fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
This is without a doubt the most horrifying piece of news yet to come out of the Western side of the Cold War.
it seems that the American military had effectively worked to remove the supposed control over nuclear weapon from the President, and effectively allow any four officers who wished to to launch a missile. The considerations behind this piece of total insanity were purely military: suppose the C-in-C were disabled or otherwise unable to react, there could be no effective response to any kind of Soviet aggression. Well, DUH!! If the President had been taken out of the equation, then the war leadership would be probably gone, and all that would be left would be stupid, uncoordinated slaughter. Besides, the point with atomic weapon was not to use them, but to avoid using them, and above all to prevent the other side using them. Say what you will about mutual assured destruction, but it kept two power groups that hated each other's guts from replying the horrible, destructive folly of the two world wars.

But never mind the "Dr.Strangelove" option with four junior officers just deciding to go off and fire a Minuteman rocket on their own. Do you have the least idea what would have happened if this piece of idiocy by US armed forces had ever got out? NATO would have been finished, that's what. Are any of you old enough to remember the huge pacifist demonstrations of 1980-1982? I was there, and I can tell you what they were about. They were not Communist-led or pro-Russian; almost everyone who took part despised Soviet Russia as a backward, vicious tyranny. They were about the feeling that the USA were playing dice with the lives and future of Europeans. If WWIII ever came, it would have been fought in Europe. Every one of us was aware of that; many had been through military service - most European armies at the time were still conscript - and we were all aware that we were constantly staring down a lot of Russian barrels. We hated the idea that the American forces could essentially use our countries as a nuclear chessboard. That being the case, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the European public had known that the armed aliens in their midst could launch nuclear strikes virtually at will, and that they had deliberately cut out both the US civilian leadership AND the European governments, there would have been a political earthquake. No country from Norway to Turkey and from West Germany to Portugal would have allowed a single American soldier to remain on its territory. It would have been the end of the alliance. And for that alone one has to say that the generals who had this bright idea were stupid beyond criminality.

Yet more evidence that "war is too important a matter to leave to generals" (Georges Clemenceau said that, and he knew a thing or two about it). It is an ugly thought that, today, an army that was capable of such folly remains the most respected - or at least least despised - institution in America. A few generations of corrupt and incompetent politicians have salted the fields of democratic institutions, making half the population hate one half of government and the other half the other. Let us just hope that we don't pay for this collective loss of faith.


Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
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I ask you.
Some of us spend years of unpaid work patiently working out the circumstances in which early British and related literature arose, studying texts word by word, excluding hypotheses we would have liked to entertain, sticking rigorously to what can be shown to be the case. The result? Our work gets maybe ten hits a year. Then some unspeakable moron comes along and claims that, because the "city of Legions" and a shrine to martyrs are mentioned in the same text (which, he fails to say, is book-length) - this proves that an amphitheatre in Chester is King Arthur's Round Table! And this, in the name of God and before all the hosts of Hell, passes for scholarship! It is published in newspapers and magazines! And the conscious fraudster - because this cannot but be conscious - revels in the publicity and perhaps gets a permanent spot in the media or a university chair!

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I never thought I would say this, but Naomi Campbell has been thoroughly ill-treated by the international news media, and the people she was angry at have got a thoroughly undeserved free pass. She was perfectly right to be angry, and if I were her, I would already be talking to my lawyers.

Ms.Campbell had booked a place on a flight that started from Heathrow's notorious fifth terminal. Yes, the one from which all the horror stories have emanated. This may have been incautious, but the flight, being a business one, was probably booked months in advance; and how was she to know, among the barrage of triumphalist stories being broadcast from the new building every few days, that the opening of the super-modern, super-splendid, super-efficient, super-huge new monster was to turn into the worst and most ludicrous organizational disaster even Britain had seen in years? Sir, she was not. The fashion industry has all the sins in the world except one: when they organize something, it is done in time and to the specifications required. Ms.Campbell could legitimately expect that "the world's favourite airline" would perform no worse than the people she normally worked with.

Punctually, as the plane was waiting to go, a number of bags went missing - including one of Ms.Campbell's, containing a number of expensive dresses she was supposed to model in Los Angeles. This was not personal gear, these were instruments of work, and expensive instruments at that. And the pilot was proposing to go anyway, taking her not around the corner but to another continent, without any news of that expensive and necessary item, without which her very reason to travel was, at least, damaged. Would you have lost your temper? I know I would have.

"Yes, but she spat in a policeman's face." Ah, yes, that policeman. Not many people know that, although the Heathrow police station is legally a part of the Metropolitan Police, it is in fact fully paid for by the airport and the airlines, and pretty much tends to act as their private force. In the past, they have been known to spy upon and harrass journalists and disgruntled customers who were investigating British Airways. I can just imagine what the intrusion of a "policeman" with that kind of mindset must have done for any atmosphere of peace and reasonableness. Come on, it has happened to all of you: some corporate entity does something badly that ends up seriously damaging or incommodating you - and instead of listening to you, they go and call the security guard. I would not have spat in their face, since I never learned how to spit; but you may be sure that the corporate morons involved would have learned a lot of interesting things about their own moral character, sexual habits, and descent.

What happened here is this: Naomi Campbell has a terrible temper - something I know about. In the past, she has repeatedly come to the attention of the law for exaggerated and violent displays of it, and been punished, probably quite deservedly. So, on the occasion when she has a right to be angry at a piece of shoddy and disastrous "service", probably quite expensive too, all that the papers hear is that she has lost her temper - again. Even though it is in a situation where you or I - I certainly - would lose it ourselves, and would have a perfect right to.
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Isn’t it amazing how many supposed adults do not seem to have ever been children? It is particularly sad when these same persons pretend to legislate for those of us who have been, are, or will be.

California is apparently set to join the already overlarge number of countries that make spanking children a crime. This is clearly a law designed by people who never have been children, and who see the bizarre little dwarfish creatures through two sets of deforming glasses – that of ignorance, and that of ideology.Read more... )
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I aplogize for deciding not to post the essay on Alan Moore I had intended to write. The reason is simple: I could not develop the themes I intended - mainly of the mental conflict between Alan Moore as a father and Alan Moore as an ideologue - without giving a detailed account of a number of Moore items - WildC.A.T.S, Spawn vs. WildC.A.T.s, Top Ten, Tom Strong, Supreme and Moore's few, gorgeous issues of Youngblood, which, I understand, none of you has read yet. Most of these series are unmitigated masterpieces, some with startlingly unexpected and powerful conclusions; and while to discuss their ending would not be exactly like giving away the ending of a detective novel, since these the literary merits of these series go far beyond merely having great endings, nonetheless it would spoil some of the first impact of them for you. Instead of which, I recommend, I urge you all, to read all of these; most are masterpieces, and all ought to be known by anyone who cares for comics or good writing.

There is a story about a group of actors who had made friends with an intelligent but uneducated grocer. After a lot of half-joshing pressure, they managed to get him to his first ever night at the theatre, and of course it would have to be Hamlet. And it happened that half-way through the play, the grocer started guffawing at a most inappropriate place. His friends all stared, and he said: "Sorry, boys, it just occurred to me - there must be 1500 people here, and I am the only one who does not know how this will end!" Well, it is so much better for everyone to experience the ending of Hamlet, at least once in their lives, without preparation.
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If the Republicans wanted to win at the coming elections - and, perhaps even more important, not to confirm every commonplace of anti-American propaganda throughout the world - they should have sent Cheney (and perhaps Rumsfeld) on a diplomatic mission to Antarctica for the last couple of months. His outburst about pretend drowning being a legitimate kind of interrogation has been manna to al-Jazeera, MoveOn.org, the Daily Kos, and the Brutish Broadcasting Creeperation. But what was worse was the number of would-be reasonable Republican columnists, people who claim to be the real mainstream of American society - and, increasingly, are - who, instead of suggesting that he should suffer from a few weeks of laringytis or that he should retire to the Rockies to fish and shoot deer, have lined up to support him, even claiming that pretend drowning is not torture. All of it, mind you, said with the earnest, moralizing tone with which they (rightly) denounce the New Jerk Dimes' assaults on American security and the crass exploitation of Mark Foley's flirts with young adults by the party of gay rights. Be serious: do you imagine that if such... call them procedures... were used by any American cop, against the worst, most murderous, and most provenly guilty, of gang members - the case against the gang member would not collapse in court, and the cop and his accomplices would not go to jail, among the execrations and disgust of all decent Americans? Have you morons learned nothing from the Abu Ghraib calamity? The West is held to a higher standard of behaviour than the stateless gangs of murderous thugs who hate it; and rightly so, for these are the standards we chose for ourselves. To imagine that American citizens are protected from treatment that is acceptable even for criminals of other countries is to make a nonsense of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. This should not even need saying; it should be as obvious as the sun in the sky. But evidently Cheney and a number of Republicans are blind to self-evidence.

A curse on the party spirit, and a plague on both your houses. The Foley affair showed the Democrats eager to throw overboard every bit of principle they had ever claimed with respect to gay rights, merely in order to show a little-known Republican in a bad light; and the water-torture affair now shows hordes of Republicans willing to throw overboard the very historical principles they claim to live by, the principles upon which the Republic was founded, just in order to support a morally tone-deaf old man. I can see the need of things like Guantanamo, special courts, and even limitations on published evidence, because this security crisis - it is hard to call it a war, though it has some of the features of one - is something completely new in the last few centuries of history: militarized banditry with a politico-religious justification, yet leaderless and stateless, with no state to hold responsible (though many are accomplices) for its soldiers' behaviour, no common uniform, organization, or aims, supported by an anarchic network of mosques, self-proclaimed leaders, Islamic financiers, and deviant secret services. In these circumstances, to hold the enemy to every word of the Geneva Conventions, which none of them ever signed, which none of them regard except with derision, and which never envisaged worldwide banditry of their kind is, whatever the US Supreme Court may happen to think, total insanity. But there is something much more important than the Geneva Conventions, which, after all, only codify the transient and ever-changing laws of war; and that is our own collective conscience, the values in whose name we have built our societies, the values in whose name our fathers fought and died against kings and tyrants. And if Dick Cheney thinks that these grey old rules may carelessly be broken for the delusion of advantage against a fanatical enemy, then he is almost as revolutionary and as destructive as that enemy; and to that extent, he has to be rejected by the sane majority of both parties.
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I loathe both candidates. It is not merely that they are personally unattractive, although they certainly are; Bush with his fake Texas good ole boy manners learnt at Harvard, and Kerry with a hypocrisy so profound and elaborate that people do not even notice it, as you do not pay attention to the existence of the earth beneath your feet and the air above you. Yes, both are people whom anyone would cross the road to avoid. But that is not why I feel that this election is an outrage against decency. It is that both have major features of political agenda that I regard as revolting.

Read more... )


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