Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is "Radical Center" an Oxymoron?

In an era of eXtreme sports and politics, the center is often derided as lukewarm, as we even get Jonah Goldberg claiming absurdly that only extremists can build a bridge.  Some fed-up non-extremists are calling for a "radical center" movement.  Why do we want it to all come down to one side or the other.  "You're either with us or against us.  You're part of the problem or part of the solution.  Only yellow lines and dead armadillos in the center of the road".

The feeling of belonging to one or another side of a momentous conflict is so seductive and feels so natural and right.  I think it is a sort of feeling of "coming home" and being "at home".  This must reflect in some way the tens of thousands of years prior to settled human life.  It is so comfortable to feel one belongs to the Donkey Clan with its long history of standing up to (and sometimes dominating) the Elephant Clan -- or vice versa belonging to the Elephant Clan etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Unreported Soros Event Aims to Remake Entire Global Economy" says Media Research Center

The Media Research Center (MRC) article titled "Unreported Soros Event Aims to Remake Entire Global Economy" starts off with:

Two years ago, George Soros said he wanted to reorganize the entire global economic system. In two short weeks, he is going to start - and no one seems to have noticed.

On April 8, a group he's funded with $50 million is holding a major economic conference and Soros's goal for such an event is to "establish new international rules" and "reform the currency system." It's all according to a plan laid out in a Nov. 4, 2009, Soros op-ed calling for "a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order."

 The MRC provides a pointer to the event website:
 where INET (the Soros organization in charge of it) bills it as simply one in a series of international conferences.

The MRC describes its purpose as "to bring balance to the news media... and neutralize [the impact of "liberal bias"] on the American political scene.

Why then does the MRC deliberately present a yearly conference as the launching of the New World Order?

Soros gave his opinion, in strong terms granted, that the worst worldwide recession in several decades revealed a need for a reorganization of the global financial system.

But it goes way beyond spin to say, as MRC does that he "wanted to reorganize the entire global economic system." and "In two short weeks, he is going to start and no one seems to have noticed."

Why is this event "unreported"?  Because it is a conference of 200 mostly academic economists, with no apparent representation by actual world leaders, which is going to generate a lot of presentations world leaders, if they take the time, may or may not find persuasive.

George Soros has taken some bold actions, but to spread the fear that he can "reorganize the global financial system" goes way way beyond bias.  It is systematic misrepresentation.

In the 1980s, the supposedly "left wing" Soros set up organizations in the ex Warsaw pact countries to assist them in making the transition to personal freedom and free trade.  He named the central organization of all those he set up after Karl Popper's book title "The Open Society and its Enemies".  Soros is deeply indebted to Popper, who in the 1940s joined with Friedrich Hayek and other intellectuals in warning against totalitarian systems -- explicitly naming the Soviet Union in this class, as well as Nazi Germany.

Soros believes the financial system, like our highway system needs a system of rules to avoid spinning out of control.  After the great Ponzi scheme-like bubble that ended in the 2008 crash, why do so many people start yelling "Marxist" whenever they hear this?

If the financial system can be reformed in a useful way the reform would have to be international in scope.  Otherwise those who want to profit from financial bubbles can simply shop for the country with the loosest regulations.  We can go crazy when an international group talks about trying to harmonize the various currencies and have some rules to keep speculation from turning into con-artistry, but the financial system is international and there's no escaping that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Trouble with "The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend", Historic Examples

Arthur Zimmerman, German Foreign Secretary in the 2nd half of World War I might serve as the "poster boy" for troubles with the principal that "The enemy of my enemy if my friend".  By inviting Mexico, via telegram, to "enter into an alliance with Germany against the United States in exchange for which she would regain 'her lost territory in Texas...'", he helped to finally bring the U.S. into the conflict.  He then played a major role in helping Lenin and a trainload of his followers reach an increasingly unstable Russia, where they did, just as he hoped, push Russia over the brink, practically eliminating the Axis' Eastern front.

Germany lost the war anyway, and Soviet Russia remained its biggest problem throughout most of the rest of the century.

But it took the Cold War to show just how much destruction could be wreaked by this principle.  In summary, by cultivating a motley assortment of backward nations as allies against the USSR, we either spread misery, or at least made the U.S. appear responsible for the misery of much of Latin America, the Near East, and Southeast Asia, and saddled countless poor nations with no experience of democracy with far greater powers of destruction than they could ever have developed for themselves.
[to be continues?]

The Image of Nazism in the Minds of My Generation

My generation (Baby Boomers) was brought up, in the 50s and early 60s, pretty largely on the mythos of World War II movies.
The bad guys in that conflict were presented as a lot of extremely uptight looking guys whose every aspect or act screamed precision  -- their hair, their uniforms, their way of speech, constantly affirming their obedience and reverence for the chain of command with "Yes Sir!"s,"Heil Hitler!"s, and elaborate and precise salutes, and scurrying around obeying orders like machines.
What were we told (by example) to do with this vision?  Blow it up!  Blow up everything in sight!  Mow them down!  And who was doing all this blowing up and mowing down, but a bunch of rather slovenly, loose-natured guys, with their uniforms rumpled or half-discarded and usually needing a shave and washing-up.  Their leaders, all the way to the top of the field command, were generally shown living by a general directive (blow up and mow down), but otherwise, often displaying creativity; not visibly answerable to anyone; often disobeying the letter of command while obeying its spirit, and the general directive.  Often, too, the "enemy" was shown with rigid obedience as their Achilles heel.
These movie Nazis were a caricature of authoritarianism, structure, and obedience.  Ruthlessness was a somewhat less prominent feature, and sometimes we were ruthless ourselves (though with a certain etiquette about our ruthlessness that the Nazis lacked).  Mostly, these mythical visions did not look at what really caused the Germany of the 30s and early 40s to act in such a bizarre and awful way; the structure of the sickness and/or evil that spread through and seized that society.  When we did pay attention to other aspects of the "enemy" society, besides their machineline precision, the aspects stressed were extreme ruthlessness and racism.
What narrative could be better calculated to raise a generation like mine?  One which celebrated rebellion, and had a simplistic revulsion towards authority and obedience; wanted to, symbolically at least, blow up structure and authority; show ourselves the antitheses of Nazis by acting imaginatively and often anarchically.
There were other ways of reacting to the mythos that we were shown, which could be gone into and rationalized.  Obviously some were reacting in different ways than that described, like joining ROTC and/or being obsessed with anti-Communism, or wearing suits and striving for material success -- but there is surely a plausible relation of cause and effect between the narrative and the anarchic side of my generation.
While we were being taught this mythos of rigid Nazism and the virtue of blowing it up, we were also being taught (more overtly)  to revere the flag; to stand up and put our hands over our hearts when the national anthem is played; to wear neat clothes and neat haircuts; to stay in line, elect leaders, and often obey them, once elected.  We formed teams and played by rules.  But all this, when examined closely, could be reasonably interpreted as just a milder, or more subtle version of the mythos of Nazism that we were presented with, and a large portion of my generation saw it in just that way.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"We Will Shoot More Police in Arizona" and Other Email Idiocy

Have you seen this picture, accompanied with a caption somewhat like the following?

It has been circulated via chain emails.  Is the picture real or photoshopped?  There hasn't been a conclusive answer as far as I can tell.  One thing that has been demonstrated is that the the caption ("Picture taken by one of my friends in Phoenix yesterday ...") is untrue because the background is the LA Times complex, so whoever added "Picture taken by one of my friends in Phoenix yesterday ..." was lying.  This is a pattern I've often noticed with anonymous chain emails.  If a picture, or story gets wide circulation, and succeeds in working a lot of people up, then it will get reused, with whatever changes are necessary, the next time there is a news event which it can be fitted to.

It is part of a very big phenomenon I described in My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land.  There is also a web site called "My Right Wing Dad" devoted to simply collecting thousands of such emails.

The picture by itself means little or nothing.  The signholder could be as uniquely crazy as Jared Loughton (see "Crosshairs, Blood Libel, and Rabid Partisans");  for that matter, it could be a liberal-baiter who wrote the sign himself.  The sign-holder looks like he's talking with someone, maybe the photographer ("OK you want me to hold it a little higher?").  The sign itself reads like a parody in my opinion, but consider this: if the sign holder was truly one of the protesters, and spent any amount of time displaying it (as opposed to posing once for the picture), why haven't multiple pictures of this outrageous sign appeared?.  If the sign represents the views of the marchers, are there pictures of any others with similar messages?

Why does is matter? Why are millions of people passing this stuff around?  As to what motivates it, I believe the philosophy goes back at least 30 years to what Terry Dolan, one of the founders of NCPAC, said of their strategy:
"A group like ours could lie through its teeth, and the candidate it helps stays clean.". Washington Post, August 10, 1980 (quoted by Wikipedia).
The power of PACs, and of skunkworks of "dirty tricksters" is truly wondrous.

An indispensable element of these emails, which I've been studying for a couple of years, is the phony folksy lead-in which gives the impression this was just passed along by a "concerned" friend of a friend, not from some junior Machiavelli in a boiler room somewhere.

Various tricks are used to "prove" authenticity, not the least of which is the manufactured outrage -- as in another of the variations cited by

 I know john personally! THIS IS LEGIT!
The photo was taken at a protest 5/1/10 in Phoenix!

                       (as noted, the backdrop is the LA Times bldg which is NOT in Phoenix)

I for one am OUTRAGED by this photo, taken the next day after a Pinal County Sheriffs Deputy was shot by Mexican Drug Runners with an AK-47 just a few miles from my home.  THIS CRAP IS TAKING PLACE "IN MY BACKYARD"! YOU PEOPLE in other states Need to shut the hell up, and actually READ THE PROPOSED LAW for yourselves, and NOT LISTEN TO THE RACEBAITERS like Sharpton and OBAMA!

I have about had enough.
Why do I say "manufactured" outrage?  In this case, there is the lie of personal knowledge that the photo was taken in Phoenix when in fact the scene is Los Angeles.

If you are not one of the people who swallows this sort of thing whole, let me just say that these things are effective.  They get past peoples skepticism because they seem so amateurish, like somebody just got fed up and in impotent rage, put it all together and sent it out to his or her little informal club of people who exchange interesting emails.  But when most of the emails like this I've seen contain elaborate deceptions (See "My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land") it makes more sense to think the composer was interested in changing public opinion for a certain political result, not in sharing their genuine personal outrage as they claim.