a new low in topical enlightenment

Monday, August 8, 2011

Issue #109 (August 3, 2011)

Trees at Cantigny, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

Singles and Albums of Recordings of Performances of Songs
by Joe Carducci

A couple weeks ago there was a story the Daily Mail told well as “Voice of Thomas Edison’s talking doll heard again after 123 years as scientists crack the code of mysterious metal ring.” First the ring had to be identified for what it was, an encoded recording medium developed before the shellac disc or the wax cylinder in the same Edison lab in 1888. The recording is 12 seconds of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” which can be heard at the link above. As John Stevens reports:

“Edison hoped to mass-produce the toys, but the era's rudimentary technology meant that to make 100 dolls, Edison would have to get artists to recite the lullaby 100 times.

'They must have been hired and paid to do this,' Mr Feaster said. 'These were presumably the first professional recording artists.' The small piece of ring-shaped tin bearing the woman's voice never made it into a doll because wax records replaced metal ones by 1890, when Edison started selling his first talking dolls. Those fragile and easily broken toys were a market flop.”
(Daily Mail)

Edison and his team were inventing many things in all directions in the late nineteenth century, but most of these interacted or dead-ended in curious ways once the market for them got involved. Edison had intended from the start that the motion picture be accompanied by sound, to be synchronized from a wax cylinder or a disc. That people were so interested in “silent” film exhibitions even when accompanied only by music was unexpected by the inventor. The “living picture” assumed a life of its own and jumped out from his control and was considered by Edison something of a botched project -- Edison’s company stopped producing movies around 1917, ten years before sound became standard.

The recording industry was another escapee of the Edison lab. The wax cylinders played one song, at first a two minute maximum, then doubled to four. The 78rpm Gramophone record was invented and developed by what became Victor. One-sided discs of varying rpms were issued until 78 became the standard; then Columbia invented the b-side in 1908. Thereafter the cylinder waned and one bought two songs when one bought a record, until Columbia introduced the 12” 33 1/3 rpm microgroove album in 1948. The now RCA-Victor introduced the 7” 45 single next year so the dominant two-sided single continued for decades as the 45 supplanted the 78. The LP supplanted the multi-disc 78 collections used to offer symphonies and musicals, but took a while to challenge the singles market. That was a challenge best never made because the album was a key development in the eventual taming of rock and roll.

At first albums were put together by record label A&R men in collusion with managers and publishers. It took two hits, sometimes just one, to sell an album that was otherwise full of out-takes or one-offs of songs the band had no interest in, if in fact they were recorded by that band at all. But as the label was required to pay mechanical royalties on these filler songs too, they often served as insider payola deals to favored record and radio industry apparats the musicians may or may not have known. Such albums debased a band’s reputation with its fans, and often with record retailers and radio stations too. That type of album gradually disappeared in the late sixties as the concept album, or at least the band-authored album, became an all but necessary fiction for even the lowest rec-biz scum, and any artist not playing Las Vegas nightclubs.

The album was not a natural vehicle for rock and roll or for any band. And the record industry got timid in its signings as it had to consider the extra cost involved in paying to record an entire album in the style of difficult-artistic-geniuses recording deep-novelistic-experimental-concept albums. In truth, even free self-directed bands easily rationalized as musique concrete or surrealism such album filler that would’ve made the worst jukebox gangster of 1962 blush with shame. In fact college-boy pretension made the whole album game work. Suburban living room hi-fi album culture was one thing, but Dylan and other folk scene tropes got inflated by art school gestures that came over with the British Invasion like small pox.

There’s audio redundancy in hearing perhaps twelve songs in a row by a single artist. That worked fine in live venues where the ear gets to explore full-frequency acoustic phenomena unmediated by any electronic filter. But to keep the ear from falling asleep in the less vital mode of listening to mediated playback of canned performances, a programmer ought to move the playlist along from artist to artist so that each group of musical voices come in sequence from a different place and force the listener to adjust and find their bearings anew -- excitement… the unexpected….

Ben Ratliff in the NYT wrote up an interesting experiment in live music presentation in “A Team of Introvert and Extrovert”. He describes the recent Brooklyn dual gig by Weezer and Flaming Lips:

“And so for two and a half hours they traded off, usually three songs at a time, through old and new material, keeping you alert: a good thing, as full shows by either band can make you check your watch. The frame was the experiment, not the contents.”

As a gimmick that’s one that makes sense musically, though perhaps Flaming Lips aren’t the band to go see under any condition. With Weezer I’d put some band a bit rattier about their tunes like The Breeders, or someone more liquid in sound though there maybe nobody capable of that in this era. Anyway, for the record, the album was a mistake.

New York Times Nostalgia weekend
by Joe Carducci

This was one of those weekends when the New York Times’ reigning watchers-of-the-passing-parade came to realize how much they miss all the old Republicans of yore they used to hate so much, those who only now might be appreciated as the current crop stoop to bomb-throwing terroristic criminality. Maureen Dowd in her “Tempest in A Tea Party” expresses misty-eyed appreciation for Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich (“they still believed in government, sniffle”); Frank Bruni in what may be his columnar audition “Taxes, and a Dangerous Purity” tries to turn even the Constitution’s ban on the establishment of a state religion into a mere notion, fully nuanced to the f’in max, because Grover Norquist described the proscription as an absolute; Tom Friedman, apparently unfireable, fills his news-hole waxing bromantic over George Herbert Walker Bush in his column, “Bring Back Poppy.” If somebody else on the masthead reported yearning for good old reactionaries the stripe of Barry Goldwater or Joseph McCarthy or Adolf Hitler, I missed it (there are a lot of chimps grinding it out at the Times, some only make the cyber-Times).

Sam Tanenhaus is the high-brow of the bunch and his “news analysis” “Jefferson’s Tea Party Moment” does actually reframe the recent debt-struggle into an historical context, thus allowing much gas to escape the melodramatic pressure the rest of the news media has been busy pumping up. Tanenhaus recounts the history of this nothing less than foundational conflict. I thought it was new low! Naturally its all foundational! What else could it be? They only let white male property-owners vote back then and still folks voted themselves free money, goods and services when they could. But in the newsmedia it can pay to refer to “hostage-takers” or “extortion” or the Taliban or Hezbollah faction of the Republican Party in a kind of pseudo-refined broad-sheet tabloid style inversion. Then in the Times there’s Tuesday’s #1 emailed fist-bump to a fellow-NYT-comrade by former business reporter, and perchance would-be columnist Joe Nocera, “Tea Party’s War On America”:

“These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.”

True horror, my man. Not the bunk shite Krugman’s peddling. We almost lost the full faith and credit in and of America this week. Now that we didn’t, where were we? Oh yeah, back to QE3 and the tax hike on the wealthiest Americans. What, there’s only one wealthiest American? Well just how much money that puto hiding from us?! Nocera looks like old enough to remember the seventies but there’s no evidence of it. If political hardball was bad form then we’ve been destroying democracy since we invented it.

The NYT’s Tea Party beat reporter, Kate Zernike in her “news analysis” “That Monolithic Tea Party Just Wasn’t There,” does her best to ground the opinion of her paper in something besides social coloration but its probably hopeless:

“Those on the most purely libertarian end of the Tea Party spectrum want to reduce the size of government and reduce the debt, even if this means cutting Social Security, Medicare and military spending. But many Tea Party supporters are better defined as conservative Republicans, who want to see the party push for less government spending, but who also believe in the importance of military spending. As they stumbled for weeks toward the agreement that came Sunday, Republicans and Democrats alike were governed by the assumption that the Tea Party did not want any increase in the debt ceiling, that it was willing to support huge spending cuts to popular programs and that it would see even closed tax loopholes as tax increases. Yet polls had long shown Tea Party supporters identifying the economy and jobs — not reducing the federal debt — as the most important problem facing the country.”

Of course it is true that the Tea Party has a debate within it; its far to diffuse a movement to enforce a discipline. This itself is a structural response to decades of having to listen to Democrats and Republicans stay on message so effectively that they get elected for no known reason. The debate within is a real response to the palpable sense they sensed, not first but more deeply and in greater numbers, that massive debt, a fake currency, gamed banking and insider labor deals were in sum somehow reaching a tipping point and had something as well to do with creeping federal control of formerly local affairs and beyond that further federal deference to UN mandates. It is not a sign of terrorism that this weakening of America calls forth a defense of America. The Times has several times expressed surprise in its pages that the right could be benefiting from the crisis. But how could the left benefit? It is in a defensive crouch. You wouldn’t know they had a thing to defend listening to them, but watching them, oh yeah. Turns out they won the last century and have a lot to lose. It sometimes seems they are determined to blow up the country to keep their rents and tribute no matter how much borrowing and mortgaging must be done to maintain the flow.

The class war reflexes of The Times and many other organs of the American intelligentsia aren’t as subtle as they believe. I wrote last week about how they are currently leaving cross-aisle deals on the military, marijuana, taxes, and foreign policy on the table rather than work with their social lessers, these hostage-takers in the Tea Party. A knot of bipartisan centrists is preventing left-right change and using class-based contempt through the news media to disguise their self-interest as responsible adult probity. Meanwhile Maureen Dowd follows with “Washington Chain Saw Massacre” belaboring without really utilizing horrorshow metaphors cribbed from Wikipedia but blamed on her brother. We all know who the vampire is in this drama and what he seeks to turn into a handy zombie-like host.

The NYT’s escapee Frank Rich popped off in New York mag with “Obama’s Original Sin” where he coins the President’s trouble, “He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys.” Rich believes in some kind of labor-led new New Deal (don’t they all) but he’ll settle for putting some bankers in jail and raising taxes. He does love his theater. Somehow this post-Marxist hobby left doesn’t quite understand that the game is up; the whole Keynesian insider public sector game is over. Under George Bush there never was an opportune time to raise the interest rate, and Barrack Obama would lower the damn thing if he could! Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin write their opinions for the Financial Times now; what could that mean? But Rich and the Times still believe there’s money enough out there in rich guys’ bank accounts and in the Pentagon’s budget to sustain the unsustainable: Social Security & Medicare & Medicaid & Federal Healthcare & Fannie & Freddy & humanitarian interventions & foreign aid & student aid & corrupt labor deals & free birth control & open borders…. If the extortionists fail to retrack the state onto its necessary tasks it may soon fail to accomplish even those. The host has glimpsed the fleeing vampire at dawn and as he rubs his neck in his light-headed delirium knows that he has until night to save himself.

Press addenda

The Times metro desk has broken incredible corruption stories recently. Russ Buettner’s Medicaid story, part of the “Abused and Used: Spending Under Scrutiny” series, is linked down below in the flow.

In Tuesday’s “Science” section Nicholas Wade has a nice summary of revisionist anthropology, “Sign of Advancing Society? An Organized War Effort”. It notes the old anti-western anti-modernity biases of formerly mainstream Anthropological opinion, which I investigated myself for use in my Anthro-comic vampire script, “Homo Vampyrus”. I found the Chaco Canyon and Kenniwick Man stories very telling and useful. Here’s an excerpt from Wade that no doubt reads as more Darwin than all the secularist true believers on the Times’ subscription list could want:

“Some archaeologists have painted primitive societies as relatively peaceful, implying that war is a reprehensible modern deviation. Others have seen war as the midwife of the first states that arose as human population increased and more complex social structures emerged to coordinate activities. A wave of new research is supporting this second view. Charles Stanish and Abigail Levine, archaeologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have traced the rise of the pristine states that preceded the Inca empire. The first villages in the region were formed some 3,500 years ago. Over the next 1,000 years, some developed into larger regional centers, spaced about 12 to 15 miles apart. Then, starting around 500 B.C., signs of warfare emerged in the form of trophy heads and depictions of warriors, the two archaeologists report in last week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One of the regional centers, Taraco, was destroyed in the first century A.D., probably by forces from Pukara, the other principal regional center of the area. Pukara enjoyed its status as a pristine state until about 500, when it was absorbed by Tiwanaku, the principal state on the other side of the Lake Titicaca basin.”

Recently the Chicago Tribune has changed its tune, and it wasn’t just getting rid of the Sam Zell regime; Bruce Dold has been at the Trib for thirty years, on the editorial board for twenty and running it the last ten years. On TV he often looked like he was smarter than his personality allowed him to display but never really declared himself, in that modern post-McCormick way all Tribunites seemed schooled to showcase. Perhaps the Zell-Randy Lewis-Lee Abrams regime just weathered hit Dold like a near-death experience, but recent editorials are better and more to the enduring fiscal point than anything in the WSJ recently. These unsigned editorials have perhaps also been altered in form and content by events in Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota, and perhaps too by the opposite approach that Illinois is following under Gov. Pat Quinn -- the highest high-minded set of hemorrhoids ever to rest in the governor’s chair in Springfield. Here’s a bit from Tuesday’s Editorial, "Don’t lose your focus".

“The totality of this legislation is, as we wrote in Monday's Tribune, a good beginning. Going forward, relentless demands from citizens for a far more dramatic slashing of future deficits could return government to a level our economy can afford. But if we as voters get distracted, or forgetful, or just plain irresolute, count on congressional veterans of other short-lived financial epiphanies to find ways around those bigger, late-2011 cuts: Interest groups desperate to shield entitlement programs from any economizing — even if that means this is the last generation that enjoys these federal benefits — will lobby fiercely to unravel this deal's enforcement mechanisms. But those giant programs simply have to give: Setting aside the government's rising interest payments on its debt, Washington spends about half of the remainder on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other programs for retirees. And the baby boomers are just now beginning to arrive and collect. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, was correct Monday when he likened reform of the nation's grim finances to turning an aircraft carrier. He was urging all of us on the crew to appreciate this effort to begin turning a government that until now hasn't had to worry about the size of taxpayers' debt.”

The next day’s Tribune Editorial, “Amaze us, ‘supercommittee’", follows up on the mechanics of some possible surprise, though I remember the decades-long base-closing committee’s underachievements. (Also, these Tribune Editorials have been laid out on the page beautifully in the Tribune revamp. They run across the page with as much authority as the not-so-broadsheet Trib format allows.) The NYT’s same-day version,“Hiding Behind the Budget Act” simply chides the committee idea as an “antidemocratic gimmick” and urges them to man up as if the Times’ Editorial Board really wants brave leadership to depart from or part with any piece of what the last eighty years of Keynesian supergoverning has delivered. The government does not need and will not abide a governor, they announce. The Onion was making fun of the American slob in the street when they immediately tagged the recession with their genius headline, “Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In”; turns out Americans are on their way to a new realist social compact, and the Onion’s headline might more accurately have read, “New York Times Editorial Board Demands New Bubble to Invest In.”


Simon Kuper in FT, "What I’ve learnt as a journalist."

“Typically, the person who taught me most about journalism was a politician. One boiling afternoon in 1995 I went to the House of Commons to interview the Labour MP Frank Field. (He is now ‘poverty tsar’ in David Cameron’s government.) We sat outside in the bar by the river. ‘I wanted to ask you about pensions,’ I said. ‘I was going to ask you about that,’ said Field. It was too hot and we ended up talking about journalism instead. Most journalists (I seem to remember Field saying) didn’t know the history of their field. When the minister said, ‘We have a whizzo new scheme for social security,’ everyone wrote about the scheme as if it really were new. But, Field said, it almost never was. British governments had given some sort of help to poor people for about 400 years. Most schemes had been tried before. If a particular scheme wasn’t law now, that was generally because it had failed at some point in the past. However, said Field, few journalists knew that. They just knew what the minister had said that morning.”


Nat Hentoff in Village Voice, "When Rupert Murdoch Was My Boss".

"Now that Rupert Murdoch himself is the news, I add to his legend what it was like when he owned the Voice. First, a necessary prelude: The last time I saw him was after he had sold the newspaper. It was at a book party at Fox News in New York for Judge Andrew Napolitano, whose beat is to fiercely protect the Constitution—including denouncing Bush-Cheney and Obama. Having often quoted Napolitano, I was there at Fox that day. Seeing Murdoch, I went to where he was seated. Identifying myself as from the Voice, I gave him my clearly unwelcome congratulations: 'You are the most effective labor organizer I’ve ever known about.' Murdoch knew what I was talking about. Lowering his head a bit, he sighed, 'The Village Voice, the bane of my existence.' He had no idea, of course, that years hence, his News of the World, Britain's long most powerful and profitable newspaper, would be a worse thorn in his side. My tribute to him was about what happened soon after he bought the Voice, among his other U.S. properties at the time. For quite a while, other staffers and I had been trying to bring a union into this newspaper—and we failed. The young staff had been strongly against the war in Vietnam, as had I. But organized labor, the AFL-CIO, stoutly supported our involvement. Accordingly, most Voice employees were anti-union. Being anti-union was also Murdoch's reputation.... This bitterly anti-union side of his history was circulated at the Voice and quickly, employees from nearly all divisions filed downtown to District 65 on Astor Place—a catch-all local spanning workers at various shops. It was later absorbed by the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), the present representative of Voice workers."

Planet of the Apes
by Joe Carducci

Terrence Rafferty writes up most of the Planet of the Apes productions, from Pierre Boulle’s novel to whatever opens Friday, in his New York Times essay “Apes From the Future Holding a Mirror to Today”. I imagine the new, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a parallel sequel, though Rafferty says it features genetic engineering rather than the nuclear-worshipping mutants of the original first sequel (!), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), which I remember liking as much or more as the first film from 1968. I liked that enough to read the novel. I think the Eiffel Tower plays the role of the Statue of Liberty in Boulle’s original money-shot at the end. I liked that enough to read a collection of his sci-fi short stories called “Time Out of Mind,” which was also good. The films did not have great directors but they were all at least TV pros and some of the shots and sets really worked well. I recall the TV ads in 1968 really looked great with the mounted gorillas rounding up the humans. I don’t mean mounted like on the wall of course. Oddly the Ape planet featured a society where gorillas were soldiers, chimps were civilians, and orangutans were judges; this is more regimented yet also fully a multi-species society. Racial differences on this planet of the hominids don’t signify nearly as much.

With the studios combing their vaults for fully owned revivable properties -- they’ve sunk to these masturbatory synergies to now -- Rafferty is right it is surprising that the Apes line was extinct for so long. The original landed in a hell of a zeitgeist, of course. Westerns picked the race issue back up around 1950, regarding Indians and Mexicans mostly, and a few prestige features were made regarding black-white relations, some good, some bad, all timely, but those earnest films with their sacrificial noble savages and even nobler white liberal savior-survivors, called for just such a drive-in style melodramatic bombing as Planet of the Apes did to such pieties.

David Lightbourne wasn’t particularly interested in film, though when I first met him he was working at Cinema 21 in Portland, Oregon. Before he gave up on rock and roll and folk music and got into blues he was most turned on by radio superheroes and comics, but he told me once that his number one film-going experience of all time was seeing Planet of the Apes at a packed theater in the Boston ghetto in 1968 -- the film opened first in New York and Los Angeles and then it opened wide on April 3, 1968, the day before Martin Luther King Jr was murdered. I remember where I was on that day and it wasn’t anywhere near any ghetto. I didn’t know Dave then but I might have advised him, “Now Dave, I know you think you’re black, but under no circumstances go downtown to see Planet of the mo-fin’ Apes! Wait ’til they invent home video.”

Back then my dad used to flinch every time President Johnson moved up toward the word “negro” in one of his televised speeches. He’d pronounce it “nig-rah” with just enough of a pause between syllables to allow one to picture the rest of Chicago, Detroit, and Oakland burning down. Who knew back then that that all was what progress looked like in America or maybe anywhere. I’m not sure President Obama has ever pronounced the word “negro” at all. And those Geiko caveman commercials tangent off of all that mess for laughs. Now we get to watch Europeans and Asians and Arabs and Africans try to get along.

“Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”

 (Sacred scrolls of the Apes)

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

 (Col. George Taylor)

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Nassir Ghaemi in WSJ, "Depression in Command".

“An obvious place to start is with depression, which has been shown to encourage traits of both realism and empathy (though not necessarily in the same individual at the same time). ‘Normal’ nondepressed persons have what psychologists call ‘positive illusion’ — that is, they possess a mildly high self-regard, a slightly inflated sense of how much they control the world around them. Mildly depressed people, by contrast, tend to see the world more clearly, more as it is. In one classic study, subjects pressed a button and observed whether it turned on a green light, which was actually controlled by the researchers. Those who had no depressive symptoms consistently overestimated their control over the light; those who had some depressive symptoms realized they had little control. For Lincoln, realism bordering on political ruthlessness was central to his success as a war leader.”


Arnold Kling & Nick Schulz in National Affairs, "The New Commanding Heights".

“In America today, few people champion government control of the industries Lenin saw as the commanding heights. On the contrary, these sectors have been largely deregulated, and market forces have, for the most part, been permitted to govern their development for decades. Defenders of the market might therefore imagine that they have won, and that the struggles that remain are peripheral debates. But such a declaration of victory would be dangerously premature. Over the past few decades, our economy has undergone some fundamental changes — with the result that the fight for control over the commanding heights of American economic life is still very much with us. And it is a fight that, at least for now, the free-market camp appears to be losing. The commanding heights of our economy today are not heavy manufacturing, energy, and transportation. They are, rather, education and health care. These are our foremost growth sectors — the ones most central to employment and consumption; the ones that, increasingly, drive our economy. And it is in precisely these two sectors that the case for extensive government intervention and planning, if not outright control, is dominant — and becoming ever more so. If there is to be any hope of reversing this trend, champions of market economics must come to see these two sectors as the front lines in the battle for capitalism. At stake is not only an ideological or theoretical point, but also American prosperity.”


Clare Ansberry in WSJ, "Left for Extinct, a Steel Plant Rises in Ohio".

“YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio--On the edge of the Mahoning River, where once stood dozens of blast furnaces, more than 400 workers are constructing what long has been considered unthinkable: a new $650 million steel plant. When complete, it will stand 10 stories tall, occupy one million square feet and make a half million tons of seamless steel tubes used in ‘fracking’ or drilling for natural gas in shale basins. France’s Vallourec & Mannesmann Holdings Inc., one of the world’s largest makers of steel tubes for the energy market, has decided to build the plant here next to an existing facility for two main reasons. Youngstown has an experienced steelmaking work force and the city is at the door of the Marcellus Shale, a natural-gas basin beneath New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.”


Spengler at Atimes.com, "The collapse of America’s middle class".

“The Tea Party reflects the frustrations of the middle class, especially the middle-aged middle class in places where you can’t sell a home, maintain a business, and fund a retirement. It believes that cutting the deficit is the problem, and a balanced budget is the solution. They are half right. The federal deficit is the monster that gobbled up the credit markets. The growth in federal borrowing corresponds almost exactly to the decline in mortgage borrowing. Eliminating federal borrowing (which at present would mean reducing government payments equivalent to 10% of GDP) would not, however, lead to a recovery in mortgage borrowing, but an economic crash on the scale of 1933. The notion that a balanced budget would solve America's problems has the stench of a millennial cult. America is spending far too much, and needs to restore its finances. But that requires economic growth and rising tax revenues, and a massive cut in spending would bring about neither. For that, America needs deregulation and tax cuts - and that means living with a deficit for a while longer. It was Ronald Reagan who shocked conventional wisdom in the early 1980s by telling the country not to worry about the deficit while his tax cuts restarted the economy. The Tea Party has the chance to become a catalyst for fundamental economic change. But it remains at risk of becoming the Ghost Dance of the American housing bubble, a millennial movement inspired by sinking circumstances, like the pathetic resistance of the defeated Plains Indians after 1890, or the New Guinea Cargo Cults of the 1940s. The economic cure America requires will benefit the beleaguered middle class slowly, and too late to prevent misery for many of them.”


Joel Kotkin in WSJ, "How Los Angeles Lost Its Mojo".

“Why has Los Angeles lost its mojo? A big reason is a decline in the power and mettle of the city's once-vibrant business community. Between the late 1980s and the end of the millennium, many of L.A.'s largest and most influential firms — ARCO, Security Pacific, First Interstate, Union Oil, Sun America—disappeared in a host of mergers that saw their management shift to cities like London, New York and San Francisco. Meanwhile, says David Abel, a Democratic Party activist and publisher of the influential Planning Report, once-powerful groups like the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation lost influence. The machine that now controls Los Angeles by default consists of an alliance between labor and the political leadership of the Latino community, the area's largest ethnic population. But since politicians serve at the whim of labor interests, they seldom speak up for homeowners and small businesses. Mayor Villaraigosa, a former labor organizer, has little understanding of private-sector economic development beyond well-connected real-estate interests whom he has courted and which have supported him.”


Tim Novak in CST, "Tax-Free-Palooza: Music fest that hired nephew of Daley gets a pass on tax".

“For a seventh straight year, the city and county are exempting Lollapalooza from paying the amusement taxes normally imposed on arts and athletic performances and even movies. That will save the promoters — Austin, Texas-based C3 Presents LLC — more than $1 million in taxes on the 270,000 tickets sold for this years’s festival, which opens Friday. Lollapalooza got its latest waiver from the city’s 5 percent amusement tax in the waning days of the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose nephew Mark Vanecko has been a lobbyist and lawyer for the festival promoters, helping to negotiate their current 10-year contract with the Chicago Park District. Then, 18 days ago, Cook County’s revenue director, Zahra Ali, signed off on a waiver of the county’s 1.5 percent amusement tax for Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is exempted from the taxes, officials say, because, although C3 Presents puts on the festival, booking the acts, hiring the vendors and overseeing the entire operation, the Chicago Park District, which owns Grant Park, doesn’t contract directly with C3. Nor does C3 obtain the liquor licenses for the festival.

That’s all done through the Parkways Foundation, the park district’s not-for-profit fund-raising arm, which serves as a conduit between the promoters and the district.”


Richard Waters in FT, "Patent hunting is latest game on tech bubble circuit".

“You could call it the Great Patent Bubble of 2011. In the month since an auction of patents from the bankrupt Nortel Networks ended with a shockingly high bid of $4.5bn, or five times the initial offer, the favourite game in tech circles has been to find the next big chest of buried gold. Veteran treasure hunter Carl Icahn has plenty of experience of this kind of game. Late last week he prodded Motorola Mobility, the mobile device maker in which he owns a stake, to take a shovel to its own back yard. Surely, he mused, Motorola’s patent holdings were worth even more than those of Nortel. The entire company was worth less than $7bn: shouldn’t there be ways to cash in? Motorola’s stock jumped by 12 per cent on the day that Mr. Icahn disclosed his arm-twisting in a regulatory filing. Meanwhile, Eastman Kodak, facing a drain on its cash, said it was looking at putting more than 1,000 of its digital imaging patents on the block.”


C.A. Bayly in London Review of Books on Karuna Mantena’s book, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism.

“The 1857 rebellion and the apparent failure of earlier attempts at Benthamite reform fundamentally to change Indian society meant that British officials and politicians needed a new grand theory and new rhetoric to explain their continued presence as rulers. Since, according to Maine, India was this ‘assemblage’ of ‘fragments of ancient society’, though not an ‘ancient society complete in itself’, a modern British bureaucracy and British commercial interests could evidently subsist with a variety of village councils, landlord cabals and princely states. After 1857, according to Mantena, there was a shift in colonial thinking away from human universals and ameliorative political action towards the fundamentally different nature and rhythms of Indian society. While ‘cultural difference’ had become a broad defining theme of most anthropology by the end of the 19th century, in the work of Franz Boas above all, the notion of a progression from the primitive to the advanced, which Boas did not endorse, was highly congenial to colonial officials. In accordance with this shift, British legal interventions no longer unambiguously supported legal, educational and commercial ‘progress’, but instead came to investigate and legislate on local customary law, particular forms of kinship and ancient proprietary rights.”


Mark Moyar in WSJ on James Arnold’s book, The Moro War.

“Mr. Arnold's account reveals crucial differences between the Moro War and the counterinsurgencies of the 21st century. As a young colonial power, the U.S. governed the Moro people directly, with American Army officers serving as provincial and district governors. Such authority permitted the transformation of Moro society to a degree almost unfathomable nowadays, when deference to self-governance prevents unfettered foreign impositions. The Americans in Moroland outlawed slavery and polygamy. The governors required Moro children to attend secular schools instead of Islamic ones. To halt rampant armed robbery, the administrators compelled every Moro man to surrender his sword. Mr. Arnold concedes that, despite some protestation, many Moros liked the American policies and beseeched the U.S. to delay plans for their self-rule…. Other aspects of the Moro War, though, bear close resemblance to recent Islamic insurgencies. In Moroland as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. introduced Western principles of law, government and education without explaining to Muslims how such principles were consistent with the Quran. Religiously motivated violence resulted. In each war, American leaders divided along similar lines on how to handle insurgents. At first some of the American commanders in Moroland advocated a conciliatory approach, relying on diplomacy rather than force whenever possible. As Mr. Arnold observes, this approach betrayed an ignorance of Islamic tenets. ‘The Moros saw American military restraint as weakness,’ he writes. ‘The Moro understanding of Mohammed's life story taught that a party engaged in diplomacy merely to buy time to recover from setback.’”


Charles Mann in WSJ on Terry Hunt & Carl Lipo’s book, The Statues That Walked.

“[A] fascinating entry in the pop-science genre of Everything You Know Is Wrong.. Messrs. Hunt and Lipo had no intention of challenging Mr. Diamond when they began research on Rapa Nui. But in their fourth year of field work, they obtained radiocarbon dates from Anakena Beach, thought to be the island’s oldest settlement. The dates strongly indicated that the first settlers appeared around A.D. 1200 -- eight centuries later than Heyerdahl and other researchers had thought. Wait a minute, the authors in effect said. Rapa Nui is so remote that researchers believe it must have been settled by a small group of adventurers -- a few dozen people, brave or crazy, in boats. The new evidence suggested that their arrival had precipitated catastrophic deforestation ‘on the scale of decades, not centuries.’ The island then probably had only a few hundred inhabitants. Some ecologists estimate that the island originally had 16 million palm trees. How could so few people have cut down so much so fast? Puzzle piled upon puzzle. Why was there no evidence of ‘large-scale prehistoric farming’? Other Polynesian societies covered their land with miles of terraces. Easter Islanders, by contrast, ‘seemed to be underutilizing the island -- a contrast that ‘was all the more perplexing given the enormous amount of effort they had apparently put into making their massive statues and stone [plinths].’ Rapa Nui’s forest had been mainly composed of giant palms, which have soft, fibrous wood. Used as rollers, they would have been crushed by the load. No farming, no statue-schlepping -- why would the islanders have removed the forest? The real culprit, according to The Statues That Walked, was the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), which stowed away on the boats of the first Polynesian settlers.”


Karthrin Hille in FT, "Chinese media defy censors to attack government on rail crash".

The Beijing News, a tabloid that is widely read in the capital, posed three direct questions across an entire page on Wednesday challenging the government’s handling of the tragedy -- disregarding an official directive that its reporting should not ‘question’, ‘elaborate’ or associate’. The accident has highlighted the role China’s rapidly growing microblogs serve as part newswire, part complaints forum for citizens. Beijing aspires to censor microblogs but the controls are often no match for the speed or volume of outraged chatter. Suggestions that the authorities were crushing and burying damaged carriages were first posted on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblog service.”


Jamil Anderlini in FT, "‘Grandpa Wen’ adds to furore".

“‘Grandpa Wen’, as the premier likes to be known, and his special brand of populism have helped shore up support for the Communist party’s authoritarian rule over the past decade and he is widely regarded as an official who cares about the Chinese masses. But in the aftermath of China’s first serious bullet train crash, which killed 39 people and injured nearly 200 last Saturday night, Mr Wen did not arrive to console the victims until Thursday morning. His explanation did little to ameliorate what is now a growing credibility crisis for the government. ‘I’ve been ill and spent 11 days on a sickbed. The doctor only today reluctantly allowed me to check out of the hospital,’ Mr Wen said from the crash site. ‘This is why I only managed to arrive here on the sixth day following the accident.’ Almost immediately after Mr Wen’s comments were published by state media, online citizens began posting photographs and state media reports showing a healthy-looking Mr Wen meeting with a Japanese trade promotion delegation last Sunday, the day after the crash, in the Great hall of the People in Beijing.”


Patti Waldmeir in FT, "Deadly clashes rock Xinjiang".

“Xinhua had earlier reported that three people, including a police officer, died in a blast on Sunday, but it later quoted ‘witnesses’ as saying the victims were ‘hacked to death by rioters’. Sunday’s unrest followed an incident late on Saturday night when state media reported that two knife-wielding men hijacked a truck, killed its driver and drove the vehicle into a crowd, before attacking bystanders. Six people were killed in that incident before one attacker was killed and the other captured, government-run media said. Tianshannet.com, a Xinjiang government-run website, and the state-run Xinhua news agency, said that incident had in turn been preceded by two explosions.”


Michael Wines in NYT, "China Says Region’s Attackers Trained in Pakistan".

“The accusation, made by local authorities in the historic city of Kashgar, came as the head of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, was completing a visit to Beijing at which rising violence by predominantly Muslim, ethnic Uighur separatists in Xinjiang was almost certain to have been discussed. Some Pakistani news reports placed the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in Xinjiang as the second spate of violence in Kashgar flared on Sunday. Kashgar officials said Monday that the death toll in attacks on Saturday and Sunday had risen to 18, including 12 civilians and 6 attackers. The state-run Xinhua news service reported that 14 civilians had died. Two suspected attackers, both ethnic Uighurs, were shot and killed by the police on Monday, according to an Associated Press report citing a local government Web site. In a statement, the officials said that the attacker who was captured had confessed that the group’s ringleader had gone to Pakistan for training in bomb- and gun-making by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a small Uighur group that advocates independence for Xinjiang. The statement said the attacks were not isolated, but represented ‘another terrorist act, plotted and planned by a small number of adamants in the current special circumstance.’… While the United States and other powers have openly criticized Pakistan’s failure to rein in insurgents operating from its own wild tribal regions, China has largely confined its public statements to support for Islamabad’s security policies. But the Chinese, who view Uighur separatist sentiment as a dire threat, have become increasingly concerned about Pakistan as a haven for radicals. A Pakistani terrorism expert, Muhammad Amir Rana, said last month that Pakistani intelligence officials had traveled to Beijing in early June to reassure the Chinese of their commitment to weed out Uighur separatists from their territory. Whether Kashgar officials cleared their statement with the central government in Beijing is not known.”


Henryk Szadziewski at Opendemocracy.net, "The Uyghurs, China and central Asia".

“The Kyrgyzstan-based Uyghur organisation Ittipak is a good example of the arc that Uyghur activism in central Asia has traversed. Ittipak, founded in the last days of the Soviet regime, promoted Uyghur human-rights issues among an Uyghur population of almost 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan. But the increase of Chinese influence in the country (as Erica Marat writes) meant that Ittipak ‘struggled to balance its image between supporting the Uyghur legacy and avoiding being labeled as an extremist organization’ (see Erica Marat, ‘Uyghur Diaspora Faces Government Pressure in Kyrgyzstan’ [Jamestown Foundation, 2010]). A series of murky incidents began before the formation of the SCO with the assassination of Ittipak chairman Nigmat Bazakov in March 2000. Four alleged members of the pro-independence East Turkestan Liberation Organisation were sentenced either to death or to twenty-five years’ imprisonment for the killing, though many among the Uyghur community in Kyrgyzstan suspected a conspiracy involving Chinese officialdom; in any event, Uyghur witnesses testified at the trial that the four accused were not the perpetrators.”


Gideon Rachman in FT, "A Test of Will".

“Aaron Friedberg, Yan Xuetong and Brahma Chellaney represent the hawkish pole of opinion in their respective nations, the US, China and India. All of them foresee a future of growing inter-state rivalry -- and none of them discount the possibility of war. What is more, all three analysts argue that their governments should take a harder line to defend the national interest. Read together, their books present a sobering, sometimes alarming, picture of how international rivalries in the Asia-Pacific region may evolve.”


Vikas Bajaj in NYT, "India’s Widening Iron Ore Scandal Hurts Stocks".

“The 466-page report, by a former Indian Supreme Court justice who is now a public ombudsman, contends public officials and companies cheated the government of Karnataka state out of billions of dollars in royalty, tax and other payments from a lucrative domestic and foreign trade in iron ore. The ore is an important raw material for steel that has been in great demand in fast growing China and India. ‘Huge bribes were paid,’ said the report, written by Santosh Hegde, the former justice. ‘Mafia type operations were the routine practices of the day.’ Analysts say Mr. Hegde’s findings provide evidence of corruption in important parts of the Indian economy, including land and natural resources, that are still tightly controlled by politicians and corporate executives — even as other sectors, including consumer goods, banking and information technology, have become more competitive and open. Procedurally, it is unclear what will happen next. Mr. Hegde does not have the power to prosecute the companies and individuals he accuses in his report. That is up to Karnataka’s government, which has previously played down concerns about mining, or to the judicial system. India’s Supreme Court on Friday temporarily suspended all iron ore mining in Bellary, the region that was the main focus of the inquiry.”


The Times of India: "Nepal rejects ambitious Chinese Buddhist venture".

“‘Nepal is the actual stakeholder,’ said Modraj Dottel, spokesperson of Nepal's culture ministry that governs Lumbini, the town in southern Nepal that is the destination of thousands of pilgrims and Buddhist scholars worldwide, and a Unesco-declared World Heritage Site. ‘How can we own a deal struck in a third country without the formal consent of the actual stakeholder?’ The unambiguous official rejection came after reports in the Chinese media earlier this month that a Hong Kong based NGO, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Industrial Development Organisation for a $3 billion project to develop Lumbini into a ‘Buddhist Mecca’, complete with hotels, an international airport and other tourism-related infrastructure.”


Michael Fitzgerald in WSJ, "Buddha of the Material World".

“The early monks were wanderers who sheltered in natural caves and painstakingly transformed them into some of the grandest architecture of the age. Artisans carved the porous rock, working from the top of the excavation to the floor and from front porch to back wall. The work necessitated meticulous planning and a remarkable grasp of spatial position, since some of the interiors are more than 60 feet wide, 70 feet deep and 13 feet tall. These tremendous excavations were undertaken because in the first centuries B.C. Ajanta was not a wild place but a nexus of trade routes running the length of the peninsula and linking its coasts. At Ajanta, Buddhism joined hands with business.”


Brian Spegele in WSJ, "China’s Banned Churches Defy Regime".

“The government also must consider the precedent it could set by accommodating the Protestants. The concern is, ‘What if the Muslims in Xinjiang come along or other religious organizations demand the same kind of exception to the current rule?’ Mr. Lian said. ‘It's like opening a floodgate.’ The State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment for this article. The State Council Information Office and the National People's Congress didn't respond to requests for comment. Government thinking was reflected in an April editorial in the state-owned Global Times newspaper following the shutdown of Shouwang. ‘A church should not become a power which can promote radical change,’ the editorial said. ‘Otherwise, the church is not engaged in religion but in politics, which is not allowed for a church.’ Tension over Christianity has long existed in China, where there is evidence of Christians worshiping since at least the seventh century.”


Liz Alderman in NYT, "A Daunting Path to Prosperity".

“‘Just to start a business, you usually have between 10 and 20 authorities you need to deal with,’ said Giampaolo Galli, the general director of Confindustria, Italy’s main business lobby. ‘Then you go to the government for help, but you don’t find any.’ Ikea hit the bureaucratic burden head-on when it sought to build a store near here in the town of Vecchiano, on a large vacant lot that now dances with sunflowers. Although Ikea has 20 stores across Italy, Vecchiano proved to be a special case. On average, it takes five years from the moment Ikea requests a building permit in Italy to the day it opens its doors. In Vecchiano, however, six years went by while the mayor at the time called for studies and town hall meetings. Many voters did not want a big-box retailer in the countryside or the traffic it would bring. But many others wanted the Swedish retailer to be present, said Anna Pullace, a local bookstore owner. In a region besieged by high unemployment, Ikea would have brought 350 new jobs and help stimulate the larger Tuscan economy. Six years was simply too long for Ikea. ‘We’re not an N.G.O. — we’re a profit-making company,’ said Valerio Di Bussolo, a company spokesman in Italy. ‘We need certainty about our investments.’ On the day Ikea announced it was pulling out, the president of the Tuscany region, Enrico Rossi, rushed to offer his help.”


Michael Prodger in FT on Roger Crowley’s book, City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire.

“The first Venetians were refugees from the rampages of Attila the Hun in the mid-sixth century and they chose a site with its feet in the sea. It may have been defensively secure but it had hardly any drinking water, no land holdings, no natural resources, no agriculture and it produced nothing. Like the camel, Venice is a creature designed by a committee and by rights it shouldn’t exist. Of course, Venice has done more than simply exist. For some 500 years until the early 16th century this amphibious city-state was a global superpower. Squatting on its wooden pilings in its marshy north Italian lagoon, it could tally possessions that stretched from the home waters of the Adriatic across the Mediterranean into the Black Sea and beyond: its golden ducats were the international currency of the age; and the world’s good were unloaded at the Rialto.”


John Lanchester in London Review of Books, "Once Greece goes…".

“The euro was launched with a fundamental democratic deficit, which didn’t trouble the European elite behind it because they had come to believe in a version of manifest destiny. The idea seems to have been that the new currency would in and of itself lead to a gradual convergence of economies, institutions, banking laws, fiscal policies and national cultures. The currency had a bank but no government and no laws except for allegedly binding fiscal rules that were immediately and very publicly broken by participating governments, with no consequences or sanction. The system had no enforcement, and no reality principle other than the value of the euro on international currency markets, and the rating value of euro government debt.”


John Dizard in FT, "In an ideal world, Kafka would restructure Greece".

“In an ideal world, Franz Kafka, trained in the law of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, would still be available tow work on the Greek government’s restructuring issues. Anyone involved in the country’s workout, or observing it closely, would agree that he would have brought the most appropriate perspective to dealing with European and multilateral institutions. His alleged schizoid disorder would be a feature, not a bug, as we say now.”


Gul Tuysuz & Sabrina Tavernise in NYT, "Top Generals Quit in Group, Stunning Turks".

“General Kosaner, who had two years left as Turkey’s top military commander, spelled out that frustration in a statement circulated in the Turkish news media on Friday, noting that although the officers have not been convicted of any crimes, they will miss the chance for promotions. He added bitterly that one of the aims of the conspiracy cases ‘is to create the impression that the Turkish Armed Forces are a criminal organization.’ He also said that the situation ‘has prevented me from fulfilling my duties to protect the rights of my personnel and thereby rendered me unable to continue this high office that I occupy.’ By midnight, the Web site of Turkey’s official newspaper published an announcement that General Kosaner had retired. According to protocol, Mr. Ozel, the new army chief, will be appointed as the top military commander by Turkey’s president on Saturday. Mr. Ozel was not a surprise choice for his new post. He had been expected to become head of the army after Monday’s military meeting and to assume Turkey’s top military post at the end of General Kosaner’s term in 2013. The heads of the army, navy and air force had been scheduled to retire next month.”


David Gardner in FT, "Turkey clips military’s wings while top brass leave the field".

“The end of the cold war, during which the Turkish army, the second biggest in Nato, was the alliance’s sentinel in the eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus, downgraded military influence and freed Turkey to re-emerge as a regional and commercial power. Under Mr. Erdogan Turks have seen their per capita income double and their country’s influence burnished. Kemalist political parties, with their lazy sense of entitlement and reliance on the generals and judges to win back what they kept losing at the ballot box, were eclipsed by the AKP, dimming the luster of the military. The European Union, which made Mr Erdogan’s Turkey a candidate for membership in 2004, was another big engine of change. The army saw in the now-stalled accession talks fulfillment of the European vocation envisaged by Ataturk, while the AKP astutely used the EU -- which demanded curbs on military influence in politics -- as a shield against the generals.”


Bassma Kodmani in NYT, "To Topple Assad, It Takes a Minority".

“What is keeping Mr. Assad in power is the extensive security apparatus that was engineered by his father, Hafez al-Assad, and is dominated by their fellow Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Alawites, who constitute just 12 percent of Syria’s population, have mostly thrown their support behind Mr. Assad, fearful that if he is overthrown they will be massacred. If the democratic opposition in Syria is going to succeed, it must first convince the Alawites that they can safely turn against the Assad regime. This is not as improbable as many observers believe. As the bodies have piled up — security forces have killed around 1,500 civilians since March — Alawite leaders have not been blind to the rapid erosion of the government’s power and its inability to restore control. If they are assured of their safety, key Alawite leaders might begin to withdraw their support for the Assad family and cast their lot with — or at least tacitly assist — the opposition. A signal from them could persuade powerful Alawite army commanders to defect and take other officers with them.”


Adam Morrow & Khaled Moussa al-Omrani at IPSnews.net, "Defections Threaten to Crack Muslim Brotherhood".

“‘Since the revolution, deep fissures have appeared inside the Brotherhood, which, if left untended, could threaten the group's long-term political future,’ Hossam Tammam, a local authority on Islamic movements, told IPS. On Jul. 12, Mohamed Habib, a former deputy Brotherhood leader, resigned from the group and joined the Islamist Al-Nahda Party (which has yet to be licensed). Days later, leading Brotherhood figures warned that any member that joined a political party other than the recently-established Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) would face expulsion from the group. Formally approved by Egypt's Political Parties Committee last month, the FJP is seen largely as an extension of the Brotherhood (which itself is not a political party). While the FJP claims to be financially and administratively independent of its parent organisation, the two share identical political agendas. Habib's defection was not the only of its kind in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the Brotherhood expelled nine leading members of its influential youth wing - which played a prominent role in the Jan. 25 Revolution - for joining another party-in-the-making: Al-Tiyyar Al-Masri, or 'The Egyptian Current'. Although not yet officially licensed, Al-Tiyyar is expected to become one of the most formidable youth- oriented parties to emerge in the wake of the revolution. Along with disaffected young Brotherhood members, the would-be party is also expected to draw members from secular protest groups, such as the 6 April and Kefaya movements.”


Ethan Bronner in NYT, "Israelis Feel Tug of Protests, Reviving the Left’s Spirits".

“But Mr. Netanyahu may not have sidestepped the political risk. One of the most debated questions is whether the movement is creating an opening for the country’s battered and dormant political left to challenge his leadership. Many think the answer is yes but only if it stays focused on social and economic issues and avoids the geopolitical and security ones where its views are in the minority. Last week, the powerful Histadrut labor federation announced its strong support for the protests. ‘The left has risen back to life,’ Shai Golden, deputy editor of the newspaper Maariv, said in a column on Sunday. ‘It hasn’t yet dared to let the words ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ cross its lips and to cite the social and economic price that they have cost Israel over the course of the past four decades.’ The new movement, he added, would be ‘the social left.’”


Tom Shippey in WSJ on Sarah Foot’s book, Æthelstan.

“The conventional English history is that Æthelstan annexed York in 927, having cowed Danish Mercia, and went on to force submission from the Scots, Welsh and English Northumbrians at a ceremony in far-north Cumberland later the same year. When an attempt was made by a Viking-Celtic alliance to break free 10 years later, Æthelstan and his half-brother Edmund defeated them decisively at the Battle of Brunanburh. ‘They left the corpses behind for the raven,’ says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘never was there greater slaughter in this island.’ That is the story, and Ms. Foot stays with it, in support of her contention that while his father Edward was ‘king of the English,’ but not the other ethnic groups, Æthelstan was ‘king of England’ and even ‘ruler of all Britain.’ She amplifies the claim with detailed study of the king's charters, coins, appointments and marriage treaties (he had eight or maybe nine sisters to place around Europe). She demonstrates the imperial ambition expressed in Æthelstan's titles, the imagery of his portraits and even his collection of holy relics — which allegedly included the Holy Lance itself, once owned by Charlemagne. Yet we still know very little about Æthelstan directly, and most of that comes from William of Malmesbury, a chronicler writing 200 years later. William said he got his information from ‘popular ballads’ still in circulation a lifetime after the Norman Conquest, and from an old book he found. Ms. Foot is vigorous in her defense of William's book-discovery claim, but others may be tempted to think: ‘They all say that.’”


Clive Crook in FT on Denis Lacorne’s book, Religion in America: A Political History.

“Denis Lacrone stands in a long line of French scholars who have looked at the US in all its strangeness and tried to make sense of it -- and his book is a dual history. It aims to understand the role religion has played in the development of America’s idea of itself, and to do that partly by examining what French commentators ‘from Voltaire and Tocqueville to Sartre and Bernard-Henri Levy’ have made of it all. Perhaps that seems too complicated or academic a purpose for the general reader. It turns out to work superbly. Lacorne is an acute yet friendly observer of US politics and culture. The parts of the book that form a straightforward essay on religion in America are wise, sympathetic, and vividly written. But his weaving of this account into the story of France’s long obsession with America is fascinating in its own right, and casts light on the larger theme. Sorting through the insights and misconceptions of his predecessors is unexpectedly revealing: quite often funny, too.”


Robert Samuelson in Washington Post, "It’s the elderly, stupid".

“By now, it’s obvious that we need to rewrite the social contract that, over the past half-century, has transformed the federal government’s main task into transferring income from workers to retirees. In 1960, national defense was the government’s main job; it constituted 52 percent of federal outlays. In 2011 — even with two wars — it is 20 percent and falling. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other retiree programs constitute roughly half of non-interest federal spending. These transfers have become so huge that, unless checked, they will sabotage America’s future. The facts are known: By 2035, the 65-and-over population will nearly double, and health costs remain uncontrolled; the combination automatically expands federal spending (as a share of the economy) by about one-third from 2005 levels. This tidal wave of spending means one or all of the following: (a) much higher taxes; (b) the gutting of other government services, from the Weather Service to medical research; (c) a partial and dangerous disarmament; (d) large and unstable deficits.”


Russ Buettner in NYT, "Reaping Millions From Medicaid In Nonprofit Care for Disabled".

“The brothers, Philip and Joel, earned close to $1 million a year each as the two top executives running a Medicaid-financed nonprofit organization serving the developmentally disabled. They each had luxury cars paid for with public money. And when their children went to college, they could pass on the tuition bills to their nonprofit group. Philip H. Levy went as far as charging the organization $50,400 for his daughter’s living expenses one year when she attended graduate school at New York University. That money paid not for a dorm room, but rather it helped her buy a co-op apartment in Greenwich Village. The rise of the Levy brothers, from scruffy bearded social workers in the 1970s to millionaires with homes in the Hamptons, Sutton Place and Palm Beach Gardens, reveals much about New York’s system for caring for the developmentally disabled — those with conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.

The state spends, by far, more than any other caring for this population: $10 billion this year, and roughly 20 cents of every dollar spent nationally.”


Kevin Sack in NYT, "Opposing the Health Law, Florida Refuses Millions of Dollars".

“State Representative Matt Hudson, the chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, said his chamber’s leadership felt the same way. ‘I do not believe that act is the right thing for the country or the right thing for Florida,’ Mr. Hudson said, ‘and I am not going to start implementing things that I don’t believe in.’ Asked whether states had the authority to stymie federal law, Mr. Hudson answered, ‘We’re not required to accept a grant.’ Florida is by no means the only state hostile to the health care law. A majority of those states have gone to federal court to challenge the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance. Alaska, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, among others, have turned away grants, some of them substantial.
But many of the states challenging the law have taken a posture more like that of Idaho, where Gov. C. L. Otter, a Republican, made a show this spring of ordering his agencies not to pursue Affordable Care Act grants and then quickly issued 10 exceptions to that rule. Florida has had few peers in subverting the law’s provisions since Mr. Scott took office in January. After a federal district judge in Pensacola invalidated the entire act later that month, Mr. Scott quickly put the brakes on planning for the insurance exchanges and started rejecting grants pursued by his predecessor, Charlie Crist, a more moderate Republican. The state maintained its stance even though the judge, Roger Vinson, suspended his ruling pending appellate review.”


Robert James in WSJ, "Of Mustard Fuel and Marines".

“The military’s flirtation with green energy began a decade ago when the Department of Defense started taking advice from environmental guru Amory Lovins. In his 1976 book, Soft Energy Path, Mr. Lovins proposed getting one-third of our fuel oil from domestic crops. We could do this, he said, by building a distillery complex only 10 times the size of the combined beer and wine industries’ complexes. In 2004, the Defense Department paid Mr. Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute to write Winning the Oil Endgame, a 300-page, four-color coffee-table book in which they proposed running the entire electrical grid on wind and sunshine, and using the backed-out natural gas and biofuels to power our transport sector. Through all this work, however, Mr. Lovins has never bothered to calculate how much land would be needed to grow these crops. Using the figures he proposed with the grape and hops industries, it’s easy to estimate. We would need an area three times the size of the continental United States to replace one-third of our oil requirements. These figures are confirmed in that we now employ one-third of the corn harvest -- our biggest crop -- to replace only 3% of our oil consumption.”


Douglas Blackmon & Jennifer Levitz in WSJ, "Tea Party Sees No Triumph In Compromise".

“‘People are saying, These tea partiers, aren’t they wonderful, they are changing the conversation,’ said Ellen Gilmore, a leader of the LaGrange Tea Party Patriots in Georgia. ‘Well, we got absolutely squat -- except for the conversation.’ The reaction of tea-party activists to what most political observers perceive to be their greatest victory so far underscores the paradox of the movement.”


Jacob Hacker & Oona Hathaway in NYT, "Our Unbalanced Democracy".

“The problem is not limited to war. For decades, presidents have been making more frequent use of executive orders, signing statements and agency regulations, as well as sole executive agreements with other nations (instead of treaties or Congressionally authorized international agreements). Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating greenhouse-gas emissions at some energy plants and factories after efforts to address the problem through legislation stalled. Members of Congress were angry about the end run, but, predictably, they failed to do anything about it. The ultimate consequence in each case is the same: Congress is saved from its inability to govern by being cut out of the process. Senators and representatives avoid taking responsibility for the most important decisions, and thus can’t easily be held accountable for poor choices. Meanwhile, the president gets a poisoned chalice: increasing unilateral power, but reduced ability to share responsibility — or blame.”


Steve Johnson in FT, "‘Unusable’ reserves: it’s hot air, say analysts".

“‘I think it’s a bollocks subject. I’m not interested in this kind of subject. I think this is complete hot air.’ These were the words of one sellside oil and gas analyst when asked about a recent report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) which argues that, because of global warming, much of the world’s stock of hydrocarbon reserves can never be burnt, if we are to avoid runaway climate change. And while the individual in question was more outspoken than most, his comments neatly encapsulate the mainstream investment industry’s apparent disinclination to take such arguments into account when valuing oil, gas and coal producing companies. One buyside analyst at a major investment house shrugs of the CTI’s analysis by simply arguing that it would be difficult to factor such environmental concerns into its valuation models without knowing the shape of any future legislation limiting the use of fossil fuels.”


Sonny Vincent interview at PerfectSoundForever.com.

“PSF: You left New York for Minneapolis in 1981, right? Why did Testors break up? Why did you leave New York instead of starting another band there? And why did you choose Minneapolis?

SV: Testors broke up because of many reasons, one is the point you brought up in the last question. It is difficult to keep something going that has no substantial support. Without some semblance of success, members will be pressed to review their lives and wonder if the path of 'no compromise' is a viable path for them. For me as the songwriter, it was easier to find my way through and besides, I sometimes have a strange romantic way of seeing things. So for me, the passion was quite fierce. After a very vibrant and alive few years, the scene in NYC was generally softening and people were getting more interested in parties and such. I was still involved with feelings of changing the world or at least shakin' it up. So standing around fucked up at a party didn't do it for me…. Anyway, I was living on Bleeker and 2nd Ave at the time and the girl I was living with was from Minnesota. Since things in New York had changed I felt that maybe it was a good idea for me to go somewhere else. She talked me into going to Minneapolis!!

PSF: What was Minneapolis like in the early '80's? Did it take long to hook up with local bands and artists? Also, is that where your interest in film started or was it a long running thing?

SV: Arriving in Minnesota for me was very, umm, strange! Mostly only a few bands had heard of punk and the general population thought that Abba was a super fuckin' wild assed band!! Eventually I sort of fell in love with Minnesota but it definitely was not a match made in heaven. I arrived in tight black pants, Beatle boots and a switchblade. This was not the way people walked down the street in Minnesota, not in 1980!!!… Very different, these people were inviting me to go ice fishing for gods sake…. After I got used to the slow driving and slow talking natives, being there became a little bit easier on me.

When I arrived, I right away went to the cooler small clubs to see what was happening on the local scene. The first band I saw was Hüsker Dü and I was impressed.”


Mike Shanley on Trotsky Icepick at Blurt-online.com.

“Johansen and Mataré began playing together around 1983, shortly after 100 Flowers disbanded and Mataré had parted ways with the Last. With John Frank (another Last castaway), they began tossing ideas around, with Mataré trading his organ for a guitar and Johansen doubling on eight-string bass and guitar. The new band planned to change their name with every live performance, popularity be damned. ‘People that knew 100 Flowers or the Last were going to show up no matter what, because we were going to be on a bill with someone that was related: the Leaving Trains or Dream Syndicate,’ Mataré says. ‘So people would go, ‘Oh, there's Kjehl from the Urinals. What is the band called?' It didn't matter because the point was we wanted to do whatever we wanted and not worry about if it got signed or anything like that.’ Instead, the band self-released two albums called Poison Summer, with different band names. The first was credited to Danny and the Doorknobs, with stark but extremely tuneful works by the basic trio, combining 100 Flowers' moodiness and the Last's crisp, jangle. ‘Little Things You Don't Know’ in particular could have been a garage-pop hit. (The new digital version reverts the band name to Trotsky Icepick and the title to In Exile, the Johansen-penned single.)”


Grace Krilanovich at LAReviewofBooks.org on Dewar MacLeod's book, Kids of the Black Hole: Punk Rock in Postsuburban California.

"Read a few Los Angeles punk books — or read just one — and the canonical touchstones of the scene’s forming are recounted with regularity: The Masque, Slash, Darby Crash, Elks Lodge, the Canterbury, the Church, The Decline of Western Civilization, etc. What MacLeod brings to the table is a heavy socio-historical focus that situates Southern California punk in its time and place, taking us all the way back to subdivided land grants and the region’s emergent industries, the makeup of its housing stock (94% single family homes as of 1930!) — to the point of making me wonder if Eugene, the miscreant from The Decline of Western Civilization, is worthy of all this. Should he and others like him be positioned at the apex, as the manifestation of this epic, unprecedented, maniacal sweep of Western American history?"


Paul Duchene in CT, "See-through sensation".

“Mention concept cars to most people and they think of Buck Rogers' dream machines, like the 1951 Buick Le Sabre, with its rocket nose, fins and huge globs of chrome. Perhaps the most interesting of these cars are two Pontiacs bodied in clear Plexiglass in 1939 and 1940. The first, and only known survivor, will be offered at RM Auctions sale in Plymouth, Mich., on July 30. General Motors collaborated with chemical company Rohm & Haas in 1939 to build a clear plastic car for the 1939 New York World's Fair, to complement the "Highways and Horizons" pavilion designed by Norman Bel Geddes. Pontiac supplied drawings of a 1939 DeLuxe Six four-door sedan to Rohm & Hass, which constructed a clear plastic replica of the body shell and fit it on a real chassis.”


Obituary of the Week

Delois Barrett Campbell (1926 - 2011)

"But like her sisters, Campbell found her calling in the music of the church. They were blessed to grow up at 4315 S. Vincennes Ave., with two titans of gospel music as neighbors: Mahalia Jackson, the foremost gospel singer who ever lived, and composer Thomas A. Dorsey, who virtually created the modern genre. When Campbell was a youngster, Jackson heard her sing 'and (she) said I had a voice that opened up like a rose,' Campbell said in a 2001 Tribune interview. 'I'll never forget that.' Other important gospel artists also figured prominently in the sisters' earlier years, among them Roberta Martin and Clara Ward. The Barretts' father served as a deacon at Morning Star Baptist Church on South King Drive (formerly South Park Way), and their mother sang in the chorus, so gospel music swirled around the young girls. Naturally, they harmonized sacred music around the house. But when their devout father was not home, they dared to mimic pop music of the Andrews Sisters, whom the Barretts considered a primary model for their singing. But the deaths of four of their siblings in the 1930s turned them to religious music. In 1941 Campbell and Green Bey made their debut as the Barrett & Hudson singers (cousin Johnnie Mae Hudson held a spot that Rodessa would fill in 1950), quickly winning admirers for a distinctive sound. 'We didn't use any (written) music,' Campbell said in the Tribune interview. 'It all came from the top of our heads. And then we created it on the stage. We would sing it one way today, and the next day we would make it something else.'"


Thanks to Steve Beeho, Jay Babcock.

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

No comments:

Post a Comment