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June 29, 2009

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SEK is also on the case: http://acephalous.typepad.com/acephalous/2009/06/polygraphlevel-scholarship-may-suffice-for-harmless-speculation-about-the-authorship-of-midsummers-n.html.

I think my favorite moment of the ghostwriting obsession was when someone, I forget who, wrote that Obama had never used lofty rhetoric in his legal articles, so the book must have been ghostwritten by Ayers. For that author, it must go without saying that Ayers ghostwrote the 2004 convention speech...

And once again, Voltaire's Prayer is answered.

which just goes to show that I am, in fact, Bill Ayers. But I'm not alone...

omg that is the funniest turn of phrase I have read in a while. Bravo.

The Guatemalan birds of paradise are probably the flower.

Which just adds baleful credence to the singularity.

Or something.

Hilzoy--

It gets worse.

In a third season episode of M*A*S*H called "Adam's Rib", Hawkeye (Alan Alda, who of course is a bleeding heart liberal) also misquotes Sandburg, calling Chicago ""Hog butcher to the world."

That means that Bill Ayers has been writing some of America's most beloved sitcoms! Isn't there any part of our society that monster hasn't touched?!?

My recommended title would have been 'Where I find myself putting on Ayers'

So, Bill Ayers didn't ghostwrite Obama's campaign book about policy, but merely his "autobiographical" memoir. In which case, so what? Providing policy ideas would be making a real impact. What, being someone's ghostwriter makes you the bestest friends ever? The claim isn't merely nonsense, but insignificant nonsense. Obama's secret Muslim ways are much more relevant.

Though I do wonder if Ayers is ever saddened by the thought that Dreams From My Father is probably his best work.

It was kind of striking 40 years later to find out that, while a complete nut job, McCarthy was right about there being widespread Soviet influence in the State Department.

In this same way, I expect to be entirely floored that Cashill is right about this in about 20 years when Ayers passes away and The Washington Times online edition publishes his personal papers en masse.

Twinkling eyes? That's evidence?

Holy crap! J. K. Rowling is Bill Ayers!

This all has the ring of a Children's Television Workshop dramatization of Borges, doesn't it?

It was kind of striking 40 years later to find out that, while a complete nut job, McCarthy was right about there being widespread Soviet influence in the State Department.

Yes, if a senator accuses virtually everyone of working for the Soviets, and it turns out that some people were (albeit with little overlap with those whose careers he was publicly targeting), his powers of prescience are almost awe-inspiring in retrospect.

Also, how can you "expect to be entirely floored" by something? Is this a subtle Dr. Manhattan reference?

Not to be snarky, but who doesn't know what baleful means? Read much?

Um, why did Dizi Izle copy my comment and re-post it?

And once again, Voltaire's Prayer is answered.

Alas, the ridiculousness of one's enemies is no guarantee of their defeat.

"Not to be snarky, but who doesn't know what baleful means? Read much?"

Actually, I read a lot and I didn't. Most of my vocabulary has been ingested over decades based on context rather than thumbing through a dictionary.- I thought baleful meant sad. I wonder what book(s) I misunderstood?

Um, why did Dizi Izle copy my comment and re-post it?

New breed of spambot, apparently. It did that on another thread, too. Deleted, both places.

Rob!, dizi is a spambot (promoting some Turkish site), and did the same on another thread. Looks like someone has dealt with it.

"Of all the bits of lunacy unleashed by the prospect that Barack Obama might actually win the election, my personal favorite...."

Actually, I think my favourite is that Obama cannot speak without a teleprompter. I have watched many of his answers to questions- answers which when transcribed go on for many coherent paragraphs- starting with the problem and working through to his preferred solution. (I think the most insightful comment i read after one of his early performances was that the President could talk at length about just about anything). Each time I wonder how those adherents to the can't speak without teleprompter thesis cope with the evidence?

Each time I wonder how those adherents to the can't speak without teleprompter thesis cope with the evidence?

Oh, now, be honest, Mr. Canuck. You know perfectly well how they cope with the evidence.

Of course you didn't have to look it up. He defined it for you. Awfully nice of him, I think.

I think Kate DiCamilla is the best at throwing in difficult vocabulary words and providing the definitions in context. Of course, her best works are aimed at fifth-seventh graders.

mds, actually I don't. Most I'm sure just close eyes and ears and refuse to listen; some think he memorizes these answers. I don't have sufficient imagination as to other alternatives. Hopefully Cashill will turn his attention to the subject and write another scholarly article dealing with all possible theories

my own, personal head appears to be occupied by a committee consisting of a bad graduate student thesis author, slim galliard, al sleet, and yogi berra.

it's very confusing.

russell wins the thread.

no argument.

can't top an al sleet reference.

"It was kind of striking 40 years later to find out that, while a complete nut job, McCarthy was right about there being widespread Soviet influence in the State Department."

"widespread"?

Of all the bits of lunacy unleashed by the prospect that Barack Obama might actually win the election, my personal favorite was Jack Cashill's claim that Bill Ayers had ghostwritten Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father
Hilzoy, your judgement is so often excellent that I cannot but denounce your choice of favorites here as the pure travesty all right-thinking blog readers must know it to be - the Ayers Ghostwriter idea can't hold a candle to the pure lunacy that is Pam Atlas's famous book-length post making wild accusations about Obama's parentage, which The Poor Man Institute memorably described as follows:
So thrill to the majesty of Pam’s 30,000 page opus explaining how Google can prove that Barack Obama is the illegitimate child of Scary Sixties Black Dude Malcolm X. Or, if you don’t want to waste a week and give yourself a brain tumor, just admire the wanktoitiveness required to make such an idiot of yourself. Even on the internets, she is something special.
The Ayers ghostwriting accusation isn't even in the same order of magnitude of crazy.
the Ayers Ghostwriter idea can't hold a candle to the pure lunacy that is Pam Atlas's famous book-length post making wild accusations about Obama's parentage

Yeah, that was special.

Even more. (via LGM)

R.R., that link was the very first comment in the thread, albeit it wasn't formatted properly.

This statement will almost always do: "the pure lunacy that is Pam Atlas."

@Gary Farber:

"widespread" might be a too much - I am at work and not ready to give a full defense of my statement above. But my limited research a couple of years ago was that the post Cold War release of some of the Soviet - and American - intelligence archives from the 40's and 50's had borne out some of McCarthy's paranoia to an extent that was surprising. Not only were the Rosenbergs guilty - and not just the victims of widespread anti-semitism on the part of American law enforcement - but that there were, in fact, a surprising number of deep cover Soviet operatives and fellow travelers amongst those accused.

While the Blacklist and the HUAC hearings were travesties of sensibility and justice, there were, in fact, Soviet spies to be rooted out and challenged.

I am not defending McCarthy or his tactics, by the way, just to be clear. As evidence, I cite my earlier comment about him being a nutjob, as well as the reference to his paranoia above. In fact, I think he did the cause to which he was paying lip-service* a great harm, for without his demagoguery and bombast, a reasonable effort might have been made to corral some of the people who were, in fact, working against America's interest. And while I find much of America's behavior in the Cold War reprehensible (Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Vietnam), I absolutely think we were the good guys in a horrible war - Cold or Hot - which engulfed millions of people, and claimed millions of lives over 40 years.

* Ultimately, I think Joe McCarthy's root cause was the promotion of Joe McCarthy.

"Not only were the Rosenbergs guilty...."

Julius, at least; it still seems a fairly open question as to what degree of guilt Ethel might have had. But Julius, definitely.

And although you didn't mention him, certainly the evidence has long become clear that Alger Hiss was guilty. In the Treasury Department, notably Harry Dexter White. At the War Production Board, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster. There was the small Perlo group.

But so far as I know the number of confirmed Soviet agents in the U.S. government was a few dozen at best; several more were suspected, but never proven. And some of those worked in departments such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, or the Works Pro not exactly in a position to do major damage to the U.S.

Out of hundreds of thousands of employees, and thousands of high level ones, I think "widespread" is difficult to support. (There were a number of others who didn't work for the U.S. government, of course.)

"...there were, in fact, Soviet spies to be rooted out and challenged."

But I don't believe anyone in the mainstream ever contested otherwise. No one claimed there were no Soviet spies in the U.S. or U.S. government.

"...a reasonable effort might have been made to corral some of the people who were, in fact, working against America's interest."

A reasonable effort was made, which is why a bunch were caught. J. Edgar Hoover wasn't exactly a slacker in his efforts. Nor did Alger Hiss, in fact, go free (though he was found guilty of perjury, not treason or spying).

"I absolutely think we were the good guys in a horrible war - Cold or Hot - which engulfed millions of people, and claimed millions of lives over 40 years."

I think we were, overall, "better" than the Soviet Union, but given how many utterly stupid things both sides did, particularly in supporting wars and coups in the rest of the world that led to the deaths of tens of millions of people, it's hard for me to be enthusiastic about anybody's "goodness." In Vietnam alone over four million Vietnamese on both sides died completely pointlessly. The war should have ended after the 1954 Geneva Conference, which guaranteed internationally supervised free elections in 1956, which needless to say, were never held. Instead we backed a referendum by Diem in the south which he "won" by -- surprise! -- 98% of the vote, with 133% in Saigon.

He was just that popular.

Diem in the south which he "won" by -- surprise! -- 98% of the vote, with 133% in Saigon.

Sounds like Ahdemenijad. I wonder if those elections used Diebold machines or just pirated their technology.

Not a government official, but the tale of George Koval is pretty interesting.

@Gary Farber

"A reasonable effort was made, ..."

Sure, a lot of reasonable people were making that effort, but a great deal of the energy that reasonable people might have expended on actually fighting Stalin was wasted by McCarthy's foolishness and comic-book mentality.

Having said that - I agree with just about everything you wrote. If I come across the figures I am thinking of in regards to "widespread" communist infiltration of the State Department, I'll let you know.

PS - Oh, how I wish we had let the 1956 elections take place. Having fought alongside Americans in WWII, I think Ho Chi Minh (who would have won that election hands down) might have proved to be a far more formidable ally even than he was an opponent.

The Soviet spies in the US were very important, but not especially in the State Department. The Atomic Spies got the atom bomb to the Soviet Union, which spread the design around the world. Descendents of those US designs are in North Korea and will soon be in Iran.

Somebody might have re-invented it eventually, but years later, and history would have been really different.

See this book.

You know, I do believe there are yellow dogs in my blog. Bill Ayers is in my head, too! Help!

Atomic Spies sounds like a decent name for a band.

[I think we were, overall, "better" than the Soviet Union, but given how many utterly stupid things both sides did, particularly in supporting wars and coups in the rest of the world that led to the deaths of tens of millions of people, it's hard for me to be enthusiastic about anybody's "goodness."]
Gary Farber

So true.
You mentioned Viet Nam;there was also Korea. As I recall US blocked an election for a unified Korea in the late 1940's because expected communists would win. Whether that was good may depend on probablity that a unified Korean would have been led by saner leaders.

The comments are hilarious, too. One comment responding to someone who makes fun of the article and cites Obama's accomplishments says something like "what accomplishments?" Isn't becoming president one of the highest aspirations an American can have? Aside from winning a World Seriesl that is.

"Somebody might have re-invented it eventually"

This is perfectly silly, and the other reason why Soviet spies (or American/Western spies in turn) just really weren't all that important in the larger scheme of things. The facts are that there are and were no great "atomic secrets," once you know the idea is possible. The rest is just engineering. Now it's true that the engineering to enrich uranium sufficiently is a massive massive job. But it's still just a matter of throwing money and labor at it. Ditto the designs took some time to work out, but they were still basic engineering.

The fact is that the Soviets' spies may have helped them get the bomb three or four years sooner than they would have. That's about all. Why that would be of tremendous significance to history, I dunno.

The facts in general are that when you look at the entire history of spying both on the Soviet Union, and from the Soviet Union, nothing much of earth-shattering consequence happened. Mostly it was a matter of spies uncovering other spies. And, sure, at times plans for this, that, and the other, were turned over. Again, nothing greatly significant came of any of this. In many cases it was convenient and stablizing to be able to listen to the conversations and be privy to the thinking of your opponent.

But no wars were won in the Cold War due to spying on either side, nor wars prevented, and in general, it's all very over-rated, and a tremendous, unbelievable, amount of money was spent for what was, in the end, returns that weren't that determinative of much of anything.

And some specific events were disastrous. The U2 flights were dangerous, provocative, and led to the collapse of the 1960 Geneva Conference, which might actually have accomplished something useful. The U2 flight, and subsequent shooting down of it, and subsequent lying by Eisenhower about it, and justifications for it, were understandably almost impossible for the Soviets to sit still for without an apology, and apology Eisenhower decided was impossible to give. Thus, the end of detente for years to come.

That was significant, and there was no good reason that the U2 flights shouldn't have ended some time before then.

And I'm not even getting into the list of disasters "covert actions" led to.

"As I recall US blocked an election for a unified Korea in the late 1940's because expected communists would win."

It's a lot more complicated than that. Rather than regurgitate my own version, I'll point here.

Gary, you might want to adjust your estimate of Vietnam War mortality downward. I did a little asking around recently, and was pointed to an article by Charles Hirschman et al. in Population & Development Review 21-4 (Dec. 1995). (Only available online if you have access to JSTOR through a research library, unfortunately.) They come up with a total of about one million Vietnamese deaths during the "American War," 1965-1975.

Now I had my doubts, but these guys are serious, heavy-duty demographers (I actually know Hirschman, though I haven't seen him in decades), and have no political bias that I can discern. This particular study involves a sampling technique that raises questions of reliability, like the more recent Lancet studies of deaths in Iraq. But they also cite other estimates that are in the same ballpark, so I'm inclined to take their figure semi-seriously.

I still think one might reasonably guess a number as great as two million, incorporating all the misgivings I have, but for now I think that the Vietnamese government figures of 3, 4, or even 5 million war-related deaths are probably an exaggeration. (Which is not to say that the 1-2 million figure is not horrendous, particularly with reference to total population size, and not counting all of the other "casualties" that did not result in death - choose your own multiplier.)

Makes no difference here at all, but I know you value precision, or at least a reasonable approximation thereunto.

"Gary, you might want to adjust your estimate of Vietnam War mortality downward."

Ok. But, you know the saying: a million deaths here, a million deaths here, and soon you're talking serious frowny faces.

dr ngo,
the last thing that I read about Vietnam war deaths was that recently 'declassified' (I don't know what the Vietnamese equivalent of classified is, but you get the idea) is that the North Vietnam government, worried about the effect on morale, actually lowballed casualties.

Googling to try and find that, I came across this

New estimates of war deaths in 13 nations including Vietnam, Ethiopia and Bangladesh show that previous counts vastly understated the lives lost to war in the past half century, researchers said on Thursday.

And this unrelated, but very interesting article, about ghosts in Vietnam

Be interested in your take on the second link especially.

The death toll in Korea, I've read, also has a great deal of wiggle room in it. China, for instance, put its number of combat deaths at something like (not quoting, here) a few tens of thousands, whereas other estimates average more like half a million. I'd guess that North Korean deaths were also undercounted.

Large numbers of Chinese casualties were in one sense a design feature, as Mao probably was ridding himself of a large number of former Nationalist troops by throwing them into the meat grinder.

Civilian deaths are also difficult to know, as they IMO are much less likely to have any official counting.

OMG, Ayers must also have written Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Both mention "fine eyes." And I think in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion Catherine and Anne, respectively, have "soft eyes" ("respectively" means that Catherine is in Abbey and Anne is in Persuasion, they aren't both in both books - just so you don't have to look it up. Also.) And in Mansfield Park Stephanie's eyes are definitely "charming" and "sparkling" and "dark." I suspect that Ayers wrote those books as well.

In addition, after additional careful analysis, I have concluded that Ayers is also the novelist formerly known as "Dickens." Trollope, however, remains Trollope. Because nobody really cares about Trollope anymore, which is unfortunate, he's magnificent and it's really too bad high schools teach David Copperfield and other screeds by that radical, Ayers, instead of good solid works like The Way We Live Now, but that's "liberal" education for you...

We have to check that Obama's autobiography did not start with "He was a dark and stormy knight" ;-)

LJ: Thanks for the links; I'll read and get back to you. (On this thread, now quasi-defunct? Or elsewhere?) I'm amused to note that one of the BMJ researchers is from UWash, and therefore a colleague of Charles Hirschman, or the 1995 study I cited. Must see if I can get Charlie's take on this!

Hi dr ngo, sorry I'm a bit late with this, there is a thread over at TiO. Thanks

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