Mikhail Gorbachev whose watch the Soviet Union Collapsed under attacks Vladimir Putin, A Soviet Union Enthusiast

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 25th, 2011

Week in Review

The last communist leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is publicly criticizing a man he once supported.  Vladimir Putin.  Who is mocking Russian protestors.  In his quest to return to power.  Over the protests of those he mocks (see Mikhail Gorbachev ‘ashamed’ of Vladimir Putin by Andrew Osborn posted 12/23/2011 on The Telegraph).

In his strongest criticism of the Kremlin yet, the father of perestroika said he was shocked and disappointed by the glib way that Mr Putin had reacted to unprecedented anti-Kremlin protests in recent weeks.

“This is shameful. And embarrassing. I, for example, am ashamed,” he said of Mr Putin’s dismissive attitude after the prime minister sarcastically likened the protestors’ white ribbons to condoms.

“I feel tied to Putin in the sense that at first, when he came to power, I actively supported him everywhere, both here and abroad. And now look,” he said in an interview published in Novaya Gazeta, a liberal newspaper he part owns.

Strong criticisms, indeed.  Mikhail Gorbachev may have been the father of perestroika (a little restructuring of the Soviet economy and society to be a little more like that in the West) but he was still a communist.  What he wanted to do was what China did.  And China did what it did by learning the lessons of perestroika.  And why it destroyed the Soviet Communist Party.  A mistake the Chinese did not make.  At least, not yet.

It would appear that Vladimir Putin wants to do what China did.  He is just trying to restore the glory days of the Soviet Union.  A Soviet Union enthusiast.   When people were cowed and feared the police state and did not protest.  Like good little communists.  The kind that he oppressed and disciplined during his days in the Soviet security police.  The KGB.  Similar to the Nazi Gestapo.   So Putin knows a thing or two about Soviet communism.  Tyranny.  And oppression.  Which is perhaps why the Russian people are none too eager to see him return to power.  And return the Russian people back to the glory days of the Soviet Union.

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LESSONS LEARNED #64: “National security can be a messy business. Especially when your enemies don’t play by the same rules.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2011

Stalin Contained in Europe and Asia

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Soviet communism filled the Nazi world conquest void.  The Soviets paid the highest price in blood in the war against Hitler.  And the way they looked at it, that gave them the deed to any land the Red Army found itself on after hostilities came to an end.  Those countries who once welcomed their Soviet liberators from Nazi oppression soon found themselves under Soviet oppression.  The Soviets weren’t going anywhere.  They stayed in Eastern Europe.  They tried to stay in Iran but the British and the Americans got them to pull out, thanks in large part to America’s nuclear status.  Communist guerillas in Greece that once harassed the Nazis were trying to ascend to power with the help of the Soviets.  The Truman Doctrine checked the Soviet influence and kept Greece independent and out of the Soviet camp.  Russia was once again trying to take Turkish lands to give them that elusive warm water port via the Bosporus and Dardanelles into the Mediterranean.  Again, the Truman Doctrine helped keep the Turks independent and out of the Soviet sphere.

The German capital, Berlin, was completely inside East Germany.  But it was partitioned between East and West.  This was a problem for the Soviets as the people in East Germany didn’t like them, the KGB or the East German Stasi (which formed in 1950).  East Berlin was a gateway to freedom via West Berlin.  The first attempt to shut this down was the Berlin Blockade.  Truman overcame the blockade with the Berlin Airlift.  Thwarted, the Soviets lifted their blockade.  But then built the Berlin Wall to keep the unhappy East Germans from fleeing Soviet oppression.  West Berlin remained free within un-free East Germany.  And was still the gateway to freedom.  Only attaining freedom was a lot more difficult, with many East Germans dying in the attempt.

Being rebuffed in Eastern Europe, Berlin, Greece, Turkey and Iran, Stalin looked next to the Korean peninsula.  President Truman had hastened the end of World War II with the atomic bombings in the Pacific for a couple of reasons.  One was to spare American lives resulting from an invasion of the Japanese homeland.  The body count had only increased as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Japan.  Another reason was to get the Japanese to surrender before the Soviet Union could get the Red Army on more territory in the Pacific.  Because Truman saw the writing on the wall.  The Soviets never willingly left land the Red Army occupied.  With the end of hostilities in the Pacific, and the Japanese out of the Korean peninsula, the Allies partitioned Korea into North and South.  The Soviets occupied the North.  The Americans the South.  The Soviet sponsored North Korea eventually invaded the American sponsored South Korea, inaugurating the first open conflict by proxy in the Cold War.  After three years of a seesaw war, North and South signed an armistice setting the border between the two where it was in the beginning.  At the 38th Parallel.  Though the Korean War was a draw, it was still another Soviet defeat.  Who began to realize this world domination was trickier than it looked.  Especially when there were do-gooders out their like the United States always mucking up the works.

Eisenhower to Kennedy, Regime Changes and near Nuclear Annihilation

So the Soviets changed gears.  No more wars of invasion and conquest.  They had a new idea.  Wars of liberation.  They would help foment dissent in countries under the boot of American Imperialism.  Or at least in countries closer to America than the Soviet Union.  With America being in the Western Hemisphere that, of course, led the Soviets to Central and South America.  With the close of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in 1953, the Americans were now suspect of any communist-like behavior, eager to avoid another bloody and costly proxy war with the Soviet Union.  And they saw some in 1954 Guatemala.  Where the newly elected Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán started seizing private property and instituted agrarian reforms.  Along communist lines.  With more public property.  And less private property.  The developments in Guatemala may not have been Soviet in origin.  But it looked enough like it for President Eisenhower to approve a CIA coup in Guatemala.

After going through World War II and the Korean War, Eisenhower wanted to fight future wars before they became wars.  Like in Guatemala.  And elsewhere.  As in Cuba.  Where Eisenhower approved planning for Regime change in this Caribbean nation following the Cuban Revolution that ousted Fulgencio Batista who had seized power in a coup.  Putting the revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in power.  Once in power, the new revolutionary government did some very ‘communist’ things.  Seized private property.  Nationalized public utilities.  Created a bit of a police state.  The usual things.  But it was worse than in Guatemala.  And closer.  So President Kennedy approved the Eisenhower plan of regime change.  And we call that CIA plan the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which, of course, failed.  Unlike Eisenhower, Kennedy did not support this black ops mission with the U.S. military to stave off defeat.  So Castro, his brother, Guevara, and others, defeated the CIA backed Cuban exiles.  Which empowered Castro.  And pushed him closer to the Soviet Union. 

You know what Nikita Khrushchev saw when he looked across the Black Sea?  American nuclear missiles in Turkey.  Figuratively, of course.  Not literally.  He couldn’t even see the Turkish coast let alone missile installations.  But he knew they were there.  And that really got in his craw.  And the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion with the young and apparently reluctant American president provided just the opportunity he needed.  He would install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.  And try this young and inexperienced president.  Castro was all for it, fearing another U.S. invasion (he apparently thought far more of Kennedy than the Soviets).  Guevara, too.  Because he was just reckless.  And crazy, as it turned out.  Well, the secret deployment was discovered by a U-2 spy plane.  Caught the Soviets with their pants down.  We threw up a naval blockade.  Came to the brink of nuclear war.  But Kennedy stood his ground.  The Soviets backed down and removed their missiles.  And then the Americans removed the missiles that had so bothered Khrushchev.  This last was part of a secret agreement to keep the young American president from looking bad.  But the Soviets were a little glad to remove their missiles from Cuba.  Because Guevara wanted to nuke the United States.  And probably would have if he had control of those missiles.

From Iranian Coup to Iranian Revolution

Oil underground is useless.  It only has value when someone brings it up where it can be refined into something useful.  And that’s what the British did in Iran.  The Iranians did not like the split of profits (they were only getting 16% of the net profits which was greater than the 0% they were receiving before the British pumped the oil out of the ground).  Anytime there is huge money involved, there’s going to be trouble.  And after the oil infrastructure was set up the Iranians nationalized the oil industry.  Which didn’t make the British happy.  So they pulled their expertise from the Iranian oil industry and blockaded their oil exports.  The Iranians were not as good as the British and their production fell.  And what little they did produce they could not sell.  This led to unemployment, hunger, etc.  All the right conditions for a coup.

Truman was not interested.  He had his hands full with the Korean War.  But Eisenhower saw things differently.  Especially when the British told him Iran may fall into the Soviet sphere.  And with her would go all of that oil.  Eisenhower believed this.  For there was nothing more the Soviets would have wanted.  They’d still be in Iran if the British and the U.S. (backed by the United States’ nuclear monopoly) didn’t persuade them to leave following World War II.  So Eisenhower joined the British in the coup that placed Mohammad Reza Shah (aka, the Shah of Iran) on the throne in 1953.  And placed Iran into the American sphere.  And everyone lived happily ever after.  The West got Iranian oil on more favorable terms.  And the Middle East got a burning white hatred for the United States and the West in general.  Who apparently would do anything to steal their oil.  So that ‘happily ever after’ was more tongue in cheek.  It ended well in terms of the Cold War.  But not in terms of the nationalism or geopolitics of the Middle East.  For it turns some people can hold a grudge for a real long time.

Shah-rule proved at times to be rather oppressive.  And highly Western.  Democratic, anti-Shah protests began in 1977.  First by Islamists.  Who didn’t really like Western influence.   Then eventually well-educated and unemployed college students (men and women).  Who wanted more freedoms.  And jobs.  Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in 1979.  As the democratic revolution grew in fervor, Khomeini consolidated his power behind the scenes.  There were no public statements about creating a theocracy.  Because the people didn’t want a theocracy.  Especially the women who had graduated from college with great hopes and dreams.  Because in a theocracy, women become second-class citizens with fewer rights.  And fewer hopes and dreams.

There was then a referendum asking if Iran should be an Islamic Republic.  It passed with near unanimity.  A draft constitution was put up to vote on.  It passed, too.  Some complained about voting irregularities.  Which became moot when Khomeini stated Iran would be based on Shari Law.  With no republic parts.  Then the Shah (now in exile) went to the United States for medical treatment.  Complications extended his stay, infuriating the Iranian protesters (who wanted him back to try and execute) and ratcheting up the American hate (who recalled the 1953 coup).  Young Islamists stormed the U.S. Embassy taking 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days.  Sunni Iraq then invaded Iran, fueling the Islamist furor.  The Islamists suppressed political opposition.  Shut down the free press.  Made women second-class citizens.  And, well, the rest is hardcore Islamist theocratic history.

Conquerors Lie and Exploit Political Instability

The world is a big place.  Sometimes events are interrelated.  Sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes we pay a price for acting too late.  And sometimes we pay a price for acting too soon.  Sometimes our actions prevent a bad situation from getting worse.  Sometimes our actions make a bad situation worse.  Or even makes a not necessarily bad situation a complete and utter disaster.  You never can be certain.  For one thing, everyone has some ulterior motive.  Sometimes those motives align with your national security interests.  Sometimes they don’t.  Unfortunately, we can never know for certain at the time we need to make a decision.  We can only base it on our current intelligence.  And history.

One thing we do know, though, is that there are people who want to conquer other people.  Hitler wanted to conquer the world and spread Nazi rule.  Stalin wanted to conquer the world and spread communist rule.  And now Islamist fundamentalists want to conquer the world and spread Islamist rule.  How do we know this?  They told us.  And demonstrated this by their actions.

Two other key points we can learn from history.  Those who want to conquer lie.  And they exploit political instability.  Hitler lied about his intentions in Czechoslovakia and took advantage of a war-weary Europe still recovering from the Great Depression.  Khrushchev lied about placing missiles in Cuba.  Which he placed in Cuba by taking advantage of the political instability following the failed Bay of Pig Invasion.  And Khomeini lied about his intentions in Iran knowing the people didn’t want a theocracy.  And he took advantage of the chaos of the democracy uprisings and other events to steer the nation where he wanted it to go.  Islamic theocracy.

The Nazi threat gave way to the Communist threat.  Which gave way to the Islamist threat.  So we should pay close attention to any country with political instability/democracy movements.  That has any Islamist elements.  Especially one that feels they’ve been wronged by the United States.  For that would be the perfect storm in the Islamic world.

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The Costs of European Socialism Bankrupting the EU?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 6th, 2010

European Socialism – Voting yourself the Treasury

The Left loves European Socialism.  They want it here.  They’ve been trying to get here.  All the while the Europeans are trying to move away from it there.

Socialism doesn’t work.  Once people learn they can vote themselves the treasury, they do.  It’s been the death knell of all democracies.  As those state benefits get bigger, they entice more people.  They say, “Work?  But why?”  Because many can live comfortably without working, many do.  And they sign up for those generous state benefits.

The problem is that there is no ‘secret stash’ of government money.  Everything they spend they take from us.  Those who work.  So taxes go up.  Working people get less.  And the government-dependent grows and becomes an important voting demographic.  And they vote.  They vote themselves the treasury.  And why not?  It’s not their money.  Not yet, at least.

The EU, the Euro and the ECB cannot Fix the Fundamental Flaw of Socialism

Eventually, the number of working people decrease.  And the number of those not working increase.  More and more people receive benefits.  And fewer and fewer people pay taxes to fund those benefits.  So they keep raising the taxes on those who work.  To pay those who don’t.  But they can only raise them so far.  Because people simply won’t work for free so their neighbor can live a better life.

And how is that European Socialism working?  Much like the people collecting those generous benefits.  It ain’t working either.  To compete against the economic power of the United States, they’re trying to become like the United States.  They created the European Union (EU).  A European Central Bank (ECB).  And a common currency (the Euro).  Because they thought bigger was better.  Because the United States is a big economic zone.

But the Europeans have a problem.  They’re still social democracies.  And the trends continued after the union and the Euro.  More people collecting benefits.  Fewer people paying taxes.  Some of these countries are going through debt crisis.  And as these countries implode in their financial crises, the affects are felt throughout the European Union (see Euro’s Worst to Come as Trichet Fails to Calm Crisis, Top Forecasters Say by Anchalee Worrachate posted 12/5/2010 on Bloomberg). 

The 16-nation currency’s [the Euro] first weekly gain against the dollar since Nov. 5 may prove short-lived amid mounting concern that more nations will need rescues. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet delayed the end of emergency stimulus measures last week and stepped up government-debt purchases as “acute” market tensions drove yields on Spanish and Italian bonds to the highest levels relative to German bunds since the euro started in 1999.

“We’re going to get a continuation of the problems that Ireland, Portugal, Spain and others are suffering,” said Callum Henderson, Standard Chartered’s global head of foreign-exchange research in Singapore. “The fundamental issue is these are countries that have relatively large debts, large budget deficits, large current-account deficits, they don’t have their own currency and they can’t cut interest rates. The only way they can get out of this is to have significant recessions.”

Once upon a time Europe was ablaze in war. The growth of nationalism brought nations into conflict with each other over land, food and resources.  They redrew their borders in blood.  Nations did not give up their national sovereignty without a fight.  Which makes the European Union that much remarkable.  What they fought to the death to prevent they now give up voluntarily.  Of course, when your nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, what have you got to lose?  Having someone else bail you out of your financial mess?

Can the Euro and the ECB Survive European Socialism?

A weak currency helps a nation to export goods.  The more they export the more economic activity they have.  And the more jobs.  And the more people to tax.  So a weak currency can be a good thing.

But a weak currency also carries some baggage.  If a nation is ‘printing money’ to pay for excessive state benefits, that will not only make the currency weak, it will also increase prices; it’ll take more of those weak dollars (or Euros, or Pounds, or Yen, etc.) to buy things.  Even government benefits.  This is counterproductive.  People have less purchasing power.  And the government has to tax, borrow or print more because they, too, have less purchasing power.

The United States debased its currency.  Which helped the Euro gain some strength.

Just a month ago the euro reached $1.4282, the strongest level since January, as traders sold the dollar on speculation the Federal Reserve would debase the greenback by printing more cash to purchase $600 billion of Treasuries in so-called quantitative easing.

But the Euro wasn’t getting stronger.  The dollar was just getting weaker.  Both currencies are losing value.  And with more member nations in the EU getting weaker, the stronger ones may bail to save themselves.

Taylor [chairman of FX Concepts LLC, the world’s biggest currency hedge fund] predicted some nations may leave the common currency. Stronger members “have to say ‘enough, you guys, get out of the euro,’” he said. “The risk that Spain and Italy will get into trouble is going to cause the euro to get quite weak.”

Spain and Italy follows Ireland.  Which followed France.  Which followed Greece.  Nations are struggling under the weight of their debts.  Is there a limit to how much the ECB can help?

The ECB will keep offering banks as much cash as they want through the first quarter over periods of as long as three months at a fixed interest rate, Trichet said. That marks a shift from last month, when he said that the ECB could start limiting access to its funds.

Time will tell.  The trends are going the wrong way, though.  And there are more countries that can fail.  And they don’t have their own currencies.  So they need the ECB.  And the ECB needs to save them.  To save European Socialism.  Much like the Soviet Union tried to save Soviet communism.  Which, of course, they didn’t.

The problem with the Soviet Union was Soviet communism.  And the problem with the EC is European Socialism.  Great big governmental bureaucracies fail.  Always have.  And always will.

The Europeans know what they need to do, though.  And they are doing it.  Cutting their spending.  Despite the rioting and the burning of some of their cities.  Even with all of that, they are NOT increasing their spending.  Or trying to reduce their deficits by increasing taxes.

As the euro region’s most-indebted nations cut spending to bring their deficits under control, a weaker euro will be needed to cushion their economies, said Ian Stannard, a senior currency strategist in London at BNP Paribas SA, the fifth most accurate forecaster.

Of course, they want a weaker Euro for their exports.  So the EU can sell their export products cheaper than the domestic products of the import countries.  Which those import countries will not welcome with open arms.  Because they’re trying to grow their economies, too.  But that’s a whole other story (if you’re interested you can read about how international trade wars brought about the Great Depression).

It’s European

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, we’re having our own financial problems.  Large debts, large budget deficits, large current-account deficits.  Just like the Europeans.  Only difference is that the Obama administration is trying increase taxes and spending to fix our problems.  The Left calls this economic stimulus.  Rational people just call it stupid.

The political Left likes all things European.  In fact, they want to be European.  So I say let’s be European.  Let’s cut our spending like the Europeans.  I mean, if the Europeans don’t want to be like us (tax and spend), perhaps we should be like them (cut spending).  After all, if it’s European, even the Left should find it the fashionable thing to do.

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North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick. So Far.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 23rd, 2010

FDR Gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe

How did we get this North Korean problem?

After World War II, the Soviets tried to spread communism.  And Roosevelt helped.  He gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe.  The German capital, Berlin, was inside East Germany.  The Allies partitioned it.  The United States, Great Britain and France split the West side.  The Soviets took the East.  And West Berlin was a thorn in Stalin’s side.  It was a gateway to the West for those oppressed under Soviet Communism in the East.

FDR liked Uncle Joe Stalin.  Both were Progressives.  And Stalin did Progressivism in a grand way.  The only problem was that the people didn’t want it.  They tried to escape from the heavy hand of Soviet rule.  So Stalin built a wall in Berlin.

Then, to seal the deal, he cut the rail lines into West Berlin.  He was going to starve the West Berliners into submission.  The West initiated the Berlin Airlift to relieve the besieged Berliners.  Stalin relented.  He restored rail service.  And the West checked the spread of communism in Europe.

The Soviets tried to expand into Greece, Turkey and Iran

The Soviets changed tactics.  They tried to entice Western nations into the Soviet Sphere.  To check the spread of Communism into Greece and Turkey, President Truman kept them into the Western sphere with generous U.S. aid.

During World War II, American aid for the Soviets fighting the Nazis came through Iran.  When the war ended, the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  They wanted those warm water ports.  And that land in between those ports and the Soviet Union.  American support and aid to Iran eventually forced the Soviets to leave Iran.

Rebuffed in Iran, the Soviets found success in China.  And North Korea.  Truman implemented his Truman Doctrine to contain any further Soviet/communist expansion.  And, in 1950, this turned into a shooting war on the Korean peninsula.

The Cold War Heats Up

We call the standoff between East and West the Cold War.  The Soviet Union tried to spread communism.  The West tried to contain communism.  And the Cold War heated up on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans invaded South Korea.  The United Nations fought back.  With General MacArthur in command, he pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea.  And he kept on going.  Pushed them all the way back to the Yalu River (the border with China).

And then the Chinese entered the war.  They poured over the border and pushed the U.N. force back.  Eventually, the front ended up about where it started.  At the 38th parallel, the military demarcation line to this day between the North and South.  There was an armistice to halt combat operations.  But no formal peace treaty.

The North Korean Ruling Elite Didn’t Lose, but their People Did

South Korea remained in the Western Sphere and prospered.  North Korea remained in the Soviet Sphere and stagnated.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea suffered from energy shortages and recurring famine.  The country is a mess.  The ruling elite have food.  But millions of North Koreans have starved to death over the years.

North Korea is a closed and isolated nation.  With a strict censorship of all media, the people know only the ruling party propaganda.  The ruling elite told great lies to the people to keep them from rising up.  They flipped the truth.  North Korea was rich and prosperous.  The United States was oppressing her people, starving them, invading other countries, etc.  A lot of North Koreans fear the United States.  And will suffer great deprivations to support their leader.

Which brings us to today.  With no one to turn to and being incapable of providing for their own people, they need Western aid.  But that often comes with conditions.  Such as lightening up on the human rights violations.  Which they are none too keen on.  If the people in North Korea do not live in fear and intimidation, they may threaten the ruling elite’s power hold.  So they have to find ingenious ways of getting the West to provide aid with fewer conditions.

North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick

North Korea likes to cause trouble.  Be provocative.  Threaten the West with annihilation.  Shoot people.  Blow things up.  Anything to get the attention of the West.  So the West will give them stuff to calm them down.  The latest provocative action involved the shelling of a South Korean island (see North Korea fires artillery barrage on South by Jung Ha-Won, Agence France Presse, posted 11/23/2010 on Yahoo! News).

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

Which was more bad news upon previous bad news.

The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

Which was upon previous bad news.

Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

Russia and China Grow Uneasy with North Korea’s Provocations

Even past Cold War allies are not happy with this latest action (see World edgy on Korea, Russia sees “colossal danger” by Peter Apps, London, posted 11/23/2010 on Reuters).

“It is necessary to immediately end all strikes,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the Belarusian capital Minsk. “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.”

China, the impoverished North’s only powerful ally, was careful to avoid taking sides, calling on both Koreas to “do more to contribute to peace.

And why is China being so careful (see The Next Korean War? by Leslie H. Gelb posted 11/23/201 on The Daily Beast).

Beijing simply won’t take a stance against the North, no matter what it does, for fear that this Communist regime will collapse and leave China to pick up the pieces.

The North Korean Problem

North Korea is a problem.  It’s a little like slavery in 19th century America.  There’s tragic human suffering.  And no easy solution to the problem.  If the current regime falls, some nation (or nations) will have to absorb the huge costs of reincorporating the North Korean people into an open society.  Feed them.  Deprogram them.  Prevent them from devolving into civil war (the oppressed versus the ruling elite and their huge standing army). 

The costs will be staggering.  So great that maintaining the status quo is the easy option.  Even though it condemns the North Korean people.  And leaves a ruling elite in power that may go rogue and do something nuclear.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #18: “Man-given rights are only privileges allowed by the privileged elite.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2010

JESUS CHRIST!  You’ll hear that in a foxhole.  When hunkered down as bullets and shrapnel fly thick overhead.  By theist and atheist alike.  Of course, one is most probably in prayer while the other in vain.  Considering the circumstances, though, the Lord would probably forgive the latter. As long as you’re fighting on the side of good, that is.

When emotions are running high, people tend to say things.  Sometimes bad things.  Sometimes, even philosophically inconsistent things.  What’s that joke?  At the height of confusion someone shouts out, “Thank God I’m an atheist!”

People tend to get more intimate with God when they are about to personally find out the answer to that age-old question – is there an afterlife?  Can’t blame them.  Your own mortality can be a scary thing.  And no one wants to rush that.  That’s why, in the age of the Enlightenment, people thought of government not as a force of coercion, but as protection from coercion.  People wanted to live as long as they could.  And as free as they could.  So people made governments that would function within the Rule of Law.  To better their lives.

England made great strides in protecting its citizens from the arbitrary use of force.  After some un-English-like treatment in the New World, the British America colonies broke from the mother country.  But they would build on the English ideals.  The Declaration of Independence stated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The key here is that rights are God-given.  That meant kings could be wrong.  As well as Parliament.  Even the Church.  Kings, aristocracies, bishops, etc., are positions created and held by men.  Nature/God did not grant them this power.  They granted it to themselves.  And once some have power, it’s not long before some use it to oppress those who don’t.

So when it comes to determining the origin of rights, the atheists should thank God he or she is an atheist.  For if God gives them that right (to be an atheist), no man can take it away.  But if rights are not God-given, then they must be man-given.  And whatever man giveth, he can taketh away.  Especially if you piss off the powers that be.

DRUNKEN FARMER JONES was oppressing the animals on Manor Farm.  Having had enough, the animals rose up and seized power.  They renamed the farm Animal Farm.  The pigs Snowball and Napoleon were the leaders of the revolution.  They created a new political doctrine called Animalism.  It rested on the following 7 commandments painted on the side of the barn:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal.

Snowball wanted to do good.  The new farm started out as an anarcho-syndicalist commune.  Sort of.  Then Napoleon seized power.  He and his pigs became the ruling elite for the benefit of animal kind on Animal Farm.  And life was good.  For the pigs.

Napoleon fabricated lies about Snowball.  With the animals turned against him as planned, Napoleon had his dogs chase him off of Animal Farm. 

The animals worked harder.  But there were setbacks.  And at every setback, Boxer, the old workhorse, lamented that he would have to work harder.  And he did.  Until his strength failed him and he collapsed while working.   The pigs then sent him to the vet.  Only the side of the vet’s wagon said ‘Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler’.  Most of the animals couldn’t read.  Benjamin could.  He told them what the van said.  But it was too late. 

Benjamin, Boxer’s friend, was an old donkey.  And wise.  He saw a lot in his long life.  Little good, though.  Life was no different under the pigs than it was under the humans.  But he wasn’t surprised.  For that was life.  “Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly.”

The pigs started to act more humanlike.  They started to walk on two legs so they could carry riding crops.  They began wearing clothes.  Slept in beds.  Drank alcohol.  And sent off Boxer to his death for some whiskey money.  The pigs slowly revised the 7 Commandments to agree with their new behavior.  Until, one day, there was but a single commandment remaining.  “All animals are equal.  But some animals are more equal than others.”  And life was good.  For the pigs.

GEORGE ORWELL WAS a socialist who volunteered to fight for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War.  He got shot in the throat and was declared medically unfit for further duty.  While healing, the political climate was deteriorating.  His socialist group, the Workers’ Party of Marxists Unification (or, in Spanish, Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM)) fell out of favor with the pro-Soviet Communists.  They accused the POUM of being affiliated with Joseph Stalin’s archenemy, Leon Trotsky.  So the Communists outlawed the POUM.  It’s complicated.  Suffice it to say that Orwell made it back to England.  And had no love for Stalin or Soviet Communism.

Then, of course, came World War II.  And the Hitler-Stalin Pact of Nonaggression, further increasing the love between Orwell and Stalin.  And by love I mean hate.  For Orwell hated totalitarianism.  And for all the Utopian talk, Communism had devolved into nothing more than an oppressive totalitarian regime. 

This is the story of Animal Farm.  Napoleon is Joseph Stalin.  Animal Farm becomes the police state of Soviet Communism.  At about a hundred pages, it’s the biggest little book you will ever read.  If you haven’t yet, do so.  And then pick up Orwell’s 1984.  It’s a little longer and a little darker but, wow, what a story.

SO THERE’RE TWO revolutions.  The American and the Russian.  Both ended up on ‘top ten’ lists.  One for liberty.  The other for genocide.  Can you guess which? 

As an ideology, Communism has killed more people than any other in history.  It killed more than the Nazis.  More than the Christian Crusades.  More than the Black Death even.  No other ideology (or plague) comes close. 

So why was one revolution so much bloodier than the other?  Well, the Americans were Christian.  The Russians were Orthodox Christians.  But the Soviets were atheists.  There were no God-given rights in the Soviet Union.  Only privileges allowed by the privileged elite.  And fear.  For people could disappear at someone’s slightest whim. 

That’s the down side of atheism.  And secularism.  It removes the fear of God from a people’s rulers.  And if they aren’t worrying about the afterlife, there’s not a whole lot to dissuade them from doing unspeakable things in the here and now.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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