Monday, December 15, 2008

The End is Nigh, The End is Nigh, The Star Comes out for John Tory

As the Ontario Legislature adjourned last week for a two-month winter recess, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory still didn't have a seat. And his self-imposed deadline of the end of this year is fast approaching.

However, the lack of a seat in the Legislature for Tory is not, in itself, the main problem facing Tory today. Rather, it is a symptom of the problem, which is that support for him within the provincial Conservative party is eroding. By now, a leader in a stronger position would have been able to force another MPP to step aside and make a seat available. Tory has pushed four or five different Conservative MPPs, and they have all pushed back.

The signs of the shakiness of Tory's position are everywhere, from disparaging quotes from unnamed party members to slack attendance at fundraising dinners.

This may seem strange to outsiders, as Tory is a man of obvious talent with an unrivalled work ethic. But he is also a Bill Davis Conservative, and the Mike Harris wing of the party has never much liked him. When the Conservatives lost the 2007 election, the Harrisites blamed Tory and his proposal of public funding for "faith-based schools" (even though the idea flowed from one of Harris's own policies, the private school tax credit). Now the Harrisites are actively undermining Tory, and sources say he may quit out of exasperation.

This would be a loss, and not just for the Conservatives who would have to turn to second-stringers in the Harris wing for a replacement. Under Tory, the Conservatives are a middle-of-the-road party that can present itself as a viable alternative to the Liberal government. Under a Harrisite replacement, the Conservatives would undoubtedly turn hard right and essentially give the Liberals a free pass to stay in power. That would not be good for democracy or the province.

Ironically, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Harris-style Conservative himself, could help Tory out by appointing one of his MPPs (Bob Runciman is the mostly likely choice) to the Senate. That would open up the seat that Tory needs.

If that is what it takes to keep Tory at Queen's Park, it is a Senate appointment we would welcome.

Also, correct me if I am wrong, but don't we even pay lip service to the idea that someone is selected for the Senate on their merits and not as a means to an end, in this case, a job for John Tory.

If you're curious to see whether I made all this up, you can click here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A plan and a half...

John Cole: We need to invade Michigan, and rebuild the state from the ground up. We will be greeted as liberators, we have clear supply lines, and we can easily rebuild the auto industry with the kind of money we spend on other countries we invade. This is very doable. Just tell Congress we will give KBR no-bid contracts to fix Detroit.
HT: BJ Via Drudge

I suppose the any colour you want provided its black could do with some revision too...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another Portent of the Coming Apocalypse?

Today I noticed that the Clock outside the Rolex Store on Bloor had come to a halt. My guess is that the world will come to an end at precisely 1:00 in the afternoon.

The Harper Dictatorship

I am sorry. The enclosed video is just too good not to post. HT: M2

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

The View from Down Under: 'Canada is Closed; Citizens Feel Safer'

Canada is Closed; Citizens Feel Safer

Reminds me of the old, possibly apocryphal, story about the laconic border guard on the Canadian side. American tourist asks if they can get back across the border, even if it is after midnight. Border guard tells her, "Yes ma'am; Canada never closes."

Well, yes it does. If the Parliament were open, there would be a vote of no confidence. So....close the sucker. The Iraqis, and other people whom we tell so condescendingly that they should have "democracy"...they must be so PROUD right now.


From the Always Aren't they File

Maid: Hitler Was Nice to Me

Rosa Mitterer, 91, who worked as Adolf Hitler's maid at his mountain retreat in Bavaria in the 1930s, has broken her silence to describe what he was like then: "He was a charming man, someone who was only ever nice to me, a great boss to work for. You can say what you like, but he was a good man to us."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Think I am Detecting a Pattern Here

Bush Dragged Behind Presidential Motorcade For 26 Blocks
December 4, 2008 | Issue 44•49

KANSAS CITY, MO—President Bush sustained serious head injuries, massive internal bleeding, and a broken left leg Monday morning after being accidentally dragged behind the presidential motorcade for a period of 15 minutes. According to Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, Bush's necktie became caught in the trunk of the motorcade's second vehicle at 4:13 p.m., shortly before the driver accelerated. The president was dragged down 175th Street for 26 blocks and through four stoplights, leaving a trail of blood more than a mile long. Upon hearing shouts emanating from behind his vehicle, the driver abruptly applied the brakes, causing the third car in the motorcade to run over the president's left leg at a speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. President Bush is resting comfortably in Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How the Credit Crunch Affects Britain


Mixing the Old and the New: Birkett's Radio Shop, Lincolnshire

The shop does not have email because:

he replied in all seriousness 'what is wrong with morse code?'.

From an American Blog: What The Hell Just Happened In Canada?

What The Hell Just Happened In Canada?

The three opposition parties look like they may form a coalition government and oust the conservatives. Frum thinks whoever wins is committing political suicide.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Calling the Pirates

He dialled the number. A pirate answered. "I'm sorry," he barked in Somali, "the boss pirate is sleeping. He was very busy last night keeping watch for possible attackers, night time, you know, is the busiest time for us. Call back in two hours."

From the Beeb.

Florence Nightingale Graphing Deaths from the Crimean War

So as to explain the horror to Queen Victoria. Article here.

A Recipe During the Seige of Leningrad

Soup from pets and domesticated animals
Meat is ranked by taste in the following order: dog, guinea pig, cat, rat. Gut the carcass, wash well and place in cold water. Add salt. Cook for one to three hours. For aroma: bay leaf, pepper, any sort of herbs, and, if available, grain.

Harper's story here, but you gotta pay.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Here's a modern take on the decryption of a World War II coded transmission that just happened to have sprung from the Time Life picture archive. The internet, really, is an amazing thing, and not just for porn.

From Today's Onion????

WASHINGTON—President Bush collapsed in the Oval Office after spontaneously expelling a 3-pound kidney stone from his bladder, sources reported Tuesday. According to witnesses, the president was attending his daily Iraq War briefing when he suddenly began shrieking loudly and clutching his abdomen, a mixture of blood and urine pooling rapidly around his feet. Bush was able to maintain consciousness through more than 20 minutes of excruciating pain, even after the jagged, grapefruit-sized crystal aggregation shredded his urethra and dropped from his left pant leg, finally rolling to a stop on the presidential seal in the middle of the Oval Office carpet. Bush is resting comfortably at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Real Estate Downfall

This is the fourth time I have seen this clip with 4 different set of subtitles. The first was from the German, the second was in regard to Hitler losing his Xbox live privileges, the next concerned Hilary, and now this. Bloody brilliant!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Watch out for Bug Eyed Monsters


Page 3 of 3

[Continued from previous page]

Title: Pictures Don't Lie
by Datherine Maclean [sic - this should be Kathleen Maclean]
Published Best SF by Faber & Faber Copyright 1951 by World Editions Inc.

Synopsis: Contact has been established with intelligent beings from another
world, who are kindly disposed towards the inhabitants of Earth and are about
to make a landing in a space ship. All communications have been achieved by
means of speeding up video and audio signals currently in existence on Earth
and transmitting them as very short pulses. (This is quite possible and
logical). Using this communication plus a translating machine, the space ship
is guided to its destination, reports a landing on the airfield, and then
immediately runs into trouble. It is clearly landing in a swamp full of
fantastic monsters, the atmosphere of the Earth is to the inhabitants of the
space ship, opaque; furthermore, despite messages and the assistance of
direction finding equipment, it would appear impossible for the ship to have
landed since it is nowhere in sight. Only then does the realisation dawn upon
Earth that the speeded up messages which are decodable by the aliens, do in
fact represent their natural pace of living. It means therefore that their size
is microscopic. They have indeed landed on the airfield and at the moment they
are sinking through and dying in the rapidly drying puddle out on the tarmac.

The whole thing is absolutely possible and logical.

Title: No Woman Born
by C.I Moore
Copyright 1944 Street & itnith, Publications Inc.
Pub. Best SF

Synopsis: This is an exception to our rule about robots. The central character
is a humanoid robot, but it is inhabited by a live human brain, salvaged from
the body of a world famous entertainer and ballet dancer. Her personality is
still intact, she is a woman of great determination and she decides to make a
comeback in the world of entertainment. This she does with riotous success — the
success is heightened by the realisation of the audience that she is indeed more
than human. With this however, comes the psychological problem. "I'm afraid it
isn't unhappiness, Maltzer, it's fear, I don't want to draw away from the human
race, I wish I needn't, that's why I'm going back on the stage, to keep in touch
with them while I can. But I wish there could be others like me — I'm — I'm
lonely, Maltzer".

The BBC Archive - sharing pictures, documents and programmes from the last
75 years of the BBC's broadcasting history. To find out more visit the
BBC Archive portal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ahmadinejad on Jews - Larry King

I love this guy.
You would think he might want to mince his words, but no...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Your Urgent Help Needed

Your Urgent Help Needed

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a
transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had
crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion
dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most
profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may
know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the
1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds
as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names
of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family
lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person
who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account
numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for
this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with
detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

HT: Angry Bear

Playing Poker with Lewis

Look on the Bright Side
By michael.lewis

One of life's rules is that there's bad in good and good in bad. The total collapse of the U.S. financial system is no exception. Even in the midst of the current financial despair we can look around and identify many collateral benefits.

A lot of attractive office space seems to be opening up in midtown Manhattan, for instance, and the U.S. government is now getting paid to borrow money. (And with T-bills yielding 0 percent, they really ought to borrow a lot more of it, and quickly.)

And so as Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack [2] blasts short sellers for his problems, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein [3] swans around pretending to be above this little panic, we ought to step back and enjoy the positives.

To wit:

1) We finally get to see what's inside these big Wall Street firms.

We've just witnessed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and we know neither the inciting incident (though there is speculation that sovereign wealth funds decided to stop lending to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.), nor the deep cause. But there's now a pile of assets and liabilities [4]smoldering in New York awaiting inspection.

The assets include subprime mortgage-backed bonds and no doubt many other things that aren't worth as much as Lehman hoped they might be worth. But it's the liabilities that are most intriguing, as they include more than $700 billion in notional derivatives contracts. Some of that is insurance sold by Lehman, against the risk of other companies defaulting.

The entire pile might be benign, but somehow I doubt it. We may well find out that Lehman Brothers, in liquidation, has a negative value of hundreds of billions of dollars. In that case the natural question will be: How much better could things be inside Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, both of which were engaged in the same lines of business?

2) We are creating the financial leaders of tomorrow.

Remember when everyone believed in Alan Greenspan [5]? When John McCain [6], running for president in 2000, said that if Greenspan died he'd have him stuffed and propped up against the wall at the Federal Reserve, where he'd remain chairman?

No sooner did Greenspan shuffle off the stage and sell his memoir than the financial system he helped shape fell apart.

He's left not only a mess but a void. No matter how well- educated we become in our financial affairs, we still need public officials to look up to, unthinkingly.

And there's nothing like a government bailout to create new public-sector heroes. Hank Paulson [7], 62, is probably too old; in any case, he's tarred by his association with both George Bush [8] and Goldman Sachs. But 47-year-old Tim Geithner [9] at the New York Fed is perfectly positioned to make Americans feel as if their financial system is in good hands for many years to come.

I have no real idea if Geithner knows what he's doing and he may not either. (``Bail out that one. No! Not that one -- the other one!'') It doesn't matter. He's in the middle of great events and should, by the end of them, know more about what happened than anyone.

Whatever happens to the U.S. financial system someone is bound to get the credit for something even worse not happening and, as no one really understands what Geithner does, he's the obvious choice.

3) Ordinary Americans get a lesson in low finance.

It's been expensive but, then, so is kindergarten.

Our willingness to believe that we can hire some expert to tell us how to outperform markets is a big problem, with big consequences. It underpins Wall Street's brokerage operations, for instance, and leads to a lot more people giving out financial advice than should be giving out financial advice.

Thanks to the current panic many Americans have learned that the experts who advise them what to do with their savings are, at best, fools. Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. [10] and all the rest persuaded their most valuable customers to buy auction-rate bonds, telling them the securities were as good as cash.

Those customers will now think twice before they listen to their brokers ever again.

Many, I'm sure, are just waiting to get their money back from their brokers before they race for the exits and introduce themselves to Charles Schwab.

Bank of America Corp. will soon discover that the relationship between Merrill Lynch and its customers isn't what it used to be, but Bank of America's loss is America's gain.

4) We have lots of new houses [11].

Not all of them have people [12] in them, sadly, but that's a minor detail. Even better, no one has had to pay for them, and probably never will. I'm betting that the U.S. government will soon have no choice but to take the final step and guarantee every bad mortgage loan ever made by Wall Street.

I can hear you thinking: Doesn't that mean the taxpayer foots the bill? That's so negative! Sure, one day some taxpayer will foot the bill but if the government does what it does best, and continues to borrow huge sums from foreigners, it doesn't have to be you or me.

5) Huge numbers of Wall Street executives will have the time to raise their children.

For years now Wall Street has been far too lucrative for a certain kind of energetic and ambitious person to justify anything but the most perfunctory personal life. Now that the market for his services has collapsed, he has time to go home and figure out which of the children roaming around the mansion are actually his.

In time, he will learn to love them and they him, and they will gain the benefit of his wisdom and experience. Perhaps one day they will put it to use as traders and investment bankers, on the Wall Street of the future, where they will report to those exalted creatures of high finance: loan officers.

There, slowly, they can earn the money they will need to pay off the mortgages defaulted upon by their forebears.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Magi of the Fed Speaks (in 2005)

“Where once more-marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit, lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately. These improvements have led to rapid growth in subprime mortgage lending.”

--The Magi of the Fed

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rogers Blocking Google?

Lately, when I go to use a Google ap or page I often get a 404. However, if I mistype a URL I get sent to a Yahoo/Rogers page. I've done some clicking around but I haven't seen it written anywhere.
Is anyone else finding this?

Pitch Perfect Palin

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

I’ve been in Alaska only a week, but I’m already feeling ever so much smarter about Russia.
--Maureen Dowd.

She left out Canada.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quote Du Jour

He's turned his life around. He used to be depressed and miserable. Now he's miserable and depressed.
--Robert Frost

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some good lines... Dead ponies and more.

"It's autumn in New York. The leaves are falling. Earlier today, John McCain admitted he doesn’t know how many rakes he owns."
---David Letterman
"There are only 56 days until the election. I saw that they’re selling Sarah Palin action figures. Sad incident at Toys R Us today---a Sarah Palin doll shot My Little Pony."
---Jimmy Kimmel
"Well, it's a very strange political campaign. I mean, out on the campaign trail, John McCain and Sarah Palin are talking about how they stood up to the Republican party, they fought the Republican establishment, and they battled Republicans. Their message: vote Republican."
---Jay Leno
"Sarah Palin has been getting briefed on what she needs to know to be John McCain’s vice president. The first thing they taught her was CPR."
---Conan O'Brien
"New Rule: Republicans must stop saying Obama is an elitist and just admit you don't like him because of something he can't help, something that's a result of the way he was born. Admit it---you're not voting for him because he's smarter than you."
---Bill Maher

"[Sarah Palin] knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America. ... And, uh, she also happens to represent, be governor of a state that's right next to Russia."
---John McCain on Palin's foreign policy experience

HT: The Daily Kos.

From Milquetoast; Rapper Naz on Fried Chicken

Rapper Nas on Fried Chickenfrom Milquetoast by Dylan
"After you shower, you and your Gold Medal flour
Then you rub your hot oil for 'bout a half an hour
You in your hot tub, I'm looking at you, salivating
Dry you off, I got your paper towel waiting

Don't know what part of you I love best / Your legs or your breasts...


The Colonel knew what he was talking about. Shame about what came afterwards.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Question: Who (for Love and Money) Will Have the Best Health Care in the World

Question: Who (for Love and Money) has the Best Health Care in the World?
Answer: The President of the United States.
What does this mean?
It means that there is no way (short of the impeachment or resignation of the Executive) that the President, even a 72 year old one, can possibly die whilst in office. The mandarins out of fear or inertia would never have it. Therefore, the VP will never become the P. I am not even sure an attempted assassination (a very real possibility and I have no doubt that the Secret Service will read this after I post the 'a' word) could ever be more than an attempt. The President's health care is that good.

Michael Moore on Palin

But before everyone gets all smug and self-righteous about the Palin selection, remember where you live. You live in a nation of gun owners and hunters. You live in a country where one out of three girls get pregnant before they are 20. You live in a nation of C students. Knocking Bush for being a C student only endeared him to the nation of C students. Knock Palin for having kids, for having a kid who's having a baby, for anything that is part of her normalness -- a normalness that looks very familiar to so many millions of Americans -- well, you do this at your own peril. Assuming she's still on the ticket two weeks from now, she will be a much tougher opponent than anyone expects.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Words Fail!

MacLennan Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, Contract No. 08FS-18S

Hello everyone, just a quick update on the bridge construction.

We are planning to open the bridge for Monday morning, September 8th, as planned, but the work on the bridge will not be fully complete at that time.

We have had a supply problem with the paint material for the railings. The railings have been built and galvanized, but the fabricator has run out of paint. The paint is a special order and is coming from the USA and there will be a delay in it being shipped, resulting in a delay to completing the coating and installation of the railings.

Currently, part of the ramp section has the railing installed and the contractor will be installing temporary fencing (approximately 6 feet high) along with pedestrian barricades at the areas where the railings are not yet installed. The temporary fencing and barricades will securely fastened to ensure the safety of the public. The available width of the pedestrian bridge deck will be somewhat reduced due to the fencing and barricades, but there should be approximately one and a half (1.5) metres of clear space between the barricades.

In addition, we will provide signs at the entrances to the bridge indicating that it is open, but to proceed with caution, since there will still be work occurring on the bridge.

The permanent railings will be installed as soon as possible after the paint material is available, tentatively scheduled for late next week. Work will proceed on the bridge, while maintaining public safety at all times.

Should you require any additional information, please let me know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ubuntu Christian Edition 4.0; A Religiously Themed OS?

Jereme Hancock has announced the release of Ubuntu Christian Edition 4.0: "We are excited to announce the release of Ubuntu Christian Edition 4.0. Ubuntu Christian Edition has been on hold for quite a while for various reasons, but we are back up and running. This is a 'back to the basics' release. We have discontinued most of the Windows program installers that we had in previous releases due to the difficulty in maintaining them and changes in some of the Windows programs that made it very difficult to install them automatically. We have added BibleTime as well as a bunch more resources for BibleTime and GnomeSword. We have replaced with GNOME Office to keep the ISO size below the 700 MB threshold. We have also updated the site with a cleaner web 2.0 feel." See the release announcement and changelog for further information. Download: Ubuntu_8.04_i386_Christian_Edition_v4.0.iso (675MB, MD5).

Monday, August 25, 2008

U.S. Advises Allies Not To Border Russia

WASHINGTON—Following Russia's controversial military excursions into neighboring Georgia, the Bush administration made its most direct commitment to the U.S.'s Eastern European allies to date by "strongly advising" those countries not to border Russia under any circumstance. "The United States stands by its allies, but will not be able to defend our friends in the region if they continue to share geographical lines with Russia," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a Monday press conference. "We also recommend that those nations who may not border Russia but were once a part of the USSR immediately cease and desist from having had that history with the Soviet Union." Rice later pledged financial aid to the victims of devastating flooding in the West African nation of Togo, effective upon the country first meeting the stipulation of removing itself from under water.

From the Onion.

I know I link to the Onion far too often, but this is humour of the finest grade.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Twin baby moose in sprinkler

Did I Say That I Bought A New Bike?

I bought a new Mountain Bike, a Trek -- the twenty year old Peugeot racing bike was missing it's front brake and with its super thin and then fashionable tyres was prone to flats. Although I like my Trek, I really wish I had gone for the Canondale with front and disk brakes at twice the price. I didn't plug for it because 1). I didn't like the sales guy and 2.) I didn't think I would be using my new bike so much. I may even commute, yeah sure. It's amazing, however, how bikes have improved. Everything from click shift gears, suspension, light frames, brakes that actually work, and tires that don't ask you to watch for streetcar tracks. Helmets seem like a good idea too as does the TTC. Moreover, I can wear, temporarily, some green creds. But the best news is, I am buying a Motorbike! After all, you still have to pedal with a pedal bike and hey my new motorbike is bound to use less gas than the 5.0 litre boat I scratched in a parking lot last week. Hey, we are at Peak Oil aren't we?

The One

Am getting a little sick of this Messiah.

Got this neat Bit of Anti-Georgian Spam Today

Funny Saakashvili gay video... See now! Sensation! President gay!

Click Now!

Contacting BBC about these Terms of UseBritish Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcasting House,
Portland Place,

Must See: In Bruges

'In Bruges' is sort of a slow motion, but also very clever 'The Usual Suspects.' I am not sure I should write anything more as the merest hint of its content, other than it is set in Bruges, would be giving something away. OK. The movie does feature a midget, I mean dwarf and a couple of obnoxious self-righteous, superior Canadians, an accurate portrayal of Canadians abroad that would win my vote every time. Alas, unlike most others in the film, the Canadians get out alive. I've said enough.

PS I love the Zohan. Take that JPK!

Some Bastard Stole My Pedal Bike!!!

To you, I say go F*CK Yourself!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Text of All that I hate by a Writer that Did Much to Make Me Who I am Today

Text of Address by

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises,

Thursday, June 8, 1978

I am sincerely happy to be here with you on this occasion and to become personally acquainted with this old and most prestigious University. My congratulations and very best wishes to all of today's graduates.

Harvard's motto is "Veritas." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. There is some bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend.

Three years ago in the United States I said certain things which at that time appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I then said...
A World Split Apart
by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of entirely destroying the other. However, understanding of the split often is limited to this political conception, to the illusion that danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is a much profounder and a more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance. This deep manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -- in this case, our Earth -- divided against itself cannot stand.
Contemporary Worlds

There is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Any ancient deeply rooted autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in this category China, India, the Muslim world and Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of viewing the latter two as compact units. For one thousand years Russia has belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it, just as today the West does not understand Russia in communist captivity. It may be that in the past years Japan has increasingly become a distant part of the West, I am no judge here; but as to Israel, for instance, it seems to me that it stands apart from the Western world in that its state system is fundamentally linked to religion.

How short a time ago, relatively, the small new European world was easily seizing colonies everywhere, not only without anticipating any real resistance, but also usually despising any possible values in the conquered peoples' approach to life. On the face of it, it was an overwhelming success, there were no geographic frontiers to it. Western society expanded in a triumph of human independence and power. And all of a sudden in the twentieth century came the discovery of its fragility and friability. We now see that the conquests proved to be short lived and precarious, and this in turn points to defects in the Western view of the world which led to these conquests. Relations with the former colonial world now have turned into their opposite and the Western world often goes to extremes of obsequiousness, but it is difficult yet to estimate the total size of the bill which former colonial countries will present to the West, and it is difficult to predict whether the surrender not only of its last colonies, but of everything it owns will be sufficient for the West to foot the bill.

But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development is quite different.

Anguish about our divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity; neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.

If I were today addressing an audience in my country, examining the overall pattern of the world's rifts I would have concentrated on the East's calamities. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects of the West in our days, such as I see them.
A Decline in Courage [. . .]

may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.
Legalistic Life

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes, based, I would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it.

I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.
The Direction of Freedom

In today's Western society, the inequality has been revealed of freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that every single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and, in fact, it has been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of prisoners in our camps which are termed criminals, but most of them never committed any crime; they merely tried to defend themselves against a lawless state resorting to means outside of a legal framework).
The Direction of the Press

The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media). But what sort of use does it make of this freedom?

Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.

Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be rectified, they will stay on in the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one's nation's defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.

Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the East where the press is rigorously unified: one gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment and there may be common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Enormous freedom exists for the press, but not for the readership because newspapers mostly give enough stress and emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and the general trend.
A Fashion in Thinking

Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.

I have mentioned a few trends of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world. The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a review, to look into the influence of these Western characteristics on important aspects on [the] nation's life, such as elementary education, advanced education in [?...]

It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in English in the United States.
Not a Model

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life's complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those produced by standardized Western well-being. Therefore if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.

All this is visible to observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.

There are meaningful warnings that history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Very well known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: we cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism's well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events.

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is. There have been naive predictions by some American experts who believed that Angola would become the Soviet Union's Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in Africa would best be stopped by special U.S. courtesy to Cuba. Kennan's advice to his own country -- to begin unilateral disarmament -- belongs to the same category. If you only knew how the youngest of the Moscow Old Square [1] officials laugh at your political wizards! As to Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States, sending his troops to distant adventures from his country right next to yours.

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or do they prefer not to hear? The American Intelligentsia lost its [nerve] and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing pause; however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation's courage. But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future?

I have had occasion already to say that in the 20th century democracy has not won any major war without help and protection from a powerful continental ally whose philosophy and ideology it did not question. In World War II against Hitler, instead of winning that war with its own forces, which would certainly have been sufficient, Western democracy grew and cultivated another enemy who would prove worse and more powerful yet, as Hitler never had so many resources and so many people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas, or have such a large number of supporters in the West -- a potential fifth column -- as the Soviet Union. At present, some Western voices already have spoken of obtaining protection from a third power against aggression in the next world conflict, if there is one; in this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the one perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.
Loss of Willpower

And yet -- no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal. Thus at the shameful Belgrade conference free Western diplomats in their weakness surrendered the line where enslaved members of Helsinki Watchgroups are sacrificing their lives.

Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?
Humanism and Its Consequences

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.
An Unexpected Kinship

As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation at first by socialism and then by communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say in 1844 that "communism is naturalized humanism."

This statement turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorship; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. (This is typical of the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth Century and of Marxism). Not by coincidence all of communism's meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is most to the left always ends up by being stronger, more attractive and victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process in the past centuries and especially in the past decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism's crimes. When they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.
Before the Turn

I am not examining here the case of a world war disaster and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.

[1] The Old Square in Moscow (Staraya Ploshchad') is the place where the [headquarters] of the Central Committee of the CPSU are located; it is the real name of what in the West is conventionally referred to as "the Kremlin."

Source: Texts of Famous Speeches at Harvard

Re-formatted in HTML by The Augustine Club at Columbia University, 1997

Hitch on Nitz; A Man Never So Happy Than When Interned.

There was an old joke I heard a couple of times in Israel from the newly arrived Russian immigrants. One man would meet another in the street and say 'Gulag.' The other would say 'Archipelago.' And they would pass by as if everything had been said that would ever need saying. I never knew whether this was a greeting from one Zek to another Zek, or a greeting between one Russian Intellectual to another, though the two groups undoubtedly overlapped.

This last week has, with Solzhenitsyn's passing, created, for me anyway, a revolting outpouring of obits that I have found vicarious, self-congratulatory, self-serving, exculpatory, and patronizing. You know who you are. This one,however, by Christopher Hitchens would seem to an essay apart. Few others would be able to put these two paragraphs in the same essay without worrying about contradicting himself, just as Solzhenitsyn contradicted himself.

His most recent book, Two Hundred Years Together, purported to be a candid examination of the fraught condition of Russian-Jewish relations—a theme that he had found it difficult to repress in some of his earlier work. He denied that this inquiry had anything in common with the ancient Russian-nationalist dislike of the cosmopolitan (and sometimes Bolshevik-inclined) Jew, and one must give him the benefit of any doubt here. However, when taken together with his partisanship for Slobodan Milosevic and the holy Serb cause, his exaltation of the reborn (and newly state-sponsored) Russian Orthodox Church, and his late-blooming admiration of the cold-eyed Vladimir Putin, the resulting mixture of attitudes and prejudices puts one in mind more of Dostoyevsky than of Tolstoy. Having denounced "cruel" NATO behavior in the Balkans, without ever saying one word about the behavior of Russian soldiers in Chechnya, Solzhenitsyn spent some of his final days in wasteful diatribes against those Ukrainian nationalists who were, rightly or wrongly, attempting to have their own Soviet-era horrors classified as "genocide."

Dostoyevsky even at his most chauvinistic was worth a hundred Mikhail Sholokhovs or Maxim Gorkys, and Solzhenitsyn set a new standard for the courage by which a Russian author could confront the permafrost of the Russian system. "A great writer," as he put it in The First Circle, "is, so to speak, a secret government in his country." The echo of Shelley's remark about poets being the "unacknowledged legislators of the world" may or may not be deliberate. But it serves to remind us that writers, however much they may disown the idea, are nonetheless ultimately responsible for the political influence that they do choose to exert. Therein lies the germ of tragedy.

The West may not be the model, but it's not so bad either.

Primo Levi, it must be noted, never took this turn.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some Stuff Can't Be Made UP

Russia Inades Southern United States, According to Google

Quote du jour

H. L. Mencken
from Quotes of the Day
"For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing."

Eric Arthur Blair's Diaries

George Orwell blogs from beyond the grave.

You can read them here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Anyone Else Find this Paragraph from The National Roast Weird?

Igor Kenk has a messianic aura to accompany his horror novel name. He is a head taller than the guard who led him, handcuffed behind his back, into the glass prisoner's box in courtroom M2 at Old City Hall for his bail hearing this week. With his mane of tousled dirty-blond hair curling over the upturned collar of his orange prison overalls, his beard and drooping moustache, he resembles Liam Neeson from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, crossed with Jesus Christ.

Story here.

Or this one form here:

But he had excellent blue eyes, was energetic, very male and thus attractive. When he spoke, his prophetic gaze never wavered; his bewitching eyes felt as though they could cleave into my mind. He would be difficult to lie to, and gifted at manipulating others. I could just tell.

And just as a matter of pure curiosity, how could such an open secret go undetected by the detectives for so long?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sovereignty and the UFO

While I am quite interested in political theory and ufos, I don't like when the twain meet this way.

Sovereignty and the UFO

Alexander Wendt & Raymond Duvall
Political Theory, August 2008, Pages 607-633

Modern sovereignty is anthropocentric, constituted and organized by reference to human beings alone. Although a metaphysical assumption, anthropocentrism is of immense practical import, enabling modern states to command loyalty and resources from their subjects in pursuit of political projects. It has limits, however, which are brought clearly into view by the authoritative taboo on taking UFOs seriously. UFOs have never been systematically investigated by science or the state, because it is assumed to be known that none are extraterrestrial. Yet in fact this is not known, which makes the UFO taboo puzzling given the ET possibility. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, the puzzle is explained by the functional imperatives of anthropocentric sovereignty, which cannot decide a UFO exception to anthropocentrism while preserving the ability to make such a decision. The UFO can be "known" only by not asking what it is.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wikipedia Never Ceases to Amaze

Posted while I was typing my last note.

Presidential and government sources in Belgrade announced on Monday July 21, 2008, that Karadžić had been arrested and arraigned.[1] A statement issued by the office of President Boris Tadić said: "Radovan Karadzic was located and arrested tonight ... [and] was brought to the investigative judge of the War Crimes Court in Belgrade, in accordance with the law on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia." Serbian security forces were credited with having located and captured Karadžić, without any further details being given of the circumstances.[14] The arrest has been confirmed by the ICTY.[15] If he is extradited to the ICTY, he would become the 44th Serb suspect to be sent to The Hague.[16] The arrest came just two days before the ICTY's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, was due to visit Serbia.[17]

Here's too Mladic

They Got the Good Doctor and Poet

Store here.

This has been a very long time coming. As I understand it, it was pretty much an open secret that the good Dr. (who published a well received book of verse just last year) was living comfortably in Serbia. Hopefully, the good Doctor has a better heart than Milosevic. It's so nice when they catch war criminals before they are eligible for retirement. RK is a sprightly 63. How long will it be to they catch Mladic?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Case Against Lawns

Clover is good. Weeds are good. Pesticides are bad. Fertilizer is unnecessary. Lawns are natural. It's cruel to mow. More here.

The greener, purer lawns that the chemical treatments made possible were, as monocultures, more vulnerable to pests, and when grubs attacked the resulting brown spot showed up like lipstick on a collar. The answer to this chemically induced problem was to apply more chemicals. As Paul Robbins reports in “Lawn People” (2007), the first pesticide popularly spread on lawns was lead arsenate, which tended to leave behind both lead and arsenic contamination. Next in line were DDT and chlordane. Once they were shown to be toxic, pesticides like diazinon and chlorpyrifos—both of which affect the nervous system—took their place. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos, too, were eventually revealed to be hazardous. (Diazinon came under scrutiny after birds started dropping dead around a recently sprayed golf course.) The insecticide carbaryl, which is marketed under the trade name Sevin, is still broadly applied to lawns. A likely human carcinogen, it has been shown to cause developmental damage in lab animals, and is toxic to—among many other organisms—tadpoles, salamanders, and honeybees. In “American Green” (2006), Ted Steinberg, a professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, compares the lawn to “a nationwide chemical experiment with homeowners as the guinea pigs.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

BANNED Pres. Bush Interview

In Politics, Only, Of Course

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
-- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Huntsville, Ontario Makes The Onion

Full story here.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm just treading water," he said. "Then I remember that a beaver near Baysville built a dam that was nearly 12 feet high. There's even one that's almost 200 feet long in Manitoba. I want to build something that I can be proud of."

This marks the third consecutive spring in which Messner has sought to build the perfect dam. Many in the area believe that Messner will fail and resort to burrowing a hole in the muddy ground where he will spend the rest of the season, as he has done the past three years.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

F*ck Farc

By FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Writer 59 minutes ago

Ingrid Betancourt woke up, as always, at 4 a.m., for another numbing day in her seventh year of rebel captivity deep in Colombia's jungle.

The former presidential candidate listened to news of her mother and daughter over the radio then was told to pack by her guerrilla captors — helicopters were coming.

The sound always filled her with dread, but this time she and 14 other hostages — including three U.S. military contractors held since 2003 — were airlifted to freedom in an audaciously "perfect" operation involving military spies who tricked the rebels into handing over their prize hostages without firing a shot.

The stunning caper involved months of intelligence gathering, dozens of helicopters on standby and a strong dose of deceit: The rebels shoved the captives, their hands bound, onto a white unmarked MI-17 helicopter, believing they were being transferred to another guerrilla camp.

Looking at helicopter's crew, some wearing Che Guevara shirts, Betancourt reasoned they weren't aid workers, as she'd expected — but rebels.

This was just another indignity — the helicopter "had no flag, no insignia." Angry and upset, she refused a coat they offered as they told her she was going to a colder climate.

But not long after the group was airborne, Betancourt turned around and saw the local commander, alias Cesar, a man who had tormented her for four years, blindfolded and stripped naked on the floor.

Then came the unbelievable words.

"We're the national army," said one of the crewman. "You're free."

The helicopter crew were soldiers in disguise. Cesar and the other guerrilla aboard had been persuaded to hand over their pistols, then overpowered.

Not a single shot was fired in Wednesday's rescue mission, which snatched from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the four foreigners who were its greatest bargaining chips.

"The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another," Betancourt later said.

The operation, which also freed 11 Colombian soldiers and police, "will go into history for its audacity and effectiveness," Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said.

It was the most serious blow ever dealt to the 44-year-old FARC, which is already reeling from the recent deaths of key commanders and thousands of defections after withering pressure from Colombia's U.S.-trained and advised armed forces.

Military intelligence agents had infiltrated the FARC's top ranks — not one but many — in an operation that began last year and developed slowly and with meticulous care, Colombia's top generals said.

Many relatives of hostages have opposed rescue attempts, mindful of a botched 2003 operation in which rebels killed 10 hostages including a former defense minister when they heard helicopters approach.

This time, there were no such mistakes.

Through orders the hostages' handlers believed came from top rebels, they had maneuvered three separate groups of hostages to a rallying point in eastern Colombia's wilds for Wednesday's helicopter pickup.

"The helicopter was on the ground for 22 minutes," said army chief Gen. Mario Montoya, "the longest minutes of my life."

The agents had led Cesar, the local commander overseeing the hostages, to believe he was taking them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas' supreme leader to discuss a possible hostage swap.

A French and Swiss envoy were reported in the country seeking a meeting with Cano so the operation's timing was perfect.

"God, this is a miracle," Betancourt said after the freed Colombians landed in Bogota a few hours later. "It was an extraordinary symphony in which everything went perfectly."

She appeared thin but surprisingly healthy as she strode down the stairs of a military plane and held her mother in a long embrace.

A flight carrying the Americans — Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell — landed in Texas late Wednesday after being flown there directly. They were to reunite with their families and undergo tests and treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Betancourt said she will travel to France on Thursday and meet President Nicolas Sarkozy.

President Alvaro Uribe, in a celebratory news conference flanked by the freed Colombian hostages, said he isn't interested in "spilling blood" that he wants the FARC to know he seeks "a path to peace, total peace."

Although only Colombians were directly involved in the rescue, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield said "close" American cooperation included intelligence, equipment as well as "training advice." He refused to offer details.

The two rebels overpowered will face justice, officials said. But the 58 others left behind on the ground were allowed to escape as a goodwill gesture, said Gen. Freddy Padilla, the armed forces commander.

"If I had given the order to fire on them they would almost certainly all have been killed," he said. Another 39 helicopters had been standing by, prepared to encircle the rebels and hostages if the rescue failed, Santos said.

Betancourt, 46, was abducted in February 2002. The Americans were captured a year later when their drug surveillance plane went down in rebel-held jungle. Some of the others had been held for a dozen years.

The French-Colombian Betancourt wore a floppy camouflage hat as she arrived in Bogota and hugged her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, and her husband, Juan Carlos LeCompte. Her two children and sister, Astrid, were expected to arrive early Thursday from France, where they live with her ex-husband.

Betancourt broke into tears several times — first on arrival and later at Uribe's side during the news conference.

"They used the pain of our families to pressure the entire world," she said, and appealed to the FARC to release its remaining hostages — about 700 by government count — and make peace.

"The people who stayed behind there, I forgive them," Betancourt said of her rebel captors. "Nobody is at fault."

She thanked Uribe, against whom she was running when she was kidnapped, and said he "has been a very good president."

However, she said, "I continue to aspire to serve Colombia as president."

Before leaving Paris, her son Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt called her release "the most beautiful news of my life."

Brownfield said the Americans were healthy and "very, very happy" but two suffered from the jungle malady leishmaniasis and were "looking forward to modern medical treatment."

Congratulations swarmed in for Uribe and his military from around the world, including from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had made Betancourt's liberation a priority of state.

Betancourt, a dual French national who grew up in Paris, had become a cause celebre across Europe, where scores of cities had adopted her.

Many Colombians believe the end is near for the FARC, whose ranks are filled with poor peasants resentful of government neglect but who are widely despised for their ransom and political kidnappings and reliance on cocaine trafficking.

FARC battlefield losses and widespread desertions have cut rebel numbers in half to about 9,000 as the United States has poured billions of dollars in military aid into Colombia in support of Uribe.

In March, co-founder leader Manuel Marulanda died of a reported heart attack, and two other top commanders were killed, one by a turncoat bodyguard.

Padilla said the FARC informants who had made the hostages' release possible would be rewarded not with cash but with "liberty."

"They did it so that they and their families can have a better life."