The children's television pioneer has passed away at the age of 74. His career roughly overlapped the lifespan of the self-esteem movement. This gospel holds that personal feelings are paramount, that self-indulgence and insulation from anything that might hurt feelings (including one's own failures and others' achievements) mark the road to psychological salvation.
Fred Rogers was its antithesis. He didn't coddle his viewers; he worked to prepare his audience to face the unpleasantries of life head-on. The Yahoo story states, "Rogers dealt with topics ranging from anger and anxiety to death and divorce." He told his viewers that they were special, but he didn't make personal feelings Priority Number One. His chief emphasis was not the self but relationships, a recurring theme in his many songs.
Looking through the archive one find a bit of political incorrectness in the neighborhood. (All emphasis is added.) You've Got To Do It doesn't quite jive with New Age "create your own reality" schtick:
You can make belive it happens,
Or pretend that something's true.
You can wish or hope or contemplate
A thing you'd like to do.
But until you start to do it,
You will never see it through.
'Cause the make-believe pretending
Just won't do it for you
And check out the second verse - no insulating kids from the possibility of failure here:
If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.
You can't simply sit and look at it
"Cause it won't move at all.
But it's you who have to try it.
And it's you who have to fall (sometimes) If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.
Your hands are getting bigger now.
Your arms and legs are longer now.
You even sense your insides grow
When Mom and Dad refuse you, so
You're learning how to wait now. It's great to hope and wait somehow.
I like the way you're growing up.
It's fun that's all.
I'm not sure how the self-esteem pharisees address anger management - if they address it at all. Considering their obsession with trying to prevent bad feelings from ever occurring in the first place, they probably don't give it much thought. Or perhaps they simply side with the "sue everybody that offends you" crowd. What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel? offers better alternatives:
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It's great to be able to stop
When you've planned a thing that's wrong,
And be able to do something else instead...
I would add that children should be encouraged to talk calmly to their parents about the things that make them mad.
I'm Proud Of You slams the collectivist "one size fits all" education philosophy:
And that you're
Learning how important you are,
How important each person you see can be.
Discovering each one's specialty
Is the most important learning.
You Are Special puts one's "specialness" in the context of relationship, not self-indulgent ego-gratification:
You are my friend, you are special.
You are my friend, you're special to me.
You are the only one like you.
Like you, my friend, I like you.
Look & Listen takes issue with the academic fad of relying solely on personal feelings to determine objective truth:
Some things you see are confusing.
Some things you hear are strange.
But if you ask someone to explain one or two,
You'll begin to notice a change in you.
Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes. It's funny, but it's true.
It's the same, isn't it for me...
Isn't it the same for you?
"We hold that [the protesters] did not commit extortion because they did not 'obtain' property from [the abortuaries] as required by the Hobbs Act," Rehnquist said.
"We further hold that our [ruling on extortion] ... renders insufficient the other bases or predicate acts of racketeering supporting the jury's conclusion that petitioners violated RICO."
The lone dissenter was John Paul Stevens, a Gerald Ford appointee (yet another argument against voting for "centrist" Republicans). Even David Souter and the Clinton appointees sided with the majority.
I have been given your name as someone I can trust in a matter quite important. I am the caretaker of fisile stuff for my country's Nuclear Agency. At the last inventory, I discovered that for years we have been inventorying our radioactive material in kilos, but reporting the numeric value as pounds. As a consequence, we have more than twice as much radioactive material on hand than our records show. If we report this, our jobs will be in jeopardy for past errors. If you give me the number of your nuclear material storag account I will...." You know the rest.
"It's A Good Life" was an episode from the original "Twilight Zone" (see synopsis and stills here) that starred Bill Mumy (of "Lost In Space" and "Babylon 5" fame) as a boy with the ability to read people's thoughts and manipulate matter and energy with his mind. He used his powers to lash out at people who make him angry - usually by making them vanish from existence. The townspeople did their best to refrain from doing or thinking anything that might offend the boy, but many failed at the task and were forced to face the consequences. Rod Serling tells of young Anthony Fremont's ultimate act of vengeance in his opening narration: "This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone....Just by using his mind, [Anthony] took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines, because they displeased him..."
Last Wednesday, the current incarnation of "Twilight Zone" brought back Mumy and co-star Cloris Leachman (as Anthony's mom) for a sequel, titled "It's Still A Good Life." Anthony has a daughter now (played by Mumy's real-life daughter). Mrs. Fremont discovers that the girl has the same powers as her father - and one he does not: the ability to bring back the people and things he "sends away to the cornfield." She plots to enlist her granddaughter to end her son's reign of terror, but at crunchtime when she tells her to make Anthony vanish, the girl sides with her dad and sends everybody else into oblivion. The story closes with her bringing back the rest of the world so she and Dad can do some vacationing.
Anthony Fremont illustrates the unintended consequence of criminalizing "hate speech." Instead of discouraging hatred as proponents claim, such laws actually feed it - among both the intended beneficiaries and the intended targets of such legislation. People naturally become resentful of those who use the force of law to castrate their ability to voice their opinions, whether that force is exercised through lawsuit, gunpoint, or supernatural powers. The oppressed eventually reach a boiling point and retaliate. Some retaliate peacefully; some do not.
And what of those who make use of the magical power of the State to punish anybody who expresses real or perceived hate? Two of the necessary lessons of childhood are a) discernment between hatred and criticism, and b) living at peace with the knowledge that not everybody likes you and that not everybody acts the way you want them to. One who becomes accustomed to forcibly punishing people for their expressed beliefs gradually loses the ability to accept others despite their real or perceived shortcomings, and becomes increasingly insulated from overcoming any bigotries they harbor.
I just saw a video of one of the sermons, carried on prime-time TV in Iraq. Same old same old, with a twist: Usually the text says that the very trees will cry out there is a Jew behind me, kill him. This video had a new version: even the stone will say “a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and cut off his head.”
And then the mullah pulled out a sword. That’s the detail you don’t get in the transcripts: these men of God are packing heat - granted, it’s medieval-style slicy heat, but heat nonetheless.
“And we shall cut off his head!” he shouted, waving the sword. “By Allah, we shall cut it off! Oh Jews! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Jihad for the sake of Allah! Jihad for the sake of Allah!”
Playwright Harold Pinter, speaking at last weekend’s rally, said "The US is a nation out of control," and “unless we stop it, it will bring barbarism to the entire world." He said America was "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug."
When Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. When US television broadcasts a speech with Billy Graham hosting an Excalibur replica from the Franklin Mint Collection, demanding the decapitation of Muslims, let me know. When George Bush grips the podium and beseeches American rock formations to give up the location of non-Christians so we can slit their throats, and it’s carried live on national TV by presidential order, drop me a line.
I suspect that there is also a difference between the way Saddam Hussein and Tony Blair react when one of their fellow citizens calls them a "thug" in public.
I have been meaning to comment on a response to an animal rights post I wrote last November. David Trowbridge took issue with one of my claims:
But, as I've posted here, the behaviorism that is apparently Alan's perspective is equally productive of "bad" dogs—and bad horses too, for that matter. This implies an equally pernicious mismatch between human perception and animal nature: in this case, the implicit denial of animal consciousness ("purely instinctive behavior").
I see three fundamental problems with Alan's statement and perspective. First off, the opposition of "a unique capacity for conceptual thought and propositional speech" against "purely instinctive behavior" sets up a fallacy of the excluded middle. There is something between the two, and it is the kind of animal consciousness found in a dog, a horse, a parrot, or a pig, to name but four.
Second, a fundamental problem with behaviorism in regards to conscious beings of any sort is that its descriptive power applies only to the foundations of consciousness, the neural and cognitive "modules" from which it emerges. It can tell you nothing of consciousness itself. Understanding of consciousness qua consciousness, whether in humans or the higher animals, requires an imaginative empathy that maps one's introspective knowledge onto the behavior one observes in other beings.
Third, and perhaps most important, when you are speaking of a working animal like a dog (one that is useful in performing tasks like search & rescue, military and police work, animal herding, guide, and so forth), behavioral language, even if it were useful in the laboratory, is not appropriate and does not work. Dogs were domesticated, and their domestication is still being fine-tuned through selective breeding, by people who thought, and think, anthropomorphically, and that is the appropriate metaphor for understanding animal consciousness in a domestic (i.e., man-centered) animal.
In my original post, for the sake of simplicity I mentioned one human mental ability. There are three others. Two of them are reason - that is, the ability to logically discern the physical environment - and emotion. Reason seems to be limited to vertebrates (with perhaps a few exceptions), and emotion seems to be the sole province of warm-blooded creatures. Brain capacity affects both reasoning ability and emotional complexity; chimpanzees are more sophisticated tool makers and are more emotionally complex than birds. The absence of conceptual thought means that animals can discern and/or respond emotionally only to that which is in their immediate environment or has been physically and/or emotionally experienced in the past.
The other human mental ability is will - the capacity for unilaterally initiating one's own actions. I mistakenly equated sentience and will; they are two separate things. The evidence of sentience is the expression of abstract ideas; no non-human creature has ever left such evidence. The presence of sentience is evidence of the presence of will. Abstract ideas do not exist in the physical environment. A behaviorist philosophy of human psychology does not offer a credible explanation for the origin of such ideas.
Sentience cannot exist without will - but can will exist without sentience? If so, what evidence do we look for?
InstaPundit links a fascinating Jeremy Hurewitz column in the Prague Post that blasts the Left's appeasement of regimes that oppose many of its most cherished goals:
On the one hand the left espouses equal rights for women, minorities and homosexuals; it lauds free speech and a vibrant independent press as essentials of civil society. The left is a guardian of the separation of church and state and a watchdog of the judicial process. So it finds itself in diametrical opposition to the nature of most Arab societies. But in the wake of this opposition, the left simply sticks its head in the sand rather than confront the reality that as globalization integrates the world order ever closer, we are hurtling toward a clash of civilizations unless the world comes to some sort of agreement on universal values. The left has failed to say that it will not stand for the oppression of women, the vicious repression of human rights and suppression of democratic principles. The only thing it can articulate is a naive and dangerous blame-America-first rhetoric as the root of all problems in the world today.
So what else is new? This is the same Left that appeased Communism during the Cold War and still appeases it today. As everybody in Prague old enough to remember Dubcek should know, Communism is no friend to "free speech and a vibrant independent press." Fidel Castro jails and executes people for exercising those freedoms, yet he is lionized as a champion of health care - that's as absurd as Chris Rock paying tribute to his great-great-grandparents' owners for taking such good care of their slaves. If equality for men and women and for homosexuals and heterosexuals ever existed, equality for the politically privileged and the politically voiceless (or the politically nonconformist) did not. And minority rights? Did Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Chechens, Cossacks, and Tatars benefit from ethnic equality under the Soviets? What of Tibetans under Chinese rule? Miskito, Sumo, and Rama Indians under the Sandinista regime? Blacks in Cuba?
In 1980 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote The Mortal Danger. He denounced: 1) the trust placed in émigrés with no history of disagreement with their government as reliable sources of information about life and politics in the Soviet Union, and 2) appeasement, which was abetted by the distorted information about the Communist world. Atrocities were covered up, or blamed on the wrong parties; one intellectual even blamed the Czars for inventing the gulags - despite the fact that they never existed in Russia until Lenin's reign. Solzhenitsyn charges the Russian section of Voice of America as an accessory to Soviet appeasement. Instead of transmitting "the truth about [Russian and Soviet] history" and "readings from those books the very possession of which is punishable by imprisonment in the USSR," VOA aired "frivolous" material worthy of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and People Magazine (my examples of Western frivolity, not the author's). VOA refused to air Orthodox services, under the excuse that the US isn't an Orthodox country. (Personal comment: VOA should have been offering those parts of Russia's own culture, Orthodoxy included, that the Soviet government criminalized.) VOA even refused to broadcast Solzhenitsyn's own comments on the 1977 Sakharov Hearings in Rome, particularly his desire that the "spine-chilling accounts" would "penetrate the awareness of those short-sighted individuals who are content to relax and to bask in the venomous melodies of Eurocommunism."
This story is now being replayed - with Islamofascists and Arab tyrants replacing the Communists. Elites rely on self-proclaimed experts like Edward Said for their information about the Middle East. Such "experts" blame anti-US terrorism on US policy, just as the Cold War was blamed on us. (That doesn't explain terrorist attacks during a pro-Palestinian Clinton administration, or those in European nations not known for Israel-friendly governments.) Slavery in Sudan and Mauritania receives scant attention, just as slavery under Communism was ignored. Palestinian terrorism is underplayed, denied, or blamed on other parties, just as Communist atrocities had been. The Syrian and Saudi governments are treated as partners in peace processes rather than the despotic terrorist-funding regimes that they are; the evil empires of the Soviet Union and Red China were regarded as such "partners," too, despite the fact than both were responsible for mass murders in the tens of millions.
"'Russia' is to the Soviet Union as a man is to the disease afflicting him." These words of Solzhenitsyn must not be lost. The tyrants of the Middle East oppress their own people as well as those of other nations (including this one). Our allegiance must rest with the patient, not with the cancer.
A lawsuit set to be filed in Washington, D.C. will allege that Saddam Hussein helped train several of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. at an Iraqi terrorist training camp known as Salman Pak, London's Sunday Express reported over the weekend.
The case is relying on the testimony of "three Iraqi defectors and two former U.N. weapons inspectors." The identity of the plaintiff(s) is not mentioned. Stay tuned.
The latest EIA Communiqué has a choice quote from teacher Priscilla Rall (emphasis added):
My experience is that students are doing less and less, making less and less effort in their classes, and expect the teachers to somehow educate them without any effort on their part. They spend most of their time in class socializing. Most attempts of teachers to keep them on task, to 'engage' them in meaningful lessons, include interdisciplinary concepts and make the lessons meaningful for them are met with contempt. Every year students are lazier and less responsible. Every teacher in my school sees this trend. Every teacher I meet at national conferences feels the same. We are frustrated by the lack of ownership of students over their own education.
Sure, teenagers are prone to prioritize social activities over schoolwork, but there's an even greater factor behind their diminishing efforts. The students don't own their own education - the teachers' unions do. American education is a serfdom; curricula is designed to meet the objectives of the educrats, not those of the students and parents. The students sense that they're going through a bunch of motions for the benefit of somebody else and not themselves. For many students, the letter grade isn't enough; they want to learn something that they can put to personal use, and if the schools don't cooperate by offering such classes, the students won't cooperate, either.
Last night I finally went to see The Two Towers. Gollum is a great work of CGI art and gives a stellar performance. Good work on the Nazgul winged mounts, too. Grima Wormtongue is a top-notch villain as Saruman's agent in the Rohan weapons inspection team court of Theoden. Faramir wasn't as resistant to the Ring as he should have been, but at least he didn't try to take it for himself (only for Gondor). The ents weren't leafy enough, but the faces and voices were great. Eowyn is a pillar of inner strength and has the most delightful laugh - and if she's not busy next Friday, there's this Valentine's Day party I'm going to...
Kudos on the transformations of both Gandalf King Theoden. The departures from the novel in Fangorn and Osgiliath give Merry an extra chance to be courageous and the Ring a vivid demonstration of its evil. The added warg ambush was pretty cool. The Arwen dream sequences were goofy. The scene between her and her father was scripted okay, but Elrond was a bit cold. (Was that his inner Vulcan coming out?) Outstanding work capturing the simultaneous dreariness and horror of the Emyn Muil, the mega-intimidating Gate of Mordor, the sad, barely-functioning ruin of Osgiliath, the creepiness of Fangorn Forest, and the battle-worn fortress at Helm's Deep. Nice action touches: the four-tusked oliphaunts, the explosion at Helm's Deep, the boulder hitting the Osgiliath tower, and especially the destruction of Isengard (note to self: do not build secret underground lair near river).
The most moving part of the film was a magnificent speech given by Sam. It should have been played on television following the State of the Union address
Sam: It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.
If Miramax ever includes with the LOTR merchandise a plaque with these words inscribed on it, I'm buying one. And an Eowyn poster.
Allen's Arena "In the arena of human life the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities" - Aristotle. Allen Prather is the brother of NNP blogger Robert Prather. His masthead is graced with an image of the Roman Colosseum, the world's most famous partially-dismantled government project. (Perhaps he is sending a subtle message to Big Government.) He recently commented on the greatly-dismantled logic of Dave Matthews.
Mark Byron "Commentary on Politics, Economics, Theology, Sports, and other things that pull my chatty-ring." Dr. Byron is "an Assistant Professor of Business at Warner Southern College, an evangelical school in Lake Wales, Florida and live in nearby Winter Haven." See more of his bio here. Latest subjects to pull his chatty-ring include conflicting views on the War on Terror from Methodist and Episcopalian sources.
Baltic Blog "Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- So far from God, so close to the Russian Federation. A decade of independence, and loving it!" Scott Abel is an American media professor currently teaching at Concordia International University Estonia. Brief intro to himself and to the Baltic States is here. Recent posts report spending cuts for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe (personal opinion: they need to start broadcasting in French) and Estonia's contribution to fighting the War on Terror.
Junius "Eclectic mix of egalitarian liberalism, anti-bullshit, culture and non-political-correctness." Chris Bertram is the Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bristol. More info about the prof can be found here. Recently he posted a mild fisk of Robert Fisk's fisk of Colin Powell. Say that fast three times.
Sphaera Ephemeris "The Greek blog broadcasting live from both sides of the Atlantic." No apparent bio on blogger Nikolaos Karanikos. He is not a fan of socialism or United Europe. He reports that Greece has its own share of problem with terrorism - read here and here.
Stranger in a Strange Land "My pilgrim journey, cross-cultural observations and occasional theological musings." Ellen M. Hampton is on staff with InterVarsity in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Pic and bio are here. Recently she linked to a story announcing the official end of Yugoslavia, making way for "a new, less binding union between the republics of Serbia and Montenegro," and to Satirewire's "Create your own Axis" diversion. Her birthday is coming up on the 11th - she wants a car.
Book Review: The Black Book of Communism by Stéphane Courtois, et. al.
Courtois and five other European authors sought to catalogue in detail the crimes of world Communism, one that cost approximately 100 million lives and continues to enslave 1.26 billion in China, 78 million in Vietnam, 21 million in North Korea, and 11 million in Cuba. The end of the Cold War presented an historic opportunity: access to many of the government archives of the old Warsaw Pact. The section on Russia is the largest, closing (for whatever reasons) with the end of the Stalin era. One who recognizes the horrors of Stalin should note that it was Lenin who instituted the gulags, mass murders, forced relocations of entire populations, and even mass famine (Lenin's 1922 famine killed 5 million; Stalin's intentional 1932-33 Ukrainian famine killed 6 million).
Part Two explores the export of Communism. Communist International (COMINTERN) fomented Communist activity in both Eastern and Western Europe. The NKVD, predecessor agency to the KGB, was deeply involved in the Spanish civil war, supporting the Spanish Communist Party in its attempt at seizing power. The export of Communism was also sought through support of terrorist organizations such as Algeria's Front de Libération Nationale, Peru's Sendero Luminoso ("Shining Path"), Palestinian Liberation Organization, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Japanese Red Army. The Soviet Union kept its hands off the Irish Republican Army. The IRA was a sort of "useful idiot," as it kept a powerful Cold War adversary unbalanced, but the Soviet Union would not arm the terrorist organization; the risks of entering military conflict with Great Britain were too great. (The IRA's main financial support came from Irish-American citizens.)
The section on Eastern Europe places special emphasis on Poland. The NKVD had been active in Poland for years by the time of its dual conquest by Germany and Russia. During the war, Communist Poland were subjected to concentration camps, death squads, and mass deportations. The postwar period experienced typical Leninist-Stalinist rule through terror. Having the most horrific introduction to Communism of any Eastern European country save Russia itself, it's no wonder why Poland had one of the most energetic dissident communities, as characterized by Lech Walesa and Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II).
The other two major sections cover Asia and the Third World. Naturally. Details on the currently existing Communist nations are naturally sketchy. The theme of manmade famine arises again: in China, with 20-43 million dead, and and Cambodia, where famine and genocide killed one or two million - "one in seven, and more likely one in five or four" of the total population. As in Europe, paranoid pogroms against "enemies of the state" arose, resulting in genocide and/or mass imprisonment. China made a much greater attempts that the other Communist nations at "reforming" its political prisoners; this attitude, according to Courtois, stems from China's ingrained Confucian attitudes.
The Third World section contains a lesson on how not to conduct charity drives:
[T]he exemplary management of images and support from United Nations experts enabled the regime to build up food stocks - most of which went to the military - and to reap the benefits of an unprecedented wave of human solidarity created by a variety of rock stars who sang the anthem "We Are The World."
When reading the few pages devoted to Nicaragua, one notices that there is no mention of the American or Soviet activities that made top headlines during the 1980s. Remember that this is a book about the crimes of Communist governments, not about the fighting of the Cold War. No mention of the Soviet presence in Nicaragua is needed to reveal that the Sandinistas were thieving, genocidal thugs.
Co-author Karel Bartosek quotes philosopher Lubomir Sochor as defining civil society as:
...the ensemble of suprafamilial, nonstate institutions that organize the members of society into coordinated groups and allow them to express their opinions and particular interests. Of course, the prerequisite is that these institutions and organisms are autonomous and are not merely transformed into offshoots of the state apparatus, or simply "transmission belts" for state power.
From here Bartosek then establishes Communism's modus operandi:
The constant strategy of Communist repression, whose central aim was always the establishment of absolute power and the elimination of political rivals and anyone else who had any sort of real power in society, was to attack systematically all the organisms of civilized society. Because the aim was a monopoly on power and truth, the necessary targets were all other forces with political or spiritual power. Hence, the systematic targeting of unionists and political activists, priests, journalists, writers, and the like.
Communism in all its forms is utopian. The first obstacle Communists encounter is disagreement as to what constitutes the perfect society. Paradise cannot exist without unanimity on this issue; Communist movements invariably seek to establish this unanimity through the use of force - by killing, imprisoning, brainwashing, or otherwise silencing dissenters.
In the final chapter, Courtois attempts to answer the burning question, "Why?" He makes a few observations, but doesn't find a definitive answer. The same can be said for the recent series of posts on Fascism and Communism on OxBlog. David Adesnik identifies Communist governments as heresies of Marxism. He's right, if for no other reason because the establishment of permanent feudal empires is antithetical to Marx's dream of universal classless society.
So why do nominally Marxist governments always become destructive?
The answer begins with the Marxian assumption that equates profit and private property ownership with theft. According to Marxism, society collectively holds the deed to all property. The demonization of profit stems from the belief that direct labor is the only legitimate human factor that should be considered in pricing a product - as if the planning of production and the marketing of products and other "non-labor" activities should not be compensated by the buyers of the product. Most people will not willingly surrender their entire fortunes as the blueprint demands. Marxists must therefore take property by force to achieve their goal to abolish private property; they must engage in real theft to eliminate that which is misperceived as theft.
Theft comes in two forms: burglary and robbery, the difference being that one is not performed in the presence of the victim while the other is. Theoreticians who never take Marxist philosophy out of the lab are never placed in the position of facing their intended targets. The same is said of Communist politicians in the West who strive to implement Marxist policy through parliamentary procedure. Those who erect Communist governments by force are robbers. Lenin, Mao, and Castro did not simply pass laws and wait for the people to surrender their possessions. They sent armed mobs to take them by the only means by which their quest could have been successful: by threat of deadly violence. Most people who are willing to threaten murder are willing to commit it - especially when their victims try to defend themselves.
Marx compounded his moral error with a painfully naive view of human nature. His blueprint calls for an interim "dictatorship of the proletariat" to manage the transition to the propertyless, classless society. As stated in the Communist Manifesto:
"The first step on the path to the workers' revolution is the elevation of the proletariat to the position of ruling class...The proletariat will gain from its political domination by little by little tearing away from the bourgeoisie all capital, by centralising all means of production in the hands of the State, that is to say in the hands of the proletariat itself organised as the ruling class."
Implementation of Marxism begins with thievery of all means of production by the State. The first lesson of sociology that falls out of Marx's grasp is that people who are willing to steal and are given broad powers to do so with legal immunity will bloody well hold on to that power with every last subatomic particle in their bodies. The dictatorship of the proletariat must be a transitional phase under true Marxism, but human nature will simply not allow it.
How do robbers with monopolistic State power behave? They enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, of course. They also use that power to pursue whatever vendettas they may have been harboring. Communist leaders invariably turn their backs on creating a truly classless society, having made themselves feudal lords and the rest of the population serfs, but they retain the part of Marxism that calls for the destruction of the alleged "exploiter" classes. Sometimes murder is the weapon of choice. "Exploiters" are often neutralized by other means: imprisonment, forced relocation (to destroy an ethnic group cohesion by dispersing its members throughout the countryside), intimidation, brainwashing.
All leaders rise to power under the banner of some sort of ideology. Their power is threatened when the ideology is threatened. The leader must therefore a) keep those with contrary ideologies out of government, and b) convince the masses to think like the leader. Laws of democratic nations tend to interfere with totalitarian policies; leaders may tweak the laws to obstruct challengers or dissident voices, but must rely mostly on PR efforts to keep power. Most dictators rise to power with "I'm the boss, leave me alone" as their sole ideology; totalitarianism is in such instances pointless.
Communist governments almost always become totalitarian. They exist because someone came forward and proposed a rigid and complex utopian vision. Such a vision violates fundamental laws of human nature - the desire for personal property, for starters. If they abandon the quest to abolish private property, they discredit themselves and the masses demand a refund. They must therefore convince the masses to abandon human nature - ironically, while the leaders do not. Marxism also demands the abolition of religion, so the masses must be forced to abandon their allegiance to whatever deity(ies). Leaders willing to take life and property by force will take belief by force when such is essential to their political survival.
The center of the controversy surrounding Black Book is its introduction. Courtois commits two heretical acts. First, he draws the obvious parallels between Nazism and Communism - totalitarianism, concentration camps, mass murder. Second, he explores the reasons why many in the West cover up the crimes of Communism. He lists three: "the fascination with the whole notion with revolution itself," "the participation of the Soviet Union in the victory over Nazism," and that the common view of the Holocaust as "a unique atrocity...prevented an assessment of other episodes of comparable magnitude in the Communist world."
At least one other reason must be identified. The ideologies of the Communists and the West's leftist elite (especially the Marxist subset) overlap in some ways (especially with regard to the wealth redistribution rhetoric), but significant differences exist (as statist as it is, the Left doesn't want to get rid of elections). Communists and Western leftists are still much closer to each other than either is to Western conservatives and libertarians - especially those who outwardly criticize Communism. And Khruschchev never have Joe McCarthy a medal for his contribution toward demonizing anti-Communism. Pity.
Rush Limbaugh noted today that those who seek to disarm citizens through gun control measures and those who seek to appease Saddam Hussein despite his growing arsenal - which includes biological and chemical weapons - are in many cases the same people.
That got me to thinking about the Branch Davidians. David Koresh was said to have the ability to manufacture fully automatic weapons, the private ownership of which is banned in the US. There was no evidence that he had done so, but he had the means to do so. The Branch Davidian sect outside of Waco had never killed anybody. The compound had been searched before, and in the past Koresh had always been cooperative with the authorities. The ATF decided, however, to stage a military assault using dozens of agents. Debate still rages as to who fired the first shot during the first raid; four agents are dead. The compound is placed under siege, and on April 19 an offensive is mounted, pelting the compound with CS gas. The compound catches fire. FLIR images reveal evidence that agents fired at people attempting to escape the inferno.
Saddam Hussein never cooperated with UNSCOM inspectors. He is an established murderer. He invaded sovereign Kuwait, claiming it to be a renegade Iraqi province. (The histories of Iraq and Kuwait tell a different story. Kuwait was a British protectorate from 1897 to 1961; Iraq didn't even exist until 1921, and was under British mandate until 1932.) During Desert Storm he indiscriminately rained Scud missiles on Israel. Iraq systematically tortures political prisoners. Evidence points to the existence of a terrorist training facility at Salman Pak in Iraq.
Yet some find Saddam Hussein far less alarming than David Koresh. I bet many Iraqis would have found life in yesterday's Waco far less stressful than in today's Iraq.
On this day in 1969, the Palestine National Congress named Yasser Arafat as head of Palestinian Liberation Organization. This page has an all-too-brief biography of the terrorist leader; evidently it hasn't been updated since 1998. A more informative bio can be found here.
Josh Claybourn calls for a moment of science, and includes an update with a brief message from President Bush.
Damian Penny is wowed by astronaut Kalpana Chawla: "From immigrant to astronaut in a decade. Amazing. Who says America isn't the land of opportunity?" He also reports some of the whackball conspiracy theories floating out there.
Glenn Reynolds is all over this story. Start here and scroll up. Don't miss the NOAA weather radar image (see middle of post), or the link to streaming video of a MSNBC broadcast that includes footage of the breakup.
Rand Simberg, who had worked on space shuttles before, speculates on how the accident occurred. In the comments section, he sums up his (and many others') frustration with the space program: "The problem is that as long as we do it the NASA way, in which a single vehicle type is built for a single purpose, and flown rarely, we will never get out of the hole."
Steve Green notes Baghdad's response, and has come up with a great idea for a memorial - to be placed on the surface of Mars. Since Steve came up wit the idea, he should be part of the mission. Maybe he could even update his blog from space.
Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction holding me fast, how
Can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to guide my way home
Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There's no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, A state of bliss
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Glenn Reynolds linked to this map from a post on The Agonist, illustrating Europe's stance on the war. Notice how Europe is aligned (there's some debate in The Agonist's comments section about Ireland's position):