Is Putin evil?

I put up a post in this blog years ago asking “Is Obama Evil“? So it only seems fair to ask the question about the leader of a country that spans nine time zones – and that is Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.
Karen Dawisha, who heads the center for Russian studies at Miami University (in Ohio), wrote a book about him recently, and she traces the sometimes complicated webs of finance he was involved in, and he certainly is no saint.
But first lets look at the plus side of Mr. Putin.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Any Russian that does not like living in Russia is free to leave. That is a big positive change from Soviet days. I’ve also seen praise of Putin from a few Westerners saying that European countries lack pride and cohesion and are facing demographic collapse (except for their Muslim minorities), but Russia, they say, is nationalistic and cohesive and will survive. My thought on this is that there should be a way for a nation to be self-confident and reasonably proud, without suppressing the free media and embracing raw power.
But putting aside whether Putin is a dictator, is Russia flourishing under his leadership?
The short answer is no.
Russia is not in good shape. The birth rates are not much different from Europe, but the lack of adequate medical care produces five times more deaths from cardiovascular disease among women in Russia than in Europe. As for family life, more Russian women die annually from domestic violence than the number of soldiers the USSR lost in the entire Afghan war.
Russian men have high rates of suicide, and many fall victim to murder. Many drink themselves to an early death. The life expectancy of a fifteen-year-old male is three years lower in Russia than in Haiti.
I once read an article by Robert Zubrin who made a claim about Russia that I did not believe. He said “young girls are kidnapped off the street in large numbers”
But professor Dawisha seconds this: “millions of Russians, mainly girls..have been lost to sex trafficking.”
She also makes an instructive comparison with China, another authoritarian country. “Despite receiving $1.6 trillion from oil and gas exports from 2000 to 2011, Russia was not able to build a single interstate highway during this time. There is still no interstate highway linking Moscow to the Far East; in contrast, China..has build 4,360 miles of modern highways annually for the last ten years, equivalent to three times around the circumference of the earth.”
Why is this? The title of her book, “Putin’s Kleptocracy”, may indicate the answer – there is so much corruption in Russia, that the leadership would rather spend the money on themselves than on the country.  I remember seeing Putin give a speech at the Sochi Olympics, and my impression of him – just from that speech – was quite positive. But in Dawisha’s book, I read that “More than half of the $50 billion spent on the Sochi Olympics simply disappeared into the pockets of Putin’s cronies, according to detailed analyses by multiple Russian experts.”
Her whole book is on the looting of Russia, sometimes with the connivance of organized crime. Bribes alone, according to the Russian think tank Indem, amounted in 2005 to about $300 billion.
As for entrepreneurship, in the ten years from 2002 to 2012, hundreds of thousands of businessmen were actually imprisoned, primarily as a result of rivals paying corrupt police and judges to put away the competition.
But maybe Putin is not that bad, given the realities of Russia.  He just took over the oil sector, rewarded his friends, punished his enemies, suppressed some freedoms, but why get excited about that? The world is full of dictators.
And maybe these problems of Russian society are beyond his control to do anything about?
And as for his recent military actions, I’ve read some who say his invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine was understandable, given that he could not be expected to give up the strategic naval base on the shores of the Black Sea, and he had to protect the native Russians in these areas.

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya

Almost 100 Russian Journalists have been killed since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Maybe Putin had nothing to do with this, though we know that journalist/victim Anna Politkovskaya was critical of Putin.
We know that Alexander Litvinenko, who applied for asylum in England and was poisoned with Polonium by Russian agents there, discovered, while he worked for the Russian FSB, numerous links among members of the top brass of Russian law enforcement agencies and Russian mafia groups. But that is if we believe his widow Marina. She might be lying. And maybe Putin had nothing to do with his assassination.
During the Iraq war, the London Telegraph obtained Iraqi intelligence documents that revealed that Moscow provided Saddam with lists of assassins available for “hits” in the West.
If not a forgery by someone who hates Russia, this is quite disturbing. Who knows who has been killed by these people so far?
Wouldn’t Putin know about this?
The US intelligence community has warned against the “growing nexus in Russian (and Eurasian) states among government, organized crime, intelligence services, and big business figures.”
This is something to worry about. If you stand in the way of the financial power of these people, you will be stepped on.
The Russian elite do have a code of honor, says Andrey Illarionov, who had been Putin’s advisor and then testified before the US Congress. Loyalty, “strict codes of conduct and of honor,…omerta [the mafia code of silence]…Violations of the code of conduct are subject to the harshest forms of punishment, including the highest form.”
Dawisha ends her book saying again that Russia is not in good shape – the midpoint of wealth for Russian citizens is $871 as opposed to countries such as India (midpoint $1,040) and China ($8,023), even though those countries lack Russia’s huge oil reserves. We hear complaints that the US has too much income inequality, but in Russia, 110 billionaires own 35% of the wealth. And, says Dawisha, for the elite to achieve their wealth and power, the rule of law had to be strangled, as did freedom in general.

US escorts Russian Plane off Alaska

US escorts Russian Plane off Alaska

So back to the question of this post – is Putin evil? He is an adversary, and his ideals are different, as is shown when eastern Ukraine was invaded.  There the initial invaders “carried the outward-radiating eight-arrowed flag of Putinist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin.”  Who is Dugin? He is a man who says that what Russia needs is a “genuine, true, radically revolutionary and consistent, fascist fascism.” On the other hand he says that:
“Liberalism, is an absolute evil. . . . Only a global crusade against the U.S., the West, globalization, and their political-ideological expression, liberalism, is capable of becoming an adequate response. . . . The American empire should be destroyed. . . “
Putin has not disavowed this man.
And it gets worse.  Putin’s navy is visiting Cuba. Putin’s air force flies along California and Alaska.
Many in the West are responsive to an anti-American message, and Russia’s extremely anti-American TV show, “Russia Today” with its recipe of smart propaganda, sex appeal and unlimited cash, is outperforming its peers worldwide.
Putin has made his huge country, armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles, a threat to you and me.  Whether that is “evil” is hard to say.  But if even one murder, such as that of Politskaya, can be attributed to him, then  he is indeed evil.

Sources: (on journalists)
Putin’s Kleptocracy – by Karen Dawisha (published by Simon and Schuster 2014) – (on Nazis) (on Russia Today) (offering assassins to Saddam)

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Do people know what is good for them?

Do people know what is good for them? That question was in the news recently, when an architect of the national health plan confessed that the bill that made it law was made as hard-to-understand as possible, because otherwise it would not have been passed. This man, Jonathan Gruber, also said the American people were stupid. So he was saying, in other words, that he knew better than the American people what was good for them.
Was Mr. Gruber right?
Obamacare has not delivered on its promises, such as that it would save people money, or that people could keep their doctor. And it has had unexpected negative effects.
So I’d say he was wrong.
But in general, we could ask: are there a wise few, to whom we should trust to micro-manage our lives?
My father tells me that in Israel, at the time of its founding, there were leftists that thought democracy was a bad idea – (to paraphrase) ‘how could the average person, who knows nothing – vote intelligently?’.
But how smart is the average person?

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that  we agree with those early leftists in Israel that economic policy or national health policy is too complicated for “Joe sixpack”.

So let us ask the same question on a very personal level.
And in this case, we see that the voters of the state of Colorado and the state of Washington voted recently to legalize marijuana. Marijuana is now understood to being people closer to psychosis, and it is bad for your lungs (like smoking) and has various other nasty effects. But is a very personal decision whether to ingest chemicals into your body or not.  The people have spoken. Are the people dumb?
About 1/3 of children in the very liberal state of Massachusetts live with only one parent. Apparently many adults produce children with partners who either they don’t really like, or never intended to marry anyway. The children then spend much of their time unparented, unguided (except maybe by a local gang). If they are girls, they tend to get pregnant early, if they are boys or girls they are more likely to commit suicide..

Did the men and women who produced these children show wisdom?  Judgement?  Foresight?
It has been said that the women who make this decision do end up married – to the state. The state has to provide for their needs, since they can’t do it alone.

A substantial percent of the US is so overweight as to be classified as obese (the Center for Disease Control claims over 78 million). But again – what you eat, and how often you eat, and how much exercise you get is a very personal decision. Should people be trusted with that decision?
In the US, we had “prohibition,” which was an attempt to ban alcohol. There really was a big alcohol problem at the time – but was prohibition a good idea, given that gangsters arose to deliver the alcohol? I did read that prohibition reduced the alcoholism rate – so was it a complete mistake? Did people have to be rescued from themselves? (in some parts of the world, such as Gujarat in India, prohibition is still in force).

I once read (in National Review) of a young man who expressed some suicidal thoughts and so was put in a mental ward. He complained about this outrageous situation, and so he was chained to a bed. After a year, his insurance ran out, and he was let out of the hospital. You might expect that at this point he would have committed some crazy act. But nothing happened. He had never been crazy. He had just had some emotional problems. He says of that period “They wasted a year of my life.”
So can we trust the guardians who protect us from the insane, or protect the insane from themselves, to do their job correctly? In this case, obviously not.

On the other hand, many of our homeless, the people who sleep on grates in the city in the middle of winter, are mentally ill. These are people who could benefit from medication – but often they refuse to take it, because they believe the voices in their head are real, or the conspiracy to get them is real.
And do note – conspiracies do exist.(The plan to make Obamacare as opaque as possible fits the definition.)
But I digress.
The point is, that we cannot trust a few wise men to micro-manage our lives, but many of us manage to mess up our lives without any help.

It is likely that some people are more logical, more rational, and more sensible than others, but who decides who these people are? And often the people who are the most self-righteous, and the surest of themselves, and who have an answer for everything are ideologues subscribing to some variant of those same ideologies that plunged much of the last century into so much mass murder.

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The American rioters of the sixties – as witnessed by a British WW-II vet

wagnerFinleyAmerican campuses were in constant uproar during the late sixties.  Now they are calm again, but they are very different places than they used to be.  For instance, we  have “speech codes” that limit speech on campus that anyone can express off campus, we also have speakers prevented from speaking at campuses because their message might be hurtful to some group.  The costs of education have gone up, even as what is learned has been sadly compromised.  Often students must pay off debt for much of their working lives, and the payoff of the education is uncertain.   The liberal arts have become politicized as a glum history of repression by gender or race.

How did the massive change in the culture and the colleges come about?

Lets delve into two books describing what occurred in the heyday of the student “uprisings,” events that have been conveniently blurred, if not forgotten.

At the City College of New York, a young professor from Britain, who had studied in Oxford, fought in a tank in the North African desert against the Nazis, and ended up at City College, wrote a book called “The End of Education“, and another professor there – also a veteran of World War II, wrote a book titled “The Death of the American University”. Obviously these two men weren’t happy with the protests – protests against the Vietnam war, or against Capitalism or against racism–though the Englishman, Geoffrey Wagner, had come to oppose the Vietnam war earlier than most people.

Wagner writes:

“In the days of the worst City College riots, I recall reporting for nonexistent classes, pushing past the hate-filled faces screaming and yelling under sundry placards at the college gates…and wondering what the new Nonnegotiable Demand today was to be and whether that was Lionel Trilling hanging in effigy by the Student Center…Then I looked back at the platoons of gum-chewing cops standing there in the rain, Fascist Nazi Imperialist Hyena Pigs and Decadent Running Dogs of U.S. Colonialism from Brooklyn and the Bronx and Harlem and the Lower East Side, standing there pot-bellied and patient and bored, waiting out the screaming hate and obscene signboards and contorted faces…hoping that today at least they might not be expectorated upon or urinated upon or kicked in the groin…or better, be spared having sulfuric acid thrown in their faces.”

Wagner adds: “When the notes I had painstakingly accumulated over decades were destroyed by students…I learned–the hard way–that these transgressors were not in the least interested in tolerant inquiry…”

Wagner does say that many students just wanted to learn, and resented that their ability to do so was constantly disrupted by protesters. He says that one black student, infuriated at not being able to study, actually broke into a building that had been seized by radicals.

The SDS (a leftist group) were getting nowhere in honest debate, so the hard-core “got busy with rocks and chairs through windows, and metal pipes and clubs on the campus outside…women were thrown down concrete stairs, fires started [these fires burned priceless building interiors] and the ER of nearby Knickerbocker Hospital looked like a Casualty Clearing Station of World War II….”Brave black boys were clubbing girls. At least three coeds in my own classes had to be escorted to Knickerbocker.”

Even after calm returned to City College, at the price of an open admissions policy (high school grades were no longer to be considered in admitting students) Wagner found teaching demoralizing.  He was given an instructors manual which suggested that he ask students for “ten heroes of American history.” So Wagner asked for that, as well as heroes of the world, and the students replies with lists of various radicals and a “host of obscure names who turned out to have killed policemen.”

Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler made the list.  A curious Geoffrey Wagner asked his students why.
“Hitler had worked for his beliefs,” I learned. “He had been successful–for his people“….’Well not quite,’ I objected gently. “Both had brought their countries, masses of people, to destruction.”
Wagner added that Mussolini had been strung up on a lamppost –also by the people.
“So what?” came the answer. “They all ganged up against him.”
Wagner said that Hitler “had exterminated many Jews”, and the response was “so what?”

Wagner quotes Leonard Kriegel, a radical professor, who admitted: “We used the word ‘genocide’ to describe everything from Vietnam to questions of whether college administrations had the right to call police on campus.”

So asking for police on campus is “genocide”, but exterminating Jews is shrugged off.

Louis Heller’s book, The Death of the American University, adds some more remarkable details on this period. He describes one professor named Richard Plant taking a long route to a subway station (to avoid attacks) and being asked by a stranger at the subway station “Do you teach at City College?”, Plant answered yes, at which point “two bearded white radicals pitched him headfirst down the concrete stairs.” This man had experienced similar occurrences in Germany in 1933.  After this experience, he wanted to leave his job as fast as possible.
Another professor, Howard Adelson, who had fought in two wars, was afraid to let his son Mark, answer the phone, since an unknown caller took satisfaction in telling the boy that his father was going to be murdered.

The president of City College was a minister named Buell Gallagher – a decent man, and former civil rights activist, who was not equipped to deal firmly with this new phenomenon.  Heller says that radical-left faculty members jeered at Buell Gallagher as Buell was being cursed by student radicals, and he faults college administration responses in general. Some of the lack of response he attributes to cowardice, as when one professor said “Gentlemen, we are sitting on a volcano. I don’t know how you’re going to vote, but I know how I intend to.”

Insurrections cost nearby Columbia University, an Ivy League school, untold millions of dollars, not just in destruction and the costs of private police protection, but also because alumni did not want to contribute to a college that constantly appeased, instead of fighting back.

Appeasement may work short-term, says Heller, but in the long-term, it shows that the administration acts from fear. And like Wagner, he writes that radical students and radical faculty deny free speech to their opponents. He described a rally at Stanford U, where speakers were invited from the audience to speak on the Vietnam war. It was supposed to be an open forum, and seemed that way, “as long as the volunteers complained about the wickedness of the US..of the atrocities committed in its name, of the repressive nature of its [society and people.]” “Finally, one veteran of Vietnam arose to present the opposite point of view – to say that things weren’t like that at all, that our country still deserved some respect. ” The Veteran had barely said a couple of sentences, when those conducting the proceedings tried to tear away his microphone. He stood his ground, and tried to continue, at which point several men tackled him and threw him bodily onto to the platform, to prevent his story being told.”

Today free speech is still not welcome by leftists (and increasingly Muslim radicals) on our campuses. That legacy from the sixties is still with us.

The left is a mystery to me.  Why throw a professor down stairs?  Why beat up girls who just want to study?  Why set fires in campuses across the country?  As for the ordinary students who did not want to get drafted and sent to a possibly life-ending experience in Vietnam – why not protest independently from these leftists?

Perhaps the left was trying to create revolution, and it was rational from their point of view to use any pretext to do so but as Wagner says, some of their manifestos were completely insane.  And as for the drug taking that became fashionable in this period, he says that by 1974, many casualties of that drug-taking culture had appeared on the streets of California – people who (in my words), had damaged their brains and destroyed their potential.  For what?

Since the sixties the left has actually progressed in its goals on campus – and even though there may be little violence, the zeitgeist among faculty and students and the youth has moved their way.

The Death of the American University – L.G. Heller – Arlington House, 1973
The End of Education – Geoffrey Wagner – A .S Barnes publishers, 1976

My blog post also appeared in the “Intellectual Conservative” website. A nice thing about that website is that it will publish anything intelligent by anyone. The link is at:

My thesis about free-speech suppression starting with sixties is somewhat undermined by the fact that in 1934, Harvard invited a Nazi friend of Hitler’s named Hanfstaengl to speak, and when seven demonstrators began a protest against the university’s welcoming of Hanfstaengl in Harvard Square, they were arrested and then confined in the Middlesex House of Correction for six months at hard labor. The charge was: “disturbing the peace and speaking without a permit!”

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When our trust in a peaceful world gets violated

We are all potentially dangerous. Even a teenager playing a game can cause major havoc, as was shown in Germany when some American youths (sons of soldiers) lobbed stones as big as soccer balls from a bridge onto a highway.

One rock the size of a small loaf of bread smashed through the windshield of a compact car driven by a 20-year-old Darmstadt woman, killing her and critically injuring her 75-year-old grandmother. A 41-year-old mother of two small children from nearby Pfungstadt also was killed.

Society only survives because most of us would not dream of harming others this way. Society requires that we have a level of trust in each other.

In 1995, a man named Timothy McVeigh drove a truck to the Federal Building in Oklahoma city. The truck had 5000 pounds of explosive in it. The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 450 others. Timothy McVeigh did this for freedom against a tyrannical government.

After being caught, he said:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I’m sorry but it happens every day. You’re not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I’m not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

This shows the kind of damage one person can do. (Though he had some help from the Nichol brothers).

So what makes people dangerous? The will to do evil, the lack of internal barriers to do evil, and when those two are present, general competence, determination, organization, and intelligence.

But as we see, even teenagers can do a lot of damage without being particularly competent or intelligent.

Sometimes evil is done in the name of good – a daughter will leave her secular parents in Europe, convert to Islam, and suddenly appear in the new “Islamic State”, where, to her parent’s surprise, she has already married a fighter. Remember, IS has crucified people, torn people’s eyes out, traded in sex slaves. But this woman does not care – she is part of a glorious resurrection of the Caliphate.

I remember reading what a North Korean guard did to a hapless prisoner, while shouting “Death to the enemies of the people!” Again, noble idealism causing misery all around.

Michelle Knight

Michelle Knight

Psychopaths also bring sudden danger into the safest of places. Michelle Knight, a 21-year-old woman, was promised a new puppy by a nice seeming man named Ariel Castro in 2002, and was imprisoned in that man’s house until 2013. She was starved, chained, raped multiple times, and brutalized. She was humiliated psychologically. Who could expect this evil emanating from the two-story home in Cleveland?

It is a valuable gift to live in a society where you feel safe. It may be boring and predictable, but its a gift.

This is changing, unfortunately, for all of us.


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Martin Luther, Franklin Roosevelt, and the invisible fence.

I live in an invisible ghetto – sort of like the “invisible fence” that is used to keep dogs from going off his owner’s property, where the dog-collar gives the dog a shock whenever he tries to leave the property.
We could believe that this “ghetto” is all in my head – that I am imprisoning myself. Or, we could believe it is real. Lets put that aside though, and look at history, some of it recent.

In 1546, Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation who initially wanted to convert the Jews to Protestantism, issued a booklet that stands as a treatise on anti-Semitism. It was titled, “Of Jews and Their Lies.”

“First, their synagogues or churches should be set on fire…Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed…They ought be put under one roof or in a stable, like gypsies…”

And indeed, Jews were forced to live in ghettos, in Germany and in Italy, for example.

From our modern-day perspective, telling people where they can and cannot live is trampling on the rights of a minority.

Apartheid in South Africa was another example of this, and segregation in the South yet another example.

The people of the “race” or “religion” in power was saying, in effect, that a malign influence had to be kept away from their people. Luther is an odd case though – initially he wanted to convert the Jews, but when he failed, he became very hostile.

I once read a plan by a white supremacist in the US which proposed that the Jews could get their own state in Long Island (which is an island about 100 miles long next to Manhattan), the American blacks could get the southeast US, and the rest of the country would be reserved for whites.

Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoke privately, on numerous occasions, about the alleged racial characteristics of Jews, the danger of allowing Jews to concentrate in particular areas, and the pernicious Jewish influence on various economies.

At a private White House luncheon, President Roosevelt told Prime Minister Winston Churchill that “the best way to settle the Jewish question” was “essentially to spread the Jews thin all over the world.” Roosevelt said that this approach had been “tried out” in Meriwether County, Georgia, and in Hyde Park, New York “on the basis of adding four or five Jewish families at each place,” and “the local population would have no objection if there were no more than that.”

In 2013, the New York Times reported that “for some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a nightmare. They tell of hearing anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, and horrific jokes about the Holocaust…[One Jewish girl said]…she heard slurs like Christ killer, stupid Jew, dirty Jew, disgusting Jew. “Jew was kind of an insult,” she explained.

The New York Times reporter then adds: “At that point, a pickup truck pulled up nearby, and a man emerged. The man, John Barker, 42, a mechanic, cautioned that “everybody watches out for everybody.” When asked about the presence of Jewish families, he blurted out, “We don’t want them in our town.”
“They can’t drive, for number one — and they already have Sullivan County. Who really wants them here? They don’t belong here.”

I don’t want to editorialize here on the above, but it should be obvious that the targets of these attitudes will resent them.

A while back, conservative columnist Linda Chavez said that she, as a Latino, resented some of the anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric she was hearing from some conservatives.

So we can ask: are some or all of these attitudes fair, justified, or at least understandable?

As I said, I won’t editorialize, but I’ll give my experience. I am Jewish, and I also was in a sleazy scandal that took on wings.

I was called “The Hebe”, and “Jew”, and one woman told me that “[after seeing your performance] now I understand the holocaust.”
In New Haven, a foreign student called me “subhuman”.
There was more.
It became refreshing to be just called a “swine” — at least the racism was left out of that epithet.

One year I showed up in Alaska, in a youth hostel, and a young man recognized me. He told a woman “I do not want to be in the SAME STATE as him!”
Recently I walked one day near White Plains, N.Y. and a car slowed down near me, and a young man told me to “stay away!”

I had a programming job in the city, and a few days into the job, I knew I was in trouble when a female coworker walked by my office and said in a threatening tone that ” ‘it’ grossed me out totally”. A few days later when I started talking to myself, as I sometimes do when I work, she could not restrain herself and shouted “Hebe!”
The friend with her said “You can’t be serious!”, and the bigot tried to back pedal, but the friend would have none of it. “This is BIG!” she said.
And big it certainly was.
When I bicycled far from my home, I would be warned – and then attacked. The nature of the attack is very interesting, but it’s not relevant here. The point is that the attack worked, and it kept me within a small geographic area near my home.
I don’t know enough to explain the attitudes I was encountering, but I can speculate. My impression from some of the hostility I received was that some people thought it an outrage that I could be happy and healthy and handsome and successful etc. given what I supposedly did.
Also, after being attacked by a kind of Mafia, I knew a bit of how that mafia operated, and perhaps they did not want that knowledge spread. Or perhaps they did not want me taking any protective measures without their knowledge. Or perhaps…

There are certain things it is reasonable to ask of a minority, or even of a person who has undeniably been mired in sleaze. You can ask of him (or them) to not be a drain on society (other than when misfortunes force them to be), you can ask them not to engage in criminal activity, and you can ask of them not to embrace totalitarian ideologies which they want you to submit to.
But if they are not guilty of any of the above, it is not reasonable to tell them that their supposed (or my case real) obnoxious characteristics invalidate the rights that everyone else enjoys.
invisibleFenceSpecifically, you have the right to pick your own friends, and to avoid contact with whoever you want to, but you do not have the right to rearrange the world so that your eyes are not offended by seeing an out-group when you enter public spaces – by banishing them somewhere far away.


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Intellectual dishonesty – the case of the fan club of Che Guevara

CheAndAdmirersRobert Redford produced a movie about Che Guevara called “The Motorcycle Diaries.” It was based on Che’s real diaries, no doubt modified by the Cuban government, but what disappoints me greatly about Redford is that he wasn’t honest enough to include some very revealing passages from that diary in his film.

Intellectual honesty calls for showing the dark side of the person you admire, if you are doing a biopic.

Che said “a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.” Che did not have time for “archaic bourgeois details” like judicial evidence. He declared that “individualism must disappear”. He ordered the deaths of many people who disagreed with Marxism.

An estimated 80,000 Cubans, trying to get away by boat or raft from the socialist paradise of Cuba, died of thirst, exposure, or drowning, or were ripped apart by sharks.

Nonetheless Time magazine felt Che was worth of being placed next to Mother Teresa.
A few more juicy examples:
The actress and U.N. humanitarian award winner Angelina Jolie has a tatoo of Che on her body in an undisclosed location.
The model Giselle Bundchen walked a fashion walk displaying a scanty outfit with mini-Che pictures all over it.
The singer Madonna has a Che outfit.

Al Gore – who almost became our president – and his wife Tipper stood in rapturous ovation for Redford’s movie. This prompted Humberto Fontova, from whose book I collected all this, to ask: do the Gores know that Che jailed Cuba’s best filmmakers, poets, etc and transformed Cuban cinema into a propaganda machine?

Does Jesse Jackson, who wrote a book against capital punishment, know that it was incongruous with his beliefs to shout “Long Live Che!” to a crowd at the University of Havana? (Che’s firing squads were by definition implementing capital punishment, and created many orphans, widows, and widowers).

Before Che and the Castros took power, Cuba was a magnet for immigrants. It had a higher per-capita income than Japan and Austria.
Now even the impoverished citizens of Haiti would not dream of sailing toward the socialist paradise of Cuba.

Some more examples?
Burlington put out a line of infant wear bearing Che’s face. And the famous picture of Che adorns T-shirts, posters, watches, skis, surfboards, baseball caps, etc.

What is Humberto Fontova’s explanation for all this passion for a Marxist ideologue and mass executioner?
He said “Ignorance of course, accounts for much Che idolatry. But so do mendacity and wishful thinking, all of it booted – covertly and overtly – by reflexive anti-Americanism.”

I think that there is a class of people who are not bad people, but who don’t see why the wealth should not be distributed to uplift the poor, and pay for all sorts of social goods, and they admire a man who traveled with his friend on a motorcycle, observing the plight of the poor, and then resolved to bring about a fairer system in Cuba.

But why do these people ignore some very inconvenient facts?

You can respect people who have attitudes that are different from your own, as long as they are fundamentally honest. But I don’t think these people are honest even with themselves. They see what they want to see, and miss what they want to miss.

Is there something romantic about Che? The spirit of rebellion? The beret? Is there an alienated side to all these celebrities that resonates with something dark and evil?

Cuban agents in 1962 were prevented by the FBI from putting five hundred kilos of TNT in New York city at: Grand Central Terminal, Macy’s, Gimbel’s, and Bloomingdales. In contrast, remember that the Muslim terrorists who bombed the Madrid (Spain) subways and killed and maimed almost 2000 people used only one hundred kilos. Imagine five times that explosive power in the three biggest department stores on earth, all packed to suffocation on the year’s biggest shopping day.

Previous to this plot, Che had been in New York for eight days, but could barely accommodate all the Beautiful People jostling to meet him.

You might think that Che was ungrateful for all the hospitality and adoration, and that this plot was inexplicable and an anomaly, or even a right-wing lie – but then again – maybe you need to study the psychology of evil. Totalitarian ideologues flew airplanes into high-rise buildings in New York not so long ago.

As Che strode toward the UN, wearing his trench coat and beret with the red star, a young woman raced down Forty Third street. A large knife flashed in her hand. “Arriba” she shouted, as she headed for Che. She was intercepted and her murder attempt prevented by New York City police who found out that her name was Gladys Perez and she had been tortured in Castro’s jails. After being caught, Gladys was sent off for “mental observation”.
Che Guevara, on the other hand, was feted by New York High Society. Who really needed “mental observation”?

If you dance with the devil, you become an accessory to more evil than you can imagine.

Exposing the Real Che Guevara – Humberto Fontova (2007)

Postscript: A few days after this post of mine, Mr. Fontova alerted people that a Cuban newspaper came out with the following: “Instead of his proper name, wherever the words Humberto Fontova appear should be the terms: “SWINE! TRAITOR!…Fontova’s books and columns are nothing but scandalous libels against our Revolution’s founders, Fidel and Che.”

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The genetic “ratchet” that changed Europe, and is Eugenics all bad?

Eugenics has been popular in the past, until Hitler temporarily discredited it, (though protesters throughout the world periodically chant “Hitler was right”).

If you were to select traits for the next generation, what would you choose?

1. Selecting for strength:
When I was young, I had really bad eyesight and thick glasses. I wanted to be taller, stronger, and to give bullies no reason to call me “four-eyes”. I wanted to be a stellar runner, so that I could redeem myself in the eyes of my peers, and win races for the school.
And the idea of selecting for strength is quite common. But it is not the only criteria that social engineers look for:

2. Selecting for ideology:
Some regimes value adherence to an ideology as a superior trait. For instance, in North Korea, if a father rebels against the state, his whole family is thrown with him in the punishment-camp, because it is felt that his character “flaws” are genetic.

3. Selecting for intelligence:
“Egg donation isn’t supposed to be a get-rich business for donors, but young women across the country are selling their eggs and cashing in big.
An [ABC] investigation into the growing industry found that not all eggs are made equal in donation agencies’ eyes. Women with favored traits, like blond hair or high intelligence, can earn a much heftier fee for donating.”
Oddly enough, not everyone would prefer intelligence. In the great massacre by Pol Pot’s followers in Cambodia, anyone with glasses, or with a intellectual job such as being a teacher, was killed.

4. Selecting for people with a “liberal/Conservative” attitude:
I prefer conservative politics to left-wing politics, though it would be immoral to select babies with a “conservative” gene (there actually is a genetic influence on political leanings) but a man named Yaari, in the early leftist Zionist movement “Hashomer Hatzair” wanted the opposite.  He declared that it would be better not to allow Jews to immigrate to Palestine if they were not ideologically motivated, and specifically they should be motivated by socialist ideas.

5. Selecting for boys in China, girls in the USA:
In China and India, there is a large surplus of boys over girls. This is due to deliberate abortion of girls. Conversely, in the USA, women are already using preimplantation analysis to select the gender of their embryos. And they’re overwhelmingly choosing to have daughters.

So there is a problem, since we can’t even agree on what we would select for (or against).

And putting an emphasis on “strength”, without understand where “strength” comes from, can lead to terrible situations.  I’ve been told that Nazi orphanages existed where Aryan babies were purposely denied affection, so that they would grow up strong, and of course that was an idiotic policy that left them emotionally stunted and miserable.  I cannot find online sources for this, however.

The Nazis did abduct children from Eastern Europe who looked handsome and strong and Aryan.  And in an earlier age, the Turks, when they occupied Eastern Europe, would also grab strong Christian children from their parents, teach them Islam, and put them in their military (these children were known as Janissaries)

reprogenetics website image

reprogenetics website image

I think eugenics might make sense if it were a parental – not a state – decision, and it was intended to protect the child. At Reprogenetics, a private laboratory in New Jersey, couples who carry a genetic disease can have their embryos checked for the mutation before implanting them in the woman’s uterus.
Moving from New Jersey to China, the Chinese have a research program to identify the alleles, or genetic variations, that most closely correlate with high IQ scores, so that the country’s parents can select from a number of their own embryos on the basis of intelligence. There are at least a thousand genes that have an effect on intelligence, so this may not work, but it is an interesting idea.

Nick Wade

Nick Wade

But now Nicholas Wade enters the picture with his new book A Troublesome Inheritance.
He believes that “races” exist, and differ not only in external features such as skin color, but also in character.
For this to be true, several premises have to be true.

  • Character has to be somewhat affected by genes that control brain development.
  • Races (which only split apart 50,000 years ago when the first small band left Africa), would have to be shown to have differences specifically in genes that control brain function or development.
  • Those differences must have occurred within those 50,000 years.
  • In addition, there is the startling idea that the European population changed their character and nature much more recently than that. The hypothesis is that Europeans were in a Malthusian trap, where even if their productivity and food production increased, it would only lead to a larger population, which would consume resources so that most people would lead a precarious existence. There was no welfare system to save people who dropped off the life-raft. But as the Middle Ages progressed, the laws and social structure in England created a meritocracy, where skillful or disciplined and intelligent people could make a better living, and escape the hand-to-mouth existence of the majority.  A study showed that successful people did have more children.

Christianity, says Nicholas Wade, actually contributed to the self-bootstrapping upward (he calls it a ratchet) of the population, because it led to the idea that there was a law independent of the ruler, and to which the ruler had to be subject himself. This helped prevent arbitrary power, and helped create a meritocracy.
I won’t list the evidence that the author marshals in his book, for lack of room. The evidence can’t be conclusive, but it is worth looking at.

So would such ideas lead to racist population control?

The author is very against such an outcome, but he feels the research should not be suppressed for political or ideological reasons.
Lets take this a little further though. We know that Stalin liquidated the entrepreneurial farmers of the Ukraine, and we estimate his total murders of his own citizens (in Russia and Ukraine) came to twenty million.
Since Fidel Castro came to power, Cuba’s government imprisoned a higher percentage of its own citizens than Stalin did.
And North Korea has been killing or incarcerating a large percentage of their own population since they came into power, which was in 1945 – so that is 70 years of unnatural selection.
Would these Marxist regimes select for entrepreneurial capitalists? For free-thinkers? For independent minded types who were not afraid to “speak truth to power”?
Or would they select for ideologically reliable ruthless followers?

Wade’s thesis is that small average differences in traits in a population – for instance a lower lack of trust in your fellow man – might lead to a different kind of society – in a low-trust case you might get a more tribal society.
He briefly mentions that the selection pressure that led to more thrifty and disciplined populations may no longer be operating in the West.  Certainly in the US the middle class has sharply reduced fertility.
There is a danger any time people are considered as moldable raw-material in a social project, and that would include eugenics projects. But the technology to select for traits to some extent is coming, in fact “reprogenetics” shows it is already partly here.

A Troublesome Inheritance – Nicholas Wade – Penguin Press – 2014
China’s ‘genius babies':

Hessy Taft - an Aryan poster baby who was Jewish

Hessy Taft – an Aryan poster baby who turned out to be Jewish

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