How far down the slippery slope are we going to go? -Amanda S. Green


How far down the slippery slope are we going to go? -Amanda S. Green


The other day, Sarah had a post that created a lot of discussion, both in the comments and elsewhere, about the reality of living in Communist Russia. The result of those discussions had me thinking back to a time when, it was still the USSR, that I happened to spend close to two months behind the Iron Curtain. Until then, I had read as much as I could about communism and Soviet Russia (I’m a history buff, what can I say). I had also done extensive research on those countries in Eastern Europe that had been given to the tender care of the Soviets at the end of World War II.

This was the time of the Carter presidency. Moscow, and the rest of the USSR and much of the Eastern Bloc, was preparing for the 1980 Olympics. What we didn’t know at the time was that just a few months after that trip, the Soviets would invade Afghanistan and Carter would order the boycott of the Summer Olympics. But that is another story.

I was younger then – weren’t we all? I wasn’t nearly as jaded by life as I am now. So I left on that trip with a sense of adventure and the desire to learn as much as I could about a part of the world I had never before visited. I had heard all the stories about the zero unemployment and the wonders of communist economics. Sure, I’d heard the about the evils as well but I wanted to make up my own mind.

And that didn’t take long – not only when it came to making up my mind about Communism but about the role this country and Great Britain, as well as others, when they basically betrayed those countries of the what would become the Eastern Bloc.

I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t been in Prague or other parts of the Czech Republic or Slovakia, two countries forced to form Czechoslovakia after the war, or who haven’t talked with people who were there at the end of the war can understand how many of the Czechs feel about that happened to their country. I certainly didn’t until our first night in town when some of us were on our way to a club one of us knew. Due to some of the construction going on in Prague, we had to take a way he wasn’t familiar with and we stopped to ask for directions. Now, we were far off the normal tourist routes. So my friend asked for directions in flawless Russian. Suddenly, we found ourselves not talking with one man but surrounded by half a dozen men, ranging in age from old enough to have served in World War II to their sons and grandsons. The friendly atmosphere turned decidedly antagonistic. Russian, you see, was the worst possible language we could have spoken. They had no love lost for the country that had laid claim to it in 1945 and strengthened its claim in 1968 when it invaded and quashed the Czech uprising.

Even then, I put down their reaction to the Soviet occupation of their country since 1968. That view was modified a few days later when we were in Plzen (Pilsen). There we met people who had been in Plzen in 1945. Their city, which had seen 2,000 or more Jews “deported” in 1942 by the Nazis, was liberated by part of Patton’s command. Plsen was the exception when it came to Czech liberation. Other cities and towns watched as American or British troops camped outside of their city limits, waiting for the Soviet troops to arrive to “liberate” them. What they didn’t know as that liberation would lead to yet another generation of occupation, this time by Soviet troops. Was it any wonder so many Czechs felt betrayed by the British and Americans?

Then, after seeing much the same in Hungary, which had its own Soviet invasion in 1957, and Romania, we entered the Soviet Union. Over the course of the next six or seven weeks, we visited Kiev (Ukraine), Moscow, Leningrad (once more called St. Petersburg), Soviet Georgia, Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia). We learned to check for the cat or dog we saw hanging around the hotel or hostel we were staying at before eating meat. We dreamed of fresh fruit and real toilet paper. We learned what a true black market happened to be.

We also saw some of the worst medical conditions inside of supposedly modern hospitals any of us had seen outside of combat conditions. In a visit to what was lauded as one of the Ukraine’s newest and most advanced hospitals, we saw nurses treating patients, changing dressings and the like, without washing their hands before moving on to another patient. One of our members, a doctor, came back to talk about surgeries being conducted with minimal to no anesthesia. The infection rate was horrid and no one who has been in a room with someone with a seriously infected wound would have missed the smell in parts of the hospital. Without looking, you knew wounds had gone septic.

As for the so-called zero unemployment, well, I guess you could say that was true. If you count someone walking down the trolley tracks with a stick to make sure there was no dirt between the track and the street work. Or if you call work sitting in a chair in a room in a museum sleeping work. No, they weren’t what we would call docents. I knew enough Russian at that time to ask and these people were doing their “jobs”. The sad thing was, there was no pride in them, as a person or for the job they were doing.

That is what struck me the most during that trip. Most of those I saw, the people in Eastern Europe and those who were old enough to have somehow managed to survive Stalin and some of the rest of the more interesting times in Soviet history, were beaten down. It was as though all they could do was put one foot in front of the other and pray to live another day. Trust had been broken, by the State and by those politicians from the West who had so easily signed their lives away to living under Uncle Joe Stalin’s thumb.

Once back in the States, one of the first things I did – after eating my fill of fresh fruit and beef I knew was beef – was talk with a woman I knew who had fled Soviet Russia. She and her family had managed to survive living in the Ukraine during World War II. Some of the family had been sent to the camps where they died. Others had managed to hide from the Nazis and had fought in the Resistance, some in the Ukraine and others elsewhere in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe.

They had managed to survive Stalin, barely. But the life of a Soviet Jew was not one they wanted for their children. So they did what others before and after them did. They begged, borrowed, bribed and who knows what else was necessary to get out of the country. They paid the price, both personally and financially. For years they would not be allowed to return to the Soviet Union to visit family who had remained behind. They were forced to leave behind most of their belongings and finances. But they were free.

Now, as I look back on that trip, as I remember the conversations I had then and later, I can only shake my head when I hear someone talking about how wonderful the Soviet Union and/or Communism happens to be. It is the killer of souls. In a system where there are more equals among equals, there is little to encourage independent thought, much less freedom. When all you feel from those around you is an air of resignation, that isn’t freedom. It is the slow collapse of a society.

I know I’m not doing this topic justice. It is difficult to put down in mere words the feelings and impressions I had during those days and weeks behind the Iron Curtain. The best analogy I can give you is this. While in Moscow, we were taken to where a new apartment building was being constructed. The material, at first glance, looked similar to cinder blocks. Not the best for long term construction but adequate, right? Wrong. The Soviet version could – and sometimes did – crumble in your hand. Yet they were erecting building after building with this sort of material and workers did their best to stay one step ahead of disaster, both as the buildings went up and after.

Gone, at least for a generation or three, were the proud people of Eastern Europe and Russia. In their places were people who had learned, often in the most difficult way possible, that the best way to get along was to simply go along. Keep your head down, don’t make eye contact and never, ever say anything against the government.

Now I look at our own country and I fear we are starting down that same road. Colleges are banning words, even removing names from their history, because they might hurt someone’s feelings (a college has removed a memorial of sorts to a man named Lynch because of the negative connotations to the word). We are raising an entire generation without knowing what it means to have consequences for their actions. Worse, they are such delicate flowers that they can’t handle reading or hearing a word that might hurt their feelings. So they have to be protected, even if it is at the cost of someone else’s right to express themselves.

The government is keeping track of our online activity and imposing more and more “checks” on what we can do. It has turned its back on our allies in order to appease those who want nothing more than our destruction. Our president, not satisfied to work within the framework of our government and the separation of powers, uses the power of the executive order like his own personal magic wand. The only thing we can be glad about where executive orders are concerned is that no president has tried to imitate FDR with his more than 3,000 executive orders (if I remember my history right).

But that’s not all. We are being encouraged to become our neighbors’ keeper and report them if they do anything we think is “suspicious”. Writers are having their livelihoods threatened because they don’t bow down and accept they should write only if they are going to embrace the cause du jour. Failure to comply will have you labeled sexist, racist, misogynist, and more – and usually without an ounce of truth in the accusations.

How far down this slippery slope are we going to go before we either stop and say “ENOUGH!”? Or are we going to let ourselves be so beaten down that we become like those I saw in the Soviet Union – or like those you can find in any number of other countries today?

*Amanda’s Honor From Ashes is available for preorder on Amazon:

This has been a commercial break from #IAMWRITING Sarah A. Hoyt*

263 thoughts on “How far down the slippery slope are we going to go? -Amanda S. Green

  1. > Colleges are banning words, even
    > removing names from their history,

    …and many of those are the same ones who vilified the Japanese school system for failing to mention minor incidents like the Rape of Nanking, the Korean “comfort women”, or other events.

  2. I know very few people who spent any time in the USSR who don’t have that same fear. One friend, who is an outright communist and is proud of it, left that hell hole when she was three or four years old. Everyone else I know who came from there understands the horror that was that place.

    My mom told me recently, “This is not the country we escaped to,” and she’s right. Very few here understand the real meaning of what they espouse. They feel justified in taking from others what they haven’t earned, and then they wonder why those from whom they steal stop producing and get angry at having nothing to pillage.

    I lived for eight years what you have experienced. My memories are vivid, but are always in grey and red. Everything was grey and red.

    That’s why I fight like hell to ensure it doesn’t happen here.

    Sorry for the disjointed thoughts. Not enough coffee.

    1. Nicki, interesting that your memories are grey and red. That is basically what I remember from there. Now, as I watch the self-appointed conscience of our country demanding that we remove all things — be they words or works of art or symbols — that might make someone “uncomfortable”, all I can think of are the numbers of statues and images of Lenin throughout the USSR. It seemed like every street had one or the other, or more. How long before we get to that point here?

      This is why I offer to hold the door for those who claim they will leave the country if someone they don’t like is elected to office. Maybe if those folks would actually go visit – and for more than a day or two and without staying in their five star hotels with full staffs following them around — and see how these countries they hold up as exemplars to what we should be.

      1. Amanda, there’s a photo of me somewhere standing in front of a huge portrait of Lenin adorned with flowers and reciting a poem. Lenin. Lenin everywhere.

    2. > this is not the country we escaped to

      No, it’s not. I’m unhappy over what the USA has become, anyway.

      Since I’ve gone gray I’ve developed a thousand-yard stare of my own.

      “Where are you from?”


      1. TRX – You’re not the only one. I pissed off some of my more liberal family members last year when I told them that if things were the way they are now I would not have served in the military.

        It’s not just Obama but the entire DC establishment on all sides. I don’t trust any of them further than I could throw them if they were sitting in a tank. (Been spending lots of time at the gym lately so I’m pretty sure I could get a respectable distance with somebody of normal weight 🙂 )

        I’ve been reading news of yet another upcoming recession thanks to the Obama policies that we’re hearing have been so great for the economy. Right now I’m sitting pretty good but I fear for a few of my friends that are living paycheck to paycheck and barely scraping by.

    3. I know someone who left it as an adult — perhaps because her parents were leaving — who is a proud leftist.

    4. I was born 1960, and a Finn. My family visited several times when I was a teen, Leningrad and Soviet Estonia.

      What I remember is grey. Grey and worn. Kind of like an old dishrag, something getting on the verge where you finally throw it into the trash.

      1. I also visited Budapest a couple of times when Hungary was still a communist country. Not quite as grey, but then it was on the verge of the end of their communist era, in the middle of the 80’s.

  3. I never traveled beyond the Iron Curtain, although it might have been possible when my Girl Scout troop did a student-charter/Eurail Pass/youth hostel trip to Europe in 1970. (The parents of a couple of the girls were adamantly against any such inclusion in the itinerary.) But by then, my parents and I knew more than a handful of people who had run away from Communism, over the years: Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Cuban, Czech, German, Lithuanian. And what they had said about conditions under the thumb of the communist system pretty well disabused me of any interest in, or sympathy towards anyone who wanted to install such a political system here.

      1. As much fun as listening to a Hungarian professor who had lost windows during the ’56 in Budapest discussing political correctness and the quashing of speech on US university campi?

        1. She crewed a machine gun during the revolution, in her early teens. Sudden departure from Hungary afterward, apparently. And I was in her class in 1989.

          1. Ah. This prof was about 10 years old, hiding below window level in a third floor (US -style) apartment. People in the next building were dropping Molotov cocktails and other things onto and into the Soviet tanks. My German prof was at the U of Vienna in ’56 and went to the border to help the people coming over, I suspect at Andau.

  4. I went to live in post-communist Poland in 1991, and lived in Eastern Europe until I returned to the U.S. in 2004. I saw grim, grey, filthy and depressing cities rebuild with breathtaking rapidity.
    But I also saw the scars on the souls of people, in the pettiness and dishonesty that system engendered.
    A Polish artist told me, “In the end it will only be over when my generation is dead.”

    1. A Polish artist told me, “In the end it will only be over when my generation is dead.”

      This is generally understood as the reason Moses and the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years — to allow the slave generation to pass.

    2. A photographer had a bunch of pictures of random buildings in a particular city in the former East Germany shortly after reunification. And a couple of decades later, he took new pictures of the same locations. Night and day difference in appearance.

      But of course (being an artiste, and all that…) the photographer bemoaned the replacement of the older horrible looking structures with much newer and better looking ones.

      1. I am actually encouraged that Bauhaus and Soviet Bloc architecture seem to be (very slowly) falling out of fashion.

        Perhaps the most obvious place one can see this is on the facades of “big box” stores…which are now adding porticos and pilasters, rather than settling for flat and unadorned cinderblock.

        1. I’m a functional sort of guy, I actually like the design of “Soviet Bloc architecture”, easy to build (remember when building, designing or staking, or repairing, straight lines are your friend, curves, particularly compound curves, are not) easy to maintain, minimal wastage of space, and materials.
          The problems as far as I am concerned are with the quality, both of materials and craftsmanship, not with the design. But then I think buildings should be built to be functional, not ‘pretty’. As far as I am concerned, “pretty is as pretty does” and while other people look at a building and ooh and ahh over how ‘beautiful’ it is, I look at it and think, “what an impractical waste.”

          1. Me, I don’t like a building that looks like a prison: forbidding, unwelcoming, chill, deliberately ugly. There is something about brutalist architecture that gives off the air that no one would willingly enter such a place without being dragged.

            But simplicity of line is something different.

              1. Especially since, going by what I saw of them in Romania, not a one of the builders had the first clue what a square or a level was for…

                1. Those are for thumping subordinates, aren’t they? To encourage them to work faster and stop delaying construction with irrelevant questions such as “Does this look level to you?”

  5. I have a friend who grew up in Communist Bulgaria his disgust with commie kitsch is palpable. When a group we were part of toured a former political prison in Berlin the experience was so overwhelming he had to leave the group. My personal introduction to the evil that was Communist eastern Europe was patrolling the border between West Germany and East Germany/Czechoslovakia. My first tour was in 84 and the big news was that the East Germans had taken the SM70 shotgun mines off their fence. This was like a directed frag mine like a claymore, they were oriented to shoot down the fence line. The idea was that anyone trying to clime the fence (from the east only of course) would not survive the attempt.

    NB Czechoslovakia was created after WW1 as part of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    1. I looked up the sm-70 on Wiki, and found that the 80 projectiles fired by the shell weren’t round, they were steel cubes.

    2. We never went that far, or as my mom, visiting the East in the nineties, put it “Thank G-d, Portugal never went that far.” BUT we went farther than the US now, and honestly, traveling this road twice is for the birds. I’ve seen the movie. I don’t want to see it again. Contains live bobcat. Don’t like. Would not order again.

          1. Why would anyone wish that on the poor mountain lines? Just from the bile they spew online I’m sure they taste horrible. They’re like portable hate containers that walk around and spew at irregular intervals. (Or regular intervals if they are around anybody they think is an evil conservative).

                1. That’s where you get the little foothills. Just be aware of that mountain cleavage. It can be dangerous.

    3. “NB Czechoslovakia was created after WW1 as part of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”

      You’re both right on this one. To make a long and complicated story short, Czechoslovakia was originally created after WWI but broke up at the start of WWII. The Communists forced it back together when they took control.

      1. Hmmm… My G’Grandfather was one of the signers of the “Pittsburgh Agreement” — the closest thing to a Declaration of Independence that Czechoslovakia had. It was negotiated between and signed by notables of the Czech and Slovak communities in the U.S. during WWI, in part to assure that they’d have ‘a seat at the table’ at the end of the war. To help put some muscle behind it those communities raised a “Czecho-Slovak Legion” and funded it to the tune of nearly $1Million — raised 5- and 10-cents at a time at weddings, picnics, and other public events.

        As far as I can tell, all this happened in the US because both the Austrians and Hungarians had shipped so many of their “troublemakers” over here (Czechs and Slovaks, respectively) that the bulk of the Czech and Slovak nationalists were in the New World rather than back home.

        On a side note: One of my cousins visited Czechoslovakia before the Prague Spring. When his hosts discovered who he was related to (that G’Grandfather) they politely suggested that he leave the country immediately (for his own safety) before someone official came to the same realization.

        1. The Czechs had a unit fighting under the British in World War 2, as well. I would imagine that, like the Poles, they were pretty unhappy when they found out about the Yalta Conference.

            1. Plus a small airborne unit for the Poles.

              Reportedly, one of the Polish units fighting in Italy at the time of the Yalta Conference nearly pulled out of the line and quit fighting when the news came because the troops were so upset at what had happened.

          1. And a couple of RAF squadrons. Beside the various Commonwealth squadrons, the RAF fielded several from assorted European nations, and one U.S:
            American (Eagle), Polish (300–309), Czechoslovak (310–313), Polish (315–318), Dutch (320–325), French (326–329, 340-347), Norwegian (330–334), Greek (335–339), Belgian (349–350), and Yugoslav (351–352).

            This is not necessarily to say that everyone in a given squadron was from that country. My supervisor years ago in another life was an Irish kid who grew up in East London, and ended up flying Spitfires in 485(NZ) squadron, and whose aircraft was maintained by some Aussies.

  6. Amanda, if #YOUAREWRITING Sarah A. Hoyt, please step it up. We’re all interested to see how she turns out.

      1. Have you turned it in to Baen?

        If not, the nagging will continue. [Very Big Evil Grin]

          1. I hope your sinuses improve. Just wanted to say that more than anything else, even awesome stories and I’m dying to find out what Athena is up to, what inspires me about you is your work ethic. It seems like something more exciting than work should be the biggest inspiration but there you go.

          2. I’ve had the vaporizer going since I moved to WY. The first month here was brutal and I thought it was just adjusting to the altitude. Finally gave in and got some humidity going in the apt and things have been much better. My sinuses have been bearable as long as I keep it going.

            Good luck! I feel your pain.

  7. My experience in Eastern Europe is limited to a couple of short trips in 2001-2002. At the time Kiev seemed to still have an oppressive hopeless grey Soviet feel to it. It was mid-winter and my bright red stocking cap appeared to be the only brightly colored item of clothing in the entire city. Warsaw, on the other hand, felt like a Western European city that had fallen on hard times, but might still have some small blossoms of hope.

    1. Poland was the only one of the former members of the Warsaw Pact to immediately go nuts with the economic deregulation and denationalization. Unsurprisingly, there was a rather big economic shock at first. But my understanding is that it managed to ride out the 2008 crash quite well, unlike much of the rest of Europe.

  8. A couple of my most memorable professors were immigrants from the former Eastern Bloc. Their opinions on communism were a bit less positive than those of the average humanities or social sciences professor, which was a welcome relief from the pro-commie BS I was being spoon fed in most of those classes.

  9. ((hugs)) to Shadowdancer. For some reason, WP wouldn’t let me post on her site. (I didn’t investigate enough to see if the problem was on her end or mine.)

    1. I think she’s got the settings adjusted to restrict comments. She’s in the process of moving and I suspect the blog is kinda low on her priority list. Finding where the movers/Aff/Spouse/kids put that one box, you know, THAT one, is probably more important. 😉

  10. “I was younger then – weren’t we all?”

    I hope so. I would keep both eyes on anyone who was older, and be sure to charge the guns with silver.

      1. My first reaction was to quote Dylan, but I reconsidered based on the likelihood too few here would recognize the import of the statement, “I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now”

        Thus I quote Wiki:
        ” ‘My Back Pages’ is a song written by Bob Dylan and included on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It is stylistically similar to his earlier folk protest songs and features Dylan’s voice with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. However, its lyrics—in particular the refrain ‘Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now’—have been interpreted as a rejection of Dylan’s earlier personal and political idealism, illustrating his growing disillusionment with the 1960’s folk protest movement with which he was associated, and his desire to move in a new direction.”

        1. The Byrds included that song on their fourth album, and took it as the album’s theme, it’s called “Younger Than Yesterday.”

  11. One point about Russia at least is stories from visitors prior to the fall of the Czar discuss that beatenness and the attitude of head down to survive already existing as was the very communist era having to lie about reality to survive.

    I wonder if the longer period (to a lesser degree under the Czars then pumped up by the Soviets) explains why Russia has had a harder time post communism than most of Eastern Europe. It was more ingrained in the culture.

    If that is true it gives me some hope for us. The generation and a half of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe weren’t able to beat them down permanently so a half generation of gross stupidity here shouldn’t have long term affects. That doesn’t make it pleasant or acceptable but does imply it won’t be as hard to reverse we (and I include myself here) fear.

    1. La Russie en 1839 by the marquis de Custine. Available only in abridged versions in English, but my copy has a foreword by someone stationed at the American embassy who recommended it as the best book for understanding the USSR.

          1. A Russian is a Russian as it was under the Tsars so under the new
            tsars to quote a russian mathmatician “big stupid government”. The bureaucracies grind slowly and exceedingly fine, great if you like pablum.

            1. It makes you wonder if the fact that the one place the communists got an initial foothold was Russia was almost a foregone conclusion regardless of things like WWI or the creakiness of other countries. There was a general resignation needed to allow such a takeover already in place but not reached in other areas.

              After all, in classic Marxist theory Russia was not yet ready for Communism.

    2. There’s a good argument that form that the Soviet system (and the other Communist countries that copied it) eventually took owed at least as much to the Czars as it did to Karl Marx.

      Part of it may be due to the length of time that they’ve been under this system, but I think Russia’s post-Communist difficulties have a lot to do with the fact that they’ve never really come to terms with it or decided what their alibi is. In Eastern Europe, it’s pretty clear: the Russians came and conquered them, those who collaborated with them were traitors. In Russia itself, though, it seems like they’re never really clear whether they want to be seen as the victims of Communism or as the ones who conquered a good portion of the world under Communism’s banner. Trying to have it both ways, and claiming both immunity from the Communist’s crimes and pride in their conquests, has led to some serious screwed-uppedness.

      1. It’s my belief that modern tyrants just take that country’s existing political culture and turn it up to ’11’.

      2. Donald Kingsbury’s “Moon Goddess and the Son” posits the Russian character being heavily influenced by the Mongol occupation and the system of serf/informants set up to keep the people from revolting. “See something say something” goes way back keeping the sheeple in place.

    3. I think the underlying reasons behind Russia’s problems are a little unique. Russia is a country that, like China, keeps asking itself when it’s finally going to rise to the great power status that it’s size and population demand that it should have. And unlike China (where the primary problem has always been that no dynasty manages to remain in power for long), Russia has been “Russia” for centuries. Given Russia’s size, it shouldn’t have needed the help of General Winter to beat that upstart Corsican. The nations of Europe should have been looking to St. Petersburg for their culture, not Paris. But instead, Russia’s been the backward barbarian country that sits on the outskirts never quite catching up to everyone else.

      Russia is also paranoid. The army of horsemen from the East overran Russia first before heading further west and further south. The Corsican reached Moscow. Sure, his army was effectively destroyed. But that was only because the Russians practiced a scorched earth policy, which countered Napoleon’s heavy reliance on foraging to feed his armies. Lots of Russians died that year as well, and not from the fighting. And then there was the Austrian painter. Napoleon took the direct path into Moscow. If you weren’t on that path, then you were okay (he tried to take a different path out, but Kutuzov prevented it). But the Axis rolled back the entirety of Russia’s western border, from Finland to the Black Sea. And the amount of death and devastation within that area was incredible.

      The Russians haven’t forgotten those invasions. And it’s made them paranoid.

      Starting in 1946, Russia dealt with both of those problems. As the USSR, it dominated a good-sized chunk of the world. For once, Russia *mattered*. Russians were no longer the backward barbarians. They were the masters of half of Europe, and a good chunk of the rest of the world looked to Moscow for leadership. Further, Russia’s borders were secure. Eastern Europe was protected by Soviet troops. So if another European interloper attempted to invade Russia, he would be stopped in Eastern Europe, and not get the chance to despoil Russian soil.

      And then 1989 happened, and the whole edifice suddenly crumbled.

      Given that, it’s not surprising that people don’t feel at least a little nostalgic.

      1. The problem with the buffer state strategy is that the mindset it produces tells you that then you need a buffer state to protect the buffer state protecting the homeland, and then a third buffer state to protect the buffer state protecting the beffer state protecting the homeland, and…

        1. Well, yes. After all, look at Ukraine. It’s been a part of Russia’s domain for so long (centuries) that right up until the breakup of the Soviet Union, an independent Ukraine would have been unthinkable. That’s not currently the case.

          And if Russia somehow once again extends its dominion over the old Warsaw Pact (perhaps to protect Eastern Europe if the “refugees” ever take power in Western Europe), and Ukraine becomes the new border buffer state, what does that make Poland?

  12. Managed to wangle a week as a tourist in Germany before a week of business meetings in Bremen back in the late ’90s. Took the overnight sleeper from Munich to East Berlin. Long after reunification, but the feeling of drab institutionalized architecture was still palpable, but even more noticeable was the sense of change to a new and brighter future.
    During one of those periods of detente with the Soviets, might have been late enough that it was Russians, we had heavy lift flights of their rocket hardware come into Huntsville for testing at Marshall. The crews and techs would lay over a few days. Huntsville being a restricted city they weren’t allowed to wander about without escort, and some of us volunteered. Always two obligatory stops on any tour, the local hole in the wall joint for real Southern BBQ, and WalMart. Both responsible for considerable jaw dropping. We usually treated lunch, but they had some US currency. They didn’t say how they got it and we didn’t ask. The two must have items at Wally World were blue jeans and hypodermic needles. They brought a letter from the head of a Moscow hospital requesting the needles so that and a quick phone call to NASA management OK’d the deal. The jeans were trade goods that they said would go for outrageous sums back home.

    1. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you tell that story a few times now, Lar; it still makes me want to laugh and cry every time.

      1. You pick up certain stories over your life that are just too good not to share.
        Then there was the true story that the MIR crew went to open up a canister of food supplies only to find it empty. Seems that some ground techs who had not been paid in weeks stole the food to feed their families.
        Crew went on short rations and even nibbled at some plant experiments before a resupply launch could be arranged.
        Always figured that was one of the reasons the Russians consented to allow US experiments and an astronaut on MIR there before ISS became operational. We paid through the nose for the privilege with hard US currency which went a long way to keeping the Russian Space Agency afloat during a very tight time.

        1. I opened a brand new (sealed) tube of rubber cement that came in a tire tube patch kit yesterday, only to find it empty, filled only with air.

  13. We are raising an entire generation without knowing what it means to have consequences for their actions.

    On some college campuses? So long as no one accuses you of ‘hate’ speech or micro-aggression … or whatever. Then comes a star chamber, with its closed hearings and you find you have no right to due process, have no right to face your accuser and have no defense because you are assumed to be guilty because you were accused — and that is sufficient unto itself.

    But there is the beginnings of a back lash. Let us hope.

  14. Czechoslovakia was not a post-WW2 invention; it existed between the two world wars. It was broken up when the Germans annexed what is now the Czech Republic, thus turning Slovakia into a rump state like Vichy France.

    1. Your mention of Vichy France reminds me of a map I was looking at the other day. Apparently a town here in Ohio had a subdivision added in the interwar years, with street names like Pershing, Haig, and…. Petain. I cringed a little when I saw that.

  15. The psychic burden of having to maintain two sets of mental books — what you can say to friends and what you can say to strangers and acquaintances — is soul-deadening. The awareness that your friends may nonetheless be compelled to report on you is relationship killing. The knowledge that an error, a “wrong” thought might escape into your work kills artistic talent.

    One reason Trump is flying so high is his uninhibited disregard for what “polite” society claims you can say. Even many who do not support his policies take pleasure in his tweaking the noses of the Politically Correct.

    1. I think it is hard to underestimate how much his unwillingness to just cave to Hillary campaigning on the war on women when she’s married to the political Bill Cosby and actively enabled him has changed things this year.

      1. Does it really? Hmmmm … “I hadn’t heard.”

        What, you thought nobody was listening to your complaints, nor considering their implications? 😉

                1. Thanks everybody. I keep telling myself that I should purchase that movie. [Smile]

                  1. It is one of the handful of movies that reliably makes me cry, specifically when Mr. Thomson reads Washington’s last dispatch before the Battle of New York.

              1. It is from the Broadway musical, 1776 (and its film adaptation), the first and still the best musical about America’s founding. (Although Hamilton is getting very strong support.)

                I can even forgive the historically inaccurate presentation of such characters as Richard Henry Lee, Judge Wilson, and John Dickinson. (Although you owe it to yourself to read up on their contributions to the Revolution and establishment of Constitutional government.)

                1. Regarding Hamilton, there are still too few opportunities for those not in NY to observe it. To the producers’ credit, they are reportedly making a serious effort to provide low-price tickets to students wishing to attend. I expect there are plans for a film adaptation.

                  Evaluations of the music are best left to those familiar with Hip-hop stylings.

            1. Well, multiple time Edgar award winners have a hard time getting published and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know.

            2. Elizabeth Darell/Emma Drummond writes great novels. They have a romance element but they aren’t drippy, porny or PC. Just great stories.

      2. (RES)The psychic burden of having to maintain two sets of mental books — what you can say to friends and what you can say to strangers and acquaintances…

        (Sarah)You realize that first paragraph describes the climate I found in science fiction when I broke in, right?

        Form direct personal experience that pretty much describes what it’s still like working in Tech in the Valley of Silicon if one is not in sufficient Oneness with the Leftwardly Orthodoxy.

        From what I am told it’s basically the same working in TV/Movies down in Hollywood, and within Academia anywhere.

        Basically in Tech I felt like a deep cover agent when at work, constantly watching what I said to stay below the Correct-Thought radar, so as to avoid for as long as possible either direct action or getting put on the list for the next RIF.

        It certainly wears on one.

    2. I agree with you about Trump. I don’t think I would ever vote for him, but I do enjoy the fact that he doesn’t even try to be ‘politically correct,’ and he doesn’t apologize for it, either.

      1. I’d love to vote *for* someone. It seems I’m always casting my vote *against*.

        I wish the ballot had a place for “shoot them all and start over…”

  16. The Soviet Union was made by lying and killing, not lying alone. Recreating it in full here would need killing. Today I think the left doesn’t have the forces it would need to carry out the killing. At least not this morning.

    1. I can sort of see encroaching totalitarianism coming from either side. On the left, we have our nanny-statism, our gun-grabbing, and our speech codes. On the right, we have increasing surveillance and I could see people agreeing to give more power to the government to reward their friends and punish their enemies. We do need to be vigilant against both sides.

      Well, much MUCH more against the leftists, yes. I’m not pedaling any moral equivalence here. But at least a gimlet eye to the right is not unwarranted.

      1. Whenever either party gains ascendance it attracts to itself those opportunists such as Florida Governor Crist (deride Rubio as a squish all you want, but the man saved us from Senator Crist) who are in it for a share of the spoils. Thus success in restoring constraints on governmental power breed their own weevils.

          1. The voters only saved us from Senator Crist because Rubio challenged him. If you cannot distinguish between a squish like Rubio and a hack like Crist, you probably ought not vote.

            1. The ability to distinguish between them does not automatically mean Rubio is a good Senator or candidate. It merely means he was not as bad as Crist.

              That said, I am hard pressed for any candidate who has more blatantly displayed bad faith. It isn’t just he turned 180 degrees on immigration but that he made the 180 degree turn the hallmark of his one term in the Senate. Had he been at the forefront of other issues and merely voted in support of the “Gang of Eight” bill instead of being one of the 8 and the one whose job was to sanitize the bill he wouldn’t draw a quarter of the distrust he does now. It is the worst flip-flop by a prominent Republican in my lifetime beating even George H. W. Bush’s change on “read my lips, no new taxes”.

              Certainly my negative opinion of him as a Presidential candidate has a lot more to do with lack of trust based on that series of actions than the actual policy flip-flop. It makes it hard to trust any of his opinions.

              1. Rubio has more than that against him. He was also all for the new campus regulations where men are basically guilty until proven innocent.(Without getting into his support of the questionable NSA monitoring and that government surveillance has been greatly abused since it started).

                I’ve been less impressed with him the more I see and hear.

                I’ve still got hope for Cruz but really need to sit down and do more research on him. I know he’s getting a lot of hate and I’d like to see if there is any fire in all that smoke.

      2. My ideas could be easily be very bad.

        It’d do no good just to accept them without inspection.

        It can be a problem when people jump into any thing all of a sudden. Maybe the cack handed fumbling of the left is more likely to provoke a stampede, but nobody has a road rated as safe in a panic.

        Be a man. Have principles that you hold to in a crises.

          1. “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
            Groucho Marx

      3. IMO one of the differences between Liberals and Conservatives is that Conservatives are aware that they can go too far.

        Liberals seem unaware of the danger on their side. [Frown]

        Which is one reason to be more concerned about the Left than about the Right (although that doesn’t mean to take your eye off the Right). [Sad Smile]

        1. Right. But I’m not so much worried about Liberals or Conservatives. I’m worried about Progressives and Totalitarians, and they can come in all kinds of sheep’s clothing.

        2. What worries me about liberals is that they don’t hold their own accountable. They can get away with anything as long as it is in service to the cause. Look at all the debate on whether or not Hillary will be prosecuted for the emails and her private server. If it was anybody else you know they’d be facing prison. That it’s a question when it comes to her because of who she is is just flat out wrong and totally un-American.

          So far Conservatives and Libertarians still hold their politicians accountable. When we stop doing that and let them slide in service to the ’cause’ then it’ll be time to be very afraid.

          1. The less Liberals hold their politicians accountable, the more forgiving Conservatives and Libertarians will be, because ultimately you are always choosing the lesser evil. With Liberal MSM taking Conservatives and Libertarians to task and blowing smoke for Liberals the whole political system loses credibility and encourages cynicism.

            Just consider the implications of the argument: vote Conservative, that way the Media will report on their transgressions, imagined and real.

    2. Today I think the left doesn’t have the forces it would need to carry out the killing. At least not this morning.

      A lot of the left thinks they do. That’s what worries me. Even if they’re wrong the butchers bill in demonstrating that will be high (and leftists should worry as well because if they try it and are wrong I doubt little quarter will be given in the ensuing demonstration).

      1. A lot of the left thinks their economic policies would be viable, so I do not find their confidence in other matters inducing trembling. They are Lilliputians, only effective when their target is asleep.

        OTOH, the South thought their extraction from the Union would be easily attained.

        1. do not find their confidence in other matters inducing trembling

          I am not afraid they could pull it off.

          I’m worried they think they can and will try.

          Dunnigan and Nofi concluded in “How to Stop a War” that the single most common cause of wars was one side thought it would be an easy win (as you allude to with the South).

          Just because the leftists would turn out to be wrong in their belief that they could kill off their critics doesn’t change the fact a lot of people would wind up dead in proving them wrong.

          If war comes we need to not be afraid to fight it but we should never disregard it or fail to be concerned that some idiot might decide to start it.

          1. I think I read that book.

            I agree that certain flavors of left and others are deeply misreading that situation. I think this is concerning. That said, it also implies that if they start building such a force, it may jump the gun before it is really prepared.

          2. They’re not having to kill anybody. They instead opt for twitter wars and personal attacks to get the person they disagree with fired and ruin their life. There is no trial and no jury. You’re found guilty and they do everything they can to destroy you and totally circumvent the legal system.

            It’s like we’re back in the age of Witch Trials.

          3. “It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”

            ― John Jay,

    3. We’re worried about the “Big Brother”/Soviet model of tyranny- and that’s really not what we should be worried about.
      Instead, worry about the current British Health and Safety model of nice, For Your Own Good tyranny. The kind where it’s your neighbors who honestly think that some dangerous thing should be banned or regulated for our own good.
      “1984” doesn’t frighten me. “Brave New World” & “Fahrenheit 451” do.

        1. Note that a number of people (including the ad agency who pitched it and the VW execs who bought it) thought this ad was funny and clever, instead of horrifying:

            1. The Greenies wish this would happen. Still isn’t as scary as the vid where the kid is killed for not agreeing with the teacher.

                1. Are freaking out over this:

                  Of course, that first video is done under the direction of a public school teacher union member, while these girls are volunteer performers.

                  1. Some of the reactions:
                    Jim Newell of Slate: “Simply adorable, and a hymn that we will all be singing in our mandatory labor camps in a little under a year’s time.”

                    Inae Oh at Mother Jones:
                    “In an apparent bid to land on the military’s torture playlist, three young girls on Wednesday performed a creepy song-and-dance routine in honor of Donald Trump at a scheduled rally in Pensacola, Florida.”

                    Andrew Bradford of Liberal America:
                    “Try to watch the whole thing without shivering out of fear and disgust. This is enough to make anyone reach for a barf bag.”

                    And even a semi-intelligent Washington Post story:
                    Trump-loving USA Freedom kid’s dad: ‘To me, freedom is everything’
                    USA Freedom Kids, with a version of the National Anthem, a danceable cover of the Marines’ hymn, the original “National Anthem, Part 2,” a collaboration with Walmart, and an album on the horizon, were already busy. But now that they are Trump-famous, “Inside Edition” is calling, and the sky’s the limit.

                    1. A new cover of the Marine Hymn? I know another thing I want once I have money, and the spending of it won’t favor Trump over Cruz.

                2. Reminds me of one of the scariest books I have read, James Clavell’s “The Children’s Story” – Early and vicious political correctness.

                  I have always seemed to fear the institutional monster, and the monsters within the human, more than those of the Frankensteins. Probably because I could see how a person could become infected with the belief and certainty of right of a tyrant or abusive government giving them permission to become the monster.

                  Another similar was the book “Neighbors”, by Jan Gross, of the actions and psychological developments in a Polish community after the populace had been given permission by the occupying Nazis to exterminate their Jewish neighbors.

      1. I worry about the Jim Crow Democratic Standard Model tyranny. Also many others.

      2. If Tyranny is Political Culture turned to 11, the threat to America really isn’t either Rule of the Big Man (ala Hitler or Stalin) or Autocracy.
        For us, it would be Runaway Puritanism. After all, what is the modern American Left but Boston Puritan Bluestockings that worship at the altar of Marx. And Americans have always been pretty fond of Blue laws of all sort- as long as it affects the other guy.

        The dystopia of “Fahrenheit 451” came not from the top down, but from the bottom up.

        1. Oh, sure. Virtue-signalling all the way down with zero limiting principles. Happy Fascism. For Your Own Good Totalitarianism. Because We Know Better. We’re already sort of struggling along under ever-increasing bureaucracy and regulation, and we’re a good way down that road.

          But you don’t think the rule of the Big Man is a danger here in America, given the way the media fawns over the President’s use of Executive Orders and Executive Action, and their wish that he would just push forward and do more about gun control?

          You don’t think the rule of the Big Man is a danger here, given the popularity of a certain real estate developer in the Republican Primary?

          I’m no rigorous student of history, but wasn’t Big Man Rule sort of what we had under Wilson and FDR? Wasn’t the internment of the Japanese done as an Executive Order?

          1. Americans do like to jump on a bandwagon- note the sales of successful sports team merch after a championship win… and like to jump off it after a bit- note the hatred of sports team dynasties.
            The old “build them up just to tear them down, bigger they are, harder they fall” thing is strong in our culture. As noted below, we really start to hate leaders around the 5 year mark. Yeah, we may re-elect the bum due to “devil you know”, but we do stop loving them.
            That the round, reddish thing looks like an orange, but its a whole nother fruit.

      3. Beware not the greedy. Their greed will eventually rest. Those that oppress for your own good never will for they do so with the blessing of their conscience.

        Horribly mutilated quote

        1. “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.”
          – C.S. Lewis

  17. I was in Romania from 2001-2002, and although it was not thoroughly grey that is definitely an overall impression. Worse were the numerous folks I spoke to who kept going on and on about ‘the good old days’ under Communism. o.O Even as a stupid 21 year old, I thought “Are you nuts???” Although some aspects of the government there were still very much lingering on from the communist days…

    I think the worst impact for most of the people there was the fact that, unlike many other countries in the USSR, the communist dictatorship in Romania suborned the major religion (Romanion Orthodoxy) instead of eliminating it…and used the priests (or at least many of them) as spies. So while on the one hand Romanians had not had their spiritual heritage ground out of them, on the other…well, most of the older ones wouldn’t trust an Orthodox priest as far as they could throw him.

    Beautiful country, though. Someday, when I’m not totally poor, I would love to go back and visit–it has awesome castles.

    1. Those nostalgic for the “good old days” were very likely the grinders, not the ground down. Such folk tend to be numb to the reality that the process is as destructive of the grinder as the ground, it merely abrades them more slowly.

      1. It’s very possible they were.

        On the other hand, there were many, many folks of all ages who thought Vlad the Impaler was hot stuff (on account of slaughtering Turks), so it could possibly be some localized weirdness. (Everybody has ’em. It was interesting learning what the Romanians’ were…)

        1. IMHO, living on the frontier since the 8th Day of Creation tends to make a culture a little odd. I’ve seen photos and diagrams of the fortified churches up in the mountains, from the days when it seemed like everyone was out to get everyone else (from the Mongols in the 1200s until 1916 or so.)

          1. Yes, it’s true that everyone and their dog conquered it on their way to invade parts west. You’ve got Greeks, Romans, Saxons, Hungarians, Mongols, Turks…I’m sure the list goes on, heh.

        2. Well you have to realize that Vlad was protecting them from the Turks doing horrible things to them. As a protector, and particularly as one far enough away (in time) that they don’t have to worry about catching his eye themselves; he was a pretty respect inducing guy.

          1. It’s hard to get a picture on the real Vlad but it does appear that the main targets of his wrath were the Turks and the nobility that betrayed his father.

            For the commoners, that wasn’t a bad thing. [Evil Grin]

            1. ‘S true. And there was no crime (according to legend) in his principality. True, that was partly on account of *every* crime having the punishment of death-by-impalement, but you can’t deny that it makes a hell of a deterrent…

              I think it was possible he was more than a touch nuts…but then, who wasn’t? And being held as a hostage for a goodly chunk of his life by the Turks against his father’s good behavior couldn’t have helped. And the worst stories about him (the ones that eventually led to him being associated with vampires) were propaganda put out by the Hungarian voivodes who’d been booted out of power by him in revenge for them betraying and murdering his father, so…

              Did you know ‘dracul’ is the worst insult you can use in Romanian?

    2. Keep in mind that Romania voted in a communist (under a new name) government to replace Ceaucescu. It wasn’t until a while later that they finally took the reigns of government away from the communists.

      So it wouldn’t be too surprising that there are a number of Romanians who have a positive view of communism.

      1. Heh. I expect that even a milder form of communism was considered progress after the insanity that was Ceaucescu and his wife. There was a damn good reason the Romanians chased them down and shot them…

        1. Probably. The limited information that I have on him suggests that the path he was on would have inevitably taken him into Kim Jong Il levels of insanity if he’d been allowed to continue…

          The biggest hurdle probably would have been deification in an officially atheist society.

          1. No, because Romania–unlike many of the Eastern Bloc countries–did *not* have official atheism. They coopted the Romanian Orthodox church to a large extent, instead. ‘Course, Ceaucescu would likely have had as many or more problems seeking deification in a country that required everyone (officially) to be Christian Orthodox*, too…

            (In fact, when I was there, it was still technically legal for someone to lose their job/home/etc if they became a ‘pocait’–a ‘repentant’–and changed religions from Orthodoxy to something else. As I left, they were looking at changing that law, because they wanted entry into the EU, and religious freedom was one of the requirements. Whether or not it actually happened in reality, I do not know.)

            1. Aside:

              What the law says and what happens on the ground do not necessarily coincide.

              Example: The Indian Constitution grants religious liberty. India is also high on a world wide watch list for countries experiencing widespread religious suppression.

  18. I visited Cuba once a few years back. It was dismal. Crumbling buildings, starving cats and dogs, 60 year-old cars in the streets. And the only books for sale apart fro some tourist guides were by Castro and Che.

    1. Michael Totten visited Cuba as well. And made a point to take a camera with him when he visited the places away from the tourist traps. He wrote an article about what he saw, and it’s well worth reading.

  19. > How far down the slippery slope are we going to go?

    All the way. “We” want it that way.

    Everyone* has something they want the government to be responsible for. Some want the government to pay for their health care. Some want it to protect them from terrorists, others want their retirement “guaranteed”.

    Almost everyone wants clean water, effective (or at least not actively harmful) drugs and uncontaminated food.

    Heck, even *I* want them to protect our borders and I’m not unwilling to lend a hand to other folks around the world when they need it. Or to go shoot them if they need it.

    And almost everyone* is willing to compromise things they *don’t* care about to get what they do.

    This is how the regulatory state gets it’s power. One step at a time,

    Mountain bikers will *gladly* throw Gun Nuts under the bus to get/keep their access. Vegetarians (well, some) actively seek to limit the freedom of meat eaters. Moslems want to be able to insult Christians and behead Christians (can stop there) who insult Moslems. A few Christians would like to see Islam banned (and a smaller number would like to see all other religions banned, but they usually keep their mouths shut.)

    Hell, we’re still arguing about trade protectionism and using tariffs to “keep jobs here”. You know, good union jobs that make awesome cars like we had in the 1970s.

    Defeat in detail.

    Ultimately Freedom doesn’t have a constituency of any significant size. Never did really, but up until the late 1800s at least a significant number of the “Elites” got it.

      1. Thank you for making my day a little worse. So in your opinion we all want to go all the way to full communism because we all want something from government. And it is inevitable. No one really wants freedom. What about liberty? You must be loads of fun at parties Bill.

    1. Your train of thought dovetails nicely on something I was reflecting upon last night as I tried to get to sleep. Elsewhere on the web, many have been talking about the lack of centrism, not enough moderates, increasing tribalism, etc. with respect to American politics. However, I don’t think this view is entirely accurate. I think rather that much of the American populace really is pretty moderate except for a very small number of issues.

      These aren’t necessarily single-issue voters, either, although it could include them, but rather people who generally believe in the old-school American system except for those few issues they feel are so important they government must force compliance upon the populace. I’m not saying everybody is like that, or that there aren’t people who resemble the caricatures of liberals and conservatives popular among their opponents. Rather, what I’m saying is that the bulk of the populace has either latched onto at least one of the Progressive-instituted policies/programs, or who wish they could similarly create their own policies/programs to impose their will (e.g. some social conservatives, or social liberals who think the current batch of Progressives haven’t gone far enough).

      OK, I’ll stop rambling now, but I just wanted to agree with the point you raised and give some mroe emphasis, as I’d been having similar thoughts.

      1. Yes, but there are still a handful of us curmudgeons that think everything the government has changed/done since the 16th amendment on needs to be rolled back (except perhaps the 27th Amendment which is in no way, shape, or form a progressive amendment).

          1. Exactly…plus it is rooted in a strong distrust of government officials (and finally passed when Congress did a great demonstration of why that distrust exists) so clearly not progressive.

          1. Some of these are Devil’s advocate. Some are not. Determining which is which is left as an exercise:

            1. 19th – “Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex.” – based on breakdown of voting patterns this is the most significant enabler of Progressives beyond even the 17th and 16th.

            2. 20th – “Changes the date on which the terms of the President and Vice President (January 20) and Senators and Representatives (January 3) end and begin.” – what was wrong with the old dates?

            3. 21st – “Repeals the 18th Amendment and gives the States the power to prohibit or regulate the transportation or importation of alcohol for delivery or use.” – given I want everything from the 16th on gone this is less something that needs killing and more of a good start so I’ll give you this one.

            4. 24th – “Prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of a poll tax or any other tax.” – gives protection to freeloading and insuring that the various welfare states can vote in their own payoffs. Provides for representation without taxation.

            5. 25th – “Addresses succession to the Presidency and establishes procedures both for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, as well as responding to Presidential disabilities.” – and this was needed because (if you say “Wilson” expect me to ask why it is 25th and not 18th).

            6. 27th – “Delays laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of representatives.” – note I did say I’d keep this one.

            1. With respect to the 19th, I have grave moral and practical reservations about disenfranchising half the nation solely on the basis of sex. Besides, I don’t think it would have much impact on reducing Progressivism. No, the solution here is to destroy Progressivism, not to disenfranchise women. Political suicide.

              With respect to the 20th, there’s two reasons I’d leave it alone. First, there’s no problem I can see with the new dates, and hence why expend any effort trying to change it. Second, I want old administrations out as soon as possible so they can’t do any more damage than they already have.

              With respect to the 24th, I am actually somewhat ambivalent on this one. You raise a good point, but given the past abuses of taxation to prevent voting, I am hesitant to remove it. Besides, the power to imprison for failure to pay owed taxes allows those who owed to be prevented to voting.

              With respect to the 25th, it just makes sense to address. We’ve had a few close calls, so nailing down the succession is a good thing, given the squabbly nature of Congress. Perhaps the closes we came was with McKinley, where his vice president died of natural causes about 16 months before the end of his first term, and he was assassinated 6 months into his second term. Fixing it in the constitution eliminates an entire class of Congressional shenanigans possible under Article II Section 1.

              1. With respect to the 19th, I have grave moral and practical reservations about disenfranchising half the nation solely on the basis of sex.

                Repealing it would do no such thing. Women voted in states and territories prior to the 19th Amendment. What that did was require all states to enfranchise women. I doubt any states would remove the franchise today.

                1. All true. Which brings up the bigger question: Why waste any effort attempting to repeal it?

                  1. Because it increases the scope and potential buttinskiness (totally a word) of the Federal government. Every power Congress is given is a power it can abuse.

                    The 19th ends: “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

                    1. Consider, however, that the amendment also prevents men from being disenfranchised solely on the basis or their sex.

                    2. I somehow doubt that the women inclined to vote for progressive policies would rely on the states to protect their enfranchisement; in fact, your argument based as it is on logic is precisely calculated to fail to mollify their doubts, nor those of the men who support them.

                      Rather than strict repeal, I suggest an amendment to unify and clarify the entire question of voting rights, explicitly limiting the authority of the Federal government to interfere with state’s authority in this matter. Simply establish a hard base line which denies federal authority in any but the most egregious abuses.

              2. With respect to the 24th, I am actually somewhat ambivalent on this one. You raise a good point, but given the past abuses of taxation to prevent voting, I am hesitant to remove it.

                I am quit willing to risk the past abuses as I see the abuses of representation without taxation we have today. They are much more destructive to the nation as a whole.

            2. > Congressional salary

              But they’re *state* representatives, not Federal electees or employees – why are they being paid with Federal money instead of by their constituencies?

          2. And let’s keep the 22nd Amendment, as well. Two terms were good enough for George Washington. No 3rd term for Barrack Obama, please.

            1. Expand it. Put in terms for judges and justices and bureaucrats, and disallow serving too long in the legislature too.

              1. Either expand it or do away with it.

                Do you honestly think Obama could win a third term? Only one President has tried and succeeded and this was a response to him (but the party that was next bitten by it).

                1. More to the point, does anybody imagine that Obama would be pulling some of the shenanigans he is currently attempting if he was standing for reelection?

                  More to the point, it fails to address the crux of the matter: a public willing to reelect a president as abusive of his authority as Obama was in his first term.

                  I would rather see an amendment requiring any news outlet to publish its bias ratings as calculated by, oh say, the Brookings, Heritage and Cato Institutes, on the masthead for print and web news distributors and as part of the on-screen logo for telecast news.

                  Thus when George Stephanopolous anchors a newscast his onscreen logo would announce him a Democrat Shill, Rachel Maddow would be identified as a Socialist Dupe, Sean Hannity would appear with Republican Hack under his picture and Bill O’Reilly would be labeled as a Populist Twit.

                  1. We don’t need a Constitutional amendment, we just need Republican politicians with the stones to start every interview with “I’ll answer your question in a minute, but first tell your listeners and me which party you support and which politicians, if any, you have contributed to. You’re going to put my party identification up front, and that’s fine, but you owe it to your audience to lay out your biases and prejudices as well.”

                2. “Do you honestly think Obama could win a third term?”

                  Unfortunately, yes, I think he would. Sure, his numbers are bad now, but other presidents have won re-election with cruddy approval numbers (perhaps not _as_ bad, but still very low). And when you look at some of the things people supporting him were saying in interviews (people talking about how Obama was gonna be givin’ the black people money from his “stash”, etc.), I am convinced enough ignorant and selfish people could get into the polling booths a third time.

                  And there are plenty of people who honesty – misguided though I think they are – believe that Obama is the best choice to guide our nation. And then there are the folks who will vote Democrat no matter who or what runs on that ticket. Plus, take into account all the well-intended people and all the guilt-ridden people who cannot bring themselves to vote out a PoC president.

                  And who would be his competition? Look at what he’d be running against in his own party and then look at how the GOP is doing the Democrats’ work for them by happily eviscerating its own just as before. I see no reason why he would not get that third term.

            2. My idea? One five-year term per president, no re-election. After all, few presidents ever stay popular past five years at the best of times.

              But I’m just a Canadian, so take it with a mountain of salt.

              1. Neither number nor length of terms is the problem. That’s just arguing over pussy when the problem is monkey. Neither American political party can be entrusted at the wheel of the ship of state. Fix that and terms won’t matter. Ignore that and terms won’t matter.

            1. All of the nation’s problems have sprung up since the Declaration of Independence! Clearly, to solve our problems, we must return to being subjects of Britain! 😉

              1. Actually, they all post-date the Glorious Revolution. Fight for the Stuart Restoration.

                Or maybe we could go back to the Norman Conquest 🙂

                  1. Adam points at Eve, Eve points at the serpent, but the serpent has already slithered away.

      2. Not all single-issue voters are devoted to a favorite Progressive policy. For example, my 2 issues are guns & immigration. I see neither of these as imposing my will on others. 2nd amendment is an insurance policy against tyranny and immigration is allowing the People to determine its own makeup. I fail to see coercion in either of these.

    1. Pick one:

      a) “slope” is a term of ethnic disparagement. Please report to the Sensitivity Police for additional training.

      b) the slope has no bottom, it launches into an unending abyss.

      c) shut-up and remain standing athwart history, shouting “Stop, dammit.”

        1. c) shut-up and remain standing athwart history, shouting “Stop, dammit.”

          Impressive trick, that. (Yeah, LESS impressive html-ishness from ox. Call it a… Marx Moment? NO. Ox not THAT slow.)

          1. I’ve got students who want to read “The COmmunist Manifesto.” I’m going to give them the first few pages and see who 1) glazes over, 2) gives up in total confusion, or 3) says, “He’s got some pretty good ideas. Can I have the rest?” Option #3 gets rewarded with several passages from _The Black Book of Communism_ or _The Gulag Archipelago_.

            1. My 15yo and I read the Manifesto together, with discussion. Then he read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Today – a devout small-l libertarian. It’s a good lesson plan.

            2. Thomas Sowell, who confesses his one-time adoration of Marx, has written a book on the Manifesto: Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (1985).

              Described as “A clear explanation of the ideas of Marx and Engels and how they have often been subverted in practice.” at Goodreads.

              Reviewed here — — unfavorably, in part for attributing many of the ills of Marxism as implemented to the cultures of the implementers and expressing sympathy for Marx’s basic ideas.

            3. Reminds me of high school friend who decided to take on Mein Kampf since there was a copy to check out. I don’t know how far he got, but he did complain that not only was it bilge, it was badly written bilge, and every chapter was the same, just rehashed yet again.

              Fwiw, I have not read it. Nor the works of Marx. That Churchill managed to get through Mein Kampf – and see things for what they were – only makes him all the more impressive.

                1. Definitely bilge, but I got through it – had a History course that included it. I think too many progressives use his advice on how to read a book.

                  (rough paraphrase) Find the parts of the book that agree with your worldview and destroy everything else.

                  Sounds like some people I hear about…


                2. There have been people who have read it in German, which, I understand, is worse because the translators improve the style a bit.

              1. Churchill was a heavy drinker and a member of Parliament. His capacity for bilge was notorious.

                1. Winston also took naps. Does wonders for bilge toleration.

                  Just finished a book on the Battle of Britain, wherin in Mid September 1940, at the critical point in the air battle when the RAF was pretty much crumbling, all reserves committed, and on the other side the invasion plan’s go-ahead hung in the balance, Winston watched in the RAF command bunker for a while, then went off and took a nap. When he woke up he found out that it was the Nazis who blinked, and Britain was saved.

                  Naps are wonderful things.

              2. Most heavily ideological stuff is bilge…how many people actually read all of John Gault’s speech? How many who did once and find themselves rereading the novel read of his speech a second time? (not to mention that he contridicts Rand’s core ideas at least once in the speech).

                1. Yes, Rand could have used an editor. She says it all much more concisely in Anthem.

              3. The book is primarily the work of Rudolf Hess, who assembled it from AH’s monologues in prison and some speeches.

                If you stick with it, there are some ROFL funny bits in Mein Kampf. At least, in the James Murphy English translation. Since nobody ever accused AH of having a sense of humor, I’ve sometimes tried to figure out if it was Hess slipping something in there, or they were just artefacts of translation and culture differences.

                Of course, it could be just me… after a while grinding at that book, almost anything looks amusing.

                “There’s no pedant like a German pedant!”

          1. I should note that in this case the “shut-up” refers to complaints about the slope, while the shouting refers to what you should be using your mouth for.

            1. To clarify – the juxtaposition of the seemingly contradictory instructions was tongue-in-cheek.

  20. The Manifesto is quite short. You need to tell them to read “Das Kapital”, which makes the Federal Register seem exciting. Tell them they will be tested…

    1. The Manifesto is (printed out) 46 pages X over thirty students=unhappy departmental printing budget. _Kapital_ would do in the entire class, including the teacher. Once was far, far more than enough.

      1. When LiveJournal was a bit more active, I posted a poll about the Marx Bros. and included Gummo and Karl. The last question was this:

        We’d be better off if Humor Risk had been preserved and the Communist Manifesto lost.


        I was a bit surprised at the results. True got 10 votes, False got 0 votes, as even the leftists who wouldn’t say true, opted for Hydroxyquinoline which got 6 votes.

  21. I didn’t go there or see what you saw. I did know people who had escaped it. I did know people who had been in East Germany in the embassy. And I heard the stories. What you said is a more complete version than I heard. However, the stories I heard as a girl and adult, chilled me. It wasn’t purgatory– it was hell.

  22. I was listening in on the guild voice chat server in an MMORPG once, and one of the people in the chat channel was discussing an fps-style online game that they’d once played. Apparently a group of players in that game had chosen a clan name based off of the Soviet Union. The moderators of the game had banned the clan name when they found out about it, and the individual in my guild was complaining about that. I pointed out that it was quite possible that the moderators were from Eastern Europe, and he suddenly got very quiet.

    One of the things that Axeworthy writes about in his book on Romania in World War 2 (Third Axis, Fourth Ally) is that following Romania’s defection to the Allies, Romanian troops cleared the German army out of Bucharest without any assistance from the Soviet army. But the day that was officially set as the Liberation of Bucharest was when the Soviet troops entered the city a few days later.

  23. I knew enough Russian at that time to ask and these people were doing their “jobs”. The sad thing was, there was no pride in them, as a person or for the job they were doing.

    What reason would a slave have to do his work diligently and with pride? He has no ownership, either of the tools, the results, or even the choice to be in that line of work.

    My parents are skilled, independent, self employed businessmen. They own their own machine shop. They take pride in their work, and they work ridiculously hard. They seem to have an idea about the attitude people should take towards their profession, about what constitutes virtue, about what an appropriate work ethic is (100% all the time, it seems like).

    One of the things I tried to point out to them the other night was that working yourself to death on something that you own is a significantly different prospect from working yourself to death for bare subsistence, for someone else’s cause or glory, without the prospect of ever owning/deriving the benefit from the results of your efforts. It doesn’t make sense to expect a minimum wage part-time de-facto serf to be hyper-enthusiastic about his job, to “take ownership” of his task when no one is actually offering ownership of the results. The bourgeoisie virtues are only good (and can only be sustained) if you are actually bourgeoisie. If you actually have some sort of stake in the enterprise. Owner/operators, independent tradesmen, skilled professionals with some sort of bargaining power: Yes. Communist proles assigned a role? Absolutely not.

    One of the things that makes me nervous about modern society is the rise of a class of people who are basically serfs. They work N different part time jobs to make ends meet, and have to turn to welfare for the rest, because rent rises to eat all their surplus in the miserable rat-warren inner-cities that they live in. (That’s if they can get jobs. These people are distinct from the dolists, but how long will their motivation last?) They are funneled into public transport because they can’t afford their own cars. They have no savings, and no prospect of building them, no prospect of owning anything. Socialism is more or less creating the downtrodden proletarian class that Marx imagined he was championing against the evil capitalists.

    We never had that before. If you were one of those people, why would you hold the attitude of a free independent man about society?

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