The Communist cat is out of the climate change bag

Since the beginning, climate change skeptics have said that the hysteria of the man-made global warming movement, aside from being based on manifestly shoddy and often dishonest science, was in fact a Leftist political gambit.  The Communists, having failed to win the world over with a Cold War had regrouped and were seeking to win it over with a warm war.  By targeting Western (that is, capitalist) nations as the evildoers in the world’s imminent boiling destruction, and then playing on the fear, guilt and ignorance of those same Western nations, the Communists . . . er, global warming saviors . . . announced a solution:  the West should give up its wealth by transferring it en masse to poor nations.  The West should also give up its lifestyle, by abandoning electricity, gas and even toilet paper.  The West, in other words, should give true meaning to global warming by engaging in self-immolation.

The last month, though, has seen this Communist-inspired house of cards collapse as quickly as the Soviet bloc did back in 1989.  First came ClimateGate, which revealed to the whole world the fact that the most ardent climate “scientists” were, in fact, ideologues who cared little about science, and a great deal about achieving a political goal.  They lied about their data, destroyed their facts, and systematically set out to muzzle and destroy anyone who disagreed with them.

Second came word from Russia that the same “scientists” (and please understand that these “scientists” are responsible for almost all of the conclusions on which the hysteria was based) cherry-picked climate data from Russia.  This is no small thing.  Russia covers 12% of the earth, and it’s been the Siberian tree rings that have been at the centerpiece of the warmies’ claims.

And today comes news that definitively rips the mask off of this whole thing.  When Hugo Chavez, a man who seeks to turn his beleaguered nation into a Communist worker’s paradise, with himself as leader for life, announces in Copenhagen that capitalism is the real culprit, and is met, not with silence or boos, but with deafening cheers, everything becomes clear:

President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ – “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Let me translate Chavez’s speech:  “The capitalist pigs in the United States are the enemies of the people and need to be destroyed.”  Chavez’s speech, in other words, is pitch-perfect Communist Cold War rhetoric.  During the Cold War, non-Communist bloc nations would have been politely silent, even if they agreed with his sentiments.  Thanks to the brainwashing of global warming, however, people no longer feel compelled to hide their hatred for America and their desire for its destruction.

If Barack Obama had anything approaching human decency, he would use this Chavez speech — and, more importantly, the reaction to this Chavez speech — as the justification for refusing to go to Copenhagen.  He won’t though.  Obama has made it clear, time and time again, that he agrees with the Chavez speech.  He too believes that America is the cause of the world’s woes.  He too believes that America should be de-energized and debased, both because it would make the world a better place and because America deserves that kind of humiliation.  Chavez’s speech, rather than being the straw that should break the Obami back on climate change, is simply the spoken expression of of their innate beliefs.

Incidentally, I realize that I erred somewhat when I compared what’s happening now to 1989.  The difference between now and then is the media.  Although the media always hewed left, and was steadily dragging Americans into the relativist world of “Communism is just another way of life,” it was still able to recognize the shattering drama of the Solidarity movement and the physical destruction of the Berlin Wall.  These were visible symbols of a decades-long conflict, and their occurrence made for good TV.

Things are entirely different here and now.  The media, with almost no exceptions, had bought wholesale into the religion of Climate Change.  Media members don’t want to see their God fail.  Additionally, there’s no good TV here.  Instead of hundreds, and then thousands, of Polish dockworkers facing down Soviet guns, or brave people climbing a wall, again to the backdrop of loaded guns, here are have somewhat complex scientific discussions, a few disgraced academics, and Hugo Chavez (a man media people find charismatic).  They don’t want the American people to see or know anything about all of this and, because it lacks good visuals, it’s easy to hide.  There’s a revolution taking place, and the media is doing its damndest to bury it.

So folks, it’s up to us here, the ones in the blogosphere, to get word of the revolution out.  Bloggers need to write, readers need to email blog posts and news articles to their less news obsessive friends.  All of us need to put intriguing notes on facebook, linking to articles that will enlighten a population kept in the dark.  We need to write letters to our local editors chastising them (politely, of course), for missing out on the biggest story, so far, of the 21st Century — bigger even than the election of a vaguely black, completely red, man into the White House.  The one thing I suggest is that you don’t use the “I told you so” approach.  People tend not to respond well to that kind of thing.  It’s much better, in terms of piquing people’s interest, to strike a tone of incredulous amazement, or excited sense of discovery, or even vague sadness.

There’s a revolution happening here.  We have the weapons to destroy the Communist movement’s second attempt to destroy the Western world.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.  Do something!

Watch the Democratic dominoes fall *UPDATED*

There is a lot of talk about whether, looking ahead to the 2010 elections, we’re looking at 1980, or 1994, or 1932 or some other American political year that I can’t even think of right now.  I actually think we’re looking at a different year altogether:  1989.  As you may recall, 1989 was a big year.  While Obama can’t be bothered to get his sorry self over to Berlin, that was the year the Berlin Wall fell.  That was the year the former Soviet Union imploded.  That was the end of the 70+ year long European Communist experiment.  It was a big deal.

What made 1989 a really big deal was that nobody in the establishment saw it coming.  As far as the realpolitik types were concerned (and the liberals, and the media), Communism was a rock solid, all-powerful entity.  In their world view, we were going to be in a perpetual stalemate with our Cold War enemy, because we were all equally weak and equally strong.  On college campuses we were also told that the European Communists really weren’t all that bad and, Rodney King-like, we should just all learn to get along.

Except that this controlling paradigm was anything but true.  European Communism was rotten to the core.  Its people were prisoners, but the prison walls were beginning to collapse under their own weight.  The government managed economies were completely unsustainable.  This internal rot mean that the external pressure the Ronald Reagan placed on those inefficient, dysfunctional economies, coupled with his relentless cheerleading for freedom, brought the whole festering edifice crumbling down.

What was so amazing about the crumble was the speed with which it happened.  If any of us had thought about it, we would have said that European Communism would slowly diminish over the years and the decades.  None of us envisioned the almost instantaneous collapse that occurred.  We oldsters remember that magic moment when the Berlin Wall, an overwhelming physical symbol of the Cold War, simply vanished.  Gone.

Up until about August 2009, conventional wisdom was that the liberal juggernaut was unstoppable.  Under the guidance of the God-like Obama, progressive liberalism was a rock solid, all-powerful entity.  Charles Krauthammer argues that Tuesday put the lie to that fairy tale:

In the aftermath of last year’s Obama sweep, we heard endlessly about its fundamental, revolutionary, transformational nature. How it was ushering in an FDR-like realignment for the 21st century in which new demographics — most prominently, rising minorities and the young — would bury the GOP far into the future. One book proclaimed “The Death of Conservatism,” while the more modest merely predicted the terminal decline of the Republican Party into a regional party of the Deep South or a rump party of marginalized angry white men.

This was all ridiculous from the beginning. 2008 was a historical anomaly. A uniquely charismatic candidate was running at a time of deep war weariness, with an intensely unpopular Republican president, against a politically incompetent opponent, amid the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. And still he won by only seven points.

Exactly a year later comes the empirical validation of that skepticism. Virginia — presumed harbinger of the new realignment, having gone Democratic in ’08 for the first time in 44 years — went red again. With a vengeance. Barack Obama had carried it by six points. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 — a 23-point swing. New Jersey went from plus 15 Democratic in 2008 to minus 4 in 2009. A 19-point swing.

Ah,” say the skeptics (and Nancy Pelosi).   “You’re just looking at two elections.  That means nothing.”  Well, that may be true.  Except that Riehl World notes that Democratic politicians in more conservative communities are abandoning the sinking liberal ship.  And they’re not slowly abandoning it but, instead, are swiftly heading for the life boats in en masse departures:

Seven Simpson County officials have switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

District Attorney Eddie Bowen, Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, Supervisor Mickey Berry, Justice Court Judge Eugene Knight, Constable Dan Easterling and D’Lo Alderman Michael Shoemaker made the announcement at the Republican Party headquarters in Jackson today.

“I’m just more of a conservative person,” Berry said.

I don’t track elections the way more savvy political observers do.  But I know a trend and can recognize a historic pattern when I see one — and I’m betting that 2009 is going to be the Democratic equivalent of 1989 for the European Communists.  Not only is the Party over, but it’s going to crater with mind-boggling speed.

That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, of course.  Even a damaged party, and a badly damaged party at that, can inflict plenty of wounds on the American economy.  Worse, with Obama in the driver’s seat for at least another three years, we can expect our foreign policy and our national security to continue to swing wildly into danger zones.  With or without Congress and the American people at his back, a hubristic Barack Obama is going to continue his bizarre foreign policy of bowing to dictators, offending friends, and turning his back on the hard work of keeping safe both Americans at home and American troops abroad.

UPDATE:  I’m not the only one who sees lessons in 1989.  Bruce Kesler also thinks it’s an important year for us to look back upon and learn from, with the Berlin Wall as the lesson’s centerpiece.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, when you’re talking about Andy Stern and communism.

One of my favorite books, and one I highly recommend, is Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. The title is self-explanatory, so I won’t belabor what you’ll find when you read it. I mention it here because I believe it was in that book that I read that, from the 1950s through the 1970s, one of the staunchest anti-Communist forces in America was  . . . wait for it . . . the AFL-CIO!*  Yup, under the leadership of George Meany, big labor was enormously hostile to Communism.  This was not just a symbolic thing.  The AFL-CIO’s political and economic heft meant that it could affect America’s political and economic approach to the Soviet Union.  For that reason, the AFL-CIO contributed largely to the Soviet Union’s downfall — and the freeing of a significant part of the world as a result.

MediaMatters, a Leftist media watchdog, wants to assure us that unions are still anti-Communist.  MediaMatters has therefore mounted a full frontal attack against Glenn Beck, who in turn is contending the SEIU president Andy Stern is not only Obama’s best buddy, but is also a communist.  The problem as Beck sees it and as Kathy Shaidle explains, is that Andy Stern likes to go around quoting communist slogans as his guiding principles.  In a recent interview, he announced that “workers of the world unite, it’s not just a slogan anymore.  It’s the way we’re going to have to do our work.”

Stern hastened to add in a subsequent interview that he thinks it’s just great that communism is dead.  It’s certainly nice of Stern to say that, but his conclusory statement about communism’s death hasn’t assuaged anyone’s worry that he, like Anita Dunn, who quotes Mao with the best of them, looks for moral and practical guidance to some pretty rotten people with really bad ideas.

You and I aren’t simplistic or naive.  We know that even bad people have good ideas.  Indeed, to be a high functioning bad person, you have to have some good ideas or otherwise you won’t sell your overall ideology.  Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were all effective managers, and Mussolini did get those trains to run on time.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before and am happy to say again, there comes a point when someone’s reprehensible side is so extreme that simple decency means that you can no longer hold that person’s less reprehensible side up as a useful example for one thing or another.  Because reputation matters, when a person’s evil outweighs his good, we toss him from the role model pedestal for all purposes.

Still, one could argue that recyclying is a good thing, and that’s mere convenience for for Stern, who does want to unite workers, to rely on that recognizable  old Marxist standby about the world’s workings uniting.  It’s kind of like a Che shirt — everybody recognizes it but, to the average American, it’s been leeched of its associated horrors.  The only problem with this defense is that, in addition to a weakness for communist slogans, Stern also engages in communist behavior patterns.

I’ll digress here a minute and explain what I mean by “communist behavior patterns.”  Boiled down to its essence, communism is about government control.  It is statism.  It is the opposite of the American experience which, since the Founders’ days, has been committed to liberty.

To the committed communist, anxious to explain why his system is so good, communism is an economic doctrine, with the government simply ensuring that everyone contributes so that everyone gets back.  (Doesn’t that sound nice?)  In real world terms, proven on the ground in myriad countries (the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Bulgaria, etc.), things aren’t that simple or sweet.  Without exception, in every country in which it has been tried, communism has resulted in a state that controls the individual absolutely and completely.

It’s quite logical.  Without that overarching control, how can the simple government bureaucrat be sure that everyone is contributing?  Only through the use of force can a statist government ensure those voluntary contributions.  Individual liberty yields so quickly to coercion that life in a Communist nation is tantamount to life in a prison.  Freedom vanishes.  The government sees all and knows all — and it makes sure its citizens are fully aware of its overarching police powers.

To be sure, Andy Stern doesn’t control a government, but he does have his own private fiefdom in the SEIU.  As king of that domain, he’s committed to complete control over both those who officially reside in his kingdom (that would be the union members) and those he views as enemies of his kingdom (business and its allies).  So, Stern, to show his commitment to SEIU’s agenda, proudly boasts of engaging in precisely the same Big Brother tactics that characterize life in a Communist nation:

STERN: We took names. We watched how they voted. We know where they live. (…)

STERN: There are opportunities in America to share better in the wealth, to rebalance the power, and unions and government are part of the solution.

In other words, the same man who openly quotes Marxist doctrine also openly engages in coercive Marxist conduct.  Shakespeare knew that labels are just labels.  What matters is the deeper quality that characterizes a thing or a person.  (“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”)  Stern can disavow communism as much as he likes, but when he trumpets Marxist doctrine as his guiding principle, and loudly lets people know that he is willing to use spying and coercive tactics to ensure that everyone “contributes,” there’s a heavy Marxist stench rising around him — and disavowals simply aren’t going to deodorize the smell.

____________________________

* There are two other places I might have read about George Meany.  One is Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedm to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. The other is Ann Coulter’s Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. By the way, even if I’m wrong and none of these books is the source for my knowledge about the AFL-CIO’s anti-communist activities, all three are such good books, you have nothing to lose by reading them.

Obama acolytes continue to deny human nature

Tom Elia links to an utterly fatuous statement from a 25 year old Obama supporter (who nevertheless gets a bully pulpit in a WaPo blog), saying that killing the profit motive will have no effect whatsoever on pharmaceutical innovation.  In the face of such stupidity, I have to drag out my family history once again.

My aunt was such an ardent Communist that, after WWII, she returned to Berlin.  When shocked friends in Israel asked, “How can you go back to the land of the Nazis?” she replied, “The Communists have cleansed that stain.”  She lived in Berlin until the day she died, sometime in the late 1980s.

In the early 1980s, my father had the opportunity to visit her.  Although she had retired by then, her status as a very high level party apparatchik meant that she had a “nice” apartment, which included having her own bathroom.  That bathroom proved to be very useful, because her kitchen sink didn’t work.  She had to do all of her kitchen washing up (preparing foods and cleaning up afterward) in the bathroom sink.

My father asked her why she didn’t get the sink repaired.  Her answer:  “I’m on the list for getting a repair.”  He asked, “How long have you been on the list?”  Her reply:  “Nine years.”

That is what happens when there is no profit motive.  If plumbers will get paid the same whether or not the rush out and repair your plumbing or sit back in the office, they will sit back in the office.

Humans have very few motivations:  passion (both physical and intellectual), hunger, fear, and a sort of overarching greed.  Unless the plumber is starving, being imminently threatened, or having sex with his/her customers, the only motivator left for him to get out and do the job is greed.  Harnessed through capitalism, you have a splendidly operating system; limited by communism, you have nothing but immobility and graft.

So many maniacs share the same delusions

If you want to be sickened by the nature of Hamas’ fellow travelers in the U.S., check out Zombie’s photographs from the rally in San Francisco to protest Israel’s war against Hamas.  One photo, combined with Zombie’s comment, struck me with particular force:

Globalize the Intifadah

Globalize the Intifadah

“Globalize the Intifada.” This is the fundamental message underlying all of these anti-Israel rallies organized by far-left radical groups: They see the Palestinian Intifada as the first wave of attack in a global revolution. Which, in their delusional fantasies, will usher in a secular communist utopia. This goes a long way toward explaining how left-wing groups can possibly give their support to Hamas, which is after all a repressive theocratic regime.

If that theme doesn’t strike you as familiar, you’re either fairly young, or you’re not thinking about it hard enough.  It is, in fact, Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter theory, played out on a global scale.  As you may recall, there  was a method behind the Manson murders.  Manson had convinced his followers that it was their mission to instigate a race war between blacks and whites in America, not because he had a dog in either fight, but because he believed that, once the combatants had destroyed each other, his little group would emerge triumphant from the chaos and take over the world.

We all freely acknowledge that Manson was insane, and that his followers were too (or, at least, they were in the grip of a temporary insanity while under his sway).  It was this insanity that led them to commit murders of unspeakable brutality, and to do so with unbridled glee.  Their craziness, aside from firing their blood lust, left them incapable of grasping that, when countries or cultures self-immolate, very little emerges from the ashes but further chaos and death.  (I give you large parts of Africa as Exhibit A to support that statement.)

It’s sadly obvious that those Communists who waltz with the Islamists in their hope to see a world engulfed in flames are subject to precisely the same delusion that drove Manson and his followers.  Despite the manifest insanity of their view, they’re vocal in their belief that they’re the Phoenix, and it’s up to them to stoke to fire to create the ashes.  One wonders were it will end.  Manson’s mania-driven murders numbered in the double-digits.  If these fellow-travelers have their way, mere millions of deaths may ultimately seem like small numbers.

Obama wants the government to redistribute wealth *UPDATE*

Traditionally, Americans conceived of taxes as a way in which citizens paid for basic government services that benefited all (such as defense, infrastructure, etc.).  With socialism, the notion arose that the government was to take from the rich (as defined by the government) and give to the poor (as defined by the government).  Since the Civil Rights movement, the American tendency has been to take from the rich (as defined by the government) and give to the victims (as defined by themselves).

Conservatives have been deeply suspicious that Obama desires the White House to achieve precisely this socialist agenda:  He wants to use taxes, not to provide funds for basic government services, but to take from those he deems rich and to give to those he deems appropriate recipients of government largesse.  (Let’s not pretend he’s just talking about the poor.  Hint:  ACORN.)

When Obama had his little conversation with Joe the Plumber, and went into his “spread the wealth” shtick, he pretty much gave the game away to those who were listening.  Large swathes of America, however, not just the die-hards, but the ones who want to feel good about voting for Obama, rejected the obvious, however, and claimed he was just talking about ordinary taxes.

How, then, can they explain away a 2001 Public Radio audiotape, which Pierre Le Grand found on the always useful Free Republic?  In it, Obama carefully explained that it’s a tragedy that the Warren Court was too conservative to upend the Constitution and redistribute wealth, but that it’s not too late to use legislation to achieve precisely the same goal.

And please note, Obama uses and reuses the word “redistribute.”  No hiding here behind colorful, user-friendly expressions such as “spread the wealth.”  What Obama clearly envisions is a government program that takes away your money (and your incentive to work hard and make it the American way), so that the money can go to those Obama deems worthy:

I’ll give Pierre Le Grand the last word:

[I]f we had an honest press corp stuff like this wouldn’t depend on people like me to find. But since we do not have an honest press corp thank you Free Republic!

UPDATE: If you prefer reading over listening, Michelle Malkin has a transcript of the core discussion.

UPDATE II:  Of, if you feel like discovering some Obama gems for yourself, there are lots more early interviews with the Obamessiah at the same radio station.  I wish I had the time to plow through some of them.  They look intriguing.

Convincing people with ideas

I carpooled to a soccer game today.  The driver, who is someone I don’t know very well, is a very charming man who is quite obviously a potential Obama voter.  He wasn’t quite sure about me and, since he was a very civil individual, he never came out and either insulted McCain or lauded Obama.  He did say, though, that he thought it was the government’s responsibility to provide medical care.  He also characterized Vietnam as a complete disaster.  That gave me an interesting opportunity to explain to him a few historic facts he didn’t know — because very few people know them.

I started out by reminding him of something that most people forget:  the Vietnam War was a Democratic War.  Kennedy started it and Johnson expanded it.  (Nixon, the Republican, ended it.)  I didn’t say this in the spirit of accusation, because I wasn’t being partisan.  I said it to give historical context to a larger discussion about freedom versus statism.

I noted that, in the 1930s — and, again, most people have forgotten this — the major battle in Europe was between two Leftist ideologies:  Communism and Fascism.  When he looked a little blank, I pointed out that the Nazis were a socialist party, a fact he readily conceded.   I also reminded him that, in the 1930s, given that Stalin was killing millions of his countrymen, and that Hitler hadn’t yet started his killing spree, Fascism actually looked like the better deal.  World War II demonstrated that both ideologies — both of which vested all power in the State — were equally murderous.

Men of the Kennedy/Johnson generation, I said, saw their role in WWII as freeing Europe from the Nazi version of socialism.  When that job ended, they saw themselves in a continuing war to bring an end to the Communist version of socialism.  Again, they were reacting to overwhelming statism.

Thus, to them, it was all a single battle with America upholding the banner, not of freedom, but of individualism. They knew that America couldn’t necessarily make people free or bring them a democratic form of government, but that it could try to protect people from an all-powerful state.  That’s always been an integral part of American identity.  He agreed with everything I said.

I then moved to the issue of socialized medicine, which I pointed out, again, gives the state all the power.  The state, I said, has no conscience, and it will start doling out medical care based on its determining of which classes of individual are valuable, and which are less valuable, to the state. My friend didn’t know, for example, that Baroness Warnock of Britain, who is considered one of Britain’s leading moralists, announced that demented old people have a “duty to die” because they are a burden on the state.

A few more examples like that, and we agreed that the problem wasn’t too little government when it comes to medicine, but too much. Health insurer companies operating in California are constrained by something like 1,600 state and federal regulations.  I suggested that, rather than give the government more control over the medical bureaucracy, we take most of it away.  He conceded that this was probably a good idea.

Lastly, I reminded him what happens when government steps in as the <span style=”font-style: italic;”>pater familias</span>.  He didn’t know that, up until Johnson’s Great Society, African-Americans were ever so slowly “making it.”  As a result of the Civil Rights movement, opportunities were opening for Northern Blacks, and they — meaning the men — were beginning to make more money.  The African-American family was nuclear and starting to thrive.

This upward economic trend collapsed in the mid-1960s, and its collapse coincided absolutely to the minute with government social workers fanning out to black communities and telling them that the government would henceforth provide.  Since it seemed stupid to work when you could get paid not to work, black men stopped working.  They also stopped caring about their families, or even getting married, since unmarried mothers did even better under welfare than intact families.  In a few short years, not only did African-Americans as a group collapse economically, their family structure collapsed too.  Men were redundant.  The state would provide.  Again, my friend nodded his head in agreement.

The ride ended at that point but, as he was dropping me off, my friend told me (and I think he was speaking from his heart), that it was an incredibly interesting ride.  And I bet it was, because I gave him real food for thought in the form of facts and ideas that fall outside of the orthodoxy that characterizes our ultra-liberal community.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and McCain-Palin 2008.

Switching from a communist to a capitalist economy

I never thought about it, but I was running my house like a commune.  The kids had chores to do, of course, but the incentive was the greater good, my approbation, and an allowance that, in their minds, had no relationship to the tasks demanded.  The kids did not find these incentives inspiring, and the days and works tended to be a blur of my pushing, and pushing, and their pushing back.  I was frustrated, they were resentful, and the house chaotic.

Aside from the practical stalemate of a sort of general household chaos, the “incentives” of “the greater good” and punishment did not work very well at controlling behavioral problems either.  The kids fought like cats and dogs, whined more than one would have thought possible, and thought that interrupting me was an Olympic sport.

Believe it or not, they are nice kids, but life has been a day to day struggle to achieve things that, in the perfectly run “communist” household of my youth, worked well.  As to my youth, my sister reminded me that it probably worked well because my mother, who is a lovely woman, nevertheless carried a a very big stick.  Also, my sister and I were exceptionally biddable children (probably because of that same stick).

I decided this summer to switch to capitalism, aided by the fact that the kids have very strong commercial desires — he wants a Rip Stick and she (I blush to admit this) Abercrombie clothes.  Here’s the method I devised:

I have a lot of big tasks in the house that have been bedeviling me, mostly in the form of closets that badly need organizing.  There are also the usual things of dirty kitchens, clean (but full) dishwashers, and stacks of clean, unfolded laundry.  I told the kids that, on a daily basis, I will assign them a task with a good salary.  Not a piddling 50 cents or $1 per task, but $5 to $20 per child, depending on the task’s magnitude.

There are conditions, however.  First, they must listen well as I explain the task.  Second, while doing the task, they cannot fight with each other or come whining to me.  If they don’t understand something, they may interrupt me only if it brings the task to a dead halt.  Otherwise, they have to set aside things that confuse them and wait until they’ve reached a functional wall.  If they commit any of the bad employee sins — not listening, fighting, whining, or excessive interrupting — I dock their pay, to the point where they may find themselves doing the task for no money at all.

My husband, to my surprise, thought this was a wonderful idea.  He offered a further incentive.  If the kids could get through the whole summer without having their pay docked, he’ll double whatever they earn from me.

We put the system in effect yesterday and it was the first day ever that the kids cleaned their rooms, tidied the house, and organized a closet without fighting, whining or interrupting me every second.  The whole thing flowed.  They leaped from project to project with enthusiasm and good will.  At the end of the day, they eagerly counted their earnings, projected ahead to the time at which they’d be able to make their purchases, and expressed surprise at (a) how fun it had been to work well and (b) how nice it was not to fight.

I couldn’t resist, of course, and gave them a little lesson in the differences between communism and capitalism.  They completely understood how, with money as the hub, we were all able to achieve our goals:  they moved further towards their Rip Stick and Abercrombie clothes, and I got a tidy house, an organized closet, and two well-behaved kids.

I’ll try to keep you posted on this capitalist experiment.

Friends of Obama

I highly (really highly) recommend that you read Paul Kengor’s piece in today’s American Thinker, Return of the Dupes and the Anti-Anti-Communists. In it, he describes a struggle I remember well from the 1970s (when I became politically aware during the end of the Vietnam era) through the 1990s (during which time I was on the Lefter side of the political divide) — The way in which Communists co-opted weak-thinking liberals so that the latters’ strongest beliefs weren’t either Communist or liberal, but were simply hostile to those who had the foresight to be anti-Communist.

As did most of my peers, I hated conservatives, not because of the things for which they stood, but because they were so wrong in being against the Communists and so paranoid. It came as something as a shock to me when I learned about the enormous numbers of deaths at Communist hands, something Kengor describes about students today:

These liberals, particularly after the McCarthy period, came to detest the anti-communists on the right. These liberals were not pro-communist but anti-anti-communist. They saw the anti-communists as Neanderthals, and still do, even though the anti-communists were absolutely right about the 20th century slaughter otherwise known as Marxism-Leninism. This ongoing anti-anti-communism is immediately evident in a quick conversation with your typical liberal in the press or academia. When I lecture at universities around the country, rattling off facts about the literally unparalleled communist destruction in the 20th century — easily over 100 million people died under communism from about 1917-79 — the young people are riveted, clearly having never heard any of this in the classroom, whereas their professors roll their eyes, as if the ghost of Joe McCarthy had flown into the room and leapt inside of my body.

With these facts in hand, I realized that those who stood staunchly against Communists (and that included, prior to 1972, the Democratic party) had been right.  What a shock to the system.

Obama is not someone whose learned that lesson.  Kengor discusses the fact that one of Obama’s early mentors was a large “C” Communist.  We all make mistakes, and a bunch of us neocons have people like that in our past.  If that’s were Kengor’s article stopped, it would merely be interesting.  What elevates his article is the fact that he discusses the fact that Obama, who has never explained these associations, is still being protected by a still-existing reflexive anti-anti-Communism that relies on ignorant, cynical dupes in the media, Hollywood and academia.

By the way, after you read the article, be sure to read the comments, paying special attention to the first one.  It’s quite instructive.

Random thoughts

There was a round-up of illegal aliens in Marin County. The story included the obligatory reference to the children who had to watch their parents being arrested for illegal activity:

Wilson said children watched while their parents and other adults were taken away by authorities. Some were removed while accompanying children to the school bus, he said.

“They are taking parents of citizen children,” Wilson said. “Most people are just dealing with the shock and the loss and trying to find their loved ones.”

One point and one suggestion. The point is that one never reads stories about the trauma suffered by children whose parents are arrested for crimes other than being illegal aliens. Apparently it’s only the children of illegal aliens who suffer newsworthy emotional trauma. And the suggestion: why don’t we say that, if Mom and Dad are illegally here, so are you, regardless of where you were born? That way parents and kids can stay together, here or there.

***

America is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. China and Russia used to castigate her for her temerity in developing missiles. Now they scold her for her temerity for developing defenses to their (and others’) missiles. Since American can’t win, one does get the sense that she could go ahead and do whatever the Hell she deems best for her security.

***

Speaking of Russia, I find it somehow amusing that Russia is upset that finally, long after the Cold War ended, an American movie once again reverted to its pre-Leftist roots and depicted the Communists as bad guys. (And yes, I know that during WWII, the Lefties in Hollywood went nuts making movies glorifying Communism, but that stopped for a while when the Cold War actually began.) I thought the Russians had abandoned Communism, having recognized that it wasn’t beneficial for them. Why, then, are they taking it personally now? Could it be that, when it comes to Putin, once a KGB apparatchik, always a KGB apparatchik?

***

Hillary is historically accurate that things can happen in a primary between there and now (whenever that here and now is) and the actual convention, where the delegates place the final imprimatur on their candidate of choice. Nevertheless, with a woman as calculated as Hillary, it’s hard to believe that it was coincidence that she mentioned that a primary candidate could be assassinated in the June before the convention. It’s a nasty thing to do, and it’s also a horrible thing to say about Americans, especially conservative Americans, with the implication that they’re still racist enough to do something like that.

***

Israel wiped out Iraq’s nascent nuclear arsenal, and the world has had cause to be grateful. Israel probably wiped out Syria’s nascent nuclear arsenal, and the world ought to be grateful. There’s talk now about Israel once again taking on responsibility for the world and wiping out Iran’s nuclear arsenal. Many are afraid that, if she does so, Iran will strike back like a wounded, but still dangerous, animal. Tellingly, one pair of experts isn’t that worried. Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote a paper called “The Last Option,” in which they discuss the possibility of a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In an interview about their conclusions, Clawson had this to say:

And what will be a possible result of an Israeli attack?

Again, my answer is that it depends. Israel has to create the circumstances in which world public opinion will understand Israel and its motives, even if it regrets the attack.

That’s more or less what happened with the attack against the nuclear facility in Syria?

Yes, it is quite similar. Israel benefited from President Assad’s hostile attitude to the world, and therefore the international community showed understanding of the Israeli air force’s attack. Israel did not have to do much because Assad did the job for it. In this respect, Israel also benefits from Ahmadinejad and his statements. They help Israel present its position to the world and explain the threat it faces.

Do you share the sweeping assessment of most experts that Iran’s reaction if attacked will be harsh and painful?

No. Iran’s record when it comes to its reactions in the past to attacks against it, or its important interests, is mixed. When the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan and persecuted the Shi’ite minority there, Iran mobilized military forces on the border and threatened to respond, but in the end it did nothing. The same occurred when the U.S. shot down an Iranian passenger airline in 1988: Iran threatened to avenge the incident, but in the end the exact opposite happened. Not only did Iran not respond, but also the incident hastened its decision to agree to a cease-fire in the war with Iraq for fear that the U.S. was about to join the war on Saddam Hussein’s side.

In another incident during the war, Iranian boats attacked an American naval force that set out to mine the Gulf. The U.S. did not expect Iran to react, and was surprised. This did not stop it from sinking half of the Iranian fleet in response.

Iran has lately been threatening that if it is attacked it will close the Straits of Hormuz and block the flow of oil, and thereby damage the world economy. But this is a problematic threat, since it would also affect Iran’s friends and supporters, such as China and India. I have no doubt that in such a case, they would be angry at Iran.

But most experts estimate that in the event of an Israeli attack, the Iranians will respond with force and launch Shihab missiles at Israel.

It is possible, but first, the Shihab missiles are not considered particularly reliable. Iran deploys them without having done hardly any significant tests. Second, the Shihab’s guidance system is not very accurate. The missile’s range of accuracy is up to a kilometer. And finally, Israel’s aerial defense system – the Arrow missiles would certainly intercept quite a few Shihab missiles. Moreover, Iran’s firing missiles at Israel would enable Israel to respond in a decisive manner.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

***

And as a reminder of what the statists housed in today’s Democratic party are all about, I leave you with this video of the lovely Rep. Maxine Waters talking to America’s oil companies:

Anger on the Left *UPDATED*

My father was a very angry man. At whichever job he had, he was pretty darn certain that management was out to get him. At stores, he knew he was being cheated. My mother always attributed this anger, not to the poverty and dislocation of his youth (placed in an orphanage at 5, refugee from the Nazis at 15, fighter in the RAF at 19), but to the Communism of his youth.

You see, my father grew up in the Dickensian Jewish slums of Berlin in the 1920s. Unsurprisingly, these slums were hotbeds of Communism and, while his mother was apolitical, his brother and sister were fervent Communists. Although they were much older than he was, they nevertheless managed to infect him with their political ideology, so much so that, while he eventually was a rock solid Democrat (until 1980) his world view was colored by the concept of class warfare — in his mind, anyone who was better situated than he was, was by definition out to get him.

My Dad and his siblings, therefore, were Communists in the perfect Marxist sense. They emerged from the underclass. They were genuinely downtrodden. The cards were completely stacked against them. Their class animus was understandable. It also made them very, very angry, and fairly dysfunctional in ordinary capitalist circumstances. His sister, indeed, was so hostile to Israel for adopting a mild form of socialism that she returned to East Germany to live in the Communist paradise. His brother was incapable of working in a capitalist system, or even a semi-socialist system, and ended his life in squalor, a low-level civil servant in Copenhagen, living in a one room apartment with his wife and child.

As for my Dad, he married my mom. My mom, too, had a life time of poverty and dislocation, but was never tainted by Communism. She is, indeed, to this day, perfectly happy with Capitalism in theory, although the fact that she was married to my father meant she never got to realize any real economic benefits from the system. Because of my Mom, my Dad completed his education, had children, and held down a job. He bought a home, and he became friends with rich people because, while we had no money, my Mom has class. He discovered that rich people, at least in America, weren’t evil parasites but were, in fact, very nice — and very hard-working. He moved right, so far, in fact, that he was one of the Reagan Democrats. I’m certain that he would be a McCain Demcrat too, were he still living. But he still would have been paranoid, convinced that the world was out to get him.

Believe it or not, there is a point to all of this biographical rumination and it’s anger. One could accuse my Mom of being guilty of amateur armchair psychology, with her certainty that it was Communism, not poverty, that fed my Dad’s anger. I think she’s right, though. We see even today that the Left is very, very angry. Despite the fact that life in America is, for most people, very good and certainly is, again for most people, better than it’s ever been at any other time or place in history, the Left sees America in only the grimmest terms. America is an evil oppressor. America intentionally hurts people. America lives to abuse people for racist reasons. You’ve seen DailyKos and the Democratic Underground and the HuffPo and the New York Times and the WaPo, and you know these feelings are out there.

What’s peculiar about this evil capitalist mantra is that it no longer emanates from the underclass. Think about the proponents of these theories: John Kerry, billionaire; Al Gore, multi-millionaire; John Edwards, multi-millionaire; Hillary Clinton, multi-millionaire; Nancy Pelosi, multi-millionaire; Jeremiah Wright, rich pastor moving into exclusive white enclave; the Obamas, products of America’s top education systems and, within the past few years, millionaires; Harry Reid, multi-millionaire; Barbara Boxer, millionaire. I’m stopping here, but you can add your own names to the list.

These people I’ve named are not, as my father was, social rejects who live in (or came from) squalor that is almost impossible to imagine now. They haven’t been kicked from pillar to post by the upper classes, nor have they been refugees, nor have they been denied opportunities. These people are the cream of the crop, the ones who have benefited most from America’s economic and educational opportunities. For those of us working gazillions of hours a week, holding two jobs, watching fuel prices tick up, wondering how we’ll pay for our children’s educations, and hoping no one gets seriously sick, they are the ones to be envied. They are the ruling class.

And yet every single one of the people I’ve named, and all of the similarly situated people I didn’t think of but that you did, share something in common with my down-trodden, refugee father — they’re really, really angry. So I have to think that this overarching, paranoid anger does not arise because of someone’s economic situation or their vertical position in the social hierarchy. Instead, my Mom was right all along: Communism, or whatever form of Leftism is currently in vogue, is attractive to those who are angry, and it breeds anger in those who otherwise might avoid that emotion.

And while anger is a universal trait, and clearly operates to help us survive in dangerous situations, those of us who have lived with chronic anger know that its long-term effects can only be harmful. For the angry individual, the results are ill-health, as the heart and guts rebel against the streams of bile flowing through the system. For the person living with someone angry, the downsides run the gamut from stress, anxiety and depression, to actual physical danger (a situation that my father, bless him, never created). And for those who live in a country powered by the angry, one sees political self-loathing, which leads suicidal behavior when it comes to both the economy and national security.

One of the things I’ve come to like about John McCain is that, while he definitely has a temper, that seems to be a generic trait. That is, he suffers from situational anger. He has what, in the old days, used to be called a quick temper. He is, in other respects, a sunny optimistic soul, and that despite his years as a POW. What McCain clearly lacks is the brooding, paranoid anger that characterizes the Left, and for that reason I believe that, his temper notwithstanding, he’d definitely be a sunnier presence in the White House than his embittered opponents.

I also think that Americans share McCain’s more sunny optimism. I can’t imagine that, over the long run, they’re going to be attracted to professional paranoids who live in the mansions on the hill, sucking every bit of wealth they can from the system, all the while castigating ordinary Americans for being greedy, embittered fools.

UPDATEHere’s something to chew on regarding the basic decency and optimism that characterizes John McCain.

A little perspective about Israel

In an earlier post, I asked how America in the 60s managed to swing over to and completely accept its enemy’s way of defining the situation. That is, the logical American point of view should have been that we were defeating Communism, which is an evil scourge that was trying to take over the world one country at a time, and that we were aiding free Vietnamese in their desperate fight against the Communists. However, in America, on our streets and campuses, what you heard was that America was an evil imperialist trying to take over the world one country at a time. It was a profound paradigm shift and its only because of the passage of time that we know that the defeated pro-American viewpoint was the correct one — as countries emerged from the Communist yoke, it was clear that Communism was as evil as the anti-Communists said and that American help, no matter how lukewarm and limited it eventually became, counted.
The same holds true for Israel, and I think Joseph Klein correctly characterizes the topsy-turvey way in which a truly evil narrative has trumped reality:

Every year since Israel’s founding, Israeli civilians have been murdered by Arab soldiers, the fedayeen, Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Hezbollah or some other shadowy Islamic militant group. Israel’s enemies have, from the start, sought to eliminate the Jewish state through whatever means necessary, including committing genocide against the Jewish people.

Islamic terrorists use suicide bombers and increasingly sophisticated rockets, launched from lands relinquished by Israel to the Palestinians, to accomplish their grisly deeds. Their killing machines of choice tomorrow will be whatever weapons of mass destruction they can get their hands on.

Israel is falsely accused of ‘collective punishment’ when it strikes back to defend its citizens. This propaganda has been repeated at the United Nations, right up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself. He said late last month, for example, that “I would hope that the Israeli Government should not take such a collective punishment to the general public.”

Yet it is the Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists who continually violate the Israelis’ human rights under the Geneva Conventions, which state that “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited”.

The innocent Israeli women and children, who have been slaughtered while going about their daily lives in their homes, their schools, on buses, at shopping malls, and places of worship, have committed no wrong against the Palestinian people. They are the victims of the Islamic terrorists’ measures of intimidation and terrorism, which violate their most basic of human rights – life itself. The Islamic terrorists are pursuing nothing less than the collective annihilation of the Israeli people.

When the Israeli government responds with stern but non-violent, defensive measures to protect its most vulnerable citizens from murder – for example, with border closures, security checks, economic sanctions and a separation wall – the terrorists’ apologists complain that it is Israel which is violating the Palestinians’ human rights under international law. Their premise is that Israel, as the occupying power, is prohibited by international law from imposing collective punishment on the occupied population. As recently as last week, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson declared on the record that the UN still regards the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Territory. This assumption leads to the proposition that Israel is thereby precluded from taking actions that might hurt the people who are under its occupation.

The premise underlying this argument is false because Israel is no longer occupying Gaza – or Lebanon, for that matter. Hamas controls Gaza and the Lebanese have sovereignty over all of Lebanon. Yet Israel’s citizens continue to suffer intimidation and terrorism launched from those liberated areas in violation of their international human rights. The perpetrators are Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists, with the active support of state sponsors such as Iran. Israel in good faith ceded the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in a good faith effort to advance peace. Gaza turned instead into hostile territory under Hamas’s control. More than 4200 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli residential areas after Gaza was no longer occupied territory.

You can and should read the rest here.  The inversion of truth into negative political propaganda can destroy a country from the inside out as we know.  In America, it led to country in emotional and economic disarray until Reagan came along; in Israel, it may well lead to something more extreme, such as national annihilation.

The finest minds and their games

Although I’d willingly vote for him if he were the Republican candidate, I’ve never liked McCain as a politician.  To me, his “iconoclasm” (which is how the Press has always labeled it), hasn’t been the sign of an independent mind but a lack of fixity of purpose.  Having said that, though, I’ve always strongly admired McCain the man.  What he went through in Vietnam doesn’t bear thinking about, and the fact that he returned and went on to a normal and highly successful life is a testament to his strength and resilience.

There’s one statement in the above paragraph that isn’t true.  I said that what he went through in Vietnam “doesn’t bear thinking about.”  In fact, it’s something we should think about, because it helps us understand that nature of freedom’s enemies, then and now; it helps us appreciate the strength of our American military, then and now; and it shines a light on McCain’s character.  So, if you would in fact like to think about these things, I urge you to check out this article in Leatherneck, the Magazine of the Marines, describing life for American POWs (including McCain) in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  And as you’re reading it, do keep in mind how the Vietnam-era anti-War activists gave hope to the Vietnamese Communists and enabled them to maintain their continued attacks on their prisoners.

Hat tip:  Paragraph Farmer

The brainwashing worked

Michelle Malkin has a good photo essay about the gathering in front of the Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley the other day. The San Francisco Chronicle also ran a story about the protest, which I found interesting only because of this quotation from one of the anti-War protesters:

“They represent the social base that’s giving rise to this imperialistic war. Their so-called patriotic attitude,” he said, “just shows their blatant disregard for humanity and what the flag stands for. The very fact that they’re holding it up is enough for us to be out here.”

You caught that those few sentences have all the familiar Progressive bullet-points: imperialistic war, xenophobic patriotism, disregard for humanity, etc., etc. It would be an unremarkable statement from the Progressives if it weren’t for the person who said it: “David Santos, 15, of Oakland.”  Do you wonder, as I do, where a 15 year old got such a firm grasp of Leftist rhetoric?

I knew I didn’t like them

Mr. Bookworm has liked the singing duo Indigo Girls for as long as I can remember, and I’ve disliked them, very much, for equally long.  To my ear, there is a bullying, hectoring tone to their singing that is just a complete turn-off.  Considering how little I like them, I somehow was not surprised to find them the headline act at the Communist sponsored “Power to the Peaceful Festival” held in San Francisco this past weekend and documented perfectly at a Zombie post.

Netanyahu is in (and a little Netanyahu family history)

Bibi is a larger than life figure, who has allowed hubris to damage his political career. Since I think he’s one of the few Israeli politicians who understands both the Islamist forces arrayed against Israel and America (where he lived), and who has the smarts to put his understanding into effect, I’m glad he’s back in the political game:

Benjamin Netanyahu easily defeated a radical Jewish settler in the race to lead Israel’s hardline Likud Party on Tuesday, a party official said, boosting his ambitions to reclaim the country’s premiership.

While Netanyahu’s victory had been all but assured, a strong showing by challenger Moshe Feiglin could have shored up Israel’s extreme right and hurt Netanyahu’s efforts to rehabilitate Likud after it was trounced in national elections last year. Recent polls have crowned Netanyahu, Likud’s leader since late 2005, as the front-runner for Israel’s top job.

With more than 80 percent of the primary votes tallied, Netanyahu was out way ahead with 73 percent to Feiglin’s 22 percent, party executive director Gad Arieli said. World Likud Party Chairman Danny Danon trailed with 4 percent. Final results were expected early Wednesday.

In his victory speech, Netanyahu made it clear that the race was a dress rehearsal for a much bigger contest.

“Tonight the internal contest ended, and as of tomorrow, we will focus our efforts on bringing a new leadership to Israel,” Netanyahu told dozens of cheering supporters in Tel Aviv.

A telegenic politician and self-described hawk, the M.I.T.-educated Netanyahu speaks flawless, American-accented English. He’s tough on defense issues and hands-off on the economy, but in recent months has been trying to position himself in the political center to try to lure moderate voters.

Thinking of Bibi always makes me think of his brother, Jonathan, and the role he played in the amazing Entebbe raid. ‘Cause it’s a great story, and because I believe it’s an important part of Bibi’s psyche) I think I’ll tell it again.

For those of you too young to remember, here is a short-ish version of the long and exciting story about the Entebbe raid. (I culled these facts from a much longer article by by Maj. (Res.) Louis Williams, which I found once at the Israeli Defense Forces website, but can’t find now.)

It all started with the metal detector no one looked at. On June 27, 1976, as passengers in Athens boarded the already partially full Air France 139 flight to Paris, no one paid any attention to a young woman traveling on an Ecuadorian passport, a young blond man with a Peruvian passport, and two other men, one with Bahraini and the other with Kuwaiti papers. A little more on-the-job attention could have saved four lives and a world of trouble. It would later turn out that these four people were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

The flight out of Athens began in ordinary enough fashion. It was a mid-day flight so, as soon as the plane was airborne, the flight attendants began bustling around, preparing lunch. The 246 passengers — 77 of whom were Israeli citizens — settled in to do what passengers do: read, sleep, and talk. Unfortunately, they had little time to engage in any of these ordinary activities. Within eight minutes of being airborne, the women, who called herself Ortega; the blond man, who went by the name of Garcia, but was really Wilfried Boese; and their two Arab companions, sprang into action. Ortega, gun in hand, covered the first class compartment, the Arabs took over the coach compartment, and Garcia, who had both a revolver and a grenade, invaded the cockpit. Within minutes, they had secured the plane.

The first sign the outside world had that something was wrong was when the French captain, Michel Bacos, ceased radio contact. Because of the large number of Israeli passengers on Board, when Ben Gurion Airport management received the news about this peculiar radio silence, it instantly passed it on to the Israeli government and defense ministry. The Israelis had always known about the possibility that something could happen to their citizens in the air, so they quickly set up a command station and began mobilizing forces based on their initial assumption that the hostage crisis might play out at Ben Gurion itself.

Within a half hour of the Israelis setting up this station, the terrorists began issuing their demands by contacting a Libyan control tower. Their first requests were simple, and made very clear where they stood on the ideological spectrum: in addition to fuel, they demanded that the local representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine meet them at the Libyan airport.

The plane did touch down in Libya, although it was clear that this was only a fueling stop. The terrorists released a single passenger, a young pregnant woman. In the meantime, the Israelis huddled, trying to come up with a viable plan, despite the fact that the situation was unstable and the terrorists’ ultimate destination unknown.

That same afternoon, at the terrorists’ direction, the plane took off again, with no one the wiser as to the next landing point. Eventually, with an almost empty tank, the terrorists had Captain Bacos land the plane at Entebbe, in Uganda, in the wee hours of the morning of June 28. Entebbe was an unpromising location for the Israelis, since Idi Amin, the dictator in charge, was no friend to Israel.

Once in Entebbe, it became clear that Amin was working with the terrorists, whether as part of a preconceived plan, or because he was a seizing an opportunity that presented itself to him. Thus, he allowed several more terrorists to meet the airplane, he assembled his troops at the airport, and he himself appeared there, making a speech supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Aside from Amin’s posturing, though, little was happening. Amin’s involvement was worrisome enough. As Shimon Peres (who was then Defense Minister) noted, it would be a catastrophic development for Israeli air travel if a sovereign nation successfully came to the support of hijackers.

Despite the information vacuum, the Israeli Defense Forces started brainstorming. The IDF was lucky in that, as late as 1972, Israeli planes had flown into Uganda. The IDF therefore knew that the airport where the hostages were being held was within flying range and had a fair idea about the site itself. While things might have changed since 1972, finding out about those changes was do-able.

By June 29, the situation was static from the IDF’s point of view, with the terrorists apparently locked into Entebbe. The IDF therefore made the formal decision to start turning its brainstorming into reality. In the meantime, word came that the terrorists were demanding the release of various of their terrorist compatriots who were being held in Europe, Israel and Africa. By the end of the day, the terrorists fleshed out their demand: if their demand for terrorist releases was not met by 2 p.m. Israeli time on July 1, they would kill all the hostages.

Unbeknownst to the IDF (although nothing would have surprised them), as these demands were issuing, sinister things were happening in Entebbe. With help from Ugandan soldiers, the terrorists were “remodeling” the airport terminal to create a small passageway between two rooms. Boese, the blond man, then began dividing the hostages into two groups: Jews and Israelis in one group, everyone else in another group. For the Jews, it was a grim echo of Mengele’s sorting technique, with its life and death divisions.

In the small hours of June 30, the IDF continued its non-stop information gathering and planning. The consensus was that the Israelis had to seize the Entebbe airport and free the hostages — a simple idea that was incredibly difficult to put into operation. Every detail had to be considered, including a way by which to co-opt the psychopathic Amin so that he would cease assisting the terrorists and, perhaps, even come to the Israelis’ aid. (As it turned out, aside from buying some time, Amin was not otherwise deterred from his murderous path.)

It helped the Israelis that the Germans, showing more backbone than they had in 1972 during the Munich hostage crisis, were refusing to release the terrorists they had imprisoned, as were the French. Indeed, in a move unimaginable today, the French actually ceded to Israel the decision-making power regarding responsive steps in the face of the terrorist demands. On the ground, the French were also showing true integrity. When the terrorists attempted to have Captain Bacos and his French crew join a group of non-Jewish/Israeli passengers to be released on the Air France plane, they refused to do so, insisting on staying with and caring for their passengers. A French nun also attempted to stay with the Jewish passengers, but was thrust onto the plane despite her protests. The released passengers soon ended up at home and, after being debriefed and providing some valuable information, vanish from our story.

In Israel, the IDF’s plans were sufficiently advanced to begin gathering personnel. One of the soldiers handpicked for the responsibility of leading the raid was Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan (”Yoni”) Netanyahu. Another, more junior officer, Muki Betser, was summoned as well. It was the first either knew of the plan, and they were quickly brought up to speed about the three major plans currently being considered — one of which, of course, was the air raid that ultimately took place.

On July 1, the date the terrorists had given as their deadline for killing the Jewish hostages, the Israelis had an unexpected bit of luck. It turned out that an Israeli building contractor had built the Old Terminal at Entebbe, giving the IDF access to the building’s plans.

Although the Israelis were bound and determined not to submit to the terrorists’ demands — correctly perceiving that to do so would open the door to unlimited kidnappings and hostage situations — the Cabinet voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the terrorists as a means of buying time. Idi Amin, apparently swayed by Israeli flattery that played on his overweening ego, announced that he would allow the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to broadcast on Ugandan radio at 2:00 p.m., Israeli time, thereby buying one precious hour. This one extra hour stretched into two, and then a day, and then two days, until the Israelis had a fortunate reserve of time within which to work.

The Israelis, while simultaneously cajoling Amin, gathering information, and negotiating for time, continued to finalize plans. They gathered more and more personnel, especially those paratroopers with experience with long-range flights over Africa. As a second group of non-Israeli/Jewish hostages arrived in France, the situation improved, both because there were fewer passengers to rescue, and because the new arrivals helped flesh out necessary information about the Entebbe situation.

By mid-morning on July 2, the plan were sufficiently developed that Netanyahu and his fellow officers were beginning to intellectualize actual dry run practices. They also begin focusing on the minutiae of the plan, such as specific geographic landmarks in and around the airport, fueling issues, etc. Air Force ground crews began getting seven airplanes reading for the raid: four Hercules for the trip; one Hercules as a reserve plane; and two Boeing 707 as command headquarters and backup to fly the rescued hostages home. One plane was swiftly converted into a flying medical center.

One soldier, possibly Muki, also had a brainwave about preserving the surprise aspect of the raid once the planes landed. This involved using a Mercedes limousine as one of the assault vehicles, on the theory that Ugandan officials always traveled in these vehicles. Seeing one drive around the airport attended by an entourage of Land Rovers would be so normal at Entebbe that no one would be on guard.

For the rest of the day, the selected troops, led by Netanyahu, drilled and drilled. Each knew that seconds mattered. Their rehearsals were so disciplined that, by July 3, they were ready.

As the IDF engaged in this feverish behind-the-scenes activity, negotiations stagnated. It didn’t really matter, of course, since the whole purpose behind the negotiations was to buy time. Nevertheless, it was galling to see the terrorists use these talks as a way to humiliate Israel as much as possible. Certainly no one in Israel truly believed that, if Israel capitulated to the terrorist demands, the terrorists would actually release all 105 hostages safely.

At noon on July 2, 1976, the operation, now called “Operation Thunderball” was reading to go. By 1:30, the commandos were airborne and heading South to Ophir, preparatory to crossing over into African airspace. Even on the plane, the officers and their troops continued to go minutely over the plans, mentally rehearsing and polishing small details. Eventually, everyone tried to get some sleep, so as to be fresh when the raid finally took place. The flight, already stressful, was made worse by turbulence over Ethiopia, which forced the planes to divert. The one good thing was that the same storm meant that the Israelis didn’t need to worry about detection, since the storm ruined incoming radar signals.

Despite the horrific conditions, the pilot landed the plan at Entebbe only 30 seconds behind the scheduled time. Within minutes of landing, the men were piling into the decoy Mercedes, and two Land Rovers. Even as the plane was still moving, the instant the cargo doors opened, the cars drove off the plane. Thanks to the work of paratroopers who also left the plane to place temporary lights on the runway, the planes were able to taxi slightly forward.

The Mercedes, and its escorts speed down the road to the terminal, all the while trying to give the appearance of an official entourage. When two Ugandan sentries challenged them, however, they had no option but to shoot. They hit one soldier, but the other was able to run for the control tower. In minutes, despite the loss of their cover, the commandos secured one of the terminal entrances and moved on to another.

Shortly after entering the building, the terrorists began firing, both at the Israelis and the hostages. A firefight began, with Israeli troopers successful in bringing down two of the terrorists. Sadly, despite bullhorn announcements from the IDF warning the hostages to keep down, one man was killed in this first burst of gunfire.

The second assault team, which had almost been fooled to death by two terrorists pretending to be hostages, managed to kill these terrorists. At the same time, Netanyahu’s group killed Ugandan soldiers assisting the terrorists. Within the building, after only three minutes, the raid was over. The only step remaining was to get everyone — paratroopers and hostages alike — back to the waiting planes for the return trip to Israel.

Sadly, the raid was not without costs. Two hostages died on the ground. Another, an old lady, had been taken to a Ugandan hospital, where she was subsequently murdered on Amin’s orders. And, in what proved to be a terrible blow to the Israeli psyche, Netanyahu was fatally wounded. He died on the flight back to Israel.

And that’s the story. It’s an incredible story of a small force, fighting against the odds, and, with creativity and bravery, freeing over a hundred people from captivity. It’s also a story of sacrifice, because not only did Yoni Netanyahu die on that day, every single one of the paratroopers on the flight was willing to give his life to rescue his fellow Israelis and Jews from a brutal terrorist assault. Lastly, it was a story of remarkable government foresight. By refusing to give in to the terrorist demands, Israel managed for 30 years to insulate herself from hijackings and kidnappings, a situation that changed only last year, within weeks of the 30th anniversary of Entebbe, when terrorists realized that Israel no longer had the will (or, perhaps, the ability) to pull off another Entebbe.

 The grave of Jonathan Netanyahu

Worshipping killers

The Left (both at home and abroad) likes to revile the infamous American President “Chimpy-BusHitler,” but they seem to be taking a pass on some people that even the Left would have to concede have a bit more blood on their hands. Mike Adams and the American Thinker take on the results of that, shall we say, imbalance in beliefs.

Mike Adams’ target is the Che Guevara worship that infects the self-styled “intelligentsia,” who like to swan around in Che shirts, purses and (my personal favorite), darling little clothes for their babies. Che, after all, say the intellectuals, was a “sincere, “Christ-like” “martyr.” Adams’ suggestion is that his University (UNC-Wilmington) acknowledge all this Che worship and build a Che memorial on campus. He further suggests that the University use the Jefferson Memorial as its guide, and that it cover the walls with Che’s own words:

“A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.” Che Guevara.

“If the nuclear missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of America, including New York City.” Che Guevara.

“We will march the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims… We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm.” Che Guevara.

“Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial bowl.” Che Guevara.

“Don’t shoot! I’m Che, I’m worth more to you alive than dead.” Che Guevara.

“(T)o execute a man we don’t need proof of his guilt. We only need proof that it’s necessary to execute him. It’s that simple.” Che Guevara.

Wasn’t it Jack Nicholson who blasted Tom Cruise with the words “You can’t handle the truth“? I wonder what the Che faithful will do when confronted with their hero’s blood-soaked feet of clay.

In Britain, they’ve done away with that problem altogether, according to a letter republished at the American Thinker, by simply coming up with an alternative history when it comes to teaching about Hitler:

So waiting for the Dolphin swim at Discovery Cove in Orlando, my daughter Nikki and I were seated with a Brit family–mom, daughter and son. After small talk about the great value of the pound vs the dollar etc, I mentioned that Churchill was one of my heroes. The son, no more than 16 countered that he really liked Hitler, and his sister Gandhi. I was stunned and sickened.

According to him, Hitler was a great leader and did great things for the German people. He brought them out of depression. His quest for land was only to provide “living space” for the German people. The reason for the London bombings was because Britain “carpet bombed” German cities. Hitler had to attack France, for they were a treat to his effort to gain land for living space. The atrocities of the Holocaust were attributed to the fact that he was “mad”, so it wasn’t his fault. In general, his intentions were noble.

In speaking privately with his mother after my discussion, she stated that this is the new curriculum in the British schools to combat “prejudice” against Germans. They teach the children not to “judge” Hitler.

Of course, this won’t be a problem much longer in England. The British have decided to do away with Hitler altogether, along with such iconic British figures as Queen Elizabeth I and Winston Churchill. Makes you wonder how much longer America’s Europe loving intellectuals can continue to pretend that Europeans out pace us educationally.

Jews in the know

Here’s an old joke from the Soviet era:

Rumor in Moscow has it that the grocery store has cans of meat. Despite the fact that it’s a very cold day, a long, long line instantly forms outside the store. After a couple of hours, a Communist official comes out of the store and announces, “Supplies are not as large as we first believed. All Jews must leave the line.” With empty bags and empty stomachs, the Jews quietly depart. Another couple of hours go by, and the same official emerges from the store, this time stating, “Supplies are even smaller than we thought. All non-Party members must leave the line.” The chilled, hungry non-party members wander off. Another two cold hours go by, and the official comes out for the last time: “Sorry, we have no supplies. Everyone must go home.” And as the Communist Party members wander off into the frigid afternoon, one can be heard murmuring to the other, “Those damn Jews! They get all the luck.”

Why am I telling this hoary old joke? Because the UN announced that it is going to make a major push for circumcision as a way to curtail the spread of AIDS. Jews, of course, have been circumcising their baby boys for more than 5,000 years. And somehow, somewhere, some little person is going to make the connection that the Jews, by doing something unpleasant that many people don’t want to do, lucked into something!

UPDATE:  With perfect timing, after recycling that old Soviet joke, I read today in NRO that there is a whole movie coming out about the anti-Communist humor in the Soviet Union that even the Communists could not suppress:

But regarding an ideology with deadly seriousness doesn’t mean that it can’t also be laughed at. Director/co-writer Ben Lewis’s new documentary Hammer & Tickle, which was co-produced by the Moving Picture Institute, chronicles the long history of jokes about Communism, in which those who lived under Communist oppressors were — when they managed to sneak it past the authorities — able to wring some humor out of the system that surrounded them. Communism’s all-encompassing terror, the film suggests, may even have given its humor a boost. As one of the film’s subjects wryly states, “The worse the government, the better the jokes.”

The documentary recounts a number of the many, many jokes that spread, often secretly, throughout the communist citizenry during the long tenure of Soviet Communism and its various offshoots. But Hammer & Tickle isn’t merely a joke book on film. It’s a brisk, concise lesson in the grim history of Soviet Communism told through a series of joke-centered anecdotes.

Two takes on the Leftist politics behind “climate change”

It’s getting so that, every day, every where, more and more people are beginning to challenge the “debate is over” pronouncement regarding global warming. My two favorite from today are an interview with Christopher Horner, an environmental lawyer and (former?) liberal who wrote the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism), and Janet Daley, writing for the Telegraph, an ex-Marxist noticing similar tactics between the two causes.

Here’s Horner at FrontPage Magazine:

FP: Can you talk a bit about the psychology involved here? The Left really isn’t interested in global warming and the environment, it’s really just about the Left’s lust for power. Give us your angle.

Horner: To distil this to the inescapable, simply note that the demanded response is exactly the same for both the “scientific certainty” of catastrophic man-made global cooling in the 1970s and the “scientific certainty” of catastrophic man-made global warming, both of which we have been falsely assured of. The same movement and even same people drove both alarms. Yet although every single bill on Capitol Hill and even the UN’s Kyoto Protocol is demanded in the name of ‘it’s-real-it’s-bad-it’s-here-now-it’s-our-fault-we-can-impact-it-but-we-must-act-now-it’s-a-moral-issue’, not one such proposal would under any scenario, under any set of assumptions, according to any champion, actually have a detectable impact on that which it purports to address: the climate. Seems a bit odd. In fact, the reasonable conclusion is that this agenda isn’t really about the climate at all, but instead about the one thing that we all agree would result, which is the attainment of longstanding policy objectives of making energy more scarce and moving energy sovereignty to a supranational body — something called the UNFCCC (www.unfccc.int).

And those longstanding policy objectives are held by the constituent parts of the Kyoto Industry, environmentalist pressure groups who seek to radically redistribute wealth, move the decisions of governing to the least accountable levels, all in the name of dramatically reducing that which they view as pollution: any global human population above 2 billion.

And the only way to have the agenda escape scrutiny is to scare the dickens out of people and shriek both that the debate — which no one can recall having — is over and, as is ritual now on all such “greatest threats”, “we must act now!”

And here’s Daley, in the Telegraph:

The Tories are on about airfares yet again. This week, David Cameron and Gordon Brown will conduct a Dutch auction in how much to penalise you for environmental crimes. There is something oddly familiar about all this. Perhaps I am sceptical about the climate change campaign because its exponents remind me so much of the people I knew years ago on the Marxist Left: repressive, self-righteous, and inherently totalitarian.

Because of what they see as the indubitable rightness, and the absolute moral transcendence, of their cause, they can justify demonising anyone who criticises or dissents from it. Back then, the comrades used to shame those of us who blanched at their ideological ruthlessness with the epithet “wishy-washy liberal”: the exploitation of the working classes was the all-encompassing evil that had to be fought with whatever weapon it took. These days you are castigated for worrying about self-indulgent luxuries such as free speech and open debate when we are all about to fry – or drown, depending on where you happen to be on the stricken planet when the apocalypse arrives.

***

Hundreds of years after Galileo, we are apparently still prepared to suppress inconvenient intellectual opposition once political interests have become entrenched. Among those who attempted to prevent the film being shown at all was the Liberal Democrat spokesman on the environment, Chris Huhne, who, without having seen the programme, wrote to Channel 4 executives advising them in the gravest terms to reconsider their decision to broadcast it.

One respect in which the green lobby is significantly unlike the Trotskyist movement of my youth is that it seems not to give a stuff about the poor. Green taxes are regressive: they hit the lower paid, (who can actually be forced to cut back on their air travel and their heating) much harder than the affluent, who can simply absorb the extra costs and carry on living and flying as they always have.

As for that last point, the only evidence you need of that, I think, is the high flying Al Gore, buying his way out of climate warming purgatory by buying credits to make some other poor sap in the Far East give up his new found capitalist aspirations.

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The speech I wish Bush would make

Bush has shown remarkable courage in sticking to his guns in the war. However, his actions are not matched by his words. He’s too polite, too worried, to well-counseled, too restrained for whatever reason to call things as they are. John Howard, Australia’s Prime Minister, is not so constrained, as you can see in his speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of Quadrant, a conservative magazine that was a loud voice during the Cold War and that continues to be outspoken in the struggle against Islamic jihad:

It’s important on an occasion like this we remember not just the big ideological struggles but also the individuals who took up the cause of cultural freedom and the defence of liberal democracy against its enemies.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism, it became all too easy to pretend that the outcome of the Cold War was an inevitable result of large-scale, impersonal forces that ultimately left totalitarianism exhausted and democratic capitalism triumphant. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a struggle fought by individuals on behalf of the individual spirit.

And Quadrant holds an honoured place in Australian history for the stance it took for democratic freedom and a pluralist society and in opposition to collectivist ideologies that so many saw as the inevitable wave of the future.

It’s worth recalling just a few of the philo-communism that was once quite common in Australia in the 1950’s and 60’s. For example, Manning Clark’s book Meeting Soviet Man where he likened the ideals of Vladimir Lenin to those of Jesus Christ. John Burton, the former head of the External Affairs Department, arguing that Mao’s China provided a model for the ‘transformation’ of Australia. All those who did not simply oppose Australia’s commitment in Vietnam, but who actively supported the other side and fed the delusion that Ho Chi Minh was some sort of Jeffersonian Democrat intent on spreading liberty in Asia.

To quote George Orwell: ‘One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool’. There is a view that the pro-communist left in Australia in decades past was no more than a bunch of naïve idealists, rather than what they were – ideological barrackers for regimes of oppression opposed to Australia and its interests.

In taking on the Communist left and their fellow-travellers, people like Richard Krygier, James McAuley, Peter Coleman, Bob Santamaria, Heinz Arndt and Frank Knopfelmacher were not only right in practice, they were right in principle and part of a noble and moral cause.

The influence of the pro-communist left in Australian cultural circles did wane over time, after Hungary and Kruschev’s secret speech in 1956 and further still after the brutal suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968. In the 1960’s and 70’s, it largely gave way to a New Left counter culture, where once again Quadrant served as a beacon of free and sceptical thought against fashionable leftist views on social, foreign policy and economic issues.

In the eyes of the New Left, the Cold War became a struggle defined by ‘moral equivalence’, where the Soviet bloc and the American-led West were equally to blame, each possessing their own dominating ideologies. It became the height of intellectual sophistication to believe that people in the West were no less oppressed than people under the yoke of communist dictatorship.

In time, the world would luckily see the emergence of three remarkable individuals whose moral clarity punctured such nonsense. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.

Reagan, the man who gave America back her confidence and optimism in the wake of a decade of setbacks and who began to talk openly and candidly about an ‘evil empire’ – the sort of talk that sends diplomats the world over into panicked meltdown.

Thatcher, the Iron Lady who as well as anyone grasped and articulated the essential connection of personal, political and economic freedom.

Pope John Paul II – a man of enormous courage and dignity whose words of faith and hope inspired millions behind the Iron Curtain to dream again of a Europe whole and free.

All of us here tonight owe a particular debt of gratitude to these three towering figures of the late 20th Century.

***

Having spoken earlier about Quadrant’s role in the defining global struggle of the second half of the 20th Century, let me say just a few words about the global struggle we now face at the start of the 21st Century.

Today, free and open societies face a new tyranny, the tyranny of Islamist terrorism. One with at least a family resemblance to the great struggles against forces of totalitarianism in the past. A Czech writer once wrote with great prescience that: ‘You can’t build utopia without terror, and before long terror is all that’s left’.

And just as past struggles called for clear and unambiguous statements of belief and purpose, so we must again make very clear what is at stake. Let me say what I have said many times before. This is not a struggle against Islam. It is a struggle against a perverted interpretation of Islam. As we see on a daily basis, it is the terrorists and suicide bombers who eagerly set out to spread terror and to kill innocent Muslim civilians. Countries with their sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today would like nothing more than to see them complete their job and return home.

To those who want to portray the West as anti-Muslim, I would say that it was not the Arab League who went to war in the 1990’s on behalf of Muslim minorities in the Balkans. It was the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and their NATO allies. Let me also remind people who now talk as if Iraq was some kink of pro-Islamic tranquillity before 2003 that the person who’s probably killed more Muslims in history than anyone else is Saddam Hussein.

There are, as Owen Harries, an honoured guest tonight properly reminds us, people who legitimately opposed the original action to oust Saddam Hussein, but it remains, to borrow a phrase, an inconvenient truth that if some countries such as the United States, if countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia simply abandon the people of Iraq this would be an enormous victory for the forces of terror and extremism around the world.

The fact is that we are part of a global campaign for the very ideals that some people wistfully dreamed were unchallengeable after the Cold War. No less than in that long, twilight struggle, this too will be a generational struggle for ideals of democratic freedom and liberty under the law.

Hat tip: The Dennis Prager Show

Reading and history

I’m reading two really wonderful books right now, each of which has gotten me thinking about my own history. My starting point for this post is David Horowitz’s Radical Son, about his journey from Red diaper baby to outspoken conservative. He describes a childhood completely defined by party doctrine, intrigue and paranoia. It’s quite an amazing story and, as he takes us through his parents’ life and his early childhood (that is, from the 30s through the 50s) you see so many of the seeds of our morally confused modern era.

Horowitz’s book got me thinking about my own father’s life and how it affected me. My father was born at the end of 1919, into war ravaged Berlin. His childhood began with the decadent, corrupt Weimar Republic. The decadence didn’t affect him much. Growing up in a Dickensian slum, what affected him much more was the complete economic shambles into which Germany sank after WWI, partly because the country bankrupted itself with the War, and partly because of the desert-like peace the European powers imposed against it. In his poverty-stricken, Jewish enclave, Communism seemed like the only way out.

My father was young enough that this Communist influence affected him, but didn’t dominate him, especially because he was placed in an Orthodox Jewish orphanage when he was five. He kept in touch, however, with his brother (12 years older than he was) and his sister (6 years older), both of whom were ardent, hardcore, Stalinist Communists. His brother was too passive ever to make much of his Communist beliefs, but his sister was another story.

On the run from the Nazis (not because she was Communist, but because she was Jewish), his sister eventually ended up in Palestine and stayed there long enough for her to see the creation of the State of Israel. As many of you may know, Israel was initially founded on Socialist principles. These weren’t enough for her, though, since she considered them wussy. When it was clear that East Germany was going to become a Soviet Satellite, she knew what to do — she went back, leaving behind her husband and child.

Those few friends she had in Israel were horrified. “How can you go back to the Germans?” She had an answer, though. “These weren’t Germans, these were Communists.” How conveniently she forgot the fact that this German Communism was something the Soviets forcefully imposed on these former Nazis (and their innocent children). While her response was surprising then, I’m sure you don’t find it surprising now. East Germany long ago disavowed its citizens’ responsibility for the Nazis on the ground that Communism, like bleach, magically removed the stain. And I do believe that having to live under the Communists for 40 years was certainly adequate punishment for those Germans who had been active Nazis.

My aunt remained a committed party apparatchik until the day she died. My father visited her in the early 1980s when the City of Berlin gave Jews chased out of Berlin in the 1930s an all-expense paid trip to their birthplace (he had a wonderful time). A one day visa got him to East Berlin, where they met at her home. Although his sister had attained a fairly high civil service position before she retired, the “fine” apartment that she’d earned was a depressing slum. Her kitchen sink was broken, she explained, and she had to do all her washing up in the bathroom. When Dad asked how long it had been broken, she told him, without complaint, that it had failed nine years before. She was on the list for a new sink. And that was the last he ever saw or heard of here.

But what about my Dad? Well, he was part of the founding of a kibbutz and of the State of Israel, both of which satisfied any nascent Communist yearnings he had. When he came to America, he renounced absolutely and completely any ties to Ccommunism. His political party, from the moment of his American citizenship until his death, was the Democratic party, which was mine too. Nevertheless, a part of him always believed that, in theory, Communism, which sought to have the state provide for people, and envisioned universal equality, was a better system than the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. I didn’t buy that (probably because I was the last generation that wasn’t indoctrinated in school to believe that America is evil).

In any event, I have vivid memories of kitchen-table conversations in which I said that Capitalism’s virtue was that, rather than denying man’s baser instincts, it harnesses them. Men, I said, are competitive and tribal, both of which America turns away from warfare and channels into the capitalist system. I was willing to accept — as I still do — that unbridled capitalism is a problem, because it puts no constraints at all on our worse instincts. I do believe in a free market, but I also believe that the state has a responsibilty to punish those who do wrong. It’s not fair to murder a competitor. It’s not fair (and not capitalism) to reduce your workers to slavery, rather than to pay them. It’s not fair to dump unquestionably poisonous toxins into a nearby lake to maximize your profit. Not only are these wrongful acts, they’re cheating.

My father, however, believed that capitalism was a learned skill and that, Rousseau-like, people were born in a state of innocence. If we could just all have had the luck to be raised in a pure Communism, all those nasty competitive and tribal instincts would have vanished. (To do him much, much credit, Dad recognized how evil Soviet Communisn was, but he attributed this to a failure of purity, not to the nature of the beat.)

And all of the above leads me to the second wonderful book I’m reading, Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. Wade, using information gleaned from all branches of science, especially the genome project, walks us back in time to the development of modern man. When did man branch off from chimpanzees? When did man begin to look like modern man? How, why and when did people develop speech? How, why and when did the first modern men leave Africa, and where did they go? It’s a fascinating book, and Wade is a lucid and interesting writer. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It also gives me ex post facto support for the position I advanced so many years ago during talks with my Dad.

You see, the scientific record pretty much conclusively supports a few hardwired facts about humans: we’re competitive, aggressive and tribal. These traits are buried deep within us, at the genetic level. A glance at any newspaper also shows that they’re not being bred out of us any time soon. In other words, there is no exquisite political system that, enforced with sufficient rigor, will remove from society all traces of competition, aggression or tribal affection. The best system is still going to be the one that recognizes those traits and gives them a non-violent outlet. Currently, capitalism seems to be that system — capitalism tempered with old-fashioned morality. The former recognizes our immutable base selves; and the latter enables us to develop our better selves.

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