Is ruthlessness ever moral? Is it ever effective?

Mike was shot down over Vietnam, and was imprisoned with other Americans under the tender mercies of the North Vietnamese.  While imprisoned, he sewed together an American flag out of pieces of colored cloth, using a needle he made from a piece of bamboo.  The guards discovered this and took Mike outside, in front of the other prisoners, and beat him severely, puncturing his eardrum and breaking several of his ribs.  Then they dragged him bleeding and nearly senseless into the cell with the other prisoners, who included John McCain, who later became the Senator from Arizona.  The other prisoners helped Mike  crawl back onto his place on the sleeping platform.

McCain before capture
McCain before capture

“Before drifting off” says McCain, “I happened to look toward a corner of the room, where one of the four naked light bulbs that were always illuminated in our cell cast a dim light on Mike Christian.  He had crawled there quietly when he thought the rest of us were sleeping.  With his eyes nearly swollen shut from the beating, he had quietly picked up his needle and thread and begun sewing a new flag.”

My point in telling the story in a post about ruthlessness is this: American prisoners in Vietnam had been undergoing horrendous treatment for years, and the action that stopped it was when then president Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, especially the capital, Hanoi.

McCain reports in his book Faith of My Fathers:

For many of our guards this was their first taste of modern warfare, and their confidence in the superiority of their defenses was visibly shaken.  Many of them cowered in the shadows of our cellblocks, believing correctly that the B-52 pilots knew where Americans were held in Hanoi and were trying to avoid dropping their bombs near us.
It was quite a spectacular show.  Antiaircraft guns booming, bombs exploding, fires raging all over the city.  It is sinful to take pleasure in the suffering of others, even your enemies, and B-52s can deliver a lot of suffering….
“In the aftermath of the B-52 raids, some of the guards who had treated us the most contemptuously became almost civil when speaking to us.  Some of them even began to smile at us, almost comically.

The North Vietnamese government caved, and signed a peace agreement.

The question we might ask is, why didn’t the Americans bomb Hanoi much earlier in the war?  One reason may have been their fear of the sophisticated Soviet-style air defense network of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery, and MiG interceptors in the North.  It was safer to drop bombs on undefended jungle than to go into that environment.  A reason given in Wikipedia was fear of possible counter moves or outright intervention by the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, or both.  However, despite these concerns, after a few setbacks, the Americans went all out, and the ongoing torture and maltreatment of POWs stopped.  (Unfortunately the war was ultimately lost when the Americans left and the North swept into the South, and American leftist politicians refused arms aid to the South.)

Bombing a city, even if you target military installations, is going to cause “collateral damage”.   So the question is – was President Nixon’s decision a moral one?  Was it an effective one?

Americans fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq today (in 2016), are fighting under “Rules of Engagement” created by the Obama administration.  One of these rules is that you cannot shoot at any group of people unless they are shooting at you first.  So in other words, you have to wait until your comrades are dead or wounded before you can shoot back (unless you are lucky and the enemy’s initial shots miss you.  Under this policy, Americans died who would not have died otherwise.
Obviously, we don’t want American soldiers shooting at innocent people, and one way to know whether someone is innocent or not is whether he is firing at you first.  But is this a sane policy?   Would the architects of this policy be willing to face the families of soldiers who died because of it?

Unnecessary constraints were put on air power as well.  In May 2015, the New York Times reported one constraint due to the desire to minimize civilian casualties:  An A-10 pilot said that “In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a U.A.V., over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage.”

The half-hearted air campaign against Islamic State meant that Islamic State continued to kill men, enslave women, and have their youth initiated to the practice of cutting off people’s heads.

Then came the Russians.  The Russians said they were going to fight Islamic State, but initially that was not true.  Instead, their planes hit groups backed by the Americans that were threatening the regime of President Assad of Syria.  The Russians did not care all that much about collateral damage – they bombed their targets no matter what.  And without incurring casualties (apart from an air crew shot down by Turkey), they achieved their initial objectives.
I have doubts about Americans supporting groups in Syria that were in some cases composed of Jihadists, but I’m sure people all over the world got the message – America cannot protect you if Russian bombers attack you, and Russians stand by their allies, and most importantly, Russians win.

Another interesting aspect of this was the total silence on college campuses across the west about the human cost of the Russian bombings.  People who demonstrate at the drop of a hat about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians could not care less about Muslims in Syria being bombed, or for that matter being killed by other Muslims.   It seems morality is selectively applied.  Though some argue with this point.  They say that all military intervention in the Middle East has been counter-productive, and the protests that make a difference are against Western governments complicit in Israel’s supposed oppression of Palestinians, which they, as voters and taxpayers, don’t want to participate in by aiding Israel.  They also argue that any further intervention in that region would be futile.  However, it really seems to me that they don’t care – because there are at least symbolic steps they could take if they did.GazaDemonstration

So what should our morality be, in cases like these?  Candidate Ted Cruz says we should carpet-bomb ISIS.  That’s all very well, except that ISIS now controls entire cities full of civilians.  It is no longer possible to carpet-bomb ISIS without lots of collateral damage (death to non-combatants).  We could rely on others to do the job, and just give them arms, but there is no guarantee that such allies would care about collateral damage. Or if American soldiers go house to house, looking for insurgents, there may be less collateral damage, but there will be obviously many American casualties.

There are moral tradeoffs.  If you asked me whether I would dump gasoline on someone and set them alight, of course I would say no.  But if you asked me whether I believe the atom bomb at Hiroshima was justified, I would say yes, despite the substantial number of people killed in that explosion.  I would say this because many American lives were saved when the Japanese decided to surrender, and presumably Japanese lives were saved too, because there would have been a drawn-out war, island by island, to defeat the empire of Japan.

Atom Bomb hits Nagasaki
Atom Bomb hits Nagasaki

If in a particular situation, ruthlessness is proven to be the only way to win without unacceptable casualties on our own side, and if the consequences of losing are also extremely immoral – what course of action should we take?  I’m not saying I know the answer.

(I deliberately put spaces in some of the links to avoid wordpress errors – wordpress sometimes tries to render images with the link and fails)
Faith of My Fathers – John McCain and Mark Salter
http: // 2016/04/26/how-rules-of-engagement-get-u-s-soldiers-killed-on-the-glazov-gang-2/
http://www. 2015/05/27/world/middleeast/with-isis-in-crosshairs-us-holds-back-to-protect-civilians.html?_r=0
http:// http://www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2014/aug/11/british-protesting-gaza-iraq-israel-oppression-palestinians tr

Are we living in a play where we don’t understand the other actors?

A popular movie came out in 1998 called the “Truman Show”.
Truman does not realize that his whole life is on TV. He is the unsuspecting star of The Truman Show, where since the moment of his birth, he has been filmed by thousands of hidden cameras, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The show’s creator and executive producer Christof is able to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behavior when put in certain situations. Truman’s coastal hometown of Seahaven is a giant set built under a giant dome in the Florida Panhandle. Truman’s family and friends are all played by actors. Truman eventually catches on and then the plot takes off.
There are obvious problems with a plot like this – one problem is that the general populace would not watch a TV show based on a diabolically ruthless deception. But we can ask, how much influence do ruthless people operating in the shadows have on our own lives?
Dome of Seahaven
Dome of Seahaven in the Truman Show
I once had an email exchange on politics with a young Russian man, and in one email I mentioned the Russian mafia. He told me that there were no ethnic Russians in it – only Chechens and Jews were members. Assuming he really believed this, you would think he was missing a big piece of the jigsaw puzzle of reality – namely that a fraction of his fellow Russians are capable of being just as bad as anyone else.
In China, the Falun Gong movement was getting too large to handle for the authorities, and they started to crack down. So a group of adherents went to a government building (the National Appeals Office) to petition. Unfortunately, this attempt failed and many followers of the movement were eventually rounded up and killed, their organs recycled to be used in transplants. According to Ethan Guttmann who wrote a book about what happened to Falun Gong (The Slaughter) to many Chinese their Communist party is necessarily a sort of parental figure – with a good parent and a bad parent – rather than a completely dysfunctional family.
And like the Tiananmen square massacre of Chinese students in 1989, such stories are buried by the government so that future generations don’t even know they happened, and continue in the delusion that they have at least a few reasonable leaders.
(One of our presidential candidates, Donald Trump said this about Tiananmen:

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world.

Trump is confusing strength with ruthlessness here, though in some cases ruthlessness does achieve its objective.)

Sometimes ruthless people are very open:
I remember reading of a Mexican pastor who spoke out against the drug trade, saying it just made consumers sick, and should be stopped. He was killed soon after by people who had a financial interest in selling drugs.
Likewise, giving speeches against Al Queda and against Islamic State can shorten your life Samahan_Abdel-Azizdramatically. “The tortured body of Yemeni cleric Samahan Abdul-Aziz, AKA Shaykh Rawi, was discovered on January 31 (2016) in Aden. He had been kidnapped the previous day outside of his mosque, where on January 29 he had delivered a speech denouncing the extremism of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.” He showed more courage than most of us would, because I am sure he was aware of the vigilantes amidst his countrymen.
The anonymous nature of much of the internet helps us understand the world we live in when we get responses from people. For instance, Donald Trump receives death threats, mainly for his desire to stop all immigration of Muslims, and illegal immigration of everyone else. Republican delegates who might vote against Mr. Trump in the upcoming convention have also gotten death threats, this time from Trump supporters.
Apart from death threats, you can be deluged with hate mail. Michelle Malkin, an American conservative of Filipino origin who also wants to limit immigration, has been called all sorts of names because of that stance, including “Subic Bay Whore.” Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, has been called “Hitler’s whore” for the same reason.
Apart from politics, there are extra-legal punishments people run into which have nothing to do with beliefs.

For instance: John Favara was unfortunate enough to be driving home in the Howard Beach neighbourhood of Queens, New York, when 12-year-old Frank Gotti darted in front of his car on a mini motorbike. Frank died, and five months after the crash, John Favara himself disappeared. Frank was the son of the chief of the Gambino crime family, and when John Favara found this out, he should have gone into hiding. Instead, he made attempts to apologize, and eventually he was murdered and his body was dissolved in acid.

But we all know about organized crime. What about law-abiding neighbors?
There have been cases of people set upon by their neighbors, and often it comes as a surprise to the victims – for instance during the three-month long Rwandan Genocide 20 years ago, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died at the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
The Holocaust came as a surprise to many Jews in both Eastern Europe and in Germany who trusted their neighbors a little too much. Oddly enough, Vladimir Jabotinsky, a jewish journalist, saw what was about to happen and said in 1937:
I am very much afraid that what I am going to say will not be popular with many among my co-religionists, and I regret that, but the truth is the truth. We are facing an elemental calamity … We have got to save millions, many millions.
Also in 1937 (remember that the World War did not happen until 1939), the New York Times reported:
Anti-Semitism, raised by Adolf Hitler in Germany to the status of a political religion, is rapidly spreading throughout Eastern Europe and thereby turning the recurrent Jewish tragedy in that biggest Jewish center in the world into a first rate disaster of truly historic magnitude.


Movements often are not stopped by borders, and apparently Nazi philosophy did not stop at borders either. Jabotinsky was a rare voice of warning at the time. Perhaps he was more in tune with the trends around him because he spoke Russian, French, English, German and various Slavic languages, and because he was a journalist who had witnessed the pogrom in Kishinev in 1903.
In 1938, he said in a speech in Warsaw:
I have been ceaselessly warning you that the catastrophe is coming closer. My hair has turned white and I have aged in these years, because my heart is bleeding, for you, dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spurt out the fire of destruction. I see a terrifying sight. The time is short in which one can still be saved. I know: you do not see, because you are bothered and rushing about with everyday worries … Listen to my remarks at the twelfth hour. For God’s sake: may each one save his life while there is still time. And time is short.
I was listening to WBAI – a left-wing radio station in New York where an interviewee claimed that the rise of Donald Trump shows that many Republicans are racist. This shows what this man believes is around him in the undercurrents of the ocean of society.
(A few weeks later, I listened to another diagnosis of the rise of Trump and socialist Bernie Sanders by an economist, Peter Schiff, who claimed the reason was that the American economy is a disaster.) I agree with Schiff, not with WBAI, though the state of national defense probably also contributes to Trump’s support (not to Sanders).

So do we know who the people around us are? For instance, do we know the president who we elected twice?

Our current president has two senior advisors, Valerie Jarett and David Axelrod, both described as “red diaper babies”. Jarrett was raised by parents and grandparents with deep Communist ties, (according to the website “Discover the Networks”). Axelrod wrote this about his father: “In keeping with his bohemian lifestyle, when Dad registered to vote at the height of the Depression, he listed his party affiliation as ‘Communist.’” As for Obama, his mother Stanley Ann Dunham has been described by former classmates as a “fellow traveler.” (of Communism). Obama’s grandfather Stanley Armour Dunham arranged Obama’s mentorship by Frank Marshall Davis who happened to be a member of the American Communist party.
So how did these people get to the top levers of power in the U.S.? What trends propelled them there? Are they, as I think they are, both alarming and alienating a substantial portion of the American people?
You can be oblivious to such trends if you are an upper middle class person who works at a successful company and don’t feel a job squeeze, if your family is intact, and if your news comes from brief glances at progressive TV stations or websites). I still see Facebook posts from such people on how wonderful Obama is. In the town where I live, most families are intact, most are well-enough educated, and crime is not a big problem. But among whites in America, 30 percent of babies are born to single mothers. In my town, we don’t see this. Also we don’t see the alarming rise in the suicide rate among Americans that are approaching retirement age.
Many in this age group are drowning in debt, dealing with out of control medical bills, have saved very little for retirement and are dealing with significant physical pain.
From the larger societies point of view, when things get bad, normal people may believe that only ruthless measures can solve them, and to compound the situation, they may misdiagnose the causes of the problem.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a story about two Englishmen who take over villages in a remote area in Afghanistan. The natives (pagans, not Muslims) are impressed by the adventurers rifles and the lack of fear of one of them (Dravot) of their idols, so they acclaim him as a god.
Foolishly, Dravot decides to marry a native girl. Terrified at marrying a god, the girl bites Dravot when he tries to kiss her. Seeing him bleed, the priests cried that he was “Neither God nor Devil but a man!”
So in short order, very bad things happen to Dravot and his companion.

If we want to be somewhat mystical, we could speculate of a hidden web of invisible laws of conduct – laws that are not enshrined in any book, but if we violate them, we run into a punishment by someone, somewhere, at some point. It only takes a few vigilantes to guide your life in a bad direction. The existence of these “hidden laws” that motivate certain types of people is my speculation, and obviously certain pre-requisites have to be present to make a stranger who you never met take some hostile action against you personally.

But to stick with what appears in the newspapers, lets take two final stories, one from Culver City CA, and one from Seattle:

Sony pictures made a comedy about journalists who score an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The CIA has told these journalists to assassinate him. Before the film could be released, Sony employees seated in a California branch of the company saw a glowing red skeleton appeared on their screens. That was just the beginning. Almost 38 million files were stolen and doled out on file-sharing websites. Files included the screening versions of five Sony films, the script to the most recent James Bond movie, embarrassing e-mails between studio executives and personal information about Sony staff. Plus the hackers released malicious software, or malware, that infected Sony’s computers and was extremely destructive.
Finally the hackers posted a message threatening a 9/11 type attack on theaters that showed the movie.
This shows that when Sony violated law #3672A, section B, (“thou shalt not disrespect the leaders of totalitarian dictatorships”), that such dictators can hit them – hard.

Molly Norris drew a cartoon that depicted the likeness of Mohammed on several items, including a tea cup, a thimble and a domino. She received her first death threat within days.
One was a fatwa that came from radical and influential cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — an American-born imam who lived in Yemen — who said Norris was a “prime target” for execution for creating blasphemous cartoons.
Norris had kicked off controversy in April 2010 with a cartoon that proposed an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”
She disappeared, at the advisement of the FBI, in the fall of that year and has been in hiding since.

She was not sufficiently aware that she was breaking law #7984 Section C (“Nobody – infidel or believer – can blaspheme the prophet”) – and that what she did in Seattle would be judged and condemned in Yemen by an Islamic Imam, and that anonymous enforcers could emerge from the mass of people to kill her for what she said was just an effort to get people to “lighten up.”

Sources: (Peter Schiff interview)
http: //soufangroup. com/tsg-intelbrief-the-deadly-cost-of-speaking-out-against-extremism/
The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem — Ethan Gutmann: Aug 12, 2014
http: //www.infowars. com/suicide-epidemic-why-does-the-number-of-people-killing-themselves-just-keep-going-up/

If we knew the future, how surprised would we be?

If we could have a crystal ball that showed us the future, would it change our beliefs about our world?
I knew two veterans of World War One. Uncle Harrison Rothfield lost a piece of his arm at the terrible battle of Passchendaele, and 50 years later (approximately) he showed it to me. He was proud of his military service for Britain, and he once sang me the chorus of the song which he, as a child, heard British soldiers singing when they marched on their way to the boats that would take them to the Boer war in South Africa.

One verse went:

Goodbye Dolly I must leave you, though it breaks my heart to go,
Something tells me I am needed at the front to fight the foe,
See – the boys in blue are marching and I can no longer stay,
Hark – I hear the bugle calling, goodbye Dolly Gray.

On the German side in that war, Jewish soldier Otto was a short but brave man who told my dad he spent the war being very scared. Otto was my grandfather, and Harrison married the sister of my other grandfather.
If Otto had stumbled on a magical crystal ball in the mud of the trenches, and in it had seen the future rise of the Nazis, he would no doubt have deserted then and there. So that is an example of how knowing the future would drastically change a person’s worldview.

Imagine after the American Civil War, that a former slave gets hold of that magical crystal ball. The clouds in the crystal ball part to show him that after an interlude of segregation in the south, his descendants are treated equally under the law throughout the nation. But as he peers into the crystal,  it speaks to him, giving him a “trigger warning” that disturbing material lies ahead.  He continues to look anyway, and he sees other African descendants, at Yale University, marching in protest because of an email from a faculty member who wrote that students should be able to wear any Halloween costume they want. “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” she wrote.

Erika Christakis at Yale – she wrote the email.

The crystal ball then abruptly changes to show the town of Rotherham, England where British and immigrant girls were made into sex-slaves by Muslim immigrant gangs:

“No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited…from 1997 to 2013.

“It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.”

One interesting aspect of this is that:

…. police and council bosses turned a blind eye for fear of being labelled racist, a damning report has concluded.

So our freed slave would have food for thought. He would see that equal rights morphed into something that began to impinge on other rights. He would see that a fear of being labeled a racist actually protected slavery.

Freed slave (late 1860’s?).  I pasted in a crystal ball, to be mischievous


2016: Rotherham sex-slave Sarah Wilson, abused since age 11 by Muslim gangs, sister murdered.

Or imagine an early feminist in 1860, a time when only some states allowed women to vote. She stumbles across the same crystal ball, and it tells her that universal feministWithCrystalBallsuffrage would be achieved, and that women would lead big corporations, and many would govern states of the union. But then a voice from the crystal ball gives the trigger warning. She ignores it, and keeps looking at the ball. And she learns about the “hookup culture” in a liberal arts college in Maine, a college that actually got embarrassed when a report revealed that:


a fairly large number of the female upperclassmen appeared to regret having been part of the hook-up culture. One of the regrets came from the discovery that the Bowdoin men are more interested in the new women on campus. Many of the female upperclassmen experienced a diminishment of their desirability, as they were replaced by fresh recruits to the hook-up scene….

As our incredulous feminist keeps looking, perhaps shaking the Crystal ball to make sure its not broken, she might come across this latest development in feminism, known as “shouting your status”:

Feminist blogger Ella Dawson…tweeted: “I’m not interested in playing identity politics. I’m a slut, and I have herpes. I am still a person who deserves respect.”

To Ms. Dawson, columnist Matt Barber responds that no one “deserves” respect automatically, and then adds:

Still, I wonder if Ms. Dawson has considered that the first aspect of her admission, “I’m a slut,” may at least be tangentially related to the second: “I have herpes.”
Alas, it appears no. As evidenced by a subsequent tweet, the causal connection between actions and consequences yet eludes our young friend’s tenuous grasp: “A few weeks ago, I told a cute guy at a bar that I had herpes. Then I slept with him. Hehehehe.”

Would the woman’s rights advocate, staring into that crystal ball give up feminism at this point?  Would she wave her placards with a little less enthusiasm?  Might she avoid burning down the local men’s club?  (militant suffragettes did burn down men’s gathering places).feminists

As the Garth Brooks song “The Dance” says:

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go

American student sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea

As students march for post-equality rights, including the right not to be offended, there is an increasingly hysterical, reality-removed aura, at least to me. For instance, right now, there are at least three Americans languishing in prison in Iran, a country that has promised to end the existence of the United States. Also, a young American has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea. The students on our campuses are not marching for them. Students are not marching for Yezidi and Christian women who have been made into sex slaves by Islamic State followers. Where are the feminists? Where are the civil rights advocates?


A young Yezidi girl
After Christian Nigerian girls were abducted by Islamic fanatics, the wife of our president held up this sign.  Subsequently some girls were freed by force, others, unfortunately, will be slaves for the rest of their lives.

Human beings, I was told by a elderly history professor, are infinitely plastic. Another elderly professor, this one of sociology, told me that she would never have believed how malleable the culture was. We do have a crystal ball – but it looks backwards- we can see what happened in history – whether on a grand scale, or in personal anecdotes.

Thomas Sowell

I have no crystal ball, but I do see many negative trends. Thomas Sowell, a black conservative, says that he is thankful that he is old, because he won’t experience the future that he believes is coming.


Others have said this:

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” ― George Orwell, 1984

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”
–  Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Sources: (Erika Christakis) (Rotherham sex slaves) (Bowdoin) Matt Barber takes on STD culture (Americans in Iranian jails) – American sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

Fascism – real and imagined.

Robert Paxton’s book, The Anatomy of Fascism, describes the group of left-wing nationalists (not a contradiction back then) who with Benito Mussolini sought to bring Italy into World War I on the allied side.  Officially the movement began on a Sunday in 1919, after the war was over, when more than a hundred persons gathered to “declare war against socialism…because it has opposed nationalism.”   Mussolini called this movement the Fasci di Combattimento, which approximately mean “fraternities of combat.”
Their program had some features we would approve of such as women’s suffrage and an eight hour workday. It also had features we might not approve of, such as expanding Italian rule around parts of the Mediterranean.

Paxton describes the movement as boiling with the readiness for violent action, anti-intellectualism, rejection of compromise, and contempt for established society.  A solid core of Mussolini’s followers came from the Arditi–select commando units hardened by front-line experience who felt entitled to rule the country they had saved.   Other followers included Syndicalists – these people were dedicated overthrowing capitalism.  (“Syndicates” is another name for trade unions.)  They had the idea of all workers striking at once, and when collapse ensued the syndicates would be the only remaining units of production and exchange in a free collectivist society.

A band of Mussolini’s friends invaded a socialist daily newspaper in Milan, and smashed its presses and equipment.  So one of their first acts was against free speech. Four people were killed, and thirty nine injured.
Young Italian Black-shirts

Similar movements were springing up elsewhere in Europe, with violence against both socialist and bourgeois enemies.

In Germany, after Hitler gained power, the novelist Thomas Mann noted in his diary (March 27, 1933) that he had witnessed a revolution of a kind never seen before,

Thomas Mann

“without underlying ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth and justice.”  “Common scum” had taken power, “accompanied by vast rejoicing on the part of the masses.”


The phenomenon seemed to come from nowhere, a phenomenon that exalted hatred and violence.
It is surprising to think of Fascism being anti-capitalist.  Paxton does say that we have to examine what Fascists did when they got into power, which was often in contradiction of their original speeches.  They didn’t carry out their threats vs capitalists, but they used the utmost violence against socialists.  Once in power they even banned strikes and dissolved independent labor unions.  They showered money on armaments industries.  They denounced speculative international finance, but as far as everyday capitalism, their problem with it was that it was materialistic, and could not stir souls, and that it was indifferent to the nation.
Says Paxton: “Fascist contempt for the soft, complacent, compromising center was absolute.”  Fascism was not a philosophical system so much as a set of “popular feelings about master races, their unjust lot, and their rightful predominance over inferior peoples.”
Fascists often called for an agrarian utopia, free from the rootlessness, conflict, and immorality of modern life.  Yet their leaders adored fast cars and planes, and superhighways and weaponry…
So this raises various questions.  One question is whether we have fascists in our midst.  Some people think Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman running for the Republican nomination, is a fascist.  Paxton was actually interviewed on this, and his opinion on that question is no.  But he does say of Trump that “He’s a thoroughly self-centered and aggressive personality. The danger, it seems to me, is that in a deadlock between Trump and the Congress or Trump and the courts, he would indeed take some kind of nonconstitutional action, and people would be afraid to say no.”
So why is the Donald succeeding (in Paxton’s view)?
I think there is a public that he’s speaking to. In Italy after the First World War, there was a global depression. Everybody was worse off. In Germany in 1933, everybody was worse off. Now, we’ve got this strange dichotomy of a few people doing incredibly well, amassing pharaonic wealth, and most people in the middle doing somewhat better, and a group of people doing worse, with stagnant wages, with job opportunities that are limited to people with technical skills that poorly educated people don’t have. So we’ve got a group of people who see the others getting ahead by leaps and bounds, and sometimes they think that black people are getting fair advantages to get ahead, and they’re slipping behind. And so, this is a very angry crowd of people.”
Paxton adds:
it’s in the rallies that he’s established this rapport with a lot of angry people who felt that nobody else was speaking for them. It’s an incredible achievement. He’s very good at sensing the deep feelings of a crowd and playing them. This is another thing that sounds like Mussolini. Mussolini used to stand on the balcony and have exchanges with the thousands of people assembled in the streets below, and they would chant back and forth. He has brought those people into political activity. He’s given them a focus. And he’s installed himself as their spokesperson. And that’s an astonishing achievement.
I would note that the country has major problems, but people disagree on the causes.  Some people believe the problem is that the government is in the hands of the special interests, or that the rich are stealing from everyone else.  Others (like Trump) believe that unpatriotic companies are putting people out of work by moving their operations overseas, or that miserly business owners are displacing Americans when they hire illegal labor.   A third group (that I am in) might agree with former President Coolidge that “the business of America is business” and so notice the remarkable number of federal regulations, some of them extremely costly and hard to justify, that can strangle industries (such as coal).  We might notice unfairnesses in our lawsuit system, where a “class-action” suit can be launched in a state with a large number of barely literate and gullible jurors who don’t know the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars, and which can be another stab to a teetering company.  We might notice that companies without the right mix of genders and races can be sued for discrimination by the government.  We might notice a heavy and illogical tax system, a national debt approaching twenty trillion dollars, with unsustainable debts for some of our cities and states also.  We might notice radical environmentalists who want to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” to save the planet, which in practice means more expensive energy, which is fatal to competitiveness.    We might note the fact that 40 percent of children are born to single mothers, many of them struggling financially.
Others might blame technological changes such as automation, or the pharmaceutical innovations that result in an aging population – more old people, less children.
To illustrate, I saw comments that we had lost millions of jobs due to Nafta.  I asked for documentation, and this is the answer I got:
REALLY?!!! Your head in the sand? WOW. OK.. my company alone shut down 6 plants in the US and moved them to Mexico. They are part of the automotive industry. Many US jobs lost. A friend had a business and sold to a bigger company who then moved the entire operation to Mexico. My best friend’s company was sold to a Belgian company who then moved all jobs to Mexico. Ford and Carrier Air just announced they are building massive plants in Mexico and expanding business. Surprise.. the jobs currently in US will be moved to Mexico once the plants are built. NAFTA has not only hurt US JOBS, it has also harmed small Caribbean countries who produce similar products to Mexico but they don’t get the trade benefits so lost market share.  NAFTA not only has cost MILLIONS of jobs (which is documented.. just look up how many businesses have moved to Mexico). but the unbalance of trade has helped their economy and HURT ours! ANYONE supporting NAFTA IS TO BLAME
My view, which Trump supporters would not like, is that you can’t force companies to stay in the U.S.  A better approach is to make them WANT to come here.  Right now, if I were a executive at a corporate board meeting in secret to decide where to put a new plant, I might indeed choose Mexico.  I might look at the possible election of a socialist who believes in huge taxes AND protectionism, Bernie Sanders, on the Democrat side, versus Trump who is also a protectionist, whose policies, if implemented, would interfere with my exports.   I might look at the crime situation as well, the racial problems, the widespread failure of the educational system.
The point is, we have huge problems, some of which are exacerbated or even caused by our political leadership.  And some people are giving up on the traditional types of candidate.
But they do not see Trump as a fascist.   Russian immigrant Oleg Atbashian, who has friends who are Trump supporters quotes some of their opinions  on his supposed ‘fascist’ tendencies.
Oleg introduces Brendan, Christina, and Colin as follows:
  1. Brendan
    Brendan has spent years working on New York construction projects, including some that involved Donald Trump. He witnessed Trump getting personally involved with contractors and workers without any mediators, not afraid to get dirty and drive a hard bargain…

    He doesn’t see anger among Trump’s supporters, but rather optimism and love for the country. He also scoffs at those who compare Trump to Mussolini or Hitler. Trump has been in the public eye for almost 70 years, running a large business, producing a TV show, and nobody ever complained about him acting like a despot…

  2. Christina

    Christina has a PhD in literature, but her academic career ended when she evolved from a liberal into an outspoken conservative. All her previous activism in helping the inner city families, being involved in refugee resettlement programs, working with the ACLU, and other liberal credentials didn’t matter anymore. She became an untouchable and soon lost her job. Since then she has been active in local Republican politics and Tea Party circles, exposing the rot in America’s education system, fighting Common Core, and organizing book tours for conservative authors.

    She sees Trump as the only candidate who is not buying into the neurotic identity politics that’s currently driving both political parties. In her experience, identity politics and political correctness are the drivers of fascism in America today. In that sense, Trump is the most anti-fascist candidate in the race — and the most optimistic one, too.

    She objects to the description of Trump supporters as angry. There was no love lost for either political party or for the media in that crowd, she says, but the people weren’t angry at all: they were optimistic.
  3. Colin:
    Colin, who had acted on Broadway and choreographed dances for some of the most famous pop stars, said that unlike other politicians, Trump spoke off the cuff, didn’t mince words, called things by their real names, and used strong language when necessary, unconcerned about what society and the media would say about that behind his back.
I’ve also seen accusations that the strong anti-Trump movement among some Republicans is due to their desire to hold onto cushy jobs that they have under any president, Republican or Democrat.  This is unfair.  Just by reading articles by anti-Trump people I can see that they really have reasons they don’t want him in charge, some of them very convincing.
Anyway, there is a movement in the U.S. that does have fascist similarities, and that is the movement to tear away much of the Western United States, and create an Aztec nation from it.  Specifically the group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA), wants the following:
1. Ethnic cleansing.  Miguel Perez of Cal State-Northridge’s MEChA chapter has been quoted as saying: “… Once Aztlan is established, ethnic cleansing would commence: Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled — opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power.”
2. A zero-sum ideology: the motto is: “For The Race everything. Outside The Race, nothing.”
3. To rectify injustice since: their rightful lands were “brutally stolen from a Mexican people marginalized and betrayed by the hostile custodians of the Manifest Destiny.”
These Mecha quotes are coming straight from the official MEChA sites at Georgetown University, the University of Texas, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, and many other colleges and universities around the country.
And they have a point.  Mexico’s originally claimed borders did reach far north, though the people of the northern areas were not Aztec.  (If you go to Arizona, you will see large lands that belong to the Navajo and others, and they are not Aztecs).  The United States did seize Mexican territories by force in the 1840’s.   But having a point does not justify this type of ideology.
My experience of being targeted over a long period by a criminal Mafia suggests that criminals are just contemptuous of “rights” as Fascists are.  In fact they reveled in removing those rights from me, a person they instinctively disliked and despised.  There was behavior on my part that merited disdain, but that is not an excuse for normal people to attack someone.  Though organized groups of criminals are thought of as non-ideological materialists and Fascists as anti-materialist nationalists, the two groups are not that different, in one respect.  If they have a goal, other people’s rights are tossed aside in the process of getting it.


Italian War flag: Eagle grasping “fasces” (sheaf)
Emblem of German Reich

The Psychology of Destruction in Socialism

I never understood what makes leftists tick – but Roger Scruton in the book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands has certainly tried.  I’ll give you his take on them, and then comment.
RogerScrutonHe says:
Leftists believe, with the Jacobins of the French Revolution, that the goods of this world are unjustly distributed, and that the fault lies not in human nature but in usurpations practised by a dominant class. They define themselves in opposition to established power, the champions of a new order that will rectify the ancient grievance of the oppressed.
Liberty to a leftist might not match the common sense notion of being left alone as much as possible, but rather the notion of release from social constraints.
So that is liberty.  And what is “injustice”?
inequality in whatever sphere – property, leisure, legal privilege, social rank, educational opportunities, or whatever else we might wish for ourselves and our children – is unjust until proven otherwise.
So how will the left solve the injustice that surrounds them? By…
… a comprehensive rearrangement of society, so that privileges, hierarchies, and even the unequal distribution of goods are either overcome or challenged.
There can be much destruction on the way to utopia:
 Everything that does not conform to the egalitarian goal must be pulled down and built again… In this way ‘social justice’ becomes a barely concealed demand for the ‘clean sweep’ of history that revolutionaries have always attempted.
To the new left, which isn’t necessarily Marxist:
 government is the art of seizing and then redistributing the things to which all citizens are supposedly entitled.
It is interesting that when communists got control of a nation’s population, they did not like:
…spiritual callings associated with churches, chapels, synagogues and mosques; schools and professional bodies; private charities, clubs, and societies; Scouts, Guides and village tournaments; football teams, brass bands and orchestras; choirs, theatre-groups and philately groups – in short all the ways in which people associate..
and in fact Kádár, when Minister of the Interior in the 1948 government in Hungary, managed to destroy five thousand such organizations in a single year.  (A moderate leftist comments below this post that when Labour was in power in the U.K. it had no objection to private organizations, and he also says that Socialists are not the same as Marxists.  However, Roger Scruton  has read in depth the writings of various people on the extreme left, and what he reports at least applies to them).
So: (extreme) leftists see society as full of disguises:
… relations of domination express the truth of our social condition, and that the consensual customs, inherited institutions and systems of law that have brought peace to real communities are merely the disguises worn by power.
If you suspect that these beliefs are not arrived at by pure reason, and that there is some kind of emotional rage behind them, Scruton agrees with you:
Behind the impassioned rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto, behind the pseudo-science of Marx’s labour theory of value, and behind the class analysis of human history, lies a single emotional source – resentment of those who control things. This resentment is both rationalized and amplified by the proof that property owners form a ‘class’. [that exploits the proletariat].
He does not think that resentment in their case is just an
impoverished loss of spirit that comes about when people take more pleasure in bringing others down than in raising themselves up.
He says that is the wrong way to look at it.
…when resentment loses the specificity of its target, and becomes directed to society as a whole… In such cases resentment ceases to be a response to another’s unmerited success and becomes instead an existential posture: the posture of the one whom the world has betrayed. Such a person does not seek to negotiate within existing structures, but to gain total power, so as to abolish the structures themselves.
Being a Communist (or for that matter part of any secret ideological organization) is exciting since:
 Clandestine organizations create a band of visiting angels, who will move among ordinary people crowned by a halo that is observable only to themselves.
He adds that utopia provided:
a formula that rewrote every negative as a positive, every destructive act as an act of creation. Utopia issued instructions, implacable, secret but authoritative instructions that ordered you to betray everything and everybody that stood in its way – which meant everything and everybody. The thrill of all this was irresistible to people who were taking revenge on a world that they had refused to inherit.
Now my (the blogger’s) opinion.
The left has been tremendously successful in getting power.  It took over the largest country by land area (the Soviet Union) and the largest country by population (China) and it never loses its fascination for large numbers of “intellectuals”.  The map below shows in red the part of the globe that was Communist before the fall of the Berlin wall:
In the United States as of 2016, the Democrat party has moved far left, and yet many of the 50 states are given up as unwinnable by the Republicans.
.One reason for this is that if your philosophy is redistribution, you can always promise more to the poor, the sick, the old, and the children, the unions and so forth than the competition.
There are also large groups that feel victimized, for instance some blacks feel that racist policemen are shooting blacks for no reason.  (In reality, a police officer is two and a half times more likely to be killed by a black man than a black man is to be killed by a police officer.)
Palestinian activists seek to make an alliance with Black Lives Matter, and their activists claim that there is  “the oppression that continues to target our Black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives,” and [we] support the struggle against “a militarized police occupation”.  They pronounce their contempt for the “racist capitalist system” that “systematically pushes” American blacks “to the margins of humanity.”
But our hard left is about more than redistribution or racial politics.  Here is a great example, of the desire to destroy, in the foolish assumption that better arrangements will result:
Two Columbia professors, Richard Cloward and Frances Piven taught that if you flooded the welfare rolls and bankrupted the cities and ultimately the nation, it would foster economic collapse, which would lead to political turmoil so severe that socialism would be accepted as a fix to an out-of-control set of circumstances.
The idea was that if people were starving and the only way to eat was to accept government cheese, rather than starve, the masses would agree to what they would otherwise reject. …
So a seemingly irrational movement has been remarkably attractive to generations of people in all sorts of societies, and very successful at gaining power.  it has also been very destructive.  It reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln said: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
The leftists want to destroy, in order to bring about a better world, but so far, the destruction is real, but the better world is not.
Scruton, Roger (2015-10-08). Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition. (jeannie DeAngelis on Cloward-Piven) (Black Lives Matter) (Palestinians and Black Lives Matter)

An evil family that saw themselves as noble idealists

Peter Bergen describes an evil family that thought of themselves as noble in a chapter in his book United States of Jihad.  It is in some ways an ironic story, and the details shed some light on the unpleasant types who become idealists for Allah.

The chapter starts with a nineteen year old named Jahar bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds.  He was hiding in a boat parked in a suburban backyard, sirens all around him, while he was losing blood rapidly.  He wrote what he believed was his final testament on the inside of the boat with a pencil:
The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that.  As a M[uslim] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.
Martin Richard
Four days earlier, Jahar and his older brother dropped backpacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  When the bombs went off, three people died – Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell.  Other people lost limbs.  About 170 people were wounded.
Its ironic that Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev tweeted the following three months before the bombings:
I don’t argue with fools who say Islam is terrorism it’s not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot.

But by his actions, he lent credence to the idea that Islam and terrorism do go together, maybe not always, but too often.

Jahar’s family came from a town four thousand miles to the east of Manhattan, a grim Caspian port city.  For murky reasons that may have involved crossing some local gangsters, the Tsarnaevs applied for refugee status in the States.  They wanted out.

Over the course of 2002 and 2003 the family immigrated to Massachusetts.  At first everything seemed to be going somewhat well.  The father, Anzor, was an adept car mechanic, and his wife Zubeidat, a cosmologist, performed facials in their home.  The eldest son Tamerlan dreamed of becoming an Olympic boxer, a goal that seemed less and less far-fetched as he swiftly ascended in the New England boxing scene.

Jahar wrestling for his Cambridge high school

Meanwhile, Jahar captained his high school wrestling team at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and upon graduation he won scholarships from both the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the city of Cambridge. At UMass Dartmouth, Jahar was seen as an easygoing, party-loving skateboarder.  Facebook documents his active nightlife, and his prolific tweets were the typical musings of an indifferent (indeed failing) American college student: homework that was late, sleeping in, sex, girls, marijuana, and alcohol.”

Tamerlan was the star of his tight-knit family.  The whole family laughed at his jokes.  But he dropped out of community college, and his leisure time was full of drinking and smoking.
Worried about this, his mother, who herself was getting more religious, began urging him to embrace his Islamic heritage.

Tamerlan’s dreams of boxing were blocked by a rule change that prohibited non-U.S. citizens from competing.  Various disasters followed.  Anzor got into a fight at a restaurant and was struck in the head by a steel pole, an injury from which he never quite recovered.   Then his business took a dive and he became ill, diagnosed with cancer.  The family now subsisted on welfare and food stamps.  In 2011, Anzor and Zubeidat divorced, and Anzor went back to Dagestan.  Zubeidat became a Muslim fundamentalist, but her new-found religiosity did not stop her from shoplifting sixteen hundred dollar’s worth of clothes from Lord & Taylor.  The couple’s daughters moved to New Jersey, where one of them was arrested for selling marijuana.

Tamerlan told a confidante that he heard a “voice” in his head that told him to do certain things.

Tamerlan drew deeper into the world of Islam, shedding his fancy clothes.  He no longer looked at himself as the larger-than-life hero.  His younger brother, whose father was no longer around, became more radical under his influence.
In 2011, Tamerlan and a Chechen companion murdered three of Tamerlan’s friends, Rafi, Erik and Brendan, so violently that they were almost decapitated.   A veteran Waltham investigator called it “the worst bloodbath I have ever seen,” and compared the victims’ wounds to “an Al-Qaeda training video.” About a pound and a half of high-grade marijuana covered two of the corpses.  The victims were Jewish.   I speculate that in Tamerlan’s new identity as a purist Muslim, he violently rejected Jews, as well as his past with marijuana.  But other people have advanced other reasons.  Robbery does not make sense, because drugs and thousands of dollars were not taken.  Anyway, the murders illustrate that Tamerlan was a very violent killer, even before the marathon bombings.
Three Jewish friends later murdered by Tamerlan


At the Cambridge mosque, Tamerlan met Donald Larking, a convert who started believing conspiracy theories after an injury that left him with brain damage.  Larking confirmed Tamerlan’s radical views, and Tamerlan started recommending to acquaintances The Protocols of the Elder of Zion, which purports to reveal a secret plan of the Jews to take over the world.
Not only that, but Jahar, Tamerlan, and their mother came to believe that 9/11 was engineered by the U.S. government to create mass hatred for Muslims.
This is ironic.  Tamerlan and Jahar believed in evil motivations and evil actions by President George W Bush that were completely incorrect.  Then they did something truly evil themselves, summed up in this photo:woundedMarathon
As Tamerlan and Jahar prepared for their bombing, Jahar tweeted:
Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

This certainly illustrates that he did not believe he, himself was evil.

Peter Bergen then tells the reader about the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit and the six stage process they looked at, which involved:

1. Grievance (motive)
2. Ideation – the idea that violence is both necessary and justified.
3. Research and planning – constructing the plot
4. Preparation – finding a weapon or mode of assault
5. Breach – enacting the plan to get inside whatever security perimeter surrounds the target
6. Attack.
An FBI analyst explains:

We don’t mean grievance like ‘I’m mad because the guy cut me off in traffic.’  Grievance that is the kind that sorts of eats at your core..

There are also inhibitors that prevent someone going down the path to violence, such as family ties, having a good job, and religious beliefs.  Sometimes these inhibitors “topple like dominoes, with one inhibitor knocking over the next in a sequence of decline–frequently, rapid decline.” The loss of a job, for instance, might trigger a divorce, and that might trigger, in turn, the loss of a house, and so on.
Dominoes falling
In the case of the Boston Marathon bombers, the grievance was that the Muslims were supposedly under attack by the U.S.  They then moved to ideation, were they came to believe that it was necessary to avenge this grievance.  The inhibitors did fall like dominoes.  Tamerlan was both unemployed and unemployable.  Jahar, often wreathed in smoke from his joints, was struggling in school and lacked a stabilizing family life after his parents’ acrimonious divorce.

Tamerlan had lost a big dream (of being an Olympic boxer).  One hypothesis mentioned in Peter Bergen’s book is that Tamerlan blamed others for the decline in his fortunes.  Some people don’t take personal responsibility, instead they “collect injustices”.  After that, explains forensic psychologist Reid Meloy, they feel moral outrage, and they embed their personal grievance in a cause.

The irony is that the lone terrorist often has not himself suffered any oppression.  Tamerlan’s family had been welcomed to the U.S. as refugees, he and his siblings had attended free American schools, and his family had survived on welfare payments when the going got tough.  Jahar had been given scholarships to help him with college.

The judge at Jahar’s trial (Tamerlan had died in an intense shootout with the police) said

Surely someone who believes that God smiles on and rewards the deliberate killing and maiming of innocents believes in a cruel God. That is not, it cannot be, the God of Islam.

After looking at “Islamic State” and the various mass killings in Paris and New York and elsewhere, I would have to ask the judge, why can it not be the God of Islam?

Without Islam, Tamerlan and Jahar would still have been contemptible, with Tamerlan being a violent murderer as well, but they would not have bombed the marathon.  Islam was what logicians call a “necessary condition.”

Before the ‘lone wolves’ get to a secrecy stage, where they have to hide their motives and plans, they often do give hints, on social media or elsewhere, that they are radicalizing.  Unfortunately it is common for peers who suspect something is amiss not to come forward.  Family members are somewhat more likely to come forward but not much.

Tamerlan had actually stood up in his mosque and called the Muslim preacher an unbeliever for saying that Dr. Martin Luther King was a great man. This made other worshippers shouted “Leave now!” at Tamerlan until he left the premises. He was a very self-righteous type at this point. Perhaps that is a clue, but it is hard to see in practice how lone holy warriors can be stopped in time. Maybe one clue is that they are just plain obnoxious people, before and after they latch on to their cause.

United States of Jihad – Peter Bergen (2016)

A Hellish Staircase to Heaven

In his book Altruism, Matthieu Ricard has a chapter on the unhappy life of the animals that end up on our dinner plate.

This is a sanitized and short excerpt of what he describes.

If you eat chicken, you might be disturbed to know that of the fifty billion chickens killed every year in the world, many are allotted the space of a piece of paper throughout their lifetime. This situation leads to abnormal behavior by each chicken, plucking out its own feathers, and even eating its neighbor. To avoid this latter scenario, chickens are kept in semi-darkness and chicken beaks may be clipped, which can produce a painful result.

The “staircase to heaven” is a ramp that leads animals to the slaughterhouse. Some animals are weak or ill and so can’t make it up the ramp, and in some cases are left to die of hunger and thirst, or they end up thrown, still alive, into garbage trucks.
The conveyer belt in a slaughterhouse goes fast, and as one employee confided to Gail Eisnitz, investigator for the Humane Farming Association, “..if you get a hog that refuses to go into the chutes and is stopping production, you beat him to death.”
In theory animals are stunned before killing, but in the case of chickens, a too-low voltage is often used (to save money) and many are still conscious in the scalding tank. I won’t go into any more horrors, except to say that cattle are also often not fully stunned, which means that they can be skinned alive.

So should we actually do something about this? After all, there is a big chasm between animals and humans. Humans are being crucified by other humans (Islamic State) and so shouldn’t we prioritize our humanitarian concerns?

Isn’t a bad human worth more than a good animal?
Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin, originator of the theory of evolution, said this of animals:
Besides love and sympathy animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts, which in us would be called moral.
Ricard notes that various famous ethologists have observed in animals that
the basic signals we use to express pain, fear, anger, love, joy, surprise, impatience, boredom, and many other emotional states are not unique to our species.
Chimpanzees will tend to a wounded comrade, or rescue a friend. Elephants will help a wounded comrade, and a dog was observed dragging a wounded dog out of the way of traffic.
I once talked to a young man who was distraught at the “roadkill” that he saw every day. He cared about animals. Some of us don’t:
Since the 1970’s, research has consistently reported childhood cruelty to animals as the first warning sign of later delinquency, violence, and criminal behavior. In fact, nearly all violent crime perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their profiles. Albert deSalvo, the Boston Strangler found guilty of killing 13 women, shot arrows through dogs and cats he trapped as a child. Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold boasted about mutilating animals for fun.
So having noted all this, should we become vegetarians? Counterarguments that have been made to that drastic step include this:
Unfortunately, in order for one organism to live, another has to die. It’s part of nature’s food chain. Vegans and vegetarians don’t have any problem with big cats killing zebras, gazelles, and giraffes. They’ll also kill livestock if they can. Wolves kill deer, caribou, mountain goats and hares. There are no vegetarian snakes. They eat frogs, rabbits, and eggs. Even predatory ladybugs eat aphids and other pest insects. When it comes to humans, however, vegetarians believe that killing animals for food is immoral and harmful to the environment that supports them.
•Cultures who have been known to be primarily plant eaters did so because meat was scarce, but they supplemented their diets with grubs, larvae, cicada nymphs, grasshoppers, and other insects, learning what was edible by observing other animals.
•Currently, more than half the world’s population of 7 billion people still favors and farms these excellent sources of protein from dewinged dragonflies to fire roasted tarantulas.
The same article points out that plants don’t supply everything the body needs: for instance, only meat provides
•Creatine, which creates energy reserves in muscle and brain tissue.
•Carnosine: an antioxidant that protects against degeneration.
•DHA and EPA (the active forms of omega-3) which convert ALA (plant omega 3) to an active form.
•Vitamin B12 which helps make DNA, prevents certain types of anemia, and contributes to the health of nerve cells.
Despite the above, I have known strong healthy vegetarians who I’ve bicycled with. One of them not only cycled with our group in the Alps, but got up extra-early one morning to cycle up a famous mountain nearby.
The diet does require careful monitoring on various nutrients (such as vitamin D, iron, the twenty essential amino acids) that you don’t have to worry about with a mixed diet. In other words, its a pain to do it right. And statistically, vegetarians are more likely to have problems such as mental illness, allergies and cancer.
Still, there is a great deal of horrific treatment of creatures that cannot talk to us, that cannot put pressure on our government for better treatment. I don’t know the solution to this, but we should be aware of it.