a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Issue #92 (April 6, 2011)

South Corner Mountain, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Arab Explanationalism
Joe Carducci

At this hinge moment in the history of the middle east there’s a steady stream of discordantly irrelevant concern on the part of some Arab intellectuals what this all means for the west’s Orientalist paradigms as understood by the minions of the late Professor Edward Said. One would think they might drop what they’re doing and rush to whatever nation they are in exile from, to pitch in and help make of their home country some place worth staying in. But rather these folks are obsessed with what these revolutions, however they turn out, might mean to their enemies cross campus, cross-town, or across the Potomac. In Bookforum, Hussein Ibish, senior research follow at the American Task Force on Palestine, contributes to such instantly dated self-abnegation, “Under Western Lies - The popular uprisings in Arab nations should bury some long-standing Orientalist myths”, which proudly notes all the many Said and Foucault investigations and demonstrations of how the “Western imagination conjured the Arab street into being.” Ibish continues:

“Such traditional attitudes have routinely received new glosses in the Orientalist literature on what is purported to be a closed and rigidly change-averse ‘Arab mind.’ This body of work usually bears the appearance of dispassionate cultural inquiry -- but its authors are expressing essentially medieval anxieties about the mortal threat that Arab or Muslim power presents to the West.” (Bookforum, Apr-May 2011)

At Qantara.de, a Germany-based site focused on “dialogue with the Islamic world”, a portrait of the Algerian novelist Maissa Bey traces her ideas on the prospects for democracy on what she saw having stayed in Algeria through the decade of terror that resulted from the 1991 coup that prevented the Islamist party winner of the first democratic election from taking office. Bey appreciates her country’s caution today but tells Martina Sabra, “The Algerians now know that Islamism is not the answer. This is a realisation that puts us a stage ahead of other revolutions in the Arab world.” Sabra writes that Bey considers Europe’s relations with Arab dictatorships “preposterous” and then the piece goes off onto this much more comforting tangent:

“It is really bizarre that Europe is only now wakening up. I find this absolutely intolerable… As an Algerian citizen, I can tell you that we didn‘t need any Wikileaks to tell us what was going on. Everybody knew that the Arab leaders were illegally amassing large fortunes for themselves and allowing their people to suffer. How can it be that this Europe, that so prides itself on its ideals of human rights and liberty, kept so quiet for so long, and only opened its mouth after the people themselves had risen? …We intellectuals expect nothing more from Europe.” (Qantara.de, Apr 1, 2011)

That’ll be the day. An academic might say she’s upset because Europe treated Algeria as if it had agency of its own. I might say she’s upset that George Bush didn’t invade her country. (I noted early instances of this weird preoccupation in NV89.) Algeria is particularly interesting in that its successful guerrilla war for independence from France meant that its agency was actually hard-earned. In fact this authentic triumph over a European colonial power may have lead its own leadership class of heroic veterans to be so unyielding to its own people -- hardly how they imagined they’d be as leaders when they dreamed of a post-French Algeria.

Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times puts it, “It’s 1989, but we are the Russians”. Being a properly sensitive modern western European Rachman immediately shores up Arab agency vis-à-vis the old east European slave nations:

“The good news is that this is the Arab 1989. The bad news is that we are the Soviet Union. An exaggeration? Certainly. But there is enough truth in the analogy to explain why both the US and the European Union are uneasy about revolutions that -- on one level -- promote core western values, such as democracy and individual rights. Much of the corrupt and autocratic order that is wobbling so badly in the Middle East was western-backed. The sponsorship was nowhere near as brutal or as overt as the Soviet repression of eastern Europe. And there have always been anti-western regimes, such as Iran and Syria….” (Financial Times, Apr 4, 2011)

Western-backed, client states, allies, colonies, puppet regimes, little brown brothers, apes, pigs….

France certainly could have granted Algeria its independence more helpfully but you know, they were having a bad century. And the British might have left border-drawing to some local Sultan or King to come up with but you’ve heard the BBC, the Brits are just a little too interested in the world. However, to hear the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts routinely called after that colonial era, or now have them ignored so as to allow calls for more airpower in some other godforsaken corner of the Ummah invites derision.

It seems as if only Christopher Hitchens is boorish enough, to, as he puts it, advance “the quaint belief that the removal of two of the worst regimes in the region -- the Taliban and the Iraqi Baath Party -- did not have nothing to do with the subsequent democracy ‘wave’…” He writes this in his Slate critique of Karzai’s amplifying the recent response to an obscure Quran burning to a murderous level, and he compares this fall from his earlier responsible response to an alleged Quran desecration at Guantanamo. Hitchens notes what he calls “the same old dreary formula: self-righteous frenzy married to a neurotic need to take offense”. Certainly this pays locally there, in some way we cannot control. But that such pays here we really ought to try to control. Islam after all sat out reformation, renaissance and revolution. As a civilization it is only now experiencing the challenge of a modernity fully-formed in the figure of the outside world -- the west, now reinforced by the rising east. All the bloody battles fought over centuries to remove the Church from western governance was a necessary process, one which has barely begun for the removing of the Mosque from the palace or parliament. There is a great reactionary temptation for the Arab or Muslim intelligentsia to hide its need of the west’s modernity by focusing on its failings, which are there, of course, but certainly they are microscopic comparatively.

The Said folks managed to conquer the university departments, but they found there isn’t much one can do from an American university, especially after al-Qaeda succeeded in vaulting the Arab world’s powerful weakness onto our plate. (China had been first on our plate on Sept. 10th) 9/11 brought many of the best younger minds in the west, some academic, but many just journalists, or do-it-yourself wise-asses, not to mention dramatic plain-talking refugee-writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Bat Ye’or treading all over their hallowed conquered discipline. They won their tenured positions quite easily with their ethnic trump-card bluff because western academia was in a decadent phase of radical dementia: deconstruction, identity politics, etc. Turns out they don’t like the attention from outside the academy. And even their once submissive academy is tightening up a bit, under pressure from Chinese economic and intellectual and cultural success.

All Said really wanted was for Arab studies departments in the West to be staffed by Arabs. Unlike Women studies, and African-American studies programs, which were brand new and staffed with women and blacks, Arab studies were time-honored civilizational departments that focused on language and history and were staffed with doddering old obsessives creeping around musty collections of ancient manuscripts and dusty relics in what was then an academic graveyard. Suddenly these quiet old professors were rudely pushed aside by race-baiting Palestinian activists full to the brim with self-esteem.

Bad enough I suppose, but given the slow sinking-in-on-itself of Arab civilization since it failed to enter Europe at Vienna and Andalusia, even the refugee Arab intellectuals who’ve been able to clamber into the wonderland of American and European university or western governmental bureaucracy life seem unable to redirect their attention at this moment. They’ve measured their achievement since the Munich Olympics by how successfully they manage to make Arab problems our concern, as its easier than getting down to work in their own lands. The gerontocratic condition of their old world culture made this understandable, but now there is a break in history and that weight might lift and what do they first think of? They seem to be trying to prove something as small as that they understand their people better than we do. Who cares? This is not something that was the first order of business for the Japanese, Hong Kong, Singapore, the South Koreans, the Taiwanese, the Thai, the Chinese, or the Indians. They made their peace with the world and got down to work bettering their lots. If Arabs do not do this, it will have little to do with what any American or European thinks or says or does; that is their fear I guess. And no doubt they can find many colleagues in academia encouraging them not to try. But we can hardly be faulted for noting what takes place or fails to take place from this point on. Someone has to pay attention.

Painting: "Arab Street Scene" by John Singer Sargent

Macronyx Fuellebornii by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Stephen Moore in WSJ, "We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers".

“If you want to understand better why so many states — from New York to Wisconsin to California — are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government…. New York is the financial capital of the world — at least for now. That sector employs roughly 670,000 New Yorkers. That's less than half of the state's 1.48 million government employees. Don't expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren't willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands.”


Bill Allen & Maura O’Connor in LAT, "California Environmental Quality Act: That ’70s law" .

“Enacted in the 1970s, the goal of CEQA was — and continues to be — a noble one: to make sure that the public is provided with a good-faith assessment of the reasonably foreseeable environmental impact of a proposed project. This information would be considered by the permitting agency before it approved or disapproved the project. However, CEQA has expanded from a thoughtful review for environmental purposes to an unruly set of laws and regulations that add complexity, cost, delay and, most problematic, unpredictability, and too frequently have been exploited for non-environmental purposes. All of this hinders job creation and tax revenue generation.

It is not uncommon for businesses, such as retailers, to organize and fund groups to oppose developments by their competitors under the guise of CEQA. It's also become fairly common for groups with union ties to oppose projects on CEQA grounds in order to extract labor-friendly promises. Finally, a cottage industry of CEQA lawyers and groups has emerged that oppose far too many developments, threatening or bringing litigation in hopes of simply exacting a financial settlement or ‘go away’ money from the developer of a given project.”


Michael Kinsley in LAT, "The Washington lobbying dance".

“For many years before the lawsuit, Microsoft had virtually no Washington ‘presence.’ It had a large office in the suburbs, mainly concerned with selling software to the government. Bill Gates resisted the notion that a software company needed to hire a lot of lobbyists and lawyers. He didn’t want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone. At first this was regarded (at least in Washington) as naïve. Grown-up companies hire lobbyists. What’s this guy’s problem? Then it was regarded as foolish. This was not a game. There were big issues at stake. Next it came to be seen as arrogant: Who the hell does Microsoft think it is? Does it think it‘s too good to do what every other company of its size in the world is doing? Ultimately, there even was a feeling that, in refusing to play the Washington game, Microsoft was being downright unpatriotic. Look, buddy, there is an American way of doing things, and that American way includes hiring lobbyists, paying lawyers vast sums by the hour, throwing lavish parties for politicians, aides, journalists, and so on. So get with the program.”


Edin Mujagic at EUobserver.com, "Come on Europe, act and act now!"

“Someone who thinks that even talking about the possibility of one or more euro countries leaving the monetary union, often uses the following argument: you don’t hear anyone in the United States propose to abandon the dollar just because they are not satisfied with it. Well, personally I would not use that argument any more. Parliaments in more than ten American states, from Virginia and Georgia on the eastern seaboard via the open skies and Rocky Mountains in Montana, Utah and Colorado to Washington in the American far west, have seen proposals and resolutions ranging from calls to introduce state paper money to declaring gold and silver as legal tenders (or, as in Georgia, even requiring the state to repay its debt with gold and silver coins minted before 1965). Utah even wants to allow its citizens to mint their own gold and silver coins, which could then be used for paying for everything from groceries to state taxes.”


Max Hastings in Daily Mail, Britain no longer split by class, instead between taxpayers and public sector.

“Last weekend’s march in London, protesting against The Cuts, highlighted the only social divide that matters in modern Britain. It is not between rich and poor, North and South or even Arsenal and Manchester United supporters. It is between those employed in the public and private sectors of the economy. The march — a howl of anguish to which Ed Miliband lent his presence and absurdly extravagant rhetoric — was a partisan demo by Labour’s six-million-strong client vote, the employees of the state who have become Britain’s new privileged class. Watching TV images of the marchers snake through the capital, I reflected that they should rightfully have been wearing wigs and powder, because they are the modern-day counterparts of pre-Revolution French aristocrats, enjoying advantages such as the rest of us can only dream of.”


Philip Stephens in FT, "Europe’s not so eternal triangles".

“This curious triangular geometry was on display the other day at the summit of European Union leaders in Brussels. In matters economic, Germany is the pivotal power. Angela Merkel all but dictated the terms of the financial stability mechanism designed to underpin the euro. France has decided it prefers a German euro to no euro at all. Mr Cameron has decided that even to sit at the same table with Euro zone members would somehow taint his commitment to keeping the pound. Such is his Tory party’s neuralgia, the prime minister said he would leave an empty chair when leaders of a new euro pact meet in future to discuss closer integration. Libya, however saw Mr Cameron step up to the summit stage with Nicolas Sarkozy. Ms Merkel was in quieter, if not chastened voice. Berlin’s opposition to the bombing that halted Col Gaddafi’s forces at the gates of Benghazi drew much sniping from other summiteers. She offered a small olive branch in the form of a promise to strengthen the German presence in Afghanistan.”


Tim Parks in NYer on Manlio Graziano’s book, The Failure of Italian Nationhood.

“Graziano’s book sets out to show that this mixture of apparent economic success and behavioral backwardness had its roots in the distant past. His argument is complex, and takes us back to the late medieval era, when Italy was ahead of the rest of Europe. In the power vacuum that accompanied the decline of the Holy Roman Empire, a number of large and efficient city-states evolved, all having an unusually potent sense of a separate identity. Venice, Florence, Milan, Naples, and Rome were aware that Italy might eventually be considered a territorial unit, and did everything they could to avoid being swallowed up in it; they were, as Graziano comments, ‘too weak to absorb others, too strong to let themselves be absorbed.’ This proud disunity is exactly what allowed foreign powers to overrun and carve up the peninsula in the sixteenth century, a situation that, aside from the interlude of a Napoleonic invasion, remained largely unchanged until the mid-nineteenth century. When unification came, it was led not by the major city-states of the past but by the half-French region of Piedmont, an area peripheral to Italian history and with a long record of rounding up and executing Italian nationalists. Nor had Piedmont planned to annex the whole peninsula. Exploiting wars between France and Austria to acquire the rich northern part of the country, the Piedmontese king was faced with a startling fait accompli when the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, initially leading an expedition of only a thousand men, quite unexpectedly conquered the whole of Sicily and southern Italy. Garibaldi then offered the territory as a gift to the now enlarged Piedmont, which, as much to avoid the spread of republicanism as for any other reason, sent its armies south to meet him.”


James Crabtree in FT, "Philosophes sans frontieres as Plato battles Nato".

“Don’t be distracted by the leonine hair or the trademark tailored white shirts open to the navel. BHL’s arrival in theatre is realpolitik at its most sartorially elegant; the side of French strategic thinking that has always believed Nato must bow to Plato. All it took was a late-night satellite phone call after BHL’s rebel rendezvous, and talk of an imminent bloodbath straining the French flag, to spur Sarko into action. But if this surgical strike was a triumph for la diplomatie francaise, it was a greater leap forward still for French philosophy. In times of war, la gauche would once have been stuck with Derrida deconstructing resolution 1973 or Baudrillard on Muammer’s modes of mediation. But with BHL in Benghazi, no one can claim the Libyan war doesn’t exist.”


Adam Curtis at BBC.co.uk, "Goodies and Baddies".

“Kouchner had worked for the Red Cross in Biafra, but he had become disgusted by the Red Cross' refusal to publicise the genocide created by the Nigerian government. Just as the Red Cross hadn't revealed the horrors they saw in World War Two in the Nazi concentration camps because they insisted on being ‘neutral’. Kouchner resigned and went back to Paris where he founded a new humanitarian organisation called Medecins Sans Frontieres. Being neutral, Kouchner said, really meant being complicit in the horror. And MSF would never be complicit. It was on the side of the innocent victims…. Kouchner -- and many of the others who founded MSF -- had been Marxist or Maoist revolutionaries, but they had become disenchanted with those utopian visions. And what they were doing was reworking the politics of third world liberation into a new form. It was a type of liberation that they believed went beyond the politics of left and right and instead was about saving individuals from the horrors of totalitarianism whether that came from the right or the left. They weren't going to be neutral. They were going to take sides. But it was the side of the victims -- because they were neutral. Their first slogan was ‘There are no good and bad victims’. And in 1979 Kouchner dramatically demonstrated this belief. He hired a ship to go and rescue the Vietnamese boat people who were fleeing the communist regime who now ruled Vietnam. The left -- and many liberals -- were shocked. Because these were ‘bad victims’. Victims of the noble anti-imperialists who had defeated America.”


Ethan Bronner & Isabel Kershner in NYT, "Head of U.N. Panel Regrets Saying Israel Purposely Killed Gazans".

“‘If I had known then what I know now,’ he wrote, ‘the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.’ His article, which was posted on The Post’s Web site on Friday night, follows a report submitted two weeks ago by a committee of independent experts led by Mary McGowan Davis, a former New York judge, that said that Hamas had not conducted any internal investigations of its own but that Israel had devoted considerable resources in looking into more than 400 accusations of misconduct.

Mr. Goldstone’s article fell like a bomb in Israel, where many people considered the 2009 publication of the Goldstone report as one of the most harmful events in recent years. It was viewed as offering spurious justification for damaging accusations, which Israelis considered to be part of a campaign to delegitimize the state and label it as a war criminal. ‘We face three major strategic challenges,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year, ‘the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our citizens and Goldstone.’”


Mustafa Nour in NYT, "The Myth of Syrian Stability".

“When the international community condemned the violence, the Syrian regime began to blame ‘armed groups,’ from inside and outside the country, for killing the civilians in Dara’a as well as members of the security forces. The official Syrian position on the motives and nationality of the armed men changes often: sometimes they are Palestinian or Jordanian; sometimes they are working at the behest of foreign operatives from Israel or the United States. An Egyptian-American was even arrested on charges of espionage and, on state television, made a transparently false confession to inciting the protests and to being paid 100 Egyptian pounds ($17) for each photo he took…. Meanwhile, the pro-government marches, which state television claimed involved millions of people, were not interrupted by a single bullet. No one was killed or attacked. These demonstrators held signs with language like ‘O Bashar, don’t be concerned — you have a people that drinks blood.’ But not a single sign was raised in memory of the dead at Dara’a and Latakia. Syria has degenerated into chaos and bloodshed so quickly in these past few weeks that I keep thinking: was our stability, our distinguishing characteristic, ever even true? The government tells us that if the regime falls the country could devolve into sectarian chaos. Perhaps that is so. But what did the ruling Baath party — the leader of our state and society, according to the Syrian Constitution — accomplish over the last 48 years if that is so?”


Yaroslav Trofimov & Matt Bradley in WSJ, "Cairo Revolution Finds New Target: Free Market".

“Now, as Egypt prepares for elections this year, many of the country’s diverse power groups -- including the military now running the country, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the young and mostly secular leaders of the Tahrir Square protests -- are united by a desire to roll back the economic liberalization and hold its beneficiaries accountable. ‘The problem is that the Egyptian people did not benefit from all that growth,’ says Ashraf Badreldin, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic department. ‘It was only to the advantage of the small elite of the rich.’”


Nora Fisher Onar at Opendemocracy.net, "Europe’s tipping-point, Turkey’s solution".

“It would be politically impossible to renounce the prospect of full membership; but in fact, Ankara may prefer quietly to maintain its newfound freedom of manoeuvre in relation to this prospect. The Nato deal reached in Lisbon, which ensures Turkey’s ongoing commitment to the alliance while acknowledging its differentiated interests in its own sphere of influence, is a promising precedent here. Turkey’s turnaround on the Libya intervention is a case in point. Ankara began by opposing foreign intervention out of concern for its citizens and investments in the country, and a misplaced belief that this would place it on the side of Arab opinion; then quickly recalibrated when it realised that Nicolas Sarkozy, pursuing a vision of Europe and the Mediterranean exclusive of Turkey, would spearhead the intervention. This eventual bid to be the ally capable of bridging western and local interests bore immediate fruit in the release into Turkish diplomatic custody of western journalists captured and maltreated by Gaddafi’s forces.”


Ambreen Agha at Satp.org, "Educationally Infertile".

“The school curriculum in Pakistan has long been condemned as being exclusionary, ideologically motivated, and stereotypical, with obsolete content and biased viewpoints. The Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission, which was constituted by the Pakistan Government under then Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court Hamood-ur-Rehman to investigate the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, noted that the 1971 war saw thousands killed, leaving permanent scars on millions of people in Bangladesh who witnessed torture and death of their countrymen at the hands of the Pakistan Army. Instead of the findings of the report, all that the new generation of Pakistan knows about the war comes from the state curriculum. Instead of setting record straight on the creation of Bangladesh and the real reasons for the separation, students in Pakistan are taught conspiracy theories and factually incorrect versions of history. Nowhere in textbooks is there a mention of the documented atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army, which include mass rape, targeted killings and genocide. The textbooks also fail to mention the number of civilian deaths in East Pakistan in the period leading up to the creation of Bangladesh. Nor do they mention Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s inflexible stand on sharing power with Mujib-ur-Rehman’s Awami League. Misconceived textbooks indoctrinate the new generation with concocted stories and a distorted history, leaving little space for the de-radicalisation of Pakistani society. Islamabad’s biased course content is bound to produce a violent and intolerant generation. An ideologically driven curriculum is not only far from reform, but will, sooner or later, lead to a survival crisis in Pakistan. Unable to deal with challenges of failed nation-building and national integration, Islamabad has fallen back on religion as a unifying force.”


Rose McDermott in WSJ, "Polygamy: More Common Than You Think".

“There are more serious problems that come with the practice of polygamy. My research over the past decade, encompassing more than 170 countries, has shown the detrimental effects of polygynous practices on human rights, for both men and women. According to the information I have helped to collect in the Womanstats database, women in polygynous communities get married younger, have more children, have higher rates of HIV infection than men, sustain more domestic violence, succumb to more female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, and are more likely to die in childbirth. Their life expectancy is also shorter than that of their monogamous sisters. In addition, their children, both boys and girls, are less likely to receive both primary and secondary education. This is at least partly because polygynist cultures need to create and sustain an underclass of unmarried and undereducated men, since in order to sustain a system where a few men possess all the women, roughly half of boys must leave the community before adulthood. Such societies also spend more money on weapons and display fewer social and political freedoms than do monogamous ones. When small numbers of men control large numbers of women, the remaining men are likely to be willing to take greater risks and engage in more violence, possibly including terrorism, in order to increase their own wealth and status in hopes of gaining access to women.”


Charles Levinson in WSJ, "Ex-Mujahedeen Help Lead Libyan Rebels".

“Islamist leaders and their contingent of followers represent a relatively small minority within the rebel cause. They have served the rebels' secular leadership with little friction. Their discipline and fighting experience is badly needed by the rebels' ragtag army.
Among his followers, Mr. Hasady has the reputation of a trained warrior who stood fearlessly at the front ranks of young protesters during the first days of the uprising.

And his discourse has become dramatically more pro-American, now that he stands in alliance with the West in a battle against Col. Gadhafi. ‘Our view is starting to change of the U.S.,’ said Mr. Hasady. ‘If we hated the Americans 100%, today it is less than 50%. They have started to redeem themselves for their past mistakes by helping us to preserve the blood of our children.’ Mr. Hasady also offered a reconsideration of his past approach. ‘No Islamist revolution has ever succeeded. Only when the whole population was included did we succeed, and that means a more inclusive ideology.’”


Robert Worth in NYTMag, "On Libya’s Revolutionary Road".

“All across eastern Libya, the collapse of Qaddafi’s regime exposed an unknown world of walled military compounds and torture rooms belonging to the Leader and his gang. Protesters burned and destroyed almost all of them, police stations, jails, security branches — and there were so many: external security, internal security, national security, intelligence. On my second day in the city, I visited one of those prisons with a gap-toothed 28-year-old man named Osama Makhzoum. He was an unemployed accountant, well educated and disgusted by the corruption around him, who was among the first protesters on Feb. 15. He had a clownish, affectionate smile, and he spoke in a rapid-fire stream of anecdotes and jokes that was impossible to keep up with; it was as if a decade of dammed-up words had just been unleashed. ‘By God, Libyans were afraid to say Qaddafi’s name before, and now they are fighting him,’ he told me as we drove across town that day in his beat-up silver Renault sedan. ‘This is a good thing.’”


David Gardner in FT, "No explanation is too ludicrous for strongmen under threat".

“For despots who have come to power through military coups and wars, and bribed, plotted and killed to stay there, how could politics not be a conspiracy theory when its leading practitioners compulsively conspire? Muammer Gaddafi set the bar high. Having backed over the years a melange of ‘liberation movements’, even simultaneously supporting rival factions in countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, it is no huge imaginative leap for him to say Libya‘s rebels are run by al-Qaeda jihadis who have been spiking their coffee with hallucinogenic drugs. Yet even the sober and plodding Hosni Mubarak, the fallen president of Egypt, claimed the civic insurgency that brought him down was the work of Zionists and Hamas, those inseparable allies.”


WSJ: Bernard Lewis interview.

“In Middle Eastern history ‘consultation is the magic word. It occurs again and again in classical Islamic texts. It goes back to the time of the Prophet himself,’ says Mr. Lewis. What it meant practically was that political leaders had to cut deals with various others — the leaders of the merchant guild, the craft guild, the scribes, the land owners and the like. Each guild chose its own leaders from within. ‘The rulers,’ says Mr. Lewis, ‘even the great Ottoman sultans, had to consult with these different groups in order to get things done.’ It's not that Ottoman-era societies were models of Madisonian political wisdom. But power was shared such that rulers at the top were checked, so the Arab and Muslim communities of the vast Ottoman Empire came to include certain practices and expectations of limited government. Americans often think of limited government in terms of ‘freedom,’ but Mr. Lewis says that word doesn't have a precise equivalent in Arabic. ‘Liberty, freedom, it means not being a slave.... Freedom was a legal term and a social term — it was not a political term…. In the Muslim tradition, justice is the standard’ of good government. The traditional consultation process was a main casualty of modernization, which helps explain modernization's dubious reputation in parts of the Arab and Muslim world. ‘Modernization... enormously increased the power of the state,’ Mr. Lewis says. ‘And it tended to undermine, or even destroy, those various intermediate powers which had previously limited the power of the state.’ This was enabled by the cunning of the Mubaraks and the Assads, paired with ‘modern communication, modern weapons and the modern apparatus of surveillance and repression.’ The result: These autocrats amassed ‘greater power than even the mightiest of the sultans ever had.’”


MercoPress: "Islamic extremists operating illegally in triple frontier area."

“Islamic extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas are illegally operating in the Triple Frontier area shared by Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where they allegedly gather large amounts of money, recruit new militants and plan additional attacks, Brazilian magazine Veja announced.”


MercoPress: "Vargas Llosa blasts Humala and Keiko: “it’s like choosing between cancer and aids.” "

“‘I know he doesn’t like me, but I am interested in having the people’s support, not his. Welcome to the campaign Mr Vargas Llosa, I am not afraid of you. My father beat you in 1990 and I will beat you in 2011’ she said. Keiko assured she is confident in the ‘hidden votes’ (silent majority) supporting her candidacy in order to make it to the second round of Peru’s presidential elections, reported El Comercio.”


MercoPress: "President Rousseff’s foreign policy “will emphasize human rights (South and North)”"

“Marco Aurelio Garcia, special advisor to Brazil’s president in foreign affairs, who held a similar post under ex President Lula da Silva. In an interview with O Estado de Sao Paulo, Garcia said that Ms Roussef is giving more emphasis to human rights. At the latest vote in the Human Rights Council Brazil broke away from the traditional abstention vote of Lula da Silva and supported a US initiative against Iran. ‘Lula da Silva always underlined social questions, Dilma on the other hand will keep that sensitivity but wants to emphasizes human rights issues which are linked to her past as a political prisoner (under the dictatorship between 1970 and 1972)’ said Garcia.”


Seth Mydans in NYT, "Leading Vietnamese Dissident Sentenced to Prison".

“Mr. Vu, who holds a law degree from the Sorbonne, is not licensed to practice in Vietnam but runs a law firm in Hanoi with his wife and has spoken out on a variety of sensitive issues. He was arrested in November and charged with antistate propaganda for posting critical articles on the Web and giving interviews ‘maligning party and state institutions and policies,’ according to the government. In calling for a multiparty system he said the Communist Party serves only ‘the illegal benefits of a small group’ and he criticized the jailing of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of former South Vietnamese soldiers and officials after the Communists won the Vietnam War in 1975. In 2009 he sued Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for approving a controversial Chinese-run bauxite mining operation in the Central Highlands and last year he sued him again for signing a decree that prohibited class-action lawsuits. Mr. Vu is the latest of dozens of Vietnamese lawyers and activists arrested over the past five years for challenging the government. He had faced up to 12 years in prison on the charge, which is often used against political dissidents.”


Seth Mydans in NYT, "Vietnam Leans on Christian Minority, Report Says".

“‘Montagnards face harsh persecution in Vietnam, particularly those who worship in independent house churches, because the authorities don’t tolerate religious activity outside their sight or control,’ said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the human rights monitoring group, which is based in New York. ‘The Vietnamese government has been steadily tightening the screws on independent Montagnard religious groups, claiming they are using religion to incite unrest.’ The conflicts involve more than religion as Vietnam’s population and economy expand and lowland Vietnamese settlers encroach on the farmland of indigenous hill tribes, primarily with agricultural plantations. There is a political aspect as well, involving government concerns over links with evangelical groups in the United States among some of the Montagnards. Many Montagnards fought alongside American and South Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War, and some continued to resist after the Communist victory in 1975. For the most part, Montagnard Christians today are nonpolitical, but the government is particularly concerned about a branch known as Dega Christianity, which is associated with a movement for land rights.”


FT: "The Astronauts of planet Earth".

“Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor had wanted to go to space since he was 10 years old and obsessed by "Star Trek" and "Superman". However, as Malaysia had no space programme he decided to go into medicine instead. Then, in 2003, it was announced that Russia would include a Malaysian in a crew bound for the International Space Station. Shukor, by then a 31-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, restaurant co-owner and part-time model, was one of 11,425 people who applied. ‘I knew it was my destiny.’ he says…. Shukor was also the first Muslim to be in space during Ramadan, for which the Malaysian National Fatwa Council produced an 18-page booklet, including instructions on how to pray towards mecca from orbit. On his return, it took him several months to appreciate the hysteria that his mission provoked in Malaysia. ‘Seeing how tiny and insignificant Earth is from space changed my perspective on life, on global issues, human suffering, pollution,’ he says. ‘I dream about space all the time. I would die for a chance to go to Mars, even on a one-way ticket. Except now I am married…’”


Lesley Downer in NYT on Xinran’s book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.

“The author of The Good Women of China and other books that have been translated into English, Xinran was a radio journalist in Nanjing until moving to Britain in 1997. Before her departure, her program for women, ‘Words on the Night Breeze,’ had millions of listeners: at that time, few Chinese owned televisions and many were illiterate, so radio journalists reached far more people than their colleagues on television or at newspapers. Xinran received hundreds of letters and phone calls, and told some of her correspondents’ harrowing stories on air. Her program — and now this book — gave a voice to some of the poorest women in Chinese society, whose stories would otherwise never be heard. Among them are women like Kumei, a dishwasher who twice tried to kill herself because she’d been forced to drown her baby daughters. When a child is born, Kumei explains, the midwife prepares a bowl of warm water — called Killing Trouble water, for drowning the child if it’s a girl, or Watering the Roots bath, for washing him if it’s a boy.”


Ian Johnson in NYT, "At China’s New Museum, History Toes the Party Line".

“‘A public museum in China is seldom about the past,’ said Hung Chang-tai, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who has written on the museum. ‘It is about the current image of the party and how the party wants itself to be seen.’ The National Museum has its roots in the Communist Party’s desire for a legacy. In his memoirs, Wang Yeqiu, who would become the museum’s director, recalls joining Communist troops as they entered Beijing in 1949 and making straight for a prison to secure a scaffold used in 1927 to hang one of the party’s founding members. The scaffold became the first item in the museum’s collection. But its opening in 1959 was marred by a problem that would haunt it to the present — politics. Prime Minister Zhou Enlai visited the proposed exhibition and said it did not emphasize the ‘red line’: the line of thought of Mao, the country’s supreme leader. Over the next decades, the museum spent more time closed than open. It formally opened in 1961, then closed at the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, reopening in 1979 and then going through a series of closings and openings as leaders strove for an interpretation of the past they could accept. The exhibition on contemporary history closed for good in 2001 as officials began to see the museum as an anachronism that did not promote a modern image to the outside world. That year, Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, and officials were worried that the national capital would not be a worthy host. A year earlier, a British research institute rated Beijing a third-tier city on a par with Warsaw and Bangkok. The report was widely discussed in China, with officials noting that Beijing had no noteworthy museums or galleries.”


Pierre Luther in Le Monde diplomatique, "China goes into the world news business".

“In contrast to western media – even those financed by a public license fee, whose directors are appointed by the authorities – the Chinese media’s editorial line expresses only the government’s diplomatic directions. Beijing’s objective is to broadcast its news everywhere, without worrying about profitability. This also involves radio, especially in Africa, where it is the main source of news. On 27 February 2006 Radio China International (RCI) inaugurated an FM channel broadcasting in Chinese, English and Swahili in the Kenyan capital Nairobi (home to Xinhua’s African head office since 1987) – over 5,000 km from Beijing. This was the first of about a hundred radio stations. In August 2010 RCI opened offices in Dakar (Senegal) and Niamey (Niger) with the ultimate goal of broadcasting in French, Chinese and local languages. In Africa, people now learn about EU decisions through the news from the 10 or so correspondents of Xinhua’s Brussels bureau. And it is increasingly through Xinhua and its partnership agreements that Cameroonians follow developments in Chad, the Congolese follow those in Tunisia, and Zimbabweans those in Senegal. This puts the Chinese point of view at the heart of political life in Africa and in the majority of the least developed countries in Asia and South America. This includes the ‘pragmatic’ approach that has led to China’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote on resolutions against Sudan over Darfur. The attraction of this ‘South-South cooperation between developing countries’ is that it involves no interference, let alone lessons in good governance, on human rights, corruption, environmental standards or employment law. Journalists with Chinese media abroad, an army of entry-level workers, are recruited less for their professional competence than for their loyalty to the regime. They are intelligence agents, empire representatives, promoters of a ‘mutually beneficial cooperation’, and megaphones of official rhetoric.”


Barry Bearak in NYT, "Zambia Drops Case of Shooting by Chinese Mine Bosses".

“George Chisanga, the managers’ lawyer, said he received notification on Friday of the prosecution’s decision. By law, no reason needed to be given. A prosecutor contacted in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, refused to answer any questions about the case. ‘The charges had already been reduced to an attempt to cause grievous bodily harm with an intent to maim,’ said Mr. Chisanga, who contended that even that offense would have been difficult to prove, since the government itself had brokered agreements with the wounded miners not to pursue the matter. ‘My clients are very happy,’ Mr. Chisanga said. ‘The whole case is really about a clash of cultures, people from conflicting backgrounds who don’t understand how to deal with each other.’ Collum Coal Mine is owned by a Chinese businessman, Xu Jianxue. His four younger brothers operate the mine’s four shafts, employing Chinese supervisors from Leping, their hometown in Jiangxi Province. The supervisors speak very little English or Tonga, the two languages likely to be understood by their 800 Zambian employees, who at the time of the shooting were paid about $4 a day to walk more than 1,000 steps into the ground and work under conditions the government said were unsafe.”


Kevin O’Flynn in Moscow Times, "Eclectic Gala held for Soviet Leader".

“If you had ever been asked who would attend the 80th birthday celebration for the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, it is unlikely that you would have answered Shirley Bassey, the Scorpions and one of the Spice Girls. But they and many more stars were in attendance for a birthday party late Wednesday — a concert and an awards ceremony with the grand, almost James Bond title of ‘Mikhail Gorbachev: The Man Who Changed the World.’ Arnold Schwarzenegger, conductor Valery Gergiyev, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Israeli President Shimon Peres were among those who joined Gorbachev as well as Mel C — formerly Sporty Spice — as the night moved from cheesy and over-the-top to touching and back again in the blink of an eye.”


Andrei Konchalovsky at Opendemocracy.net, "Gorbachev: the wrong man for Andropov’s reforms".

“In 1957, Yuri Andropov was head of the CC international department under Khrushchev. He was then appointed Secretary to the Central Committee, in charge of interparty relations within the Soviet Bloc. I remember the time very well: Andrei Tarkovsky and I were friends with some young people who were working in Andropov's foreign policy consultancy group in the CC administration. There was Kolya Shishlin, Sasha Bovin, Zhora Shakhnazarov, Arbatov…. Andropov had employed them so as to inject some flexibility into the work of the all-powerful but cumbersome party apparatus. For Tarkovsky and me, meeting these people was a complete revelation, because they were young, free-thinking, educated, polyglot intellectuals. The freedom of thought that we enjoyed during our discussions at the dinner table — over lots of vodka — made me think that Andropov was different from those that had gone before him…. As far as I can see, Andropov symbolised a wing of the Soviet ‘liberals’, to a certain extent anti-Stalinists, though of course he never revealed this publicly. He was interested in European communism, which was natural, as he had always had dealings with Western communists.”


Douglas Rogers in WSJ on Jason Stearns’ book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, and Peter Godwin’s book, The Fear.

“This second war split the alliance. Angola and Zimbabwe sent troops to prop up Kabila. Rwanda and Uganda sought to replace him. They ended up fighting one another. There was old-fashioned trench warfare on the rolling savannas of Katanga province, where the Belgians once had sprawling cattle ranches: Rwandans and Burundians battling Hutus and Zimbabweans, hundreds of miles from their home countries. The second war was all about control of resources — Congo's vast reserves of diamonds, copper and cobalt — and Mr. Stearns is brilliant on who pillaged what and how. Ugandan diamond exports grew 10-fold after 1998 — even though the country has no diamonds of its own. The Christmas 2000 release of Sony Playstation 2 was a boon to the trade in coltan, a native mineral used in electronic capacitors. Rwandan exports soared to more than $150 million. President Paul Kagame himself described the Rwandan involvement in Congo as ‘self-sustaining.’”


Adam Hochschild in NYT on Jason Stearns’ book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters.

“One reason we shy away is the conflict’s stunning complexity. ‘How,’ Stearns asks, ‘do you cover a war that involves at least 20 different rebel groups and the armies of nine countries, yet does not seem to have a clear cause or objective?’ ‘Dancing in the Glory of Monsters’ is the best account so far: more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues, and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor, Gérard Prunier’s dense and overwhelming ‘Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe.’ A fatal combination long primed this vast country for bloodshed. It is wildly rich in gold, diamonds, coltan, uranium, timber, tin and more. At the same time, after 32 years of being stripped bare by the American-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, it became the largest territory on earth with essentially no functioning government.”


Henry Kissinger in NYT on Jonathan Steinberg’s book, Bismarck: A Life.

“Bismarck is often cited as the quintessential realist, relying on power at the expense of ideals. He was, in fact, far more complicated. Power, to be useful, must be understood in its components, including its limits. By the same token, ideals must be brought, at some point, into relationship with the circumstances the leader is seeking to affect. Ignoring that balance threatens policy with either veering toward belligerence from the advocates of power or toward crusades by the idealists. Bismarck dominated because he understood a wider range of factors relevant to international affairs — some normally identified with power, others generally classified as ideals — than any of his contemporaries. He came into office in a world beset by the memory of the Napoleonic period. The new order that emerged was based on the belief that the goal of peace could be achieved only by nations with compatible domestic institutions (shades of modern neoconservatism). The Holy Alliance of Prussia, Austria and Russia was created to police the continuation of essentially legitimist conservative states, committed to upholding rule by their royal families. The balance of power sustained Europe’s strategic equilibrium. When Bismarck became Minister­präsident, all these elements were in flux.”


Andrew Nathan in New Republic on Jay Taylor’s book, The Generalissimo, and Hannah Pakula’s book, The Last Empress.

“The sharpest battle over Chiang’s image was fought during and after World War II. The Luce magazine empire — Time and Life — and The New Yorker’s Emily Hahn, among others, loved the unsmiling, ascetic, and Christian general, who was always pictured in military uniform. They also doted on his photogenic American-educated wife, who had converted him to his faith. The two reportedly prayed together daily. They stood for the alliance of civilized forces East and West against the barbarity of Japanese militarism and German fascism. But on the other side there ranged such brilliant reporters from the field as Theodore White, who worked for Time but dissented from the party line, Life’s Jack Belden, Newsweek’s Harold Isaacs, Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times, Edgar Snow of the China Weekly Review and author of Red Star Over China, and Graham Peck, an Office of War Information official who wrote a brilliant memoir called Two Kinds of Time. They all portrayed Chiang as corrupt, venal, and weak. The wheel of historiography never stops turning. Both of the Chiangs have now come in for sympathetic reevaluations, each convincing in its way. Jay Taylor previously published an important biography of Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who succeeded his father as ruler of Taiwan upon the latter’s death in 1975 and presided over its breakthrough to democracy in 1986.”


Dave Kehr interviewed at TCM's blog.

"DK: I was somewhat alienated from the whole Bob Rafelson, Easy Rider thing. I don’t think I would write those things as negatively now as I did then. It was a polemical moment.  I liked Clint because of his association with Don Siegel. I thought his first film showed an awful lot of personal investment, and particularly in the way he was looking at himself as an object. It’s a theme that continues, consistently imagining his own disappearance, his own death, obsessively. Sudden Impact is the best of the Dirty Harrys because it gives him such a powerful, other form, a Dirty Harriet, which it was often called at the time. He more than meets his match. Directed masculine energy meets undirected female anger.

RES:  The way Eastwood pares away any affect in his performances, I think you even called it “Bressonian” in your review, really stands out in Firefox (1982) in which he barely emotes, like one of Bresson’s models.

DK: I know, and that’s a great example of him imagining his own disappearance. Because at the end of the movie he flies off away from the camera into this little dot.

RES: Another interesting aspect is how, as a secret agent in Firefox, he’s supposed to be a good actor, but he keeps screwing up. He’s portraying himself as a bad actor.

DK:  Which is what I loved about Pink Cadillac (1989). That was a movie I got a lot of crap for liking, but this is a movie about why Clint likes acting, and why he’s not very good at it.... His last great film was Gran Torino (2008), which is the summation of that theme, a film I found emotionally devastating. Literally handing over the keys to the new generation. Again he’s imagining his own death and irrelevance, but this time something comes after that."


Gerald Howard in Bookforum, "Performance Anxiety".

“Midway through Keith Richards’s largely genial Life, he uncorks a sudden barrage of invective against the film director Donald Cammell: ‘He was the most destructive little turd I’ve ever met. Also a Svengali, utterly predatory, a very successful manipulator of women…. Putting people down was almost an addiction for him.’ Only the narcs and his frenemy Mick Jagger come in for comparable slagging off. Why Richards should harbor such animus against this relatively obscure figure will puzzle anyone unfamiliar with the seedier precincts of late 1960s cinema, specifically the sexed-up, drugged-out background behind the notoriously lurid freak-out film Performance.”


Laramie Boomerang: "Wyoming guns and grocery store dropping food".


K.C. Johnson in CT, "Tex Winter gets nod from Hall of Fame".

“Winter, 89, brought the triangle offense he learned from Sam Barry into the NBA, where he won six championships with the Bulls and three more with the Lakers, all on Phil Jackson's staff. Winter also won 454 college games as a head coach, mainly at Kansas State but including stints at Marquette and Northwestern, and went 51-78 as coach of the Rockets from 1972-74. ‘Coach is special,’ former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause said in a phone interview. ‘This is long overdue but well-deserved.’ Krause hired Winter on July 8, 1985, shortly after he succeeded Rod Thorn. ‘It's the first phone call I made,’ Krause recalled. ‘He was helping out Dale Brown at LSU at the time and he said he would give me a couple of years. He stayed 14.’”


K.C. Johnson in CT, "Kraus should be next member of Bulls family to enter Hall of Fame".

“Ridicule him, if you feel you must, for lack of social graces or occasional verbal missteps. Then look up at the United Center rafters, where six championships banners hang. Or travel to Springfield, Mass., and stroll through the Hall of Fame itself. Phil Jackson is honored there. Krause hired him from the Continental Basketball Association to work on Doug Collins' staff. Scottie Pippen is too. Krause acquired his rights in that famous 1987 draft-day trade. Jerry Sloan, Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe are in. Krause helped draft them as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets. And now, come August, Rodman and Winter will be honored as well. Krause traded Will Perdue for the former and hired the latter, bringing the triangle offense Jackson has used for 11 championship teams into the NBA. ‘How many general managers have six championships?’ Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said by phone. ‘The first three championships, the only player who was on the team when Krause took over was (Michael) Jordan. Granted, he was Superman. But you still need a team. And then the second three-peat, Jordan and Pippen were the only two leftover from the first three-peat. So the guy obviously did a great job putting those teams together. Phil Jackson was on his way out of basketball. Krause spotted him coaching the Albany Patroons. Phil wrote in one of his books he had given up any chance of getting back in the NBA. He was about to go to law school when Krause came after him. I also remember one of the things Jerry said to me when I was interviewing him for the job was he was going to get Tex Winter. I didn't know the triangle from a quadrangle. But look at all the great teams he built.’”


Perfect Sound Forever Apr/May issue: Magma, Flamin’ Groovies, Vinyl Anachronist…

“He's also one of the very few audio dealers in the world who can let you audition a state-of-the-art 78 RPM rig. That's right. I said 78 RPM records, those ancient things they used to play on Victrolas. It may seem like an oxymoron to call 78 RPM playback ‘state-of-the-art’ in the 21st century, but listening to old lacquers at Terry's place will change your mind about those old records. While the overall sound quality will never trick you into thinking you're listening to a new LP of a modern recording, you will be transported to a different era. His rig, which consists of a Micro-Seiki SX-1500 VG turntable (which Terry has modded himself), two vintage Audiocraft AC3300 tonearms and a wood-bodied mono Benz-Micro cartridge with a 78 RPM tip, is nothing less than a time machine. It recreates an accurate and uncanny window into the original performance.

‘Did you hear the emotion?’ Terry said more than once after the conclusion of a particular track. I certainly did. As Terry played 78's from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline, I was reminded of those low-powered single-ended triode amplifiers I was so in love with just a few years ago. I was always mesmerized by the way these amps, which were also originally introduced in the first half of the 20th century, made human voices and solo instruments just hang there in the space in front of my speakers with eerie and life-like precision.”


J. Bennett in Decibel, "Pentagram: The Resurrection of Bobby Liebling".

“To fully appreciate Liebling’s seemingly precarious transformation, one has to understand just how tightly his proverbial cocoon was wound. The son of two Brooklyn-born Jewish parents, Bobby Liebling was born in December of 1953. His father, Joseph Liebling -- now 91 years old -- worked his way up through the ranks of the federal government, eventually becoming the Director for Security Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. Bobby’s mother, Diane, sang in the USO and in nightclubs until bobby was born. ‘I was always embarrassed being Jewish when I was little because I didn‘t know that Jews run the entire entertainment industry,’ Liebling laughs. ‘If you were Jewish in Virginia back then, it was the same as being black. Virginia crams the Civil War up your ass; they can‘t get enough of that shit.’”


The Descendents
• April 7, Long Beach Arena.
Ryan Ritchie in O.C.Weekly, "The Descendents Rise Again."


David Rees at Huffingtonpost.com, "What Would D. Boon Do?"

“The first time I heard the Minutemen -- on a Saturday afternoon in 8th grade, when my friend lowered the stylus onto ‘Shit From An Old Notebook,’ and the song somersaulted out of his RadioShack speakers in an ecstasy of spasmodic guitar and drum fills -- is the greatest ‘first time someone heard a band and their life changed for all time’ of all time.”


Jim Romenesko at Poynter.org, "How Seattle Times covered Cobain's death 17 years ago today".

"Back then The Times was a p.m. newspaper, and this was a breaking story. We chose not to use the picture by photographer Tom Reese that day, opting for another photo that showed only the house and the window into the room where Cobain shot himself, but without any sign of the body. After much discussion, we used the controversial photo on the front page the next day. My column explained the decision process: The discussion didn’t take place immediately, but while the photo lay on a desk in the newsroom people were drawn to it. ‘There was a lot of standing and looking at the picture,’ commented one editor."


In my spare time I run Gretsch Guitars: The Eddie Cochran tribute model.


Obituary of the Week

Vivian Bratton Wilson (1918 - 2011)

“The former Vivian Bratton was born in Chicago. She grew up in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, attending Englewood High School and later studied business at Roosevelt University. Her father, Luegemes Bratton, the son of slaves, had migrated to Chicago from the South as a boy and started the family's investigations and security business in Bronzeville in 1923. After his death in 1977, Mrs. Wilson stepped in as president and treasurer of Star Detective, by then one of Chicago's oldest black-owned businesses. Today, the company at 813 E. 75th St. employs more than 300 people and focuses on security services. Dunn, a veteran of the Navy and the Chicago Police Department, took over the business in 1988. She was joined by her daughter, Dominique Wallace, who now is chief operating officer.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.

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