Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Amnesia Issue, Part 1

"Nobody hates America like native Americans. America needs immigrants to love and cherish it."

-Eric Hoffer

In my post 'Can you think?' http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/10/can-you-think.html I posed the question,

"How often have you changed or abandoned a deeply held belief because of either:

a. Personal experience?

b. A persuasive argument backed by compelling evidence?"

I've mentioned some convictions I've changed before, here's another - immigration.

I used to be an 'open borders' guy. Now I think we ought to be a great deal more selective about who we let in, and yes I do think we should be considering the logistics of mass deportations.

I can see this coming, so please allow me to get it out of the way, "YOU'RE A RACIST! NYAH NYAH RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, DIRTY RACIST!"

Now that we have that bull$#&! out of the way, can we talk seriously?

Oh but first, the obligatory groveling caveats to prove I'm not a racist, or "nativist" as the newspeak goes.

- My wife is not a citizen, but a green card holder. If she were not married to me, I doubt she'd have gotten in, as her job credentials were as an English teacher to small children. As it is, we were separated for four months after I returned to the US while we waited for her visa approval.

- My children have dual citizenship in Poland and the US - soon to become dual US/EU citizens. My sister is already a dual citizen of the US and EU having held US and UK passports for some time now.

- My children's playmates and best friends are from Kenya and Mexico. We devoutly hope that our Kenyan friends can get permanent status because their kids are a wonderful influence on our hellion-child (the kind of influence that is sadly lacking among American kids).

- My last immigrant ancestors were the children of an Irish woman who married an English (or Anglo-Scots) soldier. G-g-g-great granma Kitty was beaten up by her English in-laws while seven months pregnant and thrown out of their house. Her sons grew up fighting everybody in town and lit out for America as soon as they were grown. And the Europeans wonder why Americans have attitude?

- Yes, I know some illegals very well. And no, I'm not going to turn them in.

OK, now let's get serious.

So does anybody see how seriously weird it is that we're even having this discussion?

Every nation on earth, without exception, regards their right to control their borders as a given - except perhaps us. It's pretty much what defines "nation".

We now have huge demonstrations in our cities, by people who have no legal right to be here, waving the flag of a country which consistently expresses hostility to ours, demanding their right to invade our country en mass, break our laws when it suits them, and utilize public services at a rate which threatens to bankrupt them.

One of our countrywomen, the lovely Miss USA, Rachel Smith, was just publicly insulted in Mexico with no protest from her American colleagues. Now cast your mind back to what we know about macho cultures and ask yourself how those maricones* would react if the equally lovely Miss Mexico, Laura Elizondo** were treated as shabbily in the US?

Some Americans react by declaring their churches and towns to be "sanctuary sites" and condeming a citizen's group which organizes something like a neighborhood watch group on the border as "racists". Local law enforcement is forbidden to turn over illegals they arrest for other crimes to the INS.

Are we nuts?

If we saw a European country behaving this way, we'd probably think so. In the early 90s after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe ended, a great many Romanian Gypsies headed to Poland where the pickings were better and the people more generous to beggars. After putting up with them for more than a year (they were even allowed to set up semi-permanent housekeeping in the large waiting rooms of the inter-city train stations) the Polish government rounded them up and sent them back to Romania.

(Ever hear of this in the media? Thought not.)

No it didn't work 100%, there are still Romanian gypsies on the streets of Warsaw - but their behaviour towards the citizens is far less obnoxious. (Is there a hint here?)

Again, I am not anti-immigration, please see the quote at the head of this post. I am not even against mass immigration. I think we should be considering the possibility that for humanitarian reasons we may have to plan for the evacuation of the White and Colored population of South Africa to our shores - and perhaps the Jewish population of Israel as well, since nobody else is likely to take them in.

Two observations:

1) Recent experience has shown that significant shifts in demographics between different ethnic/cultural groups in the same state have immediately preceded civil war (Yugoslavia) and the breakup of states (Russia). Historically we have been good at assimilation - when we were confident enough to take as a given that immigrants would assimilate. However a little caution when contemplating such a shift in our own population demographics does not seem unreasonable to me.

2) "In fifty years there will be no majority race in America." - William Jefferson Clinton

That Right-wing think tank Freedom House, founded by that Right-wing ideologue Eleanor Roosevelt, has observed (and I mean "observed", not "proclaimed", "theorized" or "asserted") that of the countries they classify as "free", most have one ethnic/cultural group that constitutes at least a 2/3 majority.

(That one was actually a bit of a surprise to me. I had assumed that liberty came from the consensus reached by different contending groups, analogous to the contending Protestan sects in England that reached an accomodation of mutual tolerance.)

With this in mind, am I beling unreasonable to suggest that a little thought, and some real discussion, is in order before we take steps that will irrevocably alter the composition of our society?

* No I'm not being homophobic - I'm being as insulting as I know how. (Thus showing my multicultural hipness.)

** I also wonder how our multicultural sensitive crowd would react if Miss Elizondo http://www.santabanta.com/contestants.asp?picid=1129 were to be publicly ridiculed for her answer to the question, "Name one person, other than your parents, who has had the most influence on your life. Why?"

"Putting aside the religious significance os Maria, Jesus mother, in history there was a woman called Maria whose son was crucified. She is certainly a person that has influenced my life in many ways. I have always admired her strength, devotion for his family, faith and courage. In difficult times, I try to imitate her by being strong and perseverant following her example. I hope I can someday become a mother and find the strength she possessed to enface life and family situations."

Remember when George Bush was ridiculed for answering "Jesus" to a similar question? (Admitedly, I cringed inwardly too. Point is, good manners demand that we not ridicule each other for personal religious convictions as long as we keep them personal and not intrude them on the state.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

-For the Fallen, Lawrence Binyon

As I write this in the morning, the TV news is telling of 42 Iraqi hostages held captive by Al Queda rescued by American men in uniform - and of Venezuelans without arms or uniforms massing in the streets of Caracas, facing armed men to protest the confiscation of the major opposition TV station by Hugo Chavez.

You can't imagine how much I wish I were with them in Caracas. Some of the most exciting memories of my life were of marching every night with the people of Belgrade during the Milosevic regime about ten years back.

That's the great thing about demonstrations. You can get something like the rush of combat, but mostly without the ugly stuff. You know, maimed and killed ugly. It can get that ugly, but when it does you can run for your life without dishonor.

In Belgrade we knew that there was a faction (led by Milosevic's bloodthirsty wife Mira, the "Red Queen") who wanted the paramilitaries to fire on the crowds. Eventually they tried to get someone to issue the order, which was kicked downstairs as far as it could go, which happened to be the vice chief of police. He said, "No way!" even after his son got the $&*# beat out of him as an incentive.

So the govenment had to cave in to the opposition demands. However they were so pissed off that they had the vice chief cowboyed - machine-gunned in his favorite pizzeria, not far from where I worked.

That was war as it should be, people marching shoulder to shoulder, singing songs and waving flags. Enough danger to brag about later - but no discomfort. The occasional casualty - but not me.

Real war, like the one our men and women in Iraq are waging right now, involves not only danger, but prolonged discomfort, extreme boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror, sudden death - and worse. Too many of these young men and women are not coming back. Of those that are, too many will never go on dates, get married and have children, pursue professions, or even live very far from a (sorry, but probably substandard) veterans' hospital.

There is a political position in this country that condemns war as stupid and cruel, and announces proudly and conspicuously that they are "against" war. My congratualtions on the triuimphant discovery of the obvious. Show me a sane person who is "for" war, now that would be news!

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower - Supreme Allied Commander in Europe World War II

"All men with even a small store of reason, know that peace is chiefest of blessings."
-Belisarius, 6th century Byzantine general

"It is good that war is so cruel, else we should learn to love it."
- Gen. Robert E. Lee CSA

Who thinks that their moral authority to condemn war is greater than these men's?

Love of peace in the real world, is like any other unrequited love - it hurts so badly that one is tempted into fantasy. The fantasy that the object of one's adoration "really" loves you - if only you could make them realize it.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but there is a whole class of people in the world, comprising perhaps hundreds of millions, who do not love us. In fact, they loathe us and every value we hold dear.

What values? At the most extreme, it is defined by this: there are people who think it is entirely right and proper that a man or woman should get together with the neighbors and brutally murder their daughter or sister for outraging their idea of family "honor".

I have a baby girl. I love her more than I love peace, more than I hate war, and more than the idea of killing men sickens me. And by the way, your opinion of my family's honor is a matter of complete indifference to me.

Quite obviously, we value things differently. What we are trying to avoid thinking about is, that in an increasingly interconnected world, we cannot share that world in peace forever. Either we, or they, must change their way of thinking and adopt new values. Perhaps not today, nor tomorrow, but someday as certainly as the sun rises.

It would be well if that change could happen without violence. So do you think that men who could murder their sisters and daughters will allow that to happen?

There is a word for people who think and act this differently from us. The word is "enemy".

In our fat, happy country, in this prosperous time, we have forgotten that there is such a thing. And so many of us have forgotten that we have need of men of violence, who nonetheless love us and all we value.

That's OK, we will remember. Because we will have to.

"Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe....They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish....They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the enemy.

"That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't done enough for yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something that we could correct....

"Our first task is therefore to try to grasp what the concept of the enemy really means. The enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason, and not ours."

Lee Harris: Civilization and its Enemies

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Batchin' it again

I am again a temporary bachelor. The wife and kids are right now near the Polish-German border in a town called Biale, near Chojnow. The nearest city of any size is Wroclaw.

Things change. When Chojnow was a German town, it was called Hainau - where the Treaty of Hainau was signed. Wroclaw was Breslau before the war. Now it's Polish territory, but a favorite destination of German tourists come to see the land their families used to live in. The Poles are happy to see the money come in - they just wish it didn't come attached to so many Germans.

I took off a week to visit a friend in Texas with the man cancer - you know, the one we're all going to get eventually if something else doesn't happen first. It was actually a bit of a relief to find out how easy it is becoming to treat.

After that I went camping in the Ouachitaw Mountains for a couple of days. I've got a new tent about the size of an airplane hanger to accomodate my growing family and I wanted to test drive it. I also wanted to spend some time working out in the woods and meditating.

So what the heck, I was bored and lonely. I just kept thinking about how much more fun it would be with my family and the only "meditating" I did was staring into the campfire drinking beer. I guess I'm a confirmed family guy after all.

*When the family comes back we may have to go to Los Angeles. In true Polish bureaucratic fashion, the local consulate (the one in L.A. though Chicago is closer...) told us that we should get the new baby's Polish passport in Warsaw. Except that now the Warsaw office has told us that we have to do it in America - and in person at that.

Looks like that tent will get a family workout quite soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

We are better than they

Everyone knows that there is a massive hunt going on in Iraq right now for three American GIs feared captured by Al-Queda. What nobody is saying, is that it appears very unlikely that they will be recovered alive.

If it hasn't already happened, they will be (or perhaps are being) tortured to death and their bodies mutilated.

Moral and cultural realtivism is all the rage now. Making a "value judgement" about other cultures can be a career wrecker in academica these days. The only culture and values not exempt from criticism now seems to be Western military culture, honor, values and ethics.

So I'll say it. We are better than they are. Our culture and values deserve to survive, Al-Queda's are unworthy to.

Exhibit A, courtesy of Michael Yon, from General Petreaus.


From General Petraeus:

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force-Iraq:
Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial proportion ofthe Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know first hand the bonds between members of the ” brotherhood of the close fight. ” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arrns—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk;” however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.
We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.

David H. Petraeus,
General, United States Army

Saturday, May 12, 2007

At the Core

Issues of courage and cowardice have been on my mind a lot lately. In my reviews of '300' I mentioned that the disturbing thing about the bad reviews I've read isn't that they didn't like it, it's definitely not to everyone's taste, but that much of them seemed to be part of a reflexive dislike of any portrayal of physical courage.

In my post 'Virginia', I mentioned that the three responses to deadly danger in rough order of desirability are, 1) avoid it, 2) successfully run away from it, and 3) successfully fight back against it.

Any competent and ethical martial arts instructor knows that one of the difficult tasks of instructing boys and young men, is teaching when and how to escape and evade aggressors. Testosterone overload often makes men want to fight when they should run, or keep pounding on a downed foe longer than the law considers justified. (You could call that "losing by winning", when you consider the potential criminal charges and/or lawsuits.)

One thing I like to do is to pose the question, "What is the highest military command skill?" I didn't know the answer myself until it was pointed out to me.

Experts consider the highest command skill to be the ability to lead a retreat in good order.

Think about that for a minute. When in an untenable position, you may have to fall back to a one you are better able to defend. If it has to be done in the face of the enemy, it can all to easily turn into a rout - and then you're screwed.

Circumstances alter cases of course. For a Greek hoplite, when the day was clearly lost he could possibly save his life by abandoning his heavy armor and running. ("He who fights and runs away... etc.) But if just one man did it too soon he could cause the collapse of the line. (Hence the Spartan expression, "Come back with your shield or on it.") For a medieval pikeman facing cavalry, dropping his pike and running meant that the cavalry would likely run him down and take him from behind.

The point of all this is that running is not necessarily evidence of cowardice - it all depends on circumstances.

Americans proud of our preeminent position of power in the world, might do well to remember from time to time that our nation was populated largely by people who successfully used the strategy of running away.

Now if you'll bear with me a moment (I promise, it's actually heading for a point), I'd like to tell you about a science fiction story I read when I was in high school, lo these many years ago.

"At the Core" by Larry Niven, was part of his Known Space universe, set in the far future and involving his character Beowulf Schaeffer.

Beowulf Schaeffer is hired for a deep space exploration mission by the Puppeteers, an alien race described as looking like "a three-legged centaur with two Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent puppets for heads."

Puppeteers have a certain outstanding characteristic - they are cowards. All of them.

Puppeteers have an inborn mortal fear of, basically everything even remotely dangerous. So for dangerous tasks such as exploration they hire humans, whom they regard as crazy - but lucky. (A brave Puppeteer is by definition psychotic.)

They hire Beowulf Schaeffer to pilot a new kind of spaceship to the galactic core and report back what he finds.

What he finds when he gets there is that the galactic core has exploded in a chain of supernovas. In 50,000 years the blast wave and radiation is going to reach our galactic neighborhood, rendering it uninhabitable. He reports this and returns.

When he gets back to Known Space, he finds that all of the Puppeteers have fled the Galaxy.

Let's break here and ask yourself what you'd do if your knew for certain that an unavoidable danger was going to wipe out all life on Earth and all of the nearer solar systems - in 50,000 years? Would you even lose any sleep over it?

Didn't think so, neither would I.

Beowulf Schaeffer muses on this and comes to the same conclusion. We'd do nothing until the sky started to glow.

He thinks further on it. No Puppeteer ever pretended danger didn't exist. He may have been looking for the best place to run, but he would never deny the necessity for running.

He concludes, "Maybe it's humans who are cowards, at the Core."

(Nice play on words there.)

To belabor the point just a little, it's not necessarily cowardly to run from danger. As I said, it depends on the circumstances. Sometimes running can save your life, sometimes it gets you killed - or leaves those you love unprotected.

But to deny that danger exists?

I'll deal more with this later.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

They're in big trouble now

* Got one more paper to finish. Then I get to plan for all the little stuff, like feeding my family in between degrees.

The kids' passports didn't arrive in time, so we had to delay their departure date. Mother-in-law said that's OK, the weather in Warsaw was filthy. So they'll be going next Thursday. We had to pay penalties of course, at a price so low I merely screamed.

What I'm going to do when they're gone is to get my tent and an ice chest full of steaks and beer, find me a mountain and sit on it admiring the view for a while.

* I saw here http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1442# that Hamas TV has co-opted Micky Mouse to teach their kids to want to kill all the Jews and Americans.

Hooo-boy they in trouble now! It's one thing to screw around with the US military, but now they've infringed a Disney Corporation copyright. This time they've gone too far.

* And in case you're interested, the paper I'm finishing is an essay/argument that the proper beginning of the study of mass communication and propaganda, should be Classical Rhetoric.

* And speaking of classical ideals, the other thing I'm going to do is to get back into shape. I'm going to finish the voice-over and editing of my Indian Club exercise video (Couch Potato Warrior Productions) and day after tomorrow I'm accepting delivery of a Russian kettlebell. I'll have more to say on that subject later.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


* May 8 I'm putting my family on a flight to Warsaw. They'll be there for a month. My mother-in-law is having her annual "Bring me my grandson (and new granddaughter) NOW!" attack. I'm staying around campus to read intensely on the subject of propaganda and perhaps start research on foreign-language media.

Now am I really going to get lots of stuff done without the kids around or am I going to mope around missing my family and get nothing done? Stay tuned to this station...

* My wife just passed a new milestone in her Americanization - she's stopped buying bottled water to drink. "Oh what the heck, lets just use tapwater."

In Poland and a lot of Eastern Europe, you never drink tapwater if you value your health. Not without at least boiling it. Making it into tea was even better, it often comes out tea-colored anyway. It's getting better now, but old habits...

* I believe I've mentioned how Americans who loudly trumpet "We live in a police state!" irritate me. Excuse me, I've lived in police states, I have friends who live in police states and are in real danger every day for their dissidence.

Yes I used to be that kind of American myself. Now it strikes me as posturing as a hero when you haven't earned it. "Cheap grace" the religious call it.

* Police state? Show me. Show me the families of the "disappeared". Show me the maimed minds and bodies of those who do come out of the dungeons of the secret police. Show me anybody who has taken the kind of shit that a political radical or birth control advocate had to put up with two-three generations ago.

Yes you could show me plenty of abuses of power, Mike Nifong leaps to mind. But a whole state committed to extinguishing your liberty? Show me; don't tell me. The fact that you can tell me so, loudly and publicly, gives the lie.

Now, do I think that we might cease to be a democracy?

That's another matter...

* Churchill said that "The Second World War first appeared as a cloud on the horizon, no bigger than a man's hand."

Like that cloud... one of America's wisest public intellectuals, perhaps the wisest, Thomas Sowell, remarked, "When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can't help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup."

Now first LISTEN to my wife Monika, who pointed out that what he said was "I can't help wondering..." i.e. that these are plainly stated to be the darkest fears of a man in a pessimistic moment.

I too have my pessimistic moments, in which I sometimes think that we'll lose our democracy, not from a conspiracy of the powerful, but because we aren't fit to govern ourselves anymore.

* We've had feedback from Washington about the visit from the Latin American journalists. It appears Oklahoma was the high spot of the trip for them. Doesn't surprise me, they got to see some of the real America. To be fair, the weather in D.C. was filthy the time they were there, still I do think the Midwest one of the better bets if you want visitors to leave the country with a good impression.

* Of course, once I've said the above about people who scream "We're living in a police state!" I have to admit that one of the things that keeps us from becoming one may be that we're so touchy about our rights and privacy that we scream "police state!" at the slightest hint that anyone is going to intrude on them.

* The other thing that keeps it from getting that bad is, of course, guns. In my opinion the greatest danger to liberty today comes from the Political Correctness Police - but I don't think they'll succeed in making us into even a "soft" totalitarianism.

Why? Because they hate guns and want them taken away from the civilian population, BUT they failed to win over the military and police. In fact they've made it only too plain that they despise the profession of arms. Not the best way to impose a police state.