Lies, Truth and Rats

This post is late because I have an outdoor not-my-cat who loves me. He brought me something that squeaked for breakfast. He brought it back very fresh. In fact, he brought it back for me to kill. Fortunately I was in the kitchen and he was in the outdoor mudroom thing we call the airlock. I stood in the kitchen, listening to the squeak-thump and wondering if I should intervene, but the chances it was a bunny are minor. Sounded like a rat. And the chances of a desperate rat in the kitchen were really high.

Eventually Greebo (He’s just a big softy) grew disgusted with me and carried of his victim breakfast to enjoy elsewhere.

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with the post this morning. I mean, I could twist myself into pretzels and come up with something, but I’m not going to and instead I’m going to plunge head first into the post.

Imagine everything you’ve ever been told is a lie.

No, seriously. Close your eyes and picture it.

This kind of ah epistemological upheaval is very difficult. I’m telling you this as someone who found out about half of what she knew was a lie. What? Oh, little things – the first flight across the Atlantic was NOT as I’d been taught Sacadura and Cabral. “I regret I have only one life to give for my country” was not said by one of the assassins of Dona Inez de Castro before his execution, no matter how much my history book said so. (It might have been said by him TOO, but I suspect someone just thought it sounded good and stole it.) If you take more than an aspirin at one time, you won’t die. (I remember standing frozen in the kitchen when I’d complained to my host mother of a headache and she said “Just take a couple of aspirin, honey.” I thought “She’s trying to kill me!”) Other things that aren’t true that I “knew” were true: if you take a bath before it’s an hour after you last ate, you won’t die. Oh, and if you wash your hair every day it won’t fall off. Also, the entire street won’t turn and laugh at you if you go out in last year’s fashions. In fact, fashions are different in different countries. (And in the US, different parts of the country.) Things I found about the US, like for instance, it’s not all paved and built over, and Americans don’t ALL live in skyscrapers, was a different thing. You expect to find new things about a country when you go to a new country. You don’t expect to find out new things about how the world works.

Even the aspirin thing? Blew my mind. “Why did my mother tell me I would die if I wouldn’t?”

Of course, the answer is because someone told it to her. (Also mom hates meds. ALL meds. She wouldn’t even take vitamins, because she was sure it would kill her.)

I understand it was much more difficult for people like the inhabitants of the former soviet block to come out and find out that everything was the other way around. In fact, anyone who comes from a repressive and self-aggrandizing society gets a shock when coming to the greater world. For instance I’ve heard of Arabs stunned to find out they DIDN’T win the six day war.

So, why am I talking about this? We are not in a repressive society, or not that kind of repressive society. News leak in around the edges.

Except we sort of are. Our press is not in collusion because they think that the dictator will punish them (unless you mean not inviting them to parties.) But they are in collusion in order to be thought of as “beautiful people” and “good people” and smart.

And it’s amazing how much of that crap you end up buying. I mean, everyone behind the curtain knew their news lied. It was just the AMOUNT of the lies that was unbelievably large. They thought some things would be true. Same with people coming from Arab countries. I bet you if we kidnapped someone from North Korea and exposed him/her to the real world, they’d be shocked at how little their great leader occupies our consciousness day to day. Because that’s probably the part they believe. That he looms large in enmity or alliance in the west. In fact, I’ve read stories of transplanted Arabs and the part they didn’t anticipate was how little people in the west think about Islam and Muslims day to day. How their neighbors were neither resenting them, impressed nor spying on them due to their origin/religion. (Most of the time the neighbors think they’re South American :-P)

I don’t know how much we’d get “The truth” when transplanted to another country, but I’ve noticed that British newspapers (even sometimes the Guardian) sound terribly “right wing” to me. I know they’re not. It’s just compared to our press.

But American media looms so large in the world we tend to drag the rest of it at least partially with us into madness.

Still, I wonder what when we emerge from this mess – we will, though it will take a while and feel like we’re swallowing live frogs. (I’m almost sure Greebo didn’t bring me a frog.) – will be completely upside down from what we imagine.

This is relevant for what we talked about yesterday. Because I read a lot I knew of the horrors uncovered in communist countries after the fall. It shocked me – still does – that people not only still go around, proudly proclaiming themselves communists, but also that the schools are still teaching communism as the better/more moral alternative and always coming up with false equivalence soviet-style “we have homeless too.”

But what you have to remember is that MOST people didn’t sign up for the epistemological upheaval. And most humans are REALLY bad at that sort of thing. REALLY REALLY REALLY bad. As in, most can’t, not after adolescence. And some not then.

Even when I was an exchange student – a self selected group – I was one of the very few ones who socialized/had my best friends outside my linguistic group (British and Japanese, actually.) Most people would go to their linguistic group or the next one. Portuguese would preferentially associate with other Portuguese, then Brazilians, then Spanish, then Spanish colonies, and so on.

I mean, even while they were in the US. This is because that spare-time association allowed them to reaffirm at least some of their world view and to say “Americans think this, but—”

I chose to go off without this protection because I wanted to know what was true/true and what was agreed-upon true.

BUT I’m abnormal. I run towards that which scares me. (Not a survival skill.) [Okay, unless what scares me is the possibility of allowing a rat in the kitchen. And that’s not so much scares me as “ewwwww”]

For most people maintaining the imagined integrity of their world is worth being wrong. Even being wrong in significant ways.

Because of Soviet Agit Prop, the “communist” view was “popular” and “cool” in the west since the seventies and counterculture, at least. (It was popular in intellectual circles before that.) It’s probably hard for you young kids to picture, but even stalwarts on the right assumed that communism was somehow more “moral” even when it failed. They disapproved of their curtailing of freedoms, etc, but it was ASSUMED it would have better results than capitalism, if allowed to continue long enough. The right merely objected to the cost in human capital.

If this was true on the right, imagine on the left. Do you wonder that the journalists didn’t report the true horrors or reported them with exculpation. “If it weren’t for embargos against Cuba, it would be a paradise” is still believed. And as for Russia… Well, truth be told if we hadn’t sent them wheat they would have starved, but instead you’ll hear about how our insane capitalist arms race kept THEM poor.

But more importantly, once the exculpation and the nine days wonder was over, and the snide laments about the good guys losing, it was back to acting as though communism had never fallen. In fact, over time, that has mutated to a denial that all the times communism has been tried, it was in fact communism, and an insistence it’s “never been tried.” This is combined with eructation about Marx still being “right” – mostly they insist he’s right about things like literary criticism (and no, even there Marxism isn’t of any use. It’s like trying to measure elephants in light waves. It’s just that most people don’t care enough about these niches to go and show them they’re wrong, so they can protect their epistemological certainty wrapped around themselves like a blanket.)

This is typical of people under stress and whose world view is under attack to such an extent they can’t cope. They erase whatever challenged it and place it outside the discussion, and go back to repeating the cherished platitudes.

You can see the embryonic effect of this in a kid who has done something disastrous that threatens his view of himself. “I didn’t break the dish. Aliens flew through the window and broke it.” Is the first defense. The next is to pretend it never happened.

You can also see it in the white house, as our red-diaper baby president stumbles around breaking things, but can’t process it, because it would mean upending everything he’s been taught and his vision of him as “smart” for believing these things. He’s a normal human or possibly a normal incurious human. He didn’t sign up for this kind of upheaval. So he keeps stumbling around, pretending he didn’t do things, pretending things are different. Hence the insistence that removal of troops from Iraq was the former administration’s fault despite recordings of him bragging about doing it.

The problem is this: due to effects of a super-abundant society where people are not close to the bone – in fact are so far from the bone they haven’t seen bone in years – and the dominance of the press and academia by the far left, people’s view of reality is at least as skewed as that of people behind the iron curtain in the bad old days.

This corrupts everything, even those of us who are awake. What sounds right and plausible is twisted 25 degrees from reality. Western society is a giant bubble and a loud enough bubble that even people outside the bubble believe it. And a lot of the things propagated by the bubble are antithetical to the west and fossilized old communist propaganda, because the denial-reaction of our “elites” has enshrined that as “smart” and “cool.”

Will it take a crash to correct?

I don’t know. I think a crash might be inevitable, but whether it would correct it or not, I don’t know. The magnitude of the crash that would correct it scares the heck out of me and might not be possible, due to see how far from the bone we are.

I think what will correct over time is that technology is changing too fast for centralized anything. They’re losing the plot in each field it hits. And because of their mismanagement (Centralized is always more inefficient) the fields it’s hitting first are the ones they most control: media, entertainment, education.

We can hear that epistemological “reset” in the voices of the publishing industry’s execs as they say over and over again that their houses are better for authors because covers and editing and publicity, as though saying it made it true.

It’s possible things will right themselves as the generation that is most heartily promoting its epistemological error passes from this world. (Not long before I do, so I can’t verify that.) Kind of like the generation of the desert had to pass before the promised land could be entered.

Or it’s possible it will happen faster, as technology will change very fast. At least it seems to be on a track of not so much rapid change but “rapid change that makes a difference to normal human beings in every day life.”

It’s unlikely to stop.

And they simply can’t adapt.

This is going to make the times ahead as interesting as those thumps and squeaks from the mud room. (See, I told you I could tie it back!)

But we are at least semi-awake. So, whether we’re flexible or not (and a lot of us are, being Odd) the shock will be lesser to us.

In the end, we win they lose.



356 responses to “Lies, Truth and Rats

  1. William O. B'Livion

    Imagine everything you’ve ever been told is a lie.

    You mean like the beatles:

    I don’t know. I think a crash might be inevitable, but whether it would correct it or not, I don’t know. The magnitude of the crash that would correct it scares the heck out of me and might not be possible, due to see how far from the bone we are.

    It won’t be a crash. It will be (it is) a correction to historical norms.

    Which is a lot worse.

    As Da Man said:

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as “bad luck.”

    • I’ve never understood why people find such a nihilistic song so inspiring.(From context, I’m guessing you don’t.)

      • William O. B'Livion

        Mostly because it means if there’s no god then they can stimulate their wibbly bits however they want with no long term consequences, and they can do whatever else they want with GLORIOUS FREEDOM.

        Other than that Gedankenexperiments have some utility, but one must realize that one cannot model any significant portion of reality in one’s own head.

        Especially if one is a stoned 20 something.

        • Notice how imagining no Heaven is “easy if you try” but for no possessions, “I wonder if you can.”

          • I kinda figured he was being a bit nasty in different ways for both– “if you try” meaning that if you couldn’t, or found it hard, you weren’t trying and the “I wonder if you can” meaning “YOU are just so obsessed with material things.”

            Probably just the snark talking, though, and he was reaching for a pretty shiny fluffy vision of what-may-be, spun out of hope and dreams.

          • Birthday girl

            Well, I can imagine being very very cold …

        • Hah! A chance to pull out a Pun I thought of a long time ago but have had no occasion to use!

          “What do you call a Gedankenexperiment that fails?”

          “Poof of Concept.”

      • I agree… I always found the song to be exceptionally creepy.

        • It’s creepy and infectious, kinda like “Where have all the Flowers Gone.” I heard that once and all the lyrics stuck in my memory. (Granted, the same thing happened with the German lyrics to “Mac the Knife”, so YMMV.)

      • I think it’s just that it’s pretty, and if you don’t think about the lyrics it sounds nice.

        Just the details are horrifying.

    • As a bit of defense of Lennon, there’s

      Even song writers are a flavor of writers, so I try not to assume that everything they jot down that think might sell represents their true inner beliefs, nor do beliefs remain unaltered through their lifetime.

    • When I realized that they were playing “Imagine” over the closing credits of “The Killing Fields” I thought to myself that the director probably didn’t know just how appropriate that was.

  2. Good piece, there is cognitive dissonance everywhere. Even in your essay! You assume that Obama is attempting to do something positive, but is simply too blind and incompetent to achieve it. The evidence, it seems to me, is that he is trying to wreck the USA and turn it into a third world country for political purposes….

    • I don’t assume he’s doing something he thinks positive for the US — sorry, it’s hard to be clear in short format. He just thought if he reduced the US the world would be better off. When it turns out not like that, he doesn’t know what to do.

      • And so you get his staffers telling the press how “tranquil” the world is. (Which anyone actually looking at the world will see that it ain’t so.)

      • And he’s LAZY! Thank God he’s too lazy to do what he intended to do, and he just whines when he runs into an obstruction (the Constitution of the US is the obstruction that angers him the most.)

      • Forget speculation about his birthplace. That ship sailed long ago. Just look at his own account of where he spent his formative years.
        While perfectly happy taking advantage of all the perks and benefits of US citizenship, not to mention all the breaks bestowed by his minority status, I firmly believe that he considers himself a citizen of the world. His declaration to fundamentally change America is all about his vision of knocking the bully down to the same level as everyone else. His greatest error is in failing to realize that we aren’t that bully, we’re the sheepdogs guarding the flock from the real threat, the ravening predators.
        In his own mind he means well. It’s just that everything he knows is wrong, and he simply cannot process the vast disconnect between his visions and reality.

        • In his own mind he means well.

          I think you’re partly right… but if he truly meant “well” in his own eyes, truly wanted to transform America into his vision of what we should be, he’d be spending a lot more time in the Oval Office and a lot less time on the golf course. Because, well, I’ll let C.S. Lewis explain it again since he does it so much better than I can:

          Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

          All I can say in response to that vision, the vision of Obama as someone who truly wanted to transform America and was actually dedicated to the idea (as opposed to the Obama we actually have, who’s mostly interested in the Presidency as it reflects his own narcissistic view of his own importance, and thus skives off to the golf course at every opportunity), is… thank God for golf!

      • I think you have hit on it. Alinsky taught Obama that the US is fundamentally flawed, and it needs to be brought down so it can be rebuilt . This isn’t the only country like that. The world is in bad shape, and needs to be restructured. The remedy isn’t liberty and self-determination — look around you. Would you trust your neighbors to do what’s best for themselves, much less what’s best for the wretched of the earth?

        But then we tried it, and the result was worse than when we started. And when we got out of the way it got even worse than that. And that was bewildering, and remains so.

        I don’t understand what you mean that “the right” conceded the moral high ground to Marxism and communism as an attempt to implement Marxism. I thought that in my communist days — communism was flawed but it had a basis in science, and no other political philosophy did — but when I came to my senses and joined with Possony and Russell Kirk I never for a moment thought that Marxism was morally or empirically more correct than traditional western values. The people who became Neo-Conservatives — Commentary Magazine as it changed from Trotskyite to what it became — had thought Marxism morally superior, and it has taken them a long time to get over that; but they were never “conservatives” to us old paleo conservatives who read Kirk and Burke and their ilk. Moral equivalence was one of the major weapons of the communist party, using Western traditional values to judge Western actions while explicitly denying their applicability when the scientifically determined policies of The Party were questioned.

        But that’s a longer topic than either of us has time for.

        • I think that the Commentary crowd thought of themselves as clasically liberal. They only became neo-conservative later.

        • Clark E Myers

          I’m quite sure that’s the lesson President Obama absorbed. Certainly a dream from his father.

          I’m not sure Saul Alinsky who died in 1972 was President Obama’s teacher. For my money Saul Alinsky was an American Exceptionalist. I never met him but I did know people who had. We lived in the Back of the Yards while my wife was a student at the University of Chicago and the Back of the Yards Council was still active and people remembered Saul Alinsky well. Again in my impression there was an element of syndicalism perhaps smacking of the Congress of Industrial Organizations that is a broader more equalitarian view of human nature and normative economics of what ought to be than say the A.F. of L. for an immediate contrast.

          Further that this syndicalism as observed in the Back of the Yards Council would and by rights ought to raise the Back of the Yards or anyplace that followed the example above the general norm. That is the path to better by no means followed the worse the better path – rather that simple organizations repeated would lead to a general uplift.

          Given that free men are not equal and equal men are not free it follows that there is much to disagree with Saul Alinsky about – and when we left the Back of the Yards was experiencing back luck in Mr. Heinlein’s sense – Jane Jacob’s optimism to the contrary.

  3. I think this explains Obama a lot better than anything I’ve heard so far.

  4. Every once and awhile I try to read articles written by the other side (ie. Rick Perry is GUILTY!) in order to try and challenge my world view. It is hard to get past the obviously slanted language but I try. (I don’t like slanted language on either side.) Sadly, I don’t get very far before I read something that is not just a lie but explosively a lie and I have to stop. I wonder if this is a useful exercise.

  5. Go cats. Just a comment to subscribe

    • you have no compassion on my poor nerves!

      • My tomcat tried this with me one time. Opened the door to see what the noise was, saw him wanting to bring the mouse inside and I slammed the door in his face! So he killed that one and left it on the doormat. Then he found and killed two more that he left on the doormat as peace offerings. He didn’t eat them, he just wanted to show off.

        • I’m beginning to think Sissy doesn’t love me. Sob. During locust season (which she interprets as in “Deer Season”) she takes the four or so steps she ever takes outside the bookstore door and hunts grashoppers and brings her prey in. She doesn’t present them to Daddy first, she just eats them. Then throws up her breakfast an hour later. Is there some kitty halucinagen in grasshoppers? Kitty P. J. O’Rourke: the shaman says they make you see visions and throw up. I’m glad grasshopper season is almost over, even one of the regular customers has noticed she’s getting skinnier.

          • As I understand it, it’s a matter of how well they think you can feed yourself and if you fall in the mommy/kitten dynamic… my mom saved a batch of kittens that didn’t have their eyes open yet. They all decided she was mommy. When they grew up, they apparently decided she was a kitten who couldn’t hunt, and left lots of “gifts” on the yard.

            All. Summer. Long.

            Even if bringing in ground squirrels as big as themselves was impressive…..

        • I am remembering a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers story; Fat Freddy is reading a book on cat behavior, and comes across the business of cats leaving dead rodents as “offerings”. He reads Fat Freddy’s Cat (F. Frederick Skitty) the riot act on the subject of “gifts”, and the cat goes down to the basement and uncorks a bottle of Irish, commenting “Well, so much for Freddy’s Christmas present…”

          • Lordy, Lordy,

            I have not heard anyone reference FFBR in over 25 years! It was a big thing on the UT campus back in the 70’s…….

        • mikeweatherford

          We had a tomcat during my first tour of duty in Wiesbaden, Germany, that would bring his “trophies” to the window of our bedroom, so he could bring them inside. We learned to check what he had after the first time, when he brought in a mole. He also brought in mice, young rabbits, rats, and once, even a young cock pheasant. He would leap from the ground to our window sill, eight feet high, with his prizes. The Germans would walk by our house, hoping to see him do his leap. I had to return to the States on emergency leave. While I was away (my wife had already returned), he decided to move into a four-star hotel a block away. He had his own “pad” just outside the kitchen door, where the chef served him leftovers. The chef and Sunshine moved to Bavaria just before our second tour.

          He only got me in trouble once: the military police asked me to please curb my cat. He was attacked by another military family’s toy poodle, who suffered terribly for the insult.

        • Patrick Chester

          Peace offerings? Sounds more like a warning of the possible consequences if you slam the door in his face again…

      • He’s just offering to train you how to hunt your own rats & mice. My previous house cat was an excellent mouser, and as I lived in the country it was a valuable skill. I got woken up late one night by her teaching her kittens that mice are ‘good eats’ 🙂

        • *grumble* I wish my cats back in the Philippines had been good hunters of mice and rats, but the black cats I had (females) were of such easy going nature the baby chicks in our yard would often perch or cuddle with the cats (Shame I had no camera at the time; I came home one afternoon to see the cat sprawled across the front doorstep, a row of pluffy little chicks napping on her belly, and one little yellow chick tucked against her neck.) The toms were more aggressive but the local rats were as big as the cats and probably four times as aggressive.

      • 🙂

        And great column. It was such a great column I can’t think of anything to comment on about it.

      • I could be worse.

        This morning the farmcat brought me an especially annoying bird as a present.
        So I’ve been having WAAAY too much fun texting my wife stories about the pussy cat, the woodpecker, and the interaction between the two.

        I’m pretty sure she’s about ready to kill me for innuendo abuse.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          As long as she doesn’t text you back regarding lumberjacks and chainsaws you might be safe.

      • My little black cat is a terror in fledgling season, he will get the uncoordinated birds and torture them to death. When I can get to them I will set them off where they may be able to survive, but he took to scuttling under the rose thicket where I couldn’t reach him. Then my only choice is to shut the doors and windows an pretend it isn’t happening

  6. If Greebo is hunting to feed you try to train him to hunt wild pizzas. Or possibly to mug the pizza delivery guy.

  7. Our September read is In Fury Born by David Weber.

    I have also created a folder in which writers can ask for help, such as beta readers or opinions on self-publishing covers or blurbs.

  8. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    A minor comment about “shocks to beliefs”, I was talking with some Asians (Indian or Paks) where I worked. They believed Americans were Weird because we drove on the “wrong” side of the street. They were surprised to learn that Britain, their countries and Japan were not in the majority. IE Americans drive on the same side of the street as most of Europe. [Very Big Grin]

    On the other hand, I was involved in a discussion with an African gentlemen, the other Americans didn’t understand why (in his country) Clans/Tribes were more important than the nation. With my knowledge of history, I knew that Clans/Tribes were historically more important than something called a country or nation.

    • For a while, Russian scientists visited Amarillo, TX to learn nuclear safety (in other words, how to take things apart without dropping them from airplanes first). A friend had some business with a few of the Russians, and got really, really tired of the lectures about how D-Day and Anzio never happened and the Soviet Union alone stopped Hitler and the Japanese. And so on. Apparently, from what I learned from a few Russian grad students, that is still the official history in Russia. And G-d help you if you get between a Russian and a Ukranian in the student bar with one chicken wing left on the plate. They will refight the 1920s-1956 to decide who gets the wing. (Because the thought of asking for a refill never occurs to them.)

      • rustypaladin

        Oooh if you want to add gas to the “Soviets Alone” fire you can point out The T-34 was an American design and 75% of the tanks they used were M4 Sherman’s imported from America 🙂

        • I don’t know what the numbers were during World War 2, but I *do* know that Lend-Lease tanks of all kinds (i.e. not just Shermans) were a minority of the tanks in use. Also, the T-34 was a Soviet design. It likely used a US suspension (the Christy suspension, which was common amongst the Soviet tanks), but the rest of the tank was purely Soviet.

          Now on the more positive for the American designs side, a famous Soviet tank ace drove both T-34s and Shermans over the course of the war, and preferred the latter.

          Also, Lend-Lease *did* help tremendously in another important area – US trucks and other transports provided by the US were critical in giving the Soviets the mobility necessary to take advantage of situations like the collapse of Army Group Center in the Summer of 1944. Without trucks provided by the US, the Soviet infantry wouldn’t have had the mobility necessary to take advantage of the collapse of the German lines, and the Germans likely would have been able to reform well short of the Vistula River (which is where the Soviets historically stopped).

          • The T34 was a Soviet descendent of J Walter Christie track design with a couple of models in between the original Christie tank and the T34. On the other hand there is that interesting Soviet document of Aberdeen’s testing of a T34 and KV1 and how to improve reliability. Also the Soviet army ran on Studebakers. The Soviets just loved those trucks.

            • Yeah, reliability was a big issue with Soviet tanks. In fact, it was a big issue with pretty much everyone except the US tanks. The Sherman may not have been the greatest tank around (it was perfectly fine going up against German Mark IVHs and StuG IIIGs, but outclassed by Panthers), but it had incredible ruggedness and reliability.

              The Soviets were building to a different design philosophy, though. Their thinking was along the lines of, “Who cares if the tank can run for twelve months, since it’ll probably be a flaming wreck in less than six.”

              • OTOH, the Soviet sent repair crews along with the troops. To fix the tanks on the spot as needed. That was one philosophical difference between the Nazis and the Soviets.

        • Go to Chicao Boys and search for Trent Telenko’s WW2 articles. They are VERY interesting. He’s been perusing a lot of recently declassified documents that really make a different conclusion from the official narratives of the war, especially in the Pacific and MacArthur. He also has done a series on American tanks and why the M-4 was chosen over the M-26. The Pershing was the only allied tank that could slug it out with a Panther or Tiger and cme out on top.

          The T-34 and KV1 both suffered from the constant bugaboo of Soviet equipment – reliability.

  9. Yep – that cat loves you and wants you to survive when you have to hunt. 😉

  10. I don’t know if it’s so much “lying” as a basic tendency of projection: we tend to assume that what holds true for *us* reflects what’s “really” true, and we instinctively work to explain away others’ experiences or perspectives as the exception or the aberration rather than our own.

    I had this experience myself with one of my first serious girlfriends: I was raised in a fairly traditional Catholic household and community, and the issue of divorced parents was one I’d never really personally encountered until my university days. My young lady, by contrast, had seen not only her own parents break up, but virtually every serious relationship she’d had any emotional investment in — friends, relatives, etc. — had gone the same way. Combine this with a feminist upbringing which, from her point of view, very plausibly explained these experiences as inherent to the nature of marriage itself, and you get someone who never wanted to get married at all. It eventually drove us apart. Yet there was no deception involved: she was only able to explain her experiences acceptably from one perspective and I was only able to explain them acceptably from another.

    Now this young lady was lucky; she eventually met a man willing enough to be patient and loving with her that she changed her mind and did marry him. But the point was not that until then she had “bought crap” from feminism about marriage, it was that until then she had genuinely had no reason not to buy (what I considered) crap. (My own tendency to be argumentative and browbeating rather than patient didn’t help.) So a large part of helping people get out of erroneous worldviews is always going to require the patience of being the thing they can’t explain away, rather than just telling them what those things are.

  11. The Firesign Theatre didn’t release “Everything You Know Is Wrong” until 1974, but I had a pretty good idea that was the case at least fifteen years before. My problem was that I read too much and too widely. “They” have a hard time keeping their stories straight…The down side is that the idea of there being an “other side” that’s always wrong, while “my side” is always right, gets pretty hard to maintain.

    Oh, well.

  12. “I bet you if we kidnapped someone from North Korea and exposed him/her to the real world, they’d be shocked at how little their great leader occupies our consciousness day to day.”

    One military defector from North Korea traced his decision back to the day when his boat picked up a broadcast from South Korea: a comedy about two young woman having friction over a parking space. He tried to tell himself it was an exaggeration, but finally he concluded that the only way they would find it funny was if South Korea really did have so many cars that it was hard to find places to park them all.

    • I don’t have the link any longer, but there was a youtube video of a NK broadcast about life in the US after…I think it was Hurricane Sandy. The translator was having a hard time of translating everything to English, but the video was all from behind the Iron Curtain and probably late 70’s to early 80’s – none, and I mean NONE, of the cars in the street shots were newer than that, let alone of US manufacture. There were pictures of people sleeping in hallways and snow 2 to 3 feet deep. “Rich” people were those that had their own tent to live in “in New York City” instead of community tents. There were even a couple of outside shots that were supposed to be of Manhattan, but were curiously lacking anything taller than about 10 or 12 stories – and only a couple of them.

    • The Soviets tried showing the U. S. film “The Grapes of Wrath” to demonstate the horrors of capitalism, till they repeatedly heard audience members say “So these are the poorest of the poor in the poorest period in American history. And they own a truck!”

      • You know I’ve heard that several times, but I always have to wonder if it’s just a popular story told to make us feel sympathy for them, ya know?

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Then there’s the (likely apocryphal) story of the Russian who broke down in tears upon being brought into a supermarket.

          • My Venezuelan uncle did that in a supermarket in Portugal, so that might be true.

            • William O. B'Livion

              Has he ever seen an American one?

            • Years back we were working a joint program with the Russians that required them to deliver a lot of hardware to Marshall. They flew it in on several flights with one of their heavy transport planes. The flight crews were allowed out in the public area of Huntsville. Took special permission as we are normally one of those no visit areas.
              We treated them to lunch at one of our local BBQ joints, then a quick trip to Wal-Mart. They had brought some dollars with them, no idea where from. The stunned looks were most interesting. And the things they bought? Blue jeans and medical supplies. They cleaned out the drug store supply of hypodermics and needles. Seems all that stuff was worth its weight in gold back home.

              • Denim pants are right up there toward the top of the list of “most useful things ever”. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that.

            • My sister had a Russian teacher in college who was a Latvian ex-pat that managed to get out of the Soviet bloc – she wouldn’t say how – in the late 60’s. She said that it was very difficult for her to shop because there was too much choice. And frustrating, because who needs more than one brand of toothpaste anyway? It would take her hours to shop because she was paralyzed by enormity of having to choose between different things that were effectively the same thing. And unlike home grown members of the distaff persuasion (oh my, anachronistic AND sexist!) there was no such thing as retail therapy, just retail stress.

          • The Other Sean

            It might be apocryphal, but there are plenty of known, similar events. Towards the end of the Cold War, some family friends had relatives from the East visit them in the US. When entering a supermarket for the first time, they came to a dead stop just inside, near where the produce was. They stared around in amazement for perhaps two minutes. The vast variety of fresh produce, with the even larger assortment of varied foods in boxes and cans visible beyond, was a pleasant surprise, but one that took them quite a long time to assimilate.

            • Rob Crawford

              I was in college when the Soviet Union fell, and within a year the school was bringing students over. I heard this story from a professor: they had picked up the Russians in Chicago and were driving across Illinois to Peoria. The Russians seemed confused about something, and were asked what was the matter. They wanted to know what those “towers” were at the farms and in every town.



              “Oh, not missile silos, grain silos. They’re for storing grain.”

            • I related over at MGC the story of a young East German woman after she was smuggled into the West side by her Filipino fiancé, being shell-shocked into silence for three days. Everything she’d been raised to believe was a lie. The people in the West side weren’t starving. The poorest of the poor in the West were better off than their poor – they were begging for beer money not money enough to buy a hard crust of bread.

              I wonder, in retrospect, how she would have handled learning about World War II. Socialist education erased that event from being taught in the East. Hitler ‘never existed.’ The only ‘war’ was the Great War… ‘World War I’ to the rest of the world.

              I remember hearing that a number of folk were quite unhappy after the Wall fell because of the sheer amount of discomfort they experienced, the ‘lack of security’ in employment. The flip side to that was the West Germans, while being initially very patient with their Eastern counterparts, found greatly frustrating how a lot of the Easterners refused to 1) learn 2) stop being arrogant 3)very lazy (job performance had no bearing on whether on not you kept your job in the East, after all. You were trained and assigned that job, and that was your job – so shopkeepers were rude and unpleasant, and if someone working the cashier saw it was their breaktime, they went on break on the second on the dot, even if they had a massive line of customers they needed to check out.)

              I don’t know if that’s true today (I’d doubt it) but it’s interesting to think about.

              • Oh,yeah. Farming was always a disaster in the East block, farming is a job that has a lazy period and a period each year when you work yourself to exhaustion every day, and a weather change may need to be fought with every hand you have working night and day. Farmers in the East expected to work the same hours every day, and they would walk away from a we-work-all-night-or-we-lose-the-crop situation.

                • And earlier. Various tzars conferred special privileges on German immigrants to get their superior farming skills in Russia.

              • so shopkeepers were rude and unpleasant

                One of the reasons why the first McDonalds in Russia did so well is because the company trained their staff to say things like “Thank you,” and “Have a nice day!”

              • Socialist education erased that event from being taught in the East. Hitler ‘never existed.’ The only ‘war’ was the Great War… ‘World War I’ to the rest of the world.

                This I find somewhat surprising. To the Soviets (and now Russians), World War 2 was The Great Patriotic War. I’m surprised that the Soviets would have allowed one of their Communist client states to drop the war into the memory hole. It’s a big deal in Russia.

                • To the East Germans it was a massive embarrassment and my father took great delight in giving WW2 history books and Mein Kampf as gifts. One of the recipients, one of my babysitters, couldn’t believe that someone so evil ever existed, and that it ever happened. And I only got that much explanation because I came home one day to relate the following incident:

                  One of the older classes at school was setting up an exhibit, and I was looking at the pictures of tanks during recess. One of the teachers saw the resident token Asian, (Seriously, if anyone wants to feel ‘racially isolated’, be an Asian kid in a Socialist East German school back in the day. I was the only one in the whole school! But it never seemed to bug anyone except to ask me where I came from, and be surprised it wasn’t China.) and keen to practice her English, spoke to me and started talking about how the exhibit was about the Great War, and how the Kaiser was ended…

                  I remember asking “Which one was that?”

                  Her: What do you mean, which one?

                  Me: Was that in the Erstze Weldkrieg or the Zweitze?

                  Her: … That’s a lie the evil Kapitalister Amerikaner made up, and it’s a good thing you’re here now, to learn the truth of things. But you don’t have to worry about that right now, you’re only in first grade, and you’ll start this study in fourth and fifth grade.

                  me: okay (shuts up, since I’d only started reading the Diary of Anne Frank)

                  When Dad got home I told him and Mom and they set me straight about why they were NOT teaching it, and that it’d be better if I don’t confuse the grownups.

                  Being a kid was great. It was easy to put things into the box of “Strange things that grownups do that will make sense to me when I’m grown up.” *shudder* Mind you, there were a few things I saw that I only REALLY understood only very recently, and once understood, the horror just will NOT go away.

                  • I think I’ve already mentioned the “Who’s Auschwitz?” story before. Just goes to show that East German schools and American schools aren’t all that different.

          • Not apocryphal at all. Boris Yeltsin in Houston, TX.

            • The Other Sean

              Cool. Was that while he was still President of Russia?

              • I’m not sure if he was the official President at the time… it was during that sketchy period when the Russian government was sort of in flux. His first visit to the United States, in any case.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Wow. I thought I had heard it was a bureaucrat, but didn’t realize it was someone quite so high up in the scheme of things.

            • Wasn’t he the PM of Russia or something? Definitely one of the nomenklatura.

              • There is a story about a North Korean general visiting a Western city (perhaps Washington — it has been a while since I read the story) calmly and genially looking out the windows as the car he was in drove down the avenue, undisturbed by the grandeur until the car turned onto a side street, whereupon his jar dropped and he exclaimed, “You do the sides, too!??!”

          • Actually that story isn’t exactly made up. When a Russian Pilot flew a mig into Japan, he was brought to the states and set up to live in Washington. One day he had the driver take him out to a mall. He couldn’t believe what he saw. So he had them drive to another one, then another one, then another one. He was I think two hundred miles from DC when he realized that they weren’t just setting this all up for him, that it was REAL.
            He wrote about it in an article I read a long time ago. I don’t recall the name but you can probably find it with a google search.

          • Eamon J. Cole

            Others have commented on the possible basis for that story, but I want to toss this out anyway. Just ’cause.

            After several months in Iraq, having visited (okay, followed a Bradley through, on foot) a market in An Najaf, seen various homes in Baghdad, wandered around a large souk in Mosul, etc. I got an opportunity for a couple of days leave in Dohuk, up in Kurdish held territory. We visited a souk there, as well, striking differences of course. But what really stands out, we went to a grocery store (with some large appliances and such too, the beginnings of the possibility of a big box store) and my brain stuttered a bit on all the shelves and shelves of food. The Kurds still had trade access with Turkey and the wider world (not all of it white market, of course) and so they had the surplus of a moderately prosperous region.

            This was nothing compared to walking into a supermarket back home, which was a tiny culture shock all its own. Not only shelves and shelves of food — but all these varieties and brands! And another store down the road…

            Of course, I grew up with this, so the brain only stutters briefly at being back in a land of plenty. But I can imagine the shock of seeing such for the first time, after spending your life in a land of scarcity.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Rachel Lucas ( , though she mostly posts on Facebook now) spent over 4 years in England and Italy and was amazed at the difference when she came home.

              • Oh, yeah. Portugal is nothing like this. When my mom went to the supermarket with me, in the US she got UPSET because there were too many brands. She couldn’t decide.

                • William O. B'Livion

                  Just pick one, they’re all the same:

                  • Rob Crawford

                    Shocking lack of store brands on there.

                    Now, for some things (canned goods, for example), they might all come off the same production line, with only a label making the difference. But on most everything else…

                    • William O. B'Livion

                      Go down the Toothpaste aisle. Look at the “active ingredients”. Now tell me which one is best.

                      Go down the Deodorant/Antiperspirant and do the same. Sort into 2 piles, then pick one.

                      Go to the Aisle with the NSAIDs. Look at the differences in the various bottles there.

                      Mostly brands don’t matter. Read the labels.

                    • As Sowell observed, most brands are indistinguishable, because the moment we could distinguish them, one would fall like a rock, and the other would soar.

                • Eamon J. Cole

                  The Tyranny of Choice. *nods head*

                  There’s some folks that want to rescue you from this…

                  • I want to be rescued from people like that. “Oh, some people might have a problem deciding? That’s TOO BAD. Don’t take away MY choices because some others might – IN YOUR F’NG OPINION – have a difficult time making a choice!”

                    And the bizarre thing is they expect to be thanked for doing you a favor!

              • Eamon J. Cole

                Oh, yeah, I’ve know lots of folks who think Italy is full of American who speak Italian.

                Um. No. Italians are very different. And the Dutch? Nothing like Italians. Those folks in the Czech Republic…?

                But this isn’t news to anybody here.

                • okay, it’s important to know this: Portuguese think that the IRISH are incredibly self contained and organized.
                  This is why the EEC is a joke. This is not like the difference between the states. The cultures are VERY different.

                  • Eamon J. Cole

                    I’ve been baffled by a few people who’ve toured different areas in Europe and still think of it more like individual states in the U.S. Then I figured out they’d toured “tourist Europe” and found it much the same with different languages and clothes.


                    And I’m no great European traveler. I have, though, had the opportunity to talk to people from all over in places like Dubai and Prague. Ranging conversations over coffee. The world is so much different than people frequently assume.

            • mikeweatherford

              My first overseas tour was to Panama (still the Canal Zone at that time). My boss was also a part-time minister to a local Baptist church. I went with him and a couple of other people from his church to a mission they had set up several miles north of the town of Gamboa. We worked on a few different homes, trying to get them ready for the rainy season. Some of them were literally, cardboard and plywood shacks. I learned that the average YEARLY wages of most of the people living there was under $300.

              Now, I grew up relatively poor in the middle of Louisiana. The poverty I saw there was far, far worse than what I saw in Panama. Mom & Dad always had at least one car/truck, and after I moved out, at least two. There was always plenty of food on the table, and we had new clothes and SHOES to start school in each year. Seeing the poverty of Panama was quite an eye-opener.

              I can also remember paying a dime for papayas, picking ripe mangoes off the trees on base, and buying an entire 9-foot stalk of bananas for $3.50. The guy that shined my shoes got $2/month from each of about 50 people, and put nine children through University de Panama — three doctors, two lawyers, one of the FEW locally-trained engineers in Panama, and several school teachers.

              Most Americans don’t know how well off they have it. That’s especially true of our “poor”.

              • mikeweatherford

                The poverty I saw there was far, far LESS than what I saw in Panama. Still working on my second cup of coffee, and the brain isn’t fully in gear yet.

                • Can’t remember who it was, but a while back I read a piece by a guy who spent some time in the Philipines. He was either working in a bar, or frequented a particular one, and developed a platonic friendship with one of the prostitutes there. He dropped in at her home once for a (platonic) visit, and realized that she was living in a home made of corrugated metal – along with the rest of her family. iirc, she did have her own room, which was something. But that was pretty much the only materially bright spot about the place.

                  • The “poor” in America have luxuries that kings and queens and emperors of two centuries ago would have gaped at in astonishment — you are, in fact, required to have them in a homeless shelter to make it fit for human habitation.

                    I have actually seen someone trying to claim bringing that up in a discussion about American poverty is “not useful.”

                  • *laughs* Corrugated sheet metal. They were fairly well off then, or in the poorer areas of an urbanized area. There are people out in the barrios who still live in the traditional bamboo, coconut wood and woven palm wall-and roofed bahay kubo who’d be lucky to have a river or water pump nearby. If they were especially lucky, they’d have the pump in their home area, and not a communal one.

                    • Oh, h*ll. Until the eighties when I left, people in Portugal still built additions to their houses and roofed them with corrugated plastic. And this was in the village, which was not that poor. Heck, my mom’s workshop was like that. Cement block, corrugated plastic.

                    • Yeah, it’s a big achievement and a sign of financial advancement if one’s house is made of cement block and sheet metal in the provinces, because even if the roof went flying during a very vicious windy typhoon, you could go find it after the storm and put it back. However, the slums in Manila will be a mix – the more settled up areas will have cement block and corrugated roofing as their ‘standard’, while there’ll be neighbors with houses made of coconut wood, cement blocks, part corrugated plastic or metal, and sometimes, rice sacks and/or tarpaulin as either wall or roof.

                      The plastic stuff tends to crack if torn off (talking from experience; that’s what we used to shade the laundry area in the back of my mom’s house, and needed to be replaced after five years…)

                    • Yeah, she was living in an urban area. In the article, the guy mentions that he didn’t have directions to her home (she’d apparently been dropping hints that he should *not* visit her home, probably because of the poverty), and it took him quite a while to find the place.

              • Well, you do also have to consider this:

              • Eamon J. Cole

                Most Americans don’t know how well off they have it. That’s especially true of our “poor”.

                Yes. I get a little annoyed with people talking about “poverty” in the U.S. Are we talking about the homeless? Because otherwise (even then)…

                Much less if somebody spouts about the poor of the world uniting. The poor in the rest of the world would slaughter the U.S. poor for their shoes.

                • There’s the old joke about the impoverished Indian who wants to visit America once before he dies because he wants to see a place where poor people are fat.


                  On a more serious note, iirc the climactic confrontation scene in The Great Gatsby (which I otherwise have no use for) takes place when the characters all go to a hotel in the city. And why are they at the hotel in the city? Because it’s too hot, and in the hotel they can rent a room and have ice brought up to help stay cool in the heat. Less than one hundred years ago, a very well to do cast, and no one has the basic climate control that’s available to anyone and everyone in the US these days.

                  Bush was mocked for his supermarket scanners comment, but what I understand about his intended point is true regardless. Whether we recognize it or not, we live in an age of marvels.

                • how well off are our “poor”?
                  Their biggest health issue is obesity.
                  That doesn’t seem to be the issue with the poor in most of the rest of the world.

              • Richard Fernandez had a post describing his initial taxi ride to his new school area. After arriving, the cabbie asked what he thought of the slums they had driven through, and he wondered “what slums?”. To him, the housing looked just like the middle income homes in the country he grew up in.

              • Is it any wonder that the rest of the world despises American whinging?

          • fontofworlds

            My father went to Russia *right* after the curtain fell. Let me just say that an apparatchik was still tied up in the basement, and people went down there every so often to refill his vodka. What can I say, he must have been a nice guy, relatively speaking. (the usual solution was to shoot them in the head.) Dad could hear his shouts while unpacking the plane.

            When a Russian woman saw California Navel Orange– she burst into tears. She couldn’t believe how beautiful and perfect it was– or how many there were in the box!

            I totally buy a Russian crying over a whole American supermarket– when a single orange was enough for this lady.

        • I think it’s like Granny Weatherwax’s “Rural Legends”– everyone had a cousin’s wife’s brother’s friend that it happened to because it really does happen fairly often with fairly similar details, kind of like the “spitting on soldiers coming back from Vietnam” stories.

          • mikeweatherford

            I can VERIFY that one. I was spit on in the San Francisco airport. The police tried to keep the hippies away from us, but it wasn’t always easy. The USO had a pair of bouncers to keep anyone NOT in the military away. It was the safest place in the airport, and packed.

            • Majority of my uncles that served, too, and a bunch of people here.

              But it’s an “urban legend.”

              Like coyote/dog crosses, or bobcat/housecat crosses. (CoyDog finally broke through because “red wolves” are coyote wolf hybrids.)

              • ??? Coydogs do exist. I’ve seen them growing up in West Texas. Not really any different from wolf/dog crosses…..

                • That was my response when I ran across them listed as a “myth” in a college research biology page, too!

                  Actually resulted in me actually asking if various “different species” of animals COULD NOT cross, or just didn’t usually. Which resulted in my finding out that “different species” tends to get slapped on if they just don’t cross so often that they all look alike, even if the only reason they don’t cross is because they’re at opposite ends of a landmass.

                  • Clark E Myers

                    Surprising how far diverged two species can be and still Mother Nature finds a way. This was a big deal at the time but it’s old news now.

                    Characteristics of a Gibbon-Siamang hybrid ape
                    Joan R. Wolkin,
                    Richard H. Myers
                    Anatomical measurements, cytological information, and a general physical description of two gibbon (Hylobates muelleri abbotti) Xsiamang (Symphalangus syndactylus)hybrid apes are presented. The characteristics of the hybrids are compared with those of the parents and other members of the parental species. These hybrids are the only known crosses between genetically distinct ape species. [different numbers of chromosomes FWIW] The hybrids displayed a mosaic of gibbon and siamang characteristics…….The conclusion of the paper examines genetic influence on morphology and behavior as illustrated by the study of this ape. Finally, the impact of this birth on current cytogenetic and evolutionary theories is discussed.

                    International Journal of Primatology
                    September 1980, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 203-221

                • West Texas? We’d see them occasionally in Glendale or East L.A. back in the late 60s, early 70s. Not rural areas then, much less now.

              • my uncle had a Bobcat house cat mix. A friends cat had a litter and two looked like house cats with the bobtail, two looked like bobcats but with long tails, and one looked like a regular house cat (Calico), and the other looked like a regular bobcat. The guy kept the bobcat looking one, and my uncle got the house cat looking one. Their two were bigger as kittens as well, and both grew far bigger than the other 4.
                When I saw it the thing was about 35 pounds. The house next door had a lab mix on a chain and the cat would walk over the ruts the dog wore into the ground and the dog just hid in his doghouse. It attacked the cat once and was wise enough to never do that again.

                • My folks’ barn cats have some kind of “small” wild cat in there, too; our house cats are 24 and 27-28 pounds, respectively, without being fat.

                  It’s not like they have any good reason for why it’s impossible besides “wild small cats usually eat domestic ones, and I haven’t seen it yet.”

                  • A vet I had for my slave drivers said the cross usually doesn’t take. There are only a few times the female will even get pregnant from the mating, so that makes it even rarer. He said they cross can also be sickly but the healthy ones are fairly long lived. My uncle’s was one of those, living almost 20 years iirc.

      • I recall a similar story from the early 1980s, except it was about how the poor in the US were reduced to eating cat food. And the Poles and Soviets started thinking, “Wait, they are so rich, they have special food just for cats?”

        • There was the one about the Soviet Union handing out documentary footage of some strike breaking, and what the people noticed was that the strikers all had good shoes.

          On the other hand, one North Korean defector spoke of seeing a photographed striker in a picket — said striker wearing a jacket with a zipper and a ballpoint pen in his pocket.

          Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick has some interesting stuff on this.

      • I was intrigued when I read Slavenka Drakulic’s book “How We Survived Communism” and the story about seeing a US market for the first time and how furiously angry she was, thinking “You’ll suffer for this. You’ll see. How dare you have so much?” It was another of those books I learned a great deal from, just not what the prof wanted me to learn.

  13. Wayne Blackburn

    It’s probably hard for you young kids to picture, but even stalwarts on the right assumed that communism was somehow more “moral” even when it failed.

    I’m only a year younger than you, but I cannot imagine how anyone on the right thought that.

    • Hell, I’m in my late 30’s and *I* can’t imagine how anyone can think that. It’s flat out insanity.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I don’t know about the right seeing Communism as “more moral” but many may have believed that the West had to adopt “central planning” to win against the Soviet Union.

      • One of the important things about Reagan taking office in 1981 was apparently the fact that he really did believe that we could “break” the Soviets. A lot of the conventional political wisdom at the time was that we couldn’t.

        • When Reagan expressed his belief “that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written”, Gore Vidal committed himself in public to laughing his head off at it — how ridiculous.

    • I’m 60. My parents were Birchers. I remember no such thing.


      • MIGHT be an European and “intellectual” thing. Many of the Rinos older than I are in fact saying things like “But their intentions are good” or “they’re the best of fellows” which is the remnant of that.

        • The Rockefeller Republicans definitely had some such ideas, but they were hardly ‘Right’. Those were the days when there were still liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and people from any other country could not make any kind of sense out of American politics because the parties were not divided primarily by ideology.

          Nowadays, of course, American politics still make very little sense, but at least the parties have ideological reasons to hate each other.

          • Well, liberal Republicans were generally to the right of liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats were to the Left of conservative Republicans — but regional differences were more relevant than national ones. It used to be the rule that any two candidates in a district were more alike than dissimilar, fighting for the same center.

            Any discussion of the trends pushing the changes exceeds any reasonable limit of Blog discussion. Somebody like Robert Stacy McCain could probably get an easy week out of the topic.

        • For “their intentions are good”– that is the recruiting pitch. “We’re nice, it’s fair, wouldn’t it be lovely if only….”

        • Oh, I knew some red diaper babies who tried to sell that line of booshwah. Nobody I would ever associate with ever bought it for real. Not even the card-carrying commies.


    • Most of us didn’t. One of the most popular books in the time and place where I grew up, was “God’s Smuggler” a personal account of a man who smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.
      People stood and cheered when Reagan called the USSR the evil empire. But it was EXTREMELY unusual and refreshing to hear someone in a position of authority say it.

    • I grew up in the fifties, but I remember being taught (even or perhaps especially in Catholic elementary school) that the Indians (yeah, that’s what we called ’em) were good because they had no private property. That kind of stuff is insidious as an ear worm. it takes a lot of thinking and brain reconfiguring to realize how deluded the prejudice against private property is.

    • Wayne, I was raised around people that thought like that. It is a conclusion drawn from a bad preconception: communism is irresistible, it is the natural order of things and we can show this by logic. This is supposed to be proof that it is more efficient, and so more moral, since that truth is beauty and stuff, and the form-follows function stuff. And, so, if you are opposed to it you are mired in the old way of thinking, you are against the new morality, and you are fighting against the natural order of things. Evil, Revanchist (whatever that was), reactionary, old, entrenched… know, icky and uncaring.
      Of course every-freakin’-time something like Pol Pot or the economic collapse of Cuba and the general mayhem and misery was pointed out and couldn’t be brushed off as vile propaganda or as exigencies of the moment, it was cast as a grave misunderstanding of the application of Marxist-Communist principals.

      I do remember thinking as a kid that if the principals were so easy to be misapplied, shouldn’t we wait for the next model?

  14. Regarding that state of denial at the trad/pub offices, Amanda has an interesting piece over at Mad Genius today linking to of all things a Passive Voice article at Huffington. PV actually makes a great case for indie. The killer money quote is this:
    “Or, to flip things around, if a tradpub author sells four times as many ebooks as an indie author does, the indie author still makes more money.”

    You want links? Phooie on you, search them out yourself. You’ll be all the better for it.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      it’s easy to get those links, just go to MGC and read the post. Heh.

      • Forgive me my little joke. I figure the regulars here all have MG hot linked anyway.
        One significant correction. I conflated Passive Voice and the Huff when in fact PV is a totally separate entity, but the article under discussion quoted one from Huffington.
        Damn this keyboard, it keeps printing what I type instead of what I meant.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Oh, I was just being silly. I figured that’s what anyone who read your comment would do anyway.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          I can sell you one to fix that problem. It’s pricey, I’ll admit, but as long as you use it properly you’ll not have this problem.


          • “As long as you use it properly”?

            There’s the problem. I want to have one that’ll give me no troubles even if I use it improperly.

            ::glares around room::

            All right, whoever’s giggling better stop it right now!

  15. Allan Drury’s nonfiction book Senate Diary, about his stint reporting on the Senate in 1944. Holy breaking the narrative! And those were all public, stirring events without much parallel in US history — that have been almost totally forgotten, except in Drury’s fictional treatment in his novels!

    The thing about bad stuff Germans did in WWI that’s been coming out lately because of the WWI anniversary – that’s also pretty far against the narrative.

    • Huh. Because I grew up with the “evil Hun barbarians raping, destroying, pillaging poor innocent Belgium and France” stories.

      • I know I’ve seen arguments back and forth over the years about whether the Zimmerman Telegram was real or faked.

        • The Zimmerman telegram was real. Among serious scholars, it’s not a matter for discussion, simply because a copy was found in the German Foreign Office files after WWII, and is freely available for review at the National Archive in Koblenz. The people who say it was faked have another agenda — mostly, they’re isolationists looking for “proof” that the U.S. got involved in WWI without a proper reason. By and large, they’re the same people who believe that Roosevelt had prior knowledge of Pearl Harbor, but did nothing to prevent it to ensure America’s entry into WWII. This too is nonsense. Don’t get me started.

          • Mr. du Toit! I miss your website! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

          • I did know the Zimmerman Telegram was real. I didn’t know they were boxing up Belgians’ factories and household goods to ship back to Germany.

            • I recall reading that in 1914, Belgium had the world’s fifth-largest economy. I don’t mean fifth in per capita terms; I mean fifth in total GDP. After the war, Belgium still had a strong industrial base, but it was never again a leading economic power.

          • “By and large, they’re the same people who believe that Roosevelt had prior knowledge of Pearl Harbor, but did nothing to prevent it to ensure America’s entry into WWII.”

            What’s interesting is that I have a transcript of a contemporary letter (from inside my family, someone who was living in Honolulu) that implies that Roosevelt knew *something* was up, seeing as how many ships with senior officers happened to be out of the harbor at the time. Not in a bad way, mind you, more approving, but it’s fascinating to see that particular conspiracy theory pretty much dates to the event itself.

            • That was not so much Roosevelt knowing what was up, as the Japanese not knowing what was up. They scheduled their house call, so to speak, for a time when the patient was not at home. Oops.

            • Did FDR know war with Japan was coming? He certainly did.
              Did he take actions that can be fairly seen as provoking this war? Yes.
              Did he knowingly and willingly sacrifice a large portion of the Pacific Fleet to keep MacArthur from being embarrassed (or other petty reason of your choice)? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.

              That’s the problem with most conspiracy theories. They take a couple of facts that could be used to make an interesting case, and then discredit them by making a ridiculous statement.
              If I had more faith in the reasoning ability of my fellow man, I’d have to believe that this was deliberate.

              • Yeah. I’m sure everyone in the chain of command thought that there was a chance of something happening with the Japanese. But no one in their right mind thought that the Japanese could hit Pearl Harbor. It was an insanely risky plan, and one mistake could have cost the Japanese their entire carrier fleet. The more logical target would have been the US forces in the Philipines (and those forces did get hit, but not until after Pearl Harbor).

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  IIRC there was concern that Japanese would try sabotaging the facilities at Pearl Harbor.

                  Some of the aircraft were positioned in such a way to prevent them from being sabotaged but made them “sitting ducks” for the actual attacks.

                • MacArthur thought he knew better than Washington and was not merely unprepared for the Japanese attack (which he insisted was months away) but had actually undermined the planning. MacArthur probably had a breakdown for some hours during that day.

                  • Ah, but someone on MacArthur’s staff explicitly denied permission requested by the local Air Corps folks in the Philippines to A) put their fighters in the air, and B) launch the planned B-17 attacks on Taiwan.

                    If the Japanese had been able to plant a paid agent as the General in charge of the US defense of the Philippines, it’s difficult to think of anything that agent could do differently that what was actually done that would make things easier for the Japanese.

              • Just what Roosevelt knew and when he knew it is still questionable. The most documented account is in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, which looks at all the Pearl Harbor antecedents.

                One defensible theory is that the Navy was completely convinced that battleships could not be sunk by aircraft, and yes, they were aware that unpowered German battleships had been scuttled by aircraft as a demonstration. But not if the ships defended themselves. Interestingly, later in the war, it turned out that battleships, while not much used in ship to ship fights, were always included in a fleet as air defense platforms, and they performed very well indeed.

                So Roosevelt could well have believed that a small Japanese attack (there is no evidence that he understood the magnitude of the Pearl Harbor attack) would not destroy the Fleet. The carriers were all out of Pearl Harbor, on improbable missions, and the cruisers were well out of there. Unfortunately now one told the Navy to put the battleships to sea on ready alert; had they been they would not have been lost. Roosevelt was desperate to get the US into the war before the Germans took England — something that didn’t sound impossible at all in summer of 1941. The case can be made that the US had no real choice, Western Civilization was at stake; whether or not this is true, a lot of good and intelligent people believed it; and if the Japanese attacked Pearl, Germany would surely join their ally Japan in war against the United States, which didn’t have any war plants and war production capability (so the Germans thought). Roosevelt knew better, war mobilization was proceeding well in ’41 although there were not many visible signs of it.

                The telling point is the long telegram from Japan to the Embassy in Washington. The first paragraph said that it would be in 14 parts, and that when all was received and decoded all code equipment was to be destroyed; that it contained a message to be conveyed to the American Secretary of State at a particular time (just before dawn Hawaii time).

                Roosevelt got the first part handed to him Saturday night; the signal corps officer who delivered it to him told Congress that Roosevelt read it and told Hopkins “This means war. But we have a good record.” Generations of scholars have tried to interpret what that means. But Roosevelt as former Secretary of Navy knew that the Japanese historically started wars by attacking the enemy at the moment war was declared.

                These are the facts that the “Pearl Harbor conspiracy” rest on (well there are others). They are subject to more than one interpretation. But it is not absurd that Roosevelt believed the world would be better off if the US got into the War sooner rather than the inevitable later. After all this time there is no proof either way.

      • We didn’t get WWI stuff mentioned– heck, our WWII stuff was mostly about how horrible the US was, a quick pass at the Jewish deaths and on to how the US is terrible again. (I was an adult before I found out that there was an actual active program to put other folks into the same system that was aimed at wiping out the Jewish population, rather than just false positives from their crazy “if your nose looks like this” or “you have a grandparent rumored to be Jewish” folks that were rounded up. No mention of the type of eugenics that’s still got a popular follow in the US, including among my classmates. Looooong digression.)

        I did run into some mentions of how everyone was sure that the Death Camps couldn’t have been real because there were “always” claims of how horrible your enemy was in war, so of course it had to be false.

        I can’t remember reading anything about how WWI was fought other than trenches being deathtraps, and gas being terrifying, and Bismark being brilliant while the prince was greedy and wouldn’t listen. (Just realized how glazed over the whole “Bismark was brilliant” thing was, there was no mention of any sort of death count from the wars he set up, or from Germany taking over afterwards.)

        • Well, the British did go seriously overboard on making up German atrocities during World War I. Mind you, they did commit atrocities, but the British went overboard.

          That was Nazi propaganda gold.

        • The sheer horror of the Death Camps was one of the reasons why Ike insisted that they had to be filmed. He wanted to ensure that records were saved for posterity. No matter how loudly the deniers claim that the death camps didn’t exist, Ike’s filmed record stands as a testament otherwise.

          I’ve also heard that when the Soviets liberated Auschwitz (the first of the death camps to fall into Allied hands), many of the Western Allies were convinced that the whole thing was Soviet propaganda due to the sheer inhumanity and horror of the whole thing.

          On a somewhat related note, I’ve also heard that many German soldiers were convinced they had to win the war. Because if they didn’t, well… Hitler’s plans called for the extermination of the Slavs, and many atrocities were carried out in the occupied Soviet (and Eastern European) territories. Many German soldiers knew that the Soviets had very long memories. And if the Soviets ultimately won the war, they’d be looking for revenge.

          • Probably the same program is why I found out as much about the camps as I did. I ran into a book about the Nazis that was fairly dry, but had photographs of things like lampshades and lady’s gloves made of human skin.

            School library. I got really bored. Same way I “met” Kipling and Frost, roughly the same impact on my world view.

            • That’s how I discovered mythology. One of my teachers would always let us go “to the library” for research and his class sucked…

            • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich mentions the “human skin as lampshades” stuff. The chapter that focuses on the Final Solution is horrifying.

              • I’ve run across several folks who insisted that the lampshades and lady’s gloves were mythical.

                If I hadn’t seen the photographs, I might believe them.

                There’s just something about SEEING tanned human skin and a mention of how this one was more valued than that because the tattooed one was more interesting that is just… wow.

              • These folks touch on some of the claims that folks who’d never consider themselves holocaust deniers have mentioned:

                • I sometimes get the feeling that one reason why people gravitate toward socialism is because of their inability to process the fact that people really do such horrifying things. When it really, really sinks down inside of you that yes, these things can happen, and have happened…

                  It affects you.

                  • Somewhat related, listened to the local KTTH this morning and they had a guy who wrote a nasty email do a phone in… it took about ten minutes for me to realize that he really, honestly, truly thought there was NEVER a time when it’s acceptable to shoot an unarmed man.

                    There’s no way he could be a THREAT, because he’s not armed…..

                    I wonder what the folks who are beaten to death, never mind the ones that are strangled, think of that?

                    • The number one cause of death in homicides in America is strangulation. By hand. That’s right, more people are murdered by being strangled than by any other means.

                    • Probably if you take out suicides and chop it up by specific types– “knife, sword, axe” instead of “bladed weapon” and such.

                    • I suspect that “leading cause” depends heavily on how finely you dice your categories.

                    • Haven’t found a really good source for “cause of death by weapon” stats, but I do notice that the gov’t stats are for homicide including shootings by police officers and self defense, and that there are more suicides with firearms than homicides. Depressing, no?

                    • There are people in Great Britain who have suggested in complete seriousness that kitchen knives ought to be banned because they can be used to kill people.

                    • I dare say more people have been killed by stupid ideas (see USSR, see Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution …) than any other cause of death, so we need a law banning stupid ideas. Stupid Effing Ideas might be a capital crime.

                    • Josh A. Kruschke


                      Now I’m wondering, if that pasted, where that would place me on the list of ‘Most Wanted’.


                  • I have actually sat in a classroom where someone was laying out plans for a pretty little Utopian settlement, I asked how they would defend it, and the person literally asked why would someone do that.

          • When I was in Junior High School we had to do a thing on WW2. One of my Class-mates father was a war photographer for the US Army, wish I could remember his name, he was a well know one.
            His father was the FIRST American Photographer to enter a prison camp that had just been liberated. He brought in the photo’s his father had taken (well the ones his father let him) they were pretty nasty.

            • My high school History teacher’s father had been in one of the units that liberated Dachau.
              He had a lot of pictures to share.

              • mikeweatherford

                My dad talked about visiting Dachau very shortly after it was liberated. That was one reason he wouldn’t come visit me in Germany. The other was, he said he’d done all his traveling when he was young, and didn’t need to do any more.

              • The tech at my dr’s grandmother was in Hiroshima when it was nuked. Her mother married an American because the Japanese men she knew were horrible.

              • My college roommates father was the only member of his family to survive Dachau. Some serious bad stories there, but it explained why his father was so tough.

          • Well, everyone of German ethnicity was forcibly ejected from the East. Including children, babies — Holocaust survivors. A lot of them died on the way.

            So first you get labeled German and slated for forcible re-Germanization by the Nazis — possibly with a session in a concentration camp to encourage you — and then you get thrown out to trudge to Germany in the dead of winter. . . .

        • Clark E Myers

          Speaking of Death Camps I am reminded of watching Arthur Schlesinger Jr. argue by assertion that FDR could have done nothing more for the Jews. It followed therefore that FDR’s behavior with respect to that issue was entirely above reproach.

          Elie Wiesel has said that his family went willingly to the death camps rather than hide out and so endanger friends and old family retainers who offered hideouts and shelter. They knew the war would be over in a few months so the camps would soon be liberated.

          Nobody, not the BBC nor the Voice of America ever told the Wiesel family not to go. Nobody at all told the Wiesel family that the camps were not Concentration Camps (after the usage in Cuba, the Philippines and South Africa more than bad enough) but death camps. Apparently FDR thought such knowledge if made public would distract from his view of the appropriate war effort.

          There were many brave people who made sure the knowledge, with the supporting facts, was available to the political leaders.

          • My paternal grandfather was one of a delegation of Rabbis that met with FDR to ask for just one bombing mission on one of the camps.

          • I recommend the film Defiance for a good examination of the circumstances as experienced. Good performances by Daniel Craig & Liev Schreiber.

            This is a more than reasonably accurate biopic of Jewish resistance fighters/refugees in the Belarussian forests.

            It is difficult to find, but if you get the chance to you should watch The Dunera Boys:

            At the start of WWII the British Government decided to arrest all Germans in the UK no matter how long they had been here. Among those arrested were many Jewish refugees and many who were fully assimilated. This film records the story of a group who were sent to a POW camp in Australia aboard the Dunera.

          • One other item that’s frequently not mentioned – there was a ship full of Jews that left Germany during the late ’30s. The passengers were fleeing the country, and tried to get asylum in a few different Western countries – including the US. They were denied in every case, and ultimately forced to return to Germany. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the ship off the top of my head.

      • All I ever heard was “the pillaging Belgium thing was a lie” without actually being explicit about what the pillaging Belgium thing _was_. And of course I figured it couldn’t possibly be that bad, things were civilized in WWI because everybody always said WWII was worse (that’s not really saying much, in retrospect).

        • Strictly speaking, WWII was worse technologically, but WWI was worse morally. The combatants in WWI did everything they could think of to harm each other. In WWII, there were a few weapons that they refused to use.

    • Good point about the Germans. It looks like they were the bad guys after all and our mistake was not in being too soft on them but on non occupying the country.

  16. Sarah, your side comment about transplanted people seeking out the company of ethnic peers was spot on. When I emigrated in the mid 80s, there was a large South African contingent living in the Austin area — a group I avoided like the plague, because I wasn’t interested in listening to whining and constant comparisons. (The colloquialism was “whenwee”, which satirized the beginning of every conversation — i.e. “when we lived in South Africa….”)

    So I plunged into making friends with the locals, and immersed myself into American life and culture. It’s a mark of that immersion that I only recently started treating myself to traditional South African foods, especially biltong (jerky) — the only thing I miss about the place — and that only at the urging of my wife, who loves all kinds of ethnic foods and thinks it’s stupid of me to deny myself something that I love so much..

    Along the way, I became an American, and I now look at my erstwhile homeland with the dispassion of an anthropologist rather than as a native son. All that said, allow me to introduce a lovely South African expression to you: “soutpiel” (pron. “sote-peel”), which literally means “salt-dick” — a description of someone who lives in a country but keeps one foot firmly planted in his homeland, thus allowing his dick to dangle in the salty ocean.

    I never allowed myself that foolishness. When you emigrate, you leave it all behind and start afresh. End of story.

    • There is a huge Portuguese community here in town. Apparently there was a documentary about it on Portuguese TV and my family were heart broken I wasn’t on it.
      I too chose to become American. I’ve been reviled as a “submissive woman” for this, of all places in the comments at legal insurrection. These are the middle of fingers of this “submissive woman.”
      My big issue with ethnic foods is that NO ONE here sells broad d’Avintes. The stupid Portuguese government forbids its export.

      • Yeah, the only place to get decent Porro bread is Fall River — for which I actually make a detour whenever I’m in the Boston/Providence area. (I grew to love it, and most Portuguese food, because my favorite lunchtime destination back in Johannesburg was the Coimbra Restaurant and Bar. I still miss the mutton ‘n beef stew. That, the bread, and a bottle of Portuguese rosé… good grief, my mouth is watering at the 30-year-old memory/)

        Also en passant, no other country in the world makes rosé wine as well as the Portuguese. After a trip to the Algarve, my son came back with an addiction to the lovely stuff. A Christmas or birthday present of Trovador or Mateus, and he’s reduced to tears of gratitude.

    • We see the same dynamic in effect at previously segregated colleges where the “persons of color” attending these now integrated institutions demand “Blank-American” dorms, fraternities, sororities and dining areas. They also form their own interest groups, lobbying for their “own” student union.

      • I had a particular teacher at my high school who was liberal, but otherwise pretty great. The guy was definitely not the stereotypical liberal instructor, and I had some decent conversations with him about various things.

        While I was there, the school started a Black Student Union. He – a white guy – acted as the faculty advisor, and the Union was started with the help of a number of white students.

        Years later, long after I had left the school, some members of the Black Student Union suggested that membership ought to be limited to black people. My old teacher pointed out that white students had helped start the Union, and basically called the idea out as being stupid. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, protests started calling for the firing of the “racist” teacher. The school district caved and got rid of him.

    • When you emigrate, you leave it all behind and start afresh. End of story.

      The only thing I really, really miss about the Philippines is the food in a number of different ways – particularly the ease of availability of restaurants, and the sheer variety of instant noodles and junk food when I’m feeling snacky. The good thing is, I’m a good cook, so I can whip up any Filipino dish if I like, but there are some things in terms of technique I haven’t quite been able to translate over because we don’t have an open flame burner (convection stovetop) but I figure I’ll be able to do eventually. And my repertoire of food extends beyond just Filipino cuisine. *grin* Hearty stew with dumplings last night and a pot roast cooking in the slow cooker today.

      But I’m really looking forward to being able to take my citizenship oath in a few years.

    • How is South African Jerky different from what you can find in any Gun Show in America? *grin*

    • While we were still in California (more than two weeks ago, barely), the pastor of our church was from South Africa. Emigrated here with his family about 12-15 years ago, admitted that for the first few years as pastor, he’d be translating into English on the fly from Afrikaans.

      Thing is, he decided a bit before his teens, that he was an American (he was born in Michigan while his father was doing post-grad work in seminary), and put forth a good deal of effort getting written documentation to make getting permanent American citizenship easier when he was on his own. He’s just an American now, who happens to like soccer and cricket.

      Because of him and his family, we know several others from over there, and all of them are Americans too, who just happened to have grown up in South Africa. It may just be selection amongst like-minded types, though.

  17. Even the aspirin thing? Blew my mind. “Why did my mother tell me I would die if I wouldn’t?”

    This is why Science is hard. In order to sort out what really works and what is pure coincidence, you have to test rigorously. The problem is that if you get a deer when you hunt in the hills while wearing blue, and not in the valley while wearing red, you would have to systemically test them by wearing red and blue in both the hills and the valley — and before you complete the test, your father gives you a good thrashing for not bringing home the meat and instead leaching off others. So you wear blue and hunt in the hills because it might be either the red or the valley that’s the problem, and even if you could conceive of testing, you can’t spend the time or effort.

    • Read of the travails of the US Submarine Service from 7 December 1941 to mid 1943 in figuring out what was wrong with their torpedoes. It turns out there were multiple, overlapping (and therefore mutually obscuring) issues with the torpedoes and the detonators.

      I’ve never heard it stated, but I think that these troubles justify the live fire exercises held in peace time since then.

      • I’ve often heard that the problem with the torpedoes, and with the boots that caused so much frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge, was what we call crony capitalism.

        • That was some of it. A lot of it was that the U.S. army grew something like 50-fold from its peacetime establishment in just a couple of years, and had to take all the materiel it could get, including the shoddy stuff. And then there was the fact that much of that materiel was only really tested for the first time in combat.

          • Then too, there were “normal” SNAFUs in military logistics. Like the American fighter pilot who went down over New Guinea, and once things had settled out, pulled the survival manual out of his bailout kit and found it was the one for arctic survival.

        • USN torpedoes were all government designed and built in those days, with the US Navy Bureau of Ordinance Torpedo Station at Newport, RI fully and solely responsible for the bad designs and poor testing, and thus the horrible torpedo performance that the sub crews had to deal with from 1941-1943.

          And as will any bureaucracy, they defended their crap designs to the last against the actual user reports, blaming poor training and sloppy performance by the sub crews. It wasn’t until the Pacific Sub Fleet commander conducted tests of his own, first firing torpedoes against a cliff face in Hawaii and then by dropping torpedoes (without warheads, but with detonators installed) from cranes and dissecting the results did the BUORD Torpedo Station people face up to their design flaws.

          I don’t know about the boot story, but other than Navy BUORD promotion and command policies being pretty incestuous, I don’t see how any cronyism impacted the WWII USN sub fleet torpedo problems.

          • There’s still overall laziness and costcutting that the bureaucracy will do even today. Brandon Webb relates in The Red Circle how he and his team of SEALS eagerly opened up a package of winter supplies while over in Afghanistan, and no amount of staring and willing reality to be otherwise could change the fact that they were sent child-sized winter sleeping bags, blankets, out-door gear, socks, boots… marked twenty percent off. And they’d been waiting for it for months, making do in the bitterly cold Afghanistan mountain winter.

            A scathing email with apparently lots of rage and possibly swearing from his CO corrected this.

            I’ll grant though that the earlier eras had that much, much worse.

      • Good Norman Polmar article on WWII torpedo problems, interestingly experienced in parallel a few years apart by both the German Kriegsmarine and the USN, at

    • Even the aspirin thing? Blew my mind. “Why did my mother tell me I would die if I wouldn’t?”

      It’s possible her mother had exaggerated a very real warning.
      I was reading a detailed article somewhere, and now wish I could find it again, about just how dangerous acetomenaphin really is, especially in children. The line between “safe” and “can kill you” is pretty narrow, and easily crossed, especially since it is added to so many common medicines. You take a pill, then some cold syrup, you are already near the overdose level. Add one more pill too close to the first one because you don’t realize there was some in the syrup, and you have liver failure. And since most people consider it completely safe and harmless, they don’t realize they are in trouble until far too late.

      • She says “aspirin” and you say “acetomenaphin”? Let’s call the whole thing off.

      • Not aspirin. Tylenol has a narrow margin. The best way to kill someone with aspirin, according to all the books I’ve read (what? I write mysteries) is to put a pound ina sock and use it as a blunt instrument. Also, when/where mom grew up there were no over the counter medicines. The doctor or pharmacist had to compound it.

  18. This reminds me of something I’ve seen quoted often, about the Soviet grocers having to put some propaganda sign in the window, even though they know and their customers all know it’s nonsense – in order not to be closed down or even disappeared, everyone agrees to play the game. But doing even that, even though all know that these are lies, does something to the human heart if it’s done often enough and regularly enough. It introduces a change that’s difficult to quantify. In short, one gets “institutionalized.” Knowing one comes from an insane world may not be enough to keep one fully sane AND fully safe; sanity itself will seem unreal.

    Or, to cite a more pop-cult reference – and one that was astonishingly mature considering the source – there’s an episode of the animated Superman Adventures where Supes confronts Darkseid on Apokalips (yeah, DC Comics spelling, ugh.) “I am so many things, Kal-el,” he taunts the Man of Steel. “You can’t begin to imagine half of them.” And they slug it out until Supes finally scrapes out a win. He tosses Darkseid out of his own fortress to the waiting people below, who have been brutalized and enslaved for generations. “You’re finally free,” Superman tells them – only to be astonished when they all cry out, “Master! Let me help you! Be careful!” and carry him off.

    Darkseid stops them for a moment to turn and address Superman before he leaves. “I am many things, Kal-el,” he says. “And here… I am god.”

  19. Okay, here’s a mind-blower. I found a fanzine dedicated to Mack Reynolds’ life (the ultimate red diaper baby! His political sf was much braver than I thought, because he really was stepping away from his comfort zone….). So while I was absorbing tales of 1950’s sf authors trying to prove their hipness by talking about marijuana and heroin, this little tidbit I’d never heard:

    “….since 1957, Scott Meredith Literary Agency, and Scott personally, had been the single largest supplier of pornography in the USA, and it was all done secretly from a Post Office Box in Grand Central Station that mailed plain black manuscript boxes to porno publishers all over the USA. It was known as ‘the Black Box operation’ and Meredith’s ownership was kept as a very deep secret.

    “This ‘Black Box operation’ began with the near death of science fiction in 1960, after the failure of American News Company, the single largest periodicals distributor in the USA. For science fiction magazines particularly, the ANC collapse was a death wail. If you couldn’t get distributed you couldn’t sell magazines, and if you couldn’t sell magazines you were dead. Science fiction writers, by the droves, rushed to fill in the gap in Meredith’s Black Box porno division.”

    • I mean, I knew there were some sf writers who had written porn, but I didn’t know it was because their agent was a porn packager.

      • This ‘Black Box operation’ began with the near death of science fiction in 1960, after the failure of American News Company, the single largest periodicals distributor in the USA. For science fiction magazines particularly, the ANC collapse was a death wail.

        I think it was hinted at with an Anne McCaffrey short story I read that was… vaguely… and in fact, rather tame in terms of ‘erotica’ (of very dubious consent type) – when ‘plenty of SF writers wrote SF flavored erotica to make ends meet.’

        • According to those links, the rules were that they could not actually describe sex, but they could talk around it a lot. There would seem to be a certain amount of strategy connection to the old romance novel euphemisms.

          I don’t really want to know more about it than that, because I found out by investigating the old spicy pulps that a story does not need to be explicit to be sleazy. (Though of course romance novels today can be a lot sleazier.)

          But if part of sf history is “Your agent will encourage you to move to Mexico and write sleaze,” that is important to know.

  20. The lies can sneak in no matter how vigilant you are. I remember voting Republican, yet thinking, “That Newt Gingrich guy is a little too crazy.” Not that I’d ever heard him or read anything he himself wrote. In 1994 though C-SPAN covered the transition of Congress to the Republicans for the first time in a generation, and Newt showed them around. I was horrified to see how much propaganda I had swallowed about the man.

    In a similar vein, I often note that people who believe, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” are easy dupes for those who blow smoke.

    • In a similar vein, I often note that people who believe, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” are easy dupes for those who blow smoke.

      Urge to say something like “Sure, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire– do you have any idea how often the fire station gets calls about clouds from folks who insist that a house must be burning down?”

    • Where there’s smoke on TV, there is usually some special effects guy with a smoke machine.

      And then afterwards, a panel of 15 talking heads pontificating about what the government must nationalize next in order to prevent a recurrence of the fire.

  21. “I bet you if we kidnapped someone from North Korea and exposed him/her to the real world”
    I’ve long thought that would be a great plot. Have the characters come from the most prosperous, advanced planet in the whole Interstellar Empire. Then by some twist of fate they wind up off planet and discover that, in fact, they come from a relatively poor little dirtball off the main trade routes.

  22. The Grauniad seems right-wing? Amazing to me, but then I only know it from usually sarcastic comments by Tim Blair in OZ.

    I recall reading a report on a Soviet Air Force defector. Supermarkets blew his mind. He was taken aboard a carrier and was amazed to see enlisted men doing things that only officers would be permitted to do back in USSR.

    • To be fair the Grauniad only seems right wing when I’ve been stuck at the doctor’s office with Caliphate News Network. (Or Communist News Network, the other side of their charming personality.)

    • MadRocketSci

      My grandfather had stories about showing a Soviet visiting armyman around town. He couldn’t believe supermarkets could possibly be real. He was fascinated that we all had garages and cars. He was absolutely sure that my grandfather couldn’t possibly be other than a covert state handler of some sort despite his protests that he was just a GM engineer who knew someone on base, and knew the area.

    • I’ve heard of Tim Blair, but I don’t know if I’ve ever read his stuff. I get my Grauniad-studies from David Thompson. He reads it so we don’t have to!:-)

    • Keep in mind that the Soviet military is organized in a different fashion than Western militaries. It’s not necessarily a political thing. Rather, it’s based off of their experiences in World War 2, when the Soviets suffered incredibly high casualties. The military that they ended up with as a result was organized quite a bit differently than the other major militaries of the war, and it stayed that way after the war ended. That, in part, explains why the Soviet defector saw enlisted men doing things that officers would have done in the Soviet military.

      Because the Soviets constantly had so many inexperienced troops in the ranks (due to the constant losses), the upper ranks of officers maintained a much greater degree of control over the troops than their counterparts in other militaries did. Soviet formations are also organized differently, and a battalion of troops in the Soviet (and now Russian) army was not the same as a battalion of troops in a Western army.

  23. MadRocketSci

    In the “everything you believe is a lie category” (just for the mental exercise):

    Suppose that your conservative instinct: That we live fairly close to the savannah, and it is only a delicate and extremely complicated, thouroughly artificial construct (hard won in the learning and building of it) requiring the attention and thinking effort of most of mankind, which we call civlization, that keeps us alive and fed and prosperous, and out of the dirt.

    Suppose that instinct is wrong (either now, or someday). Suppose that modern industrial technology is *so* good, and that modern methods are *so* efficeint, that 99% of mankind could actually be comfortably supported with only the effort and productivity of 1% of the people (people who presumably understand how to use it effectively). Suppose this was so resilient that the socialists, for all their economic lunacy, actually *couldn’t* wreck it.

    No amount of decadence can bring this civilization down. Lunacy doesn’t existentially harm it. No reckoning with common sense or hard reality ever arrives – any conceivable maladaptedness is absorbed and compensated for.

    What then?

    • The Other Sean

      You might get the universe in John Ringo “Council War” series – before the fall, or maybe the United Federation of Planets. Perhaps the lack of norms drive people mad and suicidal from anome. Maybe it gets torn apart from lack of any coherence. But perhaps it hangs together alright. Does the population largely become infantile, take advantage of the freedom to create a new age of arts and sciences, or simply laze around aimlessly?

      Then what happens if faced by an external threat? Would the population be capable of dealing with it? Alien invasion or inbound asteroid, can a population unused to working and worrying about reality cope and respond in a coherent fashion?

    • What you get then is this:
      “The bored—among whom are those whose level of intelligence is grossly mismatched with the requirements of their cultural environment—frequently solve the problem by fomenting easily avoided and completely foreseeable crises in their personal lives. The mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum: and if no absorbing interest has developed in childhood and adolescence, such an interest is soon manufactured from the materials to hand. Man is at least as much a problem-creating as a problem-solving animal. Better a crisis than the permanent boredom of meaninglessness.”

      • And this:
        By the end of three months my doctors have, without exception, reversed their original opinion that the welfare state, as exemplified by England, represents the acme of civilization. On the contrary, they see it now as creating a miasma of subsidized apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries. They come to realize that a system of welfare that makes no moral judgments in allocating economic rewards promotes antisocial egotism. The spiritual impoverishment of the population seems to them worse than anything they have ever known in their own countries. And what they see is all the worse, of course, because it should be so much better. The wealth that enables everyone effortlessly to have enough food should be liberating, not imprisoning. Instead, it has created a large caste of people for whom life is, in effect, a limbo in which they have nothing to hope for and nothing to fear, nothing to gain and nothing to lose. It is a life emptied of meaning.

        “On the whole,” said one Filipino doctor to me, “life is preferable in the slums of Manila.” He said it without any illusions as to the quality of life in Manila.

    • Well, if I’ve learned anything from Star Trek it is: If your scenario were to ever happen we must find the god/computer that produces all the free stuff and destroy it.

    • No amount of decadence can bring this civilization down. Lunacy doesn’t existentially harm it. No reckoning with common sense or hard reality ever arrives – any conceivable maladaptedness is absorbed and compensated for.

      What then?

      Shallowly, try to duplicate it– both for security and to prevent some future issues. Would also blow off some of the pressure from the more-than-1% that can and desire to contribute.

      Less shallow– there’s a massive difference between “existentially harming” the civilization and the lower level evils. As long stuff doesn’t threaten to take out the 1% that keep it going, and or them being happy doing so, you could have a very horrific situation.

      Somewhere in the middle without looking for major issues, including “assume the 1% wanna”– looking at human nature suggests that “comfortably supported” would rather quickly become a near horrific baseline for mere existence, and folks would find ways to try to improve their situation. Even if it’s something like a prettier flower garden.

    • The 1% in that case would probably act to insulate themselves from the 99%, who would breed themselves into something less than human. Your scenario radically changes the selective pressures that drive reproductive and evolutionary success. You might get a Morlocks/Eloi situation, but the Morlocks would be the higher life form, and the Eloi would be pets and toys, or amusements.

      Or the 1% would just automate all their productive functions and join the 99%, and humanity would no longer need brains. End result would be a much lower average IQ, or extinction. Especially if reliable contraceptives were part of the society. The only way to avoid the trap would be to set up ideologically distinct communities that, somehow, had the social cohesion and moral fortitude to resist the temptations of the Abundant Society, and you’d face constant emigration from such a society without Islamic levels of social coercion.

  24. “No amount of decadence can bring this civilization down. Lunacy doesn’t existentially harm it. No reckoning with common sense or hard reality ever arrives – any conceivable maladaptedness is absorbed and compensated for.

    What then?”

    Then I’d kick back, relax, and enjoy a cup from one of the little streams of alchohol that come trickling down the rocks.

  25. I think that the biggest lie in the 20th Century was that Liberals were for the “people.” How anybody could believe that a bunch of elitist snobs who graduated from Columbia, Harvard or Yale, went over to Germany or Russia, which ever wash leading in the new faddish society that works and came back and wrote dreck literature about how evil the middle class was could ever have any knowledge or expertise in the real needs of the country is beyond me. But that’s what the Liberals and Democratic party are supposed to be more sensitive about.:

  26. Josh A. Kruschke

    “Imagine everything you’ve ever been told is a lie.”

    Imagine? I’m living that right now.

    Sarah, 9/11 didn’t wake me up, because I wasn’t asleep when it came to the threat of terrorism.

    My first memories of watching news are of the Iran hostages coverage and of the Presidential race (I’m a Reaganite). My focuse has always been on the Middle East when comes to the News.

    My first thoughts when I turned on the TV the morning of 9/11 and learned what happened was maybe now we will take them seriously. (Cold?) We (the US as a whole) did for a time, but we (republicans the party of minimal government) also used it as an excuse to grow the power of the State all in the name of Security.

    I don’t blame the Progs or the Socialists. I blame those people that say they believe in and pay lip serves to liberty, but turn to the State to solve all their problems.

    Why Jordan S. Bassior and the other similar fictional accounts of why AC won’t work annoy me is you accuse us of stacking the deck in our hypotheticals and fictional stories; while doing the same.

    The Aggressor is always more powerful and the defenders are not willing to prepare a defense… And when pressed history is your only answer to why you believe this. When we point out that not all of history is as one sided as you put forth you discount these bits of history as not relivent. As RES pointed out the past doesn’t correlate very well with the present: different cultures and tech levels population densities and the like.

    Sarah, just because socialism is destined collapse under it’s own weight doesn’t mean we win by defualt. If you are lucky*, the Republic will reset. If we are unlucky a Totalitarian Hellhole will emerge. [* As in those with the best plan to get what they want create their own luck.]

    The middle ground is if an ineffectual State emerges incapable of inforcing it’s will on anyone. We might not get a choice, and end up living under defacto Anarchy. So it might behove us to learn and think of beforehand how to live and thrive under these conditions. To be able to provide our own security, shelter and food. To know how to settle disputes peacefully and violently if need be. If this comes to pass, I’m hopping we learn that we don’t need the State, and that a viable AC society emerges. (My Dream?) 

    “When All Hell Breaks Lose”

    “A Failure of Civility”

    “Secret Guarden of Survival”


    “Back to Basics”

    “The Cohousing Handbook”

    “The Law”



    I preasent these books and essays not to make my argument for me, but because I believe the information contained within them has the potential to save your life. 

    If (When) the collapse comes, he who has a plan wil be more likely and able to survive the coming difficulty. Is this not what building under is all about?

  27. I assume AC doesn’t mean air conditioning, but I can’t make out your abbreviation from context.