Dr. Norman Borlaug

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was taking a drive in the Villainmobile last week and heard this wonderful interview on NPR with Dr. Norman Borlaug. Over the weekend, in a telephone conversation with the Minister of Agriculture, your Maximum Leader discussed the interview and the original “Green Revolution” but could not remember the Dr’s name. He had a few moments to do some internet searching and here are some interesting links.

NPR : Father of ‘Green Revolution’ Derides Organic Movement (Audio Link for those of you with lots of bandwidth.)

The Norman Borlaug Foundation

The Nobel Peace Prize Winners

The Atlantic Magazine: Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity.

Techcentral Station: The Man who defused the “Bomb”

Happy Belated Birthday Dr. Borlaug!

Carry on.


Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader spent most of Saturday in an AOL chat room with many of his longtime friends completing an auction for our fantasy baseball league. Your Maximum Leader, busy making plans for world domination, did not adequetely prepare. Of course, if he had visited Annika’s site and read her secret player ranking post, perhaps he could have plyed her with gifts and tokens of platonic affection to get some help. As it stands, your Maximum Leader is not sure he is going to do well this year.

Regardless, read her post and realize why your Maximum Leader will make Annika Commissioner of Baseball in the MWO.

Carry on.

Time Machine.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking quite a bit about current events lately and decided he had just had enough. So, today he will take you on a little trip through time to a different time and place‚ÄövѬ

United States Senate Hearing Room
March 24, 1943
Testimony before the December 7th Commission.

Senator Barkley: So, Mr. Smith do I understand your previous testimony correctly? You claim that on numerous occasions you had face-to-face meetings with Secretary [of War] Stimson and the [Army] Chief of Staff [George Marshall], and during those meetings you tried to tell them that the Imperial Japanese Navy was planning a major attack on the United States?

Mr. Smith: Yes Senator Barkley. During the first six months of President Roosevelt‚ÄövÑv¥s third term, I met frequently with Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, Secretary of State [Cordell] Hull, and Secretary of the Navy [Frank] Knox. During that time I tried to impress upon them the urgency of addressing the impending problem posed to our nation by the Japanese. But they were more focused on other matters.

Senator Glass: Mr. Smith, what could be more important than an impending attack on the United States?

Mr. Smith: Well, Senator the world is a complicated place. In my capacity it was incumbent upon me to keep my eyes on as many different threats to the country as I could. It was my opinion at the time that the major threat to our nation was being relegated to a secondary position by the President and his immediate advisors.

Senator Glass: What threat held the primary attention of the President and his advisors during this period? In your opinion Mr. Smith‚ÄövѬ

Mr. Smith: Senator, whenever I would give briefings on the cryptographic intercepts to the President‚ÄövÑv¥s advisors concerning the nature of the Japanese threat; they would always listen attentively, many took notes in fact, and would wait for me to finish. After my prepared briefing remarks about the Japanese were concluded, I would, inevitably, be asked, ‚ÄövÑv Well Rich, what can you tell me about the Nazis?‚ÄövÑvp It struck me as odd that they should be so focused on the German threat, but not interested in the threat from Japan.

Senator Russell: Mr. Smith, I seem to recall from your previous testimony that on one occasion you elicited a reaction of complete surprise from Secretary Stimson after a briefing? Could you tell us more about that please?

Mr. Smith: Of course Senator. As I recall it was late September, 1941, and I had just given Secretaries Stimson and Knox a briefing on the overall security situation in the Pacific basin. Towards the end of the meeting I said to Secretary Stimson that it was my opinion that that we ought to warn the various ship commanders in the Pacific Fleet, or at least Admiral Kimmel, that an attack on the fleet or the territories of the United States by the Japanese was imminent. I recall Secretary Stimson looking at me as if I was speaking in tounges. It was as though he had never heard of Japan‚ÄövѬ

Senator Vandenberg: So, Mr. Smith you are saying that in your capacity as Undersecretary of War for Security Affairs you had decoded secret cryptographic intercepts from the Imperial Japanese Navy that specifically indicated that they would attack the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941?

Mr. Smith: Well nothing that specific Senator Vandenberg. We had noticed a significant increase in the traffic of coded communications between Tokyo and their overseas missions. Additionally, there was a lot of chatter between Japan‚ÄövÑv¥s Naval Headquarters and their various battle fleets. But cryptographic information is a very difficult source to work with Senator. You only have little snippets of information that you have to analyze and try to understand.

Senator Vandenberg: So really you are saying that you didn‚ÄövÑv¥t know that Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked?

Mr. Smith: I didn‚ÄövÑv¥t know specifically at the time. But if we could have put together the information gathered by the Navy and the Department of State; and if Director Hoover would have let us know about Japanese agents photographing Pearl Harbor, we might have been able to prevent the attack.

Senator Taft: So, Mr. Smith you are saying that we had many pieces of information that in hindsight point towards an attack. But at the time it was impossible to tell what the Japanese were up to?

Mr. Smith: What I am saying Senator is that the American People need to know that their government failed them. Their President and his advisors failed them. I failed them. If they had listened to me, December 7th could have been averted.

Well loyal minions‚ÄövѬ Perhaps a voyage through the time machine wasn‚ÄövÑv¥t such a good idea.

Carry on.

Minion Mailbag

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader received a pleasant e-mail this morning from a minion who was, until this point, unknown to him. Don Hagen writes:


I absolutely loved your web site and would like to suggest you mention a new funny political test in Nakedvillainy.com‚ÄövÑv¥s blog.

The new link’s Title is:

A Satirical Political Beliefs Assessment Test


Your Maximum Leader reponds: Your wish is hereby commanded by your Maximum Leader. It is a rather pithy little quiz. More something to be read than to be taken. It amused your Maximum Leader, and so he commends it to you.

Of course, the Hobbesian side of your Maximum Leader tells him that really the message was just a sly ploy to increase Mr. Hagen’s website traffic, and that your Maximum Leader shouldn’t allow himself to be swayed by flattery. But, since it is Sunday and your Maximum Leader is feeling charitable this morning… He’ll let it slide this once.

Carry on.

Water balloons popping in space

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asks, “Did you ever wonder what it would be like to see a water balloon pop in space?” Check it out if you have QuickTime or an MPEG player and a high speed line. Very cool.

Carry on.

Fresh from the Villainschloss

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader finally opens the doors of the great tower of the Villainschloss and peers down into the rest of the world…

My what an active little blog your Maximum Leader now has! Lucky for him, and his loyal readers, that his Ministerial apostles are so prolific. In a brief review of many blogs, he can honestly say that he doesn’t find too many blogs with the range of opinion that one is likely to find on Nakedvillainy.com. (Is it proper to link to one’s own blog? Hummm…)

Well, as much as your Maximum Leader likes his own URL, it seems that some of his readers might be too lazy to try and find his new location. Either that or his daily readership has just dropped. According to his hosting company, he is getting about 41 unique visitors a day. Which is down from the 70-odd unique visitors a day he got on blogspot. Hummm…

Regardless. He hopes the spirited debate grows his readership.

As for civility in this space. While name-calling is fun from time to time, it generally doesn’t advance one’s argument.

Your Maximum Leader was giving some careful thought and review to many of the Iraq points made in this space by his ministers. While his overall opinion has not changed (namely that the war is not a distraction from the war on terror, and is justified), he can see how other intelligent people (like the Minister of Propaganda) come to a different conclusion. Your Maximum Leader does believe that many people who did not want to go to war in Iraq think that overall the war on terror should be conducted in a more legalistic, police-investigation, crime-fighting mode. (Your Maximum Leader doesn’t want to lump the Minister of Propaganda in this boat, he is speaking very broadly.) And your Maximum Leader believes that mindset is fatally flawed and will never bear fruit. Simply because it will never successfully address the root causes of terror.

And your Maximum Leader wants to doff his (bejeweled) floppy hat to loyal minion Carpemundi for recommending to him this very fun site. Nothing like blasting people with a giant magifying glass to make your day.

Alas, your Maximum Leader grows tired, and thinks he will retire to the loving arms of Mrs. Villain.

Carry on.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Lileks Bleat has me chuckling.


…the Sam‚ÄövÑvÂ¥s Club card, which I‚ÄövÑvÂ¥m sure has an interest rate that would make Ayn Rand scream for a usury law…

Of course, this is why I have to be friends with Mike, Greg, and Rob. No one else gets my sense of humor. My wife just rolls her eyes at me.

Kilgore Trout’s Bill of Reader Rights is amusing as well. I wonder if he has ever done a review of the Minister of Propaganda’s “Planet of the Apes.”

Civility in the World and the Blogosphere

Concerning accusations of name-calling by both the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Agriculture: in both cases, I felt my response mirrored the tone set by their original posts. If they felt attacked, that was exactly my point. The ‘bare-knuckled roundhouse fight that is blog politics’ seems to allow for a general tone of disdain for contrary opinion and dismissive generalizations of one’s opponents. Starting from the assumption that everyone on the left is a ‘whiner’ (as did the Foreign Minister) or that the Spanish voters are ‘nimrods’ (as did the Minister of Agriculture, thereby initiating the current round of name-calling) does not particularly convince anyone but the already converted to support one’s views. When discussing the situation in Iraq, to dismiss the U.N. and the French out of hand is not constructive. That’s how a good portion of the world is starting to treat the U.S., in response to Bush’s heavy-handed and U.S.-centric foreign policy. I’ll agree that there are legitimate and serious critiques to be made of French foreign policy, and I think the Minister of Agriculture’s suggestion that those hypocrises be brought to light is a good one. However, I think reacting to French foreign policy with solutions like ‘Freedom Fries’ and ‘Freedom Toast’ reveals the absurdity of the discourse. Additionally, we should proceed cautiously into the finger-pointing arena, as I think our own efforts in rebuilding Iraq (economically and politically) have hardly passed the ‘enlightened global leadership’ test.

It’s true that I’ve only recently joined the Maximum Leader’s cabinet, and perhaps general agreement amongst the bloggers allowed the disdainful tone I’m critiquing to go unchallenged in the past. However, I should also point out that Maximum Leader himself seems to maintain a much more consistent tone of civility in discussion, and I think all Ministers should look to his example. Although I’m not sure how ’sleeping with my mother,’ as his recent page header proclaimed, fits with that.

The difference between Smallholder beginning a discussion by calling my friend a ‘moron’ and me opening an argument with ‘Smallholder is a nimrod’ is twofold: one, my use of ‘nimrod’ was intended as a mirror to his dismissal of the Spanish, whereas his use of ‘moron’ had no precedent in our discussion; and two, Smallholder and I have a shared history that allows for ocassionally ‘bare-knuckled’ teasing between us, whereas he shares no such familiarity with my friend. Contrary to Smallholder’s suggestion in a previous post, I think my position on this matter is consistent. I am wryly suggesting that Smallholder consider himself chastised and end this aspect of the discussion. Ha.

Concerning the Spanish election and the situation in Iraq, I refer interested readers to this article, which states, as I predicted, that Zapatero, the PM-elect, has pledged to send additional troops to Afghanistan and, if the U.S. transfers power in Iraq to the U.N., the Spanish troops could stay in place. The Spanish have hardly given up the fight against al Qaeda: if they had, they would also be withdrawing from Afghanistan. The decision not to fight in Iraq under the U.S. umbrella is a tactical decision in the war on terror, not a strategic one. Regarding charges of appeasement: would al Qaeda’s behavior be motivated any differently if the Spanish had re-elected the old government and stayed in Iraq? I say no. Al Qaeda’s objective in attacking Madrid was not military, it was political. There is no military advantage to the Spanish withdrawal, and al Qaeda knows it: the U.S. as practically unlimited military resources and can compensate for any tactical gap on the ground in Iraq. True, the perception that al Qaeda changed the government of Spain serves the objectives of the terrorists and should be considered a victory for them. But Spain, with 90% of the population opposing the war, was a politically vulnerable target, and al Qaeda chose well.

Other Minister’s are more adept at the historical analogies than I, but if we’re looking for lessons in WWII, I wouldn’t reference the Munich Pact of 1938. I would instead compare it to the Soviet response in the face of Germany’s 1941 invasion. Sure, the Germans took the Soviets by surprise and might have thought they were on a roll at the time, but the Soviets conceded the loss of the western territory, dug in for the winter, and didn’t surrender the war. No one is suggesting we accomodate al Qaeda — that would indeed be appeasement. But if we’re going to win the war, we’ve got to look past being simply reactive and consider the full strategy. Spain is still with us in the greater fight.

For our own involvement, it’s obviously silly to suggest a full and immediate withdrawal (in the case of the Spanish, we’re only talking about 1,200 troops). I agree with most of the suggestions made by the Minister of Agriculture. We should plan on being their for the long haul — a decade or more. However, I additionally think we should give up civil control of the country and allow the U.N. to have full responsibility (I can already hear the collective scoffing of the blogosphere). The U.N. has a much more successful track record with nation-building than we do, and is currently in the lead in both Afghanistan and Bosnia. We should stick to what our military does best, which is find and kill people, and leave the civil government in hands that are more acceptible to both the Iraqis and the world at large. We should also give up this business of economically punishing France and Germany by restricting contract bids, particularly when we’re busy awarding no-bid contracts to Halliburton and other Bush campaign contributors. Basically, I think we should continue to shoulder the military burden in Iraq but we should stop trying to recoup our losses economically. Re-building Iraq in our image undermines our efforts to keep and hold any moral highground. We don’t have to agree with it, but we should at least acknowledge that the world’s image of the U.S. is not a positive one right now. As a country, I think we should stop being so defensive on the world stage and give some equal time to our critics. We remain the world’s only superpower: we are the only nation on the planet with global power and global reach. A little introspection and humility isn’t going to change that, and it might actually do us some good.

I’m going out of town for a few days of rest and relaxation; try to remain civil while I’m away.

A Challenge for Analphilosopher

The good professor has yet to “direct my attention” to posts in which he applied an even-handed analysis to the Bush administration. In all fairness, perhaps he missed my posted reply to him underneath the flurry of posts from and about the rapscallion Propaganda Minister.

Or perhaps silence is assent?

At any rate, I would like to see the good Burgess-Jackson do a post on Micheal Kinsley’s article in the Washington Post.

Quote that skewers Bush (and, backhandedly, Kerry):

“Honesty means more than factual accuracy, It means avoiding disingenuousness: not talking rot when you know it’s rot. If that matters to you above all, you may be out of luck with either candidate this election. But if you wish to measure comparative rot, this 350-tax-increases business may be hard for Kerry to top. “

Up for the challenge, professor?

Interesting Read

Oh Yeah? Well, I’m Rubber and You are Glue!

Not so long ago, I was chatting with the Propaganda Minister on the telephone (or, telly, if you prefer, Foreign Minister) and he said that a friend of his believed that Bush has made the nation more polarized than at any earlier point in history.

My response?

‚ÄövÑv Your friend is a moron.‚ÄövÑvp

Of course, I went on to cite the Revolutionary period, the growth of sectionalism leading to the Civil War, the conflict between workers and owners in the Gilded Age, the anger of the farmers that drove the Populist movement, the various anti-immigration campaigns, the Great Depression (Remember Father Coughlin and Huey Long, anyone?), and Vietnam. I even think Clinton might have led to a more visceral, gut-level polarization. While I dislike the Commander-in-chief‚ÄövÑv¥s smarmy insouciance, I don‚ÄövÑv¥t think my level of dislike approaches any reasonable facsimile of how the right hated Slick Willy‚ÄövÑv¥s guts.

But the Propaganda Minister couldn‚ÄövÑv¥t get past my first sentence. He thought the tone was all wrong, disrespectful, and that name-calling was all wrong.

Read the Propaganda Minister‚ÄövÑv¥s last few posts. Scroll down. I‚ÄövÑv¥ll wait.

The gap between the theory of political civility and the actuality can be easily explained.

The Propaganda Minister is the real Nimrod.

We have converted him to the bare-knuckle roundhouse fight that is blog politics.

I would like to thank the Maximum Leader for providing a forum where we can lay into each other. I hope the readers are entertained. In fact, I know some definitely are ‚ÄövÑv¨ I have received several responses to my offer of boxer short pics of the Propaganda Minister. Of course, Big Hominid only wants the pic so that he can photo-shop out the Maximum Leader‚ÄövÑv¥s undergarment.

But to get down to brass tacks:

Quoth the PM: ‚ÄövÑv The Spanish Socialist party isn’t going to make Spain isolationist. All they’ve said is that the war in Iraq, instigated and conducted by the United States, is a distraction from the war on terror. Since when has a refusal to follow the U.S. been enough to label a country ‘isolationist?’ Your chain of logic is still absurd.‚ÄövÑvp

I‚ÄövÑv¥m not judging Spain on its refusal to ‚ÄövÑv follow America.‚ÄövÑvp I‚ÄövÑv¥m judging Spain based on the very clear message that Spain has sent to terrorists around the world. I was under the impression that the Socialist Party in Spain was isolationist in character based on the news reports I have seen. However, in a search of the web, I have been unable to verify that isolationism is indeed a major component of Spanish Socialist thought. So I have to (provisionally) doff my hat to the PM and withdraw the isolationist charge.

Side note: Are there any Spanish language speakers out there who are willing to peruse this site for statements on foreign policy?

The Propaganda Minister also calls me to task for not answering his question:

“if al Qaeda succeeds in bringing another major attack against U.S. soil, should all good patriots vote for Bush in November? Taking that logic one step further: even if another attack doesn’t occur, should everyone vote for Bush because we don’t want al Qaeda to think they’ve influenced our decision?”

Sorry; I thought that the question was rhetorical. Of course I don‚ÄövÑv¥t think that Bush is the only patriotic choice after an al Queda attack. But I do think that people might respond by choosing Bush. Probably because Kerry has been remarkably inarticulate about what exactly he would do about the Iraqi quagmire, aside from consulting with ‚ÄövÑv allies‚ÄövÑvp like the bloody French.

While I think Bush was unnecessarily abrasive to our allies prior to launching Iraq II: The Hunt for Saddam, I can‚ÄövÑv¥t take seriously the people who say we ought to have worked to get France on board. There was NOTHING that we could do to influence France to give up its oil contracts or its goal to provide an ‚ÄövÑv alternative‚ÄövÑvp to American leadership. Their default position is to resist and minimize our power. For an excellent discussion of our ‚ÄövÑv ally‚ÄövÑvp and her foreign policy, see:

Winds of Change

The PM‚ÄövÑv¥s criticism of the war as a distraction from the war on terrorism is a legitimate concern, particularly in light of the War College‚ÄövÑv¥s report. However, some of the other stuff is just, in his words, absurd. We frequently hear the left lay the troubles of the world at our feet: America created Saddam! He‚ÄövÑv¥s your fault! I think that the Foreign Minister has already laid waste to that fluff. I‚ÄövÑv¥ll just add the comment that if we have indeed created __________ (fill in the blank with the Taliban or any other bad group), then we have a GREATER moral obligation to fix the mess we made. In a reading of Confucius‚ÄövÑv¥ Analects in class, we recently went over a passage in which Confucius teaches that good men make mistakes like other men, but that good men endeavor to correct the harm of their mistakes.

Veering in another direction, the FM and PM exchange fire over nation building. Is Iraq analogous to Germany and Japan or is it more parallel to Vietnam? A very interesting question. Perhaps my blogging comrades will tackle this. Why were we able to create stable democracies out of the Third Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun but stymied by Ho Chi Minh and his merry band?

Note to Foreign Minister: The next time some Vietnam Vet complains that them ‚ÄövÑv damn hippies and politicians wouldn‚ÄövÑv¥t let us win,‚ÄövÑvp drop this interesting factoid on them: We dropped TWELVE times more TNT on Vietnam than we did on Germany and Japan. What MORE would you have done. The war unwinnable, and our leaders knew that ‚ÄövÑv¨ check out MacNamara‚ÄövÑv¥s mea culpa documentary.

Smallholder‚ÄövÑv¥s prescription to make sure the Middle East doesn‚ÄövÑv¥t become Vietnam:
1) Kill all the guerillas dead, dead, dead.
2) Hold Middle Eastern governments responsible for policing their borders. If explosives are being shipped across Syrian borders, end Syria‚ÄövÑv¥s ability to produce explosives.
3) Take the moral high ground. The Islamo-fascists and genocidal Palestinians do not have moral equivalency to the west. We have to convince their own countrymen that their programs of terror and murder are morally abhorrent.
4) Repeal Bush‚ÄövÑv¥s handouts to the wealthy and use the money to build a MASSIVE new infrastructure in Iraq ‚ÄövÑv¨ the Muslim Marshall Plan. Schools, sanitation, telecommunications, power, etc. Admit to the American people that this is going to an investment of money and troops lasting more than a decade.
5) Integrate Iraq into the global capitalist economy so that the Iraqis see they have more to gain from engagement with the world than from killing themselves and us. Tom Friedman has an interesting point on Tim Russert the other night: None of the captives at Guantanamo Bay are Indian citizens. And India has the largest population of Muslims outside of Indonesia. Friedman argued that there are no apocalyptic Indian martyrs because India has become part of a global supply chain.
6) Immediately take steps to reduce our consumption of oil and gasoline. Let‚ÄövÑv¥s dry up the petro-dollars that fund the madrassas. Use tax policy to give the automakers incentive to produce more efficient vehicles. Invest government funds in energy research. Cold fusion SO kicks Saudi Arabia‚ÄövÑv¥s ass.
7) Refuse to yield the moral high ground in Europe. We should be publishing, complaining, and charging the French with propping up Saddam Hussein. We should be taking documents to the United Nations and asking for a censure of the French regime. France will veto it, of course, but we can‚ÄövÑvÂ¥t keep letting France play moral superiority card to advance their Machiavellian designs. Winds of Change, in the article I linked for you above, says that the French public would be largely indifferent to evidence of their government‚ÄövÑvÂ¥s duplicity. But maybe not. Maybe if the French population took a long, hard look at their foreign ministry, we might see a change in policy. 8) Level with the American people and explain that our succesful prosecution is going to require sacrifices, even from Americans not in the military. Bush’s failure to prepare Americans for an occupation is a good example of his pattern of leadership failure.
9) What am I missing?

I would like to see the PM‚ÄövÑv¥s plan. Does he want us to withdraw from Iraq? What does he think the likely consequence of a withdrawal to be?

Smallholder is a Nimrod

The Spanish Socialist party isn’t going to make Spain isolationist. All they’ve said is that the war in Iraq, instigated and conducted by the United States, is a distraction from the war on terror. Since when has a refusal to follow the U.S. been enough to label a country ‘isolationist?’ Your chain of logic is still absurd. No matter how much force you bring to bear in Iraq, it’s not going to stop al Qaeda. There are only two reasons any al Qaeda resources are presently in Iraq: 1) to attack targets of opportunity for PR purposes, not military gain, or 2) to recruit from a growing anti-American segment of the population. Neither of these opportunities existed for al Qaeda bfore the war. The Spanish are leaving Iraq because the Iraq War is bad foreign policy, and a majority of the Spanish now agree. Personally, I think the Spanish should transfer those forces over to Afghanistan, where some real al Qaeda fighting is being done, but either way, I think the Spanish people are just as committed as we are to finding and killing the perpetrators of the Madrid atrocity. I even bet that if we gave up our interests in Iraq and let the U.N. take the lead, the Spanish would return, joined by forces from many other nations. That’s not going to happen with Bush as President.

The Minister of Agriculture also didn’t answer my question, although he quoted it in his post: if al Qaeda succeeds in bringing another major attack against U.S. soil, should all good patriots vote for Bush in November? Taking that logic one step further: even if another attack doesn’t occur, should everyone vote for Bush because we don’t want al Qaeda to think they’ve influenced our decision? If he answers ‘yes’ to that, you can bet I’m going to have a word with his wife.

And yes, the Minister of Agriculture is indeed a hunter of sorts, but that’s not the definition I’m talking about.

The Ridiculously Reactionary and Sensationalist, Grossly Inappropriate Smallholder Replies to His Best Man

You’d never know it from this blog, but we are all tied (perhaps indirectly) by strong bonds of friendship. We just get a wee bit excited by ideas and politics. Which is how it should be.

Both the Minister of Propagands and the Maximum Leader were part of my wedding party. If any readers are interested in a picture of the two of them cavorting on a couch wearing only tuxedo tops and boxer shorts, send an e-mail request to smallholder@nakedvillainy.com

In his latest blog entry (how many fan mails will he get this time?), the Minister of Propaganda writes:

On the same point, I obviously wasn’t clear when I complained about the general tone of discussion on the blog concerning the Spanish election. I think all of the 1938 comparisons amount to reactionary sensationalism, but it was specifically the Minister of Agriculture who called the Spanish ‘nimrods,’ which I found grossly inappropriate. Leave the hyperbole aside: its’ ridiculous to equate a shift of parliamentary control in the Spanish government (some 150 seats for the Socialists vs. some 140 seats for the conservatives, neither party with a controlling majority) to the appeasement of Hitler. If the U.S. suffers another major attack before November, should all good patriots (of which I consider myself one) fall in behind Bush because it’s important we not give the perception of changing course? Absurd.

Well, lets see:

Previous Hitler aggressions –> Hitler’s claims on the Sudetenland –> Munich Appeasement –> Further aggression.

Previous al Queda atrocities –> Al Queda’s attack on Spain –> Spanish withdrawal from Iraq –> Further aggression? Or is Al Queda satisfied?

Hitler didn’t commit aggressions to rectify the wrongs of the League of Nations. Al Queda doesn’t commit aggressions to free Iraq. Hitler wanted to rule the world. Al Queda wants to rule the world.

In both situations, previous behavior indicated to thoughtful observers that the perpetrators could not be appeased. In fact, thoughtful people realized that the aggressions should be met with the force requisite to destroying the evil regimes, or at least detering further aggression. I think the analogy holds up well. Why is that either reactionary or sensationalistic? ‘Splain, please, my friend.

Definition of nimrod:

1. also Nimrod A hunter.
2. Informal. A person regarded as silly, foolish, or stupid.

Well, the Propaganda Minister is correct in that, by the standard of the first definition, calling the Spanish hunters is grossly inappropriate.

But if we use the second definition, the Spanish public’s decision to elect a leader who says that they become isolationist in the face of terror, even if they supported him to punish the prevarications of the former government, is, silly, foolish, and stupid.

A Reply to the Analphilosopher

I‚ÄövÑv¥m sorry for the belated response; I figured I should actually take the time to write a clearer message than with my first Analphilosopher driveby. In my rambling post on the 16th of this month, I criticized the nature of the professor‚ÄövÑv¥s political commentary. He responded on his blog, and while he misidentified me as our esteemed leader, he did make the esteemed leader happy with the cross-blog debate. Well, here‚ÄövÑv¥s Smallholder‚ÄövÑv¥s contribution, take two:

Analphilosopher writes:

Ouch! Where to begin? First, I did not admit to propagandizing in the derogatory sense. Like everyone else, I have views and values that I try to propagate; but I do so openly and, I like to think, fairly. Others will have to be the judge of whether I pull it off.

Well, as an other, I did judge the fairness of the political commentary. Unlike the other, thought-provoking entries on philosophy and animal rights, this other thinks that the treatment of Bush is more apologetically knee-jerk defense than reasoned argument. I used the Tech Central Column that defended Bush‚ÄövÑv¥s honesty as an example, and asked the professor to apply his standard to the concealment of the true costs of the Medicare bill. The professor replied:

Second, I don’t know enough (yet) about the Medicare bill. If and when I come to the conclusion that President Bush lied about it, I’ll say so. Why would I try to shield him from criticism? I’m a philosopher, not a political hack. I care about process, not (just) result. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that, even if President Bush lied, it would not affect the merits of the bill. This is the point I’ve been making for many months with respect to the war in Iraq. Whether the war was justified is independent of the motivation (as well as the stated reasons) of President Bush or others in his administration. Someone might say, for example, that the war is justified on humanitarian grounds even though that was not its motivation.

I agree with almost everything that the professor says in that paragraph. The Medicare bill, IMHO, is horse. When it cynically inflicts a huge cost on the younger generation for the benefit of an older (and richer) generation, it matters little whether the bill is $300 billion or $600 billion. However, my post was actually about the honesty of the Bush administration. I support evaluating government actions on the basis of their efficacy ‚ÄövÑv¨ whether it is Medicare or Iraq. But the motivations and honesty of the president is important as well. I believe that Analphilosopher has been giving the president a pass and not holding him accountable.

<< Side note ‚ÄövÑv¨ should a supporter of gay marriage as an issue of basic justice praise or revile Bush? On one hand, Bush has cynically supported an Amendment that has zero chance of passing (and he and Karl Rove, astute political scholars know this) as a way of energizing his right wing base and shifting the campaign away from fiscal responsibility, honesty, and the troubled reconstruction of Iraq. On the other hand, Bush has essentially conceded that the discrimination against gays is currently unconstitutional (and thus the need for the amendment). Since the amendment is DOA, Bush has essentially conceded the battle. Falwell, his boys, and the Maximum Leader will continue to weep and gnash their teeth, but the herald has already arrived at Harry‚ÄövÑv¥s camp to name the castle in the distance. Note the gratuitous Shakespeare reference. >>

Since Analphilosopher was being unusually uncritical and unreflective about the Bush administration, I speculated that perhaps he was muting and criticism for fear of harming Bush‚ÄövÑv¥s campaign efforts. This seems to have gotten Analphilosopher‚ÄövÑv¥s dander up:

Third, I am not and have never been a consequentialist, much less an act-consequentialist. I’m a deontologist. I believe that there are certain acts that must not be performed even if they produce the best overall consequences. Also, there is no obligation to produce the best overall consequences. I endorse, in other words, both agent-centered restrictions (i.e., constraints) and an agent-centered prerogative (i.e., an option). Act-consequentialists reject both of these features. I’m as far from act-consequentialism (theoretically speaking) as a person can get! My version of deontology is deontological egoism. (See my essay of that title, a link to which appears on the left of this blog.)

I was entirely aware of Analphilosopher‚ÄövÑv¥s stated position. I was merely trying to call attention to the fact that it didn‚ÄövÑv¥t seem to be applied in the political realm. Where is the critique of Bush‚ÄövÑv¥s ‚ÄövÑv agent-centered‚ÄövÑvp restrictions?

Analphilosopher concludes:

Fourth, I hold no brief for President Bush, even though I like him. I’ve said that I will vote for Ralph Nader for a third time, despite disagreeing with him about many matters. Do I prefer President Bush to John Kerry? Yes. Does that mean I uncritically accept every policy prescription of the Bush administration? No. Does anybody agree with any candidate on every issue? On election day, each of us must make an all-things-considered judgment about which candidate is best for the country. For many of us, questions of national security take pride of place. On that question, there is no comparison between President Bush and John Kerry. I don’t trust John Kerry to protect Americans or American interests. I think he’s the wrong person to be president at this time and place. We’re at war. This is an important juncture in human history (even though many Europeans and Americans don’t realize it or refuse to face up to it). We don’t need nuance. We need clarity and vision. We don’t need vacillation. We need strength and resolve. We don’t need a ditherer. We need a doer. The person we need is already in the White House.

I am on the fence in the Kerry-Bush election; I can see pros and cons to both potential presidencies. Analphilosopher accepts this as reality: ‚ÄövÑv On election day, each of us must make an all-things-considered judgment.‚ÄövÑvp Re-read the remainder of his paragraph above. Does it seem to be ‚ÄövÑv all things considered? Bush, in each of the criteria proposed by the good professor, is pictured as the pure positive.

Analphilosopher‚ÄövÑv¥s signature line:

The Maximum Leader may say that this is mere rhetoric, an attempt to snow my readers. I beg to disagree. I’m pointing out real differences in character, belief, value, and judgment between the two major-party candidates. What more could one want in the way of argument?

I, for one, would like less blind partisanship and a more reasoned ‚ÄövÑv all-things-considered‚ÄövÑvp approach. Analphilosopher says he can see both pros and cons to either presidency, but only gives his readers the Kerry ‚ÄövÑv cons‚ÄövÑvp and the Bush ‚ÄövÑv pros.‚ÄövÑvp If we are to buy Analphilosopher‚ÄövÑv¥s rejection of act-consequentialism, shouldn‚ÄövÑv¥t we see the Kerry ‚ÄövÑv pros‚ÄövÑvp and the Bush ‚ÄövÑv cons?‚ÄövÑvp

One doesn‚ÄövÑv¥t have to look very far at Analphilosopher.com to see a fair number of anti-Kerry attacks. Perhaps Analphilosopher really is a deontologist, one would think that a more balanced appraisal of Bush would be evident.

Perhaps I have missed a blog entry where Analphilosopher has taken exception to a Bush position. Perhaps the good professor could direct my attention to previous entries where he has been even-handed in his analysis? I would be happy with one acknowledgement that Kerry might have a better idea on one issue and one single criticism of Bush. The gauntlet has been thrown.

Alternatively, Analphilosopher could just admit his membership in the vast right-wing conspiracy and openly join the elephant echo chamber. I would respect that. But I would start entirely skipping the political propaganda and focus on the elements of his blog that focus on animals, philosophy, and teaching.

Just a few brief comments to the Foreign Minister and then I’m really done

I’ll concede the Foreign Minister a few points in his last posting, although there are an equal number of conclusions I strongly disagree with. I laughed aloud at the link to ‘POTA,’ and we are in agreement that it’s a complete waste. (admittedly, I wasted a lot more than 1 hour and 59 minutes on that project).

Returning to the debate, I think the general misperceptions about Vietnam are interesting. Vietnam is an important debate point because everyone wants to compare that war with the situation in Iraq, one way or the other. I know that Tet was a huge military defeat for the Vietcong and a complete failure as measured by their own objectives. However, your assertion that the media took the event and turned public opinion against the war is a myth perpetuated by both the military and the media itself. Immediately following Tet, people did not turn against the war: an larger percentage of the public actually favored escalating the war rather than withdrawing from Vietnam. A shift in public opinion did occur, however, but it wasn’t about policy: the shift was against the administration, which had recently made claims that 65% of the country was pacified — claims that Tet proved false. The problem wasn’t just that the Vietcong penetrated the American embassy, but that the government spokesmen had previously claimed that the embassy was impenetrable. In fact, media coverage of the war after Tet continued to parallel public opinion: some editorials called with withdrawal, some for escalation, others for staying the course. What did increase was media coverage skeptical of the administration: images like the South Vietnamese police chief executing the Vietcong prisoner in the street and the military spokesman saying “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” solidified the idea that Johnson was saying one thing to the American public when in fact there was a completely different war being fought in Vietnam. If you study the statistics, media coverage of any given event typically shifts in response to and as a reflection of public opinion, not the other way around. “Blame the media” is a favorite game of the political Right but it’s out of touch with the facts.

Incidentally, name-calling is equally attributable to both the Left and the Right. And if you really want to see the Foreign Minister rant like a lunatic, get him started on Gun Control.

It’s a lot to suggest in the internet age, but for reading on Vietnam I would offer “The Irony of Vietnam: The Sysem Worked,” byt Leslie H. Gelb and Richard K. Betts, “An American Ordeal: The Anitwar Movement of the Vietnam Era,” by Charles DeBenedetti, and “The Debate Over Vietnam,” by David W. Levy. I also have a book around here somewhere that deals specifically with perceptions about the media, but I can’t find it amongst the war library (perhaps it’s misfiled; I’ll keep looking because I want to send it to the Foreign Minister for Christmas).

The issue of dishonest government was also a major factor in the Spanish election. The government blamed ETA, even when evidence was in hand suggesting an al Qaeda link, because there was a concerted effort already underway to paint the Socialists as soft on domestic terrorists. Those efforts backfired. Well before the Madrid attacks, a large majority of the Spanish opposed the Iraq War. Separate from that issue, the Spanish tossed their government for lying about it. I hope we do the same.

On the same point, I obviously wasn’t clear when I complained about the general tone of discussion on the blog concerning the Spanish election. I think all of the 1938 comparisons amount to reactionary sensationalism, but it was specifically the Minister of Agriculture who called the Spanish ‘nimrods,’ which I found grossly inappropriate. Leave the hyperbole aside: its’ ridiculous to equate a shift of parliamentary control in the Spanish government (some 150 seats for the Socialists vs. some 140 seats for the conservatives, neither party with a controlling majority) to the appeasement of Hitler. If the U.S. suffers another major attack before November, should all good patriots (of which I consider myself one) fall in behind Bush because it’s important we not give the perception of changing course? Absurd.

While it might be amusing blog fun to rail against the French, the Spanish, the U.N., and the global community in general, I hope Maximum Leader’s cabinet recognizes the necessity of actually engaging the world in matters that are going to affect the world. Have it both ways, if you will: that’s certainly how Bush wants to play it.

In general, I think my debate with the Foreign Minister reflects a fundamental difference of opinion on Iraq. If one thinks the war was a good thing, one is going to accept certain sacrifices in that pursuit and generally forgive the process that led us to war in the first place. If one feels, as I do, that the war is not only a dangerous distraction from the war on terror but will actually make the world less safe in 10 years, than even a single American casuality is one too many. The danger of al Qaeda sending people to Iraq isn’t that they’re going to engage our military on the ground, akin to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The danger to America is that al Qaeda is in Iraq RECRUITING. There’s certainly a lot of anti-Americanism to exploit — I’d say it’s equally likely that the next big al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil (or more likely, the one after that) will be carried out by Iraqi nationals rather than Saudi nationals. By the time those consequences come to light, it may be too late.

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