a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Issue #73 (November 24, 2010)

Off Highway 130, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

China’s Fantasy Ideology
by Joe Carducci

I guess it was five years ago when it seemed like China was knocking down its border disputes one after another. These were the easier ones of course, but they were all around, from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, to Vietnam. China also borders North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and Laos for good measure, and all these former sometime Imperial tributaries now potential tripwires don’t include the offshore island disputes with South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Sultan of Brunei. Not to mention China’s claim on Taiwan which brings to mind restive internal colonies Tibet-Qinghai, Sinkiang-East Turkestan, and probably Inner Mongolia. This leaves larger disputes with India, both in the northeast and the north central as well as the two chunks of Kashmir that Pakistan thoughtfully ceded to China and are sometimes called Aksai Chin.

The Chinese Communists gave up on Maoism in the eighties and dropped Marxism soon after. At that point the march of Economics raced forward while History began retreating. One imagines the Party’s cadres of Historians pouring carefully over every surviving Imperial document or map as they seek to reconstitute the high-water mark overlaps of the Qin, Chin, Song, Qing, and even a Mongol dynasty or two around the pole of the glories of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). Were these many contemporary disputes to be settled to the Party’s satisfaction we could reasonably expect the regime to then be knocking on doors from Indonesia to Poland referring all the while to their All-Party Geographical History Department of Maps. I almost forget, they’re going to the Moon and Mars as well, but they go undoubtedly for merely all Hankind.

Its easy to forget that before the attacks on 9-11 relations were pretty rocky between China and the US. Then because there were nominally Chinese Uigurs among the guerrillas in Al-Qaeda training camps things calmed down and the PRC went on its fence-mending quest with neighbors. After the attack on the WTC the papers and magazines and TV studios were filled with experts on Islam, Afghanistan, the sub-continent, Central Asia, and Warlordism. It was a useful crash course. But one of the most incisive pieces came a year after by a nobody from Georgia named Lee Harris which identified what he called “the fantasy ideology” of Al-Qaeda. He reached this description as his analysis led him to depart from the Clausewitzian assumption of war as politics by other means, and from there to ditch the assumption that “an act of violence on the magnitude of 9/11 can only have been intended to further some kind of political objective.” Harris even claimed that Karlheinz Stockhausen, with his bon mot/faux pas where he tagged 9/11 “the greatest work of art of all time”, was onto something because the act was not designed to convince anyone of anything, but merely concerned with the maintenance of “a specific personal fantasy.”

It might be that the Chinese Politburo has fixed on an Historical fantasy of the Han people to make up for the lack of any philosophical basis for their rule. If so at its worst it might be as if the white minority South Africa insisted on expansion and rule over more and more black Africans. Absurd. Suicidal even. The one-child policy and the more and more confident Chinese middle and working classes may insure that any actual war-fighting will end the regime. People, citizens, do not give up their only sons for offensive wars. Not for long. If their growth engine goes to their geography-obsessed heads and they actually pull the trigger somewheres they may lose all the other somewheres and never get to Mars where it is believed the Mandate of Heaven is buried underneath the statue of Elvis.

Here’s a weeks worth of striking Chinese action:

Juliet Ye & Jason Dean in the WSJ, "Chinese Blogger Conference Is Cancelled Under Pressure".

Michael Wines in the NYT, "China’s Censors Misfire in Abuse-of-Power Case".

John Markoff in the NYT, "Report Looks at How China Meddled With the Internet".

WSJ: "China’s ‘State Capitalism’ Sparks a Global Backlash".

Norihiko Shirouzu in the WSJ, "Train Makers Rail Against China’s High-Speed Designs".

Barry Bearak in the NYT, "Zambia Balances Aid From China and Resentment".

David Fickling & Ross Kelly in the WSJ, "Fight Over Miner Simmers".

Amit Ranjan at Asiasentinal.com, "Beijing’s Threat to India’s Water Security".

The New York Times Criterion
by Joe Carducci

The New Criterion for November features an excerpt from William McGowan’s book, Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of ‘The New York Times’ Means for America. The excerpt is titled, "Pop goes the Times", and focuses clumsily on the NYT’s “treatment of film, television, theater, music, and other arts”. I’m sympathetic to his general thrust but the piece is an illustration of how slow on the uptake the Right has been on popular culture if not the arts themselves. This has left an entirely corrupted and inadequate Left to have its way with the arts. The issue is all but impossible to get into focus today because so many erstwhile critics, consumers, fans, scholars… have begun producing art since there seems to be money fun and fame attached to the arts as they went Pop under the demographic power of the baby boom. Then Pop culture invaded the Humanities and weakened aesthetics -- the Critic vanquished Art and proceeded to produce mere Culture in place of Art. Such Culture is far more politically settled and easier to market in the near term.'

The New Criterion is designed to fight a rearguard defense of Art against all this, so its easy to sympathize. But their defense of Art is as Art was before Elvis and Warhol, but that line leaves so much outside their ken as to invite dismissal. I always wondered why the publication wasn’t titled The Old Criterion, or just The Criterion. Seems like calling it The New Criterion was throwing in the towel on some level. And there’s so much righteous objecting and critiquing for them to do!

I liked the old WSJ as it was edited by Robert Bartley, and the CNBC television hour that the editorial board did with Stuart Varney was a lot better than the half-hour they do now on Fox News Channel. Bartley didn’t look like he cared at all about the mechanics of performing on television which is quite rare and unlike his replacement Paul Gigot who had done PBS’s "News Hour" for several years. The hippest writer on the board and the shows was/is Dorothy Rabinowitz who projects a classic Manhattan hauteur though she’s currently wasted reviewing Television. I once caught a NYT television program on the local NY1 cable channel but its primarily a vehicle to tout that week’s Sunday Times features.

There wasn’t much on music or film in the Journal until Bartley died and Gigot took over, though movie coverage got the head-start. Now with Murdoch’s ownership the paper is about as hip as its gonna get. But it doesn’t have near the ambition the Times has when it comes to arts coverage. McGowan makes easy points about the politically interested and invested compromises the Times makes whenever it disapproves of some development or is suddenly embarrassed to have missed the early stages of some phenom. Coverage of books which it finds uncomfortable is elided when its felt the attention a Times review would get the book is oxygen it would otherwise not get. This is different than the ignoring of Rush Limbaugh, his arrival in Manhattan, his turning civics into compelling radio, his best-selling books, his effective connecting up the WSJ editorial board with just-folks out across the country; the Times’ determination to be up to speed on all matters of American culture failed them here and they backed into coverage of Limbaugh with a profile of him that acknowledged the book had gone to #1 on their own chart yet not been reviewed. Such media-figure political books are now a deluge, and certainly the Times’ obsession with Sarah Palin since the McCain ticket lost is somewhat shaped by their earlier failure to note activity out between the University towns of America.

The Times did cover Limbaugh-fan Camille Paglia’s first book fairly quickly given she was unknown, but Sexual Personae was published by Yale and easy to identify as likely significant. And her text was hip enough in simplified Manhattan terms (references to The Rolling Stones, movie stars, etc.). Hers was also an Arts corrective -- not in full sync with The New Criterion’s but an interesting update of it. (My own books haven’t been reviewed in the Times, even the revised edition released by Henry Rollins’ company in 1995 was elided, though of course here we’re talking about a Pop Music regime-past whose understanding of what was important was perversely relaxed by Nirvana’s pop success and any back-checking would be painful for the paper of record. My third edition was pitched to the NYT Book Review section editor, but by 2005 you know…. I’m waiting for my reverse-gear Limbaugh-style profile.)

Though Books and Music are important to the NYT, they only attempt comprehensive reviews with regard to Films and Theater. Obviously, they couldn’t hope to review every music release, or live performance, or every book published, but it does probably mean something that movies rate so important -- even those that do not come with advertising budgets, even those played from dvds in pizza parlors. One of the marks against former Times editor Howell Raines when he was on his way to being fired was his front page placement or even the assigning of an article on Britney Spears in the early days of what I counted as her third life, this one her red-shift blast-off as new media supernaut. She wasn’t drying up and blowing away and the micro-paparazzi with all that bandwidth and syndication to feed were metastasizing into something new. Raines was ahead of that curve, and perhaps right as well to put it up front rather than in Arts.

McGowan writes:

“Part of the late 1970s Sectional Revolution, in which the Times became a multisection publication bulging with soft news and life-style journalism, was a greater use of market research and polling of target constituencies, especially in the area of cultural coverage. The research explained that the Times needed to ‘reach out to a new generation, people whose attention spans were shorter,’ Warren Hoge, the assistant managing editor, told NPR. It needed to replace its older readers with a new generation, one that was educated but ‘aliterate,’ meaning they did not read much…. Over time this transformation crowded out coverage of high culture in favor of an oddball, wink-and-nod popular culture. ‘The entire social and moral compass of the paper,’ as the former Times art critic Hilton Kramer later said, was altered to conform to a liberal ethos infused with ‘the emancipatory ideologies of the 1960s’….

The change was met by disaffection and derision within the paper’s newsroom. Grace Glueck, who ran the culture desk for a while as replacement editor, was one of the disaffected and famously once asked, ‘Who do I have to f[…] to get out of this job?’”

Hilton Kramer has been co-editor and publisher of The New Criterion since he left the New York Times in the early 1980s, so presumably the limitations of William McGowan’s book are the generic Manhattan limitations.

Back before Raines went a Britney too far, Sridhar Pappu in the New York Observer recounted the murderers’ row of the Times' recent glory years:

“For years, particularly from 1967 to 1990 under Mr. Gelb's direction, the culture section of The Times served as the repository of New York's most distinguished cultural critics: Harold C. Schonberg and Donal Henahan on music; Hilton Kramer and John Russell on art; Walter Kerr, Stanley Kauffmann and Mr. Rich on the theater; Clive Barnes on dance; Renata Adler, Vincent Canby and Janet Maslin on the movies; Ada Louise Huxtable and Paul Goldberger on architecture; and Jack Gould, John O'Connor, Walter Goodman and John Corry on television. And in dance, literature and cabaret, The Times ruled the waves. Even readers who hated those critics read them.” (Jan. 19, 2003)

Some of those critics are even good, just as some of today’s are good. If they are any less lethal it becomes academic so-to-speak when the varied arts are failing as they are.

The paper is now fully a national paper. It sells only perhaps a couple hundred thousand copies in New York City, and those in Manhattan. In the city itself, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and Newsday, each outsell the Times. The marketing department is especially visible in the Arts and Travel section; each dip into Chicago theater or L.A. taco trucks or Austin filmmaking or Portland coffee trends is an attempt to juice distribution in those now important markets for the Times. Certainly this has begun to temper the old Manhattan-bound politik -- it was harder for the literature-based Old Left frame-of-reference cosmopolitan Times to molt unto a Pop-based New Left Times hip to developments on the West Coast than it will be for this new rootless pop provincialism to now sell itself to a faithless cell-phone “readership”. Their television ads tell you who they think these young ‘aliterates’ are, and that maybe they want the paper just on weekends.

The political element of the Times that concerns McGowan and Kramer now seems weakened everywhere under the effect of the web and the general dispersion to formlessness of what media remains; only NPR seems strengthened as an influence-magnifier for the Times. When there was talk of the paper going non-profit I thought I heard a harmonic.

Centennial Ridge, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Francolinus Griseostriatus by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

James Wood’s appreciation of Keith Moon in the NYer isn’t available on-line but might be of interest to fans of The Who as it runs five pages plus a full-page Ross Halfin shot of Moon behind his drum-kit. It’s somewhat limited to Wood’s childhood knowledge of just The Who’s output after its groundbreaking Maximum R’n’B sixties singles period when the band was increasingly tamed by the requirements of AOR programmers and the LP itself with their double-album rock operas. Wood is good on Moon, though, because he was a kid for whom drumming answered young and ancient impulses that his traditional classical and church-based musical training on other instruments did not. He writes, “Sitting behind the drums was like the fantasy of driving (the other great prepubescent ambition)…”, and on Moon drumming: “He seems to be reaching for everything at once.” Wood contrasts Moon to John Bonham profitably (to Glenn Gould less so) but then noting their deaths two years apart, ends, “And then English drumming went quiet.”

Your editor ought to have told you that was a subject worth six pages of the New Yorker: as in, What happened? A good ten years where the UK produces drummers like Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Mick Avory, Jack Jones, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Moon, Bonham, Bill Ward, Robert Wyatt, Greg Palmer, Bill Bruford, Clive Bunker, John Marshall, Phil Collins, John Weathers, BJ Wilson, Cozy Powell, Ian Paice, Mick Fleetwood, Barrie Barlow, Simon King, dozens more at least… until glitter and punk and media itself turned on music in the hot-house Pop machine that is London.


Lillian Gish film series at MoMA
•November 26–December 13

The features are worth seeing but the first two programs of earlier one and two reelers on Friday, and Saturday are harder to come across. Gish was a child actor on stage when she and her sister Dorothy followed a stage acquaintance Mary Pickford into Biograph’s studio on E. 14th St in New York. There and in New Jersey, and on E. 175th, and in Hollywood Lillian followed D.W. Griffith as he rationalized what they’d later term the grammar or rhetoric of film. Gish’s 1969 memoir is well-observed and heartfelt. She was young and thought at first to work only with Griffith and was hurt when he let her go as he let others go when they got to be stars who could make more money elsewhere. And she tells the story of Griffith’s fall in twenties well. She loved the making of films and writes of the 1910s on 14th Street studio, a Victorian brownstone since torn down, “When we worked there the house was alive with movement; filled with people with strange painted faces, wearing odd costumes. They were actors who applied their own makeup, contrived their own costumes, often wrote their own stories, and fought for choice roles day after day, as a ceaseless stream of pictures poured out of the studio. They were not respected by some actors of the legitimate stage, but they brought to their work an excitement and spontaneity that did not exist anywhere else and has regrettably long since disappeared from most movies.” The MoMA series includes some of her latter sound films but doesn’t include Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960) which is the best of those.


Nick Gillespie in Reason, Brian Lamb interview.

“A famously stone-faced interviewer comfortable grilling figures from across the political spectrum without revealing his own leanings, Lamb, 69, actually got his start in television on an Indiana-based pop music show called ‘Dance Date’; he played drums for local bands while getting his undergraduate degree from Purdue. After a tour in the Navy, Lamb did press relations for Robert McNamara’s Defense Department and then worked for the Nixon administration, experiences that cemented his conviction that governments should be as open as possible. C-SPAN started the process of televised openness in 1979.”


Matt Welch in Reason, "The Libertarian Conspiracy".

“If these attacks appear to lack a consistent theme, it’s because Democrats need the Koch bogeyman to accomplish so many political tasks. The narrative that emerged after the [Jane] Mayer article, which became a kind of pre-election Rosetta Stone for Democrats trying to decode why they were going to lose in 2010 and maybe 2012, boils down to a strained four-part theory: 1) The ruthlessly powerful Kochs are ‘covertly’ waging a war against Obama on behalf of right-wing Republicans; 2) they are doing so chiefly out of their own corporate self-interest (mostly to pollute) and a general ‘pro-corporate’ agenda; 3) they are creating and/or co-opting populist anti-government sentiment they don’t necessarily believe in; and 4) this is all a direct effect of the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations (though wealthy individuals such as the Kochs have always been free to spend their money on political messages).

What a long, strange trip it has been for the Kochs. In 1980 David Koch was the vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, when he and Ed Clark (a self-described ‘low-tax liberal’) ran on a platform that included abolishing the CIA and FBI. Not long before that, according to Senior Editor Brian Doherty’s definitive history Radicals for Capitalism, Charles Koch had openly considered buying the progressive opinion magazine The Nation before helping to launch Inquiry, which published such writers as Noam Chomsky and Marcus Raskin. The conservative flagship National Review beat The New Yorker by a solid 31 years with its cover-story shocker that ‘anarchists, backed by corporate big money’ were ‘infiltrat[ing] the freedom movement.’ Horrors!”


Julian Jackson in The Guardian on Richard Wolin’s book, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s.

“If people tend to remember May '68 nowadays in terms of sexual liberalisation, at the time protesters spoke the language of Marxism, and Wolin focuses on one particularly radical Marxist group – the French Maoists – whose heyday was the period 1967-73. This might seem a somewhat narrow subject until we remember that the supporters of the Maoists included such luminaries as Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre (who had nothing else in common). This was a time when the language of politics was extraordinarily violent. André Glucksmann, now one of the anti-totalitarian ‘new philosophers’ of whom the most famous is Bernard-Henri Lévy, believed in his Maoist phase that France was a fascist country; Sartre called for popular tribunals to counteract bourgeois justice. Not to be outdone, Foucault advocated a ‘people's justice’ without courts on the lines of the September massacres of 1792.

Curiously the Maoists had missed out on 1968 itself. Blinded by dogmatism, they assumed that an event led by students could not be serious. It must be a plot hatched by de Gaulle and the French state as a pretext to crush the proletariat. This complete contradiction between the reality on the streets and what theory said must be happening caused one Maoist leader, Robert Linhart, to have a nervous breakdown.”


David Bellos in The Telegraph on Romain Gary.

“He spoke Russian and Yiddish as native languages and had acquired Polish properly, too. (Vilna, where Gary was born in 1914, was part of Poland between 1921 and 1939.) He knew German because he’d taken it at school, but at his lycée in Nice he’d won first prize in French composition, and had in his youth drafted countless French novels, now lost. He’d studied law at Aix-en-Provence and then in Paris, living on odd jobs and croissants filched from bars. He naturalised at the age of 21 and was called up in 1938. It was Gary’s good and bad luck to be doing military service when war was declared: his time was automatically extended for the duration.

When France fell to the Germans in June 1940, he fled in a two-seater plane to Algiers and then Casablanca, and onwards by sea via Gibraltar to Britain, arriving in time to swear allegiance to Charles de Gaulle at his first rally at the Albert Hall. Gary was one of the handful of hotheads who gave Free France its own air force. Of the 200 airmen who enlisted at the start, only five remained alive in 1945. The burden of such luck weighed on Gary for the rest of his life.”


Eric Ormsby in the WSJ, on the book, The Classical Tradition.

“‘The Classical Tradition’ is a guidebook of great erudition that is notably well written and unexpectedly compelling. It definitely is not another of those solemn introductions to ‘the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.’ Instead it is a lively compendium of the manifold ways in which the enduring creations of the classical tradition, and the Greek and Latin classics, have been imitated, adulated, denounced and misunderstood—or understood all too well—over the past two millennia.

In their introduction, the editors—a triumvirate, as is only fitting (Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most and Salvatore Settis)—state that they aim to strike a balance between ‘an unwavering commitment’ to the truth and ‘an undogmatic appreciation of the endless resourcefulness and inventiveness of human error.’ Accordingly, the tradition in question isn't simply the preserved legacy of Greece and Rome in art and literature, philosophy and statecraft; it comprises the centuries of commentary and interpretation that have elaborated and embellished that legacy.”


Andy Martin at the NYT Opinionator blog.

“One implication of what a psychologist might say about autism goes something like this: you, a philosopher, are mindblind and liable to take up philosophy precisely because you don’t ‘get’ what other people are saying to you. You, like Wittgenstein, have a habit of hearing and seeing propositions, but feeling that they say nothing (as if they were rendered in Chinese). In other words, philosophy would be a tendency to interpret what people say as a puzzle of some kind, a machine that may or may not work.

I think this helps to explain Wittgenstein’s otherwise slightly mysterious advice, to the effect that if you want to be a good philosopher, you should become a car mechanic (a job Wittgenstein actually held during part of the Great War). It was not just some notion of getting away from the study of previous philosophers, but also the idea that working on machines would be a good way of thinking about language…. Perhaps language can be seen as a car, a vehicle of some kind, designed to get you from A to B, carrying a certain amount of information, but apt to get stuck in jams or break down or crash; and which will therefore need fixing. Wittgenstein and the art of car maintenance. This car mechanic conception of language is just the sort of thing high-functioning autistic types would come up with, my psychologist friend might say, because they understand ‘systems’ better than they understand people.”


Martin Wolf in the FT on Will Hutton’s book, Them and Us: Changing Britain.

“Hutton makes four basic propositions. First, capitalism is, indeed, the unique productive system its proponents claim. But it must be the capitalism of the innovative entrepreneur operating in a competitive economy open to all the talents…. Second, such an open-access economy demands an open-access society…. Third, if economic elites are allowed to dominate the state, the economy will become ossified and stagnant. ‘Closed political systems beget closed and monopolized economies.’ This, in Hutton‘s view, is what has been happening in the UK, with the domination over public policy of a rent-extracting financial elite. Fourth, the maintenance of a fair, open access society and economy demands an engaged and supportive state.

This set of propositions challenges the right’s hostility to the state and the left’s hostility to the market.”


Mercopress.com: "Guerrilla Dilma gathered information for bank hold-ups in the sixties".

“The president-elect was arrested in 1970 when she was 23 and accused of belonging to ‘subversive groups’ and had to remain in jail for almost three years, when according to her statements was the victim of ‘barbarian tortures’. According to the military documents from the dictatorship she was described as the ‘Joan of Arc’ of subversion and joined ‘subversive forces in 1967’. As a member of the Colina and VAR-Palmeiras guerrilla groups Dilma Rousseff ‘commanded strikes’, advised in ‘bank hold-ups’ and was the ‘organizer and distributor of tasks’, although it was never proved that she effectively was directly involved in any armed action.”


Anita Raghavan in the NYT, "From Russia Expert, Gloomy Outlook for Developed World".

“Mr. Browder, the grandson of Earl Browder, a onetime leader of the American Communist Party, is uniquely qualified to answer. From 1996 to 2005, he was on the front lines of investing in Russia, becoming one of the country’s most prominent and vocal activist investors with a fund that ballooned to $4.5 billion by the end of 2005, from $25 million a decade earlier….

Mr. Browder is looking grayer these days, but he is upbeat until he starts talking about Russia; then his smile fades and his demeanor turns serious. ‘I have pretty dark feelings about Russia,’ he says. ‘I think it is a place best to avoid both for financial and moral reasons.’”


Simon Roughneen at Atimes.com, "Tales of an avuncular Ho".

“At least 19 dissidents have been caught in the government's dragnet since October. Those who remain free must take great care when airing their views or meeting with foreigners. Asia Times Online recently managed to speak face-to-face with one Hanoi-based dissident who requested anonymity and this story will refer to simply as ‘Ho’. He immediately settled into some mordant observations about life as an enemy of the state. ‘In East Germany, under the Stasi, it was said that one in 50 of the population were spies,’ Ho said. ‘In Vietnam today, it is more like one in 40.’ …Along with other Southeast Asian nations with claims to the maritime area, Vietnam appears increasingly threatened by China's assertion that the South China Sea is a ‘core interest’ on par with Tibet and Taiwan, the latter of which Beijing considers a renegade province….

Despite the growing chill in Sino-Vietnam relations, state media is prevented by the government from covering touchy issues related to China…. With the Communist Party congress looming, Ho predicts that despite recent disputes between the two countries ‘the Chinese will get their man’ when senior appointments, including the premiership, are decided at the meeting. China typically pushes back when it perceives Vietnamese officials contrarian to Beijing's interests are in positions of power.”


John Glionna in the LAT, "North Korea’s mind games at the negotiating table".

“During a 1999 visit to Pyongyang to discuss North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, chief U.S. negotiator William Perry got under the skin of a senior North Korean military official. In another capital, Perry might have expected a dismissive gesture from across the table or even a snide put-down. But this was North Korea, which does things its own way: The military man calmly responded that he knew where the American diplomat lived. ‘He warned that if the U.S. ever used force against North Korea, they would turn Perry's home into a sea of fire,’ recalled Evans Revere, a former North Korea expert for the State Department, who was at the meeting. ‘It was nice to have them focus so personally on your hometown.’”


Amira al-Ahi at Qantara.de, "Bloggers in the Arab World".

“Since 2005, Wael Abbas has been one of Egypt's most active bloggers. His name and his blog are known throughout the Arab world. It was he who published on his website photos of sexual assaults on women in Cairo and videos showing torture in Egyptian police stations, which led to a scandal and made him famous. Abbas reports regularly on abuses in his country. He is one of the most vocal activists in Egypt, denouncing, accusing and demanding change, and in doing so he has made himself a thorn in the side of the government. Over the past ten years, the Egyptian government and Arab states in general have invested a great deal in Internet infrastructure. However, it was probably not clear to most regimes that this would open a door to democratic development." 


Raymond Ibrahim at Hudson-ny.org, "Muslim’s Project Islam’s Worst Traits onto Israel and the Jews".

“Sometime back, I noted that Muslims have been projecting the worst aspects of Islam(ism) onto the Copts, Egypt's Christian minority. This raised more questions: Is Islamist projection onto the Copts a unique phenomenon? Do Muslims project onto other non-Muslims, too? Is there a trend? To answer this question, it seemed logical to begin with how Islamists approach their archenemy: Israel and the Jews. Thinking this may be difficult to prove — it is one thing to hate your enemy, another to project unconsciously your worst traits onto him — I expected this might require some research. I went to MEMRI and, lo and behold, came across three back-to-back examples of projection against Israel and the Jews. Consider the following excerpts, especially the italicized portions: On September 7, Egyptian cleric Abdallah Samak made the following remarks on Al Rahma TV:

‘The Jews are known for their merciless, murderous, and bloodthirsty nature… The number one characteristic of the Jews – which appears in the Bible – is that they are always prepared for combat. They believe that it is their fate and destiny to be in a state of perpetual war. This is not what we want. We are seekers of peace and security. We seek to spread love. But we are dealing with a people, a society, that believes that its destiny is linked to war. The number one characteristic of the Jews is that they are a people that believes that its destiny is linked to war. They cannot live without war. They can only live if they attack others. They can only live through annihilation, revenge, and mercilessness.’

The notion of ‘perpetual war,’ in fact, is straight out of Muslim doctrine and history — best recognized by the word ‘jihad‘— and has no corollary in Judaism or any other religion.”


Gabriel Latner in the Jerusalem Post, "Is Israel ‘a rogue state’? You’d better hope so".

“I’m going to try and convince the die-hard Zionists and Israel supporters here tonight to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech, I will have presented five pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is if not a ‘rogue state’ then at least ‘rogue-ish.’ Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is ‘bad.’ I will not be arguing that it doesn’t deserve to exist. I won’t be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is ‘rogue.’”


Norimitsu Onishi in the NYT, "In Sliver of Indonesia, Public Embrace of Judaism".

“Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical and charismatic Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors. With the local governments’ blessing, they are carving out a small space for themselves in the sometimes strangely shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.”


Justin Vela at Atimes.com, "Political Islam has many faces in Turkey".

“The AKP has supported traditionally practicing Muslims economically and politically more so than any previous government and has also changed and modernized what it means to be Islamic in Turkey. Yet the AKP does not enjoy the support of the openly Islamic Saadet Party and many more conservative Muslims in Turkey. There is indeed a deep rift between the groups, with members of Saadet believing the AKP to have been co-opted by Western powers, becoming a pawn of a global imperialism extending from these countries. The AKP's neo-liberal trade policies are, also, condemned by Saadet as Turkey maintains high unemployment and uneven wealth distribution.

The current head of Saadet, Necmettin Erbakan, recently lashed out at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in an August 2010 interview with the German newspaper Die Welt. ‘Some foreign powers brought them into their current position. Zionist, imperialist and racist powers in the current world order. They are supporting a Western, Zionist world order unintentionally. Most of what they have done is wrong. They are making the Zionists richer with taxes and debts. Erdogan became the cashier of Zionism. He was my student before. Yet now, our aim is to knock him over.’”


Nick Jacobs at euobserver.com, "Waiting for Doha".

“World leaders have set themselves yet another deadline for completing the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round. The trade talks, launched in 2001 and tipped for completion in 2005, 2008 and then 2010, should now be wrapped up in 2011, according to last week’s G20 declaration. Doha is fast becoming the global economy’s answer to Waiting for Godot. Like Beckett’s absent hero, a Doha deal is constantly talked about but never comes around. And as with Godot, you begin to wonder whether those who talk about Doha really know what it will look like when it finally arrives.”


Wieland Wagner at Spiegel.de, "Land of the Setting Sun".

“The Japanese are withdrawing more and more into the private sphere, from the elderly to their unemployed children, who are living on the pensions and savings of their parents. Many of the elderly are being downright exploited by their children, says Nemoto. ‘All people think about now is money.’ For many families, Japan's thrifty older generation represents the last financial hope, and has replaced the state in many cases. The other nucleus of Japanese society, the company, pays very little attention to its employees these days.”


Joshua Chaffin at the FT, "Ministers struggle with the language".

“Mr Van Rompuy had shocked observers by warning in a speech that ‘a survival crisis’ threatened to tear apart the European Union…. Mr Van Rompuy said he had been misinterpreted. But the episode offered a vivid example of the EU’s struggle to communicate with financial markets during the crisis -- a failing that has been painfully on display in recent months. ‘They don’t understand the markets,’ said Karel Lanoo, chief executive of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels think-tank. ‘This is extremely dangerous.’”


Peter Spiegel in the FT, "Lunch with Jose Manuel Barroso".

“Barroso was a leader of an anti-government student group during Portugal‘s 1974 revolution, which ended the dictatorship. I find it frustratingly difficult to pry from him how in 1985, while still only 29, the incoming Portuguese government plucked him from a doctoral programme in political science at Georgetown University to become an MP and then a top official in the foreign ministry. ‘Look, you cannot compare, because in Portugal, and in Spain as well, there was a generation gap,’ he says, noting that any association with Slazar’s regime was political poison after the revolution.’”


Ross Douthat in the NYT, "Ireland’s Paradise Lost".

“To the utopians of capitalism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the biggest booms can produce the biggest busts, and that debt and ruin always shadow prosperity and growth. To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (‘Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,’ Christopher Caldwell noted, but now ‘we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.’)

But it’s the utopians of European integration who should learn the hardest lessons from the Irish story. The continent-wide ripples from Ireland’s banking crisis have vindicated the Euroskeptics who argued that the E.U. was expanded too hastily, and that a single currency couldn’t accommodate such a wide diversity of nations. And the Irish government’s hat-in-hand pilgrimages to Brussels have vindicated every nationalist who feared that economic union would eventually mean political subjugation. The yoke of the European Union is lighter than the yoke of the British Empire, but Ireland has returned to a kind of vassal status all the same.”


Russian Auto club video of Putin’s cross-Siberia jaunt in the Russian-made Lada Kalima, a car Putin hopes Russians will trade in their Japanese autos for. The club are there to see Putin go by but they witness a long convoy of foreign-made official vehicles interspersed with Putin in his yellow Lada, a second spare yellow Lada, and then towards the end of the long stretched out convoy, a third yellow Lada up on the bed of a tow-truck which triggers deep Russian laughter.


Virginia Postrel in the WSJ, "The Allure of Techno-Glamour".

“For all its deceptiveness and mystery, glamour reveals emotional truths. What today's green techno-glamour demonstrates, first and foremost, is that its audience has no inclination to give up the benefits of modernity and return to the pre-industrial state idealized by radical greens. Neither the Unabomber nor Henry David Thoreau would go for wind farms and high-speed rail. To the contrary, these iconic new machines cater to what Al Gore denounced in Earth in the Balance as ‘the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.’ They promise that a green future will be just as pleasant as today, only cleaner and more elegant.”


Adam Curtis at bbc.co.uk, "From Pigeon to Superman and Back Again".

“I have a suspicion that the politicians' revival of the old behaviourist ideas and techniques will be helped and reinforced by a powerful ally - the machines we have built.

The computers. In our age of individualism we see computers as ways through which we can express our individuality. But the truth is that the computers are really good at spotting the very opposite. The computers can see how similar we are, and they then have the ability to agglomerate us together into groups that have the same behaviours. And from that they can predict what choices and decisions we will make. And they do it solely through our observed behaviour.

In 1964 B.F. Skinner wrote a utopian vision of the future called Beyond Freedom and Dignity. It argued that the idea of individualism was actually a terrible prison.”


Katie Roiphe in the FT, "Could try less".

“This fantasy of control begins long before the child is born, though every now and then a sane bulletin lands amid our fashionable perfectionism, a real-world corrective to our over-arching anxieties. I remember reading with some astonishment, while I was pregnant, a quiet, unsensational article about how one study showed that crack babies turned out to be doing as well as non-crack babies. Here we are, feeling guilty about goat’s cheese on a salad, or three sips of wine, and all the while these ladies, lighting crack pipes, are producing intelligent and healthy offspring.”


Thomas Fleming in the WSJ on Thomas Allen’s book, Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.

“One of the book's themes is that the conflict between the loyalists and rebels amounted to ‘America's first civil war.’ But not until the later pages, when the fighting with the British shifts to the South, does a semblance of civil war become evident. The Irish Presbyterians of the Southern backcountry had a history of feuding with wealthy coastal planters, who supported the insurrection. The ingrained antipathy for the planters, more than any fondness for King George, prompted the backcountry boys to ally themselves with the British—leading to vicious seesaw fighting. A climax to this war within the larger war came in late 1780 with the battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina, a purely American versus American, loyalist versus rebel fight. The rebels won a total victory, and in the process quashed British dreams of creating a native-grown loyalist army that might provide a decisive advantage.

The best section of Tories deals with black loyalists, the thousands of runaway slaves who responded to a British offer of freedom in return for military service. The British used these men largely as laborers, not fighters. In making peace at war's end the politicians agreed to return the runaways. But Gen. Guy Carleton, the last British commander in America, refused to do so. About 3,000 blacks were among the 80,000 loyalists who retreated to Canada and the West Indies when hostilities ended.”


Darrell Hartman in the WSJ, on Jeremy Evans’ book, In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum.


Emily Steel in the WSJ, "LeBron James Ad Asks for It."

“The episode highlights the difficulties of repairing the image of a beleaguered public figure in the days when the Internet enables consumers to influence public perception.

‘This is how the people struck back,’ says Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, a digital-marketing unit owned by Publicis Groupe SA, which wasn't involved in the ad.

A similar situation occurred earlier this year when Nike released a campaign in response to the Tiger Woods sex scandal. In the ad, Mr. Woods solemnly listens to the voice of his deceased father, Earl Woods. Like Nike's commercial with Mr. James, the parodies of the Tiger Woods spot attracted more online video views than the original ad, according to Visible Measures.

‘Controversial ads such as these are intended to generate controversy. But what happens when the spoofs get more views than the originals and take over the conversation?’ says Matt Cutler, chief marketing officer at Visible Measures.”


Obituary of the Week.

David Nolan (1943 - 2010)

“In 1971, sitting with friends and watching Richard Nixon announce wage and price controls, he declared, ‘We need another party,’ and started the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock.

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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  1. From the LeBron article:
    "...what happens when the spoofs get more views than the originals and take over the conversation?"
    I'd say that this sums up what happened to personal approaches to rhythm and their exhibition within drumming, particularly in British music.

  2. Keith Moon, Mitch M., etc. were good boys, but Brian Lamb? That's the missing link.