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  • Archive for November, 2011

    Some Light and a Lot of Heat

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th November 2011 (All posts by )

    That is the way of it, when a great question falls into the public debate, or at least, that’s how it will look to the outsider. The extremes on either side bash away energetically at each other, the op-eds and the commentaries are reeled out like so many furiously unfurled rolls of toilet paper, until either the issue is resolved definitively, or everyone is quite tired of it — or some great event crashes in unexpectedly and renders the whole thing absolutely moot.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, History | 12 Comments »

    I Await a Lavish Apology

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th November 2011 (All posts by )

    So, Bill Ayers himself admits that Obama began his political career in Ayers’s living room.

    Some people owe me an apology.

    Ayers, you may recall, is the leftist intellectual’s Timothy McVeigh (without McVeigh’s murderous competence). The comparison to McVeigh is not hyperbole. The psychology of political terrorists has been well studied by many people in many different countries. All studies conclude that such terrorists are megalomaniacal sociopaths who latch on to the most visible political movement of their time and location and then use that movement’s ideology to justify their crimes. They don’t actually care about the good the ideology purports to accomplish.

    Instead, they care about exploiting the ideology to advance their own interest. The ideology merely justifies their sociopathic vainglory. The strategy behind both Ayers’s and McVeigh’s terrorism was to trigger a broad-based political upheaval that would leave individuals such as Ayers and McVeigh on top of society. They rationalized that by killing they could make themselves the pebble that starts the political avalanche. They desperately convinced themselves that they could murder their way to the top like Lenin or Mao.

    Ayers never cared about all the things that contemporary leftists care about, and he never will. He doesn’t care about anybody or anything other than himself (although, like all sociopaths, he is very good at convincing people he does). Ayers isn’t a basically good person who went too far in advancing a good cause, he’s just evil. In another era, he would have killed for right-wing causes just as readily.

    This makes the contemporary Left’s continuing embrace of Ayers, Dorn and other Weatherman sociopaths even more disturbing. They simply don’t care what these sociopaths did nor what they continue to profess. (Ayers has never recanted his terrorism and even let himself be photographed trampling an American flag in a grimy alley for a NY Times story published on 9/11.)  Neither are leftists concerned in the least that such an individual moved in the same small political circle and continually interacted with the person who is currently the President of the United States. Neither are they concerned that Ayers et al all heartily approve of Obama.

    Worst of all, they are utterly unconcerned that Ayers is a prominent national educator with significant influence on the K-12 education of America’s children. In the video where he makes his admission, he is speaking to a group of teachers unionists and urging them to corruptly use their positions of trust as educators of children to advance Ayers’s political agenda. The audience has no problem with doing just that.

    I really think that someone in the Chicago area needs to crowd source the tracking of Ayers and to publicly link him to every group or policy he adopts. The hardcore Left doesn’t care about Ayers’s sociopathy and murderous megalomania but I imagine others will.

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Education, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Concert Review – Social Distortion

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Rock and roll review under the fold if you like.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

    What Do Hungry Children in Oregon Have to do with Tax Policy?

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th November 2011 (All posts by )

    The recent edition of “Parade” magazine when I saw a list of things that you can do to help others in need. I was struck by their plea to “Feed Hungry Children in Oregon” where they said that

    Oregon has the nation’s highest rate of “child food insecurity.” About 252,000 kids – or nearly 30% of the state’s youth – aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

    This surprised me because I never thought of Oregon as a state that had this sort of poverty. The example they gave in the article was as follows:

    My husband and I both work full-time, but we make minimum wage, and some months it’s either pay our bills or buy food, says his mom, Nichole (her child is featured in the photo, above).

    While this is a sad and heart rending story, there is another connection as to why their parents are having a hard time finding higher wage work. Per the Tax Foundation:

    Oregon’s personal income tax system consists of five separate brackets with a top rate of 11% kicking in at an income level of $250,000. That rate ranks the highest among all states levying an individual income tax.

    While tax policy may seem arcane to individuals worrying about food security, it is important to realize the CRUCIAL impact that state income tax rates play in state competitiveness. Of all the components of a tax burden, the ONE element that can be most easily modified or avoided is the personal income tax levied by a particular state. For instance, if you earn $1M a year, you’d be paying about $75,000 more in tax in Oregon than you would in Texas, Florida, Nevada, or other states that don’t levy a personal income tax (it isn’t $1M times 11% because of the graduated nature of the tax up to $250,000 and the fact that state taxes are deductible on Federal returns, so the $75,000 is a rough estimate).

    A high marginal personal income tax rate falls DIRECTLY on those most likely to invest in a business that would hire someone like the family in this photo. A high marginal tax is analogous to seeking out the very individuals that could bring a state jobs and economic prosperity and telling them to invest elsewhere. You could go door-to-door and punch them in the face, or just set the nation’s highest personal income tax rate, the net effect is exactly the same.

    The biggest fallacy the high marginal tax crowd falls into is the “fixed pie” thinking – since businesses and high income earners are unlikely to move, if you tax them more they will just sit like sheep and take it and pay into the state to fund their myriad social programs. That may be true in the short run and for individuals that are tied to their community, but I guarantee that every wealthy person has an accountant who carefully tells them the negative impact of residing in such a high tax state and the benefits of moving elsewhere on their take-home pay. If they have a choice to invest more in Oregon or go elsewhere, other states look much more inviting. Over time, investment slows, and then there are more and more articles with the sad faced children just like this one, and pleas for the rich to pay their “fair share”.

    The problem is, the rich aren’t stupid, and a high state income tax is basically pushing them to invest and live elsewhere, particularly somewhere warm with a tax friendly climate like Nevada, Florida or Texas.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Taxes | 11 Comments »

    Flowers

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th November 2011 (All posts by )

    A burst of orange wildflowers in a garden. (Copyright 2011 Jonathan Gewirtz jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Chicagoboyz like the flowers.

    (Cross posted on Jonathan’s Photoblog.)

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    Kindle Fire Review

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Below the fold, a review of the Kindle Fire ($199), if you are interested.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Internet, Tech | 17 Comments »

    New! – Your Random iPhone Fact of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Fact: The iPhone is water resistant to 700m.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Humor | 11 Comments »

    In Memoriam: The Bravest of Men

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 28th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Kapler the Brave

    Kapler the Brave

    Alexei Kapler was the bravest of men.

    How brave?

    Put it this way: there are two kinds of brave:

    • Brave
    • Alexei Kapler brave.

    Alexei Kapler was Alexei Kapler brave.

    By profession, Kapler was a screenwriter, journalist, director, and actor. By avocation, he was an accomplished womanizer. One night, Kapler, a man of forty years, met a sixteen year old girl at a party. This young woman was intelligent, strong-willed, attractive, and sad. It was the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death. No one seemed to remember. Kapler was happy to listen, comfort, sympathize, and seduce.

    Since his new conquest came from a sheltered background, Kapler decided to show her the wild side of life. He lent her forbidden adult books. He took her dancing, took her to see avaunt garde theater, and took her to meet outrageous people at outrageous parties. Kapler was a man of the world, witty, knowledgeable, a skilled raconteur. The young woman was swept off her feet by this urbane sophisticate. There were problems though: Kepler was married. And he was having an affair with a sixteen year old girl.

    Hiding the affair from her family was a must. Hiding it from the girl’s father was especially important. Kapler was a smooth enough operator that he might have kept their affair secret from the girl’s father under normal circumstances. Unfortunately for him, this girl’s father had a particularly suspicious temperament. While something like this temperament is not unusual in any father of a sixteen year old girl, this father was different:

    He could have phones tapped.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Commiserations, Crime and Punishment, History, Russia | 38 Comments »

    Maximus Holds the Patent on Unicorns

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Humor, Video | 2 Comments »

    Jumping the Shark

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th November 2011 (All posts by )

    I was always a bit cynical about the major media news organs, thanks to twenty years in military public affairs, and the related field of military broadcasting. That is, I didn’t expect much of the poor darlings when it came around to dealing with matters military. The military and all its works and all its strange ways were terra incognita to all but a handful of mainstream media personalities and reporters, all during the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s. Stories of media misconduct were fairly common among us; attempted checkbook journalism, howling misstatements of fact, generalized anti-military bigotry, pre-existing biases just looking for a whisper of confirmation … all that and more were the stuff of military public affairs legend. I expect that most media reporters and editors just naturally expected military personnel, pace Platoon and other Vietnam-era movies, to be drug-addled, barely competent, marginally criminal, knuckle-dragging morons. The air of pleasurable surprise and relief almost universally displayed by various deployed reporters during the First Gulf War, upon discovering this was not so – that in fact, most members of the military were articulate, polite, competent professionals – was one that I noted at the time, and found to be bitterly amusing.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Conservatism, Media, Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

    Interesting Assertion

    Posted by David Foster on 27th November 2011 (All posts by )

    …it may be said that at any time when finance is under attack through the political authority, it is an infallible sign that the political authority is already exercising too much authority over the economic life of the nation through manipulation of finance, whether by exorbitant taxation, uncontrolled expenditure, unlimited borrowing, or currency depreciation.

    –Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, History, Political Philosophy | 22 Comments »

    Rethinking Unions IV: time to ditch the union label?

    Posted by TM Lutas on 26th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Previous in the series:
    I, II, III

    Given my positions about work and unions, it would be natural to assume that I would want them to shuffle off into history as fast as possible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unions are bankrupt, but that doesn’t mean that they are without value. The process of bankruptcy is the process of trying to maximize the value you can save from something when it can no longer continue operating as it has in the past. Ideologically bankrupt unions need to go through bankruptcy to identify and save that value as best as possible, not to kill them off and throw that real value away.

    This is where simplistic conservative solutions go wrong. The wasteful idea of “just shut it down” guts political support among the population of people who are frugal and understand what bankruptcy is. These people are natural conservative supporters but they are not going to sign up for wasteful shutdowns that increase net value loss for society. So long as they perceive that there’s more net value to retaining the present arrangements than to tear them down without replacement they will both be unhappy with unions and fight to keep them in business.

    Improvement and replacement instead of elimination creates a wider natural coalition. The union label itself will likely live on so long as it has brand value and far beyond it retaining its original meaning.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Politics | 30 Comments »

    Glen Echo Deco

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Deco architecture at Glen Echo Park, Maryland. (Copyright 2011 Jonathan Gewirtz jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    Great Big Book of Horrible Things

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th November 2011 (All posts by )

    I recently read and highly recommend a book called “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things” by Matthew White with the sub-title “The definitive chronicle of history’s 100 worst atrocities”. Since it is the holiday season, not being involved in one of these events is definitely something to be thankful for…

    As someone who has spent their entire life reading books about history and military history in particular, this “organization” of cataclysmic events is very interesting. The author has different types of events, such as major dictators, not just wars, as he attempts to “rank” and chronicle each occurrence. Here are the top ten items per the author:

    1. Second World War 66m
    2. Chinggis Khan 40m
    2. Mao Zedong 40m
    4. Famines in British India 27m
    5. Fall of Ming Dynasty 25m
    6. Joseph Stalin 20m
    6. Taiping Rebellion 20m
    8. Mideast slave trade 18.5m
    9. Timur 17m
    10. Atlantic slave trade 16m

    (as a note the First World War comes in tied for 11th at 15m)

    The first thing that came to my mind is that I didn’t even know what some of these items were; I know relatively little about ancient Chinese regimes and I had never even heard of the Taiping Rebellion which occurred from 1850-64 and per this book at least killed more than World War I (of which I know a great deal). Here is a wikipedia article on the Taiping Rebellion which also quotes the 20 million figure (for what it is worth).

    I also find interesting the separation of individual dictators from the military conflicts that they led or sponsored. He did not break out Hitler from WW2 since Hitler’s atrocities were mostly contained within that time span. However, Stalin’s atrocities occurred pretty much from the moment he took power until the day he died so he received a separate section dedicated to his crimes. The author also makes a special section on the communist crimes where he aggregates the various tyrants and crimes in one spot for sad if easy reading.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 8 Comments »

    Too Big To Fail updated

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th November 2011 (All posts by )

    There was a made for HBO movie called “Too Big To Fail” about the 2008 financial crisis. I recommend watching it (even though it was controversial in some circles for showing Hank Paulson as a virtual saint) especially for people who aren’t in the finance industry because it is intelligently written (based on a book) and they really got big name actors to play the part of Wall Street CEO’s.

    The Wall Street Journal has an “overheard” box on the back page of the financial section and they had some interesting observations on Wall Street in 2011 on how the various players have shrunk in market capitalization.

    Here are the current market caps of the “Too Big To Fail” parties:

    - Lehman Brothers (Dick Fuld) – bankrupt
    - JP Morgan-Chase (Jamie Dimon) – 110B (CORRECTED)
    - Vikram Pandit (Citigroup) – 69B
    - John Mack (Morgan Stanley) – 25B
    - John Thain (Merrill Lynch) – bought by bank of America (see below)
    - Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs) – 52B
    - Rickard Kovacevich (Wells Fargo) – 123B
    - Bob Willumstad (AIG) – 38B (resurrected by Federal Government)
    - PREVIOUSLY Bear Stearns – sold to JP Morgan-Chase

    In the movie Wells Fargo was treated as an afterthought. Not mentioned are two banks listed below and Bank of America is given only a small part in the movie, even though they ended up buying Merrill Lynch (I don’t even know who played Ken Lewis).

    US Bankcorp 45B
    PNC Financial 44B
    Ken Lewis (Bank of America) 52B

    The fact that these banks which are generally thought of as “regional banks” like US Bankcorp and even Wells Fargo have market caps in line or ahead of the giant Wall Street banks is a sea change in reality.

    As these Wall Street companies become smaller what you are also seeing is the relative shrinking of the financial sector as a total portion of the US market capitalization. Financials returned -48% over the last 10 years vs. -17% for the S&P 500 (for the link to work change the time frame to 10 years and you can see the results).

    These companies have an outsize impact on the economy of New York in particular because they pay out such a high percentage of their revenue in compensation. According to this article the compensation will drop 20 to 30% this year compared to the prior year.

    In the first nine months of the year, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup set aside almost $93 billion to pay employees, up from $91.25 billion in the year ago period, according to Johnson Associates. The final number, however, is not set until the fourth quarter, when firms have a clear idea of their total revenue for the year.

    While employee compensation as a percentage of market capitalization is not always a good metric to use for comparison purposes, in this case it is enlightening. Much of the outsize pay (some would say obscene) that these New York traders and executives receive is justified by the profits (and high stock prices) that result from their actions. But if the banks are paying out such a high percentage of their total market capitalization in profits every year, that justification starts to take on water a bit.

    As far as alternative metrics, Business Insider had an interesting article on Wal-Mart, which employs 1% of the US work force. This analysis attempted to show what would happen to the average worker if Wal-Mart plowed back all their profits into employee wages (just a theoretical case). Per the article:

    If Walmart took its entire $22 billion of annual pre-tax income and used all of it to give each one of its 2.1 million employees a raise, this would amount to about $10,000 a year apiece. In other words, if Walmart decided to use 100% of its operating profit to pay all of its employees more, the average store associate’s salary would go from $20,000 to $30,000.

    In an even sharper turn down the rabbit hole of linked causality, Wal-Mart itself is essentially moving off Wall Street to become a private company. This is obviously an exaggeration but Wal-Mart is using its profits to buy back stock, and much of its stock is held by the descendants of Sam Walton in the first place, so the outstanding stock metric is even lower than it appears. Wal-Mart has 3.46 billion shares outstanding but the “public float” is only 1.73 billion shares. And Wal-Mart is working hard to whittle away that public float, per this article…

    Wal-Mart said on Friday that it would buy back $15 billion more of its shares to try to improve returns for its shareholders. The initiative, which was announced at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting here, comes after a previous $15 billion repurchasing plan that was announced last year. The company bought back 244 million shares, worth about $13 billion, under that program

    So there you go. Wall Street, that icon of capitalism, justifies high salaries for traders and executives on the basis of stock capitalization values that no longer support this line of reasoning. And on the other hand, the core basis for Wall Street, the raising and allocation of capital, is turned on its head as one of the largest and most well-run companies, Wal-Mart, essentially plows its earnings into a de-facto move to privatization and off Wall Street in the first place.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Recall Scott Walker Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Starting November 15 the official Recall Walker campaign began. I have to admit these people are going at it 100%. In Wisconsin (unfortunately) there is no standard for a recall. No crimes need be committed. You simply need to gather enough signatures and you can force a recall election. This must be changed, but that is a different subject for a different day.

    Driving home from work they have set up signature gathering posts on busy streets. Even on Thanksgiving day I saw a guy standing outside trying to gather signatures.

    They were at Best Buy soliciting signatures from the Black Friday campers but they were chased away by the Best Buy management.

    The people who want this are, apparently throwing everything they have at it. I have a few thoughts below the fold if you are at all interested.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 3 Comments »

    Raising Herbie from the Dead

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 25th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Things weren’t always this way between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Clark Hoover.

    In 1920, Herbert Hoover was the Greatest American of the Twentieth Century™. Between 1914 and 1920, he saved millions of people in Europe and Russia from starvation by leading the greatest humanitarian aid effort in human history. Worldwide acclaim for Hoover’s efforts led many Americans to push to make him president of the United States.

    Both parties eagerly courted Hoover as a candidate. The incumbent president, infernal war criminal and Democrat Thomas Woodrow Wilson, supported Hoover’s nomination as his successor. Even the Democratic Party’s eventual vice presidential nominee, Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraged Hoover to run for president as a Democrat, remarking that, among the possible nominees for 1920, “There could not be a finer one”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    Anita O’Day, Ballad of the Sad Young Men (1961)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th November 2011 (All posts by )

    “All the news is bad again, kiss your dreams goodbye.”

    (Is the impending Eurogeddon the Credit-Anstalt crash of this century? Will thing get so bad we won’t even be able to keep our “glasses full of rye”? Will a “grimy moon” shine down on an icy Kondratieff Winter? I sure hope not.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Trump Tower

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th November 2011 (All posts by )

    The base of the Trump Tower parking garage is lit up for the holidays. Here is a view looking south towards the river.

    It is difficult to get a photo from the ground that captures the entire height of Trump Tower and the lit up “pylon” on top. You can see the reflection from the lights of the adjacent IBM building alongside.

    Cross Posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 2 Comments »

    Thanksgiving 2011: What I’m Thankful For

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th November 2011 (All posts by )

    What am I thankful for?

    I’m thankful that I can crush my enemies and see them flee before me, that I can take their horses and belongings and hear the lamentations of their women.

    Okay, I’m not thankful for that today but 1,000 years ago I probably would have been. Today, I am thankful that we do not have to repeat the mistakes and evils of our ancestors but that we can go forth to make our own, hopefully lesser, mistakes.

    What else?

    I thank with brief thanksgiving
    Whatever gods may be
    That no life lives for ever;
    That dead men rise up never;
    That even the weariest river
    Winds somewhere safe to sea.

    If it is sad that good people do not live forever, it is joyful that evil ones do not as well. I think Shakespeare’s Anthony was wrong and it is the evil that men do that is (eventually) interred with their bones. The good we leave behind accumulates over the generations. This would not happen if everything lived forever. So, I am thankful that nothing lasts forever and that things and people change. I am thankful even when that change is death.

    I am thankful that the preacher of Ecclesiastes was literally wrong and that there are new things under the sun and that each day brings some new wonder to explore. I am thankful that, even if he was correct in his metaphor that human nature never changes, then at least we can change how we act on the impulses that come from that nature.

    I am thankful that I live in America, where each morning is the beginning of the great tomorrow promised yesterday. I am thankful that I have the right to strive, to experiment and to improve. I am thankful I have the right to fail, to fall and get back up again.

    Most of all, I am thankful that I know to be thankful for these things.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Philosophy | 3 Comments »

    Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd November 2011 (All posts by )

    Thank you to the millions of people, including my ancestors, who pulled up stakes, or risked life and limb, and travelled to America, and built this great country and passed it on to us.

    Dear God, we give you thanks for our ancestors who left homes and families and the life they knew and came to America, often at great sacrifice and great hazard, and built this great country and gave it to us. Please grant that we will be worthy of them, and leave this country to those who come after not only not less but greater than it has been given to us.

    Posted in Holidays | 16 Comments »

    Giving Thanks

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 23rd November 2011 (All posts by )

    The Mayflower Compact:

    In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

    Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
    In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.

    I am thankful to Jonathan for allowing me to post here and I am also thankful for our commenters who make this a great place. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

    Posted in History, Holidays | 5 Comments »

    “Where Have You Been Whit Stillman?”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 23rd November 2011 (All posts by )

    After 13 years, acclaimed writer/director Whit Stillman returns to the big screen with Damsels in Distress, a “comedy of manners” that echoes his previous work in Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. The Post’s Nathalie Atkinson convened this week’s TIFF-centric Culture Club to ask whether Whit’s wit has been missed.

    National Post

    Enough with my “regular” series of topics. I am becoming a bore on the subject, even to myself. (Especially to myself.) At any rate, Happy Thanksgiving! What a joy it is to share my thoughts with you from time to time. I like this corner of the internet.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Film | Comments Off

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Helen on 23rd November 2011 (All posts by )

    And all best wishes from this side of the Pond.

    Posted in Holidays | 5 Comments »

    On The Myth (and non-Myth) of Martial Races

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd November 2011 (All posts by )

    Pundita:

    One point I haven’t mentioned before is that the British Raj propounded the ‘martial races’ concept, which had a big impact on the Indian subcontinent, and which Pakistan continued to accept after independence. Technically the concept was abandoned in the 1970s within the Pakistan military but until just a couple years ago Pakistani society held the military as the highest ideal — and (alongside cricket stars) the ideal for the male. The fiercest of military men as the model for manhood followed the British colonizer’s dictum, which was dryly summarized by Dr. Jeffrey Greenhut:
     
    The Martial Race theory had an elegant symmetry. Indians who were intelligent and educated were defined as cowards, while those defined as brave were uneducated and backward.
     
    The ‘high’ culture of the Bengalis in East Pakistan, which placed great emphasis on the arts and intellectual pursuits, was intolerable to West Pakistan’s military class — and this was partly the reason for the horrific atrocities they carried out against the Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim.

    Amardeep Singh:

    The damning parallel between the groups that were loyal during the Mutiny and those who would be designated as “Martial Races” later seems hard to escape. Though I generally try and avoid paranoid speculation, the idea of “divide and rule” also seems to be relevant here: by keeping the various ethnic regiments of the Indian army divided along linguistic or ethnic lines, they prevented them from congealing along racial (as in, brown vs. white) ones.
     
    For better or worse, groups once designated by the British as “martial races” still tend to carry that badge with pride. But it’s a dubious source of honor, and also an extremely dubious way of asserting one’s manhood & masculinity. (How much violence against women has been perpetrated in the service of the myth of Jat or Pathan/Pashtun martial masculinity?)

    brownpundits:

    A quick glance at the composition of Indian Army Regiments shows that the Indian Army is still run on the “martial races” concept — in particular, the post-1857 interpretation. This designation was based on British perceptions of which communities were best able to bear arms and loyally serve the crown, and is related to their cultural stances on climate (hill-folk favored over the plains dwellers) as well as occupation (favoring sturdy independent peasants). Ultimately however, the British favored groups which stuck with them in the 1857 mutiny (Jats, Sikhs, Gurkhas) over those groups perceived to be disloyal (upper-castes, Bengalis, Tamils).
     
    Over a third of the recruits in the Indian Army are recruited from the Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars, and Dogras of Haryana, Punjab, and Himanchal Pradesh — though these states comprise just over 5% of the national population (given the caste identities, the Army is really drawn from an even smaller subset of that group). That is, roughly as many infantry as fielded by the entire US Army are recruited from a group of castes among a cluster of states totalling 50 million in population. Many of the rest are similarly drawn on a narrow regional/caste basis.

    “Ray,” Small Wars Journal:

    The Pakistan Army has always been psyched to believe that “one Pakistani is equal to ten Indians”.
     
    This has been repeatedly debunked in all the wars fought between India and Pakistan.
     
    While the outcome of wars is debatable, 1971 and 1965’s Battle of Assal Uttar (the physical graveyard of Patton tanks which were superior to anything India had) gave Pakistan no leeway to cover up their inadequacy at combat unlike the fact wherein Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam is not discussed in history, military or otherwise or for that matter, any other debacle, not even the 1971 fiasco of their own making (except in general vague and defensive terms)!!
     
    That apart, Musharraf has a chip on his shoulder. He is a Mohajir and hence non martial as per the British classification. And yet he was the COAS. In addition, he pipped Khatak (a blue blooded Pathan and a martial race man) to the post of COAS. He also had a personal grievance to settle. Gen. Zia chose Gen. Musharraf (then a Brigadier) in 1987 to command a newly-raised Special Services Group (SSG) base at Khapalu in the Siachen area. To please Gen. Zia, Gen. Musharraf with his SSG commandos launched an attack on an Indian post at Bilfond La in September, 1987, and was beaten back.

    “Red Rat,” Small Wars Journal:

    Despite serving under the same basic TACOS as the Indian Battalions conditions of service were generally better in the British battalions and their take home pay was greater due to various allowances they received. Although poorly paid by British standards they were extremely well paid by Nepali standards.
     
    The various Gurkha welfare organisations launched a campaign, adopted by Joanna Lumley (UK media star) for parity in Gurkha TACOS with British soldiers and the right to abode in the UK. This campaign was successful and had the precise effect that the UK Army suspected it would have:
     
    Increased social problems in the UK as Gurkha families settle in the UK
    Lessening of the inflow of capital into Nepal as Gurkhas choose to bring families into the UK and retired Gurkhas move to the UK rather then take their pensions and settle in Nepal.
     
    Bringing Gurkha soldiers TACOS in line with UK soldiers has caused manning and career management issues leading to redundancies.
    At a time of a shrinking Army it is hard to justify maintaining Gurkha battalions when we are losing British battalions; Gurkhas are no longer the cheaper option.
     
    I have served with Gurkhas, they are great, but like all soldiers have their strengths and their weaknesses. I can amplify on any of the points above, but my feeling is that the change to the Gurkha system has severely threatened their long term viability in the British Army.

    I am largely an Anglophile, but I don’t romanticize the Raj. Or maybe I do. Who ever knows with me? One day I think one thing, the next day I think another. The oral history in my family regarding the time of the “britishers” is uncomfortable to recount. Half-whispered and half-remembered family mythology as oral history: “She never went into that town by herself, Madhu. No one knew why. She never wanted to be around them alone.” What does this mean? Is it true; is it exaggerated; was it a small incident or something too horrible to imagine? But no-one knows or dwells on it. It’s the past and the past is over. The general feeling is, “why think about it?”

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, History, India, Military Affairs | 6 Comments »