a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Issue #48 (June 2, 2010)

Snowblast, Job Done; Highway 130, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Dingbats of the World Unite!

Simon Romero on assignment for the NYT:

Tanja Nijmeijer, Dutch ex-student of Spanish, ex-Groningen squatter, currently FARC guerilla sex symbol, personal assistant to Commander Mono Jojoy.

“FARC leaders… having apparently forgiven Ms. Nijmeijer for the transgressions expressed in her diaries and recognizing that the tale of their Dutch combatant might hold some allure for other idealists interested in the rebel group. ‘It goes without say that she’s beautiful,’ the FARC boasted on its Web site this month. ‘She also speaks English, Spanish and Dutch. But, it‘s surprising how modest she is! That must be because she comes from a family that worked on the land. She’s proud of that heritage.’”

Lori Berenson, daughter of two New York academics -- poor girl never had a chance. She didn’t exactly “roam around Central America before surfacing in Peru,” as Romero has it; she checked out the revo-scenes in Nicaragua and El Salvador and judged them insufficiently committed to violence and so on to Peru and the Tupac Amaru.

“‘I don’t think she’d be a Tea Partier,’ says her mother, Rhoda Berenson, a physicist at New York University, when asked about her daughter‘s ideological evolution.’”


Michael Weiss in TNR on Vasily Grossman’s Anti-Socialist Realism.

“Communism did not bring about classlessness; it sharpened pre-existing class divisions and fashioned the signed denunciation into the main weapon of warfare. Envy was thus allowed to masquerade as the true power of the powerless. Grossman understood that the genius of a system that inculpates everyone is that it also abolishes moral absolutes and leaves only one arbiter of right and wrong: the state, which can change its mind overnight about the culpability of Jewish doctors, the enmity of the Third Reich and anything else. Ideology is supposed to traffic in historical inevitability. Instead it traffics in caprice.”


Chris Patten in the FT on Richard McGregor’s book, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.

“Is it Singapore writ large, or a variation of Japan’s capitalist development state? Is it market Confucianism or capitalism within an autocratic system of control? To describe it as socialism with Chinese characteristics does not much advance the ideological analysis. After all, the structure is light on Marxist economics and sociology and heavy on Leninist brutalism. Chen Yuan from China‘s Development Bank says: ‘We are the communist party and we will decide what communism means.’”


Jeffrey Herf in TNR on Walter Laqueur’s Best of Times, Worst of Times: Memoirs of a Political Education.

“Laqueur regards his own youth in Germany as a painful schooling that enhanced his ability to understand dictatorship. Conversely, citizens of the United States and Britain, or Europeans who came of age after World War II and who have never lived under a totalitarian regime, found it exceedingly difficult to understand “the general all-pervasive climate…in an unfree society” or the fanaticism that drives it. Indeed, “the greater danger as far as democratic societies are concerned is the lack of memory and understanding of the dynamics of societies and governments that are not like them.”

This danger is not overcome, in Laqueur’s view, by the social sciences, with their rational actors and their futile search for laws of politics. It is contemporary historians, who are equipped with knowledge of the relevant languages, culture, and history of foreign affairs, who may offer the best prospect for the deeper understanding—the political analysis and the political judgment—that Laqueur seeks.”


Ilaria Maria Sala at YaleGlobal.yale.edu on Taming Globalization.

Sala writes from Hong Kong on Italy and oddly her telling anecdotes about “gastronomic patriotism” she seeks to blame on Silvio Berlusconi, even though she admits the national government is not “hands-on” about this. She also neglects to reference a general EU process of the trademarking and promoting of regional foods and products, or the pressure collision of demographic waning with inexperience with the level of immigration necessary to make up the diff. What Sala actually found, whether she or her Yalie editor understand, is that European localities and regions are running with the part of the E.U.’s political dynamic that is protectionist for its producers, only on multicultural grounds. They’ve grabbed the coveted minority cultural status that the colorless, bloodless bureaucrats in Brussels have hung out there for The Other, only for their own particular cheese, pasta, grog, and neckwear. Sala’s last grasping point that pepper came from India and tomatoes from the New World, is, I’m sorry, not helpful here. If she really thinks a re-embrace of Italy’s “old cosmopolitan self” is likely if only Berlusconi and the Northern League would get out of the way of the old center-left centralizers with their well-known laissez faire attitudes on trade and labor laws, than she might best stay in Hong Kong and invite her editor to join her.


Stephen Schwartz in the Weekly Standard on two books focusing on the unique predicaments of Albanian emigres. No free link.

“The refugees from Albania here [Greece, Italy] are something else: They have been so degraded by the specific form of communism in their small and isolated homeland that they seem deprived of any normal feelings. They are self-hating immigrants, numbed by their experience and blindly seeking another life of which they know, and from which they expect, very little. They lack the hubris of Russian mobsters no less than the fanaticism of Muslim fundamentalists. They have been reduced to nothing, and seek only to find a way to become something.”


Martin Wolf in the FT on The grasshoppers and the ants -- a contemporary fable updated and elaborated quite nicely.


Valentina Pop at euobserver.com on the Forum for outermost Europe 2010: “EU’s remote islands slam Brussels for ignoring their problems”.


Miss Pop again at euobserver.com, “EU calls for 'full investigation' into Israeli attacks on aid convoy”. Just think, a whole boatload of international peace activists like Lori Berenson and Tanja Nijmeijer.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is acting as if he's fully tamed the Turkish military in his party's soft-Islamization of the Turkish Republic to the point that its navy will gladly begin escorting these flotillas of Western peace activists and Palestinian guerrilla operatives pining for the days of intifada 1 & 2 and indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel from the once occupied territories, as they continue to oppose the original occupation that concerns them and apparently the U.N. and polite society in the West. Maybe so. The former Israeli left in its former peace activisim long disappeared into the unity government because of these peace legions.


Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the global financial crisis before markets peaked, said the Brazilian, Chinese and Indian economies may be overheating and developing asset bubbles.”


The former Lusitanian Empire-east to get its Portuguese-language television from the former Lusitanian Empire-west.


Here’s a series of updates from the long war of Islam’s Reformation. Unfortunately all around, we, the West, the East, and the Rest, are their Reformation because they have no institutional substructure from which to rise themselves. The Vatican is the cultural conservator of the stuff that came of early Europe as it became political Christendom, changing the faith, and the Kings of Europe, and finally the people of Europe. There was much violence in the rise of the West, but because this modern dynamic is supported by the underlying ratchet of the Vatican as it follows modernity grudgingly, even these errors earn wisdom and progress. So far the violence of Islam has earned it nothing but a new Mullah here, a new Sultan there. As the Islamic world feels new pressure from the rise of the East -- largely not people of the Book and so truly a heavy pressure -- they decide they cannot imitate such infidels and so redouble their special pleading against the West including Israel. They work the U.N. and Western media so they will not demand better behavior from them. And so rockets and bombs… The peace of pre-modern stasis.

Carlin Romano in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on Paul Berman’s Vetting Tariq Ramadan:

“Berman’s retelling of the story of ‘Nazified Islam,’ in his phrase, deserves nothing but applause -- it remains far too unknown among the broad public. When Berman adds to it the eye-opening new scholarship by Jeffrey Herf (in such books as Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World), it shows that applying words such as ‘fascist’ to modern Islamic extremism makes far more sense than historically uninformed critics of the term ‘Islamofascism’ realize.”

Spengler at Atimes.com on Wife Beating, Sharia and Western Law:

“The practice of wife-beating, which is found in Muslim communities in Western countries, is embedded too profoundly in sharia law to be extracted. Nowhere to my knowledge has a Muslim religious authority of standing repudiated wife-beating as specified in Surah 4:32 of the Koran, for to do so would undermine the foundations of Muslim society…. Some Western legal authorities, including the president of Britain’s Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, promote the use of sharia courts to adjudicate family disputes in Western nations…. A number of putatively pro-family legal scholars in the United States argue that sharia should be applied to American family law. That is monstrous. Not since German jurists endorsed Adolf Hitler’s race laws during the 1930s have legal theorists in the West betrayed their principles so egregiously.”

Pankaj Mishra in the NYer on Islamism: Hirsi Ali, Berman, Ramadan on Islam:

“In denouncing Islam unreservedly, she has claimed a precedent in Voltaire—though the eighteenth-century scourge of the Catholic Church might have been perplexed by her proposal that Muslims embrace the ‘Christianity of love and tolerance.’ In another respect, however, the invocation of Voltaire is more apt than Hirsi Ali seems to realize. Voltaire despised the faith and identity of Europe’s religious minority: the Jews, who, he declared, ‘are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts,’ who had ‘surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism,’ and who ‘deserve to be punished.’ Voltaire’s denunciations remind us that the Enlightenment was a much more complex and multifaceted phenomenon than the dawn of reason and freedom that Hirsi Ali evokes. Many followed Voltaire in viewing the Jews as backward, an Oriental abscess in the heart of Europe. Hirsi Ali, recording her horror of ghettoized Muslim life in Whitechapel, seems unaware of the similarly contemptuous accounts of Jewish refugees who made the East End of London their home after fleeing the pogroms.”

Nicholas Kristof in the NYTBR on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, Nomad:

“To those of us who have lived and traveled widely in Africa and Asia, descriptions of Islam often seem true but incomplete. The repression of women, the persecution complexes, the lack of democracy, the volatility, the anti-Semitism, the difficulties modernizing, the disproportionate role in terrorism -- those are all real. But if those were the only faces of Islam, it wouldn’t be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today. There is also the warm hospitality toward guests, including Christians and Jews; charity for the poor; the aesthetic beauty of Koranic Arabic; the sense of democratic unity as rich and poor pray shoulder to shoulder in the mosque. Glib summaries don’t work any better for Islam than they do for Christianity or Judaism.”

Nathan Gardels in the CSM on Ali’s book:

“Hirsi Ali is more than a nomad. She is a time traveller between the universes of tradition and modernity. In this book she takes us along on that emotionally tumultuous journey from the moment doubt morphed into her defection from the ‘childlike’ womb of Islam to her nagging guilt as an undutiful daughter, from her giddy intoxication with newfound liberty to the fear for her safety and the loneliness of her freedom. ‘The world outside the clan is rough, and you are alone in it,’ her grandmother had warned her.”

Bret Stephens in the WSJ on The Mosque at Ground Zero:

“Will their center invite the input and participation of Muslim gay and lesbian groups?”

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty in the South Asian Terrorism Portal on The ‘Sacred Duty’ of Sectarian Slaughter:

“At least 95 worshippers were killed and 92 injured on May 28, 2010, as seven assailants, including three suicide bombers, attacked Ahmadi mosques in the Model Town and Garhi Shahu areas of Lahore. Five of the attackers were also killed. Terrorists wearing suicide vests stormed the two places of worship a few minutes before special Friday prayers, initiating an over three-hour-long standoff….

The Ahmadis, also known as Qadianis, have tens of thousands of followers in Pakistan, and the sect has long regarded as deviant and heretic and been persecuted and targeted in sectarian attacks in the country. Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad towards the end of the 19th Century, the Ahmadis have a number of unique views, including the claim that Ahmad himself was a prophet, and that Jesus died at age 120 in Jammu and Kashmir, assertions regarded as heretical by orthodox Muslims. An Ahmadi website indicates that the movement, now headquartered in the UK, spans over 195 countries, with membership exceeding ‘tens of millions’. The Ahmadis also claim that they are the only leading Islamic organisation to categorically reject terrorism in any form. They have been systematically targeted by radical Sunni groups in the past. Significantly, the Pakistani leaders who condemned the attacks did not refer specifically to the Ahmadis in their statements. TV channels and newspapers avoided the word "mosque" in describing the attacked sites, preferring "places of worship.”


Anne Lewis in the WSJ on Cubism as Film Adaptation:

“Thanks to talking heads, vintage film clips and glorious art, Picasso and Braque transports us to Paris at the turn-of-the-century, when exciting new technology -- from aviation to moving pictures and even moving sidewalks -- involved new forms of movement. We learn that Picasso, whose work often reflected the popular culture around him, viewed his first movie at age 15, in Barcelona, and actually painted a picture based on that film.”


David Thomson on Godard’s contempt in Breathless (1960):

“Godard made his film an hour too long and then he took a knife to it nearly at random. An arbitrary surgery was imposed on time and fluency. And because the cuts where chancy or ill-considered, it had the effect of making the visuals tremble with threatened life. You could take any classical film ever made and do what Godard did and the cubist reappraisal of rounded forms could be an invigorating satire, blowing raspberries at all the archaic attitudes and dissolves in narrative banality.”


PBR yupdate in the WSJ.

This article doesn’t recapitulate one from the 90s where the WSJ traced the sub-marketing of the former Champagne of Bottled Beers to a faux-redneck choice of the tattoo-eoisie, in those days conceived against Heineken. The photo features my Aunt Norma Prasse (then, Hartlaub) from her short-lived modeling career.


Eric Hobsbawm in the London Review of Books on his days as a jazz critic.

“It was a good time to be writing about jazz. Not only did my column allow me an occasional respite from the personal and political convulsions of 1956, that year of Communist crisis, but it was the first time since 1935 that American jazz musicians could be heard live in Britain. Until then the typical British jazz fan, well informed by Melody Maker and tiny argumentative journals, had lived essentially on a diet of 78 rpm records, passionately analysed by young men in upstairs rooms or in the ‘rhythm clubs‘ of the 1930s…. I had been on the fringes of this community of experts since the early 1930s, thanks to my cousin Denis Preston, who eventually became a pioneering figure on the recording scene; but, until the example of Kingsley Amis gave me courage, I had been too awed to join in their debates. Young and on the whole provincial, suburban and musically untaught, they were loving and propagandist critics rather than practitioners. By the time Francis Newton was born, these aficionados had created a uniquely original youthful British pop scene in ‘trad jazz’, which reproduced versions of New Orleans jazz and country blues, by then far better known in this country than in the US. In one of my earliest columns I observed the sudden profitability of trad jazz ‘and even that last refuge of bankruptcy, blues-singing’, as illustrated by profitable but unimpressive imitations of Bessie Smith’s ‘Reckless Blues’ and a chart-topping version of Huddie Ledbetter’s jaillhouse ‘Rock Island Line’, sung by a surprised and blameless British guitarist, Lonnie Donegan. What did it mean? I asked.”


Al and Tipper Gore separate. Now he can crank all the death metal and gangsta rap as loud as he wants, and she can turn up the a/c.


Bob Verdi at blackhawks.nhl.com, “Finally Blackhawks Better at Hockey than Golf”. Verdi is now team historian for the Blackhawks. He’s a long-time Chicago Tribune fixture and was the Blackhawks beat reporter back when I first followed the team in the late sixties/early seventies. The Chicago NHL franchise carried heavy weight and other franchises deferred to its vote on league issues thru the seventies expansions and contracts. But they got lazy after bracketing themselves into the new Western conference where every other team was an expansion franchise. Eventually expansion teams came to dominate as they drafted European players and innovated while of the original six only Montreal and Detroit to a lesser extent stayed competitive. Meanwhile the new teams (Flyers, Islanders, Oilers, Penguins, Flames, Avalanche, etc.) grabbed the Big Can year after year.

Then the last of the Blackhawks old men died off and amazingly enough the next generation of Wirtz, Rocky, no young kid himself but now the owner outright of the Blackhawks and the rest of their real estate fortune, had some pent up good ideas and quickly assembled and locked up this young core of players. My brothers and I had season tickets during the late eighties in the old Stadium. We bought seats from it when they tore it down. My brothers got me a ticket for game 5 Sunday so I’ll drive back for that and with luck we’ll get a look at that Can. The United Center is okay for hockey but really not the place to try to watch basketball.


Harvey Araton in the NYT on Derek Fisher of the Lakers. The biz-ad skills of professional sports franchises often determine which teams have a chance at contending. The Lakers are on paper always a favorite but when they let Fisher go I wondered who was going to be the grown-up on the team, who’d be Phil Jackson’s deputy on the floor. Araton’s piece mentions without really stressing how skilled he must be to fool Kobe Bryant into respecting him. Kobe dismantled the three-peat Lakers of the Shaq-era just so he could replace Shaq as first option and thereby achieve personal scoring records. When the team collapsed he demanded to be traded; should have traded him to I believe it was Orlando that Shaq was then playing for. Anyway, Phil Jackson brought the triangle offense and its author Tex Winter with him to L.A. and the earlier floor-deputy was Ron Harper, also ex-Bulls, and I remember when the Bulls first traded for Harper to rebuild the team for the second run of championships and he looked completely lost on the floor in the first season with the team. That he became so instrumental during the second run of Bulls championships not to mention the subsequent early Kobe/Shaq Lakers’ championships convinced me that the triangle is a real discipline that requires actual practice and experience and intelligence. So the Lakers got Fisher back from Utah and maybe that gives them the edge. Boston’s Rajon Rondo who til now has made up energy for some of his older, albeit quite wily teammates won’t be up to his deputy matchup with Derek Fisher. You never know though, because as Phil Jackson said long long ago before any Bulls championships, “The Lakers will always let you back in the game.”


Dwayne Wade talks to Fred Mitchell in the Tribune about the Chicago Bulls alleged loyalty problem. He quickly took it back, and K.C. Johnson in the Trib weighed in with many ex-Bulls’ responses. But the afterimage of disloyalty haunts the team due to the Jordan-era and his and Horace Grant’s and Scottie Pippin’s contempt for then GM Jerry Krause. Jordan set the tone with his impatient disrespect for the team that Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf built around Jordan to win championships. Grant and Pippin simply keyed off of his contempt. Jordan objected to the Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright trade and kept riding Cartwright as part of his war of rejection of Tex Winter’s triangle. The Tribune’s Sam Smith’s book chronicling the Bulls’ first championship season recounts one game’s dustup:

“On this night, Cartwright took a pass down by the baseline in the third quarter and spun to the basket, but was called for traveling. The Bulls called time-out soon after, and as they walked back to the huddle, Jordan was furious with Cartwright. ‘You‘ve got to give me the ball,’ Jordan demanded. ‘But M.J., you had two guys on you,’ snapped Cartwright. ‘Yeah, but one was Fred Roberts,’ Jordan shot back.” (The Jordan Rules)

The spectre of Tony Kukoc coming in from Europe was already ticking off Jordan, Grant and Pippen. They didn’t believe the Bulls were good enough to win and when they did win, and had Reinsdorf not made room for Jordan to try professional baseball in the Sox minors they’d have had a run of eight championships. But oddly the wins were psychologically “stolen” by Jordan despite progress he made in coming to respect teammates and Phil Jackson, maybe even Tex Winter, but never poor Jerry Krause. I was watching the Cubs at Wrigley in the summer of 1990 before the Bulls had gotten past the Pistons, and had a great seat behind home plate. Krause, who was also a baseball scout for Reinsdorf’s White Sox got up from his seat toward the end of the game and seemed to have no-one to nod good-bye to on his way out and I hope if I’d been on the aisle I would have said, “Good job, Krause.” to him because I thought so then already.


Great new issue up at PerfectSoundForever.com:

Thee Byron Coley, Thee Interview.

Peter Stampfel article, “Go Songs”.


Precious Blood (Amy Annelle & Ralph White) live performance on KDVS’ “Phoning It In”.

Their May 10, 2010 set list:

Hang Your Head In Shame / Just A Bum / La Valse A Pop / Jolie Blonde / I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore / Hell Broke Loose In Georgia / Shady Grove / My Old Horse Died / Langstrom's Pony.


Archie Patterson of Eurock fanzine (b. 1973) and label, is doing a column at Progression Magazine. And he was interviewed last fall by Tony Coulter at WFMU’s site.

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer


  1. No credit to Gasol? Come on.


  2. Mr Carducci, I think the Coverdale/Hugues era Purple is as good as the Gillian/Glover one. Bollin was a very nice add to the last ''classic'' album too. What do you think about this so said funkier Purple? It would also be interesting to try to explain how could they all come up with so much irrelevant music later in the decade: Rainbow, Whitesnake... And what was all that singer promiscuity among the original heavy bands, specially in Sabbath: first Dio, then Gillian, later Hughes...