Sunday, May 24, 2015

All graffiti artists seem to be concerned with is expressing their graffiti ‘handle’ or nom de plume

As a commuting expat, I regularly take the Eurostar to Paris and then the TGV south-west
writes Mark Johnson,
so I’m well used to seeing the hundreds of metres of graffiti plastered across the embankment walls of the approaches to Gare du Nord, the Paris terminus and the Gare Montparnasse, which services destinations such as La Rochelle and Bordeaux.

To be honest, I quite like it. It speaks of a generation of youthful rebellion. But any other message the graffiterati may have tried to convey is really lost on me.

Having studied the sprayings of both the Eurostar approach to Gare du Nord and the TGV exit from Montparnasse all they seem to be concerned with is expressing their graffiti ‘handle’ or nom de plume.

 … When you compare this with the approaches to St Pancras in London – where there doesn’t seem to be a single name, word or political statement scrawled on any wall – I’m not sure which I’d rather have. Cities must be welcoming, but they should also provoke, energise and challenge the senses.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A massive breach of the Fourth Amendment: The vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax obligations

No one likes tax cheats 
acknowledges Stu Haugen in the New York Times.
They should be pursued and punished wherever they are hiding. But recent efforts by the United States Congress to capture tax revenues on unreported revenues and assets held in foreign accounts are having disastrous effects on a growing number of Americans living abroad.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, signed into law in March 2010 but only now coming into full effect, has been a bipartisan lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Pressure is growing to halt its pernicious impact.

Intended to crack down on people who stash taxable income abroad, the law requires foreign banks to identify American clients and report all of their financial account information, including transaction details on checking, savings, investment, pension, mortgage and insurance accounts, to the United States government. Banks and financial institutions that do not comply are subject to a 30 percent withholding tax on revenues generated in the United States, a crushing penalty in today’s cross-border financial markets.

The bureaucratic burden of identifying, verifying and reporting has caused many banks to regard American clients, particularly those of moderate means, as more trouble than they are worth. Middle-class Americans living abroad are losing bank accounts and home mortgages and, in some cases, having their retirement savings exposed to debilitating taxes and penalties.

There is no recourse and no appeal process. Those impacted are left with the choice of uprooting their families (including foreign spouses and children), careers and businesses to re-establish a life in the United States; or to make the painful decision to renounce their citizenship.

Without significant and timely changes, that will only be the tip of the iceberg as foreign financial institutions continue their search for unprofitable American accounts. Remember, the vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are not wealthy tax evaders trading their passport for income tax savings; they are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax and reporting obligations.

 … To do nothing is a disaster scenario for Americans overseas. Middle-class taxpayers will continue to lose the financial accounts critical to their daily lives at an accelerating rate or they will, in desperation, renounce their U.S. citizenship. Either way, America’s international presence and competitiveness will be hurt.

Worse yet, the law has spawned a potentially more intrusive program known as the Global Account Tax Compliance Act, or Gatca. The proposal, developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, calls for data from accounts opened by a foreign national to be automatically reported to that person’s homeland tax authorities. While Gatca is in an early stage of negotiation and implementation, observers believe that as many as 65 countries will ultimately be involved.

Fatca, and by extension Gatca, are forming more links in the chain of global government snooping into the lives of innocent individuals under the guise of identifying criminals and tax cheats. For Americans, it is a massive breach of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure. …
Related: Boris Johnson, London Mayor and Possible Future UK PM, Hounded Into Renouncing His Dual American Citizenship

Keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable

Thursday, May 21, 2015

This whole hypocrisy shtick is a one way street; Liberals are tolerant of pretty much anything as long as you’re on their team

Congressman Alan Grayson really likes taxes when he doesn’t have to pay them
quips Benny Huang. (Instapundit, the National Journal, and Gawker have more on "the liberal populist hero Florida congressman".)
His tax shelters are entirely legal, of course, which makes Grayson more of a tax-dodger than a tax-cheater. The distinction is noted.

But if the congressman isn’t guilty of cheating on his taxes, isn’t he at least guilty of hypocrisy? This is a man who was critical of Mitt Romney’s Cayman Islands accounts and who urged the IRS to audit every Fortune 500 company because he suspected that many of them were “evading taxes through…offshore tax havens.”

Rich people really should pay their fair share; starting with Alan Grayson, whose net worth approaches $100 million. Disadvantaged children need to eat, congressman.

Grayson isn’t alone in his tax-shirking or in his hypocrisy. A list of tax cheats—real tax cheats—reads like a who’s who of the Democratic elite. Left-wing sugar daddy George Soros, without whom the Left would probably wither and die, owes the IRS an unimaginable sum of $6.7 billion dollars. Nearly the entire lineup of MSNBC owes back taxes, including the good reverend, Al Sharpton, who is delinquent to the tune of $1.5 million. Then there’s the Tim Geithner, former Secretary of the Treasury, the department under which the IRS falls, who somehow forgot to pay his taxes.

 … Another difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals seem obsessed with the sin of hypocrisy, a common human frailty that we’re all guilt of, to a greater or lesser extent. On the surface it might seem that they really don’t care what you do—cheat on your wife, use drugs, dodge the draft—just as long as you don’t get preachy about it. From their perspective, only those who espouse standards should be held to them. If, on the other hand, you don’t pretend to be anything other than a dirt ball, welcome to the (Democratic) Party!

You can almost see the glee in their eyes whenever they find a conservative who has fallen short of his professed values. Recall Stephen Glass, the young reporter for The New Republic, a liberal magazine, who, in 1998, was embroiled in a scandal after he was caught fabricating juicy details for his stories and even creating some stories out of whole cloth. One of Glass’s more sensational pieces was “Spring Breakdown,” a story about drunken debauchery at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

 … Despite the fact that every iota of the article sprung forth from Glass’s imagination, “Spring Breakdown” may still have some redeeming value as a case study on the liberal thought process. Glass probably believed that all of these hijinks were really going on at CPAC, so sure in fact that he didn’t even need to be there. His editors believed it too. The hypocrisy was just too delicious. 

While it may seem that liberals can’t be brought up on the same charges of hypocrisy because they aren’t a bunch of finger-wagging scolds like the rest of us, that’s not entirely true. Liberals do have an unwritten code of conduct based on a common set of principles. The fact that those principles are truly bizarre makes them no less real.

Taxes are an illustrative example of their hypocrisy. If there’s anything they hate more than a one-percenter, it’s a one-percenter who doesn’t pay his taxes. Don’t these people want roads and schools? Geez, I don’t know. If rich people just say that taxes suck, does that mean that they can cheat on them and no one can say boo? If I’ve learned anything from adultery scandals, the answer is yes. Only those who claim to have principles can be held accountable for violating them.

This whole hypocrisy shtick is a one way street. Liberals are in fact deeply hypocritical about hypocrisy. It’s not that they’re tolerant of a few peccadillos so long as you’re not self-righteous, they’re tolerant of pretty much anything as long as you’re on their team.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable

LARS was born in the United States to Swedish parents
writes The Economist.
Last year he renounced his American citizenship. Not because he hates America, but because he hates dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lars (not his real name) has not lived in the land of his birth since the mid-1990s. Yet each year the IRS would require him to fill out a 65-page tax return, foreign-account declarations and an extra 30-page form because he was a director of a company (in Europe). By contrast, the paperwork in the Nordic country where he lives is just 12 pages. He was sad to give up his passport, he says, but keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable.

… Filing requirements have grown stricter since 2008. The “tipping point”, says Ms Serrato, was the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010, which will take effect next year. This imposes an array of new reporting obligations, especially on foreign financial institutions that serve Americans. The sheer hassle of dealing with all this is prompting more Americans to renounce their citizenship. In 2012 around 900 gave up their passports or green cards. Twice as many did so in the first half of 2013 alone.
Among the most prominent dual nationals hounded by the IRS into renouncing their passports — with disgust — is London mayor and possible future PM Boris Johnson.

From Warren (NJ), Alec Walton testifies that the
stories you described about how Americans living abroad have been affected by the penalties and the changes in American tax laws only scratched the surface (“Overtaxed and over there”, October 12th). I am a dual Swiss-American citizen and most members of my family have been “kindly asked” to close their Swiss bank accounts. Swiss-Americans are doubly punished because they are assumed to be “guilty”. Swiss bankers are terrified of making any mistakes and getting sued again by the American justice system.

They are erring on the safe side and purging all potentially “dangerous” clients. Congress is sacrificing international Americans to catch a few thieves. They have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. There are no votes in this issue, alas, so it will only get worse for us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Left is both parasite and vulture and, one by one, the great institutions that gave meaning to Western civilization have fallen to the infection of the Left

The Left is both parasite and vulture, spreading its disease by either insinuating itself in the body of others’ works and achievements and hollowing them out, or by feasting on dragons slain by those braver than they could ever be.  It lingers at the edge of battle, watching while others build and create, waiting patiently for the moment those heroes rest for a moment’s breath.  And then it swoops back to steal the food won by the hard effort of others and either enslaves them for their efforts, as in Russia (Soviet or Putinesque) and Cuba, or simply murdering them, man, woman, child, and infant, as in Nazi Germany and the contemporary extremist Islamic world.

Thus writes Lionel Chetwynd (thanks to Instapundit).
One by one, the great institutions that gave meaning to Western civilization have fallen to their infection.  Our schools teach their false history, our universities enforce their fascist speech codes, our media coddle their thuggish political hacks, our military is seconded to serve their social rather than our national security agenda, courts are enjoined to consider “just outcomes” rather than due process,” and now even the elected president of the United States questions the logic of the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Basically, the climate alarmists are asking us to cripple our economy based on prophesies that never come to pass

Climate alarmists are notoriously bad at making predictions. … there’s the UN’s 2005 prediction that fifty million climate refugees would inundate the world by 2011, an estimate that fell short by about fifty million.
Benny Huang is back and in as good shape as ever.
The doomsday clock struck midnight this May 4th as the United Nations’ predicted point-of-no-return for action on climate change passed.

… Eight years ago, the much-maligned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an artifact of the UN, declared that mankind had only eight years to drastically reduce carbon emissions if it wanted to hold global temperature change to less than two degrees Celsius.

  … Dire predictions are the bread and butter of the climate alarmist community. In January of 2009, NASA scientist and climate zealot Dr. James Hansen predicted eco-doom just a little sooner. “We cannot afford to put off change any longer,” said Hansen. “We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”
Which hasn’t happened. As an odd twist of fate, America has reduced its carbon emissions, though only as an inadvertent byproduct of economic decline and stagnation, something President Obama would rather not take credit for. Actual legislation to combat climate change appears to be way down the list of his priorities, ranking behind healthcare and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. President Obama has failed to shepherd a carbon tax plan through Congress, mostly because he hasn’t tried very hard.
 … The greatest contribution James Hansen could possibly make toward saving the earth would be to retire from the lecture circuit.

Could it be that Dr. Hansen et al. are engaging in a tried and true sales technique? It’s called “creating a sense of urgency” and it can be found with astonishing regularity in automobile showrooms. The unctuous salesman tries to convince you that he’s really trying to get the best deal for you and then pressures you jump on this amazing limited time offer. If you take the weekend to consider such a large purchase the promotion will be over and you’ll miss out. So don’t think, just buy.

You must act now! Time is running out!

But James Hansen is no mere salesman, is he? In a manner of speaking, he is. He’s selling an idea, and one that comes with an enormous price tag. What the climate alarmists are suggesting goes beyond carpooling and recycling. They’re basically asking us to cripple our economy based on some pretty outlandish prophesies that never come to pass.
 … In science, predictions are really where the rubber meets the road. To have any value, theories must have predictive capability. For example, when a twenty kilogram cannonball is dropped from a height of one hundred meters, scientists can accurately predict its velocity just before hitting the ground (44.27 m/s) and, knowing a little about the hardness of the surface, how much force it will exert upon impact.
That’s the way science works. Or at least that’s how it worked until a group of political activists masquerading as scientists changed the rules of the game.

When predictions miss the mark over and over again, prudent science-loving people recheck their calculations and revisit their assumptions to see what went wrong. But climate dogmatists have too often declared the science settled to admit any gaps in the theory. Consequently, the theory of global warming, or climate change, or whatever we’re calling it this week, need not provide any valid predictions. It can churn out one overblown horror story after another for nearly three decades and we’re all supposed to believe that the science is sound.
And settled.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yesterday I was at a French dinner where one of the cheeses seemed to be in an advanced state of putrefaction

in general, we Brits are not used to seeing food that has grown a skin since it was prepared for consumption
writes Stephen Clarke.
I’m no scientist but I suspect that vast fortunes get spent by dairy companies on making sure that cartoned foods like yoghurt and rice pudding don’t grow skins. Similarly you don’t see cheeses with their rinds on in many British supermarkets, except for the lily-white perfection of the coating on a Camembert or Brie that looks more like icing on a cake. This is probably because we think it’s a bit of a rip-off to get sold a thick layer of inedible skin on such an expensive commodity, even if it doesn’t bother us when we peel mangoes.

Here in France, though, you can still buy lots of cheeses in their rinds, and there are a surprising number of small cheeses that you buy whole. Lots of people will also dig a cheese out of their fridge and scrape off the blue-green gunge that has accumulated as cheerfully if they were removing a bruise from an apple. Yesterday I was at a dinner where one of the cheeses on the board seemed to be in an advanced state of putrefaction. It had gone almost liquid and sunk in the middle like a rotten orange. But a woman squidged into it and smeared it on her plate as though she was serving caviar. It smelt like mature sock, but she pronounced it delicious. She was, I should add, a fairly posh 40-something Parisian, and there are plenty of French people out there, especially younger ones, who eat their cheese in neat metric cubes that have forgotten they ever had a skin. So i’m not sure that putrified Saint Marcelin has a great future, even here in France.

 … All of which made me laugh when a friend sent me the link to a BBC report about American food officials declaring French cheese “filthy” and inedible. The funniest thing was that it was Mimolette, a hard Edam-like cheese that even I as a Brit find a bit bland. It’s usually sold in small semi-circular slices with a curve of rind, or the kind of rectangular rindless blocks that you would think the Americans might enjoy. It’s the last cheese you would expect to get an import ban. The US food officials apparently objected to the mites on the skin, which makes you wonder whether American cheeses are ever made with rind. Maybe they’re just poured into a metal mould. Perhaps they don’t even curdle the milk any more – after all curdling is a sort of decomposition.

The tragic thing for France is that this American hang-up about food mites probably goes back to the mid-19th century when America itself infected France with an epidemic of cute yellow bugs called Phylloxera.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What Bureaucrats Do: Making Street Names Unnecessarily Longer

If we can ever be bothered to think about them, street names are usually a mystery
writes Stephen Clarke,
except maybe in American cities where it’s pretty obvious why they’ve called a road “First Avenue”. In Paris, curious passers-by and residents are often helped by little explanations on the blue enamel plaque, telling you who exactly gave their name to the thoroughfare.

 … I used to live in an excellent street in Paris – not only was it well-placed, in the Marais, it was also short and easy to spell. I pity the poor people who live in streets like the rue des Cinq Martyrs de la Révolution du 25 Mai 1848 (which doesn’t exist, but could in this country that loves to commemorate important dates in its street names). My address was in the rue Dupuis, so filling in forms was a pleasure. Recently though, I walked along it and noticed that they’ve changed the name to explain who Monsieur Dupuis was – it’s now called rue Charles-François Dupuis. He was an 18th-century scientist and politician, apparently. Perhaps the city didn’t want us to confuse him with some other Dupuis who did less noteworthy things – Jean-Paul Dupuis the serial-killing shoe repairer, maybe, who also doesn’t exist but could do in some 19th century novel.

I hope the powers-that-be won’t apply this full-name principle to all Paris’s streets, otherwise lots of residents could be in for a painful form-filling time. There’s a boulevard Beaumarchais, for example, named after the author of The Marriage of Figaro, and his full name is Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Even worse, the neat rue de Sully in the 4th is named after Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully whose other titles were Prince souverain d’Henrichemont et de Boisbelle Baron, Marquis de Rosny, Marquis de Nogent-le-Rotrou, Comte de Muret et de Villebon, Vicomte de Meau. Try to get that on a postcard.
Stephen Clarke’s book Paris Revealed is an insider’s guide to his home city, and includes a section on street-naming policies, and the history of Paris’s trademark blue enamel plaques.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wondering Why Slavery Persisted for Almost 75 Years After the Founding of the USA? According to Lincoln, the Democrat Party's "Principled" Opposition to "Hate Speech"

Instapundit links John Nolte's Breitbart article entitled 6 Reasons Pamela Geller’s Muhammad Cartoon Contest Is No Different From Selma.

But there's an older racial issue, and an even more central issue in American history, that can be linked to the left's current crusade against hate speech.

And that is slavery.

And believe me, leftists do not come out on the right side of history.

Far from it.

Leftists are constantly railing about "America's original sin" and about the founding fathers' alleged support for (if not introduction of) slavery in the nation.

What leftists don't know is that one of the reasons that slavery persisted in the (Southern) U.S. as long as it did is that to oppose the special institution was considered to be practicing hate speech.

Yes, to oppose slavery was considered hate speech.

No. No! Not by all Americans!

By members of the Democrat party.

When (conveniently) castigating our forefathers… (Let me add a couple of parentheses: I add "conveniently", because this allows the current generation of leftists to feel good about themselves while engaging in self-praise and bragging how wonderful they are; indeed, leftist "values" and "arguments" is little more than an incessant litany of self-praise, bragging that one is more compassionate than anyone else, bragging that one is more intelligent than anyone else, bragging that one is more understanding than anyone else, bragging that one is more tolerant than anyone else, bragging that one has more humanity than anyone else, etc, etc, etc…) When (conveniently) castigating our forefathers (therefore) for allowing slavery to have lasted so long, or for having slaves at all, or for "introducing" slavery to the American continent, I wonder if leftists realize that one of the reasons it persisted was the Democrat Party's opposition to… (wait for it)… to… hate speech.

And the practitioners of hate speech (the abolitionists) were considered unethical, unrealistic, delusional crazies, who deserve little else but the utmost disgust — you might even say that they were the equivalent of today's demonized Tea Partiers.

Don't believe me?

Think that sounds far-fetched? Or too far-fetched?

Ask Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, the 21st-century term "hate speech" was not used, as such.

But listen to the Sixth Debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, at Knox College (full disclosure: I am working on a graphic novel biography with artist Dan Greenberg on The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln), and ask yourself if "hate speech" to be avoided (and opposed) at all costs is not what Abe is referring to when he describes the travails of the Republican Party.

Before we do read the appropriate part in the Sixth Debate, however, let's quickly take a look at another part of that debate, something echoed in the Seventh Debate.

1) The Presence of Slavery at the Founding of the USA Is Always Taken by Democrats—Either Favorably or Unfavorably—as the Founding Fathers' Intended Support For, If Not Creation of, the Institution

Today's Democrats would have citizens believe that America is (or was) a horrid, wretched place because slavery was present at the founding of the American Republic.

Yesterday's (i.e., the nineteenth century's) Democrats would have citizens believe that critics of slavery were horrid, wretched people because slavery was present at the founding of the American Republic.

Are these opposite or mutually exclusive? No. Why? Because in all cases, what Democrats are doing is nothing more than engaging in their ritual litany of self-praise (19th-c leftists praising themselves for loyally following the traditions of the American Republic, 20th- and 21st-century leftists praising themselves for refusing to close their eyes on the true evil nature of the American Republic). In either case, Democrats seem to simply refuse to use their brains and see things in context, while — deliberately or otherwise — perpetuating what Lincoln called "historically a falsehood".

As Lincoln said in the Sixth Debate:
 … I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the fathers of the Government made this nation part slave and part free, he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that: when the fathers of the Government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction; and when Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it, I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our fathers made it?
What Lincoln did in preparation for the debates was spend hours in the Illinois statehouse library and look up all the documents from the time of the writing of the Constitution, discovering in the process that not a single one of the founding fathers — Northern or Southern (!) — had ever meant for, or ever expected, or ever intended for, slavery to continue unabated.

(You understand why leftists cannot allow schoolchildren to learn (too much) about the Lincoln-Douglas debates these days, as it would be much harder to demonize the United States — along with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, etc etc etc — all the while engaging in unending self-laudatory remarks. No no—much better that our kids learn of much more important things, such as the the horrific—horrific, I tell you—situation of gays and lesbians throughout  American history, with its attendant weeping and gnashing of teeth.)

The Rail-Splitter repeats the above fact in the Seventh Debate:
 … the fathers of the Government expected and intended the institution of slavery to come to an end. They expected and intended that it should be in the course of ultimate extinction. … It is not true that our fathers, as Judge Douglas assumes, made this Government part slave and part free. Understand the sense in which he puts it. He assumes that slavery is a rightful thing within itself,—was introduced by the framers of the Constitution. The exact truth is, that they found the institution existing among us, and they left it as they found it. But in making the Government they left this institution with many clear marks of disapprobation upon it. They found slavery among them, and they left it among them because of the difficulty—the absolute impossibility—of its immediate removal. And when Judge Douglas asks me why we cannot let it remain part slave and part free, as the fathers of the Government made it, he asks a question based upon an assumption which is itself a falsehood …
2) Considered Uncouth and Extremist, Like "Hate Speech" Today, Criticism of Slavery Was to Be Avoided and the Boorish Critics Were to Be Gagged If and When Possible

And now, back to the Hate Speech part of the Sixth Debate; see if what Old Abe is discussing isn't the equivalent of shocking examples of speech that Democrats say need to be restricted.
I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country contrary to me—a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong, and therefore it goes for the policy that does not propose dealing with it as a wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy, and that sentiment is the Democratic sentiment. If there be a doubt in the mind of any one of this vast audience that this is really the central idea of the Democratic party, in relation to this subject, I ask him to bear with me while I state a few things tending, as I think, to prove that proposition.

 … If there be a man in the Democratic party who thinks it is wrong, and yet clings to that party, I suggest to him in the first place that his leader don't talk as he does, for he never says that it is wrong. … I suggest to him that if he will examine the policy proposed to be carried forward, he will find that he carefully excludes the idea that there is any thing wrong in it. If you will examine the arguments that are made on it, you will find that every one carefully excludes the idea that there is any thing wrong in slavery. Perhaps that Democrat who says he is as much opposed to slavery as I am, will tell me that I am wrong about this. I wish him to examine his own course in regard to this matter a moment, and then see if his opinion will not be changed a little.

You say it is wrong; but don't you constantly object to any body else saying so? Do you not constantly argue that this is not the right place to oppose it? You say it must not be opposed in the free States, because slavery is not here; it must not be opposed in the slave States, because it is there; it must not be opposed in politics, because that will make a fuss; it must not be opposed in the pulpit, because it is not religion. 

Then where is the place to oppose it? There is no suitable place to oppose it. There is no plan in the country to oppose this evil overspreading the continent, which you say yourself is coming. …
 … turn it in any way you can, in all the arguments sustaining the Democratic policy, and in that policy itself, there is a careful, studied exclusion of the idea that there is any thing wrong in slavery.

3) American Slavery and Abolitionism in the Context of World History

Of course, some might say that slavery existed for 5,000, for 10,000 years previously, so perhaps rooting it out in the space of some 73 years ain't in the final analysis all that bad.

To use Instapundit's regular quote of Robert Heinlein's,
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. 
(The science-fiction author goes on to say that: "Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” ")

So, for centuries, for millenia, grinding poverty was the normal condition of mankind, with the vast majority of people throughout the world living a life of poverty and ennui, doing little more than working their farms to feed themselves, and rarely subsisting on more than the equivalent of $3 a day.

Next to that, how bad was slavery?

Compared to the bane of poverty that most people lived in, how terrible was it to be a slave, how immoral was it to own slaves?


Now, the spittle-flecked will scream that I am a racist with no empathy defending Southern plantation-owners. And a number of conservatives might join their chorus.

But it is time that we own up to one basic fact:

Slavery — like poverty — in the past was ubiquitous.

Both started coming to an end (some places faster than others, but certainly all over the West) after the American Revolution and the advent of capitalism (which some of us prefer to call, simply, the free market), along with the industrial revolution in the land of their English-speaking cousins.

I.e., slavery started coming to and end in, and thanks to, the English-speaking nations.

And yet, the only slavery the nitpickers (American or foreign) condemn, revile, and wail and gnash their teeth over is slavery in the US of A. South American slavery of Africans? No, not so much. White slavery of whites (from Rome to the 19th century)? No. Arab slavery of Christians? No. Arab slavery of (other) Arabs? No. Black slavery of blacks? No. Slavery today, from the Arab world to the African continent? No. The only slavery that is rendered in apocalyptic tones—the most apocalyptic tones possible ("America's original sin"!!)—is America's. (Is it any wonder that I conclude that we are living in the era of the drama queens?)

And conservatives jump on this bandwagon. Even conservatives as diverse as Scott Rasmussen, Milton Friedman, David P Goldman (alias Spengler), and Onan Coca buy into this. Ben Stein refers to "the horrors of slavery" while the Washington Examiner speaks of the "long-festering wounds that were the terrible national legacy of slavery"

In the Prager University video Don't Judge Blacks Differently, Chloe Valdary refers to racism as "a stain so deeply ingrained in our culture" while bemoaning "the disparity between the races". Saying "America made grave and profound moral errors with regard to race", Jonah Goldberg calls slavery "an evil institution" that "will always remain a stain on America’s honor."

See, I am not defending slavery, but what the drama queens are doing, and getting conservatives to go along with, is perpetuating historical falsehoods, along with false comparisons, such as comparing the life of a slave (but only a black slave in the United States, you understand by now, not any others) to life in today's modern world (which truly would be nothing but atrocious) while ignoring the dreary poverty that life was for most people, black as well as white, in the West as throughout the rest of the world, up until the 18th and 19th centuries.

4) The Arguments Southerners Used to Defend Slavery in the 19th Century Sound Strangely Similar to Those of Leftist Heroes the World Over in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Indeed, when Southerners defended slavery, they brought out what was hardly an unreasonable argument; they said that that "freedom" among the Yankees was a mirage—that the only freedom the workers had there was the freedom to croak—and that they (the Southerners), at least, were taking care of their blacks, taking care of them from the cradle to the grave no less. And ain't that generous of them?!

You think that sounds ridiculous? Alright; so do I. Am I defending slavery? Am I defending the Southerners who practiced it? Am I "ridiculously" enamored of the image of ante-bellum plantation life? Not at all. Au contraire: notice how the Southern defense of slavery (we are taking care of our blacks/of the people/of our citizens) is not a conservative position; in no way is it so.

This is the liberal, the progressive, the smiley face position of the left, with all their good intentions and all their central plans, from LBJ to Barack Obama, from Allende and Che Guevara to Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, from Scandinavia's "we-enlightened-people-support-all-members-of-society" nations to Western Europe's incomparably glorious health care systems. Coupled with their outraged condemnation of the Yankees' evil capitalism (Yankees here meaning all American citizens and not just, as among 19th-century Southerners, American citizens from North of the Mason-Dixon line).

You may wonder (whether you lean left or right), really, is there no difference? There are a couple of differences, actually. First of all, the Southern plantation owners are private citizens, businessmen, while the others all embody the state and its armies of bureaucrats. Right there, our leftist friends have an additional reason to attack slavery, with a fit of anger: wasn't slavery private business, after all, the affair of ruthless capitalists? (Actually, no it wasn't the free market, since the blacks had no freedom and no say.) In any case, compare this with the non-committal, neutral response to the far more cruel societies of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot ("Sure, sure, of course we condemn the Soviet Union and China's millions of dead … but… at least… we have to admit… that… they had good intentions").

What 19th-century Democrats were telling their castigators, in effect—to return to the hate speech point—was "at least we have good intentions (and if you have the outrageous gall not to believe that, you must be a worthless, ridiculous, laughable excuse of a human being with no values of empathy who ought to be shut up)".

Second difference, the goal of the statists seems to be to create a playground, one in which they tell the citizenry: "Don't worry, we support you, society supports you, just use your earnings (what's left after taxes) to make your life pleasant and comfortable, and we'll take care of the rest—your protection, your safety, your health care, your lot in life, everything." What the Southern plantation owners demanded, of course, was that their slaves work, work hard, and indeed engage in back-breaking, exhausting work. Question: are today's leftists more concerned with the freedom of the citizen or with the fact that his overlords do not provide him with a playground but ask him to work (admittedly, back-breaking work)?

Ben Carson is attacked for saying Obamacare is akin to slavery.

I keep getting emails from Barack Obama in which he tells me he wants to continue fighting for the American people.

In that sense, he has truly succeeded in "fundamentally transforming the United States".

For wasn't the American Dream the dream to get money, and thereby to get riches, and thereby to get power, and thereby to get independence?

Wasn't the American Dream the freedom from having to look and to appeal (just like in Europe) to our betters, to our leaders, to our smiley-face bureaucrats, to our "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" politicians, to intervene in our lives (with the bestest of intentions, natch)?

5) Republicans in the 19th Century Were As Castigated, As Ridiculed, and As Demonized As Today's GOP Members Are—If Not More

You can hardly find a description of the Garland's Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, pro or con, without the writer (again, pro or con) feeling the necessity to have no choice but vilify Pamela Geller in the harshest of terms, as a human being of the most horrid of sorts (from shrill and obnoxious to possibly outright racist).

Guess what, Democrats! That is exactly (as we have seen) how your party treated abolitionists in the 19th century. As the lowest, and as the vilest, of human beings.

It is often said that Abraham Lincoln was a racist (the—few—times he used the N word, he actually appears to have been quoting Stephen Douglas's words back to him) — or that he had no choice, willingly or otherwise, but to appeal to the common racism of the American people. (Thus the modern-day leftist has history conveniently written down, once again, in a way in which America's forefathers are all demonized, as bigots, while modern leftists like he or she appear wise and humanistic.)

As John Nolte writes,
When you are dealing with the mainstream media, it is always difficult to tell if you are dealing with willful ignorance or just plain old ignorance-ignorance. There are plenty of moronic savants in the national media who have cracked the “hot take” code to please their left-wing masters but have no fundamental grasp of history, or much of anything much of else.
Leftists have again twisted history, as Jonah Goldberg notes in Liberal Fascism, to condemn Americans en masse while leaving the Democratic party unscathed.
…In the liberal telling of America's story, there are only two perpetrators of official misdeeds: conservatives and "America" writ large. Progressives, or modern liberals, are never bigots or tyrants, but conservatives often are. For example, one will virtually never hear that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, or American eugenics were thoroughly progressive phenomena. These are sins America itself must atone for. Meanwhile, real or alleged "conservative" misdeeds — say, McCarthyism — are always the exclusive fault of conservatives and a sign of the policies they would repeat if given power.
What Lincoln had to do, rather, was less "appeal to the common racism" per se of the average American per se than to distance himself from those demonized abolitionists.

In the very same manner that Republicans, today, are constantly being asked, requested, to differentiate themselves from "far-right" "extremists" of such groups as the Tea Party.

That's right: the abolitionists of the 19th century were as demonized and ridiculed (today's castigators of slavery will be happy to know) as the members of the Tea Party are today.

And how about members of the nascent Republican Party? How were they treated in the 1850s? Can you imagine?

Well, only five years ago, James Carville referred to (modern-day) Republicans as "reptiles".

And 150 years ago, when an Illinois Republican felt the necessity to address himself to Southerners and Democrats (during his Cooper Union speech in 1860), guess which term Abe Lincoln reached for:
…when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles [!], or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to [Republicans]. In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of [Republicanism] as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite — license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.
So maybe we should take with a pinch of salt all the alleged decrees that the Democratic and Republican parties have switched positions between them and how, today, Lincoln would "obviously" be a Democrat.

You might be tempted to dismiss such (self-serving) musings — along with comparisons of the likes of Barack Obama to such illustrious predecessors as Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan — as not the fruit of intellectual investigation, analysis, and arguments but—again—as part of its incessant litany of self-congratulation.

Indeed, debate over the causes of the Civil War veer between the South's defense of slavery and the South's fight for state rights.

How about a much simpler solution?

Isn't the truth looking at us from the center of the room?

Isn't the main reason that, then as now, Democrats (ever "fighting for the American people") did not want to be ruled by such low-life scum as Republicans, as abolitionists, as Tea Partiers?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

French politicians still think that one of the privileges of getting elected is to act like a 19th-century prince

France has long thought of itself as the sexiest place on the planet
notes Stephen Clarke,
and the male politicians think they’re top of the social heap, so they assume that they’re infinitely desirable, and completely untouchable (not literally, of course – touching is what it’s all about).

One problem seems to be that journalists in general treat the politicians like stars. Of course I’m not saying that the women journalists in any way deserve to be subjected to sexist remarks. But if reporters spend their time chasing after politicians begging them for interviews about who they might support in an election two or three years away, and thereby imply that the politiicians’ influence is so great that the whole nation wants to hear their opinion, it is going to go to their heads (and elsewhere).

I’ve said it before, but I think it’s worth repeating: the French Revolution didn’t sweep away the élite, it just created a new one. In my book Dirty Bertie, I described how the young English Prince (the future Edward VII) fitted effortlessly into this system when he started coming to Paris on sex tourism trips in the mid-19th century. In France, as a member of the international elite, he was accorded as much respect, if not more, than back home under the British monarchy. He could (and did) proposition any woman he wanted – married or not – and the understanding was that she was a prude if she declined or took offence.

It’s exactly the same today with the political elite. A young female journalist threatens to complain to the police because a politician is chasing her around his office? Who does she think she is?

The 40 female journalists who wrote the open letter didn’t name the politicians. I have been told a couple of them by a friend of a one of the journalists, and I was pretty surprised. They’re men who ought to be afraid of losing their jobs (and all their privileges) if anyone catches them at it on camera. But apparently they still think that one of the privileges of getting elected is to act like a 19th-century prince.
Stephen Clarke’s new book How the French Won Waterloo (Or Think They Did) will be published soon in English. It’s out already in French, but the second half of the title is missing, for some strange reason. It’s just Comment les Français Ont Gagné Waterloo.

Related: Jacques Chirac's Golden Rule While on the Road (NSFW)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Obama takes jab at Fox News over portrayal of poverty

Fox Business' Stuart Varney reacts to Barack Obama’s jab at Fox News over its portrayal of poverty.

(Look at 02:00, as the (left) camera pans from Obama and a neighbor towards a man with glasses with black frames [he is also the man on the right earlier, at 00:10, shaking hands with Barack Obama]. Isn't that our old friend Jonathan Gruber? Nah, it can't be…)

Jacques Chirac's Golden Rule While on the Road (NSFW)

According to a laughing Rose­lyne Bache­lot, writes Voici's Mathias Alcaraz, the former government minister's favorite Jacques Chirac quote was the following:
Il me disait toujours “Tu sais, quand tu es en dépla­ce­ment, il ne faut jamais perdre une occa­sion de bouf­fer, de pisser, de baiser”
He always told me, "You know, when you are on the road, you must never waste an opportunity to eat, to take a piss, to get laid."

(FYI, all three verbs used by Chirac are slang words, with the latter one closer to the F-word.)
Ensuite, il allait aux toilettes et il me disait “Y’en a plus que deux à faire!”
Then he would head off to the restroom, and quip "one down, two to go."

Related: French politicians still think that one of the privileges of getting elected is to act like a 19th-century prince

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My father and millions of Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen, virtual slaves, brought the world not liberation but another slavery

Every year on May 9, Victory Day in Russia — marking the anniversary of the day that news of the German surrender in 1945 reached Moscow — my father would go to the closet and take out his sailor’s uniform, which required regular alteration to accommodate his growing belly, and pin on his medals.
Thus Mikhail Shishkin remembers the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 in a New York Times piece entitled How Russians Lost the War.
It was so important to me to be proud of my father: There had been a war and my papa had won it!

When I grew up, I realized that in 1944 and 1945, my father was sinking ships that were evacuating German civilians and troops from Riga, in Latvia, and Tallinn, in Estonia. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people met their deaths in the waters of the Baltic — for which my father received his medals. It’s been a long time since I was proud of him, but I don’t judge him. It was war.

My father fought the evil of fascism, but he was taken advantage of by another evil. He and millions of Soviet soldiers, sailors and airmen, virtual slaves, brought the world not liberation but another slavery. The people sacrificed everything for victory, but the fruits of this victory were less freedom and more poverty.

My father was 6 when his father was arrested. A son wants to be proud of his father, but his father was called an enemy of the people. My grandfather perished in the gulag.

When the war began, the persecuted population heard from the loudspeakers, “Brothers and sisters!” The baseness of Russia’s rulers lies in the way they have always taken advantage of this remarkable human emotion: the love of homeland and the willingness to sacrifice everything for it.

So my father went off to defend his homeland. He was still a boy when he went to sea, in constant terror of drowning in that steel coffin. He ended up protecting the regime that killed his father.

The victory gave the slaves nothing but a sense of the grandeur of their master’s empire. The great victory only reinforced their great slavery.

After the war, my father drank. All his submariner friends did. What else could they do?

  … The chief Russian question is: If the fatherland is a monster, should it be loved or hated? Here everything has run together, inseparably. Long ago, a Russian poet put it this way: “A heart weary of hate cannot learn to love.”
Of course, I wish my homeland victory. But what would constitute a victory for my country? Each one of Hitler’s victories was a defeat for the German people.