a new low in topical enlightenment

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Issue #83 (February 2, 2011)

Outside Warner Brothers Studios, Olive Avenue, Burbank

Photo by Chris Collins

Centennial Homestead, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Colius Castanotus by James Fotopoulos

From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci…

DPA at Haaretz.com, "Iran cleric: Mideast unrest replay of our 1979 Islamic revolution."

“The ‘aftershock’ of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution was now rocking Egypt and other Arab states, a senior ayatollah said in the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran. ‘I herewith proclaim to those (Western leaders) who still do not want to see the realities that the political axis of the new Middle East will soon be Islamic rulership and a democracy based on religion,’ Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said. ‘All these protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen are inspired by Iran's Islamic revolution and these countries are de facto rocked by the aftershock of the Iranian revolution,’ the ultra-conservative cleric added.”


Abolhassan Bani-Sadr in CSM, "Will democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt heed lessons of Iran’s revolution?"

“Despite their many differences from secular to Islamist, political organizations should develop a common commitment to democratic values and the rights of individuals. Any violation of these principles by the state, against even a single person or group, should be resisted by all. The unfortunate lesson of the Iranian revolution was that most political organizations did not commit themselves to democracy. Lacking the unity of a democratic front, one by one they became targets of power-seeking clergy in the form of the Islamic Republic Party, and were pushed aside. In this first peaceful revolt of the 21st century in an Islamic country, Islamic intellectuals have an important role in identifying, developing, and introducing an Islamic discourse of freedom instead of power so that human dignity and rights are respected and defended for all regardless of religion or gender. After the Iranian revolution, I protested against the show trials and executions of members of the former regime, arguing that those seeking power begin by violating the rights of those who have committed various crimes, but will ultimately violate the rights of the innocent.”


WSJ: "Egypt’s Choice -- and Ours".

“We recall that in 2005 President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to reach out to civil-society factions in Egypt but were opposed by State Department realists and blamed for democratic naiveté after Hamas won an election in the Gaza Strip. U.S. Ambassador to Cairo at the time. Frank Ricciardone, was a particular admirer of Mr. Mubarak and downplayed U.S. support for democracy in Egypt. It’s especially amusing to see Egyptian politician Mohammed El-Baradei surface, criticizing the U.S. for supporting Arab dictators. He was part of the U.N. establishment that criticized Mr. Bush for opposing dictators.”


Fouad Ajami in WSJ, "Rebellion in the Land of the Pharaohs".

“A deceased friend of mine, an army general of Mr. Mubarak's class and generation, spoke of the man with familiarity: He was a civil servant with the rank of president, he said of his fellow officer. Mr. Mubarak put the word out that he would serve two six-year terms and be gone. But the appetite grew with the eating. The humble officer would undergo a transformation. A presidency-for-life announced itself. And in an astounding change, where Nasser and Sadat feared the will and the changing moods of their countrymen, Mr. Mubarak grew imperious and dismissive. Egypt bent to his will. A country with a vibrant parliamentary tradition in the 1920s and 1930s became a sterile tyranny. A land that had opened onto Europe in the course of the 19th century, that had given rise to professional syndicates and associations, to an independent judiciary, was brought low.”


Marc Champion in WSJ, "Coptic Christians Worry About Future Without Mubarak".

“Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Church, expressed support for Mr. Mubarak in an interview with Egyptian state television Monday. ‘We have called the president and told him we are all with you and the people are with you,’ he said, according to a transcript of the interview on the state television's website. In Alexandria, where the Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in A.D. 42, worshippers slipped through a crack in the gate at St. Mark's and St. Peter's Church on Monday morning, for the first service to be held here since Egypt's anti-Mubarak protests began. As recently as New Year's Day, this church suffered a horrific terrorist attack. Twenty-three people died and 97 were injured when a large bomb packed with nails and ball bearings detonated outside just after midnight, as the service was ending. ‘We need Mubarak. What we need above all is to be safe,’ said Samy Farag, director of the St. Mark's Hospital, which is attached to the church and where the dead and injured were brought immediately after the bombing.”


Jeremy Page in WSJ, "Beijing Blocks Protest Reports".

“Chinese authorities have blocked the word ‘Egypt’ from searches on Twitter-like microblogging sites in an indication of concern among Communist Party leaders that the unrest there could encourage similar calls for political reform in China. Internet censors also appeared Sunday to have deleted almost all of the comments posted beneath the few limited reports on the unrest—mostly from the state-run Xinhua news agency—that have been published on Chinese news sites in the past few days…. Chinese authorities also stepped up their efforts to control the Internet after the ‘color revolutions’ in the former Soviet Union in 2003-05, and the pro-democracy protests in Iran in 2009. They completely shut down Internet access in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang for several months after riots there in 2009.”


Martin Fackler in NYT, "Japan Blocks the Young, Stifling the Economy".

“‘There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,’ said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of The Truth of Generational Inequalities. ‘Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.’

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.”


Andrew Willis at EUobserver.com , "Mediterranean Union chief resigns as Egypt unrest continues".

“Citing ‘difficult circumstances’ and a change to the ‘general conditions’ of his work, the resignation of Jordan's former EU ambassador will be seen as a major blow to the Mediterranean Union, a pet project of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Made up of the EU's 27 member states and 16 Mediterranean countries from north Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, the union was launched in 2008 with the purpose of promoting stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean region. The organisation and its Barcelona-based secretariat have been dogged by difficulties since the beginning, with a summit last year being cancelled due to disagreements between Israel and Arab countries.”


Stephen Rodrick in NYT Magazine, "Martin Peretz is Not Sorry. About Anything."

“Peretz’s Tel Aviv apartment offers a panoramic view of the city’s newly built skyscrapers and the Jaffa waterfront. He maintains an exhausting social calendar when he’s there, dining out almost every night with ideological soulmates who fear their Israel is locked in a losing demographic battle. They see the proliferation of the ultra-Orthodox and immigrants from the former Soviet Union as a threat to their way of life. ‘They don’t work, they don’t serve, all they do is drain the state,’ Peretz says. ‘The more children they have, the more the state pays them. It’s insane.’ His view on co-existing with the Arab world is even more pessimistic. ‘Look, there is no history of the Arabs being kind to the Jews,’ Peretz says. He then repeated the line that first got him in trouble: ‘Muslim life is cheap. If you think Iran had a nuclear weapon that could destroy Israel that they would worry about the millions of Arabs that would be killed, you’re naïve.’”


Andrew Willis at EUobserver.com, "EU ministers in discord on ‘Christianity’ and persecution".

“Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini led opposition to the text which ‘firmly’ condemned the ‘acts of terrorism targeting places of worship’, claiming the document showed an ‘excess of secularism’. ‘The final text didn't include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn,’ he told reporters in Brussels. France reportedly backed Italy on the need to include references to specific minorities, including Christians and Shi'ite Muslims. A number of Nordic countries and the UK were uncomfortable with references to specific religions however, fearing a ‘clash of civilisations,’ one diplomat told AFP.”


Gordon Fairclough in WSJ, "Dissent Hits Belarus via Warsaw".

“Poles say their own transition from dictatorship to democracy has made them determined to help Belarus. When Poland struggled to end communism, support from abroad made a big difference, says Mr. Michalski. ‘We saw that we were not alone. We know how important that is.’ Poland has been among the harshest critics of Mr. Lukashenko's moves to crush his opponents after the Dec. 19 election, in which he was declared the winner with nearly 80% of the vote. The results have been challenged by the U.S. and the EU, citing election monitoring by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which found ‘bad or very bad’ ballot counting in half of the country's precincts. Warsaw has lobbied other EU states to step up pressure on Mr. Lukashenko and boost support for ordinary Belarussians. Speaking in parliament in Minsk on Thursday, Mr. Lukashenko said Poland is plotting to overthrow him in an effort to redraw its border with Belarus, which is home to a large number of ethnic Poles. Poland's Foreign Ministry dismissed his allegations, saying it wouldn't react to ‘this kind of provocation.’ The nearby Czech Republic, as well as Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S. have also spoken out strongly against Mr. Lukashenko. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Thursday said, ‘It is not possible to tolerate a pure dictatorship in the 21st century’ in Europe.”


Adrian Vermeule at New Republic on Thomas Seeley’s book, Honeybee Democracy.

“So-called ‘eusocial’ (hypersocial) insects use modes of reproduction that make conflict of interests minimal within the group, implying that the only source of disagreement among individuals is differences of information or belief. Human groups, by contrast, are analytically messy because individuals often have differing beliefs and differing bedrock interests, preferences, aims, or values. This underscores that humans are unlike social insects, but the study of the hive neatly separates the problem of aggregating beliefs from the problem of aggregating conflicting preferences, and thus gives the analyst of group decisionmaking a new type of traction…. Using computer simulations as well as direct observation, the authors find that the key to the bees’ success is a particular combination of interdependence and independence in group decision-making. The bees in effect divide the decision problem into two stages: setting the agenda through the choice of candidate sites, and evaluation of the quality of those candidates. The bees’ trick is that they decide interdependently at the stage of agenda-setting, but independently at the stage of evaluation. Scout bees are more likely to investigate sites proposed by others—they do not simply roam the landscape heedless of other bees’ recommendations—yet when the investigation is done, bees throw their support to a given site based on an independent evaluation, rather than blindly copying the conclusions of previous investigators.”


Isaac Chotiner at New Republic on Stanley Wolpert’s book, India and Pakistan: Continued Conflict or Cooperation?

“After a war between India and China—the latter controls about ten percent of Kashmir—India and Pakistan again engaged in combat in 1965. While not significant in terms of borders, the war did alter feelings in East Bengal, then Pakistan’s eastern ‘wing.’ Wolpert does not make much of this, but Bengali resentment over West Pakistan’s focus on Kashmir would be one of the many sparks that led to a third war between India and Pakistan, this time in 1971. After West Pakistan ignored election results that benefited eastern-based politicians—and after a disgraceful lack of attention to a cyclone that ravished Bengal—a revolt in the east was put down with overwhelming force; hundreds of thousands of rapes and murders, and ethnically targeted attacks on Hindus, ensued. A huge number of refugees immediately fled to India. After Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister and Nehru’s daughter, announced her preference for East Pakistan’s independence, and after India began training rebels, Pakistan launched a strike against India. The war was over very quickly: Pakistan was humiliated, and East Pakistan became Bangladesh.”


Landon Thomas in NYT, "What’s Broken in Greece? As an Entrepreneur".

“For decades, Greece has been a wonderful place to be a lawyer, a pharmacist, an architect, a university president or even a truck driver — all occupations protected by an array of laws that have shielded them from local and foreign competitors. Greek pharmacists are guaranteed a minimum profit on their sales and charge some of the highest prices in Europe. And because they have fixed minimum fees, the 40,000 or so lawyers in Greece receive more for their time than their peers in many other European countries. It has been very profitable to be a brewer in Greece, too — if you control 72 percent of the beer market, as Heineken now does. The Greek economy is riddled with distortions — the number of trucking licenses has remained unchanged in Greece since 1971, for example, and the country is among the world’s leaders in lawyers per capita. It has one lawyer for every 250 people, compared with about one for 272 in the United States.”


WSJ : "Professor Cornpone".

“The last time these columns were lambasted by a presidential candidate in Iowa, he was Democrat Richard Gephardt and the year was 1988. The Missouri populist won the state caucuses in part on the rallying cry that ‘we've got to stop listening to the editorial writers and the establishment,’ especially about ethanol and trade. Imagine our amusement to find Republican Newt Gingrich joining such company. The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we've ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that ‘the big-city attacks’ on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that ‘Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it's working, and you wonder, 'What are their values?'’”


George Gilder in American Spectator, "The California Green Debauch".

“The irony is that the general trend of advance in conventional ‘non-renewable’ energy for a century -- from wood to coal to oil to natural gas and nuclear -- has already wrought at least a 60 percent drop in carbon emissions per watt. In the worlds of natural gas pioneer Robert Hefner, ‘As man travels down the energy path from solid wood and coal to liquid gasoline and to gaseous natural gas and hydrogen, the progression is one of carbon heavy to carbon light; from complex chemical structures to simple; from toxic particulate emissions to no particulate emissions; and finally, from high CO2 emissions to no CO2 emissions.’ thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technology advance. Unlike the existing bonfires of ingenuity and money, moreover, an organic advance of energy efficiencies can readily propagate around the world without mandates and subsidies.”


Tyler Cowen in NYT, "Innovation Is Doing Little for Incomes".

“Will the Internet usher in a new economic growth explosion? Quite possibly, but it hasn’t delivered very good macroeconomic performance over the last decade. Many of the Internet’s gains are fun — games, chat rooms, Twitter streams — rather than vast sources of revenue, and when there have been measurable monetary gains, they often have been concentrated among a small number of company founders, as with, say, Facebook. As for users, the Internet has benefited the well-educated and the curious to a disproportionate degree, but apparently not enough to bolster median income. Beyond the income slowdown, there is a further worry: an increasing share of the economy consists of education and health care. That trend is not necessarily bad, but in these two areas, results are often hard to measure. If health care costs rise 6 percent in a year, for example, that counts as higher G.D.P., but how much is our health actually improving? It’s an open question. America spends more on health care than other countries, but those expenditures don’t seem to produce uniformly superior results. And while there have certainly been gains in medical treatment, we may be overvaluing them. In education, we are spending more each year, but test scores have stagnated for decades, graduation rates are down and America’s worst schools are disasters. There is an even broader problem. When it comes to measuring national income, we’re generally valuing expenditures at cost, rather than tracking productivity in terms of results. In other words, our statistics may be deceiving us — by accepting, say, our health care and educational expenditures at face value.”


Matthew Engel in FT, "The emperor has no clothes".

“Did the city itself have a previous ruler who got as much fun out of bunga-bunga, however that is defined, or even out of gentle soirees fuelled only by mineral water? The website www.roman-colosseum.info lists all the Roman emperors and characterizes them in a pithy phrase, which may not amount to sophisticated history but constitutes a magnificent list…. But the impression is that the abiding interest of most were the traditional delights of untrammeled rule, i.e. conquest, tyranny and slaughter, options not easily available to leaders operating within the European Union, even when they are answerable only to voters as unshockable as Mr Berlusconi’s. Two candidates emerge. In Edward Gibbon‘s 18th century masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, there is no more compelling passage than his gloriously censorious account of the reign of the Emperor Elagabalus (212-222 AD): ‘effeminate luxury… a chorus of Syrian damsels… the grossest pleasures… a capricious prodigality… a long train of concubines…’ Wow! Bunga-bunga! Elagabalus was eventually murdered by the Praetorian Guard and dumped into the Tiber.”


John Dizard in FT, "Estonia’s recovery story should not be read across the eurozone".

“Just a year ago I noted that Estonia’s difficult ‘internal devaluation’ of wage cuts, debt pay downs and defaults, and business losses was paying off…. Not everyone agreed at the time. Paul Krugman, the eminent Princeton professor, had just said that ‘…the Baltic nations, in particular, seem well positioned to follow in Argentina’s footsteps.’ Apparently not. Estonia did join the euro area at the first of the year. A couple of weeks ago, Mr Krugman followed up his comment of a year earlier by writing that ‘the Baltics’ (actually three different counties with distinct issues) ‘…have experienced Depression-level declines in output and unemployment. It’s true they are growing again, but all indication are it will be many years before they make up the lost ground’. Many years? Estonia’s economy grew at an estimated 2.4 per cent in the past year, and after a 4.2 per cent rise this year, is expected to reach its pre-crisis peak GDP in nominal euro terms by 2012.”


David Pilling in FT interviews Aung San Suu Kyi.

“‘But you have to realise the situation is totally different. After all, my father was fighting against foreign enemies. We are trying to struggle against people of our own race. What we are trying to do is to change the political culture of Burma, which is a lot more difficult.’ Burma is indeed a world apart, A backwater in colonial times and isolated by sanctions in modern ones, it is said to feel like the Thailand of 50 years ago. For me there is much of the India I first encountered in the 1980s: men on the street typing up official letters on ancient typewriters; people making calls from rigged-up street-side telephones; and rudimentary pavement tea shops with plastic chairs and tables. Most people still wear colorful sarongs, or longyi. Many women daub their faces with what looks like yellow war paint, a paste made from thanaka tree bark that gives them an almost ghostly appearance.”


John Githongo in FT, "The big test of Africa’s brave new world".

“The African Union meets this week at a historic moment in its existence. Its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had two non-negotiables: members could not interfere in each other’s internal affairs; the colonial national borders were inviolable. This former went out of the window some time ago. African countries have been invading troubled states to try to stop conflict for some time. The Sudanese referendum is likely to lead to secession by South Sudan. Redrawing Africa’s ridiculous borders will be messy but essential, otherwise some states will implode under the weight of internal contradictions.”


Simon Kuper in FT, "A hell of an inheritance".

“The French were so loath to discuss Vichy honestly that it took an American, Robert Paxton, to write the path-breaking history in 1972. Hardly anyone in Europe’s wartime generation owned up to his personal guilt. Even Gnter Grass, great chronicler of Germany’s Nazi past, waited 50 years before letting slip that aged 17 he had briefly been in the Waffen SS. Mostly it was younger people who accused their nations. Yet as Hannah Arendt pointed out in Eichmann in Jerusalem, that was a relatively easy thing to do. There’s something delicious, she wrote, in taking on a national guilt that isn’t yours because you were born too late.”


Simon Sebag Montefiore in FT, "A family affair".

“I relish book tours in small countries. If you’re lucky, you get to meet the country’s leaders…. One of the advantages of being a Jewish mongrel is that there are many countries -- Lithuania, Ireland, Morocco -- where I can (and shamelessly do) claim to be a prodigal son: sure enough, the Lithuanian press claimed, ‘Writer is returning Lithuanian!’ The British ambassador gave me a dinner to meet the Lithuanian prime minister and cabinet. First I spoke to an unassuming professorial book lover about literature and Stalin. Then all the cabinet ministers arrived: no one told me which was the PM himself so, as I met each of the, I tried to identify him without letting on that I had no idea who I was talking to…. Only later did I learn that the premier, Andrius Kubilius, was the unassuming reader I met first. As I was leaving, I asked a prominent economist what was Lithuania‘s chief natural resource and export: ‘Women,’ he replied, ‘but our resources are exhausted. They’re all in London.’”


Hugh Carnegy in FT on Chandran Nair’s book, Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet.

“But the shape of a Nairian Asia does emerge. It would be made up of strong nation-state governments willing to take unilateral action on issues such as controlling natural resource exploitation and domestic agriculture and industry…. What would life be like for the individual? They would be expected to forgo owning a car, would pay high prices for meat and restaurant portions would be restricted. But income differentials would be minimized and access to the benefits of technology widely shared. He doesn’t say it Nair is describing a kind of Asian Norway… Prosperous but modest Norway might be a good example but it is tiny compared with the huge growth economies of China, India, Indonesia and the rest. With sales of Rolls-Royce cars booming and wider appetites for consumer goods rising rapidly in China and elsewhere, egged on by eager western producers, Nair’s vision for Asia may seem like whistling in the wind.”


Bruno Waterfield at EUobserver.com, "Res publica, royalty and EU."

“The European Parliament’s current president is showing the same Marie Antoinette, ‘let them eat cake’, qualities as his predecessors – nothing new there. Over on Euractiv, he makes the fair enough point that structural funds could (although they usually don’t) make a difference to the EU’s competitiveness, especially to overcome economic imbalances. Oh and research is important too. The problem is that the bulk of the EU budget is not spent on these things. Too much structural fund money acts as slush funds to be ploughed into the pet projects of national and regional politicians or their pals. EU research is overly politicised and the tiny budget has a tendency to follow the money of rich corporations in improving existing products rather than going where it is needed on risky, pure science. It is all dwarfed by agriculture subsidies paid to maintain diverse politically correct ideas of what constitutes farming or ‘sustainable rural development’, indulgences that are unlikely to turn the EU’s economy into a world beater.”


Paul Berman in NYTBR on the Irving Kristol collection, The Neoconservative Persuasion.

“Mostly in those early essays he showed a sophisticated comprehension of his own predicament, which was hopelessly complicated. Every single one of the grand certainties of the 1930s had disintegrated, which meant that for his own little circle of friends, a time of doubt had arrived. Unfortunately the ’40s were also, as Hook explained, a time for war — therefore no time to retreat into private rumination. Kristol understood this. ‘The crisis in conscience is deep and enduring and any renewal of heart will have to accept it as a fellow-traveler,’ wrote ‘William Ferry’ in his essay on Auden, sounding very mature indeed. ‘On the other hand, to elevate doubt into a political program is distinctly impracticable.’ Kristol’s magazine career reached its pinnacle with The Public Interest, credited with incubating the idea that became neoconservatism. To be filled with gloomy doubt, and to go limping forward, even so, in search of practical solutions, perhaps even harboring some last shrunken hope for a better world, like a man cupping a match — this was the animating inspiration of Kristol’s generation of intellectuals in their postcollege years. They cultivated a spirit of ambivalence and modesty. They were alert to subtleties and nuances of life and the soul of a sort that might be addressed by literature, or even by a religious-minded literature, but not normally by politics.

Something happened to Kristol, though, or so it seems to me. Bell and Howe and some other people from that generation never did give up on their 1940s ambivalences — even if the student rebellions of the ’60s were aimed directly at them, which could not have been a pleasant experience. In Himmelfarb’s interpretation, Kristol, too, faithfully clung to his earliest inspirations. The Neoconservative Persuasion persuades me otherwise. Kristol, to my eyes, looks a little like Norman Mailer, another 1940s personality who, in the course of the ’60s, decided to shuck off his old thoughtfulness in favor of something new — though of course Mailer, the hipster, defected to the counterculture, and Kristol, the square, took up the anti-counterculture.”


George Lois interviewed at Vice.

“-What was different in the 60s? 

I started the second creative agency in America. The first was Doyle Dane Bernbach, and that’s where I came from. Bill Bernbach invented the idea of getting a terrific graphics guy to work with a writer and merging the energy between them to make great ads. That was his epiphany. Before DDB and my agency, art directors usually sat around in a room with their thumbs up their asses and waited for a copywriter to come around and give them some lines. So I went to DDB and kicked a lot of ass and did a lot of great stuff. When I left to start my own agency with a few other people—Papert, Koenig, Lois—everybody thought I was insane. And it was extremely insane because I left the best job in the world at the only agency anybody would want to work at to be a competitor. We started the new agency in January 1960, and we were successful every week. Every time we did a campaign there were big stories in the newspapers about it. 

-OK, but were people less pussylike and not afraid to try something new? Or maybe all the good ideas are used up by now and we’ve entered an era of ubiquitous mediocrity?

The 60s were a heroic period. And I really mean that. They were courageous. When I started the second creative agency everybody said, ‘Holy shit! There can be more than one creative agency.’ Out of my agency came three other agencies in the next three years, and then there were five agencies, and that was enough to spur a revolution. Creativity was flourishing, and then I don’t know what happened. We hit some wall of bureaucrats—of guys selling out their agencies. Now there are basically three giant agencies in the world, and everybody belongs to one of them.”


Jim Romenesko at Poynter.org has links to coverage and the video of the National Press Club’s Marvin Kalb interviewing the NYT’s Pulitzer Prize-winning majordomo Bill Keller and the DC bureau’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Dean Baquet. It seems Keller will be more visible soon with a new monthly column. I haven’t won a single Pulitzer Prize but its always seemed to me that Keller on camera seems embarrassed at his male-model looks -- he might have been Robert Redford’s stunt double. Probably not an advantage within the confines of the New York Times HQ. Keller got the cover of this Sunday’s NYTMag this week with his green-eyed attack on Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, another non-Pulitzer Prize-winner, though he is charged with rape in Sweden. It must be hard on Keller’s underlings to apply the editor’s cursor on the Boss’s vituperation, and how can he call “Re-write!” on his own ass? They also got four artists probably with one call to whip up four defacings of Julian since he wouldn’t sit for a photograph. I don’t think one could get close enough to even jostle a Swedish woman if you looked like these works of art.

Assange is a maniac I suppose, but the Bill Keller treatment -- basic JMF action -- gives one pause. In the sit-down with Kalb, Bill and Dean awkwardly try to answer questions as if everything on the good ship Sulzberger is hunky doria. But then the subject of “Murdoch, Fox News and the national discourse” crops up. Keller can’t be edited at all when he’s on camera, which may be why there’s no Times’ equivalent to the “Journal Editorial Report”. According to Romenesco (I really don’t want to watch it again), when Kalb gets them talking about all the damage done by Rupert Murdoch, Bill attempts to characterize how the people of America now think of the Press, “‘I think it has contributed to the sense that they’re all just out there with a political agenda whereas Fox is just more overt about it. And I think that’s unhealthy,’ Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, said.” I like that he pulls the word “they” out of his cranium, when the obvious choice would be “we” since he’s discussing the way he and his colleagues in total are viewed. But that’s the New York Times for you.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of newspapering understands that Fox is a television network with a cable news network. Did he mean the Wall Street Journal? Probably, but you know they will Pulitzer Prizes too so why bring it up? He in his own evasive way makes another point, albeit in relief, that Murdoch has with his Fox and WSJ has joined a media battle that was last fought by the Tribune’s Colonel McCormick over New Deal socialism and WWII interventionism. Makes perfect sense since it is the WWII-consecrated New Deal consensus that has crumbled.


This reads like its edited by the NYT or NPR, but it’s the Tribune’s LATimes’ Shari Roan’s work. In truth just about any non-Fox female reporter could be counted on to editorially countermand the study’s evidence; its probably all but done for them in the study’s summary. Here’s the smoothest part of: "Abortion does not increase risk of mental health problems, study says."

“Researchers followed 84,620 girls and women who had a first-trimester abortion and 280,930 who had a first childbirth from the start of 1995 to the end of 2007. In Denmark, abortion is legal until the 12th week of gestation. None of the women in the study had a history of mental disorders prior to the time period studied. Visits to a mental health professional were assessed for the nine months before the abortion or childbirth and for one year after. Women who had abortions had higher rates of mental health disorders overall. But there was little difference in psychiatric visits before and after the abortion: 1% had contact with a mental health professional before the abortion compared with 1.5% after. Women who gave birth had lower rates of mental health problems. However, visits for psychiatric healthcare increased after the birth: 0.3% had a mental health visit before childbirth compared with 0.7% in the year following. Though women who have abortions may tend to have more mental problems, this propensity predates the abortion and may even be a factor that makes termination of pregnancy more likely, the authors concluded…. In the United States, some opponents of abortion suggest the procedure causes "post-abortion traumatic stress syndrome" and other psychiatric maladies. This study, as well as earlier analyses, refutes those suggestions, Beckman said. In its 2008 review of the topic, the American Psychological Assn. concluded that the risk of mental health problems among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy is no different between those who have an elective abortion or childbirth.”


The former Syrian Minister of Expatriates Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban writes an inadvertently funny appreciation of Japan at Asharq Alawsat, "A glimpse from Japan".


Sophia Hollander in WSJ, "Fans Fight to Revive an Oar-Powered Greek Warship" .

“‘The trireme is actually one of the oldest puzzles in classical scholarship,’ says Boris Rankov, a professor of ancient history at Royal Holloway, University of London. ‘These were ships that enabled Athens to maintain the empire and create democracy.’ In the 1980s, a Cambridge classicist and the chief naval architect for Britain's Ministry of Defense pooled their knowledge to build a full-scale model of a possible structure for the trireme. Construction was funded by the Greek government. The ship was around 120 feet long, weighed 55,000 pounds and relied on an additional 33,000 pounds of crew for ballast. Powered by 170 rowers, the Olympias did five sea trials in Greece between 1987 and 1994, with a stop in London. Says Mr. Weiskittel, who is executive director of Trireme Trust USA: ‘It's like a time machine.’ But the ship hasn't stood the test of modern time. It is currently unfit for sea travel and is on display in a naval museum in Athens. Now a group of New Yorkers is trying to restore the trireme, including corrections for some flaws in the original design, and row it in the city's harbor. They hope the effort will culminate in a voyage around the Statue of Liberty on July 4 next year.”


Theo Hobson at Opendemocracy.net, "The religious crisis of American liberalism".

“Barack Obama’s vision of hope had religious echoes. He boldly presented himself as the heir of the civil-rights movement, which, thanks to Martin Luther King and others, was an expression of liberal Christianity as well as progressive politics. King himself was inspired by the ‘social gospel’ movement that influenced Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The American liberal-left in the 20th century had clear links to religion…. Obama knowingly drew on this tradition, with his impassioned talk of hope…. What enabled him to play the ‘prophetic’ card with such success was the racial element: he could offer himself as a sign of the overcoming of racial division, and therefore a living icon of the liberal Christian vision…. So why did his support melt away? The problem is that this prophetic tradition, for all its attractiveness, lacks clear roots in contemporary culture. For the cultural overlap of liberalism and religion has been weakening for decades. In a sense the appeal of prophetic hope-rhetoric is nostalgic: it reminds Americans of a previous era of idealism…. But in fact things were changing. The culture wars were underway. The fundamentalist strain of American religion revived. And anti-liberalism became central to the Republican Party, first with Nixon’s demonising of liberal elitists, then with Reaganomics. And, perhaps most importantly, the old liberal Protestant consensus was crumbling. From the mid-1960s, the mainline churches began losing members fast: some opted for Evangelicalism, but most drifted away from religion. The most vocal Christians were now those who looked on liberal reforms with suspicion. Moreover, progressive causes had a new ‘secular’ aura, especially with the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Roe vs Wade case in 1973.”


Roger Scruton in American Spectator, "Measure for Measure".

“It began in France at the Revolution, when the decimal system was proposed as uniquely rational, proof that people were able to organize their lives according to Reason rather than Custom. The meter and the centimeter, the franc and the centime, the liter and the centiliter, the hectare and the square meter were henceforth to replace all the old weights, measures, and currencies that had reminded the French of the unexamined ways by which they had lived. Even the clock had to be decimalized, with 10 hours to the day, 100 minutes to the hour, and so on. The Revolutionaries stopped short of decimalizing the months, but were clearly deeply frustrated that they could not boss the moon about as effectively as they could boss the earth…. [W]hat was offensive about the decimal system was not its arbitrariness. It was its despotic intent. The decimal system did not evolve; it did not emerge by an invisible hand from the transactions of free individuals, as the old currencies and measure had emerged. It was imposed from above, by arrogant revolutionaries who despised what was customary and voluntary as a threat to their geometrical conception of society.”


Joseph Harriss in American Spectator on Philipp Blom’s book, A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment.

“To his credit, even the unbalanced Rousseau was uncomfortable with bleak reason as the only basis for a philosophy of life, without meaning or spirituality of any kind. Increasingly paranoid and given to rages, convinced that Holbach and Diderot were plotting to destroy his reputation, he broke with them. Voltaire, a moderate deist, was also wary of godlessness for his own reasons: as he said, he wanted his servants to believe in God so they wouldn’t rob him blind, and his wife to be pious so he wouldn’t be cuckolded. Holbach’s well-fed coterie became the dreaming flower children of the 18th century. Their favorite hallucination was a brave new world where, as Blom sympathetically explains, ‘desire, erotic and otherwise, would make their world beautiful and rich…. In this godless universe there would be no more sin, no reward or punishment in an afterlife, only the search for pleasure and fear of pain.’”


Paul Gorman on Wyndam Lewis’ Blast.

“Published in July 1915, Blast 2 was naturally preoccupied by WWI; in fact the conflict had already claimed the life of contributor Gaudier-Brzeska. His personal manifesto – which had been sent from the trenches in France – was printed along with a simple obituary. ‘The aesthetic explosion which figured into the title of the Vorticists’ journal had proved to be a bitter, prophetic analogue of what was to overshadow all Europe for the next several years,’ wrote Morrow. There was to be no Blast 3; Lewis himself left for the Front in May 1917, returning after the Great War to write and paint, though, like Pound, his initial embracing of Fascism resulted in critical disfavour unto his death in 1957. Nevertheless his declaration in Blast 2 rings true today: ‘We are the first men of a Future that has not materialised. We belong to a ‘great age’ that has not ‘come off’. We moved too quickly for the world. We set too sharp a pace.’”


There is a lot to learn from the loosed nuts of our seventies serial killer community, but I’m not sure the True Crime section of the bookstore is the place to learn it. I mentioned this dude’s case though not by name in my book on music photographer Naomi Petersen. Just that on arriving in Los Angeles in 1976 and getting work at a movie theater on Hollywood Blvd, I was struck by how common it was for the candy girls to be hit on by photographers. Before I left Los Angeles ten years later they were beginning to dig up models’ bodies up in the hills.

Mosi Secret in NYT, Rodney Alcala: Officials Say He Posed as Photographer.

“Later in 2010, after the police released dozens of photographs of young women that were found in a storage locker that Mr. Alcala kept in Seattle in 1979 to see if there were other victims, several women came forward claiming that a photographer named John Berger had taken their picture in New York in the 1970s. The trove also included items from the victims in the California cases, who were killed from 1977 to 1979. They were all sexually assaulted and strangled or beaten to death. Their cases were solved largely with DNA evidence, and, after a lengthy legal process in which murder convictions against Mr. Alcala were overturned twice, he was convicted there on a retrial in February 2010. Prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Alcala would approach young women and ask to take their picture as a way to lure them.”

Alcala on ‘The Dating Game’, an ABC daytime program, syndicated in 1978.

Rodney Alcala timeline in LAT.


Jay Weiser in Weekly Standard, "Dance of Death".

“[Michael] Jackson’s absolute humorlessness departed from the double-edged essence of American popular music, which mocked ardor as it limned it, from Bessie Smith’s blues, to Lorenz Hart’s cynical love songs, to Ruth Brown’s ‘girl with a tear in her voice,’ to the Beach Boys’ ‘Help Me Rhonda,’ to country’s cheating songs, to hip hop’s parodies of male hyper sexuality. Lacking the emotional capacity, Jackson couldn’t access this work. Instead, there were ever-more-expansive claims about Jackson as the path breaking racial crossover pop star, which would have surprised James Reese Europe (the African-American orchestra leader for white dancers Vernon and Irene Castle in the early 1900s), Ethel Waters, and Johnny Mathis, among many others. Without an adult emotional life, but believing in his transformative destiny, Jackson turned to the more earnest American tradition arising out of Protestant hymns and their Africanized descendants, 20th-century gospel songs. This earnest tone had infiltrated secular music starting in the 1930s: Alan Lomax, affiliated with the Popular Front, sought utopia in ‘primitive’ traditions, untainted by commerce, such as Appalachian music. In fact, Appalachian and African-American strains had always mingled…. The Popular Fronters, however, would not brook musical miscegenation.”


Marc Myers in WSJ, Chasing the Ghosts of Bullitt.

“As Mr. Janes and I drove around the city, three myths were shattered. First, despite the hype, McQueen did not do his own driving in the movie's most dangerous scenes. ‘Steve was a great driver, but he was only behind the wheel for about 10% of what you see on screen,’ said Mr. Janes, who was McQueen's stunt double from 1959 to 1980. ‘He drove in scenes that required closeups—but not in the ones that could kill him. Steve always asked me first whether a stunt was too dangerous for him to take on.’ The second revelation was that Mr. Janes was the stuntman who hurtled down Taylor Street in the Mustang and repeatedly sideswiped the Charger on the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway at 90 miles per hour. For years, Bud Ekins was assumed to have been that driver. ‘I was working on another film at the time, so Bud drove the early scenes before I arrived on the set,’ Mr. Janes said. ‘Many assumed he had driven them all, which wasn't the case.’ And the third revelation? The chase's most breathtaking driving scenes are terrifying in real life, even for someone who grew up in 1970s muscle cars. As we began to descend Taylor Street's first sheer hill, Mr. Janes offered a warning: ‘Don't even try going down here the way I did. Our cars were heavily modified with racing shocks, special overinflated tires and skid bars on the underside. A factory car would come apart on impact if you sent it into the air here.’”


This is what it takes to get me to jump on a plane to NYC on short notice:

“Wild East - The Best of Soviet Action Films” at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.


Charles Barkley on WMVP AM 1000 on the Bulls and Cutler critics.


Michael Neel in Boston Phoenix, "VHS Is the New Vinyl".


db’s impressive record collection featured at Dustandgrooves.com.


Todd Shriber at Traderdaily.com, "Five Companies Waiting to Eat Netflix’s Lunch".


Obituary of the Week

Brian Rust (1922 - 2011), by Margalit Fox.

"Often described as the father of contemporary discography, Mr. Rust embarked in the 1940s on a rigorous, deeply personal project that continued long afterward as he haunted archives and hunted down artists to reconstitute long-vanished recording sessions on paper. He was best known for “Jazz Records,” first published in 1952 and reissued many times since. It is currently available in a two-volume, 1,971-page version titled Jazz and Ragtime Records, 1897-1942 (Mainspring Press, 2002), edited by Malcolm Shaw.... Reconstructing a long-ago recording session is like trying to grasp a fistful of quicksilver. Mr. Rust first scoured record-company archives to compile his data; because files were often lost or incomplete, he eventually left the BBC, packed a suitcase full of rare European jazz records and set out for the United States. Arriving in 1951, he sold the recordings to American collectors and used the money for bus fare, traveling the country in search of aging jazzmen, whom he proceeded to debrief. The result was “Jazz Records,” originally issued by Mr. Rust as a mimeographed loose-leaf volume."


Thanks to Steve Beeho, Tim Broun, Arthur Krim.

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