Saturday, April 18, 2015

A tradition of disguising policy with woolly or euphemistic turns of phrase

From The Economist comes this handy guide:
 “Lost in Translation: a glossary of new French doublespeak” … offers a handy guide to decoding political speech under François Hollande’s Socialist government. Both the left and the right in France have a tradition of disguising policy with woolly or euphemistic turns of phrase. Lionel Jospin, a Socialist prime minister, for instance, privatised more companies than his right-wing predecessors without ever using the word, preferring “opening up the capital”. For those bemused by the linguistic ambiguity of Mr Hollande’s team, here are some helpful extracts from the glossary:

Sécurisation de l’emploi (improving job security): phrase used to launch current labour-market negotiations, designed to introduce more flexibility (see banned words).
Partenaires sociaux (social partners): unions and bosses who do such negotiating, not to be confused with dating, square-dancing, doubles tennis etc.

Flexibilité (flexibility): outlawed word prompting grim visions of unregulated Anglo-Saxon free-for-all (see Libéral).

Laissez-faire: iffy Anglo-Saxon phrase with no place in French (see Libéral).

Redressement des comptes publics (putting right the public finances): budget cuts and tax increases, never combined with austérité or rigueur (see banned words). Not to be confused with…
Redressement du pays dans la justice (putting right the country with justice): soaking the rich with taxes. Not to be confused with…

Redressement productif (productive renewal): name of ministry responsible for stopping industrial closures, or failure thereof (see Florange, Peugeot).

Plan social (redundancy plan resulting from aforementioned factory closures): job losses, not to be confused with organisation of social life, bars, clubs etc.

Modernisation de l’action publique (modernisation of public action): eliminating public-sector inefficiencies, elsewhere known as budget cuts.

Nécessité d’équilibrer financièrement les retraites (Need to balance pension funds): pension reform looms again.

Minable (pathetic): departure of French national who considers taxes too high (see Depardieu, G).
Social-démocrate (social democrat): moderately acceptable form of Scandinavian-style Socialist.

Social-libéral (social liberal): suspicious form of pseudo-Socialist who embraces free-marketry.

Libéral (liberal): rare species with dodgy Anglo-Saxon motives, set on undermining French way of life (don’t see Frédéric Bastiat).

Ultra-libéral (ultra-liberal): beyond the pale, eg, The Economist.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Other International Brigade of the 1930s/1940s; The One That Your History Teacher Knows a Whole Lot Less About…

The title of this blog is a takeoff of the cry immortalized during the Spanish Civil War when the Republican camp tried to fight against the fascist totalitarians of General Franco — "They shall not pass!" — and when thousands upon thousands of foreign volunteers came to the Spaniards' aid in the 1930s in the form of an International Brigade.

This has been glorified by everyone in the West, from Picasso to Ken Loach, and the David/Goliath fight figures prominently in most history books from one part of the West to the other.

So if you know that, you know your basic history.

Or… do you?

There seems to have been another international brigade that we have heard about far less — far, far less…

Listen to the New York Herald Tribune at the turn of the decade:
WITH THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE IN THE FINNISH ARMY — Another group of Americans and even more Swedes, Norwegians and Danes reached the training center for volunteers late last night [Jan. 15, 1940] and early today to swell the number of fighting men in the International Brigade being formed in Finland. They have been coming in here every day now for four or five weeks, at first in groups of twenty to thirty, and then by hundreds. It is beginning to look as if the greatest International Column of all time will be fighting for Finland by spring. The backbone of this International Brigade will be the Swedish corps under General Eric Linder, a powerful force trained and equipped and paid for by Swedes. It will operate under the supreme command of the Finnish General Staff. Otherwise, it will resemble a private army. They are here to fight for a small country with a population about half that of the City of New York, into which a powerful neighbor has sent its armies and air force. — New York Herald Tribune, European Edition, Jan. 17, 1940 
So there was another international brigade come to the aid of a European people under attack by a totalitarian entity in the 1930s/1940s. And indeed, it seems to have become no less than "the greatest International Column of all time"—i.e., outweighing its Spanish counterpart!

Except this totalitarian entity it fought against was Stalin's communist Soviet Union (who, also, by the way, was instrumental in the fight besides Spain's Republicans (or shall, we call them Spain's "Republicans" with quotation marks?)).

So now we understand the reason why we have heard so little about this Finnish international brigade:

Rightist dictator(ship)s, bad.

Leftist dictator(ship)s, good.
(Or: at least, we have to try to make an effort to understand them…)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When government interventions backfire, harming those people they’re supposed to help, the state responds like a dog chasing its own tail with even more interventionist “solutions” to the problems it created itself

BBC reporter Daniel Pardo … of the Latin America-centric BBC Mundo, spent four hours [in Caracas] waiting in long lines, searching in vain for milk, coffee, cooking oil, shampoo, corn flour, detergent, dishwashing soap, and toilet paper
notes Benny Huang.
Of these items, he located only three on the bare shelves of Venezuela’s capital and largest city.
Venezuela is the laboratory in which the now deceased Hugo Chavez conducted his grand socialist experiment, which his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has seamlessly continued. Supporters of the Chavez brand of petro-socialism characterize it as a popular revolution that has allowed regular folks to reclaim their economy from the hated rich.

In short, they’re stickin’ it to the man.

In the new Venezuela there shall be no more price gouging, no more exploitation, no more…toilet paper? Among the items left unpurchased on Daniel Pardo’s list was toilet paper, a scarce commodity in a country that doesn’t exactly lack trees. Scrounging for TP has become something of a national pastime in Venezuela. President Maduro predictably blamed “unscrupulous traders,” not the policies of his government, for the shortage. In September of 2013, Venezuelan troops actually seized a toilet paper factory in order to better oversee production and distribution. A shortage nonetheless

Such is life in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. “We’re queuing here to get a number so we can queue again and buy the product,” explained Daniel Pardo.
 … “Critics say that the cause of shortages is price controls, which make reselling too profitable and producing, well, the worst business ever,” said Pardo.

The critics, in this case, are right. Government price controls and other strong arm tactics make people think twice about making or selling anything.

The government claims that it’s only setting prices that are “fair,” though the people who actually produce the stuff disagree. If no one will make the products at the tiny profit margins that the government permits, that’s a pretty good indicator that the price is not really fair at all. In most cases, the government bureaucrats who determine the “fair” price don’t really understand all of the costs—capital, material, and labor—that go into making the product. They simply see the producer as a robber baron who must be brought to heel.

Therein lies the problem. In true demagogic fashion, Maduro rose to power using class warfare rhetoric, most of which he probably even believes. Maduro is no son of landed gentry but a former bus driver who didn’t finish high school. He identifies with the “little guy,” and it is for his sake that Maduro’s government is constantly interceding in every aspect of production and distribution. The Chavez/Maduro message (“soak the rich”) resonates with people who perceive themselves as victims but unfortunately it doesn’t make good economic policy. The more the government tightens the controls, the more people try to circumvent them, or else they decide not to be part of the productive class anymore, in which case they stop producing and wait for the state to redistribute to them someone else’s stuff. The same pattern is apparent anywhere economic policy-makers care more about the fair distribution of wealth than about its creation. When government interventions backfire, harming those people they’re supposed to help, the state responds like a dog chasing its own tail with even more interventionist “solutions” to the problems it created.
 … Yet the socialist government accepts no responsibility. Again, Maduro suspects that a conspiracy is afoot among shopkeepers and probably Yanquis. As Pardo explains: “But the government says that scarcity is part of an economic war, which hides, smuggles, and hordes products to destabilize the country.”

Oh, I’m sure there’s plenty of hiding, smuggling, and hording taking place in Venezuela, but it isn’t a counterrevolutionary conspiracy. It’s basic economics. Furthermore, the governmental explanation confuses cause and effect. Hording in particular is the result of scarcity. When Venezuelans see an opportunity to buy toilet paper, for example, they buy it in bulk out of fear that it might soon become unavailable. Smuggling and hiding are also effects, not causes, of Venezuela’s economic troubles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Freedom in a cage is a sham, a transparent attempt to soothe us while our rights are being stripped away

ABC News’s George Stephanopolous seemed to have Indiana Governor Mike Pence up against the ropes 
 writes Benny Huang
as he pounded him with the kind of “tough questions” that journalists never seem to pose to their liberal guests. Actually, it was the same tough question repeated over and over again—doesn’t the Indiana religious freedom bill grant business owners a license to discriminate against the “LGBT” community?

Pence denied it, though he shouldn’t have. He should have said that it does and that there’s nothing wrong with that.

 … The party line these days seems to be that government can’t interfere with churches the same way it can with businesses. Churches have special protections under the Constitution that florists and photographers don’t have.

A quick glance at our founding document reveals that that it doesn’t say a thing about churches. What the Constitution does say is that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, a concept applied to all levels of government via the incorporation doctrine of the fourteenth amendment. It’s entirely irrelevant if that exercise is taking place between the four walls of a church.

Yet lawmakers and law-interpreters continue to imagine an invisible caveat attached to our first amendment. Yes, your free exercise is sacrosanct…when you’re in church. The founders apparently never intended freedom to permeate society as a whole.

Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein found out the hard way that they don’t have constitutional rights while operating their own business. The Christian couple was hauled into court after refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, supposedly in violation of Oregon’s nondiscrimination statute. They believed that the first amendment would protect them but, unfortunately, Oregon allows exceptions to nondiscrimination laws only for churches and religious schools.

The Left’s latest disingenuous position is that they love freedom of religion and all that jazz but it must never be allowed to seep beyond the confines of a church. It’s disingenuous because there is mounting evidence that the statist Left respects no limits on governmental authority, not even the threshold of your church. Priests have been exposed to legal pressure to make them violate the sanctity to the confessional, the mayor of a major American city has tried to subpoena church sermons, Catholic adoption services have been forced out of existence by demands that they give children to same-sex couples. So the idea that they respect churches is just another despicable lie. Churches are where the “bigots” are and the Left allows “bigots” no sanctuary.

This whole concept of churches as a haven of free exercise is simultaneously extra-constitutional, unconstitutional, and perhaps even anti-constitutional. But it isn’t without precedent. It’s actually part of a terrifying trend I call “freedom in a cage,” meaning the official toleration of basic constitutional rights only in small and ever-contracting niches.

Who on earth would want to cage our freedoms? People who hate those freedoms but won’t admit it, that’s who. The tolerance bullies claim that they fully support your right to be a moral monster worse than Hitler as long as you stay in your church. If freedom were ever allowed out of its cage they might have to see it, hear it, and even be inconvenienced by it, which they won’t stand for.
Free exercise of religion isn’t the only freedom they want to cage.

 … don’t accuse the campus censors of opposing free speech. How wrong can you be? They cherish free speech, with prescribed restrictions on content, and only in its proper setting—out of sight and out of mind. Try the janitor’s closet at two in the morning.
 … Freedom in a cage is a sham, a transparent attempt to soothe us while our rights are being stripped away. Look what the authorities are still “allowing” us to do! We’re still allowed, for the time being, to be unforgivable hate-mongers on Sunday morning at church, and to speak our minds on one percent of the campus. As long as we don’t use “offensive language,” of course. So quit your whining! Everything’s fine.

Everything is not fine. Our freedoms are being slowly asphyxiated in their cages. Who knows what will remain of them in a generation?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The New York Times Rounds Up All the Criticism of Radio and TV Martí Without Ever Mentioning Reliability of Cuba's Own Media

Radio and TV Martí are at a crossroads,
writes Lizette Alvarez in the New York Times,
scrambling to stay relevant as the relationship between Cuba and the United States inches toward a thaw.
Notice the MSM habit of turning nations into "equals", into "people", into "actors", without noting the degree of freedom in each. The Times then proceeds to round up the criticisms of the stations ("propaganda!"), without ever mentioning, even as an aside, the lack of freedom, reliability, and accountability that the Castro brothers' Cuban radio and television stations display.
But the Martís, with a budget of $27 million, have critics that include former American diplomats in Cuba. Opponents have long considered them taxpayer-funded relics controlled by Cuban exiles that too often slide into propaganda, which has damaged their credibility in the past.

 … They have accused the Martís of “a lack of balance, fairness and objectivity,” of cronyism, malfeasance and, most recently, low employee morale.
Isn't this typical for an MSM piece?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The absence of an independent French media may explain why French politicians do not need to tell the truth to voters: it is because no one else will

Years ago, a number of Frenchmen wrote to The Economist to set a few things straight.

This helps to explain why Fox News is hated, and resisted, in mainstream media-dominated America as well as in Europe.
SIR – I agreed with most of the analysis in your survey of France (October 28th, 2006). However, you gave only passing mention to (and overlooked the importance of) the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. The school, which was set up in order to supply France with top quality civil servants, has fostered an elite that jealously protects its privileges and very few people can get ahead today without its precious diploma. Although the énarques are undoubtedly very able people, France has a problem in that so many of its leaders come through the same system. The result is a pensée unique political condition that paralyses the country and shields it from a much-needed entrepreneurial spirit.
Claude Dufour
Nice, France

SIR – Your survey did not consider the impact of an absent independent French media. Most French newspapers and television channels are owned by corporations that count the state as their main, and sometimes only, client. This is an old habit (the first newspaper in France was supported by Cardinal Richelieu, the country's first prime minister) and may explain why French politicians do not need to tell the truth to voters: it is because no one else will.
Julien Méli
Boulogne, France