Archive for the 'history' Category

McCain tries to bash Obama, ends up looking like a fool

From AFP:

“In a formal written statement, McCain also took a shot at Obama, the Democratic front-runner who renewed his offer to speak to leaders of US foes without preconditions in a campaign debate with rival Hillary Clinton in Texas.

‘So Raul Castro gets an audience with an American president, and all the prestige such a meeting confers, without having to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labor unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections,’ McCain said.

[…]

“Meet, talk, and hope may be a sound approach in a state legislature, but it is dangerously naive in international diplomacy where the oppressed look to America for hope and adversaries wish us ill.”

I’m not sure if this kind of statement is Orwellian or simply unadalterated ignorance coming from a man who recently stated that Vladimir Putin was the President of Germany, and that he’d just returned form a meeting with German President Putin not too long ago.

Either way, perhaps the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party is in need of a history lesson.  U.S. Presidents have long histories meeting with brutal tyrants, dictators, presidents for life and absolute monarchs quite regularly, not one of whom ever once had to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labor unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections in order to have the meeting with the U.S. President.

Here are just a few examples of U.S. presidents meeting, shaking hands or dining with some of the most brutal human beings to rule nations since the end of the Second World War.  My personal favourite is the one of LBJ meeting with brutal authoritarian dictators Park Chung Hee of South Korea AND Ferdinand Marcos of The Philippines at the same time.    Meeting with one brutal dictator is all well and good, but when you’re so overbooked that you’ve got to double up on your meetings with brutal dictators, now that‘s art.

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 and….

Official meetings on behalf of the U.S. President:

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See also:

The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

Bush names terrorist sympathizer as new ambassador to Nicaragua

Holy red-baiting, Batman!

Naomi Wolf on the end of America and the rise of fascism (audio)

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

Reality Check: What you’re not supposed to think about 

Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record.”
                                                                                           -George Orwell, 1984

castro.pngThe progressive blogosphere (or at least what passes for ‘progressive’ these days) are awash lately in discussions about Cuba and the sudden decision of Fidel Castro not to seek the office of President of Cuba in the upcoming election.

Everywhere in quasi-progressive press and blogs, people are finding the courage to ask:  Why is there still an embargo on Cuba?  The problem is not the question — in fact, the question is the correct one.  The problem is that the corporate press — from which the blogosphere generally takes its cues — has managed to cripple the debate by intentionally leaving out an important detail about the long-standing, crushing U.S. embargo against thebush-with-turkey-in-crotch.png tiny island nation.  Namely, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’ or human rights and the U.S. officials at the time that the embargo was enacted, were open and frank about this fact.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the media reports about the recent events in Cuba.

What follows is a small sample of media reports.

The Associated Press [AP] reports that:

Asked by reporters at the State Department if Washington planned to change its Cuba policy now that Castro has stepped down, Negroponte replied: “I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon.”

[…]

We would hope that the departure from the scene of Cuba’s long-ruling dictator Fidel Castro would allow for a democratic transition. … We would hope that his departure would begin this transition,” Casey told reporters.

But he added that the United States is troubled by signs that Cuba’s leadership envisions this as a “transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light—from Fidel to Raul.”

Still, he said the Bush administration remains willing to help support the Cuban people in a true transition to democracy. [emphasis added]

The New York Times ran a report which, despite standing at 686 words, only mentions the embargo on Cuba once and even then, only in a dismissive context.  The Times reported:

Mr. Castro, whose photograph looks down from billboards across the island, is both revered and reviled by Cubans. In criticizing him in public, Cubans stroke an imaginary beard instead of uttering his name and possibly running afoul of the authorities. Those who praise him most often cite his investments in education and health care, and they agree with him that the country’s economic woes are caused not by neglect from Mr. Castro but by the trade embargo imposed by Washington.

Huffington Post contributor Sarah Stephens wins the Orwellian prize for her piece, on two grounds:

#1) Stephens writes that South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy was “born with the help of U.S. sanctions”.  This is the height or Orwellianism.  It was precisely the U.S. that supported economically and politically the racist Apartheid South African regime up until the very end when it became politically impossible to continue to do so.  In fact, Ronald Reagan openly called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and here in Canada, even as late as 2001, we still had elected Parliamentarians such as Rob Anders calling Mandela a “terrorist”.

#2) If you read through her piece, it is interesting to examine why she believes the embargo should be lifted.  The reasons why Stephens believes the embargo should be lifted are not because of the massive loss of life it has caused in Cuba (more on that below).  Rather, the reasons she believes they should be lifted are:

a) “the Cuba embargo sullies our image around the world”

b) “[the Cuba embargo] undermines the national interest [of America].”

c) “The embargo sacrifices the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to travel.”

d) “[the Cuba embargo] trade sanctions cost U.S. businesses about $1 billion annually”

e) “[the Cuba embargo] den[ies] U.S. citizens access to vaccines and other medical treatments.”

f) “Enforcing the embargo drains [American] resources from the war on terror.”

Based on the above reporting, one could be forgiven for assuming that the embargo has #1) been reluctantly pursued in the interests of the Cuban people and democracy; #2) that only crazy pro-Castro communists believe that the hardships of the Cuban people are actually caused by the embargo; and #3) that the reasons the Americans should now lift the embargo is because it’s hurting Americans.

There is no need for conspiracy theories to debunk these claims that the embargo was designed to foster democracy.  Had any of the media outlets reported on the actual openly stated reasons for issuing the trade embargo — reasons given by U.S. government officials at the time, the reality would be all to obvious.

A brief history of the events leading up to this is illuminating:

viva-fidel.png1953-1960: Castro, contrary to popular belief now, but openly acknowledged at the time, was anti-Soviet during his revolution against the brutal U.S.-backed Batista regime.  Indeed his reform proposals were initially were pro-democratic and anti-Soviet.  (see, for instance, the work of Jules Benjamin and Noam Chomsky for more on this).

January, 1960:  The United States begins its first attempts to overthrow the popular Castro regime through assassination and, later, by invasion and terrorism, and re-install a client regime.

1960-1962:  The U.S., having now pushed the previously anti-Soviet Castro into the Soviet sphere, now begins to characterize Cuba as a threat to the United States (itself a laughable concept) by arguing it is a ‘proxy’ or ‘base’ of the Soviets 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.  This, of course, ignores the fact that the U.S. was engaged in actions against Cuba as early as 1960 long before any Soviet relations had been established.  Noam Chomsky, in his work Hegemony or Survival writes:

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

jfk-on-phone.png1962: United States President John F. Kennedy orders a case of Cuban cigars for his own personal use.  Upon hearing that the cigars had reached U.S. territory, Kennedy promptly begins the embargo under the explicit justification that Soviet presence there posed a ‘grave’ threat to the United States.

1962-1990: The U.S. engages in decades of terrorism, bacteriological warfare and biological warfare against Cuba.  This ranges from the poisoning of the domestic Cuban pork and chicken supply, the attempted destruction of the Cuban cash crop: sugar, and the October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who currently live in the United States despite their terrorist past.   Cuba, having been denied its traditional markets for sugar export, becomes a ‘favoured export partner’ with the Soviet Union.

1991: The Soviet Union collapses.  Following this collapse, the entire stated justification for the Cuban sanctions are now officially satisfied.  Given the reason stated by the U.S. government for issuing the sanctions — Soviet threat — sanctions should now be lifted as there is no longer any Soviet threat in Cuba.

1992: The George H.W. Bush administration increases the sanctions.  Bill Clinton, running to unseat Bush in the election, also promises harsher sanctions.

1993: Average caloric intake in Cuba plummets by 1/3 in 4 short years.  (see Victoria Brittain, “Children die in agony as U.S. trade ban stifles Cuba.” The Guardian (U.K.), March 7, 1997)

1994: Mortality rates for Cubans over the age of 65 increase 15% over 2 years.

clinton.png1996: U.S. sanctions increased yet again under the Helms-Burton Act which U.S. President Bill Clinton gleefully signs into law.  The new harsher sanctions,  are now justified under the new, post-1990 mantra of ‘democracy’ — the same mantra which, if you read the press reports, you would believe was always the justification for the sanctions.  In fact, as Orwell famously wrote, this history must constantly be ‘brought up to date’ because any detailed look at the original justifications quickly discredits this contention.

1999: Severity of U.S. sanctions increased yet again under U.S. President Bill Clinton’s watchful eye.

2008:  Bloggers uncritically believe media’s insinuation that the embargo has always been about democracy and human rights.  Few liberals bother to research the topic.  Instead, they accept the premise and support ending the sanctions regime because it’s hurting the United States.  Conservatives take the matter further and support continuation of sanctions as a means of collective punishment, then turn around and deny that sanctions have any effect on the Cuban economy, but rather that Castro is to blame for all problems.  Socialist bloggers, anarchists and freethinkers are left staring at each other in disbelief.

See also:

Propaganda in Action (Series)

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

On intellectual honesty and the Cuba debate

Idiocy doesn’t cease being idiocy because it’s published

Holy red-baiting, Batman!

I recently submitted an essay in my academic life on the topic of the imperialism of ‘humanitarian’ intervention.

Unfortunately, my paper’s length went way over the maximum page allottance, so I had to cut out this section which critiques an absolutely incoherent attack on MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky from a paper published in 2003 by LSE professor, and part time professional red-baiter, Chris Brown.

Normally, I don’t let these sort of conservative anti-Chomsky attacks anger up the blood so much when I encounter them on the internet, but this sort of argument bothers me immensely when the author is able to get his or her work accepted by a peer-reviewed academic publication when even the most basic standards of decency show that this work is both fallacious and an ad hominem against another academic.

Thus, I have decided to reproduce selected quotes from this paper by Chris Brown along with my critiques of each quote.  I must apologize in advance for the lack of footnotes or endnotes because for some reason WordPress strips them out (although if anybody would like the specific citations I use, you can feel free to ask and I’d be happy to give them). 

The work being critiqued is:

Brown, Chris. ‘Selective Humanitarianism: In Defence of Inconsistency.’ In Ethics and Foreign Intervention. Edited by Chatterjee, D.; Scheid, D. Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 31-50.

—————————–

At the outset of his work, Brown writes that:

“[A] second preliminary point that needs to be acknowledged is that many of those who charge the interveners with inconsistency actually have agendas of their own which are unconnected to this issue.  Chomsky, for example, clearly would oppose any exercise of power by what he regards as the American Empire, and the charge of inconsistency is for the most part a rhetorical device designed to appeal to those who, while not accepting his wholesale critique of American society, are, nonetheless, concerned by the way in which American power is sometimes deployed.”

It is important to emphasize here that insinuating that one ought to discredit those who charge American ‘interveners’ with inconsistency (ex. intervening in Iraq for ‘humanitarian’ reasons whilst assisting in the US-sponsored Ethiopian invasion of Somolia currently underway or ignoring the crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan) based on the existence of putative “agendas” is fallacious in three ways:  firstly, it constitutes an ad hominem attack on the character of the author in question based on political beliefs without consideration of the merit of the argument presented.  Secondly, it assumes that it is merely Chomsky et al. who have ‘agendas’ when it could just as easily be said of Brown’s work that it is no more and no less animated by ‘agendas’ (i.e. an anti-Chomsky ‘agenda’ or a pro-Wilsonian interventionist ‘agenda’ et cetera), than could be found in Chomsky’s work.  Thirdly, the word ‘agenda’ itself is a weasel word intended to connote nefariousness or duplicity and thus is not suitable for academic discourse.

Brown goes on to offer a moral explanation or defense of inconsistency in US intervention policy.  This argument states that:

“There is one possible answer to this question that would preserve the notion that the interveners where behaving consistently in accordance with some moral rule, and not simply selecting the case where they would intervene on the basis of non-moral criteria. Very crudely, it might be held that this particular case was chosen because it represented the most serious current violation of human rights or the situation where the most serious humanitarian disaster would follow from inaction — but this is, indeed, rather too crude because it ignores altogether issues of practicality. Better would be some notion of ‘triage’; thus, one might divide the world’s trouble spots into three categories — those where the difficulties are sufficiently minor such that forcible intervention would most likely always do more harm than good; those where the difficulties are of such magnitude that action would almost certainly be ineffective, either because of the scale of the problem (as, perhaps, with civil wars in the Congo) or because they are caused by states who have the power to turn any external military intervention into a full-scale war (as with Chinese depredations in Tibet, or Russian in Chechnya). [emphasis added]”

This argument is both morally coherent and extremely important.  Indeed, if this formulation were true, and if the United States’ inconsistent interventionism was motivated along the same lines as ‘triage’ then not only would this justify inconsistency in humanitarian intervention, but it would actually go much further and make it so that it would be immoral for the U.S. not to behave inconsistently. If, in a ‘triage’ situation, you frivolously waste the limited medical resources available on just any patient, then you potentially cause significantly more suffering and fatalities than if you limited your attention to the cases where the limited resources can be of most benefit.

This formulation is also relatively simple to test.  If it is true that a humanitarian ethics of ‘triage’ and efficacy is what animates the U.S.’s decision to intervene in a given crisis and not another, then there would be two factors which could explain specious arbitrariness both of which fall under Brown’s moral rubric of ‘triage’: First would be the scale of disaster, the second would be ease of remedy. So, if Brown’s ‘triage’ model holds up, one would expect that U.S. intervention to end human rights violations are avoided in situations which are likely escalate into a full-scale war against another hegemon such as China or Russia, and one would expect the actual cases of intervention to have occurred in situations which are easier to remedy and with less threat of an expansion of hostilities.

This ‘Ease of remedy’ notion — central to any ‘triage situation’ — can be interpreted in many different ways. It can have several factors, for instance:

-Geographic location (is the nation close to other co-operative allies?)
-Does there exist a definitive and coherent polis or political community that is being crushed by oppressors which, if left on its own, could establish itself as a viable state under international law’s so-called “principle of effectiveness”?

A cursory overview of the long history of U.S. interventionism clearly demonstrates that U.S. foreign action is not animated by any notion of ‘triage’.

Case studies to this effect:

#1) The U.S. decided to intervene in Kosovo despite massive Russian and Chinese opposition and eventual Russian land-based counter-intervention, thus greatly risking confrontation with at least one other major global hegemon.

#2) The U.S. decided to intervene in Panama at the dawn of the 20th Century and sever it from Columbian control, thus artificially creating a polis which did not exist previously and which was most certainly neither coherent nor viable under the ‘principle of effectiveness’. Indeed the evidence for this utter lack of its viability rests in the necessary presence of foreign (U.S.) battleships at port in Panama City for the declaration of independence and the outright mention of the United States as a protector and ally of Panama in state’s the new constitution — which, to my knowledge, is the only time ever in history that third party country other than victor and the country being declared independence from, is actually mentioned in such documentation.

Conversely,

#1) The U.S. chose not to intervene in Indonesia’s slaughter of the East Timorians which, between 1977 and 78 alone (although the oppression continued on into the 80s and for a majority of 90s as well), resulted in at least 200,000 dead, despite the extreme proximity of key U.S. ally Australia. Moreover, East Timor, by every account, meets the second criteria of a definitive and coherent polis which could achieve viability if left on its own.

#2) The U.S. chose not to intervene in the Kurdish regions of Turkey during their oppression, despite the extreme proximity of key U.S. allies Israel and Greece and the remarkable linguistic and social cohesiveness (not to mention territorially cohesive and contiguous) of the Kurdish regions.  Moreover, on this subject, Miller writes that:

“In Turkey, in the fifteen years prior to the bombing of Serbia, the death toll of a conflict over Kurdish autonomy and suppression of minimal expressions of Kurdish identity (including Kurdish names and cassettes with Kuridish songs, much less Kurdish-language schools), was 35,000, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate…. in the southeast there are 2 million people left homeless. The previous year, the UN Committee on Torture endorsed an Amnesty International allegation of widespread and systematic use of torture.”

Lastly, in both of these two aforementioned cases it wasn’t just that the U.S. callously gave a proverbial triage RTS (Revised Trauma Score) score of zero to the East Timorese and Kurds of Turkey.  The final blow to the ‘triage’ model is that during both of these crises, the U.S. actively engaged in assisting Turkey and Indonesia before, during and after the human rights violations in question.

Brown later goes on to give the most logically incoherent portion of his work when he poses the question:

“If to behave morally it is necessary to follow a non-arbitrary moral rule, then humanitarian interventions appear not to fit the bill — such is the charge made by critics to the evident discomfiture of supporters…. [But] is it always and necessarily wrong to be inconsistent or arbitrary in applying a moral principle?”

The context of this exerpt is extensive, but in this section, Brown is (correctly) making the argument that his critics hold the belief which, expressed using formal logic symbolism, would hold that:

moral behaviour → consistent behaviour
(“if moral behaviour then it must be consistent behaviour”)

However, Brown takes this logical formulation and attempts to deconstruct it by showing examples of inconsistency in US and UK tobacco, alcohol, drug and cannabis policy as a akin to US humanitarian interventionist policy.  Thus, what he is attempting to demonstrate using the example of US and UK policy in this area is:

 (¬ consistent behaviour ≠ ¬ moral behaviour) → opponents’ argument is flawed
(“if not consistent behaviour does not equal not moral behaviour, then the arguments of his opponents is flawed”)

However, the error Brown makes is that he assumes that ¬ moral behaviour = immoral behaviour in the same way that ¬ consistent behaviour = inconsistent behaviour.

In actuality, ‘not’ moral behaviour does not equal immoral behaviour since behaviour is not dichotomously moral or immoral.  There are any number of examples wherein a person can behave inconsistently and still be neither moral or immoral.  For instance, if, on the vast majority of days, I prefer to have sugar instead of sweetener in my coffee, my inconsistency one morning in asking for sweetener in my coffee is certainly, as demonstrated mathematically above, not moral behaviour, but it is also obviously also not immoral behaviour. My decision here would have been a pragmatic one — perhaps sweetener is less appetising, but also irritates my stomach less than real sugar — and thus was completely outside the dichotomy of moral and immoral behaviour.

Thus, what is clear is that inconsistent behaviour can be ‘not moral’ or outside of the realm of morality — which would fit within the formulation of Brown’s opponents.  But inconsistent behaviour cannot be moral behaviour unless this inconsistency is itself morally justifiable.  And, as the example of Brown’s ‘triage’ model demonstrates, Brown’s attempt to moralize the inconsistency of U.S. intervention simply does not coincide with reality.

Naomi Wolf on the end of America and the rise of fascism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #4 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released.

This latest episode features a talk by Naomi Wolf on the topic of her new book entitled “The End of America”.

In it, Wolf discusses the historical evidence for 10 steps which are universally recognizable as benchmarks that a democracy is moving towards fascism or totalitarianism and how each of these ten steps is now being seen in one form or another in the United States under the Bush Administration.

To listen to Wolf’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

Peace is overrated

I just came back from a talk given by a fairly standard, run-of-the-mill civil servant who’s specialization is the new, over-hyped field of ‘conflict management’.  In the two hours I spend there, I think I must have heard the word ‘peace’ used so much that it lost all meaning.  This got me thinking about how obsessed liberals are with ‘peace’ as some sort of idealized pancea that ought to be sought above all else.

Surely, if we think about it critically, we can realize that, while nobody obviously wants conflict, peace, in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing if it serves to merely solidify other exisiting horrific social conditions.

For instance, one could easily take this current liberal obsession with ‘peace’ and do something radical which liberals are not wont to do: place the subject back 150 years, look at it dialectically, and see what we get.

Well, we get this:

white-mans-burden.png

So the problem of the liberal obsession with peace is that, to borrow a quote:

“Peace is over rated. Any slave can have peace. Just pick the cotton.”

So, just as with most liberal thinking, its true absurdity only becomes obvious when you take the time to look at it dialectically and place it within an historical context.

See also:

“Civil Liberty”
The myth of humanity as naturally violent
Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world

The propaganda & hypocrisy of 9/11 anniversary media coverage

This is now becoming an annual event.  Each year on September 11th, turning on the TV means tuning in to watch all of the major news networks in Canada and the U.S. trip over themselves to pay fawning tributes to the 9/11 attacks.  Each network, ABC, Fox, NBC, CNN, CBC, CTV, desperately trying to outperform the others, to demonstrate the most grief, the most compassionate humanity, and the most complete and devoted memory of this ‘day of infamy’.

While the attacks were undoubtedly a tragedy nobody ought to forget — every life lost is something we should try hard never to ignore or forget — there are two main problems with the feigned remembrance tributes we are bombarded with every year on this day.

The first is that, the feigned remembrance of the news networks might be moving and worthwhile were it not also hypocritical.  If we truly did want to ‘remember’ the horrors of this day, every news outlet and broadcaster would have at least mentioned that September the 11th was already a ‘day of infamy’ long before 9/11.  After all, September 11th, 1973 was the day when we sponsored the brutal Chilean dictator Pinochet’s overthrow of the democratically-elected, socialist Allende government.  In the days, weeks and years following the original September 11th massacre, even the most conservative estimates state that at least 30,000 people, mostly civilians, were either killed, tortured or ‘disappeared’ under our beloved puppet Pinochet’s régime. the-two-september-11s.png

So, just to reiterate, the original 9/11 — the one which we perpetrated on Chile and the one which is unpatriotic to remember — there were 30,000 people killed, tortured or ‘disappeared’.  The second 9/11 — our 9/11, the one which is unpatriotic not to remember — 2974 people killed. 

Where is our greif for the Chileans we condemned to death, imprisonment, torture or worse?  ABC news finds them so unimportant as to not even merit a mention; ditto for Fox News, CBS News, NBC/MSNBC News and CNN, as well as Canada’s own CBC and CTV News services.  Not one mention on the anniversary of our coup.

Do these supposed Christians not remember their own Bible’s original definition of hypocrite?  Their Bible warns: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

This unbalanced news coverage is the best example of the Biblical definition of ‘hypocritical’.

The second main problem with these feigned remembrance tributes (and I say feigned, because if we really were serious about expressing human empathy and compassion, we’d also remember those we condemned) is that it all too easily becomes a contest wherein genuine personal grief is no longer enough and publicly-displayed grief becomes necessary.

No society can survive when it begins demanding public proclamations of deeply personal, individual fidelity to the organizing principles of said society.  All societies may be able to demand compliance with the organizing principles — even theoretical anarchism would demand that no individual attempt to establish hierarchical structures in such a society — but no society can legitimately expect genuine public professions of personal beliefs to that effect.

In literature, the single greatest example of this is the utter collapse of King Lear’s England when the King demands public proclamations of his three daughters’ private love towards him.  “Tell me, my daughters (since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state), which of you shall we say doth love us most” (Act I, Scene i. ll. 50-58.).

America will soon see what happens to them, but already, we can see it beginning just like in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Already today, an ABC News affiliate, WABC Channel 7 in New York has been widely slammed for only offering 1 full hour of coverage of the 9/11 ceremonies.

Whatever happens, it is worth remembering T.S. Eliot’s famous prediction:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
-T.S. Eliot, 1925

And you’d better believe that a quiet, simple demand to show just a little bit more personal grief, counts as a whimper.

Who ever thought the French Revolution was funny?

There are comic geniuses such as Robin Williams — masters of time and rhythm — and then there are geniuses who also just happen to be comedians such as British comedian/political commentator/author Mark Steel.

Never in my life have I ever had as much fun listening to a talk about the French Revolution.  The best part, in my opinion, was his routine near the end on the teacher in the classroom schooling all the idiots who thought that there actually were WMDs in Iraq.

I wish every university professor was like this guy.

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part I)

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part II)

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part III)

(note: even though this last clip says “part 2” at the start, it’s actually part 3)

Thanks to Doug from If There’s Hope… for these great Mark Steel clips.  I found some clips from Steel’s talk on Marx a few days ago, but Doug’s site made me want to post these first.   Stay tuned for Steel’s routine on Marx.


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