January 19, 2004

Same Old Whine

Two quotes that caught my eye from Paris newspaper Liberation's report on that Mumbai conference:

«Nous devons reconquérir l'utopie», a affirmé le Brésilien Chico Whitaker, en se félicitant que le FSM ait déménagé en Asie, tandis que l'écrivaine indienne Arundhati Roy [...] fustigeait le «nouveau siècle américain. Nous devons nous considérer en situation de guerre», a-t-elle conclu.

Utopia. Yes, well, that worked out so well for the 20th Century. Chico Whitaker it turns out, is just another ultraleftist, a member of the Partido dos Trabalhadores of Brazil. If you're really interested, here's a description of PT from a detailed analysis of the World Social Forum.

Radical forces, particularly Trotskyists, played an important role inside the PT. They included the Brazilian section of the Fourth International, the current known as the Socialist Democracy Tendency (SDT).

So, same old wine in the same old bottles.

As to Roy, since she has so proudly set herself as an enemy of the United States, do you think they can set up a writer's wing at Gitmo? Works for me.

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January 17, 2004

Clucks Abroad

Yes, it is hard to believe that there are people on the planet as stupid as Jeremy Corbyn, British Labor MP (Islington North), but there seem to be at least 50,000 on the evidence of this conference in Mumbai, including the notoriously shrill Arundhati Roy. Talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, Corbyn had this gem:

Innocent people were being killed in the reign of terror unleashed by the US, said Corbyn.

I know, I know, that was way too easy.

But the conference went on to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the restoration of "peace and normalcy". Just to remind us of the normalcy this conference has in mind, here's a photo of a mass grave from Saddam's time.

By the way, check out Corbyn's hobbies from his web site:

Main leisure pursuits: keeping chickens and woodworking
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Why France Can't Deal With Terrorism

At the risk of leading people to think I dislike the French (more below), I couldn't pass on this comment to point out why the French never can be trusted to take a responsible role in world affairs (quite apart from their outright support and promotion of Saddam Hussein).

Here's French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie giving the French vision on dealing with terrorism:

Outlining the views of France, she said while terrorism is a great threat, its causes must be addressed, which she identified as "the sense of frustration in the face of injustice and poverty."

Mon Dieu.

{As to my views on the French, I actually like the French and French lifestyle, love France and Paris, and even read and speak French moderately badly. In fact, my paternal grandmother was French (from Brittany to be precise). It's just that their internal politics, their international machinations and their intellectual life are thoroughly bankrupt. So I don't dislike them at all, I just enjoy bashing their pretensions. Each to his own taste.)

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October 16, 2003

Yet Another Reason to Remain an Atheist

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, seems to have come morally (if not mentally) unhinged, asserting that terrorists "have serious moral goals". In his words:

It is possible to use unspeakably wicked means to pursue an aim that is shared by those who would not dream of acting in the same way, an aim that is intelligible or desirable.

Maybe that mitre is too tight.

Time to say, as Henry II is said to have spoken aloud of Williams's predecessor Thomas Becket:

"Won't someone rid me of this troublesome priest?"

But we all know how that turned out.

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September 02, 2003

Oh yeah? What about the Famous "Battling Wonkas of Belgium" Regiment

Who says the State Department is angry at Europeans? Apparently, they regard them as a sweet treat, welcome at any gathering:

The United States on Tuesday sneered at plans by four European countries to create an autonomous European military command headquarters near Brussels separate from NATO, referring to the idea's proponents as "chocolate makers."

Conspiracy theorists might note the reference on Mary Chocolatier home page to a visit by President Bush in 2001. Even worse are the rumors that George H. W. Bush had a standing order for Mary's chocolate from any staffer passing through Brussels.

I owe Paul a hazelnut truffle for the tip.

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August 27, 2003

RCMP Must Have Known It Was My Birthday

Missed this as I was travelling Friday, but they rolled up a nice big "suspected" [snicker] terror cell in Toronto. Nice birthday present for me.

Lots of circumstantial evidence that one ambition was to fly a jet into Pickering nuclear power plant.

Funniest accusation:

Although the majority of the group entered Canada as students they are not studying or "engaging in them in what can only be called a dilatory manner."

I don't know, in my time that covered about half of the students in Canada.

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August 25, 2003

Fascism in America

I keep hearing twaddle about fascism on the rise in America. Now I guess I can believe it.

Can someone tell me what the difference is between the people who set fire to the Hummers at this GM dealership and the thugs who burned out Jewish businesses in Germany and wrote "Juden" on the storefronts?

Update: Added link to article which I neglected to included the first time I posted (and was roundly slapped on the wrist for). Mea culpa.

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June 14, 2003

The Madness of the Ideologues

What is about anti-US writers that none of them can come up with a coherent argument that is worth reading? Case in point, Eric Hobsbawm's screed in Le Monde Diplomatique, here excerpted and translated in The Guardian.

Here's Hobsbawn morally incomprehensible:

There is a genuine case to be made that there are governments so bad that their disappearance will be a net gain for the world. But this can never justify the danger of creating a world power that is not interested in a world it does not understand, but is capable of intervening decisively with armed force whenever anybody does anything that Washington does not like.

In other words, The world needs a force for good, but I don't propose lifting a finger to have one. Naughty dictator, naughty naughy. Please stop.

Here's Hobsbawm with an interesting observation:

And Bush's existing international policy is not a particularly rational one for US imperial interests — and certainly not for the interests of US capitalism.

This is true, the ultimate dominance of the US is and will continue to be, cultural and economic. The military component so current right now needs to be short. A) because the US can't really afford it, B) because the American people ultimately don't support it, and C) most of the problems of the world are not conducive to solution in this fashion.

Once we pass beyond the current situation of terrorists and terror-states aided and abetted by European appeasement and collaboration, the US military venture will probably subside. Also, maybe someday there will be a Democratic Party that will overcome it's own rampant inanities and form a significant opposition.

As to why people like Hobsbawm can't string a coherent and rational argument together, it seems to be part of the "madness of the ideologues" — too blinded by their hatred and anger to actually grasp the world.

Is there anyone out there that is actually writing progressive analysis that is readable? I have some ideas but I welcome other's observations.

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June 01, 2003

If you're not part of the problem, you're part of the problem

There is a movement afoot by anti-US radicals to bring down the "unilateral hegemon" by organizing the world's masses to economically strangle the US. But more on Arundhati Roy's wet dream another time.

A report from the G8 protests shows how unlikely that scenario is to unfold. The protestors have met the enemy and, to rephrase the immortal words of Walt Kelly's Pogo, they are them. One group attacked a Socialist Party meeting for being insufficiently radical.

This started a while ago. This ludicrous graphic appeared a few weeks back on one of the main anti-G8 web sites:

The point, of course, is that it is unacceptable (except to "bobos") to want to change globalism, say to make it better for the world's people.

So if they need to amend their chant, I'd suggest: We are 2000, They are six billion.

"They are eight — we are six billion" is on the lips of just about everybody in Annemasse... [...] The activists divided themselves up into the two camps to show their diversity. One is the "intergalactic village" — grouping environmental, anti-nuclear or other social activists. The other is the "anti-capitalist, alternative, anti-war village."

Two camps of European activists — wonder if you could classify them by odor?

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May 30, 2003

Ahhh, did your widdle feelings get hurt?

This article should have been titled: Canadians snippy about being stood up at Prom

This is how silly it has become; and how petty. President Bush is forced to cut short his visit to the G8 summit and that has the Canadians miffed:

"Personally I'm disappointed he has to leave," the [senior Canadian] official told reporters... We have two long formal sessions on Monday morning and afternoon. We have two formal lunches and dinners that day, which means that if he leaves mid-afternoon Monday he will miss maybe half of the session and the dinner."

While it is solicitous of the Canadians to worry about Bush's dinner, I suspect that White House staffers will ensure that he doesn't go hungry.

Of course, recent Canadian, French and German behavior hasn't been particularly promising in guaranteeing bonhomie around the old Summit dining table. Who can blame W. for slipping away as soon as he decently can? "It's been fun, but I have to get home to, er, umm, walk the Scottie."

The real reason Bush needs to rush off:

U.S. officials say Bush needs to leave the G8 meeting early to fly to Egypt to prepare for a meeting with Arab heads of state in Sharm el Sheikh and with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians in Aqaba, Jordan.

Oh, letting a mere bagatelle like Mideast peace get in the way of a leisurely dinner? What a cad! Someone should tell the Canadians that this is what grown-up diplomacy is like: not swanning around in French spas bitching and moaning about every little US slight. But then maybe they would regain some international significance.

Two Canada posts in one day! One more for the Hat Trick.

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May 28, 2003

Adam : "The hatred felt toward America becomes absurd..."

Adam , unlike the "antiwar" critics, bears the credibility of actually having risked his life for his beliefs. Rather than demonstrating in a comfy, Western European democracy, he confronted a brutal totalitarian state and spent 6 years in a Polish prison.

Yet a German journalist has claimed that "Vaclav Havel, Adam , and George Konrad, Europe's long-standing moral authorities, [have] suddenly become undiscriminating admirers of America." has replied in a thoughtful piece in Gazeta Wyborcza. He argues against the "moral equivalency" doctrine that puts US action on a par with totalitarianism.

The hatred felt toward America becomes absurd when it ceases to be a critical stance that is normal within democratic discourse and takes up the defense of brutal, totalitarian dictatorships. The so-called peace movements of the Cold War burned effigies of American presidents and genuflected before Stalin's portraits. We will not repeat such a masquerade today.
[...]
Do we like the internal politics of the Bush administration, its projects to spy on citizens, or the rightist rhetoric of the Christian fundamentalists of the Republican Party? No, we do not, though we do believe that the American democracy, the wiser for the lessons of McCarthyism and Watergate, will be capable of protecting itself from the self-poisoning of the "open society."

An otherwise sane Canadian filmmaker told me last month that the US frightened him. Unaccountably, he claimed to be more fearful of George Bush than Islamic terror thugs with nuclear weapons!

, I suspect, would not suffer such foolishness. He at least is clear on the main enemy of civilization today, and it isn't the US:

Today, however, the primary threat is terrorism by Islamist fundamentalists. War has been declared against the democratic world. It is this world, whose sins and mistakes we know all too well, that we want to defend.

These are the reasons behind our absolute war on the terrorist, corrupt, intolerant regime of the despot from Baghdad. One cannot perceive totalitarian threats in George W. Bush's policies and at the same time defend Saddam Hussein. There are limits to absurdity, which should not be exceeded recklessly.

There you have it, one of the moral voices of our time versus the usual salon radicalism blinded by hatred of the United States.

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May 21, 2003

All Hedged About*

Unlike some bloggers, I don't comment on every passing news event (unless it's perfidious French behavior, of course), but this graf in Chris Hedges ill-fated (and ill-considered) graduation speech led me to a profound understanding of the man himself. He is, on the evidence of his speech and his behavior, a narcissistic egomaniac who cares for no one. He neither understands friendship or comradeship; he abandons all those who could provide him insight or understanding. Can't be much of a correspondent.

The danger of the external threat that comes when we have an enemy does not create friendship; it creates comradeship. And those in wartime are deceived about what they are undergoing. And this is why once the threat is over, once war ends, comrades again become strangers to us. This is why after war we fall into despair.

*I vaguely remembered a piece of sappy inspirational poetry with that phrase. Sure enough — the stuff of Sunday sermons — and there's the despair as well:

The town of Nogood is all hedged about
By the mountains of Despair.
No sentinel stands on its gloomy walls,
No trumpet to battle and triumph calls,
For cowards alone are there.
— W.E. Penny
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May 20, 2003

de Villepin Watch continues

I almost forgot. I invoked the great Superhero's name without providing the proper visuals.

To see the whole comic book cover, just cliquez ici.

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May 19, 2003

Hard and Soft Anti-Americanism

I have noted before that anti-Americanism springs from the same totalitarian sources that so tormented the 20th century. This is only in part because it arose initially in the antiwar movements of the 50s through 80s, orchestrated as an arm of Soviet foreign policy. Because the message was putatively peace, there was papering over of a deep anti-democratic force.

These days, the peace/antiwar movement has spent whatever force it had left, despite its rapid inflation and just-as-rapid deflation in the run up to the Iraq war. Barring another situation like Iraq, I don't foresee it mustering another call to arms.

The true anti-democratic force these days is the anti-globalization movement, with globalization being seen as almost exclusively a function of American business and American culture. Like the totalitarian movements of the last century, this movement has an attraction almost exclusively to the intellectual elites. The masses in most countries are indifferent to the antagonism that the educated feel toward the US; they openly consume and lust for the products of US business and media.

Alain Madelin, a free-market classical liberal French MP who has been a minister in past Chirac governments, characterizes it in a speech to the Heritage Foundation:

Behind the anti-Americanism lies the rejection of open societies, the rule of law, free market, and free trade, and that is why it must be fought.

How is this different from the vision of Al Qaeda, as articulated by a left commentator, Peter Beaumont in The Observer?

Strip away the millenarian agenda and its language of apocalyptic struggle - the Great Satans, the enemies of God, references to the Crusaders. Strip away, just for a moment, its extreme religious aspects and what you are left with is a non-negotiable political agenda. That aim is to remove - or neutralise - American and Western influence from large areas of the globe, including states that are not exclusively Islamist.

Bin Laden represents the "hard" form of a worldwide desire to suppress freedom and gain a retraction of Western influence, with an anti-globalization movement that desires much the same — in a "softer" form.

In the 70s, it was the Red Brigades (although it is hard to recall what exact demands they had, apart from freedom for comrades held in prison for prior actions) and the Weather Underground whose violence provided them with credibility as a political force among the idealistic New Left. The destabilization of the Western countries in which they operated was the only true intent of their movements.

The dangerous difference today that the brakes on the totalitarian movements of the late 20th Century no longer exist in the same fashion. The identifiable nation-states like the Soviet Union had much to lose if the radical agenda was pushed too hard. In the 21st Century, the shock troops of the "hard" forces live instead in failed nation-states like Chechnya and Sudan. The "hard" forces don't particularly care if their hosts, like the Afghanis or the Chechens, get pulverized. Unlike true guerilla movements, they sit astride the people rather than swimming among them.

And those in the West who provide the "soft" support — through glib anti-Western, anti-democratic, anti-Semitic attitudes — are just greasing the skids for the "hard" side.

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French Diplomacy: "Irresponsiblity, Futility, Vanity"

Françoise Thom, lecturer at the Sorbonne, on The choices French diplomacy made. English translation available here.

The first explanation for the behavior of our leaders is irresponsibility — they believe that they will not have to answer to anyone.

This irresponsibility is driven so far that they seem to be surprised at the consequences of their acts: thus they were not expecting the flare-up of francophobia in the United States, convinced they could persist in their provocations of Washington without risking retaliation. The habit of impunity in internal politics ended up giving rise to a disastrous foreign policy, as was exactly the case for the late USSR.

In the case of France, one must add futility and vanity, permanent factors in our diplomacy.
[...]
We declare that France does not believe in the "clash of civilizations," as if denial were enough to erase it. For greater security, we go as far as abolishing the idea of civilization. This is why we seek to deny at all costs the fact that France shares the same civilization as the United States, by cultivating with some fanfare our overflow into extra-legal zones. Anti-Americanism plays a central role in this mechanism.

Thom equates the foreign policy of the French with the determined obstructionism of the Soviet Union. Worth reading.

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May 17, 2003

New EuroFlag

I wonder if it's too late to submit an entry for the new European flag. I propose one that not only reflects the tremendous historical past of that proud continent, but the bold future they envision (see previous entry): The euroswastickle.

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Totalitarian-Euroism

Rem Koolhaas is a tediously self-promoting architect who has fallen on hard times lately because few clients want to pony up the $40 million for his self-indulgence. That's what Prada paid for their over-the-top SoHo store.

So he's moonlighting in areas where he is over-unqualified, like magazines. Because he's a "thinker", Wired gave him the latest issue to play with.

The general rubric of the issue is redefinition of space (as in physical or mental space — not as in outer space). There's a particularly chilling piece of anti-US writing by a Mark Leonard that masquerades as a description of why Europe will "bury" us. When reading it, try to remember that this guy actually admires this new Europe. It sounds a lot like Hell the way he describes it:

The 80,000 pages of laws the EU has developed since the common market was formed in 1957 - influencing everything from genetic labeling to human rights - have made Europe the world's first viral political space, spreading its authority in three innovative ways.

First, it spreads by stealth. Although the EU legislates up to half of its member states' laws, most of their trade, and many policy decisions - from agriculture to economics - it's practically invisible. [...] By creating common standards that are implemented through national institutions, Europe can take over the world without becoming a target for hostility.
[...]
Second, the EU thrives on diversity. The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once complained that Europe doesn't have a single telephone number. When there's a crisis, Americans don't know who to turn to as the authentic voice of opinion. [...] By sharing control widely, and by making it impossible for any single faction or institution to dominate, a networked business can combine its global presence with innovation and diversity to gain the kind of edge normally reserved for smaller entities.

Great, Europe as internet company, like Pets.com. Cool! I'm not sure how this synchs with the anti-globalization idiots' vision, but let that be. I think the operative word in this passage is "impossible".

[...] Third, Europe "syndicates" its legislation and values, often by threatening others with economic isolation. [...] But this model of passive aggression has had its most dramatic effect in the EU's backyard. [...] The US might have changed the regime in Afghanistan, but Europe is changing all of Polish society, from its economic policies and property laws to its treatment of minorities and what gets served on the nation's tables.

Passive aggressive? Sounds like a continent run by actor/waiters.

The key to this whole piece is in that last sentence. Let's recall the last two attempts by European powers to externally control Poland's "tables" and laws. We generally refer to those powers as the "Axis" and the "Warsaw Pact".

So there you have it:
World domination through communal "non"-decision making, passive-aggressive threatening, stealthy overriding of national traditions and laws.

Okay, let's just drop the Middle East and invade Brussels.

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May 15, 2003

Ooh, Ooh, Count Me!

Seems the French see conspiracies under the bed

"As part of the campaign of explanation we are undertaking in the United States, we have decided to count the untrue accusations which have appeared in the U.S. press and which have deeply shocked the French," spokeswoman Marie Masdupuy said.

To understand how amusant this all is, here's a quote from last February from this political pundit in France:

Mr. [Gilles] Corman denies that the French are anti-American, noting that they love Hollywood movies and fast food as much as anyone. But the Bush administration is viewed as "cowboys who don't know the rest of the world, think all Arabs are the same and that Iraq is the same as Afghanistan."

Les Americains charmants! Their entire, shallow contribution to the world: Hollywood movies and fast food. And their understanding of various other world peoples: nil.

Or check out Dominique in Le Monde this week (translation courtesy Bangkok Post):

Some people think that America, because of her power, is capable of acting more effectively than an international community deemed indecisive, or even impotent. We firmly believe that the United Nations embodies a universal conscience transcending states. Between impotence and unilateral, preventive action there is the path of collective responsibility and the difficult task of building a world democracy.

So the UN is a universal conscience? Here's Jeanne Kirkpatrick in the Interational Herald Tribune this week on the lack of standards in just one UN body:

The Human Rights Commission recently met in Geneva for six weeks to discuss, debate and decide issues concerning "the situation of human rights in the world." Since no standards exist, Libya was permitted to hold the chair, which resulted in a commission filled with an assortment of world-class rights abusers, including Syria, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

How are they doing, say on the issue of Cuba executing dissidents:

the Commission rejected an amendment proposed by Costa Rica (E/CN.4/2003/L.74) by a roll-call vote of 15 in favour and 31 against, with 7 abstentions, which would have had [sic] created a new operative paragraph calling upon the Government of Cuba to ensure full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedom of expression and the right to a fair trail, and expressing concern about the recent detention, summary prosecution and harsh sentencing of numerous members of the political opposition.

The results were as follows:

In favour (15): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (31): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (7): Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Right, so the democracies of the world (including France) want to slap Cuba mildly on the wrist for its summary executions, and the odious dictatorships vote them down. This is the world that the French would visit upon us in the name of "universal conscience".

Vive les cowboys!

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April 29, 2003

George Figures it Out for Me

George figured out what Berger was getting at. He posted a comment which is well worth reading.

Thanks, George. (If you don't know George, you should know George).

He has given me something to think about. I honestly felt that Berger had just gone over the edge. But, yes, this makes more sense than he was able to achieve.

I see this Berger article as an attempt, so common to the semiotically-inclined (of which I am not one, I have finally figured out after some 30 years) to invest politics with a motivation that arises from someone's, dare we say it, soul or at the least psyche.

Which I guess is behind this "Bush is a moron, bush is an idiot" mantra that seems to substitute for political debate these days. That is just a simplified form of the same ascribing of metapsychology to what are pretty open political issues.

Unfortunately, I also feel that this is all springing from the same well as the romantic myth-movements of the early twentieth-century that led so disastrously to the Fascist and the Communist movements. I wish I had time to explore that terrain. It may not be a mystery that this is the time when Lord of the Rings is being released. Mind you, I love the movies, but I recognize the dark form present beneath the surface.

That romantic notion is that there is some healthy, truth-seeking, peaceful path that Europeans are following and the bad, dark forces of America are undermining.

One of the problems in the world is that those on the left cannot shake off their extreme prejudice and ideological blinders and come up with a new paradigm.

But I'm too old and dull and busy, even if I were so inclined. (And lazy, of course).

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April 28, 2003

John Berger: Not Dead Yet

It's nice to know that John Berger is not dead, just brain-dead.

It is beyond me why The Nation would waste its paper and ink on such landfill as this.

Can anyone tell me what the hell this means?

Married as they are to fear, they cannot come to terms with, or find a place for, death. Fear keeps death out, and so the dead desert them. And people deserted by the dead lose any sense of continuity. The past becomes obsolete and the future frenetic and short-term. The present is reduced to a sequence of instants, unrelated to the experience of past and future lives. Those deserted by the dead find themselves alone on the planet. Married to fear, deserted by the dead, they still wield incomparable power, both economic and military, and are terrifyingly dangerous. But, in the long run, can their power survive? Ask the dead and the not-yet-born. I doubt it.

Oh well, Ways of Seeing was a pretty good book for it's time, but Berger's kindergarten Marxism got old long before this.

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April 14, 2003

Trying to Get the Left on Track

A nice summation of the current schism in the left between those who support tyrannical murderous regimes and those who oppose them. This is an extract from a letter sent by John Lloyd, a New Statesman columnist resigning his post:

France and Germany, the two leading anti-war states in Europe, baulked at acting against murderous tyrannies or collapsed states throughout the 1990s - in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, as well as Iraq. Where action to overthrow dictatorial regimes has been taken in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and now Iraq, it has been taken either with US prompting, or with the US military in the lead. In the first three cases, the result was a lifting of tyranny and the chance of a better life for the peoples of those countries.

European states are far more active and efficient in providing development assistance and peacekeeping forces than is the US. But there are times when peace must be made before it can be kept; and Europe as a whole has seen such moments as none of its business, relying on the US, and then usually blaming it for carrying the can.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, UN leaders have spread the message that their organisation could now enter into its own - as a protector of the downtrodden who, most often, are trodden on by their own rulers. This movement culminated, less than two years ago, in a Canadian-sponsored report, A Responsibility to Protect -- a brilliant summation of the arguments for stripping tyrants of sovereign inviolability. Of the major government leaders, only Blair has embraced the report, as the logical extension of the ethical dimension in foreign policy that Labour promulgated when it came to office.

Most of the left refused to follow this line. For some, it has been enough to declare all ethical dimensions phoney, since states such as Britain continued to shake hands with tyrants. For others, state sovereignty seems a necessary protection against what they see as the largest threat to the world: US imperialism.

US imperialism, in this view of a now resurgent part of the left, is composed of a mixture of things: efforts to control energy resources, principally oil; the repression of the Palestinians to ensure the security of the US "client state" Israel; a US refusal to tolerate any power that counterbalances its own; a hatred of all cultures other than its own, and a determination to destroy such cultures to make the world passively receptive to American values and merchandise.

Will the end of the war and the effort to rebuild decent government in Iraq change the view of the left? It would seem unlikely: the anti-US reflex is too ingrained, the dislike of Blair too great.

Yet the left's programme now should be to argue in favour of committing resources to those multilateral agencies that work, and to seek agreement from those forces everywhere in the world that are committed to democratic (or at least more responsive) government and to an observation of human and civil rights. The aim, as the US political scientist Michael Walzer has put it, should be a "strong international system, organised and designed to defeat aggression, to stop massacres and ethnic cleansing, to control weapons of mass destruction and to guarantee the physical security of all the world's peoples".

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April 12, 2003

Reality Distortion Field: Paris

Now this is rich. French peace protestors are marching this weekend. Get this — they're claiming victory! Why, because they got rid of Hussein! That was their prime objective all along, it turns out.

«On est supercontents que l'un de nos objectifs : la chute du régime de Saddam Hussein, soit atteint,» explique, imperturbable, Arielle Denis, du Mouvement pour la paix. «Mais la prise de Bagdad risque de ne pas signifier pour autant la fin du conflit. Tout reste à faire.» Mot d'ordre de la journée : «L'Irak aux Irakiens»

Huh! I forget. Did anyone actually see those Down with Hussein banners or Iraq for Iraqians, without Saddam signs.

What is the French for chutzpah? Oh, right, that would be French.

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April 03, 2003

Montréal and Politics: Full Contact Blood Sport

What can I say?

This is shameful to me as a born-Canadian and patriot to both my birth country and the US, where I am now a citizen and have spent most of my life.

Canadians hurl abuse at U.S. hockey peewees

MONTREAL -- A peewee hockey tournament in Montreal became a trip into hostile territory for a busload of Americans who say they encountered such fierce anti-Americanism that they will think twice before returning.

During a four-day visit, boys travelling with their Massachusetts hockey team witnessed the burning of the Stars and Stripes and the booing of the U.S. national anthem. When travelling in their bus emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue "Coach USA" logo, they saw people on the street who extended their middle fingers or made other angry gestures.
...
The children watched as several demonstrators made obscene gestures toward the bus. A U.S. flag was dragged through the street.
...
Mr. Carpenter came across a knot of demonstrators surrounding a protester who, with an Iraqi flag and a U.S. flag, had climbed atop a traffic light.

The crowd cheered when the man waved the Iraqi flag, and booed the U.S. flag, Mr. Carpenter said. Then the protester doused the U.S. flag in kerosene.

By a strange coincidence, we were in Montreal at the time of these events, taking the eldest and his friends on a college tour of our alma mater, McGill.

I'm not surprised this happened. It was actually quite a raucous time in the city, with all these loud hockey players roaming around. Our friends were staying in the Holiday Inn with seeming endless streams of boisterous kids humping huge hockey bags and sticks around.

My wife and I didn't feel these tensions. Of course, we weren't in a truly foreign country or city. But I will say I felt a little apprehensive about leaving my car overnight on the street with the New York plates. But I felt the McGill sticker in the back window would act like a little totem of protection. Yes, I'm guilty of denying my country. "See, I'm not really one of them."

Yet I still wore my American Flag pin proudly in downtown Montreal. Maybe a little apprehension. But 200 pounds and a red belt in Tae Kwon Do give one a certain confidence if not arrogance.

Some observations, not to excuse but maybe to cast light:

— Hockey is a rough sport, with rough people. I personally don't watch it much (Formula One is more my style). Some of that always spills on the ice when there is tension between teams, cities, countries. What happens at hockey games should never be taken as characteristic of a people.

— Canadians can get pretty pissed off at Americans. They will often comment on how Americans joke around at ball games during the Canadian national anthem. A bit of getting back at the Yanks might have been in play. Government officials stepped in almost immediately to denounce this behavior. If it had happened to adults, it would have been annoying. That it happened to young kids is just horrid.

— Montreal is a highly charged, politicized environment. I know it is hard for Americans to realize that they are not the primum mobile around which all action revolves, but the politics has almost nothing to do with the US. It is in Montreal's very nature.

Politics is apocalyptic.

There is the French-English tension on a citywide level.
That is also a class tension, as a large chunk of the French population is working class, and traditionally the ruling class in the city was English. That has changed in recent decades as, frankly, the English have fled, but it's bred in the bone. There is literally a street running down the middle of the town: to the East, predominantly French-speaking; to the West, English.

There is a language tension. Laws restricting English have been a source of strife and high feelings.
There is a city agglomeration tension, as traditional independent communities have been forced to join a larger urban entity.
There is economic tension. Things just aren't that rosy in Montreal and haven't been for 30 years. At one point in the 60s and 70s (when I lived there), gun battles and bus burnings broke out between rival gangs of taxi drivers. I kid you not.
There is nationalist tension. Strained relations with the rest of Canada stretch back to 1760. In 1970, that led to bombings, kidnappings, assassination and the imposition of martial law.
The license plates say "I remember" but that might be better expressed as "we never forget".
There have been repeated attempts by up to 50% of the province to redraw the map of Canada. These campaigns are brutal, vicious affairs that leave everyone bruised and bleeding (often literally).

There are ethnic tensions that often explode. I hate to characterize people too broadly, but there is a strain of xenophobia in the Quebec populace. During a recent electoral failure, a senior government official actually referred darkly and threateningly to the "new" Quebecers who had defeated the separatist referendum. The implication was that they would be dealt with.

These things pop up like "whack-a-mole" periodically and need to be beaten down. Usually with a royal commission.

Italian immigration in the 60s led to French-Italian conflict in the 70s. Traditional anti-semitism can run up against a substantial Hasidic community and a more ordinary Jewish presence. Large numbers of Africans and Caribbeans have moved to the city, adding a racial tension.

And in recent years (a surprise to me on this trip), large numbers of Muslims have moved there from the French-speaking North African countries. Concordia U (the other English university) has ongoing, often physically violent struggles between traditional ethnic rivals. I am told that the nickname for the college is Al Qaeda U.

In addition, the Gallic intellectual does tend to the Marxist, adding a soupçon of the romantic revolutionary to the mix. Your average French college student (not in business school) tends to fancy himself or herself a dashing mix of Che and Communard. The one-finger salute and the rude comment are their way of demonstrating their street cred. Hey, it's better than a molotov cocktail or a brick.

In other words, politics in Montreal is a full contact blood sport.

By contrast, Americans are used to way more gentility and bipartisanship than you find on a good day up there.

So never fear. Last month Montrealers were throwing the finger at Americans.
The likelihood is that tomorrow they'll go back to giving each other the finger. Like God intended.

Posted by campbell at 01:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 02, 2003

Cheese-Eating Tyrant Worshippers

I have been told repeatedly that "People who are Anti-war are not Anti-American." To which, I can now safely say au contraire.

Ordinarily, I would be quoting the French paper on this, but Le Monde has a poor interface for finding anything. So here's the scoop from The Times of London:

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the [French] Prime Minister, said: "The Americans are not the enemy; just because we are against this war, it does not mean that we want the victory of dictatorship over democracy."

Excusez-moi, J-P! Check out these numbers from a survey by Le Monde:

only a third of the French felt that they were on the same side as the Americans and British, and that another third desired outright Iraqi victory over "les anglo-saxons".

One Third want the victory of dictatorship over democracy!

Well, I guess that's vastly more support for Saddam in France than in Iraq, from the look of things. I have a nomination for that new Axis of Evil once Iraq is finished.

Posted by campbell at 01:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Le Monde Seized By Aliens

There used to be a respectable newspaper in France called Le Monde. But an odious Saddam propaganda rag has succeeded in stealing the name and running articles headlined:

Les proches des 250 000 militaires envoyés dans le Golfe dénoncent "une sale guerre dont rien ne prouve la nécessité". "Nous n'avons pas épuisé toutes les solutions", précisent-ils.

Really, the families of all 250,000 soldiers think this is a dirty war? Who would have thought?

Posted by campbell at 01:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2003

The Left's infantile paralysis

Daniel Pipes makes good observations about the many failings of the left in considering Saddam.

The same goes for Saddam Hussein, whose gruesome qualities matter less to the Left than the fact of his confronting and defying the United States. In its view, anyone who does that can't be too bad — never mind that he brutalizes his subjects and invades his neighbors. The Left takes to the streets to assure his survival, indifferent both to the fate of Iraqis and even to their own safety, clutching instead at the hope that this monster will somehow bring socialism closer.

Much as I admire Pipe's argument, I feel that he has painted the Left as a single entity who believe in this way. The Straw Man argument. Luckily, not everyone is reading from the same playbook, viz Christopher Hitchens.

I count myself on the leftish side of things, despiser of most things Bush and the Republicans are in favor of.

But I was shocked not too long ago when an acquaintance, an otherwise reasonably intelligent guy, started to speak respectfully about Venezuela's resident thug Chavez. When I looked shocked, he backed way off with the weaselly "well, I know he's probably not a very good guy ..."

That's when I knew. For a certain loonitarian segment of the Left, it isn't about what is right, what is wrong, what is progressive, what is humanitarian. No, it's about who is standing up to the US, pure and simple. If someone stands up and proclaims his anti-American bona fides, it doesn't matter what kind of hood he is, he gets an automatic bust in the Pantheon of the Left.

It isn't socialism, as Pipes would have it, it's hate.

That's why the endless canonization of Fidel. He sure puts it to "the man", doesn't he? Bah. I used to know people who positively worshipped Enver Hoxha and Kim il Sung. Sad the state of anti-Americanism that we now have such heroes as Saddam, Osama, Chavez, Mugabe, Milosevic and Dear Leader.

But I guess the anti-Americans can have Chirac. The man last spring was voted for "avec les gants" (with rubber gloves) by the French Left. But he stands up to the Unilateral Hegemon (I like that, sounds like a villain in a comic), so "what a guy!"

We would have Schroeder — a man of the left — but he has about zero chance of surviving much longer.

Until the left gets past this infantile Manicheanism that everything US is evil and everything that opposes the US is good, they are doomed to the inconsequentiality that befell the Marxist movements.

Posted by campbell at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Andrew Thomson: The War Against America

From The Weekly Standard, a cogent article on Anti-Americanism by Andrew Thomson, a former government minister under John Howard in Australia:

The war against America has been on foot for some years. Its first manifestation came during the 1990s in the form of militant Islam's sporadic attacks on Americans outside the United States. This was followed by the Pearl Harbor of the new century in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. All the while the world stood by and watched. It became the normal thing that America was attacked.

I think Thomson puts the date of the first manifestation as way too late.

I think there is a seamless line from the anti-Pershing missile campaigns of the 1980s, most of which were being prodded and funded by the old KGB and Stasi, through the anti-globalization riots and demonstrations of the 90s to the Islamist attacks.

Generally, it follows a similar pattern of grievance and the embodiment of the grievance in one symbolic monster: the United States. The grievance may be rooted in realities of poverty, but that hardly matters. It's more important that the grievance be seen as a chance to slap at the US.

It's like that old Abbott and Costello routine where Abbott gets the big guy angry at Costello by slapping him and saying that is what Costello wants to do.

My new slogan, swiped and modified from a skateboarder's t-shirt:
You say Unilateral Hegemon like it's a bad thing.

Posted by campbell at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2003

The Roots of French Anti-Americanism

Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs reviews two popular French books that examine the roots of French Anti-Americanism. The two are: L'obsession anti-americaine: Son fonctionnement, ses causes, ses inconsequences. Jean-Francois Revel. L'ennemi americain: Genealogie de l'antiamericanisme francais. Philippe Roger.

Revel "finds anti-Americanism to be a product of French political and moral failures" rather than arising from any specific American policy. In short, they envy US and English success, in economic growth and in cultural achievement. This is the context in which Chirac is operating, and in which most French (and other nations') criticisms of US actions — economic, cultural, political and military — take place.

The challenge for Americans and non-Americans alike is not to end anti-Americanism; only the collapse of American power could accomplish that task. Today, the task is to manage pragmatically the resentments, irritations, and real grievances that inevitably accompany the rise to power of one nation, one culture, and one social model in a complex, divided, and passionate world.

It ain't Iraq, it wasn't Clinton, it isn't Bush. These aren't the things that raise hackles. It's the very existence of the United States and its vigor in bringing technology and commerce (not to mention democratic ideals) to the rest of the world.

The Islamic fundamentalists are not alone in deciding that the true source of evil in the world is the US. That seems to be common fare in the more "modern" Europe (and in the US, itself). The roots of the Anti-War movement are almost 100% congruent with the anti-globalization movement. Left unchallenged, this easy anti-US sentiment will fester and cause vastly more problems down the road than the efforts of a few Muslim thugs.

(By the way, Roger cites one central reason: the antisemitism of the right wing L'action Francaise between the World Wars. They blamed the Jews around Roosevelt for much of Europe's ills. Now the world parrots the line that America's support for Israel causes so much dislike. As they say, plus ca change.)

(thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link)

Posted by campbell at 12:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 07, 2003

Anti-War? Nah. Anti-USA.

Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at the origins and ideologies (and idiocies) of the "AntiWar" movement today. It is my thesis that the central organizing principle of that movement is not peace, but a profound antiAmericanism that was born in the Vietnam War era, came of age in the anti-globalization movement, and may be as threatening to democracy as any of the great ideological movements of the 20th Century.

As a starting point, I'd like to point to Todd Gitlin's incisive post-9/11 column for Mother Jones:

To the left-wing fundamentalist, the only interesting or important brutality is at least indirectly the United States' doing. Thus, sanctions against Iraq are denounced, but the cynical mass murderer Saddam Hussein, who permits his people to die, remains an afterthought. Were America to vanish, so, presumably, would the miseries of Iraq and Egypt.
In the United States, adherents of this kind of reflexive anti-Americanism are a minority (isolated, usually, on campuses and in coastal cities, in circles where reality checks are scarce), but they are vocal and quick to action. Observing flags flying everywhere, they feel embattled and draw on their embattlement for moral credit, thus roping themselves into tight little circles of the pure and the saved.
Posted by campbell at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)