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Archive for January, 2015

Uncle Sam and the Bolsheviki-IWW Rat

[ 20 ] January 31, 2015 |

In 1918 and 1919, the Ford Motor Company produced a bunch of cartoons to support World War I and the Red Scare. This piece of radical eliminationism is from 1919.

Here’s a link with sound, which is better because the rat is singing The Internationale. But I can’t embed it.



[ 39 ] January 31, 2015 |

If Germany wants Greece to pay its debts, maybe Germany should pay Greece the reparations for World War II it owes the country.

The GOP Will Not Have An Alternative to the ACA. Do They Need To?

[ 73 ] January 31, 2015 |

With the Supreme Court quite likely to willfully misread the ACA and destroy the insurance markets in a majority of states, the GOP is again pretending that it will at some point have some alternative policy.  Ed Kilgore (correctly, in my view) thinks there’s virtually no chance of that happening, especially as the fight for the 2016 nomination heats up:

No one at this point in the GOP is addressing how they deal with the ecstatic reaction of their party’s conservative activist base if and when the news blares out on Fox that SCOTUS has landed a lethal spear in the hide of the Great White Whale. Just yesterday polling data came out showing Republican rank-and-file opposed the idea of Congress doing anything to “repair” Obamacare. Ya think maybe the already difficult process of agreeing on a “fix” might be complicated a bit more by the shrieks of “NO! NO! NO!” from every Republican who has been told again and again that the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing to happen to America in living memory? Is it possible a Republican presidential candidate or three would exploit the situation by starting a crusade to destroy any GOP member of Congress who even thinks about “fixing” Obamacare?

The fact that congressional Republicans are highly unlikely to even be able to pretend to have an alternative to the ACA may make the Roberts and/or Kennedy marginally less likely to embrace pure lawlessness in support of Republican policy goals. But should the Court reverse King, will the lack of an alternative hurt the GOP? I don’t really think so. Obama, not congressional Republicans, is likely to take the brunt of the political hit if the Court wrecks the markets. Voters who don’t follow policy details are going to tend to blame the president for bad things that happen, irrespective of who’s actually responsible.

For the same reason, I don’t agree with the arguments I’ve seen in some quarters that the Supreme Court upholding King while using Chevron deference would be barely better than the Court wrecking the exchanges immediately, because a future Republican president would remain free to wreck the markets. I don’t agree. I’m not at all sure that a Republican president would do that unilaterally — the GOP can largely escape political retribution for raising taxes taking insurance away from 10 million people if the Court does it, but not if a Republican president does it. President Walker might do it anyway — but if it’s going to happen, it’s still better that a Republican White House takes appropriate responsibility for it.

The Big Corn and Pea Man

[ 57 ] January 31, 2015 |

Does this 1945 advertisement make you want to eat corn or curl up in a ball and hope the nightmare goes away?


The Curse of Chuckie

[ 63 ] January 31, 2015 |

And the Krauthammer Award for Lazy Mendacity goes to… Charles Krauthammer. In the process of using the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz to shill for war against Iran, Chuckie writes:

Didn’t it [deterrence] work against the Soviets? Well, just 17 years into the atomic age,we came harrowingly close to deterrence failure and all-out nuclear war. Moreover, godless communists anticipate no reward in heaven. Atheists calculate differently from jihadists with their cult of death. Name one Soviet suicide bomber.

Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, known as a moderate, once characterized tiny Israel as a one-bomb country. He acknowledged Israel’s deterrent capacity but noted the asymmetry: “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” Result? Israel eradicated, Islam vindicated. So much for deterrence.

As Krauthammer undoubtedly knows, Cold War hawks regularly invoked the atheism of Soviet and Chinese leaders as justification for concern about Communist nuclear programs. Atheists, with no fear of eternal punishment and no hope of heavenly reward, could not be trusted to value life. In addition to providing a useful explanation for genocidal Soviet policies in Ukraine, the Stalinist purges, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, the Communist-as-indifferent-to-life trope helped justify attacks on deterrence theory. If Mao and Stalin cared so little about human life that they were willing to kill tens of millions of their own people, then it made no sense to trust their rationality with respect to pushing the button.

And, as Krauthammer is surely aware, there were Soviet suicide bombers. On June 26, 1941 (at least in Soviet propaganda; the reality is murkier) a Soviet pilot named Nikolai Gastello plunged his bomber into a column of German tanks. Suicidal ramming was not an uncommon tactics by Soviet pilots early in the war, the official atheism of the Soviet state notwithstanding. And while I can certainly sympathize with (and even admire) the willingness of Soviet pilots to engage in suicidal self-sacrifice while fighting the Nazis, the question that Krauthammer poses is whether godless communists, who anticipate no reward in heaven, can nevertheless be motivated by nationalistic and ideological commitments to undertake suicide attacks.  The answer is yes.  The answer is also “yes” for Vietnamese Communists, who were sufficiently motivated by nationalistic and ideological commitments to undertake suicide attacks in several instances.

With respect to Rafsanji, I can only assume that Krauthammer appreciates that rhetorical invocations of an Islamic community aside, Iran has behaved far more like a nation-state than an apocalyptic death cult. Indeed, the Islamic Republic has, thus far, demonstrated remarkably little interest in committing national suicide in the service of “vindicating” Islam.  And as Middle East watchers have long noted, while Iran isn’t shy about rhetorically embracing the tactic of suicide bombing (and supporting such tactics in proxies), actually instances of Iranians engaging in suicide attacks are quite rare.

At this point, I find the lazy almost more irritating than the mendacity.  Krauthammer is a rhetorician, largely indifferent to the accuracy of the claims that he makes, but in the past he’s made at least a middling effort to distance himself from the rabble by striking an erudite pose.  In his old age, this seems to be slipping. One would hope that the editors of the Washington Post would expect more from one of their front line columnists, but alas…

The NFL and the Left

[ 80 ] January 30, 2015 |

Can a leftist have a rooting interest in the Super Bowl? Dave Zirin on why the Seahawks are so awesome from a political perspective:

But to make this a social-media story, or a narrative about the more relaxed nature at the top of the Seahawks organization, takes too much credit away from the courage of the players themselves. To have Seahawks linebacker Michael Bennett use the Super Bowl media scrum to slam the NCAA and say, “I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America” and “I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players. Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment” is more than someone sounding off. It’s an act of solidarity.

To have their always-outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman follow that up by saying, “I tell you from experience that one time I had negative forty bucks in my account. It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal” turns it into a national story.

To have Marshawn Lynch consciously try to control his own labor and by doing so, dredge up the worst impulses in the sports media aristocracy was, intentionally or not, a national service. Thanks to Lynch, we have seen a layer of sports writers regurgitate all of their suppressed bile against young black athletes—tweeting things like their desire for an “English to Marshawn dictionary”—and exposing the long-standing resentments older and mostly whiter sportswriters have towards the people they cover. When Lynch looked at the media and said, “Shout out to all my real Africans out there,” you could almost hear the ventricles in the room constricting.

Plus who does not want to see Roger Goodell squirm if he has to give the MVP trophy to Marshawn Lynch? Now that would be Must See TV! The idiot sports journalist community would also freak out. It’d be great.

Speaking of the NFL, Jeb Lund published a harsh but true attack on Goodell’s NFL in Rolling Stone today. The magazine then pulled it for unspecified reasons. Maybe Goodell is able to persuade mainstream media outlets to kill anything that criticizes him to an extent that even I don’t realize, who knows. You can read the essay at Jeb’s personal website. You should and then publicize Rolling Stone’s cowardice.

It’s That Time of Year Again…Looking Forward to Game of Thrones, Season 5

[ 25 ] January 30, 2015 |

Thankfully the recent blizzard that hit the northeast did not bring with it White Walkers, pale spiders, wights, and other things that go bump in the (long) night. But it did bring with it the launch of HBO’s Game of Thrones in IMAX and the first proper trailer for Season 5. (EDIT: which it turns out Facebook won’t let me embed)

At 5:30 Eastern, I’ll be discussing the IMAX presentation of Season 4, Episode 9 and 10 and the new trailer with Elana Lavin over at Graphic Policy Radio. You can listen in live here, or just download the podcast afterwards.

Night Will Fall

[ 72 ] January 30, 2015 |

Night Will Fall is an HBO documentary about one aspect of the Holocaust. Specifically it’s a documentary about the making of another documentary: German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey. GCCFS was filmed, written, and edited — by among others Alfred Hitchcock — in the spring and summer of 1945, but then shelved for political reasons; it was only completed recently, by members of the Imperial War College. It has not yet had any general release, but hopefully Night Will Fall will help change that.

Indeed the most compelling features of Night Will Fall are a few minutes of excerpts from GCCFS, along with digitally restored footage taken for the making of the older film. A few observations:

1. One of the striking aspects of both the British and American response to the liberation of various concentration camps in Germany was that military authorities in both nations immediately mobilized considerable resources to document what their troops had found. Gen. Eisenhower in particular insisted on having a delegation of leaders of both houses of Congress visit the camps at once, even though the war in Europe was still being fought. (The report to Congress this visit generated is well worth reading, as among other things it illustrates how relatively little understanding the Allies had of the true scope and nature of the Final Solution even by the end of the war).

The Russians also brought in cameras to Auschwitz and Majdanek immediately after capturing them. The latter camp was unusually well preserved, because the rapid advance of the Red Army caught the SS by surprise, and much of the sort of evidence that was destroyed at other camps was preserved there. German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey employees some of this footage as well.

All this demonstrates how the Allies appreciated at the the time that the enormity of the Nazis’ crimes would be met with incredulity, no doubt in part because both world wars featured the use on all sides of exaggerated or wholly invented atrocity stories for propaganda purposes. In the case of the Holocaust, the atrocity stories turned out to be considerable understatements.

2. Night Will Fall isn’t an easy film to watch. The restored footage from the camps is in many cases extremely disturbing — as an Imperial War College expert who took part in the restoration notes, the tradition among those who photographed and filmed war had until then been to avoid graphic representations of war’s carnage, but this tradition was certainly not followed by the camera operators (almost all of them military men who had just learned to use their equipment) who chronicled what they found in the camps.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the images is that they make clear the extent to which the deaths in places like Dachau and Bergen-Belsen were products of brute starvation: the sheer emaciation of the corpses (and the film features thousands of corpses, including those of many women and children) is almost beyond belief. A couple of the camera operators — hardened soldiers being interviewed nearly 70 years after the fact — break down in tears when recounting their memories of their roles in the making of the original film.

3. For all the indescribable barbarity and horror of the concentration camps, these camps were in a sense peripheral to the core of the Holocaust: a point which GCCFS cannot have possibly conveyed, since this wasn’t understood at the time, but which the makers of Night Will Fall should have noted.

Although I’m far from an expert in these matters, it seems to me unfortunate that the sites that did make up the core of the Holcaust — Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, and Auschwitz Birkenau — are referred to in English, following the German usage of the Nazis themselves, as “camps.” The word camp is properly applied to the forced labor prisons, designed originally for political prisoners and other “undesirables,” that are the focus of GCCFS and Night Will Fall. These concentration camps were qualitatively similar to the Soviet gulags, in that, although they ended up killing large numbers of their inmates as a consequence of extremely brutal conditions, rampant disease, starvation diets, and arbitrary executions, they were not designed to carry out bureaucratized, industrialized, carefully cataloged mass murder on a daily basis. What could more properly be called the Nazi murder factories were designed for no other purpose. Indeed these “camps” had essentially no residents, since, with the exception of a handful of inmates conscripted into the sonderkommando, the millions sent to them were murdered within a few hours of their arrival.

The word “camp,” even in the form of “extermination camp” or “death camp” can, I think, obscure what the essence of the Holocaust really was. The Nazis went to extraordinary lengths to hide the existence of these places, and indeed unlike the concentration and labor camps, the murder factories were never liberated or filmed (Auschwitz Birkenau was shut down and mostly dismantled months before the Soviets captured the territory on which it had operated, while the other murder factories were obliterated by the SS when they were abandoned, well before the lands on which they had stood were overrun by the Red Army. The one exception was Majdanek, but it was primarily a concentration camp, and it operated as an extermination center on a relatively small scale).

Holocaust denial is based almost exclusively on this fact, which once again illustrates the prescience of the Allies in doing what they could to document through film those parts of the Nazi murder machine that could not be disassembled before Allied troops swept over them.

Hopefully now that it has finally been completed, German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey will have a general theatrical release, and be made available on DVD. In the meantime, Night Will Fall is a film that ought to be seen.

You Won’t Have Mittens To Kick Around Anymore

[ 125 ] January 30, 2015 |

Apparently, Romney figured out that if he had to scrap and claw to win a nomination contest in which he was effectively running unopposed, trying to beat actual competition wasn’t going to work out. 

Speaking of Identity Politics…

[ 79 ] January 30, 2015 |

Shorter Jim Webb:  Sure, Barack Obama won two convincing electoral college majorities.  But it was the wrong kind of majority.  We need to be the party of Andrew Jackson again, if you know what I mean, which I think you do.

Friday, Friday Links

[ 76 ] January 30, 2015 |

It’s Not Erik Loomis’ Birthday Until bspencer Wishes Him a Happy Birthday

[ 58 ] January 29, 2015 |

So…a toast to Erik, everybody!!!

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