Hi, folks, and sorry I'm so late again - and please don't ask me how late my last term paper was!
I have received my first ***official*** comment, from Ken Summers -Hooray! Someone out there has read my work! Ken also made a very good suggestion, which provides such a fascinating mental image that I am going to recommend that the blogoshpere at large adapt it. Noam, he points out, should have a "G" in front of it: thus, the correct spelling should be Gnoam Chomsky. Just consider the possibilities here, folks....:-) I WISH I had a scanner, because I can think of at least one cartoon! A blogroll, please, ladies and gentlemen, for Ken!
I am afraid I am going to have to hold off my next barrage against Gnoam for a week, in order to organize the material I'll need for ammunition. I'll still have some things to say in the meantime, starting with this:
Now I'm not planning to say anything too detailed about economics here, because I have no background; I began to feel seriously lost when we started talking about stocks and bonds in my third quarter of Basic Accounting. And that'sJane Galt's beat, anyhow. But I have to point out what Andrew Cockburn says about Somalia in the July National Geographic ("Somalia: A Failed State?", pp. 54-60 dead tree version, or check online at nationalgeographic.com). He starts out by saying that "outside intervention...has usually made things worse," (p.56), and describes how Somalis have managed to survive without outside help:
"'We have been through some hard times,' admits telecommunications tycoon Abdirizak Ido, 'but the worst was when we had a government. Once there was no government, there was opportunity! I can say that we have a more efficient communication system than neighboring countries...,'says Ido, the founder of Nationlink, one of Somalia's ten fiercely competitive telephone companies. 'In Mogadishu you get landline service service eight hours after you order it - for ten dollars a month." (Cell service is instantaneous.) Local calls are free, and international calls cost 60 cents to a dollar a minute, even from remote villages...Gaalkacyo, a desert town...has streetlights, thanks to Abdirizak Osman, a local entrepreneur who branched out from phones to electrical generators...also providing free power to the hospital."(p. 59)
Isn't it interesting how individual capitalists, influenced by the good ol' profit motive, seem to be providing islands of efficiency, where some things actually work, in the middle of the seas of war and famine that have threatened to bury their sad country? Do you suppose that they could show government and even charitable agencies a thing or two about how to REALLY help others? Think any of the government agencies will be likely to listen? ***sigh***
Well, with that profound thought, I need to sign off for the night. I'll see you in a day or two, and until then, take care!
FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF THE NOAM KIND (Cue theme from the Twilight Zone)
Well, I’ve read Noam Chomsky’s disagreeable little book, 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2001), and I have to say that it’s been about as much fun as forcing down the absolutely vile mixture, which seemed to me to be about 1 quart of pineapple juice in 1 gallon of laxative, that I once needed to “jump start” my digestive tract after surgery.
My first thoughts:
Is it OK to be just a teensy-weensy bit suspicious of a writer who includes 5 other items he’s written, or co-authored, in a 12- item bibliography? Don’t think I could have slipped by with that in many of my college term papers, unless I was dealing with a really out of the way area that only a few writers had covered, which I do not think is the case here.
Noam enjoys doing something that just drives me crazy; he makes some sweeping over-generalization that leaves me sputtering in futility because I realize how much time it will take for me to respond. In fact, he makes so many of these claims, and tries to cover so much territory with them, that I’m going to have to change my idea of refuting him chapter by chapter, and start with some areas for which I already have some information on hand, then move on as I get more material.
Noam’s logic doesn’t impress me, but this book works quite well as pure propaganda, especially when propaganda is thought as disinformation designed to confuse and demoralize an enemy (I used that phrase intentionally). Now I’m sure Noam would hotly deny this, and in fact he denounces American propaganda, including US food drops in Afghanistan, which he sees as merely one more example of such. But those sweeping claims, complete with enough facts scattered in between the tommyrot and bafflegab to look impressive at first glance, along with a smug tome of moral superiority, could certainly confuse and demoralize naïve, idealistic college students, for instance, especially if the public schools have been doing as abysmal a job of teaching history and critical thinking as I hear they have. In fact, Noam’s technique, though I’m sure he would deny this also, reminds me of Hitler’s notion of the “big lie”, which people will eventually believe if it’s repeated often enough.
I will give Noam credit for admitting that the 9/11 attacks were an atrocity. Well, uh, thanks for being so nobly broad-minded Noam, and you’re no doubt sincere, but it would look a lot more convincing if these statements weren’t simply two to five lines per 10 or 15 pages of what my simplistic little mind (brainwashed by ev-vill US propaganda, no doubt) sees as pretty blatant America bashing.
I also give Noam credit for noting that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups actually harm the oppressed people they claim they’re trying to help. Do President Bush and his advisors know of this Obscure But Vitally Important Information, one wonders?
Noam’s main theme is that the United States is a Major Terrorist State, and that our government is no better, and is probably worse, than the terrorists that we’re fighting; he takes most of the book to describe our many evil deeds. I will go into the details as I look at each claim, and save most of my rhetorical fireworks for the coupe de grace At any rate, he thinks that we should let international justice, probably that fountainhead of virtue, the UN, handle Osama and company, and that we should try to understand the root causes of their rage (yeah, I know – this gets old pretty quickly – and he rattles on for 118 pages!). All this is to be accompanied, one assumes, by a national repentance for all of our past sins, complete with tearing of garments, wailing, and sackcloth and ashes all around. Noam doesn’t discuss this point, but he probably figures that if we are sweet and humble enough, nobody will really feel the need to vent their rage on our citizens ever again, and then, Glo-ry! Hallelu-jah! The lion will lay down with the lamb, and we won’t have to study war no more! Do I hear an “A-men!,” brothers and sisters? Yeah, right, Noam, you bright brain; and if you REALLY believe that, I have this bridge I’ll sell you dirt cheap… :-/
Now before getting down to details, fellow netizens, a couple of preliminary barrages. Noam considers what responsibility citizens of other nations have when it comes to dealing with terrorists:
“It makes sense to call upon citizens to eliminate terrorists instead of electing them to high office, lauding and rewarding them. But I would not suggest that we should have…destroyed our own and other Western governments because of their of their terrorist crimes and their support for terrorists worldwide…However, it is rather unfair to blame citizens of harsh and brutal regimes that we support for not undertaking this responsibility, when we do not do so under vastly more propitious circumstances.” (p.65)
HellOO!? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present, for your wonder and amazement, the latest low in moral equivalence! Noam, are you really hinting here that our government is so rotten that we have no moral authority to urge other peoples to deal with their terrorist regimes until we deal with our own? And even though you “would not suggest that we should have,” just what kind of change would you have liked to see? Do you just despise the last few administrations, or our entire system? Are you actually implying that our government is no better than the Taliban, or that our leaders are no better than the men who hijacked the planes and turned them into missiles on 9/11? I really have to wonder, when you say,
“The sensible administration plan (after Bin Laden or whomever is responsible is captured or killed) would be to pursue the ongoing program of silent genocide, combined with humanitarian gestures to arouse the applause of the usual chorus who are called upon to sing the praises of the noble leaders who are dedicated to ‘principles and values’…and are leading the world to a ‘new era’ of idealism and commitment to ‘ending inhumanity’ everywhere.” (p. 105)
Noam, if I am reading you correctly, you not only have just slapped our leaders in the face, but with that phrase “silent genocide,” you have also given a real poke in the eye to all the men and women in our armed forces (and in those of our allies) who have fought, and are fighting, over there. I say this because I assume you would argue that following orders does not excuse those who commit atrocities; I believe this principle was firmly established at Nuremberg, if not before. And I bet you pitched a fit when Mr. Reagan visited that SS cemetery in Germany, hmmm? It may not be crystal clear at first glance, but it's the same basic principle. I don’t know if you realized any of this as you were writing this bilge, but that moral condemnation is inherent in your words, and in saying them, you have also thrown mud on the honor of all those who’ve died over there, because you try with those sneering, contemptuous little weasel words to make their cause no better than Hitler’s! I’m going to get into this in more detail in future posts, but right now just let me say that if you think our actions in Afghanistan were “silent genocide,” you don’t have any idea at all of what that word means, and you really, really should therefore stop slinging it around until you do. Noam, how dare you!! Those brave men and women have been fighting over there not only to serve out justice for 9/11, but, more importantly, to try to keep Bin Laden’s fanatics from hitting us again, possibly much harder. And that “us” includes you too, airhead! So you might remember that before you decide to spit in their faces in future.
And, yeah, we Americans can decide to replace our elected officials, but when we do, you can bet your life it won’t be specifically to set a good example for the people of Trashcanistan!
Finally, about the “applause of the usual chorus”: Noam, maybe you had better read more newspapers, or check out some weblogs on the Internet. If you do, you’ll find out that even though we hawks share some basic beliefs, such as the conviction that this country and western civilization are worth defending, we can certainly disagree on a lot of the details. You may find this hard to believe, but some of us even slam President Bush from time to time!
Remember a few paragraphs back, when I mentioned confusing and demoralizing the enemy? Well, I said that, Noam, because it looks like you’re so alienated that you consider the US, or at least our government, to be THE enemy. So, just as some people go so far as to say the U.S. can do no wrong, you’ve gone so far in the opposite direction, that you seem to think the U.S. can do no right. Both extremes are equally unbalanced, and equally dangerous to clear understanding and wise action.
And that, Noam, brings up the reason why I’m going to be taking aim at your ideas, as feeble as they are. You see, whatever else is going on, there are some people out there who are going to keep on killing as many Americans and Israelis as they can, and probably won’t object to killing others whom they consider infidels. As a whole, they’re called Islamic fundamentalists, though they can belong to a number of different factions. And they’re going to keep on killing we infidels until they’re stopped, because at least some of them think that dying in a holy war, or jihad, guarantees them an express ticket to paradise. And it sure looks to me like the only sort of diplomacy they’ll listen to is lethal force. Are you with me so far, Noam? Am I making this simple enough for you to grasp easily? In short, we could be at the start of a long and nasty war, or series of wars, which we’ll need every ounce of will, stubbornness, resourcefulness and pride we have to get through. And your propaganda disguised as a plea for compassion and justice is just the sort of thing that can eat away at pride and will, leaving a demoralizing fog of uncertainty. I know this because if I try to force down too much of the swamp water in your book at one time, I can feel few a few dank, clammy tendrils of that dreary fog sneaking up on ME for a minute or two, until I tell myself to snap out of it, and I knew what to expect. That’s why your snide defeatism (and you aren’t the only one who’s peddling it, so don’t feel like you’re being picked on unfairly) needs to be challenged and refuted (NOT censored), and that’s what I’ll be trying to do. Looking down from your summit of moral superiority, you might find this really corny, but I’m just glad that this is one thing that I can do for the war effort, because I, at least, am PROUD to be an American. Now you and others who share your views may have some really good propaganda fog machines, but so far as reasoning goes, there are a number of good folks in the blogosphere and elsewhere who, in any fair debate, would have you for breakfast with sugar and fruit on top, and I will be honored if I prove worthy of joining their number.
I’m sorry I took so long to get this post up; I plan to have my next barrage ready to fire off by Sunday. Until then, have a great weekend!
We’re back from vacation – Hubby and I had a great time! Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and Richmond are fascinating and filled with history, which I really enjoyed. But I can’t think of anything to say about them, or my feelings of awe and reverence, that hasn’t been said before, and better, starting with the Gettysburg address, and for me at least, the high point was Chicago. We rode up I-65 on the bus through clouds and fog that didn’t start to clear up until we were on the expressway heading into the city. First we saw the antenna farm on top of the Sears Tower rising over the clouds, and then, as if God had arranged this just for us, the clouds and fog rolled back like a curtain, and all I could say was, "Now THAT’S a skyline!" Believe it or not, even though I’ve been to Chicago before, I’d never really gotten the full effect of that amazing view, but I did then, and it is a wonder and a marvel! It’s even more so, if possible, from the lake at night:
A symphony of steel, stone, glass, and light
rising proudly by the lake; joyously
dancing with the sun, then kindling hosts of
little suns to dance with stars and moon.
Or laughing in defiance at the rain,
the shrieking winds, the ice and snow: dreams and
unconquered spirit given solid form,
a great "I will!".
Standing on the sidewalk looking up at those buildings, that are so jaw dropping, neck-craning, eye-popping tall, is also incredible; maybe I sound like a bit of a rube here, but they just don’t grow them anywhere near as tall in Indy. To me, there’s something proud and splendid about skyscrapers (though some are more so than others) that makes my spirit soar; my favorites are the art-deco gems like the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, the stadt-kronen (city-crowns – a German phrase I just had to put in because I like how it sounds) of the New York skyline (No, I’ve not been to New York yet – hope to correct that soon – however, I’ve seen plenty of pictures). But the Sears Tower races skyward, launched from its setbacks, with that bronze glass that’s just waiting to catch some sunlight and show off a bit. The John Hancock Center is no slouch in the racing skyward department either; with a confident, agile strength that comes from its tapered lines and X bracings. Both towers, I think, show what Louis Sullivan, one of the inventors of the skyscraper, meant when he said that a skyscraper must be "proud and soaring…rising in exaltation." And there are plenty of other buildings in that skyline of which I could say the same, from the sparkling grace of gothic revival and art-deco, to post-modern explorations of glass, "outside the box" form, and light.
I think that since 9/11, I’ve become more aware of city skylines; their strength, beauty, and vulnerability. And I appreciate them not only because of their beauty, but because I see them as icons of sorts, representing the people behind them. Now Chicagoans, for instance, originally built their city on a swamp, of all places, because of its strategic location. So, during the two decades before the civil war, they raised their buildings and streets four to fourteen feet to rescue them from the mud. After the great fire of 1871, they rebuilt their city in a matter of years, and when Chicago architects invented the skyscraper, they also had to invent a new kind of foundation to support its weight under, shall we say, less than ideal conditions. Finally, to top it all off, they reversed the flow of the Chicago River! When I think of all the people who worked to put that city up there, and who keep putting it up there (and in downtown Chicago, you’re never far from construction, or at least the EL, which can sound like construction), and keep it working day by day, in spite of all the problems that come from having so many people in such a small area; well, that’s a marvel and a wonder too, even more so than the buildings.
And we didn’t spend all our time blocking the sidewalks gawking at the buildings or going up to their observation decks. We also saw the museums and the Navy Pier; we didn’t have nearly enough time, but we figure that just gives us a perfect excuse to go back again! However, we can now recommend, based on experience, that you DO NOT try to take in the Field Museum, the aquarium, and the planetarium, in one day!
If anyone has actually stopped by here and wondered where I've been, I've been on the first leg of a two part vacation; we went with some friends by car (they drove) to Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and Richmond, VA. I always seem to forget something before I leave on a trip, and one of the things this time was to update this site. Sorry! We had a good time and saw a lot of history; the second part starts tomorrow, as hubby and myself leave for Chicago! I will have more to say when we get back, and the next project on my agenda is to start a "fisking" of Noam's book about 9/11. I'll have to do this a chapter at a time, since (1) I will try to gather as much detailed information to support my claims as I can and (2) I need to watch the ol' blood pressure. I should be back "on the air" around June 11 or so. In the meantime, take care!