Tuesday night stuff (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesJust a few quick links I don’t want to leave on the table before I head down to my perpetual motion machine for the rest of the evening.

Earlier today, I bought a Mark Steyn gift certificate to help fund his legal battle against Michael Mann, a man who rejoices under the title of being a scientist, but is in fact a First Amendment terrorist. Not too long after that, I read Dennis Prager’s article about Bryan Stow. Living in the Bay Area, I had heard about Stow, a SF Giants fan beaten almost to death by some L.A. Dodger’s fans. In the intervening years, I hadn’t realized that his injuries were so devastating. I also didn’t know until today that the men who did this to him got off with prison sentences equal to a slap on the hand — sentences that made them smirk happily when handed down. Please consider donating to the Bryan Stow fund. I did, and only regret that I hadn’t done so sooner.

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When Victor Davis Hanson is good, he’s really, really good. He’s all that in his post about the Bizarro World of Barack Obama’s presidency, in which every manifest failure is presented to Americans as a glowing success. Lincoln famously said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” He was wrong. We live in a P.T. Barnum world, where there’s a sucker born every minute — and they’re all supporting Barack Obama and his administration.

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No link here, just an observation: I was speaking to my fairly apolitical sister about political correctness, education trends, national security, etc. I asked her, “Am I so exercised about this stuff because I’m an old fogey, like the old Yorkshire men famous for beginning each sentence by saying ‘When I were a lad,’ or has the world really gotten weird lately?” She answered, “It’s gotten really weird. The changes are fast and they are strange.”

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It’s not just that Andrew Malcolm wrote a good article about Barack Obama’s myriad foreign policy failures and the disdain in which this Nobel Prize winner is held around the world. It’s also the side by side photos of presidents Bush and Obama with the Dalai Lama. It makes me steam to think that, probably without exception, the Dalai Lama’s supporters voted for Obama. I’m not a fan of the Dalai Lama who, despite China’s constant depredations against his land, has announced that he’s a Marxist, meaning he’s dumb as a post, but I do admire his steadfast fight for his country’s independence (a fight he apparently carries out so that his country, too, can become a large socialist workers gulag). And yes, that was one of the longest sentences I’ve ever written, but I kept my clauses in nice order.

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If the name Margalit Fox is familiar to you, it’s because you pay attention to the bylines on New York Times obituaries. In my humble opinion, the New York Times obituary section is the only section in that paper worth reading — and what makes it worthwhile in significant part is Fox’s delightful writing. Knowing what a good writer she is, I didn’t think twice about picking up The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code when I saw that she was the author. My instincts were good. Fox brings to life the decades’ long (and eventually successful) effort to decipher the Linear B writing found at Knossos, home of the many King Minoses and the famous Minotaur. I’m halfway through the book, and am finding it difficult to put it down.

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If the Thomas Jefferson quotation at Doug Ross’s site is apocryphal, please don’t tell me. I want to believe it’s real. (No, I take that back. Intellectual honesty matters more than wishful thinking.)

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I’ve never managed to be that thrilled by Sen. Marco Rubio. I think with a bit of time at his back, he’ll be something wonderful, but right now he’s not quite all that — except that is, when it comes to ripping apart old Leftists and their sorry love affair with Cuba. That fire is the promise that he can become a great statesman, although he isn’t one yet.

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Speaking of statesmen, I’m beginning to put more and more faith in Scott Walker as a serious potential presidential candidate. If the worst that the Democrat attack dogs can come up with about him as that, back in college in the late 1980s, he announced in advance that he was running for student body president, rather than waiting until the official announcement day to do so, the media is going to have to work hard to discredit him. Add the lack of bad stuff to all the major good stuff in Wisconsin, and you’ve got Candidate Squeaky-Clean-and-Principled. Indeed, my only complaint about him will be the fact that he’s younger than I am. How in the world did it happen that I got to be older than the guys running for president? (Obama is only a month younger than I am, so that doesn’t count.)

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Islamists kill. That’s what they do. And they especially love killing children because, even for psychopaths, soft targets (baby-soft targets) are the best. Or maybe I mean “especially for psychopaths.” Regardless, even as these monsters continue to array themselves in ever greater numbers against the West, our administration announces that it’s going to shrink the Army back to its 1930 size. We saw, of course, how well that worked back in the day.

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This is what Obamacare is all about (from a son’s WSJ article about Obamacare’s death sentence for his mother):

[T]here is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother’s old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death.

[snip]

The “Affordable” Care Act is a brutal, Procrustean disaster. In principle, it violates the irreducible particularity of human life, and in practice it will cause many individuals to suffer and die. We can do better, and we must.

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Sultan Knish makes a point that is obvious only in retrospect, after having read his post: just as raw power isn’t concentrated in corporations’ hands but is, instead, concentrated in a centralized government’s hands, so too is wealth concentrated, not in corporations or amongst a wealthy few, but in a centralized, socialized or semi-socialized government’s pocket.

Throwing links at you before I head to lunch with conservative friends

Quick Link and Open Thread imageI’m off to lunch with two conservative friends (one I knew for years without either of us realizing the other was conservative), so I’m just going to throw these links at you.  Take a deep breath, ’cause here goes:

The 1950s study saying most Americans are mindless, Nazi-esque sadists was a fraud.

The IRS is issuing rules that retroactively and proactively enable it to shut down Tea Party organizations — and only Tea Party organizations.

Charles Krauthammer reams Obama’s incompetence and absence from governing, even as David Brooks insists that this is why now is a perfect time to increase executive power.  Brooks even has a two-liner that will become a classic of sycophantic stupidity:  “This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout. It’s important to advocate greater executive branch power in a chastened mood.”

I think Brooks is delusional to think that the lying-ist administration ever will suddenly become honest and effective.

England, the land that gave us the entire notion of freedom and self-sufficiency, sinks ever deeper into the abyss of political correctness and bureaucratic tyranny.

A weak leader makes our country look like the equivalent of a wounded wildebeest.  No wonder the jackals are running up and taking painful nips at our downed carcase, curious as to whether we’ve still got some fight in us.  The answer, sadly, is no.  No wonder the jackals in Libya are geared up for a second bite.  After all the administration’s response to their first attack was to pretend that it really hadn’t happened.

And then there’s this, which I thought was a hoax, kind of like Ted Cruz’s pwning an Obama tweet, only to learn that it’s real:

 

There is no peace on earth when a weakling sits on the throne

Obama halo

Both my children can sing, which is something of a surprise considering that my own caterwauling sends dogs running from the room.  One of the little Bookworms performed at a choral concert just yesterday and, at the close of the concert, the choir sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  This song is very familiar to me.  When Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, the other little Bookworm was in a chorus that went to D.C. to perform at the inauguration.  The choir chose to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” for America’s new president, a man who had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Price for doing . . . nothing.

For those of you who are not familiar with this lugubrious kumbaya chant, Vince Gill warbles through it here:

Musically, it’s boring; lyrically, it’s vapid; and politically, it’s deeply misguided.  It implies that simply being peaceful is enough to bring about peace. Too many Americans managed to convince themselves that Obama, merely by existing, was a bringer of peace.

The contrary is true:  Obama is a reminder that, when it comes the leaders of superpower nations, there are only two types of peace bringers: Those who create a Roman-style peace through conquest (“they make a desert and call it peace”) and those who serve as the world’s policeman, warning the bad actors to back off.

While we should all be grateful that Obama is not the first type of peace-bringer, it’s a disaster that he’s not the second type either. Under his weak international leadership, the world is a much more dangerous place. Syria is returning itself to the Stone Ages, one dead body at a time; the Mullahs in Iran are emboldened when it comes to their regional and genocidal aspirations; Iraq and Afghanistan, where Americans spilled their blood to bringing about less barbaric societies, are reverting to their old ways; and competitors in the world powerhouse sweepstakes are testing Obama’s strength — and finding it wanting.

The most recent entrant in that last category is China, which is testing Obama’s mettle when it comes to the skies over the East China Sea:

American leaders,for over two hundred years have recognized that, as a commercial nation, freedom of navigation was and would be vital to both our economic success and our economic security.

[snip]

The US has had a number of crises with China over freedom of air and maritime navigation:  The Matsu and Quemoy crisis in the 1950s; Maritime freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Straits; sailing aircraft carriers into the straits in the 1980s and 1990s; and, most recently, the air collision and forced downing of a Navy P-3 on Hainan Island.

As China becomes more confident, more nationalistic, more powerful militarily, and more economically aggressive (and arguably more desperate), these crises are likely to become more numerous and more escalatory.

The current crisis is unique for several reasons.  First, the East China Sea is not the Gulf of Sidra or the Taiwan Straits: It is a major air and maritime thoroughfare vital to Japanese, and particularly South Korean, economic security.  The precedent of allowing China to assert sovereignty of such a vital section of international airspace would be ominous.

Second, allowing China to do this would embolden further Chinese claims such as asserting exclusive economic and maritime jurisdiction over the East China Sea, the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands.  For the Chinese, the objective is ultimately exclusive air, maritime, and economic rights out to the Second Island Chain, a vast enlargement of China’s sovereign control.

Third, the feckless response of the US to foreign crises under Obama does nothing but embolden our adversaries.  The fact that we all but apologized for sending B-52s into the claimed Air Defense Identification Zone (“it was a pre-planned exercise” not a provocation or assertion of air freedom of navigation) is further proof of the raw cowardice of this administration.

(Read the rest of this excellent analysis here.)

Peace on earth doesn’t just happen because we “let” it. It happens when you have a leader strong enough to rebuff the world’s bad actors. When it comes to Obama, the world’s bad actors have weighed him and found him wanting. Violence will inevitably follow.

The wages of socialism — mass murder

Ukrainian peasants starve to death in the streets, 1933

Last year, my friend Bruce Kesler, who blogs at a wonderful conservative group blog called Maggie’s Farm, directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. What makes this book different from other books about that era is that it doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII.  Instead, it also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII.  It is an absolutely devastating book, describing the unimaginable scale of death that two socialist leaders — Stalin and Hitler — visited on the region between their two countries.

Although Hitler industrialized the killing machine, it was Stalin who created the model when he decided to destroy the Ukrainian kulaks (independent small farmers) who were standing in the way of his vision of a collectivized agrarian nation.  To achieve his goal, he brutally starved these farmers to death — 20 to 30 million of them.  Reading author Timothy Snyder’s description of their suffering is horrible — but it’s something that we need to read in order that we never forget how fundamentally evil socialism is.  The ones who really should read this book, of course, are American socialists, but sadly, they’re unlikely to do so.

If you can get a socialist to read Bloodlands, but he has still failed to learn his lesson about what happens when government — which lacks a conscience — decides that its job isn’t to enable individual freedom but is, instead, to control all people without regard to individualism, have him read Yang Jisheng’s book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. Hard as it is to believe, Stalin and Hitler were just the warm-ups for Mao, the Chinese leader who, inspired by Stalin, may well hold the record for being the biggest mass murderer in human history.

Arthur Waldron, writing at The New Criterion reviews Jisheng’s book and his review shows that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand why Leftists are fools when they’re frightened of corporations and, instead, want desperately to place control over every aspect of their lives in government hands.  It is impossible for a corporation to wreak the kind of havoc that socialist governments have visited upon their people.  The estimates for Mao’s killing fields during his “man-created disaster” range from 36 to 70 million.  (The higher number includes the babies that never got born to a starving population.)  As happened with Stalin’s socialist-created famine, people in dire straits did unspeakable things to survive, including cannibalism.  As Snyder said in his book (and I paraphrase), “an orphan was a child whose parents died before they ate him.”

When word of the Chinese famine got out, Mao blamed unspecified natural causes, and a credulous, Left-leaning, Walter Duranty-esque media dutifully passed this on.  It was a lie, of course.  There was nothing unusual about Chinese weather patterns from 1958-1962.  Moreover, even as the people died in the millions, food filled warehouses and party officials dined in style.

Jisheng knows firsthand about the famine:  alerted that something was wrong in his native rural area, he left the city with a rice ration, but arrived too late to save his father who, though alive, had become too starved to do anything but die.  When this happened, Jisheng accepted the party line and didn’t question the thousands of deaths in his area of rural China.  It was only during the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, which saw many millions more die, that Jisheng began to realize that the problem wasn’t nature or farmers or people who needed re-education — it was Mao’s socialist policies, all of which officials throughout China unquestioningly accepted, either because they were true believers, because they were mindless party drones, or because they were afraid.

Although Jisheng’s book isn’t the first to tell about the famine, Waldron thinks it’s the best:

Tombstone, however, is without a doubt the definitive account—for now and probably for a long time. The Chinese original is two volumes and banned in that country. In Hong Kong it has sold out eight printings. The English version has been most skillfully shortened, edited, and rearranged by a team of Western and Chinese scholars, with an eye to making what is very much a massive compilation of statistics and reportage into a volume more accessible to the English-speaking reader.

This is a book whose importance must be compared with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) in that it documents beyond the possibility of refutation ghastly horrors that were first rumored, then denied, then written about a bit, but only with Solzhenitsyn and Yang were so thoroughly documented and analyzed as to place them beyond question.

You should read Waldron’s review and then, if you have the heart and stomach for it, read Jisheng’s book.

When socialism fails, as it invariably does, the American Left equally invariably claims that the failure isn’t because the plan was fundamentally flawed.  To socialists, the problem is always implementation and the culprit is always the Republicans who made it impossible for the Democrats fully to implement their plans.  Books such as Bloodlands and Tombstone remind us precisely what happens when the Left has unfettered access to a helpless population.  Every person in America should be thanking God for Republican foot-dragging, and should hope that they drag their feet ever harder and faster.

The Mayan Apocalypse and the end of the world . . . as we know it

Mayan Apocalypse

According to the much sneered at, and much feared, Mayan Apocalypse, tomorrow marks the end of the world.  I’m inclined to believe this is true.  I don’t, however, expect the earth to explode into a giant ball of cosmic dust or some plague rivaling the Black Death.  What I do see, however, is change on a massive scale, greater even than that which occurred when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The changes we’ll see began four years ago and will now accelerate.  They relate directly to Barack Obama and the three defining characteristics of his presidency:  fiscal irresponsibility, weak world leadership, and a realignment of American interests in Europe and the Middle East.

Going out of business

On the economic front, what we can expect in the future is continued American decline, with Americans expecting and accepting a constantly lower standard of living.  The Progressives have us on the road to regression:  little houses; little, unsafe cars; empty store fronts; increased homelessness; product shortages; and, of course, the social unrest the inevitably follows upon economic instability or decline.  In other words, the end of the American world as we know it.

Chinese military

Around the world, Russia, although declining in population and plagued internally by corruption and want, will do what it always does when things are bad:  attack.  It will continue to flex its muscles by making mischief.  It doesn’t care if it goes down, provided that America’s might precedes it.

China, for all its woes (unbalanced population growth, corruption, killer pollution, etc.) will continue its quest to be the world military power.  The world should fear this.  America used its dominant military power to spread individual freedom as much as possible; China’s power will be more imperialist in nature.

The EU, which was touted just a decade ago as the wave of the future, will collapse.  European states will begin feuding with each other over resources.  While that might feel like “same old, same old,” since Europeans have feuded for thousands of years, this go round will be different:  each state will have within it a Fifth Column that unites to bring all of Europe down and re-shape it into a new model.

And now, a brief, but important digression:

Karl Marx

One of the things Marx believed was that the great worker’s revolution he foresaw would transcend national borders.  Remember the slogan “Workers of the world, unite”?  Marx was certain that, within the industrialized nations, the workers would abandon national fealty and join with each other against their capitalist overlords.

Had Marx been correct, World War I would have been the worker’s moment.  Even as the great powers declared war against each other, the workers ought to have laid down their arms and embraced each other across the battle field.  This didn’t happen.  German, English, and French workers put nationalism ahead of everything.

The workers’ revolution Marx expected to sweep the industrial world happened instead in backwards, agrarian Russia.  Stalin then had to retrofit the supposedly “inevitable” industrial revolution by starving his independent peasant class to death, but that’s another story….

And now, back to the point of this post:

Muslim women London

While Marx was wrong about the 19th and early-20th century workers’ allegiance to their nation versus their allegiance, he was correct to envision a group that has loyalty to its unique identity separate from the nations in which its members reside.  This group, of course, is Muslims.

Over the past few decades, all of the European nations have invited tens of thousands of Muslims into their borders.  These Muslims have refused to integrate, living, instead, in segregated enclaves that have often become laws unto themselves.  Within these enclosed communities, the Imam’s preach jihad:  the violent overthrow of all world governments, followed by a Sharia world.

When the European pact disintegrates, the powers that be will discover that, even as Germany feuds with France over resources, the Muslims within both those nations form an allegiance that sees them turn against their host countries.  The result will be ugly and there won’t be a strong America to stop it.

Obama's bitch is Egyptian dictator

And then there are Barack Obama’s profound alignment shifts.  Both by inclination and calculation, Obama has decided that the old world order, the one that’s been in place pretty much since the end of WWII, isn’t correct.  America shouldn’t be palling around with Western nations, which he believes are responsible for Third World oppression.  Instead, Obama looks to the Muslim world as the wave of the future.  He cultivates increasingly Islamist Turkey; encourages the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt; is assiduously neutral towards Iran, to the point of cooperation with its nuclear aspirations; and has cold-shouldered and isolated westernized, democratic Israel.

This is a volte face of staggering proportions and implications.  America has now become a prop for the worst kind of dictatorships.  Moreover, these are the dictatorships that will fund the Muslim Fifth Column in Europe.  Now that Obama has more flexibility, he will accelerate this trend.

Obama’s desire to nominate Chuck Hagel as the Secretary of Defense, although that seems to have stalled for now, perfectly reflects Obama’s New World Order, one that sees a weak America mistreating Israel and cozying up to Muslim dictatorships.

All of which leads me to say that the Mayan Apocalypse is on our doorstep.  We just didn’t have the wit or foresight to imagine what it would look like.

End of the world

Mitt was correct about China

One of the points Mitt raised in talking about trade with China is the fact that China cheats, not just be manipulating currency (which Mitt also mentioned) but also by failing to stop counterfeiting.  (I’d be willing to bet that the government encourages counterfeiting, but I don’t have any proof and am too lazy to seek it out right now).  As part of my new computer, I needed to download a driver.  On the driver download page, I found this statement from the manufacturer:

Warning Notice:

Please be warned that counterfeit (fake) PL-2303HX (Chip Rev A) USB to Serial Controller ICs using Prolific’s trademark logo, brandname, and device drivers, were being sold in the China market. Counterfeit IC products show exactly the same outside chip markings but generally are of poor quality and causes Windows driver compatibility issues (Yellow Mark Error Code 10 in Device Manager). We issue this warning to all our customers and consumers to avoid confusion and false purchase.

Please be warned that selling counterfeit products are illegal and punishable by civil and criminal courts according to the trademark, copyright, and intellectual properties laws and regulations. Prolific will take proper and severe actions to cease and confiscate these counterfeit products. Prolific also prohibits the distribution of any PL-2303 drivers (including download links) without written permission from Prolific.

Prolific advices end-users to only purchase vendor branded cable products with company name contact information for service and support. Prolific does not sell cables with Prolific brand and packaging. In case you suspect a counterfeit chip inside, you may also contact Prolific to provide the vendor information.

The above notice makes it quite clear that the counterfeiting doesn’t only steal from legitimate businesses, it also puts American businesses at risk. A fake Gucci won’t cause any problems to the end buyer beyond social humiliation. A fake computer part, though, can cause a disastrous and costly computer failure.

Obama’s “special” banquet halted when activists rescue main dish

I am so lying in the caption of this post.  Nevertheless, it’s precisely what I thought when I saw a story saying that Chinese activists, using a social network, were able to stop a shipment of hundreds of dogs destined for the cook pot:

Dogs destined to be slaughtered and served up in China’s restaurants were saved when the truck transporting them was intercepted by animal rights activists.

The vehicle, carrying 505 canines packed into just 156 tiny cages, was stopped on Yunnan Province’s highway from Fumin to Kunming after other drivers spotted its sickening cargo.

Sadly, many of the dogs were in such terrible shape, they died before their rescue could be fully effected.  Thankfully, though, many others were saved, although I do wonder whether they can ever be domesticated.

Yes, Obama is a Marxist, but the MSM has blunted America’s ability to care

At YID with LID, you get to see proof of something we all knew intuitively:  Obama is now and long has been a Marxist.

The problem is that this news, which ought to be staggering, doesn’t matter.  Even if one strips away the MSM’s reflexive denial about Obama’s Marxism, the fact that he is a Marxist still doesn’t matter.  I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that forty years of Leftist education and media indoctrination have resulted in an America that views the word without fear.

After forty years of being taught aggressively that America is an evil imperialist; that American values are not only no better than other values but are actually worse; that women and all non-white races are superior to men and the white race (a form of reverse racism, rather than a step toward true equality); that capitalism destroys humans and the planet; that traditional religion is a form of white capitalist dominance; and on and on.  America may not yet be a Marxist nation in fact, but it will be because we’ve had two generations that have been inculcated in Marxist ideology.  It’s what they know and where they go.

I was the first generation.  I struggled with the cognitive dissonance of “the Communists are people just like us, and they want happy families, and they have elections, and we’re the warmongers, and fairies and unicorns,” even while contrasting that with meeting people from the Soviet Union, or getting reports out of China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other Marxist paradises putting the lie to these assurances.  Since 1989, though, Communism has been on the decline at the national level.  The Soviet Union is gone, China has gone to a weirdly capitalist economy, and we’re told that Cuba is a happy, sunny, laid-back, 50s-car driving Caribbean paradise, while the horrors in North Korea aren’t because of Communism, but simply because the Kim family is evil.  It’s Peyton Place on steroids, rather than the logical outgrowth of an evil ideology.  The cognitive dissonance with which I struggled is gone, because the past few generations have had no truth to balance against the lies.

So at the end of the day, no one in America cares that Obama is a Marxist.  The concept has been leached of meaning.

But, just so you know, he is a Marxist.

All of which gets me back to the point I made in the preceding post:  Andrew Breitbart got that the problem isn’t Obama.  He’s a symptom.  The problem is a media establishment that’s created a virtual Newspeak world.  It’s that ideological hegemony that we need to destroy, so that future generations of America can actually struggle with cognitive dissonance, rather than being fed a pure diet of lies and misinformation.  Then, if they’re lucky, they can choose actual facts rather than Marxist unicorns and fairies when they make the political choices.

China’s economy is rosy only if you don’t mind that it’s shrinking, corrupt and sometimes deadly

Andy Stern, who led the SEIU to its current status as a statist political powerhouse, has a lengthy op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, touting the wonders of China’s economic model.  His basic point:  China’s recent economic surge shows that government should control the economy.  To support this premise, he points, not to China’s current economic status, but to its wondrous five year plan:

I was part of a U.S.-China dialogue—a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress—with high-ranking Chinese government officials, both past and present. For me, the tension resulting from the chorus of American criticism paled in significance compared to reading the emerging outline of China’s 12th five-year plan. The aims: a 7% annual economic growth rate; a $640 billion investment in renewable energy; construction of six million homes; and expanding next-generation IT, clean-energy vehicles, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing and environmental protection—all while promoting social equity and rural development.

Gosh!  Propaganda really sounds good when it’s read out loud to an adoring, credulous audience.

Andy Stern

I’d like to introduce Mr. Stern to another article about the Chinese economy, this one by Gordon Chang, a veteran China watcher who’s actually paying attention to the details.  Mr. Chang’s take, which is premised upon actual facts, not wishful thinking is a little different.  With a wealth of detail, he points out that, as with all socialist experiments, China is running out of economic gas:

On Wednesday, HSBC roiled markets around the world by releasing its Flash China Purchasing Managers’ Index for November. The widely followed indicator dropped from 51.0 to 48.1, crossing the crucial line of 50 that divides expansion from contraction. Most worrisome, it appears that the factory sector is shrinking due to weakness in domestic, as opposed to export, orders.

The drop in the HSBC Index, which normally moves only tenths of a point at a time, is just another sign that the world’s second-largest economy is contracting from one month to the next. The troubling news follows October numbers, which also pointed toward a rapid falloff. There was, for instance, a sharp decline in inflation, collapsing real estate prices, and a big decrease in bellwether car sales. The wheels are coming off the Chinese economy, with indicators dropping faster than virtually all analysts—including me—predicted.

Chinese technocrats have already started to react, applying monetary measures. The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, this month cut its required reserve ratio for 20 co-operative banks to 16.0%, a reduction of a half point. Officials maintained that this move did not represent a change in their tightening policy, but, as Tom Holland of the South China Morning Post points out, the denial “stretches credulity.” PBOC watchers, therefore, see the limited relaxation as a hint that the institution will soon cut reserve requirements, now at historic highs, for all banks.

You can — and should — read the whole thing here, and then go back and compare it’s tight focus on real world economic facts and figures with Stern’s airy-fairy press release on behalf of Communism.

Let me toss one more thing into the mix here, which is James’ Taranto’s masterful take-down of Eugene Robinson’s love letter to China’s heavy-handed economic management:

You Say Tomato, I Say ‘the Usually Large Rounded Typically Red or Yellow Pulpy Berry of an Herb (Genus Lycopersicon) of the Nightshade Family’

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is in Red China, where his shoe-leather reporting has turned up evidence that . . . Republicans are stupid. Seriously, that’s the subject of the first of what he promises will be several columns filed from Beijing. Let’s examine his closing argument, which responds to a quote from Rick Perry:

But this ignores the big picture. Yes, China is governed–in an authoritarian, repressive, at times shockingly brutal manner–by a regime that calls itself communist. But communism self-immolated two decades ago. Walk down any commercial street in Beijing and you see storefronts, venders and hawkers selling anything under the sun. Communism is no longer a system in China. It’s just a brand name that officials haven’t figured out how to ditch.

I’m aware, of course, of the shameful human rights violations that the Chinese government commits every day–and of the government’s selfish, corrupt insistence on maintaining a monopoly of power. These atrocities can never be forgotten.

But I’m betting that the burgeoning middle class will find a way to cast off these shackles. The correct response would be to cheer them on.So, to recap: China’s Communist Party has already abandoned communist economics for something that looks very much like American commercialism. Politically, however, it remains a brutal and corrupt one-party state. But that can’t last. Robinson both thinks and hopes that the Chinese people will rise up and change the regime.

OK, now here’s the Perry quote: “I happen to think that the Communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history.”

Perry said the same thing Robinson did, only much more pithily and memorably. How does that make Robinson the smart one?

And just in case anyone has forgotten that the Chinese economy also runs on slave labor (a peculiar thing for a former SEIU head to laud) and criminal corruption, the links I just gave you ought to refresh your recollection.

My bottom line:  Feudal, slave and communist economies all function the same way, which is to have a powerful central controls system over labor.  It enriches a few, and impoverishes the many, both physically and spiritually.  Even if it looks good on paper, it’s bad for the soul.

(Chinese factory photo by High Contrast.)

What happened to little Yue Yue was entirely predictable

Over the past week, China has been convulsed by a video that shows a little girl — 2 years old — clad in pink trousers, struck by two vans and then ignored by over a dozen passers-by, who cavalierly stepped around her broken, bleeding body:

Little Yue Yue has since died, but China, in an embarrassed way, is trying to come to terms with what her death means.   The MSM  helpfully hints that the problem is China’s burgeoning capitalism:

China’s economic boom and the growing disparity between the rich and poor have made changing social values a contentious topic, with some lamenting what they see as materialism replacing morals.

The same article gets a little closer to the mark, in the last paragraph, when it suggests that China’s willingness to impose severe punishment on people makes them disinclined to get involved:

Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed. High-profile lawsuits have ended with good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help.

I’d like to suggest another possible societal paradigm:  China’s one child policy.  This policy says that urban, married couples may have only one child.  Approximately 40% of China’s population is subject to this policy.  The government takes it very seriously, going so far as to force abortions of full term babies on unwilling women:

During the past week, dozens of women in southwest China have been forced to have abortions even as late as nine months into the pregnancy, according to evidence uncovered by NPR.

China’s strict family planning laws permit urban married couples to have only one child each, but in some of the recent cases — in Guangxi Province — women say they were forced to abort what would have been their first child because they were unmarried. The forced abortions are all the more shocking because family planning laws have generally been relaxed in China, with many families having two children.

Liang Yage and his wife Wei Linrong had one child and believed that — like many other couples — they could pay a fine and keep their second baby. Wei was 7 months pregnant when 10 family planning officials visited her at home on April 16.

Liang describes how they told her that she would have to have an abortion, “You don’t have any more room for maneuver,” he says they told her. “If you don’t go [to the hospital], we’ll carry you.” The couple was then driven to Youjiang district maternity hospital in Baise city.

“I was scared,” Wei told NPR. “The hospital was full of women who’d been brought in forcibly. There wasn’t a single spare bed. The family planning people said forced abortions and forced sterilizations were both being carried out. We saw women being pulled in one by one.”

The couple was given a consent agreement to sign. When Liang refused, family planning officials signed it for him. He and his wife are devout Christians — he is a pastor — and they don’t agree with abortion.

The officials gave Wei three injections in the lower abdomen. Contractions started the next afternoon, and continued for almost 16 hours. Her child was stillborn.

The above story is from a few years ago, but it could have happened last year too:

A pregnant woman in China was detained, beaten and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country’s one-child limit, her husband said today.

Luo Yanquan, a construction worker, said his wife was taken kicking and screaming from their home by more than a dozen people on 10 October and detained in a clinic for three days by family planning officials, then taken to a hospital and injected with a drug that killed her baby.

Usually it doesn’t come to actual government coercion. Why not? Because the Chinese people themselves, knowing that they’re limited to one baby, and rejoicing in a culture that values only boys, take matters into their own hands, routinely aborting female babies, a disgusting practice that has earned it’s own name of “gendercide“:

By the year 2020, there will be 30 million more men than women of marriageable age in this giant empire, so large and so different (its current population is 1,336,410,000) that it often feels more like a separate planet than just another country. Nothing like this has ever happened to any civilisation before.

Yuan Quan slipped into a busy down-market establishment in a grim and basic part of town, with a flourishing market for stolen bicycles just outside, and the police looking the other way.

She asked the abortionist if he ever aborted boys. He gaped. ‘Are you mad?’ he almost shouted, ‘Nobody aborts boys unless they are deformed. Girls are what we abort.’

This cheap and squalid storefront business offers abortions from around £10. Scans, which reveal a baby’s sex, cost a fiver. True, this is a rough neighbourhood, but similar businesses flourish in more respectable districts as well.

They usually start from £20, while supposedly painless procedures can go up to about £200.

The authorities, who have no moral objection to abortion itself, have been known to force women to have abortions in their ninth month of pregnancy to keep to the one-child policy.

They cannot really complain about the huge numbers of legal, commercial abortionists. Nor can they do much to ban the cheap portable scanning machines which detect the sex of the baby and condemn so many unborn girls to death.

Once you know more about China’s attitude to girls, it is surprising that so many survive.

So was it capitalism that deadened those drivers and passers-by to the death of one little girl, or was it a culture that traditionally devalues girls and that has, for thirty years, had enforced a government policy that, inevitably, means that girls are killed in utero?  If girls are so valueless in utero, why should their value increase ex utero?  The message that Chinese citizens have absorbed is simple:  Don’t get involved as a general matter because the government is likely to come after you — and considering the risk, you should especially avoid getting involved with a manifestly disposable citizen, i.e., one little girl in bright pink trousers.

 

The Business of China and U.S.

Given this blog’s recent flogging of the China versus U.S. (“us”) question, here is  a primary example of how China may surpass the U.S. by becoming more business friendly as it decentralizes while the U.S. risks having to learn the lessons of socialist history all over again as our over-regulated economy grinds down to a slow crawl.

In this linked article at the American Spectator, an entrepreneur compares and contrasts the difficulties of and disincentives for creating new businesses in our country, under our increasingly socialist, statist form of governance.

http://spectator.org/archives/2011/05/10/killing-manufacturing

Money quote: “Now, this is China so the government and the state share 30% of your business, but considering the ease of entry, increased in-country sales and helpful attitude, this is a small price to pay, especially considering America’s 35% plus corporate tax rates.”

Here, the author makes an excellent point: when the State demands 35% of a company’s earnings (I believe that Mafia shake-down artists usually demand a smaller percentage in protection money, but I may be wrong), the State de facto owns a 35% equity interest in the company…with only one major difference: it shares 0% of the risk borne by shareholders.

Is America on the road to becoming a socialist paradise like, say, Europe’s former Soviet Block during the 1960s? Naaah…don’t think so! Our future will not be one of mythical straight-line Progessive projections.

I predict instead that, given American individual initiative and creativity, our trajectory will be more like that of an Argentina – once a leading economic jewel, now a pathetic, tired, broke 3rd-world backwater. In such economic environs, two groups will prosper: the government-sanctioned nomenklatura and those clever and adept enough to profit from the inevitable underground economy.

Sad story!

They really, really respect us, now

Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang plays an old, Korean-war vintage anti-American song, “Battle on Shangganling Mountain”, at Obama’s state dinner for Chinese President Hu-Jintao. The Chinese, of course, just loved it.

I can just feel the respect our competitors in the world have for us, now that international relations have been “reset”.

This will not end well.

Even the Times has to concede that Obama’s charm offensive is unavailing

Liberals assured us back in 2008 that, after the horrible Cowboy Bush years, we needed someone charming to bring rogue governments back into the American fold.  So far, these same rogue governments have been resistant to Obama’s charm, whether in Russia or the Palestinian territories* or Iran, just to to name a few instances of rebuffs.  Chavez has been doing hugs and kisses, but he hasn’t changed his policy, so I’d say he too is playing the boy.

Now, China joins the line-up of potentially threatening (to America) regimes that are willing to be polite (Oba-mao), but don’t have the faintest desire to make concessions to one who is so manifestly weak and hostile to his own national interest.  After all, if Obama doesn’t care for America, why should they?  Instead, with a machiavellian stealth that is to be much admired, China used the groveling Obama for their benefit, while squishing him politely under their Communist heels:

President Obama made a big effort Tuesday at presenting his first visit to China as a step forward in America’s evolving relationship with its fastest rising competitor. But what emerged after six hours of meetings, two dinners, and a stilted 30-minute presentation to the press in which Chinese President Hu Jintao would not allow questions, was a picture of a China more willing to say no to the United States.

On everything from Iran, where Mr. Hu did not publicly discuss the possibility of sanctions, to currency, where he made no nod toward changing the value of the renminbi, to human rights, where a joint statement bluntly acknowledged that the two countries “have differences,” China held firm against most American demands. Combined with China’s micro-management of Mr. Obama’s appearances inside the country, the trip showcased China’s ability to push back against American pressure, analysts said.

“China effectively stage-managed President Obama’s public appearances, got him to make statements endorsing Chinese positions of political importance to them, and effectively squelched discussions of contentious issues such as human rights and China’s currency policy,” said Eswar Prasad, a China specialist at Cornell University. “In a master-stroke, they shifted the public discussion from the global risks posed by Chinese currency policy to the dangers of loose monetary policy and protectionist tendencies in the U.S.”

Read the rest here.

My husband assured my son this morning that Obama is doing a great job as president, and castigated me soundly for filling my son’s head with negative remarks about our president.  I refrained from pointing out that, while I give my children hard facts, and let them draw their conclusions, my husband has only airy-fairy conclusions, unconnected to any facts.  Some days, it looks as if even the New York Times is being forced to move beyond those rose-colored glasses.

_________________________

*The first time around, in a beautiful Freudian moment, I wrote that as “Palestinian terrortories.”

Tune in next week when the Empire State goes Red & Black to honor the Nazis *UPDATED*

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but WHAT THE HELL IS THE EMPIRE STATE DOING HONORING A BRUTAL REGIME THAT KILLED TENS OF MILLIONS OF ITS OWN CITIZENS, THAT STILL PUNISHES SPEECH WITH TORTURE AND DEATH, THAT USES SLAVE LABOR, AND THAT SEES ITS POLITICAL PRISONERS AS ORGAN DONOR MACHINES?

Just asking.

And yes, I’m definitely a hypocrite, because my house is filled with things made in China.  The sad fact is that there is a lot of stuff nowadays that you can’t buy at all unless you’re willing to accept Chinese manufacture.  Most Chinese goods are poorly made (and that’s not even touching upon the food poisoning and lead poisoning issues) so, as a savvy consumer, I try to avoid them, something separate from also trying to be a relatively principled shopper.  The fact remains, though, that Chinese goods are ubiquitous and my money supports that regime.  I still think, however, that being a prisoner of the marketplace is different from giving the Communist government itself the kind of accolade and honor that goes with colors on the Empire State.

UPDATE:  I’m not the only one asking this question.

The practical implications of Obama’s decision to pick a trade war with China

Obama’s foolish decision to pick a trade war with China has larger implications about his governing style, as Jennifer Rubin explains:

[D]omestic political considerations and the good opinion of his base are more important to Obama than just about any other concern. That seems to be the motivating factor in a lot of what he does. The international apology tour is catnip for his Left-leaning academic friends, who are delighted that we finally have a president who “understands” there isn’t anything special about America. He unleashes another investigation on CIA operatives, cheering the “get the Bushies” netroot crowd. He selects an entirely mediocre Supreme Court judge because the Hispanic vote could use a boost. And despite what must be the advice of free-traders within his administration, he has no qualms about risking economic retaliation from China to mollify his Big Labor patrons.

During the campaign, Obama’s supporters assured us that Obama was intensely “practical” and therefore would make fact-based decisions devoid of ideology. The reality is that he persistently tends to the whims and demands of his Left-leaning base (whose views he, in any case, sympathizes with), the result being a series of policy choices that send a thrill up the legs of union bosses and Harvard professors. If we trigger a trade war or throw the intelligence community into a tailspin, well, that’s a small price for keeping the base quiet.

To which I say, yup, you’re right.

N. Korea tests Obama — and the world *UPDATED*

Clearly, predator nations smell blood in the water — and that blood is Obama’s manifest inability to cope with predator nations.  At least, that’s how I read this, from BNO News at 9:30 ish p.m. PST:

N. Korea says it is no longer bound to the armistice which ended the war and says the peninsula will soon be returned to the state of war.

Not quite 3 a.m. in the White House, but close enough, right?  The only thing I know with pretty perfect certainty right now is that BHO has absolutely no idea what to do.  Let’s hope (a) his advisers have some plans and (b) he picks a good plan from the options presented to him.

UPDATELorie Byrd reminds us that, while there’s every reason for us to continue to hope that Obama is unable to carry out his domestic agenda, we should all be at his back right now, praying for a good outcome.

UPDATE II:  This news story started running over the wire at about 9:00 pm PST last night (and I picked it up about a half hour later).   Shortly before 10:00, I told Mr. Bookworm that North Korea had announced that it was no longer bound by the armistice but was, instead, at war (which I think accurate represents the wire information).  Mr. Bookworm was flabbergasted and instantly turned on the news:  which didn’t mention this story at all.  Every single local station was obsessed with the gay marriage story and nothing short of Amageddon was going to dislodge it!  Mr. Bookworm concluded I was hallucinating, although I suspect today’s Drudge headlines might change his point of view.

As it is, someone who has a very good read on these situations thinks it’s still sabre rattling — and will continue to be so until China has a good read on Obama and, if Obama fails to impress China, moves in on Taiwan.

Again, let us join with Lorie Byrd in hoping that Obama passes this test.

Dalai Lama — as good and stupid as Gandhi

The Dalai Lama spoke today in Berkeley, and reminded me strongly of Gandhi.  This was Gandhi’s approach to the Nazis, as expressed to the English (who were, you remember, the nation against which he was rebelling):

“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity.  You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. . . .   If these gentlemen [a word Gandhi apparently used without irony] choose to occupy your homes you will vacate them.  If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them”  (Non-Violence in Peace and War.)

As an interesting historical aside, it appears there was a lot more talk than action behind Gandhi’s non-violence stance, and he seemed to preach it most aggressively to those whom he disliked and who happened to be in the Nazi line of fire.  Nevertheless, he is the standard bearer for the coffee klatch approach to dictatorships, which is that one should just walk into their lair for some peaceful chit-chat, after which everything will be well.

Of course, Hitler walked all over countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium) and peoples (Jews, Gypsy’s, homosexuals) who hadn’t done a damn thing to him and who had been strikingly non-violent.  He did it because he could.  Nonviolence against someone determined to be violent works only when you negotiate from a position of peace.  The wagging tail is great when you can back it up with sharp teeth.  Otherwise, you’re just a victim in the making.

Turns out the revered Dalai Lama espouses the same view as Gandhi:

The Dalai Lama told a standing room only crowd of some 7,000 at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Saturday that peace and nuclear disarmament can be accomplished if only the world’s leaders could talk to one another in a compassionate and understanding way.

The exiled spiritual leader of Buddhist Tibet chose the university where the Free Speech Movement began more than 40 years ago to endorse President Obama’s philosophy of establishing dialogue, even with reviled world leaders.

“We must promote dialogue with full respect and consideration of others’ interests,” said the world’s best known Buddhist as he sat cross-legged in a maroon robe on a cushy chair placed atop a platform covered by a rug, presumably Tibetan.

Unsurprisingly, the DL managed to be exceptionally nasty about George Bush, ostensibly praising him and then slapping him ungraciously across the face:

“As a human being, very nice person,” the Dalai Lama said, “but not, like, a great leader or good politician.”

I think the DL will be surprised when he discovers that Obama’s kissy-face across the table from the Chinese, rather than bringing in a new era of love and sunshine, will see a resurgent China, more determined than ever to stomp on the DL’s beloved Tibet.

The DL also showed himself to be no student of human nature:

“Everybody, including animals, want peace. It is clear,” he said. “Our long-term goal should be a more compassionate humanity.”

So untrue. As studies show, war appears to be hard wired into human beings. (See, for example, Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors.)  People do want peace, but only on their terms. Also, some people actually crave warfare — the excitement, the power, the volatility, the clarity, etc.

Lucky Chinese. Their avowed enemy, the one who goes around the world opposing them, is an idiot preaching the approach most likely to defeat his own interest.

The New York Times takes off the mask

This morning, Mr. Bookworm asked me “Who is Charles Freeman?”  Because he reads only the Times, he’d never heard of him before today.  I gave a brief summary of Freeman’s views re China, the Middle East and 9/11, as well as the fact that he lives in Saudi and Chinese pockets financially.  Mr. Bookworm listened silently, and then said, “Well, I’ve never heard of him, but it’s all over the front pages today that the Jewish Lobby destroyed him.”

I thought this was hyperbole on Mr. Bookworm’s part, but it’s not.  Despite the fact that the past three weeks revealed vast amounts of irrefutable evidence about Freeman’s China connections, his 9/11 pronouncements and his general malevolent wackiness, the Times, now that it finally deigned to cover the matter, actually parrots Freeman and blames the Jews.

The Times titles its “story” (and I use that term deliberately, in the way one refers to a falsehood) about Freeman’s political demise thusly: “Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post.”  The story begins with a bizarre first paragraph that explains that the White House really had no idea what was going on and was kind of worried about Freeman, but ultimately was just as blindsided by the Freeman nomination as anyone else.  As for me, I don’t find this “excuse” comforting.  I find it a scary sign that, again, the White House is either utterly incompetent or was complicit in this failed nomination and is now using incompetence as an excuse.

Having done their best to trumpet the Bush administration’s innocence in this mess, the article’s authors just pile it on Israel, as seen through the Freeman lens:

Just how controversial the choice would be became clear on Tuesday, when Mr. Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush, angrily withdrew his name from consideration and charged that he had been the victim of a concerted campaign by what he called “the Israel lobby.”

Mr. Freeman had long been critical of Israel, with a bluntness that American officials rarely voice in public about a staunch American ally. In 2006, he warned that, “left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not.”

He did not soften his tone even on Wednesday, saying in an interview that “Israel is driving itself toward a cliff, and it is irresponsible not to question Israeli policy and to decide what is best for the American people.”

The critics who led the effort to derail Mr. Freeman argued that such views reflected a bias that could not be tolerated in someone who, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, would have overseen the production of what are supposed to be policy-neutral intelligence assessments destined for the president’s desk.

Some of Mr. Freeman’s defenders say his views on Israel are extreme only when seen through the lens of American political life, and they asked whether it was possible to question American support for Israel without being either muzzled or marginalized.

“The reality of Washington is that our political landscape finds it difficult to assimilate any criticism of any segment of the Israeli leadership,” said Robert W. Jordan, who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003.

The above is just a representative sample.  The article never actually examines Freeman’s problems.  It engages in a he said/she said approach, giving equal airtime to his supporters, and leaving the very strong impression (supported by the story’s title), that all-powering Jews destroyed Freeman — just as Freeman claimed.

Only in the last third of this lengthy article covering Freeman’s views about Israel and the effort Jewish groups made to derail him does one actually hear about China, and then only in the most cursory fashion, and spread out over myriad paragraphs:

In the days after Senator Schumer’s first phone call, other lawmakers and pro-Israel groups began applying pressure on the White House. Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, also called Mr. Emanuel about the pick, and pushed Mr. Blair’s inspector general to examine possible conflicts of interest surrounding Mr. Freeman’s relationships with the Chinese and Saudi governments.

[snip]

Before his ambassadorship, Mr. Freeman held a variety of State Department posts. Since leaving government, he has worked with nonprofit groups and on the board of the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation, a past position that his critics said could be a conflict of interest in his new job.

[snip]

Critics also unearthed e-mail messages attributed to Mr. Freeman that seemed to support the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, saying it was not “acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be.”

Mr. Freeman said Wednesday that the passage was taken out of context, and that he had been describing the dominant view in China in the years after the crackdown.

I won’t even dignify what theTimes did by calling it journalism.  I can easily call it biased, disgraceful and dishonest, though.

Of course, really, it’s all part of a pattern.  In one of the local Marin papers, The Twin Cities Times, the front page has a glowing encomium about Cuba (although, interestingly, the article isn’t available on line).  A local Marin-ite wrote the article after a trip to Cuba.  To give the writer total credit, he did something the Times would never dream of doing:  he spelled out his bias in the article as well as the fact that a “tour” guide accompanied them the whole time (although you had to read pretty far down to get to that information):

Most [on this trip] were activists trying to end the embargo and get a better view of the realities of life there.  All our activities included a bus and our guide, Arturo, who translated everything for us.

After the usual about the people being very nice (which I believe), and very ingenious (which I believe), we start getting the useful idiot shtick:  full employment, fabulous health care, state funded exercise classes, amazing women’s rights, etc.  It doesn’t seem to occur to our local naif that, since he’s getting a government guided tour of a police state, he might just be seeing a Potemkin village and that people the guide interviewed on the tourists behalf might not have been speaking honestly for fear of state retribution.  (And you have to assume that, even if our innocent writer didn’t understand it, the ordinary Cubans knew that the  “guide” was almost certainly a member of Cuba’s secret police.)

I wonder if the author’s article knew, or cared, that anyone who criticizes the Cuban government is summarily imprisoned.  (Jay Nordlinger, at Impromptus, regularly reports on the terrible treatment meted out to Cuban dissidents.)  I wonder if he ever wonders why people are so desperate to leave Cuba that they’ll risk their lives to do so — or if he wonders why people are forbidden to leave.  If the country is as great as the government shills assure him it is, why is it one giant prison?

I’ll excuse the local guy of being a useful idiot.  The Times, however, is actively malevolent.

Potemkin villages in China

Catherine the Great’s beloved Grigori Potemkin used to be her advance man as she toured Russia.  He become famous in history for building entirely false villages in the recently conquered Crimea to elevate the status of her new conquest:

Potemkin villages were purportedly fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress’s eyes.

(Read more here to learn how these villages might not have been as duplicitous as they sound.)

The Chinese have gone Potemkin one better.  Rather than building something out of nothing, they’ve used elaborate false fronts to hide the squalor in which so many of their citizens live.  The QandO Blog has more, along with a little dig at Obama’s naive belief that Beijing has created a fully functional infrastructure, just for the Olympics.

Hat tip:  suek

The pain behind the perfection

As you may recall, I was both impressed and dismayed by the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.  I’ll quote the point I made that comes back again in this post:

They were gorgeous.  They also reminded me very strongly of the public spectacles that socialist countries have always loved:  vast numbers of people moving in tightly choregraphed formations.  It’s certainly impressive, but it’s also a vivid, visual reminder of the socialist state’s ability to subordinate peoples’ individuality to almost robotic perfection.

It turns out that the impressions I picked up were dead on.  First, the Chinese impresario who created the entire spectacle was trying to outdo North Korea — the most rigidly socialist state in the world — when it comes to mass people movement:

Filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the ceremony’s director, insisted in an interview with local media that suffering and sacrifice were required to pull off the Aug. 8 opening, which involved wrangling nearly 15,000 cast and crew. Only North Korea could have done it better, he said.

[snip]

He told the popular Guangzhou weekly newspaper Southern Weekend that only communist North Korea could have done a better job getting thousands of performers to move in perfect unison.

“North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline,” he said. Pyongyang’s annual mass games feature 100,000 people moving in lockstep.

In other words, there was definitely a political element to the mass movement of synchronized people.  And the only way to create that mass movement of synchronized people is to rehearse at an almost inhuman rate (emphasis mine):

Some students of the Shaolin Tagou Traditional Chinese Martial Arts School in Henan province who began training for the event last May were injured in falls on the LED screen that forms the floor on which they performed and was made slippery by rain, said Liu Haike, one of the school’s lead instructors.

[snip]

While in Beijing, the constant exposure to the dizzyingly hot summer resulted in heatstroke for some students, particularly during one rain-drenched rehearsal that stretched on for two days and two nights.

The students were kept on their feet for most of the 51-hour rehearsal with little food and rest and no shelter from the night’s downpour, as the show’s directors attempted to coordinate the 2,008-member performance with multimedia effects, students and their head coach told the AP.

“We had only two meals for the entire time. There was almost no time to sleep, even less time for toilet breaks,” Cheng said. “But we didn’t feel so angry because the director was also there with us the whole time.”

Beware the socialist state, even when it looks pretty.

Hat tip:  B.S.

Ah, the joys of a new computer — plus some Olympics talkl

I got my filing finished today, which ate up the morning, but I have a little — a very little — time now to doodle around before I have 15 kids swarm my backyard for a party.  The problem is that, as always, one seems to lose as much as one gains when switching to a new computer.  Right now, I’ve lost Adobe (not the reader, but actual Adobe); I’ve lost access to my Outlook, because I can’t get the Vista Outlook to read my old WP personal folders data; and (which is the killer for blogging) I’ve lost all my beloved bookmarks.  Even though I copied my Firefox profile off my old computer and replaced it on this new one — no bookmarks.  It’s going to take me a little while to reassemble all of my regular reads, so please bear with me on this.

As it is, I don’t know if I actually have anything to say anyway.  When I last looked at a newspaper before bedtime, nothing struck me particularly.

I do have an interesting observation from home, though.  Ours is not a house in which patriotism is stressed on a day to day basis, although my kids do get talks about the difference between Communist/Socialist societies and free societies.  And I do mention the rights we have in this country.  And basically, without any “stand in front of the classroom” lectures, I do try to get across to them that we are uniquely blessed here.  But I don’t think that has anything to do with what I’m seeing what we watch the Olympics.  They instantly morphed into rabidly pro-American fans.  The other teams don’t rate.  It’s “America this” and “America that” and, most often, “I want the Americans to win.”  Tribalism lives.

On the subject of Communism, though, I did use the women’s gymnastics as the opportunity to give my daughter a little lesson on the difference between living in a state-focused society, such as China, versus an individual-focused society, such as the US.  NBC has been doing a good job of showing the way in which the Chinese scour the country for talented 3 year olds, remove them from their families, and then proceed to abuse those little bodies for 13 years so that they can do incredible feats at the Olympics.  My daughter now understands that, if the State is the central focus, there is nothing to stop a government from systematically abusing thousands of children in the hope of creating one gold medalist.  In American, people do gymnastics because they want to.  The State has no coercive power here, and wouldn’t dream of dragging children from their homes simply to keep face at the Olympics.

It was never about Africa qua Africa

Burt Prelutsky today, in a longer column about Obama’s political failings, launches into a blistering attack against US aid to Africa:

Speaking of Africa, when are we going to wean the dark continent? Are we ever going to get over this nutty notion that we have an obligation to keep pumping money down that particular sewer? It’s bad enough that George Bush is convinced that billions of American tax dollars — money that could better be spent trying to cure Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS — should be squandered dealing with AIDS in Africa, but Obama has already endorsed the U.N.-inspired giveaway known as the Global Poverty Act. It’s estimated that filling this particular Christmas stocking would run us $845 billion. Worse yet, most of this largesse would wind up in the pockets or Swiss bank accounts of those various thugs, such as Omar al-Bashir, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, Isayas Afeworki and the aforementioned Robert Mugabe, who run Africa the way that Al Capone ran Chicago.

What Prelutsky rather surprisingly forgets is that America’s political and economic involvement in Africa was never really about the Africans.  That is, while a bunch of individuals and NGOs today may be genuinely concerned about the plight of individual citizens in that benighted continent, the West’s support for Africa was simply an outcropping of the Cold War.  Once the old Imperialism vanished, Africa was the place of a thousand proxy battles between the Americans and the Soviets.  Savvy tinpot tyrants in Africa, freed from the benefits and burdens of their former imperial ties, quickly learned that they could increase the flow of money into their coffers by playing the two Superpowers off against each other.

Even South Africa wasn’t about apartheid as far as the Superpowers were concerned.  Instead it was about a West-leaning white government that found itself facing a black opposition that got funding from the Soviets.  And before you start thinking that the Soviets funded the blacks because of a principled stand vis a vis apartheid, abandon that thought immediately.  The Soviets funded the blacks only because the government, at a political level separate from apartheid, allied itself with the West.

Nowadays, with the face-off being one between Islam and the West, Sudan is exactly the modern South Africa.  It’s not the slaughter that’s the problem — sadly, that’s par for the course in Africa — it’s the nature of the hand wielding the machete that’s the problem.  You see, this time around it’s not a Communist hand, it’s an Islamic hand.  Of course, 30 years ago, America would have done something, not out of any Carter-esque human rights mushiness, but because the Sudan had suddenly become a front in a larger ideological war, not between the Sudanese, but between America and her enemies.  Things are different now, when we just stand on the sidelines wringing our hands.

All of which means that our presence in Africa, which looks like a lot of mushy, emotionally driven money, is in fact a Cold War legacy.  And it turns out that our presence their may still be necessary as we fight proxy battles against yet another Communist entity — China.  You see China is doing a fair bit of meddling in Africa now and, given Africa’s vast natural reserves, it’s not in America’s interests to let that continent drift irrevocably away from the West and land in the Chinese orbit:

Close on the heels of the latest sham election in Zimbabwe, the International Criminal Court announced last week that it is seeking the arrest of the president of Sudan on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As Africa notches up more failures on the long road out of colonialism, a new pseudo-colonial power–China–is busily engaged in getting exactly what it wants out of the continent. The implications for the kind of political and economic evolution likely to unfold in Africa are significant.

Until about 20 years ago, China’s interest in Africa consisted mainly of encouraging Marxist revolutionary factions. Lately, however, that interest has taken a decidedly economic turn. China is in the market for most of Africa’s products and is selling its own there as well. Once a major oil exporter, China became a net importer of oil in 1993 and is now dependent on imports for half its oil and natural gas. To meet this need, it has diversified its sources, in particular making deals with most of Africa’s oil-producing states.

Just in the past three years, Beijing has signed energy deals with Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Sudan. Its investment in Sudan’s pipeline and refinery infrastructure, valued at between $3 billion and $5 billion, is mind-boggling in such a poor country, but it is not unusual for the energy industry. China bought a stake in a Nigerian offshore field two years ago for $2.5 billion and promised to invest the same amount in further exploration and development.

China has huge investments in Algeria, with whose government it is also cooperating on the development of nuclear energy, and Angola, which this spring overtook Nigeria as the continent’s largest producer of oil.

Read more about China and Africa here — and keep in mind that, as has always been the case, while ordinary citizens agitate about Africa because it’s pathetic, governments get involved there because it’s important.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

Sad

So sad.

I think many of America’s planning departments have a Code fetish that is counter productive, since they try to impose on every single building — and every aspect of every building — a standard of perfection that is unreasonable for the ordinary risks and uses people face in connection with those structures.  For example, if I were to build a second unit on my lot, I would have to make the unit wheelchair compliant, despite the fact that I’m not planning on having a wheelchair in there any time soon, or ever (God willing).

In a rational world, if I ever did need a wheelchair in there, I could make the improvement at a later date.  Likewise, if I were to sell the house (and second unit) 20 years from now, the new owner could do a wheelchair remodel as he pleased.  For me, the insistence on wheelchair compliance in the here and now is an unnecessary burden and is, in fact, one of the reasons why there will be no second unit on my lot.

Having said that, however, whenever I read about an earthquake in foreign parts where buildings collapse like pancakes and tens of thousands of people die, I’m grateful for the attention we pay to our buildings’ seismic security.  While there are many obsessive Code requirements I can do without, the focus on structural solidity is not one of those wearisome, PC bureaucratic burdens.