Photo by Joe Carducci
Photo by Nunzio Carducci
Notes on Convention
The dumbest thing about the Republican Convention was the Mitt Romney camp’s determination to eradicate the least reference to the Ron Paul candidacy. It was juvenile. The Paul votes weren’t announced by the dingbat at the podium during the roll call, and only the Nevada delegation managed to smuggle in a Ron Paul sign into the place and during their Paulist announcement of their votes C-SPAN cut suddenly to a wider shot so that a Romney sign could be seen as well. That Romney now trails Obama, given present economic conditions, is due this in-your-face delivered not just over the course of four days in Tampa, but from the beginning. We learned in August that, whattaya know, heretofore never-won-anything Ron Paul took Iowa last winter and was therefore the frontrunner at the start. The party structure does exist I guess as it managed to delay that explosion for over six months. The newsmedia barely noted this since they are never more Orwellian than during the horserace of a campaign. Even in the Republican Party only former RNC chair Michael Steele seemed to object.
The low points in each convention tellingly were faked voice-votes, each of which audibly called for a roll call tally of votes. The Republican facial vote involved a rules change to raise the bar the Ron Paul candidacy had met to one it had not met, so as to prevent his name being put forth from the floor. The Democratic facial blew up in Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa’s face. He had to ignore three votes and he seemed to stall, waiting for divine intervention or at least Bruce Springsteen to spare him from being the face of forcing the Israel plank back into the platform. My brother Mark was at the Republican Convention and the word from the Texas delegation was that the presumed vote result was visible on RNC chairman Reince Priebus’ teleprompter before the voice vote was taken. The L.A.’s mayor’s problem seemed to be there was nothing on his teleprompter, but I think he could see his national ambitions go up in smoke.
The old political conventions were confabs of pols and ghost-payrollers who voted as they were told by the party bosses of their state, city, or county. They often voted first for some also-ran favorite son, so as to drive up the cost of their votes as the contending candidates bid for delegates over the course of the next rounds of voting until the nomination was secured. These were real conventions where nobody knew nothing and you could hardly see through the smoke to know what a-hole from which of the fifty hellholes was in your way. That was something television had to cover! As radio had done. And the newspapermen were the only bipeds more cynical than the bosses. Television though is a pandering magic mirror, someone once wrote, and of course pandering is a crime. Or it was before Television had its way with our standards.
After the 1968 Democratic Convention everything changed. The TV networks brought in their middle American anchors from Nebraska and Texas with their practiced reaction shots: “Jiminy cricket, Walter, that shore in’t how we do it back home!” And those student protestors and their demanding naiveté were also products of network television. So anyway, the parties don’t work the same way anymore. Network news divisions chase the last bit of drama completely out of the picture, and then have their own network heads cut the coverage for lack of drama. This year’s one-hour-a-night wasn’t even justified and won’t likely be repeated in four years. It took a Clint Eastwood to prank the smooth-running Romney-induced network-approved prime-time coma. Reporters were more affronted than Mitt when Eastwood made a Paulist anti-war point (and got the hall to cheer it). Being politicos with virtually no culture they even sought to float the idea that Eastwood was senile. They didn’t speak the word because the senile vote in large numbers Walter, and as we all know nobody gets elected president without winning the senile vote especially as the baby boomers begin to retire. But really, seriously, has anyone ever proven themselves lucid and inspired over a longer period of time in a more competitive shark tank than Clint in Hollywood? Dan Rather rose to the top of the Tiffany Network because… well, because CBS was the network of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, and “Hee-Haw”, not to mention “Rawhide”. How sharp does one need to be in an aquarium-ful of tropical fish.
The Democrats don’t have to put up with the networks’ handling of their message. Reporters hesitate to slow the velocity of the point made unless as message professionals they believe they can help it along. Where they get that idea one has to wonder. I often think of the old post-Chicago dems when stiffs like McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis routinely secured the nomination by not being Kennedys about anything but policy. The Dukakis convention featured a mauve, eggshell and teal color scheme! I was reminded of that by the dramatic full-throated American-ness of this Democratic Convention. I’ve never seen so many atheistic, world-gov types pray so fervently or chant “U-S-A” like the most boorish of ugly Americans. In their smoke-free backrooms now, the Democrats must wonder how many times they have to buy these damn votes. Republicans have bought votes with military spending and education and health schemes, but they may have a flicker of shame as they do whereas vote-buying all that remains of the ideology of the Democratic Party. And you’d think somebody’s head would roll at the DNC when the RNC pulls off skilled live music accompaniment (G.E. Smith’s band) whereas the DNC piped in tired hits and then “climaxed” with an even more tired Foo Fighters performance!
One thing Bill Clinton did for his party was to convince it that half of that Wall Street money was theirs if they asked for it, and that the military is the leading edge of socialism in America if you let it. I loved all those shots of old-timer veterans looking like they were photoshopped into their delegations. Whatever the fad for cross-dressing, the Democratic Party has hardly changed at all. But we’re coming off the 20th-century high-watermark for socialism whether one refers to China, Russia, India, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, Canada, or the U.S. And so the Democrats are stuck in a defensive crouch, reactionaries in this new century where centralization and meritocratic hierarchies are threatened by instant informational access and horizontal manufacturing diy. The Republicans have a weakness for hierarchies too, but they do have a debate going on within that isn’t merely tactical or strategic. If Romney loses, four years after McCain, another middle-of-the-road establishmentarian, perhaps a Paul-libertarian-conservative brain transplant might be possible. The Republicans at mid-century were only reluctantly convinced to sally forth into the world to fight Communism. The putative next Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, can probably be counted on to keep her party’s peace with the hundreds of overseas military bases and the entangling alliances-to-come in Asia, Arabia and Africa.
The Dems used to want to cut Defense spending; now they seem to think just the wealthiest Americans can float the social needs of the rest of us. The Paulists in power wouldn’t seem likely to make the parallel mistake of thinking cutting the Defense budget might be enough. Certainly the budget numbers are leading us into a dead end. The Democrats seem obsessed with reinflating the bubble and stoking the greed they depend on to tax. Their moral critique of both is increasingly contingent. Ron Paul expects the currency to collapse into its essentially worthless unbacked federal credit. The Fed, the ECB, and the Chinese all just gunned their national credit cards in the same week. Party on…
Andy Kroll & David Corn at Motherjones.com, "“Fuck You, Tyrants!”: Ron Paul Supporters Rebel on Convention Floor".
Seth Lipsky in WSJ, "The Gold Standard Goes Mainstream".
Hanna and Her Editors
One thing of interest that I’ve noticed, kind of spins from my essay in NV 134, " “Magazines, Women and Women’s Magazines”". There has been a flurry of work by Hanna Rosin, her book, The End of Men – And the Rise of Women, and the original cover story in The Atlantic called “The End of Men – How Women Are Taking Control of Everything” which I referenced, plus her Sept. 2 essay in the New York Times Magazine, “Who Wears the Pants in This Economy”.
I really didn’t intend to read the Times Mag essay after
having read The Atlantic piece, which followed other recent gender stoops there. But the Magazine’s essay read as if written by another writer. And then to confirm my suspicion this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review trashes Rosin’s book in a review by Jennifer Homans who is an historian of ballet. Also in the Book Review this week is ex-ballet dancer and over-sharing memoirist Toni Bentley’s similar dispatch of Naomi Wolf’s latest best smeller, Vagina – A New Biography. All these onanistic soft-headed conceit-maintenance projects seem a female version of the laziest literary products of male prerogative back at its post-Pill/pre-feminism high watermark around 1970 by Jerzy Kosinski-types. Anyway, I just intended to underline here the evidence in one writer on one topic at two magazines that the Times Magazine editors will apparently make you rethink and rewrite what The Atlantic editors will simply cheer on. I did not know that.
Bumrush the Sensitivos
In closing, this fortnight, I think it’s worth reiterating my point about how contemporary Western multicultural etiquette ominously tracks with what unreconstructed pre-modern Islam demands of infidels and djimmi. I wrote about this in my essay, "“An Etiquette of Djimmitude”", in
NV 119. This week it seemed that if it wasn’t for a real commitment to the First Amendment, President Obama and Secretary Clinton might have fully prostrated themselves before the irate Arab street. If the First Amendment doesn’t hold, the Second better. Broadcast media’s amnesiac parameters, and further, web-sourced “memory” forgets our own history for us. Unbeknownst to us, we the Christian West, also had a Church Universal which expected to rule this profane realm too. The Church’s power over the Holy Roman Empire’s Barons and Kings qualified as progress in its day, but that progress birthed mercantile and secular power centers which required more freedom of action and thought. The Church had it within its doctrine the ability to adjust its posture and concede space and legitimacy to these gathering centers of social power. In fact R.R. Palmer in his study, Catholics & Unbelievers in 18th Century France, notes:
“By and large the religious did not believe in their doctrines with the intensity, the sense of personal discovery and conviction, with which the philosophes believed in theirs. The implications of this fact are many. On the one hand, it made Catholics often more reasonable than philosophes, more willing to persuade, examine, or remonstrate, less given to sarcasm, mockery and abuse.” (R.R. Palmer)
Earlier Palmer paints his portrait of Voltaire-the-abusive without granting there was much cause on the part of the Church and its defenders. Was this true in the 18th century? From here today we know the direction our history took; Palmer was writing in the 1930s. The Church was split by Reformation and lost its royal entry to state power in nation after nation. Much blood had been spilled in the centuries before Voltaire ridiculed the Church, and more was to be spilled by defenders of the state Church even as Palmer wrote, in Spain. And the philosophes’ descendents would take state power to their own extreme in the nations unlucky enough to be ruled by scientific socialism.
But ridicule backed by growing power of modern social elements is what broke the spell of theocratic Europe. Why would any free descendent of this bloody, vituperative process imagine that tender respect offered to Islam, which has every ambition to power the Vatican had and more, will lead it to return respect?! In a recent New Yorker Salman Rushdie writes about the early weeks of hiding out from Khomeini’s fatwa over his novel, The Satanic Verses. Rushdie is a fairly arrogant person, and he mentions Voltaire in passing, but Rushdie isn’t even willing to approach the clarity of a Christopher Hitchens, nevermind Voltaire himself, even as this strange faith singles him out for death.
Knowing nothing about Islam in 1989 I thought the fatwa was just comeuppance. It’s always seemed to me that if one leaves a faith one shouldn’t try to pull it down behind one. That isn’t really leaving it behind. But I thought that as one of these descendents of modern Christendom. Rushdie found himself in a no-man’s land of his particular immigrant nightmare. His former religion still refuses to allow archeology or any science near its sites or texts. In Mali now, as in Bosnia then, even Muslim sites are destroyed as totemic pagan pollution. Rushdie seems most annoyed today that back then the actual book that he wrote got lost in both the rage of the Eastern street and the Western news-stream; it was considered to have been a simple insulting of a great religion. A joke from then proves him correct:
“Did you hear, Salman Rushdie has written a new book.”
“Yes, it’s called, Buddha You Fat Fuck.”
I still love that joke! But we laugh understanding the absurdity of that idea. In Islam there is no absurdity and it’s not funny. Rushdie is right that his book got lost in the shuffle. But today the West knows far more about Islam. There’s no excuse in this West for us to stop the jokes, cartoons, movies, and invective. It’s the best thing we can do for Muslim civilization, and the only thing we can do for ours.
Along Sand Lake Road, Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Photo by Joe Carducci
From the Desk of Joe Carducci...
Andrew Kramer in NYT,"Nation Rich in Land Draws Labor From One Rich in People".
“Skeptics of further economic ties between Russia and China point to deep mistrust dating to border skirmishes fought along the Ussuri River in 1969 that froze all development for decades. The border, in fact, was only fully demarcated in 2009. Russians also harbor fears that broadening economic cooperation will lead to a wave of Chinese immigrants taking over sparsely populated territories, a concern heard in this village, too. ‘Why are these people here?’ said Nadezhda A. Kolyesova, a saleswoman out for a stroll recently through Ostanino, a picturesque jumble of wooden homes overlooking a pond, birch forests and the Golden Land farm. ‘I have nothing against them,’ she said. ‘But Russia is for Russia, and China is for the Chinese.’ After some contemplation, she conceded, ‘I suppose it’s all right, so long as they don’t enslave our children in the future.’ The farm has a policy of giving free vegetables to any local who shows up, mostly older people. The Chinese workers live in makeshift dorms made of plywood and scrap lumber, and patronize the village store for cigarettes, vodka, sausage and ice cream. Once, a fight broke out between young Russian and Chinese men. No romances have been reported, but the consensus of several grandmothers at the local market was that, in fact, Russians and Chinese can live peaceably side by side in rural Russia.”
Brian Spegele & Wayne Ma in WSJ, "For China Boss, Deep-Water Rigs Are a ‘Strategic Weapon’".
“When China launched its first deep-water oil rig in May, Cnooc Ltd. CEO Chairman Wang Yilin delivered a message to employees and his Communist Party superiors about what it meant to Beijing's ambitions abroad. ‘Large-scale deep-water rigs are our mobile national territory and a strategic weapon,’ he told a crowd gathered at Cnooc's glittering headquarters in central Beijing as well as rig workers by videoconference. State-controlled Cnooc is using the rig to drill three wells this year in the South China Sea—an area with overlapping claims by China and other surrounding nations and an increasingly sore friction point between Beijing and Washington. Mr. Wang now is spearheading Cnooc's $15.1 billion offer to acquire Canada's Nexen Inc., a blockbuster deal that needs U.S. regulatory approval because of Nexen's energy assets in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Gideon Rachman in FT on Zheng Wang’s book, "Never Forget National Humiliation – Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations".
“The Communist party, which was wedded to a class-based view of history and prided itself on its internationalism, did not stress nationalism. Politically, it was more convenient for the communists to blame the misfortunes of China during the 19th and 20th centuries on the decadence and weakness of the country’s own rulers. That all changed, however, in the post-Mao era. Once the Communist party had effectively embraced capitalism, inequality and globalisation, it needed some new source of political legitimacy. This search for a new political narrative became much more urgent after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. A nationalist view of history was promoted by the party, as part of a conscious response to Tiananmen. History textbooks were rewritten and a whole panoply of new museums built all over the country – with the explicit purpose of showcasing past national humiliations. There is an Opium War museum in Guangdong; a Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Nanjing – and a lavish new history gallery in the Beijing National Museum, which presents China’s past as a story of national humiliation, redeemed by the courage and strength of the Communist party. Dr Zheng believes that the leaders who promote a nationalist discourse are not driven simply by a cynical search for legitimacy. He argues the top Chinese leadership has internalised nationalist views – and the rather paranoid opinion of foreign powers that goes along with them.”
Kathrin Hille in FT, "The ascent of the bureaucrat".
The principle of favouring those who fall into line is at play in selecting the next leadership. Li Keqiang is seen as a prime example. His biography closely mirrors that of Hu Jintao, the current party chief and state president, and Mr Li’s mentor. Their families come from the same province, and, like Mr Hu, Mr Li rose through the Communist youth league and served as provincial governor and party secretary…. He was identified as a candidate for top office early on. ‘When he became Communist party youth league head at Peking University in 1982, everyone knew already that he was going to be a senior leader one day,’ says Peng Dingding, a freelance writer who knew Mr Li as a student. However, Mr Li’s administrative career is short on achievements and long on disastrous events. An old saying calls for officials to start a posting with ‘three fires’, a metaphor referring to outstanding policies. But after Mr Li took over as governor of Henan in 1998, three fires in the central province claimed hundreds of lives and earned him the nickname ‘Three Fires Li’. Mr Li was later promoted to the province’s party secretary, an office he held until 2004. Under his watch, an Aids epidemic raged in the inland province. The problem had been created before his arrival by a commercial blood-selling scheme propagated by the previous administration to boost the local economy. Residents in many of the poorer, rural parts of the province were encouraged to sell blood to merchants who extracted the plasma and then injected the donors with the remaining blood. As infections spread in the late 1990s, entire villages were left to die. According to Henan health officials and Aids campaigners, Mr Li’s government focused on covering up the epidemic, and suppressing attempts by victims to seek help and by doctors and non-government organisations to inform and assist people. In a widely reported example, Gao Yaojie, a doctor, identified the problem early but was put under house arrest by provincial authorities and prevented from educating villagers and seeking policy debate higher up.”
Simon Rabinovitch in FT, "China gears up for next investment boom".
“Since Mao Zedong's death in 1976, Chinese leadership transitions have, like clockwork, been accompanied by a big jump in government spending. Despite concerns about the country's current slowdown, there are signs that this politics-fuelled investment boom will reassert itself next month when a new cast of officials takes over at both central and local levels. ‘The connection between the economy and the government transition is extremely close in China, perhaps even closer than it is in western countries,’ says Cai Hongbin, dean of Peking University's Guanghua School of Management. Already, provincial and municipal governments have unveiled spending plans totalling more than Rmb10tn ($1.6tn). The National Development and Reform Commission, a central planning agency, has also approved about Rmb1tn worth of urban rail, road and waterway projects.”
Harsh Pant at YaleGlobal, "South China Seas – New Arena of Sino-Indian Rivalry".
“In a bold display of power and with the help of its friend Cambodia, China prevented ASEAN from even issuing a joint statement for the first time in the organization’s 45-year history. China succeeded in playing divide-and-rule politics, thereby ensuring that the dispute remains a bilateral matter between Beijing and individual rival claimants. When China suggests that it would like to extend its territorial waters – which usually extend 12 nautical miles from shore – to include the entire exclusive economic zone, extending 200 nautical miles, it is challenging the fundamental principle of free navigation. All maritime powers, including India, have a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea. China has collided with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Philippines in recent months over issues related to the exploitation of East China Sea and South China Sea for mineral resources and oil. India’s interest in access to Vietnam’s energy resources puts it in direct conflict with China’s claims over the territory. In an ultimate analysis, this issue is not merely about commerce and energy. It is about strategic rivalry between two rising powers in the Asian landscape. If China can expand its presence in the Indian Ocean region, as New Delhi anticipates, India can also do the same in South China Sea waters. As China’s power grows, it will test India’s resolve for maintaining a substantive presence in the South China Sea.”
Jeff Smith at YaleGlobal, "A Forgotten War in the Himalayas".
“A close confidant of the president, Galbraith wrote to Kennedy requesting his ‘frank protection’ on this ‘major political decision.’ His concerns were not misplaced: The State Department initially rejected his proposal, requesting further time to examine the border dispute. ‘The McMahon line… is indeed sanctioned by all recent usage,’ Galbraith vented in another letter to Kennedy. ‘What a hell of a time to have to start a study.’ Days later the ambassador got his wish. With ‘slightly reluctant permission’ from the White House, Galbraith announced on October 27: ‘The McMahon Line is the accepted international border and is sanctioned by modern usage. Accordingly we regard it as the northern border of the [North East Frontier Agency] region.’ Fifty years later, Galbraith’s basic formulation remains official US policy. The US position on Aksai Chin, the “western sector” of the Sino-Indian border dispute, is noncommittal by comparison. At the time, Galbraith ‘resolved to maintain silence on the west,’ concluding: ‘The fact that the Indians had not discovered a Chinese road [in Aksai Chin] for two years seemed to suggest a tenuous claim.’ Today, the US considers Aksai Chin a disputed area ‘administered by China but claimed by India.’”
Kenneth Payne in Times Literary Supplement on David French’s book, "The British Way in Counter-insurgency, 1945-1967".
“As the Empire waned, British displayed an improvisational approach to countering insurgencies, stretching the rule of law with the elaboration of oppressive emergency legislation, conducting detention without trial, forcing the migration of populations, and engaging in the coercion and collective punishment of those sympathetic to the insurgents. There were also undoubtedly brutal and extrajudicial abuses of individual human rights. French reaches the sensible conclusion that these were not centrally orchestrated, but that many of the transgressors escaped unpunished. There was no systematic British ‘dirty war’, he notes, but there was certainly an atmosphere within which elements of the security forces could operate contrary to international norms. In the end, the charge that the British interpreted minimal force somewhat cavalierly sticks – but at the same time some perspective is necessary, and can be found in the chapter where French provides comparative statistics on the British and French casualties. Certainly, the French adopted a much more robust approach to tackling colonial rebels, and killed very many more. Their concept of guerre revolutionnaire emphasized the need to control the population forcibly and was, some French military theorists felt, dangerously close to a totalitarian approach. This, after all, was the era of great totalitarian philosophies in which unimaginable violence and destruction were meted out on a grand scale in order to control societies worldwide.”
Veronica Khangchian at Satp.org, "Manipur: An Ever-present Danger".
“Significantly, according to an August 28, 2012, report, the URF has called on Manipuri students to look towards the fast developing regions of China and Southeast Asia to pursue higher studies and employment, arguing that ‘mainland India’ has repeatedly disowned them. The URF cited the present incidence of threat and intimidation against the people of the Northeast, in apparent retaliation to the Kokrajhar (Assam) riots, as evidence of the perverse attitude of mainstream India. The PLA’s close links with the Communist Party of India – Maoist is also emerging as a cause for urgent concern. Security agencies believe that the CPI-Maoist is making rapid inroads into the North-East, immediately to gain access to the arms market in the neighbouring Yunan Province of China, as well as in Myanmar and the Southeast Asian countries. According to a June 2, 2012, report, the Maoist were ready to spend INR 2 billion for arms and training, an amount that would tempt any insurgent group in the Northeast. The CPI-Maoist is likely to become a member of a Strategic United Front (SUF) comprising major insurgent groupings in South Asia, and including the groups in India’s Northeast. Indian Security agencies apprehend that members of Chinese intelligence agencies may participate in the meetings of the proposed SUF in the guise of representatives of the Wa State Army – the largest illegal arms manufacturer in Myanmar.”
Rahila Gupta at Opendemocracy.net, "Sexual violence in Indian cities".
“But the rapid and uneven transition in other cities has not only forced a realignment of the interface between the public and private domains but created starkly different communities with starkly different value systems – India shining, technologically advanced, leading the field in the new economies and the old India driven by superstition, religion and conservatism. Although these binaries are not mutually exclusive, it has given rise to parallel, niche lives. Women find themselves trapped in an explosive mix of traditional attitudes and new roles when overlapping economic and social systems – feudalism, agrarian economy and neo-liberal capitalism – come crashing into each other. These different Indias, living side by side, are like gated communities rarely interacting with each other, but when they do the consequences can be dire. If the young woman in Guwahati had been taken home by a chauffeur driven car, a facility available to most middle class women, she would have escaped that mauling. Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi, crammed full of malls and transnational companies built on agricultural land epitomises this clash. In the remains of the agricultural community not yet displaced by technological developments, there are high levels of female infanticide, caste violence and women trafficked from even poorer parts of the country to make up for the shortage of brides caused by infanticide. At the same time, women working in the malls and transnational companies, who frequent pubs after work, are exposed to harassment and violence from men because, ‘Public spaces have historically been thought of as male spaces and Guragaon's men find it particularly difficult to deal with the fact that an increasing number of women - armed with their own resources - seek to share such spaces on equal terms.’”
Paul Adams in FT, "Society is evolving faster than the political system".
“Last month’s Eid festival marking the end of Muslim fasting was celebrated with a national holiday for Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike. The predominantly Hindu government, perhaps fearful of the communal violence that erupted at the time of independence and flared up again in 1999 when a popular reggae singer died in police custody, seeks to promote national unity by emphasising communal diversity. The problems facing Mauritius appear moderate, even compared with many parts of the developed world. Yet society is evolving faster than the political system and many Mauritians believe it is time to stop differentiating between the four main communities and embrace a non-racial national identity. ‘We don’t yet have real citizenship in this country,’ says a retired newspaper editor and social commentator.”
Seyla Benhabib at Qantara.de, "Debate on Muslim Identity in the West".
“The Turkish migrant community became more and more religious, as a result of developments in Turkey itself, as a result of the rise of the AKP, but also because, beginning in the 1980s, many of the German conservatives started introducing Koran-schools. The Koran-schools were first introduced into Germany to teach the Muslim community – the Turkish community, as well as the Moroccan and Afghan communities – by the CDU-CSU, who thought that it would be a good idea for them to have increasingly religious education. To this day, there is a big debate about whether or not the way to integrate the Turkish community is to build the institutions of the so-called Islamic community. Partially, this is the dynamic of Germany, which recognizes Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism as official religions.”
Daniel Dombey in FT, "Eastward turn stirs Turks’ fear of catching instability".
“Today, however, the fear expressed in Istanbul and Ankara is that Turkey is instead importing instability from its neighbours. The latest focus of that angst is the arrest last week of seven alleged Iranian agents accused of informing Tehran on Turkey's military installations, its battle against Kurdish militants and its support for Syrian rebels. The affair has grown in importance; reports say the police have uncovered a 100-strong espionage network. The case highlights the strains between Ankara and Tehran. Never wholly comfortable neighbours, the two governments are at loggerheads over a Turkey-based Nato radar station designed to neutralise Iranian missiles. And then there is Syria, a daily issue of life and death.”
Farnaz Fassihi in WSJ, "Prized Guests Slam Iranian Policies".
“Iranian media, which had touted Mr. Morsi's visit as a diplomatic coup that could signal a shift in improving Egypt-Iran relations, censored his speech. The simultaneous interpreter at the conference first stumbled then refrained from translating Mr. Morsi's comments on Syria.
Only a few Iranian websites published the full speech. One called Mr. Morsi an ‘immature and new diplomat.’ Iran and Egypt haven't had d Syria's delegation walked out of the conference room during the speech. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, in an interview with Iran's Arabic news channel Al Alam, said Mr. Morsi had violated the summit's principles by meddling in another country's affairs. Mr. Morsi also praised the four caliphs of Sunni Islam at the start of his speech, an unusual evocation by an Arab leader. Iranians interpreted the comments as a jab at the Islamic Republic, a Shiite theocracy that doesn't recognize the first three caliphs as legitimate.”
Husain Haqqani in WSJ, "Manipulated Outrage and Misplaced Fury".
“At the heart of Muslim street violence is the frustration of the world's Muslims over their steady decline for three centuries, a decline that has coincided with the rise and spread of the West's military, economic and intellectual prowess. During the 800 years of Muslim ascendancy beginning in the eighth century—in Southern Europe, North Africa and much of Western Asia—Muslims did not riot to protest non-Muslim insults against Islam or its prophet. There is no historic record of random attacks against non-Muslim targets in retaliation for a non-Muslim insulting Prophet Muhammad, though there are many books derogatory toward Islam's prophet that were written in the era of Islam's great empires. Muslims under Turkey's Ottomans, for example, did not attack non-Muslim envoys (the medieval equivalent of today's embassies) or churches upon hearing of real or rumored European sacrilege against their religion. Clearly, then, violent responses to perceived injury are not integral to Islam. A religion is what its followers make it, and Muslims opting for violence have chosen to paint their faith as one that is prone to anger. Frustration with their inability to succeed in the competition between nations also has led some Muslims to seek symbolic victories.”
Raymond Ibrahim at meforum.org, "Egyptian Father Kills Three Daughters with Snakes".
“While Emirates24 gives the story a Western spin—saying the man doubted his wife's fidelity, the true parentage of his daughters, and did not want to pay child-support—the Egyptian show, Al Haqiqa (‘the Truth’), which devoted an episode to this matter, never mentioned this angle, but rather portrayed him as killing his daughters simply because they were girls. Among the many people interviewed who verified this was the maternal grandmother, who said that, beginning with the birth of the first daughter, the man became hostile saying ‘I hate girls’ and had to be placated to return to his wife. This scenario was repeated more dramatically with the birth of the second daughter. When he discovered his wife was pregnant with a third daughter, he tried to poison the pregnant woman but failed. He then spent a year plotting how to kill the girls without getting caught and had even tried with different snakes earlier, which proved ineffective, until he finally succeeded. After stressing that the father was clearly not insane, but acted in a very deliberate manner, the host of Al Haqiqa, Wael Ibrashi, explained that ‘this matter deserves discussion, since these mentalities are present in Egyptian society. We never thought that these understandings that existed in pagan [jahiliyya] times concerning female infanticide would ever return, but they have returned.’ By ‘pagan times,’ or jahiliyya, Ibrashi was alluding to a famous narrative: according to Muslim tradition, pre-Islamic Arabs used to bury their newborn infants alive, if they were daughters, but the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, outlawed female infanticide.”
Ekrem Guzeldere at Qantara.de, "Nothing Left But the Colour".
“The Association of Afro-Turks was founded in 2006 by Mustafa Olpak in Ayvalik, in the North Aegean region. His family came to Turkey from Crete in 1924 as part of an exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Because they were Muslims, they were categorised as Turks. Olpak himself suffered bullying at school and dropped out for a year as a result, but he finished his education in the end. He had been married to a ‘white’ Turk for 25 years when her family suddenly announced, ‘The Arab isn't going to get any of the inheritance.’ Black people are often called Arabs in Turkish. Olpak divorced his wife. It wasn't the only racist comment or example of discrimination which he'd experienced in his life. Alev Karakartal, is an Afro-Turk woman who now lives in Istanbul. Speaking at a conference there in early June 2012, she described the strategy with which many Afro-Turks confront discrimination. ‘By entering into mixed marriages,’ she said, ‘Afro-Turks try to have lighter-skinned children, so that eventually their colour will disappear altogether.’ But Olpak responds, ‘We have nothing else left aside from the colour. There's nothing left culturally anymore.’”
Jeffrey Gettleman in New York Review of Books, "The War Against the Nuba".
“The Nuba Mountains are one of the most culturally distinct parts of Sudan, a region of traditional, often animist African beliefs and home to dozens of languages. Until the 1970s, most Nuba didn’t use money; they would, for example, barter a handful of tobacco leaves for some steel wire. Many didn’t bother with clothes. This was deeply embarrassing to a Muslim country trying to appear modern, and in the early 1970s, the Sudanese government forbade merchants to sell anything to a person who was naked. The Nuba are famous for their traditional wrestlers, massive men who grapple for honor and riches in dusty rings, usually surrounded by hundreds of passionate fans.”
Adam Nossiter in NYT, "Islamists Struggle to Run North Mali".
“The Islamists allied with Al Qaeda appear to have gained a firm military hold in the north, and have subdued the local population with a brutal application of Shariah law, including public beatings, amputation and a stoning death. What is left of the Malian Army, divided by a military coup, has made no move to dislodge them after five months of occupation, and a talked-about West African regional intervention has yet to coalesce. But the Islamists’ grasp on administering the vast desert region, which is larger than France, seems much less secure, members of the delegation said. The delegates — members of an unofficial group of concerned citizens called the Coalition for Mali — unexpectedly found themselves listening to demands from the Islamists that the government in Bamako send back bureaucrats to run state services. ‘They asked for the state to resume its functions, because it’s too complicated for them to manage,’ said Daouda Maïga, who used to run a state development program in Kidal, a region of nearly 70,000 people before the Islamist takeover emptied it. ‘They are not used to running things.’”
Samir Yousif at Opendemocracy.net, "The failure of democracy under Islamism".
“During the demonstrations and in a hidden and unpublicized way, Qatar managed to be part of the Arab Spring. The Qatari Al-Jazeera Satellite TV paved the way. The significant financial support that came from Qatar to the well-organized Islamists guaranteed it a permanent seat in the newly evolving power centre. While the youth were engaged in bringing down the regime, the Islamists were planning to take full advantage of the outcomes of regime change. To achieve that, they used the financial support that was coming from Qatar, exactly as Qatar had planned. Through such 'investments' Qatar is expanding its influence beyond its borders, and it is benefiting considerably from such developments. From the other side, it is noted that the newly evolving system in Tunis was unaware of such developments. The Islamist Leader Rachid Ghannouchi dismissed any plans to participate in the coming elections as he landed in Tunis Airport coming from London. By saying that, he succeeded in distracting attention away from the Islamists and their plans in the upcoming elections.”
WSJ Weekend Interview: "Mohammed Ibrahim".
“He says it's never ‘comfortable’ to deliver such blunt messages, but unlike the global aid-giving establishment, he doesn't mind throwing a few sharp elbows. That brings us to Mr. Ibrahim's broader ‘disappointment’ with the West: the ‘decline of capitalism over the last 20 years,’ for which he blames ‘the collapse of communism.’ How's that? ‘The demise of the Soviet Union was probably the worst thing that could have happened to capitalism,’ which until the 1990s ‘had been under pressure, with the presence of a competing system, to demonstrate that it can deliver what is best for the people.’ Mr. Ibrahim says Western governments have since relaxed into a cronyism of business loopholes and selective bailouts. ‘We now see a very strange phenomenon where we have capitalist institutions—companies—that have been allowed to privatize profits and socialize their losses. Is that capitalism?’”
Paul Moreno in WSJ, "How Public Unions Became So Powerful".
“FDR pointed out the obvious, that the government is sovereign. If an organization can compel the government to do something, then that organization will be the real sovereign. Thus the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act of 1935 gave private-sector unions the power to compel employers to bargain, but the act excluded government workers. It declared that federal and state and local governments were not "employers" under its terms. Postwar prosperity and the great increase of public employment revived the public union idea. By 1970, nearly 20% of American workers worked for the government. (In 1900: 4%.) The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees led the effort to persuade a state to allow public-employee unionization, and Afscme prevailed in Wisconsin in 1958. New York City and other cities also permitted their workers to unionize. President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order 50 years ago that broke the dam. The order did not permit federal employees to bargain over wages (these are still set by Congress), or to force workers to join a union or to strike (no state or city allowed that), but Kennedy's directive did lead to unionization of the federal workforce. And it gave great impetus to more liberal state and local laws. Government-union membership rose tenfold in the 1960s.”
Sebastian Mallaby in FT, "Regulators should keep it simple".
“In an uncertain world, grand risk-mapping ambitions can be taken only so far. The OFR can usefully press companies to improve the quality of their data, which are often scattered among incompatible IT platforms. But regulators cannot be expected to measure all the risk in an economy; nor should they spend unlimited resources on an effort that will only disappoint. In the US and the UK, the growth of financial regulation has far outpaced that of the financial industry, as armies of supervisors seek to discover risks and neuter them. The trend is not sustainable.
For banks as for hedge funds, costly attempts to gather complex data may be counterproductive. Mr Haldane constructs a sample of about 100 global banks in 2006 and asks which of two measures predict the odds of failure in the crisis: a simple leverage ratio, measuring assets over equity; or a more complex, risk-weighted one. The answer is that the simple metric performs better. The vast expansion of the Basel rules over a quarter of a century may have achieved nothing.”
John Kay in FT, "The law that explains the folly of bank regulation".
“But Mr Haldane’s analysis represents a fundamental challenge to this orthodoxy. The likely explanation of his discovery that more complex rules are worse is to be found in Goodhart’s law. This proposition was first set out in the 1970s by the economist Charles Goodhart, in the context of the implementation of monetary policy. Prof Goodhart suggested that any measure adopted as a target loses the information content that appeared to make it relevant. People change their behaviour to meet the target. These responses change the relationship between the target – the measure of money supply, or the value at risk – and the objective that policy makers seek to influence: the availability of credit, or the risk exposure of a bank. The target becomes a bad measure of success in reaching the objective as soon as it is adopted as a target. That is why the risk-weighted measure of Basel, which was a regulatory target, proved to be less reliable than the leverage ratio, which was not.”
WSJ: "Speech of the Year".
“While Americans were listening to the bloviators in Tampa and Charlotte, the speech of the year was delivered at the Federal Reserve's annual policy conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 31. And not by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The orator of note was a regulator from the Bank of England, and his subject was ‘The dog and the frisbee.’ In a presentation that deserves more attention, BoE Director of Financial Stability Andrew Haldane and colleague Vasileios Madouros point the way toward the real financial reform that Washington has never enacted. The authors marshal compelling evidence that as regulation has become more complex, it has also become less effective. They point out that much of the reason large banks are so difficult for regulators to comprehend is because regulators themselves have created complicated metrics that can't provide accurate measurements of a bank's health. The paper's title refers to the fact that border collies can often catch frisbees better than people, because the dogs by necessity have to keep it simple. But the impulse of regulators, if asked to catch a frisbee, would be to encourage the construction of long equations related to wind speed and frisbee rotation that they likely wouldn't even understand.”
Fred Bergsten & Joseph Gagnon in FT, "Time for a fightback in the currency wars".
“China is by far the largest currency aggressor but has not been the major perpetrator of late. Three distinct groups are now involved. First are other Asian countries, including Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia. Second are major oil exporters including the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria. Third are rich countries near to the eurozone, most notably Switzerland but also Denmark and Israel. If Mitt Romney is elected US president, he will be able to label many countries as currency manipulators on his first day in the Oval Office, not just China, as he has promised. These countries all exhibit rapidly growing levels of foreign currency reserves as well as significant current-account surpluses. They buy US dollars and euros to suppress the value of their own currencies, keeping the price of their exports down and the cost of their imports up. Thus they subsidise exports and tax imports, enabling them to maintain or increase trade surpluses and pile up foreign exchange reserves. These tactics, in effect, export unemployment to the rest of the world.”
John Cochrane at The Grumpy Economist, "How not to blow it with phase-outs".
“A physician wrote with a comment, on my statement that economists don't calculate total marginal rates often enough: ..I certainly did. As a solo general surgeon in private practice, in 2004, with a gross business income before taxes of roughly $500K, I figured that the 39.6% Federal + 9.98% state top income tax rates + 6% [state] sales + Medicare which no longer peaked out, + property taxes, medical license fees, malpractice fees which were already at $100K for me and headed higher, and no scholarship help for the 4 out of 10 kids in college at the time, my marginal rate was somewhere north of 70%. Once I 'retired' from surgery and became a biology professor, making around $50K, my gross income was one tenth as much, but now one of my kids got a full-ride scholarship at [University], another got a half-ride scholarship, and another got a couple thousand that would not have been given under my earlier circumstances. By my 'going Galt', I figure that the .gov took at least a $200K hit (I remember previously paying $161K in fed. income taxes alone), whereas my disposable income was only about half of what it had been before. So you can bet that we non-economists, with all the individually detailed information at our disposal do indeed make these kinds of calculations, even if they're tough for economists to do in aggregate. At least for me, the argument that a simple 36% federal income tax is below the Laffer curve hump is lame, given other factors.”
E.J. McMahon at Publicsectorinc.com, "Shiller on government jobs: who’s ‘framing’ whom? ".
“Shiller believes in a big government multiplier - the notion (far from universally accepted among economists) that a dollar spent on government will yield more than a dollar of growth, sometimes a lot more. As a result, he is also a big fan of government spending as economic stimulus. ‘If state and local governments had not cut back so much, the broader economy would be stronger today,’ he writes in his latest Times piece. ‘That would be true even if they had raised taxes to avoid incurring more debt.’ Shiller has made this argument before... But to support it this time around, he engages in a bit of data mining:
‘From July 2008 to July 2012, the number of state and local employees nationwide fell by 715,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reality is actually worse than that figure suggests. The total ended up 1.31 million people below where it would have been had public sector employment simply kept pace with population growth. The situation did not improve as the financial crisis eased and the economy picked up. From March 2009 to March 2012, the nation's total nonfarm employment increased 0.6 percent. State and local government employment, by contrast, fell 2.9 percent.’
If you stretch that time frame back a couple of years, however, the statistics tell a somewhat different story. Early in the Great Recession, private and local government continued adding jobs even after the private sector had begun shedding them. Between July 2007 and July 2008, when private firms shed just over a million jobs, the nation's state and local government sector gained 344,000. Over the next 12 months, while private employment plummeted another 5.9 percent, state and local government declined by just 0.7 percent.”
James Hagerty in WSJ, "Assessing Fannie’s Past and Future".
“There already is a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that Fannie and Freddie represent a failed experiment in state-sponsored mortgage lending. The Obama administration is forcing them gradually to reduce their mortgage holdings. The Republican platform calls for ‘scaling back the federal role in the housing market and avoiding taxpayer bailouts.’ Deciding what sort of housing-finance system should replace the one now dominated by Fannie and Freddie is an arduous task. The basic question: Should the U.S. return to a free market in home loans? The history of Fannie and Freddie suggests that Congress will find it difficult to do that.”
NYT: "Cutting Government, Blindfolded".
“The release of the sequester details, however, might change the equation and transform the debate from abstract politics into a concrete and eye-opening reality. An across-the-board 9.4 percent slashing of the defense budget will mean $6.9 billion from the operation and maintenance of the Army, and $4.3 billion each from the Navy and the Air Force. There are huge cuts to equipment, as well as cuts to chemical and nuclear demilitarization. The cuts to domestic spending, mostly at 8.2 percent, are even broader. A few examples: $1 billion from special education funds; $2.3 billion from low-income rental assistance, likely affecting 277,000 households; $86 million from food safety and inspection; $735 million from the F.B.I.; and $136 million from the Secret Service. With American embassies now under siege, $129 million would be cut from embassy security, construction and maintenance. Medicare providers would be cut by 2 percent, or $11 billion. And there would be cuts to Congressional expenses (though the salaries of lawmakers would not be touched).”
Holman Jenkins in WSJ, "The Day Health Insurance Died".
“Two weeks ago, amid a clamor from investors, she stepped down as chief of America’s biggest private health insurer, WellPoint. But Mrs. Braly should be remembered for another long-running act of futility – trying to explain to Washington how insurance works. If people can wait till they’re sick, Mrs. Braly took the trouble to explain, the insurance business can’t exits. If the cost of health care is not passed along to customers, the industry will be bankrupt. WellPoint charged young women slightly more than young men because they see the doctor more often. It canceled the coverage of four breast-cancer victims (out of 200,000) because they purchased their policies after they were sick. That an insurance company behaved like an insurance company left Washington incredulous. ‘There was a wall. I couldn’t pierce the wall,’ complained Sen. Dianne Feinstein after one hearing with Mrs. Braly. ‘How much money do you make?’ was the penetrating demand of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who groused afterward, ‘It was like she was completely oblivious to the public reaction.’”
WSJ Weekend Interview: "Gloria Romero".
“Ms. Romero credits the CTA for its savvy and chutzpah. The union has killed or hijacked nearly every reform bill that has popped up in the legislature. In 2010 it even sank a bill to let high school teachers volunteer to be evaluated by students. ‘Nobody would see [the evaluation] except the teacher, and CTA fought it tooth and nail. They really were of the opinion that 'we run the place.' . . . Their basic argument was that it's the nose underneath the camel's tent. So you can't do anything, because once you do something,’ the lid on reform is ‘lifted. So they just kill it.’ This year the unions torpedoed a bill (introduced by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla) that would have made it easier for districts to fire teachers who molest students. Same for legislation to strip pensions from teachers who have sexual relationships with students. The unions claimed the bills infringe on due process and First Amendment rights. Ms. Romero did manage to get ‘one past them and it was a big one.’ In 2010, her last year in the Senate, she wrote the nation's first "parent trigger" law allowing parents to take over underperforming schools and transform them by gathering a majority of parent signatures.”
Michael Grunwald in Time, "One Nation Subsidized".
“The rise of the Tea Party and the weakness of the Obama economy have fueled a Republican narrative about Big Government as a threat to liberty, redistributing wealth from honorable Americans to undeserving moochers, from taxpaying ‘makers’ to freeloading ‘takers.’ In fact, most Americans are makers and takers – proud of our making, blind to our taking. Republicans often point out that only half the country pays income taxes, but just about all Americans pay taxes: payroll taxes, state and local taxes, gas taxes and much more. The problem is that we pay in $2.5 trillion and pay out $3.8 trillion. And those trillions of dollars don’t all go to undeserving moochers, except insofar as we’re all undeserving moochers.”
Ian Lovett in NYT, "Critics Say California Law Hurts Effort to Add Jobs".
“Environmentalists in this greenest of places call the California Environmental Quality Act the state’s most powerful environmental protection, a model for the nation credited with preserving lush wetlands and keeping condominiums off the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. But the landmark law passed in 1970 has also been increasingly abused, opening the door to lawsuits — sometimes brought by business competitors or for reasons unrelated to the environment — that, regardless of their merit, can delay even green development projects for years or sometimes kill them completely. With California still mired in what many consider its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the law, once a source of pride to many Californians and environmentalists across the country, has turned into an agonizing test in the struggle to balance environmental concerns against the need for jobs and economic growth.”
Tim Black at Spiked-online.com, "The immorality of compensation culture".
“And of course, everyone knows who is responsible for this upsurge in cynical-looking lawsuits: it’s Claims Direct, or the National Accident Helpline, or some other part of the ever-growing army of ambulance-chasing lawyers intent on making a fast buck off the back of someone twisting their ankle on school-sports day. Or is it? In their new report, The Social Cost of Litigation, Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow argue that it is not so much the existence of the unscrupulous no-win, no-fee lawyers that drives the compensation frenzy. Rather, they say, it is the fact that a culture of litigation and litigation-avoidance is now considered a perfectly normal part of social life. Informal relationships based upon trust, such as those between doctor and patient, have been supplanted by formal relationships founded upon mutual suspicion. ‘I’m not so worried about the very obvious, easy target – the lawyers who flourish in this culture’, Furedi tells me. ‘The more worrying thing is the normalised and institutionalised aspect of it. Which is why in the report we focus on the social costs rather than the financial costs.’ Nowhere are these social costs more apparent than in the public sector, where, in both healthcare and education, avoiding lawsuits has become routine. It is no longer exceptional for a doctor or a teacher to be concerned that their behaviour or one of their decisions might end up subject to a legal complaint; rather, such recourse is almost expected these days.”
Liz Alderman in NYT, "French President Must Cut Deficit, but How? ".
“Mr. Hollande has reached a pivotal moment as the Continent’s debt crisis flares anew. He is pledging to push the country’s deficit down to 3 percent of gross domestic product by the end of next year, to adhere to the rules of euro zone membership and prevent the nation from getting caught up in the euro’s latest troubles. But as a Socialist president who ran a campaign against austerity, Mr. Hollande is facing rising discontent as he prepares to assemble the package of tax increases and spending cuts required for that effort. How he performs could very well determine whether the ailing French economy succumbs to a spiral of decline the way that many other euro zone countries have done.”
Nicola Clark in NYT, "Energy Policy in France Divides Governing Coalition of Socialists and Greens".
“Desperate to secure the votes needed to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy, the center-right incumbent, the Socialists agreed last year not to field any candidates in around 60 constituencies. In exchange, the Greens accepted the Socialists’ goal of reducing France’s dependence on nuclear power for energy to 50 percent from 75 percent by 2025 — far short of the Greens’ own goal of zero.
The Greens then made major gains in parliamentary elections in June, securing 17 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly and enough electoral weight to form their own parliamentary group. ‘The Socialists are starting to realize that they gave a very generous gift to the Greens,’ said Pascal Perrineau, director of the Center for Political Research in Paris, who noted that the Green presidential candidate, Eva Joly, was eliminated in the first round of voting, with a humiliating 2.3 percent of the vote. ‘The Greens are a small party, but they have been very well paid.’”
Hans Steketee at Opendemocracy.net, "How the Swiss see the ‘Swiss option’".
“Once upon a time, Switzerland was eying up EU membership, but after a referendum in 1992 its application is on ice. The Swiss were too attached to their historical neutrality and their own coin. Being a rich country they did not want to become a net contributor in the EU and above all they were afraid that their coveted system of direct democracy, where citizens can vote directly on all sorts of policies, would be submerged by EU legislation and jurisdiction. Now Switzerland keeps the EU at arm's length. Unlike other non-EU-member states - Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland -Switzerland is not a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which governs the internal market's free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Instead, Switzerland has gained ‘à la carte’ access to the common market via a series of bilateral treaties, including the Schengen passport-free zone, reached during years of tough negotiations with Brussels.”
Roger Scruton in Times Literary Supplement on Alain Badiou’s book, "The Adventure of French Philosophy".
“Badiou’s genealogy may give an accurate account of where he is coming from. But there is much more to recent French philosophy than the ‘moment’ that joins Sartre to Deleuze in an unbroken stream of (for the most part) leftist jargon. Unmentioned are Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel, Etienne Gilson, Rene Girard, Gustave Thibon and Simone Weil – all lucid and powerful thinkers, but excluded no doubt for being Christians. Unmentioned are the advocates of traditional philosophy such as Bertrand de Jouvenel and Jacques Bouveresse, or people such as Raymond Aron, Alain Besancon, Alain Finkielkraut, Francoise Thom and Chantal Delsol, who have seen through the newspeak and tried to expose what it hides. Unmentioned is Stephane Courtois and Le livre noir du communisme which advocated a moment of owning up, in which the French post-war intelligentsia could confess to the evil done by their favourite allies and to the unserious nature of their own political games with them. Badiou’s intellectual world is one in which Christians, conservatives, liberals, traditionalists and representatives of la douce France are not just unmentionable but strictly imperceivable.”
Thomas Nagel in New York Review of Books on Alvin Plantinga’s book, "Where the Conflict Really Lies – Science, Religion, and Naturalism".
“He holds, first, that the theistic conception of the relation between God, the natural world, and ourselves makes it reasonable for us to regard our perceptual and rational faculties as reliable. It is therefore reasonable to believe that the scientific theories they allow us to create do describe reality. He holds, second, that the naturalistic conception of the world, and of ourselves as products of unguided Darwinian evolution, makes it unreasonable for us to believe that our cognitive faculties are reliable, and therefore unreasonable to believe any theories they may lead us to form, including the theory of evolution. In other words, belief in naturalism combined with belief in evolution is self-defeating. However, Plantinga thinks we can reasonably believe that we are the products of evolution provided that we also believe, contrary to naturalism, that the process was in some way guided by God.”
Ronald Radosh in Commentary, "When the Radical American Left Loved Israel".
“The support for Israel on the American left came to an end for a few reasons. For those friendly to the Soviet Union – which in the postwar era was the dominant force on the left – Stalin’s decision to revert to the original Arab position, and to work for Soviet influence through Egypt and other Arab nations, led pro-Soviet fellow travelers and the American Communists to again argue that Israel was simply a cat’s-paw of American imperialism in the Middle East. For independent leftists such as [I.F.] Stone, the positive view of Israel began to fade after the 1967 war. His belief in Israel’s viability and right to exist diminished as he developed pangs of guilt about the result of the spoils of war won by Israel, after its victory gave the Jewish state land it had not previously possessed. As the Palestinian nationalists now used their situation to make the refugee situation their main focus, and used the plight of those dispossessed by the Israeli victory to demand anew ‘the right of return,’ American leftists began to argue that Israel was no longer a legitimate state.”
Ian Johnson at NYbooks.com, "Jesus vs. Mao? An Interview With Yuan Zhiming".
“I studied Mao’s works quite a bit. One of the things he taught was hatred: The first sentence in the first essay in the first volume of his collected works is ‘Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution.’ This is the mentality of most Chinese. You can see this in China’s foreign policy. If you’re their enemy, even if you help them they’ll accept the aid but they won’t change their view that you’re their enemy. They don’t have the idea of yi (righteousness). Just li (benefit). Chinese never relax with foreigners. This is what Mao taught us. From the time we were young we learned this. When I was small we’d watch movies, and when the movie would start I’d ask my mother and father who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, because it had to be divided into that sort of binary relationship. And the bad people, everything about them was bad. Every feeling was dirty. They looked ugly.
This [way of seeing things] includes contemporary directors, like Zhang Yimou. He made a film last year called The Flowers of War about the Nanjing massacre. He was up for an Oscar but didn’t get one. I think one reason is that he had Mao’s value system internalized. The Japanese are the bad guys, of course, but in his portrayal the Japanese troops from A to Z are bad. They don’t have any humanity in them at all. Bad people can’t be 100 percent bad and good people can’t be 100 percent good. But that’s how Chinese see the world.”
Ian Johnson in New York Review of Books, "China’s Lost Decade".
“China’s production methods are also unsuited to building ultra-complex machines: when assembling an iPad or a running shoe or even a car, if the first batch is defective, the manufacturer can adjust the production line and toss out the lemons. This works for much production in China but, obviously, wouldn’t work with aircraft. That leads Fallows to another memorable quote: ‘The Chinese can go to the moon long before they build an airliner.’ A moon shot is a one-time event and requires brute engineering, while a jetliner is an immensely sophisticated amalgam of hardware and software that has to work flawlessly for decades.”
Patrick Chovanec in WSJ, "China’s Solyndra Economy".
“On Aug. 3, the owner of Chengxing Solar Company leapt from the sixth floor of his office building in Jinhua, China. Li Fei killed himself after his company was unable to repay a $3 million bank loan it had guaranteed for another Chinese solar company that defaulted. One local financial newspaper called Li's suicide ‘a sign of the imminent collapse facing the Chinese photovoltaic industry’ due to overcapacity and mounting debts. President Barack Obama has held up China's investments in green energy and high-speed rail as examples of the kind of state-led industrial policy that America should be emulating. The real lesson is precisely the opposite. State subsidies have spawned dozens of Chinese Solyndras that are now on the verge of collapse. Unveiled in 2010, Beijing's 12th Five-Year Plan identified solar and wind power and electric automobiles as ‘strategic emerging industries’ that would receive substantial state support. Investors piled into the favored sectors, confident the government's backing would guarantee success. Barely two years later, all three industries are in dire straits.”
Andrew Jacobs & Adam Century in NYT, "As China Ages, Beijing Turns to Morality Tales to Spur Filial Devotion".
“Despite the demands of an increasingly fast-paced society, the Confucian idea of filial devotion is deeply embedded in Chinese society. Tradition dictates that children live with their parents and care for them in their old age, a convention that historically provided a safety net. But the custom is rapidly fraying as children struggle with the logistical and financial burdens of caring for their aged parents. This has proved particularly challenging in recent years to the huge numbers of only children born after the introduction of strict family-planning rules in the late 1970s. One result, demographers say, is a skyrocketing number of so-called empty nests filled by older people who live alone while their children build their own roosts in distant cities. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, empty nests now account for more than 50 percent of all Chinese households; in some urban areas the figure has reached 70 percent. A 2011 report by the official Xinhua news agency said that nearly half of the 185 million people age 60 and older live apart from their children — a phenomenon unheard of a generation ago.”
Thomas Fuller in NYT, "In Vietnam, Message of Equality Is Challenged by Widening Wealth Gap".
“Much of the ire has been focused on Vietnam’s version of crony capitalism — the close links between tycoons and top Communist Party officials. This criticism has been able to flourish partly because news of abuses has leaked out as state companies, which remain a central part of the economy, have floundered, helping precipitate Vietnam’s serious financial woes. Activists and critics have also been able to use the anonymity of the Web to skirt tight media controls that had kept many scandals out of public view. As criticism has mounted, some of the relatives of Communist Party officials have stepped back from high profile roles. Ms. Huong left her state-run company in June, three months after her appointment, and the daughter of the prime minister recently left one of her posts, at a private bank. Government officials, meanwhile, are sounding defensive.”
John Naughton in Guardian, "Thomas Kuhn: the man who changed the way the world looked at science".
“Before Kuhn, in other words, we had what amounted to the Whig interpretation of scientific history, in which past researchers, theorists and experimenters had engaged in a long march, if not towards ‘truth’, then at least towards greater and greater understanding of the natural world. Kuhn's version of how science develops differed dramatically from the Whig version. Where the standard account saw steady, cumulative ‘progress’, he saw discontinuities – a set of alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases in which communities of specialists in particular fields are plunged into periods of turmoil, uncertainty and angst. These revolutionary phases – for example the transition from Newtonian mechanics to quantum physics – correspond to great conceptual breakthroughs and lay the basis for a succeeding phase of business as usual. The fact that his version seems unremarkable now is, in a way, the greatest measure of his success. But in 1962 almost everything about it was controversial because of the challenge it posed to powerful, entrenched philosophical assumptions about how science did – and should – work.”
Abigail Zuger in NYT on Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s book, "An Epidemic of Absence – A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases".
“This hypothesis argues that our modern obsession with eradicating germs has backfired into an explosion of disease, specifically all the ‘new’ diseases that have replaced infections to undermine our health. The modern immune system, the idea holds, is stymied by the sudden absence of its customary microbial targets. With nothing constructive to do, it is crazily spinning its wheels, resulting in soaring rates of food allergies and asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, even heart disease and cancer — not to mention alopecia, the premature baldness from which Mr. Velasquez-Manoff suffers and which led him to the subject in the first place. (In an opinion article in The New York Times last month, he suggested that an immune disorder might account for many cases of autism.) Clearly, if true, the hygiene hypothesis is the single greatest medical story of our time, undercutting a century of putative progress. Is it true? Probably some of it is.”
Greta Anand in WSJ, "A Woman’s ‘Untreatable’ TB Echoes Around the World".
“Her six-year journey to all-but-incurable TB exposes a blind spot in an Indian medical bureaucracy that, for decades, neglected to implement widespread testing or treatment for drug-resistant strains. As a result, a curable disease has mutated into a killer. The global community is worried about the danger. Health officials have urged India and other countries with increasing drug resistance to take stronger action. And this year the U.K. added India to the list of countries whose citizens must be tested for TB to obtain a visa of six months or more.”
John Strausbaugh at Chiseler.org, "Izzy and Moe".
“When roughly four of five of New York City’s fifteen thousand licensed taverns and saloons shut down, an estimated thirty thousand speakeasies rose up to replace them. They ranged from the classic dingy hole-in-the-wall of lore to lavish hot spots like Jack and Charlie’s ‘21’ Club, where Mayor Jimmy Walker had his own booth. Some speakeasies were so far from secret that they were world-famous, their addresses were listed in every tourist guide, and the only people the lug behind the door refused to admit were those he had very good reason to suspect were law enforcers. Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village was thick with speakeasies geared for the tourist trade, early examples of the theme bar. At the Pirate’s Den a doorman dressed like a buccaneer let tourists into a gloomy place hung with chains and rigging and lit by ship’s lanterns, where staff costumed like eye-patched sea dogs periodically staged mock fights with their cutlasses and pistols. Nearby were the zany Nut Club, something like a forerunner to today’s comedy clubs; the Indian-themed Wigwam; and the Village Barn, a basement on West Eighth Street featuring square dances, hoedowns and live turtle races. Poisoning from the bad alcohol served in many joints — often just grain alcohol colored to look like whiskey — could be deadly. By the end of the decade more than six hundred New Yorkers a year were dying from it.”
Sept. 23, EncoreWesterns: "Joel McCrea". “Six-gun salute” features Ride the High Country (1962).
Ken Emerson in WSJ on Gary Rosen’s book, "Unfair to Genius – The Strange and Litigious Career of Ira B. Arnstein".
“Arnstein, Mr. Rosen writes, was ‘a crank, a noodnik, and a loser.’ He was briefly committed to a mental hospital and certified a lunatic. Even Arnstein himself once confessed in court: ‘Reading my testimony, anyone would get an idea that the person testifying is of a disordered mind.’ Though he never won a case, Mr. Rosen argues that Arnstein's quixotic claims ‘engaged some of the finest legal minds of his era, forcing them to refine and sharpen their doctrines.’ Those minds included noted jurists Jerome Frank and Learned Hand. Frank went so far as to invoke Jonathan Swift and Friedrich Nietzsche in warning against creating a bad precedent ‘merely because we may think Arnstein is nutty.’ One of Arnstein's suits was squelched by an opposing legal team that included William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, who would go on to lead the Office of Strategic Services and godfather the CIA. Even earlier, copyright issues had engaged many legal luminaries, Mr. Rosen reminds us. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney set standards for determining originality and similarity in popular songs years before he handed down the Dred Scott Decision in 1857, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s Supreme Court opinion extended copyright to incidental entertainment in restaurants and hotels.”
Gene Sculatti at Rocksbackpagesblogs.com, "Where Were You in ’62 ".
“The Contours’ ‘Do You Love Me’ was but one of many audio delights grabbing air in 1962. It comprised, along with Marvin Gaye’s no less propulsive ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow,’ the Miracles’ ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me’ and Mary Wells’ three Smokey Robinson-penned Top-10 sides, Motown’s first full round of hits. The year also marked the start of several careers and partnerships that would define popular music for decades: the debut of America’s two longest running pop institutions in the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’ and the 4 Seasons’ ‘Sherry,’ and the collaboration between Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick that tore up convention in the apocalyptic ‘Don’t Make Me Over.’ The dance floor shook too. Not since the Twenties heyday of the Charleston, Black Bottom and Varsity Drag had so many dance crazes crowded the charts: Little Eva’s ‘Loco-motion,’ Dee Dee Sharp’s ‘Mashed Potato Time,’ the Orlons’ ‘Wah-Watusi,’ Joey Dee’s ‘Peppermint Twist’ and Chubby Checker’s terpsichorean trifecta (‘Slow Twistin,’ ‘Limbo Rock,’ ‘Popeye the Hitchhiker’). While girl-group sounds had broken through the previous year, and wouldn’t dominate till two years later, 1962 is when the genre’s genius, Phil Spector, first asserts himself, with spellbinding results in ‘Uptown’ and ‘He’s a Rebel’ by the Crystals and ‘He’s Sure the Boy I Love’ by Darlene Love.”
Chuck Dukowski Sextet interview at "Verbicide.com".
“How about the overall music writing process? There is certainly no one sound in the band that fades into the background — do you each contribute equally to the songwriting?
Chuck: Yes, we do all contribute to the songs — sometimes equally and sometimes not. We are all open to every other band member’s ideas. With Haunted, we all co-wrote the songs [by] building on seed ideas from one or another member. This is the first time since Wurm that I’ve had such an open collaborative dynamic in a band.
How has this process changed since 2007 when you released Eat My Life? Band members have changed, Milo has grown up, and you seem to have phased out the reed instruments.
Chuck: The reed instruments phased out during the recording of Reverse The Polarity. Lynn got sick, but luckily Milo found his full voice on guitar at the same time. On Haunted you get to hear Milo as a fully realized player.”
"Meat Puppets" in Trust #155
The first review of my new book appears in Deutsche also in this issue; what can this mean?
Jan Roehlk on Life Against Dementia in Trust #155, August / September 2012:
“Life against Dementia – Essays, Reviews, Interviews 1975 – 2011 - Joe Carducci
Joe Carducci war Mitarbeiter bei mehreren Plattenfirmen und Mailordern seit Ende der 70er bis Mitte der 80er, darunter Systematic, Thermidor und SST. Er verlegte sich dann aufs Schreiben. Sein letztes Buch war ein Portrait der verstorbenen SST Fotografin Naomi Petersen und für 2013 kündigt er schon ein Buch mit seinen Arbeiten zum Thema Filme an. Das aktuelle Werk ist eine voluminöse historische Sammlung seiner Texte, unterteilt in die Bereiche Politik, Musik, Filme, Sports, Songs (er schrieb einige Songs für die Minutemen), Comics, abgerundet mit Interviews, die er print und online gab. Über das Buch verstreut sind Zeichnungen und Fotos. In dem Vorwort sagt er ungewöhnlich ehrlich, dass es eine Nachfrage für dieses Buch nicht wirklich gäbe. Natürlich sind für mich die Texte zu Musik am interessantesten, es geht natürlich viel um SST Bands, man erfährt spannendes von Saint Vitus (auch sind seine Linernotes zu The Obsessed hier versammelt), Minutemen, Descendents, Meat Puppets. Aber mir haben auch seine Film-Texte gut gefallen, bei dem Bereich Sport, in dem es u.a. um Baseball geht, musste ich passen. Seit einigen Jahren arbeitet er an den wöchentlichen Blog ‘The New Vulgate’, dort sind einige Schriften schon mal veröffentlicht wurden. Das Englische ist wie bei allen seinen Büchern nicht einfach, das machte mir hinsichtlich der Politik-Texte, bei denen es sowohl um internationale als auch nationale Themen (wie die Tea Party) geht, etwas zu schaffen. Gleichwohl ist das Buch für (den Einstieg in) das Verständnis des Denkens von einem der ungewöhnlichsten (indie-) Musikschreiber der Gegenwart (neben G. Marcus und D. Diederichsen) bestens geeignet und schafft erste Zugänge zu seinem Gesamtwerk. (Jan) 22,95 $, Redoubt Press, PO BOX 276, Centennial, Wyoming 82055, USA”
Dolf Hermannstadter’s Trust review of my last book, Enter Naomi – SST, L.A. and All That…, was posted in English.
Flipside’s "Hudley interview" from Trust #154 at Hudleyflipside.org
"Descendents" in Trust #153
Saccharine Trust at "theelectricsunshine".
Alan Licht book-signing for "Will Oldham on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy", Monday, September 24th, Housing Works Bookstore/Cafe, 126 Crosby St., NYC, 7pm, free.
Thanks to Futureofcapitalism.com.
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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne (1942 - 2010), Michael J. Safran
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