a new low in topical enlightenment

Monday, March 19, 2012

Issue #129 (March 7, 2012)

Sheep Mountain from Centennial, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Dana Carducci by Keeley Carducci

Dana on drums; photo by Mike Carducci

From the London Desk of Steve Beeho…

Christopher Caldwell in Spectator on "Sarkozy's Last Stand".

"If you ask almost anyone in France why they plan to vote against Sarko, your interlocutor will invariably refer to Fouquet’s, the exclusive watering hole on the Champs-Elysées. This is surprising, since it refers to an episode not just from the first months or years of Sarkozy’s mandate but the first minutes. Sarkozy went there at the invitation of the owner, Dominique Desseigne, chairman of the Barrière group of casinos, to celebrate his 2007 election victory with France’s elites. He left tens of thousands of his less well-heeled supporters milling about in the Place de la Concorde, and earned himself the nickname le président des riches. So the way people have gone off him is personal, rather than ideological. You understand the difference: Barack Obama angered Catholics by trying to force their hospitals to offer birth control; Sarkozy angered Catholics by checking his email during an audience with the Pope."


Tony Rettman at Vice.com debates the materiality of existence with Richard Meltzer.

"I never thought the Talking Heads were punk; it’s like Stephen Sondheim music. Blondie wasn’t punk. CBGB’s, I hated that place! Basically, I didn’t like those bars that those bands played at. I felt uncomfortable at those places. I never liked the Dolls either. But I could stand the bars in LA. I’ve been living here in Portland for 16 or 17 years now and I have friends in bands here and I go to bars and see them. None of them have the notion of success as a goal and I like that. Everything is better when it’s made for a limited audience. That’s why I liked what was left of American Jazz 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe 200 people in the country still cared about that music at that time, but they still did it. That’s what I liked about punk; it ignored the protocols of music-making."


Noh Mercy reissued.

“Formed in San Francisco in 1977, NOH MERCY was comprised of only two women: Esmerelda and Tony Hotel. The band's motto was ‘No Boys On Guitars’ as a reaction against male-dominated rock 'n' roll. They didn't need boys or guitars…. Their only two previously released songs – ‘No Caucasian Guilt’ and ‘Revolutionary Spy’ – have long been considered essential recordings within Post-Punk/No Wave collector circles and by fans of other late 70's ‘girl’ groups, such as X-RAY SPEX, THE SLITS, and THE RAINCOATS. This album contains almost entirely unreleased material, unheard for over thirty years. Recorded by Fluxus artist and electronics genius Tommy Tadlock (TUXEDOMOON) during their peak in 1979. As prescient as bands come, NOH MERCY preceded the defiant queer rebellion of Riot Grrrl and the frenetic art minimalism of the early 21st century by decades.”


Simon Reynolds interviews Greil Marcus in Guardian.

"My father was executive officer, which is second-in-command, on a ship called the Hull, one of three ordered into a typhoon by Admiral Halsey – an insane and sadistic decision. When the boat was on the verge of sinking, the other officers asked my father to arrest the captain and seize control of the ship. It was a choice between almost certain death and being hung for mutiny. My father refused because never in the history of the US Navy had there been a mutiny. So he died, along with 400 men on his own ship and another 400 on the other boats. This was a huge national scandal, there were congressional investigations. It wasn't an obscure story."

--How eerie that at the very centre of Marcus's being are the tangled threads that run through his life's work: America and history, patriotism and a sense of national shame, secrecy and silence. "I've always known why I do what I do," he insists. "I didn't need to be psychoanalysed to find that out. An obsession with untold stories is a source of energy. It's why even if I don't seek out occulted subjects, I frame things that way as a writer."


Phil Singleton speaks to Jonh Ingham, the first journalist to interview the Sex Pistols, about his contribution to the Punk Wars.

“I was very relaxed about [the interview], until Johnny came in about halfway through with two girls and sat down in a chair about 15 feet away. They had been talking about him in the third person and continued to do it after he came in. That was odd. He must have been there for at least 10 minutes without saying anything. My first words to him were 'Well they've been telling me what you think, what do you say?' He just launched into the tirade I quote in the piece, all at incredible speed. From the corner of my eye I could see everyone staring at me, waiting to see what I would do. It was equal parts intimidating, impressive and funny. When he stopped I just burst out laughing. Then he went back to ignoring everyone and talking to his friends. How could you not be impressed?”


Pat Long interviews Nick Kent, Tony Parsons and Mick Farren for his The History of the NME book.

Nick Kent: “I wasn’t in the Sex Pistols in the same way that Pete Best wasn’t in The Beatles. I was in a work in progress that was called the Sex Pistols. My big contribution was saying to them ‘forget all this Small Faces and Who stuff you’re doing’. They were a retro band, it was a tribute to that mid-’60s mod thing that had no currency in the ’70s . I got them to listen to The Stooges. I had a tape of The Modern Lovers which I played to Matlock and Jones over and over again, saying ‘use these things to write your own songs’. If it hadn’t been for me they’d have been like McLaren would’ve loved them to be which was a kind of rockabilly group.”


Photographer Kevin Cummins strikes a more deflationary note about the glory days of the rock journalist.

“It was a really uneasy alliance. The writers were on a pretty poor word rate and we were on good money. We’d get double what the writers would get. But we had to buy 15 grand’s worth of camera equipment and all that they needed was a Biro. They thought we were all just chancers with a license to print money. I remember one editor calling me about a job and saying ‘I’ll commission you to do this but I want 10% of your fee’. The writers were living in a fantasy land really. They’d be staying in the same hotels as these rock’n’rollers and every month Manchester Joe would come round the office and buy all their promotional CDs so they’d have £400 in cash in their pockets. They were taken out for lunch by PRs, got into gigs free, had their nights out paid for, got their clothes free. Some of their wardrobes consisted entirely of promotional t-shirts. But at the end of the tour they had to come back to a bedsit in Camden while the band flew off to Rio.”


Joshua Chaplinsky asks "What the hell ever happened to... Harry Crews?"


Iggy Pop reveals his style secrets to Jon Savage.


Richard Marshall at 3am Magazine on neuroscience and the Nietzschean Brain.

"Although Nietzsche was writing before the great revolutions in many of the sciences, his inspired guesses are remarkably in line with what a modern contemporary metaphysician might put forward today. Galen Strawson, when discussing the Nietzschean metaphysic, expresses his astonishment at how uncannily good Nietzsche was at anticipating what we now think is the truth about the world. The metaphysics of Nietzsche consists of claims that are at first strange and then, after a little pondering, are perhaps what many of us accept when we think ourselves out of the grip of our everyday language and thought. As Eric Schwitzgebel reminds us, metaphysics is likely to end up being strange at some point, although of course not everyone agrees with this."

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Glenn Reynolds in WSJ, "A Syllabus for the ‘Occupy’ Movement".

“Class struggles and the New Class. Professor Kenneth Anderson of American University has suggested that the Occupy movement is best understood as a struggle between the upper and lower tiers of the elite. In recent years, the upper tier, composed of bankers, financiers, etc., has become decoupled from the lower-tier sub-elite of ‘Virtue Industry’ workers in fields like education, nonprofit activism, social work and the like -- with the latter feeling betrayed and abandoned. Mr. Anderson writes: ‘It was, after all, the upper tier New Class, the private-public finance consortium, that created the student loan business and inflated the bubble in which these lower tier would-be professionals borrowed the money. It's a securitization machine, not so very different from the subprime mortgage machine. The asset bubble pops, but the upper tier New Class, having insulated itself and, as with subprime, having taken its cut upfront and passed the risk along, is still doing pretty well. It's not populism versus the bankers so much as internecine warfare between two tiers of elites. The downward mobility is real, however.’

This unit would begin with Milovan Djilas's analysis of the managerial ‘New Class’ that ran the late-stage Soviet Union, and would then consider that analysis's application to American society today. Similar thoughts by Friedrich Hayek and Christopher Lasch would provide insight on the nature of the intra-class, intra-elite struggle that marks the Occupy movement.”


Mark Mills & Julio Ottino in WSJ, "The Coming Tech-Led Boom".

“Few deny that technology fuels economic growth as well as both social and lifestyle progress, the latter largely seen in health and environmental metrics. But consider three features that most define America, and that are essential for unleashing the promises of technological change: our youthful demographics, dynamic culture and diverse educational system. First, demographics. By 2020, America will be younger than both China and the euro zone, if the latter still exists. Youth brings more than a base of workers and taxpayers; it brings the ineluctable energy that propels everything. Amplified and leavened by the experience of their elders, youth and economic scale (the U.S. is still the world's largest economy) are not to be underestimated, especially in the context of the other two great forces: our culture and educational system. The American culture is particularly suited to times of tumult and challenge. Culture cannot be changed or copied overnight; it is a feature of a people that has, to use a physics term, high inertia. Ours is distinguished by incontrovertibly powerful features, namely open-mindedness, risk-taking, hard work, playfulness, and, critical for nascent new ideas, a healthy dose of anti-establishment thinking.”


David Rotman in Technology Review, "Can We Build Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs?".

“It turns out it's not necessarily true that innovative technologies will simply be manufactured elsewhere if it doesn't happen in the United States. According to research by Erica Fuchs, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, the development of integrated photonics, in which lasers and modulators are squeezed onto a single chip, has been largely abandoned by optoelectronic manufacturers as they have moved production away from the United States. Many telecom firms were forced to seek lower-cost production in East Asia after the industry's collapse in the early 2000s, and differences in manufacturing practices meant that producing integrated photonic chips was not economically viable in those countries. Thus a technology that once appeared to be just a few years away from revolutionizing computers and even biosensors was forsaken. Economists might argue that we don't care where something is produced, says Fuchs, but location can profoundly affect ‘the products that you choose to make and the technology trajectory itself.’ For many people in industry, the connections between innovation and manufacturing are a given—and a reason to worry. ‘We have learned that without a foothold in manufacturing, the ability to innovate is significantly compromised,’ says GE's Idelchik. The problem with outsourcing production is not just that you eventually lose your engineering expertise but that ‘businesses become dependent on someone else's innovation for next-generation products.’ One repercussion, he says, is that researchers and engineers lose their understanding of the manufacturing process and what it can do: ‘You can design anything you want, but if no one can manufacture it, who cares?’”


Jon Gertner in NYT, "True Innovation".

“One element of his approach was architectural. He personally helped design a building in Murray Hill, N.J., opened in 1941, where everyone would interact with one another. Some of the hallways in the building were designed to be so long that to look down their length was to see the end disappear at a vanishing point. Traveling the hall’s length without encountering a number of acquaintances, problems, diversions and ideas was almost impossible. A physicist on his way to lunch in the cafeteria was like a magnet rolling past iron filings. Another element of the approach was aspirational. Bell Labs was sometimes caricatured as an ivory tower. But it is more aptly described as an ivory tower with a factory downstairs. It was clear to the researchers and engineers there that the ultimate aim of their organization was to transform new knowledge into new things.”


Rich Karlgaard in WSJ, "In Defense of Apple’s China Plants".

“While alive, Jobs had a Teflon coating superior to that of most CEOs. Options backdating scandal? Gregory Reyes, ex-CEO of Brocade Communications, went to prison for it. Not Mr. Jobs. Lack of top managers or board directors that are not white men? Sorry, that was a worry for lesser CEOs, not Mr. Jobs. Apple's post-Jobs CEO, Tim Cook, doesn't have that Teflon, and the critics sense it. It's payback time, and they are pouncing. The cultural and political left, in particular, has been pounding the pulp out of Apple for the sin of making the iPhone, the iPad and other Apple products at Foxconn's factories in Shenzhen, China. It turns out Apple employs 40,000 workers in the U.S. but has 700,000 workers in China. Last year President Obama asked Mr. Jobs why that was so. ‘Those jobs are never coming back,’ Mr. Jobs reportedly said, then turned the heat back on Mr. Obama's anti-business policies.”


Fred Siegel in Weekly Standard on Tom Shactman’s book, American Iconoclast - The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer.

“In 1942 he volunteered for the Army and was rejected because of a hernia. Short but powerfully built, he went to work on the San Francisco docks to be part of the war effort. He listened to what his coworkers had to say, sometimes arguing with the Communists in his union; but he lived alone, and kept to himself after work, devoting himself to reading. He would later write in his notebooks: ‘It’s only when the oyster keeps its mouth shut that a grain of sand within may become a pearl.’ In 1951, Hoffer’s efforts to think about ‘the inner nature of things’ produced The True Believer, the short book on mass movements that made him famous. In it he saw the inner similarity, the ‘alchemy of conviction,’ between the Nazis and the Communists in their fanatical devotion to a seemingly selfless ideal. He saw that in both movements self-contempt was transformed into pride by way of ‘deprecat(ing) the present on behalf of a glorious future’ in which the devil -- who was essential for fanatical mass movements, be it Jews or the bourgeoisie -- was to be exterminated. Hoffer saw that the tensions inherent in pluralist societies were preferable to the alternatives, By keeping clear of the guilt of selfishness... we commit atrocities and enormities without... fear of remorse... A sense of duty and devotion to an idea often produces a selflessness more ruthless and harmful than extreme selfishness. Devoid of pretension, steely in his independence, even after he achieved fame with The True Believer, Hoffer went back to work on the dock for another 25 years.”


Doug Oberhelman in CT, "Why job creators skip Illinois".

“Despite the fact that we announced plans for dozens of new factories in the last few years and our United States workforce increased by more than 14,500 in the past 10 years, we haven't opened a new factory in Illinois in decades. Our Illinois workforce is at the same level it was 10 years ago. Caterpillar recently informed several Illinois communities that they are not in the running for a new factory we will build in the U.S., ultimately adding 1,400 jobs — work that's now done in Japan. In that case, logistics was a key factor, but even if it were not the case, when Caterpillar and most other companies look to locate a new factory in the U.S., Illinois is not in the running.It doesn't have to be that way.About 10 months ago I wrote a letter to Illinois political leaders expressing my hope that the state would undertake long-term, fundamental reforms so Illinois could compete for jobs and long-term business investment that drives growth. To date, we haven't seen much change.”


Megan McArdle in Atlantic, "Why Companies Fail".

“GM’s strategy, which focused first and foremost on sheer scale, also became ineffective over time, yet the company never moved substantially beyond it. Competitors built well-understood brands based on super-reliability, or style and performance, picking off customers year after year. But GM never settled on what it wanted to be, beyond gigantic.

Even a dysfunctional culture, once well established, is astonishingly efficient at reproducing itself. The UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman told me, ‘If new entrants assimilate to whatever is the majority at the time they enter, and if new entrants trickle in slowly, then the founding culture can persist over time, even if over the long run they make up a tiny minority.’ This is why Americans speak English even though more of us are ethnically German or Yoruba. In linguistics and sociology, it’s known as the ‘founder effect.’ In corporations, it’s known as ‘how we’ve always done things.’”


USA Today: "Disability claims swelling in recession".

“Certain things can cause someone to become disabled — a chronic illness, for example, or an accident. One thing that should not cause people to be categorized as disabled is a recession. But that appears to be happening with Social Security Disability Insurance, the 1950s-era expansion of the program best known for paying retirement benefits. In 2007, 8.9 million people were on disability. Now that number is 10.7 million, a 20% jump in just five years. While non-economic factors account for part of the increase — including a previous backlog of applicants and an aging population — the linkage between the rising disability rolls and the Great Recession is impossible to ignore. So, too, is the boom in law firms specializing in getting people disability benefits. The system is so inefficient that applicants commonly have to wait two years for a decision, prompting them to hire lawyers.”


Richard Epstein at Hoover.org, "Government by ‘Expert’".

“The 1914 Clayton Act, passed in the administration of the progressive Woodrow Wilson, modified the antitrust laws by creating special exemptions for labor unions and agricultural cooperatives, which could now organize collectively to gain monopoly rents. When those measures proved insufficient to achieve their goals, New Deal reforms -- including the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards Act 1938 -- were explicit in blocking the entry of new workers into the market in order to preserve monopoly power for union members. The Agricultural Adjustment Acts of the 1930s accomplished the same goal for farmers. At the state level, the extended use of the zoning power allowed one firm to prevail on local authorities to zone out a competitor that might wish to set up shop across the street. This shift in focus from controlling natural monopolies to creating statutory monopolies out of competitive industries places enormous stress on the rule of law. Why should particular favors be showered on some members of one industry, while denied to their rivals? Which occupations or trades should receive this special dispensation? Favoring one group and then another requires large administrative agencies to establish criteria by which the state selects successful applicants. It turns out, however, to be exceedingly difficult to offer specific rules of guidance in the ambitious undertaking of dispensing government favors. Administrative bodies thus continue to expand to achieve their particular ends.”


Bradford Wilcox in WSJ on Charles Murray’s book, Coming Apart.

“Globalization has paid huge dividends for the upper class, but it has undercut the earnings and job security of men (and their families) lower down the social ladder. Public policies designed to strengthen the educational opportunities (e.g., better vocational programs) and economic security (portable health-care plans) of ordinary Americans could help in renewing the economic foundations of the nation's virtues. Second, as Mr. Murray notes, the members of the upper class must abandon the modern horror of being thought ‘judgmental’; instead, he says, they should ‘preach what they practice.’ This does not mean turning the clock back to the 1950s or the Victorian age. It just means that the elites who control the heights of government, education, business and the popular culture could do a lot more to encourage the core American values that they themselves now live by. Here the creative cultural class that dominates New York and Southern California bears a special responsibility. One can imagine producers chortling at the suggestion, but they should consider making movies, TV shows and music that support, rather than corrode, the kind of culture that these elites seek to pass on to their own children.”


Mark Regnerus at Slate.com, "Sex Is Cheap".

“And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren't asking for much in return these days -- the market ‘price’ of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options -- more supply for his elevated demand -- it takes some measure of price control away from women. The Pill lowered the cost as well. There are also, quite simply, fewer social constraints on sexual relationships than there once were. As a result, the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did, at least when women are in their twenties. The price of sex is low, in other words, in part because its costs to women are lower than they used to be. But just as critical is the fact that a significant number of young men are faring rather badly in life, and are thus skewing the dating pool. It's not that the overall gender ratio in this country is out of whack; it's that there's a growing imbalance between the number of successful young women and successful young men. As a result, in many of the places where young people typically meet -- on college campuses, in religious congregations, in cities that draw large numbers of twentysomethings -- women outnumber men by significant margins.”


James Warner at Opendemocracy.net on Michel Houellebecq’s book, The Map and the Territory.

“Romantic love is like many other traditions for Houellebecq, in that he thinks it's important yet cannot make himself believe in it. He told the Paris Review that love may no longer exist because of “the materialist idea that we are alone, we live alone and we die alone. That’s not very compatible with love.” Seemingly he would endorse the statement of another provacateur, the Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas, that ‘liberalism is that cluster of theories about society that are based on the presumption that we must finally each die alone.’ Houellebecq fears the work ethic is likewise doomed. Jed's father, an architect, defends the vision of Charles Fourier – ‘Fourier had lived under the Ancien Régime, and he was conscious that, well before the appearance of capitalism, scientific research and technical progress had taken place, and that people worked hard, sometimes very hard, without being pushed by the lure of profit but by something, in the eyes of modern man, much vaguer; the love of God, in the case of monks, or more simply the honour of the function.’”


Allan Massie in TLS on Adam Kirsch’s book, Why Trilling Matters.

“Trilling’s own most famous book is the collection of essays The Liberal Imagination. It has been seen as a Cold War book, ‘a symptom of America’s retreat from New Deal liberalism into a more guarded and self-critical Cold War liberalism’, which Kirsch admits is ‘not wrong’. For Trilling, however, true liberalism required ‘the essential imagination of variousness and possibility’. In the 1930s, he had had the common experience of intellectuals of his generation when ‘the crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression had seemingly brought a decade of optimism and, in the arts, of modernist experiment to a terrifying halt’. The mood among writers became harshly self-critical. What had the modernist experiment really been worth, if it left readers blind to imminent social catastrophe? Many writers turned to the Left, Trilling among them. In language much more brutal than any he would use in later life, he wrote: ‘we are living in an environment that is befouling and insulting.... There is only one way to accept America, and that is in hate... at the bottom of America there is insanity’. By the time he wrote The Liberal Imagination, he had come to believe, as Kirsch writes, that ‘it is this emphasis on the collective and progressive that makes Popular Front liberalism deleterious to literature, especially the novel, which is necessarily subversive of collective values and primarily interested in the individual’.”


Stanley Fish at nytimes.com, "Politics in the Academy: The Same Old Song".

“Originalism is the view that interpretation is a historical activity in which one attempts to identify the meaning a text had at the moment of its production, either by looking into the intention of an author (what did he have in mind?) or by determining what the words an author used would have meant to the literate and rational reader at the time. (The latter is called public meaning originalism.) Thirty years ago, originalism was dismissed as an outmoded interpretive methodology and stigmatized as a conservative strategy for binding us to the dead hand of the past. Now originalism is on its way to becoming an orthodoxy as more and more scholars once skeptical of the faith declare themselves to be believers. As the number of adherents grows, so do disagreements about just what originalism is and how to apply it. Hence the annual conference, which has funding for at least the next five years.”


Marc Parry at Chronicle.com, "Jonathan Haidt Decodes the Tribal Psychology of Politics".

“‘He, over the last decade or so, has substantially changed how people think about moral psychology,’ says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University. Now Haidt wants to change how people think about the culture wars. He first plunged into political research out of frustration with John Kerry's failure to connect with voters in 2004. A partisan liberal, the University of Virginia professor hoped a better grasp of moral psychology could help Democrats sharpen their knives. But a funny thing happened. Haidt, now a visiting professor at New York University, emerged as a centrist who believes that ‘conservatives have a more accurate understanding of human nature than do liberals.’ In March, Haidt will publish The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Pantheon). By laying out the science of morality -- how it binds people into ‘groupish righteousness’ and blinds them to their own biases -- he hopes to drain some vitriol from public debate and enable conversations across ideological divides.”


Martha Bayles in Weekly Standard, "How the culture evolved from Old to New".

“The obvious framework, of course, is the clichéd view of modernism as ‘revolutionary art’ that pops up out of nowhere and flings itself against ‘static bourgeois resistance.’ To his credit, Levenson rejects this view in favor of a broader conception, namely that the multiple innovations of early modernism were part of an ‘oppositional culture’ that, rather than pose an external challenge to late 19th-century bourgeois society, were an organic part of it. Modernism, he says, was an expression, albeit indirect, of the ‘thrusting and ambitious’ dynamism of that same society. This is what the Marxists argue, I know. But as it happens, they are right. Objectively speaking, the changes wrought by industrialization, urbanization, railroads, telegraph and telephone, newspapers, and post-Darwinian positivism were far more disruptive to traditional beliefs and customs than anything occurring on the canvas, page, or stage. Indeed, so disruptive were these changes, the wealthy bourgeoisie created an idealized domestic sphere -- tranquil, comfortable, refined, and virtuous -- to serve as a bulwark against them. The trouble was, that domestic sphere proved stifling to many of its occupants, especially the women who were expected to preside over it, and thus the bourgeoisie became a ready market for the shocks and thrills imagined by artists.”


Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen in Wilson Quarterly, My Own Private Nietzsche: An American Story.

“Indeed, what looked like a fleeting intellectual fashion in the 1910s proved so durable that by 1987 it had accomplished, in the words of University of Chicago classics scholar Allan Bloom, nothing less than the ‘Nietzscheanization’ of the American mind. In The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom surveyed the wreckage of late-20th-century ‘value relativism’ in American culture and traced it back to the 1930s and ’40s, when German-speaking intellectual émigrés fleeing Nazism brought Nietzsche’s philosophy with them as they found refuge in the American academy. According to Bloom, though they introduced Americans to Nietzsche’s terrifying insights into the bankruptcy of Western thought and morality, these refugee scholars also instructed them in the larger European cultural framework from which they had come. But as his philosophy made its way from the academy into the radicalized culture of the 1960s, it became transfigured into a blank check for late-20th-century ‘nihilism, American style.’ ‘On enchanted American ground the tragic sense has little place,’ Bloom asserted, insisting that restless leftists of the 1960s threw down just enough fertile soil to nourish Nietzsche’s assaults on universals but not enough to support the moral reckoning his ideas required. For Bloom, the fact that American ideologues at century’s end could so badly botch the ideas of a genius who took the likes of them as his enemy bespoke the unbridgeable chasm between Nietzsche’s robust aristocratic radicalism and the slack, impoverished American culture that worshipped it.”


Jonathan Freedland in Guardian, "Eugenics: the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left’s closet".

“According to Dennis Sewell, whose book The Political Gene charts the impact of Darwinian ideas on politics, the eugenics movement's definition of ‘unfit’ was not limited to the physically or mentally impaired. It held, he writes, ‘that most of the behavioural traits that led to poverty were inherited. In short, that the poor were genetically inferior to the educated middle class.’ It was not poverty that had to be reduced or even eliminated: it was the poor. Hence the enthusiasm of John Maynard Keynes, director of the Eugenics Society from 1937 to 1944, for contraception, essential because the working class was too ‘drunken and ignorant’ to keep its numbers down. We could respond to all this the way we react when reading of Churchill's dismissal of Gandhi as a ‘half-naked fakir’ or indeed of his own attraction to eugenics, by saying it was all a long time ago, when different norms applied. That is a common response when today's left-liberals are confronted by the eugenicist record of their forebears, reacting as if it were all an accident of time, a slip-up by creatures of their era who should not be judged by today's standards. Except this was no accident. The Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and their ilk were not attracted to eugenics because they briefly forgot their leftwing principles. The harder truth is that they were drawn to eugenics for what were then good, leftwing reasons. They believed in science and progress, and nothing was more cutting edge and modern than social Darwinism. Man now had the ability to intervene in his own evolution. Instead of natural selection and the law of the jungle, there would be planned selection. And what could be more socialist than planning, the Fabian faith that the gentlemen in Whitehall really did know best?”


Lawrence Lipking in New Republic on Frederique Ait-Touati’s book, Fictions of the Cosmos: Science and Literature in the Seventeenth Century.

“During the seventeenth century, when modern notions of science first began to take form, polemics against the power of imagination rose often to fever pitch. Pascal thought that imagination, the ‘mistress of error and falsehood,’ tragically ruled the world, seducing the wise and foolish alike with empty shows that prevailed over reason and substance; and he and Descartes accused each other of succumbing to it. In a famous passage of The Assayer, Galileo ridiculed an enemy for believing that natural philosophy—or what we now call science -- ‘is a book of fiction created by some writer, like the Iliad or Orlando Furioso, books in which the least important thing is whether what is written there is true.’ On the contrary, ‘philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.’ Precise calculation trumps the most elegant fable. Most seventeenth-century scientists joined the attack. One standard view of the scientific revolution, repeated in many textbooks, explains what happened in terms of three related breaks from older traditions: the disenchantment of nature, the mathematization of nature, the mechanization of nature. What all have in common is what they all oppose, the image of nature as somehow responsive to human concerns.”


Harold James in FT on Brad Gregory’s book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.

“What is bold and unusual about The Unintended Reformation is that it comes from an explicitly Christian perspective and ends by arguing that only religion – properly understood as a doctrine of solidarity – can allow humanity to escape from the predicament of the modern, the material curse of poverty and the mental afflictions of prosperity. Gregory not only offers what is today a highly original combination of history and morality but also cogently explains why that combination is needed today. For Gregory, the perverse outcome of the Reformation can be summed up in two contemporary American buzzwords: ‘whatever’ and ‘stuff’. First, he shows how the Reformation arose out of the incapacity of late medieval Catholic society – and especially the church hierarchy – to live up to the biblical commandments of Christ. The fiery Florentine Dominican Girolamo Savonarola had already anticipated Martin Luther in attacking the immorality, worldliness and corruption of business in Medicean Florence and the moral degeneracy of the Borgia papacy. Again and again, Gregory insists that Christianity is fundamentally a message about living in community: deus caritas est, or as Jesus put it: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”


Andrew Hind in History, "Sainte-Marie among the Hurons: A Tragic History".

“It’s estimated that the number of Huron was halved within a decade as a result of disease. Partly as a result of these outbreaks, clashes of culture between Natives and the French, who were blamed for bringing illness with them, and in many eyes, were viewed as sorcerers for their alien ways, grew more intense. Worse of all, at this very moment of festering instability, traditional animosities between the Huron and the Iroquois of present-day New York State were resurfacing. Weakened by disease, the Huron were almost powerless to resist when their ancestral enemies invaded. In July of 1648, the Jesuit mission of St. Joseph was destroyed by an Iroquois war band. Father Antoine Daniel, a Jesuit missionary, was killed alongside many Huron. The following year, on 16 March 1649, the Iroquois attacked the village of Saint Louis, killing hundreds of Huron and capturing Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Garbriel Lalmant. The two missionaries were tortured to death in the most brutal of fashions. It is believed that the Iroquois dragged their suffering out over a number of days to better savor the experience, and that the blood-curdling screams of the priests could be heard echoing night and day through the forests.”


Richard Evans in London Review of Books on Sebastian Conrad’s book, German Colonialism: A Short History.

“All in all, it’s not much compared to the extensive remains, physical, cultural and political, left by larger and longer-lasting European overseas empires, which together covered most of the world’s land surface at one time or another. The German empire lasted a mere three decades and was broken up at the end of the First World War, its constituent parts redistributed among Britain, France, Belgium, Australia and South Africa. Small in surface area compared to the British, ephemeral in duration, the former empire still attracted attention in the inter-war years, when colonial propagandists lobbied to get it back, but even the Nazis paid it little serious attention, preferring to go for conquests in Europe instead, at least to begin with.”


Kenan Malik at Eurozine.com, "To name the unnamable".

“Restrictions on free speech were seen as the exception rather than as the norm. Radicals recognized that the way to challenge the hypocrisy was not by restricting free speech further but by extending it to all.It is this idea of speech as intrinsically good that has been transformed. Today, free speech is as likely to be seen as a threat to liberty as its shield. By its very nature, many argue, speech damages basic freedoms. It is not intrinsically a good but inherently a problem because speech inevitably offends and harms. Speech, therefore, has to be restrained, not in exceptional circumstances, but all the time and everywhere, especially in diverse societies with a variety of deeply held views and beliefs. Censorship (and self-censorship) has to become the norm. ‘Self-censorship’, as the Muslim philosopher and spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques Shabbir Akhtar put it at the height of the Rushdie affair, ‘is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone's – not least every Muslim's – business.’ Increasingly politicians and policy makers, publishers and festival organizers, liberals and conservatives, in the East and in the West, have come to agree.”


Sami Zubaida at Opendemocracy.net, "Women, democracy and dictatorship".

“In the early and middle decades of the twentieth century it was always dictators who embarked on policy and legislation which liberated and empowered women in both family and society. Ataturk started the process in Turkey, followed by Reza Shah in Iran, a model followed less boldly by some Arab leaders in later decades. And they did so against strong popular opposition, religious, conservative and patriarchal. It is unlikely that such reforms would have passed electoral ‘democratic’ processes. In societies based on communal, kinship and patronage allegiances ‘democracy’ is never liberalism. Are we witnessing the effects of this principle in present day situations? Agitation/revolution initiated by movements for liberty and social justice by the urban young usher in elections, in which the vast hinterlands of populations to whom these concepts are alien or secondary then vote for patriarchal and conservative forces. It is never too often repeated that Tahrir Square is not Egypt.”


Raymond Ibrahim at meforum.org, "The Historical Reality of the Muslim Conquests".

“Few events of history are so well documented and attested to as are these conquests, which commenced soon after the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad (632) and tapered off circa 750. Large swathes of the Old World—from the India in the east, to Spain in the west—were conquered and consolidated by the sword of Islam during this time, with more after (e.g., the Ottoman conquests). By the standards of history, the reality of these conquests is unassailable, for history proper concerns itself with primary sources; and the Islamic conquests are thoroughly documented. More importantly, the overwhelming majority of primary source materials we rely on do not come from non-Muslims, who might be accused of bias. Rather, the foremost historians bequeathing to posterity thousands of pages of source materials documenting the Islamic conquests were not only Muslims themselves; they were -- and still are -- regarded by today's Muslims as pious and trustworthy scholars (generically, the ulema).”


Ambreen Agha at satp.org, "Gilgit-Baltistan: Murder Most Foul".

“Gilgit-Baltistan has historically remained a peaceful region, with occasional cycles of orchestrated tension and violence. Shias were a majority in the region until the Government of Pakistan breached the State Subject Rules (SSR) promulgated in 1927 by the last Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh, in a massive effort at demographic re-engineering. According to the State Subject Rules, no non-local could take up permanent residence or acquire property in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. The rule, however, was suspended and violated when the Pakistan Government in the 1970’s, during the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto era, settled thousands of people from the then North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) in Gilgit-Baltistan, converting the local majority into a minority. The first reported sectarian clash took place during Bhutto’s regime in the mid-1970s, when Bhutto prohibited the Shias from setting up stages on the streets. The consequent Shia resentment resulted in firing by the Police, injuring many. Later, in May 1988, military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, in an attempted massive sectarian attack, sent a Lashkar (army) of militants, comprising natives of Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to attack the Shias living there. The fire of sectarianism was lit by Zia during the last days of his rule.”


Margherita Stancati & Tom Wright in WSJ, "Pakistan to Ease India Trade Limits".

“Pakistan had agreed last fall to hand India ‘most-favored nation’ trading privileges, a World Trade Organization term that means all members of the global trade body must treat each other equally when it comes to tariffs. Both countries are members of the WTO. Although India granted MFN status to Pakistan in the 1990s, Islamabad has yet to reciprocate despite its pledge, arguing that New Delhi maintains sizable non-tariff barriers to trade. But both sides have been trying in recent months to make better trade relations a way of improving broader ties. Relations hit a low after the attacks on Mumbai, India, by Pakistani gunmen in November 2008, killing more than 160 people, and peace talks have only recently started again after a suspension. A breakthrough in the trade part of the peace talks occurred in the fall when India dropped its objections to a European Union plan for Brussels to temporarily reduce tariffs on textile imports from Pakistan as a way to help Pakistan's moribund economy. Pakistan reciprocated by saying it would grant MFN status to India.”


Andrew Jacobs in NYT, "Chinese Heroism Effort Is Met With Cynicism".

“One posting on Sina Weibo, the country’s popular microblog service, seemed to sum up the sentiment that it is party officials, not ordinary citizens, who should be studying Lei Feng’s selflessness. ‘Your children have migrated overseas but you ask me to learn from Lei Feng in China,’ said the posting by the sharp-tongued blogger who goes by the name Notebook and has two million followers. ‘I have cancer because of the poisonous milk I drank but you ask me to learn from Lei Feng.’ The post was deleted by censors on Friday. Even Ren Zhiqiang, one of China’s wealthiest property developers, could not help himself. Apparently invoking a line from Lei Feng’s official diary that schoolchildren once memorized, ‘My only ambition is to be a rustless screw for the great cause of revolution,’ Mr. Ren called the legend a naked propaganda tool ‘for turning all citizens into screws that can be willfully placed anywhere.’ ‘That way, there is no need for democracy, human rights or freedom,’ he wrote. Dai Qing, a muckraking journalist and lapsed Communist Party member, said that many Chinese were offended by the patronizing message of moral righteousness. ‘Would I help a senior citizen or a child in need?’ she said in an interview. ‘Of course I would, but not because I was told to do so by a government movement. Empathy is a minimal requirement of human decency, not one that should be directed by a political party.’”


Kerry Brown at Opendemocracy.net, "China’s elite: a language deficit".

“Many high-level Chinese regard the US's sheer ubiquity as almost a never-ending nightmare they hope one day to wake from. The US has a significant presence in South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. But more distressingly now, it is in places such as Vietnam (which could now obtain weapons from the US, something unthinkable even a few years ago), Pakistan, and Mongolia. All around China’s edges, it can seem from Beijing, the US seems to be cropping up - even intent on a creeping mission of containment. Only with regards to North Korea (the DPRK) can China feel any certainty that the US is absent - and even there, the leadership in Pyongyang harbours a deep-seated objctive one day to negotiate directly with Washington. To put it another way: once the endless rhetoric of friendship fades, the shallowness of Chinese strategic alliances can appear both surprising and shocking. This predicament is a clue to China's recent diplomatic behaviour, which has been a classic mixture of reassuring ‘peace-and-harmony speak’ and permission to various agents of the central state to act with a sort of bolshie unilateralism.”


Rahul Jacob in FT, "Wukan vote challenges party line on democracy".

“Wang Yang, the most powerful party official in the province of Guangdong and a candidate for promotion later this year to the Politburo standing committee, China’s highest decision-making body, told a meeting in January that he saw Wukan as setting a possible ‘standard [for] reforming village governance’ in China. While village elections have been allowed in China since the late 1980s, the overwhelming influence of the Communist Party means that candidates must have the party’s support. With China’s eyes on Wukan, the villagers have thus far proved model democrats. Voter identity cards were issued only after a door-to-door voter registration process, which the villagers say they want to improve. A complex three-stage election was devised in which an election committee was elected last week and an ombudsman’s body will be elected this Saturday. The ombudsman group will monitor the village finances and the work of the village committee to be elected next month. Zhang Shuimei, the farmer who won the most votes in the election last week, is the father of one of the young men detained by the police for several days in December and rousingly declared he wanted to pass on the tradition of free elections to future generations.”


Henny Sender in FT, "Capital flight of China’s wealthy gets ready for take-off".

“Capital flight out of China has been part of the landscape for many years. That money comes from a mix of party officials, the lucky executives of state-owned enterprises that have listed (especially outside China) and newly wealthy entrepreneurs. But in times of political transition the flows outside China become ever more intense. In October, the 18th Party Congress will take place, signalling the beginning of a series of changes at the top. Nobody knows what the consequences of such shifts entail as the protected lose their patrons. The money that flows out is the bolt-hole money, money that is not looking for the highest returns (which are still to be found at home) but the safest haven.”


Economist: "State capitalism’s global reach".

“The most striking thing about state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is their sheer collective might in the emerging world. They make up most of the market capitalisation of China’s and Russia’s stockmarkets and account for 28 of the emerging world’s 100 biggest companies. True, the state-owned sector as a whole has been in rapid retreat. It now makes up only about a third of China’s and Russia’s GDP, against almost all of it two decades ago. But this decline is the result of selective pruning rather than liberalisation. Governments have been letting go of the small in order to strengthen their hold over the large. This has resulted in a couple of paradoxes. The SOEs are becoming wealthier and more powerful even as the overall state sector shrinks, and governments are tightening their grip on the commanding heights of the economy even as the private sector grows. The concentration of power in an inner circle of SOEs has been gathering pace over the past decade: China’s 121 biggest SOEs, for example, saw their total assets increase from $360 billion in 2002 to $2.9 trillion in 2010 (though their share of GDP has declined).”


Kim Tai-ick in Chosun Ilbo, "Gov’t Should Keep Its Hands Off the Korean Wave".

“In 1962, Korea's per-capita gross national income was only US$87, and its exports amounted to only $54.81 million. That year, a 17-year-old female singer named Yun Bok-hee formed a girl group called Korean Kittens and went on a Southeast Asian tour. That is probably the first instance of Korean pop culture exports. Last year, exports of Korean movies, TV soaps and music albums reached a record $794 million. Contents and products related to Korean pop culture generated a mere $5 million from exports in 1997, and before that nothing at all. That means cultural exports have grown 160 times over the last 14 years. As the Korean Wave spread, the number of tourists visiting Korea surged, eventually benefiting the country's fashion and beauty industries and demonstrating that the effects are far greater than the financial figures. At one time, Koreans used to say that the reason Korea was able to become the world's No. 1 in semiconductor production, female pro golfers and the board game baduk or "go" was because they were not managed by the government. In other words, government support leads to excessive meddling, and it is better to let different industries become more competitive by developing on their own. The same principle probably applies to pop culture.”


Donald Luskin & Lorcan Kelly in WSJ, "Europe’s Supply-Side Revolution".

“Skeptics point to Germany's success not as proof that Europe can grow, but as a reason why it can't. They worry about the imbalances of German competitiveness versus the large southern economies of Italy and Spain. They argue that the euro -- the common currency of Europe -- rules out devaluation by less competitive nations, which they hold out as the surest path to rebalancing. Mario Monti. Mr. Monti says growth will ‘come from structural reforms or supply-side measures.’ But this is the blessing of the euro, not its curse. The common currency prevents politicians from fantasizing that they can devalue -- and inflate -- their way to prosperity. Instead, as Italy's new prime minister, Mario Monti, put it, growth ‘will have to come from structural reforms or supply-side measures.’ That's how Germany became what it is today. A mere decade ago Germany was called ‘the sick man of Europe.’ It was still painfully digesting the unification of the former West Germany's relatively free and modern economy with the former Soviet-enslaved East.”


Brian Carney in WSJ, "Fear and Loathing In Athens".

“For years, Greece has been living beyond its means, engaged in a kind of accidental experiment in Keynesianism on steroids: Overpaid public employees helped lift the income of the entire country for years, their paychecks covered by money borrowed cheaply from abroad after Greece's entry into the euro in 2001. This borrowed money, which also went to support the incomes of those on unemployment or state pensions, drove up demand without increasing productivity or production in Greece. Rather, it had something of the opposite effect by driving up wages across the economy and creating an illusory sort of prosperity.”


Guy Dinmore & Giulia Segreti in FT, "Silvio Berlusconi: Yesterday’s man looks back in anger".

“Instead of delivering his standard stump speech reciting his achievements as prime minister for 10 of the 18 years since he first took office in 1994, Mr Berlusconi delivers a lecture on why Italy has a dysfunctional system that hobbles any prime minister and how a constitutional court dominated by leftwing judges blocked his reform efforts. ‘The prime minister doesn’t even have power over his own ministers. He only has the power of drafting the agenda of cabinet meetings,’ he says. Parliamentary procedures in Italy ‘are the longest in the world’ and a proliferation of small parties cripples coalitions, producing about 60 governments since 1946. Mr Berlusconi says he has started talks with Mario Monti, Italy’s new technocratic prime minister, on following up his economic reform drive by backing efforts by the major parties to implement constitutional change. ‘The hope is that this government, which is supported for the first time by the whole of parliament, will have the chance to propose great structural reforms, starting from the state’s institutional architecture, without which we cannot think of having a modern and truly free and democratic country.’”


Andrew Rettman at EUobserver.com, "Tymoshenko daughter: Merkel promised not to forget us".

“Eugenia Carr, the daughter of former Ukrainian leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, suspects that her mother is being poisoned and said Germany's Angela Merkel has promised to help.

She told EUobserver in an interview in Brussels on Friday (2 March) that her mother started having suspicious symptoms - dizziness, bruises and neurological pain in her spine - one week after she was detained last August and that they are getting worse.

She is now unable to walk the 500 metres to the visitors' area in the Kachanivska penal colony where she is being held. Carr added that judges have not allowed an independent toxicology report despite over 100 requests, even though it would give credibility to her enemies if it came up empty.”


Randy Dotinga in CSM on Neill Lochery’s book, Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945.

Q: Salazar, the Portuguese leader, comes across as an unusual sort of character -- a savvy dictator. What do you make of him?

A: He had a good war. He made an enormous amount of money for Portugal through the selling of tungsten. He demanded the Germans pay in gold. It became very clear very quickly that the Germans were not using their own gold, that it had been stolen from central banks of Holland, Belgium and France and, from 1943, that Germans were using gold stolen from victims of the Holocaust. There were 400 tons of gold, worth around $20 billion-plus in today's dollars. But just when you're about to paint him as an evil dictator, the fact is that he never spent the gold, and he was in power until 1968.

Q: Why do you think Salazar didn't spend the money on his people?

A: My guess is that part of his philosophy is that you don’t spend more than you earn. It's better to be poor but not in debt, which is kind of ironic considering what’s going on today.”


MercoPress: "Falklands “opening” ceremony to celebrate clearance of mine-fields left by Argentina".

“Next March 26 the Falkland Islands will be holding an ‘opening’ ceremony to celebrate the release of another 3.5 square kilometres which have been cleared from mines and other explosives planted by Argentine forces during the 1982 invasion. Another 3.5 sq km of ‘restricted’ land will be released March 26 Approximately 20% of the UXO discovered around the positions. ‘Land clearance and de-mining company BACTEC has made excellent progress due to a combination of good weather and sheer hard work’ said the Falklands Demining Project Office, (DPO) Program Manager Robin Swanson.
All minefields have now been fenced and all the remaining areas agreed within the contract to search have also been completed three weeks ahead of schedule.”


Josh Kron in NYT, "Resentment Toward the West Bolsters Uganda’s New Anti-Gay Bill".

“The Obama administration recently said it would use its foreign diplomatic tools, including aid, to promote equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain has threatened to cut aid for countries that do not accept homosexuality. But African nations have reacted bitterly to the new dictates of engagement, saying they smack of neo-colonialism. In the case of Uganda, the grudge could even help breathe new life into the anti-homosexuality bill. Antigovernment demonstrations sometimes turn violent and news about corruption scandals fills the tabloids here, but two things most people agree on is that homosexuality is not tolerated and that Westerners can be overbearing.”


Pat Buchanan on Juan Williams’ FoxNewsLatino program.

“Juan, can you get me a job on NPR?”


Cracked.com: "The 6 Most Elaborate F-Yous from Musicians to the Industry".


“Ed Sanders - Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts 1962-1965” at Boo-Hooray.

“In February of 1962 I was sitting in Stanley’s Bar at 12th and B with some friends from the Catholic Worker. We’d just seen Jonas Mekas’s movie Guns of the Trees, and I announced I was going to publish a poetry journal called Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts. There was a certain tone of skepticism among my rather inebriated friends, but the next day I began typing stencils, and had an issue out within a week. I bought a small mimeograph machine, and installed it in my pad on East 11th, hand-cranking and collating 500 copies, which I gave away free wherever I wandered. (...) Fuck You was part of what they called the Mimeograph Revolution, and my vision was to reach out to the ‘Best Minds’ of my generation with a message of Gandhian pacifism, great sharing, social change, the expansion of personal freedom (including the legalization of marijuana), and the then-stirring messages of sexual liberation.”



Trust Fanzine:

“Corporate Rock still sucks! SST Records DJ-Nights in Vienna, Prague, Leipzig, Goettingen from 21th of May to 24th of May 2012 German HC-Punk-Fanzine writers Andreas and Jan compiled a massive 30 years anniversary special in 2008 for Trust Fanzine, second oldest continuously-published punk fanzine in the world, about SST RECORDS, the most important and visionary hardcore-punk record label of all times. After celebrating the SST issue with a release party in December 2008 in Bremen, Germany, we returned in 2010 and 2011 with a full DJ tour through Germany. 2012 will lead us to Vienna, Prague, Leipzig and the final blasting concept will take place in Goettingen. With the music of ... Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Descendents, Tar Babies, WÜRM, Minutemen, Slovenly, Dinosaur jr, Sister Double Happiness, Saint Vitus, Bad Brains, Meat Puppets, The Last, Sonic Youth, Trotzky Icepick, Screaming Trees, Das Damen, Gone, Blood on the saddle, SWA, Zoogz Rift, Henry Kaiser, Saccharine Trust ... Selected by... DJ SST-ONE (Bremen) / Trust Fanzine DJ SCHIPPY (Köln) / Trust Fanzine plus local guests:

• Monday, 21th of may @ "CHELSEA", Vienna
• Tuesday, 22th of may in Prague Wednesday, 23th of May @ "ATARI", Leipzig
• Thursday, 24th of May @ "THEATERKELLER", Göttingen

Our FacebookPage."


Judy Keen in CST, "Neighborhood taverns drying up across Chicago".

“It’s still possible to find old-school taverns that cater to neighborhoods and serve inexpensive beverages, said Sean Parnell, who wrote the 2010 book Historic Bars of Chicago and runs the Chicago Bar Project (chibarproject.com), which chronicles the city’s bar scene and tracks the demise of such spots. ‘There aren’t many of them around anymore,’ he says. ‘You really can’t get a tavern license in areas that have regentrified... and the costs for licensing and insurance have really gone up.’ Bob Smerch closed Sterch’s at 2238 N. Lincoln — which combined his name with that of a partner named Stern — a couple of years ago with great reluctance after 38 years in business. ‘It was a neighborhood joint where everybody knew everybody,’ said Smerch, 70. ‘I miss it horribly.’ Today, he said, ‘people want bars now that focus on 20- or 30-year-olds and are so different from the ones that were.’”


Christine Haughney in NYT, "The Fiery end of a Life Lived Beneath the City".

“While Mr. Horton suffered from many of the problems his fellow tunnel dwellers faced, he also had an unusual support network. In his book, he mentions substance-abuse problems, and friends say he struggled with drinking. But he also had friends like Mr. Buck, who invited him to stay with him and his sister at their apartment in TriBeCa in the mid-1990s. Mr. Horton made them omelets and often searched through the trash for gifts to give them. Still he longed for the tunnels, Mr. Buck said, and after about a year, all agreed that it was time for Mr. Horton to leave, and he returned underground. ‘He had really mixed feelings about it,’ Mr. Buck said. ‘On the one hand, he set up these rooms for himself and he definitely felt pride and a sense of ownership. There was something magical and mystical down there. The other part was lonely.’”


Thanks to Archie Patterson.

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