Chairman Mao’s Little Red Bore

I’m old enough to remember when some members of the younger generation thought Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party were pretty cool.  You’d see people wearing t-shirts with Warholesque portraits of Chairman Mao (and of Che Guevara, too, but that’s another story), talking about the radical reforms that the brave Chinese Communists were attempting, and quoting from the sayings of Chairman Mao like he was a modern-day Confucius.

Both Richard and Russell have been to the Far East (Richard to China and Russell to Japan and Viet Nam) and one of them came back with Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung — Mao’s famous “little red book.”  I ran across it the other day and thought I would look to see what all of the fuss was about.

Having read the book — until I could take no more — I can safely say that Chairman Mao was one of the most boring writers ever.  Not only are his pronouncements often nonsensical drivel, it’s hard to imagine more leaden prose being written by any sentient being.  Consider this chestnut from the chapter Socialism and Communism:

“The people’s democratic dictatorship uses two methods.  Towards the enemy, it uses the method of dictatorship, that is, for as long a period of time as is necessary it does not let them take part in political activities and compels them to obey the law of the People’s Government and to engage in labour and, through labour, transform themselves into new men.  Towards the people, on the contrary, it uses the method not of compulsion but of democracy, that is, it must necessarily let them take part in political activities and does not compel them to do this or that, but uses the method of democracy in educating and persuading them.”

Huh?  Not only does this passage bear no relation to the reality of China under Mao — except for the dictatorship part, I guess — but I fell asleep about halfway through.  And the Little Red Book is chock full of such blather.

It just goes to show — you can’t just a book by its little red cover.


The “Super Committee” And The Nixon-To-China Opening

The 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have been appointed.  Six Republicans, six Democrats; six Senators, six Representatives.  This so-called “Super Committee” will now see whether it can reach agreement on a plan to reduce deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.  If they can’t, cuts to defense spending and discretionary programs will take effect.  If they can, their proposal goes directly to the House and Senate floors for up or down votes.

Predictably, each side is criticizing the other side’s choices as political hacks, zealots, empty suits, or outright nuts.  And each side also is expressing concern about their own side’s selections.  Will they stand up to the pressure, or cave in and sacrifice the party’s principles?  Only one person need break ranks to join the other side on a compromise proposal.

From my perspective, the Democratic and Republican selections appear to be predictable, safe, controlled choices who are true to their parties’ principles.  Obviously, they all enjoy credibility with the party leadership, and my guess is that they have similar credibility with the vast majority of the members of their respective caucuses.

This may make reaching an agreement more difficult, but I also wonder whether these selections don’t also allow a possible Nixon-to-China moment.  When President Nixon visited China as part of a diplomatic initiative to open relations with that nation, many noted that Nixon was one of the few people who could do so without being criticized as a communist sympathizer or squishy on national defense.  If a long-time, staunch anti-Communist like Tricky Dick thought opening relations with China and shaking hands with Mao Zedong was a good idea, who could be heard to complain?

Perhaps the reputations of the Super Committee members as stalwart defenders of their parties’ positions on spending and taxes similarly will make any compromise they may reach more saleable in the House and Senate.  If partisans as diverse as Patty Murray and Pat Toomey, Jeb Hensarling and James Clyburn, could possibly find common ground, wouldn’t that provide some cover for others to support the deal?