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The Magistrate

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 84,740

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The CPUSA Paper, Ma'am

Official organ. It was quite entertaining, if one had a grim sense of humor.

One of the difficulties of being on the left in the Cold War period was maintaining some distance from being effectively in support of Soviet, and later of Maoist, Communism. A great deal of damage was done to the left, world-wide and in the United States, by the capture of much left language, and the appropriation and betrayal of many left ideals, by totalitarians in Soviet Russia and Red China. They had supporters here on the left, both genuine adherents and people who were taken in by the manichean world-view they presented. Much of what is said here today in defense of Russia and Putin in Ukraine could be taken nearly word for word from tracts written then against NATO and arming Germany, against the maintenance of U.S. bases abroad, and particularly on the origins of the Cold War itself, which in such circles was presented as a necessary response by the Soviet Union to U.S. and English provocations and aggressions. After all, the Soviet Union loved peace, and harbored no aggressive intentions towards anyone, and it was the genuine will of the people in Poland and Hungary and Romania and Czechoslovakia and the rest to form Communist governments and ally with the Soviet Union against NATO aggression. It was tiresome and destructive then, and it has not improved with age. It is a good portion of the reasons 'why we can't have nice things' like a national health program and strong unions and a more equitable and less violent society, because people who followed that line made it possible for right reactionaries to plausibly present the left as an anti-patriot and subversive element in our society and politics.
Posted by The Magistrate | Fri Sep 5, 2014, 09:08 PM (0 replies)

When You Are 'Agin Everything', Ma'am, Some People Will Always Find You Right, Some Of the Time

His commentary against Bush was as clownish and hyperbolic as his commentaries today. A number of creatures of this type, like Alex Jones and Lyndon LaRouche, switched without missing a beat from vociferous criticism of Bush and Co. to vociferous criticism of President Obama and his administration and its policies. They were no more 'right' then than they are 'right' now. When one begins with faulty premises, builds on false to fact statements, and joins them with fallacious logic, it is not possible for the edifice so constructed to be correct, even if one manages somehow to end up saying something that could be considered more or less true.
Posted by The Magistrate | Fri Sep 5, 2014, 11:40 AM (1 replies)

Aeroplane In A Bottle: From This One, I Will Be Getting Some Cash....

This was my entry in a small modeling contest. It took the first prize, which just arrived today --- a very large scale kit, one which I would never build myself, but that I can probably sell off for something around a hundred fifty dollars. Might work out to a dollar an hour on the assembly....

It is built from scratch, in 1/72 scale ( six feet to the inch ), and the wingspan is a bit under nine inches.

It is a Short Admiralty Type 827, one of three which were sent out to Zanzibar in the late spring of 1915, and then were sent up to Basra, and employed by the Royal Naval Air Service in support of Gen. Townsend's drive on Baghdad, operating around Kut-al-Amara when it was taken in September, and subsequently. The 827 was designed as a floatplane, but at least two of those in Iraq, one of which was No. 822, had their floats replaced with wheels, as operating from the surface of the Tigris River presented many difficulties.
Posted by The Magistrate | Fri Aug 29, 2014, 10:09 PM (47 replies)

The 'Volunteer' Wheeze Is Very Old, Sir

Russia sent four squadrons of fighters, two of bombers, and a tank regiment plus infantry for local security, to China in the late thirties to fight Japanese; all personnel were officially described as volunteers, in no way formed units of the Russian armed forces, and there was a money out one pocket to another bit of book-keeping to pretend the Chinese purchased the equipment, and claims that anyway, the aircrew were there only to train Chinese. Japan not wanting war with Russia much more than Russia did with Japan, did not treat this as grounds for more than strenuous protest, even though the Russian units were quite effective, and some of their personnel captured. No one was fooled, everyone involved, and all informed un-lookers, understood Russia had sent a sizeable ready-made air force to assist China, and did so because it wanted Japan kept busy away from Siberia and the Maritime Provinces.

It is simply a fact that Russia is now sending formed units of Russian soldiery, with their equipment, into Ukraine. You are free to whinge that this is not 'an invasion' because Russia could surely move several divisions under air cover into Ukraine, rather than something which seems in total about the equivalent of a brigade at present. But that does not mean it is not an act of the Russian government, not a deployment of Russian soldiers and equipment under Russian orders into combat with Ukraine's armed forces. The paper-work does not impress me, and it does not alter the essence of the matter. Russia is waging a war against Ukraine, a low intensity war, but a war all the same, and its purpose in waging this is the seizure of territory from a neighboring state --- in short, an act of imperialist aggression. It is intended to pay, with full control of oil and gas in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov which otherwise would benefit Ukraine, and it is viewed as the first essential step to reconstituting the old Russian land empire, or at least as much of this as can practicably be snarfled up in the present day.

Russia has as much right to try this as anyone else has to employ violence for their own aggrandizement, certainly. The problem I have, and a number of other people have as well, is with people who pretend that Russia is not engaged in imperialist aggression, who couch defense of Russia's aggression in Ukraine in terms of resistance to aggression against Russia, and who give every evidence of believing the shabbiest and most threadbare of lies Russia tells about its actions and purposes, all the while insisting everyone who disagrees is duped by propaganda. I could have some respect for someone who made a case on straight realpolitik grounds, and stated straight out their preferred outcome was that Russia achieve its goals, take as much of Ukraine as it thought best for its interests, and reconstituted its old empire. I could respect someone who viewed the thing as a clash between two imperialisms over who would have the sole exploitation of Ukraine, and preferred it to be Russia who became sole exploiter of Ukraine. But I cannot have the slightest respect for the sort of cant which makes up the overwhelming bulk of the commentary made in support of Russian imperialism here.
Posted by The Magistrate | Fri Aug 29, 2014, 01:51 AM (0 replies)

I Support The Actions Described By President Obama Tonight, Ladies And Gentlemen

I think they are right and proper.


( edited to add, with thanks, a link to Ms. Cha's post below with link to video of our President's speech, and transcript of his remarks )
Posted by The Magistrate | Thu Aug 7, 2014, 09:43 PM (350 replies)

That Was Not An Accident, Ma'am: That Was a Crime

The official Israeli explanation, as of last night, anyway, was that they were attempting to kill some Hamas people on a motorcycle that was passing by the school. So they were trying to hit something moving in the road nearby, it was not a stray round or something that struck where it did by gross mistake. I have pointed out before that the standard an attacker must meet when attacking a legitimate military target, if doing so could endanger non-combatants, is that the direct military benefit gained by neutralizing that target must be so great as to outweigh the risk of harm to non-combatants. I understand people may view that balance differently, and that reasonable people of sound mind and good heart might come to different conclusions as to where it rests in specific instances, but as someone willing to give latitude to claims of military necessity, I assure you that there is no way in Hell a reasonable argument can be made for the proposition that the direct military benefit of killing a couple of people on a motorcycle, however militant and combatant they may be, is or can be sufficiently great as to outweigh the risk of harm to non-combatants inherent in trying to land artillery in the street alongside a facility known to be sheltering several thousand non-combatants.
Posted by The Magistrate | Tue Aug 5, 2014, 11:58 AM (4 replies)

Indeed, Sir: Holding A Man To Account For His Previous Words Is Not Argumentm Ad Hominem

People chant 'agumentum ad hominem' here as though it were some magical phrase of power which puts its utterer in the right on any occasion. It does not, and it is almost never used correctly.

The fallacy of argumentum ad hominem refers to a response attacking the person making the argument, by saying that he or he is unworthy to speak, or to be taken seriously, for reasons unrelated to the argument made. An example might be to say that since a person has gone bankrupt recently, his opinion that the United States should provide military assistance to Iraq cannot be taken seriously. The flaw cited, true or not, has no relevance to the subject. But if a person has expressed the opinion that stock in the Beefsteak Mine is an excellent buy at ten cents a share, pointing out that he filed for bankruptcy last month is not irrelevant to the point at hand, but speaks to the quality of the person's judgement on financial matters. Similarly, if a person states it as a fact that, say, the U.S. government is buying up great quantities of ammunition in order to drive up the price and so disarm the people, pointing out that earlier this person stated as a fact that the government has a machine that creates and directs tornadoes and uses it to destroy resistance to tyranny in the heartland is wholly appropriate, because it speaks to both judgement and pre-disposition, establishing the person is delusional and is in actual fact not worthy of being taken seriously. If someone predicts that, say, President Obama is going to resign in disgrace before the year is out to avoid impeachment, it is wholly legitimate to point out that earlier, this person predicted President Obama would be defeated in a landslide by Romney, thus establishing that this person's predictions are worth less than those of the average 'psychic friends' operator.

A leader or spokesman for Hamas being called to account for having circulated the classic blood libel, and having stating his aim is expulsion of all Jews from Israel whose ancestry traces to immigrants arriving there in the twentieth century, is wholly appropriate, and in no sense an argumentum ad hominem. It speaks directly to the worth of any statement he may subsequently make avowing an interest in any form of peaceful accommodation, or that he and his fellows are unfairly described as driven by hate. Viewed in the coldest light, it even calls into question whether the man is so gripped by delusion that it might be an error to consider him wholly sane. And of course, it would be quite easy to settle the matter when called to account for having made such statements: the man would need only to state that he does not stand by them, that he knows the blood libel is a despicable slander he regrets having circulated as truth, and that he knows he cannot expel nearly six million Jews from Israel, and does not desire to do so. That is all it would take, and if the man will not say that and move on, one is entitled to wonder why this is....
Posted by The Magistrate | Tue Aug 5, 2014, 11:46 AM (1 replies)

The Problem With That Boiler-Plate, Sir, Is This

There is absolutely no reason to believe that a Likud government in Israel is any more interested in peace with the people of Arab Palestine than the leadership and militants of Hamas are in peace with Israel.

It has been evident for some years the actual policy of the present government of Israel is one of de facto annexation of the portions of the Jordan valley over-run in '67, or in short, a policy of 'one land between the river and the sea', without great dissimilarity to the banner the most militant of Arab Palestinians fly. There would be some difference in detail of outcome; a Hamas victory would be accompanied by massacre and rapid flight, a Likud victory would feature less immediate killing and a more gradual departure of the defeated, but these are differences of style and sophistication more than differences of kind. Both sides at present are aiming for a peace of victory, in which the defeated can have no part or presence. Partisans on both sides need to understand this, and to face up to it squarely, particularly when engaged in slanging the character and motive of their opponents.

At some point in a fight, one must begin to assess capabilities as well as motives, to examine whether one or another of the parties are capable of doing what they clearly intend. The fact that someone, even an obviously angry someone, has shouted 'I'll kill you!' does not really justify my breaking his arm and several ribs, especially if he is not actually armed with more than a pocket knife and spotting me thirty pounds of muscle and a half foot in reach and many years of practice. If I did something like that, I would not expect a police sergeant surveying the scene to believe I was really in fear for my life, and would expect to be arrested and face some charge greater than misdemeanor battery.

It is a fact that Hamas lacks the capability to do serious harm to Israel, let alone destroy Israel, and that is so even if it intends to destroy Israel and its leaders and militants go to sleep each night dreaming of destroying Israel.

It is a fact that Israel does have the capability to maintain occupation of the Cis-Jordan indefinitely, and has the capability to complete its de facto annexation of that area, and constriction of the existence of its Arab population to the point the bulk of them give it up and depart.

Success in the latter endeavor is no more right and just than success in the former.
Posted by The Magistrate | Sat Aug 2, 2014, 01:30 PM (1 replies)

You Are Quite Right, Sir, It Does Not

Israel may very well be committing breaches of the laws of war in Gaza now.

But there are a few things that need to be made clear in assessing that. There seems to be a widespread view that any risk, certainly any harm to non-combatants, is a violation of the laws of war. That is not true. When taking military action, a force must take reasonable precautions against harm to non-combatants. If a military action may put non-combatants at risk, the action is not a violation if the direct military benefit of neutralizing the target would be such that it could be reasonably seen as outweighing the risk to non-combatants. And, as observed before, if that risk to non-combatants flows from a decision by combatants to take up positions in which strikes against them would put non-combatants at risk, the responsibility for harm to non-combatants falls on the people who took up such a position, though it may be shared by the force which attacked them, if it did not in its actions meet the two criteria set out earlier. Still, it needs to be borne in mind that the fact that non-combatants have been harmed does not establish that the party which harmed them violated the laws of war. Reasonable precautions is not a standard that can only be met by perfection; one may take reasonable precautions to avoid a thing, and it may still occur. It is quite possible for an act which does produce a very great direct military benefit to have also done a good deal of harm to non-combatants.

The Israeli practice of giving warnings of where it will strike is certainly designed to meet the standard of taking reasonable precautions against non-combatant casualties. It probably does establish that reasonable precautions against harm to non-combatants are being taken. But one could still make a decent argument that the munitions employed, in so densely inhabited a place, and where much construction is so flimsy, present an unreasonable risk of harm to non-combatants.

Where Israel is on much shakier ground is the 'direct military benefit' standard. If combatants of one side in a battle, say, position a machine-gun in the living room of an occupied home, and if neutralizing that position allows there opponents to advance to a position that cuts off a large body of troops from supply, the matter is pretty clear-cut; the direct military benefit of destroying that machine-gun post outweighs the harm done to the non-combatants inhabitants of the house, or even nearby houses. But matters in Gaza are nowhere near so cleanly defined.

If it is a case of munitions being stored in a house, or a house is being used as a firing point or a command post, a decent military benefit can be readily made. But in instances where the point of the strike is to kill some individual militant, or to ruin his home and possessions, trying to claim some direct military benefit is gained by the attack is far too much of a stretch, and harm done to non-combatants in such an attack cannot possibly be said to have been outweighed by the direct military benefit gained, let alone be reasonably said to have have been outweighed. A good portion of the Israeli strikes in Gaza seem to have been of this latter sort, and are certainly grave breaches of the laws of war.

What can be readily observed here is that partisans of one side or the other in this conflict routinely condemn the criminal behavior of the opposing side, while ignoring or justifying their own. Persons who range themselves with the cause of Arab Palestine will cry up Israeli crimes, but will treat crimes of Arab Palestinian militants as justified by the right to resist, or by the greater power of their enemy, or even as of no consequence set beside the bestial behavior of the side they oppose. Persons who range themselves with the cause of Israel will cry up Arab Palestinian crimes, but will treat crimes of Israel as unavoidable in exercise of the right of self-defense, or justified by the tactics of their enemy, or even as of no consequence set beside the bestial behavior of the side they oppose. Where these things can be observed in a partisan's comments, it is clear that in neither case is there any attachment to the principles of law appealed to, but rather that the appeal to law is simply one more weapon being taken up to cudgel the foe. It is rather as if, where two gangs are feuding in a city neighborhood, members of one try and lay information against the other with the police: they do so not out of desire to see the law abided by, but to try and get the police to assist them in gaining a clear field for their own law-breaking. It is part of the wrestling for a claim to the moral high ground, which is always a part of the political side of armed conflict, and nothing more.
Posted by The Magistrate | Sun Jul 13, 2014, 12:40 PM (0 replies)

I Appreciate Your Kind Words Very Much, My Friends

Thank you.

Here is a bit from Mr. H. H. Munro, an especial favorite of mine....


MARION EGGELBY sat talking to Clovis on the only subject that she ever willingly talked about – her offspring and their varied perfections and accomplishments. Clovis was not in what could be called a receptive mood; the younger generation of Eggelby, depicted in the glowing improbable colours of parent impressionism, aroused in him no enthusiasm. Mrs. Eggelby, on the other hand, was furnished with enthusiasm enough for two.

“You would like Eric,” she said, argumentatively rather than hopefully. Clovis had intimated very unmistakably that he was unlikely to care extravagantly for either Amy or Willie. “Yes, I feel sure you would like Eric. Every one takes to him at once. You know, he always reminds me of that famous picture of the youthful David – I forget who it’s by, but it’s very well known.”

“That would be sufficient to set me against him, if I saw much of him,” said Clovis. “Just imagine at auction bridge, for instance, when one was trying to concentrate one’s mind on what one’s partner’s original declaration had been, and to remember what suits one’s opponents had originally discarded, what it would be like to have some one persistently reminding one of a picture of the youthful David. It would be simply maddening. If Eric did that I should detest him.”

“Eric doesn’t play bridge,” said Mrs. Eggelby with dignity.

“Doesn’t he?” asked Clovis; “why not?”

“None of my children have been brought up to play card games,” said Mrs. Eggelby; “draughts and halma and those sorts of games I encourage. Eric is considered quite a wonderful draughts-player.”

“You are strewing dreadful risks in the path of your family,” said Clovis; “a friend of mine who is a prison chaplain told me that among the worst criminal cases that have come under his notice, men condemned to death or to long periods of penal servitude, there was not a single bridge-player. On the other hand, he knew at least two expert draughts-players among them.”

“I really don’t see what my boys have got to do with the criminal classes,” said Mrs. Eggelby resentfully. “They have been most carefully brought up, I can assure you that.”

“That shows that you were nervous as to how they would turn out,” said Clovis. “Now, my mother never bothered about bringing me up. She just saw to it that I got whacked at decent intervals and was taught the difference between right and wrong; there is some difference, you know, but I’ve forgotten what it is.”

“Forgotten the difference between right and wrong!” exclaimed Mrs. Eggelby.

“Well, you see, I took up natural history and a whole lot of other subjects at the same time, and one can’t remember everything, can one? I used to know the difference between the Sardinian dormouse and the ordinary kind, and whether the wry-neck arrives at our shores earlier than the cuckoo, or the other way round, and how long the walrus takes in growing to maturity; I daresay you knew all those sorts of things once, but I bet you’ve forgotten them.”

“Those things are not important,” said Mrs. Eggelby, “but – ”

“The fact that we’ve both forgotten them proves that they are important,” said Clovis; “you must have noticed that it’s always the important things that one forgets, while the trivial, unnecessary facts of life stick in one’s memory. There’s my cousin, Editha Clubberley, for instance; I can never forget that her birthday is on the 12th of October. It’s a matter of utter indifference to me on what date her birthday falls, or whether she was born at all; either fact seems to me absolutely trivial, or unnecessary – I’ve heaps of other cousins to go on with. On the other hand, when I’m staying with Hildegarde Shrubley I can never remember the important circumstance whether her first husband got his unenviable reputation on the Turf or the Stock Exchange, and that uncertainty rules Sport and Finance out of the conversation at once. One can never mention travel, either, because her second husband had to live permanently abroad.”

“Mrs. Shrubley and I move in very different circles,” said Mrs. Eggelby stiffly.

“No one who knows Hildegarde could possibly accuse her of moving in a circle,” said Clovis; “her view of life seems to be a non-stop run with an inexhaustible supply of petrol. If she can get some one else to pay for the petrol so much the better. I don’t mind confessing to you that she has taught me more than any other woman I can think of.”

“What kind of knowledge?” demanded Mrs. Eggelby, with the air a jury might collectively wear when finding a verdict without leaving the box.

“Well, among other things, she’s introduced me to at least four different ways of cooking lobster,” said Clovis gratefully. “That, of course, wouldn’t appeal to you; people who abstain from the pleasures of the card- table never really appreciate the finer possibilities of the dining-table. I suppose their powers of enlightened enjoyment get atrophied from disuse.”

“An aunt of mine was very ill after eating a lobster,” said Mrs. Eggelby.

“I daresay, if we knew more of her history, we should find out that she’d often been ill before eating the lobster. Aren’t you concealing the fact that she’d had measles and influenza and nervous headache and hysteria, and other things that aunts do have, long before she ate the lobster? Aunts that have never known a day’s illness are very rare; in fact, I don’t personally know of any. Of course if she ate it as a child of two weeks old it might have been her first illness – and her last. But if that was the case I think you should have said so.”

“I must be going,” said Mrs. Eggelby, in a tone which had been thoroughly sterilised of even perfunctory regret.

Clovis rose with an air of graceful reluctance.

“I have so enjoyed our little talk about Eric,” he said; “I quite look forward to meeting him some day.”

“Good-bye,” said Mrs. Eggelby frostily; the supplementary remark which she made at the back of her throat was -

“I’ll take care that you never shall!”
Posted by The Magistrate | Thu Jul 10, 2014, 05:43 PM (0 replies)
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