Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

July 23, 2010

Good question, here’s another

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:10 am

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”
-John F. Kennedy

See post below. Damon commented, “While this slogan is good, it is also defensive. The Tea Party’s opponents have accused them of being racist/angry/etc…

They are not. Is it a good idea to let them set the agenda for messages?”

Good question.

Here’s another. Has any peaceful social movement ever succeeded that did not have a not-so-peaceful scary section waiting in the wings?

Remember Martin Luther King Jr.? Apostle of non-violence, disciple of Ghandi and Thoreau, took on Jim Crow in the South and won. But I wonder, would King have had as much success if not for scary types like the Panthers, the Black Muslims, etc?

Was part of the strategy (conscious or un-) a message, “Deal with me – or you’ll have to deal with them.”

No the TEA Party isn’t violent. No it isn’t racist. No it isn’t scary. However it’s been painted as all three by the state-whore media that Views With Alarm the rising “violent extremist right wing” tide.

That last is a patent lie, oh right wingers, they do not fear you. If they feared you they would never insult you so egregiously. They insult you thus precisely because they do not fear you.

By now you’ve read of the leaked emails from JournoList, the private message board for left-wing journalists and academics. Here is Spencer Ackerman on how to go after conservatives by making bad-faith charges of racism.

“Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists… What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.”

Mr. Ackerman and I agree on one thing – being a racist is a vile thing.

In fact it is so vile that I’d think it entirely pardonable that anyone who called you a racist should be invited outside to back up his mouth with his fists. If he refused, give him a choice – a public apology, and I mean a groveling one, or a whipping like Sam Houston gave that congressman on the steps of the Capitol.*

Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

I just can’t see Karl “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes” Rove inviting anyone to step outside. He might muss his Armani suit.

Still, it is interesting to speculate how a defense of “temporary insanity” would fly. The left would be in the position of having to claim being called a racist isn’t vile enough to drive a man crazy…

I suggested the TEA Party should adopt a logo of a teapot pouring with the slogan “Not racist. Not violent. Just no longer silent.”

But perhaps there should be a wing of the movement with a somewhat more militant logo. Perhaps a guillotine. Perhaps a slogan more like, “We want our lives back. We want our country back. We want our freedom back.”**


Note: See my review of The Singing Revolution for more on “many strategies – one goal.”

*Sam Houston went to Washington as a delegate from the Cherokee nation, in full Cherokee dress, to argue against the removal policy that lead to the Trail of Tears. A congressman called him a savage or some such racist insult. Houston challenged him to a duel. When the congressman refused, Houston beat him with a cane on the Capitol steps.

They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

**I am reminded of the Free Trade movement in Ireland in the 19th century. They used to demonstrate around the country with a cannon and a sign that said, “Free Trade – or This.”

July 20, 2010

A slogan for the revolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 3:06 pm

While making the drive back from truck driving school, sixty miles across the prairie, listening to El Rushbo makes the miles go by faster.

Today I heard a caller who identified herself as a 68-year-old white lady, who may have coined the slogan for the Tea Party revolution.

She said, “I’m not a racist. I’m not violent. I’m just no longer silent.”

I immediately started imagining signs, buttons, and bumper stickers.

Not racist.
Not violent.
Just no longer silent.

It scans and rhymes. Say it to yourself a few times and you’ll find it catchy.

It could start with TEA PARTY at the header – or it could have a simple logo. I suggest a teapot tilted about 45 degrees from horizontal and pouring to the right.

Sorry I didn’t catch your name lady, I’d like to give you credit for the idea.

July 18, 2010

Post of the month – VDH on BHO

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:54 am

The incomperable Victor Davis Hanson has put his finger on it again. Some of us have known forever that lefties are pampered snobs. Hanson tells it like it is in the most succinct comment I’ve read in a while.

Pampered populists [Victor Davis Hanson]

It’s surreal to see President Obama play the class-warfare card against the Republicans while on his way to vacation on the tony Maine coast, and even more interesting to note that now gone are the days when the media used to caricature Bush I (“Poppy”) for boating in the summer off the preppie-sounding Kennebunkport. The truth is that the real big money and the lifestyles that go with it are now firmly liberal Democratic.

One can use an entire array of evidence — the preponderance of Wall Street money that went to Obama over McCain in 2008, the liberal voting patterns of the high-income blue-state congressional districts, the anecdotal evidence of a Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or George Soros, or the ease by which an eco-populist like Al Gore buys estates and creates corporations, or the rarified tastes of men of the people like John Edwards of two-nations fame, or John Kerry of multiple estate residences.

Bill Clinton was perhaps the first liberal president to embarrass progressive populists, who by rote caricatured those who played golf or amassed millions in post-presidential huckstering. The point is that Barack Obama’s “them” rhetoric against those who supposedly make tons of money and won’t pay enough in taxes to fund the Obama technocratic class’s redistribution schemes seems almost fossilized. The more the polo-shirted Obama seems obsessed with golf, and the more he seems to prefer the landscape of the elite (who navigate the Ivy League, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Upper East Side, Cambridge, etc.), the more we wonder whom exactly he’s railing about.

Is it the less-cultured wannabe wealthy who don’t make enough not to be hurt by high taxes, who send their kids to Penn State or Purdue rather than Yale, who run hardware stores or paving companies instead of inheriting estates or being CEOs for green companies, and who vacation at the lake with their powerboats and jet skis rather than bike through Tuscany? In short, Obama had better get the populist photo-ops down a lot better, since his calls to soak the rich from the 18th hole or the coastal vacation home look increasingly ridiculous.

Now note that this has been known for a loooooong time. See G. William Domhoff (who if anything is left-liberal) who outlined how big money rules the Democratic Party back in 1972 in ‘Fat Cats and Democrats.’

Perhaps in a future post I’ll go into detail on my theory of elites. Not much of a theory yet, more of an observation.

Basically, yes there is something answering to a “ruling class” in America and always was. There is a principle called “The Iron Law of Oligarchy” that explains why this is always so and can’t be avoided.

But in our country that class was relatively open, i.e. it had a pretty good turnover and you could work your way into it by means and methods that weren’t totally morally repugnant.

My notion is that a ruling class is losing its grip when 1) it becomes more hereditary and less open to the extent that really foul methods are required to join it, and 2) when the ruling class is no longer willing to do its own fighting.

And for a lengthier analysis, see Angelo M. Codavilla’s, ‘America’s Ruling Class – and the Perils of Revolution’ in The American Spectator.

July 16, 2010


Filed under: Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:26 am

I urge you all to have a look at a piece by John Derbyshire over at NRO, ‘The Jobs Americans Should Not Have to Do?’ subtitled, ‘One must wonder what kind of society we have become.’

The article starts with the news that the Obama administration has declared war on unpaid internships, goes on the reflect on the disappearance of the summer job and the dignity of labor.

Da Derb raises a number of points with his characteristic pessimistic wit.

What seems to be going on here is a war against the notion that any American citizen should do any kind of non-academic work before the age of 25 — before, that is, a college degree and a couple of years of law school have been completed.”

Citing a number of People in High Places (Obama at the top) who want everyone to graduate from college, he writes:

“A person acquainted with the real world would recognize this for what it is: the romantic piffle of fools living in money-padded cocoons. There, however, you see the circularity of the issue. The overclass types who extrude this gibberish are not much acquainted with the real world; and one reason for this is, they have never done low-paid, low-skill work. They may have done higher-status internships for little or no pay, but it seems the administration now wants to shut youngsters off from even that much acquaintance with the world of work.”


“I have noticed that if, among 30-something colleagues, I mention one of my own school or college summer jobs — factory or construction work, dishwashing, retail sales, bartending — my colleagues will look amused, and a bit baffled. How come a guy as well-educated as Derb was shoveling concrete? Boy, he’s a real eccentric! No, I’m not. Those experiences were perfectly normal for a person of my generation. They’re just not normal any more, not for children of the American middle and upper classes.”

And pointing out that conservative elites are no better:

“For a comparison with the “conservative” sensibility of our own time, recall Karl Rove’s remark: “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes.” Good heavens, Karl, of course you don’t: The poor lad might break a fingernail.)”

I’ve never picked fruit, though I did buck hay summers for a friend with too few acres to interest the guys with the machines that do that kind of thing. I have however been a waiter, bar tender, garbageman (six years total,) sewage treatment plant operator/lab tech (another six years,) and a few temp odd and sundries.

And of course, I’m studying to be a truck driver now after realizing journalism wasn’t going anywhere quickly, and getting that PhD would require three years of grad assistant poverty pay plus years of serf labor as an adjunct to – maybe – reach a salary level a truck driver can reach with a year’s experience.

I’m gambling on the assumption that no matter how much they screw up the economy, people will still have to eat, wear clothes, etc – and those will be delivered in trucks.

Some observations and concerns:

One, I think a great deal of the economic idiocy in high places can be attributed to the fact that our current “overclass” has been raised unaware of the reality that wealth comes from growing stuff, making stuff, and moving stuff around.

There seems to be a curious misapprehension among elites that wealth comes from policy studies and lit crit.

And about garbagemen; I worked with guys with college degrees, semiliterates, and the occasional prison work-release. No one who’s done that could possibly buy into idiocies like the above-mentioned plan to put everybody through college.

One gets the impression from the quotes Derb provides that these people are unaware of he existence of the lower quartile IQ class.

And when I was a garbageman, we had yard service, i.e. we toted the trash on our backs (average 65 pounds) to the truck, except in alleys (much easier.) My experience includes doing this in the year of the great heat wave when temperatures regularly hit 114 degrees F and never went below 100, day or night, for a solid month.

Though our little town still has the older-style trucks you throw the trash in the back of, most communities of any size are going to the self-loading trucks which require only a single attendant to pull the container to the lifting arm.

So, how are men with little education, few skills, low IQs and the odd felony record to make a living? Garbageman paid enough to live pretty well actually (not to mention what you could junk out – you wouldn’t believe what Americans throw away.) And it was physical enough to absorb excess energies that might otherwise go into serious mischief.

What is my son going to do to make some money, learn the world does not owe him a living – everything must be paid for, and that to live and support a family a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do?

July 14, 2010

Justice 2010

Filed under: Media bias,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:52 pm

* Hmmmm, I set out to write a different post here. Fortunately I like to go to the primary source.

The NAACP passed a resolution about the Tea Party I’ve been reading about.

I invite readers to check out the link. See in particular:

“The proposed resolution had generated controversy on conservative blogs, where in some cases the language has been misconstrued to imply that the NAACP was condemning the entire Tea Party movement itself as racist.”

They are quite correct. That is exactly what I’ve been reading, when in fact the resolution merely asks the movement to condemn “racist elements within the Tea Party.” The NAACP is often hypersensitive to “racism,” seeing it where it isn’t intended, but no they didn’t say the whole Tea Party was racist and certain conservative bloggers and columnists should be more careful.

The NAACP statement however does say, “In March, respected members of the Congressional Black Caucus reported that racial epithets were hurled at them as they passed by a Washington, DC health care protest…”

I believe that’s been pretty well debunked. There was a plethora of recording equipment in the crowd, and not one racial epithet has been found in any recording.

And you can be damn sure if it had been it would be all over the airwaves!

* A courageous whistle blower at Obama’s Justice Department has however revealed a pervasive pattern of racism by DOJ officials.

J. Christian Adams, a career attorney in the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division until he resigned to go public, testified under oath July 6 before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in the matter of two armed and uniformed members of the New Black Panther Party intimidating voters at Philadelphia’s Fairmount Street precinct on Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008.

You may recall that Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed the case against King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, after it had already been won by a default judgement when the defendants didn’t bother to show up at their hearing.

Just this once I’m going to pull a Michael Moore and start a sentence with, “I wonder if…” (As we say in Oklahoma, I know it’s wrong – but I’m weak.)

I wonder if they didn’t bother to show up because they knew they had nothing to worry about?

Adams also testified Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes last November instructed prosecutors not to enforce the law which requires local officials remove from the rolls voters who are ineligible because they have moved, are convicted felons, or just plain dead.

According to Adams, Fernandez said, “We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law. It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it.”

“I was told by Voting Section management that cases are not going to be brought against black defendants on the benefit of white victims,” Adams said.

* Over the past several years I’ve observed things which I think add up to a pattern. Bear with me for a moment, then call me crazy if you like.

Election manipulation: In addition to the above-cited example, consider the ACORN follies, the Franken election looking more and more like it was stolen after the discovery of a few thousand ineligible felons on the Minnesota rolls (Franken won after a suspicious recount put him ahead by around 300 votes,) legal challenges to laws requiring voter ID. Not to mention pushing union card check with all the potential for intimidation that entails.

Name calling: The efforts to paint the TEA Party and the Right in general as dangerous extremists, when the history of political violence in this country over the past two generations is overwhelmingly on the Left. This of course includes attempts to dehumanize the opposition by attaching hateful labels such as “racist.”

(See “name calling” under propaganda techniques.”)

Outright violence: SEIU goons beat an African-American man demonstrating at a St. Louis townhall meeting. A man and woman were beaten in New Orleans after leaving the Southern Republican Leadership Conference dinner at Brennan’s Restaurant.

(Michelle Malkin says evidence for a political motive is murky in this case – though robbery was pretty obviously not the motive since there was no attempt to rob the victims. She does offer a list of confirmed cases of politically motivated violence.)

I think it adds up to an interview.

The Hard Left (and no I don’t mean generic “liberals,” I mean the totalitarian Left that sometimes sails under that flag) cannot come to power without hiding their true intentions (by pretending to be merely liberal for example) and certainly cannot stay in power in honest elections when their true intentions become manifest. Their program for a controlled economy and social engineering to produce the “right kind” of people just doesn’t fly with most Americans.

But in a democratic system, any group which is willing to use violence has a weighted vote – if they can get away with it. You could call it “the Sinn Fein/IRA lesson.”

It looks to me like we’re in the early stages of an “escalating interview” on a national scale.

“Escalating – Unlike a hot interview, which starts out immediately hostile, an escalating interview starts out normally but it rapidly turns hostile. The person or people test(s) your boundaries by escalating outrageous behavior. Every time he is not slapped down (i.e., he is successful), his behavior becomes more and more extreme until finally he attacks.”

July 10, 2010


Filed under: Culture,Literature,Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:35 am

My wife rented ‘New Moon’ prepartory to seeing ‘Eclipse’ on her next girl’s night out. She’d seen ‘Twilight’ in the theater and wanted to be up to speed.

I stayed up and watched it because I hadn’t seen any of the movies or read the books and felt I was missing a big piece of popular culture.

Afterwards I sat up for a few more minutes trying to find the words to express my impression of the flick.

“Cheesy melodrama,” that’s it.

At one point my wife pointed out that Bela (when trying to look like her soul is tormented) always seems to looks like she’s about to barf. Then sure enough, Bella got out of her pickup and it looked like she was going to bend over and heave.

But it’s not bad cheesy melodrama. I didn’t hate myself for wasting precious hours of my remaining lifespan, nor foresee the End of Civilization as We Know It in the popularity of the series. If anything, I curse myself for not sitting down at the computer and turning out some drivel of like kind to free my family from financial worries.

Still, as a jackleg anthropologist and amateur folklorist, it bothers me a little that the vampire myth has been so, so… well for lack of a better word, domesticated.

When I was a kid I went to see the misnamed ‘Brides of Dracula’ (the Count is not in the flick, the vampire is one Baron Mienster) with Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing.

I think I spent half the movie in the lobby cowering by the popcorn machine.

The Twilight series is all about teen angst and finding True Love. I appreciate there is a longing for masculine chivalry expressed therein. The desire for a male who experiences the volcanic lusts of hormone-driven teenagers, but nonetheless disciplines himself our of respect for his inamorata.

And of course, the conflation of sex and death is very Freudian. (“I believe in sex and death. The difference is, after death you’re not nauseous.” – Woody Allen. Sorry.)

The trend of “sexy Dracula” started with Frank Langela’s 1979 version I think. With Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing, not too shabby. I remember seeing young girls leaving the theater, and you could just tell they’d willingly roll down their turtlenecks for him.

Langella had the huevos to reinterpret some of Bela Lugosi’s classic lines: “I never drink – wine,” and, “There are worse things than death.” Langella delivered them without the pause and sardonic smile in the first, or the slow, heavy intonation in the second.” I.e. he didn’t overact.

Fred Saberhagen started the Dracula-as-misunderstood-good-guy genre in ‘The Dracula Tapes’ and sequels two years before Anne Rice published ‘Interview with the Vampire.’

Saberhagen was harmless fun. Dracula explaining that “sadistic psychopath” Van Helsing was killing Lucy Westenra attempting to cure her of vampirism, by giving her transfusions – a full four years before Landsteiner discovered blood types, is a hoot!

And now that you mention it, making Lucy’s fiancee cut her head off is definitely sick, sick, sick.

Then he made Dracula Sherlock Holmes’ uncle or cousin or something, pointing out the startling similarities in their appearance as recounted by Bram Stoker and Conan Doyle. Double hoot!

Anne Rice’s work is sinister enough that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she rose from the grave to prey upon the living.

Rice very perceptively observed, “The serial killer is the vampire of the modern world.”

The bitch then sold us to the serial killers. Over and over she makes the victims long to be murdered. Major creepy. The last Rice vampire book I read made me curse, “I could have bought a decent Dean Koontz thriller instead!”

(Which reminds me, I’ve got to dust off my literary comparison of Rice and Koontz’s views of evil.)

But back to traditional folklore – a vampire is not Rice’s “dark, Byronic figure” but an animated corpse! It’s not at all certain it’s really the person who died in that body. Many traditions suggest it’s a demon who possesses and reanimates the corpse.

And they’ve got halitosis to boot!

A decent read that stays within the evil vampire genre is F. Paul Wilson’s ‘Midnight Mass.’

Wilson builds upon Richard Matheson’s notion (in ‘I am Legend’) of vampirism as a plague that threatens to overwhelm the earth. Wilson though, keeps vampires at least semi-suprenatural: cross and holy water allergy, etc.

Matheson might have originated the notion of vampirisim as a virus, later used in the Blade movie series. I have no idea if the theory that vampire legends were inspired by rabies victims came before or after his novel.

The best euhemerized vampire story I’ve ever encountered is George R.R. Martin’s ‘Fevre Dream.’ Martin (whose other accomplishments include creating the cult series ‘Beauty and the Beast’) combines vampires with a Mississippi river boat story!

That was actually foreshadowed by Lon Chaney’s southern-gothic ‘Son of Dracula’ set in the swamps of the Deep South.

Martin’s vampires are entirely natural phenomena. They are another species which prey upon humans. Once a month or thereabouts, they must have human blood, but can subsist on normal food all the rest of the time. They are extremely long-lived and allergic to sunlight, but crosses, garlic, mirrors, running water, etc are just superstition.

And, you can’t become a vampire. Vampires are born to vampire mothers and fathers just like any other species.

The novel concerns a vampire hero who has invented a substitute for human blood that can free vampires from their need to murder humans. Recommended.

For those who like to keep supernaturalism in the genre, I’d recommend John Steakley’s ‘Vampire$.” This was made a not-bad-but-not-great movie, ‘John Carpenter’s Vampires.’ There was a sequel, ‘Vampires – Los Muertos,’ which he didn’t write.

Steakley commented that a last-minute budget slash made them rewrite the movie with much of his dialog and none of his plot.

I heard Steakley read from the book at a NOSFA (Norman Oklahoma Science Fiction Association) meeting, and it was electrifying. I’ve been unable to find out what’s happened to him. The IMDB lists him as an actor in a movie called ‘Playing Dead’ in 2000.

Aside from one other SF book ‘Armor,’ I haven’t seen a thing by him, which is a pity – he gave us some of the best advice for aspiring writers I’ve ever heard.

So what’s it all mean? Stay tuned.

July 8, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:29 pm

Just finished my second week of truck driving school.

The first week was all classroom stuff. This week we got to drive the big mutha. Tuesday and Wednesday we bobtailed back and forth on a country road practicing shifting gears. (“Bobtailing” is driving the tractor without a trailer.)

Today we hitched up the trailer and actually did some in-town driving in traffic.

Shifting a big rig is different from the shifting I learned when I first drove a car. For one, you double clutch. Clutch, shift to neutral/clutch, shift into a higher gear.

It’s not symmetrical shifting low and high, and shifting down is harder than shifting up. To shift down you: clutch, shift to neutral – rev up the engine to 400 rpms higher than when you went into neutral – clutch, shift down.

And always remember, never depress the clutch all the way to the bottom unless you are shifting into your starting gear from a dead stop. Never shift gears on railroad tracks (loss of license for various periods if you’re caught doing that,) on a turn, in a curve, or when changing lanes – unless you are changing into a turn lane.

Remember all this while keeping an eye on your gauges, mirrors (all four of them, plane and convex,) and roadway, and never forgetting you are controlling a huge, powerful machine that is potentially lethal to anything around it.

Turning corners is scary, and again not quite a symmetrical procedure left and right.

When I started this course I thought, “Is this going to take six weeks?”

Now I’m thinking, “Is six weeks enough?”

But it’s a rush. I find I really want to make controlling this powerful machine second nature, an extension of my nervous system. And obviously town driving is the un-fun part. The best has got to be the open road, and in the north central states there’s a lot of open road.

Each thing you learn means you’ve got another challenge ahead. I’d almost forgotten the feeling physical accomplishment that kind of progression gives. I’m looking forward to my CDL test with that anticipation-sweat nervousness I haven’t had since my first black belt test many years ago.

Next week, backing.

July 4, 2010

Is it the Fourth yet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:35 am

“Is it the Fourth yet?”
-The last words of Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1826; fifty years to the day from the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Today is the 235th birthday of our country, and because I’m in a dark mood I wonder how many more we will be celebrating. I wonder if someday Americans will commemorate the Fourth in mourning for a lost, great nation. I wonder if those of our descendants who still call themselves “Americans” will be a rootless tribe keeping alive the memory of America as the Jews kept the memory of Jerusalem on high holy days.

“Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilization, what there is particularly immortal about yours?”
– G.K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Intellectually, everbody with even a smidgen of history knows the truth of Chesterton’s observation. But we seldom expect to see the failure of our civilization in our own time.

I wonder, are we victims of our own success?

Has the United States has been free, powerful, and prosperous so long that we simply can not imagine being poor, powerless, and unfree?

We have a government that is running up a debt of staggering proportions, owed to a nation that gleefully anticipates our fall.

A government which “has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

We have a media establishment which, abandoning their calling as the watchdog of a free people, has taken their thirty pieces of silver to become the “Fourth Estate.” And who now remembers this term, originally French, was a sardonic reference for an unofficial fourth branch of government after the nobles, commons, and clergy?

Indulge me in this for a moment. Our “nobles” are the political class, now virtually a lifetime profession, and increasingly a hereditary one. Consider not-quite-cold Senator Robert Byrd, who died in office at age 92. Consider the names Romney, Gore, Dodd, Kennedy.

And like noble classes throughout history, they care more for their power and privilege than the welfare of their country.

Our “commons” is organized labor, the majority of which are now unionized government employees, many of the rest workers illegally in this country. In the private sector, unions now largely irrelevant and uninteresting to skilled workers, recruit mostly among workers stuck in unskilled and low-status jobs. (Think SEIU.) The kind most easily persuaded to nurse a burning resentment against a free market society.

Our “clergy” are the academic class, once the conservers and transmitters of the heritage of our civilization, now dedicated to indoctrinating a generation with the notion that heritage doesn’t matter – or worse, is pernicious and doesn’t deserve to be preserved.

In the last letter from Thomas Jefferson’s pen, he spoke of American’s beginning a “bold and doubtful experiment.”

That experiment has now run for more than two-and-a-quarter centuries. Consider the Fourth a time to evaluate the results to date.

Perhaps we will have many more such opportunities. And perhaps in the grand scope of history this many is as much as we had any right to expect.

July 2, 2010

Russian spys I have known

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 1:19 pm

I’ve just heard about the Russian spy ring that’s been busted in the last few days. I don’t think anyone knows much yet, but I’ll be following with interest.

The first question that occurs is, what the heck were they trying to get? I don’t think any of them had access to classified information. This should be interesting.

At any rate, it reminded me of my last contact with the world of Russian spys. Of course, my son’s godmother was the widow of a KGB agent from SMERSH.

When I was teaching English at the Warsaw Berlitz in the mid-90s there was a teacher from Africa. His story was that he’d been a student at a KGB academy in Sofia, Bulgaria. One day shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union he and the other students showed up – and nobody was there. The staff just walked away without notice.

I used to say, “Hey, wait a minute! I can tell you how to make it into a money-making operation. There are lots of Walter Mitty-type Americans, the kind who read Soldier of Fortune magazine who’d pay good money to go to training courses at a real KGB academy. You could advertise ‘Train with the best for an exciting career in international espionage!'”

Then in 1996 I was actually living in Bulgaria, teaching English at the Institute for Foreign Students in Sofia. One of my colleagues was a young Russian man named Boris, who spoke English with a perfect middle American accent.

At one point I asked him, “Boris, are you Russian-American?”

“No, I’m Russian,” he answered.

“So did you live in America? Are your parents diplomats?”

“No. I’ve only been there for a few weeks,” he said. “It was great!”

“So where’d you learn to speak English with a perfect accent?”

“Special schools since I was ten,” he said.

At this point I could sort of see where this was heading. I inquired further, “So why are you in Bulgaria?”

“My father’s a journalist,” he explained, and said he’d married a Bulgarian girl and was basically draft dodging. He didn’t want to get sent to Chechnya.

That also kind of confirmed it to me, and pretty much any Eastern European would say the same. Journalist (for Pravda or Isvestia) plus special schools to learn to speak English with no noticable accent, equals K-G-B.

I should have asked him about that school. But I don’t think he was planning to go into the family business anyway. Though if our intelligence wanted to, I believe they could have recruited him as a consultant by offering a visa for him and his family. (The intelligence officer at the embassy was a family friend. I should have brought it up…)

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