Finland’s air force is quietly dropping the swastika

Friday, July 10th, 2020

Finland’s air force has been using a swastika ever since it was founded in 1918, shortly after the country became an independent nation and before the Nazis adopted the ancient symbol and rose to power:

Until 1945 its planes bore a blue swastika on a white background — and this was not intended to show allegiance to Nazi Germany, though the two nations were aligned.

While the symbol was left off planes after World War Two, a swastika still featured in some Air Force unit emblems, unit flags and decorations — including on uniforms, a spokesperson for the Finnish air force told the BBC.

Finnish Air Force Swastika

The Romantic painter went on to use a swastika as part of his designs for the insignia of the Order of the Cross of Liberty. He used a cross with much smaller hooks, so the visual similarity to Nazi symbolism is much less pronounced. It also features on the official flag of the Finnish president.

Finnish Flag with Swastika

But the swastika became associated with the Finnish air force via a very different man – a Swedish nobleman called Count Eric von Rosen.

The count used the swastika as a personal good luck charm. When he gifted a plane to the nascent air force of Sweden’s newly independent neighbour in 1918 he had had a blue swastika painted on it. This Thulin Typ D was the first aircraft of the Finnish air force and subsequent planes all had his blue swastika symbol too, until 1945.

Supporters of a continued use of the symbol point out that there were no Nazis in 1918 so the air force’s use of the swastika has nothing to do with Nazism.

However, while Eric von Rosen had no Nazi associations at the time of his 1918 gift, he did subsequently become a leading figure in Sweden’s own national socialist movement in the 1930s. He was also a brother-in-law of senior German Nazi Herman Göring, and, according to Prof Teivainen, a personal friend of Hitler.

They became adept at losing company property

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

In 1946, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the newly split Korea was struggling:

At his desk one day, Fletcher heard that there was trouble in Samch’ok, on the east coast. He left his office in Seoul to investigate. At a company iron-ore mine, he found agitators were encouraging idle workers to carry away company property. He had the Korean Special Police arrest the agitators, and beat hell out of them.

Back at Seoul, there was some criticism — but nobody had a better idea.

The policy now became one of giving Korean nationals control of the company. The new executives learned some things quickly. They became adept at losing company property, mostly into their own pockets.

Meanwhile, a crisis developed with the Russians just across the border from Seoul Province. The waters that irrigated company rice paddies flowed down from the north, and suddenly the Russians dammed them off. The company agricultural adviser, PFC Peavey, was sent up north to investigate.

The Russians were not offended by negotiating with a PFC. They had political officers masquerading in low ranks in their own forces; they understood perfectly Gospodin Peavey’s desire not to appear conspicuous. They sat down with Peavey and informed him they wanted a portion of the company’s rice harvest in return for the water. Peavey argued awhile. Finally, getting nowhere, he figured, what the hell? He was due to rotate out any day and become a civilian. He agreed to everything. He returned to Seoul, and soon the water flowed south. When asked how he had outwitted the Ivans, Peavey would only smile gently. A few weeks later, he sailed for the States.

When fall came, the Russians asked for their rice. Military Government, of course, with some confusion, explained why they couldn’t have it. Next summer, the New Korea Company had a hell of a time getting water.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

After World War 2 ended, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Doolittle Board tried to prevent future abuses of power in the service:

In making an Army of eight million men, the United States had commissioned many thousands of men who should never have risen above PFC. Some lousy things happened, particularly in the Service Forces. Officers and noncommissioned officers, in some cases, did abuse their powers.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service. One was to overhaul the officer procurement system, make damned certain that no merely average man could ever be commissioned, and have fewer officers, but better ones. The other way was to reduce the power to abuse anybody.

The Doolittle Board, probably thinking of a long period of pleasant peacetime coming up, in early 1946 chose to recommend the second.

It was a good idea, but it wouldn’t work. The company commanders in Korea watched the girls run in and out of the barracks, had men talk back to them, and didn’t know what to do about it. In fact, they weren’t sure but what the American thing to do was to ignore it, and get a girl of their own. Which many did.

What the hell, the war was over. Anybody who said a new one was brewing was definitely a goddam Fascist, or something.

Besides, contracting a venereal disease was no longer a court-martial offense. That kind of thinking had gone out with the horse, with saluting except on duty, with the idea that you should respect a sergeant.

Outside, the fresh air was worse

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

After VJ-Day, American soldiers wanted to go home, and Americans wanted them to come home. This left Colonel Jones in Korea in an awkward situation, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

Colonel Jones received replacements, of course. He got officers from the Quartermaster Corps and the Infantry, and plenty of basic riflemen from the eighteen-year-olds just drafted, who didn’t have Skill One, even for basic riflemen. Engineers he didn’t get. Engineers, like most professional men, serve in the military only when the draft moves them.

With a Group HQ that didn’t know a crowbar from a wrecking iron, and who thought a balk was part of baseball, Colonel Jones, as part of “Blacklist Forty” (code name for Korea), reported to General Hodge in Korea.


These were days and weeks to break a career officer’s heart. The United States Army, which had been the most powerful in the world, did not melt away in an orderly fashion. It disintegrated into a disorganized mob, clamoring to go home.


Fortunately for Jones, the Jap soldiers in Korea waiting to be sent home were willing workers.


The Japs, now that the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was gone, were affable, smiling, professional, and entirely helpful. Jones put them to work.


Eventually, though, all the Japs had to be repatriated. They took with them, when they left, every military officer, every professional man, every engineer, bank teller, and executive in the Pusan area. They left behind a hell of a mess.

Like most Americans, Colonel Jones was not prepared to take Chosun. The appalling poverty, the dust, dirt, filth, and eternal clamor of Pusan repelled any man accustomed to the West. Orphan children, with running sores, lay in the streets. Society, with the iron Japanese hand gone, was in dissolution. Money was worthless, since the Japanese had printed billions of yen prior to the surrender and passed it out to all who wanted it. Almost all responsible Koreans, particularly the educated were — rightly — tarred with the collaborationist brush.


He never got used to the stink. Inside the city, the odors were of decaying fish, woodsmoke, garbage, and unwashed humanity. Outside, the fresh air was worse. Koreans, like most Orientals, use human fertilizer. Their fields and paddies, their whole country smells somewhat like the bathroom of a fraternity house on Sunday morning.


Clothing washed in their rivers turns a sickly brown.


In Korea, there were no trained administrators for either government or business, regardless of their politics.


As an engineer, he became responsible for fire fighting in Pusan, and he noticed a great number of fires were breaking out. He asked a Korean fireman about this.

“Oh, it is the different factions, setting each other’s houses afire,” the Korean answered cheerfully.

He soon learned to use Korean guards for U.S. military stores. The Koreans were desperately poor, and would steal anything, even if nailed down — nails had commercial value — but American sentries would not willingly shoot down women and boys carrying off gas cans and water buckets. Not after they had killed two or three, anyway — they lost all heart for it. But Korean guards would shoot or beat hell out of the thieves, if they caught them.


The summers were hot and dusty, or hot and rainy, with hundred-degree temperatures. The winters were Siberian. The country literally stank, except for the few months during which the ground stayed frozen.

Happy Secession Day!

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

I almost forgot to wish everyone a happy Secession Day:

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

More than a million Koreans fled their homeland when the Japanese took over, T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War:

One refugee in the States, a Dr. Syngman Rhee, embarrassed the government. He had entered on an old Korean passport at the time of the takeover, and now in 1919 he requested a visa to visit the League of Nations, to make a protest over the treatment of his countrymen. Washington emphatically told him no, since he had no valid Japanese passport, and Washington did not want to offend its late ally, Japan. Generously, however, since Dr. Rhee had influential friends, he was allowed to remain in the United States.

In 1919, and later, the Japanese rulers of Chosun never quite dared expel the Western missionaries, probably not realizing in how little repute these emissaries were held in the Western capitals. For years the only contact the Korean people had with outside was through these missionaries. In Chosun, no anti-Western bias ever developed.

Koreans had learned the hard way that imperialism comes in many forms, and it can be black or brown or yellow, as well as white. Koreans would never afterward feel any sentimental racial cohesiveness with the rest of Asia. The Japanese occupation and policy of extirpation took care of that.

It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains, in This Kind of War, why there were multiple Korean wars before the Korean War:

Korea, or Chosun, is a peninsula, 575 miles in length, averaging 150 miles across. It resembles in outline the state of Florida, though bigger. Along its eastern coast a giant chain of mountains thrusts violently upward; the west coast is flat and muddy, marked by estuaries and indentations. Inland the country is a series of hills, broad valleys, lowlands, and terraced rice paddies. Its rivers run south and west, and they are broad and deep.

It is a country of hills and valleys, and few roads. Most of Korea is, and always has been, remote from the world.

Chosun is a poor country, exporting only a little rice. But its population density is exceeded in Asia only by parts of India.


Neither China, nor Russia, nor whatever power is dominant in the Islands of the Rising Sun, dares ignore Korea. It is, has been, and will always be either a bridge to the Asian continent, or a stepping-stone to the islands, depending on where power is ascendant.


Manchuria is the richest area in all East Asia, with iron ores, coal, water power, food, and timber, and whoever owns Manchuria, to be secure, must also own Chosun.


It is the nature of peoples to see the ancient foes, and to ignore those newly arising. Japan defeated Russia with the moral and material aid of Great Britain and America, who had watched the Russian advance to the Pacific with unconcealed dread. Japan, with far greater ambitions than the rotting Empire of the Bear had ever entertained, now was the dominant power in East Asia, and America and Britain applauded.

They did not sense that, in time, Japan would overthrow the old order completely.

The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Time had said the Republic of Korea Army was the best outside the States, and what Time printed was not only true, but official. Only it wasn’t true, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains in This Kind of War:

The ROK’s had eight divisions. Except those fighting guerrillas in the South, they were armed with American M-1 rifles. The guerrilla fighters had to make do with old Jap Model 99’s. The ROK’s had machine guns, of course, and some mortars, mostly small. They had five battalions of field artillery to back up the infantry divisions, all with the old, short-range Model M-3 105mm howitzer, which the United States had junked.


The best damn army outside the United States had no tanks, no medium artillery, no 4.2-inch mortars, no recoilless rifles. They had no spare parts for their transport. They had not even one combat aircraft.

They didn’t have any of those things because the American Embassy didn’t want them to have them.


Ambassador John J. Muccio had been instructed to take no chances of the South Koreans attacking the Communists to the north.


Lynn Roberts had told Time that while the troops were excellent, the Korean officers’ corps was not so hot. After all, in only eleven months staffs and commanders could not be made and trained, starting from scratch. Lynn Roberts, a professional soldier, also knew that soldiers are only as good as their officers make them. But that kind of attitude sounded un-American and was not popular in Washington, and there was no point in playing it up.

Having no tanks is one thing. Having no anti-tank weapons is another.

He must choose a cause greater than himself

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Glenn Garvin looks at the Media’s role in concealing Stalin’s evils, as exposed in Mr. Jones:

At the forefront of Mr. Jones are two reporters. One, Gareth Jones (British television actor James Norton), an ambitious rookie freelancer for what was then called the Manchester Guardian, is so inexperienced he forgot to bring his typewriter on the trip. The other, Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, Wormwood), The New York Times‘ Moscow bureau chief, is fresh off a Pulitzer prize for his fawning coverage of Stalin’s command-and-control economic policies.

Jones has been told Duranty is the man to see to arrange an interview with Stalin. He explains what he wants to ask: “So how are the Soviets suddenly on a spending spree? Who’s providing the finance?” Duranty is noncommittal about the interview, but does have an answer about where the money is coming from: agricultural exports. “Grain is Stalin’s gold.” He also offers some bad news — a German reporter who’s a friend of Jones and had promised to show him around Moscow has been murdered, apparently during a mugging — almost unknown in the stringently locked-down Moscow of the 1930s, particularly in the area where journalists and other necessary foreign evils lived.

Nosing around while he waits to see what will happen with his Stalin interview, Jones learns that his German friend thought something fishy was going on in the Ukraine, the Soviet Union’s breadbasket region, which had recently been placed off-limits to foreigners, and was planning to sneak in. Jones decides to do the same, arranging a tour of a German-built factory on the other side of the Ukraine from Moscow, then ditching his Soviet minder to spend a couple of days wandering alone on foot.

Even before he leaves the train, Jones has clues that something has gone deeply wrong. When he offers to buy an overcoat from a Ukrainian passenger, the man begs to be paid in bread rather than currency. When Jones pitches a gnawed apple core into a wastebasket, another man dives into the trash to retrieve it.

But nothing can prepare him for what he sees when he gets off: Stiffened corpses scattered around the train station. Corpses in empty, deserted farmhouses. Corpses stacked on carts moving along village streets. Corpses being chewed on by starving children, who afterward trill a mournful ballad: “Hunger and cold are in our house, nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep and our neighbor has lost his mind and eaten his children… .”

Jones is eventually picked up by Soviet security forces and returned to Moscow, where he’s warned never to tell anybody what he’s seen. The “or else” will be the life imprisonment of half-a-dozen British phone company engineers who’ve been arrested on trumped-up spying charges. As he prepares to leave, he’s ostracized by other reporters, including the sneering Duranty. “There comes a time in every man’s life when he must choose a cause greater than himself,” Duranty lectures him with, yes, moral clarity.

Back in London, Jones discovers Duranty has filed a New York Times story dismissing him as a credulous amateur. There may be a bit of hunger in the Ukraine, Duranty writes, but absolutely no famine. And anyway, what if there was? “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”


The OGPU, as the KGB was called in the early 1930s, didn’t murder reporters who got off their leashes; it simply expelled them, forcing them to leave their posh Moscow habitat for the mean streets of the Depression back home. (The name of the murdered-reporter character, Paul Kleb, suggests he was intended as an homage to Russian-American journalist Paul Klebnikov, a Forbes staffer who was gunned down in Moscow in 2004).

Jones didn’t pull any James Bond razzmatazz to reach the Ukraine; he simply bought a ticket to Kharkov, a city much further down the line, and got off early. He wasn’t arrested and he wasn’t threatened; he finished his reporting trip and didn’t say anything about what he’d seen until he got back to London. None of this contradicts Mr. Jones’ central thesis — that the mainstream pack of foreign correspondents in Moscow in the 1930s were a pack of mewling Stalinist whores, and that the novice Jones was a better journalist and a braver man than any of them — but it’s an unnecessary distraction.

If anything, though, Mr. Jones’ depiction of the vicious way he was treated by his colleagues is understated. The first person to reveal the mainstream journalism cabal against Jones was Eugene Lyons, the Moscow correspondent for the United Press wire service at the time Jones was there. In his 1937 book Assignment in Utopia, Lyons recounts how after Jones began writing and giving speeches about the famine, all the foreign correspondents went to a meeting with the chief Soviet censor, who ordered them to denounce the young reporter as a liar.

Lyons admits that all the correspondents knew that Jones’ stories were absolutely accurate, even though none of them had reported the famine in their own newspapers, due to “the compelling need to remain on friendly terms with the censors.” (Some of them had even discussed the details of the famine with Jones before he went on his reporting trip.) Nonetheless, Lyons wrote, they all complied, “unanimously and in almost identical formulations of equivocation. … Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstaking garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials.” After the deal was done, they broke out the vodka and partied well into the night.

Lyons may have been hyping his report a bit (though it scarcely did him any credit, either as a reporter or a human being) but the deliberate slander of Jones and his stories has subsequently been investigated and verified by several historians (including S.J. Taylor in Stalin’s Apologist, her scathing biography of Duranty; Anne Applebaum in her history of Ukrainian starvation, Red Famine; and Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin).

And Duranty (who is played with a stunningly lustrous menace by Sarsgaard) was indeed the most bloodthirsty of the bunch. The line in his story about breaking eggs to make utopian socialist omelettes is dead accurate. And it apparently became a guide post for future generations of Times reporters. Herbert Matthews, whose mistaken or mendacious — take your pick — stories on Fidel Castro helped plunge Cuba into seven decades (and counting!) of miserable tyranny, would later blithely observe of Castro’s sanguinary appetite for executions, “A revolution is not a tea party.”


In recent years, the paper has been increasingly uneasy about its old reporter, even hiring a historian to evaluate his Soviet coverage. But when the historian suggested Duranty’s Pulitzer price be revoked, the Times turned self-righteous. “The notion of airbrushing history kind of gives me the creeps,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor at the time.

I thought of that last week when the Times editorialized in favor of pulling down Confederate statues.

What Time printed was not only true, but official

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Seventy years ago, the Americans reassured their South Korean allies that the North was settling down, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains in This Kind of War:

As Saturday waned, Major General Chae Byong Duk, Deputy Commander — under Syngman Rhee — of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, was not content. For “Fat” Chae, five foot five, two hundred and fifty pounds, darling of the Seoul cocktail set, was not completely a fool.

For years the Communists north of the parallel had been making trouble in the South. They made rice raids across the border; they fomented disorder and subversion in the cities. They incited and supplied the rebel guerrillas in the southern mountains, doing everything in their power to destroy the Republic of Korea. They kept a third of Fat Chae’s Army tied down on constabulary work.

March, particularly, had been a bad month. But then, unaccountably, all activity had ceased. Fat Chae was worried.

Chae had talked to the Americans about it, but the Korean Military Advisory Group was not concerned. One officer told Chae that the Communists were becoming more sophisticated, settling down at last. The Americans seemed to feel that when Communists left you alone, it was all to the good. But Chae worried. He might be handier with a whiskey and soda than with command of the Army, but he was not completely a fool.

Chae had read Time, which three weeks before had printed a splendid article on the Korean Military Advisory Group and its work with the Korean Armed Forces. Like most people outside the United States, Chae Byong Duk knew that what Time printed was not only true, but official.

Seven reasons why police are disliked

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Randall Collins casts his sociological eye at why police are disliked and finds seven reasons:

  1. Police are used for collecting fines for municipal budgets.
  2. Police are used for enforcing unpopular regulations.
  3. Police dislike defiance.
  4. Police dislike property destruction.
  5. Adrenaline overload and forward-panic attacks on unresisting targets.
  6. Police training for extreme situations.
  7. Racism among police.

You can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

What happens to America’s big blue cities, Steve Sailer asks, when The Establishment switches sides from the cops to the blacks?

Our elites appear intent on trying that experiment once again, although we have been through a couple of highly relevant historical examples that they ought to recall first.

Because blacks, despite making up only about one-eighth of the population, have accounted for the majority of homicide offenders in recent decades, overall long-term murder rates tend to be driven by the authorities’ attitudes toward African-Americans: indulgent or hardheaded?

Thus, the first Black Lives Matter era (2014–2016) saw the total number of homicides in the U.S. grow a record-setting 23 percent in two years. Moreover, the most spectacular exacerbations of homicide rates happened precisely where BLM won its most famous political victories over the police, such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and Milwaukee. By this point, Black Lives Matter has gotten more incremental blacks murdered than all the lynchings in American history.

This “Ferguson Effect,” named after the celebrated August 2014 riots, was repeatedly denied by the media, until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point they stopped talking about it.

Voters at the national level didn’t allow the White House to continue to worsen homicide. Murders fell 7 percent from 2016 to 2018 under Trump.

And the earlier period in which the influential sided with blacks over cops, from the end of the Kennedy Era to the end of the Carter Era, saw the murder rate double nationally, destroying many American cities.

Most notoriously, in New York City murders grew sharply in the early 1960s, from 390 in 1959 to 634 in 1965, before exploding under the new liberal Republican mayor John Lindsay, reaching 1,691 in 1972.

Lindsay, a handsome WASP, had sided with blacks against the city’s Irish policemen and Jewish school administrators.

As usual, the cops responded by slowing down on the job: the retreat to the doughnut shop. By one estimate, NYPD cops got down to doing about two hours of policing per eight-hour shift. After all, you can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while eating.

White residents fled many neighborhoods, such as the once-tranquil Bronx (where Ogden Nash had complained in 1930 about the lack of excitement with the couplet “The Bronx?/No, thonks!”), which saw reported burglaries increase by 1,559 percent from 1960 to 1969. In turn, the white population of the Bronx fell nearly 50 percent between the 1970 and 1980 Censuses.

Today, the media portrays those whites who fled as the Bad Guys, far worse than the criminals who preyed on them: The whites were guilty of the racial felony of abandoning blacks and Puerto Ricans to the ravages of segregation. In the past, however, media coverage was less hateful and bigoted in part because journalists were often related to former outer-borough whites. But today fewer and fewer dare speak up about what really happened to white residents of the cities after the Civil Rights Era unleashed liberalism on them.

This was amateur totalitarianism

Friday, June 12th, 2020

If you think cultural revolution isn’t bad enough, Emil O W Kirkegaard (@KirkegaardEmil) suggests you read Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. John Derbyshire shares his own review:

The Khmer Rouge, a peasant movement led by utopian leftists educated in postwar Paris, took over the country and began shoveling her population around like wet concrete, with the aim of eliminating forever such bourgeois blights as private property, money, love, education, and religion.

The Khmer Rouge practiced a collective style of leadership, but from 1968 onwards a middle-aged cadre named Saloth Sar emerged as first among equals. In 1970 he changed his name to Pol Pot, for reasons he never explained. It is as Pol Pot that he is known to history; and it is under this name that he is commonly listed with the other ideologically driven gangster-despots — Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Kim, and Castro — who brought so much destruction and misery to the world in the 20th century.

Like most communist leaders, Pol Pot came from a well-off family. His sister became a concubine of Cambodia’s King Norodom, and was at the king’s bedside when he died. Cambodia was at that time a French colony, and Pol went to Paris for education as a young man, arriving in the city on October 1, 1949 — the precise day on which Mao Tse-tung declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Pol fell in with a group of other young Cambodians, all receptive to the rampant leftism of that time and place. This was the Paris of Jean-Paul Sartre and his circle, the France in which 25 percent of the electorate regularly voted for the brutishly Stalinist French Communist Party.

Pol seems not to have been an intellectual convert to Marxism. In fact, he seems not to have been very intellectual at all, and probably never read the communist classics. The Cambodia from which these young men came did not at all resemble the industrialized Europe that had brought forth Marx and Lenin. It was a purely agricultural nation in which the major institutions were monarchy and priesthood. The revolution that got these young men’s attention was not the Russian, nor even the Chinese one, but the French. Pol’s revolutionary heroes were not Marx and Lenin, but Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Robespierre.

Returning to Cambodia, Pol and his friends soon fell foul of the deeply unlovely government of the young Prince Sihanouk and were obliged to take to the maquis. This was not difficult to do in Cambodia, which had few roads or railways and tens of thousands of square miles of impenetrable forest. As the terrible great-power game of the 1960s played out in southeast Asia, with Russia, China, the USA and Vietnam all maneuvering for advantage, Sihanouk performed a brilliant balancing act for a while, but fell off the high wire in 1970 when his army staged a coup while he was in Moscow. Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet Prime Minister, broke the news to him as they were driving to the airport for the Prince to catch a plane to Beijing.

With Zhou Enlai’s support, Sihanouk threw in his lot with the Khmer Rouge, thereby adding monarchical and patriotic glamor to Pol Pot’s resistance movement, which was already at war with the coup regime headed by Lon Nol. A united-front party and a government-in-exile were formed, known by their French acronyms as, respectively, FUNK and GRUNC. Full-scale civil war broke out, ending with the Khmer Rouge victory of 1975 and the subsequent four-year reign of horror. Pol Pot’s government was ousted by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979, followed by a ten-year occupation. Popular support for the Khmer Rouge, even as a patriotic resistance movement, rapidly dwindled to nothing. Pol Pot died of natural causes, in the jungle, in April 1998. Cambodia is now a wrecked beggar-nation under the crude and corrupt but non-totalitarian rule of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge foot soldier.

What the reader of a Pol Pot biography mainly wants to know is whether the egregious savagery of Cambodian communism had its origins, or some of them, in the personality of the leader. On Philip Short’s account, the answer seems to be that it did not. Pol was in any case never a supreme leader in the classic totalitarian style. The principle of collective leadership was always maintained. Pol seems not to have possessed the spirit of single-minded ruthlessness towards old comrades that characterized those other despots and left them alone at the summit of power. With the exception of the unfortunate So Phim, nobody at the highest levels of the party was purged.

The overriding impression Philip Short gives of Pol, his comrades, and his government, is in fact one of slovenly incompetence. This was the case even under the apparent rigidities of the 1975-79 period of total power. The Vietnamese invasion, for example, could have been avoided by some adroit diplomacy. The well-documented horrors of the forced evacuations, the interrogations, the massacres, were all counter-productive, even by the Khmer Rouge’s own bleak standards. This was amateur totalitarianism.

C-SPAN2′s Book Tv covered the book when it came out years ago:

The era of criminalized public drunkenness was over

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Drinking in public wasn’t a crime until rather recently:

In 1963, it was unlikely that you would have been arrested for drinking in public — but you could have been arrested for being a “common drunkard.”

Most states and municipalities had laws on the books that made it illegal to be a “common drunkard” or a “vagrant,” terms used to describe those who would be known today as alcoholic and homeless, respectively. The police arrested hundreds of thousands of people every year for violating these so-called vagrancy and public drunkenness laws, which were at the heart of the police’s mission to control urban social disorder. Such laws defined life on Skid Row: Some perennially homeless, alcoholic men spent years of their lives in jail, in 30-day increments, on charges of public drunkenness and vagrancy.

But in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, legal scholars started to criticize how these laws were enforced, using arguments that would be familiar to anyone following the contemporary debate around drug decriminalization. Critics argued that arresting, charging and incarcerating “drunkards” wasted scarce police and court resources; that the laws were enforced more stringently against poor black people than against affluent white people; and that “public drunkenness” was a moral and medical issue better addressed in churches and hospitals than jails and courtrooms.

In short, they called for reform. The Supreme Court heeded that call in 1964, in its landmark decision Robinson v. California. The immediate effect of the decision was to strike down a California statute classifying drug addiction as a crime. But it also rang the death knell for all “status offenses,” vagrancy chief among them.

In a later decision, the Supreme Court chose not to strike down public drunkenness laws as unconstitutional. The court found that such laws prohibited the act of “appearing in public while drunk,” rather than “being an alcoholic.”

But the writing was on the wall. Vaguely defined status offenses like public drunkenness and vagrancy were constitutionally unsound and, in the long run, unenforceable.

Further pressure to overturn public drunkenness laws came from the executive and legislative branches. Two Presidential Commissions on Crime described public drunkenness laws as ineffective deterrents to repeat offenders and a burden on the criminal justice system. They strongly recommended that public drunkenness be decriminalized. And in 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Alcoholism Treatment Act, which called on states to decriminalize public drunkenness and shift their handling of public inebriates to the health system. Thirty-five states adopted it, and most of the others passed similar laws.

By the end of the ‘70s, arrests for public drunkenness had dropped by half nationwide. (They would continue to fall, almost unabated, until the present.) The era of criminalized public drunkenness was over, after 350 years. Doctors and advocates for the rights of the homeless and alcoholics started to breathe easier.

Not everyone was happy, though. Entrenched business interests and well-to-do citizens, and their allies in state and local legislatures, still wanted the police to take undesirable homeless and alcoholic people off the streets. But as public drunkenness and vagrancy were no longer criminal acts, the police had no tools at their disposal.

Enter the ban on public drinking.


They leave no room for ambiguity or subjectivity. You either are violating the law, or you aren’t.

Trying to pretend that somehow the 20th century is still amongst us

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I mentioned recently that I somehow managed to go this whole time without reading a single Tom Clancy novel — or watching a single movie adaptation, except for The Hunt for Red October — and only just listened to the audiobook version of Patriot Games, which was originally published in 1987.

I’ve continued working through the Jack Ryan UniverseThe Cardinal of the Kremlin, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears — and a point Clancy keeps making is how much the intelligence community relies on the mainstream media for information, especially cable news, which was new and exciting at the time.

When Russ Roberts interviewed Martin Gurri on a recent EconTalk, I was naturally interested, since Arnold Kling has been mentioning Gurri regularly, but I wasn’t expecting a connection to Tom Clancy. Then Roberts introduced Gurri:

Today is February 20th, 2020, and my guest is author Martin Gurri. He is a former CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] analyst and the author of The Revolt of the Public. Martin, welcome to EconTalk.

Gurri explains his position:

Well, as you say, I was an analyst in CIA. I probably had the least glamorous job there. I didn’t have my 00 [Double-O] license to kill or the beautiful girls. I was an analyst of global media, and for the earliest part of my career, that was very straightforward. There was a trickle of open information and every country had its equivalent of the New York Times, a source that set the agenda. So, if the president wanted to know how his policies were playing in France, you went to Le Monde or you went to Le Figaro. Just, literally, two newspapers.

Then things went haywire: just the world turned upside down. A digital earthquake epicenter, say, somewhere between Mountain View and Palo Alto, generated this tsunami of information that just swept over the world.

And, ‘tsunami,’ I think is a good word. Numbers can be boring, but sometimes they can be illustrative. Some very clever people from Berkeley tried to measure how the information of the world had developed, and they came up with the fact that in the year 2001, as you just tip into this era, that year produced double the amount of information of all previous human history going back to the cave paintings and the dawn of culture.

So, 2002 doubled 2001. So, if you chart that you do get something that looks like a gigantic wave; and I call it a tsunami. Now, for those of us who worked in CIA, that was like, ‘Now what the heck do we do with this enormous amount of information? Where do we get our stuff?’ But, what really mattered was the effect of the information in different nations of the world. We could see, as the tsunami swept across the world at different speeds in different countries, tremendously increased levels of social and political turbulence. And, the question was why? So, that was the seed of the book.

After I left government, the question that haunted me was the one that my CIA masters always asked, which was, like, ‘So, what? Okay, so the people get–they start to write bad things about government in Egypt. So what? What are they going to do when the cops come? Hit them with their laptops?’ That was an internal CIA joke: Are they going to hit them with their laptops?


2011 is a year I call the Phase Change Year, where it really showed the effect of this tide of information could affect power. And you had, of course, the Arab Spring in the Middle East, probably misnamed. You had the Indignados in Spain. You had a revolt called the 10 People Revolt or Social Justice Revolt in Israel. You had the Occupiers here in the United States. And, these all had similar origin. So the question, now, was what was going on? What caused these eruptions from below?

And, to my thinking, it has to do with the kinds of institutions that we have inherited from the 20th century, from the industrial age. They’re all–how many people are aware of Frederick Taylor? He’s sort of a forgotten figure in history. But he was sort of the prophet of industrialism and scientific management. And, if you read his writings, everything happens from the top down: the top manager figures everything is going to happen, all the tools that you need, and essentially what everybody, every layer below you–and there are many, many layers below you–is going to do. Everything is scripted.

Well, our institutions, which we think or tend to think were created in the 18th century by the Founders, in fact are the product of the industrial age, and of political Taylorism, in essence. And, one of the things that they required, to maintain their authority–and they had, in their day, a great deal of authority: that they believe in expertise, they believe in science–one of the things that they were–the primary foundation was a monopoly of information in their domains.

So that, if you’re in government you have a control over a certain set of government information. If you’re in politics, you and the media, you as the politicians and the media share a certain set of information that nobody else had access to in the 20th century. Nobody talked back.

And, what that tsunami has done was destroy that monopoly. In brief, it has destroyed that monopoly; and it turns out these institutions can’t seem to function without that and have lost their authority. Where, before there was a sort of instinctive reliance–the President says something at the age of JFK [John Fitzgerald Kennedy], somewhere between 70% and 80% of Americans trusted the government. Today, if you’re the President, you are instinctively distrusted: somewhere between 20% and 30% today, trust the Presidency and the Federal Government.

So, I think it has been a crisis that these institutions have lapsed into. And, I think the elites that manage and inhabit these institutions have reacted pretty badly in the sense of not really being aware of what’s happening, and trying to pretend that somehow the 20th century is still amongst us and that the internet and the web and the digital universe has never exploded around them.