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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cutting out for Keeps

Imagine this: you go to a company's headquarters to give a talk on Business ethics. While you're on the podium, glancing out the window, you see the manager in charge of accounts receivable out in the parking lot, trying to get your hubcaps loose. You feel somebody brushing against your hip; somebody in human resources is trying to pick your pocket. As you interrupt your speech and try to get a hold of the CEO and see if he can restrain his people a little bit, you notice that he's just cracked open your briefcase and is rifling through your credit cards, while scolding you out loud for being so judgmental as to mind. Tell me - what is the likelihood of your deciding to continue that speech on ethics, and if you did decide to continue it, who could your intended audience possibly be at that point?

The story in the parting post on my personal blog gets a little involved, but the absurdity of the hypothetical situation I posed is the absurdity of the situation I faced, and it has been far too many times in my dealings with the Pagan community. I guess you could say this one was that one time too many; a mature philosophical discussion of ethics is at the core of what I was attempting, and Pagandom, with a tiny handful of exceptions lost and buffeted around in the boisterous crowd, just doesn't offer an audience appropriate for the material. If you were one of the people who wanted to know when there were going to be further updates to the Almond Jar, as I announced on one of the pages on that site, there won't be any.

I guess you could say that I'm discouraged but not disheartened, as I do have other places to me. More time spent doing Mathematics and Engineering, playing with my nieces and nephews, working on my recipes, spending time with my friends ... doesn't sound like much of a loss. Life will be growing more rich for me, not less, to say nothing of more prosperous, as the drain on my time that being "Antistoicus" involved was hardly boosting my income, any more than it was improving my mood, as I was one of those strange people who never tried to turn religion into a business. Were I sacrificing on behalf of a community that gave the gods good reason to feel glad for their worship, I might not mind the loss because it would be the price of something serving the greater good, but after a few years of bashing one's head into the wall, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, one should be prepared to conclude that the wall isn't what is likely to give way. Further sacrifice would be for nothing.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cutting out for a while

[post slightly updated, Monday, January 8, 2007, and Wednesday, December 30, 2009]

In case you were looking for them, yes, I've deleted my posts (which began on Thursday, July 20, 2006) to this blog about the Appius Claudius Priscus / Joseph Keller affair at Nova Roma, relocating them to this new page on my diskpace at Friendlyfirm. If you haven't seen them, they were a discussion of how we approach the issue of freedom of speech in a real world in which all is not hugs and love, in application to the case of somebody whose racial views didn't please everybody, and an illustration of how the standards of justice we can expect out of our Politically Correct friends aren't changing for the better. This evolved into long enough of a personal segue, that I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of leaving it on Right Wing of the Gods, but for those who want to read it, here it is.

I don't know what the plans of the other contributors are, but we haven't heard from them for a while, so I'm guessing that we won't be hearing from them in the near future.

I'm going to take a break from the Internet for a while, to enjoy the warm weather the way the gods intended - outdoors. When I get back, I probably won't be posting much. I commented on this on "Jotting it Down" - the amount of traffic one gets doesn't seem to justify the effort. Not complaining, certainly not whining, it's just supply and demand. There's a huge supply of blogs and relatively little potential readership. When seven hits per day makes your blog one of the big boys, you come to realize just how little potential readership there is.

Useful information; more of us will redirect our efforts elsewhere. See you later.

Note added, January 12, 2007: I got a little clarity a few days ago, when I was transferring the Appius files to my diskspace at Googlepages. A rate of seven visitors per day was definitely not making my day, but it was also raising questions because it seemed so statistically anomalous. Why exactly seven visitors, for so long? OK, maybe because we only had the same seven people visiting us over and over came the discouraging thought, but ... the same seven people who never miss a post? The same seven people who never have a kid's birthday they're too busy planning, who never have their computer go down, who never just plain don't feel like it? In real life, traffic is never that steady. Where was the fluctuation? Even a moving average should fluctuate a little, especially when it's that low. This moving average wasn't doing that. Why?

I found a partial answer as I cleared the files. Once I've deleted a post, it's gone, so I was being very careful as I did this, placing each post and its copy up on screen, comparing original and copy paragraph by paragraph before deleting and republishing the blog, in effect revisiting the thing a few times. Near the end of the process, I found that RWOTG stop loading on my screen. It literally could not handle the traffic I was giving it, just going through that series of posts. Guess how many posts I was into the series before I found myself unable to load the next?

That would certainly explain the lack of random fluctuation; if and when traffic started to pick up, those who would have lifted the daily average to eight visitors (or dare I dream, to nine or even ten) would have been in for a frustrating experience, one which wouldn't have left them wanting to return. Nobody enjoys having a page hanging on his screen, refusing to load. Attached as this blog was (and still is, at the time of this writing) to a site that, shall we say, sees a few more than seven visitors per day according to site stats, and what we have is the likelihood of more visitors being pumped into this location, than the rather weak system was designed to handle. The average didn't fluctuate because the cap wasn't fluctuating.

To anybody who had that experience, if by some remarkable chance you are seeing this, I regret the annoyance and I suspect the others do as well. I honestly didn't know that this was happening, probably because I like to get up very early during the summer and would have been one of the first people clicking on this site. At this point, as far as I'm concerned, the fat lady has sung for both RWOTG and my own personal blog. I'll be happy to leave both in place as they are free and Blogger seems to allow this, but writing a page on which traffic is effectively capped at such a low level seems pointless. Producing a blog post may not take as much work as putting together a webpage, but it still represents a real effort, one not justified by the tiny audience circumstances allow us to have. Whether our own efforts could have attracted a larger crowd in as competitive a field as blogging, I don't know, but wouldn't it have been interesting, to find out?

No grand exits for me, as I only blogged for a few months and this moment is really not redefining my life, but this is a shame, I suppose. As before, I can only speak for myself, having not consulted with Dan and the others on this, but as for me, I'm fairly sure that this is my last Blogger post.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Striking a blow for Goosey Loosey!

Alderman Joe Moore, image links to story about this silliness in the LA Times
This is truly a good year to be a goose in Chicago. About a month and a half ago, I wrote about an elderly man who was facing a possible prison sentence for accidentally killing a canadian goose. It's been over a month, now, so I suppose that it is time for the animal right's activists to have their dementia validated again, and so it has been.

The Chicago City council has passed a law banning the sale of foie gras, fattened goose liver. The rationale is as bizarre as the legislation - the fattening of geese is supposedly "cruel". Guess what "force feeding" consists of? One takes the goose's head, tilts it back, and pours as much grain down the throat of a notoriously gluttonous animal as it will take. Supposedly this is "cruel" because it's bad for the health of the goose.

Excuse me? The goose is due to be killed in about a month when force feeding commences. Life expectancy is, by then, a rather moot point. But our crusaders will not be denied in their holy quest to take control of the lives of others. As one of our local chefs told a reporter

"Today, Tramonto laughs off the exchange. 'Charlie and I got a chuckle out of it. Hey, both of us made Newsweek.'

But he finds nothing funny in the current situation. "Unfortunately, the public is the loser," he says. "If [animal rights groups are] going to dictate what we're going to eat, what's next? That's the problem that I have. I wish I could say that the people have spoken, but I don't really think the people had anything to do with this."

The spin one sees from the outside media is what one would expect. Many leftists talking about how wonderful it is that our city council has gone where no obtrusive American legislator has gone before. One gets the usual snide remark from lone individuals on the coasts about ignorant Midwestern hickishness running amok into legislation, as if farmers tended to be in favor of this kind of thing. But let me give you the little detail the newspapers won't pick up on, because pointing out this kind of thing is politically incorrect, and because knowing this would involve knowing the community one was reporting on, instead of just pulling the story off the wire, e-mailing a few people, and tossing in a few editorial glosses.

Chicago, like Louisiana, is home to a large ethnic French population. Chicago, unlike Lousiana, has a lengthy history of treating its French-Americans like dirt, to be trampled underfoot and defecated on, when nobody is looking. The largest contingent in that community is the Alsatian one. Guess which is one of the delicacies most closely associated with Alsace, very much a part of that province's traditions, traditions that our not very good friends from the North Shore have been trying to high pressure some of us into giving up for generations?

Foie gras, a key ingedient used (usually sparingly) in a number of Alsatian dishes served on very special occasions. It's as if Boston passed a law against the sale of cardone, and then tried to pretend that this was not aimed at the large Southern Italian community in the North End. It is nativism masquerading as humanitarianism, and the second most amazing thing about the whole situation is that this is being marketed as "progressive" legislation. The most remarkable thing is that many people will probably accept that, considering the flimsiness of the pretext under which the traditions of others are being sabotaged.

Ignorantly simpleminded? Hardly, "Sneaky" is more like it. Openly passing a law banning the consumption of Alsatian food, at the very least, would raise a few eyebrows. Trying to accomplish the exact same thing indirectly, in bits and pieces, won't raise as many, and that's the idea. The real kicker is what Joseph Moore, the author of this legislation, has the actual nerve to put near the top of his ward's homepage:

"Celebrating Diversity in the 49th Ward"

I guess diversity doesn't include you or your traditions if you happen to be French, in Mr.Moore's vision of Chicago. But then, for those of Southern European descent, that's how things usually work around here. By the way, according to this page on the official Democratic party homepage,

"Joe Moore, Alderman from the 49th Ward in Chicago, is chairman of the National Democratic Municipal Officials Conference and serves on the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee."

You remember the Democrats, right? Our courageous fighters for tolerance and individual liberty? Still want to know why I vote Republican? If so, stick around. The goose stepping tendencies of the Chicago Democratic party are an inexhaustable subject, one that does not fit in with the public image that party likes to cultivate, and you'll be hearing more about them here. A lot more, and it gets a lot worse.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Iran: Not sure that I'm buying this

Omega West Reactor, Los Alamost National Laboratory, decommissioned a few years ago
I'd like to start by noting that I was and am very much in favor of Pres.Bush's decision to remove Hussein from power. Yes, he had every right to do so, yes, even had he done so unilaterally. Hussein was a strongman who ruled brutally without any consent from the governed by benefit of the power granted to him through the sale of high tech Western weaponry, with which he and those relatively few close to him successfully crushed a long series of attempted coups, drowning them in blood. Handguns and knives vs. attack helicopters, machine guns, tanks, poison gas, etc. - how, realistically speaking, can that scenario be expected to play out? For the West to claim neutrality, having done so much to tip the balance of power in favor of Hussein in his dealings with his own people, would be absurd.

What is even more absurd is the argument that in some nebulous sense, the US victimized Iraq by invading it. Who in Iraq, specifically, was left with a legitimate grievance? Where there are no victims, there is no victimization, and while there certainly were some casualties of war, there were unusually few of them considering the scope of the operation, and nothing like the body count Hussein was running up. What we are left with, then, is the sobbing of a bully who discovered that a bigger kid was willing to step in and stop him from terrorising the smaller kids (the bully being Hussein's faction), and those softheaded in just the right, trendy way that allows them to sustain the illusion that bullies have the right to proceed unimpeded, as they attack their intended victims. Didn't we outgrow this kind of thinking back in kindergarten? Apparently not.

Then there was the "scandal" of not finding any weapons of mass destruction, aside from the ones that were actually witnessed in use to fill some of those mass graves, I suppose. "But where is your evidence that Hussein was going to make and use MORE poison gas, hmmmmm ...." Yeah. Right. As for the failure to locate any nuclear warheads, let us consider what was being looked for. The plutonium core of a thermonuclear device is about the size of a grapefruit. The rest of the bomb in mostly a mass of Lithium Hydride. The desert in Iraq covers an area about the size of California, one very large haystack in which to drop a few potentially very destructive needles. Take your plutonium core, and find an underwater reservoir of water, or any other hydrogen rich liquid like say ... petroleum. The figure I hear quoted is that five meters of water (about 17 feet worth) will provide the same shielding against radiation as that offered by the earth's atmosphere at the elevation at the top of the Sandia Crest, outside of Albuquerque. Even allowing for the fact that the liquid in and underground reservoir is mixed with substrate material, then, we have the reality that as you drop your core fairly deeply into a reservoir that may go down a few hundred feet, that very little gamma radiation and virtually no neutron radiation will even reach the drier parts of the soil overhead, much less the surface.

The fact, then, that no warheads were found is not informative, because one wouldn't expect to find any. They're just too easy to hide, as common sense should have told many of those offering such sagely smug commentary. Entire cities have been lost in the desert and not been found for centuries, and even small villages do tend to be somewhat larger than grapefruit. This reality is bound to dawn on people, who may find themselves uninclined to listen to the peaceniks when they realize how weak the arguments they had been offered by that crowd often were, and this can be regrettable. The problem is that the peaceniks are not always wrong. I'm wondering if we're approaching one of those moments when they aren't, and if so, whether or not they'll be listened to, after their previous ranting.

Iran is not Iraq. While it is certainly not a society that I or most Americans would care to live in, the revolution that introduced its current form of repression did seem to be a popular one, so we begin without the likelihood of winning the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, should our army invade that nation of over 68 million people. We'd be sending our army into a likely bloodbath were we to go that route, and I would hope that we would respect the sacrifices made by our armed forces enough to not ask them to walk into one of those, lightly. But if Iran remains defiant, do we have another choice? Possibly yes, and here's one we might consider: walking away and leaving this one alone.

I have the strangest feeling of deja vu, right now, remembering these bizarre shouting matches (as if they weren't all bizarre) I used to have with extreme liberals, who'd be appalled by my support for the commercial use of nuclear power. "Oh yeah, what about Hiroshima", displaying a mystifying inability to distinguish between the use of a nuclear reactor and a nuclear warhead. But this time, we have some conservatives not getting the distinction and that is truly strange. Eight percent enrichment of uranium is not 90 per cent, no matter how one may try to dance around the subject, and do we really want to be in the position of telling the Iranians that peaceful technological progress is forbidden to them? How would we react to such a proclamation, especially in an era in which discussion of what to do when the oil becomes scarce has already become so very topical?

If there were some real reason to suspect that Iran intended to build a hydrogen bomb, we MIGHT have some cause for concern. (Note that the military nuclear club already has one Islamic member - Pakistan. How many warheads has it used so far?) But if there is evidence for this, I have yet to hear about it. What I am seeing is some heavy handed pressure being used in an attempt to keep Iran from doing something that it has every right to do, so far seems to pose no credible threat to anybody, and in the long run, might just make Iran LESS dangerous.

Yes, you read that right. Less dangerous. Why? Think about it. What is the argument for thinking that if Muslims get the H bomb, that they will necessarily use it? Aside from the ons who already have it, and haven't used it, I mean? The Islamic belief that if one dies in the service of God, that the wonders of Paradise will await one. Well, excuse me, but exactly how is that different from what Christianity teaches, on the same subject?

While we're thinking about it, I'd also like to remind some of one of the images from the end of the first Gulf War - that of Iraqi soldiers coming out of their bunkers, terrified for their lives (as well they might be), kneeling before the victorious American forces and kissing their hands in a gesture of humility, submission and anything else that might keep them from being shot, blown up or incinerated. They certainly didn't seem that indifferent to their own survival, Muslims though they were. One might think that people would have noticed that, but for some reason, many of our citizens don't seem to want to do so, preferring a demonic enemy we can't understand or an angelic adversary who would treat us with all gentle grace were we to but smile glady upon its numbers, to the messy flesh and bloody reality of dealing with another mixed bunch of flawed human beings, with whom one must measure one's severity and compassion with prudence and at least moderately difficult deliberation. Angels (as seen by liberal commentators) and devils (as seen by neocon ones) are so much more comfortable to deal with, because one can deal in simpleminded absolutes, and without doubt.

But sometimes we need to get back to reality.

Let us ponder this. Why would any Christian hesitate to be a martyr, with such wonderful rewards waiting for him in Heaven? Yes, he would be leaving his family behind, but surely they could find opportunities to join him and ... appalling image, isn't it - a chain suicide by proxy. But why do we hesitate? Why are we horrified? Because we know that faith isn't knowledge. We may believe that an afterlife is waiting for us, but there is that nagging doubt, and one's very existence is a lot to put at risk. If your life is basically good, that can be a lousy deal. But if your life seems so inescapably wretched that the theoretical rewards granted by God to the martyr are the only hope one sees for a bearable existence, then the logic of one's situation changes greatly. Look at the past pattern of performance by the civilizations in question - in the Middle Ages, when life was far harder for the Europeans than for the Muslims, religious fanaticism was more common in the West than the Middle East and now, over the centuries, the roles have reversed.

This is one reason why I am reluctant to go along with Bush's position. While building nuclear warheads wouldn't contribute positively to the very prosperity that may help make throwing one's life away less appealing to the young people of Iran, building nuclear reactors just might, especially after the oil starts to get scarce. Reactors offer power, not just for lighting and heating homes, but for keeping factories and farms going as well, and while our country seems determined to forget this, it is those basic sectors of the economy (manufacturing and agriculture) upon which much of the wealth that the financial sector channels depends. Cripple those, and pushing for the acceptance of free market reforms is going to be a quixotic gesture, because market mechanisms won't have any resources to help allocate.

Iran has a right to a future, and there is no future in technological stagnation. Nor is there much of a one in remaining dependent on outsiders in order to function at all, which is what is wrong with the self-serving Russian suggestion that the Iranians have their uranium processed in Russia, no doubt for a modest fee per unit mass of uranium enriched. What some of us need to remember is that when one fight to close off another's path to a brighter future, one corners him into fighting back, and if one leaves him with little to lose, one leaves him with little to fear. We can do better than that, and often have. Now would be a good time to do so, while the West can still claim the moral high ground.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Holocaust Debt Long Overdue for Repayment

Mass grave at BelsenThe truly vile picture you see to the left comes to us courtesy of, "the Jewish network". If you find this image crude, just think about how crude the reality it portrays would have to be in Jewish eyes, anywhere. Yet experience tells me that if I were to put a mailform on this site and thus make responding easy, I'd probably hear from somebody who, having seldom thought about the incident, would be outraged at the portrayal. Actual horror, some can forgive and forget. It's being reminded of that horror that provokes their anger. One could not image a more genuinely selfish point of view, and yet the Emily Post standards of "etiquette" called for by "proper, high class people" in this country tend to be perversely supportive of that which common decency would condemn. Perhaps this is why some of us, at times, seem to embrace an almost self-conscious earthiness: we are too used to seeing a brittle facade of elegance laid over a core of savagery that would bring shame to the heart of a New Guinea headhunter, and we find ourselves with a deep craving for directness. With that thought in mind, I'm going to be a little blunt about a story that just bounced across the Yahoo homepage.

In Ynet news (an Israeli news site), we find the story "Survivors still waiting for compensation". I could not help but be annoyed by the opening passage:

"Thousands of Holocaust victims who have yet to receive compensation from Germany are living in Israel. The sums are not large and will not make them wealthy, but they will help Holocaust survivors end their lives with honor.

Some of them live beneath the poverty line, and they hope that their legal suit against the Prosecutions Committee – an international organization connecting the Holocaust survivors and the German government – can help them out of their sad situation.

In 2002, 1,915 Holocaust survivors sued for the compensation, under the name of the non-profit organization "The Children of the War". The survivors sued for a sum of NIS 19 million (about USD 4). The prosecutors claim the Prosecutions Committee decided on criteria for who is eligible for the compensation which do not appear in the decision of the German government.

The criteria which appear for men is that they must show 80 percent disability or 50 percent lack of physical fitness, which came as a direct result from Nazi persecution. ...

Now, excuse me, but let's draw a few distinctions that some are bound to use a little impassioned rhetoric to try to gloss over. This is not a group of people doing as some PUSH members would do here in Chicago, and say "your ancestors oppressed my ancestors 500 years ago, so you owe it to me to buy me a summer home". "Yeah, yeah, Antistoicus", somebody usually pipes up, "but this was over 60 years ago, so shouldn't we let bygones be bygones". "Oh, really?", I'll respond to the (usually Anglo-Saxon) person asking the question, "let's say that I was a lot older, and that I had taken an woodman's axe to a few schoolchildren in Kenilworth during the 1920s - would you be prepared to let bygones be bygones". (For those living outside the Chicago area, Kenilworth is a very rich, very Anglo-Saxon kind of place). Disgusted expressions and a shocked hush usually follow, pierced by my raised voice as I ask where they get off being offended by my question, given what they just had the nerve to ask. Take a good look at that photo. To be clear on this, I've never committed any such crime as the one I hypothetically described, but if I were that kind of person, I could clear out an entire school district, raping every little victim before and after their demise, and I still would not be able to compete with the people who made the above picture possible for just sheer, graphic, gratuitous and horrific evil.

Do I have to put it that crudely? Yes, I do, because if I should be so cooperatively gentle as to leave alone the sensibilities of those I'm bothering at this point, I'm going to be letting them sidestep a question that "polite" people have been allowed to sidestep for far too long. Why does my hypothetical example of an atrocity committed on a lesser scale among Anglo-Saxons produce more horror than the reality of atrocities committed with unimaginably greater cruelty to far more people, for absolutely no reason whatsoever? Before the survivors of the Deutsche Yehudim prudently fled, in many cases to America where their descendents are often noteworthy for their patriotism as Americans, the Jewish population of Germany wasn't just a pack of innocent bystanders, by and large, they were a loyal, productive and patriotic segment of the German population, contributing to their society in a measure out of all proportion to their actual numbers. What was done to them, then, becomes not only an exercise in savagery but one in an almost incomprehensible cowardice, the frustrations of the post WWI era taken out on a nearly defenseless minority population that had worked long and hard to be a good friend to the people among whom it had dwelled for generations.

Why does this not produce more outrage than it does? Yes, one can show a few graphic pictures, and after some griping about how unnecessary such graphic imagery is, one will hear maybe a few reluctant expressions of horror from some of our upper crust friends, but one wonders if one has hit them in the heart or the stomach. The uncomfortable reality is that as much as some of these "nice" people will try to deny it, they don't see their Jewish neighbors as being quite as fully human as those they more closely identify with, and no, that is not a universal human trait. Worrying about your own people (whoever they may be) first may be a universal trait, but "do not do unto others that which you would find hateful if done unto you" is an observation that spans most of the globe, and most of the microcosm of that globe that is American society at its less "polite", lower, working and middle class grassroots level.

"It's been over 60 years, so can't we just let bygones be bygones". In a case in which we are talking about the compensation, not of the distant descendents of the victims but of the victims themselves, this only makes matters worse. One of the issues that has arisen has been the compensation of Jews who had their property confiscated by the German government under Hitler and never had it returned. Imagine being robbed when you are twenty, having to wait until you are eighty before compensation is even considered, and then being asked to forgive the *ahem* loan you were coerced into making to your own personal oppressors on the basis that their heirs had dragged their feet on repayment for so long. If this were done to "nonhyphenated Americans" (ie. members of the Anglo-Saxon psuedo-majority), the expected response to such a suggestion would be one of pure, out of control rage, even under circumstances far less provocative, yet Central European Jews are expected to be "good sports" about the exact same thing, by "high class" people who then wonder out loud why they are hearing talk about hypocrisy.

"It's been over for 60 years ..." Can you picture walking past a pile like the one seen in that photo, looking down unsure as to which of those withered corpses was a parent or sibling, and being pyschologically whole in a hundred years, much less 60? But, of course, as we can see by looking at those insane conditions set for compensation, psychological wholeness is not the only issue. Imagine it! If one is "merely" 75 percent disabled, a glorious 25 percent removed from being confined to a feeding tube for the rest of one's life - and don't ask me how such a thing could be quantified - too bad for you. You'd be basically helpless in a job market in which even the partially disabled have mostly faced long term unemployment for years, your disability the product not merely of negligence but of open, malevolent, willful harm done by the authorities, but you get nothing and you get flipped the bird in the name of sovereign immunity and German government policy.

What boggles my mind is that the German government was allowed to set the terms for compensation, in an episode that should almost redefine the word "actionable". Just imagine the possibilities for wrongful death suits, alone. But, we get back to that bad old concept of sovereign immunity, strangely supported by many conservatives, under which a government can only be sued with its own consent. Real conservatives, as far as I'm concerned, believe in holding people responsible for their own choices. The rationale I've heard for sovereign immunity holds that the people should be viewed as being an innocent party, too, who would be wronged by the need to raise their taxes in order to pay out for any judgement against their government (thus transferring the penalty to them), but in a democratic society, who is to blame for the fact that the current idiots are in charge, but the people themselves? To reject sovereign immunity, then, is to do no more than extend the established and sensible principle that an employer is civilly liable for the misdeeds of his employees, the employees of the population as a whole being its government.

Some will try to respond to this by saying that Nazi Germany was no democracy, which it certainly wasn't, but Weimar Germany was, and as much as some apologists would like to forget this, Hitler et al. did come to power through democratic means, at a time when they were anything but vague about what it is that they believed. How surprised did the German people really have the right to be? Then there are those who will point out that after all of this time, we would be penalizing an electorate most of which had not even been born at the time the outrages occured. Were we to talk about demonizing contemporary Germans based on what had occured in their country during the 1930s and 1940s, that would certainly be unjust for exactly that reason, but we're not. We're talking about repayment of a debt, something of a more civil than criminal nature in spirit, and there is no precedent for the notion that debts are dissolved upon the death of the debtor. They, in fact, are inherited along with the estate that ran them up, so unless the current German people wish to vacate Germany, it is difficult to see how one can justify such a refusal to honor their legitimate debts, even hereditary ones.

Unjust? Unfair? Are we not setting the grandchildren's teeth on edge because their grandparents have eaten bitter lemons? Hardly. Look at the basis for objection. One could call for the end of Social Security on the same basis, or even the confiscation of the bank accounts of retirees who are, after all, effectively obtaining the living their money buys in exchange for work performed before those from whom they obtain those goods and services they buy today were even born, very often - do you feel cheated by this fact, or do you accept this as being simply a matter of the elderly getting their due? The same principle applies. What should have been done at the end of WWII is clear - even granting the residual and righteous anger that the highhanded imposition of the Versailles treaty produced in Germany, the Germans should have been forced to accept their debts, at gunpoint if necessary, which if you think about it is pretty much how individuals are forced to accept their debts. (Try unilaterally reneging on a debt and ignoring a court judgement, and see what happens).

Today, that would be a little more difficult to do directly, as Germany isn't lying prostrate as it was in 1945, and we are dealing with the heirs of the guilty rather than the guilty themselves which would make waging war in collection of the debt an option almost nobody would care to entertain, myself included, but it is not too late to apply a little pressure. Germany, like any net food importer, is highly dependent on foreign trade, and as musch as some of their citizens may like to make defiant remarks about "Jewish ears perking up to the sound of German cash registers", the Germans can ill afford to disregard the sensibilities of a world community among which they must trade merely to obtain the necessities of life. To exploit this fact in order to extract from them more than is just would be wrong, but there is no injustice in forcing others to grant justice, especially when justice is so long overdue. The only question is whether the world community will care enough about justice to be bothered.

The question almost answers itself, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A few reservations about the Hussein trial

To talk about justice in connection with the trial of Saddam Hussein may seem comical. It is as if Hitler had survived World War Two, and found himself facing the Nuremberg tribunal, the difference being that Hitler was a far more sympathetic figure. One can not imagine a figure more clearly, damnably guilty, more perfectly the embodiment of pure evil than this absurd little man sitting in a Baghdad courtroom. Yet I find myself with misgivings over what I am seeing, and even more misgivings about the fact that nobody else seems to be having any misgivings at all.

Looking just in the moment, we find ourselves with nothing to worry about. The facts are not in serious dispute, only the spin is. But let's look ahead a little, this time, and think about the system that is about to be validated by what is likely to be felt as a moment of long awaited relief - the conviction and likely execution of Hussein. There is no jury in the new Iraqi judicial system, I'm told. All is decided by the decree of a single man - the judge - in this case, somebody who, having served prison time under the Hussein regime, is unlikely to prove impartial. There probably is little damage to be done to the level of justice that Hussein can personally expect from the system, because there is so little justice that the man can still be said to be owed, but one can not necessarily say the same of the next defendent to come along in a system that seems designed to be abused.

Embedding the jury trial requirement into the US Constitution early in the process of amending it was not just an arbitrary cultural choice. Having the right to be tried by "a jury of one's peers", no matter how horrendous the charges against one, means that the government can't simply trump up a charge, grab one off the street, hold a show trial and then kill one; or drop one into a dungeon somewhere. It is a necessary check on the ability of a capricious government to abuse its discretion as it tries to disguise tyranny as law enforcement. One would think that if any nation on earth would have an appreciation of the dangers of not hemming in the abuse of governmental power, right now, it would be Iraq.

Hussein might not deserve any better than he is about to get, but the Iraqi people do. Righteous anger should never become a pretext for pushing through an unrighteous law.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Watching the Culture Wars on Immigration

Yes, more grassroots garbage. I know it might not seem as important as what is going on in Congress, but this is where politics begins. One can't leave this out of the picture, even if one finds oneself sighing and going "people, must we", which some of us are bound to do. While forgetting this became fashionable during the 1990s, America is not entirely compromised of highly assimilated Anglo-Saxons and angry inner city minority activists. As extreme positions are taken on both sides of an issue and sniping starts to go back and forth, somewhere barely noticed (by some) in the background one will find us, the silenced majority, wishing BOTH sides would sit down and be quiet. A few comments about some of the commentary I've heard about immigration and multiculturalism, in some cases by people I will name:

1. To the many angry Latino activists I saw on the news, talking about how they were being oppressed by proposed penalties for illegal entry into this country, and by the very idea of immigration being restricted at all:

You may feel that you or that relative or neighbor back home, who you'd like to bring over, would be a wonderful addition to this country. You may well be right and I may well agree with you, but the fact of the matter is that you and yours are trying to move into somebody else's home, in many cases, without even asking first. Those whose country this is, have every right in the world to say "no" to you for almost any noncoercive reason they please, be it wise or stupid. That's what ownership means - one has the right to make one's own choices, even bad ones - and the citizenry owns its country. Please do not insult anybody's intelligence by pretending to believe otherwise. Note that Mexico, whose government has long screamed a blue streak about US limitations on Mexican immigration, has not been shy about limiting immigration into Mexico from Central America, from countries whose emigres often have had a far stronger claim to refugee status than the vast majority of would-be Mexican immigrants. This leaves Mexico in the position of telling the US "do as we say and not as we do".

Should you really be surprised when such demands are greeted hostilly? This isn't a time to make demands. You are belligerently greeting the population of a nation from which you desire consideration. To what end do you do this? To browbeat people into giving you what you want? How would you respond if you were greeted in that matter? It would be a matter of honor, would it not, to respond to such a rudely made petition with defiance? Do not be surprised if that which would anger you, angers somebody else as well.

Let us speak plainly. The country you are trying to bully into submission could turn Spanish into a dead language in less time than it takes to make a decent cup of atole, quick frying everything right up to the Portuguese border. I certainly wouldn't like to see that happen, and I'm glad to say that neither would many people in the US, but even in the absence of a genocidal impulse, it still leaves us with the reality that there is no muscle behind your bluster, and the American people can well afford to disregard your anger, if it seems unreasonable to them. When you demand that Mexican immigrants get a free pass into this country that hasn't been given to any immigrant group before them, demanding a special privilege for your own people granted to none other, that is unreasonable and that is going to generate deep resentment in people absolutely capable of telling you "no".

When you approach somebody, desiring something from him that he has both the power and the right to deny you, don't make demands, make polite requests, and make the effort to be the kind of person whose requests others would like to answer with a "yes". When you pridefully declare your right to disregard the laws of the country you're entering, as did one demonstrator who angrily insisted that being an illegal didn't make him a criminal, you're not being that kind of person by anybody's standards. If you break the law, you're a lawbreaker. It's a tautology. Let's move on.

2. Lou Dobbs of CNN's Money Report got much less heat than he deserved, lately, for remarks that would have been considered backward well before Political Correctness made its appearance on the American scene, resurrecting the ghost of nativism. Nativism, if you're fortunate enough to have never encountered it, is an entitlement mentality based system of non-thought that holds that a particular brand of Anglo-Saxon culture (that fancies itself as being the mainstream culture of the US) is entitled to a privileged status within the US, having a special claim to calling itself THE American culture in a way in which any of the many other American cultures do not, and sometimes that Anglo-Saxons are themselves more legitimately American than other Americans. I like to think of it as being the old British imperialism's whiny bast**d stepchild, complete with that desire to ram one's own way of life down everybody else's throad, by whatever means expedient.

Mr.Dobbs has apparently opposed most immigration into the US from Mexico, and fine, that's his privilege. But he's also complained about Mexican Americans waving Mexican flags at Cinco de Mayo and even to the holding of St.Patrick's Day, beloved of what may well be the least likely American ethnic subculture to ever harbor separatist ambitions. That is not his privilege, because that is not any of his business.

Yes, you're reading that right and I mean it exactly the way it sounds - the man is not entitled to his opinion. By this, I do not mean that I think that there should be any kind of government sanction against him for voicing that opinion. I do believe in the first amendment. But the first amendment was never supposed to provide those who made outrageous remarks with bulletproof protection from the negative social consequences that might result. The right to voice one's opinion does not always give one to do so without encountering scorn and social censure, especially when one is so presumptuous as to tell other members of a supposedly free society what they should have for dinner or do on their free time.

Mr.Dobbs, like many like him who come out of the woodwork at moments like this, would return America to a past that never was, to honor a vision that would have profoundly disgusted the founding fathers. America, above all else, was created to be a place of refuge where those who found that they could not live life on their own peaceful terms in the old country (wherever that might be), could find their own little pocket to live in and make their own, living in freedom and in peace, and you know what? Not only did this work, but it worked gloriously, producing a highly non-homogenized America that bears little resemblence to the place some of our Corporatist friends would like to transform our country into. What Mr.Dobbs is calling for today, following in the undesirable footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt as he dares to portray this as an expression of patriotism, is the very un-American unitary version of nationalism that made so much of early modern Europe into the Hell it became for so many - "one land, one people, one culture", and if that sounds like something Hitler might have said, this is not without reason.

A country that is created as a place of refuge is going to tend to catch all of the many varied subcultures that the intolerance of so many other lands will drive out, and that's what built the real America, not this plastic, synthesized culture of TV sitcoms, plywood ranch house subdvisions and mediated, conformist groupthink that many assume one is celebrating, when one flies the American flag on one's site or over one's home. America has been so much more than that, and that is its strength, a strength that some have a great deal of difficulty accepting. One might ask how one can demand that others give up so much of what has made America distinctively American (as opposed to European) and call this "patriotism", or express intolerance for that very traditional diversity of cultures that America has enjoyed from its beginning, and pretend to be doing so for the sake of brotherhood. Brothers let brothers be themselves, and draw joy from their own individual presences. But aside from all of this, one should be amazed that so many believe that what this intolerant brand of nationalism offers is anything but a route to decline and decay.

Let us examine the history of monism. Consider France. Before the Revolution, it was noted as a country remarkable for its regional variation in every aspect of culture, language included - there are a number of languages native to France, other than the Parisian French widely recognized. (Occitan, Breton, Basque, Alsatian and Corsican come readily to mind). After the Revolution, in a spirit of Modernism that would meet approval in some of the trendy circles one meets pro-assimilationists in, the governing of France was radically centralized (France has no federalism) and regional identities were suppressed. According to a monist's view of how the world should work, this should have strengthened France by weakening the divisive presence of regional diversity and identity. In actual point of fact, France was the leading land power in pre-revolutionary Europe, and post-revolution, has gone on to become known as the country that couldn't defend itself against Italy. (Literally - WWII, Mussolini's armies were able to occupy the Southeastern corner of France). Germany, on the other hand, while it did embrace some of the more regrettable spinoffs of 19th century notions of nationalism, never pursued Paris' program of homogenizing the provinces, and hardly seems to have been hobbled by this.

Homogenity, then, is a cure looking for a disease, a prescription for building a stronger society that, having failed every time it was tried anywhere, still wins the support of a pseudo-intellectually trendy crowd that will never let itself be slowed down by the facts, as long as it has rhetoric. Its apologists speak of cultural diversity as being an impediment to progress, in some vague handwavey way, amazing those of us who actually have studied the subjects that make what is commonly known as "progress" possible. Speaking as one of those people, I can tell you that of all of those I've known who've done well in postgraduate study in the pure or applied sciences, not one has ever come from what would be called a "mainstream" cultural background. The one who came closest was an unreconstructed confederate from Tennessee - not the same thing at all.

If one destroys the cultural backgrounds that have given rise to about 100% of America's scientists and engineers, guess what happens to technical progress? We may argue about why American pluralism has been such a fountain of strength for our country, except when it is blindingly obvious (eg. WWII, with refugee scientists from Europe contributing outstandingly to the Manhattan Project), but short of doing the equivalent of closing one's eyes and covering one's ears and yelling "no, no, no", one can't escape the fact that it has been a blessing. Richer and more varied cultures simply tend to produce more creative people, and creativity is what powers research. If you'll pardon an apt cliche, the Europeans, in their folly, killed the goose that had, culturally speaking, been laying the golden eggs. In doing so, they ended their own Golden Age.

Mr.Dobbs would have us follow in their footsteps, out of a fear, perhaps, that comes from projecting his own intolerance onto others, but having been the odd ethnic kid out more than a few times, I can certainly tell you from personal experience that the unassimilated ethnics were the last ones one ever needed to fear. It was the self-consciously homogenized "ugly American" crowd that posed almost all difficulty. In this, one can see a sign of where American and European civilization went their own seperate ways. When a European sees strange and exotic customs in the province next door, he fears the civil war that may someday come, with people shooting their neighbors over a difference in dress, or dialect or family structure. When the average American hears about the same thing, his fear is that he'll run out of gas during the road trip, when he'll get to have fun checking out that exotic strangeness. Diversity only becomes a source of weakness for those who've become so timid, that they've forgotten how to enjoy it.

Of course, looking at Dobbs, one struggles to picture him enjoying anything, so for one such as him, we bypass the argument from pleasure and get to points greatly reminiscent of those posed to the pro-immigration extremists mentioned above. "You're making demands about the disposition of something that doesn't belong to you - somebody else's money and leisure time - and you don't have the firepower to back up these ludicrous demands, so get over it". America is 93% non-Anglo-Saxon, and the culture Mr.Dobbs et al. want to bully everybody else into adopting isn't even close to being universal among Anglo-Americans. Go visit Georgia, Arizona and Massachussetts in short order, and compare and contrast. If maybe - what, 2 or 3% of the population wishes to force its ways on the other 97 or 98% of the population, how is that supposed to work?

It's high time that the rest of us called their bluff, and backed people like this guy way the H*** off. Nothing is more American than the willingness to stand up for oneself, when one is being pushed around.

3. On the far end of something, one finds a remarkable piece of anti-Americanism by Tony Hendra on a blog called "The Obfuscation Report", which I offer to the reader in much the same spirit that I might hand somebody a tape of "Plan 9 from Outer Space". It's so bad, it's good. Sort of.

I discussed this one in greater detail in my April 1 post to Conservative Midwestern Pagans. To summarize briefly: Mr.Hendra supports open borders with Mexico on the basis that the American people have no right to live in their own homes, and have offended him by not cooperating with his desire to see their society become as dystopian as he'd like it to be. He's even angry at some of them for restoring some of the old Victorian homes, feeling that in some vague sense, they are promoting an ancient corporate evil by doing so.

I am laughing at Hendra, not with him. He's laughable only because he is powerless. The level of hatred he puts on display is quite remarkable, and it is sobering to think of what he would do, if he could, judging by his own words. What I find quite disturbing, as I look at the seemingly left wing blog on which I found that rant, is that the editor reposting the man's words can not (or will not) bring himself to describe this outpouring of venom as being anything other than just another opinion.

There is, sometimes, a social duty to pass judgement, because not everything should be negotiable. For those who feel that it is the left that cares about the common man, I offer that post as an excellent example of why I don't buy that. The difference between anger and hatred is that anger would like to find resolution and hatred is only inflamed by the attempt. Look at the tone of that article, and try to imagine making peace with that man. Would it even be possible?

For those of us on the Right, anger is a reality that we have to deal with, and the source of strength nature gives us to fight when we must. We come to terms with it, but we don't find pleasure in it. When one reads an article in which the author is enraged by the very concept of somebody enjoying a pleasure as simple and inoffensive as that offered by the beauty of a traditional old home, flying into a dyspeptic rage over the mere presence of a porch on somebody's home, he is clearly not trying to resolve anything at all. He's enjoying hatred for its own sake, and he's getting validated by his fellow liberals as he does so.

That's the difference between us and them.