What Kathy Hochul should have known

Earlier this month, New York Governor Kathy Hochul was a guest speaker at the Milken Institute Global Conference. In the context of a larger point about the inner city’s digital divide, Hochul told her audience:

“We have young black kids growing up in the Bronx who don’t even know what the word ‘computer’ is.”

Hochul, a white limousine Democrat, was predictably skewered from both the left and the right. The left took her to task over having placed National Guard troops in New York City’s chaotic, crime-ridden subways this spring. Voices on the right, long accustomed to being on the other side of “gotcha” moments like this, sensed blood in the water and pounced. “See?” they shouted gleefully. “Democrats are the real racists!”

I don’t believe that Hochul’s intention was to be “racist”, at least not in the conventional understanding of that term. But her public gaffe highlights a fact that Hochul should have known: White politicians simply have nothing to gain by referring directly to race.

White politicians can talk about crime, education, or upward mobility. They can talk about inner cities and societal divides. They can even make oblique references to “diversity”,  a term so broad and vague that it actually means…nothing. But when white politicians refer directly to race, they are effectively donning bullseyes and “Kick me!” signs.

White Republican politicians mostly understand this. Half the country is always looking for an opportunity to call them racist, anyway. But white Democrats believe that they—by virtue of being white Democrats—are special.

In this, as in so many things fatuous, President Joe Biden can be counted upon to lead the way. During the runup to the 2020 election, then-candidate Biden told Charlamagne tha God that the black podcaster “ain’t black” if he failed to cast his vote for Biden that November, or even saw the matter in terms of a question. Condescension takes many forms, including the assumption that one’s listener would prefer the word “ain’t” over the correct English contraction.

-ET

Mandarin declining in the West? 5 reasons to consider

Remember how, about fifteen years ago, the USA and other English-speaking countries were interested in learning Mandarin?

As a lifelong language aficionado, I certainly remember. All those upper-middle-class, suburban parents, jockeying to get their little Noahs, Trevors, Olivias and Emilies into K-12 Mandarin immersion programs.

As the Singapore-based, Channel News Asia (CNA) media outlet recently reported, those days are more or less gone. Mandarin isn’t “hot” in the USA anymore. What the heck happened?

The folks at CNA have their ideas. I have some theories and observations of my own. I list them below. Some of my ideas overlap with theirs, others not.

Also: though CNA’s analysis is focused on New Zealand, I’m going to focus on the USA, a place with which I am far more familiar.

1.) We were never really serious about it to begin with.

The “learn Mandarin” craze of 2005 to 2015 (rough dates) was never really about making large numbers of Americans bilingual in Mandarin. At the K-12 level, it was about adding a transcript credential that might look good to an admissions officer at Harvard or Stanford.

For reasons of history and geography, Americans have never really been serious about learning foreign languages. I don’t mean this as a slam on Americans. (I’m an American, after all.) I’m just stating a documented and observable fact.

2.) Foreign language study is on the decline in the USA.

As if it could fall any further. Enrollment in foreign language study programs at the university level peaked in 2009, and has been falling since then.

Part of this, no doubt, can be attributed to the overall decline in university enrollment.

3.) We fell out of love with globalization.

The late 1990s were the high point of the “global village” ethos, and the halo effect of that lasted through the first fifteen years or so of the 21st century.

Since then, Islamic terrorism, COVID, and tensions with China and Russia have made the world seem a far less inviting place.

As a twentysomething of the 1990s, I can personally attest to this. The world looked a lot more inviting in 1995 or 1997.

America is now reevaluating its commitment to NATO. US businesses are bringing their supply chains home, or at least to Mexico.

In the first decade of this century, pundits like Thomas Friedman were topping the bestseller lists with titles like The World Is Flat. But cheerleading globalization is no longer a good strategy for getting a publishing contract, or a bestseller. (Thomas Friedman hasn’t had a bestseller, or a major new book, since 2016.)

4.) We fell out of love with China in particular.

COVID, trade tensions, and Chinese saber-rattling in the South China Sea. China—or at least the government in Beijing—seems to have fallen out of love with us, too.

Most of this shift occurred during the administration of Xi Jinping, who has been China’s senior leader since 2013. Xi’s predecessors mostly wanted China to be the “workshop of the world”. Xi wants China to be a regional hegemon.

5.) Renewed interest in Japanese…and Korean

I started studying Japanese in the late 1980s. Back then, most Americans who were studying Japanese were interested in the language for business reasons.

Nowadays, the interest is more likely to be related to Japanese pop culture or tourism. With the historic fall of the yen, Japan has become a far more affordable tourist destination for Americans with US dollars.

Some young Americans have also taken an interest in the Korean language, due to the popularity of Korean pop culture. K-dramas, and whatnot.

***

What about me?

I intend to keep studying Mandarin. I am also still studying Russian.

I’ve been watching “current events” since the late 1970s. Politics and economic trends change, languages don’t.

Every five or ten years, there is a “hot new theory” that purports to explain the future of the next hundred years.

In the late 1980s, the pundits were telling us that the 21st century was going to be “the Asian Century”.

Now that the 21st century is actually here, the pundits are telling us that Asia is doomed because of low birthrates. So maybe the future belongs to….I don’t know…Angola or Chad?

Or maybe the know-it-all pundits are simply taking semi-educated guesses.

If studying Mandarin is important to you, then you’ll study it, regardless of what the pundits say. And if the pundits or the ephemeral trends they rely on are able to dissuade you, then you weren’t serious about the endeavor to begin with. Back to point #1 above.

-ET

Why our media has lost interest in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise trip to Ukraine. This was in response to the Russian offensive in Kharkiv.

Russia has opened a new front in northern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military was struggling to hold off the Russians even before that. Now the situation has become even more grim.

You can be forgiven for not knowing, however. I got the news from the BBC. Neither CNN nor Fox have given updates on Ukraine for days.

This should surprise you. Considering the stakes involved (the potential of World War III), our mainstream media shows little interest in reporting on Ukraine. CNN is primarily interested in reporting on LGBTQ matters and Taylor Swift. FoxNews is focused on crime in New York City, migrant-related outrages, and Taylor Swift.

To the extent that our mainstream media covers foreign affairs at all nowadays, the singular obsession is…Gaza. And this is only because Gaza has become a pretext for protests and riots on our benighted university campuses.

Thus far, the US government and its NATO allies have attempted to buy Ukraine’s sovereignty. From Kyiv’s perspective, “sovereignty” includes the restoration of Ukraine’s 1991 borders, and various policies that marginalize the Russian-speaking populations in the disputed areas.

The Russians have made clear their intention to prevent this version of Ukrainian sovereignty from coming to fruition.

As the Russians advance on the battlefield, our government is reaching a decision point in Ukraine. We will have to accept that Ukraine lies within the Russian sphere of influence, after all. Or we will have to take even bolder actions that risk placing us in direct conflict with Russia.

Our political class is very dedicated to the nation-building project in Ukraine. Our citizens seem far less committed, on both the right and the left.

At the level of the hoi polloi, the right is actively hostile to taxpayer funding of the war in Ukraine. But the right primarily sees this as a spending issue, not a risk-of-global-thermonuclear-war issue.

The left is vaguely in favor of our involvement in Ukraine; but they still view the war in terms of an Internet meme. They wonder why the war is not already won. They posted Ukrainian flags on their social media profiles back in February 2022. Wasn’t that, and all the money we sent, enough?

This, I suspect, is why the mainstream media folks are so desultory in their Ukraine-related reporting. Most Americans are, to be frank, far more interested in Taylor Swift. Ukraine is more than 5,000 miles away. If you’re more than 33 years old at the time of this writing, Ukraine was part of Russia (the Soviet Union) in your lifetime, anyway.

We were recently burned in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was only a few short years ago that the Biden administration abandoned the entire nation of Afghanistan to the backward, bloodthirsty Taliban. That was after 2,459 US military deaths and 2.3 trillion dollars spent there. And the Biden administration simply bugged out.

In such a context, the average American, who is already uninterested in foreign affairs, is unenthusiastic about risking a civilization-ending war over the question of whether a Russian or Ukrainian flag flies over the city of Donetsk. But most citizens have put the conflict on their mental back burners, as our government does its best to deepen our entanglement.

So don’t expect much more CNN or Fox News reporting on Ukraine. Until the day you wake up to the headline that we’re at war with Russia.

-ET

On the demise of Red Lobster

I’ve been seeing a lot of news stories about the impending demise of Red Lobster.

Red Lobster was established the year I was born (1968). Therefore, I have never known a world without it. But if the bankruptcy speculations are true, I may have to adjust.

Red Lobster memories?

I have one Red Lobster memory I will share with you.

I had my first date at a Red Lobster in 1984. I did not yet have my driver’s license, and the girl drove.

She was out of my league, the off-and-on girlfriend of the quarterback. (I know that sounds like a cliché from an 80s teen movie, but it’s true.)

I had convinced her to go out with me by dint of sheer chutzpah. Nevertheless, I lacked the experience and finesse to close the deal. So it never went anywhere.

That outcome was a disappointment to me at the time. But like so many of the slings and arrows of adolescence, it has become a bittersweet, almost pleasant memory, forty years on.

That same Red Lobster is still in operation, and still on the east side of Cincinnati. For now.

I eat there about once per quarter. And sometimes when I do, I remember that long-ago date, the guileless youth I used to be, and the trivial matters that once struck me as important.

Like so much else in the present world, Red Lobster does not seem nearly as good today as it was in 1984.

A few months ago, I would have written that impression off to my own middle-aged jadedness. But now, we can surmise, the market has come to the exact same conclusion. Red Lobster is not the restaurant chain that it was in 1984.

-ET

World War II historical fiction series now available in an omnibus edition

THE CAIRO DECEPTION OMNIBUS BOXSET 

**Spies, lies, and the race for the atom bomb!**

In 1938, the planners in Nazi Germany know that war is coming. They are eager to acquire the atom bomb.

They are working against Allied governments, operating both in Germany and abroad. (And not all of the Reich’s accomplices are German nationals.)

A group of ordinary Americans and Germans are forced to choose sides. Their choices will lead them into a web of betrayal, murder, and espionage.

Their paths meet in Cairo, Egypt, where the Reich is hunting a fugitive atomic physicist. 

The main characters:

Betty Lehman is a 19-year-old girl from Dutch Falls, Pennsylvania. Her family is active in the German-American Bund. Betty has been recruited to betray her country in the service of the Reich.

Rudolf Schenk is an undercover agent of the German Gestapo. He wants to do his duty. But can he abandon his last shred of conscience?

Jack McCallum is an American treasure hunter in Cairo. He falls for two women: one who is working undercover for the Third Reich, one who is fleeing the Gestapo.

Heinrich Vogel is a physicist who fled Germany for Egypt. He and his young adult daughter, Ingrid, face a daily game of cat-and-mouse with the Gestapo. His goal: to reach Britain or America before the Gestapo reaches him and his daughter!

View THE CAIRO DECEPTION BOXSET on Amazon!

Note: The individual books will still be available on the series page!

The Headless Horseman returns

How I wrote a horror novel called Revolutionary Ghosts

Or…

Can an ordinary teenager defeat the Headless Horseman, and a host of other vengeful spirits from America’s revolutionary past?

The big idea

I love history, and I love supernatural horror tales.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was therefore always one of my favorite short stories. This classic tale by Washington Irving describes how a Hessian artillery officer terrorized the young American republic several decades after his death.

The Hessian was decapitated by a Continental Army cannonball at the Battle of White Plains, New York, on October 28, 1776. According to some historical accounts, a Hessian artillery officer really did meet such an end at the Battle of White Plains. I’ve read several books about warfare in the 1700s and through the Age of Napoleon. Armies in those days obviously did not have access to machine guns, flamethrowers, and the like. But those 18th-century cannons could inflict some horrific forms of death, decapitation among them.

I was first exposed to the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” via the 1949 Disney film of the same name. The Disney adaptation was already close to 30 years old, but still popular, when I saw it as a kid sometime during the 1970s.

Headless Horsemen from around the world

While doing a bit of research for Revolutionary Ghosts, I discovered that the Headless Horseman is a folklore motif that reappears in various cultures throughout the world.

In Irish folklore, the dullahan or dulachán (“dark man”) is a headless, demonic fairy that rides a horse through the countryside at night. The dullahan carries his head under his arm. When the dullahan stops riding, someone dies.

Scottish folklore includes a tale about a headless horseman named Ewen. Ewen was  beheaded when he lost a clan battle at Glen Cainnir on the Isle of Mull. His death prevented him from becoming a chieftain. He roams the hills at night, seeking to reclaim his right to rule.

Finally, in English folklore, there is the 14th century epic poem, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. After Gawain kills the green knight in living form (by beheading him) the knight lifts his head, rides off, and challenges Gawain to a rematch the following year.

But Revolutionary Ghosts is focused on the Headless Horseman of American lore: the headless horseman who chased Ichabod Crane through the New York countryside in the mid-1790s. 

The Headless Horseman isn’t the only historical spirit to stir up trouble in the novel. John André, the executed British spy, makes an appearance, too. (John André was a real historical figure.)

I also created the character of Marie Trumbull, a Loyalist whom the Continental Army sentenced to death for betraying her country’s secrets to the British. But Marie managed to slit her own throat while still in her cell, thereby cheating the hangman. Marie Trumbull was a dark-haired beauty in life. In death, she appears as a desiccated, reanimated corpse. She carries the blade that she used to take her own life, all those years ago.

Oh, and Revolutionary Ghosts also has an army of spectral Hessian soldiers. I had a lot of fun with them!

The Spirit of ’76

Most of the novel is set in the summer of 1976. An Ohio teenager, Steve Wagner, begins to sense that something strange is going on near his home. There are slime-covered hoofprints in the grass. There are unusual sounds on the road at night. People are disappearing.

Steve gradually comes to an awareness of what is going on….But can he convince anyone else, and stop the Headless Horseman, before it’s too late?

I decided to set the novel in 1976 for a number of reasons. First of all, this was the year of the American Bicentennial. The “Spirit of ’76 was everywhere in 1976. That created an obvious tie-in with the American Revolution.

Nineteen seventy-six was also a year in which Vietnam, Watergate, and the turmoil of the 1960s were all recent memories. The mid-1970s were a time of national anxiety and pessimism (kind of like now). The economy was not good. This was the era of energy crises and stagflation.

Reading the reader reviews of Revolutionary Ghosts, I am flattered to get appreciative remarks from people who were themselves about the same age as the main character in 1976:

“…I am 62 years old now and 1976 being the year I graduated high school, I remember it pretty well. Everything the main character mentions (except the ghostly stuff), I lived through and remember. So that was an added bonus for me.”

“I’m 2 years younger than the main character so I could really relate to almost every thing about him.”

I’m actually a bit younger than the main character. In 1976 I was eight years old. But as regular readers of this blog will know, I’m nostalgic by nature. I haven’t forgotten the 1970s or the 1980s, because I still spend a lot of time in those decades.

If you like the 1970s, you’ll find plenty of nostalgic nuggets in Revolutionary Ghosts, like Bicentennial Quarters, and the McDonald’s Arctic Orange Shakes of 1976.

***

Also, there’s something spooky about the past, just because it is the past. As L.P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

For me, 1976 is a year I can clearly remember. And yet—it is shrouded in a certain haziness. There wasn’t nearly as much technology. Many aspects of daily life were more “primitive” then.

It isn’t at all difficult to believe that during that long-ago summer, the Headless Horseman might have come back from the dead to terrorize the American heartland…

View REVOLUTIONARY GHOSTS on Amazon

Ann Coulter and the candidate from Cincinnati

In a recent online interview with the former 2024 GOP presidential candidate, Ann Coulter told Vivek Ramaswamy the following:

“I agreed with many many things you said during—in fact, probably more than most other candidates—when you were running for president, but I still would not have voted for you, because you’re an Indian.”

Ramaswamy, though clearly not happy with her admission, responded graciously. He said that while he disagreed with Ann Coulter, he appreciated her forthrightness.

Political corrrectness and virtue-signaling are not my gigs, Dear Reader. (And if you doubt that, you really need to poke around on this site some more.)

Nor am I an open-borders guy. Furthermore, I would argue that we need to talk about assimilation in the same breath that we talk about multiculturalism. We should probably talk about assimilation first, in fact.

Vivek Ramaswamy, though, is from Cincinnati, Ohio…the same city where I grew up and have spent most of my life. Vivek Ramaswamy was born here.

Like me, Ramaswamy attended a Catholic high school in Cincinnati, though he went to a more exclusive one.

(Ramaswamy and I also happen to share a birthday: August 9, though he was born in 1985, and I was born in 1968.)

That’s where the similarities between us end, but those are more than enough for me.

Just as the liberal concern for the underprivileged can drift into anarchic Marxism, the conservative concern for stability and continuity can drift into outright chauvinism…or even racism. This was one of those times, I am sad to report. And Ann Coulter is intelligent enough to know exactly what she was saying. 

-ET

Lithuanian brinkmanship, and the dangers of NATO’s reckless expansion

Ingrida Šimonytė is an unmarried, childless cat lady who happens to be the Prime Minister of Lithuania. She recently stated that her country would be open to sending troops to Ukraine.

Lithuania is a tiny European country that has a population smaller than that of New York City. At 2.82 million souls, Lithuania is about the same size as Chicago, in terms of people.

Yet Lithuania has the power to drag the United States into World War III. 

For decades, this wasn’t the case. Back when NATO actually had a clearly defined scope and mission, Lithuania was on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Lithuania was admitted into NATO in 2004, along with Latvia and Estonia, two other tiny Baltic countries that were once part of the USSR.

There is a lot of bad blood between the Baltic nations (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and Russia. And the grievances go back to long before the Soviet era. Lithuania and Russia have been fighting with each other since the 1300s.

Sometimes Lithuania was the one expanding, sometimes Russia was the one expanding. These two countries have never really gotten along.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, most Americans ignored the reckless NATO expansion orgy. What could possibly go wrong, placing ourselves in a military alliance with half of our former Cold War enemies?

Prime Minister Šimonytė has just told us: Americans are now obligated to go to war on Lithuania’s behalf, even if Lithuania essentially picks a fight with Russia.

That scenario includes the very real possibility of a civilization-ending nuclear war. Because Lithuania wants to redress its historic grievances against Russia, with its NATO membership as a backstop.

What could possibly go wrong? Hope we don’t find out. 

-ET

A Boy Scout by any other name?

The Boy Scouts of America will soon undergo a name change. Starting in 2025, the organization will be known as Scouting America.

This is reportedly being done for reasons of—you guessed it—inclusivity. But the name change also recognizes a fait accompli. About 20% of the Boy Scouts are now girls, according to recent membership statistics. (The BSA began admitting girls in 2019, through an auxiliary program.)

I was a Boy Scout more than 40 years ago, from 1979 to 1980. My scouting career was short-lived. This was not because of any unpleasant experiences with the BSA or my local troop. Rather, I simply didn’t like camping. My idea of camping involves staying in a minimum of a three-star hotel. Cooking Spam over an open fire, sleeping on the ground, and taking one’s calls of nature in the middle of nature…not for me.

When I was a Boy Scout, not only did the organization not allow girls, there was also a blanket ban on gay membership. I was 11 years old in 1979, and I am almost certain that no one questioned me about my sexual orientation when I presented myself at the troop for membership.

Whatever the rulebook said, I’m sure there were gay Boy Scouts in 1979. But people weren’t preoccupied with sexual identity like they are now. No one bothered to interrogate the boys about such things, just as no one sought to trumpet them. Those were more commonsense, live-and-let-live times.

Yours truly as a Boy Scout, 1979 or 1980

But female Boy Scouts were unknown in 1979.

I’m trying to imagine what scouting outings would have been like for me as an adolescent boy on the cusp of puberty had girls been part of my troop. I was just starting to notice girls as I passed from age 11 to age 12. The oldest scouts were always 18. If a third or a half of those older scouts had been high school girls? Who knows? I might have stuck with the Boy Scouts a few years longer.

But seriously…this is not drag queen story hour. I grumble as much as anyone about PC nonsense. But I also worry about becoming reflexively resistant to any form of change that happens to coincide with political correctness.

During my growing-up years (the 1970s and 1980s), I watched any number of unisex clubs, schools, and organizations open their doors to both genders—of which, everyone agreed in those days, there were only two.

The Catholic high school I attended started as an all-girls secondary boarding school, St. Joseph Academy, in 1915. The school went coed in 1951 and was renamed Archbishop McNicholas High School.

A sop to Truman-era political correctness? Not likely. Wokeness as we know it today hadn’t even been prototyped yet. The far more likely explanation is that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati wanted the new school to attract the broadest possible range of students. Catholic schooling, after all, has always been a minority concern.

Similarly, the inclusion of girls in the BSA has likely been driven by practical necessity, as much as anything else. The BSA’s membership peaked at 5 million in 1972, just as the final cohort of Baby Boomers was moving through its ranks. By 2020, membership had fallen to 2 million. Membership fell even further during the pandemic. At present, BSA membership is at an all-time low, even with the inclusion of girls.

We are not in 1972 America anymore. The average suburban child is uninterested in the outdoors. He or she would rather spend the day staring blankly into the screen of a smartphone.

The Boy Scouts, in short, needs members. And if some of those members happen to be girls, well…why not?

-ET

Reading notes: ‘Fairy Tale’ by Stephen King

I just finished reading Stephen King’s fantasy-horror-adventure novel, Fairy Tale.

This being a recent Stephen King novel, it’s been summarized in detail throughout the Internet, so I’ll stick with the high points here.

Length, scope, and pacing

This is a long book (almost 600 pages).

Fairy Tale begins with a coming-of-age plot, something that Stephen King has always done well. That goes on for about 200 pages before the fantasy part really gets going.

The fantasy portion of the novel takes place in a parallel world called Empis. Fairy Tale is almost like two stories stuck together. Depending on your tastes, that may be a feature, and it may be a bug. 

Overall, Fairy Tale takes a long time to get going. The grand finale is a page-turner, but there are long sections of this very long book that are extremely slow-burn, and kind of a slog.

Stephen King’s evolved style

I should provide a bit of context here. Sometime in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Stephen King’s style changed dramatically. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he wrote plot-driven stories that were tightly structured with minimal fat (Stephen King’s well-known aversion to outlining notwithstanding).

I became a rabid King fan based on the early novels: ‘Salem’s Lot, Christine, The Dead Zone, The Shining, etc. 

Some of those early books were actually quite long. But you never noticed, because the plots were so engaging. 

Later on, King started writing long, meandering novels like Duma Key, Desperation, The Outsider, etc. I first noticed the change in style with It (1986), but the longer, slower storytelling has been a consistent feature of Stephen King’s writing for decades now.

And some fans, I should note, prefer the later style. 11/22/63 is an 850-page fantasy/alternate history tale that was published in 2011. It has a huge fanbase. It left me very lukewarm. Give me Pet Sematary or Cujo any day.

Or better yet, King’s first short story collection, Night Shift

Among the books that King has written and published since 1990, I have definitely tended to prefer the novellas, short story collections, and short novels. I particularly liked Joyland (2013) and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999). 

Am I glad I read ‘Fairy Tale’?

Overall, yes. This is still a good book, compared to most of the horror/fantasy novels being published nowadays. 

I am admittedly prejudiced, because as an early (since 1984) reader of Stephen King, I always want him to write the kind of book that he might have written in 1978 or 1982.  And lo and behold, he rarely does. 

That’s rather presumptuous on my part, of course…especially since Stephen King’s longer, less plot-driven style has been a thing for 30 years now.  

-ET

**View FAIRY TALE by Stephen King on Amazon**

Ukraine is losing the war: an inconvenient truth

The above news report from the BBC demonstrates the stark reality: Ukraine is losing its war with Russia.

This isn’t simply a matter of ammunition. There aren’t enough Ukrainian men willing to fight for the government in Kiev–or Kyiv–or whatever you want to call it.

Almost a million draft-age Ukrainian men now take refuge in EU countries, waiting to see which way the war goes. That statistic alone should tell you something. 

Western politicians have demonstrated their willingness to fight until the last Ukrainian. The American corporate Democrats and Republican neocons, the pan-Europeans, and the NATO expansionists. They aren’t on the battlefields, after all, and neither are their children.

At the grassroots level are the utterly ridiculous “NAFO fellas”. The “fellas” can be found in any social media discussion about Ukraine. These mostly young, mostly male keyboard warriors fantasize about fighting Russian soldiers from the safety of their basement lairs in the West.  

Chickenhawks, all.

It’s time for a reality check. Ukraine is going to lose some areas that were historically Russian territory, anyway, from the time of Catherine the Great through the Soviet era. Specifically: Crimea and several oblasts to the east.

If the war ends soon, Ukraine may be able to emerge from a peace process as a reduced but sovereign nation. 

That is the best-case scenario at this point. 

The current course, though, will lead to nothing but the complete destruction of Ukraine, or possibly World War III, which will bring about the total destruction of everything for everyone. 

The war has come at a time of crisis in Western leadership. In Washington, London, Paris, and Brussels, callous fools are at the helm.

It is cruel for the West to encourage Ukrainians to continue a hopeless fight, as cannon fodder in our proxy war with Russia. 

This is also dangerous madness. It needs to end. 

-ET

‘Cycle of the Werewolf’ memories

Some books bring back memories. And so it is for me, with Stephen King’s illustrated novella, Cycle of the Werewolf.

I remember purchasing this book at the B. Dalton bookstore in Cincinnati’s Beechmont Mall in the mid-1980s. I had only recently become a Stephen King fan, and I was working my way through his entire oeuvre, which then consisted of about ten years’ worth of novels and collections.

The copy I bought in the 1980s has long since been lost. I’m glad to see that the book is still available, with the original illustrations from Bernie Wrightson. 

You can get a copy of Cycle of the Werewolf on Amazon by clicking here

-ET

Xenophobia, translated by the Japanese media

The Japanese media is well aware of President Biden’s recent characterization of their country as “xenophobic”. 

Damn those Japanese, and their unwillingness to accept thousands of undocumented immigrants. Why can’t they shape up, and fling open their borders?

Ergo, the Japanese are “xenophobic”.

What do we mean by ‘xenophobia’?

Xenophobia is a Western concept and an exclusively Western preoccupation. The rest of the world takes for granted a certain degree of what our nattering class regularly denounces as xenophobia.

  1. Most of the world accepts as a given that people have a stronger attachment to their family and neighbors, than to people living an ocean away.
  2. Most of the world believes that stark differences in basic customs and values lead naturally to conflict.
  3. Only the West—and only the recent manifestation of the West— seeks diversity for diversity’s sake. 
  4. You can be offended by that last statement if you choose, but it’s a fact. Ask a Chinese, a Ugandan, a Pole, or a Saudi to expound on the importance of diversity (or multiculturalism). They’ll laugh in your face.
Translating xenophobia into Japanese

The Japanese media therefore had to improvise the translation. They translated Biden’s assessment as:

日本は「外国人嫌い」

This means, “The Japanese dislike foreigners.”

That isn’t exactly the same thing as “xenophobia”. But philosophical concepts are often reliant on cultural context, and typically don’t translate well.

There is no concise English translation for the Japanese concepts of of 本音 and 建前. They have to be explained. And so it is with “xenophobia” in Japanese.

-ET

900,000 Ukrainian draft dodgers?

Yet Macron wants to deploy French troops to Ukraine. What??

The European media is…slowly…starting to change its story on Ukraine. Or rather, the chickenhawks’ battle cries are gradually giving way to reality.

As detailed in the above video (at the 4:22 mark) around 900,000 draft-age Ukrainian men have fled abroad, most to European Union countries.  That was out of a prewar population of about 43 million. 

To put that in perspective: during the Vietnam War, around 50,000 American men fled to Canada to avoid the draft. That was from a US population of around 203 million.

This means that the number of Ukrainian men who have fled abroad to avoid fighting for their own country, on their own soil, is infinitely larger than the number of American men who fled abroad to avoid fighting in Southeast Asia, in a country that most of them had barely heard of.

Ergo, the Russo-Ukrainian War is [much] less popular with draft-age Ukrainian men in 2024 than the Vietnam War was with draft-age American men in 1968.

That’s a problem, for obvious reasons. And it does support the argument that the war is ultimately a NATO proxy war against Russia. 

At the same time, European chickenhawks like French President Emmanuel Macron and EU President Ursula von der Leyen continue to beat the war drums. Neither of them has ever served in the military of any country

Macron has even suggested deploying French troops should the draft-dodger-depleted Ukrainian lines break.

Wouldn’t it make sense to put the Ukrainian draft dodgers on the front lines first? Or is it time to radically reassess the current Western strategy of “fight until the last Ukrainian?”

Rambo VI on the way, apparently

There is yet another Rambo film in the works, apparently. Sylvester Stallone, age 77, will return to his iconic role for the final (?) time, perhaps.

I have been a Rambo fan since the first movie came out in 1982. Rambo III (1988), in which John Rambo went to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, was the best of the bunch, in my opinion. But all of the movies have been watchable, if not exactly profound.

I will freely admit that much of my love for this movie franchise is pure 1980s nostalgia. I miss that more optimistic, sensible decade. So long as Rambo movies keep coming out, the 1980s aren’t truly dead, perhaps. The insanity of the 21st century, while pernicious as a bad rash, can still be banished to the sewers from which it came. We can hope.

But I have another, and even more personal reason for my tireless loyalty to the Rambo brand.

Sylvester Stallone was born in 1946, the same year as both my parents. I’m now in my mid-50s. But so long as there is an active action hero old enough to be my dad, I’m not really so old, am I? Something to ponder during my next trip to the gym.

At any rate, I will never completely lose my faith in Western civilization, so long as there is another Rambo movie to look forward to. After that, all bets are off.

-ET