side's murders, and obsession over my sides.

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The St. Onge/Monaco Dialogue continues: on Outrage and Obsession


        Jerry Monaco of New York has been leaving long, thoughtful, rather impassioned comments on this blog.  You can find the previous ones here, here, and here.  My response to that last contribution ran so long, I've decided to break it up by subject.  Of course, this neat separation won't last, but I expect that, and don't mind it.


        Are you familiar with the works of Arthur Koestler?  In his autobiography, he tells of being down and out in Palestine in the mid 1920s, till he literally wondered how he'd keep himself fed.  Why, he might starve to death — and then, suddenly, it occured to him that in his entire life, he'd never read or heard of someone being found dead of starvation.  Therefore, he concluded, it must not happen, and he'd find a way of making ends meet.  He did, and within a few years he was fairly well to do.

        But Koestler suffered from "chronic indignation," as he put it.  Around 1929-'30, said indignation was aroused at a capitalist world that destroyed food to keep up prices, at a time when people were broke because the world was in the Great Depression.  Forgetting that this outrageous system still managed to keep people from starving to death, he decided it had to be destroyed.  So he became a secret Communist Party member, and spy for the USSR against Germany, where he then lived.

        In 1932 -'33, he was in the Soviet Union, now deceased (and thank Heaven).  While there, he passed through Ukraine, where around seven to eight million people were dying in what is probably the second worst famine in human history, and certainly the worst in Russian/Ukrainian history.  Stop and considers God's grim irony here -- the man who found the prospect of the poor missing meals because the price of food was too high (as a result of the intervention into the market of liberal governments), now becomes an eyewitness to seven million people or so dying of starvation, as a result of the deliberate policy of the Communist government.

        Koestler's reaction to all this?  He didn't allow himself to see what was happening in front of his eyes.  He passed through Ukrainian train stations where people were holding up small children, offering them to any passerby who would just take them out of there.  But, as he said years later, allowing himself to know what was happening, to realize how bad things must be if parents were trying to give their children to random, anonymous strangers, would have been too disturbing.  Koestler's emotional rejection of the capitalist society he'd been born in was so strong that he forced himself to believe the enemies of capitalism were not what he could see they were, some of the worst tyrants the human race had ever produced.  He couldn't, then, face a world where the capitalist countries were making people go hungry — and were still the good guys, to be supported at all costs.  It took years, and being under sentence of death, before he found that courage.

        I was reminded of all this by your comments on Latin America, and the atrocities the U.S. government is allegedly responsible for; also by the story (which may even be true, though I'm skeptical) of the college student visited by Homeland Security agents when he tried to borrow Mao's 'Little Red Book.'  I've been stopped in the street and questioned by the police perhaps a dozen times in my life (long story, short: I used to act strangely in public, at least as the cops saw it).  The experience hurt me not at all.  I spoke politely, they lost interest in me in a few minutes, and I was never kidnapped and dragged off to a secret prison cell somewhere.

        I think you'd do well to consider the possibility that you're so upset about the our country's failure to behave the way you'd like it to, that, like Koestler, you've fooled yourself concerning the nature of its opponents.  That you're so upset about theoretical dangers that you've blinded yourself to the real ones.

        In the next post, I'll reply to the substance of your comments about Latin America.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Some French Bashing


        Just for the fun of it.  Stolen from Strategy Page.

"France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes." Mark Twain.

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." General George S. Patton.

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." Marge Simpson

"As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure" Jacques Chirac, President of France

"As far as France is concerned, you're right." Rush Limbaugh,

"The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee." Regis Philbin.

"The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whisky I don't know." P.J O'Rourke (1989).

"You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona.

"You know why the French don't want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is French, people." Conan O'Brien

"I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get Hitler out of France either" Jay Leno.

"The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag." David Letterman

Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada. Ted Nugent.

War without France would be like ... uh ... World War II.

“The favorite bumper sticker in Washington D.C. right now is one that says 'First Iraq, then France.” Tom Brokaw.

"What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than the Nazis?" Dennis Miller.

"It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us." Alan Kent

"They've taken their own precautions against al-Qa'ida. To prepare for an attack, each Frenchman is urged to keep duct tape, a white flag, and a three-day supply of mistresses in the house." Argus Hamilton

"Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day -- the description was, 'Never shot. Dropped once.'" Rep. Roy Blunt (MO)

"The French will only agree to go to war when we've proven we've found truffles in Iraq." Dennis Miller

Raise your right hand if you like the French ... raise both hands if you are French.

Q. What did the mayor of Paris say to the German Army as they entered the city in WWII?

A. Table for 100,000 m'sieur?

"Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in WWII? And that's because it was raining." John Xereas, Manager, DC Improv.

The AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney

(AP), Paris, March 5, 2003

The French Government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.


Thanks For the Data Point/Admission


        Franklin Foer, writing in the New Republic Online (originally here , is unhappy with "liberal" bloggers who criticize the press.  He says it weakens the MSM, which obstructs the political agenda of conservatives.  Which is to say, he considers the MSM to be liberal and biased.

        Thanks for saying that out loud, Frankie.  Not that you meant to.

At Length:

        "Be careful what you say, you'll give yourself away, the odds are you won't live to see tomorrow."  So ran the theme song on "Secret Agent," the old Patrick McGoohan TV show (the original British title was "Danger Man," I believe).  Franklin Foer has given himself away.

        This passage is a particular hoot:
        What they're attacking is the MSM's Progressive-era ethos of public-minded disinterestedness.  By embracing the idea of objectivity, newspapers took a radical turn from the raw partisanship that guided them in the nineteenth century.  "Without fear or favor" was Times owner Adolph Ochs's famous phrase.  That "objective" style worked well for many years, because, in the postwar period, political elites shared broad assumptions about policy with one another--and the media.  But the Bush administration has violently rejected that consensus.

        Well, yes, when a big majority of voters were liberals, the country's elites were all liberals (Richard Nixon, running for office for the first time, identified himself as a "practical liberal" as he simultaneously sought the 1948 Republican and Democratic nominations for the House of Representatives), and the reporters were all liberal, and the press and the government got along fine.  When a lot of voters turned conservative, and a lot of conservatives entered the political elite, and the press stayed liberal, there was a breakdown of the consensus.

        That led to conservative and Republican anger with, and attacks on, the MSM.  Lately, though, many liberals are also bashing the MSM.  This has Foer's knickers in a twist.  The press is unbiased, of course, and objective, but somehow it still manages to "obstruct" the conservative agenda.  How it manages to be both objective and conservative-obstructing at the same time isn't exactly clear.  Nor is it clear how criticisms by liberal bloggers would stop the press from continuing.  To say Foer is vague and confusing would be more charity than he deserves.

        But being vague and confusing is only the start.  Foer is also either an idiot, or an inept liar.  He quotes some HuPo criticism of the MSM:
        usual sub-par, unsatisfactory, wholly misinformed, shitty job; . . lazy stenographer[s] ... posing as journalist[s who] will gladly cut and paste this Republican propaganda . . . Beltway media really makes no effort to do anything other than parrot totally out-of-touch conventional wisdom--no matter how inane, stupid and ridiculous it is.

        He then goes on to say:
        You would expect this kind of populism from the right . . .

        Talk about LOL.  We'd criticize the press for repeating Republican propaganda?  We'd criticize them for repeating the conventional wisdom?  Not even liberals are stupid enough to believe this.  We criticize what we see as dishonesty, bias, and error.  How do you think you're kidding, pretending not to know this?

      Of course, you shouldn't expect even basic honesty from any journalist (Franklin Foer is a "senior editor" at the New Republic), and Foer doesn't oblige.  Foer tries to pretend he isn't calling the MSM biased by saying the problem with modern journalism is the nasty conservatives, who tell lies all the time.  The rules of "objectivity" allegedly require the MSM to repeat these lies without challenging them.

        As an example, he gives the Bush tax cut of 2000, which Foer says Bush claimed would result in "consuming a mere quarter" of the projected budget surplus.

        This is an example of lying by assuming something in your statement that is under dispute.  Will a tax cut "consume" revenues?  No, that can only be done by spending.  Did Bush use the phrase "consuming a mere quarter" of the budget surplus?  No, that was another liberal journalist, Johnathan Chait.  Will a tax rate cut lower total tax revenues?  That's impossible to answer 'Yes,' or 'No' without knowing more about the situation.  It is an accepted part of economics that lowering the tax rates has a stimulative effect on the economy, which tends to raise tax revenue, unless taxes have been cut to zero.  Will stimulus offsets the lower rates partially, completely, or more than completely?  That's unknowable without further information.

        What Foer wants, when you get past the rhetoric, is for the press to assume be more open in their flacking for the liberal agenda.  The media of Foer's vision would always tell the 'truth,' which is whatever liberals are pushing that day.  Only conservatives would ever criticize the MSM, which would then claim that all the criticism is partisan politics by conservatives, and that the press is unbiased.  This would let them keep the game of liberal news bias going a little longer.  But it won't work.  <hypocritical sanctimony and dishonest sympathy>I am so broken up about this.  It's all the fault of people like me, pointing out the MSM's pathetic lies and obvious partisanship.  I'll stop immediately, I promise!</hypocritical sanctimonyand dishonest sympathy>

        Meanwhile, Frank baby, let me give you some sincere advice: you're lousy at lying, you should get someone else to do such pieces for you.

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