Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?
I have to take a hiatus from my irregular blogging and wingnut all-star research; I'm going home to help my relatives harvest rice.
If you have the bad taste to link to my blog,
you should probably re-think your life
I ask that you keep the link up. I'm not abandoning this thing. I'll just be away from computers for about a month.
Remember to wear the "you're on the other side" slur as a badge of honor. The same was said of Howells, Twain and James on the occasion of the Spanish-American War; of Kier Hardie on the Boer War and WWI; of Dr King and Dr Spock on Vietnam. Whenever VD Hanson offers a specious historical analogy, remember those that truly fit. Whenever the fascist pricks sling the traitor accusation, remember our predecessors who weathered the same libels.
Bye for now.
Your Technocrat "Liberal" Post Du Jour
This is from Howie The Putz's book, Hot Air: All Talk All The Time
. How to describe it? Uh, informative yet terrible. You just have to know how to read crap such as this, sort of like the old commie masses had to learn how to read Pravda
"Michael [Kinsley] has been polarized," Mort Kondrake says. "He is a much more subtle thinker than you could ever be on Crossfire. If you only do combat on television all the time, it does scramble your brain."
Ah, you say, Kondrake makes the Jon Stewart argument with which we are familiar and to which we are amenable. And he is -- to a point. But he also means something else entirely. Actually, Kondrake is bemoaning the fact that Kinsley is forced, through the show's format, to appear more liberal than he actually is. You see, if all was right in the world, Kinsley would stick to his centrist guns. But Kondrake is an idiot: of course Kinsley sticks to his centrist guns.
"Mike looks absurd saying 'from the left' every night," says Christopher Hitchens. "It's hypocritical on the part of both him and the network."
Kinsley concedes that he does not uphold the liberal banner the way [Pat] Buchanan champions conservatism. In fact, he calls himself "a wishy-washy moderate." But he insists it's not necessarily bad for liberalism that he is less ideological than his right-wing counterpart.
"Certainly real hard-core, left-wing opinions don't get on Crossfire, just as they don't get on other shows," he says. "This is partly because a reflection of the range of American political debate, from extreme right to moderate left. And it's partly a knee-jerk reaction by television producers."
Naturally, since Kurtz is a hack, he makes no comment on this meaty quote. He just accepts it -- as his friend Rush Limbaugh would say -- as the way things ought to be. Actually, Kinsley is exactly right, extreme right is continually represented in the media, while the "left" viewpoint is objectively centrist: it's only "left" relative
to the viewpoint of Buchanan, Limbaugh, Will, etc.
That's the way things are. Yet read Kinsley's take again. It's obviously implied that "television producers" structure these shows to the objective benefit of the right either because a) it's a reflection the "range of American political debate" or b) whim. He's without curiousity; he accepts it as a given, even as a natural state of affairs, that it's fair to have an objectively rightwing national dialogue, and the media representations of such, as on Crossfire
, accurately mirror those among the populace. No no no, Kinsley. There is a reason why "television producers", who have bosses (hint hint), structure these shows in this way. And such shows don't reflect squat: they manufacture
the "acceptable" bounds of national debate. They do the influencing; not vice-versa. Yet you play right along with it, never stopping to think why that is, much less think of the next step, "qui bono
Occasionally, because the reactionaries on the right are so goddamn ..well, reactionary, the "liberal", like Kinsley, is forced to argue further left than he would rather (but still not so far left to be, in reality, Left). This is the real basis of Kondrake's objection, not some noble Jon Stewart-esque dissent.
This post is dedicated to Matthew Yglesias, Kinsley's heir-apparent, and to Kevin Drum (loather of Robert Scheer, admirer of Max Boot), our replacement-level Morton Kondrake.
Dr. Kraphammer, I Presume
I assume the following is from his old "Minority Report" column in The Nation
, though I take it from Prepared For The Worst
-- which is a pretty good collection from the era when Hitchens actually did real journalism. I recommend it.
Anyway, notice that the faults Hitchens observes in Kraphammer are exactly the sorts of faults one can now observe in Hitchens himself since he turned to the Dark Side. Especially notice the critique of neocon self-pitying/faux-underdoggery. Then compare with modern Hitchens who affects to fight an uphill battle against hippie anti-war protestors and other groups among the "indecent" Left, while all along his precious Dear Leader fights his precious Iraq war. Hitchens is a paranoid; fancies himself as a victimised minority; remarkably imagines himself as an unconformist, yet unfailingly agrees with everything the ruling party in all three governmental branches has decided is the proper direction at which to steer the nation. It's just too bad. Anyway -- he was once a decent, intelligent figure:
...In the charmed circle of neoliberal and neoconservative journalism... "unpredictability" is the special emblem and certificate of self-congratulation. To be able to bray that "as a liberal, I say bomb the shit out of them" is to have achieved that eye-catching, versatile marketability that is so beloved of editors and talk-show hosts. As a lifelong socialist, I say don't let's bomb the shit out of them. See what I mean? It lacks the sex appeal somehow. Predictable as hell.
Picture then, if you will, the unusual difficulties faced by Charles Krauthammer, newest of the neocon mini-windbags. He has the arduous job, in an arduous time, of being an unpredictable conformist. He has the no less demanding task of making this pose appear original and, more, of making it appear courageous. At a time when the polity... is showing signs of Will fatigue, it can't be easy to write an attack on the United Nations or Albania or Qaddafi and make it seem like a lone, fearless affirmation. An average week of reading The Washington Post op-ed pages already exposes me to appearances from George Will, William F. Buckley, Jr., Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz, Emmett Tyrrell, Joseph Kraft, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, and Stephen Rosenfeld. Clearly its editors felt that a radical new voice when they turned to the blazing, impatient talents on offer in The New Republic -- and selected Krauthammer. I dare say Time felt the same way when it followed suit. We live in a period when a chat show that includes Morton Kondrake considers that it has filled the liberal slot.
Of Krauthammer's book, Cutting Edges: Making Sense of the Eighties, with its right little, trite little title, George Will has already written that it comes from "the best new, young writer on public affairs. It is only a matter of time, and not much time, before the adjectives 'new' and 'young' will be put aside." I don't doubt it. There's certainly nothing new or young here. and it's only a matter of reading the book to make one realize that the other adjective will not be so much put aside as stuffed elsewhere.
In common with most but not all of his conservative columnist colleagues, Krauthammer does not write very well, reason very well, or know very much about anything. In common with them, too, he holds the "unpredictable" view that the United States is far too modest and retiring as a world power. In common with them, finally, he thinks that it takes an exercise of moral strength to point this out.
Hitchens then provides a quote from Kraphammer's book as an example. Since I don't know how to block quote within a block quote, here it is separate from the main passage:
In the 1984 Democratic campaign, the principal disagreement over Central America was whether the United States should station twenty advisors in Honduras (Walter Mondale's position) or zero (Gary Hart's). On Angola, El Salvador, Grenada, Lebanon and Nicaragua, the Democratice position has involved some variety of disengagement: talks, aid, sanctions, diplomacy -- first. In practice this invariably means -- only. Force is ruled out, effectively if not explicitly.
Pretty typical neoconese, yes? Those Dem appeasers, they don't have the stones, yadda yadda yadda. Hitchens pounces:
Scrutinizing this clumsily written passage, one is struck by the following:
1. Charles Krauthammer used to work as a speechwriter for the ridiculous Mondale. Ordinarily, he underlines this bit of his resume in order to show that he is a former bleeding heart, knows the score, has been an insider, has seen the light, has lost his faith and therefore found his reason -- all the familiar or predictable panoply of the careerist defector.
2. To have known and worked for Mondale, and to have kept a reasonably attentive eye on the press during the 1984 election, is to presumably know that Mondale publicly called for a quarantine of Nicaragua. A quarantine is an armed blockade.
3. Ronald Reagan's military excursions to Beirut, Grenada, the Honduran border, and elsewhere all received the sanctification of the House and Senate Democratic leadership. So it might be said that nobody wanting to make a case for the Democrats as appeasement-sodden buffoons could have argued it in a more unlettered, sly, and misleading manner.
Can it be said that Krauthammer enjoys coveted space, and Establishment affection, more because of this manner than in spite of it? The suspicion cannot be groundless. This man actually began a column, in 1985, by telling that antique story about Calvin Coolidge and dorothy Parker as if he'd minted it himself. He believes, or at any rate he writes, that "the death of Senator Henry Jackson has left an empty stillness at the center of American politics." That would be pardonable, if corny, in an obituary piece, but it introduces a rather unexciting reflection on the fate of Cold War liberalism which omits to mention that Jackson's clones (Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Kirkpatrick, and other of Krauthammer's favorites) are all over the place.
In a slim field, my nomination for the most memorable and emblematic quotation would go to his view that "the great moral dilemmas of American foriegn policy arise when the persuit od security and the persuit of democracy clash. Contra aid is not such a case. That is Cruz's message. Is anyone listening?" That was in The Washington Post -- this year. It contains everything that has made Krauthammer a figure. Cliche' ("moral dilemma," "persuit"). False antithesis ("security" versus "democracy"). Pomposity (Hubert Humphrey posing as Winston Churchill in the sonorous periods of the sentencing). Banality (Arturo Cruz at this late date?). Last and as usual, the parroting of the Reaganite party line, written as if by a lonely, ignored dissident (Listening? They're fighting a war for him). This is affectation, poorly executed.
In this entire salad of emissions, I could find no "cutting edges" and nothing that qualified as "against the stream" of the regnant orthodoxy. And, as a regular reader of Krauthammer, I can recall only two columns of his that I have admired. One was about teh brith of his son Daniel. The other was about the absurdity and implausibility of the Star Wars project. Neither of those articles appears here -- the first because it came too late to include and the second because it was Krauthammer's only moment of dissent and misgiving, and, what with one thing and the other, he would rather forget it. I think I could have predicted that.
Sorry for the light posting. I'm trying to get my shit together for school because if I don't my sorry ass will have to pull a grain cart through rice paddies very soon. I'd rather be in class.
Some random stuff:
I want to post on CAFTA.
I have a post brewing on the awesome vileness of Cubs fans, who are the real scum of humanity, the only group that gives kitten-stabbing Nazi child-molestors a good name.
Krugman wrote a good column the other day on wingnut thinktank-created disinformation campaigns, the thrust of which rightly laid the ultimate blame for global warming denial and like Lysenkoisms squarely at the feet of one Irving Kristol. I want to blog about that in detail, too.
Vermonter sent me David Brooks's latest outrage (great pick) but I can't do it justice. Sadly, No! demolished it, though.
I still have to write the Shelby Foote tribute.
All this I want to do. And hope to do, but who knows when.
As for 2005 Wingnut All-Stars... man. I'm serious as hell about it. It will get done and I've been researching it steadily with what time I've had. Just as a for instance, I have over 40 links to different exhibitions of and commentaries on Niall Ferguson's wingnuttery; does that give an idea on how comprehensive I aim to be?
I've read every
post the Poor Man has ever written. The whole archive. Good stuff in there. Also, surprising stuff. I hadn't known that he was such an anti-idiotarian type in the early days. That's okay though; everyone flirts with the dark side.
Anyway, I just want to say that I'm not dead, nor have I abandoned the blog. I have been working, but I've had less time and otherwise have been stressed out (and distracted: I'd forgotten how musical spoken Polish sounds -- longtime readers will know what that
means) to feel like blogging very much.
My best prediction for now: light blogging throughout the month.
ADDED: Oh yeah, all this is not to say that content
wont be posted -- it just wont be my own. I'll probably copy out some extended quotations here to reference later for the Wingnut All-Stars. For instance, Hitchens wrote two annihilating essays on Paul Johnson, only one of which is online. Might as well cite the best parts of the other as well.
Longtime (and therefore long-suffering) elementropy reader and fellow Primate
Michael Humphreys offers the following meditation on the moral fallout of the nuclear attacks on Japan that concluded WWII:
Been listening on public radio to shows about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and reading related articles in the FT Weekend edition. Depressing to hear how Truman lied to the American public about Hiroshima being a military target.
When I was in college I wrote a paper about the decision to drop the bomb, and, sorry as I am to admit it, I took the conventional view that it saved lives. (Of course, I didn't really know what the hell I was talking about.)
All nations need to examine their consciences. Few do. Almost none do unless forced to (e.g., Germany).
In addition to coming to terms with the profound evil of slavery and Jim Crow apartheid, the conquest and destruction of native American culture, the Mexican-American War, at least a century of colonialist/corporatist outrages in South America and the Phillipines, the Indochina disaster, and now the conduct of the war in Iraq, America must come to terms with the profound evil of nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and firebombing Tokyo). (Now that I think about it, in the recent documentary about Vietnam featuring extensive reminiscences of McNamara, the latter said that the Air Force general in charge of Tokyo (some madman named Curtis LeMay) admitted to Bob Mac that he would have been charged with war crimes if the United States had lost the war. . . . I believe that LeMay later distinguished himself by recommending to President Kennedy the reasonableness of preemptive nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.)
Even leaving aside the issues of whether unconditional surrender was appropriate (perhaps it was, even if MacArthur subsequently allowed Japan to keep its Emperor anyway, as MacArthur did insist the Japanese abandon their belief in the young man’s divinity), the understandable motivation of frightening one of history's handful of insane mega-monsters (Stalin), and lest it not be forgotten, the horrific, truly horrific cruelties committed by the Japanese, I simply do not understand why the United States couldn't at least have shown as much respect for human life as the Irish Republican Army.
The IRA has sometimes had the decency to warn when they were about to blow up a building. Why couldn't we have warned the Japanese to evacuate some remote island that was part of Japan before demonstrating our power to eliminate it? (Not to be callous, but Japan was uniquely “qualified” geographically to “absorb” a “contained” nuclear strike.)
This is hardly an original idea. Yet the only argument against it I have heard—that we were so unsure about whether the bomb would function that a failed “demonstration” was a great risk, and that such “failure” would have emboldened
Japanese resistance and Stalin’s ambitions—makes no sense. We had already “successfully” nuked New Mexico. Furthermore, we could have warned the Japanese to leave the area evacuated for some specified period of time—say three days—so that if the “Hiroshima”-technology bomb had “failed”, we’d have had time to try the several “Nagasaki”-technology bombs we had in reserve.
The other tragedy inflicted by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs (again, not an original observation) is that for the Japanese people, nuclear victimhood completely vaporized their sense of culpability—and thus made impossible reconciliation between the Japanese and their neighbors in East and Southeast Asia. (Appalling extended metaphor intended.)
The Ultimate SinFallout From Hiroshima's Myths
Sixty years ago Saturday, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95 percent of them women and children and other noncombatants. At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months. Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.
The magnitude of death was enormous, but on Aug. 14, 1945 - just five days after the Nagasaki bombing - Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender. To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.
This powerful narrative took root quickly and is now deeply embedded in our historical sense of who we are as a nation. A decade ago, on the 50th anniversary, this narrative was reinforced in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first bomb. The exhibit, which had been the subject of a bruising political battle, presented nearly 4 million Americans with an officially sanctioned view of the atomic bombings that again portrayed them as a necessary act in a just war.
But although patriotically correct, the exhibit and the narrative on which it was based were historically inaccurate. For one thing, the Smithsonian downplayed the casualties, saying only that the bombs "caused many tens of thousands of deaths" and that Hiroshima was "a definite military target."
Americans were also told that use of the bombs "led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." But it's not that straightforward. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, "Racing the Enemy" - and many other historians have long argued - it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.
The Enola Gay exhibit also repeated such outright lies as the assertion that "special leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities" warning civilians to evacuate. The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.
The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.
The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest adviser, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.
These unpleasant historical facts were censored from the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit, an action that should trouble every American. When a government substitutes an officially sanctioned view for publicly debated history, democracy is diminished.
Today, in the post-9-11 era, it is critically important that the U.S. face the truth about the atomic bomb. For one thing, the myths surrounding Hiroshima have made it possible for our defense establishment to argue that atomic bombs are legitimate weapons that belong in a democracy's arsenal. But if, as Oppenheimer said, "they are weapons of aggression, of surprise and of terror," how can a democracy rely on such weapons?
Oppenheimer understood very soon after Hiroshima that these weapons would ultimately threaten our very survival.
Presciently, he even warned us against what is now our worst national nightmare - and Osama bin Laden's frequently voiced dream - an atomic suitcase bomb smuggled into an American city: "Of course it could be done," Oppenheimer told a Senate committee, "and people could destroy New York."
Ironically, Hiroshima's myths are now motivating our enemies to attack us with the very weapon we invented. Bin Laden repeatedly refers to Hiroshima in his rambling speeches. It was, he believes, the atomic bombings that shocked the Japanese imperial government into an early surrender - and, he says, he is planning an atomic attack on the U.S. that will similarly shock us into retreating from the Mideast.
Finally, Hiroshima's myths have gradually given rise to an American unilateralism born of atomic arrogance.
Oppenheimer warned against this "sleazy sense of omnipotence." He observed that "if you approach the problem and say, 'We know what is right and we would like to use the atomic bomb to persuade you to agree with us,' then you are in a very weak position and you will not succeed. ... You will find yourselves attempting by force of arms to prevent a disaster."
See also here
, and much material here
Here's pretty much what I believe, caveat emptor:
Truman ordered the nukes to scare Stalin, who had threatened to escalate his eastern front after the fall of Berlin. Russia had some historical scores to settle with Japan, regardless of then-recent Japanese aggression -- the ease with which Japan sank the Russian fleet in the Russo-Japanese War, and the land concessions Russia made after its defeat, being cases in humiliating point. Of course Stalin was a bastard, but what people don't seem to appreciate is that he had good reason to be paranoid. It was in the Russian character to fear invasion from Europe, with good reasons recent and historic. Thus the insistence, which FDR and Churchill somewhat grudgingly agreed-to, for the satellite states in Eastern Europe. While Stalin was a meddler in other places, by the time of WW2 he had co-opted Bukharin's "socialism in one country" doctrine. I don't think people had too much to fear as far as potential Russian satellites in East Asia.
Truman's attitude to Stalin immediately changed in the middle of the Potsdam conferences -- as soon as he recieved word that The Bomb was operational. Thanks Harry, you made a paranoid madman even more paranoid. The Bomb was a geopolitical version of a Dear John letter severing the relationship between America and the Soviet Union. So many civilians incinerated, mangled, and given the gift that keeps on giving -- cancer and birth defects -- among the survivors and their offspring. Just to tell Mad Josef to slag off because we didn't need him anymore.
Japan had been trying to surrender -- it's in all the literature of the major players, even Truman -- before Hiroshima. The hang-up was about not the military junta that had run the country, but the Japanese people's religious need for keeping the Emperor on the throne. As a frame of reference, an American needs to imagine not only being of a defeated nation and people but then afterward being forced to burn his bible and denounce Jesus Christ. Surrender was acceptable to the Japanese; shitcanning something that had been part of their culture since the beginning was something else. Since we ended up allowing them to keep the Emperor anyway, this could not have been the hugest sticking point for us, even under the awful rubric of Unconditional Surrender by which the vindictive pressed their agenda and to which the sensible unfortunately hitched their wagons.
Yes, I'm well aware of the brutality of the Japanese regime. They chopped off the heads of our POWs with swords. But then we took their prisoners, when they were taken alive, and shoved broken coke bottles up their asses. Yes, they did gruesome medical experiments on the Chinese, and practiced biological warfare on the same. Vile. Not to Nazi levels, but vile: our Dresden and Tokyo firebombings can't compete with Axis nastiness.
But the nukes are something else altogether. Dresden, for instance, can be slightly mitigated by the argument that the bombing destroyed infrastructure and production facilities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot. The nukes were intentionally dropped on civilians and intended
for them only. The nuking of those cities was a terrorist act, if terrorism is defined as the intentional murder of civilians for political gain. And it's not even as bad as non-state terrorism, as practiced by the IRAs, ETAs, and al-quaedas of the world if you accept, as I do, the doctrine of distinction of moral responsibilities between the Pirate and the Emperor (a higher standard of justice is expected of the latter).
Whatever you think of the Russian angle, even the traditional view can't excuse Nagasaki: it was gratuitous. But excuse it all many do, blinded by nationalist myth and metaphysically certain that the United States could never do evil: it's just not possible
Still, most decent people do more than clear their throats over the morality of nuking people, even if they think that their country was "forced" to do such acts. They acknowledge the gruesomeness of it all. Decent people that is. There are, of course, others.
Usual suspects* like Max Boot
and Victor Davis Hanson: guiltless imperialists of the right who are congenitally unable to blame the United States for anything except on the odd occasions it has not been bloodthirsty enough. Then there are unusual suspects -- like Steve Gilliard who has a hard-on for anything US military related. Gilliard
tells us that he watches the History Channel, long under the General Electric corporate umbrella (and so, in the name of synergy, given to producing long programs which are basically commercials for its armaments business), and is therefore an expert who must correct legitimate, if unfriendly-to-myth revisionist, scholars like Bird and Alperovitz. His long and condescending sneer, with a throat-clearing/afterthought mention of morality, is a real treat. Thanks, Steve, but if I want to read callous assholes who enjoy soiling themselves so as to defend any American war crime, there are plenty on the right who are actually good at being so porcine. In fact, I can click on any wingnut site and hear the Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs excused similarly, on the grounds that, why, such things aren't as bad as what So and So did! Excuses for using nukes on the grounds that the Japanese were worse just aren't good enough. Like what Saddam did, it's irrelevant.
* What I think of military historians in general, the most Prussian lot of academics in the world, is pretty much what James Bond thought of this guy
, and for the same reasons. Morality's always a subordinate issue to testosterone to such people.