Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A nervous administration

They're afraid of us.  That's what's behind their attempts to ban potent firearms etc.  They think we are as vicious as they would like to be

During the Obama Inaugural last month the administration disarmed the US Marines marching in the parade.  The Examiner reported:

“Didn’t know the Marines had to take the bolts out of their rifles for the Inaugural,” an email forwarded to Gun Rights Examiner from a United States Marine Corps source observed. “Wonder if someone can explain why [they] would be marching in the inaugural parade with no bolts in their rifles!”

The email linked to a YouTube video of the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade, embedded in this column, featuring Bravo Company Marines from the Marine Barracks Washington. Sure enough, the observation in the email is confirmed by watching the video, with screen shots provided in the photo and slide show accompanying this article.

This prompted an internet search to see if others had also noticed, and the Blur-Brain blog had.

“The bolts have been removed from the rifles rendering them unable to fire a round,” the post stated. “Apparently Obama’s Secret Service doesn’t trust the USMC. Simply searching each guy to make sure he didn’t have a live round hidden on him wasn’t enough, they had to make sure the guns were inoperable.

Wondering if this may be an inauguration policy of long standing that transcends administrations, Gun Rights Examiner made a cursory search and found something even more curious. In the 2009 Inaugural Parade, the United States Navy marched with rifles that had not been so disabled

It’s not the first time the Obama Administration disarmed US Marines at an event.

In March 2012, US Marines were told to leave their weapons outside the tent during Leon Panetta’s speech in Afghanistan.



Debunking some more Leftist history

One hundred years ago, a great and enduring myth was born. Muckraking novelist Upton Sinclair wrote a novel entitled The Jungle—a tale of greed and abuse that still reverberates as a case against a free economy. Sinclair’s “jungle” was unregulated enterprise; his example was the meat-packing industry; his purpose was government regulation. The culmination of his work was the passage in 1906 of the Meat Inspection Act, enshrined in history, or at least in history books, as a sacred cow (excuse the pun) of the interventionist state.

A century later, American schoolchildren are still being taught a simplistic and romanticized version of this history. For many young people, The Jungle is required reading in high-school classes, where they are led to believe that unscrupulous capitalists were routinely tainting our meat, and that moral crusader Upton Sinclair rallied the public and forced government to shift from pusillanimous bystander to heroic do-gooder, valiantly disciplining the marketplace to protect its millions of victims.

But this is a triumph of myth over reality, of ulterior motives over good intentions. Reading The Jungle and assuming it’s a credible news source is like watching The Blair Witch Project because you think it’s a documentary.

Given the book’s favorable publicity, it’s not surprising that it has duped a lot of people. Ironically, Sinclair himself, as a founder of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in 1905, was personally suckered by more than a few intellectual charlatans of his day. One of them was fellow “investigative journalist” Lincoln Steffens, best known for returning from the Soviet Union in 1921 and saying, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

In any event, there is much about The Jungle that Americans just don’t learn from conventional history texts.

The Jungle was, first and foremost, a novel. As is indicated by the fact that the book originally appeared as a serialization in the socialist journal “Appeal to Reason,” it was intended to be a polemic—a diatribe, if you will—not a well-researched and dispassionate documentary. Sinclair relied heavily both on his own imagination and on the hearsay of others. He did not even pretend that he had actually witnessed the horrendous conditions he ascribed to Chicago packinghouses, nor to have verified them, nor to have derived them from any official records.

Sinclair hoped the book would ignite a powerful socialist movement on behalf of America’s workers. The public’s attention focused instead on his fewer than a dozen pages of supposed descriptions of unsanitary conditions in the meat-packing plants. “I aimed at the public’s heart,” he later wrote, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

Though his novelized and sensational accusations prompted congressional investigations of the industry, the investigators themselves expressed skepticism about Sinclair’s integrity and credibility as a source of information. In July 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt stated his opinion of Sinclair in a letter to journalist William Allen White: “I have an utter contempt for him. He is hysterical, unbalanced, and untruthful. Three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods. For some of the remainder there was only a basis of truth.”

Sinclair’s fellow writer and philosophical intimate, Jack London, wrote this announcement of The Jungle, a promo that was approved by Sinclair himself:

"Dear Comrades: . . . The book we have been waiting for these many years! It will open countless ears that have been deaf to Socialism. It will make thousands of converts to our cause. It depicts what our country really is, the home of oppression and injustice, a nightmare of misery, an inferno of suffering, a human hell, a jungle of wild beasts."

And take notice and remember, comrades, this book is straight proletarian. It is written by an intellectual proletarian, for the proletarian. It is to be published by a proletarian publishing house. It is to be read by the proletariat. What “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” did for the black slaves “The Jungle” has a large chance to do for the white slaves of today.

The fictitious characters of Sinclair’s novel tell of men falling into tanks in meat-packing plants and being ground up with animal parts, then made into “Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard.” Historian Stewart H. Holbrook writes, “The grunts, the groans, the agonized squeals of animals being butchered, the rivers of blood, the steaming masses of intestines, the various stenches . . . were displayed along with the corruption of government inspectors” and, of course, the callous greed of the ruthless packers.

Most Americans would be surprised to know that government meat inspection did not begin in 1906. The inspectors Holbrook cites as being mentioned in Sinclair’s book were among hundreds employed by federal, state, and local governments for more than a decade. Indeed, Congressman E. D. Crumpacker of Indiana noted in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee in June 1906 that not even one of those officials “ever registered any complaint or [gave] any public information with respect to the manner of the slaughtering or preparation of meat or food products.”

To Crumpacker and other contemporary skeptics, “Either the Government officials in Chicago [were] woefully derelict in their duty, or the situation over there [had been] outrageously overstated to the country.” If the packing plants were as bad as alleged in The Jungle, surely the government inspectors who never said so must be judged as guilty of neglect as the packers were of abuse.

Some 2 million visitors came to tour the stockyards and packinghouses of Chicago every year. Thousands of people worked in both. Why did it take a novel, written by an anticapitalist ideologue who spent but a few weeks in the city, to unveil the real conditions to the American public?

All the big Chicago packers combined accounted for less than 50% of the meat products produced in the United States, but few if any charges were ever made against the sanitary conditions of the packinghouses of other cities. If the Chicago packers were guilty of anything like the terribly unsanitary conditions suggested by Sinclair, wouldn’t they be foolishly exposing themselves to devastating losses of market share?

In this connection, historians with an ideological axe to grind against the market usually ignore an authoritative 1906 report of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Husbandry. Its investigators provided a point-by-point refutation of the worst of Sinclair’s allegations, some of which they labeled as “willful and deliberate misrepresentations of fact,” “atrocious exaggeration,” and “not at all characteristic.”

Instead, some of these same historians dwell on the Neill-Reynolds Report of the same year because it at least tentatively supported Sinclair. It turns out that neither Neill nor Reynolds had any experience in the meat-packing business and spent a grand total of two and a half weeks in the spring of 1906 investigating and preparing what turned out to be a carelessly written report with predetermined conclusions. Gabriel Kolko, a socialist but nonetheless a historian with a respect for facts, dismisses Sinclair as a propagandist and assails Neill and Reynolds as “two inexperienced Washington bureaucrats who freely admitted they knew nothing” of the meat-packing process. Their own subsequent testimony revealed that they had gone to Chicago with the intention of finding fault with industry practices so as to get a new inspection law passed.

According to the popular myth, there were no government inspectors before Congress acted in response to The Jungle, and the greedy meat packers fought federal inspection all the way. The truth is that not only did government inspection exist, but meat packers themselves supported it and were in the forefront of the effort to extend it so as to ensnare their smaller, unregulated competitors.

When the sensational accusations of The Jungle became worldwide news, foreign purchases of American meat were cut in half and the meat packers looked for new regulations to give their markets a calming sense of security. The only congressional hearings on what ultimately became the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 were held by Congressman James Wadsworth’s Agriculture Committee between June 6 and 11. A careful reading of the deliberations of the Wadsworth committee and the subsequent floor debate leads inexorably to one conclusion: knowing that a new law would allay public fears fanned by The Jungle, bring smaller rivals under controls, and put a newly laundered government seal of approval on their products, the major meat packers strongly endorsed the proposed act and only quibbled over who should pay for it.

In the end, Americans got a new federal meat inspection law, the big packers got the taxpayers to pick up the entire $3 million price tag for its implementation, as well as new regulations on the competition, and another myth entered the annals of anti-market dogma.

To his credit, Sinclair actually opposed the law because he saw it for what it really was—a boon for the big meat packers. He had been a fool and a sucker who ended up being used by the very industry he hated. But then, there may not have been an industry that he didn’t hate.

Myths survive their makers. What you’ve just read about Sinclair and his myth is not at all “politically correct.” But defending the market from historical attack begins with explaining what really happened in our history. Those who persist in the shallow claim that The Jungle stands as a compelling indictment of the market should take a look at the history surrounding this honored novel. Upon inspection, there seems to be an unpleasant odor hovering over it.



Boston's commuters could learn something from Tokyo's

by Jeff Jacoby

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is the nation's oldest subway system, with traditions so enduring that the memory of Boston commuters runneth not to the contrary.

Like campaigns urging passengers not to be such thoughtless jerks.

Last week the MBTA rolled out the latest such campaign — a "Courtesy Critters" advertising blitz starring animals in the role of etiquette instructors. The 2,400 posters going up on trains and buses feature pigs reminding riders not to "hog a seat," horses telling them not to "cause a stampede," and a trio of elephants imploring: "Don't spray your germs." Another shows a flock of parrots in a subway car. "Don't squawk on the phone," it admonishes T users. "We hate to clip your wings, but not everyone wants to hear your conversation."

Sound familiar? It was only 15 months ago that the T launched a campaign to go after seat hogs, open-mouth sneezers, and cell-phone blabbers with mock headlines reporting instances of polite behavior as if they were big news. "Man Gives Up Seat for Pregnant Woman!" announced one. Marveled another: "Couple Takes Own Trash from Blue Line Train!"

A year before that, the MBTA had enlisted Boston Celtics star Paul "The Truth" Pierce to record announcements chiding passengers to show common courtesy. "When you see someone who is elderly, disabled, or pregnant, don't just sit there — offer them your seat," Pierce urged. "Courtesy counts, and that's the truth!" Earlier still had been the attempt to encourage more thoughtful behavior by handing out Dunkin' Donuts gift cards to passengers who gave up their seats to the elderly or performed other acts of kindness.

The bad manners of Boston commuters is an old story (the Boston Elevated Railway was distributing a pamphlet on courtesy back in 1912), so I'm probably not going out on a limb by predicting that the new campaign isn't going to make much of a difference. But I have been wondering what Mr. Oka would make of it.

I met Mr. Oka, who is in his 80s and walks slowly with a cane, during a visit to Japan in January. He had arranged to show me some historical sites in Tokyo, and we used the city's vast subway network to travel distances too far to cover on foot. Several times, as we boarded a crowded train, I pressed him to take one of the few available seats. Invariably he refused, insisting that I take the seat.

"You are a visitor and my guest," he told me. "It wouldn't be right for me to sit while you stand."

"But, Oka-san, you are much older than I am and you have difficulty walking," I remonstrated. (Indeed, before we met in person he had warned me by e-mail that he was elderly and infirm.) "It would be disrespectful for me to take a seat and leave you without one."

I remonstrated in vain. I tried a religious argument, telling him that the Bible enjoins believers to "stand up in the presence of the aged and show respect for the elderly" as a sign of reverence for God. Mr. Oka, a nominal Buddhist, wasn't persuaded. On one train we actually had this debate in front of a row of seats designated for senior citizens — there was even a little sign depicting someone with a cane. Still he wouldn't sit, so strong was his notion of what proper manners required.

A Japan Railway staff member bows in front of passengers to apologize for a train delay at the Saitama City station in Tokyo.

Of course not every strap-hanger in Tokyo takes politeness quite so far. But based on my observations, courtesy and consideration for others are ingrained there to a degree that Green Line regulars would find astonishing. In a 10-day span, I must have boarded a subway, bus, or commuter train at least 50 times. Cellphones were ubiquitous, yet I never heard a ringtone — and only once did I see someone violate the taboo against talking on a cell in a public vehicle. Nor did I see passengers sprawl across three seats or leave sandwich wrappers and coffee cups in their wake. And though the rush-hour crowds in some stations were enormous, they managed to avoid the wrestling matches caused when riders insist on shoving their way onto a train before departing passengers can get off.

MBTA officials regularly observe that courtesy can't be compelled, only suggested. "It's unfortunate," Transit Police Superintendent Joseph O'Connor said last year, "but there is no mechanism to force people to have good manners." Yet there is such a mechanism, one that operates with striking effectiveness in the world's busiest subway system: strong social pressure. Japanese commuters expect each other to be polite, mindful, and quiet. As a result, Japanese commuters mostly are polite, mindful, and quiet.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc



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