Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Beginning of a Reckoning for the Khmer Rouge

Claire Berlinski over at pointed out this article by Guy Sorman at City Journal. Mr. Sorman explains that Cambodia is finally bringing to justice - in a civil, lawful manner - some of those who perpetrated the horrors of the killing fields.

But Cambodians and foreigners alike still struggle to understand why so many were put to death. Mr. Sorman explains that the answer why is chillingly simple - such carnage is an essential part of Communism, a natural reflex:
But who or what was behind what the tribunal has called the genocide of Khmers by other Khmers? Might this be the fault of the United States? Was it not the Americans who, by setting up a regime in Cambodia to their liking, brought about a nationalist reaction? Or, might this genocide not be a cultural legacy, distinctive of Khmer civilization? Archeologists are digging through the past in vain to find a historical precedent. The true explanation, the meaning of the crime, can be found in the declarations of the Khmer Rouge themselves: just as Hitler described his crimes in advance, Pol Pot (who died in 1998) had explained early on that he would destroy his people, so as to create a new one. Pol Pot called himself a Communist; he became one in the 1960s as a student in Paris, then a cradle of Marxism. Since Pol Pot and leaders of the regime that he forced on his people referred to themselves as Communists—and in no way claimed to be heirs of some Cambodian dynasty—we must acknowledge that they were, in fact, Communists.

What the Khmer Rouge brought to Cambodia was in fact real Communism. There was no radical distinction, either conceptually or concretely, between the rule of the Khmer Rouge and that of Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, or the North Korean regime. All Communist regimes follow strangely similar trajectories, barely colored by local traditions. In every case, these regimes seek to make a blank slate of the past and to forge a new humanity. In every case, the “rich,” intellectuals, and skeptics wind up exterminated. The Khmer Rouge rounded up urban and rural populations in agricultural communities based on precedents both Russian (the Kolkhozy) and Chinese (the popular communes), and they acted for the same ideological reasons and with the same result: famine. There is no such thing as real Communism without massacre, torture, concentration camps, gulags, or laogai. And if there has never been any such thing, then we must conclude that there could be no other outcome: Communist ideology leads necessarily to mass violence, because the masses do not want real Communism. This is as true in the rice fields of Cambodia as in the plains of Ukraine or under Cuban palms.
And still, far too many refuse to see. It simply hasn't been done properly yet; it just wasn't done right. Give us a chance. We'll make it work.

But killing is Communism's nature. It is essential to how it works, how it survives.

Communism survives - no, thrives - on blood and horror and human misery.


By the way, if all this seems like cold numbers to you, read this. It is an account by Pin Yathay, a man who welcomed the arrival of the Khmer Rouge into the capital - and spent the next two years trying to survive them. He escaped with only his life, watching his entire family die at their hands or by their neglect.

When everything - and everyone - is property of The State on behalf of The People, it is truly horrible what crimes will be committed in their name.


P.S. Ricochet and City Journal should be weekly visits, at minimum. There are some fascinating conversations at Ricochet, and absolutely fantastic writing at City Journal.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By The Way, That Terror Thingy's Still Going On

Interesting news out of Europe this morning; a major terror plot is in the works, but has been seriously disrupted by allied intelligence efforts and military strikes against terror bases in Pakistan.

From ABC:
US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of new terror attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and possibly the United States.

Intelligence and law enforcement authorities in the US and Europe said the threat information is based on the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist allegedly captured on his way to Europe in late summer and now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

US law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of “Mumbai-style” commando raids on what were termed “economic or soft” targets in the countries…

The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.
The good news is that the attacks have been (hopefully) disrupted. From Fox News:
A commando-style terror plot that allegedly called for simultaneous attacks in multiple European cities has been disrupted, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Fox News late Tuesday, after the CIA launched a barrage of drone strikes in Pakistan to help thwart the plot.

The plan allegedly included attacks on hotels frequented by Western tourists in London, as well as cities in France and Germany, and was in an "advanced but not imminent stage," Sky News reported. The plotters were purportedly of Pakistani or Algerian origin and have been trained in Pakistan's tribal areas.

While officials are still working to understand the plot, a leading concern is that the plotters were modeling their European assault on the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, in which armed gunmen killed more than 200 people in coordinated attacks at hotels and other easily accessed venues, current and former officials said.

Several U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal they haven't seen a terror threat as serious as the European plot for many years. "This isn't just your typical Washington talk about how the threats have evolved. People are very concerned about what they're seeing," the counterterrorism official said.
This is a story you may wish to keep an eye on over the next few days.

More info at Hot Air, too.

To refresh the memory - the Mumbai terror attacks occurred in late November 2008, when ten terrorists infiltrated by sea into the city of Mumbai and proceeded to shoot up and/or bomb several public places, including hotels, a hospital, and a train station. The objective was simple: cause as much chaos as possible, and they succeeded; 173 were killed and 308 were wounded by them by the time it was over. It took very little to do it: just AK-47s and grenades, and ten men willing to use them.

The attacks were little-noticed in the U.S., as they occurred over Thanksgiving weekend that year.

This is an attack to which we are vulnerable, and there is little defensively that can be done about it. The targets are deliberately chosen to be dispersed and public, with the objective of stoking fear. The only real defense here is a good offense: an intelligence apparatus that detects and disrupts the terrorists before they can launch their attack. So far, so good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not an Age of Reason; Rather, an Age of Credulity

Ed Driscoll mentioned this on his blog yesterday, and I couldn't help but share it.

Quoting Umberto Eco:

It is the role of religion to provide that justification. Religions are systems of belief that enable human beings to justify their existence and which reconcile us to death. We in Europe have faced a fading of organised religion in recent years. Faith in the Christian churches has been declining.

The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So we're all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything." Whoever said it - he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

Monday, September 27, 2010

These Groups Don't Represent Me

The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.

- Tom Clancy

Some things you just can't make up. A month ago, Glenn Beck organized a rally that attracted some 500,000 people, where they proceeded to talk about God and honor, which are apparently radical concepts considering the hostile response it attracted.

Now, the latest outraged response is a counter-rally, occurring this coming weekend, and organized by Democratic campaign organizations. So who is answering the alarm? National Review's Dan Foster:
Confederacy to Descend on Washington
September 27, 2010 1:52 A.M.
By Daniel Foster

A confederacy of liberal groups, that is. They plan to host on Saturday a sort of ‘counter-demonstration’ to Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally and, according to the New York Times “make the case that they, and not the ascendant right, speak for America’s embattled middle class.”

Who’s going to be at the march, representing the embattled middle class?

Why, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the National Council of La Raza.

And that’s just the organizations that the Times sees fit to mention in the article. More telling still is the ranks of those left out. Among them:

–Chicago Democratic Socialists of America

–Code Pink

–Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

–Communist Party USA

–Democratic Socialists of America

–International Socialist Organization

–Planned Parenthood

A veritable tapestry of America’s embattled middle class.
The sarcasm is Foster's, but I don't think it misplaced.

If you planned such a set-up in a novel, you would be laughed out of the editors' office. My high school English teacher would demand better plotting in a short story.

But here we are.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mingulay Boat Song

Love this tune; had to share it again.

All The World's A Stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

— Jaques (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Israeli Ambassador Oren on Statescraft

As reported in The Weekly Standard:
On Yom Kippur we read the Book of Jonah, one of the Bible’s most enigmatic texts. It is also one of the Bible's shortest texts, weighing in at a page and a half, which is quite an accomplishment for this holiday. And it features one of our scripture's least distinguished individuals. Jonah—a man whose name, in Hebrew, means dove—not dov, as in Hebrew for bear, but dove as, in English, pigeon.

Yet this same everyman, this Jonah, is tasked by God with a most daunting mission. He is charged with going to the great city of Nineveh and persuading its pernicious people to repent for their sins or else.

Not such an unusual task, you might think. Twenty-first century life is rife with people who warn of the catastrophes awaiting us if we fail to modify our behavior one way or the other. Today we call them pundits, commentators who, if proven correct, claim all the credit but who, if proven wrong, bear none of the responsibility.

Jonah, though, cannot escape the responsibility. Nor can he dodge his divinely ordained dilemma. If he succeeds in convincing the Ninevehians to atone and no harm befalls them, many will soon question whether that penitence was ever really necessary. Jonah will be labeled an alarmist. But, what if the people of Nineveh ignore the warning and the city meets the same fiery fate as Sodom and Gomorrah? Then Jonah, as a prophet, has failed.

Such is the paradox of prophecy for Jonah, a lose-lose situation. No wonder he runs away. He flees to the sea, only to be swallowed by a gigantic fish, and then to the desert, cowering under a gourd. But, in the end, the fish coughs him up and the gourd withers. The moral is: there is no avoiding Jonah’s paradox. Once elected by God, whatever the risks, he must act.

As such, the Book of Jonah can be read as more than morality play, but also a cautionary tale about the hazards of decision-making. It is a type of political primer, if you will, what the medieval thinkers called a Mirror for Princes. The Talmud teaches us that, in the post-Biblical era, the gift of prophecy is reserved for children and fools. In modern times, we don’t have prophets—pundits, yes, but no prophets. Instead we have statesmen who, like Jonah, often have to make fateful decisions for which they will bear personal responsibility. If not a paradox of prophecy, these leaders face what we might call the quandary of statecraft.

When Everybody Was Finally Equal

The latest offering from the National Review archives is this chilling tale from Kurt Vonnegut. Not a pairing one expects to see, as Vonnegut was visciously liberal; but even a stopped clock is right once or twice a day.

So read on, dear reader, and join me in a world where not only is equality the ideal, it is fact.

Harrison Bergeron

by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

This article first appeared in the Nov. 16, 1965, issue of NATIONAL REVIEW.

What happened when Harrison Bergeron escaped from the Handicapper General and decided that he, at least, was not going to be equal every which way.

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law, they were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else; nobody was better looking than anybody else; nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear — he was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter, and every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about, as the ballerinas came to the end of a dance.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh?” said George.

“That dance — it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good — no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat dragged in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thought.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been. “Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “The things they think up.”

“Um,” said George. “Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday — just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well — maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a while.” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately — kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you would just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean — you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it — and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one: a siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?”

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen —”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right,” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and gentlemen —” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me —” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is underhandicapped, and is extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen — upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right-side-up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Hallowe’en and hardware. Nobody had ever borne heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick, wavy lenses besides. The spectacles were intended not only to make him half-blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junk yard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not — I repeat, do not — try to reason with him.”

There was a shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have — for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God!” said George. “That must be Harrison!”

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!”

He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here,” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened — I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all, he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful. “Now —” said Harrison, taking her hand. “Shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first — cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again, and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while — listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weight to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling.

They kissed it. And then, neutralizing gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying?” he said to Hazel, watching her wipe her tears.

“Yup,” she said.

“What about?” he said.

“I forgot,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee — I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee —” said Hazel — “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mingulay Boat Song

Fix The System, Not The Players

Milton Friedman:

"The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Million Here, A Million There, But Still You're Talking Real People

There once was a Bolshie named Lenin
Who did five or ten million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But, where he did one in,
A Bolshie named Stalin did ten in.

- Robert Conquest
(Noted here as reported at The Corner)

Some interesting historical matters of late...

Robert Conquest produced the standard works detailing Soviet repression and describing the grim toll Communism took to seize and remain in power in the Soviet Union. In particular, Conquest recorded the crimes of Stalin.

Now, Frank Dikötter is producing a similar accounting of Mao's "Great Leap Forward," in his upcoming book, Mao's Great Famine: The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe. From a review in the UK's The Independent:
Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.

Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years.
To put the loss into perspective, 11 million died in the Holocaust.

Sort of puts the China envy so many (who ought to know better) have in a harsher light, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do You Think These Five Are For Hire?

Hat tip to Mitch at Shot In The Dark and to Amy Alkon for finding this all too brief masterpiece.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Difference Between Communism and Socialism

The difference between communism and socialism: Under communism, politics begins with a gun in your face; under socialism, politics ends with a gun in your face.

Kevin D. Williamson, The Corner

What Is It About September...

...that lends it such a melancholy cast?

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Convincing Proofs

"I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?"

--Benjamin Franklin, Motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention, 1787

Friday, September 10, 2010

Who's Afraid of The Big Black Bat?

Hardly A New Problem

You may have noted, during the summer, the revelations of grossly overpaid politicos and civil servants of Bell, California.

There was also a study released this year showing that the average government job now pays substantially more than the average private sector job - and that is before benefits are factored in.

Well, to add further fuel to that fire, consider this from National Review, released today:
The objective of the bureaucracy is not, pace the conspiratorialists, ideological advance. Nor, more surprisingly, is it power. (The savvier bureaucrats escape even the appearance of power, for power carries with it the first deadly inferences of responsibility.) No, the objective of the garden-variety bureaucrats is, not to put too fine a point on it, money.

Consider the speed with which the bureaucrat is achieving his objective. A local magazine, National Journal, recently ran a story about a group of two-income federal couples. The kicker in the story, from the local viewpoint, was that these bureaucratic marriages had achieved new status: taxpayer-supported incomes in excess of $100,000 per year. It was an upbeat story, sort of a hometown-kids-make-good story. To the bureaucratically untrained eye, however, the story yielded a different insight. Not a single one of the ten people identified was a top government official; indeed, I would bet that the average American has never heard of any one of them. (Quick. Who’s Jane Frank? James Woolsey? Ed Norton?) But here we have a cluster of six-figure households — all of them engaged in the ritual sacrifice of public service — without a national leader in the bunch.

All right, exceptions to the rule, you say. Not really. The fact is that hundreds of bureaucratic families are in the $80,000 to $100,000 bracket, which is to say that they are among the top half of the top 1 per cent of all American families. And virtually all of them, to repeat the point, have reached this level with no record of leadership accomplishment.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of an unmistakable pattern now in formation. A new across-the-board bureaucratic raise — currently pegged at 7.5 per cent — has just gone into effect, with promises of more to come as compensation for the “lean years” of Nixon freezes.
Wait...Nixon? Yep; this was written in 1977.

NR just pulled this article by Neal B. Freeman out of its archives and added it to its website today.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

And Now, A Word From Mongol 482

I recently discovered - thanks to, among others, a reference by Jonah Goldberg - a 1958 essay by Leonard E. Reed, "I, Pencil."

The essay details the wonderous cooperative effort that is required to make something so simple as a pencil - and then notes how remarkable it is that all this happens without a single mastermind running the show:
I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.
The essay then turns, not to a defense of, but rather a testimony of, free market economics:
If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it's all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person's home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one's range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—halfway around the world—for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.
Please, read the whole thing. It is well worth your time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

This Is Why Jay Nordlinger Is Fun To Read

From The Corner this afternoon:
The ’Mane Point (Pointe?)
September 8, 2010 3:23 P.M.
By Jay Nordlinger

One of my favorite readers of all time sent me a note that made me wince hard. (Can you wince hard? I guess so.) She wrote,

I was struck by something you said about Rahm Emanuel in this Corner post: making fun of him for being a ballet dancer. Now, I bow to no man in my dislike of Emanuel, but mocking his dancing seems an unnecessarily cheap shot, and unworthy of you. I find his ballet background one of the (relatively few) appealing things about him — and for heaven’s sake, at least he isn’t a lawyer like every other member of the American political class!

Oh, I was badly misunderstood, and my fault, I’m sure! I have always marveled at Emanuel’s ballet background, and bowed to him for it. I have always said it was the thing I liked best about him. (The only thing?) This was back when he was a Clinton aide, long before he became a congressman. Also, in Impromptus, I have at least once remarked on his posture — the best posture in politics, almost certainly. He stands like a dancer. If only his political posture were as good . . .

In the above-mentioned Corner post, I referred to Emanuel as “the foul-mouthed ballet dancer.” Apparently, that came off as negative (!). I never passed a judgment on foul mouths — I can make a room bluer than Massachusetts, pre-Scott Brown. And ballet? I can’t dance for squat, but I’m becoming hard to out-’mane: I’d pay $100 just to watch Julie Kent or Veronika Part go from one aisle to another in the grocery story. (You know how much money I’ve shelled out on those broads over several seasons?)

So, dear readers, please remember for next time: When I say “foul-mouthed ballet dancer,” I’m not necessarily being critical. When I say “Clinton aide” or “Obama’s chief of staff” — that’s different.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Falling From Space

Ever wonder what happens to the solid rocket boosters on the Space Shuttle?

Wonder no more. Better yet, ride along:

Thanks to this guy for posting this. Skip ahead to the 1:50 minute mark for the best part of the show.

Have a great Labor Day weekend. I'm outta here...

We Didn't Even See The Dust

Here's some Canadian country: Paul Brandt, "We Didn't Even See the Dust."

Bonus video: From back in March - "Alberta Bound."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September Mourn

Whaddaya mean it's fall already?

Weather from

It doesn't get much better than this...