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Trying to change reality

The blogosphere's been abuzz about Hillary Clinton's recent statements about replacing the current "on your own" society with a "we're all in it together" society. My initial reaction: Why Hillary Clinton, you've turned into a compassionate conservative!

One statement stood out to me: "We have sent a message to our young people that if you don't go to college ... that you're thought less of in America. We have to stop this."

And how exactly does she propose to do that? Why shouldn't an employer hire someone with a college degree over someone without? I'm generally skeptical of many college degrees as far as their content value, but they do act as a signal to employers that said person can get up on time, get dressed, show up to work, and make an effort.

Further, one way to be successful as a non-college graduates is to become an entrepreneur, and if she wants opportunities for non-college graduates to succeed, she's better off praising the market, not burying it.


Let's try this one more time. Frontpage feed:

Community feed:

Problems with frontpaging

I wanted to frontpage a few posts from the journal. I can't. We'll work on it.

In the meantime, I think I'll do a "roundup" style post this weekend.

Split feeds

Feed for the front page, i.e., "Catallarchy":

Feed for community aggregator:

May Day 2007: A Day of Remembrance

Welcome to our annual Day of Remembrance. In past years, it has been held at our previous blog Catallarchy. This year, we were able to have our new project The Distributed Republic up and running just in time to host it here. Our goal is remember the plight of those lost lives to an ideology which promised to free the workers of the world but did the opposite.

The Cheka by Randall McElroy

Free Cuba by Rainbough Phillips

Sergey Prokofiev by Scott Scheule Read more »

Grinding People Down With Stupidity

One of the features of 20th century communism is inevitable slide into totalitarianism whenever and wherever it flourished. Modern readers may hear the word “totalitarianism” and not grasp the full extent of its true meaning, it’s all-encompassing reach, so far removed it is from our experience. A passage from Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago reveals the true extent of totalitarianism that resulted in the USSR under Stalin.

Paradoxically enough, every act of the all-penetrating, eternally wakeful Organs, over a span of many years, was based solely on one article of the 140 articles of the nongeneral division of the Criminal Code of 1926. One can find more epithets in praise of this article than Turgenev once assembled to praise the Russian language, or Nekrasov to praise Mother Russia: great, powerful, abundant, highly ramified, multiform, wide-sweeping 58, which summed up the world not so much through the exact terms of its sections as in their extended dialectical interpretation.

Who among us has not experienced its all-encompassing embrace? In all truth, there is no step, thought, action, or lack of action under the heavens which could not be punished by the heavy hand of Article 58....

There was no section in Article 58 which was interpreted as broadly and with so ardent a revolutionary conscience as Section 10. Its definition was: "Propaganda or agitation, containing an appeal for the overthrow, subverting, or weakening of the Soviet power ... and, equally, the dissemination or preparation or possession of literary materials of similar content." For this section in peacetime a minimum penalty only was set (not any less! not too light!); no upper limit was set for the maximum penalty.

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on-six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly-but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter... . Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

"Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"

(And just what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to stop?)

Now that's what Darwin's natural selection is. And that's also how to grind people down with stupidity.

Under Stalin, fear reached levels hard to fathom for us living in the present-day West. Making someone accept absurdity as truth is to humiliate him. The more senseless the rules – and murdering the first person to stop applauding a speech 11 minutes after its completion certainly fits the notion of absurdity – the deeper the humiliation, and the greater the fear that results. Grinding people down with stupidity is how totalitarianism was bred.

Back to May Day 2007: A Day of Remembrance


Finally, an uplifting passage about the human spirit, as recalled by Solzenhitsyn.

So what is the answer? How can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared?

What do you need to make you stronger than the interrogator and the whole trap?

From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: "My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be done about I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die-now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me."

Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogator will tremble. Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory. But how can one turn one's body to stone?

Well, they managed to turn some individuals from the Berdyayev circle into puppets for a trial, but they didn't succeed with Berdyayev. They wanted to drag him into an open trial; they arrested him twice; and (in 1922) he was subjected to a night interrogation by Dzerzhinsky himself. Kamenev was there too (which means that he, too, was not averse to using the Cheka in an ideological conflict). But Berdyayev did not humiliate himself. He did not beg or plead. He set forth firmly those religious and moral principles which had led him to refuse to accept the political authority established in Russia. And not only did they come to the conclusion that he would be useless for a trial, but they liberated him.

Our goal today is to remember not just the Berdyayevs, but also those millions who didn't share his strength of will, for they were just as innoncent as him, just as forgotten. Their stories have been glossed over, indeed, sometimes denied, by modern intellectuals. Today, we remember them.

A small note about our new venture:

The Distributed Republic came about both as a means to highlight the great discussions that occurred in the comment sections of Catallarchy and as an effort to engage those who hold a different viewpoint. Thus was born the "community" view at the top right of the page.

If you're new here, take a look around. If you're interested, register at the right sidebar and start blogging. There is no particular outlook required as long as a civil tone is maintained.

Back to May Day 2007: A Day of Remembrance

May Day

This year's May Day remembrance will be held here at The Distributed Republic. As usual, we have a lot of content planned. We'd appreciate any links you all provide, whether from blogs, forums, or emails.

The Distributed Republic

Welcome to The Distributed Republic! This is a blog community site created by the Catallarchy blog members to take things in a new direction after nearly four years in the 'sphere. We've always been proud of the civil and thoughtful comments sections on the blog. Some of the best content on Catallarchy, unfortunately, has been relegated to these comments sections, and few people click on the "comments" link. We want to have all of you intelligent readers blog on our site. We also want to reach out to a broader audience, to engage people of different viewpoints, especially those who disagree with us.

When I broached the idea to various people, the most common feedback I received was along the lines of not ruining a good thing. Why change? Why leave behind something that so many people like? Good point. So we've decided to keep the front page essentially unchanged. The original Catallarchy contributors will post on the front page here.

Yet, we also want to highlight the good stuff from commenters and engage people who disagree with us. So the "community" link at the top right of the page is where the reader blogs will be aggregated. There is no particular philosophical requirement for blogging here. Right now, the administrators will be able to promote any post to the front page that we think deserves more attention. In the future, a reader-based voting system will be created to promote posts. We hope to strike the appropriate delicate balance between keeping the old and incorporating new content.

The content management system we're now using allows the content to be displayed and configured in any which way we please. I have some ideas for specific "subblogs" for the future based on issues or content. I'm open to your ideas, too.

This is a work in progress. Please be patient with kinks that need to be worked out.

So, if you want your voice heard, if you want to tell us how we're wrong, or if you simply like us and want to help us take things in this new direction, register at the right sidebar and start blogging! Tell all your friends about it. Spread the word. Update your blogrolls and feeds.

Feedback/ideas can be sent to jwilde - at - catallarchy, though a better way might be to post feedback at your own newly created blogs.

Front Page

Healthcare vs Other Government Programs

Coyote Blog on why government healthcare is more worrisome than other government programs.

Commitment Bias

The buzz among college basketball fans today was the play that happened at the end of the Univeristy of North Carolina - Duke University game yesterday. With the outcome no longer in doubt, Duke player Gerald Henderson's elbow connected with UNC player Tyler Hansbrough's nose. Duke is in dark blue; UNC is in white.

While the play itself is noteworthy for its blood and gore, what I want to talk about is commentator Billy Packer's reaction. He's not the guy heard speaking at the beginning of the clip, but rather chimes in a few seconds later with, "And you know he's a tough guy..." Even though many college basketball fans think Packer long ago lost his abilities as a commentator, I maintained that he was one of the few who added something to any telecast he covered. He's a guardian of the game, someone I respected for his analytical skills and basketball knowledge. Yet, he completely whiffed in his reaction to the play.

My argument depends on whether or not Henderson intentionally elbowed Hansbrough. I think it's clear that he did. I don't think Henderson set out to elbow Hansbrough from the beginning, but when he was up in the air, and contact with the ball was no longer a possibility, frustration took over and he took whatever he could get. For a split second, you can see him look at Hansbrough's face. He wanted his elbow to make contact with something. FWIW, about 95% of people I talked to and read on the internet today agree. That's also what the referees decided. Read more »

Positive Sum

Brad Delong:

In 1877, it was the United States that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China. In 1917 and again in 1941 it was greatly to Britain's benefit that America regarded it as a friend and an ally rather than as a competitor and an enemy. And since 1945 it has been greatly to Britain's benefit that America has regarded it as a trading partner rather than an industrial competitor.

There is a good chance that China is now on the same path to world preeminence that America walked 130 years ago. Come 2047 and again in 2071 and in the years after 2075, America is going to need China. There is nothing more dangerous for America's future national security and nothing more destructive to America's future prosperity than for Chinese schoolchildren to be taught in 2047 and 2071 and 2075 that America tried to keep the Chinese as poor as possible for as long as possible.

This is one installment in a back and forth Brad Delong has been having with Jeff Faux on trade.

While Delong is clearly correct, I want to make a meta-point. The "leftist" free trade argument, which is what Delong has been pushing, seems to be something like, "The poor in the world deserve more. So what if the (relative) rich in the first world lose a few jobs? They'll be okay. The poor of the third world need the jobs more." Following in the footsteps of my newest co-blogger's fondness of acronyms, I'll call this the "trade as economic justice" (TEJ) argument. Most of the discussion that follows in the comments centers on who actually deserves the jobs or would benefit more from the jobs. Delong's answer is the Chinese; Faux's answer is Americans. The TEJ argument turns into an exercise of choosing which set of people to champion. Read more »

Living Dangerously

From the AP:

The selection of Anna Nicole Smith as a Playboy Playmate in 1992 made her a member of an exclusive sorority. Her death at 39 put her in a more grisly club - Playmates who haven't reached their 50th birthday.

Automobile accidents, drug overdoses, homicides, a plane crash - all have claimed the lives of Playmates. The cause of Smith's death is still unclear.

Help Wanted

I am looking for someone(s) with html/CSS/web design experience to make some massive changes to this blog. It's a big project. I can't pay. The only thing I can offer is our appreciation. Obviously, this would require someone who is a fan of the blog and believes in what we do.

Email me at if you might be interested. I'll provide more details in response.