Daily Archives: September 4, 2006

Malcolm’s quiet day:

Malcolm has been left to his own devices today, which means he mused a little, read a bit, drank a couple of gallons of tea, and blogged. He sparked up his trusty 160GB LaCie drive to have his full iTunes library, and activated shuffle mode. So far, so good.

Eventually, one ear picked up a song from way back: the Chad Mitchell Trio bashing out ‘John Birch Society’ (don’t knock it: it got to #99 in May 1962):

Oh, we’re meetin’ at the courthouse at eight o’clock tonight:
You just walk in the door and take the first turn to the right.
Be careful when you get there, we hate to be bereft,
But we’re taking down the names of everybody turning left.

Oh, we’re the John Birch Society, the John Birch Society,
Here to save our country from a communistic plot.
Join the John Birch Society, help us fill the ranks:
To get this movement started we need lots of tools and cranks.

Which went right over the heads of the younger set.

The John Birch Society is named for a military man, who died in China in 1945, “the first victim of the Cold War”. It represents one of the early flushes in the continuing conspiracy-theory epidemic. Its peak was in the 1960s, opposing the Civil Rights movement and any other communistic tendency it could spot. It made a lot more noise than sense. Malcolm admits he was surprised to find it still in business, when he rushed off to wikipedia for an up-date. Its current programme is to oppose NAFTA and any other free-trade arrangement as being against American interests. A long-term aim has been US withdrawal from the United Nations. The JBS (as they are known among close acquaintance):

  • regarded Eisenhower as a Commie stooge under the control of his brother Milton.
  • supported Goldwater over Nixon in 1960 and 1964.
  • in the 1968 Election the JBS supported George Wallace over Nixon. After Nixon’s election, Robert Welch, the founder of the JBS , wrote to Wallace: ‘It is the ambition and the intention of Richard Nixon, during the next eight years, to make himself the dictator of the world’.
  • ran a candidate (John Schmitz) against Nixon in 1972—he got 1M votes.
  • found Reagan a disappointment, though Reagan’s election, bringing ‘mainstream conservatives’ into Government, was a major reason for the decline of the JBS (another was the in-fighting after Robert Welch’s death).
  • worked for the impeachment of Clinton.

The JBS enjoyed considerable financial support from oil magnates like Howards Hunt and Pew. This was, in part, the corporations exploiting the Taft-Hartley Act to distribute anti-union/anti-communist propaganda: by 1963 this was running at $25M a year, some of which went to the JBS.

Malcolm admits, wearily, that he simply cannot be arsed to work out what the JBS believes is the Great Conspiracy: the Illuminati, the London School of Economics, the Reds, Freemasons, weather control, the New World Order are all in there. It seems that the whole thing is done through the Bilderberg conferences.

And that is why the Chad Mitchell Trio brought it all back:

Oh, we’re the John Birch Society, the John Birch Society
Fighting for the right to fight the right fight for the Right.

And, yes, if you think you recognise that voice on the Trio’s later recordings, it really is Jimmy Thudpucker. Sorry that should read John Denver. Easy mistake to make. Not for nothing was Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind thus named.

Raising his tea-mug, Malcolm toasted, ‘So, here’s to you, Arnie Saland, from NYC. You explained it all to us in the side bar of O’Neill’s back in ’64.’

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A nice irony:

Malcolm enjoys Life’s Little Ironies (phrase © Thomas Hardy: not many people know that!)

This one comes courtesy of a Reuter‘s report of last Friday, 1st September (but more easily accessed on MSN), a nice piece filed by Madeline Chambers. It deals with the way that, since German Reunification, investment in Berlin has changed the nature of the city.

Berlin was a divided city, long before 1945. Christopher Isherwood made the point pre-war in Goodbye to Berlin:

Berlin is a city with two centres—the cluster of expensive hotels, bars, cinemas, shops around the Memorial Church, a sparkling nucleus of light, like a sham diamond, in the shabby twilight of the town; and the self-conscious civic centre of buildings around the Under den Linden, carefully arranged.

For those who miss the point, the ‘cluster … around the Memorial Church’ became the focal point of West Berlin. The Gedächtniskirche at Breitscheidplatz was a ruin for two decades after it had a visitation from above in November 1943. It was built as a memorial to Kaiser Wilhelm I. It now sits as a symbol of past ruin and later renewal, between the Kurfürstendamm (once Berlin’s Bond Street or Fifith Avenue) and the Europa Center. This area represented the glamour, glitz and seduction of the capitalist West. Now, says Chambers:

Long stretches of Kurfuerstendamm, west Berlin’s most fashionable boulevard when it was occupied by U.S., British and French forces after World War II, now look neglected with discount stores and “To Let” boards appearing alongside upmarket cafes and boutiques.

On the other hand, Unter den Linden heads east from the Brandenburg Gate. To those of a certain age, like Malcolm, the much-photographed view eastwards, across the Wall, remains iconic. It was in front of the Gate that Reagan made his speech in June 1987 (great speech, shame about the speaker):

Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German separated from his fellow men.
Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

The Gate itself was only restored in 2003, and this whole area has seen massive reconstruction.

The result is, as Chambers says:

As eye-catching new landmarks emerge in the eastern part of the German capital, much of the west — once a proud model of capitalism — is left looking drab and dilapidated…
Tourists are deserting the heart of the west and being drawn eastwards to the revamped Reichstag parliament building with its glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster, and the newly cleaned Brandenburg Gate.

And here’s the irony:

Berlin’s government, controlled by Social Democrats and the former communist PDS, acknowledges City West needs investment.

Got that? The lefties are having to rescue capitalism. Again. … Sigh …

It was ever thus.

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