a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Issue #42 (April 21, 2010)

City Hall, Los Angeles

Photo by Chris Collins

Liberté, Fraternité . . . Solidarité (Jews Need Not Apply);
or, Finally! A Holocaust Film Worse Than Schindler’s List

By Carolyn Heinze

To speak of grocery-shopping in Paris, we must speak of war. To speak of war, I’d like to propose the Parisian grocery store. Ever been grocery-shopping in Paris? No, not in the, ‘Chéri, let’s buy a bottle of water before we climb that big set of steps leading up to Sacré Coeur,’ kind of way. And no, not in the, ‘Chou-chou, let’s hit that cute-typique-authentiquebakery shop and that cute-typique-authentique cheese shop and that cute-typique-authentique wine shop and that cute-authentique-typique butcher shop with the cute-typique-authentique French butcher with the chubby red face and the chubby black moustache and the chubby red pencil behind his chubby pink ear, so we can bring it all back to our sublet vacation rental in the Marais – sooo typique !! – and play chubby wooden-beamed French house,’ kind of way, either. I mean, really grocery-shopping?

You’re missing out. And not just on the cheap wine. Because if you live here and love here and exist here and subsist here and go grocery-shopping here, on a regular basis, regularly, you’re a damned-by-default social commentator. No, non, you’re a philosopher. No, non, excusez-moi, you’re a sociologist. With a minor in philosophy and another minor in social commentary and a major in patience, and . . . Well, bref. If you’re paying attention, patiently, while you’re grocery-shopping in Paris, you only have to go a few times to know more than Alexis de Tocqueville ever gathered about democracy and/or the United States and Bernard Henri-Levy will ever gather about anything, including how to achieve wispy-wavy-wistfully philosophical, democratically dramatic French hair.

I’m talking Monoprix (when your deadbeat clients finally pay you) and Franprix (when your deadbeat clients say they’re going to pay you, and offer a check number and mail date and everything) and E.D. (when you start asking yourself if your deadbeat clients are ever going to pay you) and Leader Price (when you finally conclude that your deadbeat clients are just a bunch of damn deadbeats, and that from them you are going to see the dough, le pognon, le fric, le blé never, ever, plus jamais, again). Because: if you look and you watch and you observe and you see, and you’re in a grocery store in Paris, you’ve pretty much got a handle on French society. And how it works. And how it doesn’t work. And how it sort-of works. And how it is.

Let’s take a step back, back behind the safety of the Maginot Expess Line. You know how some countries are called The People’s Republic Of Wherever and The People never have a say in anything? Or how some other countries have snappy-smart slogans about progress and achievement and freedom and justice but the word-count limit doesn’t allow for the part about ‘for those with Swiss bank accounts?’ France has a slogan, too, you know: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Means ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ in English. Or, ‘liberty, equality, brotherhood,’ but that latter translation always pisses the feminists off. Anyway, France has a slogan, and I feel sorry for the poor slob who wrote it. His word-count limit was strict! Because there’s another word the French really love, and that’s solidarité. In English, it means ‘solidarity;’ in French, it means chacun pour sa gueule. Which is just a slightly less-polite way of saying every man for himself. Or every woman for herself. Sorry.

Again, grocery-shopping in Paris? C’est la guerre. As you may recall, the French know War. Or at least they’ve been in and around and beside and above and underneath and in the vicinity of one or two. And just like good old-fashioned fix-your-bayonet-and-off-we-go trench-warfare, the Battle of le Supermarché demands its own set of weapons and warfare and strategies and tactics and torture and Machiavellian/Sun Tzu-esque art. Because there are buggy-blockades and basket-caches, and unstoppable tank-like caddy-chariots and knee-capping baby strollers weighed down with fierce French babies, and even dual-strollers and dual-babies, and their single mothers and their elbows . . . dual-elbows . . . . and tsk-tsks and oh là là’s and hurled insults and free zones and occupied territories and collaborators and collateral damage and denunciations and friendly fire and plain-old prison-camp psychology when all you’re trying to do is stand in line. Or tunnel out. It’s a jungle out there – or in there, as it were – and silly is the soldier without a strategy all their own. Un pour tous, tous pour un ! Chacun pour sa gueule ! Solidarity forever! Bombs and baskets and buggies away!!

In Germany, even though the grocery stores are a bit more – how you say? – civilisés, they can’t stop talking about war. Especially that Second Big One of theirs. In France, they talk about war, too, every now and then, quite often, sometimes, and sometimes, quite often, every now and then it’s about the Second Big One as well, but that’s mainly on the Arte TV channel (where every Wednesday night is Nazi Night – don’t forget the schnitzel!) and one mainly surmises that that’s because, mainly, Arte is half-owned by the Germans. Because while the Germans are mainly trying to remember so that they mainly don’t forget, the French would like to forget mainly. Not the entirety of war per se, and not the Second Big One, entirely, but there are a few specific specifics, a few damning details, a handful of horrifically horrible horrendous horrors that mainly place into question the real French definition of the term solidarité. Like: Did L’Academie Française quietly declare it synonymous with collaboration somewhere between, say, 1939 and 1945?

Not a question posed in director Roselyne Bosch’s new film, La rafle. In fact, more to the point, La rafle poses few questions. In point of fact, as the unfortunately-named Bosch points out, pointedly, in a pointed interview in the in-house magazine distributed at strategic drop-off points by the movie chain UGC, the point of La rafle was not to question, no, but simply to show: “It couldn’t, at any price, place blame or emphasize the good points. . . I contented myself to show what happened, and I leave the viewer to find the admirable and to condemn, in their mind, the Vichy government, whose decisions – it must be made very clear – went against those of the French populace.” (Huh?) (WTF???) Really???? Er. . . I don’t know. Maybe Ms. Bosch gets her groceries delivered. Oh sure, go to any real French dinner party with any real French people at it, and somewhere along the line you’re sure to hear a real, honest-to-goodness, real-life, surely based-on-a-true-story story about how somebody’s uncle or cousin or grandfather or great aunt or long-lost bastard brother was surely a part of the Résistance, but . . . Once again, have you ever been grocery-shopping in Paris? I mean, really grocery-shopping? Giving you the real-life, true-blue, honest-to-goodness opportunity to experience, first-hand, on the front lines, in-the-trenches, the real French application of the concept of solidarité ?

Here’s the based-on-a-true-story story: La rafle recounts the real-life, actual, entered-in-the-history-books tale of La rafle du Vél d’Hiv, when, over the course of July 16 and 17, 1942, the French police, in collaboration with the French Vichy government, in an incredible coup of collaboration and cooperation and complaisance with the German Gestapo and the German Führer and the German Nazis, rounded up 13,000-some-odd French Jews, their own fellow countrymen, their own neighbors-parisiens, all libre-like and égal and fraternale and solidaire, and packed them into the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a sports stadium designed not to hold Jews, but bicycle races. While it was far from being the only rafle the French police ever staged, La rafle du Vél d’Hiv was the biggest round-’em-up-and-ship-’em-out job the French authorities had ever conducted on behalf of their Nazi occupiers in the history of the Second World War.

So there they were, 13,000-some-odd-Jews, French Jews to be precise, some who had immigrated and done the paperwork and been naturalized and some who had even fought for the French in the First Big One too, there they were, right there in the Vélodrome d’Hiver, right there in the XV arrondissement, right there not far from the lovely Eiffel Tower, rounded up, herded, pushed and prodded and pronged by the French-Parisian police into one cacophonous cell, an ante-chamber to the ones where the real business at hand would eventually take place. It was a waiting room of sorts, only without the back issues of Marie-Claire and Marianne and Elle and Glamour and Vogue. The medical staff was skeletal, and there was no food to speak of; there wasn’t any running water, either, nor toilets or showers or sinks. There was, however, alternately, en abondance, the stench of sweat and vomit and urine and feces and fear. The weakest dropped dead; the more proactive took their own lives, and anyone who tried to escape. . . well, the gendarmes did the job for them. The rest waited, and suffered, and waited and suffered some more, until several days later they were once again herded and hoarded and harried and harangued into the buses that took them to the trains, and then into the trains that took them to the non-Michelin Guide-approved, un-starred accommodations they would temporarily inhabit in the camps of Beaune-la-Rolande and Pithiviers and Drancy. Next stop after that? For most of them, Auschwitz. Also, for most of them, when talking ‘accommodations,’ temporary. For those who managed to make it that far, bien entendu.

It had a cute little code name, La rafle du Vél d’Hiv : ‘Vent printannier.’ Means ‘Operation Spring Cleaning’ in English. Sure, O.K., all right fine, it was July, you gotta admit. But you gotta also admit ‘Summer Cleaning’ didn’t have the same ring to it. It just didn’t pop.

Here’s the kicker: The Gestapo’s quota for this particular mid-summer spring-cleaning sale was 22,000 Jews. But the French police, under instructions from the super-ambitious-dynamique-initiative-taking Vichy government salesman Pierre Laval, were aiming for 27,361. Vichy, in true-bureaucratic-blue, épaulette-sporting, paper-pushing, fastidiously-French fashion, had conducted a census, after all, which had been carefully, complicitly, conscientiously conceived of and compiled and composed by the tediously tenacious André Tulard – the guy in charge of the distribution of the yellow stars. The fichier Tulard has since been mainly-mostly-meticulously destroyed, but at the time it offered an extremely helpful and detailed breakdown of the Jews that resided in Paris. Think of it as a sort of telephone book for which you don’t have the right to request an unlisted number. (Oh, wait — that’s the Internet.) And the listings comprised so many more than a mere 22,000 Jews. For there were, of course, the women to think of . . . and then there were the children! So this time, for the very first time, for this very ambitious and arduous Spring Cleaning, the French didn’t just pawn off French-Jewish men, but their wives and offspring, too. The Gestapo really didn’t want ’em, but it eventually saw Pierre Laval’s point: once their parents were carted off, what was the famous French social system supposed to do with a bunch of screeching, squalling, weeping, wailing, wandering Jewish orphans? It was, you gotta admit, un gros problème.

So they brought the quota up, way up, to 27,631. Why, then, in the end, at the end of two days, for this particularly purposeful and purposefully-planned rafle, were only 13,152 Jews rounded up? In an interview with À Paris, the quarterly propaganda rag published by the Paris City Hall, historian Annette Wieviorka attributes this to the “true solidarity of the Parisian people,” hailing all of the concièrges and restaurateurs and non-Jewish families and the odd rebellious French cop or two for helping to hide and hole-up and rescue and save over 10,000 Jews. Once again: Er . . . um . . . I don’t know. Some historians and some movie-makers have a funny way of cooking the books, flambée-ing the facts, depending on who they’re selling their books and movies to, and if sales are good enough, everyone can afford to get their groceries delivered, skipping the notoriously troublesome cheese aisle altogether. So let’s, for a moment, let’s forget the numbers. And let’s, solidarily, for solidarity’s sake, let’s consider the following:

It took until 1994 for them to get around to erecting a monument – in Paris, of all places, veritable capitale of monuments, where monuments breed like mosquitoes – in memory of the victims of La rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver. (It’s in the XV arrondissement, on the quai de Grenelle . . . not far, once again, from the Eiffel Tower, for you touristy types!) It took until a year later for a French government official – it was the newly-elected President Jacques Chirac – to recognize, publicly, in a snappy little speech, France’s participation in and responsibility for aiding and abetting and assisting the Nazis in sending its own citizens to their deaths. There are plaques on the Parisian schools in memory of the deported Jewish schoolchildren . . . those started, started appearing about 2000, 2001. And while Vichy super-salesman Pierre Laval was executed in 1945, André Tulard – the yellow star guy, remember him? – escaped prosecution, and kept his grade de chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur to boot. Maurice Papon, who oversaw similar rafles in and around Bordeaux, enjoyed a stellar post-war career. Once done with the Jews, he moved on to the Algerians and, as chief of the Paris police force during the course of the Algerian War, was implicated in the October 17th Massacre of 1961, during which Parisian cops slaughtered hundreds of pro-independence Algerian protestors and threw their bodies in the Seine. Papon wasn’t prosecuted for his crimes against humanity until 1998, and he only did three years of his ten-year sentence because, pauvre bébé, he was old and, as legend has it, he had a weak heart. Yes,mesdames et messieurs, legend has it that Maurice Papon actually had a heart! Only he placed more priority on its health than he did on the hearts of Jews. And the hearts of Algerians. And pretty much every other heart deemed to be part of a France-related minority that he could get his grubby genocidal hands on. Vive la solidarité ! Ain’t it magnifique ?

La rafle, which covers an event, a major one, one that took place way, way, waaayyyy back in 1942, is the first full-fledged treatment of La rafle du Vél d’Hiv in the history of French cinema. Might make those of you who think Hollywood took its time to attack America’s role in the war in Viet Nam, well, it might make you think differently. And it must be stated, as far as World War II movies go (in fact they should think about putting this in the testimonials featured in the trailer): Finally, a Holocaust film that’s even worse than Schindler’s List! Because La rafle is bad. Really bad. Surprisingly bad – even though you know as soon as you see the movie poster that it’ll be pretty bad because it’s starring Jean Reno and any film with Jean Reno in it isn’t going to be any good. (What? You think I’m being harsh? I have three words for you: Da Vinci Code. Two more: Luc Besson. Four more: Collaborated with Luc Besson.) (Need I say more?) (O.K. — Godzilla.) It’s a shame, because Jean Reno seems like a nice guy, even if he is close friends with Sarko. But like his taste in friends and French presidents and directors and dictators, he has lousy taste in scripts. La rafle is so bad it makes you wanna cry, which is the only reason you wanna cry during this film because the actual movie is so bad and cheesy and embarrassing and uncapitivating that it could keep you from crying during a raging case of PMS. You know, one of those spells where you cry at TV commercials about telephone plans that urge you to ‘reach out and touch someone?’ Yeah, that bad. Really, really baaad. Soooo bad it’s a catastrophe.

But wait! There’s worse: You know the Vélodrome d’Hiver – the sports stadium that once held bicycle races before it held Jews? They tore it down in 1959. In its place, up until 2007: the domestic counter-intelligence offices of the Ministère de l’Interieur. You know: The far-reaching French governmental body that’s in charge of the French police. Soon to be a division of Franprix. Clean-up on Aisle Trois, s’il vous plaît . . .

Or, as Frauline Direktor so pointedly said: “I contented myself to show what happened, and I leave the viewer to find the admirable and to condemn, in their mind, the Vichy government, whose decisions – it must be made very clear – went against those of the French populace.”

Bienvenue à Monoprix; the Express Line starts over there.

Southeastern Wyoming, Along Highway 130, Part 2

Photos by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

Valentina Pop at the EUObserver.com on Romanian novelist Herta Mueller’s indictment of the EU’s blind-eye to post-Communist continuity in East Europe.

"‘I think the EU acted pretty naively by taking these countries on so quickly and was not able to foresee what kind of crafty and obstructionist barriers they would be faced with,’ she told journalists during a press conference at the Passa Porta literature house in Brussels. ‘I know that in Romania, scores of people who used to work for the Securitate are now in high-level positions and this has virtually no consequences. It is not important for the society,’ she said. ‘These people have gained so much influence that they have managed to almost re-create their old network of power, where they all know and serve each other. It is the second life of the dictatorship. Under different circumstances, organised in a different way. And without ideology. Without Socialism.’"


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzon:

“His basic tactic has been to delegitimise the amnesties that often accompany (and make possible) transitions from dictatorship or civil war to democracy. In Mr Garzon’s view, the parliamentary arrangements by which Chile granted Pinochet a limited amnesty and a senatorship-for-life were, under international human rights law, null and void. Spaniards, who for the most part applauded when Mr Garzon inflicted this doctrine on the world, are having second thoughts on seeing it applied to their own history.”


Eric Posner in the WSJ, “Garzon and the Trouble With International Law”:

“Universal jurisdiction arose centuries ago to give states a means for fighting pirates. In recent years, idealistic lawyers have tried to convert it into an all-purpose instrument for promoting international justice. But supporters of this law turned a blind eye to the diverse and often incompatible notions of justice that exist across countries… When Mr. Garzon indicted Pinochet, riots erupted in Chile. No matter, thundered the champions of international law: Let justice be done though the heavens fall. But when Mr. Garzon turned his sights on his own country, the gates of justice slammed shut. Spain’s establishment was not willing to risk unraveling its own transition to democracy, and rightly so.”


Back in 2006 Sudanese cell-phone billionaire Mo Ibrahim decided to set up a $5million prize plus $200,000 annual salary-for-life to African leaders who voluntarily stepped down from power, in the manner of George Washington, I would say. Late last year the Times of London ran a photo of this pan-African patriot throwing up his hands at having no worthy candidate. All the many potentates must consider that chump change to what they can haul in by staying in the saddle where their people/family/clan demand they stay. Plus they fear likely arrest/trial/execution once they have left the protection of guards and military. If those who cheer for the prosecution of sitting and former leaders want blood; they can find plenty in Africa.


Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the WSJ on the strange drive to rewrite Honduran history from Washington D.C. Prideful, no doubt, as Democrats embarrassed themselves before their putative enemy in Columbia and ally in Venezuela, but there’s also the lingering bitterness of those who long hoped for a red Latin America? or is that blue? Can you imagine the border problem had their dreams come true?


Andrew Jacobs has a report in the Sunday NYT on Chinese “aid” to Tibetans after the recent earthquake:

“The Buddhist monks stood atop the jagged remains of a vocational school, struggling to move concrete slabs with pickax shovels and bare hands. Suddenly a cry went out: An arm, clearly lifeless, was poking through the debris. But before the monks could finish their task, a group of Chinese soldiers who had been relaxing on the school grounds sprang to action. They put on their army caps, waved the monks away, and with a video camera for their unit rolling, quickly extricated the body of a young girl. The monks stifled their rage and stood below, mumbling a Tibetan prayer for the dead.”

Photographer Du Bin’s slideshow is also very striking.


Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday reports on his trip through village and city to study Chinese “gendercide”.

“And in every cheerful classroom there was a slightly sinister shortage of girls, as if we had wandered into some sort of science fiction fantasy.”


Gordon Chang in World Affairs, “The Party’s Over: China’s Endgame”:

“Chinese technocrats, goaded by a multitude of analysts and foreign leaders, have known for years that they would have to diversify the economy—steer it away from investment and exports and toward consumption. Yet Wen, in office since 2003, has not made much of an effort to do so. His stimulus plan targets the creation of infrastructure and aims almost entirely to boost industrial capacity even further, which would only aggravate the unbalance of the Chinese economy. Continuing with the old way of doing things will further reduce the role of consumption in creating prosperity, which has been sliding from its historical average of about 60 percent to about 30 percent today. That’s the lowest rate in the world, and it is continuing to decrease as the central government’s stimulus plan bolsters industrial production and exports.

So the Chinese economy, once in an upward super-cycle, is now headed on a downward trajectory. Beijing’s leaders had the opportunity to fix these problems in a benign period of growth, but they did not because they were unable or unwilling to challenge a rigid political system that inhibits adaptation to changing circumstances. Their failure to implement sensible policies highlights an inherent weakness in the system of Chinese governance, not just a single economic misstep at a particular moment in history.”


John-Paul Rathbone in the FT on Brazil's cuddly ways in the world:

"Only last week, Brasilia hosted the leaders of China, Russia and India at the second 'Brics' summit - with South Africa along for good measure. More remarkable still has been the speed of Brazil's ascent. It first attended a G8 summit only six years ago, as an observer. Back then, it had about 1,000 diplomats stationed around the world. Now there are 1,400. Last year, it even opened an embassy in Pyongyang."


Brendan Goldman at AmericanThinker.com on Tariq Ramadan’s American debut:

“The sole bright spot on the panel was New Yorker journalist George Packer, who used his allotted time to pelt Ramadan with questions about his views of his grandfather Hassan al-Banna's connections to the Nazi ally and Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Hussayni. Citing Paul Berman's research from his soon-to-be-released book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, Packer noted that al-Banna was an admirer of fascist Italy and Germany and quoted al-Banna as saying, "Hitler was sent by Allah [as a punishment for] the corruption of the Jews." Packer then asked Ramadan whether he was willing to condemn al-Banna for his alliance with the Mufti and for his admiration of Hitler and Mussolini. The normally dispassionate Ramadan was visibly unsettled. Claiming that he had already been asked three times about Berman's book since arriving in the States, he said, "I put this in the context of the [19]30s and '40s." In remarks following these, Ramadan employed the terms "context," "contextual," and "contextualized" at least four times….

‘I don't like to contextualize a long-term alliance with a leading Nazi propagandist and collaborator,’ Packer responded…”

In George Packer’s NYer blog entry, he describes Ramadan as seeming to address “disaffected young second-generation immigrants in a working-class mosque in Lille or Leicester,” as if unaware of any differing American context. Packer himself is at pains to salvage Ramadan’s reputation as some kind of “garden-variety” European leftist. Is it really garden-variety leftism over there to pivot from fending off savage Anglo-Saxon jungle capitalism, to unconditionally opening the doors of citizenship and social welfare to pre-modern Muslims? Given their authentically foreign metaphysical sense of things they can only receive such post-Christian charity, refuge and welfare as tribute due from infidels. We know the demographics there; I wonder at Euro-Islamic voting patterns: do Muslims vote as “conservative” as their culture? Or do they vote “liberal” for the time being? Certainly Europe needs some amount more of “savage” economic dynamism to transform these or any immigrants into Europeans.


Nonie Darwish at Frontpagemag.com, “A Letter to Gaza”:

“Arab education has never told us the truth about the Israeli people and the story from their side and what Jerusalem means to them. We were told that Jerusalem was a Muslim city simply because Mohammed dreamt one night that he went to the farthest mosque but he never mentioned Jerusalem. The Koran never mentioned Jerusalem, which is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible as the heart and soul of the Jewish people. We as Muslims never respected other religions holy cites and always claimed them to Islam; even Spain and India are being claimed as Muslim land. It was the tradition of Muslim conquerors to convert churches and temples to mosques and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish Temple Mount when 100 years after the prophet Mohammed died, Muslim conquerors built the mosque right on top of it. Just imagine if Jews or Christians had built a temple on top of the Kaaba in Mecca. This is how Islam has treated the Jews. It is time for Muslims to seek redemption and forgiveness and to extend the hand of reconciliation and peace to the Jewish people.”


Charlotte Wiedemann in Die Zeit on “The Scramble for Timbuktu“, at Signandsight.com:

“Saudi Wahabists have been trying for a long time to establish a ‘cleansed’ de-Africanised Islam in Mali. They have had no success in Timbuktu so far; even the religious students still wear fetishes. If you talk to Abdramane Ben Essayouti, Timbuktu's leading imam, about the Wahabists, he straightens his bright blue robe, the bubu, and relates a famous anecdote: When in 1324 the Malian King Kankou Musa went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, his caravan was loaded with so much gold that while he was on the road, the value of gold in Cairo plummeted. ‘Saudi Arabia,’ say the Imam with a subtle smile, ‘was just a sandpit in those days’. When the King returned he brought an architect with him who set to work building Timbuktu's cultural heritage for the future. The Djingareyber mosque is still standing 700 years later and Ben Essayouti is its imam. ‘The Wahabists will not be able to do anything about a tradition as strong as ours.’"


Thomas J. Reese, S.J. in the WP on clerical abuse:

“The media is being attacked by the defenders of Pope Benedict who feel that its coverage of the sex abuse crisis is unfair. Do some reporters do a sloppy job reporting? Sure. Are some commentators over the top in their rhetoric? Sure. When the argument is between The New York Times and the Catholic Church, it may simply be one infallible institution taking on another.”


Bari Weiss in the WSJ, “Hasids vs. Hipsters: A Williamsburg Story”


Hugh Carnegy in the FT on Linda Polman’s book, War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, writes:

“Polman argues that this ‘see no evil’ approach on the part of aid agencies has led to them being cynically exploited by political regimes around the world, with the result that many conflicts have been made worse, not better, by their presence.”

While Andrew Kramer in the NYT reports on how the directed, “semi-official” Russian press exposs of Kyrgyz corruption, blocked by the now former President Bakiyev’s regime were aided in their directed semi-coup by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House. Well played double bank shot of one, two, many useful idiots.


My grandfather, Secundo Carducci, fought in WWI in the Trieste area; how the Italian officer corps treated the foot soldier it seems was a big part of his decision to emigrate to America in the mid-twenties. My dad came with his parents at age three in 1930. All these years later dad has Alzheimer’s and one of the few jokes he remembers involves a sale of surplus Italian rifles, the pitch being: “never been fired, dropped twice.” Max Hastings in the FT tours the now Italian Southern Dolomites battlefield of WWI and finds evidence of some different stories from Italian military history. It reminds one of Kargil battle between Indian and Pakistani troops on the glaciers of the Hindu Kush -- existential heroism beyond sense and reason -- only with Italians and Austrians.


Economix, et. al.

Tyler Cowen in the NYT on Cutting Spending

“A move toward a V.A.T. ...brings price inflation, a big increase in the tax-collecting bureaucracy and the emergence of favored sectors with exemptions or lower rates… Burdening citizens with much higher taxes would fundamentally change what this country is about. Our founders envisioned a government that would provide public goods but not guarantee everyone’s well-being against every possible obstacle. Immigrants would be offered a franchise to come here and make good if they could — while bearing considerable risk themselves. To this day, this openness has elevated many millions in health, prosperity and liberty — and enabled many newcomers to innovate and offer new goods and services, or scientific ideas, to the world.

Higher levels of government spending and taxation would also soak up resources that might otherwise foster innovation and new businesses. And sentiment would most likely turn ever stronger against those immigrants who consume public services and make the deficit higher in the short run. Current residents might feel more secure in a larger welfare state, but over time the loss of commerce and innovation takes a toll….

The received wisdom in the United States is that deep spending cuts are politically impossible. But a number of economically advanced countries, including Sweden, Finland, Canada and, most recently, Ireland, have cut their government budgets when needed… Most relevant, perhaps, is Canada, which cut federal government spending by about 20 percent from 1992 to 1997.… In his book In the Long Run We’re All Dead: The Canadian Turn to Fiscal Restraint, Timothy Lewis describes Canada’s move from fiscal irresponsibility to a balanced budget — a history that helps explain why the country has managed the current global recession relatively well.”

WSJ Tax Day editorial: “Europe’s VAT Lessons”. The accompanying chart is worth looking at even if you don’t have the neural bandwith to spare on the obvious. As Cowen’s piece above would suggest Canada is the only country whose VAT has decreased, though Japan and Switzerland seem to have the political discipline to contain the insiders’ stealth temptation to grab at more of the outsider-citizenry’s property.

Steven Malanga in City Journal on Calif., “The Beholden State”, is long and dark:

“How public employees became members of the elite class in a declining California offers a cautionary tale to the rest of the country, where the same process is happening in slower motion. The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bosses--that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support. Over time, the unions have turned the state’s politics completely in their favor. The result: unaffordable benefits for civil servants; fiscal chaos in Sacramento and in cities and towns across the state; and angry taxpayers finally confronting the unionized masters of California’s unsustainable government.”

Deborah Simmons in the Washington Times on the American Federation of Teachers and Washington Teachers Union’s balking on yet another minimalist school reform program over an apparently faulty budget total, no doubt added up by a graduate of said educational system. Result: the bouncing of hated schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

“Obama-Dodd financial bill would further enrich Goldman Sachs”, writes John Berlau at Openmarket.org. The Wall Street insiders + The Washington insiders = Tea Party


Michael Barone in the WSJ on “Immigration Reform: The New Third Rail”.


Michael J. Trinklein in the WSJ on how to succeed at seceding from the Union.


Brendan Simms in the WSJ on two books on Guilt by Pascal Bruckner and Bernhard Schlink.


Two books of interest reviewed in the current National Review: Theodore Dalrymple's The New Vichy Syndrome, by Claire Berlinski, and Frederick Brown’s For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, by Christopher Caldwell.


The NYT believes in regulation. I mean they really believe in regulators personally in general, whether they be zealot-drones or clock puncher-watchers. To those arguing more responsibilities be dumped in their in-boxes, they are a different breed of human, heroes really, who have never been empowered, witness the current complete mess that is their purview which they heretofore have had nevertheless nothing to do with, sitting on their lard-asses innocently as they may well have been since the day they were hired. The news laws they will quickly pass to lay atop all the earlier law creating an impenetrable crushing geo-illogical straiation that extends the time spent in courts to determine the simplest questions, are a defense of and argument for more such federal hirelings. In today’s instance, our paper of record defends the character and endless purview of the FCC, which as all Lenny Bruce fans with experience in music radio and television know full well, is and has been always Sterling! The Commission and its courtiers at the networks and their minions in the air are why newspapers follow every move REM and U2 make. In fact, Bono Vox ran his regular editorial column in the very NYT just this Sunday wisely making light of his starpower in the villages of Africa. And where are the great cannibal civilizations of sub-Saharan Africa when one is ringing the dinner bell?

Gail Collins -- happy warrior or wanton battle-axe? You be the judge: here she is in the NYT, “Celebrating the Joys of April 15”, straining for self-interested humor, something Christopher Hitchens might advise her to stop. It's really only vicariously self-interested so the point seems to be merely self-display, flying her control-freak flag high. And to think all those reporters out in free-fire zones producing barely noted bulletins, protecting as it were, the editorial board’s right to pronounce in safety from those coveted window-perches as they move upward within the ivory tower.

Which brings to mind last week’s TCM screening of The Bowery Boys in News Hounds (1947), starring Leo Gorcey as Slip, a copy-boy/wannabe investigative reporter, and Huntz Hall as Sach:

Leo: (discouraged) Sach, I’m afraid I’m a failure.
Huntz: (enthusiastically) I knew you’d make it!
Leo: You don’t understand, I’m going to have to give up germalism.


I don’t know if anyone remembers, but Paul Krugman's enumeration of Wall Street scams in the NYT includes the time-honored hot potato fraud that was the basis of the Kennedy family fortune, earned by Joseph P. on Wall Street in the years before the crash and his flight to Hollywood, where he immediately grabbed three film studios by the books and Gloria Swanson’s body and soul by personal contract. Thereafter read Kennedy liberalism as cover-up.


I believe that Mogadishu radio truly requires the many proven broadcasting talents of Randy Michaels and Lee Abrams. I’m sure the Tribune Co. and American germalism can spare them for as long as it takes to whip Somalia mass media into shape -- but maybe play a little less Pink Floyd.


Migrating Forms (1999, 16mm, b&w)
James Fotopoulos

May 10, Art Cinema OFFoff, Gent, Belgium.


ONO, The Secret History of Chicago Music exhibition of art by Plastic Crimewave

• Tuesday May 11, free
Steve Krakow speaks at 6pm
ONO plays at 7pm

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago


• Thursday, May 20 at Reserve LA:

Bruce Kalberg / Bruce Caen
1979-1984 PunkPeepsPhotos from the NOMAG files

Reserve, Hollywood; across from Canter's Deli on Fairfax at Melrose.

The Bangs (later, The Bangles) radio ad for NoMag, 1982


2 more Trust mag-sponsored SST DJ evenings in Germany:

• Hamburg, Friday May 28, bar Hasenschaukel
• Berlin, Saturday May 29, bar Wiener Blut

Trust info promises DJs Stone and Schippy playing SST, new alliance, and Cruz releases. “Why SST? read here (sorry, all in german, short in english)”


The Big Takeover 30th Anniversary Festival:

Friday And Saturday, July 30-31
The Bell House, Brooklyn
“Celebrating 30 years of American's oldest indie-produced music magazine.”

The Avengers (reformed S.F. '70s punk legends, with two original members, singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham), Channel 3, plus Visqueen, Springhouse, Libertines U.S., Flower, EDP & more.

Mark Burgess, Chameleons, For Against, Springhouse, The Sleepover Disaster, Don McGlashan, Jon Auer, Astrid Williamson, The Sharp Things, Paul Collins, The Curtain Society & more.


Obituary of the Week

Daryl F. Gates (1926 - 2010)

The Los Angeles Times treats Gates fairly enough, though a reader might not know that the paper was once in full-sync with LAPD, and so it's turned on him in retrospect as an institution. The LAT, like its Tribune Co. owner, has long been trying to live down its true founder’s heritage.

David Cay Johnston covered the LAPD for the L.A. Times from 1980-83 and he titles his farewell, “The Story the L.A. Times Didn’t Tell”. In it his focus is on the department’s “red squad” which every major city had and each got in trouble as the sixties cultural revolution left cops (among others) at a loss as to the new low of now acceptable political and personal behavior. Johnston like any politico is happy to exploit that disconnect but he knows what he knew and it's interesting.

Jim Newton is the L.A. Times' editor-at-large and he covered the LAPD from 1992 to 1997 and so he has a shorter series of impressions about Gates in retirement when he stayed active as a radio talk show host.

Los Angeles Punk Rock of course had long experience with Gates, just as the Hippies and Freaks had earlier with his predecessors. The Elks Lodge Hall riot (March 17, 1979) was ordered by Gates in his first year as a way to mark territory and perhaps to safely try out new riot suppression tactics, designed for use against the next Watts riots or S.L.A. radicals. In my book Enter Naomi I quoted Nicole Panter’s description of the Elks Lodge/police invasion from the Alice Bag website. The Punks at that show did disperse rather easily in the face of massive police assault, but they never would again. There was a full decade of cat-and-mouse battles all over Los Angeles between punks and cops. I saw kids throw rocks up at police helicopters that were illuminating the night as punks were chased by riot cops on foot and on horseback from Dead Kennedys and Black Flag gigs, from Hollywood to the Harbor. In the end the LAPD got its riot and Gates was forced to resign. In defense of Daryl Gates, a one-time cop-hating kid from Glendale, Los Angeles is ungovernable and certainly not policeable either. One great city and he must have loved trying.

This Black Flag radio ad is a cultural response to the LAPD and Chief Gates by the band as they advertised their next self-produced gig (Feb. 11, 1981) on KROQ. The other ads (released on side 4 of BF’s “Everything Went Black”) are great too, but this one -- at the 7:55 mark -- is particularly well-produced and funny. It features Mitzi, Spot, Merrill Ward, and Dez Cadena.


(Thanks Jane Schuman, Steve Beeho)

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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