Looking at: ‘The rich are getting richer, and the poor are… also getting richer’ by Daniel Hannan

Index

Introduction
Central statements made by Hannan
His twelve claims evaluated
Overall commentary on the sources Hannan uses
Conclusions about the sources
The examination, including sources

Introduction

The rich are getting richer, and the poor are… also getting richer. What’s driving this wealth creation process? In this video, Daniel Hannan explains why it is capitalism — and capitalism alone — that has led to the unprecedented enrichment that is the central fact of Western life.

On the  Eight of October 2018, PragerU published one of their 5-minute videos. The video was called As the Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Richer and was presented by Daniel Hannan.

Attached is a document in which I go through the list of facts & sources and examine each of them and see if they support his claims. In this post I give a summary my findings. 

Central statements made by Hannan
– As the richer get richer, the poor get richer too.
– Capitalism has led to the unprecedented enrichment that is the central fact of Western life.
– Capitalism alone has done that.
– Why has Capitalism done that?
 These for claim are supported by twelve subordinate claims that each has several references to sources. Below you will find an evaluation of these claims in regards to the use of sources.
His twelve claims evaluated
As free market capitalism has grown, global inequality has fallen. Yes, the rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer faster.   
If capitalism grows and other things happen at the same time this does not mean that they are related.  Poor getting richer, infant mortality declines,  life gets extended and literacy is on the rise. It all needs to be linked. Hannan does not do that linking. He just says   things happen at the same time therefore they must be.  Just like a myriad other things. This claim is therefore not supported.
The most rapid declines in poverty are happening in countries that are adopting free trade policies.
Hannan makes a claim that puts a burden on him to poof that the declines in poverty happen in those countries that adopt free trade policies. Hannan doesn’t offer sources that do this. Hannan shows  figures regarding the growth of GDP or the grownt of the ‘economy’. Which might have a bearing on this claim, but by themselves they do not proof that poverty declined or grew in any of the examples. He has to show figures related to poverty and then show that they are related to GDP and  then show that the GDP growth or decline was  related to free trade policies. Even in the case of China Hannan does not show that China’s remarkable GDP growth had any bearing on the poverty figures.Because of this he did not proof his claim.
The expansion of the free market has helped slash the percentage of those living in extreme poverty from 35% to 10% in 25 years. 
This point has been brought up before and is thus repeating something that he has not proven. The rest is opinions or related sources.
Point has not been proven.
Since it adopted more capitalistic policies starting in 1979, China’s economy has enjoyed an average of 9.5% growth annually. 
This point is proven by one source. However, it doesn’t proof any of his central statements. For one, Hannan doesn’t show if this has led to the unprecedented enrichment that is the central fact of Western life, as he claims.
Capitalism is not about greed. It’s about incentivizing people to match their skills to their goals and create earned success.
This is unsourced opinions. It does not proof anything. It is also irrelevant to the central statements.
While free trade-embracing Colombia’s capitalistic economy has grown, protectionist Venezuela’s socialist economy has collapsed. 
This is a repeat of an earlier point and this part does not add anything new. This point has not been proven.
Capitalism caters more to the masses than the economic elite, making things increasingly more affordable for more people. 
While much can be said about the quote of Schumpeter, superficially it can be used to support the claim made. However, note that in this context we are speaking about the masses and not the poor. As Schumpeter elaborates (see point in detail above.) he notes two other things: that this is about goods and that economic development comes with up and downs.I grant the point as such. However, it doesn’t support any of the central claims.
As Vietnam has embraced free trade, its economy has pulled ahead of protectionist Laos.
This point has been discussed before. This part doesn’t add anything new. Not proven.
Opposing capitalism isn’t standing up for poor people, it’s standing in the way of the best way to attain a better lifestyle.
This is all opinion and does not have any bearing on the central claims. Unproven.
The expansion of free trade, property rights, and entrepreneurship around the world helped millions pull themselves out of poverty. 
This is all opinion. Unproven.
A desire for wealth is a part of the human condition. In capitalism, the way to succeed and grow wealth is to offer a service to others. 
More opinions. Unproven.
Myth: Capitalism is plundering developing countries. Reality: Countries that embrace capitalism see dramatic economic improvement. 
This is again a repeat of earlier claims. Again unproven.
Overall commentary on the sources Hannan uses
Hannan’s central claims are supported by twelve subordinate claims referencing forty-five sources. However, these forty-five references point often to the same source thus the total sources actually come down to twenty-two unique sources.
Of these twenty-two sources, ten are offered as related reading, meaning they are not directly used to support the claims. Seven of these are PragerU videos. Three are books on amazon.  This is 45.5% of his sources.
Five are unsourced opinion pieces. Two are by Hannan himself, one by Mark j. Perry and two by  Arthur C. Brooks
This is 22.7% of his sources.
Six offer hard figures. Four from the World Bank Group, one from the OECD  and one from Index Mundi.
This is 27.3% of his sources.
One is a news article with an accompanying video from CNN(Moneycnn).This is 4.5%.
Now this gives a 67 % for sources that can be considered as not direct relevant or unsourced opinions. However, if one considers the amount of references, then the picture is different.

Picture1

Conclusions about the sources
An impressive list of forty –five references are used for the video. Whether one looks at the unique sources used, twenty-two,  or the total amount of references, forty-five, at least two thirds of the sources are opinion pieces or related videos.  This leaves one third for other sources. This doesn’t mean that the sources are always of the best quality or used in a proper manner. Overall it is surprising that on examination two thirds of the sources do nothing to support his claims.

Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking

During my examination I ran into a post that Hannan indirectly refers to that that listed quotes by Milton Friedman. One of them heads this section.
Hannan’s comes over as sloppy. He makes various claims that by themselves are worthy of many many books and these cannot possibly be addressed in a five minute video. But even the marginal claims he tries to support, he supports with opinions, videos that are just related and statistical sources that have no relevance.

The sloppiness goes even deeper.  Hannan mixes terms that are unrelated. He swaps the free market for capitalism as if they are the same thing, while these are not nor are they unbreakable linked. Capitalism refers to an economic system based on private ownership. The free market refers to a system where supply and demand are determined by consumers and producers. One can exist without the other. And when both exist they can exists in many forms.

He is also sloppy in the sense that he assumes things. Like he assumes that “an improvement of the economy”  means it has a positive influence for everyone, including the poor. However, a country might experience an economic upturn , but this does not mean the poor benefit, let alone benefit more. In fact, we don’t know who benefits unless that is researched.

Hannan biggest claim, as taken from the title, is that  as the rich get richer, the poor get richer too. In all irony this not supported by the most important source he uses to proof this statement: the World Bank. In the 2018 report of the World Bank, which is freely available,  this subject is addressed. In the chapter Shared Prosperity: Mixed Progress. Shared prosperity examines if the bottom 40 percent share in prosperity. In the chapter is is mentioned that  “To conclude, although most countries have made progress in shared prosperity, the results are mixed.” On page 51 a table is given for 91 countries that shows how the bottom 40 percent of the populace does as compared to the whole populace.

Now we compare this with the Index of Economic Freedom that is maintained by the Heritage foundation. The index has five classifications: free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree and repressed.

Of the nations Hannan mentions China and Vietnam are mostly unfree yet in those countries the bottom 40% have benefited more than the overall populace. Colombia is moderately free and also the bottom 40% benefited more. Venezuela and Laos are repressive states but not mentioned in the World Bank report.

Let us see what the World Bank report says about the top three and bottom three states we can find in the Index.

Top three:
Switzerland(free): No difference.
Ireland(free): Bottom benefited more than whole.
United Kingdom(mostly free): No difference.

Bottom three
Mozambique(mostly unfree):  Bottom benefited less than whole.
Bolivia(repressed): Bottom benefited more than whole.
Iran(repressed): Bottom benefited more than whole.

All of the above are just some figures which I show just to show that nothing much can be said about it without more information.  Capitalism might very much be more beneficial to the poor than the rich, but saying so doesn’t make it so. And it is this what Hannan does.
It reminds me of a discussion that was cut short with the words: but I think it is so. To use the words of Christopher Hitchens: what you assert without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Five reasons PragerU might be more critical towards their contributors

This is a related post to my more elaborate post about the PragerU‘s 5-minutes video called If You Live in Freedom, Thank the British EmpireIt is meant to be for quick reading.

I list here five things I found odd about this video and PragerU might take to heart when they ask for contributions.

1) Opinion articles are not credible sources(unless they are used as sources to say something about your opinions)

Using your opinion articles to support your own opinion is weird, especially if they do not have any sources themselves. It is basing your opinion on your opinion. What is the use beyond giving yourself a fake aura of credibility?

https://www.nationalreview.com/2011/12/paleo-conservative-guide-british-empire-h-w-crocker-iii/https://spectator.org/why-we-should-give-thanks-for-the-british-empire/

2) Using a source that says the opposite of what you are claiming is weird

Crocker uses Salutary Neglect to argue that the British Empire had a policy of benign neglect, mostly leaving their colonies to be autonomous. Yet, it is clear from the source that this was the exception rather than the rule. This policy was only aimed at the American colonies, lasted for four decades and it might not even have been a deliberate policy according to that same source.

He does that with other subjects as well, such as slavery, where anti-slavery was a policy after 1800, but before that was actively supported.

Arguing that something was the rule by pointing towards an exception of that rule invalidates your claim. Arguing that something was the rule at one time, and yet the opposite was true at another time makes your argument poor, unless you explain it.

Note that I am not arguing against Crocker, in each case the source itself contradicts or even calls into question.

https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Salutary_Neglect

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/antislavery_01.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/royal_navy_article_01.shtml

3) A true Scotsman?

Crocker gives Stamford Raffles as an example of an upright representative of the British Empire; the man who established Singapore as a free trade port. From his biography in Wikipedia, he seems to be for individual freedom, trade and no taxation.

However, Raffles also appointed and then later removed the Scottish William Farquhar as First Resident and Commander of Singapore, because Farquhar tolerated opium trade and slavery. Was Farquhar also not a representative of that same British empire? But maybe Farquhar wasn’t a true Britisher?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamford_Raffles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Farquhar

4) You should argue the case

Crocker claims that the British Empire promoted limited government, (individual)freedom and the free market; that the British Empire was successful because of this and that no power did more than the British to abolish slavery and slave trade. Yet he does not show that there was some kind of promotion of these values, either direct or indirect. Or how this contributed to its success.

Salutary Neglect might have been a deliberate policy, but was this policy there to promote the values he mentioned? And was it deliberate? Or does he mean that this was a side-effect?
Was the abolishing of slavery and slave trade a policy that was born from those values, or was it, again, that which promoted these values. And did this effect anyone or anything directly? And was the British Empire foremost in this?

Crocker doesn’t argue his case or even clarify what he means.

5) ‘Facts’ are not arguments

Crocker provides several times ‘facts’ as if they by themselves support his claims. Two of his main points are actually based on facts: that the English were alone in 1940 and that the Magna Carta influenced the US constitution. Each of these is ‘supported’ by more facts.

However, in the case of England being alone, nothing but that fact is established. He doesn’t even point out, which is probably more important, that England liberated countries later in the war. In the case of the Magna Carta he does not provide any proof that without it the US constitution would not exist.

Facts can be used to support your arguments, but it means you have to do more than just show them.

Final words

The 5-Minute video made by Crocker  is not much more than an opinion that is poorly supported by the supplied sources or are even contradicted by them. If PragerU’s mission  is “to promote what is true, what is excellent, and what is noble through digital media“, then this video does that mission a disservice.

See also:Looking at: If you live in freedom, thank the British Empire by H.W. Crocker III

Gallery

Looking at: If you live in freedom, thank the British Empire by H.W. Crocker III

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On the tenth of September 2017, PragerU published one of their 5-minute videos. The video was called If You Live in Freedom, Thank the British Empire and it was presented by H. W. Crocker III. The subject of the video is summarized above.

This video made me curious about the sources.  At first, I saw myself challenged to have to find out on what sources Crocker based himself, however, PragerU was kindly enough to publish the transcript of the video and an overview of Facts and Sources. They can be found here: https://www.prageru.com/video/if-you-live-in-freedom-thank-the-british-empire/

The purpose of this post is to go through the list of facts & sources and examine each of them and see if they support his statements.           

 

https://meritcoba.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/thank-the-british-empire.pdf

See also: Five reasons PragerU might be more critical towards their contributors. 

A splash quite unnoticed

XIR3675

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

 

William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

I think you would agree with me that it would be a herculean task to respond to any video on youtube that is out there that requires one.  Addressing the flood would make a considered reaction almost impossible.

However, sometimes I feel that a response is required. And I felt this need regarding a video called Why they don’t tell you about Hitler’s “Shrinking Markets ‘.    The main reason for my unease with this video is that the maker of this video, a man who calls himself TIK, schools people on what history is. If you claim to know what history is, then leading by example would be a thing for sure.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, though. So how edible is his course?

The case

It warrants to represent TIK’s argument in a proper manner. So let me lay out his case for you, so you can both check that I got it right and also understand the whole of his argument.

There are two ways to represent his argument. In a (very) short way and in the full way.

The short argument

Hitler was a socialist.

The long argument

They, the (Marxist-)Socialists who invaded the state controlled universities and schools since the Cold War era, if not earlier, want to prevent you from knowing about the shrinking markets because then they would have to tell you that Hitler was a socialist and that socialism, which means total state control of the economy and people – coupled with his racism caused the holocaust.
(note: I updated this long description to better reflect what was said on August the tenth)

I assume that you will agree with me that the short argument would be the easiest to respond to. The full argument is so complex in nature and raises so many additional questions that any response  will be very long indeed. So let me address the short version at the moment. That is, let’s see how TIK approaches this argument that Hitler was a socialist as a historian.

Screenshot - 7_9_2019 , 10_19_08 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - Opera

Socialism according to IEP

Before taking a look at TIK I want to point to another source first.  The reason is that the problem with the short argument is that we need to find a definition of socialism.  For this I make uses of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy(IEP)   The IEP is a peer-reviewed encyclopedia. The reason I do so it not for the most obious reason, that is to show it conflicts with the definition that TIK gives, but rather to point out that there is no agreement even among socialists disagree on how socialism is to be realized. The IEP  gives the following definitions on socialism as an economic system and an ideology.

A socialist economy features social rather than private ownership of the means of production. 

Socialist ideology asserts the moral and economic superiority of an economy with these features.

But it adds a cautionary remark:

How, precisely, socialist concepts like social ownership and planning should be realized in practice is a matter of dispute among socialists. 

IEP points out that:

Considered as an economic system, socialism is best understood in contrast with capitalism.

Capitalism designates an economic system with all of the following features:

  1. The means of production are, for the most part, privately owned;
  2. People own their labor power, and are legally free to sell it to (or withhold it from) others;
  3. Production is generally oriented towards profit rather than use: firms produce not in the first instance to satisfy human needs, but rather to make money; and
  4. Markets play a major role in allocating inputs to commodity production and determining the amount and direction of investment.

An economic system is socialist only if it rejects feature 1, private ownership of the means of production in favor of public or social ownership. But must an economic system reject any of features 2-4 to count as socialist, or is rejection of private property sufficient as well as necessary? Here, socialists disagree

My point here is to show that even if there is agreement about the fundamental concepts of socialism, there is disagreement about how to realize it. And it is in particular important as we soon will see.

Socialism according to TIK

Now let’s have a look at how TIK defines the concept for us.

Socialism: you get money for free when you murder and steal from the bourgeoisie(or jews)(2:55).

Socialism: the technical definition is: the socialization of the means of production(4:14).

Socialism is the state control of the economy(8:03).

(Real)Socialism is the state(8:44)(23:09)

The true nature of socialism – total state control of the economy and people – totalitarianism(19:24)

The reason why I have listed all the definitions in is because TIK uses these different ones to make his argument.  I cannot find where TIK takes his definitions from as he doesn’t quote any sources. He names two books: Basic Economics and Economics in One Lesson. But neither Sowell nor Hazlitt define socialism. Nor do they refer to socialism in the way he does(thievery and murder for example), even though Sowell points out some of the traits of Socialist states, to which he never says that these traits are exclusive to those states.

Screenshot - 7_9_2019 , 9_55_36 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - Opera

It is perhaps of interest in this context to give a quote by Hazlitt. The underscore is mine.

When analyzing fallacies, I have thought it still less advisable to mention particular names than in giving credit.
To do so would have required special justice to each writer
criticized, with exact quotations, account taken of the particular emphasis he places on this point or that, the qualifications he makes, his personal ambiguities, inconsistencies,
and so on I hope, therefore, that no one will be too disappointed at the absence of such names as Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, Major Douglas, Lord Keynes, Professor Alvin
Hansen and others in these pages. The object of this book
is not to expose the special errors of particular writers, but
economic errors in their most frequent, widespread or influential form. 

Economics in One Lesson, page IX(1946 version).

In other words: where TIK uses Marx and Keynes, Hazlitt declines to do so because he knows very well that he would have to address each of them extensively. Sowell refers to Keynes a few times(six results on two pages). Marx is mentioned more. Hitler is hardly mentioned by either, and not in the context of socialism.

I supply this to point out that TIK doesn’t quote the sources he bases himself upon and that two books he mentions do not supply the definitions he uses. It follows that his definition must be his own. And his definition is has quite a certainty: socialism is the state. In others words: where IEP defines that socialist have a dispute.. TIK offers certainty. Unsourced, unfounded and unsupported certainty.

TIK vs the rest of the world

Now let me be clear here; TIK can, without restraint, claim that Hitler was a socialist. However, to make his argument TIK has to come up with a definition and one that at least most people can accept. Why? Because otherwise we cannot communicate concepts. If you define green as red and do not communicate that you do so, you will be in a traffic accident in no time and if you have followers believe the same, they will be too.  We have to agree on definition not only to communicate, but also to make the arguments work. And you have to stick to that definition.

Screenshot - 7_9_2019 , 10_15_47 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - Opera

And here is where TIK sinks his own boat. To argue his case he gives at the beginning of his video a list of  people whom he calls Marxist-Socialists. These people, so Tik explains,  all believed in shrinking markets.. just as Hitler did. Then when he defines socialism as state control of the economy or, to drive the nail home, the total control of the people and the economy, Marxist-Socialists by this definition are no longer socialists. As IEP states: Not only will communism (unlike socialism) do away with class, material scarcity, and occupational specialization, it will also do away with the state.  In other words. Marxist-Socialists cannot therefore be used to support his argument regarding socialists. He has refuted himself.

His arguments are shaky in another way too, as he when he defines socialism as totalitarianism. In other words: socialism has become synonymous to totalitarianism.  If socialism is the same as totalitarianism then it has lost any meaning as a separate concept. In other words: anyone striving for totalitarianism has now become a socialist too and any socialist has become a totalitarian. It might again be important that in this TIK doesn’t support what he says with sources. Again, he must be using his own definitions.

You could of course argue that socialism and totalitarianism share common traits, but then you have to argue that point where they differ. Or you can argue that socialism is a subset of totalitarianism, but then you have to argue that point. TIK does neither. He makes a blanket statement by making the one equal the other.

Another way he digs a hole to fall in himself is by defining socialism as the state. Again this includes a lot of people who support the idea of a state but who might not see themselves as socialist. Take conservatives. And again, he doesn’t name any sources.

Screenshot - 7_9_2019 , 11_28_01 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - Opera

TIK further expands on this idea in his slide where he equates group to tyranny and the individual to liberty.  And he explains this via etymology: Public is the same as the State. And the group is the same as tyranny.

Screenshot - 7_9_2019 , 10_50_35 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - OperaScreenshot - 7_9_2019 , 10_50_50 AM (1) Why they don't tell you about Hitler's _Shrinking Markets_ problem - YouTube - Opera

Now this creates another problem. Just like Marxist-Socialists are no longer socialist, anyone who strives for the common good now supports tyranny by definition.  As he says: there  And would it be superfluous again to point out that he doesn’t name any sources for his claims?

The result of his redefinition of terms is now that some people are no longer socialists, while a lot of other people have become socialists.

The point

To drive this point home: TIK is totally free to claim that Hitler was a socialist. My post is not to respond to that claim.

Most don’t even know the meaning of the terms, and when, you point them out – backed by a host of sources and examples from their own literature(actual evidence) you get told that you don’t know what you are talking about(23:35).

As pointed out: TIK’s  definitions are totally his own and keeps being changed by him during his 28 minutes of diatribe.  He hasn’t presented any ‘host of sources’ to support his definitions. TIK refers to books by Sowell and Hazlitt, neither used in his video, nor does he illustrate that they support what he says. The  Marxist-Socialists cannot be used according to his own definitions as they are no longer socialists. He fails to make a coherent argument by playing fast and loose with definitions and failing to source them.

Crescendo

Vidal (loftily): As far as I’m concerned, the only pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that—

Smith: Let’s, let’s not call names—

Vidal: Failing that, I can only say that—

Buckley (snarling, teeth bared): Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered—

Gore Vidal vs William F. Buckley 

And then this final thing. What to say about a man who complains about his ideas being suppressed, but showing himself all too eager to hamstring the free exchange of ideas? If you deny that Hitler is a socialist, you deny the holocaust is the kind of argument that has no place in history.  TIK goes even a step further. He claims that socialists actually promote the holocaust(22:06).  History works when it allows for the free exchange of ideas. TIK has done himself a great disservice, he shows himself not to be the historian he claims to be.

The irony

TIK mentions a world wide socialist conspiracy to dominate the narrative, but doesn’t name the people involved, nor explains how it works on a global level, nor how it works  for privately owned  universities or for countries run by non-socialist governments for decades. He never supports anything he says.  But most ironical is it that he references men as David Glantz and Rainer Zitelmann in t and his other videos, both whom have studied at the same state controlled universities. But then I guess, checking his sources isn’t his strong suit.

David Glantz
Born in Port ChesterNew York, Glantz received degrees in history from the Virginia Military Institute and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff CollegeDefense Language Institute, Institute for Russian and Eastern European Studies, and U.S. Army War College.

Rainer Zitelmann
Zitelmann studied history and political sciences at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and completed his doctorate in 1986 under Prof. Dr. Karl Otmar Freiherr von Aretin with the grade of “summa cum laude”, the subject being the goals of Hitler’s social, economic and interior policies.

The Siege of Jadotville

Some time ago, in the early sixties, Belgian Congo, located smack bang in the middle of Africa, moved towards independence. Not everyone was thrilled with the idea. For one, a sizeable group of people living in the mineral-rich province of Katanga(uranium) wanted independence from independent Congo, while  the original colonizers, the Belgians, wanted no independence at all. Both being the enemy of their enemy, they went for one of those curious alliances that defy logic and Katanga was declared independent. To make sure it retained it’s independence Katanga was supplied with an army of mercenaries. French ones, given by De Gaulle, so the movie tells us.

The new government of Congo under Lumumba tried to conquer the state of Katanga by force. Since the west and the UN seemed lackluster in their support, Lumumba turned to the Soviets for aid. With the cold war edging towards a new high Congo seemed to become a battle ground where east and west could fight the cold war by proxy. So the United Nations stepped in with the aim to prevent this from happening or to control the damage.
(which it did in hindsight).

 

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_42_45-pm

In this complicated political scene a company of Irish soldiers gets ordered to take control of a place called Jadotville as part of their UN Peacekeeping mission. Unfortenatly, we are not informed why that particular place. It gets hinted at that it is an important location, but what are the orders?

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_53_55-pm
What orders?

The movie does spend some time on the background of the incident, but when it comes to the main part of the movie, we are clueless. What are these guys doing there anyway?

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_50_22-pm

The compound consists of a few buildings. Wisely enough the commander has his men dig trenches. Which is following the sage advice: dig in dammit!

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_44_09-pm

After some preliminaries, we get to the meat of the movie, which consists of an hour of battles scenes. There is little time for anything else but explosions and shooting. Character development is the first victim in this movie.

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_51_13-pm
The French dude. He is the honorable enemy. Who is he anyway? 

screenshot-10_29_2016-9_30_02-pm
Allrighty.. I just killed like three hundred of your men with no loss of my own. No hard feelings, right.

screenshot-10_29_2016-9_30_54-pm
That is the enemy. Figures in a landscape.

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_54_16-pm

The second victim is, of course, the truth. Politicians are not to be trusted and leave noble soldiers to fend for themselves.Reality is probably more complex and given that the movie spends some time on background, but not enough to flesh out the characters  we are never given an insight into the complex  political background and motives of the persons involved. In fact, the movie would have done better with leaving this part out entirely and not painting those involved in this tense complex political situation in a bad light with such rough brushstrokes. It is easy to point the finger at them politicians.  A more noble and heroic movie would have shown how hard the job actually is.

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_43_37-pm

O’Brien being appointed by the UN Secretary. O’Brien’s career as an international politician was broken in Congo/Katanga incident.
He is the bad guy.

 

screenshot-10_29_2016-8_49_58-pm
And there you have it. Katanga’s prime minister Thombe doesn’t think well of the UN.

 

.The siege of Jadotville isn’t really a good movie. Its main flaw is a lack of character development. Except for the commander, everyone is forgettable. But even as a historical insight into the events it leaves much to be desired. The same old story can be found here: untrusty politicians are selling out the noble soldiers. There is simply no time taken to delve into the complex world of cold war politics, but just enough to lay the blame with the usual suspects. The issue isn’t that there is someone to blame, the issue is that a good movie would show how a person choose his path, not because he is an untrusty bad person, but because that was his best choice, according to him at that time.

But even as a war movie it lacks the quality of say: Karthoum, Zulu, The Alamo, The lost battalion, Saving Private Ryan or the defense of Arnhem bridge by Frost in A bridge too far.
It is just a boring sequence of heroics that get to be unbelievable.

The siege of Jadotville rightly salutes the  company of Irish soldiers who ended up in a bad situation at a bad time, but it dishonors them at the same time by making a complex situation easy by laying blame by the politicians for betraying them. I know this is a hugely popular thing, but you can’t just do away  history because you dislike politicians. It would have been a better movie if it had just not taken that path but had given the politicians their due.  Politicians are people and they sometimes have to make hard choices. It would be a great movie that takes that into account.

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Movie rawr: Requiem for the American Dream

It is hard to level criticism at a documentary that has the famous Noam Chomsky as spokesperson in it. Who am I to naysay a man who knows more, has experienced more, means more and has more written all over? But this, in a strange manner, works both ways. When a documentary is out to proof something accepting it because Chomsky says so sets us up for a fallacy called speaking from authority. But before continuing on: what is the documentary about anyway?

This documentary is trying to make the case that there is some kind of conspiracy to kill democracy and the American dream. It is not a documentary trying to give you an insight in the theories of Chomsky for instance or trying to give you an overview of his career. In fact Chomsky, being a linguist, is treading outside his area of expertise. We are in the land of economics, politics and power-mongers in general. Which doesn’t mean that he has noting valid to say, but it is really a pity that what he seems to have revolutionized isn’t being talked about or used. Linguistics, the use of language, is a powerful way to shape the world around us for it is the way we get to know the world. You can read books like 1984 or How to read Donald Duck to get an idea. Mind you that me naming them doesn’t mean that I agree with the contents, it merely to give you examples.

The documentary is split in two logical parts. One part has figures and charts that show how the divide between the rich and the rest of the country dramatically changes over the decades. It shows how all kinds of restraints and controls on banks and other financial institutions have been done away with. It shows how the labor unions declined and so on. It tries to make the case that power is getting monopolized. And this all commented upon by Chomsky. And there is nothing wrong with this as far as I can determine.

It is the second part however that made me pause. It is where the documentary and Chomsky try to suggest that all of this is deliberate and aimed at undermining democracy and the American dream to the benefit… of who actually and planned by whom?
And here is the weakness of the documentary which is profound. Who are those people, Chomsky? Only a flimsy piece of evidence is given, which is where Chomsky strongly suggests that Alan Greenspan admitted in an open inquiry to promoting worker insecurity. I was baffled at this, for what use is a conspiracy that openly reveals itself and thus admits to being one? And as a matter of fact, it wasn’t what Chomsky said it was. And Chomsky was even challenged on this back in 2014, but he didn’t bother to correct himself and even repeats it in this documentary but now in a sly way.
The documentary first has Chomsky say it was designed. Then it shows Greenspan concluding worker insecurity  kept the wages low and an excerpt of the rapport is given and then Chomsky immediately says in the next shot that it is deliberate again. Thus suggesting again strongly that it was a deliberate policy. It took me a few minutes to google this how Chomsky tries to misuse this. Down below is a link where Chomsky in Counterpunch says it was imposed. You can google the internet too.

Here are screenshots from the documentary

22 minutes into the documentary

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Chomsky stating it is deliberate(designed)
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Chomsky pointing at Greenspan
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Here Chomsky is at his slyest. Running implies he was in on it. But it also doesn’t imply direct involvement. He can can always claim he didn’t mean to imply Greenspan planned it.
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Read the the whole paragraph. ‘Considered surprising.’  ‘Less than predicted.’ ‘Atypical.’ Greenspan is making observations and they are not as many would have expected(Greenspan probably wants to pass himself off as smart by suggesting others are surprised but he is not. Oh the irony for now he is open to Chomsky’s accusation. Had he said: it surprised me as well, Chomsky would have had no case to make. Well almost not.).
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Probably but you still have to proof it was deliberate and planned.
The documentary in this part reveals to be another conspiracy aimed at promoting the idea that yet another version of the Illuminati is at it again, only now they are so vague that we do not even get to know who these people are(was it Greenspan?), what they do and how they do it. Chomsky talks unopposed and no criticism of what he says can be found in this documentary. It is preaching for the choir. It is propaganda.
Chomsky strikes me as a man walking in a forest who hears a tree topple over and concludes that a private company is out to wreck nature because the tree must have been cut down by a man, and that man can only work for a company and companies only do stuff because they aim at enriching themselves at the cost of anything else and therefore it is a deliberate way to wreck nature.
Upon investigation however it could very well be that the tree toppled over because it was old and decrepit. You can probably think of yet another explanation.
Alas this documentary doesn’t give room for alternate explanations and this damages the whole purpose. For what would be the upshot of Chomsky’s arguments? That a nefarious group of people plans this? Hence: get rid of this group and all will be well?

Chomsky shoots himself in the foot. For he has to twist language to vindicate his believes which is really shameful for a man who has been a linguist. Twisting words in one case with intent discredits everything else that is said for I do not have the time to fact check everything. And now? What can I trust you to say truthfully? I would almost say: shame on you, Chomsky and those who made this documentary and didn’t bother to check and correct. You did everyone(including yourself) an extreme disservice.

Sources for  Chomsky’s claim that it was planned(by Greenspan?)

Chomsky stating that it was ‘imposed’ by Greenspan in Counterpunch.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/28/on-academic-labor

Actual text of the report:
http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/hh/1997/february/testimony.htm

Invesitgation by politifact & social coldstream
www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jul/21/facebook-posts/social-media-meme-says-alan-greenspan-said-insecur

social.coldstreams.com/2015/11/09/appeal-to-authority-assertion-of-false-quote-alan-greenspan-did-not-say-this

A detailed examination by the New York Times of the role of job insecurity at the time
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/27/business/job-insecurity-of-workers-is-a-big-factor-in-fed-policy.html

Movie rawr: Contact

 

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Oh the earth.. and look that is the sun..

After spending a third of a trillion dollars Ellie, played by Jodie Foster, finds herself at the other end of a worm hole. That is to say: back on Earth. It took her 18 seconds to do so.

Earth, inhabited by moronic creatures called humans, has just found itself to be the target of practical joker living on a planet orbiting Vega or thereabouts. Thereabouts cause that planet was probably just a relay station. It send them humans an instruction manual for building a device nobody on Vega or thereabouts could afford to build, hoping them dumb humans would do it. And they did. In fact, they made even two of them. How stupidly funny is that.

To their great embarrassment one of those earthlings appeared so they had to sent it back with some garbled message that would have the slow witted creatures pondering stuff for the rest of their pathetic existence and leave the rest of the universe well alone.

What is next? Ellie asks her dead daddy, the guise the alien has assumed for her convenience(and not Adolf H, which would have been funny). Well, we sent you back without a shred of evidence and nobody will believe you. And we erased all the tapes, and the audio and anything that could proof we exist. How about that? It will be just like.. a religion! You feel right at home!

Fine with me, Ellie says. For we have found out that Ellie doesn’t believe in gawd.. but she does believe in something after having had her trip to another world. So she has become a spiritual person so she can have intercourse with the religious guy named Palmer Joss without feeling ashamed about it. (In hindsight the painful look on her face when she kisses Palmer might very well be because Foster was a closeted lesbian, which by Jove would at least have made the movie more interesting if Ellie had been too. Nuke them straight people! )

So the whole movie, aptly named Contact, was about finding an excuse for the atheist (assumed closeted lesbian) Ellie to have (straight) intercourse with the Christian Palmer(who isn’t gay). Two third of a trillion dollars spent on matchmaking and brain reprogramming.. Does this movie get closure that way? Perhaps it does.

The more I think of this movie, the lower my scoring. The biggest part of the movie turns around a conflict between science and religion, in which the latter means: the Christian faith of the American kind. 95 percent of the humans are religious someone says to atheist Ellie, which is why she doesn’t get selected to go to Vega at first. She could have replied: but only a third of them are Christian. So who will it be? A Christian volunteer? A Muslim one? A Jewish? A Buddhist? Which religion shall be required? And if it will be Christian, which of the ten thousand denominations? The catholic one? Oh and did I tell you about my sexual orientation? Only 4% of the female population confesses themselves to be lesbian. And how about white vs black vs Asian? What race shall represent earth?  And what country? But we just skip over those shall we.. cause, darn it, this is America and there is just one American gawd and that is the white Christian one and no other exist!

And the American atheist gets to finally go after the designated white American Christian dude and the first alien device gets blown to smithereens by an equally white American religious nutcase cause them Americans prefer their own American atheist to go after all in their secretly build religious nutcase free intergalactic American travelling device version two, so they can adorn the alien property with an American flag. Only they forgot to give her one. Or that atheist is just as unAmerican as McCarthy would have us believe..

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Isn’t space nice without humans?

The nicest part of the movie is the beginning sequence, in which we see no humans at all. The camera travels backwards from the planet into outer space. Cool that! In between there are some more nice shots of desert landscapes and some sequences about the planets. As long as there are no humans in it, the movie is actually nice.

Jodie Foster, how I like her, is at her worst here. She seems constantly on the brink of a nervous breakdown, about to scream or about to cry. Why did they send that nervous wreck to the aliens? No wonder they returned her without any evidence so they will not send another one. Cause them humans are just too stupid to get that travelling through wormholes mucks with space and time. But you know.. Einstein is dead and with him all the brilliant scientists have died out.. Stephen Hawking? Never heard of the guy. Carl Sagan? Wasn’t he a script writer for sci-fi movies? Higgs? Penrose? Witten? Just a bunch of loonies.

The movie has also Blofield in it. He is named Hadden. Hadden is a deus ex machina. When the plot grounds to a halt, he steps in with a lotta money and gets it floating again. So Sagan, writer of this marvelous trash sees salvation come from the upper 1% of the upper 1% of the upper 1%. It is the gawd of monies that makes the world go round and the atheist go to Vega.  Jup.. the movie is almost brilliant. But there aren’t any cats in it though so it remains almost.

At the end of the movie Ellie is back were she started: in command of a large array of antennae listening to the universe. Did anything happen in between? Apparently not. It was all a dream probably or maybe she got back to another Earth in another universe? Isn’t that her once deceased dad in the background walking toward her over a pearly white beach? What was it all about? Well, we see her looking up at the night sky showing a milliard sparkling stars. She has become that spiritual person in which the scientist and the religious fanatic have become one. I feel at peace with the universe now. I am not alone anymore.. So let’s depart with that gooey feeling. Yuck..

I give it a five out of ten.

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Movie thoughts: Taxi Driver

 

The scene

A man has his arms crossed across his chest. He stares into the camera. He challenges an unknown adversary: are you talking to me? Are you talking to me…? Whom else would you be talking to?

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Taxi Driver is about a man who returns from a foreign war to eek out a living  as a taxi driver. He lives in a crummy apartment, without any friends or family in a city that is as distant to him as it is to anyone else. He works in an underpaid job driving random people around.  He doesn’t mind who. As a taxi driver he just transports them.. but he never gets to know them.He is a  man isolated from the world.

He tries to connect to people, but soon enough when he interacts his inner strangeness surfaces to undo any approach. He will not connect.

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The whole movie gears to a point.. and at that point we still are not certain what will happen. And when violence finally erupts we might see a hero being made or a villain, but we as watchers know his inner thoughts: he  is just a pistol-shot away from being either a villain or a hero. It is a close call.

Taxi driver is a great movie as it explore the estrangement of  man  alone in a city.The story of this lonely man is well told and supported by music. The cinematography is great. Helped by the scenes of the city. A must see for the story and the combination of music and scenes.

Here some mood scene.

 

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Movie thoughts: Beasts of no nation

The scene.

 

Three young boys stand on the edge of a water basin. The fist is saluting repeatedly  the second one. The second boy tells the third one that he is training the first one to be a warrior. Less than 50 feet away of their comrades executes an enemy soldier.

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War used to be a man’s business.
I don’t  mean to write this in a melancholic way. Like something has been lost and should be shed tears over. For me it is an observation from history. A matter of  historical fact. History used to be my business a long time ago. Specifically warfare..Until I got fed up with it. I threw out all my books, but I kept one. It is called: Warfare in the Classical World.
It tells me that a warrior of the Greek age had to carry around armor that weighed something like 60 pounds. Not something a mere boy could carry to or on the battlefield..It requires a grown up man to do so. Mind you a modern day soldier still carries a hefty weight around, but if need be.. he can do without it in battle.

Modern warfare has been a kind of equalizer. That is to say: any man, when properly trained, could fire a gun that kills any other man. .And since no armor could stand up to a gun in the end, it inevitably caused the downfall of those who were privileged to afford armor. Back in those days personal wealth could provide protection in the days that knights ruled the battlefield. Common wealth provided the lowly citizen with the power to undo that. A beggar could kill a knight with something as cheap as a gun. And a lot of beggars could kill the few knights at random by using a lot of guns.

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History shows a few key moments. The battle of Arsuf; where crossbowmen ruled the field, or the battle of Agincourt where long-bowmen dominated, but more in evidence are the movies Kagemusha.. where the samurai are defeated by firearms and  The Last Samurai, that is about the final defeat of the samurai at the hands of a regular army equipped with modern firearms.

When it is possible to arm mere beggars with guns to defeat an army, it wouldn’t be illogical to arm mere boys to do the same.

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And that is what movie Beasts of No Nation is about.

Here is a movie that, without reservation or pastiche, just shows the bare truth. In modern times you can even arm a boys to kill men. And what is more: they would be better at it because sense is only developed a later age. Hence at that age.. there is no sense.. and without sense they can arbitrarily kill anyone without any reservation. You just point the finger.

They are killing machines…

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Arm boys with guns and guns and boys will rule you.. without mercy and predictability.Not because they are evil, but because that is how they are raised. They do what they do.. because they are boys.

Beasts of no nation shows this without reserve or pastiche. Without a message or anything. It just shows. It a well made movie.. and scary.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1365050/

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/beasts-of-no-nation

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/beasts_of_no_nation/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie thoughts:The Kill Team

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/

For who is unfamiliar with the name The Kill Team – we are, after all, not all American citizens -: it was given to themselves by a group of soldiers that were active in Afghanistan around 2010 and subsequently the name was taken over and spread by the media when these men were accused, arrested and convicted for crimes including pre-meditated murder during an incident known as the Maywand District murders(Maywand_District_murders)

The scene is set up well as we are introduced to the setting -Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century – then given some background on the soldiers in general and finally shift to the handful of individual soldiers that are the subjects of the documentary.

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In particular The Kill Team follows Adam Winfield, who had attempted to alert the army of The Kill Team’s existence prior to the Maywand incident. The actual whistle blower however was Justin Stoner. We should remind ourselves not to confuse Winfield with Stoner. The first made an attempt to alert the army, did not succeed, and then did not stop the murders from occurring. He was thus sentenced to prison and got an dishonorable discharge. Stoner did notify the army and thus the investigation was started on his instigation. He was dismissed with honorable discharge. I want to mention this because at first it seemed as if the whistle blower got punished for doing his duty.

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The documentary does an excellent job of portraying Winfield and his parents as they struggle with what he has become. We even get a moment where he cries over what has happened and tells us at one point that he once planned his own suicide. We get an in-depth view of the anguish of a man who knew what happened was wrong, what others did was wrong, what he did was wrong and did not stop it, mostly because he was unable to. It was a truly sad thing.

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But when the documentary wraps it up it feels like something is missing. In fact, besides the interviews and some spurious remarks about what happened to the key people involved, there is nothing that is lifted above the level of personal drama. Isn’t there a bigger picture?

Stoner sums it up at the end: Your job is to kill.You’re infantry.[] Well, why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?

And here the documentary fails. If soldiers are taught to kill and just kill regardless is that what we want them to do? And if we don’t, how come they do things that we don’t want them to do?
Would that not be a valid question to ask, explore and answer?

Here is a few quotes that gives us a startling insight in the armies way of thinking(see the wikipedia):

“Colonel Harry Tunnell’s (of the 5th Stryker Brigade) “inattentiveness to administrative matters … may have helped create an environment in which misconduct could occur.”

and

“The brigade, was reported to be “rife with lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals about its mission.”

and

“As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial.”

Does it mean that soldiers get bad when their commanders allow them to go bad? Is losing your moral compass the expected behavior when a lack of proper discipline releases a soldier from the leash that his superior keeps him in check with? Like a dog?
Does morality come with rank? And has a general more morality than a private?
Is that how we see people?

But if that explains it, why were those soldiers punished at all? I mean, without their commanders keeping them on the right track, they are bound to go off in the deep end as the reports seem to suggest. They lost their moral compass.Can’t they plead insanity(as in A time to kill) or perhaps a sufficient lack of amorality?

The kill team is a well made documentary but also one that leaves something to be desired. The documentary doesn’t spent much time on the bigger picture and keeps the camera focused on the personal drama of a few individuals, which makes for a gripping tale, but not much more and that is a pity. It would have been a lot stronger if it they had asked themselves: why did this come about? It tells you the who, the what, the how but does not address the why.

Sources:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maywand_District_murders
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kill_Team