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December 27, 2005

Again: What we’ve become
Posted by Patrick at 10:50 PM * 90 comments

From the Chicago Tribune (free reg. required; article reproduced for free here):

A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they’re in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.

Lining up on the opposite side of the defense industry are some human-trafficking experts who say significant aspects of the Pentagon’s proposed policy might actually do more harm than good unless they’re changed. These experts have told the Pentagon that the policy would merely formalize practices that have allowed contractors working overseas to escape punishment for involvement in trafficking, the records show.

Found on MetaFilter. As MeFi commenter “delmoi” remarked, “I’m sorry, this is just hilarious. Kidnapping, then torture, then domestic wiretapping, and now slavery? I’m agog. What’s next, cannibalism?”

I was trying to find a good link to demonstrate that the connection between imperial overreach and human trafficking isn’t exclusively a Bush administration thing, but somehow my heart isn’t in it.

Comments on Again: What we've become:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 11:25 PM:

This administration hit rock bottom and started digging. "Morality", today, has come to mean condemning people for private, consensual choices, while treating crimes against humanity as business as usual.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 11:33 PM:

I've been expecting people to start disappearing for a year or so. ("Congratulations! You're moving to {Iraq|Afghanistan}! The movers will come tomorrow; you're leaving tonight!" --And you may or may not be heard from again.)

#3 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 11:55 PM:

Quoth my wife: "Don't you kind of miss blue dresses and cigars?"

The Trib also has an article about how the CIA agents who did one of those "extraordinary renditions" in Italy were too dumb to turn off their cell phones. Should I feel reassured that if I'm going to live in a police state, the secret police are going to be run by Maxwell Smart?

#4 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:16 AM:

I always that that when I (and others) said, "They'd reinstate slavery if they thought they could get away with it," that it was hyperbole. Once again, Bush proves me wrong. There is a Hell and it has no bottom floor.

#5 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:34 AM:

I'm pretty sure I'm repeating myself on this site, but it's been awhile since I last said it:

We're living in the bad timeline the protagonist has to go back into the past to prevent.

Just one sign in Miami Beach explaining how to correctly vote for Gore....if you've got the time machine, I'll do the lettering.

#6 ::: Peter Hentges ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:48 AM:

"delmoi" has zir order a bit off. It was torture, then kidnapping, then domestic wiretapping followed by slavery. Cannibalism is in queue for next month (sweeps, don'tchaknow).

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 01:00 AM:

The final paragraph of that article is illuminating, in a sick and miserable sort of way:

Without tough provisions requiring referrals to prosecutors, they said, contractors could still get their employees on planes back to the U.S. before investigations commenced, as they allege happened in several documented cases in the Balkans. They said some local contract managers even had "special arrangements" with police in the Balkans that allowed them to quickly get employees returned to the U.S. if they were found to be engaged in illegal activities.

So we would allow the possible alleged perps to duck prosecution in the countries where the activity took place.

Remind me again about that whole "honor and dignity" thing Bush/Cheney campaigned on, willya?

#8 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 02:05 AM:

*headdesk*

#9 ::: Carl Caputo ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 06:38 AM:

Hey, Patrick, your MetaFilter link goes to delmoi's user page instead of to the post in question.

#10 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 06:49 AM:
At the time, Halliburton said it was not responsible for the recruitment or hiring practices of its subcontractors, and the U.S. Army, which oversees the privatization contract, said questions about alleged misconduct "by subcontractor firms should be addressed to those firms, as these are not Army issues."

Translation: don't look at me - it's only being done in my name and with my money (and in Haliburton's case on a service I've undertaken to provide). I've heard of buck-passing, but this is ridiculous.

#11 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 07:16 AM:

I wonder if the Values Voters realize what they've done.

#12 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 07:54 AM:

The best articles I read on the Balkans trafficking was a two part series on Salon. (Must watch short commercial, etc.)

Outside the Law
Crime Without Punishment
Sex -slave Whistle-Blowers Vindicated

If you haven't seen Bertrand Tavernier's Capitaine Conan, be sure to do so. Set in the immediate aftermath of WWI, it asks the question of how do you demobilize someone who has been encouraged to live out a violent life?

#13 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:32 AM:

This whole "misconduct by subcontractor firms" line has been used in the garment (& related) industries to try and wriggle out of responsibility for sweatshop (& other bad) conditions.

I believe that there have been standards and procedures set up to stop (or at least reduce) this kind of buck-passing. Shouldn't it be possible to lay some kind of back-trail to the primum moblie in such similar kinds of cases?

Though it does need time, energy & money to carry it through against the constant headwind of obstructionism. So much energy expended when there are so many other good causes it could be used for that would actually make progress in betterment for the world and its people instead of constantly having to push back against the forces making worse, just to try and keep from going backwards. (Was it the Red Queen who said you have to run as fast as you can just to keep still?)

#14 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:36 AM:

This whole "misconduct by subcontractor firms" line has been used in the garment (& related) industries to try and wriggle out of responsibility for sweatshop (& other bad) conditions.

The correct answer there is "If it is your name on the label, you are responsible for it. You can take the fine out of your subcontractor or cut them off if you like - but the fine goes directly to you."

#15 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:46 AM:

Well, there's the whole frackas over one subcontracted security firm videotaping drive by shootings of random motorists in Iraq setting the tape to some godawful Elvis tune, and putting it out on the web as if it were some live action first person shooter game. That was done by the employees of Aegis Defence Services, a British company which was hired directly by the Army.

So we can add sport hunting of human beings to the list of crimes BushCo is responsible for.

#16 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:52 AM:

julia - Hey, it's only the natives who're suffering. so the NeoVictorians don't have to care.

I tried, in the interests of satire to use the Victorian standard term for dark skinned foreign labor, starting with a "w", but it made me too twitchy to type that out

#17 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 11:33 AM:

Josh, the term "neoVictorian" as you use it is almost slanderous. To the Victorians. However much I disagree with the "White Man's Burden" and however much I find it repellant, there is some attempt to do good in there - and a strong measure of taking responsibility. That (particularly the latter) seemingly does not apply here.

#18 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Metafilter link fixed.

#19 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Disgusting. Anyone know how soon the impeachment proceedings will start?

#20 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:13 PM:

Dave K: not before 2007, if then.

#21 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 12:58 PM:

Molly Ivins points out historical parallels, starting with a famous quote from Karl Marx and ending with an explicit call for impeachment:

http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/debate/ivins/story/14021564p-14854040c.html

#22 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 01:07 PM:

I suspect that the term "neoVictorian" is a deliberate reference to The Diamond Age, and I don't think the parallels are so bad. We see that society from the inside, and we see its justifications for itself, but we don't have to assess it the same way the main characters do.

#23 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 01:14 PM:

As usual, Ivins is right on target. American democracy is a sham as long as this man goes unimpeached. American justice is a sham as long as he continues to evade prison.

#24 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 01:43 PM:

We're living in the bad timeline the protagonist has to go back into the past to prevent.

I said at the time, and I'm becoming more and more convinced of it, that the crazy guy who broke into the Capitol and tried to kill Tom Delay, back in 1998, was a time traveler.

#25 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 02:45 PM:

Hmm, I remember a decade and a half ago in the loompanics unlimited year end one off sale of books that they hadn't taken for their regular catalog there was a book the premise of which was that there was a secret organization (not the illuminati) composed of some of the richest people in the U.S whose philosophy included that slavery was a natural condition for the lower orders (no color bar) and that they were working actively to pursue this goal. It had a really cool cover comic of some guy in a black executioner hood. I think there was something about Satanism as well....
I think alot about Dick Cheney.

#26 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 02:48 PM:

"Josh, the term "neoVictorian" as you use it is almost slanderous. To the Victorians."

Bush is the dumb little subaltern Kipling used to make hay out of.

The Victorian supercompetent vision of hypermasculinity would not interact well with the current Neocon screaming hissyfit vision of macho studliness.

#27 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 03:03 PM:

It was a letter in a British newspaper, castigating Tony Blair for saying our future was as part of Europe, that caught my eye today. Tony Blair, elected three times as Prime Minister, and avid supporter of Bush's America and the War in Iraq, is regarded as being pro-European. He's even being nice to the French.

#28 ::: Neil ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 04:51 PM:

You've missed one of the key atmospheric elements: The Chicago Tribune was THE archetypal ultra-Right-wing newspaper.

Apocryphally, I have heard that (under the legendary old management) the Trib published their last pro-Hitler editorial in 1943.

What I did see with my own eyes was that throughout the entire Watergate period, the Trib backed up President Nixon totally. When they finally ran an editorial saying the President really ought to answer some questions, maybe a fortnight before his resignation, it was taken, nationally, as the sign that Nixon's support had reached absolute zero.

The Trib has never in its 150 years not endorsed the Republican nominee for President.

And they are publishing stories like this. (Along with pathological swill on the editorial page, though they do have a couple of real menschen among the syndicated. Almost no one in house is worth the fertilizer it took to fill their chair.)

#29 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 06:21 PM:

The Schmuck's misadministration specialized in getting free rides and skating with it corncopia of implausible deniability.

#30 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 07:16 PM:

I was actualy thinking of the Crown's treatment of Egypt during the Suez Canal affair, Bloody Sunday, and the striking similarity between Halliburton and The British East India Company.

I'm not sure if it's an insult to the Victorians to compare then to BushCo, or the other way around.

the Victorian era was in the past, and is therefore Romantic. Except it wasn't.

#31 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 08:53 PM:

But never fear! The Pentagon is on the case of the important things to prohibit. Like selling copies of Playboy to the troops.

#32 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:09 PM:

We're living in the bad timeline the protagonist has to go back into the past to prevent.

Welcome to Pottersville.

#33 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 09:38 PM:

I'm not sure if it's an insult to the Victorians to compare then to BushCo, or the other way around.

It depends which Victorians and when - and what your basis of comparison is. The Victorians were crueler and more callous than BushCo - but in many ways they were a civilising influence on their times which were even more barbarous. (Think Suttee, Thuggees, Slavery, the Spanish Empire etc.) BushCo appears to do little other than bring the standards of the time down - and therefore the Victorians win hands down in my book despite being worse on an absolute scale.

Or, more prosaically, BushCo is higher up because (amongst other reasons) they stand on the shoulders of the Victorians. Unfortunately they use this extra height to piss on people below rather than help them up.

#34 ::: breeamal ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 10:09 PM:

Welcome to Pottersville.

Pottersville always looked like fun, This, not so much.

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 01:05 AM:

Pottersville, a Salon article dated 2001. Trouble is, the article was written too soon. Had it been updated after the past five years the conclusion would have been far worse than the author imagined.

#36 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 01:14 AM:

Linkmeister, that Pottersville analysis RAWKS.

thanks.

#37 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 06:39 AM:

The problem is that the real Mr. Potters want a cross between the worst of Bedford Falls and Pottersville, they want the lower classes poor, uneducated, drunken and whoring (with bad overpriced housing, let us not forget that aspect of Mr. Potter's plan for the people) in a class-ridden and judgemental society. In Pottersville opium is the opiate of the masses, but it is illegal and its distribution serves his power.

Notice how Pottersville has lots of prostitution but it seems to be illegal, also homeless wandering alcholics that can have the cops called on them?

Actually anyone ever notice how much old Mr. Potter looks like Dick Cheney?

What actually happened in that dark room so long ago when old Mr. Cheney said:

"You've beaten me, George, I don't mind admitting it. But what has it gotten you? A failed savings and loan? Your brother, George, your brother, a fellow without half your natural guts, is on a political march that will take him to the governorship of Florida, and yet here you sit, the smartest Bush of them all, in shadow of a weak-willed Father and a domineering mother."

"well, uh, Just what is it you're trying to say Mr. Cheney"

"I'm offering you a job George, at a handsome salary, answerable only to me in my organization. What do you say to that. You can take vacations one every other month if you like. Didn't you once say you would like to travel, well you can travel for me, on my business."

of course the a Bailey would have been strong enough to set the devil behind him, but a Bush?


#38 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 12:08 PM:

but in many ways they were a civilising influence on their times which were even more barbarous.

Ah, so they replaced "uncivilized" barbaric behavior with "civlized" mass murders of indigenous people, drug trades, serfdom, and outright theft.

I'm sorry, the "white man's burden" is a load of crap. Not that the practices they stopped were great, but they failed to replace them with anything better, and had the temeritry to pretend that they were commiting genocide as a means of civilizing the world.

#39 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Josh: Roads. Railroads. Schools. Hospitals.
The Victorians brought these, too. ('What did the Romans ever do for us?')

Genocide existed long before the Victorians; they weren't the first, and I don't recall that they used it routinely. (Met any Albigensians lately?)

#40 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 04:54 PM:

"Met any Albigensians lately?"

http://www.cathar.net/

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 05:36 PM:

J Thomas: How can you tell if they're Albigensians or genuine Cathari? They don't tell you much about themselves. I find it hard to believe that they survived eight hundred years underground, without anyone noticing: the tenets as given in most sources show the core group, the perfecti, were fairly conspicuous. (I also notice there are some very long gaps in their chronological document list, which suggests they're an offshoot of some other group. The claimed ten years of site hacking is also odd: they can't get decent computer security?)

#42 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 07:40 PM:

I kind of agree with the idea of the original Bedford being a little toxic. (Not that Pottersville was really much better.)

But neither of those holds a candle to Brigadoon. Brigadoon is the ultimate planned (and closed!) society. It is the festering heart of darkness.

(Exhibit A)

#43 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 08:52 PM:

PiscusFiche, Linkmeister; these views were nailed by none other than Karl Marx, more than 150 years ago: "They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias, of founding isolated phalansteres [...] and to realize all these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the feelings and purses of the bourgeois. By degrees, they sink into the category of the reactionary conservative socialists depicted above, differing from these only by more systematic pedantry, and by their fanatical and superstitious belief in the miraculous effects of their social science."

And yet...I do not think it co-incidence that the hippies decided that Lord of the Rings was about the future. Much of the present we have built is heartless and soulless, and ruled by monsters. The desire for something with heart, soul, and compassionate, sane rulers may yet save us.

#44 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 10:19 PM:

PJ Evans, I wouldn't claim that these people have an uninterrupted line of named succession from the albigensians. But they claim the title now, and I accept them as cathar now, just as I mostly accept people who call themselves christian as christians, and people who call themselves discorian as discordians.

The catholic church gets to decide who's catholic, but there isn't anybody who gets to tell me who's crhistian except the individual christians themselves, and there's nobody to tell me who's albigensian except the individual albigensians.

#45 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 02:47 AM:

Brigadoon was a badly thought out narrative. It also really sucks as a movie and a musical, nonetheless I believe people like it because its structure reveals a much better possible narrative.

Given Hollywood propensity for rewriting old movies, I would personally like to redo Brigadoon. It had a great possible story.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 03:54 AM:

And yet...I do not think it co-incidence that the hippies decided that Lord of the Rings was about the future. Much of the present we have built is heartless and soulless, and ruled by monsters. The desire for something with heart, soul, and compassionate, sane rulers may yet save us.

I remember when I first ran across the philisophical bases that underlie the Arts and Crafts movement, and wondered why they seemed so familiar to me. Then I realised that Sauroman is an expression of what William Morris was rebelling against.

#47 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 08:00 AM:

Must...avoid...twenty...minute...anti-Brigadoon...rant. Have...spoiled...too...many...parties...already.

#48 ::: Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 10:18 AM:

Regarding Victorians: Good or Evil?, try reading Mike Davis's "Late Victorian Holocausts" before making up your mind. The British ended slavery and built railroads, but in India they used the trains to carry grain away from starving people.

The British Empire's moral record is similar to that of every other empire--some genuine accomplishments along with a huge stack of corpses.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 10:47 AM:

In high school German class, we read a story called, IIRC, 'Germelshausen', which was another version of Brigadoon. (It's too long ago to recall details, so don't ask.)

#50 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 12:29 PM:

The British ended slavery and built railroads, but in India they used the trains to carry grain away from starving people.

They did the same thing to the Irish. Most people don't appear to realize that Ireland had a grain surplus during the Potato Famine - or that the Irish were relying on potatos as a staple crop because English economic oppression left them little choice.

#51 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 01:35 PM:

I wasn't altogether impressed by Brigadoon after seeing it once many eyars ago, but when recalling it, I thought (This isn't a spoiler, really - this information is like the back cover copy of a book, it's the stuff you know going in) that their separation from the world for a hundred years at a time wasn't an extended sleep, but a sort of faerie-type door opening and closing every hundred years between two worlds (Brigadoon town and all of the rest of earth. Time passes on the other side, too. It doesn't necessarily make the isolationism better, and not much will save the whole story, but it makes a bit more sense of the basic setting.

Of course, this could have been me mentally rewriting a plot point to a slightly more logical version (Well, logical by the rules of magic).

#52 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 01:43 PM:

Nah, Lenora Rose, no time passed within Brigadoon. None of them aged, and they still kept the traditions of 100 (200? 300?) years earlier. It WOULD make more logical sense. And also it would make a more interesting story...since their culture would drift considerably, I would think.

#53 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 02:44 PM:

The British Empire's moral record is similar to that of every other empire--some genuine accomplishments along with a huge stack of corpses.

Amartya Sen confirmed that (specifically referring to the history of the British in India) when he poined out that no effective democracy in the Twentieth Century had ever had a famine. The real issue is not technology but accountability. A government that has to face hungry voters will carry out the usually straightforward measures to deal with food problems as they arose. Imperial bureaucrats often mean well, but at the end of the day they are accountable to the imperial power off somewhere, and will tend to act accordingly.

Empires, for a variety of reasons, can remain stable for extended periods of time, but will always have problems competing economically with democracies. I keep this in mind when considering China and wondering if it is really on the way to greater freedom and lasting prosperity or the last chapters of The Diamond Age.

#54 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Well it is good to see that I am managing to continue my policy of at least one grammar or spelling howler per post. Teresa, do you have a standard fee for line editing posts?

#55 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 05:38 PM:

"their separation from the world for a hundred years at a time wasn't an extended sleep"
I believe it was that a 100 years passed in the space of a night for them. I guess they could have been awake during that night. That was how Gene Kelly managed to get back in wasn't it, the woman woke up, or the priest?

anyway, yes, that was a very bad plot.

As for the anti-brigadoon rant, I don't think I've ever been at a party where there would have been enough people who would know what Brigadoon was to make ranting worthwhile. And I figure that rant would just be what has already been said, with the addtional note that it had no decent songs and only one half decent dance number.

#56 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 06:53 PM:

Regarding Victorians: Good or Evil?, try reading Mike Davis's "Late Victorian Holocausts" before making up your mind. The British ended slavery and built railroads, but in India they used the trains to carry grain away from starving people.

I never said that the Victorians were entirely good.

Victorian philosophy and economics was largely Whig (I'd use the term "Liberal" but this has aquired far too many associations). What this meant in practice was that it was "Sink or swim" - a philosophy that most educated people (Libertarians not withstanding in the 20th Century find callous, cruel, arbitrary (we can't e.g. control the weather) and hence amoral.

On the other hand, when we look at society prior to the 20th Century, the picture changes markedly. The philosophy and economics of the various East India Companies (Dutch, British, French) amounted to "Our soldiers, administrators and accountants have got you by the balls - relax and this will hurt slightly less". (Actually, that's a very common political philosophy of those on top in all times and all places - but Corporate governments tend to be at least a bit more honest about it).

This was eventually dismantled by the Victorians largely because it violated the main rule of "Sink or Swim" - "You shall not hold another swimmer underwater" (even if it took the Indian Mutiny to overcome the military-industrial complex the East India Company had been busy making).

Before that, you get somewhat more repressive ideologies and economics - the tax system becomes nastier with the nobility and the churches being exempt from taxes in at least parts of something that was neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire. The Spanish in South America managed to go one better than the Opium Wars - first they banned Coca on religious grounds, then made it mandatory when they realised it would allow the natives to work harder. (At least there was *some* principle (rampant free trade) behind the Opium Wars). I could easily go on. Also I could mention divine rights of kings and royalty being of divine descent as ways to keep people down...

The British Empire's moral record is similar to that of every other empire--some genuine accomplishments along with a huge stack of corpses.

Indeed. Situations without empires also tend to generate huge stacks of corpses. Therefore the above statement simply says that the moral record for all empires and systems of government is mixed - a statement which only the blindest of ideologues would deny. (Empires tend to be better at both than other systems of government because they usually have more power).

#57 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 10:01 PM:

Shit, PJ, Chairman Mao built roads and hospitals too. He didn't invent genocide either. Sure was good at it though,

Who cares about genocide dicksize wars? They were bastards. They were far, far worse than Bush. And I hate Bush.

That was my whole damn point. Not that they were the worst bastards ever. Other people here heve been trying to make that my point. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

#58 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 10:33 PM:

I believe it was that a 100 years passed in the space of a night for them. I guess they could have been awake during that night. That was how Gene Kelly managed to get back in wasn't it, the woman woke up, or the priest?

It was the dominie. (The priest set up the suspension and was shut out thereby; the dominie claims at the wedding to be acting properly in the priest's absence.) He says when explaining Brigadoon to the outsiders that he can sometimes hear the outside world howling in his sleep, and says at the end that the lead's yearning woke him up. (All references to the stage version; I've seen only fragments of the movie.)

Of course, the entire premise is bull, only slightly removed from Once Upon a Mattress setting 1428 as a 1950's sitcom. Scotland in 1947 would not have been a pretty sight to a 1947 theatergoer; the last rebellion was just over, the clearances were spreading northward, most of the rural population couldn't speak anything resembling English, and the settlements tended to be a lot more primitive and less quaint than Lerner was willing to think about -- IMO it's another variation of the "cute native" school. (I suspect the lowlands weren't as ]"backward"[ by then, but IIRC the story isn't set in the lowlands.)

I'll admit to preconceptions about the notion of sampling time, having read Zelazny's "The Graveyard Heart" (in which select socialites are awake for select parties a few times a year) well before I heard of Brigadoon. But the combination of the history I've seen on trips to Scotland with the disculturation they'll certainly have the next time they surface (just imagine who'd wander in from Ken MacLeod's world!) makes it almost a horror story.

I'll stop ranting now....

#59 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 10:35 PM:

Josh, I think we can agree that some of them were bastards, so long as we can also agree that some of them were not.

#60 ::: dave ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 11:52 PM:

Xopher:

They did the same thing to the Irish. Most people don't appear to realize that Ireland had a grain surplus during the Potato Famine - or that the Irish were relying on potatos as a staple crop because English economic oppression left them little choice.

Well, sort of. This article, Irish Potato Famine, at wikipedia seems like a good summary of the situation.

Critics have observed how during this time, Irish & Anglo-Irish landowners exported corn (and other crops) and livestock which could have saved the lives of many Irish people. Although there were also not enough mills immediately available in Ireland had all the corn been kept to be used at home, the livestock and other crops would have sufficed until the milled corn could have been brought back from British mills. Peel's solution was different: keep exporting to avoid the economic collapse of the landlord system, while importing Indian maize to feed the starving. Russell, his successor, refused to do the latter, making catastrophe inevitable.
#61 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 02:13 AM:

As for the anti-brigadoon rant, I don't think I've ever been at a party where there would have been enough people who would know what Brigadoon was to make ranting worthwhile. And I figure that rant would just be what has already been said, with the addtional note that it had no decent songs and only one half decent dance number.

bryan: not one word has anything to do with any points brought up so far, nor does it have anything to do with the music or dance numbers. And I'm trying to avoid launching into it because our host and hostess deserve better things than a discussion of why the priest must have spent his spare time having carnal relations with rats and voles.

#62 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 02:26 AM:

Like the Vicar of Aubrey St Just.

#63 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 07:30 AM:

I can't help but be interested in knowing exactly why the priest MUST have spent his spare time having sex with rats and voles.

#64 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 07:30 AM:

On the subject of Whiggish politics, I've been doing a bit of reading around the Victorian period lately. Never mind the colonial outrages and famines and genocide: prior to the reform movements that got under way in the 1860s there were thousands starving to death in English cities whenever the economy took a bath, deflationary cycles that forced parents to take their kids out of school and send them to work at age 8, grotesque gerrymandering and a franchise restricted on the basis of gender and wealth, poor-houses where the elderly were warehoused and worked to death on starvation rations, baby farms for the disposal (by neglect) of unwanted infants, public executions as a form of street entertainment, and any manner of other horror you care to imagine. (And a thin scum of incredibly pampered aristocrats on top -- a thousand families living in luxury, amidst a million struggling to survive.)

The reason that the UK today is the socialist paradise that it is -- and that Libertarians love to rag on -- is that we've tried Libertarianism (back when it was the Whiggish backbone of the Liberal Party), and it didn't work.

#65 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 07:33 AM:

"They were far, far worse than Bush"

the only things holding Bush back are a thin tissue of laws and a thick goop of incompetence.

#66 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 07:38 AM:

Actually as Chip notes it was the Dominie, not the priest. So was it the Dominie having sex with rats and voles?

#67 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 08:37 AM:

Charlie - it'd be fun to write a time-travel story where someone goes back (with machine guns and nerve gas) to kill every single one of those thousand families...and the hero tries to stop them, not for them, but for history and their innocent descendants.

It might be less fun to read, though. *shrugs*

#68 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 09:05 AM:

The reason that the UK today is the socialist paradise that it is -- and that Libertarians love to rag on -- is that we've tried Libertarianism (back when it was the Whiggish backbone of the Liberal Party), and it didn't work.

Agreed almost in its entirety. I would however question whether the situation you describe was worse than the situation in France pre Richeleu and Mazarin, that in Spain (or worse yet the Spanish colonies). What I will say for Libertarianism is that it is good for cleaning out repressive systems - while leaving a hole for the brighter members of the repressive group to realise they can still profit, so no revolution is necessary (and success is more likely).

I also question the term "Socialist Paradise" when applied to the UK. Libertarians get some reasonably clean shots in at the UK because we are not particularly socialist and certainly don't have amazing hospitals. This is because we are not prepared to pay for them. In short, the libertarians get to criticise British services because they are too libertarian.

To put things into perspective, according to the most recent data (2002) presented in the most recent WHO annual report (2005) the entire UK healthcare industry costs less per head than the government subsidies per head into the US healthcare industry. The exact numbers are that (at International Dollar Rate (more favourable to the US than Average Exchange Rate)), the US government spent $2,368 per head, out of a total of $5,274 per head. The UK government spent $1,801 per head out of a total of $2,160 per head. And (using the statistics least able to be fiddled), UK life expectancy is significantly longer (79 years vs 77), UK under 5 mortality is significantly lower (6 per thousand vs 8) and this despite the UK having a significantly older population (20.8% over 60 vs 16.3%)

#69 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 09:44 AM:

While I definitely prefer the UK system to ours, I do wonder how much of that lower expenditure is achieved by piggybacking on U.S. medical research.

#70 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:38 AM:

While I definitely prefer the UK system to ours, I do wonder how much of that lower expenditure is achieved by piggybacking on U.S. medical research.

I have no idea - the US spends about four times as much per head as the UK on medical research. On the other hand, the NHS has a very good track record on innovation - MRI scanners and hip replacements being good examples.

Also, medical research spending is less than 8% of healthcare spending in the US - even making that up wouldn't make a serious dent in the relative situations. Finally, medical research seldom reduces costs - it usually means that you can do more, with the new methods being more expensive.

#71 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:57 AM:

I shall confess to being snarky when referring to the UK as a "socialist paradise". (I was working in the NHS while Thatcher was PM.)

It gets called a socialist state by libertarian types who don't understand what socialism is, not by real socialists.

#72 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Okay, this is somewhat off-topic (I had been holding it for the next Open Thread), but it kind of fits in here. Folksongs and language - solidly in ML readers field of expertise.

The song 'Fields of Athenry' (brilliantly covered by the Dropkick Murphys - punk rock guitar and Irish pipes rule) contains the following line, 'You stole Trevelyan's corn/so the young could see the morn.' My North American ears had blithely been assuming that 'corn' meant 'the yellow stuff that grows on cobs.' Eventually, I recalled that 'corn' had a different meaning in the UK, surfed over to the OED, and read this:

Locally, the word, when not otherwise qualified, is often understood to denote that kind of cereal which is the leading crop of the district; hence in the greater part of England ‘corn’ is = wheat, in North Britain and Ireland = oats; in the U.S. the word, as short for Indian corn, is restricted to maize.

I mentioned this misunderstanding to an Irish friend of mine (two cultures separated by a common language...) and he was, "No, no - it actually does mean corn." (ie maize)

So I noticed that the Wikipedia article on the potato famine, quoted above by Dave, distinguishes between 'corn' and 'maize': Critics have observed how during this time, Irish & Anglo-Irish landowners exported corn (and other crops)...Peel's solution was different: keep exporting to avoid the economic collapse of the landlord system, while importing Indian maize to feed the starving.

Query: So what kind of grain does 'Trevelyan's corn' refer to - maize, oats, or something else?

Thanks!

#73 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 12:42 PM:

probably other grains, since maize is native to North America...

WordNet 2.1:, 'corn', definition #5 is "((Great Britain) any of various cereal plants (especially the dominant crop of the region--wheat in England or oats in Scotland and Ireland))"

#74 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 05:03 PM:

"And yet...I do not think it co-incidence that the hippies decided that Lord of the Rings was about the future. Much of the present we have built is heartless and soulless, and ruled by monsters. The desire for something with heart, soul, and compassionate, sane rulers may yet save us."

The people corrupting America so badly today are the classmates and cousins of those very hippies.

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 06:05 PM:

Trevelyan's 'corn' was wheat, which Ireland continued to export even as the peasants' fields of praties were destroyed by the blight. I seem to recall reading something to the effect that the British government thought it would be a good idea if the 'surplus population' of Ireland went elsewhere.

At the end of 1849, in his 'Occasional Discourse on the Nigger (sic) Question', Thomas Carlyle blasted English liberals for caring more about the black population of the West Indies (which he stigmatised as completely useless layabouts who ought to be whipped back into slavery) than about the starving poor in the British Isles. Carlyle was animated by a virulent racism, which led him to completely dehumanise blacks, but there is a point there.

#76 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 09:14 PM:

Multiball!:

Victorians: I think the Victorian British Empire was about as good as an empire can be; I think it was pretty damn bad.

Pottersville: Good points about the usefulness of most of the lower classes' being in technical violation of the law; the point was best illustrated in my view in McKie's So Beautiful and so Dangerous: on a particular space-station, it was against the law not to know the Stational Anthem, whose words had been lost for ten thousand years; as a consequence, anyone was liable to arrest at any time (much like one of Joe-Bob Briggs' rules for a good horror movie).

Pottersville always did look more fun than Bedford Falls, but I was always rooting for George to ditch that lemonade stand and go to Paris and meet Anaïs Nin (my version of Jim Infantino's Marilyn Monroe Should Have Married Henry Miller), say after he saved his brother's life. (Really, Clarence should have shown George all possible significant branches, even though George did only say that he wished he had never been born. "And he wouldn't have been/If his father had seen....")

U.K. Liberals: they started to favour government intervention once they saw what sink-or-swim did; amazingly, they'd rather get something done than continue believing they were right, probably a near-singular event.

Assassins from the future: 'Tom DeLay' always sounded suspiciously like 'time delay'.

#77 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 09:17 PM:

protected static, you're right, but so is the potato (native to North America, I mean). But I daresay maize wouldn't grow well in Ireland.

Hmm. I don't know why I think that. I'm probably wrong.

#78 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 09:54 PM:

Xopher --

Maize needs heat to grow (and ripen) properly; Ireland has a mean summer maximum temperature of about 19 C. If I plug that into the Ontario Gov's handy online crop heat units calculator with 9 C (the annual mean) as the minimum temperature, Ireland has a daily crop heat unit value of about 16 for the summertime. Multiply that by a 120 day growing season, and you get a 1920 heat unit growing season.

This is comparable to Earlton, ON, and slightly better than Thunder Bay or Kapuskasing. Since I made some generous assumptions on the back of that envelope, I think it's safe to say that the Boreal Forest of northern Ontario is about as good a maize-growing region as Ireland, which is to say, not at all.

By comparison, Sioux City Iowa, for May through September (a 150 day growing season) has a daily average of 25 crop heat units, for a total over that growing season of 3750, effectively twice that of Ireland.

#79 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:16 PM:

Wow, thank you Graydon. It seemed unlikely, but I didn't have those figures or formulas or...anything really, to back it up!

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:34 PM:

With a modern early (short-season) maize/corn, it's just possible to grow it someplace like the Pacific Northwest. On the other hand, I've heard it described as needing three things: water, water, and water. (I believe that assumes the weather is already favorable.) --That from an uncle who grew it in west Texas, and had one really good year with white corn for Frito-Lay. (He also described cotton as having a seed-to-harvest time of 180 days. That area had an average frost-free season of 185 days -- some years the bear ate them.)

#81 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 03:28 AM:

Xopher: yeah, but the potato originated in the Andes, so Ireland must have seemed like Xanadu. Though to be fair, there are varieties of corn that'll grow quite cheerfully throughout New England, so some strains have to be pretty hardy as well.

Seriously, though - think 'barleycorn' - I'm reasonably certain that word predates the arrival of maize in Europe.

Happy New Year, all!

#82 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 04:26 AM:

Others with more knowledge may be able to give you better information, but I know that "corn" is an old English word, with the same base as "kernel", and it can mean any grain. (I think "apple" can mean any kind of fruit in older descriptions too.)

"Maize" is preferred by some people as a 'more proper' name for the American fruit/seed/grain. I think it was known as "Indian corn" for a long time, so I suppose that was shortened, and it's just one of those shifts of meaning that gradually happen in language, so that older texts that speak of corn get misunderstood.

#83 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 06:43 AM:

"Water, water, and water" is a good fit for Ireland. Even the sheltered, dry, east coast gets a similar amount of rain to the wet west coast of Scotland! The west coast is about the wettest place in Europe, if not the world. (All those westerlies coming in off the Atlantic have to dump their moisture somewhere.)

So there's the water for maize, certainly. But the flip side of the coin is that there's usually cloud cover, and if you're looking for sunlight, Ireland (like the UK) is north of everywhere in the United States that's south of Alaska. People tend to forget just how far north the British Isles are. Edinburgh, as a benchmark, is fifty miles north of Moscow, Russia.

So, amazingly enough, no maize.

#84 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 09:54 AM:

One of the things that doomed Ireland's potato crop was that all the potatoes they grew were of a single variety, known as "lumpers", probably descended from a single plant (potatoes are propagated vegetatively, i.e. by cloning. They do produce seeds, but if you plant the seeds you get a bewildering variety of weird things, many of which are so bitter as to be inedible. The same is true of apples).

Back home in Peru, the original domesticators of the potato grew (and still grow) literally hundreds of varieties in all shapes, sizes and colors, often all jumbled together in the same patch of ground. No matter what fungus, weather pattern or pest comes along, some of those varieties are bound to be resistant to it.

The bulk of the commercial potato crop in the United States consists of only 6 varieties, most acreage being devoted to Russet Burbanks (the french fry potato). The situation is similar for dry beans and corn. Many varieties of domesticated plants and animals have become extinct and others are headed that way, which means we no longer have a substantial "gene bank" to draw on for future weather/pest/disease resistance. Two groups that are trying to do something about it are Seed Savers Exchange and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy .

/soapbox

#85 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 11:40 AM:

I'm afraid that several states' worth of monoculture of Indian corn, and a near-dependence thereon, will someday look as stupid as mediæval health and sanitary practices do to us.

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 11:57 AM:

WRT monoculture in the US: Part of the problem as I understand is is that the farmers (especially the ones wtih less land) have to borrow money to do things like buy equipment and seed. The banks are willing to lend, but they want the crops to be stuff with high market value (meaning they get their money back quickly). This tends to result in maize and cotton as main crops, even in areas where they're marginal. (Farmer: someone who buys retail and sells wholesale.)

So you have areas like the one I lived in, which were good for apples, cherries, pecans, grapes, and cattle, being stuck in the maize/cotton cycle, and the farmers were going broke at varying rates. (They did have other crops: onions, potatoes, melons, okra, peppers, sunflowers, but these were small-scale by comparison.) FWIW: the maize was generally 'field corn', meaning it was left until fully ripe (and dry), then turned into meal.

#87 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 12:34 PM:

I shall confess to being snarky when referring to the UK as a "socialist paradise". (I was working in the NHS while Thatcher was PM.)

It gets called a socialist state by libertarian types who don't understand what socialism is, not by real socialists.

My apologies. I'm currently being exasperated by a number of Libertarians who genuinely believe the views you were sarcastically espousing. I'm trying to kick the "socialist paradise" into touch in quite a number of places and failed to realise your perspective.

Victorians: I think the Victorian British Empire was about as good as an empire can be; I think it was pretty damn bad.

Agreed. I also think that there are certain things (such as the abolition of the slave trade) that are worth doing and that only an entity that is an empire has the strength and the will to do and impose on others. (I also believe that there are situations in which empires are inevitable).

Actually, this is one major reason I was in favour of the US superpower status (and will be again if you can houseclean and deal with the Shrub and Neocons). Despite regular imperial pretensions, the US does not appear to have the will (or correctly focussed ability - the US seems to prefer CEOs to CBEs) to be an empire - but sits in the same ecological niche as an empire, making it much harder for a real one to emerge.

U.K. Liberals: they started to favour government intervention once they saw what sink-or-swim did; amazingly, they'd rather get something done than continue believing they were right, probably a near-singular event.

And given the state of the previous laws (including such things as slavery), I have a lot of sympathy with their initial misguided attempts. I wish I could disagree that changing views to match the evidence was rare :-(

That was a depressing comment :-(

On a lighter note, to illustrate how far north Britain is, Britain is further north than Tierra Del Fuego is South. (Ushuia, the only city in Tierra Del Fuego is approximately on an equivalent latitude to Birmingham). I discovered this when I went to Ushuia for the Summer Solstice one year expecting a very long day...

#88 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 04:05 AM:

"Actually, this is one major reason I was in favour of the US superpower status (and will be again if you can houseclean and deal with the Shrub and Neocons). Despite regular imperial pretensions, the US does not appear to have the will (or correctly focussed ability - the US seems to prefer CEOs to CBEs) to be an empire "

Well, I suppose that one particular strain of the american character, that strain which has led to Shrub and the Neocons, does have the will to empire. You can houseclean the current manifestation, but not the inclination. I'd hate to see someone with that inclination that was also competent try it.

#89 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 09:02 AM:

"Well, I suppose that one particular strain of the american character, that strain which has led to Shrub and the Neocons, does have the will to empire. You can houseclean the current manifestation, but not the inclination. I'd hate to see someone with that inclination that was also competent try it."

That was part of my CEO/CBE point - a major change in the culture of the US would be necessary before it even could be done competently. In late 19th Century Britain, the elite went into the Civil Service to attempt to run the Empire (a legacy which still continues to this day). In order to get a competent imperial administration, there would have to be a change in desired career from continually feuding CEOs and Traders to Civil Servants or the like.

#90 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 09:32 AM:

Thanks, Fragano and others, for responding to my original query re: Trevelyan's corn. Of course, now I'm going to have to go back to my Irish friend and ask him if he knows where the 'sweet corn' that he eats comes from. I guess it's possible that there are some short-season, cold-weather maize varieties that are grown locally (anyone here know if you can get farmstand corn in Ireland?) but it seems pretty much impossible that they were around in the mid-19th century.

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