Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Francis Fukuyama and Zombie Movies

      The events of the last week are making me remember the famous t-shirt slogan of the 80s:  Choose Life.
        Right now Christians are being purged from Iraq by ISIS, a bloodthirsty terrorist group.  Nigerian Catholics have been burned alive by their Muslim neighbors.  An unarmed young African-American in Ferguson, MO is shot for no apparent reason.  To top it off, comedian Robin Williams hangs himself.
          I have started to wonder if one of the reasons for the popularity of zombie movies is that, in a perverse way, the total breakdown of society isn't unthinkable any more.  One reason we got into this situation with Iraq was that the Bush administration's bible was Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man .  It was the Condaleeza Rice view of things that all human beings desired to live in western democracies.  One only needs to look at what happened to Iran after the Shah to see that, no, not all human beings wish to live in western democracies.  Indeed, the first thing that some people will do with their votes will be to install religious extremists as their government.  The Bushies made this mistake in its most extreme form when they encouraged the creation of the Palestinian Authority under the mistaken belief that Palestinians would create a moderate, democratic government.  When they actually installed Hamas as the ruling party, Israel was now faced with the necessity of treating people who will not accept their existance as the Palestinian government.
               The zombie movie resounds with people because it refutes the neoconservative idea that people have an intrinsic love of democracy and order.  Humans everywhere do not love freedom, at least the western idea of freedom as being liberal democracy.  This relentless crusade for making the world democratic has only put the most barbaric and retrograde elements in positions of strength in Iraq and Gaza/West Bank.  Indeed, how other than the existance of revived corpses could there be more chaos in the world right now?
          The movement in the world, and especially the middle east, is towards governments that utilize mass murder as a tool for uniformity.  In that sense, the Yugoslav civil wars in the 1940s and 1990s are the template for groups such as ISIS.  Why persuade people to support a government when you can just kill off your opposition?  Why worry about drawing national borders to account for ethnic groups when you can just destroy minority ethnicities?
            Choose Life isn't just a t-shirt slogan anymore.  It is the most basic and anachronistic aspiration for today's blood-soaked world. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Aims of Government

       The following is from Cato's Letters, #63:
       While the people have common-sense left, they will easily see whether they are justly governed, and well or ill used;  whether they are protected or plundered:  They will know that no man ought to be the director of the affairs of all, without their consent;  that no consent can give him unlimited power over their bodies and minds;  and that the laws of nature can never be entirely abrogated by positive laws;  but that, on the contrary, the entering into society, and becoming subject to government, is only the parting with natural liberty, in some instances, to be protected in the enjoyment of it in others.

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Nineteen

       "By the fall of 1920 the Kemalist army was acting on its committment to destroy Armenia, now a precarious, isolated country of genocide refugees ravaged by disease and famine.  Once again Armenia found itself in a situation beyond its control.  In the summer of 1920, the Soviets were pressing Armenia to join the Soviet Union, and war actually broke out between Armenia and the Soviet Union in July.  From the other side of the world--so it seemed--the West was urging Armenia not to join the Soviets, which in the end would cost Armenia even more territory.
       In this tense period a draft of a treaty between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey remained unratified in Ankara because the Soviets now asked that some of Turkish Armenia be awarded to the present Armenian Republic.  The Soviets also asked that the peoples of Turkish Armenia (the term used by the Soviets) and Batum, eastern Thrace, and the regions inhabited jointly by Turks and Arabs should be given the right to decide their own fate.  Refugees living in Soviet Russia, and those who had been made homeless by war and massacre, were to be allowed to return to their homes and participate in a referendum.
       The Turkish response to the Soviet requests is revealing.  Kiazim Karabekir's answer is an early and quintessential statement of Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide.  He retorted:' In Turkey there has been neither an Armenia nor territory inhabited by Armenians. . . . Those [Armenians] living in Turkey committed murder and massacres, and have escaped to Iran, America, Europe, and some of them to Armenia.  How is it possible to call back these murderers and give them the right to vote?'  When Soviet foreign commissar Grigori Chicherin put the same proposal to the Turkish delegation in Moscow, he was told the same thing:  'No Armenian provinces have ever existed in Turkey.'  In this way, the Kemalists were continuing the work of the Young Turks in their effort to erase Armenia in fact and idea from the map it had inhabited."  The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, pgs.325-28.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Impending Doom of Nation-States (As We Know Them)

      The following is a guest commentary by Tom Usher.

       Those lamps were the lamps of independence.  In Europe, independence meant conflict, just like it did here in the states.  We succumbed to central control first and then it was forced on Europe by America as a result of the war.
      I think that America was designed originally as it was because the founders looked at European history and realized that independent states would always be at war.  They designed a system that was supposed to allow for a common governmental framework in which these conflicts could be defused without the loss of independence.
       It took less than one hundred years to find out that peace among independent states is not possible and that a little control with only the power of man as its basis won't maintain it.  Peace, or at least the fiction of it, can only be maintained through force of a more eternal kind.
        And that's the real story of history.  Who has the power to enforce peace and whether or not they do it with justice or terror.  After the fall of Rome Europe became a place where subsidiarity was the rule.  City states and small kingdoms all competed for power.  Because there were many different actors and power was diffused a chaotic system kept any one group from holding too much power for too long.
       During the Middle Ages the system the American founders wanted actually existed, though to read modern historians one would never know it.  The Catholic Church became the great arbiter, a clearing house for grievances large and small which kept most of Europe independent and from each other's throat.  Most rulers had an allegiance to the Church and the Pope which gave the Church the power to step in when needed and decide the issue at hand before war broke out.
       A perfect system?  No.  But a better one than the one that came into place after WW I.  The American system of top down central control, developed after the Civil War, came into its own during the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations, and at the same time as the rise of the other centrally controlled system, Communism.  And Europe became the testing and battle ground for global central government. 
       In the Middle Ages, Europe stayed relatively peaceful (at least for Europe) due to the fear of God.  The limits imposed by the Church were shattered by the Reformation and the Age of Reason, culminating in the French Revolution and finally the force of government enforced through the fear of man and his arms after WW I.  Nations no longer feared God.  {Estase's note:  "God is dead"--Nietsche's statement was more sociology than philosophy.  Old Friedrich was only describing what had long been the case}  They looked to themselves for authority and the guys with the biggest guns had the most.  So, with the governors off, with nothing apart from national force as the benchmark of truth, we entered into a century of global conflict, a tug of war on a global scale;  an unnatural state of never-ending warfare on a global and all-consuming scale.
       That is the legacy of WW I and all that led to it.  A war that has never been decided, a peace that can only be maintained through massive force, which requires an expenditure of resources that cannot be maintained over time on a global scale never before attempted.  Entropy writ large.
       We're out of energy to apply to the false system of peace that was put in place at Versailles.  The system is collapsing and a new one will rise in its place.  We're about to see why, on the biggest human scale ever, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not just a suggestion--it's a law.
       Personally, I think that we'll use the last of our rapidly dwindling energy reserves fighting to damn near global exhaustion this time and then we'll see the injection of God into history.  The power to rebuild had to come from the outside to keep the human system going or it will completely collapse and disappear.  God uses nature and He pretty much follows the laws he designed.  So buckle up.  Those that make it to the other side of this will have stories that will need to be passed down through the generations as a warning to those that come after.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Eighteen

         "By the fall of 1919, as the Kemalists were taking on the Greeks, Damad Ferid's government fell, and the Kemalists accrued more influence in government in Constantinople and throughout the country.  In the coming years there were three Greco-Turkish battles, and in September 1922 the Turks would burn Smyrna to the ground after killing tens of thousands of Greeks and Armenians and expelling the Greeks and remaining Armenians from the city and the region.
        As Kemalist nationalism found its footing and assumed unofficial political leadership, the nationalist stance against Armenia became increasingly virulent.  Procrastination by the Entente in Paris gave the Turks the time they needed to invade Armenia.  But before that happened, politics at the peace conference and in the United States made Armenia's situation tenser and even more complex.  In April 1920 the Allies asked President Wilson to draw a boundary line for the western part of Armenia;  but in May the United States rejected a proposed American mandate for Armenia.
        And on August 10, 1920, the Allies brought Damad Ferid Pasha and his government to the conference table with a treaty they had been preparing for months.  Like the Greek occupation of Smyrna, the Treaty of Sevres came as an affront to the Turks and especially to the Kemalists.  Because the Ottoman Empire had been a multicultural empire comprising numerous ethnic groups, many of which were living on their historic lands, the Treaty of Sevres in some ways was aimed at decolonizing the empire.
        Section VI, articles 88-93, of the treaty dealt exclusively with Armenia:  1)Turkey was to recognize Armenia as a free and independent state;  2) the president of the United States would determine the boundary between Armenia and Turkey, a boundary that would pass through the provinces of Erzurum, Trebizond, Van, and Bitlis;  3)the boundary was to include an outlet for Armenia on the Black Sea;  4)Turkey must renounce any claim to the ceded land;  5)although Armenia had been crippled by massacre and deportation, the European powers were asking Armenia to assume financial obligations for the former Turkish territory that was awarded to it;  6)Armenia would agree to protect the interests of minorities in its new state.  The treaty was at least a fair settlement for Armenia, but by the time it was signed, the politics in Turkey and the military advances against Armenia had made it almost obsolete.  Now the Kemalists were determined to revoke the Treaty of Sevres with its awards of territory not only to Armenia, but to Kurdistan and Greece.
        The 'National Pact' the Kemalists had drawn up in 1919 demanded all of Turkish Armenia, including areas that had been in Russia (Kars and Ardahan) that were now part of the Armenian Republic.  The Armenians desperately clung to the promises of the Europeans at Versailles and in the Treaty of Sevres, but the tide was turning.  The Kemalists were solidifying Turkey, and no foreign power was willing to accept a mandate for Armenia, even though the Europeans were agreeing to ask the League of Nations to consider the idea.  In the West the commitment to Armenia, in the wake of postwar fatigue, was dying fast."   The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, pgs. 324-325. 

Brave for Liberty

       The following is from Cato's Letters #62:
       They who are used like beasts, will be apt to degenerate into beasts.  But those, on the contrary, who, by the freedom of their government and education, are comparing one man with another, that all men are naturally alike;  and that their governors, as they have the same face, constitution, and shape with themselves, and are subject to the same sickness, accidents, and death, with the meanest of their people;  so they possess the same passions and faculties of the mind which their subjects possess, and not better.  They therefore scorn to degrade and prostrate themselves, to adore those of their own species, however covered with titles, and disguised by power:  They consider them as their own creatures;  and, as far as they surround themselves, the work of their own hands, and only the chief servants of the state, who have no more power to do evil than one of themselves, and are void of every privilege and superiority, but to serve them and the state.  They know it to be a contradiction in religion and reason, for any man to have a right to do evil;  that not to resist any man's wickedness, is to encourage it;  and that they have the least reason to bear evil and oppression from their governors, who of all men are the most obliged to do them good.  They therefore detest slavery, and despise or pity slaves;  and, adoring liberty alone, as they who see its beauty and feel its advantages always will, it is no wonder that they are brave for it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

King's Bench

       It's been a while since Estase has blogged about King's Bench (AKA, the American Supreme Court).  One ingredient of the imperial presidency created by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and strengthened by presidents as varied as FDR and George W. Bush, is that the court of King's Bench no longer decides on what the black-letter constitution says, but engages in dishonest though creative misreadings of this original document.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court has become an extension of the executive branch.  Justices are picked due to their predictable ability to tow the party line of whoever appointed them.  (One must concede, however, that Democratic presidents are much more adept at this than their Republican counterparts.  Anthony Kennedy votes far more like a liberal than would seem appropriate for a Republican appointee.  Even Sandra Day O'Connor had her embarassing Lemon case, which was also a lemon in another sense.)   Long ago cast to the winds was the Political Questions Doctrine as established in Luther v. Borden .  Today's Kings Bench is replete with such characters as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and "wise Latina" Sonya Sotamayor, who never saw a case of First Amendment religious freedom they thought deserved respect.  It is hard to imagine any of the more conservative members standing up to the executive, never mind the peril, in the same sense that James I and Francis Bacon clashed with Edward Coke.   It reminds one of W.B. Yeats' The Second Coming ,where the better people lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.   In a world where liberals think presidents are elected kings (see movies such as The American President and With Honors), Supreme Court justices are just another way to obviate the power of House and Senate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The People's (Republic?) Pope

       In the 90s epic Braveheart, Edward I (played by Patrick McGoohan) opines, "The problem with Scotland is that is a nation of Scots."  In other words, Edward I chooses to deal with a people who won't knuckle under to him by replacing them with English colonists, extermination, and prima noctae, an antique custom allowing the local noble to rape newlywed women.  In much the same way, contemporary politicians choose to replace their populations with more pliable ones.  In about 40 years, the United Kingdom, with its capital city of Londinistan, will cease to be a nation of English, Welsh, and Scots.  It will instead be a colony of Pakistan.  (Relish the irony.  Britain colonized India, and now the reverse is happening!)  Our own politicians prefer the Hispanic to replace us with.
       Senator Ted Cruz gave a speech today where he called upon Vatican City to welcome unlimited numbers of poor Africans.  The Vatican, Mr. Cruz opined, has nothing separating her from the poor of Africa but the Mediterannean.  She has artwork valued at millions of Dollars.  Surely St. Peter's Basilica could accomodate thousands of poor people?  Why should Pope Francis turn a cold shoulder to these people?  Jesus was impoverished.  We are admonished to welcome the stranger and embrace the poor.  If Vatican City itself cannot accomodate the poor of Africa, perhaps the Italian government, which has always been a model of efficiency and solvency, could take in these people?  Perhaps some of them might carry exotic diseases like Ebola that they could share with the people of Italy?

        What, you say that what Italy and the Vatican do are none of America's business?  Why, Pope Francis seems to think that what the United States does is his?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

PayDay Bar Goes Testicles

       Earlier this year, Norelco's ad executives showed us they had watched "The Silence of the Lambs" too many times when they had a man in a trimmer commercial remark, "I'd f*ck me," recalling the oh-so-disturbing sequence in which the transvestite serial killer dances in drag to "Girls on Film" and similarly remarks "I'd do me so hard."  Autoerotica, anyone? 
        The great Michael Savage once opined that all ad executives now are gay men, and one is inclined to believe it when one considers the current crop of ads (See my previous blogpost from January 2012 "Harpo Marx Doritos Commercial.")  The oddest, and argueably most perverted offering of late, is a commercial for PayDay candybars.  Using the bizarre slogan "Expose Yourself to PayDay," the add shows a PayDay bar mostly out of its wrapper, with a matrix blur over the middle of the candy bar, as though genitals exist on the product.  Where does one even begin?  First taboo:  most people consider indecent exposure laudable behavior, and of course all Americans love to think about a candy bar having its perverse, public nudity moment.  Second taboo:  if a PayDay bar has genitals, must that mean that snacking is a sexual act? 
       Estase doesn't want to go all Moral Majority here, but there is a definite and worrying trend here.  It used to be bad enough to imply that buying the right car would get you laid, but now we are advanced to such an advanced level of depravity that ad executives cannot sell a sub sandwich, Doritos, hair clippers, or candy bars without some kind of a sexual reference.  What is next?  I hope a wave of decency overtakes Madison Avenue, and there isn't need for a third post on the subject.