a new low in topical enlightenment

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Issue #86 (February 23, 2011)

57th and 2nd, New York City

Photo by Joe Carducci

Two Wisconsins
by Joe Carducci

I lived in northern Wisconsin for a couple years in the mid-nineties and we always vacationed up there like any normal Illinoisans and often had cause to visit relatives up there, and now a couple of my sisters live there. But it isn’t really like Illinois, except for those smaller cities that retain heavy industry. Manitowoc and West Allis probably share a lot with Decatur and Peoria, and all those Midwest industrial towns pressured by globalization. But rural Illinois is more grain-based than Wisconsin’s agricultural areas which are mostly involved in dairy production. And then there’s Madison -- its a fatal mistake to put the elite University in your state capitol. In Illinois, Champaign-Urbana is where the University of Illinois system is centered and that’s such a farm-town that they’ve generally been unable to get the best basketball prep stars from Chicago to play for them and their poli-sci and liberal arts grads don’t cluster around the state government for power and money. And Illinois’ capitol Springfield is another minor burg lost in the cornfields of central Illinois. As it happens every Illinois grade school kid visits Springfield exactly once because Abe Lincoln served there.

But where do you begin with Madison? Its like the droning low-horizon of Midwestern fortitude applied to the lifestyle goofball radicalism found in Boulder and Berkeley. Madisonites have some idea that the boredom of the Grange or Bob La Follette were virtues to take the edge off of the wackiness of wasting money on fair-trade creature comforts and hare-brained recycling programs that double-down on energy consumption while un-reusable paper and plastic piles up to the sky in tribute to their new improved puritanism.

Up near Minocqua I could listen to three different Public radio stations, one programmed classical music and came from Madison, another was all-civics-all-the-time and came from Madison, and one served the Ojibway from nearby Reserve. These bright signals no doubt cramped the style of the small town C&W station and the oldies stations. I listened mostly to the classical, but the “Drum” program of Indian singers was a weekly highlight from Reserve. I listened to the civics station when things were going on or when driving. They featured all the network programs plus “To the Best of Our Knowledge” which was their own political affairs show from Madison. There’s always been a tactical Leninist use of boredom, which is actually how the Bolsheviks got their name: Lenin’s minority used their “iron buttocks” to delay and lengthen meetings late into the night until anyone with a life had to leave, after which the vote was taken and that minority (the mensheviki) became the Bolsheviki and the majority (the bosheviki) became the Mensheviki as those losers are still known to history. Anyway, this is evidently how they run public radio too.

The uproar in Madison is hard to take serious for anyone who knows the town. It’s their dream come true on one hand, another Bring the War Home moment, where they feel certain that they were right after all not to move to Boulder or Berkeley. However, the Left cohort of Madison can’t relish the evidence that they’ve been paying to broadcast Public radio in triplicate to all rural corners of the state and have all those hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers turn on them. The New York Times ran a portrait of a Janesville GM employee whose been up and down in his own union job to explain how the public-sector unions have lost solidarity with private union employees:

“Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations. ‘Something needs to be done,’ he said, ‘and quickly.’” (NYT)

Elsewhere, coverage that clouds the difference between public and private would seem unable to account for the crises in the states at all. It seems to me that if Wisconsin Governor Walker, or New Jersey Governor Christie wanted to really attack the civil service and teachers unions they would do what Illinois Governor Quinn was doing, just dig a deeper hole of debt to maintain contracts until any theoretical unsustainability proves itself with a much worse state bankruptcy or other collapse.

In Wisconsin these demonstrators, formerly concerned with violent rhetoric, are not opposing a corporation that they might drive out of business or off-shore. James Taranto at WSJ.com, has it that, “The privileged are revolting in Wisconsin.” He notes the discordant Marxist analysis coming from Madison public servants, reviews how economist Paul Krugman and others don’t understand the distinction, and quotes Time’s Joe Klein, "Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed . . . of the public?"

Mark Guarino in the Christian Science Monitor both notes the Governor’s radical determination and its roots in a Wisconsin political tradition.

“The urgency of his agenda just months after he election shows he is eager to take on not just Democrats, but also his own party, much in the tradition of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, whose battles for welfare reform and school choice in his state led the way for national policy changes. Governor Walker served in the state Assembly during the Thompson years. At that time, between 1993 and 2002, he flexed his conservative muscles by supporting welfare reform and a cap on state spending. In his campaign for the governor’s office, he ran on a platform critical of state spending and in favor of rolling back state tax increases for small businesses and top earners. He also positioned himself against President Obama in refusing to build a high-speed rail line from Madison to Milwaukee, saying it would be too costly and end up unprofitable….” (CSM)

Guarino even places him in Wisconsin’s tradition of party mavericks with Russ Feingold.

The actual issues are both smaller and larger than the demonstrations might indicate. Steven Greenhouse writes in the NYT about this “watershed moment” for Public-sector unions:

“From Florida to California, many political leaders are seeking to cut the wages and benefits of public-sector workers to help balance strained budgets. But Mr. Walker is going far beyond that, seeking to definitively curb the power of government unions in his state. He sees public-employee unions as a bane to the taxpayer because they demand — and often win — generous health and pension plans that help push up taxes and drive budget deficits higher. To end that cycle, he wants to restrict the unions to bargaining over just one topic, base wages, while eliminating their ability to deal over health care, working hours and vacations.”

You’d have to move on to the Wall Street Journal to understand why he would go so “far”. Steven Malanga writes there:

“Unions use that money not only to run their daily operations but to wage political campaigns in state capitals and city halls. Indeed, public-sector unions especially have become the nation's most aggressive advocates for higher taxes and spending. They sponsor tax-raising ballot initiatives and pay for advertising and lobbying campaigns to pressure politicians into voting for them. And they mount multimillion dollar campaigns to defeat efforts by governors and taxpayer groups to roll back taxes.”

David Brooks writes in his New York Times column:

“Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest. Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with.” ( NYT )

And in the end, one might say, as they succeed they simply give themselves raises and perks. (These “perks” often involve getting out of the classroom as fast as possible to some administrative ghost-work when it comes to “teachers”, and who knows? perhaps it is worth more money for bureaucrats to do less work.) But back to that Janesville GM worker’s understanding: He notes first that the county, the city, and the schools are three of the top five employers in his town. This means that the public/private balance is tilting toward these “insider” public-sector unions, and despite, or because of his own perilous job situation he understands this danger, that to service these contracts of a growing state workforce the private economy might be beggared and a crisis slide into disaster. The obliviousness of all those smart, Madison public radio listening know-at-alls is, one hopes, galvanizing of these efforts in the states to reset an economic balance that was set in the post-war years when the American economy was the only surviving one and not pressed by competitors as it is now. Those years of the 50s thru the 70s were the real moment of unipolarity was far as economics went because the Soviet Union couldn’t actually produce anything by ICBMs, AK47s, tanks, MiGs, and Professors of now extinct sciences of History and Economics.

From the London desk of Steve Beeho…

William Skidelsky interviews Niall Ferguson in the Observer about freedom and civilisation.

“His approach to the past is overwhelmingly materialistic. Questions of right and wrong, or indeed of personality and psychology, don't appear to preoccupy him greatly. What gets him going is hard data, facts and figures – the stuff, in other words, that is most measurable (and, by extension, provable). No doubt this outlook has a lot to do with his grounding in economic history. Yet his materialism goes beyond this, almost to the point, oddly, of seeming Marxian. ‘Something that's seldom appreciated about me,’ he declares, ‘is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I'm on the side of the bourgeoisie.’”


Rod Liddle in the Spectator on the self-perpetuating “liberal consensus”:

“The rather wonderful thing, replete with symmetrical irony, is that Dr David Nutt was sacked by a Labour government as a consequence of a sort of political correctness of the right, whereas Raabe was sacked by a Conservative-led government as a consequence of a sort of political correctness of the left…. I don’t think it is overstating the case to suggest that this is a form of intellectual fascism. It certainly, at the very least, not merely restricts freedom of speech and freedom of conscience but also serves to close down debate.”


Christopher Hitchens at Slate.com on how the Taliban have gone too far, even for the studied neutralists of human rights groups.

“The turning point, in the mind of the human rights ‘activists,’ appears to have occurred in late January, when a Taliban suicide-murderer killed at least 14 civilians in the Finest Supermarket in Kabul. Among the slain was a well-known local campaigner named Hamida Barmaki, whose husband and four small children were also killed. One wonders in what sense this was the Taliban going too far—women are killed and mutilated by them every single day in Afghanistan. Yet let the terror reach one of the upscale markets or hotels that cater to the NGO constituency in Kabul, and suddenly there is an abrupt change from moral neutrality.”


Janet Street-Porter's great 1976 LWT punk doc captures the innocence of the pre-Bill Grundy period and has been routinely plundered by later punk documentaries ever since.


Kate Simon recalls some of her iconic punk shots.


James Williamson at Retrokimmer.com on the Chosen Few and the roots of the Stooges.

La Tuna Canyon Trailhead, Verdugo Mountains

Photo by Chris Collins

Mirafa Angolensis by James Fotopoulos

From the Manhattan Desk of Joe Carducci…

Ian Bremmer in FT, "The J-curve hits the middle east".

“If you plot the relationship between a country’s stability (on the vertical axis) and its social and political openness (on the horizontal axis) the points that mark every possible combination of openness and stability will produce a pattern that resembles the letter J. Most countries start off closed and stable (think: North Korea). Many end up open and stable (like Britain). But in between there is a turbulent transition. Some governments, such as post-apartheid South Africa, survive this transition. Others -- the Soviet Union, Iran under the shah and the former Yugoslavia -- do not. This presents a dilemma for the Middle East. In recent years globalisation has provided more young Arabs with access to education, media and travel -- innovations that make it more difficult for a ruling elite to control information and power. If governments, such as Egypt’s, relax their grip to stoke economic growth… they risk sharp social and political upheaval. Yet if they keep things closed, they sharply limit the power of their economies to generate the prosperity on which longer-term political legitimacy will depend. And that too creates instability.”


Martin Wolf in FT, "Why the world’s youth is in a revolting state of mind".

“Demography is destiny. Humanity is in the grip of three profound transformations: first, a far greater proportion of children reaches adulthood; second, women have far fewer children; and, third, adults live far longer. These changes are now working through the world, in sequence. The impact of the first has been to raise the proportion of the population that is young. The impact of the second is the reverse, decreasing the proportion of young people. The third, in turn, increases the proportion of the population that is very old. The impact of the entire process is first to expand the population and, later on, to shrink it once again.”


David Gardner in FT, "Iran’s guardians of revolution haunted by Tehran Spring".

“In the spring of 1997, Mohammad Khatami, a silky and urbane cleric, was elected president of Iran. More an avalanche than a landslide, he won 70 per cent of the votes on an 80 per cent turnout, thrashing his theocrat opponent three-to-one. The then commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps went to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, telling him he did not have to accept the result. According to a member of the Expediency Council, referee for the regime’s chronic infighting, Iran’s supreme leader showed the general how his pasdaran, or guardians of the revolution, had voted: almost exactly as the nation had. That was what paralysed the hardliners during Mr Khatami’s Tehran Spring: the gnawing fear that the Revolutionary Guard might split if they confronted the reformers head-on. The Revolutionary Guard was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to defend the regime against the army. The revolution triumphed because the Shah’s army split. The revolutionaries learnt the lesson, bar they are haunted by the memory.”


Farnaz Fassihi in WSJ, "In Tehran, Funerals Bring New Clashes".

“Iran’s government on Wednesday hijacked the funerals of two students shot dead during antigovernment protests by busing its supporters to take over the procession and preventing the victims’ families and friends from attending the ceremony, witnesses and family member said. The two college students, Sanah Jaleh, 26, and Mohamad Mokhtari, 22, were killed in demonstrations Monday that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets across Iran and triggered the arrest of hundreds. Both men were supporters of the opposition Green Movement, their families and friends said on Wednesday. Iranian officials said they were pro-government and that Mr. Jaleh was a member of Basij, the volunteer plainclothes militia, and were killed by the opposition. ‘I swear to God that he was not a Basij member or had any government affiliation,’ said Mr. Jaleh's cousin, by telephone from the Kurdish city of Paveh in northwestern Iran. She said no family member was present during Mr. Jaleh’s funeral in Tehran and his family had been warned not to speak publicly…. Both men were shot by men on motorcycles that their friends say bore the hallmarks of the Basij.”


Ayşe Karabat at Qantara.de, "Release of Turkish Hezbollah Members Rocks Turkey".

“Unlike the better known Hezbollah of Lebanon, whose prime ministerial candidate emerged victorious from recent elections there, Turkish Hezbollah is a Sunni organisation. Ties between the two organisations have frequently been denied by the Lebanese group. Turkish Hezbollah was largely believed to be backed by the Turkish deep state for use as a weapon against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as well as secular Kurds and Turks in the 1990s…. This situation sparked a heated exchange between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Kılıçdaroğlu not only accused the AKP of not taking the necessary measures to prevent the escape of the Turkish Hezbollah members, but even suggested they had cooperated with them, seeking to use them as leverage to attract the Kurdish vote in the coming general elections, slated for May of this year…. Religious sentiments among Turkey's Kurds are very strong, and some segments of Kurdish society – despite their nationalist demands – remain distant from the dominant pro-Kurdish movement due to its secular structure. The terrorist PKK is also based on a Marxist approach. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan also waded into the discussion, claiming that the Turkish state is trying to revitalise Turkish Hezbollah in order to divide Kurds in their nationalist struggle. ‘They finished the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) by creating Hamas. We all know that Hamas people threw PLO members from the windows of the fourth and fifth floor. They will try to finish the Kurdish movement by creating a fake Islamism. It is not correct to call them a Kurdish Hamas, I will call them a 'network'. This network is claiming that they are Islamists, but actually they bear no relation to Islam,’ Öcalan stated through his lawyers, speaking at one of his weekly meetings with them in Imralı Island, where he is serving a life sentence.”


David Kirkpatrick in NYT, "Egyptians Say Military Resists Open Economy".

“From this vast web of businesses, the military pays no taxes, employs conscripted labor, buys public land on favorable terms and discloses nothing to Parliament or the public.

Since the ouster last week of President Hosni Mubarak, of course, the military also runs the government. And some scholars, economists and business groups say it has already begun taking steps to protect the privileges of its gated economy, discouraging changes that some argue are crucial if Egypt is to emerge as a more stable, prosperous country.

‘Protecting its businesses from scrutiny and accountability is a red line the military will draw,’ said Robert Springborg, an expert on Egypt’s military at the Naval Postgraduate School. ‘And that means there can be no meaningful civilian oversight.’ Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defense and military production who now leads the council of officers ruling Egypt, has been a strong advocate of government control of prices and production. He has consistently opposed steps to open up the economy, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.”


David Kirkpatrick in NYT, "After Lengthy Exile, Sunni Cleric Adds Voice in Shaping of Egypt".

“On Friday, he struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching. He began his sermon by saying that he was discarding the customary opening ‘Oh Muslims,’ in favor of ‘Oh Muslims and Copts,’ referring to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. He praised Muslims and Christians for standing together in Egypt’s revolution and even lauded the Coptic Christian ‘martyrs’ who once fought the Romans and Byzantines. ‘I invite you to bow down in prayer together,’ he said. He urged the military officers governing Egypt to deliver on their promises of turning over power to ‘a civil government’ founded on principles of pluralism, democracy and freedom. And he called on the army to immediately release all political prisoners and rid the cabinet of its dominance by officials of the old Mubarak government.”


Nasrin Alavi at Opendemocracy.net, "Iran’s resilient rebellion".

“Mohsen Rezaei, leading hardliner and former military commander of the Revolutionary Guards, compares the use of the internet to the ‘cassette-tape campaign’ mounted before the 1979 revolution to disseminate in Iran the sermons of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. ‘The internet and texting’, he says, ‘have filled the void of guerrilla organisations, helping people to take part in revolutionary action.’ The twist is that Rezaei is here talking not about Iranian internet users, but of how the ‘the Islamic revolution’ is today being ‘exported to the Arab world.’ Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran's majlis (parliament), comments: ‘The young today are politically aware; the shutting down of the internet and networks will not cure anything.’ The twist is that Larijani is referring to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, even as the state he serves has built a vast internet-police system whose rigorous censorship and surveillance of cyberspace has led to harassment, imprisonment and even executions. The reaction of a single Iranian blogger represents many: ‘Mr Larijani, do you believe in what you say - or is freedom good only for foreigners, but not us?’ Indeed, the establishment’s celebration of an ‘Iranian-style Islamic awakening’ in the Arab world coupled with excoriation of domestic dissent brings a new meaning to the term double-standards. Persian-language cyber-critics are caustic about the sheer hypocrisy involved. ‘They say the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia were the consequence of the export of our revolution’, said one. ‘In all honesty if you wanted to export the Damavand [mountains] they would reach their destination faster‘.”


Maajid Nawaz in WSJ, "The Post-Islamist Future".

“The 1950s and '60s witnessed the rise of pan-Arab socialism. Autocratic strongmen brought in by military coups were the order of the day in Egypt, Syria and beyond. By the 1980s and '90s, there was a fierce explosion in angry Islamism, as seen in the jihadist insurrection in Egypt and the rise of both Hamas and Hezbollah. But with failed Islamist experiments in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, the new millennium saw a creeping transition. As I did, the region's young, tech-savvy youth developed new ambitions, away from Islamism and toward secular democratic politics. Democratic activism is the new political fashion…. On the other hand, the alarmist approach—taken by many in Israel, for example—would seem to trade long-term regional security for short-term stability. As the former George W. Bush administration official Elliott Abrams remarked, ‘the Israelis apparently do not see the irony that they are mourning the departure of the man who created the very situation they now fear.’”


Andr Glucksmann at Signandsight.com, "Revolution without guarantee".

“Nowhere was it written that Khomeni would follow the Shah. Should I reproach the king of kings for not having spilled more blood in the last battle, or for having spilled too much in the preceding years? A popular uprising, which sees off a despotic regime is called a revolution. Every great Western democracy knows its own violent origins and the France of St. Just in particular: ‘The circumstances are only adverse for those who fear the grave.’ The murder of Khaled Said, the young blogger who was beaten to death by the police in Alexandria, did not intimidate the people, it galvanized them. Facebook and Twitter are the modern day Samizdat. The small group of internet citizens carry the torches of dissidence. Lit by the few who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives, like Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, the sparks which set fire to tyranny, are coursing through our space time. The Athens of the 5th Century BC, the city of philosophers, also honored its legendary tyrant killers Harmodius and Aristogeiton. A power of opposites, freedom offers ‘the deepest abyss and highest heaven’ (Schelling). Europe’s path shows us that a revolution can go in any direction, towards a republic, but also towards terror, conquests and wars. In the same moment that the power is shaking in Cairo, Tehran is celebrating the 32nd anniversary of its revolution with a festival of hangings and savage torture. Egypt - please God - is neither Khomeni's Iran, nor Lenin's Russia nor the Germany of the Nazi revolution. Egypt will become what its youth in their eagerness to breathe and communicate freely, what its Muslim brothers, its suspicious and secretive army, and its rich and poor who live light years apart, want to make of it.”


Jeffrey Gettleman in NYT, "Sudan’s President Won’t Run Again".

“President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, who has been in power for more than 20 years and faces international charges of genocide, will not run for office again after his current term ends in four years, a Sudanese government spokesman said Monday.

Mr. Bashir seized power in 1989 in a military coup and has ruled with an iron fist ever since, crushing or trying to crush numerous rebellions across Sudan. But now, Mr. Bashir ‘has no will to be a president again,’ said the spokesman, Rabie A. Atti. ‘He said the chance should be given to the next generation,’ Mr. Rabie said. ‘He will work to establish a real democratic system in our country.’ Mr. Rabie said the decision — and timing — had ‘nothing, nothing at all’ to do with the popular revolts against longstanding autocrats now erupting across the Arab world, which have inspired relatively small but spirited protests in Sudan as well.”


Raymond Ibrahim at MEForum.org, "Egypt’s Identity Crisis".

“With Egypt's ‘July Revolution’ of 1952, for the first time in millennia, Egyptians were able to boast that a native-born Egyptian, Gamal Abdel Nasser, would govern their nation: Ever since the overthrow of its last native pharaoh nearly 2,500 years ago, Egypt had been ruled by a host of foreign invaders—Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and Brits, to name a few. After 1952, however, Egypt, it was believed, would finally be Egyptian. Yet, though Nasser was Egyptian, the spirit of the times that brought him to power was Arab—Arab nationalism, or ‘pan-Arabism’—the theory that all Arabic-speaking peoples, from Morocco to Iraq, should unify. (Along with Nasser, the tide of pan-Arabism also brought to power Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, Syria's Hafez Assad, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.) The revolution significantly Arabized Egypt. That Egypt's official name became the Arab Republic of Egypt—as opposed to simply the Republic of Egypt—speaks for itself. Whereas before 1952, one could have spoken of a distinctly ‘Egyptian’ character and identity, after it, this identity gave way to an Arab identity. From there, it was a short push to an Islamic identity. Or, as Egyptologist Wassim al-Sissy recently put it, the revolution ‘erased the Egyptian character, which had been known for its tolerance, love, freedom, and so on. The revolution created a nation of slaves.’”


Damla Aras in Middle East Quarterly, "Turkey’s Ambassadors vs. Erdogan".

“Some of the retired diplomats who have been highly critical of Erdoğan's foreign policies hold top positions in the opposition political parties, such as the Kemalist Republican Populist Party. According to a senior ambassador, it was these individuals and other like-minded ambassadors that Erdoğan was actually targeting when he used the term mon chers. Thus, for example, the December 2009 resignation of Turkey's ambassador to Washington, Nabi Şensoy, during Erdoğan's visit to the U.S. capital, was officially attributed to a dispute over protocol. In fact, behind the resignation lay the ambassador's subscription to the ideas of the conservative camp within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his being bypassed by the AKP's own foreign policy team, and his disagreement with the government's Middle Eastern policy. Indeed, the AKP's policy toward the Middle East has been a rupture point between the two parties since for secularists it defines Turkey's core orientation and continued subscription to the democratic legacy bequeathed by its founding father. While they concede that Turkey has significant interests in the region, they are dedicated to Atatürk's vision of transforming Turkey into a part of Western civilization and, therefore, place great emphasis on ties with the Euro-Atlantic community. By contrast, Erdoğan views Ottoman history as the admired past of a great empire that once shaped the world order, as in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66). In his opinion, Turkey's (supposedly) unsuccessful foreign policy stems from mon chers' passivity inspired by an overly pro-Western orientation and their inability to appreciate the Ottoman past, which prevent them from understanding the government's strategies.”


John Cassidy in NYer, "Prophet Motive".

“The notion that religion plays a central role in economic development dates back to Max Weber’s 1905 treatise ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.’ Reflecting on the rise of England, Holland, and other areas where religious Nonconformism was strong, Weber drew attention to the cultural consequences of the Reformation. In embracing an ascetic moral code based on abstention and individual self-improvement, Protestants, notably Calvinists, were particularly suited to the task of mobilizing capital in the rational pursuit of profit, he argued. Weber didn‘t examine Muslim attitudes toward work and enterprise, but a few years ago the economists Luigi Gulso, Paola Sapienza, and Luigi Zingales did, drawing on data from the World Values Survey, a multinational set of surveys that covers sixty-six countries. In a study that appeared in the Journal of Monetary Economics, they noted that, ‘on average, Christian religions are more positively associated with attitudes that are conducive to economic growth, while Islam is negatively associated.’ In comparison with Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, and Jews, Muslims were generally less disposed to agree with pro-market statements, such as ‘Competition is good,’ ‘Private ownership of businesses and industry should be increased,’ and income inequality is necessary to provide ‘incentives for individual effort.’”


David Harris at Jerusalem Post, "Amidst Mideast Turmoil Only Israel Galvanizes UN into Action".

“With Iran violently suppressing demonstrators in the streets and Libya using brute force in the face of mass protests, it was reassuring to know that the UN sprang into quick action. Just as it did after the rigged elections in 2009, Tehran was using arrests, live fire, torture and intimidation to confront those challenging the regime. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council members gathered on February 18th in New York. The members solemnly deliberated as reports from Libya suggested that hundreds of peaceful protesters were slain by government forces with the help of foreign mercenaries. There’s only one small problem. The UN Security Council met to discuss neither the situation in Iran nor Libya, but, surprise of surprises, Israel. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, charged with monitoring and protecting human rights, was also nowhere to be found when it came to Iran and Libya.”


David Pilling in FT, "Why the Chinese are not inspired by Egypt".

Caixin, a business magazine founded by Hu Shuli, a standard-bearer of liberal journalism, went further with an editorial that challenged the prevailing assumption -- encouraged by the authorities -- that democracies are prone to disorder. ‘It is autocracy that creates chaos, while democracy breeds peace.’ it said. ‘Supporting an autocracy is in reality trading short-term interests for long-term costs.’”


Keith Richburg in Washington Post, "China’s Wen, in twilight of tenure, takes on reformer’s role".

“Wen's regular outings to mingle with average folks - particularly the rural poor and the dispossessed - have made the 68-year-old the most popular member of the ruling communist hierarchy, earning him the nickname ‘Grandpa Wen’ and helping to break the mold of the stodgy, faceless and impersonal communist bureaucrat. But nearing the end of his premiership, Wen, who has long ties in the Communist Party and was allied with such past reformers as the late Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, is also quietly building an image as a crusader for more openness and accountability within the country's tightly closed, authoritarian political system. In the past six months, Wen has made at least three calls for reform in China, saying the country needs to open its political system and adhere to the rule of law to complement its economic gains. In Beijing last month, he told the startled petitioners, ‘We are the people’s government. And our power is vested upon us by the people.’”


Kevin Brown in FT, "China’s rising wage bill poses risk of relocation".

“Chinese workers received real wage rises averaging 12.6 per cent a year from 2000 to 2009, compared with 1/5 per cent in Indonesia and zero in Thailand, according to the ILO. At about $400 a month , Chinese workers are now three times more expensive than their Indonesian counterparts, and five time as costly as in Vietnam, although they remain considerably cheaper than in Taiwan and Malaysia. However, that simple calculation takes no account of changes in relative productivity. Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, says World Bank data indicate productivity growth in Chinese manufacturing of 10-15 per cent a year since 1990.”


Thomas Christensen in IHT, "Why the world needs an assertive China".

“Beijing’s new more truculent posture is rooted in a strange mix of confidence on the international stage and insecurity at home. Since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, Chinese citizens, lower-level government officials, and media and Internet commentators have often exaggerated China’s rise in influence and the declining power of the United States, insisting that China push back against perceived slights and reduce international cooperation with the United States and its allies. According to my Chinese interlocutors, top officials in Beijing have a much more sober assessment of China’s global position and of the development challenges ahead. Yet those nationalist domestic voices have created a heated political environment. Party elites are acutely concerned about long-term domestic stability and hope to avoid criticism along nationalist lines, a theme that has the potential to galvanize the many otherwise disparate local protests against Chinese officials into a national movement. Particularly during the leadership transition that will culminate in the Communist Party’s selection of President Hu Jintao’s successor in 2012, individual officials need to foster their reputations as protectors of national pride and domestic stability.”


Philip Bowring in IHT, "Asian history lessons".

“If Asia is an example, political change will probably not undo the liberal economic tendencies that Mubarak had showed in reversing the socialism inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Indeed, if Indonesia is any guide, the reaction against crony capitalism will open the economy up to competition. There is the danger that a reaction against the corruption under Mubarak will lead not just to attempts to recover ill-gotten gains from Swiss banks, but to an attack on the credibility of all business that have prospered under the ousted regime. As in Asia, family wealth is now in legitimate businesses and held through third parties. For the longer term, Egypt might just get a new set of cronies, or the gradual return of old ones, as has happened in Indonesia and the Philippines. But that is another issue. In Indonesia and the Philippines, efforts to prosecute past misdeeds soon lost steam, which was a poor reflection on good governance but allowed for an atmosphere of forgiveness that contributed to political stability.”


MercoPress: "Argentina has ignored Mercosur rules and is now harvesting the benefits".

“‘Argentine president Cristina Kirchner has ignored Mercosur rules and is harvesting the benefits’, says O Estado de Sao Paulo which is a newspaper close to Sao Paulo’s powerful Industry Federation, FIESP. To avoid trade restrictions on imported goods a growing number of Brazilian companies have opted to invest and produce directly in Argentina: today is the case for 270 companies which represent a 170% increase since the year 2000. The article mentions several companies that have lately decided to open shop in Argentina, forgetting about Brazil because ‘Mercosur does not guarantee them the free movement of goods’. And with the positive results of its protectionist strategy, the Argentine government is further closing the siege: last week it increased by 50%, from 400 to 600, the number of goods submitted to the non automatic licensing system for imports, a mechanism clearly created to make paperwork even more bureaucratic.”


MercoPress: "Massive decline of predatory fish".

“The UBC team found that 54% of the decline in predatory fish population took place in the last 40 years. ‘Over-fishing has absolutely had a 'when cats are away, the mice will play' effect on our oceans,’ said Christensen, a professor in the UBC Fisheries Centre, in the release. ‘By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive.’ While the doubling of forage fish amounts to more fish production, Christensen cautioned that the smaller fish are more vulnerable to environmental fluctuations. ‘Currently, forage fish are turned into fishmeal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry, which is in turn becoming increasingly reliant on this feed source,’ said Christensen in the release. ‘If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a ‘farm’ to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry. Goodbye, Wild Ocean!’”


MercoPress: "Brazil’s main daily admits having supported military coup in 1964".

“‘In 1976 the newspaper which supported the military coup in 1964, opened its pages to opponents of the dictatorship and became one of the main catalysers of the political opening‘, wrote Folha de Sao Paulo. However in 2009 human rights organizations protested before the daily in the heart of Sao Paulo because in an editorial the newspaper described the Brazilian military regime as a ‘soft dictatorship’ (dictablanda) as compared to ‘hard dictatorships’ (dictaduras) in the rest of the continent from the sixties to the eighties. The expressions were coined in the eighties by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, President Ronald Reagan’s foreign polity advisor and US ambassador at the UN. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, political prisoner and torture victim of the dictatorship is attending Monday’s 90th anniversary celebrations in the Sao Paulo auditorium, the city’s largest open space for classical music. On 19 February 1921, Folha da Noite targeted to urban workers was started by journalists Olival Costa and Pedro Cunha who had abandoned the hegemonic O Estado de Sao Paulo. On March first 1960, the three newspapers under the same company: Folha de Manha, Folha de Tarde and Folha da Noite, were consolidated under the only edition Folha de Sao Paulo.”


Natalia Valilyeva at Opendemocracy.net, "How Khodorkovsky judge was pressured into verdict".

“What distinguished the Khodorkovsky trial from the other cases in our courtroom was, of course, the media interest. But there were no particularly glaring infringements of the judicial process during that trial. As to whether Danilkin had a free hand in his conduct of the trial – well, I can tell you that he was constantly monitored even before he withdrew to consider the verdict on 2 November. And after that date probably too. He had to report regularly to Moscow City Court. Any tricky moments in court, if something was not going according to plan would mean a report to the City Court and then he would receive instructions as to how he should conduct himself. It was done by phone: he would probably ring the chairman of the City Court, Olga Yegorova. It could be to do with which witness to call, for instance. Sometimes in the recess I would bring papers to be signed and would be told not to interfere, that Viktor Nikolaevich was on the phone to the City Court. Or he himself would tell me he was talking to ‘the City’, by which he meant the City Court. So this is when instructions were being given…

‘One time he said: I can't give you the answers to these questions, because I don't know where I'll be tomorrow and what will happen to me’
(Natalya Vassileva on Judge Danilkin)

Was what Danilkin was doing general practice or not? I think he did it because he was forced to. The judge is not obliged to consult anyone or listen to anyone's opinion. The verdict he hands down has to conform to the law and no one has any right to interfere with this process. So his consultations with the Moscow City Court were somewhat in breach of the law.”


Mumin Shakirov at Opendemocracy.net, "Khodorkovsky: ballerinas, singers and ice-skaters turn against Putin".

“I left the courtroom along with the other journalists soon afterwards, yet my mind kept replaying the dénouement of this drama: the parents' inconsolable grief and Mikhail's nervous, wandering smile ‘behind the glass’. Everyone was aware of the fact that the second sentence has radically diminished the chances of the elderly couple – both nearing eighty – ever seeing their son walk free. I decided to go online and look over information on the YUKOS case. It was then that I came across the notorious ‘Letter of the 50’. This was an open letter ‘from scholars, cultural and public figures’ passing comment the original sentence against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, which appeared in the loyal daily newspaper Izvestia in the summer of 2005. The letter defended the verdict and categorically rejected any claims that the court case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev had a political background. It was signed by fifty prominent Russians including the astronaut Georgi Grechko; actor and chief director of the EtCetera Theatre Aleksandr Kalyagin; film director and State Duma representative Stanislav Govorukhin; ballerina Anastasia Volochkova; fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin; gymnastics Olympic champion Alina Kabayeva; and singer Aleksandr Rozenbaum. As I was reading this poison-pen letter, I was reminded of other similar libelous letters many leading cultural figures and sportsmen had signed under Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Strange, I thought, that twenty years after the break-up of the USSR, a tradition of public condemnation and snitching under pressure from above seemed to be still alive and well.”


Russ Smith in WSJ on John McMillian’s book, Smoking Typewriters .

“A central figure in ‘Smoking Typewriters’ is Thomas King Forcade, a flamboyant, prescient and sometimes delusional man who, for a time, ran the Underground Press Syndicate. Like its rival, the Liberation News Service, the syndicate was a sort of countercultural Associated Press that sent out packets of articles to subscribing newspapers. Forcade, a founder of the pro-marijuana magazine High Times, committed suicide in 1978. As Mr. McMillian recounts, Forcade published a survey in 1969 showing that 60% of all underground newspapers claimed to be ‘hassled by police.’ He concluded: ‘With obscenity busts they get your money, with drug busts they get your people, with intimidation they get your printer, with bombings they get your office, and if you can still manage to somehow get out a sheet, their distribution monopolies and rousts keep it from ever getting to the people.’ Perhaps the most effective tool that the FBI employed was strong-arming record companies to cease placing full-page ads in underground papers. Revenues shrank significantly. The newspaper owners who were affected must have looked on with envy as a San Francisco-based biweekly somehow went unnoticed by the FBI, reaping the music industry's largess even while running a column called ‘Dope Notes,’ offering marijuana ‘roach clips’ as a subscription bonus and publishing virulently left-wing articles. Precisely how Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone escaped J. Edgar Hoover's attention isn't explored by Mr. McMillian.”


Virginia Heffernan in NYTMag, "Magic and Loss".

“We are agitated when the Internet doesn’t work but lack the proper amazement when it does. But the digital world also brings dysphoria — a low-level but constant heartbreak that is one of its most controversial side effects. I used to try to ignore the blue mood that haunts much of the writing about the Web. Like a Bolshevik in 1917, I chalked my resistance to its promises up to cowardice and coldly considered a certain amount of individual suffering the cost of the digital revolution. Maybe it was dialectical immaterialism — I thought we were moving away from the stuff-heaps of the past toward lives of near-total abstraction. I also believed that we’d be over our nostalgic fixation on analog culture and its totems very quickly. Even the manual typists and vinyl collectors would find eBay soon, or YouTube or fantasy football, and they’d be off and running.

And yet it’s still here, the persistent sense of loss. The magic of the Internet — the recession of the material world in favor of a world of ideas — is not working for everyone. In essence, we are missing something very worthwhile and identity-forming from our predigital lives. Is it a handwritten letter? Is it an analog phone call? Is it a quality of celluloid film, a multivolume encyclopedia or a leatherbound datebook? Is it a way of thinking or being or even falling in love?”


Marcel Dicke & Marnold Van Huis in WSJ, "The Six-Legged Meat of the Future".

“Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world's supply of meat, there's a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they're low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It's often described as ‘nutty.’”


Jonathan Chait’s "TNR Boring Headline Contest Unfair".


Kevin Helliker in WSJ, "Chicago Population Sinks to 1920 Level".

“The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that during the decade ended in 2010, Chicago's population fell 6.9% to 2,695,598 people, fewer than the 2.7 million reported back in 1920. After peaking at 3.62 million people in 1950, Chicago underwent a half century of decline that ended only when the 1990s boom years produced a small gain in the 2000 count. At that time, the city loudly celebrated its comeback. But the recent recession accelerated a migration both to the metropolitan area's farthest suburbs and to the Southern U.S. Chicago nonetheless is expected to remain the nation's third-largest city, behind New York and Los Angeles and just ahead of Houston, for which final census numbers aren't in yet. The exodus took a big chunk out of the city's black population in particular, shrinking it to 887,608 from 1,065,009, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

‘The black decline is really powering the city loss,’ Mr. Frey said, calling it ‘part of the great reverse migration to the South.’ Blacks remain the most-populous race in Chicago, Mr. Frey said, while the number of whites fell during the decade by about 52,000 to just under 855,000 and Hispanics' ranks rose by about 25,000 to just below 780,000.”


Chasen Marshall in O.C. Weekly, "Big Wave Surfing’s Swell Guys".

“As soon as the Mexican national policemen are out of sight, Crandal turns to his crew and in a loud whisper says, ‘We're going!’ He throws the last of the equipment on the boat, and then unties both of the Jet Skis while Clay unties the boat. When the boat is loose, Clay turns the key, bringing the boat's motor to life. Moments later, Crandal sees the federales sprinting back toward the dock. They're yelling commands in Spanish and waving their rifles. He jumps into the boat and immediately goes full-throttle on the single-prop motor. The guys driving the Jet Skis do the same, and the three-vessel squadron races toward the marina opening and into the open Pacific Ocean. Minutes later, a stern warning crackles from the radio: If the group doesn't turn back now, they will be arrested upon return. They continue heading west. ‘We were going no matter what,’ Crandal says years later. The previous evening, Crandal and his surfing crew made a late-night drive to Ensenada. A storm has been sweeping across the Pacific, bringing with it enough swell energy to produce massive 30- to 40-foot waves off the coast of a small, uninhabited island in the middle of the bay. The island is Isla de Todos Santos (All Saints Island), and the wave is called Killers.”


Michael Judge in WSJ, "Jazz Was Clint Eastwood’s Earliest Muse".

“‘In the Bay Area,’ he explains, ‘there was a resurgence of Dixieland jazz in the '40s—there was the Frisco Jazz Band, and Lu Watters and the Yerba Buena Jazz Band. I used to go out to a place called Hambone Kelly's in El Cerrito. And because I was fairly big for my age, I could go in there and get a beer and sit in the back and listen to these players.’ As the '40s progressed, Mr. Eastwood, along with jazz enthusiasts everywhere, embraced the new harmonic and rhythmic intricacies of bebop. ‘I started listening to modern jazz players like Charlie Ventura, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.’ As a young man, he saw Parker perform several times, which later influenced his decision to make Bird, the critically acclaimed 1988 film about the brilliant but troubled alto saxophonist. ‘I became kind of a jazz freak,’ he says. ‘I read every book there was on jazz, about the original players—King Oliver, Buddy Bolden and all those groups. At one time I was fairly well schooled in that . . . I could tell you who played where and when, historically, way before my time.’ Sneaking into jazz venues at a young age sounds a lot like Bix Beiderbecke, the innovative white musician of the '20s who would skip school to play with black musicians after hours in Chicago clubs. Was he ever attracted to Bix's story? ‘Yeah, I was,’ he says. ‘I liked him very much. . . . He was an interesting piano player. He wrote 'In a Mist,' for example, which was a hit in its time. . . . Then the fact that he moved to the cornet, the idiosyncrasies he had, wanting to have the music closer to his head, and that sort of thing. He was definitely a great player. But [like Bird] he was one of those guys who lived hard and burned out fast. . . . I don't want to make a habit of doing stories on people who have brilliance but shine bright for a very short period of time.’”


Will Friedwald in WSJ, "A Well-Loved Collection From a Voice of Chicago".

“If Chicagoans love jazz, it probably has a lot to do with Dick Buckley, who for more than 50 years was the voice of jazz on Chicago radio. ‘There were other guys on the air, like Daddy-O Daylie and Sid McCoy,’ said Neil Tesser, a veteran music journalist and broadcaster who worked with Buckley at WBEZ for 16 years. ‘But none of them had Dick's endurance, and none was as widely loved as Dick.’ ‘Dick Buckley was a living, breathing encyclopedia of jazz lore,’ as Kurt Elling, the Grammy-winning, Chicago-bred vocalist, put it. ‘What was obscure to the world—even to much of the jazz world—was everyday family history to Dick. He loved the music and gave the warehouse of his mind over to the task of storing, archiving and preserving what he loved most in life: the sound of a big, swinging band.’ When a collector or radio host of Buckley's stature dies, his collection usually is bequeathed to a radio station or a public institution (as when, for instance, Washington deejay Felix Grant's collection became the foundation of the jazz archive at the University of the District of Columbia). In this case, however, Buckley's family has entrusted Chicago-based Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, a traditional auction house that normally deals in fine arts and rare books, to auction off Buckley's collection: After three days of being available for viewing at the company's offices on West Lake Street, it will be sold on Thursday to the highest bidders in 91 boxed lots.”


Gary Silverman in FT, "The long dark guitar solo of the soul".

“But speaking solely as someone who came of age during the passionate musical debates of the 1970s -- when death was wished on disco and punk promised the chance of meeting girls with names such as Sheena -- the demise of Guitar Hero strikes me as a moral victory. It is said that if you remember the Sixties you weren’t really there, but survivors of the Seventies enjoy no such respite from the torments of memory. We have been condemned to endless reminders of the shortcomings of our era thanks to the development of that Madison Avenue-friendly musical canon known as ‘classic rock‘. No matter what you do, it has been my experience that if you hated a song in the Seventies, it will find its way back into your home all these years later, either in the form of an advertising jingle or, more perniciously, as part of the soundtrack to one of the video games that your children play when you aren’t around to control the television.”


Dan Pompei & Duaa Eldeib at Chicagobreakingsports.com, "Bears’ Duerson shot himself; brain to be studied".

“Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, said Duerson's family contacted him to examine Duerson’s brain for abnormalities related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in those who have a history of repetitive brain trauma, including concussions. ‘He had informed (his family) at some point that he wanted his brain to be studied so people could learn more about the effect of brain trauma and so kids could play the game more safely in the future,’ Nowinski said. ‘The family requested that I confirm that Mr. Duerson's brain was donated to our research center, and it was Mr. Duerson's wishes.’ Nowinski also said the family provided the appropriate release forms so the brain could be studied, a process that should take between three to six months. ‘NFL players are at higher risk for CTE than normal people and probably other athletes as well,’ Nowinski said. ‘Of the 14 former NFL players we've completed studies on, 13 of them had the disease.’ Nowinski, who grew up in Arlington Heights and played football at Hersey High, said he met Duerson in 1996 when Duerson presented Nowinsky with a National Football Foundation Scholarship. ‘I was a great admirer of Mr. Duerson as a player,’ he said. ‘It was a thrill just to meet him and have my picture taken with him.’ The Bears selected Duerson out of Notre Dame in the third round of the 1983 draft. He became a starter in 1985 and played in the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls that season. In 1987, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. He also was one of the Bears’ NFLPA representatives and was a leader through the 1987 strike.”


Obituary of the Week

Edgar Hetteen (1920 - 2011)

“Edgar Hetteen built the sport of snowmobiling from a grain-silo conveyor belt, an old Chevrolet bumper and other spare parts lying around his farm-equipment shop.

Mr. Hetteen, who died Saturday at age 90, was founder of Polaris Industries and Arctic Cat, two Minnesota companies that supply nearly all of the snowmobiles manufactured in the U.S. But despite pioneering snowmobile design and founding enduring companies with billions of dollars in total sales, Mr. Hetteen didn't get rich off the snowmobile.

Edgar Hetteen pictured in 1960 during a trip across Alaska on a Sno-Traveler snowmobile made by Polaris Industries, which he founded. ‘He's considered by many people the father of the snowmobile,’ said Loren Anderson, president of the St. Germain, Wis.-based Snowmobile Hall of Fame. ‘But he had a temper and he walked away.’”

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