Photo by Joe Carducci
What This Country Needs Is a Man on a Horse
by Joe Carducci
There’s a little extra juice behind the usual Declinism on display. Robert Samuelson’s column in the Washington Post, “Our children’s future no longer looks so bright,” doesn’t really go into much but D.C.’s well-rehearsed rationalization for nationalized health-care. Sounds naïve, unless they don’t really mean to suggest the scale of our problems is large, in which case it sounds venal. Stephanie Kirchgaessner’s analysis in the Financial Times, “An oracle of orthodoxy,” focuses on the Club for Growth’s driving moderates from the Republican party whenever they suggest raising taxes to relieve pressure to cut Leviathan. That’s not how she puts it, instead she dials up Trent Lott to hear his call for more moderation in his party so that the Senate can go back to its “culture of distinction.” I guess Kirchgaessner feels it’s the bad manners of today which spontaneously generated such Decline, rather than those decades of distinction. I think Lott’s a lobbyist now.
The reason for the new flavor of declinism is not the rise of China, though. After all, the numbers, population growth and upside potential, are with India to win back pride of place for Democracy vs. Tyranny before China even gets comfortable enough to resume decadence. And that will likely happen sooner as China’s top-down command oligarchy’s mistakes begin to manifest, all the larger for the system’s opacity and insiders abilities to cover-up and paper over failure and theft. No, the despair of American sophisticates is surely over the decline of Europe. They are used to looking back to London and Paris and Brussels for direction, for civilization, for inspiration to shore up their psycho-political station pitched as they are against their own plebeian culture. Its as if American immigrants go native under the influences of America’s Indians and descendents of African slaves, but a europhile elite is also formed in reaction and barricades itself behind stockades. This is actually better than the old days when they looked back to Moscow. Its not that they envied Europe’s 20th-century bodycount, but as a self-regarding elite they do still covet the authority of Kings, dictators and general secretaries. This just happens to seem the responsible way for meritocrats to lead in a republic, with the added benefit that it pulls up the ladder on the rabble below, and quiets all this radical capitalist commotion to a low bureaucratic hum. But Europe’s troubles foreclose on American left assumptions.
Another aspect of this moment is the frustration of all these smart good people watching the Republican debates and wishing fervently that President Obama would begin running for reelection in the manner of FDR, who first poisoned the well. David Remnick of the New Yorker considers himself the President’s official biographer, as well as honorary campaign co-chair judging by this week’s column, “Foreign Campaigns,” where he writes, “If a Republican had been responsible for the foreign-policy markers of the past three years, the Party would be commissioning statues.” He calls the debates full of “mindless posturing” and counters it to “praise” Obama “won” in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Surt. Statues, he wants. A man on a horse. Not as sophisticated as he seems? Couldn’t be. Disingenuous to say the least; self-serving always. Tom Friedman in the New York Times Wednesday has it that President Obama is everything President Bush intended to be. Well that would be a bad thing, no? His reasoning suggests that this moment is the same moment twelve years on. “Long Live the King!,” while we’re at it. Sam Tanenhaus coughed up a similar dull point in the Times, “Right, Less Might,” which hinges on “ill-timed” criticism of the Libyan intervention just as Gaddafi fell. Libya isn’t Iraq, but everything was hunky-dory in Iraq when Saddam was found in his hole; many things can go wrong. Courtiers finds the noise of democracy irksome and tedious -- all those ears and voices that matter irregardless.
I’m not watching the debates, I mostly read about them when it sounds like something happened. It seems that all the smart good people now wish to hasten Romney’s nomination to foreclose the debate within the party. That debate is an interesting one that I recommend to Remnick and Friedman, but they prefer Romney to the radicals and like to think of Paul or Cain as servants of the rich, that moneyed elite who presumably buy all those trinkets advertised in the New Yorker and the Times. The cloud of unknowing stirred up by these smart folk is to obscure the debate within business-capitalism-economics-Republicans over free market principle versus crony-capitalist-plutocracy. Unless one still believes in socialism, it’s really the only debate there is. There’s plenty of Republican businessmen angling for the inside fix. They operate on offense because it’s the best defense. The Democrats post-FDR demanded this of them. Nationalization of industry isn’t in the cards, per se, but this may simply allow for control without responsibility -- regulation. This allows for the New York Times and the New Yorker and NPR to call for heads on Wall Street (again, their underwriters and their advertisers’ customers). Elite opinion demands, “How dare you irresponsibly over-inflate Washington’s bubble economy, and then not re-inflate it on command”.
James Traub, a contributing editor at the Times mag, looks over the Republican field in “The America Issue” of Foreign Policy, “The Elephants in the Room,” and chides it for ignoring foreign policy and writes, “the old center of the GOP has joined with the new radicals of the Tea Party in advocating a policy of Less.” Traub quotes Robert Kagan to the effect that parties in opposition tend to be “isolationist.” It is true that Ron Paul runs like a protest candidate, but I mean really, is there any irresponsible talk of closing domestic military bases set up to fight the Indian Wars? Is there talk of shutting down bases in Britain or Germany? Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her FP long-winded essay, “America’s Pacific Century,” seems to believe that all the money we’ll be soon saving in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay for the beefing up of what she would have formerly called our empire’s lot in Asia. The great federal jobs program that pretends to be self-government mutes any complaint by even the most “serious” budget specialists. Such “seriousness” demands opposition to both “Isolationism” and “Adventurism” and so we’re left with a gigantic military for job-training and social-engineering and firing metal back into the earth. Bush 1 tried to use it for U.N. bookkeeping, keeping Kuwait independent on principle that once seated at the U.N. you’re stuck there. Clinton 1 used it for muscular humanitarianism in the former Yugoslavia. Bush 2 tried to use it to break the spell of Islam in its guise of inevitably universalized Truth. I can’t wait to see what Clinton 2 or Bush 3 use it for.
Ron Paul and certain Tea Party radicals get tripped up in the difference between action and reaction, that moment and this one, and the unfolding intellectual attempts to account for the shambling resistance to globalization, modernization, and democratization under the influence of America’s walking point, creating the unbalancing wake for the rest. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have the only answer: Less.
Professor Stephen Walt in his Foreign Policy essay, “The Myth of American Exceptionalism” is content to revisit the sixties with his denial that America does walk point or warps the old world’s choices. He ticks off five myths and winds up strangling in his own psycho-political vicarious ex-pat compulsions. But he succeeds in comforting me that I am capable of insight beyond that of the “Robert and Renee Belfer professor of international studies at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.” I knew I was right to drop out of the University of Denver in my second year! Again, he is in part attempting to fan the embers of the true Obama:
“These enduring tropes explain why all presidential candidates feel compelled to offer ritualistic paeans to America’s greatness and why President Barack Obama landed in hot water for saying that while he believed in ‘American exceptionalism,’ it was no different from ‘British exceptionalism,’ ‘Greek exceptionalism,’ or any other country’s brand of patriotic chest-thumping.” (Foreign Policy)
Keep up the good fight, brave Professor!
Also in same issue of FP Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum contribute
“America Really Was That Great (But That Doesn’t Mean We Are Now)” which defends the aspect of American exceptionalism that allows for their pet notions:
“To remain exceptional, America must respond effectively to its four great 21st-century challenges: the ones posed by globalization, the revolution in information technology, the country’s huge and growing deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption. America does not now have in place the policies needed to master them.” (FP)
This is just the usual bait-and-switch of the allegedly high-minded policy advocates as they seek to maintain the 20th-century federal bubble. They can’t hope to convince fifty states or three hundred million pairs of ears of anything, but they cling to the federal government as courtiers who have two interests: increase the central power of the State, and then get its ear -- either one. This has nothing to do with American exceptionalism, but much to do with these pea-brains’ senses of their own exceptionalism.
The American Constitution is concerned with the establishment and defense of freedom. It’s not about having a military large enough to fight two world wars on one planet or having the largest economy. The founders expected that a free people would thrive of course, but they also knew that freedom would always be under threat, from without occasionally, but constantly from within due to human nature.
Francis Fukuyama in a “Holiday Note” in American Interest entitled “American Political Dysfunction” refers to the late economist Mancur Olson’s idea that democracies in peacetime collect “entrenched interest groups that collect rents from the government and lead to the gradual ossification of political systems.” Fukuyama then ads:
“All democratic countries tend to accumulate interest groups and entrenched elites, but in the United States they interact with the system of checks and balances in a particularly destructive way. The decentralized nature of the legislative process hands entire parts of the Federal budget to particular lobbies. Policies that are both sensible and in the long run necessary are simply off the table. Hence we cannot discuss ending or reducing the deductibility of mortgage interest due to opposition from the real estate industry; we can’t move away from the current fee-for-service model in health care because of the doctors’ lobby.” (American Interest)
He ads that the banks “despite having played a major role in the recent financial crisis” have been able to block stronger regulations.
I’m not sure the banks believe that, but I know the “doctors’ lobby” does not consider that it successfully defended the now largely extinct fee-for-service economy. In fact most wish fervently to get out of medicine as soon as possible. My dad built his GP practice and as we grew up he encouraged us all to consider medicine, but by the end of the eighties he was already worried over the fate of those of us who did given all the “sensible” and “necessary” changes that lawyers, judges, accountants, and experts made. Fukuyama notes that Olson thought it took war or revolution to “clear away the accumulation of interest groups.” Neither seems to understand that while it took “bombing Germany and Japan to smithereens” to allow them to get a “fresh start,” it was during that war that American power flowed to our capitol for the first time and sealed in FDR’s alphabet soup of failed thirties agencies and gave them something to do. When the war was over there was the cold war, social engineering, etc. The wars are over now, Jim Crow is over, and so this oversized state is desperate to justify its girth. If it will not give than Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times is right: “America must manage its decline.” But this is hardly the only option here. Those very vetos and bottlenecks Fukuyama and other experts bemoan are what saves America from the fate of the race-nations and their consensuses, which seemed “sensible” and “necessary” right up to “smithereens.”
As one might expect from an insider in government and on Wall Street, Peter Orszag in the New Republic recommends in “Too Much of a Good Thing” that we make our politics “less democratic.” He claims the loss of the three networks news dominance was worse for democracy than gerrymandered districts. His piece was prompted mostly by the debt-limit battle. He asserts that “Virtually all responsible economists agree that we should be aiming to reduce the deficit in the long-term but not in the short-term.” I’m not sure Peter ever tuned into the old networks or he’d remember that the reason the conservatives were so unreasonable over raising the debt limit is that they’ve been put off over and over on these budget issues. For decades, by their own leadership too which is why Boehner was up to three packs-a-day that month. The issue begins for Orszag when his buddies at Citigroup called him back to Wall Street from the administration. The White House was not able to simply re-inflate the bubble. The Onion considered that absurd immediately after it burst, and yet this is recommended all around. As another ex-Admin figure, Laurence Summers, put it this week in the FT in “Why the housing burden stalls America’s economic recovery”:
“The central irony of financial crisis is that while it is caused by too much confidence, too much borrowing and lending, and too much spending, it can only be resolved with more confidence, more borrowing and lending, and more spending.” (Financial Times)
Its recommended overtly by the unsubtle Summers, but more often indirectly and covertly via attacks on any threat to Federal prerogative: Ron Paul, Tea Party, Isolationists… These threats are usually called “anti-government” as if they were Anarchists. This brings to mind President Reagan’s trimming the cost-of-living adjustments of certain Federal programs in the eighties, and the various activists, journalists, and Democrats referring to this as “gutting” the programs. At his Spectator blog Fraser Nelson’s number-crunch, “The austerity myth,” does its best to re-rack the rhetoric:
“CoffeeHousers may remember an odd New York Times editorial recently where they tried to blame the evaporation of British economic growth on austerity. Perhaps the newspaper’s famed fact-checkers had taken the day off, because the slightest piece of research would have exposed the premises of the piece as bunkum. This morning, the ONS has produced monthly public finance figures, showing current spending is still rising in Britain.” (Spectator)
He goes on to emphasize that for all the kvetching, “austerity has barely been tried,” and notes that where it has been tried Ireland is growing twice as fast as Britain and Estonia at 8 per cent. It’s interesting to watch the Manhattan media and the Administration attempt to direct the Occupy Wall Street demos to a reactionary support for the status quo. Can they oppose Citigroup and support the Administration? They will amount to nothing if they do.
Amar Bhide in the Financial Times in his essay, “Messy government is a must for modern America,” understands America’s strength better than most. He claims, “suppressing messy government is a bad idea for America -- protracted, unruly debates and stand-offs are vital features of the country’s democracy.” He continues, “The process ought to be, like the dispensation of justice, adversarial but not partisan.” This brings me back to the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and the news-industrial complex allegedly trying to understand these Americans. They seem to have an interest in making non-party phenomena partisan. Accusing the Tea Party of representing corporate interests, while encouraging OWS to defend the President.
In politics the lay of the land is determined by the election cycles and when the Presidential term is up, and how events shape debate. This time the best chance to crack the centrist stasis on Wall Street, overseas, and in DC is the Ron Paul candidacy. He’s laid more purposeful groundwork for his campaign than Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan did, and his issues cut both ways, adversarial rather than partisan. He’s pushing away ideas of a third party run because he believes conditions won’t allow for a Romney sleepwalk candidacy. I’m not sure that’s true but you have to admire him. But the newsmedia seems driven to float misconstructions of everything at issue.
This week both the New Yorker and the New York Times sandbagged small business’s reputation in favor of big business. James Surowiecki on the New Yorker’s “Financial Page” writes “Big Is Beautiful” while Jared Bernstein in the Times writes “Small Isn’t Always Beautiful.”
Both pieces feature that bitter juice I’m talking about. (And as they’re both putting a gloss on big business, the word “corporation” or its variants appear in neither piece; an insult to their own readers methinks.) I also don’t think they understand the basic math involved, since, to paraphrase Sun Ra (who said race in music didn’t concern him since all music originated in Africa), all big business had its origins in one small shop or garage. You have to wonder at the glee of such liberal media organs as they suck up to their corporate masters. Is this a politics that can improve anything?
Luke Johnson in his “The entrepreneur” column in FT, goes right at this subject:
“I recently gave a talk at a big corporate conference to hundreds of delegates, without exception middle-managers from large companies. I realized as I spoke to the audience that my words about entrepreneurship were irrelevant to them -- even offensive. For I was preaching the gospel of independence, freedom and risk-taking, while they were entombed in the cosy, airless coffin of big business… The more I thought about this disconnect, the more I realized that all too many executives in large public companies actually have more in common with various arms of government than they do with entrepreneurs and start-ups.” (Financial Times)
In the end if our economy and our government and our politics is broken then it is ultimately the fault of the Supreme Court, allowing behavior outside the bounds of the Constitution. If the Courts are a ripped sieve then that is the fault of FDR and southern crackers and their Jim Crow system which opened the door even further to Federalization of regional patterns.
The Supreme Court popped up in the news but it was not to point, but about twenty years since the Clarence Thomas hearings. Anita Hill was all over CSPAN and probably NPR. Justice Thomas was looked over by Lincoln Caplan on this anniversary of infamy in his New York Times piece, “Clarence Thomas’s Brand of Judicial Logic.”
It reads as if Thomas is the blinded bull that threatens all that Times-ian liberals hope to now protect with a stare decisis that no longer exists thanks to their living breathing Constitution they tore wide open long ago. Given the other conservative justices Thomas sure sticks in their craw. And now stands accused of behavior the New York Times reserves for the liberal justices of history and legend. John Woo in the Wall Street Journal takes Thomas seriously:
“Clarence Thomas set the table for the tea party by making originalism fashionable again. Many appointees to the court enjoy its role as arbiter of society‘s most divisive questions -- race, abortion, religion, gay rights and national security -- and show little desire to control their own power. Antonin Scalia, at best, thinks interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning is ‘the lesser evil,’ as he wrote in a 1989 law journal article, because it prevents judges from pursuing their own personal policies. Justice Thomas, however, thinks that the meaning of the constitution held at its ratification binds the United States as a political community, and that decades of precedent must be scraped off the original Constitution like barnacles on a ship’s hull.” (WSJ)
I see how that could make some rent collectors nervous. They seem to hold that the Justice remains a sex criminal on the lam despite the fact that new sexual harassment laws passed had to be almost immediately loosened in enforcement when they threatened to inadvertently bring down President Clinton, who seemed to be living his imitation of JFK’s life -- not even close. When you think about it, there must’ve been at least a thousand fathers of wayward daughters who might’ve wanted to take a shot at Kennedy. Relatively few of his constituents wanted to kill Clinton on the other hand. Give the man credit. The Times editorial observing “Sexual Harrassment 20 Years Later” reminds us that “The month after the hearings, Congress passed a law that allowed sexual harassment victims to seek damage awards as well as back pay and reinstatement. It was signed by President George H.W. Bush, who had threatened to veto the act just a week before Ms. Hill testified.” That ain’t the half of it.
Speaking of old-times, Joe Nocera tried to sneak in some Robert Bork revisionism into the New York Times with “The Ugliness Started With Bork.” He wanted to remind people, or Times-readers anyway, on the 24th anniversary of Bork’s borking, that Democrats sometimes act “every bit as obstructionist, mean-spirited and unfair.” Only three of the letters objecting to this column were fit to print apparently. One inadvertently brings up Bork’s firing of Archibald Cox, as if Cox and the Nixon-hunt was wasn’t at issue in any of this either. Again, FDR’s three-plus terms really salted the earth; the rest are pikers.
The judge and jury of Times Supreme Court coverage, Linda Greenhouse, chips in her own catty switcheroo on the issue of You’re the judicial activist -- No, you are!, with her blog post (how the mighty have fallen) “Engagement as the New Activism.”
She offers the bon mot, “Judicial activism in the name of liberty, it seems, is no vice.” And continues:
“In this topsy-turvy world, judicial restraint, which used to ba good thing, is now bad. There is a ‘false dichotomy,’ the center‘s declaration informs us, ‘between improper judicial activism and supposedly laudable judicial restraint.’ Restraint means abdication by judges who fail to do their duty. ‘Striking down unconstitutional laws and blocking illegitimate government actions is not activism; rather it is judicial engagement -- enforcing limits on government power consistent with the text and purpose of the Constitution.”
Her attempts at breezy, humorous informality must be the blog-style in Beta over at the Times. If so, it probably belongs elsewhere in the paper. Here in one of the longest boringest personal beats it betrays Greenhouse’s sense that the long march of the Federal prerogative’s expansion which she’s cheered on like a wholly-owned press agent is finally stuck where it can now only give ground. Hers seems a forced laughter. Even if the health reform law isn’t thrown out by the Supreme Court, its implementation will trigger its undoing. It’s not the thirties anymore. It isn’t even the 20th century anymore.
Alexander Stille in NYT, "The Paradox of the New Elite":
“It‘s a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another -- blacks, women, Hispanics and gays -- has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream. At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world. The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.”
Samuel Brittan in FT, "Call off the misguided crusade against ‘inequality’":
“The one valid argument against egalitarian policies rests on a denial that all income and wealth originally belong to the state. This was well put by the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick: ‘We are not in the position of children who have been given some portions of pie. There is no central distribution. What each person gets, he gets from others who give it to him in exchange for something or as a gift. In a free society, diverse persons hold different resources and new holdings arise out of the voluntary exchanges and actions of persons.’ In other words there is no fixed sum to go around; individuals add to the pie by their activities. And it is by no means obvious that others should treat the results as part of a common good.”
Lucia Mutikani at Reuters, "So many US manufacturing jobs, so few skilled workers":
“Most of the jobs hard to fill are for skilled trades, Internet technology, engineers, sales representatives and machine operators. Yet American colleges are producing fewer math and science graduates as students favor social sciences, whose workload is perceived to be manageable, leading to a skills mismatch. Math, engineering, technology and computer science students accounted for about 11.1 percent of college graduates in 1980, according to government data. That share dropped to about 8.9 percent in 2009.”
John Tamny in Forbes, "Can the Nantucket Project Change Who We Are?":
“Crane observed in front of an increasingly engaged audience that quite unlike other countries, the U.S. was created by men who wrote a founding a document granting the federal government itself well defined and very limited powers, all the while charging it with aggressively protecting our rights as individuals. We take it for granted today, but it’s worth remembering how very unique the U.S.’s founding was for the underlying theme of its Constitution one of great skepticism about politicians and government more broadly. Crane reminded the attendees that far from a government created with grand, national goals in mind, ours was designed to protect our rights as individuals. The theme of Crane’s speech was ‘We’re not all in this together’, a popular view at the moment among some political types irrespective of political affiliation, and there he decried the collective, national action that the latter presumes. Crane calmly listed for the audience the various national projects including Social Security, Medicare and the modern attempt to make homeownership a right as ‘national goals’ gone bad. Further on, he referenced the 20th century’s obscene global body count that was largely the result of countries being taken in by group, as opposed to individual goals.”
Drawing by James Fotopoulos
From the Desk of Joe Carducci…
Gordon Crovitz in WSJ, "Google Speaks Truth to Power".
“He contrasted innovation in Silicon Valley with innovation in Washington. ‘Now there are startups in Washington,’ he said, ‘founded by people who were policy makers.... They're very clever people, and they've figured out a way in regulation to discriminate, to find a new satellite spectrum or a new frequency or whatever. They immediately hired a whole bunch of lobbyists. They raised some money to do that. And they're trying to innovate through regulation. So that's what passes for innovation in Washington.’”
Thomas Catan in WSJ, "How to Tweak White House, Kremlin and Wall Street, Too".
“‘We are not as big as [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin's Gazprom, but then we don't break people's kneecaps either,’ he said. ‘We just have to rely on ordinary persuasion, you know.’ Mr. Kinder didn't stop there. He also regaled company employees, including many watching by webcast, with tales of his meetings with President Barack Obama and his energy secretary, Steven Chu. He said he was ‘astounded’ at how little consideration they gave to natural gas as a ‘game changer.’ As time has gone on, he said, Mr. Obama and his aides have come to realize that ‘in the real world that the rest of us live in, you know, natural gas is really important.’ But they ‘still like bicycles and wind,’ Mr. Kinder said.”
Mary Walsh in NYT, "The Little State With a Big Mess".
“In most places, as in Rhode Island, the big issue is pensions. By conventional measures, state and local pensions nationwide now face a combined shortfall of about $3 trillion. Officials argue that, by their accounting, the total is far less. But with pensions, hope often triumphs over experience. Until this year, Rhode Island calculated its pension numbers by assuming that its various funds would post an average annual return on their investments of 8.25 percent; the real number for the last decade is about 2.4 percent. A phrase that gets thrown around here, à la Rick Perry describing Social Security, is ‘Ponzi scheme.’ That evening in September, Ms. Raimondo walked into the Cranston Portuguese Club to face yet another angry audience. People like Paul L. Valletta Jr., the head of Local 1363 of the firefighters union. ‘I want to get the biggest travesty out of the way here,’ Mr. Valletta boomed from the back of the hall. ‘You’re going after the retirees! In this economic time, how could you possibly take a pension away?’ Someone else in the audience said Rhode Island was reneging on a moral obligation. Ms. Raimondo, 40, stood her ground. Rhode Island, she said, had a choice: it could pay for schoolbooks, roadwork, care for the elderly and so on, or it could keep every promise to its retirees. ‘I would ask you, is it morally right to do nothing, and not provide services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens?’ she asked the crowd. ‘Yes, sir, I think this is moral.’”
James Stewart in NYT, "Volcker Rule, Once Simple, Now Boggles".
“Last year, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act went to Congress, the Volcker Rule that it contained took up 10 pages. Last week, when the proposed regulations for the Volcker Rule finally emerged for public comment, the text had swelled to 298 pages and was accompanied by more than 1,300 questions about 400 topics. Wall Street firms have spent countless millions of dollars trying to water down the original Volcker proposal and have succeeded in inserting numerous exemptions. Now they’re claiming it’s too complex to understand and too costly to adopt.”
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Telegraph, "World power swings back to America".
“Telegraph readers already know about the ‘shale gas revolution’ that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia. Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing - breaking rocks with jets of water - will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West. ‘The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d),’ said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea. Total US shale output is ‘set to expand dramatically’ as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009. The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago. ‘The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players,’ said Mr Blanch. Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, 're-inshoring' is the new fashion. ‘Made in America, Again’ - a report this month by Boston Consulting Group - said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the ‘default location’ for cheap plants supplying the US. A ‘tipping point’ is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.”
Steve Rattner in FT, "Look to America for lessons in sharing a currency".
“Gazing at the American model, some imagine that mimicking the troubled asset relief programme (Tarp) that played such a critical role in resolving the American financial crisis might help. But that is just another liquidity programme, not a way to harmonise competitiveness. Nor could a European version of an American treasury secretary order southern Italians to work as efficiently as Germans. The US experience demonstrates clearly that sharing a currency requires more than a central bank, more than a central treasury and more even than tight fiscal rules. For example, regional divergences are smoothed in the US model by the propensity of American workers to migrate in response to changes in employment prospects. Europeans don’t move as often, particularly across borders where language barriers still persist. The US fiscal regime also includes ‘automatic stabilisers’ that silently funnel resources to needier areas.”
Stanley Pignal in FT, "Dexia lent 1.5bn to investors so they could buy shares in… Dexia".
“The unorthodox funding move, which roused Belgian regulators’ concerns at the time, amounted to Dexia borrowing money from itself to finance a capital increase. This is illegal in most jurisdictions and is now banned in the European Union, but did not break Belgium’s existing laws.”
Holman Jenkins in WSJ, "Why Europe Dithers".
“There is another savior in the wings, of course, the European Central Bank. But the ECB has no incentive to betray in advance its willingness to get France and Germany off the hook by printing money to keep Europe’s heavily indebted governments afloat. Yet all know this is the outcome politicians are stalling for. This is the outcome markets are relying on, and why they haven’t crashed. All are waiting for some market ruction hairy enough that the central bank will cast aside every political and legal restraint in order to save the euro.”
Honor Mahony at EUobserver.com, "Smiling at Italy".
“Merkel was impassive and to the point. Sarkozy was effusive and hubristic. They were in the same room. But you wouldn’t have known it from the body language. Then comes the Berlusconi question. Did the Italian leader make them any promises on his reform efforts and were they reassured by them? Sarkozy smirked all the way through the question. Merkel looked straight ahead. When the question finished, there was a little pause. And then they both glanced at each other and grinned. It was quite a startling dropping of diplomatic mores. A member state can be considered a major pain. But rarely does it elicit a sort of shoulder-shrugging grin. At least not at this level. Sarkozy stepped into the breach . ‘We were together in this meeting’, he said referring to a meeting on Sunday morning with Berlusconi. At that meeting, the Italian leader was read the riot act by both Paris and Berlin for the slow pace of reform. Sarkozy said he had confidence in the Italian system to see through the reforms. Merkel said it was a meeting of ‘friends’ but noted that ‘trust’ needs a clear perspective. Ultimately the smile spoke louder than the words though. There has been a large outcry in Italy over what is being seen as the international humiliation of their leader – though it has to be said he has been active in this respect for quite some time. The clip of Sarkozy and Merkel sharing a complicit oh-well-you-know-Belusconi grin is on all newspaper sites. Foreign minister Franco Frattini said the gesture and expressions of Sarkozy were inappropriate. ‘No one is allowed to ridicule Italy’ even if it is dragging its feet in facing the crisis, said Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the opposition UDC, on his blog. ‘I did not like Sarkozy’s sarcastic smile.’ Il Giornale said Sarkozy’s smile was like the headbutt given by France’s Zinedine Zidane to Italian footballer Marco Matterazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. I am not sure why the Sarkozy half of the smile attracted so much anger. It said a lot more that Merkel, normally discreet and frosty, joined in too.”
Leigh Phillips at EUobserver.com, "Berlusconi: Other EU states in no position to ‘give lessons’".
“The angry letter from Berlusconi’s office went on to say how Italy had ‘already done and is trying to complete what is in both the national and European interest as well as in line with its sense of justice and social fairness.’ The missive pointed out that the need for a second round of bank bail-outs is ‘particularly’ a concern for France and Germany. Italian banks for their part are in a safer position than Paris-based financial institutions, which are heavily exposed to Greek debt.”
Joshua Chaffin & Rachel Sanderson in FT, "Big two in rare unanimity over Berlusconi".
“For Mr Sarkozy, the irritation with Mr Berlusconi has been enhanced by a rancorous dispute over the composition of the European Central Bank’s powerful executive board. France will lose its seat at the table at the end of the month when Jean-Claude Trichet steps down as ECB president. In exchange for supporting an Italian successor, Mario Draghi, Mr Sarkozy had hoped Mr Berlusconi would clear the way for a French board member. But Mr Berlusconi infuriated the French last week when he dropped a plan to appoint Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an ECB board member, as Mr Draghi’s replacement at the Bank of Italy.”
Ethan Bronner in NYT, "Six Years After a Debilitating Stroke, Sharon Remains Responsive, His Son Says".
“Gilad Sharon adds in the book that while he insisted on not letting his father die more out of instinct and sentiment, it turned out he also had medicine on his side: the CT scan had been misread. Doctors acknowledged after the operation that his father was healthier than they had realized, according to Mr. Sharon. Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001 and was at the height of his power when he had the stroke. Having spent his career as a hawk and a champion of the settler movement — amply documented in the new biography — he shocked his political base by removing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza only months earlier, in the summer of 2005. He then left his political home in the rightist Likud party and established the centrist party, Kadima.”
Liam Stack & Sebnem Arsu in NYT, "Clashes With Kurds Are Pushing Turkey Back Toward Conflict".
“Turkish troops have pursued the P.K.K. across the mountainous border with Iraq more than 25 times since the conflict began, but the military has not managed to subdue the militants or diminish their combat ability. Some of the military operations involved as many as 30,000 troops. The road to a political solution has also been bumpy. The government has refused to recognize the P.K.K. as part of any official talks, although records of meetings between Turkish intelligence officials and the P.K.K. were leaked last month to the local news media. The dominant political party in the southeast, the Peace and Democracy Party, is widely considered to be the political wing of the P.K.K. and has been banned by court order eight times. It has resumed its operations each time.”
Marc Champion & Ayla Albayrak in WSJ, "Jailed Kurd Leader At Conflict’s Core".
“Mr. Ocalan has no TV or access to a phone. His radio receives one channel -- the state-owned TRT, says Mr. Bilmez. Other than his middle brother Mehmet, the only other people who see him have been the government’s negotiating teams, with whom talks ended in July. He reads incessantly. On their last weekly visit before getting cut off, his lawyers brought him 11 books and magazines for the week, including: ‘Empire’ by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson; ‘Women of Byzantium’ by a University of North Carolina classics professor; and a volume of essays on philosopher Max Weber.”
Khaled Hroub at Qantara.de, "Secularism as a Protector of Religion".
“But this lesson on secularism and the civil state, delivered to the Arab Islamists by the Turkish premier during a television interview on his last visit to Cairo, definitely came at the right time. Even post-Arab Spring, most narrow-minded Arab Islamists continue to regard secularism per se as the ‘brother of faithlessness’ and the ‘enemy of religion’. To date, this secularism to which they have been so fiercely hostile has not been introduced in any Arab country in the same manner as in Turkey, where Atatürk's military chose its most radical form. Consequently it can be assumed that political Islam in Turkey appears as the definitive opponent of secularism – a radical approach that has struck it to the very core.”
Matthew Kaminski in WSJ, "On the Campaign Trail With Islamist Democrats".
“The Tunisian party descends from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Ghannouchi, who spent the past 20 years in exile in London, is a prominent scholar and proponent of political Islam. For decades, the party’s slogan was, ‘Islam is the solution.’ Yet for this campaign, Nahda presented a face more in sync with the democratic times and Tunisia’s secular, moderate society. Mr. Ghannouchi says he sees no reason for the only Arab country to have outlawed polygamy to reverse course. The 1956 Code of Personal Status, which established women’s legal equality in most matters except for inheritance rights, is sacred to him, too. He says he looks forward to many elections like Sunday’s. There was no symbolic gesture seemingly too small to burnish Nahda’s new image. During Yom Kippur, party officials brought flowers and greetings to remnants of the Jewish community in the Goulette quarter of Tunis. Islamists aren’t known for their philo-Semitisim. Wine is produced and alcohol is drunk widely in Tunisia, and Hamadi Jebali, Nahda’s secretary general, says that’s all fine.”
Christopher Caldwell in New Republic on Zeyno Baran’s book, Citizen Islam: The Future of Muslim Integration in the West.
“In the divisive, decade-old War on Terror, one certitude unites the warriors and the conscientious objectors. It is that Islamism is not to be confused with Islam. ‘Whatever it’s called,’ George W. Bush said, ‘this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.’ Attorney General Eric Holder described the Islamism of the late Anwar al-Awlaki as ‘a version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it.’ Zeyno Baran has come reluctantly to the conclusion that the Bush/Holder view is false. Her new book describes how Islamists have captured many Islamic religious and social institutions, including most of the Western ones. Islamism has supplanted more traditional tendencies and has become what most people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, understand as mainstream Islam. Gullible American and European policymakers have partnered with the wrong Muslims, freezing out their friends and empowering those who wish them ill.”
William Wallis in FT, "Sudan counts economic cost of losing south".
“Mr al-Bashir’s government starts talks in Juba today with the newly independent southern government on the sharing of oil revenues. There are conflicting estimates of the cost of the loss of the south to Khartoum. The International Monetary Fund estimates it at more than $5bn up to 2015. Southern officials are willing to pay $3bn, half via a 10 per cent reduction on oil sales running for three years and half via waiving debts it says are owed by the north. This falls far short of what Khartoum wants. Mr al-Bashir’s government argues it will lose $15bn. Officials had hoped that a peaceful transfer of sovereignty to the south would have enabled Khartoum to normalise relations with the west, ended the US trade embargo, and led to foreign investment.”
Raymond Ibrahim at MEforum.org on Robert Reilly’s book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.
“Last week, ‘Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested an Indonesian housemaid for casting a magic spell on a local family and 'turning its life upside down.'’ The maid ‘confessed’ to using sorcery, and ‘commission experts took the magic items to their office and managed to dismantle and stop the spell.’ Far from being absurd aberrations to be dismissed, such accounts, which are becoming better known thanks to the Internet, are stark reminders of the incompatibility between the Western and Muslim worldviews, or, more to the point, the difficulty Western peoples have transcending their own paradigms and understanding the Muslim worldview in its own right -- above and beyond the issue of sorcery. In his book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Robert Reilly, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, helps explain the Muslim worldview by thoroughly documenting the historic and doctrinal roots behind it; by refreshingly bypassing the overly dramatized question of ‘what went wrong,’ he explains the more pressing ‘why it went wrong.’”
James Lamont & Farhan Bokhari in FT, "Islamabad looks towards India to bolster economy".
“A proposal to grant Most Favoured Nation status to India -- 15 years after New Delhi accorded the same to Islamabad -- and the easing of visa restrictions are the latest steps towards a long-awaited trade liberalisation between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Pakistan’s military commanders and business community are increasingly worried about the poor performance of the economy under the rule of President Asif Ali Zardari.”
Steven Barowiec at YaleGlobal, "Mongolia Opens Doors for Foreign Investment".
“Mongolia has spent much of its recent history squeezed by Russian and Chinese interests. It became a Soviet satellite after looking to the victorious Bolsheviks for protection from China. The Chinese administration at the time wanted to claim both Inner and Outer Mongolia as Chinese territory. Under communism, officially beginning in 1924, 95 percent of Mongolia’s trade was with the USSR, which bought Mongolia’s raw materials on the cheap and sold them on the world market at a large profit. Now, Mongolia is striving to use its mineral wealth to establish ties with a wide range of partners and carve out an independent position. As the anti-Chinese graffiti on walls throughout Ulan Bator would indicate, there is a lingering mistrust in Mongolia of China, its rival and partner. Regardless of how Mongolians may feel about China, they cannot afford to ignore its regional clout. China is Mongolia’s largest trading partner and investor. Mongolia is a major exporter of coal, copper and gold to China. Chinese demand mitigated the effects of the 2008 economic crisis on Mongolia.”
NYT: "Tracking Tibetan Art".
“The Chinese takeover in Tibet caused private and monastery collections of paintings and sculptures to vanish without much of a paper trail. ‘Eighty to 90 percent of Tibetan art was destroyed or displaced during the Cultural Revolution,’ the art historian David Jackson said during a recent telephone interview. ‘What I try to do is restore the order of the total chaos.’ He has spent decades identifying artists and their patrons and subject matter. He has compared thousands of portraits, looking for patterns in the hand gestures, robe colors, jewelry, background furniture and even hairlines and mustache shapes. His new book, ‘Mirror of the Buddha: Early Portraits From Tibet,’ coincides with an exhibition of about 50 pieces that opens on Friday at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan.”
Joseph Sternberg in WSJ, "The Phony Success of China’s Stimulus".
“The government was quick out of the gate with a stimulus program running to the trillions of dollars, and growth in gross domestic product (GDP) didn't dip as deeply in China as it did elsewhere. China bulls say this shows the government is smart and worth emulating. But dig a little deeper and the opposite turns out to be true. China's stimulus took the form of a massive expansion of bank lending, rather than the kind of fiscal spending Westerners typically think of when they hear the word Keynesian. A glance at what has happened at the banks in the aftermath shows how Beijing has backed itself into a corner. The stimulus opened a credit floodgate that so far has proven impossible to turn off. ‘There is a misconception that it was only limited to six months,’ says Charlene Chu, an analyst at Fitch Ratings here and one of the few people outside the government who seems to understand what’s going on at China’s banks.”
Kathrin Hille in FT, "Chinese entrepreneurs at copycat stage".
“The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs this month triggered rounds of soul-searching over why the country lacks technology entrepreneurs as successful as Mr Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who came up with products that changed the world. ‘Chinese companies can be expected to have market valuations and business models like Apple’s within 10 years but it is difficult to expect any type of Apple-like innovation,’ says Lee Kaifu, the former head of Google China who, with his incubator Innovation Works, has become a guru for internet start-ups in China.”
Bret Stephens in WSJ, "How Many Nukes Does China Have?".
“In 2008, he was commissioned by the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency -- which deals with everything from arms-control verification to nuclear detection and forensics -- to look into a mysterious Chinese project known as the ‘Underground Great Wall.’ The investigation would lead Mr. Karber to question long-held assumptions about the size -- of China’s ultra-secret nuclear arsenal. The agency’s interest in the subject had been piqued following the devastating May 12 earthquake that year in Sichuan province: Along with ordinary rescue teams, Beijing had deployed thousands of radiation specialists belonging to the Second Artillery Corps, the branch of the People’s Liberation Army responsible for the country’s strategic missile forces, including most of its nuclear weapons. The involvement of the Second Artillery wasn’t entirely surprising, since Sichuan is home to key nuclear installations, including the Chinese version of Los Alamos. More interesting were reports of hillsides collapsing to expose huge quantities of shattered concrete. Speculation arose that a significant portion of China’s nuclear arsenal, held in underground tunnels and depots, may have been lost in the quake.”
David Pilling in FT, "Why China’s leaders fear looking in the 1911 mirror".
“China’s Communist party has a difficult relationship with history. The party represents an awkward, one could say irreconcilable, confluence of change and continuity. On the one hand it wants to be seen as the guardian of the revolution that began in October 1911 and ended with the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China, in February 1912. On the other, it stresses its own permanence, and continuity with thousands of years of imperial rule. Having come to power by virtue of two revolutions, the republican one of 1911 and the Communist one of 1949, the party now wants to consign the idea of overthrowing governments to the dustbin of history.”
Andrew Jacobs in NYT, "Taking Big Risks to See a Chinese Dissident Under House Arrest".
“In the year since the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng was released from jail and promptly imprisoned at home, a trickle of foolhardy souls has been thus rebuffed after attempting to penetrate the cordon of paid thugs who repel visitors from his village in eastern Shandong Province. Foreign journalists and European diplomats who have tried to see him have fared little better. But during the past two weeks, the trickle of would-be visitors has become a campaign, with dozens of admirers and activists from across the country embarking on the journey, human rights groups say. Inspired by a stream of microblog messages that at times overwhelms government censors, these ad hoc rights activists and their online supporters are still being turned away.”
Sergei Loiko in LAT, "Ex-tycoon writes of life in Russian prison".
“In recent weeks, Khodorkovsky has started a series of columns called ‘Prison Folk’ for the New Times, an influential Russian weekly political magazine. In them, he approaches his characters with the sharp eye of an intellectual observer but also the compassion of a fellow prisoner, giving his prose a touch of the desperate hope prevalent in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's classic ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.’ ‘Often you feel literally terrified from the sense of utterly wasted human lives, fates broken by one's own hands or by the heartless system,’ he writes in one of his most recent columns…. In a matter-of-fact way that makes the account even more wrenching, Khodorkovsky tells the story of Kolya, a young man caught with drugs. Investigators, hoping to write off an unsolved case, also want the man to confess to a petty robbery he didn't commit. Kolya agrees in exchange for a promise that he can choose a prison camp to his liking and meet with his family. But when he finds out that he is going to ‘confess’ to robbing an old woman of her cellphone, he refuses. The man is a criminal, but he has his principles. The investigators beat him up and throw him back into a cell to think, Khodorkovsky writes. ‘In a short while, he knocks on the door and when the feeder [a small window to get food] opens up, his intestines flow into it. Kolya cut himself up for real. I look at this man many times convicted and think with bitterness about many people outside who value their honor much cheaper and don't consider robbing an old man or an old woman for a couple of thousand [rubles] a special sin, even if their robbery is covered up by smart words. They are not ashamed. And involuntarily I am proud of Kolya.’”
Peter Pomerantsev in London Review of Books, "Putin’s Rasputin".
“Black market tickets were going for four figures. The final price? Two bottles of champagne and the opportunity for one of the theatre’s leading actresses to use my parents’ London home rent-free. It turned out that the fee wasn’t even worth a proper seat. The ushers let me in after the lights were dimmed. They gave me a cushion and told me to sit on the floor by the front row. My head spent the night knocking against the perfumed thigh of an impossibly perfect model, her brutal-looking husband seeming none too pleased. The audience was full of these types: the hard, clever men who rule the country and their stunning female satellites. You don’t usually find them at the theatre but they were there because it was the thing to do: if they ever bumped into Surkov they could tell him how much they liked his fascinating piece. The other half of the audience were the city’s artistic leaders: impresarios, directors, actors. They had a similar reason to be present: Surkov is famous for giving grants to theatres and festivals. It wouldn’t do not to have seen the play. ‘I would never go to something like that,’ a well-known journalist told me in the ‘democratic’ bar. ‘I wouldn’t want to touch anything Surkov is part of. And what about that shit Serebrennikov? Who’d have thought he’d sink to something so low? Sucking up to the Kremlin that way.’ Serebrennikov is the play’s director. He is famous for staging scandalous, subversive pieces and for always wearing sunglasses. Many think him a genius. His collaboration with Surkov is the equivalent of Brecht putting on a play by Goebbels.”
Maxim Kantor at Opendemocracy.net, "Rise of the lumpen elite: is this really what we fought for?".
“The lumpen upper class has come into being during the present crisis, which can be seen as a contemporary version of the classic 'collectivisation.' It bears all the hallmarks of the collectivisation of the 1930s. Both resulted in financial redistribution. Both involved the suppression of the the middle class, the very stratum that is the engine and culture medium of democracy. The rich have grown richer, the poor poorer, and common history and a common goal have ceased to exist. We keep on thinking we live in the same society as before. But we don't: the middle class has lost its rights and the ruling class has been lumpenized. The lumpenized class is the elite. The lumpen elite has created its own parallel history and meta-language, as inaudible to society as the shouts of the crowd are to the elite. The ‘avantgarde’, that mantra we invoke, has become purely decorative and has no real relation to any real social processes. Artists used to call themselves radicals because they wanted to get away from the art salons and deal with the real problems of life. Art today describes itself as radical because it is so far removed from life that it has become an artificial language. The new democratic salon has become the icing on the new cake of society. The lumpen elite is not dependent on society; it chatters away in its own joyful, daring language, without noticing that the world is on fire.”
Signandsight.com: Friedrich Kittler interview.
“Are you interested in Facebook?
No, not remotely. It gives me the uncanny feeling that normal people have become so unimportant for those in power and business that self-presentation is the last resort. When I arrived in California for the first time and went up Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley heading for campus, I passed a playing field full of exhibitionists running about. People dressed as harlequins begging for money or smoking dope. When I then entered campus and looked at the people there, they lowered their eyes. People either seem completely depressed or they put on a huge show and telephone loudly in the train restaurant.
Have you seen "Social Network" the film about Mark Zuckerberg?
Basically, Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook because women are not interested in him.
That leads me to one of my favourite questions: the connection between post-adolescent asceticism and innovation. Men today are able to father a child at the age of 13. In my generation most of us didn't sleep with a woman until the age of 20 or 21, only then exposing ourselves to the risk of having children. In the meantime we would come up with incredible ideas. The programmer Linus Thorvalds writes in his autobiography: ‘I never drank beer, I never had a girlfriend, I wrote Linux.’ When secondary school kids are already having sex at 14, then this period of latency shrinks. What this means for the culture of the future is an open question.”
Henrik Bering in WSJ on Jean-Vincent Blanchard’s book, Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France.
“For Richelieu to achieve his goal of consolidating the French state, he first needed to tame feudal noblemen, who had their own private armies, and militant Protestants. Mr. Blanchard expertly details the siege of La Rochelle, a Protestant stronghold that was starved into submission. We see Richelieu and his engineers planning the dam that was built across the outer harbor to prevent the city from receiving supplies, and we find him on his flagship watching a futile English relief attempt. Inside the city, residents dragged themselves to the cemetery before expiring. Though certainly ruthless, Richelieu was no fanatic. He demanded that Protestants acknowledge the king's sovereignty, but he did not revoke the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed their freedom of conscience. (It was later revoked by Louis XIV.) Abroad, Richelieu's pragmatism allowed him to enter into alliances with the Swedish King Gustav Adolphus and the German Protestant princes. He had a larger aim: encouraging them to bleed the Habsburgs until France could gain the upper hand.”
Benjamin Kunkel in London Review of Books on Michel Houellebecq’s book, The Map and the Territory.
“The casual-seeming sentences from Atomised lay bare the kind of associative chain running beneath Houellebecq’s work. Modernity as Americanisation is linked, by way of plastic surgery, to a pitiless cult of youth and beauty, and both of these to a mercenary or exploitative approach to personal relations (the loan cadged from the father-in-law); and at the end of the chain lies an abandoned child -- or murdered adult -- resembling Houellebecq himself. ‘Familles, je vous hais,’ Gide cried, but where can we find a parent discussed with more potent contempt than in Houellebecq’s letter on his mother in Public Enemies, an exchange with Bernard-Henri Levy? He never felt greater disgust for his ‘absolutely self-centred creature’, he says, than when she told him, on one of perhaps 15 encounters between mother and son, that his former nanny had asked after him: ‘She thought it was funny, inappropriate, that my old Malagasy nanny should ask her about me after 30 years; I found it incredibly touching, but I didn’t even try to explain it to her.’”
Maia de la Raume in NYT, "A Melodic Emblem Falls Out of Tune".
“The replacement of the bells in a $3.5 million project is part of a face-lift in preparation for the cathedral’s 850th anniversary next year that includes a renovation of the obsolete and energy-intensive lighting system and renowned organ. Not all the bells will be replaced. The great 1681 ‘Bourdon Emmanuel’ bell, which hangs in the south tower and is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, will be preserved. It rings for major religious celebrations, popes’ visits, presidential funerals and commemorations. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005 at the age of 84, the Bourdon Emmanuel rang 84 times. Despite the concerns of those like Mr. Gilibert, only the Bourdon Emmanuel is considered by experts to have important historical significance. The smaller bells were cast in the 19th century, which many French historians consider to be recent; their metal is of low quality, and they produce a disharmonious sound, the experts say. Before the revolution, Notre-Dame had 20 renowned bells that pealed atop the northern and southern towers of the building. But after the revolution in 1789, all the bells save one were melted down to make cannons, as the revolutionaries destroyed all religious symbols and even held propaganda meetings in the cathedral. (About 80 percent of the bells across France disappeared after the French Revolution.)”
Dominic Lieven in FT on Norman Davies’ book, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe.
“Most of Davies’s kingdoms fell victim to war and geo-politics but by no means all of them. In the cases of Savoy and Prussia, for example, realms disappeared because of their success in creating larger and more powerful countries in which their own Savoyard and Prussian identities dissolved over time. Perhaps Davies’s saddest case is that of the Rusyns, a small east Slav people squeezed between Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. Rusyn identity is often defined in negative terms -- they are not Russian, Polish or even Ukrainian. Left adrift by the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1939, their independent statehood lasted for just one day before their former Hungarian masters re-asserted their power.”
Ronald & Allis Radosh in Weekly Standard, "Time for Another Harding?".
“There was general agreement in Washington that the federal budget process was a mess. For over a hundred years each department had submitted its own budget with little coordination or control. Wilson had tried to get a bill passed dealing with the budget process, but had failed. Now Harding stepped up. The Budget and Accounting Act passed on June 10. It placed the new Budget Bureau — predecessor to today’s Office of Management and Budget — in the Department of the Treasury, but made it accountable to the president. Harding appointed Dawes its director. Dawes agreed to take the job on two conditions: that he would have the president’s complete support and that he would serve for only one year, allowing him to set up effective operating procedures so that the bureau could carry on without him.”
MercoPress: "In Uruguay we have learnt to bury the old economic paradigms".
“He also admitted that the Uruguayan left has learnt ‘to care for inflation and not to spend more than what comes in’. ‘We want private companies, private investors to come to Uruguay and we must guarantee them that we are reliable, respect contracts and that the rule of the law prevails, which is a long tradition in the country’, said Mujica in an informal chat with some of the press that covered his European tour. ‘Before we wanted to share, really to distribute nothing, what did not exist, now we want investments to help generate jobs and wealth that we can then distribute’ said the former urban guerrilla who spent years in jail before resuming politics and building the strongest force in the Uruguayan left oriented catch all ruling coalition.”
Julian Baggini in FT on Steve Fuller’s book, Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future.
“Students and frazzled executives already pop memory and attention-boosting ‘cognitive enhancers’, while athletes look for competitive advantage via pills and syringes. More radical interventions are on the horizon, such as altering the very composition of our DNA or replacing organic body parts with better performing synthetic ones. Some even think we will eventually upload ourselves into silicon brains or virtual worlds and escape our carbon bodies altogether. You might expect Fuller’s book to give some indication of where this experiment could take us, where it should take us, and how to close the gap between the two. But, as fuller has stated elsewhere, his priority is to say what he thinks needs to be said, not what he happens to believe is true.”
Heather Pringle in Scientific American, "The First Americans".
“In more than a dozen studies geneticists examined modern and ancient DNA samples from Native Americans, looking for telltale genetic mutations or markers that define major human lineages known as haplogroups. They found that native peoples in the Americans stemmed from four major founding maternal haplogroups -- A, B, C and D -- and two major founding paternal haplogroups -- C and Q. To find the probably source of these haplogroups, the teams then searched for human populations in the Old World whose genetic diversity encompassed all the lineages. Only the modern inhabitants of southern Siberia, from the Altai Mountains in the west to the Amur river in the east, matched this genetic profile, a finding that strongly indicates that the ancestors of the first Americans came from an East Asian homeland. This evidence confirmed what most archaeologists suspected about the location of this homeland. It also strongly suggested that the timing proposed in the Clovis First scenario was wrong. Geneticists now calculate, based on mutation rates in human DNA, that the ancestors of the Native Americans parted from their kin in their East Asian homeland sometime between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago -- a difficult time for a great northern migration.”
Fred Siegel in WSJ on Vivian Gornick’s book, Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life.
“Ms. Gornick, with her own fascination for political passion, is especially insightful about Goldman's particular brand of engagement. In ‘The Romance of American Communism’ (1977), Gornick insisted that communists were the best people because, whatever their failings, they, like Emma Goldman, were more intense, more passionate than others. Similarly, she writes of Goldman that it took ‘a certain kind of mad courage’ to reject the evidence offered by experience and to go on insisting that idealism will work ‘because it must work.’ Yet Ms. Gornick is not so unswerving in her own radicalism. She has had second thoughts about the feminist movement of the 1970s…. Ms. Gornick reflects on the ‘raging intemperateness’ of the era's feminist rhetoric — ‘marriage is an institution of oppression’; ‘love is rape’; ‘sleeping with the enemy’ — and realizes now that reform wasn't the goal. ‘They wanted to bring down the system, destroy the social arrangement, no matter what the consequences’ for children, for families or anyone else. The message, she says with a note of older, wiser incredulity, was: ‘We're here to declare our grievance, and make others feel as we do. What comes later is not our concern.’ Another romantic falls out of love. For all the book's virtues, it misses the underlying implications of Emma Goldman's elitist anarchism, rooted as it was in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and of Max Stirner, a harshly egotistical anarchist. Goldman insisted in her essay ‘Minorities versus Majorities,’ which anticipated the feminist New Left, that ‘the calamity are the masses’ and that the ‘mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs.’”
Zac Laux in Branding Iron, "ASUW cuts funding for WAN in accordance to policy".
“The Women’s Advocacy Network submitted a funding request for $460 to fund food and a gift bag containing sexual health items, which would include one vibrator, flavored dental dams and condoms. The ASUW [Assoc. of Students Univ. of Wyoming] funding board cut $365 from the budget because the funding board cannot fund gifts, according to the finance policy. ASUW Senator Joel Defebaug said he could understand the educational value of condoms, but thought a vibrator may be too personal a gift. ASUW Senator Noah Hull said he could support funding for WAN’s vibrators if it was being used to demonstrate a point, such as how to put on a condom, but added he could not support the idea of giving the item out as a gift. ‘I don’t know how we explain to students that we used their money to buy a sex device,’ Hull said. Secretary of WAN Elena Montelone said the negative implications of masturbation can actually lead to unhealthy sexual activity. She added that giving out vibrators to students potentially reduces the negative implications attached to masturbation, thus increasing healthy activity.”
CT: "Hinky Dink, Bathhouse John, the Everleigh sisters photo-essay".
Maudlyne Ihejirika in CST, "Defender cuts editors, more staff".
“One of the nation’s oldest black-owned newspapers, the Chicago Defender, is struggling to stay afloat. The newspaper is months behind on its rent, and this week laid off a sixth of its staff. Laid off were the only two editors left among its already dwindled staff of 18 — Executive Editor Lou Ransom and News Editor Rhonda Gillespie. An accounts receivables staffer also was laid off, and the paper’s only photographer switched from full- to part-time, according to staffers at the 106-year-old, once daily paper founded by Robert Abbott in 1905. Amidst financial woes, it became a weekly publication in 2008.”
Jake Austen's Roctober in CT:
"Duke University Press just published a collection of memorable stories... 'Flying Saucers Rock N' Roll.' ...He pointed to a framed issue, its cover copy promising a story on 'Corn Dolly.' 'You know who they are?' he asked, studying my face, then said, 'Years ago, I went to see (Jeff) Tweedy's first band at Lounge Ax, Uncle Tupelo. Hated them. But opening was this great all-girl band from DeKalb, Corn Dolly. So I wrote about them.' He moved to a picture of the singer Sylvester. 'You know Sylvester?' he asked, meaning the drag performer/disco pioneer. 'I could never find anything written about him that I was impressed with, and I might not have found enough to write a book on the guy, but there is enough to explain the arc of his life. See, Roctober may not be powerful enough to put these people in the canon, where they probably belong, but to make the case for them. You do have to take them seriously, you do have to be obsessive to do it right.' The magazine started in 1992 at the Rhode Island School of Design, where Austen was studying painting."
Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho, Mike Watt.
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