Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Report From Flyover Country

I'm giggling at the way the mainstream media are howling over Arizona's new tough anti-Illegal-immigration bill -- and revealing their ignorance in every other sentence. The complaints tend to fall into three categories:

1) This law is unconstitutional because only the federal govt. is allowed to deal with national borders.

2) This law is racist because it would encourage "racial profiling".

3) This law is tyrannical because it would force citizens to carry proof of citizenship around with them, and "show your papers" to any cop who stops them.

*Sigh* You'd think that reporters would do their homework a little better.

First, nothing in the Constitution prevents any state from securing its borders against criminals, even if one of those borders happens to also border on another country. Go on, get a copy of the Constitution and look. If you don't have a copy handy (and most Americans these days don't), then look it up on the Internet.

Second, "Mexican" is not a race; it's a nationality and a culture (and not a very good culture at that). Mexicans are genetically part White (16th-century Spanish and Portuguese) and part Indian (and no, I will *not* use that Politically Correct -- and historically incorrect -- term: "Native American"). Well, guess what? So am I. So are a lot of American citizens. In fact, so are nearly 50% of the population of Arizona -- not to mention all those who are 100% Indian. Now just how are the local police (who include, of course, lots of full-blooded and partly Indian officers) supposed to do "racial profiling" on more than half the state? All the cops can do, really, is catch anyone they see doing something suspicious or illegal and ask to see proof of citizenship along with their other ID. Yes, this will apply to obvious White people as well; there was a scandal here some years ago about Russian agents sneaking into America via the Mexican border, and the cops still remember it. They're also keenly aware of Illegals who have sneaked in from primarily-Black countries and Asian countries. So it won't matter what color you are; when the cops pull you over, you'd better have proof of citizenship (or some other legal paper showing you're in the state legitimately), or at least have the phone number of a lawyer who can keep the cops from escorting you to the border long enough for you to go home and get such papers. There's nothing racist about it.

The media could have learned this, if they'd bothered. Ah, but "racism" is the accusation that the media, and media-influenced apologists, like to throw at anybody they don't like. I recall that a couple years ago I chased away a couple of teen-aged -- and yes, Mexican -- punks who were burglarizing a neighbor's place. I was holding a gun at the time, so even though I was wearing nothing else but my underwear, the kids had the sense to run. After they'd gotten about 20 yards away (fools: I can hit reliably within the 7-ring at 25 yards), one of them turned around and yelled at me: "You're a racist!" Sure. I snarled back: "You're not a race; you're a punk." The kid had enough sense to turn back and keep running.

Third, as for it being tyrannical to demand "your paperz, bitte", we gave up the right to complain about that long ago. 'Way back around World War One various states started demanding that anyone who drove an automobile on the public roads must (for a modest fee) get a driver's license, and allowed that police could demand to see such a license whenever they stopped anyone. Some decades later, they added annual car registration (for a modest fee), and added registration to the papers a cop could demand to see when stopping anyone. About 25 years ago, they added mandatory car insurance to the pile (for a not so modest fee), and now a cop could also demand to see your "proof of insurance" when pulling you over. Frankly, it costs less to get a birth certificate -- and a passport on top of that -- than to get a driver's license or a car registration, let alone car insurance. If all the other ID demands are constitutional, so is this one.

Again, the media quietly overlooked this odd little precedent. Could it be that they didn't know that Arizonans -- like most other Americans -- have to put up with showing a cop their "papers" on demand?

For that matter, damn few of the media have bothered to notice that Arizona has suffered severely from the flood of Illegals. They never mention the 35,000 tons of trash that Illegals on their way to Goody-land have deposited in our state parks and wilderness areas. They rarely if ever mention the cut fences, stolen or slaughtered livestock, stolen vehicles, robbed farms and houses, raped or abducted (and sold) women, drug-dealing, car-theft and extensive Welfare-cheating that the Illegals have caused. They've finally gotten around to admitting that it was "probably" Illegals who murdered rancher Krenz, but they don't mention the previous murders of local police that the Illegals have done.

Now is this plain ignorance, or deliberate slander-by-omission? It could easily be ignorance; the mainstream media don't tend to notice what happens outside of New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC unless it involves a sensational crime. After all, that's where the Important Stuff is happening, you know. The rest of us are just Flyover Country.

Meanwhile, curiously enough, the politicians have taken a different view. The young and brash happily follow the media pundits in denouncing Arizona's new law as unconstitutional, racist and tyrannical, yup, yup. You'll note, though, that the older and more experienced politicians are cautiously waiting to see how the electorate view Arizona's new law.

Their caution is commendable. A poll over the last few days showed that 70% of the voters in Arizona -- and 68% in the rest of the country -- were in favor of the law, media outrage or no media outrage. Perhaps some of them have begun to notice that the media are as out of touch with the citizens as most politicians are.

--Leslie

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Editorial time.

Have you noticed that the TV news for the past few days has been obsessed with the fact that this is the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Murragh Building in Oklahoma City? Now, why should anybody want to memorialize that? ...Well, the news commentators always note that McVeigh was "a member of the Militia Movement", which they then go on to solemnly warn us about.

...Well, 'tain't true. If you bother to go look up McVeigh's real history, you'll find that, yes, he did join the Michigan Militia at one point. They threw him out two weeks later and reported him to the FBI for "inciting to crime". One has to wonder why the FBI didn't take the Michigan Militia's warning seriously.

Yet when McVeigh was captured, the FBI -- and of course the mainstream media -- made a big deal about his membership in the Michigan Militia. Now does this look a bit odd to you?

And now they're playing up the old story again. Why, I wonder? Now could it be that the federal government is looking for an excuse to quash the whole grassroots political movement that wants to reduce the size, power and budget of the federal government? What better excuse than to tar them with the "militia" brush? Or call them all Rightwing-Redneck-Racist-Republicans, for that matter?

What bugs me is that the mainstream media are happily going along with this would-be Reichstag Fire campaign. Most of our news media these days are supposed to be socially progressive. Now wouldn't that include a bit of honesty, please?

Well, not if you think the population is too dumb to know what's good for it. *Sigh* I've worked as an under-editor for three magazines, two newspapers and a radio-station, and I've seen where this attitude comes from.

Have you ever heard of the Progressive Ideal? You should have. Progressivism is the ancestor of modern Liberalism, Globalism, Socialism, and its bastard grandchild Communism. Progressivism was invented in the 19th century, as an antidote to the blatant self-serving Imperialism of the age. It inspired the great reform movements of the past hundred years, and much fine literature and music.

Unfortunately, it also inspired much dangerous stupidity in politics and economics, which plagues us to this day.

The basic tenets of the Progressive Ideal start with simple truths, but then elaborate into unfounded fantasies that warp out of sync with reality. These include:

1) All Men (and Women) Are Created Equal. To Progressives, this means that all people are basically the same. They all think and feel alike, and all want the same things. There's no such thing as a bad person: only a dissatisfied or, at worst, a sick one. Give everybody a good education and income and healthcare, says the Progressive, and everybody will happily join the great worldwide community of civilized people, and there'll be no more war or crime; therefore it's the duty of all civilized people to guarantee a good education and income to “disadvantaged” people the world over.

2) All cultures have something to contribute to the human experience. Therefore, Progressives conclude, all societies are equally valid. There's no such thing as a bad culture: only an ignorant one. Give all societies good educations, and they'll all become equally enlightened – and they'll happily join the great worldwide community of civilized nations, and... etc. Therefore, Progressive theory claims, it's the duty of all civilized societies... etc.

3) People who live in privileged societies are often ignorant of the condition of other societies or blinded by their own prejudices. According to Progressive thought, this means that nobody from a wealthy, free, generally happy society has any right to judge other societies, or the people in them. However, people from “disadvantaged” societies are never ignorant of the condition of their privileged brethren, or blinded by prejudices, and can see the sins of the privileged clearly; so, the Progressive believes, they have a right to judge the privileged people and their criticisms must always be taken seriously.

4) Economics is a powerful motivation. Therefore, Progressive thought holds, all people are moved by the promise or lack of money above everything else; give people – or societies – enough money to satisfy their needs and wants, and they'll happily join in the great worldwide community of civilized nations, and so forth.

5) Nobody likes to get hurt. From this the Progressive philosophy concludes that nobody in his/her right mind wants to commit violence themselves; therefore, the only reason that anybody really wants to commit violence on somebody else is that this somebody else must have committed some terrible outrage against him/her. Thus, if somebody complains furiously against you, and is willing to shoot or throw bombs at you, the Progressive assumes that the guilty party is you; you must be guilty of some outrage or other against the bomb-thrower – and therefore must do your best to compensate/placate the poor outraged victim.

6) Everyone deserves justice. Therefore it's the duty of better off individuals and societies to help their less fortunate neighbors. Progressive theory holds that one should give to the poor until the better off is no better off, and both are “equal” – in wealth, freedom, or anything else worth having – or in the lack thereof.

The starting truths are valid, but the idealistic elaborations are just plain wrong, and that was clear even 100 years ago. That’s what inspired the famous comment, variously attributed to Shaw and Clemenceau: “He who is not a Socialist at 20 has no heart; he who is not a capitalist at 40 has no head.” It also inspired Gilbert and Sullivan to add to their “little list” of people who never would be missed “The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, /Every century but this one, every country but his own.”

Let's take these six tenets and their elaborations in order.

First, “equal” does not mean “same”. All men are not brothers; ‘cousins’ is more accurate – and not always first cousins, either. All people do not think and feel alike.

Likewise, all societies are not equally valid; there are some which cause misery and ruin to their own people, not to mention their neighbors.

Third, advantages make you smarter; people who have access to thorough educations, honest information and the ability to travel and check facts for themselves are a good bit less likely to be blindly prejudiced or ignorant than people who don't have those advantages.

Fourth, there are some motivations stronger than money, and you cannot bribe people into being Good.

Fifth, there really are some people and some cultures that run on arrogance, bloodlust, envy and spite; they'll use some minor or even fancied slight as excuse to kill their neighbors – and, incidentally, loot the dead for whatever they can get.

Sixth, a healthy, wealthy, honest and free person or society does not have a duty to become just as diseased, poor, corrupt and tyrannized as his/her/its neighbors. Sharing a cup of poison with your neighbor does not do you or your neighbor any good.

In brief, yes we do have the right to study, judge and criticize other societies. Yes, there are some objective standards by which we can judge the success and value of a society. And no, all societies are not equally “good” by any objective standards.

What makes the difference is culture. Now ‘culture’ doesn’t mean just the theater and the opera and the ballet, nor even clothing styles, popular music, crafts and cuisine and current TV shows. A ‘culture’ is the way an entire society thinks, and there are some societies which think very badly.

All men – and women – may be created equal, but all cultures are not. If you want a religious excuse for this, you could say it’s because human beings are created by God, who is perfect, but cultures are created by human beings, who are…not. In spite of the Progressive Ideal, there really are downright evil cultures – and downright evil societies, and governments, and even individual human beings – judged by the simple standards of long-term survival.

What would you say about a culture that’s produced marvelous food and music and art and architecture – but which condones or actively encourages dissociative psychosis, the rape of children, and the burning to death of women? What would you do with a culture that produces wonderful music, dance and poetry – but which treats women and children as livestock, and assumes it has a duty to conquer the world? How would you evaluate a culture which assumes that political and economic corruption is as common as air, and that you can never trust your neighbors, friends, or even families, but must always be prepared to backstab the other guy – with outright warfare, with subtle economic warfare, or by selling him poisoned goods – before he can do it to you? I name no names, but these are not healthy or successful societies.

The societies I've just described have managed to survive for centuries on the sheer inertia of their large populations, but they've been repeatedly conquered and tyrannized by other cultures with better standards. In fact, these societies have been pulled into the modern age, and into a few better habits, largely by the charity – or practical greed – of their conquerors.

Yes, it’s true that all cultures have something to contribute to human knowledge – arts and crafts at least – but it’s also true that a stopped clock is right twice a day; that doesn’t make it something worth keeping.

Yes, good people can live in bad cultures, but they don’t survive easily and they don’t have much influence. An evil culture can – and often does – sweep its population along with it, whether they will or no, at which point all a decent person can do is run. This accounts for a lot of immigrants who’ve come to America over the past two centuries.

You can tell who those immigrants are by the way they wanted to become Americans, and assimilated as fast as they could. In other words, no matter how much sentimental fondness they might have had for the Old Country, they recognized that not just the economy but the culture Here was better than it was back There.

Here's where the Progressive Ideal collides with itself. The people who judged that one culture can very well be superior to another, and that the culture Here is superior to the cultures There, are those same “disadvantaged” – the poor and the powerless – whom the Progressive Ideal claims to be the only fit judges. So, are all cultures equally valid, or are only the “disadvantaged” virtuous enough to judge them? You can't have it both ways.

When faced with this little logical contradiction, people who are passionately devoted to the Progressive Ideal will all too often choose to jettison Progressive Assumption #3; they assume that the poor and powerless may be virtuous and innocent, but they're also ignorant, and must be protected and guided by their intellectual superiors.

At this point the Progressive Ideal tilts over into elitism and tiptoes toward tyranny. It's only a short step from “protecting and guiding the innocent” to lying to them outright: teaching them only “what's good for them to know” and censoring the rest. The next step after that is locking people up “for their own good”. Thus the Progressive Ideal progressed into the great tyrannies of the 20th century.

It's far wiser to get out of the logical contradiction by admitting that all cultures are not created equal, that some societies really are worse than others, some governments are downright dangerous, and when they start encroaching on their neighbors there's no choice but to go to war.

Political philosophers throughout the 20th century have bent over backwards trying to find workable alternatives to war, but history has shown that the only real alternatives to war are to surrender or run away.

Running away requires the means to travel far and fast – and some safe place to run to. It's no accident that for the last two centuries the safest place to run to has been America. That's how various groups of ideological pacifists, like the Amish, wound up here. The Amish came to the US from Switzerland, fleeing religious persecution; here they thrived – but you'll note that there are no Amish in Switzerland now.

Surrender can mean danger worse than war. In World War Two the US lost over 400,000 men in just under four years of war. That's a sobering number, but it doesn't compare with the nearly 20,000,000 helpless people killed in the death-camps by the Nazis. It doesn't even compare with the 2,000,000 people killed in Cambodia when Pol Pot took over.

The grim truth is that there is something worse than war – and that is to be killed in vast numbers without even a chance to fight. This is why wars will, and must, continue so long as there are honestly bad cultures, societies and governments in the world.

Still, the Progressive Ideal insists that all people and all cultures are not only equal but basically the same, and they should all join together to create a happy one-world economy, society and government. People who believe this blithely overlook the fact that many cultures – and societies – in this world are not something we want to add to the global mix. You don’t make a healthy drink by mixing milk with poison.

No, we can’t have One Glorious World Order until a lot of just plain bad cultures have changed beyond recognition. This won't happen while the Progressive Ideal, with all its dangerously naive flaws, still rules our political thinking.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dave and the "Comrade Stalin" jokes

Follow-up: Dave Van Pelt's memorial service was held today in Chicago. Along with my tribute, another old friend named Chris Madsen read one of Dave's collection of "Comrade Stalin" jokes, which use to annoy the Marxists so much. I'll quote a couple of them here, just to add to Dave's legend.

1)
One day Comrade Stalin was touring the collective farm at Nowheresgrad, and eventually he made his way into the kitchen. There he saw a young proletarian lad stirring an enormous kettle of borscht with a teaspoon.

"Ho, young proletarian lad," said Comrade Stalin, "One might as well stir the soup with one's pecker as with that tiny spoon."

"Ho, ho, Comrade Stalin," said the young proletarian lad. "With a pecker of your size, one would do well to pick the lock on the supply closet and get a real soup-ladle."

"Ho, ho, ho," said Comrade Stalin, never one to fail to appreciate the broad earthy humor of the Russian peasant masses, "Have this one shot."

2)
One day Comrade Stalin was inspecting the People's Theatre in Dedboringsgrad, when he came upon a man holding the leash of a scruffy dog. "Why is a dog allowed in the theatre?" asked Comrade Stalin.

"This is no ordinary dog," the man hastened to reply. "He can talk as well as you or I."

"Is that so?" said Comrade Stalin, and he bent down to look the dog in the eye. "So, good proletarian dog," he said, "Is it true that you can speak?"

"I can indeed, Comrade Stalin," said the dog, scratching its ear.

"Astonishing! And what do you think of our Glorious People's Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?" asked Comrade Stalin.

"Frankly, Comrade Stalin," said the dog, "I wish it were all gathered into one telephone pole so that I could lift my leg and piss on it."

"Ho, ho, ho," said Comrade Stalin, never one to fail to appreciate the broad earthy humor of the Russian peasant masses. "Have this one made into a dog borscht."


Yes, they all ended with pretty much the same punchline. My buddy Chris is collecting them all, along with the other tributes given at the memorial service, to make into a booklet. Whether or not the Railway Brotherhood remembers Dave, we'll make sure that the I.W.W. does.

--Leslie

Friday, April 9, 2010

THE DEATH OF A RAILROADING MAN

Sad news. I just heard that an old Chicago buddy of mine, Dave Van Pelt, died last month. He was recovering from heart surgery, doing well, when something inexplicable went wrong and he died in his sleep. He’s survived by his wife, another old Chicago buddy, Rita Bakunin.

Damn! I can’t believe it. The man was so solid, such a rock, I thought he’d live to be 100. He stood over six feet tall, broad as a barrel and most of it muscle. He always wore his curly black beard trimmed to four inches, and his magnificent mane of smooth black hair hung down to his waist when he didn’t braid it up. All the women in the Chicago branch of the IWW envied him that hair.

He worked for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, as a switchman at the 93rd Street tower – the last, and biggest, of the manual switching towers in the city. Pulling those big switching levers took amazing muscle, and he had it to spare.

He understood mechanics like nobody else in the union branch, and whenever one of the office’s odd and antique pieces of equipment went bonkers, he was the man we called in. I remember him repairing our ancient address-plate maker (made in 1893 as treadle-operated, updated to a motor sometime around World War Two), pulling handfuls of oily dust-bunnies out of the motor and greasing the gears, and getting to work like new – all in half an hour’s work, during which time he filled all the available ashtrays with the butts of his homemade cigarettes. (He was a tobacco connoisseur, and only smoked Three Castles thread-cut pipe tobacco hand-rolled in Zig-Zag rice-straw papers.) I remember that as he stood up and brushed off his hands, he commented: “Remember, you guys: you’ve got to clean these old machines at least one every war.”

He was also a member of our psychic research group, and it turned out that he had psychic ability of an unusual kind. He had telekinetic talent in spades, but he could only apply it to machinery. He’d made his desk in the switching tower an altar to Athena; he had a poster of her pinned to the wall above, an antique oil lantern on the desk as his altar-candle, a beer-stein for his chalice, an incense-burner that usually burned Frankincense, and a pentacle made from an old engine-gear. He used the altar, he said, to “keep the gremlins in line” – and it must have worked, because he ran that tower perfectly when nobody else could.

Of course, his Paganism included his own ribald sense of humor. Once while on the way to work – he preferred the night shift because it left him plenty of time to read his beloved Science Fiction books – he saw that the weather threatened rain, so he prayed to Thor: “Just let me get to the tower with a dry ass.” Well, the rain started falling as he got off the bus near the tower, but the wind blew strongly from the east – which happened to be the direction he was walking in – so by the time he got to the tower he was soaked top and bottom, front and sides, but… his ass was dry.

One night when the usually-scheduled 100-car Burlington-Northern freight train (he called it the “Burli-Q”, as in “burlesque”) stalled in the middle of his yard’s intersection, he got annoyed enough at it to yell: “You f*ckin’ Q! You should be struck by lightning!” Sure enough, a second later a lightning-bolt struck the engine and shorted out all its electronics. The delivery man from the roundhouse, who happened to be in the tower with him at the time, got very wide-eyed, crossed himself, hurried away, and began spreading the legend that Dave was a “Brujo”. That might not have been a mistake.

I remember the time the union’s contract ended and negotiations for the new contract were stalled. The company wanted to cut down on the number of maintainers – the mechanics et al who maintain the tracks, trains, switches, etc. in good running order – and the union, knowing full well how dangerous all that big fast equipment can be, wasn’t having any of that. Negotiations remained deadlocked right up to the hour the old contract ended. Hearing about this, as his shift came to a finish right before the end of the contract, Dave did a special magickal ceremony: he summoned all the gremlins in the tower and made them line up in their invisible ranks, and gave them a lecture. “The guy coming in this morning to replace me,” he announced, “Is a scab. All the crap I wouldn’t let you pull on me, have fun doing to him.” Then he took down and rolled up the picture of Athena, collected his gear off the desk and stuffed it in a duffelbag, leaving the altar bare – and thus removing Athena’s protection from his tower. Just as he was pulling on his coat – a big navy wool pea-jacket – he heard the morning-shift man’s (the scab’s) footstep on the bottom stair of the tower. An instant later a 20-pound maul, which had been hanging peacefully in its brackets all the time Dave had worked there, fell off the wall and knocked a hole in the floor. Seeing that the gremlins were already at work, Dave hastily got out of there and went straight home.

The bosses signed the new contract within 24 hours. Yes, the new contract kept the same number of maintainers.

Of course, when he went back to work Dave re-dedicated the tower and called the gremlins back into line, but by then his legend on the B. & O. railroad had grown to epic proportions.

Yes, Dave deserved that. He also deserved a lot more years of life, dammit. I’ll miss him.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Zapping the Bigots

Has anyone else been following the antics of a nasty bunch called the Westboro Baptist Church? They've made themselves obnoxious by showing up at soldiers' funerals and waving signs that insult the dead, call for more dead soldiers, pray for the downfall of America because we actually tolerate (gasp!) Gays, and other such fun stuff.

It just so happens that I've got a solution. For a couple years now I've had a book up on Amazon.com; go there and Search for "Offensive As Hell: The Joys of Jesus-Freak Bagging" -- which should be an easy title to remember. It's a collection of merry tales that friends have told me about dealing with pushy bigots like these. Take if for a book of tactics (it's cheap!), use, and enjoy. Bon appetit!

--Leslie