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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Unamerican! Or Maybe Not?
posted by Bathus

In this era of official eavesdropping, I thought you might especially enjoy eavesdropping on a conversation about eavesdropping.

The conversation transpired among me and my dearest online pals in our private (or so we thought) Yahoo Group (which we have unpretentiously named "thesmartcafe"). As is usual, our online chatter in this thread ranged through more than one subject, but if you think about it, you'll see that the whole thing really does form a single piece about what it means for something or someone to be "American" or "Unamerican."

Our repartee was incited by smartcafe member Bill's post, bringing to our attention the following story:
Yahoo accused in jailing of 2nd China Internet user
Feb 9, 2:05 AM (ET)
By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc. provided evidence to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of an Internet writer, lawyers and activists said on Thursday, the second such case involving the U.S. Internet giant.

The latest storm over Western Internet companies in China comes just weeks after Web search giant Google Inc. came under fire for saying it would block politically sensitive terms on its new China site, bowing to conditions set by Beijing.

Writer and veteran activist Liu Xiaobo said Yahoo had co-operated with Chinese police in a case that led to the 2003 arrest of Li Zhi, who was charged with subverting state power and sentenced to eight years in prison after trying to join the dissident China Democracy Party.

Yahoo gave public security agents details of Li's registration as a Yahoo user, Liu said in an article posted on U.S.-based Chinese-language news portal Boxun, citing a defense statement from Li's lawyers.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo said the company was looking into the matter.
Bill's take on the story is short and to the point:
Dan is reliably witty and topical:
I guess they will come up with a cartoon filter next.....
But did Bill happen to notice that Yahoo is the provider that hosts our internet group? In my response, as in my wont, no matter how I start out, I wind up aiming for something philosophical:
Should we consider moving this group to another provider? But who? Google is in bed with the Chicoms, and so is Microsoft. As is everyone else, so far as I can tell.

Proof that the almighty greenback trumps just about everything--which is usually a good thing in the long run, because capitalism is the most efficient way to generate wealth, so the desire for wealth eventually transforms tyrannies into commercial republics, or so the theory goes. We even have a handy euphemism for making money from doing business with murdering tyrants, which those of us on the right side of the political fence made good use of to describe economic dealings with South Africa back in the apartheid days: "constructive engagement." Clinton later rehabilitated the euphemism to justify dealing with China.

It's so hard to be pure in this modern world.
Southerndeb chimes in:
You know, I was thinking the same thing. It sure pisses me off.

Does anyone know of another [provider] that offers these services?

I've been working late every night, so on the way home I've listened to the financial show on NPR at six. They did a week-long series on the new Chinese economy. You know what was the most surprising thing I learned? There is no religion. None. So when people get more money than they need, become rich and richer, they have absolutely NO feeling of responsibility for those less fortunate, do not donate to charity, or even THINK about anything except themselves. The host of the show interviewed one very rich woman and she seemed absolutely stunned that he would ask her to take care of the poor.
In reply to Southerndeb's query about moving our group to a more ethical provider, tongue-in-cheek Tom suggests:
Al Jazeera.

Hey, at least they'd be honest about it.
That's a good one, Tom. Glad to see the chemo hasn't affected your wit. But I'm wondering, Southerndeb, what are you doing listening to NPR?!?! And what kind of conservative would ever suggest that the rich have any responsibilities for the poor? If you weren't the founder and moderator of this group, I'd have you exiled to the DailyKos! Seriously though, Southerndeb's insinuation that charitable feeling originates from religious instruction is priceless wisdom, wisdom that even the most religious liberal simply can't allow himself to contemplate, much less comprehend. That's exactly the sort of well-grounded, almost innate, wisdom that makes Southerndeb such a fine conservative--and sets her apart from bleeding heart liberals and selfish pseudo-conservative libertarians.

Then Jim weighs in with a geo-historical political economic analysis. He worries that Lenin was right, that we Western capitalists would sell the commies the rope to hang us with:
It doesn't matter, Deb. They own us. All of corporate America panders to them and their best lobbyists in this country are members of Congress. They've already defeated us in an economic war. Sun Tzu would be proud. So would Lenin. Historians will call Deng Xiaoping the most consequential statesman of the last quarter of the 20th Century. They'll be right.
Deb, infected by Jim's noble pessimism, quickly agrees:
You're right, of course. I was talking to a friend the other night discussing the kind of world in which our grandchildren will grow up. It dawned on me that it will be Chinese against the Muslims world-wide, and here at home it will be an Hispanic majority. USA as a world power will eventually be history.
Jim responds and elaborates with more detail:
The Chinese are using the Muslims against us.

It was lots of help from Beijing that made it possible for Pakistan to go nuclear. Within the borders of China there's a huge Muslim nation in the northwest, Xinjiang Province. The people are called Uighurs (wee-gurs), Sunni Muslims related to the Turks, the people who opened and ran the old Silk Road for centuries. The Chinese have been oppressing and ethnic cleansing the hell out of them for decades. Some of them have gone radical and have thrown in with Bin Laden. Our government decided shortly after 9/11/01 that meant all Uighur nationalists must be terrorists so we declared China our ally in the "War On Terror."

It was a battle of wits, and our side was unarmed.
Dan adds his piece:
That is why the poorer, rural areas of China are rioting. The hinterlands are a powder keg, but in a country with government controlled media, that story goes largely untold....
But I, the eternal optimist, am recalling that the last news we heard about Lenin, his perpetual lease in the Kremlin had been revoked. Yeah, we sold the Ruskies the rope, the wheat, and lots of technology, too. (Better to sell them our technology than to have them steal it for free!) But in the end, no matter how much rope we sold them, the Soviets ended up hanging only themselves.

Well, all that talk about the Chinese and the Muslims is highly interesting, but as soon as anyone alludes (with even the barest hint of derision) to my south-of-the-border blood cousins, that's a fight I'm going to jump right in the middle of. The way I see it, in a pinch our good hard-working Pope-loving Hispanic (soon-to-be) majority will be able to kick the asses of any number of godless Chinese oligarchs and suicide-bombing Muslims. So I post one of my pompous semi-philosophical diatribes:
Nah, we'll outlast them all [the Muslims and the Chinese], because we'll corrupt the hell out of them all.

Rot their guts with American soft drinks and addle their brains with our TV reruns. American popular culture is an almost deadly toxin to everyone who's not an American. That's exactly why the Muslims hate us: because they know their culture can't resist the seductions of ours, but lack the social constitution that would permit their cultures to absorb the worst products of American popular culture without being poisoned in the process. The only way they can survive our cultural imperialism is to become almost identical to us. The convulsions in the Muslim world are the last spasms of a dying culture.

The Chinese society, as presently constructed, cannot survive without massive change. There's no way to efficiently tyrannize a billion and a half people. Notwithstanding Yahoo's collaboration in official oppression, the expansion of technology on the whole makes tyranny harder, not easier, to sustain. If you want to find people who understand freedom, go to China. (Which reminds me of a quip attributed to the last pope: "The last communist will be an American nun in Boston.")

As for the emergence of an Hispanic majority, that doesn't bother me in the least, so long as they preserve the "good ol' American" values.

American is not a skin color or an ethnicity or a cuisine.

American is an idea.

All it takes to be a "real American" is to sign on to that idea.

So I don't care whether the inheritors and preservers of that idea are brown or yellow or white or black or red. I would go so far as to say that you'll find a greater percentage of "real Americans" (people who dedicate their lives to the American idea) among Hispanic immigrants than among 10th generation white skinned folks. The white ones think they deserve something just because their great-great-grandpa was lucky enough to be born here.

They think God created America as a birthright for white people. So all they do is piss and moan about how the tan ones are over-running "their" country.

Meanwhile, the tan ones understand the American dream, and they believe in it all the way. They understand that they have to work hard for what they get, and they do work hard for what they get. The white folks piss and moan about medicare and the size of their social security checks. Most white folks have forgotten what hard work really is. They only think they work hard. But they haven't the faintest idea what a hard life is. They have forgotten what it means not to have their cell phones, their cable TV, their dishwashers.

Nothing lasts forever, but America, the idea that is America, has got a long run to go. Whether that idea will be carried on by white, brown or tan, doesn't matter. But if I had to bet, I'd bet on the tan ones.
Now I have to confess that what I wrote above was in large part calculated to dig a rhetorical elbow into the metaphorical ribs of my dear online pal, Bill, a resident of Arizona who, to put it mildly, views immigration from Mexico and places further south rather differently than I do.

Sure enough, I do get a slight rise out of Bill. But he responds with grace, dignity, good humor, and a recitation of 10 generations of his family tree (which, until he corrupted it, looked about as WASPish as you can get):
1) Obadiah S____y b. about 1615, England d. August 25, 1657, Stanford CT. Arrived in America in 1630's. Is in records of being in Stamford 1635.

2)Obadiah S____y b. 1647 Stamford, CT d. Fairfield, CT July 25, 1680.

3) Obadiah S____y b. 1670 Stamford Ct d. Stamford CT September 04, 1745.

4) John S____y b. August 25, 1693 Stamford, CT d. Stamford, CT March 19, 1756.

5) Major Gideon S____y b. September 27, 1729, Stamford, CT d. December 18, 1804 in Croton river, Westchester County, New York .

6) Isaac S____y b. November 20, 1768 South Salem, New York d. October 26, 1850 Westchester County, New York. (Bought the farm and land where I was born 1938, my father in 1879, my grand-father in 1852, and my great grand-father in 1799.)

7) George S____y b March 15, 1799 d. May 01, 1870 Greenville, New York (now Scarsdale , NY).

8) Henry S____y March 20, 1852 d. June 10, 1920, Scarsdale.

9) William H. S____y b. May 30, 1879 d. November 1952, Scarsdale.

10) William H. S____y, Jr.. ME!!!! b. October 28, 1938 d. still living (and I just checked).

11) John Isaac S____y b. November 27, 1995 (still living) North Shore Hospital, Roslyn , New York

Except for my two oldest boys that are half Asian, you can call us all "Whitey".....(VBG)
Bill's post calls forth a flurry of posts about family trees.

I'm jealous. There was an earthquake in Crete--the church collapsed and the bible burned. The town in Cyprus was bulldozed and is on the Turkish frontier.

So I have no idea which goatherd or pirate was my ancestor.
My family tree isn't pretty either, but at least the limbs do fork.
America is generational stories, that's all. Whether the generations are white, black, yellow, brown, or tan, America is and always has been a bunch of strangers in a strange land trying to get along. Its collapse will come about when those strangers no longer want to get along, and that's where it's headed. Whites, blacks, yellows, browns and tans are as adept at exploiting and killing each other as they are "opposing" races.

My paternal grandparents came over - separately - in typical fashion. Nothing but the clothes on their backs and settled in South Philadelphia. Now, despite our surname, my dad's was more a matrilineal heritage. His family tree traces its origins back to the old country through his mother's side. My paternal grandfather came over here alone and was a laborer. Seems my paternal grandmother's oldest brother, Dominic had the balls to come over here and start a business that enabled him to bring over the rest of the siblings, three sisters, one of whom became my paternal grandmother. He was capo de capo of that family. All his sisters' children at one time or another worked in the soda business he had built up from nothing to having quite a reputation from Delaware to PA through NJ and lower NY. Because he was so successful, a small soda water bottler based in the south came up to him and asked if he would like to be the sole distributor of its product in the northeast. Uncle was simultaneously a savvy entrepreneur and stereotypically bullheaded immigrant that couldn't see a difference between a business 'partnership' and 'working for somebody'.

So he turned down a deal with Pepsi. Did it again with 7-Up.

Like a good Italian brother, Dominic saw to it that his sisters all married nice Italian men he approved of - meaning ornery old cusses like himself. He got two out of three. My paternal grandmother married Emedio M_________, a nice guy whom Uncle "Doom" couldn't stand. When they were both in their 40s, Uncle once told Emidio (who's American nickname, for some reason, was Jim), "Jim, I'ma gonna piss onna you grave." Grandpop said, "You probably will." Uncle took a stroke in an outhouse that year and died a few hours later. They went to my grandfather and told him, "Jim, Dom died." My grandfather sat there for a minute, then said, "Let me know when they're buryin' him. I'll drink a lot a wine beforehand."

Grandpop died on a Saturday afternoon in November, 1963, one week before JFK's assassination, at the age of 94. Took his afternoon nap and never woke up. We all ought to go that way.
And finally, mine:
Bill, yours is an impressive family tree, with a history stretching back almost 400 years in this land you white folks thought was a New World.

Here's mine, not as impressive as yours, but with a bit longer history on this particular continent:

1. Great-great-great grandfather (to 300th power): aboriginal person of unknown name with skull shape similar to that of modern ape. . . believed to have immigrated from Asia across Bering Strait through Alaska approx 8000 B. C.

2. Approximately 300 generations of other savage progenitors of whom the historical record is equally vague (including several from "the woodpile").

3. Grandfather: John Ander Jacobs, b. 1906, in swamps of SE North Carolina. (First in family line to adopt use of personal table utensils, specifically, knife and spoon. Ten years later introduces use of fork, which is still widely employed at table in the Jacobs family even up to present time.)

4. Father: Herman Jacobs, b. 1930, in swamps of SE North Carolina. (Too poor to afford a middle name. Survives Great Depression eating field peas, the only crop his father ever learned how to grow with any success. Unfortunately, Great Depression in NC marked by a glut of field peas, so there was no market for the family's produce. Joins US Navy 1947. Marries 1952 Ellen Walker, b. 1929, dirt poor orphan hillbilly from Kentucky. Continues family tradition of using table utensils at most meals; however, reverts to eating field peas with knife.)

5. Herman Edward Jacobs [aka Bathus], b. 1956, Portsmouth Naval Hospital. (Still too poor to afford a middle name. Mother gives him one anyway in hopes of future prospects. Usually eats field peas with fork. Uses knife only to round up strays.) Married Sandra Ann K____ (Cajun with moss growing between toes) b. 1955, New Orleans.

6. Children: daughter J____ M____, b. 197_. B.A. Yale, English Lit, 199_, Skull & Bones inductee; M.A. Columbia, Public Administration, 199_. Presently a major muckabout in State Public Health Department. (Thinks she's hot shit, but we know better. Married very nice white boy, Daniel M___ S____. No issue yet (but we remain hopeful). (Always eats field peas with fork.)
One presumes Yahoo has already neatly indexed, catalogued, and archived the above text, so that it will be available (for a small fee) to the government of Iran, the United States, The Peoples Republic of China, Turkey, Mexico, or any other regime implicated therein, should such government wish to investigate the activities of members of the infamous Yahoo Group known as thesmartcafe.

posted by Bathus | 2/11/2006 01:03:00 AM
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Anonymous Bela said...

I forward to visiting your blog every morning just to see what your latest thread might be about. You have this special knack for making me laugh aloud.
Keep up the good work and remember...never forget! Never!
The best to you & yours...

12:28 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger Bathus said...

Thanks, Bela, for the encouraging words . . . except I have the feeling that sometimes you're laughing when I'm not really trying to be funny.

Besides which, Tom's the funny one. (I'm the good-looking one.)

11:19 PM, February 13, 2006  
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