Photo by Joe Carducci
The Fix is Out at the NBA
by Joe Carducci
Somehow the old Manhattan-Media major-market money bias that used to tell in NBA games, especially come playoffs, is finished. At least for now. In the past a team had to reach to finals to hope to get fair treatment. Once the finals are set there’s nothing to engineer except to avoid a league embarrassing sweep -- embarrassing because a sweep leaves money on the table. The East has lately been fairer because the Knicks have been uncompetitive for so long -- and that Ewing-Oakley-Starks team got mucho charity from the league’s refs and with Michael Jordan off playing baseball still couldn’t win a championship. NBA Commissioner David Stern once said that his favorite finals match-up was “the Lakers against anyone”, and that was admitting he’d given up on his Knicks while still denying the Celtics a chit, if not the Bulls too. Now that the Knicks make the playoffs again we shall see. But this year the league is unaccountably more than doubly competitive. Congratulations Mr. Commissioner! (Now can you please shit-can all that Lenny Kravitz-Prince-Pussycat Doll/Bonham Jr. fake music you’ve commissioned for the occasion?)
Generally there’s been only two actual teamplay teams in the league at any one year, and one hopes they aren’t both in the same conference so they meet in the finals. There are also usually two comer franchises which may or may not rise to contend, struggling as they are to either incorporate a superstar before he leaves for a contender, or to corral young guns trying to become superstars by never passing, always shooting. Unfortunately there are another twenty-six freaking collections of scrub-bait direct from American high schools and obscure eastern European mafia-run carnival leagues. Only this year the three strong teamplay teams, proven champs, are each sinking slowly due to age: the Spurs were eliminated first round, The Lakers swept in the second, and the Celtics just set courtesy the Heat.
The rising teams expected to contend are the Heat and the Bulls, and beyond these are the quality teams that made the playoffs with less pressure: Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, and Portland Trailblazers. And then there’s excitement as well in Denver, Indiana, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and even New York and maybe New Jersey. Half the league is looking forward to next season whether the fishing’s good or not! There hasn’t been such a grand level of professional effort ever, I expect. In the early years serious fans of basketball followed college and high school ball; the pro game was for suckers. Nobody trusted any professional sport other than baseball. And what’s to inspire this level of effort when these players, even the bench-riders are all set for life? Personal pride is often not enough because basketball is necessarily a team game and the need to be unselfish with the ball and understand when you have a shot and when a teammate does doesn’t come naturally, and one might think it would be even harder to come by today when so many of the pros skip college where coaches have more clout to force a young hotshot into a system.
The drama of a team jelling is often hard to see. It happened for the Bulls this year, but I don’t think the beat reporters in Chicago saw it coming. Charles Barkley on TNT was the first to note the team’s progress in the face of this season’s old-style NBA superstar media obsession with the Miami Heat. Miami’s GM Pat Riley and its superstar Dwayne Wade managed to out the free agent process as a kind of player-based collusion to engineer a contender in the checkbook Yankees mode. If it works it’ll not be because their superstars are playing three-on-five ball, it’ll be because the rest of their team come together not as deferential bench fillers, but as players who will step up and force the superstars to defer to them as the open man when LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are double-teamed. They will either learn this under the pressure the Celtics or the Bulls or Dallas or others may provide, or they will look quite foolish.
Chicago may not quite have the experience this year but it’s looked good for them ever since Boston traded Kendrick Perkins to OKC. The Celtics are a franchise with a long-term frame-of-reference, and they are trying not to fall suddenly out of contention as their all-star crew age together -- this happened to their last great run in the Larry Bird years. As it is they’re living on borrowed time courtesy Rajon Rondo. The Bulls practice only defense, and let offense take care of itself. This can make it look like pulling teeth to score a basket at the end of games. Derrick Rose can do amazing things but he still doesn’t use the double-team to find the open man; he still has a street-ball instinct to try to go through the double with an expressionist’s dribble and hope for the best. On the rare occasions this doesn’t lead to a turnover or foul, he often finds yet another double-team in the paint, but with four players now focused on him he sometimes finds Kyle Korver or Luol Deng or Keith Bogans out around the three-line. The Bulls are a deep team that get along well but is not quite living up to its potential. If they manage to win a championship this year they may collect quite a few as they grow into maturity.
And then there’s the Lakers… I mean, Mavericks. Since the Mavs swept the Lakers I can once again refer to them as the Flakers. Its always been enjoyable to watch this team with every advantage lose. In the eighties they’d lose every other championship to teams that were man-for-man their lessers but found it easier to summon the focus and desire needed. Dallas has the money to put a great team together but without the legacy of the finals as a discipline they remain soft in that Western Conference way. Its as if the ABA still lives on in the west. The Lakers, to give them their due, have considered day-to-day regular season games preparation for the real final contest with the survivor of the much fitter Eastern Conference. The rest of the west tends to get lost in the run-and-gun small-market hysteria of home game victories. But this Lakers implosion is due to the team tuning out Phil Jackson since he -- even he! -- was understood to be a lame duck coach, and his coach-on-the-floor Derek Fisher is now too old and the team’s superstar has never really matured. Just one month ago Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum inspired fear! Only the Orlando Magic, expected to contend this year are as disaffected.
Amazingly, Dirk Nowitzki has just gotten better and for a seven foot German clod who didn’t believe he belonged in the NBA in his rookie year, he has become the latest superstar test for his teammates. It’s probably down to Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler whether they have a chance to be champs. In the triple overtime OKC victory over Memphis, this battle of former Northwest teams (Seattle vs. Vancouver) was a good illustration of how at the middle level of play, superstars might overcome team ball. Durant and Westbrook can fail to work with their teammates and yet just barely overcome the better workmanlike team-ball of the Grizzlies because they aren’t quite deep enough to maintain forty-eight minutes of it, much less sixty-three. The temptations away from team-ball never end.
Next year we might really see a regular season roundelay in the NBA with so many teams and cities excited about their upside. Last summer’s free agent slave auction managed only to poison wells in Cleveland, Phoenix and Utah. Denver surprised itself by improving after losing their superstar to the Knicks. This summer’s though could damage more franchises as the Lakers go shopping (Hello Orlando!). Small market teams are having banner years and their full arenas might lead one to assume their players have truly bonded with their towns -- always a necessary fiction -- but they better keep an eye off the ball and on David Stern. He is the one man who is not sick of seeing Blake Griffin jumping over that mid-sized sedan to dunk the ball on All-Star Weekend as if that is what its all about.
"Derrick Rose and mom", from CT.
"Joakim Noah and mom", from CST.
"Tom Thibodeau, regular guy", from WSJ.
Harvey Araton in NYT, "Jackson’s Great Debt to Jerry Krause".
Los Angeles Flakers breakdown in LAT.
T.J. Simers in LAT, "It’s not a Magic moment for Lakers".
“As for Magic Johnson and everyone else, what bums. Throw in gutless, too, as well as classless. How bad is it when Magic, the team's vice president, goes on national TV to suggest the team be ‘blown up’ — before the Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs? How's that for leadership or loyalty from one of its very own? Although today everyone would probably be in agreement it's not too soon to ship Pau Gasol somewhere, if only to a shrink. ‘It's like they are already on vacation and didn't want to play this game,’ Magic said in updating his comments at halftime of Sunday's game. And some folks think columnists are too critical. It was only one week ago today that the Lakers were the favorites to advance to the finals in the West. But my how time flies when Magic is having a bad time, talking about ‘the players not believing in each other,’ while suggesting team owner Jerry Buss might have to trade Gasol or Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom. ‘The Lakers have two problems,’ Johnson told an ESPN audience. I would have guessed Ron Artest and Steve Blake. But he said the Lakers are ‘too slow and [have] no athletes. This is an athletic league now. When you think about all the teams that are still in the playoffs right now, they can all run fast and jump high.’”
Sheppardia Bocagei by James Fotopoulos
From the Desk of Joe Carducci…
Ned Parker in LAT, "Young men of Misurata feel the rush of war".
“From the gang leader who loved to peer at Moammar Kadafi's snipers through night-vision goggles, to the teenage fisherman who became the booby-trap king, to the young medical student who rode shotgun in his green scrubs, they were suddenly action heroes in a city under siege. They would say they fought because Kadafi's regime had robbed their families of freedom for nearly 42 years. But the truth was, they also got a charge from the sheer wildness of their city being turned into a full-on war zone, where civilized rules were tossed out the window and their sleepy little neighborhoods became the scenes of elaborate adventure games. They ran kamikaze with cooking pans of TNT to enemy hide-outs. They waved their Kalashnikov rifles and fired 106-millimeter shells from the backs of trucks spray-painted rebel red and black. They gave their leaders code names and shrouded their deeds in myth. For weeks the young men of Misurata fought alongside their fathers and brothers to flush out the snipers who had taken their city hostage. Today, the battle of the streets is won. But the threat from Kadafi's forces remains, as shells rain down from the outskirts of the western Libyan port city. And the young men will never be the same.”
Michael Peel in FT, "In Tripoli dissenters speak softly".
“Asked whether he wanted the ruler of 41 years to stay in power, he paused in thought for a moment. ‘Fifty-fifty,’ he replied, tilting his head from side to side. His qualified, and risky, criticism of Libya‘s autocratic leader is a sign of the sub currents of discontent running through Tripoli even as the regime puts on a show of strength and unified support. While plenty of people, whether viscerally or pragmatically, still proclaim their backing for the colonel at set-piece events and in snatched conversations, enough dissent spills over the edges to suggest a more nuanced reality.”
Theo Padnos in New Republic, "Why is Syria going up in flames?"
“In 1983, when Hafez al-Assad was in the hospital with heart troubles, Bashar’s uncle, Rifaat, led a mutiny in the nation’s military which brought Syria to the brink of civil war. Hafez somehow revived himself. The rogue uncle fled. Eleven years later, Bashar’s elder brother, Bassel, managed to kill himself in a high speed car accident. The younger brother, Maher, a shadowy figure who has established himself as head of the much-feared presidential guard, has turned up on YouTube videos photographing freshly massacred corpses with his cell phone. He has a funny air of abstraction about him, like someone indulging a scientific interest in the effect of bombs on human flesh. Bashar was the apple that fell far from the tree. He meant to be an ophthalmologist. During the first week of his presidency in June 2000, The New York Times looked forward in optimism. ‘Man in the News,’ said its headline: ‘The Shy Young Doctor at Syria’s Helm: Bashar Al Assad.’
Later that year Assad married Asma, a daughter of Syrian immigrants to England. She had grown up as Emma in Acton. She studied French at University College London, then went on to become an investment banker. Over the ensuing decade, she and President Assad cautiously but deliberately set about dispersing the cloud of medievalism which hung over Syria during the thirty year reign of the father.”
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in FT, "Infighting puts Ahmadi-Nejad’s authority at risk".
“Critics believe that Mr Mashaei, the head of the president’s office, pushed the president to challenge publicly the authority of Mr Khamenei, who has the last say in all affairs of state…. The term ‘deviant current’ is used in the anti-president media to refer to Mr Mashaei and his supporters, who claim to be descended from the last Shia imam, who disappeared in 947AD and will return one day to bring justice. A tape, attributed to Mr Mashaei, claims the imam‘s return is imminent. Mr Mashaei is said to be seeking the presidency and his critics accuse him of trying to remove the clergy from power and extend his own mix of ultra-nationalism and a radical version of the Shia faith -- beliefs that, analysts say, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad follows. The judiciary last week arrested more than 20 allies of Mr Mashaei, who were described in the anti-president media as ‘augurs’ and ‘exorcists’”
Eileen Byrne in FT, "Bitter memories cast shadow on Algerian street".
“As Algerians point out, they were the first to take to the street to call for democracy in 1988, and it cost hundreds of lives after the army opened fire. That unrest was followed by a shift towards political liberalisation, with measures for press freedom and a true multi-party system, only for this to be derailed in January 1992 when tanks moved in to halt the second round of a general election that the Islamic Salvation Front was expected to win.”
Nicu Popescu at EUobserver.com, "Morocco’s non-revolution".
“The monarchy might have played well on two scenes for decades, but playing a third role might have been one too many. In addition to being commander of the faithful and the de facto head of government, the king and his entourage are also the most important business actors in the country. The political system might have been more pluralist than in Tunisia and Egypt, and even if economic power is also slightly more diffused, the system reproduces the model of convergence of economic power, cronyism and rent-seeking around the palace so common in the Middle East. For years discussing or questioning the affairs of the king in the media was an absolute taboo. The king was untouchable. Those who dared touch the king could be exiled, imprisoned or fined at best. But the toppling of Ben Ali in Tunisia opened the gates to a flood of questions and debates about the king. This debate is still prudent. Newspapers do not venture into discussing specific business ventures, yet they question whether the king should be as involved in business as he is. An expert from Casablanca puts in stark terms: ‘The king should decide if he wants to govern or do business. If he wants to do politics, he should not be doing business.’ Certainly the issue is not related just to the king. Like in any centralised system there is always a whole bunch of family members, advisors or friends who are extremely successful businessmen.”
Sanchita Bhattacharya at South Asia Intelligence Review, "Fundamentalist Backlash".
“A Police spokesperson said nearly 200 protestors were wounded during clashes with riot-Police. An estimated 150 Islamic activists were detained, whisked away in prison vans. The apparent provocation of this unrest is the National Women's Development Policy (NWDP) 2011, declared by the Government on March 7, 2011, which includes, among others, a provision of an equal share for women in property and opportunities in employment and business. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, State Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, stated, ‘The approval of the NWDP has created a great scope for the advancement of women empowerment’. Women's rights groups have also backed the Government, urging an early implementation of the policy. Unsurprisingly, the NWDP has provoked the fundamentalists, who have rejected it as 'anti-Islamic' and 'anti-Quran' , and have orchestrated mass agitations across Bangladesh, demanding its withdrawal. An umbrella Islamist group, the Islamic Law Implementation Committee (ILIC), further threatened to paralyse the country if the Government did not scrap what it termed ‘anti-Islamic provisions’ in the NWDP. The NWDP is a revival of the 1997 Women's Development Policy, and is the fulfillment of an Election (2009) pledge by the AL. The 1997 Policy was formulated during the previous tenure of the Sheikh Hasina Wajed led AL Government (1996-2001). The Begum Khalida led BNP coalition Government (2001-2006), of which JeI was a part, approved another Women's Development Policy in 2004, deleting crucial provisions, such as ‘equal right’, ‘equal and full participation‘, ‘right to land’, ‘inheritance’ and ‘property’, or replacing them with ‘constitutional right’, ‘preference’ and ‘greater participation’.”
Jay Schalin at MEforum.org, "Torturing the Truth at Duke Divinity".
“ ‘Being a Muslim in the United States is another form of torture, a psychological torture, an emotional torture, and it's just getting worse,’ he declared at the ‘Toward a Moral Consensus against Torture’ conference at Duke University on March 25-26. The conference attracted approximately 100 left-wing academics, theologians, and members of the local activist community for some old-fashioned America-bashing. Antepli revealed that this so-called ‘torture’ is not the result of overt acts directed at him, but comes from his perception that many Americans are antagonistic to Muslims and expect Muslims ‘to prove our loyalty to this land.’ Such demands to ‘prove that we belong’ stem from a ‘great level of arrogance,’ he added. Antepli's condemnation of America did not stop there. He claimed that our government's use of torture (if that is what we have indeed been doing) is merely a ‘symptom of a larger pathological issue.’ American society, he contended, has been suffering from a ‘psychological, spiritual, moral disease.’ No mention was made about how Islamic societies compare in this regard. If America is a ‘sick’ society -- and Islamic societies are healthy -- then why are Muslims flocking to our shores in large numbers?”
Irshad Manji in WSJ, "Islam Needs Reformists, Not ‘Moderates’".
“‘Moderate’ Muslims are part of the problem. As Martin Luther King Jr. taught many white Americans, in times of moral crisis, moderation cements the status quo. Today, what Islam needs is not more ‘moderates’ but more self-conscious ‘reformists.’ It is reformists who will bring to my faith the debate, dissent and reinterpretation that have carried Judaism and Christianity into the modern world.”
Stefan Weidner at Qantara.de on Angelika Neuwirth’s book, The Koran as Text from the Late Antiquity: A European Approach.
“In order to extend the dialogue to include devout Muslims, much more must be done to show how the orthodox Muslim reading of the Koran developed from the book's open, dialogic beginnings and how this subsequently assumed its dogmatic form. The work under discussion here does include several examples of this, for example an explanation of the word kitâb, which means 'script' or 'book'. Whereas during Mohammed's lifetime, and in view of the emergence of a new religious community, the Arabic word kitâb described an original script in heaven and not the Koran, which was only just taking shape at the time, later generations of Muslims assumed that the word kitâb referred to the Koran, which itself then became a heavenly scripture in accordance with later canonical understanding, a divine 'book' that had always been in existence and the contents of which Mohammed had simply to reveal. This may have been an obvious "misinterpretation" during Mohammed's own lifetime, but from the viewpoint of later generations of Muslims for whom the Koran was available in its complete form, it was anything but irrational.”
John Burns in NYT, "A Quest for the Unholy Grail".
“Still, even unseen, the man and his cause were revealed in all manner of ways to those who pursued him. My own journey included a eureka moment in the old bazaar in the Yemeni capital, Sana, in August 2001, when a visit to a video shop specializing in jihadi best-sellers produced, from beneath the counter, a set of fresh-from-the-courier tapes that included hours of Bin Laden addressing Qaeda loyalists in Afghanistan. From the excitement in the eyes of the wizened old man who sold me the tapes, I judged that they might contain something unusual. After spending days poring over the tapes with an Arab-speaking scholar in a London garret, I came across a scene from early 2001 in which the Qaeda leader, apparently somewhere near Kandahar, framed against an azure sky in the flowing white robes of an ancient prophet, spoke to a gathering that seemed to include would-be suicide bombers, hailing a reckoning that lay ahead for America, and for them. I included that anecdote in an article I wrote in the days before 9/11, when its imminent significance was not apparent. The article was on the pending list at The Times’s foreign desk when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and it did not appear in the paper.”
James Taranto interviews Paul Wolfowitz at WSJ.
“He says that pro-democracy sentiment in the Mideast caught President Obama by surprise as early as June 2009. That was when Mr. Obama spoke in Cairo in what the administration touted as ‘a new beginning’ in U.S. relations with the Muslim world. The White House transcript shows that the president was interrupted by applause when he said: ‘The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.’ Mr. Wolfowitz observes that Mr. Obama ‘stumbled on the next sentence,’ which began: ‘I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years...’ Mr. Wolfowitz imagines what went through the president's mind: ‘He realized, 'There's something not quite right here. I'm about to say it's controversial, and... they've applauded the mere mention of the topic.' Which says that people do somewhat distinguish between the idea of democracy and freedom and the idea of the United States.’”
Aatish Taseer in FT, "Mine is shattered state run by a rogue army".
“The danger is of an army shamed and distrusted abroad while increasingly more destructive at home. Already it has done more harm to its people than to any outside force. The country was founded as an impractical utopia for India‘s Muslims in 1947. When this proved to be essentially nihilistic, making it a place that defined itself by not being India, the expectations on which Pakistan was founded fell away, and the army moved in. It led the country into a series of ruinous wars with India, undermined civilian government and entrenched itself in economic life -- becoming bread maker and property dealer, and consuming a fourth of the national budget each year.”
Gideon Rachman in FT on John Ikenberry’s book, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis and Transformation of the American World Order.
“The aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 opens up the liberal internationalist world view to a new critique: rising powers such as India and China are unlikely to accept the rules of a world system that has basically been designed in Washington. The problem with the liberal internationalist world view is no longer that the US is too powerful to obey the rules, but that it is now too weak to promote and enforce them.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore in FT on David Abulafia’s book, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean.
“The story is teeming with colorful characters, but its real heroes are the pirates, corsairs and admirals who conquered and fought on the Mediterranean. Of course, as Abulafia reminds us, one man‘s pirate was another man’s admiral. In the 12th century, for example, pirates such as Henry, Count of Malta became semi-royal rulers of their own realms. Abulafia is insightful on the origin of the word ‘admiral’. It is well known to be Arabic, but he goes further to explain how the word derives from the reign of the ruthless Norman King of Sicily, Roger II, who employed a pirate-adventurer-admiral type -- a Greek Christian named George of Antioch who had previously served as sea commander for North Africa’s Islamic rulers. The king appointed him ‘Amir of Amirs’ -- or General of Generals -- an Arabic title that was Latinised as ‘Amiratus’, and which gradually came to mean a sea commander during the 13th century.”
Matt Bradley in WSJ, "Egypt Clashes Turn Spotlight On Radicals".
“Prominent Salafi sheiks condemned the attacks on Sunday and denied their movement, which has no formal structure or hierarchy, was involved. The more moderate Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful Islamist political group in Egypt, also condemned the violence. Whereas the Muslim Brotherhood is a discrete political and religious institution with a formal leadership structure, Salafism is a catchall term that describes those Muslims who believe that only the Prophet Muhammad, his contemporary companions and the two generations of believers who followed them practiced Islam in its purest form. Despite sharing a few common political goals, such as the desire to see Sharia law incorporated into the Egyptian legal system, the Salafists' fundamentalist outlook is distinct from the Brotherhood's merely conservative ideology. Strict Salafis consider more moderate Islamists, such as the Brotherhood, as ‘innovators’ whose practice of the faith includes new or foreign concepts that were introduced into the religion long after the Prophet's death. Egyptian migrant workers who lived and worked in the Gulf region during the 1980s introduced Salafism to Egypt. They returned to Egypt flush with cash and convinced of a more fundamentalist ideology. Conservative religious satellite-television stations funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states remain popular in Egypt.”
Jochen Teuffel at Qantara.de, "Christianity and Critique of Islam".
“Coexistance under threat: ‘In cases where a Western, Christian reservation towards the Islamic faith and Muslims are brought into play, this is the surest way to discredit the Gospel and the crucifixion,’ writes Teuffel Participants in the debate about German society's recognition of Islam frequently make reference to a ‘guiding Christian culture’. In cases where this is intended to bring into play a Western, Christian reservation towards the Islamic faith and Muslims, this is the surest way to discredit the Gospel and the crucifixion. Cruciform tolerance is replaced here by a claim to religious power over people, applied by political means beyond the bounds of personal faith. For socially conservative Christians, the result may be short-term alliances with critics of Islam who are distanced from the Church or even with atheist Islam critics. In the long term, however, propagating a community of heirs to a Western, Christian culture can be understood as nothing but a ‘post-secular’ attempt to re-establish a partial bond to church traditions by means of social policy. When a claim to inclusion in society as a whole is newly made in the name of Christian values, it inevitably awakens the collective memory of the pre-Enlightenment corpus Christianum. The pathos of bourgeois freedom and self-determination is summoned up as a cri de guerre against the imagined restoration of religiously motivated social discipline.”
Nicholas Wade in NYT, "Finding on Dialects Casts New Light on the Origins of the Japanese People".
“In the case of Japan, archaeologists have found evidence for two waves of migrants, a hunter-gatherer people who created the Jomon culture and wet rice farmers who left remains known as the Yayoi culture. The Jomon people arrived in Japan before the end of the last ice age, via land bridges that joined Japan to Asia’s mainland. They fended off invaders until about 2,400 years ago when the wet rice agriculture developed in southern China was adapted to Korea’s colder climate. Several languages seem to have been spoken on the Korean Peninsula at this time, and that of the Yayoi people is unknown. The work of two researchers at the University of Tokyo, Sean Lee and Toshikazu Hasegawa, now suggests that the origin of Japonic — the language family that includes Japanese and Ryukyuan, spoken in the Ryukyu island chain south of Japan — coincides with the arrival of the Yayoi. The finding, if confirmed, indicates that the Yayoi people took Japonic to Japan, but leaves unresolved the question of where in Asia the Yayoi culture or Japonic language originated before arriving in the Korean Peninsula.”
Nicole LaPorte in NYTMag, "The Daddy Factory".
“Father School has been helping Korean men like Rhim become more emotionally aware since 1995, when it started at the Duranno Bible College in Seoul. The mission, drawn up at the height of the Asian financial crisis, was to end what the Father School guidebook calls ‘the growing national epidemic of abusive, ineffective and absentee fathers.’
‘Traditionally, in the Korean family, the father is very authoritarian,’ Joon Cho, a program volunteer, told me a few weeks before this session of Father School began. ‘They’re not emotionally linked with their children or their wife. They’re either workaholics, or they’re busy enjoying their own hobbies or social activities. Family always comes last.’ In 2000, Father School spread from Korea to the United States, and the program — part 12-step recovery, part Christian ministry — was tailored to meet the needs of Korean immigrant fathers dealing with Americanized kids who wondered why their fathers weren’t more like the touchy-feely dads they watched on TV. Since then, Father School has exploded. It now operates out of 57 American cities and has graduated nearly 200,000 men worldwide.”
Christopher Miller at Chronicle Review, "Yale in Singapore".
“What is wrong with Singapore? Why should a great American university not engage with a rising Asian state? According to Human Rights Watch in 2010, Singapore ‘remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state. Individuals who want to criticize or challenge the ruling party's hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits, and even prison.’ Singapore's penal code sets out more than 20 drug-related offenses for which capital punishment is mandatory. Most immediately troubling to me as a gay faculty member, male homosexuality is illegal in Singapore. Section 377A of the legal code bans consensual, private male homosexual activity as ‘outrages on decency,’ in effect making it illegal to be gay. Enforcement is not the issue here; this is a question of principle. Yale has no business establishing a campus in a state where some of its own faculty members are subject to arrest because of who they are. By doing so, the university has, in effect, violated its own nondiscrimination clause, which protects sexual orientation. Yale could have stayed away from Singapore until the repeal of Section 377A but chose not to. As a consequence, Singapore's discrimination becomes Yale's. Yale's engagement with authoritarian regimes in Asia is not new. The Levin administration has struggled for and won a special place in China.”
Seth Mydans in NYT, "Vote Forces Singapore’s Leader to Reconsider Style".
“The party’s popular vote, 60 percent, represented a steep decline from the previous two elections, down from 67 percent in 2006 and 75 percent in 2001. ‘The larger significance lies with the fact that the P.A.P.’s political dominance is slowly being chipped away,’ said Eugene Tan, an assistant professor of law at Singapore Management University. ‘There is a consciousness among Singaporeans that the one-party-dominance system is not sustainable in the long run.’ The vote also reflected the views of a younger generation, confident of its nation’s stability and economic security, that may be seeking what Mr. Tan called ‘a type of more normal democracy.’ ‘For younger Singaporeans born after 1965, the Singapore success story of moving from third world to first world in one generation actually has very little traction,’ he said. ‘To them the P.A.P. performance is not what they have done the last 30 or 40 years, but about what it has done in the last five years.’ The founder and architect of Singapore’s success, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was re-elected to Parliament, at the age of 87, in the only uncontested constituency.”
Sharon LaFraniere in NYT, "In China, Fear of Fake Eggs and ‘Recycled’ Buns."
“In recent weeks, China’s news media have reported sales of pork adulterated with the drug clenbuterol, which can cause heart palpitations; pork sold as beef after it was soaked in borax, a detergent additive; rice contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal discharged by smelters; arsenic-laced soy sauce; popcorn and mushrooms treated with fluorescent bleach; bean sprouts tainted with an animal antibiotic; and wine diluted with sugared water and chemicals. Even eggs, seemingly sacrosanct in their shells, have turned out not to be eggs at all but man-made concoctions of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin. Instructions can be purchased online, the Chinese media reported. Scandals are proliferating, in part, because producers operate in a cutthroat environment in which illegal additives are everywhere and cost-effective. Manufacturers calculate correctly that the odds of profiting from unsafe practices far exceed the odds of getting caught, experts say.”
Christopher Caldwell in FT, "Out with the intellectuals."
“Voters claim to like intellect, but they sure distrust intellectualism. Political opinions that shade to the left, as those of intellectuals predictably do, may have a bit to do with it. Mr Ignatieff had blocked Mr Harper’s attempt to end the national requirement that hunters register their ‘long guns’, and this hurt him in the west. Mr Harper was running on low taxes and free trade; Mr Ignatieff promised complex, social democratic spending measures, to be paid for by rescinding some of Mr Harper‘s corporate tax cuts. And yet, this explanation will not do for Mr Ignatieff. A run-of-the-mill academic leftist he is not. ‘I don’t want to be a party of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto,’ he told a reporter a few weeks ago, and that sentiment fits his journalistic career. He has been among the world’s leading proponents of militarised democratisation and genocide prevention. Whether you like those policies or not, they have drawn him into alliances and arguments that are distant from the predictable kinds of Ivy League sloganeering.”
Simon Kuper in FT, "How British eloquence masks ignorance".
“Numbers remain a challenge for Britain’s ruling class. It treats the City as a magical money-making machine, whose demands are best granted because lord knows how the thing works. Even the finance minister, George Osborne, has no education in economics beyond whatever he picked up studying history at Oxford. British public debate just doesn’t feature many numberate people such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or China’s ruling engineers. Britain’s own excellent engineers and quants are stuck in the engine room while the rhetoricians drive the train.”
Christopher Hitchens at Slate.com, "Chomsky’s Follies".
“With the paranoid anti-war ‘left,’ you never quite know where the emphasis is going to fall next. At the Telluride Film Festival in 2002, I found myself debating Michael Moore, who, a whole year after the attacks, maintained that Bin Laden was ‘innocent until proved guilty’ (and hadn't been proven guilty). Except that he had, at least according to Moore one day after the attacks, when he wrote that: ‘WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!’ So, innocent unless tainted by association with Langley, Va., which did seem to have some heartland flying schools under surveillance before 2001 but which seemed sluggish on the uptake regarding them. For quite some time, in fact, the whole anti-Bush ‘narrative’ involved something rather like collusion with the evil Bin Laden crime family, possibly based on mutual interests in the oil industry. So guilty was Bin Laden, in fact, that he was allowed to prepare for a new Pearl Harbor on American soil by a spineless Republican administration that had ignored daily briefings on the mounting threat. Gore Vidal was able to utter many croaking and suggestive lines to this effect, hinting at a high-level betrayal of the republic. And then came those who, impatient with mere innuendo, directly accused the administration of rocketing its own Pentagon and bringing about a ‘controlled demolition’ of the World Trade Center. This grand scenario seemed to have a few loose planes left over, since the ones that hit the towers were only a grace note to the more ruthless pre-existing sabotage and the ones in Virginia and Pennsylvania, complete with passengers and crews and hijackers, somehow just went missing.”
James Warner at Opendemocracy.net, "Dostoevsky versus Tolstoy on Humanitarian Interventions".
“From the summer of 1876 to the spring of 1877, there was heated public debate in Russia over whether to engage in the conflict in the Balkans. Fyodor Dostoevsky was passionately in favor of military intervention, for humanitarian and patriotic reasons – Leo Tolstoy, although not yet a fully-fledged pacifist, could not see the point of Russia getting involved. Dostoevsky was in tune with the popular mood. His serialised publication A Writer’s Diary, which ran around this time, often reminds me of the U.S. ‘war blogs’ of 2002-3. It’s fascinating how Dostoevsky’s various motivations for supporting the war merge and reinforce each other. His most laudable motive is his acute empathy with suffering, the sense of humanitarian urgency he has about putting an end to atrocities committed by the Turks. But he segues easily from reporting horrific massacres to fantasizing about a Russian conquest of Constantinople, the center of Orthodox Christianity. Dostoevsky admires Russian heroes and despises foreign diplomats, and condemns those who ‘rattle on about the damage that war can cause in an economic sense.’ He is sublimely confident the Serbs will welcome Russian intervention, and that those who don’t are an unrepresentative class out of touch with their own people. He has no sense that atrocities are occurring on both sides. Dostoesvsky feels that a national malaise has been conquered in Russia, and that the extent of popular support for the Serbs is proof of the spiritual superiority of the people to the intelligentsia. He is angry with those Russians who feel sympathy for the Turks.”
Pratyush at Opendemocracy.net, "The India-Israel relationship".
“India and Israel were on opposite sides of the Cold War, with the former being a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause routinely castigating the Jewish state for its ‘occupation’ of Palestine, even as Yasser Arafat was routinely received in New Delhi with a red carpet by his ‘sister’ Indira Gandhi. The end of the Cold War also ended the ideological moorings that had plagued India’s vision of world affairs, and in 1992 India’s Congress-led government headed by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao sought to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish State. In doing so, he reversed a four decade-old policy, ushering India into a full-blown embrace of Israel reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s grand opening to China in 1972, laced in Kissingerian realism. After all, decades of support for the Palestinian cause had not transformed into any visible Arab support for India on Kashmir and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summits had become little more than an annual India-bashing exercise. Furthermore, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had freed up the battle-hardened mujahedeen to take their fights to other lands, and a massively rigged election in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1987 made it ready fodder for waging an insurgency against Indian rule. The demise of the Soviet Union meant that New Delhi had to scout the international horizon for new partners even as it did its best to navigate the choppy waters of international diplomacy. Israel provided a clean slate for such a new beginning to be made, and every Indian government since 1992, irrespective of its political colour, has engaged Israel and transformed the relationship into a truly strategic one.”
Leigh Phillips at EUobserver.com, "EU wins new powers at UN, transforming global body".
“In order to win the vote, the EU had to agree to changes to the global organisation that transforms the UN from an assembly of nation states into a body that also offers representation rights to regional blocs as well, including potentially the African Union, the Arab League and the South American Union. The EU on Tuesday was given almost all the rights in the global chamber that fully-fledged states enjoy after the General Assembly backed 180 to two a resolution giving the bloc, which until this week only maintained observer status at the UN, the union the right to speak, the right to make proposals and submit amendments, the right of reply, the right to raise points of order and the right to circulate documents.”
Michael McDonald in American Interest on Heda Margolius Kovaly’s book, Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941 - 1968.
“Kovály describes in Under a Cruel Star what it was like to live under Nazism and under Communism. The process of dehumanization leads to ashes in both instances. She demonstrates how the worst elements under the Nazis became, after 1948, the most ‘patriotic’ Communists by concealing their wartime activities ‘under loud proclamations of loyalty to progress and socialism.’ The only difference between the two totalitarianisms is that the Communists vaunted their good motives and their adherence to a common progressive heritage. This, of course, is also the cover that enabled party members and fellow travelers in Western Europe to accept the purges of veteran Communists once praised for their loyalty. Stalinist society was founded on a universe of camps engaged in a cascade of mutual suspicion and serial displacement. While this moral Ponzi scheme degraded all who were a part of it, innocent victims subjected to arbitrary arrest and disappearance constituted the vast majority of the collateral damage produced by the system. As the late Martin Malia pointed out, it takes a great ideal to produce a great crime. Should those in power in Czechoslovakia who crushed the Prague Spring of 1968 be arrested for that crime? Many thought they should following the 1989 revolution. Yet there was neither a Nuremberg trial nor anything like it when Communism ended in Czechoslovakia. There is today no stigma attached to being an ex-Communist Party member as there is to being an ex-Nazi. Communism has somehow preserved its international legitimacy in amber, nearly unimpaired. How did this come to be so? Raymond Aron once said that ‘there is a difference between a philosophy whose logic is monstrous and one which can be given a monstrous interpretation.’ But should the goals of the murders matter?”
Samuel Goldman in American Conservative on Hubert Dreyfus & Sean Kelly’s book, All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age.
“Dreyfus and Kelly propose two major benefits of this revised polytheism. One is that it more accurately reflects experience than accounts that emphasize deliberation. How often do we actually choose a course of action and then execute it? Isn’t much of our reasoning about how to behave actually rationalization — that is, an after-the-fact explanation of why we did things that we had no conscious intention to do? By reducing the role of willed causality in human life, Dreyfus and Kelly think that they’ve diminished the abstraction that plagues academic philosophy. In this respect, they continue to pursue phenomenological approach that also inspired Heidegger.”
Paul Gottfried in American Conservative on Alexander Boot’s book, The Crisis Behind Our Crisis.
“Although there are many brilliantly written passages in his book, the ones that stand out are in his dissection of ‘liberal democracy.’ His ridicule of this now fashionable deity is withering: ‘Liberal democracy, so beloved of American neoconservatives that they are prepared to lay about them like MacDuff to spread it to every tribal society on earth, is in fact neither truly democratic nor particularly liberal. As it presupposes the ad infinitum expansion of a centralized state‘s ability to acquire ever-growing power over the individual, it is not liberal in any other than the virtual sense of the word. And as the state has dictatorial power (in spite of putting people through the charade of virtual elections every few years to make them believe they govern themselves), it is not democratic. In other words, ‘liberal democracy‘ has become nothing but a mendacious slogan of a virtual world.’ Note that Boot, a self-proclaimed monarchist, does not show even the slightest taste for any kind of ‘real democracy.’ he thinks most people are not eager to look after themselves as ‘individuals,’ and democracy in practice leads inevitably to centralization and bureaucratic control.”
Katharine Viner in Guardian, "Adam Curtis: have computers taken away our power?"
“‘In the 1960s, an idea penetrated deep into the public imagination that nature is a self-regulating ecosystem, there is a natural order,’ Curtis says. ‘The trouble is, it's not true – as many ecologists have shown, nature is never stable, it's always changing. But the idea took root and spread wider – people started to believe there is an underlying order to the entire world, to how society is structured. Everything became part of a system, like a computer; no more hierarchies, freedom for all, no class, no nation states.’ What the series shows is how this idea spread into the heart of the modern world, from internet utopianism and dreams of democracy without leaders to visions of a new kind of stable global capitalism run by computers. But we have paid a price for this: without realising it we, and our leaders, have given up the old progressive dreams of changing the world and instead become like managers – seeing ourselves as components in a system, and believing our duty is to help that system balance itself.”
MercoPress: "Malvinas events overshadowed by Royal Wedding complains Argentine minister".
“The minister revealed that the government did an in depth analysis and ‘reflection’ on the extensive coverage given to the Royal Wedding by the Argentine press compared for example to ‘the anniversary of the sinking of the cruiser Manual Belgrano last May 2 and the Argentine Air Force combat baptism on May first’. ‘As we see it, the Argentine media granted the Royal Wedding in London too much time and ink’, said the Defence minister who added that they should have realized ‘they played into the hands of the English since they sent us the ‘bill’ of the party’. Puricelli said that at the precise moment Prince William had the most media exposure, ‘the London press announced that the young pilot would be coming to Argentina for a ten weeks training course next September’. ‘It’s important for the Argentines not to fall to that submissive colonialist spirit of some of the media’ that seem to forget that Malvinas is a national cause and not an issue limited to the Armed Forces.”
Steve Moore in WSJ, "The Tax-Me-More Lobby Doesn’t Pay More".
“But the president is right that there is a seemingly endless number of terribly wealthy, guilt-ridden individuals who want Americans to pay more taxes. So why don't they? There is a special fund at the Treasury Department for taxpayers who want to make ‘gift contributions to reduce debt held by the public.’ But very few do. Last year that fund and others like it raised a grand total of $300 million. That's a decimal place on Mr. Zuckerberg's net worth and pays for less than two hours worth of federal borrowing.
There are also a handful of states, including Arkansas, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, that have set up accounts for people who want to contribute more to the public fisc, but the amount raised in these states is generally in the thousands of dollars, the equivalent of a rounding error in state budgets. When taxpayer groups in Massachusetts won an income tax rate cut to 5.3% from 5.85% in 2001, they created an option for those opposed to the cut to file at the old rate. But according to Massachusetts tax records, each year only about 1,000 tax-me-more enthusiasts — fewer than 0.1% of the state's residents — choose the optional higher tax rate. The total raised in voluntary tax contributions for the past tax year was a pitiful $69,000, which means the average income of the donors was less than $25,000 — hardly John Kerry territory. And this is arguably our most liberal state, where Mr. Obama won over 60% of the vote. So much for the irresistible liberal urge to ‘give back to the country.’ Groups like Responsible Wealth, a network of more than 700 individuals in the top 5% of income in the U.S., have raised millions of dollars in contributions from their ‘patriotic members,’ arguing for the need for more income and estate taxes to balance the budget. But that money isn't used to help balance the budget. It's used in lobbying efforts to force higher taxes on millions of other, often less wealthy Americans — which is hardly a self-sacrifice.”
Gillian Tett in FT, "Policymakers learn a new and alarming catchphrase".
“After the second world war, the debt of the advanced economies spiraled to about 90 per cent of gross domestic product, roughly comparable to today, which meant western governments desperately needed to find investors to buy the bonds. One consequence of the controls was they created a captive domestic audience for those bonds. Better still, because these bonds paid a yield lower than inflation, whenever those captive investors bought bonds, they effectively paid a hidden subsidy to the government, enabling them to reduce the debt.”
Timo Soini in WSJ, "Why I Don’t Support Europe’s Bailouts".
“At the risk of being accused of populism, we'll begin with the obvious: It is not the little guy who benefits. He is being milked and lied to in order to keep the insolvent system running. He is paid less and taxed more to provide the money needed to keep this Ponzi scheme going. Meanwhile, a symbiosis has developed between politicians and banks: Our political leaders borrow ever more money to pay off the banks, which return the favor by lending ever more money back to our governments. In a true market economy, bad choices get penalized. Instead of accepting losses on unsound investments — which would have led to the probable collapse of some banks — it was decided to transfer the losses to taxpayers via loans, guarantees and opaque constructs such as the European Financial Stability Fund. The money did not go to help indebted economies. It flowed through the European Central Bank and recipient states to the coffers of big banks and investment funds. Further contrary to the official wisdom, the recipient states did not want such ‘help,’ not this way. The natural option for them was to admit insolvency and let failed private lenders, wherever they were based, eat their losses. That was not to be. Ireland was forced to take the money. The same happened to Portugal.”
Amity Shlaes at Bloomberg.com, "Obama Needs Navy SEALs to Target Budget Next".
“The Obama plan promised to address the ratio of the national debt to the economy. But it cynically postponed the start of that project to an election year, 2014. Such details lent credence to House Speaker John Boehner’s allegation that the plan amounts to ‘a political broadside from our commander-in-chief.’ The problem, however, is greater than a specific executive. George W. Bush too worked tactically, sacrificing a long-term national commitment to reducing entitlements to a short-term plan for election victory that included expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs. The fault in the system is structural and dates back to 1974. Before then, a president really could play the hero. He could veto bills and also impound money already budgeted so that it wasn’t spent. President Lyndon Johnson vetoed or impounded billions, including planned spending by fellow Democrats on housing, agriculture and highways. Richard Nixon vetoed, too, even plans that sounded compelling, like one to help underfunded emergency rooms stay open. Nixon also impounded money, taking glee in withholding funds for laws Congress passed by overriding his veto, such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Congress so resented Nixon’s aggressive budgeting that they welcomed the opportunity to undermine him, and found a good one in the Watergate scandal. Exploiting Watergate-related hostility for the chief executive, Congress in 1974 passed legislation that had little to do with campaign finance, break-ins or Nixon’s character: the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.”
Gene Healy in American Conservative on Eric Posner & Adrian Vermeule’s book, Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic.
“Sometimes, the authors are so enamored with the elegant economic models they construct that they can‘t be bothered to check their work against observable reality. At one point, attempting to show that separation of powers is inefficient, they analogize the Madisonian scheme to ‘a market in which two firms must act in order to supply a good,’ concluding that ‘the extra transaction costs of cooperation’ make ‘the consumer (taxpayer) no better off and probably worse off than she would be under the unitary system.’ But the government-as-firm metaphor is daffy. In the Madisonian vision, inefficiency isn‘t a bug, it‘s a feature -- a check on ‘the facility and excess of law-making… the diseases to which our governments are most liable,’ per Federalist No. 62. If the ‘firm’ in question also generates public ‘bads’ like unnecessary federal programs and destructive foreign wars -- and if the ‘consumer (taxpayer)’ has no choice about whether to ‘consume’ them -- he might well favor constraints on production.”
Ira Stoll’s “F.A. Hayek letter to the editor”.
“To the editor:
Thank you for the review of The Constitution of Liberty, which included some high praise directed toward me and my work. Allow me, however, to reply to a few points. First, regarding race relations. Your reviewer writes:‘In American history, freedom for African-Americans did not evolve spontaneously. It required first a bloody civil war to end slavery and then intervention by the federal government a century later to bring about the end of legal segregation.’
Neither the Civil War nor the end of segregation, however, arrived sua sponte as government actions. They were products of a whole series of individual actions by abolitionists, by northerners who harbored runaway slaves, by individuals who marched and volunteered, by religious groups. Those actions were examples of what I'd call spontaneous order. And if government was on the side of freedom for African-Americans (which, by the way, I have no problem with, any more than I had any problem with the government fighting Nazism or Communism), it's worth also remembering that government was also on the side of segregation and slavery, not only in the Confederacy and in Southern state governments, but at the national level both in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act that forced northerners to return runaways to bondage and in the form of the Supreme Court's 1896 ‘Separate but Equal’ decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.”
Francis Fukuyama in NYTBR on F.A. Hayek’s book, The Constitution of Liberty.
“Hayek’s skepticism about the effects of ‘big government’ are rooted in an epistemological observation summarized in a 1945 article called ‘The Uses of Knowledge in Society.’ There he argued that most of the knowledge in a modern economy was local in nature, and hence unavailable to central planners. The brilliance of a market economy was that it allocated resources through the decentralized decisions of a myriad of buyers and sellers who interacted on the basis of their own particular knowledge. The market was a form of ‘spontaneous order,’ which was far superior to planned societies based on the hubris of Cartesian rationalism. He and his fellow Austrian Ludwig von Mises used this argument against Joseph Schumpeter in a famous debate in the 1930s and ’40s over whether socialism or capitalism offered a more efficient economic system. In hindsight, Hayek clearly emerged the winner. ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ builds on this view of the limits of human cognition to make the case that no government can know enough about a society to plan effectively. The government’s true role is more modest: to create laws that are general and equally applied; these laws constitute the matrix in which the spontaneous interactions of individuals can occur. (It may, however, surprise some of Hayek’s new followers to learn that ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ argues that the government may need to provide health insurance and even make it compulsory.)”
Shai Oster in WSJ, "China’s Rising Wages Propel U.S. Prices".
“‘Inflation has been damped pretty dramatically in the U.S. because it exported work to China and other places at 20% or 30% of the cost,’ said Hal Sirkin, a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. The years of dramatic reductions in costs are over, the firm says. Li & Fung traces the start of rising wages to the ‘Foxconn Effect.’ Foxconn is the trade name of #Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., maker of iPads for #Apple Inc., and computers for #Hewlett-Packard Co., among others. After a string of worker suicides last year at one of its China plants spurred Foxconn to defend its treatment of employees, the company raised wages 30% or more in a bid to improve worker conditions. That raise came as workers at other factories, including staff at a #Honda Motor Co. parts plant, went on strike for higher pay. Since then, the Chinese government has supported higher wages in part to address labor unrest, but also as way to boost domestic consumption and reduce reliance on exports to expand the economy.”
John Kass in CT, "Rich and me: How we fell out".
“We spoke the same language, Soutwest Side — without the H. We both understood the importance of Dibs when it snowed. We both loved the White Sox. He grew up in Bridgeport, to the north of the old Union Stockyards. And I was born at 52nd and Peoria, just to the south of all that livestock waiting for slaughter. And as kids, we both knew this truth: Fresh air in Chicago smelled like 40,000 hogs. Daley's rise to power, from prince of the city to its king, has been the driving story in Chicago for decades. On May 16 he turns Chicago over to a hand-picked successor. A city of tribes can't just watch the boss step down without feeling something, without reckoning. And today is my day to reckon with it.”
William Voegeli in Claremont Review of Books, "The Tao of Jerry."
“The political science is straightforward, however: four out of five Californians would rather inhabit single-family homes, the most basic element of the California dream, than live in apartment buildings, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. Indeed, the Los Angeles Weekly discovered that many of the city's most prominent advocates of ‘smart growth’ reside in single-family houses so far removed from the nearest mass transit as to make driving a car their only transportation option. It's just as well that the Democrats of Jerry Brown's era who found New Deal liberalism squalid and ignoble never came up with a policy agenda to implement their cultural critique. It's very difficult to imagine the set of laws and regulations that would have effected Americans' disembourgeoisement, and even harder to envision the successful political campaign that would have secured support for it. The worst thing even Frank Rich had to say about Disneyland in a recent column was not that it distracts us from our society's pervasive bigotries and pathologies, but that too many Americans now lack the economic wherewithal and security to go there. Jerry Brown won't be remembered, then, as the Democrat who figured out What Comes Next. Instead, he finds himself in his eighth decade with a surprising opportunity to clarify whether What Came Before can or can't work. One of the virtues of American federalism is that it allows for 50 answers, rather than just one, to the question of whether government should be expensive and expansive, or cheap and bare-bones.”
Theo Schell-Lambert in Good, "Jean Baudrillard and Los Angeles".
“Perhaps time is now fighting back against Baudrillard’s claims about Los Angeles. A Disneyland in 2011 seems more sweetly shabby than fanciful. And the city’s landscape still refuses to be effaced. Baudrillard was obsessed with L.A. as a flat, affectless space, and while he never meant that literally, the city’s topography can shock when you’ve been schooled on his teachings. Casually close to bad cellphone reception, hillier than San Francisco when the mood strikes, L.A. maintains a rugged physical presence that — at least now that its silly infrastructure seems less sinister, less like the vanguard of a dystopian future — can’t help but undermine accusations of being hyperreal. Is the city — in Baudrillard’s words, ‘an immense scenario and a perpetual pan shot’ — just one big movie screen? Maybe. And a great film to watch on a clear night in Griffith Park.”
Shirley Wang in WSJ, "The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction".
“The type of man a woman is drawn to is known to change during her monthly cycle — when a woman is fertile, for instance, she might look for a man with more masculine features. Taking the pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive upends this natural dynamic, making less-masculine men seem more attractive, according to a small but growing body of evidence. The findings have led researchers to wonder about the implications for partner choice, relationship quality and even the health of the children produced by these partnerships. Evolutionary psychologists and biologists have long been interested in factors that lead to people's choice of mates. One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the T-shirt study, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men's T-shirts. The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors known as pheromones. The study also showed that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women's own immune-system genes known as MHC. The family of genes permit a person's body to recognize which bacteria are foreign invaders and to provide protection from those bugs. Evolutionarily, scientists believe, children should be healthier if their parents' MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more pathogens. Couples dancing in a ballroom. When women are ovulating, they tend to be drawn to men with greater facial symmetry and more signals of masculinity, such as muscle tone, a more masculine voice and dominant behaviors. More than 92 million prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches and injections, were filled last year in the U.S., according to data-tracker IMS Health.”
Sheryl Stolberg in NYT, "Peace Corps Volunteers Speak Out on Rape".
“‘My own experience,’ she said, ‘was that the treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape.’ The women say Mr. Williams’s efforts, while promising, are not enough. They want Congress to pass legislation requiring, among other things, that the Peace Corps develop “sexual assault response teams” to collect forensic evidence and provide emergency health care and advocacy for victims after attacks. Mr. Williams said he was open to such legislation but has not committed to supporting it. But whether such a bill would pass Congress is unclear. Representative Niki Tsongas, Democrat of Massachusetts, is co-sponsoring Mr. Poe’s bill, but other Democrats are skittish about it. They worry that the legislation, and Wednesday’s hearing, might be used to undermine the Peace Corps — the legacy of a Democratic president — and cut its funding.”
Dave Kehr in NYT, "All Talking, All Singing, All but Forgotten".
“A few of the faces may be familiar. (Jay C. Flippen, like Jimmy Conlin later a hard-working character actor, turns up doing a risqué patter routine.) But for the most part these are acts forgotten by time, whose rediscovery greatly widens our sense of the vaudeville era. Here is the skinny young Eddie White, who tells a couple of ‘Hebrew’ jokes and belts out a rendition of ‘Mammy’ that makes Al Jolson seem dry; here is Frank Whitman, ‘That Surprising Fiddler,’ who apparently was able to make a living playing the violin with a playing card, a matchstick and a whiskey bottle. The surprise is the large number of nonsense comedians, specialists in crazy non sequiturs and bizarre visual gags, like the Mutt and Jeff comedy pair Born and Lawrence or the British brother act Val and Ernie Stanton, whose surreal riffs demonstrate that the Marx Brothers were far from alone in practicing this kind of anarchic humor. As the collection, which is largely arranged chronologically, moves toward 1930 and the normalization of the talking feature, the form of the films becomes more sophisticated, with multiple camera angles and occasionally more than one set. The proscenium effect fades away, and the films seem less like fly-in-amber records of stage presentations than little movies in their own right.”
Nicolas Rapold in NYT, "That Kovacs Touch: Comedy’s Lunatic Fringe".
“Kovacs himself called his on-screen exploits part comedy, part experiment. He gave news bulletins from ancient Rome, kibitzed on the air with staffers off screen, sent a car crashing through the floor, deployed oscilloscopes and kaleidoscopes and matting effects, staged elaborate visual symphonies, parodied other shows from Superman’s to Edward R. Murrow’s, and even laced the credit roll with jokes. And then there was that master class in comic timing, the Nairobi Trio: three expressionless gorillas in long coats playing Robert Maxwell’s ‘Solfeggio,’ an insipid tune that, to slow-burn frustration, invariably involved drumstick-to-cranium percussion. Kovacs loved to incorporate the unexpected into his programs, and when a cue card was held too far away to read, or a horse for the next sketch was making too much noise, he’d comment on it. ‘He reminded people, ‘Hey, we’re making this, and it’s not just a fantasy, it’s a reality for us.’ In doing that he quickly dismantled TV just as it was being invented,’ said Joel Hodgson, creator of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’ the movie-mocking showcase that traces its cardboard sets to Kovacs’s fondness for low-budget props and costumes.”
“Mommy, Germans are different!”
Corporate Rock Still Sucks!
SST RECORDS DJ ABENDE
DJ SST-ONE (Bremen) / Trust Fanzine
DJ SCHIPPY (Köln) / Trust Fanzine
• Thu. July 21, SUBSTANZ, München.
with DJ TOMASSO
• Fri. July 22, Dreikonigskeller, Frankfurt.
with DJ AL-DENTE (kein Fanzine, Bockenheim!) DJ JO THE GARDENER (Frankfurt) / Trust Fanzine
• Sat. July 23, Qlosterstüffje, Cologne.
Henry Rollins in the LAWeekly on downloading and Black Flag.
Jay Babcock on the not quite released MC5 doc.
Greil Marcus probably gives an overdue trashing of Keith Richards’ fake book, Life, at LA Review of Books, though its possible his standard is just too high for the Rolling Stones. They were just grubby a-holes who wanted to disappear into American R&B, they weren’t icons or prophets, though they at times attempted to fill this role that American college students had in mind for them if they were to back into “appreciating” this music of their social inferiors in American terms. It was most important to them that the Stones were British and that they spoke in major concept album statements. Keith probably was a force to deflate this frameup generally, but it might be too much to expect him therefore to produce a book as good as who-all?! I recently bought a five dollar collection of Rare Earth. It’s quite good, of course, and the short liner notes mention they were formed in 1960. Think of that. Five or six working class white guys in Detroit love fifties R&B and rock and roll, master it by playing covers in school, bars, and halls, mixing in originals, get signed to Motown, have big hits. They were what the Stones wanted to be. Revolution, the south of France, heroin, Jean-Luc Godard…. It was all one big misunderstanding.
Mondo Memphis (Creation Books).
“Mondo Memphis is a dual, 450-page encyclopedic history and psychogeography of the city of Memphis, written by legendary performer Tav Falco and cultural critic Erik Morse.”
Monte Hellman series at American Cinematheque, Hollywood.
• Thu. 12
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) MH / Warren Oates, James Taylor, Dennis Wilson.
Ride in the Whirlwind (1965) MH / Cameron Mitchell, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stanton.
• Fri. 13
Cockfighter (1974) MH / WO, DS, Troy Donahue, Millie Perkins.
The Shooting (1967) MH / MP, JN, WO, Will Hutchins.
• Sat. 14
Road to Nowhere (2010, LA premiere) MH / Fabio Testi.
Lon Chaney silents at Aero Theater, Santa Monica, with live musical accompaniment.
• Thu. May 19
The Unholy Three (1925) Tod Browning / LC, Mae Busch, Victor McLaglen
The Unknown (1927) TB / LC, Joan Crawford
Chicago Tribune editorial cartoon gallery
John McCutcheon-1908 to Dick Locher-1982.
Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.
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