Rotting curtains
Posted by aogSaturday, 29 March 2008 at 21:24 TrackBack Ping URL

I read this post at Transterrestial Musings about liberating Old Media from the grip of Clinton Protectionism, i.e. reporting bad things about the Clintons. What struck me, though, was how much better most conservative politicians age than liberal ones. Even Barry Goldwater is held in high esteem for someone who got totally plastered by LBJ in the 1964 Presidential election. Ronald Reagan, of course, is effectively the archetype. I think it’s quite reasonable to expect current President Bush’s reputation to increase over the next few decades. But what liberal politicians since, say, WWII have aged well? Jimmy Carter? Ted Kennedy? Michael Dukakis? George McGovern? Bill Clinton? Eliot Spitzer? Even John F. Kennedy — his name may be used iconographically, but his policies are anathema to the very people who do that. It’s another aspect of how MAL is the political ideology that dare not show its true form, and whose practitioners can only be protected while they have the power to suppress dissent. Once that slips (due to death, retirement, loss of influence) the inevitable molding begins.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Harry Eagar Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 01:11

Yeah, that Agnew guy is lookin’ good.


Truman, despite the horrible concessions he had to make to the conservative nutcases (loyalty oaths, etc.) now looks like the cream of the crop of post-FDR politicians.

Others may differ, but I continue to think Reagan was a moron and it was damn lucky nothing important came up during his time in office.

Ali Choudhury Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 07:13

Carter’s usually presented as the best ex-president ever.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 08:18

Clinton was also darn lucky nothing important came up during his time, yet his reputation isn’t enduring like Reagan’s. As for Agnew, did his reputation decline or was it never good in the first place? I would also note how Nixon has been partially rehabilitated.

As for Carter, the bloom is off the hagiographic rose in the last few years, especially with Carter’s judenhass. I, and many others, consider him the worst ex-President ever. As an example of the esteem in which Carter is held, one of the funnier jokes to make the rounds is that Carter can fix the Democratic Party’s primary problem. No matter how rigged, un-democratic, and poorly managed the vote is, Carter will certify it and make everything better.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 14:16

Nixon hasn’t been rehabbed with me, and the rehabbers have to overlook how he saved Russian Communism in 1970.

Carter ran an interesting experiment. Until he was talked into that cockamamie raid into Iran, he almost became the first president of the United States ever to serve a term without his government killing anybody. If that had worked out, it would have been momentous. It didn’t. People might want to mull over that, especially foreigners.

As far as I’m concerned, there were only two domestic issues of significance in the last half of the 20th century — civil rights and prosperity. Until you get pretty close to he 21st century, no conservative shows up well on the first. Certainly not Goldwater, sheesh again.

No conservatives show up well on prosperity. You cannot fool the market forever. Or didn’t you guys notice that Reaganomics cratered earlier this month? Old Dr. New Deal was brought in with the patient undergoing seizures that baffled the GOP docs, and he managed, just barely, to control the spasms. The underlying organic damage was too serious for him to treat, and it remains to be seen whether the patient will pull through. The prognosis is grim.

The scary part is that the GOP quacks still aren’t admitting any organic disease in the patient. It is not, as Bush says, all in his mind. He’s really, really sick.

CJM Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 14:53

he: why post such nonsense ? is it a lack of self-control or some neurotic impulse ?

carter is very close to being the worst president and worst ex-president. he is also a disgraceful and disgusting person.

nixon was a terrible president in every way, which isn’t surprising since he was for all intents and purposes a democrat.

republicans do hold up much better over time because they are far more likely to givern from a genuinely held position. democrats merely implement the will of the collective, they don’t truly lead.

people who believe the MAL can be reformed are delusional. if we ever get a president with guts and brains, he will make all mal outlets carry warnings “this is a biased and untrustworthy document”.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 16:24

Mr. Eagar;

No conservative shows up well on civil rights? Despite the voting on the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

As for Reaganomics, it certainly seems to have beaten Euro-nomics and any other post WWI President. I certainly haven’t seen any cratering People panic way too easily. Or would it be better to have a Carter quality economy so that we don’t have downturns, having never turned up in the first place?

erp Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 16:35

CJM, Nixon wasn’t a democrat, he was a socialist. Remember his wage and price controls.

Republicans are responsible for the civil rights legislation and for resisting a Soviet takeover during the pre- and post-war period right up to the 60’s. That’s why the cry now is to “Recreate ‘68.” That was when we the closest to the abyss. I think the left as we know it will be dead if we can weather this next election.

Obama is a Stepford human if not a Disney robotron. When he’s not on stage, walking and talking, he’s in the off mode and just sits there looking into space.


Sure makes McCain look like a statesman.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 20:37

AOG, have you asked yourself where we’d be if Bear Stearns had suspended on a Wednesday?

Capitalism was saved, again, by New Deal management and, in this case, the happenstance of a weekend to put it into effect. We came real close to a crash this month, and I am a long way from certain we won’t have one this year anyhow.

I was there for the entire second half of the 20th century, and statements like Carter couldn’t deal with the economy or Republicans drove civil rights legislation are just fantasy. Whip Inflation Now.

No government policy in the late ‘70s could have done much. There was a significant structural change. Oil went up 400%, remember?

It is amusing that the Republicans are trying to make Nixon a gift to the Democrats. I was there for that one, too.

Don’t you guys read newspapers?

CJM Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 23:38

ahhh that explains everything, you get your “information” from newspapers. at least you can wrap fish with them afterwards.

Hey Skipper Monday, 31 March 2008 at 00:47

Others may differ, but I continue to think Reagan was a moron and it was damn lucky nothing important came up during his time in office.


Libya raid

IRBMs in Europe

Harry Eagar Monday, 31 March 2008 at 02:08

Well, that Libya raid worked out great, didn’t it? I don’t have to tell you that most of the F-111s failed to drop their munitions and the ones that did failed to hit their targets. That’ll show ‘em!

I’m not sure PATCO was an earth-shaking problem. It did announce the first salvo in Reaganomics, which has turned out to be a disaster.

IRBMs in Europe, again, how was what Reagan did different from what previous adminstrations had done with, eg, missiles in Turkey?

The Arab oil embargo was a real problem. The invasion of Kuwait was a real problem. The Vietnam war was a real problem.

The Cuban takeover of Grenada was a fake problem. The surrender by Carter of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians was a fake problem, but you wouldn’t have thought so from the howls of the Republicans at the time, would you?

Brad S Monday, 31 March 2008 at 07:26


I would think even you would come to appreciate one of the gutsiest decisions any president in the post-WW2 era ever made: The decision by Reagan to stick with Paul Volcker as Fed chairman after Volcker’s double-digit interest rates handed Reagan a recession that was the worst since the Great Depression. There was nothing in the alleged Reaganomics playbook that would have supported that call.

And surely you don’t think that an attempt by a President to avoid getting his military killed in action is that laudable a goal. All that says is you’re not willing to do what it takes to advance the interests of the United States, which history consistently proves involves the use of force.

Ali Choudhury Monday, 31 March 2008 at 10:30

I don’t think I’d call it New Dealism since the Federal Reserve was formed in 19013. That was after a financial meltdown was only avoided by JP Morgan browbeating Wall Street into action. Ironically, it was the Fed keeping the money supply too tight that led to the Depression lasting so long.

New Dealism generally entails wages and price controls, mammoth government regulations, WPA projects etc. That was junked after WW2.

Also Eagar, not Eager.

Hey Skipper Monday, 31 March 2008 at 11:56

Keeping in mind, of course, your original assertion was that “nothing important” came up during Reagan’s terms in office …

I’m not sure PATCO was an earth-shaking problem.

PATCO was pivotally important, because Reagan’s response ensured our economy did not become bound to the whim of unions. It is also worth keeping in mind that most people assumed Reagan couldn’t pull it off.

Well, that Libya raid worked out great, didn’t it? I don’t have to tell you that most of the F-111s failed to drop their munitions and the ones that did failed to hit their targets. That’ll show ‘em!

Actually, you do have to tell me, because it is the first I have heard it.

Which, being an F-111 pilot, and having seen the classified after-action briefing, comes as news to me.

IRBMs in Europe …

Well, there was plenty different. It was in response to USSR having already placed IRBMs in Eastern Europe, and occurred very publicly despite intense opposition.

Harry Eagar Monday, 31 March 2008 at 15:49

Skipper, I haven’t reviewed my review of “Operation El Dorado Canyon” recently, but as I recall, of 16 launched, one aborted, 5 failed to drop ordnance and of the remaining 11, 9 were off target. The Navy strike did better on penetration and finding the target, but the bomb loads were too small to do much damage.

Anyhow, all presidents have used or credibly threatened to use force to keep international sea lanes open. Nothing remarkable about Reagan except that he had the opportunity to punch up on a weak opponent. His specialty.

It’s probably true that nobody expected Reagan to stand up to PATCO. (A position I supported at he time, based on my strict policy of never feeling sorry for the poverty of those who have more money than me. Applicable also this past month, though the weeping has been deafening.)

The bad outcome — and the intention, although I doubt Reagan understood what was going on — was to bring American wage rates down to world levels. That happened. Some few were enriched and millions were impoverished. Not my idea of good policy, but chacun a son gout.

The Federal Reserve was established as a reserve bank to manage fiat money. It was not intended, nor was it ever used, as a lender of last resort until FDR. (Hoover’s answer was the mnuch slower-responding Reconstruction Finance Corp., a complete failure.) I know it is a mantra that the New Deal prolonged the Depression, but the evidence for that is thin. The problem was reflation of producer prices. Interest rates were irrelvant to that.

Anyhow, as we saw a couple weeks ago, nobody believes in a free down market. All the big, brave financiers rushed back to the New Deal womb when their world crashed. They won’t say that’s what they did, but that’s what it was.

I also don’t think WPA projects were junked after World War II. They were just renamed the National Highway Defense Act. That’s how my father made his living, selling cement for highways and runways.

Ali Choudhury Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 07:30

Harry: I’d recommend reading Gene Smiley’s [i]Rethinking The Great Depression[/i]. Also it wasn’t interest rates so much as the tightening of fractional reserve banking requirements.

joe shropshire Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 10:57

It’s also not the case that nobody’s for a free down market. I got my junior liquidator badge way back during the S&L crisis, and haven’t changed my views since. Of course, I have the ear of no one in government.

Hey Skipper Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 12:48


For a summary of El Dorado bombing assessments, see: this Wikipedia article.

A couple comments:

— despite serious complications presented by the extremely long over water flight (which are OT and too extensive to explain in detail here; suffice to say it was the interaction of INS drift, final update point selection, and jettys), and extremely tight ROE which caused all four aborts (one ‘vark was lost), all the targets were hit.

— The point of the exercise was to change Ghadafi’s behavior. That is the true figure of merit, not BDA. In that regard, the mission was a success. (Also, one of the F-111s BDA, the one that damaged the French embassy, was classified as a miss. It was also one of those things that make me wonder if there really is a God, as the bombs actually — and very fortuitously — hit a target that was on the initial list, but discarded due to collateral damage and intel considerations)

— Your original assertion was that nothing important came up during Reagan’s tenure. Regardless of what you think of El Dorado’s outcome, it is a real stretch to term it unimportant.

The bad outcome [of PATCO] — and the intention, although I doubt Reagan understood what was going on — was to bring American wage rates down to world levels. That happened. Some few were enriched and millions were impoverished.

The primary intent was to force PATCO to obey federal law, which was extremely clear in prohibiting strikes.

I presume the secondary intent was to put a brake on unionization of the American workforce. I don’t know if the consequent weakening of unions can be laid at Reagan’s response to PATCO, but we should all be thankful for it no matter the cause.

American wage rates are not at world levels, and millions were not impoverished. To believe otherwise requires that American poverty rates, already overstated, have increased significantly.

They have not.


As with Joe, I believe in free downmarkets. I lost a huge chunk of money when I sold my house last year, and didn’t feel the least compelled to ask for some sort of bailout.


Ali — IMHO, the Smoot-Hawley tariff act cannot be overlooked when considering the Depression’s causes.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 13:11

OK, Ali, I’ll read it, but I gotta tell you I’m going in skeptical of any theory that requires a Washington full of hard-money Democrats.

David Cohen Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 20:51

And there was that whole undermining the Soviet Union thing.

joe shropshire Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 22:31

Isn’t that amazing? Nobody even mentions it, probably because we know how upset it would make Harry. Instead we wander off into a debate over the merits of thirty year old bomber technology (short answer: the old Pave Tack stuff was not that great, LANTIRN is a good bit better, GPS is da shiznit. Plus there have been years of grinding away at incremental improvements on racks and relays.) But, yeah, talk about your Stockholm syndrome.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 01 April 2008 at 23:29

The Soviet empire fell of its own weight. Reagan cheered the fall, he didn’t cause it. He didn’t even hurry it along. It wasn’t the firm stand on Grenada that made the Poles realize they hated the Russians. They’d always hated the Russians.

The adoration of Reagan for the wholly imaginary defeat of the USSR just shows how clueless the Republicans were. The Democrats may have been equally clueless, but that doesn’t make the Republicans clueful.

You would think that, in 2008, people would get an inkling that whatever whoever is in Washington wants to see happen, doesn’t always happen. Sheesh.

Gronker Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 04:27

Harry, its pretty clear you have little grasp of what is and is not important on either domestic or international front. But that is to be expected considering your politcal slant.

You say Nixon isn’t “rehabbed with you”, but you show a clear misunderstanding of his presidency. Nixon may have been the smarmy bastard you libs want to remember, but he was an effective president both on the domestic and forign relations fronts. Even on issues you say you hold dear, Nixon was strong on: OSHA and the EPA are Nixons, he strengthened SS on several fronts, instituted COLA across the governmental board, made many civil rights advances, even tried to create the dole. No, you just like the idea of Tricky Dick and the watergate mess. Its easier than thinking.

Reagan is dear to many people, myself included, because he STOOD FOR SOMETHING. And those things are an anathema to socialists like yourself. He did, in fact, hasten the collapse of the Soviet empire. If you doubt that, ASK THEM. Reagans’ policies and public statements drove the stake into the heart of all that was the USSR and forced them to the brink. Starting with the “evil empire” speech and culminating in the “tear down the wall”, Reagan, more than any other person, kept the pressure hard and unrelenting on the USSR. Behind the scenes, he may have been more impressive than we will ever know with his stances and communications to the russian leadership.

And as for your silly statement about “Reaganomics cratered earlier this month”, you are showing an even further lack of understanding of not only economics, but of cause and effect.

And I do appreciate your bringing up Libya. I still think Libya’s complete and utter capitulation on their weapons programs as one of the most under reported and underappreciated positives of the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Im certain you must agree. Not one bomb dropped in northern Africa, and Gadaffi-duck gives up his programs, pays up on PanAm 103 and wants to be buddies again. Now THERES a result we all can be happy about.

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 05:20

I posted this elsewhere.

“It was only after Gorbachev began to realise the USSR was far too broken to compete with the West (Chernobyl was an aid to that) that he started talking about glasnost and perestroika.

And it was Reagan’s comprehensive strategy outlined in National Security Defense Directive 75 that got them to that position. On the ideological front, he explicitly called the USSR an evil empire, saying in speech after speech that this was a battle between freedom and tyranny, not capitalism and communism. He consistently hammered their appalling human rights record. In concert with Thatcher, Kohl and Mitterand, he got Pershing cruise missiles deployed in Europe in the face of massive public protest.

He waged a program of economic warfare that brought the Soviets to their knees. In that era, the only way they could finance their military spending was by selling natural gas to Europe. Reagan prohibited any US company and any foreign company having dealings with the US from sending pipeline equipment and engineering expertise for work on Soviet pipelines. Russia experienced severe delays in having to do all the work themselves, delays which meant future military spending unsustainable. The Saudis, with US prompting, also pumped out oil in huge quantities which drove the global price down and further crippled hard currency inflows.

Another factor was getting the FBI, CIA, DOD, NSA and US companies and universities to collaborate in finally shutting down the Soviet Union’s Line X program. Line X funnelled a constant stream of scientific and technical research secrets to the USSR thanks to esponiage by visiting Russian scientists and students and their sympathists. That was the only way they were able to keep their military-industrial complex in synch with the West.

The final factor was military. By giving military and other aid to anti-communists in Afghanistan, Africa, Central and South America, Reagan made it too costly for Russia to maintain their surrogates. The increase in military spending on US forces was by then unmatchable by them. The final kicker was Star Wars. The USSR knew it was very, very unlikely to work but knew it was something they could most definitely not pull off themselves while their society was falling to pieces around them. Gorbachev pushed incredibly hard for Reagan to kill Star Wars at the Reykjavik summit but Reagan wouldn’t budge and that was when the game was up.

I’d recommend The Fifty Year Wound by Derek Leebaert as a good guide to the history of the era.”

erp Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 08:48

Bravo Ali!

Excellent — comprehensive — well written — encapsulation. It did these old eyes good to read your comment first thing this morning and from a Brit yet! As someone said on a companion blog — Maybe there is a God.

You say you posted your comment elsewhere. Do you have a blog?

erp Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 09:15

Gronker, say it ain’t so that you think Nixon “was an effective president” because he was “strong on: OSHA and the EPA … he strengthened SS on several fronts, instituted COLA across the governmental board, made many civil rights advances, even tried to create the dole.”

Nixon was a disaster, not only for the measures you list above, but for wage and price controls, and the most egregious IMO — the 55 MPH fiat on federal highways and byways which earned him my undying contempt. We did a lot of motoring during that period and every time we passed one of the 55 speed limit signs, I cursed him anew.

The left are so clueless that they disposed of someone who would have moved us inexorably leftward towards their own goals. For that I thank the disgraceful players who hounded Nixon out of office.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 09:34

With regard to Nixon, I wasn’t commenting on what we all think of him, or whether he’s been fully rehabilitated, but only that his reputation has undeniably improved since he left office.

I wonder if part of this is not an artifact of the coalition of interests nature of the modern Democratic Party, which in turns requires leaders to be emphasize personality over ideology, which in not only fades faster but produces an “artificial” high point from which one can only decline.

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 11:41

Has it improved? A lot of that was knocked back when some of his tapes were released. The ones where he and Billy Graham were complaining about Jewish control of the media. He’s still the number one presidential Halloween mask and season 5 of 24 could pretty much have been titled Jack Bauer vs Nixon.

erp: No blog. I spend time at a comic book message board where I post radical conservative thought when topics like these come up.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 12:02

Well, Ali, I still think it was food and the nationalities issues. You don’t mention either.

Also, there was the generational handoff issue, which we see even rightwingers anxiously waiting for in cuba. The day after Fidel dies, Cuba’s problems will not be any worse than the day before.

So why won’t it collapse until then? Same with Gorbachev/Andropov handing off to the younger generation. The USSR would have collapsed without Reagan and at just about the same pace.

Gronker Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 12:13

erp: No, the stuff I listed was just for Harry to chew on… They were things that would have been continually hailed by his side if they were able to be objective. I always find it funny to point out that these things are Nixon’s legacy to liberals (leaving alone the Vietnam issue, which is even more interesting)

No, I think all those things were actually anti-conservative. Anything that increases government is bad, IMHO. And thought the 55 MPH speed limit was a pain in the ass (still is) it pales in comparison to the long term effects of the complete disolution of the Gold Standard, my biggest issue with Nixon.

My point was more agreeing with AOG that Nixon has become more than just a butt of jokes. Discussion about his policies have been getting a lot of legs lately, ironicly by both conservatives and liberals. Only the dense seem stuck solely on watergate. When you take China and detante, vietnam, the expansion and creation of several still existing agencies and the expansion of presidential powers, supreme court nominations… Nixon is alot more than just watergate.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 13:52

I remember seeing a documentary in the early nineties about a group of liberal American university students who went to Eastern Europe to meet with local students as part of an intergovernmental programme designed to teach the Europeans all about freedom and democracy. The Americans started trashing Reagan and the Euros were having none of it. They make it very clear that they considered their liberation to be entirely the work of the Gipper and that, but for him, they’d still be warily passing illicit political tracts under tables in dingy taverns. The Americans were appalled at their immaturity and concluded they were much more backward than they had feared.

erp Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 14:11

Harry, Cuba collapsed quite a while ago and rich liberals are, no doubt, at this very moment sealing deals on cheap oceanfront property. PS: I think Fidel died a while back too. Just as in the Soviet Union, the underpinnings are quietly rotting and pretty soon the dam will burst, then bye ‘n bye, the media will get around to reporting all about it.

Grocker, you’re right that there’re lots worse things than the 55 MPH speed limit, but that annoyed me personally night and day for decades. It also caused me to get speeding tickets in any number of different states and that got pretty expensive insurance-wise.

Peter, You’re right about Eastern Europeans having the right take on socialism/communism. They lived through it, but the clueless U.S. liberals didn’t let that interfere with their cherished prejudices.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 16:02

I could be wrong, but it is just bizarre to watch you guys whose whole concept of politics is that socialism is doomed to failure on its own demerits also argue that it could not have collapsed from its internal defects.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 16:05

No more so than doctors saying that everyone is going to die, but the timing can be strongly influenced by external factors.

joe shropshire Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 17:33

whose whole concept of politics is that socialism is doomed to failure on its own demerits

You overestimate the arrogance around this place, Harry. Prior to 1989 my whole concept of politics was that socialism was either going to blow us all to hell some day, or that it would win, and we would wear its collar around our neck for the rest of our lives. That it might collapse (if it has) was not a concept that I ever entertained. I do not have children, so therefore I’ve got nothing much to compare to, but I can tell you that the best, most joyful day of my own life that I can remember was the day I spent walking around Berlin, under the Brandenburg gate, watching them sell off the old uniforms and the little ziploc bags where the Wall went to die. Just for that day we had not died and we had not killed; we were not defeated and we were not shamed. Not a crowing, or triumphant or I-told-you-so feeling, but very glad and grateful.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 02 April 2008 at 23:40

We had not killed? Seems you missed a few chapters.

Anyhow, I’m a democrat, so I always believed democracy would outlast socialism. A lonely position it’s been, but I’ve held it since the ‘50s. I guess that makes me a premature anticommunist.

(That’s a political joke, but you’re too young to get it.)

Guy, you’re the math guy, surely you shy at needlessly multiplying entities?

erp Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 07:37

Harry, I get the joke, but explain please for youngsters, in today’s world, how does a Democrat differ from a socialist?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 08:48

Mr. Eagar;

I think the historical record is clear that President Reagan existed, therefore he is not an entity which I have multiplied.

There are tides of history, but human history consists of human action, therefore humans must have some effect on it. It seems a small step from that to the idea that some humans have more effect than others.

I think the medical analogy is apt — socialism is an unhealthy lifestyle for a society, which inevitably leads to all sorts of secondary problems, much like laying on a couch and eating potato chips leads to heart problems. Reagan, however, is the guy that did two things:

  1. Through leadership, convinced the American Street to “eat less, and exercise more”, thereby improving its health.
  2. Taunted the USSR nomenklatura in to running a marathon, which lead to heart attack much earlier than would otherwise have occurred.

I have to say that I find your view, that the course of a society is utterly indifferent to outside forces and stresses, the bizarre view.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 11:34

I don’t think we think you are a socialist, Harry. You are too quixotic. Socialists tend to blur together into an indistinguishable mass, but there is only one Harry.

But except for your beloved FDR, who I suspect you believe was born in a manger, you do seem to have a very rigid resistance to the idea that history is determined by the choices of human beings. Geography, religion, weather, etc. seem to be real live determining agents for you rather than just backdrops defining the parameters of human action. C’mon, admit it, it isn’t everyday one can have a good animated debate on whether Reagan brought down the Soviet empire or not and then, just as the climax approaches, get bushwhacked by a voice insisting it was really all about food.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 11:42

democrat, not Democrat. Although I do not consider the U.S. Democratic Party socialist.

Utterly indifferent? No, not quite that. But see Samuel Huntington for the idea that societies tend to be resistent to fundamental change.

The more I study the USSR, the less I think it was fundamentally different from tsarism. Food and nationalities were two of the tsar’s fundamental problems, and no less so for Brezhnev.

One thing that did change, and because (I think) of external input, was the minimum consumption demand for food of the populace. That was partly internal — city folk always expect more to eat — but also probably a result of consciousness of how much people ate in Europe.

I recommend a book ‘Stalinism as a Way of Life,’ which is a collection of letters to the editor, letters to the party etc. from the ‘30s about what Russians considered acceptable food supplies.

The tsars had earned foreign exchange by exporting grain. This was not, as we would see it, surplus grain from prosperous farms. Russian farms were not prosperous. The tsars merely used force to hold consumption to very low levels, this creating an exportable overplus. Stalin did the same.

The post-Stalin Russian leaders could not keep that up. In Kershaw’s life of Hitler there is a telling anecdote about the first Red Army soldiers to enter East Prussia. (Quoting from memory)

‘Why did you invade our country to rob us? We are poor. Your pigs have better housing than we have.’

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Konigsberg?

cjm Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 13:31

FDR was a fascist so I guess any fans of his are likewise.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 13:38

Yes, Harry, that’s all fine. But I could do the exact same analysis about Soviet plumbing, right down to jokes about plumbers told by courageous Soviet comedians and the terrible existential shock the Bolshoi dancers experienced when they first saw the toilets at Royal Albert Hall. AOG would say it was their crappy computers. erp would weigh in on their execrable fashions and Ali could point out that their guns wouldn’t shoot as well as ours. David might talk about spiritual blockages and Jeff would surely have a few trenchant things to say about their airplanes. Etc, etc, etc.

We’d all be right and it would all add up to say the place sucked bigtime. But we’ve known that since about 1917. And so did millions of Soviets. But that isn’t why totalitarian regimes collapse. Are you suggesting the Berlin Wall would still be standing and the KGB would be reigning supreme if only they had more rations of fresh meat?

Too many determinist books, Harry.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 03 April 2008 at 18:14

I am sorta saying that. It takes a hell of a lot to change people’s fundamental beliefs.

Consider suttee, which is making a comeback despite British interference and now three generations of more or less anti-suttee native leadership. And it’s not like suttee has some obvious or utilitarian appeal.

But I am not a Haushoferian. It isn’t all deterministic. It just takes a lot to change a whole society, set in its way for centuries.

I’ve been reading a lot about this recently. For another take on the stubbornness of custom, see Noah Feldman, ‘The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State.’

For an in-depth study of how a society does change its attitudes completely (in this case, 16th and 17th c. England), Lynn Thorndike, ‘Religion and the Decline of Magic.’

joe shropshire Friday, 04 April 2008 at 00:26

surely you shy at needlessly multiplying entities

Sorry, Harry. Very tired, but I think the answer is that Sir William of Occam bequeathed you an heuristic, not a sacrament. And, surely you did not need a geometric proof to see that Jimmy Carter was a whipped dog in 1980: whipped, and bewildered, despite his obvious intelligence, and furious at his own country for seeing what was on plain view. Some things just aren’t that complicated.
Harry Eagar Friday, 04 April 2008 at 03:52

Carter was not supported by his own party from the get-go. That he got the nomination was one of those flukes of the party system. That he was elected was due more to revulsion against Ford that admiration for Carter.

Anybody could have been elected against Carter in ‘80. Unfortunately we got Reagan who — true to his heritage of ducking any real fight — neglected to acknowledge the state of war with Iran. Many troubles have flowed from that.

We would eventually have gotten over Carter’s failures. We are still paying for Reagam’s.

Gronker Friday, 04 April 2008 at 04:48

I just can’t get past anyone, no matter how blinded by insane political views, can actually lament the end of Carter and regret Reagan. Wow, its being at dinner party in LA or something — surreal.

Harry, as one of the “useful idiots” maybe you can’t see the real failings of socialism. If you could, you might be less surprised by similarities to Tzarism. Socialism is a system of semi-voluntary slavery, where free people and free markets are stymied. No human can bear slavery, so by definition socialism (and tsarism) must rely on totalitarian methods to keep the “workers” doing what they are told. The resulting productivity disaster and misdirection of labor results in shortages and all around inefficiencies. No centrally planned economy can ever hope to compete with any laissez-faire system.

It’s always amused me that Socialism’s central planning could only hope to equal the free-market if the “central planner” was omnipotent and omniscient — something only a god could be, which they outlawed the very concept. (I have a strange sense of humor)

erp Friday, 04 April 2008 at 07:00

Peter, a bit sexist, n’est-ce pas ?

cjm Friday, 04 April 2008 at 09:39

shortages are a feature of socialism, not a bug.

Peter Burnet Friday, 04 April 2008 at 10:38

I do apologize, erp. Pls amend my comment as follows: “erp would weigh on their execrable gardens and ugly baby quilts…” :-)

erp Friday, 04 April 2008 at 13:56

Peter — smarm doesn’t become you. ;-}

Actually Russian needlework is exquisite and I’m hardly in a position to criticize anyone else’s gardens considering that the dozen or so (out of 72) survivors of my ambitious seedling nursery are infected by a black bug impervious to three different insect killers on sale at the garden center. My friend, the master gardener, will be making a house call later to see if anything can be saved.

Tracked from Tom McMahon: Why Do Conservative Politicians Age So Much Better Than Liberal Ones? on 01 April 2008 at 22:06

From Thought Mesh:Even Barry Goldwater is held in high esteem for someone who got totally plastered by LBJ in the 1964 Presidential election. Ronald Reagan, of course, is effectively the archetype. I think it’s quite reasonable to expect current President

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