No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘USA

The Reading List: The Legacy of Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee has become a byword for awful relationships between native North American Indians and the US government, as well as White racism, colonialism and a bunch of other bad “isms” brought to the New World.

So this review of a new book on the subject, The Legacy of Wounded Knee, is of interest. Just a bit of background first:

The American name “Wounded Knee” referred to the site near Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota where troops of the U.S. 7th Cavalry, under orders to disarm a group of several hundred Miniconjou and Hunkpapa Sioux, stumbled into a chaotic fight on December 29, 1890, in which they killed probably more than 150 Indians, including dozens of women and children, and lost 25 men.

But the term did not catch on until a book by that name was published in 1972, with the author, Dee Brown, taking the title from the last line of a poem from 1927, which was actually not a poem about the massacre. The book is very much of its time; the great 60’s Counterculture upheavals:

[Brown] aimed to tell the story of “the conquest of the American West as the victims experienced it.” This “victims” orientation has since become the often strongly enforced authoritative orientation of what seems like most, if not yet practically all, study and teaching of history (or any other subject) in America. Brown’s earth-saving orientation—planet Earth and its earth-loving natives versus Euro-American capitalist rapacity—has also become ubiquitous and obligatory. 

In other words, the book was less history than “New Left” mythology, a doppelgänger of the mythology of the American West that dominated movies and TV shows for forty years up to the late 1960’s where White pioneers were celebrated and Indians often (though not always) vilified. It should be noted that this Leftist mythology in which the roles are reversed has now dominated for far longer.

Fortunately “revisionist history” means that all historical takes get revised sooner or later and this article provides quick reviews of a few books that have recently been published that have a more intelligent and nuanced analysis than Brown’s.

First up is Peter Cozzens with The Earth Is Weeping: the Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West, which was written to explicitly redress Brown’s one-sided approach and provide some balance:

Cozzens’s American West is a very rough world, in which there is plenty of brutality, violence, treachery, and foolishness to go around—though courage and even nobility are not unheard of. Americans come out looking pretty bad, but more like rogues or fools than earth-destroying devils; and the Indians, who suffered much, are no babes in the woods.

Second is a book by one David Treuer, The Heartbreak of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, which gets specifically stuck into Brown’s history from a different perspective, starting  with his claim that “the culture and civilization of the American Indian was destroyed.”  Treuer thinks that’s crap and has a personal bone to pick:

Treuer, who has a doctorate in anthropology and teaches literature at the University of Southern California, is offended by that claim… [He] grew up on Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota as the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor and an Ojibwe woman.

Truer picks up the American Indian story where Brown stopped and runs to today, describing Indian ways and customs and the struggles of Indian tribes to find their place in America. He actually praises the efforts of the Nixon/Ford adminstration. He’s also sympathetic to the Indian protestors against the huge Dakota Access pipeline, but less so…

… with the American Indian Movement, whose AIM acronym some Indians render as “Assholes in Moccasins.” 

But two thirds of the article deals with a writer called Pekka Hämäläinen, who focuses on one tribe in particular – the Lakotas – with a book called Lakota America:

He wants to show them occupying the center stage, as powerful historical actors, who “force newcomers [and old-comers] to adapt to their way of doing things.” He sets out to present the Lakotas as “central and enduring protagonists,” … to “recover the full dimension of Indian agency in early American history.”

So not victimology! Unfortunately his own historic research so steers away from that and is so determined upon discovering the Lakota’s “agency” that it becomes a bit of a problem:

His Lakotas are a “quintessential warrior society,” in which a man’s success at war is critical to his social standing and his marriage prospects. They annihilate whole villages of their Indian competitors, killing, torturing, mutilating, enslaving, and trading men, women, and children.

Which is to say that the other Indian tribes being attacked, like the Pawnees, Otoes, and Omahas in the 1840s, don’t get much agency themselves. It would seem that they suffered a lot of “Wounded Knees“. And he’d already covered similar stuff with his earlier history, Comanche Empire:

The Comanches performed public serial rapes of female captives when they were selling them at Taos fairs. This was shocking to some Spaniards and New Mexicans. Hämäläinen thinks the shock reflects the inability of the Comanches’ neighbors to grasp the fullness of their agency. “[I]t is likely that the public rapes were a way to generate markets for captives.” The Europeans’ sensibilities—their horror in contemplating the cruelties to which the captive women would be subjected—would make them more eager to ransom the captives, quickly, and at a good price.

The age-old exertion of power then – by “victims” – as has so often been the case in human history. I was rather taken by a phrase he used to describe the approach of the Lakota’s in using force, extortion, or diplomacy and persuasion to get what they wanted, acting with a “flexible economy of violence.” Sounds like Europeans, something that becomes more obvious as the article notes:

But he invites the reader to consider the Comanche invasion with an entranced frisson the United States could only dream of. It “was a momentous cultural experiment. It brought destruction and death to many, but it also introduced a new, exhilarating way of life.”

Like Columbus or the Mayflower or Manifest Destiny.

As such Hämäläinen can’t last the distance in exploring and extolling “agency”, as he finishes up his story in the modern day:

Sadly, the greatest weapon Hämäläinen thinks the modern-day Sioux and AIM warriors have in their quiver is that, since “Wounded Knee II,” the Lakotas have acquired unprecedented cachet as a “persecuted minority people.”

They sound like good books to get if you’re interested in the history – the whole history – of the American West. But also read the whole article.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 4, 2020 at 9:55 am

Good and Bad Police Brutality

According to reasonable people the following is an act of police brutality as a Minneapolis Police officer places his knee on the back of the neck of an arrested man – a type of chokehold that was approved and in the city’s Police Manual.

The death of the suspect, George Floyd, led to protests around the world as well as protests, riots and looting in the nation where it occurred.

Meanwhile, according to the wisdom of Social Media sites like Twitter and Reddit the following is an acceptable act of police brutality as a Melbourne woman is put in a chokehold while resisting arrest for refusing to wear a mask.

In fact it’s more than just acceptable to the SM folks, it’s approved:

“This is how the Australian police will deal with you if you treat public health and safety directives as a threat to your masculinity or nutjob conspiracy.

That’s just the title of the piece. Reddit commenters weren’t just good with it, most of them were overjoyed at the police handling people like this over not wearing a mask:

For someone being choked she seems rather talkative,” – u/ginger_idiot2

“I don’t think he choked her. She was clearly exaggerating and went into full victim mode as soon as he placed hands on her” – Cpt-Dreamer

“Wish my country would enforce masks like this. Maybe then we would not lead the world in covind (sic) deaths,” – u/bothellguy86.

“It’s like making a 6 year old go to bed early,” – u/JediLlama666.

“She should be allow to kill whoever she wants with covid that’s her right. Makes me sick watch cops trying to detain people that aren’t following the law!” – u/urfriendlypedo.

I feel sure that last one was being sarcastic. Full video follows.

I’d like to think that the different reactions are due to the man dying in the USA and the fact that this woman did not.

But as you see in that thread, what the Left considers “brutality” really only falls into that category if the “brutality” does not serve their purpose. To be fair, a few users did point out that if this were a Black individual being treated like this, or if this were happening for a different reason, then they’d be singing a very different tune. The cop in that video would be probably be classed Public Enemy Number One and he and his family doxxed into hell.

Reading through the majority of comments on that thread makes it clear that it’s certainly never been about police brutality. It’s always about how useful police brutality could be in the political moment.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 25, 2020 at 11:09 am

The Struggle Sessions

Early in 2019 former Bush speechwriter and now columnist Peggy Noonan, wrote a piece in the WSJ titled, Get Ready for the Struggle Sessions, in which she described what Mao Zedong did during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Aside from forcing intellectuals out into the countryside to cut wood and plant crops there was a method of mentally controlling them via the use of jeering crowds, both large and small:

Dunce caps, sometimes wastebaskets, were placed on the victims’ heads, and placards stipulating their crimes hung from their necks. The victims were accused, berated, assaulted. Many falsely confessed in the vain hope of mercy.

She observed that the same thing – sans the physical blows – seemed to be happening now in the USA.

Social media is full of swarming political and ideological mobs. In an interesting departure from democratic tradition, they don’t try to win the other side over. They only condemn and attempt to silence.

And of course it’s been happening long before 2019 and in other parts of the West, as that clip from London in 2017 showed (The right to discuss ideas must be defended).

In the same year, half a world away, there were the Jacobin mobs at Evergreen State College in Washington state who basically hunted down and intimidated Bret Weinstein and anybody who supported him. Weinstein was a professor of biology and a flaming Liberal. But one who refused to support the idea of banning Whites from the Campus for a day. I strongly urge you to watch the three-part documentary (30 mins per episode) here, or a distilled version here.

This may have looked astounding in 2017 but it’s standard procedure for the Far Left now. Weinstein eventually quit and the college roll has dropped a lot.

Noonan intended her article as a warning but I don’t think she could have imagined that Evergreen would explode out into the everyday world. Few did. It was dismissed as nothing more than the usual university nuttiness seen off and on since the late 1960’s. But as Andrew Sullivan stated in a New York Magazine column a year before Noonan’s: We all live on campus now.

Over the last year, the most common rebuttal to my intermittent coverage of campus culture has been: Why does it matter? These are students, after all. They’ll grow up once they leave their cloistered, neo-Marxist safe spaces. The real world isn’t like that. You’re exaggerating anyway. And so on…

The reason I don’t agree with this is because I believe ideas matter. When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large. 

And so it has increasingly come to pass. It’s out in the community, spreading fast and destroying people, including people like Bret Weinstein and other Lefties who never imagined they’d find themselves in the path of the storm.

His comment about ideas mattering reminded me of a famous quote from the eminent 19th century Scottish essayist and philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, who was once scolded at a dinner party for always talking about books: “Ideas, Mr Carlyle, ideas, nothing but ideas“. To which Carlyle responded:

“There once was a man called Rousseau who wrote a book containing nothing but ideas.

The second edition was bound in the skins of those who laughed at the first.”

Written by Tom Hunter

August 22, 2020 at 12:42 pm

$5,630,859,000,000

That’s what the US government has spent in the first ten months (October to July) of this fiscal year.

It hardly needs to be said that this is the largest amount of money that the government has ever spent.

The good news is that they collected $2,823,564,000,000 in taxes, also a record.

That’s also the bad news because of course it means that they’ve set a record deficit so far. Those “trillion dollar deficits” of the early Obama years?

HA! This year’s deficit is $2,807,295,000,000: a $2.8 trillion deficit. They’ll likely beat the $3 trillion mark before the fiscal year ends Sep 30.

The big spending components were:

  • $1,005,897,000,000 – Department of Health and Human Services
  • $ 915,775,000,000 – Social Security
  • $ 540,442,000,000 – Department of Defense spent
  • $ 309,415,000,000 – Net Interest

The following graph of inflows and outflows shows that this is an exceptional year, as it is for all nations, with that huge “Income Security” payout to try and compensate workers for their jobs being shut down by order of the fifty state governments – the extent of shut down differing by state. But even taking that element out we’re still talking record deficits and ones that will likely continue for years now.

The proponents of Modern Monetary Theory don’t see a problem with this of course, and it makes arguments about it almost a moot point, since the USA is effectively practising it right now. But they can only do this because, unlike a little nation like New Zealand, their currency is basically the world’s currency.

I don’t see how this can go on. But then I’ve been saying that for years now and somehow it does. Perhaps the figures just don’t mean anything to ordinary people any longer? Perhaps they don’t think it will affect them: that when the day of payment comes they’ll simply refuse and allow the institutions of federal government in far-off Washington D.C. to collapse?

See also:

The Great Crash of 2034

This is not going to get better.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 16, 2020 at 9:21 am

Upgrading The Past

Between crappy TV cameras and 16mm film cameras that only ran at 12fps (frames per second), it’s fair to say that video coverage of the Apollo missions to the Moon could have been better.

How much better? Well, the idea of using a computer to build new frames in between the old ones, to get the video up to the standard 24fps, has been around for decades. Basically each pixel in a new frame would have to be created and its movement between frames calculated so that the transition was smooth to the human eye. Plus calculating all the other things like colour, contrast and so forth. Throw in the idea of upgrading the picture to HD or even 4K and your multiplying the workload by orders of magnitude.

It could have been done decades ago on supercomputers but they were too expensive to be used for such frippery, and besides that the software did not exist. Only relatively recently have computers sufficiently powerful combined with software sufficiently sophisticated become common enough to be able to accomplish the task of upgrading old movies and video.

One of the best known examples of this is Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, where he took movies of WW1 and changed them from B&W to colour (itself still more an art than a science) and converting the slow fps of hand-cranked cameras into 24fps. If you have not seen that documentary then do so.

And now it’s being done to video and film from the Apollo missions. First up is the 16mm camera film of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. You can actually see his face inside the helmet in some shots, something I’d only ever seen on an Apollo 17 video (the highest quality of all those missions) where Harrison Schmitt is standing on the moon in just the right way to catch sunlight on his face but not reflect it off the visor – for a minute.

Original signal photographed at Honeysuckle Creek station in Australia

Incidentally the reason the original TV video of Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon is so crappy is that the TV camera on the LM was a slow-scan not compatible with any broadcast TV system and they “solved” that problem by simply displaying it on a TV screen and then aiming a standard TV camera at that. Some original filmed captures of the slow-scan display show clear, sharp and well-contrasted pictures like the one here. But the tapes on which that was recorded were wiped in the early 1980’s because NASA needed it for other purposes. You can read all about it here.

The following three videos are better than the Apollo 11 stuff because they have a lot more action. First up is a landing, this one is Apollo 15 in 1971 and they’ve jumped the speed from 12fps to 60fps.

Next is film of Apollo 16 testing out its Lunar Rover. This remake was made even tougher by the camera being a little shaky when held by astronaut Charlie Duke, but even that can be corrected for nowadays.

Finally there’s upgraded video of film that the Apollo 16 astronauts took while driving the rover. Watching it I kept wondering how the ride was not even rougher, given the rocks all over the place, as well as how the wheels avoided being smashed.

You can read the details here of how all this was done by a Dutch guy in his spare time using Open Source software (and a very grunty computer). He has a YouTube channel showcasing this and other efforts.

Perhaps before long these will have been converted into 3D holograms into which you can place yourself to explore the moon as these men did.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 21, 2020 at 8:17 am

Posted in Space, USA

Tagged with , , , ,

Run Tom, Run

A few days ago the rap musician Kanye West announced that he is running for President in 2020.

You can read his interview here in Forbes.

It’s…. interesting:

  • Planned Parenthood’s have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work”,
  • To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy”.
  • His White House organisational model would be based on the secret country of Wakanda in the movie Black Panther.

And speaking of movies this set other people to thinking that another guy might have a better shot at it in 2020.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 9, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Screaming Cases and the Reality of Death

In the last couple of weeks in the USA, following the BLM / Antifa riots and looting burning themselves out, the MSM has had to go back in time and start screaming about the Chinese Lung Rot disease again.

But with an all-new spin.

The focus has been on case numbers.

Breaking News: COVID-19 caused by White Privilege

COVID surge sparks re-opening fears“, “Staggering Surge in COVID-19 cases“, and so on and so forth. It’s all totally out of control and people are GOING CRAZY!!!!!

You can easily imagine all these lines being read by this guy, who CNN really does need to hire to replace Don Lemmon and other talking heads.

Naturally these screams are being directed at GOP-controlled states, which have not suffered the death toll of Democrat states like New York and New Jersey, simply because they’re led by competent people.

The MSM and the Democrats are basically gagging for more COVID deaths in these places for three reasons:

  • First, to take the heat of the incompetence of the likes of Cuomo and his 30,000 dead, plus New Jersey’s 15,000 dead (1/3 of the US total) and the reality of continuing lockdowns in Minnesota and Oregon even as the deaths overwhelmingly continue to occur in Long Term Care facilities.

South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem
  • Second, to reinforce the idea that the only response possible is the lockdown strategy that has been followed by the Democrat Governors. This was why the Washington Post attacked the GOP Governor of South Dakota so harshly in April. A state that would normally have been ignored by them as part of Flyover Country, had to be attacked because she wasn’t falling in line. Given its success there has been little criticism since then.
  • Third, to try and panic the governors of these GOP states into lockdown for a second wave of the virus, thereby stifling the economic rebound that has seen huge increases in jobs for May and June, damaging the economy, and pushing Biden to a win in November.

And then there’s the reality of the data from the CDC, the Mortality Surveillance chart:

 
The disease has already dropped to the threshold of being called an epidemic and is on the verge of dropping below that baseline. And there’s no point talking about a lag from cases: these figures are a month out from the BLM protests – the same ones that collapsed the arguments against social distancing and lockdowns, thanks to noneother than Public Health Officials.
 
 
Oh – and Kristi Noem for President!
 

Written by Tom Hunter

July 7, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Happy Birthday, America


As I write this it is still July 4th in America – and I recall this as my first memory of America.

An astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, standing on the surface of another world, facing The Stars and Stripes, the flag of the United States of America. This is a photo from Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing.

As a little boy I was entranced by these visions. It was the world of Thunderbirds made reality and although I knew it was a fantastic achievement I did not comprehend the nation that had achieved this millennia-long dream of humanity.

It was only in later years that I began to put together what the USA was as a nation and how all its features had led to such a thing. And it was that which began my journey to America.

By the time I was in my early twenties I knew I wanted to do more than just visit the place as a tourist. I watched almost all my mates depart for the UK using the Commonwealth Young Person’s Visa (as it was then called), but I had absolutely no desire to join them. To me Britain was NZ but worse – aside from the music perhaps.

No, I wanted to live and work in the USA, to experience what the people, the culture and the nation were really like. As a New Zealander I often found myself appalled by Americans I saw on the news and documentaries: loud, brawling, brash, ignorant, opinionated. They said things about many issues that my fellow Kiwis blanched at or rolled their eyes at. A phrase we used occasionally at varsity was that a person was “A Goddamn Pinko Commie“, just for laughs and mockery of Americans.

Their TV shows, especially the comedies, were often appalling, especially when they were just rip offs of British shows; the godawful Three’s Company for Man About The House being the classic example. Still, we watched re-runs of Star Trek and Columbo as well as later series like MASH, Hill Street Blues and Dallas and pronounced them to be not too bad.

One enduring caricature was actually not from a US show but from Fawlty Towers, in an episode where Basil has no idea how to make a Waldorf Salad for an American couple, and naturally cannot admit to not knowing. The couple are a perfect rendition of The Ugly American (a phrase I’d heard years before reading the book of that title): as cringe-inducing as Basil himself. And yet they are also almost the only guests who ever rose up against Fawlty, telling him exactly what they think of him and his hotel – and right in his face – and using their own money to take other guests away as well. Very American!



In the mid-1980’s I finally got my chance to live and work in America and it was simply the luck of the draw that saw me land in Chicago. On the way there I stopped in Vancouver and one night I visited the rotating restaurant, Top of Vancouver. It was packed but before I could turn away an older gentleman sitting alone at a table waved me over. The following photo of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack is not dissimilar to his look and I almost turned away.


But what the hell I thought. It was all an experience. It turned out to be a pleasant evening, despite the fact that he turned out to be true to the caricature. He bought me drinks and dinner while regaling me with tales of his three ex-wives and life in general, He actually knew something of NZ, having served there briefly with the US Navy in WWII. He was not impressed by PM Lange: “I don’t hold with your new guy! What is it? Lang? Long? Goddam pinko Commie if you ask me”.

Yes. Really!

I staggered on board the flight to Chicago the next day with a brutal hangover, wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. Was this what it was going to be like? Surrounded by loud people in loud clothes every day? A boss (I imagined J R Ewing) yelling at me to “get that report on my desk by 8am tomorrow or your ass will be out on the street“? Caught in the cross-fire of a drug-gang shootout? Doctors picking through my clothes on the steps of Cook County Hospital for the Visa card needed to pay them to save my life?



And it turned out to be nothing at all like that.

The gap between the media image and reality was vast.

The Chicagoans I got to know were (relatively) quiet: opinionated, but not in a mean or screaming way. Most had little time for President Reagan – it was then, as now, a solidly Democrat city – but with no red-faced anger. I worked in a group with a Vietnam vet and Vietnam protestor who held no animosity for each other. My boss never yelled at me once! And I saw no gunfights or dead bodies, despite the city suffering some 900 murders per year at that point. I became a Cubs supporter, which I found to be a special curse.

I would return to the city to live permanently a few years later. But I would also get to travel around the nation, and I would feel the genuine warmth, generosity and just outright friendliness of Americans of all races in those locales too, with the occasional ratbag thrown in, but not in any damaging way. My main complaint after a while was that Americans worked too damned hard, but that’s an unspoken aspect of their culture.

Over the years I’ve lost track of the number of times that people, whether ordinary, academic or famous, have labeled the USA as a faltering giant, torn apart by its divisions and over-stretched resources. Academically it probably peaked with Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in 1987 and its instant application to current America. Instead it would be the USSR’s empire that would collapse just a couple of years later. Reading further back in time I found the same dire forecasts about the USA from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, from both Right and Left, about issues political, economic and military.

I do fear that the Left have finally succeeded in their Long March Through The Institutions, with almost total control of US universities, public education and media (Hollywood plus the MSM). And now it would seem, even through giant corporations and sports becoming “woke”; firing people for uttering incorrect thoughts, even far in their pasts, and disabling individuals ability to make a living by demonetising them on PayPal, YouTube, Visa and other platforms: the full weaponisation of Cancel Culture. They’ve become quite open about destroying their opponents, whereas in earlier times this was denied and scoffed at. The masks have dropped now.

But there are always vast currents moving beneath the surface of America, of which politicians are more passengers than boatman and as was most recently revealed in 2016. America has rolled through any amount of threats, just as wild and crazy as it ever was. It is already the most diverse nation in the world, in terms of race, ethnicity, culture and thought. It has survived worse than what the Woke brigades threaten, and given that they offer nothing constructive in any area of life I think they’ll break down sooner rather than later, effectively destroying themselves; larger versions of the recently collapsed and dismantled CHAZ.

And of course there is that lesson of my first trip to America that I’ve not forgotten: that the media lens through which all this is seen – amplified a thousand-fold now by the always-on-always-connected world of internet social media – presents a very narrow picture of the worst of the place. The loudest screamers, the reddest faces, the most polemical of writings and the places of greatest violence and destruction getting the attention.

I’m willing to bet that the same truth holds now as it did for me back in the 1980’s; that the vast majority of America is still not at all like this.

Perhaps I’m being too complacent as a Right-Winger, but I’m confident that America will come through this insanity, whether one thinks that it derives from Trump or the Woke Left.

So Happy 244th Birthday America.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 5, 2020 at 2:33 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with ,

The Seeds of 21st Century Socialism?

I’ll finish off this series on where Socialism might be going in the future by putting out an example of how thinking on capitalism may be changing with the generations.

Coming of age in the 1980’s meant passing through the world of Thatcher, Reagan and, here in New Zealand, Roger Douglas. A world of privatisation of government-owned businesses, deregulation and the general encouragement to get out there and make big bucks.

All of this was more than just a political moment. It was cultural as well. There were TV characters like Alex Keaton of Family Ties, who appalled his Baby Boomer, hippie-values parents with his Right-Wing, pro-business attitudes, as well as keeping a framed photo of Nixon beside his bed. The series was pitched to studio as “Hip parents, square kids“: some things never change. Then there were movies like Risky Business and The Secret of My SuccessWorking GirlTrading Places, among many others.

But the one that probably had the biggest impact was Wall Street in 1987, Oliver Stone’s acidic take on the 1980’s financial world. 

And of all the scenes in the movie it’s the following one that has stuck in people’s minds, as actor Michael Douglas chews up the scenery on his way to winning the Oscar for Best Actor as Gordon Gekko, giving the famous “Greed is Good” speech explaining to the stockholders of Teldar Paper exactly how the company’s management has screwed them over while creaming it themselves.

It certainly is a speech for the ages, and to the horror of Stone and Douglas, has resulted in countless people telling them over the years that it’s the reason they got into financial trading.

America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. 

2020: Hold my beer!

Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a top industrial power,..

Sound familiar with any recent political rhetoric? Paens to an American past:
 
The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company!
And in a strange way, perhaps because of Stone’s beliefs, he puts words into the mouth of a corporate raider that might have come from any enraged Socialist raging against the Rich: 
… you are all being royally screwed over by these,…. these bureaucrats, with their steak lunches, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.

… our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. 

A few years later in 1991, came a movie that I regard as superior to Wall StreetOther People’s Money. It never made as big an impact, perhaps because the moment had passed, it originally being a play written in 1987.
.

As in the former movie one of the key points occurs during a stockholders meeting as an old company, New England Wire & Cable, tries to fight off another corporate raider, this time Larry “The Liquidator“Garfield, played with deliciously brazen evil by Danny DeVito. 

 
There are two scenes here, the first where the Chairman of the Board, Andrew Jorgenson, played by the great Gregory Peck, pleads – in fact almost begs – the stockholders not to sell. Like Gordon Gecko he too appeals to a past America, but the nature of the appeal is different and I’ve always thought that Peck, in what would be his last prominent role, could have written the words himself, as one of the Old Guard Left in Hollywood who believed in FDR’s New Deal, most other Left-Wing causes and who was publicly appalled by the Age of Reagan.
 
 

There is the instrument of our destruction. I want you to look at him in all of his glory, Larry “The Liquidator,” the entrepreneur of post-industrial America, playing God with other people’s money. 

The Robber Barons of old at least left something tangible in their wake — a coal mine, a railroad, banks. 

So it’s not just corporate raiders making that appeal. But Jorgenson, calls out to something that Gekko does not.

God save us if we vote to take his paltry few dollars and run. God save this country if that is truly the wave of the future. We will then have become a nation that makes nothing but hamburgers, creates nothing but lawyers, and sells nothing but tax shelters. 

And if we are at that point in this country, where we kill something because at the moment it’s worth more dead than alive — well, take a look around. Look at your neighbor. Look at your neighbor. You won’t kill him, will you? No. It’s called murder and it’s illegal. Well, this too is murder — on a mass scale. Only on Wall Street, they call it “maximizing share-holder value” and they call it “legal.” And they substitute dollar bills where a conscience should be. 

Dammit! A business is worth more than the price of its stock. It’s the place where we earn our living, where we meet our friends, dream our dreams. It is, in every sense, the very fabric that binds our society together.

I was lucky enough to see the original play in a Chicago run and during this speech the guy playing Larry The Liquidator – who was built more like Pavarotti than DeVito – would stroll up and down the aisles of the audience and burst into songs from the musical Oklahoma and other classics. It was an excellent way of showing the contempt he held for Jorgenson.

Larry gets his turn to respond and unwinds one of the greatest pro-capitalism speeches ever. There’s a better quality clip at this site.

 

You just heard The Prayer for the Dead, my fellow stockholders, and you didn’t say, “Amen.”  

This company is dead. I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me. It was dead when I got here. It’s too late for prayers.

You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies makin’ buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?
 

You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.

I’ve actually sat in one or two meetings where the buggy whip analogy was used, though luckily about systems rather than entire companies. 

“Ah, but we can’t,” goes the prayer. “We can’t because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?” I got two words for that: 

Who cares? 

Care about them? Why? They didn’t care about you. 

They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, “We know times are tough. We’ll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer.” Check it out: You’re paying twice what you did ten years ago. And our devoted employees, who have taken no increases for the past three years, are still making twice what they made ten years ago; and our stock — one-sixth what it was ten years ago.

==================

 

The reason I’ve put these clips up, plus the 1980’s background, is that a couple of weeks ago my kids had some of their friends around for a post-lockdown catchup and they watched a couple of movies. They’re all into Media Studies and History and Mathematics and Science and so forth, but not Economics. They’re interesting to talk to, so I showed them these three clips – none of them had ever seen either movie – and asked them what they thought of the ideas and arguments expressed in each.

  • The Wall Street clip elicited anger at the useless, fat-cat managers of Teldar while knowing that Gekko was obviously just using those sentiments to screw people and make money for himself. They didn’t admire him one bit.
  • The first OPM clip caused rolled eyes. Yes, Jorgenson seemed like a decent man but all this mythologising of the past and the idea of a company being the centre of a community just seemed unlikely. But (shrugged shoulders) if it worked for people then why not try to save it?
  • But the second OPM clip with DeVito’s speech brought forth anger: real hatred of the character and what he was about to do. Why could the company not be saved? Why could investments not be made to grab those new opportunities in fibre optics and the like? Why did it have to be destroyed? What would happen to the town that depended upon it?
I was fascinated by these reactions, which were mostly the exact opposite of me and my peers when we watched these movies thirty and more years ago.

 

I also informed them that, as with most Hollywood fantasies, the dream is saved at the end of Other People’s Money: investment is found to make hi-tech metal fibres for airbags.

By contrast the play had no such happy ending, only grim reality. Larry takes over and the company shuts down. The jobs, and likely the town, go with it. He even gets the girl at the end.

So there you are. A new generation that thinks somewhat differently than I do about capitalism, free enterprise, free trade and local communities, including nations. Perhaps the socialism of the 21st century will have new soil in which to grow and new seeds from which to raise warriors for the working day.

===============
See Also:
 
Fully Automated Luxury Communism

Written by Tom Hunter

July 1, 2020 at 6:00 pm

White Privilege Autophagy

Hmm hmm. Man I love me that taste of schadenfreude.

So yesterday in St Louis there were some more BLM “protests”, consisting largely of White people, as they tend to do.

And protesting out in the street was not enough. As the crowd drifted past some wealthy gated mansion they obviously felt that it was time to bring that message home a bit more directly by crashing through the gate and into the large property that “They were just peacefully walking past”. The Washington Post “forgot” the gate-crashing part.

And it was at this moment that they encountered the home owners.

 
Armed home owners too, though obviously not that well trained, judging by the way the largish woman is holding that fucking pistol like something out of Austin Powers. And the guy’s trigger discipline on the AR15 is pretty shit as well.
 
Still, credit where credit is due. With a mob on their hands outnumbering them at least ten-to-one, no cops in sight and recent events on their minds they decided to defend their home in a meaningful, practical way – and the wife is there beside her man.
 
And there’s video.
 

Well darlings, as you can imagine the MSM and social media went absolutely APESHIT on this story, which screams White Supremacy, White Privilege, Gun Nuts and NRA members.
 
And Racists. Of course!
 
Just one example being one Jerry Taylor,  President of Niskanen Center, a Leftist D.C. “Think Tank”.
 

 

Fascists too. Of course.
 
You know I think I’ve seen the same claim here in the comments section of NoMinister. I mean if an “Anti-Facist” says that you’re a Fascist then you are!
 
Naturally the likes of ABC, CBS and the rest of the MSM were all in on this narrative too and they used video that made it seem as if the crowd were just moving along the street beside the house, just to make the couple look even crazier and more racist/fascist/, etc, etc.
 
And then the terrible truth came out, courtesy of the couple’s attorney.
 
You can also read and watch an interview with the guy here.

 

At that point, everybody got enraged. There were people wearing body armor. One person pulled out some loaded pistol magazine and clicked them together and said that you were next. We were threatened with our lives, threatened with a house being burned down, my office building being burned down, even our dog’s life being threatened. It was, it was about as bad as it can get. I mean, those you know, I really thought it was Storming the Bastille that we would be dead and the house would be burned and there was nothing we could do about it. It was a huge and frightening crowd.

I do civil rights cases. Right now, I’m representing a young man who was assaulted by the police who is sitting in prison right now for being involved in a car accident after which the police came in and assaulted him. It’s on video. I’m not some kind of extreme, you know, anti- Black Lives Matter guy. I do these cases. I have been doing them for decades. 
I mean, I have on the wall of my conference room, I’ve got an anti-slavery broadsheet, the abolitionist broadsheet from 1832. It’s been there as long as I’ve owned this building. I mean, I’m not I’m not the enemy of people that really care about the Black lives,

Heh! I don’t think any of that will save their White butts or that beautiful house in the future America envisioned by BLM or those White Antifa kids. Still, it does sound like he’s getting a clue:

.. but I’m apparently the enemy of the terrorists and the Marxists that are running this organization.

The Bastille? Marxists and terrorists running things? Death threats! Do tell! Same things are happening in Beverly Hills:

Several arrests were made in Beverly Hills after Black Lives Matter activists marched through a Beverly Hills residential neighborhood. The group of marchers was chanting “Eat the rich!” And “Abolish capitalism now!

Holy shit! Burning down the homes of Democrat-supporting, multi-millionaire celebrities? Where do I sign up?

The truth is you can never meet the demands of such fanatics. In the case of the St Louis lawyers my bet is they’ll try and appease their attackers as they are doing in that statement, and perhaps donating to both Democrats and the GOP or only the Democrats, just to be safe? Having said that there are other signs aside from the “Marxists” note that they’re starting to figure it out:

The only thing that stopped the crowd from approaching the house was when I had that rifle and I was holding there. The only thing that stemmed the tide.

The schadenfreude always tastes better with a red pill.
 
 

Written by Tom Hunter

June 30, 2020 at 4:24 am