a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Issue #70 (November 3, 2010)

Descent into Fog, Wildwood Canyon, Burbank, California

Photo by Chris Collins

Back in Wyoming

Photo-essay by Joe Carducci.

Nebraska, I-80. You need coffee driving cross this state. I always stop at the Lasso Coffee drive-thru shed in Gothenburg - Wednesday Oct. 20.

Wyoming Hwy 130 west toward Centennial; Sheep Mountain ahead, Centennial Ridge beyond - Friday Oct. 22.

Track in the marsh near Sand Creek Road - Saturday Oct. 23.

Aspen east of the marsh along the road.

Aspen copse west of the marsh, critter damage.

Neighbor’s house at dawn - Monday Oct. 25.

Centennial backyard to Corner Mtn, and Middle Mtn.

Marsh near Snowy Range Lodge.

Marsh creek.

130 gate at about 9000’ elevation, its still hunting season so the storm chased them down and the seasonal closure the next day keeps you from driving up this far.

South from 130 at closure.

Flowage north of 130 above closure.

100 yards south of 130 at closure.

And again.

Pygargue Vocifer by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Ted Sorensen (1928 - 2010) was a company man in a company town and he got a gold watch obituary in the company town paper. The Washington Post had the AP obit written by Hillel Italie up first which was notably rougher than the hagiography which their own staff coughed up a few hours later. AP’s first sentence referred to Sorensen as a “courtier to Camelot’s King”. The Post’s own production is credited to Martin Weil and Emma Brown but Sorensen may have consulted given that obits are pre-written for notables in their eighties; certainly there’s plenty of Kennedy Kool-Aid left behind in the greater District.

In a review of what Christopher Hitchens referred to as a “semi-hagiography”, Robert Dallek’s John F. Kennedy - An Unfinished Life, Hitchens writes regarding Kennedy’s campaign for the Presidency:

“He tried to create panic among voters when he first ran in 1960, accusing President Eisenhower of allowing a ‘missile gap’ to develop between the USA and the USSR. It was, as Kennedy well knew, a precisely false description of the real balance between the two superpowers. And the same dangerous rhetoric necessitated, when in office, a crazy invasion of Cuba and a later confrontation which nearly took the world over the nuclear brink. Of course, among his worshippers JFK gets credit for avoiding the crunch that he helped to precipitate. He didn't destroy the human race after all! Well, thanks a lot.”

Sorensen-ese, deftly unspun. And it’s some small justice that Sorensen lived long enough to witness much in this vein. Took a long time though. Dallek understood JFK through LBJ who had to try to clean up the messes, foreign and domestic. Dallek first produced a three-volume LBJ biography, otherwise his JFK tome might’ve been just another 100% hagiography. Of course, stirred to action by a pent-up flood of anti-JFK truth, Sorensen in his book, Counselor, claims JFK would have pulled out of Vietnam and passed a Civil Rights bill had he been reelected; he also less-than-subtly cadges credit for most of what he imagines creditworthy in the Kennedy White House narrative.

Kennedy looked young but he was not healthy and Ted Sorensen and other insiders certainly knew that. Sorensen traveled the country with Senator Kennedy for two years in preparation for the 1960 campaign and what he learned about Kennedy’s proclivities certainly shocked his earnest Nebraskan conscientious-objector self, yet the spectacle also spread Kennedy’s misogyny like an STD and so proffered the necessary rationalization for his technocratic mindset.

It isn’t understood well that Kennedy’s ill health cast his peripatetic use of an endless stream of women as death-drive rather than sex-drive. All those young Democrats who, after his death, screened JFK film like it was porn and mimicked his pained motions and habits as if he were the very model of a sexy life-force got it completely 180. Gary Hart and Bill Clinton are nothing like their hero JFK.

But regarding Jacquie Kennedy and the courtiers, the effect of their rewriting of history is best untangled by James Piereson after all these decades. He pins Sorensen, Teddy White, Jacqueline and others in media and politics for their ending the realist future-oriented liberalism of FDR and JFK, and casting nostalgia ever-after over a liberalism that’s best days were now forever behind it.

Piereson was interviewed by Peter Robinson on Hoover Institute’s Uncommon Knowledge program, and Sorensen’s then recent endorsement of Barack Obama is mentioned towards the end of the half-hour. What isn’t mentioned in the interview is the other mystery Piereson’s thesis solves -- the need for a conspiracy to explain away that Kennedy the cold warrior, murdered by a leftist, could never become the martyr for civil rights killed by a right-winger. With Time-Life and the three networks and Washington Post-Newsweek it was easy to float their fantasy. But so easy they got lazy and truth has slowly caught up. One tidbit from Dallek’s book involves the back-brace that held Kennedy in the bolt-upright position even after Oswald’s first two shots, still helpless to duck or fall and evade the final killshot. That this information was withheld left the motion of the President’s body as captured in the Zapruder film hard to explain by anything other than a second gunman, and so we’re off to the races. For decades!

Jacob Heilbrunn’s 2007 treatment of Piereson’s book, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution seemed to re-up The New York Times in Sorensen’s rearguard action with its curt refusal to engage the book, so Ted can rest in peace, I suppose.


Ross Douthat in the NYT, "How We Got Here".

“[T]heir legislative maneuverings — the buy-offs and back-room deals, the inevitable coziness with lobbyists — exposed the weakness of modern liberal governance: it tends to be stymied and corrupted by the very welfare state that it’s seeking to expand. Many of Barack Obama’s supporters expected him to be another Franklin Roosevelt, energetically experimenting with one program after another. But Roosevelt didn’t have to cope with the web of interest groups that’s gradually woven itself around the government his New Deal helped build. And while Obama twisted in these webs, the public gradually decided that it liked bigger government more in theory than in practice.”


Bruno Waterfield at euobserver.com, "Treaty change in the Evasion Union".

“EU officials are working around the clock because all leaders – whatever their position on the Franco-German Deauville stitch up or an emerging Commission/Van Rompuy plan for a ‘two sentence, surgical amendment’ – are absolutely agreed on one thing: There must be no referendums. One thing truly unites the Evasion Union and that is stopping the terrifying possibility that voters might get the chance to have a say in referendums that would very quickly become judgments on how Europe’s elites have handled the economic crisis. This is a frightening nightmare scenario for politicians who have premised their austerity measures and bank bailouts on keeping the public at arm’s length – or further.”


Philip Stephens at the FT, "A cordial entente to match the realities of power".

“There is opportunity in austerity. Britain and France are putting pen to parchment on a new defence treaty – the first of its kind since the Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947. Strange as it may seem, the two countries were fretting then about German resurgence. Now, they want to hold on to a role in a world where power is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The treaty has been born of shared fiscal adversity. Half a dozen linked agreements envisage joint training and deployment of troops, collaboration in unmanned aircraft, more inter-operability, and shared high-technology research and procurement. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy will also put their names to a separate, unprecedented treaty on nuclear co-operation. The two countries will share sensitive test data to develop a new generation of nuclear warheads.

…Both nations want to retain global reach. Neither can afford any longer to go it alone. The fact of even limited co-operation in an area as acutely sensitive as nuclear deterrence attests to this understanding that if Europe’s two military powers do not hang together they will hang separately. There is also an important industrial logic. Only by working together can they preserve a defence industry able to keep up with the Americans.”


Edwin Heathcote in the FT, "Down, socially cleansed and out in Paris and London".

“Baron Haussmann’s Paris was the first modern city to enshrine its social strata in architecture, with upper class quarters, bourgeois boulevards and proletarian districts each separated out. It is undoubtedly one of the stunning capitols, but its heart, more than ever in an age of austerity, is accessible only to the wealthy. London has always bee something else; scrappy, incoherent, mixed and flexible. But that may be about to change.”


Jeremy Page in the WSJ, "Beijing Puts New Political Model to a Test".

“It is a far cry from Western-style multiparty democracy, but this experiment—branded ‘small government, big society’—is seen by some leaders as a way to forge a new political model that maintains authoritarian rule while responding to the needs of an increasingly complex society. At the forefront of the experiment is Sunny Lee, who runs a nongovernmental organization in Shenzhen that teaches the children of migrant laborers. His Ciwei Philanthropy Institute, which he founded in 2007, caters to children left alone when their parents work overtime at a nearby nuclear plant and in a factory making garments for Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

After two years trying in vain to get the patronage of local officials, he was invited by the government to submit a report on his organization last year, and then to register legally this year, and to apply for state funding. ‘Before, the government wanted to do everything itself. It thought it could solve every issue,’ said Mr. Lee, who isn't a Communist Party member. ‘Now I think it realizes that it needs help from society.’”


Andrew Willis at euoberver.com, "EU concerned by Chinese industrial policy".

“EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has warned that recent Chinese restrictions on sales of valued rare earths could be a bellwether of things to come. ‘[It] hints that China is developing an industrial policy aiming at transferring as much as possible production to China,’ Mr De Gucht told an EU-China conference on Tuesday evening (26 October) in Brussels…. China has one third of the world's rare earth reserves, but last year produced 97 percent of the global supply. Other states such as the US and Australia have scaled back production in recent years in the face of cheaper Chinese competition.”


Richard Boudreaux in the WSJ, "In From the Cold: Putin Blesses Abridged ‘Gulag’ Version".

“Not long after Mr. Solzhenitsyn's death in 2008, Mr. Putin met with his widow and promised that the new volume, to be unveiled Thursday at a Moscow news conference, would be mandated in school curricula. Prosveshcheniye, a school-text publisher, is issuing 10,000 copies to schools and libraries across Russia, Ms. Solzhenitsyn said.
In compressing the text to 510 pages, she said she retained parts of all 64 chapters, keeping the structure of the work as ‘a continuous trip along the islands of the Archipelago,’ her husband's metaphor for the string of isolated camps.

‘I think I managed to preserve the power and light of this book, along with its gravity,’ Ms. Solzhenitsyn said Tuesday during a meeting with Mr. Putin, according to an official transcript. Mr. Putin said: ‘This book is necessary. Without knowing what's in these pages, it's impossible to have a complete understanding of our country and difficult to reflect on where it's headed.’ That was unusual praise from a former KGB colonel who has tried to instill pride in the country's Soviet past…. Mr. Putin has avoided praise or condemnation of Stalin. But three years ago, he joined in public commemorations for victims of Stalin's purges, warning against political ideas that are ‘placed above basic values.’”


Ekaterina Lushnikova at opendemocracy.net, "Outcasts - inmates of the Black Eagle".

“Russia has observed a moratorium on executions for almost thirteen years now. Those criminals who would previously have been sentenced to death are now sent to special colonies to serve life terms. There are currently five such colonies, each identified not only by official number, but also by nickname: for example ‘The White Swan’, ‘The Black Dolphin’, ‘The Vologda Coin’, ‘The Village of Harps’ or ‘The Black Eagle’. ‘The Black Eagle’ is located approximately 40 km from the city of Ivdel, in Sverdlovsk Oblast. It holds around three hundred prisoners….

The ‘Priobye’ express train stops in Ivdel for two minutes in the dead of night. The night I arrived and stepped out onto the platform, I found myself immediately engulfed by darkness. It was a darkness that failed to lift when dawn broke: lost to the forests and mountains, the town was still full of smoke from the burning taiga. Every breath of air had the bitter aftertaste of ash….

The majority of prisoners on extended terms simply do not know how to live outside prison once they are released. There are not infrequent tales of lifers who have bottle of beer for the first time in a quarter of a century, get as drunk as if they’d had a litre of vodka, punch someone in the face, fall asleep on a bench, only to wake up in prison again.”


Gilles Sabrie’s photo-essay in the NYT of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan is worth flipping through. The Corridor was originally designed to separate with a slight buffer-zone the British Empire from the Russian Empire. Now it reaches out of Afghanistan’s Northeast and borders Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China.

Edward Wong’s NYT feature is worthy of the photography: "In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote".

“The rules that apply to the rest of Afghanistan are often irrelevant in the Wakhan Corridor, a frigid, finger-shaped stretch of land squeezed between Tajikistan, Pakistan and China that is cut off from the Afghan heartland by the icy ramparts of the Hindu Kush. Here, the one constant of life for most Afghans — war — is as distant as a tropical wind. From the Soviet invasion to the civil war to the Taliban takeover to the anti-Taliban resistance, the Wakhan has remained largely free of strife. No Taliban show their faces here, nor do American soldiers. Villagers train to be wildlife rangers, not army rangers. The prevalent brand of Islam, Ismailism, is moderate; its spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, is a billionaire society figure in Paris.”


Almut Shulamit Bruckstein Coruh at Qantara.de, "The Jewish-Christian Tradition Is an Invention".

“Together with a group of Jewish and Islamic scholars, we wanted to show how complex, inspiring, and ambiguous Jewish and Arab traditions are and how necessary it is to differentiate between religious tradition and socio-political reality. The public discussion, by contrast, always seems to focus on terrorism, honour killing, the headscarf, and the Koran. And, of course, the imminent capitulation of ‘our culture.’ More than a century ago, a similar process was conducted against the Talmud, in which the whole of rabbinical Judaism was denounced.”


Raymond Ibrahim at Meforum.org, "Islamists Accuse Egypt’s Christians of Behaving Like… Islamists?"

“The persecution of Egypt's Coptic minority is taking an ironic, and dangerous, turn: Islamist leaders are now projecting the worst traits of radical Islam onto Egypt's Christians. A psychological phenomenon first described by Sigmund Freud, ‘projection’ is defined as ‘the attribution of one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people.’ As such, consider how the following excerpt from this recent report is a perfect example of projection:

In the last month various fundamentalist groups held ten demonstrations [in Egypt], each after coming out of mosques following Friday prayers, against the 86-year-old ailing Coptic Pontiff, in which he was accused of being a US agent, an abductor and torturer of female Muslim converts from Christianity, of stockpiling weapons in monasteries and churches to carry out war against Muslims, and of plans to divide Egypt to create a Coptic State.

All of these accusations are as ludicrous to apply to the Coptic Church as they perfectly apply to Islamists.”


Anthony Shadid piece in the NYT on the attack on a Baghdad church is a striking portrait of the Islamist’s insane drive to purify the mid-east of infidels against the historical culture of an ancient city.


Memri.org: "Arab Columnists: Stop Talking About Offensive Jihad".

“Columnist Khaled Al-'Ghanami wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan against extremists who call for jihad against the infidels and claim that it is the preferred way to propagate Islam. He said that today's media offers a variety of ways of spreading the message of Islam, so that there remains no justification for waging war to do so. Al-'Ghanami divided supporters of offensive jihad into two groups: those who call for immediate jihad, and those who think that as long as Muslims are weak there is no point in discussing jihad.

In his column on the Koran and Sunna in the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhouriyya, 'Abdallah Al-Naggar wrote about preachers who focus on offensive jihad during Ramadan, referring particularly to preachers in Egypt who stress this issue on 10th day of the month of Ramadan – the date in the Islamic calendar on which Egypt marks the ‘victory’ of the 1973 war with Israel. He suggested that in our time it is best to emphasize jihad as self-defense, not as offensive, adding that the Muslims currently don't have the strength or faith that will enable them to institute Islam worldwide (This puts him in the second of Al-'Ghanami's categories).”


Eric Golub at Americanthinker.com, "UCLA: Where ‘Queer Studies’ and Middle East Studies Meet".

“The UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) is a delightful contradiction of incompatible notions. On one hand, the professors take hard-left stances on sexuality and gender issues, claiming to staunchly support the rights of gays and women. Yet they also worship at the altar of radical Middle East studies professors who act as apologists for Sharia law and other policies completely at odds with Western ‘liberalism.’

The UCLA Queer Studies Conference 2010, which took place on October 8-9 and counted CNES among its sponsors, was a case in point. The panel discussion I attended, along with all of fifteen people, was titled ‘Trans-lating the Middle East.’ …Gil Hochberg, Vice Chair of Comparative Literature and LGBT Studies at UCLA, was the moderator. She decried the ‘heterosexualization of our culture’ and the ‘heterosexist portrayal of politics.’ Homosexuality, she claimed, is an ‘erotic disorder exclusively as [sic] a white pathology like white racism ... fault, guilt, refusal of fault, and paranoia.’

There is an ‘innate imperialism of gay rights movement, a white western women's movement,’ she continued. Gay Muslims are ‘acting out of economic necessity.’
She asked, ‘Why has the West been so successful in imposing homosexuality on the Arab world?’ and answered, ‘People are seduced by gayness and Americanism. Natives are informants of the white gay international, not true Arabs.’”


Nick Cohen at Standpoint.co.uk on Jon Stewart on Yusef Islam on Salman Rushdie .

"Stewart, and from what I can gather many others on the American Left, are now aping a liberal form of racism we have had in Europe for years. Its unprincipled adherents hold fanatics to be guilty of nothing more than forgivable rhetorical excess when they deliver excuses for murder. They are free to justify threats to novelists or the oppression of women, gays, free-thinkers etc. if — and only if — the novelists, apostates, women, gays, free thinkers etc. have brown rather than white skins.”


Laura Miller at Salon.com on Karen Palmer’s book, Spellbound: Inside West Africa’s Witch Camps.

“Essentially, these women are internal refugees, fleeing not ethnic or religious persecution but allegations of supernatural crimes, their guilt substantiated by dreams and the ritual sacrifice of guinea hens. The camps aren't small, either. At Gambaga, the town Palmer moved to when she decided to dedicate a couple of years to the subject, there are more than 3,000 accused witches living in unenviable conditions. The residents aren't prisoners, exactly, but they can't go home. Unless they can convince their former neighbors that they've given up cannibalizing other people's souls in the spirit world or flying through the night in the form of a fireballs (a common practice of Ghanaian witches), they're likely to be beaten or stoned to death if they return.”


Peter Preston in The Guardian, Murdoch’s paywall: those who leap are an engaging lot.

“How many gallant UK citizens have skipped beyond Mr Murdoch's vaunted Times and Sunday Times paywall in its first three months? You couldn't ask a more eagerly anticipated question. Fleet Street is gagging to discover whether Mr M has shot himself in the foot. Interim answer, from the heavyweight Nielsen company: foot still attached to leg. They reckon that total unique monthly UK visitors to the Times site went down from 3,096,000 to 1,782,000 when the wall went up, and that only 362,000 – about 20% – ventured on to pages beyond the wall.

You can weave webs of relative triumph or disaster from all this. The good news for News International is that those who vaulted the wall were a bit older, richer and more dedicated to scanning the site carefully. They are the ‘engaged readers’ advertisers admire – as opposed to the click-by-night trade who never stop to buy anything. The bad news is that a few hundred thousand unique visitors sounds pretty puny compared with the 20 million or so the Times was claiming before the wall went up.”


Lee Abrams & Adolf Hitler at Mydamnchannel.com.


Distort fanzine, No. 31, has an interesting anti-review of Stevie Chick’s book on Black Flag, Spray Paint The Walls, and a call for contributions on a core-centric book-to-be.

DX, POBox 239, North Carlton, VIC 3054, Australia.


The We Got Power gestalt explained according to a charter subscriber. The whole run, I believe, is reprinted with many additional photographs plus contemporary material by various survivors of that Los Angeles including myself, in the just published, Party with Me Punker: Early 80s Southern California Hardcore Scene, by Jordan Schwartz and Dave Markey (Ecstatic Peace).


Raymond Pettibon on and in the new issue of Monster Children [28]. Jamie Brisick’s visit to Raymond’s studio is of interest as are the sidebars by Mike Watt and Gomez Bueno. Nice color repros of some art too.


John Strausbaugh is up to Chapter 16 of his serially posted novel, Bullet to the Moon.


Allen Iverson signs for two years/four million dollars with Cola Turka, a division two team in the Euroleague. Talk about cross-over.


Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ writes up the new TCM film history series, “Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood”. She likes the entire run of the original documentary itself which looks like it moves from the first Edison fifty second film-loops to the major studios flame-outs by decades in seven parts over the next two months. Each of these hour-long chapters is followed by films which illustrate that era. Judging by these it’s the first hour that seems to cover the rarest of Hollywood elements and so its illustrating films are hardest to see. Silent films are thankfully shown on the big screen more often these years, often with live musical accompaniment, and they are certainly best seen that way because at home there are too many distractions, and with no dialogue, I’ll remind you, one must keep one’s eyes on the screen at all times! Still TCM’s Monday, Nov. 8 programming will be worth watching and taping, especially:

The Indian Massacre (or, The Heart of an Indian)

101 Bison, 1912
Francis Ford, Grace Cunard, William Eagle Shirt, Art Acord

Francis Ford, John’s older brother, made hundreds of films in the one and two-reeler years (1909 to 1916 or so) and hundreds more silent features after that, most all of which are lost. He acted and directed in most of these, and wrote and produced many as well. The early shorts (often westerns, Indian dramas, Lincoln films, civil war films, and colonial dramas) featured performers from Oklahoma’s Miller Brothers 101 Ranch which was an early touring competitor to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and also developed a company to make movies with Bison Films, these under the supervision of Thomas Ince from 1911. Ford made films that were noted for their action and authenticity under the 101 Bison, and Broncho brands and then he and Grace Cunard moved to Universal in early 1913. (John Ford arrived in SoCal to work for Francis in summer 1914.)

The best info online about Francis Ford is Tag Gallagher’s illustrated essay at sensesofcinema.com where he writes:

“Almost all of Ford’s work at Universal has disappeared and our knowledge is derived principally from the studio house organ, The Universal Weekly. In collaboration with Grace Cunard, his writer, leading lady and occasional assistant director, Ford, from 1913 to 1916, produced approximately 80 pictures (2, 3 or 4 reels, some singles) plus four serials totaling 67 additional reels. 1913 saw some frontier melodramas and, notably, "From Rail-Splitter to President" (2-reel Gold Seal, December 16, 1913), in which Ford played his favorite role, Abraham Lincoln.”

Lost silent films continue to be discovered here and there around the world. Here’s the story of a recent Francis Ford re-discovery, When Lincoln Paid (1913), found in a New Hampshire barn.

Monday, November 8, TCM.

(Times are Eastern)

7pm - Peepshow Pioneers (2010) TMC doc.
8pm - The Birth of Hollywood (2010) TMC doc.
9pm - Traffic In Souls (1913)
10:30 - The Indian Massacre (1912) Francis Ford, Ann Little, Grace Cunard
11pm - The Birth of Hollywood (2010) TMC doc.
12mid.- The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
3:15am- Within Our Gates (1920)
4:45am- The Blot (1921)


Thanks to Steve Beeho.

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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 comment:

  1. Russian lifers reading Michel Houllebecq...are they picking up on The New Vulgate as well? Good stuff on Ted S.--as a Lincolnite, I've had to be repelled over the years by the local journalists slavering over the man and his serial lies that anyone could see through; you think the NY cats loved him. Thanks for the James Pierson link as well, incredible. Mannequin Beach was from Lincoln as well, not Oklahoma.