March 18, 2003

Democracy and war

I ran across this chilling quotation yesterday:

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

— Hermann Goering, April 18, 1946

This is exactly what is happening in this country.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Very enjoyable. Partly, to me, because of its involvement with the early days of comic books (I collected comics when I was younger), partly because it’s just an engaging story. Michael Chabon seems to have done a prodigious amount of research to fill in the details of the story he’s telling. I have no idea whether there was a Hofzinser Club for magicians in Prague, or what it was like, but Chabon’s account of it has the ring of truth. His writing style occasionally treads a blurry line between inventive and precious, and sometimes comes close to annoying me, but is mostly straightforward. The story–of the brief golden age in the days before the war as the USA emerged from the depression, of the closing Holocaust in Europe, of creating a comic-book empire, and inevitably of men and women–makes for a good read. The themes–of tragedy, of opportunities foregone, of emergence, and so on–are common enough but not less worth reading because of it.

The WiFi phone

A prototype phone can open a voice-over-IP connection if there’s an open WiFi node available. Very, very interesting. If you had one of these and never left Manhattan, you’d probably never need to subscribe to cellular service.

Politics on the Net

I don’t know where to begin when it comes to this ridiculous war. Everything about it is wrong. So I won’t even start.

Already ramping up for the 2004 elections, it is interesting to note that the Howard Dean campaign has a blog and is using Meetup to organize people. I don’t know much about Dean, but I like what I’ve seen (apart from these factors, which I like too).