a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Issue #119 (October 12, 2011)

West of Centennial Ridge, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Bonjour, tristesse
(Or, It Isn’t Easy Being Green)

by Carolyn Heinze

“I forget sometimes what laughter can do.”

– Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Remember when the Shah fell? Back in the day, back in Iran? (Don’t think he really fell per se, but he was in Iran, and…) Between then and 1994, the head honcho in Iran’s film censoring department was blind. Or almost blind. He was a theater censor as well. As told by Azar Nafisi: “…One of my playwright friends once described how he would sit in the theater wearing thick glasses that seemed to hide more than they revealed. An assistant who sat by him would explain the action on stage, and he would dictate the parts that needed to be cut…” He got promoted. (The head honcho censor guy – don’t know what happened to the assistant.) Landed a gig as the TV station’s big cheese. Luckily he wasn’t deaf, too, so script proposals could be submitted on tape. Audiotape. Don’t know if he specified TDK or Maxell.

All this from Reading Lolita in Tehran. Nafisi’s the one who wrote it. Wouldn’t recommend it for the beach, but you should check it out.

I wonder about Iran’s Human Resources Department. What is their recruiting strategy, anyway? First there’s the blind/not deaf/dumb censor guy…and then there’s their leader. Well, he’s not their real leader per se, but you know who I’m talking about. The guy who gets to stand at the podium and bellow and bluster and boom? That one. Who hired him? And was vacuousness a major part of the criteria? Along with bad hair?

And what about irony? And laughter? And a general good old-fashioned sense of humor? You know – all of those characteristics that recruiters call ‘people skills?’ What Best Practices Manager advised HR to abolish these? (I’ll bet it was someone with an MBA.) (Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but MBAs have all the great ideas.) (When they have ideas, that is.)

Because: I don’t know about you, but I don’t find Iranian films all that funny. At least the ones that I’ve seen. O.K., maybe not all Iranian films… Persepolis was plenty funny, and it was Iranian, or at least it was drawn and co-directed and co-written and co-filmed by an Iranian, and mainly-mostly took place in Iran, but…The Iranian co-writer and co-filmer and co-director and draw-er mainly-mostly does all of her filming and writing and drawing and directing in France. Say what you want about France, but here, you’re still allowed to laugh. Even if it’s largely frowned upon.

Au revoir sounds like it might’ve been filmed in France but it wasn’t. (It’s also called Good Bye.) And it’s just not that funny. It was filmed in Iran.

En gros, on the whole, for the most part, à la base, Au revoir/Good Bye is your basic Broads In Burqas/Chicks In Chadori/Vamps In Veils/Dames In Doilies kinda deal: A human rights lawyer (it’s a girl) gets booted out of the bar. Her husband – a journalist – is in hiding. She desires to ditch her doilies and duds and get the hell out of Dodge. There’s some other stuff, too – like this semi-ritualistic feeding of a turtle which I surmise was supposed to be semi-symbolic, but the symbolism was semi-lost on moi. (Except the part where the turtle gets away, but that wasn’t even semi-subtle.) Oh yeah, and she’s pregnant. (The ex-lawyer, not the turtle.) (Don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.) (Can’t remember if there is an ultrasound scene, but I think she’s too early on.) (Come to think of it, couldn’t tell if the turtle was a boy or a girl.) And that’s pretty much that.

And it’s soooo not funny.

This from Mohammad Rasoulof (he’s the director) to Telerama (it’s an entertainment rag):

“Before, like a lot of Iranian filmmakers, I used metaphors to talk about our country; today, I show people’s lives. With realism. I don’t take any detours anymore. It’s too late. The confrontation is head-on. It’s a real duel…”

Well, O.K. La Fontaine may have related. Maybe. But Momo? Methinks La Fontaine also loved to laugh. Because realistically? With realism? Don’t people, in peoples’ lives, love to laugh, even confrontationally, even head-on? Especially confrontationally? Especially head-on? Isn’t that what the Sufis were about? At least partly? You know – the Sufis that were from Persia which is now Iran? Or has Iran’s HR department gotten so incompetent in its recruiting policies that Iranian people and Iranian citizens and Iranian artists have forgotten how?

It’s true, c’est vrai, you’ve gotta give him this: Au revoir/Good Bye was shot on the sly. (And not in that ‘Smile! You’re on Candid Camera kind of way, but more like that, ‘Jesus Christ, hide the fucking camera before we get arrested and tortured and killed!’ kind of way.) Heard the same thing about No One Knows About Persian Cats. (It came out a couple of years ago…was directed by Bahman Ghobodi.) (It’s the one about bands trying to make music in Tehran, while at the same time trying to get the hell out of Tehran.) (Not too funny, either…except the heavy metal head-banging part…heavy metal head-banging parts are always funny…) My point is: all this hiding and arresting and imprisoning and torturing doesn’t leave an artist – no matter how dueling, confrontational and head-on and head-banging they are – much room to move. Or much room to nurture their creativity. Or, I guess, much room to laugh. Or . . .

Of course, Rasoulof (Au revoir’s director) was arrested. Around the same time his buddy, Jafar Panaki (another Iranian cinéaste), was thrown in the slammer, too. (They were collaborating on a project on the Green Movement, and – surprise, surprise – Iran’s HR department and blind/deaf/dumb film censors and pretend leaders and real leaders didn’t see any humor in that.) There have been appeals, and a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, and it’s unclear whether either of them will be able to practice their art again, or even live in…ahem…“liberté.” While Rasoulof himself didn’t, his film did make it to Cannes – picked up the prize for Un certain regard. (He was granted leave to Paris in September to promote it when it came out in the cinemas, but as for his future in filmmaking, the jury’s still flummoxed.) Panaki’s film – aptly titled Ceci n’est pas un film (This Is Not A Film) – since he’s holed up and not really allowed to make any films right now – was also screened at Cannes. (There are several rumors about how the pair got their work to the festival, including stuffing USB keys into pastries to smuggle the films across the border…sure beats swallowing condoms, but just barely…)

So, fine: None of this is ferociously funny. And if I knew I was going to be tortured and imprisoned and arrested and banned, my giggle-fit count would be substantially slim, too. (Plus, I’m way too cute for jail.) But about all this seriousness and somberness and sulking and skulking and such? There’s something that still bothers me. . .

In my edition of Reading Lolita in Tehran, there’s an interview with Nafisi at the end of the book. She has a lot of interesting stuff to say, but this especially stuck: “…With imagination, the only thing that is sacred is the permission to be profane…”

In a country where artists and lawyers and journalists and farmers and anyone else are arbitrarily considered profane for breathing, isn’t humor a mighty weapon? A responsibility, even? A powerful way to stick it to The Man? And if you knew, no matter what, you’d be arbitrarily arrested and arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured and beaten and banned, wouldn’t you want the last laugh?

Death Panel My Ass
by Joe Carducci

I think it was back in the seventies, back amongst all the talk of self-actualizing and releasing your fantasies and earth shoes, that the idea of preventive care took hold of elite non-medical opinion about what came to be called health-care. Professional opinion then, I’m unsure about, and unfortunately I can’t ask my dad due to his Alzheimer’s. But I don’t think the AMA was selling out its members that early. It’s quite possible that doctors smelled additional revenue coming their way and kept quiet about it. But they certainly knew that preventive care does not cut costs, it increases them. It was fine with most folks how people behaved, as long as they paid the price for their own behavior and of the care they wanted.

People don’t drink and smoke the way they used to, but they’ve thought up other vices, and more importantly they expect to live forever. They mostly don’t pay doctors directly either anymore, hence this never-ending shell game. But suddenly it is now that preventive care has been thrown over by the Feds who’ve succeeded in making every health case their case. Gardiner Harris reported the story for the New York Times on Friday, “U.S. Panel Says No to Prostate Test for Healthy Men”:

“The draft recommendation, by the United States Preventive Services Task Force and due for official release next week, is based on the results of five well-controlled clinical trials and could substantially change the care given to men 50 and older. There are 44 million such men in the United States, and 33 million of them have already had a P.S.A. test -- sometimes without their knowledge -- during routine physicals.” (NYT)

Can you imagine the money we will save! Harris continues, “Recommendations of the task force often determine whether federal health programs like Medicare and private health plans envisioned under the health reform law pay fully for a test.” I don’t need to call my brother, also a doctor, to know that he would say, “No shit, Sherlock!”

The New York Times is of its own volition, of course, deeply invested in its “health reform law,” otherwise known as Obamacare -- son of Hillarycare. So it isn’t just Harris maintaining a straight face as they report this, it is every layer of editor up to very pinnacle of American germalism maintaining straight faces. But its poor Gardiner who’s got his name is on this jive. He forges forward, mentioning that “legislation already requires Medicare to pay for P.S.A. testing no matter what the task force recommends,” and then pauses to hack through several more brambles:

“[T]he recommendations will most likely be greeted with trepidation by the Obama administration, which has faced charges from Republicans that it supports rationing of health care services, which have been politically effective, regardless of the facts.” (NYT)

Regardless of the facts…. Hm, meaning like these very facts?! I guess he or his editors mean the facts that proved there were no death panels or rationing… per se. With the Times lending a hand I don’t see why the administration would have trepidation, and if they do maybe they can take something for it. The New York Times can be counted on to flood the zone with “the facts.”

Before quoting the chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in Britain, Dr. Michael Rawlins, who is not getting tested any more for fear he’ll find out something statistically useless, get his prostate removed unnecessarily and lose the use of his schmeckel, Gardiner notes that this whole dealie already went down for women and their useless routine preventive mammograms:

“Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announced that the government would continue to pay for the test for women in their 40s. On Thursday, the administration announced with great fanfare that as a result of the health reform law, more people with Medicare were getting free preventive services like mammograms.” (NYT)

Free preventive services… Hm, meaning these needless tests that do not save lives? All to prove “the facts” are true at any cost no matter how free?!

The same issue of the Times featured a sidebar, “What the Recommendations Mean for Men,” as well as a short editorial titled at first “Not Their Job,” then softened on-line, likely because its reluctance to cap malpractice liability for doctors can look rather… I don’t know, hostile?, when the vaunted Health Reform Law will limit what can be tested for, diagnosed, prescribed. Why not just stovepipe the liability to the federal government as well? Then that’ll be free, too. A perfect circle. Ouroboros. But the New York Times has wanted our courts to punish doctors going way back before they turned focus onto Wall Street. As they the unsigned put it: “This page is in favor of malpractice reform, if it is done right. The deficit-reduction committee’s narrow focus and hothouse atmosphere virtually guarantees a lop-sided, ignore-the-patient focus.” Thank goodness health-care is in the hands of journalists and lawyers.

Dated the same damn day online but probably in Saturday’s Times, our man on the health reform law beat Gardiner is already chronicling the “battle” that this report will trigger next week when it is released, and not a moment too soon! In “Panel’s Advice on Prostate Test Sets Up Battle” Harris offloads this all on, you guessed it, doctors:

“If the panel’s analysis of the science is correct, thousands of men were probably harmed by unnecessary tests and treatments during the delay. At the heart of its advice is the startling finding that thousands of doctors in the United States have been doing many of their patients more harm than good.” (NYT)

The bastards. If I read these articles correctly, they are also continuing to wantonly do more harm than good to women in their forties despite the health reform law’s panel’s recommendations!

Somewhat confusing in its overkill is the New York Times Magazine’s article, “Do I Have Cancer? Don’t Tell Me” by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer, which though posted Saturday and published Sunday is actually put to bed Wednesday if I remember correctly. So why the headline on Friday? Why not Wednesday, or days earlier actually? The Mag notes an earlier Times Op-Ed by researcher Richard Ablin which calls P.S.A. screening “a public health disaster.” Sounds like the Times is beyond invested in the health reform law. These backbends of theirs may soon require chiropractic care. I’m sure that is free because whenever my dad heard somebody refer to chiropracty as a serious option he laughed.

Tuesday brought more detail to the New York Times health-care plan. The unsigned editorial declares it “absurd” that anyone would question this new “authoritative warning” as mere cost-savings rationing. Okay, I guess I trust them; their faith in science is so fervent. Gardiner’s piece notes a here-to-fore unsuspected expert panel’s parallel review of the P.S.A. recommendation that they knew would prompt outcry, though they did not know what the first study would show beforehand. This second study instantly confirming the first study as yet still unreleased though leaked (a little prostate joke there) to the Times last week. Presumably this report of the second study is also a leak, no wait it says it was published Friday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. I think that’s a typo and its really the Anals of Internal Medicine. I’ve seen that at the newsstand; they keep it under the counter. You have to ask for it. Also Tuesday was A.G. Sulzberger reporting from Kansas City, “States Adding Drug Test as Hurdle for Welfare.” Something tells me old Mr. Unsigned is going to call this “absurd” “rationing” of free money.

I heard this week that the President for the first time referred to the health reform law as “Obamacare.” Maybe the Times editors should get a look at those scripts of his, you know, as a courtesy or something.

In any case, step back to see what is really going on. The idealists who flunked private medicine anticipate getting the control they wanted. Now their harsh grading system is about to undergo incredible grade inflation as they begin to grade themselves and this thing of theirs.


Ira Stoll at Futureofcapitalism.com, "NY's Medicaid Boom":

"Jacob Gershman, my former colleague at the New York Sun, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal today about New York's 5 millionth Medicaid patient:

'Over the past decade, more than two million people were added to New York's Medicaid rolls, an increase of nearly 75%. In 2001, 15% of the population was on Medicaid. That percentage is now at 26%, about 10 points higher than the national average.... In recent years, the state eliminated resources tests, allowing most applicants to attest their family assets. It also stopped requiring face-to-face interviews, switching to mail-in applications. Last year, the state health department posted online tips explaining how people with too much income for Medicaid can still get into the system.'"


An Etiquette of Djimmitude
by Joe Carducci

It’s obviously dangerous that the multi-cultural reflex of the west complements so perfectly in relief Islam’s reflexive assertion of prerogative. The west’s reflex is what strong liberal institutions made of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights battle. Islam’s assertion is what a weak civilization makes of possessing the one true faith. But its also eerie in the way it rhymes with the lost history of the first Christendom. We are seeing the same “weak force” in action today that allowed the desert faith to subdue the wealthier civilizations that early Christians and earlier Jews had built within the great pagan capitols of Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, and Constantinople. I didn’t feel deja vu until I saw Bat Ye’or on C-Span five years ago explaining that Muslim immigrants to European welfare states understood welfare payments as the international version of the jizya -- the tribute infidels pay in the form of a tax for the privilege of living within the ummah. The submission to this levy is taken as justification for it, and over the centuries has proved part of the ratchet of Islam which encourages conversion or flight.

Considering this within the context of the special obliviousness of the French, never mind the Swedes, it occurred to me as this slight older woman spoke that Europe might actually be doomed -- conquered finally by Islam’s powerful weakness, not a powerful army at the gates of Vienna but an invasion of refugees carrying not quite a faith, but an organizational meme.

In America in the late sixties and seventies the new generation of baby boomer social worker worked extra hard to relieve the indigent, the criminal or the merely lazy of any last molecule of the formerly proper shame of the petitioner for relief. They drilled into the needy to be, rather, demanding. It took a lot to relieve even notional Christians of humility, but for that sixties generation of idealistic social worker, that became their revolution when plan A didn’t pan out.

Ye’or spoke as an Egyptian Jew who’d emigrated to Britain. And one sees that the last such infidels are leaving the Arab world to its own devices as fast as they can manage. It seems they must be followed by an even larger Muslim emigration from a more purely Muslim ummah since Jews and Christians have often been skilled specialists in niches open to them that have helped these societies function. By then perhaps the EU’s doors, which were opened as part of an oil-peace struck the year after the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, will be closed. High-minded peace is not the natural state of Europe, after all, and the suprastate elite in Brussels seems increasingly occupied defending their own asserted prerogative against their own demos. But now there is still much interference being run for jihad by high-minded westerners.

Here’s how initial reports of the same story Sunday begin in four outlets, the American paper of record, the leading British wire service, the BBC’s website, and a specialty site that claims to be “promoting American interests” though is certainly preoccupied by concern for Israel too:

“Church Protests in Cairo Turn Deadly” in the New York Times:

“A demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church touched off a night of violent protests here against the military council now ruling Egypt, leaving 24 people dead and more than 200 wounded in the worst spasm of violence since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February. The sectarian protest appeared to catch fire because it was aimed squarely at the military council that has ruled Egypt since the revolution, at a moment when the military’s latest delay in turning over power has led to a spike in public distrust of its authority. When the clashes broke out, some Muslims ran into the streets to help defend the Christians against the police, while others said they had come out to help the army quell the protests in the name of stability, turning what started as a march about a church into a chaotic battle over military rule and Egypt’s future.”

“Egypt Christians mourn dead after clashes kill 25” from Reuters:

“Egyptian Christians mourned their dead and berated the army on Monday after at least 25 people were killed when troops crushed a protest about an attack on a church in the worst violence since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Armored personnel carriers sped into the crowd late on Sunday to break up the demonstrators near the state television building. Videos posted on the internet showed mangled bodies. Activists said corpses had been crushed by the vehicles. Tension between Muslims and minority Coptic Christians has simmered for years but has worsened since the anti-Mubarak revolt, which has allowed the emergence of Salafist and other strict Islamist groups that the former president had repressed.

“Cairo clashes leave 24 dead after Coptic church protest” at BBC.com:

“Clashes broke out after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a church in Aswan province last week which Coptic Christians blame on Muslim radicals. Egyptian TV showed protesters clashing with security forces as army vehicles burned outside the state TV building. A curfew is in force. The cabinet is to hold an emergency meeting on Monday. Sectarian tensions have increased in recent months in Egypt. The Copts - who make up about 10% of the population - accuse the governing military council of being too lenient on the perpetrators of a string of anti-Christian attacks. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf appealed to Egyptians not to give in to sectarian strife. "What is taking place are not clashes between Muslims and Christians but attempts to provoke chaos and dissent," he said on his Facebook page. State TV has announce a curfew in some parts of Cairo from 02:00 to 07:00 local time. Thousands - mainly but not exclusively Christians - joined the initial march from the Shubra district of northern Cairo to the state TV building in Maspero Square where they intended to hold a sit-in.”

“Egypt: Destroying Churches, One at a Time” at Middle East Forum:

“What clearer sign that Egypt is turning rabidly Islamist than the fact that hardly a few weeks go by without a church being destroyed, or without protesting Christians being attacked and slaughtered by the military? The latest chaos in Egypt -- where the military opened fire one unarmed Christians and repeatedly ran armored vehicles over them, killing dozens -- originates in Edfu, a onetime tourist destination renowned for its pharaonic antiquities, but now known as the latest region to see a church destroyed by a Muslim mob. The church attack is itself eye-opening as to the situation in Egypt.”


What strikes me is the BBC does a better job with breaking news here, and as a radio-oriented outlet their report may be the quickest and least mediated by the BBC’s investment in the Palestinian cause on day one. Reuters’ story seems more skillfully rendered for direct unfiltered news value. The New York Times though seems to have an editorial headlock on its correspondent from first filing. It can’t entirely be David Kirkpatrick’s automatic writing from Cairo that seeks to route a breaking story so peculiarly so to serve the Times’ position on Egypt’s military’s theoretical handover of power to civilian authority and the sacrifices Christians and Jews might be expected to make and deserve thereafter. Reuters may have filed later with its emphasis on mourning Christians rather than angry ones, but the Times also seeks to leaven the culpability of the military where the other reports describe the active running down of protestors by armored vehicles. By this Times’ standard Mayor Bloomberg and the New York State National Guard may have greater leeway than they imagine in dealing with Occupy Wall Street. The Middle East Forum has been posting detailed stories of these kind of anti-Christian incidents all along and so their telling is over-determined for news reporting, but better informed as to the origins and context of this explosion.

The BBC in particular is notably hostile to Israel. The New York Times is merely stupid about the peace process. Nicholas Kristof providing the most recent evidence of this in his column, “Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?”

The title itself is so absurd on the face of it as to be offensive. It’s an accusation right out of the Jews true worst enemies’ handbook. The Times never really admitted to themselves what the second intifada or the rocket attacks revealed about Palestinians. And so they never really accepted what the Likud-Labour unity government meant, especially given the sharp elbows of Israeli politics. From Manhattan, the Times, full of Christo-Hindu advice for the Jews -- turn the other cheek and suffer your karma -- may be trying to live down its Abe Rosenthal past or its coolness during the Holocaust, one can never tell with such opaque institutional pretensions. Maybe they’re trying to rate with BBC or EU opinion. Normally the farther from Washington the more trustworthy the Times’ reporting is. But Israel seems to them a domestic issue, and it wouldn’t be the first of those they are wrong on.

That there are still Christians in Egypt is something western opinion leaders have yet to get their heads around. They aren’t actually nimble thinkers, they are rather adopters of discrete ideas which may not add up to much more than a rock pile of attitudes, good for throwing at enemies. A second MEForum report by Raymond Ibrahim notes that the first BBC headline was “Egypt troops dead after Coptic church protest in Cairo”; this was changed. He continues,

“Even Fox News had its readers sympathizing with Egypt’s military, even as the latter was busy massacring Christian citizens: the report told of an Egyptian soldier ‘collapsing in tears’ as Christians ‘attacked’ a fellow soldier.” (MEForum.org)

Also on Tuesday David Kirkpatrick is allowed to do some backfilling and reframing even as he notes Egyptian officers and the minister of information doing same. Today the Coptics are one with “political liberals” and the Syrian revolt. Thank God for small favors. Still no detail on the origin of these crimes; the events at St. George Coptic Church are referred to as a “dispute.” You’ll have to check the Middle East Forum for that whether you approve of David Horowitz or not. And in a few more days Memri.org will have its translations of overheard Arab language reports and sermons and speeches posted. Those are always important. I saw the Reuters report on Saudi English-language news sites and that tells one nothing about the Saudi take.

The etiquette of equivalence aside, real existing Islam itself does not provide a true metaphysics for its followers who we see need one. Archeology, Science and History have had at Christianity and Judaism for centuries now; none is allowed to approach the Holy sites of Islam. That Jews and Christians remain such irritants shouldn’t disguise the fact that even within the ummah there is incredible violence, psychic as well as physical. But unlike most of Europe and half of America, the ummah will not lose faith and become confirmed atheists after Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens. They will change faiths. It isn’t just Christians who understand Christ’s story and its utility as a practical social matter. We in the west no longer live amidst our animals as they did in the Bible times, and as the rest of the world still does. We no longer feel the impulse to sacrifice an animal for a good harvest; science has taken care of that. But the story of Christ’s sacrifice served as the parable that turned the ancient world and its poverty culture upside down. It’s no accident that the Jesus of the Quran dies of old age.

It used to surprise me when bookshops would file their volumes of Marx and Trotsky in the Philosophy section. In a way Islam is to religion as Marxism is to philosophy. Each is a bitter repudiation of Christian ideals via a more literal, ultimately inhuman attempt to supersede them. They each wished to rescue some of that poverty culture might-makes-right profane prerogative for themselves if not anyone else. Think of all that black Americans got out of Christianity over the centuries in the new world, especially the Old Testament, and then ask why Elijah Poole and his followers chose Islam, or their naïve facsimile of it? (The orientalist blowback hall of mirrors called the Nation of Islam.) They chose Islam because they intuited that it would allow them to respond to racism with racism, to cultivate anger in a way that Christian ideals don’t allow. This was how the sons of slaves allied themselves with the source culture of slavery itself against the sons of their infected customers. When I was in Chicago in the years of Mayor Harold Washington, he cast out of his movement a number of black nationalist scholars whose careful study was determining that yea the Jews were behind slavery.

One wonders if the conversions to Christianity that often trigger the smallest, most brutal Middle East Forum stories are a bigger phenomenon than one would guess from the mainstream news outlets. Its likely what Muslims need, and my guess is their innermost fear is they understand this.


By Wednesday the New York Times, keeping pace right behind the military dictatorship in Egypt decides what happened was an outrage after all. David Kirkpatrick gets help from Heba Afify and they begin with a completely new tone and set of assumptions in their story, “A Top Egyptian Minister Quits in Protest Over Killings.” Perhaps they read Raymond Ibrahim’s pieces. In any case the Winston Smiths back in Manhattan have stirred to action:

“Egypt’s finance minister resigned Tuesday in protest over the killing of two dozen unarmed Coptic Christian protesters by the security forces, as reverberations from the outburst of violence two days ago continued to shake Egypt’s interim government.” (NYT)

Oh really, tell us about it.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci…

Ian Johnson in Middle East Quarterly, "Europe’s Underestimated Islamists".

“The process of decolonization was creating dozens of newly independent states, many of them Muslim. Western intelligence agencies were eager to use covert propaganda to influence these countries for broader, strategic purposes, such as the battle against communism. West Germany was home to several hundred Muslims (estimates vary with the upper limit around 2,000) who had served in the Wehrmacht and the Nazi SS. They had been former Red Army soldiers who had been captured by the Germans and changed sides, either for fear of death in the horrific German prisoner-of-war camps or because of their belief in the Nazis' promise to liberate their Soviet-ruled homelands. After the war, most were repatriated but some managed to stay on, congregating for various reasons in Munich. Many of these began working for von Mende, who had spent the war years in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, coordinating Muslim and other Soviet minorities. After the war, he set up a series of quasi-free intelligence operations that have remained unstudied to date, eventually settling on the name ‘Research Service East Europe’… Von Mende tried to rally the Muslims who stayed behind -- many of them his old Ostministerium colleagues -- in order to achieve West German foreign policy aims, including the long-term recovery of lost German territories east of the Oder-Neisse border. One of his methods for winning over the Muslims was to promise them a mosque in Munich. Ramadan stepped into this complex situation in 1958.”


Monika Carbe at Qantara.de, "50th Anniversary German-Turkish Recruitment Agreement - The Long Road to Almanya".

“That autumn, people were generally aware that a decision had been taken in Germany's then capital Bonn to bring foreign workers into the country. The labour recruitment agreement with Rome had been signed in late 1955, Italians were in evidence now and again in front of factories or at train stations, and since 1960 also Greek and Spanish workers, but who understood their language? ‘You go train station – there!’ The arrival of Turkish guest workers in Germany was not generally welcomed by the local population, but instead was accompanied by xenophobia and animosity And so it was that in the mid-1960s, hardly anyone paid much attention to the Turks who travelled to Munich and Stuttgart, Rüsselsheim and Cologne, Duisburg, Hamburg, Kiel or Berlin, unless they lived close to a plant run by a company such as Opel, Ford, Daimler-Benz or Siemens, or passed the guest workers' accommodation every day. The era of forced labour was finally over, and the term ‘Fremdarbeiter’ or ‘foreign workers’ was soon declared taboo in Germany. So the ‘guest workers’ lived mostly in barracks, sometimes in temporarily converted assembly halls which would otherwise have hosted shooting club events, or in former refugee camps that used to accommodate people from the SOZ, or Soviet Occupation Zone; it was viewed as sacrilege to talk of 'East Germany', an entity few were ready to recognise.”


Jason DeParle in NYT, "For Domestic Workers, Vast Global Labor Pool Challenges Treaty’s Aims".

“When the international labor group turned to domestic workers in 2010, Persian Gulf states, speaking as a bloc, called for nonbinding recommendations. In a reversal this year, they supported a binding treaty. What is more, they strengthened it, with calls for stronger language on contract rights, overtime pay and access to courts during employer conflicts. ‘It really made an impression,’ said Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy in Manila. ‘When you think of abuses, you think of the gulf -- yet here they are, standing up for domestic workers.’ Pressure from the Arab Spring, Ms. Sana said, may help explain the change…. After an Indonesian woman, Sumiati binti Salan Mustapa, was hospitalized in Medina last year with broken bones and a mutilated face, the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, condemned her ‘extraordinary torture.’ But the conviction of her employer was overturned. On June 18, two days after the Geneva vote, Saudi Arabia beheaded an Indonesian named Ruyati binti Sapubi. Mr. Yudhoyono denounced Saudi ‘norms and manners,’ and the Saudis stopped admitting new Indonesian maids. They had already placed a similar ban on the Philippines, after several Philippine lawmakers visited in January and wrote they were ‘shocked into speechlessness by the tales of rape and abuse.’ Saudi recruiters then described plans to hire thousands of Bangladeshis at wages of $170 a month, less than half what the Philippine government demanded.”


Franck Salameh in Middle East Quarterly, "Does Anyone Speak Arabic?".

“The abstruseness of Arabic and the stunted achievements of those monolingual Arabophones constrained to acquire modern knowledge by way of Modern Standard Arabic have been indicted in the United Nations' Arab Human Development reports -- a series of reports written by Arabs and for the benefit of Arabs -- since the year 2002. To wit, the 2003 report noted that the Arabic language is struggling to meet the challenges of modern times

‘[and] is facing [a] severe … and real crisis in theorization, grammar, vocabulary, usage, documentation, creativity, and criticism … The most apparent aspect of this crisis is the growing neglect of the functional aspects of [Arabic] language use. Arabic language skills in everyday life have deteriorated, and Arabic … has in effect ceased to be a spoken language. It is only the language of reading and writing; the formal language of intellectuals and academics, often used to display knowledge in lectures … [It] is not the language of cordial, spontaneous expression, emotions, daily encounters, and ordinary communication. It is not a vehicle for discovering one's inner self or outer surroundings.’

And so, concluded the report, the only Arabophone countries that were able to circumvent this crisis of knowledge were those like Lebanon and Egypt, which had actively promoted a polyglot tradition, deliberately protected the teaching of foreign languages, and instated math and science curricula in languages other than Arabic.”


Carolyn Heinze at Runninginheels.co.uk, "Catch Him If You Can (Or, Where's Momo?)"

"Vogue Paris. The September issue. It’s all there. Whaaat? Wait. I dated a spy, remember. So en dehors of my exclusive access to an excessive number of excessively reliable sources, I’m exclusively-superbly super-smart – excessively – about spying. The CIA and FBI and MI5 and UN and NATO?  And every other acronymed association who is seeking anyone (acronymed or otherwise) who is AWOL or MIA? They’ve got it all wrong. Moi–I’d take a different tack. Based on the excessive data I’ve received, exclusively, from my exclusive informants, I’d turn to Vogue. Vogue Paris – the September issue. Especially if I was finding a fashionista! Especially if it was fall. Especially if the fashionista to be found was a fallen Momo. Especially that."


MercoPress: "How the Argentine military tried to save a collapsing regime, planned the Malvinas invasion war".

“For some time in 1981 there were insistent rumours about a coup but then President General Roberto Viola did not say a word. He spent most of his time smoking three packages of True cigarettes per day plus abundant rounds of whisky with fellow officers. Even a former military de facto president Juan Carlos Onganía stated that the (military government) Process ‘was exhausted and the Military Junta is trying to elude responsibility of all of Argentina’s disasters.’”


Alexei Barrionuevo in NYT, "A Child of War Discovers ‘Dad’ Is Parents’ Killer".

“The abduction of an estimated 500 babies was one of the most traumatic chapters of the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The frantic effort by mothers and grandmothers to locate their missing children has never let up. It was the one issue that civilian presidents elected after 1983 did not excuse the military for, even as amnesty was granted for other ‘dirty war’ crimes. ‘Even the many Argentines who considered the amnesty a necessary evil were unwilling to forgive the military for this,’ said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch. In Latin America, the baby thefts were largely unique to Argentina’s dictatorship, Mr. Vivanco said. There was no such effort in neighboring Chile’s 17-year dictatorship. One notable difference was the role of the Catholic Church. In Argentina the church largely supported the military government, while in Chile it confronted the government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and sought to expose its human rights crimes, Mr. Vivanco said.”


John Rathbone in FT, "Chile: Wealth brings changing priorities".

“Furthermore, the surge in public protests has led some to wonder if the country might be on the brink of a ‘Chilean spring’ and if its much-vaunted free market economic model is bust. ‘The Chilean model is not broken, but it does need adjustment,’ Mr Pinera says. ‘That’s only natural. When you are poor, you worry about food and shelter. As you grow richer, other things become more important: the quality of education, health, the environment.’ In many ways, Mr Pinera is right -- and the critics of Chile’s democratic free-market model are wrong. Even a quick glance at the figures shows that the living standards are much improved. Despite a devastating earthquake in early 2010, the economy grew by more than 5 per cent last year, and more than 8 per cent in the first half of 2011. Unemployment is near record lows, and real wages are rising.”


Nicholas Kulish in NYT, "Slovaks Love and Hate Euro; Bailout May Lie in Between".

“Once among the most enthusiastic new members of the European Union, and an early adopter of the euro in Eastern Europe, Slovakia is proud of its strong growth and eager to leave behind its reputation as the ‘other half’ of Czechoslovakia. But it has also become a stark example of the love-hate relationship that many residents of the Continent have begun to feel toward a united Europe. Adopting the euro required hard sacrifices here that stand in sharp contrast to reports of overspending and mismanagement in Greece. The worries about the union’s future are all too real in smaller, poorer countries like Slovakia, which has about 5.5 million people, and is being asked to contribute $10 billion in debt guarantees to a $590 billion euro zone stability fund.”


Floyd Norris in NYT, "Escape Route For Greece, With Perils".

“If Greece were to follow the example set by Argentina nearly a decade ago, it would simply convert its debts from euros into its old currency, the drachma, at the old exchange rate of 340.75 drachmas to one euro. It could also convert euro currency in the country at the same rate. So if you owned one million euros in Greek bonds, they would be converted to bonds with a face value of 340.75 million drachmas. With a printing press available, Greece could meet those obligations. Of course the drachma would soon be worth a lot less -- perhaps 1,000 to the euro. So bondholders would have lost two-thirds of face value. Greece might do O.K., but for reasons we will see, the move could be devastating to the rest of Europe. In 2002, Argentina’s currency, the peso, was officially tied to the dollar at a one-to-one parity. There was a ‘currency board’ that was supposed to assure the tie could never be broken, and it had worked for a decade. But Argentine inflation had outpaced that of the United States, and the peso was seriously overvalued. In early 2002, a new Argentine government ended the peg and did much more. It defaulted, and it required its citizens to do the same.”


Daniel Pipes in National Review, "Cyprus on the World Stage".

“Cyprus was hardly the only territory rife with ethnic tensions that London eventually abandoned in frustration -- think of India, Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan -- but it was the only one where it retained a permanent role for itself and brought in patron states, namely Turkey and Greece, as guarantors of the newly independent state. This mischievous arrangement heightened tensions between both the island’s two communities, and their patron states. Those tensions boiled over in 1974, when Athens attempted to annex the whole of Cyprus and Ankara responded by invading the island, seizing the northern 37 percent of the island’s territory. Greek annexation fizzled but the invasion led to the establishment of a nominal ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC), which is maintained today by some 40,000 troops from the Republic of Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of settlers have since emigrated from Turkey, fundamentally altering the island’s demography.”


Charles Clover in FT, "Moscow Notebook: Distilled frenzy".

“Eurasianism was originally a movement of White Russian émigrés, fleeing the Bolshevik revolution, in the cities of interwar Europe. The heirs of Russia’s ‘silver age’ and symbolist movement, they took to heart the poetry of Alexander Blok, who wrote of Russia’s Mongol ancestry: ‘Yes, we are Asians, with slanted and greedy eyes!’ They theorized that the territory of the former Russian empire formed a natural geopolitical and cultural unit that was destined to remain whole. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the literature enjoyed a renaissance.”


John Mackintosh in FT, "The Short View".

“Before Watergate revealed to Americans that Richard Nixon was a liar and a cheat, the US president had already made clear to the rest of the world his willingness to break the rules. In 1971, in clear breach of world trade commitments, he imposed a 10 per cent import ‘surcharge’ to force others to let the dollar devalue. It worked, with some foreign policy friction. Now some US politicians are trying to repeat the feat, with the Senate poised to vote on the inclusion of currency manipulation in calculating trade penalties. The bill is aimed squarely at China.”


Keith Bradsher in NYT, "200 Chinese Subsidies Violate Rules, U.S. Says".

“Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, said in a statement on Thursday that many of the subsidies had been identified in a yearlong American inquiry into how the Chinese government helped bankroll the rapid growth of its clean energy industries. In solar and wind power, in particular, American companies have had trouble keeping up with Chinese competitors…. Whether or not any of those subsidies violate international trade rules, the American trade office says China is already out of bounds by not having reported them to the W.T.O. The W.T.O. requires member countries to disclose details of their subsidies every two years. But China has disclosed its subsidies only once since it joined the W.T.O. in 2001. The goal of requiring the reports was to help other countries study the subsidies and determine whether any of them violated trade rules that prohibit using government money either to help companies buy market share in other countries or to discourage imports.”


Thant Myint-U in NYT, "In Myanmar, Seize the Moment".

“And although Myanmar’s aging autocrat, Gen. Than Shwe, retired, the constitutional leadership that replaced his junta included many of the same former generals. Few expected more than minor reforms. But U Thein Sein, the new president and himself a former general, surprised everyone. In his inaugural address to Parliament, he spoke forcefully of combating poverty, fighting corruption, ending the country’s multiple armed conflicts, and working for political reconciliation. By June, state pensions for nearly a million people, most of them very poor, were increased by as much as a thousandfold, taxes were reduced, and trade cartels were dismantled. The government redrafted banking and foreign investment rules and began revising its foreign exchange rate policy -- all of this in consultation with businessmen and academics. That alone was a huge step, because army rulers had long shunned any civilian advice. Then, on July 19, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who was released from house arrest last November, was invited to the annual Martyrs’ Day ceremony. The holiday memorializes the 1947 assassination of her father, who is considered the architect of the country’s independence. Thousands of her supporters were permitted to hold their first lawful march in years and several independent newspapers came to life.”


Neal Ascherson in London Review of Books on T.M. Devine’s book, To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora.

“It’s a cliché that the Scots ‘punched above their weight’ in the empire, and it’s misleading. They seldom competed directly with the English or Irish, but established distinct and almost exclusively Scottish fiefdoms: the fur trade, the tobacco trade, the jute industry, the opium business in China, the ‘hedge-banking’ outfits in Australia, the executive levels of the East India Company. Later in the 19th century, in the second phase of industrialisation, the Clyde basin achieved something approaching world domination in shipbuilding, locomotive and bridge construction and other branches of heavy engineering. Overseas enterprise was a pattern of near monopolies from Scotland’s regions. The Hudson’s Bay Company was staffed by Orcadians; its Canadian rival, the North West Company, was run by Highlanders; the sugar plantations of Jamaica were packed with younger sons of Argyllshire lairds; the great trading houses of South-East Asia were mostly family businesses from Aberdeen and north-east Scotland; the outflow of foreign investment was cornered by Edinburgh solicitors.”


John Gray in Prospect, "Delusions of peace".

“For him, none is as important as the adoption of a particular view of the world: ‘The reason so many violent institutions succumbed within so short a span of time was that the arguments that slew them belong to a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. The ideas of thinkers like Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Locke, David Hume, Mary Astell, Kant, Beccaria, Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and John Stuart Mill coalesced into a worldview that we can call Enlightenment humanism.’ (The italics are Pinker’s.) Yet these are highly disparate thinkers, and it is far from clear that any coherent philosophy could have ‘coalesced’ from their often incompatible ideas. The difficulty would be magnified if Pinker included Marx, Bakunin and Lenin, who undeniably belong within the extended family of intellectual movements that comprised the Enlightenment, but are left off the list. Like other latter-day partisans of ‘Enlightenment values,’ Pinker prefers to ignore the fact that many Enlightenment thinkers have been doctrinally anti-liberal, while quite a few have favoured the large-scale use of political violence, from the Jacobins who insisted on the necessity of terror during the French revolution, to Engels who welcomed a world war in which the Slavs -- ‘aborigines in the heart of Europe’ -- would be wiped out.”


Max Boot in WSJ on Lewis Sorley’s book, Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam.

“Why did Westmoreland bungle so badly? It was not, as the most extreme antiwar protesters would have it, because he was a war criminal or psychopath. Mr. Sorley shows that Westmoreland was well-intentioned and conscientious, but also dense, arrogant, vain, humorless and not too honest. Is that too harsh a judgment? You won't think so if you read all the damning assessments compiled by Mr. Sorley from the late general's associates. Air Force Gen. Robert Beckel thought that ‘he seemed rather stupid. He didn't seem to grasp things or follow the proceedings very well.’ Or Army Gen. Charles Simmons: ‘General Westmoreland was intellectually very shallow and made no effort to study, read, or learn. He would just not read anything. His performance was appalling.’

Those comments were made by officers who worked closely with Westmoreland during his years as Army chief of staff -- 1968 to 1972 -- a time when ‘briefers were dismayed to find that Westmoreland would occupy himself during one-on-one deskside briefings by signing photographs of himself, one after another, while they made their presentations.’ But the warnings signs had been apparent long before. In 1964, when Westmoreland was first being considered for an assignment in Vietnam, one general privately warned that ‘it would be a grave mistake to appoint him’: ‘He is spit and polish.... This is a counterinsurgency war, and he would have no idea how to deal with it.’ Westmoreland's appointment was further validation of the Peter Principle -- that eventually every employee is promoted beyond his level of competence. ‘Westy’ was a good division commander who had compiled an impressive record in World War II and Korea.”


Gertrude Himmelfarb in New Criterion, "Lionel Trilling & the critical imagination".

“For conservative ideas, rather than mere impulses, Trilling had turned to the English, to that impeccable liberal John Stuart Mill, who urged his fellow liberals to become acquainted with the ‘powerful conservative mind’ of Coleridge as a corrective to the ‘weaknesses and complacencies’ of liberalism. Although Mill himself disagreed with Coleridge’s politics and metaphysics, he valued them because they recalled liberals to the ‘variousness and possibility’ that was an ‘intellectual and political necessity,’ and to the ‘inevitable intimate, it not always obvious, connection between literature and politics.’

It was this Coleridgean vision of literature and politics that Trilling, by way of Mill, was passing on to his own countrymen. The function of the literary critic, his preface concluded, was to remind the liberal that ‘literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty.’ (In an early essay, referred to in the preface but somehow not included in the volume, Trilling had made the even bolder suggestion that liberals take T. S. Eliot seriously, not only as a poet but as the author of ‘The Idea of a Christian Society,’ which was even more antithetical to the liberal than Coleridge’s thought.) ‘Variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty’ -- and, elsewhere, subtlety, ambiguity, contingency, paradox, irony -- the words echo throughout all of Trilling’s work. They are his signature, so to speak, the defining characteristics of the true literary imagination, in contrast to the simplistic liberal imagination.”


Tim Black at Spiked-online.com, "The global culture war over Amanda Knox".

“The willingness of too many in Italy to believe in the demonisation of Knox was matched on the other side of the Atlantic by the opposite reaction: a sheer incredulity at the demonisation of Knox. In the words of Knox’s hometown newspaper the Seattle Times, ‘the case against former University of Washington student Amanda Knox was always just too far-fetched’. And what this incredulity quickly translated into, especially after Knox’s conviction in December 2009, was an incredulity towards the judgement of Italy itself, a judgement embodied in the Italian judicial system, from judges to jurors. If liberal American culture – its moral laxity, its looseness, its loucheness – was on trial in prosecutor Mignini’s demonisation of Knox, so Italian culture – its medievalism, its misogyny, all festering in Italy’s pre-rational recesses – was dragged into the light of the Knox supporters equally prejudiced purview. Accordingly, the judgement of an Italian court, peopled as it was by the culturally superstitious and the misogynistic, could not be trusted.”


The Secret Cinema at Moore College of Art & Design presents "ANOTHER ROMANCE OF CELLULOID: MORE OLD FILMS ABOUT FILM"

• Saturday, October 22, 8pm

Moore College of Art & Design

20th & Race Streets, Philadelphia


THE HOLLYWOOD KID (1924, Dir: Roy Del Ruth & Del Lord) - This frenzied silent comedy packed more stars and celebrities into its running time than usual -- that's because its minimal plot concerns the making of a slapstick film at the real-life studios of Mack Sennett. With Charles Murray, Vernon Dent, Andy Clyde, Ben Turpin, Marie Prevost, Billy Bevan, Teddy the Dog and many more!

MGM STUDIO TOUR (1925) - A grand tour of the grandest of Hollywood studios, seen at the peak moment of the silent era. We see different creative and technical departments, directors like John Ford, Victor Seastrom and Tod Browning, and countless stars, from a young Joan Crawford to Zasu Pitts.

THE VOICE OF HOLLYWOOD #3 (1930) - This was one of the earlier series of short films to capitalize on the public's fascination with seeing movie stars having fun off the set, and depicts TWO ancient periods of show-biz history by setting their banter in the format of a fictitious radio program. This episode features Reginald Denny, Bobby Vernon, Anita Page, bandleader Paul Whiteman, female impersonator Julian Eltinge, and more.

Plus much, much more.”


ArtForum special: "Art in L.A.".

“If over the years Angelenos have gotten used to those swimmingly crossbred spaces, the continual transformations and unmoorings of Los Angeles have nonetheless outpaced us. Indeed, it is the city’s constantly changing tectonics that we hope to explore here -- not to definitively locate LA and its culture, but to get lost in its characteristically abrupt stirrings and mixed spaces.”


Archie Patterson at Rocksbackpages.com, "The Stooges 2010 - Raw Power Live…".

“‘It was like a high fashion freak show happening’, with The Whisky teetering on the brink of chaos. Iggy, the band, and audience, all caught up in the heat of the moment.

After the show, I met up with ‘Metal Mike’ Saunders who asked if I wanted to visit the bands dressing room upstairs. Ushered into the inner sanctum we spent 15 minutes sitting on a bare floor talking with Ron while Iggy prowled the room in his leather cheetah jacket with two of LA’s finest young rock she creatures from the Hollywood Hills, one on each arm. It was an interesting postscript to a gonzo LA glam rock experience. In early 1974, I saw the band again at Bimbo’s 365 Club, up in SF. Gone was the platinum hair and make-up. The band was also trying out new material, Head On, Cock in My Pocket, I Gotta A Right, as well as some others later to emerge, officially on KILL CITY, or later boots.”


Chris Ziegler in O.C. Weekly, "Flamin’ Groovies".

“His mom's water broke while she was at the circus, says Flamin' Groovies guitarist-songwriter Cyril Jordan, and that's when he must've first heard the roar of the crowd, he says -- which might be why he spent pretty much his entire life in one of the greatest rock & roll bands in the USA. Before he could even play, he'd sneak into shows at San Francisco's Cow Palace and watch the 1962 Beach Boys wobble through a live set with Brian Wilson on bass, Dennis Wilson on drums and terrifying Wilson father Murry popping out his glass eye to scare the girls up front. By 1965, he and Groovies front man Roy Loney started rehearsing; by 1966, they were a band, and he wouldn't retire till 1995 -- but only temporarily!”


Howard Reich in CT, "Chicago’s Alligator Records celebrates its 40th" at "
Evanston SPACE"
, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

“The performances will give listeners a chance to reflect on Alligator's enormous contribution to the music, and it will provide Iglauer an opportunity to take stock of where his label has been – and where it's going. ‘I'm shocked to say that Alligator is still making a profit,’ says Iglauer. ‘2009 was a very painful year for us, but 2010 we ended up in the black, and that includes paying out close to $500,000 in royalties.… I describe our royalties process now as taking a stack of pennies, cutting them into the smallest amount of pieces possible and pushing them around the table with tweezers. We'll get royalty checks for $50 (for various uses of Alligator tracks) and divide them among hundreds of artists.’ When an Alligator cut gets streamed on the digital music service Spotify, for instance, Alligator receives .0029 of a cent, says Iglauer.”


Obituary of the Week

Ramiz Alia(1925 - 2011)

“Mr. Alia had carried out many of the crackdowns, purges and executions ordered by Mr. Hoxha -- resorting even to the Stalinist horrors of burying enemies alive -- over decades of repression and Albanian isolation from the outside world. But when he succeeded to the presidency, he responded to widespread discontent by introducing limited economic reforms, easing restrictions on religion and civil liberties, and cautiously seeking ties with Western Europe and the Balkan states. Nevertheless, his government began to crumble in 1989 and 1990 during the wider collapse of Soviet and Eastern European Communism. Mr. Alia managed to cling to power for two more years by granting amnesty to political prisoners, allowing multiparty elections and promising other democratic reforms -- a complete about-face from his years as the provost of repression, censorship and internal controls. But it was too little, too late. Albania, then Europe’s most backward and impoverished country, continued to lurch from crisis to crisis with a dying economy, violent protests and masses of citizens fleeing abroad. Albania’s Communist government, the last in Europe, disintegrated in 1991, and Mr. Alia resigned as head of a coalition government in 1992. He was soon arrested.”


Thanks to Andy Schwartz, Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.

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