Originally posted 31 August 2003
On this day in 1980 the Polish communist government agreed to the demands of the striking workers in the Gdansk shipyard. Workers would have the right to organize freely and independently
The strike marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are, rightly, given the greatest share of credit for winning the Cold War. But Lech Walesa and John Paul II played indispensable roles.
In the 70s many experts believed that continuing the Cold War was pointless-- the Communists weren't so bad, not every society valued Western style freedom, cowed populations accepted what they could not change. Solidarity and the Poles put the lie to such talk.
In the long twilight struggle against Stalinism, the workers of Poland were the first light of sunrise.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
U.S.: Al Qaeda-linked Group Behind Benghazi Attack Trains Jihadists for Syrian Rebel Groups
Ansar al-Sharia running training camps in Benghazi and Darnah
U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this month uncovered new evidence that al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Benghazi are training foreign jihadists to fight with Syria’s Islamist rebels, according to U.S. officials.
Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda-affiliated militia that U.S. officials say orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA facility in Benghazi, is running several training camps for jihadists in Benghazi and nearby Darnah, another port city further east...
Disclosure of the terror training camps also bolsters earlier intelligence assessments that Libya, following the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is now a focal point for al Qaeda terrorist activity in North Africa.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Miley Cyrus and the Tackiness of Moral Outrage
The primary reason everyone is furious at Cyrus is because we were first introduced to her as a child star on the wholesome Disney Channel show Hannah Montana. Since then she’s done everything from struggle with drug use to star on a risque episode of Two and a Half Men. But last night’s lurid performance, a parade of Cyrus’s devalued sexuality through our living rooms, made her loss of innocence official. The entertainment industry has done with Cyrus what it does with most young child stars, and especially female ones: Tear them away from their parents, chew up all their moneymaking potential, then spit them out damaged and morally adrift. As the New York Times put it (and rightly so), Cyrus is someone “to whom no one has apparently said ‘no’ for the last six months or so.” Our expectation of Cyrus was that she was an innocent role model, and now that she’s betrayed that expectation, we feel morally outraged.
G. K. Chesterton,
Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which your are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. ... It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal and that you are a paralytic.
As I Was Saying
Evil is easy, good is hard, temptation is a given; therefore, a healthy society talks to itself.
Such ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones. We need to hear them, and hear good acts praised, too. We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.
Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on.
"Unresolved Evil" (1998)
Criminal Justice Quote: Self-Deluding Criminals
They blamed bad luck, coincidence, unforeseen circumstances--the victims shouldn't have been there, the cops shouldn't have shown up. The inmates could not explain what they did in terms of their own moral choices; they had to explain it in terms of forces beyond their control.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Stephen Koch, Double Lives:
Detective Stories, Democracy, and Rule of Law
In his classic book on Golden Age mysteries, Murder for Pleasure, the critic Howard Haycraft makes the claim that the detective story can exist only in a democracy. The reason for this, he states, is that autocratic governments don’t care about punishing the right person, the individual who actually committed the crime. And of course autocratic governments don’t provide any protection for individual rights, whereas in a democracy there are strict rules of evidence and other means of protecting the rights of individuals.
This point is the central premise of the British series Foyle's War which is set in World War Two. The very British detective takes it as a given that murderers must be caught and punished even when thousands are dying in the war.
An essential tenet of the NKVD was that the system needed the arrest, torture, and death of thoroughly obedient-- therefore 'innocent'-- people, since without random terror, the innocent would never be afraid, and (even ideologically) the Soviet state was made coherent by fear. From this perspective, some of the motiveless malignity falls into place.
During the Reagan administration, CIA dismissed the idea that the Soviet-bloc was supporting terrorist groups. We now know that they were doing exactly that:
Jacques Vergès, who has died aged 88, was a controversial French barrister and one of the most secretive public figures in France, where he was known as “the Devil’s advocate” for his willingness to defend terrorists, war criminals and dictators.
For many years suspected by the French DST (counter-espionage service) of being involved in international terrorism, Maître Vergès always denied this allegation. But in 1995 East German secret police (Stasi) files were leaked in Paris, and they disclosed the lawyer’s long-standing links with the terrorist group led by “Carlos the Jackal”. His Stasi code name had apparently been “Paula”.
When Vergès returned to Paris in 1979 to resume his legal practice his first prominent clients were two members of the Revolutionary Cells, a group of West German terrorists based in Frankfurt, two of whose members had been arrested in possession of explosives in France. One of his clients, Magdalena Kopp, received a four-year prison sentence. She happened to be the mistress of Carlos, who promptly started a bombing campaign solely to obtain her release....
While these attacks were going on Vergès offered his services to the French government as a mediator with the Cells, one of whose members was also a Stasi agent.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
A nice appreciation by Larry Kaufman:
Murray was himself a humane and learned man, with an abiding love for America’s diverse range of literary and musical expression.
The Omni-americans is an extraordinary book and makes my list of most influential books.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
It is also worth noting that the long-time editor of the Nation was not only a long-time apologist for the Rosenbergs, Hiss, et. al. He is also a long-time professor of journalism at Columbia and chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review.
The Nation Persists in Espionage Denial
One conclusion we have reached is that many of those who continue to write historical nonsense about Soviet espionage and communism are not consciously dishonest. It is not a matter of them knowing the truth and lying about it (although there is some of that). More frequently, we are dealing with intellectual “true believers,” ideological zealots who are mentally incapable of accepting or processing information that undermines their historical world view. To use a metaphor coined by the historian Aileen Kraditor, it is as if they wear special glasses that can only see what conforms to their world-view. Information that contradicts their fiercely held view is denied, explained-away, or, most often, simply ignored.
A recent example of espionage denial is James M. Boughton’s review of Benn Steil’s The Battle of Bretton Woods, published in The Nation magazine. A former Indiana University professor and historian of the International Monetary Fund, Boughton has long denied that Harry Dexter White ever cooperated with Soviet espionage; a section of In Denial was devoted to exposing his fallacious arguments. Similarly, The Nation has a long history of refusing to accept that such left-wing icons as White, Alger Hiss, or Julius Rosenberg could be guilty as alleged. Not until 1995 did it offer a concession about Rosenberg, although even then it resisted the claim that he was a major atomic spy. While The Nation has published letters-to-the-editor objecting to its distortion of history, such communications cannot lay out in detail just how mendacious its authors are and how much evidence they ignore.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Unlike the White House, John Sirica and the Watergate Special Prosecutors were able to keep their misdeeds under wraps when it mattered.
The Watergate Cover-Up Trial: Justice Denied?
As a result of some recent discoveries I made while researching a book on the Watergate trials, my concern has been vindicated. It turns out that the notion that “no man is above the law” somehow didn’t apply to judges or prosecutors involved in the cover-up trial. Documents I have uncovered indicate that the efforts to punish the wrongdoings of Watergate led to further wrongdoing by the very officials given the task of bringing the Watergate defendants to justice.
The new documents suggest that defendants in the Watergate cover-up trial, held before Judge John Sirica, received anything but a fair trial. Indeed, they suggest prosecutorial and judicial misconduct so serious –- secret meetings, secret documents, secret collusion -- that their disclosure at the time either would have prevented Sirica from presiding over the trial or would have resulted in the reversal of the convictions and the cases being remanded for new trials.
Friday, August 09, 2013
Ronald Radosh writes a lengthy review of Diana West’s American Betrayal:
A further example is found in the first excerpt she posted at Breitbart:
I know of no serious military historian who believes that there was ever a chance that the US Navy could have relieved the Philippines in the spring of 1942. Those troops were not doomed because communists diverted resources into Lend-Lease for the USSR. They were in a hopeless position because the Imperial Japanese Navy was more powerful that any and all forces that could be mustered against it.
Why Did FDR Fail to Relieve MacArthur and 151,000 Troops Fighting the Japanese in the Philippines?
Could the decision to abandon US forces to death or the horrors of Japanese POW camps by giving uninterrupted priority to the Red Army have had anything to do with the influence of the scores of Soviet agents and assets within reach of the levers of power inside the US government? How about the man driving military supply policy, the man behind Lend Lease?
Max Hastings puts it bluntly in Inferno:
The US Navy would have suffered a catastrophe had it attempted to assist Wainwright in the face of overwhelming Japanese air and naval strength.