Photo by Joe Carducci
The News Immedia
by Joe Carducci
“Do you know the dark windows of the city, you gentlemen who write continually of temples and art? Come, forget your love for things you never saw, cathedrals and parthenons that exist in yesterdays you never knew. Come, look at the fire escapes that are stamped like letter Z’s against the mysterious rectangles; at the rhythmic flight of windows whose black and silver wings are tipped with the yellow winkings of the corset and ice cream signs. The windows over the dark river are like an alphabet, like the keyboard of a typewriter. They are like anything you want them to be.”
“Night Diary” Ben Hecht 1922, Daily News, 1001 Afternoons in Chicago
The newspapers were once where it was at. They were too new to be decadent. They were making it up as they went along, often even the news they reported. The stories were real, they might’ve said, but with certain points and snags hewn off to reduce reader fiction. Readers understood the points of their papers and picked their papers accordingly. They might get a morning paper delivered and pick up an afternoon paper after work. There were likely three of each in the early 20th-century American city, not counting foreign language papers. In Vienna Karl Kraus was inventing the opinion column and with the Austro-Hungarian empire’s elite opinion to survey he found much to ridicule. He is remembered mostly by students of pre-war European Jewish culture as a self-loathing Jew, though perhaps the Wars, the Revolutions, and the Holocaust just eliminated the patience intellectuals once had for rough debate. I don’t have my Kraus books with me here in Illinois -- the recent biography is titled, The Anti-Journalist -- or I’d dig out something to shame today’s paper.
That old world Habsburg ethnic patchwork required a nimble political acumen that the crowned heads of Europe were losing to decadence. The new world ethnic patchwork of Chicago post-fire had none of Vienna’s stratification or stability. It was essentially an instant city, even compared to other new world cities. There was plenty of bad behavior, a kind of urbanizing wild west where the big money was so big and the life and labor so cheap that large civic projects commenced greased by massive boodle. No true decadence though. That you see now, everywhere. Fine, noble behavior, but decadent.
Ben Hecht, and a fair number of his colleagues in twenties Chicago news papering, were good illustrations of a point made last week regarding how high ambition in America must slum in low culture since we have no high culture. This has made our low culture uniquely high-grade compared to those of the old world. Hecht was fine with that, loved it by all evidence -- his life’s work in papers and movies. He got to Chicago from Racine in 1910 and began in papers as a picture-stealer whose job it was in those days of bulky and expensive photography to obtain photographs from the nightstands and mantels of families caught up in news stories. These were bought, rented, borrowed or stolen depending on need and opportunity. There were a fair number of newspaper pictures made in the early talkie period from Hecht’s own hand. Sound was poorly used at first in all movies but these rapid-fire cynical hilarious tragedies.
Many a degree-toting journalist today might claim to appreciate that old style of news papering, but their actions betray a reflexive middle-class Puritanism. The Murdoch tabloid scandal exposes all this. James Warren brought up Hecht and his play “The Front Page” in “Hildy Johnson Would Have Happily Hacked” without really making the connection. Underachiever that he’s been Warren makes it, rather, mere reference because he or the New York Times (or the Chicago News Cooperative!) do not wish to mitigate by an ounce any punishment the British or American legal systems may feel obliged by this immediastorm to serve up. In the general buzz since last week there has been an apparent wish to see Murdoch & family resign from News Corp and for it to be another fully corporatized multi-national faceless entity. Once in awhile the New York Times reiterates that it is determined to stay a family-owned newspaper. This usually means family-controlled via majority stock ownership. Murdoch was able to shake loose enough Bancroft family-owned stock to buy the Wall Street Journal. This he did in part because he judged the Sulzberger family-owned Times not as vulnerable; also, the Journal could be leveraged to television and its former relationship with CNBC was redirected to the new Fox Business Channel. Nevertheless the New York Times’ media columnist David Carr zeroed in on the family Murdoch in “Scandal Splinters Murdoch Family Business”, anticipating the “fairly biblical” moment when Rupert must decide between News Corp and his family:
“James Murdoch is done. He and his father both know that. His testimony curdled as he emitted it, and within two days a couple of former News Corporation executives publicly challenged it. The hooks are still in him, as Prime Minister David Cameron made clear when he said James still had ‘questions to answer.’ And so he will, gradually sinking further into the mess he has overseen. Oddly, the News Corporation’s stock began to tick up during the hearings as Rupert Murdoch testified, his large hands thumping as he dropped them to the table. But it was less about his performance than about the clear message that emerged: an era had ended. The family business is splintering. If James is out, as would seem to be the case, will his other offspring, Elisabeth and Lachlan, come swinging into view? I and others doubt that the charms of a global media enterprise being run as a corner grocery store will continue. While the family reign seems certain to fracture, the News Corporation’s own fortunes are less predictable.”
Actually News Corp’s fortunes become far more predictable absent the family. Subtract Sumner Redstone from Viacom and it’ll get pretty predictable over there too in a hurry. And yes that might please plenty of true believers in, say, competent predictable managerialism, but David misread his own paper in this instance, because what Times reporters Jeremy Peters and Brian Stelter actually reported, “In Appearance, the Murdochs Caught a Break, Analysts Say” was:
“Analysts noted that the market was watching James in particular, looking for signs of whether the man who is presumed to be the chief executive heir apparent was up to the task. ‘It was a credibility-building day for James,’ Mr. Bank said. ‘I don’t know that it makes succession by him any more definite, but it prevented what could have been the event of making it far less likely.’ And the market appeared to like what it saw. ‘Every time James spoke, the stock ticked up,’ Mr. Bank added.”
Could be Carr saw the ticker more clearly and has told these rookies to quit poaching his beat. (If he told his boss Bill Keller that much, maybe these guys are no longer with us.) Given Carr’s autobiography you’d think he more than most in the game might appreciate “the charms of a global media enterprise being run as a corner grocery store.” But no, he really has gone clean.
Precious few commentators have tried to defend and explain tabloids generally; last week’s NV linked to a fine piece in the Times itself, “Why We Need the Tabloids” by Ryan Linkof. And Brendan O’Neill first parsed Murdochophobia at Spiked (also linked to last week in NV 107, and now in Prospect, "What price a free press?”:
“Hugh Grant won rapturous applause on Question Time when he said ‘I’m not for regulating the proper press, the broadsheet press. But it is insane that the tabloid press is left unregulated.’ The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown even suggested in a debate on BBC radio that perhaps journalists should require a licence — from the state — before they can report and write. When the issue of licensing was put to Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, in a debate about tabloid phone-hacking, he would only say that the ‘notion of state licensing for the press’ made him feel ‘anxious.’ ‘But I’d be interested to hear other views,’ he added. A newspaper editor who only feels ‘anxious’ about state licensing of newspapers, rather than, say, angry or outraged, might want to ask himself if he is in the right profession. Newspapers did once require a license from the authorities, but that system was abolished in the late 17th century, after coming to be seen as an abomination against freedom of the press and freedom of thought.”
I suspect there is an amount of Royal prerogative-envy running loose along the neurons of our meritocratic elite. They don’t quite actively fear licensing or regulation or control because it would certainly be they themselves, speaking in class terms, doing the licensing or regulating or controlling. There’s also a solid disbelief that their credentials might ever fail to keep them immune from whatever might buffet the working class -- globalization, rotten schools, open borders, the caliphate…. They consider that they are in touch with the cool part of the working class, and black culture, and so they are working class, they are black, just as they eat at all the best immigrant restaurants and taco trucks. This casual blue-blooded narcissism calls to my mind Charles Manson who with his Family intended to provoke a race war that blacks would win and then being ignorant blacks would require the surviving whites, Manson & Co., to administer their society, or Los Angeles anyway.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the news media has no true appreciation for its own history and is actively pursuing the destruction of its true purpose. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mass higher edumucation yields more pretense than knowledge or wisdom. Thinking is clear and moves like water; kids in fallen liberal arts colleges or film schools aren’t exposed to thinking but are encouraged to adopt a number of accepted ideas since they are of more use in constructing a suitably cool lifestyle. These ideas are opaque and solid and can be thrown like rocks, or pebbles really. This explains NPR, hipsters, the overwhelming use of characters like Sarah Palin to help define what one is not. Back in the eighties fat, bad-taste, late Elvis was used similarly as a totem of unpretentious cool in the face of perhaps the last great cultural challenge rock and roll was providing. Now canned beer will do that for you.
Today the media and university culture service and are part of a lifestyle left that doesn’t have the intellectual exoskeleton of even the sixties New Left which had jettisoned the Marxist vertebrae of the Old Left. So it suns itself blob-like before its cultural mirror, tending first and foremost to the opponent of its dreams -- a fanciful Right that somehow remains Cold-Warrior, Neo-Con, Libertarian, Protectionist, Isolationist, Racist, Capitalist, Royalist, and anything else that comes in handy. This doesn’t allow for much to get done politically in our bicameral legislature, even when right now several major issues lend themselves to cross-aisle deals. Offhand these deals-gone-wanting probably include cutting military spending and commitments, decriminalizing drugs, and breaking the inside game between big business and the federal government, i.e., no more too-big-to-fail bail-outs.
There may not be this consensus in the center but because of lazy interference run for purposes of lifestyle defining social coloration by the news media, there cannot be tests of the Left-Right coalitions possible on these and other issues. The Democrats probably think a government shutdown would reprise President Clinton’s trouncing of Speaker Gingrich, but there’s this economic-currency-governmental crisis that probably precludes the kicking of the can, The Can of Cans, further down the road. Europe has let down its biggest fans in the Democratic Party by turning all those third ways into one even bigger can of worms: an economic-trade-currency-governmental-race crisis. The New Right here is entertaining many new ideas, some formerly or still Left ideas. Many center-left critiques of the Left over the years suspected that productive political outcomes rated low on the priority list of those most interested in displaying themselves in told-you-so Cassandra postures predicated on the mixed Old-New Left fantasy image of Amerika the Ugly. The nihilist fantasy of remaining righteous in the belly of the beast doesn’t allow for serious political purpose if one might even fool an electorate outside San Francisco long enough to get elected.
The newsmedia mainstream is simply outing itself in its own determined pandering to Left-Liberal fantasy maintenance with Sarah Palin overkill. It was understandable that her convention speech was going to take the entire campaign to digest but when the election didn’t stop the Palin coverage something else was up. A Dummy Right is being propped up so the meritocracy needn’t work to earn its prerogatives. The news media provides a ventriloquist’s voice for this dummy. When considering Jon Stewart I think of Lenny Bruce and Rush Limbaugh. Jon Stewart has made himself a true weathervane for journalists. They’re so unhip they believe his MTV pedigree is valuable, or perhaps even invaluable! And who in the news media of that day was ready for Lenny Bruce? The sixties newspapers many of which had been semi- or even cutting edge hip forty years earlier had been tamed by FDR, the cold war, and finally television with its visible etiquette of middle class family room propriety. The Chicago Tribune in the sixties was actively trying to lose the last of its roaring twenties hip (Hecht, Lingle, Gould, et. al.). It had lead the losing fight against New Deal somnambulism and interventionism (all this overdue for a revisionist look), and by the sixties was attempting to get hip to the coming Woodward & Bernstein storefront-lawyers style of new-snooze. Lenny Bruce meanwhile was walking the plank pursuing some kind of free-style commentary that had burst out of comedy, burlesque, jazz and drug-use which led him to tour jails in tandem with nightclubs. He lost his television spots on variety shows and late night. Limbaugh came out of the last years of interesting AM music radio and as a result has an anomalous working knowledge of early 70s pop and soul. Stewart, Bruce and Limbaugh are primarily newsmedia monitors. Bruce went through the news media to the police blotter itself and ended up riffing off of his own court transcripts. The simpatico critique Stewart provides nightly journalists just eat up. But they don’t recognize themselves in Limbaugh’s take, even when he’s using audio clips. They hear his show as so much bloviating or shrieking -- unlistenable. I remember Rush describing his studio setup one day back in the nineties when he was following some breaking news story; he had one of those screen splitters which meant he had a checkerboard of each news channel and network so he could monitor who was live with the story and at what level of on-air talent. The news divisions don’t appreciate critical scrutiny and knowledgeable comparison; they hear it as hateful invective. They famously dish it out while exhibiting thinner and thinner skin.
The word is soon-to-be ex-Exec Editor Bill Keller will stop his NYT Magazine column where he regularly bigfooted his media beat reporters by stomping gratuitously on Times competitors. He’ll now be on the opinion pages lobbing such columns as Frank Rich or Gail Collins and other in-house somnambulists have specialized in. Rich is soon to be recapping his television viewing in New York magazine. Again, I caution: Watching television is not as easy as it looks!
Coverage suggests that Rupert Murdoch and son James are famously hands-on owners but certainly, though Rupert loves newspapers, his company is subsidizing them through television, satellite television, movies, sports, and he’d hoped MySpace. The internet is claiming most waking hours of anyone at the top of a media company; for Murdoch it’s the various sites and The Daily, for the NYT it is their paywall which must work before the print edition begins sinking. Any newspaperman, any lover of newspapers can’t seriously cheer Murdoch leaving this sunset industry while there is a single lumen left on that western horizon. It’ll happen too soon as it is. This cheering we hear then is from some other sort of being, one standing in the info-stream but not getting wet.
Seth Mnookin in New York, "The Kingdom and the Paywall".
“‘I’ve always kept this one,’ he said. ‘This is the Time magazine piece on my father about how he was such an awful publisher that the newspaper wasn’t going to survive.’ The cover features an illustration of Sulzberger’s father in bed, surrounded by copies of the Times’ ‘light’ news sections — ‘Home,’ ‘Living,’ and the like. The headline reads, ‘Coping With the New New York Times,’ and the story, Sulzberger told me, was about how his father ‘was destroying the paper; it’d never been in worse shape. By the way, [that] was just months before they launched the four-section daily, remade the entire paper’ — an illustration, Sulzberger said, of how ‘people don’t have the insight they think they have, and so they react, too frequently, in the moment.’ As it turned out, the piece was a fairly positive account of his father’s effort to remake ‘America’s greatest newspaper’ — evidence, if more were needed, of the painfully thin skin of a man who has spent decades on the defensive.”
David Leonhardt’s farewell Business Section column in the New York Times, “A Knowing Nation With Issues or Lessons From the (U.S. Economy’s) Malaise” is quite revealing of just where his blind spots are as he ticks off in a sub-Rumsfeld way, just what we know politically and economically. It’s worth reading because he’s gone to D.C. to head that NYT’s bureau. Ira Stoll, late of Smartertimes.com, and now at Futureofcapitalism.com notes this promotion and presents links to his recent commentaries on several misbegotten Leonhardt columns.
I was going to assess this Michael Powell column in the NYT, “Government Can’t Help? Tell That to the South Bronx” where he concludes after cooking the books on the Bronx, “The era of government may be in danger. But it saved the South Bronx,” but Ira Stoll does a better job on it than I could have and pulls in a year-old Washington Monthly essay of last year that is to the point.
David Gelles & Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in FT, "Thomsons grow restless over Reuters’ progress".
“The family behind Thomson Reuters is pushing for faster results from the three-year-old merger of Thomson Corporation and Reuters, which initially exceeded promises of integration benefits, but has struggled to introduce a central new product in its markets division. People close to the board say the Thomson family, which still controls about 55 per cent of the financial and professional information group through its holding company, Woodbridge, is growing impatient with the pace of change after a year in which shares have fallen by 10 per cent…. ‘Eikon is a fantastic idea and if they have time it will go far,’ said Mr Taylor. ‘It won‘t be a Bloomberg killer, but it will reset the bar for Thomson Reuters.’”
Anthony Lane in New Yorker, "Hack Work".
“For a small nation, Britain has an awful lot of national newspapers. Six days of the week, you can choose among five tabloids, some of them known, for reasons of design rather than of ideology, as ‘red-tops’ (the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and the Daily Mail), and five broadsheets — the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times, and the Daily Telegraph. Only the last two are still technically broadsheets, in terms of their page size, but the term has adhered to anything that lays claim to higher ground…. This barrage of print has one overriding effect: in Britain, you cannot hear yourself think. You never really notice this until you leave the country, whereupon the white noise suddenly stops. The noisiest paper, without doubt, was the News of the World, which resounded with three continuous notes. The first and most defensible was sport; last year, the paper laid bare a match-fixing racket in Pakistani cricket — a bigger and more lucrative deal than it sounds. Then, there were television performers, who furnished an astounding proportion of the paper’s stories. (When historians come to measure the age of Murdoch, that symbiosis between media will loom large.) Last and most cacophonous, there was the assumption, or the ardent hope, that somebody, somewhere, was having sex with somebody he should not be having sex with.”
Philip Stephens in FT, "Now for a slimmer, more distinctive BBC".
“The BBC has been enjoying Rupert Murdoch’s troubles. In the humbling of News Corp, it has cheered the dispatch of an implacable enemy. Britain’s public broadcaster should be careful about gloating. It has business of its own to attend to, starting with the rediscovery of its public service mission. Like everyone else in the public realm, the BBC must come to terms with straitened times. A cash freeze in the licence fee implies a cut of 20 per cent in its budget by 2015. The corporation should not expect sympathy. To the contrary, it should see an opportunity in austerity. The BBC does lots of things well and too many badly. It has seen the digital revolution as a chance to compete with everyone, everywhere. The endless quest for audience “reach” has elbowed aside quality. BBC journalism has joined the tabloids in suborning accuracy to impact. The licence fee was not invented to indulge BBC executives who style themselves members of a new global media plutocracy.”
Christopher Bland, former chairman of BBC and then British Telecom, formerly a creature of the Post Office, is somewhat exercized over the matter of James the Younger's performance for shareholders in his press release in the Financial Times, "Why James Murdoch Should Resign Today". The hearings must've interrupted his high tea or his telly watching. Underlying his complaint is the public sector's assumption that its public monies are clean and anyone's private monies dirty.
"If BSkyB is to avoid several months of Murdoch-dominated limbo, its board must be radically reconstructed, starting at the top. James Murdoch’s tenure at BSkyB has been successful. He managed to lose around £350m on investment in ITV, an error of judgment that would for mere mortals have proved terminal. But his strategy of building up a subscriber base, increasing average revenue and diversifying into broadband has worked well. Nevertheless, he should go. There has always been a conflict of interest in chairing a company for which he was also bidding. That conflict still exists. More importantly, his evidence to the select committee relied heavily on ignorance about crucial e-mail evidence. His 'wilful blindness' showed at best a lack of curiosity, and at worst a failure to ask questions, for fear of hearing unacceptable answers."
Charles Madigan, now a professor of journalism at Roosevelt U., and one of the anonymouses who successfully scrubbed the last traces of Colonel-authored greatness from the Chicago Tribune asks alas non-facetiously, “Can journalism survive Murdoch?”
“There may well not have been a civil rights era in America without the press and TV news. And while John F. Kennedy may have been the president who called for a trip to the moon, Walter Cronkite was the national host who raised the engineering and physics of space travel to poetry and read it right into the living rooms of the nation. Yes, things have changed. The people who decided journalism was a profit center managed to squeeze the profit very well. They did not simply throw out the baby with the bath water, they simply crushed the little critter. Most likely all of that happened a long time ago in Britain, where people like the Australian Murdoch found an eager audience for the stinky mess that fronts many British tabloids. It was a numbers game in a media that depended more on circulation than advertising. Tapping the smelly masses, that's what it's all about.”
John Lloyd in FT on William Rees-Mogg’s book, Memoirs.
“His high opinion of Murdoch derives from his time as editor of The Times from 1967-1981, which culminated with the Australian’s acquisition of that newspaper and the Sunday Times from the Canadian Thomson group. As he writes, Murdoch -- by smashing the power of print unions that had escaped the control not just of management but of their own officers -- helped secure a future for an industry that might have been much grimmer and more impoverished. Rees-Mogg’s journalistic apprenticeship was served on this newspaper in the 1950s. He secured a meeting with the editor, Sir Gordon Newton, because Shirley, now Baroness, Williams had written a profile of him in an Oxford student paper when he was president of the union, which had him reading the FT at breakfast. For an editor scouting for the cream of Oxbridge, he was a natural choice.”
Drawing by James Fotopoulos
From the Kroehler Desk of Joe Carducci…
Christian Oliver in FT, "Chaebol pulled into ‘tofu war’ as Seoul backs small companies".
“Seoul plans to designate a range of business sectors -- such as tofu-making -- as exempt from competition or takeovers by the chaebol, mighty family-run conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai and Lotte. A commission is reviewing 230 business areas that could be reserved for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Other than tofu, the commission is considering a protected status for products such as soap, light bulbs, industrial moulds, satellite receivers, bottles, sunglasses, toys and vacuum cleaners.”
David Pilling in FT, "High time to concede the Thai king can do wrong".
“Thailand has the most strictly enforced lese majesty laws in the world. David Streckfuss, a US academic who has extensively researched the subject, reckons they are as ferociously applied as in absolute monarchies of the past. Any Thai is free to point the finger at anyone else, opening their use to witch-hunts or political vendettas. There is no defence on the grounds of truth or public interest.”
Jamil Anderlini in FT, "Beijing’s fear of social nightmare slows fulfillment of urban dream".
“China’s economic development ‘suffers from a serious lack of balance, co-ordination and sustainability’. Those are not the words of an ultra-bearish hedge fund manager. They come from a speech delivered three weeks ago by Chinese President Hu Jintao and they show that the ruling Communist party understands better than anyone the momentous challenges it faces in managing the world’s second-largest economy.”
Kathrin Hille in FT, "Symbol of hope in Hotan yet to reap rewards for region’s Uighurs".
“Home to the lion’s share of the country’s onshore energy reserves, Xinjiang is populated by a Turkic people, most of whom do not want to be part of China. Beijing revamped a programme under which richer provinces act as donors and investors for different parts of Xinjiang. It promised to bring in fresh investment and vowed that more attention would be paid to regional disparities.”
Andrew Jacobs in NYT, "As China Steps Up Web Monitoring, Many Wi-Fi Users Stay Away".
“New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly Web monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut Internet access and sending a chill through the capital’s game-playing, Web-grazing literati who have come to expect free Wi-Fi with their lattes and green tea. The software, which costs businesses about $3,100, provides public security officials the identities of those logging on to the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their Web activity. Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $2,300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license.”
MercoPress: "China determined to break the grip of the three major global iron ore miners".
“‘China currently owns less than 10% of imported iron ore. We should seek 50% of ore from Chinese-invested overseas resources in the next five to 10 years,’ he said. Li's remarks underscored the ambition of Chinese companies to secure steady supplies of ore globally. Luo Bingsheng, deputy Party secretary of the association, said earlier that China has overseas mining rights capable of producing 150 million tons of ore annually, but most of the mines have yet to start production. He accused the major global mining companies of taking advantage of supply falling short of demand to set prices at unreasonably high levels, squeezing profits from Chinese steel mills.”
FT Profile: "Carson Block, the short seller".
“Just a year ago, Carson Block was the little-known boss of Love Box, a struggling self-storage company in Shanghai. Today he is the best-known short seller in the China market, having triggered collapses in the share prices of six Chinese companies listed in the US and Canada, three of which have subsequently been suspended or delisted. ‘I realized this problem was systemic and that I’ve got the skillset to expose these frauds and take them out of the market,’ Mr Block told the Financial Times in a recent interview. A 35-year-old New Jersey native and fan of 1990s gangsta rap music, Mr Block published his first report on his Muddy Waters Research website on June 28 2010, alleging fraud at a company called Orient Paper, which trades on the American Stock Exchange. ‘By hitting send on that report the world changed tremendously for me,’ he says.”
Jeremy Page in WSJ, "U.N. Clears China Sea-Floor Plan".
“The Jiaolong is diving at a site between Hawaii and the North America mainland, where China was granted rights to explore for minerals in 2001 by the International Seabed Authority, a U.N. body that oversees mining in international waters. ISA, meeting at its headquarters in Jamaica, said it had approved on Tuesday applications from China and Russia -- the first from any countries -- to explore relatively newly discovered deposits called ply metallic sulphides that form around volcanic vents in ridges on the seabed.”
Dan Levin in NYT, "China Is Unprepared To Replace Retiring Yao".
“‘China has no shortage of this kind of talent,’ he said. ‘We simply have coaching and systemic problems that prevent us from discovering and developing these players.’ While the United States develops players through an almost Darwinian process of natural selection in youth leagues, high school teams and colleges, China has a rigid, Soviet-inspired state network of athletic schools, coaches and bureaucrats that selects players as early as age 4. Yao, the son of exceptionally tall basketball players, was a 5-foot-7 third grader when he was plucked by a local sports school for a life of endless drills geared entirely toward molding him into Olympic material. Every professional Chinese player has a similar body and biography. And yet, before and during the 30-year-old Yao’s N.B.A. career, China has managed to reach only the Olympic quarterfinals.”
Urmila Venugopalan at YaleGlobal, "Sorry, Pakistan: China Is No Sugar Daddy".
“The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a Uighur separatist group that Beijing often blames for terrorist attacks within China, appears to have a sanctuary in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. TIP leaders were killed in South Waziristan and North Waziristan, in September 2003 and February 2010, respectively. Chinese leaders fear that the reduction in U.S. military aid to Pakistan -- coupled with the impending drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan -- could afford the Uighurs a safe haven outside Beijing's control. Indeed, Afghanistan looms large in China's strategic calculus. Media reports highlighting the discovery of nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan surely have piqued Chinese interest in bolstering relations with Kabul. With its export-oriented economy heavily dependent on raw material imports, the prospect of cheap resources on China's periphery is understandably appealing. Acutely aware that Pakistan's generals will play an integral role in Afghanistan's future, Beijing will be keen to leverage its close ties with Rawalpindi. But only up to a point. The relationship is more asymmetric than Pakistan would like to admit.”
NYT: "Pakistan Spies On Its Diaspora, Spreading Fear".
“F.B.I. agents hunting for Pakistani spies in the United States last year began tracking Mohammed Tasleem, an attaché in the Pakistani Consulate in New York and a clandestine operative of Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. Mr. Tasleem, they discovered, had been posing as an F.B.I. agent to extract information from Pakistanis living in the United States and was issuing threats to keep them from speaking openly about Pakistan’s government. His activities were part of what government officials in Washington, along with a range of Pakistani journalists and scholars, say is a systematic ISI campaign to keep tabs on the Pakistani diaspora inside the United States.”
Mihir Bose in FT, "India bats its way up the new world order".
“The event broadcast the power of India’s diaspora: the Indians wanted the English to know that England’s old colony now controlled this newly globalised game. India tops the world’s cricket rankings, but they are the game’s new moneybags too -- providing more than 80 per cent of the game’s global income. A series with India now makes more money for England than even the contest against their own rivals Australia, because of the sale of televised rights to the hungry Indian market.”
Vikas Bajaj in NYT, "Factories Find Favor".
“Mr. Date’s company is emblematic of a recent surge in exports of engineered and other sophisticated goods from India — a country perhaps better known for exports of skilled services like software outsourcing. But in fact, Indian exports of goods are now nearly double exports of services, growing 37.5 percent, to $245.9 billion, in the 12 months that ended in March. Leading the way are high-value products like industrial machinery, automobiles and car parts, and refined petroleum products. Indian exports are following a different path from that taken by other Asian countries like Japan, Korea and China. Those countries started by exporting products like garments and toys made by large numbers of low-paid, low-skilled workers, before moving to more sophisticated products like cars and industrial machinery.”
Ramachandra Guha in FT, "India is too corrupt to become a superpower".
“The sociologist Ashis Nandy once noted that ‘in India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos’. He wrote this in the 1980s, a decade marked by ethnic and caste violence, and bloody religious riots. It applies even more to the India of today, however, and is being made worse by the deterioration and corruption of India’s ruling political elite.”
Robert Worth in NYT Magazine, "Yemen on the Brink of Hell".
“She looked up and saw that the officers on the building’s roof were not just throwing rocks, as they had in the past. They were firing straight down into the crowd below. Within minutes, at least four people were dead and about 60 were wounded. Maqtari began running back toward ‘Freedom Square,’ the intersection where thousands of protesters had been camped out for months demanding the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s strongman president. Then the real assault began. Armored vehicles, tanks and bulldozers began converging on the protesters’ tent city from all sides. They fired tear gas and water cannons into the square and began shooting protesters at point-blank range. They doused the tents, which extended for hundreds of yards in every direction, with gasoline and lighted them on fire. None of the protesters had weapons. ‘People were dying all around us, and there was nothing we could do,’ Maqtari told me. Some were burned alive. At around 11 p.m., Maqtari fled to her sister’s house, about 200 yards uphill from the square. There, she and other protesters watched as flames engulfed the entire square, raging for several hours. Officers stormed through the local hospital and several field clinics where protesters were being treated, firing tear gas down the corridors, shooting up the ceilings and arresting doctors and nurses. Some thrust their gun butts into patients’ wounds. Others were laughing hysterically, as if they were on drugs, Maqtari and others told me, and shouting into the darkness, ‘Ali is your god!’ The next morning, amid the charred remains of the tents, someone had scrawled a sardonic reversal of the protesters’ chants on a wall. ‘The regime wants the fall of the people,’ it said.”
Abigail Fielding-Smith in FT on Theo Padnos’ book, Undercover Muslim: A Journey into Yemen.
“Unsatisfied by the worldly capital, Padnos and his friends decide to seek admittance to a remote religious community in Dammaj in the north where thousands of foreigners come to study and pray under the guidance of a Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) imam. But even here the purity they seek is not unsullied. According to one young man from north London living there, it is also home to a flourishing black market in weapons and sex with boys. And there is an uneasy awareness that the showy austerity is supported by ‘a certain family of petrocrat neighbours to the north… now pouring layers of gold and marble over the holy sites of Islam’.”
George Will in Washington Post, "Sustaining the Unsustainable".
“Thanks largely to the Tea Party, today, more than at any time since Reagan’s arrival 30 years ago, Washington debate is conducted in conservatism’s vocabulary of government retrenchment. The debt-ceiling vote, an action-forcing mechanism of limited utility, has at least demonstrated that Obama is, strictly speaking, unbelievable. Five months ago he submitted a budget that would have accelerated indebtedness, and that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected in May, 97 to 0. Just three months ago he was demanding a ‘clean’ increase in the debt ceiling, containing nothing to slow the spending carousel. Now he calls for ‘the largest possible’ debt-reduction deal. Today, he says, ‘If you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.’ Last year he advertised Obamacare as a sufficient reform of health care.”
Gary Fields & John Emshwiller in WSJ, "As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Ensnared".
“The U.S. Constitution mentions three federal crimes by citizens: treason, piracy and counterfeiting. By the turn of the 20th century, the number of criminal statutes numbered in the dozens. Today, there are an estimated 4,500 crimes in federal statutes, according to a 2008 study by retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker. There are also thousands of regulations that carry criminal penalties. Some laws are so complex, scholars debate whether they represent one offense, or scores of offenses. Counting them is impossible. The Justice Department spent two years trying in the 1980s, but produced only an estimate: 3,000 federal criminal offenses. The American Bar Association tried in the late 1990s, but concluded only that the number was likely much higher than 3,000. The ABA's report said ‘the amount of individual citizen behavior now potentially subject to federal criminal control has increased in astonishing proportions in the last few decades.’”
Scott Kilman in WSJ, "Crop Prices Erode Farm Subsidy Program".
“Land prices are way up and so are bank deposits, as high corn and soybean prices mean local farmers are making the most money in their lives. At Sloan Implement, which sells John Deere tractors, ‘This could be our best year ever,’ says chief executive Tom Sloan. An exception to the boom is the local office of the U.S. Agriculture Department, the dispensary of federal payments to farmers from an array of arcane programs with names like ‘loan deficiency’ and ‘milk income loss.’ On a recent afternoon, the parking lot in front of the squat brick building behind a Chinese restaurant was nearly empty. The reason: Payments from America’s primary farm-subsidy program, dating from the 1930s, have stopped here.”
Dan Mihalopoulos in NYT, "The City Payroll May Include a Few Too Many Bosses".
“In City Hall’s Department of Family and Support Services, the relatively small band of employees receive supervision from no less than one commissioner, 14 deputy commissioners, 4 assistant commissioners, 6 assistants to the commissioner and 17 others with the word ‘director’ in their titles. Budget consultants hired by city-employee unions calculate that the department has more than 200 employees in various supervisory roles and 334 ‘front line’ workers, for a ratio of about 1.6 staff members per manager. After weeks of remaining mostly quiet during a public relations barrage from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, labor leaders are preparing to respond with cost-saving alternatives to Mr. Emanuel’s decision to lay off as many as 625 city workers. Union officials will urge him to reduce the number of managers in Family and Support Services as well as other top-heavy departments instead of laying off their members, according to a section of the consultants’ draft report obtained last week by the Chicago News Cooperative. ‘Fewer workers are actually doing the work and an excessive number of supervisors and managers are overseeing the work,’ the consultants contend in the report. ‘We don’t need to be firing any more of the people actually doing the work — we need to get rid of the excessive number of people watching them do it.’”
Mark Konkol in CST on Mark Weinberg’s book, Mayor Culpa: Gone But Not Forgiven.
“In the ’90s, Weinberg published Blue Line, the unofficial Blackhawks program. His target was late Hawks owner Bill Wirtz, who also was the subject of Weinberg’s first book, Career Misconduct, which detailed his take on Wirtz’s business dealings. In fact, Weinberg was arrested three times for hawking that book outside the United Center allegedly in violation of the city peddling ordinance. He sued City Hall claiming his arrest violated his right to free speech since he was selling a book. He won the case in the appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider it further. In skid row circles, Weinberg is known as the patron saint of panhandlers. In 2003, he got City Hall to settle a class-action lawsuit he filed on behalf of beggars who were arrested and ticketed illegally. Panhandlers who were arrested got $400 each, and lawyers, including Weinberg, split nearly $400,000 in attorneys fees. The lawsuit was far more lucrative than the book.”
John Kass in CT, "Landscape is new, but it’s the same Chicago Way".
“Once he was a rock star. If you want to understand Chicago you've got to understand that when Hanhardt would show up in a police district station, you'd think the Beatles had arrived. They'd crowd around him, because he was the guy who could make things happen. He could make a detective with a nod of his head, or have somebody's brother-in-law transferred. He ran things. And his friends were the guys who ran City Hall. On Tuesday he wasn't a rock star. He was an 82-year-old man eased into a Near West Side halfway house, to sleep there nights and walk free by day, to find a relentless truth: Things change. But the Chicago Way is the one street that remains constant. The Outfit paved it years ago with local politicians and bureaucrats who control licenses, and with judges and lawyers and law enforcement honchos like Bill Hanhardt. ‘He comes out, the landscape has changed on him,’ Hanhardt's former friend and former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek told me Tuesday. ‘He's old, but he did survive prison. That's something.’”
Emily York in CT, "Wrigley leaving its longtime home".
“Occupancy at the Wrigley Building, which has not been designated a historic landmark, is at 60 percent, according to the company, which is well below average for office buildings in the area. Without Wrigley, occupancy would stand at 35 percent. Tenants include the advertising firm Energy BBDO, Allstate Insurance Co. and the Chicago Foundation for Education. Wrigley's Pharoah acknowledged that the interior needs extensive renovation and that the company has known for years that increasing occupancy would require a significant investment. He added that the second floor of Wrigley's north and south towers have been vacant for at least a decade. The company made the decision to leave its downtown headquarters about 10 years ago, he said, and construction on the Goose Island campus began in 2003.”
Great shot of "Wrigley Building before the city built up and over its height".
Max Colchester in WSJ, "France Telecom Will Bid Adieu to Minitel".
“That Minitel survived so long is a reminder that even in today’s fast-changing technological world the key to online success lies with a sturdy, easy-to-use system that guarantees a secure connection. ‘Its success was that it allowed people all over France to access a whole new world of information,’ says Tariq Krim, the chief executive of French start-up Joliclolud, who learned to program software using a Minitel. ‘Its downfall was that it was a closed system that refused to adapt.’”
Pierre Haski at YaleGlobal, "Is France on Course to Bid Adieu to Globalization?".
“Montebourg is no radical spokesman. With him, the cry for deglobalization has moved towards mainstream politics. He remained within the ranks of the old PS when maverick politicians such as Jean-Luc Melenchon abandoned it, to create a new party left of PS, following a series of electoral defeats. The effort emulates Germany's Die Linke, an alliance that includes remains of the old communist party and disenchanted former social-democrats who criticize the party’s support for ultraliberal reforms. Today, Montebourg finds himself in an informal coalition of supporters of deglobalization, including Melenchon's Front de Gauche, or Left-Wing Front; former Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, another PS defector; and much to his dislike, extreme-right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen, the daughter of National Front historical leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.”
Stefan Wagstyl in FT on Andrzej Stasiuk’s book, "On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe".
“Lurking beneath his romanticism is an appreciation of the conflicting realities. ‘Yes, everyone should come hee [Albania]. At least those who make use of the name Europe… Albania is the unconscious of the continent. Yes, the European id, the fear that at night haunts slumbering Paris, London and Frankfurt am Main. Albania is the dark well into which those who believe that everything has been settled once and for all should peer.’”
Dominic Sandbrook in Daily Mail, "Euro-geddon".
“So far, Britain has escaped the worst of the eurozone meltdown, and for the time being the Greek deal seems to have staved off a market crash. But when the financial contagion spreads to Italy and Spain, as it surely will, then British banks, manufacturers and construction firms, the City of London and thousands of exporters will face an almighty reckoning. It is hard to resist the feeling that public opinion has reached a tipping point. European enthusiasm, never strong in this country, curdled into indifference and suspicion long ago. But the looming collapse of the euro — a disastrous experiment we would have joined if Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson had had their way — represents something different. Ten days ago, one opinion poll found 66 per cent of Conservative voters would choose to leave the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow.”
Bruce Bawer in WSJ, "Inside the Mind of the Oslo Murderer".
“But I was stunned to discover on Saturday that Breivik was a reader of my own work, including my book While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. In comments posted in 2009 on a Norwegian blog, document.no, Breivik expressed admiration for my writings, but criticized me for not being a cultural conservative (although he was pleased that I was not a Marxist, either). Later on Saturday came news of a 1,500-page manifesto, entitled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence,’ that Breivik had recently written and posted online. The first half, in which he indicts the European cultural elite for permitting Islam to take root in Europe, makes it clear that he is both highly intelligent and very well read in European history and the history of modern ideas. In the second half he describes himself as having revived the Knights Templar. He also outlines in extreme detail how he and his fellow anti-jihadists can acquire weapons, ammunition and body armor and thereupon proceed to use ‘terror as a method for waking up the masses’ to the danger posed by Islam. This makes it clear he is completely insane.”
Joseph Nye in WSJ, "Another Overhyped Challenge to U.S. Power".
“But the future relevancy of BRICS depends on the diplomatic efforts of China to expand its influence. Some years ago, Brazil created an organization called IBSA that held summits of the three large democracies: India, Brazil and South Africa. China, not a democracy, has now suggested that IBSA be wrapped into the BRICS framework. At the same time, China has resisted the claims of India and Brazil for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council that would rival its own status.”
John Miller in WSJ, "WTO Chief Blasts Small Pacts, Says They Hamper Global Opportunities".
“The Doha Round has failed, said analysts, because it is too difficult to get meaningful concessions from 153 countries at the same time. Tariffs are already low around the world, and countries are even more hesitant to change their regulations to suit trading partners. They are more eager to do so within a small coalition of trading aprtners, ‘if, for example, they can be allowed to cut out a developing-world partner, such as China,’ said Mr. Evenett.”
Jack Willoughby in Barron’s, "Gloomy Forecast for Europe’s Banks".
“Time and again, Sean Egan and his team at Pholadelphia-based Egan-Jones Ratings have made important calls months ahead of their better-known rivals. The firm has won grudging respect for its work on Ambac, CIT, Countrywide, General Motors, IndyMac, Lehman Brothers, MBIA and New Century, all of which encountered big problems after getting poor credit grades from Egan-Jones. The firm is a Securities and Exchange Commission-regulated rating agency, whose customers pay for the research and the rating. In contrast, Moody’s, S&P and Fitch are paid by the issuers of the securities that they are rating.”
Andrew Smithers in FT, "The conditions for the next crisis are firmly in place".
“Financial crises occur when debt levels are excessive and asset prices fall. The severity of the recession that ensues can then be mitigated by large increases in government deficits and large cuts in interest rates. Today the conditions for the next financial crisis are already in place. Debt remains at pre-crisis levels and US equities and UK property are seriously overpriced. But the ability to reduce the impact of the next recession with large increases in government deficits and sharp falls in interest rates has vanished.”
Ira Stoll at Reason.com, "Five Facts About the Debt".
“You can fool around with inflation and with the percentage of GDP and with the revenue side of the equation, but the bottom line is that the federal government is spending about double what it was at the end of the Clinton administration. For all the clamor on the left to bring back the Clinton-era top tax rates, there are few, if any, politicians in Washington talking about bringing back the Clinton-era spending levels.”
John Taylor in WSJ, "The End of the Growth Consensus".
“Economic policy in the ’80s and ’90s was decidedly noninterventionist, especially in comparison with the damaging wage and price controls of the ’70s. Attention was paid to the principles of economic and political liberty: limited government, incentives, private markets, and a predictable rule of law. Monetary policy focused on price stability. Tax reform led to lower marginal tax rates. Regulatory reform encouraged competition and innovation. Welfare reform devolved decisions to the states. And with strong economic growth and spending restraint, the federal budget moved into balance. As the 21st century began, many hoped that applying these same limited-government and market-based policy principles to Social Security, education and health care would create greater opportunities and better lives for all Americans. But policy veered in a different direction.”
WSJ: "A Tale of Two Shale States".
“The Marcellus shale formation — 65 million acres running through Ohio, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and southern New York — offers one of the biggest natural gas opportunities. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, recognized that potential and set up a regulatory framework to encourage and monitor natural gas drilling, a strategy continued by Republican Tom Corbett. More than 2,000 wells have been drilled in the Keystone State since 2008, and gas production surged to 81 billion cubic feet in 2009 from five billion in 2007. A new Manhattan Institute report by University of Wyoming professor Timothy Considine estimates that a typical Marcellus well generates some $2.8 million in direct economic benefits from natural gas company purchases; $1.2 million in indirect benefits from companies engaged along the supply chain; another $1.5 million from workers spending their wages, or landowners spending their royalty payments; plus $2 million in federal, state and local taxes. Oh, and 62 jobs. Statistics from Pennsylvania bear this out. The state Department of Labor and Industry reports that Marcellus drilling has created 72,000 jobs between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011. The average wage for jobs in core Marcellus shale industries is about $73,000, or some $27,000 more than the average for all industries. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue says drillers have paid more than $1 billion in state taxes since 2006 — and the numbers are swelling…. Then there's New York. The state holds as much as 20% of the estimated Marcellus shale reserves, but green activists have raised fears about the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing and convinced politicians to enact what is effectively a moratorium.”
NYT: "Wrong Pipeline, Wrong Assessment".
“To the supporters, this is a straightforward equation: the pipeline would provide a reliable supply of “friendly” oil from a neighboring ally at a time of turmoil in much of the oil-producing world. But Keystone XL would cross sensitive terrain where a spill of diluted bitumen would be especially damaging, including the porous Sand Hills of Nebraska and the shallow Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies much of the Midwest with water. The risks are real. An earlier pipeline — carrying tar sands oil to the Midwest and built by TransCanada, the company planning to build Keystone XL — has had several spills, including recent ones in North Dakota and Kansas. The E.P.A. suggested that the State Department also needed to give more consideration to how constructing and operating the pipeline would affect wetlands, migratory birds and the communities it would pass through. The E.P.A. has also asked the department to re-examine its assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil. And, the agency notes, both of the environmental assessments failed to consider alternative routes.”
Ryan Dezember in Barron’s, "Natural-Gas Price Is Unlikely to Flare Higher".
“Market participants closely watch rig counts, such as the data published by oilfield-service company Baker Hughes, to predict where production is headed. The total number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. is currently 889, down by 93 rigs from a year ago — while the number of rigs aiming for oil has nearly doubled, to 1,021. That might seem bullish for natural gas, but in recent years, more than 22% of all U.S. natural-gas production has come from oil wells. Indeed, the rush to plumb onshore reserves for crude is yielding more gas than some distribution systems can handle. Each day in April, for example, producers in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation flared about 100 million cubic feet of gas that local pipelines and processing facilities couldn't handle, say analysts at Bentek Energy. That gas, enough to fuel 500,000 typical U.S. homes a day, will eventually hit the market when infrastructure construction catches up to drilling.”
WSJ Letters: "Robert Kennedy’s Conversion on Cost-Efficient Power".
Frank Gannon in WSJ on Naomi Riley’s book, The Faculty Lounges.
“Arthur Butz, shortly after becoming tenured at Northwestern University, published a book denying the Holocaust. Northwestern's president said that he could not take action against Mr. Butz ‘without undermining the vital principle of intellectual freedom.’ Mr. Butz is a professor of electrical engineering. Ms. Riley argues that such controversies are something of a red herring, drawing attention away from a more serious problem: Tenure has enshrined research as the criterion for academic advancement. More important, the premium on ‘original’ research has caused the eclipse of teaching and resulted in the overproduction of jargon-heavy esoterica or trivial ‘scholarship’ intended merely to win preferment within the professors guild. The problem is far from new: As long ago as 1859, Cardinal Newman observed that ‘to discover and teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person.’ Tenure, Ms. Riley would say, has simply made the problem worse. The idea that the principal purpose of a university is to instruct is now as dusty and irrelevant as a chalkboard. This aspect of tenure, Ms. Riley feels, is ‘eroding American education from the inside out.’”
Naomi Riley in WSJ, "Academia’s Crisis of Irrelevance".
“College teachers have responded as one might expect to a publishing-pays, teaching-does-not incentive. As a 2009 report from the American Enterprise Institute pointed out, over the past five decades the number of language and literature academic monographs has risen to 72,000 from 13,000 while the audience for such scholarship ‘has diminished, with unit sales for books now hovering around 300.’”
Ruth Kott in Univ. of Chicago Magazine, "Illustrated Ideology".
“After the Soviet Union formed in 1922, children’s books were illustrated, Bird explains, with an ‘enthusiastic embrace of avant-garde techniques.’ Many of the books that Special Collections owns were published during or just after the first Soviet Five-Year Plan (1928-32), goals that Stalin set to strengthen the country’s economy. At that time ‘the revolutionary government wasn’t too concerned with style,’ says Bird. ‘If anything, they felt they could utilize the energy of experimental art for their own efforts of remaking consciousness -- essentially, redesigning human consciousness.’ By the mid-1930s, the illustrations had changed to the Soviet realist style, which was mandated by Stalin and easily interpretable, meant to be comforting to a population recovering from ‘rapid modernization, forced collectivization, and mass purges,’ writes art-history professor Matthew Jesse Jackson in the online essay accompanying the exhibit. Soviet realism was presented as more mature than the avant-garde style, says Bird, showing a more certain future.”
Tim Martin in FT on Grant Morrison’s book, Supergods, and Joe Simon’s book, My Life in Comics.
“Supergods is also illuminating on the 1980s, the period of Morrison‘s own entry into comics, when every aspect of the superhero character was suddenly up for grabs. This was the decade in which a wave of sardonic British talent took apart America‘s favourite superheroes and sold them back in challenging, adult, deconstructed forms, producing comics such as Alan Moore‘s jet-black satires V for Vendetta and Watchmen and Neil Gaiman‘s literary, dreamlike Sandman.”
I was asked to write about Frank Miller’s Dark Knight collection, actually the second series which Miller was working on when the 9-11 attacks occurred. Ben Schwartz, the graphic novels editor at the new website-soon-maybe-a-quarterly, LA Review of Books, read my riff on the NYTMag Lori Berenson cover story here and thought I might be able to add something to Miller’s take on the hero under fire. It turned out pretty good but they are hammering together a house-style and apparently cyber-space is filling up so they cut it down quite a bit. I’ll run the full-length version here soon, and of course in the book out in the fall. For now this is up.
John Owens in CT, "A pitch for Negro Leaguers".
“Krock raised the $1,000 needed, and then he and the Negro Leagues Research Committee became intrigued about other unmarked graves. With the help of Burr Oak's staff, they located the unmarked graves of Taylor, who was a player or manager for five decades, and Donaldson, a brilliant left-handed pitcher. Donaldson later became one of the first black scouts in the majors, working with the White Sox from 1948 to 1954, where he signed some of the team's first black players, including Connie Johnson and Sam Hairston, the father of longtime Sox outfielder Jerry Hairston and grandfather of current Washington Nationals utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. A variety of donors paid for Taylor's headstone. White Sox majority owner Jerry Reinsdorf provided much of the funding for Donaldson's. After those successes, Krock officially joined forces with the Negro Leagues Research Committee to create the project.”
Keith + Chuck + No Age = "No Flag" live in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles.
Obituary of the Week
Nguyen Cao Ky (1930 - 2011)
"Born in 1930 near Hanoi and raised by an aunt, Nguyen Cao Ky joined the Communist resistance to French colonial rule at the age of 16, inspired by Ho Chi Minh. He fell ill with malaria, and when he recovered he was drafted by the French-controlled government, which sent him abroad to train as a pilot, though he never saw combat. When the country was divided in 1954 after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, he fled south along with hundreds of thousands of others and joined the American-backed South Vietnamese Air Force. In 1965, when he was 34 and a commander of the air force, he was chosen by his fellow military officers to lead the country as prime minister, ending a cycle of coups and countercoups that followed the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. In his book, Mr. Ky quotes an assessment of him by the State Department official William Bundy that he was 'the bottom of the barrel' and the last choice for the job.... After fleeing to the United States, Mr. Ky fended off accusations of corruption himself. Responding in 1984 to the columnist Jack Anderson, who accused Mr. Ky of being involved with criminal gangs, he said: 'If I had stolen millions of dollars I could live like a king in this country, but obviously I don’t live like a king.' In his book he made light of his struggles to make a new life in America. 'When a former national leader becomes a storekeeper, it is news,' he wrote."
Thanks to Jay Babcock, Glen Friedman, Steve Beeho, Mark Carducci.
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