Stop and think,  collected — 2003

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Forgiveness among thieves, or, Easy come, easy go. The Times has been authorized to report that Japan is "prepared to forgive 'the vast majority' of the billions of dollars owed it by Iraq to help rebuild that country's economy, provided other leading creditors did the same." Japan's declaration follows a jawboning expedition by "special United States envoy James A. Baker III" and "strengthen[s] Washington's efforts to reduce Iraq's $120 billion in foreign debts owed to members of the Paris Club of creditor nations and other nations." ("Japan Open to Forgiving Iraqi Debt — if Others Do So," by Norimitsu Onishi, December 30, 2003)

In our era of darkening intellect, it often falls to us failures of the state schooling system to point out what would be screamingly obvious on any sane planet. What are the "creditors" referred to in Onishi's story? In the Times, they go by names such as "Japan," "France," "Germany," and "China." Since these "creditors" are states, they were able to lend the previous Iraqi regime a vast fortune only after seizing every penny of it from their hapless subjects by means of robbery, extortion, and fraud. States have no other means of raising funds or paying off their own debts; even the securities they sell to willing buyers depend on robbery, extortion, and fraud. Centuries of careful obfuscation on this point notwithstanding, states have no magic power to conjure wealth out of nothing.

We cannot prevent the highwaymen from robbing us. But we are free to reject their ridiculous euphemisms and those of their controlled media. They may enslave our bodies, but only we can enslave our minds. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2003)

"The Truth of Christmas overthrows the Lie of Power." In the December 1994 issue of The Last Ditch, senior editor Ronn Neff offered this observation, which deserves to be remembered at every Yuletide:

You gotta like the Christmas story. You've got a craftsman who has a wife with a Baby on the way and who is perhaps distracted with tax problems. You've got a king hell-bent on killing babies. You've got workers on the night shift, and later a couple of retired folks hanging around the temple, all getting excited about one Child who is supposed to have something to do with making them free.

Christian or non-Christian, you have to recognize that this story has figured at the center of the Western heritage. When we no longer know it, we shall no longer be Westerners.

And so I have to say that it makes sense to me that the modern state and its fuglemen are so determined that it not be familiar to schoolchildren, determined even to suppress the name of the holiday and to make sure its public depiction is carefully circumscribed, indeed marginalized.

At least it shows that someone knows just how dangerous an idea it is that Truth itself entered the world, and the state and its supine court-intellectual priests collaborated from the very first moment to destroy it. At least it shows that someone understands that there's something about this story that's incompatible with Power as we know it.

And year after year, even unbelievers seem to prefer that story to any the state has to tell.

(December 2003)

I'm a couple days late in passing this insight along, but from listening to my local NPR station and putting two and two together, I've figured out that our supervisors are offering us an alternative to the vapid but mandatory "Happy Holidays!" that so many of us Old Americans choke on. And get this: it's good not just through the Unmentionable Day but for a few days thereafter:

"Happy Hanukkah!" [Nicholas Strakon]

I'd decided the previous installment was just too heavy-handed to be posted when I caught some of the "community-oriented" pro-war programming on Fort Wayne's ABC-TV affiliate. They're airing video "Christmas cards" from U.S. soldiers in Iraq. In the only segment I've seen so far, a normal-Midwestern-looking soldier named Carson sends these good wishes back to his family in a small northern Indiana town: "Happy Holidays!"

I emphasize that this wasn't a general greeting offered to the Broad Masses. It was a message to his family. And to these Old American ears, it sounded mighty strange.

I guess that soldier ought to listen to more state radio. [Nicholas Strakon]

Have you noticed that it's only when the hapless Howard Dean accidentally does a pratfall onto the truth that he gets into trouble with our supervisors? Here's the sequence of events: Saddam falls into the Empire's hands; our supervisors tell us, or at least very strenuously imply, that that made us safer; Howard Dean exhibits skepticism about it; our supervisors and their Minitrue spokesdrones go postal over Dean's skepticism; and the Internal Security Minister raises the nationwide alert level from yellow to orange.

Now, our betters are assuring us that there is no connection between the discovery of Saddam and the raising of the alert level. But ... but ... according to the previous party line, wasn't there supposed to be a causal connection between jugging Saddam and the likelihood of further terrorist violence? And wasn't it supposed to operate in the opposite direction? (And, oh, yes, have you reread 1984 yet this year?) [Nicholas Strakon]

Remember to report all suspicious activity. We intend to keep doing just that. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2003)

The Midwest is meth-lab country, and if the cops hereabouts are to be believed, Indiana alone harbors hundreds of such illegal manufactories. Recently the Fort Wayne NBC-TV affiliate aired a story about the discovery of a lab at a motel in Kendallville, a small county seat in northern Indiana. As is well known, the amateur chemists involved in producing methamphetamine often blow themselves up or allow the release of toxic fumes. The discovery of a meth lab in a motel room afforded the cops and the cop buffs in the newsroom a fine opportunity to expatiate on the dangers that the meth cooks are imposing on innocent, law-abiding people.

One police spokesman said the trouble is that meth can be made quickly, on the cheap, and in small quarters. However, I think the real trouble is that the drug warriors are inducing the meth-makers to hide among us to avoid persecution. And, more generally, that the prohibitionists are preventing respectable businessmen from taking over the industry, hiring professional chemists and technicians, and imposing normal safety standards in line with normal insurance requirements.

In any case, does this chasing after elusive guerrilla meth cooks sound like a battle that the Authorities are destined to win? Maybe, but only after they make Iraq as well-ordered as Disneyland. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2003)

One master criminal is in custody, but who will arrest the other great villains-of-state, including those who initiate criminal wars of conquest against countries that have never attacked their own?

One of the major subcontractors used by war-profiteer Halliburton is none other than Kellogg, Brown & Root. Upon learning that, the first thought that may occur to readers of Robert Caro's three-part biography of Lyndon Johnson is — Evil never dies. (December 2003)

Heroes are destiny. The heroes of conservatives of the 1950s and 1960s were Herbert Hoover and J. Edgar Hoover. Given conservatives' claimed devotion to the Constitution and the free market, neither made much sense. Was the conservative vision of freedom the reality and the lionizing of the two Hoovers political expediency? or was it the other way around? Which came from the heart and which merely from the need to be an opposition party?

With the domestic adjuncts of the war on terrorism — the drug war and the USA PATRIOT Act — firmly ensconced, and with the Medicare Reform Act (the largest expansion of the welfare state in 40 years) signed into law, it can no longer be asserted that at least with Republicans in office things won't be as bad as they would be if Democrats were in office.

Because conservatives continue to identify with the Republican Party, what was merely inchoate in lionizing the two Hoovers has reached its full flowering. From the new vantage point, the question of which was the reality and which the show has been definitively answered. [Ronn Neff] (December 2003)

Taking Christmas out of Christmas. On December 9 a local newspaper ran a little item on its op-ed page reporting that "a Jewish professor" has successfully pressured the Indiana University School of Law to remove a Christmas tree it had erected, on the grounds that such trees are Christian symbols and thus highly offensive. Agreeing with the aggrieved prof, an IU dean told the media that the tree had indeed been a "denominational" tree and advised them that the law school had replaced it with two more-generic-looking fake trees covered by fake snow to suggest a winter woodland scene.

The paper I saw ran the item under the mocking headline "O Christian tree, O Christian tree ..." and quoted one observer to the effect that except for a "Santa Claus coffee mug" it's hard to imagine a more secular symbol than a Christmas tree. We are taught, of course, that all criticism of Jews is psychotic and motiveless, but even mainstreamers may now be starting to gag on this kind of cultural imperialism. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2003)

On December 6 the New York Times ran a remarkable story on its Website that apparently was to hit the print edition on December 7: "Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns," by Dexter Filkins. One of the remarkable things about it is that it appeared at all — but a bit more on that later.

The story starts, "As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire." Our glorious paladins of Freedom and Democracy are also demolishing houses and taking hostages. Filkins writes that "the deadliest month yet for American forces" has evoked a response that "is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territories."

Filkins's piece contains several quotes that deserve to be highlighted, but here, in my opinion, is the best: " 'With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,' Colonel Sassaman said." With any luck, that remark will go down as this war's equivalent of Vietnam's "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."


The Times doesn't adhere to the dominant U.S. party line as closely as the oldtime Pravda did to the Soviets' — after all, the system in this country is Polite Totalitarianism — so mildly inconvenient stories do sometimes appear. But it's still possible to argue that the appearance of Filkins's piece and the prominent play it is receiving signal major discord in the ruling class over Iraq policy. Remember that the Times is both the Establishment's "paper of record" and also the country's leading organ for the group I call the "Power Jews." Is there a divide between the Bush neocons and the senior "Power Jews"?

In "Godfather II," New York capo Frank Pentangeli, who is tributary to Michael Corleone, comes to Don Michael pleading to be allowed to violently settle some "street" business with gangsters on Pentangeli's level who are tributary to Mob titan Hyman Roth. Don Michael refuses, telling Pentangeli, "I have important business with Hyman Roth, and I don't want it disturbed." More and more I see the neocons in the Pentangeli role. Surely the "Power Jews" and their non-Jewish brethren in the ruling class have important business here at home and in the rest of the world that they don't want to be disturbed by events in Iraq.

I hope to be able to explore this question further, and I would welcome thoughts on this matter both from other TLD writers and from TLD readers. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2003)

"The only thing that prevented [Franklin Roosevelt] from being an outright Communist was his total lack of principle." — Joe Sobran, "The Neon-Lit Dark Age," Washington Watch, November 6, 2003. (December 2003)

History never sleeps; only its victims do. Those with an interest in ancient history may recall that untold eons ago during the reign of Emperor William the Priapic — in 1994, actually — the U.S. Empire re-installed as ruler of Haiti a progressive, democratic, humanitarian, compassionate statesman named Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide had been turned out of office by a coup in 1991 shortly after winning election as president. (Imagine Haitians having an election! It's almost as peculiar as their speaking French.)

At the time, a few lonely voices warned that Aristide was either evil or crazy, but all the progressive, democratic, humanitarian, and compassionate media bullhorns in the United State blared the party line that this was one act of U.S. intervention that only those who were not progressive, democratic, humanitarian, and compassionate could possibly oppose.

Well, as I think I've said before with this sort of thing, just look what's happened. According to Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times:

Aristide has amassed a legacy that can best be termed a chronicle of dashed expectations. A former Roman Catholic priest turned husband, father and autocrat, he has presided over the decline of Haiti from a poor nation of 8 million, repressed for three decades under [Jean-Claude] Duvalier and his father — Francois, known as "Papa Doc" — to an even poorer wreck of a nation gripped by hunger, hopelessness, disease and gang warfare. ["Aristide's Populist Appeal Dwindles in Haiti," November 29, 2003]

"Dashed expectations" — see what I mean? I suppose it is somewhat understandable, though. I didn't expect conditions in Haiti to improve, but for them actually to worsen ...!

Here are some more revelations courtesy of Williams:

More than half the population is illiterate. Unemployment afflicts 70% of the work force. Haiti's rate of HIV and AIDS is the world's highest outside sub-Saharan Africa. Human rights groups accuse the 50-year-old Aristide of resorting to violence to stay in power, and former constituents say he has pocketed his share of billions in drug money for having his security forces look the other way.

Last month, Transparency International, the Berlin-based government watchdog agency, rated Haiti the third-most-corrupt country in the world, outdone on the 133-nation list only by Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Williams writes also of "actions [by Aristide] that have alienated international lenders, driven away foreign investment and brought the country to the brink of a governance crisis because of a failure to organize free and fair elections." And that's not all. Remember the Duvaliers' Ton Ton Macoutes? Aristide apparently has his own brand of secret police with a scary name:

The thugs terrorizing demonstrations and independent radio stations do so with impunity and travel in state-registered trucks, said Guy Delva, head of the Haitian Journalists Assn.

One of scores of reporters and editors attacked by the club-wielding chimeres — from French for "monsters" — Delva blames Aristide's government for the orchestrated suppression of critics. With neither the police nor the judiciary willing to take on the terror squads, Haitians can only conclude that they operate with government sanction, he argued.

If we're playing the expectations game, here's one of my own. I expect nobody in Washington today who is involved with distributing Democracy around the world by means of cruise missiles, Abrams tanks, and helo gunships to pay the slightest heed to the results of the Empire's glorious intervention in Haiti nine years ago.

Nine years from now, what will those of us who study ancient history be reading about the Empire's glorious intervention in Iraq? [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

More footprints? That "yeti" I wrote of in my column of November 8 may be leaving detectable bootprints in the sand of Iraq, but we shouldn't stop looking for the impressions he's making on other soil. On November 28 the Times was authorized to report that "Sibneft, a major Russian oil producer, today suspended its merger with Yukos, freezing a deal that would have created the world's fourth-largest oil producer." ("Russian Oil Companies Suspend $11 Billion Merger," by Erin E. Arvedlund) "Technical difficulties" are cited, and the deal may not actually be dead, though much of the company's paper value has been destroyed by this turn of events.

"The suspension of the deal strikes another unexpected blow to Yukos, whose former chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested on Oct. 25 on charges of tax evasion and fraud," Miss Arvedlund writes. "His arrest is widely viewed as a political attack by Russian President Vladimir Putin for funding independent parties and for voicing political ambitions."

Miss Arvedlund adds: "Before his arrest, Mr. Khodorkovsky had been negotiating for a sale of up to 25 percent of the combined company to a major Western buyer such as Exxon-Mobil or Chevron-Texaco, for an estimated $40 billion."

One of the principal sources at Yukos whom Miss Arvedlund quotes about the possible survival of the deal is "Leonid Nevzlin, a key Yukos shareholder," who was interviewed by the Interfax news agency "from Jerusalem, where he fled earlier this year, fearing prosecution in Russia."

Ooops — Jerusalem. There we are again, back in the Middle East. But new Jerusalem resident Leonid Nevzlin is most definitely Not-an-Arab. (And that goes for the other "Russian" oligarchs, such as the chief of Sibneft, Roman Abramovich.)

It's provocative, but I won't say I know what it all means. For now it's enough for us to be reminded that, as the Black Hawks crash and the Humvees explode, the moguls and mandarins are going right ahead — offstage, backstage, and over there in the corner — with their traditional business, shaping the world's political-economic power structure to suit themselves. And by the way, let's not entertain any contextless rhetoric about Vladimir Putin either as heroic people's tribune or dastardly anti-capitalist. The latter description may not be inaccurate, but the first question to ask is — Who owns him? [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

A silver lining from the silver screen? I've added this comment as a P.P.S. to my column of November 22 on the "Cat in the Hat" movie:

On Monday, November 24, CBS's "Hollywood Minute" segment, distributed to local news affiliates, reported that the Cat movie "dominated the theaters this weekend despite some tough reviews," earning more than $40 million.

There may be a silver lining here, though. The more parents and children there were who crowded into the theaters, the fewer there were who could attend the rallies in support of Michael Jackson. [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

The word that must not be spoken. This season I've seen about a dozen commercials aimed at Christmas shoppers, and not one of them has used the word "Christmas." In a PetSmart commercial, the man comments on how many presents he and his wife (or significant other — for all I know "wife" is also a word that must not be spoken, except by homosexuals) have gotten for their dog. "I know," she says, "but it's his first holiday." What? — they got the dog after Thanksgiving? There's a big tree in the house with lights on it. Does that mean they're celebrating St. Lucy's Day?

The protocols in workplaces are likewise becoming more and more strict about the use of the word "Christmas."

The West continues its suicidal march away from itself. [Ronn Neff] (November 2003)

Socialism can certainly get complicated! It sounds impossible, but congressional Democrats are battling over the latest Medicare "reform" bill with one of their principal constituent groups: none other than AARP, the welfarist pressure lobby that represents retirees who are fans of privileged socialism. That's according to a Reuters story by Joanne Kenen, "Gingrich rallies support for House Medicare vote" (November 19).

"The bill is the center of a huge lobbying and advertising campaign," Kenen writes. Evidence for that rests not only in AARP's spending $7 million to promote the measure but also in Newt Gingrich's returning to the Hill in the role of lobbyist. Always a shill for Gigantic Government, Gingrich is trying to "calm the fiscal fears of conservatives in the U.S. House." Kenen notes that "a coalition of influential conservative groups, including the American Conservative Union, the National Taxpayers Union and the Family Research Council, opposed the bill, saying it will cost the government a lot while encouraging employers to dump retiree benefits."

Socialist Democrats, meanwhile, oppose the social-engineering aspects of the bill that the Gigantic Government conservatives and business lobbies like, including "unprecedented cost containment mechanisms, [expanded] tax-preferred health savings accounts, and ... billions of dollars in incentives to get more private health insurers to enter the Medicare marketplace." Kenen says "most Democrats object to those changes, saying they will undermine Medicare and constitute the first step toward its privatization."

Oh, no, not privatization! But you just know that kind of prehistoric reactionary dog-eat-dog Social Darwinist laissez-faire madness is looming, don't you, whenever you see a $400 billion welfare bill coming down the pike. Especially when it contains a "prescription-drug benefit" that one of the leading socialist-welfare conspiracies in the country has been demanding for years.

A plague on both their houses — and Leviathan delenda est. [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

In a previous installment, under the head "Other people's sons," I recommended Joe Sobran's column of November 4, "The Spirit of Sacrifice." Joe wrote that in securing their aims the neocons "stand ready to sacrifice as many goyim as it takes." It got me thinking historically.

Today the neocons are the mouthpiece and executive instrument of at least one wing of the ruling class — the dominant wing, at present. But this is not the first time that a cohort of down-home Americans has made itself into cannon-fodder for an alien metropolitan elite. Despite the ravages of Sherman, Sheridan, and the Kansas Red Legs, and all other manner of oppression, white Southerners began donning the uniform of their oppressor shortly after their failed war of independence. And ever since that time, they have enlisted in the Yankee military in proportions greater than those of any other regional group. They have always been ready to poke a sharp stick at any obscure, misbegotten corner of the world the Yankee elite wanted to exploit — always ready to help the Yankee elite bail out an allied empire — always ready to put their lives on the line to extend the Yankee overseas empire itself.

Cultural factors partly account for that, including Southerners' traditional militarism and a terrible misapprehension on their part of what honor and manliness consist of. But it is a tragedy of our history, one of our profoundest underminings. It is grotesque. And how better to sum it all up than in the phrase "the spirit of sacrifice"? [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

Statish thinking is not straight thinking, and this month's municipal elections in Indiana furnished another fine demonstration of that, arising from the vote in the town of Hudson. According to Leo Morris, an editorial writer for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the vote for three of the four candidates for town council (apparently running at large) ended in a tie. Now, both Morris and the Fort Wayne ABC-TV affiliate characterized this story as yet another heart-warming, confidence-building "your vote does count" parable. But I had to laugh aloud when the TV newsreader went straight from that to saying, "The election is now taken out of the voters' hands."

Perhaps you begin to see what I mean about the disordered thinking involved here.

In his editorial, "The king of Hudson, Ind.," Morris writes:

Sean Walker suddenly finds himself the king of Hudson, Ind. He got 65 votes and a seat on the three-member town council in last week's election. Three of the other four candidates got 56 votes each. Under state law, the council has the job of deciding the outcome when there is a tie. Since Walker is the only certified member of the next council, which begins its duties Jan. 1, the current council gave him the task of picking his two co-legislators.

I guess it's fair to say that the votes for King Sean I counted, at least.

The TV news taped some local Hudson sage declaring that if just three more voters had turned out, the problem wouldn't have arisen. Upon reflection I suppose that would have depended on whom they had voted for. But my own sage response at the time was, "Or three fewer!" [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. Or 30 fewer! [Ronn Neff]

Reply. Absolutely. In fact, let's keep adding zeroes. [NS]

Comment. Strakon refers to "the votes for King Sean I." As much as I shrink from revising anything written by our revered chief, I have to point out that nobody actually voted for King Sean I. He was not on the ballot. Instead, little old ordinary just-another-council-candidate Sean Walker was on the ballot. His unpredictable elevation to the throne illustrates a truth that Messrs. Neff and Strakon keep insisting on: No voter knows — no voter can know — just what he's voting for. [Modine Herbey] (November 2003)

The latest from the laboratories of democracy. According to the news on November 10, several states — including Colorado, Washington, Kentucky, and Maine — have canceled the presidential primaries that they were to hold next year.

The primaries are too expensive; or they are held "too late" to have any effect; or both. Instead, party caucuses in the states will choose delegates to the national conventions.

When it comes to voting for president, "every vote counts." But apparently not when it comes to selecting candidates. [Ronn Neff]

Comment. We know that when Little George and all the other Official Glorious Americans, from the local ward to Washington City, bellow about Freeeedom they're really just talking about Democracy. That's not too hard to figure out, as we stagger under the weight of their elaborate and all-pervasive totalitarianism. What's hard is keeping track of what they mean by Democracy. [Nicholas Strakon]

"Democracy ..." Oh, never mind. We get it now. One of the NPR stations in Greater Trantor aired a "democracy" marathon the other day, including a two-hour show called "Exporting Democracy: the World Speaks." It was mainly about the United States exporting "democracy" to Iraq and Afghanistan.

There wasn't any discussion of whether it really is democracy that's being exported, except when an Iraqi, calling in to comment, somehow got past the screeners. One of the newly appointed Iraqi ministers, Adnan Pachachi, was a guest speaker, and the caller said, essentially, This guy doesn't represent us. He was appointed by the Americans.

That infuriated Pachachi, who said (again I paraphrase), That is a vicious lie! I am sick and tired of hearing this, and I'm surprised that you allow a person like this the use of the airwaves! It is a lie that we were appointed by the Americans!

We appointed ourselves!

I try my hand at satire from time to time, but I'm not sure I could have made that up. [David T. Wright] (November 2003)

They're all Israeli soldiers now. Another six members of the imperial occupation force died November 7 when their helicopter was attacked near Tikrit. "Insurgents are suspected," according to CBS News, as if, I suppose, we might otherwise have wondered whether it was an inside job. The newsreader went on to say, "In retaliation, just hours ago, U.S. troops swept through neighborhoods [in Tikrit], shooting up suspects' homes with machine guns and other weapons." That's right: neighborhoods. And, right again, the homes of suspects. Where the suspects live with their wives and children. Opponents of the massive ongoing war crime in Mesopotamia keep calling for the troops to come home, but I say again: we don't need Americans such as those to ever come home. They should certainly be prevailed upon to leave Iraq, however. One way or another. [Nicholas Strakon]

"Perhaps an inconvenience to the innocent." Another shocker, this time from the home front, was aired by CBS on November 7. In Charleston, S.C., "police stormed a school looking for drugs," and here's the rest of the narration for one of the most disgusting pieces of videotape I've seen recently:

Officers conducted the raid between classes. With guns drawn, they ordered all students to get down on the floor so their bags could be searched. Some kids refused and were handcuffed. One parent calls the act senseless. School officials say it was perhaps an inconvenience to the innocent. K-9s smelled drugs on a dozen bags, but in the end they found nothing.

It must have been quite a little lesson in modern civics for those students. The ones who refused to robotically obey when the rotten bullying anti-American gutter thugs barked their orders — now, those are the youngsters we need to reach. [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

Other people's sons. In Joe Sobran's column for November 4, "The Spirit of Sacrifice," after noting how our rulers want us to "show our 'resolve' and our 'will' in Iraq, despite the growing number of American casualties," he comments:

"The neoconservatives in particular stand ready to sacrifice as many goyim as it takes." (November 2003)

Race in the race. Two — count 'em, two — Kenyans, a man and a woman, won the New York Marathon. Meanwhile, white men still can't jump. But as we all know — and let's chant this together, egalifans — there's no such thing as race. [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2003)

I always liked Halloween when I was a kid, and I'm still haunted by keen memories of jack-o'-lanterns made of real pumpkins, the sweet smoke of burning leaves, spooky stories, and the traditional ramble up and down dark streets with my candy-wheedling confederates, all of us rustling along in home-made costumes.

But there have been some changes made. Nowadays adults are dressing up and throwing parties. They're exchanging cards and even gifts. And the same people who drape their houses and yards with excessive Christmas decorations are going whole-hog with blindingly electrified Halloween trumpery. At the same time, municipalities have clamped severe restrictions on trick-or-treating by actual kids: typically, they're supposed to goblinize for the sweet stuff only from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and only on Halloween itself. Great Cæsar's Ghost, it's not even dark at 5 p.m.! Penalties for violation, if any, never seem to be publicized, but that doesn't prevent parents from robotically complying with every jot and tittle.

I expect to hear that the new rules are necessary because "the streets aren't safe." If so, that's just a more-general aspect of the abolition of childhood, and we should meditate anew on the quality of the country American children will inherit. But in fact the streets are still safe in most of the small and medium-sized towns that have joined the big cities in succumbing to Halloween totalitarianism.

In the New Halloween we see the sickness of American culture in miniature: adults turning themselves into fake children while denying childhood to real children. I liked the old America better. [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. That sweet leafsmoke I remember? Most places, They've made it illegal, too. [NS]

Comment. Funny. In the old days, trick-or-treaters sometimes actually perpetrated tricks. But most of the people who turned over outhouses and left burning bags of, well, you know, on porches did pretty well in respecting their neighbors' property the rest of the year. And they grew up to be adults who religiously respected that property. In our time, though, many of the same kids who are subjected to Halloween totalitarianism one evening a year treat their neighbors' property as (to steal an old phrase of Strakon's) "trashable public parks" the rest of the year. What sort of adults will they grow up to be? [Modine Herbey] (October 2003)

The case of Terri Schiavo. Physicians are debating now whether Terri Schiavo of Florida is really in an irrevocable vegetative state or not. Recently her husband secured a court order to have her feeding tube removed, an action that Mrs. Schiavo's parents had struggled to prevent. According to the Orlando Sentinel, "The bitter dispute moves back into the courts next week, when attorneys for [Mrs.] Schiavo's husband challenge the constitutionality of a law passed [October 21] by the Florida Legislature that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene in the case and restore the woman's feeding tube." (Robyn Suriano and Sean Mussenden, "Doctors dispute Florida woman is in persistent vegetative state," Oct. 24)

The doctors' debate is interesting, but no one seems to be answering the questions I find central: In the absence of a valid and specific contractual undertaking, who owes what to Terry Schiavo? Is her husband really to be forced to pay to keep her alive? If so, does that not make him her slave?

Or is she his slave? Unless Mrs. Schiavo is the property of Mr. Schiavo, he cannot — or at least he could not in a free society — prevent her parents (or anyone else) from picking up the tab for her care in order to maintain her existence.

Now, I would hardly be surprised to learn that, after 13 years of watching his wife languish on life support, Mr. Schiavo had a girlfriend waiting in the wings whom he was yearning to marry. In any case it does seem clear that he is eager to get on with his life. We may deem that attitude virtuous or vicious, depending on our own moral standards and religious beliefs, but when it comes to forcing other people to do as we see fit, we must heed Lysander Spooner's rule: Not all vices are crimes.

Ordinary folk sometimes chide libertarians for cold-heartedness when, in discussing such cases, we start asking who owns what and who is to pay for this or that. Well, fine. I'd rather be an icicle of a libertarian than a warmhearted sentimentalist who promoted chattel slavery. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Prescription-drug nonbenefit. Last year in preparation for the hay-fever season I asked my doctor to prescribe 20 Claritin pills, my allergy drug of choice. It had been a while since I'd indulged, and I was just about floored by the price: $80. Four bucks a hit! That ill-considered outlay disrupted my rickety finances for weeks. But as soon as the hay-fever season was safely over, Claritin went over-the-counter, and within days the price dropped 75 percent. Good news for us pollen-sneezers, eh?

Not for all of us, as it transpired. I caught a news story explaining that for many of those whose health plan had a prescription-drug benefit, the price they paid for Claritin, now that it was no longer covered, had actually risen! Previously, of course, they had been paying only a tiny fraction of the raw retail price.

It's impoverished folk who pay top dollar for politically controlled drugs: those of us, at least, who dwell outside the corporate-state employment System and thus lack health insurance, and are unwilling or unable to go on welfare. I'd been well aware of that, of course, but the story about Claritin still had a mind-concentrating effect. It clued me in to the fact that the Dark Suits behind the prescription system have a ready-made constituency out there, composed of the untold millions of ordinary people who are part of the System. (In fact, many or most of them are the Dark Suits' own employees.)

My sister the economist informs me that the Claritin people are selling a lot more of their potion now than they did when it was controlled and that they'll probably make more money even at the new, sharply reduced prices than they did when it was sold by prescription only. That tells me that "prescription economics" is a recondite matter: that the prescription system sometimes benefits the drug companies and sometimes hurts them. But I don't propose to drown this little discussion in that particular analytical swamp. In any case I'm a lot more interested in what benefits me than in what benefits the drug companies, so long as freedom and justice are served.

You remember freedom, right? Haven't seen it in the drug market for many a moon, but I yearn for a world where all people could make up their own mind about medicines, in consultation (or not) with their freely chosen healer, and simply go out to Walgreen's or Wal-Mart and buy the confounded stuff at free, competitive, market prices. (Those who benefit now from artificially suppressed drug prices pay hidden or shifted costs: in lower salaries, higher premiums, and greater dependence on established employers and state bureaucracies.) The best possible "prescription drug benefit" would be outright abolition of the whole tyrannical system. But we can't expect to see that sort of change because the current system of rule, which we TLDers call Polite Totalitarianism, specializes in building constituencies for enslavement ... among the enslaved. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Excellence in propaganda. There are those who have expressed the hope that Rush Limbaugh will see the iniquity of the War on Drugs and begin to speak against it.

While I share that hope, I think it is vain. I predict that when Limbaugh gets out of rehab we will see or hear him in a few anti-drug PSAs.

I do not for a minute believe that he is addicted or that he believes that he is addicted. I believe that in speaking as though he is, he is merely observing the formalities, making the necessary obeisances, because he knows perfectly well that this is the way you avoid jail time. So he utters the formulaic "I have a problem" and checks into a rehab center for 30 days. (As if a true addiction were so easily and predictably kicked.)

After all, if you were the DEA, which would you want from Rush Limbaugh: jail time? or free service? [Ronn Neff] (October 2003)

"Jesus wept." — John 11:35. Once again I've taken time out from translating Ammianus Marcellinus and meditating on the Gesualdo motets, and have repaired to the telescreen in search of more-plebeian amusement. In so doing I've caught three episodes of the new CBS series "Joan of Arcadia." The title character, a high-school girl, is a combination of slacker and socialite to whom God has begun to appear in various guises. I like the show, but upon first viewing it I was struck by its theme song, which is a compressed version of the Joan Osborne hit of a few years ago, "One of Us" (AKA "What If God Was [sic] One of Us?").

I was already half-aware of the song, thanks to my irrepressible tendency to pick up bits and pieces of popcult "out of the corner of my ear," so to speak. But confronted directly with the (partial) lyrics, I had to blink: Could this be a Christian song? Is Joan Osborne a Christian artist? Here's the chorus, which is featured on the show:

What if God was one of us;
Just a slob like one of us;
Just a stranger on a bus
Tryin' to make His way home?

Now, it is clear that the God of "Joan of Arcadia" resembles the Christian God more than he does Zeus or Vishnu, and I'm not just talking about the punnish conceit of the title and its implications in Christian folklore. Joan's God has had some things to say to her, about free will and natural law and causality and miracles, that sound (to my inexpert but Christian-friendly ear) pretty darn orthodox. Also, though I'm not sure this means anything, her family are depicted as "ethnic Catholics," albeit long lapsed in observance. Joan's mother (played by Mary Steenburgen) has even consulted a priest a couple of times; and, remarkably enough, he's not portrayed as a drunk, child-molester, or blithering idiot.

However, the show comes out of Jewish Hollywood and airs on a network traditionally dominated by Jews. I won't say there's no chance this could happen, but if the scriptwriters ever identified the Person who is visiting Joan as Jesus Christ, it would signal a cultural and spiritual revolution of such dimensions that Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins would have to entirely recompute the number of those who will be "left behind" in Los Angeles County. (Things might be different if Joan were black instead of Italian-American. Owing to an odd sort of noblesse oblige on the part of our culture-creators, black characters are occasionally permitted to be believing Christians.)

If the show cannot be Christian it seems to follow that neither the songstress nor her song can be Christian, either, else surely there would be big trouble. And that turns out to be so.

But where does that leave us? Does Miss Osborne hail from the back end of China? Or Mars, maybe? As an Orthodox (big-O) writer for the Conciliar Press, John Stamps, puts it: "What's disconcerting, from an Orthodox perspective, is that the song is seemingly written in invincible ignorance of the central dogma of the Christian faith, the Incarnation of God the Word. God did become one of us!"

Christianity teaches, plainly enough, one would think, that God was born to a human woman; that he wept; that he became angry; that he faced temptation; that he thirsted; that he felt the pain of the scourge, of the thorns, and of crucifixion itself. Christianity even teaches that God wondered, that night in the garden, whether he might make his way home without taking the Via Crucis.

John Stamps notes the "startling theological amnesia" that Miss Osborne's song reveals. As a friendly nonbeliever I think in civilizational rather than theological terms, and as you may know, I'm always on the lookout for clues to where our civilization is headed — and how much of it is left. The idea promulgated to Europe out of the Levant that God made himself one of us (while still somehow remaining God) may be the single most incandescent notion taken up by the Germans and Celts to light the fire of the West. If my little tour of the Net is any indication, that fire has now sunk down to fading coals. The only commentators I found who thought Miss Osborne's song was odd, in light of Christianity, were professional Christians: clerics, religious writers, and the like. Everyone else who took the matter at all seriously treated it as a New Thing, a wild and unprecedented, but fascinating, speculation. "Thought-provoking" was a common description. These people — mostly young folk, I suppose — had no clue that Miss Osborne's wild speculation had been preempted some years before by the reports of Messrs. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Whether you believe those reports or not, you have to be aware of them in order to be a Westerner. What are all these people around us who don't have a clue? Where have they been? And where are they going? It would be nice to know, because wherever it is, they will be taking us along with them. [Nicholas Strakon, Oct. 12, 2003]

It's fascinating to watch them work. All of a sudden we're told that, of the $87 billion of our money that Emperor Bush wants to send to Iraq, only $20 billion is for that controversial "reconstruction." $66 billion is for Our Troops, which unfortunately will strike most folks as far less controversial. The figures are according to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), appearing on Fox News the morning of October 12. (The $1 billion left over, one assumes, is for senatorial junkets.) McConnell says the $66 billion is needed to get the troops to the point where they can be withdrawn. Say what? If McConnell is talking about the cost of airline tickets I'd say let 'em find honest jobs over there and earn their own way home. Actually, they can run away and join the circus for all I care.

The gall of our supervisors! They blow tens of billions of dollars to send an army across the world, and now they're holding us up for another $66 billion to bring it back? If I made enough money to pay taxes, I'd really be upset. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Game over, man. I'm glad (I guess) that I kept Fox on for a few more minutes Sunday morning. I got to hear Tony Snow defend his statement of last Sunday that racism (i.e., hateful, irrational, categorical bigotry) is much less prevalent nowadays than it used to be. He's been buried under a predictable avalanche of "How dare you, cracker!"-type letters. Snow made some interesting points in the course of his defense, including the observation that blacks can be bigots, too. But then he said, "At least the kids get it," because last week, black artists were responsible for all of the top 10 songs on the pop charts. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Who are questioning what? Get a load of Noah Shachtman's article at The American Prospect titled "Liberty Island — Libertarians are increasingly isolated in the GOP. Will they bolt in 2004?" "Libertarians across the country," Shachtman informs us, "are slowly beginning to question their Republican loyalties."

Yes, that's right: "slowly."

Wow! "Libertarians" leaving the Republican Party! What's next? Will all the rabbis slowly start to leave the Catholic Church? Will Nathan Lane and Harvey Fierstein agonizingly take the plunge and let their subscriptions to Playboy expire? Will Sarah Brady slowly start selling her pistol collection? I tell you, you just never know what's going to happen in this crazy world. "Slowly" or otherwise. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

He promised he wouldn't disappoint Californians by imposing new taxes, but in the wake of Ah-nuld's victory in the gubernatorial race, a Democratic state senator warned that the new governor is going to have a hard time redeeming that pledge, especially if he intends to save "public" education (40 percent of the budget) from being swamped by the Golden State's tidal wave of red ink. The senator noted that Californians love government services; they just don't want to pay for them. Sounds right to me. And I'd guess that the same rule applies to the vast majority of the purportedly "anti-government" Joe Six-Packs all over the country. [Modine Herbey]

Stop press. It just gets better and better. According to a later-breaking story, Ah-nuld is already angling to get the "federal government" to help California with its problems. "Federal government"? Let's translate that from the Austro-Kahleefornian into Standard English: he's talking about your tax money, Hoosiers, New Yorkers, Virginians, Alabamians, Coloradans ... [MH] (October 2003)

"The Road to Victory Goes Through Tehran." I know it sounds like a propaganda slogan churned out by the OWI, circa 1943, but it's not. It's the title of a piece by Robert W. Tracinski posted in the Ayn Rand Institute's MediaLink department. (Apparently it's been there since May 14.)

Dr. Win-the-War Tracinski starts out:

President Bush has declared the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq, but he has not declared victory in the War on Terrorism — and that's a good thing, because the largest and most important battle in that war still remains to be fought.

The road to victory goes through Tehran.

An end to the threat of Islamic terrorism requires, not just the toppling of one state sponsor of terrorism in Iraq, but the toppling of the regime that is the Middle East's most active promoter of terrorism — and the most virulent center of the ideology behind Islamic terrorism: the theocracy that rules Iran.

Tracinski isn't some random oddball warmonger wandering around out there whom ARI sorta-kinda agrees with. No, he turns out to be the Institute's editorial director. But his work has appeared elsewhere, to be sure. A minute's Googling reveals that in May 2001, Israel News reprinted this short piece by the brave armchair generalissimo: "The Solution to the Middle East Crisis: War for Peace." The title, by the way, is massively un-ironic. (And massively Orwellian.) Just for the record, Tracinski also happens to be a regular contributor to the Jewish World Review.

Immediately after 9/11, our valiant field marshal of the keyboard was agitating for war against yet another country, Syria, in his ARI piece "We Are All Israelis Now":

What America owes Israel now is a long, abject apology — and carte blanche to do whatever is necessary to fight Palestinian terrorism. That includes arresting Arafat, shutting down his Palestinian Authority, and then going after the primary state sponsor of Palestinian terrorism: the dictatorship of Syria.

On the question of who is and is not an Israeli, it sure would be nice if these characters just spoke for themselves, wouldn't it?

Yet another good example of Tracinski's strategic thinking may be found at Capitalism Magazine, a site whose superscript proclaims, again with no irony intended, "In Defense of Individual Rights." The article, from September 15, 2001, is "What a Real War Looks Like," and it is preceded by this (accurate) summary:

Nuclear weapons, military occupation, martial law. These may seem like radical measures — but only because we [sic] have not been forced to use them for more than 50 years. Yet all of this is precisely the remedy we [sic] imposed on Japan at the end of World War II.

What green young fools we Objectivists were, back in the '60s, to be so complacent with the limits Ayn Rand prescribed for state action: police, courts, and the military! [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Kosher goose and goy gander. I am certainly not a fan of Jimmy Kimmel's repulsive show on ABC, but I do take time out from studying Boethius and listening to Mozart when I discover that Kimmel has scheduled the ultra-acerbic Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman to ride shotgun. (Cut me a break: we are all of us frail vessels.) The other night, Miss Silverman was commenting that she was now 32, and if she was going to have kids, she'd better get to it. In fact, she recognized that she was already pretty far past her prime, fertility-wise, adding that "the best time to try to get pregnant is when you're a black teenager."

Whereupon Kermit the Frog, a guest in the no. 2 chair, broke in with a warning for Miss Silverman to watch out lest she get herself into Rush Limbaugh-type trouble. But I think Kermit can relax. Miss Silverman isn't nearly as big as Rush, for one thing, and she's not under the kind of surveillance he's under. And, oh, yes, there's one other thing ... Let's put it this way: If Rush Limbaugh were Rush Limbavsky, chances are he wouldn't be in so much trouble now, either.

All that aside, nice going, Sadie. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Community oriented irony. It was ho-hum, par for the course, dog-bites-man, and then suddenly it wasn't.

On the 11 o'clock news the other night, the Fort Wayne ABC affiliate, WPTA, aired the comments of a local soldier who had just returned from Iraq, and he was brimming with the Pentagon's party line: the Iraqis are overjoyed that "we" have brought them freedom, and for good reason. For one thing, they can now have satellite TV! (The kids murdered by American bombs and missiles and machine guns may have a hard time partyin' down with MTV, but let's move on.) And, liyeeek, Saddam used to turn off the electricity in neighborhoods of Baghdad he didn't care for, but when the Americans invaded, Baghdadians, as everyone knows, started to get all the electricity they could use. (Keep moving, keep moving ...) Antiwar writers have noted how easy it is to make "community oriented" news programming serve the Empire's purposes, and this seemed to be just another example of that.

However, immediately following the young GI's propaganda spiel, WPTA ran tape of a violent street disturbance in Baghdad, with the voiceover explaining that Shiites were rioting because the U.S. military had "arrested" [sic] a popular cleric for giving "inflammatory sermons" [sic].

Is there a mole at WPTA, or has everyone in its news department been rendered totally deaf to irony? [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2003)

Not just for breakfast any more. Now that it has been discovered that the levels of bromine-based flame-retardant found in American women's breast milk have doubled since 2001, are 40 times higher than the highest concentrations found in Swedish women, and are 75 times higher than those found in recent European studies,

(1) Will women return to bottle-feeding their children and stop breast-feeding in public?

(2) Will formula ads on TV stop saying that "breast milk is best"?

(3) Will breast-feeding come to be considered a form of child abuse?

(4) Will breast-fed children be able to sue their mothers years from now, when it is found that some irreparable damage has been caused and that their mothers ignored the warnings?

Or will militant breast-feeding simply continue unabated? [Ronn Neff] (October 2003)

Cultural marker. The other night Turner Classic Movies broadcast "Deliverance," and when one of the characters uses the "F" word, it was not bleeped or suppressed in any way.

So a new level of crudity has now reached the living rooms of people who thought they were avoiding it by not purchasing the more-premium cable channels.

Meanwhile, I'm betting that the next time they broadcast "The Grapes of Wrath," the "N" word will still be suppressed. [Ronn Neff]

My favorite example of Turnerite rectification is the one I encountered some years ago when TCM aired "The Reivers" from 1969, starring Steve McQueen. In the original, the McQueen character — fundamentally a good fellow, you understand, though raffish — was pretty free in calling the principal black character a "nigger." (I believe that character was supposed to be some kind of cousin to the McQueen character: didn't those old Southron families just beat all?) But in the Turnerite version, all of McQueen's "nigger" gibes were excised — while the "nigger" rantings of the truly villainous characters were left untouched.

Man, that's the way to rewrite cultural and linguistic history! [Nicholas Strakon]

(October 2003)

"Deceit is the basis of all politics." — Ronn Neff, "Cognitive vanity," 1995. (September 2003)

"Criminal mischief," indeed. I'm distressed to see that even in TLD's tiny hometown of Roanoke, Ind., the press has made itself the slave of "law" enforcement. A front-page story in the Roanoke News for September 18 reveals that a week previously the cops surprised a marijuana party here in town, in the course of serving a warrant for "criminal mischief." Along with a quantity of the devil weed and related "paraphernalia," the constabulary discovered — according to the paper — "an oriental [sic] sword, throwing star, 17 various knives, and a semi-automatic pistol with ammunition."

My first reaction, just before my blood started to boil, was: So what?

Unless our supervisors in Indianapolis have changed things drastically in the past few weeks and I've been dozing behind the door, in Indiana it's actually legal to keep a gun in your house. Ammunition, too. I believe it's even OK with our legal eagles to possess swords, throwing stars, and knives. So far as I know, we're not yet restricted to spoons and chopsticks here in the Hoosier Heimat.

Had the gun been stolen from someone? Had the sword been smuggled back from Iraq by some black-marketeering GI? Were the knives suspected of once having tried to sneak aboard an airliner? The paper doesn't say. In fact it says nothing about why the weapons (or cutlery) were newsworthy.

Even though the cat's pretty much out of the bag on this one, I still won't name the unfortunate householder or give his address here. Among the many good reasons for that is this, which the Roanoke News may wish to consider: Gentlemen don't publish details about other gentlemen's armories. [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2003)

De mortuis nil nisi falsum. I hope you won't think I'm a hard-hearted man, but the truth is, I'm having trouble getting with the program again. At a televised memorial service on September 19 for Indiana's recently deceased governor Frank O'Bannon, his successor Joe Kernan praised O'Bannon for (among other things) making it possible for umpteen-thousand Indiana yutes to get health insurance. The TV camera lingered on the widow, weeping and nodding and applauding her husband's saintly deed, and then panned across a whole hog-pen of Hoosier politicos who joined in the applause, all tight-lipped and solemn and sincere.

There wasn't a damp eye here at TLD World Headquarters, I can tell you.

Let's focus on just this one great humanitarian achievement of the expired governor. (I'm sure there are hundreds of others.) Did O'Bannon give a boatload of his own (honestly earned) money to those yutes so they could buy that insurance? Did he get on the phone and make cold calls to wealthy Hoosiers at suppertime, trying to persuade them to send money to the yutes? Did he benignly neglect to enforce regulations that distort and cartelize the insurance industry in the state? I don't think so. No, he and the other members of his robber gang extorted money from people who had earned it and then sent it to the yutes; or they forced insurance companies, at gunpoint, to offer the yutes a giveaway; or they arranged to have Washington rob tax-victims in other states for benefit of the Indiana yutes. (Assuming it was the Hoosier Healthwise program that Kernan was mooning over, that turns out to be a standard Lyndon Johnson-type socialist-welfare scheme.)

O'Bannon's generosity with the money he stole from other people is something to cry about, all right: it's a crying shame. [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2003)

What, we should kvetsh about a few farkatke Scuds? On September 12, Robert Kagan (author of Of Paradise and Power) was on C-Span's "Washington Journal." A caller brought up the subject of neocons, and Kagan stated flatly that he didn't know what a neoconservative was.

Another caller explained, in somewhat petulant terms, what a neocon is and said that Israel was responsible for getting "us" to make war on Iraq. Kagan scoffed at the idea. It seems that Iraq was not really important to Israel; it was a minor threat. No, if U.S. foreign policy were truly designed in accordance with Israel's interests, Washington would have set its sights on the real threat: Iran.

If the United States decides to attack Iran, will it turn out that Iran, too, was only a minor threat? and that some other country (Syria?) was much more important to Israel? [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

Frontiers of chutzpah. Oh, the courage of network television, telling it like it is!

Delaying its third-season premiere in 2001, "The West Wing" aired a special episode, "Isaac and Ishmael," in which the West Wing crew talks to a group of high-schoolers about terrorism. The episode was rebroadcast on Bravo this year (on September 11, of course), and I marveled again at the meretricious explanation written for Josh Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford) to give in answer to a question about why Islamic extremists were trying to kill "us." After dismissing the vapid answers given by the students, who parrot the amateur propaganda they had been fed ("we're Americans" "our freedom" "and democracy!"), he lets them — and us — see a pro at work:

"It's probably a good idea to acknowledge that they do have specific complaints. I hear 'em every day. The people we support. Troops in Saudi Arabia. Sanctions against Iraq. Support for Egypt. It's not just that they don't like Irving Berlin."

I wish I could capture how Whitford paused here and there for emphasis or character expression, but then slid, pretty hurriedly, right past that "Egypt" on to Irving Berlin.

Egypt?!?! [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

Every dark cloud ... No doubt about it: once same-sex "marriages" are legal in this country, the queer divorce rate is going to soar! [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

This would work like magic! On September 11, Rush Limbaugh aired a caller ("Martha") who thought that someone she knew should receive government help for health-care and education expenses. Limbaugh rightly asked by what right she demanded that everybody help this young man; why did we all owe him health care or an education?

The next caller told Limbaugh that if the kid had stayed in the military he'd have gotten those things. And Limbaugh, staunch proponent of not living off the sweat of others' brows that he is, agreed at once.

Now, Rush has a hearing disability, so maybe he can't actually hear what he says. But what about the other guy?

The exchange has given me a policy idea for how to end the welfare state — define the poor as already being in the military! I'm not talking about conscription, but about a redefinition. (Redefining things is enormously popular these days.) That way the poor can receive military benefits, and it won't be as if the rest of us are paying for it, right? [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

Crisis, leviathan, and Howard Dean. Howard Dean criticizes the war and Bush's waging of it. Of course.

But has he made any pledges concerning the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act? or any similar legislation passed since then?

That is, does he just want to get rid of the war while keeping all the goodies it has brought the state? [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

The implications of Constitution Ted. On one of the Sunday morning shows for September 7, Ted Kennedy denounced the very idea of a recall election in California, declaring that the Founders wanted officials to be elected to terms of definite length and be permitted to complete those terms. Oh, right, the Founders. When Republican socialist-fascists endorse the Founders and constitutional republicanism, the first word that has to occur to anyone with a live brain is hypocrisy, assuming one allows that the name of the party still means anything. But when Democrat fascist-socialists such as Kennedy do it ... well, speaking for myself, I'm just about speechless.

But not quite. Constitution Ted pretends not to understand it, but referenda and recalls appeal to many of those still addicted to voting because they see that constitutional republicanism has failed, definitively, to prevent the rise of a tyrannical political class unaccountable to anyone but the ruling class. When the activists' referenda and recalls fail, too, let's hope a few restless souls among them can kick that statist junk altogether. [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2003)

If it were possible to reform government, it would not be necessary to. [Ronn Neff] (September 2003)

That curious incuriosity. "You'd think a libertarian, of all people, even one who liked to spell the word with a capital 'L,' would have his antennæ set aquiver by the fact that, in many 'advanced democracies,' those who arrive at unpopular conclusions about the Jewish Holocaust are routinely sacked, officially denied the right of publication, stripped of academic degrees, barred from government archives, barred from entry to the country, mobbed and firebombed with the connivance of the authorities, and even jailed. To the best of my knowledge, Germans and Frenchmen and Canadians who claim that Napoleon was poisoned or that Moses never met Pharaoh don't go to jail. I don't think even Flat Earthers go to jail in the advanced progressive social democracies of Europe and the Great White North. Something very strange is going on, and it's stranger yet that so many libertarians, including (if you will) Libertarians, are oblivious to it and to its implications." From "The Libertarian Party: New frontiers in free expression," by Nicholas Strakon, December 3, 2001. (September 2003)

Flies and lies and nonfalsifiability. What with the guerrilla war and widespread terrorism in Iraq, one might think that things were not going too well in that conquered province. However, the war hawks, who a short time ago were talking about the instant creation of a democratic Iraq, now claim that the turmoil and the killing of soldiers is all to the good. The purpose of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, we learn now, is to draw in terrorists from all over the Middle East. That is purported to strengthen American security because the terrorists won't be available to attack our homeland, and the United States will be able to apply massive military force against them in Iraq without worrying about all that civil-liberties nonsense.

It's called the flypaper theory. As Ralph Peters, flypaper theorist of the New York Post, writes: "We've taken the War Against Terror to our enemies. It's far better to draw the terrorists out of their holes in the Middle East, where we don't have to read them their rights, than to wait for them to show up in Manhattan again."

In the Mediocre Minds Think Alike Dept., war hawk Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes:

To win the war on terror, we have to kill the hard-core terrorists. It is better to fight them in Iraq, where our soldiers can kill them without reading them their Miranda rights first, than it is to wait for them to strike in Chicago or New York.

We have a "flypaper" strategy. It's working. ("There's a war on / Better to fight the hard-core killers in Iraq," August 24, 2003)

Michael Shannon, a critic of the theory, explains that the flypaper theorists'

contention is a simple one: the continuation of combat in Iraq is — contrary to popular wisdom and all supporting evidence thereof — beneficial to the United States and its interests. They claim that by engaging not only the Iraqi insurgents but also by drawing other militant Islamic warriors into the Iraqi theater we are not only fighting these people in a site of our choosing but by their very presence in Iraq they are not free to wield their wickedness elsewhere. (Democratic, "The Spider and the Fly," August 21, 2003)

In their economic analysis, redistributive statists often seem to assume that the amount of wealth in the world is static. Similarly, the Empire's flypaper theorists assume that the number of "terrorists" in the world is static. But in fact the U.S. occupation of Iraq has bred and energized new "terrorists." There is no reason to think that because many go to kill Americans in Iraq fewer will be available to harm American interests elsewhere. Indeed, it is quite likely that far more anti-American "terrorists" will be bred worldwide than will be killed in Iraq.

And does the United States really want to get into a war of attrition with Islamic militants, Arab nationalists, and other Middle Eastern radicals? How many American soldiers is the government willing to sacrifice to kill "terrorists"? A glance at history strongly suggests that large numbers of anti-American "terrorists" will be ready to die for their cause.

The flypaper theory simply provides another post facto propaganda rationalization for the war on Iraq and its occupation, when other arguments no longer hold water. Obviously, if things were quiet in Iraq, that too would be used to justify the war. In short, no matter what the actual situation is, war hawks will portray it as a justification for war and occupation. [Stephen J. Sniegoski]

For more adverse criticism of the Imperials' latest fantasy, see Alan Bock's piece at, "Terrorism and Iraq: The Link Is Real Now," August 26, 2003 — SJS.

(August 2003)

More thanks of an ungrateful people. In the lead article of the current Cato Policy Report (July/August 2003; Vol. XXV, No. 4), Jim Powell writes about Franklin Roosevelt's reputation as the white knight who rescued America from the despair of the Depression, arguing that Roosevelt's reputation is "headed for a crash."

"The first crack in the conventional wisdom," writes Powell, "appeared with the publication in 1963 of Friedman and Schwartz's Monetary History of the United States."

It is worth remembering that that same year saw the publication of Murray Rothbard's Great Depression (D. Van Nostrand Company). I am unable to say whether the Friedman and Schwartz book appeared before or after Rothbard's. I am able to say that in Powell's summaries of various studies of the failure of the New Deal (based on his newly published book on the Depression), he nowhere mentions Rothbard or his study.

I would probably have let all this pass without mention, but on the next page is Dave Boaz's editorial, titled "The Importance of History." As if that were not irony enough, the pull quote for that piece reads, "The truly great men are the ones who have fought for liberty, who have walked away from power," a phrase that describes Murray Rothbard far better than it does Milton Friedman. [Ronn Neff] (August 2003)

"Ingrates!" According to the media, a newly emerging resistance group in Iraq is pledging to fight the Anglo-American occupation even if the invaders rebuild the country. I predict that many Americans just won't be able to understand such ingratitude. If they'd read a little history, though, maybe they would: I mean real history, Kings & Battles & Rebellions, as opposed to Categories of Patterns of Socialization or Meditations on the Maturation of Ways of Coping.

Hilarity isn't really the order of the day, given the current bloodbath in the Middle East, but I couldn't help being put in mind of a certain hilarious scene in "Monty Python's Life of Brian" in which a band of Zealots in Jerusalem are sitting around talking about how much they hate the Romans.

"They bled us white, the bastards," one declares. "They've taken everything we had." Provoking another to ask: "And what have they ever given us in return?"

Whereupon members of the gang start coming up with some highly inconvenient answers: aqueducts ... sanitation ... roads ... irrigation ... medicine ... education ... public baths ...

"And the wine."

"Oh, yeah."

"Yeah. Yeah, that's something that we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left."

Someone also mentions peace and order, but that hardly fits here. For that matter, I'm not sure whether all of the Pythons' examples were solidly based in the history of the ancient Levant. In any case, the Circus clearly were having fun at the expense of anti-imperial rebels, letting the imperials come off looking pretty good. But they understood, at least, that subject peoples did revolt despite all that the more-advanced imperial invaders gave them in return for their subjugation. It's happened throughout history.

In more recent times many subject peoples have struggled against the domination of advanced empires that had taken away their independence in return for railroads, electric lights, modern plumbing, sanitation, telephones, and all the rest of it. Many, probably even most, of those peoples had labored under the oppression of their own Bad King, but they were still willing to fight for the land of their fathers against a foreign invader, however insistently his courtiers advertised him as a Good King.

The case at hand is even less auspicious for the imperials and the imperial peace. Americans may want to recall that the Iraqis already had railroads, electric lights, modern plumbing, sanitation, and telephones before the so-called Good King sent his soldiers to smash it all up. I'll note, too, that so far, despite all their 21st-century technology, the minions of the Good American Empire haven't been able to resurrect the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters whom they slaughtered with their superweapons. So let's stop and think before yelling, "Ingrates!" [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2003)

Why we call them totalitarian, or, Their premises are showing. Without knowing just what caused the Blackout of 2003, all the chatterers and pols and bureaucrats given access to the telescreen over the weekend agreed on the solution for our already heavily statized electricity industry: more government intervention, government authority, government planning. Show our supervisors a social problem, and they'll offer a statist "solution" every time. It's just the way they think. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2003)

Socialized medicine, stealth-style. According to a current segment of "Health in a Heartbeat" on NPR, a new study shows that doctors aren't treating elderly cancer patients with chemotherapy as often as "federal guidelines" say they should. Federal guidelines? It's nice to know that some doctors are still brave enough to rely on their own judgment and training as opposed to meekly enslaving themselves to the oracular pronouncements issuing from the National Institutes of Health. But it seems to me that one big malpractice trial turning on whether or not a doc followed the "federal guidelines" is all it would take to convert those "guidelines" into the law of the land, de facto.

And what do you want to bet that there are a thousand other "federal guidelines" pertaining to treatments for a thousand other diseases? [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2003)

Bodyguard of liars. Neocon Frank Gaffney is enraged that civil servants are acting as whistleblowers regarding the Bush administration's WMD lies. Gaffney writes in the Washington Times: "The past few weeks have seen a number of present and recently retired government employees coming forth to castigate the president and his national security team. The charge: selective utilization and willful distortion of intelligence about the nature and the imminence of the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States." ("Divided loyalties," August 12) Gaffney implies that all those civil servants are partisan Democrat liars and that the valid intelligence data actually pointed to Saddam's possession of WMDs. The glaring problem here is that somehow no WMD has surfaced, which implies that dissident civil servants were correct. [See my "The WMD lies."]

But Gaffney goes further than simply questioning the veracity of what the whistleblowers say by appearing to deny the right of any civil servant to differ with the covert Bush administration policy:

Where federal employees — whether civilian or military — find themselves unable faithfully to execute a president's policies, however, the public interest would be best served if they stop pretending to work for the government. They are welcome to join the public debate from outside, but, as they do so, they should make clear the political or ideological leanings that rendered them unable to work for the incumbent and his team.

Essentially, Gaffney is arguing that civil servants are obligated to go along with the president's policy of deception, since that is the only policy the current civil servants have opposed.

Somehow Gaffney ignores the fact that the president is supposed not to be an absolute monarch, but rather is supposed to carry out the laws that are made by Congress. Thus, for instance, the legislation establishing the CIA calls for it to procure intelligence, not push propaganda to advance the president's agenda. The CIA Website states:

The Central Intelligence Agency, like the rest of our government, operates under a series of checks and balances to ensure each branch runs properly. The CIA works together with members of both the Legislative and Executive branches to ensure that the Agency is providing its customers with the information they need when they need it.

Moreover, it is Congress that authorizes war (it used to actually declare war) and controls the purse strings. It is therefore essential that it be given valid information by the executive branch, not simply lies.

In short, that civil servants work for the "government" means that they are responsible to the legislative branch as well as to the president. To be a whistleblower, especially to blow a whistle at the misconduct of the president's men, is to serve the government in the highest sense of the word: or so, it would seem, any American constitutional republican would have to believe. Gaffney, by contrast, wants civil servants to serve as the president's personal servants, simply carrying out any trickery ordered by the president and his associates, because to Gaffney, the president is the government. Somehow, I don't think he held that view when Bill Clinton was in office. [Stephen J. Sniegoski] (August 2003)

With rabbits like these ... Now, I won't mention any names, but American libertarians are coming off as pretty pusillanimous in at least one respect. My suspicions on this front have been growing for quite a while, but now the pattern seems really to have gelled. Just about the only Website operators who have exhibited any interest in linking to Steve Sniegoski's antiwar pieces are American leftists; the only print publisher we've heard from is European. (And, oh, yes, in the wake of our publication of "The WMD lies" we also got a positive blip from the Webmaster for an American Indian site.) It's worth noting, too, that Sniegoski's magisterial essays receive praise from readers with Asian, Jewish, Hispanic, Arab, Pakistani, and Hindu names far more often than from those of apparent white Christian American heritage. As for those whose nationality is apparent, Sniegoski gets almost as many "attaboys" from among the 31 million Canadians as he does from among the 275 million Americans.

White American libertarians are all supposed to be antiwar and anti-imperialist, and while many of them on the Net do a good job of attacking the regime's wars, including those fought on behalf of Israel and at the behest of the neocons, they ignore TLD — one of the most intelligently and incandescently antiwar sites around, if I do say so myself — so consistently that you'd think they'd all received the same orders in a brown paper envelope at some murky midnight hour. (I said I'd mention no names, but I have to salute Strike the Root as an honorable exception to the rule; my apologies if there are one or two others out there.)

I can't help but think the blackout stems not only from our criticism of Israel but also from the fact that some TLD writers, most prominently Mr. Henry Gallagher Fields (but also including me), consider the persecution of the Jews during the World War II era a historical event and not a religious dogma; we apply the same evidentiary and analytical methods to the official account of "the" Holocaust that honest historians apply to persecutions of the Armenians, the Ukrainians, and the Cambodians. The unwritten law seems to be that you can criticize wars that serve the Zionist agenda, if you're careful and slippery enough; but beyond that you must not go.

Denials, anyone? As always, I am prepared to be educated.

Incidentally, it's not just a matter of honest disagreement. I link to many sites and articles that contain material I disagree with on important issues, and, c'mon, almost everyone else does, too. Furthermore, as Fields has pointed out to me, the ostensible reasons for the TLD blackout we get from those few site operators who are willing to communicate with us are about as risible and transparent as the wackiest of the regime's WMD lies.

If fear of Jewish power is an especially American disease, it's fair to say that it's endemic within the community of American libertarians. But fear — of any kind of power — that's strong enough to suppress analysis should cause self-proclaimed libertarians to blush. And that blush should bloom deep red when we compare libertarians to other types of people who freely make use of the freedom of expression that's still available to them; even more embarrassing (for American libertarians), many of the rambunctious foreign free-speakers we hear from live under the thumb of regimes that don't even pretend to have any respect for freedom of expression.

Chances are already slim that we can see a free society in our lifetime, but I think even our great-great-grandchildren can forget about it when the very people who are supposed to stand up and witness in the face of Power are somewhere off in the tall grass, shivering like rabbits. [NICHOLAS STRAKON] (August 2003)

"There are no merely political solutions to the death of a great civilization, and conservatives who think there are such solutions are as deluded as the liberals and communists who used to believe in 'building a new society.' Their 'new society' is here, but it's not something that was 'built'; it's the tragic residue of what they have destroyed." From Joe Sobran's Washington Watch column of August 7, 2003. (August 2003)

Fire! Have you reread Fahrenheit 451 yet this year? (August 2003)

They've officially dropped the "peace" part now. In the course of telling NBC's Tim Russert how efficiently he's been locking down our country ("Meet the Press," August 3), Insecurity Minister Tom Ridge said George W. Bush had correctly recognized that "we are at war. It is a permanent condition." Permanent, eh? Ridge didn't explain just when it was that the Littlest Crusader dropped his vision of the ultimate victory of United Statian Good over Foreign Evil.

It does seem that some line has been crossed. In the old days, the pols and bureaucrats never used the "p" word in describing their interminable wars; all their wars were supposed to be temporary, leading to permanent peace. It was only revisionists such as Harry Elmer Barnes who dared talk, ironically to be sure, of perpetual war for perpetual peace. Sure, we could often tell what our rulers were thinking — back in 1990-91, George the Somewhat Larger couldn't hide his palpable shock and disappointment when the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended. But now the insecurity minister himself is publicly talking about perpetual war — without bothering to blabber the traditional propaganda about peace! Sure is an iron future our "leaders" have arranged for us. But at least we can't say we weren't warned. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2003)

Replacing the "greatest generation." The regime awarded Jessica Lynch the Bronze Star the other day, and one of the West Virginia towns that claims her has erected a sign at its outskirts reading, "Home of Jessica Lynch — ex-POW." And the national media were there, cameras whirring, when Miss Lynch came home.

Now, I don't have a dog in this fight personally, but I do have an older relative who holds the Bronze Star. Franklin Roosevelt conscripted him in 1941 and kept him away from his loved ones for 42 months. As a combat infantryman, my relative participated in two amphibious landings and helped clear Saipan of Japanese troops resisting to the bitter end. He doesn't think much of the hoopla surrounding Miss Lynch, and he says it wouldn't make much difference even if the story of her heroic rescue were true, since she wasn't the hero in that fable. Apparently he doesn't understand that nowadays, according to the hysterical sentimentality that the American mob feeds on, We're All Victimssss, and for our heroes we must look among the Survivorssss. His sad case should probably be brought to the attention of someone in the Helping Professionssss.

Meanwhile, you've got to wonder whether there are any other "ex-POWs" living in that West Virginia town: men who, unlike Miss Lynch, were drafted and who wound up on the Bataan Death March or in a Vietnamese tiger cage. And you've got to wonder what those men think when they see that insulting sign.

This, it seems, is the new rule: the Empire may show gratitude now and again toward its dupes but never toward its slaves. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2003)

But never let it be said that we were spared nothing. According to word on the street, there was some agitation to award Truck Driver First Class Lynch the Medal of Honor. [Henry Gallagher Fields] (July 2003)

Commemorative correctness. The Iraqis have declared the day that the giant statue of Saddam was toppled a holiday, and they have repealed all the Saddam holidays on the books. This was hailed as a giant step toward democracy.

That's premature. Surely we won't know for sure until they finally enact Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. And of course they'll also have to politically destroy anyone who opposes that measure or who later attempts to repeal it. That's the real standard of democracy, isn't it? [Ronn Neff] (July 2003)

Roy Childs on political activism. From "Autarchy and the Statist Abyss" (1968): "The choices allowed the people [in elections] are artificial and superficial at best, and are always determined by the state itself."

In Roy's day almost all conservatives advertised themselves as "small-government" conservatives — even the Republican socialist Richard Nixon pretended to be one. That pretense has now worn pretty thin, but today's handful of "paleos" may still benefit from this admonition by Roy in "Autarchy":

What is the primary tool used by conservatives in opposing the growth of the state? Political action.

Conservatives propose to oppose the growth of the state by supporting politicians. And what do politicians do? They support the growth of the state. Conservatives would have you believe that you can dehydrate a plant by watering it, or get rid of rats by feeding them.

[Here's more of this passage, quoted by Ronn Neff in his Preface to "The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism."]

(July 2003)

An objection. If by "paleos" he means to refer to paleoconservatives, whoever wrote the latest "Stop and think" installment [see above] needs to refine his formulation. It's true that paleocons would benefit from heeding Roy Childs, but many or most just wouldn't be interested. Paleocons typically want to strengthen the state in various ways, and it goes beyond their participating in electoral politics. Case in point: the anti-free-market, border-police-state crowd at Chronicles magazine. [Modine Herbey]

I stand refined. Miss Herbey is correct about the paleocons: they are not necessarily "small-government" conservatives. For the record, I continue to find much of value and interest in almost every issue of Chronicles. [Nicholas Strakon]

(July 2003)

Men, not gods. "Government does not consist of men who have powers of epistemological elitism; that is, they have no means of knowledge not available to other men." — Roy A. Childs, Jr., "The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism." (July 2003)

Thanks for nothing, Howard. Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean is being represented as the nearest thing to an antiwar, anti-imperialist candidate Americans are likely to get from either of the duopoly parties. But as was the case with George McGovern's brand thirty years ago, Dean's peacenikery seems to boil down to nothing more inspiring than "Socialism in One Country" (apologies to Joe Stalin).

No one on our side of things is likely to be taken in by this latest charlatan, but just for laughs I'll report that on the June 22 edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" Dean characterized the Bush regime as a "radical-right administration that is undermining the New Deal." Be a nice trick, wouldn't it, since to even reach the New Deal and start all that "undermining," a pol would first have to dig down through the mile-high mountain of socialism-fascism erected on top of it over the past sixty years. But of course no one's interested in trying that — least of all the current Roosevelt-worshipping breed of Republican socialist-fascists. Howard Dean's left-wing goofiness is a gift to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the War Party. And those guys have it right, by the way: Leviathan abroad is the natural extension of leviathan at home. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2003)

Assaulting masculinity. A Reuter story from May 24 about the U.S. military seizing Iraqis' personal weapons contains this assertion:

"Many people have weapons in Iraq, where guns are an expression of masculinity." ("U.S. Sets Deadline for Iraqis to Hand in Weapons," by Nadim Ladki)

Clearly, this is just another dig at gun ownership by an anti-gun media entity.

Or is it? Suppose it is true.

How easy is it going to be to bring peace to an area where an occupying military is attacking expressions of the masculinity of the male populace? It's one thing to see the security organs do it in the United State: the assault on gunowners began winning big victories almost a century ago, and the general assault on masculinity began racking up broader triumphs, more or less unresisted, thirty-some years ago. But these Red Guards occupying Iraq are attempting to accomplish the same docilizing of an excitable male population overnight.

Should be fun. Let's hide and watch. [Ronn Neff] (June 2003)

Caught in the coils.
Nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus.

We can endure neither our defects nor their remedies — Livy. (June 2003)

We're all running-dog deviationists and wreckers, too. George W. Bush has begun to refer to critics who doubt that Iraq was a threat to the United State as "historical revisionists."

Help me out here ... who was the last head of state to refer to his political enemies as "revisionists"? [Ronn Neff]

"Historical revisionists," eh? Well, darn, we know that the neocons are all Methodists and, moreover, that they really don't exist, so we're just going to have to keep guessing who whispered this general-purpose slander into the ear of Bush the Illiterate. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2003)

If we were mistaken, at least we were not wrong. Limbaugh and other War Partisans are har-harring it that the Baghdad museum wasn't quite so pillaged as was initially reported. It seems now that there might be "only" 17 pieces missing. (Some say 33.) We haven't learned yet whether they include the Lion of Nimrud or the Warka Vase or the Tablets of Hammurabi.

For the moment let's not get into whether these new reports are true or false. For the moment, let's not even get into whether the initial reports were true or false.

The fact remains that when the best information available was that a museum had been pillaged of thousands of irreplaceable exhibits, and as archaeologists, historians, museum curators, and all those who cherish the legacy of humanity staggered in dismay, the reaction of Rumsfeld, Limbaugh, Hannity, and others showed them to be barbarians.

The initial report may have been mistaken or even a lie, but the reactions of the War Partisans were not based on the accuracy of the report. They were based on the appraisal by those men of the value of the reported loss.

That the latest information may be different does not make their reactions to the initial report different. That museum items were not lost after all does not make savage responses civilized. [Ronn Neff] (June 2003)

And 66 percent just don't care. OK, let's see whether you're really as immune to being shocked as you think you are: "A third of the American public believes U.S. forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll. Twenty-two percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons.

"But such weapons have not been found in Iraq and were not used."

That's from a June 14 story by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Frank Davies headlined "War poll uncovers fact gap / Many mistakenly believe U.S. found WMDs in Iraq" (temporarily accessible at

I always advise skepticism toward the results of public-opinion polls, given their history of abuse and the ideological tendency of most of the people who run them. But sometimes they have the ring of truth, especially when — as Davies says of this one — "the results startled even the pollsters.... How could so many people be so wrong about information that has dominated news coverage...?"

The poll was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, whose director, Steve Kull, notes that "the mistaken belief that weapons had been found 'is substantially greater among those who favored the war.'"

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution observes: "Most people get little whiffs and fragments of news, not in any organized way," and that may be the most salient point of all. Remember, the established media themselves have not lied outright and claimed that the Empire has discovered any WMDs in Iraq. They didn't lie before the war, either, and claim that any of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis — yet according to Davies "half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers.... But most of the Sept. 11 terrorists were Saudis; none was an Iraqi."

As David T. Wright suggests in his recent article, what the media have done is swamp casual news consumers with detail, conflicting commentary, speculation of both the informed and uninformed sort, and a chain of ever-changing stories from the regime. (Master evader David Brooks deserves to have a category all his own on that list.) It seems to me that habits of mind must have taken it from there: "statish" habits of mind, that is, carefully inculcated by our rulers and carelessly absorbed by the ruled. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2003)

New imperial auxiliaries. I can be pretty obtuse sometimes, but thanks to War Crimes Minister Donald Rumsfeld I'm finally catching on to what was really behind NATO's expansion into the former Sov Bloc. When the Clinton regime set out on its Drang nach Osten, I figured the primary aim was to cordon off Russia and intimidate her into bending the knee to the Permanent World Order, with a secondary benefit arising for politically connected U.S. arms manufacturers and other exporters in the form of new customers. No doubt that is all part of it, but Rumsfeld's speech to European officials at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 11 finally clued me in to the rest of it. (Sorry if you're far ahead of me here.)

We've all heard Rumsfeld spew his contempt at Old Europe, but it transpires that he really means to contrast that region to New Europe, which he and, one supposes, his confederates believe is readier to acquiesce in American imperialism, not just along the Russian limes, but around the world; and especially, one suspects, in the Muslim world. Rumsfeld's message seems to be that while the Old Europeans have forgotten that America saved them from the Nazis, the New Europeans remember that America saved them from the Soviets; and, of course, that the posture of gratitude is supine.

Rumsfeld's Garmisch-Partenkirchen speech mostly dealt with the War Party's latest WMD scare, which is summed up sufficiently in the NYT's headline: "Rumsfeld Says Iran Is Developing Nuclear Arms Under Guise of Civilian Program." (Richard Bernstein, June 13) Rumsfeld "called on the Atlantic alliance to find new ways of combating 'the nexus of terror and weapons of mass destruction,' which he called the biggest threat facing the countries of both 'old' and 'new' Europe." Although according to Bernstein he "struck a mostly conciliatory tone," the Minister of Blood and Thunder did display

some of his customary combativeness, continuing to draw a distinction between the "old" Europe, particularly France and Germany, and the "new," made up mostly of former Soviet bloc countries. He made it clear that the countries of "new" Europe understand what he called "the new threat" better than some of countries of "old" Europe.

"The distinction between old and new in Europe today is not really of a matter of age or size or even geography," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "It is a matter of attitude, of the vision that countries bring to the trans-Atlantic relationship.

"It is no surprise that many of the nations with fresh memories of tyranny and occupation have been among those most willing to face the new threats, and contribute to dealing with them," he said. "This attitude is why, a decade after the cold war ended, NATO has now invited 10 new allies to join the Atlantic alliance. They are bringing new vision and new vitality to our old alliance.

"Let me be clear: those countries have not been invited as junior partners, allowed to join the grown-ups' table so long as they sit quietly," Mr. Rumsfeld continued. "No, they have been invited to lead."

The New European countries are going to "lead," all right. They're going to lead in licking American spit.

In the old days, with a powerful Germany on one side and a powerful Russia on the other, it might have taken a miracle for New Europe to have escaped the old threat. But no such miracle would seem to be required for avoiding Rumsfeld's "new threat." One would think that the best precaution the New Europeans could take for avoiding that train was to stay the hell off the tracks, i.e., mind their own business. Instead, Rumsfeld is urging them to walk onto the tracks and set up housekeeping.

No doubt ordinary Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, and all the rest of the New Europeans are looking forward to seeing their sons die in some miserable faraway desert for the benefit of the human wolves in Washington, Tel Aviv, and New York. And also looking forward to hearing a lot more explosions and a lot more ambulance sirens at home. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2003)

There are a million Jayson Blairs out there. The affirmative-action scandal at the New York Times has inflicted real damage on the credibility of the System's established "paper of record," and the Times's two top editors have resigned in disgrace. How many other catastrophes in how many other industries can be traced to the blind and heedless worship of racial diversity? In industries where an employee's work is not signed, it may be harder to attribute fraud or blunders to a single individual — or easier to pull a cover-up. Every time I hear of an airline accident, a train derailment, a mass food-tainting, an electrical blackout, or a hospital horror story, I just can't help wondering. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2003)

Or is there a scene featuring underwater maps? Here's a scrap of dialogue, or a close paraphrase of it, from "Finding Nemo," Disney's latest animated talking-animal extravaganza:

Female fish: Let's stop and ask directions.

Male fish: No!

Female fish: What is it with men and asking directions?

In 2000, Barbara and Allan Pease published Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, which drew on recent brain research to account for certain differences in tendencies and abilities between the sexes. Whether the Peases' synthesis was right or wrong, theirs was a balanced approach, as evidenced by the latter part of their title. They as well as the woman who interviewed them on MSNBC seemed to think that everyone understood not only that men don't like to stop for directions but also that women don't do too well with maps. In the column I wrote at the time I expressed some skepticism about that universal understanding. Well, three years have passed, "cultural gravity" has continued to exert its inexorable force, and it looks as though the Peases may as well not have bothered to tell the whole story. The cultural revolution is deaf in one ear. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

The logic of conservatism. On May 27, Fox News's Sean Hannity spent the first half of his program lauding the government for the wonderful job it did in Iraq and the second half laughing at the Democrats for believing that the government, which "never gets anything right," can provide universal health care. [Sheldon Richman] (May 2003)

It's a pretty big stumbling-block at home, too. According to an AP story of May 25, the Imperial forces occupying Iraq have set a deadline by which the subject population must surrender its weapons. Seems that the single biggest stumbling-block the conquerors are confronting in their struggle to bring "order" to the Empire's newest province is — "an armed citizenry." Well, I suppose the Iraqis shouldn't expect egg in their beer. The Empire is bringing them Democracy. They can't hope to get Freedom as well. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

Hmm. I guess we're not safer after all. In light of the recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Israel, I'd already started to doubt that the U.S. invasion and conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq had made Saudis, Moroccans, and Israelis any safer. But now the U.S. Security Ministry has raised the domestic alert level back to orange, "amid fears," as the AP puts it, that "a wave of terrorist attacks overseas will spread to the United States." So I guess folks in Keokuk, Iowa, and Laramie, Wyoming, aren't any safer, either.

Honestly, I never thought they were much imperiled in the first place — at least not by Muslim terrorists — no matter how much the imperial military went stomping about the world. No doubt it's the Bicoasts that are most vulnerable to terrorism inspired by imperialism. Funny that those regions are the very lair of the imperial ruling class. Not so funny that millions upon millions of the ruled live there, too.

Oh, there's something else here I need help understanding. The AP was authorized to report that our genius supervisors are blaming "al Qaeda" for the attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. That has to be a brand-new outfit, right? One that has appropriated the name of the group destroyed by the glorious U.S. invasion and conquest of Afghanistan? [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

Hitler: the decline of knowledge. If the promos for it are any guide, we shouldn't expect to learn much from the CBS miniseries "Hitler: The Rise of Evil," premiering Sunday evening, May 18. They're representing Hitler not only as an evil man but also as a "madman." I'm shocked. The linking of evil with madness must distress all modern, progressive, compassionate folk. As I thought we had all learned by now, people who are mentally ill aren't evil; they're just sick, and they deserve modern, progressive, compassionate treatment with modern, progressive, compassionate drugs.

Seriously, great men of great evil — Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, Mao — have certainly had great evil influence on world history. But seeing their personal evil conjoined with a proposition of personal madness strongly suggests that some indispensable historical context is going to be stripped away from the story. And that guarantees our decline, deeper, ever deeper, into historical ignorance. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

The menu of socialism. Here's an excerpt from a recent Reuters dispatch: "U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on Thursday said public pressure may do far more than lawsuits and legislation to curb the junk food explosion that costs the government $117 billion each year in obesity-related health care costs." (Randy Fabi, "Health Czar Warns Fast-Food Joints to Shape Up," May 8, 2003) It's nice that this jumped-up "czar" isn't immediately going to push a fat-tax or egg on those wacko lawsuits, but let's think about the part that I put in italics. It can still be somewhat hard, at least in this country, for the totalitarians to thrust their claws into the intimate details of our private lives for no apparent reason other than to increase their own power and pelf. But here we see how the socializing of medicine gives Czar Tommy all the reason he needs. If the government is your keeper, it gets to tell you what to eat.

And by the way, when leviathan's "health czar" suggests something, it's not like you or me suggesting something. It's like Vito Corleone suggesting something. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

More ectoplasm from a dead Constitution. The war in Iraq has taught us something about penumbras and emanations.

It's not just the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause that have them. Apparently "provide for the common Defense" gives off some pretty expansive emanations, too. [Ronn Neff] (May 2003)

The one thing they can't say. What good are we supposed to imagine came from the sanctions on Iraq that killed perhaps half a million children? The one answer the administration cannot give is: "They prevented Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction." [Ronn Neff] (May 2003)

A republic not; an empire. On PBS's "McLaughlin Group" for May 11, Patrick Buchanan said that U.S. "allies" such as France and Mexico should be forced to "pay the price" for opposing (in company with the vast majority of their people) the Empire's invasion of Iraq. In the past Buchanan has occasionally written some interesting analyses of public affairs, but I'm afraid that any would-be friend of peace and liberty who, at this late date, actually supports the man will find himself almost inextricably deep into Gullible Fool territory. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

William Bennett as Great Hypocrite doesn't much interest me. I've always assumed the worst about that totalitarian Drug Warrior and opponent of the right of self-defense. I've always assumed also that his virtue book of some years ago was ghostwritten, like almost all the books attributed to members of the political and ruling classes. What interests me about the gambling story is the glimpse it offers us of the gaudy revels enjoyed by the imperial higher circles. Our supervisors surely do live high and have fun on the stupendous fortunes that a grateful System arranges for them, don't they? [Nicholas Strakon]

    Update on ghostwriting: Seems I was right. Here's a good piece on Bennett and "his" books by Sam Francis at [NS] (May 2003)

M.O. of empire: ... So the Americans said to Afghanistan, Give us Osama. And Afghanistan said, Give us some evidence. And the Americans said, We don't need no stinkin' evidence, and bombed Afghanistan. They set up a puppet government, and still haven't found Osama.

Fast forward.

... So the Americans said to Saddam, Hand over the WMDs. And Saddam said, I ain't got no WMDs. What evidence do you have that I do? And the Americans said, We don't need no stinkin' evidence, and bombed Iraq. They set up a puppet government, and still haven't found the WMDs. Or Saddam, for that matter.

It's a cute M.O. I wonder how many more times it will be used. [Ronn Neff]


Irony of war: Proponents of war said Saddam had WMDs and "we" had to get rid of him before he used them or gave them to someone who would use them.

Opponents (well, leftish opponents) said, No, no. Let the UN inspectors have more time to do their work.

The proponents said, Why bother? They'll never find them. Saddam has hidden them too well.

Fast forward to today.

Looks like the proponents were right — the UN inspectors would never have found them. [Ronn Neff] (May 2003)

Safety Bozos. Forget "Safety Nazis" and "Safety Stalinists." If you were still in any doubt about it after the long series of infant-car-seat disasters, you can be sure of it now: They're actually Safety Bozos. It's been at least twenty years since they started whining about how we all needed to have smoke alarms in our home: alarms, naturally, of a certain Official, Approved, Mandated design. But now the established media have been authorized to report the fact — only just discovered! — that the Official, Approved, Mandated alarms, though loud and piercing enough to send normal adults screaming out of the house for relief, aren't able to wake some kids up from a sound sleep. (Apparently overdoses of Official, Approved, Mandated Ritalin are not a factor.)

Whether they're engaging in military adventures abroad, squashing dissent at home, or regulating what goes on in our home, one of the worst things the bad clowns in charge of us create with all their cavorting is a false sense of security.

P.S. Uh-oh. Why have the established media been "authorized to report" this story? Our supervisor-goofs are never really held to account for any disaster they initiate; they're certainly not going to back off from this one. In fact, it could be that they've got some new regulatory demand up their big polka-dotted sleeve. Let's watch for it. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2003)

He is leaving fewer and fewer children behind. On April 30, President Bush put a national Amber Alert system into effect. Since he would be emperor of the world, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he also has on the drawing board an international system for finding lost children. Wonder-worker and man of marvels that he is, though, George W. Bush may have difficulty restoring to their desolated parents the lost and missing children of Iraq, taken away by his brave robot-warriors, bombing and rocketing from afar. But perhaps the ghosts of the lost children may find him, in the dead of night, so that he may hear their cries in his dreams.

Forever. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

The Empire and the end of history. I remember reading before the war that leading archaeologists and historians of the ancient world were worried about the fate of Iraq's antiquities, and ABC News confirmed that the other day, adding the important detail that the scholars actually warned the Pentagon to be careful — and received indifferent shrugs in return. We shouldn't be surprised.

In "The Consequences of World War II to Britain," libertarian revisionist James J. Martin noted that the increasing barbarism of modern warfare was exemplified on the American and British side by "barely literate young aviators who undertook the obliteration of Europe's ancient cities and cultural achievements with the lack of compunction displayed ... by a housewife dousing an anthill with a kettle of boiling water." Roosevelt and Churchill's jitterbugging, comic-book-reading, pinup-ogling young primitives happily pulverized and incinerated museums, galleries, libraries, universities, monuments, concert halls, opera houses, historic churches, and all the glories of Mediaeval and Baroque architecture they could encompass in their bombsights, in the course of murdering hundreds of thousands of noncombatant men, women, and children.

In light of that record, I suppose we should be thankful that the mouth-breathers of today's Imperial military didn't actually join in the fun and help destroy those Iraqi antiquities, after napalming the curators. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

To the discussion provoked
by my bizarre, extremist
defense of civilization.

The capture of Abu Abbas in Baghdad is being trumpeted as proof positive that Saddam was harboring terrorists.

Having a terrorist who can be identified by name counts as proof positive. So ... does that mean there was no proof positive before the war?

Surely not. Surely it means that the government always had proof positive. They just couldn't tell us. They just didn't want to tip off the guys they knew were in Iraq.

Let that go. Even so, is it not a tacit admission that the state had never offered Americans proof positive before? But that is not what the media were saying, is it? [Ronn Neff] (April 2003)

Abbas the casus belli. War fans are adducing the capture of Mr. Abbas as a further justification for the invasion and conquest of Iraq. He is notorious for two terrorist acts, neither of which occurred on American soil or in American waters: first, the seizure of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, during which an American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered; and, second, what CNN refers to as "an abortive speedboat attack on bathers on a beach near Tel Aviv" in 1990.

It's odd to report, and naturally one hates to rely too heavily on the accuracy of CNN, but in May 1996 that news organization also said that Abbas was in Gaza and that "Israel allowed him in to cast his vote at a meeting of the Palestinian National Council last month and has turned a blind eye to his presence since then."

One would not have been surprised to see U.S. authorities extraditing Abbas to Italy, had he wandered into the American bailiwick, but I fail to see how it was ever the business of American police to pursue him in foreign countries. I also fail to see how his arrest has suddenly become a justification for the American invasion and conquest of a foreign country that had not attacked America. That is unless Washington really does rightfully rule the world. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Good for the gander? Does this mean that, if the terrorist Ariel Sharon should come to America, and be "harbored" here, various Muslim countries would be justified in invading and conquering America? [Henry Gallagher Fields] (April 2003)

Limbaugh and the truth of war. Who said truth is the first casualty of war? In some ways that is so, but on April 16 we had a demonstration that sometimes war brings out the truth.

Talking about war protesters who intended to refuse to file their income tax as a protest against the war, Rush Limbaugh called them tax cheats.

Back when it was the Clinton administration raising taxes, or when it was Democrats opposing lower taxes, Limbaugh used to say it's not the government's money.

I didn't believe him then, for I knew he was a Big Government Just Not As Big As Tom Daschle Likes It man. (For one thing, this "Constitutionalist" believes that inflation is necessary — though he has never suggested that an amendment is necessary for there to be a central bank.) But he's out of the closet now.

In wartime, I guess it's not the protesters' money to do with as they please. Not at all. In wartime, it's the government's money, and refusniks are cheating the government.

Thanks, Rush. We needed that. [Ronn Neff] (April 2003)

Barbarian update, or, Welcome to the twilightof civilization. On April 14 Sean Hannity got a call from a listener to his radio show who said that the sacking of Baghdad's museum of antiquities, with all its treasures from the dawn of civilization, was a disaster.

Hannity replied that it wasn't; the artifacts looted or destroyed were just a bunch of stones. When the caller insisted that the Army should have protected the museum, that it should have been a priority, Hannity replied, "Well, I'm sorry. They were too busy protecting the oil fields; they were too busy protecting Israel; they were too busy protecting civilian lives; they were too busy protecting the lives of American soldiers."

Not one word about protecting the liberties of Americans or that Constitution that he says is such a good thing. But there was one country that got a mention. [Ronn Neff] (April 2003)

Neocon ... paleocon ... and now Vandalocon. The "conservative" Hannity should never be permitted to live this down. Henceforth he should be ostracized by all civilized people, just as if he lurked in a cave, wore a bloody pelt, and brandished a club crusted with brain matter.

By the way, the museum's deputy director says one tank and a handful of soldiers are all that would have been necessary to protect the museum. Israel's Surrogate Army was too busy for that? One wonders whether Donald "Australopithecine" Rumsfeld and his pack of stinking jackals actually wanted the antiquities to be destroyed. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Americanization has begun. The New Iraqis are fast learning the values of their new masters: mobs have raided Baghdad's museum of antiquities, which contained precious artifacts dating from the dawn of civilization. According to Reuters, "deputy [museum] director Nabhal Amin wept and [said]: 'They have looted or destroyed 170,000 items of antiquity dating back thousands of years.... They were worth billions of dollars.'" Aw, liyeek, lose that uptight 'tude, babe: you guys got to get that boring old history junk out of the way to make room for rap "music," Adam Sandler, and Jerry Springer!

By the way, it will be interesting to see whether the loss of the Iraqi antiquities during the American occupation evokes the same wailing and gnashing of teeth as the Taliban's demolition of those Buddhist figures carved in the hillside. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Neo-Nazi propaganda on late-night TV. That anonymous monitor of dissent who left a diatribe on Ronn Neff's voice mail had better get on the horn to CBS. On the "Late Late Show" for April 11-12, host Craig Kilborn was talking about the upcoming Tax Day and said, "Just remember, fellow citizens, your tax dollars are going to be used for schools, roads, bridges, and hospitals ... in Iraq." Now, how does that qualify as Supporting Our Troops? Sounds like just more of that anti-Semitic peacenik stuff to me. Doubtless this man Kilborn should be hounded from the official telescreen. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

"Minds"? Us not spoze to have minds! The official media tell us that Saddam was seen at a particular site before it was bombed. The only disagreement seems to be over whether he was killed in the strike.

But wait ... How many tapes of "Saddam" do we have, and how many experts and Saddam acquaintances do we see poring over them in an effort to determine whether it's really Saddam or some lookalike? Sometimes they take days to conclude that they just can't be sure, even using voiceprints. But now someone gets a quick look at someone who is said to resemble Saddam, and the media know that Saddam "was seen"?

Maybe he was seen. I don't care. But I do care that the media actually expect us to swallow their dreck without our minds working at all. [Ronn Neff] (April 2003)

I'm sorry to be such a slow student, but I've got to ask. Since Saddam's command and control was so bad; and most of his soldiers were so inept, demoralized, or disloyal; and most of their technology was so primitive ... since his forces were unable to make a stand even in Baghdad, though urban warfare goes far toward leveling the technological playing field ... and since Saddam was unable to deploy his fearsome Weapons of Mass Destruction even in defense of his own life and homeland, how much danger did an independent Iraq ever really pose to the citizens of Keokuk, Iowa, and Laramie, Wyoming? [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

"Minimizing civilian targets" — now we finally understand what They mean by that. Pvt. Nick Boggs, U.S. Army, killed one of those minimal civilian targets, a little boy, and then expatiated on his accomplishment: "I think they thought we wouldn't shoot kids. But we showed them we don't care."

Lest anyone accuse me of lifting that quote out of context, here's the full story from "Killing a child: 'I did what I had to do.'"

One important element of the context that I won't try to bury, but instead proclaim, is that the child — when Boggs decided to destroy him with machine-gun fire — was attempting to pick up a rocket-propelled grenade from the body of a fallen "paramilitary" fighter. Remember the scene in "The Patriot" that all the soppy liberals hated — where the Mel Gibson character's sons helped him ambush a party of marauding British troops? Just as defenders of liberty and civilization cheered that scene, so will we mourn that brave child in Iraq. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

"NBC-33 offers its thanks and support to the local servicemen and -women fighting to keep America safe." That's the script of the combination PSA and house ad, I guess you'd call it, that WKJG, the NBC-TV affiliate in Fort Wayne, is running several times a night — oftimes, just before and during the evening news. It's narrated by Linda Jackson, one of the evening-news anchors, and her little spiel is followed by photos of some of those Hero Safety-Fighters.

The nonsense about the troops' having invaded Mesopotamia to keep America safe is both risible and disgusting, but right now I'm more interested in the support that WKJG is offering. Just what form does it take? In other words, when the "news" comes on, how many more grains of salt do we need to swallow now compared to what we've been swallowing? [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Thugs. If you've got a normally functioning moral sense, you don't need to study footage of checkpoint massacres to figure out that the Iraq war is a criminal outrage. On Sunday the 6th, CNN repeatedly showed tape of U.S. soldiers, Somewhere in Iraq, conducting door to door visits and introducing themselves to one family by kicking in their front gate. The thugs proceeded to order the family, including an adult man, two adult women, and three little children, out of their house and force them to kneel with their hands in the air.

Seeking to reassure viewers who might have been getting the right idea, the CNN war-propagandist who was narrating said that the soldiers didn't point their weapons directly at the family. However, the family themselves did not look reassured. In fact it was the sight of the children trembling and weeping in terror that made me explode in fury.

Those soldiers had no right to do what they did. How would you feel if armed thugs bashed their way onto your property, ordered you and your kids out of your house — barking at you in a foreign language, by the way — and made you all kneel in your front yard?

Although it would have been a rash act given the presence of women and children, that homeowner had every right to open fire on the invaders the moment they broke through his gate.

Apologists for Imperial criminality will tell us that the U.S. thugs were just protecting themselves — trying to ensure that the family weren't harboring any of the innumerable Iraqi special forces and irregulars that the Empire suddenly started bleating about when it launched its invasion. Protecting themselves? If they had wanted to protect themselves against Iraqi ambushers, the thugs should have bloody well stayed home. Now, if you ask me, they needn't bother coming home. We don't need Americans like them. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Imagine if American reporting on the war were to become the model for high-school sports reporting:

You'd see members of the other team foul out, but not members of your own. You'd hear a lot about injuries to the home team, but little of injuries to the other team. In fact, the other team's injuries would be blamed on the other team's coach for having brought his guys to the game in the first place.

And his team wouldn't be playing for the glory of their school: they'd be playing because they'd been threatened with detention if they didn't. It would be assumed that the parents of the other team's cheerleaders were being held hostage. And no one would understand why the other team's fans didn't cheer when your team scored. Or why none of them sneaked over to your side of the floor to cheer for your team.

There'd be reporters sitting on the bench asking the coach questions and making notes. They would never actually watch the game.

After a week of shouting, "We're going to murder 'em!" the coach would say, "This was pretty much what we expected" when the other team was leading at halftime. [Ronn Neff] (April 2003)

Ah, now we're safer. Yes, those seven Iraqi women and children killed at the checkpoint pose no further threat to Americans in Keokuk, Iowa, or Laramie, Wyoming. And there's a bonus. All seven will now enjoy what the U.S. regime likes to call Iraqi Freedom — forever! (More Freedom needs to be administered, though, to the two passengers in the van who were only wounded.) [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2003)

Asymmetrical warfare: Class is now in session. Military historian and analyst Martin van Creveld — an Israeli, by the way — wrote about it years ago in his classic, The Transformation of War, and of course he wasn't the only writer to grapple with it. But now our supervisors act surprised when Iraqis masquerading as civilians open up on the invading forces or blow themselves to pieces in hopes of taking some of the invaders with them.

It's always hard to tell what our masters really consider an unpleasant surprise — as I keep pointing out, they do thrive on chaos — but we, at least, ought not be surprised by the advent of asymmetrical warfare. It's the predictable resort of a technologically backward, materiel-starved, encircled foe.

Beyond inflicting immediate casualties on the foeman, asymmetrical warriors seek to make the high-tech invader more trigger-happy toward civilians, which naturally makes atrocities against civilians more likely. And that, in turn — or so Creveld and the others used to say — helps demoralize both the invader and his supporting civilian population back home. Now, that part of it seems charmingly nostalgic nowadays, since both the invader and his home front were deliberately amoralized, if you will, long before this war started. Ding a few kids and old ladies? If they're still breathing when you roll by, just toss 'em some Milky Ways and cigs, and you're cool, dude. One thing's for sure: no one back home is going to care.

Though demoralization of the Imperials is probably a non-starter, the other strategic objective of asymmetrical warfare remains valid for the Iraqis: and that is the igniting, right across the Muslim world, of unsleeping, unforgiving, incandescent hostility toward America and her expanding empire.

Do we feel safer yet? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Send Pataki to Iraq. On March 28 the New York Post ran a picture of a kindly American soldier giving a cigarette to a wounded Iraqi soldier.

What! It's not enough that the Americans wound the guy, but then they try to poison him with nicotine?! Isn't attempting to poison a prisoner of war a violation of the Geneva Convention?

In other news of the day involving the Demon Leaf, Governor Pataki signed into law a prohibition against smoking on public property anywhere in the state of New York. Is that the "liberation" Americans are bringing to Iraq? That wicked Saddam probably still lets Iraqis smoke in public. Maybe that's what is meant by "gassing his own people." [Ronn Neff] (March 2003)

The countercultural principle at work. Also on March 28, the Post did a story about children as young as 10 years old carrying weapons against U.S. troops. This, of course, was Saddam at his worst. (No one else would ever think of sending children into battle, right?)

There was a picture showing a U.S. soldier and a little girl. The caption said that U.S. troops were "forced" to search children for hidden weapons.

Note that it was a male soldier. I'm pretty sure that American standards of searching little girls are more invasive than Middle Eastern standards would be. It would not be surprising if Middle Easterners regarded this sort of thing as the next thing to the rape of their daughters.

But Americans do not have to worry about other people's standards. Except in the United States. There, other people's standards trump U.S. cultural norms. [Ronn Neff] (March 2003)

$74.7 billion. This vast fortune extorted from Americans, as well as the inevitable supplementary appropriations yet to be proposed for the Iraq war, will be included in the annual figures for U.S. subsidies to Israel, right? Just checking. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

It's just hopeless. Winding up a story on a local pro-war prayer service (sic), a reporter for the Fort Wayne, Ind., NBC-TV affiliate said on March 26 that it now appears that the war may last longer than predicted, "and that's why we all have to be united" in supporting it. Right: not united in raising new questions about it, but united in supporting it. In the past I marveled at how terror fever and war fever seemed to have robbed many Americans of 40 IQ points overnight. Now I marvel at how many are still able to feed and dress themselves. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Who booed Michael Moore? When the Commie filmmaker accepted his Oscar, he gave an antiwar speechlet, and the boos from the audience almost drowned out the cheers — even though Hollywood is about as Red as Moore himself on most issues, and Reds used to oppose U.S. wars. Some actors and actresses do oppose the war, but the commotion resulting from Moore's remarks should restore our sense of proportion. In view of the dominant ethnic attachment of the Hollywood heavyweights, how many boos do you think Moore would have gotten if Mr. Bush's war were in Venezuela or someplace else far distant from Israel and her concerns? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

The law of Imperial magnetism. It's reported that 50,000 Iraqi nationals live in the United State today. Whether the current war ends quickly or turns into a meat-grinding "Stalindad" for the Imperial coalition, what do you want to bet that five years from now there will be at least 250,000 Iraqis on our shores? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

The "embedding" of CNN. A friend of TLD reports:

On the morning of March 26, CNN was showing a briefing by the Iraqi defense minister in Baghdad, who was claiming that coalition forces were trapped in Umm Qasr. After a few minutes CNN anchor Carol Costello said the network was cutting away from the briefing because "of course the U.S. government would disagree" with what the official was saying.

Our intrepid media strike again.

(March 2003)

Let's see all the bodies. Propaganda flacks of the Imperial war machine are lambasting Al-Jazeera for airing pictures of some of the dead American troops. It's reminiscent of the F.D. Roosevelt regime's forbidding, during the first six months of the U.S. war in the Pacific, the publication of pictures of the American dead by U.S. news organizations. And just as it did in 1942, it throws into sharp relief the clashing interests of the American people and the regime that rules the American people. The American people need to see as much as they can of the true costs of war, up close and nasty. If they did, maybe even some of the dumbhead dupes attending pro-war rallies might mute their cheers. In any case we may be thankful that not all the journalists covering this criminal enterprise are of the "embedded" variety. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

A magnificent victory on the part of the Imperial forces seems to be shaping up — virtually costless, too, at least in terms of legionaries' lives.

But as much as I always hate to ask inconvenient questions, I've got to ask this: Do you feel safer or less safe now? And this: Once the legionaries dance on Saddam's grave, will the Insecurity Ministry drop the alert status to green? And this: What are the chances that, five years from now, American civilians in Baltimore, Boston, and San Diego will be any safer from Levantine mouseketeer deviltry than the legionaries occupying Iraq? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Good only for the goose. I never understood this kind of thinking before the war started, and I don't understand it any better now. One outlet of Minitrue reported on March 20 that the Iraqis seem to have launched missiles with a range of at least 120 miles and that their possession of such missiles would "legitimize" the U.S. invasion. At the same time, the United State possesses hundreds or thousands of missiles, including cruise missiles with a range of 600 miles, some of which it has already fired into Iraq. In fact, it fired its missiles into Iraq before Iraq fired its missiles back. In further fact, the United State is the aggressor here and Iraq the defender.

Someone needs to explain the morality of empire a little more clearly. Maybe the regime should try to come up with an Anti-Augustine who could expound some Unjust War Theory. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

A moral imagination.

The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
"We're sure the Kaiser loves our dear old Tanks!"

I'd like to see a Tank come down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or "Home, sweet Home,"
And there'd be no more jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.

 Siegfried Sassoon, "'Blighters,'"
from War Poems: 1915-1917 (March 2003)

Let's hear it for the Irish, who for centuries resisted a self-righteous expansionist power — which eventually became the imperial power in the world — even though ultimate victory was never in view. Starved, disarmed, bullied, insulted, and subjected to the best thought-policing techniques of the day, the Irish kept fighting and never learned to love their oppressors. Let us hope that all other peoples under the boot of Empire may follow their example; and may their oppressors be in Hell not an instant before the devil knows they're dead. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

A whole lot of nothing. On Sunday, March 16, CBS's Bob Schieffer asked Vice President Cheney whether Americans should be primed for terrorist attacks in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Cheney replied that Americans have already been the target of attacks at home, even though "we" (the permanent U.S. regime) had done nothing.

This man has a curious notion of "nothing." The fact that he could utter such nonsense and not be laughed off the air is yet another indication of how deeply submerged we all are in that steaming bowl of Campbell's. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Will O'Reilly apologize when the cheering stops? There's at least one spectacle that the Imperials and their media spokesdrones are really looking forward to. Fox News's heavyweight War Partisan Bill O'Reilly referred to it on March 6 while interviewing antiwar actress Janeane Garofalo. O'Reilly said that if the invading American troops are greeted by jubilant crowds of Iraqis, delirious over being liberated, Miss Garofalo will need to apologize for her resistance to the war. (O'Reilly said an apology will also be required if the troops "find lots of bad stuff," which I take to mean weapons that were potentially effective against the Empire's aggression.)

Miss Garofalo said she would apologize in that case, but surely that is an unnecessarily rash undertaking. The Imperial forces had darn well better score at least as well on the flowers-and-kisses-and-cheers meter as the Wehrmacht did during its first few weeks in the Ukraine. Don't you think? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Another throwaway shocker. Minitrue has a category of statement that I like to call the throwaway shocker. Here's an extreme (and so far fictional) example of what I mean: "Finally, in solar system news, the Jovians have completed the second ring on their space station. Now here's Butch Grinfool with sports ..." Wha — wha — wait a minute! I heard a new throwaway shocker the other day, this time for real, in a telescreen report on parents' inability to make sense of the latest mandated model of infant car seat. According to the story, folks can't figure out the manuals, which are written at a 10th-grade level. And one explanation for that, quoth the telescreen, is that nearly half the adults in the United State read at or below the eighth-grade level.

No citation was offered to back up the shocker — that's part of what puts it in the throwaway category — but if it's true it goes a long way toward accounting for the popularity of "The Jerry Springer Show," "Joe Millionaire," and "George W. Bush's War." (Unfortunately even an eighth-grade education isn't what it used to be.)

One of my co-conspirators here at TLD is sure to point out that it's the smart but evilly educated people who are the real problem, and he's not wrong, but it seems to me that for the sort of Polite Totalitarianism we've got in America right now to work properly, it does help to have a mass population of illiterate and subliterate dumbheads.

Our masters apparently are confident that a dwindling cohort of hard-working but controllable smartheads can keep a high-tech economy going; but that may be what much of the subsidized immigration from Asia is all about. In any case ease of rule is more important to our masters than any economic considerations, as long as they themselves are assured of being able to wallow in luxury. That being so, we ought to recognize that the literacy catastrophe — if it has truly come to pass — is not a failure but rather a triumph of leviathan's schooling system. Nor is the latest car-seat "crisis" itself a failure — not for our supervisors. In the twisted marketplace of statism, the long series of car-seat "crises" amounts to a twisted kind of demand calling forth a twisted kind of supply: more cops, fines, "programs," funding, bureaucratic scolds, Big Nurse propaganda, and statist fuss and feathers in general. The more of Their arbitrary "laws" and regulations we violate, the better They like it.

Now it may appear that I've come up with a shocker of my own, of a disturbingly quietistic or counterrevolutionary sort, but rest assured I'm not just going to throw it away. It's true that we're nose-deep in some very hot soup: our rulers actually benefit from the lawbreaking (and social chaos) that their totalitarianism promotes among us. But that is so only up to a point — the point at which leviathan's own citadels are threatened. Our task is to figure out how to get to that point, not as dumbhead inadvertent car-seat fumblers — and certainly not as foolhardy martyrs or heedless runners-amuck — but rather as educated, deliberate, careful resisters.

It's a big task, but it seems to me that some pretty important citadels of leviathan are neither distant nor all that unconquerable: the ones in our minds and in the minds of our neighbors. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

War and taxes, taxes and war. On "CBS Sunday Morning" for March 2, cuddly, avuncular Establishment spokesman Bob Schieffer scolded the Bushies for talking about tax cuts. After all, "we" are on the verge of war! How can "we" be taken seriously if "we" cut taxes now?

That gem of Establishment wisdom reminds me of something Tom Paine wrote: "I know not whether taxes are raised to fight wars, or wars are started in order to raise taxes." [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

Ku Klux deviltry at Ohio State! On March 3, in a TV report on the latest so-called research about how to prevent prostate cancer, a so- called cancer researcher at Ohio State University claimed that "prostate cancer affects African-Americans at nearly double the rate of Caucasians." This racist mountebank must immediately be fired! Everyone knows that we're all the same, and that — as the authentic, progressive, politically approved scientists tell us — the races simply don't exist. (March 2003)

In view of the scandal currently exploding at the Air Force Academy, I need the Authorities to clarify something for me. I understand that we're all supposed to Support Our Boys, but does that include the rapists coming out of Colorado Springs? Are we supposed to root for them, too, as well as for the Air Force commanders who have turned a blind eye to their crimes? I'm starting to wonder how many hero-rapists will be among those heroically bombing Iraqi women and children to ashes a few weeks from now, as another heroic chapter of United State history is written.

 Of course the female cadets may be making it all up, but the very Authorities responsible for the postmodern coed military academies tell us that women just don't lie about being raped. Whatever the truth of this particular matter is, parents may want to discourage their daughters from becoming involved with criminal organizations. You know, sort of as a general rule? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2003)

"Munich" again! To beat up on noninterventionists who oppose their latest foreign adventure, the imperialists are nattering about Munich again, and it just makes me tired. Surely the only way they've been able to get away with that bunk, time after time, is that the nonreaders making up most of their audience have heard of Munich only through them. In fact, the accord reached at the Munich Conference of 1938 may have amounted to appeasement by England and France, but it certainly wasn't nonintervention. Ask the Czechs, who were excluded from the talks that decided their fate. My guess is they felt rather brutally intervened upon, as two of the world's strongest established imperial powers — which had helped invent Czechoslovakia a mere two decades before — now leaned on them to acquiesce to the ambitions of a newly rising imperial power.

If you really want to see something like "Munich" in action, study the current machinations of today's imperial superpower. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2003)

DIVERSITY! quack quack DIVERSITY! quack quack ... According to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, the regional campus of Indiana University-Purdue University hon ored six people on February 22 "for their devotion to spreading diversity in the community." (February 23 edition, p. 1C) But one of the honorees, who apparently is a Hispanic gentleman, was quoted saying something downright puzzling: "I dream of being not classified as Mexican-American, African-American, Hispanic-American, but ... as an American." Isn't that a flat repudiation of "diversity"? Strangely, the paper did not report the immediate revocation of his award. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2003)

The duct-tape sheeple. Opponents of tyranny and criminal war spend most of their time denouncing the state's own actions, and that's only natural. But when we hear of shoppers in deepest Indiana — which is absolute terra incognita to all varieties of Levantine mouseketeer — stripping store shelves of duct tape in response to the ravings of Insecurity Minister Tom Ridge, we begin to see both sides of our plight. And all the pallid therapeutic jargon about "co-dependency" cannot begin to do it justice. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2003)

Another highly inconvenient question from Joe Sobran, writing in The Wanderer:

"The administration says it is willing to 'go it alone' against Iraq, even without allied support if necessary. Brave talk, but is it really true? Without France, Germany, Russia, even England, perhaps. But without Israel? If Ariel Sharon were against the war, would Bush dare wage it?" (Washington Watch, "From Osama to Saddam," February 13, 2003) (February 2003)

Are we supposed to take their yammering seriously or not? I just found out from the telescreen that we're in the middle of one of those Official Weeks the System occasionally comes up with. Turns out, it's one that I can really get behind: Burn Awareness Week. I think we should all try to visualize the terrible burn injuries that strategic bombing inflicts on men, women, and children on the ground. Try to imagine the screams of those who aren't killed outright. Try to conceive of what their pain must be like.

I wonder whether Our Boys (and Wimmin) in the Imperial Military are being told about Burn Awareness Week. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2003)

In honor of Black History Month, I join with our African-American brethren in lamenting one of the greatest and most prolonged crimes ever committed by white Westerners (with the crucial assistance of Africans): the kidnapping, enslavement, and forced migration of hundreds of thousands of Africans to the North American continent over a period of two centuries. What a profoundly different country this would be if that titanic crime had never occurred! [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2003)

Jimmy Fallon on "Saturday Night Live," Weekend Update segment, February 8: "In Kansas this week over a hundred fish were found dead in the Baker Wetlands, and local environmentalists fear that someone may have deliberately killed them. In response, President Bush says that now we have no choice but to go to war with Iraq." (February 2003)

How to protect Our Boys (and Wimmin). According to what Our Government is telling us now, that dastardly Saddam has given his field commanders the authority to use chemical weapons against Our Boys (and Wimmin) in the Imperial Military. And Imperial commanders are scrambling to figure out how best to protect them against such deviltry. Always wishing to be helpful, the TLD Ministry of War herewith recommends a strategy that's sure to be 100 percent effective: Bring them home! (February 2003)

Richard Cohen says they're ungrateful those darned Europeans who are reluctant to join Bush War II. You know, what with Eisenhower's Great Crusade and all?

In his column for January 28, Joe Sobran responds: "Think of that! We save their freedom for them, and they insist on acting like free countries! Did our brave soldiers die so that they could disagree with us?" ("The School of Experience") (January 2003)

The Emperor has no State Department. If I might wear a republican constitutionalist hat for a minute in these anarchist precincts, I'd like to ask a question, and please excuse my naïveté in advance. Before turning to Clausewitz's "other means," did the Empire attempt to settle whatever conflicts it thinks it has with Iraq using actual, old-fashioned diplomacy? I'm thinking of something a little more sophisticated than grunted ultimata, curled-lip insults, and bellowed threats. Foreign Minister Colin Powell still occasionally pops up in public, but he doesn't seem to be doing anything beyond trying to round up allies for the war. Even the Romans occasionally engaged in actual diplomacy, but I guess that a totalitarian world empire dripping with weapons of mass destruction doesn't see much need for it. [Henry Gallagher F ields] (January 2003)

Right you are, HGF. I might add that if a regime sees itself as a Holy Empire, the Great Teacher of Mankind, and the Light of the World, it has to consider anyone who resists it as being simply madddddd. And what good does it do to negotiate with madmen?

Here's hoping that Nemesis may come, at last, to feast on such hubris. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2003)

An old friend of TLD observes: Jews often complain that they have been repeatedly persecuted in and expelled from various European countries. But aren't these two importantly distinct things?

If Spain persecutes you, you will presumably try to leave voluntarily. If it expels you, it presumably means you were content to live there and would prefer to go on living there. Expulsion itself may be considered persecution, a violation of liberty and property rights, but it suggests that you were at least tolerated until the moment the rulers decided your presence was no longer tolerable.

In other words, the many expulsions of the Jews may actually mean that Europe treated the Jews decently most of the time. They wanted to live in the Christian countries, even when those countries rejected them. [Joe Sobran] (January 2003)

Of affirmatively acting Democrats, Joe Sobran asks: "Why don't they come out and say it? They don't believe blacks and Hispanics will ever achieve equality on their own in competition with whites, any more than a paraplegic will ever be able to discard his wheelchair. The Democrats thrive on racial inequality, especially while racial privileges are politically lucrative." That's from Joe's column of January 16, "White Supremacism, Liberal-Style." When it's posted to the Sobran's archive, be assured we'll link to it from our Off-site page. (January 2003)

The col is now in the archive: "White Supremacism, Liberal-Style." (January 31)

W.'s tiff with the University of Michigan over its antiwhite policies leads me to wonder what success the World Emperor is having in quashing analogous policies enforced by the Central Government itself. It ought to be easy — right? — in the wake of the Republicans' Massive and Historic Victory in the November elections, which gave them Ironclad Control of Congress. Easy, too, in light of the fact that GOP senators purged a certain prominent partisan of "affirmative action" from his post as Senate majority leader. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2003)

The dark side of joy. On a recent episode of one of those "behind the scenes in Hollywood" shows, four well-known actresses who had been raped recounted the general circumstances and consequences of their respective assaults. The one who seems to have suffered the worst physical injuries predictably delivered what has become a therapeutic and feminist mantra of our age, to wit, "Rape has nothing to do with sex." Out of respect, one hesitates to contradict a rape victim's evaluation of her ordeal. Unfortunately, however, the peculiar claim that rape has nothing to do with sex actually endangers other impressionable women and girls.

The claim is peculiar because, clearly, rape has very much to do with sex. Otherwise we would be unlikely to call it rape. We would instead call it mugging, or assault and battery, or illegal confinement. The thinking here seems to be that a crime perpetrated by a man upon a woman involving the exercise of power, domination, and sadism ipso facto cannot also involve "sex." And where can that thinking have originated if not in the "joy of sex" ideology that has flourished over the past three decades?

We are now educated to believe that sex is intrinsically joyful and sacred, and the idea that it can have a side that is very dark and dangerous offends the modern recreational sensibilities. Thus, adult rape has "nothing to do with sex," and neither, for that matter, does child molestation nor the kind of pornography that offends feminists.

The "joy of sex" ideology works to strip impressionable women and girls of reticence, modesty, self-control, and wariness with respect to sex. It throws out of balance their appreciation of the social context in which they find themselves, or — to speak more plainly — it makes it more likely that they will find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong men or boys. This, in an era when the right men or boys — strong, dependable, honorable defenders — are scarcer than ever.


 Two of the four actresses who told their story on the TV show had been attacked at home, by door-crashing invaders who were strangers. In one case, the woman's male companion was bound and forced to watch the assault. Now, anyone may be taken by surprise by a sufficiently well- executed attack, but I noticed that neither woman mentioned that things just happened too fast for her to lay hands on the house 12-gauge.

 If we can manage to believe that rape has nothing to do with sex, I suppose we can also manage to believe that gun prohibition and the resulting culture of urban helplessness have nothing to do with rape. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2003)

The "costs" of totalitarianism. According to one of the official-media outlets in my area, the purported tax cut that the purported President is purported to be in favor of will "cost" elebenty-gazillion dollars over a certain stretch of years. (The exact dollar figure — that is, purported figure — is unimportant.) "Cost" whom? Unspecified. Blank out.

If we could document the date when the official media routinely started referring to tax cuts as a "cost," stripped of any context, we could fix the date by which we could be sure they had fully accepted totalitarian premises — had come to believe, that is, that the government is everything and owns everything, and the people are nothing and own nothing. The actual date has to be decades earlier, but those of us who are of a historical bent would at least have something to work with. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2003)

Why are Our Boys and Wimmin in the imperial forces heading to the Persian Gulf instead of the Sea of Japan?

Hmmm. It's a real stumper. We'll have to rack our little brains.

Meanwhile, here's our totally unrelated geology lesson for today. Though the North Koreans may have gotten their hands on some plutonium, one thing they don't have is oil in the ground. (January 2003)


Published 2003 by WTM Enterprises.