a new low in topical enlightenment

Friday, September 16, 2011

Issue #115 (September 14, 2011)

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Republicans Evolving
Joe Carducci

I was struck by a line from a piece by Eli Lake in New Republic where he tries to figure out suspected changes in Republican foreign policy. The article, “The Strange New World of Republican Foreign Policy”, was a cover story a couple issues back. The line:

“Except for Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Gary Johnson (an ardent libertarian, including on social issues), no candidate has called for cuts in defense spending.”

Well, how many candidates are there, ten? Maybe a few more, but three ain’t nothing! Not if that is as big an issue as Lake makes it out. This subordinate clause/gigantic exception allows the bully assertion: “No candidate has called for cuts in defense spending.” Lake writes for both the Washington Times and New Republic so I’m guessing he has a more neo-con style concern for the issue rather than a typically leftwing perspective. The candidates are probably not where these changes are most apparent or coherent, but except for Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and possibly Newt Gingrich, no candidate has moved one iota from the positions held by the party’s last candidate Sen. John McCain. There, I’ve successfully said even less than Mr Lake, so you can quote me on that.

His one digression of interest follows a gentle reminder to his readers that Bush and the neo-cons’ actions were predicated on a view that Islam is compatible with “democracy and liberalism”:

“Bizarrely, Norquist -- who is best-known as an anti-tax activist -- was a player in this intra-conservative dispute about Islam. Norquist had long believed that Muslim Americans were a natural Republican constituency, and his outreach to them had taken a number of forms. In the late ’90s, he founded a group called the Islamic Free Market Institute, and, following September 11, he often introduced American Muslim leaders to leading Republicans.”

The New Republic is not The Nation, of course. Martin Peretz is no longer the Editor but the mag is still capable of anomalous left-right cross-ups regarding foreign policy and somewhat less often on domestic issues. While most of the left today seems perfectly at ease slotting Israel under “racist imperialism” and favor cultural and economic boycotts of the place and its people as they did regarding the old South Africa, that is not the New Republic. Though published out of Washington, D.C., TNR keeps up the New York intellectual tradition of following art and literature. The Nation has let their long history of that atrophy with their ability to consider the richness of what’s going on around them. That’s why its disappointing to see the New Republic come up short in a couple major pieces on the right when there is so much going on there. Instead of a serious appraisal there is a rather defensive fending off of what seems apparent enough to have called for these pieces in the first place. Lake sums up with more defensiveness, “In an era in which the Republican Party is trying to figure out what it stands for on the world stage, contempt for Obama is one thing that can still keep it together.” As if contempt is all there is from Republicans, and as if there is none visited on the President from his own party.

The other New Republic piece is by Sam Tanenhaus, who edits the NYT Book Review and has become the go-to guy when New Yorkers and NPR listeners want to understand those crazy Republicans thanks to the gentle way he put old Alger Hiss to bed once and for all in his revisionist appreciation of Whittaker Chambers. His author ID mentions another doorstop bio is coming on William F. Buckley Jr, so its really become his specialty. “Imperial Conservatism’s Last Gasp” starts out floating the idea that George W. Bush once embodied “the future of conservatism” a.k.a., “big government conservatism,” but “Today, Bush’s presidency appears to have been an anomaly.” This is the kind of first-draft-of-history that neglects to recall the first 7 months of pre-9/11 Bush administration, never mind his campaign. The only aspect of Bush’s program that survived 9/11 was Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s drive to make the services work together and work lighter, and that had been failing too. He was being stonewalled by the Pentagon until those walls were breached and the prospect of responding and driving the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan made the Powell doctrine look ridiculously inappropriate. The search was on for special forces who could ride horses!

I used to watch the last twenty minutes of the Britt Hume Fox News hour to hear the panel go over the news of the day, and I remember when Bill Kristol first floated the idea of invading Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It surprised the others and there was no response for a few seconds. They were silent not because they favored the idea or the real-existing war it became, but because they all knew that it made sense based in the right-left Bosnian, Rwandan conventional wisdom of the day, and that if Saddam were left in power (the Gulf war was actually still then a shooting war in the Kurdish no-fly zone) he would pursue making use of such vigorous enemies of his enemies. There were many reasons, but it had not been on Bush’s agenda, though it was always on Kristol’s. Plenty of liberals were in favor of the war too. My own sense of it at the time was something like, If you don’t like it, don’t put us on the hook for it. Haute opinion in the U.N., Europe, Israel, Saudi, etc., would like to tie American power into a million old world rigged chess games. Very little of that is our concern by our own Constitution or Cosmic Justice, but we have a burgeoning class looking for opportunities to turn these crises into projects that will profit their departments and further the hiring of similarly mal-trained pseudo-educated specialists.

The Democratic Party is frozen in place intellectually as it defends its massive 20th century policy and personnel gains at the un-federal level. And even as local prerogatives were stolen from state, county and municipal small ‘d’ democratic structures, those levels too are overfilled with mal-trained pseudo-educated specialists who clamber out of schools of government or wash out of the private sector and into jobs they cannot be fired from. In my former career as a Chicago slumlord my tenants, Puerto Rican, Mex-Am, or Dominican (all fine folks except one who got on the pipe and three months of my rent went up in his smoke), they all pictured getting a City job as their heaven-on-earth American Dream. There is a middle-class version of this decadent dream of security-over-freedom, sinecure-over-work, supervision-over-productivity, but it has no name. The news media and the universities have prevented its naming. The only aspect of this syndrome that’s been named is the Military-Industrial Complex, and that was coined by one of those ineloquent Republican Presidents.

Pat Buchanan tried to turn the Republican Party away from foreign interventions once the Soviet Union fell, but his borrowing the term Empire from the left was a mistake. Most of our interventions have either enforced a trade regime, or attempted to end some small scale calamity. They haven’t built an Empire as we once understand the term. And any modernizing mission of America’s has been the inevitable modeling of democracy and business. These were forged most freely in the New World and most advantageously in a polyglot United States nevertheless grounded in the better European Enlightenment traditions. There’s a kind of lost Anarcho-Americanism that expected the patient modeling of a superior system would subvert foreign tyrannies great and minor to the benefit of that old world. But people aren’t patient, least of all Americans, and the experiment’s success found our new elite itching to prove themselves on European terms. This gave us true colonies once upon a time though by then we’d rooted out our own South’s plantation economy which is what might have led us to operate in a true Imperial manner.

No, the Empire Pat might have focused on, and one that still needs tagging was the new class building up within our own governments. These folks are sure the private sector can bear more taxing, and that more regulation can yoke its energy to pull their allegedly public-minded policy ends. They also get off profiting aplenty on our foreign actions even though they routinely offload any responsibility for that on the nearest Republican; there’s always plenty handy.

That our media and know-somethings have stopped talking about tipping-points leads me to suspect that we are at one, and one that might benefit them and this Imperial new class colonizing our Republic from within. That’s what Wisconsin was about, and similar tipping-point battles in many states reveal a public sector grown large enough to finally threaten the private sector. That damage in the form of slower-growth and plummeting tax revenues would and has become a crisis for the public sector itself is why the Democrats seem frozen. The Soviet Union robbed the left of its endgame, yet their intellectual pretense is still Marxian; they expect to reach a kind of civic heaven on earth. Their rhetoric must therefore outpace reality. This is how we can reach evidence that they won the 20th century and now must give ground, without them ever having claimed victory.

The thinking is going on in and around the Republican Party; it can draw from libertarian and/or old-line protectionist policy ideas, where the Democrats cannot draw from much to their left or right. What is coming at the satraps of both parties in the capitol circles around ideas spinning from Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul. Paul got a mixed response at the CNN-Tea Party Republican debate this week when he recounted what he presented as Al Qaeda’s reasons for attacking -- essentially the blowback idea. The Tea Party folks themselves applauded him quickly but boos then followed from the less libertarian precincts of the party. I’m guessing that even these booing are not all unreconstructed Republican New Class buy-ins to the federal status quo, but include those who consider the Bush actions justified and successful enough, though fully expect them to end, and us to withdraw our military from Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc. The candidate that can present that idea with some historical clarity and some political charity might beat a President Obama left holding the bag of what he as a Senator-activist-organizer might easily have called Empire. Even realist strategy must be moving on to issues involving the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and to do that those realists, descendents of our finest Europhiles, are going to have to finally countenance leaving Europe to its own military resources. If the Iraq war might not be fully over, certainly we can risk assuming that World War II might be.

Marx tried to reorient the left to speak of forces and interests, but place a personality before them and their myopia releases mostly schoolyard taunting. Which brings us back to the leading liberal expert on Republicans, Sam Tanenhaus, and his New Republic essay, “Imperial Conservatism’s Last Gasp”:

“Today, Bush’s presidency appears to have been an anomaly. In fact it was the terminus of a completed phase -- call it imperial conservatism -- in which every Republican president was a big-government conservative, in action if not in words. Just as the cold war gave Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon cover for their big-government schemes, so did the war on terrorism protect Bush as he enlarged the federal bureaucracy and increased federal spending. But as the immediacy of 9/11 recedes, an older conservative ideology -- one that was eclipsed for much of the imperial age -- has found new life.”

Tanenhaus understands this all as Executive vs. Legislative conservatism. It’s mostly inside baseball and of interest but limited by that view which values most the game of who might get to leave academia for public service in the next administration. The third branch, Justice, makes no appearance in his article despite the fact that it’s the Court’s actions since FDR’s four terms that have allowed Tanenhaus to put “Constitutional conservatism” in quotation marks, while states’ rights appear in the raw. The piece reads finally as mere political advice to President Obama as he heads up his reelection effort, rather than what one hopes for when reading what passes for a major think piece in a surviving journal of ideas. There may be no way to write a parallel piece about today’s Democratic Party, which is why Sam Tanenhaus is not an expert on his own party.


Tacit Tea Party addenda…

Anne Applebaum in Spectator.co.uk, "Is Nato finished?".

“Stories circulate about that shortage of munitions. According to one unverifiable report, the French were dropping ‘practice’ bombs -- i.e. lumps of concrete -- normally used only in training. Others were ‘borrowing’ ammunition, either from the Americans or from countries which weren’t involved. A good percentage of the Nato missions which flew over Libya dropped nothing at all, prompting one cynical (non-Nato) foreign minister to ask whether they contributed to anything except global warming.”


David Frum in NYTBR on Thomas Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum’s book, That Used to Be Us.

“Friedman and Mandelbaum at one point praise the beauty of solutions that rise from the bottom up as opposed to the top down. This praise is not consciously insincere, but pretty plainly it does not accurately represent their operational plan. Friedman and Mandelbaum are men of the American elite, and they write to salute those members of the American elite who behave public-spiritedly and to scourge those who do not.”


Bill Keller in NYTMag, "A Liberal Hawk Recants".

“And if we were paying closer attention, as we should have been, we would have been more alarmed by the fact that the authors of the invasion had shown open contempt for the kind of ‘nation building’ that went into the Marshall Plan. They seemed to have in mind a hit-and-run democracy project for Iraq, which was folly.”


"A Frank Free-for-All on Our Decade of War: Paul Berman, David Rieff, and others".

“Scott Malcomson: I was looking over George Packer’s 2002 New York Times Magazine piece on war and liberalism, and it occurred to me that the liberal-engagement debate really didn’t start until some months after 9/11. The Afghan action received relatively little higher thought, so to speak. It seemed a different sort of war than Iraq. Ten years later, the differences seem much less great.”

The Lumpen-Academia
Joe Carducci

There is some actual leftoid thinking going on in whatever fraktion they might call themselves; I’d call them the sub-left underground except they’re far above my station even here at 8,200 feet elevation. Unsurprisingly and to their benefit they bump up against anarchist and/or libertarian ideas. But unlike the contemporary left establishment they are fully, culturally, post-Soviet. The commies used to license typewriters so media-computer theorists might can be trusted to recoil from that, but one never knows do one?

Both Jaron Lanier and Douglas Rushkoff have posted far more interesting cogitations about where the economy is heading than you’ll hear from the Fed chairman or the Treasury secretary. Lanier in his interview, transcribed at Edge.org, “The Local-Global Flip,” expresses concern for what he fears the labor of his life may have unleashed, the end of work:

“I’ve described two ways to cope with machines getting good. One is a Marxist way, where you have some form of socialism, some institutional attempt for everybody to get along and use politics to arrange for their own liberty instead of some more abstract mechanism like money, and I’m concerned that that’s not realistic given human nature. A second way is for people to just suffer, and for the poor to wither away through attrition, as they can’t afford medicine or some scenario like that over time. I should say that this notion of the poor withering away does seem to be normative right now, and it concerns me a great deal. I believe there is a third way, which is a better way, and it happens to have also been the initial idea for the Internet, interestingly enough. My poster boy for expressing this is Ted Nelson, the eccentric character who initially proposed the Web, or something like it… as early as 1960....”

I never like hearing about any proposed Third Way. Pace Mussolini, that’s when I reach for my revolver. Nelson’s proposal involved something like the pay-what-you-want model of online services only writ large somehow.

However, even in the H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine, which Lanier mentions, it is not a simple matter of the Eloi living off the Morlocks. I don’t recall the particulars of the novel, but that scenario hasn’t happened and in Lanier’s sketch of the poor withering away due to no access to healthcare, he is more likely exactly wrong, at least in any long run the sci-fi novelist-in-the-sky will write. Modern medicine is after all dulling Mr Darwin’s scythe, therefore it is more realistic to expect the Eloi to wither away while the Morlocks to evolve new strengths, though granted they’ll have to get out more. (Note: Bio-engineering might could some day make the Eloi physically superior to the Morlock.)

This may be similar to Marx’s and others’ failure of imagination way back when. They fretted over workers inability to afford the products they were making in such abundance. They expected a pauperization of people who were after all just out of serfdom, toiling the fields of some landed gentry in most cases. Since they were wrong then, it might be that this loss of work and seeming pauperization resulting now from a new explosion of computer-enabled productivity advances, is also not all it seems. Certainly great expanses of the world, quite recently densely populated by subsistence farmers, are no longer so doomed to stasis. They there in Asia might say, Where’s the crisis? The west, and specifically the US, is having its wage-scale gradually equalized with the rest of the world. That was never going to be fun but its been approaching since WWII ended. I’m a believer in the American culture as long as it isn’t shut down. There have always been constituencies for control but the size of the country, the heterogeneous population, and the limits described in the Constitution kept them from pressing their eminently reasonable old world ways on this chaos of ours. We’d do best to remember that we haven’t identified all variables nor do we know what is to come.

But the harder-to-see-and-read internet evolution are what Lanier knows best:

“Information is power. The personal computer gave people their own information, and it enabled a lot of lives. At the turn of the century we turned it all around, and there’s two ways it got turned around. One exemplified perhaps by Google, and another way by Apple…. [T]he Apple idea is that instead of the personal computer model where people own their own information, and everybody can be a creator as well as a consumer, we’re moving towards this iPad, iPhone model… and it’s not a person to person thing, it’s a business through a hub, through Apple to others, and it doesn’t create a middle class, it creates a new kind of upper class. Google has done something that might even be more destructive of the middle class, which is they’ve said, ‘Well, since Moore’s law makes computation really cheap, let’s just give away the computation, but keep the data.’ And that’s a disaster…. [T]here’s this notion that you get all of this stuff for free, except somebody else owns the data, and they use the data to sell access to you….”

Lanier also has interesting things to say about the WalMart-China nexus, finance, and his hometown San Francisco as well, and Douglas Rushkoff and NYU professor of media and essayist comments approvingly at the end of it. In one bit Lanier even comes close to the Tea Party precipice. He’s right that its attitudes are “very American and very pure” and “admirable” but as the phenomenon at its best features an open-ended trust in this country perhaps it also is intuiting things no double-dome can know.

Douglas Rushkoff begins his piece at CNN.com, “Are jobs obsolete?” with the latest crisis, that of the U.S. Postal Service’s deficit. He dismisses the old right-left battle over what is wrong at the post office and blames e-mail for destroying the model upon which the USPS has operated for centuries. I happened to see the Letter Carriers Union officer on the “News Hour” and, man, if that dude is their TV spokesman, then they really do think they are still living in the thirties! Rushkoff blames the Industrial Age for destroying the labor-intensive uncentered production of the middle ages and “making those jobs as menial and unskilled as possible.” These ideas were attacked by Marx and his Darwinists when posited by Prince Kropotkin and other anarchists who suspected the sun shone a bit brighter in the dark ages.

Like Lanier, Rushkoff is too thoughtful to simply pick a side in the labor-capital battle. He writes regarding the efficiency of machines:

“While this is certainly bad for workers and unions, I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people. Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment?”

I smell a second Third Way (where is that damn pistol?!), but at least he’s off the reservation. One thing turned-on intellects don’t quite understand is the Morlock across town. On 9/11 the Eloi males ran up town whereas all manner of Morlock dropped what benighted task they were busy with from Pennsylvania to Texas and ran to the pile with their knowledge of earth-moving equipment. American Eloi can be quite motivated in their paper shuffling brainwork; American Morlock collect a lot of physical skills, but they will not be joining the Eloi on-line selling or trading their artisanal products.

The more standard philosophically Marxian take on these issues comes to us from John Gray at BBC.co.uk, “The revolution in capitalism,” which concedes that Marx “may have been wrong about communism but he was right about much of capitalism.” I guess this is progress, even with both sides of that “but” hedged. Gray is an anti-humanist throwback of the type who’ve settled on complaining how radical and revolutionary capitalism is since communism turned out to be so damned reactionary:

“Hunter-gatherers persisted in their way of life for thousands of years, slave cultures for almost as long and feudal societies for many centuries. In contrast, capitalism transforms everything it touches.”

He goes on to fret over the loss of middle class virtues. Of course I don’t covet British class structure issues or envy the pathfinders of the industrial revolution, but in the American context, the centralizing, left-secular attack on folk culture patterns of regions and locales in the name of combating racism or homophobia or lookism has been a mistake. These folk patterns helped tame the unsettling potential of the advanced and advancing market in this most fluid of societies. I guess the American activist was certain a civil religion could replace both God and manna. That activist also once worked to end all that industrial age soul-killing line-work, whereas now he frets over its loss.

The perspective of the intellectual is just not enough to comprehend these issues. Real world creation as both labor and management is helpful if not mandatory, for the id behind the perspective will wish to drift into a megalomania poisoned by the frustration of policy impotence. Its here that the intellectual reaches reflexively for the crown, and the promised divine right of kings. Gotta love that second amendment.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

Rahul Jacob in FT, "China’s rivals gain as factory wages soar".

“Last week, Jonathan Anderson, a UBS economist, released a report after crunching the numbers of the US and European Union’s import data for the first half of 2011. He found China’s light manufacturing share is starting to decline from more than 50 per cent to about 48 per cent. The beneficiaries include Bangladesh (up 19 per cent in exports to the US) and Vietnam (16 per cent). The first half of 2011 ‘looks a pretty convincing turning point’, says Mr Anderson of a shift in labour-intensive manufacturing to south-east Asia. India and the Philippines, by contrast, which should be ‘natural destinations’ for labour-intensive investment, appear to be sitting out the action, he says.””


Economist: "Privatisation with Chinese characteristics".

“These firms with their various sorts of state influence have several strengths. They invest patiently, unruffled by the short-term demands of the stockmarket. They help the government pursue its long-term goals, such as finding alternatives to fossil fuels. They build the roads, bridges, dams, ports and railways that China needs to sustain its rapid economic growth. But statism has big costs, too. The first is corruption. When local bigwigs can award contracts to firms which they themselves control, graft spreads like bird flu. Sometimes well-connected shell firms take a fat cut and then pass the real work on to subcontractors, with scant regard for standards. The second problem is that big state-backed enterprises crowd out small entrepreneurial ones. They gobble up capital that China’s genuinely private firms could use far more efficiently, amassing bad debts that will eventually cause China big trouble. They rig the game in other ways, too, enjoying privileged access to land and permits. Small private firms are often unsure whether what they do is even legal.””


Mary O’Grady in WSJ, "Canada’s Oil Sands Are a Jobs Gusher".

“U.S. unemployment is high because capital is on strike. Short-term offers to coax investors into taking new risks aren't going to cut it when they have been forewarned that the president intends to pay for it all by raising taxes in the out years. The market dropped over 300 points the day after Mr. Obama's speech. On the regulatory front the picture is even gloomier. Much of America's vast untapped energy potential lies dormant because Mr. Obama's regulatory watchdogs have spent the past three years throwing sand in the gears of the permitting process for exploration and exploitation on federal lands. Separately, TransCanada has been trying since September 2008 to get a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The Environmental Protection Agency has so far blocked it. A glimpse of what all this has cost the U.S. economy can be seen by looking north to Canada, where animal spirits have been unleashed in the energy sector. Canada's close economic ties to the U.S. have traditionally meant that when the U.S. gets the sniffles, Canada gets swine flu. This time it's been different.””


Ben Protess & Azam Ahmed in NYT, "Settlement Said to Be Near for Fannie and Freddie".

“But a settlement would represent the most significant acknowledgement yet by the mortgage companies that they played a central role in the housing boom and bust. And the action, however limited, may help refurbish the S.E.C.’s reputation as an aggressive regulator, particularly as the country struggles with the aftereffects of the financial crisis that the housing bubble fueled. But the potential settlement — even it if it is little more than a rebuke — comes at an awkward time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last week, the government overseer of the two companies sued 17 large financial firms, blaming them for luring the mortgage giants into buying troubled loans. That is a similar accusation to the one the S.E.C. is leveling at Fannie and Freddie — that the two entities misled their own investors. The case against the financial firms could be complicated should Fannie and Freddie sound a note of contrition for their own role in the implosion of the mortgage market in settling with the S.E.C. The agency abandoned hopes of assessing a fine because of the precarious financial positions of the two companies, according to the people briefed on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final. The government has already propped up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with more than $100 billion since taking control of them in 2008. Any fee levied against them would simply wind up on the taxpayers’ tab.””


Jed Graham in IBD, "ObamaCare’s Retirement Issue".

“Now, as total benefits for early retirees is set to get much richer with new health insurance subsidies in 2014, the short-sighted emphasis on the Social Security benefits available upon retirement at 62 seems even more out of date. Career-average earners (about $42,000 in 2011) retiring at 62 in 2014 would get a Social Security benefit of about $14,400 in current dollars. On top of that, they could receive an insurance subsidy of about $9,200, assuming their income isn't low enough to qualify for Medicaid, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. At a time when roughly half of nondisabled workers now claim Social Security at the earliest eligibility age of 62, that potential big boost would further skew incentives toward early retirement. And that's exactly what the Congressional Budget Office expects. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told Congress in March that because of subsidies and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) which ‘diminish people's incentives to work . . . some older workers will choose to retire earlier than they otherwise would.’ While insurance affordability is a real concern, and CBO expects the percentage reduction in payrolls to be modest (800,000 jobs in 2021), this makes it all the more critical to tilt Social Security's incentives in favor of delayed retirement.””


Eric Dash in NYT, "Feasting on Paperwork".

“Besides the lawyers, there are legions of corporate accountants, financial consultants, risk management advisers, turnaround artists and technology vendors all vying for their cut. ‘It is a full-employment act,’ said Gregory J. Lyons, a partner at Debevoise, where a team of a half-dozen lawyers has drafted 30-plus comment letters in the last six months.

‘The law is passed, but we are still reasonably early in the process,’ Mr. Lyons said. ‘There is still a lot to be written.’ New regulation has long been one of Washington’s unofficial job creation tools. After the enactment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the late 1970s, hundreds of lawyers and accountants were hired by companies to strengthen their internal controls. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 became a boon for the Big Four accounting firms as public corporations were forced to tighten compliance in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. Now, the Dodd-Frank Act is quickly becoming such a gold mine that even Wall Street bankers, never ones to undercharge, are complaining that the costs are running amok.””


John Lanchester in London Review of Books, "The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway".

“Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.”


James Grant on Sylvia Nasar’s book, Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius.

“Her collected geniuses, Ms. Nasar claims, were ‘instrumental in turning economics into an instrument of mastery.’ I find nothing in these pages remotely to substantiate that contention. Economics may be an ‘engine of analysis,’ as Alfred Marshall said, or an ‘apparatus of the mind,’ as Keynes put it. But economists no more set the world to producing and consuming than baseball statisticians hit home runs. Then, too, you'll never see Bill James, the dean of the baseball sabermetricians, trip up a base runner the way the government thwarts an entrepreneur. The intervention-minded economists are the ones who give the government its big ideas.”


Dimitar Bechev at EUobserver.com, "The protracted death of democratic Albania".

“It began in 2009, when the centre-right Democratic Party won elections over the Socialists in what few people think was an honest contest. The opposition then refused to take up their seats in parliament – and, once they did, took no part in legislative business – making Albania the only country in Europe without a formal relationship between government and opposition. This year, the situation went from bad to worse, as opposition-led protests against the government turned violent, with four people killed.””


Nuray Mert in Hurriyet Daily News, "Relations with Israel and the Kurdish question".

“The rising tension between Turkey and Israel is not the only a problem of confrontational regional relations, but it may also have serious implications on domestic politics. All countries in the region used to manipulate anti-Israeli feelings as a useful tool to hide their authoritarian politics. Anti-Israeli rhetoric is not only the official discourse in Iran and Syria, but in all Arab countries, all sorts of regimes use this rhetoric to fill the gap of oppositionist energies. Moreover, it is also useful to suppress criticism by labeling it as an ‘Israeli conspiracy.’ Now, as tension with Israel rises, Turkey seems to undergo a similar process. Many times, pro-government writers hint that any opposition to the present government may be related to the ‘Israeli lobby’ since the new Turkish government policy dares to challenge Israel bravely. Recently, the conservative media started to portray the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as an ‘Israeli pawn.’ In the dark days of the 1990s, the PKK was portrayed as collaborating with Armenian ASALA and PKK members were often presented not as Kurds but as Armenians. In fact, it is an old and major problem to avoid recognizing the Kurdish problem in all its aspects.””


Fatima El Issawi at Opendemocracy.net, "Lebanon and the ‘Spring’ of others".

“The so-called Arab Spring has proved again that the main practical ‘function’ of Lebanon remains to be a battlefield for other's grievances. While the Arab world is raging with pro-democracy protests, the Lebanese scene is surprisingly, for once, very calm. As a friend rightly described it, Lebanon is becoming a sleepy backyard.””


Economist: "Algeria’s embarrassment".

“Algeria’s government is looking especially sheepish. Despite its own revolutionary pedigree and a history of strained relations with Colonel Qaddafi, it voted against the crucial Arab League resolution in March that endorsed NATO’s action in support of Libya’s rebels. It has yet to recognise the Transitional National Council as Libya’s government. Throughout the conflict, unsubstantiated rumours suggested that Algeria supplied the colonel with fuel, arms and transport for foreign mercenaries. When the rebels captured Tripoli, some of them ransacked the Algerian embassy. Others announced that a city square named for Algeria’s revolution would be known as Abu Dhabi Square, in gratitude for the Gulf emirate’s aid.””


Dan Murphy in CSM, "A stunning shift of Iran’s image in the Arab world".

“What Mr. Zogby found was a stunning reversal in Iran's general popularity among six Arab nations of the region. Five years ago, Iran and Hezbollah – the Shiite militant group that has become a major political power in Lebanon – were on a high, symbols of resistance to the US and foreign occupation in the region. But with the US drawdown in Iraq, the domestically driven political change sweeping countries like Egypt and Libya, and Iran's own brutality against domestic democracy activists, Iran's ability to exert soft power in the region has clearly taken a beating. Asked if Iran plays a positive or negative role in the region, large majorities in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates said ‘positive’ five years ago. In the latest poll, those numbers were almost exactly reversed. In Morocco, Iran dropped from an 82 percent ‘positive’ rating in 2006, to an 85 percent ‘negative’ rating today. In Egypt, the shift was from 89 percent positive to 63 percent negative. In Saudi Arabia, it went from 85 percent positive to 80 percent negative, and in the UAE it went from 68 percent positive to 70 percent negative.””


Raymond Ibrahim at Hudson-ny.org, "Muslim Persecution of Christians: August, 2011".

“Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales – even in the West, wherever there are Muslims — it is clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam — whether the strict application of Sharia, or the supremacist culture borne by it.””


Eric Ormsby in NYTBR on Nigel Cliff’s book, Holy War: How Vasco da Gama’s Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations.

“The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém, a village at the mouth of the Tagus River now part of greater Lisbon, on July 8, 1497. An obscure but well-connected courtier, he had been chosen, much to everyone’s surprise, by King Manuel I to head the ambitious expedition to chart a new route to India. The king was not moved chiefly by a desire for plunder. He possessed a visionary cast of mind bordering on derangement; he saw himself spearheading a holy war to topple Islam, recover Jerusalem from ‘the infidels’ and establish himself as the ‘King of Jerusalem.’ Da Gama shared these dreams, but like his hard-bitten crew, rogues or criminals to a man, he coveted the fabled riches of the East — not only gold and gems but spices, then the most precious of commodities. On this voyage, as on his two later ones, he proved a brilliant navigator and commander. But where courage could not bring him through violent storms, contrary seas and the machinations of hostile rulers, luck came to his rescue. He sailed blindly, virtually by instinct, without maps, charts or reliable pilots, into unknown oceans.””


Gillian Tett in FT, "From Mesopotamia to America’s sub-prime slave system".

“If you want to get a fresh perspective on the issue, take a look at a fascinating new book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber, a social anthropologist who teaches at the University of London. Admittedly, Graeber is not typical fare for your average Financial Times reader, let alone an economist or banker. A self-avowed ‘anarchist’, Graeber holds radical political views and has previously published books with titles such as Direct Action: An Ethnography and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology.

Still, Graeber’s book is not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely. His sweeping narrative history essentially argues that many of our existing ideas about money and credit are limited, if not wrong. Take how we think that money evolved. In modern society, Graeber argues, economists often assume that money emerged as a medium of exchange to replace barter, while virtual credit developed after that. After all, gold is easier to carry around than sacks of potatoes or cows – and credit cards are a very recent invention. However, Graeber asserts this sequencing is wrong: his reading of history suggests that complex debt relations, in the widest sense, emerged before coins circulated (and before complex systems of barter, too). Back in 3,000BC in Mesopotamia, people were keeping records of who owed what to whom – but were barely using coins.””


Tom Lodge at Opendemocracy.net, "Mandela’s communism: why the details matter".

“So Mandela joined the party in 1961 but had probably in his own mind decided to distance himself from it by 1962: certainly his African travels would have alerted him to just how damaging to the ANC any public knowledge about his party affiliations would have been. Later, halfway through his prison term, he was taking up positions that in the world of exile politics would in the case of lesser personalities have caused their expulsion from the party.””


Ruth Hammond at Chronicle.com, "The Battle Over Zomia".

“Zomia does not appear on any official map, for it is merely metaphorical. Scott identifies it as ‘the largest remaining region of the world whose peoples have not yet been fully incorporated into nation-states.’ Though the scholars who have imagined Zomia differ over its precise boundaries, Scott includes all the lands at altitudes above 300 meters stretching from the Central Highlands of Vietnam to northeastern India. That encompasses parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma, as well as four provinces of China. Zomia's 100 million residents are minority peoples ‘of truly bewildering ethnic and linguistic variety,’ he writes. Among them are the Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Mien, and Wa. Scott admits to making ‘bold claims’ about those hill peoples but says ‘not a single idea’ in his book originates with him. He credits many other scholars, including the French anthropologist Pierre Clastres and the American historian Owen Lattimore, with influencing his thinking. Still, many find Scott's propositions startling. He depicts an alternative past for the inhabitants of Zomia. The majority of the people who ended up in the hills were either escaping the state or driven out by it, he says.””


Andrei Konchalovsky at Opendemocracy.net, "The living legacy of Russia’s slavery".

“Nikolai Berdyaev said that ‘freedom is difficult, slavery easy’. Indeed, being a ‘slave’ is very convenient: the boss takes all the decisions, ‘and I won’t lift a finger until someone tells me to’. The lack of a sense of responsibility that is characteristic of Russians is perhaps the most terrible legacy of slavery. A lack of responsibility to your country, the society of which you are a member, even your own parents and children! And without a sense of responsibility there can be no sense of guilt. To quote Berdyaev again, ‘A feeling of guilt is the feeling of a master’. And this is why it is naive to call for a collective national act of repentance for the evils of Bolshevism. I believe that the sense of historical guilt for Nazism shown by the German people demonstrates that this is a nation capable of taking responsibility for those tragic years when it took a conscious decision that resulted in monstrous acts of evil against humanity. We, on the other hand, do not suffer from a sense of historical guilt – we are convinced that Bolshevism was imposed on us, hammered into our souls, and that we are not responsible for anything – it is ‘THEY’ who are responsible! And how many more centuries will this continue?””


Giles MacDonogh in WSJ on Ian Kershaw’s book, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945.

“Mr. Kershaw is particularly interested in the passivity shown by the German populace. Why were party officials allowed to execute opponents of the regime only hours before their towns and villages were ‘liberated’ by Allied troops? He invokes the collapse in 1918, when workers rose up and made common cause with mutinous soldiers and sailors. This time, the Gauleiter had laid in proper stocks of food, so there was no equivalent of the devastating ‘Turnip Winter’ famine of 1917, and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points were more tempting than the ‘unconditional surrender’ proposed in 1943.””


9/11 addenda…

"63 Front Pages 9/11/2011".

Christopher Hitchens in Guardian, "From 9/11 to the Arab spring".

“Invited to deliver a lecture at the American University of Beirut in February 2009, with the suggested title of ‘Who are the real revolutionaries in the Middle East?’ I did my best to blow on the few sparks that then seemed dimly perceptible…. It was clear that a good number of the audience (including, I regret to say, most of the Americans) regarded me as some kind of stooge. For them, revolutionary authenticity belonged to groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah, resolute opponents of the global colossus and tireless fighters against Zionism. For me, this was yet another round in a long historic dispute. Briefly stated, this ongoing polemic takes place between the anti-imperialist left and the anti-totalitarian left. In one shape or another, I have been involved – on both sides of it – all my life. And, in the case of any conflict, I have increasingly resolved it on the anti-totalitarian side. (This may not seem much of a claim, but some things need to be found out by experience and not merely derived from principle.) The forces who regard pluralism as a virtue, ‘moderate’ though that may make them sound, are far more profoundly revolutionary (and quite likely, over the longer-term, to make better anti-imperialists as well).””

Peter Hitchens at Daily Mail, "Yasser Arafat’s cruise missiles did their job on 9/11. Just ask Israel".

“And I must here very strongly recommend the superb new account of the outrage, The Eleventh Day, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, a wholly absorbing and powerful narrative full of good sense, properly weighed facts and clear understanding. It deals with many important points. There’s the bungling of the security services, pretty much standard in these over-rated organisations. It is to cover their blushes that a million pairs of tweezers have been pointlessly confiscated by boot-faced airport security guards. There’s the creepy suppression of 28 pages of the U.S. Congress’s inquiry report into 9/11, believed to endanger Washington’s very special relationship with Saudi Arabia.

But most impressive is their description of how and why the official 9/11 Commission deliberately ducked the issue of what motivated the murderers. ‘All the evidence,’ the authors correctly say, ‘indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators.’

They were striking at America’s alliance with Israel. The hijacked planes, as I wrote on this page ten years ago, were Yasser Arafat’s cruise missiles. That is why news of the New York murders led to grisly demonstrations of joy and triumph across the Middle East, film of which was quickly suppressed by the Palestinian movement for fear of a wave of American rage directed against them. And it worked. American wrath and thunderbolts fell on Afghanistan and Iraq, not on Gaza or Ramallah, let alone on Saudi Arabia, where most of the murderers came from. Within weeks, George W. Bush had reversed a long-standing policy and come out in favour of a Palestinian state. This interpretation doesn’t suit me personally at all. It scares me stiff. I stick to it because I cannot avoid the fact that it is true. I believe it is the duty of the civilised West, having created the state of Israel, to defend its integrity and independence against irrational hatred and murderous threats. I believe this in spite of the fact that Israel has done, and continues to do, many wicked things.””

Dov Zakheim at Meforum.org, "What 9/11 Has Wrought".

“Toward a lighter, more flexible force. The switch to lighter units and the increasing emphasis on unmanned aerial vehicles began while Donald Rumsfeld was secretary of defense. Rumsfeld had preached ‘transformation’ of the military prior to 9/11. He favored a lighter, more flexible army, arguing that the heavy armored forces that dominated the army were an artifact of the Cold War. For that reason as well, Rumsfeld also pushed for an increase in special operations force levels. Rumsfeld felt that the air force likewise reflected the requirements of the Cold War rather than the emerging security environment of the twenty-first century. For this reason, he advocated increased funding and numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles. Yet just as his proposals for a more flexible land force encountered fierce resistance from the army leadership, so did his stress on UAVs lead to passive foot dragging by the air force. The war in Afghanistan enabled him to force through increased funding for both special forces and UAVs, however…. U.S. forces employ thousands of robots of various kinds in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and are likely to expand their reliance on unmanned systems in the years to come…. It is noteworthy that Rumsfeld ordered that a relatively small ground force be employed to carry out Operation Iraqi Freedom. For this, he was bitterly criticized when it became clear that efforts in Iraq would require a long-term commitment with increased troop levels. In fact, Rumsfeld had anticipated a rapid departure from Iraq with power returned to a post-Saddam local leadership. It was the creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority — essentially a U.S. operation — and its dismantlement of the Iraqi military and the country's Baathist bureaucratic structure, that resulted in the U.S. ensnarement in Iraq.””


Anne Jolis in WSJ, "The Other Climate Theory".

“They announced their findings, and the possible climatic implications, at a 1996 space conference in Birmingham, England. Then, as Mr. Svensmark recalls, ‘everything went completely crazy.... It turned out it was very, very sensitive to say these things already at that time.’ He returned to Copenhagen to find his local daily leading with a quote from the then-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): ‘I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible.’ Mr. Svensmark had been, at the very least, politically naïve. ‘Before 1995 I was doing things related to quantum fluctuations. Nobody was interested, it was just me sitting in my office. It was really an eye-opener, that baptism into climate science.’ He says his work was ‘very much ignored’ by the climate-science establishment — but not by CERN physicist Jasper Kirkby, who is leading today's ongoing cloud-chamber experiment. On the phone from Geneva, Mr. Kirkby says that Mr. Svensmark's hypothesis ‘started me thinking: There's good evidence that pre-industrial climate has frequently varied on 100-year timescales, and what's been found is that often these variations correlate with changes in solar activity, solar wind.’””


Ariel Levy in NYer, "The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution".

“Men and women in every generation have convinced themselves that they’ve stumbled upon something new: the erotic illuminati of the eighteenth century, with their electrified orgasms and unbridled hedonism; the voluptuary innovators of the seventeenth century, Restoration libertines like the Earl of Rochester and his circle (‘Much wine had passed, with grave discourse / Of who fucks who, and who does worse‘); the Rabelaisians of the century before, and so on, back to the polymorphous perversity celebrated by Catullus and countless classical precursors. Everyone, of whatever era, can imagine himself to be a Cortez of coition, staring at a heaving Pacific of newly discovered erotic possibility.

We seem to have a peculiar urge to believe that the way we have sex, the thing that got us all here, is unprecedented. It’s like the familiar difficulty people have imagining that their parents had sex. The reason sex can be revolutionized again and again is that we’re reluctant to believe our ancestors could have known and felt what we know and feel.””


Economist: "What would Jesus hack?".

“Mr Spadaro says he became interested in the subject when he noticed that hackers and students of hacker culture used ‘the language of theological value’ when writing about creativity and coding, so he decided to examine the idea more deeply. The hacker ethic forged on America’s west coast in the 1970s and 1980s was playful, open to sharing, and ready to challenge models of proprietary control, competition and even private property. Hackers were the origin of the ‘open source’ movement which creates and distributes software that is free in two senses: it costs nothing and its underlying code can be modified by anyone to fit their needs. ‘In a world devoted to the logic of profit,’ wrote Mr Spadaro, hackers and Christians have ‘much to give each other’ as they promote a more positive vision of work, sharing and creativity. He is not the only person to see an affinity between the open-source hacker ethos and Christianity. Catholic open-source advocates have founded a group called Elèutheros to encourage the church to endorse such software. Its manifesto refers to ‘strong ideal affinities between Christianity, the philosophy of free software, and the adoption of open formats and protocols’.””


David Kocieniewski in NYT, "Rich Tax Breaks Boster Makers of Video Games".

“The United States government offers tax incentives to companies pursuing medical breakthroughs, urban redevelopment and alternatives to fossil fuels. It also provides tax breaks for a company whose hit video game this year was the gory Dead Space 2, which challenges players to advance through an apocalyptic battlefield by killing space zombies. Those tax incentives — a collection of deductions, write-offs and credits mostly devised for other industries in other eras — now make video game production one of the most highly subsidized businesses in the United States, says Calvin H. Johnson, who has worked at the Treasury Department and is now a tax professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Because video game makers straddle the lines between software development, the entertainment industry and online retailing, they can combine tax breaks in ways that companies like Netflix and Adobe cannot.””


Paul Nelson, Clint Eastwood, and Jonathan Lethem at LAReviewofBooks.org from Kevin Avery’s book, Conversations with Clint.

“PAUL: I taped Revenge of the Creature the other night, but I think you were cut out. Is that the one where you have the mouse in your pocket?

CLINT: Yeah.

PAUL: I stayed up until 5:22 in the morning to tape it. That scene was gone from the version I taped.

CLINT: Ah, well. Nothing’s sacred anymore. They take that fabulous scene out of the picture. That was my very first part. A four-liner or something like that. I remember it was Jack Arnold directing and William Alland was the producer. Alland called me into his office and read me the scene and gave me the part. And that was it. He said, ‘I’ll take you down and we’ll meet the director.’ I walked on the set and the director said, ‘What the hell is this? I told you I don’t want to do that goddamn scene! Who’s this guy?’ [laughs] I thought, I’m going to get punched — he was screaming and yelling — or else I was just going to wilt to the floor. Probably the latter. Alland made me realize that it wasn’t anything against me — the director just didn’t want the scene in the movie, so he didn’t see any reason for shooting it and thought they should cut it out.

PAUL: Well, they did in the version I saw [chuckles].

CLINT: The producer won the argument. He just said, ‘That’s in. Shoot it first thing in the morning.’ That was the final word, so I said, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’ But it was a hell of a way to start your acting career: walk on a set and you know that the director hates the scene. Therefore you know he hates you.””


"Chuck Dukowski on SST, Meat Puppets, etc.".

“M- Moving on to Meat Puppets II. Many people, especially, you know, the critics, and the historians, and such, they mention quite a difference between these first two records: Meat Puppets and Meat Puppets II. Do you see that difference?

C- Well it seems like they relaxed for Meat Puppets II. If that makes any sense. It’s the same but they’ve relaxed and went ahead and let themselves be themselves, and you can hear some of the words which helps them get across. And the songs were executed a little slower most of the time. Because of that it’s less buzz and crazy rawness and more twisted soulful. The Hüskers, The Minutemen, and Meat Puppets all were transitioning around that time in kind of in the same direction. A relaxing of their sounds into letting their roots, their non-hardcore angle surface a little bit more. So in the Meat Puppets it comes out in a twisted kind of Neil Young-esque country influenced sound. And the Minutemen, they do it their way. Their record that was around at that time was the Buzz or Howl record. And then uh, the Hüskers came with Metal Circus around the same time. And then that direction manifests fully in all three groups. In Meat Puppets it’s Up On The Sun and with the Minutemen and Hüskers it’s their double albums. And, uh, you get the more accessible; well I won’t say accessible, a little bit slowed down. You can dig into what the hooks are. Also as song writers all three of them matured and became better at it too. I’d say in each case these guys were musicians before punk rock, and it stuck a screw driver in the spokes of their musical directions that was exciting to them and stirred everything up and sent them tumbling down the hill off their bikes and then they collected themselves and got going again, but took in that influence and then developed something that incorporated it all more completely.””


Archie Patterson at Eurock.com, "Welcome back my friends".

“I was raised on records. In 1958 at the ripe old age of 10 years old, I grabbed my allowance, ran to Sherman Clay music store, and bought my first rock record - Its Only Make Believe by Conway Twitty. I promptly fell in love, hard, with rock and roll. Watching Dick Clarks Bandstand and Saturday Night Show became my religion. I was fortunate to be able to see them as my parents had just bought our first black and white TV set. Race music had entered the white mainstream a few years before, so my, and most, white kids lives would never be the same afterwards. Next came the teenage years. We took yearly family trips back to Colorado visiting my grandparents. It was so cool, I got to sleep in the basement and listen late at night to the 100,000-watt radio station KOMA out of Oklahoma City. Bang! Lying in bed nights, I heard over two consecutive summers - The Who I Cant Explain, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere and My Generation (1964-1965). That turned my head inside out. A finer man there never was than grandpa as he gifted me one Christmas with a subscription to Melody Maker magazine from the UK.There a small-classified advert led me to Records LTD on Dugdale Street, in Nuneaton, UK and one Peter Auerbach who proceeded to supply me with all the UK vinyl 45 goodies I could afford. That was how I discovered The Move via their 1st 1966 single, Night of Fear on the Deram label, followed by many others including The Nice single America (1967). I became an Anglophiliac.”


Alice Bag’s coming book, Violence Girl, three excerpts.

“Fruits of the Recycler: ‘It says it right there in the ad: FEMALE musicians wanted. What’s wrong with these guys?!’ I was exasperated. For weeks we’d been trying to find a drummer and rhythm guitarist for our band by putting ads in the Recycler, a free ad weekly publication widely used by Angelenos before the birth of Craigslist. We’d had success early on, finding a few female musicians in our incarnation as Masque Era, but now that Patricia and I really wanted a punk band, our search was coming up empty. For some strange reason, men kept responding to our ads. The latest guy, named Geza X, seemed to have all the same musical interests as us. He was sweet on the phone and really wanted to be in a band with girls, but Patricia and I were having trouble letting go of the original plan. Geza X was persistent and talked us into jamming with him and a drummer he knew named Joe Nanini.”


Nile Rodgers in NYT’s T Mag, "Mr. Rodgers’s Neighborhood".

“Now on this hot spring day, eight years since he’d last played with Paul Whiteman, my father had a flophouse ledge as his stage. He’d already jumped out of the fourth-story window and fallen onto the landing. A small brigade of cops and firemen were trying to bring him in. I frantically ran into the hotel and told the desk clerk, ‘The man on the fire escape is my father. I don’t think he’ll jump if he sees me.’ I added, ‘He is a very nice man.’ The clerk brought me over to the police, who escorted me up to the fourth floor and the window closest to my father. ‘Hey, Nile, hey, Nile, it’s Little Splash,’ I said to him. Splash was my dad’s nickname on the street, because he drank a lot of cheap bathtub gin. He needed to. He was always high and it was a simple matter of economics. Over the past few years, he’d become a full-fledged alcoholic and drug addict, lost his job in the garment district and ended up on welfare in an S.R.O. He was on the city’s methadone program and made extra money by selling ‘spit back’ to addicts. ‘Spit back’ is resold methadone that junkies literally spit into a hidden receptacle after they swallow just enough to get straight. He liked it when his friends called me Little Splash, and I thought this would get through to him. It did. He recognized me instantly. I hadn’t realized that he lived so close to us. I hadn’t seen him for about six months. Beverly didn’t allow it because she felt embarrassed for him. But she didn’t understand how much I loved him, and that he and I got along great. On our last get-together, we’d gone shopping and seen the sci-fi film The Blob in the Bronx. He’d always give me a present, a record or a cool ethnic percussion instrument. But now he looked at me with a sorrowful, nearly empty stare: ‘Pud, why did she do that to me? I loved her so much.’ ‘I know, Pops, come inside now.’””


Jon Fine in Atlantic, "I Gave My Ears to Rock and Roll".

"I sneered at those who wore earplugs at their shows. Earplugs turned the picture to black-and-white. Why would you do that? Onstage, your eyesight whiting out from the stage lights and your ears roasting from the decibels, the air seemed suffused with pure adrenaline. It lit you up like a city at night. I finally started wearing earplugs onstage in 2002, after playing a particularly deafening show. When I went to bed that night, I heard not one but two distinct tones ringing in my right ear. Others have worse stories. 'I had a really weird experience playing our penultimate show,' says Pat Mahoney, the drummer for the just-disbanded LCD Soundsystem. 'We started playing a song we hadn’t played in a long time. And it was so loud and my ears were so fatigued, it was like being snow-blind. I could tell there was tremendous noise, but I couldn’t identify any of it … It was fucking terrifying.'"


Craig Lindsey in LA Weekly, "Dennis Coffey’s Show Was Canceled; Who Cares? He’s Still Amazing".

“But he didn't only work with Motown artists. He went on to strum for Wilson Pickett, Freda Payne, The Sylvers and George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective. This led to his own solo career, with albums featuring instrumental funk favorites like ‘Scorpio’ and ‘Taurus.’ But the '80s weren't so kind to him. ‘It happens to many artists, you know, and session musicians,’ says Coffey, now 70, on the phone from his Motor City home base. ‘After a certain period of time, suddenly everything comes to a halt.’

He moved to New York and Los Angeles during that time, looking for work. But with a family to support, Coffey ended up on the assembly line at General Motors, installing torque converters and transmissions when he wasn't playing music part-time. Eventually, he became a major consultant in the automotive industry, moving over to Ford as a training/re-manufacturing coach, instructing at plants all over North America as well as Mexico and Germany.””


Indian Country Today "Tribe Defends Fighting Sioux Logo".

“The controversy between the NCAA, the University of North Dakota (UND) and two Sioux tribes in the state continues — even after most thought the retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo was decided. Now, the Spirit Lake Tribe has filed an injunction in tribal court to keep the nickname. Not only has the tribe filed an injunction for the school to keep the logo, it has asked that licensing and merchandising rights be turned over to the Spirit Lake Tribe. Frank Blackcloud, Spirit Lake’s spokesperson, told KXMB CBS 12 that the use of Fighting Sioux has always been respectful and makes him feel proud. ‘We gave UND permission years ago this was a gift and that’s what the NCAA doesn’t understand, nobody has the right to take that gift away expect a Sioux tribe and the only reason we would take it away is if they were doing dishonor to the Sioux name and the aren’t doing that,’ he told the TV station. ‘They are holding it respectfully and with honor and in it’s tradition — and are doing everything proper.’ But Spirit Lake is only one of two Native American nations the NCAA required approval from so the school could keep using the mascot and name. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the other federally recognized Sioux tribe in North Dakota, also has to approve of the name. But that approval hasn’t happened, the Standing Rock Tribal Council actually passed a resolution voting against use of the Fighting Sioux name.””


David Germain at AP, "It’s hockey night in Canada at the Toronto film fest".

The Last Gladiators from Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) premiered Friday, offering a portrait of punch-throwing hockey enforcers such as former Montreal Canadiens brawler Chris Nilan. Premiering Saturday were Michael Dowse's Goon, featuring co-writer Jay Baruchel, Seann William Scott and Liv Schreiber in a the tale of a gentle-spirited hockey enforcer, and Robert Lieberman's Breakaway, whose cast includes Rob Lowe as coach of a misfit team of Sikh-Canadians trying to make their mark in Toronto hockey circles. ‘We're trying to single-handedly create the hockey movie as a genre to match the Western,’ said festival co-director Cameron Bailey. ‘We haven't had a lot of hockey movies in Canadian filmmaking, but it seems like suddenly, they're exploding, so we're just going to ride that as long as we can.’ A year ago, the festival opened with Score: A Hockey Musical, a tuneful tale of a teenage hockey prodigy who goes from home-schooled innocent to ice sensation overnight.””


Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.

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