Two good clips on YouTube that get to the heart of the matter. The West is in danger, not solely because of the threat from the Enemy, but rather because we lack the civilizational confidence necessary to decisively confront the Enemy.
The first clip is a video of the testimony of Hillel Neuer of United Nations Watch to the UN Human Rights Council. (Cue Cantina Band music here.) Neuer calls them out, denouncing their bizarre fixation on Israel and utterly ignoring real human rights violations in in places like Darfur, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe (the list could be endless.)
Amazingly - the President of the UNHRC refuses to thank Neuer for his testimony (such gratitude is reserved only for the mouthpieces of dictators in the UNHRC) and warns against anybody else saying such impolitic things in the future.
The second clip is a long one by YouTube standards. It's a speech given to The Heritage Foundation by humourist and former liberal Evan Sayet. Apparently, it's been making the rounds and proved surprisingly popular.
Sayet, a stand up comedian and writer, explains his theory that the basic problem that we have in the West, is that we can no longer discriminate against anything. The "modern liberal" (in his parlance) has taken discrimination to be the only evil that actually exists in the world and therefore any discrimination (between say, good and evil) is automatically suspect.
A civilization cannot long endure with that attitude.
* You do not represent the Iranian people. You are a usurper of power. You are guilty of transforming a noble nation into a world pariah.
* You are denying and violating a long-suffering people all its human rights.
* You are guilty of beating, imprisoning and torturing a few dozen women who braved participating in a peaceful demonstration pleading for equal family rights, on the recent International Day of Women.
* You systematically beat, imprison, and torture all manners of citizens, from school teachers to students to union workers, for daring to raise their voices against the plight to which you have subjected them.
* You savagely beat and haul to your dungeons of torture and death over a thousand of the tens of thousands of teachers who had recently gathered in front of the parliament requesting nothing more than their back pay and living wages.
* You direct systematic genocidal measures against all non-Shia religious minorities, with Baha'is as prime target.
* You arrest some Christians, even your Quran calls "People of the Book," for observing Christmas.
* You implement barbaric practices of stoning, hanging and amputations for those who are convicted of crimes in your kangaroo courts without due process. You even imprison those few lawyers who rise in the defense of the innocent.
* You plunder, mismanage and dole out Iran's national wealth with the result that the great majority of the people are living in poverty. Iranian women are forced into prostitution to survive or simply sold as sex slaves in Persian Gulf states.
* Your fascist misrule of nearly three decades has driven millions of Iran's best children to four corners of the world. Hundreds of thousands of educated Iranians are compelled to continue the exodus, depriving Iran of the sorely-needed talents at home.
* You spend a fortune on the nuclear program that you claim is only aimed for peaceful purposes, while turning Iran into little more than a gas station nation, with its precious oil wealth squandered and its facilities on the verge of collapse through neglect.
* You have created a suffocating social atmosphere that has driven masses of the people to the use of hard drugs as a way of numbing their pain.
* You look far and wide to support any and all terrorists. Your delusional theology mandates the creation of horrific conditions in the world so that your Hidden Imam is compelled to appear and establish his rule.
* You spare no efforts at sabotaging any settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis. You arm and train all Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and any and all that come.
* You direct similar criminal schemes on your eastern flank, in Afghanistan. You consider any democratic system as the enemy of Islamofascism, and rightfully so.
* You work ceaselessly, expand Iran's stolen funds, and do all you can in support of your Shia co-fascists Hezbollah in Lebanon.
* Your hands are dripping with the blood of thousands of Iraqis, victims of your bloodthirsty kin mercenaries aiming to kill a budding democracy in Iraq next door.
* You supply your mercenaries with armor-piercing projectiles for killing and maiming the coalition forces in Iraq. Your cowardly killing by proxy, using these roadside planted bombs, has taken the lives of nearly 200 Americans.
* You interpret the highly subdued reactions of the coalition to your savage actions as indications of weakness. So, you find it in yourself to venture into direct confrontation by capturing lightly-armed British sailors and marines in Iraqi waters.
Sad to say, this is one more unfortunate result of the Beltway's modern habit of criminalizing political differences, a la the Scooter Libby travesty. Congress has the right to conduct oversight of the executive, and in a better world government officials would be willing to testify and give as good as they get. Thus would the public be educated about the facts and policy differences be aired.
But Ms. Goodling has been around, and she can see Democrats don't really want to know the truth; they want to shout "liar, liar" and set the stage to accuse Justice officials of criminal behavior. In a statement to the committee explaining her decision, Ms. Goodling said, "I have read public remarks by members of both the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary in which those members have drawn conclusions about the subject matter and the testimony now under investigation by the Committee." We've read them, too.
No shit. Kid Various can't remember what he had for lunch yesterday. You think he's going to go before a Senate panel and get grilled about minor details about something that happened months ago that, apparently, wasn;t even a big deal atthe time? And then face 10 years in the federal pen like Scooter Libby in the subsequent perjury trial when he misrepresents some fact?
Yeah. The Kid will be taking his 5th Amendment rights and shoving it up Congress' ass!
Torrential rains wiped out a quarter of the U.S.' intercontinental ballistic missile interceptor silos in Ft. Greely, Alaska last summer -- right when North Korea was preparing to carry out an advanced missile launch, according to documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight.
During that time period, we all assumed that he missile tests were timed to coincide with Independence Day. But the thing Kid various wants to know is - could the North Koreans actually have known that the (highly experimental) missile defense system was crippled? And could that have affected their decision-making?
It's likely a coincidence as the NoKo missile were targeted to go out far into the pacific but not far enough to trigger a response form the US. But it is an interesting development.
And a useful reminder that a national missile defense system has to work 100% the first time it's used.
No one in the history of Man has ever achieved that engineering feat.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three brazen New Jersey shoplifters made off with nearly $12,000 in women's underwear by stuffing the goods into bags designed to foil anti-theft equipment at a Victoria's Secret store while the shop was open for business, police said.
Police described the thieves as bearded and approximately 2 feet in height.
Police said the thieves took over $6,900 in panties and more than $4,900 in bras. Victoria's Secret bras retail from $30 to over $50. Panties cost between $5 and $20, according to the company's website.
Good Lord! $50 for a bra? Now that is thievery!
And it looks like it took some gnomes from New Jersey to finally figure out the business model!
Can you believe that there are people out there who want this cub "put down?"
He's not alone. Wolfram Graf-Rudolf, director of the Aachen Zoo, told the newspaper, "I don't consider it appropriate for the species that the little polar bear is being raised on a bottle." The animal will be fixated on his keeper and not be a "real" polar bear, he says. However he feels it is now too late to put Knut out of his supposed misery. "The mistake has been made. One should have had the courage to put him to sleep much earlier."
Once again, Rousseau and the mavens of "authenticity" strike again. Knut is not a "real" polar bear. He is an offense to the natural order of things! Away with him to the camps!
Ok, it is important in this discussion to remember that we are talking about a polar bear, not a human being. Kid Various just wants to make that clear. And even if this polar bear is really, really, really cute – Knut’s fate is not to be compared human victims of the Romantic tradition. Also, contra Al Gore, polar bears are not endangered and even if Knut were to be put down, it would be no big loss to the earth. Even if he is really, really, really cute!
But Kid Various was really struck by that “he is not a real polar bear” statement. Because it crystallized so perfectly how the modern eco-movement is tied to the Romantic philosophical tradition, and thus is a distant relative of all totalitarian, mass murdering movements such as Nazism/Fascism which, above all, revered its attachment to “blood and soil.”
"We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole . . . This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought."1
One of the basic philosophical components of Romanticism is the concept of Essentialism, that is, that all things have an essential nature. And the Romantics have always been held in thrall to that “natural” essence. The movement away from what the Romantics consider to be the “natural” state of man is, very much, a corruption of that state, not an improvement (this differs from pragmatism.) This goes back all the way to the (totalitarian) philosopher Plato, who posited that everything that existed was a corrupt version of an ideal “form” that existed outside time and space. But the Romantic tradition really gets going under Rousseau – and unfortunately, gets married to the 19th & 20th centuries’ increasingly efficient killing machines.
Rousseau was the one who posited the concept of the “noble savage” who exists at the beginning of time and is corrupted by civilization. Rousseau reveres the essential nature of that first man and considers all civilization, indeed the force of reason itself, to be a giant step backward in human development. This makes him the godfather of modern environment (and at the extremes, anti-civilization) movements.
Rousseau also very much is the progenitor of the modern self esteem movement, because his concepts regarding Essentialism make it extremely important that one be true to one’s own inner nature. It is profoundly important that the individual be hyper-egoistic, because only by following one’s own feelings can one escape the corruption of civilization (known in modern times as “The Man.”)
For the Nazis, the Jews (and gypsies and Slavs) didn’t represent the “true” spirit of the “Volk” which they revered. They were the corruption of the Volk ideal, and thus merited death. This was seen by the ideologues, not as mass murder, but literally as cleansing.
Likewise, Knut similarly merits death because he violates the demands of Essentialism. He is a bastardization of the ideal form of “polar bear.” His existence is a violation of what it means to be an “authentic” polar bear and thus he is expendable. Even if he is really, really, really cute.
Now, of course, most Germans are not calling for the extermination of Knut. That viewpoint exists only at the extremes of the eco-movement. But, the fact that anyone would see it as a net positive to kill this bundle of fluffy cuteness just demonstrates how, as descendents of the Romantic tradition, both the modern eco-movement and Fascism are, if not directly attached, somewhere along the same continuum. And it highlights just how dangerous this thinking is, if allowed to go on unchecked.
Because if you are going to kill this:
Then what the hell else are you capable of in the quest for purity of essence?
1 Excerpted in an interesting essay about the "Green Wing" of the Nazi party.
Neuromantic:They must be running out of stories in Hollywood.
Kid Various:Tru dat.
Neuromantic:Friends have said good things about it tho
Kid Various:Dude, it’s got David Bowie as Nikolai Tesla!
Neuromantic:When is David Bowie going to die?
Kid Various:He can’t die.He’s way too cool.Death keeps coming up to him and then just backing off going “Whoa!It’s Bowie…”
Whoa! It Bowie...
P.S. Can't believe the perfect candidate was working right under Chris Nolan's nose! Bowie would have been the perfect actor to play The Joker in his upcoming film The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger? We'll reserve judgement until we see it.
Non-event Consumes Washington. Meanwhile War For Civilization Continues.
Mr. Democracy:Yo!What’s the *deal* with this whole prosecutor thing back there?
Kid Various:Oh dude, you don’t even know… Everyone is totally flipped out about it. It’s sucking up all the oxygen.
Mr. Democracy:I haven’t had the time to read up on it. Can you give me the two minutes?
Kid Various:I’ll do you one better and give you the one liner. The Administration fired 8 federal prosecutors they didn’t like.
Kid Various:That’s it.8 of the guys weren’t toeing the line and the Administration replaced them with people who were down with the program.
Mr. Democracy:Dude, you’ve worked for government. What part of “serves at the pleasure of the President” is hard to understand? Didn’t Clinton fire *all* the federal prosecutors?
Mr. Democracy:So how does this possibly have legs?
Kid Various:Because, he’s Velcro, dude.
Mr. Democracy:And everything sticks…
Kid Various wants to be clear on the subject of the federal prosecutor “scandal.” This is a total non-issue.
All federal prosecutors, in addition to a good number of other federal positions serve “at the pleasure of the President,” meaning he can fire them for any reason he feels like. If they prefer the color green over blue, the president can fire them for that.
And it’s all due to the brilliance of this man:
Andrew Jackson - Inventor of the spoils system and Jerry Curl!
Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States and inventor of what he called “rotation in government” and what we call “the spoils system.”1When Jackson came into office, he fired 10% of the federal workforce and replaced them with political loyalists who he felt better represented his views. (Great Caesar’s ghost, if Kid Various could only fire 10% of the federal workforce!)
Despite greater consolidation towards an “independent” civil service to curb the more egregious abuses, this system has been more or less in place since that time. Over the course of every Administration, thousands of federal employees are evicted from their positions and new ones are filled by the President. The “Plum book,” which lists thousands of positions that can be directly filled by the President (and the cover of which is, appropriately, plum-coloured) is a very popular read after each change of Administration.
Political appointees reach very deep down into the layers of the American federal government, certainly further than most of the other Western powers.And that’s the way it should be!More so, Kid Various will go further and state that any job in the federal government which involves any substantial policy making element should be appointed by the chief Executive.
Disclaimer:The Kid has to take this opportunity for full disclosure. Kid Various is a card carrying member of what the media is now calling “The Hackocracy” and has got several jobs in the past that served at the pleasure of the President or Governor or whatever.
The reason you want political appointees holding deep sway over the federal (or state) government is two-fold:
First, if more government workers were dependent on the Executive for their jobs, then Kid Various wouldn’t have to bust his ass so much at election time and would have a volunteer army at his fingertips that could finally rival the Dem’s use of organized Labor. “Wow Mr. Undersecretary, a mortgage and two daughters in private school? Looks like you better get out and start distributing some lit!”
Second, and somewhat more seriously, having a government which is dominated by political appointees (at least in policy making positions) makes the government more accountable to the people – who are the source of the government’s legitimacy.
Andrew Jackson’s core insight was that he, as President, was the only official elected by all the people. He put out his plans of what he wanted to do and the people chose him over John Quincy Adams. Therefore, they had given him a mandate to shape the government by putting people into decision making positions that would make decisions in accordance with his wishes, which is what the people, at least in theory, voted for.
That fact is as relevant today as it was in 1828. The President in his campaign laid out his vision for what he wanted to do. In electing him over Sen. Kerry, the people expect him to shape the federal apparatus so it will do the things that he said that he wanted to do – instead of having a bureaucracy that will fight him. Yes, this tie to the popular will certainly is distant, but it is there.The same cannot be said of other systems.
When people clamor for an “independent” civil service, they are usually reacting to worst abuses of the spoils system. And they certainly do occur (Brownie anyone?2)However, the only alternative is adopting a European style bureaucracy that has absolutely no tie to the popular will, and thus, no opportunity for accountability.
European governments will typically have a cabinet minister who covers a certain portfolio, say labor issues, and then directly under him is the “permanent undersecretary,” a civil service employee who actually runs the department.
Governments and ministers come and go, but the “permanent undersecretary” and all the people under him remain in their positions no matter who is in charge. Thus, the permanent undersecretary and the people under him become entrenched in the government - and these people have their own values and agendas, which may not comport with the views of the current government.
These are positions of great power and the “permanent undersecretary” of Labor becomes the de facto Labor Minister. The problem is, no one elected the “permanent undersecretary!”
Way back in 2000, Kid Various was making his decision on whether to vote for Gov. Bush or Vice-President Gore. One of the factors in his decision was that he knew that a Gore Administration would be much more likely to pursue anti-trust measures against Micro$oft. Because the President is given the authority to appoint and fire federal prosecutors, a President Gore would have wide berth to reshape the Department of Justice in accordance with his values, which would have likely included being very tough on Micro$oft – which is something that is very important to The Kid.
While Kid Various eventually ended up voting for President Bush for a variety of reasons (not the least of which included job opportunities within the hackocracy) these were considerations he weighed in making his choice. Just like every American who voted.
As citizens of the United States, we make decisions on issues that affect us by voting for people we think will pursue policies that we think are important. And those people (at least in the Executive branch) can do that precisely because what Jackson called “rotation in government” prevents the entrenchment of a permanent bureaucracy that is unaccountable in any fashion to the people. (At least, as much as possible.Like The Kid said, he’d like to see more hacks in government so that the bureaucracy would be even more accountable.)
This entire "scandal" is a complete and utter travesty that is nothing more than an attempt to gain political capital against a wounded Presidency.3 Meanwhile, the War to defend civilization goes on.
1 OK, Jackson didn't "invent" the spoils system, but he did institutionalize it.
2 It's also important to remember that Brownie (as well as a lot of guys you've never heard about in the media) got fired. Would that have happened if he was a civil service employee, or would he still be there? There's a gatekeeper position in most Administrations who vets appointees, screens out the most egregious incompetents and is supposed to make sure that the applicant has at least some experience related to the job. Of course, people slip through, and those people are supposed to be "dealt with" as soon as they are identified - either fired or "eased out" as they say. The system is not perfect, but it's certainly better than an "independent" civil service where people can't be fired for anything less than a criminal conviction (and sometimes not always!)
3 Of course, as has been pointed out elsewhere, President Clinton fired all the federal prosecutors when he came into office and replaced them with his own people (save one.) And the Dems have the balls to claim that that situation was totally different as President Clinton fired everyone so he could shape the DoJ in accordance with his values while President Bush fired these 8 guys specifically for cases that they brought (or refused to bring.) Let's get this straight... President Bush would be OK if he fired everyone at the beginning for things that they may do (or not do.) But to keep everyone on board and then, as time goes on, figure out who is not implementing desired policy and getting rid of them, but keeping everyone else - that's beyond the pale!
Idiom friend and adventure seeker, Mr. Democracy has been sending us some updates about his work/travels. Of particular interest is a round up of news about the War that provides some context. He has generously allowed us to excerpt this section so that we at The Idiom don;t have to get off our asses and think of another post. Happy reading!
I can’t report that much personally because I haven’t talked to any of my local staff in the last few days or any of my security providers. However I found this article from the AP (which was not picked up by the NYT) telling:
BAGHDAD - Bomb deaths have gone down 30 percent in Baghdad since the U.S.-led security crackdown began a month ago. Execution-style slayings are down by nearly half.
The once frequent sound of weapons has been reduced to episodic, and downtown shoppers have returned to outdoor markets _ favored targets of car bombers.
AP accepts possibility of good news in Baghdad? Truly a sign the Apocalypse is near.
BAGHDAD, March 14 (KUNA) -- The rate of killings of US troops in Iraq has been on the decline, down by 60 percent, since the launch of the new security measures in Baghdad, according to statistics revealed by the Multi-National Force -Iraq Combined Press Information Centre.
The US military in Iraq said on Wednesday that cleric Moqtada al-Sadr remained in Iranian exile, with US and Iraqi officials saying that killings have slumped significantly in Baghdad since the launch of a security plan last month.
… Assessing the security operation at the end of the first month, Caldwell said: "There has been an over 50 percent reduction in murders and executions," since "Operation Fardh al-Qanoun" (Imposing Law) began.
Caldwell however expressed concern about a spike last week in the number of what he called "high-profile" car bombings.
"If the high-profile car bombs can be stopped or brought down to a much lower level, we'll just see an incredible difference in the city overall," he said.
Brigadier General Qassem al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation, said the number civilians killed had plunged to 265 since the start of the operation compared with 1,440 during the preceding month long period due to a sharp reduction in murders, kidnappings and bombings.
General David Petraeus, the new top US commander in Iraq, made these points in separate interviews Monday with ABC News and USA Today: -- The peaceful move of US forces into the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City has been a "pleasant surprise." -- There are "encouraging indicators" in the Sunni Anbar province. -- There are worrying trends in the Diyala province that will force US forces to pay closer attention to that area. -- There is convincing evidence that Syria and Iran are helping anti-US forces in Iraq. -- There are reconcilable and irreconcilable political and militant forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi government must do all it can to bring reconcilable forces into the mainstream. -- He's mindful there's a "Baghdad clock" (the time required to get the job done there) and a "Washington clock" (forces pushing for a speedy US withdrawal), but he is focused on the fight in Iraq and will let the political leadership make the big decisions back in Washington.
Roggio continues his coverage of the good and bad in Iraq:
Yet another 24 hours have past and there have been no reports of major mass casualty suicide or car bomb attacks in Baghdad or the provinces. The closest incident was a suicide attack which occurred in Tuz Khormato, a town about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Eight were killed and 25 wounded after a suicide attack in a crowded market. The last major attack occurred on Saturday. While the security operation is still in its infancy, and there is much work to be done, the short term signs are encouraging. One item to note: the four year anniversary of the U.S. invasion is coming up next week, and it may be possible al Qaeda in Iraq is conserving its forces for a show of force and the resulting media attention.
Note, that there have been some car bombs in Baghdad in the past 4 days but, thankfully, not *mass casualty* attacks.
In other Iraqi political news, the small Fadilha party has announced that it is leaving the United Iraqi Alliance and throwing its lot in with Ilyad Allawi’s new National List. This is significant, and generally positive, because Fadilha is part of the UIA (the Shia coalition.) Though we tend to see the Shia as monolithic, they are a diverse group. So far, the Shia have managed to hang together in the Parliament. But the two main parties, SCIRI and Da’wa detest each other. As well you throw in smaller political groupings like the Sadr guys or Fadilha and you have a very diverse tapestry. Breaking up Shia unity in the Parliament offers more opportunities for bargaining and accommodation with the other groups.
To illustrate my point by contrast: Can you easily imagine the Saudi government allocating oil revenues so as to give a fair share to the ground-down and despised Shiite workers who toil, for the most part, in the oil fields of the eastern region of the country?* Or picture the Shiite dictatorship in Iran giving a fair shake to the Arab-speaking area of Khuzestan, let alone to the 10 percent of Iranians who are both Sunni and Kurdish? To ask these questions is to answer them. Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.
Also Hitch notes in passing something that I continually talk about. The Sunnis have plenty of access to oil, not just the Kurds and Shia. Including untapped reserves in Anbar and the already existing Eastern Baghdad oil fields!
Six months ago, many of the strategists behind the Sunni insurgency, faced with a more effective counterinsurgency effort, began to wonder just how long they could keep their momentum given their diminishing resources and talent. These strategists realized that their "resistance" would just peter out over time, as classical insurgencies tend to do. Some argued that, given one last push, the Americans would be sufficiently distressed to grab at cease-fire negotiations that would end with a hasty American withdrawal, leaving the insurgents to work things out with a much-weakened Iraqi government on more favorable terms.
OTHER WAR TOPICS:
Apparently, another high level Iranian military figure has gone missing?
Three weeks ago the Iranian armed forces command in Teheran lost contact with a senior officer who had been serving in Iraq with the al-Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to a senior Iranian official cited in the Wednesday edition of the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat
The Iranian source said that it is still unclear why contact with the officer, Colonel Amir Muhammad Shirazi, was lost. "It is possible that the American forces in Iraq arrested him along with a group of 13 Iranian military and intelligence officials," he said, adding that this is just one of the scenarios being investigated by Tehran.
In fact read the whole dialogue between him and Boot. It’s very enlightening.
And, if you watch one You Tube Video this year – watch this one. I saw this video a few days ago and have meant to comment on it. Hess talks about the moral duty we have to keep faith with those who have trusted us. She also mentions something that gets little play. In that a lot of the violence is criminality and not necessarily politically inspired. It all has political overtones, but a lot is just simple nihilistic crime.
To save you all from having to follow the link, here is Brian Lamb's interview with UPI reporter Pamela Hess on the situation in Iraq.
Look, Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi. Ok? End of story. Even if she wasn't an actual Party member, she was completely swept up in the Romantic fervor of the movement and used her considerable talents to promote their objectives. Thus is it noted in this review of the new book, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl.
With "Triumph of the Will" (about the Nazi party rally at Nuremberg in 1934) and "Olympiad" (about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games), Riefenstahl, it's not an exaggeration to say, created almost every significant visual image that we now retain of National Socialism in all its evil pomp.
But the thing we all need to come to terms with is that, yes, Leni was a Nazi... and that's OK.
It's OK for two reasons:
Leni was hot. And as we all know, everyone is willing to forgive just about anything... as long as you're hot enough.
You cannot judge a work of art by the politics of its creator.
Yes, yes, Schickel claims in his review that this idea is "inane..."
Over these later years, she attracted the support of gaga cinephiles, who inanely insisted, as one of them put it, that "politics and art must never be confused." It is biographer Bach's business to demolish that nonsense while also creating an almost novelistically compelling narrative of a life endlessly obfuscated by lies.
Kid Various is speaking as one of those gaga cinephiles, but what rot!
But if you follow Schickel's logic then basically, renting a DVD is a political act. Every trip to Blockbuster becomes an excercise of trying to pass moral judgement on each film's creator and politcal "message." Which basically means that you cannot watch, appreciate or in any way admit the artistic worth of:
Birth of a Nation: Are you kidding? There'd be riots if this film were shown today. D.W. Griffith would have to claim that he was addicted to cough syrup when he made this movie and go to rehab. Battleship Potemkin and October (Ten That Shook the World): Glorifying mutiny and street violence in order to bring about a regime that was responsible for even more murder than the Nazis? Oh, Eisenstein is out!
Chinatown: Roman Polanski shtupped a 13 year old girl. How can you possibly argue that Chinatown deserved a Best Picture nomination?
Annie Hall: Dude, the guy married his daughter. Nuff said.
JFK and Nixon: Oliver Stone has been described by some as "our greatest living director." We'd have to describe him as a raving, left wing, paranoid lunatic. Burn those discs!
The list can go on and on. Until you get to the point where you get to the point where your friends won't go to see Ghostbusters III because the creator's don't sufficiently support the plight of migrant farm workers.
Maybe Schickel is claiming some sort of exemption based on the unique experience of the Holocaust but that's a thin reed. Most notably because, as noted above, the Soviet regime killed even more people than the Nazis.
You can only judge a film by its aesthetic qualities. Anything else and you are down a long road.
How in the hell could Kid Various have missed this?Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as “Turkmenbashi,” President of Turkmenistan and candidate for the world’s nuttiest leader – died in December, 2006!And The Kid heard nary a peep from the major media.
But there he was, reading the March issue of The Atlantic and The Kid opens up to this obituary written by Mark Steyn (most of it sadly behind the subscriber wall) which not only gives a good overview of this guy’s wackiness but also manages to cram more puns using the word “stan” per column inch than perhaps any other piece in the history of writing.
…He produced five volumes of poetry and read nightly on television, one remorseless Turkmenistanza after another. He banned news anchors from wearing makeup because he found it hard to tell the men from the women and had no desire to see the country degenerate into a sad Eastern imitation of the decadent Ratherstan and Couricistan.
In 2005, he banned lip-synching because he was tired of seeing elderly singers mouthing to their old hits and reducing Turkmen culture to just another Millivanillistan. He banned ballet because … well, it just wasn’t his bag. “How can the Turkmen people be encouraged to love ballet if there is no ballet in their blood?” he asked. “I do not understand ballet. What use is it then to me?”
…He was a repressive dictator increasingly prone to show trials and torture and Stalinist purges, but the world will cut you a lot of slack if you’re a kook: To modify the old actors’ line, killing is easy, comedy is hard. And, in an age of gray thugs, Turkmenbashi was every Fleet Street tabloid’s favorite totalitarian nutjob. His finest hour was his redesignation of the days of the week and months of the year under a law passed in 2002. January he renamed for himself: It’s now the month of “Turkmenbashi.” April he’d proposed to call “Mother” in honor of mothers in general, but he was prevailed upon to rename it “Gurbansoltan” in honor of one mom in particular—his own.
…In 1992, he was elected president with 99.5 percent of the vote. Two years after that squeaker, 99.9 percent of the electorate voted to extend his five-year term to ten years, and, in 1999, he “reluctantly” acceded to the wishes of his People’s Council to become president-for-life. The lifelong Communist with the Russian bride dedicated himself to root-and-branch Turkmenization. Cleansing his country of Soviet influence meant little more than replacing it with a sickly suffocating cult of personality, but in dictatorships the line between necessary political hygiene and nauseating self-promotion is often a fine one, and especially so in a land where the leading soap powder is called Barf.
…His legacy is the Ruhnama, the spiritual tract he published in 2001. Its prose was barely workmanlike and barely Turkmenlike: It’s what the Little Red Book would have been had Mao spent too much time with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil. But it was immediately raised to equal status with the Bible and the Koran. It was hailed as “The Answer to All Questions,” including those on the driver’s test.
Indeed, Turkmenbashi’s fate is confirmed in an email from Idiom friend and daring adventurer, Mr. Democracy:
Yeah, Niyazov bit it in December.I can’t think of a nicer guy for it to happen to.That freak was wasting my oxygen.
Of course, things aren’t going to get any better.The new guy, Berdimuhammadov, was appointed in violation of the Turkmenistan constitution as the Chair of the Parliament, who should assumed power, was apparently put in prison. They had an “election” in February where Berdimuhammadov “won.”It was a total sham. Apparently it was like when I was in Azerbaijan and I observed them stuffing the ballot box in front of me and I’m like “Guys, you’re not even trying here…”Just more of the same tribal, despotic, kleptocracy.
The truly sad thing is that the Turkmen had the great misfortune to live under a despot whom the rest of the world found, not dangerous, but merely “amusingly kooky.”
“Oh look, he named a day of the week after himself! Oh look, he banned lip-synching! Oh look, he had all the questions on the driving test to be about his quirky ‘book!’ He so crazy!”
The man was a Grade A psychotic and enslaved an entire country which he treated as his personal playground. And instead of reacting with the appropriate horror and doing everything reasonable to free a suffering people, the international community just sort of looks on and giggles, all the while slobbering to reap fat profits and line the pockets of the ruling cabal by developing Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves.It truly is a sad display.
And yes... There is a popular detergent in that part of the world called "Barf." I still have a box.
"The badlands of Alberta clearly show that at the end of the Cretaceous, dinosaurs were extremely successful still," says Professor Currie, who points to dozens of different dinosaur species living in that one environment at the same time.
Had the asteroid missed, he believes, dinosaurs would have continued to dominate.
...Adaptable dinosaurs had it all covered. Dinosaurs could have comfortably colonised many environments, from polar conditions to regions of rivers and forests, jungle and deserts.
Ok. Ok. The Kid realizes that this violates his "no-posting" rule regarding anything from the BBC. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
To make up for it, take a look at this interview with Robin Aitken, author of Can We Trust the BBC? (Hint: No)
Thank goodness someone has finally broken this into the mainstream:
AMEN TO THAT! From The Economist's latest web experiment*, The Inbox, a blog where every letter to the editor we receive is posted on the web:
In Starbucks' case, it's not the ambiance that puts off consumers, it's the coffee. If only they roasted it a bit less. My colleagues agree that if they had another option they wouldn't buy Starbucks but, since there is a Starbucks on nearly every block around our office in the District, our options are limited.
Any free market economists want to take a swing at this one? I too would prefer less roasting. I have two conjectures: either they're benefitting from first mover advantage, or stupid Americans have some sort of macho attachment to burned coffee, as if that charred flavour makes it somehow more authentic and manly.
Starbucks over-roasts it beans. It tastes horrible. Kid Various has always said that you are not paying for coffee when you go to Starbucks - you are paying for a place to sit in a comfy chair for an hour. They take what should be a smooth, luscious taste experience and turn in into some sort of Spartan endurance test.
The Kid knows he's not alone in this. Take this previous email from Idiom friend and swashbuckler Mr. Democracy:
No matter which 3rd world shithole I go to, it is a constant that the American expats are on the hunt for good coffee. And it is also a constant that someone in the community has shipped to them, or brings back from a visit home, a few bags of Starbucks brand coffee, and then proceeds to invite everyone over, bragging about how they finally got some good coffee.
Good lord! You went through actual effort to bring that shit here? I would rather drink the most nasty mint laced turkish coffee that endure Starbucks. (and let me tell you adding mint to coffee completely ruins it.) Admit it for chrissakes, the coffee is burnt! We only go to Starbucks because you can't escape it. Starbucks is the Microsoft Windows of coffee.
I think the quest for Starbucks out here it's less an attachment to the actual quality of the coffee than a sort of comforting "Americanness" that we still all crave.
Also the above post highlights this fact, more than appropriate for lunacy that is Caffeine Awareness Month (March,) over-roasting the beans destroys the caffeine in them!
Why Iraq? One reason is that after 9/11, a number of leading figures in the Bush administration came to the conclusion that, in the face of a catastrophe of this magnitude, it would not be sufficient to go to Afghanistan and shoot some people on the monkey bars. Rather, America needed to take action in the heart of the Middle East. Remember the old Western movies where John Wayne is called into town as the new sheriff to apprehend a bunch of cattle-stealers? He goes into the bar, where the bad guys are shouting and jeering at him. He doesn't know who the culprits are, but he finds a couple of obstreperous hoodlums and slams their heads together, or pistol-whips them, and then he walks out of the bar. The message is that there is a new sheriff in town. After 9/11, I believe, the Bush administration wanted to convey this message to the Islamic radicals. In Saddam Hussein, Bush located an especially egregious hoodlum who would become the demonstration project for America's seriousness and resolve.
A "demonstration project". Suddenly, the otherwise mystifyingly troop-free war-plan makes more sense, doesn't it?
We think Sullivan is playing a little bit of Captain Renault. The fact that we were going to war to shock the Arab world into submission and not simply to “eliminate weapons of mass destruction” was not difficult to figure out to anyone who was paying attention in 2002.
Steven Den Beste (who is no longer blogging but you should read everything in his archives) noted that this was the case way back in 2003 in his “strategic overview” post where he stated that going to Iraq was necessary in order to:
·To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether they like it or not, and that the old policy of stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform forced on them.
·To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the "Arab Street"
·To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street" truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs were free, safe, unafraid, happy and successful. To show that this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I've been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab Civilization 2.0".)
Kid Various agreed with this back then. He still agrees with it now. We will not be secure until the dysfunctional Arab traditional culture begins to change.
The fact is that we relied so heavily on the weapons of mass destruction argument because it was the easiest rung on which to hang our hat. Because, of course, everyone knew that Iraq had stockpiles of at least chemical weapons. And once we got in there, who knows what we’d find on the biological weapon or nuclear weapon front?(Nobody in the Administration, contrary to conventional wisdom nowadays, ever claimed Iraq had or was close to getting nuclear weapons. However, who knew for sure?After the 1991 Gulf War, inspectors were shocked at just how advanced Iraq’s nuclear program was.)
The fact that Iraq had WMD wasn’t even a question in anyone’s minds - ours or other foreign intelligence services. So we relied on that rationale, because it’s hard to make an argument that “we need to go in there and knock heads.” Even if that is what needs to be done.
Obviously, the strategy of relying on that justification was a horrible mistake. We’ve now lost total control of the narrative.
It doesn’t make D’Souza’s point any less relevant though.
The problem is not that the United States went into the bar to rough up some thugs and show that there was a new sheriff in town.The problem is that if you are the sheriff, you can’t go into the bar and get your ass kicked.
Walking into that bar is about demonstrating your power and credibility.If you get beat up, you’ve only demonstrated how weak you are. Even if you are eventually victorious, if you don’t dominate – you lose.If the sheriff manages to beat the local thugs into submission, but suffers a broken nose and cracked ribs and has to take the next few days off recuperating, then he’s lost all credibility both with both the thugs and the townsfolk.
This is basically the situation we are in now and why, instead of victory, we’re fighting for a narrow loss.
The Kid is from the Eliot A. Cohenschool of Bush Administration criticism. He has a list of complaints as long as your arm, but it focuses exclusively on the conduct of the Iraq Campaign, not its basic underpinnings.
WMD, links to terrorism, threats to neighboring countries, vicious human rights violations – these were all valid reasons to go to war (singularly or in concert,) but they were not the primary cause for Iraq.
In order for us to be secure, the dysfunctional Arab traditional cultures must change. And in order to jump start that process, we had to walk into that bar.
Too bad we got thrown through the plate glass window.
Update: This post was originally an email response that Kid Various sent to Andrew Sullivan. The Kid reworked it a little bit and posted it here. And now we find Andrew Sullivan has excerpted the original email on The Daily Dish! First linked by Instapundit, now an excerpt on Andrew Sullivan. Kid Various is on a roll!
1Kid Various has not read D'Souza's new book so he can't comment on it. However, from the reviews, it seems troubling in that the point seems to be that the reason the jihadists hate us is because of the licentiousness of our culture and that therefore, we're kinda "asking for it." Which would put himself in direct opposition with one of the theses of his outstanding book, "What's So Great About America?" which holds the honor of being the only book that Kid Various has read in which he agrees with everything. In that book, D'Souza notes that the enemy hates us because of our freedoms. Because, as he notes, their societies value "virtue" over "freedom." Better that men act correctly, than that they be free. Of course this freedom entails the freedom to do ill - which is exactly why the enemy despises it. But it seems in his new book excoriating the Left, that D'Souza is kind of agreeing with enemy in saying that our freedom has let us go too far. Again, not sure, because The Kid hasn't read it.
On this day, 60 years ago, President Truman addressed a joint session of Congress and enunciated what would later be referred to as the “Truman Doctrine.” From the New York Times article that day:
Washington, March 12 - President Truman outlined a new foreign policy for the United States today. In a historic message to Congress, he proposed that this country intervene wherever necessary throughout the world to prevent the subjection of free peoples to Communist-inspired totalitarian regimes at the expense of their national integrity and importance.
In a request for $400,000,000 to bolster the hard-pressed Greek and Turkish governments against Communist pressure, the President said the constant coercion and intimidation of free peoples by political infiltration amid poverty and strife undermined the foundations of world peace and threatened the security of the United States.
…As the Senate and House of Representatives sat grim-faced but apparently determined on the course recommended by the Chief Executive, Mr. Truman made these cardinal points of departure from traditional American foreign policy:
"I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.1
…President Truman said he was fully aware of the "broad implications involved" if the United States went to the assistance of Greece and Turkey. He said that, while our aid to free peoples striving to maintain their independence would be primarily financial and economic, he reminded Congress that the fundamental issues involved were no different from those for which we fought a war with Germany and Japan.
…Anticipating criticism, not long in developing, that his proposals to lend $250,000,000 to Greece and $150,000,000 to Turkey would "by-pass the United Nations," Mr. Truman explained that, while the possibility of United Nations aid had been considered, the urgency and immediacy were such that the United Nations was not in a position to assist effectively.
The President made it clear that the responsibilities he asked Congress to face squarely had developed suddenly because of the inability of Great Britain to extend help to either the Greek or Turkish Government after March 31.
…Although there was a note of apology for the present Greek Government, which the President conceded had made mistakes, it was described as a freely elected one.
The Greek government, he said, represents 85 per cent of the members of the Greek Parliament. He recalled that 692 American observers had been present in Greece when the Parliament was elected and had certified that the election represented a fair expression of the views of the Greek people.
A President, acting unilaterally and by-passing the United Nations to support an imperfect, but freely elected government to prevent it from falling into the hands of forces he refers to (without the slightest bit of irony) as “totalitarian” and compares the issues at hand with those at contest in WWII?
No wonder he left office with a 22% approval rating.
P.S. One has to love the NYT Headline:
Truman Acts to Save Nations From Red Rule
Kinda makes it seem silly that we live in an age where the NYT can't even bring itself to use the word "terrorist."
Hello my baby! Hello my honey! Hello my ragtime gal...
It is a truly great thing that if you spontaneously break out into a rendition of "Hello Ma Baby!" - everybody from a certain generation (read Kid Various, Mr. Scriblerus & Mr. Surly) just knows.
As sort of an unintended consequence, the frog's repretoire of songs - which was picked precisely because they were considered old fashioned and rather obscure - have gained a sort of immortality. In the age of 500 channels, Kid Various is unsure if today's children have even seen this cartoon, much less absorbed its sound track into their culture. What a tragedy that would be if they can't belt out a few bars of "I'm just wild about Harry."
The whole right-wing is getting in on the attack; the Drudge Report is blaring the headline: "War! Dems Pull Out of Fox News Debate."
Enough is enough. It's time to send a clear message to Fox News and their allies that their right-wing talking points and temper tantrums won't go unchallenged anymore - when it comes to what Democrats should do in the Democratic primary, we'll decide - no matter what they report:
Fox News has already proven they have no intention of providing "fair and balanced" coverage of any Democrat in this election.
Oh, cry us a river! Does this mean Republican candidates can now skip any debate moderated by personalities from NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc?
Something that The Kid finds interesting is the political discussion emerging over the new film 300.
The film is a shot for shot adaptation of the comic book by Frank Miller.The book, loosely recounts in a stylized fashion, the epic Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. where 300 Spartan soldiers under their king, Leonidas, fought to the last man against an invading Persian army numbering in the millions.* The tenacious sacrifice of the Spartans delayed the Persians for 3 days and allowed the rest of the city-states of Greece to get their collective act together and eventually defeat the Persians at the Battles of Salamis (naval) and Plataea (land.) Thus preserving the Greek way of life (the foundation of western culture) from extinction.
Miller, of course, is the towering figure in comic art in the past 20 years, having penned Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – a work of startling genius that not only redefined the epic character of The Batman, but also the comic medium itself. It is also simply one of the great stories of Western literature.
Kid Various has not read 300, but if the director Zack Snyder’s collaboration with Miller is anything like Robert Rodriguez’s collaboration on the adaptation of his work Sin City, the results could be astounding.
In seeing the previews for 300, The Kid thought “Wow, that looks interesting.”Never having it enter his mind, that the story might somehow come to be thought of (by some) as the post September 11thTriumph of the Will.
… ran into some surprising reactions at the Berlinale film festival in Germany. Some attendees walked out of a screening there, while others insisted on seeing its presentation of the Spartans’ defense of Western civilization in the face of a Persian horde as propaganda for America’s position vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran. (By contrast it drew applause at a Los Angeles screening last month.)
“Don’t you think it’s interesting that your movie was funded at this point?” Mr. Snyder recalled being asked in Berlin. “The implication was that funding came from the U.S. government.”
But then the Berliners would know something about Triumph Des Willens, wouldn’t they?
Every young man who sees this movie - and movies are mostly targeted at the young - is going to get a triple dose of adrenaline, male-bonding and macho pageantry. Words such as "duty," "honor" and "glory" are heard constantly through the film. Indeed, if spears and shields were replaced by M16s and Humvees, "300" could be a military recruitment film.
Moreover, the Spartans are portrayed as strong, upright and conservative - there's even an image of Leonidas in the pose of a Christian martyr - whereas the Persians are depicted as effete, weird and decadent, all kinky and body-pierced. No wonder, then, that the Persians were lousy soldiers, victorious only because of behind-the-scenes maneuvering and outright betrayal. Indeed, the most sinister figure in the film is a Spartan politico who specifically identifies himself as a "realist."
And so go the parallels today, where for many Americans "realist" is code for "cynical," "cowardly" or, worst of all, "French." These Americans believe the United States is destined to lead an epochal struggle against the forces of evil - led by Iranians, aka Persians - in the Middle East. In addition, they believe that Uncle Sam's chances for victory in the ongoing war are being jeopardized by "cut-and-run Democrats" and "white-flag Republicans" in Congress and the media.
To which Kid Various can only reply – maybe it’s not such a bad idea for America’s teens to understand, in the phrase of J.S. Mill, that war is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. Maybe it’s not such a terrible tragedy for young men and women in our country to get the message that there are things that are worth going to war for. There are things worth dying for.
It might even be a good idea for young American men and women to understand why Thermopylae was important for the survival of Western civilization and that, yes, there is indeed something distinct called Western civilization.That this civilization is characterized by pluralism, individualism, democracy, rationalism and reason.**And that more so, the rest of the world does not necessarily share these values.That most of the population of the world has, from time immemorial, suffered under the constraints of tribal/traditional culture that has led them only to despotism, penury, superstition… and defeat.
Pinkerton’s dismissive comments about how the film portrays the Persians as weird and effete, and therefore lousy soldiers, hits closer to the mark than he realizes. Read Victor Davis Hanson’s The Western Way of War.The West has consistently been able to defeat larger, numerically superior enemies exactly because its cultural system values things like pluralism and rationalism, allowing for constant experimentation, innovation and pragmatic implementation of the results of that process. The Greeks had that, the Persian Empire did not.And the Persians were never able to conquer the Greeks (in fact a century later, the Greeks under Alexander would burst out of the Agean and conquer Persia.)
At the very least, it will be a good thing if teenagers could at least be able identify the Battle Thermopylae and have some understanding of why it may be relevant.
For anyone who would like an account of Thermopylae without having to slog through Herodotus, Kid Various highly recommends Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. Like 300, it’s a fictionalized account of the battle, the events leading up to it and, moreover, an overview of Spartan society that is riveting (and more historically accurate than 300 – The Kid doubts Xerxes used actual ogres in his armies.)
Update:Somewhat appropriately the NHL has been promoting 300 as hockey is the only professional sport left that embodies the values of the Spartans: Honor, Glory and a good Hip Check into the Boards!
The Spartan swords of Warner's "300" are mixing it up with the slashing sticks of the National Hockey League.
Marking the first time the NHL has promoted a Hollywood pic, the league has cut a 30-second TV spot mixing game play footage with scenes from Warner Bros.' violent ancient battle actioner "300."
Update II:This topic has been picked up at Winds of Change (The Kid knew he couldn’t be the only one thinking of this.)
Conversation in the comments section is interesting, including some links to material by Victor Davis Hanson concerning the political meaning of the film. Of course, as he points out, the book itself was written in 1998, before the beginning of the Long War – indeed, before most people had even heard of George W. Bush. But he notes:
Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
So almost immediately, contemporary Greeks saw Thermopylae as a critical moral and culture lesson. In universal terms, a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who advanced under the lash. More specifically, the Western idea that soldiers themselves decide where, how, and against whom they will fight was contrasted against the Eastern notion of despotism and monarchy — freedom proving the stronger idea as the more courageous fighting of the Greeks at Thermopylae, and their later victories at Salamis and Plataea attested.
Lessons to learn well…
Update III: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please stay and have a look around... For those of you who don't know us, we at The Idiom tend to specialize in posts about frivolous topics such as the Long War and serious topics such as gay penguins.
*Herodotus probably exaggerates.But the number was certainly in the hundreds of thousands.
**It should be noted that the Spartans were in no way a democratic society. They were a militaristic, class-stratified, slave owning society that was ruled by hereditary elites that also had highly communistic overtones (Personal wealth in the form of precious metals or land was prohibited. Communal “good” was prized above individual status.)This is evidenced by Plato describing the Spartans as the closest to the “perfect” society (the original state from which all others were descended in an imperfect form) as opposed to the degenerate Periclean democracy of Athens, which allowed the “unwise” to rule. For those who believe that Plato was some sort of great genius, instead of an antique Pol Pot who merely lacked the killing machine necessary to bring about his perfect order, read The Republic. His perfect society is a totalitarian nightmare where the great mass of human cattle serve the needs of the “wise” rulers of the state. Note Plato considered himself to be one of the “wise.”
When the Spartans talked about fighting for their freedom, they didn’t mean freedom in the same terms that we speak of, meaning “individual liberty.” Rather they meant freedom in the way that the Arabs currently use the term, meaning “freedom from rule by a foreign power.” Or, more aptly, the freedom to be dominated by your own kind.
Nor did any of the Greeks truly embody modern Western culture. That would have to wait until the European Enlightenment nearly 2,000 years later. However, the political/philosophical ideas of the modern West did germinate there.And the diverse nature of the different political/social systems provided for the tension/competition that provided for rapid innovation that becomes part of the West, as well as the fierce desire for freedom that was, initially centered around communities (the Spartans were fighting for the freedom of other states to have the political systems they wanted – even degenerate democracy – as much as they were fighting for their own right to be authoritarian) that eventually migrated to the concept of sovereignty of the individual.