Monday, August 28, 2006

On a More Serious Note...

Mary Katherine Ham, writing at, tells the MSM “Why We Don’t Believe You.” I’ve only lightly touched this subject, and usually in the context of the Beeb’s biased coverage. Ms. Ham provides 22 discrete links on the subject of doctored photos, staged news “events,” and other examples of biased or outright false reporting. If you’ve not been following this story previously, then Ms. Ham’s essay is a very good place to begin.

Most interesting… Tim Worstall, writing at TCS Daily, maintains “America: More Like Sweden than You Thought.”

If we accept (as I do) that we do, indeed, need to have a social safety net, and that we have a duty to provide for those incapable or unlucky enough to be unable to do so for themselves, we need to set some level at which such help is offered. The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem's solved. We've provided -- both through the structure of the economy and the various forms of taxation and benefits precisely what we should be -- an acceptable baseline income for the poor. No further redistribution is necessary and we can carry on with the current tax rates and policies which seem, as this report shows, to be increasing US incomes faster than those in other countries and boosting productivity faster as well.

Well, The Left, exemplified by Maha, one of my favorite Lefties, has this to say on the subject:

Righties pooh-pooh standard of living comparisons as so much socialist hocus-pocus; they prefer numbers. But I would really love to see a side-by-side comparison of how average working people live in several industrialized nations. Take some common occupations, both white and blue collar — e.g., truck driver, cashier, teacher, office administrator — and compare how people in those occupations manage in various countries. Take into account what kind of house they live in; how much of their income goes to pay for housing (mortgage, rent, property taxes); what major appliances they own; how they get around on an ordinary day (car, bus, bicycle) and how much time they spend commuting; how many hours a week they spend on the job; vacation and leisure (how much paid vacation they get, and what they do for fun); the quality of health care they receive and how it’s paid for; how much they spend on child care and education; etc.

Take your numbers and shove ‘em, in other words. Show me how ordinary working folks live. I suspect the U.S. would look pretty average in such a comparison — better in some ways, worse in others.

Actually, Maha has a lot more to say on the subject. Running into the realm of the verbose, even. I can only offer anecdotal evidence from my personal experience of living overseas for about, oh, 12 years or so: Americans are a helluva lot better off than any other nation, period. By a long shot. And the lengthy queues to obtain visas at our consulates and embassies around the world testify to that fact. But you can’t tell a Lefty that. Oh, no. The entire nation is becoming “Katrina-ized,” to hear them tell it. Go figure.

Another tale from Britain’s multi-culti wars:

There are no photographs of him pictured with his students. But that was all a long time ago now. Mr Honeyford, 72, "retired" more than 20 years ago as the headmaster of a school in Bradford. Or, at least, that was when he was vilified by politically correct race "experts", was sent death threats, and condemned as a racist. Eventually, he was forced to resign and never allowed to teach again.

His crime was to publish an article in The Salisbury Review in 1984 doubting whether the children in his school were best served by the connivance of the educational authorities in such practices as the withdrawal of children from school for months at a time in order to go ''home" to Pakistan, on the grounds that such practices were appropriate to the children's native culture. In language that was sometimes maladroit, he drew attention, at a time when it was still impermissible to do so, to the dangers of ghettoes developing in British cities.


Last week, 22 years on, he was finally vindicated. The same liberal establishment that had professed outrage at his views quietly accepted that he was, after all, right. Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, made a speech, publicly questioning the multiculturalist orthodoxies that, for so long, have acted almost as a test of virtue among "right-thinking" people. As Miss Kelly told an audience: "There are white Britons who do not feel comfortable with change. They see the shops and restaurants in their town centres changing. They see their neighbourhoods becoming more diverse.

This lengthy and sad story is but a cautionary tale for our own brand of multi-culturalism that thrives in the Academy, among other places, today. One hopes that our illustrious academics can read the handwriting on the wall, but I doubt it. After all, aren’t these the same folks who make the argument that socialism failed only because the “right” people weren’t in charge? And continue to perpetuate the socialist myth, at the same time? Just sayin’, ya know…

Required reading: Shelby Steele, in yesterday’s WSJ, “Life and Death, Western Guilt Blinds Us to the Nature of Islamic Extremism”:

And, of course, it is not just Hezbollah's cause. There is Hamas, one more in a family of politicized terrorist groups spread across the Muslim world. Beyond these more conventional groups there is the free-floating and world-wide terrorism of groups like al Qaeda. In Europe, there are cells of self-invented middle-class terrorists living modern lives by day and plotting attacks on modernity by night. And around these cells there is often a nourishing atmosphere of fellow traveling. Then there are the radical nation-states in league with terrorism, Iran and Syria most prominent among them. From nations on the verge of nuclear weapons to isolated individuals--take the recent Seattle shootings--Islamic militancy grounded in hatred of Israel and America has become the Muslim world's most animating idea. Why?


White guilt in the West--especially in Europe and on the American left--confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don't hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism--not their continuance--forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.

This may be more “preaching to the choir,” I suppose, but I come from the “tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and tell’em” school of debate. And Mr. Steele eloquently states what should be obvious. Again.

Today is the anniversary of what just might be the most important event of my life. On this day, 43 years ago, I boarded an airplane at LAX and flew off to basic training in San Antonio. August 28th, 1963, began at oh-dark-thirty at the Military Examining Station in Los Angeles and ended just shy of 24 hours later when I finally fell into my bunk, exhausted, at Lackland AFB. So, today is the anniversary of the beginning of a 22-year odyssey that took me to England, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and numerous other places, some of which I barely remember and others I would like to forget. Nonetheless, I always celebrate this day. The Air Force was very, very good to me. In more ways than one.

Oh…while we’re on the subject…the last thing my Dad (a retired USAF Lt. Col.) said to me before I got on the plane? “Remember: stay away from airplanes!” And the words he used to comfort my Mom? “Don’t cry. He’ll be back in a week or two.” Item One was good advice. As for Item Two? Fooled ya, didn’t I, Dad?


  1. Great discussion and links, Buck. I couldn't read Maha, though. She feels like the nasty aunt that you try to to avoid. (Not that I had a real one, but you know what I mean). Interesting about that study on Sweden. Over at Obsidian Wings, when I happened to take a peek there a week ago, they were discussing this very topic because Hilzoy was visiting her "roots." They would find this interesting (or not) :) Of course Sweden is "superior" although they were honestly trying to figure out why.

    Say, I've been immersed in another fascinating old book along the lines of that Nomenklatura book I mentioned awhile back. This one is "Diplomat" by Charles W. Thayer, written in 1959. Harold Nicholson wrote that this was the first book ever written by a professional U.S. diplomat from a U.S. point of view. Fascinating stuff - Lebanon, Soviet Union - lots of details that bring it all to life. Most of his books are only on ebay auction lists, it seems. Too bad. (You find great stuff at old library book stores.)
    He writes with humor and common sense and much understanding of human nature. You're probably more familiar with that "world" than I was. It's an education for me.
    "Guerrillas never win wars but their adversaries often lose them" -Charles W. Thayer
    I'd copy out a fascinating excerpt, but it would be a tease, since you probably can't get the book.

    Did you see the Shah's son on the news today? Wow. If only he could run Iran, the world would be full of butterflies once again. What a breath of fresh air. He seems much more Western than his more autocratic dad did, although I'm sure a lot of it was the times and that Byzantine way they have. Anyway, I hope he stays safe.

    I've been struck lately by the rage over at the moderate ME blogs (Sandmonkey and Sudanese Thinker) toward the Islamo idiots. They're really exasperated, I think. It sort of reminds me of the communist revolutions of days gone by. The bloggers (often from Westernized, wealthy families) seem like Russian nobility as they tear their hair out over the ignorant masses and naive intellectuals being led down the rabbit hole by these Rasputin or Leninist snakes. Same old, same old, I guess... but disturbing.

    Thanks again for all the thought-provoking information and insights you provide, Buck!

  2. I missed the Shah's son, Bec. I would have liked to have seen that!

    Re: "I've been struck lately by the rage over at the moderate ME blogs (Sandmonkey and Sudanese Thinker) toward the Islamo idiots. " That rage is a good thing, no? One wonders if their anger is a majority opinion, or if they're voices in the wilderness. These folks are writing in English, and it's not their native language, which tells me they aren't the "man in the street." When I went searching for blogs written by Lebanese a few weeks back I was struck by the large numbers of blogs written in Arabic. And it also made me wonder what those folks were saying...

    {sigh} One of the downsides of small-town life: no good bookstores!

    Small secret: I couldn't read all of that post by Maha. She's waaay too wordy for I wound up skimming most of her post on the US v. foreign quality of life. You didn't miss much, believe me!

    And thanks, once again, for your kind words, Bec!

  3. Heh, stay away from airplanes...but then you miss all the fun!!

  4. Mike sez: Heh, stay away from airplanes...but then you miss all the fun!!

    Flying airplanes would be fun, for sure! But...there's never been a flightline, anywhere, that wasn't too hot or too cold. When I was stationed at Fortuna, NoDak, I used to go down to Minot every so often during the winter, and Omigawd did I ever feel for those poor suckers working on the BUFFs, and the skycops who guarded them.

    Same thing goes these days when I'm out at Cannon on a 90+ degree day... SN1 disagrees with me, too. But it's rare that SN1 crawls around on the birds. Although it does happen.

  5. Hehe, whynot Minot?

    I can think of a few flightlines that aren't too bad...Offutt isn't *THAT* cold in the winter, although man, does it get humid in the summer. I've heard nice things about Travis...and that's about it.

    So yeah, I suppose you do have a valid point.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.