News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Lancet Study: Anyone interested in the Lancet study claiming 100,000 deaths should sign up at the Lancet (it’s free) and read the report. It’s online. Some of it is jargon, but much is not. Don’t be intimidated by medical journals. And don’t be surprised when the same journal prints two studies ‘proving’ opposing theses. The Lancet does so from time to time. As it should. It deals in evidence, not facts; theories, not ideologies.

The first reason to doubt this Lancet study is this sentence from Page 1: “One project has kept a running estimate of press accounts of the number of Iraqi citizens killed by coalition forces: at present, the estimated range is 13,000 – 15000 (http:/”

If you go to the url and chase down the media sources for the figures you find everything from Al jazeera to Znet hosts Chomsky who, in my humble opinion, is a con artist like his forebears Rousseau, Marx, and Sartre. Further more, having hosted an amateur news & literature website (the now defunct for a year, I have a great skepticism, bordering on contempt, for nearly all reporters. It is no accident that here in Taiwan reporters typically go on to careers in advertising and public relations: i.e. to careers in spinning products and fooling consumers. They get great on-the-job training as reporters. Nor is it a coincidence that such frauds as Marx, Iris Chang (The Rape of Nanking), and Charles Hanley (The Bridge at No Gun Ri) started their careers as reporters. In my experience interacting with both reporters and politicians, the latter smell a lot cleaner.

So to me, trusting reporters (professionals infamous for inflating figures when they can do so without incurring a lawsuit) for statistics suggests poor judgment in my view.

From Page 3: “Within clusters, an attempt was made to confirm at least two reported non-infant deaths by asking to see the death certificate. Interviewers were initially reluctant to ask to see death certificates because this might have implied they did not believe the respondents, perhaps triggering violence. Thus, a compromise was reached for which interviewers would attempt to confirm at least two deaths per cluster. … Death certificates usually did not exist for infant deaths and asking for such certificates would probably inflate the fraction of respondents who could not confirm reported deaths. The death certificates were requested at the end of the interview so that respondents did not know that confirmation would be sought as they reported deaths.”

From Page 6: “In 63 of 78 (81%) of households where confirmations were attempted, respondents were able to produce the death certificate for the decedent. When households could not product the death certificate, interviewers felt in all cases that the explanation offered was reasonable – eg, the death had been very recent, the certificate was locked away and only the husband who was not home had the key. We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths.”

Amongst other things, note this: “…reluctant to ask because this might … [trigger] violence. … a compromise was reached…” and yet the claim is made that “Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths.”

So trust in the authors’ judgment becomes critical. And I have difficulty trusting the judgment of people credulous enough to trust reporters in the mass.

Furthermore, my experience living in Taiwan under martial law was that people under political stress lied like rugs. Lying becomes a basic survival skill when death can be the result of the wrong word at the wrong time. There is no freedom of speech in Iraq. Strangers come to your home and claim they’re with so-and-so agency. If you were a run of the mill Iraqi, how could you be sure? A stranger could secretly be with the CIA, Mossad, local mafia, anybody. How do you know? I would have to guess that you’re most likely going to give people what you think they want to hear.

Just getting directions in Taiwan 17 years ago was a trial because forty years of martial law made gutless wonders out of the national population. It’s much better today, but in those days just to get you out of their face, people would say literally anything. You’d get the most ludicrous directions, if people even spoke. They often ignored you or panicked and ran off. People were terrified of strangers. Is it really all that different in Iraq?

Page 4: First, the figures the study provides for post-invasion deaths due to violence:

Iraq, not including Falluja: Children under fifteen (28) Adult men (38) Adult women (5) Elderly (2)

Second, the figures for post-invasion Falluja only:
Children under fifteen (24) Adult men (25) Adult women (3) Elderly (0)

Now if innocent civilians are being killed, why is it mostly men and children who are doing the dying?

One possible answer is provided on Page 7: “Many of the Iraqis reportedly killed by US forces could have been combatants.” Worth noting is that this sentence is preceded by this paragraph: “Despite widespread Iraqi casualties, household interview data do not show evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers on the ground. To the contrary, only three of 61 incidents (5%) involved coalition soldiers (all reported to be American by the respondents) killing Iraqis with small arms fire. … In the latter two [of three] cases, American soldiers apologized to the families of the decedents for the killings, indicating a clear understanding of the adverse consequences of their use of force. The remaining 58 killings (all attributed to US forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets, or other forms of arterial weaponry.”

My next question is: what is the gender spread for children’s deaths? My guess is that it’s mostly boys who are dying. Boys in war zones often get in trouble by throwing stones and cursing the soldiers of foreign or opposition armies. They sometimes get killed for their trouble.

When our family moved to Belfast in 1971, my father was very strict about letting me out of the house after supper. The one time I snuck out and traveled a couple of blocks away, a childhood friend and I were chased by a gang of about 40 teenage hoodlums. The streets were lawless. No cops, no army, nothing. We lost them in a wooded park. If you let your kids out the door at a time of civil insurrection or war and they get killed, it’s your fault. Your kids won’t be smart enough to know any better; no more than I did at that age.

The Discussion section at the end of the study is well written and strikes me as a bona fide attempt at impartiality. Nevertheless, for the moment I remain suspicious. (And what about the 45,000 civilian peacetime deaths that were taking place every year ‘due’ to sanctions?)

Again, sign up at the Lancet and read the report for yourself if you have the time. Don’t trust me. I wouldn’t.

Biff Capp

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

6500 Codgerville (rough first draft)

"Out of the way, you rotten, stinking, road-hogging mother-scratchers!!", I yowled as I careened right-irritated past this pair of arch-fatsos, whom I took a great pleasure christening Dim and Dumb according to their floppy jowly look, their carcasses over-burdening a poor and dusty scooter, the tires flattening and the chassis rolling heavily, oh so heavily, down the littered and broken road.

But my attention was immediately back to front and center. And for good reason, for no sooner than did I place mine very eyes back on the road than I had to brake and pull a sharp left, me long-suffering back tire squealing, me long-suffering horn leaving behind a signature loud a-honking, a long angry whiny "Blaaaank" which nicely echoed me thoughts regarding their inner states of mind, this soggy-brained gaggle of after-schoolers, giggling and gaggling a-straggling across the road, without a care for themselves nor no concern for no others.

I was motorbiking down a thoroughfare across this vast smoggy boggy-smelling town. It was a big mucky choked-up artery full of scooters and bikes and scooter-bikes and cars and trucks and all the like, just minding me own business without a care in the great wide wicked world. Just visions of a pretty girlie (an ornamental as the ungrateful might call it) with a blemishless fair skin and large hoots whose headlights cheekily pointed right at me every time, encouraging and making me bold, and making me dreamy whenever, such as now, I thought to pay a naughty-naughty visit.

I was on the way to her home of concrete and plasticky chintzy vast and spacey emptiness. Most important of all, empty of her doting parents; her nasty prejudiced Ba who, feeling he couldn't have a piece of her, was fit to deny her to his betters; and her fine-feeling soft and willowy Ma, who rather spied and wanted me for herself likes. But my girlie was the only one for me, this fine and sunny smoggy afternoon.

She was my Rapunzel, peeking out of the barred windows of her concrete palace on the look out for stray young malcontents roaming the concrete jungle, letting down her hair and hauling in eccentric subversive types like Yours Truly, ultra-attractive to her young and rebellious, foolish and wanting, greedy and needy eyes.

I was thinking of her real hard and of the voluptuous damning sin we'd soon be wallowing, heaving and panting within. We'd soon be there likes, but it was quite a humdrum and lengthy distance and navigating these un-policed craggy, raggedy roads full of meandering, maundering riders prevented you from picking up and keeping up speed. My high-powered, gas-guzzling, bird-poisoning machine was being wasted on this highway full of dithering souls who was getting in the way of people, such as I, with a purpose. Obstacles was everywhere, fixed and moving, as this mob wasn't much for abiding by the civilized laws of the road and was rather more used to being hogs therein with nobody to tell them their business like and enforce it hard cop fashion.

And so, there was a lot of proactive vigilante-like denouncing from Yours Truly, esq. to the tune of: "Eh, watch it there Missus!! You ratty, scraggy flea-bag!! The sidewalk's over there if you please, you blind and batty miscreant!!"

But it was all old hat and old ways and didn't require any real attention on my part. It was absent-mindedly, second nature-like, that I dished out my warm abuse. And who was listening anyway? The road was also held up by old crones behind the wheel, peeking through the steering wheel at the outside world, and latching on with all their might when making a turn, rising out of their seat to match the trajectory of the wheel. I was never sure if they were manhandling the wheel, holding on for dear life, or just getting whole-hog into the roadway experience. And then too I was being clipped dangerous close by fast-boat filthy-richy-rich kids spurting in and out of the motor lanes in their show-offy dragsters with angel treble speakers blasting and devil bass mufflers pounding my poor innocent ears. And on top of these there where yet more nuisances: gaggles of pedestrians, streetwalkers and freebooters, collecting in clots and pile-ups at road's edge, built up a formidable back pressure like nature's jerry-rigged beaver dams holding back post-wintry rivers cum springtime. When the back-pressure got too much, from the ones to aft cramming the ones to fore, the whole herd moved like a liquid, I'm not kidding ya. It sloshed and flushed on to the roadway in great wobbly rambling mobs, like a soccer pitch mob invasion, and it was a miracle more people weren't squished senseless. Aye, twas just another day on the road, cutting trail, slashing through the bush, you might say.

On my wee wrist-rocket, I was just an atom of continence, just minding my very own business, entertaining myself with private voluptuous visions of a fine booty pointed at the moon and myself a hard angel come down with hard thoughts and aiming for the natural-born rings forming a bulls-eye around her arse guiding me to my wicked and appointed destination.

But happened. It happened all right.

"Great Bog!" I shrieked in a rising crescendo, feeling like I was likely coming up and into an unavoidable crash and dirty smash-up.

To my left was the thoroughfare gas station for this section of treacherous length. Its entrance was backed up with customers waiting for to gas-up, their bikes not shut off and creating a rising miasma of whispy blue fumes. Out the corner of my eye, looking for a spot of fine babeage, I was disappointed to note that it was mostly mamas and papas in the higglety-pigglety line that was spilling out into the unregulated road.

I was just in the process of making a graceful sweeping speeding arc to the right, to give them all a miss, a fine mocking smile of anticipation on my lips, when a barging, inconsiderate codger placed himself in harm's way.

Oblivious to the traffic on-coming and particularly to me in-coming on my wrist rocket, he himself rocketed out on his bicycle, a picture of crazed excitement. I was caught fast between the crowd to the one side and curb-parked vehicles to the left.

Mouth agape, I seized the hand-brake good and hard, but my panicky stomp on the white-metal connector to the back brake broke it. My center of gravity fell forward as my foot free-fell into empty space while the bike careened forward. I froze in an inadvertent racing position and all that was left was for physics to do its deterministic dirty work. The front wheel locked up, and soon the tire went from squealing to gripping the road, whereupon, like a soldier surprised by an officer, it suddenly pitched up straight, and Yours Truly went flying up through the nasty polluted air. Memory may deceive, but I seem to have risen into the air full of paralyzing fear but managed a bit of panache during the dangerous coming-down part of the trajectory. I still landed hard on my soft and easily bruised arse, followed poste-haste by some nasty skidding down some very hard and unforgiving pavement, leaving us with a right terrible road rash like some ultra-fierce carpet burn.

All forward motion ended now, I surveyed the damage. First I checked to be sure all of me was together in one painful piece, and that nothing, no parts, was scattered round and about. Check. Then my head. My helmet saved my noggin from sharp gravel bits. Check. But red and raggedy were my mits, bleeding slowly drip drip drip.

Everything got to being queer and quiet all of a sudden. And I got to a strange relaxing and desiring to just lay down and have a quiet snooze and not be a bother to nobody. Me vision started to pixilate and I felt vastly out of sorts. I had a premeditation of snoring right off this mortal coil and this got me to get up, or at least try to get up. Oh, friends, I was but aching something awful, having taken a rotten hard bumpety-bump. But I was OK, righty-right, as far as the doctor would have considered, had there been a quack or sawbones around. Which there wasn't and I wasn't optimistic about one or the other arriving, not any time too soon. As ever, twas was up to me to take care of myself and I.

And then a dreadful and inconsiderate honking started up behind us. No regard for the living nor half-dead I thought to myself. I turned around, achy and woozy, to denounce the perpetrator: "Put a sock in it, why don't you? You selfish slobby glob of self-centered self-interest."

He had detached himself from the pile of waiting customers and was smiling at me and beckoning me towards him. The customers were piling up now too, the old one's not wanting to leave no more. They made a growing gapey audience, excited and happy with entertainment brought right down front and center, very convenient-like. This one bright and smiling fellow, a sort of university student with a backpack and basketball sneakers, was squeezing the horn on my motorcycle to get my attention. Expecting that I couldna hack the local speech, he resorted to the universal language of the vehicle horn. That wasna too bad thinking, actually.

But then a car passed me close and slow, frightening me, as if a shark was making a pass to see if I was worth inviting to supper. I was blinking, and trying to wipe this sleepiness that wouldn't stop out of my eyes. The motorcycle and I were a sort of fresh traffic island and the cars was moving around us. People stared out with that suppressed eagerness of the ambulance chaser, feigning concern but hoping for gore.

I limped back over, still dazed a bit, to assess the damage to my transpo. I found myself wondering if I could make it to my appointed date with my ebony haired Rapunzel and then felt better realizing that now my thoughts were back with the living again.

The sight of gasoline leaking out of my bike gave me a needed panic that brought me closer to full consciousness and awareness. I was gratified that no dark gear oil, the true lifeblood, was showing. I ignored the student and pulled on the handlebars to right my heavy machine and stop the gas leakage, but found myself getting nowhere. I found an obstruction: that bloody bicycle was on top of it. I went to pick it up and fling it off. The self-appointed help didn’t bother trying to help and make himself useful. Instead he began chattering away in the local dialect, asking me nosy questions about who I was and the like.

I smiled patronizing-like, like they often like it, and turned away, pretending not to understand. Hauling on the old ratty bicycle was like hauling on a greasy dirty disgusting sewer cover. It was a heavy cruddy old single-geared model with a solid iron Victorian-like frame. And I found an old gaffer attached to it too, spread-eagle underneath, his jacket and a foot caught up in the frame. As I bent over to peer underneath, I made a face and caught my breath as I heard an awful moaning, oh oh oh, sort of whispered under-conscious like. I looked hard into the old duffer's well-earned face o' misery, but the eyes was closed and the mouth was blowing bubbles of spittle, foaming out slow like the melting of cheap ice-cream.

This was serious, I realized. Serious trouble. For me. A quick exit was necessary to rescue me from the slippery difficult details of the pre-crash scenario and from the he said/she said busy-wizness required to decide which innocent was in the right and which bastard was in the wrong. I took a quick gander around at the gathering crowd of dour bystanders and I didna see no fair and square level playing field on which to make my last stand.

I was ipso facto guilty as the day is long. I'd be given a right impartial hearing after which the crowd would devolve into a hanging posse that would run me off to my Great Reward.

As if to take me there his very self, a rough looking fatso dressed in government gear, sweaty limp button-up white shirt, blue standard-issue nylon slacks, cheap rubbery anonymous loafers holding feet in socks of a cheap and near-transparent rayon came marching over. He shouted at me, giving me the evil eye, but he was really speaking to the crowd at large, "These foreigners! These damn, furry foreigners. They're always coming over to our country and creating trouble. Stealing, hustling, strutting around like they own the place. This bastard should be flogged for what he done. I say we give it to him ourselves. Let's have some satisfaction of our own, let's give him his very well earned reward."

He marched in a circle, going no where, like some soldier on the go but without no orders. And he spoke in this martial clip; in a chop chop chop diff'rent from the wandering nasal drone of the local locals, the real and genuine indigenous happy-go-lucky mommy-worshipping locals with their heart-felt refrain: oh! the pace of life is getting too fast and oh! for the farm and the down-home hometown hoedown vittles.

And besides that peculiar citified accent of his, there was just some very fine speaking: a good solid selection of Chinese verbs and nouns launched into the air with confidence and dispatch. That wasn't a local talent neither. He wasn't born of no local parents. No. He was second generation Mainlander, and had that second-generation pride and paranoia. He wasn't in the mood for no other foreign usurpers neither, which is what he seemed to be saying to Yours Truly underneath the patriotic, crowd-working, animal-stirring verbiage.

But I wasn't going to take this insolence sitting down or I'd be paying for it, at best, with a hazing and a one-way ticket to Hong Kong with no chance of return. I came back at him with a wobble in me legs and a slight stammer: "Oh, good friends and acquaintances, ladies and gentlemen, it's all a simple misunderstanding, yes? No more than an innocent road accident, my brothers, yes?"

But unbeknownst to me, I was back on my natural-born winning streak again already. Nothing to worry about. Speaking in Mandarin often works wonders, and now was no exception.

For the crowd was taken aback by my fluent pathetic pleading. They were shocked and afeared: like savages having their photograph taken and souls stolen; I knew too much. I had entered the inner sanctum. I was on to them.

And, hope against hope, I was blessed with an even brighter miracle, for out came this pipsqueak noise from another busybody with a raging will-to-power. From somewhere inside the crowd I heard, "Down with the imperialist! Down with the white terrorist." I spotted the culprit. It was a drab and monkeyish looking woman, with spindly legs in grubby blue jeans and long drooping sallow arms. She had a lined and dirty face but, mysteriously, there was the quickness of youth about her. And by gum, she was putting the fear of Great Old Bog, praise be his name, very much into Yours Truly. She was foaming at the mouth and it looked infectious: "Down with American hegemony and adventurism. Strike down this capitalist-roader and running dog. This sexual deviant, this foreign seducer, this devil demon in devil flesh."

There was a silence, where I had feared an echo chamber. I was froze, terrified. The end was nigh. I twitched my eyes back and forth. My shoulders was lifted up high like for protection and I was too scared to move my noggin; like, if I didna move, maybe everyone else would forget to move too.

And then this old gentleman, a hard-driven deeply tanned country bumpkin but jumped up and outfitted in a tartan jacket and spiffy leather lace-ups, offered his fifty-cents worth. He wouldn't have looked any odder if he'd been wearing a turban with that fine haberdashery stuff.

He said, "Fuck!" Not too loud, but it was real, real quiet.

That was it. All she wrote. He said no more. But that was enough for me. I followed his lead.

In a faux sympathetic tone, the only tone of sympathy I'm well acquainted with, I inquired of the drab banshee, "Begging your pardon madam. Would you be, perhaps, if it not be too impertinent to ask, from across, like, the pond may be?"

This was enough to set things in a very new and convenient motion. The elderly gentlemen in the golf jacket now jabbed her in the shoulder right rude-like and asked, or should I say accused, "You're from mainland China, eh? Another illegal alien, stealing our jobs, when not stealing our purses and thieving our wallets and breaking into our homes and cutting our throats. You nasty vicious bastards, setting fires across the nation. Professional arsonists and criminal types to the last you are. Communist spies! You mother sons of bitches killed my brother forty years ago!"

A rumbling, a sort of incoherent "Aye!" came up from the wobbly not terribly motivated crowd, and I realized it wasn't a mob and more like a studio audience, but with better air. The skinny pathetic girl noted the change in the winds of political fashion and began to move away. "No! no!" She shouted fiercely, but like a shyster under pressure looking for a useful technicality, "I'm married to my husband. My bastard husband. Emm.... He's from Taiwan, right?"

An indignant housewife, by the look of her blossoming tummy and dated fashion statement, spoke up sharply, "They all say that. From where? Where he's from. Which township? Be specific."

The political activist cringed, shrinking. The housewife badgered her: "C'mon! Speak up!"

Enough was enough. The illegal alien made a run for it. Odds were in her favor. She'd probably had plenty of practice and was in good shape running from country to country, party to party, sect to sect, movement to movement, frenzy to frenzy.

She scampered off, pulling into a full sprint, shrieking and leaping magnificently, navigating the gas station like a gazelle, scaring people into thinking she was a desperado, a demon and foreign devil in her own right, capable of carnage and cannibalism. She disappeared into the leafy woods of the downtown Forest Park to our left.

I tried to hold back a smile, and get back to business at hand. My second-generation mainlander fatso stood ramrod straight and angry. But his moment, his hoped for fifteen minutes in the sun, were over. The crowd was a sympathetic, for I was like them now, a member of an oppressed minority.

So I backed up, smiling, on the alert for more busybodies to come out of the woodwork. I requisitioned the do-gooder student to serve as my psychic human shield. I took him by the upper arm and he didn’t protest. Squiring him about, he was happy to help, to be a part of the main action, to appear larger than life for the moment.

We were in the midst of moving the burbling codger when the student protested, "Wait a minute. Shouldn’t we wait for an ambulance? They'll know what to do."

"I already know what to do. Rescue the old fart before he suffocates.” And as I rushed to move the bike on me own, I howled, “Oof, this bike weighs a ton.” And then “Look!" I said, tugging on the frame, "It's crushing him. We have to do something now." I put on my best facsimile smile, drawing my lips back to my back teeth a trick from working as a bit model hawking dubious products. It was a sneak alright, but I needed collegiality and a sympathy trip to get any action out of him. There’s nothing like the rise you get from being on the right side of a tragedy.

So we got to the heavy work of untangling the old fellah from his own bike, and then pulled it off my motorcycle. I took a look around, turning into the setting sun with a fierce smile, hoping my pearly whites would impress the passive crowd with my bona fides.

Speaking of the crowd, I noted that it was still gathering in size. I felt vastly more comfortable with the politically correct appearance of a local boy lending assistance and propriety to the scene. Otherwise it might seem that Yours Truly was flailing through the wreckage only to make a quick getaway.

In fact, I was just getting ready to issue an excuse such as “I’ll ride off and fetch an ambulance. Be right back, eh?,” that would allow me to get on my motorcycle and ride into the anonymous sunset when this old Grandmama in knee breeches and a North Korean hairdo came out howling and screeching, calling on Great Bog in his heaven, beseeching the great Drowner and Downer of mankind for a just revenge.

This was very awkward.

I decided not to understand. I moved into a new role as stoic: manufacturing the stiff-upper-lipped manner expected of the gallant dumb White Hollywood Hope. Everything was theater and had to be.

If it was going to be my act against hers, I might most certainly lose. I had logic, but she had waterworks, real tear-jerking crowd-moving waterworks. I opted to go into the role of American Big Brother, the ultra-patriot keeping Free China free. But this required that I keep my big and blathering gabby mouth unnaturally shut. In part because Uncle Sam wasn’t expected to speak the local lingo, and in part because I feared I might shite it with the wrong word, which might explode the spell and expose me for being just another flesh and blood atom of self-interest.

She grabbed and snatched at my arms, my clothes. I said in English, “There, there, you poor, poor wretch.” I opened my arms to embrace her, which would be a real crowd-pleaser if I could manage it. And perhaps I could give her a wrestler’s squeeze, a sleeper or something that would warn her not to take the game to far or else it would be curtains…

But she was cagey and wouldna let me do it. She played shamelessly to the gallery, railed at Yours Truly with her weak and scrawny hands high in the air, as if trying to give Bog a high five. She shrieked at the unfairness of it all, but seemed too pressed for time to check and see if hubby was okay. Now I recognized her as a virtuoso with weapons of mass deception. She wanted to suck up the goodwill of the crowd and then sick them on me like a robins squabbling over a worm, yanking it apart in a tug of war until the innards drooped out. She wanted what’s known in the shyster trade as R&R: revenge and restitution.

I pulled the Good Samaritan over to the end whispered in his ear in Chinese, "You’ve got to help me out here. She’s deranged, lost it. I'm just an innocent, who wouldn't cause nobody no harm for no good reason."

But he pulled back and looked me in the eye: "But you crashed into the old man and his bicycle, right?"

"But it wasna on purpose. Emm… It was more like he zoomed greedily to get across the road and invaded my lawful spot on the busy thoroughfare. I didn’t crash into him. I hardly even saw him. Emm…. It’s more like, eh, my 100kg motorcycle was on a trajectory which he chose to intercept. He engaged me. No. Emm… He crashed into me. That’s it! That’s what I’m saying."

In earnest he said, "He hit the front of your bike with the side of his bike. That’s what you mean?”

“No. Well sort of. But, well, you know what I mean…”

I thought he saw through me, but then he said, “It doesn’t matter how you crashed, the fault is still half yours."

I was shocked: "It's not half mine, mate! It's all bloody his! He didn't look before crossing the road. That's one of the favorite habits of people in this country, old uppity gaffers in particular that is,” which I said trying not to annoy his younger self. “They can’t be fucked…pardon my French… to look before crossing the road. Like it’s everyone else’s responsibility to look out for them, take care of them, baby them, respect them, privilege them. It’s not fair and it’s not right. They’re human, just like the rest of us."

But he wasn’t. Not really. He just kept unblinking, staring straight ahead with the clear and rooted expression of the true believer, the old self-satisfied convert. He nattered: "But they’re our reverend elders. You should be careful. It's your fault for not being careful enough.”

I knew I’d seen this before somewhere. Yes, many at time, now that I thought about it. Yes, yes. This psychotic adherence to ideology that sprung out of a profound sort of ignorance and an impersonal incuriosity that ensured he’d never learn nothing that didn’t fit his preconceptions. I was making no impression and never would. It gave me the creeps reappraising him and realizing he was a flesh robot, a sort of early release beta-edition of what artificial intelligence will be like when it first hits the market. As is so often the case, the future was now; no, it had always been with us. It scared me to think how primitive things would be for a long time to come.

I was on the verge of giving up, going in for a scream and shriek, and making a run for the Forest Park myself when he said, “Besides, you were driving the bigger vehicle and in this country the bigger vehicle is, legally speaking, always at fault."

Finally, something I could work with that was outside of his circular logic lunacy. It still wasn't looking good, though, for what he said was true enough. But it was encouraging in some way.

And then I felt something strike me, and shoe settled in front of me. I looked up to find the vandal culprit, grandmamma. She wasn’t very strong. Or maybe just not trying. Her heart wasn’t in it. If she even had a heart anymore. I looked over at Grandpa, who was still lying on the pavement, heaving like a long-beached fish with only its reflexes moving its gills.

She was sitting down in the road now, making herself small and weepy and underdog-like. She was shedding bits and pieces of clothing to throw pathetically at me; a sort of pathetic non-violent violence; a sort of modern lawsuit-fearing edition of a stoning.

I was impatient nonetheless, for the damage was real, if psychic, in this battle for the hearts and minds of the crowd. I said in my best patrician tone, "Now you just stop with that right now. You poor, poor dear." I wanted to step on her, but didn’t dare.

Grandma was slowly winning the home crowd and I was busy working on a new set of tactics when finally the inevitable siren came into earshot. I’d been hoping to avoid cops, but now, for one of the first times in my life, I was happy that the coppers were getting here.

The police officer arrived, pulling up smartly and parking in the typical cop fashion: any old way he pleased. He stepped down from his smart-looking BMW cop bike. He was a good six foot tall and proud of it, standing ram-rod straight and stiff-legged, making the most of his height and making sure we all noticed. Furthering the true blue mafia feel was his Nazi gay cruising bar haberdashery of black leather, black gun, and black knee-rider boots all in pristine, unused unworn shape. He cut an imposing figure and was the picture of fiat authority.

I felt in the company of fellow member of the elite. We could talk as members of the same club, inhaling the same rarified uppity air.

But it all fell apart when he started to move. Instead of a Swiss goose-step or a Thai cop big-bellied swinging-dick strut, his rigid posture fell to pieces once he moved. He had that curious local baby walk, which has all the mystery of a deftly executed hip-hop move, leaving the audience with the distinct impression that the walker’s legs don’t quite reach the ground.

He walked over circumspectly to the scene of the damage, lifted an eyebrow at the sight of the old man foaming and still unattended and then flumped it back to his motorbike. He picked up the handset. "This is 915, over. I need backup here at the Forest Park gas station, east lane."

The reply came over snapping and popping but clear, "Roger 915. This here’s 437. We’ll have to negative that request, over." And there was a sound of plates banging and people chattering in the crackling background.

The cop winced and pleaded: "Oh come on guys. I was just about to go to lunch. I don't have time for this shit. I've got some serious munchies."

"Sorry 915, our entrees are on the table. Hot and steamy and looking good. We ain't going but nowhere, over.” The sound of laughter ended in a squelch.

“Don’t leave me here on this one. I need backup damn it!”

“In your ear, 915.” More guffaws. “You're on your own, buddy. Over and out." This was followed by somebody in the background sharply belching and another squeal of squelch ended the conversation.

I felt heartened by this cavalier irresponsibility, this publicly expressed effrontery, this unabashed absence of civil service spirit in the face of the tax-payers who were footing his salary. He and I were elevated brothers in kind, fellow feeders at a trough higher up in the food chain. He wouldn’t be what I most feared: jealous of Yours Truly and infected with an envy that would have him hectoring and hauling me roughly into a paddy-wagon for rough treatment at destinations unknown.

He rolled his eyes while flumping over to me and the good Samaritan; peeling off his gloves as is the way when needing time to gather one's thoughts prior to a spot of unpleasant business. He looked askance at the both of us, and not wanting to embarrass himself speaking shoddy busted-up and accented English, he barked at the good Samaritan: "What happened here? What did you do?"

I was delighted. I silently thanked Bog, the merciful, all praise be his name.

I entered the discussion, giddily placing myself in the position of generously reprieving the Good Samaritan and volunteering myself as faux-scapegoat. I was the picture of selfless self-sacrifice and scored many valuable points in so doing.
I already thinking that I could soon be on my way, when a mid-thirties couple rushed over from same side street that gramps had raced out of.

"Good grief!” the woman shrieked. Getting up, she marched over the police officer and asked officiously: “What happened to my father?" I turned expecting to see her husband, but he remained kneeling by their father, attending to him with care. Grandma was getting herself up, fussing and bothering in a last plea for unearned attention, but I sensed that her part in the show was coming to a close.

I looked to my watch but banished the emerging prurient thoughts. I turned to look at the forest park, to calm myself; to best prepare myself for the worst and to meet whatever happened head on.

I always found gazing at the pale and tepid setting sun to be calming; especially these days, as it was an anemic shadow of its former mutant glory when the nation's air was an industrial dumping ground producing unearthly blushing neon colors against a thick unnatural sky.

The husband was beside us when I looked back. He and she were white collar yuppies: he in an off-the-rack grey sharkskin suit and white sneakers; she in thick yellow tights, a buttercup skirt, and prim nurse’s loafers. They both looked at the good Samaritan with hard faces. Rescued again, I thought. The local prejudice indicated that I was most likely the Good Samaritan.

The cop lazily put his hand up and yawned, pointing to me with his other hand and spoke in a muffled and half-eaten voice: "Apparently the smashup was an accident, the perpetrator is the foreigner here."

"Yes," I said in Mandarin, facing them both, and then, while giving the wife a slight bow, "At your service, madam."

"The foreigner?" The husband asked the policeman brightly, but he was really speaking to me.

This was the perfect time for me to show some initiative. I said, "I cannot tell a lie. It was his fault," pointing at their father. "I was just driving down the road, minding my own business, keeping a safe distance, abiding by all the rules and regulations as a guest in-country should, when all of a sudden..."

I was rudely interrupted, by a hand placed on my arm. I jumped and my delivery got caught squeaking in my throat. I grit my teeth and winced, preparing myself for a slap, when the wife interrupted my concentration with, "Why, you speak marvelous Chinese. Where are you from?"

Like I was struck with a stone, I was flabbergasted and at a loss of words for seconds. Not only was my spiel interrupted but my train of thought entirely derailed. "Pardon, mum?" I eventually managed.

"Your country of origin. Your provenance. Where are you from young man?"

I brightened, no longer doubting what I was hearing: "Yes, well, in that case, from a bunch of places I gather, I guess." Wagering that the smallest white bread country was best (combining the fashionable First World with the cutesy associations people form with smaller distant countries incapable of threatening their own). I said, "Well, emm…. I suppose, eh, Scotland?"

I was in a hungry rush to say more but was interrupted again and prevented from saying anything that might interrupt the fantasy blossoming in front of me, "Wow! Really! You don't say?"

And then she moved on to what she really wanted to say which was "Why, it's not often that one has an opportunity to speak to foreigners who speak Chinese." Though this sounded like simple praise for the language aptitude of Yours Truly, it was an ambidextrous praise for it suggested that the Chinese people had a language worth mastering, a culture worth aping, and a status worth propitiating.

"And isn't Scotland also striving for independence from England?” I nodded meekly, bending over obsequiously, pointing my arse at the early evening stars. “Yes, yes” she said in breathy voice, “I thought so. Oh, yes, we have so much in common, doesn’t he husband?”

He also chimed in with, “It’s most marvelous how much of our culture you’ve managed to soak up. Why you must join us for some tea."

I tried to fend them off, but lacked a way to do so graciously. I looked around for inspiration, and saw the grandmother pouting in the middle of the road. I looked back and the married couple were still making pie-eyes at me. I said, “I don’t mean to be rude, you being so gracious and all, but um, well, but I’ve got to be going you see… er…”

The husband replied, “Now don’t be silly. We need to take care of this minor unpleasantness first. Excuse us, really, eh, Grandad’s always mucking about, you know. The elderly, second-childhood and all that, don’t you know. Wait here a bit, won’t you?” He went off to check on granddad again.

I heard him calling in an ambulance, at which point the crowd started shuffling off, the show over and now everyone humming and mumbling, Monday morning quarterbacking. In the interim, the wife got friendly, touchy-feely, gripping the white ghost before her to be sure he was real. She was a second generation Mainlander too, but more self-assured and masculine than the barking fatso. She held my upper arm in a firm, fleshy grasp. The husband returned at this point, and followed her initiative by holding onto my hand.

I was caught, firm and snug in their fond embrace; like graduates of the same uppity private college recognizing the old school tie. They chattered and chattered at me, praising me and thus, by corollary, praising themselves.

We remained in the middle of the road, not moving the bike and grandpa, the rest of the world be damned.

The Good Samaritan, whom I now recognized as more of a Simple Simon was left out of the festivities, eclipsed by the main actors. He sidled over now with a pleading look, trying to make me feel guilty and edge his way in. He pulled at my other arm like a small child to a parent, but I gave him a smart: "Shove off, you!" and gave my best embarrassed ‘you got me’ face to the couple.

The cop sat with a look of disgust on his motorcycle, waiting for the ambulance. He was back to being an Asian Adonis, when not in ambulant motion.

Simple Simon did as he was told and cleared out. Now I was left gabbling privately and pleasantly with the couple, traffic weaving around us, occupants wondering, just like myself, just what the hell was going on here.

In the end, I escaped with a promise to pay half the cost of the ambulance fee. I thanked them sincerely, offered my condolences, and gave them a bogus contact number. I was only acting in character. They mistook me for a fellow as highly risen and well-born as they, when in fact I was a fallen angel, driven out of the First World and living on borrowed time in the developing world.

They could have hided me for what I done, and it was a miracle they didn’t. Now, I sort of wish they did. It would have done me a world of good and helped me get back to where I belonged.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Found something in modern fiction to work with; something with humor plainly stated, with the required sadism not dodged. Note the constant will to power in the passage below. There's a constant dialogue which, when placed in a ruder vernacular for effect, more or less comes to: who's fucking with me? Are you fucking with me? Oh yeah? Well I'll fuck you back. Rather than the passive loser preferred by pious right-thinkers, what we have is the can-do paranoiac, the entrepreneurial hero of the success story.

This is from Paul Theroux's Picture Palace. The speaker is an elderly woman recovering from a recent heart attack:

Sadness is ramshackle, but mourning is formal, such a buttoned-up ritual of shuffling and whispers that I wished on arrival that I hadn't cabled Frank about my spot of bother at the Ritz. Wheeled from a little plane across the Hyannis runway looking towards the terminal with its silly WELCOME sign, I saw ten of the gloomiest creatures I had ever laid eyes on. I felt like a latecomer to my own funeral, and it struck me that at my advanced age every acquaintance is a prospective mourner. They're sticking around to bury you. That's their secret; but you're not supposed to know.

The irritating aspect of a mourner is the look of satisfaction. He is not ghoulish enough to be glad, just bursting with relief -- that weird self-congratulation over being spared. They had warned me that I might snuff it, but a warning is the cheapest form of abuse: it was still ringing in my ears. And their expressions proved it.
I told you so is one of the most gleeful expressions in the language, and yet no one actually says it in so many words. It is a cautioning wobble of the head, a suppressed smirk, the fish-lips of reproof and a hectoring silence.

Or look at Mark Twain in the following excerpt from Roughing It, his best book in my opinion. What we have here essentially is just a description of a power structure by another can-do paranoiac.

The right proportion of paranoia is enormously important. Too little makes a person complacent and a failure in modern society, though it goes a long way to enhancing one's understanding of the Third World and it's popular lunacies; too much makes a person devoted to conspiracy theories, craving them like an addict for excitement, like an attention-deficited cult devotee constantly on the wing for new sources of spiritual fulfilment. But just the right amount helps makes a person self-aware, well-mannered, ingratiating and eager to please, observant, penetrating, and knowing and in the end pushes one to be decisive, wise, experienced, a vocal connoisseur and potentially even a virtuoso of something or other. Pervasively infecting the modern proletariat, it's much of what's behind the workaday, workaholic ethos at the leading edge of the First World.

That's today's theory in a nutshell. Either way, this is Twain:

We jumped out in undress uniform. The driver tossed his gathered reins out on the ground, gaped and stretched complacently, drew off his heavy buckskin gloves with great deliberation and insufferable dignity -- taking not the slightest notice of a dozen solicitous inquires after his health, and humbly facetious and flattering accostings, and obsequious tenders of service, from five or six hairy and half-civilized station-keepers and hostlers who were nimbly unhitching our steeds and bringing the fresh team out of the stables -- for in the eyes of the stage-driver of that day, station-keepers and hostlers were a sort of good enough low creatures, useful in their place, and helping to make up a world, but not the kind of beings which a person of distinction could afford to concern himself with; while, on the contrary, in the eyes of the station-keeper and the hostler, the stage-driver was a hero -- a great and shining dignitary, the world's favorite son, the envy of the people, the observed of the nations. When they spoke to him they received his insolent silence meekly, and as being the natural and proper conduct of so great a man; when he opened his lips they all hung on his words with admiration (he never honored a particular individual with a remark, but addressed it with a broad generality to the horses, the stables, the surrounding country and the human underlings); when he discharged a facetious insulting personality at a hostler, that hostler was happy for the day; when he uttered his one jest -- old as the hills, coarse, profane, witless, and inflicted on the same audience, in the same language, every time his coach drove up there -- the varlets roared, and slapped their thighs, and swore it was the best thing they'd ever heard in all their lives. And how they would fly around when he wanted a basin of water, a gourd of the same, or a light for his pipe! -- but they would instantly insult a passenger if he so far forgot himself as to crave a favor at their hands. They could do that sort of insolence as well as the driver they copied it from -- for, let it be borne in mind, the overland driver had but little less contempt for his passengers than he had for his hostlers.

The hostlers and station-keepers treated the really powerful conductor of the coach merely with the best of what was their idea of civility, but the driver was the only being they bowed down to and worshipped. How admiringly they would gaze up at him in his high seat as he gloved himself with lingering deliberation, while some happy hostler held the bunch of reins aloft, and waited patiently for him to take it! And how they would bombard him with glorifying ejaculations as he cracked his long whip and went careering away.
Is this humor? Or is this just a plain statement of the facts from the mouth of a closet sadist? And what's the difference anyway? Damned if I know.
Back to work, I mean reading,
Biff Cappuccino...

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Will be reading fiction for the next several days, or as long as I can stand it. Did 30 pages of a Jake Page anthropological thriller this afternoon and had to reach for the oxygen. 70 pages into a Carl Sagan sci-fi thriller and am already spending more time watching the backs of my eyelids...
The absence of humor is perhaps the most trying aspect. Humor is inseparable from sadism and the latter is a no-no in our post-Shelley age of compassion with its competing cults of victimhood and the tedious brainwashing that constitutes K-12 public education.
Honesty is never popular. Today's model writer is sensitive, feels our pain, walks in our shoes. And is expected to emerge from congress with us informed, enlightened, and sympathetic. But you and I know he must look down on us if he is worth his salt. How can anybody study up and write on a subject and not emerge feeling uppity, particularly given the social mammal will-to-power that we're all born with? The short answer is he can't. Nor should he be expected to. He should be expected to cackle and guffaw from time to time. We should be ready to be on the receiving end, keeping a stiff upper lip and not devolving into bleats of that most ignoble of socialite defenses: "I'm offended."
Surely it would be a sign of health were there to be more of this: Naipaul's reply to a reporter's query about the meaning of the Hindu red dot on the forehead, "It means, 'I have no brain.'" Surely this is a natural response, as is the laughter of the superior-minded Hindu at the world's simple-minded monotheists.
There's little more snooze-inducing than a writer's submission to the belief that the only acceptable expression of superiority is piety: the politically correct profession that one is more equal than the rest.
But better to honestly horse-laugh with the sinners than cry with the posturing saints. As a natural-born oppressor why fight my inner imperialist? And look who survives from the Victorian era when one thinks of the theatre: Oscar Wilde, Gilbert & Sullivan, George Bernard Shaw. All comedians. Famous American writers? Twain is surely the most famous of all. Another comedian. My preferred writer above all others, Mencken, is yet another comedian, yet another misanthrope snorting at the herd, stirring up the animals, and paying the bills through the guise of parody...
My destiny as a writer, successful or failed, seems writ in the stars...
But, first, just to be sure, back to the best selling platitudes and snoring pedestrian details of the lives unimaginatively lived and imagined and set down in print by a few more of homo blank's best-selling writers. What awful stuff!
Biff Cappuccino

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Politics of Resentment (not even the first draft - incomplete)

Students from Third World countries study in First World countries, return to their home country and start spouting Marxist or resentment rhetoric about the unfairness of Western colonialism, free trade, US hegemony, etc. Naturally, the unfairness claim is a giveaway as nothing is nor can be fair. But of greater forensic interest is the psychology of these performers, their masks, and how their faces grow to fit them.

[Ressentiment’s] characteristic emotion is a kind of retributive vengefulness toward whichever class or race or cultural tradition impairs one's self-esteem; and its characteristic political expression consists of policies which satisfy no economic rationale but exist almost entirely to satisfy a need for revenge. - Roger Sandall

The above doesn’t satisfy me though: too condensed and it's missing a couple of stages. The article from which it came is very interesting, but much of what he writes in his own words appears borrowed from others. Which isn't even a misdemeanor in the writing world, but there’s often a lack of articulateness when you parrot the work of others, as the original context ain’t there and as the logic train often moves out of synch with your own, making it hard to digest and reproduce without sounding oddly syncopated. It’s best when possible to keep the conclusions of others in mind, while arriving at them on your own. This reinvents the wheel, so to speak, but now it’s your wheel and you understand it inside and out, where it came from and how to use it to get to other destinations.

So I rework Sandall’s sentence above and expand it as follows in the next three paragraphs:

Picture yourself as a bright young go-getter with a will to power but dismayed on finding onself competing in the job and glamour markets against elder men possessing vastly superior experience, professional knowledge, and learning. How does one win? With talent and elbow grease, one can quickly compete against all three of the oldster’s strengths and with a minimum of social skills be welcomed into their rarified lair. Without talent, one is faced with the dispiriting prospect of decades of spade and shovel work to construct an air of respectable authority.

But…what if…could it be…yes? Ah-hah! What if one competes on moral grounds? With a pocket full of pieties, one can achieve a respectable state of grace within 30 seconds. Presto! Gone is the requirement of decades of full living, career accomplishments, and the midnight study lamp. Voila! A gallant clearing away of the ghastly scheme and a noble disposal of its inconvenient and unfashionable traditions; like tossing so many spent gang-bangers into the dumpster of history. Never again the rigged match! Never again is the hopeful visionary, pockets incommoded with positive-think and heavy ideals, heaved unconscionably into the ring for combat against sinister smelly old duffers approaching their shelf-lives. Hooray! Hurrah! Huzzah! The game is moved to a new venue, the infinitely fair 'level playing field', and suddenly the prospect of a new and very public Circus Maximus beckons.

Adopt a pious countenance and publicly j’accuse the aging athletes of mercantile immorality or political infidelity. Sell it to the hopeful, downtrodden, and envious masses; which, after all, ain’t hard as they’re always ready for a new moral combat having been weaned on them by the indigenous yellow press and television.

But it’s not always this simple.

Here in Taiwan, locals complain about the arrogance of foreigners strutting the streets like great swinging dicks. It’s a universal theme that homo sapiens is the center of his own attention with ego in orbit. And thus it is often somewhat of a revelation when locals learn that this aggressive body language is not aimed at them at all, but at other foreigners.

After all, we foreigners from North America come from much more competitive societies where we are challenged on many more fronts and much more often than the locals. As a North American male, you are required to the proficient at a broader range of tasks and able to explain them to others. The locals, as a rule, are much more conservative and deliberately narrow-minded; it is no accident but instead rather by design that they are competent with only a small array of tasks. It is, I presume, however by accident that they are generally incompetent at explaining any of these tasks to anyone else; this being a society where people very rarely talk to each other, abhorring intimacy and vastly preferring the security of speaking at one other. Given the present North American era of Confession, this lobbing of words at one another from a safe psychic distance is one of the key curiosities of contemporary traditional Chinese culture.

I mention the body language of strutting foreigners because so much of language, whether spoken or body, is employed not only to preempt violence (a sort of unspoken don’t fuck with me to prevent spitting, eye-gouging, shin-hacking, and shit-kicking. Chickens peck and dogs nip. Humans get on their high-horse, work sympathy trips, swear that their uncle is bigger and badder than yours. Of course language is used to advance one’s competitive interests across the board. As with all social mammals we’re pretty much usually happy to advance our interests by hook or by crook, with language just another weapon of choice, though the frontal assault or stab-in-the-back most preferred by the articulate of course.

In other words, the educated person returned from a rich country abroad, outfitted with an education but finding an ineradicable blank where talent might otherwise lay, returns to the home country and unluckily finds that his academic or professional knowledge has little utility there. Lacking creative talent or executive ability, and thus possessed of little confidence in his ability to be a maverick and kiss the original culture goodbye and make one’s own way, he instead looks around and check out his options in the mainstream (i.e. Third World, i.e. medieval) culture and endeavors to make a go of it.

A person returned with a First World education is something like a hunter trained in using shooting irons but finding, on returning to his hunting and gathering culture, that there’s no access to gunpowder. What to do when faced with a technology of bows, arrows, and spears. Pick up tribal ways again? Not likely. You feel special -- you are in fact special -- and you want privilege, as we all do. You have a will to power and you wish to become a leading member of the tribe. Therefore, given your limited abilities, rather than make yourself useful and improve upon local hunting practices, you throw it all over for a short-cut, a get rich quick scheme: you return to the world of words, your specialty and your training, and start working up and rehearsing a few rhetorical monkeyshines to become the sorcerer, the shaman, the Prophet.

Again, it seems to me that invoking the politics of resentment or Marxism or whatever, is essentially pathological: these actors have the universal will to power, but an absence of talent and honor. Again, how do you move forward, achieve your ambitions, if you do not have the connections or worldly knowledge required to make the fortune business and similarly lack a talent for either developing or implementing ideas? Ergo, you look around for somebody who has already generated a set of ideas useful to an ambitious mediocrity such as oneself. You look around you for a political calculus or ideology which endeavors to raise the pathetic, the failures, and incompetents.

In a more religious era, Christianity did the job. It offered ready-made guilt trips, moral stories, magic and conspiracy theories which predestined the meek to inherit the earth; even socialist schemes such as ending money-lending and feeding the masses with a handful of loaves and fishes (Mao tried that one in The Great Leap Forward). It was the wonder of a Dark Ages which lasted around 1000 years, during which ignorance truly was bliss for Christendom’s state sanctioned predators. Today we have the secular edition: Marxism (food for thought) and postcolonial reparations (putting food on the table).

Economic oppression or historical grievance as an explanation for Third World intellectuals who take the Marxist line or the resentment line never persuaded me. I’ve lived in too many thriving colonies to buy that one. And besides, serial stupidity is clearly a product of some pathology of the intellect. Nations starving for decades don’t suffer from bad history but from bad indigenous culture. When it comes to individuals, a pathology may grow out of personality (sibling order, chemistry), it may have to do with bad information (religion or ideology), but either way and for whatever reason, there is most definitely a pathology at the heart of this rotten apple.

We've all known people who get things wrong time after time. We all know people who screw up and never seem to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes these people are ourselves at a particular stage of our lives when we're in denial, are too proud to learn from someone else, or are too proud to admit our mistakes to ourselves. Either way, and for whatever reasons, there are people who elect for a can-do approach and there are people who propagate excuses for their failures. Two different types of people, and generally two different mentalities.

+++ Stuff to fill out: Talk about the appeal of the underdog. Via supporting other underdogs, oneself, also an underdog because under-lucky & under-talented & under-successful, one intends to generate sympathy and support for underdogs and thereby assist oneself get a leg up.

Consider using that web page from the BBC one the country of Benin and demonstrate the invasions and gaps and deliberate spinning or falsifying of history.

The case of Uruguay, which, after long experience of democratic rule, almost willfully reenlisted in the ranks of "Colonia," was even more extreme. At the time of Naipaul's visit to Montevideo in the early 1970's, out of a workforce of just over a million, 250,000 were in government employ. The telephone department alone had forty-five grades of civil servant, and although the business it did was lamentably slow,

“The public, scattered among the messengers and the police dogs of the foyer, is uncomplaining: many of them are civil servants from other departments, with time on their hands. ... The padding of the civil service, which began thirty years ago, in the time of wealth, disguises unemployment and urban purposelessness. Everyone knows this, but too many people benefit: the whole state has been led into this conspiracy against itself.

As life in this penniless wonderland slipped further and further into paralyzed incapability, many Uruguayans consoled themselves by denying the value of what could no longer be accomplished. Modernity could not be achieved internally: the level of science and technology was too low. Nor could it be bought externally: there was now no money to buy it. It therefore followed that the entire direction in which the modern world was moving had to be disavowed, discredited, dismissed: "We won't progress. What's progress, though? America? That's consuming and stressing, keeping up with the Joneses. We don't have that kind of shit here, if you pardon the expression."
- Roger Sandall with V.S. Naipaul inside the quotes

As usual, this will be finished tomorrow…maybe…(I should be writing fiction)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Review of Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties -- by Peter Collier and David Horowitz
Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel - Anonymous
This book contrasts well with Paul Johnson's Intellectuals, and both are highly recommended. Johnson lays down a history of mostly European left-wing intellectuals and the hype, intellectual dishonesty, and rhetoric employed either to maximize opportunities for spare change; or to co-opt well-meaning folks looking for a safe cause to wrestle and the opportunity to ride herd with the downtrodden and oppressed, poke their busybody noses into their business and otherwise have an excuse to themselves downtread and oppress them. In other words, the typical left-liberal power-grab: cloaking oneself in the Messiah complex, liberating one's ego and libido, and going for broke while the going's good.

Destructive Generation offers telling anecdote-filled histories of the germination and flowering of several United States West Coast radicals and radical groups during the 1960s. Interestingly, rather than show the European or East Indian facility for generating lush personalized worldviews complete with ideologies, mantras, and sacraments, the more natural West Coast tribe proves a blank in this regard.
Indeed, West Coast leading radicals prove to be no more than a herd of West Coast avant-garde followers, filching ideas from Marx and French Marxist thinkers and then setting up what George Orwell called smelly little orthodoxies. In other words, more proof positive that they were followers by instinct and intensely conservative, and thus mental blanks through and through.

As if more proof were needed, these ideologues, though they themselves proved very adept with getting their minds around nonsense and swallowing it whole-hog and wholeheartedly, and though finding that parroting was an underrated talent, discovered unluckily that proselytizing and otherwise seducing the intellects of others was something that God hadn't cut them out for. As a result of this congenital incompetence, rather than pursue the doomed cause of spreading the Good News, worrying up apostates, and calming them down with conversion to the Cause, they found themselves forced to adopt somewhat more primitive means and adapting themselves to the virtues of the short-cut: i.e. murder, extortion, bombings, and, climbing further back up the tree, fashion statements, sexual politics, talking points, college yells, and fighting words. In other words, retrograde methods; but methods which happily worked eminently well in the zeitgeist of the age: the junior high school playground and gang banger crowd.
As a dissatisfied youth living in the sticks, I occasionally wondered fondly about growing up in the 1960s, an age of free spirits and free-think. Now better acquainted with the glorious epoch, its wonders and wizards, it seems so tediously familiar and holds no more yesteryear attraction than another night with the homeless in a shelter on a slab of cardboard. Been there, done that.

This book also bulwarks my early suspicion that left-wingers are primarily educated conspiracy-theorists with an overdeveloped will to power and a lack of ideational talent. Life is indeed a comedy for those who think and who can put cause and effect together in an non-judgemental non-moralizing manner; an enlightened can-do contrast to the permanently angry academic left-winger who can't understand why noone listens and views folly without understanding and who only knows with his heart that it's tragic and that those wiseacres who laugh are insensitive and morally unsound.

Left-wing thinkers (and not their attendent herds of groupies) are seemingly without exception hustlers. Rousseau, Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Foucault, Noam Chomsky and so forth: clowns with limited talents but overloaded by Providence with a great ambition to distinguish themselves from their fellow equals and who perforce take to a surreptitious cloaking of themselves in the mantle of the Immortal Prophet, cut-and-paste out of hand-me-downs from Moses, Proudhon, and Orwell their own Revelation and Gospel, and then spit on their hands and get down to the shovel and spade work of the lecture tour and the nicer work of engineering movements and deploying the accompanying mobs of fans.

Chapter 1 of this book deals with Fay Stender, West Coast leader-follower cum activist-apostle and legal advocate for down on their luck Bay Area African-Americans. She worked sweatshop fashion year after year generating legal reprieve for mobs of African-American criminals, falling in love with several and shedding a tear for many more. In the end she received her eternal reward via the fantastically high recidivism rate (on par with Norman Mailer's rescue of an African-American political prisoner of the racist US police state, with said dissident within two weeks of his blessed release from the pogey re-adjusting to civilian life via stabbing to death the fellow taking hats and coats at one of Mailer's parties). She was shot five times by the advocate friend of one of her rescued heros and lovers and was left for dead. She survived, but paralyzed from the waist down for the remaining one year of her life, during which time she renounced her efforts to emancipate African-American victims railroaded by racist cops, saying what she had done was utterly mistaken and exhorting others not to repeat her mistakes. At the first chance available, by which I mean at the first opportunity available to clear out from San Francisco and the cop stare of her fellow busybodies, she successfully committed suicide.
At the wake and in the newspaper eulogies, she was praised for her great works. Of course. The mantra of the fanatical right or left: don't let the facts get in the way of important truths.
She offered herself up as an excellent example of how the inferior mind, with a will to power and an overweening ambition for spiritual fulfilment, expresses itself through the prism of the monomaniac and workaholic personality.

Ann Ginger, Fay's lifelong legal colleague and head of the Meikeljohn Institute, says: "She was searching for meaning that was greater than the money she could earn, and greater than the legal principle she could establish. She wanted her life to have meaning, so much so that when her clients did not have as much meaning as she wanted them to have, she endowed them with meaning." The writer Gregory Armstrong, who later worked with Fay on the George Jackson defense, agrees: "She was like others on the Left in those days -- she was very hungry. She was in pursuit of the great dream you'd do anything for."

In pursuit of wish-fulfillment, "Fay was understanding of [the black movement's] feelings because of the legacy of white oppression, Jewish landlords, and that sort of thing. I said, ' I absolutely will not tolerate this. I'm not supporting an organization that's anti-Semitic. There's nothing to understand for my point of view.'" Fay disagreed with equal vigor.

In other words, whatever it takes to get the job done. A white lie here, a dissemble there, an evasion practically everywhere. And of course, that favorite of all masters of rhetoric, the Big Lie and liberal use of the cry McCarthyism! when faced with opponents armed with logic, arguments, history, and other complicated stuff. Given that Fay Stender was unable to defend the conduct of her defendants, she "put the 'system' itself on trial. [Huey] Newton went on the stand and lectured the jury about racism with the disarming earnestness of a young divinity student espousing a muscular Christianity. He told about his past -- how as a high school graduate left illiterate by his education he taught himself to read out of a dog-eared copy of Plato's Republic [Biff - pure chutzpah comedy, and yet it was so truly believed...]; how he recruited former street criminals for his political movement. He and [another member of the legal team] fashioned for the trial a persona that resembled a contemporary Frederick Douglass. Within months, Newton had become a cult figure, whose poster in black beret and leather jacket sitting on an African rattan throne, with a spear in one hand and a rifle in the other, began decorating college dorms all over America.

The 'political defense' Gary and Fay conducted gave perfect expression to the radical viewpoint of the time and became a model for the trials of Angela Davis, the Chicago Seven, and others that followed."
Roberta Brooks is quoted as saying: "They ripped her off on some level, she felt.... She told me that she and Huey Newton had been very close, and then when she saw him at a party after he was released on the basis of her appeal, he didn't even speak to her. Her attitude was, 'Jesus Christ, I sacrificed all those years. I sacrificed spending weekends with my family to go down there to San Luis Obispo to deal with this case, and then I see him in a room and he doesn't speak to me.'"

The ingratitude of the downtrodden? Not hardly surprising. Of course the helped often resent their benefactor. After all, we're all social animals and climbers. First of all, the down and out habitually express hostility as a street survival skill. Secondly, once helped up, the benefactor ends up getting in the way of further progress. They become a competitor and a familiar one at that; and there's nothing like familiarity to breed contempt in those habituated to the dog eat dog world of the mean streets. Thirdly, the benefactor becomes an embarrassing witness who can testify to the former low state of the helped.

And fourthly, since the end of WWII, poverty, whether at the level of the individual or the state, is almost always the result of retrograde psychology and has next to nothing to do with the limitations of the physical environment. Someone who is chronically down and out, a member of the so-called oppressed classes, is in fact someone incompetent with moving up in the world. Nobody's keeping them down. They usually suffer from such things as inappropriate parental guidance as a child (ex: the Third World) or bungled brain chemistry. Either way, they lack self-discipline and an understanding of reciprocity, amongst other things. In both cases, if the person is already an adult, they're virtually incurable; either because of the near-impossibility of teaching an adult anything requiring a new perspective or because of bad brain chemistry which expresses itself sooner or later as criminal insanity.

But back to Huey Newton, his reaction was simply a mirror image of Rousseau and Karl Marx, both of whom showed little gratitude for the generous monies donated to them. Rousseau was the one with the social skills and he went whole hog with them, playing the game to the hilt via reverse psychology. People with a gift for the gab finding themselves in a tight spot end up resorting to this sort of thing sooner or later.

Your humble scribe used to spout the same sort of obnoxious stuff as a teenager and at college. And, I meant it too. I probably still would if I had the temerity to mouth it again today. Or, take a good friend who, when I berated him for being unreliable repaying a loan, accused me of being stupid for relying upon him in the first place. He whined that I had always known he was unreliable. Ergo, he felt perfectly absolved of my charge and free of any obligation to repay me. Clearly, it was my fault for relying upon him. And, when all is said and done, he was right. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. If only the left could commit this adage to memory, so many of the dream-schemes and intellectual short-cuts so beloved of our socialist friends would lose their romance and appeal.

Another right-wing quote the left needs to pay heed to is: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."-- Mark Twain

An excellent description of Huey Newton appears in Destructive Generation and is taken from Gregory Armstrong's memoir The Dragon Has Come:

He is young and slender. His face is smooth and unmarked, like a boys. "I'm really pleased to meet you, man. We got a lot to talk about. I got a lot of questions." Everything about him is flashing and shining and glistening and his body seems to ripple like a cats. As he moves forward to take my hand, I literally feel myself being pulled into the vortex of his energy. There's no way I can look away. He gives me a sudden radiant smile of sheer sensual delight, the kind of smile you say for someone you really love. As we take each others' hands, I have a sense of becoming almost a part of his very physical being.

How strikingly unoriginal. Every successful sexual athlete learns this game. Even I learned this game, picking it up from a couple of player-friends after mocking them for years for giving undivided attention to bimbos while on the prowl. But, bimbos (i.e. second-string sexual predators with a monomania for bagging life-long meal tickets, but who lack the charisma or wherewithal to generate attention on their own) eat up attention when given undivided to them.

As Paul Johnson writes about another highly prominent, well-paid, well served, and well-regarded member of the downtrodden classes: Most people are resistant to ideas, especially new ones. But they're fascinated by character.... As part of his technique for securing publicity, attention and favor, Rousseau, who was no mean psychologist, made a positive virtue of that most repellent of vices, ingratitude. To him it seemed no fault. While professing spontaneity, he was in fact a calculating man; and since he persuaded himself that he was, quite literally, the best of moral human beings, it followed logically that others were even more calculating, and from worse motives, than he was. Hence in any dealings with him, they would seek to take advantage, and he must outwit them. The basis on which he negotiated with others, therefore, was quite simple: they gave, he took. He bolstered this by an audacious argument: because of his uniqueness, anyone who helped him was in fact doing a favor to himself.

Been there, done that too.

Huey Newton was more but also much less than Rousseau. He's more 'fairly' compared with Michael X., who V. S. Naipaul described as "a typical Trinidad conman." Also interesting is Naipaul's description of Gail Benson, an ofay American do-gooder who swooped down to the Caribbean to assist post-colonial darkies rid themselves of The Man, the Great White Oppressor. As with Fay Stender, she also was fetched up to Glory via trying to lift up the oppressed. In the case of Gail Benson, she was knifed to death in a Trinidad commune. Naipaul's assessment of her was: "as shallow and vain and parasitic as many middle-class dropouts of her time; she became as corrupt as her master; she was part of the corruption by which she was destroyed."

To her credit, Mother Theresa, a vastly superior craftsperson, a virtuoso of the craft of lifting spare change, never made this sort of mistake, and always sought audiences with oppressors (Lady Di, the Duvalier despots of Haiti, millionaire stock brokers in the dock, etc.). Mother died of old age with all the medical hi-tech conveniences at her disposal that she denied her charges. Mother may not have been adventurous and glamorous but she certainly showed common sense in her running of a sturdy business empire and in the generation of an indestructable corporate image.

Anyway, each chapter of this book could launch an essay from these gabby lips. Even David Horowitz shines. He's persuasive and thought-provoking while commenting on his apostasy and pilgrimage to the right. I wish I could say the same for many of his rants at and his smug appearances on Either way, an excellent accompaniment to Paul Johnson's Intellectuals...

Biff Cappuccino

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Letter to
Re: Japan's top hawk ruffles China's feathers: the author points out that the Guangming Daily "a popular quality paper among Chinese intellectuals" wrote that one of Japan's newer history textbooks "distorts the antifascist wars by all Asian countries..." I have to wonder which of the Asian countries were conducting antifascist wars? Certainly neither China nor Japan were. Mao Tze-Dong, Chiang Kai-shek, and Japan's Emperor were all heads of fascist imperial regimes, all three of which pushed cults of personality.
Given that all three were fascist and engaged in wartime atrocities, then perhaps it's worth looking at which was the least harmful to the common man. If one looks at Japan's colonies, then surely Japan's welfare schemes, respect for private property, reasonably liberal economic policies, and generally incorruptible police forces provided the best in terms of state services for the citizen. And, in Taiwan at least, all persons on the island were eligible for citizen status and given two years to make their decision.

With the entry of Chiang Kai-shek's forces to Taiwan, the almost inevitable massacring of civilians took place; this being de rigeur with Chinese warlords. Following this he deliberately wiped out the local currency and engaged in a massive expropriation of property. This was followed however by installation of a demi-liberal economic regime and forty years of redbaiting, creating a sort of Chilean ambience of climbing prosperity offset by the disappearance of students and dissidents.

With Mao, however, in addition to garden-variety massacres, wiping out the currency, and expropriating everyone's property, there was the addition of the wholesale massacring of social echelons (the landlord class), an economic policy which deliberately impoverished the public, and then massive social upheaval caused by the serial witch-hunts favored by ideologues everywhere (Pol Pot, the Catholic Inquisition, etc).

None of these fascist regimes were optimal, and talk of antifascist wars is lunatic. So surely the positing of China's warlords and emperors-in-training as anti-fascist is a sort of Orwellian humor designed to distract readers from the fascist regime cum oligarchy installed at home in China. And surely the mindless parroting of these and other shibolleths is a sign of a counter-quality paper.

Biff Cappuccino

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Biff to Dr. D: I just got back from food and re-read what I wrote to you on the fly. I wanted to get something out to you by early afternoon so you would have time to review and comment on it. It seems however to have devolved into a bit of a rant at times and may even sound hostile. I apologize for that, as that certainly was not my conscious intent. I'm all for friendly discussion...

I've posted an edited copy on my blog which follows here... (It's pretty much the same though; I have some other stuff I need to churn out this evening...)
Dr D: >>i hear what you're saying about private sector vs. public, though the private sector person is not likely to give you the full range of options available to you if it's not in their interest to do so.<<
This is true, but the same sentence can be applied equally to a public sector person. The difference being that the private sector person is much more likely to find it in their best interest to provide full range of options. If a public sector person provides good service its out of something like generosity or duty. But a private sector person has additional motives beyond generosity and duty, such as greed, sales targets, esprit de corps, professional pride, and so forth. In other words, you're more likely to get what you want at the hands of a private sector person.
The downside people associate with the private sector is getting ripped off. However, my experience with the public sector is that though one seldom gets ripped off directly; one is constantly getting ripped off indirectly if one looks at the larger picture. This is because with the public sector one either does not get what one wants because it is not available, or else one gets a woefully overpriced low-quality edition of what one wants; and let's not forget the long hassle required to get it and the piss-poor after sales service. Furthermore, if the public sector offers a product but it's not up to standard, there is usually no private sector alternative (public sector goods usually eliminate private sector goods because the public sector has no budget limitations; i.e. our tax dollars get blown out the kazoo on public sector projects) which means it is impossible to get what you want. I would much rather take the chance of getting ripped off but be able to get what I want from somebody else, than have to deal with a public sector where I'm almost sure not to get what I want and not to have an alternative when I don’t get it. And it also helps keep in mind that the public sector often uses the law to try to keep the private sector out of its business.
For example, the United States Postal Service tried to stop Federal Express from ever getting off the ground by filing court injunctions complaining that it was infringing upon its turf. I.e. the government monopoly postal service was opposed to competition. What a surprise! Fortunately, the court ruled in Fed Express's favor, otherwise we would be stuck with the abysmal performance of the US mail.
Or how about the high price and low selection of alcohol in Taiwan. Microbreweries are banned in pubs in Taiwan. Why? Because the government has decreed them high polluting. And yet, the dregs from brewing beer and so forth are typically sold as fertilizer. In other words, government by fiat yet again means solutions arrived at by bureaucratic ignoramuses with less interest in facilitating the public weal and more interest in covering their asses by adhering to regulations.

In a productive economy, government for the most part tends to attract the worst of the workforce. It pays less than the private sector and provides little opportunity for the intelligent person to achieve professional satisfaction.

If a government bureau issues a fiat, there is little recourse other than through the courts which is expensive and incredibly time-consuming. Look at the huge number of Freedom of Information Act applications filed in the United States every year by everyone from the ACLU to New York Times reporters just to get information which should be freely accessible to the public. And documents that are released (George Washington University's website has plenty of CIA files display), are often heavily redacted (i.e. 'critical' information has been blacked out). This often requires one to file Freedom of Information Act applications for exactly the same files all over again. Each filing application requires from several months to several years to be processed. And declassified information gets reclassified all the time (the Bush Administration has been particularly fond of this).

Or look at how federal lands are managed in United States. Park lands are routinely logged, new roads are driven through them, and they're given over to farmers to graze cattle. But this is only to be expected because, as a politician, it costs you nothing to grant special interests special favors (which are repaid in campaign contributions) when the property is not your own and thus you personally do not suffer any sort of financial loss. Left-wingers complain that George Bush has appointed the heads of various corporations and corporate interest political action committees as heads of various government departments regulating the environment, placed them in charge of Superfund (devoted to cleaning up abandoned toxic industrial waste sites), and so forth. And the largest owner of buildings in the US with asbestos insulation is none other than the United States federal government. And the feds have employed various maneuvers to ensure that they will never have to remove asbestos insulation from their buildings. Private sector buildings, of course, have to remove asbestos. A lovely double standard. But, again, why is this a surprise given the history and motive of governments? And what is the cure? More government?
And how about the infamous Ruby Ridge incident. In the early 1990's, a religious nut in the western United States was supposed to be arrested by federal law-enforcement officers for selling guns but instead, the man's dog was shot to death, his youngest son was shot to death, and his wife was shot to death; needless to say, this being federal case, none of the law enforcement officers were found guilty of any sort of criminal infraction though the religious nut won a million-dollar damages suit in a civil case against the federal government. The very next year, the officer in charge at Ruby Ridge was given charge of another case whereby more religious nuts were supposed to be arrested. This was the infamous Waco massacre. As you may recall, 80 nuts died including 27 children and, again, no federal officer was found guilty of any crime despite the use of tanks, machine guns, and helicopter mounted guns against civilians; not to mention the crazy-quilt of affadavits charging the nuts with everything from gun sales to illegal drug manufacture to child rape. I've read interviews with survivors and watched video of the bewildered local sherrif saying the nuts were peaceful people who had been there for 30 years and never hurt anyone or caused anybody any trouble. The dean of Harvard University's law school knew one of the nuts, a graduate of his department, and vouched for the non-violent nature of these nuts. The site of the massacre was bulldozed by the Feds within 24 hours. If I had killed 80 people, whether by accident or not, can you imagine that I, as a private citizen, could (finances permitting) have a crime scene bulldozed within 24 hours?
Or how about Kennebeck Man, where the federal Indian Affairs representative confiscated the remains of a 10,000-year-old skeleton found on public land, not Indian land, and gave it to a tribe of local Indians who said it was their ancestor, a patently preposterous notion given the wandering, warring, enslaving, etc. that all Indian tribes engaged in. The Indian Affairs rep ordered the site where the skeleton was found to be bulldozed and then planted with trees. Can you imagine? This took place in the early 1990's and the resulting law suits are still ongoing. Half of the skeleton is already missing not to mention that it's been reburied, redug up, and has thus been tainted with various new soils and so forth. And this is not an isolated case of malfeasance with regard to 'Indian' skeletons in the 1990's in the US. All sorts of skeletons were found and not dug up by anthropologists in the US over the past 10 years because of this and other cases being handled in a similarly partisan, politically correct, and ultimately cavalier fashion.
And how about the infinitude of RICO cases whereby private citizens are prosecuted and their property confiscated because law officers want to pick it up on the cheap when it comes up at the annual government auction? RICO has created practically an entire industry devoted to property rip-offs; a modern relative to the Catholic Inquisition which operated with precisely the same motive: propery confiscation with 50% of the proceeds going to the rat.
A friend of mine was ripped off by his wife in the mid-1990's for more than 30 million US dollars. His clever Taiwanese wife stole everything he had and then pretended to be broke and applied to get on the welfare scheme in California. She then told the state she suspected her husband of sexually abusing her children and had them put in state-funded counseling. She apparently pressured her daughter to trump up the charge that her husband touched her once on the vulva while she was asleep and while the mother was asleep in bed with them. That was the sum and total of the complaint (I was going to write a book on this and was given free access to his court statements and so forth). His wife, by declaring that she was insolvent and on welfare was in a position to invite the state to prosecute her husband on her behalf. She succeeded in getting the state to throw its full weight against her husband and it did not cost her a penny. Her husband, broke and thrown off his own property, now had to face the practically unlimited resources of the State of California's Justice Department.
Why? Principally because his wife maneuvered her husband on to the politically incorrect side of the wedge. That was the 1990's Janet Reno 'save the children' era where Guns and Roses singer Axel Rose went into counseling and emerged claiming his dad raped him as a child, and where two hustlers made national news exposing a kindergarten in Colorado where gang rapes where allegedly taking place. The whole thing was a bogus fad whereby hustlers and trained professionals implanted memories in children. Thousands of people were railroaded by politically ambitous prosecutors (like Janet Reno who built her reputation 'saving children' in Miami) on the basis of these bogus accusations.
The list of this sort of nonsense goes on and on and on with the government being called in as an impartial judge to make decisions for us and save us from ourselves. Government malfeasance is something we've all seen while going through high-handed customs and immigration, when dealing with sleazy tax officials, when dealing with strutting cops, etc. etc. I'm supposed trust a government official to do something right when I know all the temptations available to him to do something wrong? I don't think so.
By the way, the organization owning and managing the largest acreage of nature-preserve status waterfront property in the US, often purchasing it first as commercial property and then returning it to a pristine state, is a private corporation (the name eludes me as I speak).

And if it was not for the NAACP, the ACLU, the Sierra Club, and a variety of other nonprofit private sector political action committees suing United States city, state, and federal governments practically every day of the year, the United States would long ago have devolved into a sort of Soviet Union style dictatorial regime. The tendency of all government is towards despotism, because the tendency of all people is towards despotism. Government is always a confederacy of dunces: there aren't enough smarties to go around.
So, to me anyway, the notion that government is generally devoted to helping the citizenry is laughable.
>>if you do agree with my multi-motive theory of mr. chen's behavior, then i wonder if you'll agree that such a theory is a challenge to an economic theory of human behavior.<<
It's interesting debating this topic with you, because you ask questions that I would never have thought to ask. It never occurred to me that anybody would take seriously the notion that a theory based in economics could be used as the sole explanation for human behavior. Are there such people? I suppose it's possible. Given the record concerning all the lunatics that took Marx seriously, I suppose there must be hordes who believe that there is such a thing as an economic theory that explains the entirety of human behavior. In my reading of libertarian economics I don't think I've come across anybody who fits this mold however...
>>do we want aggressive salesmen types? behind the scenes financial movers and shakers? profit driven entrepreneurs?perhaps we do want more of this kind of person, but the idea of salesmen legislators and "profit driven" judges makes me rather uneasy. not that my feelings matter, but that's not the kind of person i'd want to have in my government.<<
I gather you presume there is something inherently morally subversive about money. For me, since money is just a portable representative of value (whether aesthetic, nutritional, anthropological, cultural, musical, etc.) then money is not really the issue. I think what you're asking is do we want aggressive Philistines in charge of government positions? When the question is phrased this way, then the answer is of course no... haha...
However, I think it is crucial that businesspeople play an important role in democracy, a role disproportionate to their numbers. If people do not have an economic investment in their country, then it is likely that they will not take the economics of their country seriously. This is especially obvious in socialist countries, where the electorate is engaged in a process that Benjamin Franklin predicted would have dire consequences for American democracy: that it would explode within two generations when the have-nots voted themselves the wealth of the haves and that this would lead to civil war. In the end, America's Civil War was for precisely the opposite reasons, in my opinion: the haves, i.e. the wealthy industrialized North was able to expropriate the property of the South, i.e. the, relatively speaking, have-nots. In the Civil War, it was the economic capacity of United States which won the war for the North. It was the same in WWI and WWII when the US entered these wars. As I understand it, in all three wars, the industrialized United States won simply because it manufactured more equipment and supplied more cannon-fodder at the battlefield than its opponents. And thank goodness it did.
But I digress. Either way, a country's military strength has an almost direct relationship to its economic strength. And if your military is not strong, then some other country is going to take over your country. In this context, the main reason that the United States invaded Iraq was because it could.
So, I think it is crucial that there is a preponderance of people in government who have an understanding of economics and a desire to strengthen the nation's economy. The reason for America's economic strength is not the size of the country, nor the claimed abundance of resources, but principally because, for a range of idiotic reasons (primarily religion and lower levels of education) the United States stayed away from socialism by mistaking it for atheistic communism. (In passing, I think that the reason for the high crime rate in United States is the extremely lax immigration policy. Now that Western Europe is filling up with immigrants from the Third World, it also suffers from high rates of crime. Socialism does not seem to have had much of an ameliorating impact. The only way in which crime rates differ significantly is with regard to the use of guns. Otherwise, when it comes to muggings, burglaries, arson, assaults, rapes and so forth, France and England have rates comparable to the United States).
These days support for lower taxes across the board in the United States has presumably to do with the vast numbers of people who leapt into the stock market in the 1990s and began to take an active interest in the way that corporations achieve earnings. This knowledge, plus the direct vested interest of the now American majority which invests in stocks has helped ensure that America continues to stay relatively free of the tacky emotional socialism of Canada and Western Europe.
>>if you're talking to someone whose pay doesn't change as a result of performance, someone who doesn't to some extent identify with the interests of the company, then it's no better than talking to some idiot in the government.<<
This is precisely my point. In the private sector, pay generally however does change as a result of performance. The girls of Howard on the first floor are paid in part via commission. The girls next door to us on the third floor are paid in part via commission. My wife works on a commission basis. When you yourself generate a strong reputation in the translation industry, you'll be able to charge more for your services.
>>do you ever wonder whether your position in society determines your political outlook, and if so to what extent?<<
Absolutely. If I was weak and lacked confidence, I would probably be in favor of socialism because I would have little faith in my ability to compete with strong, aggressive types in society. I would also be more prone to an envy complex and want to see bigwigs toppled. Of course, my family background has a lot to do with it as well. And the strength of the global economy, and Taiwan's economy at this juncture in the 21st century. That plus having lived in several countries, being the eldest child, having been a gang-leader of vandals, having had an abusive step mother, and so on and so forth. That, plus my brain chemistry, plus the books I've read, the order in which I read them, the amount of information I've been able to retain and use, the people I've known, and so on and so forth etc. etc.
But also of impact has been realizing the futility of trying to take my opinions from newspapers and magazines. This led me to read up on economics whereupon I found great shells of suspicious gobbledygook, wishful thinking and piety, and patent confusion obscuring the ideas and syllogisms presented by authors favoring government intervention. This is in contrast to the simplicity, clarity and intuitiveness of the libertarian economic perspective, which had a great impact on me. Reading Friedman on the ancillary effects of unions and the minimum wage, he's very easy to understand. It's just common sense. But it's clearly also the product of experience, as opposed to blowsy theory and high-sounding hope-filled fustian and positive-think.

This is one of the reasons why I have an increasing affection for economic conservatives: they don't base their opinions upon theory and what if and what should have happened, but instead upon experience. In other words, what did happen or what does happen. It's thus no surprise that people become more economically conservative with age. Hope no longer has that pull when one realizes the many strict limitations that the real world places upon potential and possibility.
Biff Cappuccino