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

Friday, November 26, 2004

After reading Sarah Whalen's wacky commentary in Wednesday's ATol and noticing her claim to write for the Arab News, I was naturally curious as to who she was. Well, she's a 50 year old American from the state of Louisana who believes that the several hundred tribes of American Indians inhabiting the continent only spoke one language as she informs us here:
The Indians, dispossessed, complained that “white men” spoke with “forked tongue.” Their language had no word to describe Americans’ especially duplicitous form of lying. “Forked tongue” — a split-ended snake’s tongue going two opposite ways — was as close as they could come to describe an American mouth in which one set of single-sounding words came out in two opposite-meaning directions.
In another enlightening article, she states that the US needs religion in order to put the teeth back into secular US law. Exhibit B: "few ideas are more powerful than Islam. It is Islam’s all-pervasiveness that alarms the West... An Islam relegated to a Friday congregational sermon and communal exchanges of goodwill is what the West is looking for. The Shariah of course will be the first thing to go, Western culture having totally stripped the law of its power to cause fear and instill obedience. No more of those “barbaric” punishments."
In the context of this article, it's pretty clear that she wishes America to be administered under none other than Sharia law.
But none of this is as interesting as her pedigree. Check out the following from:
Who is Sarah Whalen?
Well, she's an Islamist apologist and the author of several deranged and incoherent articles that have been published over the past several months at the ever-titillating Arab News and The Palestine Chronicle. Among her other accomplishments, she's managed to blame Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg for their own murders and either Israel or the Bush administration (often both) for all of the world's other evils.
A sample (from the Pearl article):
But what largely incenses Muslims all over the world should trouble everyone — Israel’s power to compel obedience from the most powerful nation on earth. Danny Pearl was killed not for “being” Jewish, but for what “Jewish” has come to mean, rightly or wrongly, in a part of the world that sympathizes and suffers with those the Israelis have dispossessed from land, from culture, from civil rights. Danny was killed not by powerful actors in service of some evil ideology, but by those powerless before Zionism, an ideology that sacrifices Palestinians for “freedom” and “security”. . .
And from her latest: The Mahdi army is on the move again. It’s the Energizer Bunny of Iraqi urban militias. What makes it keep going and going and going?Neocons insist it’s Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s deep hatred for America. But what if the Mahdi army and Sadr are fighting because they love democracy, particularly freedom of speech and freedom of the press?What if some Iraqis don’t trust getting their news from the “occupier?” What if they are willing to fight and die for the right to talk their own talk?Is it just coincidence that last March’s Shiite uprising boiled over when then-US Ambassador Paul Bremer arbitrarily closed Al-Sadr’s daily newspaper, Al-Hawza, for “spreading anti-American views” and calling Bremer names?
This is a woman whose relationship to reality appears to be somewhat tenuous. So I wasn't too surprised to find that I'm hardly the first to question her incredibly elusive credentials.
Sarah Whalen teaches at Loyola University School of Law, New Orleans; she is an expert in Islamic law and taught Islamic law at Temple University School of Law.
That's what she was claiming a few months ago. More recently, though, she apparently chose to drop Temple:
— Sarah Whalen is an expert in Islamic law and teaches law at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.
She doesn't just "teach" at Loyola University School of Law, by the way, she's a professor (don't miss this story - the professor angle is important). But, perhaps because a check of the Loyola University School of Law faculty doesn't show her name, she's now switched to the past tense:
— Sarah Whalen is an expert in Islamic law and taught law at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Did she? The only mention of her teaching at Loyola that anyone's been able to find to date (and it's apparently now long gone) was a single course at the Department of Religious Studies (not School of Law) entitled "Islam, Muhammad, and the Qur'an," and she was listed under the category of "extraordinary faculty" as an "instructor."
But wait! When she spoke earlier this year at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, an institution that's probably a little more scrupulous about checking academic credentials than, say, Arab News, Al Jazeera or The Palestine Chronicle, her rather extensive CV included no mention of Loyola whatsoever and no mention of her teaching at Temple. Which isn't to say that it wasn't an impressive CV. In fact,
A frequent contributor to publications such as Arab News and The Palestine Chronicle, Whalen is widely published in both the United States and the Arab world on issues relating to international and Islamic law and on subjects ranging from the invasion of Panama to terrorism in Japan. She is certified to practice law in three states and is a seasoned litigator in the fields of personal injury, class actions, domestic relations and criminal law.As a former research assistant for Dr. Piero Gleijeses at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Whalen conducted extensive archival research on U.S. foreign policy, Cuba, Africa, and several Cold War projects. She also served as a consultant on international security issues for the United States Armed Services from 1984-1989 and worked as an attorney advisor at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 1984-1986. Whalen holds a B.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Miami; a J.D. from New York Law School; an M.A. in History from New York University; and an LL.M. from Temple University School of Law. She also specialized in comparative public and private international law while attending The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.
Wow. I honestly don't know what to make of this.
Especially since there's not one reference to most of these credentials anywhere else on the internet, either. She does appear to practice law with a New Orleans firm and her B.A. and J.D. degrees, at least, are listed in Martindale-Hubbell (but not her LL.M., which is odd, since an LL.M. is an advanced law degree, which she allegedly earned eight years ago). Well that, at least, seems to pin her down a bit.
But, no, a Google search for her law firm turns up only one hit, which turns out to be a user post (scroll down about 3/5 of the way) at Free Republic in which someone is attempting to track down, you guessed it, the credentials of the elusive Ms. Whalen. The post shows a listing from in which yet another version of Whalen's history is displayed, this one including a stint as "Lecturer and Adjunct Professor" at Loyola, with no mention of the Law School.
Unfortunately, I was unable to duplicate the results of that search. My attempts yielded 0 results. And it further appears that the name of the firm has changed, their website is "under construction," and no reference to the new firm includes a reference to Sarah Whalen.
Here's a item of interest: she was appointed legislative liason for the River Region Caucus of the St. James Parish last year. I think this is pretty solid, but basically irrelevant.
So who is Sarah Whalen? I have no idea. And it doesn't appear that anyone else does, either. Maybe she's just a really private person.
(I can't leave this topic without mentioning that The Blue Octavo Notebooks has been on to Ms. Whalen for quite some time.)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Hi D.: Michelle Malkin is always doing that kind of right-wing revisionist stuff. I'd have to see her arguments to see if I thought she's making sense. Her reviewer didn't strike me as having much per logic skills and seemed just a tad flighty to boot: I don't trust the reviewer's judgement much. As to the revision of McCarthyism, Ms. Colter is awfully strident but I'm inclined to agree with her basic premises: (a) McCarthyism has been hyped to all get out and (b) that McCarthy was correct about the existence of commies. Indeed he underestimated the number as released CIA files have since demonstrated.

Was reading a rant about Tom Delay being involved in sweatshops working Chinese workers to death at 84 hour workweeks. Didn't persuade me too much as I used to work 84 hour workweeks in Canada and wanted to work 100 hour workweeks but the idiot government of Ontario taxes the hell out of you the more you work thus strongly discouraging the effort. 84 hours/week = 7 days at 12 hour shifts. Which is what I did at an apple orchard. Seasonal work is like that. You sleep through the winter and work like the Dickens during the summer and fall. I'm sure the Chinese workers doing this are working for several months to a year and then moving on with their savings.

Why punish poor people by not letting them work overtime if they want to? In New Brunswick, as recently as 1990, I had been working about US$2.25 forty hours a week. You can't win at those wages and so I left for Toronto's suburb of Burlington to work for US$5 an hour, living in the orchard and working 12 hour shifts on the apple press. I lived and worked sweatshop conditions for three months and left with my wallet bulging. Was I taken advantage of? I've also worked these sort of hours in Taiwan when you combine Howard and outside work together. Which was how I've been able to take five-month vacations every year for the past ten or more years. In its effort to protect me from myself the US left-wing would limit me to forty hours a week and a two or four-week vacation every year. The left's inadvertant contempt for the worker strikes again...

With the right, you get something approaching honesty: for example, the best-selling book, "Greed Works." Even if the left agreed, it would have to package it in pieties. The left is as contemptuous and racist, when all is said and done, concerning minorities as the right: it just employs hypocritical, and thus even more farcical and incompetent, policies than the right. Minimum wage is an excellent example and so is packing racial preferences at schools. The road to hell is paved with well-intentioned morons...

Libertarianism, a sort of zen of policy -- i.e. a hands-off, live and let live, natural and respectful-of-others approach -- is the best thing I've seen so far.

My 50 cents worth...

P.S. Malkin, via a search of, can be seen and heard in the flesh if I'm not mistaken...

Biff Cappuccino....
Letter to
Re: "Nanjing Massacre Claims Another Life": I must say I quite enjoyed Victor Fic's statement that: "None other than luminary historian Stephen Ambrose deemed [Iris] Chang one of America's most promising young historians." For those of us who actually read history, Stephen Ambrose is most famous for being caught out after 30 years of serial plagiarism. A google search of his name will produce interesting articles on the matter from,,, etc. Then again, given Iris Chang's own bent for plagiarism, it's only appropriate that Ambrose would be quoted lavishing her with praise. Honor among thieves. For example, the second paragraph from page four in Iris Chang's Introduction appears stolen from a Chinese Communist Party document, given its stale Communist epithets (beneath the boot of...), it's hyperbole ("unmitigated evil lying") and the chauvinist Communist Chinese perspective as in "some foreigners witnessed the horror". It would appear that she was in too much of a rush to either accredit her source or touch up her translator's English. Probably both. And an amateur historian in Japan, Timothy M. Kelly, has a lengthy review including a 2000 word section where he cites instance after instance claiming that Iris Chang stole extensively from David Bergamini's Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. Do a search and you can decide for yourself whether his claims are credible. Either way, there are far more worthy books around on the subject such as The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe and Masahiro Yamamoto's Rape of Nanking: Separating Fact from Fiction. In my view, atrocities certainly did occur but neither on the scale nor of the best-selling variety that Iris Chang proposed. In the end, like Pearl Buck before her, she was just another hustling messiah of the downtrodden making a good living pulling the public's nose.
Biff Cappuccino, Taipei

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Recent letters of note from Atol. These are too amusing to let fall into the memory hole. Kept in original order. My reply to Travan’s letter is at the very bottom. Biff Cappuccino

If D Bhardwaj [letter, Nov 18] feels uncomfortable discussing English-speaking Indian elite's behavior, I will quit posting that. However, if you would like to have a free academic discussion of how dogs behave, I would love to offer my opinions. As a dog owner or master, you should pay more attention to the articles published about dogs. Dogs like to imitate (or mimic?) their masters. They always dream [that] one day, they can be equal to their masters. Jumping on to the driver's seat where their masters often sit is one obvious behavior. You love your dogs. You make them live a similar life as you do. I am sure your dogs are happy to live under your roof too. However, you would never regard your dogs as equal to your kind. Do you? That is why equality cannot be earned just by being the best friends of white men. It has to be earned independently with your own tradition, culture, honor and dignity. If you only care about the food you are eating, what is the difference between you and your dog?
FrankSeattle, Washington (Nov 19, '04)
Dear Frank [letters, Nov 18 et al]: Please stop your ranting. It has crossed into the zone where therapy would be strongly recommended. Your xenophobic spiel does no one any good be they white, yellow, brown, black, etc. As a Chinese, the unchecked chauvinism reminds me of how the "Central Kingdom" lost its way from the Ming Dynasty to the ill-fated Boxer Rebellion. I would offer you a "Da Xie" if you would temper your observations.
Tino TanSingapore (Nov 19, '04)
I have to say that I am surprised that ATol has continued to publish Frankie boy's rather whimsical and outright racist anti-Indian rants every day. (He isn't your CEO, is he?) The sheer hypocrisy of his arguments is hard to miss for any logic-abiding individual generally aware of current and past happenings in the globe. He tells us that it is OK for Chinese to learn English, but has been screaming foul weeks now about Indians doing the same. How sweetly convenient! He makes a rather incredible claim that the Chinese culture and language have not changed in the last 5,000 years - a claim which any objective historian should be able to trash without much difficulty (the Buddhist culture in China, for one example, was originally imported from outside). These days the Chinese are aping Western culture like never before. Women dyeing their hair blond and getting a nose job done, to Chinese students in the US dumping their own family traditions merely to get free lunches at the local church or Chinese teenagers adulating the Japanese stars who are seen as more Westernized. Having apparently bartered their attire and family values for Wal-Marts and Nike shoes, the well-off Chinese are even changing their names to Western names, for little rhyme or reason. As far as the economy goes, undoubtedly China has made huge progress in the past 20 years, but if you analyze closely you'll see that a large part of it is because it has successfully served as a hub of cheap (or is it "slave"?) labor to big Western corporations. There appears to be neither any significant private enterprise in China nor any significant innovation of any kind (quite unlike Japan). Talk about serving "white masters" ... Same also looks true for language. When most of the textbooks written in Chinese are nothing but translated replicas of original research papers done in English, and most original literature (arts/poetry/free speech) is promptly suppressed by a nasty nanny-like regime, it raises serious questions on the success of Chinese language (which Frank so loves to gloat upon). But I personally wouldn't judge China based on these relatively superficial/insignificant things. I believe that mass change is inevitable for any society, and must be dealt with in a useful way, not by running the cheap enterprise of shaming people for wiggling their tails and whatnot. Frank, incorrigible as he comes across, however, doesn't have any qualms about judging India similarly. Clearly, he has not learned the Chinese equivalent of the proverbial advice of not throwing stones if you live in glass houses ... or is there not one? Not even in a translated Chinese textbook?
Rakesh India (Nov 19, '04)
We continue to run Frank's letters because we are learning so much about dogs. - ATol
Daniel McCarthy and Biff Cappuccino [letters, Nov 18] display the same narrow world view, which is proof enough that those living in free societies can become even more limited in their understanding than those living in "unfree" societies. I never said that it is better to live in an unfree society. That is a foolish thing to believe, as all people would prefer to live freely and in peace. But the fact is, free societies are not the only ones [that] have produced wise and cultured people. In fact, I would argue that the vast majority of the great writers of the world have lived in harsh and unfree conditions. But Mr Cappuccino and Mr McCarthy worship at the altar of America and modernity. They bring their modern pantheon of [George W] Bush, [Mark] Twain, [Oscar] Wilde, [Somerset] Maugham, and [Paul] Theroux. This pathetic group of gods they have created for themselves shows the limits of their mind. While I am writing of Du Fu, Su Shi, [William] Shakespeare, Cervantes and Ferdowsi, they are fulminating against Jane Fonda, or proudly boasting about "libraries, TV, and Hollywood". Cappuccino's knowledge of Ah Q is quite impressive from someone who claims to know Chinese and still calls Du Fu and Su Shi "storytellers". Su Shi and Du Fu are two of the great poets of classical Chinese. Some would say only the Book of Odes and Li Bai can compare to their work. Lu Xun is a very small figure in Chinese letters, but I suppose he is the only one famous enough for Mr Cappuccino to know about. How can someone like essays so much and not know that the form was vibrant in China at least 2,500 years ago? If you like essays, why don't you read Han Yu's "Yuan Dao" (The Original Path), which 1,200 years ago argued for expelling foreign influences from China (he was referring to Buddhism)? It is because Mr Cappuccino's masters, the "libraries, TV, and Hollywood" of the US, have erased all knowledge of his own culture from his mind. He doesn't know or care about the vast body of poetry and prose in his own language, but is obsessed with a handful of foreign writers writing about foreign lands and foreign people. How sad for someone to know nothing of their own ancestors. I have nothing against the US or the West. It is the unthinking servility to their culture that I am against. I'd rather be an Ah Q than a submissive mama-san, Mr Cappuccino. By the way, Mr McCarthy, in America, we don't call people by their first names until invited to do so.
G Travan California, USA (Nov 19, '04)
Did Su Shi and Du Fu have anything to say on the subject of dogs? - ATol

Biff to Dr. Travan: Prior to you mentioning his name, admittedly I'd never heard of Du Fu. I looked him up on the web, was appalled, but in the interest of brevity didn't mention him in the last letter. The problem with Du Fu as a poet, as I see it, is that he has practically nothing to say. Let's take a look at one of his poems, a fairly representative one at that:

Enjoying Flowers Walking Alone on a Riverbank (1)

Before Huangshi pagoda the river flows east,
In spring's brightness I'm tired and need the breeze.
An ownerless clump of peach blossom's opened,
Is dark or light red more to be loved?

This is simply someone in touch with his own feelings. For modern folk, it's woefully understated to the point of sounding shallow, even artificial, and hence unattractive. It comes off as the sort of exciting blank-charge nothingness prized by high school teachers intimidated by works of ideas which test their mettle and have the potential to be controversial and hence dangerous. Safety is found in breezy blather which can stretched and spun in any direction. Nobody is wrong. Holding steadfast to an opinion is not just narrow-minded, but becomes an offense. Hence the popularity of furry academic jargon. Hence the popularity of multiculturalism. Hence Mr. Travan.

Many of Du Fu's works remind me of the Police song, "Every Breath You Take." When most people heard it (myself included) they thought that it was a simple but pretty love song. It turned out to be the theme song to the political drama, 1984, and is actually about the sinister Nosy Parkerism of totalitarian régimes and their very close watch of the intelligentsia in particular. But then again, Sting has been forthright in interviews stating that he deliberately writes lyrics with fuzzy edges. He found that if he expressed himself too clearly, then people would make a decision about what he wrote and would then agree or disagree. Perhaps half of his customers would abandon each song based on something bothersome in the lyrics. On the other hand, if you write with less clarity and let people fill in the dots with whatever stuffing they please, sort of allowing them to DIY the song lyrics, the customers tailor them to their own idiosyncrasies and find, unsurprisingly, that they like them. Sting and the lads took the credit for our mental labor and laughed all the way to the bank.

But with Du Fu, there's almost nothing there to DIY. About the best you can say about him is that he's in touch with nature, that he enjoys communing with the natural world. But even this overstates it. Because there are no ideas, no concepts. It's pure sensuality. And his vaporings are far below what's required to fit the bill for artistic appreciation in our era. He's more on the level of a horse pleasantly lowing in a field, mulching green grass, the wind passing through his mane, only a few gnats harassing his backside. About the best you can say about this body of his work is that it's a sort of MTV-style hit-and-run kaleidoscope of word pictures; just a random smattering of pictures thrown at a simple audience meshugga with rhythm and not wanting the distraction of ideas. You could say that in its homely way it's observant, but you can't argue that it's intelligent.

Now you may not want intelligence in your poetry. That's fine. But, for better or worse, I do. And intelligence requires free thought and the cross-fertilization of ideas that comes from unimpeded access to books, personalities, and ideas. In terms of English poets, you're probably happy with Coleridge and Wordsworth, whereas, given my impatience with the obvious, I prefer people who say something new. I don't want a restatement of what I already know.

From Song of the Wagons:

We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.

Isolated, it glimmers for a moment. But in the original poem it’s just another plain statement of the obvious, just another platitude awash in a sea of platitudes. I might as well be expected to remain excited with a Morrissey lyric when I’m 40.

Thus, though I very seldom read poetry, when I have, I’ve preferred the war anecdotes set to rhyme of Rudyard Kipling and the freshly-baked citified notions that T.S. Elliot set in blank verse.

Biff Cappuccino
Hi Rich: Thanks for the heads-up.

Re: Dedicated to Democracy by Corey Robin

More sneaky maneuvers. I’d be suspicious of the following comment: It was a useful meeting for Reagan. 'Well, I learned a lot,' he told reporters on Air Force One. 'You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries.' Dan Quayle took a terrific beating for this sort of thing and then I saw an interview with him on C-Span done two years after he was vice-president and I was shocked at how articulate and knowledgeable he was. I realized I’d been hustled by the media.

Here’s another quote I’d be leery of: While it's tempting to ascribe the omission to American amnesia, a more likely cause is the deep misconception about the Cold War under which most Americans labour. To the casual observer, the Cold War was a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, fought and won through stylish jousting at Berlin, antiseptic arguments over nuclear stockpiles, and the savvy brinkmanship of American leaders. Latin America seldom figures in popular or even academic discussion of the Cold War, and to the extent that it does, it is Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua rather than Guatemala that earn most of the attention.

Latin America seldom figures in popular or academic discussion? What? Oliver Stone and James Woods first big movie was Salvador, set in 1980’s Guatemala. The US left does nothing but bring up Central America when flinging mud at the right wing. The massacres by right wing death-squads are their mainstay about how the Cold War was fought wrong. The first tell-all about the CIA, and a major best-seller, was written by an agent stationed in Latin America, Philip Agee, who exposed real agents by using their real names which led to a couple of CIA people being assassinated in short order. His US citizenship was revoked as a result.

Cuba is constantly in the news. Constantly. Always has been. John F. Kennedy’s worst moment was the Cuba Bay of Pigs invasion which failed and his best moment was the Cuba face-off with Russia, with the left wing always reminding everyone that he lied to the American public and sold out European security interests in Turkey to keep missiles out of Cuba.

Cuba is still in the news regularly. Boat people are constantly fleeing from it and their bodies floating up on the coast of Florida. Cuba hosts a number of American criminals who went there for safe haven. The Clinton decision to return the young boy Elian Gonzalez to Cuba was one of the most talked about issues of the 1990’s. Though it probably didn’t get much international attention, it was huge domestically because it divided the left and right wing right down the middle over family values, political correctness, multiculturalism, etc. and it lasted for months while the relatives got their mugs in the press, screeching and talking out of both sides of their mouths. A real soap opera. The press loved it. The right wing was for keeping him in democratic America with his relatives whereas the left wing was for returning him to his father in Cuba. The Clinton administration marched something like a 40 member SWAT team into his relatives’ home under the press’s cameras to forcibly repatriate the boy.

Ronald Reagan’s biggest scandal was Iran-Contra which was HUGE. It was like Watergate all over again. The first thing I associate with Reagan isn’t the ending of the Cold War but Iran-Contra. The Contras were the right wing Nicaraguan rebels supported illegally by a deal which illegally sold weapons to Iran and used the profits to fund the Contras.

And everyone on the left knows about Guatemala and the United Fruit Company. This is infamous stuff. It’s part of their mantra against the right. As is the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia which continues to train Latin American police in interrogation methods.

That the average Joe is as ignorant of this stuff as he is of how free speech came about in the US, or why the Civil War was fought, or that the first man to die in the War of Independence was a free black man (Crispus Atticus), would not surprise me. But academics are familiar enough with all this stuff and also quite aware that Latin America was heavily involved in the Cold War.

Here’s another good one: Reading like an excerpt from Gogol's Dead Souls, one advertisement from 1922 announced the sale of '5000 acres and many mozos colonos who will travel to work on other plantations'. (Mozos colonos were indebted labourers.) While unionised workers elsewhere were itemising what their employers could and could not ask of them, Guatemala's peasants were forced to provide a variety of compulsory services, including sex. Two planters in the Alta Verapaz region, cousins from Boston, used their Indian cooks and corn grinders to sire more than a dozen children. 'They fucked anything that moved,' a neighbouring planter observed. Though plantations were mini-states - with private jails, stockades and whipping posts - planters also depended on the army, judges, mayors and local constables to force workers to submit to their will. Public officials routinely rounded up independent or runaway peasants, shipping them off to plantations or forcing them to build roads. One mayor had local vagrants paint his house.

How much different was the situation in the US? Mencken describes judges and prison wardens rounding up vagrants and putting them to work illegally. Mencken describes this in something approaching an approving tone! Black workers in rural US had it very rough at this time. Many were in a position similar to that above if I’m not mistaken. Rape and lynchings. Slavery was traded for share-cropping. They were all thrown off the land in the late 1940’s when mechanical harvesters became efficient. Very few civil rights at any time. My point is that rather than there being a double standard, advances in human rights and dignity took place in advance in the home country first as usual, with the ‘colonies’ following one stage behind. This is the same pattern as in Asia. I suspect this guy doesn’t know his history.

More fun: Galvanised by the New Deal… The author being left-wing, and thus reliably naïve about economics, praises the New Deal. However, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt was a complete disaster launched by political quacks who passed themselves off as economic Einstein’s (the press called them the Brain Trust) and who went a long way to kick-starting the Second World War by virtue of severely botching the US economy and preventing any chance of global economic recovery. (The New Deal was so silly it has to be studied in its own right to be appreciated and it’s an encouraging lesson in how much more intelligent and competent politicians and the public are today. Another New Deal is impossible to imagine given the lessons learned and today’s access to information.) A never terribly strong continental Europe and Japan suffered terribly and resorted to increasingly desperate measures. One of which, unfortunately, was war.
Great rhetoric here. Moving, serious stuff. 'If I hadn't studied Marx I would be chicha ni limonada,' Reyes told Grandin. 'I'd be nothing. But reading nourished me and here I am. I could die today and nobody could take that from me.'

Again: I could die today and nobody could take that from me. Pardon? And this nonsense is followed up a few lines later with this: As Guatemala's archbishop complained, the Arbencistas sent peasants 'gifted with facility with words' to the nation's capital, where they were 'taught . . . to speak in public'. More comedy.

The coup de grace: During the 1954 coup, the CIA turned to Madison Avenue, pop sociologies and the literature of mass psychology to create the illusion of large-scale opposition to Arbenz. Radio shows spread rumours of an underground resistance, inciting wobbly army officers to abandon their oath to the democratically elected president. This is true as far as memory serves and should be emphasized. Arbenz’s people abandoned him because they believed bogus radio reports about an army approaching. They panicked and ran. The CIA could only rustle up two pre-WWII planes to assist in the coup and the pilots had to drop hand-grenades by hand from the cockpit. That was the sum and total of the armed forces that overthrew a sovereign nation. A savvy radio announcer and two pilots dropping hand-grenades from planes was enough to rout the country’s armed forces. Injects even more comedy into the term “banana republic”. If the nation’s people were so galvanized by Marxism and the New Deal then why did the whole thing fall apart so fast? What happened to the peasant's newfound appetite for thinking and talking?

Something’s funny with this story…

What does this mean? But the collapse of Communism and disappearance of Marxism have eased the burdens of intelligence. What burdens of intelligence? What does this fluffy phrase mean?

Facing a new enemy, which does not make the same demands that Communism once did, today's intellectuals wave away all talk of 'root causes': history, it seems, will no longer be summoned to the bar of political analysis - or not for the time being. Really? But non-fiction and biography in particular is selling in the US like never before. Fiction previously was the big seller. Serious history sells these days.

This guy’s positively moony, braying rhetoric and in love with lavender words at war with sense. And I can’t help but pronounce as frauds people who talk with confidence about Marxian economics and yet clearly haven’t given economics in general any serious self-study. These milquetoast goofballs give me a pain.

By the way, this poetaster (yup, that’s a real word) is on C-span.
Biff Cappuccino

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My reply follows this letter below from
There seems to have been some controversy caused by what I thought was an obvious truism: "It is a cruel joke of history that troubled times tend to produce the most gifted of men." Biff Cappuccino writes [letter, Nov 16] that Cervantes is "hardly a first-rate writer ... most likely because he wrote at a time when free speech was insufficiently protected". Then he goes on to name [Paul] Theroux and [H L] Mencken as great writers. I suspect Biff and a frighteningly large number of Asians view Anglo-American culture as the pinnacle of world culture. And by extension, they revere writers from Japan and Taiwan who slavishly imitate their white masters in the UK and US. Biff's narrow view of the world sees writers as boring little typists producing reading material for bourgeois drones on the subway. In any case, gifted people of the past weren't just "writers" as we think of them today, but often officials, painters, musicians and adventurers. Biff also states, "And as to the claim that conflict produces the best writers, I have to wonder who he's referring to?" I am referring to Du Fu, Gunther Grass, Mikhail Bulgakov, [Fyodor] Dostoevsky, [Akira] Kurosawa, [Charles] Dickens, [Alexandre] Dumas and others who wrote about the turbulent times they lived in. Open up your mind, Mr Cappuccino, the world is bigger than Taiwan, Japan, America and England. There are fascinating people living in Africa, India, South America and everywhere, not just in the lands of your colonial masters. Try reading a book by [Jorge Luis] Borges or [Amos] Tutuola, and you might enjoy it! There is more to the world than "legally protected free speech" and "multiparty democracy", believe it or not. It is an insult to all of our ancestors to see these modern political rights as prerequisites for culture and wisdom. The culture of free societies is mostly a glut of shallow entertainment which has nothing to teach those living under repressive governments. I take offense at Daniel McCarthy's comparison of me to Jane Fonda, a ditzy and typically American actress, who went on a little photo op to Hanoi [letter, Nov 16]. However, I do admire Ho Chi Minh for his moderation and wisdom. Ignorant fanatics like McCarthy, apologists for the ARP (American Republican Party), will never accept that Ho Chi Minh, though a communist, was a moderate who respected Confucian culture (his father was a Confucian scholar) and opposed war with the US. In any case, outside America people aren't so idiotic as to be frightened to death by the magic word "communist". I hope Asians in particular would have some sympathy for Vietnam's war of resistance against US invasion. Finally, what does my previous letter have to do with justifying the Chinese Communist Party? There are many talented writers and artists in China today, and they have adapted to their nation's system of government. These people don't justify the CCP's actions, but to say that all Chinese people are ignorant because of their government's restrictions on freedoms is just childish.
G Travan California, USA (Nov 17, '04)
Dear Gunther Travan: The authors you offer, as far as I know their work, are story-tellers. Care of libraries, TV, and Hollywood, those of us growing up in free countries have access to practically every sort of plot. Many of us tire of stories, turn to non-fiction and will only read fiction if it's packed with original ideas. This is where the best works of Twain, Wilde, Maugham, Theroux, etc. come in. Naipaul's essays far out-do his dry fiction. Michel Houellebecq is on his way, but still a novel or two short of truly good stuff. I don't care if the next good novel is written by a Martian. I only care that I like it.

And I don't mind if the author has a master, is a master, was a master, or is thinking of becoming a master. Speaking of which, where are these masters that you and Frank keep spotting? Are they hiding out in the satanic mills of industry with their running dogs and giving orders to their frantic fascist captains? I thought this kind of jargon went out with WWII. But maybe this is a case of China holding on to its traditions? The closest thing in modern English that I can think of is: Who’s your daddy? So, who is your Daddy? Do I have one? And if I don't have one, how do I get one?

You know, I sincerely wish the best for China. If the next brilliant author is Chinese: terrific! I can read his or her work in the original language, the way it’s supposed to be read. But I just don’t see how patriots suffering from hallucinations of nonexistent masters and nonexistent races expect to help China. It’s this sort of thinking which has held it back for a century. Lu Hsun wrote about you seventy years ago: Ah Q.

Biff Cappuccino

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

My response follows this letter:
I have being reading your website articles with very much interest for about a year, I have read one-sided stories and also well-balanced down-to-earth articles, but I have not really seen anything written on the real implications of the "war on terrorism". For one, let me make you aware of what is happening in the US. Slowly the economy is picking up thanks to the need to keep our troops supplied, small manufacturers are getting government contracts with secrecy clauses as well as the big companies. The more the destruction, and success of the "insurgents", the more the need to replenish the resources the army needs. It might be immoral to exchange blood for money, but I think this is a point that somebody has to make. As seen by this way of looking at things as they parallel American reality, it is absolutely absurd and pointless to think that the coalition troops will withdraw - why should they? Sure there are casualties, but in the long run those "terrorists" with their high ideals will keep the economy going for a long time. For that the economic establishment thanks them, and the super-rich are probably praying that the "terrorists" succeed in causing a major catastrophe on US soil so that they can have even greater power. It seems that those poor misguided souls dying for their "cause" or jihad are truly playing into the plans of the master economists that control their country and ours. May God have mercy on us all.
Re: letter-writer Turulato’s popular left-wing theory of economics, as contained herein: “Slowly the economy is picking up thanks to the need to keep our troops supplied, small manufacturers are getting government contracts with secrecy clauses as well as the big companies… in the long run those "terrorists" with their high ideals will keep the economy going for a long time.”

Turulato goes on, in so many words, to lay out the following tempting scenario: the US government pays businesses to manufacture widgets, with both businesses and government benefiting. So the government pays businesses to manufacture more widgets, with more benefits accruing to both. This goes on and on, with a steadily growing pie fitting more and more fingers. It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Gosh!

Except that this is just another perpetual motion machine to go alongside global warming, pyramid schemes, and each year’s new & improved world-destroying epidemic. So where do government revenues come from? Governments don’t earn money (nor can they just print it like funny money without generating massive inflation); they take it in a process called taxation (some would say they often steal it: both federal and state income tax in the US is unconstitutional, ergo the millions of US tax protesters who don’t pay state and/or federal income tax). Since the US government derives most of its money via taxes from businesses, how (in accordance with Turulato’s scenario) can businesses grow fat on government contracts when the money for these contracts is the tax drawn from their own profits? The amount of money remaining shrinks drastically with each iteration.

And who is the “business establishment?” How many sinister characters in this nebulous conspiracy has Turulato met in person? When I wanted to understand politics, I volunteered in a politician’s office. I suggest Turulato might try something similar in the economic sphere. It’s easy to do. If you really care about the subject, you will.

Biff Cappuccino, Taipei

Monday, November 15, 2004

Biff: From a forum discussion: First Yojimbo, then me:

Originally posted by biff capp

Note how she leaves out the numbers of Chinese killed by the Chinese KMT (at least double the number killed by the Japs) and the numbers killed by the Chinese Communists (who in the leisure afforded by peacetime, shot and starved to death somewhere around 60 million).

In essence the problem can be reduced to this: we Chinese can kill each other, no foreigners allowed!


Surely you can't be serious with your "very lengthy" but empty comments/theory.

What do you think? You are some kind of western propagandist?
Do you engage common sense to opine?

Please read here:-

Please substanstiate your position!!!!



Thanks for the feedback yojimbo, but: What empty comments? How are my comments empty? What would make them full?

And, actually, I'm attacking a propagandist.

And, I've lived in Taiwan longer than any other country (I've lived in seven) and have spoken more Chinese everyday than English for the past decade. In fact, five years ago, I returned to Canada to learn English again because I couldn't speak it anymore. Am I still a westerner?

And you're not asking me to substantiate my position, as my position is that Iris Chang is a fraud. You're asking me to try to debunk your position, which is that China's population growth refutes the notion of China's CCP mass murder.

And what does "Do you engage common sense to opine" mean? I'm not trying to make fun of you but I honestly don't understand the sentence...

Nevertheless, thanks for the heads-up on the population growth. The figures for the alleged slaughter are all over the web and in the textbooks. They’re often wild and your suspicion is healthy, I agree. I pulled my figure out of a hat, without bothering to offer a footnote. I could have done so but this would only have lent the false appearance of authority. I haven't looked into this before and you're right to go after me for it.

However, as you will probably agree, China has had 2000 years of massive depopulation, followed by massive repopulation, followed by famine and war and then the whole cycle starts all over again. Lin Yu-tang, Huang Wen-Hsiung, etc. have written about this.

The population figures you give unfortunately say nothing in this context. What do they mean? They neither substantiate nor dis-substantiate. And, of course, you quoted Communist Party figures. I'm sorry, but I trust nothing by the CCP. I'm not trying to escape from your criticism, but I can't trust communists of any stripe from any country. They’re notorious liars. Sorry.

According to census data, the total population at the end of 1993 was 20,944,006 (16,885,412 from Taiwan Province), having more than doubled since 1949.

"In the year 2000, the population of Taiwan was 22.3 million, an increase of 12.45% over 1987...The crude birth rate, crude death rate and the corresponding natural increase rate of population in 1945 were 38.31, 18.15 and 20.16 per 1,000 respectively. These figures had fallen sharply to 15.18, 5.71 and 9.47 per 1,000 respectively in 2000."

In other words, Taiwan's population has increased around 140~150% since 1949. Does this mean that 10% of China's population was killed by the CCP? No. I have no idea what it means. But, I suspect, neither do any of us.

As to the popularity of China's government that you bring up in your other post, you know as well as I do that the CCP would lose an election in a flash. Today's headline is: "China faces up to growing unrest: More than 58,000 major incidents of social unrest took place in China last year, up 15% from 2002..."


Anyway, I wish the best for China and the Chinese people. I'm angry with the ghost of Iris Chang, not with China.

Biff Cappuccino

Biff again:

Sorry: My statement "In other words, Taiwan's population has increased around 140~150% since 1949. Does this mean that 10% of China's population was killed by the CCP? No. I have no idea what it means. But, I suspect, neither do any of us." was in reference to part of another post by yojimbo where he writes:

US population growth in 50 years
Year 1949 = 149,188,130
Year 1999 = 272,690,813 [80% increase]
(this includes a lot of immigration)
[US census]

China population growth in 50 years
Year 1949 = 541 million
Year 1999 = 1259 million [130% increase]
(practically no immigration)

If China really butcher her people, is such growth possible?

Biff again: in other words, I’m comparing Taiwan’s 140~150% population growth rate to China’s 130% growth rate. But this is apples and oranges as the internal factors of each locale are very different. This is just another case of “…statistics, damn statistics and lies.”
My reply follows the letter below:

Daniel McCarthy [letter, Nov 11] is undoubtedly one of the 59 million silly fools who cannot tell the difference between a hypocrite and a saint. Yet he has the gall to write, "Until China has freedom of information, freedom of thought, and real education instead of more silly propaganda memorization, we cannot expect much more." As letter writer Sandy Lambrecht mentioned, Americans seem to think they are a master race, justified to look down on every other people around the world. Su Shi, Du Fu, Ferdowsi, Cervantes, Thomas More and countless other brilliant men of letters around the world lived in societies where the "freedom of information and thought" was limited or non-existent. It is a cruel joke of history that troubled times tend to produce the most gifted of men. If you doubt this, then offer an example of any writer or thinker now in Taiwan or Hong Kong who can hold a handle to those in 1920s and 1930s China, which was racked by dictatorship, invasion, civil war, and social revolution. China today has far to go in improving its education system, but there are many talented people who are not simple robots churned out by some imaginary totalitarian propaganda machine. Mr McCarthy "misunderestimates" China if he thinks their "children isn't learning". Why, the typical Chinese university graduate has better English abilities than the Harvard/Yale-educated president of the US.
G Travan
California, USA

With all due respect to G Travan's taste in literati, we'll have to disagree over Cervantes. He's hardly a first-rate writer. The allusions Cervantes draws are crude and simplistic, most likely because he wrote at a time when free speech was insufficiently protected. The resulting ignorance of his reading public is reflected in the dumbing down he constantly engages in and which mars his work beyond repair. He often writes as if for children.

As to the writers of 1920s and 1930s China, Lu Hsun is highly overrated and practically unreadable to anyone except hard-core Sinophiles: a crew of aficionados infamous for their ignorance of their own national literatures. Lin Yu-Tang was a brilliant writer from that era though. But to suggest that he has no peer in the contemporary era seems an awful stretch. Li Ao, who did two stints in jail as a political prisoner in Taiwan, was an extremely prolific essayist who covered a vast range of social and political issues with wit and vast volumes of footnoted evidence. He's presently vying for a seat in Taiwan's legislature. Several years ago, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. To his credit he didn't receive it: Nobel Prizes (like Pulitzers) are almost exclusively awarded to mediocrities. And to turn to historians (in lieu of thinkers - what thinkers?), how about Taiwan's Huang Wen-Hsiung: he's a best-selling historian in Japan (where he moved in 1964 to enjoy and profit from legally protected free speech) and is well-known throughout academic circles here in Taiwan. What distinguishes him from the pack is his willingness to face down the unholy uproar each of his books tends to produce (in one of his recent efforts, he argues that Lu Hsun's model for Ah Q, a story about a culturally retrograde moron, was in fact the national father Sun Yat-sen). His last several books have been particularly good because he's extremely concise: as opposed to the proud Chinese tradition of packing in as much stuffing and platitudes as will fit between two covers.

And as to the claim that conflict produces the best writers, I have to wonder who he's referring to? Paul Theroux is the most intelligent and engaging fiction author alive in my opinion, and he seems to spend as much time dodging difficulties as engaging them. He's notoriously shy and difficult, irritable and, no doubt, irritating. And the best essayist of the 20th century is not the politically correct George Orwell, but the politically incorrect H.L. Mencken. Mencken is by far his superior: being far more knowledgeable, wide-ranging and daring when it came to forming and expressing opinions. He lived at home with his mother most of his life. I'll leave you with the opening lines of the preface to Francis Kiernan's biography of Mary McCarthy: "Most writers’ lives are sadly lacking in drama. The dullest of people, it turns out, write witty and intelligent books. Once they push back their chairs and get up from their desks, they do little to warrant our attention."

P.S. As to the difference between saints and hypocrites: there is no difference. They’re one and the same animal.

Biff Cappuccino, Taipei

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Ode to Comedienne Iris Chang

The eulogies of Iris Chang have been unintentionally amusing, much like book blurbs are in general. This is no accident given that both are often written in haste by the same sort of glib, mutual back-slapping, dollar-chaser. This seedy subsection of the literatti seldom knows what it's on about and can't be bothered to check the facts as the membership ain't interested in knowing them anyway.

Exhibit A: The San Francisco Chronicle informs us that, "Born in Princeton, N.J., Chang grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., where her parents are professors at the University of Illinois. Her grandparents' escape from Nanjing fed her early interest in what happened there. "

Grandparents? In the introduction to The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang writes "I first learned about the rape of Nanking when I was little girl. The stories came from my parents, who had survived years of foreign revolution before finding a serene home as professors in a Midwestern American college town. They had grown up in China in the midst of World War II and, after the war, fled with their families, first to Taiwan and finally to the United States to study at Harvard and pursue academic careers in science.... but they never forgot the horrors of the Sino-Japanese war, nor did they want me to forget. They particularly did not want me to forget the rape of Nanking. Neither of my parents witnessed [the rape of Nanking], but as young children they had heard the stories, and these were passed onto me.

The New York Times edifies us with: "Fluent in Mandarin, Ms. Chang traveled to China, where she scoured archives and interviewed elderly survivors. What she learned would force her to describe the indescribable." In other words, she was forced by her fluency to describe the indescribable.

The same comedian alleges Chang's book contains the following, "So sickening was the spectacle that even Nazis in the city were horrified."

Hmm... But wasn't it a Nazi who took the initiative to establish and manage a safety zone in which the entirety of the Chinese population remaining in Nanking moved to when Japanese forces arrived (most of the urban population had already evacuated the city, with the rural population summarily driven off their land by frontline KMT forces which destroyed their property (and often their complaining person) as part of its scorched earth policy)? The 'even horrified Nazi' was John Rabe whose diaries have been translated and printed in English under the title, The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe. His book is cited approvingly by Iris Chang. So, if she indeed did write this, it makes little sense in the context of the eulogy. If the quote has been fabricated by a lazy or indifferent reporter (is there any other kind?), then it shows that the reporter/eulogist/reviewer has not read much of the book at hand (do they ever?).

But this sort of name-dropping, bogus generalizing, and shibboleth slang-whanging is typical of panting, overworked and underpaid, free press hacks. Their main priority is that of any other professional: career advancement. This they achieve via getting on the front page of their newspaper section. Their venerable employer's main priority is stirring up the animals (by hook or by crook) to whip up circulation which in turns enables the paper to charge local businesses higher advertising rates. Dollar-chasers chasing dollars from beginning to end.

From my narrow truth-chasing perspective, however, it serves me no useful purpose to pretend that members of the Nazi Party were ipso facto devoted to massacring Jews and crushing liberty everywhere. The Nazi party, i.e. Germany's left-wing National Socialist Party (only slightly to the right of the Communist Party), was a political organization encompassing millions of people bearing, as with any other democratic political party, a grab-bag of different goals, opinions, tastes, morals, religious feeling, etc. In addition to rounding up and eventually slaughtering minorities, the Nazis, as a party, also enacted Europe's first maternity-leave legislation (i.e. women couldn't be fired just for being pregnant), enacted the first restrictions on carcinogenic food dyes, and the first legislation to regulate air safety levels in mines. It would take 30 years for the US to catch up to this sort of public policy making. The Nazis also established low-cost automobiles for the low-wage earning public, i.e. the Volkswagen - the folks' wagon, and constructed cruise ships that provided affordable cruises for the same proletariat. It goes on and on. As World War II historian John Toland wrote, if Hitler had been assassinated in 1938 he would've gone down in German history as a national hero. In the end, of course, Hitler launched a war and had to be stopped. But as the American reporter/author William Shirer reported while in Berlin, unlike WWI there was no celebrating in the streets at the invocation of WWII. It was not a war popular with the public.

So the phrase, "Even Nazis" is meaningless. It's like saying "even Republicans" or "even Democrats" or "even the French." Why not Freedom Fries for everyone?

There are other well-remunerated examples of half-witted nonsense that I could quote, but it gets depressing after a bit. One gets a sour taste in the back of one's mouth and wonders: These are the opinion makers? These donkeys?

You don't want to think about it. I know I don't. But a library card and cross-checking the 'plain facts' unluckily indicates to me that most of history, especially that known and fondly recalled by newspaper-devourers and TV-fanatics to bulwark their beery arguments, is just plain bunk. And this bunk has next to nothing to do with what happened and is thus useless as a guide to preventing mischief from recurring in future. And it was for emitting precisely such heresies, and pointing my accusations at the source - the very hacks of academe, my proud professors: the proud creators, nay fabricators, umm... embalmers and curators of history, that got me flunked out of grad school in Canada. Such is life.

But this loose playing with facts and fancy, stiffened up with a brace of fine-sounding or primitively emotive gobbledygook, is par for the course and operates at about the same level in Iris Chang's fine work. And with this realization, the heavens parted for me: truth, forever coquettish, finally revealed her naughty bits.

Ah! But of course! Reporters writing eulogies for an esteemed colleague much wanted in heaven for higher, finer work! Hacks lavishing a fellow comedian with hagiography. Scoundrels praising a fellow scoundrel, and in so doing, never busier a-back-slapping than today. The din of self-congratulation is deafening; the papers awash in a gush of bosh as punters leap-frog to get a piece of the publicity pie. Lies flash around the world light-speed via the WWW, before doddering truth has time to drop its cock and reach for its socks...

But why should I expect any better than botched facts, poll-parroting, and sophomoric rhetoric to constitute all the news fit to print now that Iris Chang has apparently topped herself?

From the second paragraph of the introduction written by Chang to her The Rape of Nanking: "Americans think of WWII as beginning on December 7, 1941..."

Really? No, of course they don't. Like any big lie, it seemed almost crazy enough to be true. I asked a couple of Yank colleagues in the translation office just be sure though. Not satisfied with just this, Chang kick-starts the Second World War with the occupation of Manchuria in 1931. This enables her to claim that the rape of Nanking is the biggest, baddest, and most worstest Holocaust of WWII. But this is only one of numerous sneaky maneuvers on her part.

Check this out: “No doubt, those 14 years of domination by the Japanese military were marked by countless incidents of almost indescribable ruthlessness. We will never know everything that happened in the many cities and small villages that found themselves prostrate beneath the boot of this conquering force. Ironically, we do know the story of Nanking because some foreigners witnessed the horror and sent word to the outside world at the time, and some Chinese survived as eyewitnesses. If one event can be held up as an example of the unmitigated evil lying just below the surface of unbridled military adventurism, that moment is the Rape of Nanking.”

Look at the awkward phrasing, the excessive trying-too-hard piling on of nastiness, the weird perspective whereby the reader becomes a member of a community called “some foreigners”.

Is this English? No. Not really. This is Mandarin. I’ve translated poor Mandarin into bad English for too many years not to smell a rat. This is a piece of filched CCP propaganda that she’s translated into English. Or maybe they were in on the game. Maybe part of it. It wouldn’t be the first time.

"No doubt?" and "Countless?" So we're clearly not dealing with history here; this is rhetoric, the primary weapon of the mentally feeble and logically impaired. What one cannot convince through logical persuasion, is perhaps doable via rhetoric. A case in point is the King James Bible, a beautifully worded tome, which, when reduced to plain English becomes idiotic and undecipherable, with its contradictions in even plainer view. Reduce the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx to the journalese of the financial page, and its tissue of absurdities are a dead-letter. It's no accident that Marx, like Chang, like Charles Hanley (the co-fabricator of the No Gun Ri incident of South Korea) was a successful journalist.

The newspaper is an excellent training ground for the unethical literatus to learn the ins and outs, the do's and don'ts, the elasticity of 'the facts', and the legal culpabilities (and more importantly their loop-holes) of their slippery trade. The whys, wherefores, howzitts, and prick-tease whodunnits required for perennially pulling the customers' noses comes easily afterwards.

"Indescribable": we've covered this mockery of information, this evasion of the facts, this camouflage for precision: this unwillingness of Chang to admit to her customers, that she, as self-appointed messiah and blue-stocking in chief, is not omniscient and privy to all the facts of the case after-all.

Could Chang possibly not have known that the Japanese military did not dominate China; that, as with most any other democracy (or pseudo-democracy), it was the civilian wing of the occupation government that did the dominating? Which was why Manchuria enjoyed the highest rate of industrialization and the highest living standards in China, outside of the western occupied zones of Shanghai. You might as well try to persuade me that as a child living in Uganda, the locals were under the boot of the English and suffered "indescribable ruthlessness." Sorry sweethearts, I was there.

Once the fighting is over, the grunts move over and the civvies come in. I'm not going to be convinced that my memories are less persuasive than the rhetoric of garden-variety anti-colonialists. No more than locally-born grandparents in Taiwan have ever been persuaded that the arrival of the KMT and the ensuing massacre of the intelligentsia, the national land grab, the destruction of the local currency and impoverishment of everyone's savings, the installation of martial law, and so forth signaled a reprieve from the Jap's boots and their "indescribable ruthlessness" of modernizing the infrastructure, eradicating head-hunting and cannibalism, upping the living standard, bringing in genuine law and order and quashing the mafia and gangsterism, establishing a national education and welfare scheme, etc...

"We will never know everything that happened." You can chase your tail all night with that one. Everything? Since when, where, or how could anyone ever know everything about anything? It’s another complete non-entity as a sentence, yet another puff of rhetoric sharply elbowing meaning out of its appointed place.

Page five from the introduction: "One historian has estimated that if the dead from Nanking were to link hands, they would stretch from Nanking to the city of Hangchow, spanning a distance of some 200 miles… Their blood would weigh 1200 tons, and their bodies would fill 2500 railroad cars. Stacked on top of each other, these bodies would reach the height of a 74-story building.

Using numbers killed alone, the rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages. The Japanese outdid the Romans of Carthage (only 150,000 died in that slaughter)... it is certainly true that in this century when the tools of mass murder were fully refined, Hitler killed about 6 million Jews, and Stalin more than 40 million Russians, but these deaths were brought about over some few years. In the rape of Nanking the killing was concentrated within a few weeks."

Note how she leaves out the numbers of Chinese killed by the Chinese KMT (at least double the number killed by the Japs) and the numbers killed by the Chinese Communists (who in the leisure afforded by peacetime, shot and starved to death somewhere around 60 million).

In essence the problem can be reduced to this: we Chinese can kill each other, no foreigners allowed!

I’m not trying to be funny. I’m perfectly serious. Just browse the daily dose of Chinese xenophobia that hosts in its letters to the editor page. The language employed may be English, but the retrograde tribal sentiments are unabashedly Mainland China Mandarin-derived and cultural in origin. These people are that unenlightened. Or, to use an impolite phrase, they’re that fucking stupid.

And I like Chang’s touch, "only 150,000 died in that slaughter." You can feel Chang's palpable fear that you might otherwise be impressed with the number. You might pause to consider such a large figure. Fortunately she cuts in quick to remind us that it was ONLY 150,000. I get the feeling her editor slept right through the galley drafts. He was only there to sign his pay slip.

This kind of gaff in English would not be considered a faux pas in Chinese though, which is a much cruder medium full of hard-hitting blood-and-guts propaganda: i.e. it's a language still recovering from the pummeling that martial law on both sides of the Taiwan straits has given to freedom of speech and thought; not to mention to taste.

A case in point is "One historian has estimated that... [the massacre victims'] blood would weigh 1200 tons"

One historian eh? From the prestigious University of Hawaii East Asian Studies program, or from Stanford or UC Berkeley, perhaps? Not likely. Straight from the mouths of those innocents at the China Communist Party’s propaganda units.

This is part of a pattern. Again, she uses the phrase "some few years." She has a thing about the word "some", as if unfamiliar with the more appropriate "several" which would handily dispose of "some few." Again, she uses the word "foreigners", when "foreign nationals" or "expatriates" would be more in keeping with modern idiom. In other words, whether or not she in fact lifted this paragraph from a crude CCP rant, she writes like a Chinese person who learned English as a second language. When speaking ( hosts one clumsy back-pedaling interview and one angry messianic rant), she sounds American valley-girl, but I suspect, like many of the ABC candidates who've shown up looking for work at my place of employment, she's far from American - perhaps Western is what I mean here - in terms of her thinking.

This may have something to do with the following description of her in the San Francisco Chronicle. "She was doing research recently in Kentucky and ran into some problem," he said. "She got really upset, and she flew home." ... Ignatius Ding, an activist who worked with Chang for several years in seeking to have Japan acknowledge and apology for atrocities it committed during World War II...noted that she "took things to heart" and usually became emotionally involved in the tragic stories she wrote about.

I've met this sort of minority messiah in the flesh (and am a sort of reformed one myself...haha...) and they can be trying, seldom taking a vacation from their outrage and investiture of emotional capital in whatever the hell gives them a sense of meaning. Paul Theroux has mentioned the same thing and tendency to suicide in Eastern European academics in the US when they run "into some problem." The problem Theroux mentioned is usually ethical. With Chang, I do not know. But I am curious.

So many of these messiahs, hearts-of-gold to the contrary, come down with a thump.
Sun Yat-sen, after the cobwebs of hagiography are brushed away, turns out to be akin to Yasser Arafat: pocketing donations, lathering like a workhorse to establish a fascist dictatorship, complicit in assassinations, and just generally relying on his reputation as a nation-saver to make up for his serial bungling.

Pearl Buck, in an effort that ought to have christened her glowing literary and moony-Old-China-hand reputation, established a foundation to better the conditions of East Asian orphans. She got tired of the racket and turned over the management to her bisexual boyfriend who then, along with his bed-buddies, started raping orphans from coast to coast. When the story finally leaked out and became national news, she threatened the children who had ratted to the press with immediate deportation back to Korea. After she died, it took her family seven years of litigation to finagle back that part of the estate which was owed to them and which had been ripped off by her bereaving boyfriend. As with Mother Theresa, another of these dollar-hounds, where did all the money go? After Sun Yat-sen did a tour in the nineteen-teens and raked in huge donations from Japanese philanthropists (I gather they hadn't got their boots on yet and got with the national game-plan of "indescribable ruthlessness") he pocketed the funds and never again wuz they seen. I'm shocked!

I'm also tired. So, I'll end this rant here. I'm sad to see Iris go. I would have preferred the chance to destroy her reputation while she was still alive. Hopefully Professor Chomsky will remain fit and with the living, full of whimsy and vigor, the old, weepy charlatan.

Biff Cappuccino

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Announcement: Am back to working 12 hours a day. Will not post much until December 01.... Biff Cappuccino