Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« September 2015 »
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Decline of the West
Freedom's Guardian
Liberal Fascism
Military History
Must Read
Politics & Elections
Scratchpad
The Box Office
The Media
Verse
Virtual Reality
Culture & the Arts
The New Criterion
Twenty-Six Letters
Monday, 31 August 2015
Socialism Because They Say So
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Socialism is all the rage just now, thanks to the quixotic presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont and a self-designated socialist. Boosted mostly by the Democratic Party base’s distaste for the shifty and uncharismatic Hillary Clinton, Sanders is creeping up in the polls. And the Left is thrilled. Socialism! Its American moment has come! 

But don’t hoist the red flag or throw up those street barricades just yet, comrades. There are some caveats that need to be considered: Bernie Sanders is not really a socialist, nor can what he’s preaching be called socialism. Sanders is a leftie progressive, nothing more, and his agenda for America is standard-issue left-wing progressivism. Sure, he and his claque have deployed lots and lots of fiery anti-capitalist rhetoric. They lambaste the rich, the big banks, Wall Street. But also they need the rich, the big banks, Wall Street. Where else are they going to get the money to pay for all that free stuff they promise to shower on the struggling middle class? 

Come to think of it, Sanders’ professed devotion to the welfare of the middle class seems decidedly un-socialist. Since when have socialists championed the class-ridden society? The very term—“middle class”—legitimizes the existence of an upper class and a lower class. In whatever circle of Hell they inhabit Marx, Engels, Lenin and the rest of them must be rolling their eyes. Recall how J.V. Stalin dealt with Russia’s rural middle class, the kulaks: He exterminated them. But Sanders, that social fascist, proposes to build up the American middle class! 

Ah, but you see, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, etc. were not socialists. I have this on the authority of several progressives who have taken great offense at my light-hearted labeling of Bernie Sanders as “Comrade Sanders.” How dare I engage in such McCarthy-like rhetoric? Anyhow, socialism has nothing whatever to do with communism. It’s completely different! It’s not the Soviet Union—it’s Sweden! 

Nothing new here: For a long time now the Left has been struggling to free itself of the tie to totalitarian communism. It’s true, of course, that the Left as a whole includes various non-communist factions, some of which were and are actively hostile to Soviet-style communism. But it’s also true that the Left as a whole sprang from the same Marxist root. In the 1930s, before its true character became plainly evident, Western leftists and progressives hailed Soviet communism as the herald of the radiant future. And when evidence of Stalin’s ghastly crimes began to trickle out, many on the Left either ignored the facts or worked actively to cover them up. “No enemies on the Left,” they told one another by way of justification. 

To this moral confusion has been added a considerable amount of intellectual confusion. As the Left developed and diversified many of its factions embraced conventional politics, e.g. the German Social Democratic Party and the British Labour Party. Rhetorically they continued to honor socialist ideals and the revolutionary tradition. Practically, however, they abandoned the class struggle, revolution, etc., devoting their energy instead to reform measures: unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, workplace safety rules and so forth. To a considerable extent they were successful in this campaign, which eventually created the modern welfare state. But orthodox socialists still wedded to the ideology of class and revolution excoriated these trends. In their eyes the welfare state merely buys off the proletariat and perpetuates capitalism. And they do have a point. 

If words mean anything at all, Bernie Sanders is no socialist. Is he proposing to expropriate the capitalists? No. Is he proposing to abolish private property? No. Is he proposing to collectivize the means of production? No. Is he proposing to replace the market economics with a centralized, centrally planned economy? No. What Comrade Sanders is proposing is that Peter should be robbed for Paul’s benefit: a redistribution of wealth via an expansion of the welfare state. Maybe you think that’s a good idea and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion—but please don’t insult my intelligence by insisting to me that Sanders is advocating “socialism.” 

So what’s going on here? Well, though in substance socialism is banal and obnoxious, its aura does retain a certain appeal. “Socialism” means compassion and equality and inclusion and free stuff for everybody. Better still, being a socialist means that you’re morally and intellectually superior to non-socialists. Studies prove this! A recent national poll found that over 40% of Millennials favor socialism over capitalism—no doubt because they imagine that socialism means student loan forgiveness and the high-paying jobs to which they believe they’re entitled by virtue of their degrees in peace studies, eco-feminism and puppeteering. That Millennials have the slightest conception of socialism’s origins and history is a dubious proposition indeed. 

During the Vietnam War an American officer notoriously declared that it was necessary to destroy some village or other in order to save it. A similar thing has happened with socialism. In order to preserve it as a brand the Left has deprived the word “socialism” of its former, rigorous definition. Nowadays it’s a warm and fuzzy little puffball of a word, denoting an overflowing cornucopia of benefits and entitlements, distributed with a generous hand by a smiling, paternal government bureaucrat. That’s the reality behind Comrade Sanders and his angry rhetoric. And the only remaining question is this: Are you willing to sell your soul in exchange for a government handout? If you are, then Bernie’s definitely your guy.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:02 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
If This Is Patriotism...
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Dissent was the highest form of patriotism until Barack Obama came along and the Left discovered that criticizing or opposing their Messiah-in-Chief constituted disloyalty, sedition and even treason. Let us leave that aside, however, and examine the premise on its merits: In view of the behavior of the Left from the Sixties to now, can it be said that dissent is patriotic? 

Before going on I should probably note that the term Left, as used here, is meant to denote those individuals, groups, parties, movements, etc. that in one way or another consider themselves progressive. That is, they not only pledge their faith to the concept of history as progress but believe themselves to be on the right side of that historical process. In the United States this category encompasses orthodox communists and socialists, democratic socialists, progressives and liberals. As the recent ascent of Bernie Sanders demonstrates, there’s some confusion regarding these terms. Certainly Sanders is no socialist in the strict sense of the word. (But one thing to note about the American Left is its permissive use of words.) Very generally speaking, the Left in America embodies all those people who will vote for the Democratic candidate, whoever that turns out to be. 

It was the Vietnam-era antiwar movement that supplied the founding myth of dissent as the highest form of patriotism. In the telling of the Left, saintly, peace-loving antiwar activists, appalled by American war crimes and genocide in Indochina, rose up in protest with one voice, appealing to the conscience of the nation, and finally bringing an end to a terrible war. But this pleasing picture was slapped together ex post facto, with the deliberate intention of suppressing some ugly truths. 

First among those truths: the antiwar movement was anti-American from the start and it became more and more strident in its hatred of America as the years passed. One has only to peruse contemporary documents like the Port Huron Statement to see where the antiwar Left was coming from. Its puerile critique of America gradually congealed into a bitter hatred of “Amerikka,” as radical New Leftists were pleased to spell their country’s name. It was only a short step from there to active disloyalty, sedition and terrorism. 

In a free country, dissent from the policies of the government is a citizen’s right. But the antiwar Left didn’t stop there. Having fashioned a narrative of imperialistic American evil they actively took the enemy’s side in the Vietnam War. Viet Cong flags were waved at antiwar demonstrations. The chant “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh/The NLF is Gonna Win!” was often heard. American military personnel were exhorted to desert and those who did enjoyed the aid and comfort of the Left. All in all, it was an odd way of exhibiting dissent as the highest form of patriotism. 

Then the war ended and immediately all the horrific consequences predicted by those denounced by the Left as “warmongers” came to pass. In Vietnam, “liberation” arrived in the form of a ruthless totalitarianism. Hundreds of thousands were summarily executed, hundreds of thousands more were flung into concentration camps, hundreds of thousands more were driven out of their country. In Cambodia, the victorious communists killed two million people. And the Left’s response to this holocaust? Either silence or denial. True, there were some honorable exceptions. Joan Baez spoke out against the tyranny of the conquerors—for which she was roundly denounced by her comrades. There could be no second-guessing of the “national liberation” that had fallen with such a heavy hand on the people of South Vietnam. 

The Left’s moral cowardliness, its willful blindness to the consequences of its actions, was in its way a worse crime than any of the terrorist actions undertaken by radical New Left groups like the Weather Underground. But it was necessary in an ideological sense. Forgetfulness enabled the Left to repeat its behavior in later years and particularly in the aftermath of 9/11. 

For a brief moment it seemed that many on the Left had been so shocked by the fall of the Twin Towers that they’d support a forceful American response. But with a very few individual exceptions, people on the Left soon regained their ideological balance. Some, like the novelist Barbara Kingsolver, began to fret about displays of the American flag while the fires were still burning at Ground Zero. And when it realized that the Bush Administration actually proposed to take the war to the enemy, the Left chose sides—against America. 

Of all the examples of disloyalty, bad faith and sedition on the part of the Left since 9/11, the one that I found most disgusting was its shameful treatment of the men and women who were called upon to bear the burden of the country’s wars. When the Left wasn’t denouncing them as war criminals akin to the Nazi SS, it was patronizing them as hapless, pathetic victims who only joined the service because they couldn’t cut it in civilian life. Even United States Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, stooped to the Nazi comparison. Nor did Democrats in Congress hesitate to denigrate and insult US military commanders, as when then-Senator Hillary Clinton sneered that to believe the General David Petraeus’ congressional testimony would requite “a willing suspension of disbelief.” 

Clinton’s insult came in the course of the Left’s attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory via its opposition to the Bush Administration’s surge strategy in Iraq. Once again the Left worked assiduously on many fronts to ensure America’s defeat. And as it tends to do, history repeated itself. Though the surge went forward and turned the war in Iraq around, the 2008 election brought Barack Obama to the White House—and he promptly threw away the victory that so much blood and effort had won. Then with typical impertinence he and the Left congratulated themselves for “ending a war.” 

The sequel was eerily reminiscent of Vietnam. Once the Obama Administration had summarily withdrawn American forces from Iraq, thus renouncing all influence in that country, the inevitable happened. Iraq descended into chaos, with a puppet government in Baghdad under the thumb of the Iranian ayatollahs and vast swaths of its territory under the control of the murderous Islamofascist group that calls itself ISIS. And this time silence was not an option. But denial was still possible. It was piously and falsely asserted that Barack Obama and his cabal had nothing whatever to do with the matter. Instead the Left loudly blamed the whole mess on George W. Bush—six years after his departure from office. 

The glee with which the Left points to the Iraq debacle—and the coming Afghanistan debacle—shows with crystal clarity where its heart lies: on the side of America’s enemies. Is there a foreign despot or potentate anywhere who is too gruesome for the Left to embrace, so long as he spouts anti-American rhetoric? It seems not. Venezuela’s execrable Hugo Chavez, the Mussolini of Latin America, a man whose depravity was plainly stamped on his face, attracted the plaudits of such luminaries of the Left as Sean Penn and Michael Moore. Even Islamofascist terrorism has its apologists on the Left, e.g. Ben Afflick. All that is necessary to make any foreigner a hero of the American Left is a pro forma denunciation of American “imperialism” or “aggression.” That he might be mustard-gassing his own people in large batches, executing and imprisoning political opponents, and funding terrorism doesn’t really matter. 

Nor has the Left hesitated to embrace actual treason. Take the case of Bradley Manning, an American soldier who disgraced his uniform by purloining classified intelligence information and handing it over to the notorious anti-American organization, WikiLeaks. But of course—of course!—Manning is hailed by the Left as a “whistleblower and democracy advocate”! Here at last was someone in uniform whom the Left could respect. (The court was less impressed; in 2013 this miserable wretch was convicted of multiple violations of the Espionage Act and is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence.) 

And dissent as the highest form of patriotism? Just try questioning or criticizing Obamacare, illegal immigrants, same-sex marriage, the nuclear deal with Iran, climate-change orthodoxy, etc., etc. You’re sure to be denounced by the Left as a fascist, a racist, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, a warmonger, the equivalent of a Holocaust denier. Point out, for example, that the “culture of rape” on America’s college campuses is a figment of the Left’s imagination and you’ll be reviled as a rapist yourself. Free speech for me but not for thee—that summarizes the American Left’s true position on the First Amendment. Shut up, they explain. And where it has power, for instance on college campuses, the Left makes sure that opponents do shut up. 

The record of the Left from the Sixties to now is so thoroughly dishonest and dishonorable that its self-congratulation, its assumption of moral and intellectual superiority, is actually rather comical. There’s something pathetic, after all, about the elevation of a clown like Michael Moore to the pedestal on which the Left has placed him. There’s something funny in a way about the alacrity with which the Left rushes to excuse the most bare-faced Obama lies. There was even something grimly amusing about Jane Fonda’s treasonous jaunt to North Vietnam in 1972, during which she characterized US POWs in the enemy’s hands as “hypocrites and liars.” Yes, the whole thing’s rather laughable—or it would be if it wasn’t so disgusting. 

 But “dissent is the highest from of patriotism” the American Left insists, in defense of its deplorable behavior. Now there’s a bit of Newspeak to rival “Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc.”


Posted by tmg110 at 9:17 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:02 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Democratic Socialism: Ideological Nothingburger
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Partisans of Bernie Sanders go ballistic when conservatives call him a socialist—even though he calls himself a socialist. Team Bernie assumes that when a conservative so labels Comrade Sanders, the implication is that the candidate is a closet Marxist-Leninist. No, the Sanders claque insists, their man is not a Bolshevik—he’s a Democratic Socialist! 

Ah. 

This gets to the power train of the Sanders campaign, which when you look under the hood consists of nothing more than progressivism’s longstanding desire to turn America into a Scandinavian-style welfare state. Democratic Socialism (the term is often capitalized by devotees of the idea) is supposed to foster a kinder, gentler form of capitalism: not red of tooth and claw but docile and pliant under the yoke of a benevolent government bureaucracy. Oh, and with plenty of free stuff for everybody… 

There are three assumptions here: (1) that there exists something called “Democratic Socialism; (2) that it can be purchased, so to speak, at the ideological apps store; and (3) that it can be scaled up or down to suit the needs of nations large and small. The examples usually cited are the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and, less frequently, Germany. The argument is: “If they can do it, why can’t we do it?” 

Though the question is rhetorical I shall answer it anyway, beginning with the observation that there’s really no such thing as “Democratic Socialism.” 

Looking at the Scandinavian welfare states and admiring them, progressives in this country have brand-identified them. Sweden, Denmark, etc. practice “Democratic Socialism” and America should as well. This shows you the perils of abstract thinking. For  if the word socialism means anything at all, there’s nothing particularly socialist about any of the Scandinavian countries. Nor by American standards are they particularly democratic. To be sure, these countries have political parties and elections. But the range of issues in, say, a Swedish national election is considerably narrower than in an American national election. In Sweden, a broad-based political consensus rules many issues out of consideration. In those rare cases where discontent does give rise to a populist political movement, the establishment parties unite to freeze the interloper out. This happened in Sweden recently over the question of immigration, the establishment parties conspiring to prevent a national election that might have resulted in big gains for a populist anti-immigration party. 

Now a political consensus of this kind is only possible in a small, wealthy country that is ethnically and culturally homogenous. That is to say, it wasn’t imposed by political elites under the name of “Democratic Socialism” but developed gradually, organically, over a long period of time. It works for Sweden, Denmark, etc. because it’s Swedish, Danish, etc. 

So there’s no “Democratic Socialism” app available in the ideological apps store. Team Sanders is simply cherry-picking elements of the Scandinavian welfare states that it particularly likes and proposing to scale them up for this country. Left out of the equation are all the cultural, ethnic and political factors that actually make those systems work in their countries of origin. This is an important—indeed the vital—point. Suppose for a moment that Bernie Sanders actually managed to get himself elected president. How easy would it be for him to remake this country in the image of Sweden? 

It would be practically impossible, because the necessary political consensus would not exist. The travails of Obamacare, passed on a narrow partisan vote, enduringly controversial and unpopular, prefigure the fate of any such scheme as Comrade Sanders’ twelve-point agenda for America. There are signs, indeed, that Sanders himself recognizes this. He frames his potential presidency as a fight to the finish against those wicked, greedy special interests that lord it over the poor and the middle class—in plain language, Bernie Sanders preaches class warfare. However beguiling this may sound in the ears of his devotees, it’s a recipe for political strife, gridlock and ultimate frustration. Unless Sanders somehow seized absolute power and ruled as the American Lenin, he’d inevitably crash and burn. 

The final, fatal objection to “Democratic Socialism” in America can be summarized in one word: gigantism. Already the executive branch of the federal government has grown so large as to be dysfunctional, unmanageable, unaccountable. Sanders proposes to make the federal government even larger, hence even more dysfunctional, even less manageable and even more of a threat to democratic accountability. In his People’s Democratic Socialist United States of America, the administrative/bureaucratic/regulatory state would swell to such a size as to elicit a wince from Thomas Hobbes, maximizing the federal government’s already-scandalous  inefficiency and corruption. 

So much, then, for that ideological nothingburger “Democratic Socialism.” And so much for Comrade Bernie Sanders whose campaign, though it harps on a different string, is just as unmelodious as Donald Trump’s.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:19 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, 8 August 2015
The Obama Legacy
Topic: Decline of the West

 

Watching President Obama defend his deal with Iran was an unsettling experience. It reminded me of nothing so much as Richard Nixon’s self-pitying performances, late in his presidency, when the writing was on the wall. Character is fate, as Herodotus so very astutely observed. In Obama’s flawed character is written the legacy he will soon bequeath to America and the world.

 

Vanity, hubris and obstinacy are the chief distinguishing characteristics of Barack Obama. We saw this early, when he made the colossal blunder of allowing healthcare reform legislation to pass on a narrow, partisan vote with no Republican support. Obamacare’s enduring unpopularity and the impossibility of fixing its most glaring deficiencies are directly traceable to the President’s unwillingness—perhaps temperamental inability—to seek consensus. How easy it would have been to co-opt GOP support! There were Republicans in the House and Senate who would have been happy to sign on to Obamacare in exchange for a role in the development of the bill. But no. Right from the beginning Obama adopted a my-way-or-the-highway attitude that scotched any possibility of bipartisanship. Not surprisingly since they were given no role in the process, Republicans were (and are) united in their opposition to the hilariously misnamed Affordable Care Act. And having hammered home this wedge, Obama went on to complain of Republican obstruction.

 

Now he’s at it again, complaining that opponents of his nuclear deal with Iran are warmongers, in bed with the Islamic Republic’s hard-liners. If he really does believe that he and the Iranian regime’s (mythical) moderates are in alliance against warmongering hard-liners in both countries then we really are in trouble. But I don’t think that the President is that stupid, though John Kerry might be. He’s merely following his instinct, which is to demonize the opposition. In Barry Land, Barry is always in the right. This being obvious—to him and his claque at least—skepticism, disagreement and opposition are not merely misguided but evil. In Barry Land, there is never any possibility that that the other side is acting in good faith.

 

A glance at the agreement he has made with the Islamic Republic reveals that it’s a sham, mirage, a diplomatic Potemkin village. Desperate to seal the deal, Obama caved in time and time again, abandoning one position after the other. So now we see that in return of an array of tangible benefits the Iranian regime has conceded…nothing. The scorn and contempt with which the ayatollahs have treated the Obama administration all along has been fully vindicated in the outcome. Even Obama’s minions concede that billions of dollars in soon-to-be-unfrozen Iranian assets will likely be used to finance terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. Obama and Kerry didn’t even manage to get the US hostages held by Iran released as a condition of the agreement. Insisting on it, they argue, might have caused the Iranians to leave the negotiating table. Even Neville Chamberlain drove a harder bargain than this!

 

Character is fate indeed. We’re fortunate, as Edmund Burke put it, that there’s a great deal of ruin in a great country. Barack Obama’s vanity and hubris has done great damage to the nation but he’ll be gone soon and America will survive. What won’t survive is his signature foreign policy initiative. Having pocketed the long list of concessions that Obama made, the ayatollahs will do just as they please, secure in the knowledge that the President of the United States and the so-called world community will look the other way. To the next president will fall the task of sweeping up the bits. And that job—cleaning up the messes, foreign and domestic, that Barack Obama has made—will be the sum and substance of this president’s legacy.


Posted by tmg110 at 12:08 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 8 August 2015 12:09 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, 4 August 2015
The Past Isn't Dead
Topic: Decline of the West

From time to time people ask me to recommend books about the Second World War. Now obviously where so vast a subject is concerned no such recommendation is adequate. Still, a request for assistance with self-education is never to be spurned. Generally I ask a couple of questions to see how much the requestor already knows, what his interests may be, etc. and with that information in hand I suggest two or three titles. 

Our direct collective memory of the Second World War is fading as the generation that lived through it passes out of this world. My mother and father actually received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. They personally experienced America’s abrupt transition from peace to war and all that flowed from that moment. For their sons and daughters, the members of my own generation, the war still loomed large: I myself was born only four years after the surrender of Japan. Practically every man of my father’s age was a veteran of the war. Our mailman was a former Marine who’d served on Guadalcanal. One of my dad’s coworkers had been a B-17 tail gunner and another served as an infantryman in northwest Europe. (He once remarked that he’d traveled all the way from Normandy to the Rhine, crawling on his belly.) 

So I’ve always felt close to the Second World War; it was an event whose echoes sounded down the years when I was growing up. But younger people know comparatively little about it. Many could not say in what year the war began and in what year it ended, or which countries fought on which side. A lot has happened since V-J Day and a person born, say, in 1975 cannot be expected to have a personal sense of connection to what must seem a long-ago event, not particularly relevant today. 

But as William Faulkner put it, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” The Second World War was one of those grand historical turning points, like the fall of the Roman Empire or the rise of Islam. It didn’t merely change the world but recreated it—and not necessarily in a welcome or positive way. The more I reflect on the war, the more it seems to me that it left us with a terrible moral wound. To overcome a most evil enemy, fascism, the democracies including America had to some extent assume the character of that enemy. However necessary one may feel it to have been, the strategic bombing campaign that the Allies carried out against Germany and the one that America alone carried out against Japan were shocking acts of barbarism. But of course at the time they shocked few people. Nor in the years after the war did the people of America and Britain express revulsion at what had been done. On the contrary, both countries—and their former ally, the USSR—bent their efforts toward the development and deployment of even more terrible weapons of mass destruction. 

Then there’s the business of the Soviet alliance. In order to defeat Hitler, American and Britain embraced a comparable monster, Stalin. That the Soviet Union participated in the Nuremburg war crimes trials, evil judging evil, is problematical to say the least. While his minions were prosecuting former Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity and acts of aggression, Stalin was grinding Poland under his heel, with hymns to the UN and international law tinkling in the background. 

From things like this, I believe, are derived some defining characteristics of our time, such as the replacement of compassion by sentimentality. We grow misty-eyed over the plight of animals but disregard the plight of fellow human beings who are persecuted, oppressed, hounded to death. The gruesome revelations about Planned Parenthood’s traffic in fetal body parts are greeted with rationalizations or shrugs. That human bodies and human beings may be treated as commodities seems unremarkable to us and there are plenty of intellectuals who give voice to it—approvingly. And even our sentimentality has a brute quality, with demands for the persecution and lynching of transgressors. I cannot help but feel that the Second World War with its vast slaughter paved the way to this place of confusion, this moral wilderness in which we find ourselves. 

What book to read, then, if you want to learn about the Second World War? Rather than round up the usual suspects—I may do that on some other occasion—let me recommend The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, which I believe to be one of the great twentieth-century American novels. Suppose the Second World War had gone the other way? How would the world be different? Or would it be much different at all? Having stepped through Mr. Dick’s looking glass and spent some time in his alternate universe, I’m not at all sure about the answers to those questions.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:08 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 31 July 2015
Cecil, Zimbabwe and Us
Topic: Decline of the West

So Jimmy Kimmel got all choked up on the air while discussing the sad demise of Cecil the Lion. What a sensitive guy! 

Here I should stipulate my own indignation over Cecil’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis dentist who, apparently, has read too much Hemingway. Shooting lions and tigers and elephants may have been the mark of a pukka sahib but come on—the sun has set on the British Empire! Speaking of which reminds me that Cecil’s home country of Zimbabwe was once a British colony, Rhodesia. Back in the Sixties the white settler minority took Rhodesia out of the Empire to avoid black majority rule. After a long insurgency the white minority threw up the sponge and Rhodesia went back under British sovereignty for a brief interlude pending elections and the installation of a black majority government. In 1980 the colony became independent as the Republic of Zimbabwe. 

I mention this history because of the results of thirty-five years of misrule by Zimbabwe’s grotesque strongman, Robert Mugabe. As a principal leader of the struggle against white minority rule he was hailed as a freedom fighter. But from the moment of his election as prime minister of the new nation, Mugabe unleashed a reign of terror. Whites were purged from the armed forces, the police and the civil service. Black political and tribal rivals were (and are) viciously persecuted. To take a single example, from 1982 to 1985 some 20,000 members of the minority Matabele tribe were killed by government security forces and thousands more were mistreated and tortured in concentration camps. The Matabeleland Massacres, as they were called, set the pattern for Mugabe’s treatment of his tribal and political rivals. 

Mugabe and his kleptomaniacal regime also destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy, particularly its once-vibrant agricultural sector. Under white minority rule agriculture supported 400,000 jobs and agricultural exports were the country’s main source of foreign exchange. But after 1980 “land reform”—actually the confiscation of white-owner farms and their handover to Mugabe’s cronies—wrecked the agricultural sector and transformed Zimbabwe into a net importer of foodstuffs. Today, much of the country experiences “food insecurity”: chronic malnutrition sometimes rising to the level of famine. 

With these sad facts of history in mind I asked myself if Jimmy Kimmel has ever shed a tear for the people of Zimbabwe. Theirs, after all, is a tragic story. In 1980 the black majority greeted independence with high hopes for the future while the white minority seemed prepared to cooperate with the new government. There was every reason to believe that Zimbabwe would flourish as an independent, democratic nation. Instead the people, black and white, got misgovernment, economic decline, corruption and despotism. By every measure—human rights, living standards, public health, economic development—Zimbabwe is far worse off today than it was in 1980. 

But it’s hard to envision Jimmy Kimmel choking up over the sad state of affairs in Zimbabwe. Chances are he knows next to nothing about it. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people can be killed, tortured, starved, infected with AIS and cholera, made homeless, etc. without eliciting a peep of protest from our celebritocracy. A Matabele tribesman, reduced to skin and bones by famine, is a victim best ignored lest awkward questions be raised. How much less awkward it is to emote over the death of Cecil the Lion, to revile his killer, to demand that the hapless Minneapolis dentist be arrested, extradited, made to face Zimbabwean justice. Ah, what Evelyn Waugh could have done with that scenario! 

Thinking about all this brings no tear to my eye. But it does turn my stomach with the nausea of disgust.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:44 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:09 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
All Lives Matter...But Some Matter More...
Topic: Decline of the West

As a conservative, I was greatly amused when former Maryland governor and Democratic Party presidential candidate was booed and reviled for saying the following: “Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” His progressive interlocutors were indignant at O’Malley’s supposed slighting of the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, a noisy group of activists with a grudge against the police. BLM claims that the cops are racist, that they target blacks for brutal treatment while giving whites a pass. This claim is unsupported by anything in the way of facts or evidence but as the hapless O’Malley can testify, it’s propelled by a heavy charge of anger and righteous indignation. For his act of thought crime, the candidate was compelled to offer a cringing, servile apology. This couldn’t have happened to a more deserving politician: Besides being Maryland’s former governor, he’s Baltimore’s former mayor. 

The closing of the progressive mind has now gone so far as to render the statement, “all lives matter,” controversial if not inadmissible. This perhaps should surprise no one given such incidents as the Kermit Gosnell case and the scandal currently afflicting Planned Parenthood. If you were wondering why progressives are such fervent defenders of late-term and partial-birth abortion, there’s your answer: They want those baby body parts. But let’s return to BLM, which fulminates over the epidemic of police killings of blacks. 

But it’s hardly an epidemic. Recently the left-wing British newspaper, the Guardian, researched police shooting to date in the US. As of July 27, US police this year have killed 657 people, 492 of whom were armed. Of the victims, 316 were white, 172 were black and 96 were Hispanic. Per capita, therefore, blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be killed by police. But this disparity is easily accounted for by crime statistics: Blacks in America commit murder at a rate eight times that of the white rate and account for more than half of all homicide and robbery arrests. But even so a black American’s statistical probability of being killed by a cop is very low. 

In short, Black Lives Matter has no real basis for its charges of racist police brutality & etc. This is not to deny that racist cops exist or that some police killings of blacks are questionable or unjustified. But let’s be honest: BLM is blowing smoke. 

So are the BLMers just a bunch of race-baiting publicity pimps? That conclusion is tempting at a time when a creature of evil like Al Sharpton is held to be a respectable civil rights activist. But on reflection I think not. No doubt the movement has attracted some people of Sharpton’s type. On the whole, though, I believe that its righteous indignation and anger are quite sincere…though sadly displaced. 

If you (a) accept the proposition that black lives matter and (b) are able to face unpleasant facts then your indignation and anger should not be focused on the police. Certainly there are bad cops and dysfunctional police departments. But the principal killers of blacks in America are other blacks. Last weekend in Chicago there were 41 shootings including seven homicides. Most of the shooters and victims were black. As a matter of fact about 95% of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. For young black men between the ages of 18 and 35, murder is the number-one cause of death. Over the past 35 years, almost 350,000 blacks have been killed by other blacks. 

Of course these are deeply distressing statistics. Particularly for black Americans they’re a source of sadness and shame. Black parents know in their hearts that the principal danger to their sons is presented by other black parents’ sons. Human nature being what it is any distraction from this painful reality—claims of institutional racism, white privilege, police brutality—is gratefully embraced. And the police, who by the nature of their job are so closely associated with this epidemic of murderous violence, are made to bear the responsibility for it. Denouncing the shooting of Michael Brown or the death in police custody of Freddie Grey, crying out against white privilege, etc. indirectly absolves those who are really the executioners of so many black fathers and uncles and brothers and sons. 

Black Lives Matter will earn my respect if and when it makes the transition from narrative to reality. Until that day—if it comes, which I doubt—BLM will remain part of the problem, contributing to a pervasive and deadly conspiracy of silence.


Posted by tmg110 at 11:25 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Walker!
Topic: Liberal Fascism

What is it with the Left, anyhow? I get that they don’t like conservative politicians—but this sob, via Twitter, is just plain crazy: “My grandfather, a psychologist, just walked me through similarities between Walker and Hitler. There are so many—it's terrifying.”

The Walker referred to is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, who just announced that he’s running for president. The tweeter is Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of education policy studies and sociology (!) at the University of Wisconsin.

Now before you dismiss Goldrick-Rab as some loony on the fringes of the leftie fever swamp, let me point out that such charges are nothing new. Back in 2007, former Al Gore fashion consultant Naomi Wolf published a screed purporting to show that George W. Bush was a Nazi aiming to impose fascism on America—literally. For this her comrades showered her with accolades, e.g. “Naomi Wolf 's End of America is a vivid, urgent, mandatory wake-up call that addresses momentous issues of tyranny, democracy, and survival”—this according to Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt and distinguished professor of history, John Jay College.

But my subject here is not the loony character of Goldrick-Rab’s charge per se. No, what struck me was her appeal to Science. When the professor was called out for her tweet, here’s what she replied: “If you reread the tweet, you will see that I stated that an expert in the field—a psychoanalyst with decades of experience—compared the ‘psychological characteristics’ of the two individuals, and that I was struck by his analysis. There do appear to be commonalities.”

Now of course I can’t be sure but it’s probably safe to assume that the professor’s grandpa has never met, much less treated, either Adolf Hitler or Scott Walker—which is to say that his opinion consists of one-hundred-percent pure Grade-A baloney. But he, like his winsome granddaughter, trails a string of post-nominal initials. He has credentials! He represents Science!

You run across this sort of thing all the time with liberals, lefties and progressives. The mantle of Science is draped over the most dubious, indeed ludicrous, assertions. A hardy perennial in this garden of ideological oddities is the claim that conservatism is a form of mental illness. Two words—“studies show”—provide such scientific respectability as the partisans of the reality-based party require. And yes, I have been capitalizing “Science” deliberately, because when a leftie pronounces the word you can hear the capital “S.”

I suspect, though, that Goldrick-Rab’s devotion to empiricism and rationality stops short of the obvious. Being what she is—a postmodern academic—the professor no doubt believes that Bruce Jenner is really a woman, despite all the biological/genetic evidence to the contrary. She no doubt believes that one in five women attending college falls victim to sexual assault, despite a complete lack of evidence to that effect. A woman who believes that Adolf Hitler and Scott Walker are equivalent persons will no doubt believe anything that validates her ideology. And that, ladies and gentlemen, ain’t scientific.

 


Posted by tmg110 at 9:03 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Thursday, 9 July 2015
Immigration Turnabout?
Topic: Politics & Elections

The Conventional Wisdom states that immigration is a toxic issue for Republicans and a winning one for Democrats. Thus the angst produced by celebrity presidential candidate Donald Trump’s broadside against illegal immigration. Democrats immediately denounced him as a racist and demanded that the other GOP presidential candidates do likewise. Most did, but gingerly, for they realize that on the immigration issue, the Republican Party base largely agrees with the Donald. In the eyes of the CV, this put the GOP between a rock and a hard place: In order get the nomination, a Republican candidate must placate the base but in order to win the election he must pander to “Hispanics.”

But I wonder. Hard on the heels of the Donald’s intemperate tirade came the shocking murder in San Francisco of a young woman by an illegal immigrant with a string of felony convictions who’d been deported from the US five times. He was living in San Francisco because it’s a “sanctuary city,” i.e. a city whose government and law enforcement agencies ignore federal immigration law. The murder of Kathryn Steinle has touched off a national outcry and now suddenly it’s the Democrats who are running for cover on immigration.

Here’s the truth: However crudely and offensively the Donald may have expressed himself, he was largely correct about the lack of border security and the abject failure of the federal government to enforce existing immigration laws. When Barack Obama and his Homeland Security minions tell us that the border with Mexico is secure, they’re simply lying. The story of the San Francisco shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, is proof of that: Five times deported, he managed to return to America every time. And he found a safe haven in San Francisco, whose leftie government has been raising the middle finger to federal immigration law for a quarter of a century now.

Not that the feds have covered themselves with glory. In 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released—not deported but released in the United States—some 30,500 illegal immigrants with criminal records. This total included 193 with homicide convictions, 426 with sexual assault convictions, 303 with kidnapping convictions and 16,070 with convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Liberals, progressives and lefties pooh-pooh the notion that crime by illegal immigrants is a major problem. Oh, really? In the city of Los Angeles, more than 90% of outstanding homicide arrest warrants and more than 65% of outstanding felony arrest warrants name illegal immigrants. Overall, illegal immigrants commit more than 2,000 murders and 130,000 sex crimes each year. Yet merely to point out these worrisome statistics, to assert that the United States has a right to control its borders and deport undesirables, is to be branded as a racist and a xenophobe. Progressives become indignant when their patriotism is questioned but it seems to me that their defense of illegal immigration raises precisely that question.

So perhaps the GOP presidential candidates made a mistake by running for cover when Donald Trump shot off his mouth. Surely it required no very great rhetorical dexterity to chide the Donald for his choice of words while agreeing that he was calling attention to a real and serious issue. And now a practical strategy along those lines suggests itself: an all-out assault on sanctuary cities, of which there are over two hundred around the country. Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly is promoting “Kate’s Law,” a federal legislative proposal that would mandate a five-year prison sentence for any illegal who, having been deported, returns again to the United States. The law would also cut off federal funding for any city, county or state that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Now that’s a proposal that the GOP should embrace. Let Democrats and progressives defend San Francisco’s right to shield homicidal illegal immigrants.

 


Posted by tmg110 at 11:43 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Tribes
Topic: Decline of the West

My ancestry is just about 90% Irish and there are people who think I should be proud of that. Thanks but no.

I suppose if I’d been born in South Boston I’d have had Irishness drummed into me. But Taunton, Massachusetts, where I grew up, was no hotbed of Irish nationalism. In my family not much was made of the Auld Sod. For the record, my father’s people, the Greggs, came to America in the 1840s—fleeing the Great Hunger, no doubt. They hailed from Ulster and were Protestants originally but somewhere along the line one of them married a Catholic girl and converted. On my mother’s side I’m only a second-generation American: Grandmother McMullen came to this country shortly after the Great War, at a time when Ireland was convulsed by civil war.

Of my family’s older generation, the one I remember most vividly is my Grandfather Gregg. Irish by blood and Catholic by religion he nevertheless had the appearance, attitudes and habits of thought of a New England Yankee. William R. Gregg was hardworking, frugal, conscious of the value of a dollar. He once said to me: “Remember, Tommy, only a certain amount of money will pass by you in your life and if you don’t reach out for it when it appears you’ll never see it again.” My grandfather possessed a Puritan respect for education and his great regret was that when he was young there had been no money to pay for college tuition.

Growing up, therefore, I never really thought of myself as anything but an American. Later on I became curious enough about my Irish ancestry to read three or four relevant books, including The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 by Cecil Woodham-Smith, a searing account of the potato famine that killed at least a million Irish peasants and drove two million more out of the country. This was enough to convince me that the smartest thing my ancestors ever did was decamp from Ireland to the Land of E Pluribus Unum. Perhaps perversely, learning about the tragic history of Ireland confirmed me in my American identity.

Now I will concede that the saga of Ireland’s long, often bloody, battle for independence is stirring and heroic. But why should I, personally, be proud of that? As Plutarch said, “It is a fine thing to be well descended but the glory belongs to our ancestors.” Anyhow, my ancestors didn’t stick around to fight for Irish independence. They came here. And I’m grateful that they did.

I suppose this constitutes a pledge of allegiance to that obsolescent concept, the American melting pot. Would that it still operated as it did for the benefit of my ancestors! But nowadays the idea of a common American identity is depreciated and we’re all encouraged to cultivate some sort of tribal identity. And it’s ironic that the doctrine of tribalism has become part of the progressive world view. Progressive praxis embodies the idea of tribalism: It divides and subdivides Americans into narrower and narrower categories based on race, ethnicity, “gender,” social and economic class, immigration status, etc. And for progressivism to advance its program, Americans have to be taught to think of themselves in such terms. Hillary Clinton babbles about “everyday Americans” (incidentally a telling characterization that betrays her real feelings about us) but her small-ball policy proposals slice and dice us into tribal groups. There is the tribe of immigrants, legal and illegal. There is the tribe of Millennials with their heavy load of student loan debt. There is the tribe of women and the tribe of homosexuals. And there is the wicked Tribe of the One Percenters that, hilariously, the Pants-Suited One has promised to topple. And in this she is of course following in the footsteps of Barack H. Obama, the most divisive president—and purposefully so—in recent American history.

It may seem an odd development, this progressive embrace of a new, postmodern tribalism. But the kind of centralization that progressives aim for, the aggrandizement of the administrative/bureaucratic state at the expense of democratic accountability, is facilitated by suppressing the idea of a common American identity. The great aim of progressivism is to transform free citizens of a republic into servile clients of a government colossus, and the encouragement of tribalism facilitates the process.

We should have seen this coming when the first department of black/feminist/gender/queer/whatever studies was established among the groves of academe. Like most bad ideas nowadays, postmodern tribalism is a construct of the intelligentsia—those people whose idea of enlightened pedagogy is to throw out Shakespeare because he’s meaningless to students of color or offensive to, um, students of gender.

 


Posted by tmg110 at 10:50 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older