Re: Stalin?! He Wasn't Even Alive Then.

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To be fair, I'm not sure Perriello has any choice politically, but it still makes me cranky.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:20 PM
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I have no idea who my Congressperson is. DeLay et al reapportioned my district into safe teabagger territory and I no longer pay attention.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:22 PM
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Maybe it's the Pole in me, but I think they're right to want the bust removed. One can honor the contribution of the Soviet Union without singling out someone who is right up their in the front ranks of the 'history's greatest monster' competition.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:33 PM
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I think I'm with tkm. Absent some sort of very complicated curatorial intervention, something about the complex nature of history and leadership during wartime, I can't imagine why a bust of Stalin should stand anywhere in the world, let alone in Virginia. But I'm also not willing to think about this very much, so I could be entirely wrong. As for my congressman, he's nowhere near as good as he should be, given how safely Democratic his district is.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:36 PM
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Well. Stanley, it seems to me that putting a bust of Stalin up at a D-Day memorial is pretty weird, since the Russians weren't involved in that operation. I got nothing past that because I don't understand the context the bust is supposed to be set against.

So I'm not sure Perriello did anything dumb.

Preview says I agree with ari. OK then.

m, my (VA) congressman is just a timeserver


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:37 PM
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Mine (a Democrat) was a sponsor in the House of Lieberman;s Terrorist Expatriation Act.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:38 PM
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some sort of very complicated curatorial intervention

Would it have to be so complicated? A plaque or explanatory graphic thing, explaining the bad shit, too?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:39 PM
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7: I'm just not sure I understand the relevance, as max said, since Stalin, though he was alive then, didn't have a lot to do with d-day. I mean, they could also put up a bust of Ghandi in the d-day exhibit, and that would probably be somewhat less controversial, but I wouldn't really get the connection there either.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:44 PM
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putting a bust of Stalin up at a D-Day memorial is pretty weird, since the Russians weren't involved in that operation.

This point might actually sway me. The tenor of the complaints leading up to the recent news has been of such an annoying, clutched-pearls, "direction our country is headed!" nature, that I may be taking the digging-my-heels-in-out-annoyance position. Which, on reflection, could be a bit petulant on my part. I'm going to be cranky, though. That much I can remain.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:46 PM
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I will concede, however, that "to put him on a pedestal, I think, is this worst thing that ever happened in this county" is probably the most asinine thing I've read all month, even with the caveat about the "lost lives of Bedford soldiers killed in the Normandy invasion". (Actually, the caveat arguably makes the quote more asinine, not less.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:47 PM
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If you're willing to have a bust of Churchill I think you should have to be prepared to have a bust of Stalin, but if you don't have any other busts it is just kind of weird.

("Stalin is probably the most hated person of the 20th century," Schwartz said. "This bust has no place at the memorial." Er, what?)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:47 PM
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11.1: But, Churchill had a great deal more to do with D-Day than Stalin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:51 PM
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This isn't a museum devoted to the history of WWII, it's a memorial. There's no good reason to honor Stalin, as opposed to explaining his quite important part in the war. But then again, Hitler played a pretty key role as well, and any such museum would include an image of him, memorials not so much. But unlike Max and Brock, I disagree on the relevance to D-Day since in the US it often serves as shorthand for WWII in Europe.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:52 PM
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Stalin does cut a dashing figure in public art. It's the hair, you know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:52 PM
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The link in 14 is a trick.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:53 PM
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9: I can definitely see that, and see it being annoying. I mean, whatever the relevance, I'm guessing the bust is intended to depict Stalin, not in any way to honor him, and people who can't tell the difference are probably morons. Are we allowed pictorial depictions of Stalin, just nothing in three-dimensions, or are any reproductions of his likeness strictly forbidden?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:53 PM
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Are we sure we're thinking of the right Stalin? Maybe it's a statue of a different guy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:54 PM
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Yeah, but on the other hand if there hadn't been a bunch of Soviet troops dying on the Eastern Front then the Allies would have had a very very hard time of it. Sheer geographic proximity isn't the only important thing.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:54 PM
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15 without seeing 13--I thought this was some sort of museum exhibit. If it's a memorial, then yeah, down with Stalin.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:55 PM
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You're seriously arguing that Churchill's evils are comparable to Stalin's?. Stalin up through 1920, ok, but he had a long and productive life after the Civil War.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:55 PM
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9: The tenor of the complaints leading up to the recent news has been of such an annoying, clutched-pearls, "direction our country is headed!" nature, that I may be taking the digging-my-heels-in-out-annoyance position.

Oh, I agree. The good people of Bedford hyperventilating about the evil Stalin bust was well, it sounded about the way these things usually sound. Ignorant and panicked. ('OMG the gays will give us all AIDS through the drinking water'... etc. etc.)

And I should correct myself a bit: the Russians wanted the Anglo-Americans to hurry up and invade France. So, in that sense, Stalin has something to do with D-Day. But I'm not seeing the need for a bust, given that the man (Stalin) was a killer on par with Hitler in the body count race.

I don't know what the curators were thinking when they added it. Unless they just were going for completeness, which I understand but would be politically unintelligent to say the least. {snork}

m, it would help a lot if someone had read the plaque on the bust at one of these things


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:58 PM
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18: Yes, but if Stalin hadn't actually allied with Hitler at one point, the whole course of WWII would have been very different. If he'd had let his generals organize things even half-assedly, many millions fewer Soviet troops would have died.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 7:59 PM
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Thinking it through some more, I think it would make it a more interesting place to visit if they had sections like, "Meanwhile on the Eastern Front...in Africa...in Italy." As it is, I gather the bust of Stalin is grouped in an area with busts of FDR and Churchill, noting these are the Allied leaders.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:02 PM
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Well, I'd argue that Churchill was, while not as bad as Stalin, at least partially responsible for the deaths of millions of Bengalis. Now, without any other busts the bust of Stalin is just weird, but if you had busts of say, de Gaulle, Churchill, & Roosevelt, I'd say a bust of Stalin wouldn't be out of place.

(I'd also say that busts aren't appropriate in general, and I'd also say that when we put up busts of leaders we tend to be honouring the country they lead more than anything else.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:05 PM
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16: You can't depict someone with a bust without also honoring them. Maybe a statue, but once the arms come off, there's a connotation of encomium.

Also, Stanley should totes chain himself to the offending object so that when the cops come to tear it down, he can say, "What is this, some kind of bust?"

['Yes, very impressive']


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:05 PM
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24: Actually it is not an obvious group of busts 9especially the last):

In addition to the busts of Stalin, Roosevelt, Truman and Churchill, the memorial features busts of Clement Attlee, deputy prime minister under Churchill; French general and leader of the Free French Forces, Charles de Gaulle; and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
>
Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:07 PM
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Also,

Meanwhile, a plaque does accompany the bust and summarizes Stalin's ruthless leadership. It concludes: "In memory of the tens of millions who died under Stalin's rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the Cold War

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:08 PM
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f you had busts of say, de Gaulle, Churchill, & Roosevelt, I'd say a bust of Stalin wouldn't be out of place.

If Wikipedia is to be trusted, it's FDR and Churchill, but the French are notably absent, which is sort of hilariously stereotypically American.

On preview, pwned-ish?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:09 PM
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Oh ho!

Stalin sculpture depicts dark side of D-Day story
Sat, August 01, 2009
News Advance
By Justin Faulconer
The hair is brushed back. The mustache thick and bushy. The eyes menacing. An infamous face from the 20th century is coming to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Richard Pumphrey, a Lynchburg College professor and artist, has recently completed a bust sculpture of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the former Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953. The reviled dictator is fourth in a series of Allied world leaders sculpted by the artist for display at the memorial because of their mutual opposition to Hitler's Germany.
Pumphrey has finished bronzed busts of Winston Churchill, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt -- all now displayed at the memorial. He said he hopes the Stalin sculpture will be installed later this year, by Veteran's Day. His next project includes Clement Attlee -- Churchill's successor -- and Chiang Kai-shek, who led China's military. Stalin stands out as the most notorious figure he said he's had to create from clay. "He was just a terrible person," said Pumphrey. "So the challenge is to embody the terror he instilled."
Though he hasn't received any criticism personally, he said the D-Day Memorial Foundation has fielded public questions over the purpose of placing the Stalin bust on site. He compared leaving Stalin out of the lineup of Allied leaders with not including Judas, the betrayer of Jesus Christ, in "The Last Supper" -- a famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci."He's part of the narrative," said Pumphrey. We may not like Stalin, but if he had not challenged Hitler on the Eastern Front, then victories on the Western Front may not have been possible."
William McIntosh, the memorial foundation's president, said the intent is not to portray Stalin as a hero, but rather as an ally who distracted German forces and played a part in the timing and unfolding of D-Day. "He's a necessary addition," said McIntosh. "He certainly was a fact of life and a major ally during the Second World War ... there's nothing about the presentation that's going to be flattering of Stalin."
Well. That makes sense then. I can see why they'd want to include it. Still a bit much though. I can see why the vets would want to leave it out.

m, sigh


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:11 PM
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Wait, where were 26-7 quoting from?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:11 PM
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Keir is right in 18. No way the Allies could have mounted D-Day if Stalin wasn't tying down 75 percent or whatever it was of Hitler's troops.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:12 PM
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30 The Roanoke Times. Apparently the French guys and Chiang Kai-shek are not up yet, but will be coming.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:14 PM
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If they have even Chiang Kai-shek that makes it different, but the whole thing seems stranger.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:15 PM
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an ally who distracted German forces

"Distracted" is a bit of an understatement.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:16 PM
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32: Holy fuck me, Atlee is not a French guy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:16 PM
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32: Ah, thanks.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:17 PM
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Clem Atlee? I mean, I like Atlee as much as the next Labour man, but surely Savage or some other Commonwealth figure deserves a go as well.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:21 PM
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Atlee is that stick that the paleolithic set used to throw spears farther, right?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:21 PM
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Or is that Attlee, not Atlee?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:23 PM
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See. The problem I have here is - if we're going to say we've got to have a bust of Stalin for completeness, why then do they not have a bust of Hitler as well, what with him being the proximate cause of all these deaths of American soldiers?

But that would seem to be going a bit overboard on the completeness thing, wouldn't it?

m, tricky


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:24 PM
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Because Stalin was on our (your) side. Like it or not, that's not something to be airbrushed out of history.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:25 PM
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You know who would hate having a bust of Stalin at that memorial?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:26 PM
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Hitler!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:27 PM
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41: In 1944, he was. In 1939, not so much.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:28 PM
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For the record, 43 was to 42 and not to be read as an endorsement.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:28 PM
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Well yes. In 1939 you weren't on our side either, but it'd still be damn churlish thing to leave FDR out of a row of busts.

(And Stalin was on the right side the 30's for a while.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:30 PM
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In 1939, the US not so much. Maybe no as "not so much" as Stalin's "not so much" but still not so much.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:30 PM
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46, 47: Yes, except that Stalin actually invaded Poland. Which was, when Germany did it just a few weeks earlier, what started the war in Europe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:32 PM
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I think Americans generally have an unfairly diminished view of the Soviet contribution to WWII. The Normandy invasion was far less significant cause for the of defeat of Nazi Germany than were the years of grueling warfare on the Eastern Front. But Americans don't hear the story of the Eastern Front, and of the sacrifices by the people of the Soviet Union. They hear about D-Day, because thats the part that American soldiers fought in, and the Soviet contribution to winning the war is treated as incidental.

So I think its perfectly reasonable that this omission be somewhat rectified by displaying the bust of the Soviet leader in a prominent American war memorial. Unfortunately, the Soviet leader happened to be Stalin, and he was a giant douchebag.

At least it gets people thinking about the issue. I think its a good way to get people to re-evaluate the sense of moral clarity they feel when it comes to World War II.

Also, Andrew Jackson is on the $20 bill, so its not like America draws the line at honoring perpetrators of genocide.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:36 PM
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And Churchill ruthlessly exploited colonies in ways that if the other guys had done we'd have called abominations. None of them were very nice people.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:38 PM
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Because Stalin was on our (your) side. Like it or not, that's not something to be airbrushed out of history.

But again, this is not a museum which seeks to explain the history of WWII. If you want to honor the sacrifices and role of the Soviet Union, a good idea IMO, a statue of a generic Soviet soldier with a plaque explaining the paramount importance of the Eastern Front would serve the purpose.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:38 PM
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The problem I have here is: who the hell has the money to be erecting busts of various personages, and then arguing -- in chambers, officially -- about it? Enough with the memorials for now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:39 PM
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But again, this is not a museum which seeks to explain the history of WWII. If you want to honor the sacrifices and role of the Soviet Union, a good idea IMO, a statue of a generic Soviet soldier with a plaque explaining the paramount importance of the Eastern Front would serve the purpose.

Thing is, I'd be really quite willing to argue the same about Churchill and the UK.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:43 PM
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51: Yes, that would be completely fine. Or Zhukov.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:43 PM
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53: Let's just skip all of foreigners except maybe the Canadians. They seem nice enough.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:44 PM
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Enough with the memorials for now.

It's stimulus spending, parsimon.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:45 PM
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It is?! I didn't read the article. Huh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:47 PM
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So, by my count, parsimon was the first female commenter in this thread. Do I have that right? If so, interesting.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:49 PM
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I'm a bit torn on this one (maybe in the spirit of tkm's 51 is right, enough with the "Great Men" busts period).

I cut my teeth on Bill Mauldin's books and cartoons--not just his wartime book(Up Front), but his less well-known and more controversial Back Home (good reading for anyone who thinks it was all sweetness and light as WWII vets returned home). "I just looked up young Johnson's record", exclaims a shocked supervisor in one, "he fought on the same side as the Russians!"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:49 PM
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58: Over the years, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about females.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:51 PM
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I should say that I scarce believe in busts at all, and busts of great men even less, but if we are to have them we ought be consistent.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:51 PM
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51: But again, this is not a museum

I wouldn't necessarily make that presumption. Americans tend to like their memorials to be rather museumish. These days, seems like every memorial that gets built has to have an "interpretive center" that goes with the memorial.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:52 PM
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And, most of the time, I was thinking of busts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:52 PM
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They ought to have a bust of Lyudmilla Pavlichenko. She showed those Huns what-for!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:52 PM
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OK, well, after reading all the google news about the subject ('d-day memorial stalin') I've about decided this is a right-wing moral panic. All the editorials are from right-wing sites. In turn they seem to be stirring up the locals in Bedford. What a mess.

52: who the hell has the money to be erecting busts of various personages, and then arguing -- in chambers, officially -- about it?

They dedicated the thing back in 2001. Apparently it's 'stuggling', since it's in Bedford, VA (aka nowhere) which is why they want to get the park into the national park system. Then the feds can pay for it. That's where Perriello comes in. He's got a tough campaign in front of him and he wants to be reelected so here he is on TV, arguing that the park should remove the bust, and if not, then the park should be put under the national parks system and then the bust can be removed. Heh. ;-) What a politician.

m, i'm thinking stanley was right to begin with


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:53 PM
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It's stimulus spending, parsimon.

To defend parsimon, who gives a fuck? The fact that we need to spend stimulus money doesn't mean we need to be sending it on all this useless shit*. Build a goddamn something, or give some more money to public education, or to the states, or unemployed people, or whatever.

* I realize that since the stimulus bill is already in existence and says what it says, this is probably not completely discretionary spending, and so most of the things I've named aren't really options on the table any longer--there's probably nothing else we're allowed to do with the money instead. That doesn't make it any less stupid that we're spending money on this shit instead of those other things.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:53 PM
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Hey! Public art is not useless shit.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:54 PM
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The fact that we need to spend stimulus money doesn't mean we need to be sending it on all this useless shit

Even spending on useless shit is stimulative. Let's buy busts of Stalin for everyone!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:57 PM
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I agree with 67, but--having read nothing about this other than what's contained in this thread--I'm suspicious about the merits of this exhibit as "public art." When I think of public art I don't usually think of big busts.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:57 PM
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69: When I think of public art I don't usually think of big busts.

No, that's pubic art.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 8:59 PM
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Well, neither do I to be honest, & like I say I think this is crap public art, but still, I get touchy about this stuff.

(Sadly, when I think of public art, I do quite often think of large bronze busts.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:00 PM
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66.1: I was thinking about that the other day. I was in a park full of wonderful stone pedestrian bridges and stairs marked with "WPA." Most of them were still in good shape despite Pittsburgh's tendency not to maintain infrastructure. Then I thought about all of our stimulus spending going to make it easier for somebody to get a new Civic that will be gone in ten years.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:00 PM
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Even spending on useless shit is stimulative

I agree with this too, but that doesn't mean we couldn't be getting something useful in exchange for the money (other than raw stimulus). You get the same stimulus spending $100M digging and then refilling ditches or spending $100M expanding a subway system, but one of them is going to have a lot better return (in non-stimulus terms) than the other.

And again, public art is a perfectly legitimate use of stimulus money, IMO. Does this qualify?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:01 PM
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Keir, I'm still not clear how you can see Stalin and Churchill as even in the same league. You cite the Bengal famine; while I'm not well versed in Indian history, my impression is we're talking about incompetence and negligence. The most negative spin would put his responsibility at the level of the Bolshevik leadership's for the 1921 famine. That's ugly, but it's a far cry from Stalin's record.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:03 PM
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Not that it changes anything about the broader arguments about where to spend stimulus and public money in general, but my reading is that, so far, this monument has been privately funded. Is that wrong?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:04 PM
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Fuck Obama. Fuck Congress. Fuck Bush. Fuck Stalin. I'm sick of all of them.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:04 PM
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75: Stalin was opposed to private funding.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:08 PM
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That doesn't make it any less stupid that we're spending money on this shit instead of those other things.

Indeed. Public art isn't useless shit in the normal scheme of things, but people are going hungry at this point. Teachers and fire fighters and social workers are being laid off. LeBron James may make $15 million per year or he may make only $11 million. It's difficult to see the costs involved in not only completing busts (busts!) and then wasting legislative time arguing over them as anything but ridiculous.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:09 PM
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Oh, I made up the stimulus thing. I guess I should have phrased it something like, "What if it's stimulus spending?"

What's the Keynesian (spell check suggests "Kenyan") multiplier for manufacturing busts of world-historical monsters?


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:10 PM
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Teachers and fire fighters and social workers are being laid off.

We could retrain them in bronze casting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:10 PM
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Oh, I made up the stimulus thing.

I got the joke, Bave. Not everyone follows Standpipe's other blog so closely, though.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:11 PM
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Keir, I'm still not clear how you can see Stalin and Churchill as even in the same league. You cite the Bengal famine; while I'm not well versed in Indian history, my impression is we're talking about incompetence and negligence. The most negative spin would put his responsibility at the level of the Bolshevik leadership's for the 1921 famine. That's ugly, but it's a far cry from Stalin's record.

No, I call `holding on to another country at gunpoint and letting* three million people in that country starve' a lot lot lot worse than incompetence and negligence.

I certainly wouldn't say Stalin and Churchill are in the same league, but I don't think Churchill deserves many memorials himself either.

* `letting' isn't quite the right word either; `actively contributing to the starvation of three million' gets it a bit better.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:11 PM
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Fuck me. 56 was a joke? I'm an idiot. It was funny, too.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:13 PM
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I'm just going to throw out there that Stalin (and to a greater degree) Mao never get any kind of balanced portrayal in the West. They were both monstrous figures in their way, but they both had some success with very difficult forced-march modernizations of countries that were in completely disastrous shape when they took over. Compare Russia's performance in WWI and WWII, and Russia's standard of living in, say, 1955-60 compared to 1920-25 just after the civil war. Hitler by contrast wrecked his country and went abroad to slaughter millions of people despite having the very live option of just being the authoritarian ruler of one of the world's most developed countries. The "body count" theory of historical badness radically decontextualizes everything, ignores alll kinds of mass death episodes that don't count agains the commies, and tends to rely heavily on dodgy figures for its comparative rankings.

Once you go over to the purely pragmatic omelets-require-breaking-eggs school of things Russia's crappy performance in the late Soviet era counts heavily against Stalinsim, while China's economic takeoff since the 1970s counts for Mao.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:14 PM
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Oh, I made up the stimulus thing.

I thought you might have been. My protest remains! I will fight for the teachers and the firefighters to the end!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:15 PM
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76:Fuck Capitalism

David Harvey Animated!!

74:terza is keeping score? A numbers game? Is the gassing of a few thousand forgivable? If you have a Democratic state behind you, does that make it more legitimate?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:18 PM
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Also, 80: We could retrain them in bronze casting.

Dude, do you have any idea what's involved in bronze casting?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:18 PM
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87: At a high level of abstraction, I understand: Wax, plaster, fire, much hotter fire, bronze. Many different types of jobs for a variety skill levels.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:22 PM
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86: Yet no one will buy my Trosky memorial ice pick with skull holder.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:23 PM
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84:Most of them live in some fantasy counter-factual where Kerensky could have industrialized Russia with peace, freedom, the full spectrum of human rights and resisted and defeated Hitler even better than Stalin.

Like Poland or Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia did.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:23 PM
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48: Yes, except that Stalin actually invaded Poland.

Setting up a somewhat interesting and "morally ambiguous" episode in my wife's family history. Her grandmother, a well-to-do Viennese communist (in theory at least) happened to be back at her family's shtetl in what was then part of Poland (in the Ukraine now) with her infant daughter during the Anschluss. Wisely choosing to not return to Vienna, she was still there over a year later when that part of Poland came under Soviet occupation, which apparently gave her enough of a taste of communism in practice to cure her of those particular political views. However, the temporary alignment also afforded her the opportunity to somehow arrange to travel by rail to Vladivostok, then by ship to Japan and eventually to the US. (And of course, very, very few others in that shtetl or any surrounding ones got out.)

Story's a bit self-indulgent, but in its small way, illustrative of how odd and desperate things can get during such cataclysms.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:27 PM
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90: Come on. Even in the war, Stalin ordered troops not to retreat into a position they could defend, getting millions of them trapped behind enemy lines with no supplies and no ability to do anything but surrender or die. If any managed to survive the Nazis, he sent them to the gulag for not dying. The Soviets beat Hilter inspite of Stalin, not because of him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:28 PM
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Yep. Likewise, Churchill was known for sometimes doing utterly fucking stupid things (like Gallipoli) when he wasn't being kept on a tight leash.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:30 PM
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Except Stalin shot people who tried to keep him on a leash and his military mistakes killed more of his own people than the entire British and Commonwealth lost in WWI.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:33 PM
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A solution! No busts for leaders! Just anonymous soldiers. Man, I'm a crisis solver. I'm sure that would go over as a fix.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:33 PM
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Maybe should should do like the French and put up statues of liberty personified by a topless lady.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:35 PM
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92: I don't think there's any sensible theory of how Russia won WWII that doesn't lean heavily on Russia's buildup of industrial capacity during the 1930s, which was the entire point of the five-year plans. Stalin specifically cited the need to prepare for war in arguing for mass, dictatorial industrial mobilization in the 1920s.

As for wartime leadership, Stalin's leadership in summer/fall of 1941 was awful, but wasn't much worse than French or even British leadership in 1940 during the Battle of France. As I understand it, they alll three made the same initial WWI-inspired mistake -- stand in defensive positions and fight the Blitzkrieg, then they got surrounded and swallowed up by the mobility of the German army. Stalin's leadership improved quickly, he learned fast. If you want to ascribe Russia's victory solely to the size of the country and the mystic spirit of the people, you have to explain why they got their ass kicked so badly in WWI.

Stalin was a murderous bastard of course, but the counterfactual where someone not a murderous bastard gets and holds power in Russia after the civil war is not so easy.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:37 PM
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but they both had some success with very difficult forced-march modernizations of countries that were in completely disastrous shape when they took over. Compare Russia's performance in WWI and WWII, and Russia's standard of living in, say, 1955-60 compared to 1920-25 just after the civil war. Hitler by contrast wrecked his country and went abroad to slaughter millions of people despite having the very live option of just being the authoritarian ruler of one of the world's most developed countries.

On that count Hitler was a fricking godsend to Germany. Compare the average German standard of living in 1918-23 vs. 1955-60. And yes, Russsia's performance in WWII was better than in WWI. Any particular reason to believe that Russia's communications network and industrial capacity wouldn't have increased anyways? It was growing pretty damn well pre WWI. That was in fact one of the reasons the Germans wanted a war sooner rather than later. Any reason to believe that Russia's agricultural sector would have been in such disastrous shape absent collectivization?

As for Mao China 1980 (just before Deng reforms began kicking in) population 980m, GDP $188B, South Korea population 38m, GDP $63B. I rest my case.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:49 PM
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As for wartime leadership, Stalin's leadership in summer/fall of 1941 was awful, but wasn't much worse than French or even British leadership in 1940 during the Battle of France.

No. It was much, much worse. The British and French got caught by surprise, but they adapted much more quickly. Plus, the USSR lost a war with Finland, which doesn't even have people.

Stalin's industrialization was piss poor by the standards of later rulers who tried it with a command economy. On agricultural policy, you really need to go to Pol Pot get anybody worse.

but the counterfactual where someone not a murderous bastard gets and holds power in Russia after the civil war is not so easy.

A more competent, moderately less murderous bastard isn't that hard to imagine at all. Sure, you weren't going to get happy-happy-fun-time, but it's hard to imagine doing a rerun of the Russian Revolution and having it come out worse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:51 PM
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Sort of pwned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:52 PM
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Of course Stalin saw it coming, I think immediately after the Civil War, the hyperinflation in Germany and the Dawes Plan. By 1924 Russia should have known that America, having given up on direct invasion of the USSR from West and NE, was building Germany back up industrially and economically in order to use Germany and its influence to rollback evil Commonism. Stalin would have seen the American funding of Chiang against Mao, even at the expense of losing Korea and Manchuria to the Japanese. And then China. Mao headed for the hills because he couldn't fight three enemies.

What do you think, Ford and friends (IBM) didn't read Mein Kamp which was an explicit program to attack Russia, with lengthy admiration of America. Did Hitler have a broader audience than Germany in mind when he wrote it? An appeal for help?

Weimar came up in Yggles thread today, and it is accepted that Germany was moving inexorably to the right from 1023 on, as evidence by declining vote results for the SDP. WWII, as an attack on Russia, was an inevitability. It was an American plan.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:52 PM
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Kobe beef!


Posted by: Japan | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:52 PM
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102: Goddamn you all.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:53 PM
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84:The "body count" theory of historical badness radically decontextualizes everything, ignores all kinds of mass death episodes that don't count against the commies, and tends to rely heavily on dodgy figures for its comparative rankings.

Ok, well, fair point on the dodgy figures with the body counts; however the dodgy figures exist because the communists covered a lot of things up. I don't think the communists should get the benefit of the fruit of the poisoned tree, since they did the poisoning.

I'm not going to agree with the point about forced modernization. The Tsarists had lots of factories, and modernization was proceeding apace, even though it had started late and was quite small. We don't have an alternate universe to test, but it doesn't appear that Stalin really created more industry than would have existed had the Tsars stayed in charge. And comparing WWI and WWII, the Russians did terribly out of both outings. They just happened to lose WWI and (barely) won WWII. Stalin's great skill lay in holding together the Soviet Union in the face of terrible suffering. A Romanov would have lost WWII as well, because he (or she) would not have been able to keep the Empire together under the stress of a Nazi assault, just like in WWI.

while China's economic takeoff since the 1970s counts for Mao.

I'd think that counts for Deng Xiopeng, as DeLong has argued over and over again. Things didn't get going until Mao kicked it and the purges and freakouts ended.

I will agree wholeheartedly with the point about Hitler wrecking his country and I'll agree that Stalin and Mao are cardboard cutouts in this country. Americans do not know jack about communism, Russian history or Chinese history, so Americans have no context to properly judge either Mao or Stalin. Then again, they don't seem to know to much about Hitler. They know about concentration camps and Churchill and D-day and not much else.

m, hoo boy


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:56 PM
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to put him on a pedestal, I think, is this worst thing that ever happened in this county

I don't know, it's a close call.


Posted by: qb | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:56 PM
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101: Bob, WTF? I've talked to people sniffing glue who made more sense.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:56 PM
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I don't get what this argument is about. It's not like they put up a bust of Jimmy Carter.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:56 PM
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97: If you want to ascribe Russia's victory solely to the size of the country and the mystic spirit of the people, you have to explain why they got their ass kicked so badly in WWI.

Agh. But if you look at a map, Hitler (at maximum extent) took more territory in WWII than the Germans took in WWI. The main difference is that after three years (1914-1917) the government of the Tsar collapsed, whereas after the three years (1941-1944) Stalin still held iron control of the army. If we're going to credit Stalin with something, we credit him with terrorizing his own people to the point that the Soviet Union stayed in the war no matter what happened.

m, because he could


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:59 PM
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I will agree wholeheartedly with the point about Hitler wrecking his country and I'll agree that Stalin and Mao are cardboard cutouts in this country. Americans do not know jack about communism, Russian history or Chinese history, so Americans have no context to properly judge either Mao or Stalin. Then again, they don't seem to know to much about Hitler. They know about concentration camps and Churchill and D-day and not much else.

This is nice. You could probably change a few verb tenses here and there and end up with a prescription for 20th Century World History curriculum in Texas.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 9:59 PM
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I don't think the merits of Stalin are really the point here. The point is that if you put up busts of FDR, Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek and de Gaulle, it's pretty damn cheeky not to put a bust of Stalin up, especially given that the efforts to pull the bust down seem to be an attempt to airbrush the USSR out of the history of the war*.

* A rather ironically Stalinist attempt, to be honest.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:00 PM
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I'm starting to understand why Sifu is always in such a bad mood.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:00 PM
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101: And then in 2008 the long, unlikely plan came to fruition in the election of an unlikely American president. And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:03 PM
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Silence is comity.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:12 PM
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109: This is nice. You could probably change a few verb tenses here and there and end up with a prescription for 20th Century World History curriculum in Texas.

Thanks! And basically, um, yeah. Actually, I suspect it's the same everywhere in the US, and not just Texas. History is not an American strong suit.

m, we're big on, um, sports


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:13 PM
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112: Why did they edit in somebody else's face to do that?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:13 PM
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Commodoe Perry, anyone?

One of the huge omissions of taught history in the States is the vast underestimation of the influence, potential, and threat of the United States in the 1/2-3/4 century before WWII, as perceived by the nationalists around the world. (One of the "themes" of Weimar is resistance to "Americanization") Our industrial strength was obvious to everyone, pretty much on a daily basis.

The American Empire was coming, pretty much at whim and will. Those who understood history as "those who can conquer, do" knew it was only a matter of time, and the appearance of a leader.

There is a possibility of interpreting everything after say 1875 as a reaction to the threat from America.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:16 PM
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115: You know, I didn't really pay attention.Here (has other issues).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:18 PM
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101 Mein Kamp

Hitler's lesser-known memoir, the origin of the phrase "this one time, at band camp..."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:18 PM
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118: "this one time, at band camp..." we were playing Risk, and you wouldn't believe who ended up with only Madagascar.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:22 PM
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I wonder how many people are uncomfortable with acknowledging Stalin's role in World War II, not just because of Stalin's murderousness, but also because the allied effort helped sustain Stalin's murderousness through the war.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:30 PM
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Also, Chiang Kai-Shek, really? At a D-Day memorial? And then after the war, the guy ran a military dictatorship until his son took over.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:34 PM
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A European or Asian might have looked at the American mass mobilization of compliant labour power under the alphabet soup of agencies during the 30s and found it interesting, even threatening. The switch to the Military Command State certainly happened swiftly and easily when the opportunity arose. Of course the previous industrial move to the "Arsenal of Democracy" was also easy, with all the underutilized capacity and resources.

The real paranoid socialist looks at the conditions that made the mobilization possible, and the industrial capacity available. And then looks at our present circumstances.

Gore Vidal is still around, and neat as ever. This makes me smile.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:40 PM
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118: Best typo catch ever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:44 PM
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So, I'm not terribly exercised about the notion that Stalin's bust is or isn't at this memorial. I think I'd fall vaguely on the side of "it's a D-Day memorial, only memorialize people who were fairly directly involved with D-Day," and also, "it's a memorial, not a museum," but there are also good arguments the other direction.

But can we agree that, seriously, if "being opposed to a bust of Stalin" is really the worst thing that Stanley's Congressman has ever done, he's the best Congressman of all time?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:47 PM
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But if you look at a map, Hitler (at maximum extent) took more territory in WWII than the Germans took in WWI. The main difference is that after three years (1914-1917) the government of the Tsar collapsed, whereas after the three years (1941-1944)

Though by June 1944 the Soviets were approaching the Vistula, having spent the past year and a half kicking the Wehrmacht's ass.

Still, there's no reason not to expect that a Russia ruled by anyone wouldn't have been considerably more powerful than in 1914.

One of the huge omissions of taught history in the States is the vast underestimation of the influence, potential, and threat of the United States in the 1/2-3/4 century before WWII, as perceived by the nationalists around the world.

I guess in the exaggerated terms you're using, yes. However, the notion of the rising power of the US was certainly part of the European history college curriculums that I'm familiar with.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:47 PM
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When I think of public art I don't usually think of big busts.

How about inanimate domestic objects?

We know from public art. Thank you, Edmund Bacon.

He's got a tough campaign in front of him and he wants to be reelected so here he is on TV, arguing that the park should remove the bust, and if not, then the park should be put under the national parks system and then the bust can be removed. Heh. ;-) What a politician.

You can say that again. (But: emoticon ban violation!).

I can't say I'm particularly aggrieved one way or another about this statue. If Congress is going to run around getting involved in things, why can't they pass the FMAP funding? Not to sound like a broken record, but there's a near-billion-dollar-hole in my state's brand-new budget, and while the state legislators are bragging about how they passed it on time this year, all those teachers and firefighters that parsimon mentions are going to get slammed. (Technically it will be more folks in the public-health sector, but same general idea.)

I think Americans generally have an unfairly diminished view of the Soviet contribution to WWII. ...But Americans don't hear the story of the Eastern Front, and of the sacrifices by the people of the Soviet Union. They hear about D-Day, because thats the part that American soldiers fought in, and the Soviet contribution to winning the war is treated as incidental.

Yes. I'm always struck by the part in the Eddie Izzard routine on WW II when he stops to review exactly how many Russians died (at 4:55 in the linked clip). It is pretty stunning, and I don't think most Americans have a clue.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:47 PM
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The switch to the Military Command State certainly happened swiftly and easily when the opportunity arose

Cf every single power in WWI, even including Tsarist Russia. That's the way a modern state deals with all out war, the mobilization of the entire economy and society for war was if anything done to a lesser degree in the US during WWII than in the various other states in WWI and WWII since the US economic potential was so great.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:52 PM
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Ok, well, fair point on the dodgy figures with the body counts; however the dodgy figures exist because the communists covered a lot of things up.

partly, but it's always hard to get excess mortality type death figures from famines or disease --we don't have good figures from stuff the British did in the 19th century in India or Ireland, from the Russian civil war, or from the numerous pre-Mao famines and civil wars in China. We don't even have great figures from the 90s privatization era, which was clearly marked by lots of excess deaths (though we can put a range on it which is well below the 30s).

The Tsarists had lots of factories, and modernization was proceeding apace, even though it had started late and was quite small....it doesn't appear that Stalin really created more industry than would have existed had the Tsars stayed in charge.

There's a big and interesting historical debate about this, with good arguments on both sides. You might well be right, though we'll never know. But the reasons the Tsars didn't stay in charge had something to do with why they might not have been able to sustain industrial growth.

And comparing WWI and WWII, the Russians did terribly out of both outings. They just happened to lose WWI and (barely) won WWII. Stalin's great skill lay in holding together the Soviet Union in the face of terrible suffering.

The Soviets apparently outproduced Germany in war materiel, so the Soviet Union didn't just hang together, it functioned. They couldn't have won by just sucking it up and getting killed a lot.

I'd think that counts for Deng Xiopeng, as DeLong has argued over and over again. Things didn't get going until Mao kicked it and the purges and freakouts ended.

I can really see the "suckiest possible outcome" argument for Stalin, although it bugs me that it's never even seen as a legit question. But with the Chinese Communists I think there's a much stronger case they had a bloody but real success, and Mao has to be counted as part of that success because he was so crucial in establishing communist rule. I don't like Delong's argument on Deng, because it's so sociologically impoverished -- let's assume a strong state and civil society, and then implement the right policy reforms on top of that. (This is exactly the thinking that led to Western economists fucking up Russia in the 90s during the privatization era, BTW). But of course unifying the state and creating civil institutions is where the hard bloody work comes in. Since the Western colonial powers come in the early 19th century, China has decade after decade of civil war, warlords, famine, invasion, etc. Plus opium. Is there any peaceful interregnum to point to like the pre-WWI tsarist period? After Mao, China is unified, has no threat of foreign interference or invasion, has governing institutions with which to implement reforms, has the social cohesion and flexibility to manage a pretty complex mix of centralized and decentralized planning, etc. And the Communist apparatus Mao set up pushes leaders to the top who use those tools to move the nation into the fastest economic growth ever recorded, and do it pretty peacefully. Sure, things could have been different (perhaps catastrophically so) if Deng hadn't come out of the 70s, but there's a success story there.

Alternate interpretation: Russia perpetual fuckup, China invented gunpowder and writing, thousands of years of history just reasserting themselves.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 10:55 PM
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Alternatively, Russia had to deal with the break up of the Soviet Union, Deng was more competent than Yeltsin, and for the initial years the memory of the hell of the Cultural Revolution kept things reasonably stable for long enough to begin to see major progress. To point to a different analogy, the USSR remained pretty stable for a long time after Stalin, but I think it's far to say it's done a little bit better over the past thirty five years than the Soviet Union 1953-88.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 11:09 PM
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It is pretty stunning, and I don't think most Americans have a clue.

And even Americans who do have a clue sometimes still insist that the US and USSR fared about equally in the war. After all, without US materiel, how would the Soviet Union have been able to sustain such losses? I mean hey, what's 20 million lives between allies.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 11:09 PM
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126.last: My favorite Eddie Izzard bit, Witt. Thanks for having me re-watch it.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-30-10 11:17 PM
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128:
We don't even have great figures from the 90s privatization era, which was clearly marked by lots of excess deaths (though we can put a range on it which is well below the 30s).

And of course it's far easier to blame the 1930ties famine on Stalin than it is to find a comparable villain for the deaths and chaos of the nineties: was it Yeltsin, or his advisors, or the imported freemarketeers, or... the drawback of being an absolute dictator, everything bad that happens can be blamed on you personally.

The same with Mao and the famines that took place under his leadership: more people actually died of starvation in India in the same timeframe, but those famines are seen as tragic natural disasters, rather than the outcome of government policy or the wrong economic model, even though these famines can be explained this way.

Meanwhile, to come back to the original post, if you have busts of other allied leaders at the monument, you need Stalin there as well, even if the USSR wasn't involved with D-Day directly. Without the Eastern Front D-Day would not have been possible.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 12:06 AM
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And of course it's far easier to blame the 1930ties famine on Stalin than it is to find a comparable villain for the deaths and chaos of the nineties: was it Yeltsin, or his advisors, or the imported freemarketeers, or...

that increased heart attack, cirrhosis, and cancer death rates among middle aged men is a lot less obvious than entire villages dropping dead of starvation after folks with guns steal their food and shoot anybody who tries to give them any, or than people getting worked to death in concentration camps.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 12:14 AM
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84

Once you go over to the purely pragmatic omelets-require-breaking-eggs school of things Russia's crappy performance in the late Soviet era counts heavily against Stalinsim, while China's economic takeoff since the 1970s counts for Mao.

By this reasoning Hitler should get credit for Germany's good performance after the war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 12:40 AM
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63:

pedestal man, myself


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:21 AM
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We may not like Stalin, but if he had not challenged Hitler on the Eastern Front, then victories on the Western Front may not have been possible

On the other hand, if he hadn't let the Germans practice large-scale armoured warfare on the steppes, and provided the Nazis with the fuel, aluminium and tungsten they needed to build their tanks and bombers, then the victories on the Western Front would have been a lot quicker and easier.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:11 AM
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In other words, I have no problem with people opposing the erection of statues or busts of Stalin, and I'd think very poorly of someone who said "You know what this memorial needs? More Stalin!" I really don't see why Stanley thinks this is such a glaring example of stupidity.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 3:30 AM
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And what the hell Attlee and Chiang are doing there is a mystery to me. Attlee was a great bloke, but at the time of D-Day he was deputy PM, and basically in charge of the economy and home affairs. He wasn't involved in D-Day in any sort of active way.

Why Attlee, and not, say, Eisenhower? Or Marshall? Or Alanbrooke? Or Montgomery? Or Tedder? Or Ramsay? Or even some more junior commanders, like Patton and Bradley and Dempsey?

The article in 29 seems to imply he's there as Churchill's successor. Er, he succeeded him almost a year after D-Day. Is Truman going to be there too?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 3:37 AM
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In addition to the busts of Stalin, Roosevelt, Truman and Churchill, the memorial features busts of Clement Attlee, deputy prime minister under Churchill; French general and leader of the Free French Forces, Charles de Gaulle; and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.

If the exhibit is about D-Day, I don't see what Stalin or Chiang is doing there; or Truman or Attlee (why not Henry Wallace, then - he was a wartime VP too?). OTOH, the Canadians took Juno beach on their own and without effective air cover, and they don't seem to get a mention, which is pretty despicable. MacKenzie King isn't my favourite historical character, but he was no Stalin.

If they want to commemorate Stalin and Chiang, for better or worse, then good exhibits on the Eastern European and Chinese fronts would seem the way to go. I'm betting 90% of Americans and Brits under 40 don't even know there was a Chinese front in WWII.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 5:36 AM
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the Canadians took Juno beach on their own and without effective air cover

"on their own" actually means "with the assistance of the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy and the British 79th Armoured Division" and "without effective air cover" actually means "with virtually complete protection, provided by the RAF and the USAF, from any enemy air attack".
But yes, they deserve some sort of recognition in a D-Day memorial because their contribution was extremely important. Unlike bloody Chiang Kai-Shek's.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 5:45 AM
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They should oughta have a bust of Bugs Bunny. Boy, that little fella did as much as anybody to keep spirits up.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 5:56 AM
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124

But can we agree that, seriously, if "being opposed to a bust of Stalin" is really the worst thing that Stanley's Congressman has ever done, he's the best Congressman of all time?

Well, I agree.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 6:07 AM
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Would this be the first statue of Clement Attlee in the US?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 6:32 AM
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Boy, that little fella did as much as anybody to keep spirits up.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 6:40 AM
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141: Some of us did plenty to keep up spirits with the bust we nature gave us.


Posted by: Betty Grable | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 6:53 AM
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145: Betty, it was your gams that did the trick.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:11 AM
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There's a theme in the thread. Work with me.


Posted by: Betty Grable | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:13 AM
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As I suspected, the articles about the brouhaha (and therefor all of us) lacked information on the role of the busts in the overall context of the memorial (could not get to its website last night I'm sure it was being overwhelmed, but can today--you have to click around a bit to even find where the busts are described). They are not a central feature, they are in fact part of Stage Three of a five stage sculpture program--the main focus of the memorial is an arch, flags and plaques with the names and nationality of every identified Allied soldier who lost their life on D-Day; the overall scale is huge (see photo gallery here) and includes a number of sculptures of and tableaux of soldiers and recreations of the action (including a large scale landing beach tableau complete with a water feature). The whole thing *is* a bit much.

[Now having trouble getting to the site --probably getting slammed so cannot get back to the description of the 3rd stage of the sculpture program. OK, can now,but the site will probably be in and out all day.]

When the portrait busts of Ike's six lieutenants have been subscribed, the Foundation will be in a position to proceed with the third stage of the sculptural program, which includes the emplacement of additional portrait busts at the four entrances to the northern quadrants of the Memorial. The busts will be set upon granite-capped, concrete gateposts. The two gateposts nearest the garden will carry portraits of Sir Winston S. Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the northeast and northwest respectively. At the eastern entrance of the walk leading to Elmon T. Gray Plaza, the action on the European Theater's eastern front will be acknowledged with a portrait of Marshal Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The bust emplaced at the entrance of the western walk to Gray Plaza will portray Generalissimo Ji-ng Zh-ngzhèng (Chiang Kai-shek), President of the Republic of China, and thereby draw attention to concurrent operations affecting the Pacific Theater.
President Harry S. Truman and the Rt. Hon. Clement Richard Attlee, Churchill's successor, are the subjects of two busts to be set upon granite pedestals located to the east and west of the flagstaff at the southern end of Edward R. Stettinius Parade. Those additional portraits will function as the Memorial's most accessible touchstones for framing the lessons and legacy of D-Day in context of the global landscape of the Second World War. From 1941 through 1945, each of those leaders attended one or more of the strategic conferences of World War II. It was during those meetings (at Quebec, Cairo, Tehran, Potsdam, etc.) that the operational policies for winning the war and securing the peace were articulated and adopted.
Everyone is invited to revise their answers accordingly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:21 AM
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If Congress is going to run around getting involved in things, why can't they pass the FMAP funding?

Amen! I encourage everyone to call their representatives to pass the FMAP funding. It is a really big deal for people who really, really need it.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:21 AM
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If you want to know more:


http://capwiz.com/arcofva/issues/alert/?alertid=15186401&PROCESS=Read+More


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:23 AM
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Knowledge is power. It's great to learn.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:24 AM
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Sorry. I should probably try for less cynicism this early in the morning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:26 AM
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I like that Chiang Kai-shek is on the western walk--it's all relative to the USA., baby.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:26 AM
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Shorter 148: Stanley is right!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:28 AM
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Nope, I still reckon it's a bad idea to have Stalin in there. Much better to have a generic Ivan. And the whole thing sounds completely over the top and crossing the line between "war memorial" and "theme park".

a large scale landing beach tableau complete with a water feature

and animatronics? re-enactors? regular air mortar explosions?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:45 AM
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I agree that the whole thing is not in the best taste, but I think it certainly changes the dialogue (maybe not the conclusion).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:53 AM
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I prefer a brand name Ivan. They cost a bit more, but it is worth it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:20 AM
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But, for vodka, I always just buy the generic. I cannot find much difference between that and Grey Goose.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:41 AM
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And to be more of an asshole precise, the question under discussion is not whether they "should" have a Stalin bust (surely there are many elements in that mess of a place that any or all of us would disagree with), but rather whether it is worth the intervention of Stanley's congressdude to respond to people who are in a tizzy about it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:51 AM
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By this reasoning Hitler should get credit for Germany's good performance after the war.

A better comparison would be if Hitler had won the war, passed Nazi Germany on to Albert Speer, and Germany had then been enormously successful. (Although all China/Germany comparisons fail because Germany was already a developed leading-edge state). Deng can also be compared to Gorbachev (not Yeltsin), in that he was an internal reformer who overhauled but did not overthrow the Chinese Communist system.

I think the stability and continuity of the Chinese state compared to Russia is important and shouldn't be waved away by assuming that "oh, they went capitalist/western" (which is just not true in important ways).

that increased heart attack, cirrhosis, and cancer death rates among middle aged men is a lot less obvious than entire villages dropping dead of starvation after folks with guns steal their food

true, but Russia's economic collapse in the 1990s was epic (one of the largest ever recorded), and accompanied by massive real cuts in pension benefits and wages. It's not like people just started dying for no reason. 1990s worked for Eastern European and Baltic states, but for Russia they were the worst post-war decade.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:54 AM
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Has Russia's post-Cold War collapse ever been adequately explained? The explanations by economists I've seen have been pretty stupid. I've seen left-wing analyses, but they have focused more on who to blame than the actual mechanism. (Not to knock the importance of determining who to blame.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 9:29 AM
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161: Their bandits were insufficiently stationary?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 9:46 AM
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161: I always have a hard time caring very much about it, I must say. "O noes! We gave the best years of our lives to support a system that murdered millions and brutally subjugated a fifth of the planet - which we still, incidentally, think was the right thing to do; we're not remotely sorry about it and we'd do it again, and we'll certainly vote for politicians who'd do it again - and now our pensions have been cut! Why must such pain fall on innocent people like us?"


Posted by: k | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 10:04 AM
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My congressman is holding (or hosting, or at least telling people about) a federal jobs fair. Pretty good idea.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 10:06 AM
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re: 163

Empathic, much?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 10:10 AM
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Ayn says empathy is for losers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 10:12 AM
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I prefer to be empathetic with winners; they're generally having a better time.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 10:47 AM
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162 is a pithy summary.

I'm imagining 163 said by an Iraqi / Vietnamese / South American / Chinese person after our collapse.

Here is an odd but interesting Youtube video in which a Russian is interviewed about his memories of the societal/economic collapse by an American looking for pointers for our future collapse. The American is an idiot -- the funniest moment is when the Russian has to explain to him that after the collapse of society his "exchange traded gold fund" will be a worthless piece of paper -- but the Russian thoughts are interesting and poignant.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 11:00 AM
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Don't think I'd especially fault an Iraqi / Vietnamese / South American / Chinese person if she did say that after our collapse. I'm also wondering how all those grandparents met.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 11:16 AM
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At an Axis of Evil meeting, probably


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 11:21 AM
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You think one grandparent was Vietnamese-Chinese, the other Iraqi-South American? Seems most likely to me.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 11:27 AM
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We Americans learn our history from the movies. D-Day is a fave, from The Longest Day to Saving Private Ryan. And it was a big deal, but so was Stalingrad.

But Jude Law doesn't seem like a Russian sniper, so fewer Americans care about the USSR's sacrifice is The Great Patriotic War.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 12:18 PM
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I've been sort of fascinated by the Russian 1990s collapse for a while because it highlights the problems with econ and neoliberalism in general. Mainly, a total lack of comprehension of the institutional and cultural prerequisites for a successful market society. The Western heritage of liberal democracy rendered ideological and turned into abstract policy rules that can supposedly be imported and implemented anywhere. We saw that in Iraq, and it also has resonance in the hollowing out of norms in the name of profit-driven "market incentives" that I think helped set the stage for our own economic problems.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:07 PM
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148: Whoa, the full photo gallery of the place (which I also found inaccessible last night) makes it all even crazier. Like, they it was designed by a bunch of twelve-year-olds all hyped on sugar: "OOH, and we can have BOATS! And A NECROLOGY WALL! And a GUN WITH A HELMET! And busts of EVERYONE! And BUGS BUNNY! And PASS ME ANOTHER PIXIE STICK!"

||

I was just invited by phone to a "very informal wedding party", which I've known about for months and was actually feeling mildly snubbed about not being invited to*. It is in two days.

I should just go and enjoy the free wine and not feel put-out by the short notice or the weird timing of the phone call, right? Okay. Just checking. I feel bad that it kind of annoys me, but it does.

*I have lost track of the prepositions in the sentence; apologies.

|>


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:10 PM
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You should go to the wedding but drop strangely resentful passive-aggressive comments throughout the evening.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:18 PM
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Go to the wedding party wearing a Stalin mask.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:23 PM
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In those circumstances, the wedding party might be a bit uncomfortable for you, so the best thing to do is drink as much as you can as quickly as you can after arriving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:28 PM
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Go to the wedding wearing a Stalin mask, confiscate all the food, shoot people who insult you.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:29 PM
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Get them all very drunk and get them to confess to their worst sins and THEN confiscate the food and shoot them for being enemies of the state.

m, we must do this right


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:53 PM
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Now I feel bad for having used the word "snubbed". I'm firmly on their B-list of friends, so I didn't expect to go, especially considering the bride and groom are paying for it themselves and have been quite budget-conscious as I've chatted to them throughout the planning process. But we share a couple of A-list friends (friends that are on both of our A-lists), so I was feeling maybe a bit left-out, if understandably so. Getting invited at the eleventh hour is like some weird acknowledgment of my B-list status or something.

I'm overthinking this.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:54 PM
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Getting invited at the eleventh hour is like some weird acknowledgment of my B-list status or something

Be thankful for the invite and have a good time. Drink more than your share and dance up a storm. Be effusive to your hosts.


Posted by: Kathy Griffin | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 1:59 PM
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Go, be gracious, enjoy their company and that of their/your friends, and, as I so often do, leave early with an overwhelming sense of "Glad that's over with."


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:00 PM
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I'm firmly on their B-list of friends

Do you have an intuitive sense of this or do they have very detailed Facebook friend groupings?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:00 PM
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Getting invited at the eleventh hour is like some weird acknowledgment of my B-list status or something.

this is a good base for your passive-aggressive comments. Start with "so glad you could invite the B-list" and work from there.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:06 PM
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Stanley is in with the in-crowd, which is not the same as being in the in-crowd.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:07 PM
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183: An intuitive sense. Does everybody not do this sort of mental ordering? For me, it's a mutual thing. Like, they're right on the cusp of people who would be invited to any (very) hypothetical wedding I'd have. So I figure I'm about there for them, too. Like, I'd be a plausible guest for a large-ish wedding of theirs; a small, informal, keep-the-cost-down affair? Unsurprising that I'd get the axe.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:07 PM
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You know what's really disturbing? Making the cut for a very small wedding, when a mutual friend who you thought was closer didn't. That felt really weird.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:11 PM
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186: I suppose everyone does have some sort of mental ordering, but if there was a Facebook group for "A list friends of xxx" and "B list friends of xxx" then I could get all on a tear about the kids today and how they don't have whatever you have to lack to create Facebook groups like that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:24 PM
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187: Maybe someone in the wedding party wanted to sleep with you. Alternatively, maybe someone in the wedding party didn't want the higher-up friend to sleep with someone else in the wedding party. These are tricky dynamics.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:31 PM
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Everyone was coupled up, no orgies were likely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:32 PM
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From what I've heard about the 70s, the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:35 PM
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190: Is this like one of those Crack the Case puzzles?

Was the wedding on an island?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:35 PM
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Is there really that much random sex amongst members of the wedding party? Granted, I was the first one of my friends to marry, so even when I was a groomsman I was not aware of monkeybusiness on the side. (I didn't know they moved it).


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:36 PM
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The most likely explanation is that the bride wants to sleep with you.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:39 PM
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194 was me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:42 PM
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The most likely explanation is that the bride wants to sleep with you.

I CERTAINLY HOPE SO!


Posted by: OPINIONATED GROOM | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:42 PM
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Is there really that much random sex amongst members of the wedding party?

The one wedding party I'm aware of that featured monkey business was a week-long affair held at a beach house. So it's hard to know where exactly to draw the line between [twenty-somethings-staying-in-a-beach-house] and [wedding].


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 2:46 PM
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174.1: That is a common feature of memorials designed by committee. The WWII memorial on the National Mall has the feel of being designed by a committee that was mostly concerned about ensuring that absolutely everyone was mentioned. The 9/11 memorial at the WTC site will eventually have the same feel to it.

Good memorials have a single strong clear vision behind them and inevitably end up pissing off somebody who wanted their little pet issue front and center.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 4:09 PM
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Have I mentioned that I don't like the montage quarters? I much prefer the state quarters with a single theme.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 4:13 PM
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199: Heh. I was thinking about the WWII as a comparison, too. I found it very off-putting and almost gaudy the first time I visited but had to zip it, because the group I was with was all with the Serious Commentary about How Impressive and Somber This Monument Is.

In closing, Kobe.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 4:14 PM
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In closing, Kobe.

Stalyne Stanley is chilling speech.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 6:47 PM
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1990s worked for Eastern European and Baltic states, but for Russia they were the worst post-war decade.

I've been sort of fascinated by the Russian 1990s collapse for a while because it highlights the problems with econ and neoliberalism in general. Mainly, a total lack of comprehension of the institutional and cultural prerequisites for a successful market society. The Western heritage of liberal democracy rendered ideological and turned into abstract policy rules that can supposedly be imported and implemented anywhere.

And this is the question, why did it by and large work for some places, and fail so disastrously in others with pretty similar starting points using the same policies? All had to transition from a communist planned economy to a capitalist one, all saw their industry collapse and their trade patterns completely disrupted, all saw a process of 'self-privatization' and all saw a sharp initial drop in effective real incomes for very large swathes of the population. Yet in Poland, the ex Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, there was no social disaster, and the hardship was relatively quickly followed by sustained growth in real incomes. I can point to various factors, but none of them seem important enough. Any ideas?

(Yes, I'm steering the topic back away from sex, this isn't unfogged v. 2005, we don't do sex anymore.)


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 7:21 PM
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161

Has Russia's post-Cold War collapse ever been adequately explained? ...

Not exactly my area of expertise but I had the vague impression that a big part of the "collapse" was that the earlier "success" was fake.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:51 PM
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202

... Yet in Poland, the ex Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, there was no social disaster, and the hardship was relatively quickly followed by sustained growth in real incomes. I can point to various factors, but none of them seem important enough. Any ideas?

In these countries communism was imposed for a shorter period of time, in a less harsh form and pre-communist conditions were better?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:55 PM
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pre-communist conditions were better

not so much


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 8:59 PM
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Russia's always been much poorer than it looks, except in collapse. A large army, a sophisticated cultural elite, and in the post-WWII period some atomic and nuclear weapons, can mask a lot of poverty and underdevelopment. This isn't to say that Russia was simply going back to some "natural" state that had been artificially inflated by the Cold War conditions, but I do think Russia was never in as good shape as it looked.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07- 1-10 9:14 PM
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... Yet in Poland, the ex Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, there was no social disaster, and the hardship was relatively quickly followed by sustained growth in real incomes. I can point to various factors, but none of them seem important enough. Any ideas?

Hungary I don't know about but Poland and the Czech Republic/Slovakia both had one big advantage over Russia in having a long standing opposition in place that could profit from the changes in USSR policy in the second half of the eighties. Not to mention having communist regimes in place that were happy to talk to these people even if a few years earlier they'd sent them to prison because they were smart enough to know which way the wind was blowing.

It also helped that none of these countries had a disintegrating empire they needed to pull their troops out of, hadn't been part of a larger country now gone yet still had the biggest country in the world to rule with the resources of what used to be a state government until then.

Then there's the huge now largely unnecessary army and military industrial complex, parts of which are now abroad and which is bleeding money, the fact that the economy was massivelty subsidised by Russia's Warsaw Pact partners anyway, huge debts from that era still to be paid and to top it up some fscker from the University of Chicago's economy department is advising a quick selloff of all the state's assets, structured without any checks and balances and in such a way that they are sold massively underprized and most of that money never even reaching the state. Not to mention various ethnic conflicts within the country and millions of Russians threatened in what are now foreign countries.

And of course russia never got the same level of EU support as the other countries did.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:33 AM
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Not exactly my area of expertise but I had the vague impression that a big part of the "collapse" was that the earlier "success" was fake.

I don't think that's it. The collapse is relative to earlier Soviet living standards. Every reliable, genuinely measurable indicator plunged and the people who lived through it are clear that things got worse.

Yet in Poland, the ex Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, there was no social disaster, and the hardship was relatively quickly followed by sustained growth in real incomes. I can point to various factors, but none of them seem important enough. Any ideas?

There was a huge debate in the 90s on this issue. Not surprisingly, key Western advisors and their Russian allies argued that Russia did not take enough Western advice or move fast enough, while a lot of Russian insiders argued that there should have been a more gradualist approach.

I think there are a couple of factors: Russia's economy was more dominated by big industrial plants oriented toward defense, Russia had a harder time building connections to the West than Poland did (note Poland had currency convertibility long before Russia did), the quasi-underground capitalist/entreprenurial sector was much more developed in Poland (it had been present pre-WWII and never totally went away), and perhaps the biggest but hardest to quantify -- Poland had a lot more cultural capital/social solidarity to manage the institutional aspects of the reforms, and this showed up in aspects ranging from government effectiveness to criminality and economic looting. Also note that Poland had to throttle back the speed of its shock therapy somewhat.

Here are some opinions on this very topic from two guys who know a lot more about it than I do, Jeff Sachs and Mikhail Gorbachev .


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:44 AM
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Also, while I maybe disagree with some of the stuff Sachs said, he does give some good insight on how Mao left China better positioned to transition gradually to capitalism than Stalin did in the Soviet Union. Basically in Russia the centralized command-and-control industrialization (much of which was devoted to military purposes) locked down the entire social and economic system, so while it had (I would argue) some medium-term success in raising productive capacity and living standards it left very little flexibility for transition to another system. China in contrast seemed to have a lot more potential for social and economic diversity under the dictatorial surface.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 1:00 AM
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the fact that the economy was massivelty subsidised by Russia's Warsaw Pact partners anyway

This. The Soviet empire was unusual among empires in that the imperial power actually made money off its subject nations, rather than losing money on them (as was the case with the British and French Empires, frex).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:03 AM
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207.1 The Czech Republic's opposition was very small, Slovakia's even smaller. Poland was a very different case in that regard with thousands of people who were basically full time opposition activists (a side effect of complete blacklisting) and who had been thinking about transition issues for years while and forging contacts with experts and bureaucrats. The reason why the Polish rulers were willing to talk to the opposition was the state of the economy - it was on the brink of a complete collapse and there was no way to deal with that without the opposition on board.

207.2 Yes though the various Comecon states were integrated into the Soviet military industrial complex.

207.3 Poland was actually being heavily subsidized by the Soviets, starting with martial law. Poland also had pretty massive debts of its own racked up in the seventies. But otherwise, yes.

208. Poland had basically two forms of capitalism - lots of small private peasant farms and the black market. The first didn't do so well under capitalism, the second was present all over the Warsaw Bloc. The blackmarket basically depended on either minor workplace theft or, in the case of the the larger scale operations, was run by the secret police. Yes there were also a handful of minor legal private enterprises, but nothing on the scale of Hungary or Yugoslavia, at least not until the began gingerly reforming things two or three years before the end - but that applies to the USSR as well.

The social capital/solidarity stuff I agree with, and it applies to all the states which succeeded, but that's just another way of asking the question. This is especially true if you treat Poland as an exception to the other success stories (the Church, well organized and established mass opposition movement were genuine but unique factors), though it also had a more screwed up economy.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:09 AM
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Another possibility: the USSR had a very large and well-established organised crime network by 1990, making money from the illegal vodka trade (Gorbachev had tried to restrict vodka consumption, with total lack of success) - Poland etc didn't have Prohibition and thus didn't have their social capital destroyed by organised crime to the same extent.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 3:43 AM
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208

... Every reliable, genuinely measurable indicator plunged and the people who lived through it are clear that things got worse.

Just because an indicator is potentially reliable doesn't mean the Soviets weren't fudging it. I have the impression this applied to things like life expectancy and infant mortality as well as economic statistics. And I'm not saying that things didn't get worse just that you have to be cautious when comparing pre-collapse and post-collapse statistics. And did conditions get worse for everybody or were there substantial numbers of winners as well as losers?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 6:07 AM
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210

This. The Soviet empire was unusual among empires in that the imperial power actually made money off its subject nations, rather than losing money on them (as was the case with the British and French Empires, frex).

Is this really the case? Didn't the Warsaw pact nations get substantial energy subsidies? And the military must have cost a lot. And Cuba was reputedly a big drain.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 6:11 AM
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Russia's always been much poorer than it looks, except in collapse.

Back in the 80's, when I was an active duty Marine, the shorthand intelligence on the USSR was "Upper Volta with nukes". One reason that Reagan's plan to outspend them made some sense.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 10:42 AM
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Well, it *might* have made sense, if the Soviets had actually been trying to engage in that contest. But they weren't.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:01 AM
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216. If you are saying that the Soviet Empire would have eventually collapsed from its unsustainable weight I would agree with you. It becomes problematic to guess "when". US spending brought focus to the difference, and brought about the collapse sooner rather than later.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:05 AM
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That's not supported by the declassified records. Soviet military spending was basically flat throughout the entire 80s.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:07 AM
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That is to say, sure, they were brought down by the unsustainable percentage of their economy that was devoted to military spending. But that percentage didn't increase at all in response to the US buildup under Carter and Reagan, and that buildup was a response to faulty intelligence in the first place.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:15 AM
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So what? The point was not trying to keep a status quo, but to foment the collapse of the "evil empire". Strike hardest where your enemy is weakest.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:15 AM
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So what? The point was not trying to keep a status quo, but to foment the collapse of the "evil empire". Strike hardest where your enemy is weakest.

Say that again, only in a way that makes sense.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:18 AM
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On the flip side, was the strategy to outspend the soviets to cause their economic collapse at all conscious? I certainly only started hearing about it after the cold war was over, as an explanation for how the war ended. I never heard any evidence before or after that this was a deliberate plan on the part of Reagan or anyone in the administration.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:19 AM
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Say that again, only in a way that makes sense

"Tear down this wall". Reagan was actively trying to destroy the Soviet Empire. Our greatest strength was our economy.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:26 AM
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But isn't the question whether Reagan succeeded in destroying the Soviet Empire and not whether he was trying to do so?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:33 AM
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A. Reagan was trying to destroy the Soviet Empire.

B. The Soviet Empire collapsed

Therefore --

C. Reagan successfully destroyed the Soviet Empire



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:38 AM
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Man, you know what would be sweet? If the Professor Brothers did a cartoon video of Ronald Reagan in the style of their Geo. Washington one.

"I heard he had, like, thirty goddamn asleeps."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:50 AM
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Thanks, peep. Let's leave the complicated analysis to the historians. "1066 and All That" is exactly my speed.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 11:54 AM
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Future historians will portray it this way:

Reagan: "Tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachev!"

Gorbachev: "I'm scared of manly Reagan! I better do what he says!"

THE END


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:04 PM
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You should write textbooks in Texas, peep.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:10 PM
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I don't have any contemporaneous memory whatsoever of the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech, although it's been repeated ad nauseum ever since the wall was in fact torn down. I suspect its actual impact at the time on anything was roughly zero.

The notion that Reagan's military buildup brought down the Soviet Union seems to have become an article of faith among even well educated, liberal people. It seems to me that there's a pretty big need for a movement among historians to correct that impression.

I was taught in college that 210 is wrong and that the empire cost the Soviets tons of money, but it's not an issue I really know anything about.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:18 PM
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Reagan was a moron who throughout the eighties was trying to provoke the USSR into war, from the "we start bombing in five minutes" joke to SDI to all the shitty little Contra movements and rightwing dictators he sponsored. He actually thought a nuclear war was winneable. He was fed by the same idiots who thought Iraq had nuclear weapons who told him the USSR had a gazillion more nuclear weapons than the US and treated Red Dawn as a documentary, while the soviets were frantically trying to spot when Reagan would start the missiles flying.

We're so lucky we didn't have the nuclear holocaust before glasnost was no longer deniable. And even then both Reagan and Bush senior never really believed it and later on spent more time trying to pop up the status quo rather than, you know, actually deal with the "Evil Empire" collapsing...

I think most of the people in Western Europe aware of the geopolitical situation in the first half of the eighties and what a loon Reagan was (not to mention Thatcher of course) were having regular nuclear nightmares -- I know I was.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:18 PM
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I don't have any contemporaneous memory whatsoever of the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech, although it's been repeated ad nauseum ever since the wall was in fact torn down. I suspect its actual impact at the time on anything was roughly zero

This matches my memory of that time as well, and I agree with your suspicion.

Still I think the version in 228 will be the one that goes down to future generations.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:26 PM
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to all the shitty little Contra movements

Because of course it made sense to leave the commies in charge in Nicaragua.


Posted by: Lt. Col. Oliver North, USMC | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:33 PM
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In 1994, Oliver North was fielded as a serious candidate for Senate in Virginia. I think I'll say that out loud every now and again.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:53 PM
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all the shitty little Contra movements

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Select, Start.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 12:59 PM
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The notion that Reagan's military buildup brought down the Soviet Union seems to have become an article of faith among even well educated, liberal people.

Indeed, accompanying the current article of faith that the decadent people of Europe are able to luxuriate in their unsustainable non-grossly-unfair societies because they are freeloading on our military might.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 1:17 PM
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Still I think the version in 228 will be the one that goes down to future generations.

Only in about 15 states of the USA; I'm fairly confident about that. Certainly nowhere outside it. Martin has made the point that insofar as anyone outside the US noticed Reagan's speeches, their reaction was, "Oh for fuck's sake give it a rest, there's important stuff happening here."


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 1:31 PM
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Only in about 15 states of the USA

Unfortunately, I think that number is going to be much, much closer to 50 than 15.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 1:33 PM
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In 1994, Oliver North was fielded as a serious candidate for Senate in Virginia
That was the first general election I was old enough to vote in. Starting off by getting to vote against North was pretty cool.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 1:50 PM
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Not to mention the excitement of voting for Chubb Rock near the height of his fame!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:03 PM
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near the height of his fame

What? He'd married Lynda Bird Johnson years before that.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:09 PM
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But he'd just recently appeared on 3rd Bass's "Kick 'em in the Grill".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:20 PM
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In 1994, Oliver North was fielded as a serious candidate for Senate in Virginia

That's nothing...in 2010, Linda McMahon was fielded as a serious candidate for Senate in Connecticut. How long till President Camacho?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:33 PM
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How long till President Camacho?

Like in the ATT commercial


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 2:41 PM
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I suspect its actual impact at the time on anything was roughly zero.

Less than zero. Somehow, though, despite all his advisers, Reagan did come around to the understanding that his immediate predecessors had in fact been right about how do deal with the Soviet Union, which is why the Cold War ended peacefully. (It is imperative to the careers of those advisers, and their various acolytes, that this truth be suppressed.)

That, and as my hosts on a recent trip to Hungary were happy to remind me, a whole bunch of genuinely courageous people in places like Leipzig stood up for themselves when no one, certainly not the US, was going to.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 7:07 PM
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Hey Martin, neat link on your blog. Granted I haven't been following the World Cup all that closely, but I'm still surprised I haven't heard anything about it.

You'd think an entire team making a political statement about who should win the Nobel Peace Prize would make a lot of news. Maybe I just missed it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 2-10 7:24 PM
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Thanks.

The scuttlebut is that a) FIFA isn't too happy about anything that challengers the nicey nicey apolitical nature of the Worldcup, not to mention having once held it in a dictatorship that was disappearing opponents by the thousands at the time and b) allegedly, there's a certain Argentinian media mogul whose two adopted children are supposed to be children taken from disappeared leftists and he's not happy about Maradona's gesture either...


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 3-10 2:13 PM
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