Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

October 16, 2017

Why Weinstein matters

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:54 am

Unless you have just returned from a vacation in Antarctica you have heard of the fall of film maker Harvey Weinstein. Joss Whedon must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Whedon not long ago was accused of being a flagrant serial adulterer by his ex-wife. The accusations against Weinstein go way beyond that.

Weintein stands accused by an ever-growing list of actresses, former actresses, and staff of sexual harassment, stalking, groping, obtaining sexual favors by bribery and threats, and outright unequivocal rape by four alleged victims as of the time of writing.

This was an open secret for more than 30 years.

Weinstein’s brother says he was aware Harvey was a serial cheater but didn’t realize the extent of his depravity. The circumstances of their business relationship make this somewhat credible.

Actors who have worked with Weinstein such as George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, and Russel Crowe say they are shocked and appalled and had no idea.

They’re lying.

Hillary Clinton issued a belated and rather tepid condemnation. Poor lady was in a bit of a bind. On the one hand she had to condemn to maintain her feminist creds. On the other hand… Bill.

The fact that Tinseltown is a hotbed of corruption is not exactly news to us. The earliest use of the term “casting couch” dates back to the 1930s.

So why do we care and why isn’t this scandal dying out as fast as any other tabloid fodder?

I can think of some reasons. One is we delight in the exposure of hypocrisy. Weinstein has virtue-signaled his championship of every fashionable cause on the left, including feminism. He has made a feeble bid at redemption by vowing to “fight the NRA.”

Furthermore, women who have come forward with tales of harassment – and worse, are often stridently feminist themselves. Many have been loud in their condemnation of the “Republican War on Women” and the alleged sexual assaulter in the White House.

Ashley Judd of the pink knit hat comes to mind. And some gut-wrenching photos emerged of tiny Emma Watson being manhandled into a limo by the huge physically powerful Weinstein. The terrified look on her face strikes like an ice dagger in the heart of every man who loves his daughter. Yet in her feminist screeds not a word of criticism for her own industry.

We love comeuppance. Hollyweird has touted the moral superiority of the progressive left, their disdain for “flyover country,” and their contempt for people who cling to quaint old-fashioned notions of family, faith, and love of country. And here is proof they are no better than we are, and probably much worse.

We love to see the mighty brought low. Though it’s not an admirable sentiment, we can’t help a sense of satisfaction at seeing his so-called friends desert him and his wife, whose clothing design business he promoted by coercing stars to wear her products on the red carpet, has dropped him like a hot rock.

But here is the real significance I think. Weinstein, like Hugh Hefner, could have had all the willing playmates he wanted. And according to the testimony of reporter Jade Budowski, who once worked as a waitress at a restaurant Weinstein used for assignations with aspiring starlets, he did.

Weinstein’s disgusting behavior demonstrates not mere lust, but a delight in humiliating women and assaulting men, arrogantly confident in his power to silence critics.

Weinstein’s double life as champion of the progressive left and abuser of power is a stark example of the great political divide today.

On the one side the “progressive” view that all of society’s ills will yield to the use of unchecked power in the right hands once we have discarded the outdated superstitions of the Founders.

On the other the view that there are no safe hands. That power is dangerous and men corruptible. That problems are best addressed by free men in voluntary association in almost all cases.

What both sides see plainly, the former with increasing dread the latter with a somber sense of recognition, is confirmation that this is the reality of power.

September 19, 2017

Why I despise SJWs

Filed under: Culture,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:25 am

Social Justice Warriors make my teeth itch.

On Sunday the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards got political (Surprise! Surprise!) and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss evidently sang a song about how nice it would be to have a president “who is not beloved by Nazis.”

Last week ESPN anchor Jemele Hill tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Author Sarah Jaffe responded to Miami Police Department warnings against looting in the wake of Hurricane Irma with a tweet, “good morning, the carceral state exists to protect private property and is inseparable from white supremacy”

Carceral state? Meaning we lock people up who break into homes and steal stuff? Oh whatever will this poor old world be FORCED to endure next?

Someone named Daniell Rider found a decoration at Hobby Lobby which included some cotton plants so offensive she took to Facebook to express her outrage.

“This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton… A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves.”

This would be humorous but evidently she got tens of thousands of “likes” and even more comments pro and con.

Because of a cotton plant. Let that soak in.

This is but a recent sample of the mischief SJWs have gotten up to in the past few weeks. Over the last few years we’ve seen them make life miserable for science fiction fans, gamers, and hobbyists of all kinds.

Look, we get it. Nazis are bad. Racists are bad. Slavery was just awful. Thank you. We’d never have known that if you hadn’t told us.

But wait a minute. The Third Reich was destroyed in 1945, it’s most prominent leaders were hanged or imprisoned.

Slavery was abolished in 1865 when congress passed the 13th Amendment.

Racism persisted for a long time afterwards and still exists though much diminished. But we have come a long way from the days of Jim Crow. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde about war, racism is not just considered wrong – it’s vulgar.

And here it gets complicated. Discrimination in hiring, employment, public accommodations etc, is illegal. Get caught doing it, and you could be in serious legal trouble. Just being accused of it can involve you in expensive litigation not to mention social opprobrium.

But inequalities persist that can’t be explained by the remnant racism in this country. There is a good argument that the cultural legacy of slavery and Jim Crow play some part in persistent poverty and high crime rates. Culture is powerful.

There is also a good argument that well-meaning attempts by government to help have had negative effects on family stability resulting in generational poverty.

And if you make the case for those claims SJWs will call you a racist and say YOU’RE the problem.

If you’re white, they’ll call you a White Supremacist. If you’re black, they’ll call you an Uncle Tom.

In the most recent absurdity, TV personality Chelsea Handler called Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson a “black white supremacist.”

I disagree with SJWs. I think they’re wrong and I think they’re living in a fantasy world in which Nazis and Klansmen are still as powerful as they were almost a century ago rather than the tiny minority of pitifully neurotic attention-seekers they are.

But that’s not why I feel this overwhelming contempt for them.

Nazism was destroyed at a terrible cost by a generation of men and women we rightly revere.

Slavery was destroyed in a war that killed more Americans than all our other wars combined.

Jim Crow was defeated by the patient courage of generations of Americans who risked their lives and reputations to stand up for what was right.

What price do SJWs pay for their conspicuous advocacy of causes won before they were born?

There is honor to be had in the mopping up operation for sure. But what risks do they run? What hardships do they endure? What justifies their arrogant assertions of their courage and moral superiority?

They believe themselves to be the equal of mighty ancestors but show themselves to be only posturing phonies.

August 14, 2017

Charlottesville

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:40 am
A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12:  Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" are forced out after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – AUGUST 12: Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” are forced out after the “Unite the Right” rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Well it finally happened, sombody got killed at a demonstration.

This was not a surprise to some of us. We knew it was going to happen, it was only a matter of when, where, how, and which side.

Heather Heyer, 32, was struck by a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr, 20, from Ohio. Heyer was reportedly marching alongside the Democratic Socialists of America, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter in a counter-demonstration against white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting the upcoming removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fields is reportedly a kid who thought Nazis were “pretty cool” according to a former high school teacher.

This is very bad and I doubt it’s going to get better soon.

There are reports of clashes between Antifa and police in Portland, Oregon, and a free speech rally has been announced in Boston this Friday.

So far there have been more questions than answers. The protestors evidently had a permit to demonstrate. It is not clear if the counter-protestors did or not.

Charlottesville Police failed to deal with the two groups effectively and were reportedly ordered to stand down when they clashed. We’ve seen that before, in Berkeley.
Worse, it appears they may have funneled protestors leaving the park site to within a block of the counter-protestors.

Worse still, there is video footage circulating around the Internet that purportedly shows someone bashing the back of Fields’ car with a baseball bat before he accelerated into the crowd.

According to unconfirmed stories Fields wasn’t malicious, he was terrified.

If that story pans out, and Fields does have a defense enough to acquit him or convict him of a lesser charge, care to guess what kind of reaction that’s going to provoke?

Understand something, those protestors were or at least had in their midst real live Nazis and white supremacists. The photographic evidence is there, Nazi flags and symbols. If there were participants who weren’t Nazi sympathizers they didn’t have the influence to demand those flags be put away nor the sense to walk away themselves when they saw them.

But the counter protestors are no angels either and here is where it’s getting sticky.

Antifa and BLM showed up spoiling for a fight, armed with bats, pepper spray bags of urine and feces, and reportedly caustic liquids.

On a few pictures you can find some were waving red flag with the yellow hammer and sickle.

And this is where it’s getting very bad. It does indeed look like the major media is colluding to downplay the fact the counter-protestors are thuggish left radicals. Published pictures have apparently been chosen to exclude images of the flags and weapons in the hands of counter-protestors. The fact that they haven’t entirely succeeded would seem to indicate this required some effort on the part of journalists and editors.

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported the Antifa counter-protestors were also acting with hate-filled violence and was evidently made to walk it back.

Some friends I’ve talked to flat don’t believe this was a case where there were no good guys, because “they were fighting racism.”

Acquaintances on the hard left however are jubilant and quite open about it.

One posted a meme with the legend, “When you can’t convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.”

Facist pavement

As mentioned, confirmed information is scarce so far. When all comes out, if it does, the city government of Charlottesville is going to have a lot to answer for, and the press as well.

I am going to recommend readers go to the site Zombietime to see what I’m talking about.

Zombie is an anonymous blogger on the west coast who for years has been documenting the manipulation of press photos by carefully chosen angles and cropping, by showing their own photos of the same events from the same perspective, and showing what was not reported.

Zombie convincingly demonstrates a long standing pattern of photo manipulation in support of a narrative. After you’ve seen it you might recognize the signs of it elsewhere in the country, and realize photos can indeed lie.

Be warned, some pages are definitely not for children.

January 22, 2017

Adventures in Vloging

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:07 am

I’ve probably lost a lot of readers due to inactivity on the blog. Partly I’ve shifted a lot of commentary over to Facebook – which is unfortunately largely ephemeral. But I’ve also branched into Vloging – video bloging.
Here is my first commentary of the recent election that now seems so far in the past. I’ll post more as I produce them.

March 16, 2016

Free Speech

Filed under: Free Speech,Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:13 am

I think as I please, and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this crime I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater, to duke or dictator
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei!
Die gedanken sind Frie (“Thoughts are free”)
– Adapted from a Swiss protest song, 1810

Well, a Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11, was cancelled.

Trump cancelled over security concerns as hundreds of protestors filled sections of the arena and massed outside. Protestors were visibly elated. Supporters simmeringly angry.

This is not good – except for Trump. Some polls indicated astonishing jumps in his support after the incident. Causing some critics to cry hysterically that Trump cancelled as a calculated move.

Trump has been castigated by critics, including some in the GOP, as having incited violence at previous rallies.

I think this is not entirely fair. Protestors at these rallies attend not just to express disagreement but to shut down the speeches via the “hecklers veto.”

True, Trump has a mouth that lives its own life, wild and free. He’s shouted from the podium to throw the hecklers out and expressed a wish to punch them.

But that’s not why his opponents want to shut him down.

On February 22, conservative intellectual Ben Shapiro’s scheduled appearance at California State University LA was cancelled by university president William Covino after protests.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints,” Covino announced.

Covino’s concern for diversity of viewpoints somehow never emerged during previous appearances by radical leftists such as Cornel West, Angela Davis and Tim Wise.

Shapiro is certainly outspoken, but his speaking style is measured, rational and well thought out. Worlds apart from the Trumpster’s bluster.

Which got him no respect at all, when during an appearance on Dr. Drew On Call in February, large transgendered Zooey (nee Bob) Tur put his hand on diminutive Shapiro’s neck and said, “You’d better cut that out now or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”

Shapiro alleged Tur later said he’d meet him in the parking lot. An allegation given credence when Tur later went on record as saying he’d like to “curb stomp” Shapiro for the crime of calling him “sir.”

So let’s clear the air about what’s happening here.

Trump is no champion of free speech. He’s threatened to sue critics. He’s tried to get journalists fired for writing critical articles about him. But ironically a lot of fed-up Americans are rallying around him because he exercises his own right of free speech.

We all know there are things we can’t say in America, and we all know pretty much what they are.

The left owns academia, entertainment, and most of the broadcast media. Though there is no formal censorship in this country of the kind you’d find in North Korea or Cuba, an awful lot of people are afraid for their livelihoods and even their safety if they express certain unpopular opinions or just tell a joke someone takes offense to.

Listen, I’ve lectured in Belarus and taught in Serbia during the Milosevic regime and I said what I pleased. But I can honestly say the two places I’ve worked where I really felt I had to watch my mouth were Saudi Arabia, and an American university.

It’s been this way for decades now and we’re dangerously angry about it. It is not natural for Americans to be afraid of what we say.

I’ve always known we wouldn’t put up with it forever. I wish free speech had a better champion and I hope its enemies wake up and back off. Because if they don’t, free men who wish to speak their minds are not going to retreat to their safe spaces.

October 1, 2015

Waiting to watch a man die

Filed under: News commentary,Personal — Stephen W. Browne @ 2:41 pm

Mac3
Yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 30) I got up, packed my kids off to school and prepared to drive two hours to see a man die.

But for the second time in two weeks he didn’t die, and I’m exhausted.

I was covering the third attempt by the state of Oklahoma to execute Richard Glossip for the murder of his employer Barry Van Treese in 1997, for the online magazine Red Dirt Report.

Glossip was convicted in two trials for hiring Justin Sneed to murder Van Treese. Murder for hire is considered heinous enough to merit the death penalty, even though the actual killer got only life in a medium-security prison.

I will state up-front that I’ve mostly heard from the people who think Glossip is innocent. I have tried to look for the case for the prosecution to be fair, but I must say the level of uncertainty here is enough to make me very nervous about killing a man.

The case for the prosecution appears to consist of the testimony of a meth head petty thief, plus Glossip’s highly suspicious actions following the murder. Glossip did not report the murder immediately and locked the motel room where the body was.

However, there are other explanations for this behavior – the obvious one being panic.

The prosecution’s theory of motive seems very far-fetched to me. That Glossip hoped after the murder of his employer that his widow would just give him both of Van Treese’s motels (in Oklahoma City and Tulsa) to manage.

Come on! How likely is that?

Neither jury saw a video of Sneed’s interrogation where he changed his story multiple times, and only implicated Glossip when the detectives suggested Glossip put him up to the murder.

The defense team is not stressing this, but Glossip is certainly guilty of being an accessory AFTER the fact. For which he would have quite deservedly gotten some time, but likely been out by now.

I got into this riding on the coat tails of Tim Farley, who has followed this story from the beginning. He’s done all the work and I stepped into it just because I’m doing some casual free lancing for The Red Dirt Report and have the time to travel.

So there I was, preparing to go to join the press pool at the media center of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, popularly known to us Okies as “Big Mac.”

I told my son, 14, and my daughter, nine, where I was going and what I was going to do. I told them there were corn dogs in the freezer and that I’d likely be home late if the execution went through.

“Then I hope you come home early Daddy,” my daughter said.

I told her they had cookies at the media center.

“Ohhh, can you bring me some?” she pleaded.

“No!” surprising myself a little with how vehemently I said it.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because Daddy is a superstitious Celt at heart and I’m not going to bring my baby girl cookies from an execution party,” I explained.

“You’re mean,” she said.

You can follow the link to the story I wrote for the Red Dirt Report. I’m rather proud of it, considering I wrote it late at night, dead tired, after I’d driven home, fed my kids, did the eye exercises for my girl’s ambliopia, and put them to bed.

I’m still processing this experience, and it’s not over yet. I want it to mean something because a man I think is probably innocent, and certainly hasn’t been convicted with enough certainty to warrant death, may yet die in another 37 days.

Like a lot of people I’m conflicted about the death penalty. I’m terrified of mistakes, and since the death penalty was reinstated more than a hundred people have been released from death row in America, 10 of them in Oklahoma alone.

Worse, the guilt of some who have been executed has been called into question.

But, I’m glad Roger Dale Stafford and Sean Sellars were executed. I’m glad because they scared me. Like a lot of people, I want to have my cake and eat it too.

And I want this to mean something to my children, because the world is a dangerous place, especially for those who don’t know how dangerous it can be.

August 12, 2015

Thoughts on Israel, idealism, and atrocities

Filed under: News commentary,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:27 pm

Flag

The picture here is from Tunisia. A man is stepping on an Israeli flag. A young lady in Tunisia posted it on a Facebook page called PMWB “People who Want to Make the World Better.” Somebody recently made me an administrator on the page. I have no idea who it was or why they did.

The young lady said it was in solidarity with the Palestinians after an attack on a Palestinian home by suspected Jewish radicals resulted in a toddler burned to death.

(Note the co-authors MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH and TIA GOLDENBERG, Associated Press. Good for AP!)

I asked the lady, “So are you going to post a pic of stepping on a Palestinian flag the next time one of them blows up an Israeli school bus?”

She replied with a terse, “No,” and I set out to write this article.

Then after a few minutes she posted, “I was kidding, of course I will do it! It’s all about humanity,” and the article took another turn.

Kidding? I don’t think so. I think what happened was anger answered first, then reason gained the upper hand. And I give full credit to the lady for forcing reason to control passion.

What I did was to post two of my articles on the Itamar massacre in 2011 here and here.

We’ll see how folks there react. I have a certain jaundiced cynicism about people who proclaim they are out to “make the world a better place.” Bless them, if we didn’t have some of them around perhaps nothing would ever improve, but experience seems to show they generally see things in black and white with sharp outlines and little appreciation for moral ambiguity.

Heavy sigh. Every culture has certain blind spots that place limits on their thinking that can only be overcome with great courage and heroic effort. I believe a big blind spot in American culture is the notion that all problems have solutions and all situations can be improved. We believe this so implicitly that we never even consider whether it is true or not, we simply assume it is.

One consequence of this is our belief that everybody can share a world in peace with enough good will and sweet reason.

There is not a shred of evidence to support this.

This conflict is not going away anytime soon, and like it or not we’re going to be involved in it.

Some of my questions, observations and opinions are:

*I don’t buy a prior claim of European Jews to the land of their ancestors. As I said in Reflections on Itamar, “By those lights all of us of Goidelic Celtic descent could demand the right to settle in Spain, the jumping off point for the colonization of Ireland and Scotland. Hell, we could make a case for the reconquista of most of Western Europe.”

*Nevertheless Palestinians resident in Israel are freer, richer, and materially better off than those living under the thugocracy of the Palestinian Authority, or citizens of any majority-Muslim country. This appears to matter to them not at all.

*Yes, there are atrocities committed by Israelis against Palestinians. All such cases are illegal and condemned by the majority of Jewish Israelis. The perpetrators are prosecuted when caught.
Atrocities against innocents committed by Palestinians have the covert support of the PA and are celebrated by Palestinians in the street like a carnival. The perpetrators are feted like heroes.

*Yes, when the conflict breaks out in violence Palestinian casualties exceed Israeli casualties.
The Palestinians boast they can take a casualty ratio of 15 to 1 and still win.
An Israeli girl once remarked that their Palestinian neighbors shoot from their neighborhood through the picture windows of their Jewish neighbors. “So excuse us for our superior fire power.”

*Israel is our ally, the only sincere one we have in the region. Our other Middle Eastern allies are fence-sitters who at times support terrorists at war with us. Israel’s motivation may be self-interest, but it’s pure self-interest. They stand or fall with the U.S.

*Israel is our civilizational kin, they share the heritage that binds Western Civilization. Indeed, the twin roots of Western Civilization are in ancient Greece and Israel. What will be the fate of our civilization if we abandon our kin?

*One way to illustrate the stark difference between Western and Islamic civilization: The Israeli High Court released accused war criminal John Demjanjuk because the evidence that he was one particular concentration camp guard did not rise to the bar of proof demanded by law. Compare this with the custom of “honor killings,” the strong social pressure on the family of a woman who is raped, or just gets uppity, to murder her.
Does anyone think in the long run we can share a world in peace with people who hold these values? Can we even ignore them indefinitely?

*Does anyone seriously doubt the contention that if the Arab states and resident Palestinians stopped attacking Israel there would be peace, but if Israel laid down their arms there would be about 6 million fewer Jews in short order? Is you deny this, why do you think so?

*Has anyone noticed the schizophrenic nature of the anti-Israel rantings from places like Iran? They deny the Holocaust, then boast they’ll do it right next time. They decry the plight of the Palestinians under Israeli rule, then boast how they’ll annihilate Israel with nuclear fire in due time. Do they think Palestinians are immune to nukes?

*Does anyone doubt the problems of the Palestinians in Israel are largely self-inflicted? If not, why?

*Where does your self-interest lie in this?
Where is a cure for cancer more likely to come from, six million Jewish Israels or 600 million Arabs? How about a cheap renewable energy source? New agro-tech to feed the world? Great literature?

*If the situation of the Israelis looks long-term untenable, should we invite them all to evacuate the country and move to America?

“I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.” – Eric Hoffer, 1968

August 5, 2015

Robert Conquest R.I.P.

Filed under: News commentary,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:53 am

He is gone where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his heart. Go traveler, imitate him if you can. He served liberty.
(Rather free translation from Latin of Jonathan Swift’s epitaph.)

George Robert Acworth Conquest, CMG, OBE, FBA, FAAAS, FRSL, FBIS (15 July 1917 – 3 August 2015) has gone, and with him much savage indignation. He was 98.

I urge you to read his Wikipedia entry. Conquest was in his youth a communist, back when it was still excusable. He changed his mind after seeing communism close up and dedicated his professional career to exposing the greatest crimes of the 20th century.

He wrote about Stalin’s Great Purge; estimated murders as high as 20 million. He wrote about the planned famine in Ukraine, the holodomor; deaths somewhere between 2.4 to 7.5 million. He poured well-deserved scorn on Western intellectuals who denied, excused, or actively justified a world-wide holocaust that murdered as many as 100 million people.

By rights the crimes of communism should have had at least as much attention paid to them as the crimes of Nazism. And yet, how many people really know what happened in that “Ravaged Century” Conquest wrote about in such detail?

We live in a world in which any academic who denied or excused the Nazi holocaust would quite rightly have his career destroyed. Yet it is acceptable to deny or excuse the communist holocaust which was at least 10 times greater.

Why? For God’s sake why?

“The dead remember our silence.”

June 16, 2015

The sad story of Rachel Dolezal

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:36 pm

The head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal has resigned amid allegations she’s been “passing” for years.

For people with a sense of irony, this has been the gift that keeps on giving.

“Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It’s about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum,” she said on the chapter’s Facebook post.

Oh “allegations” pfui! The lady’s parents blew the whistle on her, and they’re white. When confronted with the “allegations” Dolezal went all deer in the headlights and started blathering about how we’re all from Africa.

Well yes, Africa is the original home of humanity. But the term “black” or “African-American” has a specific meaning associated with ancestry from a specific part of Africa where slaves were captured, sold, and transported to the New World.

(A history which ironically, our first black president does not share. Barack Obama Sr. came from Kenya, on the other side of the African continent.)

In America, unlike France or parts of South America, society adopted the “one known drop” rule. ANY known African ancestry made you “black.” No qualifications, no gradiations of color that mattered.

In France with some African ancestry you could be the Chavalier du St. George, master swordsman. Or Alexandre Dumas pere et fils, popular authors.

In America you could be Frederick Douglas, but it was a lot tougher row to hoe.

Mark Twain wrote a whole novel, “Puddinhead Wilson” in which two children, a slave and the child of that slave’s master, are switched at birth. Since the blood quantum is so small, no one can tell the difference.

But Dolezal evidently does not have even that one drop. Photos of her as a teen show a blond light-eyed girl who needed hair dye and frizz plus what appears to be a spray tan to pass.

(Full disclosure, I have that one drop. It recently caused much hilarity in my family when my father contacted a distant relative revealed by the genetic testing service Ancestry.com. She’s an African-American lady whose privacy we will respect. She was evidently mortified by the connection and refused to talk to him.)

NAACP officials have put on the best face they can, correctly pointing out that the organization was never limited to persons of color and has always had white members.

Oh pfui!

Dolezal passed for black not only in the NAACP, but in the city of Spokane where she served as Chairman of the Spokane’s Police Ombudsman Commission, and at Eastern Washington University where she’s an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies program , teaching African and African American Art History, African History, African American Culture, The Black Woman’s Struggle and Intro to Africana Studies.

Dolezal coached her adopted African-America siblings not to “blow her cover.” She constructed an absurd back story of living in a tipi in Montana where her parents hunted for food with bows and arrows. She claimed to have lived in South Africa.

And she claimed abuse by her parents and her ex-husband. This is not a harmless thing.

The weird thing about all this is not just that it happened. We live in a historically odd time when the privileged desire to identify with the oppressed, and they’ll by God do it if they have to manufacture some of that oppression to do so!

It’s a nice, safe way to pat yourself on the back for your courage that involves no sacrifice of comfort or even popularity. Unlike say, speaking out about the ongoing slow-motion genocide of white farmers in South Africa or Christians in Africa and the Middle East. That could get you dropped from fashionable circles – or killed.

No, the strange this about this is how she got away with it for so long when the simplest background check, the kind you and I go through every time we apply for a job or a loan, would have blown her story into the stratosphere.

For heaven’s sake, this lady looks like a kid in a wig going trick or treating!

Why were people so easy to fool? Why did they take an absurd story on face value, told by a woman is so obviously a seriously disturbed person?

The only answer I can come up with is, because they wanted to be fooled.

And why? That’s the conversation we ought to be having.

February 28, 2015

Beam him up, he’s leaving Earth

Filed under: Movies,News commentary — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:47 am

Spock

Well another piece of my childhood is gone. Leonard Nimoy died Friday at the age of 83. While not quite the age of a mature Vulcan, he did indeed live long and prosper.

Forever associated with the half-human Vulcan Science Officer of the Enterprise, Nimoy’s TV career began the year I was born with an appearance on “Queen for a Day.” A show I barely remember but which might be counted as a proto-reality show.

He played Indians, cowboys, soldiers, sailors and cops. Though he reprized his Spock role throughout the rest of his life in Star Trek movies, an animated TV show, and self-referenced it on many guest spots on other geek series such as the Big Bang Theory, it was never set in stone. He created any number of other roles such as Paris on “Mission Impossible,” and Theo Van Gogh in the one-man stage play and TV movie “Vincent.”

He created the Vulcan nerve pinch, the envy of generations of martial artists who secretly believe if we could just get it right…

The story has it that Nimoy loathed having to do fight scenes and one day on set said, “Couldn’t I just pinch him on the neck or something?”

He also created, or rather popularized the ‘V’ shaped Vulcan greeting that goes with “Live long, and prosper.”

Nimoy was the child of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who grew up bi-lingual, speaking both English and Yiddish. The hand gesture is a rabbinical blessing he explained. The shape of the hand resembles the Hebrew letter ‘Shin’ which is the first letter of several sacred words: Shaddai (one of the names of God), Shalom (a greeting which means “peace”) and Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God created to live among men).

In later years Nimoy was active in the movement to preserve and pass on the Yiddish language.

But of course, he will always be Spock to those of us who loved him.

This is what Spock means to me, and how he helped shape my image of the man I wanted to be growing up.

Spock of course was highly intelligent. What was revealed as the character developed over the course of the series was that he was also extremely passionate, as apparently were all Vulcans not just half-humans. Spock mentioned Vulcan once had “an aggressive colonizing period, brutal even by human standards.” One colony became the warrior culture of the Romulan Empire.

This and his half-human heritage created tensions that made Spock pretty miserable. After one adventure on a planet full of hallucinogenic spores inhabited by blissed-out colonists he commented, “For the first time in my life, I was happy.”

The way Spock dealt with it, was self-control, duty, a wry sense of humor, and philosophy.

The code for self-control in the series, was “logic.” Spock evaluated situations in terms of logical or illogical. But you never saw him construct a syllogism or draw a Venn diagram. Spock expected the default behavior of rational beings to be self-control. Not letting the passions get the upper hand when their self-interest was at stake. Spock got flummoxed when sentient beings acted irrationally when it would better serve them to exercise a little self-control.

Duty, Spock was Science Officer of the Starship Enterprise, a position corresponding to Executive Officer on a Navy ship. Along with the captain, and often as acting captain he was responsible for the lives of hundreds of people. To fail in his duty could mean their deaths, or the deaths of innocent sapients of other species – or war.

Spock’s sense of humor was wonderful and oddly, rarely noted. He was the master of the dry rejoinder and the uplifted eyebrow, an expression that spoke volumes.

Once when Leonard “Doc” McCoy was searching for a cure for a malady that struck some of the crew, including himself, he utters in frustration, “I’m just an old country doctor.”

Spock, raised eyebrow, “As I always suspected.”

Philosophy, never explicitly expressed but shown in action as the best of philosophy always is.

Spock was not exactly a pacifist but committed to exhausting all non-violent, or at least non-lethal alternatives first. But he could argue for warlike action as in the first encounter with the Romulans, his ethnic kin.

Spock displayed real objectivity, not the counterfeit of non-evaluation so popular in academia today.

On one planet where wars were waged with computers, the ruler explained that those declared casualties were expected to report to be killed for real, and rationalized that this was how they avoided a potentially world-destroying conflict. And oh by the way, the Enterprise had been declared a casualty so would the crew please report to the killing booths?

“I understand,” Spock said.

“Ah you approve Mr. Spock!” the ruler said.

“No,” Spock replied. “I understand. I do not approve.”

Spock’s humor, sense of duty, and philosophical objectivity might have been summed up in one scene in the first season.

When parting with a woman he loved but could not be with, he told her, “If we all have our private purgatories, surely mine can be no worse than anyone else’s.”

“Mr. Spock,” she said, “I never even knew your first name.”

Spock smiles, “You couldn’t pronounce it.”

Beam him up Scotty.

“May his memory be a blessing.”

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