a new low in topical enlightenment

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Issue #86 (February 23, 2011)

57th and 2nd, New York City

Photo by Joe Carducci

Two Wisconsins
by Joe Carducci

I lived in northern Wisconsin for a couple years in the mid-nineties and we always vacationed up there like any normal Illinoisans and often had cause to visit relatives up there, and now a couple of my sisters live there. But it isn’t really like Illinois, except for those smaller cities that retain heavy industry. Manitowoc and West Allis probably share a lot with Decatur and Peoria, and all those Midwest industrial towns pressured by globalization. But rural Illinois is more grain-based than Wisconsin’s agricultural areas which are mostly involved in dairy production. And then there’s Madison -- its a fatal mistake to put the elite University in your state capitol. In Illinois, Champaign-Urbana is where the University of Illinois system is centered and that’s such a farm-town that they’ve generally been unable to get the best basketball prep stars from Chicago to play for them and their poli-sci and liberal arts grads don’t cluster around the state government for power and money. And Illinois’ capitol Springfield is another minor burg lost in the cornfields of central Illinois. As it happens every Illinois grade school kid visits Springfield exactly once because Abe Lincoln served there.

But where do you begin with Madison? Its like the droning low-horizon of Midwestern fortitude applied to the lifestyle goofball radicalism found in Boulder and Berkeley. Madisonites have some idea that the boredom of the Grange or Bob La Follette were virtues to take the edge off of the wackiness of wasting money on fair-trade creature comforts and hare-brained recycling programs that double-down on energy consumption while un-reusable paper and plastic piles up to the sky in tribute to their new improved puritanism.

Up near Minocqua I could listen to three different Public radio stations, one programmed classical music and came from Madison, another was all-civics-all-the-time and came from Madison, and one served the Ojibway from nearby Reserve. These bright signals no doubt cramped the style of the small town C&W station and the oldies stations. I listened mostly to the classical, but the “Drum” program of Indian singers was a weekly highlight from Reserve. I listened to the civics station when things were going on or when driving. They featured all the network programs plus “To the Best of Our Knowledge” which was their own political affairs show from Madison. There’s always been a tactical Leninist use of boredom, which is actually how the Bolsheviks got their name: Lenin’s minority used their “iron buttocks” to delay and lengthen meetings late into the night until anyone with a life had to leave, after which the vote was taken and that minority (the mensheviki) became the Bolsheviki and the majority (the bosheviki) became the Mensheviki as those losers are still known to history. Anyway, this is evidently how they run public radio too.

The uproar in Madison is hard to take serious for anyone who knows the town. It’s their dream come true on one hand, another Bring the War Home moment, where they feel certain that they were right after all not to move to Boulder or Berkeley. However, the Left cohort of Madison can’t relish the evidence that they’ve been paying to broadcast Public radio in triplicate to all rural corners of the state and have all those hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers turn on them. The New York Times ran a portrait of a Janesville GM employee whose been up and down in his own union job to explain how the public-sector unions have lost solidarity with private union employees:

“Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations. ‘Something needs to be done,’ he said, ‘and quickly.’” (NYT)

Elsewhere, coverage that clouds the difference between public and private would seem unable to account for the crises in the states at all. It seems to me that if Wisconsin Governor Walker, or New Jersey Governor Christie wanted to really attack the civil service and teachers unions they would do what Illinois Governor Quinn was doing, just dig a deeper hole of debt to maintain contracts until any theoretical unsustainability proves itself with a much worse state bankruptcy or other collapse.

In Wisconsin these demonstrators, formerly concerned with violent rhetoric, are not opposing a corporation that they might drive out of business or off-shore. James Taranto at WSJ.com, has it that, “The privileged are revolting in Wisconsin.” He notes the discordant Marxist analysis coming from Madison public servants, reviews how economist Paul Krugman and others don’t understand the distinction, and quotes Time’s Joe Klein, "Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed . . . of the public?"

Mark Guarino in the Christian Science Monitor both notes the Governor’s radical determination and its roots in a Wisconsin political tradition.

“The urgency of his agenda just months after he election shows he is eager to take on not just Democrats, but also his own party, much in the tradition of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, whose battles for welfare reform and school choice in his state led the way for national policy changes. Governor Walker served in the state Assembly during the Thompson years. At that time, between 1993 and 2002, he flexed his conservative muscles by supporting welfare reform and a cap on state spending. In his campaign for the governor’s office, he ran on a platform critical of state spending and in favor of rolling back state tax increases for small businesses and top earners. He also positioned himself against President Obama in refusing to build a high-speed rail line from Madison to Milwaukee, saying it would be too costly and end up unprofitable….” (CSM)

Guarino even places him in Wisconsin’s tradition of party mavericks with Russ Feingold.

The actual issues are both smaller and larger than the demonstrations might indicate. Steven Greenhouse writes in the NYT about this “watershed moment” for Public-sector unions:

“From Florida to California, many political leaders are seeking to cut the wages and benefits of public-sector workers to help balance strained budgets. But Mr. Walker is going far beyond that, seeking to definitively curb the power of government unions in his state. He sees public-employee unions as a bane to the taxpayer because they demand — and often win — generous health and pension plans that help push up taxes and drive budget deficits higher. To end that cycle, he wants to restrict the unions to bargaining over just one topic, base wages, while eliminating their ability to deal over health care, working hours and vacations.”

You’d have to move on to the Wall Street Journal to understand why he would go so “far”. Steven Malanga writes there:

“Unions use that money not only to run their daily operations but to wage political campaigns in state capitals and city halls. Indeed, public-sector unions especially have become the nation's most aggressive advocates for higher taxes and spending. They sponsor tax-raising ballot initiatives and pay for advertising and lobbying campaigns to pressure politicians into voting for them. And they mount multimillion dollar campaigns to defeat efforts by governors and taxpayer groups to roll back taxes.”

David Brooks writes in his New York Times column:

“Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest. Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with.” ( NYT )

And in the end, one might say, as they succeed they simply give themselves raises and perks. (These “perks” often involve getting out of the classroom as fast as possible to some administrative ghost-work when it comes to “teachers”, and who knows? perhaps it is worth more money for bureaucrats to do less work.) But back to that Janesville GM worker’s understanding: He notes first that the county, the city, and the schools are three of the top five employers in his town. This means that the public/private balance is tilting toward these “insider” public-sector unions, and despite, or because of his own perilous job situation he understands this danger, that to service these contracts of a growing state workforce the private economy might be beggared and a crisis slide into disaster. The obliviousness of all those smart, Madison public radio listening know-at-alls is, one hopes, galvanizing of these efforts in the states to reset an economic balance that was set in the post-war years when the American economy was the only surviving one and not pressed by competitors as it is now. Those years of the 50s thru the 70s were the real moment of unipolarity was far as economics went because the Soviet Union couldn’t actually produce anything by ICBMs, AK47s, tanks, MiGs, and Professors of now extinct sciences of History and Economics.

From the London desk of Steve Beeho…

William Skidelsky interviews Niall Ferguson in the Observer about freedom and civilisation.

“His approach to the past is overwhelmingly materialistic. Questions of right and wrong, or indeed of personality and psychology, don't appear to preoccupy him greatly. What gets him going is hard data, facts and figures – the stuff, in other words, that is most measurable (and, by extension, provable). No doubt this outlook has a lot to do with his grounding in economic history. Yet his materialism goes beyond this, almost to the point, oddly, of seeming Marxian. ‘Something that's seldom appreciated about me,’ he declares, ‘is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I'm on the side of the bourgeoisie.’”


Rod Liddle in the Spectator on the self-perpetuating “liberal consensus”:

“The rather wonderful thing, replete with symmetrical irony, is that Dr David Nutt was sacked by a Labour government as a consequence of a sort of political correctness of the right, whereas Raabe was sacked by a Conservative-led government as a consequence of a sort of political correctness of the left…. I don’t think it is overstating the case to suggest that this is a form of intellectual fascism. It certainly, at the very least, not merely restricts freedom of speech and freedom of conscience but also serves to close down debate.”


Christopher Hitchens at Slate.com on how the Taliban have gone too far, even for the studied neutralists of human rights groups.

“The turning point, in the mind of the human rights ‘activists,’ appears to have occurred in late January, when a Taliban suicide-murderer killed at least 14 civilians in the Finest Supermarket in Kabul. Among the slain was a well-known local campaigner named Hamida Barmaki, whose husband and four small children were also killed. One wonders in what sense this was the Taliban going too far—women are killed and mutilated by them every single day in Afghanistan. Yet let the terror reach one of the upscale markets or hotels that cater to the NGO constituency in Kabul, and suddenly there is an abrupt change from moral neutrality.”


Janet Street-Porter's great 1976 LWT punk doc captures the innocence of the pre-Bill Grundy period and has been routinely plundered by later punk documentaries ever since.


Kate Simon recalls some of her iconic punk shots.


James Williamson at Retrokimmer.com on the Chosen Few and the roots of the Stooges.

La Tuna Canyon Trailhead, Verdugo Mountains

Photo by Chris Collins

Mirafa Angolensis by James Fotopoulos

From the Manhattan Desk of Joe Carducci…

Ian Bremmer in FT, "The J-curve hits the middle east".

“If you plot the relationship between a country’s stability (on the vertical axis) and its social and political openness (on the horizontal axis) the points that mark every possible combination of openness and stability will produce a pattern that resembles the letter J. Most countries start off closed and stable (think: North Korea). Many end up open and stable (like Britain). But in between there is a turbulent transition. Some governments, such as post-apartheid South Africa, survive this transition. Others -- the Soviet Union, Iran under the shah and the former Yugoslavia -- do not. This presents a dilemma for the Middle East. In recent years globalisation has provided more young Arabs with access to education, media and travel -- innovations that make it more difficult for a ruling elite to control information and power. If governments, such as Egypt’s, relax their grip to stoke economic growth… they risk sharp social and political upheaval. Yet if they keep things closed, they sharply limit the power of their economies to generate the prosperity on which longer-term political legitimacy will depend. And that too creates instability.”


Martin Wolf in FT, "Why the world’s youth is in a revolting state of mind".

“Demography is destiny. Humanity is in the grip of three profound transformations: first, a far greater proportion of children reaches adulthood; second, women have far fewer children; and, third, adults live far longer. These changes are now working through the world, in sequence. The impact of the first has been to raise the proportion of the population that is young. The impact of the second is the reverse, decreasing the proportion of young people. The third, in turn, increases the proportion of the population that is very old. The impact of the entire process is first to expand the population and, later on, to shrink it once again.”


David Gardner in FT, "Iran’s guardians of revolution haunted by Tehran Spring".

“In the spring of 1997, Mohammad Khatami, a silky and urbane cleric, was elected president of Iran. More an avalanche than a landslide, he won 70 per cent of the votes on an 80 per cent turnout, thrashing his theocrat opponent three-to-one. The then commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps went to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, telling him he did not have to accept the result. According to a member of the Expediency Council, referee for the regime’s chronic infighting, Iran’s supreme leader showed the general how his pasdaran, or guardians of the revolution, had voted: almost exactly as the nation had. That was what paralysed the hardliners during Mr Khatami’s Tehran Spring: the gnawing fear that the Revolutionary Guard might split if they confronted the reformers head-on. The Revolutionary Guard was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to defend the regime against the army. The revolution triumphed because the Shah’s army split. The revolutionaries learnt the lesson, bar they are haunted by the memory.”


Farnaz Fassihi in WSJ, "In Tehran, Funerals Bring New Clashes".

“Iran’s government on Wednesday hijacked the funerals of two students shot dead during antigovernment protests by busing its supporters to take over the procession and preventing the victims’ families and friends from attending the ceremony, witnesses and family member said. The two college students, Sanah Jaleh, 26, and Mohamad Mokhtari, 22, were killed in demonstrations Monday that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets across Iran and triggered the arrest of hundreds. Both men were supporters of the opposition Green Movement, their families and friends said on Wednesday. Iranian officials said they were pro-government and that Mr. Jaleh was a member of Basij, the volunteer plainclothes militia, and were killed by the opposition. ‘I swear to God that he was not a Basij member or had any government affiliation,’ said Mr. Jaleh's cousin, by telephone from the Kurdish city of Paveh in northwestern Iran. She said no family member was present during Mr. Jaleh’s funeral in Tehran and his family had been warned not to speak publicly…. Both men were shot by men on motorcycles that their friends say bore the hallmarks of the Basij.”


Ayşe Karabat at Qantara.de, "Release of Turkish Hezbollah Members Rocks Turkey".

“Unlike the better known Hezbollah of Lebanon, whose prime ministerial candidate emerged victorious from recent elections there, Turkish Hezbollah is a Sunni organisation. Ties between the two organisations have frequently been denied by the Lebanese group. Turkish Hezbollah was largely believed to be backed by the Turkish deep state for use as a weapon against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as well as secular Kurds and Turks in the 1990s…. This situation sparked a heated exchange between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Kılıçdaroğlu not only accused the AKP of not taking the necessary measures to prevent the escape of the Turkish Hezbollah members, but even suggested they had cooperated with them, seeking to use them as leverage to attract the Kurdish vote in the coming general elections, slated for May of this year…. Religious sentiments among Turkey's Kurds are very strong, and some segments of Kurdish society – despite their nationalist demands – remain distant from the dominant pro-Kurdish movement due to its secular structure. The terrorist PKK is also based on a Marxist approach. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan also waded into the discussion, claiming that the Turkish state is trying to revitalise Turkish Hezbollah in order to divide Kurds in their nationalist struggle. ‘They finished the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) by creating Hamas. We all know that Hamas people threw PLO members from the windows of the fourth and fifth floor. They will try to finish the Kurdish movement by creating a fake Islamism. It is not correct to call them a Kurdish Hamas, I will call them a 'network'. This network is claiming that they are Islamists, but actually they bear no relation to Islam,’ Öcalan stated through his lawyers, speaking at one of his weekly meetings with them in Imralı Island, where he is serving a life sentence.”


David Kirkpatrick in NYT, "Egyptians Say Military Resists Open Economy".

“From this vast web of businesses, the military pays no taxes, employs conscripted labor, buys public land on favorable terms and discloses nothing to Parliament or the public.

Since the ouster last week of President Hosni Mubarak, of course, the military also runs the government. And some scholars, economists and business groups say it has already begun taking steps to protect the privileges of its gated economy, discouraging changes that some argue are crucial if Egypt is to emerge as a more stable, prosperous country.

‘Protecting its businesses from scrutiny and accountability is a red line the military will draw,’ said Robert Springborg, an expert on Egypt’s military at the Naval Postgraduate School. ‘And that means there can be no meaningful civilian oversight.’ Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defense and military production who now leads the council of officers ruling Egypt, has been a strong advocate of government control of prices and production. He has consistently opposed steps to open up the economy, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.”


David Kirkpatrick in NYT, "After Lengthy Exile, Sunni Cleric Adds Voice in Shaping of Egypt".

“On Friday, he struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching. He began his sermon by saying that he was discarding the customary opening ‘Oh Muslims,’ in favor of ‘Oh Muslims and Copts,’ referring to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. He praised Muslims and Christians for standing together in Egypt’s revolution and even lauded the Coptic Christian ‘martyrs’ who once fought the Romans and Byzantines. ‘I invite you to bow down in prayer together,’ he said. He urged the military officers governing Egypt to deliver on their promises of turning over power to ‘a civil government’ founded on principles of pluralism, democracy and freedom. And he called on the army to immediately release all political prisoners and rid the cabinet of its dominance by officials of the old Mubarak government.”


Nasrin Alavi at Opendemocracy.net, "Iran’s resilient rebellion".

“Mohsen Rezaei, leading hardliner and former military commander of the Revolutionary Guards, compares the use of the internet to the ‘cassette-tape campaign’ mounted before the 1979 revolution to disseminate in Iran the sermons of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. ‘The internet and texting’, he says, ‘have filled the void of guerrilla organisations, helping people to take part in revolutionary action.’ The twist is that Rezaei is here talking not about Iranian internet users, but of how the ‘the Islamic revolution’ is today being ‘exported to the Arab world.’ Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran's majlis (parliament), comments: ‘The young today are politically aware; the shutting down of the internet and networks will not cure anything.’ The twist is that Larijani is referring to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, even as the state he serves has built a vast internet-police system whose rigorous censorship and surveillance of cyberspace has led to harassment, imprisonment and even executions. The reaction of a single Iranian blogger represents many: ‘Mr Larijani, do you believe in what you say - or is freedom good only for foreigners, but not us?’ Indeed, the establishment’s celebration of an ‘Iranian-style Islamic awakening’ in the Arab world coupled with excoriation of domestic dissent brings a new meaning to the term double-standards. Persian-language cyber-critics are caustic about the sheer hypocrisy involved. ‘They say the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia were the consequence of the export of our revolution’, said one. ‘In all honesty if you wanted to export the Damavand [mountains] they would reach their destination faster‘.”


Maajid Nawaz in WSJ, "The Post-Islamist Future".

“The 1950s and '60s witnessed the rise of pan-Arab socialism. Autocratic strongmen brought in by military coups were the order of the day in Egypt, Syria and beyond. By the 1980s and '90s, there was a fierce explosion in angry Islamism, as seen in the jihadist insurrection in Egypt and the rise of both Hamas and Hezbollah. But with failed Islamist experiments in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, the new millennium saw a creeping transition. As I did, the region's young, tech-savvy youth developed new ambitions, away from Islamism and toward secular democratic politics. Democratic activism is the new political fashion…. On the other hand, the alarmist approach—taken by many in Israel, for example—would seem to trade long-term regional security for short-term stability. As the former George W. Bush administration official Elliott Abrams remarked, ‘the Israelis apparently do not see the irony that they are mourning the departure of the man who created the very situation they now fear.’”


Andr Glucksmann at Signandsight.com, "Revolution without guarantee".

“Nowhere was it written that Khomeni would follow the Shah. Should I reproach the king of kings for not having spilled more blood in the last battle, or for having spilled too much in the preceding years? A popular uprising, which sees off a despotic regime is called a revolution. Every great Western democracy knows its own violent origins and the France of St. Just in particular: ‘The circumstances are only adverse for those who fear the grave.’ The murder of Khaled Said, the young blogger who was beaten to death by the police in Alexandria, did not intimidate the people, it galvanized them. Facebook and Twitter are the modern day Samizdat. The small group of internet citizens carry the torches of dissidence. Lit by the few who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives, like Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, the sparks which set fire to tyranny, are coursing through our space time. The Athens of the 5th Century BC, the city of philosophers, also honored its legendary tyrant killers Harmodius and Aristogeiton. A power of opposites, freedom offers ‘the deepest abyss and highest heaven’ (Schelling). Europe’s path shows us that a revolution can go in any direction, towards a republic, but also towards terror, conquests and wars. In the same moment that the power is shaking in Cairo, Tehran is celebrating the 32nd anniversary of its revolution with a festival of hangings and savage torture. Egypt - please God - is neither Khomeni's Iran, nor Lenin's Russia nor the Germany of the Nazi revolution. Egypt will become what its youth in their eagerness to breathe and communicate freely, what its Muslim brothers, its suspicious and secretive army, and its rich and poor who live light years apart, want to make of it.”


Jeffrey Gettleman in NYT, "Sudan’s President Won’t Run Again".

“President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, who has been in power for more than 20 years and faces international charges of genocide, will not run for office again after his current term ends in four years, a Sudanese government spokesman said Monday.

Mr. Bashir seized power in 1989 in a military coup and has ruled with an iron fist ever since, crushing or trying to crush numerous rebellions across Sudan. But now, Mr. Bashir ‘has no will to be a president again,’ said the spokesman, Rabie A. Atti. ‘He said the chance should be given to the next generation,’ Mr. Rabie said. ‘He will work to establish a real democratic system in our country.’ Mr. Rabie said the decision — and timing — had ‘nothing, nothing at all’ to do with the popular revolts against longstanding autocrats now erupting across the Arab world, which have inspired relatively small but spirited protests in Sudan as well.”


Raymond Ibrahim at MEForum.org, "Egypt’s Identity Crisis".

“With Egypt's ‘July Revolution’ of 1952, for the first time in millennia, Egyptians were able to boast that a native-born Egyptian, Gamal Abdel Nasser, would govern their nation: Ever since the overthrow of its last native pharaoh nearly 2,500 years ago, Egypt had been ruled by a host of foreign invaders—Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and Brits, to name a few. After 1952, however, Egypt, it was believed, would finally be Egyptian. Yet, though Nasser was Egyptian, the spirit of the times that brought him to power was Arab—Arab nationalism, or ‘pan-Arabism’—the theory that all Arabic-speaking peoples, from Morocco to Iraq, should unify. (Along with Nasser, the tide of pan-Arabism also brought to power Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, Syria's Hafez Assad, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.) The revolution significantly Arabized Egypt. That Egypt's official name became the Arab Republic of Egypt—as opposed to simply the Republic of Egypt—speaks for itself. Whereas before 1952, one could have spoken of a distinctly ‘Egyptian’ character and identity, after it, this identity gave way to an Arab identity. From there, it was a short push to an Islamic identity. Or, as Egyptologist Wassim al-Sissy recently put it, the revolution ‘erased the Egyptian character, which had been known for its tolerance, love, freedom, and so on. The revolution created a nation of slaves.’”


Damla Aras in Middle East Quarterly, "Turkey’s Ambassadors vs. Erdogan".

“Some of the retired diplomats who have been highly critical of Erdoğan's foreign policies hold top positions in the opposition political parties, such as the Kemalist Republican Populist Party. According to a senior ambassador, it was these individuals and other like-minded ambassadors that Erdoğan was actually targeting when he used the term mon chers. Thus, for example, the December 2009 resignation of Turkey's ambassador to Washington, Nabi Şensoy, during Erdoğan's visit to the U.S. capital, was officially attributed to a dispute over protocol. In fact, behind the resignation lay the ambassador's subscription to the ideas of the conservative camp within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his being bypassed by the AKP's own foreign policy team, and his disagreement with the government's Middle Eastern policy. Indeed, the AKP's policy toward the Middle East has been a rupture point between the two parties since for secularists it defines Turkey's core orientation and continued subscription to the democratic legacy bequeathed by its founding father. While they concede that Turkey has significant interests in the region, they are dedicated to Atatürk's vision of transforming Turkey into a part of Western civilization and, therefore, place great emphasis on ties with the Euro-Atlantic community. By contrast, Erdoğan views Ottoman history as the admired past of a great empire that once shaped the world order, as in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66). In his opinion, Turkey's (supposedly) unsuccessful foreign policy stems from mon chers' passivity inspired by an overly pro-Western orientation and their inability to appreciate the Ottoman past, which prevent them from understanding the government's strategies.”


John Cassidy in NYer, "Prophet Motive".

“The notion that religion plays a central role in economic development dates back to Max Weber’s 1905 treatise ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.’ Reflecting on the rise of England, Holland, and other areas where religious Nonconformism was strong, Weber drew attention to the cultural consequences of the Reformation. In embracing an ascetic moral code based on abstention and individual self-improvement, Protestants, notably Calvinists, were particularly suited to the task of mobilizing capital in the rational pursuit of profit, he argued. Weber didn‘t examine Muslim attitudes toward work and enterprise, but a few years ago the economists Luigi Gulso, Paola Sapienza, and Luigi Zingales did, drawing on data from the World Values Survey, a multinational set of surveys that covers sixty-six countries. In a study that appeared in the Journal of Monetary Economics, they noted that, ‘on average, Christian religions are more positively associated with attitudes that are conducive to economic growth, while Islam is negatively associated.’ In comparison with Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, and Jews, Muslims were generally less disposed to agree with pro-market statements, such as ‘Competition is good,’ ‘Private ownership of businesses and industry should be increased,’ and income inequality is necessary to provide ‘incentives for individual effort.’”


David Harris at Jerusalem Post, "Amidst Mideast Turmoil Only Israel Galvanizes UN into Action".

“With Iran violently suppressing demonstrators in the streets and Libya using brute force in the face of mass protests, it was reassuring to know that the UN sprang into quick action. Just as it did after the rigged elections in 2009, Tehran was using arrests, live fire, torture and intimidation to confront those challenging the regime. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council members gathered on February 18th in New York. The members solemnly deliberated as reports from Libya suggested that hundreds of peaceful protesters were slain by government forces with the help of foreign mercenaries. There’s only one small problem. The UN Security Council met to discuss neither the situation in Iran nor Libya, but, surprise of surprises, Israel. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, charged with monitoring and protecting human rights, was also nowhere to be found when it came to Iran and Libya.”


David Pilling in FT, "Why the Chinese are not inspired by Egypt".

Caixin, a business magazine founded by Hu Shuli, a standard-bearer of liberal journalism, went further with an editorial that challenged the prevailing assumption -- encouraged by the authorities -- that democracies are prone to disorder. ‘It is autocracy that creates chaos, while democracy breeds peace.’ it said. ‘Supporting an autocracy is in reality trading short-term interests for long-term costs.’”


Keith Richburg in Washington Post, "China’s Wen, in twilight of tenure, takes on reformer’s role".

“Wen's regular outings to mingle with average folks - particularly the rural poor and the dispossessed - have made the 68-year-old the most popular member of the ruling communist hierarchy, earning him the nickname ‘Grandpa Wen’ and helping to break the mold of the stodgy, faceless and impersonal communist bureaucrat. But nearing the end of his premiership, Wen, who has long ties in the Communist Party and was allied with such past reformers as the late Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, is also quietly building an image as a crusader for more openness and accountability within the country's tightly closed, authoritarian political system. In the past six months, Wen has made at least three calls for reform in China, saying the country needs to open its political system and adhere to the rule of law to complement its economic gains. In Beijing last month, he told the startled petitioners, ‘We are the people’s government. And our power is vested upon us by the people.’”


Kevin Brown in FT, "China’s rising wage bill poses risk of relocation".

“Chinese workers received real wage rises averaging 12.6 per cent a year from 2000 to 2009, compared with 1/5 per cent in Indonesia and zero in Thailand, according to the ILO. At about $400 a month , Chinese workers are now three times more expensive than their Indonesian counterparts, and five time as costly as in Vietnam, although they remain considerably cheaper than in Taiwan and Malaysia. However, that simple calculation takes no account of changes in relative productivity. Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, says World Bank data indicate productivity growth in Chinese manufacturing of 10-15 per cent a year since 1990.”


Thomas Christensen in IHT, "Why the world needs an assertive China".

“Beijing’s new more truculent posture is rooted in a strange mix of confidence on the international stage and insecurity at home. Since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, Chinese citizens, lower-level government officials, and media and Internet commentators have often exaggerated China’s rise in influence and the declining power of the United States, insisting that China push back against perceived slights and reduce international cooperation with the United States and its allies. According to my Chinese interlocutors, top officials in Beijing have a much more sober assessment of China’s global position and of the development challenges ahead. Yet those nationalist domestic voices have created a heated political environment. Party elites are acutely concerned about long-term domestic stability and hope to avoid criticism along nationalist lines, a theme that has the potential to galvanize the many otherwise disparate local protests against Chinese officials into a national movement. Particularly during the leadership transition that will culminate in the Communist Party’s selection of President Hu Jintao’s successor in 2012, individual officials need to foster their reputations as protectors of national pride and domestic stability.”


Philip Bowring in IHT, "Asian history lessons".

“If Asia is an example, political change will probably not undo the liberal economic tendencies that Mubarak had showed in reversing the socialism inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Indeed, if Indonesia is any guide, the reaction against crony capitalism will open the economy up to competition. There is the danger that a reaction against the corruption under Mubarak will lead not just to attempts to recover ill-gotten gains from Swiss banks, but to an attack on the credibility of all business that have prospered under the ousted regime. As in Asia, family wealth is now in legitimate businesses and held through third parties. For the longer term, Egypt might just get a new set of cronies, or the gradual return of old ones, as has happened in Indonesia and the Philippines. But that is another issue. In Indonesia and the Philippines, efforts to prosecute past misdeeds soon lost steam, which was a poor reflection on good governance but allowed for an atmosphere of forgiveness that contributed to political stability.”


MercoPress: "Argentina has ignored Mercosur rules and is now harvesting the benefits".

“‘Argentine president Cristina Kirchner has ignored Mercosur rules and is harvesting the benefits’, says O Estado de Sao Paulo which is a newspaper close to Sao Paulo’s powerful Industry Federation, FIESP. To avoid trade restrictions on imported goods a growing number of Brazilian companies have opted to invest and produce directly in Argentina: today is the case for 270 companies which represent a 170% increase since the year 2000. The article mentions several companies that have lately decided to open shop in Argentina, forgetting about Brazil because ‘Mercosur does not guarantee them the free movement of goods’. And with the positive results of its protectionist strategy, the Argentine government is further closing the siege: last week it increased by 50%, from 400 to 600, the number of goods submitted to the non automatic licensing system for imports, a mechanism clearly created to make paperwork even more bureaucratic.”


MercoPress: "Massive decline of predatory fish".

“The UBC team found that 54% of the decline in predatory fish population took place in the last 40 years. ‘Over-fishing has absolutely had a 'when cats are away, the mice will play' effect on our oceans,’ said Christensen, a professor in the UBC Fisheries Centre, in the release. ‘By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive.’ While the doubling of forage fish amounts to more fish production, Christensen cautioned that the smaller fish are more vulnerable to environmental fluctuations. ‘Currently, forage fish are turned into fishmeal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry, which is in turn becoming increasingly reliant on this feed source,’ said Christensen in the release. ‘If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a ‘farm’ to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry. Goodbye, Wild Ocean!’”


MercoPress: "Brazil’s main daily admits having supported military coup in 1964".

“‘In 1976 the newspaper which supported the military coup in 1964, opened its pages to opponents of the dictatorship and became one of the main catalysers of the political opening‘, wrote Folha de Sao Paulo. However in 2009 human rights organizations protested before the daily in the heart of Sao Paulo because in an editorial the newspaper described the Brazilian military regime as a ‘soft dictatorship’ (dictablanda) as compared to ‘hard dictatorships’ (dictaduras) in the rest of the continent from the sixties to the eighties. The expressions were coined in the eighties by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, President Ronald Reagan’s foreign polity advisor and US ambassador at the UN. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, political prisoner and torture victim of the dictatorship is attending Monday’s 90th anniversary celebrations in the Sao Paulo auditorium, the city’s largest open space for classical music. On 19 February 1921, Folha da Noite targeted to urban workers was started by journalists Olival Costa and Pedro Cunha who had abandoned the hegemonic O Estado de Sao Paulo. On March first 1960, the three newspapers under the same company: Folha de Manha, Folha de Tarde and Folha da Noite, were consolidated under the only edition Folha de Sao Paulo.”


Natalia Valilyeva at Opendemocracy.net, "How Khodorkovsky judge was pressured into verdict".

“What distinguished the Khodorkovsky trial from the other cases in our courtroom was, of course, the media interest. But there were no particularly glaring infringements of the judicial process during that trial. As to whether Danilkin had a free hand in his conduct of the trial – well, I can tell you that he was constantly monitored even before he withdrew to consider the verdict on 2 November. And after that date probably too. He had to report regularly to Moscow City Court. Any tricky moments in court, if something was not going according to plan would mean a report to the City Court and then he would receive instructions as to how he should conduct himself. It was done by phone: he would probably ring the chairman of the City Court, Olga Yegorova. It could be to do with which witness to call, for instance. Sometimes in the recess I would bring papers to be signed and would be told not to interfere, that Viktor Nikolaevich was on the phone to the City Court. Or he himself would tell me he was talking to ‘the City’, by which he meant the City Court. So this is when instructions were being given…

‘One time he said: I can't give you the answers to these questions, because I don't know where I'll be tomorrow and what will happen to me’
(Natalya Vassileva on Judge Danilkin)

Was what Danilkin was doing general practice or not? I think he did it because he was forced to. The judge is not obliged to consult anyone or listen to anyone's opinion. The verdict he hands down has to conform to the law and no one has any right to interfere with this process. So his consultations with the Moscow City Court were somewhat in breach of the law.”


Mumin Shakirov at Opendemocracy.net, "Khodorkovsky: ballerinas, singers and ice-skaters turn against Putin".

“I left the courtroom along with the other journalists soon afterwards, yet my mind kept replaying the dénouement of this drama: the parents' inconsolable grief and Mikhail's nervous, wandering smile ‘behind the glass’. Everyone was aware of the fact that the second sentence has radically diminished the chances of the elderly couple – both nearing eighty – ever seeing their son walk free. I decided to go online and look over information on the YUKOS case. It was then that I came across the notorious ‘Letter of the 50’. This was an open letter ‘from scholars, cultural and public figures’ passing comment the original sentence against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, which appeared in the loyal daily newspaper Izvestia in the summer of 2005. The letter defended the verdict and categorically rejected any claims that the court case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev had a political background. It was signed by fifty prominent Russians including the astronaut Georgi Grechko; actor and chief director of the EtCetera Theatre Aleksandr Kalyagin; film director and State Duma representative Stanislav Govorukhin; ballerina Anastasia Volochkova; fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin; gymnastics Olympic champion Alina Kabayeva; and singer Aleksandr Rozenbaum. As I was reading this poison-pen letter, I was reminded of other similar libelous letters many leading cultural figures and sportsmen had signed under Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Strange, I thought, that twenty years after the break-up of the USSR, a tradition of public condemnation and snitching under pressure from above seemed to be still alive and well.”


Russ Smith in WSJ on John McMillian’s book, Smoking Typewriters .

“A central figure in ‘Smoking Typewriters’ is Thomas King Forcade, a flamboyant, prescient and sometimes delusional man who, for a time, ran the Underground Press Syndicate. Like its rival, the Liberation News Service, the syndicate was a sort of countercultural Associated Press that sent out packets of articles to subscribing newspapers. Forcade, a founder of the pro-marijuana magazine High Times, committed suicide in 1978. As Mr. McMillian recounts, Forcade published a survey in 1969 showing that 60% of all underground newspapers claimed to be ‘hassled by police.’ He concluded: ‘With obscenity busts they get your money, with drug busts they get your people, with intimidation they get your printer, with bombings they get your office, and if you can still manage to somehow get out a sheet, their distribution monopolies and rousts keep it from ever getting to the people.’ Perhaps the most effective tool that the FBI employed was strong-arming record companies to cease placing full-page ads in underground papers. Revenues shrank significantly. The newspaper owners who were affected must have looked on with envy as a San Francisco-based biweekly somehow went unnoticed by the FBI, reaping the music industry's largess even while running a column called ‘Dope Notes,’ offering marijuana ‘roach clips’ as a subscription bonus and publishing virulently left-wing articles. Precisely how Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone escaped J. Edgar Hoover's attention isn't explored by Mr. McMillian.”


Virginia Heffernan in NYTMag, "Magic and Loss".

“We are agitated when the Internet doesn’t work but lack the proper amazement when it does. But the digital world also brings dysphoria — a low-level but constant heartbreak that is one of its most controversial side effects. I used to try to ignore the blue mood that haunts much of the writing about the Web. Like a Bolshevik in 1917, I chalked my resistance to its promises up to cowardice and coldly considered a certain amount of individual suffering the cost of the digital revolution. Maybe it was dialectical immaterialism — I thought we were moving away from the stuff-heaps of the past toward lives of near-total abstraction. I also believed that we’d be over our nostalgic fixation on analog culture and its totems very quickly. Even the manual typists and vinyl collectors would find eBay soon, or YouTube or fantasy football, and they’d be off and running.

And yet it’s still here, the persistent sense of loss. The magic of the Internet — the recession of the material world in favor of a world of ideas — is not working for everyone. In essence, we are missing something very worthwhile and identity-forming from our predigital lives. Is it a handwritten letter? Is it an analog phone call? Is it a quality of celluloid film, a multivolume encyclopedia or a leatherbound datebook? Is it a way of thinking or being or even falling in love?”


Marcel Dicke & Marnold Van Huis in WSJ, "The Six-Legged Meat of the Future".

“Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world's supply of meat, there's a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they're low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It's often described as ‘nutty.’”


Jonathan Chait’s "TNR Boring Headline Contest Unfair".


Kevin Helliker in WSJ, "Chicago Population Sinks to 1920 Level".

“The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that during the decade ended in 2010, Chicago's population fell 6.9% to 2,695,598 people, fewer than the 2.7 million reported back in 1920. After peaking at 3.62 million people in 1950, Chicago underwent a half century of decline that ended only when the 1990s boom years produced a small gain in the 2000 count. At that time, the city loudly celebrated its comeback. But the recent recession accelerated a migration both to the metropolitan area's farthest suburbs and to the Southern U.S. Chicago nonetheless is expected to remain the nation's third-largest city, behind New York and Los Angeles and just ahead of Houston, for which final census numbers aren't in yet. The exodus took a big chunk out of the city's black population in particular, shrinking it to 887,608 from 1,065,009, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

‘The black decline is really powering the city loss,’ Mr. Frey said, calling it ‘part of the great reverse migration to the South.’ Blacks remain the most-populous race in Chicago, Mr. Frey said, while the number of whites fell during the decade by about 52,000 to just under 855,000 and Hispanics' ranks rose by about 25,000 to just below 780,000.”


Chasen Marshall in O.C. Weekly, "Big Wave Surfing’s Swell Guys".

“As soon as the Mexican national policemen are out of sight, Crandal turns to his crew and in a loud whisper says, ‘We're going!’ He throws the last of the equipment on the boat, and then unties both of the Jet Skis while Clay unties the boat. When the boat is loose, Clay turns the key, bringing the boat's motor to life. Moments later, Crandal sees the federales sprinting back toward the dock. They're yelling commands in Spanish and waving their rifles. He jumps into the boat and immediately goes full-throttle on the single-prop motor. The guys driving the Jet Skis do the same, and the three-vessel squadron races toward the marina opening and into the open Pacific Ocean. Minutes later, a stern warning crackles from the radio: If the group doesn't turn back now, they will be arrested upon return. They continue heading west. ‘We were going no matter what,’ Crandal says years later. The previous evening, Crandal and his surfing crew made a late-night drive to Ensenada. A storm has been sweeping across the Pacific, bringing with it enough swell energy to produce massive 30- to 40-foot waves off the coast of a small, uninhabited island in the middle of the bay. The island is Isla de Todos Santos (All Saints Island), and the wave is called Killers.”


Michael Judge in WSJ, "Jazz Was Clint Eastwood’s Earliest Muse".

“‘In the Bay Area,’ he explains, ‘there was a resurgence of Dixieland jazz in the '40s—there was the Frisco Jazz Band, and Lu Watters and the Yerba Buena Jazz Band. I used to go out to a place called Hambone Kelly's in El Cerrito. And because I was fairly big for my age, I could go in there and get a beer and sit in the back and listen to these players.’ As the '40s progressed, Mr. Eastwood, along with jazz enthusiasts everywhere, embraced the new harmonic and rhythmic intricacies of bebop. ‘I started listening to modern jazz players like Charlie Ventura, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.’ As a young man, he saw Parker perform several times, which later influenced his decision to make Bird, the critically acclaimed 1988 film about the brilliant but troubled alto saxophonist. ‘I became kind of a jazz freak,’ he says. ‘I read every book there was on jazz, about the original players—King Oliver, Buddy Bolden and all those groups. At one time I was fairly well schooled in that . . . I could tell you who played where and when, historically, way before my time.’ Sneaking into jazz venues at a young age sounds a lot like Bix Beiderbecke, the innovative white musician of the '20s who would skip school to play with black musicians after hours in Chicago clubs. Was he ever attracted to Bix's story? ‘Yeah, I was,’ he says. ‘I liked him very much. . . . He was an interesting piano player. He wrote 'In a Mist,' for example, which was a hit in its time. . . . Then the fact that he moved to the cornet, the idiosyncrasies he had, wanting to have the music closer to his head, and that sort of thing. He was definitely a great player. But [like Bird] he was one of those guys who lived hard and burned out fast. . . . I don't want to make a habit of doing stories on people who have brilliance but shine bright for a very short period of time.’”


Will Friedwald in WSJ, "A Well-Loved Collection From a Voice of Chicago".

“If Chicagoans love jazz, it probably has a lot to do with Dick Buckley, who for more than 50 years was the voice of jazz on Chicago radio. ‘There were other guys on the air, like Daddy-O Daylie and Sid McCoy,’ said Neil Tesser, a veteran music journalist and broadcaster who worked with Buckley at WBEZ for 16 years. ‘But none of them had Dick's endurance, and none was as widely loved as Dick.’ ‘Dick Buckley was a living, breathing encyclopedia of jazz lore,’ as Kurt Elling, the Grammy-winning, Chicago-bred vocalist, put it. ‘What was obscure to the world—even to much of the jazz world—was everyday family history to Dick. He loved the music and gave the warehouse of his mind over to the task of storing, archiving and preserving what he loved most in life: the sound of a big, swinging band.’ When a collector or radio host of Buckley's stature dies, his collection usually is bequeathed to a radio station or a public institution (as when, for instance, Washington deejay Felix Grant's collection became the foundation of the jazz archive at the University of the District of Columbia). In this case, however, Buckley's family has entrusted Chicago-based Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, a traditional auction house that normally deals in fine arts and rare books, to auction off Buckley's collection: After three days of being available for viewing at the company's offices on West Lake Street, it will be sold on Thursday to the highest bidders in 91 boxed lots.”


Gary Silverman in FT, "The long dark guitar solo of the soul".

“But speaking solely as someone who came of age during the passionate musical debates of the 1970s -- when death was wished on disco and punk promised the chance of meeting girls with names such as Sheena -- the demise of Guitar Hero strikes me as a moral victory. It is said that if you remember the Sixties you weren’t really there, but survivors of the Seventies enjoy no such respite from the torments of memory. We have been condemned to endless reminders of the shortcomings of our era thanks to the development of that Madison Avenue-friendly musical canon known as ‘classic rock‘. No matter what you do, it has been my experience that if you hated a song in the Seventies, it will find its way back into your home all these years later, either in the form of an advertising jingle or, more perniciously, as part of the soundtrack to one of the video games that your children play when you aren’t around to control the television.”


Dan Pompei & Duaa Eldeib at Chicagobreakingsports.com, "Bears’ Duerson shot himself; brain to be studied".

“Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, said Duerson's family contacted him to examine Duerson’s brain for abnormalities related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in those who have a history of repetitive brain trauma, including concussions. ‘He had informed (his family) at some point that he wanted his brain to be studied so people could learn more about the effect of brain trauma and so kids could play the game more safely in the future,’ Nowinski said. ‘The family requested that I confirm that Mr. Duerson's brain was donated to our research center, and it was Mr. Duerson's wishes.’ Nowinski also said the family provided the appropriate release forms so the brain could be studied, a process that should take between three to six months. ‘NFL players are at higher risk for CTE than normal people and probably other athletes as well,’ Nowinski said. ‘Of the 14 former NFL players we've completed studies on, 13 of them had the disease.’ Nowinski, who grew up in Arlington Heights and played football at Hersey High, said he met Duerson in 1996 when Duerson presented Nowinsky with a National Football Foundation Scholarship. ‘I was a great admirer of Mr. Duerson as a player,’ he said. ‘It was a thrill just to meet him and have my picture taken with him.’ The Bears selected Duerson out of Notre Dame in the third round of the 1983 draft. He became a starter in 1985 and played in the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls that season. In 1987, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. He also was one of the Bears’ NFLPA representatives and was a leader through the 1987 strike.”


Obituary of the Week

Edgar Hetteen (1920 - 2011)

“Edgar Hetteen built the sport of snowmobiling from a grain-silo conveyor belt, an old Chevrolet bumper and other spare parts lying around his farm-equipment shop.

Mr. Hetteen, who died Saturday at age 90, was founder of Polaris Industries and Arctic Cat, two Minnesota companies that supply nearly all of the snowmobiles manufactured in the U.S. But despite pioneering snowmobile design and founding enduring companies with billions of dollars in total sales, Mr. Hetteen didn't get rich off the snowmobile.

Edgar Hetteen pictured in 1960 during a trip across Alaska on a Sno-Traveler snowmobile made by Polaris Industries, which he founded. ‘He's considered by many people the father of the snowmobile,’ said Loren Anderson, president of the St. Germain, Wis.-based Snowmobile Hall of Fame. ‘But he had a temper and he walked away.’”

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Issue #85 (February 16, 2011)

Crescenta Valley from the Verdugos, San Gabriel Mountains distant

Photo by Chris Collins

Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword of Doom
By Joe Carducci

Sword of Doom (1966)
Japan Society, New York City
Kihachi Okamoto / Tatsuya Nakadai, Toshiro Mifune.

Friday, February 18, 7:30pm

My simple answer to What is my favorite film?, is this film, Sword of Doom. I’d rather have it be some American film since on the whole no national cinema compares to Hollywood, but there’s just no other film so controlled and rich and always slightly out of reach no matter how many times you see it. It’s based on a lengthy novel often adapted piecemeal for film and TV in Japan called Dai-bosatsu Tōge: Great Bodhisattva Pass, written by Kaizan Nakazato and published in 1929.

I first saw the film at the PicFair theater in L.A. in 1977, part of a samurai series shown in a theater run by Iranians in a Jewish neighborhood. The real buzz for the series was for Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958), which George Lucas had let on was in part the inspiration for his Star Wars, which was just then breaking records for some reason. I don’t remember thinking much of Hidden Fortress either, but Sword of Doom was so good that once I thought about it I got ticked off about the then-standard literature about Japanese film: How could they not include Kihachi Okamoto or this film in their books?! Of course the old public television art-film series that WNET put together would not program an action film, they stuck with Rashomon, and Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa, and the even more classically styled films by Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. We didn’t get to know about all that was happening in Japanese cinema until cinephilia passed.

Eventually you can identify the essential demi-middle-brow fear that animates the milquetoasts who gravitate to culture reviewage, especially if you go on to run SST Records and watch who can be convinced, forced, or pushed out of the way when your bands headman an heretofore unsuspected zeitgeist. In the seventies, reviewers were using Clint Eastwood after Dirty Harry (1971), as whipping boy to demonstrate how much they despised Nixon’s silent majority. Now Eastwood is considered the sage elder of American cinema, and by some of those same writers. But Sword of Doom is so well done technically, and so offhandedly masterful an action film that it must have come down to the specific fetishes of the Nihonophiles of the West. This film’s truth about the dark heart of Japan is the last black blossom they wished to contemplate.

I saw the film at every opportunity back in the repertory days before videotape; it tended to be shown in samurai film series, rather than included in more common art-film series as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, or his excellent Yojimbo often were. I wrote a review of it for a punk mag in San Francisco called, Damage, and for my current project, a film book, I will focus on how skillfully Okamoto sets his actors, Tatsuya Nakadai as the increasingly bitter and paranoid evil swordsman, and Toshiro Mifune essentially playing the square-john archetype of the honorable samurai who tells his students to study the soul. And that these light and dark poles do not meet… Perhaps they would have in part two, but here they do not and we accept this as an unfilm-like contrivance-evasion and that our anti-hero’s dark unraveling explains all. Mifune is all barking rectitude, Nakadai is really doing something very un-Japanese I expect; he wrong-foots any action film mode for hero or anti-hero or villain.

This Sunday’s New York Times featured a staffer’s memory of how he and his friends saw Sword of Doom, and what it meant to them as rambunctious young action film connoisseurs. They may not have been reading Pauline Kael or Vincent Canby in any case, but with no reigning expertise filling you in on the original story, you couldn’t guess as you stumbled across the film that the dude doesn’t die at the end and Okamoto expected to get to work on the second installment of the novel’s plot as soon as its expected box-office success was certain. I had thought the freeze-frame end an indication of director Okamoto’s falling in love with his character to the point that he refused to show his certain, promised doom. After all, the tradesman-smuggler-protector of the young woman orphaned by this lead villain’s offhand cruelty years earlier, is waiting for him outside the burning, blood-stained brothel with a pistol -- the image of which is a genre-shock that tolls the funeral gong on this dead-end island code, just as the A-bomb did next century for that iteration of the Emperor’s code.

Okamoto explained to Chris D. in 1997:

“At the last minute they [Toei Studio] had a premonition it wasn’t going to do that well. Then it came out and did do mediocre business. So in a way they were right. But it was a very successful film overseas, especially the United States. When it first played New York, there were lines around the block.

(Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film, I.B. Tauris)

Okamoto looked slight and unassuming as he was introduced after the screening at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. An interview was conducted through a translator, and Chris interviewed him for his book the next day. No real indication of genius per se, except for the film itself. The place was packed, but probably not with film directors unfortunately.

I’ve seen all of his samurai films which are occasionally programmed as genre exercises rather than on Okamoto’s reputation, but Chris details Okamoto’s early war films, plus there seem crime dramas and more mainstream productions which are also unseen and probably unseeable short of purchasing the DVDs from Japan. Donald Richie has a lot to answer for.

Photo: Kihachi Okamoto

"Have Gun Will Travel", New York

Photo by Joe Carducci

From the office of West Coast bureau correspondent Chris Collins...

An hour long lecture on Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison by biographer Arnold Rampersad.

Can Ralph Ellison still speak to us? Can the homeless apolitical intellect still speak to us?

Has romanticism conditioned us to go to art to worship artists and reject them when we don't find idealized reflections of ourselves?

From a possibly different perspective, the possibility that the man was unlikeable on a personal level serves somehow to elevate his accomplishment.

(And if you're like me you find some glory in an hour's disquisition into one topic / one person particularly in our wired-in world where all things sacred and secular have adopted the form of a two minute sales pitch.)


John, Paul, George and Rashied

I remember one gig the Beatles had at the Cavern. It was just after they got Brian Epstein as their manager. Everyone in Liverpool knew that Epstein was gay, and some kid in the audience screamed, "John Lennon's a fucking queer!" And John -- who never wore his glasses on stage -- put his guitar down and went into the crowd, shouting "Who said that?" So this kid says, "I fucking did." John went after him and BAM, gave him the Liverpool kiss, sticking the nut on him -- twice! And the kid went down in a mass of blood, snot and teeth. Then John got back on the stage. "Anybody else?" he asked.

(Lemmy Kilmister, White Line Fever, Citadel)

This trailer for the film of the Beatles' first concert in the U.S., recently given a one time screening in L.A., gives a taste of the band in rollicking stage form. Yet John Lennon once insisted:

... In Liverpool, Hamburg and other dance halls. What we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock, and there was nobody to touch us in Britain. As soon as we made it, we made it, but the edges were knocked off... But we sold out, you know. The music was dead before we even went on the theater tour of Britain. We were feeling shit already, because we had to reduce an hour or two hours' playing, which we were glad about in one way, to twenty minutes, and we would go on and repeat the same twenty minutes every night. The Beatles' music died then, as musicians.

(John Lennon, Jann Wenner interview in Rolling Stone, 1970)

... But were then reborn as professional studio wizards and pop craftsmen, prophets of the mass bohemia, spiritual seekers, political protesters... As trade offs go, it wasn't a terrible one for a group that arrived, Gaga-like, on waves of obnoxious promotional power.

Perhaps Lennon regarded part of "selling out" in a dark moment as writing those chirpy early major key hits. He did make an exception of "Love Me Do" as being the "pretty funky" sort of rock & roll he loved most.


On the merits of Shakespearean immersion

• Richard Burton's commanding monologue on the world of Welsh miners, "lords of the coal face," Dick Cavett show, 1980.

Smithornis Capensis by James Fotopoulos

From the Manhattan Desk of Joe Carducci…

Nikolai Grozni in International Herald Tribune, "Burying the mummy".

“In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were viewed as criminal activities instigated by foreign elements. In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, the revolution was carried out predominantly by the young. Many Egyptians scornfully call Mr. Mubarak ‘the Pharaoh.’ In Bulgaria, the central figure of the regime, the former Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, really was a mummy, his embalmed body displayed in a megalomaniac mausoleum across from the Communist Party headquarters. Many Bulgarians used to joke that they lived in an Egyptian dynasty set up in a parallel universe. I remember that for months after the uprising began I had no home. The fabric of society as it had existed for 45 years was torn apart. The thought of school, or practicing the piano, or even a family dinner, seemed absurd. People bonded spontaneously, hugging each other and vowing to keep protesting. An adrenaline-dizzy, spoiling-for-a-fight 16-year-old, I slept in the apartments of strangers, or on the street. Then things got really, really bad. Huge strikes paralyzed the country. Gas stations ran out of gas. Hospitals had no supplies, not even anesthetic. Supermarkets sold only bleach. The electricity worked for just a few hours a day.”


Daniel Ritter at Opendemocracy.net, "Obama, Mubarak, and the Iron Cage of Liberalism".

“In one of his earliest comments on the revolutionary situation, the American President declared that ‘The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association. The right to free speech.’ In short, the Egyptian people have the right to conduct a nonviolent revolution. As the world has witnessed the opposition’s mostly successful ability to remain peaceful in response to poorly camouflaged state violence, Mr. Obama has no choice but to turn his back on Mr. Mubarak. Similarly, as a supposedly democratic leader and ally of the West, Mr. Mubarak too is caught in the iron cage of liberalism and cannot use his police force or army to repress the people as long as the world is watching. Resorting to open repression would make American support impossible. Mr. Mubarak knows this, which is why plain clothed members of the secret police participate in ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrations. Violence must appear to be popular, as state-sponsored violence would be unacceptable to the West and thus accelerate Washington’s abandonment of its ally.”


Stefan Winkler at Qantara.de, The Genealogy of the “Egyptian Spring”.

“The ‘Egyptian Spring’ does have a genealogy; the protest has not materialised out of thin air. The malaise has been steadily increasing in recent years, with protesters expressing their dissatisfaction at rising prices for basic foodstuffs, widespread corruption, despotism and police violence, a lack of job prospects, a flawed education system, political repression and electoral fraud. Several major accidents involving trains and ships led to vehement discussions over those responsible and their failures. Khalil al-Anani, an expert on political Islam, described this loss of faith in state institutions and the increase in social tension in the newspaper al-Hayat as far back as July 2008.… Arabic is now a fully integrated Internet language, which means that those who are not familiar with a foreign language are not excluded. Users are a reflection of Egypt's demographic: More than 50 per cent of the country's population is under 25, a generation that worries about its professional prospects and is frustrated by the insufficient opportunities for political and economic participation. Subcultures have formed through the process of socio-cultural change. These subcultures – whether they be Islamists or secularists, rappers, break-dancers, homosexuals, emos or heavy metal fans – are networking. Anyone recalling the Egypt of the 1990s will realise just how disparate modern society has become there.”


Grigorii Golosov at Opendemocracy.net, "Sovereign Democracy, Egyptian style".

“Anwar Sadat introduced a concept of sovereign democracy in Egypt when he had fallen out with the Soviet Union and become the Arab world’s privileged US partner. Sadat’s predecessor, Nasser, had left political structures built on the Soviet model, but these were no longer right for a country that was meant to be a shop window of Middle Eastern democracy. The chief of these structures was Nasser’s Arab Socialist Union party. Initially Nasser divided this party into three ‘forums’: rightwing, leftwing and (mainly) centrist. These forums were permitted to compete in the experimental elections of 1976. An experiment that proved a success. In the next (1979) election there were three parties based on these ‘forums’. The centrists were there, but they had been renamed the National Democratic Party (NDP). This party won 347 seats; the other two won 32. The NDP success is not difficult to understand. It had inherited all the political, organisational and administrative resources from the Arab Socialist Union party. The right- and left-wingers were groups of urban intellectuals, and Egypt is a rural country. The peasants, fellaheen, knew nothing about the new opposition parties, and their candidates did not venture into the countryside or organise a campaign. So this was the successful beginning of Egypt’s ‘sovereign democracy’.”


Christopher Caldwell in FT, "Egypt shakes a distant dictator from his ‘big man’ dream".

“We like to think of political leadership as a matter of talent, temperament and attainments. Mr Mubarak’s exploits were impressive -- as the Soviet-trained (and Russian-speaking) head of the Egyptian Air Forces, as a top strategist in the 1973 war against Israel, as a rooter-out of conspiracies and a dodger of assassination plots. His completion of Anwar Sadat‘s project to move Egypt from the Soviet into the Nato camp required considerable competence and courage, given that Mr Mubarak rose to power after Sadat was murdered by officers in his own army.”


Roger Cohen in IHT, "Exit Mubarak".

“The U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, has been in regular contact with the Egyptian defense minister, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, since the uprising began, urging restraint and the pursuit of a democratic transition. I understand that the Egyptian military, which receives about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. aid, has repeatedly conveyed the importance it attaches to the American relationship and its determination to do nothing that would jeopardize the bond. All that American money — tens of billions over Mubarak’s rule — does appear to buy at least a professional army. The supreme test of the investment now comes.”


Daniel Henninger in WSJ, "Is Egypt Hopeless?"

“Everyone cites a favorite datum—Egypt produced Nasser and Mubarak while Turkey got Ataturk and free-market economist Turgut Ozal as prime minister in the 1980s. But here's mine: In Egypt, the percentage of the working population employed by the state is 35%. In Turkey, it's 13%. One is tempted to ask: What more do you need to know? The economic literature is vast on the smothering effects of large, inefficient public sectors. If Egypt is now exhibit A for these studies in torpid economies, then exhibits B, C, D and E would be Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria, the other nations that erupted the past several weeks. In Jordan nearly 50% of the employed population works for the state. This is an economy? …At Davos last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron eloquently sounded the pro-growth trumpet and chided pessimists who ‘say that slow-growth status for Europe is inevitable.’ But in a thought-provoking article last month for The Wall Street Journal Europe, ‘How Big Government Killed Britain's Regions,’ former U.K. economics official Warwick Lightfoot argued that years of high public-sector wage and benefit settlements had ‘de-marketized’ labor costs in the U.K.'s regions—Wales, Scotland, northern Ireland and the north of England. ‘The private sector,’ he said, ‘cannot flourish because price signals cannot operate properly in the labor market.’ Amid the current crisis, Mr. Mubarak decreed a 15% wage and pension increase for public workers. Decades of U.S. governors and mayors did the same thing, poisoning local markets. California isn't Egypt, yet. But politicians everywhere make the same mistakes, thinking the real economy is always out there somewhere, producing jobs and tax revenue. They think it's sort of like magic. But it isn't.”


FT: "The sabotaging of Iran".

“Established eight years ago in Allaan, a small farming area in central Jordan, the Sesame project centres on an old particle accelerator donated by the German government to study atomic structures. The enterprise aims to bring together scientists from Israel, the Arab states and Iran to run experiments. The German scientists who dreamed it up had in mind a Middle East version of Cern, the European institute created after the second world war to help unite a divided continent…. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA agent in the Middle East who now works for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says any Iranian involved in Sesame was ‘certainly considered for a ‘cold pitch’’ -- an approach by intelligence agencies. ‘Jordanian intelligence would have reviewed everyone and that information whoud have been shared with the Americans, if not the Israelies,’ Gerecht says -- adding that Tehran would have known that such approaches were likely. One western intelligence official adds, ‘Here you have two men who were players in the Iranian nuclear programme but were able to meet with outsiders in the Sesame project. My guess is that when things started to go wrong with the nuclear programme, the Iranians started to point the finger at them.’”


WSJ: "Asia’s New Arms Race".

“From the Arabian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, countries fearful of China's growing economic and military might—and worried that the U.S. will be less likely to intervene in the region—are hurtling into a new arms race. In December, Japan overhauled its defense guidelines, laying plans to purchase five submarines, three destroyers, 12 fighters jets, 10 patrol planes and 39 helicopters. South Korea and Vietnam are adding subs. Arms imports are on the rise in Malaysia. The tiny city-state of Singapore, which plans to add two subs, is now among the world's top 10 arms importers. Australia plans to spend as much as $279 billion over the next 20 years on new subs, destroyers and fighter planes.

Together, these efforts amount to a simultaneous buildup of advanced weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region on a scale and at a speed not seen since the Cold War arms race between America and the Soviet Union.”


Matthew Green in FT, "US hopes tribal highway will be path to stability".

“After spending billions of dollars supporting the country’s army offensives, the Obama administration has adopted a disarmingly simple plan to defuse the violence: building a road. Washington hopes that twin 100km highways running through South Waziristan to the edge of North Waziristan, a haven for al-Qaeda loyalists, will unlock economic development and sap support for militancy. The choice of contractor says much about the Taliban threat. Soldiers of the Frontier Works Organisation, part of an opaque commercial empire run by Pakistan’s army, are the only engineers who dare set foot there.”


Heather Timmons in NYT, "Inspiring Growth, and Doubts".

“The coastal state of Gujarat, famous as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, has become an investment magnet. The state’s gross domestic product is growing at an 11 percent annual rate — even faster than the overall growth rate for India, which despite its problems is zipping along at 9 percent clip. And Mr. Modi receives — some would say claims — much of the credit. The year before he took office in 2001, Gujarat’s economy shrank by 5 percent. But critics of Mr. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, point to another legacy of his early days in office — something that has made him one of the most polarizing figures in Indian politics. Months after he became chief minister, Gujarat erupted in brutal Hindu-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.”


Stephanie Pappas in CSM, "Scientists calculate Genghis Khan’s carbon footprint".

“Pongratz and her colleagues used a detailed reconstruction of historical agriculture to model the effect of four major wars and plagues in the 800 to 1850 time period: the Mongol takeover of Asia (from about 1200 to 1380), the Black Death in Europe (1347 to 1400), the conquest of the Americas (1519 to 1700) and the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China (1600 to 1650). All of these events led to death on a massive scale (the Black Death alone is thought to have killed 25 million people in Europe). But Mother Nature barely noticed, the researchers found. Only the Mongol invasion had a noticeable impact, decreasing global carbon dioxide by less than 0.1 part per million. This small amount required that the forests absorb about 700 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is the amount emitted annually by worldwide gasoline demand today. But it was still a very minor effect, Pongratz said. ‘Since the pre-industrial era, we have increased atmospheric CO2 [or carbon dioxide] concentration by about 100 parts per million, so this is really a different dimension,’ she said….”


WSJ: "The Range Fuels Fiasco".

“As taxpayer tragedies go, Broomfield, Colorado-based Range Fuels has all the plot elements—splashy headlines, subsidies and opportunistic venture capitalists. Range got its start in 2006 when George W. Bush used a State of the Union address to extol wood chips as a source for cellulosic ethanol that would break America's ‘addiction to oil.’ Mr. Bush pledged that with government funding cellulosic ethanol would be ‘practical and competitive within six years.’ Vinod Khosla stepped in with his hand out. The political venture capitalist founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy—one of six cellulosic projects the Bush Administration selected for $385 million in grants. Range said it would build the nation's first commercial cellulosic plant, near Soperton, Georgia, using wood chips to produce 20 million gallons a year in 2008, with a goal of 100 million gallons. Estimated cost: $150 million…. By spring 2008, Range had also attracted $130 million of private funding, the largest venture investment in the nation in the first quarter of that year. Investors included such prominent VC firms as Blue Mountain and Khosla Ventures and California's state pension fund, Calpers. The state of Georgia kicked in a $6 million grant, and all told Range raised $158 million in VC funding in 2008. The result has not been another Google. By the end of 2008 with no operational plant in sight, Range installed a new CEO, David Aldous. In early 2009, the company said production was not expected until 2010. Undeterred, President Obama's Department of Agriculture provided an $80 million loan. In May 2009, Range's former CEO, Mitch Mandich, explained that the problem was that nobody had figured out how to produce cellulosic ethanol in commercial quantities. Whoops.”


Robert Samuelson in Washington Post, "Government gone wrong".

“Rail buffs argue that subsidies for passenger service simply offset the huge government support of highways and airways. The subsidies ‘level the playing field.’ Wrong. In 2004, the Transportation Department evaluated federal transportation subsidies from 1990 to 2002. It found passenger rail service had the highest subsidy ($186.35 per thousand passenger-miles) followed by mass transit ($118.26 per thousand miles). By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending. Subsidies for airline passengers were about $5 per thousand miles traveled. (All figures are in inflation-adjusted year 2000 dollars.) High-speed rail would transform Amtrak's small drain into a much larger drain. Once built, high-speed rail systems would face a dilemma. To recoup initial capital costs - construction and train purchases - ticket prices would have to be set so high that few people would choose rail. But lower prices, even with favorable passenger loads, might not cover costs. Government would be stuck with huge subsidies. Even without recovering capital costs, high-speed rail systems would probably run in the red. Most mass-transit systems, despite high ridership, routinely have deficits…. Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as ‘green’ and a cutting-edge technology. It's a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial.”


Amy Merrick & Douglas Belkin in WSJ, "Illinois Union Ally Turns Critic."

“Illinois, one of the nation's remaining union strongholds, has funded less than 50% of the pension benefits it owes retirees—the worst ratio of all U.S. states, according to Moody's Investors Service—and faces a $15 billion budget deficit. Last month, lawmakers—in a move championed by Mr. Madigan—raised the state income tax to 5% from 3%, retroactive to Jan. 1, and Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected in his budget proposal this week to request to issue $8.7 billion in bonds to restructure its debt owed to schools, hospitals, social-service agencies and others…. Last week, Mr. Madigan floated, for the first time, the idea of cutting pension benefits for current state workers. The speaker said lawmakers were working on bills to reduce the pensions, but he declined to give details.

Since 1970, the Illinois constitution has barred reductions in public-employee pensions, and states have had little success in court when they attempt to lower benefits for current workers. But Mr. Madigan's latest comments are part of a national trend of state and city Democratic politicians recalibrating their relationships with unions as voters grow weary of service cuts and tax and fee increases to balance state budgets.”


Mark Barabak in LAT on Burton Folsom’s book, New Deal or Raw Deal?

“Most historians agree the New Deal did not solve the economic crisis that began in 1929 and lasted until the U.S. entry into World War II. Many believe, however, that Roosevelt's actions mitigated the suffering of many millions of Americans. Further, they say, the New Deal's foundation helped make the U.S. the world's richest, most powerful nation. ‘The record of the edifice built by Roosevelt is mind-boggling,’ said Andrew W. Cohen, a New Deal scholar at Syracuse University. Folsom, an avid free-marketeer, couldn't disagree more. He says Roosevelt's policies not only failed — undermining business, worsening unemployment, contributing to higher crime and increased suicide rates — but, handed down, choke our economy to this day. At 63, in square, rimless glasses and an argyle sweater, Folsom is professorial in both demeanor and dress: pleasant, unassuming and unfailingly polite. He is not one to press his point by raising his voice or lacing his arguments with invective. The problem with most histories, Folsom said, is their focus on relief efforts, without serious discussion of their financing. High tax rates, approaching 80% of income on the wealthy, stifled entrepreneurs, he said, and were — to use a modern phrase — ‘a job killer.’ ‘That argument might resonate in today's environment,’ countered Smith, but not so much in the 1930s, when only 3% of households paid income tax. What, he asks, of feats like Hoover Dam, the Triborough Bridge and the span between Oakland and San Francisco? Those sorts of public works not only created jobs, Smith said, but built a scaffolding that still buttresses our economy.

Those projects had merit, Folsom agreed, but all the government did was elbow out private industry, adding layers of inefficiency, corruption and cost. ‘The good things that are there would have happened and, I think, in greater abundance without the New Deal,’ he said.”


Gerard Lyons in FT, "China can navigate rate hikes and property risks".

“China has to tighten sharply. Last year, authorities held back, given growth concerns. The economy’s recent momentum seems to be strengthening their resolve. Expect further loan quotas, rising bank reserve ratios, sharply higher interest rates, targeted property taxes and likely steeper currency appreciation than expectations. Tuesday’s rate increase is a sign of things to come. If there were a setback, the market impact would be significant. There would be much comment about China’s growth being a bubble. That would be wrong. China’s growth is real.”


Alan Wheatley at Reuters, "Japan agonises whether to jump aboard free-trade train".

“Everyone who is willing Japan to find the elixir to revive its listless economy and put off its day of reckoning with the bond markets should pencil June in their calendars. That is when Prime Minister Naoto Kan, if he is still in office -- and it is a big if -- will decide whether Japan will enter talks about a U.S.-led Asia-Pacific free trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If the unpopular Kan succeeds -- an even bigger if, given the opposition of the powerful farm lobby -- the way would be open for Japan to negotiate joining an embryonic free trade grouping that the Cabinet Office reckons could add 0.5 percent a year to growth by lowering barriers to goods and services. Proponents say an ambitious pact, by forcing Japan to open its own markets, would also galvanise a society that has watched impotently as China has overtaken it to become Asia's largest economy -- a fact Japan confirmed on Monday. Signing up for the TPP is vital to make sure big Japanese firms are not at a disadvantage to their South Korean and Chinese rivals, said Aurelia George Mulgan, a professor of Japanese politics with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. "They've got to be part of the TPP, otherwise they're going to be on the sidelines of the Asian boom looking in," George Mulgan said.”


Tim Johnston in FT, "Suu Kyi told to change stance on sanctions".

“Ms Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have called for European Union and US sanctions to remain in place. The move has enraged the ruling generals, who appear to have hoped that last year’s elections would open a new era in international engagement in spite of allegations of wholesale ballot rigging. ‘If Suu Kyi and the NLD keep going to the wrong way, ignoring the fact that today’s Myanmar [Burma] is marching to a new era, new system and new political platforms paving the way for democracy, they will meet their tragic ends,’ said an editorial in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar.”


Mario Santucho at Opendemocracy.net, "A new social composition".

“The year 2001 marks a rupture in Argentina and a good part of the Southern Cone in Latin American. This is a rupture born of social struggles and demands that questioned the premises of neoliberalism. From 2003 onwards, new progressive governments tried to take over the challenge, though their vision was far-removed from the wishes of the ‘2001 movements’. With a positive global traction, those administrations succeeded in launching a neo-developmental economic cycle. However, there is something that doesn’t fit: even as production systems and market management are modernized/neoliberalized, the informal economy grows, precariousness consolidates, and illicit business spreads. Massive informal trade fairs, rapidly spreading underground workshops, together with transnational business-networks proliferate, without state authorities managing to regulate them. The experts call them ‘hidden circuits’, though they are invisible only to their measuring instruments. ‘Good and ethical businessmen’ complain about tax evasion though they themselves profit from the precariousness arising from everything from flexible working conditions to lower costs. Last but not least, journalists and officials regret this because ‘we will never be a serious country’, even though they are quite aware that illegality is part of the mind-set of all politicians.”


FT interview, "Realism tempers modernizing zeal of popular leader".

“Colombia’s successes under Mr Uribe’s administration in quelling narco-traffickers and leftwing insurgents has allowed the technocratic Mr Santos to unleash initiatives that aim to haul South America‘s third biggest country into the 21st century. ‘Too often in Latin America we spend 80 per cent of our time talking about the past, and only 20 per cent on the future. In Asia it‘s the inverse.’”


Scott Sayare in NYT, "With Sharp Tongue, French Provocateur Enters Battle".

“‘We believe that we have the best way of life in the world, the best culture, and that one must thus make an effort to acquire this culture,’ he said. By contrast, he said, the notion of a country made great by the diversity of its people and values ‘is an American logic.’

Asked why he believes in the superiority of the French model, he said only that ‘there is a singular art of living’ in France. ‘For me, France is civilization with a capital ‘C,’’ he added. The groups that have taken him to court have been urging an American social vision, he said. Yet, he added, they are not also willing to endorse American standards of free speech, and they oppose the taking of American-style ethnic statistics. ‘I’m taking — because they forced it on me — the American model, and I’m throwing the American model back in their face,’ Mr. Zemmour said. ‘But in the name of French tradition.’”


Gregory White in WSJ, "Russian Tycoon’s Trial Is Called a Sham".

“Natalya Vasilieva, an assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin and press secretary of the Khamovnichesky Court, said in an interview broadcast Monday that the judge's original draft of the verdict was rejected and that he was ordered to read one written by senior officials at the Moscow City Court. Judge Danilkin denounced the claims as ‘slander’ in a statement to Russian news agencies confirmed by the Moscow City Court. Spokeswoman Anna Usacheva dismissed the allegations as ‘a provocation’ and a ‘publicity stunt’ ahead of the pending appeal of the December verdict. Ms. Vasilieva couldn't be reached for comment. Court officials said she was on vacation until next month. In the interview, Ms. Vasilieva said she expected ‘consequences,’ including losing her job, as a result of going public with her allegations. ‘We won't conduct any repressions against her,’ said Ms. Usacheva, the spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, noting that any criminal investigation of Ms. Vasilieva for slander or surrounding her allegations would be a matter for prosecutors. In the interview, which was broadcast on an independent Russian television network and carried on the Gazeta.ru news website, Ms. Vasilieva said, ‘I know for absolutely sure that the verdict was brought from the Moscow City Court.’ She said she hadn't seen the original draft.”


Tess Lewis in WSJ, "The Revolutionary Novelist".

“Politically, Serge began as an anarchist in pre-World War I Paris but distanced himself from the movement when it started using ideology to justify robbery. He embraced Bolshevism until he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1928 for ‘left deviationism.’ He supported Trotsky, translating his books into French and defending the ‘Old Man’ in print until Trotsky himself publicly denounced Serge's excessive ‘moralism.’ Serge always threw his lot in with the underdog; he then abandoned, or was thrown out of, a faction once it began to wield power. Still, through all his transformations, he remained a dedicated libertarian, defending freedom of expression and the rights of the individual, often at great personal risk. Serge's seven surviving novels were written in prison or on the run from hostile regimes. Closely based on his own experiences of jails, on battlefields and in deadly political maneuverings, his novels have the urgency of the eyewitness account. He usually had to compose them a section at time and send each part abroad for safekeeping. As a result, they tend to move swiftly through a series of vivid snapshots—a character, a landscape, an event, a conversation, a philosophical meditation. The resulting mosaics, unified by Serge's elegant prose, are nuanced portraits of the complicated interactions between social systems and individuals. As a writer, Serge was as lucid and courageous in exposing the corruption of the Soviet system as George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Alexander Solzhenitsyn—and he was, arguably, a finer novelist. Yet Serge is all but forgotten today. Some of his obscurity must be attributed to the fact that he had no definite nationality and lived nearly his entire life in exile. Culturally, he considered himself Russian, yet he wrote in French and was buried in Mexico in a cemetery for Spanish republicans.”


Gertrude Himmelfarb in Commentary, "Irving Kristol’s Neoconservative Persuasion".

“It was in Commentary that yet another neo-ism revealed itself. As Trilling, the ‘skeptical liberal,’ was the dominant influence on him in the 1940s, so Leo Strauss, the ‘skeptical conservative,’ was in the 1950s. And as Trilling’s essays had struck him as a ‘revelation,’ so Strauss’s ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’, in 1952, produced ‘the kind of intellectual shock that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ In both cases what impressed him was not so much their political views (which were more implicit than overt) but the mindset that informed their discourses upon culture, religion, society, philosophy, and politics alike. His review of ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’ focuses on Maimonides as the exemplar of Strauss’s major themes: the relation of the esoteric and the exoteric, of reason and revelation, of philosophy and the polity. It concludes by commending Strauss for accomplishing ‘nothing less than a revolution in intellectual history’ by recalling us to the ‘wisdom of the past.’”


Andrew Roberts in WSJ on Douglas Waller’s book, Wild Bill Donovan.

“William J. ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the head of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, has long been a controversial figure. If a man can be judged by the quality of his enemies, Donovan—who was cordially disliked or distrusted by Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall and especially by J. Edgar Hoover—was a giant of his era. That President Franklin Roosevelt eventually came to like and admire Donovan, a Republican enemy of the New Deal, says much for both men. As Douglas Waller makes clear in his fast-moving and well-written biography, ‘Wild Bill Donovan,’ Roosevelt's approval was the foundation of Donovan's place at the center of American intelligence operations from July 1941 to September 1945.… Donovan, who had come to admire FDR proposed to the president the creation of a spy and sabotage service based on Britain's MI6, ‘with men calculatingly reckless with disciplined daring.’ With the support of the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, but in the teeth of the opposition of practically everyone else, Donovan was appointed ‘Coordinator of Information’ in July 1941. Roosevelt loved the intelligence with which Donovan then deluged him—more than 200 memos in his first six months—calling him ‘my secret legs.’”


Andrew Bacevich in FT on Donald Rumsfeld’s book, Known and Unknown.

“Above all, after Saddam’s fall, Rumsfeld argued in vain for a prompt exit. He rejected comparisons of Iraq to Germany or Japan in 1945 -- midwifing Arab democracy was never going to be easy. His own preferred model was France in 1944: liberate and quickly transfer sovereignty to someone qualified to exercise it. Although never venturing who he had in mind for the role of Charles de Gaulle, Rumsfeld wants it known that Ahmed Chalabi, the shifty Iraqi exile leader, was never his candidate. Absolving himself of responsibility for the ensuing debacle finds Rumsfeld disowning the very people he chose to implement US policy in occupied Iraq. He describes as ‘inexplicable’ the appointment of Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, an officer of indifferent ability, to command all US forces in theatre. (In his own memoir, Sanchez writes that Rumsfeld personally interviewed him for the post.) L Paul Bremer, Rumsfeld’s choice for the position of US pro-consul in Baghdad, turned out to be arrogant, insubordinate and dishonest. In perhaps the book’s most audacious passage, Rumsfeld summarises his complaint with Bremer while simultaneously placing himself on the side of the angels: he found it difficult, he writes, to get Bremer to ‘accept the idea that Iraq belonged to Iraqis, and that Iraqis were entitled to their own culture and institutions.’”


David Hart in First Things, "A Philosopher in the Twilight".

“Plato was the first great philosopher in this second phase in being’s history; it was he who committed the vital apostasy that would lead Western thought down its path of fruitful error. He turned his eyes away from the ungovernable, essentially inconceivable flow of time, and so away from the very process by which being shows itself, and looked instead toward a fabulous eternity of changeless essences, the timeless ‘ideas’ or (more literally) ‘looks’ of things; and it was to this latter realm that he accorded the authority of ‘truth’ while consigning everything proper to time to the subphilosophical category of ‘unlikeness.’ This, for Heidegger, was the first obvious stirring of the will to power in Western thought, the moment when philosophy first tried to assert its power over the mystery of being by freezing that mystery in a collection of lifeless, invisible, immutable ‘principles’ perfectly obedient to the philosopher’s conceptual powers. Of its nature, such a way of thinking is supremely jealous: It resents the coyness of being in withholding itself from clear and precise ideas, and it resents any form of novelty that might upset its invariable order of essences, anything new -- any way of thinking or speaking of being -- that might try to come forth into the open.”


Jed Perl in New Republic on Alexandra Harris’ book, Romantic Moderns.

“Radicalism in the arts, with its search for root causes, can be more closely aligned with conservatism than many people imagine. Harris opens Romantic Moderns with a crisis within England’s visual arts avant-garde, when the painter John Piper rejected a nonobjective vision in favor of a growing enthusiasm for earlier strains in English art, ranging from Romanesque sculpture to the picturesque landscape. What is remarkable about Harris’s book is her refusal to simplify artistic debates, so that she has no trouble seeing that for John Piper ‘abstraction … always fed his other interests’ and ‘landscape was not the antithesis but the ally of abstraction.’ While Piper’s vision of ‘a machine-age but with tassels belonging to old-fashioned doorbells’ evinced what Harris calls an ‘unusually elastic idea of modernity,’ this was by no means exclusively an English idea. Let us not forget that Picasso and Braque had already, in their Analytic Cubist paintings, mingled hard-edged, angular structures and decorative flourishes—even tassels. Everywhere in Europe, even as artists embraced what Harris calls ‘an international language of form,’ there was a yearning for ‘the lure of eccentricity, locality, difference.’ Was not Brâncuşi, that giant of Parisian modernism, immersed in Romanian folk imagery? Harris’s approach will be of interest to anybody who cares about the classicizing and historicizing impulses that were integral to the arts of France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, and often reflected not a rejection of modernity but a fresh view of its possibilities.”


Jackie Wullschlager in FT on Alex Danchev’s book, 100 Artists’ Manifestos.

“The artist’s manifesto was born in the early 20th century for two reasons. First, art had radically rejected tradition and needed to explain itself: Apollinaire became apologist for cubism, Theo van Doesburg for geometric abstraction and Andr Breton for surrealism. This left Picasso, Mondrian and Mir free to paint. And although Alex Danchev’s book… makes a valiant attempt to persuade us that ‘art and thought are not incompatible after all’, few great painters have the sort of minds that codify and analyse. The second reason is that most early modernists --- especially those in unstable regimes such as Italy and Russia -- started out believing that painting could change the world.”


Lauren Weiner in Commentary, "Painting the Culture Red".

“The Popular Front was unique. Then as never before -- or since, for that matter -- radical leftism and flag-waving patriotism went hand in hand in America. Though the merger was the result of an edict issued from Moscow, it was one that American Reds (to used the terminology of the time) enthusiastically embraced. To be sure, such thinking -- and the curious promotion of Lincoln and the American Founders that went with it -- had a limited shelf life. It waned as our World War II ally, the USSR, became our Cold War adversary. And yet, strange to say, nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the cultural emanations of its admires live on…. As the historian David Herbert Donald once noted, all political groups in the United States, wherever situated on the ideological spectrum, must set about ‘getting right with Lincoln’ or resign themselves to marginalization. Few tried harder than the CPUSA to get right with Lincoln.”


Bart Bull in True West, "No Davy? No Dylan"

“As irony piled up like jukebox hotcakes, Bill Haley & His Comets’ revolutionary breakthrough hit wasn’t defeated by the dread sugar-saturated pop confections of the day, by ‘Mr. Sandman’ and ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,’ nor even by Pat Boone’s notorious hollow-soul Little Richard covers. Instead Rock’n’Roll got shown to its seat by a song from an old-fashioned blackface minstrel show, by a super-cheerful version of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas,’ by a jaunty lament for a light-skinned mulatto gal, as orchestrated by the beaming Mitch Miller. The goatee-sporting A&R director of Columbia Records, America’s biggest, grandest, most distinguished label, Miller was notable for his complete, unequivocal disdain for the philistine sounds of Rock’n’Roll. He personally made certain that Columbia would remain untainted and unstained by primitives such as Elvis and his ilk…. Instead, at that moment, Pop music’s new lightweight champion was Folk, Americana-style, as purely and authentically fake as Americana has always and ever been. This was Folk music from Frontierland, born on a mountaintop (even while the Matterhorn was not yet under construction) under the guidance of Walt Disney and the publishing hacks of Tin Pan Alley, as designed for the unveiling of a shiny new nation named ‘Disneyland’--theme park, television show and avid, active, adventurous, dial-adjusting assembler of history.”


Armond White in First Things on the Coen brothers’ True Grit

“The classicism of the Western permits the Coens to reiterate the strange longing that was almost inchoate in No Country for Old Men, when Tommy Lee Jones, after witnessing the abyss, recounted a dream about seeing his father in the hereafter -- a monologue that puzzled horror-movie habitués keyed up by the film’s cavalcade of senseless, unstoppable violence. They could not comprehend Jones’ belief in the hereafter but expected fashionable nihilism. Yet this longing -- recurring as it does in the heartfelt twang of True Grit’s score (’Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’ sung dulcetly by the great folk artist Iris Dement) and in the film’s blasted landscape, which describes America’s long fall from paradise -- is also what distinguished the Coens’ modern spiritual search in A Serious Man. The Coen’s most Jewish film holds hand with True Grit and its Christian fundamentalism. Both films reveal the brothers’ richest, most ecumenical meaning -- and without a single snaky moment. Who knew America‘s coolest filmmakers would turn out to be its most openly spiritual?”


Robert Wilken in First Things, "Culture and the Light of Faith".

“In some civilizations the relation between religion and culture is so intimate that it is impossible to disentangle the one from the other, or to trace the separate sources that gave rise to distinctive forms of social and spiritual life. Christianity, however, does not fit comfortably into this pattern. Even though many different streams flowed into the great river that is Christian history, some of the sources that gave rise to Christian culture were already mighty torrents before they became part of the new civilization. In his provocative book Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization (2009), Rmi Brague calls this dependency on an earlier culture secondarity. By this term he means not simply that an earlier culture is given as a historical fact, but that those who come later honor and cherish what went before. Secondarity was evident among the ancient Romans who received and admired the cultural accomplishments of the Greeks and made them their own. But secondarity was no less a characteristic of the early Christians. When they first began to adorn the walls of the catacombs with pictures, they drew freely on the artistic traditions of the ancient world.”


Michelle Goldberg in New Republic on Leigh Schmidt’s book, Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr and Madwoman.

“If conservatives, in their reverence for tradition, are often tempted by fundamentalism, liberals, with their love of innovation and multiculturalism, have had a historic vulnerability to spiritual quackery. It may not be visible in our national politics, where only one side routinely claims supernatural guidance and communion with heavenly voices. But on the ground, almost all lefty enclaves have congeries of gurus, faith healers, and metaphysical fad dieticians. Sometimes this stuff seems like remnants of the 1960s and ’70s, but it actually goes back a lot further—to a nineteenth-century progressive spiritual efflorescence that continues to have deep effects on American religious life.

In the late 1800s, during a time of widespread technological innovation and religious demystification, all sorts of religious innovators believed that science was on the verge of unlocking the secrets of the spirit world. Thomas Edison imagined creating machines to test physic powers and communicate with the dead. Clarence Darrow, the great scourge of fundamentalists, frequented séances and mediums, straining to believe. In England, the militant feminist and atheist Annie Besant stunned intellectual society by converting to theosophy, the Hindu-inflected grandparent of modern new age movements. And in Chicago in 1899 or 1900, Ida Craddock, feminist, secularist, and marriage reformer, declared herself pastor of the Church of Yoga. In his new book, Leigh Eric Schmidt, a historian of religion, uses Craddock’s life to illuminate this fascinating period in American religious history, when free thought, mysticism, Eastern religion, and sexual liberalism all rubbed up against each other, often provoking hysteria and repression from America’s designated moral guardians.”


“Fripp & Eno, May 28, 1975” recorded at The Olympia, Paris, digital release info at Arthurmag.com.

“Here is the lead up to this 5th of a 7-show European mini-tour. Fripp just recently disbanded King Crimson at a point which many would describe as their artistic pinnacle. Eno also recently parted ways with Roxy Music at a similar juncture and then aborted his first and only extensive solo tour after only a handful of shows, due to a collapsed lung. Fripp & Eno live in concert? What would they do? All the shows in Spain and France were, not surprisingly, accompanied with unrealistic fan expectations, hoping for a presentation of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ combined with ‘Baby’s on Fire’ perhaps? What this audience got was something entirely different.”


Larry Getlen in New York Post on Hal Needham’s book, Stuntman! - My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life.

“While working on the 1974 John Wayne film ‘McQ,’ the stunt crew needed to figure out how to flip a car on a flat beach — a challenge, since cars were usually flipped off a ramp, which required a bush, another car, or something else to hide it on camera. Veteran stuntman Hal Needham came up with the solution: the placement of a small cannon, pointed downward, in the car’s back floorboard. As he writes in his thrill-a-minute new memoir, ‘Stuntman!’ the explosion blew the car — and Needham, its driver — 30 feet into the air. Hal Needham survived broken bones, crashes. ‘When I opened my eyes in mid-flight, I was upside down and going backward,’ Needham says. ‘I knew this wasn’t going as planned.’ Needham broke six ribs, punctured a lung, lost three teeth and cracked his vertebrae. But while he writes of pain that ‘not even morphine can kill,’ this is one of only several such bone-crushing adventures in the book, including falling off a 60-foot ledge with an already-broken collarbone, and jumping across an alley from one fire-escape balcony to another, knocking himself unconscious and waking to a crowd of spectators standing over him, applauding. Needham, a Depression-era sharecropper’s son, is an old-fashioned Hollywood badass who, throughout a career that included over 300 films and 4,500 episodes of television, broke 56 bones (among other things) while flirting with danger on a daily basis.”


Dave Anderson in NYT, "What’s Always Been So Great About Green Bay".

“I knew Lombardi when he was the Giants’ offensive coach in the 1950s, but I never really heard his voice that could melt snow until the Packers’ 1962 championship game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium. With my newspaper, The New York Journal-American, on strike, Jim Kensil of the N.F.L. office asked me to be his sideline spotter on the Packers’ bench…. Early in the game, Jim Taylor, the Packers’ fullback, wobbled to the bench. In a pileup, somehow his upper teeth had been driven into his tongue and now, sitting next to where I was standing, he was spitting blood as if he had opened an artery. Soon, with the Giants about to punt, Lombardi’s booming voice penetrated the brutal cold with a wind that was blowing Giant quarterback Y. A. Tittle’s passes this way and that. ‘Taylor!’ Lombardi roared. ‘Taylor!’ With another spit of blood, Taylor stood up, put on his green and gold helmet, turned and trotted onto the field with the offense. He went on to gain 85 yards on a record 31 carries for a championship game. The Packers won, 16-7.… When Lombardi went to Green Bay in 1959, the Packers were a disaster. They had not had a winning season since 1947, but they earlier had won 6 of their record 13 N.F.L. titles, including the 1944 championship game against the Giants, 14-7, at the Polo Grounds. I was there, freezing in the upper stands in left-center field and thinking I could always say, ‘I saw Don Hutson play.’ Hutson, the wispy end credited with having invented pass patterns, was mostly a decoy that day, but with the goal posts then on the goal line, he used one of his favorite tricks. Locking an arm around a goal post, he spun free as a Giants defender flew by.

Wherever you go in Green Bay, it’s all about the Packers. It’s a city of some 102,000 now, but compared with all the big-city franchises, Green Bay resembles a small town with a team — the only publicly owned franchise in the four major sports with by far the smallest market. And with the most devoted fans. Some 80,000 names are on the waiting list for season tickets; the most recently rewarded fans went on the list in the 1950s.”


K.C. Johnson in CT, "Sloan abruptly resigns from Jazz".

“For [Jerry] Sloan, the game-night ritual was no big deal, as ordinary as the John Deere hats he preferred to wear on most practice days. Yet in today's world of professional sports, in which egos and money can run amok, Sloan's no-frills, no-nonsense approach stuck out like, well, a farmboy from tiny Gobbler's Knob near McLeansboro, Ill., making the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sloan, whose No. 4 is retired and hanging from the United Center rafters honoring his Bulls playing days, reached that pinnacle in 2009. As the longest-tenured coach in all of pro sports, Sloan seemed poised and engaged enough during a long conversation before his team's loss to the Bulls on Wednesday to keep adding to his storied career…. Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause scouted and helped draft Sloan for the Baltimore Bullets in 1965. In a phone interview Thursday, Krause recalled how difficult it was to congratulate Sloan, given their shared history, after the Bulls' 1997 and 1998 NBA titles over the Jazz. ‘Jerry is one of the greatest competitors I've ever seen in sports, on par with Michael (Jordan),’ Krause said. ‘He was consistent, fair, tough. He ran the same system and made you adjust to him. There will never be another like him.’ Indeed, Sloan detailed his humble beginnings in his one-of-a-kind Hall of Fame acceptance speech — head down, nervously mumbling his way through eloquence and achievement. In a casual conversation before a Bulls-Jazz exhibition in October 2009 in London, Sloan admitted that was the most nervous he ever had been. Sloan was one of 10 children and lost his father at 4. He would wake early to do chores around the family farm, then walk miles to a road where he would hitchhike to a one-room schoolhouse for basketball practice before classes.”


Obituaries of the Week

Jesse Valadez  (1946 - 2011)

“Of Mexican heritage, Mr. Valadez grew up in Los Angeles and worked as an automobile upholstery installer. He and his brother, Armando, began cruising on Whittier Boulevard in the early 1960s, sporting pompadours in their low-riding 1957 Chevrolet…. In California, it was illegal to remove a car's shock absorbers and springs as many lowriders did, replacing them with hydraulics that could be used to raise and lower the bodies and even to do a bouncing dance. Lowriding evolved into a competitive culture that produced face-offs at auto shows based on aesthetic accomplishment and outré customization. Mr. Valadez said he bought the car that became the first Gypsy Rose for $150 in 1970, from a GI heading to war in Vietnam. He initially used sandbags to lower the back end, and carefully painted it. But in 1972 it was damaged beyond repair on Whittier Boulevard by vandals armed with bricks—whether a rival car club or a gang was never established—and Mr. Valadez had to start again from scratch. Whittier Boulevard was eventually closed to lowriders.”

Chuck Tanner (1928 - 2011)

“Tanner, along with Richie Allen, was credited partly for helping to revive a White Sox franchise that had fallen on hard times. He took over as manager during the 1970 season, when the Sox eventually finished 42 games out of first place and drew less than 500,000 fans. Two years later, riding Allen's MVP season, Tanner's Sox finished only 5 1/2 games out of first and drew nearly 1.2 million. Tanner was credited with getting the most out of Allen, having a different set of rules for his star while maintaining team chemistry. In 1974, one year before he was fired, Tanner managed former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. The two were at war from the beginning as Santo was switched to second base and blamed Tanner for his early exit from baseball. While with the White Sox, Tanner, a former major league outfielder, turned modestly successful, knuckleball-throwing reliever Wilbur Wood into a successful and tireless starter and future Hall-of-Famer Rich ‘Goose’ Gossage into one of the premier closers of his era. Let go when owner Bill Veeck reacquired the White Sox in 1975, Tanner quickly hooked on with the Athletics. Tanner was coveted by the Pirates, and the team sent All-Star catcher Manny Sanguillen and cash to the A's for Tanner.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock.

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