Saturday, August 17, 2019

Does Boris Johnson Belong with the Churchills and the Disraelis?

From London, R.L.F. Calder writes to The Economist in order to

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Germany, free education leads to irrelevant courses, hopelessly overcrowded public universities, and a drop-out rate of about 30%

From Wentorf, Roger Graves, a lecturer with 20 years of experience in Germany, testifies about an Economist article on Under-qualified Germans:
(Danke Schön fûr Instapundit)

Friday, August 02, 2019

Countering China (and Russia) in the North Atlantic: Trump to Visit Denmark to Prevent Beijing's Africa-Like Takeover of Greenland


Talk about perfect timing for the magazine Geo. Just as Donald Trump announces he will make a state visit to Copenhagen — mainly for an opportunity to discuss the future of Greenland's strategic location — the monthly travel magazine publishes a special issue on the island, a vast landmass in North America which belongs to Denmark.

Following a visit to Warsaw on September 1 to commemorate the German invasion of Poland from the West in 1939 that started World War II (followed two weeks later by an invasion from the East by the Nazis' Soviet allies), President Trump will head to Denmark for talks on September 2 and 3.

In the Danish capital, America's president is to meet with Queen Margrethe II as well as the leaders of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe islands. As Sandra Brovall and Perry MacLeod Jensen put it in Politiken, a Russian arms race and Chinese investments in Greenland are making Denmark interesting for the United States, while what Denmark seeks is to preserve the peace in the Arctic.
Russisk oprustning og kinesiske investeringer i Grønland gør Danmark interessant for USA. Danmark vil bevare arktisk fred.
In short,  Trump wants to counter a Chinese takeover of Greenland, or even an expansion of Beijing's influence there, as Beijing has been trying to do, with varying degrees of success, around the globe for the past decade or two, from Sri Lanka to the African continent.

Meanwhile, Greenland's politicians are telling Copenhagen that if Washington is to upgrade the island's Thule Air Base, they are hoping that Greenland proper (aka Kalaallit Nunaat), and not just the mother country, gets something out of the deal. Some Danes fear that the Greenlanders will use the money to fuel demands and momentum for independence.

After Denmark was occupied by the Germans in 1940, a number of diplomats abroad refused to obey the directives of the occupied government, on the basis that the decrees could only be made to be under duress. Not wanting the Nazis to establish a base on Greenland, the Danish ambassador in Washington, Henrik Kauffmann, offered the United States an invitation to occupy the island (just as the British occupied the Faroe Islands), where they would soon start building a base at Thule. As Uncle Sam's warships and troops sailed into the bay of Godthaab (Nuuk), they were welcomed by the governor of Greenland who came down to the pier, a fellow by the name of Aksel Svane — the cousin of my grandfather. (There is a full-page photo of Svane walking onto the pier in a National Geographic of 1941, if any reader happens to have that issue…)

While we are on the subject, incidentally, it seems that the story of Erik the Red (Erik the Green?!) and Leif Ericsson deliberately — and deceitfully — calling an ice-covered island "Greenland" in order to lure immigrants across the Atlantic is nothing but a myth, in that the temperatures there used to be much warmer 1000 years ago than they are today — which ought to be an inconvenient truth for today's climate fanatics.

Having said that, it is true that, in the 21st century, at least, truth would be better served if the names of the islands of Greenland and Iceland were inverted.

From Oslo, ODD GUNNAR SKAGESTAD writes in The Economist that
Your assertion that Greenland’s misleading name is the result of a marketing campaign by Erik the Red reflects a rather widespread myth (“Greenland is melting”, June 22nd). Erik’s success in attracting settlers was first and foremost due to the quality of his merchandise. Furthermore, when you claim that “Greenland may not be green yet, but it is far less icy than in Erik’s time”, you are simply wrong.

In fact, Greenland in the tenth century had a far warmer climate than today, which made it possible to sustain thriving and viable agrarian communities for centuries. That came to an end with the onset of the Little Ice Age between 1300 and 1870 which eventually led to the Norse communities in Greenland gradually becoming extinct.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Calling America's "Ungovernable" and "Terrifying" Car Culture a "Terrible Mistake" with "Disastrous Drivers" Leading to "Chaos", Liberal Writer Wants "Smart" Solutions to Bring It to an End


Not only do leftists feel "a tight spasm of panic in [their] chest" when handling guns, they (or some of them, at least) feel "a tight spasm of panic in [their] chest" on the subject of cars (!) as well. To such a degree, in fact, that some not only want to bring the automotive era to an end, they go as far as calling the past century of car-driving one massive, terrible mistake.
Cars had been my first passion
admits Nathan Heller in The New Yorker.
I no longer remember what, as a small child, I envisaged for my future, but I know that it involved moving at speed behind the wheel.
That is, until he turned 18 and had his very first — and his very last — driving lesson.
 … Until then, despite having been in cars all my life, I’d failed to recognize the ease with which an errant movement, the equivalent of knocking into someone on a crowded bus, could bring about an injury or a death. As I jolted around the lot, I imagined myself on the road, in traffic, and felt a tight spasm of panic in my chest. I was eighteen. It had been all I could manage to remain on top of my un-botchable after-school job watering the neighbors’ bonsai trees. By the end of day, the idea of not driving—of not entering a future in which, day to day, I’d risk becoming an accidental killer of children—seemed freeing and bright. I never had a second [driving] lesson.
In Was the Automative Era a Terrible Mistake?, get ready for melodramatics when describes the subject of his article nonchalantly as "our century-long adventure in owning and crashing gasoline cars", a "terrifying" adventure in which every day we "risk becoming … accidental killer[s] of children" (never mind the number of sick or wounded people, not excluding children, saved by ambulances or simply by the four-wheeled vehicle of your average neighbor).
Related: The Allyagottado Folks and the Sleep-Inducing Speed Limits
Also get ready for a crash course on how and why sexism, (systemic) racism, and lazy rurals from the American hinterlands have contributed to the nightmare country that Americans live in. (Welcome, Instapundit readers!)

The man who admits to "never spending time behind the wheel" (he never did try to get his license) goes on to press into service the drama queen's liberal use of apocalyptic jargon, complaining of "disastrous drivers" and "a terrifying free-for-all across the urban road" creating a "chaos" that has made America, or its road structure (wait for the word), "ungovernable". Ungovernable. One of the favorite expressions of the leftist élite.

Guess what? It's a crisis! To no one's surprise, the Slate and Vogue contributor, and at least one of the book authors he quotes liberally, come out against private ownership — "we must move away from the idea of owning cars and see them as a shared resource, like taxis."

Indeed, from the apocalyptic lingo, it was but a short distance to another liberal concept: the élites' "clever" solution(s) — inevitably involving some form of central planning. One of the concluding sentences is: "A smarter futurism would focus less on pushing through advances and more on being sure we will use them wisely when they come."

Excerpts from the article follow in the blockquotes below, although if you are pressed for time, you might want to skip them for I have provided, or tried to provide, a faithful summary here. (However, head to the final couple of paragraphs below to check out what words Nathan Heller uses to describe "that identification-card look" we see on most IDs — it's worth it.)

Most thought-provoking in the excerpts below is a rather in-depth (and not too left-leaning) view of the fourth amendment that you might want to check out (in the first half of the 20th century, a new style of policing was required — “How could the laws be fashioned to allow the investigation of potential criminal suspects without harassing law-abiding citizens when everybody drove?”).

In that perspective, another day and another post ought to be devoted to taking a closer look at the "remarkable new book" by a law professor at the University of Iowa. Amazon's description of Policing the Open Road (How Cars Transformed American Freedom): Sarah A. Seo "shows that the rise of the car, the symbol of American personal freedom, led to ever more intrusive policing, with devastating consequences for racial equality in our criminal justice system. Criminal procedures designed to safeguard us on the road undermined the nation’s commitment to equal protection before the law."

But for now, here are excerpts from Was the Automative Era a Terrible Mistake? (For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.):
 … In America today, there are more cars than drivers. Yet our investment in these vehicles has yielded dubious returns. Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years. The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war.

Every technology has costs, but lately we’ve had reason to question even cars’ putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?
Among the captivating books to land on my desk recently was Dan Albert’s “Are We There Yet?: The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless,” which notes that, in the late nineteenth century, electric cars and gasoline cars developed side by side. One assumes that electrics were only notionally in the running at this stage. Surprisingly, Albert reports, gas cars were the B-fleet for years.

Turn-of-the-century electric cars were more maneuverable than their gasoline-powered counterparts. They had faster acceleration, better braking, and powerful torque, which compensated for the heft of their batteries. They set land-speed records—in 1902, an electric car briefly attained an astonishing hundred and two miles per hour—and, unlike internal-combustion vehicles, didn’t sputter out in traffic and need to be cranked up in the middle of the road. True, they had to be recharged every forty miles or so, about the distance from Mount Vernon to Grand Central Terminal and back, but few early motorists were travelling much farther. Electrical power was the moon shot of its age, quiet, futuristic, and the vanguard of human accomplishment. When Albert A. Pope, the head of the Columbia bicycle company, entered the car business, in 1896, he invested in electrics. “You can’t get people to sit over an explosion,” he explained.

Pope declared bankruptcy in 1907. Why did finicky, explosive gas cars win the field? Albert is a car guy by passion and vocation, a former curator of vehicle collections at the Science Museum in London. … The adventure part, he thinks, explains why electrics ultimately fell away.
 … It helped that, by then, electric vehicles were struggling culturally, for reasons we would now call gendered. “The internal-combustion car that had to be coaxed and muscled to life, with its lubes and explosions and thrusting pistons, that would be the car for men,” Albert writes. Electrics—quiet, practical, and, in one engineer’s estimation, “tame”—took on female associations. Not for the last time, the makers of gas cars didn’t so much win the market as create a market they could win. The triumph of gas engines entailed a shift in the whole transportation model—from shared cars to privately owned cars, from an extension of the metropolitan network to a vehicle that required infrastructure of its own. “Had this period of random technological mutation selected for the electric, the social history of America would be unrecognizable,” Albert notes.
In 1909, there were two million horse-drawn carriages manufactured in the United States and eighty thousand automobiles. By 1923, there were ten thousand carriages manufactured and four million cars; by 1930, more than half the families in the United States were car owners, and the horses went to pasture. A key factor in the explosion of the market was the release of the Model T, created by Henry Ford, in 1908. Ford was an unmannered, intellectually narrow efficiency nut of the sort that we might now associate with Silicon Valley

 … The Model T, though, marked an alignment of Ford’s abstemious style with demand. The car, of which more than fifteen million were produced, was cheap, light, reliable enough, and so stripped-down that it sustained an industry of third-party add-ons. (Albert calls it “an open-source car”; the standard model lacked a speedometer, a mirror, or a gas gauge.) In those days, cars were seen as environmentally friendly: unlike horses, they didn’t befoul the streets, and they carried passengers closer to the remote natural world than any other transportation did. In Albert’s telling, the versatile Model T further de-urbanized the automobile, turning it private, populist, and rural. At a moment when cities were building out their transit systems, the places between places in America filled up with middle-class cars.

“The Model T’s spiritual descendants are the Ford F-Series pickups,” Albert writes. “These body-on-frame vehicles defy change and modernization. Let the Europhiles in Boston drive their Swedish Volvos and the Los Angeles elites have their holier-than-thou Teslas; let New Yorkers rely on ride hailing and Mobility-as-a-Service. We F150 drivers will stick to a rugged American vehicle at home in the heartland.” Appearing quickly, pervasively, and years ahead of exurban infrastructure, the Model T helped to define the differently navigable regions of identity now known as red and blue America.

A famous film reel, shot on Market Street, in San Francisco, in 1906, shows carriages, early cars, streetcars, cable cars, and pedestrians swerving around one another, in both directions, in a terrifying free-for-all across the urban road. By the interwar years, the turf of privately owned cars alone was so ungovernable that its chaos became a metaphor. “The Great Gatsby” reaches its climax in a car crash, and many real-world stories ended that way, too. (Fitzgerald died the same weekend that Nathanael West, his comrade in Southern California dissipation, plowed a Ford through a boulevard stop and into a two-door sedan, killing himself and his wife—a coincidence that is either rich in literary irony or just proof of how bad the odds on the roads were.) When Jordan Baker, in Fitzgerald’s novel, observed, “It takes two to make an accident,” she wasn’t talking only about men and women.

Sane, upstanding pedestrians didn’t murder one another as they ran errands around town. Sane, upstanding drivers did, or might at any moment, and thus required a new style of policing. “How could a democratic society founded on self-governance depend on police governance and still be free?” Sarah A. Seo , a law professor at the University of Iowa, writes in her remarkable new book, “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.” “How could the laws be fashioned to allow the investigation of potential criminal suspects without harassing law-abiding citizens when everybody drove?”

Seo’s idea is that the problem of policing cars, far from being a remote corner of the law, is central to how the jurisprudence of the Fourth Amendment (searches and seizures) took shape during the past hundred years. Automobiles, after the Model T’s expansion of personal ownership, confounded the parameters of the amendment: a car would seem to be private property, but roads were public, and the conduct of cars—traffic, transport—was a matter of public concern. The issue became pressing, legally, during Prohibition, when smugglers began using privately owned cars to traffic hooch.

A turning point arrived in the bootlegging case Carroll v. United States, decided in 1925. The Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote, “The seizing officer shall have reasonable or probable cause for believing that the automobile which he stops and seizes has contraband liquor therein.” In Seo’s view, Taft’s opinion “shifted Fourth Amendment jurisprudence from a categorical analysis—is the automobile, as a category, public or private?—to an individualized determination of reasonableness—was this particular search reasonable?—to determine the warrant question.” The person who did the determining, under this new standard, was an officer of the law.

This kernel of police empowerment grew to fit the contours and the concerns of each age that followed. “At midcentury, the problem was the potential for police action without basis in law,” Seo tells us. “At century’s end, the problem had become police action that did have a basis in law but that departed from normal practice”—specifically, the ways police approached drivers of color. A version of the matter came before the high court in 1996, in Whren v. United States, a case about a traffic stop—for turning too fast and without signalling—that ended in drug convictions. The petitioner’s claim was that the motorist was really stopped because of racial profiling, and that the traffic infraction was a pretext. Maybe so, the Court unanimously held, but such stops were fine so long as there was an objective basis for them, “whatever the subjective intent.” Decisions like these can inform the thinking about search-and-seizure norms far more broadly, potentially affecting everything from exploratory K-9 searches to the use of data gathered from smartphones.
There are two strong claims in favor of the idea that our century-long adventure in owning and crashing gasoline cars was, although not perfect, a step forward. The first is infrastructural: cars let Americans cross cities, states, woods, mountains, deserts, and, ultimately, the nation in reasonable time. Cities and towns thrived with the flow. The second is cultural: the idea that car travel conjugates American life in its healthiest and most distinctive forms. Both arguments took root in the two-decade period after the Second World War.

Albert holds that the war brought down the curtain on the sinister, crashy, Gatsbyesque idea of the road. American car travel almost halved between 1941 and 1943, largely owing to wartime rubber shortages and gas rations. Companies stopped making cars, and instead manufactured planes, guns, and battlefield transportation—work that, Albert suggests, gave these companies a patriotic glow when production resumed after the war. By then, the West was settling into conflict with the East, and a new project was under way. The world had to be persuaded of the freedoms of American life. Cars could be of help. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, inaugurating the federal highways as the largest public-works project in U.S. history. (Albert is at pains to claim the system for the F.D.R. Administration, which first sketched it out.) The interstates were strategically versatile: they could carry commuters and goods in peacetime and soldiers and evacuees in an emergency. They were also smoother, safer, and more capacious than previous highways, boosting the allure of the open road.

The largest highway budget went to California. … early TV ads for cars did favor images of Golden State life, and pop culture followed. In “This Is the Sound of Irony: Music, Politics and Popular Culture,” Katherine L. Turner notes that the Beach Boys buffed up songs with automotive techno-speak—much as, in another age, Tom Clancy embraced nuclear technobabble. (“She’s got a competition clutch with the four on the floor / And she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar.”)

 … The so-called golden age of the road makes clear that cars didn’t construct American culture; American culture constructed cars. Auto manufacturers needed to re-stoke a market that had cooled during the Second World War.

It is odd, then, that we still look to the mid-century for evidence that cars proved their necessity and worth. Tell someone that you cannot drive, and they respond as if you had confessed an intimate eccentricity, like needing to be walked on with high heels before bed. “Re-e-eally! ” the reply goes. “How do you . . . ?” The answer is planes, trains, buses, ferries, cabs, bikes, feet, and the occasional shared ride: almost anywhere in the world can be reached this way for less than the amortized cost of a car and its expenses.

 … During the late sixties and the seventies, loss had hit the road again, partly as a result of a collapsing industrial sphere; partly following countercultural distrust of corporate motives; partly owing to Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed” (1965), which suggested that your beautiful American car was trying to kill you; and partly owing to an influx of smaller, cheaper vehicles from abroad, which grew popular as gas prices increased.

Albert’s narrative, like a lot of nostalgic car passion, loses traction on this downslope. His politics hew closely to a baby-boomer outline, which is to say that they are deeply felt, heraldically blue, and largely incoherent just beneath the surface. He thinks that Jimmy Carter had good vibes at first but turned into an uncool, “church pew” square when geopolitics compelled him to push for energy independence.

 … Albert’s determination to judge these turns with sensibility more than with sense can muddle his analysis. He cheers on the Aquarians for rising against the establishment. He is circumspect about the truckers who, in 1973, fought gas taxes and a lowered speed limit by, well, rising against the establishment. The crucial difference, in his mind, is that the Aquarians are blue, and the truckers are in large part red. Isn’t the more revealing point that, by the seventies, anti-establishment sentiment had become such a general reflex that everybody, from all parts of the ideological spectrum, was on the march?

Albert has decided that he dislikes autonomous cars for similarly red-coded reasons, never mind that the technology has steadier support from Team Blue. He dismisses self-driving vehicles as “Randian” (though nothing seems less Randian than giving agency to a vehicle that uses situational awareness to join a traffic flow). Later, he calls them “Benthamite Buicks” (for the utilitarian coding that tells an autonomous car how to swerve if physics make a crash inevitable). “Such serious-minded discussions support a self-aggrandizing vision of the totalizing power of the algorithm,” he writes. But are which-way-to-swerve issues better adjudicated by a surprised human sipping a Big Gulp? Albert seems to prefer his cars Kantian; he supports vehicle-to-vehicle anti-collision technology and a popular program, Vision Zero, that seeks to eliminate traffic deaths categorically by reëngineering streets and reducing speed limits—Albert suggests twelve miles an hour. How this careful proposal squares with the joys of freedom and speed that he cherishes elsewhere gets little ink.
A clearer way to think about the future can be found in Samuel I. Schwartz’s “No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future,” written with Karen Kelly. Schwartz is known to New Yorkers of a certain age as Gridlock Sam, owing to his role, in the nineteen-eighties, as New York City’s traffic commissioner and, later, as the Department of Transportation’s chief engineer. It was he who took credit for turning the West Side Highway from a groaning overpass to a riverside boulevard. He also implemented early bike lanes and, in 1971, designed the failed “red zone,” which would have banned cars in midtown from late morning to midafternoon. Schwartz approaches the future much as he approaches traffic—as a complex, dynamic system—and his book emerges as a clearheaded bible for the twenty-first-century road. Historically, he argues, planning favored car interests over “actual traffic habits.” With driverless cars zooming into view, he sees a chance to do the planning properly for the first time.

Many drivers regard autonomous cars as a pervert technology, like sex robots or Nespresso machines, and plan to reject the things as soon as they show up. In reality, self-driving cars are likely to overtake the market through a gradual shift in norms and features, a process that, Albert and Schwartz agree, has already begun. Many drivers today cede way-finding to apps like Waze, which draws on the hive-mind intelligence of other vehicles to ease bottlenecks and dodge perils. Some cars now brake to avoid collision if the driver fails to, and many ping at you, like a better driver in the back seat, if you drift too close to danger.

This human-proofing, far from throwing off the rhythms of the road, has increased safety, by most evidence, which is no surprise. Commercial airplanes are what we’d call self-driving except at takeoff and landing, and the result is that it’s now nearly impossible for a cruising jet to fall out of the sky without malice or a series of compounding errors by the pilots … People get the willies at the idea of putting their lives in the hands of computers, but there’s every reason to think that, as far as transportation goes, we’re safer in their care.

A saner worry is about the environment, which new toys habitually defile. On paper, autonomous vehicles promise fuel efficiencies, and Schwartz notes that they also have the potential to prune back infrastructure excess. … Motorcycling is already on the wane. Trucking, notoriously a battle between schedule and sleep, is more safely and efficiently done by robot.

Schwartz is not sanguine about job loss in the age of autonomous cars—a topic so urgent that it cropped up in the first Democratic debates. But he suggests that the displacement won’t be absolute. The E-ZPass eliminated toll-collecting jobs, he points out, but the process was slow enough that people had the chance to clock out at retirement or find new work. A century ago, cars themselves smothered everything to do with stables and coach-making but created jobs for drivers and mechanics. Autonomous cars will not obliterate blue-collar jobs—the vehicles will still break down—but they may not offer so tidy a substitution. Historically, the big problem with the tech sector has been that it replaces jobs with fewer jobs, farther up the credential ladder: Silicon Valley always needs great software engineers, but it doesn’t know what to do with a talented manual worker. Powerful techie minds have also been stunningly dumb when it comes to thinking through the second- and third-order effects of their doings, so the idea of putting them in charge of policy is alarming.

Schwartz is emphatic that the industry not be allowed to “call the shots on regulation, the market, and community planning”; public matters should be kept public. We must “prioritize people over vehicles—not the very opposite, as we did last century with the advent of cars,” he writes. In this sense, his premise is aligned with Albert’s observation that the original sin of cars, the problem from which other problems emerged, was commercial pressure for private ownership—for the car to be a personal vehicle in your garage rather than a shared technology woven into the transportation network, as early electric cars would have been. The costs of this decision can be seen on every curb: the typical American vehicle spends ninety-five per cent of its life parked.

In theory, private driverless cars can reduce that waste. Instead of owning two cars, you can have a single car that drives Mom to work, drives itself back home, ferries Dad and the kids around, and zooms back to the office to pick up Mom. Yet the new gridlock-producing waste of this arrangement—“zombie car” trips, by empty vehicles—leads Schwartz to argue that we must move away from the idea of owning cars and see them as a shared resource, like taxis. He favors “a pricing strategy that discourages private ownership in urban areas, recognizing that, for people who live in rural areas and remote locations, personal vehicles are a necessity.”

Cities can help, he thinks, by making parking spaces scarce and expensive as the driverless age approaches. He’s a fan of autonomous buses, too. He advocates, as he has for decades, congestion pricing—if space on the road is valuable, let drivers pay for it—and his advocacy has received surprising support from Uber. (Ride-share cars earn relatively little in gridlock, so the move makes economic sense.)
… I walked back to the San Francisco D.M.V. not long ago to get an I.D.—the sort of thing one does as a non-driver. … my face had that identification-card look, the look that follows one’s stall door in a public rest room suddenly flying open.

 … It is natural to think of innovation as a march of technical advances, each one finally paying the balance on a dream sold long before: the wheel, the cart, the carriage, the car. But the truth is that our technical capacities arrive too soon; from the imperial galleon to the atom bomb, it is hard to argue that the tools have struggled to keep up with us. A smarter futurism would focus less on pushing through advances and more on being sure we will use them wisely when they come. The coming age of robot vehicles should find us dreaming not of their role in this world but of their risk and potential in a future not yet made. …

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Che Guevara : Outre la création de camps de “travail et de rééducation”, on lui attribue des centaines d’assassinats arbitraires


Plusieurs décennies après sa mort, cette icône de la révolution cubaine fascine toujours autant. Cinq informations étonnantes sur le “Che”.
C'est ce qu'on peut lire dans un article de Géo par Samantha Barreto.  Est-ce que la vérité sur les gauchistes arrive enfin aux oreilles et aux yeux des francophones ? Sur les cinq informations étonnantes, voici la plus importante :

Che Guevara : un personnage sombre

Pour servir sa cause, le commandant n’hésite pas à se débarrasser de tous ceux qui lui barrent la route. Outre la création de camps de “travail et de rééducation” (des camps de travail forcé) à son arrivée au pouvoir, on lui attribue des centaines d’assassinats arbitraires.

En 1959, quand le régime de Fulgencio Batista est renversé, Che Guevara est d’abord nommé commandant en chef de la prison de la Cabaña. Dans cette forteresse, il met en place un tribunal révolutionnaire qui est à l’origine de centaines d'exécutions. Policiers, militaires et ennemis du nouveau régime y sont jugés coupables de crimes de guerre et doivent parfois justifier leur condamnation devant leur famille. Ce passage à la Cabaña lui vaudra le surnom de carnicerito, autrement dit le “petit boucher”. Mais le Che assume : "Nous avons fusillé, nous fusillons et nous continuerons de fusiller autant qu'il le faudra", déclare-t-il aux Nations Unies en 1964.
Pour aller plus loin : La Véritable Histoire d'Ernesto Guevara, de Pierre Rigoulot, (éd. Larousse)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Boris Johnson, Who Becomes the UK's PM Tomorrow, Used to Be a U.S. Citizen


Boris Johnson has been elected new Conservative leader in a ballot of party members and will become the next UK prime minister.

He beat Jeremy Hunt comfortably, winning 92,153 votes to his rival's 46,656.

The former London mayor takes over from Theresa May on Wednesday.

In his victory speech, Mr Johnson promised he would "deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn".
 … President Donald Trump … sent his congratulations to Mr Johnson, tweeting: "He will be great!"
The new prime minister of the United Kingdom used to be… an American — yes, that's right: the man who moves into 10 Downing Street on Wednesday used to be a citizen of the United States.

To be more specific, Boris used to have dual citizenship. That was before the former foreign minister was hounded for so long by America's IRS that, in disgust during his tenure as mayor of London, he renounced his dual American citizenship in 2015. (Cheers to Instapundit for the Instalink e obrigado para OT.)

As The Economist reported in February 2015,
BORIS JOHNSON, [then] the mayor of London, is British-American by birth—and by temperament. He mixes the can-do frontier spirit with self-deprecating wit. After being sacked as a shadow cabinet minister, he said: “There are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.” He is relentlessly optimistic. “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3,” he once promised.

Yet Mr Johnson (pictured) is so fed up with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that he is renouncing his US citizenship. He says he wants to affirm his commitment to Britain—a wise move for a man who hopes to be prime minister some day. But he has also talked of “getting a divorce from America” because of its “incredible doctrine of global taxation”. He became American by “an accident of birth”: his father was studying in New York. Half a century later this made Johnson junior liable for American capital-gains tax on the sale of his primary home, in north London; Britain levies no such tax. He harrumphed last year that this was “absolutely outrageous” and said he wouldn’t pay. (He later settled for an undisclosed sum.)

The number of Americans giving up their passports has shot up, from less than 1,000 a year in the late 2000s to a record 3,415 in 2014. A new spur is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010, which makes it a lot harder for Americans overseas to get (or keep) bank accounts, pensions and mortgages, because foreign financial firms don’t want the administrative hassles that FATCA throws up. The law also increases filing requirements for citizens—and thus stokes fears that honest mistakes will be punished.

A neighbour of this correspondent, who was born in America but moved to Britain as a child, recently received a huge bill from the IRS, out of the blue, for many years of unfiled taxes. He had not realised that he owed anything; he had always paid taxes promptly in Britain. The IRS was so aggressive that he feared he might lose his technology business; he even discussed divorce with his wife as a way to shield their assets. In the end, he settled for a six-figure sum. He, too, has since renounced his citizenship.
Related: • Keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable

A massive breach of the Fourth Amendment: The vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax obligations

TaxProf's take on Prince Harry's bride, via Instapundit, namely that Meghan Markle’s U.S. Citizenship Could Cause Tax Headaches For British Royal Family

Moreover: Check out 46 photographs of Boris Johnson to see whether he appears more British or more American 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Photo Adorning The Economist's Article on Jeffrey Epstein Features the Billionaire Not With Bill Clinton But With Donald Trump

As we learn that the Media [Is] Oddly Forgetting Jeffrey Epstein’s Role in the Clinton Global Initiative, The Economist's article on the travails of the billionaire responsible for the Lolita Express (Was Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal fishy?, subtitled It was soft enough to jeopardise the job of a current Trump cabinet member) does not feature a photo of the man with his pal Bill Clinton but with Donald Trump. (Thanks to Ed Driscoll for the Instalinks; cheers, mate.)

As John Hinderaker points out, Epstein Is Clinton’s Problem, Not Trump’s.

Instapundit's Stephen Green:
… FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: Jeffrey Epstein Was a ‘Terrific Guy,’ Donald Trump Once Said. Now He’s ‘Not a Fan.’

“Now?”

Trump reportedly kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago more than 15 years ago, long before his recent legal troubles, or even those of 11 years ago:
President Trump has not said much about the arrest of his former friend Jeffrey Epstein, but court documents suggest that he made his opinion of the convicted pedophile well known years ago.
An ongoing lawsuit between Epstein and Bradley Edwards, who represented multiple underage victims in their civil suits against the convicted pedophile, reveals that President Trump banned Epstein from his private club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago.
The reason for that, according to the filing, was that Epstein had ‘sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club.’
That “now” story was a truly shitty attempt at a hit job from the NYT’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, but nothing unexpected.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Some Thoughts on American Patriotism…

Some Thoughts on American Patriotism…

…/…  In the aftermath of 911, then, Americans unfurled the Stars and Stripes, voiced their support for the acting president, and pulled up their sleeves to go to work. Insofar as this character trait is supposed to provoke ridicule, I find it rather solemn and low key. And there is nothing new about this. In fact, the journalist Arthur Higbee, a Pacific War veteran, wrote in the International Herald Tribune that after Pearl Harbour, America's attitude was even more low key.
Very few people hung out flags, and nobody wore a flag lapelpin. No flag-waving was needed. The tone of the nation was one of grim determination. Recruiting offices were overflowing.
"Grim determination": there is a better description of patriotic America, today and in the past, than Dana Burde's pacifist caricature …

…/… Wailing Europeans and other Uncle Sam detractors [not least in the United States itself — see AOC, Kaepernick, Obama, etc etc etc etc] ought to make sure they keep their droning continuous and never-ending. Because, if instead of endlessly lamenting the distressing state of Americans' patriotism, they were to shut up and try and study it a little more closely and a little more rationally, they might come to believe that Yankee patriotism is not so mystical, or frightening, or perilous, as is commonly believed. Then they would have less to wail about. Can you imagine that!? Wouldn't that be awful?! …/…

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Radio : Débat sur le 75ème anniversaire du Jour J et la visite européenne de Donald Trump

Le 5 juin 2019, le patron d'émission du Libre journal du Nouveau Monde recevait trois invités à Radio Courtoisie pour aborder le 75ème anniversaire du Jour J. Le blog Instapundit de Glenn Reynolds a notamment été évoqué (35:06 ou -53:27), en relation avec son "meme" Punch Back Twice as Hard

Cliquez sur le lien pour entendre l'émission de 80 minutes…
Evelyne Joslain, assistée de Nathalie, reçoit :
  • Paul Reen, président des Républicains en France
  • Antoinette Lorrain, vice-présidente des Républicains en France
  • Erik Svane, chargé des médias pour les Républicains en France
Thème : “Hommage à tous ceux qui ont participé au Débarquement, à l’occasion de son soixante-quinzième anniversaire”
Immédiatement après leur participation à l'émission, les trois invités s'embarquaient en trois voitures pour la Normandie avec trois ou quatre autres amis afin de participer au 75ème anniversaire du Jour J le lendemain.
Rappelons que Evelyne Joslain est l'auteur d'une poignée de livres sur les États-Unis.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Nancy Pelosi Poses with Blogger in a… MAGA Cap

Among the huge crowds that turned up in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day (read a brief account of the battle here) were a number of VIPs from the American political scene:
Among the numerous administration heavyweights and politicians present were Rick Perry…
…John Bolton…
…Deborah Wasserman Schultz (who, when I asked her when she would join the race for president, replied "Never")…
…and Nancy Pelosi (who does not seem to have noticed the prank being played on her)

***************

Speaking of anniversaries, incidentally (even if the anniversaries happen to be — far — less important ones), No Pasarán has been celebrating its 15th birthday this Spring. Of the more than 13,300 posts written on the blog over the past decade and a half, I consider the following two to be among the most important:

The Era of the Drama Queens: Every Crisis Is a Triumph

The Leftist Worldview in a Nutshell:
A world of Deserving Dreamers Vs. Despicable Deplorables

Photos from the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy

Here Rests in Honored Glory
A COMRADE IN ARMS
Known But to God
The story of D-Day:
An Overview of Operation Overlord
(merci to Instapundit for the link)
American troops look across the peaceful terrain that was so deadly
on June 6, 1944, that their predecessors called it Bloody Omaha
Getting ready for the 21-gun salute at Omaha Beach
VIPs landing on the sand near Colleville-sur-Mer
The Normandy American Cemetery on the 75th anniversary of D-Day:
With a Frenchman, an Englishman, and a handful of U.S. Republicans in France, we headed out to Normandy a day earlier (to an airBNB on June 5) in pouring rain, and the following day, the weather had cleared up — just like in 1944
Why, yes my daddy is a United States Marine
— how did you guess?
Paul Wirth, a few hours before being named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur
Paul Wirth's shirt says it all: 5 battle stars — Omaha Beach (2nd Wave), France,
The Bulge, Belgium, Germany (1st Americans into Berlin)
No Regrets Tour: The sign for a 100-year-old vet by
the name of Sidney seems to be a dig at a previous president
All World War II veterans are at least in their 90sone outfit that is instrumental in bringing them back to the battlefields of their youth is the Best Defense Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of all vets with Battlefield Return, Operation Archive and Transition Programs
The Macrons and the Trumps meet at the Normandy American Cemetery
Moving speeches were made by the presidents of France and the United States
Smaller allies who participated in the Normandy landings were given their due, with
 Macron mentioning the Danes, among others, while Trump brought up the Norwegians
After becoming the fifth veteran to be named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur,
Paul Wirth won't let go of Donald Trump but insists on a final word
A sailor from the Pacific War made it to Europe's battlefields; When posing for the photo,
he told me, in no uncertain terms, "Now, hold your back up straight!"

Friday, May 31, 2019

D-Day: "The beach was total chaos. It was total noise." "When the mortars and shelling started you dived into the nearest hole."


The Times has interviewed some of the last remaining veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy, writes Will Humphries. See also my basic history of D-Day the 6th of June 1944…
Ron Smith, 94, from Rustington, West Sussex, was operating Landing Craft Tank 947 in Gosport when they were told to move out.
“It wasn’t until [our ship] got five miles south of the Isle of Wight that we were told about D-Day.
“We literally didn’t know until we were on our way. We were called down to the mess room and told what was going to happen. I was apprehensive. Someone in the mess room said: ‘France? We can’t go there,’ and our commander said ‘You can and you are and you don’t need a passport’.” …

Frank Mouque was tasked with clearing mines and obstacles on Sword Beach.
“The first thing you did [when you got on the beach] was lay on your back with your feet in the air to get rid of all the water in your boots. The beach was total chaos. It was total noise. There were beach masters shouting and pointing and directing because everything was landed almost immediately. You could hear the warships firing. …

Joe Cattini landed with his lorry at about 10am after a section of the beach had been cleared of obstacles and mines.
“They laid carpets down so we didn’t sink into the sand. There were bodies floating in the sea and on the beach. I had been in the civil defence reserve during the Blitz in London so it didn’t faze me, but the stench and carnage was terrible.

“We were directed off the beach by the beach masters and we had to keep strictly within white taped lines. One silly bugger decided he wanted to get ahead a bit and went over the white line and had only gone a couple of yards and hit a mine and blew up. That shook me because I had 180 rounds of 25lb ammunition and 80 gallons of petrol on board.” …

James George, 96, was a lance corporal in the Gordon Highlanders, 51st (Highland) Division. He landed at Arromanches on June 7 with his mortar team. He had fought at the battle of El Alamein and was well aware of the horrors of war that faced them in the fight for Normandy.
 “It wasn’t very nice because you know what to expect. We had to get off the beach and get inland. You were just trying to keep alive. When the mortars and shelling started you dived into the nearest hole.

“It had quietened down a bit when we arrived. What I saw was all the Canadians that had been killed and they were all laid out in a nice tidy row on the beach, for a long way. It wasn’t a very nice start.”
Read the whole thing and check out the photos, both from 1944 and of the veterans today…

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Most professional historians provide “a basically negative understanding of American history”


If you’re old enough to remember the Soviet Union, 
writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in her Wall Street Journal interview of Wilfred McClay,
you’ve probably wondered why so many young people today seem attracted to socialism. One influence is Howard Zinn, who published “A People’s History of the United States” in 1980, the year before the first millennials were born.

The book “continues to be assigned in countless college and high-school courses, but its commercial sales have remained strong as well” [which is nothing less than an outrage].

Historian Wilfred McClay aspires to be the antidote to Zinn, whom he accuses of “greatly oversimplifying the past and turning American history into a comic-book melodrama in which ‘the people’ are constantly being abused by ‘the rulers.’ ” Mr. McClay’s counterpoint, which comes out next week, is titled “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.”

He says he doesn’t mean his new book as “some saccharine whitewash of American history.” But he’s seen too many students drawn to Zinn because the standard textbooks are visionless and tedious. “Just as nature abhors a vacuum,” Mr. McClay says, “so a culture will find some kind of grand narrative of itself to feed upon, even a poisonous one.”

A lousy story is better than no story at all: “We historians have for years been supplying an account of the American past that is so unedifying and lacking in larger perspective that Zinn’s sweeping melodrama looks good by comparison. Zinn’s success is indicative of our failure. We have to do better.”

 … in the new book he observes that it’s “hard to read about” early-19th-century America “without thinking of the series of events culminating in the coming of the Civil War as if they were predictable stages in a preordained outcome. Like the audience for a Greek tragedy, we come to this great American drama already knowing the general plot,” and susceptible to the illusion that it was written in advance. He urges readers to resist “that habit of mind” and remember that people at the time had no foresight to match our hindsight.

What gets him most riled up is what he sees as an abdication. “When you teach an introductory course in American history,” he says, “you really have a responsibility . . . to reflect in some way the national story, in a way that is conducive to the development of the outlook and skills of a citizen—of an engaged, patriotic, serious citizen.” Most professional historians don’t “take that mandate very seriously at all,” and instead provide “a basically negative understanding of American history.”

He says proudly that they reciprocate his aversion. When he meets colleagues at conventions and tells them the name of his book, “they just kind of look at me and say, ‘Oh my God, what have you been smoking?’ . . . When I say it has the word ‘Great,’ in ‘the Great American Story,’ then they’re even more dubious.”

Mr. McClay’s objective in “Land of Hope” is to help readers develop a sense of perspective and “a mastery of the detail” of American history. The Zinn approach allows them to be lazy: “Why learn what the Wilmot Proviso was, or what exactly went into the Compromise of 1850, when you could just say we had this original sin of slavery?”

By contrast, “Land of Hope” delves into the complexity of the Founders’ debates over slavery. Many expected it would eventually end on its own, or believed the alternative to accepting it—abandoning the union—was worse. Some were conflicted. The book describes George Mason as “a slaveholder but also a Christian who labeled the trade an ‘infernal traffic,’ ” and adds: “Mason feared the corrupting spread of slavery through the nation, which would bring the ‘judgement of Heaven’ down severely upon any country in which bondage was widespread and blandly accepted.” The Founders had to weigh what was possible, not just what was ideal—and Mr. McClay thinks it’s unfair to denounce them for failing to meet today’s standards.

Similarly, he says that when he talks about the wise and loving letters between John and Abigail Adams, “students will say, ‘Yeah, but you know, women couldn’t own property and couldn’t vote.’ ” True enough, but Mr. McClay responds with a challenge: “Well, compared to what? Were things better for women in sub-Saharan Africa? Were they better in France? And generally they can’t answer the question. What they do is they measure the country’s history against an abstract standard of perfection, against which it’s always going to fall short.”

Mr. McClay decries the impulse to “condescend toward history”—and tear down monuments or withdraw honors from historical figures who offend today’s sensibilities. He says he isn’t trying to “reduce everything to context,” only to acknowledge that leaders from Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King were complicated, and that their flaws are “no reason to rob them” of recognition for the “truly heroic things that they accomplished.”

Take Woodrow Wilson, recently the subject of controversy at Princeton University, where he was president from 1902-10. Critics want to remove his name from the School of Public and International Affairs because of his bad record on race. Mr. McClay isn’t a fan of President Wilson’s diplomatic efforts and criticizes his suppression of dissent during World War I. But when the U.S. entered that war, Mr. McClay says, “it was a moment for all hands on deck, and Wilson proved to be an excellent wartime leader.” The professor praises the 28th president as “acutely attuned . . . to the maintenance of public morale.”

Ideological bias in history textbooks is bad enough when the events occurred a century or more ago. “Especially once you get past, say, 1960 or 1964,” Mr. McClay says, “it just gets awful.” When examining the recent past, “it’s very, very, very hard to have any kind of perspective, other than whatever your own partisan persuasion is.”

He adds that some recent history books are “somewhat disfigured” by the way in which the understanding of recent history is “projected back on to the past.”

 … Mr. McClay is even harsher on history textbooks: “They’re completely unreadable because they’re assembled by committee, by graduate students who write little bits and pieces of them. I’m not convinced that most of the textbooks that have the names of very eminent historians on the cover were actually read by them, let alone written by them.”

There are also the committees that approve them—state and local school boards, which answer to a variety of “stakeholders.” Members of every racial, cultural and religious group want a say in how they and events important to them are described. Mr. McClay opted to dispense with that process, and “Land of Hope” is being published by a conservative house, Encounter Books. He probably won’t sell many copies to public schools, but he hopes there are enough private and religious and charter schools, not to mention home-schoolers, that it will find a market.

… Unlike many modern textbooks, “Land of Hope” has no sidebars or charts; a few maps and portraits provide the only distractions from the text. Mr. McClay writes with a literary quality, as when he likens Lincoln to Moses, “cruelly denied entry into the promised land of a restored Union, denied the satisfaction of seeing that new birth of freedom he had labored so long to achieve.”

 … In the classroom, he endeavors to cultivate a longer view. When he explains the Constitution, he reminds students—or lets them know for the first time—that “conflict is part of the human condition and can never be eliminated. Neither can the desire for power and the tendency to abuse it.”

 … When he taught at Tulane in the late 1980s and early ’90s, he recalls, “almost every applicant for graduate study wanted to work on the civil-rights movement—even though we didn’t have a single person on the faculty at that time who was an expert on the subject.” It’s easy to see the attraction, but he worries about the expectation that history will “provide an agenda for a moral crusade.”

“Very few moments of conflict have the moral clarity of that particular historical moment,” Mr. McClay cautions, “and we fall into error when we try to repeat it again and again.” Instead, he encourages students to appreciate the nobility all around them. “Gosh,” he says, “as Americans, you are part of what is arguably the most exciting enterprise in human history.”
On the Seth Leibsohn show: