Monday, January 19, 2009

Empty nostalgia at the Chronicle

You would think the SF Chronicle would be a little embarrassed about how their product has gone downhill in the last twenty years. Instead, as in last Sunday's edition, they seem oddly intent on reminding everyone about the good old days, when the Sporting Green section was actually printed on green paper. If it's no longer printed on green paper, why keep calling it "The Sporting Green"? Because of a mindless, empty nostalgia, the same reason they periodically reprint Herb Caen's columns: we used to have a great columnist, and we used to print our sports section on green paper.

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Alan Bennett: progressive

I only know Alan Bennett's work from his fine The Madness of King George and An Englishman Abroad, along with his diaries published annually in the London Review of Books. Bennett is the rare diarist who can make his everyday thoughts and doings more or less interesting. Last year I liked his idea of a Nuremburg trial for the architects, planners, and developers who have desecrated the city of Bath, an idea we should put into play here in SF, where so-called progressives are busily trying to trash large parts of our once-beautiful city.

This year, alas, his diary (LRB, Jan. 1, 2009) shows that even an otherwise intelligent man like Bennett adheres to typical left-wing mythology when it comes to history and politics: "[George] Steiner had first seen [Joseph] Needham at a protest meeting against Anglo-American intervention in Korea in 1950..." Oh yes, those meddlesome Brits and Yanks! Can anyone at this late date really believe anything but that North Korea, with the crucial help of the Russians and Red China, invaded South Korea in 1950? US and Great Britain---later joined by the United Nations---"intervened" to prevent a successful invasion, which would have turned the whole Korean peninsula into a giant gulag like North Korea is now.

But there's more: "Afghanistan, though a campaign every bit as futile and mistaken as the war in Iraq, has somehow become the acceptable face of war...But I suspect it's more because we don't hear much of the civilian population of Afghanistan and that 'Johnny Taliban' (in Prince Harry's phrase) is more of an identifiable bogeyman than the factions in Iraq."

"Futile" to prevent the Taliban from regaining power in Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attackers were trained and Osama Bin Laden was based? This fuzzball nonsense is also spouted by some American left-wingers. Fortunately, Barack Obama is not a squishy prog in this sense, which will no doubt disappoint the anti-American left in Europe and the US.

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